Japanese artist Jakuchu, painted in 1750-1790
This is the Year of the Ox. Except at Blackwater where it is now the Year of the Xe. And in the banking industry, it is the Year of the Zero. Since the entire planetary financial system rested upon a totally unbalanced trade/monetary circulation system, the collapse of this system is hammering export nations much more than importer nations. This is a curious thing but no surprise. After all, the thing that is out of whack here are exporters who won’t let goods circulate back from the US. For the #1 destination of most exports has been the US. Now that this is ending, it is boomeranging back to the exporters. Especially, Japan.
Finally, after I yelled about this for years, Japan has come to the notice of other economic analysts. About time, I might add. Just at random, here are two of my older stories:
The absurd trade imbalance has been obvious for about 35 years. It doesn’t take a genius to understand how Japan has relentlessly pursued at trade relationship with is strictly them exporting value-added goods [because they cannot sell commodities] to the US while we send them cheap commodities they need to make production. The cycle we set up vis a vis Japan and then, all of Asia, has collapsed.
Japan hoped to keep the ZIRP-based carry trade/one way trade going forever. There were no plans for even the slightest slowdown in any of this. Since the ZIRP business was directly attached to the trade business, the dynamics were only one-way: greater deficits for the US was the only solution to any economic problems inside Japan.
The nation’s real gross domestic product, excluding price fluctuations, fell 3.3 percent in the three-month period from the third quarter, or an annualized 12.7 percent, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the government said in a preliminary report Monday.
It was only the second time in the postwar period that real GDP plunged 10 percent or more. The last time was during the January-March period of 1974 when GDP fell 13.1 percent, mainly due to the first “oil shock,” government officials said.
It was also the third straight quarter that real GDP contracted. There have been only two other instances since 1955, when the government began collating such figures, in which GDP declined for three quarters in a row….
In the same October-December period, the real GDP of the United States fell 3.8 percent on an annualized basis, the sharpest drop in 27 years. Europe reeled under a 5.7-percent plunge, the largest since the euro was introduced in 1999.
The breakdown of Japan’s real GDP in the October-December period showed that exports fell 13.9 percent from the previous quarter. It was the first time in two quarters that exports have fallen. The 13.9-percent drop is the largest ever, exceeding the 9.7 percent recorded in the January-March period of 1975.
Overseas demand, a measure of exports minus imports, pushed down the growth rate of real GDP by 3 percentage points from the previous quarter. It was the first time that overseas demand has had such a negative impact on real GDP.
Corporate investment in plant and equipment decreased 5.3 percent, for the fourth straight quarterly decline. The figure compares with a 3.4-percent drop in the previous quarter.
Japan is the key to the locked-up world economy. Even as all the data flows in and all the planet’s main central banks, it is extremely hard for most ‘experts’ to figure this riddle out because they focus nearly exclusively on the US/China dysfunctional trade/currency regime and thus, miss how Japan has dragged the entire planet into a zero/depression hole.
All dynamic systems are built on the constant rebalancing of opposite forces. Day and night, yin and yang, gravity and rising upwards are many examples of this. In world economic systems, it is the same: some sectors are high interest rates/high debt levels or low interest rates/low debt levels. Except this was reset by the Japanese after an immense bubble to low interest rates/high debt. This spread like a cancer to the biggest debt nations. One by one, each of them were surprised to discover, unlike normal historic conditions, a wonderful bounty of easy lending terms seemed to be utterly indifferent to depth of debt levels.
Some foolish economists, led by the biggest fool of them all, Bernanke — The Global Saving Glut and the U.S. concocted this story about a ‘savings glut.’ Brad Setser a supposed ‘expert’ in Chinese economics, fell in line with that imaginative and silly analysis. Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis: Global Savings Glut Exposed written in 2005, tore into this entire fantasy.
I figured the whole, bizarre system began to break down by March 2, 2006, Culture of Life Financial News: No More Global Savings Glut, Bernanke! Interest Rates Shoot Up World Wide
The USA sucks up around 80% of all possible international funds of various sorts. This is to pay for the half trillion in government red ink and near trillion in trade deficits. In return, we printed money at an accelerated rate and now inflation is beginning to rage across the planet. Interest rates are shooting up and investment funds are vaporizing.
The European Central Bank (ECB) looks set to raise interest rates in the light of rising inflationary pressures in the eurozone.
Economists are betting on a quarter percentage point rise in the cost of borrowing to 2.50% on Thursday.
The euro is the strongest currency right now so they don’t have to defend it by raising interest rates alot.
Japan defends the yen by deliberately weakening it which is why their interest rates remain at a totally insane 0%. This is ridiculous since inflation is now raging in Tokyo according to on the street accounts. Even the prostitutes have figured out the dollar isn’t worth what it was so even their prices are now climbing.
One by one, the eurozone, the Swedes, the Swiss and now even the Japanese, are turning off the tap of ultra-cheap credit that has flushed the global system for the past year, keeping the ageing asset boom alive.
The “carry trade” – as it is known – is a near limitless cash machine for banks and hedge funds. They can borrow at near zero interest rates in Japan, or 1pc in Switzerland, to re-lend anywhere in the world that offers higher yields, whether Argentine notes or US mortgage securities.
Arguably, it has prolonged asset bubbles everywhere, blunting the efforts of the US and other central banks to restrain over-heating in their own countries.
The Bank of International Settlements last year estimated the turnover in exchange and interest rates derivatives markets at $2,400bn a day.
“The carry trade has pervaded every single instrument imaginable, credit spreads, bond spreads: everything is poisoned,” said David Bloom, currency analyst at HSBC.
“It’s going to come to an end later this year and it’s going to be ugly, even if we haven’t reached the shake-out just yet,” he said.
All countries are exposed but none as much as the USA. Our rulers keep lying to us and claiming, the budget deficit is “only” 6 to 7% of our GNP which is of course, a very dangerous level but untutored people reading this information seldom realize what would happen if we can’t get 7% of our GNP in the form of hard cash.
Since our GNP is so huge, this 7% is also huge! And since America has outsourced/outsized potential taxpayer’s jobs, this means we can’t fill this yawning gap by taxing the middle class. The rich can’t be taxed at all since they rule us and they intend to keep things this way and besides, they squirrel away their money in off shore accounts, anyway. Since Americans can’t tax the people with the money, this means cutting the budget by $500 billion not in ten years but next year. This is impossible unless our government either cuts the military to near zero or kills off most Americans who are dependent upon the government functioning.
There were early signs of panic this week when the Icelandic krone crashed 8pc in two days, setting off dominoes in high-yielding currencies of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Hungary and Brazil.
The debacle was triggered when the rating agency Fitch downgraded Iceland’s sovereign debt, a move that would not normally rattle markets.
The only reason our debt isn’t being downgraded is because there are many things America can sell off. We are already hard at work, selling off our ports, our forests, our minerals, our people.
Most of the world is now tightening, with no sign of a fresh credit window opening to keep the game going. This is new. Japan has had the tap on continuously as the trade exploded over the past five years, while America itself became the source of funds after it slashed rates to 1pc at the end of the dotcom bubble, and held them there until June 2004.
I quoted this early analysis in order to set things into a time frame. Namely, interest rates began to suddenly climb back in the spring of 2006. The US was an early outlier of this rise in rates. I quoted from an article that talked about how the ‘Japanese carry trade’ was providing LIMITLESS funds for hedge funds and investment banks. The insane interest rate derivatives market was running at a fever pitch of $2.4 trillion a day!
At the very bottom of this mess is the ZIRP system of Japan. All other nations are going ZIRP if they are manufacturing powers and all commodity nations will go to the hyper-inflation regime. Why is this?
Balance! All nations can’t go ZIRP, there has to be some attempt at balancing this with the opposite. Here is a Bloomberg article written in India, for Bloomberg news, about the negative effects of all the major manufacturing nations going ZIRP:
Zero-Rate World Puts ECB’s Trichet Behind Bund Curve
Jean-Claude Trichet’s decision this month to keep interest rates unchanged will push Europe’s economy deeper into a recession, the region’s bond prices show.
The European Central Bank President said Feb. 5 that following the Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan in cutting rates to near zero has “drawbacks” that are “inappropriate.” Even so, investors drove yields on two-year German bunds to the lowest level relative to longer-maturity debt since 1997 in a sign that they are betting he will have to do just that.
“The bond market is telling the ECB they need to wake up to reality,” said Komal Sri-Kumar, chief global strategist at Los Angeles-based TCW Asset Management, which has about $118 billion in assets. “They didn’t do their job on time or adequately, and need to cut rates again as soon and as much as they can. They also need to start thinking of unconventional measures.”
Japan’s finance minister ‘drunk’ at G7 There were headlines in Asia when the head of the Japanese finances made a rambling, incoherent speech at the G7 meeting. It is a sign of stress. The LDP knows perfectly well, they launched this mess. Instead of a sober assessment about the dire effects of the Japanese carry trade, Mr. Nakagawa got drunk and delivered a meaningless speech. He was under intense pressure from 2005-2008 to keep rates far, far below the rate of Japanese inflation just so the faux interest rates could continue flooding the planet with lending. Now, as things disintegrate for Japan, he has no means for changing the course of events. So he is giving up.
Aso’s popularity in Japan is now below 10%. He refuses to call for an election because he doesn’t want to lose power so he sits in office, ignoring popular opinion. The head of the Bank of Japan knows he is on a sinking ship so this is all turning into a version of the Yamato sinking.
In the article above, Sri-Kumar mentions the need for the central bankers to use ‘unconventional measures.’ Pray tell, what are these? Right now, all the measures we have seen nothing but ‘unconventional measures’ at work! Going back to conservative, sober measures seems to be the key here, not increasingly unbalanced, untried and untested systems. When one is falling off a cliff, the arms flail and the legs churn madly but this doesn’t stop gravity. Chinese mistress contest takes tragic turn – CNN.com is a good example of this: a Chinese businessman decided to downsize his supply of mistresses so he had them perform for him and then chose the ‘winner.’ Then, they all got in a car and one of the losers was the driver. She drove everyone off a cliff!
This is just like international finance. If a nation is going to be a loser, if it has control of the ‘car’, it will self-destruct. When the Japanese bubble popped in the early 1990’s, Japan decided to drive the global economic car off the cliff. They figured, this will kill the US industries and weaken the US economy so Japan could still, despite flying off a cliff, be number two. Now that we are nearing the bottom of this epic fall, all of the top 5 economic nation’s gages are pointing to zero. Germany is resisting, trying to run Europe on negative lending.
Why is this? Well, savings is the fundamental basis of all banking. ZIRP systems can’t exist except if they are depositories of faux savings, namely, loot from the hedge funds and major export industrial powers. Anyone else gains absolutely no gains if they save within a ZIRP system. Instead, they reduce their debts via two methods: paying off loans or going bankrupt. The rise in ‘savings’ we are now seeing is not due to people suddenly pouring all their excess funds into banks. Why would they do that?
No, it is due to the reverse: no longer are people pouring funds into paying off debts so these vanish utterly, in a flash. Bang! Gone for good. ZIRP is used by big industries and banks for funding their funny money games. But it isn’t useful to people who can’t borrow money due to jobs vanishing or pay declining.
Since 2000, the 30 year mortgage rate has hovered between 5.55 to 5.0%. The spread between this and the underlying rate has varied wildly. So, even though the rates look like they mostly dropped from the hyper-inflationary peaks of 1980, the dissonance as we approach ZIRP grows greater between the various forms of actual loans. Here is a graph from the St. Louis Fed that shows this disturbance:
The square-style red line above is the Federal Reserve’s frantic manipulations of the interest rate system so they could ‘put on the brakes’ or ‘flood the system’ in regards to lending systems. See how the Fed’s system ran above the mortgage rates, the business rates and the secondary market rates. Also, the rate that was running far below the Fed’s desired rates is the secondary market rates. During the housing boom, it fell to nearly zero. From 1993-2008, the home mortgage and business rates ran in tandem with the housing rate rising slightly above the business rate at the end of the housing bubble.
There are two times during this period where the Fed rate and the housing lending rates had a wide spread whereby the Fed was much higher. One was right before the Dot Com bubble broke. And the other is when the housing bubble popped. See how the 6-month CD rates gyrate wildly. When the Fed was running rates far below the mortgage/business market rates, the CD rates paid by banks for savings collapsed into a virtual ZIRP system! The spread between CDs and all others became a yawning chasm.
When the Fed finally relented and raised rates rapidly, this shot up until CDs were virtually equal to the lending rates for business and homeowners! In a panic, the Fed dropped rates rapidly and CDs followed until both were below the rates charged to business/housing. Then, there was a sudden spike in the CD rates in September, 2008 and then it collapsed and is heading towards zero. It is now far below the rates for lending.
THIS IS HOW THE FEDERAL RESERVE AND BANKERS COOPERATE TO RECAPITALIZE THE BANKS. Far from there being a ‘savings glut,’ it is now so dire, CD rates had to equal lending rates for a while, just to attract money. During the latter part of this time frame, the banks were forced to pay a premium for savings. They greatly dislike this for their profits lie in the differential between what they offer savers for money and what they get to lend. They need a big spread to capitalize themselves.
If there were a savings glut, the spread would widen even more, not vanish. The spike in CD rates shows that manipulations of the market to lower rates were not working. But now, we are in a depressionary spiral. And can’t escape it since it is nature’s way of recapitalizing the banking system by forcing savings, not lending. Below is a graph showing the instability in rates from 1979 to 1893, a period when interest rates shot upwards. The graph looks different from the one above due to the change in scale. The top graph close-up shot shows rates in a 0-10% scale while the one below is a 0-25% scale. Which is more than twice as great.
The Fed rate shot up and down as the US economic ship pitched in high seas. The mortgage rate was mostly below the Fed rate except in the summer of 1980. Finally, in 1982, the mortgage rate was finally higher than the Fed rate. Business rates tracked at about 2% below the mortgage rates. The CD rates went wild: jumping past the lending rated in late 1979 and then, again, in mid-1980. Each time this happened, a recession happened. Banks collapsed because they couldn’t recapitalize as savers demanded higher rates on capital.
“I will not embark on further discussions of the inconveniences and drawbacks when you have a zero interest rate,” Trichet said at a Feb. 5 press conference in Frankfurt after the ECB kept its key rate unchanged. “But there are a number of drawbacks and we feel that we should avoid them.”
ECB council member Ewald Nowotny, who is also Austria’s central bank governor, said he’s “not an advocate for zero nominal interest rates, which would mean negative real interest rates,” the Financial Times reported today.
I hate it when authorities evade answering questions in this manner! Refusing to quickly list the many downsides of the ZIRP system is just insane! Talking about ‘a number of drawbacks’ without mentioning what these are is irresponsible. The ECB member who mentions that ‘negative rates’ are not good, also doesn’t add, ‘This will KILL savings!’ Naturally, everyone would dearly love to run a banking system on no savings at all and no interest charged on loans. But banks can’t exist on this. They need some profits! And they can’t get that unless they attract savings. Or we get hyperinflation.
A number of very clever people are enticing everyone into thinking that if we have zero for everything, infinite wealth will flow. If we give everyone in the US $1,000 or $1,000,000 or $1,000,000,000 dollars to spend, and ask everyone to repay this over 100 years at 0% interest, all we will get is inflation. The smaller the amount, the less inflation, and the higher the interest rate, the less inflation we get. Interest rates rising don’t create inflation: this is catch-up with inflation.
In inflationary spirals, the bank’s rates can’t catch up with inflation spending. But in a depression spiral, it is the opposite: defaults outstrip lending. And capital flees the banking system into either gold or government bonds that have a quick turn-over [NOT long term bonds]. In the last 24 hours, for example, gold shot up another $24 and is getting pretty close to last spring’s highs.
Gold/ZIRP is probably a dynamic whereby the flight to gold increases as more and more major first world nations resort to ZIRP to fix a declining economic base. THIS IS A FLASHING RED LIGHT THAT BOND AND CD RATES ARE FAR TOO LOW. None of the economic leaders at the Frankfurt meeting wished to talk about any of this. It is probably because they are afraid even more people will run to gold if they knew the facts. But this is happening, anyway, due to uncertainty!
On an annualised basis, gross domestic product declined at a rate of 12.7 per cent, a number which perhaps better than any other highlights the depth and severity of a slump that has surely now dispelled all those early hopes that the global economy might be able to shrug off the effects of the financial crisis just like that. To puts things in a comparative setting, the contraction was three times as bad as that of the US in the same quarter.
Export Dependency Is The Heart Of The Problem
The consequences are, basically, to be seen in very weak domestic consumption growth, which means that economic growth (which is needed to pay all those pensions and health care costs) is totally dependent on exports, and hence the economic well-being of others. And this growth roller-coaster (which can only get worse as the median age rises further) cannot be that much fun for the population at large. One minute you have the best growth in a decade, and the next you go crashing through the floor. Ouch!
So – in addition to the bank regulations fix – something also needs to be done to slow down the rapid ageing of the Japanese and German populations, and as far as I know there are only two ways to do that, get fertility up, and open the doors to immigration.
Japan tried a novel system: beggaring workers at home, constricting domestic lending to Japanese consumers while building the world’s most powerful high-value export behemoth on earth. Rapidly overtaking all other capitalist systems, the Japanese automakers, for example, grew during the ZIRP system to become the greatest powers on earth.
This delightful system of depressing wages in Japan so there would be no inflation while the export economy grew in leaps and bounds pleased the LDP members very much and so they tried to do this to infinity. Now, as the system collapses, they can’t get anything going since they slammed on Japan’s economic brakes back in 1994. The Japanese people can’t lead the world out of this depression. Instead, they are losing jobs and money at a faster rate than any other major economy.
Many first world nations are ceasing to reproduce for various reasons. The US still is reproducing but most of that activity is confined to recent immigrants, illegal aliens and the teeming proletariat masses at the very bottom of the economic pyramid. As money and power is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, as inheritance taxes are reduced to zero and there are fewer heirs in every family that has resources, as the spread between the barely-having babies upper classes widens into a chasm with the teeming masses at the very bottom, the middle class is squeezed by rising debt loads and fewer and fewer children who can carry on the banner of middle class economic morality to the future.
Japan and Germany are the world’s #2 and #3 economies and export profit powers. China is a major exporter but has a big surplus mostly with the US, not overall. So, if both Germany and Japan are feeling identical stresses, with one solving this by having a ZIRP system and the other resisting this with all its might, we see the usual yin/yang balancing act at work here. Once Germany surrenders to the Japanese ZIRP system, this will mean all top economies are identical and thus, enforcing a regime.
Though Japan at first appeared relatively unscathed by the crisis, its economy has taken a hit in recent months as exporters have suffered from falling overseas demand and a stronger yen.
Since then, companies like Toyota Motor and Sony have rushed to fire workers, helping to drive the Japanese unemployment rate up to 4.4 percent in December from 3.9 percent in November, the sharpest increase in four decades.
“At one time, it looked like Japan escaped the brunt of the financial crisis,” said Hideo Kumano, chief economist for the Tokyo-based Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute. “Now we see Japan’s most damaged because it’s so dependent on trade, which is stalling,” he added.
“This shows how feeble Japan’s economic fundamentals were in the first place. It’s as if an already sick patient has caught influenza,” Kumano said, adding that consumer spending in Japan had been weak before the effects of the financial crisis took hold.
Japan was never ‘weak’. Japan deliberately set into motion, a system which flooded the world with easy credit, rode this wave of easy credit coupled with faux ‘free trade’ agreements that allowed Japan to block out nearly all foreign competition inside Japan and then rode this to global domination of major industrial markets! The problem is, if the flood of Japanese lending falters or reverses, this dynamic destroys Japanese industrial dominance!
The US worried over and over again, how to make Japan ‘stronger’. For the last dozen-plus years, instead of resisting the Japanese invasion of our domestic markets, our government tried to make Japan’s export industries stronger! Instead of fighting off this ZIRP system, the US enabled it! Japan had a record boom in business profits for the last 7 years and the US continued to believe in the ‘depression’ fairy tale. True, Japanese consumers were increasingly depressed. BUT NOT INDUSTRIAL POWERS IN JAPAN! This is the key to understanding things! There were two things happening at once: Japan’s people were increasingly poorer and Japan’s industrial owners were increasingly richer.
Enabling this made it much worse. Instead of demanding Japan capitalize lending for consumers in Japan and demanding Japanese industrialist raise Japanese wages, the US did the exact opposite due to ideological blinkers that have our own clowns thinking that rising wages are evil and rising profits held away from workers is a good thing, not pure evil.
Of 34.6 billion yen the government initially earmarked for the relocation plan, it turns out that nearly two-thirds of the money will not be directly related for this purpose.
The discrepancy, which emerged in the fiscal 2009 budget, shows that 20.2 billion yen will be channeled to the U.S. Navy and the Air Force, even though the government initially said that Japan’s burden will be limited to costs associated with the relocation of transfer of 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 family members.
The Defense Ministry insists that the planned expenditures for facilities of the U.S. Navy and the Air Force have a bearing on the transfer of Marines.
Analysts said the breakdown of expenses shows that Japan could incur further expenses in the future for U.S. facilities that have no direct bearing on the transfer of Marine Corps members.
Japan demanded the US evacuate Okinawa. The US agreed and then we saw 10+ years of vicious negotiations whereby the Japanese sought to make us either pay the entire amount or pay for it via loans to Japan. During this period, Japan’s ownership of our debts shot upwards from $100 billion to over $600 billion. And the FOREX reserves shot up to a trillion dollars.
Finally, the deal was made and Japan had to cough up some of this loot. The US is increasingly desperate to have our ‘allies’ fund our massive, expensive, privatized, looting machine we call ‘the Pentagon.’ So, to keep the gates of America open to Japanese exports, the Japanese leaders agree to this system whereby they give us a fraction of some money to keep the looters running America happy and everyone pretends, this will not vanish into offshore banking accounts run by US government officials, elected officials and Pentagon staff.
The whole business screams for some daylight. We have no idea, what is going on with military finances and our allies make it murky as hell.
Under the global realignment of U.S. forces engineered by the Bush administration, various contingents of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will be transferred to Guam from the U.S. mainland and other parts of the world. The transfer of Marines from Okinawa Prefecture is only part of the strategy.
This part alarms me. The US military is moving much of its forces to a base in the Pacific? Whatever for? A confrontation with China? Do we want a Pearl Harbor II whereby we park everything under the nose of someone we are in a trade dispute with?
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