How The Fed Creates Zombies In One Simple Flow Chart

We’ve written quite a bit over the years about the many unintended consequences of unbridled money printing. In fact, it was just last month that we asked the following question which, on the surface, comes across as counterintuitive: “Are Central Banks Creating Deflation?” 

The premise is simple. By keeping rates artificially suppressed, the central banks of the world effectively make it impossible for the market to purge itself of inefficient actors and loss-making enterprises. As a result, otherwise insolvent companies are permitted to remain operational, contributing to oversupply and making it difficult for the market to reach equilibrium. The textbook example of this dynamic is the highly leveraged US shale complex which, by virtue of both artificially low borrowing costs and the Fed-driven hunt for yield, has retained access to capital markets in the midst of the oil slump and has thus continued to drill contributing to the very same price declines that put the entire space in jeopardy in the first place. Here’s what Citi’s Matt King said about this dynamic last month:

It’s that linkage between investment (or the lack of it) and all the stimulus which we find so disturbing. If the first $5tn of global QE, which saw corporate bond yields in both $ and € fall to all-time lows, didn’t prompt a wave of investment, what do we think a sixth trillion is going to do?

 

Another client put it more strongly still. “By lowering the cost of borrowing, QE has lowered the risk of default. This has led to overcapacity (see highly leveraged shale companies). Overcapacity leads to deflation. With QE, are central banks manufacturing what they are trying to defeat?”

Now, Citi is out with a new note bemoaning the fact that the monetary policies ostensibly designed to rescue the world from the deflationary bogeyman have had the effect of destroying creative destruction creating a legion of zombie corporations in the process. 

From Citi:

How odd! Markets not following fundamentals…

Beware unintended consequences…

 

And here’s King summing up the legacy of every iteration of QE the market has seen since the crisis:

“Sometimes the side effects outweigh the benefits.”