Is there anything else driving up the price of petrol at the pumps that could be closer to home?
The answer is yes. At the moment, the central banks of the world are responding to this mega-debt crisis and huge de-leveraging everywhere with lower and lower interest rates. Earlier this month, a report from the US Federal Reserve (www.federalreserve.gov) on the flow of funds in the US made for quite shocking reading if you are someone who worries about what central banks all around the world are doing.
The report reveals that the Fed bought 61 per cent of the net new debt the US government issued last year. Before the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve used to buy small amounts, but not the lion’s share of the US government’s debt. This is quantitative easing like we have never seen before.
One way of putting all this into context is to examine how much this is in terms of US total income. This is particularly important right now in order to ascertain whether the US recovery is real or temporary.
Net treasury debt amounts to 8.6 per cent of GDP. If 61 per cent of that figure is caused by printing money, it means that about 5.3 per cent of US economic output is now being driven by the Federal Reserve’s printing presses. This is reminiscent of Argentina in its 1980s heyday, and is extremely worrying.
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