Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jim Grant: Federal Reserve Would be Shut Down if Audited

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Jim Grant has been a well respected voice of reason for a very long time - he publishes Grant's Interest Rate Observer and from the "About Us" page you can get an idea from where he is coming from.

Grant's Interest Rate Observer is an independent, value-oriented and contrary-minded journal of the financial markets. We publish 24 times a year. Our mission is to identify investment opportunities in a range of markets at both extremes of valuation, high and low alike. Without bragging, we like to think that we are the financial-information medium that least resembles CNBC.


Some might consider his type a bear; I call them realists... he has been an opponent of the policies of the (now rogue) Federal Reserve for a long time.

Below is a CNBC interview from this morning - again, one must ask why the most powerful institution in the world can be run without any oversight. On the other hand, the scary thought is Congress might one day provide oversight... I don't know which evil to fear more. 8 Minute Video of sense.

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The Federal Reserve's balance sheet is so out of whack that the central bank would be shut down if subjected to a conventional audit, Jim Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, told CNBC.

With $45 billion in capital and $2.1 trillion in assets, the central bank would not withstand the scrutiny normally afforded other institutions, Grant said in a live interview.

"If the Fed examiners were set upon the Fed's own documents—unlabeled documents—to pass judgment on the Fed's capacity to survive the difficulties it faces in credit, it would shut this institution down," he said. "The Fed is undercapitalized in a way that Citicorp is undercapitalized."

Grant said he would support legislation currently making its way through Congress calling for an audit of the Fed.

Moreover, he criticized the way the Fed has managed the financial crisis, saying the central bank's target rate should not be around zero.

"I think zero is the wrong rate for almost any economy," Grant said, adding the Fed has "embarked on a vast experiment in moral hazard. Interest rates are the traffic signals in a market economy, and everything's green. ... You have to wonder whether these interest rates are the right clearing rate or rather they are the imposition of a central bank."

Amid a disparity between analysts predicting there will be no rate hikes soon and the fed funds futures indicating tightening by the end of the year, Grant said he thinks the Fed indeed will begin raising rates as inflation creeps into the picture.

Fed funds futures have fully priced in as much as a half-point rise in the target rate from its current range of zero to 0.25 percent.

"If the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when there's too much unanimity of opinion, then one begins to worry about this," he said. "The Fed proverbially has been late."


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