The market’s message to Yellen: You have become too hawkish

Recently the communication from the Federal Reserve seems to have become more hawkish. It all started on July 15 when Fed chair Janet Yellen testified in front of the House Financial Services Committee. Yellen among other things said:

“If the economy evolves as we expect, economic conditions likely would make it appropriate at some point this year to raise the federal funds rate target”

This has been followed by comments from other Fed officials such as St. Louis Fed president James Bullard who in an interview with Fox TV on July 20 said that there was a “50% probability” a September rate hike. As my loyal readers know I like to watch the markets to assess monetary conditions. So lets see what the markets are saying about the US monetary policy stance right now – and how it has changed on the back of Yellen and Bullard’s comments. Lets start with the much talked about gold price. gold price It is hard to miss that it was Yellen’s hawkish comments that has sent gold prices down in recent weeks. So the drop in gold prices certainly is a indication that US monetary conditions are getting tighter. But it would of course be wrong to reason from the change in one price. We need more – so how about the dollar? DXY This is the so-called Dollar Index (DXY). Here the picture certainly is less clear than from the gold price. In fact the dollar index today is more or less a the same level as on July 15 when Yellen hinted at a rate hike this year.

However, we should remember that the exchange rate is telling us something about the relative monetary policy, so if US monetary conditions is in fact getting tighter and the dollar index is flat then it is an indication that monetary conditions are also getting tighter outside of the US. Given the Greek crisis and Chinese growth worries this is not an unreasonable assumption.

So how about inflation expectations? This is 2-year/2-year inflation expectations (so basically the expectation to the average inflation rate from August 2017 to August 2019) inflation expectations 2y2y Again the picture is clear – after Yellen and Bullard’s comments 2y/2y inflation expectations have dropped and equally important this happened at a time when inflation expectations already where below 2%. It should also be noted that prediction markets are telling the same story. Hence, from some time Hypermind’s market for nominal GDP growth in 2015 has been somewhat below 4% (which I believe has been Fed’s unannounced target for some time – see here.) The Fed is too hawkish and rate hikes should be postponed Concluding, the Fed’s more hawkish rhetoric has de facto led to a tightening of US monetary conditions already, which has pushed inflation expectations below the Fed’s own 2% inflation target. So effectively the markets are tellling the Fed that monetary conditions are becoming too tight and a September rate hike as suggested by advocated by Bullard would be premature. So if I was on the FOMC I would certainly vote against any rate hike in the present situation.

If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: roz@specialistspeakers.com.

Milton Friedman expresses his sympathy for Syriza supporters and his dislike of the “gnomes in Brussels”

BREAKING NEWS! I have found a comment from Milton Friedman on the present Greek crisis in, which he expresses, his sympathies for Syriza supporters:

It is not the announced intention of our present arrangements, or of any of the various proposals for strengthening international monetary cooperation, to delegate significant political power over internal economic policy to foreign central bankers or officials of an international agency. But that is unquestionably their effect.

That this is a very real issue was illustrated dramatically by the recent experience of the Greeks, just after the Syriza government came into power. Personally, I disagree sharply with the particular policies that the newly elected Syriza government apparently wishes to follow, and regard the policy changes imposed on Greece by the EU as the price of the rescue of euro membership as very likely far better for Greece itself.

Yet that does not alter the fact that Greek internal policy was shaped by officials who were not responsible to the Greek electorate and in directions that had not emerged through the regular political process. In this respect, I find myself in complete sympathy with those Syriza supporters who regard it as nearly intolerable that the “gnomes in Brussels” should have a veto power over internal Greek economic policy.

Ok, I cheated. This is really from Friedman’s paper “The Political Economy of International Monetary Arrangements” from 1965 (re-printed in “Dollars and Deficits”, 1968, see page 272) and I have altered the text slightly (the bold text is my changes).

Originally it was about “Britain” rather than “Greece” and “Labour” rather than “Syriza” and the ‘gnomes’ were from “Zürich” rather than from “Brussels”.

But the lesson is the same – In-Optimal Currency Union will lead to balance of payments crisis, which will necessitate an income transfer from the centre to the periphery, which in turn will lead to the demand for political centralisation.

Britain felt the consequences of that within the Bretton Woods system in 1964. Greece is facing similar consequences today as a result of euro membership.

It seems like policy makers in Europe are totally incapable of understanding and learning anything from monetary history. Do I need to remind anybody what happened with the Bretton Woods system?

If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: daniel@specialistspeakers.com or roz@specialistspeakers.com.

 

Talking to Joe and Alix about why “Euro Membership (is) Preventing Finland from Thriving”

Tonight I have been on Bloomberg TV talking to Alix Steel and Joe Weisenthal about Finland and the euro. See my interview here.

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If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: daniel@specialistspeakers.com or roz@specialistspeakers.com.

Peggers and floaters – the story of five Nordic countries

There was a time when the Scandinavian countries had a currency union of their own. However, today the Nordic countries have chosen difference monetary regimes. Sweden, Norway and Iceland have floating exchange rates and inflation targeting, while Finland has joined the euro zone and Denmark is pegging the krone to the euro.

So essentially we have three countries – the floaters – which have monetary sovereignty to set monetary conditions to achieve their stated monetary policy objectives and two – the peggers – which have given up monetary sovereignty and have “outsourced” monetary policy to the ECB in Frankfurt.

How has that played out during the Great Recession? The graph low give you a hint. The floaters are gren and the peggers are red.

Five nordic countriesThere are obviously many reasons why the countries have performed so differently, but it is hard not to conclude that the monetary policy regimes have played a very important role in the length and depth of the crisis in each of the five Nordic countries.

By the way if you want a proper empirical analysis of the difference in performance of the floaters and peggers during the Great Recession then you should read this paper by Thomas Barnebaek,Nikolaj Malchow-Møller and Jens Nordvig.

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If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: daniel@specialistspeakers.com or roz@specialistspeakers.com.

My latest Børsen op-ed: “The euro is a fiasco”

If you read Danish or trust Google Translate then read my latest op-ed – “The euro is a fiasco” – in the Danish Business Daily Børsen here.

Greece versus Turkey: It’s the exchange rate exchange rate regime stupid!

A history of political dysfunctionality, corruption, military coups, military conflict with a neighboring country, large current deficits and weak fiscal management.

Greece fits that description perfectly well, but so does Turkey. So why don’t we have a major crisis in Turkey and why is Turkey not on the brink of default when neighboring Greece is?

The answer is simple – It’s the exchange rate exchange rate regime stupid!

In 2001 Turkey was forced by a major crisis to abandon it’s managed/crawling peg regime and instead introduced a floating exchange rate regime and the Turkish central bank introduced an inflation targeting regime.

14 years later Turkey is still in many ways politically dysfunctional – in fact it has gotten worse in recent years – there has been rumours of plans of military coups, there has been major corruption scandals even involving the Prime Minister (now president Erdogan) and the governing AKParty and lately the civil war in Syria has created a massive inflow of refugees and increased tensions with Turkish Kurdish population.

All this has to a large extent been reflected in the value of the Turkish lira, which have been highly volatile since 2001 – and increasingly so since 2008, but the floating exchange rate regime means that we have not seen the same kind of volatility in the domestic Turkish economy, which was so common prior to 2001.

While Turkey in 2001 floated the lira Greece gave up having a monetary policy of its own and instead joined the euro. We know the story – while the first years of euro membership in general was deemed succesfull that hardly has been the case since 2008: The economy has collapsed, unemployment increased dramatically, debt has skyrocketed, we effectively have had sovereign default and we are on the brink of an euro exit.

Milton Friedman used to say “never underestimate the importance of luck of nations” referring to how pegged exchange regimes might be succesfull for a while, but also that it could have catastrophic consequence to maintain a pegged exchange rate regime.

In 2008 Greece ran out of luck because it made the fatal decision to join the euro in 2001. Today is it blatantly obvious that Greece should have done as Turkey and floated the drachma. It now seems like after 14 years Greece will be forced by a major crisis to do exactly that.

Greece Turkey GDPcapUSD

 

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If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: daniel@specialistspeakers.com or roz@specialistspeakers.com.

Guest post: Europe’s problem is not a Greek drama but a medieval Calvinist morality play (by Mikio Kumada)

I have asked my friend Mikio Kumada to write a guest post on blog on a topic he knows very well – the Greek crisis. While I do not agree with everything Mikio writes (I do agree with most of it) I think it is extremely important to get a broader and more insightful perspective on the Greek crisis (and the euro crisis) than the standard “Calvinist” version.

Good luck.

Lars Christensen

Guest post: Europe’s problem is not a Greek drama but a medieval Calvinist morality play

by Mikio Kumada

The crisis that Greece has found itself in over the past five years has been invariably labelled as a “Greek tragedy” by the media around the world – which is both wrong and misleading. More importantly, it is very unhelpful when it comes to finding a way out for Greece and for Europe as a whole.

The reality is that, if one wishes to use catchy cultural labels, it would be more appropriate to call it a medieval European morality play of the Calvinist sort – and a rather bad one at that, too. Bad, because it harks back to notions of good and evil that perpetuate mistakes and delay a solution to the actual problem.

In this “Calvinist” play, the Europeans are telling Greece:

“We understand that your house is on fire, but you cannot use our stand-by fire extinguishers and fire engines, because you’ve been a bad boy/bad girl, and you have to repent for your sins first. You can use the extinguishers in the rooms in which our property is stored, but for the rest, use this bucket of water instead, which we so generously provide to you.”

What you say if your house was on fire, and your “friends” gave the above “advice” and “help”?

Do not get me wrong: Greece was predominantly responsible for the fact that its house was so easily inflammable, and that that it was ill-prepared to cope with the disaster. But it is only to a smaller part responsible that the fire is still raging.

Furthermore, over the past five years, Greece has done its best to put out the fire with the water bucket, and to “repent”, as recommended – i.e. it has implemented a wide range of difficult reforms and cuts (Prof. Karl Whelan of University College Dublin provides a good account here). Even Greece’s new government is willing to compromise to a considerable degree.

That said, let me move straight on to what I believe is the most likely scenario of how things will play out in the coming days or weeks – depending on the level of European intransigence ability to admit mistakes and lose a little bit of face, for the sake of avoiding an even greater calamity.

In spite of what I may have appeared to suggest above, I believe Europeans in general and Northern Europeans in particular are emotionally capable of soul-searching and intellectually perfectly endowed for reflection and pragmatism, to use a very Greek term. Thus, realistic, practical solutions will ultimately prevail in this whole affair.

Consequently, I still think there will not be a “Grexit” – not this week, not this quarter, not next year, or in any other year. What is most likely (though of course not certain) to happen, is the following:

  • There will be an extension of the current (revised and softened) program for something like 3 to 6 months.
  • In order to achieve this, the Europe will find a way to move Greece’s current liabilities versus the IMF and the ECB to the ESM, without actually having to spend a single “new” penny. The funds required for this purpose are available – in the form of the unused 10 billion euros from the Greek bank recapitalization fund, the roughly 2 billion euros in ECB profits from its older purchases of the Greek bonds, and by allowing Athens to borrow a couple of billion more from its own banks (the issuance limit of T-bills is subject to approval by the ECB). This will also allow the Europeans to get the IMF off their backs for now.
  • This, in turn, should eventually allow Greece to participate in what is the most important determinant factor for Europe’s economic recovery in the near future – the ECB’s first proper quantitative easing program that began in March – before it’s too late.
  • There will be a third financing program for Greece sometime early next year, which will be much smaller in size and more realistic by design than the previous ones. It will probably include a specific European commitment to provide debt relief – in order to get the IMF back on board. Or it will completely “Europeanize” the problem.
  • Under these conditions, it will be possible for Greece to produce nominal GDP growth – which is the mother of all debt sustainability miracles, as it is the basis of all household income, corporate profit, and tax revenue.

I should add that international political considerations regarding the IMF form an important part and driver of the above scenario. Point 2) would calm the US-led IMF, for now, as it would avoid a global loss of face for Europe, if an EU member is allowed to default vs. the fund.

Needless to say, such an event would weaken Europe’s global standing in the organization, and beyond. No matter how much Northern Europe would like to detach itself from it, Greece is a European affair.

Here, it is useful to remember that we live in an era in which the Bretton Woods organizations will soon be competing, to say the least, with similar international institutions-in-the-making, led by China and the BRICs. This is no small matter.

Europe’s huge combined share aside, the IMF’s two largest shareholders are the US and Japan, which, by the way, stands behind the Eurozone bailout loans with some 90 billion US dollars.

And while Germany, and others, could try to squarely place the blame on Athens, but hardly anyone would really buy that. The rest of the world would see this as a European failure, especially since the IMF was (reportedly) pressured by the Europeans to bend its rules to lend to Greece. Allies and friends such as the US/UK and Japan will have a harder time siding with Europe, and the emerging economies will see as proof that Europe’s role in the IMF is not just oversized, but also very costly, to say the least.

The problem of the “Calvinist” approach to the Greek crisis also plays a role on this level.

After all, practically all major countries outside Northern Europe are less moralistic and more pragmatic when it comes to debt problems. One example can be found in the fact that the US, UK and Japan were quicker in intellectually accepting QE, without concerning themselves too much about whether this represented inappropriate / immoral “stealth government financing” (I believe QE is simply a perfectly legitimate, useful and important tool of monetary policy). Another example can be found in a side-quip by a Chinese economist I overheard in Hong Kong, who described Beijing’s ongoing (vaguely veiled) bailout of its highly indebted provinces as being akin to Europe’s bailout of Greece – “just without the austerity”.

To make a long story short, I do believe that Europe will overcome the limitations imposed by the simplistic application of culture-specific morality in internationally relevant policy affairs – especially when the tools and means to overcome its problem are clearly available.

And if there is any “Greek drama” involved in this, it could very well prove useful for Europe as a whole, by confronting it with important policy questions – and thus ultimately help it move on to a more workable, and pragmatic, solutions to its problems.

© Copyright (2015) Mikio Kumada

Talking to my phone: The Gulf States should peg their FX rates to oil prices

Oops I did it again – this time I talk to my phone about monetary policy in the Gulf States and my suggestion that these countries should peg their currencies to the oil price or a basket of the oil price and the US dollar. This is of course what I have suggested should be termed the Export Price Norm (EPN). Have a look here.

See some of my older posts on EPN here:

Oil-exporters need to rethink their monetary policy regimes

The Colombian central bank should have a look at the Export Price Norm

Ukraine should adopt an ‘Export Price Norm’

The RBA just reminded us about the “Export Price Norm”

The “Export Price Norm” saved Australia from the Great Recession

Should small open economies peg the currency to export prices?

Angola should adopt an ‘Export-Price-Norm’ to escape the ‘China shock’

Commodity prices, currencies and monetary policy

Malaysia should peg the renggit to the price of rubber and natural gas

The Cedi Panic: When prayers don’t work you go for currency controls

A modest proposal for post-Chavez monetary reform in Venezuela

“The Bacon Standard” (the PIG PEG) would have saved Denmark from the Great Depression

PEP, NGDPLT and (how to avoid) Russian monetary policy failure

Turning the Russian petro-monetary transmission mechanism upside-down

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If you want to hear me speak about these topics or other related topics don’t hesitate to contact my speaker agency Specialist Speakers – e-mail: daniel@specialistspeakers.com or roz@specialistspeakers.com.

A random day in my global life – a celebration of free trade

I am writing this on an American designed computer – probably assembled somewhere in China.

Today I have spoken with an Indian and two Americans on the Phone (which is Japanese) – located in Denmark, Poland and Latvia.

I drove with Uber – a brilliant American idea – the driver was of Pakistani origin. He told me (speaking fluent Danish) that he and his wife speak Danish at home with their four kids but when they argue they argue in Spanish (his wife is Spanish-Pakistani) and Urdu.

Now I am home with my Danish wife – who grew up in Africa and who speaks fluent Lao – and my daughter. Our son is in Sweden at the Christensen vacation home with my parents.

Soon we will put on a movie on Netflix – another great American idea – or I might check out MyHeritage for the latest lead on my Southern Swedish origin (I got a nice mail from a helpful Swedish guy on that earlier today).

I am funding this by selling my services to corporations and financial institutions around the world.

If you want to close the borders for the free movement of labour, goods and capital then you want me to have a much worse life.

Long live free trade!

And now try to reconstruct YOUR DAY from a globalist perspective… and please share.

PS Did I mention I had Mexican food and French wine for lunch?

PPS 5 or 6 people from all over the world today asked me to link up on Linkedin today. I am extremely happy to get to know them all – whether they live in India or Israel.

Talking about the Polish economy on an airport escalator

Yes I readily admit it – I am begining to like to talk to my phone but obviously this might just be plain silly – talking about the Polish economy while on an escalator in Copenhagen airport.

See here

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