Chinese Exports are Falling and Foreign Investors are Taking their Money out of China

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Exports tumble and foreign investors pull out their capital.  Could it be that the great Chinese economic juggernaut has run its course?  Perhaps (see China seen suspending open-market operation posted 1/4/2012 on MarketWatch).

China’s central bank suspended its regular open market operation Thursday, thereby injecting funds into the market in Beijing’s latest attempt to provide support to the country’s slowing economy, people familiar with the situation told Dow Jones Newswires.

The unexpected move boosted investors’ expectations that the People’s Bank of China might lower banks’ reserve requirement ratio later this month, after Premier Wen Jiabao warned Tuesday that the first quarter may be a difficult one for the country, as profits are being squeezed by slumping demand for China’s exports and Beijing is focused on fine-tuning both monetary and fiscal policies…

Moreover, recent capital outflows have made it less necessary for the central bank to drain excess liquidity from the banking system via its open market operations, said a Shanghai-based trader at a local bank.

China saw a net CNY24.89 billion of foreign exchange outflows in October, the first net monthly foreign exchange outflow since 2007, signaling that global investors are pulling money out amid fears of a global downturn and reduced expectations of future gains by the yuan.

The Eurozone debt crisis has hurt Chinese exports.  Foreign investors see that the good times may be over and they are pulling their money out of China.  This will drain excess liquidity and possibly raise borrowing costs.  Which is why some are hoping that they lower banking reserve requirements.  Which will inject more money into the economy.  To help them build more exports.  That are selling less and less.

Expanding capacity during times of shrinking demand may not be the best course of action.  What it can do, though, is build up an asset bubble.  That will pop.  Which will bring a round of deflation the likes of which they have never seen before.  Sort of like the decline of housing prices in the U.S.  Which hasn’t helped the U.S. economy.  As it won’t help the Chinese economy.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

China and India Economic Performance Still Strong While Europe is Weighed down by their Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2012

Week in Review

Asia is besting Europe in economic performance.  But is the growth real?  Or is somewhat artificial with monetary policy inflating their economies?  Time will tell.  But in the mean time, their manufacturing is showing resilience (see India, China Economies Show Asia Resilient as Europe Falters by Unni Krishnan posted 1/3/2012 on Bloomberg Businessweek).

Manufacturing in India and China improved in December, a sign the world’s fastest-growing major economies are withstanding Europe’s debt crisis…

In another positive sign, a Chinese index for non- manufacturing industries rose today. Europe’s crisis may still cap demand for goods from Asia with an index for Chinese export orders indicating a third month of contraction in December. India’s economic growth will be constrained by higher borrowing costs and global economic weakness, HSBC and Markit said.

High debt is a problem for Europe.  And India.  For they, too, have high borrowing costs.  Something the Chinese don’t have a problem with at the present moment.  But they do share something else with India.

In China, the “festival effects” of western and Chinese New Year celebrations helped to boost the manufacturing PMI, said the logistics federation, which releases the data with the statistics bureau. China has also unwound some tightening measures to spur growth, cutting banks’ reserve requirements in November for the first time since 2008.

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 22 percent last year, the most since 2008, on concern that monetary tightening and efforts to rein in property prices in big cities will limit growth.

The Chinese were battling inflation pressures.  Hence the monetary tightening last year.  Now they’re lowered the reserve requirements for their banks.  In the world of fractional reserve banking that means inflationary growth.  By pumping more money into the economy.  By letting the banks lend out more of their deposits.  And now that thing they have in common with India.

India’s benchmark wholesale-price inflation slowed to a one-year low of 9.11 percent in November from 9.73 percent in October.

Inflation.  Nearly double digit at the wholesale level.  So the Indians have economic growth.  But they’re paying a pretty high price for it.  Or will.  Because the way the market fixes high inflation is with nasty recessions.  To adjust prices to reflect real demand.  Not the inflated one created by easy monetary policy.

So China and India are currently outperforming Europe.  But so did Japan once upon a time.  But their bubble burst.  As bubbles are wont to do.  And if China and India are just blowing bubbles, they, too, will burst.  Because that’s what bubbles do.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LESSONS LEARNED #27: “Yes, it’s the economy, but the economy is not JUST monetary policy, stupid.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2010

WHAT GAVE BIRTH to the Federal Reserve System and our current monetary policy?  The Panic of 1907.  Without going into the details, there was a liquidity crisis.  The Knickerbocker Trust tried to corner the market in copper.  But someone else dumped copper on the market which dropped the price.  The trust failed.  Because of the money involved, a lot of banks, too, failed.  Depositors, scared, created bank runs.  As banks failed, the money supply contracted.  Businesses failed.  The stock market crashed (losing 50% of its value).  And all of this happened during an economic recession.

So, in 1913, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, creating the Federal Reserve System (the Fed).  This was, basically, a central bank.  It was to be a bank to the banks.  A lender of last resort.  It would inject liquidity into the economy during a liquidity crisis.  Thus ending forever panics like that in 1907.  And making the business cycle (the boom – bust economic cycles) a thing of the past.

The Fed has three basic monetary tools.  How they use these either increases or decreases the money supply.  And increases or decreases interest rates.

They can change reserve requirements for banks.  The more reserves banks must hold the less they can lend.  The less they need to hold the more they can lend.  When they lend more, they increase the money supply.  When they lend less, they decrease the money supply.  The more they lend the easier it is to get a loan.  This decreases interest rates (i.e., lowers the ‘price’ of money).  The less they lend the harder it is to get a loan.  This increases interest rates (i.e., raises the ‘price’ of money). 

The Fed ‘manages’ the money supply and the interest rates in two other ways.  They buy and sell U.S. Treasury securities.  And they adjust the discount rate they charge member banks to borrow from them.  Each of these actions either increases or decreases the money supply and/or raises or lowers interest rates.  The idea is to make money easier to borrow when the economy is slow.  This is supposed to make it easier for businesses to expand production and hire people.  If the economy is overheating and there is a risk of inflation, they take the opposite action.  They make it more difficult to borrow money.  Which increases the cost of doing business.  Which slows the economy.  Lays people off.  Which avoids inflation.

The problem with this is the invisible hand that Adam Smith talked about.  In a laissez-faire economy, no one person or one group controls anything.  Instead, millions upon millions of people interact with each other.  They make millions upon millions of decisions.  These are informed decisions in a free market.  At the heart of each decision is a buyer and a seller.  And they mutually agree in this decision making process.  The buyer pays at least as much as the seller wants.  The seller sells for at least as little as the buyer wants.  If they didn’t, they would not conclude their sales transaction.  When we multiply this basic transaction by the millions upon millions of people in the market place, we arrive at that invisible hand.  Everyone looking out for their own self-interest guides the economy as a whole.  The bad decisions of a few have no affect on the economy as a whole.

Now replace the invisible hand with government and what do you get?  A managed economy.  And that’s what the Fed does.  It manages the economy.  It takes the power of those millions upon millions of decisions and places them into the hands of a very few.  And, there, a few bad decisions can have a devastating impact upon the economy.

TO PAY FOR World War I, Woodrow Wilson and his Progressives heavily taxed the American people.  The war left America with a huge debt.  And in a recession.  During the 1920 election, the Democrats ran on a platform of continued high taxation to pay down the debt.  Andrew Mellon, though, had done a study of the rich in relation to those high taxes.  He found the higher the tax, the more the rich invested outside the country.  Instead of building factories and employing people, they took their money to places less punishing to capital.

Warren G. Harding won the 1920 election.  And he appointed Andrew Mellon his Treasury secretary.  Never since Alexander Hamilton had a Treasury secretary understood capitalism as well.  The Harding administration cut tax rates and the amount of tax money paid by the ‘rich’ more than doubled.  Economic activity flourished.  Businesses expanded and added jobs.  The nation modernized with the latest technologies (electric power and appliances, radio, cars, aviation, etc.).  One of the best economies ever.  Until the Fed got involved.

The Fed looked at this economic activity and saw speculation.  So they contracted the money supply.  This made it hard for business to expand to meet the growing demand.  When money is less readily available, you begin to stockpile what you have.  You add to that pile by selling liquid securities to build a bigger cash cushion to get you through tight monetary times.

Of course, the economy is NOT just monetary policy.  Those businesses were looking at other things the government was doing.  The Smoot-Hartley tariff was in committee.  Across the board tariff increases and import restrictions create uncertainty.  Business does not like uncertainty.  So they increase their liquidity.  To prepare for the worse.  Then the stock market crashed.  Then it got worse. 

It is at this time that the liquidity crisis became critical.  Depositors lost faith.  Bank runs followed.  But there just was not enough money available.  Banks began to fail.  Time for the Fed to step in and take action.  Per the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.  But they did nothing.  For a long while.  Then they took action.  And made matters worse.  They raised interest rates.  In response to England going off the gold standard (to prop up the dollar).  Exactly the wrong thing to do in a deflationary spiral.  This took a bad recession to the Great Depression.  The 1930s would become a lost decade.

When FDR took office, he tried to fix things with some Keynesian spending.  But nothing worked.  High taxes along with high government spending sucked life out of the private sector.  This unprecedented growth in government filled business with uncertainty.  They had no idea what was coming next.  So they hunkered down.  And prepared to weather more bad times.  It took a world war to end the Great Depression.  And only because the government abandoned much of its controls and let business do what they do best.  Pure, unfettered capitalism.  American industry came to life.  It built the war material to first win World War II.  Then it rebuilt the war torn countries after the war.

DURING THE 1980s, in Japan, government was partnering with business.  It was mercantilism at its best.  Japan Inc.  The economy boomed.  And blew great big bubbles.  The Keynesians in America held up the Japanese model as the new direction for America.  An American presidential candidate said we must partner government with business, too.  For only a fool could not see the success of the Japanese example.  Japan was growing rich.  And buying up American landmarks (including Rockefeller Center in New York).  National Lampoon magazine welcomed us to the 90s with a picture of a Japanese CEO at his desk.  He was the CEO of the United States of America, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company.  The Japanese were taking over the world.  And we were stupid not to follow their lead.

But there was no invisible hand in Japan.  It was the hand of Japan Inc.  It was Japan Inc. that pursued economic policies that it thought best.  Not the millions upon millions of ordinary Japanese citizens.  Well, Japan Inc. thought wrong. 

There was collusion between Japanese businesses.  And collusion between Japanese businesses and government.  And corruption.  This greatly inflated the Japanese stock market.  And those great big bubbles finally burst.  The powerful Japan Inc. of the 1980s that caused fear and trembling was gone.  Replaced by a Japan in a deflationary spiral in the 1990s.  Or, as the Japanese call it, their lost decade.  This once great Asian Tiger was now an older tiger with a bit of a limp.   And the economy limped along for a decade or two.  It was still number 3 in the world, but it wasn’t what it used to be.  You don’t see magazine covers talking about it owning other nations any more.  (In 2010, China took over that #3 spot.  But China is a managed economy.   Will it suffer Japan’s fate?  Time will tell.)

The Japanese monetary authorities tried to fix the economy.  Interest rates were zero for about a decade.  In other words, if you wanted to borrow, it was easy.  And free.  But it didn’t help.  That huge economic expansion wasn’t real.  Business and government, in collusion, inflated and propped it up.  It gave them inflated capacity.  And prices.  And you don’t solve that problem by making it easier for businesses to borrow money to expand capacity and create jobs.  That’s the last thing they need.  What they need to do is to get out of the business of managing business.  Create a business-friendly climate.  Based on free-market principles.  Not mercantilism.  And let that invisible hand work its wonders.

MONETARY POLICY CAN do a lot of things.  Most of them bad.  Because it concentrates far too much power in too few hands.  The consequences of the mistakes of those making policy can be devastating.  And too tempting to those who want to use those powers for political reasons.  As we can see by Keynesian ‘stimulus’ spending that ends up as pork barrel spending.  The empirical data for that spending has shown that it stimulates only those who are in good standing with the powers that be.  Never the economy.

Sound money is important.  The money supply needs to keep pace with economic expansion.  If it doesn’t, a tight money supply will slow or halt economic activity.  But we have to use monetary policy for that purpose only.  We cannot use it to offset bad fiscal policy that is anti-business.  For if the government creates an anti-business environment, no amount of cheap money will encourage risk takers to take risks in a highly risky and uncertain environment.  Decades were lost trying.

No, you don’t stimulate with monetary policy.  You stimulate with fiscal policy.  There is empirical evidence that this works.  The Mellon tax cuts of the Harding administration created nearly a decade of strong economic growth.  The tax cuts of JFK were on pace to create similar growth until his assassination.  LBJ’s policies were in the opposite direction, thus ending the economic recovery of the JFK administration.  Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts produced economic growth through two decades. 

THE EVIDENCE IS there.  If you look at it.  Of course, a good Keynesian won’t.  Because it’s about political power for them.  Always has been.  Always will be.  And we should never forget this.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,