Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Depression, China, US, War, defaults and other comments

Yves Smith, my favourite financial commentator, has one great post titled China's Smoot Hawley- a reaction to Micheal Pettis (another of my favourites) article. Its an awesome post and worth read - including the comments. I was naturally late to this friday party - so here are my comments on the post!
Hunger of deprived and hunger of developed is different
So pre-Mao chinese hunger and post-Den Chinese hunger are two different animals. If a developed country goes hungry, violence is also a fallout. Sale of guns has risen in US for a good reason. We have to realise that people on ground know best.

China wants to run this game for a wee-bit longer
China has nearly 1.5-2 trillion dollars in USD assets. Now China wants just a little bit of time to save some of it. China believes that this is their sweat money. The way around as they see it is to
let CNY depreciate against the dollar. But this relation is difficult to hold if USD depreciates and commodities rise.

With 2 trillion at stake - War is not yet a possibility
The cost of Iraq war was about a trillion (vague recollection). And it was a trillion dollar
"stimulus". As one part of the world's "skin in the US game" increases the probability of war will
increase. War has many benefits for regimes. It aggregates the population, it creates employment, creates a stimulus, creates an enemy outside of the regime. In this matter India is lethargic and will never have enough "mind in this game". But war is on the horizon - and I am scared.

China and India must become consumers - US must become producer
I have been making this point for like ages now (even in comments to your posts). A recovery without demand from China and India will not happen. US is not going to be a consumer - it has to be a producer. The best way to get these 3 billion people into consumption fold is by letting exchange rates correct. SE Asia and other surplus countries will need to do the same.

Import restriction response is a threat
I hope there is enough sense to not impose import restrictions. Yet, I fear India and China will impose them eventually. There will be a race to corner the "able" consumers for domestic industries. China has a difficult decision to make then. The domestic consumer will be a loser and their money will be looted by domestic corporation. Though it will be done sophisticatedly as a economic process.The best way to get domestic consumption going is to first get the latent demand for best brands going. For that you need to keep imports open.

USD and Gold - Printing currency does not matter
There is a lot of talk that Us can print its way out of the crisis. It is surely doing that. However,
real value is able to discount this printing phenomenon. The only way this might work is - if US has some means where it can aggregate this printed money and destroy it as write-down or something. Printing will set the new money in motion and it has to be collected and destroyed else there will be devaluation.
Currently"US denominate" (in terms of thoughts) people are asking this question hence possibility of US dollar depreciating does not seem feasible - it never does to local as it does not matter so long as other things remain equal. But "other things" like commodities do not remain equal - hence the effect is actually measured as rise in commodity prices. (Or conversely - commodity tries to retain value - whereas USD depreciates).
Further one must understand that equity is open to risks whereas debt has the habit of correcting / adjusting for currency changes. (Particularly cross currency debt).

In sum
Welcome to eye of the storm!!