Low interest rates and excess liquidity lead to excessive borrowing by real estate developers. More units- especially condominium units- are built. This leads to more supply, and, eventually, due to principle of supply and demand, lower values, lower sales prices, and lower rents. It may take some time and the withdrawal of liquidity until that occurs. One may argue that it is, therefore, the withdrawal of liquidity, and, thus, the lack of liquidity, and not liquidity itself, that causes the deflation. Perhaps- but it is the liquidity and fiscal stimulus, itself, that creates the environment and the supply that is necessary for the subsequent deflation upon a withdrawal of stimulus. Thus, liquidity is a primary component, and cause of, deflation. Excessive liquidity forces imbalances upward, which, sooner or later, result in imbalance to the downside when the buyers disappear, while the assets remaining in existence.
This process applies to all hard assets which experience growth in value as the result of the investment of capital derived from excess liquidity that causes supplies to rise beyond demand, and/or values to disconnect from fundamentals.
But … no … I’m not just talking about withdrawals of monetary stimulus that cause assets crashing and bubble-popping. It’s not that low interest rates just “lead to” deflation- they “cause” it.
Here is an even more direct and immediately occurring correlation between the addition of liquidity and monetary stimulus to an economy through low interest rates (or other monetary tools, such as quantitative easing), and deflation, where withdrawals of liquidity and ensuing corrections and popping of asset bubbles have no relevance to the deflationary result: When interest rates are low, companies borrow capital to grow; in this day and age, growth means gaining “scale”. Growth, in the modern economy, requires “scale”. “Scale” helps companies to reduce input costs, and, thus, consumer prices. Scale has become so vital to growth for two reasons: First, because of a combination of the diminished importance of locality and relationships to sales because of the ability to reach a single point of purchase for all items at all times (i.e. the lack of geographic limitations on e-commerce), which brings me to the second reason, the Internet and the need for retailers (and B2B companies) to get consumers and customers to their websites, instead of competitors’- and then keep them there forever- and that requires heavy marketing and best prices. The companies that offers that online can destroy any competitors. So, the companies that reach the most scale the fastest, in any industry, win. Once “scale” is achieved, it is very hard for third and fourth place companies to compete. Just look at Amazon and Facebook and how they have destroyed competition in their respective spaces because they scaled the largest. “Scale” is achieved through aggressive and expansive marketing programs to attract customers, or through the use of loss leaders (without, or together with, aggressive marketing programs), to attract new customers, or through mergers and acquisitions. These actions can be funded with equity or with debt. “Scale” results in price deflation.
Companies’ sizes and large scale (along with globalized workforces) and the resulting lowest prices, allow companies in industries to depress competition, as only a select number of companies in industries obtain the scale that attracts consumers and customers- and attracts the consumers and customers that helps increase “scale”. It’s a self-fulfilling loop. Consequentially, a small number of very large companies come to control labor markets and are able to keep wages in check throughout the industries and the overall economy. Liquidity and scale cause wage inflation to get suppressed by two forces- a global workforce, and a rise in bargaining power. In the former case, pressures are dispersed, in the latter, they simply disappear with “take it or leave it” type propositions.
These are the reasons why, despite all of the liquidity in the system for the past ten years, inflation keeps undershooting. The capital is flowing to non-traditional channels, ones not classically used to measure inflation pressures and economic risk to an economy from too much money chasing too few resources. The capital is flowing to assets, to funding loss leaders, and to marketing initiatives, resulting in bubbles, disconnects between incomes and home prices, and scale and monopoly-like companies. The Fed’s so-called “dual mandate” becomes a challenge for the Fed as it sniffs-out financial dislocations (which many feel is also part of its mandate to mange), but raising rates slowdown jobs and wage growth- which already, at least the latter, are too weak- especially in light of home prices. The Fed is hesitant to identify, or point a finger at, or provide an opinion on asset prices or “bubbles”- or target them, at least not officially. Thus, the situation does not mean that the economy is not at risk. 2007 and 2008 prove that, notwithstanding low inflation, the economy is at great risk, perhaps greater risk, from asset dislocations and bubbles that from other kinds of inflation, such as prices and wages.
In the modern economy, monetary stimulus does not flow from the Fed, to banks, to companies, to capex and investment, to employment, to wages, to higher consumer prices. It flows direct form the Fed, to banks, to real estate investors, and to businesses that invest in scale initiatives, revenue-driven tech businesses, and share buybacks. So, when the Fed withdraws liquidity, assets crash, yield curves invert because growth- which is from assets and low (or no) margin growth investments, rather than the way it was in days of yore, where liquidity led to inflation and to company pricing-power and the potential for prices, and, thus, stocks to rise- disappears.
This new paradigm is the cause of the so-called “conundrum”, where the Fed raises rates and people panic because assets can quickly crash, as opposed to the economy having a slow orderly decline in employment and wages while product prices remain elevated until the inflation dissipates. It’s simply a more boom and bust model, as opposed to balancing and re-balancing, where costs rise and fall to compensate and balance-out other rising and falling costs. Think of it like a see-saw. In the past, you had two equally-weighted children whose balances of power shift, as one grows and then the other grows, and one develops a strategy, and then the other a counter-strategy. But, now, the economy and liquidity has become more like a boulder being dropped on one side and then removed off by a crane, and then dropped again, and then removed again.
So, the outcome of monetary stimulus and excess liquidity is that there can be, and in the modern economy is, immediate producer and consumer price deflation, immediate wage suppression and deflation, and temporary asset inflation, followed by eventual asset deflation.
Historically, debt capital has been used for innovations, productivity, and paying for the best talent- and increased home values were a by-product of rising wages in a community (often mortgaged by local, rather than national and international, banks, or private “hard money” lenders). In the modern economy, debt capital is used for: Revenue growth at the expense of margins (temporarily, for profitable companies, and permanently, for modern-economy/technology companies that have the goal of being acquired) through marketing and loss-leaders; asset speculation; and excessive stock buybacks.
The more monetary stimulus we get, the more that asset supplies and scale grow, the lower that asset values, product prices, and wages sink- later …
… or sooner.
Neil S. Siskind, Esq., President
The Siskind Law Firm
Neil Siskind is the Founder & Chairman of The Fatherhood Assignment
Learn more at: http://www.neil-siskind-the-fatherhood-assignment.org/
Neil Siskind is the Conservator of the Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve
The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve is over 7 acres of environmentally-pristine waterfront land in a magnificent setting along New York’s majestic Hudson River. The Preserve includes a variety of species of animal and plant life, and is a precious example of the thoughtful maintenance of New York’s priceless open spaces. The land’s uses are limited to outdoor recreation such as hiking and climbing, and the study of ecology, nature and land use. The Neil S. Siskind Nature Preserve allows for the intelligent contemplation of our valuable natural resources and the most effective ways to maximize them and keep them protected.
Neil Siskind, Founder, “National Fatherhood Day” – March 29th
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Neil Siskind’s Volunteer Work:
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Volunteer
– Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, My Fundraiser- Help Neil Siskindhelp children with cancer to be more comfortable: http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR?px=3182108&fr_id=2632&pg=personal
– Make-A Wish Foundation- Help Neil Siskind make sick children’s wishes come true by creating your own fundraiser: Neil-Siskind/Help-Make-A-Child-Smile.htm
– DonorsChoose.org- Donate to one of my needy public classrooms: http://www.donorschoose.org/NeilSiskindGiving
– Champion Children– We seek to inspire people through stories of children who have overcome challenges: http://siskindlawfirm.com/neil-siskind-champion-children/
Neil Siskind’s Pro Bono Work:
– Saving Senior Citizens- Protecting New York’s senior citizens from fraud and financial abuse www.savingseniorcitizens.com
– Senior FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put senior citizens in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– Veteran FreeStart Business– Pro Bono: We seek to help put Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in the right direction so that they can face the challenges of the modern economy: http://siskindlawfirm.com/free-start-business/
– In development: The Neil S. Siskind School of Hope: A free school to teach inner-city youths the skills of entrepreneurship and importance of economic self-sufficiency.
Neil Siskind’s Government Work:
– Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
– Office of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Newington, CT, 1992, Intern
– Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern
Neil Siskind’s Community Assistance:
Financed & operated a legal clinic providing low-cost legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, organize finances, and launch new businesses.
Neil Siskind’s Professional Curriculum Vitae: http://neilsiskind.com/
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