A few days ago, the FDIC, broke as ever, with a Deposit Insurance Fund that was well south of zero at last check, announced, with delightful irony, that it was expanding its insurance on non-interest bearing checking accounts from the current $250,000 to, well, infinity. As in there is no upper limit on how much the FDIC would insure - the fact that it has no money at the FDIC to begin with being completely irrelevant. That's right, the broke FDIC basically said that it would guarantee up to $480 billion currently sitting in US checking accounts between December 31, 2010 and December 31, 2012. Yet is this nothing less than another Volcker-inspired plan to get capital out of multi-trillion money market industry and into consumer hands via easily accessible transaction accounts, and to encourage spending on useless trinkets like iPads? This could very well be the case.
As many will recall, earlier this year the Group of 30, headed by Volcker, came out with a recommendation to allow money market to suspend redemption without prior notice. We, along with many others, speculated that this was merely an attempt to spook MM investors into stocks. Well, it succeeded... half way. Investors did indeed take out money from mutual funds, whose current after-fee 7-day simple yield on prime funds is just 7 bps. However, they then used that money to buy not stocks, but fixed income, instead focusing on such securities as Investment Grade bonds and Treasurys. As a result the much expected ramp in stocks never really occured, and it was up to the Fed and the HFT mafia to keep ramping stocks as ever more outflows exited dometic equity mutual funds.
This latest action by the FDIC, as Barclays' Joseph Abate speculates, is nothing less than a comparable attempt to get Americans to take out theyr cash from money market funds and, now that the whole equity investment avenue is closed, to put it into checking account instead, hoping that once the money is one step closer to the end consumer (as it will reside in non-interest bearing transaction accounts), and easier to withdraw, the psychological element will be one of spurring consumption. Yet will this latest scheme to impact mass consumer psychology work? If past experience is any indication, the desired outcome will once again fall well short of the actual.
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