"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen


"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister


"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont


"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister


"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Velocity of Money Has Slowed
(or the beatings will continue until morale improves)

Bill Clinton, the Person Who Set the Economy on Its Bubble Driven Path, Has Economic Advice for the Country by Dean Baker
The Post reports on a new book by President Clinton which offers economic advice to the country. While the book notes in passing that Clinton's policies contributed to the economic crisis by deregulating Wall Street, it failed to point out that Clinton's policies were actually central to the disaster the economy is now facing.
Clinton promoted both the growth of the stock bubble and the over-valuation of the dollar. The latter came about when his administration organized the "saving" of East Asia following its financial crisis in 1997. The harsh terms of the bailout required the countries of the region to run huge trade surpluses in order to meet their payments. This meant raising the value of the dollar against their own currencies.
Other developing countries wanted to avoid ever being in this situation so they too began to accumulate reserves at a huge pace after 1997 by keeping down the value of their own currencies against the dollar. This led to the huge run-up in the dollar and therefore the large trade deficit that we saw in the last decade and continue to see today.
The demand gap created by the trade deficit was filled by the housing bubble in the last decade. With the bubble now burst it can only be filled by government budget deficits until the dollar falls enough to bring trade closer to balance. Given the enormous disaster that resulted from his economic mismanagament (which could have been reversed had anyone in the Bush administration been awake), it is highly ironic that President Clinton would write a book offering economic advice to the nation.
New York Times has a story also. He should be going around the country with George W. Bush apologizing. Bush gave us the tax cuts which worsened the fiscal picture. Wonder if Clinton admits he was wrong in reappointing Greenspan who admitted he was wrong about markets being self-regulating.

To me the story seems like a recurring one with slight variations. Let's arbitrarily start with The Latin American debt crisis.
In the 1960s and 1970s many Latin American countries, notably Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, borrowed huge sums of money from international creditors for industrialization; especially infrastructure programs. These countries had soaring economies at the time so the creditors were happy to continue to provide loans. Between 1975 and 1982, Latin American debt to commercial banks increased at a cumulative annual rate of 20.4 percent. This heightened borrowing led Latin America to quadruple its external debt from $75 billion in 1975 to more than $315 billion in 1983, or 50 percent of the region's gross domestic product (GDP). Debt service (interest payments and the repayment of principal) grew even faster, reaching $66 billion in 1982, up from $12 billion in 1975.[1]
When the world economy went into recession in the 1970s and 80s, and oil prices skyrocketed, it created a breaking point for most countries in the region. Developing countries also found themselves in a desperate liquidity crunch. Petroleum exporting countries – flush with cash after the oil price increases of 1973-74 – invested their money with international banks, which 'recycled' a major portion of the capital as loans to Latin American governments. As interest rates increased in the United States of America and in Europe in 1979, debt payments also increased, making it harder for borrowing countries to pay back their debts.[2] Deterioration in the exchange rate with the US dollar meant that Latin American governments ended up owing tremendous quantities of their national currencies, as well as losing purchasing power.[3] The contraction of world trade in 1981 caused the prices of primary resources (Latin America's largest export) to fall.[3]

While the dangerous accumulation of foreign debt occurred over a number of years, the debt crisis began when the international capital markets became aware that Latin America would not be able to pay back its loans. This occurred in August 1982 when Mexico's Finance Minister, Jesus Silva-Herzog declared that Mexico would no longer be able to service its debt.[4] Mexico declared that it couldn't meet its payment due-dates, and announced unilaterally, a moratorium of 90 days; it also requested a renegotiation of payment periods and new loans in order to fulfill its prior obligations.[3]

In the wake of Mexico's default, most commercial banks reduced significantly or halted new lending to Latin America. As much of Latin America's loans were short-term, a crisis ensued when their refinancing was refused. Billions of dollars of loans that previously would have been refinanced, were now due immediately.
The debt crisis is one of the elements which contributed to the collapse of some authoritarian dictatorships in the region, such as Brazil's military regime and the Argentine bureaucratic-authoritarian regime.
Wikipedia entry on sovereign default. The Latin American debt crisis is a lot like our ongoing European Feedback Circle of Doom and the 1997 East Asian Financial Crisis.
After the Asian crisis, international investors were reluctant to lend to developing countries, leading to economic slowdowns in developing countries in many parts of the world. The powerful negative shock also sharply reduced the price of oil, which reached a low of about $11 per barrel towards the end of 1998, causing a financial pinch in OPEC nations and other oil exporters. This reduction in oil revenue contributed to the 1998 Russian financial crisis, which in turn caused Long-Term Capital Management in the United States to collapse after losing $4.6 billion in 4 months. A wider collapse in the financial markets was avoided when Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York organized a $3.625 billion bail-out. Major emerging economies Brazil and Argentina also fell into crisis in the late 1990s (see Argentine debt crisis).[38]
The crisis in general was part of a global backlash against the Washington Consensus and institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, which simultaneously became unpopular in developed countries following the rise of the anti-globalization movement in 1999. Four major rounds of world trade talks since the crisis, in Seattle, Doha, CancĂșn, and Hong Kong, have failed to produce a significant agreement as developing countries have become more assertive, and nations are increasingly turning toward regional or bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) as an alternative to global institutions. Many nations learned from this, and quickly built up foreign exchange reserves as a hedge against attacks, including Japan, China, South Korea. Pan Asian currency swaps were introduced in the event of another crisis. However, interestingly enough, such nations as Brazil, Russia, and India as well as most of East Asia began copying the Japanese model of weakening their currencies, restructuring their economies so as to create a current account surplus to build large foreign currency reserves. This has led to an ever increasing funding for US treasury bonds, allowing or aiding housing (in 2001–2005) and stock asset bubbles (in 1996–2000) to develop in the United States.
Fall of Suharto.

Emphasis added. I wonder if Clinton writes anything about the invisible bond vigilantes. His adviser James Carville said
I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.
Please the bond market and business and they're supposed to spawn the confidence fairy who will create jobs.

Clinton changed his budget in response to Treasury Secretary Rubin's advice about pleasing Greenspan and the bond market. Wonder if there are any nuggets about that.

What happened in Latin American, East Asia and the periphery of Europe is that nations had inflows of hot capital and credit during boom years which suddenly stopped and flowed out during panics. They ran current account deficits during the boom times.

In the U.S., after the panic of 2008, money flowed out of banks - many went under, others merged with stronger banks - and GDP declined as asset prices fell and businesses fired workers. The velocity of money slowed as the demand for safe asset rose. Aggregate demand fell.

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