I know I've been ragging on the dollar for a while, predicting its ultimate collapse to near worthlessness, but lately an alternate scenario has been brooding in my mind. Suppose the dollar doesn't collapse? Maybe the Fed can save the dollar. I think this is possible, but at enormous cost.
Joe Duarte describes the increasingly worried tone of the Fed, as expressed by Fed governor Janet Yellen:
"Ms. Yellen, and the Fed are slowly coming to grips with the gravity of the situation. Her remarks show that Ms. Yellen may just be starting to come to grips with the fact that despite the potential for an economic slow down, perhaps of some significance, the Fed may have to continue to raise interest rates indefinitely, just to keep the dollar from collapsing."
Unfortunately, Wall Street is now counting on an end to rate hikes. Money managers have been saying for the last six months that the Fed has to be near the end of its rate raising cycle. They were saying "one and done" in December, or, in the worst case, then they would endure "two and through". Quarter point rate hikes that is. Since then we've had two rate hikes and they are not through. The horrible possibility of more rate hikes, or even the truly terrible, unspeakable thought of accelerated hikes (half a point instead of a quarter), has not been considered. If you are working on Wall Street, managing over a billion dollars and have a staff of traders, then you probably see the American financial markets as the center of the world, the key to prosperity and stability, the one thing that must be preserved at all cost. But the world is changing.
It has been said, by Jim Puplava and company, that the Fed "walks a fine line". They risk a dollar crisis and runaway inflation if they lower rates, and a real estate and stock market crash if they raise interest rates. Now it looks like they will have to choose one or the other. There is no such line that will avoid both these catastrophes, rather it is choose which one is the lesser of two evils. And hope that energy shortages or political crises don't bring us both. If the Fed keeps doing what it is doing, that is raise rates by one quarter point at every meeting, we will almost certainly get both a dollar crisis and market crashes. They can't simply stay the course because:
a) Central bankers around the world are getting very anxious about the dollar. Soon the Fed will not be able to withstand the combined attacks from currency speculators, Vladimir Putin, and Hugo Chavez.
b) The stock and real estate markets are clearly showing the strain from rising interest rates and energy prices. A crash is only a matter of time anyway. Markets around the world have all fallen heavily lately, but the American markets have only fallen in the single digits so far.
In the end the Fed will have to try defend the dollar to support the all important treasury bond market. This is what keeps the government solvent. And if things play out this way, I wonder how how much independance our Federal Reserve will really have anyway. I wonder if China's central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, and Russian central bank chairman Sergei Ignatiev are now discrete and unofficial members of the Federal Reserve, and if they will be the ones who really set monetary policy.