What’s going on – Are we heading for another Great Recession?

We are now eight years on from the global catastrophe of the “Great Recession”, but with the US stock market (SPY, DIA, QQQ) banging up against all time highs and global stock market indices (ACWI) recovering to all time peaks reached twelve months ago, can one assume all is swell the global economy?

Unemployment levels in the US are fast approaching levels pre Recession and in Europe it is finally showing meaningful reduction from the peaks of 2013 a story repeated in many of the worlds largest economies.

The policies to get us here have been a mixture of both traditional and extreme. From the US we’ve had traditional government spending unmet by tax collection together with interest rate cuts, to the extreme with the Central Bank purchasing the government debt with conjured money. Europe has avoided expanding government spending but have gone to the far side of extreme with negative interest rates. Japan is using all of the above and China has gone the way of massive relaxation of lending restrictions to the private sector that comically sloshes around.

If all was well with the world it would be time to stop these policies, and indeed the US stopped magically producing money several months ago and have even had an interest rate increase.

However the information content of the developed world government bond markets (BWX) are signalling something very sinister, most are providing a yield around the current inflation rate or, expectations of no inflation usually caused by coming slow growth or recession. This indicates that we are again in the era of potential policy mistakes.

In an appraisal of the policies that have already been installed, US government debt relatively reaching WWII leaves very little room for further support unless in desire of a centrally planned economy. The EU have been late to the party on cutting interest rates and conjuring money but should be applauded for government austerity in the face of a reducing tax base. Japan has morphed into a basket case but China continues to grow at an envious rate for the time being. Unfortunately negative interest rates for retail and corporate banks have not made them lend more but punished pension plans, mainly due to increased financial regulation.

Even more comical than which quarterly bubble private lending is funding in China, is that they have embarked on empowering the private sector, where as the US is empowering the government and the previously failed establishment. It is in fact a shame that the US information technology revolution of the last forty years have passed their rulers and central bankers by. Today “community” platforms (LC, TREE) are enabling borrowing from highest quality risk takers, to increase productivity and create growth, with enviable interest rates and data collection to the lender. Central bankers, however, continue to support their former work alumni and ignore calling for mandates to fund “community” platforms.

In support of the old school at the US Federal Reserve, they correctly watched the stock market or as they call it “data” to help determine when to make their first interest rate rise, but now is the time to start waiting for yields in their unsupported bond market (TLT) to recover. Although employment is at high levels, US central bankers can be relaxed with their inflation mandate, as corporate profitability is very tight, lay-offs are preferable to reduced margins.

There is little room for error but a policy mistake can take us back to the last decade including a stock-market crash.

Economic Outlook March 2016

Regional Analysis (March 30th, 2016)

USA

At the December 2015 meeting the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to 0.375%. At the March 2016 meeting they expect them to be at 0.9% by the end of 2016. The members also further reduced growth, unemployment and inflation expectations.

Eurozone

At the March meeting, the ECB further lowered deposit interest rates to -0.4%, with expectations for it to remain at the present or lower levels for an extended period of time. Monthly asset purchases were expanded to €80bn/month, permitted purchases from individual organisations and banks issues were expanded to 50%, and
non-bank corporations are now included. Further a new long term lending facility to banks commenced. The growth expectations were reduced with risks to the downside.

Japan

Three main policies were decided at the January Bank of Japan Monetary Policy Meeting to achieve the price stability target of 2%. The introduction of a minus 0.1%% interest rates for bank deposits. An annual increase in the monetary base of 80 tr yen. Together with, annual purchases of: 80 tr yen of Japanese government bonds, 3 tr of exchange traded funds, 90 bn yen of real estate investment trusts, 2.2 tr yen of commercial paper and 3.2 tr yen of corporate bonds. Immigration controls need to be drastically relaxed to aid growth so taxes can reduce Government borrowing.

China

The People’s Bank of China sees economic downward pressure in the face of restructuring, they are attempting to moderate the expansion of aggregate demand, while supply-side structural reforms accelerate.. They continue to reduce loan and deposit rates and the reserve requirement ratio together with other policies, whilst foreign exchange balances are reduced. They also aim to eventually allow the market to decide the exchange rate, whilst also managing this transition.

UK

The Bank of England maintained the Bank Rate at 0.5% and the stock of reserve financed purchased assets at £375bn. Drops in energy and food prices, global inflation and, domestic costs anchored domestic inflation below the 2% target. Private domestic demand, the labour market and productivity are all supportive of UK growth. The referendum on the UK membership of the EU was seen as an uncertainty for growth and financial stability.

Economic Outlook December 2015

Regional Analysis (December 29th, 2015)

USA

At the December Meeting the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to 0.375% and expect them to be at 1.4%  by the end of 2016. The members increased growth but reduced unemployment and inflation expectations.

Eurozone

At the December Meeting, the ECB lowered deposit interest rates to -0.3% extended full allotment fixed tender till the end  of 2017, extended asset purchases till beyond March 2017 include euro regional and local government debt and  reinvest principal payments. They slightly lowered inflation expectations.

Japan

Members of the Bank of Japan monetary policy by a reduced majority extended the maturity of Government Bond  purchases to 7-12 years, they also noted that exports and investment in physical and human capital have been picking up, although business sentiment and inflation expectations have been slowing. Immigration controls need
to be drastically relaxed to aid growth so taxes can reduce Government borrowing.

China

The People’s Bank of China sees mass entrepreneurship and innovation and the supply of public goods and  services forming the engine for economic growth, although downward pressures remained high. They continue to  reduce loan and deposit rates and the reserve requirement ratio. The central parity of the currency against the  dollar was reduced by 1.6%.

UK

The Bank of England expects inflation to stay below 1% for at least the next six months but exceed the 2% target  after two years with no further action. The Governments Autumn Statement means a lower pace of deficit reduction, but still impacting growth. Nominal pay growth appears to have flattened. The Monetary Policy  Committee expects rates to rise gradually and to a lower level than in recent cycles.