Wednesday, January 21, 2009


All is well: the Dow has just sailed (well, snailed) back through the 8,000 barrier. But what's this? Brad Setser doesn't know what to think about China's role in US debt financing.

Here he thinks that a downturn in China's production will be panic their already-prudent populace into saving even more money, and
they'll also import less, which will screw our deflation down even tighter:

Bottom line: A big fall in activity in China will tend to drive China’s trade surplus up. It thus would tend to increase — not reduce — China’s (net) purchases of foreign assets. Someone in China will still buying foreign assets — and likely providing indirect support for the Treasury market — even if it is not China’s central bank. A big fall in activity also means less Chinese demand for the world’s products — as well as less Chinese demand for China’s products, which frees up capacity to export. That adds to the deflationary forces in the world economy.

... and here he worries about the switch from long-term purchases of Treasuries, to ones with short maturity dates:

At the same time, it is risky to finance a large external deficit with short-term debt. Even for the US. If the US deficit starts to head back up again — as, for example, the effect of the recent fall in oil prices wears off and a large fiscal stimulus in the US stimulates the world economy — without a shift in the composition of inflows, there would be cause for concern.

It's said that Charles Colson, an aide to President Nixon, had this motto framed in his office: "When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow." Funny, until you're on the receiving end.

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