Life In A Cashless World: How Cash Became A Policy Tool – An Interview With Dr. Harald Malmgren

Banks in the US and Europe are trying to develop a cashless transactions system. The concept is to establish a comprehensive ledger for a business or a person that records everything received and spent, and all of the assets held – mortgages, investment portfolios, debts, contractual financial obligations, and anything else of market value. There would be no need for cash because the ledger would tell you and anyone you were considering a transaction with how much is available and would be transactable at any specific moment. This is not a dreamy idea. Blythe Masters is leading a new business effort to develop a universal cashless system. Not only is she gathering significant investor interest, but the Federal Reserve and various US Government agencies have become keenly interested in the potential usefulness and efficiencies of a universal cashless system

The Concept Of Money And The Money Illusion

Awareness about the concept of money is making a comeback. Gone are the decades in which the global citizenry was fooled to leave this subject to economists, governments and banks – a setup that has proven to end in disaster. The crisis in 2008 has spawned debate about what money is, where it comes from and where it should come from.

The Petrostate Hex: Visualizing How Plunging Oil Prices Affect Currencies

Every day, the world consumes 93 million barrels of oil, which is worth $4.2 billion. Oil is one of the world’s most basic necessities. At least for now, all modern countries rely on oil and its derivatives as the backbone of their economies. However, the price of oil can have significant swings. These changes in price can have profound implications depending on whether an economy is a net importer or net exporter of crude.

Why Hedge Fund Hot Shots Finally Got Hammered

The destruction of honest financial markets by the Fed and other central banks has created a class of hedge fund hot shots that are truly hard to take. At length, both the epic bond bubble and the monumental stock bubble so recklessly fueled by the Fed and the other central banks after September 2008 will burst in response to the deflationary tidal wave now cresting. Needless to say, that eventuality will be the death knell for the risk parity trade. It will cause the volatility seeking algos to eat their own portfolios alive. Leon Cooperman and his momo chasing compatriots will soon be praying for an event as mild as October 1987.

Guest Post: China’s Worst Nightmare - The US’s Oil Weapon

China’s islanding building on the four-mile-long and two-mile-wide Subi Reef in the South China Sea has put The US in a tight spot. To protect its ally from China’s aggression, The US will be left with little choice but to constrain China by military means. However, the US won't directly engage China in the war in the foreseeable future, because the US dominates China with its superior naval and air force and the only way for China to level the playing field is to apply nuclear weapons. The nuclear nature of Sino-American warfare will make both the world no.1 and no.2 economy the fallen giants.  So there is a possibility that The US might use its oil weapon instead to strike at the core of China’s weakness - it’s huge dependence on oil import.

Whither The Economy?

The great problem with corporate capitalism is that publicly owned companies have short time horizons. As a consequence of the short-sightedness of reformers and Congress, the annual salaries of top executives were capped at $1 million. Amounts in excess are not deductible for the company as an expense. The exception is “performance-related” pay, which has no limit. The result is that the major part of executive pay comes in the form of performance bonuses. Performance means a rise in the price of the company’s shares. The gains in executive bonuses and shareholder capital gains were achieved by destroying the economic prospects of millions of Americans and by reducing the growth potential of the US economy. In the long-run this means the demise of the US as a world power...

Putin Confirms Scope Of Russian Military Role In Syria

Over the past 48 hours or so, we’ve seen what certainly appears to be visual confirmation of a non-negligible Russian military presence in Syria. Going into the weekend however, Russia had yet to confirm publicly that it had commenced military operations in the region despite the fact that it’s the next closest thing to common knowledge that at the very least, the Kremlin has provided logistical support and technical assistance for a period that probably spans two or more years. But on Friday, Vladimir Putin looks to have confirmed the scope of Russia’s military role, even if he stopped short of admitting that Russian troops are engaged in combat.

Did COMEX Counterparty Risk Just Reach A Record High?

The last few months have seen a steady drip-drip-drip increase in US, European, and Chinese bank credit risks, even as stock prices rose (aside from the latter). The turning point appears to have been the downturn in oil prices as traders began to hedge their counterparty risk in massive levered derivative positions tied to commodities. But it is not just banks... COMEX counterparty risk mut sbe on the rise, as Jesse's Cafe Americain notes, the 'claims per ounce of gold' deliverable at current prices has spiked higher once again, to a record 126:1.

Don't Forget China's "Other" Spinning Plate: Trillions In Hidden Bad Debt

Given the global implications of what’s going on in China’s stock market and the fact that the yuan devaluation is set to accelerate the great EM FX reserve unwind while simultaneously driving a stake through the heart of beleaguered emerging economies from LatAm to AsiaPac it’s wholly understandable that everyone should focus on equities and FX. That said, understanding the scope of the risk posed by China’s many spinning plates means not forgetting about the other problems Beijing faces, not the least of which is a massive collection of debt.

Global Economic Fears Cast Long Dark Shadow On Oil Price Rebound

The EIA released a report this week that showed that there would be little effect on gasoline prices if the U.S. government lifted the ban on crude oil exports. In fact, gasoline prices could even fall because refined product prices are linked to Brent much more than WTI, so more supplies on the international market would push down Brent prices. The report lends credence to the legislative campaign on Capitol Hill to scrap the ban, a movement that is picking up steam. On the other hand, although few noticed, the EIA report also said that the refining industry could lose $22 billion per year if the ban is removed. So far, many members of Congress have been reluctant to weigh in on this issue for exactly that reason: it pits drillers against refiners, both of which are powerful political players.

China's Central Bank Chief Admits "The Bubble Has Burst"

In a stunningly honest admission from a member of the elite, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of China’s central bank, exclaimed multiple times this week to his G-20 colleagues that a bubble in his country had "burst." While this will come as no surprise to any rational-minded onlooker, the fact that, as Bloomberg reports, Japanese officials also confirmed Zhou's admissions, noting that "many people [at the G-20] expressed concerns about the Chinese market," and added that "discussions [at the G-20 meeting] hadn't been constructive" suggests all is not well in the new normal uncooperative G-0 reality in which we live.

Anatomy Of A Market Top, Part 1: Internal Combustion

The first change often occurs below the surface. The deterioration of the market’s internals typically occurs in the lead-up and development of a cyclical market top, but this dynamic too can persist for an extended period. However, eventually these divergences reach a head, and the most egregious cases have historically occurred within close proximity to major, cyclical market tops. The deterioration of the broader market is so great that the resultant foundation of support below the surface of the popular market cap-weighted averages is nearly non-existent. Once the relatively few leaders propping up the market begin to collapse under the weight, the inevitable cyclical decline can commence.

This Has Never Happened To VIX Before

Amid the carnage and chaos of the last two weeks, one thing has become crystal clear - the effect of massive one-way bets on 'everything', predicated on the omnipotence of central bankers, has left a market (stocks, bonds, FX, commodities) bereft of fundamental linkages and instead driven entirely by technicals (flows, forced unwinds, systematic gamma). While many 'records' were broken in terms of velocity of moves, it is the VIX complex that seems to have suffered most, and as the following chart shows, positioning is now at an extreme in both stocks, vol, and bonds once again.

Exorbitant Privilege: "The Dollar Is Our Currency But Your Problem"

There is no better way to describe the international monetary system today than through the statement made in 1971 by U.S. Treasury Secretary, John Connally. He said to his counterparts during a Rome G-10 meeting in November 1971, shortly after the Nixon administration ended the dollar’s convertibility into gold and shifted the international monetary system into a global floating exchange rate regime that, "The dollar is our currency, but your problem.” This remains the U.S. policy towards the international community even today. On several occasions both the past and present chairpersons of the Fed, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, have indicated it still is the U.S. policy as it concerns the dollar. Is China saying to the world, but more particularly to the U.S., “The yuan is our currency but your problem”?

How Much More Ridiculous Can It Get?

If one considers that the next major interest rate manipulation by the Fed appears to hinge on a notoriously unreliable report about a lagging economic indicator, it should immediately become clear on what a flimsy foundation modern central economic planning rests. How much more ridiculous can it possibly get? Incidentally, it also serves to demonstrate how far off the reservation economists have veered in their desperate and laughable attempts to transform economics into a discipline akin to the natural sciences.