Chartists are always trying to scry a pattern in markets. Here's one that doesn't seem too difficult to discern: the long-term deceleration in bank lending to the UK private sector.
It looks like a cycle of around 18 years, but rather than simply repeating, the pattern is progressive: lower peaks each time, and lower lows. And for the first time since 1963 (which is as far as the online BoE data goes), we are in negative territory. Previous highs of c. 35%, 25% and 15% suggest that the next peak will be more of a hillock, at 5%.
Or maybe there will be a phase shift, into some disorderly deflation. Australian Economist Steve Keen has attempted to model macroeconomic change as debt increases, and one curious feature is that the model predicts an apparent tendency towards a moderate point, followed by a catastrophic breakdown in wages and profits - see for example the graphs on pages 43 and 44 of his paper entitled "Are we 'It' Yet?".
The economy is not a machine, of course. It is more like a game played with ever-varying rules, like Calvinball. But the value of Keen's observations is in showing that there must, in fact, be a change in the rules at some point, simply because without it the game breaks down altogether.
Currently, our counters are cash notes, bank deposit statements, share certificates, bonds, Treasury promises and property deeds - plus the derivative contracts that outweigh everything else. Whether they will be freely accepted by all players in the next version of the game remains to be seen; perhaps they will suffer the fate of Continental and Confederate currency.
No wonder that many thinking persons are converting to tangible assets of various types, even if they seem overpriced according to the present system of reckoning.
INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), and missing all those day-trading opportunities.
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