While Kyle Bass notably remarks that pinpointing the end of a 70-year debt super-cycle is naive, the combination of the resurgence of nationalism (impacting trade with China) and the dreadful impact of the earthquake/tsunami (drastically changing Japan’s supply chain) has secularly shifted Japan’s trade balance for the worst at a time when the current account is already negative. “They are all in denial,” Bass notes as the government has failed to deal with its problems over the last 20 years.
Simply put, Japan needs a Schumpeterian ‘creative destruction’ moment instead of the constant rolling of debts and expanding of government balance sheets to paper over the cracks. The ‘moment’ feels like it is now, he notes, expanding that “JPY could hit 200,” as they lose control; following two decades of volatility-smoothing, the chance of a disorderly collapse are high.
As reported late on Friday, just as the market closed, the Portuguese constitutional court decided that several provisions of the country’s 2013 budget were not constitutional. According to the high court, cuts in wages and pensions of public employees were unfair (there’s that word again) because they targeted only the public sector. The court rejected plans to cut one of the 14 paychecks that public workers usually get each year and to slash 6.4% from pensions for retirees. This coincided with the government warning that the court’s decision would put into question the country’s ability to fulfill its €78 billion international bailout program, which in turn would send bondholders of Portuguese sovereign debt scrambling for the exits as suddenly the country may find itself in the ECB’s “dunce” corner, with Draghi preparing to pull a “Berlusconi” on a government which can’t even whip its judicial branch in line. However, of more immediate concern is how will the government now plug a hole of up to €1.3 billion in its €5.3 billion 2013 budget. A solution has, luckily, presented itself: bypass the unconstitutional provisions by paying government workers not in cash, but in government bills!
The Portuguese government is considering a plan to pay public workers and pensioners one month of their salary in treasury bills rather than cash after a high court ruled out wage cuts, a person familiar with the situation said Sunday.
“This is one of the ideas being considered,” the person said.
By paying one month of salary in T-bills to public workers and pensioners, the government would save an estimated €1.1 billion in expenses, narrowing the budget gap significantly.
Incidentally, this plan makes perfect sense: with every central bank openly monetizing its debt, it has effectively made debt and cash equivalent.
“Livid” Top Chinese Economists Call BOJ Decision “Monetary Blackmail”, Demand “Currency War” Retaliation
The Chinese Central Bank has so far stoically endured the monthly injection of $85 billion in boiling hot money for the past seven months, lovingly delivered by the inhabitants of the Marriner Eccles building, even if it meant a proportionate hawkish response which has pushed the Shanghai Composite red for the year, and having to deal with a property market that is on the verge of another inflationary blow off top. But while the PBOC will grudgingly take this kind of monetary abuse from Bernanke, now that it has to deal with another de novo created $70+ billion in monthly central bank liquidity (poetically called Carry-O-QE by Deutsche’s Jim Reid), this time coming from that loathed neighbor and one time invader across the East China Sea, China won’t take it any more. As the SCMP reports, “Many of China’s top economists are livid at what they view as an effective currency devaluation by Japan and are calling on the People’s Bank of China to retaliate by weakening the yuan to defend itself in what they see as a new currency war.”
Of course, calling on the PBOC to “do something about it” is one thing, and certainly China whose GDP is still extremely reliant on net exports for economic growth would like nothing more than to crush the CNY, boost its exports and hurt Japan in the process. However, if it does that, it will merely accelerate already rampant home price inflation, which in the aftermath of the recent chicken culling bird flu outbreak and what is already a scarcity of pork meat after last year’s corn drought, will then spread to food prices and lead to mass social instability (something Japan, and its docile, irradiated population apparently has little to worry about).
More from South China Morning Post:
These economists, including Tsinghua University professor Li Daokui and ANZ Bank’s Liu Ligang, see Japan’s plan to double its monetary base within two years as “blackmail” and have criticised the Japanese central bank’s decision to open the liquidity floodgates to bump up the economy.
Liu said Japan’s unprecedented easing programme, aimed at ending more than two decades of deflation, was “a monetary blackmail” targeted at other export-driven Asian countries such as China and that the central bank should sell more yuan and buy the US dollar to push down the yuan.
He also called on authorities to guard against a fresh wave of hot money into China’s fragile financial markets, warning that Japan’s move would reignite the so-called carry trade, under which investors borrow in low-interest yen and invest in high- interest markets.
“The massive monetary stimulus by the Japanese central bank could spell doom for other nations in the region,” said Tsinghua’s Li, a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China.