As it grows faster than the underlying economy, debt becomes quicksand from which the economy cannot extricate itself. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
Zombification / Japanification is not success; it is only the last desperate defense of a failing, brittle status quo by doing more of what’s failed.
A recent theme in the financial media is the Japanification of Europe.Japanification refers to a set of economic and financial conditions that have come to characterize Japan’s economy over the past 28 years: persistent stagnation and deflation, a low-growth and low-inflation economy, very loose monetary policy, a central bank that is actively monetizing debt, i.e. creating currency out of thin air to buy government debt and a government which funds “bridges to nowhere” and other stimulus spending to keep the economy from crashing into outright contraction.
The parallels with Europe are obvious, but they don’t stop there: the entire world is veering into a zombified financial, economic, social and political status quo that is the core of Japanification.
While most commentators focus on the economic characteristics of Japanification, social and political stagnation are equally consequential. If we only measure economic/financial stagnation, it appears as if Japan and Europe are holding their own, i.e.maintaining the status quo via near-zero growth and near-zero interest rates.
But if we measure social and political decay, the erosion is undeniable. Here’s one example. Few Americans have access to or watch Japanese TV, so they are unaware of the emergence of the homeless as a permanent feature of urban Japan. The central state propaganda media is focused on encouraging tourism, a rare bright spot in Japan’s moribund economy, and so you won’t find much media coverage of homelessness or other systemic signs of social breakdown.
You don’t have to look very hard for signs of recession. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:
This month, the Federal Reserve joined its global peers by turning decisively dovish. Jerome Powell and friends haven’t just stopped tightening. Soon they will begin actively easing by reinvesting the Fed’s maturing mortgage bonds into Treasury securities. It’s not exactly “Quantitative Easing I, II, and III,” but it will have some of the same effects.
Why are they doing this? One theory, which I admit possibly plausible, was that Powell simply caved to Wall Street pressure. The rate hikes and QT were hitting asset prices and liquidity, much to the detriment of bankers and others to whom the Fed pays keen attention. But that doesn’t truly square with his 2018 speeches and actions. The Fed’s March 20 announcement suggests more is happening.
I think two other factors are driving the Fed’s thinking. One is increasing recognition of the same slowing global growth that made other central banks turn dovish in recent months. The other is the Fed’s realization that its previous course risked inverting the yield curve, which was violently turning against its fourth-quarter expectations and possibly toward recession (see chart below, courtesy of WSJ’s “Daily Shot”). That would not have looked good in the history books, hence the backtracking.
The short answer to the question in the title is no. Alasdair Macleod explains why. From Macleod at mises.org:
Despite the ECB’s subsidy of the Eurozone’s banking system, it remains in a sleepwalking state similar to the non-financial, non-crony-capitalist zombified economy. Gone are the heady days of investment banking. There is now a legacy of derivatives and regulators’ fines. Technology has made the over-extended branch network, typical of a European retail bank, a costly white elephant. The market for emptying bank buildings in the towns and villages throughout Europe must be dire, a source of under-provisioned losses. On top of this, the ECB’s interest rate policy has led to lending margins becoming paper-thin.
A negative deposit rate of 0.4% at the ECB has led to negative wholesale (Euribor) money market rates along the yield curve to at least 12 months. This has allowed French banks, for example, to fund Italian government bond positions, stripping out 33 basis points on a “riskless” one-year bond. It’s the peak of collapsed lending margins when even the hare-brained can see the risk is greater than the reward, whatever the regulator says. The entire yield curve is considerably lower than Italian risk implies it should be, given its existing debt obligations, with 10-year Italian government bonds yielding only 2.55%. That’s less than equivalent US Treasuries, the global risk-free standard.
Government bond yields have been and remain considerably reduced through the ECB’s interest rate suppression and its bond-buying programs. The expansion of Eurozone government debt since the Lehman crisis has been about 50% to €9.69 trillion. This expansion, representing €3.1 trillion, compares with the expansion of the Eurosystem’s own balance sheet of €2.8 trillion since 2009. In other words, the expansion of Eurozone government debt has been nearly matched by the ECB’s monetary creation.
Bond prices, such as that of Italian 10-year debt yielding 2.55%, are therefore meaningless in the market sense. This has not been much of an issue so long as asset prices are rising and the global economy is expanding, because monetary inflation will keep the fiat bubble expanding. It is when a credit crisis materializes that the trouble starts. The fiat bubble develops leaks and eventually implodes.
Are the tables about to be turned on both the Russia collusion story and financial markets? From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:
You had to wonder why it took Nancy Pelosi so long to figure out that maybe impeachment was not the big rock-candy mountain that, for “the resistance,” marked the gateway to a Trump-free nirvana. It became obvious this week, through the release of the Bruce Ohr and Lisa Page transcripts, that RussiaGate was birthed entirely by persons in the employ of Hillary Clintion, with then CIA Director John Brennan as midwife, and the DOJ / FBI avidly assisting — all of them fully aware that the predicate was false. What’s more, the evidence timeline makes it clear that Democratic Party leadership, including Nancy Pelosi, knew it was false. Hence, the pained smile she’s been wearing these many months.
In the event of an impeachment proceeding in the House, all that would be revealed, especially if it got as far as a trial in the US Senate, where the defense is allowed to mount a case under rules of evidence. Imagine the howls of embarrassment on late-night TV when even ex-comedian Stephen Colbert would have to admit that he was gulled into acting as a shill for a seditious con.
I suppose Ms. Pelosi also made the calculation that any impeachment ginned up by the likes of Jerrold Nadler and Maxine Waters would be superseded by a slew of actual indictments among the above-mentioned former law enforcement officialdom, including perhaps former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and persons in the Obama White House. You might even include the enigmatic Robert Mueller, who appears to be liable for the destruction of evidence in his own inquiry, as well as malicious prosecution.
Alasdair Macleod documents the reasons behind the EU’s impending failure. From Macleod at goldmoney.com:
Introduction and summary
The monetary, financial and political weaknesses of the EU are about to be exposed by the forthcoming global credit crisis.
This article assumes the combination of end of credit cycle dynamics and the rise in trade protectionism in 1929 is a valid precedent for gauging the scale of a developing global credit crisis today, as described in my earlier article published here. Then, it was heavier tariffs coinciding with a less destabilising inflation cycle than we face today, a combination that saw stock markets collapse. Today, we have the additional factors of far greater monetary inflation, far higher levels of government debt, low savings coupled with record consumer borrowing, and unbacked fiat currencies likely to lose purchasing power instead of gold-backed currencies which increased their purchasing power.
Declining international trade has already become evident in only a few months, and prescient observers detect early signs of a rapidly developing global recession. In response, the ECB has announced it will target lending to non-financial businesses with its TLTRO-III programme from September onwards.
The larger problem is the crony capitalists in the EU have captured the EU institutions, including the ECB, and will demand ever-accelerating monetary inflation. I have chosen to examine the consequences for the Eurozone, which is one of the more vulnerable economic and political constructs likely to be exposed in the severe economic downturn the world faces today.
Who, if anyone, is pulling the strings is subject to debate, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the world economy is faltering. If it is, can equity market crashes be far behind? From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:
For a few years now, since at least 2014, the phrase “global economic reset” has been circulating in the financial world. This phrase is used primarily by globalist institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to describe an event in which the current system as we know it will either die out or evolve into a new system where “multilateralism” will become the norm. The reset is often described in an ambiguous way. IMF banking elites will usually mention the end results of the shift, but they say little about the process to get there.
What we do know is that the intent of the globalists is to use this reset to create a more centralized monetary system and micro-managed global economy. At the core of this new structure would be the IMF along with perhaps the BIS and World Bank. It is a plan that has been supported openly by both western and eastern governments, including Russia and China.
As noted, the details are few and far between, but the IMF describes the use of open borders and human migrations during the reset as a means to transfer capital from various parts of the world. It is a novel if not utterly insane way to transfer wealth that only makes sense if you understand that the globalist goal is to deliberately conjure a geopolitical catastrophe.
The IMF also asserts that blockchain technology will make capital transfer easier and more efficient in this future environment, which explains the enthusiastic globalist support for developments in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies despite the notion in cryptocurrency circles that blockchain would somehow make the bankers “obsolete”.