China 2015 = U.S. 2008
We have argued that it is a perilous myth that central bankers these days control a general price level. They instead incentivize massive financial flows into securities markets and fashionable sectors. Over time, ramifications and consequences reach the profound. For one, excess liquidity promotes over/mal-investment. It’s only the scope and nature that remain in question. If major Bubble flows inundate new technology investment, the resulting surge in the supply of high-margin products engenders disinflationary pressures elsewhere. Policy responses to perceived heightened “deflation” risks then only work to exacerbate Bubbles, mounting imbalances and structural fragilities. This was a critical facet of “Roaring Twenties” analysis that was lost in time.
Now we can see the real tragedy of negative interest rates: they not only have the perverse effect of reversing the flow of time, but they demonstrate that borrowers are not acting with the good faith incentives normally associated with someone who needs money. Rather than paying forward, borrowers are paying backwards because they are effectively trying to return something they don’t want. Such an arrangement renders it impossible for an economy to grow. By destroying the temporal and moral structure of money, negative interest rates destroy the economy. When tomorrow cannot be paid, the current regime must fail. The only question to be determined is the form that failure will assume. This may sound like philosophy but it is cold, hard reality.
"We all are in a Ponzi world right now. Hoping to be bailed out by the next person. The problem is that demographics alone have to tell us, that there are fewer people entering the scheme then leaving. More people get out than in. Which means, by definition, that the scheme is at an end. The Minsky moment is the crash. Like all crashes it is easier to explain it afterwards than to time it before. But I think it is obvious that the endgame is near."
"Today central banks give money to institutions, which are not solvent, against doubtful collateral for zero interest. This is not capitalism."
Central banks are printing rules almost as fast as they’re printing money. The consequences of these fast-multiplying directives — complicated, long-winded, and sometimes self-contradictory — is one topic at hand. Manipulated interest rates is a second. Distortion and mispricing of stocks, bonds, and currencies is a third. Skipping to the conclusion of this essay, Jim Grant is worried: "The more they tried, the less they succeeded. The less they succeeded, the more they tried. There is no 'exit.'"
“Money amplifies our tendency to overreact, to swing from exuberance when things are going well to deep depression when they go wrong.”
Alarm bells in the European banking system have been ringing for quite a while but nobody seems to be listening. The roaring capital markets are just too loud. But we have been keeping track of a few things.
With U.S. rates higher than those of major foreign markets, investors are provided with an additional reason to look favorably on increased investments in the long end of the U.S. treasury market. Additionally, with nominal growth slowing in response to low saving and higher debt we expect that over the next several years U.S. thirty-year bond yields could decline into the range of 1.7% to 2.3%, which is where the thirty-year yields in the Japanese and German economies, respectively, currently stand.
"Excess credit creation is at the heart of much of China’s GDP growth, and why this means that China must choose between a sharp slowdown in GDP growth as credit is constrained, or a continued unsustainable increase in debt. The key point is that we cannot simply put the bad debt behind us once the economy is “reformed” and project growth as if nothing happened. Earlier losses are still unrecognized and hidden in the country’s various balance sheets."
"... it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally.... Never before have central banks tried to push so hard... Few are ready to curb financial booms that make everyone feel illusively richer. Or to hold back on quick fixes for output slowdowns, even if such measures threaten to add fuel to unsustainable financial booms.... The temptation to go for shortcuts is simply too strong, even if these shortcuts lead nowhere in the end."
The central banks have created moral hazard on a scale which is simply unbelievable and set a stage for a bonfire of the vanities seldom, if ever, seen in history. Professional Investors who have spent a lifetime playing these contrarian opportunities offered by human behavior are being carried out on stretchers as historic market behaviors fail to materialize. "Never in my 30+ year career as a market observer have I seen so many out on a limb which is about to be sawed off." Those who live within the matrix are fully loaded for a recovery which is not and will not appear. But when the leverage fails, the world’s developed economies will be thrust into the next leg of the cleansing process of deleveraging and the destruction of it will be equally bigger. This conclusion is firmly on the horizon; let’s call it the great insanity.
Today you can’t go 10 minutes without tripping over an investment manager using the phrase “Minsky Moment” as shorthand for some Emperor’s New Clothes event, where all of a sudden we come to our senses and realize that the Emperor is naked, central bankers don’t rule the world, and financial assets have been artificially inflated by monetary policy largesse. Please. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
"... the Fed is overpromising and over-reaching on what it can actually deliver. It has always been quite a leap of faith to believe that ever-rising asset prices would create a wealth effect adequate enough to boost consumption, so as to make progress on the Fed’s dual mandates without causing adverse financial markets conditions.... After the 2008 crisis, policymakers have tried to end this mindset by becoming more proactive in trying to prevent financial crises. Though well-intentioned, this new approach has arguably led to Fed policy itself becoming a source of systemic risk... Markets are likely headed for a difficult period as the FOMC tries to gradually wean investors off of its liquidity addiction. It is too late for the FOMC to do much other than to try to limit the damage.... The bottom line could simply be that QE means ‘risk-on’, while ending QE means ‘risk-off’."
The mainstream media is latching on to the idea that all is not well in the world of 'markets'. The FT's Gillian Tett notes that, as we have vociferously explained, almost every measure of volatility has tumbled to unusual low levels, "this is bizarre," she notes, "financial history suggests that at this point in an economic cycle, volatility normally jumps." But investors are acting as if they were living in a calm and predictable universe, "[Investors in] the options markets are not pricing in any big macro risks. This is very unusual." In reality, as Hyman Minsky notes, market tranquility tends to sow the seeds of its own demise and the longer the period of calm, the worse the eventual whiplash. Tett concludes, that pattern played out back in 2007... and there are good reasons to suspect it will recur.
After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."