By: Eric Sprott & David Baker
On July 18th, 2012, the German government sold US$5.13 billion worth of 2-year bonds at an average yield of -0.06%. Please note the negative symbol in front of that yield number. What this means is that the German government was able to borrow money for less than nothing. When those specific bonds expire in two years’ time, the German government will pay back the original $5.13 billion minus 0.06%. Expressed another way, investors knowingly and willingly bid the German government $5.13 billion in exchange for bonds that will pay no interest and are guaranteed to lose them money on expiration.1 Welcome to the new status quo.
Germany is not alone. Over the past six months, the countries of Netherlands, Switzerland and France have also issued short-term government debt at negative yields. The bond market auctions for these select countries have seen overwhelming demand, making NIRP (Negative Interest Rate Policy) the new ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy).
NIRP is different than ZIRP, however. NIRP causes outright financial destruction. Economies can hardly survive extended periods of ZIRP rates, let alone survive a long-term NIRP environment. It just doesn’t work.