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More margin debt please? No problem!



April 20, 2011 – Comments (4)

Excellent post by TPC. QE has accomplished none of its stated goals (did not lower interest rates, did not increase bank lending) and has encouraged a binge in margin debt.



When the Fed initiated QE2 they had visions of lower interest rates in mind.  This would result from “portfolio rebalancing” and these lower borrowing costs would lead to higher economic activity as businesses took advantage of the low rates to invest in their businesses. The St Louis Fed recently described this as one of the primary goals of QE:

    “As prices increase, interest rates fall. As interest rates fall, the cost to businesses for financing capital investments, such as new equipment, decreases. Over time, new business investments should bolster economic activity, create new jobs, and reduce the unemployment rate.”

Of course, that’s not exactly how things played out.  While the academics like to point to real interest rates as proof of success of QE, the real proof is in the pudding.  And the pudding doesn’t taste so good.  Total borrowing at commercial banks has continued its steady descent downward.  There has been a net decline in total borrowing since QE2 began!

But what QE2 has done is spark a mania in speculation.  And according to the NYSE’s margin data there is near record borrowing occurring.  According to the March data margin debt is quickly approaching its all-time highs.  As I noted last week, this surge in borrowing is not a sign that QE is “working”, but rather, a sign that it is only fueling the very same sort of imbalances and unproductive economic activity that got us into this crisis in the first place.

4 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM, mtf00l (43.08) wrote:

QE 1 and 2 were a success in that it lowered the interest rates for the Fed and it's subsidiaries and brought liquidity to the "investment house" banks so they could make the market appear to be recovering.

What part isn't clear? =D

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#2) On April 20, 2011 at 2:23 PM, binve (< 20) wrote:



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#3) On April 20, 2011 at 9:36 PM, kstarich (28.78) wrote:

Yeah and 99.99% of the margin debt is on mining companies :(

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#4) On April 21, 2011 at 8:50 AM, binve (< 20) wrote:

kstarich ,

Hey kstar, I wouldn't be surprised if GSMs were bought on margin. But think how much more is in AAPL, BIDU, etc...

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