Real Interest Rates
There is no free lunch. Either we kill growth via financial repression of savers or we embrace the painful process of debt restructuring for the major industrial nations.
A great many long refuted Keynesian shibboleths keep being resurrected in Krugman's fantasy-land, where economic laws are magically suspended, virtue becomes vice and bubbles and the expropriation of savers the best ways to grow the economy. According to Paul Krugman, saving is evil and savers should therefore be forcibly deprived of positive interest returns. This echoes the 'euthanasia of the rentier' demanded by Keynes, who is the most prominent source of the erroneous underconsumption theory Krugman is propagating. Similar to John Law and scores of inflationists since then, he believes that economic growth is driven by 'spending' and consumption. This is putting the cart before the horse. We don't deny that inflation and deficit spending can create a temporary illusory sense of prosperity by diverting scarce resources from wealth-generating toward wealth-consuming activities. It should however be obvious that this can only lead to severe long term economic problems. Finally it should be pointed out that the idea that economic laws are somehow 'different' in periods of economic contraction is a cop-out mainly designed to prevent people from asking an obvious question: if deficit spending and inflation are so great, why not always pursue them?
Hunting season is off to a good start this week, and I’m not just talking about deer hunting. It seems that former Fed officials declared open season on their ex-colleagues. First, Andrew Huszar, who once ran the Fed’s mortgage buying operation, let loose in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Huszar apologized to all Americans for his role in the toxic QE programs. And then today, the WSJ struck again, this time with an op-ed by former FOMC Governor Kevin Warsh. Warsh is a former Morgan Stanley investment banker whose 2006 to 2011 stint on the FOMC spanned the end of the housing boom and the first few years of “unconventional” policy measures. After such a solid grounding in the ways of the Fed and Wall Street, he recently morphed into a critic of the status quo. His criticisms are welcome and we believe accurate, but they’re also oh so carefully expressed. They’re written with the polite wording and between-the-lines meanings that you might expect from such an establishment figure. He seems to be holding back. So, what does he really want to say?
The latest myth of a European recovery came crashing down two weeks ago when Eurostat reported an inflation print of 0.7% (putting Europe's official inflation below that of Japan's 1.1%), followed promptly by a surprise rate cut by Mario Draghi which achieves nothing but sends a message that the ECB is, impotently, watching the collapse in European inflation and loan creation coupled by an ongoing rise in unemployment to record levels (not to mention the record prints in the amount of peripheral bad debt). Needless to say, all of this is largely aggravated by the EURUSD which until a week ago was trading at a two year high against the dollar, and while helpful for Germany, makes the so-needed external rebelancing of the peripheral Eurozone countries next to impossible. Which means that like it or not, and certainly as long as hawkish Germany says "nein", Draghi is stuck in a corner when it comes to truly decisive inflation-boosting actions. But what is Draghi to do? Well, according to BNP's Paul-Mortimer Lee, it should join the "no holds barred" monetary "policy" of the Fed and the BOJ, and promptly resume a €50 billion per month QE.
"Debt matters... even if it is possible to pretend for many years that it doesn't," is the painful truth that, author of "Avoiding The Fall", Michael Pettis offers for the current state of most western economies. Specifically, Pettis points out that Japan never really wrote down all or even most of its investment misallocation of the 1980s and simply rolled it forward in the form of rising government debt. For a long time it was able to service this growing debt burden by keeping interest rates very low as a response to very slow growth and by effectively capitalizing interest payments, but, as Kyle Bass has previously warned, if Abenomics is 'successful', ironically, it will no longer be able to play this game. Unless Japan moves quickly to pay down debt, perhaps by privatizing government assets, Abenomics, in that case, will be derailed by its own success.
Readers should consider carefully the fundamental difference between a “real economy” and a “financial economy.” In a real economy, the debt and equity markets as a percentage of GDP are small and are principally designed to channel savings into investments. In a financial economy or “monetary-driven economy,” the capital market is far larger than GDP and channels savings not only into investments, but also continuously into colossal speculative bubbles. It would seem to me that Karl Marx might prove to have been right in his contention that crises become more and more destructive as the capitalistic system matures (and as the “financial economy” referred to earlier grows like a cancer) and that the ultimate breakdown will occur in a final crisis that will be so disastrous as to set fire to the framework of our capitalistic society.
Just as the European 'markets' have entirely disconnected from fundamental reality, Japan's bond market - the largest in the world - "is dead, with only the BoJ driving prices," Mizuho warns. Crucially, once again just as in Europe, "these low yields are responsible for the lack of fiscal reform in the face of Japan’s worsening finances. Policy makers think they can keep borrowing without problems." Market functions are sacrificed for the sake of ending deflation, but "liquidity has evaporated as the BOJ has gobbled up most of the market." This means that a reduction in monetary stimulus could cause a rapid drop in bond prices, which, just as in the US, "will make it difficult for the BOJ to normalize policy." Simply put, as Bloomberg notes, the BoJ has killed the nation’s sovereign bond market, leaving it unable to reflect either the success of stimulus policies or fiscal risks.
"Just When Consensus Thinks Europe Is Exiting The Crisis" Or Why You Can't Handle The Truth About EuropeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/04/2013 18:55 -0400
... but for those who can, and wish to see beyond the propaganda of the Eurozone's unelected leaders, here is Natixis with a candid, honest summary of Europe's sad, "unsustainable" predicament.
The Chinese yuan has reached 20-year highs versus the U.S. dollar. It's a significant development with potentially huge ramifications for China and the world.
Japan’s core CPI (which excludes perishables) surged 0.7% y/y in July, but the upturn is largely due to higher prices for energy that reflect rising import prices due the yen’s weakness. Despite global exuberance at Abe's "progress", BNP notes that there are still no signs of price growth for rent and service prices, factors behind Japan’s protracted deflation. Crucially, BNP believes that Abenomics could lead to four possible medium-term outcomes: (1) Continued deflation (35% probability), (2) Financial repression (40%), (3) High inflation (15%), and(4) Happy end to deflation via revived trend growth (10%). Furthermore, even if this happy ending scenario were to unfold, that does not mean that structural problems, like the swelling public debt and insolvent social welfare, will be headed for resolution.
Do you wonder what to make of America’s soaring government debt and what it means for the future? Or, if you already have it figured out, are you interested in research that might challenge your position? Either way, you might like to see the results of this exercise:
1... Take each historic instance of government borrowing rising above America’s current debt of 105% of GDP.
2... Eliminate those instances in which creditors received a lower return than originally promised, due to defaults, bond conversions, service moratoriums and/or debt cancellations.
3... Of the remaining instances, consider whether and how the debt-to-GDP ratio was reduced.
In other words, let’s see what history tells us about today’s debt levels and what comes next. You may find the answer surprising.
Gold and silver futures surged 2.1% and 3.6% respectively and the dollar fell on the open in Asia prior to determined selling which again capped precious metal prices. Analysts and media attributed the price gains on the withdrawal of Larry Summers from the race to be the new Fed Chairman, leaving Janet Yellen as the new frontrunner.
San Francisco Fed head John Williams - known for his extremely dovish views on monetary policy (and support of record accomodation) - appears to have taken some uncomfortable truth serum this morning. In a speech reminiscent of previous "froth" discussions and "irrational exuberance" admissions, Williams explained:
- *WILLIAMS SAYS POLICY MAY YIELD ASSET BUBBLES, UNINTENDED RESULT
- *WILLIAMS: ASSET-PRICE BUBBLES AND CRASHES 'ARE HERE TO STAY'
- *WILLIAMS: ASSET-PRICE BUBBLES ARE 'CONSEQUENCE OF HUMAN NATURE'
His words appear to reflect heavily on the Fed's Advisory Letter (from the banks) from 3 months ago - warning of exactly this "unintended consequence." This, on the heels of Plosser's recent admission that the Fed was responsible for the last housing bubble, suggests with the black-out period before September's FOMC about to begin, the Fed is sending us a message that Taper is coming - as we know they are cornered for four reasons (sentiment, deficits, technicals, and international resentment).
Today's morning summary is a carbon copy of yesterday's. Some things happened, China continues to make up data to fit its current policy outlook, things in Europe continue to go bump in the night ever louder as we approach the German election despite reflexive diffusion indices - this time Service PMIs - desperately signalling a surge in confidence, Italy has just reminded everyone it is a big political basket case as Berlusconi is said to consider withdrawing his support for the Letta government and calling for elections this year, and so on, but it is still all about Syria. Last night the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has agreed on a resolution on using military force against Syria. The resolution would limit the duration of any US military action in Syria to 60 days, with a 30-day extension possible if Obama determines it is necessary to meet the goals of the resolution. In other words, a "surgical strike" lasting a minimum of 90 days, and then with indefinite additional extensions tacked on. Yet judging by the modest drop in crude and gold, the market may need more than just fighting words at this point to push to th next level of risk aversion.
This week will see the end of August trading and September is, along with November, one of the strongest months to own gold. This is seen in the charts showing gold’s monthly performance over different time frames - 1975 to 2011, 2000 to 2011 and our Bloomberg Gold Seasonality table from 2003 to 2013 (10 years is the maximum that can be used).
Thackray's 2011 Investor's Guide notes that the optimal period to own gold bullion is from July 12 to October 9. During the past 25 periods, gold bullion has outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 4.7%.