Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bernanke's Likely Weapon Of Choice

This is my prediction for Bernanke. He will raise fed funds rate very very soon. Just because of that, it does not mean that it will be bad for equity markets.

But lets go back to why it will happen very soon (by February I think). Most developed nations' central banks have been reluctant to move the low interest rates regime up because the Main Street has been showing nascent growth. What Bernanke wants to see are corporate spending on R&D and hiring - both not really evident yet. Despite the tons of liquidity being poured into markets, many banks are just sitting by idling.

The Fed has had to maintain a low fed funds rate for obvious reasons, but look at the chart, banks are earning very decent net interest margins by lending to the system, and not to clients. High ranking officials have been calling the banks to lend more aggressively, but that does not seem to be working.

Erika Sawajiri

Bernanke's hands are being tied a lot more now that many of the banks which received funds from the government are returning it - that means the government will have a lot less leverage to "move the banks" toward certain persuasions.

It looks like Bernanke will have little choice but to close the gap and raise fed funds rate. When net interest margins start to shrink, then the banks will have to put the money to work. The summary from all this deduction is that don't be worried when Bernanke raises fed funds rate, in fact it is a new bullish sign.

p/s photo: Erika Sawajiri

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