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What Should Be the Correct Money Supply Growth Rate?

Most economists believe that a growing economy requires a growing money stock, on grounds that growth gives rise to a greater demand for money, which must be accommodated.

Failing to do so, it is maintained, will lead to a decline in the prices of goods and services, which in turn will destabilize the economy and lead to an economic recession or, even worse, depression.

Since growth in money supply is of such importance, it is not surprising that economists are continuously searching for the right, or the optimum, growth rate of the money supply.

Some economists who are the followers of Milton Friedman – also known as monetarists – want the central bank to target the money supply growth rate to a fixed percentage. They hold that if this percentage is maintained over a prolonged period of time it will usher in an era of economic stability.

The idea that money must grow in order to sustain economic growth gives the impression that money somehow sustains economic activity.

According to Rothbard,

Money, per se, cannot be consumed and cannot be used directly as a producers’ good in the productive process. Money per se is therefore unproductive; it is dead stock and produces nothing[1].

Money’s main job is simply to fulfill the role of the medium of exchange. Money doesn’t sustain or fund real economic activity. The means of sustenance, or funding, is provided by saved real goods and services. By fulfilling its role as a medium of exchange, money just facilitates the flow of goods and services between producers and consumers.

Historically, many different goods have been used as the medium of exchange. On this, Mises observed that, over time,

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This Region Of The World Is Being Hit By The Worst Economic Collapse It Has Ever Experienced

This Region Of The World Is Being Hit By The Worst Economic Collapse It Has Ever Experienced

South America On The Globe - Public DomainThe ninth largest economy in the entire world is currently experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history”, and in a country right next door people are being encouraged to label their trash so that the thousands upon thousands of desperately hungry people that are digging through trash bins on the streets can find discarded food more easily.  Of course the two nations that I am talking about are Brazil and Venezuela.  The Brazilian economy was once the seventh largest on the globe, but after shrinking for eight consecutive quarters it has now fallen to ninth place.  And in Venezuela the economic collapse has gotten so bad that more than 70 percent of the population lost weight last year due to a severe lack of food.  Most of us living in the northern hemisphere don’t think that anything like this could happen to us any time soon, but the truth is that trouble signs are already starting to erupt all around us.  It is just a matter of time before the things currently happening in Brazil and Venezuela start happening here, but unfortunately most people are not heeding the warnings.

Just a few years ago, the Brazilian economy was absolutely roaring and it was being hailed as a model for the rest of the world to follow.  But now Brazil’s GDP has been imploding for two years in a row, and this downturn is being described as “the worst recession in recorded history” for that South American nation…

Latin America’s largest economy Brazil has contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016, shrinking for the second year in a row; statistics agency IBGE said on Tuesday. It confirmed the country is facing its longest and deepest recession in recorded history.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Recessionary” Demand Forces New York Harbor To Divert Gasoline Shipments

“Recessionary” Demand Forces New York Harbor To Divert Gasoline Shipments

Two weeks ago, Goldman analysts were stunned when they noted that in recent weeks gasoline demand in the US has collapsed to levels that suggest not all is well with the economy. In fact, as the bank’s oil expert Damien Courvalin said “to achieve the 5.9% decline suggested by the weekly data, our model requires PCE to contract 6%, in other words, a recession.”

Goldman then quickly changed the unpleasant narrative – one which would suggest that the US economy is in far worse shape than official data represent – and provided several alternative explanations why such a “sudden collapse is unlikely” and said that “we view the larger than seasonal ytd builds in US gasoline stocks as driven by transient supply factors rather than persistent demand issues.”

Perhaps, but so far those “transient” supply factors are only getting more chronic, and as supply continues to grow in anticipation of a demand bounce that refuses to materialize, leading to ever louder speculation that there is something very wrong with the US consumer…

… gasoline inventories have hit record levels, and nowhere is this more obvious than on the East Coast, where as Bloomberg writes overnight, “the biggest gasoline market in the U.S. is bursting at the seams.”

As a result, just like during last year’s unprecedented gasoline glut which, too, was supposed to be “transient”, but has only gotten worse, traders are now lining up to export gasoline and diesel from New York Harbor, an area that normally relies on fuel imports from Europe and eastern Canada.

While at least 6 cargoes that were headed to New York from Europe in January and early February were diverted to the Caribbean or the U.S. Gulf Coast, that wasn’t enough to stem the oversupply building up in terminals along the Eastern Seaboard. Record-high inventories in the region are now pushing prices low enough to turn the typical trade flow on its head.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Recession 2017? Things Are Happening That Usually Never Happen Unless A New Recession Is Beginning

Recession 2017? Things Are Happening That Usually Never Happen Unless A New Recession Is Beginning

New Crisis - Public DomainIs the U.S. economy about to get slammed by a major recession?  According to Gallup, U.S. economic confidence has soared to the highest level ever recorded, but meanwhile a whole host of key economic indicators are absolutely screaming that a new recession is beginning.  And if the U.S. economy does officially enter recession territory in 2017, it certainly won’t be a shock, because the truth is that we are well overdue for one.  Donald Trump has inherited quite an economic mess from Barack Obama, and it was probably inevitable that we were headed for a significant economic downturn no matter who won the election.

One of the key indicators to watch is average weekly hours.  When the economy shifts into recession mode, employers tend to start cutting back hours, and that is happening right now.  In fact, as Graham Summers has pointed out, we just witnessed the largest percentage decline in average weekly hours since the recession of 2008…

Average Weekly Hours

In addition to the decline in hours, Summers has suggested that there are a number of other reasons to believe that a new recession is here…

The fact is that the GDP growth of 4%-5% is not just around the corner. The US most likely slid into recession in the last three months. GDP growth collapsed in 4Q16, with a large portion of the “growth” coming from accounting gimmicks.

Consider the following:

  • Tax receipts indicate the US is in recession.
  • Gross private domestic investment indicates were are in a recession.
  • Retailers are showing that the US consumer is tapped out (see AMZN’s recent miss).
  • UPS, another economic bellweather, dramatically lowered 2017 forecasts.

To me, even more alarming is the tightening of lending standards.  In our debt-based economy, the flow of credit is absolutely critical to economic growth, and when credit starts to get tight that almost always leads to a recession.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

David Collum: We’ve Got A Recession Coming

David Collum: We’ve Got A Recession Coming

A bad one, at that

Whether or not you’ve had time yet to plow your way through David Collum’s excellent 2016 Year in Review, our annual podcast with Dave always brings additional color to light — and this year’s is no exception.

Any model based on an assumed 7.5% return is doomed. As you get low returns, our pensions get in trouble. And whenever the returns shoot above the norm they say “Well, this is excess.” And they scoop it up. So every time they are above water they scoop it up. How? They stop contributing. They start using the money for other stuff. Think of a sine wave oscillating about the mean — even if you guessed the mean correctly, if every time it is on the high side you skim it you’ll never get the mean; and that’s what the pension managers have done. And companies just stop contributing to pension plans and started calling the retained funds “profits”, which causes equities to go up and makes the thing get out of whack.

We’ve got a recession coming, one of the full-blown kind. And I don’t know what will happen. My prediction is that it is going to be a bad one. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that is when things start unwinding, counter party risk kicks in and faulty business models start showing up as bad and they start collapsing. All the accounting problems that built up behind the scenes so that the people cook the books to get their bonuses up and they made these crazy assumptions — under the protective cloak of a recession, CEOs can get away with announcing anything because they say Hey, don’t look at me. It’s a recession.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Floodgates Begin To Open

The Floodgates Begin To Open

Now “anemic” is becoming “non-existent.” In the US, mini-credit-bubbles like auto loans, home mortgages and student loans are sputtering, leading economists to dial back their rosy scenarios for 2016. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecast for Q3 growth, for instance, was a robust 3.8% in August but is now less than 2% — and still falling.

gdp-now-oct-16

Not surprisingly, everyone is starting to panic. In the UK, where admittedly Brexit has created a unique situation:

Mark Carney: Bank of England will tolerate higher inflation for the sake of growth

(Telegraph) – Official data on Friday showed house building, infrastructure and public construction all slumped in August, indicating that the UK’s building industry is slowing sharply and could even enter a recession. Construction output dropped by 1.5pc in the month, an unexpected drop after growth of 0.6pc in July, according to the Office for National Statistics. Separate Bank of England figures showed banks suffered a big drop in demand in the months following the Brexit vote as fewer Britons were prepared to take major financial decisions. Demand for mortgages dipped strongly, with a net balance of 44pc of banks reporting a fall in customer interest – the biggest negative score in almost two years.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told an audience in Nottingham that the current environment of low inflation was “going to change”, with the drop in the value of the pound likely to push up prices across the economy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Great Causes, a Sea of Debt and the 2017 Recession

NORMANDY, FRANCE – We continue our work with the bomb squad. Myth disposal is dangerous work: People love their myths more than they love life itself. They may kill for money. But they die for their religions, their governments, their clans… and their ideas.

voltaireFamous French hippie and author Voltaire. He wears the same sardonic grin in every painting, whether he’s depicted at a young or an old age, doesn’t matter. His real name was François-Marie Arouet; he adopted the pen name Voltaire (one of 178 different ones he used) after spending 11 months incarcerated in a windowless cell in the Bastille, following the publication of a satirical verse in which he insinuated that the French regent practiced incest with his own daughter. Said regent was the infamous Duc d’Orleans, who shortly thereafter conspired with John Law to utterly ruin the country’s currency and economy in an early central banking experiment. Voltaire’s decision to insult him in advance reveals his excellent foresight and character judgment. The aristocracy was never sure whether it should fear Voltaire for his anti-authoritarian streak, or love him for his wit.

Some people think that even an idea as abstract as “freedom of speech” is worth dying for. It was Voltaire who said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Most people jump onboard the train of a Great Cause with enthusiasm and conviction. But many have the good sense to hop off quietly before their lives are in real danger. We suspect that Mr. Voltaire would have done the same.

That’s why the deadliest myths are those that you can ride along with at no personal risk. Foreign wars, for example, are always a favorite.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

88% Probability We Just Entered Recession & The Broken Monetary Mechanism That Got Us Here

88% Probability We Just Entered Recession & The Broken Monetary Mechanism That Got Us Here

But so allow me an attempt to mend some bridges.  Let’s start by looking at the various existing frameworks that drive economic policy.  We have Monetary policy (the banks), Fiscal policy (Congress), Microeconomic policy (Corporations).  So let’s look at each.

Let’s begin with Fiscal policy.  The very first issue that should jump out to everyone is that Congress has been utterly ineffective for almost 2 decades now.  That is because the partisanship has become so intense that there simply seems no room for compromise in an effort to get any reasonable piece of legislation done.  What we are left with is a slew of outdated fiscal policies.  Perhaps most detrimental is a corporate tax rate nearly twice that of many other developed nations.

The problem with relatively (to other nations) high corporate tax rates is it means that any domestic investment, everything else equal, has a significantly longer breakeven point.  Said another way, the return on domestic investment is much lower than the return on foreign capital investment (ceteris paribus).  This is a very intuitive concept, easily digestible by all.  The implication is that the relative level of corporate tax rates here in the US incentivize corporations to invest elsewhere.

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Central Banks May Choose Helicopter Money Over Negative Rates

The US Federal Reserve (Fed) is considering raising rates. Is the “normalization” of interest rates about to happen which savers and investors have been yearning for? Most likely not. Policymakers are merely realizing that the policy of zero rates — or even negative rates as in the euro area or Switzerland — doesn’t work as intended.

The wider public is very much against it. Banks, for instance, run into trouble because their profits come under severe pressure in an environment of zero, let alone negative, interest rates. Bank clients start protesting as their bank deposits no longer earn a positive return. They even start redeeming their deposits in cash, thereby causing bank refinancing gaps.

Negative Rates Under Another Name

However, central banks are quite unlikely to abandon the idea of pushing real — that is inflation-adjusted — interest rates into the negative. What they might have in mind is allowing for “somewhat higher” nominal interest rates, accompanied by “somewhat higher” inflation, making sure that real interest rates remain in, or fall into, negative territory.

In this vein, the Federal Reserve of San Francisco suggested in a paper published on 15 August 2016 that monetary policy should rethink and possibly allow for an inflation of more than 2 percent.[1] The debate about higher inflation — say, 4 rather than 2 percent — is actually an old one; in academic circles it comes and goes in waves.

The central argument is that a somewhat higher inflation would “grease the wheel” of the economy, thereby supporting production and employment. Another argument has it that higher inflation would make it easier for the Fed to pull the economy out of recession, especially so if and when the “neutral interest rate” has come down considerably.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Recession? The Canadian Economy Shrinks At The Fastest Pace Since The Last Financial Crisis

Global Recession? The Canadian Economy Shrinks At The Fastest Pace Since The Last Financial Crisis

Canada - Public DomainThings have not been this bad for the Canadian economy since the last global recession.  During the second quarter of 2016, Canada’s GDP contracted at a 1.6 percent annualized rate.  That was the worst number in seven years, and it was even worse than most analysts were projecting.  This comes at a time when bad news is pouring in from all corners of the global economy.  While things in the United States are still relatively stable for the moment, the same cannot be said for much of the rest of the planet.  Canada in particular has been hit very hard by the collapse in oil prices, and the massive wildfire in northern Alberta back in May certainly did not help things.  The following comes from the BBC

The recent drop in GDP was larger than analysts had projected, but not far off the predicted 1.5% loss.

“[The figure] could have been worse, given the hit from the wildfire, and clearly confirms the disappointing downward trend in exports over the last few months,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

In May, wildfires devastated the parts of northern Alberta where much of Canada’s oil and natural gas is produced.

For many years, high oil prices and booming exports enabled the Canadian economy to significantly outperform the U.S. economy.  But now conditions have changed dramatically, and all of the economic bubbles up in Canada are starting to burst.  This includes the housing bubble, as we have seen home sales in the hottest markets such as Vancouver drop through the floor late in the summer.  In fact, it is being reported that home sales during the first two weeks of August in British Columbia were down a whopping 51 percent on a year over year basis.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canadian Economy ‘Double-Dip’ Crashes In Q2 – Worst GDP Growth In 7 Years

Canadian Economy ‘Double-Dip’ Crashes In Q2 – Worst GDP Growth In 7 Years

The first half of 2015 saw Canada informally enter ‘recession’ with two quarters of negative GDP but then, everything bounced back and policy shifts were ‘proven’ effective. However, that dead-canadian-cat-bounce is over as Q2 2016 GDP growth just slumped 1.6% – double-dipping to the worst since Q2 2009. The problem with this plunge is that oil prices actually had their best quarter in 7 years as the economy tanked.

As Bloomberg reports, Canada’s economy suffered its biggest contraction since the 2009 recession as wildfires in Alberta crimped oil production.

Gross domestic product fell at a 1.6 percent annualized pace in the second quarter, Statistics Canada said Wednesday in Ottawa. Economists expected a 1.5 percent decline, according to the median estimate of a Bloomberg survey with 24 responses.

Exports of goods and services plunged at a 16.7 percent annualized pace, and Statistics Canada said that excluding the damage from the wildfires output edged up. Nevertheless, export declines ranged beyond the oil industry: automobiles and metals both fell while shipments of consumer goods posted the largest drop since 2003.

Wednesday’s figures showed a good handoff to the third quarter, with monthly output rising 0.6 percent for June, faster than the 0.4 percent that economists predicted. It was the fastest gain since July 2013 and reversed a similar decline for May.

The quarterly figures signaled the main forces in the economy this year are still at work: weak business investment and strong consumer spending. Business gross fixed capital formation fell 0.5 percent, the sixth straight decline, while consumer spending rose 2.2 percent.

Government spending also bolstered the economy with a 4.2 percent increase, with some of it linked to Alberta relief efforts.

So Q2 was a disaster but Q3 hope is strong.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Russia Frets about Risk of “Recession” in China

Russia Frets about Risk of “Recession” in China

What do they see that we don’t?

Russia’s economy has been shrinking five quarters in a row, though in the first quarter of 2016, it contracted at an annual rate of “only” 1.2%, after having contracted 3.7% in 2015, the longest recession in two decades. The budget deficit has swollen to 8.6% of GDP in April – way beyond the 3% the government is projecting for the year. It might require additional and unpopular budget cuts.

So the jump in oil prices recently, while not nearly enough, is a huge economic relief for the world’s largest oil & gas exporter.

The surge in oil prices has boosted the ruble, which had plunged late last year and early January. Now it’s back at 69 rubles to the dollar, where it had been in November, and there’s a sense that a currency crisis has been averted.

Putin’s pivot to the east with his energy policy has led to mega-contracts and projects with China, largely to supply oil and gas to the energy-hungry nation. Already, exports of crude oil to China soared 28% in 2015, which elevated Russia to China’s second largest supplier, behind only Saudi Arabia. China has become Russia’s biggest trade partner, accounting for 12.8% of Russia’s total trade.

The ties are also growing in the financial realm. Russian oil and gas companies have bought yuan-denominated bonds last year. And in 2014, the Central Bank of Russia signed a 150-billion-yuan ($23 billion) swap agreement with People’s Bank of China to allow both countries to directly settle their trade in rubles and yuan, without having to resort to the dollar.

So Russia is increasingly joined at the hip to China, and will be even more so as the new projects mature. But now Russia is fretting about the slowdown in China and a further devaluation of the yuan.

These worries percolated to the top on Wednesday at a Credit Suisse conference on emerging markets in Moscow.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Without Recovery There Is Every Need To Examine The Worst Case

Without Recovery There Is Every Need To Examine The Worst Case

There is a great deal that is wrong with mainstream economic commentary, starting with its unwavering devotion to orthodox economics and unshakable faith in their “stimulus.” No matter how little is actually stimulated there is never any doubt that the media will simultaneously forget the last one while lavishing praise on the next one. It is, however, the actual economic commentary itself that may be the most damaging. Because nothing works, every news story is printed from the shallowest, narrowest perspective. It is a grave disservice to the public and journalism.

As an example, on July 15, 2015, the Wall Street Journal published an article on Industrial Production that wasn’t unique or atypical. If you read these kinds of stories you find them utterly devoid of differences, so this effort was entirely symptomatic. At the time, industrial production for June 2015 was estimated to have risen 0.3% month-over-month, ending a string of six consecutive M/M declines. That fact more than the degree of the rise was cheerfully reported as if meaningful.

U.S. industrial production rose in June, a sign that the improving economy is helping the sector break out of a slump.

Industrial production, a measure of output in the manufacturing, utilities and mining sectors, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3% from May, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Even though the article noted that one month was nowhere near enough to overcome those prior declines, it didn’t matter because it was finally a plus sign conforming to the mainstream “narrative.”

The pickup comes as other measures show improvement in the economy this spring, with employment continuing to climb and wages creeping up as the labor market tightens…

“Weakness in manufacturing appears to be past its peak,” wrote Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics in a note to clients.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

One week ago, Deutsche Bank’s Dominic Konstam unveiled, whether he likes it or not, what the next all too likely step will be as central bankers scramble to preserve order in a world in which monetary policy has all but lost effectiveness: “It is becoming increasingly clear to us that the level of yields at which credit expansion in Europe and Japan will pick up in earnest is probably negative, and substantially so. Therefore, the ECB and BoJ should move more strongly toward penalizing savings via negative retail deposit rates or perhaps wealth taxes.”

Many were not happy, although in reality the only reason why the DB strategist proposed this disturbing idea is because this is precisely what the central banks will end up doing.

Today, he follows up with an explanation just why the central bankers will engage in such lunatic measures: quite simply, he thinks that economic contraction is now practically assured – and may have already begun – for a simple reason: contrary to popular belief, this particular “expansion” will die of old age after all, and won’t even need the Fed’s intervention to unleash the next recession (if not depression).

There is an old saying amongst market watchers that economic expansions do not die of old age. Rather, during the course of the business cycle dynamics emerge that threaten to become unacceptable from a policy perspective. In the context of economic expansion, that dynamic has been inflation. The conventional pattern has been that as expansions mature, demand for labor outstrips the available supply, creating upward pressure on wages. In the presence of pricing power, higher wages are passed along to end consumers through higher prices.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Chart Says It All

One Chart Says It All

People sense the ‘recovery” is bogus, and their rational response is to save more money rather than squander it. 

Sometimes one chart captures the fundamental reality of the economy: for example, this chart of money velocity and the civilian-population ratio. (thank you, Joseph Y. for posting it on my Facebook feed.)

When the blue line is up, more of the population has a job. (the blue line is the Employment-Population ratio.)

The red line is money velocity, the rate at which money changes hands. (Money buried in the coffee can in the back yard has a money velocity of zero.)

As Joseph noted, the correlation between the percentage of people working and money velocity was strong until 2010. In the post-2009 recession “recovery,” the percentage of the populace with jobs rose modestly, but money velocity absolutely cratered to unprecedented lows.

(The one other disconnect was triggered by the 1987 stock market crash, which caused money velocity to dip even as more people entered the workforce. This absence of correlation was relatively brief.)

The correlation between more people working and money velocity is commonsensical. More people working = more household income = more spending = higher money velocity.

But something changed in 2010. Did the quality and compensation of work change? Joseph observed: People started going back to work after the official recession ended in Q4 2009 but they were working for lower pay. With lower pay comes less disposable income, hence the cliff-like drop off in velocity.

Another potential factor is higher inflation. Some recent estimates (Where’s The Beef? ‘Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics’) suggest the gap between official inflation and actual inflation in rent, food, energy and medical care in the past 20 years has subtracted 20% from paychecks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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