Over the last couple of days we have had various events that will impact a whole range of important markets on the globe in the foreseeable future.
At precisely the same moment the G-20 meeting of the world's major economies (the G-20 accounts for approximately three-quarters of global GDP) in Brisbane, Australia, finalized their sessions, Japan surprisingly announced, and against all expectations, it triple-dipped into a "technical" recession again after contracting by an annualized 1.6 percent in the third quarter after contracting 7.3 percent during the second quarter.
This disastrous chain of negative growth data has undoubtedly confirmed the fact that Abenomics hasn't delivered the results they were originally created for.
Abenomics is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's master plan to use unprecedented monetary easing programs that should have created 2 percent inflation alongside 2 percent real GDP growth. All that should have been helped thanks to mindboggling deficit-financed public works for finally achieving the goal of sustainable growth financed for the biggest part by private investments.
Unfortunately, Abenomics has missed its goals by a long shot.
The Japanese Prime Minister has called a snap election, he and his party are expected to win easily, seeking a mandate for delaying sales-tax increases that had been planned for next year by another 18 months and other stimuli that will be known in detail before the election date of Dec. 14. Whatever will be created it will again be another attempt of fighting fire with fire.
Long-term investors should pay attention because the whole point of delaying the Japanese consumption tax hike of 10 percent that was originally intended to help to deal with Japan's extremely stretched finances, where the nation's debt to GDP already stood at 227 percent at the end of 2013, will have negative consequences.
I personally am convinced a new downgrade of Japan is completely in the cards. By the way, Japan already lost its triple-A rating in the late 1990s and was further downgraded earlier this year.
Maybe it would be helpful to look a little bit closer at the world GDP numbers. In 2013, the G-20 economies had a combined GDP of $59.3 trillion (the world's total was $74.9 trillion, according the World Bank). The U.S. accounted for approximately 21 percent, the eurozone close to 16 percent, China was 11.6 percent and Japan about 6.1 percent. If we consider the eurozone as one single entity, Japan is the world's fourth largest economy.
Anyway, the world GDP's growth vehicle once again has an unexpected flat tire, this time around "Made in Japan."
In my opinion, any rally in the Japanese yen is unlikely to be sustained. On the contrary, I expect an exchange rate of 125 yen or even higher per dollar sometime next year as a real probability, which could cause renewed tensions and volatility in the foreign exchange markets, as well as the risk of currency wars with countries like South Korea, China, etc.
Please keep in mind before the financial crisis of 2008, world economic growth was on average 5 percent. Since the crisis it has now averaged about 3.5 percent and is probably headed for 3.2 percent or even lower in 2014. It's certainly not an overstatement to say that if global growth doesn't start growing again very soon we are bound for a major crisis, as world GDP growth at around 2.5 percent is globally considered as factual stagnation/recession.
All that said, I also want to mention here some interesting statements made by the G-20 that make direct reference to the coming normalization of U.S. monetary policy.
In the G-20 document titled "Brisbane Action Plan" it states: "Monetary policy normalization in some advanced economies [read U.S.] will reflect stronger economic growth and will be a positive sign for the global economy. We are also mindful of other potential impacts of such normalization, such as excessive volatility in exchange rates and asset prices that can be damaging to growth."
This time not aimed at the U.S. it states: "We will refrain from competitive devaluation and will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes," that is easily applicable to Japan since it is falling into a devaluation trap.
Interestingly, last week Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stated before the Fed's Global Research Forum on International Macroeconomics and Finance in Washington, D.C.: "Because the economy and financial system are becoming increasingly globalized, fulfilling these objectives requires us to achieve a deep understanding of how evolving developments in financial markets and economies around the world affect the U.S. economy."
While she fell short of talking about the outlook for the U.S. economy, in my opinion, it looks like the Fed has the intention to play by the global rules as was once again underlined in Brisbane. But I have my doubts about various other participants because of the mess Japan is in now and where further "provoked" weakening of their currency could help its part in trying to escape a complete disaster. Unfortunately that veiled form of currency manipulation could put countries like South Korea, China and many others into situations of really damaging and incompatible exchange rates.
Yes, the normalization process of the Fed's monetary policies will have unintended and negative consequences for many countries, particularly the emerging economies.
No, for 2015, currency wars cannot be discarded.
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