Reality Bites in Australia’s Savage Rate Cut

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Yes­ter­day the RBA (Aus­trali­a’s Cen­tral Bank) cut its reserve rate by three quar­ters of a per­cent, to 5.25 per­cent. This is the third cut in 3 months, bring­ing the cumu­la­tive reduc­tion since Sep­tem­ber to 2 per­cent

This is a far cry from the RBA’s expec­ta­tions in 2007, that in 2008 it would be rais­ing rates to con­strain a boom­ing econ­o­my and bring infla­tion back down to its tar­get range.

Infla­tion is still above its tar­get, but clear­ly that’s a bulls eye the RBA is no longer aim­ing for. What on earth went wrong with the RBA’s pre­dic­tions for 2008?

DebtWatch No 28 November 2008: What is Really Going On?

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2nd Anniver­sary Issue…

Why Did I See it Coming and “They” Didn’t?

The finan­cial cri­sis is wide­ly accept­ed as hav­ing start­ed in August 9 2007, with the BNP’s announce­ment that it was sus­pend­ing redemp­tions from three of its funds that were heav­i­ly exposed to the US secu­ri­ti­sa­tion mar­ket (click here for the BNP August 9 2007 press release).

Just three months before­hand, the OECD released its 2007 World Eco­nom­ic Out­look, in which it com­ment­ed that:

Debtwatch 27 October 08: The Failure of Central Banks

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Just two years ago, Cen­tral Banks appeared tri­umphant. Infla­tion, the scourge of the 1970s and 80s, appeared dead, the finan­cial cri­sis of the Tech Wreck had been con­tained, economies world­wide were boom­ing, and stock mar­kets and house prices were spi­ralling ever upwards.

Then along came the Sub­prime Cri­sis, and we received a rude reminder of why Cen­tral Banks were cre­at­ed in the first place: to ensure that the world would nev­er again expe­ri­ence a Great Depres­sion.

DebtWatch No 26 September 2008: Losing control of the margin?

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Late last year on SBS News, when Stan Grant asked me which way the RBA would move rates in 2008, I replied “Up, and then down”, Stan quipped “Spo­ken like a true economist–an even hand­ed answer!”–to which I replied “More down than up”.

I expect­ed the intial rate ris­es because of the RBA’s focus on the rate of infla­tion, and a sub­se­quent fall, not because infla­tion would be head­ing down, but because the econ­o­my would be–and the RBA rate would be forced to fol­low it

Debtwatch No. 25: How much worse can “It” get?

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Last month closed with some far from com­fort­ing news about the state of the US hous­ing mar­ket (sales and prices still falling), US finan­cial insti­tu­tions (Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac in need of res­cue), Aus­tralian banks (NAB’s 90% write-down of its US CDO port­fo­lio). Then ABS fig­ures showed that retail sales had fall­en “unex­pect­ed­ly” by one per­cent in June. The recent ral­ly in stock mar­kets came to a sud­den end, and after a brief peri­od of renewed con­fi­dence, the ques­tion “how much worse can “It” get?” is once again doing the rounds.

My answer is: a lot worse. The empir­i­cal grounds for this assess­ment are:

Debt is the Financial system’s Carbon Dioxide

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Steve Keen’s DebtWatch No 23 June 2008

RBA Assis­tant Gov­er­nor Guy Debelle and I spoke at a con­fer­ence on Sub­primes in Ade­laide last month. One aspect of my analy­sis that Guy queried was my empha­sis upon the Debt to GDP ratio. He not­ed that this appeared sus­pect, because it was com­par­ing a stock (the out­stand­ing lev­el of debt) to a flow (annu­al GDP).

It’s a valid point to make. The engi­neer-turned-econ­o­mist Mick­al Kalec­ki once caus­ti­cal­ly observed that “eco­nom­ics is the sci­ence of con­fus­ing stocks with flows”, and I’m a stick­ler myself for not mak­ing that mis­take. So mak­ing a song and dance about a stock to flow com­par­i­son like debt to GDP has to be jus­ti­fied by a sound argu­ment.

Defer the RBA “Enhanced Independence” Act

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Steve Keen’s DebtWatch No 22 May 2008

The Reserve Bank Amend­ment (Enhanced Inde­pen­dence) Bill 2008, which was tabled in Par­lia­ment in March, aims to give the RBA Gov­er­nor and Deputy Gov­er­nor “the same lev­el of statu­to­ry inde­pen­dence as the Com­mis­sion­er of Tax­a­tion and the Aus­tralian Sta­tis­ti­cian” (Wayne Swann, Hansard, Thurs­day, 20 March 2008, p. 2381).

Under the cur­rent Reserve Bank Act, the Gov­er­nor and Deputy are appoint­ed by the Trea­sur­er, and the Trea­sur­er must remove them from their posi­tions if either of them:

Time to read some Minsky

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The cur­rent tur­moil on the Stock Market—and espe­cial­ly the sud­den col­lapse of many once high-flyers—has tak­en a lot of peo­ple by sur­prise.
One per­son who, were he alive today, would­n’t be the least bit sur­prised, is Hyman Min­sky, who pre­dict­ed that events like this would be a reg­u­lar fea­ture of a dereg­u­lat­ed finan­cial sys­tem.
He devel­oped what he called “The Finan­cial Insta­bil­i­ty Hypoth­e­sis”, and any­one who wants to under­stand today’s events needs to know about it.
The fol­low­ing is an extract from an arti­cle by Min­sky in Chal­lenge in 1977—well before even the 1987 Stock Mar­ket Crash—that pro­vides a nut­shell-sized pre­cis of his the­o­ry.

Debtwatch Podcast Now Up and Running

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The Debt­watch Pod­cast is now oper­a­tional. To hear the first inter­view, down­load it, and/or sub­scribe to the month­ly feed via Itunes or sim­i­lar soft­ware, please click on the link below:

Debt­Watch Pod­cast

To sub­scribe direct­ly, sim­ply copy and paste the link below into your pod­cast soft­ware:

Thanks again to Cameron Media Tech­nol­o­gy for pro­vid­ing this ser­vice.

Debtwatch Goes Podcast

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By the kind aus­pices of Stu­art Cameron of Cameron Media Tech­nol­o­gy Pty Ltd, Debt­watch is now going “pod”. Each mon­th’s report will be accom­pa­nied by an inter­view, which will be avail­able for down­load and sub­scrip­tion via Itunes (etc.).

 The first pod­cast, which dis­cuss­es the “Expe­ri­ence can be mis­lead­ing” elec­tion spe­cial report, can be accessed here. Short­ly we’ll also have the XML link to enable sub­scrip­tion to the pod­cast via Itunes and the like.

Thanks again to Stu­art for pro­vid­ing his pro­fes­sion­al skills to make this pod­cast pos­si­ble.