The great and good are in Davos facing a rather uncertain landscape yet again (‘twas ever thus for the last seven years).
While few people have had serious hopes for a prolonged Japanese economic boom for a long time, the range of forecasts provided for Japan’s recent economic performance gives you an idea of just how wildly unexpected the news was today that it is back in recession.
The Bank of England will produce its quarterly inflation report today. With wage growth still notable by its absence and inflation dropping to just 1.2 percent in September, noises from within the BoE suggest the timing of a first interest rate rise is heading further over the horizon.
To most people, the idea of falling prices sounds like a good thing. But it poses serious economic and financial risks – just ask the Japanese, who only now finally have the upper hand in a 20-year battle to drag their economy out of deflation.
The last seven days has been a glaring example of fallout from the cross-border carry trade. That’s the sort of trade, well known in currency markets, where investors borrow funds in low-rate countries and invest them in higher-rate ones. Some $4 trillion is estimated to have flooded into emerging markets since the 2008 financial crisis to profit off the ultra accommodate policies of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Now that central banks in developed economies are looking to reverse course and eventually raise rates, that carry trade is unraveling fast, resulting in the brutal sell-off in emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina over the last week.
Are Mr and Mrs Watanabe preparing to return to emerging markets in a big way?
Mom and pop Japanese investors, collectively been dubbed the Watanabes, last month snapped up a large volume of uridashi bonds (bonds in foreign currencies marketed to small-time Japanese investors), and sales of Brazilian real uridashi rose last month to the highest since July 2010, Barclays analysts say, citing official data.
Paul Volcker’s inflation-fighting era as chairman of the Federal Reserve is quite the opposite of today’s U.S. central bank, which is battling to kick start growth and even stave off deflation with trillions in bond purchases. And it is polar opposite of where the Bank of Japan finds itself today, doubling down on easing to lift inflation expectations after two decades of Japanese stagnation. After all, Volcker ratcheted up interest rates in 1979 and the early 1980s to tame the inflation that had been choking the United States.