Fed tightens control over banks activities

On Tuesday July 2, US central bank policy makers voted in favour of the US version of the global bank rules known as the Basel 3 accord. The cornerstone of the new rules is a requirement that banks maintain high quality capital, such as stock or retained earnings, equal to 7% of their loans and assets.

The bigger banks may be required to hold more than 9%. The Fed was also drafting new rules to limit how much banks can borrow to fund their business known as the leverage ratio.

We suggest that the introduction of new regulations by the Fed cannot make the current monetary system stable and prevent financial upheavals.

The main factor of instability in the modern banking system is the present paper standard which is supported by the existence of the central bank and fractional reserve lending.

Now in a true free market economy without the existence of the central bank, banks will have difficulties practicing fractional reserve banking.

Any attempt to do so will lead to bankruptcies, which will restrain any bank from attempting to lend out of “thin air”.

Fractional reserve banking can, however, be supported by the central bank. Note that through ongoing monetary management, i.e., monetary pumping, the central bank makes sure that all the banks can engage jointly in the expansion of credit out of “thin air” via the practice of fractional reserve banking.

The joint expansion in turn guarantees that checks presented for redemption by banks to each other are netted out, because the redemption of each will cancel the other redemption out.

By means of monetary injections, the central bank makes sure that the banking system is “liquid enough” so that banks will not bankrupt each other.

The consequences of the monetary management of the Fed as a rule are manifested in terms of boom-bust cycles.

As times goes by this type of management runs the risk of severely weakening the wealth generation process and runs the risk of severely curtailing so called real economic growth.

We maintain that as long as the present monetary system stays intact it is not possible to prevent a financial crisis similar to the one we had in 2007-9. The introduction of new tighter capital requirements by banks cannot make them more solvent in the present monetary system.

Meanwhile, banks have decided to restrain their activity irrespective of the Fed’s new rules. Note that they are sitting on close to $2cg trillion in excess cash reserves.  The yearly rate of growth of banks inflationary lending has fallen to 4.1% in June from 4.2% in May and 22.4% in June last year.

Once the economy enters a new economic bust banks are likely to run the risk of experiencing a new financial crisis, the reason being that so called current good quality loans could turn out to be bad assets once the bust unfolds.

A visible decline in the yearly rate of growth of banks inflationary lending is exerting a further downward pressure on the growth momentum of our monetary measure AMS.

Year-on-year the rate of growth in AMS stood at 7.7% in June against 8.3% in May and 11.8% in June last year.

We suggest that a visible decline in the growth momentum of AMS is expected to bust various bubble activities, which sprang up on the back of the previous increase in the growth momentum of money supply.

Remember that economic bust is about busting bubble activities. Beforehand it is not always clear which activity is a bubble and which is not.

Note that once a bust emerges seemingly good companies go belly up. Given that since 2008 the Fed has been pursuing extremely loose monetary policy this raises the likelihood that we have had a large increase in bubble activities as a percentage of overall activity.

Once the bust emerges this will affect a large percentage of bubble activities and hence banks that provided loans to these activities will discover that they hold a large amount of non-performing assets.

A likely further decline in lending is going to curtail lending out of “thin air” further and this will put a further pressure on the growth momentum of money supply.

In fractional reserve banking, when money is repaid and the bank doesn’t renew the loan, money evaporates. Because the loan was originated out of nothing, it obviously couldn’t have had an owner.

In a free market, in contrast, when money i.e. gold is repaid, it is passed back to the original lender; the money stock stays intact.

Since the present monetary system is fundamentally unstable it is not possible to fix it. The central bank can keep the present paper standard going as long as the pool of real wealth is still expanding.

Once the pool begins to stagnate – or worse, shrinks – then no monetary pumping will be able to prevent the plunge of the system.

A better solution is of course to have a true free market and allow the gold to assert its monetary role. As opposed to the present monetary system in the framework of a gold standard money cannot disappear and set in motion the menace of the boom-bust cycles.

Summary and conclusion

Last week US central bank policy makers voted in favour of tighter rules on banks’ activities. The essence of the new rules is that banks maintain high quality capital equal to 7% of their assets. The new rules are aimed at making banks more solvent and to prevent repetitions of the 2008-2009 financial upheavals. We suggest that in the present monetary system which involves the existence of the central bank and fractional reserve banking it is not possible to make the monetary system more stable and immune to financial upheavals. As long as the Fed continues to tamper with interest rates and money supply we are going to have boom-bust cycles and financial upheavals.


  • George Thompson says:

    While “Beforehand it is not always clear which activity is a bubble and which is not”; I respectively would like to nominate the recent all-time record levels attained by New York Stock Exchange as an example of a ‘stimulus’ bubble since this defies all logic as there is no other justification besides infinite QE (until Bernanke gets it right). As a specific example, I offer an American Electric company, Ameren. I sold all my shares some time ago for about $25 each and am still glad I got that as the USA has inexplicably twice elected a candidate who once said, “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them.” [http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/07/29/Obama-Makes-Good-On-His-Promise-to-Bankrupt-the-Coal-Industry]. During, I believe, the same interview he later added, “When I was asked earlier about the issue of coal…under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket…even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gasses, coal power plants, natural gas…you name it…whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retro-fit their operations. That will cost money…they will pass that money on to the consumers.” [http://newsbusters.org/blogs/kerry-picket/2008/11/02/obama-energy-prices-will-skyrocket]. Note his use of the past tense. Proving that the kool-aid virus had spread its special flu throughout the land, he even carried coal producing states such as Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois in 2008 and 2012. Now along comes his EPA, which was authorized even before he came along to bypass Congress and impose mandates upon a docile population, with a brand new set of rules to assist his keeping his promises [http://thehill.com/blogs/regwatch/energyenvironment/309397-power-plant-rules-and-more-coming-from-epa-administration]. This is no doubt so Americans can justify their opulent lifestyles while denying the same to the people of South Africa. As he said, “Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over — unless we find new ways of producing energy.” I imagine he could be elected President of South Africa after he finishes his US gig since he wasn’t hooted and hollered into embarrassment. [http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-planet-will-boil-over-if-young-africans-are-allowed-cars-air-conditioning-big]
    Yesterday Ameren closed at $34.80 after hitting its high since 1/16/2009 ($32.47) of $36.55 on 5/3/2013. I submit that the $2.33 difference between 1/16/2009 and yesterday is attributable strictly to stimulus as none of the other fundamentals have changed for the better. Now I need to ponder just how his beloved electric vehicles will be powered once there are no functioning electric outlets in which to stick their plugs. One idea I had is to design radio antennas which can double as wind turbines.

  • George Thompson says:

    To further support my above contention I offer these 3 news stories

    1) Bernanke Sees Very Stimulative Policy in Foreseeable Future

    2) Bernanke Supports Continuing Stimulus Amid Debate Over QE

    3) Stocks Soar After Bernanke Comments; Dow Rallies Above All-Time Closing High

    In other words, when the chopper wizard makes wind, people listen. Does anyone seriously think the U.S. economy (17 trillion in debt) is the best it’s ever been?

  • Paul Marks says:

    Mr Thompson is correct – the stock market is a Federal Reserve created bubble.

    As for banking…..

    The whole standard procedure is wrong – “crediting to the account” and so on.

    A money lender should do just that – lend money (not try and live in a fairy castle in the air).

    A person should go into a bank and walk out with a physical loan – the arguments that “oh they might get mugged in the street” or “the gold would damage their clothing” are just part of a smokescreen.

    A loan should be of money (from real savers – the money lender himself or the people for whom he is acting) and it must be clearly understood that once the money is lent out the banker (the real savers) do NOT have the money any more – not till when and IF the loan is repaid.

    Fiat money is itself a problem – because money should be more than a “medium of exchange” it should also be a “store of value” (and fiat money is problematic in this regard).

    However, most modern loans are not even of fiat money (i.e. government notes and coins) – they are nothing but “broad money” (i.e. fairy dust and Moonbeams).

  • joe bongiovanni says:

    I totally agree about the ineffectiveness of present and proposed policies to restore either demand or stability to the national economy.
    Fractional-reserve banking does not work in “reverse”.

    But I cannot agree that this sentence accurately describes the banking system’s situation and actions.

    “Meanwhile, banks have decided to restrain their activity irrespective of the Fed’s new rules. Note that they are sitting on close to $2cg trillion in excess cash reserves.”

    I admit ignorance to the figure given as “$2cg trillion”, perhaps some Latin qualifier of sorts. I would just say there are $2Trillion in excess reserves.

    But excess cash reserves are different from excess non-cash reserves.
    Both cash and non-cash reserves comprise the ‘base’ money number.

    What the banks have in their CB-DI accounts is excess non-cash reserves. Most of the banking system’s cash reserves are being used by the DIs to meet their ‘required-reserve’ balances with the CB.

    Banks can do anything they want with excess cash reserves – they are like bank capital.
    But excess non-cash reserves are like funny money seeds. They’re no good for anything unless planted back into the ground of the economy as a basis for making new loans.
    Which, as you said, they ain’t doing.

  • It is totally untrue to claim, as Shostak does, that “without a central bank, banks will have difficulties practicing fractional reserve”.

    Fractional reserve banking took place in the middle ages, i.e. it preceeded central banks.

    All that is required for fractional reserve to get off the ground is a generally accepted unit of account, e.g. an ounce of gold. Once that unit is established, and given that the amount of gold in circulation is inadequate for the economy concerned, fractional reserve bankers will just step into the breach and supply as much money as is needed.

    There is plenty on the internet about the history of banking, but see:


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