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For the last nine years, central banks drove interest rates to nil and pumped money into the system creating favorable carries and abundant cash. These actions pushed up asset prices, drove nominal interest rates below nominal growth rates, pushed real interest rates on cash negative, and drove real bond yields down to near zero percent, which created beautiful deleveragings, brought about balance sheet repairs, and led to more conventional economic conditions in which credit growth and economic growth are growing in relatively good balance with debt growth. That era is ending.
Central bankers have clearly and understandably told us that henceforth those flows from their punch bowls will be tapered rather than increased—i.e., that the directions of policy are reversing so we are at a) the end of that nine-year era of continuous pressings down on interest rates and pushing out of money that created the liquidity-fueled moves in the economies and markets, and b) the beginning of the late-cycle phase of the business/short-term debt cycle, in which central bankers try to tighten at paces that are exactly right in order to keep growth and inflation neither too hot nor too cold, until they don’t get it right and we have our next downturn. Recognizing that, our responsibility now is to keep dancing but closer to the exit and with a sharp eye on the tea leaves.
Wonderful Monetary Policies
Generally speaking (depending on the country), it is appropriate for central banks to lessen the aggressiveness of their unconventional policies because these policies have successfully brought about beautiful deleveragings. In my opinion, at this point of transition, we should savor this accomplishment and thank the policy makers who fought to bring about these policies. They had to fight hard to do it and have been more maligned than appreciated. Let’s thank them.
As you know, looking ahead, we don’t project a big debt bubble bursting any time soon (because of the balance sheet repairs that have taken place), though we do see an increasingly intensifying “Big Squeeze” (see the Big Picture).