Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inflation

Bank of England Powerless to Control the Inflation That Really Matters

Inflation summary over only the last 5 years "Food price inflation has accelerated by more than 30 percent. Transport costs by 38.5 percent. Public transportation costs have sped 45 percent and home energy prices have risen at a breathtaking clip of 49 percent." . This is a bit worrying because in my view of the world if deflation is blocked purely by printing then the UK will end up in an inflationary spiral at a time when the BoE cannot raise rates as a policy response and must rely on capital controls. There must be a lot of people who have come to the conclusion that you cannot trust anything denominated in sterling.

Posted by stillthinking @ 09:00 AM (3522 views)
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41 thoughts on “Inflation

  • Bit of a chaotic article written by someone with an inflation-axe to grind. Transport is going up because of the oil price (which long term will presumably continue ?), and because the Govt is reducing its public transport subsidy; QE is plainly not causing inflation – most is going into bank reserves; inflation anyway is still historically pretty low – no sign of the hyperinflation some bang on about. Low wages are all about corporate power and employee weakness, unemployment and austerity (perverse the article should cite drops in banker bonuses).

    As for not trusting sterling, where are you going to go? Euros? Dollars? I know – gold.

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  • no doubt we are out of pocket twice with the new trains fiasco, we are subbing the new company to take over from virgin and they are hiking prices too, this GRAVY TRAIN is really flowing smoothly and fast for government ministers

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  • general congreve says:

    @1 – Is that you Merv?

    Are we talking about the same oil price that was nearly $150/barrel in 2008 is it, when petrol was 103p/litre. Not the price is averaging around $110/barrel and the price at the pump is 135p/litre.

    All the figures quoted in the summary above are accurate in my experience. We have devalued the pound by 30% and printed a shed load, and it shows.

    As for no sign of hyperinflation, if we continue on at this real rate, it isn’t going to take much longer for it all to compound into one big inflation clusterf4ck.

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  • Bank of England claims to control inflation with one hand whilst it brings on inflation with the other.

    “What You Should Know About Inflation” Henry Hazlitt (1964) http://www.mises.org/daily/2914

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  • stillthinking says:

    @1 But that is the point, provided you got out of sterling in 2007 and excluding the euro, it didn’t matter where you went. US dollar, australian dollar, krona, yen anything would have worked.

    There wasn’t really much interest about an earlier post but I am sure that the Australian dollar is about to repeat the same sterling story.

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  • @5. stillthinking said…

    What makes you think the Ozzy dollar is about to tank………I am gobsmacked, i am in OZ spending Sterling, feel like i am being raped……….

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  • @3
    The figures may be accurate but so are the overall inflation figures. Just because some things are rising in price does not mean we have “high” inflation, much less hyperinflation, which incidentally is not compounded rises over extended time but very rapid increases in short periods. That isn’t happening, nor is it likely to.

    @5
    But so what? Should one attempt to play the currency markets? I wouldn’t fancy that kind of risk. In 2007 the pound was unusally strong against the dollar; it fell back but for the last 3 years or so the rate has been fairly steady. One may as well say one should have put everything into gilts, or whichever share did especially well since 2007.

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  • stillthinking says:

    http://housepricecrash.co.uk/newsblog/2012/08/blog-second-chance-37546.php

    Because AUS dollar is at 3.5%, their property bubble is bursting and so is demand from China. Replace China with the Euro and this is the same situation as the UK. So they are going to drop rates and ease all over the place. Steve Keen has been banging on about incipient debt deflation over there and the excess of housing and I am sure he is right, they have had a housing bubble look at the price run up. Look at their fake demand from China here
    http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/08/14/1118271/chinas-literally-ground-breaking-copper-inventories/
    China is going to run down the orders.

    PLUS if you are somewhere and you notice something shall we say discordant about prices then the exchange rate is wrong. I remember I was in the US in around 2007 ish maybe plus minus a year, anyway one pound got you 210 dollars ! I was buying clothes till I was blue in the face (one wash and no tax at UK customs) everything was unbelievably cheap. Now the rate is at 1.50 not so cheap.

    Anyway I am not advising anybody to do this and I am not doing it myself, because i have no money to speculate with, but I bet this is how its going to go over the next few years. Lethemfall, maybe aussie government bonds will go up in nominal terms but they are in aussie dollars… the whole point is that the aussie dollar will go down. Gilts have -not- done well since 2007, they have increased in nominal terms, they lost hugely when sterling was devalued.

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  • stillthinking

    Again, if one spends in sterling, why would one worry about the relative value of other currencies? If you mean relative to inflation, then linkers would have been a good bet. But one never knows for sure, not even the professionals it would seem. Certainly the dollar was at a good rate in 2007, and I had a bit of luck in being able to gain advantage there too, though I would never have put money on it. Too risky.

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  • general congreve says:

    @7 – I don’t disagree the overall inflation figures are correct. The BoE choose the basket so they can manage the figure they want to a large degree. Plus desperate retailers floundering in the quicksand of debt are not going be helping keep inflation down forever. Eventually fire sale prices to clear inventory and create cash flow at a loss will have to stop, or maybe not as the government owned banks seem happy to keep lending good money after bad to hopeless cases that will never again be profitable. Of course, keeping pumping funny money in so retailers can keep selling underpriced stock at a loss might keep inflation low, but eventually the markets will rebel and a sudden devaluation will be forced on us instead.

    And yes, inflation compounded over a few years, is not the same as the definition of hyperinflation, but the end result will be the same loss of value of ones hard work.

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  • general congreve says:

    @9 – Because we’re a net importer? Oil, that everything runs on, is a biggy for starters. Perhaps they’ll let us buy it with potato chips instead, we grow plenty of potatoes after all, so what’s the worry?

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  • GC
    I thought the ONS decided on the goods used to estimate inflation.

    It doesn’t really matter whether we are a net importer (of goods you mean); all that means is the trading partners will hold some sterling assets. Provided that the UK does not produce less and less over time, and import more and more, which I don’t think is happening relative to the majority of foreign countries, sterling is no more vulnerable than other currencies. So which would you speculate on?

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  • general congreve says:

    ONS, BoE, all part of the same corrupt system.

    Provided that the UK does not produce less and less over time, and import more and more…

    And of course, that would never happen:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/9474441/Manufacturers-exporting-to-tackle-slowdown.html

    From the article:

    Following last week’s gloomy exporting figures, which showed the UK’s trade deficit has hit a record high.

    You know what I’d suggest and it’s done pretty bloody well since I started recommending it, well ahead of inflation, well CPI and RPI, not the things that matter most, but still, on balance it’s fared better than every other currency.

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  • “ONS, BoE, all part of the same corrupt system.”

    Uh huh. I’d hardly call the ONS corrupt. Nor the BoE for that matter, though probably too influenced by the wrong people.

    Not surprising the trade figures are bad – what you’d expect from shrinking the economy as vociferously as we’re doing. Still, that doesn’t mean to say it will continue forever. As for where one wishes to place one’s bets, people can do as they please, but I see few reasons for making big bets.

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  • Oh, and not forgetting the world is pretty much in a depression. No one’s buying much these days.

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  • general congreve says:

    @15 – We’ve been running trade deficits for eternity. And it’s getting worse. Is there a plan you know of to suddenly re-industrialise and under cut the Chinese? If not, don’t expect anything to change. But keep your paper if you feel lucky.

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  • Not eternity, no – there have been periods of surplus. Anyway, trade deficits are complex; many countries including the US have been running deficits for some time. Your belief in a severe currency debasement has not happened and the chances are it won’t.

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  • general congreve says:

    @17 – Trade deficits are not complex, it is no coincidence that countries with large trade deficits also happen to be nations with large debts. You can’t get something for nothing, or do you know of a way to repeal the laws of mathematics?

    But, you are correct, there have been periods of surplus. Well, since the mid eighties there has been one period, 1996 to be exact, and it was barely a surplus, but it proves you right. Nevermind, I’m sure everything will be fine, what with spending loads of money we don’t have being so complex and all.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Interesting, the spam filter code to upload this image was ‘Black Monday’.

    And for the record there has been never ending currency debasement going on since 1913 in this country.

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  • general congreve says:

    @18 – I should add that I do agree that the trade balance will ultimately swing back to surplus – when our currency is so debased we can no longer afford to keep importing all the stuff we currently take for granted. See, it all balances out in the end.

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  • general congreve says:

    @18 – And I just noticed the graph only goes up to 2005, things have got worse since then, a lot worse, having hit a new record last month.

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  • Yes they are complex; but if one sees the economy in a restricted way than I suppose they do suddenly become simple. Their significance depends on causes, financing, growth … Plenty of reading material about on this.

    As for inflation, that is not necessarily currency debasement. Some inflation is important for a working economy. These things are not as straightforward as you make out.

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  • You can run a trade deficit ad infinitum, GC, provided you are always trusted to pay debt back. Hence why confidence is key and UK’s current bond yields are cause for no small comfort in my simple world.

    Idealogically, i am fairly opposed to the inflation based, debt-fuelled economies, but this model will not unravel any time soon in my opinion. Certainly not as dramatically as the various doomsday commentators suggest…and as has been commented before, if things unravel that catastrophically, investments in tins of food, a few drums of oil and shotguns will be the ones to go for.

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  • general congreve says:

    @22 – If you are selling more then you are buying, and you are using debt to do the surplus buying, then how can you always be trusted to pay back the debt, if the trade deficit goes on as infinitum? At some point the wheels come off. In fact the already have, that is why we have QE, to keep bond yields down and maintain the illusion that ‘no, really we’re good for the money, look what the rates that we maniupalted into the ground say’.

    Of course, QE doesn’t come without side effects, there is no free lunch, as demonstrated by the prices quoted in the article.

    And tell me, when the Icelandic Kroner lost two thirds of its value, and then went on to suffer five years of serious inflation on top, leaving people with about a fifth of their cash wealth, at what point did they all start running around shooting each other over the last tin of dog food?

    All we are talking about is a serious loss of purchasing power and lower standards of living. If you want what the govt. is currently serving up for you, stick with paper. You won’t need a shotgun, but you won’t be going on holiday anything like as much as I will.

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  • general congreve says:

    @21 – Yes the significance does hinge on causes. Causes such as a hollowed out manufacturing base, an unskilled workforce, an uncompetitive workforce. But still, they will be made competitive soon when the currency goes tits up and their labour is cheap again. It’ll sort the trade deficit out, but it won;t help them or anyone using the currency, not on an individual basis and not in the near term anyway. So, bearing that in mind, get out of paper into real currency and the whole thing can rebalance while you sit back and say thank you very much.

    Why is inflation important for a working economy? If you believe MMT, then yes, you might believe that, but you’d be wrong. A man sat in a room in London cannot possibly know how much extra paper to print the get the economy running at optimum, it is a fallacy. A stable money supply on the other hand will seamlessly adjust in response to supply and demand on its own, there is no need for constant background inflation, unless you want to pump up GDP figures with bullsh1t and claim you’re running the economy brilliantly.

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  • QE is really about offering liquidity to the banks, which they’ve mainly used to replenish their reserves, not so much lent out to business. I doubt this has added much to inflation at all, the main causes of which at present are commodity prices. Iceland became more or less bankrupt; the UK is not in that position.

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  • general congreve says:

    @25 – QE:

    BoE creates money
    BoE uses money to buy assets from banks – namely govt.bonds
    Banks use newmoney to buy new govt. debt

    So, cutting out the middle man, printed money is being used to fund government deficit spending. Average wages may not be rising, but a lot of government worked who would no longer have jobs if the job had to be funded via taxation still have jobs. so, in aggregate UK wages are higher than they would be and money chasing goods is higher than it would have been be, hence the price inflation in this article.

    And you are right, this country isn’t bankrupt as such. What it is though, is like the family down the road with the massive house, fancy german cars on the drive way, swimming pool out back, kids in private school and loads of holidays every year. Then one day wake up to see them move out to a 3-bed semi, the kids in the local comprehensive and a holiday in bognor once a year, because they never really owned any of that stuff, it was all on the never, never and they couldn’t afford to pay for it, so now they’re living within their means.

    I mean, a three bed semi is ok (bigger than what I live in!), it’s hardly scratching around in the dirt for grain, but still, once you’ve had a pool and a couple of mercs, you’re gonna be pissed off to have to give it back. But that’s what everyone is going to have to do, unless they get out of dodge before the bailiffs turn up.

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  • “If you are selling more then you are buying, and you are using debt to do the surplus buying, then how can you always be trusted to pay back the debt, if the trade deficit goes on as infinitum?”

    Dunno. But USA 15 trillion in debt and capable of getting more at less than 2% suggests that whilst ad infinitum may be stretching things, as long as market confidence is there, money can be borrowed. The UK’s debt and deficit positions have been worse. Much worse.

    Hard as it is, i will not rise to the “I’ll be better off than you” argument that you like to raise. So long as i can earn more than i spend I’m happy and holidays to date have been very pleasant, thank you for asking. Given you are taking an extremely high risk strategy, perhaps the rewards will indeed be very high, and good luck to you.

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  • “A stable market” …. you mean an economy with exactly zero inflation! I shouldn’t need to say that things are not that simple. Modest inflation prevents deflation and liquidity traps (although we’re in one of those now as things are so bad), and has other benefits. But there’s not much point going further. You can either read up on this stuff or plump for your simple model. I’d have thought recent events demonstrate the complexity of it all (except to right wing politicians of course).

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  • One last point (@26). A country’s economy cannot be compaired to a family’s budget. That is an economic howler.

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  • general congreve says:

    @27 – I may have jumped off the building, but I haven’t hit the ground yet, so you can say what you like, I’m all good.

    In reality we haven’t had a higher debt load. Public debt may have been at 250% GDP just before the industrial revolution rode into town and saved us, and public debt may have been 240% GDP after the war, but we finished fighting that was and our monster deficits finished with it, so the debt ceased to grow and could be tackled, with the help of the US generosity of the Marshall Plan to see us through.

    Now, however we have a massive structural deficit that isn’t going away. We have 100% of public debt not being called as such, because supposedly the banks will pay it back, yeah right. We have a load more other stuff like PFI off-balance sheet. And then we have near future liabilities running into at least 300% GDP.

    On top of this we have a fragile banking system that will inevitably need more money to keep it propped up and record breaking personal debts of around 150% GDP, something that didn’t exist in 1750 or 1945. It has to be taken into account too, because repayment of that debt, or non-payment of that debt is a drag on the economy too.

    And then we have record corporate debt. Thomas Cook, never going to make a profit again, £1.2Tn in debt. Debenhams £1Tn. Home Retial Group (Argos and Homebase) about £2.5Tn in debt. Think it’s ever going to be paid back? Another blackhole in our banking system that the taxpayer will be made to fill.

    Add it all together and debt to GDP is something like 750% for the UK.

    We are in deep shit.

    My example on holidays is a simple metaphor for the fact that when that unpayable debt comes home to roost, the currency will collapse. Better be in something more solid before it does.

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  • general congreve says:

    @28 – A stable money supply, and the mild deflation that usually accompanies it, as the economy grow and becomes more efficient over time, is only a problem for those with massive unpayable debts. Therefore, a stable money supply prevents people lending or taking on stupid levels of debt, or debt for things that are a waste of resources.

    In short it prevents the massive sort of cluster f4ck that has just cost all of us a great deal of money and caused all the HPI you can see (that is due to fractional reserve lending – but they would never have lent that money if they knew there wasn’t a printing press to bail them out). Your expanding money supply that you love so much has caused all manner of problems, and they are all in plain view.

    @29 – Is that you Gordon? Oh yes, that old chestnut. Why is that the case? A households finances are not like a countries, because a govt. can print and rob it’s citizens to pay back its debts in funny money, a household can’t. Net result is the same though, lower standard of living.

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  • GC, not all of us think it will “come home to roost”. That’s all. The debt to GDP ratio was much worse in the 30’s and the 50’s. UK will get out of this, as will the states. If you look at the UK debt profile it is quite favourable (i.e we have more time than most European countries to get our act together).

    The massive difference between a country and a household is the ability to borrow almost indefinitely.

    Again, idealogically this kind of sucks, but it’s the way it is. Global economics are complicated enough to warrant hedging in various investment instruments as no matter how many times you repeat it, there is no such thing as a sure thing. I highly recommend you diversify, if only a little bit. Corporate bonds are currently very tasty, how does 11.25% return over the next 5 years sound?

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  • GC
    As I’ve said more than once, go and read about it, though going by your endless silly gibes you are unlikely to be interested in doing so, preferring to ignore widely established facts and the views of many economists (they’re not all corrupt establishment figures). Perhaps as bubba implies, you are defending what looks to many a pretty precarious position. But that is your affair.

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  • general congreve says:

    @32 – Really? I know a couple of countries that are struggling to borrow indefinitely. Greece or Spain ring any bells?

    As for 11.25% over 5 years. 6% a year seemed pretty tasty too a few years back too, when I had money in Icesave, luckily I saw the signs and got my money out two days before the collapse and was saved a nervous wait, like everyone else, to get my money back thanks to the populist largesse of Gordon Brown.

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  • general congreve says:

    @33 – An anecdotal. The other day my niece asked me to read her a story book, containing popular stories passed down the ages. I noticed how nearly every story was chock full of gold. Crowns, coin purses, golden geese, golden eggs, you couldn’t read a page for the author of that particular tale going mad for it. Always was popular stuff, always will be. Still buys me as much petrol per ounce as it did 3 years ago. Pound is looking a bit more precarious in that regard don’t ya think?

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  • GC, if you have to compare Greece and Spain with UK/USA you are clearly not listening to what I am saying. The levels of borrowing for those nations, and their inability to control their destiny is a result of being in the euro. That of course does not apply to the UK or USA.

    So no, Greece and Spain don’t ring any bells as they are totally different to the the UK.

    Ice save was always pie in the sky, you can get 11.25% on 600million of debt secured by 1 billion worth of collateral, but no point giving any more details because for you, there can be only one….

    And as for invoking fairy-tales to prove a point, I really hope that was Tongue in cheek. My ‘wealth’ now buys me about 5 times as much petrol as it did 3 years ago, amazing what a bit of hard work as opposed to speculative investment will do.

    Anyway, I have test match cricket to catch up with. I do wish you well with your investment, I hope you are not so churlish as to wish Ill on those who have a different balance in their portfolio to you.

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  • general congreve says:

    @36 – Yes Greece and Spain are going broke (well the ECB is shadow printing so maybe they won’t) because the can’t print ot paper over the cracks, so reality upon them. The way you go on you’d think the printing press solves the problems, all it does is punt them into the future.

    Yes, a yield of 11.25% might looks good and a company might have a good debt to collateral, but in a shrinking economy, if that company doesn’t fair as well as expected, down goes the bond price. Your capital is at risk, as holders of US treasuries have just discovered in the last two weeks as treasury yields have risen. Risk free, I don’t think so.

    Your wealth might be higher because you’ve had an income from work, but so what? What has that got to do with maintaining the value of what you’ve already worked for? It’s a pointless straw man argument with no place in this discussion.

    Enjoy the cricket, and to everyone else, please not how this pair of central bank and spendthrift govt. apologists have changed tack on every answer they have given in response to my rebuttals. There’s a reason for that.

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  • general congreve says:

    @36 – Yes Greece and Spain are going broke (well the ECB is shadow printing so maybe they won’t) because the can’t print ot paper over the cracks, so reality upon them. The way you go on you’d think the printing press solves the problems, all it does is punt them into the future.

    Yes, a yield of 11.25% might looks good and a company might have a good debt to collateral, but in a shrinking economy, if that company doesn’t fair as well as expected, down goes the bond price. Your capital is at risk, as holders of US treasuries have just discovered in the last two weeks as treasury yields have risen. Risk free, I don’t think so.

    Your wealth might be higher because you’ve had an income from work, but so what? What has that got to do with maintaining the value of what you’ve already worked for? It’s a pointless straw man argument with no place in this discussion.

    Enjoy the cricket, and to everyone else, please note how this pair of central bank and spendthrift govt. apologists have changed tack on every answer they have given in response to my rebuttals. There’s a reason for that.

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  • GC, you are out of order calling me a central bank and spendthrift govt apologist. Several times i have stated that i do not think this is the way thinks should be, merely the way they are. I do not know who you feel you are addressing, but the galleries are empty, no one really cares, but don’t resort to labelling me to make a point.

    For what it’s worth, i genuinely think you need to hear another side of the coin, so dogmatic are you in your belief that everyone else’s investment is risky, but yours is a cast iron certainty. Most others have given up trying to hold a rational debate with you because you totally ignore what they say and quickly make things personal. This is why the majority of threads end with four or five posts all by you, with no replies. For some reason i foolish thought my affable and reasonable approach might actually get through, but clearly i was wrong.

    I have not changed tack once; i believe the UK will muddle along punting things into the future almost indefinitely (Napoleon war bonds anyone). In my ideal world, things would not work like this, we would have deflation instead of greed, governments that saved for a rainy day and only went into debt occasionally. Sadly, the world does not work like that, and probably never will. Acknowledging the way the world is does not make someone an apologist. If you read my posts on this thread, and indeed this site, that is the gist, and has not changed one jot.

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  • general congreve says:

    @39 – But you do change tack, you say a country can borrow indefinitely, I give you examples, you say it doesn’t matter because we can print, I say that is bot solving anything just punting the problem into the future/creating a different problem and then what?

    I have given you reasons why I think those investments are risky. I do not for one minute think gold is without risk. It is currency non grata in our current system and therefore is at the mercy of the machinations of those that run it. I may need to wait many years to see the results I expect (they’ve been good so far but I expect better), but while I am waiting I expect to see the pound lose a hell of a lot more value.

    I know someone who works for Thomas Cook BTW, that I mentioned are £1.2Tn in debt. Apparently the executives were enjoying themselves at the Olympics blowing two grand a night on food and drink, Make hay while the sun shines I suppose, they’re never going to dig themselves out the hole, but screw buying corporate bonds if that is the sh1t company execs get up to with others money.

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  • Nope, not changed tack one bit. I say UK and USA can borrow indefinitely. They are a world apart from Greece and Spain because Market confidence in them is so much higher and they are held in much higher regard.

    Remind me in which post I mentioned printing? Name it…I think you’ll find I did not once cite that as a reason. I simply stated that we can borrow ad infinitum as long as the Market trusts us to pay it back. Maybe you inferred printing from that, but that is not why we are trusted.

    UK debt is trusted because we have never, ever, ever defaulted on one penny of it. We have twice had a much larger debt in our history (vs GDP), and both times successfully reduced the debt. My confidence (which I concede, might be misplaced) is that we will be able to kick the can down the road for long enough that we manage to balance the books and begin to reduce debt levels. Our debt profile is favourable in that it gives us longer than most to do so.

    QE really does not belong in this debate. we both agree it is stupid, immoral and ineffective, but it has minimal effect on the price we get from the markets for our debt.

    also seems we agree that all investments carry a degree of risk; I wouldn’t touch Thomas Cook bonds with a barge pole, and your anecdote makes me want to throw things through their window. But if you do your research, their are some good investments to be had against companies who borrowed heavily in the past, but have since posted a very tidy profit and it is simply the maturity date that stops them redeeming the bonds now – they have the money already. They’re also a darn sight safer than shares, but anyway, this isn’t money weekly so I’ll stop blathering on and call it a day. Cheerio.

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