Chuck Prince, the former CEO of Citigroup, who presided over the bank’s collapse, famously remarked in July 2007 that "as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.” Shortly after, the music stopped, the financial system broke, and Citigroup and other financial behemoths went under.
To rescue the economy and financial system from near‐total meltdown, the government created an unprecedented package of bailouts, stimulus, free money and massive fiscal deficits. It succeeded, and a 1930s style debt deflation and depression were aborted. Liquidity, on a vast scale was unleashed into the financial system, demonstrating, once again, the power of such flows to drive up the prices of stocks, commodities and other risky assets.
In The Great Reflation we focus on how the authorities pumped air back into the balloon, and got the music playing again. Investors and banks, including Citigroup, are back out on the dance floor. However, just because the system was saved, doesn’t mean it has been fixed.
Why do we say that the system isn’t fixed? The major theme running through The Great Reflation is that we have been living through a multi‐decade period of money and credit inflation that started back in the 1960s when the post‐World War II global monetary system (Bretton Woods) began to break down. The Great Reflation is about this inflation and the consequences of the Act II, which is now unfolding.
The centerpiece of our own strategy, and outlined in the book, is understanding liquidity flows. They are the single most important force driving investment markets both up and down. Contracting liquidity caused the crash in 2008‐2009 and dramatically expanding liquidity since March 2009 has triggered one of the greatest bull markets in U.S. history. The next bear market will also be driven, at some point, by a contraction in liquidity flows. However, as long as the great reflation is doing its work, that day can be postponed. Chuck Prince, if he were to comment today, would probably point out that the music is playing again. People are back out on the dance floor. But, if the great reflation is as artificial as we believe, then this is still musical chairs. When the music stops, there won’t be a chair for everyone, just like the last time.