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MOSLER'S LAW: There is no financial crisis so deep that a sufficiently large tax cut or spending increase cannot deal with it.

Archive for April, 2012

Riksbank Says Considering Establishing Krona Bond Portfolio

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th April 2012

Huh???

Riksbank Says Considering Establishing Krona Bond Portfolio

By Jonas Bergman

April 27 (Bloomberg) — Sweden’s Riksbank is considering building a portfolio of krona bonds that would help it enact crisis measures faster, officials at the bank’s monetary and financial stability departments said in a commentary.

While the bank’s systems have worked well both in normal times and during the financial crisis, that doesn’t guarantee future success, Heidi Elmer, Peter Sellin and Per Aasberg Sommar said in a commentary on the bank’s website today.

“The Riksbank is therefore now reviewing how to further improve preparedness in the framework in order to be able to deal with future crises that may require different measures,” they wrote. “Acquiring a bond portfolio in Swedish kronor once again could ensure that the Riksbank has the systems, routines and knowledge needed to be able to take extraordinary measures at short notice in the future.”

The Swedish central bank has cut interest rates twice since December to prevent the largest Nordic economy from falling into a recession after output shrank at the end of 2011. The bank left the benchmark repo rate at 1.5 percent at this month’s meeting.

Riksbank crisis measures during the financial turmoil that started in 2007 helped the country achieve the biggest economic rebound in the European Union in 2010.

Posted in Bonds | 7 Comments »

Something to note…

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th April 2012

Spotted by Sean Keane

It was also interesting to note an easily overlooked article in Greek online newspaper Kathimerini saying that the European Commission is pressuring the European Investment Bank to withdraw a clause that it recently inserted into its new loan contracts that were signed with a number of Greek companies. The new clauses allow for the repayment of debt in Greek Drachma instead of Euro, should the Greeks decide to leave the EU at some point in the future. Clearly the EC is displeased at one of the foremost European lending institutions legally embedding the possibility of something happening which the Commissioners all insist is impossible. Commissioner Olli Rehn reportedly called the clauses “unfortunate and incomprehensible2”. A cynic might note that the EIB has taken an appropriately commercial and realistic approach to the loans, free of the politics that surround the EC.

Posted in ECB, Greece | 3 Comments »

Brussels to relax 3pc fiscal targets as revolt spreads

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 26th April 2012

Yes, larger deficits are needed to support aggregate demand at desired levels.

However, the problem is the national govts are currently like US states and as such are revenue constrained.

So relaxing the deficit limits without some kind of ECB funding guarantees can cause markets to abstain from funding the nat govts.

Said another way, without the ECB the euro members are currently deep into ‘ponzi’.

Brussels to relax 3pc fiscal targets as revolt spreads

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The European Commission is preparing a major shift in economic strategy, fearing that excessive fiscal tightening will inflict unnecessary damage on a string of eurozone countries.

Posted in Deficit, ECB, EU | 62 Comments »

OECD Head Urges Japan To Fix Finances, Hike Consumption Tax

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 25th April 2012

It’s globally unanimous.

And it’s moving the euro zone closer to the waterfall.

OECD Head Urges Japan To Fix Finances, Hike Consumption Tax

By Kelly Olsen

April 25 (Bloomberg) — The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Wednesday that Japan must get its fiscal house in order, and he supports the government’s plan to raise the consumption tax to help achieve that.

Doubling the consumption tax to 10% by 2015 “is an important step,” Angel Gurria, head of the Paris-based organization, said in a speech.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda submitted legislation to parliament in March that would raise the consumption tax from the current 5% in two stages. But the plan has come under fierce criticism from opposition parties and members of Noda’s own ruling Democratic Party of Japan who fear it may damage the fragile economic recovery.

Gurria said the fiscal situation requires action, pointing out that while Japan’s public debt, at more than 200% of gross domestic product, has so far been manageable given relatively low interest rates, that may not always be the case.

“Japan is vulnerable to a run-up in interest rates,” Gurria said. He said the debt situation is in “uncharted territory.”

During a question-and-answer session, Gurria was asked if he would favor raising the consumption tax before 2014 by one percentage point a year.

“I think it makes sense,” he said, noting it would start generating revenue faster, could be combined with adjustments to other taxes, and suits the gradual nature of Japan’s politics. “I think it has less risks than the present formulation,” he said.

Posted in Japan | 23 Comments »

WRKO Radio interview this am

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 24th April 2012

Warren Mosler on the Economy and the FOMC Meeting

EDIT: (Warren starts at 1 minute 20 seconds)

Posted in Fed | 9 Comments »

Mosler Leads Ferrari in BEC Donington Qualifying

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd April 2012

Mosler Leads Ferrari in BEC Donington Qualifying

By James Broomhead

April 21 (Bloomberg) — In qualifying for the second race of the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship Javier Morcillo took pole position by a little over half a second from the 45-minute session qualifying session.

Morcillo and the Neil Garner Motorsport/Strata 21 he shares with Manuel Cintrano and Paul White Mosler MT900 came to the fore in the second half of the session, Morcillo taking pole position, then extending his advantage in three successive laps of 1:06.903, 1:06.275 and finally 1:05.318 with thirteen minutes remaining.

Jumping from the bottom of the top five to pole position Morcillo initially led a tightly packed lead quartet. The Ian Heward/Mike Millard Rapier SR2 was second, the orange works Ginetta third and the Paul Bailey and Andy Schulz Ferrari fourth fastest all covered by a little over two tenths.

“I was almost dead flat downhill through the Craner Curves,” Morcillo said. “I’m not very proud of not making it totally flat for once but apart from that I’m very happy. I didn’t think we would get pole position. Andy did a fantastic time – I do not think there are many Ferrari’s faster than that around Donington, it’s not a place for the Ferrari. I wasn’t expecting it to be the Ferrari, I was expecting the Ginetta to be really fast – that’s a fantastic car.”

Morcillo’s rapid improvement cleaved a gulf in the top four. His full advantage remaining intact until the no.17 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 improved to 1:06.395. Also late improvers were the works Ginetta, slotting into fourth to form an all Ginetta second row. Andy Schulz moved the black SB Race Engineering Ferrari into second on the final lap, just a half second off the pace of the Mosler.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Japan Lacking Fiscal Plan May Be Deflation Cause, Shirakawa Says

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd April 2012

Shared delusion…

Obama

By Paul Panckhurst

April 22 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s absence of “concrete reform plans” for the nation’s finances may be contributing to deflation and sluggish economic growth by discouraging spending by the public, central bank Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said.

Consumers may be limiting spending “on concerns over future fiscal developments,” Shirakawa said in remarks prepared for an event in Washington yesterday. This may be “one factor behind sluggish economic growth and mild deflation,” he said.

The Bank of Japan is under pressure from lawmakers to step up its attack on more than decade-long deflation as the government seeks to sustain a recovery from last year’s earthquake and economic contraction. Shirakawa has pledged to extend “powerful” easing until a 1 percent price goal is in sight and his policy board next meets on April 27.

The nation’s borrowings will exceed 1,000 trillion yen ($12.4 trillion) for the first time in this fiscal year, the Finance Ministry projects, while the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts Japan’s public debt will reach 219 percent of gross domestic product.

Shirakawa said yesterday that stability in Japanese government bond yields shows investors’ expectations that “fiscal soundness will be restored through structural reforms in both the economic and fiscal areas.”

“At the moment, such expectations are not firmly backed by concrete reform plans,” he said.

Posted in Government Spending, Japan | 16 Comments »

German Manufacturing Shrinks at Fastest Pace Since 2009

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd April 2012

The 10th plague, as the infection spreads to the core?

The surprise is that it took so long, with austerity eroding export markets.
And note the drop in the employment index as well.

German Manufacturing Shrinks at Fastest Pace Since 2009

By Alice Baghdjian

April 23 (Reuters) — Germany’s manufacturing sector unexpectedly shrank at the fastest pace in nearly three years in April, denting hopes it can drive growth in the euro zone and casting a shadow over upbeat business sentiment surveys.

Markit’s manufacturing Purchasing Mangers Index (PMI) fell sharply to 46.3 from March’s 48.4, according to a flash estimate released on Monday, well below the 50 mark which would sign al growth in activity.

It marked the fastest rate of contraction since July 2009 in the sector, which has been hit by a decline in some exports as the debt crisis in the euro zone has choked demand from key trading partners.

Reports are that sales to southern Europe are particularly weak, so there is some evidence of troubles in the periphery (of the euro zone) spilling over to the core,” said Chris Williamson at Markit, adding that global trade was also sagging.

Germany produces exports that people want to buy when growth is good but cut back on when there are worrying signs, and that’s what we’ve got at the moment,” he said.

Germany’s export-driven economy, the largest in Europe, recovered swiftly from the 2008/09 global financial crisis, interrupted only by a 0.2 percent contraction in the final quarter of last year on weak exports and private consumption.

Many economists now believe this to be just a hiccup and that Germany will avoid a recession, generally defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

But worries about the finances of big euro zone economies such as Spain and Italy have unsettled markets in recent weeks, despite tentative signs at the beginning of the year that Europe’s more than two-year debt crisis was easing.

The manufacturing reading undershot expectations for an increase to 49.0 in a Reuters poll, with a number of indices within the survey contracting at a faster rate than in the previous month.

The PMI’s composite index, a combined measure of services and industry, fell to 50.9 from a final reading of 51.6 in March, hovering just above stagnation. Employment fell for the first time in more than two years with the employment index dipping to 49.2 from 51.7 in March.

UPBEAT SURVEYS

A companion survey, however, showed the pace of growth in the services sector increased slightly to 52.6 from 52.1 in March.

It beat the consensus forecast of 52.3 in a Reuters poll.

The German consumer has got some confidence in his spending so that’s helping the domestic economy, certainly at the moment,” Williamson said, adding further deterioration of the headline PMI figures could dent growth in the services sector.

Confidence in Europe’s bulwark economy has so far shown resilience to recent disappointing industry data.

In February, German industrial orders rose less than expected, although strong demand from non-European countries provided some momentum, and industrial output fell more than expected due to cold weather.

Last week the closely-watched ZEW index charting analyst and investor sentiment reached its highest level in nearly two years and the Ifo business climate survey inched to its highest level since July 2011, despite expectations that confidence would wane this month.

I’m surprised that (the surveys) are staying so buoyant at the moment,” Williamson said, adding that the PMI usually turns down before the confidence-based surveys.

There is an inflection point now where companies have a reasonable amount of business in their pipeline, but they are reducing that. You’ll soon see those overall indicators from Ifo start to come down again, I think it will be quite soon.”

Composite PMI input prices eased but still grew faster than output prices.

German companies say they expect challenges for the year ahead, with German car maker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) bracing for a very demanding year” as the European debt crisis weighs on auto markets and global economic growth slows.

Williamson said he did not see output prices rising for some time until demand picks up.

They will compensate for that (cutting selling prices) probably through staff cost reductions, which is why we are seeing employment start to fall now,” he said.

They will simply have to fight to stay alive,” he said.

Posted in EU, Germany, Government Spending | 9 Comments »

People who reject free lunches are fools: Liquidity trap – part II

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th April 2012

Fiscal and monetary policy in a liquidity trap – part II

By Martin Wolf

Output is produced by work.
Work is a cost, not a benefit.
It is in that sense that there is no free lunch.

Might fiscal expansion be a free lunch? This is the question addressed in a thought-provoking paper “Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy”, March 2012, by Brad DeLong and Larry Summers, the most important conclusion of which is obvious, but largely ignored: the impact of fiscal expansion depends on the context. *

In normal times, with resources close to being fully utilised, the multiplier will end up very close to zero; in unusual times, such as the present, it could be large enough and the economic benefits of such expansion significant enough to pay for itself.

‘Paying for itself’ implies there is some real benefit to a lower deficit outcome vs a higher deficit outcome. With the govt deficit equal to the net financial assets of the non govt sectors, ‘Paying for itself’ implies there is a real benefit to the non govt sectors have fewer net financial assets.

In a liquidity trap fiscal retrenchment is penny wise, pound foolish.

I would say it’s penny foolish as well, as it directly reduces net financial assets of the non govt sectors with no economic or financial benefit to either the govt sector or the non govt sectors.

Indeed, relying on monetary policy alone is the foolish policy: if it worked, which it probably will not, it does so largely by expanding stretched private balance sheets even further.

Agreed.

As the authors note: “This paper examines the impact of fiscal policy in the context of a protracted period of high unemployment and output short of potential like that suffered by the United States and many other countries in recent years. We argue that, while the conventional wisdom rejecting discretionary fiscal policy is appropriate in normal times, discretionary fiscal policy where there is room to pursue it has a major role.”

There are three reasons for this.

1. First, the absence of supply constraints means that the multiplier is likely to be large.

Why is a large multiplier beneficial?

A smaller multiplier means the fiscal adjustment can be that much larger.

That is, the tax cuts and/or spending increases (depending on political preference) can be that much larger with smaller multipliers.

It is likely to be made even bigger by the fact that fiscal expansion may well raise expected inflation and so lower the real rate of interest, when the nominal rate is close to zero.

However the ‘real rate of interest’ is defined. Most would think CPI, which means the likes of tobacco taxes move the needle quite a bit.

And with the MMT understanding that the currency itself is in fact a simple public monopoly, and that any monopolist is necessarily ‘price setter’, the ‘real rate of interest’ concept doesn’t have a lot of relevance.

2. Second, even moderate hysteresis effects of such fiscal expansion, via increases in the likely level of future output, have big effects on the future debt burden.

Back to the errant notion of a public sector debt in its currency of issue being a ‘burden’.

3. Finally, today’s ultra-low real interest rates at both the short and long end of the curve, suggest that monetary policy is relatively ineffective, on its own.

Most central bank studies show monetary policy is always relatively ineffective.

The argument is set out in a simple example. “Imagine a demand-constrained economy where the fiscal multiplier is 1.5, and the real interest rate on long-term government debt is 1 per cent. Finally, assume that a $1 increase in GDP increased tax revenues and reduces spending by $0.33. Assume that the government is able to undertake a transitory increase in government spending, and then service the resulting debt in perpetuity, without any impact on risk-premia.

“Then the impact effect of an incremental $1.00 of spending is to raise the debt stock by $0.50. The annual debt service needed on this $0.50 to keep the real debt constant is $0.005. If reducing the size of the current downturn in production by $1.50 avoids a 1 per cent as large fall in future potential output – avoids a fall in future potential output of $0.0015 – then the incremental $1.00 of spending now augments future tax-period revenues by $0.005. And the fiscal expansion is self-financing.”

This is a very powerful result.

Yes, it tells you that the ‘automatic fiscal stabilizers’ must be minded lest the expansion reduce the govt deficit and, by identity, reduce the net financial assets of the non govt sectors to the point of aborting the economic recovery. Which, in fact, is how most expansion cycles end.

For the non govt sectors, net financial assets are the equity that supports the credit structure.

So when a recovery driven by a private sector credit expansion (which is how most are driven), causes tax liabilities to increase and transfer payments to decrease (aka automatic fiscal stabilizers)- reducing the govt deficit and by identity reducing the growth of private sector net financial assets- private sector/non govt leverage increases to the point where it’s unsustainable and it all goes bad again.

It rests on the three features of the present situation: high multipliers; low real interest rates; and the plausibility of hysteresis effects.

A table in the paper (Table 2.2) shows that at anything close to current real interest rates fiscal expansion is certain to pay for itself even with zero multiplier and hysteresis effects: it is a “no-brainer”.

And, if allowed to play out as I just described, the falling govt deficit will also abort the expansion.

Why is this? It is because the long-term real interest rate paid by the government is below even the most pessimistic view of the future growth rate of the economy. As I have argued on previous occasions, the US (and UK) bond markets are screaming: borrow.

The bond markets are screaming ‘the govt. Will never get its act together and cause the conditions for the central bank to raise rates.’

Of course, that is not an argument for infinite borrowing, since that would certainly raise the real interest rate substantially!

Infinite borrowing implies infinite govt spending.

Govt spending is a political decision involving the political choice of the ‘right amount’ of real goods and services to be moved from private to public domain.

Yet, more surprisingly, the expansion would continue to pay for itself even if the real interest rate were to rise far above the prospective growth rate, provided there were significantly positive multiplier and hysteresis effects.

I’d say it this way:
Providing increasing private sector leverage and credit expansion continues to offset declines in govt deficit spending.

Let us take an example: suppose the multiplier were one and the hysteresis effect were 0.1 – that is to say, the permanent loss of output were to be one tenth of the loss of output today. Then the real interest rate at which the government could obtain positive effects on its finances from additional stimulus would be as high as 7.4 per cent.

Thus, state the authors, “in a depressed economy with a moderate multiplier, small hysteresis effects, and interest rates in the historical range, temporary fiscal expansion does not materially affect the overall long-run budget picture.” Investors should not worry about it. Indeed, they should worry far more about the fiscal impact of prolonged recessions.

They shouldn’t worry about the fiscal impact in any case. The public sector deficit/debt is nothing more than the net financial assets of the non govt sectors. And these net financial assets necessarily sit as balances in the central bank, as either clearing balances (reserves) or as balances in securities accounts (treasury securities). And ‘debt management’ is nothing more than the shifting of balances between these accounts.

(and there are no grandchildren involved!)
(and all assuming floating exchange rate policy)

Are such numbers implausible? The answer is: not at all.

Multipliers above one are quite plausible in a depressed economy, though not in normal circumstances. This is particularly true when real interest rates are more likely to fall, than rise, as a result of expansion.

The ‘multipliers’ are nothing more than the flip side of the aggregate ‘savings desires’ of the non govt sectors. And the largest determinant of these savings desires is the degree of credit expansion/leverage.

Similarly, we know that recessions cause long-term economic costs. They lower investment dramatically: in the US, the investment rate fell by about 4 per cent of gross domestic product in the wake of the crisis. Businesses are unwilling to invest, not because of some mystical loss of confidence, but because there is no demand.

Again, we know that high unemployment has a permanent impact on workers, both young and old. The US, in particular, seems to have slipped into European levels of separation from the labour force: that is to say, the unemployment rate is quite low, given the sharp fall in the rate of employment. Workers have given up. This is a social catastrophe in a country in which work is effectively the only form of welfare for people of working age.

Not to mention the lost real output which over the last decade has to be far higher than the total combined real losses from all the wars in history.

Indeed, we can see hysteresis effects at work in the way in which forecasters, including official forecasters, mark down potential output in line with actual output: a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one. This procedure has been particularly marked in the UK, where the Office for Budget Responsibility has more or less eliminated the notion that the UK is in a recession. Yet such effects are not God-given; they are man-chosen. They are the product of fundamentally misguided policies.

This is an important paper. It challenges complacent “do-nothingism” of policymakers, let alone the “austerians” who dominate policy almost everywhere. Policy-makers have allowed a huge financial crisis to impose a permanent blight on economies, with devastating social effects. It makes one wonder why the Obama administration, in which prof Summers was an influential adviser, did not do more, or at least argue for more, as many outsiders argued.

The private sector needs to deleverage.

It’s no coincidence that with a relatively constant trade deficit, private sector net savings, as measured by net financial $ assets, has increased by about the amount of the US budget deficit.

In other words, the $trillion+ federal deficits have added that much to domestic income and savings, thereby reducing private sector leverage.

However, as evidenced by the gaping output gap, for today’s credit conditions, it’s been not nearly enough.

The government can help by holding up the economy. It should do so. People who reject free lunches are fools.

Posted in Bonds, CBs, Currencies, Deficit, Government Spending, Interest Rates | 41 Comments »

Fiscal and monetary policy in a liquidity trap

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th April 2012

Not bad, but let’s take it up to the next level.

Comments below:

Fiscal and monetary policy in a liquidity trap

By Martin Wolf

With floating fx, it’s always a ‘liquidity trap’ in that adding liquidity to a system necessarily not liquidity constrained is moot.

Part 1

What is the correct approach to fiscal and monetary policy when an economy is depressed and the central bank’s rate of interest is close to zero? Does the independence of the central bank make it more difficult to reach the right decisions? These are two enormously important questions raised by current circumstances in the US, the eurozone, Japan and the UK.

With floating fx, it’s always about a fiscal adjustment, directly or indirectly.

Broadly speaking, I can identify three macroeconomic viewpoints on these questions:
1. The first is the pre-1930 belief in balanced budgets and the gold standard (or some other form of a-political money).

Yes, actual fixed fx policy, where the monetary system is continuously liquidity constrained by design.

2. The second is the religion of balanced budgets and managed money, with Milton Friedman’s monetarism at the rules-governed end of the spectrum and independent inflation-targeting central banks at the discretionary end.

Yes, the application of fixed fx logic to a floating fx regime.

3. The third demands a return to Keynesian ways of thinking, with “modern monetary theory” (in which monetary policy and central banks are permanently subservient to fiscal policy) at one end of the policy spectrum, and temporary resort to active fiscal policy at the other.

MMT recognizes the difference in monetary dynamics between fixed and floating fx regimes.

In this note, I do not intend to address the first view, though I recognise that it has substantial influence, particularly in the Republican Party. I also do not intend to address Friedman’s monetarism, which has lost purchase on contemporary policy-makers, largely because of the views that the demand for money is unstable and the nature of money ill-defined. Finally, I intend to ignore “modern monetary theory” which would require a lengthy analysis of its own.

This leaves us with the respectable contemporary view that the best way to respond to contemporary conditions is via fiscal consolidation and aggressive monetary policy, and the somewhat less respectable view that aggressive fiscal policy is essential when official interest rates are close to zero.

Two new papers bring light from the second of these perspectives. One is co-authored by Paul McCulley, former managing director of Pimco and inventor of the terms “Minsky moment” and “shadow banking”, and Zoltan Pozsar, formerly at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and now a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund.* The other is co-authored by J. Bradford DeLong of the university of California at Berkeley, and Lawrence Summers, former US treasury secretary and currently at Harvard university. **

Unfortunately, and fully understood, is the imperative for you to select from ‘celebrity’ writers regardless of the quality of the content.

The paper co-authored by Mr McCulley and Mr Pozsar puts the case for aggressive fiscal policy. The US, they argue, is in a “liquidity trap”: even with official interest rates near zero, the incentive for extra borrowing, lending and spending in the private sector is inadequate.

An output gap is the evidence that total spending- public plus private- is inadequate. And yes, that can be remedied by an increase in private sector borrowing to spend, and/or a fiscal adjustment by the public sector towards a larger deficit via either an increase in spending and/or tax cut, depending on one’s politics.

The explanation for this exceptional state of affairs is that during the credit boom and asset-price bubble that preceded the crisis, large swathes of the private sector became over-indebted. Once asset prices fell, erstwhile borrowers were forced to reduce their debts. Financial institutions were also unwilling to lend. They needed to strengthen their balance sheets. But they also confronted a shortage of willing and creditworthy borrowers.

Yes, for any reason if private sector spending falls short of full employment levels, a fiscal adjustment can do the trick.

This raises an interesting question:

Is it ‘better’, for example, to facilitate the increase in spending through a private sector credit expansion, or through a tax cut that allows private sector spending to increase via increased income, or through a government spending increase?

The answer is entirely political. The output gap can be closed with any/some/all of those options.

In such circumstances, negative real interest rates are necessary, but contractionary economic conditions rule that out.

I see negative nominal rates as a tax that will reduce income and net financial assets of the non govt sectors, even as it may increase some private sector credit expansion. And the reduction of income and net financial assets works to reduce the credit worthiness of the non govt sectors reducing their ability to borrow to spend.

Instead, there is a danger of what the great American economist, Irving Fisher called “debt deflation”: falling prices raise the real burden of debt, making the economic contraction worse.

Yes, though he wrote in the context of fixed fx policy, where that tends to happen as well, though under somewhat different circumstances and different sets of forces.

A less extreme (and so more general) version of the idea is “balance-sheet recession”, coined by Richard Koo of Nomura. That is what Japan had to manage in the 1990s.

With floating fx they are all balance sheet recessions. There is no other type of recession.

This is how the McCulley-Pozsar paper makes the point: “deleveraging is a beast of burden that capitalism cannot bear alone. At the macroeconomic level, deleveraging must be a managed process: for the private sector to deleverage without causing a depression, the public sector has to move in the opposite direction . . . by effectively viewing the balance sheets of the monetary and fiscal authorities as a consolidated whole.

Correct, in the context of today’s floating fx. With fixed fx that option carries the risk of rising rates for the govt and default/devaluation.

“Fiscal austerity does not work in a liquidity trap and makes as much sense as putting an anorexic on a diet. Yet ‘diets’ are the very prescriptions that fiscal ‘austerians’ have imposed (or plan to impose) in the US, UK and eurozone. Austerians fail to realise, however, that everyone cannot save at the same time and that, in liquidity traps, the paradox of thrift and depression are fellow travellers that are functionally intertwined.”

Agreed for floating fx. Fixed fx is another story, where forced deflation via austerity does make the maths work, though most often at an impossible social cost.

Confronted by this line of argument, austerians (a term coined by Rob Parenteau, a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College), make three arguments:

1. additional borrowing will add heavily to future debt and so be an unreasonable burden on future generations;
2. increased borrowing will crowd out private borrowing;
3. bond investors will stop buying and push yields up.

Which does happen with fixed fx policy.

In a liquidity trap, none of these arguments hold.

With floating fx, none of these hold in any scenario.

Experience over the last four years (not to mention Japan’s experience over the past 20 years) has demonstrated that governments operating with a (floating) currency do not suffer a constraint on their borrowing. The reason is that the private sector does not wish to borrow, but wants to cut its debt, instead. There is no crowding out.

Right, because floating fx regimes are by design not liquidity constrained.

Moreover, adjustment falls on the currency, not on the long-term rate of interest.

Right, and again, unlike fixed fx.

In the case of the US, foreigners also want to lend, partly in support of their mercantilist economic policies.

Actually, they want to accumulate dollar denominated financial assets, which we call lending.

Note that both reserve balances at the Fed and securities account balances at the Fed (treasury securities) are simply dollar deposits at the Fed.

Alas, argue Mr McCulley and Mr Pozsar, “held back by concerns borne out of these orthodoxies, . . . governments are not spending with passionate purpose. They are victims of intellectual paralysis borne out of inertia of dogma . . . As a result, their acting responsibly, relative to orthodoxy, and going forth with austerity may drag economies down the vortex of deflation and depression.”

Right. Orthodoxy happens to be acting as if one was operating under a fixed fx regime even though it’s in fact a floating fx regime.

Finally, they note, “the importance of fiscal expansion and the impotence of conventional monetary policy measures in a liquidity trap have profound implications for the conduct of central banks. This is because in a liquidity trap, the fat-tail risk of inflation is replaced by the fat-tail risk of deflation.”

The risk of excess aggregate demand is replaced by the risk of inadequate aggregate demand.

And the case can be made that lower rates reduce aggregate demand via the interest income channels, as the govt is a net payer of interest.

In this situation, we do not need independent central banks that offset – and so punish – fiscally irresponsible governments. We need central banks that finance – and so encourage – economically responsible (though “fiscally irresponsible”) governments.

Not the way I would say it but understood.

When private sector credit growth is constrained, monetisation of public debt is not inflationary.

While I understand the point, note that ‘monetisation’ is a fixed fx term not directly applicable to floating fx in this context.

Indeed, it would be rather good if it were inflationary, since that would mean a stronger recovery, which would demand swift reversal of the unorthodox policy mix.

The conclusion of the McCulley-Pozsar paper is, in brief, that aggressive fiscal policy does work in the unusual circumstances of a liquidity trap, particularly if combined with monetisation. But conventional wisdom blocks full use of the unorthodox tool kit. Historically, political pressure has destroyed such resistance. Political pressure drove the UK off gold in 1931. But it also brought Hitler to power in Germany in 1933. The eurozone should take note.

Remarkably, in the circumstances of a liquidity trap, enlarged fiscal deficits are likely to reduce future levels of privately held public debt rather than raise them.

As if that aspect matters?

The view that fiscal deficits might provide such a free lunch is the core argument of the paper by DeLong and Summers, to which I will turn in a second post.

Free lunch entirely misses the point.

Why does the size the balances in Fed securities accounts matter as suggested, with floating fx policy?

Posted in Bonds, Currencies, Deficit, Fed, Government Spending, Inflation, Interest Rates | 38 Comments »

euro denominated debt consideration

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th April 2012

So if all the member nations stop taxing in euro and start taxing in their own currencies, the value of the euro goes to 0. And all the national govt debt denominated in euro goes worthless, along with all other euro denominated debt, thereby eliminating it.

Posted in EU | 51 Comments »

BOJ’s Shirakawa: Fully Committed To Asset Purchases To Meet 1% Inflation Target

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th April 2012

Right, they’ve only been doing it for a couple of decades, monetary policy works with a lag…

BOJ’s Shirakawa: Fully Committed To Asset Purchases To Meet 1% Inflation Target

By Chana R. Schoenbergrand and Stephen L. Bernard

April 18 (Dow Jones) — The Bank of Japan remains determined to purchase more assets to meet its 1% inflation target, the central bank’s governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, said Wednesday night in New York.
“The Bank of Japan is fully committed to continuing powerful monetary easing through various measures, including maintaining the policy interest rate at practically zero and purchasing financial assets, until the current goal of year on year CPI inflation at 1% is deemed to be achievable,” Shirakawa said in his speech to the Foreign Policy Association.

But Shirakawa warned of the potential mismatch between what markets expect and what central banking policies can deliver.

Posted in Inflation, Interest Rates, Japan | 1 Comment »

EU slams governments for not enacting growth laws

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th April 2012

Like this would fix it all:

EU slams governments for not enacting growth laws

April 18 (Bloomberg) — “It is incomprehensible that member states are still not fully implementing growth-friendly legislation we have in place,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the European Parliament. The EU’s internal market “is probably the largest engine for growth within the European Union,” Barroso said. It has to become easier to transfer pensions from state to state and the way cross-border workers are taxed needs to be simplified, the Commission said Wednesday. Job seekers should be able to receive their unemployment benefits for up to six months while they are looking for a job in another country and states should start hiring non-nationals for jobs in their public service, it added.

Posted in EU | 4 Comments »

Bad headline day for eurozone

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th April 2012

Euro-Area Construction Declines for Third Month Led by Germany
Bundesbank Says Euro Nations Must Set Aside Growth Concerns
Merkel Gives Spain No Respite, Says Debt Cuts Key to Yields
Germany wants IMF funding raised to $1 trillion
IMF Lowers Additional Funds Target To $400bn-Plus: Lagarde
Spain weighs financing options
Spain Reduces Flexibility of Labor Reform, Expansion Reports
Bank of Spain Questions Budget Forecasts, Calls for Prudence
Spain Is Back in Recession, Central Banker Warns
Spanish Banks to Set Aside $71 Billion for Real Estate Cleanup
IMF’s Lagarde Sees Scope for ECB Monetary Easing, FAZ Reports
IMF sees Italy missing budget deficit targets
Italy Probably Shrank 0.7% in First Quarter, Bank of Italy Says

Posted in ECB, EU, Germany, Spain | 3 Comments »

Low German yields

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th April 2012

One reason rates are lower than otherwise could be, the idea that in a breakup, if Germany goes back to the mark, bond holders will experience currency gains on the presumed appreciation vs the other euro members.

Posted in Bonds | 13 Comments »

Comment by the Fed Chairman

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th April 2012

From a comment on Mike Norman’s blog.
This helps to ensure a wide output gap.

From Bernanke’s testimony from a couple of weeks ago:

“Having a large and increasing level of government debt relative to national income runs the risk of serious economic consequences. Over the longer term, the current trajectory of federal debt threatens to crowd out private capital formation and thus reduce productivity growth. To the extent that increasing debt is financed by borrowing from abroad, a growing share of our future income would be devoted to interest payments on foreign-held federal debt. High levels of debt also impair the ability of policymakers to respond effectively to future economic shocks and other adverse events.

Even the prospect of unsustainable deficits has costs, including an increased possibility of a sudden fiscal crisis. As we have seen in a number of countries recently, interest rates can soar quickly if investors lose confidence in the ability of a government to manage its fiscal policy. Although historical experience and economic theory do not indicate the exact threshold at which the perceived risks associated with the U.S. public debt would increase markedly, we can be sure that, without corrective action, our fiscal trajectory will move the nation ever closer to that point.”

Full prepared remarks

Posted in Deficit, Fed, Government Spending | 19 Comments »

US crude rises on US pipeline reversal plan

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 17th April 2012

This could be it- watch for WTI crude to converge to Brent.
My guess is that WTI rises to meet Brent at around 120+

The pipeline was scheduled to open June 1.
This moves it up to May 15th or so.

NYMEX-US crude rises on US pipeline reversal plan

By Randy Fabi

April 1 (Reuters) — U.S. crude oil prices rose above $103 a barrel on Tuesday in response to news that a plan to drain off a glut of oil from the Midwest could be implemented two weeks ahead of schedule.

FUNDAMENTALS

* NYMEX crude for May edged up 28 cents to $103.20 a barrel by 2306 GMT, adding to a 10 cent gain the previous session.

* Enterprise Product Partners and Enbridge plan to reverse the flow of the Seaway oil pipeline by mid-May pending regulatory approval, allowing the line to start draining the glut of crude from the U.S. Midwest two weeks ahead of schedule.

* Iran is ready to resolve all nuclear issues in the next round of talks with world powers if the West starts lifting sanctions, its foreign minister said on Monday.

* U.S. commercial crude stockpiles were forecast to have risen 1.6 million barrels last week after data showed the largest three-week build in more than three years due to higher imports, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday. The American Petroleum Institute will release its report later on Tuesday.

Posted in Comodities, Oil | 28 Comments »

Sheila Bair quote, former FDIC chief

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 16th April 2012

You’d think the former chief bank regulator would know the banks they regulate and supervise aren’t allowed to do this, and that it’s up to the FDIC to see they don’t:

Sheila Bair:

“For several years now, the Fed has been making money available to the financial sector at near-zero interest rates. Big banks and hedge funds, among others, have taken this cheap money and invested it in securities with high yields. This type of profit-making, called the “carry trade,” has been enormously profitable for them.”

Posted in Banking | 39 Comments »

Pound Strength Is ‘Crippling’ Britain’s Recovery, Civitas Says

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 16th April 2012

Actually just another symptom of overly tight fiscal policy:

Pound Strength Is ‘Crippling’ Britain’s Recovery, Civitas Says

By Svenja O’Donnell

April 12 (Bloomberg) — Britain’s exchange rate is “crippling” the economic recovery, and devaluing the pound by as much as 25 percent could push growth back to an annual 4 percent, research group Civitas said.

The pound’s “significant” drop since 2008 hasn’t been enough to make U.K. exports competitive on world markets, and a future decline in the currency is inevitable, according to John Mills, the author of the Civitas report published in London today. A devaluation of as much as 15 percent would balance the U.K.’s trade deficit, he said.

“The exchange-rate policy which we have pursued for decades has made it much more expensive to run most manufacturing operations here than in other parts of the world,” Mills said. “Getting the exchange rate down is a matter on which, in the end, we will have no choice.”

Data yesterday showed the U.K. trade deficit widened to the most in three months in February as exports of cars and heavy machinery fell, especially to the U.S., China and Russia. British manufacturing has become less competitive as some Asian countries devalued their currencies, boosting their competitiveness and hurting the U.K. economy, Mills said.

Posted in Government Spending, UK | 7 Comments »

Spanish Law Aims To Rein in Budget

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 16th April 2012

Institutionalizing death by 1000 cuts:

Spanish Law Aims To Rein in Budget

(FT) Spain’s plan to toughen the central government’s control of regional finances passed its first legislative hurdle in a parliamentary vote Thursday. “This is a law that will serve as the foundation for policies to make Spain’s budget deficit disappear, so that Spain goes back to being a reliable European Union partner,” Budget Minister Cristóbal Montoro said after the bill passed the lower house of Parliament. The law will now go to the Senate, where it also is expected to pass. The new law will require that all levels of Spanish government have balanced budgets by 2020 and that the government lower its debt-to-GDP ratio to 60% by that year as well. The government has forecast its debt-to-GDP ratio will rise to around 80% this year.

Posted in EU, Government Spending | 4 Comments »