Tuesday, February 8, 2011

China Raises Rates, US Yawns

Last I checked, our fearless Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was busying himself with ZIRP + QE + QE2, oblivious to all signs of brewing inflation or bubbles. I mean, who cares about spiking food prices? And oil prices. And copper prices. Or the return of covenant-lite bonds? Or money pouring into emerging markets? Or record bonuses at US banks? None of these things have anything to do with US monetary policy. Because buying trillions in Treasuries and mortgages directly from broker dealers at any price is the best and most direct way to bring the unemployment rate down from over 9% to 5%. And it's not liable to leak out and cause distortions in other markets. Right. So that's working really well so far.

Anyhoo, at least the Chinese are paying attention. China raised its interest rates for the third time since mid-October. Admittedly, China's growth rates are a tad higher than ours and the chance of getting runaway inflation is more likely when your economy is experiencing explosive growth of 10%, rather than the anemic 3% or so we're getting in the US. Nevertheless, global markets actually respond to this kind of thing. Oil, copper, and emerging-market stocks fell across the board in response to China's interest rate move. Please make of note of that, Mr. Bernanke.

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