I liked this reader comment:
- I read the front page article in yesterday's WSJ about negative rate corporate bonds in Europe with utter disbelief. Now you have to pay interest to risk your money by lending it to a private company? This seems like the definition of crazy, of folly, of financial weirdness.
It says to me that money is now essentially valueless, that money is so abundant that there is nothing worth investing in that makes a profit, so go ahead and lock in a loss and put your assets at risk to boot.
But perhaps it goes along with central bank actions over the past decade or so that seem to lack common sense -- massive doses of QE that accomplish little, central banks loading up on funky assets, the BOJ becoming the biggest owner of equities in japan, nations scrambling to debase their currencies and actually trying to spur inflation -- as if shredding the value of money is a good thing. And here the central bank manipulation of interest rates has gone so extreme, so radical that supposedly intelligent money managers are wiling to PAY to lend money to a private business.
Central banks have become the saviors, the savants, the "I've got your back" group for financial markets over the past decade. They rule, Janet Yellen's every press conference is run live on CNBC, Mario Draghi is the rock star of world economics. The unprecedented strategies, the extreme moves, the immense economic gambles undertaken by central banks are viewed as sage, sound and necessary by many market pundits.
I'm less convinced. I have a feeling, although I'm not an economist, that there will be an unintended consequence, a Black Swan side effect coming our way. If I had to guess, I think at some point people may start to question the value of money. Central banks have flooded markets everywhere with cheap money, and disparage the notion of hyperinflation because there is so much debt, so little productivity gains, an aging population etc. But central banks have manipulated, tinkered with, debased, and mega-printed money for a long time -- what is your currency really worth right now? It is worth what people's faith in it say it is worth. If central bankers lose their mojo, lose their credibility, lose their aura of sagacity then watch out for people everywhere to jump toward non-currency assets.