European Bailouts ‘R Us


The WSJ reported on the U.S. bailout of Europe which has conveniently evaded the notice of most of the media. I reported on this in November.

The Federal Reserve just made it easier for the world banks to swap U.S. dollars. Inflation and a deflated dollar might be side effects if this becomes an ongoing approach. Paul Gigot of the WSJ said in the short term, the Feds action is fine and won’t cause inflation. The money went into the markets and amounts to another bailout if I am reading this correctly.

The WSJ explains what the credit swap is: The Fed is using what is termed a “temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangement” with the European Central Bank (ECB). There are similar arrangements with the central banks of Canada, England, Switzerland and Japan. Simply put, the Fed trades or “swaps” dollars for euros. The Fed is compensated by payment of an interest rate (currently 50 basis points, or one-half of 1%) above the overnight index swap rate. The ECB, which guarantees to return the dollars at an exchange rate fixed at the time the original swap is made, then lends the dollars to European banks of its choosing.

Why are the Fed and the ECB doing this? The Fed could, after all, lend directly to U.S. branches of foreign banks. It did a great deal of lending to foreign banks under various special credit facilities in the aftermath of Lehman’s collapse in the fall of 2008. Or, the ECB could lend euros to banks and they could purchase dollars in foreign-exchange markets. The world is, after all, awash in dollars.

The two central banks are engaging in this roundabout procedure because each needs a fig leaf. The Fed was embarrassed by the revelations of its prior largess with foreign banks. It does not want the debt of foreign banks on its books. A currency swap with the ECB is not technically a loan.

This might help the markets temporarily (when the markets go up, the dollar goes down), but I sure hope they have a plan in the works to make substantive changes because this is a very temporary fix.

Are we in our currency death throes? I guess Obama wants us to go down with Europe.

We should be drilling and reducing regulations on businesses so they can open up the job market.

I have a question, why isn’t this being reviewed by our representatives? They can do anything they want?