Die unbeab­sichtigten Fol­gen der Politik billigen Gel­des

Niall Ferguson in einem (bissigen) Kommentar bei Bloomberg:

Nobody could have predicted the Treasury market’s collapse of the last two years — apart from every critic of artificially low interest rates since John Locke.“ – bto: Erinnert mich an mein Gespräch mit Edward Chancellor vor einigen Monaten…

Wie immer erzählt Ferguson eine gute Geschichte, deshalb lohnt es sich, sie hier zu zitieren:

  • „(…) the sudden surge in nominal and real interest rates (…) has seen the yield on a 10-year US Treasury rise from 0.66% in April 2020 to 4.88% this week. The last time the 10-year yield moved this much in the space of three years was 1979-82 — back when Fed Chairman Paul Volcker was slaying the 1970s inflation dragon — a period that saw not one but two recessions.“ – bto: Aber diesmal ist alles anders… Wir haben keine Rezession, es gibt, so die Erwartung, eine weiche Landung. Oder?
  • In terms of total returns, this is the biggest bond market rout in 150 years. Last year was in fact US bond investors’ worst year since 1871, with a total return of minus 15.7%, even worse than the annus horribilis of 2009. For 2023, the year-to-date return has been almost minus 10%; annualized, that’s minus 17.3% — even worse than 2022. We are looking at bond investors’ two worst years in a century and a half.“ – bto: Nachdem es zuvor sehr gute Jahrzehnte gab, ist es doch alles kein Problem. Oder?

Quelle: Bloomberg

  • All this is terrible news for the banks holding large quantities of Treasury securities on their balance sheets. It is terrible news for the very large number of companies whose investment grade bonds — totaling more than $400 billion — mature next year. It is terrible news for anyone looking to refinance a mortgage. For all these different groups, borrowing costs will leap upwards.“ – bto: Der ganze Privatsektor wird davon getroffen, weil die Verschuldung einfach so viel höher ist.
  • But the biggest consequences will be for the biggest borrower — namely the US government. (…) US fiscal policy has long been on an unsustainable trajectory — for more than 20 years, in fact. But under President Joe Biden it has jumped the shark. The federal deficit looks like it will exceed 7% of GDP in fiscal 2023 (…) That is a truly shocking number for an economy that is running at close to full employment.“ – bto: Ohne das Defizit wäre die US-Wirtschaft in einer Rezession.
  • The key problem(…) is that the average maturity of the federal debt is just 76 months. So even if the CBO is right, and long-term interest rates average 4% over the next three decades, the result will still be budget deficits rising to 10% of GDP. And each additional percentage point on interest rates would add an additional $2.8 trillion of debt service costs over 10 years.“ – bto: In der Eurozone ist das angesichts des deutlich geringeren Wachstums noch schlimmer.
  • „(…) the English political philosopher John Locke provided an illustration that is highly relevant to our own predicament. In ‚Some consideration of the consequences of the lowering of interest and raising the value of money‘ — an updated essay that he sent in a letter to a member of Parliament, Sir John Somers, dated Nov. 7, 1691 — Locke brilliantly spelled out the unintended consequences of artificial caps on interest rates. (…) Could ‚the price of the hire of money … be regulated by law?‘ Locke asked. His answer was stark.“ – bto: … und aus unserer Sicht nicht überraschend:

„It is manifest it cannot. … It will be impossible, by any contrivance of law, to hinder men, skilled in the power they have over their own goods, and the ways of conveying them to others, to purchase money to be lent them, at what rate soever their occasions shall make it necessary for them to have it; for it is to be remembered, that no man borrows money, or pays use, out of mere pleasure: it is the want of money drives men to that trouble and charge of borrowing; and proportionably to this want, so will every one have it, whatever price it cost him. Wherein the skilful, I say, will always so manage it, as to avoid the prohibition of your law, and keep out of its penalty, do what you can.“

What, Locke asked, would be the unintended consequences of a law to force down interest rates?“ – bto: Wir kennen sie – die Fehlallokation von Kapital.

„It will make the difficulty of borrowing and lending much greater, whereby trade (the foundation of riches) will be obstructed. It will be a prejudice to none, but those who most need assistance and help; I mean widows and orphans, and others uninstructed in the arts and management of more skilful men …It will mightily increase the advantage of bankers and scriveners, and other such expert brokers …I fear I may reckon it as one of the probable consequences of such a law, that it is likely to cause great perjury in the nation; a crime, than which nothing is more carefully to be prevented by law-makers …“

bto: Wir wissen, dass es genau so in den letzten Jahren gewesen ist.

  • A little Locke might have warned the proponents of ‚quantitative easing‘ and ‚forward guidance‘ that their efforts to manipulate interest rates would sooner or later have unintended consequences, too.
  • Joe Biden (…) advisers believed he should emulate Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson with extravagant spending bills. Given that the vaccines, plus the 2020 stimulus checks, had already stoked the US economy for recovery, this was predictably inflationary, as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers rightly pointed out. A further unintended consequence is that voters now give Biden no credit for the reduction in inflation we have seen this year.“ – bto: Zu Recht, denn der IRA ist alles, aber kein Gesetz zur Reduktion der Inflation…
  • „(…) Trump and Biden were not wrong to think that China was posing a growing economic as well as strategic threat to the US. But the measures Washington has taken since 2017 — first tariffs, then technological sanctions aimed at containing China’s growth — have unintentionally added to the upward pressure on interest rates, effectively cutting the US off from Chinese capital.“ – bto. Das ist vor allem eine Folge der Sanktionen gegen Russland.
  • Likewise, Western efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are spurred by the best of intentions. We were not wrong to think that we should collectively switch from burning hydrocarbons and embrace renewable energy sources in order to slow or halt global warming. But the unintended consequence has been that China has flooded Western markets with solar cells and electric vehicles, all manufactured with increasing amounts of coal-generated electricity.“ – bto: Das ist in der Tat ein Witz – allerdings einer, der gerade Deutschland teuer zu stehen kommt.
  • We cannot foresee how long the upward trend in bond yields will continue. Perhaps there will a 1987-style crash that will force the Fed to change course and cut rates. Or perhaps my brilliant former student Paul Schmelzing will turn out to be right. In Bloomberg last week, he was quoted predicting a quite rapid return to low and even negative real interest rates. Schmelzing’s forthcoming book-length history of interest rates points to a sustained declining trend for real rates dating back to the 14th century, albeit with bouts of volatility above and below the trendline.“ – bto: Da werden wir sicherlich wieder drüber sprechen.
  • ‚There’s a mean reversion going on around that centuries-long trendline,‘ he said. ‚But within a certain time frame, that global cost of capital always comes back to that trendline. And that … line is downward trending.‘ True, wars and pandemics can seem to derail the downward trend. But, according to Schmelzing, such shocks soon fade. If it ‚typically … takes about four years for half of shock [such as Covid] to reverse … [then] by 2024 we should be halfway back to that trendline.‘ And by 2050, real rates should be back in ‚deeply negative territory.‘“ – bto: Das ist zweifellos spannend!
  • Ferguson dazu: „Paul, I hope you’re right. My worry is that you are underestimating the tendency for one unintended consequence to lead to another in a veritable cascade of unintendedness. Schmelzing emphasizes the relative ‚absence of conflict‘ in the recent past, which was certainly a factor in the great disinflation that followed the end of the Cold War. But the interwar period is over. A new Cold War has begun. A hot war raging in Ukraine shows no sign of ending soon. With the Hamas onslaught on Israel, a new war has erupted in the Middle East. And storm clouds continue to gather over Taiwan.“ – bto: Zeitenwende?

bloomberg.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): „Law of Unintended Consequences Caused the Great Bond Rout“, 9. Oktober 2023