Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday update.

The WSJ editorial board cheers Sarah Palin and Robert Zoellick for their sound money statements.

At Asia Times, David Goldman endorses Zoellick's analysis.

Adding the dimension of a gold reference point is brilliant. During the late 1980s, we supply-siders promulgated a “Ricardian” gold standard, in which central banks would buy and sell currencies in order to stabilize the gold price in each currency (they wouldn’t have to own a great deal of gold to do this). It is not a gold fractional reserve system, in which claims on the banking system are payable in bullion, but a gold price reference, as Zoellick indicates.

We used to argue that gold was a good long-term indicator of the price level and that a stable gold price portended price stability. That is a naive view I abandoned fifteen years ago. If that were true, then we should have experienced a great deflation as gold fell from $800 at Christmas 1979 to well under $300 an ounce between 2000 and 2002.

Gold, I argued in a 1996 paper for Laffer Associates, should be thought of as a put option on the currency; the opportunity cost of holding gold instead of interest-bearing assets (plus storage costs) are the option premium. If central banks managed their currencies well, gold would trade at its commodity value, that is, around the marginal cost of production, which is now $600 to $700 for the largest mining companies. But if there is a risk that paper currencies will devalue by some extreme margin, it is worth holding gold as a hedge. We cannot price the option using the usual Black-Scholes formula or its variants because we do not know the volatility of a currency over the long term; this is a political matter and inherently uncertain. But if we think that monetary policy is headed to a disaster (QE2 will end up like the Titanic, in short), we will pay more for gold.
On The Kudlow Report, Goldman discusses rising gold and commodities:

At RCM, John Tamny critiques Fed Chairman Bernanke’s QE justification.

In The WSJ, Alan Reynolds critiques the logic of Bernanke’s strategy:
Mr. Bernanke is unconcerned, however, because he believes (contrary to our past experience with stagflation) that inflation is no danger thanks to economic slack (high unemployment). He reasons that if people can nonetheless be persuaded to expect higher inflation, regardless of the slack, that means interest rates will appear even lower in real terms. If that worked as planned, lower real interest rates would supposedly fix our hangover from the last Fed-financed borrowing binge by encouraging more borrowing.

This whole scheme raises nagging questions. Why would domestic investors accept a lower yield on bonds if they expect higher inflation? And why would foreign investors accept a lower yield on U.S. bonds if they expect exchange rate losses on dollar-denominated securities? Why wouldn't intelligent people shift their investments toward commodities or related stocks (such as mining and related machinery) and either shun, or sell short, long-term Treasurys? And if they did that, how could it possibly help the economy?...

There is ample evidence from commodity and foreign-exchange markets that world investors are indeed confident the Fed will raise inflation. However, the growing interest in shorting long-term Treasury bonds shows that the market does not believe higher inflation is consistent with lower long-term interest rates.

In other words, Mr. Bernanke and his FOMC allies are risking higher interest rates and inflated commodity costs in the pursuit of the contradictory objectives of higher inflation and lower bond yields, seemingly oblivious to all the evidence that they are pursuing an impossible dream.
On NRO, Larry Kudlow opposes Fed policy too.

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