BofA Presents The 4 "D's" Of Deflationary Doom

Going into Friday, Japanese monetary policy already stood out as the most egregious example of Keynesian insanity the market has ever witnessed.

You’ll recall the central bank is monetizing the entirety of gross JGB issuance and is on a lunatic quest to own the entire ETF market.

But the BoJ still hadn’t gone full-Krugman by taking rates negative. That changed overnight when the bank took the NIRP plunge as Haruhiko Kuroda reminded the world that when it comes to maniacal monetary policy, no one does it like he does.

Why is NIRP necessary in Japan? The same reason it’s necessary in Europe and the same reason ZIRP had to hang around in the US for eight years: inflation. Or, more specifically, a lack of inflation.

Japan has been stuck in the deflationary doldrums for as long as some Wall Street rookies have been alive and Europe has bounced around in deflation on several occasions of late although data out today showed eurozone inflation “soaring” 0.4%.

So what gives? How much damn fiat money do the Kurodas and Yellens and Draghis of the world have to print before inflation picks up? Are central bankers contributing to the problem by destroying creative destruction and thus perpetuating the global deflationary supply glut?

The problem, BofA’s Michael Hartnett says, can be traced to the “Deflationary D’s”: debt, deleveraging, demographics, disruption. Read on to discover why “the nominal GDP of the industrialized world has grown just 4.1% since the lows of Q1’2009, one of the tiniest, deflationary expansions ever. “

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From BofA

The nominal GDP of the industrialized world has grown just 4.1% since the lows of Q12009, one of the tiniest, deflationary expansions ever. And while asset prices are up significantly since their 2008/09 lows, the underlying message from Wall Street in recent years (underperformance of bank stocks - see Chart 1, stubbornly low government bond yields, all-time relative highs in high qualitystocks, and sustained outperformance of growthstocks over valuestocks) has been doggedly deflationary.

 The Deflationary “D’s”

Why has an almost manic monetary policy been so ineffective at generating a broad, sustained economic recovery, or at least alleviating the threat of deflation? Secular factors, most obviously the 4 deflationary “D’s” of excess Debt, financial sector Deleveraging, aging Demographics and tech Disruption have played a major role:

  • 1. Debt levels remain very large: according to the BIS, global debt as a share of GDP was 246% in Q4’2000, 269% in Q4’2007 and 286% in Q2’2014.
  • 2. Deleveraging has impeded the housing recovery and its “multiplier” effect: CoreLogic’s Housing Credit Index, which measures mortgage credit availability in the US, has plunged from 100 to 42 in the past seven years; US mortgage credit outstanding has fallen more than $1tn since its peak of $14.8tn in ’08.
  • 3. Demographics reveal a dramatic aging of the developed world’s population: in the next 10 days, 112,000 people in the US, Europe and Japan will reach the retirement age of 65.
  • 4. Disruption via innovation in robotics, AI and so on, which the World Economic Forum forecasts will cause the loss of a net 5.1mn jobs in the next 5 years.

And while all are secular in nature, the deflationary D’s have also impacted the economic cycle in recent quarters: excess Debt and financial sector Deleveraging have exacerbated problems in China, energy and credit markets; tech Disruption has been a massive factor in the collapse in the oil price; aging Demographics and tech Disruption have played a role in the desire of the Consumer to save rather than spend in the past 18 months.

Indeed, even in the US, the ease with which debt, deleveraging, demographics and disruption have nullified the strong tailwinds of low mortgage rates, low unemployment rates and collapsing gas prices, thus resulting in higher household savings rates, has surprised many. It certainly goes far in explaining the “deflationary” nature of the economic expansion, the wage inequality and insecurity associated with this decade, as well as the rise in political populism across the western world.

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We suppose that at some point, policy makers will heed the (loud) calls for helicopter money and once the cash paradropping begins, we'll see you in the Weimar Republic.