Monday, October 06, 2008
Or are we? Those words were spoken by Robert Dye, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in this story at Bloomberg today and it probably captures the sentiment of most stock investors.
Cut rates! What harm could it do?
A half-point cut to short-term rates would certainly give equity markets at least a temporary boost and the whole idea of remaining vigilant against inflation is, quite frankly, starting to look kind of silly with commodity prices tumbling and home prices in free-fall.
Oh, that's right, home prices aren't included in the government's misguided measure of "inflation" and food and energy are stripped from the economists' preferred gauge of consumer prices, both of these errors sure to go down in the economic history books as being much more grave in retrospect than in real-time.
Anyway, they're starting to talk about deflation again (or at least dis-inflation) - that's when central banks are supposed to start cutting rates with abandon.
Deflation Threat Returns as Asset Markets DeclineWithout the benefit of having seen today's
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his global colleagues fight the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, one danger is looming larger by the day: deflation.
With asset markets tumbling, commodity prices plunging the most in 50 years and banks keeping a tighter grip on credit, the ingredients for a sustained period of falling prices are coalescing. While inflation is still a concern for many policy makers only months after oil and food prices peaked, the risk is their patchwork of rescue and stimulus packages will fail, and prices will start to fall throughout the broader economy.
Prices are already falling in parts of the world economy. Home values dropped more than 10 percent in the U.K. and in the U.S. in the past year. Oil, copper and corn drove commodities toward their biggest weekly decline since at least 1956 on Oct. 3, with the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials tumbling 10.4 percent. The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity shipping costs, has dropped 75 percent since May.
"We are certainly more worried about deflation than inflation," says David Owen, chief European economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Group Ltd. in London. Central bankers need to "get rates down and keep them there for quite some time,'' he says.
more than 700 point almost 800 point plunge on the Dow, Mr. Dye notes at the end, "What's the point in holding back?"
Ambrose Evans Pritchard is much less respectful of recent monetary policy in this report in today's Telegraph noting in the subtitle that "unless there is immediate intervention on every front by all the major powers acting in concert, we risk a disintegration of global finance within days. Nobody will be spared, unless they own gold bars."
One more reason to buy some gold - if you can find any...
Germany takes hot seat as Europe falls into the abyssThere is much more from Ambrose in his characteristically caustic style along with more than 200 reader comments at the Telegraph.
Investors will learn today whether the Paulson bail-out - fattened to $850bn (£480bn) by Congress - can begin to halt the death spiral in the credit system. So far, the response looks terrible.
Germany is now in the hot seat. The collapse of a rescue deal for Hypo Real Estate on Saturday threatens a €400bn (£311bn) bankruptcy that nearly matches the Lehman Brothers debacle for sheer scale.
Drastic rate cuts would be a good start. Central bankers still paralysed by a misplaced fear of inflation – whether in Europe, Britain, or the US – have become a public menace and should be held to severe account by our democracies. The imminent and massive danger is now self-feeding debt deflation.
The lesson of the 1930s is that any country trying to reflate in isolation will be punished. The crisis will ricochet from one economy to another until every one is crippled. We are seeing it play again in this drama as our leaders fail to rise above their narrow, parochial agendas.
The European Central Bank – which raised rates into the teeth of the crisis in July – has played a shockingly destructive role in this enveloping slump. Its growth predictions this year have been, and still are, delusional. Neglecting its global role, it has vastly complicated the fire-fighting efforts of Washington.
Equity markets surely need something.