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Monday, September 15, 2014 7:42 PM

Deflationary Spiral Nonsense; Keynesian Theory vs. Practice; Eurozone Policymakers Concerned About Falling Prices

Price Deflation Hits Italy First Time in 55 Years

The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reports that consumer price inflation declined by 0.1% from August 2013 to August 2014.

Italian consumer prices fell 0.1 percent year-on-year in August of 2014, matching preliminary estimates. The country’s annual inflation rate touched the negative territory for the first time in nearly 55 years due to a drop in energy prices.

Year-on-year, prices of energy fell 3.6 percent in August, mainly driven by a 1.2 percent drop in cost of non-regulated energy products. Additional downward pressures came from food cost (-0.5 percent), mainly unprocessed food (-1.8 percent) and communication (-9.0 percent). Meanwhile, prices of services slowed (0.6 percent in August compared with a 0.7 percent increase in July).
Italy CPI 2000 - 2014

Eurozone Policymakers Concerned About Falling Prices

A Financial Times headline portrays falling prices as a negative thing: Deflation Takes Shine Off Sales for Italy’s Shopkeepers.
The appearance of deflation in Italy suggests a worrying spread from Spain, another peripheral eurozone economy, where it reared its head this year. Deflation is now stalking the home of Rome-born Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president, who has sounded the alarm about the need to restore growth across the continent and has taken aggressive and unorthodox measures to do so.

Matteo Renzi, the youthful prime minister who gained power in February with an agenda of radical economic and political reform, acknowledged last week that growth would in fact be “around zero” this year.

The hope is that lower prices will start luring Italians back to the shops. But policy makers – particularly Mr Draghi and other ECB officials – do not seem to be betting on the resurgence of the Italian consumer.

They have been more focused on – and fearful of – the worst case: that the country, along with the eurozone more generally, could fall into a deflationary spiral, in which consumers hold off purchases in the expectation that prices will fall even further. Deflation would also raise the real value of Italy’s monumental €2.1tn public debt load, causing angst among investors.

“Even if you think the probability of damaging deflation is low, if it were to happen it’s a disaster,” says Erik Nielsen, global chief economist at UniCredit, the Italian bank. “The ECB was right to take out an insurance policy against it,” he adds, referring to measures including interest rate cuts the central bank took this month.
Deflationary Spiral Nonsense

The idea that falling prices are bad for the economy is ridiculous. Taking out insurance against falling prices is even more absurd.

Ask any consumer if he wants lower gas prices, lower food prices, lower hotel prices, lower computer prices, or lower prices on any consumer items and the answer will be yes.

Next, ask any consumer who needs a coat, computer, TV, or any other needed item if he would he wait a year to buy one because prices were falling.

Assuming the consumer had enough money to buy any needed item, he would buy that item now.

Thus, the entire deflationary spiral concept of consumers delaying purchases because prices are falling is ridiculous.

Keynesian Theory vs. Practice

Keynesian theory says consumers will delay purchases if prices are falling. In practice, all things being equal, it's precisely the opposite.

If consumers think prices are too high, they will wait for bargains. It happens every year at Christmas and all year long on discretionary items not in immediate need.

In general, people like bargains, and when bargains get big enough, people do not wait for even bigger bargains. Consider Christmas shopping. Most do not wait until after Christmas when bargains are even bigger than before Christmas. 

Yet, these ridiculous myths of consumers waiting because prices are falling as opposed to consumers waiting for prices they can afford have been repeated so many times that people actually believe them.

Delays For Other Reasons

People do delay purchases if they don't have a job, or the money, or they perceive prices are simply too high.

The problem is typically debt, not falling prices. If consumers have too much debt or too little income they cannot buy. If businesses have too much debt they cannot expand. If governments have too much debt, they eventually run into problems.

Assets vs. Consumer Goods

Asset prices are different. Consumers will buy houses, stocks, bonds, land, and other assets they if they perceive central bank inflation will bail them out with ever-increasing asset price inflation.

Eventually prices get ridiculously stretched. Then when the greater fool stops buying, bubbles burst, asset prices fall, and then debt deflation takes over. Debts cannot be paid back, businesses cannot hire, and consumers out of a job cannot shop.

Keynesian Nonsense

Keynesian economists want government to pick up the slack when businesses fail. That's nonsense. Several decades of Keynesian and Monetarist attempts to jump start the Japanese economy with nothing to show for it but debt to the tune of 250% of GDP should be proof enough.

Falling prices are never the problem. Rather it's central-bank sponsored inflation that causes asset bubbles and promotes debt and malinvestment that is the problem.

The solution, that no central bank cares to promote, is to not sponsor assets bubbles in the first place. Once in asset bubbles, the best thing to do is let the bust play out.

Assuming Japan remains on its current path, the upcoming collapse in the Yen will provide the final proof that Keynesian economics is pure idiocy.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

1:43 PM

Ukraine Offers Amnesty to Rebels, 3 Years of Limited Self-Rule; War and Peace Factions Split; More Killing is No Way to Honor Dead

War and peace factions are at odds in Ukraine.

The war factions claim Putin cannot be trusted but the peace factions have finally had enough of war. The likely loss of Mariupol within weeks was simply too much to take.

One thing is certain, more killing will only make matters worse.

Ukraine Offers Amnesty to Rebels, 3 Years of Limited Self-Rule

RTE reports Eastern Ukraine Offered Three Years of Limited Self-Rule.

Ukraine's president has offered parts of the country's separatist east limited self-rule for three years under the terms of a peace plan reached with Russia.

Petro Poroshenko's official website said the pro-Western leader told top lawmakers the proposal would be part of a broader deal with pro-Russian rebels signed on 5 September.

He intended to formally submit it to parliament on Tuesday.

The bill also extends the right of people in the rebel-held Luhansk and Donetsk regions to use Russian in state institutions and conduct local elections on 9 November, according to media reports.

The bill further permits the regions to "strengthen good neighbourly relations" between local authorities and their counterparts in Russia.

It protects from criminal prosecution "participants of events in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions" - appearing to apply to both the insurgents and Ukrainian government troops - and allows regional councils to appoint local judges and prosecutors.

The bill also promises to help restore damaged infrastructure and to provide social an economic assistance to particularly hard-hit areas.

Mr Poroshenko had promised to offer parts of the war-torn industrial east broader autonomy under the terms of the truce agreed earlier this month with the Russian government and two separatist leaders.

He urged parliamentary faction leaders to quickly back his efforts to end five months of fighting that have killed more than 2,700 people and forced more than half a million from their homes.

Mr Poroshenko said his proposals guaranteed "the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of our state".

The presidential website said the three years of limited self-rule would give his government a chance to implement "deep-rooted decentralisation, which will be the subject of corresponding constitutional changes".
"War" and "Peace" Factions Split Ukraine

The above details sound like a reasonable start of negotiations to me. However, the "war party" led by Ukraine's prime minister will have nothing to do with it.

Please consider "War" and "Peace" Factions Split Ukraine Politics
An agreement to secure a permanent end to fighting might avoid more casualties in a war that has cost 3,000 Ukrainian lives and has involved Russian troops directly since last month – but at the cost of Ukraine potentially losing control of the separatist-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The truce agreed earlier this month in Minsk has exposed faultlines among the Kiev leadership that emerged from the protests that toppled Viktor Yanukovich in February.

Since the ceasefire, two camps have materialised – a “party of peace” around President Petro Poroshenko, and the “party of war” associated with Arseniy Yatseniuk, prime minister, and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former premier.

The divisions may partly reflect competing ambitions ahead of the October 26 parliamentary poll, which is intended to sweep away remaining vestiges of the Yanukovich era.

The split became concrete last week after Mr Yatseniuk pulled out of talks to stand on the president’s party list in the elections. He unveiled his own “Popular Front” party, including commanders of some volunteer battalions in east Ukraine. These are composed partly of far-right activists who came to the fore when the winter protests turned violent.

“You’re giving land for peace, but a lot of people died,” says Mychailo Wynnyckyj, a sociology professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. “[Mr Poroshenko] is going to have a constituency in the country that is against that kind of deal.”
More Killing is No Way to Honor Dead

Anyone remember the ridiculous pro-war argument during the Vietnam War?

"It would be a dishonor to the dead to pull out now." So instead, thousands more soldiers died to "save honor" for the already dead.

Honoring the dead with more dead didn't work then, and it won't work now. That should be a lesson for the party of war, but it won't be.

Ceasefire Under Pressure 

The Financial Times reports Violence Puts Ukraine Ceasefire Under Pressure.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine continued on Monday in the worst violence between pro-Kiev forces and Russian-backed separatists since a fragile ceasefire was brokered on September 5.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, an army spokesman, said shelling at the weekend near the airport in rebel-held Donetsk, which officials said claimed six lives and injured 15, was triggered by an attack by some 200 separatists. Government forces had repelled it and were “holding positions”, but fighting was continuing and there had been additional fatalities and injuries, he said.

Ukraine forces were observing the truce and fought back only when attacked, he said. But separatists contradicted the claim, accusing Ukrainian forces of shelling Donetsk and other areas dozens of times in the past 24 hours.
Who to Believe?

There are likely war proponents in both the rebel and the Ukraine side.

However, it is 100% clear Ukraine's prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk wants a war conclusion with total surrender of the rebels.

With Yatseniuk in control of the "Popular Front" volunteer "Far Right" activists, it's easy to see where the problem might be.

Without a doubt Obama, McCain, and NATO hope for more war. Ukraine in NATO is the goal.
I propose peace is a far better deal than WWIII.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

12:36 AM

47% of Chinese Billionaires Want to Leave China Within 5 Years, Only 6% of US Billionaires Seek to Leave US

A Barclays' survey of over 2,000 individuals with a net worth over $1.5 billion contains some pretty interesting results.

Those in China and Singapore are most likely to leave their country, while those in the US and India were most likely to stay.

Please consider Almost Half of Wealthy Chinese Want to Leave.

Nearly half of wealthy Chinese are planning to move to another country within the next five years, according to a new Barclays survey.

Singaporeans were the second-most eager to flee home, with 23% planning to relocate in five years, followed by 20% for the U.K. and 16% for Hong Kong. Indian and American rich are the least likely to move, with only 5% and 6% of respondents saying they would relocate.

The top reasons Chinese cite for moving abroad are better educational and employment opportunities for children (78%), economic security and desirable climate (73%), and better health care and social services (18%). Hong Kong is their top destination (30%), followed by Canada (23%).
I am not surprised that a large percentage of extremely wealthy Chinese hope to relocate to another country within 5 years. However, I am surprised by the reasons given.

I would have expected air and water pollution to be one of the top reasons. Instead, education, employment opportunities, and economic security headed up the list.

For health reasons alone (air and water pollution), I could never live in China. Politics, freedom of expression, food, and the sheer number of people living in the country add to my list of reasons.

Curiously, China was the top choice of 30% of those who would leave Singapore.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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