Excerpt from the Hussman Funds' Weekly Market Comment (5/18/09):
One of the features that has enabled the bureaucratic abuse of the public during the past year has been the frantic, if temporary, flight-to-safety by investors. The Treasury has issued an enormous volume of debt into the frightened hands of investors seeking default-free securities. This has allowed the Treasury to finance a massive and largely needless transfer of wealth to bank bondholders so easily over the short-term that the longer-term cost has been almost completely obscured. But by transferring wealth from those who did not finance reckless loans to those who did – providing monetary compensation without economic production – the bureaucrats at the Treasury and Federal Reserve have crowded out more than a trillion dollars of gross investment that would have otherwise have been made by responsible people in the coming years, shifted assets to the control of those who have proven themselves to be irresponsible destroyers of capital, and have planted the seeds of inflation that will cut short any emerging recovery.
The bottom line is that the attempt to save bank bondholders from losses – to provide monetary compensation without economic production – is not sound economic policy but is instead a grand monetary experiment that has never been tried in the developed world except in Germany circa 1921. This policy can only have one of two effects: either it will crowd out over $1 trillion of gross domestic investment that would otherwise have occurred if the appropriate losses had been wiped off the ledger (instead of making bank bondholders whole), or it will result in a stunning and durable increase in the quantity of base money, which will ultimately be accompanied not by a year or two of 5-6% inflation, but most probably by a near-doubling of the U.S. price level over the next decade. As I've noted previously, the growth rate of government spending is better correlated with subsequent inflation than even growth in money supply itself, particularly at 4-year intervals. Regardless of near-term deflation pressures from a continued mortgage crisis, our present course is consistent with double digit inflation once any incipient recovery emerges.
The second fact is that as a result of more than a trillion dollars of new issuance of Treasury securities with relatively short durations, it is a tautology that there is a mountain of what is mistakenly viewed as “cash on the sidelines” invested in these securities. This mountain of “sideline cash” exists and must continue to exist as long as these additional government securities remain outstanding. It is an error to view outstanding debt securities as if they are “liquidity” poised to “flow back into the stock market.” The faith in that myth may very well spur some speculation in stocks, but it is a belief that is utterly detached from reality. The mountain of outstanding money market securities is the result of government debt issuance that must be held by somebody until those securities are retired. It is not spendable “liquidity” – it is a pile of IOUs printed up as evidence of money that has already been squandered. The analysts and financial news reporters who observe this enormous swamp of short-term money market securities, and talk about “cash on the sidelines” as if it is spendable in aggregate immediately reveal themselves to be unaware of the concept of equilibrium and of the nature of secondary markets (where there must be a buyer for every security sold, and a seller for every security bought).
If you sell your stocks or bonds or money market securities, they don't cease to exist. Somebody else has to purchase them. Somebody else has to hold them. As I've said numerous times, if Ricky wants to sell his money market funds and buy stocks, then his money market fund has to sell money market securities to Nicky, whose cash goes to Ricky, who uses the cash to buy stocks from Mickey. In the end, the cash that was held by Nicky is now held by Mickey. The money market securities that were previously held by Ricky are now held by Nicky. And the stocks that were once held by Mickey are now held by Ricky. There is exactly as much “money on the sidelines” after these transactions as there was before. Money doesn't go into or out of the stock market – it goes through it. Prices don't move because supply exceeds demand or demand exceeds supply. In equilibrium, the two are identical because that's exactly what a trade is. Prices move because the buyer is more eager than the seller, or vice versa.