Into the Unknown

 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

– Anonymous.

 

BALTIMORE – The Dow was more or less flat on Friday. After all the excitement early in the year, stock markets seemed to have settled down. In our upcoming issue of The Bill Bonner Letter, we explore the strange territory of “NIRP” – negative-interest-rate policy.

 

1-sovereign_debt$7 trillion of sovereign bonds now trade at negative yields-to-maturity, producing a guaranteed loss for buyers holding the bonds to term.

 

About $7 trillion of sovereign bonds now yield less than nothing. Lenders give their money to governments… who swear up and down, no fingers crossed, that they’ll give them back less money sometime in the future. Is that weird or what?

At least one reader didn’t think it was so odd.

“You pay someone to store your boat or even to park your car,” he declared. “Why not pay someone to look out for your money?”

Ah… we thought he had a point. But then, we realized that the borrower isn’t looking out for your money; he’s taking it… and using it as he sees fit. It is as though you gave a valet the keys to your car. Then he drove it to Vegas or sold it on eBay.

A borrower takes your money and uses it. He doesn’t just store it for you; that is what safe deposit boxes are for. When you deposit your money in a bank, it’s the same thing. You are making a loan to the bank. The bank doesn’t store your money in a safe on your behalf; it uses it to balance its books.

If something goes wrong and you want your money back, you can just get in line behind the other creditors. The future is always unknown. The bird in the bush could fly away. Or someone else could get him. So, when you lend money, you need a little something to compensate you for the risk that the bird might get away.

 

2-euro zone negative yieldsDistribution of negative yielding government bonds across the euro area: Lending euro zone countries money at less than zero seems especially bizarre.

 

A New Level of Absurdity

That’s why bonds pay income – to compensate you for that uncertainty. Inflation, defaults, depression, war, and revolution all raise bond yields because all increase the odds that you won’t get your money back.

That’s why countries with much uncertainty – such as Venezuela – have higher interest rates than countries, such as Switzerland, where the future is probably going to be a lot like the past. Venezuelan 10-year government bonds yield 31%. The Swiss 10-year government bond yields negative 0.3%.

 

3-Venezuela 2-Year Bond Yield(Daily)Venezuela’s 2 year note yields nearly 50% (which is still way below the country’s true price inflation rate). As is always the case with government in danger of defaulting, Venezuela’s yield curve is deeply inverted (hence 5 year bonds yield e.g. only 35% and 10 yr. bonds approx. 32%).

 

The interest you earn on a bond is there to compensate you for the risk that you won’t get your money back. Or that the money you do get back when the bond matures will have less purchasing power than the money you used to buy the bond in the first place.

You never know. Maybe the company or government that issued the bond will go broke. Or maybe the Fed will cause hyperinflation. In that case, even if you get your money back, it won’t buy much.

With interest rates at zero, lenders must believe that the future carries neither risk. The bird in the bush isn’t going anywhere; they’re sure of it. As unlikely as that is, negative interest rates take the absurdity to a new level.

A person who lends at a negative rate must believe that the future is more certain than the present. In other words, he believes there will always be MORE birds in the bush.

 

Boneheaded Logic

The logic of lowering rates below zero is so boneheaded that only a PhD could believe it. Economic growth rates are falling toward zero. And at zero, it normally doesn’t make sense for the business community – as a whole – to borrow. The growth it expects will be less than the interest it will have to pay.  That’s a big problem…

Because the Fed only has direct control over the roughly 20% of the overall money supply. This takes the form of cash in circulation and bank reserves. The other roughly 80% of the money supply comes from bank lending.

If people don’t borrow, money doesn’t appear. And if money doesn’t appear – or worse, if it disappears – people have less of it. They stop spending… the slowdown gets worse… prices fall… and pretty soon, you have a depression on your hands. How to prevent it?

 

chicken of depressionAnd then the future arrived, and reality hit home. There was only one bird, and it was the Chicken of Depression.

Cartoon by Gary Larson

 

If you believe the myth that the feds can create real demand for bank lending by dropping interest below rates, then you, too, might believe in NIRP. It’s all relative, you see. It’s like standing on a train platform. The train next to you backs up… and you feel you’re moving ahead.

Negative interest rates are like backing up. They give borrowers the illusion of forward motion… even if the economy is standing still. Or something like that.

 

Charts by: Bloomberg, investing.com

 

Chart and image captions by PT

 

The above article originally appeared as “Why Negative Rates Can’t Stop the Coming Depression” at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

One Response to “Negative Rates and the Coming Depression”

  • Kafka:

    Bill
    If you look at the “debt” as a fiction, a conjuring, not savings from real earnings, then the interest paid on that debt must be a conjuring, a fiction. It is unpayable out of real earnings.
    The quantum is insurmountable so our overlords first attach ZIRP, then NIRP (which decreases the principle outstanding over time). Insanity, yes. You can only borrow so much out of the future until there is no future.
    The only solution now is for Japan (BOJ invented ZIRP) to rediscover honor and shame. Have Kuroda commit Seppuku (I will gladly stand in as his second). For the failure of Japanese Central Banking, a ritual disemboweling to provide guidance to other Central Bankers seems compellingly appropriate.

    K

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Too Much Bubble-Love, Likely to Bring Regret
      Unprecedented Extremes in Overbought Readings Readers may recall our recent articles on the blow-off move in the stock market, entitled Punch-Drunk Investors and Extinct Bears (see Part 1 & Part 2 for the details). Bears remained firmly extinct as of last week – in fact, some of the sentiment indicators we are keeping tabs on have become even more stretched, as incredible as that may sound. For instance, assets in bullish Rydex funds exceeded bear assets by a factor of more than 37...
  • How to Buy Low When Everyone Else is Buying High
      When to Sell? The common thread running through the collective minds of present U.S. stock market investors goes something like this: A great crash is coming.  But first there will be an epic run-up climaxing with a massive parabolic blow off top.  Hence, to capitalize on the final blow off, investors must let their stock market holdings ride until the precise moment the market peaks – and not a moment more.  That’s when investors should sell their stocks and go to...
  • What Kind of Stock Market Purge Is This?
      Actions and Reactions Down markets, like up markets, are both dazzling and delightful. The shock and awe of near back-to-back 1,000 point Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) free-falls is indeed spectacular. There are many reasons to revel in it.  Today we shall share a few. To begin, losing money in a multi-day stock market dump is no fun at all.  We'd rather get our teeth drilled by a dentist.  Still, a rapid selloff has many positive qualities.   Memorable moments from...
  • Monetary Metals Brief 2018
      Short and Long Term Forecasts Predicting the likely path of the prices of the metals in the near term is easy. Just look at the fundamentals. We have invested many man-years in developing the theory, model, and software to calculate it. Every week we publish charts and our calculated fundamental prices.   A selection of 1 and ½ ounce gold bars – definitely more fondle-friendly than bitcoin, but a bit more cumbersome to send around. [PT]   However, predicting the...
  • The Donald Saves the Dollar
      Something for Nothing The world is full of bad ideas.  Just look around.  One can hardly blink without a multitude of bad ideas coming into view.  What’s more, the worse an idea is, the more popular it becomes. Take Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor.  It’s nearly as destructive as prescription pain killers.  Yet people chug it down with reckless abandon.   Looking at the expression of this Mickey's Malt Liquor tester one might initially get the impression that he is...
  • US Stocks - Minor Dip With Potential, Much Consternation
      It's Just a Flesh Wound – But a Sad Day for Vol Sellers On January 31 we wrote about the unprecedented levels - for a stock market index that is - the weekly and monthly RSI of the DJIA had reached (see: “Too Much Bubble Love, Likely to Bring Regret” for the astonishing details – provided you still have some capacity for stock market-related astonishment). We will take the opportunity to toot our horn by reminding readers that we highlighted VIX calls of all things as a worthwhile...
  • Why I Own Gold and Gold Mining Companies – An Interview With Jayant Bandari
      Opportunities in the Junior Mining Sector Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable has recently interviewed Jayant Bandari, the publisher of Capitalism and Morality and a frequent contributor to this site. The topics discussed include currencies, bitcoin, gold and above all junior gold stocks (i.e., small producers and explorers). Jayant shares some of his best ideas in the segment, including arbitrage opportunities currently offered by pending takeovers – which is an area that generally...
  • “Strong Dollar”, “Weak Dollar” - What About a Gold-Backed Dollar?
      Contradictory Palaver The recent hullabaloo among President Trump’s top monetary officials about the Administration’s “dollar policy” is just the start of what will likely be the first of many contradictory pronouncements and reversals which will take place in the coming months and years as the world’s reserve currency continues to be compromised.  So far, the Greenback has had its worst start since 1987, the year of a major stock market reset.   A modern-day...
  • Seasonality of Individual Stocks – an Update
      Well Known Seasonal Trends Readers are very likely aware of the “Halloween effect” or the Santa Claus rally. The former term refers to the fact that stocks on average tend to perform significantly worse in the summer months than in the winter months, the latter term describes the typically very strong advance in stocks just before the turn of the year. Both phenomena apply to the broad stock market, this is to say, to benchmark indexes such as the S&P 500 or the...
  • The FOMC Meeting Strategy: Why It May Be Particularly Promising Right Now
      FOMC Strategy Revisited As readers know, investment and trading decisions can be optimized with the help of statistics. One way of doing so is offered by the FOMC meeting strategy.   The rate hikes are actually leading somewhere – after the Wile E. Coyote moment, the FOMC meeting strategy is especially useful [PT]   A study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2011 examined the effect of FOMC meetings on stock prices.  The study concluded that these...
  • The Future of Copper – Incrementum Advisory Board Meeting Q1 2018
      Copper vs. Oil The Q1 2018 meeting of the Incrementum Fund's Advisory Board took place on January 24, about one week before the recent market turmoil began. In a way it is funny that this group of contrarians who are well known for their skeptical stance on the risk asset bubble, didn't really discuss the stock market much on this occasion. Of course there was little to add to what was already talked about extensively at previous meetings. Moreover, the main focus was on the topic...
  • When Budget Deficits Will Really Go Vertical
      Mnuchin Gets It United States Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has a sweet gig.  He writes rubber checks to pay the nation’s bills.  Yet, somehow, the rubber checks don’t bounce.  Instead, like magic, they clear. How this all works, considering the nation’s technically insolvent, we don’t quite understand.  But Mnuchin gets it.  He knows exactly how full faith and credit works – and he knows plenty more.   Master of the Mint and economy wizard Steven Mnuchin and...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

Top10BestPro
j9TJzzN

Austrian Theory and Investment

Archive

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com