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Money-Supply Growth Accelerates to 28-Month High

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11/23/2019

The money supply growth rate rose in October, climbing to a twenty-eight-month high. The last time the growth rate was higher was during July of 2017, when the growth rate was 5.07 percent.

During October 2019, year-over-year growth in the money supply was at 4.95 percent. That's up from September's rate of 3.10 percent, and was up from October 2018's rate of 3.49 percent. The increase in money-supply growth in October represents a sizable reversal of the trend we've seen for most of this year so far. In August, the growth rate hit a 120-month low, falling to the lowest growth rates we'd seen since 2007. Growth rates are still a long way from reaching the heights reached from 2009 to 2016, however.

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The money-supply metric used here — the "true" or Rothbard-Salerno money supply measure (TMS) — is the metric developed by Murray Rothbard and Joseph Salerno, and is designed to provide a better measure of money supply fluctuations than M2. The Mises Institute now offers regular updates on this metric and its growth. This measure of the money supply differs from M2 in that it includes treasury deposits at the Fed (and excludes short-time deposits, traveler's checks, and retail money funds).

The M2 growth rate also increased in October, growing 6.65 percent, compared to September's growth rate of 5.61 percent. M2 grew 3.38 percent during October of last year. The M2 growth rate had fallen considerably from late 2016 to late 2018, but has been growing again in recent months.

Money supply growth can often be a helpful measure of economic activity. During periods of economic boom, money supply tends to grow quickly as banks make more loans. Recessions, on the other hand, tend to be preceded by periods of slow-downs in rates of money-supply growth.

Moreover, periods preceding recessions often show a growing gap between M2 growth and TMS growth. We saw this in 2006-7 and in 2000-1. The gap between M2 and TMS narrowed considerably from 2011 through 2015, but has widened since then. Even with October's jump in growth levels, M2 was still growing faster.

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The overall M2 total money supply in October was $15.1 trillion, and the TMS total was $13.9 trillion.

The lack of money supply growth also points to growing weakening in economic activity since the Fed has turned to increasingly accommodative monetary policy  in recent months — but has not managed to return money supply growth to levels we'd expect in an expansion. The FOMC has cut the target fed funds rate more than once this year, but the big change is in the Fed's recent moves to increase its balance sheet again. Since late August, the Fed has added more than 370 billion to its total assets in an effort to provide a "blast of cash" for the repo market.  Another $103 billion was added Thursday.The Fed apparently has concluded the market requires additional liquidity and has acted accordingly. Fed assets are now headed back to four trillion dollars, in spite of numerous claims from the Fed that the economy is sound and strong.

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Part (but by no means all) of what is driving the increase in the TMS is October's large increase in "treasury deposits at the Fed." Since August, this sum has grown from $133 billion to $349 billion.

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Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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