Agnitio asked me what has been going on recently, as I was complaining its a mess. I emailed him my summary, so I thought I’d also put them down here:
The ECB announced that its going to accept some things as collateral – but dump others. Leaving markets confused about what the hell was going on, and what it means for sovereign debt purchases.
The US followed this up by saying that they would buy a smaller amount of long-term debt than forecast, sell short-term debt, and flatten the yield curve. They say it will be stimulatory because NK models say so – however, a flat yield curve is a bit dodgy, given that it’s formed by expectations of either weak growth or weak inflation in the future. In essence NK models say “get the long-run real interest rate down as much as possible” which you do by increasing inflation expectations, not nominal rates – so markets collapsed after that.
US government decided to get involved by refusing to extend the debt limit AGAIN, if they can’t make up by Sep 30 the US will default.
Then the European commission decided that it was a good time to say they were going to introduce a financial transactions tax – just when financial markets are panicking – and for good measure they said they hadn’t figured out what level it would be at, or what would be taxed yet, just to add to uncertainty.
While all this is happening Italy and Greece have continued to say they’ll get their fiscal situation in order – but they keep delaying introducing actual policies. Given Greece is effectively insolvent, the dithering by them, other European governments, and the ECB, makes it unclear who holds the liability the entire European financial system is at a stand still. Given the exposure of Australian banks to this, we have seen funding costs rise considerably (luckily no-one in NZ is actually borrowing anything).
With Europe having fluffed around while the crisis has been in full swing over the past 2 months, purchases from China have pulled back, seeing activity there slow as well. A slowdown in China will have the impact of lowering our export prices.
This mix of awesome factors has seen the cost of insuring against default in Australian banks increase to within a whisker of their Lehman Brother peaks. It has seen uncertainty measures push at new highs.
Unlike the Lehman Brother’s collapse there is no reason for these indicators to be high solely based on the financial fundamentals – the debt burden, and who holds what, is known. However, while policy makers were trying to improve outcomes during the crisis in 2008, they seem more interested in trying to cause a crisis this time around.