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Friday, October 10, 2008 6:05 AM

Roubini Discusses the Double D's, Deflation and Depression

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YahooFinance has an interesting article on Roubini called Rate Cuts Reduce Crash Risk, But Dow 7,000 Likely 'Sometime Next Year'

.... The financial market crisis has unfolded even quicker than Roubini expected (which is saying something), and the economist now thinks the Dow and S&P will suffer 50% declines from last October's peak vs. 40% previously.

In other words, the Dow is going to 7,000, but over the course of months vs. days if Roubini is right, as -- unfortunately for bulls -- he mostly has been for the past two years.

Because of growing slack in the global economy, Roubini says deflation is going to become a much bigger threat in the next six months vs. inflation. In such an environment, cash, Treasuries and gold are the only safe bets he says -- provided your holdings are within the FDIC's new $250,000 insurance cap.
Given that deflation is here right now, I concur that deflation is the bigger threat, except that "threat" is the wrong word. Necessity is more like it, because the malinvestments and excesses of the previous cycle must be purged and the pool of real savings replenished before there can be a sustainable recovery.

My views on treasuries and gold are as noted in Treasury Bull Alive And Kicking, written on September 5th.
Deflation Models

I had several models for how deflation might play out. Here they are.

  1. Everything but treasuries sink
  2. Everything but treasuries and gold sink
  3. Gold sells off initially then rallies with treasuries

Yes, this treasury bull is extremely long in the tooth. And yes there will be a time to short treasuries. But there has not been a bull market in history, in anything, that ended with that asset class being nearly universally despised.

And make no mistake about it, treasuries are despised. Foreign central banks do not count because they are not buying treasuries to make a profit, and they are relatively unconcerned about losses.
See the above link for the case for deflation right here right now.

Risk Of Severe Global Depression

The YahooFinance article quoting Roubini was written on October 8th. A second article written by Roubini on October 9th warns of a global systemic financial meltdown and a severe global depression.
The US and advanced economies’ financial system is now headed towards a near-term systemic financial meltdown as day after day stock markets are in free fall, money markets have shut down while their spreads are skyrocketing, and credit spreads are surging through the roof. There is now the beginning of a generalized run on the banking system of these economies; a collapse of the shadow banking system, i.e. those non-banks (broker dealers, non-bank mortgage lenders, SIV and conduits, hedge funds, money market funds, private equity firms) that, like banks, borrow short and liquid, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and illiquid and are thus at risk of a run on their short-term liabilities; and now a roll-off of the short term liabilities of the corporate sectors that may lead to widespread bankruptcies of solvent but illiquid financial and non-financial firms.

The crisis was caused by the largest leveraged asset bubble and credit bubble in the history of humanity were excessive leveraging and bubbles were not limited to housing in the US but also to housing in many other countries and excessive borrowing by financial institutions and some segments of the corporate sector and of the public sector in many and different economies: an housing bubble, a mortgage bubble, an equity bubble, a bond bubble, a credit bubble, a commodity bubble, a private equity bubble, a hedge funds bubble are all now bursting at once in the biggest real sector and financial sector deleveraging since the Great Depression.

And in a world where there is a glut and excess capacity of goods while aggregate demand is falling soon enough we will start to worry about deflation, debt deflation, liquidity traps and what monetary policy makers should do to fight deflation when policy rates get dangerously close to zero.

At this point the risk of an imminent stock market crash – like the one-day collapse of 20% plus in US stock prices in 1987 – cannot be ruled out as the financial system is breaking down, panic and lack of confidence in any counterparty is sharply rising and the investors have totally lost faith in the ability of policy authorities to control this meltdown.

When in markets that are clearly way oversold even the most radical policy actions don’t provide rallies or relief to market participants you know that you are one step away from a market crack and a systemic financial sector and corporate sector collapse. A vicious circle of deleveraging, asset collapses, margin calls, cascading falls in asset prices well below falling fundamentals and panic is now underway.

At this point severe damage is done and one cannot rule out a systemic collapse and a global depression.
So far, none of the liquidity measures taken by the Central Bankers have worked. The reason is simple: You Cannot Patch a Busted Dam With Water no matter how hard you try.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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