Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.
Thank you very much;
you're only a step away from
downloading your reports.

US Facing Its Second Lost Decade

By

Misguided stimulus money could continue the spiral downward.

PrintPRINT
Japan has gone through two lost decades, in and out of deflation, with nothing to show for it but increasing debt to GDP and a stock market still 70% below its peak.

Now, Richard Koo of Nomura Research Institute Ltd. says that the US is risking a Japan-like "lost decade" with its stimulus exit.

US officials contemplating an exit from record fiscal stimulus are in danger of repeating mistakes that plunged Japan into its lost decade of stagnant growth, according to Richard Koo of Nomura Research Institute Ltd.

"This isn't a cold, its more like pneumonia," said Koo, author of Balance Sheet Recession, a 2003 book about the malaise that hit Japan after its stock and real-estate markets crashed in 1990. "We still need more government spending," he said, adding it could take "three to five years to get out of this mess, even under the best of circumstances."

Koo's comments echo the view of economists including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who warn that the US's likely return to growth in the second half of 2009 doesn't mean a sustained recovery is assured. The Obama administration aims to rein in a record $1.4 trillion budget deficit as growth returns, seeking to safeguard the value of a declining dollar.

"If you learn your lesson from the Japanese experience, you don't remove your fiscal stimulus until private sector de-leveraging is over," Koo, 55, chief economist at the research arm of Japan's biggest brokerage, said in an interview at his Tokyo office last week. "When we see the private sector coming to borrow again, I'll be the loudest person on earth arguing for fiscal reform. That's the exit."

Koo calculates that the bursting of Japan's asset bubble in 1990 erased 1,500 trillion yen ($16 trillion) in wealth, equivalent to three times the size of the economy. Companies focused on repaying debt rather than undertaking new projects, causing demand to plummet and triggering a cycle in which cash flows fell, asset prices dropped, and balance sheets deteriorated.

This time it's the US consumer that's inundated with debt. Household debt soared more than 10% each year from 2002 to 2005, when the economy expanded an average of 2.75%.

"We have zero interest rates and still nothing's happening," Koo said. Businesses and households don't want to borrow money even at zero rates; they're too busy rebuilding savings and paying off debt, he said.

"We had these false starts," Koo said. "The economy would begin to improve and then we'd say 'oh my god, the budget deficit is too large.' Then we'd cut fiscal stimulus and collapse again. We went through this zigzag for 15 years."


Real Lesson of Japan's Lost Decades


Neither Koo nor Krugman have learned a thing about the real lesson of Japan's lost decades.

The real lesson is no matter how much money you throw around, economies can't recover until non-collectable debts are written off. That is why you have "zero interest rates and still nothing is happening."

The moment fiscal stimulus stops, economies are virtually guaranteed to relapse until the core problem is resolved. The problem is asset bubbles, malinvestments, and debts that can't possibly be collected.

Bailing out the banks did nothing to fix these problems. Consumers are still saddled in debt, in underwater mortgages, with no job. Moreover, there's no driver for jobs given rampant overcapacity in nearly every sector.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
PrintPRINT
 
Featured Videos

WHAT'S POPULAR IN THE VILLE