Category Archives: Economics

The Disaster of Negative Interest Policy, by Thorsten Polleit

Negative interest rates are a creature of central banks and an indictment of their policies. From Thorsten Polleit at mises.org:

hose who had hoped that things could not get worse with the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) have been proven wrong. At its last meeting on 25 July 2019, the Governing Council of the ECB kept interest rates unchanged: the main refinancing rate was kept at 0.00% and the deposit rate at -0.40%. At the same time, however, ECB President Mario Draghi has prepared the ground to lower interest rates even further in the coming months. What is the reasoning behind that?

According to the ECB Governing Council, inflation is too low, and the euro area economy is too weak. It was precisely this assessment that signaled to the markets to expect a rate cut in the near future. It has now become very likely that the deposit rate will be lowered by 0.2 percentage points to -0.60% at the next ECB meeting in September; and the main refinancing rate could drop to -0.20%. The continued path into the negative interest world, however, has quite dramatic consequences.

The Essence of the Interest Rate

This becomes clear when considering what the interest rate stands for. In short, it represents the value discountthat a later satisfaction of a want suffers compared to an earlier satisfaction of the same want (under otherwise identical circumstances). The “pure” or “originary” interest rate is positive — always and everywhere. It cannot disappear, it cannot go to zero, let alone fall below the zero line; the logic of human action informs us that the pure interest rate cannot be thought away from human actions and values.

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The Battle of the ‘Flations has Begun, by Tom Luongo

Can central banks stop a deflationary tsunami? From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Inflation? Deflation? Stagflation? Consecutively? Concurrently?… or from a great height (apologies to Tom Stoppard).

We’ve reached a pivotal moment where all of the narratives of what is actually happening have come together. And it feels confusing. But it really isn’t.

The central banks have run out of room to battle deflation. QE, ZIRP, NIRP, OMT, TARGET2, QT, ZOMG, BBQSauce! It all amounts to the same thing.

How can we stuff fake money onto more fake balance sheets to maintain the illusion of price stability?

The consequences of this coordinated policy to save the banking system from itself has resulted in massive populist uprisings around the world thanks to a hollowing out of the middle class to pay for it all.

The central banks’ only move here is to inflate to the high heavens, because the civil unrest from a massive deflation would sweep them from power quicker.

For all of their faults leaders like Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini and even Boris Johnson understand that to regain the confidence of the people they will have to wrest control of their governments from the central banks and the technocratic institutions that back them.

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China: Paper Tiger, by Jim Rickards

The Chinese economic miracle rests on a mountain of debt. From Jim Rickards at dailyreckoning.com:

China’s shock currency devaluation last week begs the following questions: Is China a rising giant of the twenty-first century poised to overtake the United States in wealth and military prowess? Or is it a house of cards preparing to implode?

Conventional wisdom espouses the former. Yet, hard evidence suggests the latter.

IMG 1

Your correspondent in the world famous Long Bar on the Bund in Shanghai, China. The Long Bar (about 50-yards long) was originally built in 1911 during the heyday of foreign imperialism in China just before the formation of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Bar regulars were divided into “tai-pans” (bosses who sat near the window), “Shanghailanders” (who sat in the middle), and “griffins” (newcomers who sat at the far end).

I made my first visits to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 1981 and my first visit to Communist China in 1991. I have made many visits to the mainland over the past twenty years and have been careful to move beyond Beijing (the political capital) and Shanghai (the financial capital) on these trips. My visits have included Chongqing, Wuhan, Xian, Nanjing, new construction sites to visit “ghost cities,” and trips to the agrarian countryside.

I spent five days cruising on the Yangtze River before the Three Gorges Dam was finished so I could appreciate the majesty and history of the gorges before the water level was lifted by the dam. I have visited numerous museums and tombs both excavated and unexcavated.

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Reality Dawning, by Sven Henrich

There are all sorts of indications that a recession is coming. From Sven Henrich at northmantrader.com:

Yesterday’s announcement by the Trump administration to delay some of the new tariffs on China it just announced a few weeks ago was initially greeted with relief by equity markets across the globe. This proved to be mistake as reality is dawning and global stock markets are selling off hard just a day later on ever weakening economic data in Europe and Asia and further yield curve inversions.

Call it a major hangover as the reversal in tariffs was not coming from a position of strength, it was coming as a result of global economic reality sinking in, a reality that is making its way rapidly to US shores as well. The collapse in global yields has been a theme since October of 2018 with the US 10 year dropping to 1.6% from its October 2018 high of 3.25%, but only now that the 2 year/10 year yield curve has inverted are the official recession alarm bells ringing. Why? Because every single recession in the past 45 years has seen a 2 year/10year yield curve inversion preceding it.

To believe no recession is coming is to argue that this inversion is defying history. And indeed let’s look at history, because it is now used to argue that this yield curve inversion leaves room for further market rallies to new highs. Does it?

If history is a guide, then the answer is yes but market relevant timing can vary quite a bit and depending on how the data is framed up you can get different conclusions.

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GDP Growth Isn’t the Same Thing as Economic Growth, by Frank Shostak

Frank Shostak explores the fraud that is the Gross Domestic Product statistic, and its wider implications. From Shostak at mises.org:

To gain insight into the state of an economy, most financial experts and commentators rely on a statistic called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP framework looks at the value of final goods and services produced during a particular time interval, usually a quarter or a year.

This statistic is constructed in accordance with the view that what drives an economy is not the production of wealth but rather its consumption. What matters here is the demand for final goods and services. Since consumer outlays are the largest part of the overall demand, it is commonly held that consumer demand is the key driver of economic growth.

All that matters in this view is the demand for goods, which in turn will give rise almost immediately to their supply. Because the supply of goods is taken for granted, this framework ignores the whole issue of the various stages of production that precede the emergence of the final good.

However, in order to manufacture a car, there is a need for coal to be employed in the production of steel, which in turn will be employed to manufacture an array of tools. These in turn are used to produce other tools and machinery and so on, until we reach the final stage of the production of a car. The harmonious interaction of the various stages of production results in the final product.

Within the GDP framework, the aspect of funding economic activity never emerges. In this framework goods emerge because of people’s desires. In the real world, it is not enough to have demand for goods – one must have the means to accommodate people’s desires. The means are various final goods that are required to sustain various individuals in the various stages of production.

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Why Gold Is the Best Money, by Doug Casey

The logical case for gold as the basis for monetary systems is solid. From Doug Casey at caseyresearch.com:

Chris’ note: Chris Reilly here, managing editor for Casey Daily Dispatch.

As you know, gold is on the rise. It’s up 15% over the last two months… and recently hit $1,500 an ounce for the first time since April 2013.

Hopefully, you’ve added some to your portfolio… before this boom really takes off. We see big things coming… and that’s why today, we’re sharing one of the most important essays on gold we’ve ever published.

It comes from our founder, Doug Casey, who explains the key reasons why gold is the best money. As Doug says, you’ll want to burn them into your memory…


By Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research

It’s an unfortunate historical anomaly that people think about the paper in their wallets as money. The dollar is, technically, a currency. A currency is a government substitute for money. But gold is money.

Now, why do I say that?

Historically, many things have been used as money. Cattle have been used as money in many societies, including Roman society. That’s where we get the word “pecuniary” from: the Latin word for a single head of cattle is pecus. Salt has been used as money, also in ancient Rome, and that’s where the word “salary” comes from; the Latin for salt is sal (or salis). The North American Indians used seashells. Cigarettes were used during WWII. So, money is simply a medium of exchange and a store of value.

By that definition, almost anything could be used as money, but obviously, some things work better than others; it’s hard to exchange things people don’t want, and some things don’t store value well. Over thousands of years, the precious metals have emerged as the best form of money. Gold and silver both, though primarily gold.

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Fed Trapped in a Rate-Cutting Box: It’s the Debt Stupid, by Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Debt has no beneficial effects and can only make the situation worse when an economy is already debt-saturated. From Mike “Mish” Shedlock at moneymaven.io:

The Fed desperately needs to keep credit expanding or the economy will collapse. However, it’s an unsustainable scheme.

Key Debt Points

  • In 1984 it took $1 of additional debt to create an additional $1 of Real GDP.
  • As of the fourth quarter of 2018, it took $3.8 dollars to create $1 of real GDP.
  • As of 2013, it took more than a dollar of public debt to create a dollar of GDP.
  • If interest rates were 3.0%, interest on total credit market debt would be a whopping $2.16 trillion per year. That approximately 11.5% of real GDP year in and year out.

Total Credit Market Debt Detail

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