A few weeks ago, we wrote of the Swiss People's Party's efforts to gain enough signatures to force the Swiss National Bank (SNB), who 'supposedly' guarantees the price stability in Switzerland, to stop selling its gold reserves. This last week, as the FT reports, they reached the required 100,000 signature mark and on Thursday the federal chancellery confirmed Switzerland is to hold a referendum that would ban the central bank from selling its gold reserves, force it to keep at least 20% of its assets in the metal, and repatriate gold reserves held abroad and keep them at home. Following Cyprus' forced sales and discussions of the net wealth in other European peripheral nations, proponents of the Swiss measure flatly reject the idea of sales, arguing that disposals of gold reserves at low prices between 2001 and 2006, as well as more recently, have cost Switzerland billions of Swiss francs. The "Save Our Swiss Franc" initiative proclaims, "today gold is almost the only really valuable asset left on the SNB’s balance sheet." The SNB, however, is concerned at, "the monetary policy implications of the demands in the initiative." A date for the referendum has not yet been set - but the FT notes that previous 'referenda' have taken up to several years from acceptance to actual vote.
Those who have been following the US debt to GDP ratio now that the US officially does not have a debt ceiling indefinitely, may have had the occasional panic attack seeing how this country's leverage ratio is rapidly approaching that of a Troika case study of a PIIG in complete failure. And at 107% debt/GDP no explanations are necessary. Luckily, the official gatekeepers of America's economic growth (with decimal point precision), the Bureau of Economic Analysis have a plan on how to make the US economy, which is now growing at an abysmal 1.5% annualized pace, or about 5 times slower than US debt growing at 7.5% annually, catch up: magically make up a number out of thin air, and add it to the total. And it literally is out of thin air: according to the FT the addition will constitute of a one-time addition of intangibles, amounting to 3% of total US GDP, or more than the size of Belgium at $500 billion, to the US economy.
One of the many things holding the nation back at the moment is the complete lack of incentive to be a creative, productive and honest member of society versus the tremendous incentive to be a corrupt, thieving, lackey for the establishment. In a free market system, with a strict set of rules governing the game that is applied to everyone equally, market signals and incentives exist for companies to create a great product and to meet customer needs with great service. In contrast, within a crony capitalist system, the primary incentive is to get as close as possible to political and corporate power in order to financially benefit from their oligarchical ownership of the controlled economy. It is only within a completely disconnected from reality, crony, fraudulent economy where you could have a situation in which hospitals actually earn much larger profit margins from making mistakes and harming their patients, than from providing excellent care.
Since prevailing fringe theory is that JPMorgan and the other bullion banks 'control' the price of gold, we thought it would be interesting to hear yet another explanation for last week's monumental precious metal market events... from the horse's mouth...
Forget the multitude of divergences from any and every sense of real fundamentals (or other market structures) that the US equity market is exhibiting; deny for just one moment the existential crisis that is inevitably drawing closer by the day as the world's central bankers/planners truly believe they have the 'final' solution; there is only one fool-proof method of knowing what is coming next. As we noted in September 2012, just 13 days before QEternity was announced, Barron's provided the 'cover' and it seems with this week's 'exuberance' that they have once again provided confirmation. If nothing else, Barron's is great at picking points where Bernanke (or Yellen) feels compelled to save the market from collapse.
Due to decades of unreserved credit growth that temporarily boosted the appearance of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, rational economic behavior cannot produce real (inflation-adjusted) economic growth from current levels. The nominal sizes of advanced economies have grown far larger than the rational scope of production that would be needed to sustain them. This fundamental problem explains best the current state of affairs: malaise (i.e., bank system de-leveraging and economic stagnation) spreading through the means of production and the need for increasing policy intervention to stabilize goods, service and asset prices (by depressing the first three and inflating the last?). We live and work in a contrived meta-economy that can be managed through narrow channels in financial and state capitals. Given the overwhelming past misallocation of capital cited above, we think the most important realization for investors in the current environment is that price levels of goods, services and assets may be biased to rise but they are not sustainable in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. The crowd is ignoring the obvious, as all signs point towards the next currency reset.
When the BOJ announced two weeks ago the full details of its expanded easing program, which amounts to monetizing a whopping $720 billion in government bonds over the next year (a move which makes even the Fed's own open-ended QE appear like child's play in perspective), one thing it did was lay to rest any hope of a rotation, great or non-great, out of bonds and into equities. The reason is simple: while the Fed is en route to monetize $1,080 billion in UST and MBS debt in the current year, when there is just $760 billion in net US issuance, what the BOJ has done is add a bid for another $720 billion when Japanese net supply of debt is just $320 billion in the next 12 months. In other words, between Japan and the US, there is now some $660 billion in secondary market debt that the two banks will have to purchase over and above what their respective treasury departments will issue.
While 'the rest of Europe' appears to remain in beggars-can-be-choosers mode with handouts from the core (even if there is a new template), it appears the people of Germany are beginning to want their slice of the cake. Following Lufthansa's rejection of the flight crews' union demands for a 5.2% pay rise (which we should be assured is entirely non-inflationary), the airline faces massive flight cancellations on Monday. As The BBC reports, only 30 of its more than 1700 scheduled flights will take place as Lufthansa looks to cut costs in the face of stiff competition from low-cost carriers. With Frau Merkel facing the recent women's quota setback, and a workforce seemingly becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their status quo, the rise of the 'Alternative for Germany' party makes the elections far from a foregone conclusion despite current majorities.
The main take away from events in Japan is that the BOJ shifted from a tactic of interventions (under former Governor Masaaki Shirakawa) to one of monetary policy (under current Governor Haruhiko Kuroda) . What strikes us is that the monetary policy is precisely to... well, destroy their money and in the process any chance of having a monetary policy. In our view, it was exactly because the Fed’s (undisclosed) intention was to engage in never ending Quantitative Easing, that Japan was forced to implement the policy undertaken by Kuroda. Coordination with the Fed was impossible. With Mr. Kuroda’s policy, we now have the BOJ with a balance sheet objective, the Fed with a labour market objective (or so they want us to believe), the European Central Bank with a financial system stability objective (or a Target 2 balance objective) and the People’s Bank of China (and the Bank of Canada) with soft-landing objective. It is clear that any global coordination in monetary policy is completely unfeasible. The only thing central banks are left to coordinate is the suppression of gold.
In a wide-ranging look at the history and present of the barbarous relic, CBC's Brian McKenna and Ann-Marie MacDonald have gathered many perspectives (pro and con) on gold. The following documentary moves from historical shipwrecks to Nazi 'death gold' and England's war chest to recent years where widespread economic uncertainty has given the yellow metal a "new lustre in the world of high finance." Valued for its permanence, beauty and scarcity, people will lie, cheat, steal and kill in the name of gold; and the clip provides color on many of the market manipulations of the last few years. As MacDonald says, whether it’s a few gold coins or gold bars stored in one of the many vaults around the world, many investors are taking a shine to gold. But there’s not a lot of it. It is said that, even melted down, there would not be enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Some claim that much of the gold held by the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and Fort Knox is gone - that for every 100 ounces of gold traded, there exists only one ounce of real, physical gold. So, where is the gold - and who really owns it?
Yesterday, we pieced together a photographic narrative of the very public events from Boston in the past week. Today, courtesy of NY Daily News, we get a first glimpse into ground zero: inside the suspect's home, an apartment located on the third floor at 410 Norfolk St. in Cambridge. From the source: "photos snapped by the Daily News show the unit in a Cambridge, Mass., building in disarray with clothes piled everywhere and a half-eaten meal left on the table." In other words, typical bachelor squalor, but that's about it. Most notably: not a trace of any explosive, incendiary or other bomb-preparing equipment or residue, no evidence of terrorist activity, and no weapons. So where did the two put together the numerous bombs they are said to have prepared?
The Fed's Jackson Hole, Wyoming symposium is one of the most sacred of annual Fed meetings: it is here that the Fed has historically hinted at any and all upcoming episodes of major monetary experimentation. As such, presence by the high priests of global monetarism is not only compulsory, it is a circular stamp of approval of the Fed's ongoing status quo-preservation capabilities. Which is why the fact that the man at the top himself, Ben Bernanke, whose term is due to expire just five months after this year's Jackson Hole gathering, will be absent "due to a scheduling conflict", is set to spark a fire of questions, first and foremost of which: is this the sign Bernanke is handing over the suitcase with the printer launch codes to some yet unspecified, second in command? Or, even worse for those addicted to monetary heroin, will Bernanke simply try to put as much distance as possible between himself and the place where (and when) the Fed announces the grand "open-ended" QE experiment is set to begin tapering?