Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.SNP Offers Labour Deadly Death Embrace Alliance, Holding England to Ransom, Destroy UK From Within - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold And Silver – Most Widely Used Currency In Western World? Stupidity - Michael_Noonan
3.Election Forecast 2015 - Coalition Economic Recovery vs Labour Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Election Forecast 2015 - Debates Boost Labour Into Opinion Polls Seats Lead - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Why are Interest Rates So Low? Ben Bernanke, Confused as Ever, Starts His Own Blog to Prove It - Mike_Shedlock
6.Leaders Debate Election 2015 - Natalie Bennett Green Party Convincing Anti-Austerity More Debt Argument - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Labour Economic Collapse vs Coalition Recovery - UK Election Forecast 2015 - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
8.China’s Stock Market Mania; How High can Red-chips Fly? - Gary_Dorsch
9.Gold and Misery, Strange Bedfellows - 31st Mar 15 - Dan_Norcini
10.Ed Miliband Debate Election 2015 Analysis - Labour Spending, Debt and Economic Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
The War on Cash Special Report - 25th Apr 15
China Economic Slowdown Story - Why “Didi Dache” Is a Phrase You Need to Know - 25th Apr 15
The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic - 25th Apr 15
Stock Splitting Caused the Stock Market Crash - 25th Apr 15
China Stock Market Parabolic Mania’s Global Risk - 24th Apr 15
What Will Happen to You When the U.S. Dollar Collapses? - 24th Apr 15
Why 2 of U.S. Dollar's Recent Bottoms Have 1 Thing In Common - 24th Apr 15
UK Economy Debt Timebomb Will Explode After Election - 24th Apr 15
Are Gold Stocks the Cheapest Ever? - 24th Apr 15
God, the Stock Market and Pascal's Wager - 24th Apr 15
Greedy Insurers Are in for a Nasty Surprise – Positioning You for Big Profits - 24th Apr 15
Four Things Missing From Obama’s First-Ever Energy Review - 24th Apr 15
How to Grow a Regenerative Medicine Industry - 23rd Apr 15
Stocks and Bonds Seven Year of Negative Returns; Fraudulent Promises - 23rd Apr 15
The Existential Danger To The Euro Is Elections - 23rd Apr 15
Stock Market No Clear Direction As Investors React To Quarterly Earnings Releases - 23rd Apr 15
Is China The Next United States? - 23rd Apr 15
U.S. Oil Glut: How High Can It Go? - 23rd Apr 15
Distorted Financial System Expect Deflation, Inflation And Hyperinflation - 23rd Apr 15
What McDonald’s Corporate Earnings Report Is Really Telling You - 23rd Apr 15
Gold Price Forecast to Become Priceless - 23rd Apr 15
FDIC Plots a Bank Heist Involving YOUR Accounts - 23rd Apr 15
$GOLD Price Year 2007 Again - 23rd Apr 15
Stocks Bubble - The Spread between Stock Prices and GDP is Blowing Out - 23rd Apr 15
Ukraine War - When Did We All Become Murderers? - 23rd Apr 15
Libya Crisis - EU Leaders Are Indicted for Nazi-Style Crimes against Humanity - 22nd Apr 15
Why Alternative Energy Isn’t Taking It on the Chin Despite Low Oil Prices - 22nd Apr 15
Bill Gross - German 10-Year Bunds Short of a Life Time - 22nd Apr 15
How to Profit from the Drop in the Oil Price - 22nd Apr 15
The U.S. Dollar's Move Is More Dangerous than You Think - 22nd Apr 15
Apple Watch Means Apple Will Become Worlds First $1 Trillion Stock - 22nd Apr 15
Half a Stocks Bubble Off Dead Center - 22nd Apr 15
They Said Go to College - Learning to become Debt Slaves - 22nd Apr 15
Best Cash ISA 2015/16, Instant and Fixed Savings Interest Rates, New Flexible Withdrawal / Deposit Rule - 22nd Apr 15
Unsound Banking: Why Most of the World's Banks Are Headed for Collapse - 21st Apr 15
Bitcoin Recent Low Price Volatility Might Be Deceptive - 21st Apr 15
Currency Wars Back As Russia Buys Gold - One Million Ounces in March Alone - 21st Apr 15
The Greece 'Grexit' Issue and the Problem of Free Trade - 21st Apr 15
Why Europe Lets People Drown - 21st Apr 15
Wealth Destruction for the 99.9 Percent - 21st Apr 15
SNP Publish England's Suicide Note as Pollsters Still Forecast Labour-SNP Election Disaster - 21st Apr 15
Characteristics of Extremely Over-Indebted Economies - 21st Apr 15
Trader Education Week -- a Free Event to Help You Learn to Spot Trading Opportunities - 21st Apr 15
Gold & Silver Alert: Silver Stocks’ Signal - 20th Apr 15
Now is the Time to Buy Resource Stocks, Especially Gold Equities - 20th Apr 15
DJ Transportation & Utility Averages Suggest Stocks Bull Market Is Over - 20th Apr 15
Crude Oil Price Bull Market Hope - 20th Apr 15
Stock Market Bears Get Slaughtered Despite Greece Counting Down to Grexit Financial Armageddon - 20th Apr 15
The Rise of the Paper Machines - 20th Apr 15
Gold and Silver Inflection Point - 20th Apr 15
SP500: A Butcher's Stock Market (Chop Chop Chop) - 20th Apr 15
Are Stock Market Bears Slowly Gaining Control? - 20th Apr 15
Sugar Commodity Price Bear Rally - 19th Apr 15
Avoid the Spread of the Stock Market "China Syndrome" - 19th Apr 15
Stock Market Going Nowhere Fast - 19th Apr 15
An Easy Way to Profit From the Two Biggest Trends in the Stock Market - 19th Apr 15
No Scripture Is Divine, Authentic and Beyond the Creation of the Human Brain - 19th Apr 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

US Historic Bubble

Low Interest Rates, Economic Kill or Cure?

Interest-Rates / Inflation Feb 23, 2012 - 01:21 AM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Interest-Rates

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleHold still! This might sting a little...

"TREATING serious medical conditions often has unwanted side effects," said Charles Bean, deputy governor of the Bank of England and a doctor of economics, in a speech in Glasgow on Tuesday.

"But, unpleasant as those side effects sometimes are, treatment is invariably better than the alternative. So it is with the economic medicine of low interest rates and quantitative easing."


The sometime economics professor was specifically addressing the impact of sub-zero real interest rates on savers and pensioners. That's when retained capital loses real purchasing power, because the interest or yield that it earns lags the rate of inflation.

"[Savers] have every right to feel aggrieved at losing out," said Dr.Bean. "After all, they did nothing to cause the financial crisis. But neither did most of those in work, who have also seen a substantial squeeze in their real incomes."

Right! And since neither workers nor savers are to blame for this crisis, they can both pay – and pay dearly – by being fed another dose of kill-or-cure medicine which has yet to work in 3 years of treatment...



Attempting to defend quantitative easing and near-zero rates, as Bean did in Glasgow on Tuesday, is a thankless task. Not only because it's done nothing to lift the depression to date. But because it's actually adding to the gloom – as his boss, the Bank's governor, Mervyn King, 'fessed up last autumn. In a very roundabout way.

"I would certainly accept that what is happening in the economy now is a very large squeeze on household incomes," Dr.King told the UK's Treasury Select Committee. "Real take-home pay has fallen by more in the past two years than any time in living memory."

You can see the squeeze on real wages above. Gross pay has risen much less quickly than inflation, which has raced ahead at almost twice the pace of the Bank of England's official 2.0% annual target. By February 2012, and three years after it started, the avowed aim of quantitative easing – of boosting inflation, to insure against the fat chance of it ever falling below target – had cost the average wage-earner £1410 in spending power.

That's the cumulative gap between what wage-earners actually made, adjusted for inflation, and what they would have made if the Bank had indeed hit its 2.0% target. Call it the cost of quantitative easing: £1410 in real spending power. Now add the real loss imposed on bank savings too, and that cost today runs – on average – to £3,241 for every household where one person works. Families with two or more workers are worse off again.

Feeling any better? Didn't think so. But here's how Dr.King, with his best bed-side manner, explained the treatment to Parliament:

"Now, that [loss in real pay] is not the result of inflation being high. Inflation is the symptom."

With it so far? The doctor went on regardless:

"The causes of that squeeze on living standards are real causes. They are a change in world prices of energy, and the utility prices of gas and electricity. They are the consequences of higher value-added tax, higher food prices, and a consequence of a fall in the real exchange rate, which was necessary for us to be able to rebalance our economy in the way that was vital after a prolonged period of a relatively over-valued exchange rate."

To put Dr.King's prognosis in layman's terms:

#1. The Pound's exchange rate fell, pushing up prices;
#2. Food and energy prices were rising anyway;
#3. The rise in VAT sales tax (from 17.5% to 20%) made things worse.

Number 3 was of course a fiscal decision, made by the Treasury, not the Bank. But "real causes" 1 and 2...? How did those boils break out?

"Countries with faster growth rates of money experience higher inflation," said a younger, less care-worn Dr.King back when he was deputy, rather than running the clinic. And "it is clear...that the correlation between money growth and inflation is greater the longer is the time horizon over which both are measured."

Quantitative easing appeals to just the same mechanism today. More money means more inflation. Meaning that injections of money are sure to raise the cost of living. They're also sure to depress the currency's exchange rate, especially if the injection goes unsterilized – a disaster in medicine, of course, but very necessary in monetary policy apparently. Because "sterilization" would mean withdrawing the same quantity of money as you inject, by selling bonds to the very same value, thus negating its impact entirely.

Nurse! Spit on this needle for me would you?

Reading today's notes from the consultants' latest meeting, we guess the Bank of England believe that inflation means recovery will follow. Because inflation rarely exists without economic growth. Hyperinflationary depressions aside of course (see Weimar Germany, post-war Austria and Hungary, Argentina time and again, Zimbabwe a decade ago...). More money must mean more spending, right? And if it doesn't, then just keep injecting the patient until he starts spending on something...anything!

"Interest rate less than the inflation rate boosts gambling businesses, on gold and foreign exchange markets," said governor of the Central Bank of Iran, Mahmoud Bahmani, last week. His colleagues in London, Washington and Frankfurt have seen the very same results come back from the lab. Because people buy gold when they fear or lose out to inflation. Others trade currencies, and still more find themselves basing all financial decisions – from buying a house, to taking a job or lending to business – on a wild speculation about what the next wild move from the central bank might be.

Unlike Bahmani, the US, UK and Euro authorities refuse to raise rates, but for now the Iranian doctor's got much further to go. Tehran's base rate now stands at 6%. Inflation is running above 21% per year – making for the kind of negative real rate not suffered by Western workers and savers outside mid-1970s Britain. Gold has again helped ease the pain of zero-rate money printing since 2009. Every fresh dose of unsterilized money is likely to indicate a greater dose of gold buying, too.



Back in the doctor's surgery, meantime, and let's not forget that the Bank of England's collective PhD brains are savers and workers as well. We are all in this together, remember.

Yet in medicine, "Doctors administer so much care that they wouldn't want for themselves," admits one physician, now widely quoted and breaking a taboo within the profession. "They know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to...want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen – that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right)."

No one's ribs get broken if quantitative easing is done, right or wrong. But better to be safe than sorry perhaps. Dr.King's own pension pot got a £1.4 million boost ($2.1m) just as his team began prescribing ever-lower rates of interest on savers and retirees. The trustees of the Bank's staff pension scheme then switched the entire fund out of government gilts and into inflation-linked government bonds – the best-peforming income-bearing asset under the UK's stagflation – in the 12 months immediately preceding the start of QE in March 2009.

Now hold still – this might sting a little.

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay   |   Buy gold online at live prices

Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2012

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014