Paul Krugman: Cheap Money Talks
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What is the "extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates" telling us?:
Cheap Money Talks, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: What with everything else going on, from Trump to Brexit to the horror in Dallas, it's hard to focus on developments in financial markets — especially because we're not facing any immediate crisis. But extraordinary things have been happening lately, especially in bond markets. ...
Specifically, there has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. ... Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?
Some commentators blame the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, accusing them of engineering "artificially low" interest rates that encourage speculation and distort the economy..., however, it's important to understand that they're not making sense. ...
Historically,... the way you know that money is too easy ... has been out-of-control inflation. That's not happening... If anything, developments ... are telling us that interest rates aren't low enough... But why?
In some past episodes of very low government borrowing costs, the story has been one of a flight to safety: investors piling into U.S. or German bonds because they're afraid to buy riskier assets. But there's little sign of such a fear-driven process now. ...
So what's going on? I think of it as the Great Capitulation. ... Until recently,... investors acted as if they still expected a return to what we used to consider normal conditions. Now they've thrown in the towel, in effect conceding that persistent weakness is the new normal. This means low short-term interest rates for a very long time, and low long-term rates right away.
Many people don't like what's happening, but raising rates in the face of weak economies would be an act of folly that might well push us back into recession.
What policy makers should be doing, instead, is accepting the markets' offer of incredibly cheap financing..., there are huge unmet demands for public investment... So why not borrow money at these low, low rates and do some much-needed repair and renovation? This would be eminently worth doing even if it wouldn't also create jobs, but it would do that too.
I know, deficit scolds would issue dire warnings about the evils of public debt. But they have been wrong about everything for at least the past eight years, and it's time to stop taking them seriously.
They say that money talks; well, cheap money is speaking very clearly right now, and it's telling us to invest in our future.
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