As the global economy limps into 2016, the prospects for a sustained pickup in worldwide trade and/or a return to robust growth are decidedly grim. 

Global trade growth has lagged the already tepid pace of global output expansion for three years running, averaging just 3% per year. That’s half of the rate witnessed from 1983 to 2008. 

Meanwhile, inflation expectations in developed economies have not rebounded, despite the best efforts of DM central bankers. And yet housing costs have soared in tandem with round after round of policy rate cuts and the global proliferation of QE, reflecting two things, i) central banks have learned nothing from the US housing bubble (that is, when you artificially suppress borrowing costs, housing prices soar), and ii) when you intentionally inflate bubbles in the assets most likely to be concentrated in the hands of the wealthy (i.e. financial assets), those bubbles spill over into other asset classes like real estate and high end art. 

What should be apparent from the above is that all the Mario Draghis and Haruhiko Kurodas of the world are doing at this point is blowing bubbles on the way to creating more inequality and embedding ever greater amounts of risk into capital markets not only by driving up prices, but by sucking out liquidity.

As for Main Street, there’s no “wealth effect” (where “wealth effect” refers to a kind of neo-trickle down economics catalyzed by QE). There’s only persistently slow growth, a jobs market that churns out more waiters and bartenders than it does breadwinner jobs, and a noticeably wider gap between the rich and the poor as exemplified by the fact that the billionaires of the world are paying $170 million for Modiglianis. 

But the game is almost up. Central banks have monetized everything that isn’t tied down. Hell, Kuroda owns half of the entire Japanese ETF market. Rates are below zero and there’s only so much more NIRP banks are going to be able to stand before negative rates get passed on to depositors. Put simply: we’re approaching the Keynesian endgame and there’s still no growth, and no inflation (well, unless you count housing) and trade is collapsing. 

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