COMMENTARY: Earlier this month, I wrote and predicted that central banks appeared to be moving toward a coordination of monetary policies in anticipation of an accelerating of the decline of the global economy. Today that appears to be the case.
On July 4, central banks in China, Europe and the UK simultaneously undertook action to stimulate monetary variables in an attempt to get ahead of the curve of the declining global economy. But they will find that monetary policy has very little impact on this current global condition.
The European Central Bank, ECB, cut rates to a record low of 075%, as it is now clear virtually the entire Euro economy, including the UK, are in recession or rapidly approaching it–as this writer predicted 8 months ago would happen.
The Bank of England, with rates already at near zero (0.5%), opted for even more ‘quantitative easing’, that is printing another $78 billion, an addition to its already nearly $500 billion such QE injection to date.
China simultaneously announced another surprise cut in interest rates, the second in as many months. China economic data forthcoming probably shows a weaker economy than even currently assumed. As this writer also predicted, China’s GDP is likely to fall well below 7% (which it needs to absorb new labor force entrants), and that notwithstanding the likely forthcoming fiscal stimulus China will have to undertake before year end.
That leaves only the US and Japan among major central banks not having yet taken action. Japan will likely wait on the US to do so first. The US federal reserve does not meet until July 31, but another round of QE can be expected if the June and July job figures remain in the dismal level that they have, below 100,000 jobs created a month (and thus also below new entrants to the labor force in the US), and if US manufacturing and services remain in decline or stagnant.
But monetary action by all these central banks, coordinated or not, will have little impact on stemming the global decline. Monetary policy, that is liquidity injections into the banking system, in the current ‘epic recession’ do not result in significant increases in bank lending and,in turn, business investment that creates jobs, income growth, and therefore economic recovery. The monetary injections largely are hoarded, or else committed to short term speculation in financial markets to realize quick profits. The QE and easy money results in a temporary stock and commodity markets surge, that eventually dissipates in less than a year.
As this writer has also written on this blog earlier this year, this cycle of QE and zero rates has led to the banking system and financial markets becoming increasing addicted to the free money.
Now the banking system itself also is showing signs of growing fragility. On the surface the Euro banks are apparently the main trouble spot, especially in Spain and the Euro periphery. But the core Euro banks are also increasingly in distress. The Eurozone’s last week summit was primarily focused on a pre-emptive bailing out of the Euro banks–or at least future plans to do so. But fiscal stimulus announcements were token and not of any consequence, at best indicating plans merely to ‘move the money around’ sometime in the future. Thus the Eurozone continues to focus on monetary solutions as well, which will prove disastrous to the effort to slow the decline toward a hard landing recession. (More on the Euro Summit and its solution in a couple days, now that the ‘dust is starting to settle’ on the initial overly ‘euphoric’ response to its pronouncements regarding use of its ESM fund to directly bail out the banks and create a more bona fide central bank out of the ECB at some distant point in the future.
Today’s coordinated central bank response to the growing global slowdown will no doubt result in more coordination to come. Despite the clear effort to coordinate, ECB president, Mario Draghi, denied ay such coordination–the last time such occurred was circa the Lehman Bros. collapse in 2008. Draghi also replied to the direct question of whether the global banking system was more fragile today than in 2008 by saying it was more stable today. That too is another misunderstanding of the global situation.
The weak point in the global banking system may not prove to be Spain and its banks, but what is going on in London today, the major financial center, and has been apparently since the 2008-09 collapse. London has become the ‘Cowboy Finance Capital’ center of the global economy. High risk taking and continuing speculative excesses have been the rule and now it’s becoming apparent. UK financial regulation has been a bigger joke than even the US Dodd-Frank bill. JP Morgan’s recent losses, centered on speculation in derivatives, is one indicator of London out of control. Another is the now emerging massive scandal involving Barclays and other banks’ manipulation of Libor rates–again to maximize derivatives revenues it appears. JP Morgan’s losses have risen to $9 billion from the original $2 billion estimate. And that doesn’t count its $25 billion plus, and rising, losses in stock values. The JP Morgan speculation involves its $350 billion portfolio. The losses may be much much greater, but we won’t know for months. Meanwhile, the Barclays-Libor scandal promises unknown financial losses. This is potentially of great significance. Hundreds of trillions of dollars of derivative trades were based on Libor, not to mention 90% of US mortgage contracts. How this scandal will result in liability suits and claims, and how that uncertainty will impact financial markets, remains to be seen. The unknowns are potentially significant.
In other words, the global banking system is growing more fragile, not less, and potentially even greater in terms of its negative impact on real economies already slowing rapidly. This is unlike 2008, when real economies were booming when the financial instability hit. 2008 also was a situation when central banks’ balance sheets were not overburdened with trillions of liabilities yet, as they are now. When the global consumer had not suffered five years of unemployment, negative income growth, trillions in asset wealth destruction, and real debt accumulation. Finally, 2008 was a period when government balance sheets were not in as terrible a shape as well, or the inclination as strong toward austerity and spending contraction.
No, Mr. Draghi, the global economy–especially in the Euro and UK, and increasingly in China and the BRICS, and soon again in the US as its economy now clearly slows, is not in a ‘better shape today’.
More on the Eurozone Summit and why the US economy will continue to slow, in a subsequent post.
July 5, 2012
Jack is the author of the April 2012 book, ‘Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few’, which predicted 9 months ago the current US and global economic slowdown. The book may be purchased from this blog site at discount. (see icon).