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The parallel universe in Japan continues and is delivering superior outcomes, while the rest look on clueless

It’s Wednesday and I have some commitments in Melbourne (recording a podcast with the Inside Network) and that requires some travel. So time is tight. Today, I update the latest from Japan courtesy of yesterday’s release from the Bank of Japan of its ‘Statement on Monetary Policy’. The parallel universe continues and is delivering superior outcomes, while the rest of the world’s policy makers, smitten with neoliberal nonsense, have their heads in the sand and the economies are turning to dust. I also provide some links to the video recording of the launch of the Japanese version of Reclaiming the State, which was held in Kyoto in November 2023. And I provide some links to a major article that I was featured in with one of Japan’s leading magazines. And if that isn’t enough, we have Voodoo Child.

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Are the OPEC production cuts a problem?

It’s Wednesday and so I have a few items to discuss followed by some music. Many readers have E-mailed me asking about last week’s decision by the OPEC+ cartel to cut production of crude oil by 1.66 million barrels per day. Taken together with the previous cuts (2 millions barrels per day) in October, this pushed the price of oil up within a day or so back over $US80 per day. Many commentators immediately announced this would drive inflation back up and force central banks to go harder on interest rates. I disagree with those assessments. When analysing cartel behaviour (and OPEC+ is such an organisation), one has to distinguish between price stability and price gouging exercises. As I explain below, I believe OPEC+ to be engaged in a price stabilising activity in the face of anticipated reductions in global demand for crude oil. The risk is that demand will fall further than the producers expect and they will have to make further cuts. But even if the new price level holds, that won’t really trigger a new bout of accelerating inflation.

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Inflation has probably peaked in Australia – yes, it was a transient episode

Given yesterday’s extensive National Accounts analysis replaced my usual Wednesday blog post, I am using today to discuss a range of issues and provide a musical interlude into your lives for peace. Yesterday’s bad National Accounts data release took the headlines away from another data release from the ABS yesterday – the monthly CPI data results. Inflation is falling in Australia and has probably peaked. The RBA still thinks it is going to hike rates a few more times. As more data comes out, their cover (justifications) are evaporating by the day and it is becoming obvious that they are pushing rates up because they want to reclaim the territory as the ‘boss’ of macroeconomic policy irrespective of the costs and hardships they impose on lower-income Australian families. Shocking really. I also look at the new RadioMMT show which launched last week. And the debate about Covid continues but the evidence is being distorted badly by those who continue to claim it was all a conspiracy to bring us to heel. And then some music.

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RBA governor thinks massive bank profits are good while he wants unemployment to rise

It’s Wednesday and a lot is going on. The RBA governor appeared before the Commonwealth Senate Estimates Committee today and demonstrated what a troglodyte he is, defending massive bank profits and deliberately trying to cause unemployment. Meanwhile, US data shows that inflation has peaked and is now falling. The pace of the deceleration is picking up. Meanwhile – MMTed – is active and our 4-week course began today (see details below) and we are helping a new radio show to launch next week – Radio MMT. And we cannot go a Wednesday without some great music. All in a day.

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RBA loses all credibility with further interest rate increases

Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia lifted the interest rate target for the ninth consecutive time (they didn’t meet in January) claiming that they had to do this to stop inflation accelerating and restoring price stability. Except inflation already peaked in the March-quarter 2022 as a result of the driving factors abating. Further, none of the major driving factors are remotely sensitive to domestic interest rate movements. The RBA’s excuse is that there are dangerous domestic demand pressures that need to be curtailed. Except the evidence for that claim is lacking. Most of the demand measures are in retreat. So what gives? Well there is a massive income redistributing being engineered by the RBA from poor to rich and if they keep going unemployment will certainly rise, in part, because the lame Australian government is claiming it has to engage in fiscal restraint to ensure the RBA doesn’t hike rates even more than they are. It would be comical if it wasn’t damaging the prosperity and solvency of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable Australians. Disgraceful.

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Bank of Japan continues to show who has the power

Its been around 9 months since the central banks of the world (bar Japan) started to push up interest rates. This reflected a return to the dominant mainstream view that fiscal policy should aim to support monetary policy in its fight against inflation and thus be biased towards surpluses, while central banks manipulated interest rates to deal with any inflationary pressures. The central banks would somehow form a ‘future-looking’ view that inflation was about to spring up and they would push rates up to curb the pressures. The corollary was that full employment would be achieved through price stability because the market would bring the unemployment rate to a level consistent with stable inflation. So full employment became defined in terms of inflation rather than sufficient jobs to meet the desires of the workforce. This is the so-called NAIRU consensus that has dominated the academy and policy makers since the 1970s. During the pandemic, it was abandoned and there was hope, particularly after statements made by the US Federal Reserve that this approach had unnecessarily resulted in elevated levels of unemployment for decades, that central bankers would target low unemployment as well as price stability. Progressive economists, of course, rejected the whole deal, noting that monetary policy shifts created uncertain distributional outcomes (creditors gain, debtors lose when rates rise) and also rising interest rates add to business costs which provoke further price rises. Anyway, after a short respite from this pernicious NAIRU logic, we are back to square one with central banks pushing up rates. The Bank of Japan is now standing, again, in the wilderness, resisting this logic and demonstrating how government should deal with the sort of pressures being felt around the globe. And who isn’t happy? The grandstanding financial markets who thought they could make a quick buck but have come up against an ideology that rejects their claim to dominance. That is a happy story.

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Migrating to Mastodon and some additional announcements

Today, I have a few news and information items. First, I detail how to migrate to Mastodon so that you can continue to follow me as I escape Twitter. Second, I provide enrolment details for the next offering of our MMT edX MOOC. Third, I provide access details to my annual Helsinki public lecture which will take place tomorrow starting at 19:00 EAST.

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EU bonds will not become a ‘safe asset’ – Germany and Co won’t let that happen

It’s Wednesday and I have several items to discuss or provide information about today. Today, I discuss the future of the EU-bonds that were issued as part of two main emergency interventions in 2020 as policy makers feared the worse from the pandemic. The question is whether these assets can ever become ‘safe’ in the same way that Japanese government bonds or US treasury bonds are clearly ‘safe’. The answer is that they cannot and the reason goes to the heart of the problem besetting Europe – the fundamental monetary architecture is flawed in the most elemental way. I also provide some updates for MMTed and a great new book. And, of course, this week, I have to remember Jeff Beck in the music segment.

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