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The Elliott Wave principle - what is it? Prechter on Elliott Waves More about Elliott Wave Interview on the coming economic crash Deflation-Deflation Elliott Wave books Elliott Wave and Real Estate Mortgage Lending Problems and the Elliot Wave The Fed's a Lousy Wizard Subprime Mortgages, a 1-2 punch Recognizing Financial Manias Best Investments in a Recession?-New! What to do in a Recession-New!
Continuation of article on "Deflation" (2nd Half of article)
- from Conquer the Crash2nd Edition, Chapter 9
by Robert Prechter
To return to the first half of this article, click here.
Why Deflationary Crashes and Depressions Go Together
A deflationary crash is characterized in part by a persistent, sustained, deep, general decline in people's desire and ability to lend and borrow. A depression is characterized in part by a persistent, sustained, deep, general decline in production. Since a decline in production reduces debtors' means to repay and service debt, a depression supports
The U.S. has experienced two major deflationary depressions, which lasted from 1835 to 1842 and from 1929 to 1932 respectively. Each one followed a period of substantial credit expansion. Credit expansion schemes have always ended in bust. The credit expansion scheme fostered by worldwide central banking (see Chapter 10) is the greatest ever. The bust, however long it takes, will be commensurate. If my outlook is correct, the deflationary crash that lies ahead will be even bigger than the two largest such episodes of the past 200 years.
Financial Values Can Disappear
People seem to take for granted that financial values can be created endlessly seemingly out of nowhere and pile up to the moon. Turn the direction around and mention that financial values can disappear into nowhere, and they insist that it is not possible. "The money has to gosomewhereÖIt just moves from stocks to bonds to money funds...It never goes away. For every buyer, there is a seller, so the money just changes hands." That is true of the money, just as it was all the way up, but it's not true of the values, which changed all the way up.
Asset prices rise not because of "buying"per se, because indeed for every buyer, there is a seller. They rise because those transacting agree that their prices should be higher. All that everyone else - including those who own some of that asset and those who do not - need do is nothing. Conversely, for prices of assets to fall, it takes only one seller and one buyer who agree that the former value of an asset was too high. If no other bids are competing with that buyer's, then the value of the asset falls, and it falls for everyone who owns it. If a million other people own it, then their net worth goes down even though they did nothing. Two investors made it happen by transacting, and the rest of the investors made it happen by choosing not to disagree with their price.
Financial values can disappear through a decrease in prices for any type of investment asset, including bonds, stocks and land. Anyone who watches the stock or commodity markets closely has seen this phenomenon on a small scale many times. Whenever a market "gaps" up or down on an opening, it simply registers a new value on the first trade, which can be conducted by as few as two people. It did not take everyone's action to make it happen, just most people's inaction on the other side. In financial market "explosions" and panics, there are prices at which assets do not trade at all as they cascade from one trade to the next in great leaps.
A similar dynamic holds in the creation and destruction of credit. Let's suppose that a lender starts with a million dollars and the borrower starts with zero. Upon extending the loan, the borrower possesses the million dollars, yet the lender feels that he still owns the million dollars that he lent out. If anyone asks the lender what he is worth, he says,
In an actively traded bond market, the result of a sudden default is like a game of "hot potato": whoever holds it last loses. When the volume of credit is large, investors can perceive vast sums of money and value where in fact there are only repayment contracts, which are financial assets dependent upon consensus valuation and the ability of debtors to pay. IOUs can be issued indefinitely, but they have value only as long as their debtors can live up to them and only to the extent that people believe that they will.
The dynamics of value expansion and contraction explain why a bear market can bankrupt millions of people. At the peak of a credit expansion or a bull market, assets have been valued upward, and all participants are wealthy - both the people who sold the assets and the people who hold the assets. The latter group is far larger than the former, because the total supply of money has been relatively stable while the total value of financial assets has ballooned. When the market turns down, the dynamic goes into reverse. Only a very few owners of a collapsing financial asset trade it for money at 90 percent of peak value. Some others may get out at 80 percent, 50 percent or 30 percent of peak value. In each case, sellers are simply transforming the remaining future value losses to someone else. In a bear market, the vast, vast majority does nothing and gets stuck holding assets with low or non-existent valuations. The "million dollars" that a wealthy investor might have thought he had in his bond portfolio or at a stock's peak value can quite rapidly become $50,000 or $5000 or $50. The rest of it just You see, he never really had a million dollars; all he had was IOUs or stock certificates. The idea that it had a certain financial value was in his head and the heads of others who agreed. When the point of agreement changed, so did the value. Poof! Gone in a flash of aggregated neurons. This is exactly what happens to most investment assets in a period of deflation.
A Global Story
The next four chapters in Conquer the Crash, present a discussion that will allow you to understand today's money and credit situation and why deflation is due. I have chosen to focus on the history and conditions of the United States because (1) I have more knowledge of them, (2) the U.S. provides the world's reserve currency, making its story the most important, (3) the U.S. has issued more credit than any other nation and is the world's biggest debtor, and (4) to discuss other countries' financial details would be superfluous. If you understand one country's currency, banking and credit history, to a significant degree you understand them all. Make no mistake about it: It's a global story. Wherever you live, you will benefit from this knowledge.
To return to the first half of this article, click here.
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"Conquer the Crash"
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