Central banks win the day and week.
- Bear Case
October 20, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
Bolivian President Evo Morales last weekend won re-election by a smashing margin. His eight-year rule has weakened Bolivian property rights, indulged in frequent nationalizations and demonized capitalism. Yet it has also produced Bolivia's best growth rates in several decades, far better than the orthodox and admirable policies pursued in 1985-2003. Thus Morales' policy of making Bolivian clocks run backwards seems reflected by the apparent successful defiance of theory in his economics. In reality, however, there is a fairly simple explanation, and it is an important lesson for other poor countries.
October 13, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
The International Monetary Fund's latest World Economic Outlook, in an unholy alliance with Larry Summers, claimed this week that a surge in publicly funded infrastructure spending would provide an increase in economic output with no downside risk. The truth is almost precisely the opposite: by indulging in ill-thought-out and boondoggle-filled public infrastructure spending, governments in rich countries leave their long-suffering taxpayers gasping for their next dinner.
October 6, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
The latest estimate by the Congressional Budget Office of the federal deficit in the year to last Tuesday was $506 billion. The deficit is expected to improve marginally this year, then jump back above $500 billion next year and worsen steadily for the next decade and thereafter. Given that we are five years into an economic "recovery," this won't do. Fourteen years of sloppy fiscal policies have left the U.S. fiscal position in a parlous state, only partly disguised by two decades of cheap money. Drastic action needs to be taken.
September 29, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
Last week's inflation figures showed that the Federal Reserve's over-expansionary monetary policy wasn't revealing itself in inflation. But that doesn't mean it's doing no damage.
September 22, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
September 15, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
The bicentenary of the Congress of Vienna, organized to settle the questions outstanding from the 22-year Napoleonic Wars, is a slightly uncertain date. The Congress itself opened officially on October 1, 1814, and the Final Act was signed on June 9, 1815. But on the other hand, the British Foreign Secretary Robert, Lord Castlereagh, arrived in Vienna on September 13, 1814, and the official bicentenary conference (in Vienna, naturally) opens September 17. So this seems as good a week as any to celebrate the conference that (because the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was a failure and there was no peace conference after World War II) was effectively the foundation of the global system we inhabit today. It established a number of principles of international governance, some of which we have kept and others that we would do well to re-apply."
September 8, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
No less than six sovereign borrowers are now paying negative nominal interest rates on their 2-year borrowing in euros. In other words, they are making money by going into debt. In real terms, medium-term U.S. TIPS and British index-linked gilts have had negative interest rates for several years. Contrary to the views of the happy Keynesians around us, this is very dangerous indeed. If negative interest rates were to persist, the world's stock of capital would eventually disappear. Without capital, we'd be back up the trees.
September 1, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
"We wanted flying cars, and they gave us 140 characters," said venture capitalist Peter Thiel in 2011. He put his finger on a central dilemma of the New Economy: its innovations can make money (usually through redirecting advertising sales), but they add little or nothing to the overall stock of human knowledge or long-term happiness. Professor Robert Gordon postulated last year that we may have come to the end of the era of perpetual growth. His theory looked foolishly pessimistic, but as the current sluggish expansion limps on, it begins to look more plausible.
August 25, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
The NASDAQ Composite Stock Index this week broke out to 14-year highs, reaching levels not seen since March 2000. It came within 10% of its all-time closing peak of 5,048.62 on March 10 of that year (by the end of that month it was already below current levels.) At that time I thought, along with many commentators, that absent major inflation we would not see that NASDAQ level again in our lifetimes, unlike the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indices. It is thus worth pondering why the index had reached such nosebleed levels again, and what about today's environment might justify higher valuations than in 2000.
August 18, 2014 posted by Martin Hutchinson
Ever since the fall of Communism and the rise of the Internet, future growth has appeared to lie in emerging markets. Modern communications have made it much easier for multinationals to run international supply chains that take advantage of their abundant resources and cheap labor, while emerging markets people have become far more connected to the world economy, to their great advantage. Yet just as globalization itself has begun to reverse, as I discussed last week, so the era of emerging markets emergence may be coming to a close—at least for the next decade or so.
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