If a country is clearly bent on depreciating its own currency, why hold either the currency or assets denominated in that currency. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
In the wake of the Fed’s promise of 23 March to print money without limit in order to rescue the covid-stricken US economy, China changed its policy of importing industrial materials to a more aggressive stance. In examining the rationale behind this move, this article concludes that while there are sound geopolitical reasons behind it the monetary effect will be to drive down the dollar’s purchasing power, and that this is already happening. More recently, a veiled threat has emerged that China could dump all her US Treasury and agency bonds if the relationship with America deteriorates further. This appears to be a cover for China to reduce her dollar exposure more aggressively. The consequences are a primal threat to the Fed’s policy of escalating monetary policy while maintaining the dollar’s status in the foreign exchanges.
On 3 September, China’s state-owned Global Times, which acts as the government’s mouthpiece, ran a front-page article warning that
“China will gradually decrease its holdings of US debt to about $800billion under normal circumstances. But of course, China might sell all of its US bonds in an extreme case, like a military conflict,” Xi Junyang, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics told the Global Times on Thursday”[i].
Do not be misled by the attribution to a seemingly independent Chinese professor: it would not have been the frontpage article unless it was sanctioned by the Chinese government. While China has already taken the top off its US Treasury holdings, the announcement (for that is what it amounts to) that China is prepared to escalate the financial war against America is very serious. The message should be clear: China is prepared to collapse the US Treasury market. In the past, apologists for the US Government have said that China has no one to buy its entire holding. The most recent suggestion is that China’s Treasury holdings will be put in trust for covid victims — a suggestion if enacted would undermine foreign trust in the dollar and could bring its reserve role to a swift conclusion.[ii] For the moment these are peacetime musings. At a time of financial war, if China put her entire holding on the market Treasury yields would be driven up dramatically, unless someone like the Fed steps in to buy the lot.
If that happened China would then have almost a trillion dollars to sell, driving the dollar down against whatever the Chinese buy. And don’t think for a moment that if China was to dump its holding of US Treasuries other foreign holders would stand idly by. This action would probably end the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency with serious consequences for the US and global economies.
There is another possibility: China intends to sell all her US Treasuries anyway and is making American monetary policy her cover for doing so. It is this possibility we will now explore.
In history’s most economically productive periods, prices have usually fallen, not risen. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
There can be little doubt that macroeconomic policies are failing around the world. The fallacies being exposed are so entrenched that there are bound to be twists and turns yet to come.
This article explains the fallacies behind inflation, deflation, economic performance and interest rates. They arise from the modern states’ overriding determination to access the wealth of its electorate instead of being driven by a genuine and considered concern for its welfare. Monetary inflation, which has become runaway, transfers wealth to the state from producers and consumers, and is about to accelerate. Everything about macroeconomics is now with that single economically destructive objective in mind.
Falling prices, the outcome of commercial competition and sound money are more aligned with the interests of ordinary people, but that is so derided by neo-Keynesians that today almost without exception everyone believes in inflationism.
And finally, we conclude that the escape from failing fiat will lead to rising nominal interest rates, with all the consequences which that entails. The inevitable outcome is a flight to commodities, including gold and silver, despite rising interest rates for fiat money.
Demand-siders and supply-siders
In a macroeconomics-driven world, economic fallacies abound. They are periodically trashed when disproved, only to arise again as received wisdom for a new generation of macroeconomists determined to justify their statist beliefs. The most egregious of these is that inflation can only occur as the handmaiden of economic growth, while deflation is similarly linked to a recession spinning out of control into the maelstrom of a slump.
This error is the opposite of the facts.
Conventionally, macroeconomists split into two groups. There are the Keynesians who believe in stimulating demand to ensure there will always be markets for goods and services, which they attempt to achieve through additional spending by governments and by discouraging saving, because it is consumption deferred. And there are the supply-siders, who believe in stimulating production through lower corporate taxes and lighter regulation. Both demand and supply-siders advocate monetary inflation in the belief that their methods stimulate an economy so that government spending need not be cut.
At the recent Jackson Hole Economic Summit, Jerome Powell unveiled the Fed’s new monetary policy designed to create inflation. In today’s #Macroview, we will discuss the 5-reasons why the Fed will not get inflation, and why deflation is the bigger risk.
The current assumption is that the Fed’s new policy will lead to higher inflation.
“The new policy regime is an important evolution in our thinking about how to achieve our goals and another step toward greater transparency, The policy change positions us for success in achieving our maximum employment and price stability goals in the future.” – Fed Reserve Bank of NY, John Williams, via WSJ
What exactly is this new policy? Well, that’s the interesting part, no one actually knows. However, as noted by the WSJ:
“The Fed said it would now seek to hit its 2% inflation target on average, and that it wouldn’t raise rates just to ward off the theoretical threat of inflation posed by a strong job market. The Fed, however, didn’t say how it would determine the average, and several regional Fed officials suggested that a 2.5% jobless rate was as much as they would tolerate. At the same time, with the economy in deep trouble, there is little expectation inflation will test the Fed’s target for years.”
So, to be clear, the Fed’s new policy is simply to “average the inflation rate” over a period of time and let the unemployment rate fall to as low as 2.5%. The last time the unemployment rate was at 2.5% was for one quarter in 1953 just before the 1954 recession set in.
If you don’t think a financial crisis is on the way, check the stock market valuations and the balance sheets of the global systemically important banks. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
Downturns in bank credit expansion always lead to systemic problems. We are on the edge of such a downturn, which thanks to everyone’s focus on the coronavirus, is unexpected.
We can now identify 23 March as the date when markets stopped worrying about deflation and realised that monetary inflation is the certain outlook. That day, the Fed promised unlimited monetary stimulus for both consumers and businesses, and the dollar began to fall.
The commercial banks everywhere are massively leveraged and their exposure to bad debts and a cyclical banking crisis is now certain to wipe many of them out. In this article we look at the global systemically important banks — the G-SIBs — as proxy for all commercial banks and identify the ones most at risk on a market-based analysis.
In these bizarre markets, the elephant in the room is systemic risk — visible to all but simply ignored. This is partly due to everyone in government and central banks, as well as their epigones in the investment industry and mainstream media, believing our economic problems are only a matter of Covid-19. In other words, when the pandemic is over normality will return. But Covid-19 has acted like a conjurer’s distraction: it has deflected us from the consequences of Trump’s trade wars with China and the liquidity strains that surfaced in New York last September when the repo rate soared to 10%.
The liquidity strains and the severe downturn in the stock markets that followed earlier this year before mid-March have been buried for the moment in a tsunami of central bank money. Liquidity problems following last September’s repo crisis and the S&P 500 index collapsing by one third between 19 February and 23 March were a clear signal that the multiyear cycle of bank credit expansion had already peaked. Ever since the last credit crisis in 2008, the banks had recovered their lending confidence and expanded bank credit, a classic expansionary phase.
Central bank funny money is like novocaine, it temporarily lessons the pain but your mouth feels worse after it wears off. From Kristoffer Mousten Hansen at mises.org:
Historical events are complex phenomena, and monocausal explanations are therefore by definition wrong when explaining history. Many factors go into explaining why people and the world’s governments reacted as they did to the coronavirus. It is, however, my contention that examining the inflationary policies pursued by central banks and governments are fundamental to understanding how the current corona hysteria developed.
Calling it hysteria may sound harsh. When the coronavirus first started to draw attention back in February, and when most Western countries instituted extremely restrictive measures in March, one could make a plausible argument that the world was dealing with an unknown and seemingly catastrophic disease and that therefore extreme measures were justified. To be sure, this does not mean that the measures implemented were in any way effective, nor that the sacrifices imposed were morally justified; but there was at least an argument to be made.
At this point in time, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly cut the COVID-19 fatality rate, and it is now comparable to a bad year of the seasonal flu (see the useful aggregation of studies and reports by Swiss Propaganda Research). The glaring question therefore is: Why do governments across the West act as if they were still dealing with an unprecedented threat? It is no good to simply reply that what politicians really want is power and that they are just using coronavirus as an excuse for extending government control. While a plausible claim, it does not explain why vast majorities in most countries support whatever policies their rulers have thought good. Given the extreme restrictions placed on social and economic life and the mendacious, ever shifting narrative used to justify them, one would think that there would be widespread opposition after four months. So why is there practically none?
Sooner or later we will get inflation commensurate with the quantity of money that has been created. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Milton Friedman famously said, “Inflation was always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” But Friedman didn’t live through the QE years here in the U.S. and blatantly ignored the twenty plus years of Japanese deflation despite QE and insane levels of money printing during the latter years of his life.
And as an Austrian economics kinda guy I somewhat agree with the QTM. I agree with Ludwig von Mises on this, as you would expect. So, how do we square the QTM with the evidence that QE in all of its guises has resulted in deflation, as expressed by the general price level, where ever it has been tried?
Martin Armstrong ask this question all the time and is openly hostile to the QTM. And his arguments have some merit, because, as he rightly points out the QTM only looks at the supply side of the money equation.
It cares not about the demand side. He’s right about that. What he’s wrong about is that the Austrians, like von Mises, haven’t considered this either.
Demand for money is just as important as the supply of it. And during a crisis, the demand side of the equation for any particular currency may, in fact, be more important.
This is what the Fed has struggled with for the past twelve years. The demand for the U.S. dollar has far outstripped the increase in supply, causing a far lower aggregate price rise than anticipated by the QTM.
Couple a Federal Reserve cryptocurrency with a government issued universal basic income and you do indeed have a recipe for both tyranny and poverty. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:
If some Congress members get their way, the Federal Reserve may soon be able to track many of your purchases in real time and share that information with government agencies. This is just one of the problems with the proposed “digital dollar” or “fedcoin.”
Fedcoin was initially included in the first coronavirus spending bill. While the proposal was dropped from the final version of the bill, there is still great interest in fedcoin on Capitol Hill. Some progressives have embraced fedcoin as a way to provide Americans with a “universal basic income.”
Both the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee held hearings on fedcoin in June. This is the first step toward making fedcoin a reality.
Fedcoin would not be an actual coin. Instead, it would be a special account created and maintained for each American by the Federal Reserve. Each month, Fed employees could tap a few keys on a computer and — bingo — each American would have dollars added to his Federal Reserve account. This is the 21st century equivalent of throwing money from helicopters.
Fedcoin could effect private cryptocurrencies. Also, it would limit the ability of private citizens to protect themselves from the Federal Reserve-caused decline in the dollar’s value.
You can inflate your way to prosperity, just look at Zimbabwe. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:
By the mid-1990s, the economy of Zimbabwe was in serious trouble.
The national government under its dictator Robert Mugabe had spent years confiscating private property– real estate, businesses, factories, bank deposits, etc.
And unsurprisingly, this had a disastrous effect on the economy.
Productive citizens and talented entrepreneurs left Zimbabwe in droves– after all, who would want to keep operating under such awful conditions?
So within a few years, everything from food production to mining output to manufacturing had plummeted.
The banking sector collapsed. Unemployment soared. Tax revenue dried up.
So Mugabe did what most politicians would do in that position: he started printing money.
This is an old trick that governments have relied on for thousands of years.
The ‘denarius’ coin of ancient Rome, for example, contained 93.5% silver in the early 100s AD under Emperor Trajan. By the time Aurelian became emperor the following century, the coin contained only 5% silver.
And as the denarius became less and less valuable, prices across the empire soared. Merchants had to keep increasing their prices in order to receive the same amount of silver that they used to… so inflation was rampant.
This is precisely what happened in Zimbabwe.
The government conjured absurd quantities of money out of thin air in order to make ends meet… but the new money had no value.
Zero Hedge may be on to something: savings go up when interest rates go down, and inflating the money supply can be deflationary. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
Several years ago, when conventional wisdom dictated that to push inflation higher and jumpstart lethargic economies, central banks have to push rates so low as to make saving punitive and force consumers to go out and spend their hard earned savings, several central banks including the ECB, SNB and BOJ crossed into the monetary twilight zone by lowering overnight rates negative.
Then, year after year, we would hear from the likes of Kuroda and Draghi how the BOJ and ECB will continue and even extend their insane monetary policy, which now includes the purchase of 80% of all Japanese ETFs…
… until the central banks hit their inflation targets of 2%.
And yet, year after year, the BOJ would not only not hit its inflation target but appeared to drift ever lower, as did the ECB, SNB and any other bank that had gone NIRP, confounding all economists and central bankers: why was this happened if rates were negative? Why were consumers not taking their money out of the bank and spending it, pushing inflation higher?
While central banks may try to inflate their way out of a debt deflation, when the bubble they’ve blown is as big as the current “everything” bubble, such efforts will be fruitless. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
With an historic 2000 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrials on Monday in response to Saudi Arabia and Russia declaring an oil price war on, well, everyone it’s clear that one of the two ‘flations, deflation, has won out.
In retrospect the timing out that post was pretty good, because just a few weeks later the repo markets seized up, SOFR zoomed to an all-time high of more than 10% and the Fed was awoken from its slumber to begin intervening to keep markets from collapsing.
It initiated a reflation trade based on the hope that the Fed just being there was all that was needed to restore confidence in global markets.
In that post I made the point that the choice between inflation and deflation is a non-choice. They are two sides of the same coin. The question is only who benefits from which side.
Those in power always choose inflation because, in their minds, it is less upsetting to the social order than deflation.
And their power rests on maintaining the current social order.
Deflation benefits savers and, frankly, normal people who don’t have access to new money at the lowest available prices, those set by the Fed’s discount window.
It gives them back power stolen from them through inflation.
The media helps this narrative limp along bamboozling all of us with poorly-conceived first order analysis of why we want inflation while refusing to admit they are a recipients of this government/central bank largess through advertising fees paid with a portion of this fake capital.
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