Tag Archives: Inflation

The Fantasy of Central Bank “Growth” Is Finally Imploding, by Charles Hugh Smith

How about that, central bank debt monetizing government debt at ultra-low interest rates isn’t the route to healthy growth and permanent prosperity. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Having destroyed discipline, central banks have no way out of the corner they’ve painted us into.

It was such a wonderful fantasy: just give a handful of bankers, financiers and corporations trillions of dollars at near-zero rates of interest, and this flood of credit and cash into the apex of the wealth-power pyramid would magically generate a new round of investments in productivity-improving infrastructure and equipment, which would trickle down to the masses in the form of higher wages, enabling the masses to borrow and spend more on consumption, powering the Nirvana of modern economics: a self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth.

But alas, there is no self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth; there are only massive, increasingly fragile asset bubbles, stagnant wages and a New Gilded Age as the handful of bankers, financiers and corporations that were handed unlimited nearly free money enriched themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Central banks’ near-zero interest rates and trillions in new credit destroyed discipline and price discovery, the bedrock of any economy, capitalist or socialist.

When credit is nearly free to borrow in unlimited quantities, there’s no need for discipline, and so a year of university costs $50,000 instead of $10,000, houses that should cost $200,000 now cost $1 million and a bridge that should have cost $100 million costs $500 million. Nobody can afford anything any more because the answer in the era of central bank “growth” is: just borrow more, it won’t cost you much because interest rates are so low.

And with capital (i.e. saved earnings) getting essentially zero yield thanks to central bank ZIRP and NIRP (zero or negative interest rate policies), then all the credit has poured into speculative assets, inflating unprecedented asset bubbles that will destroy much of the financial system when they finally pop, as all asset bubbles eventually do.

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America’s Debt Burden Will Fuel The Next Crisis, by Lance Roberts

The next debt crisis will prove impervious to all the kick-the-can nostrums that were applied in the 2008-2009 crisis. From Lance Roberts at realinvestmentadvice.com:

Just recently, Rex Nutting penned an opinion piece for MarketWatch entitled “Consumer Debt Is Not A Ticking Time Bomb.” His primary point is that low per-capita debt ratios and debt-to-dpi ratios show the consumer is quite healthy and won’t be the primary subject of the next crisis. To wit:

“However, most Americans are better off now than they were 10-years ago, or even a few years ago. The finances of American households are strong. 

But, that’s not what a lot of people think. More than a decade after a massive credit orgy by households brought down the U.S. and global economies, lots of people are convinced that households are still borrowing so much money that it will inevitably crash the economy.

Those critics see a consumer debt bomb growing again. But they are wrong.”

I do agree with Rex on his point that the U.S. consumer won’t be the sole cause of the next crisis. It will be a combination of household and corporate debt combined with underfunded pensions, which will collide in the next crisis.

However, there is a household debt problem which is hidden by the way governmental statistics are calculated.

Indebted To The American Dream

The idea of “maintaining a certain standard of living” has become a foundation in our society today.Americans, in general, have come to believe they are “entitled” to a certain type of house, car, and general lifestyle which includes NOT just the basic necessities of living such as food, running water, and electricity, but also the latest mobile phone, computer, and high-speed internet connection. (Really, what would be the point of living if you didn’t have access to Facebook every two minutes?)

But, like most economic data, you have to dig behind the numbers to reveal the true story.

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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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The State of the Economy, by Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts takes apart contemporary government “economics” and “economic statistics.” From Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

Dear Readers: We live in a Matrix of Lies in which our awareness is controlled by the explanations we are given.  The control exercised over our awareness is universal.  It applies to every aspect of our existence.  In the article below I show that not only is our understanding of the economy controlled by manipulation of our minds, but also the markets themselves are controlled by official intervention.  

In brief, you can believe nothing that you are officially told.  If you desire truth, you must support the websites that are committed to truth.

The State of the Economy

Paul Craig Roberts

The story line is going out that the economic boom is weakening and the Federal Reserve has to get the printing press running again.  The Fed uses the money to purchase bonds, which drives up the prices of bonds and lowers the interest rate.  The theory is that the lower interest rate encourages consumer spending and business investment and that this increase in consumer and business spending results in more output and employment. 

The Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, and Bank of England have been wedded to this policy for a decade, and the Japanese for longer, without stimulating business investment.  Rather than borrowing at low interest rates in order to invest more, corporations borrowed in order to buy back their stock.  In other words, some corporations after using all their profits to buy back their own stock went into debt in order to further reduce their market capitalization!  

Far from stimulating business investment, the liquidity supplied by the Federal Reserve drove up stock and bond prices and spilled over into real estate.  The fact that corporations used their profits to buy back their shares rather than to invest in new capacity means that the corporations  did not experience a booming economy with good investment opportunities. It is a poor economy when the best investment for a company is to repurchase its own shares.

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The Ugly End of Globalization, by MN Gordon

There will a price to pay for fake money and all-too-real debt. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

Sometime in the fall of 2018 a lowly gofer at the New York Stock Exchange was sweating  bullets.  He’d made an honest mistake.  One that could forever tag him a buffoon.

After trading sideways for most of the spring, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was on the move.  When it closed at 26,828 on October 3, it appeared the Dow was but one trading day away from eclipsing 27,000.  Everyone, including Jim Cramer, just knew it was about to happen.

And this was precisely what the NYSE gofer feared most.  For he’d failed to procure Dow 27,000 hats.  What a shame it would be for Wall Street’s most revered index to notch this historic milestone with no commemorative hats for floor traders to put on while they go bananas.

But then a miracle happen.  The Dow didn’t go up; rather, it went down.  A week later, to the gofers relief, the Dow 27,000 hats arrived…in advance of Dow 27,000.

And now, nearly eight months later, Dow 27,000 remains elusive.  After pulling back in October of last year, the Dow made another run at it last month.  But, again, fell short.  Hence, the hats remain stowed away in a box in the back of a broom closet.

By our estimation, that’s where the Dow 27,000 hats will stay until about 2050 – or even later.  Moreover, when it’s finally time to pull them out, we suspect Wall Street cheerleading will have long since gone out of style.  What a waste of perfectly good hats.

But fear not.  All’s not lost…

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‘Workarounds’ Galore: How Real Americans Deal with ‘Real’ Inflation, by Bill Rice Jr.

Switching from an item or service to a lower-priced item or service doesn’t register in the inflation statistics, yet Americans increasingly resort to such workarounds because their dollars don’t go as far as they used to. From Bill Rice Jr. at oftwominds.com:

t’s the list of workarounds – always growing, never shrinking – that’s telling us the true story of inflation in America.

Today I’m publishing a guest post by writer Bill Rice, Jr., on “real inflation,” which as everyone knows far exceeds the “official” inflation rate of 2%. Bill and I corresponded earlier this year when he was researching and writing his recent article What Does Your Toilet Paper Have to Do With Inflation? Manufacturers have been engaging in “shrinkflation,” leaving consumers paying more for less, but stealthily. (The American Conservative magazine)

Bill’s extensive list of links (50 Dots…) follows his essay. Thank you, Bill, for sharing your insightful research with Of Two Minds readers.

‘Workarounds’ galore: How real Americans deal with ‘real’ inflation By Bill Rice, Jr.

While working on a story on inflation and shrinkflation, I quickly zeroed in on the concept of “workarounds” as an alternative, perhaps superior, way to gauge the true state of our economy. I define workarounds as the changes individuals or families (or businesses) must make in their daily living to adapt to a world of rising prices. If nothing else, these examples, taken in the aggregate, challenge the conventional wisdom that inflation is “low” or “contained,” or that the economy is just fine, thank you.

As decades have passed, the list of workarounds families have utilized to deal with rising prices has rapidly grown.

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The US Government Debt Crisis, by Alasdair Macleod

There’s no way out if the debt hole the US government has dug itself. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

This article explains why the US Government is ensnared in a debt trap from which there is no escape. Its finances are spiralling out of control. In the context of a rapidly slowing global economy, the budget deficit can only be financed by QE and bank credit expansion. Do not draw comfort from trade protectionism: it will not prevent the trade deficit increasing at the expense of domestic production, unless you believe there will be an unlikely resurgence in personal saving rates. We can now begin to see how the debt crisis will evolve, leading to the destruction of the dollar.

Introduction

At the time of writing (Thursday April 24) bond yields are crashing, the euro has broken down against the dollar and equities are hitting new highs. Obviously, equities are taking their queue from bonds. But bond yields are crashing because the global economy is sending some very worrying signals. Equity investors will be hoping monetary easing (which they now fully expect) will kick the can down the road once again and economies will continue to bubble along. They are ignoring some very basic economic facts…

Regular readers of my Insight articles will be aware of strong indications that the expansionary phase of the credit cycle is now over, and that we at grave risk of falling headlong into a global credit and systemic crisis. The underlying condition is that economic actors and their bankers accustomed to credit expansion are beginning to realise the assumptions behind their borrowing commitments earlier in the credit cycle were incorrect.

That’s why it is a credit cycle. It is driven by prior credit expansion which corrals all producers into acting in an expansionary manner at the same time. Random activity, the condition of a true laissez-faire economy, ceases. Instead, credit conditions act on profit-seeking businesses in a state-managed context. Entrepreneurs take the availability of subsidised credit to be a profit-making opportunity. The same cannot be said of governments because they do not seek profits, only revenue.

If a government acts responsibly it should never have to borrow, except perhaps in an emergency, such as to defend the country against invasion. The evolution into unbacked fiat currencies has changed all that by permitting governments to finance themselves through the printing press.

There is only one way a government funds the excess of spending over tax revenue without it being inflationary, and that is to borrow money from savers. There is a downside to this. The government bids for existing savings, including those held in pension and insurance funds, diverting them from other borrowers. In the 1980s this was described as “crowding out” other borrowers and had the effect of increasing interest rates to the point where these other borrowers stop borrowing. In the post-war years, this has been the consequence of spendthrift socialism.

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