Yes, the United States dodged another bullet with a last-minute deal on the debt ceiling. But, with 90 days left to bridge the ideological and partisan divide before another crisis erupts, the fuse on America’s debt bomb is getting shorter and shorter. As a dysfunctional US government peers into the abyss, China – America’s largest foreign creditor – has much at stake. For more than 20 years, this mutually beneficial codependency has served both countries well in compensating for their inherent saving imbalances while satisfying their respective growth agendas. But here the past should not be viewed as prologue. A seismic shift is at hand, and America’s recent fiscal follies may well be the tipping point. The days of its open-ended buying of Treasuries will soon come to an end.
It's never different this time. All too often we forget (whether by choice or happenstance) what occurred in the past - missing the lessons from history and, perhaps in an effort to deny the reality, maintaining the status quo that cradles us so warmly every night. In an effort to bring back some of that "memory" - and dispel the inevitable recency bias (and cognitive dissonance) as even the Fed is admitting markets are frothy, we bring you 1999's CNN Special "The New Economy - Boom Without End."
The Federal Reserve continues to cling to a destabilizing and ineffective strategy. By maintaining its policy of quantitative easing (QE) – which entails monthly purchases of long-term assets worth $85 billion – the Fed is courting an increasingly treacherous endgame at home and abroad. By now, the global repercussions are clear, falling most acutely on developing economies with large current-account deficits. But there is an even more insidious problem brewing on the home front - wealth effects are for the wealthy (as the Fed knows too well). QE benefits the few who need it the least. That is not exactly a recipe for a broad-based and socially optimal economic recovery.
The global economy could be in the early stages of another crisis. Once again, the US Federal Reserve is in the eye of the storm. As the Fed attempts to exit from so-called quantitative easing (QE) – its unprecedented policy of massive purchases of long-term assets – many high-flying emerging economies suddenly find themselves in a vise. The Fed insists that it is blameless – the same absurd position that it took in the aftermath of the Great Crisis of 2008-2009. As in the mid-2000’s, there is plenty of blame to go around this time as well. The Fed is hardly alone in embracing unconventional monetary easing. Moreover, the collapsing 'developing economies' all have one thing in common: large current-account deficits. A large current-account deficit is a classic symptom of a pre-crisis economy living beyond its means – in effect, investing more than it is saving. The only way to sustain economic growth in the face of such an imbalance is to borrow surplus savings from abroad. That is where QE came into play...
Many high profile investors, economists and companies got burned during China's recent woes. We look at the errors they made and what you can learn from them.
It was never going to be easy, but central banks in the world’s two largest economies – the United States and China – finally appear to be embarking on a path to policy normalization. Addicted to an open-ended strain of über monetary accommodation that was established in the depths of the Great Crisis of 2008-2009, financial markets are now gasping for breath. Ironically, because the traction of unconventional policies has always been limited, the fallout on real economies is likely to be muted. Breaking bad habits is hardly a painless experience for liquidity-addicted investors. But better now than later, when excesses in asset and credit markets would spawn new and dangerous distortions on the real side of the global economy. That is exactly what pushed the world to the brink in 2008-2009, and there is no reason why it could not happen again.
The spin-doctors are hard at work talking up America’s subpar economic recovery. All eyes are on households. Thanks to falling unemployment, rising home values, and record stock prices, an emerging consensus of forecasters, market participants, and policymakers has now concluded that the American consumer is finally back. Don’t believe it. In short, the American consumer’s nightmare is far from over. Spin and frothy markets aside, the healing has only just begun.
Niall Ferguson "In my view Paul Krugman has done fundamental damage to the quality of public discourse on economics. He can be forgiven for being wrong, as he frequently is--though he never admits it. He can be forgiven for relentlessly and monotonously politicizing every issue. What is unforgivable is the total absence of civility that characterizes his writing. His inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma. It is a pity that a once talented scholar should demean himself in this way."
The politicization of central banking continues unabated. The resurrection of Shinzo Abe and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party – pillars of the political system that has left the Japanese economy mired in two lost decades and counting – is just the latest case in point. He argued that a timid BOJ should learn from its more aggressive counterparts, the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. But will it work? Unfortunately, it appears that Japan has forgotten many of its own lessons – especially the BOJ’s disappointing experience with zero interest rates and QE in the early 2000’s. Not only is QE’s ability to jumpstart crisis-torn, balance-sheet-constrained economies limited; it also runs the important risk of blurring the distinction between monetary and fiscal policy. Massive liquidity injections carried out by the world’s major central banks – the Fed, the ECB, and the BOJ – are neither achieving traction in their respective real economies, nor facilitating balance-sheet repair and structural change. That leaves a huge sum of excess liquidity sloshing around in global asset markets. Where it goes, the next crisis is inevitably doomed to follow.
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
Following David Einhorn's take-down of the great and glorious Oz Larry Meyer eighteen months ago, the latter has been in training - readying his counterfactual counter-punches and controlling his ire. The king of Keynesianism just had his bell rung once again by a market realist and pragmatist as Stephen Roach destroyed the "if-we-don't-have-models-we-are-making-it-all-up" maestro and his constant diatribe of counterfactual crap. "Where's the beef, Larry?" Roach asked on CNBC this morning, which was followed up with a rabbit punch from Kiernan, "and what about Christina Romer's stimulus-employment model?" The visibly shaken (seriously watch the clip) Meyer falls back once again to a defensive pose - and while practically admitting that the Fed is impotent - as he pulls out the ultimate "but without our models we would not be able to tell you how much worse it would be without the Fed interventions". Roach takes this weak cross to the chin and comes over the top with a devastating "mark your models to market in light of what the economy has done over the four and a half years, the traction from monetary policy has been the major disappointment of this so-called post-crisis recovery." TKO.
Whether it is central bank policy leaked as a strawman or as Stephen Roach notes, Jon Hilsenrath is the new Fed head (as what he writes - prompted by 'friends' - must be adhered to for fear of disappointing markets), UBS' Art Cashin notes a strange coincidence this week. While WSJ's Hilsenrath is the unofficial floater-of-ideas-and-saver-of-markets in the US, it appears The Economist's Greg Ip is the ECB's unofficial suggester-in-chief. As the avuncular Art notes "Mario Draghi's comments stunned the markets. What prompted the timing of the move? We'd like to present a possibility"
In the last year, consensus EPS for 2012 among those oh-so-smart equity analysts has been crushed from over $113 to under $104 but multiple expansion has held the index together on the back of the hopes and dreams of a hockey stick recovery in Q4 thanks to a 'this-time-is-different' response to NEW QE at some point. Goldman has a different perspective. The Earnings Revision Leading Indicator points to a dramatic drop in ISM as micro data not just comfirms macro data but notably points to further weakness. Of course this will be eaten up by all asunder as bad-is-good but worse-is-better, but we worry that the scope of the drop is extreme and given a far more 'aware' market (as Stephen Roach alluded to) that this hole might just be too large this time.
Is it any wonder that Stephen Roach is now ex-Morgan Stanley? Today's brilliant truthiness in his interview on Bloomberg TV is an absolute must-watch as the veteran market practitioner notes that the Fed is forced to act next week and while consumers are telling you that they want to pay down debt - which all the monetray stimulus in the world is not going to change - that QE is nothing but crack to a ridiculously addicted market. With 70% of the US economy in a balance sheet recession, the Fed knows this (which he notes is now run by WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath since what he prints must be adhered to by Ben for fear of market disappointment) and is "dangling QE in front of the markets like raw meat - but it has not worked and it will not work!" But critically, he believes, the euphoric response of markets will be tempered since they have become "used to the fact that all of this unconventional monetary easing by the central bank is just not what it is supposed to be."
"Bernanke is betting the ranch on open-ended QE and zero interest rates and it worries me" is how Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley starts this must-see reality-check interview with Bloomberg TV's Tom Keene. The reason for his concern is simple, the current Fed modus operandi is a framework for rescuing economies in crisis but does little to sustain economic recovery. Roach agrees with Cal's Eichengreen that the European and US central banks are indeed in a policy trap, committed to a path of action that has to be perpetually ante'd up to maintain the dream. With Europe in recession already in his view, Roach does not expect the tough structural action until we see greater social unrest or overwhelming unemployment and reminds us of how close we got when Greece threatened the referendum in the late summer. He goes on to discuss China (positive on their efforts and 'solid strategy') and it's relative success as a regime which he contrasts with our "central bankers who pull the wool over our eyes with ZIRP and magical QE". Taking on the mistakes of Greenspan, letting capitalism go unchecked, and his incredulity at the 'glide-path' charts we were treated to yesterday by the Fed's bankers ('accountability'), Roach sees the painful process of deleveraging from excess debt, insufficient savings, and over-consumption as likely to take a long time as we should not assume investment will be the driver as Obama goes 'protectionist' (in the SOTU) on our 3rd largest export partner - yes, China.