Economics of a crash

Alasdair Macleod
27 August 2015

This month has seen something that happens not very often: it appears to be the early stages of a global stock market crash.

For the moment investors are in shock, seeking reassurance and keenly intent on preserving their diminishing assets, instead of reflecting on the broader economic reasons behind it. To mainstream financial commentators, blame for a crash is always placed on remote factors, such as China’s financial crisis, and has little to do with events closer to home. Analysis of this sort is selective and badly misplaced. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the economic background to today’s markets as well as the likely consequences.

The origins of a developing crisis are deeply embedded in the financial system and Continue reading Economics of a crash

China chooses her weapons

Alasdair Macleod
20 August 2015

China’s recent mini-devaluations had less to do with her mounting economic challenges, and more to do with a statement from the IMF on 4 August, that it was proposing to defer the decision to include the yuan in the SDR until next October.

The IMF’s excuse was to avoid changes at the calendar year-end and to allow users of the SDR time to “adjust to a potential changed basket composition”. It was a poor explanation that was hardly credible, given that SDR users have already had five years to prepare; but the decision confirming the delay was finally released by the IMF in a statement on Wednesday 19th.

One cannot blame China for taking the view that these are delaying tactics designed to keep the yuan out, and if so suspicion falls squarely on the US as instigators. America has most to lose, because if the yuan is accepted in the SDR the dollar’s future hegemony will be compromised, and everyone knows it. Continue reading China chooses her weapons

Gibson’s Paradox

Alasdair Macleod
August 2015

Introduction

Thomas Tooke in 1844 is generally thought to be the first to observe that the price level and nominal interest rates were positively correlated. It was Keynes who christened it Gibson’s paradox after Alfred Gibson, a British economist who wrote about the correlation in 1923 in an article for Banker’s Magazine. Keynes called it a paradox in 1930, because there was no satisfactory explanation for it. He wrote that “the price level and the nominal interest rate were positively correlated over long periods of economic history”[i]. Irving Fisher similarly had difficulties with it: “no problem in economics has been more hotly debated,”[ii] and even Milton Friedman was defeated: “The Gibson paradox remains an empirical phenomenon without a theoretical explanation”.[iii] Others also attempted to resolve it, from Knut Wicksel[iv] to Barsky & Summers.[v]

Monetary theory would suggest the Continue reading Gibson’s Paradox

China’s 1929 moment

Alasdair Macleod
30 July 2015

Anyone with a nose for markets will tell you that the Chinese government’s attempt to rescue the country’s stock markets from collapse is far from succeeding.

Bubbles collapse, period; and government interventions don’t stop them. Furthermore, we are beginning to see a crack widen in the foundations of China’s capital markets that could end up undermining the whole economy.

Since the government owns the banking system, some of the knock-on effects will doubtless be concealed. A consequence for China is that domestic financial instability could threaten her current plans for the international development of her currency Continue reading China’s 1929 moment

Gold and Gibson’s Paradox

There is a myth prevalent today that the gold price always falls when interest rates rise.

The logic is that when interest rates rise it is more expensive to hold gold, which just sits there not earning anything. And since markets discount future expectations, gold will even fall when a rise in interest rates is expected. With the Fed’s Open Market Committee debating the timing of an interest rate rise to take place possibly in September, it is therefore no surprise to market commentators that the gold price continues its bear market. Only the myth is just that: a myth denied by empirical evidence.

The chart below is of a time when the opposite was demonstrably true. From March 1971 to December 1979 the trends in both interest rates and the gold price rose and fell at the same time Continue reading Gold and Gibson’s Paradox