What if, they ask, all those interest-rate hikes the past two years are actually boosting the economy? In other words, maybe the economy isn't booming despite higher rates but rather because of them.

It's an idea so radical that in mainstream academic and financial circles, it borders on heresy -- the sort of thing that in the past only Turkey's populist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or the most zealous disciples of Modern Monetary Theory would dare utter publicly.

But the new converts -- along with a handful who confess to being at least curious about the idea -- say the economic evidence is becoming impossible to ignore.


This is, the contrarians argue, because the jump in benchmark rates from 0% to over 5% is providing Americans with a significant stream of income from their bond investments and savings accounts for the first time in two decades. "The reality is people have more money," says Kevin Muir, a former derivatives trader at RBC Capital Markets who now writes an investing newsletter called The MacroTourist.


Einhorn notes that US households receive income on more than $13 trillion of short-term interest-bearing assets, almost triple the $5 trillion in consumer debt, excluding mortgages, that they have to pay interest on. At today's rates, that translates to a net gain for households of some $400 billion a year, he estimates.

We would note also that present structural interest rates aren't actually "high" -- they're still historically a bit low (with the average prior to the QE era being around 6%). Money does need some time value for the economy to work properly, we've been saying around here for over 15 years...

We've suspected for a while that Jerome Powell secretly agrees with this stance, too.

(A final point, consumer interest rates have lost most coupling from the Funds rate and similar rates a long time ago. With usury laws buried, typical consumer credit card rates have been north of 22% for a long time. When the funds rate went up from 0% to 5%, these credit card rate levels bumped up to 25-30%. So what? That's just not a significant enough proportional change to make a difference. We just don't see many out there who would make different buying decisions on a 30% CC versus a 25% CC; and the population who would default at each rate level is probably the same. Therefore, overall, we would think that Einhorn's point about consumers ending up with more cash when structural interest rates go up as being on the balance, the prevailing factor.)

Comments: Be the first to add a comment

add a comment | go to forum thread