We put out our ‘crash alert’ flag last week. So far, no crash.
The stock market came back a bit yesterday, with a 48-point gain on the Dow. Gold was flat.
But the flag is not a prediction. It’s merely a warning, like a flag at the beach that warns of a dangerous rip-tide. You can still go in the water. But watch out. You could get washed out to sea.
Syria? Tapering? GDP growth? Inflation? The bond market?
And here’s the Financial Times, warning that central bankers may not be willing to protect investors from every danger:
The world is doomed to an endless cycle of bubble, financial crisis and currency collapse. Get used to it. At least, that is what the world’s central bankers – who gathered in all their wonky majesty last week for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – seem to expect.
Despite the success of unconventional monetary policy and recent big upgrades to financial regulation, we still have no way to tackle imbalances in the global economy, and that means new crises in the future.
Dear readers are urged not to pay too much attention to the FT. Its news is solid. But its editorials are mush. Robin Harding continues: “Five years ago, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there was appetite and momentum for a new kind of international financial system. That appetite is gone – but we desperately need to get it back.”
What “new kind of international financial system” does he propose?
Bill Bonner on markets, economics & the madness of crowds
Get Bill's free daily email 'The Daily Reckoning' sent straight to your inbox
…boosting the IMF’s resources and handing more voting power to emerging markets so they can rely on it in time of need…
A reliable backstop is impossible when the international system relies on a national currency – the US dollar – as its reserve asset. Only the Fed makes dollars. In a crisis, there are never enough of them – a shortage that will only get worse as the world economy grows relative to the US – even if the problem for emerging markets right now is too many of them.
The answer is what John Maynard Keynes proposed in the 1930s: an international reserve asset, rules for pricing national currencies against it, and penalties for countries that run a persistent surplus. After the financial crisis there was a flood of proposals along these lines from the UN, from the economist Joseph Stiglitz, and even from the governor of the People’s Bank of China. None has gone anywhere.
The plan is to turn the International Monetary Fund into a kind of super central bank with lots of dollars that it can give to any country that seems to need them.
Readers don’t need to ask too many questions. Just put it into simple words: the world’s money system would be based on paper money and managed by global bureaucrats. You see immediately that it is hopeless. A super-bank run by super-economists? How long would it take for them to blow up the whole world’s financial system?
But don’t worry about it. The system will blow up anyway.
No paper money system has ever survived a full credit cycle. Why not? Because paper money (a form of primitive, credit-backed money) is unlimited and undisciplined. That – and not a lack of international monetary reform – is why there are so many bubbles now.
When interest rates are falling – often pushed to artificially low levels, and held there for an extremely long time, credit expands and the burden of debt grows. That has been happening for the last three decades. And now, the whole economy depends on something that can’t possibly continue. Debt can’t grow forever.
As long as rates stay low, the system holds together. But as the quantity of debt increases the quality of it decreases. Debtors’ balance sheets get weaker and weaker. Eventually, the credit markets change direction. Rates start going up again. Then, the weight of all that debt comes crashing down like an avalanche. And when it gets started, there is no stopping it.
All you can do is make sure you’re not in the way.
• Don't miss Bill's next Daily Reckoning. To receive the next article straight into your inbox as soon as he's written it, sign up to the email list here.
Information in The Daily Reckoning is for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon by individual readers in making (or not making) specific investment decisions. The Daily Reckoning is an unregulated product published by Fleet Street Publications Ltd. Fleet Street Publications Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA No 115234. http://www.fsa.gov.uk/register/home.do
New to MoneyWeek?
Welcome, and thank you for visiting us.
Here at MoneyWeek, our aim is simple. To give you intelligent and enjoyable commentary on the most important financial stories of the week, and show you how to profit from them.
If you've enjoyed what you've read so far, we've got something you'll definitely be interested in.
Every week day, Monday to Friday, we send out a thought provoking and often controversial email called the Daily Reckoning. In it, we try to figure out the markets and how current economical events are shaping the world we live in. If you're interested in investment opportunities and the markets, we think you should be reading it…
With your permission, I'd like to send you the Daily Reckoning for FREE.
We hope you enjoy your stay on the site.
Editor, The Daily Reckoning