Tag Archives: Monetary Policy

Will Policy Makers Turn a Global Economic Slowdown Into a Crisis? by Daniel Lacalle

This is a far better description of how the economy actually works than anything you’d get out of economics textbooks. From Daniel Lacalle at mises.org:

The recent macroeconomic data of the leading economies point to a widespread slowdown. What is more concerning is not just a logical moderation in the path of growth, but the acceleration in the weakening of economies that were supposed to be stronger and healthier. It is even more concerning that this aggressive worsening of key leading indicators in China, the EU, and most emerging economies happens at the peak of the largest monetary and fiscal stimulus in decades.

It is easy to blame this widespread weakening on political headlines, trade wars, and — of course —Trump, but it would be disingenuous to believe those are the real factors behind the negative economic surprise.

The pace of global recoveries since 1975 has been slower and weaker, consistently, according to the OECD. Recoveries take longer and happen slower. At the same time, periods of crisis are less aggressive albeit more frequent than prior to 1975.  Another interesting evidence of the crises and recoveries since 1975 is that almost all economies end the recession period with more debt than before.

These factors are all concerning, but the evidence also shows that economic progress has continued regardless and that the main factors of wellbeing have improved dramatically. I had the opportunity of meeting Johan Norberg, author of “Progress” and we discussed all the positive elements we have seen in the past decades. In the same period, from 1975 to 2018, extreme poverty has been reduced to all-time lows. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy,  child mortality… all those terrible problems have been dramatically reduced to the lowest levels in history. That is the positive.

However, recognizing the positive is important, but ignoring the risks is dangerous. Global debt has ballooned to all-time highs, more than three times the world GDP. For those elements of progress to continue improving, we must stop the race of perverse incentives created by the wrong analysis of the origin of crises and the solutions that are often proposed in mainstream economics and politics.  I agree with Johan Norberg that the two main factors that have driven the phenomenal progress we have seen are free markets and openness. The freedom to innovate, experiment, create and share must come with the right incentives.

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The Recession of 2019, by Charles Gave

A number of indicators with good (albeit not perfect) records are pointing towards a recession next year. From Charles Gave at evergreengavekal.com:

“While the Trump administration may crow endlessly about how swell the economy performed last quarter, that 4.1% GDP print will quickly become a wistful memory.”
-BERNARD BAUMOHL, Economist at the Economic Outlook Group

INTRODUCTION

Towards the tail-end of July, the Commerce Department reported that Gross Domestic Product (also known as GDP), or the total value of goods and services produced in the US, increased at an annual pace of 4.1% in this year’s second quarter. As expected, President Trump took a victory lap around these numbers, which were the highest GDP growth results since 2014. (However, lost in the fanfare was the fact that the first quarter GDP number was revised down from 2.9% to 2.3%.)

In an equally anticipated move, the President went on to predict that this is just the start of a long-term trend, and that these numbers are “very, very sustainable” and are “going to go a lot higher.” With all due respect to the Trumpeter-in-Chief, the Evergreen Gavekal team is not nearly as confident. In fact, we would argue that there is a glaring black hole in his economic outlook.

Particularly, we believe that three unstainable factors led to this inflated higher-than-expected GDP number: tax cuts, a surge in government spending, and a rush to ship exports out of the country as the result of the trade war. We believe all three factors are based on high-risk policies that will eventually turn from a catalyst to a drag on the economy in the medium- to long-term—perhaps right around, if not before, President Trump seeks re-election in 2020.

This week’s Gavekal EVA comes from one of our most admired partners, Charles Gave. Charles also sees danger brewing on the economic horizon, both in the US and globally. In fact, he even goes so far as to postulate the exact year this brewing will turn into a full-fledge storm: 2019. In this week’s EVA, Charles explains his reasoning for making this bold, timestamped prediction. His forecast is based on several macro-economic factors that are already letting-on to a slowdown in the mostly elusive synchronized global expansion.

However, Evergreen itself is still holding off on issuing a call for the next recession, one we haven’t made since 2007. We admit, though, that the expansion clock is nearing midnight, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since this party has been going on for almost nine years. Keep dancing at your own risk!

To continue reading: The Recession of 2019 

Pope Francis Now International Monetary Guru, by Antonius Aquinus

The Pope is an idiot. From Antonius Aquinus on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Neo-Marxist Pope Francis

As the new year dawns, it seems the current occupant of St. Peter’s Chair will take on a new function which is outside the purview of the office that the Divine Founder of his institution had clearly mandated. Besides being a self proclaimed expert on global warming and a vociferous advocate of societal-wrecking mass immigration, it looks as if “Pope” Francis has entered the realm of global economics specifically, international monetary policy.

In an 18-page document issued through the Vatican’s Office of Justice and Peace, Bergoglio has called for, among other repressive and wealth-destructive measures, the establishment of a “supranational [monetary] authority” to oversee international monetary affairs:

In fact, one can see an emerging requirement fora body that will carry out the functions of a kind of‘central world bank’ that regulates the flow and system ofmonetary exchanges similar to the national central banks.*

The paper, “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” contends that a world central bank is needed because institutions such as the IMF have failed to “stabilize world finance” and have not effectively regulated “the amount of credit risk taken on by the system.”

Naturally, as one of the planet’s preeminent social justice warriors, Bergoglio claims that if a world central bank is not commissioned, than the gap between rich and poor will be exacerbated even further:

If no solutions are found to the various forms of injustice, the negative effects that will follow on the social, political and economic level will be destined to create a climate of growing hostility and even violence, and ultimately undermine the very foundations of democratic institutions, even the ones considered most solid.

To continue reading: Pope Francis Now International Monetary Guru

Jim Grant: The Fed Is A Sleepwalking Relic Of The Age Of Command And Control, by James Grant

James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, usually has trenchant and incisive things to say, or write, and a way with words. Grant on the Federal Reserve, from davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Central bank’s experimental policies are only hurting America instead of leading the nation into financial prosperity, exclaims James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. “The Fed is a relic of the age of command and control. The Fed is an anachronism,” Grant tells Bloomberg TV in this excellent interview, “The Fed ought to get out of the business of masterminding ‘the American enterprise,’ what we call the U.S. economy.” Central bankers, Grant adds, by pressing rates to nothing, have given rise to this “very pleasant kind of inflation we call bull markets.” While bull markets are great insofar as they reflect what is actually going on, “they are very dangerous to the extent that they are the artificial creation of artificial interest rates.”

We are in a regime of price administration. Price control is a policy that has failed for millenia. When prices are manipulated, manhandled, and otherwsise distorted, real decisions follow and the real decisions are distorted… there’s bricks, mortar, and human lives attached to these [interest rate decisions]… and that’s why they matter“

“How do they know the funds rate ought to be zero?”

“The world’s central bankers went to the same schools, talk the same language, have the same world view.

They have shared conditions. They believe, for example, that an average of prices, which they believe they can calculate, must rise at two percent a year unless the world fall into something they choose to call deflation.

They believe that they can see into the future. They believe that they have the knowledge and the dexterity to manipulate interest rates to the benefit of society.

To continue reading: The Fed Is A Sleepwalking Relic

What the heck is happening in Sweden? Negative rates, cash bans, housing bubble and enormous debt, by Andrew Moran

Sweden may be a preview of monetary coming attractions in the US. From Andrew Moran at economiccollapsenews.com:

We have a message to all of the Bernie Sanders supporters and those who are fixated on Scandinavia: give up your obsession of Sweden. It doesn’t do anything to further your case as there are a lot of downward trends transpiring in the nation of Ingmar Bergman films, Ikea products and meatballs (SEE: ‘Socialist Paradise’ Sweden suffering from swelling debt levels, employee absenteeism).

The main question that must be asked, however, is this: what the heck is happening in Sweden?

Sweden is on the cusp of being the very first nation in the world to conduct an economic experiment of this kind: negative interest rates in a cashless society. That’s right. The central planners are charging you to save your money in a bank, while eliminating the use of cash. You’re stuck if you’re living in the home of beautiful blondes and August Strindberg plays.

Last week, the Swedish central bank (Riksbank) announced that it would leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at -0.35 percent, a rate that has been instituted since the summer. There were talks of Sweden going deep into negative rates, but it instead opted to go for another round of its own version of quantitative easing.

Financial institutions have yet to impose negative rates on Swedish consumers, but many economists do believe the central bank will keep this negative rate policy for a while. This means retail banks will have no other choice but to start implementing negative rates and passing the costs to its customers.

To continue reading: What the heck is happening in Sweden?

The World Hits Its Credit Limit, And The Debt Market Is Starting To Realize That, by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge touches on a topic that SLL has discussed for years: the diminishing, and eventually negative, marginal return from debt. In other words, debt, because it entails repayment, can be too much of a good thing. Right now, the world is in the too much of a good thing phase, to be followed by a debt contraction, because debt growth has exceed economic growth for many years and so there is more debt in the global economy than it can support. Interested readers are referred to the articles found in the Debtonomics Archive (tab is just above the picture of the train). From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

One month ago, when looking at the dramatic change in the market landscape when the first cracks in the central planning facade became evident and it appeared that central banks are in the process of rapidly losing credibility, and the faith of an entire generation of traders whose only trading strategy is to “BTFD”, we presented a critical report by Citigroup’s Matt King, who asked “has the world reached its credit limit” summarized the two biggest financial issues facing the world at this stage.

The first is that even as central banks have continued pumping record amount of liquidity in the market, the market’s response has been increasingly shaky (in no small part due to the surge in the dollar and the resulting Emerging Market debt crisis), and in the case of Junk bonds, a downright disaster. As King summarized it “models linking QE to markets seem to have broken down.”

Needless to say this was bad news for everyone hoping that just a little more QE is all that is needed to return to all time S&P500 highs. And while this concern has faded somewhat in the past few weeks as the most violent short squeeze in history has lifted the market almost back to record highs even as Q3 earnings season is turning out just as bad, if not worse, as most had predicted, nothing has fundamentally changed and the fears over EM reserve drawdown will shortly re-emerge, once the punditry reads between the latest Chinese money creation and capital outflow lines.

The second, and far greater problem, facing the world is precisely what the Fed and its central bank peers have been fighting all along: too much global debt accumulating an ever faster pace, while global growth is stagnant and in fact declining.

King’s take: “there has been plenty of credit, just not much growth.”

Our take: we have – long ago – crossed the Rubicon where incremental debt results in incremental growth, and are currently in an unprecedented place where economic textbooks no longer work, and where incremental debt leads to a drop in global growth. Much more than ZIRP, NIRP, QE, or Helicopter money, this is the true singularity, because absent wholesale debt destruction – either through default or hyperinflation – the world is doomed to, first, a recession and then a depression the likes of which have never been seen. By buying assets and by keeping the VIX suppressed (for a phenomenal read on this topic we recommend Artemis Capital’s “Volatility and the Allegory of the Prisoner’s Dilemma“), central banks are only delaying the inevitable.

The bottom line is clear: at the macro level, the world is now tapped out, and there are virtually no pockets for credit creation left at the consolidated level, between household, corporate, financial and government debt.

To continue reading: The World Hits Its Credit Limit

People’s Bank of China Freaks Out, Devalues Yuan by Record Amount, Vows to “Severely Punish” Capital Flight, by Wolf Richter

From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Everything has started to go wrong in the Chinese economy despite its mind-bending growth rate of 7%. Exports plunged and imports too. Sales in the world’s largest auto market suddenly are shrinking just when overcapacity is ballooning. The property market is quaking. Electricity consumption, producer prices, and other indicators are deteriorating. Capital is fleeing. The hard landing is getting rougher by the day. But Tuesday morning, the People’s Bank of China pulled the ripcord.

In a big way.

It lowered the yuan’s daily reference rate by a record 1.9%. The yuan plunged instantly, and after a brief bounce, continued to plunge. Now, as I’m writing this, it is trading in Shanghai at 6.322 to the dollar, down 1.8% from before the announcement. A record one-day drop.

The PBOC had kept the yuan stable against the dollar. As the dollar has risen against other major currencies, the yuan followed in lockstep. Over the past week, the Yuan’s closing levels in Shanghai were limited to vacillating between 6.2096 and 6.2097 against the dollar. Over the past month, daily moves were limited to a maximum 0.01%. The PBOC controls its currency with an iron fist.

Hence the shock to the currency war system.

The Nikkei, beneficiary of the most aggressive currency warrior out there, had been up, nearly kissing the magic 21,000 at the open for the first time in a generation, but plunged 200 points in one fell swoop when the news hit. Then the Bank of Japan jumped in with its endless supply of freshly printed yen, furiously buying Japanese ETFs to stem the loss. The lunch break put a stop to all this. Then the Nikkei plunged again. Maybe the folks at the BOJ were late getting back to their trading stations. But now they’re back at work, mopping up ETFs.

“Currently, the international economic and financial conditions are very complex,” a PBOC spokesman explained. “Emerging market and commodities currencies are facing downward pressure, and we are seeing increasing volatilities in international capital flow. This complex situation is posing new challenges,” he said.

The yuan’s “relatively strong” exchange rate was “not entirely consistent with market expectation,” he said in perfect central-bank speak. “Therefore, it is a good time to improve quotation of the RMB central parity to make it more consistent with the needs of market development.” So he said, “Today’s central parity depreciated by about 200 bps. The market still needs some time to adapt.”

Meanwhile, the PBOC would “monitor the market condition closely, stabilizing the market expectation, and ensuring the improvement of the formation mechanism of the RMB central parity in an orderly manner.” Certainly, the market would not be allowed to do anything on its own.

And the devaluation is “a one-time correction,” he added, which everyone believed instantly.

To continue reading: PBOC Devalues Yuan