Japan – Down the Rabbit Hole

For all we complain about low growth and dimming prospects here in the US, it’s a problem that has plagued the developed world. If anything, we’re doing quite well, thank you. Europe is still struggling to get out of the depression, with high unemployment – especially among their youth. China and other developing nations appear to have hit a wall, unable to round the corner and step up to developed nation status.

And then, there is Japan. “Basket Case” doesn’t begin to describe it.

We last checked in with them over three years ago when Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister and instituted what has been called “Abenomics”. Call it “Supply Side” if you want, as it emphasized growth in the money supply and a cheap Yen to stimulate growth in production. Call it “A license to print money by the Bank of Japan (BOJ)” if you’re a cynic.

But the problems in Japan are much more severe – they are demographic and social. Without a wholesale restructuring they are as doomed now as they have been for an entire generation. There’s a lesson here for everyone.

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Fed Raising Rates …. When?

It’s been nearly a year since Janet Yellen, in her first testimony press conference after a Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC)  meeting, told the world just what she was looking for before raising the Fed Funds Rate (and everything that rises along with it). The openness was remarkable for a Fed Chair and a sign of a new era as a woman took control of what is arguably the most power job in the world.

Since that time, we have followed “Yellen’s Dashboard” with periodic updates to just just how we’re doin’. Nearly everyone agrees that interest rates will rise sometime this year, probably around June, as she has told us.  But how does that stack up against her very public criteria? It’s worth checking in with some math to see where we are with rates and what we can expect.

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You Were Worried About China?

The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.
– Vladimir Lenin

Barataria was a bit skeptical about Japan’s “Abenomics” back in January.  The first results are in, and they are amazing.  Their economy grew by a developed-world-leading 3.5% in the first quarter, and the stock market is up 28% in 2013.  It’s been called a “wealth shock”, and it’s very welcome in a nation that has been flat for two decades.   What could possibly go wrong?  Just about everything – and it’s likely to affect us here in the US.  Ready for really cheap electronic gadgets?  How about stagnating employment?

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