Economische aanraders 10-02-2019
Economische aanraders: Veren of Lood biedt u op zondag wekelijks een inkijkje in (minstens) 15 belangrijke of informatieve artikelen en interviews die vooral de voorafgaande 7 dagen op economisch terrein verschenen op onafhankelijke sites.
De kop is de link naar het oorspronkelijke artikel, waarvan de samenvatting of de eerste (twee) alinea’s hier gegeven worden. Er zijn in deze rubriek altijd verschillende economische scholen vertegenwoordigd, en we streven er naar die diversiteit te handhaven.
We nemen wekelijks ook een paar extra links op naar artikelen die minder specialistische kennis vereisen. Deze met *** gemerkte artikelen zijn ons inziens ook interessant voor lezers met weinig basiskennis van economie.
*** Telltale Signs of Recession – Charles Hugh Smith
I’m seeing lifestyles that are out of stock and no longer available, even in China.
Though every recession is unique, all recessions manifest in similar ways in the real economy. By real economy, I mean the on-the-ground economy we observe with our own eyes, as opposed to the abstract statistical model reflected in official declarations of when recessions begin and end.
One characteristic that never makes it into the abstract statistical representation of recession is the light switch phenomenon: business suddenly dries up, as if someone turned a light switch off. This is especially visible in discretionary purchases, which include everything from smart phones to vehicles to eating out.
Other telltale signs of recession include:
The Pseudo-Psychology Behind Monetary Policy – Frank Shostak
In his various writings, the champion of the monetarist school, Milton Friedman, argued that there is a variable time lag between changes in money supply and its effect on real output and prices. Friedman holds that in the short run changes in money supply will be followed by changes in real output.
However, in the long-run changes in money will only have an effect on prices. All this means that changes in money with respect to real economic activity tend to be neutral in the long-run and non-neutral in the short-run. Thus according to Friedman,
In the short-run, which may be as much as five or ten years, monetary changes affect primarily output. Over decades, on the other hand, the rate of monetary growth affects primarily prices.1
According to Friedman because of the difference in the time lag, the effect of the change in money supply shows up first in output and hardly at all in prices. It is only after a longer time lag that changes in money start to have an effect on prices. This is the reason according to Friedman why in the short-run money can grow the economy, while in the long run it has no effect on the real output.
Fed’s QE Unwind Reaches $434 Billion, Remains on “Autopilot” – Wolf Richter
Getting rid of MBS faster and shifting to short-term Treasury bills will be on the list.
The Fed shed $32 billion in assets in January, according to the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ended February 6, released this afternoon. This reduced the assets on its balance sheet to $4,026 billion, the lowest since January 2014. Since the beginning of this “balance sheet normalization,” the Fed has now shed $434 billion.
According to the Fed’s plan released when the QE unwind was introduced in 2017, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month. So how did it go in January?
Reining in shadow banking – Dirk Schoenmaker
Leveraged finance is booming, just as it was in the run-up to the Global Crisis. As before, central banks are bystanders, with only banking instruments for macroprudential policy. this column argues there are unused regulatory powers that can rein in investment funds. A cross-sectoral approach would help to rein in the current unsustainable levels of leveraged finance.
The Coming Global Financial Crisis: Debt Exhaustion – Charles Hugh Smith
The global economy is way past the point of maximum debt saturation, and so the next stop is debt exhaustion.
Just as generals fight the last war, central banks always fight the last financial crisis. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008-09 was primarily one of liquidity as markets froze up as a result of the collapse of the highly leveraged subprime mortgage sector that had commoditized fraud (hat tip to Manoj S.) via liar loans and designed-to-implode mortgage backed securities.
The central bank “solution” to institutionalized, commoditized fraud was to lower interest rates to zero and enable tens of trillions in new debt. As a result, total debt in the U.S. has soared to $70 trillion, roughly 3.5 times GDP, and global debt has skyrocketed from $84 trillion to $250 trillion. Debt in China has blasted from $7 trillion 2008 to $40 trillion in 2018.
Ocean Shipping Rates Plunge: Just A Blip Or The End Of Globalization? – John Rubino
The Baltic Dry Index represents the cost of renting an ocean-going container ship to move goods from, say, Chinese factories to the Port of Los Angeles. The more stuff being made and sold, the higher the demand for such ships, and thus the higher the price to rent one. And vice versa.
This is definitely one of the vice versa times. After rising to robust levels in mid-2018 the Baltic Dry Index has since plunged by about two-thirds.
Here’s a brief article on the subject from today’s Wall Street Journal:
Free-Falling Freight Rates Spell Trouble For Shipping
Dry bulk shipowners face a long period of uncertainty as spot prices collapse and China shipments shrink.
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q4 2018 – Wolf Richter
Consumers are doing their job only in a lackadaisical manner. But the student-loan scheme is hot.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it: Propping up the massive US economy. And consumers are doing it, but in a somewhat lackadaisical manner when it comes to spending money they don’t have. Consumer debt – more enticingly, “consumer credit” similar to “extra credit” – rose 4.7% in the fourth quarter 2018 compared to the fourth quarter last year. In the year 2018, Americans added $179 billion to their balances on their credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. Every dime was spent and added to GDP. It amounted to nearly 1% of GDP. If GDP grew 3.1% in 2018, just under one third of the growth was generated by that additional consumer debt.
***China’s S-Curve of Expansion, Stagnation and Decline -Charles Hugh Smith
All the policies that worked in the Boost Phase no longer work.
Natural and human systems tend to go through stages of expansion, stagnation and decline that follow what’s known as the S-Curve. The dynamic isn’t difficult to understand: an unfilled ecological niche is suddenly open due to a new adaptation; a bacteria evolves to exploit a new host, etc. Expansion is rapid until the niche is fully occupied, and then growth matures and stagnates; the low-hanging fruit has all been picked, and it’s much more costly to reach what little is left.
Human economies starved of capital, credit, access to markets and freedom are akin to unexploited ecological niches. Lacking capital, credit and the freedom to innovate, experiment and advance, economies wallow in a self-reinforcing stagnation.
Should capital, credit, access to markets and freedom become available, the economic expansion can be breath-taking. This is the basic script of postwar Japan and the Asian Tiger economies: economies with either minimal or war-damaged infrastructure, limited capital/credit and stifling status quo power structures that limited the freedom of the populace to access markets and innovations were suddenly open to credit, markets and innovation.
***Winners, losers and future prospects: The economic geography of transition countries – Klaus Desmet, Dávid Krisztián Nagy, Dzhamilya Nigmatulina, Nathaniel Young
The economic geography of transition economies has changed dramatically over the last quarter century, with large urban areas growing fast and many smaller places facing declining populations. Using a high-resolution spatial growth model, this column projects the transition economies as a whole to perform economically well over the next decades, especially the region’s densest places. Large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative will have a positive impact, but not more so than modest reductions of general trade frictions.
***Mexico’s Cash Cow: Remittances from the US & Other Countries Surge to New Record – Don Quijones
The total amount Mexico received in “remittances” — transfers of money by workers of Mexican descent mostly in the US but also other countries to individuals in Mexico — surged by 10.5% in 2018 to $33.4 billion, the highest figure registered since records began, back in 1995, and beating the prior records set in 2016 and 2017, according to the Bank of Mexico.
Note the six-year downtrend that kicked off in 2007 with the Financial Crisis, the US housing bust, and the US housing construction downturn:
The cash remittances are a lifeline for Mexico’s economy, accounting for 2.7% of Mexico’s GDP, up from 1.9% in 2009. Most of them get spent very quickly in the Mexican economy. In some Mexican states, they can represent as much as 10% of total revenues. In 2018, they provided more funds than the $29.3 billion in export revenues that state-owned oil company, Pemex, obtained from its exports of crude oil and other hydrocarbon products, and they provided more funds than foreign direct investment in Mexico ($30.7 billion).
Export booms in sluggish economies: The (missing) venting-out mechanism – Miguel Almunia, Pol Antràs, David Lopez Rodriguez, Eduardo Morales
The recommendation that firms reduce unit and labour costs to gain international competitiveness in response to domestic economic crises is based on the assumption that domestic and foreign supply decisions are not linked at the firm level. This column shows that in a monetary union, exports can have a significant impact in mitigating domestic slumps through the ‘venting-out’ mechanism. By reducing their use of flexible inputs relative to fixed, firms can achieve a short-term decrease in marginal costs to gain competitiveness abroad. This explains how an economic crisis and an export boom can take place at the same time.
Next Stop: Recession! We’ve arrived at the end of the line – Chris Martenson
We’ve enjoyed years of “recovery” since the Great Financial Crisis by literally papering over our problems with newly-printed money, instead of addressing their root causes.
But we’ve now arrived at the awkward part of the story; when all of our prior mistakes finally catch up with us, and the plot heads in a much darker direction.
Despite more than a decade of an “all-hands-on-deck” propping up of the financial markets, all the central bankers have to show for it is the widest wealth gap in history coupled with stagnant wages.
That, and a skyrocketing cost of living.
Depending on which OECD country you live in, you can take your ‘official’ inflation measure and multiply it by either a 2x or a 3x to get the true rate.
German Industrial Production Falls the Most Since 2009. New Orders Plummet – Wolf Richter
Q4 is falling apart before everyone’s astonished eyes, and a “technical recession” beckons.
“Unexpectedly,” German industrial production fell 3.9% in December 2018 compared to December 2017, after having fallen by a revised 4.0% in November, according to German statistics agency Destatis Thursday morning. These two drops were steepest year-over-year drops since 2009.
Even during the European Debt Crisis in 2011 and 2012 – it hit Germany’s industry hard as many European countries weaved in and out of a recession, with some countries sinking into a depression — German industrial production never fell as fast on a year-over-year basis as in November and December
The China shock and its impact on income inequality in Vietnam – Matthias Helble, Trang Thu Le, Trinh Q. Long
The sudden rise in trade between China and the US – known as the ‘China shock’ – has been the subject of numerous studies, but the even more dramatic increase in trade between China and developing countries in Asia has been somewhat overlooked. This column studies the impact of the China shock on income inequality in Vietnam. It suggests that increased trade with China reduced income inequality. It resulted in income growth for the lowest income quantiles while higher income groups saw their income decline.
Why Marx Loved Central Banks – Thorsten Polleit
In his “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848), published together with Frederick Engels, Karl Marx calls for “measures” — by which he means “despotic inroads on the rights of property” –, which would be “unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production,” that is, bringing about socialism-communism. Marx’s measure number five reads: “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.” This is a rather perspicacious postulation, especially as at the time when Marx formulated it, precious metals — gold and silver in particular — served as money.
Spanish Grocery Giant Unveils Big Losses, Teeters on Brink of Bankruptcy, after Allegations of Accounting Fraud – Don Quijones
Spanish supermarket chain Dia, once one of Europe’s largest grocery chains, has just unveiled its results for 2018 and they do not make for pretty reading. In what it describes as “probably its hardest year ever,” the company racked up €352 million in net losses. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of €246 million plunged by 47% from a year ago. Net sales dropped 11% from a year ago to $7.2 billion. And its total debt soared by 50% from the end of 2017 to €1.45 billion.
The firm’s shares, reduced to a penny stock, have slumped almost 90% since Jan 1, 2018. Its credit rating — investment grade until October 2018 — was cut serially to deep in junk following a succession of profit warnings.
The macroeconomic implications of a global trade war – Antoine Berthou, Caroline Jardet, Daniele Siena, Urszula Szczerbowicz
Escalating tensions between the US and its trading partners have made a global trade war more likely. In addition to the direct effect due to the increase in tariffs, a trade war may also affect GDP via indirect channels, such as a drop in productivity due to uncertainty and changes in the production environment. Using a multi-country model, this column shows that a global and generalised 10 percentage point increase in tariffs could reduce the level of global GDP by almost 2.0% on impact and up to 3.0% after two years, when all the additional indirect channels materialise.
Disclaimer: De VoL-redactie selecteert deze artikelen op interessante inzichten, of naar wij denken nuttige informatie. Wij kunnen echter geen enkele aansprakelijkheid aanvaarden voor de gevolgen van beslissingen die op grond hiervan door lezers zijn genomen, zakelijk zomin als privé.
Eerdere afleveringen van dit wekelijkse overzicht vindt u hier.