Greece might leave the Euro but it won’t be such a huge disaster, argues Clem Chambers, CEO of ADVFN.com and author of financial titles including ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Value Investing’. Be prepared for stealth inflation, and a future that will punish savers, he warns consumers.
Don’t believe the headlines; the euro crisis is over. Greece might leave the Euro but it won’t be such a huge disaster. Defaulting is easy and so is introducing a new currency - even broke countries can manage that.
Spain will rescue its banks - the European Central Bank will pump them up with as many euros as they need. Italy will get by. France will flounce along. There will be inflation. There might be some austerity but only superficially. The euro will fall and keep falling. Yet the crisis is over.
Last year was different, as the mechanism and agreement on what to do was not worked out. Then, the crisis was real. Without agreement on a way to duct tape things together, the whole system was going to fall apart.
Now the fix is in place. This means the situation is no longer acute; its problems are now long-term and manageable.
The ECB “long term refinancing operation” is two things.
Firstly, it is an outcome of agreement. It means Germany will stomach inflation. Why not? Germany will prosper even more under inflation. A few percentage points of inflation will lower the euro and make Germany an even greater powerhouse. What a sacrifice for Germany to make for the betterment of European unity.
Secondly, it is a method of stabilisation, stimulation and reflation of the euro, in a way no one cares will break the golden monetarist dream of fiscal prudence and balanced budgets. The ECB can “long term refinance” whenever it sees fit. If inflation hits, it is hardly going to hinder European countries getting out of their debts.
So the euro will fall and fall, at least back to the lower bands seen at the beginning of the currency’s life. This is hardly a financial catastrophe.
If inflation in Europe can be kept between 5 and 7% it will likely be part of an inflationary trend that the US will also face, one the UK knows well already. Maybe inflation will hit double figures. If it does, then Europe will just pretend to be confused and blame it on rising prices not the falling value of European money.
No one will care much if the European economies are rebalanced slowly, slow change goes unnoticed.
This is good for assets as this reflation pushes up the nominal values of things or makes them appear to fall less, even though in economic terms there is a blood bath going on. While perhaps not adding real wealth, hard assets act as a hedge, against the ravages of stagflation.
Services like haircuts seem to get very expensive while those shiny toys such as smartphones seem to go up much less. Food and fuel prices rocket but house prices don’t rise at all. This makes inflation seem lower than it is. Most things you need go up a lot, many luxuries don’t go up by much. Real inflation is masked.
This is the hoped-for magic trick.
Gold, of course, rises and anything else that involves costs billed in firmer currencies.
Europe will not have austerity, it will try and nibble away at the edges but that won’t be enough to halt the slide. Meanwhile, even the mild austerity that will get dished out will be punished at the ballot box.
The major currencies of the world will rebase as countries wriggle and twist out of their debts. So once again, woe betide the savers. Meanwhile, the borrowers and carefree spenders will thrive in a low-interest rate, inflationary world.
From an investment point of view, it is therefore sensible to borrow and spend on hard assets. Let inflation deal with the debt. This is hardly a novel concept but it is one that will come to the fore.
In such an environment of suspended free markets, is it any wonder that investment banks like JPM go ‘all in’ in their trading, when governments all around are going ‘all in’ on monetary expansion.
You would be mad to be prudent.