Evans-Pritchard: 'We No Longer Have a Free Market' Thanks to Central Banks

Thursday, 20 Jun 2013 08:14 AM

By Michael Kling

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The free market is a thing of the past, according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, international business editor for The Telegraph in the United Kingdom.

"The world's financial asset prices have become a plaything of central banks and the sovereign wealth funds of a few emerging powers," Evans-Pritchard writes.

"We no longer have a free market."

Editor's Note:
Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

He cites these figures from Julian Callow of Barclays: The world's central banks and sovereign wealth funds are buying $1.8 trillion of the $2 trillion AAA bonds available a year.

Central banks — mainly the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank and Bank of Japan — own $10 trillion in bonds. China, oil-rich nations, and other countries own another $10 trillion in bonds. Together, they account for 25 percent of global gross domestic product.

"They are the market," Evans-Pritchard states. "That is why Fed taper talk has become so neuralgic, and why we all watch Chinese regulators for every clue on policy."

The impact of the Fed tapering its quantitative easing (QE), or even talking about, cannot be underestimated.

Economic reports show a continuing tepid U.S. economic recovery. Plus, unemployment is still high and inflation remains low. Those factors should encourage the Fed to continue QE.

However, many experts argue that the Fed should begin winding down its huge bond purchasing effort, Evans-Pritchard noted.

Frederic Mishkin, a former Fed board member, says it will be harder for the Fed will exit QE the longer it waits. Mishkin warns in a paper that the Fed's capital base could be wiped out once borrowing costs jump.

The Federal Advisor Council has questioned the effectiveness of QE and has warned of bubbles in asset prices. Super-low interest rates are pushing pension find liabilities underwater and even prompting firms to delay investments, he adds.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren, a noted dove, has talked of early tapering, Evans-Pritchard asserts, calling it "a clear sign that the Fed’s center of gravity has shifted."

Yet some pundits advocate continuing — or even expanding — QE.

"Nothing in the data or the objective state of the economy gives even the slightest hint of support for even a tiny reduction in bond purchases," argues Slate business and economics correspondent Matthew Yglesias.

"If anything, the balance of the evidence suggests that the Fed ought to deliver a smashing uppercut to economic pessimists by announcing an increase in the pace of bond purchases and a determination to keep accelerating asset buying, unless or until inflation materializes."

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

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