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Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Huge monetizing still needed to avert debt deflation
Money Figures Show There's Trouble Ahead
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph, London
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Private credit is contracting on both sides of the Atlantic. The M3 money data is flashing early warning signals of a deflation crisis next year in nearly half the world economy. Emergency schemes that have propped up spending are being withdrawn, gently or otherwise.
Unemployment benefits have masked social hardship unto now but these are starting to expire with cliff-edge effects.The jobless army in Spain will be reduced to E100 a week; in Estonia to E15.
Whoever wins today's elections in Germany will face the reckoning so deftly dodged before. Kurzarbeit, that subsidises firms not to fire workers, is running out. The cash-for-clunkers scheme ended this month. It certainly "worked."
Car sales were up 28 percent in August, but only by stealing from the future. The Center for Automotive Research says sales will fall by a million next year: "It will be the largest downturn ever suffered by the German car industry."
Fiat's Sergio Marchionne warns of "disaster" for Italy unless Rome renews its car scrappage subsidies. Chrysler too will see some "harsh reality" following the expiry of America's scheme this month. Some expect US car sales to slump 40 percent in September.
Weaker US data is starting to trickle in. Shipments of capital goods fell by 1.9 percent in August. New house sales are stuck near 430,000 -- down 70 percent from their peak -- despite an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. It expires in November.
We are moving into a phase when most OECD states must retrench to head off debt-compound traps.
Britain faces the broad sword; Spain has told ministries to slash 8pc of discretionary spending; the IMF says Japan risks a funding crisis.
If you look at the sheer scale of global stimulus this year, what shocks is how little has been achieved. China's exports were down 23 percent in August; Japan's were down 36 percent; industrial production has dropped by 23 percent in Japan, 18 percent in Italy, 17 percent in Germany, 13 percent in France and Russia, and 11 percent in the US.
Call this a "V-shaped" recovery if you want. Markets are pricing in economic growth that is not occurring.
The overwhelming fact is that private spending has slumped in the deficit countries of the Anglosphere, Club Med, and East Europe but has not risen enough in the surplus countries (East Asia and Germany) to compensate. Excess capacity remains near post-war highs across the world.
Yet hawks are already stamping feet at key central banks.
Are they about to repeat the errors made in early 2007, and then again in the summer of 2008, when they tightened -- or made hawkish noises -- even as the underlying credit system fell apart?
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke spoke in April 2008 of "a return to growth in the second half of this year", and again in July 2008 that growth would "pick up gradually over the next two years."
He could have thought such a thing only if he was ignoring the money data. Key aggregates had been in free-fall for months.
I cited monetarists in July 2008 warning that the lifeblood of the Western credit was "draining away." For whatever reason (the lockhold of New Keynesian ideology?) the Fed missed the signal.
So did the European Central Bank when it raised rates weeks before the Lehman collapse, blathering about a "1970s inflation spiral."
Yes, the money entrails can mislead. The gurus squabble like Trotskyites. But you ignore the data at your peril.
Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research says that US bank loans have been falling at an annual pace of almost 14 percent since early Summer: "There has been nothing like this in the USA since the 1930s."
M3 money has been falling at a 5 percent rate; M2 fell by 12 percent in August; the commercial paper market has shrunk from $1.6 trillion to $1.2 trillion since late May; the Monetary Multiplier at the St Louis Fed is below zero (0.925). In Europe, M3 money has been contracting at a 1pc rate since April.
Private loans have fallen by E111 billion since January. Whether you see a credit crunch in Euroland depends where you sit. It is already garrotting Spain. Germany's Mittelstand says it is "a reality," even if not for big companies that issue bonds. The Economy Ministry is drawing up plans for E250 billion in state credit, knowing firms will be unable to roll over debts.
Bundesbank chief Axel Weber sees no crunch now, yet fears a second pulse of the crisis this winter. "We are threatened by stress from our domestic credit industry through the rise in the insolvency of firms and households," he says.
Draw your own conclusion. Western central banks will have to "monetize" deficits on a huge scale to stave off debt deflation. The longer they think otherwise, the worse it will be.
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