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According To Deutsche Bank, The "Worst Kind Of Recession" May Have Already Started

One week ago, Deutsche Bank's Dominic Konstam unveiled, whether he likes it or not, what the next all too likely step will be as central bankers scramble to preserve order in a world in which monetary policy has all but lost effectiveness: "It is becoming increasingly clear to us that the level of yields at which credit expansion in Europe and Japan will pick up in earnest is probably negative, and substantially so. Therefore, the ECB and BoJ should move more strongly toward penalizing savings via negative retail deposit rates or perhaps wealth taxes."

Many were not happy, although in reality the only reason why the DB strategist proposed this disturbing idea is because this is precisely what the central banks will end up doing.

Today, he follows up with an explanation just why the central bankers will engage in such lunatic measures: quite simply, he thinks that economic contraction is now practically assured - and may have already begun - for a simple reason: contrary to popular belief, this particular "expansion" will die of old age after all, and won't even need the Fed's intervention to unleash the next recession (if not depression).

There is an old saying amongst market watchers that economic expansions do not die of old age. Rather, during the course of the business cycle dynamics emerge that threaten to become unacceptable from a policy perspective. In the context of economic expansion, that dynamic has been inflation. The conventional pattern has been that as expansions mature, demand for labor outstrips the available supply, creating upward pressure on wages. In the presence of pricing power, higher wages are passed along to end consumers through higher prices. Profits decline to the extent that wage acceleration outstrips price increases. The point is that the historical template has the Fed, as an exogenous agent, raising rates to slow wage growth and inflation and to restore profits. In this sense the cycle is actively terminated, rather than “dying of old age”.

A number of stylized facts about the business cycle are apparent historically. Recessions always occur as part of an effort to restore profit growth. Profits are almost always dependent on productivity growth. Productivity recoveries almost always involve reduced labor demand. Productivity recoveries usually follow a period of stronger wage growth - and in that way productivity and wages are correlated. It is the strength in wages, however, that pressures profits unless passed through into higher prices. It is therefore always the case that recessions involve a period of central bank monetary tightening aimed at curbing any pass through of higher wages into prices and thus forcing a slowdown in labor demand to boost productivity via a recession and to then curb the rise in wages. Recessions are effectively created by policymakers to counter otherwise accelerating inflation.

However, this time it's different. As Konstam writes, "the current cycle is distinct in that pricing power is generally lower than in the past... This is likely because of the now well worn theme of global competition: production can be moved to lower wage centers, allowing constant or larger profits in an environment of steady or even lower prices. Lower pricing power reduces the ability of the corporate sector to pass along even mild wage increases to consumers and makes profits that much more vulnerable."

Then there is the issue of plummeting productivity, something discussed here extensively in the past:

A second unique...


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