Regular readers will know that the articles published here are but a small subset of the detailed work I undertake to analyse economic and political developments and their effects on markets. In order to give some idea of the scope of this, presented below is an archive of past issues of the Austrian School-informed, in-depth monthly publication, ‘Money, Macro & Markets’ in addition to which I compile twice monthly updates as the ‘Midweek Macro Musings’ which are also made available on a complimentary basis to subscribers to the former letter.
There has been much head-scratching of late as to why, with interest rates lower than they have been since the Universe first exploded out of the Void, businesses are not undertaking any where near as much investment as that hoped for beforehand by the academic cabal whose ‘effective demand’ and ‘transmission channel’ fixations have helped drive rates to today’s mind-boggling levels.
Perhaps the first great lesson of economics, as emphasized by Henry Hazlitt, is that there is no free lunch. The second, courtesy of Frederic Bastiat, is that if it sometimes appears that there is one, it means that we simply have not looked deeply enough into the consequences of our attempt to enjoy it. The third, the joint insight of several generations of Austrians, is that the attempt to buy one for ourselves by resort to monetary manipulation is eventually doomed to fail. A cynic might say that the fourth and final lesson is that no-one ever wishes to abide by the strictures inherent in the first three rules. Continue reading
Amid all the debate about the US economy and the somewhat vague prospect of the Fed finally showing some cojones at some point in the future, the principle feature which allows the Doves to block any renormalization of the rate is the supposedly soft state of the labour market, particularly with reference to the sorry-looking participation rate.
Between Li Keqiang, Mario Draghi, and the BLS, markets everywhere had a wild ride into the weekend.
Starting east and working west, the upshot of the Chinese ‘Twin Sessions’ was a perseverance with the so-called ‘New Normal’ theme – namely, with the idea that headline, GDP-style growth should be lower in future with the emphasis shifting from brute volume to the encouragement of a shift in the productive structure towards the provision of higher-value added, more technology-rich goods, towards service in place of smokestacks, aall the better to spread the benefits of industrialization to the domestic populace.
Avoiding for now all comment on the ongoing Eurozone schism, we start by taking a look at the UK where, conveniently in the run-up to the May election, everything seem to be coming up roses for the incumbents. Retail sales are strong, CBI output intentions are comfortably back inside the upper decile of the last 20 years’ readings and – perhaps most politically heartening of all – real wages are at last rising while both numbers employed and hours worked are making new, all-time highs with the ratio between the two suggesting the proportion of those working full-time is back at pre-crisis highs.
More than half a century ago, in his role as an advisor to the men responsible for trying to set Taiwan on the road to prosperity, a redoubtable economist called Sho-Chie Tsiang argued that the monetary authorities should stop suppressing interest rates and directly rationing credit and should move instead toward a more market-oriented system where real rates were sufficiently elevated to encourage productive saving.
His reasoning was that the existing combination of what we might call Z(Real)IRP with ‘macro-prudential’ control was plagued with several significant drawbacks.
Here’s a question for all the cheering QEuro fans out there. If you came across a country where both real and nominal money supply were growing at rates in the low teens – something its people had not experienced for almost a decade and close to the fastest seen in the last four – would you consider it to be a victim of ‘deflation’? If not, what help do you suppose an expansionary central bank would be to it?
Wracked by the actions of the various central banks – which gave us another key reminder that volatility does not equate to risk – yet not wishing to start rethinking their entire thesis, a characteristic loss confidence has started to set in among those who were telling themselves over the Christmas trukey just what geniuses they were. We could have an interesting couple of weeks in store – not helped by the fact that we are about to enter the great Chinese data avoid as the lunar new year approaches.
Back in the halcyon days of summer, it seemed nothing could go wrong.
Commodities were still things it was not utterly disreputable to own. Base metals had shaken off a springtime swoon to hit 18 month highs. Though still suffering from that enervating, post-bubble flatness, precious metals had just enjoyed a neat little 10% rally. Energy was threatening to print new 2 ½ year highs as WTI sold for more than $107 at the front and $86 at the back of the curve. Nor were people much interested in paying for downside protection: across the complex, options premia were as low as ever they had been in recent years.