Our current fiat currency standard is terminal, nations around the world are dropping the U.S. dollar as a medium of exchange, central banks are buying gold, and Americans are seeing price inflation during an economic downturn. In order to avoid a systemic financial crisis here in the U.S., we need to focus on solutions. This mini-documentary expounds the problems and a solution to the real economic crisis hiding under the safety blanket of an equity market at all-time highs.
A week ago, when the brand new Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange suddenly shuttered after being in operation for only two years, urgently settling what little contracts were outstanding, many questions were left unanswered. Such as: how it was possible that the exchange, expected by many to become the new preferred trading venue for Asian precious metals and to steal the CME's crown, could close on such short notice. This mystery deepened further after reports that the exchange barely had seen any volume, with allegedly only a tiny 200 open contracts remaining to be settled upon shuttering. Now, the confusion surrounding the HKMex closure has taken another big step for bizarrokind following news that not only have at least four HKMex senior executive have been arrested having been found to be in possession of false bank docs for nearly half a billion in dollars, but that government itself was forced to "shore up confidence" in CY Leung, Hong Kong's 3rd Chief Executive, whose former top aide was none other Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, founder of the HKMex.
Through most of the 20th century, America led something of a charmed life, at least when compared with the disasters endured by almost every other major country. We became the richest and most powerful nation on earth, partly due to our own achievements and partly due to the mistakes of others. The public interpreted these decades of American power and prosperity as validation of our system of government and national leadership, and the technological effectiveness of our domestic propaganda machinery - our own American Pravda - has heightened this effect. Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.
When shown the magnificent run-up in Japanese equities over the past six months and asked why he is skeptical about the likely success of Abenomics, Mizuho's chief economist simply explains, "because I am not suffering from amnesia," as the rest of the market appears to be. He goes in this brief interview with the FT to explain there is nothing new here. We already saw massive fiscal expenditure in the 1990s (which failed to gain any real economic traction) and as far as quantitative easing, Ueno reminds his interviewer, we saw major QE between 2001 and 2006 (that failed), Furthermore, the so-called growth strategy, "every Japanese cabinet has undertaken such doctrines without any success." The discussion then switches from the dashing of hopes to the risks of the policy. Five minutes well spent this weekend to remind your momentum-driven recency-biased anchored view of the world that there is nothing new under the sun and moar is not always better...
The biggest fear of the Federal Reserve has been the deflationary pressures that have continued to depress the domestic economy. Despite the trillions of dollars of interventions by the Federal Reserve the only real accomplishment has been keeping the economy from slipping back into an outright recession. However, when looking at many of the economic and confidence indicators, there are many that are still at levels normally associated with previous recessionary lows. Despite many claims to the contrary the global economy is far from healed which explains the need for ongoing global central bank interventions. However, even these interventions seem to be having a diminished rate of return in spurring real economic activity despite the inflation of asset prices. The risk, as discussed recently with relation to Japan, is that the Fed is now caught within a "liquidity trap." The Fed cannot effectively withdraw from monetary interventions and raise interest rates to more productive levels without pushing the economy back into a recession. The overriding deflationary drag on the economy is forcing the Federal Reserve to remain ultra-accommodative to support the current level of economic activity. What is interesting is that mainstream economists and analysts keep predicting stronger levels of economic growth while all economic indications are indicating just the opposite.
It is not just the massive short positioning in Gold futures that has BofAML's commodity strategists concerned; but the regime changes in the precious metal's volatility structures suggests risks are significantly mispriced relative to equities, rates, and other commodities. Following the most abrupt price collapse in 30 years, near-dated implied volatility in gold spiked dramatically in the past month. The term structure of implied gold volatility has also changed shape and the market now shows a marked put skew. Even then, the spike in precious metals volatility had remained a rather isolated event until this week’s sharp drop in Japanese equities. As the following chartapalooza demonstrates, while large-scale QE has tempered volatility across all asset classes for months, we remain concerned about the recent sharp price movements in gold or Japanese equities, and see a risk that other bubbling asset classes may follow.
Nearly three years ago, following the publishing of "Is The SEC's Insider Trading Case Implicating FrontPoint A Sting Operation Aimed At S.A.C. Capital?" which exposed the key aspects of SAC's insider trading strategy, and which linked SAC, and the hedge fund world in general, to expert networks three weeks before virtually anyone outside of the 2 and 20 (or 3 and 50 as the case may be) world had heard of them and before they became a household euphemism for insider trading, we expected the full rabid fury of the world's best paid legal team to fall upon us. It didn't, which meant only one thing: we were correct, or they had bigger fish (to avoid harpooning) on their mind. Turns out it was both.
In this extensive interview, Bill explains why financial fraud is the most damaging type of fraud and also the hardest to prosecute. He also details how, through crony capitalism, it has become much more prevalent in our markets and political system. A warning: there's much revealed in this interview to make your blood boil. “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." - Frederic Bastiat
"When you have city employees, police, and firefighters have taken pay cuts, it doesn't look good," is the somewhat understated response from Detroit's emergency manager to the city's latest debacle. Amid the deepening financial crisis the crumbling region faces, four trustees of its public pension funds spent $22,000 of retirement funds to attend a conference at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. "It's one of these things we trustees must do to stay on top of the field," is how one of the trustees defended the decision, a second would not comment, and the other two could not be found according to Reuters (we can only imagine what they were up to). Conference representatives noted that "these are intelligent folks there to do a job, not there for vacation," yet many funds did decide to boycott the event as it sent the wrong message. But irony of ironies, Detroit decided it was appropriate - perhaps since one well attended session covered 'how to avoid front-page scandals.'
Even if the monetary fuel for this whirl of self-reinforcement is not lacking, the market still needs a narrative around which it can cluster psychologically. It needs a canon of shared myth about which the bard can weave a reassuringly familiar refrain so as to reinforce the sense of community when the members of the clan gather to listen to his warblings amid the flickering fires and guttering torchlight of the Great Hall at night. Despite the bubbles everywhere, hastily shrugged off by the Chairman-in-chief we must add, we are still all suckers for a good saga. As far as we can see, the current narrative contains several key themes... What could possibly go wrong?
Investors borrowed $384.4 billion in April, a 1.3% gain from the previous month and a 29% rise from the same month last year. This is an all-time record for margin debt and it exceeds the previous high mark set in June 2007. Some may see this as an increased sign of investor confidence but we are not among them. To me this is a giant red warning flag blowing in the financial breeze indicating the leveraging of dumb money making very risky bets. We are once again in the crack house of substance abuse! In each age the gods of the marketplace show up once more. The packaging may be different but the powder is the same. Each dealer uses the same line, "Nothing addictive here."
While some, we are sure, will view this brief clip as partisan showmanship by Representative Steve Pearce, the questions he asks Treasury Secretary should surely be responded to in some manner that is anything but the typical perfunctory shrug these matters normally garner. From Lew's apparent disbelief that the IRS Audits debacle was in any way 'political' to Lew's "waiting for the investigation' on Jon Corzine's misappropriation of funds, and finally to the "War on the Poor" that Pearce describes the current administration's policies (for the benefit of Wall Street); these few minutes are well worth some time as we 'remember' this weekend.
Exxon Mobil hasn't asked federal regulatory authorities to restart the Pegasus oil pipeline, which burst open in a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark. In March, a 22-foot rupture in the pipeline spilled about 5,000 barrels of diluted Canadian crude oil into an area of marshland, though the company said it's been effectively cleaning the area with long-term remediation in mind. Talking points over pipelines are focused on economic and energy security interests on one side of the argument versus emissions and cleanup on the other. Given the legacy of pipeline spills since the Keystone XL debate began more than four years ago, the "real" issue may be the lack of debate over just why so many of these pipelines have burst open in the first place.
With the first arrow of Abenomics perhaps hitting its limit, it will be the second and third arrows that need to occur quickly and aggressively to carry this momentum forward (and for the economy to grow into stock valuations). Barclays lays out 15 of its most frequently asked questions below but concerns remain as the BoJ’s planned absorption of nearly 80% of new JGB issuance from the markets this fiscal year has triggered a dramatic change not only in JGB supply/demand and ownership structure but in the JGB market risk profile itself, which has moved from “low carry, low volatility and high liquidity (superior to other assets from perspective of risk-adjusted returns or Sharpe ratio)” to “low carry, high volatility and low liquidity (inferior from same perspective)”. Barclays added that with a wave of major political and policy events ahead, starting with a crucial Upper House election, there was no big change in the basic belief among foreign investors that Japan is likely to be the main source of surprise for the global economy and of volatility in financial markets.
...It seemed like every week we would hear about some terrorist with a suitcase-sized bomb, and the bureaucrats would dive into a lively debate about whether or not to evacuate the Americans. One day, I remember, my friend who was the senior ranking non-commissioned officer interrupted and said, “What about the Swedes? Do we evacuate the Swedes too?” The embassy staff looked at each other, shrugged a bit, “Oh sure, sure, we’ll coordinate with Washington on that.” And the discussion continued. “What about the Saudis?” Silence again. And then he really made his point. “It’s not just about Americans, you know. [others] blood is worth something too.”