Opinion

James Saft

Jamie, is that a threat or a promise?

Jun 10, 2011 15:45 UTC

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Jamie Dimon is just doing his job, which is why it is more important than ever that Ben Bernanke do a better job at his.

Dimon, JP Morgan Chase & Co Chairman and CEO, staged an unusual confrontation with the Federal Reserve Chairman at a conference in Atlanta on Tuesday, drawing a line between tighter banking regulation, heavier capital requirements and slow growth and joblessness.

“Has anyone bothered to study the cumulative effect of all these things?” Dimon asked.

“And do you have a fear, like I do, that when we look back and look at them all that they will be a reason it took so long that our banks, our credit, our businesses and most importantly, job creation, started going again?”

Well Jamie, I have other fears that outweigh yours; that you, your bank and others like it will use your positional advantage to extract wealth from the economy which exceeds, on a risk-adjusted basis, the value you add. What’s more, you will do so by arbitraging a government guarantee that will allow you to make profits all the while building risks that, when they explode, will become taxpayer liabilities.

For the Fed, faith may not follow transparency

Apr 28, 2011 16:58 UTC

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

HUNTSVILLE — Wednesday was a weird day, caught somewhere between being a victory for the paranoid and a genuine step forward for openness and transparency.

And no, I am not talking about the sad spectacle of President Obama trotting out his birth certificate to assuage his deluded doubters. I am instead speaking of the Federal Reserve, which for the first time in its long history has taken the step of actually taking questions from the press after announcing its monetary policy decision.

Unlike the birth nonsense, there are two not mutually exclusive ways you can interpret the Fed’s decision to put itself at the mercy of the hacks. First, it is a real step forward for transparency, a step along the way towards renouncing the cant of the era of Greenspan, who seemed to regard himself as part economist, part Delphic Oracle and part Wizard of Oz.  Second, it marks a waning of the power of the Fed, which has been diminished by its poor track record and by steps it took which opened it up to attack.

Bonds, risk and Bernanke’s intentions

Feb 10, 2011 20:49 UTC

Will bond investors keep faith with U.S. government debt amid signs of growing global inflation?

In the end, as with all banks, even central banks, it boils down to trust.

Asked on Wednesday at an appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee if the Fed’s $600 billion programme of quantitative easing amounted to monetization — that Peter to Paul transfer when a government prints money to pay for a shortfall — Ben Bernanke said an interesting thing:

“Monetization involves a permanent increase in money supply though money creation. (QE) is a temporary measure that will be reversed. Money will be normalized and there will be no permanent increase in outstanding balance sheet or inflation.”

Currencies: war, tragedy or farce?

Feb 8, 2011 12:46 UTC

Call it what you like — war, tragedy or farce — but the disagreement over global currency exchange rates shows no sign of coming to a peaceful negotiated agreement.

Asked last week if loose Federal Reserve monetary policy was to blame for inflation in emerging markets, Ben Bernanke stoutly denied that it was anything to do with him, maintaining in central banker-speak that he’d been tucked up in bed at home at the time.

“I think it’s entirely unfair to attribute excess demand pressures in emerging markets to U.S. monetary policy, because emerging markets have all the tools they need to address excess demand in those countries,” the Fed chief told reporters assembled at the National Press Club in Washington.

Fed hits its 3rd mandate: rising shares

Jan 18, 2011 15:29 UTC

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Apparently not satisfied with being unable to fulfill its dual target of price stability and maximum employment the Federal Reserve has set itself a third mandate: higher asset prices.

Speaking on CNBC at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-sponsored forum on small business lending last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was asked how, in essence, his $600 billion quantitative easing programme could be called a success when interest rates and commodity prices had actually risen in response.

“We see the economy strengthening, its gotten better over the last three or four months, a 3-4 percent growth number for 2011 seems reasonable,” he said.

China hike could help risk assets elsewhere

Dec 30, 2010 15:43 UTC

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s Christmas day interest rate hike may prove to be bad for global growth but good, at least for a time, for risky assets.

From that perspective, the Chinese policy change could end up being a much-needed helping hand to Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke, who has engineered a policy partly aimed to boost economic growth through the false miracle of asset price inflation.

The Chinese rate hike, taking the benchmark interest rate up by a quarter of a percentage point, signals an increased willingness by Chinese authorities to do what they must to dampen the party domestically. The move increased the one-year lending rate to 5.81 percent and one-year deposit rate to 2.75 percent.

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