Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Time to Hit the Economic Nuclear Button

by: Tim Iacono

In this piece at the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is of the opinion that a bit more needs to be done at the moment to right the global financial ship that is foundering badly. They really ought to think about updating that picture too ... it's just too cheery.

As ordinary citizens with no power over the levers of policy, we watch from the sidelines, and weep. The whole global economy has tipped into a downward spiral. Trade and output are contracting at rates that outstrip the leisurely depression of the 1930s. Debt deflation has simply washed over the drastic measures taken by governments everywhere.
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Stephen Lewis, from Monument Securities, says we have been lulled into a false sense of security by the lack of "soup kitchens". The visual cues from Steinbeck's America are missing. "The temptation for investors is to see this as just another recession, over by the end of the year. But this is not a normal cycle. It is a cataclysmic structural breakdown," he said.

Fiscal stimulus is reaching its global limits. The lowest interest rates in history are failing to gain traction. The Fed seems paralyzed. It first talked of buying US Treasuries three months ago, but cannot seem to bring itself to hit the nuclear button.

Sometimes it seems like we might be better off if they hit the real nuclear buttons in the U.S. and in Russia. Maybe starting all over might not be such a bad idea.

Here's the nuclear button Ambrose is referring to.

Graham Turner, from GFC Economics, fears the Dow could crash to 4,000 by summer unless there is a "quantum reduction" in mortgage rates. The Fed should swoop in to the market – armed with Ben Bernanke's "printing press" – and mop up enough Treasuries to force 10-year yields down to 1pc and mortgage rates to 2.5pc. Monetary shock and awe.

This remedy is fraught with risk, but all options are ghastly at this point. That is the legacy we have been left by the Greenspan doctrine. We are at the moment of extreme danger in Irving Fisher's "Debt Deflation Theory" (1933) where the ship fails to right itself by natural buoyancy, and capsizes instead.

From all accounts, the Fed was ready to launch its bond blitz in January. Something happened. Perhaps the hawks awoke in cold sweats at night, fretting about Weimar.

At the moment, Weimer Germany is losing badly to the Great Depression in the competition for possible outcomes from this mess.

There are no good solutions at this point and it's not clear that anyone knows how to tell the difference between the host of solutions that are varying degrees of bad.