Category: Macro

Faking it

SUMMARY: Thanks to the election of President Trump and to his uncompromising attitude to the establishment media, much hot air is being expended on the subject of ‘fake news’. What we should really be getting worked up about is ‘fake economics’, for this is a much more pervasive evil, as well as a much more persistent one. Continue reading

The Austrian Prescription

At the start of the year it has become wearily traditional for us pundits to offer one of two genres of prediction.

The first takes the form of a genuine—if ultimately foredoomed—attempt to lift a ragged corner of those thick shrouds of unknowability which separate today from tomorrow. The second combines such futility with a certain arch attempt to make one’s name in the event one chances upon what can afterwards be trumpeted as the inspired prediction of what the consensus presently regards as a highly unlikely event. Continue reading

You gets what you pays for

Reuters’ story that SAFE told its banks they should be as obstructive as possible in meeting customer demands for foreign currency, but should absolute not divulge the reason why, certainly succeeded in causing a stir in markets.    Continue reading

Uncertainty! GASP!

Amid the relative torpor of the US holiday, it might be the moment to wax a little philosophical and ask if you, the listener, have ever noticed that so much of what passes for economic wisdom today involves the persistent overuse of the word ‘uncertainty’? Continue reading

Ready, Neddy, GO!

In the week in which PM Theresa May appeared before the annual shindig of the UK’s most visible Big Business lobby group, the CBI, it was perhaps fortuitous that both her crew and theirs released their latest statements of account. Continue reading

A Dollar is What I Need

As what will be an interval greatly shortened by the Thanksgiving Day holiday dawns, traders and investors seem happy to continue where they left off on Friday, buying stocks, selling currencies, and giving bonds a fairly wide berth.

A little respite would not be entirely unwelcome after a period in which we have experienced record setting moves and switches of positioning in the likes of copper – where the latest numbers from the regulator show the non-commercials now boast a tally of net longs only once briefly topped – and that way back in 2003. Continue reading

Time to Get Real

Having just managed to quell a dangerous rebellion among her fellow Committee members, it did not seem the most opportune time for Janet Yellen to start dreaming of the sort of post-war ‘demand management’ that would happily trade a few extra percentage points of price inflation in order to move a little further up the employment axis in that unshakable vision of the Phillips Curve that seems to dominate the modern central banker’s thought processes.

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The Ghost of ’37

With the Fed supposedly steeling itself at last to remove a little of its emergency ‘accommodation’, it has suddenly become fashionable to warn of the awful parallels with 1937, as the highly-respected Ray Dalio of Bridgewater has notably done.

That year, the story goes, the nation’s ascent from the depths of the Great Depression was aborted because the Fed ‘tightened’ and the government ‘cut spending’: a sharp recession was the immediate and highly avoidable result. Therefore, we are told, we must not act today.

We strongly refute the analogy: Fed actions were marginal and largely technical in nature while the real fiscal story was the rise in taxes, not any slashing of regular outlays

Far more instrumental in the slump was the nature of those taxes – being steep, ideologically motivated increases in levies on wealth, profits, and capital.

Also to blame were the government’s tolerance of labour militancy and its concerted campaign against ‘tax avoiders’, ‘economic royalists’ and the ‘top sixty families’ – all of which frightened and discouraged the entrepreneurial classes. This fear intensified greatly when the Supreme Court was neutered as means of seeking relief from the state’s attacks.

It is in such displays of pitchfork populism by financially and intellectually bankrupt governments that we – in the age of Piketty, of the organized deprecation of the ‘1%’ and of the abuse of the ‘Fair Share of Tax’ slogan – need to draw the most pertinent comparisons

The real Ghost of ’37 takes the form of such mean-spirited and, counter-productive politics: the spectre should not be conjured up to excuse the central bank from further delaying its overdue embarkation on the long road back to normality and policy minimalism. Continue reading

Busts are not ‘inevitable’

There are those who can display a solid grasp of the oft–misunderstood mechanics of credit and money generation by banks and who are also well aware of the episodes of endemic mistakes this entrains in in our system. Yet, perhaps because they possess a certain ideological bent, many such commentators cannot seem to steel themselves to take the next step and admit that very little of this has anything to do with a free market, or that those mistakes are decidely not an intrinsic feature of what they like to call ‘capitalism’.

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Banks DO Create Money

For those who will not take my word for it that banks do create deposits by lending money, let me quote you a little Roepke from a footnote (p113) to his 1936 work, ‘Crises & Cycles’:

“The process [of credit creation] is now clearly explained in any text-book on economics, banking or money (especially recommendable is Hartley Withers’ Meaning of Money). A fuller treatment may be found in the following books: R. G. Hawtrey, op. cit.; J. M. Keynes, A Treatise on Money, pp. 23-49 : C. A. Philips, Bank Credit, New York, 1920; W. F. Crick, “The Genesis of Bank Deposits,” Economica, June 1927, and F. A. von Hayek, Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle, London,1933.”

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