The euro, its dexterous management, the “whatever-it-takes” guarantees by ECB President Draghi, the trillions being shifted around to prop up banks and governments – all these efforts to keep the Eurozone duct-taped together have hit countries differently. Including France and Germany. They’re shooting at each other now, and hitting the ECB.
China’s economy grew barely above the government-decreed minimum of 7.5%. Deep frustrations simmer beneath the surface and can explode at any time. To maintain social stability, the government douses the land with money. Growth at any cost. But the results are majestic property and construction bubbles – and they can’t be inflated forever.
European regulators are desperate. The only thing known about the holes in bank balance sheets stuffed with decomposing assets is that they’re deep. No one knows how deep. No one is allowed to know – not until Eurocrats decide who will pay for bailing out these banks. How do we know? ECB President Mario Draghi said that.
A quarterly survey by the Bank of Japan brought a dose of reality to the glorious hype surrounding Abenomics, whose stated beneficiaries are the big banks and Japan Inc., including the formerly omnipotent nuclear power industry that Abenomics is trying to restore to its glory. But consumers are struggling with reality, apparently.
Supercar-makers Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Rolls-Royce are reacting to the forces whacking global markets for luxury products: a corruption crackdown in China, Abenomics in Japan, and the Fed’s money-printing in the US. The idea that sales in China, which is printing billionaires by the dozens, are crashing is a hard-to-swallow concept for the industry.
Trade is one of the aspects that Abenomics designated as critical. So the Bank of Japan has embarked on a radical money-printing program to devalue the yen and make exports more competitive. It would also render imports so expensive that buyers would cut back. The resulting trade surplus would save Japan. In theory. In reality, the opposite is happening.
Japanese banks, which should know a thing or two about banking crises, have once again clawed their way to the top of the heap of overseas lenders. And with their knack for impeccable timing, they’ve once again become the largest force in emerging market economies – just as financial turmoil there is coming to a boil.
For Japan’s megabanks, lending has rebounded. But instead of funding industrial projects in Japan, they’re funding acquisitions overseas and highfalutin real-estate speculation in Tokyo. They wrote up stock holdings and extracted fees from frenzied trading. Profits surged. They’re the prime beneficiaries of Abenomics. But smaller banks are not so lucky.
Printing money and forcing interest rates to near zero, that’s how the Fed and other central banks papered over the Financial Crisis, duct-taped the bursting credit bubble back together, inflated new asset bubbles, and propped up TBTF banks. It accomplished a huge feat: a worldwide tsunami of hot money. Which is now receding.
You don’t seem to “think Abenomics is working,” a reader wrote, followed by tough questions and a comparison to Kyle Bass, who has been betting on a “full-blown Japan crisis.” It got me thinking. I’m attached to Japan. What started in 1996 has turned into a complex relationship. But now that Abenomics is the religion of salvation, I’m even more worried.