2013 is set to be an interesting year
China and the US are recovering, Europe is stabilised and Japans new government aims to take control of the Japanese economy from the Bank of Japan, setting off what could be a new boom; at least in Japan and perhaps Asia and just maybe the world.
Meanwhile the governments of the developed world have become well and truly addicted to the new unorthodox monetary policy of QE.
It is important to understand QE properly: it is not printing money. This is the key thing to hold in your mind.
QE takes out of fashion assets of a certain value, say a troubled banks debt, then props up the price and then defends the bank, whose debt has lost its credibility and thence value.
Imagine you are holding a credit card that is maxed out. You cant get any cash to buy a ticket to go to work. You lose your job. You have to sell your house, which is a blow to local house prices.
Other people like you are in the same jam and also have to sell their houses and house prices collapse. Banks who lent you and the others the money now go bust as well, so they pull their loans. The economy melts down.
This is how crashes make depressions and how the story also goes with QE.
Your credit card is maxed out. You write a check to the government who says, thats fine, here is our bond, take it to the bank and extend your credit card credit limit. You do. You buy your ticket and get to work, get paid, make your mortgage payment. You get the picture.
Printing money is when the government make money with no liability attached. In QE the new money is designed and meant to be matched with new liabilities so on balance, assets still match liabilities, so there is new money but new liabilities to go alongside them.
In effect there is no new free money. This is meant to stop people running down the store and blowing the new money on goods and thereby driving up prices. So Quantitative Easing is really monetary buoyancy.
QE takes dodgy debt and makes it golden and thence saves the economy from a death spiral.
There is a way back from QE. Anti-QE will involve selling government back into the economy and draining the economy by swapping out free money for government debt. QE in reverse will drive up interest rates and slow a recovery, whilst shrinking inflation through what amounts to real economic austerity.
When the good times roll, the happy days of boom are curtailed by anti-QE in a period of monetary pay back.
This of course will never happen.
Can anyone see politicians cutting a boom off at the knees after more than five years of recession?
This is as likely as Santa Claus being a real person.
So when the recovery begins, as I believe it has, expect for at least a time, more QE because like any giant thin, QE simply cant be turned around that quickly, let alone stopped. Governments all around the world will be saddled with huge debts, unserviceable at higher interest rates and wont be able to afford to push rates up.
This will leave them with the option to let the good times roll and get re-elected while suffering the risk of inflation, or execute anti-QE and get chucked out of power by snuffing out the recovery to get the economy back onto a sound fiscal footing.
So the good times will roll and inflation will be vigorous, strong enough to erode all the sovereign debts down to sustainable levels.
Inflation will run growing nominal GDP until the debt/GDP of the country is back under 60%.
This process might not take too long, three or more years. An inflationary recovery will end the great recession.
It is great news for some and bad news for many, offering great opportunities to those on the lookout for opportunities as the story unfolds and present significant risks for those getting on with their lives without taking close care of their finances.
If we have started the recovery as the market suggests we have then 2013 and 2014 could be massive years for equities. If the west lets it rip economically over the coming period, equities will be a good place to hide in the ensuing inflationary outcome.
Anyone sceptical of the recover should take a look at Greek shares since June 2012 on www.advfn.com. They will see how fast markets bounce back when then worst is over. For investors this is the key lesson to take forwards into 2013, recoveries can be just as shocking as crashes.
Clem Chambers is CEO of Private Investors website ADVFN.com, offering free real-time share prices, and is author of the Amazon Bestseller 101 Ways to Pick Stock Market Winners.