Hijacking the Stock Market with High Frequency Trading

FT

At an industrial estate on the edge of Tseung Kwan O, a new town connected by road tunnel to Kowloon, work has started on a data centre where traders of stocks, futures, options and currencies will place their computers next to Hong Kong Exchanges’ own systems.

The idea is that by having their equipment only metres away from where the operator of the territory’s securities markets handles the trades, those for whom speed is everything can shave milliseconds off the time it takes for a transaction to be completed. It is a far cry from the days when shares were bought and sold by humans on a trading floor.

The concept – known as co-location – is growing fast. Last week, NYSE Euronext completed the move of trading in thousands of New York Stock Exchange-listed companies to a similar data centre in New Jersey. The Hong Kong facility is being built by the local exchange as one of its “strategic business initiatives”. The same is happening in India, where the National Stock Exchange has rented out racks of computer space for traders. In Australia, ASX plans a centre offering co-location by next August.

The speed with which exchanges are building such facilities is a sign of the global spread of a phenomenon gripping the markets: “high-frequency trading” (HFT). The phrase describes a style of electronic dealing that uses algorithms to dip automatically in and out of markets hundreds of times faster than the blink of a human eye.

The practice is controversial. In the US, HFT has chilling associations with the “flash crash” of May 6, when rapid, computer-driven orders were seen as a main culprit in sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 1,000 points in 20 minutes – a fall unprecedented in its depth and speed.

Ted Kaufman, a US senator for Delaware, where many of America’s listed companies are incorporated, wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission last month arguing that “excessive messaging traffic, the dissemination of proprietary market data catering to high-frequency traders, and order-routing inducements all may be combining in ways that cast doubts on the depth of liquidity, stability, transparency and fairness of our equity markets”.

Regulators such as the SEC are still puzzling over exactly what caused the flash crash. But what is clear is that it exposed fundamental flaws in the mechanics of today’s markets – and, some maintain, in the rules that govern them. High-frequency traders are by and large privately held, have no clients and trade using their own money. That has led, some believe, to a point where there has been a dangerous breakdown in investor trust in the way markets work.

Christian Thwaites, chief executive of Sentinel Investment Companies, a US asset manager, says: “The mystery and mystique of HFT, the lack of clarity and therefore opacity has meant that retail investors – who have obviously been terribly burned over the last few years – look at this and say: ‘this whole Wall Street thing is just rigged against me’.”

But like an invasive species in the natural world, HFT had grown rapidly before the wider public even noticed. Tabb Group, a consultancy, estimates that HFT now accounts for 56 per cent of all equity trades in the US and 38 per cent by value in Europe. Another sign that Asia is the latest growth spot came this week as traders and technology companies gathered for a Hong Kong conference billed as Asia’s first high-frequency trading event.

At the same time, changing regulations and increasing competition have created a complex matrix in the US of nine exchanges and dozens of other types of venue, including networks run by banks and brokers, and “dark pools” set up to handle large blocks of shares away from public markets. Exchanges now compete not only with each other for their order flow but also with bank and broker networks, including dark pools.

In Europe the same pattern has played out thanks to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, a European Commission regulation that broke the national monopolies of exchanges. Mifid allowed the emergence of rival platforms such as Chi-X Europe, fragmenting trading across many venues: the London Stock Exchange now accounts for only 55 per cent of trading in the stocks that comprise the FTSE 100 index.

Such fragmentation has been a driving force behind the growth of HFT, since it produces a variety of trading venues each with slightly different trading systems, speeds and fee schedules. This allows traders to exploit these differences by using computer algorithms to trade back and forth from one platform to another.

Concern is therefore growing that the markets may be morphing into little more than a playground for a specialised type of trading that has minimal economic benefit and contributes little if anything to capital formation – the traditional function of stock exchanges.

Established market users – such as the asset managers that take care of pension funds – say HFT, coupled with the fragmentation of trading across venues, makes it harder to rely on one of the most basic functions of the markets: orderly and fair price formation.

“Because of the predatory nature of some participants we have no incentive to post liquidity,” Kevin Cronin, head of equity trading at fund manager Invesco, told a hearing into the flash crash last month. “There are 40 places where stocks are transacted and none of us has clarity of supply and demand on most [equity] issues. These are fundamental issues as to what the value of a securities market is.”

One worry is the use in HFT of algorithms to direct trades automatically, often to several market centres at once. Not only do such algorithms generate huge volumes of trades, but they can – like any machinery – go wrong. The past six months have brought three cases where an algorithm has run amok – and those are only the ones that have been revealed publicly. The latest came last month when the Osaka Stock Exchange handed an “admonition” to Deutsche Bank for not having “a sufficient degree of control” over an algorithm trading Nikkei 225 index futures.

Mr Cronin is not alone in suspecting that certain kinds of algorithms are actually predatory. Analysts at Nanex, a Chicago market data company, say high-frequency traders may be using algorithms to send unusually heavy traffic to exchanges and other platforms in a deliberate attempt to slow down their data systems.

Knowing that a certain exchange’s system is about to run more slowly gives a trader an opportunity to set up a buy or sell order in advance. The process is called “quote stuffing” and is used in a strategy known as “latency arbitrage” – latency referring to the speed at which message traffic moves through a system.

In its analysis of the flash crash, Nanex managed to plot how the bursts of traffic looked visually on graphs. Many appeared as distinct geometric patterns, such as jagged shapes that Nanex dubbed “Bandsaw II”, and another pattern called the “Boston Zapper”. “There’s no economic justification for it,” says Eric Scott Hunsader, founder of Nanex. “If this is OK by everybody, the market is not going to function in a very short period of time.”

Some go further and suggest outright wrongdoing. “When orders get pinged out to multiple trading venues, there is at least circumstantial evidence that there’s quite widespread use of that information to front-run trades,” Jim McCaughan, chief executive of Principal Global Investors, a large US asset manager, told CNBC last month.

Yet for regulators it is hard to figure out who is behind any of the activity. That is because high-frequency traders can operate with minimal supervision. In Britain, for example, all it takes to set up a HFT operation is a company registration and the necessary technology.

Trading systems can be bought off the shelf from a number of specialist companies. Registration with the Financial Services Authority, the UK markets watchdog, is not needed under a long-standing exemption for people trading on their own account – as high-frequency traders do – unless they present themselves as marketmakers. Similarly, in the US some are registered as broker-dealers but many are not. “Some of the people who are doing the really big volumes are completely unregulated,” says one lawyer familiar with the business. “Now, they have become a potential systemic risk. That’s the issue.”

Many exchanges say they have ­controls in place that can detect unusual trading patterns before they cause trouble. Rolande Bellegarde, head of European execution at NYSE Euronext, says that a month ago the exchange disconnected the algorithm that a trader was using, after software detected that his dealings deviated significantly from the normal pattern the exchange had observed over time.

F  or their part, the few HFT firms willing to show their face in public are at increasing pains to demonstrate that their business is beneficial to markets in providing liquidity and tighter bid-ask spreads.

Firms such as Getco, based in Chicago and formed by a pair of former pit traders, and peers in Europe including Optiver of the Netherlands, argue that high-frequency trading is a label used too loosely to describe almost any kind of rapid electronic trading, whether beneficial to markets or not. Getco and other US firms – excluding the banks and hedge funds that are equally big in HFT – recently formed an association to make their case more coherently.

Getco rejects allegations that high-frequency traders’ interests are at odds with those of ordinary investors. “While the story line may be a compelling narrative, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that this conflict exists. To the contrary, most retail brokers … intentionally route a majority of their customers’ marketable orders to firms that engage in high-frequency trading.”

Some studies back up their assertions. Woodbine Associates, a Connecticut consultancy, found in a study of US equity markets over 2008-09 that HFT had “improved execution quality”. Matt Samelson, a principal at the company, says that if there are any high-frequency traders “gaming the market”, then “we don’t think that constitutes the majority of HFT”.

But many asset managers remain unconvinced that the liquidity high-frequency traders provide is as valuable as they claim. For one thing, many exited the market during the flash crash. That has led to calls for regulators to impose as yet undefined obligations on marketmakers, including high-frequency traders. According to an online poll on FT Trading Room, a section of the Financial Times’ website focused on market structures, a clear majority (56 per cent) favours the move.

Asset managers worry that their interest in depth of liquidity and making long-term bets on company fundamentals is being crowded out by traders interested only in speed – cheered on by exchanges eager to offer incentives to attract such participants in order to stay ahead of rival platforms in the battle for liquidity. Exchanges have little incentive to discourage HFT since, aside from the fees it generates, they have found a new revenue stream in the rent they charge for rack space in data centres such as the ones emerging across Asia.

However, according to Mr McCaughan, investors are being put off by the volatility that phenomena such as HFT can cause. NYSE volumes were the lowest last week since 2006 – a fact that he attributes in part to a loss of trust in US equity market structures. “Our business is Main Street, not Wall Street,” he says, noting that Principal looks after “millions of people’s” pension schemes.

“We want to be able to look them in the eye and say the market is fair. And unfortunately, at the moment it’s quite difficult to do that.”

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G20: Banks must hold on to Cash for coming Crisis

The International Crime Syndicate, better known as the G20, determined at its last meeting that the collapse and consolidation of the global economy will begin around 2012 and finish in 2016 with the liquidation of all countries who are in debt with the IMF and the World Bank.

By Luis Miranda
The Real Agenda
June 29, 2010

Bankers and G20 members have direct and indirect ways to speak to the public. At the end of the latest G20 meeting in Toronto, both

From right to left: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama.

groups spoke very clearly about what they have in mind for the foreseeable future. First, they are all in the run to help the process of global consolidation. Second, they will extend the current depression by slowly cutting the available cash for lending. Third, they will continue their austerity programs in a country by country basis to slowly kill their economies and consolidate each nation. Fourth, now that they have robbed the people’s taxes through their rescue packages, they plan to rob shareholders by putting the burden of future rescues on them when the next crisis comes. Fifth, they are disingenuous or irresponsible by thinking that putting aside 130 billion pounds will create any security for the economy, given that only the derivative schemed debt ascends into the quadrillion of dollars. And lastly, they intend to seed and water the final implosion, which according to their communique, can come as soon as 2012.

If all these sounds confusing, please let me explain.

Let’s start by remembering that the G20, and mainly the G8 were the ones who caused the current financial crisis. They did it through their front companies e.g. banks, which implemented a series of corrupt schemes to bankrupt economies and whole countries through investment and betting into risky and sometimes nonexistent financial products e.g. derivatives. These schemes were allowed to exist given the fact that for the past two decades most of the regulations put in place to stop financial fraud were eliminated as an excuse to enable “free markets”. What deregulation effectively permitted was the creation of bogus investing plans which the banks later offered to countries, states and municipalities -often times through governments- and used them to acquire all their infrastructure and cash through the issuance of debt or fraudulent investment.

It has become clear that the G8 and the bankers are not interested in improving current economic conditions. They simply want to extend the crisis as long as they need to, in order to execute their final plan of global implosion. That is what emerges from the idea of cutting lending money and asking banks to hoard the cash for the next crisis, as the G20 communique says. Although 130 billion pounds is peanuts in comparison with the debt most G8 countries hold today, the action of keeping the cash in reserve paints a clear picture of what the ‘leaders’ have in mind. What they want is a slowly and painfully grind down the economies in order to cause the greatest damage. Such policy will assure them the consolidation of more resources before the final blow to the global economy is given.

One of the most important tools the bankers have used along the last 100 years is to create an artificial bubble of money abundance -Fiat money- in order to get the countries and the public to trust them. This is what many describe as economic booms. But given the fact that the global economy is based on debt and fractional reserve banking, the only goal the money bubbles had was to hook up the greatest amount of debt on consumers to then pull the cash off the markets. By doing this, the bankers accelerate their consolidation process. Along with the reduction in lending, G8 nations agreed to continue the austerity plans in each individual country. Austerity will be implanted on the working class by cutting services such as police, hospitals, school funding, and social programs. This will in turn cause civil unrest, which is what the bankers want in order to officially freely unleash their military and technological control grid. A preview of what this grid would look like was seen on the streets of Toronto during the last G20 meeting. It was also seen during Argentina’s collapse in 2001.

The infamous rescue packages glorified by the IMF and the World Bank as the best way to avoid a complete collapse of the global economy -which as explained before was caused by the bankers themselves- were the biggest transfer of money and resources in the history of the world. Only the United States gave the bankers around $25 trillion in tax payer money so Goldman Sachs, Iberia Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and others could pay their shareholders their chunk of the loot. See a complete list of what banks got the cash here. But those $25 trillion were not enough, of course. Germany for example, voted to give 66% of its annual revenue to the banks. Going by the G20’s communique it is clear they are planning another big collapse, possibly the last one. It is also clear they will have to rob someone else this time and that is what the bankers and the ‘leaders’ have said. They will stick the next rescue package to the banks’ shareholders -not to the big ones, though-. So if you have investments in any bank, it is advised to rescue yourself out of it before the new banking package comes along. Shamelessly, they will obligate the banks to hold billions so when the next crisis comes, taxpayers will not be burdened as if we don’t know those billions are the same they stole last 2009. Now that they consolidated and stabilized their fraudulent financial system, it won’t matter if other banks fail, because they are all covered.

The idea that 130 billion pounds is a safety net for a future crisis, or double dip recession as they like to call it, is preposterous. Derivative-produced debt is, depending who you ask, between $600 trillion and $1 quadrillion. According to Robert Chapman, from the theinternationalforecaster.com, buying derivatives is not investing.  It is gambling, insurance and high stakes bookmaking.  Derivatives create nothing.” According to the Bank of International Settlements, the derivative bubble has grown exponentially to a point where the amounts negotiated under this scheme has long surpassed the world’s GDP. “Derivative trades have grown exponentially, until now they are larger than the entire global economy.”Credit default swaps (CDS) is the most common form of derivatives. CDS are bets between two parties on whether or not a company will default on its bonds. They are indeed illegal insurance policies, with no requirement to hold any asset. CDS are used to increase profits by gambling on market changes.

The WEB of DEBT in which the current economy was built throughout the past 100 years was the tool used in a process to reverse everything humans achieved. It was not unintended however, as this was the mechanism the globalist bankers planned on using from the beginning. Every time the world experienced a financial crisis like in 1929-1933, the grip of control tightened more and more. The measures to avoid a total collapse, as we were told, were not such. They were simply ways to postpone the imminent collapse.  But the measures the bankers implemented cannot be used forever. Sooner rather than later something will give in. The step by step, ad hoc and non-holistic approach of Fed and Treasury to crisis management has been a failure. . . . [P]lugging and filling one hole at [a] time is useless when the entire system of levies is collapsing in the perfect financial storm of the century. A much more radical, holistic and systemic approach to crisis management is now necessary,” says professor Nouriel Roubini. founder of Roubini Global Economics.

After turning the global economy into a service-based system, where no quality products are manufactured; after driving developing countries into massive debt while collapsing the economies of the western world, the bankers are ready for their last move: a one last crisis. According to the G20 communique, its members must cut their deficits by 2013, a process that already started. This process is supposed to end in 2016, when the nations should have stabilized their deficits. Cutting and then stabilizing deficits means that debtor countries will have to find a way to pay their debts in full to the IMF and World Bank according to the conditions imposed by those entities. Every country that does not pay in full will be liquidated and their resources will be automatically transferred to the globalist bankers. Imagine what happened to Argentina, Greece and Iceland in the last decade, but instead of being those countries, the debtors will be the United States, Spain, Portugal, England and Germany.

$1.2 Quadrillion Derivatives Market Dwarfs World GDP

AOL Finance

One of the biggest risks to the world’s financial health is the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market. It’s complex, it’s unregulated, and it ought to be of concern to world leaders that its notional value is 20 times the size of the world economy. But traders rule the roost — and as much as risk managers and regulators might want to limit that risk, they lack the power or knowledge to do so.

A quadrillion is a big number: 1,000 times a trillion. Yet according to one of the world’s leading derivatives experts, Paul Wilmott, who holds a doctorate in applied mathematics from Oxford University (and whose speaking voice sounds eerily like John Lennon’s), $1.2 quadrillion is the so-called notional value of the worldwide derivatives market. To put that in perspective, the world’s annual gross domestic product is between $50 trillion and $60 trillion.

To understand the concept of “notional value,” it’s useful to have an example. Let’s say you borrow $1 million to buy an apartment and the interest rate on that loan gets reset every six months. Meanwhile, you turn around and rent that apartment out at a monthly fixed rate. If all your expenses including interest are less than the rent, you make money. But if the interest and expenses get bigger than the rent, you lose.

You might be able to hedge this risk of a spike in interest rates by swapping that variable rate of interest for a fixed one. To do that you’d need to find a counter party who has an asset with a fixed rate of return who believed that interest rates were going to fall and was willing to swap his fixed rate for your variable one.

The actual cash amount of the interest rates swaps might be 1% of the $1 million debt, while that $1 million is the “notional” amount. Applying that same 1% to the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market would leave a cash amount of the derivatives market of $12 trillion — far smaller, but still 20% of the world economy.

Getting a Handle on Derivatives Risk

How big is the risk to the world economy from these derivatives? According to Wilmott, it’s impossible to know unless you understand the details of the derivatives contracts. But since they’re unregulated and likely to remain so, it is hard to gauge the risk.

But Wilmott gives an example of an over-the-counter “customized” derivative that could be very risky indeed, and could also put its practitioners in a position of what he called “moral hazard.” Suppose Bank 1 (B1) and Bank 2 (B2) decide to hedge against the risk that Bank 3 (B3) and Bank 4 (B4) might fail to repay their debt to B1 and B2. To guard against that, B1 and B2 might hedge the risk through derivatives.

In so doing, B1 and B2 might buy a credit default swap (CDS) on B3 and B4 debt. The CDS would pay B1 and B2 if B3 and B4 failed to repay their loan. B1 and B2 might also bet on the decline in shares of B3 and B4 through a short sale.

At that point, any action that B1 and B2 might take to boost the odds that B3 and B4 might default would increase the value of their derivatives. That possibility might tempt B1 and B2 to take actions that would boost the odds of failure for B3 and B4. As I wrote back in September 2008 on DailyFinance’s sister site, BloggingStocks, this kind of behavior — in which hedge funds pulled their money out of banks whose stock they were shorting — may have contributed to the failures of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

It’s also the sort of conduct that makes it extremely difficult to estimate the risk of the derivatives market.

How Positive Feedback Loops Crash Markets

Another kind of market conduct that makes markets volatile is what Wilmott calls positive and negative feedback loops. These relatively bland-sounding terms mask some really scary behavior for investors who are not clued into it. Wilmott argues that a positive feedback loop contributed to the 22.6% crash in the Dow back in October 1987.

In the 1980s, a firm run by some former academics came up with the idea of portfolio insurance.

Their idea was that if investors are worried about their assets losing value, they can buy puts — the option to sell their investments at pre-determined prices. They can sell everything — which would be embarrassing if the market then started to rise — or they could sell a fixed proportion of their portfolio depending on the percentage decline in a particular stock market index.

This latter idea is portfolio insurance. If the Dow, for example, fell 3%; it might suggest that investors should sell 20% of their portfolio. And if the Dow fell 20%, it would indicate that investors should sell 100% of their portfolio.

That positive feedback loop — in which a stock price decline leads to more selling — boosts market volatility. Portfolio insurance causes more investors to sell as the market declines by, say 3%, which causes an even deeper plunge in the value of investors’ holdings. And that deeper decline leads to more selling. Before you know it, many investors are selling everything.

The portfolio insurance firm started off with $5 billion, but as its reputation spread, it ended up managing $50 billion. In 1987, that was a lot of money. So when that positive feedback loop got going, it took the Dow down 22.6% in a day.

The big problem back then was the absence of a sufficient number of traders using a negative feedback loop strategy. With a negative feedback loop, a trader would sell stocks as they rose and buy them as they declined. With a negative feedback loop strategy, volatility would be far lower.

Unfortunately, data on how much money has been going into negative and positive feedback loop strategies is not available. Therefore, it’s hard to know how the positive feedback loops have gained such a hold on the market.

But it is not hard to imagine that if a particular investor made huge amounts of money following a positive feedback loop strategy, other investors would hear about it and copy it. Moreover, the way traders get compensated suggests that it’s better for them to take more and more risk to replicate what their peers are doing.

Traders Make More Money By Following the Pack

There is a clear economic incentive for traders to follow what their peers are doing. According to Wilmott, to understand why, it helps to imagine a simplified example of a trading floor. Picture yourself as a new college graduate joining a bank’s trading floor with 100 traders. Those 100 traders each trade $10 million: They “win” if a coin toss lands on heads and “lose” if it lands on tails. But now imagine you’ve come up with a magic coin that has a 75% chance of landing on heads — you can make a better bet than the other 100 traders with their 50-50 coin.

You might think that the best strategy for you would be to bet your $10 million on that magic coin. But you’d be wrong. According to Wilmott, if the magic coin lands on a head but the other 100 traders flip tails, the bank loses $1 billion while you get a relatively paltry $10 million.

The best possible outcome for you is a 37.5% chance that everyone makes money (the 75% chance of you tossing heads multiplied by the 50% chance of the other traders getting a head). If instead, you use the same coin as everyone else on the floor, the probability of everyone getting a bonus rises to 50%.

When Traders Say ‘Jump,’ Risk Managers Ask ‘How High?’

Traders are a huge source of profit on Wall Street these days and they have an incentive to bet together and to bet big. According to Wilmott, traders get a bonus based on the one-year profits of those on their trading floor. If the trading floor makes big money, all the traders get a big bonus. And if it loses money, they get no bonus — but at least they don’t have to repay their capital providers for the losses.

Given that bonus structure, a trader is always better off risking $1 billion than $1 million. So if the trader, who is the king of the hill at the bank, asks a lowly risk manager to analyze how much risk the trader is taking, that risk manager is on the spot. If the risk manager comes back with a risk level that limits how big a bet the trader can take, the trader will demand that the risk manager recalculate the risk level lower so the trader can take the bigger bet.

Traders also manipulate their bonuses by assuming the existence of trading profits before they are actually realized. This happens when traders get involved with derivatives that will not unwind for 20 years.

Although the profits or losses on that trade have not been realized at the end of the first year, the bank will make an assumption about whether that trade made or lost money each year. Given the power traders wield, they can make the number come out positive so they can receive a hefty bonus — even though it is too early to tell what the real outcome of the trade will be.

How Trader Incentives Caused the CDO Bubble

Wilmott imagines that this greater incentive to follow the pack is what happened when many traders were piling into collateralized debt obligations. In Wilmott’s view, CDO risk managers who had analyzed a future scenario in which housing prices fell and interest rates rose would have concluded that the CDOs would become worthless under that scenario. He imagines that when notified of that possible outcome, CDO traders would have demanded that the risk managers shred that nasty scenario so they could keep trading more CDOs.

Incidentally, the traders who profited by going against the CDO crowd were lone wolves whose compensation did not depend on following the trading floor pack. This reinforces the idea that big bank compensation policies drive dangerous behavior that boosts market volatility.

What You Don’t Understand, You Can’t Properly Regulate

Wilmott believes that derivatives represent a risk of unknown proportions. But unless there is a change to trader compensation policies — one which would force traders to put their compensation at risk for the life of the derivative — then this risk could remain difficult to manage.

Unfortunately, he thinks that regulators aren’t in a good position to assess the risks of derivatives because they don’t understand them. Wilmott offers training in risk management. While traders and risk managers at banks and hedge funds have taken his course, regulators so far have not.

And if regulators don’t understand the risks in derivatives, chances are great that Congress does not understand them either.

Brazil is getting hot. Too hot, too fast

If there is one thing proven beyond doubt during this crisis is that government interventionism in the free market is nefarious.  Developing countries are again and again the victims of globalist inspired management.  Argentina was one notorious case, Iceland and Greece have followed; and now Brazil, a fairly prosperous country in the last decade, is on the way to becoming another victim of artificial implosion.

Financial Times

Brazil’s central bank raised its policy interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday evening in another sign thatBrazil getting too hot the country’s breakneck pace of growth is causing concern over rising prices.

Brazil’s economy expanded by 2.7 per cent in the first quarter over the previous quarter and by 9 per cent over the first quarter of 2009, the national statistics office said on Tuesday. That is much faster than what many economists consider to be the potential, or non-inflationary, rate of about 4.5 to 5 per cent.

“This shows there has been no change in the bank’s position since its previous increase in April,” said Silvio Campos Neto of Banco Schahin in São Paulo. “It is clear from all the indicators that the economy is heating up and inflation is still above target. This is worrying and demands further increases in rates.”

The bank raised its target overnight Selic rate to 10.25 per cent a year, the second three-quarter-point increase at the last two six-weekly meetings of its monetary policy committee.

Consumer price inflation ballooned from a low of 4.17 per cent a year last October to 5.22 per cent in the 12 months to May. Many economists expect inflation to reach 6 per cent by the end of this year, well above the government’s target of 4.5 per cent. Economic growth is expected to be about 6.6 per cent this year.

Mr Campos said he expected the bank to raise the Selic rate to 11.75 per cent by the end of this year.

He said successive interest rate increases would help bring growth back to sustainable levels and predicted the economy would grow by about 4.3 per cent in 2011.

Brazil’s domestic market has recovered quickly from a brief recession during the global crisis, spurred on by a rising consumer class that has benefited from more than a decade of economic stability and low inflation, and from low-cost but effective income transfer programmes.

But the fast pace of growth has exposed bottlenecks such as the poor quality of Brazil’s infrastructure and its heavy tax burden. The rate of investment has risen in recent years but is still short of what is needed to deliver fast, sustainable growth.

Background: Fears of overheating

Brazil’s economy was among the fastest growing in the world during the first quarter, according to figures released on Tuesday that add to fears the economy is overheating and to expectations that the central bank will raise rates again on Wednesday.

The economy grew at a faster-than-expected annual rate of 9 per cent in the three months to March and by 2.7 per cent compared with the previous quarter, according to the IBGE, the national statistics office.

Part of the reason for the growth was an increase in investment, with the rate of investment rising to 18 per cent from 16.3 per cent a year earlier, spurred by gross fixed capital formation, which leapt by 26 per cent year on year, the fastest rate since the IBGE’s current series began in 1995.

“This confirms that the economy is very heated,” said Rafael Bacciotti, economist at Tendências, a consultancy in São Paulo. “The stand-out sectors were industry and services. Employment and wages are also growing strongly and we expect this to continue throughout the year.”

The manufacturing industry grew by 17.2 per cent year on year and the retail sector by 15.2 per cent. Imports also set a record, surging by 39.5 per cent year on year.

The central bank’s most recent weekly survey of market economists showed expectations of overall growth this year rising to 6.6 per cent, the 12th consecutive week of climbing expectations.

But many believe the economy cannot grow at more than 4.5 or 5 per cent a year without provoking an increase in inflation.

The central bank has been forced to act by steadily rising inflation expectations over recent months. Since October, Brazil’s consumer inflation rate has surged from an annual rate of 4.17 per cent to 5.26 per cent in April. However, the central bank’s most recent survey showed a slight drop in forecasts for inflation during 2010, with the average falling to 5.64 per cent from 5.67 per cent a week earlier.

Most economists expect the central bank to announce a second consecutive three-quarter percentage point rise in its policy interest rate, the Selic, at the end of its monetary policy committee’s regular two-day meeting tomorrow.

The committee meets every six weeks to decide whether to change the Selic rate in pursuit of the government’s annual consumer price inflation target, currently 4.5 per cent a year.

If expectations are confirmed, the Selic will rise to 10.25 per cent a year, up from 8.75 per cent when the current tightening cycle began in April.

21st Century Culture: Free Enterprise vs Government Control

Arthur C. Brooks

This is not the culture war of the 1990s. It is not a fight over guns, gays or abortion. Those old battles have been eclipsed by a new

Free Enterprise needs to exist for the gears to move.

struggle between two competing visions of the country’s future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise — limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.

It is not at all clear which side will prevail. The forces of big government are entrenched and enjoy the full arsenal of the administration’s money and influence. Our leaders in Washington, aided by the unprecedented economic crisis of recent years and the panic it induced, have seized the moment to introduce breathtaking expansions of state power in huge swaths of the economy, from the health-care takeover to the financial regulatory bill that the Senate approved Thursday. If these forces continue to prevail, America will cease to be a free enterprise nation.

I call this a culture war because free enterprise has been integral to American culture from the beginning, and it still lies at the core of our history and character. “A wise and frugal government,” Thomas Jefferson declared in his first inaugural address in 1801, “which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” He later warned: “To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” In other words, beware government’s economic control, and woe betide the redistributors.

Now, as then, entrepreneurship can flourish only in a culture where individuals are willing to innovate and exert leadership; where people enjoy the rewards and face the consequences of their decisions; and where we can gamble the security of the status quo for a chance of future success.

Yet, in his commencement address at Arizona State University on May 13, 2009, President Obama warned against precisely such impulses: “You’re taught to chase after all the usual brass rings; you try to be on this “who’s who” list or that Top 100 list; you chase after the big money and you figure out how big your corner office is; you worry about whether you have a fancy enough title or a fancy enough car. That’s the message that’s sent each and every day, or has been in our culture for far too long — that through material possessions, through a ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf — that’s how you will measure success.” Such ambition, he cautioned, “may lead you to compromise your values and your principles.”

I appreciate the sentiment that money does not buy happiness. But for the president of the United States to actively warn young adults away from economic ambition is remarkable. And he makes clear that he seeks to change our culture.

The irony is that, by wide margins, Americans support free enterprise. A Gallup poll in January found that 86 percent of Americans have a positive image of “free enterprise,” with only 10 percent viewing it negatively. Similarly, in March 2009, the Pew Research Center asked individuals from a broad range of demographic groups: “Generally, do you think people are better off in a free-market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time, or don’t you think so?” Almost 70 percent of respondents agreed that they are better off in a free-market economy, while only 20 percent disagreed.

In fact, no matter how the issue is posed, not more than 30 percent of Americans say they believe we would fare better without free markets at the core of our system. When it comes to support for free enterprise, we are essentially a 70-30 nation.

So here’s a puzzle: If we love free enterprise so much, why are the 30 percent who want to change that culture in charge?

It’s not simply because of the election of Obama. As much as Republicans may dislike hearing it, statism had effectively taken hold in Washington long before that.

The George W. Bush administration began the huge Wall Street and Detroit bailouts, and for years before the economic crisis, the GOP talked about free enterprise while simultaneously expanding the government with borrowed money and increasing the percentage of citizens with no income tax liability. The 30 percent coalition did not start governing this country with the advent of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It has been in charge for years.