The Great Debate UK
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
HONG KONG -- China is in an inflationary bind. Policymakers need to bring interest rates up, yet are worried about triggering debt defaults and attracting speculative money. Two bank reserve requirement hikes in two weeks, and new measures to stabilise consumer prices, will only have marginal effects on rising prices. A better way would be to let money flow offshore.
China's inflation is caused by excessive liquidity. The broad money supply (M2) has roughly doubled since 2008 to $10 trillion. Foreign inflows have played a role. The central bank injected the equivalent of $1 trillion into the system just to buy foreign currencies from its citizens. The question is how to let more of that money out.
One way would be to let Chinese investors buy more assets overseas. Citizens have already been allowed to invest $67 billion into foreign equities, 2.5 times more than foreigners can buy in China. Yet Chinese investors aren't terribly keen. Half of the available foreign-linked investment products trade below their net asset value.
from Chrystia Freeland:
This fall, much of the United States seemed to have settled on a narrative for the country’s struggle to adapt, after a debilitating financial crisis, to a post-industrial and post-unipolar global economy: China and its undervalued currency are largely to blame.
Proof that this was a nationally compelling storyline came during the acrimonious midterm election campaign. U.S. politics have rarely been more polarized, but complaining about China was something both parties could agree on.
The communiqué from last week’s IMF G20 finance minister’s meeting was the first step in trying to resolve the so-called global currency war. The ministers released a joint statement on October 23 which pledged that all countries would “move towards more market determined exchange rate systems that reflect underlying economic fundamentals and refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies.”
Even fears that the U.S. and China could have a bust-up over the U.S.’s charge that the renminibi is undervalued relative to the U.S. dollar were put to bed when it was reported that Treasury Secretary Geithner popped in to China on his way back from the G20 in South Korea to meet Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.
from The Great Debate:
-The opinions expressed are the author's own-
Are economists the world over using an outdated tool to measure economic progress?
The question, long debated, is worth pondering again at a time when two economic giants, the United States and China, are sparring over trade, currency exchange rates and their roles in the global economy.
from Chrystia Freeland:
Tony Hsieh and Sanjay Madan wrote the program to create LinkExchange over a weekend. Before the following weekend, they had more than a dozen websites participating in their ad-sharing network. Over the next several weeks they worked frantically on the project. They refined their business in real time, learning—quickly!—from their mistakes. Less than a year later, the Harvard grads were offered $1 million (U.S.) for the company. Less than a year after that, they sold it for $265 million.
That was 1996. Since then, this story of development on the run has become commonplace. Hacker culture is now part of the broader culture: “beta test” is in the dictionary, and we accept innovative, albeit imperfect, beta releases even from multibillion-dollar global behemoths such as Google. We’re prepared to accept flaws because the tech revolution is progressing so quickly that it is usually better to be fast, and possibly wrong, than to try to be perfect and end up being slow. By the time your flawless product is released, it will likely be obsolete.
Competitive devaluation is no longer a possible danger – it is already here. Many people are worried that, after global stock market crashes and a collapse of most of the world’s banking system, a war over exchange rates completes a sequence of events that looks awfully like a rerun of the 1930’s. There is however one crucial difference. The Chinese role certainly makes matters more complicated, though it is as yet unclear whether it makes the outlook better or worse.
The key point to understand about the belligerents is this. In the context of purely self-interested beggar-my-neighbour economic policy, devaluation makes good sense for the Eurozone countries as a whole, the British, the Japanese, Swiss, Koreans… for everyone except the Americans. Whether they are deficit countries, like Britain, or surplus countries, like Switzerland, Korea or Japan, devaluation will increase demand for their exports and make their imports more expensive, giving a boost to their output and employment. And if other countries retaliate by counter-devaluation, they can tell themselves that their situation would have been worse if they had not taken the initiative and got their retaliation in first.
Two days before Thursday's strong inflation figures, the People's Bank of China surprised with a rate hike. Global markets sold off, but quickly recovered. The effect of conducting monetary policy through short sharp shocks is waning. It looks time for a well-explained, concerted plan to fight rising prices.
Chinese policymakers favor a keep-'em-guessing approach. The first rate hike in three years came out of the blue, and the central bank remains mute on its reasons. Only annual inflation of 3.6 percent, above the official target, gives a retrospective clue. Similarly, the People's Bank has not explained why it ditched its bewildering practice of moving rates by 27 basis points at a time.
from Chrystia Freeland:
"There is no other policy tool available [besides quantitative easing],"' Laura Tyson, a former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said at this morning's Reuters/YouTube live debate on how to fix the economy. Tyson argues that additional Fed purchases of long-term bonds is the most viable way to energize the U.S. economy since a new fiscal stimulus bill is unlikely to pass Congress:
She appears alongside Glenn Hubbard, another former CEA chairman, who maintains the Fed will spend another $1 trillion to lower rates by 20 basis points. "We can't inflate our way to prosperity," he said.
Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.
Ever since the last Federal Reserve meeting when the prospect of further policy stimulus for the US gripped the market, dollar weakness has been the dominant theme in FX. The Fed action is considered in some quarters as a backdoor form of currency devaluation, and there has been talk of a global “currency war” as a result.
Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany's foreign minister in the late '90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers -- the United States and China -- and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.
More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world's most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes -- and that that will be green.