A recent, long post on Linked-In relates the story of how an attempt to set up a business recycling aluminium cans in the city of Toulouse in France failed for reasons of cost, lack of customer appetite, and ultimately out of the sheer technical impossibility of achieving the desired 100% ‘Green Loop’ for which the enterprise – La Boucle Verte’- was named.
For those of us in the field of finance, the last several weeks have been interesting – not to say hair-raising – ones with regard to the financial and economic aspects of the coronavirus epidemic and a fortiori with the official, hyper-Lehman response to it.
Leaving aside the medical issues, there is much of potentially far-reaching importance here to discuss.
Many people are trying to draw analogies with the Great Depression, with wartime, or the 70s stagflation era but we feel most of these analogies are missing the mark. Here we explain why
On April 13th, a financial pundit with a wide media following made the following (loosely transcribed) proposition about US banking stocks: Banks won’t rally because rates -long and short- are too low; Japan is our marker – banks there falling while their US/EZ peers rose pre-GFC and have not made any ground since; vis-à-vis their EZ peers, US bank returns have long been anomalous, ergo their out-performance won’t be repeated. We demur in the main.
With many commodity prices touching multi-year lows and with mounting fears for real estate valuations and car-lease residuals, numerous commentators seem convinced that ours is now a deflationary future. QE failed to raise CPI by anywhere near what the spin promised, they say, partly because it was ‘unsupported’ by fiscal policy. Therefore, if we don’t get Roosevelt, we’ll get Brüning, they conclude, and, meanwhile, we need the Fed to cut rates below zero, said one prominent pundit on April 5th. We replied:-
Ahead of my remote appearance on CNBC Squawk Box Europe on April 3rd, I prepared a few notes for the guys which I am happy to share here with you. The main topic, ahead of the emergency OPEC meeting which briefly bolstered crude prices that week was, unsurprisingly, oil but we did also discuss the outlook for the wider economy.
On March 15th, the Eurozone branch of the Throw-more-money-at-it lobby were making themselves heard, calling for the ECB to run the printing presses for a limited (author pulls down lower eyelid with index finger) period as a supplement to the to the €120 billion in extra security purchases already made to that point. [NB total ‘assistance’ to April 17th had reached to €275bln in RP, €148bln in securities, and €126bln in FX swaps for a total of €550bln in five short weeks].We responded:-
A noted [monetary extremist] resident at GMU’s Mercatus Center fretted on March 20th that Japan’s efforts during 2001-06 to have the central bank finance deficits ‘didn’t work’ – i.e., they failed to ignite meaningful levels of wealth-sapping inflation. The reason? As our sage tells us, was that there was ‘no commitment… to a permanent expansion of the monetary base’ as expounded in the ratiocinations of that dark genius of modern central bank theorising, Michael Woodford. We replied:-
As governments took ever more drastic action to close markets and confine people to their homes, the question loomed of how to mitigate some of the worst consequences of this self-imposed state of siege. A Twitter thread of March 10th offered up some initial thoughts, here lightly edited.
In response to an FT article of January 23rd entitled, “The new kings of the bond market”, which suggested that banks had ceded their command over fixed income to exchange-traded funds and active portfolio traders, we responded with a riff on the sorry consequences of recent financial developments: a bromide which turned out to be singularly well-timed in view of the extraordinary upheavals suffered just a few, short weeks later:-