In The Long Goodbye, economist Andy Xie says People around the world will only begin to question their economic policymakers when they realize living standards are slowly worsening.
The recent tumbling of Internet and biotech stocks may indicate that the speculation in such stocks has peaked. But, unlike in 2000, the bursting will occur in slow motion. The financial market structure has radically changed in the past 15 years. Too many money managers have a one-sided incentive to long such stocks.
The global financial system has experienced one bubble after another because major central banks have kept monetary policy loose. Prolonged loose monetary policy has made the financial system extraordinary large relative to the real economy. This change forces central banks to respond to negative shocks, like the bursting of a bubble, from the financial system. Such responses make the financial system even bigger. This vicious cycle explains why speculation has become such a powerful force.
A bubble cannot expand forever, even in an environment of loose monetary policy. The balance between fear and greed can tip over when the price of an asset becomes too high, like Internet stocks now relative to the average. The subsequent deflating bubble, in a continuing environment of loose money, just shifts air into other assets.
The talk of monetary tightening in the United States or China will not be followed up with strong enough actions. Real interest rates will remain negative until another crisis, like high inflation or hyperinflation or political crisis, force the hand.
Gold is the safe asset in today's environment. As paper currencies lose credibility, the demand for gold will surge. The alternative digital currencies are fool's good, really scams to take advantage of people's fear over the potential collapse of paper currencies.
Facebook trades at 100 times earnings and US$ 150 billion in market capitalization. No company grows forever. When it stagnates, its stock can trade at 10 times earnings. Hence, Facebook needs to increase its profit 10 times to justify its current stock price. How many media companies make US$ 15 billion in advertising today? Zero.
Two changes in the past 15 years have made bubble formation a constant feature of financial markets around the world. The inefficiencies in capital allocation and income redistribution to finance are the main reason for today's sluggish global economy.
At the macro level, globalization has made inflation slow to emerge, as multinational companies can shift production around the world in response to cost pressure. This force has given central banks more room in increasing money supply without facing the inflation consequences for years. Hence, central banks around the world have become more active in response to economic fluctuations. The consequence is a rising ratio of money supply or credit to GDP. By definition, this means a bigger and bigger financial system, which needs more and more income to survive.
This is an excellent article by Xie. Inquiring minds will want to read the entire piece.
I am in Sonoma now, preparing for Wine Country Conference II. Looking forward to seeing all the speakers and attendees.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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