In recent years a good part of the monetary debate has become a simple war of words, with much of the conflict focused on the definition for the word "inflation." Whereas economists up until the 1960's or 1970's mostly defined inflation as an expansion of the money supply, the vast majority now see it as simply rising prices. Since then the "experts" have gone further and devised variations on the word "inflation" (such as "deflation," "disinflation," and "stagflation"). And while past central banking policy usually focused on "inflation fighting," now bankers talk about "inflation ceilings" and more recently "inflation targets". The latest front in this campaign came this week when Bloomberg News unveiled a brand new word: "lowflation" which it defines as a situation where prices are rising, but not fast enough to offer the economic benefits that are apparently delivered by higher inflation. Although the article was printed on April Fool's Day, sadly we do not believe it was meant as a joke.
We have an economy that is weaker than the headline numbers claim with inflation that is higher than the headline numbers claim.
From a strictly empirical perspective, the Keynesian theory is a disaster. Positivism wise, it’s a smoldering train wreck. You would be hard-pressed to comb through historical data and find great instances where government intervention succeeded in lowering employment without creating the conditions for another downturn further down the line. No matter how you spin it, Keynesianism is nothing but snake oil sold to susceptible political figures. Its practitioners feign using the scientific method. But they are driven just as much by logical theory as those haughty Austrian school economists who deduce truth from self-evident axioms. The only difference is that one theory is correct. And if the Keynesians want to keep pulling up data to make their case, they are standing on awfully flimsy ground.
The following chart shows that we’ve turned the economic development process inside out. Ideally, advanced economies would stick to the disciplined financial practices that helped make them strong between the early-19th and mid-20th centuries, while emerging economies would “catch up” by building similar track records. Instead, advanced economies are catching down and threatening to throw the entire world into the kind of recurring crisis mode to which you’re accustomed if you live in, say, Buenos Aires. Here are eight reasons why things got so bad!
Inflation is hot property today, hyperinflation is even hotter!
Because the ultimate outcome of this monetary cycle hinges on how, when, or if the Fed can unwind its unwieldy balance sheet, without further damage to the economy; most likely continuing stagnation or a return to stagflation, or less likely, but possible hyper-inflation or even a deflationary depression, the Bernanke legacy will ultimately depend on a Bernanke-Yellen legacy. But what should be the main lesson of a Greenspan-Bernanke legacy? Clearly, if there was no pre-crisis credit boom, there would have been no large financial crisis and thus no need for Bernanke or other human to have done better during and after. While Austrian analysis has often been criticized, incorrectly, for not having policy recommendations on what to do during the crisis and recovery, it should be noted that if Austrian recommendations for eliminating central banks and allowing banking freedom had been followed, no such devastating crisis would have occurred and no heroic policy response would have been necessary in the resulting free and prosperous commonwealth.
People often ask today: if the Fed has created so much new money, why hasn’t it produced more inflation?
After last week's economic fireworks, this one will be far more quiet with earnings dominating investors' attention: US financials reporting this week include JPM and Wells Fargo tomorrow, BofA on Wednesday, GS and Citi on Thursday, BoNY and MS on Friday. Industrial bellwethers Intel (Thurs) and General Electric (Fri) are also on this week’s earnings docket. On the macro front, this coming week we have two MPC meetings - both in LatAm. For Brazil consensus expects a 25bps hike in the policy rate. For Chile consensus forecasts monetary policy to remain on hold. Among the data releases, one should point out inflation numbers from the US (CPI and PPI), Eurozone, the UK and India. We also have three important US producer and consumer surveys - Empire Manufacturing, Philadelphia Fed (consensus +8.5), and U. of Michigan (consensus 83.5). Among external trade and capital flow stats, we would emphasize US TIC data, as well as current account balances from Japan and Turkey. Finally, the accumulation of FX reserves in China is interesting to track as it provides an indication of CNY appreciation pressure.
Have you seen the economic recovery? We haven’t either. But it is bound to be around here somewhere, because the National Bureau of Economic Research spotted it in June 2009, four and one-half years ago. It is a shy and reclusive recovery, like the “New Economy” and all those promised new economy jobs. I haven’t seen them either, but we know they are here, somewhere, because the economists said so. At a time when most Americans are running out of coping mechanisms, the US faces a possible financial collapse and a high rate of inflation from dollar depreciation as the Fed pours out newly created money in an effort to support the rigged financial markets. It remains to be seen whether the chickens can be kept from coming home to roost for another year.
The world has depended on Chinese and American stimulus for years, and, as Caixin's Andy Xie notes, one implication of their tightening is a slowing global economy in 2014.
A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.
There are those who would blame the people who have chosen to live far beyond their means. They have a point. The financialization of America; where Wall Street con artists,shysters and swindlers rake in billions for shuffling paper and making risky casino bets; mega-corporations ship blue collar middle class jobs to Asia in an all out effort to increase quarterly profits; politicians spend future generations into the poor house in order to get re-elected; and the Federal Reserve purposefully creates monetary inflation to prop up the corrupt system; has systematically destroyed the working middle class and created generations of debt slaves. The American people have been foolish, infantile, and easily duped. But it is clear to me who the real culprits in our long downward spiral have been. Lord Acton stated the obvious, many years ago:
“The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.”
? John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
So the question is simple: If there is a recession in 2014, and policymakers are out of bullets, how will it play out across the American economy?
Saying we need continuous financial bubbles to keep full employment is such a flawed conception of economics, it belongs on an island of misfit philosophies. Krugman’s incessant promotion of statism is doing more harm to the economy than good. As an opinion-molder, he is perpetuating the economic malaise of the last few years. More bubbles won’t help the recovery, just harm it more. In the middle of a grease fire, Krugman calls for more pig fat. And the rest of us are the ones left burnt.
"There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world," Kyle Bass tells Steven Drobny in his new book, The New House of Money, adding "It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor." The Texan remains concerned at QE's effects on wealth inequality and worries that "at some point this is going to ignite and set cost pressures off." While Gold-in-JPY is his recommended trade for non-clients, his hugely convex trades on Japan's eventual collapse remain as he explains the endgame for his thesis, "won't buy back until JPY is at 350," and fears "the logical conclusion is war."