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The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap: A Hazardous Road for the World Economy

ISBN: 978-1-119-02812-3
320 pages
October 2014
The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap: A Hazardous Road for the World Economy (1119028124) cover image

Description

Compare global experiences during the balance sheet recession and find out what is needed for a full recovery

The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap details the many hidden dangers remaining as the world slowly recovers from the balance sheet recession of 2008. Author and leading economist Richard Koo explains the unique political and economic pitfalls that stand in the way of recovery from this rare type of recession that was largely overlooked by economists. Koo anticipated the current predicament in the West long before others and issued warnings in his previous books: Balance Sheet Recession and The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics. This new book illustrates how history is repeating itself in Europe while the United States, which learnt from the Japanese experience, is doing better by avoiding the fiscal cliff. However, because of the liberal dosage of quantitative easing already implemented, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan may face a treacherous path to normalcy in what Koo calls the QE Trap. He argues that it is necessary to understand balance sheet recession in order to resolve the Eurozone crisis, particularly the competitiveness problems. Koo issues warnings against those who are too ready to argue for structural reforms when the problems are actually with balance sheets. He re-examines Japan's two decades of experiences with this rare recession and offers an insider view on the Abenomics. On China, readers will gain a very different historical perspective as Koo argues that western commentators have forgotten their own history when they talk about the re-balancing of the Chinese economy.

  • Learn from Japan which experienced the same predicament afflicting the West fifteen years earlier
  • Discover how unwinding of quantitative easing will affect the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, as well as the emerging world
  • Examine solutions to the Eurozone problems caused by two balance sheet recessions eight years apart
  • Gain insight into China's problems from the West's own experiences with urbanisation

Koo, who developed the concept of balance sheet recession based on Japan's experience, took the revolution in macroeconomics started by John Maynard Keynes in 1936 to a new height. The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap offers the world cure for balance sheet recession.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xix

About the Author xxv

CHAPTER 1 Balance Sheet Recession Theory—Basic Concepts 1

GDP and Inflation Fueled by Growth in Money Supply, Not Monetary Base 5

Japan Fell into Balance Sheet Recession in 1990s 10

Plunging Asset Prices Create Balance Sheet Problems for Businesses 12

Japanese Firms Rushed to Repair Balance Sheets by Paying Down Debt 13

“Correct” Private Sector Behavior Tipped Japan into Contractionary Equilibrium 14

Collapse of Japan’s Bubble Destroyed ¥1,500 Trillion in Wealth 16

Why Japanese GDP Did Not Fall after Bubble Burst 18

Fiscal Stimulus Saved Japan’s Economy 21

“Good” Fiscal Deficits Were Not Perceived as Such 23

Balance Sheet Recessions and the Limitations of Econometric Models 25

Fiscal Stimulus Works in Two Stages 28

FDR Made Same Mistake in 1937 28

Reactive Fiscal Stimulus Is Far Less Efficient 30

Fiscal Deficits Are Easily Financed during Balance Sheet Recessions 31

Self-Corrective Mechanism for Economies in Balance Sheet Recessions 33

Two Types of Fiscal Deficits Require Different Responses 34

Fiscal Deficits Must Be Viewed Relative to Private Savings 36

Consequences of Leaving Things Up to the Market in a Balance Sheet Recession 37

GFC Triggered by Insistence on Market Principles 40

Volcker Understood Systemic Crises 41

Little to Be Gained from Bashing Those Who Have Already Come to Their Senses 42

Recovery from Balance Sheet Recession Takes Time 43

Forward Guidance Important for Fiscal as Well as Monetary Policy 43

Fiscal Consolidation: Better Too Late Than Too Early 45

Three Points to Consider Regarding Costs for Future Generations 47

Japan Had a Shot at Full Recovery in 1996 . . . 49

Conflation of Balance Sheet and Structural Problems Extends Recession 50

Distinguishing Balance Sheet Recessions from Structural Problems and Financial Crises 53

Democracies Are Ill-Equipped for Dealing with Balance Sheet Recessions 55

Keynes Also Overlooked Private-Sector Debt Minimization 56

Those Who Prevent Crises Never Become Heroes 58

Democracy Plus Balance Sheet Recession Equals “Secular Stagnation” 59

Appendix to Chapter 1: Summary of Yin and Yang Phases of Economy 60

CHAPTER 2 Monetary Policy and the Quantitative Easing Trap 63

Monetary Policy Impotent without Demand for Funds 64

Mechanisms for Money Supply Growth 65

Government Borrowing Drove Money Supply Growth in Japan 67

Economics Dogged by Incorrect Analysis of Great Depression 68

Japanese Monetary Policy Has Relied on Fiscal Policy for Past 20 Years 72

Balance Sheet Recessions Triggered by Borrower-Side Problems, Financial Crises Triggered by Lender-
Side Problems 74

Bernanke Himself Says QE2 Unlikely to Have Major Macroeconomic Benefits 75

Real Aim of QE2: Portfolio Rebalancing Effect 75

Can Higher Share Prices under QE2 Be Justified on DCF Basis? 77

QE2 a Big Gamble for Bernanke 77

QE Undermined U.S. Leadership in G20 78

QE with No Income Effect Harms Other Countries 79

Dollar-Buying Intervention by U.S. Authorities Would Have Produced Different Outcome 80

Inward Capital Controls Help Keep Bubbles Fueled by Hot Money in Check 80

QE Represents Government Intervention in Asset Markets 81

Operation Twist Lowered Long-Term Rates, but to No Effect 81

Operation Twist Provided Only Limited Economic Boost 83

Bernanke Admits the United States Faces Same Problems as Japan 84

Fed Overestimates Impact of Quantitative Easing 84

“Lower Long-Term Rates = Higher GDP” Formula Does Not Hold during Balance Sheet Recession 85

Fed Has Also Underestimated Costs of QE 85

Unorthodox Monetary Policy Distorts Signals from Bond Market 86

Needless QE Acts as Drag on Financial Institutions 87

Why Fed Embarked on QE3 Two Months before Presidential Election 88

Post-Bubble Wage Growth Nearly Identical in the United States and Japan 89

The “Inconvenient Truth” of the Real Cost of Quantitative Easing 89

BOJ’s First Round of QE Was Easy to Wind Down Because It Was Conducted in Money Market 91

Redemption of Central Bank Bond Holdings Will Not Reduce Commercial Banks’ Current Accounts 92

Government Issue of Refunding Bonds to Private Sector Would Absorb Excess Reserves 92

Redeeming Fed Bond Holdings Has Same Effect as Issuing Deficit Bonds 93

Strength of Private Loan Demand Different at Start and End of QE 94

Paying Interest on Excess Reserves Would Enable Rate Hikes . . . 94

But Cost Could Be Prohibitive 95

Cost of Winding Down QE Has Yet to Be Properly Analyzed 97

Debate over Winding Down QE Sparks “Bad” Rise in Rates 98

“QE Trap” Appears Increasingly Likely 98

Continued QE Trap More Likely Than Hyperinflation 101

BOJ Found Itself in Same Position in 2006 103

Fed Admits That Supply and Demand Matters, Too 103

Fed Changes Course Despite a 1.1 Percent Inflation Rate 104

Traditional Phillips Curve Relationship No Longer Holds 105

Upcoming Chapters in QE Saga 106

Capital Injection Could Also Be Threatened If Blame Shifts to Fed 106

Sales Should Start with Bonds Maturing Soon 107

Final Cost of QE Can Be Calculated Only at End of Fourth Chapter 108

Theoretical Debate on QE Has Focused Entirely on Benefits and Ignored Costs 108

Central Banks Should Establish a New Reaction Function to Drain Reserves 110

Emerging Markets Need Inward Capital Controls to Protect against QE 111

Japan Should Learn from Pioneers in QE Using Long-Term Bonds 112

Financial and Capital Markets during Balance Sheet Recessions 113

Balance Sheet Recession Brings Special Kind of Liquidity-Driven Market 115

Is Inflation of 1–2 Percent Too Low? 116

Does Inflation Improve People’s Standard of Living? 116

Absence of Inflation Concerns May Have Lifted Utility of Consumption in Japan 117

QE Should Not Be Pursued Any Further Given Difficulty of Winding It Down 118

QE a Problematic Byproduct of Balance Sheet Recessions 119

CHAPTER 3 The United States in Balance Sheet Recession 121

Rating Agencies Need to Be More Tightly Regulated 123

Why Was Lehman Allowed to Fail? 124

TARP Prevented Bank Failures but Also Created Turmoil 127

U.S. Authorities Changed Course with “Pretend and Extend” 129

Fiscal Stimulus Shifts from “Three Ts” to “Three Ss” 131

Obama Has Yet to Disclose the Name of the Disease 132

Bernanke’s “Fiscal Cliff” Warning Saved the U.S. Economy 134

Bernanke Declared Monetary Easing Could Not Offset Impact of Fiscal Cliff 136

Fall from Fiscal Cliff Triggered Japan’s Deflation 137

U.S. Households Still Repairing Balance Sheets 138

Nonfinancial Corporate Sector Faced Difficult Years in the Wake of GFC 140

U.S. Companies Hit Far Harder by GFC Than by Collapse of Internet Bubble 141

Can U.S. Corporate Sector Become Economic Engine? 141

Long-Term Rate “Conundrum” Kept Housing Bubble Alive 142

Post-2007 Fed in Similar Position to BOJ in 1990s 143

Flow-of-Funds Data Suffer from Poor Accuracy 143

Bad Data Were Good for Policy Debate 145

Estimated Correctly, Private Sector Financial Surplus Continues to Shrink 146

Recovery in U.S. Private Sector Demand for Funds May Outpace Japan 148

Housing Market Strength during the First Half of 2013 May Have Contained Temporary Factors 149

Fed’s Reputation Falls to Earth 150

CHAPTER 4 The Great Potential of Abenomics 153

BOJ Already Had a Massive QE Program in Place 155

Why Didn’t Japan’s Institutional Investors Follow Their Overseas Counterparts? 157

Yen Fell and Stocks Rose Because Japan’s Institutional Investors Stayed in Bond Market 158

Honeymoon Altered Japan’s Economic Landscape 159

Bond Market Reaction Ended Abenomics’s Honeymoon 160

Private Sector Continues to Save after One Year of Abenomics 161

Japan’s Growth over Last Year Attributable to Fiscal Policy 162

Can the Abe Administration Overcome the Trauma of Balance Sheet Recession? 164

The Trauma of the Balance Sheet Recession Will Be the Last Effect to Go 166

Focus of Structural Reforms Must Shift from Lenders to Borrowers 167

Is Japan’s Slump Due to Shrinking Population or Balance Sheet Problems? 169

Slump in Domestic Demand Was Due to Balance Sheet Recession, Not Decline in Working-Age Population 170

Personal Financial Assets Have Already Been Invested Somewhere 171

Corporate Debt Pay-Downs Weighed on Consumption and Investment 171

Real Bottleneck in Japan’s Economy: Lack of Loan Demand at Private Companies 172

Balance Sheet Recession Has Taught Japanese How to Be Frugal 173

Is Japan Really Closed to Immigration? 174

Japanese Economy Would Cease to Function without Foreigners 175

Agricultural Reforms a Major Step for LDP Government 176

Structural Reforms Are Microeconomic Policies That Take Years to Work 177

Scale of Structural Reform Is Also Important 177

We Should Not Expect More Good Fortune 178

Kuroda May Be Trying to Close Gap between Expectations and Reality … 180

BOJ and Government Must Stress That Inflation Overshoot Will Not Be Tolerated 182

BOJ Had Weapon to Prevent JGB Crash during Balance Sheet Recession 183

No One Has Criticized Japan for Currency Manipulation 184

Japan Supported Global Economy for Four Years after Lehman Collapse 185

Real Effective Exchange Rate Does Not Fully Express Japanese Firms’ Pain 187

Rising Fiscal Deficits Caused by Change in Corporate Behavior 188

How Should Japan’s Tax System Be Reformed? 190

Fiscal Stimulus Introduced to Offset Consumption Tax 191

Current Corporate Earnings Based on Massive Fiscal Deficits 192

Working Down Public Debt Will Require Bold Policies to Lift Japan’s Growth Rate 192

Incentives Needed to Restore Japan’s Economic Vitality 194

More Effective Land Utilization Could Propel Growth 194

Japan Needs Bold Tax Reforms Modeled on U.S. and Hong Kong Systems 195

Policies Need to Change Perceptions of Japan at Home and Abroad 196

CHAPTER 5 Euro Crisis—Facts and Resolution 199

Euro’s Adoption Lowered Interest Rates Sharply 200

Maastricht Treaty Acted as Constraint on Credit Risk 201

Greece Was Spoiled by Euro, and Germany Reacted Violently 203

Germans Believed Structural Reforms Required a Crisis 204

German Balance Sheet Recession Eight Years before GFC Started the Crisis 205

German IT Bubble Brought about Euro Crisis 209

ECB’s Rate Cuts Create Bubbles outside Germany 210

Misunderstandings Regarding Lack of Competitiveness in Southern Europe 213

Money Supply Growth Much Lower in Germany 214

German Reforms Responsible for Only Half of Competitive Gap 214

Germany Benefited Most from Euro 216

One More Mutual Dependency between Germany and Eurozone Periphery 217

Spain’s Vicious Balance Sheet Recession 219

Ireland’s Household Sector Forced to Pick Up Pieces after Massive Housing Bubble 220

Irish Businesses Remain Net Savers 222

Portugal’s Balance Sheet Recession Began Quite Recently 224

Italy Is in Same Position as Portugal 225

Why the Polarization of Eurozone Government Bond Yields? 227

Eurozone Allows Investors to Buy Government Bonds of Member Countries with No Currency Risk 229

Eurozone-Specific Fund Flows Amplify Economic Swings 230

Meaning of “Fiscal Space” Differs Inside and Outside Eurozone 231

Maastricht Treaty Is Defective and Should Be Revised Immediately 232

In Practice, Fiscal Stimulus Requires EU and ECB Approval 233

Ban on Buying Other Nations’ Debt Ideal Way to Stabilize Eurozone 234

Efficiency Gains from Single Currency Remain Intact 235

Different Risk Weights Should Be Applied to Domestic and Foreign Government Debt 237

Next-Best Alternative to Risk Weights Already in Place? 238

Separation of Sovereign Risk and Banking Risk a Rejection of self-Corrective Mechanism 238

Joint Issue of Eurobonds Would Only Solve Half of Eurozone’s Structural Defects 240

Draghi Unaware That There Are Two Kinds of Recessions and Fiscal Deficits 241

Outside of Greece, Capital Flight Is the Problem 243

Explaining Balance Sheet Recessions to the German Public 244

Even Germans Understand Need for Fiscal Stimulus If Properly Explained 245

Excessive Focus on Fiscal Deficits While Ignoring Growth in Private Savings 246

Lack of Private Loan Demand Biggest Problem for Germany 247

Germany Unlikely to Announce Stimulus Package 247

Disadvantages of Euro Exit for Greece 248

Argentina’s Experience Also Suggests Euro Exit Would Have Few Merits for Greece 249

Germany’s Competitive Gap with Other Countries Will Also Disappear in a Few Years 251

Draghi’s LTROs Prevented Collapse of Eurozone Financial System 252

“Grand Bargain” with ECB Is an Empty Promise 254

Double-Dip Recessions and the Eurozone’s Bad Loan Problem 255

EBA’s Lack of Understanding of Systemic Crises Leads to Rash Actions 256

Cypriot Bank Resolution Could Worsen Financial System Jitters 257

Vicious Cycle of Creating New Bubbles to Paper over Old Ones 258

EU Election Results the Result of Economic Policy Errors 259

European Policymakers Mistake Balance Sheet Problems for Structural Problems 260

Policymakers Need to Ask Why Eurosceptics Made Such Gains 262

Disappointment with Established Parties Led to Rise of Nazis and World War II 262

Continued Disregard for People’s Voice Puts Democracy in Jeopardy 263

U.S. Voters Had Policy Choices, Unlike Their European Counterparts 263

The Euro Can Be Saved with Two Repairs 264

CHAPTER 6 China’s Economic Challenges 267

China’s Local Governments Began Borrowing en Masse 268

Decoupling Would Not Have Been Possible in Ordinary Democracy 269

China’s Remaining Problems Include Overcapacity and Income Inequality 270

China Understands Political Ramifications of Inflation 270

China’s Shadow Banking Sector: Misunderstandings and Realities 272

Problem: Sharp Growth in Lending to Local Governments Post-Lehman 273

Decoupling of China and Developed Economies to Continue 274

Problems Facing China’s Economy 274

China Has Already Passed the Lewis Turning Point 276

Rapid Economic Growth Continues until Lewis Turning Point 277

U.S.-Led Free Trade Regime Enabled the Emergence of Asia 278

Economy Starts to Mature Only after Passing the Lewis Turning Point 279

Local and Global Lewis Turning Points and Inequality 280

China Increasingly Tolerant of RMB Appreciation as Transition to Consumption-Led Economy Proceeds 281

The West Is Conflating Problems of Trade Imbalance and Financial Crisis 282

Liberalized Financial Sector and Capital Flows Could Weaken RMB 283

China Could Fall into the “Middle-Income Trap” If It Neglects to Advance Its Industrial Base 284

Japan, Korea, and Taiwan Escaped from Middle-Income Trap 284

Labor Disputes Increase Sharply after the Lewis Turning Point Is Reached 287

The Dilemma of Patriotism with an External Enemy 289

Working-Age Population Peaked Just as the Lewis

Turning Point Was Reached 290

Will China Grow Old before It Grows Rich? 291

The Next 15 to 20 Years Are Critical 292

Uncertainty Due to Corruption and Lack of Legal Infrastructure Must Be Removed . . . 293

Appealing to Patriotism without Creating External Enemies 294

China Could Become a World-Class Nation for the First Time in Two Centuries 295

Chinese Ambition and Industry Must Be Steered in Right Direction 296

Afterword 299

Bibliography 301

Index 305

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Reviews

Praise for The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap

“Richard Koo has been a pioneer in recasting macroeconomics for the current era of financial crisis and potential deflation. This book presents his latest thinking in a clear and powerful way. Agree or disagree his work deserves close study if the next decade in the industrial world is going to be better than the last.”
Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University; former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

“This is an important, stimulating, exciting and timely book. Guided by the ideas in this book, growing numbers of experts are appreciating the parallels between the current world-wide crisis and the crisis Japan experienced 15 years ago. The basic insight – that in the presence of persistent liabilities, the private sector minimizes debt – is one that needs to be fully appreciated in order for appropriate policies to be devised. This is a must-read for all those seeking to respond to the current economic malaise.”
Dennis J. Snower, President, Kiel Institute for the World Economy; Professor of Economics, Christian-Alberchts University, Kiel

“Koo’s The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap provides the most insightful guide to current macroeconomic policy available today. Koo’s concept of ‘balance sheet recession’ adds depth and detail to observations of the ‘liquidity trap’ and ‘zero lower bound’ of interest rates. He explains what needs to be done now and how long it could take. Everyone concerned with macroeconomic policy needs to read this analysis to learn how the world economy can be revived.”
Peter Temin, Elisha Gray II Professor Emeritus of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“I have always liked the Richard Koo style – succinct theories, razor-sharp points, self-sustaining logic, and, more importantly, a set of workable solutions. It’s definitely a worthy read.”
Gao Xiqing, Professor, School of Law, Tsinghua University; former Vice Chairman and President, China Investment Corporation.

“In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, governments and financial institutions have instituted a wide range of changes in such areas as risk management, regulation, market organization, and fiscal and monetary policy. Unfortunately, however, these measures have suffered from a lack of a unified recognition of the fundamental problem. In a clear, engaging and penetrating way, Richard Koo has diagnosed the core nature of the challenge and the appropriate response. The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap is an essential guide for anyone interested in the future of the global economy.”
Jeffrey E. Garten, Juan Trippe professor of international trade and finance and former Dean, Yale School of Management; former Undersecretary of Commerce

“When the history of this depression is written, policymakers who ignore Koo’s finding will be judged harshly for imposing unnecessary suffering on their societies.”
Richard Duncan, Author, The Dollar Crisis
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Press Release

October 28, 2014
Leading Economist Richard Koo Uses Lessons Learned from the Japanese Recession to Warn Other Global Economies of the Perils of Balance Sheet Recession

Author of many books on Japanese economy and leading economist Richard C. Koo feels not enough has been done to alleviate the serious economic issues that appear as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. In United States, the unemployment remains elevated, yet industrial output has only recently recovered to the levels of 2008. In Europe, unemployment rate is running near euro-era high of 12 percent, while United Kingdom's industrial production is no higher than it was in 1992. In Japan, the mood has improved since “Abenomics” was launched at the end of 2012, but industrial output remains stuck at the levels of 2003.

In his latest book, The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap: A Hazardous Road for the World Economy (Wiley; October 2014; ISBN: 978-1-119-02812-3), Koo warns readers that the U.S., the U.K. and Japan could still face a major challenge in unwinding the quantitative easing (QE), a problematic byproduct of a “balance sheet recession” (recessions triggered by a private sector that chooses to minimize debt).

“In my previous book, Balance Sheet Recession: Japan’s Struggle with Unchartered Economics and Its Global Implications (Wiley; March 2003), I warned that a housing-bubble-dependent U.S. economy could eventually fall into a severe balance sheet recession. And about six months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, then-Japanese finance minister Fukushiro Nukaga recommended to Treasury secretary Hank Paulson that the United States quickly inject capital into distressed financial institutions. Both warnings, unfortunately, went unheeded. Had the U.S. authorities listened to my warning and implemented Mr. Nukaga’s proposal, the severity of both the balance sheet recession triggered by the housing bubble collapse and the financial crisis sparked by the Lehman bankruptcy could have been lessened substantially,” said Koo.

The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap highlights the many hidden dangers remaining as the world slowly recovers from the balance sheet recession of 2008 and examines the similarities between Japan in the past and the West today. Koo explains the unique political and economic pitfalls that stand in the way of recovery from this rare type of recession that was largely overlooked by economists. He illustrates how history is repeating itself in Europe while the United States, which learnt from the Japanese experience, is doing better by avoiding the fiscal cliff. However, because of the liberal dosage of quantitative easing already implemented, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan may face a treacherous path to normalcy in what Koo calls the QE Trap. He argues that it is necessary to understand balance sheet recession in order to resolve the Eurozone crisis, particularly the competitiveness problems.

The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap offers Western nations an opportunity to develop a clear understanding of the economic problems they face today. The book presents the basic mechanics of the balance sheet recessions with a focus on theoretical aspects and provides a detailed solution for overcoming their predicament in order to return to economic normalcy.

The Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap is now available at all good bookstores nationwide and all major online retailers. For more information, visit www.wiley.com/buy/9781119028123.

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