The current boom is heavily built on credit. This is because in today’s fiat money regime central banks, in close cooperation with commercial banks, increase the quantity of money by extending loans – loans that are not backed by ‘real savings’. The artificial increase in the supply of credit pushes market interest rates downwards – that is, below the levels that would prevail had there been no artificial increase in bank credit supply.
As a result, savings decline, consumption increases and, investment takes off, and a “boom” gets going. However, such a boom can only last so long. Its continuation rests on more and more credit being fed into the system, provided at ever lower interest rates. The last ten years provide a good illustration: The Fed’s lowering of interest rates and monetary expansion in the financial and economic crisis 2008/2009 has helped the banking industry to get back to its business of churning out more and more credit (see chart a).
As credit recovered, and stock and housing prices began to rise again (see chart b). The Fed succeeded in re-establishing the ‘asset price inflation regime’. In December 2015, however, the monetary policy makers in Washington D. C. decided to take away the punch bowl by beginning to raise interest rates. Until December 2018, the Fed had brought back the Federal Funds Rate to a band of between 2.25 to 2.5 per cent. Where to go from here?
The Fed has signaled recently that it wants to take a break as far as any further interest rate decisions are concerned. Financial markets have their own view, though: They seem to expect that the Fed’s hiking cycle is already over, and that the central bank will sooner or later lower interest rates again. The likelihood that this expectation will turn out to be correct is quite high: As the Fed wishes to keep the boom going, it has no choice but to return to the policy of suppressing interest rates.
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