Savings Are Bad, Mmkay

— Can you imagine a world where we don’t talk about central bankers every other day? It’s coming, dear reader…

— But first, the central bankers need to disgrace themselves and prove to the world their theories are wrong. That will happen – actually it is in the process of happening now. But unfortunately it will cause untold economic damage in the meantime.

— The next phase of the disgracing process is already underway. That’s the part where the Fed governors climb the rostrum to prepare the markets for the next monetary injection.

— Bernanke kicked things off at Jackson Hole* and Chicago governor Charles Evans followed up a few days later. Then, Minneapolis governor Narayana Kocherlakota, a dissenting voter at the last meeting, came out yesterday and said he’s back on the dove’s team and won’t be dissenting in the future.

— That just leaves Dallas governor Richard Fisher and Charles Plosser of Philadelphia as the two remaining opponents of more QE. That’s two ‘against’ and eight ‘for’ in the next vote on how to distort and ruin the global economy in new and more twisted ways.

— So with the markets now giddy again on the prospects of QE3, we enter the bizarre world where ugly economic news equals a sharp market rally – because bad news is actually good news.

— Only the fully invested and desperate, or brainwashed Keynesians (or both) can honestly think more QE will have anything other than a temporary effect on markets. Here’s why…

— The problem with the global economy is a lack of real savings in the economic system. Our economic lever pullers constantly talk about the need for spending. They think an economy grows if you simply spend more.

— But the key to economic growth is saving. It is saving that produces future spending. Saving is derided because for some reason people believe money saved is ‘hoarded’ under the mattress, or it sits lifeless in a bank vault.

— When you save money and put it in a bank, the bank only sets aside a very small portion of your money as a ‘reserve’. It lends the rest out. These savings are invested, which, if done efficiently, can create jobs and increase productivity.

— In a real free market, the interest rate would determine the level of savings a society makes. High interest rates encourage savings and thrift, which in turn builds a large pool of funds available for investment. Then, when demand for investment funds begins to wane, interest rates fall to encourage borrowing and discourage saving.

— But of course we have nothing like a free market in interest rates. The Fed has kept its boot on the throat of interest rates for so long in the US that the system is devoid of any real savings. By maintaining low interest rates though, the Fed gives the impression that savings are plentiful.

— In fact, the savings are completely phony. The Fed simply created them by buying assets with money it doesn’t have. And it puts this new money in the commercial banking system in the hope they will lend it out.

— But the economy knows the savings are false.

— Why? Because the economy didn’t do the saving! Prolonged low interest rates have encouraged spending instead. Now, there is no appetite to borrow so the phony savings sit idle and the Fed morons sit scratching their heads and come up with a brilliant plan to do more of the same.

— So QE3, whatever its guise, will simply be an attempt to convince the economy (i.e. the people who have no savings) into thinking there are plentiful savings about, when in fact there are none and the US economy is actually consuming capital because of the dearth of savings.

— This is the big picture story behind prolonged low interest rates and QE insanity. On a day-to-day basis, it holds out hope for market speculators but under the surface the structure of the economy continues to deteriorate.

— So enjoy the equity market pop while it lasts. We have a feeling the market won’t party for as long this time around. Bernanke will have to do something big, like bail out the housing market, to really get an inflationary surge happening.

— If you think about the economy from this perspective, Australia’s interest rate structure is quite healthy from a longer-term perspective. Australians are saving and deferring their consumption. More accurately, Australians are saving after over-consuming for so long, These savings will form the basis of future consumption…at some point.

— This is how an economy should function. It’s just that we’ve been led to believe by conniving, power hungry politicians: that recessions don’t have to occur (not on their watch, anyway) and we can live in perpetual good times.

— It’s all about savings. As for the individual, savings are the bedrock of a society and make for a structurally sound economy. Unfortunately, Keynesianism and a docile, state-led education system have twisted this reality around. As Mr Mackey, the teacher from South Park, would say – ‘savings are bad, mmkay.’

— Savings aren’t bad, but they can be invested poorly. Take China. Its government is using its citizens’ savings to lend to the largest bankrupt nation in the world. That’s not too smart. Of course, China is doing so for its own strategic purposes. It lends to the US so it can keep its currency competitive.

— But by doing so it robs its household sector of purchasing power. It keeps import prices expensive and denies the country’s savers the ability to purchase foreign goods at a more favourable price.

— In economics, every action has a reaction. Trying to make things better in one place will make them worse in another. The more the system is tinkered with, the greater the distortions become. That’s why the Soviet Union eventually collapsed. Too much tinkering…

— It should be a lesson for US central planners. But it won’t be. They know better.

* A Few readers pulled us up on the Jackson Hole comment from last Friday. Fair call. Let’s set the record straight:

‘Jackson is a town located in the Jackson Hole valley of Teton County, Wyoming, United States. The town is often referred to as “Jackson Hole”, the named geographic feature in which the town is located.

‘Jackson Hole, originally called Jackson’s Hole, is a valley located in the US state of Wyoming, near the western border with Idaho. The name “hole” derives from language used by early trappers or mountain men, who primarily entered the valley from the north and east and had to descend along relatively steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole.’

From Wikipedia…

Greg Canavan
for Markets and Money

Greg Canavan
Greg Canavan is a contributing Editor of Markets and Money and is the foremost authority for retail investors on value investing in Australia. He is a former head of Australasian Research for an Australian asset-management group and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Sky Business’s The Perrett Report and Lateline Business. Greg is also the editor of Crisis & Opportunity, an investment publication designed to help investors profit from companies and stocks that are undervalued on the market. To follow Greg's financial world view more closely you can subscribe to Markets and Money for free here. If you’re already a Markets and Money subscriber, then we recommend you also join him on Google+. It's where he shares investment research, commentary and ideas that he can't always fit into his regular Markets and Money emails. For more on Greg go here.

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