Tag Archives: Capital

EU credibility as a people’s union rests on the social pillar

Buffeted by the pandemic and by populism, the EU needs the European Pillar of Social Rights to become a solid anchor of security for all.
By Liina Carr – Next week, the European Commission is set to unveil its Action Plan for putting the European Pillar of Social Rights into practice. The European Trade Union Confederation is pressing hard for an ambitious plan, which provides the means to achieve and monitor tangible social progress.

The EPSR was adopted by member states in 2017 but—partly due to the social and economic damage inflicted by the pandemic—European citizens might be forgiven for wondering what difference it has made to their lives. It was the former commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced the initiative in his 2015 State of the Union address. The text was finally proclaimed by European Union leaders at the Social Summit in Gothenburg.

The ETUC played a major role in developing its 20 principles, which we see as crucial to strengthening the EU’s social dimension—ensuring that the welfare of workers and their families is not subordinated to the economic interests of the single market.

Despite its legalistic language, the pillar however lacks legal force: the principles do not give direct rights to any individual. It has been described as an agenda, ‘a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe’.

The ETUC sees it as a guiding strategic framework, enabling the commission to bring forward legislation and other initiatives to strengthen social wellbeing. But at a time when the EU is under intense scrutiny for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, implementing the pillar in a way that touches people’s lives is a question of credibility for European institutions and member-state governments in the eyes of their citizens. There is no time to waste. more>

From an industrial renaissance to an economy of value

By Francisco Jaime Quesado – While having to endure the ongoing era of a global pandemic, we are facing the prospect of an effective industrial renaissance that can change the way our economy works

In the new global economy, in which industry is becoming more important, companies have a new challenge – to redefine its value chain and to integrate the existing global networks with new ideas, new solutions and new proposals of competence. This industrial renaissance will be a contract of trust in this new agenda of change and a new effective vision for the future as it should mobilize those that have a set of effective value creations in the economy.

A post-pandemic industrial renaissance is the point of contact between those that believe in the power of people to create new solutions to more complex problems that are arising in society and those that want innovation and creativity to be the platform for the creation of value in a globally competitive economy. This ‘renaissance’ is, in essence, the confirmation of a process of integration of people into society – an individual’s contribution must be a commitment to the organization of society and its main elements.

The next stage in the process of rebirth must apply to the most critical factors of competence and trust, which includes a focus on innovation and the sharing of positive dynamics. We need society to have a new challenge. Society must be able to be the real platform of a more entrepreneurial society that is centered on new areas of knowledge and sectors of value.

In a modern and active society, the keyword is ‘co-creation’, which is used to promote a dynamic and active creation process that involves each citizen in the next big challenge for society. more>

Stock Market Outlook 2021: Bull Market, But Buckle Up

In what may become the second year of a bull market, where can investors look for returns, amid the appearance of historically high valuations?
By Andrew Slimmon – Stock market returns in 2020 eerily resembled the trend in 2009—that is, the strength of the first year emerging from a deep stock market recession. While past performance does not necessarily predict future results, being an active equity investor does require understanding historical moves.

Last year, as the market recovered from its drop in March, many investors were way too bearish in retrospect, keeping too much cash on the sidelines. Once the rally began, volatility dropped, and the bull market climbed significantly before the bears eventually capitulated late in the year.

Now in 2021, amid hope and excitement that the pandemic might soon be behind us as vaccines are distributed, investors may actually find it tougher to generate the kind of stock market returns we saw last year in the midst of COVID-19. Strange I know, but as we saw last year, equity returns need not align with what is the current state of the economy. Instead, stocks this year may resemble their performance in 2010, i.e., year two of the bull market that started in 2009. After the S&P 500 Index’s stunning 68% return from the March 2020 low to the end of the year, stocks likely need to take a breather, much as they did in the second quarter of 2010. Importantly, however, overall returns of a second year of a bull market are historically positive, like in 2010.

We should therefore brace ourselves for a lot more stock market volatility in 2021. This will likely shake out the reluctant bulls, those who only recently put their cash to work in equities, at the exact wrong time. Based on history, investors should hold tight and keep eyes on the longer term. The second year of a new bull market historically performs quite well overall, though it tends to be more gut-wrenching along the way. more>

What Do Economists Mean When They Talk About “Capital Accumulation”?

In every other science, this inability to measure the key category of the theory would be devastating. But not in the science of economics.
By Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan – What do economists mean when they talk about “capital accumulation”? Surprisingly, the answer to this question is anything but clear, and it seems the most unclear in times of turmoil. Consider the “financial crisis” of the late 2000s. The very term already attests to the presumed nature and causes of the crisis, which most observers indeed believe originated in the financial sector and was amplified by pervasive financialization.

However, when theorists speak about a financial crisis, they don’t speak about it in isolation. They refer to finance not in and of itself, but in relation to the so-called real capital stock. The recent crisis, they argue, happened not because of finance as such, but due to a mismatch between financial and real capital. The world of finance, they complain, has deviated from and distorted the real world of accumulation.

According to the conventional script, this mismatch commonly appears as a “bubble”, a recurring disease that causes finance to inflate relative to reality. The bubble itself, much like cancer, develops stealthily. It is extremely hard to detect, and as long as it’s growing, nobody – save a few prophets of doom – seems able to see it. It is only after the market has crashed and the dust has settled that, suddenly, everybody knows it had been a bubble all along. Now, bubbles, like other deviations, distortions and mismatches, are born in sin. They begin with “the public” being too greedy and “policy makers” too lax; they continue with “irrational exuberance” that conjures up fictitious wealth out of thin air; and they end with a financial crisis, followed by recession, mounting losses and rising unemployment – a befitting punishment for those who believed they could trick Milton Friedman into giving them a free lunch.

This “mismatch thesis” – the notion of a reality distorted by finance – is broadly accepted. In 2009, The Economist of London accused its readers of confusing “financial assets with real ones”, singling out their confusion as the root cause of the brewing crisis (Figure 1). Real assets, or wealth, the magazine explained, consist of “goods and products we wish to consume” or of “things that give us the ability to produce more of what we want to consume”. Financial assets, by contrast, are not wealth; they are simply “claims on real wealth”. To confuse the inflation of the latter for the expansion of the former is the surest recipe for disaster. more>

Rapid Money Supply Growth Does Not Cause Inflation

Neither do rapid growth in government debt, declining interest rates, or rapid Increases in a central bank’s balance sheet
By Richard Vague – Monetarist theory, which came to dominate economic thinking in the 1980s and the decades that followed, holds that rapid money supply growth is the cause of inflation. The theory, however, fails an actual test of the available evidence. In our review of 47 countries, generally from 1960 forward, we found that more often than not high inflation does not follow rapid money supply growth, and in contrast to this, high inflation has occurred frequently when it has not been preceded by rapid money supply growth.

The purpose of this paper is to present these findings and solicit feedback on our data, methods, and conclusions.

To analyze the issue, we developed a database of 47 countries that together constitute 91 percent of global GDP and looked at each episode of rapid money supply growth to see if it was followed by high inflation. In the majority of cases, it was not. In fact, the opposite was true—a large percentage of the cases of high inflation were not preceded by high money supply growth. These 47 countries all rank within the top 70 largest economies as measured by GDP and include each of the top 20 countries. If a country was not included, it was because we could not get a complete enough set of historical data on that country.

There are several reasons to want to better understand the causes of inflation. Currently, central banks in Japan, Europe and elsewhere are trying to engender a moderately higher level of inflation in order to stave off the drift toward deflation and under the belief that it will add to job and economic growth. Also, both public and private debt have reached such high levels in ratio to GDP that some policymakers are beginning to reflect on potential paths to deleveraging, and inflation is one such path. Lastly, a number of countries are trying to moderate levels of inflation that are deemed too high. For these countries, too, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of inflation is important. more>

TThe US jumps on board the electric vehicle revolution, leaving Australia in the dust

By Jake Whitehead, Dia Adhikari Smith and Thara Philip – The Morrison government on Friday released a plan to reduce carbon emissions from Australia’s road transport sector. Controversially, it ruled out consumer incentives to encourage electric vehicle uptake. The disappointing document is not the electric vehicle jump-start the country sorely needs.

In contrast, the United States has recently gone all-in on electric vehicles. Like leaders in many developed economies, President Joe Biden will offer consumer incentives to encourage uptake of the technology. The nation’s entire government vehicle fleet will also transition to electric vehicles made in the US.

Electric vehicles are crucial to delivering the substantial emissions reductions required to reach net-zero by 2050 – a goal Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says he supports.

It begs the question: when will Australian governments wake up and support the electric vehicle revolution? more>

Finance Is Not the Economy

An economy based increasingly on rent extraction by the few and debt buildup by the many is a feudal model
By Dirk Bezemer and Michael Hudson – Why have economies polarized so sharply since the 1980s, and especially since the 2008 crisis? How did we get so indebted without real wage and living standards rising, while cities, states, and entire nations are falling into default? Only when we answer these questions can we formulate policies to extract ourselves from the current debt crises. There is widespread sentiment that this crisis is fundamental, and that we cannot simply “go back to normal.” But deep confusion remains over the theoretical framework that should guide analysis of the post-bubble economy.

The last quarter century’s macro-monetary management, and the theory and ideology that underpinned it, was lauded by leading macroeconomists asserting that “The State of Macro[economics] is Good” (Blanchard 2008, 1). Oliver Blanchard, Ben Bernanke, Gordon Brown, and others credited their own monetary policies for the remarkably low inflation and stable growth of what they called the “Great Moderation” (Bernanke 2004), and proclaimed the “end of boom and bust,” as Gordon Brown did in 2007. But it was precisely this period from the mid-1980s to 2007 that saw the fastest and most corrosive inflation in real estate, stocks, and bonds since World War II.

Nearly all this asset-price inflation was debt-leveraged. Money and credit were not spent on tangible capital investment to produce goods and non-financial services, and did not raise wage levels. The traditional monetary tautology MV=PT, which excludes assets and their prices, is irrelevant to this process. Current cutting-edge macroeconomic models since the 1980s do not include credit, debt, or a financial sector (King 2012; Sbordone et al. 2010), and are equally unhelpful. They are the models of those who “did not see it coming” (Bezemer 2010, 676).

In this article, we present the building blocks for an alternative. This will be based on our scholarly work over the last few years, standing on the shoulders of such giants as John Stuart Mill, Joseph Schumpeter, and Hyman Minsky. more>

Updates from McKinsey

How capital markets keep us connected
Nasdaq’s 50th anniversary reminds us that markets should be more inclusive, share more information, inspire innovation, and bring the world together.
By Tim Koller – Fifty years ago this February 8, a UNIVAC 1108 mainframe computer blinked on in sleepy Trumbull, Connecticut. Thus was born the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation system, or Nasdaq, the world’s first all-electronic stock exchange, where securities could be bought and sold online in real time.

Well, almost.

While the network did flash “bids” and “asks” of prices, users could not actually buy or sell through their computers. Instead, dealers sat before individual Nasdaq terminals and made their trades by telephone—as they would for the next 13 years. The Nasdaq came into being not as a platform for execution but as a source of information and innovation to help facilitate trades by participants across distant locations.

In that way, Nasdaq took its cues from the first modern stock market, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (now known as Euronext). It didn’t convene at a single or set address during its early years, nor did it actually sell stock certificates, at least in present-day terms. Founded in 1602, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange arose initially as a means for people to subscribe to, and then to sell, percentages of Dutch East India Company net profits. The selling and reselling of these interests, in an iterative series of individual, bargained-for trades, aggregated into “the market.” Trades took place wherever merchants happened to meet, at any hour of the day.

As trading proliferated, the imperative for information did, too. Prices weren’t imposed by fiat; they couldn’t be. Why part from your money or your shares if you didn’t believe you would come out ahead in the bargain? Within a few decades of its founding, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange included trades by forward contracts (already well in use in Europe and around the world for commodities transactions), selling securities short and even buying on margin. Investors understood that the value of their trade relied on the probability of future profits, which meant that the advantage tilted to the diligent, the perceptive, and the informed.

Early stock market investors (there were more than a thousand of them, right from the start) were eager to subscribe when the Dutch East India Company “went public” because, as merchants and traders themselves, they could perceive the potential for high returns. It wasn’t unusual for ships sailing back from East India to realize profits of 100-fold. It also wasn’t unusual for profits to be zero; when fleets set out from Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam, and Zeeland, all might be lost to weather, pirates, or scurvy. That vessels did manage to travel the thousands of miles and back was a triumph of innovation and risk taking. Pooling investments and sailing multiple times allowed more investors to create wealth. It also helped protect against losing everything in a single, misbegotten voyage. 1

Soon, stock exchanges were forming or emerging out of existing bourses across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The more people the better. Larger markets meant greater liquidity, the opportunity to sell and resell equity interests to an ever-growing pool of investors. More markets also meant more opportunity to be closer to the action, as shipping, trade, and commerce brought continents and cultures together. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Don’t kill a company to collect a debt
By Emily Lambert – There’s a sizable gap between what a company is worth in liquidation and what it’s worth while still operating, according to University of California at Berkeley’s Amir Kermani and Chicago Booth’s Yueran Ma. Companies going through Chapter 11 restructuring are worth about twice as much when they are going concerns rather than liquidated, they write.

The finding is part of a larger study of corporate debt, in which Kermani and Ma examine the size and composition of the debt loads held by nonfinancial companies. They distinguish between asset-based debt (issued against discrete assets) and cash flow–based debt (issued against the operating value of a company). In doing so, they wondered about companies’ cash-flow and asset values—essentially, how much more a company might be worth alive rather than dead.

It took the researchers more than a year to amass the data needed to answer the question. They hand-collected information from 387 public, nonfinancial companies that filed for Chapter 11 restructuring between 2000 and 2016, plus pulled from other databases including Compustat.

Assessing the value of assets took quite a bit of effort, Ma says. She and Kermani were able to find comprehensive appraisals that were disclosed in court cases. They also performed extensive checks using data from other sources. more>

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2021 Bond Market Outlook: Finding Yield in a Recovery

As global economic growth strengthens this year, bonds investors may find opportunities in high quality bonds, higher-yielding debt and assets that hedge against a declining U.S. dollar.
By Jim Caron – As fixed income investors, we expect 2021 to be a year of recovery. Many economic forecasts show U.S. GDP increasing by as much as 5%, or even 6%, and it begs the question: Won’t bond market yields rise in this environment? Rising yields of course mean falling bond prices—at least on paper for investors who own the debt. But yields will be rising for good reasons, based on economic growth and cash flow returning to markets.

Bond market movements will act as key indicators of the health of the recovery, as well as corporate performance and consumer confidence in 2021 and beyond. Compared to 2020, when global monetary and fiscal policies were focused on supporting solvency and bond investors benefited from flocking to safe-haven assets, such as U.S. Treasuries, this year may entail a more idiosyncratic environment for credit, which will make active portfolio management paramount.

As economic growth strengthens (most likely in inverse proportion to the severity of the pandemic this year) and variation in the fixed-income market broadens, so will the opportunities for bond allocators. For investors searching for higher yields and portfolio diversification to hedge against equities and U.S. dollar weakness, we see fixed income opportunities in five key areas.

We see value in taking a tactical barbell investing approach, which involves owning high quality and interest-rate sensitive fixed income to balance more risky credit. During the first half of 2021, investors can consider adding U.S. Treasuries and Australian and New Zealand government bonds amid an expected increase in yields. When it comes to investment grade corporate credit, we have some aversion to highly-rated bonds, including A-rated corporates with high cash balances because there’s risk that M&A activity in this cohort could weigh on valuations. We prefer a combination of triple-B corporate bonds with solid company fundamentals and U.S. Treasuries as a preferred risk allocation, as an example. more>