One thing that’s become abundantly clear in the post-crisis world is that round after round of QE are enriching the few at the expense of the many.
Ben Bernanke (the architect of the current DM CB regime) will tell you that the growing divide between the haves and the have nots isn’t attributable to central bank policy because after all, the poor have been getting poorer vis-a-vis the rich for decades and so whatever effect the Fed may have had is surely minimal from a historical perspective.
That is of course absurd. When you deliberately inflate the value of the assets that are most likely to be held in the hands of the rich, you are explicitly exacerbating the wealth gap and the effect QE has had on the value of financial assets the world over is certainly no secret.
Nowhere is this more apparent than Japan, where central bank Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has become the poster child for Keynesian insanity after commandeering 52% of the domestic ETF market on the way to providing daily plunge protection for the Nikkei.
We've documented the effect this has had on stocks on any number of occasions and we also noted back in April that according to Akio Doteuchi, a senior researcher at the NLI Research Institute, anyone in the middle class is now at risk of falling into poverty.
Well, even as the BoJ recently "disappointed" the market by not announcing more QE, the wealthy are still getting wealthier under Abenomics. Here's Bloomberg with the most recent read on household wealth:
Signs of inequality in Japan are increasing as people living on their own fall further behind and wealthier households accumulate more assets, according to surveys released Thursday by the Bank of Japan.
The ratio of single-member households with no financial assets climbed to almost 48 percent in 2015, the highest level since 2007, from about 39 percent a year earlier, according to an annual survey by the central bank. At the same time, households with two or more people who held assets such as stocks and bonds saw these rise to a record high 18.2 million yen ($149,597), a separate BOJ report showed.
The widening inequality highlights Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s challenge as he seeks to spread the benefits of record corporate profits and stock prices that this year reached levels not seen since 1996. Low-income households are feeling the effects of last year’s sales-tax hike and limited wages gains while more well off Japanese are benefiting from the swelling value of their investment portfolios.
“Inequality seems to be widening,” said Hiroshi Hanada, head of economic research at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd. “A sales-tax hike and price increases last year hit households hard. Abe hasn’t succeeded to bring benefits to most ordinary people.”
So, there you go. But as long as the rich are doing well, we suppose this is fine.
Of course then again, what's about to happen here is that Japan is going to run out of monetizable government bonds. Once that happens, the BoJ will need to consider two alternatives: 1) buying pretty much the entirety of the Japanese ETF market, and/or 2) resorting to direct deficit financing (i.e. "helicopter money").
While neither of those options will fix the country's demographic problem or do anything to change the fact that Tokyo is headed for "failed state" status by 2018, there may still be some more room for the rich to get a little richer vis-a-vis the peasantry so, mission accomplished?