Forex Blog - Time Machine Deployed for Great Recession
Time Machine Deployed for
It may not be what Jules
Verne had in mind but officials in the US and China have approached the Great Recession with an approach
reminiscent of winding back the clock to 2006. The key to recovery is
driving risk assets ever higher on a massive infusion of liquidity (and in China credit) and in the process propping up
imbalances. The way to prevent an asset bubble from bursting in an
unwelcomed fashion is to simply put as much air back in as is escaping.
Whatever looked like a
transformational period for basic relationships like government footprint in
the economy, household savings, labor market conditions, leverage in the
banking system, bank lending, bank risk taking, healthcare reform, executive
compensation and regulatory reform is rapidly being pushed aside or watered
down. US stocks up 50% from the March low and Chinese stocks up 100% is all we
need to know. Even home prices in the US are turning in key depressed markets and in China they never really looked down.
On one issue after another
the activist US President is walking back from the generational changes (New
New Deal) that so many predicted as polls show support for the President
slippingâ€¦an even marginalized GOP seems to have retained a disproportionate
influence over the electorate on talk radio, cable TV and the conservative
press. If Rahm Emmanuel said never waste a crisis (to usher in your wish
list of reforms), he might now say what crisis?
The new normal that PIMCOâ€™s
El-Erian and Gross constantly mention and seemed appropriate now seems like a
bad Madison Avenue sales jingle. The new normal is just like the old
The Obama administration at
times (from the President to NECâ€™s Summers) says bankers are showing little
humility in the wake of the crisis and the governmentâ€™s largesse in saving
their behinds and are back to their old bad tricks in paying large bonuses and
taking inordinate risk. But the reality is the government, especially the
executive branch, never lowered the boom on bank compensation and risk
taking. If they had Goldman would not have had record Q2 results and is
expected to pay record bonuses for 2009.
And one has to ask does the
administration really want to trim the sails of Wall Street? What if
stocks were up only 25% from the March lows? What would NY, NJ and CT
finances look like if bankersâ€™ compensation were permanently reset sharply
lower? Where would the recovery be if higher asset prices did not lift
household and firm confidence? If the Democrats really wanted to shape a
new system (and a sustainable one) it would have led a broad effort to foment
system deleveraging. Instead we get cash for clunkers where consumers,
already steeped in debt, are encouraged to go out and buy a new car for $3500-4500
tax creditâ€¦letâ€™s just reduce that savings rate. Ironically the savings
rate may rise on this little gem in year one if one assumes the average
(financed) cost of a new car per month is $250 times 12 = $3000.
US crisis politics is all about do what is least painful and LCD, not what
should be done or even could be done, much less anything that requires a pound
of intelligence to explain and an ounce of intelligence to understand.
China has even fewer choices in its one party system â€“ keep the growth
machine running or risk regime change. By any means necessary is a
cornerstone of dictatorships and Chinaâ€™s is no different.
So we are condemned to
repeat the mistakes of the past with the most shortsighted approach to public
policy. Chinaâ€™s asset bubbles in real estate and equities have only gotten
bigger. Bubbles in equities, high yield, EM, commodities and credit
spreads are inevitableâ€¦the seeds are not just planted, but germinated, watered
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