Bill Gross’ monthly note is out, and he makes a spot-on point about what it will take to solve things in Europe, and really everywhere else.
Speaking of luck, the investment question du jour should be “can you solve a debt crisis with more debt?” Penny or no penny. Policymakers have been striving to answer it in the affirmative ever since Lehman 2008 with an assorted array of bazookas and popguns: 0% interest rates, sequential QEs with a twist, and of course now the EU grand plan with its various initiatives involving debt write-offs for Greece, bank recapitalizations for Euroland depositories and the leveraging of their rather unique “EFSF” which requires 17 separate votes each and every time an amendment is required. What a way to run a railroad. Still, investors hold to the premise that once a grand plan is in place in Euroland and for as long as the U.S., U.K. and Japan can play scrabble with the 10-point “Q” letter, then the markets are their oyster. Not being one to cast pearls before swine or little Euroland PIGS for that matter, I would tentatively agree with one huge qualifier: As long as these policies generate growth.
Growth is the elixir that seems to make every ache, pain or serious ailment go away. Sovereign debt too high? Just grow your way out of it. Unemployment rates hitting historical peaks? Growth produces jobs. Stock markets depressed? Nothing a lot of growth wouldn’t cure. But growth is the commodity that the world is short of at the moment, as shown in Chart 1. No country has enough of it – not even China – and many of the developed countries (specifically in Euroland) seem to be shrinking into recession.
The lack of growth, as explained in prior Outlooks over the past few years, is structural as opposed to cyclical, and therefore relatively immune to interest rate or consumption stimulative fiscal policies. 1) Globalization, 2) technological innovation, and 3) an ageing global demographic have all combined to dampen policy adjustment post Lehman and will inexorably continue to work their black magic going forward. To defeat this misunderstood structural voodoo, countries would have to mint pennies by the billions, pretend to lose them, and then incredibly find them strewn all across their city streets like some global Easter egg hunt. Not gonna happen.
Read the whole letter >
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.