The Fed Faces The Greatest Risk In Its History: An Economic Crisis Accompanied By Inflation


Zero Hedge: The fed funds rate was 9.75% when I arrived in the pit, Chicago 1989. US GDP that year was 3.7%, unemployment 5.4%, and inflation 4.6%. But the S&L crisis was widening, as they do. So the Fed cut rates 75bps. Back then, the Fed certainly didn’t signal its intentions. In fact, the Fed neither confirmed nor denied what changes it made to interest rates even after it made them. Unimaginable, right? So we had to guess Fed policy changes by observing what happened in money markets. I obviously didn’t understand any of it, after all, I was an economics major.

Here is the man who did not make God his strength,
But trusted in the abundance of his riches,
And strengthened himself in his wickedness.” Psalm 52:7 KJV

The S&P 500 loved that 75bp rate cut more than it feared the S&L crisis, so stocks took out the 1987 peak, making new highs in the autumn of ’89. There was still tons of brain damage from ’87, and traders are notorious for being superstitious, so the pit was nervy that October. When the S&P plunged -6% out of the blue on October 13th, the trading pit went utterly berserk. I was so happy in that market mayhem. Soon enough, the Fed cut rates another 75bps. The S&P 500 grinded back up through the end of my first year, but never made new highs.

Despite the 150bps of rate cuts in 1989, and the record S&P highs, the economy soon entered a recession. The Fed kept cutting rates for a couple years, ending at an impossibly low rate of 3.00% in Feb 1992. US GDP was 3.5%, unemployment 7.4% and inflation was 2.9%. I had made my way to London that year as a prop trader, just in time for the Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse. The Europeans had created a system to ensure stability, certainty. And this naturally encouraged traders and investors to build massive leveraged investment positions.

When systems designed to ensure stability fail, which they inevitably do when applied to things as unstable as economies, the consequences are profound. Read More