Search Blog Posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hyperflation Via a Currency Crisis is Dead Ahead : Alasdair Macleod

Introducing the 'Fiat Money Quantity' measure

by Adam Taggart
Saturday, October 19, 2013, 9:23 PM

This week's podcast interview introduces a new monetary measurement developed by Alasdair Macleod: the 'Fiat Quantity of Money', or FMQ.
Alasdair explains how FMQ is derived, as well as what it can tell us about the true levels of fiat money supply. In the case of the dollar, it reveals that levels are far above what is commonly appreciated – so far, in fact, that a currency crisis could arrive sooner than even many dollar bears expect.

What 'Fiat Money Quantity' (FMQ) Is Signaling

I started off with the desire to put together a metric of money which allows me to compare sound money with fiat money. My approach to this was to look at what happens in how fiat money was created.

It originally involved the money substitute. In other words, you and I or our great-grandfathers or our great-great-grandfathers would deposit gold in the bank for safekeeping. The bank would give them either notes, which they could then cash anywhere where it was accepted where that bank's credit was valuable, or alternatively, it would give them an account – a deposit account – which would show that yes, the bank holds the gold on your behalf. That was the starting point. So that was how deposits and cash were originally created as money substitutes.

Then the next thing happened: Central banks were invented. What happened was that they took over the note-issuing monopoly. They were given, by the government, essentially a monopoly. In return for that, all of the banks within the central bank's system would take the gold that was originally deposited and move it into the central bank in return for – guess what? – deposit accounts and nice new bank notes.

So really what I wanted to do was to quantify that process [by creating the FQM]. It involved taking cash, all of these instant-access deposits, or deposits which are readily accessible, plus the deposits that the banks have at the central bank, because that is money just the same as your deposit account is in your bank; it is exactly the same in that sense. If you look at that, you get some very interesting statistics.

Going from 1960 to the month before the Lehman crisis in 2008, the average exponential growth rate was around about 5.9%, year in/year out. It followed that track very closely. Then of course we had TARP and all of the rest of it. 

And then we had QE. And guess what? The level of fiat-money quantity is now over 60% above that long-term trend line. Now, if we stand back unemotionally and look at that chart, we would say that this is monetary hyperinflation.

Here we have this situation now where the Central Bank, the Fed, is having to produce money to finance the government deficit. It’s having to produce money to keep interest rates down so that the banks don't have balance-sheet problems. And if it slows down in that production of money, and even if it doesn't increase the rate of the production of that money, then our world is going to come to a rather nasty halt.

It looks like not only are we in a debt trap, but we are in a hyperinflationary trap, potentially. We need someone who is really quite strong and understands these things to be able to stand on the system and say, no more!

So my question to you, Chris, is, can anyone do that? Do you think Janet Yellen will do that?

One of the things that's interesting in this, which I think is a dynamic that is going to play out over the next few months, is, here we are expanding a quantity of money hugely. But at the same time, what we're not seeing is the prices of raw materials, of things like that really reflecting that expansion of money. Now, there is always a time lag between the two effects. But actually we are seeing this effect on certain things, and in a way in which one would expect. That is that asset prices, particularly things like property, are beginning to rise.

What FMQ Indicates for Gold

The one thing which I think is being triggered is gold. We had a good rise today. We had about a $40 rise. Now I think that this is something quite significant, really, for a number of reasons, but if I go back to my FMQ (fiat money quantity), if I adjust the price of gold from just before Lehman Brothers went under, I think I'm right in saying that in July 2008, the price of gold at the close of that month was $918/ounce.

Now, if you adjust that price by the extra fiat money quantity that is now in circulation, gold has actually gone down, in real terms if you like, by about 30%. Put another way, if the price of gold was to match in real terms that $918 level, it would today be about $1,860. So we have this extraordinary thing where gold, for whatever reason, has become extremely undervalued compared to where it was before Lehman Brothers went under. Now this is important, because before Lehman Brothers went under, not many people actually understood systemic risk. So the price of gold did not really include the weighting for systemic risk.

The other thing I would say is that since then, with our FMQ having taken off, there is a substantial hyperinflation risk that is going to affect prices somewhere down the line. And yet, gold is trading at a discount of 30% to where it was before all of this happened, so it is horribly mispriced.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris Martenson's interview with Alasdair Macleod 45m:56s):

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. Today I am very pleased to have Alasdair Macleod with me. Alasdair, it's so good to have you.
Alasdair Macleod: It's very nice to be on, Chris.
Chris Martenson: It's very nice to speak to you again. Well, listen, there's so much going on. Of course over here, the big drama, the sturm und drang in the United States is, it looks like they've passed a continuing resolution to allow the government to operate for just a little bit longer. Of course, there's massive relief everywhere in the equity markets. Not just a U.S. phenomenon; I … read more