Today the market capitalization of bitcoin hit $1 Trillion and sceptics such as Nouriel Roubini LINK have so far been made to eat humble pie, Currently Bitcoin is trading at $56,000 and if you had invested $1000 back in 2010 it would be worth a staggering $560 million today. Here on businesseconomics.com we have always looked at Bitcoin as a tradeable asset. much like rare stamps if people are happy to trade them amongst themselves then they have value. However, we have become increasingly concerned about the relationship between the so called stable coin Tether and whether it is actually being created out of thin air and is really backed by the equivalent in dollar reserves, this point has been extensively examined on other websites see for example LINK LINK1, LINK2 LINK2 Furthermore I am not too sure I would want billions of reserves being with a bank managed by a Deputy CEO Gregory Pepin LINK3 he looks like he enjoys doing gaming during his spare time. I would like to see a psychologist comment on his body language. Even if Tether is not being created out of thin air it seems that someone did actually create $5 billion worth that got called back LINK4 that alone is a warning sign. We are also concerned that the daily value of trading in Tether of over $100 billion is now substantially more than the supposed market capitalization of of Tether of $33.5 billion. This means each Tether is being traded no less than 3 times per day on average. This all sounds great for liquidity but if the whole crypto market depends on Tethers then this creates a systematic risk to the whole crypto currency market. However a concern which we would like to highlight is the liquidity risk associated with Tether, you only have to go to their website to see this.
Brexit bureaucracy chaos is now strangling the UK economy Boris got Brexit done and he has done the UK in !
There is now a full blown crisis in the UK logistic industry, the paperwork I have been warning of is now strangling UK firms and hauliers with new bureaucracy and procedures. There are insufficient customs agents to deal with the problems, the IT systems are not up to the job and the cost of shipping goods if you can do it is skyrocketing. exports are also arriving late at their destination much later which means food such as fish, meat and vegetables are not as fresh when they finally get to their EU destination. Some trucks are being turned back because part of their shipments do not have the correct paperwork. The Brexiteers lied about reduced bureaucracy the Brexit scam is only going to get worse as traffic volumes pick up towards the end of January it cannot even cope with the reduced volumes of the first two weeks of January. UK business are not in a financial condition to cope with all this extra paperwork and costs many will go bust as a result. The Brexiteers need to be held to account for their lies and deceit to the British people.
Even the Brexit supporting daily mail is reporting the chaos LINK
While Boris goes around lying about his crappy deal that it creates "no non tariff barriers to trade" in the real world businesses have to cope with many new procedures and piles of paperwork to fill in.. In the attached LINK1 you can see the vast array of new procedures and forms face. There will be over 200 million new customs declarations required costing around £35 each with equates to £7 billion just wasted. Then there is the cost of 50,000 new bureaucrats that will be needed.. The reality will now start to kick in and expect to see some very upset hauliers and businesses before the end of January., Oh and don't forget you risk a £300 fine if you enter Kent without valid paperwork.
Lets just say that Boris last minute cave in which I fully predicted LINK2 has resulted in a very bad deal for the UK since it creates paperwork, bureaucracy and has nothing tangible to say on services.. It removes rights of UK citizens to automatically work and live in the EU, it puts the country at risk by limiting our access to EU databases. It makes the UK far less attractive for domestic and foreign investment. It will lower GDP by 4% by 2020 (in my view this is the minimum fall) and will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.. Yet clown Boris has the cheek to claim this is all a great success.
I like this analysis reported in the Guardian which sums this whole fiasco up brilliantly:
In Der Spiegel, Nikolaus Blome said there was “absolutely nothing good about Brexit … which would never have happened had Conservative politicians not, to a quite unprecedented degree, deceived and lied to their people”.
Much of the British media, Blome said, “were complicit, constantly trampling on fairness and facts”, leaving Britain “captured by gambling liars, frivolous clowns and their paid cheerleaders. They have destroyed my Europe, to which the UK belonged as much as France or Germany.”
But Johnson’s lies were the biggest of all, he said: “‘Take back control,’ Johnson lied to his citizens. But all the British government will finally have achieved is to have taken back control of a little shovel and a little sand castle.”
As the Brexit lies unravel in 2021 I expect there to be dawning on many British people that voted for Brexit they were duped. Well I am sorry that they were but sometimes in life you have to learn the hard way. It is as simple as that.
In the meantime Happy New Year to all (excluding Boris, Gove, Mees Mogg, Gisela Stuart, Raab )
I see Boris is preparing to get the Navy in to protect our waters from the French fishermen. What a joke this guy is. He has lied so often it is incredible that anyone in the UK could support him. The prospects of a "no deal" Brexit were "a million to one". He had an "oven ready deal" that now seems to be stuck in the freezer The guy is fool leading a cabinet of equal fools. The incompetence and ignorance on display is truly breath taking.
As I have told my students "Never in the history of the United Kingdom have some many hundreds of billions been wasted, on behalf of so many millions, by so few to achieve such negative results." Well it is coming up to the time for this foolishness to meet the Brexit reality. The paperwork on the Northen Irish border, the paperwork and possible tariffs at the Dover Calais will be one of the immediate visible effects of Brexit but there is much worse to come. The UK labour market will suffer from having less EU workers both skilled and unskilled, foreign direct investment will be hit, many businesses will fail, unemployment will rise, the public finances will take a severe hit and supply chains will be severely disrupted. This will be followed by more stories of poverty, kids not getting the food they need, a rise in mental health problems and social divisions and ineqaulity will rise.
All I hear from some Brexiteers is we will be getting our sovereignty back and how after covid Brexit is just a minor set back or a "bump in the road". It may be a small bump for the wealthy and privileged that have plenty of funds to tide them over but it is not a bump in the road to the hundreds of thousands that will lose their jobs, struggle to meet their bills to feed their kids and themselves. The Brexit lunacy knows no bounds but I suspect that the time of reckoning for the Brexiteers is about to start.
There are three risks facing the UK, covid, Brexit and the greatest in my opinion is 4 more years of a country being run by a Prime Minister who is way out of his depth, a serial liar and a bungling incompetent of epic proportions.
I just published the following op-ed on Russia Television website concerning the Coronavirus and impact on the UK economy LINK
The full post is also below:
Despite the UK government lobbing billions of pounds at the problem, millions will lose their jobs and thousands of businesses will go bust. And the poor and the young will bear the brunt.
The coronavirus lockdown has had a devastating effect on the economic output of the United Kingdom, with the latest estimate being that it has fallen by over 20% in the month of April and it is likely to have stabilised at around this level in May.
The UK is a heavily trade dependent nation, and April saw export volumes fall by 17.7% and imports volumes decline by 26.5%. To avert an even worse outcome, the UK government has intervened on an unprecedented scale to reduce the adverse effects on the economy, companies and households.
Since the commencement of lockdown on the 23rd of March, the economy has been in freefall with output plunging by 5.8% in March and 20.4% in April. Manufacturing output fell by 24.5% and the service sector by 19.8%, however, due to the speedy emergency measures taken by the government this has not yet been fully reflected in the unemployment figures.
The Job Retention Scheme, the provision of emergency loans and tax deferments for Companies has prevented an even worse outcome. The predictions are dire: a fall in GDP of 11.5% for 2020 and a rise in unemployment from 3.9% in March to in excess of 10% by March 2021.
Some sectors have been decimated by the lockdown and social distancing with April figures showing widespread falls in revenue - accommodation and food services (-88.1%), construction (-40%), arts and entertainment (-39.7%) Education (-33.4%), transportation and storage (-28.8%) wholesale, retail and motor services (-27%). A few other sectors have performed somewhat better, including Information and communication (-13.3%) and Financial and insurance services (-5.3%).
Throwing billions down the drain?
The government response has been swift and significant with the focus being the Furlough scheme which is covering some 9.3 million employees at an estimated net cost of £39 billion, there is a £10 billion support scheme for the self-employed. An additional £16 billion earmarked for essential public services and £15 billion in grants and loans for businesses.
The total cost is estimated to be £103.6 billion, of which is £99.3 billion is in increased government expenditure and £4.3 billion in tax cuts and concessions. The effect on the government finances will be a fiscal deficit of more than 10% of GDP, and the national debt rising from 80% to an eventual 110% of GDP over the next few years.
The government policy interventions will largely be financed by the new Quantitative Easing programme announced by the Bank of England of £100 billion, and while this runs the risk of future inflation and undermines the perceived independence of the Bank, these are largely concerns for the future.
The poor and the young bear the brunt
When it comes to households there have been noticeable differences between the better-off and the worse-off in society. Modelling work reveals that the low-paid and younger workers have been the most affected, since they tend to work in the sectors like hospitality, leisure and retail most impacted by the crisis.
Data shows that the low-paid are still more likely to be furloughed than their higher-paid counterparts. The Resolution Foundation reports that 27% of the lowest fifth in income distribution have been furloughed, while the figure for the top one fifth is only 10%.
Likewise, 8% of the lowest fifth in the income distribution have been made unemployed, while the corresponding figure for the top fifth is 2%. A young versus older worker divide exists, with 30% of 18-24 year olds furloughed and 10% made unemployed, while the figures for 54-59 year olds is estimated at 17% and 3% respectively.
The Foundation also reports that one in four lower income households have increased their use of consumer credit during the pandemic, while the corresponding figure for high income households is one in eight.
As well as taking the biggest income hit, poorer households have substantially less savings and wealth to see them through the crisis. A typical worker in a shut-down sector of the economy and most at risk of unemployment had average savings of just £1,900, compared to £4,700 for those who have been able to work from home during the crisis.
These averages also disguise the plight of a substantial number of people who have no savings at all and already have quite high debt burdens. Three times as many adults in the top fifth of the income distribution have experienced no income hit as compared to the bottom fifth.
Incredibly, because they have not been spending so much on travel out of house activities such as holidays and eating out, over a third of the richest fifth of the population have seen their savings increase during the crisis. This cannot be said of many of those in the bottom part of the income distribution, whose debt burden has increased and who have had to rely on loans and support from family and friends to make ends meet.
The Foundation also reports that employees in the “mixed or other ethnic group” category have suffered largest rate of job losses to date at 12%, together with Asian British at 11%, compared to a national average of 4%, due to the fact these groups disproportionately worked in sectors of the economy most affected by the pandemic.
Interestingly, for the black ethnic group members who predominantly work in essential services, the figure is line with the national average.
In 2018-19, the average income of UK citizens of the black ethnic group was 18% lower than for white people once allowance for benefits and taxes. The pandemic will worsen income inequality.
The ONS reports that 40% of workers in the poorest fifth of households have jobs in sectors of the economy with the highest exposure to the coronavirus and people from poorer income households are less likely to work from home, and are more likely to work in customer-facing roles that increase their risk of exposure to the virus. By comparison, only around 25% per cent of the richest fifth do such work.
Another group that has been heavily impacted by the crisis have been the 5 million self-employed, almost half have lost work due to the crisis.
The labour market is exhibiting clear signs of severe distress. HMRC payroll data suggest that 600,000 have already been made redundant. Advertised vacancies have fallen from over 800,000 in March to below 400,000 today, while pay growth of average weekly wages which was 2.2% annualised in the first 3 months of the year, was -2.7% in the second quarter. There has been a rise of 2.5 million claiming Universal Credit.
The future looks bleak. Casualization and job insecurity of the workforce will increase significantly, fewer permanent jobs will be available, the gig economy and zero-hour contracts will become more commonplace, and more people will be forced into the vagaries of self-employment.
The public sector will not be immune as the need to balance the books force central government and councils to cut jobs, more public sector jobs will be offered on a short-term and/or zero-hour contract basis.
As the economy gradually reopens from the national lockdown and social distancing measures are eased, there should be a significant recovery during the July to October period. However, job losses will intensify and the hopes of policymakers for a V-shaped recovery are likely to be disappointed.
According to the ONS, companies are in a worse shape today than they were in the run up to the global financial crisis: net private non-financial profits were just above 9 per cent at the end of 2019, compared to around 11 per cent in 2008.
The end of the furlough scheme will mean that as many as 20% of furloughed workers or close to 2 million people will lose their jobs. Firms that don’t immediately go bankrupt will be reluctant to invest or hire, preferring to retain cash flow to enhance their chances of survival.
Consumers will be facing reduced real wages, greater actual or fear of unemployment and increased debt exposure that will heavily constrain consumer expenditure over the next few years.
Fears of a second or third wave of the virus and enduring social distancing measures will ensure that economic activity will remain significantly below the pre-pandemic level well into the latter half of 2023 and possibly beyond.
Problems will be compounded by a government that has clearly demonstrated it lacks competence and will face an urgent need to reduce the unsustainable fiscal deficit it is currently running.
It is also a government intent on a relatively hard form of Brexit that will add further significant damage to an already fragile economy. One can hope for the best, but I fear the worst and most prolonged recession in living memory is the most likely outcome.
On occasion I like to highlight websites that are really good at what they do and on topics that I feel are important. One of the things that concerns many of my students and myself is the growing amount of income and wealth inequality that we are witnessing in many countries and around the world more generally.
The reason why we need to worry about income and wealth inequality is that it leads not only to divided societies and kids being born either "lucky" or "unlucky" but it also distorts democracy. The rich have the free time and money to lobby for what they want, own news media to present their distorted views of the world, enter politics and ingratiate themselves with the powerful elites. While the rest of the population is preoccupied with working hard to provide the basics of life for them and their families. It is this distorting effect on democracy and policies that I think is a major cause for concern. Just look at the graphic below the top 3 wealth US citizens, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos now have more combined wealth than the bottom 50% of the US population.
There are three really good websites that deal with these issues.
1) Inequality.org which as been tracking inequality-related news and views for nearly two decades It is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies since 2011 and it has many useful insights into inequality and how the issue can be tackled.
2) WID.World The World Inequality Database is a superb resource for tracking and graphing the evolution of income inequality around the world. You can plot graphs by country over time and also compare countries. You can select the shares of various income groups like the top 1% and the bottom 50%.
3) inequality.stanford.edu Stanford University Center on Poverty and Inequality tracks the growth of inequality in the United States and provides research, policy analysis and some very useful datat relating to the issues of poverty and inequality.
There are many dimensions to inequality, income and wealth, differences between countries, differences within countries, difference between regions of the world, trends over time, differences by category such as men and women, by religion. The causes are equally complex ranging from the degree of capitalism, to political factors such as the extent that countries are controlled by oligarchs. Economics needs to address this issue more fully than it currently does as it influences the extent to which macroeconomic policies work. For example, economic theory suggests that it is better to cut taxes on the poor rather than the rich to stimulate to stimulate aggregate demand in an economy. The argument for progressive taxation is also based partly on the idea that financing public services is better done by taxing the wealthy. When we come to dealing with the large costs of the coronavirus pandemic I have no doubt it will be the rich that will eventually be made to pay for a lot of the costs because the poor and newly unemployed will simply not be able to be taxed to pay for it and indeed they will be the most reliant on that State to help them survive the crisis and beyond. Expect to see a lot more focus on the issue of inequality in the years to come.
Well the coronavirus is in full swing and the most governments short term reaction has been to shutdown large parts of the economy to stop the virus spreading and therefore the possibility of serious coronavirus cases placing unbearable short term demands on their health services.
The humanitarian response and immediate pressure on governments is to try to save as many of their citizens lives as possible. However, the longer the pandemic continues the more data we will have and the more necessary will be a debate about saving lives in the short term versus saving them in the medium to longer term by getting economies back up and functioning to some degree. Even Donald Trump has spotted that the treatment should not be worse than the disease. To be realistic we are going to have to change strategy and realise that we need think about reopening parts of the economy that have been shut down because if we keep them shut down for an extended period of time too many will never re-open again. We know that the longer the blanket shutdown goes on the more the loss of economic output, the more the strain on the public finances and the greater damage to jobs. Make no mistake a global depression will cost many more lives than the coronavirus and many of those lives will be in the younger and middle aged parts of the population.
I believe that after a month or two more of this crisis most governments will have no choice but to consider reopening parts of their economies in a risk controlled manner. People that have had exposure to the virus can resume work, many of the youngsters are far less at risk and should be allowed to return and many others should be able to return to work so long as precautions concerning social distancing and other safety measures are put into place. Those that can work effectively from home should be allowed to do so.The current blanket shutdown response is not sustainable and is far too damaging economically and not in the medium or longer term good for the health of societies. The more data we obtain, the more testing of people we can do and the more isolating of the older and most vulnerable groups to the infection the better will be the results we get from the current crisis.
Yikes the Vix index has closed over 80 today that means real panic in the financial sector the S&P 500 is down 11.98% today and the bad news is the crisis is still in play. The truth is there is much more pain in the real economy to come. The Fed panicked cutting interest rate so much so quickly- radical action is needed see my post below
I doubt anyone from the British government will want my opinion on how to handle the crisis but I am happy to pencil my thoughts !
1) Do not close down the whole economy we have to balance the costs and benefits. Yes keep the elderly at home (70 plus) that is sensible. They are most at risk and will be the biggest drain on the NHS.. Temporary closures of restuarants, concerts, theatres, cinema pubs etc is OK but we cannot close down excessively the amount of economic activity. The virus is not going to disappear just like that, so we need to learn to cope with it over the next 6 - 12 month when the worst will be over.
2) We need a massive one off bond issuance equivalent to 20% of GDP called the CornaVirus bond which have a duration of 20 years. This will be used to lend to UK firms large and small in my points 3 and 4 below. Investors in this bond will have seniority in UK debt repayments.
3) We need an emergency loan facility from the government to big corporates with loans made in exchange for equity stakes which will be reduced once the loans have been fully repaid at reasonably low rates of interest. Interest payable at 3%
4) We need to help small/medium size companies with an additional government fund with loans to be made in retuirn for an equity stake or security against assets that will again be reduced once the loan is repaid. Interest payable at 3%.
5) People made redundant must be given the basics to live off through the crisis and longer term. We have to be in this together this can be funded by a one off rise in the top rate of personal tax to 60% for the next two years.
6) All bank bonuses to be stopped and all dividends suspended by law so as to conserve bank and corporate cash for the next 12 months with immediate effect. We need to do all we can to conserve corporate cash and the banking sector.
7) We may need to also help corporates survive by allowing a one off cut in wages by 5-10% for 12 months. Better to take a pay cut than lose your job.
8) We may need to convert and restructure corporate debt for example from 5 to 10 years with an oblifgatory one year free of repayment period whilst maintaining the same rate of interest so that bondholders take somne share of the burden.
We have to understand that the coronavirus is a transitory shock but with medium to long tem impacts as well as somewhat dire short term impact. This is why we need to fund it with 20 year bonds so we can repay the costs through higher cirporate and personal taxes down the road.once the crisis has abated and a recovery has begun.
This is the time for radical action "no ifs no buts" !
OK it is time I made some comments about the coronavirus and its economic and financial implications. My view is the virus itself is not such a problem more people will die of flu and influenza by a large margin this year. It will peak in about two months time and then numbers will fall dramatically.
However, there is no doubt that it is a significant economic and financial problem in large part because the government response being quite draconian driven by the need to be seen to be doing something. Italy is close to virtually closing down its economy for a few weeks. The Chinese economy is also functioning well below capacity and it is the world's second biggest economy. The US markets have been significantly overvalued for some time so the fall in stocks of around 20% from their highs is just a normal correction. What does concern me is that central banks cannot easily solve this problem by printing money and cutting short and long term interest rates as these are already at record lows. Also there is only limited scope for fiscal deficits to address the problem as any fiscal expansion will mainly be swallowed up by increased healthcare expenditure to deal with the crisis.
There is a real risk to many businesses caused by the supply side shock as important components produced in China may not arrive, food supplies could be disrupted, employees will take time off and school closure will also hit the available workforce. Then there is a demand side shock as people will go out less, shop less and events such as conferences, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, sport events, hotel and travel are all significantly impacted upon. There will be a big hit to business and consumer confidence.
All this will mean a significant short term hit, perhaps we are looking at a fall in US and UK GDP of as much as 6% of GDP over the next 6 months. However, the shock is likely to prove transitory and there will be a noticeable rebound once the virus has peaked. However there will be permanent damage to many businesses especially those that are already highly indebted. I expect quite a few businesses will not survive this kind of shock. This is also bad news for banks that have high exposure to small and medium size businesses. I think it will take a couple of months for markets to bottom perhaps another 15% lower than today. Oil might sink down to $25 due to the fall in demand combined witth the Suadi-Russian split on propping up the price.
Overall, however this is a transitory and not permanent shock to these economies. The hit will be significant and it will take sometime for a meaningful recovery in stocks to take place. There is still scope to increase national debts and run large fiscal deficits for a year to cope with this one-off crisis. Ultimately the virus while a killer has fatality rate of below 1% and is more likely to affect older people. It will however have a profound and significant effect on many people that do not have significant savings to see themselves through this particular crisis. State assistance will be urgently needed to help these people.
The author of this blog is Keith Pilbeam who is currently Professor of International Economics and Finance at City, University of London.
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