Taking the Pulse of a Weakening Economy

Taking the Pulse of a Weakening Economy, by Charles Hugh Smith.

Central banks have been running a grand experiment for 9 years, and now we’re about to find out if it succeeds or fails. For 9 unprecedented years, central banks have pushed the pedal of monetary stimulus to the metal: near-zero interest rates, monumental purchases of bonds, mortgage-backed securities, stocks and corporate bonds, injecting trillions of dollars, yuan, yen and euros into the global financial system, all in the name of promoting a “synchronized global recovery” that in many nations remains the weakest post-World War II recovery on record.

The two goals of this unprecedented stimulus were 1) bringing consumption forward and 2) generating a “wealth effect” as the owners of assets rising in value would translate their perception of feeling wealthier into more borrowing and consumption that would then feed a self-sustaining virtuous cycle of expansion.

The Federal Reserve has finally begun reducing its stimulus programs of near-zero interest rates and bond purchases, the idea being that the “recovery” is now robust enough to continue without the extraordinary monetary stimulus of the past 9 years since the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008-09.

Will the “synchronized global recovery” continue as interest rates rise and central bank assets purchases decline? Policy makers and economists evince confidence as they collectively hold their breath — is the recovery now self-sustaining? …

Bureaucrat in charge of the world economy: Janet Yellen, Chairwoman of the United States Federal Reserve 2014 – 2018.

For the past decade, the rich really have been getting richer while the poor get poorer:

The vaunted “wealth effect” was extremely asymmetric: only those in the top 5% who owned enough assets to experience a meaningful increase in wealth — those who bought assets years before the current bubble expanded, and the relative few households who own roughly 70% of all financial assets — and the few workers and entrepreneurs who benefited from an increasingly “winner take most” expansion.

As a result, the enormous increases in assets had little real effect on the bottom 80% who own few assets, and only modest effects on the “middle class” between the bottom 80% and the top 5%. …

It’s all artificial and manipulated:

The reality nobody dares acknowledge is that a “recovery” based not on improving productivity and innovation but on cheap credit and an artificially stimulated “wealth effect” was inherently weak, for the stimulus effectively hollowed out the productive economy in favor of the financialized, speculative economy and created perverse incentives to over-borrow and over-spend, stripping future demand to create the illusion of growth in a stagnating economy of rising wealth and power inequality.