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China To Join the EU and UK Stimulus Marathon

Aug 10, 2012
DARYL MONTGOMERY

July export figures out of China on Friday were close to disastrous. There was barely any year over year growth. China's economy is slowing just as the EU joins the UK in recession. The usual stimulus measures will not revive any of their economies.

Much weaker than expected trade data out of China on Friday indicates more economic stimulus will be forthcoming there soon. Even bigger stimulus is expected from the ECB as it revs up the printing presses to bail out Spain and Italy (unless Germany stops it of course). According to a recent released report, the recessionary economy in the UK may need massive doses of quantitative easing to recover.

Exports in China rose by only 1% year over year in July and this was well below forecasts of an increase of 8.6%. Imports were up 4.7%. For a country that has an export-based economy like China does, this is a serious problem. Like the U.S., Europe and Japan, China engaged in a massive amount of stimulus during the Credit Crisis in 2008/2009, spending $586 billion or 14 percent of its GDP in addition to cutting interest rates and lowering banking reserves. This led to a big expansion of local government debt, a major housing bubble that has yet to burst and consumer inflation. Apparently, there are unfortunate side effects when governments apply a lot of economic stimulus (notice you rarely read about them in the mainstream media).

This time around, China has already cut interest rates twice and reserve requirement ratios for banks three times since November. Its economy has slowed for the last six quarters and probably by much more than official figures indicate (China's economic numbers should be taken with a grain of salt).

China is still in spectacular shape though compared to Japan, which had a massive trade deficit in the first half of 2012. Japan has been economically troubled for 22 years and despite zero percent interest rates and an unending number of stimulus measures its economy remains in the doldrums. While all the stimulus hasn't solved Japan's economic problems, it has led to a debt to GDP ratio of over 200% (worse than Greece's).

One reason China's exports are doing so poorly is the weakening economy in Europe. On Thursday, the ECB cut its growth forecasts and is now predicting the Eurozone economy will contract by 0.3% in 2012. They are still hopeful of slight growth in 2013 however. Maybe they think it will come from all the money they plan on printing to bail out Spain and Italy. The Eurozone is basically tapped out from all the bailouts it has already done in Greece, Portugal, and Ireland (Cyprus and banks in Spain are now on the list as well). Greece needs a third bailout and is struggling to make it through the month until it receives its next welfare payment in September. The situation there is potentially explosive. The IMF has stated Ireland will need another bailout by next spring.

When ECB President Draghi said on July 9th that the central bank will take any measures within its mandate to save the euro, the inevitable conclusion was that he was willing to engage in massive money printing. The amount of money needed for the huge bailouts that Spain and Italy would require simply doesn't exist so it has to be created out of thin air. The Draghi proposal is for the ECB to buy bonds, but the ECB has already tried buying bonds under the SMP program. The moment the buying stopped, interest rates shot right back up. This approach is costly and only effective in the very short term — a typical government program. It won't prevent the Eurozone’s failure, it will merely delay it and make it worse when it happens.

The UK is not part of the Eurozone, but its economy is also contracting. Citigroup economists have stated that the UK will need to print an additional £500 billion and lower interest rates to 0.25% to prevent continued stagnation. Apparently, they don't think there are serious risks if this approach is taken. Neither did the Weimar Germans in the early 1920s, the Zimbabweans in the 2000s, the Chinese in the 1940s, the Brazilians for most of the 20th century, the Yugoslavians in the 1990s or the Hungarians in 1946. In fact, countries that create hyperinflation always claim the risks of money printing are minimal before it takes place. And there are usually a large number of top economists that support this view.

There are serious structural problems in the major economies today. The usual Keynesian quick fixes that have been applied since World War II no longer do not seem to work, nor will they. These have led to a world drowning in debt and all debtors eventually reach their borrowing limit. When this happens with countries, they then try to print their way to prosperity. History makes it quite clear that this doesn't work either.

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing Meetup
http://investing.meetup.com/21

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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