Ray Dalio: The Economic Machine and Beautiful Deleveraging

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, released a 30 minute video in 2013, explaining his template of the economy and how central banks and government should manage a deleveraging like the Great Recession and its after-effects.

Ray proposes three simple rules to avoid future crises:

  1. Don’t let debt grow faster than income (GDP) otherwise it will eventually crush you;
  2. Don’t let income grow faster than productivity otherwise you will become uncompetitive in international markets; and
  3. Do all that you can to raise productivity because in the long run that’s what matters most.

What is productivity and how do we measure it?

Productivity is the result of hard work and innovation, both of these factors will increase the level of output (GDP) per unit of input.

We measure productivity by comparing GDP to units of input, either:

  • the population of a country;
  • the number of hours worked; or
  • the number of people employed.


Each will give a different perspective, but there are a few general rules:

  • countries with high technology and innovation (e.g. Germany or USA) show high productivity;
  • as do resource-rich countries with big extraction industries (like Norway and Australia); and
  • countries with low tax regimes (Singapore and Ireland) which attract transient income.

Read more at Labor productivity can be misleading.

Why this is a bad time to win an election | Business Spectator

Prof. Steve Keen writes:

So what could the future hold for Prime Minister Abbott? Here I have a hunch that he’ll end up suffering a similar fate, not to the previous Liberal leader he admires – John Howard – but to ….. Malcolm Fraser.

Fraser, as noted, had the good fortune to take over from Whitlam after the bursting of the debt bubble was largely over, but the bad fortune that the revival in Australia’s bubble was considerably more anaemic than America’s. Abbott could well find himself experiencing a similar double-edged sword of fate. He will take over when the deleveraging that caused the GFC has come to a temporary halt, and demand will be rising in the US….. But this rise could peter out even more quickly than it did for Fraser, leading to anaemic economic performance that will be blamed on the politician rather than the times.

Read more at Why this is a bad time to win an election | Business Spectator.

Financial hangover is Britain's biggest growth headache

David smith writes:

Sir Mervyn King, in Tuesday’s final regional speech as Bank governor, in Belfast, barely mentioned fiscal policy as a factor in the slow recovery. Instead, as well as the high-inflation squeeze on real take-home pay and the eurozone, he focused on another financial factor.

The problem, he said, was “the extent to which the balance sheets of the major UK banks had grown before the crisis hit, and had been financed primarily by borrowing.

“So the subsequent reduction in bank lending – the deleveraging – was greater here than in many other countries. That deleveraging has as its counterpart a reduction in the amount of (broad) money in the economy and a reduced willingness on the part of banks to expand lending.”

Read more at David Smith's EconomicsUK.com: Financial hangover is Britain's biggest growth headache.

The Fed's interest rate policies are damaging rather than restoring confidence and should be reversed

Vince Foster at The Fiscal Times writes about this Wednesday’s FOMC meeting:

With Operation Twist due to expire at the end of the year and because the Fed is essentially out of short-term bonds with which to finance purchases, it is virtually assured that they will opt for outright purchases financed with printed money……….Now, said Ned Davis Research in a report last week, the Fed is likely to replace Operation Twist with purchases of Treasuries, perhaps in the $45 billion a month range, bringing its total monthly purchases to $85 billion.

Outright purchases of long-term Treasuries are far more expansionary than Operation Twist purchases which are off-set by the sale of shorter-term maturities.

Foster discusses Fed motives, considering that previous QE failed to lower interest rates or lift stock market values.

It has been my contention that the main objective is not to reflate asset prices but rather to stimulate credit creation and the velocity of money. According the Fed’s H.8 Release banks are holding over $2.6 trillion in cash that’s sitting idle on their balance sheet in securities portfolios. Bernanke is trying to flush the banking system out of these bloated securities positions and into extending credit by lowering bond yields to levels where banks can no longer afford to hold them.

Foster points out that negative real interest rates may be discouraging banks from lending, inhibiting the recovery. Also that bank balance sheets — bloated with Treasuries and MBS ($2.6 trillion) purchased as an alternative to lending — are vulnerable to capital losses should interest rates rise.

The Fed’s low-interest-rate policies have created a powder keg while being largely ineffectual in stimulating credit creation and consumption. The safest approach would be to reverse these policies and raise interest rates. Raising long-term rates to sustainable levels would reduce uncertainty and help restore confidence. House prices and stocks may initially fall but this would flush any excess inventory out of the system, giving purchasers and banks confidence that the market really has bottomed. With higher rates and stable collateral, banks will be more willing to lend.

At present we are all sheltering under the shadow of the Fed’s low-interest-rate umbrella, but with a nagging fear as to what will happen when the Fed takes the umbrella away. Fed policies are no longer adding confidence but increasing uncertainty. The sooner the umbrella is removed, the sooner the system will return to normality.

QE is likely to continue — Treasury needs to print money in order to fund the fiscal deficit — but this can still occur at higher rates. The fiscal deficit unfortunately will remain with us for some time — until confidence is completely restored and deflationary effects of private sector deleveraging are consigned to the history books.

Read more at How the Fed Will Affect Economy, Market in 2013 | The Fiscal Times.

How cancelling central banks’ holdings of government debt could be a useful thing | FT Alphaville

FT’s Kate Mackenzie writes: Morgan Stanley cross-asset strategist Gerard Minack says the remarkable thing about developed economy deleveraging is how little of it has happened:

The credit super-cycle ended four years ago, but leverage has hardly fallen in major economies: debt-to-GDP ratios remain historically high.

Debt To GDP Ratio

Minack says the problem is some of that deleveraging (particularly for households) is being tackled by saving more, but that won’t solve the problem, or at least not very quickly. This is because of what the borrowings were used to finance: mostly pre-existing assets (that were forecast to rise in value) rather than expenditure.

There is a simple reason why deleveraging is taking so long: governments are borrowing money (deficit-spending) to offset private sector deleveraging and avert a deflationary spiral. So overall (non-financial) debt to GDP ratios, which include government debt, are almost unchanged.

That is not necessarily a bad thing — unless you would prefer a 1930s-style 50% drop in GDP after a deflationary spiral. What can be destructive is funding government deficits from offshore because you eventually have to pay the money back. Far better to borrow from yourself — in other words your “independent” central bank. That way you never have to pay it back.

As for canceling central bank holdings of government debt. Why bother? Interest payments made on the debt go right back to the Treasury as central bank profit distributions. And why set a precedent? I doubt many would believe government promises that this was a once-off and would never be repeated…….until next time.

via How cancelling central banks’ holdings of government debt could be a useful thing | FT Alphaville.

Jan Hatzius Connects All the Dots | Business Insider

Important insight from Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs, reported by Cullen Roche:

The US private sector continues to run a large financial surplus of 5.5% of GDP, more than 3 percentage points above the historical average. This is the flip side of the deleveraging of private sector balance sheet. We expect a normalization in this surplus over the next few years to provide a boost to real GDP growth. This is the key reason why we see US economic growth picking up gradually in the course of 2013 and into 2014, despite the near-term downside risks from the increase in fiscal restraint……..

via Jan Hatzius Connects All the Dots – Business Insider.

Resolving The Crisis And Restoring Healthy Growth: Why Deleveraging Matters? | David Lipton | IMF

David Lipton, IMF First Deputy Managing Director writes that when G20 leaders met at the height of the GFC they had two simple objectives: i) to resolve the crisis; and ii) to make sure it did not happen again……..

Progress has been hard in part because the measures called for under each agenda item to some extent undermine the other agenda item. The first objective, exiting the crisis requires strong enough demand to restore growth and jobs. At the same time, the second objective, ensuring sustainability and laying the foundation for a stronger global economy, requires deleveraging in many advanced economies, which will dampen demand, particularly if it happens simultaneously in many sectors in many countries.

Lipton points out that the actions of all major players impact on each other. He calls for deficit countries to continue fiscal consolidation and private sector deleveraging “in a sustainable way” and for “structural reforms to improve competitiveness”. Surplus countries also need to cut back on “reserve accumulation” and allow “more exchange rate flexibility”.

via Resolving The Crisis And Restoring Healthy Growth: Why Deleveraging Matters? by David Lipton, IMF First Deputy Managing Director.

Australia: Hard or soft landing?

Browsing the latest charts from the RBA.

Despite record low 10-year bond yields…..

Housing Finances

Credit growth is subdued and likely to remain so for some time.

Credit Growth by Sector

After a massive credit bubble lasting more than a decade.

Housing Finances

Households are saving close to 10 percent of Disposable Income in anticipation of a contraction.

Housing Finances

While banks are reluctant to lend when their margins are being squeezed.

Housing Finances

Borrowing offshore is not an option. That is how we got into such a fix in the first place.

Housing Finances

Makes me believe we are unlikely to see another housing boom for some time.

There are two possible outcomes: a soft landing and a hard landing.

It all depends on whether Wayne Swan and the RBA know their jobs.

The unemployment surprise

Headline unemployment may be falling but this extract from John Mauldin summarises the US predicament:

We are employing almost 5% fewer people as a percentage of our population than we were at the beginning of 2008. That means our real unemployment-to-population level is well over 12%. So we’re not even close to where we were in 1999, during the last year of the Clinton administration. And that doesn’t take into account the 50% of college graduates who are underemployed. A significant part of the problem is simply the fact that we are trying to recover from a deleveraging recession. The data suggests that such recoveries may take 10 years. For Japan it is more than 20 years, and counting.

The unemployment surprise (pdf).

Ray Dalio: Market Insights | CNBC

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, discusses his biggest worry — social disruption due to mismanagement of the de-leveraging by governments — and other market insights.

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Also PIMCO’s Mohammed El-Erian on the benefits and risks of ECB intervention in the eurozone debt crisis.