Sunday, 18 May 2014

In the Eye of the Storm

House prices are once again on the rise. London has seen the fastest increases to date with money slowly filtering out towards the rest of the country. Mark Carney, the Bank of England Governor, pays empty lip service to interest rate rises. Even if they were to go up tomorrow the damage is already done. It was done when they bailed out everyone, slashed rates and embarked onwards with Quantitative Easing. Raise interest rates tomorrow and we would be back where we started only worse. However history shows that central banks are always reluctant to raise their rates in a timely manner, even when they are raised they stagger it over months and it then takes months or years for the broader economy to feel the restriction of credit once more and fall back into a recession.

The 21st Century will view the central planning of money as an absolute disaster and free market alternatives will replace the current defunct system, good money always drives out bad and Government money is never good. Many Central Banks are using their faulty inflation rates as guidance as to when interest rates should rise but their metrics are critically flawed. 

Inflation is not just the price of staple goods such as milk, televisions, cheese or oil. If the price of the stock market rises that's inflation. If house prices rise that is inflation. If Gold rises that is inflation. If the price of a Picasso masterpiece rises, its inflation. If we take these items into account, the hard assets, then inflation is rising at increasingly faster rates. Its important to understand that the prices of these items are inflation the Central Banks just choose to ignore them in their indexes.

Another problem facing the planners is that interest rates can't rise or at least not by much. Many Governments don't want them to rise as it impacts on their already woeful deficits. It would hurt their tax receipts. It would ruin the "feel good" feeling in the run up to the UK election. People are beginning to stretch themselves once more and pile up debt on the low rates that are currently on offer. Mark Carney blames everything but loose monetary policy the real fuel to the fire that sparks off an asset price bubble. The same reasons that were cited during the previous boom are once more trumpeted to causing the recent house price rises:

  • Too much Demand
  • Too little Supply
  • Not enough building
The real reason is excess credit. Its loose monetary policies that are causing house prices to rise once more. Demand and supply dynamics have changed no more than back in 2009, the difference is Central Banks have turned on the taps once more to release more credit and banks are once more recklessly lending to anyone with a pulse. Same with Gold. Same with art collectables or with vintage cars, the free market can not produce hard assets to keep up with inflation. Electronics and consumer goods hide real inflation as capitalism does such a wonderful job of providing these services in ever greater quantities at lower prices. We are not building more land. Houses are getting built but its the land they sit on that causes them to rise in value. 

So we are in the eye of the storm and if I'm a betting man it will go on for a few years at least. "Get it on tick" is once more a way of life for people. Once the tanker moves in one direction it generally holds course for longer then people can call it. When will the crash come? No one knows. What format will it take? Again no one can say for sure. All we do know is that the fundamentals are progressively deteriorating. When the 2000 stock market bubble popped the central banks re-leveraged the system, cranking down interest rates to low levels. Then 2007 and interest rates went to zero and monetisation actions were also taken. So once interest rates rise (if they do) then once more they will see-saw back to zero but it will be very hard to get credit moving with all the extra problems. Again monetisation of debt will happen, this time will see even more draconian manoeuvres. We could get "Bail-ins", similar to a Cyprus situation where money is simple taken from the wealthiest account holders (or even across the board) to try and bail out the system; a direct attack on freedom. One thing is for sure, it won't be pretty and it won't be moral.

The asset price bubble is global. This pod-cast with Krassimir Petrov highlights Asias problems and how it is creating reckless bubbles. House prices are rising there even faster than the UK, yet no doubt the same reasons are given, limited supply, too much demand not enough new builds and so forth. As mentioned near the end of the pod-cast central banking really does change the morality of people for the worse. Excessive credit does great harm to us all.

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