Jeff Snider, Head of Global Investment Research for Alhambra Investments with Emil Kalinowski, who is clean-shaven. Artwork by David Parkins. Podcast intro/outro is “The Great Ascension” by Christoffer Moe Ditlevsen at Epidemic Sound.
37.1 Japan: The Case of the Missing Inflation
How might an economy fare if there was no corona? With neither covids nor gremlins throwing sand into the gears of economic machinery, would the engine be purring or sputtering? We turn to Japan for answers.
[Emil’s Summary] “The Case of the Missing Money” is not an Arthur Conan Doyle short-story but instead a 1976 essay by well-known economist Stephen Goldfeld who noticed that there wasn’t enough money to justify the high level of economic activity at that time. Goldfeld explained that money was traditionally a simple function of, “real gross national product, [and] the interest rates on savings and time deposits at commercial banks and on commercial paper.”
But that formula was suddenly producing “whopping”, “unprecedented”, “quite unacceptable” and “conspicuous” errors that stood out “like a sore thumb”. The clue to the mystery — which he was not able to solve at the time — was that the formula for currency was on target BUT the one for checking accounts was unreliable. The monetary format under the auspices of public institutions — cash and coin — was fine. But the monetary format that was the domain of private banks — deposit accounts — was way short.
But money WASN’T missing from the economy. Money as traditionally understood and defined by economists, THAT money was missing, but the market had broadened the definition in the 1960s and 70s by turning capital market securities into near-money, among many other evolutions. This suited the banks because, while they couldn’t print and mint official government money, they could ‘print and mint’ ledger ‘money’.
Just under half a century later the roles are reversed. A modern-day Goldfeld would note that official monetary formats like bank reserves are being created at a “whopping”, “unprecedented”, “quite unacceptable” and “conspicuous” pace that stands out “like a sore thumb”. But because the vastly more valuable private bank ledger balances are way short, our global economy suffers for it. In this 37th Episode of Making Sense, Jeff Snider writes and solves three mysteries: “Japan: The Case of the Missing Inflation!”, “Europe: The Case of the Missing Economy!” and “Treasury Bills! The Case of the Missing Money?
01:13 Negative interest rates was an abject failure by the Bank of Japan (2016); what next then?
04:45 “Overshooting” inflation targets meant the BoJ intendended all-in inflation to run pure!!!
08:36 In the summer of 2016 there were rumors of helicopter money in Japan; was it serious? No.
11:40 BoJ said that CORE-CPI would print 2%-plus consistently; how could it possibly not work?
14:24 The latest CPI data out of Japan is the most deflationary since 2011; consistent deflation
16:54 Japan has, effectively, the lowest Covid cases and deaths in the world; it’s not Corona