The blog title is taken from a recent VOX column and an excerpt is noted below. Why am I emphasising this article? Well the IMF has raised the same point about the Canadian economy and the Bank of England seems to be taking the same tack too with the UK. But I have also raised concerns myself about the consequences of such misallocation of capital in the past (and I am not just talking debt but also more structural footprints), so the empirical evidence is interesting:
US Central Bank credit has increased 1.075trillion (End 2008 to 1 May 2013) and reserve balances with the Federal Reserve have increased 958bn over the same time frame – source data H8 and H4.1 reports of the Federal Reserve.
Low interest rates and quantitative easing could deter new capital investment projects. QE is no doubt helping asset prices rise, but it is also forcing down the cost of capital at a time when the return on capital should, arguably, be higher, given the risks. Returns on the different components of the cost of capital equation should justify the risk, and cash and bonds are both important components.
Paul Weller: “I stood as tall as a mountain; I never really thought about the drop; I trod over rocks to get there; Just so I could stand on top; Clumsy and blind I stumbled;…I didn’t stop to think about the consequences; As it came to pieces in my hands.”
The 2008 crisis told us that there was a mismatch between asset values and debt, asset values and future return, and debt and economic growth as well as some rather large structural economic imbalances.
We have tried to delay the eventuality implied by the difference in the hope that the “true” magical economic growth rate should return. Have we built up a bigger monster, and if so, how do we slay the beast?
In the soon to be released IMF World Economic Outlook, the IMF make the following claim:
I have been seeing more and more analysis that “believes” that this could well be the case.
Central banks are a bit like doctors charged with getting their patients back to health armed only with medications, but with little else to influence physical health. But what if the medications are not working, do you just increase the dosage?
The world’s QE bet is all about closing the potential output gap, and for many this accumulated gap, built up over the last 5 years is pretty large. Not large enough however to soak up all that cash the Fed has injected, but the Fed wants to deal with this crisis later.
I am not so sure that such a narrow focus on the monetary base as the de facto cause of current economic problems is a safe way to be conducting monetary policy. Agreed, in a general equilibrium, and in most normal economic scenarios, increasing the monetary base is going to stimulate economic activity – give banks more deposits to lend at an acceptable margin and they are likely to do so – but I am concerned that today’s monetarists have lost the plot.
I am genuinely interested in what he would have said, but not about quantitative easing per se, because he was obviously pro quantitative easing if there were issues about insufficient growth in the monetary base.
I think it is highly possible that the Fed know they have people guessing: they see the stock market moving on up and, wow, QE works. Well, it is plausible that QE has had some marginal benefit to the economy because of this, but the regularity with which new phases of QE need to be implemented suggests quite strongly that the impact of QE has been weak, given the fundamental head winds.
I hate the phrase quantitative easing, it is a bit like calling an apple, Malus Domestica-Borkh. But QE is no apple, it is a rigged game as far as investors are concerned, and the Fed is playing on the market’s irrationality, and its passion for the short term, to pump a little more blood into the valves.
As previously discussed, a rise in narrow money supply might lead to a rise in economic activity for a number of reasons: narrower money supply measures tend to be reserved for near term expenditure and a rise might suggest a move from delaying expenditure (longer term time deposits to shorter term easily accessible accounts) to spending more.
A rise in narrow money supply may also be a sign that the money multiplier has been expanding in recent months and lending growth has fed back into the banking system (people have more money), likewise implying a) growing economic activity and b) the potential for more expenditure.
Further to my recent post on narrow money supply growth: Eurozone M1 has also likewise shown recent, though unspectacular (in historical terms), growth:
In a recent article, Ambrose Evans opined that a rising narrow money supply (M1 to be exact) presaged a rise in economic activity.
Usually this might be the case as an increase in shorter duration/easier access narrow money might imply a) an increase in bank lending that creates deposits via the money multiplier (implying higher current and/or future economic expenditure), and/or b) a shift from longer duration money with the intent of spending (which implies a reallocation of money from future consumption to current consumption). It may also very well mean just an increase in money supply occasioned by quantitative easing. Continue reading
At a very basic level, all QE does is exchange “new money” for fixed interest assets (up till now high quality government bonds of varying maturities and some corporates (UK)).
QE is meant to lower bond yields through the initial demand and the reduction of supply, but this is not a necessary condition (i.e the interest rate change on high quality securities), since the real prize is the rise in the price of risky assets through portfolio adjustment of cash percentage allocations.
Reducing the supply of high quality assets and increasing the supply of money aims to increase the liquidity in the market for less liquid risky assets.
Ostensibly, since the rise in the price of risky assets is also a proxy for those loans and leases on the books of the banks, QE is also intended to increase confidence in the banking system and the banking system’s confidence in its ability to make loans. Continue reading
But this type of industry thinking is also likely to scare away the retail investor, through rational cognitive dissonance or otherwise.
Apparently, we are set for a big rally, once Greece leaves the Euro, as Central Banks the world over pump yet more liquidity into the financial system. This will either be via LTRO Repo type (temporarily exchange your securities for cash) transactions or the better for the banks and sovereigns, QE (buy your duff securities for a price you would not be able to dream of otherwise).
Here is my very quick, write it as you think it, opinion on this “play”. Continue reading
Growth in bank lending relative to the growth in broader money supply growth and bank liabilities is likely to be a more important metric than asset prices in deciding whether or not to pursue further quantitative easing.
Broader money supply growth (M2 less M1), in the US, has been strong over the last year or so, and as one would expect with a QE driven economy, at a faster rate than nominal GDP: Continue reading
When looking at the current health of world stock markets, it is critical that we bear in mind the structural paradigm in which we observe: the only reason the financial system remains in place and markets are “healthy” is the vast amounts of government and central bank support. The title to this post comes from Richard Fisher President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas: He also makes the following comments: Continue reading
It is interesting that the ECB is relying on long term repurchase operations to get the financial system back on an even keel. The question is, will this operation have the desired result? Probably not, is the answer if the financial system is still in a deleveraging cycle. Continue reading
Important information for those wishing to get some grasp on bank funding issues and the risks such pose to global credit availability and growth…