A couple of weeks ago we wrote about how the Portuguese citizenry was being forced to sell its gold in order to eat. It seems that the Italians have now joined this illustrious club. What do you expect when you allow Goldman Sachs to impose technocrat dictator Mario “Three Card” Monti as your political leader?
The pawnbrokers, ...can hardly keep up with business. They normally have the gold quickly melted down and sent abroad, making it one of Italy’s fastest growing exports. Official gold sales to Switzerland leaped 65 per cent last year to 120 tonnes, up from 73 tonnes in 2010 and 64 tonnes in 2009.
That’s not just gold being exported, that is wealth being exported. China says thanks. At least you protected your bankster class from taking a hit on their bond portfolios.
Recent market trends such as equity and debt strength, the periphery outperforming the core, Europe outperforming the US, banks outperforming non-financials, and unsecured credit outperforming secured all seem predicated on the belief that there will be a funding plan for Spain and Italy. The ECB's gradual draining of assets from the market combined with hopes of more liquidity (something we are already not short of) has created a problem of 'excess demand' but, as Citi's Matt King notes, this 'scarcity factor' has suspended normal market relationships. The question is, across a variety of scenarios, which recent market trends are more vulnerable than others.
If you haven't heard yet, the United States of America just hit $16 trillion in debt yesterday. On a gross, nominal basis, this makes the US, by far, the greatest debtor in the history of the world. It took the United States government over 200 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of debt. It took only 286 days to accumulate the most recent trillion dollars of debt. 200 years vs. 286 days. This portends two key points:
- Anyone who thinks that inflation doesn't exist is a complete idiot;
- To say that the trend is unsustainable is a massive understatement.
This is banana republic stuff, plain and simple... and smart, thinking people ought to be planning on capital controls, wage and price controls, pension confiscation, and selective default. Because the next trillion will be here before you know it.
For the 22nd day of the last 23, the S&P 500 was unable to manage a 1% gain or loss, having only managed to gain/lose more than 0.25% four days in the last 16. It's dead Jim. S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) volume was equal to its lowest volume of the year (in years) and NYSE shares traded were also near multi-year lows. While cash equity indices closed very marginally green, ES ended modestly red (shock horror). VIX kept leaking higher, closing at 17% (up 0.5 vols), its highest close in a month (and the premium-to-realized just keeps growing) - seems like noone wants to sell their stocks and everyone wants to hedge - how did that portfolio insurance work out last time everyone was on one side? EURUSD sold off - even with Draghi's OpEd and so today saw Equities Up (all <0.15%), Treasury yields Up (1-2bps >7Y), EURUSD Down 35 pips (and implicitly USD stronger by 0.23%), Commodities - Gold/Silver/Oil/Copper Down around 0.3-0.5%, and credit tracked stocks. A 7.75 point range in ES over its 24-hour period is almost multi-year lows and once again the late-day pull back from highs to VWAP (and into the red) was the only volume of the day. Energy lost, Discretionary gained (consumption data up?) as AAPL and FB dropped (ugliest at the close), and the 18-day range is the lowest since May07 (and we know what that was).
Monopolies contribute to many problems - the record of evidence illustrates the potential inefficiency, waste and price fixing. Yet the greatest trouble with monopolies is what they take away - competition. Competition is a beautiful mechanism; in exercising their purchasing power and demand preferences, individuals run the economy. If we are for competition in goods and services, why should we disclude competition in the money industry? Would competition in the money industry not benefit the consumer in the manner that competition in other industries does? Why should the form and nature of the medium of exchange be monopolised? Shouldn’t the people - as individuals - be able to make up their own mind about the kind of money that they want to use to engage in transactions? Earlier, this year Ben Bernanke and Ron Paul had an exchange on this subject. It is often said in Keynesian circles that Bernanke is too tame a money printer, and that the people need a greater money supply. Well, set the wider society free to determine their own money supply based on the demand for money.
As the world anticipates Bernanke's speech on Friday - which most do not expect to explicitly say "NEW-QE-is-on-bitches" - we started thinking just what it is that he can suggest that would provide more jawboning potential. His speech is likely to lay out 'lessons learned' and outline the various conventional, unconventional, and unconventional unconventional policy options available (as we noted here). While open-ended QE, cutting the IOER, and 'credit-easing' are often discussed, none would be a surprise; this reminded us of an article from Morgan Stanley two years ago - after QE2 - that raised the possibility of Price-Level Targeting (PT), which is quite different from Inflation-Targeting. While its cumulative effect could be anti-debtflationary, it is however tough to communicate, reduces the Fed's inflation-credibility, and could be seen as inconsistent with the Fed's dual mandate. Our hope is that by understanding this possibility, the mistaken shock-and-awe is dampened.
With a $3.8 trillion yearly budget, the US Government is the most powerful entity in the world. This simple infographic shows how the money was spent.
The discussion over the GOP's gold standard proposals continues in spite of the fact that everybody surely knows the idea is not even taken seriously by its proponents – as we noted yesterday, there is every reason to believe it is mainly designed to angle for the votes of disaffected Ron Paul and Tea Party supporters, many of whom happen to believe in sound money. As we also pointed out, there has been a remarkable outpouring of opinion denouncing the gold standard. Unfortunately many people are misinformed about both economic history and economic theory and simply regurgitate the propaganda they have been exposed to all of their lives. Consider this our attempt to present countervailing evidence. The 'Atlantic' felt it also had to weigh in on the debate, and has published an article that shows, like a few other examples we have examined over recent days, how brainwashed the public is with regards to the issue and what utterly spurious arguments are often employed in the current wave of anti-gold propaganda. The piece is entitled “Why the Gold Standard Is the World's Worst Economic Idea, in 2 Charts”, and it proves not only what we assert above, it also shows clearly why empirical evidence cannot be used for deriving tenets of economic theory.
The market does not seem ecstatic with the relative positivity from the Fed's Beige Book - good news is bad it seems - as via Bloomberg:
- *FED DISTRICTS SAW ECONOMY GROWING `GRADUALLY' IN JULY, AUGUST
- *FED SAYS MOST DISTRICTS SAW STABLE PRICES FOR FINISHED GOODS
- *FED SAYS `UPWARD WAGE PRESSURE' WAS `VERY CONTAINED'
- *FED SAYS REAL ESTATE MARKETS `GENERALLY SAID TO BE IMPROVING'
- *FED SAYS SIX DISTRICTS SAID ECONOMY EXPANDED `AT A MODEST PACE'
- *FED SAYS MOST DISTRICTS SAW INCREASE IN RETAIL SALES
- *FED SAYS BANKERS IN SIX DISTRICTS SAW RISING LOAN DEMAND
Doug Casey is of the opinion that the Hubbert peak-oil theory is correct. In the 1950s, M. King Hubbert projected that US oil production would start declining in the 1970s, and he was accurate. Then he projected that in the mid-2000s, the world's production of light, sweet crude would start declining. He was quite correct about that, too. There will always be plenty of oil at some given price, but to produce oil – even conventional, shallow, light sweet crude – now costs close to $40/bbl in many places. Drilling in politically unstable jurisdictions with sparse infrastructure is neither cheap nor fun. We're talking about production costs of at least $80/bbl in many cases. In an industrial world with seven billion people, the only energy source that makes sense is nuclear power. Sure, you can use wind and solar from time to time and in certain places. But those technologies are extremely expensive, and they absolutely can't solve the world's energy problems.
The punchline from today's Fed household debt and credit report is comparing student debt to one other favorite product of the housing bubble generation: HELOCs. We note home equity lines of equity because as of June 30, 2012, long after HELOCs were widely available to Americans locked in a rabid pursuit to extract as much equity as they could out of their homes, is when the 90+ day delinquent rate on this product hit an all time high of 4.92%, and is finally rising at a breakneck speed. What is fascinating is when one re-indexes the delinquency rate on HELOCs and student loans. While we admit that the "discharge" option on real estate-backed debt does have a material impact, the reality is that once the prevailing mode of thinking is one of just not paying one's student loans, it will be not the student loan chart which is already parabolic, but that which tracks delinquent student loans that will take its place in the exponential hall of fame.
The Chinese Stock Markets are returning to the lows of 2009 and the Europe is mired in a recession. The American Stock Markets are not far off their highs and we do not think this will continue. Mark Grant is quite negative, for all kinds of reasons, about our equity markets now and would be taking profits and returning to the more assured bets of getting yield from bonds and not from dividends. A dividend may be reduced or cancelled by the wave of some Boards’ hand one afternoon while senior debt cannot be cancelled without the company or the municipality going into bankruptcy so that the top of the capital structure is far safer than relying upon dividends for income. In the next sixty days we are faced with Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and ECB issues that are quite serious both economically and politically. You may think what you like but there is a lot of risk on the table; of that you may be assured. When someone says, “Buddy can you spare a dime” we would like to be the one being asked and not the one doing the asking. It is here where we stand and wait.
The bow-tied-and-bespectacled bringer-of-truth was on Bloomberg TV this morning providing his own clarifying perspective on what we should hope for (and what we should not) from J-Hole this weekend. Jim Grant's acerbic comments on Krugman's view of the world, on the gold standard as a "force for growth and stability", and the "unproven and truly radical methods" of the SNB and Fed, pale in significance when he is asked about the stock market distortions: "I think we live in a hall of mirrors in finance thanks to the zero interest rate regime and the chronic nonstop interventions," and when asked when Bernanke should start raising rates, the simple (yet complex) response is "Last Year! And Eric Rosengren would be in a different line of work." Must watch to understand the central-banker-meme-du-decade.
The Status Quo depends on the professional/managerial class to maintain order and keep the machine running. Since this class has more options in life than less educated lower-income workers, their belief in the fairness and stability of the Status Quo is essential: should their belief in the Status Quo weaken, so would their commitment to positions that require long work days and abundant stress....At every juncture where a decision to opt out (quit) or continue serving the Status Quo arises, the believer is co-opted by their desire to "stay in the game" for the promised slice of wealth and security. The risk-return calculus is heavily skewed to complicity, because the options for wealth and security outside the machine are meager and loaded with risk. It is my contention that the wealth and security promised by the machine in exchange for subservience are phantom, and the risk of the promises not being kept is much higher than generally assumed. ironically, those who opt out and accept the risk and lower compensation are actually more secure and much wealthier (in terms of well-being and autonomy) than those who submit to voluntary capture.