Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Central Banks Restore Wealth, Working on Growth (excerpt)

The major central banks of the world have been easing their monetary policies significantly since the financial crisis of 2008. They’ve succeeded in averting another financial crisis so far. They’ve also succeeded in recovering most of the fortunes that were lost during the crisis. For example, the total market value of all stocks traded in the US rose $22.7 trillion since Q1-2009 through the end of last year to $36.5 trillion. The S&P 500’s capitalization has increased $12.9 trillion during the bull market so far through last week. Both are at record highs, with the S&P 500 exceeding its 2007 peak by $5.0 trillion. All equity investors have benefited from the stock market rally.

Bond investors also enjoyed big gains as yields fell and prices rose. For example, US bond mutual funds had capital gains totaling $522 billion since the start of 2009. As we noted yesterday, the 12-month average of the median existing home price is up 29% since February 2012, while real estate held by households has increased by $4.2 trillion since then through the end of last year. Gold has also been golden, with a 118% rise in the price since the start of 2009 to its record high on September 6, 2011. It’s down 36% since then, but that’s hardly a sunken treasure for anyone who bought gold a few years ago.

Nevertheless, the central banks have been frustrated by the slow pace of the recoveries in their economies since the crisis of 2008. Reviving self-sustaining economic growth hasn’t been as easy as easing has been. Previously, I’ve argued that the ultra-easy monetary policies of the central banks might perversely have contributed to the slow pace of economic growth.

Today's Morning Briefing: Easy Come, Easy Go. (1) Elvis Presley and Janet Yellen. (2) Sunken treasures recovered. (3) Why easing hasn’t worked as expected. (4) Stock gains aren’t trickling down. (5) Savers earning less so saving more. (6) Fed has enabled fiscal excesses at cut-rate rates. (7) Near-zero interest rates contributing to income inequality. (8) Fed policies causing capital misallocation. (9) Enabling financial engineering. (10) The blame game. (11) Demography is also a downer. (12) Focus on market-weight-rated S&P 500 Industrials. (More for subscribers.)

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