Bond guru Bill Gross is not one to shy away from controversy. He has long argued that the never-ending money-printing policies of many central banks across the globe are inevitably leading to a major economic meltdown, and even if they stop now, it’s already way too late.
In his most recent installment of central bank bashing (December 3rd Monthly Outlook from Janus), Bill Gross says that central banks are casinos that print currency like chips.
More on the central bank “Martingale scam” from Bill Gross
In his monthly Janus blog, Gross discusses the “foolproof” gambling system called the “Martingale”. You can think of the Martingale as the “double up to catch up” system…just keep doubling up until you win.
Gross argues that central bankers today like the Fed and the ECB are bluffing / convincing investors that they will keep interest rates low for long periods of time and if that fails, they use Quantitative Easing as much as is required to juice the economy. Martingale theorizes that if you lose one bet, you just double the next one to get back to even, but if you lose that one you do it again and again until you win.
Moreover, given an endless pile of “chips” and time, the Martingale theory is mathematically certain to succeed, so global central bankers have decided to go all in.
Gross explains what he means: “Japan for years has doubled down on its QE and [ECB President] Mario Draghi’s statement of several years past, “Whatever it takes” – is a Martingale promise in disguise. It vows to get the Euroland economy back to “even” and inflation up to 2% by increasing QE and the collateral it buys until the Euro currency declines, the EZ economy improves, and inflation approaches target. Currently the ECB buys nearly 55 billion Euros a month, and this Thursday they will up the ante – Martingale or bust!”
The real question, of course, is how long can this keep going on? Gross answers his own question by noting that easing can theoretically continue as there are financial assets to buy. However, the real world limit is limit is the value of that central bank’s base currency. If investors lose faith in a trading range for a country’s currency, then rapid inflation is virtually inevitable. He points to Venezuela, Argentina, and Zimbabwe as examples.
Gross admits that “theoretically, if the whole developed global economy did this at the same relative pace and stopped at the right time, they could successfully reflate and produce a little bit of inflation and a little bit of growth and save the globe from the dreaded throes of deflation.”
He goes on to argue the reason central bankers haven’t really succeeded is that “Martingale QE’s and resultant artificially low interest rates carry distinctive white blood cells, not oxygenated red ones, as they wind their way through the economy’s corpus: they keep alive zombie corporations that are unproductive; they destroy business models such as insurance companies and pension funds because yields are too low to pay promised benefits; they turn savers into financial eunuchs, unable to reproduce and grow their retirement funds to maintain expected future lifestyles.”
Gross ends with a warning about the global economic Martingale scam: “Euthanasia of the saver is the result if it continues too long.”