As some of my more patient friends know, I have been toiling away at a book on Chinese monetary history during the Interwar period off and on for some years. Immersing myself in the public and private words of the historic figures of the 1930’s has perhaps sensitized me to the propensity of even well-intentioned leaders to glide into chaos. That which is unthinkable inexorably becomes inevitable.
Today, five days after he tweeted this deadline and nine months since he first declared the intention to do so, President Trump raised the tariff on $200B of imports from China from the +10% first applied in March 2018 to +25%. The action follows China’s message to U.S. negotiators backtracking on a number of earlier promises to increase intellectual property protections.
“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth— persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy, Yale University Commencement Address June 11, 1962
The latest quarterly report by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) underlines the change in the relationship between the major central banks and financial markets. Claude Borrio, the BIS’s Chief Economist, describes the “extraordinarily tight” relationship between central banks and financial markets in the aftermath of the financial crisis and recession of 2008. Thus, the financial markets scrutinize the central banks for cues, while at the same time relying on central bank “puts” for comfort.
The European Central Bank (ECB) replicated the Federal Reserve Bank’s earlier U-turn on monetary policy at its latest meeting. Barely three months after the central bank announcing an end to Quantitative Easing (QE), Mario Draghi, the ECB president, pulled the alarm over the sharp economic slowdown and announced a two-pronged approach. First, the central bank would continue its ultra-low interest rates policy at last through the end of 2019. Second, barely three months after announcing), the ECB will provide continued support to financial markets and banks.
Another amazing week. As politics got murkier however, markets surged higher. In terms of what will be remembered decades from now, the event that shocked nearly everyone was the abrupt ending of the US-North Korea Summit. As the next set of leadership-level meetings loom this month, surely the Chinese must be reevaluating their strategy vis-à-vis President Donald Trump. What these negotiations have in common is that in both cases the US is asking Kim Jun-un and Xi Jinping for structural changes that for different reasons each might have trouble delivering.