The Irish economy shrank at an annual rate of 5 percent in the second quarter because the sharp reduction in government spending hasn’t been offset by a jump in private spending. And its borrowing costs have surged. Investors now have to pay 4.7 percent of the face value of Irish government bonds annually to protect against the risk of default for five years, 12 times the cost for insurance on German bonds….
One way or another, the world’s savers and investors are going to have to pay the bill for unrecoverable debts. The question is whether that happens in a rip-the-Band-Aid-off round of debt reduction or is dribbled out over years in the form of government-induced inflation (which will ease the burden of debt while eating away at the value of savings).
Meantime the FT has been all over the currency-devaluation angle recently. Here’s its economics commentator Martin Wolf warning yesterday:
“We’re in the midst of an international currency war, a general weakening of currency. This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness.” This complaint by Guido Mantega, Brazil’s finance minister, is entirely understandable. In an era of deficient demand, issuers of reserve currencies adopt monetary expansion and non-issuers respond with currency intervention. Those, like Brazil, who are not among the former and prefer not to copy the latter, find their currencies soaring. They fear the results…
Could we even be seeing the starting gun for the next emerging market financial crisis?…
I would like to be optimistic. But I am not: a world of beggar-my-neighbour policy is most unlikely to end well.
And all of a sudden the U.S. is finally getting tough on China for manipulating its currency and killing American jobs. China has subsidized its exports to the tune of some 40 percent to 50 percent. And so the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly—ninety-nine Republicans, too!—to give Obama the power to slap big tariffs on China if it doesn’t float its currency back to legit levels.
Japan has intervened in yen markets in the last couple of weeks to push its currency down (remember, strong currency makes it more expensive to sell your good to other countries and cheaper to buy their goods. That hurts jobs in the strong-currency country).
And to top it all off, analysts like Meredith Whitney are getting seriously worried about a rash of municipal defaults in the U.S., as cities and counties struggle underneath crushing debt burdens. Fortune calls it “the banking crisis all over again.” I don’t know if that’s hyperbole or what, but it’s worth worrying about. As is the bubble in corporate bonds.
Hold on to your hats—again.