The first piece of news is that the IMF is now running out of funds, and as I have discussed before, the idea that the IMF will be able to rescue the UK when the crisis comes is diminishing. The second piece of news is that the once mighty £sterling is in freefall against currencies around the world. This is what the Times has to say:
The most interesting part of the article, however, is that the reasons for the fall, which are given as:
'The descent of the pound drew comparisons with the early 1990s. Then it fell 50 cents from $2.01 to $1.50 - but this time the downward spiral of the currency is gathering momentum.
“People are selling the pound because it’s there. There’s no reason for them not to,” said Nick Parsons, head of markets strategy at National Australia Bank, who is forecasting that the pound will go as low as $1.40 early next year.'
“We will go down further because the problems the UK faces are worse than other countries. We are uniquely exposed because of the sheer amount of debt we’ve got.”In other words, the markets are now realising that the UK is in very deep trouble, and that the UK debt position is unsustainable. This has been an underlying theme of the blog since the first post. The collapse of the £sterling is exactly as predicted in my November essay 'A Funny View of Wealth':
All the while this is happening the government will fall into crisis. With a falling pound, an economy collapsing around them, and an already overstretched borrowing position....'The 'all this' that I am referring to is the collapse in house prices and consumer spending, and the downward spiral of the economy. I detailed in the essay why the £GB would fall. One factor is the collapse in inward investment that bolstered the £GB, another is that the UK simply does not produce enough goods and services to support the £GB. To this, in later posts, I added that demand for the £GB would fall due to drop in demand for the currency to lend back to us.
The implications of the fall in the £GB for the UK economy are profound. The problem that this will cause for the government will be how to finance government borrowing. With a falling £GB the UK overall is now a high risk destination for money. Nobody wants to lend into a devaluing currency, as the devaluation destroys the value of their investment. This will drive lenders in one of two directions; either they will charge extremely high costs for their lending, or will ask for repayments in another currency, thereby shifting the risk on to the borrower. In both cases, government borrowing will become unaffordable.
Meanwhile, government spending is already spiralling out of control. Add to this that the government has now taken on huge costs and liabilities in the banking bailout, and it becomes apparent that the government is on course for disaster. For example, according to the Times, repossessions have climbed by 71%. The collapse of the economy is going to see ever more defaults on mortgage and consumer credit, as well as defaults on consumer loans. These defaults will hit the financial sector hard, and that now means that they will hit the government. The government is going to need very deep pockets to support the financial sector, but it just does not have them. This is one of the reasons why I have consistently opposed the bailout, arguing that it would push and already overstretched government into the certainty of default.
As the crisis deepens, the government talks more and more of ever more borrowing, calling on the ghost of Keynes as justification. However, Keynesian economics never allowed for increased borrowing in the 'good times', and in the case of the UK the borrowing has been both by the government and consumers. In other words, even if Keynesian economic theory is accepted, this is a gross distortion of the principles. There is therefore no doubt that very few potential investors are going to buy the UK government's economic policy.
For lenders, there will be a larger question looming. How exactly will the UK emerge from this crisis, and how will the economy expand to eventually repay this borrowing. I posted a comment on a forum a while back, asking anyone to point to where the future growth to repay the debt will come from. Not one answer was provided, and this is because there is no miracle around the corner that can return the UK to wealth. There are, quite simply, no sectors of the economy that promise any growth that will provide any significant new real wealth.
All of these elements add up to the onset of the financial crisis for the UK government, and a sovereign default. It is now only a matter of time before the UK faces up to the reality. It is bankrupt.
Note: I have been asked to give a firm date (see comments below) for when the UK will default on debt. However, whilst I have predicted the timing of many of the key events of the current crisis, this does not mean that I can read the future. I first mentioned the possibility of UK defaults back in June (I believe) but gave no estimate of time. More recently, I have suggested that it would be in about 3 months time, and that was about a month ago. I believe that the guess is starting to look more ever more credible, so will stick with that timescale, so would guess at about 2 months time. However, this is no more than a guess, as the determinant is going to be something that is hard to predict - confidence.