The Japanese economy is the third largest in the world, following the United Sates and China. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Japanese economy reached a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $34,739, which was the 25th highest in 2011. For decades, the Japanese economy has been mired in a deflationary spiral, showing weak and anemic economic performance. The Japanese economy suffered from a bust in the late 1980s. Since then, it has failed to restructure itself and build a new foundation for growth.
Whenever I got stuck solving a problem in elementary school, my teacher would say, “go back and see where you went wrong.” This lesson—“learn from your mistakes”—was taught again in high school, and then throughout my life. It’s very simple: you can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Albert Einstein called it “insanity.”
When I look at the Japanese economy, I see the most basic lesson you learn in business school being ignored. The Bank of Japan, and the government, in an effort to improve the Japanese economy has resorted to money printing (quantitative easing) over and over, failing each time to spur growth. One might call it an act of insanity.
Through quantitative easing, the central bank of Japan wanted to boost the Japanese economy. It hoped that pushing more exports to the global economy from its manufacturers would change the fate of the country. It wanted inflation as well.
The result: after years of quantitative easing, the government and the central bank have outright failed to revive the Japanese economy. In fact, the opposite of their original plan is happening.
In January, the trade deficit in the Japanese economy grew—the country’s imports were more than its exports. Imports amounted to 7.70 trillion yen and exports were only 5.88 trillion yen. The trade deficit was 3.5% greater compared to the previous month. (Source: Japanese Customers web site, last accessed February 20, 2014.) Mind you, January wasn’t the only month when imports were more than exports in the Japanese economy. This is something that has been happening for some time.
Inflation in the Japanese … Read More
What the Federal Reserve is doing in the U.S.—its effort to get the economy going via its money printing program—has already been tried by the second-largest economy in the world: Japan.
Unfortunately, the easy monetary policy implemented by the Bank of Japan didn’t spur the Japanese economy. So why would it work for the U.S. economy?
One of the core purposes of easy monetary policy by the Federal Reserve was to improve lending so businesses would borrow money and grow (hopefully creating jobs) and consumers would borrow and spend (creating economic activity). All of this would lead to improved consumer confidence.
The Bank of Japan started a scheme to increase lending in Japan in 2010. It gave funds to its biggest banks to lend to companies. It set aside 21.5 trillion yen for this scheme; but sadly, only 8 trillion yen has been used. (Source: Reuters, October 17, 2013.) Easy money policies, and a program specially designed to give money to banks to lend out to companies, did not work in the Japanese economy.
And consumer confidence in the Japanese economy remains bleak. The index that tracks consumer confidence in the country stood at 41.9 in November. At the beginning of the year, it hovered near 45.0. A subset of consumer confidence, an index tracking consumers’ willingness to buy durable goods, stood at the lowest level of the year in November at 42.4 compared to 44.9 in January. (Source: Japan’s Cabinet Office, December 10, 2013.) The bottom line: after years of easy money policies and with a national debt-to-GDP multiple of 205%, there’s been no improvement in consumer confidence or … Read More
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to increase by 2.9% this year and 3.6% in 2014—forecasts which I believe are too optimistic. Why?
First of all, we have the Japanese economy, the third-biggest in the global economy, suffering an economic slowdown. Tertiary industry activity (activity in the service businesses) slowed in September from a month ago. (Source: Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, November 12, 2013.)
Then there’s Germany, the fourth-biggest economy in the global economy. Once believed to be immune to the economic slowdown in the eurozone, seasonally adjusted manufacturing output in the country declined 0.8% in September from August. As of September, year-to-date manufacturing output in the German economy has increased only 1.2%—a much slower growth rate than in the same period of 2012. (Source: Destatis, November 8, 2013.)
Earlier this month, in a statement about its monetary policy decision, the central bank of Australia said, “In Australia, the economy has been growing a bit below trend over the past year and the unemployment rate has edged higher. This is likely to persist in the near term… Public spending is forecast to be quite weak.” (Source: “Statement by Glenn Stevens, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision,” Reserve Bank of Australia, November 5, 2013.)
To fight the economic slowdown in the country, the Reserve Bank of Australia is using easy monetary policy measures. The central bank has reduced its benchmark interest rate in the country by more than 40% since the beginning of 2012. The cash rate, the overnight money market interest rate, sits at 2.50% compared to 4.25% in early 2012. (Source: Reserve Bank of Australia … Read More
If you want to see how this all turns out in the end, I’m talking about the Federal Reserve’s program of printing over $1.0 trillion a year in new paper money (something that’s never happened in history), we need not look any further than the Japanese economy.
Why? Because the Japanese economy collapsed about 15 years before our credit crisis collapse of 2008. What we are doing now (artificially low interest rates, deep government debt, and money printing), the Japanese did years ago.
But unfortunately, when I compare the “Japanese experiment” to what our government and central bank are doing now, I don’t like what I see. In fact, I question the long-term benefits and effectiveness of quantitative easing.
Did quantitative easing help the Japanese economy? Turns out the answer is, NO. Since 1990, when troubles in the Japanese economy began, until 2011, the average annual growth rate (as measured by GDP) of the third biggest nation in the global economy has been less than 1.1%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed October 4, 2013.) In 2012, the Japanese economy didn’t perform so well and fell back into recession.
This year, the Japanese economy grew one percent in the first quarter and then declined to 0.9% in the second. (Source: Trading Economics web site, last accessed October 4, 2013.) Albeit a generalization, if quantitative easing and low interest rates were working, the Japanese economy would not be suffering like it is.
Which investments made money for the investors in the Japanese economy during its post-boom era? To say the very least, just don’t count on … Read More
At the very core, this U.S. government shutdown means that about one million federal employees will be told to go home without pay. Non-essential services will be stopped until further notice. This will be mainly due to a lack of funds. (Source: Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, September 24, 2013.) National parks will be closed; museums will be shut along with many other services.
What government services will be available? Social security and the Medicare payments will be sent out to those who already rely on it. For those who are applying for it during the U.S. government shutdown, they will not have their applications processed for the time being.
As bad as all of this may sound, this U.S. government shutdown isn’t the first one we’ve seen. Since 1976, there have been 17 instances when the U.S. government wasn’t able to come to a decision on funding. Mind you, many U.S. government shutdowns only lasted over the weekend, so their effects were minimal. The last two long U.S. government shutdowns were 17 years ago and they lasted a total of 27 days. (Source: Ibid.)
With all this, there are many different opinions. With so many people sent home, the U.S. government shutdown is an immediate money-saver. But on the other hand, those who aren’t getting paid are likely pulling back on spending and that will affect gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the U.S. economy.
As all this happens, I stay far away from making political predictions, as after all, that’s all we are dealing with here—two political parties pitted against each other resulting in a U.S. government … Read More
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