by: Paul Craig Roberts
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The article about the Libor scandal, coauthored with Nomi Prins, received much attention, with Internet repostings, foreign translation, and video interviews. To further clarify the situation, this article brings to the forefront implications that might not be obvious to those without insider experience and knowledge.
The price of Treasury bonds is supported by the Federal Reserve’s large purchases. The Federal Reserve’s purchases are often misread as demand arising from a “flight to quality” due to concern about the EU sovereign debt problem and possible failure of the euro.
Another rationale used to explain the demand for Treasuries despite their negative yield is the “flight to safety.” A 2% yield on a Treasury bond is less of a negative interest rate than the yield of a few basis points on a bank CD, and the US government, unlike banks, can use its central bank to print the money to pay off its debts.
It is possible that some investors purchase Treasuries for these reasons. However, the “safety” and “flight to quality” explanations could not exist if interest rates were rising or were expected to rise. The Federal Reserve prevents the rise in interest rates and decline in bond prices, which normally result from continually issuing new debt in enormous quantities at negative interest rates, by announcing that it has a low interest rate policy and will purchase bonds to keep bond prices high.
Without this Fed policy, there could be no flight to safety or quality.