Just When You Thought it Was Dead, Inflation Returns (Joachim Fels/Charles Goodhart)
A strong economic rebound in China and the US, adverse supply shocks in agriculture and worries about swelling central bank balance sheets lead to a sharp rise in actual and expected global inflation. Central banks don’t dare to respond, given high debt levels and financial fragilities, and either continue to ignore or abandon their inflation targets. Rising wheat prices lead to bread riots. In the UK, Chancellor Osborne advises the British to eat oatcakes instead.
Debt Cancellation (Spyros Andreopoulos)
The US Treasury, Japan’s Ministry of Finance and Her Majesty’s Treasury jointly announce that the Treasury debt held by the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and Bank of England respectively as a consequence of QE purchases are cancelled, and that these central banks will operate with negative equity until further notice. As a consequence, government debt/GDP ratios are brought down by 11pp, 18pp and 25pp, respectively. Ratings agencies love it, as does the bond market – until it realizes that large-scale debt monetization has just taken place, and sells off sharply.
US Over the Cliff and Likes it (Vincent Reinhart)
The US goes over the fiscal cliff and likes it. A deal delayed to early 2013 in which politicians compromise because of concerns about financial markets would resolve uncertainty more assuredly than the baseline of stop-gap legislation followed by a plan later in the year. As a consequence, confidence gets a boost, pent-up business investment kicks in and the labour market improves more rapidly.
US Housing Stalls Out (David Greenlaw)
The burgeoning housing recovery in the US begins to stall due to credit tightening. There is still no private mortgage market at this point and financial problems are brewing at the FHA which could lead to a dramatic reduction in credit availability for first-time homebuyers. Meanwhile, putback risk continues to cause originators to increase scrutiny for conforming loans.