With the global economy sinking, and worries about it beginning to resound beyond just inconvenient bears, Paul Krugman has been leading the critique against what he sees is a disastrous and ignorant deformation against debt. Krugman is trying to argue that because government debt did not hinder private wealth creation we should use government debt to create private wealth. The cart is not even before the horse using this “logic”, as the cart and horse aren’t even on the same road. Paper wealth isn’t wealth, and government debt isn’t “free money.” There are consequences to both which their proponents never include in the “prospectus.”
Bell Curves have become fatter and flatter. They may even be inverted. The term “bell curve” comes from the shape of the curve that depicts all occurrences distributed around the most-probable event. Data points in the ‘tails’ are now more frequent. Hyper-active central banks might be ensuring both a melt-up bubble and a market crash: larger ‘right-tail’ and ‘left-tail’ outcomes.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland earlier this week tweeted out a notice of a working paper titled: U.S. Intervention during the Bretton Woods Era:1962-1973... a detailed report on the massive interventions in currency markets that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve conducted and is exceptionally critical of the market manipulations that took place during that period. It is probably no surprise then that the paper is no longer featured at the Cleveland Fed, and the tweet was quickly deleted.
ZIRP forces retirees and the baby boomers to become more frugal based on lower interest income... this is DEFLATIONARY and has crippled consumer spending.
How geo-politics continues to influence macro markets
Central bank gold buying surged another 17% last year as countries outside of the Western hemisphere continue to stockpile the only currency with no counterparty risk.
Import prices dropped 8.0% YoY (modestly beating expectations of an 8.9% plunge) and 2.8% MoM. The last time import prices started to fall at this pace was a month after Lehman Brothers BK'd. Of course the crash of oil prices is largely responsible as imported fuel costs slumped 16.9% YoY - the most since Dec 2008 (petroleum -17.7%). However, even away from that the price of imported capital goods collapsed the most since March 2009 with the biggest rise in Japanese (foreign central banks) exported deflation since April 2013 (when QE really accelerated).
Now that Europe has demonstrated that one can go NIRP and not crash the system, will the Fed - once its silly obsession with hiking rates in the summer only to launch even more easing and/or QE as the ECB did in 2008 and 2011 - follow suit and join a rising tide of "developed" world central banks in punishing savers for hoarding cash? In a note released last night titled "Revisiting Negative Interest Rates in the US", Goldman shares its thought on the matter. It goes without saying that Goldman is important, because whatever Goldman's econ team shares with Goldman's Bill Dudley over at the NY Fed, usually tends to become official policy with a 3-6 month lag.
Who would have thought all it takes for Eurozone Q4 GDP to print above expectations, even if by the smallest of possible margins - one which even the Chinese goalseek-o-tron bows its head down to in respect - which at 0.3% Q/Q was above the 0.2% expected and above Q3's 0.2%, was for Europe to admit it has finally succumbed to deflation. Oh, and for the ECB to admit the situation has never been more serious by launching Q€. Oh, and add the "estimated contribution" to GDP from hookers and drugs. Put all that together and on an annualized basis, the European economy grew by 1.4%. Whatever the reason, Q4 GDP was the best print since Q1, even as Germany blew not only consensus of 0.3%, but the highest GDP estimate of 0.6% out of the water when it reported that courtesy of a spike in spending, its economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, up from the near-recessionary 0.1% in Q3. That, together with QE and ZIRP now raging across the continent, was enough to push the DAX above 11,000 for the first time ever.
Essentially, our analysis suggests that there is a large divergence in the perceptions of both sides but the rational choice is to hold to their respective positions. In other words, our analysis of the payoffs suggest that the EU won’t offer debt relief and Syriza won’t back down from demanding it. Our fear is that the markets, inured by previous bailouts, expect the Greeks to cave, leaving the risk of an unexpected negative outcome in Europe is probably higher than what is currently being discounted. At the same time, EU policymakers are assuming that contagion will not occur, which may not be accurate.
After significant buying in recent years, some may have questioned if this would continue in 2014. The answer was loud and clear: central bank net purchases amounted to 477t over the year, 17% above 2013’s impressive 409t. This represents the second highest year of central bank net purchases for 50 years, after the 544t addition to global gold reserves reported in 2012. Russia had by far the greatest appetite amongst those who raised gold reserves. The country accumulated an additional 173t (36% of total central bank demand in 2014) over a turbulent 12 months. 2014 was bookended by tension and uncertainty for the country: geopolitical antagonism with the Ukraine, and the resulting international sanctions, at the beginning of the year was followed by severe economic distress towards the end.
We have been living in a new era of “fantasy finance” since the Fed officially intervened massively, in 2009, and since the non-official control of the gold price, in 2013. Investors are now thinking that everything is possible: stocks rising into infinity, oil being given to us by producers and refiners almost for free (it sells cheaper than mineral water), countries that can borrow at historically ri-di-cu-lous rates, and, no later than just a few days ago, a bank in Denmark that pays people to contract a real estate loan (negative rates) ! The financial world, with its lies and immoral management, has been transformed into a Pinocchio’s Enchanted Island... for adults !
The bond market may have gotten so fragmented in recent months that even Bloomberg was amazed at how little trading volume it necessary to make a price impact, the amount of bond traders (and certainly salesmen), and certainly their bonuses, appeared to only go up. "Appeared" being the key word, however, because as Bloomberg reports, "the average number of dealers providing prices for European corporate bonds dropped to a low of 3.2 per trade last month, down from 8.8 in 2009, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley."