Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Precondition for an Economic Recovery According to Keynes and Confirmed by, of all People, Greenspan

Most of the blogosphere has been skeptical of the rally in equities since the beginning, with ZeroHedge pointing out that the rise can be attributed, basically, to free money courtesy of the Federal Reserve, and aided and abetted by High Frequency Trading and the principal program trading of the usual suspects. Now, even for those who are not conspiracy minded, charts such as these speak volumes(pun intended).

From ZeroHedge.

I would like to point out one possible explanation for this phenomenon from a contentious source that I have quoted before. I maintian that Keynes is misunderstoond by many and that he is not the source of all wisdom, but, rather, someone who asked the right questions at the right time and pointed out many problems in the workings of the economy in periods of turmoil.
Unfortunately a serious fall in the marginal efficiency of capital also tends to affect adversely the propensity to consume. For it involves a severe decline in the market value of Stock Exchange equities. Now, on the class who take an active interest in their Stock Exchange investments, especially if they are employing borrowed funds, this naturally exerts a very depressing influence. These people are, perhaps, even more influenced in their readiness to spend by rises and falls in the value of their investments than by the state of their incomes. With a "stock-minded" public as in the United States to-day, a rising stock-market may be an almost essential condition of a satisfactory propensity to consume; and this circumstance, generally overlooked until lately, obviously serves to aggravate still further the depressing effect of a decline in the marginal efficiency of capital.
When once the recovery has been started, the manner in which it feeds on itself and cumulates is obvious. But during the downward phase, when both fixed capital and stocks of materials are for the time being redundant and working-capital is being reduced, the schedule of the marginal efficiency of capital may fall so low that it can scarcely be corrected, so as to secure a satisfactory rate of new investment, by any practicable reduction in the rate of interest. Thus with markets organised and influenced as they are at present, the market estimation of the marginal efficiency of capital may suffer such enormously wide fluctuations that it cannot be sufficiently offset by corresponding fluctuations in the rate of interest. Moreover, the corresponding movements in the stock-market may, as we have seen above, depress the propensity to consume just when it is most needed. In conditions of laissez-faire the avoidance of wide fluctuations in employment may, therefore, prove impossible without a far-reaching change in the psychology of investment markets such as there is no reason to expect. I conclude that the duty of ordering the current volume of investment cannot safely be left in private hands.

The point of contention is, and has been, the last sentence, which raises the blood pressure of everyone involved, on both sides, like nothing else ever written about economics (save maybe Marx). I am not venturing out on a limb when I say that the powers that be have read this passage and drawn their own conclusions from it. Even Greenspan said :
The rise in global stock prices from early March to mid-June is arguably the primary cause of the surprising positive turn in the economic environment. The $12,000bn of newly created corporate equity value has added significantly to the capital buffer that supports the debt issued by financial and non-financial companies. Corporate debt, as a consequence, has been upgraded and yields have fallen. Previously capital-strapped companies have been able to raise considerable debt and equity in recent months. Market fears of bank insolvency, particularly, have been assuaged
Juxtaposing these two quotes does not a proof of a government engineered market melt-up make, but one does have to wonder.

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