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Opinion

A long winter's coming but autumn will be golden

Deflation is on the way, summoning up a long and dreary financial winter. But it should be preceded by a burst of autumn sunshine

Expect big dislocations in the global economy and financial system. Irresponsible central banks are force feeding free money to an inflated financial sector. The financial sector in turn feeds asset and debt bubbles at all levels of the economy, but particularly those involving the ignorant and super-indebted consumer.

This will bring higher inflation and lower growth and will halve returns from traditional long-term financial assets over the next few years. At least half of the wealth creation of the disinflationary decades was made possible by falling inflation and interest rates. That caused rises in the wealth multipliers (the price of an asset divided by the income stream it produces) of everything from equities to bonds and housing.

But the value of an asset cannot rise faster than the value of what it produces for ever, and the end of disinflation means the process is over. Returns from financial assets will in future be meagre.

Indeed, if politicized central banks (see The fourth generation of central banking) and anti-free market and fiscally irresponsible politicians tolerate this renascent inflation, the world will move back to the negative real asset returns of higher inflationary periods like the 1970s.

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