Counterparties: Central banks warn about central banks

June 25, 2012

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The BIS annual report is out, and you probably won’t read a more depressing economic brief this year. The gruesome details: Global economic growth in advanced economies was halved last year, to 1.6%, amidst an “abysmal fiscal outlook”; we have “a global banking system that is still dependent on economic support”; bank credit spreads are back at levels seen during the height of the crisis; and advanced economies would need 20 consecutive years of surpluses of more than 2% of GDP just to get to precrisis debt-to-GDP levels.

But the world’s central banks are also warning us about themselves. The consequences of endless low rates, the BIS writes, include reduced incentives for indebted nations to cut back and “the wasteful support of effectively insolvent borrowers and banks.” Explaining why world central bank holdings have doubled in the last decade, the BIS does not mince words about who’s to blame:

The extraordinary persistence of loose monetary policy is largely the result of insufficient action by governments in addressing structural problems. Simply put: central banks are being cornered into prolonging monetary stimulus as governments drag their feet and adjustment is delayed.

You wouldn’t be wrong to think that sounds a lot like Bernanke’s polite nudging of Congress over the last few years. To Matt Yglesias, the BIS report sounds like a series of excuses. Izabella Kaminska wonders if the world’s central banks have gone all Sartre. Scott Sumner, adding to the philosophical confusion, notes that some economists can’t even agree if the Fed’s post-crisis policies have actually increased the money supply or decreased it. Dismal science, indeed. – Ryan McCarthy

And on to today’s links:

The world’s billionaires in one chart – WashPo

Ex-regulator, on the billion-dollar MF Global loophole: “It’s what the industry wanted” – NYT
Your pension fund, now even more underfunded – NYT
The CFTC would prefer to regulate in private – NYT

John Thain, Wall Street’s “Father of the Year,” and other silly banker awards – Bloomberg

New Normal
Old vs young: America’s raging economic resource battle – NYT
Prison REITs – Barron’s
September is the cruelest month (for financial crises) – Greg Ip

EU Mess
George Soros calmly suggests the EU has only three days to form a fiscal union – Bloomberg
The growing difference between what Angela Merkel says and what she does – David McWilliams
Real political union is fiscal union, and that means transferring wealth – Fistful of Euros
Schaeuble: “Excuse me, but the desire for improvement is a basic condition of human existence” – Der Spiegel
And now Cyprus has requested a bailout –Bloomberg

Welcome To Adulthood
Only 55% of new law school grads land a job within nine months – WSJ

The market would like more high-yield bonds, if you’ve got any – Sober Look

Baltimore may sell advertising on its fire trucks. Syracuse may sell ads on its helicopters – NYT

Scalia dissents: “Interior decorating is a rock hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs” – New Yorker

Baby Steps
Morgan Stanley advisers will soon send tweets from a library of pre-written messages no one wants to read – NYT

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