Coronavirus: Black swan for the global financial system?

ByErnst Wolff.

While the Chinese leadership is trying by all means to suppress critical voices and give the impression that it has the epidemic under control in its own country, global health organizations such as the WHO, supported by politicians and the media, are willingly supporting it: they claim almost unanimously that the Chinese Communist Party is acting appropriately to the situation and that there is no cause for concern.

This alliance of conciliators and appeasers received important support from the central banks last week: They caused stock prices to skyrocket on the world’s stock markets, which should have collapsed. In this way, the impression was created that, at least in economic terms, everything is in order at the moment.

In fact, the opposite is true: the global economy is in an extremely critical state and this will deteriorate dramatically in the weeks and months ahead due to the historically unprecedented standstill of Chinese industry, for the following reasons:

The sharpest fall in prices on the international stock exchanges in 70 years in December 2018 has led to the central banks abandoning their attempt to tighten their loose monetary policy again. Since the beginning of 2019, we have been dealing with a new flood of cheap money, which has increased considerably in the last four months of this year.

This flood of money has led to a further increase in global debt and a further inflation of bubbles in the financial markets, thus increasing the risks in the system. At the same time, a recession, i.e. a sustained decline in economic growth, has set in in many countries, and the effects of this are now becoming increasingly noticeable.

As investors have learned in recent years that it is more lucrative to speculate with cheap money in the financial sector than to put it into the real economy, central banks are now faced with an unsolvable problem: they can print as much money as they want and issue it at as low an interest rate as they like, but the desired effect – namely a boom in the real economy – will not occur.

This in turn will have serious consequences for the working population: The slumps in the real economy that can be expected as a result of the coronavirus, together with the recession, will lead to short-time work and mass layoffs across countries, lower the standard of living of millions of working people and drive many of them into poverty. The standstill in Chinese industry will drastically aggravate the worst problem in the world today – the explosion of social inequality – and thus cause increasing social and political instability.

The only effective means of limiting this dangerous development for politics and the economy, at least temporarily, would be to artificially increase the decreasing purchasing power of those who are forced to live on their income. It is precisely this possibility that has been discussed for some time in the central banks. Those responsible are considering providing the working population with “helicopter money”, i.e. making monthly payments and forcing the recipients to put the money into consumption immediately.

In this way, the tumbling system could indeed be kept alive for a while. In the long term, however, this measure would almost certainly lead to inflation, which could only be combated by an increasingly extensive allocation of helicopter money. This, in turn, would ultimately lead to hyperinflation and the final collapse of the existing global financial system.

No one can currently predict the further development of the Corona pandemic, but the likelihood that the virus is the Black Swan, which everyone has feared for years, is increasing with every day that the Chinese economy is down.

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Thanks to the author for the right to publish.

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Picture reference: lakshmiprasada S / Shutterstock

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