Friday 3 July 2009

Desperate measures and dire outcomes

In Sweden the savings deposit rate is now -0.25% (yes, that is a negative figure, you were not mistaken).

OK, now to my mind this is utter, utter insanity. The goal is of course to discourage anyone to save money, and get them out to the shops spending it to stimulate the dire economic situation. People are afraid to buy things because they anticipate lower prices in future, so they save the money instead. The obvious answer is to get people to burn through their money, right?

Yeah, TOO obvious.

All that will happen, if any of the retail banks follow this lead by the Riksbank, is that they will very likely suffer a run. People will draw out their deposits, since they would much rather put it under the mattress than pay a bank money to keep it "safe" for them, no? Would you put money in your bank, if they were going to take a bit from the pot every month, rather than put more into it? No, you wouldn't.

I am not happy with the idea of having money in a bank at all right now, but there is no way on god's earth I'll let any bank hold a significant amount of my money if they are not going to pay me for the privilege of letting them use it.

Even better, the panic and rush to try to be one of the fortunate ones who get access to their cash, will most likely result in people hoarding that cash, rather than spend it into the economy, anyway. So I would humbly suggest that it won't even have the result they hope to achieve, to kick-start the economy. It will have the opposite effect and exacerbate the original problem.

Given that Swedish banks are no different to any other banks in the world, inasmuchas they employ Fractional Reserve Banking and they deal with other banks internationally as a matter of course, this will be a rolling disaster -- none of the banks have anywhere near enough cash on hand to cover the eventuality that most of their depositors and/or counterparties ask for their money back. Exactly what happened to Northern Rock and the Icelandic banks, in other words. This is the case in all countries today, every country's banks use FRB and all the banking systems or all countries are closely interwoven with each other. If just one bank succumbs to a run and does actually go under, it will have a contagion effect across the globe. Britain could afford at the time to borrow money to support Northern Rock and stop it becoming Ground Zero of global financial meltdown, but now I'm afraid the national creditcard is rapidly approaching maxed-out; it could not be done now.

This is probably the most idiotic idea any central banker ever came up with (and they have some stunningly stupid ideas under their belts). Bernanke at the US Fed has come up with it in the course of his academic career studying deflation and Depression, and how he thinks in his academic Utopian world he can avoid it. The nice people at the Riksbank in Sweden are taking the idea for a spin to see how it really works out. Anticipate trouble. If your bank switches to offering you a negative interest rate, or indeed even if they no longer will pay you a positive interest rate, buy a biscuit tin to keep your money in instead.

Better still, buy some gold or silver and keep it somewhere safe and under your own control. The only honest and reliable forms of money ever invented. Nobody can print up a few more Trillion ounces of gold/silver on a whim, and nobody can shut their doors and deny you access to what is rightfully yours if you don't let them have it in the first place.

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