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Weekly Commentary: Schumpeter’s Business Cycle Analysis

Weekly Commentary: Schumpeter’s Business Cycle Analysis

The work of the great economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) has always resonated. When I ponder analytical frameworks pertinent to these extraordinary times, none are more germane than Schumpeter’s Business Cycle Analysis. Best known for “creative destruction,” Schumpeter’s seminal work materialized after experiencing the spectacular “Roaring Twenties” boom collapse into the Great Depression.

Contrary to Milton Friedman and Ben Bernanke, Schumpeter didn’t view the twenties as the “golden age of Capitalism.” Depression was a consequence of egregious boom-time excess rather than the result of the Fed’s post-crash failure to print sufficient money. Schumpeter possessed a deep understanding of Credit; he keenly appreciated the roles entrepreneurship and risk-taking played during booms. Schumpeter also understood Capitalism’s vulnerabilities.

Whenever a new production function has been set up successfully and the trade beholds the new thing done and its major problems solved, it becomes much easier for other people to do the same thing and even to improve upon it. In fact, they are driven to copying it if they can, and some people will do so forthwith. It should be observed that it becomes easier not only to do the same thing, but also to do similar things in similar lines… This seems to offer perfectly simple and realistic interpretations of two outstanding facts of observation: First, that innovations do not remain isolated events, and are not evenly distributed in time, but that on the contrary they tend to cluster, to come about in bunches, simply because first some, and then most, firms follow in the wake of successful innovation; second, that innovations are not at any time distributed over the whole economic system at random, but tend to concentrate in certain sectors and their surroundings.” Joseph A. Schumpeter, Business Cycles, 1939

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

Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out a Major Bank?

Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out a Major Bank?

Prettifying Toxic Waste

The promise of something for nothing is always an enticing proposition. Who doesn’t want roses without thorns, rainbows without rain, and salvation without repentance?  So, too, who doesn’t want a few extra basis points of yield above the 10-year Treasury note at no added risk?

The yield-chasing hamster wheel… [PT]

Thus, smart fellows go after it; pursuing financial innovation with unyielding devotion.  The underlying philosophy, as we understand it, is that if risk is spread thin enough it magically disappears. In other words, the solution to pollution is dilution.

With this objective, new financial products are fabricated into existence. The risk free rewards of several extra basis points are then packaged up into debt instruments and sold off to pension funds and institutional investors. The search for yield demands it.

Yet as an economic expansion progresses, especially one that has been extended and distorted with the Fed’s cheap credit, these derived financial securities are polluted with more and more toxic waste. Spreading the risk ultimately pollutes the entire pool of liquidity.

At this moment in the business cycle, after a lengthy bull market in stocks and bonds, countless manifestations of the greater fool theory have bubbled up to the surface. Bonds with negative yields epitomize this. Buyers accept a guaranteed coupon loss with the hopes of scoring capital appreciation as yields fall. But when yields rise, it is game over.

German Bund futures contract, weekly. The recent blow-off and subsequent reversal illustrates the convexity effect on bond prices… [PT]

Of course, the greater fool theory extends much deeper and wider than negative yielding debt. It also extends to the polluted world of corporate debt…

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

Central Banks Trapped by Their Theories

Central Banks Trapped by Their Theories 

QUESTION: Hi Martin,

I can understand how JP and EU backed themselves into a corner with negative rates. Happy to give them the benefit of the doubt when this all started 3-4 years ago even though it was obvious this was not going to end well.
However, what I don’t understand is the thought process that reserve banks today need to perpetuate eternal growth when I would think their role should be to smooth out extremes (debatable this is even possible).

RBA is a case in point as while the Australian economy is slowing, it is nowhere near terrible. There is talk that they will now also look to lower rates to near zero and start QE. I get that all reserve banks are looking to maintain lower exchange rates and so they need to keep pace with the rest of the world but one would think they would learn better from mistakes of EU and JP.

My question is, is this a global conspiracy or just plain stupidity?

Thanks for all ….


ANSWER: The original theory was to smooth out the business cycle. The political governments turned to the central banks and argued that they were responsible for the money supply. Therefore, it was allegedly their duty to control inflation irrespective of the spending of politicians. This was an inconvenient economic truth.

The problem is that the ONLY theory they have is the Keynesian Model. They really have no other theory to rely on. So they keep lowering rates, hoping to stimulate demand and are oblivious to the economic reality that the political side is hunting taxes and becoming more aggressive in tax enforcement. The two sides are clashing and the central banks are now TRAPPED with no alternative.

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

The Fed’s Dangerous Game: A Fourth Round of Stimulus in a Single Growth Cycle

The Fed’s Dangerous Game: A Fourth Round of Stimulus in a Single Growth Cycle

The longer the signals in capital markets go haywire under the influence of “monetary stimulus,” the bigger is the cumulative economic cost. That is one big reason why this fourth Fed stimulus — in the present already-longest (but lowest-growth) of super-long business cycles — is so dangerous.

True, there is nothing new about the Fed imparting stimulus well into a business cycle expansion with the intention of combating a threat of recession. Think of 1927, 1962, 1967, 1985, 1988, 1995, and 1998.

This time, though, we’ve seen it four times (2010/11, 2012/13, 2016/17, 2019) in a single cycle. That is a record. Normally, a jump in recorded goods and services inflation, or concerns about rampant speculation, have trumped the inclination to stimulate after one — or at most two — episodes of stimulus.

Also we should recognize that the length of time during which capital-market signaling remains haywire, is only one of several variables determining the overall economic cost of monetary “stimulus.” But it is a very important one.

Haywire signaling is not just a matter of interest rates being artificially low. Alongside this there is extensive mis-pricing of risk capital. Some of this is related to the flourishing of speculative hypotheses freed from the normal constraints (operative under sound money) of rational cynicism. Enterprises at the center of such stories enjoy super-favorable conditions for raising capital.

There are also the giant carry trades into high-yielding debt, long-maturity bonds, high-interest currencies, and illiquid assets, driven by some combination of hunger for yield and super-confidence in trend extrapolation. In consequence, premiums for credit risk, currency risk, illiquidity, and term risk, are artificially low. Meanwhile a boom in financial engineering — the camouflaging of leverage to produce high momentum gains — adds to the overall distortion of market signals.

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

Battle for Control

Battle for Control

Markets are engaged in a clear battle for control: An active Fed eager to extend the business cycle using asset price inflation as its primary means to generate further debt financed growth on the one hand and deteriorating fundamentals and technicals gnawing at an artificial market construct on the other.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Markets would not be anywhere near new highs were it not for a Fed flip flopping and racing from dovish media event to dovish media event. I’ve been very vocal in my criticisms of their efforts and sense they are playing a dangerous game here. Hence I don’t want to belabor the point here today. But as a follow up: Friday’s desperate efforts on the side of the Fed to backtrack market expectations for a 50bp rate cut at the coming July meeting, which they themselves caused on Thursday with multiple Fed speakers, has revealed again the Fed’s singular role it has to devolved into: The market’s primary price discovery mechanism. As markets dropped below $SPX 3,000 this week dovish Fed speakers caused a renewed rally above 3,000 and as soon as they tried to walk it back with a conspicuous WSJ Journal article on Friday markets again soon rolled over.

That’s the circus atmosphere they have created and appear to be supportive of. The Fed is very aware of its role in all of this and it’s shameful. Like Alan Greenspan or not, but at least he was a cryptic speaker that left markets guessing and played his cards close to the vest. But over the years the Fed has devolved itself into this clown show we have now, a day to day manager of markets. And markets have learned to react to every single pronouncement and utterance.

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

Trying To Prevent Recessions Leads To Even Worse Recessions

Trying To Prevent Recessions Leads To Even Worse Recessions

Deutsche Bank strategists Jim Reid and Craig Nicol wrote a report this week that echos what I and other Austrian School economists have been saying for many years: actions taken by governments and central banks to extend business cycles and prevent recessions lead to even more severe recessions in the end. MarketWatch reports – 

The 10-year old economic expansion will set a record next month by becoming the longest ever. Great news, right? Maybe not, say strategists at Deutsche Bank.

Prolonged expansions have become the norm since the early 1970s, when the tight link between the dollar and gold was broken. The last four expansions are among the six longest in U.S. history .

Why so? Freed from the constraints of gold-backed currency, governments and central banks have grown far more aggressive in combating downturns. They’ve boosted spending, slashed interest rates or taken other unorthodox steps to stimulate the economy.

“However, there has been a cost,” contended Jim Reid and Craig Nicol at the global investment bank Deutsche Bank.

“This policy flexibility and longer business cycle era has led to higher structural budget deficits, higher private sector and government debt, lower and lower interest rates, negative real yields, inflated financial asset valuations, much lower defaults (ultra cheap funding), less creative destruction, and a financial system that is prone to crises,’ they wrote in a lengthy report.

“In fact we’ve created an environment where recessions are a global systemic risk. As such, the authorities have become even more encouraged to prevent them, which could lead to skewed preferences in policymaking,” they said. “So we think cycles continue to be extended at a cost of increasing debt, more money printing, and increasing financial market instability.”

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

Doug Casey: “This is Going to be One for the Record Books”

Doug Casey: “This is Going to be One for the Record Books”

Just because society experiences turmoil doesn’t mean your personal life has to. And a depression doesn’t have to be depressing. Most of the real wealth in the world will still exist—it will just change ownership.

What is a depression?

We’re now at the tail end of a very long, but in many ways a very weak and artificial, economic expansion. At the same time we’ve had one of the strongest securities bull markets in history. Both are the result of trillions of new dollars created over the last decade. Right now very few people are willing to consider the possibility of tough times—let alone The Greater Depression.

But, perverse though it may seem, this is the very best time to think about it. The U.S. economy is a house of cards, built on quicksand, with a tsunami on the way. I urge everyone to read up on the topic. For now, I’ll only briefly touch on the nature of depressions. There are at least three good definitions of the term:

  1. A period of time when most people’s standard of living drops significantly.
  2. A period of time when distortions and misallocations of capital are liquidated.
  3. A period of time when the business cycle climaxes.

Using the first definition, any natural disaster can cause a depression. So can living above your means for long enough. But the worst kind of depression has not just economic effects, but economic causes. That’s where definitions 2 and 3 come in.

What can cause distortions in the way the market operates, causing people to do things they’d otherwise consider unreasonable or uneconomic? Only government action, i.e., coercion. This takes the form of regulation, taxes, and currency inflation.

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

How Asset Inflation Will End–This Time


Life after death for asset inflation: this is what happens when “speculative fever” remains high even after monetary inflation has paused. This may well have been the situation in global markets during 2019 so far. But history and principle suggest that life after death in this monetary sense is short.

Readers may find it odd to be talking about a pause in monetary inflation at a time when the Fed has cancelled programmed rate rises and the ECB has embarked (March 7) on yet further “radical” policy moves. Moreover, the “core” US inflation rate (as measured by PCE) is still at virtually 2 per cent year-on-year.

Yet we know from past cycles that in the early stages of recession many market participants — and, crucially, central banks — mistakenly view a stall in rate rises or actual rate cuts as stimulatory. Later with the benefit of hindsight these policy moves turn out to be insufficient to prevent a tightening of monetary conditions already in process but unrecognized.

Even had monetary conditions been easing rather than tightening, it is highly dubious whether this difference would have meant the powerful momentum behind the business cycle moving into its recession phase would have lessened substantially.

(As a footnote here: under a gold standard regime there is no claim that monetary conditions will evolve perfectly in line with contracyclical fine-tuning. Both in principle and fact monetary conditions could tighten there at first as recessionary forces gathered. Under sound money, however, contracyclical forces would emerge strongly into the recession as directed by the invisible hand.)

Under a fiat money regime, monetary tightening can occur in the transition of a business cycle into recession, despite the opposite intention of the central bank policy-makers, due to endogenous factors such as an undetected increase in demand for money or a fall in the underlying “money multipliers.”

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

Interest Rates, Funny Money, and Economic Malaise

Interest Rates, Funny Money, and Economic Malaise

Since the 2007–8 financial crisis, more and more economists have entertained the idea that there might be some connection between artificially low interest rates and business cycles. By “artificially low” I mean interest rates that are pushed below their natural levels by expansionary monetary policy. The relationship between monetary policy and interest rates is tricky; beyond the immediate short run, it is hard to say whether liquidity effects (which tend to push down rates) or rising income effects (which tend to push up rates) dominate. But in the short run, to the extent that expansionary monetary policy is a surprise, there should be a fall in market interest rates that is not justified by economic fundamentals — namely, real saved resources available for investment projects.

The way the business cycle unfolds looks like this: The monetary authority injects new money into capital markets in an attempt to give the economy a shot in the arm. Investors see artificially low rates and increase their investments in projects that will pay out in the future. But households are not saving any more real resources. In fact, households will probably respond to low interest rates in the same way: the costs of reallocating purchasing power from future you to present you have fallen, so you are more likely to borrow to equalize your intertemporal marginal utility of consumption. With both consumers and investors using up more real resources in ways that are fundamentally at odds with each other’s plans, something’s got to give. The comovement of consumption and investment beyond the economy’s production possibility frontier is ultimately unsustainable. When everyone wakes up to the fact that the low interest rates were the result of funny money, rather than real economic forces, the bubble bursts.

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

Why central banks cannot really Manage Anything

QUESTION: Marty you recently said that “the entire problem of lowering interest rates to ‘stimulate’ the economy demonstrates that central banks cannot really manage anything.” Is this statement really true?


ANSWER: Absolutely. There is a basic presumption in all human activity that somehow we possess the power to do anything be it end Global Warming or managing the economy. Yet neither has ever been accomplished. We assume that we MUST do something even if there is nothing we can actually do to reverse the trend. It is like what I just wrote about the Plunge Protection Team. Do you realize that every empire, nation, and city-state at some point realizes the end is near, yet they cannot prevent their own demise any more than we can prevent our own death.

“The Rediscovery of the Business Cycle – is a sign of the times. Not much more than a decade ago, in what now seems a more innocent age, the ‘New Economics’ had become orthodoxy. Its basic tenet, repeated in similar words in speech after speech, in article after article, was described by one of its leaders as ‘the conviction that business cycles were not inevitable, that government policy could and should keep the economy close to a path of steady real growth at a constant target rate of unemployment.’

Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker in his Rediscovery of the Business Cycle clearly stated the theory of managing the economy with Keynesian tools failed. When he tried sending interest rates cascading higher into 1981, he really altered the economy forever. There was a capo on interest rates known as the Usury Laws. On April 1st, 1980, the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 became effective.

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

2019 Considered…Macro Population Cycle & Business Cycle Turning Down Together?

2019 Considered…Macro Population Cycle & Business Cycle Turning Down Together?

Well, 2019 is here and it’s time to consider what sort of growth is possible.  Speaking from a macro’est viewpoint, it’s helpful to acknowledge that 90% of the wealth/ income/ savings and nearly 90% of global energy is consumed by the high and upper middle income nations of the world (those with per capita incomes ranging from nearly $90k/yr all the way down to $4k/yr).  This is the high income nations of the US/Canada, most of the EU, Japan/S. Korea, Aus/NZ, etc. plus the upper middle income nations of China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Iran, etc (as defined by World Bank…previously detailed HERE).  In 2019, this represents about 3.85 billion of earths approximate 7.7 billion population…or about half of earths population (50% consume 90%, while the other 50% consume just 10%).

So, let’s examine the primary fuel source available in 2019…the growth among the 0 to 69yr/old global consumer population.  The blue line in the chart below shows the total 0 to 69yr/old population which includes the potential working age population (20 to 69yr/olds?) and child bearing population (15 to 45yr/olds) versus the annual change in that population (red columns).  Astute chart watchers will note that population growth has decelerated by 30 million annually, a 75% reduction, since the 1988 peak.  2025 is the year growth ceases entirely and by 2035 this population is estimated to be declining by <10> million annually.

Consider that upon the completion of every business cycle since 1960 and onset of recession, (highlighted by the blacked out columns in the chart below), there was still significant growth (fuel) among the global consumer population.  That population growth coupled with the Federal Reserves rate cuts and federal governments stimulus restarted not just domestic but global economic growth.  The macro population cycle among the global high/upper middle income nations consumer base expanded anywhere from 30 to 40 million persons annually from 1960 through 1990, but growth slowed to about 20 million annually from 1995 though 2015.

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

2019: The Beginning Of The End (Free Premium Report)

2019: The Beginning Of The End (Free Premium Report)

What will happen next & what to do now

Welcome to our new readers and a very Happy New Year to everyone!

Now that it’s 2019, we’re going to start the new year here at Peak Prosperity by responding to the wishes of our premium subscribers and making our most recent premium report free to everyone.

For those unfamiliar with our work, it’s based on the idea that humanity is hurtling towards a disaster of our own making.  Several powerful and unsustainable trends are all converging towards an ever-narrowing gap in the future.

Because of this, the individual and collective choices we make today take on ever-increasing importance.  Our collective choices — around such issues as rampant money-printing by central banks, the failure to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, and tossing an entire younger generation under the bus because that’s most convenient for an older generation afraid of living within its actual means — are all pointing to a diminshed and disappointing future. We need to make better choices that align ourselves with these (and many other) looming realities.

This is our work here at Peak Prosperity.

For ten years now, we’ve been pointing out the many predicaments society faces. And we will continue our vigilance.  No because we enjoy crisis, or that we relish delivering hard messages, but because these are the times in which we live — and those, like you, who are awake to reality, need unvarnished facts and data to make informed decisions.

So we offer to you, today, a peek behind our premium subscription curtain.  The people who subscribe to our work do so to make themselves more resilient, as well as to support Peak Prosperity financially as we carry on our mission of “Creating a world worth inheriting”, which invoves bringing difficult messages to reluctant audiences.

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

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

The ‘Everything Bubble’ has popped

Now that the world’s central banking cartel is taking a long-overdue pause from printing money and handing it to the wealthy elite, the collection of asset price bubbles nested within the Everything Bubble are starting to burst.

The cartel (especially the ECB and the Fed) is hoping it can gently deflate these bubbles it created, but that’s a fantasy. Bubbles always burst badly; it’s their nature to do so. Economic suffering and misery always accompany their termination.

It’s said that “every bubble is in search of a pin”. History certainly shows they always manage to find one.

History also shows that after the puncturing, pundits obsess over what precise pin triggered it, as if that matters.  It doesn’t, because ’cause’ of a bubble’s bursting can be anything.  It can be a wayward comment by a finance minister, otherwise innocuous at any other time, that spooks a critical European bond market at exactly the right (wrong?) moment, triggering a runaway cascade.

Or it might be the routine bankruptcy of a small company that unexpectedly exposes an under-hedged counterparty, thereby setting off a chain reaction across the corporate bond market before the contagion quickly spreads into other key elements of the financial system.

Or perhaps it will be the US Justice Department arresting a Chinese technology executive on murky, over-reaching charges to bully an ally into accepting that unilateral US sanctions are to be abided by everyone, regardless of sovereignty.

How was it that the famous Tulip Bulb bubble came to a crashing end back in the 1600’s?  No one knows the exact moment or trigger. But we can easily imagine that in some Dutch pub on the fateful night on the Feb 3rd1637, a bidder on the most-coveted of all bulbs, the Semper Augustus, had an upset stomach and briefly grimaced when hit by a ripping gas pain:

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

Honest Work for Dishonest Pay

Honest Work for Dishonest Pay

Misadventures and Mishaps

Over the past decade, in the wake of the 2008-09 debt crisis, the impossible has happened.  The sickness of too much debt has been seemingly cured with massive dosages of even more debt.  This, no doubt, is evidence that there are wonders and miracles above and beyond 24-hour home deliveries of Taco Bell via Door Dash.

The global debtberg: at the end of 2017, it had grown to USD 237 trillion. Obviously this is by now a slightly dated figure, as debt issuance has continued with gay abandon this year. [PT]

But how can dosages of more debt be the cure for too much debt?  Can more Cutty Sark be the cure for a dipsomaniac?  Certainly, in both instances, and after some interim relief, the cure always proves to be much worse than the disease.

Without question, a moment of clarity is approaching that will bisect the world of today from the world of tomorrow, like the Patriot Act bisects the present world from its prior state of bliss.  Thus, what follows is a rudimentary preview of what’s in store.  But first, some context is in order…

The fake money system – a system centered on debt based legal tender and centrally fabricated interest rates – produces booms and busts of greater extremes with each progression of the business cycle.  This century alone we’ve experienced two iterations of these boom and bust scenarios.  First the dotcom bubble and bust.  Then the housing boom and crash.

The “well-contained” end of the housing boom…  [PT]

Make no mistake, these booms and busts were anything but garden variety gyrations of the business cycle.  In fact, the Federal Reserve’s finger prints are all over them.  The booms originated from Fed monetary policy misadventures.  The busts were triggered by Fed monetary policy mishaps.

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

Living Dangerously

Regular readers of Goldmoney’s Insights should be aware by now that the cycle of business activity is fuelled by monetary policy, and that the periodic booms and slumps experienced since monetary policy has been used in an attempt to manage economic outcomes are the result of monetary policy itself. The link between interest rate suppression in the early stages of the credit cycle, the creation of malinvestments and the subsequent debt dénouement was summed up in Hayek’s illustration of a triangle, which I covered in an earlier article.[i]

Since Hayek’s time, monetary policy, particularly in America, has evolved away from targeting production and discouraging savings by suppressing interest rates, towards encouraging consumption through expanding consumer finance. American consumers are living beyond their means and have commonly depleted all their liquid savings. But given the variations in the cost of consumer finance (between 0% car loans and 20% credit card and overdraft rates), consumers are generally insensitive to changes in interest rates.

Therefore, despite the rise of consumer finance, we can still regard Hayek’s triangle as illustrating the driving force behind the credit cycle, and the unsustainable excesses of unprofitable debt created by suppressing interest rates as the reason monetary policy always leads to an economic crisis. The chart below shows we could be living dangerously close to another tipping point, whereby the rises in the Fed Funds Rate (FFR) might be about to trigger a new credit and economic crisis.


living danger 1

Previous peaks in the FFR coincided with the onset of economic downturns, because they exposed unsustainable business models. On the basis of simple extrapolation, the area between the two dotted lines, which roughly join these peaks, is where the current FFR cycle can be expected to peak. It is currently standing at about 2% after yesterday’s increase, and the Fed expects the FFR to average 3.1% in 2019.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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