• Demographics are driving wages lower, which is negative for investment returns

    For managers of money, the post-crisis low growth world has had major implications for asset allocation strategies. Assumptions about returns are greatly affected by the both monetary easing used to counteract the slowing and the yield curve flattening indicative of that easing’s ineffectiveness. Recent research on demographic trends and wage growth suggest trends now in place may continue, with grave implications on returns.

    Demographics are driving wages lower, which is negative for investment returns
  • Monetary policy is at the end of the line

    The last few days have made clear that monetary policy is having less and less impact as time goes along.In particular, the latest salvos from the Bank of Japan smack of desperation, as if BOJ Governor Kuroda has decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink into his grab bag of unorthodox monetary policy. Because the Bank of Japan is so far along the curve toward both secular stagnation and unorthodox policy to counteract that slowing, we should pay attention to how their experiments go. I do not expect good results.

    Monetary policy is at the end of the line
  • The problem at euro banks

    As the Brexit worries began two weeks ago, I flagged Italian banks – more than the UK economy – as one of my principle concerns, because of the potential to cause systemic damage to the euro system. And now the contagion is spreading, with Deutsche Bank the most obvious weak link. The question now is twofold. First, does the Italian banking crisis solve itself without a major overhaul of EU institutional arrangements. Second, if not, how does the EU solve this problem? Some brief thoughts below.

    The problem at euro banks
  • Why Britain might not leave the EU and the next Prime Minisiter could be female

    This is a quick run through of the post-Brexit vote decision tree. The opportunities and constraints after the UK vote to leave the EU are now coming into view. It is clear that the UK is likely to leave the EU given not only statements by Prime Minister Cameron but also the Home Secretary Theresa May, both of whom campaigned for ‘Remain’. But it is also clear that the EU will not broker formal or informal discussions with the UK until the UK has invoked Article 50, which can only be done by an act of Parliament. Below, I want to run through some of the constraints in order to build a few scenarios that I see as possible now that we are a week into the post-Brexit era.

    Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May delivers her keynote address on the second day of the Conservative party annual conference in Manchester, northern England September 30, 2013.  REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN  - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY) - RTR3FFSM
  • The downside risks introduced by the UK Brexit referendum

    The unexpected ‘Leave’ victory in the recent referendum on EU membership introduces considerable political risk by elevating tail risk scenarios to reasonable worst case status. However, in a global economy that is already slow and already lacks policy space, the referendum outcome also introduces economic and financial risk. Below I have some general thoughts on those risks, with the US dollar, Italian banks, and Japanese deflation foremost among them. At a later point, I hope to also go into some more detailed scenario handicapping.

    The downside risks introduced by the UK Brexit referendum
  • Why I’m on US recession watch despite 2% growth

    As I start this post, I am naming it “Why I’m on US recession watch despite 2% growth”. I don’t know if that name will stick when I publish this piece; nonetheless, that is the theme I am trying to get across. When I look at the economic data, it shows a near-term in the 2% growth range – stall speed or slightly below. But when I look at the same data for medium-term clues, I still see reasons to be concerned, and, therefore, I continue to be on recession watch. Finally, I am not at all sure the Fed sees the picture as I do. December was a policy mistake. And I can’t rule out others going forward.

    Why I’m on US recession watch despite 2% growth
  • Low interest rates and banks’ net interest margins

    Since the Global Crisis, interest rates in many advanced economies have been low and, in many cases, are expected to remain low for some time. Low interest rates help economies recover and can enhance banks’ balance sheets and performance, but persistently low rates may also erode the profitability of banks if they are associated with lower net interest margins. This column uses new cross-country evidence to confirm that decreases in interest rates do indeed contribute to weaker net interest margins, with a greater adverse effect when rates are already low.

    Low interest rates and banks’ net interest margins
  • Negative interest rates are just a tax on reserves that lowers net interest margins

    The primacy of monetary policy continues unabated as central banks go further and further down the rat hole of increasingly desperate measures to boost demand. First, it was quantitative easing. Now, the latest scheme is negative interest rates. They tell us that monetary policy is not exhausted and that still more policy initiatives lie ahead, particularly helicopter money. However, we should be sceptical that any of these policies will gain meaningful traction before another economic downturn. Brief comments below

    Negative interest rates are just a tax on reserves that lowers net interest margins
  • The German current account surplus requires deficits elsewhere

    Germany is a member of a currency union over which it has no monetary authority. So no one can accuse the country of ‘manipulating’ its currency. Yet, Germany is displaying huge current account surpluses that are illustrative of a dangerous imbalance which when corrected will cause violent disruptions to trade and lead to populist and autarkic political rhetoric. This is what awaits us when the global economy slows further.

    The German current account surplus requires deficits elsewhere
  • Bill Gross on helicopter money and Universal Basic Income

    Technological advancement in a world of high private debt means a substitution of capital for labor without big increases in demand. It is a recipe for low or negative growth. Add in demographic challenges in many countries and you have a public policy problem that has been building and will become acute in the coming years. Below I want to say a few words about this problem, inspired by Bill Gross’ most recent investment outlook at Janus Capital.

    Bill Gross on helicopter money and Universal Basic Income

All Content

In defense of the Fed’s rate hike campaign

Thought I have been on recession watch for nearly all of 2016, I want to write this post as a reminder that there are upside scenarios for the US and global economy. The Federal Reserve looked forward and felt it could tighten into a slowing economy and rising dollar without the economy falling into recession. And so far, they have proved correct. Thinking of this business cycle in comparison to the last two, let me outline my thinking on what are upside scenarios here.

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China: Choosing More Debt, More Unemployment, Or Transfers

China: Choosing More Debt, More Unemployment, Or Transfers

China’s success will depend on the extent to which Beijing in 2016 is able to centralize power, to begin to sell off government assets (probably local and provincial, and not central, government assets), to rein in credit growth, and to accept much lower GDP growth rates while keeping household income growth from dropping too sharply. If it cannot do this, China’s adjustment is likely to be much more difficult, much longer lasting, and perhaps much more disruptive.

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The unwinding of the carry trade of the British pound sterling

The unwinding of the carry trade of the British pound sterling

Between the first quarter of 2013 and the end of 2015, London property prices rose rapidly, the exchange rate appreciated, and the current account deficit widened. This column argues that the rise of the pound was in fact a financial bubble, riding on a property price-exchange rate carry trade.This unsustainable bubble was deflated by Brexit.

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Donald Trump and the return of Rockefeller Republicanism

With the Republicans taking both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency, the potential for Trump to reshape the party in his image is immense. The question now regarding the Trump economic platform is how much he will bend to the will of the Republican establishment and how much will Trump remain focused on his blue-collar and middle class base of support.

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Some initial thoughts on Trump’s victory

Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States last night was a surprising and historic event. I think a lot of people are surprised given UK bookmakers had him at 150 to one odds. I would say the shock politically ranks higher than Brexit given the 5 to one odds placed on that outcome. And frankly the US matters […]

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Demographics are driving wages lower, which is negative for investment returns

Demographics are driving wages lower, which is negative for investment returns

For managers of money, the post-crisis low growth world has had major implications for asset allocation strategies. Assumptions about returns are greatly affected by the both monetary easing used to counteract the slowing and the yield curve flattening indicative of that easing’s ineffectiveness. Recent research on demographic trends and wage growth suggest trends now in place may continue, with grave implications on returns.

Read more ›
Monetary policy is at the end of the line

Monetary policy is at the end of the line

The last few days have made clear that monetary policy is having less and less impact as time goes along.In particular, the latest salvos from the Bank of Japan smack of desperation, as if BOJ Governor Kuroda has decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink into his grab bag of unorthodox monetary policy. Because the Bank of Japan is so far along the curve toward both secular stagnation and unorthodox policy to counteract that slowing, we should pay attention to how their experiments go. I do not expect good results.

Read more ›
Upbeat macro thoughts as Fed’s Jackson Hole Symposium begins

Upbeat macro thoughts as Fed’s Jackson Hole Symposium begins

I haven’t posted much recently – mostly because there haven’t been many developments economically that change my macro view. We still live in a slow growth world, where recession is not the base case n the US, the UK, or the eurozone. And none of the data we have seen in the last few weeks has changed that path.

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Re-calibrating our thinking about Brexit after MPC rate cut

Re-calibrating our thinking about Brexit after MPC rate cut

The Bank of England has cut interest rates and started a quantitative easing program that includes both government and corporate bonds. This approach was enough to send the pound Sterling down to $1.31 and 10-year gilt rates to a record low of 0.677%. While I reiterate my previous bullish views on Anglo-Saxon long rates, US dollar strength and on the UK […]

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The EU as a larger Germany post-Brexit and Hugh Hendry’s Eclectica Fund commentary

The EU as a larger Germany post-Brexit and Hugh Hendry’s Eclectica Fund commentary

Stocks have mostly recovered since Brexit and the strong dollar and Yen have reversed much of their overvaluation in recent days. The question remains as to what the fallout from the UK’s departure from the EU will be. I continue to believe the near-term economic impact will be muted, and that Brexit will come to be seen as mostly a political event. But it is a political event with wide-reaching potential ramifications.

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The problem at euro banks

The problem at euro banks

As the Brexit worries began two weeks ago, I flagged Italian banks – more than the UK economy – as one of my principle concerns, because of the potential to cause systemic damage to the euro system. And now the contagion is spreading, with Deutsche Bank the most obvious weak link. The question now is twofold. First, does the Italian banking crisis solve itself without a major overhaul of EU institutional arrangements. Second, if not, how does the EU solve this problem? Some brief thoughts below.

Read more ›
The British political landscape after the EU referendum

The British political landscape after the EU referendum

This is going to be a quick post to update you on where I think things are headed now that we have the two final candidates for UK Prime Minister. My overall view continues to be that the base case is for a moderate negative economic, assuaged by currency, fiscal and monetary offsets, causing the UK to avoid recession but with longer-term hits to growth from trade frictions and a loss to jobs in the financial sector. The issues now are immigration, the timing of the invocation of Article 50 and the single market.

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