Hot Money, Cold Credit

Thursday, May 23, 2013
  Money matters — it’s a maxim of Prof. Milton Friedman that I repeat often in my columns. Since the Northern Rock bank run of 2007 — the "opening shot" of the financial crisis — the money supply, broadly measured, in the United States, Great Britain, and the Eurozone has taken a beating. Recently, in the United States, money supply growth has started to rebound, but only slightly. In the U.K. and the Eurozone, things are much worse. This is cause for concern, because the quantity of money and nominal gross domestic product are closely related. Not surprisingly, in the U.S., growth has been anemic, at best. In the U.K., the economy has fluctuated between stagnation and recession. And, in Europe, growth has been replaced by the Eurozone’s longest recession ever. Indeed, 9 of 17 E.U. countries that use the euro are in a recession, including France, and Eurozone unemployment sits at a record 12.1%. When it comes to measuring the money supply, we must heed the words of Sir John Hicks, a Nobelist and high priest of economic theory: There is nothing more important than a balance sheet. These sentiments were recently echoed by my Parisian friend, former Governor of the Banque de France Jacques de Larosière, in his 17 April 2013 lecture at Sciences Po. Components of the money supply appear on a bank’s balance sheet as liabilities. The money supply is simply the sum all of the deposits and various other short-term liabilities of the financial sector. On every balance sheet, the sum total of assets must equal total liabilities. In consequence, the money supply (short-term) liabilities) must have either an asset or longer-term liability counterpart on the balance sheet (see the accompanying chart). image One of these counterparts is known as credit, and it includes various financial instruments, such as private loans, mortgages, etc. Money and credit are often confused as synonyms, but they are not the same thing — credit is a counterpart to money. Any economist worth his salt should have the money supply on his dashboard. But, it is also important to look at what the financial sector is doing with these deposits — are they lending this money back out to the economy, and if so, to whom? There is one very important counterpart of the money supply that is particularly worth looking at — loans to private individuals and businesses, known as "private credit." ... Continue reading at