"Do You Own Gold?" Ray Dalio At CFR: "Oh Yeah, I Do"

Ray Dalio, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, L.P. and one of the most successful hedge fund managers of all time told Maria Bartiromo last week that he owns gold and that he sees no “sensible reason not to own gold”. The interview was part of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Corporate Program's CEO Speaker Series, which provides a forum for leading global CEOs to share their priorities and insights before a high-level audience of wealthy and influential CFR members.  The respected hedge fund manager suggested that a depression and not a recession was likely and warned of social unrest and the risk of radical politics as was seen with Hitler and the Nazis in the Depression of the 1930’s. Dalio spoke about how “gold is a currency” and when asked by Bartiromo “do you own gold?”, he smiled and said “Oh yeah, I do.” The admission elicited a laugh from the CFR audience. Dalio’s interview is important as it again indicates how slowly but surely gold is moving from a fringe asset of a few hard money advocates and risk averse individuals to a mainstream asset. Wealthier people and some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world are slowly realising the importance of gold as financial insurance in an investment portfolio and as money. This will result in sizeable flows into the gold market in the coming months which should push prices above the inflation adjusted high of 1980 - $2,500/oz. The interview section where Dalio is asked about gold by an audience member begins in the 43rd minute and can be seen here.

Spain's Latest Bailout Plan - Lottery Bonds

Just when we thought Europe has already used the kitchen sink and then some in its arsenal of bailout ideas, here comes Spain proving there is always "something else." Bloomberg reports that the insolvent country which is not really insolvent as long as people keep buying its bonds on hopes it is insolvent, is launching "lottery bonds". To wit: Spain to sell bonds through state-run lottery operator to fund regional bailouts, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg’s Esteban Duarte and Ben Sills. The issue is part of €6 billion financing through Sociedad Estatal Loterias & Apuestas del Estado which is raising syndicated loan. Loterias official said financing details haven’t been completed. In other words, the national lottery, which as in Spain so everywhere else, is nothing but an added tax on a country's poor population but one which provides at least a tiny hope of a substantial repayment (which never happens for the vast, vast majority of players) so few actually complain about paying it, is about to shift the bailout cost to the nation's poorest. Who benefits? Why Spiderman towel makers of course. And insolvent banks.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: September 24

Risk-averse sentiment dominated the first half of the session today, as market participants digested yet another disappointing macro economic data release from Europe (German IFO), which fell for a fifth consecutive month. In addition to that, EU’s Van Rompuy said that he sees tendency of losing the sense of urgency, likely pointing the finger at Spain which is yet to request monetary assistance to prevent another speculative attack. It remains unclear when the official request will be made, but there is a risk that the application will only take place after regional elections in late October or even after the Eurogroup meeting in November. Finally, German finance ministry spokesman said that leveraging the ESM to EUR 2trl, as reported by Der Spiegel over the weekend, is not realistic and called the report completely illusionary. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads are wider, with Italian bonds underperforming as markets prepare for this week’s supply from the Treasury. Heading towards the North American cross over, EUR/USD is seen lower by around 75pips and is trading in close proximity to the 1.2900 level, with bids said to be placed below. Talk of dividend related buying in GBP/USD, as well as EU budget related selling in EUR/GBP by two different UK clearers helped support GBP/USD. Going forward, there are no major economic releases set for the second half of the session, but the BoE will conduct its latest APF and the Fed will buy between USD 1.5-2bln in its latest POMO.

Frontrunning: September 24

  • World on track for record food prices 'within a year' due to US drought (Telegraph)
  • Foxconn halts production at plant after mass brawl (BBC)
  • Germany Losing Patience With Spain as EU Warns on Crisis Effort (Bloomberg)
  • Fed Recovery Doubts Spur Investor Bid for Treasuries (Bloomberg)
  • Japan protests as Chinese ships enter disputed waters (Reuters)
  • In Shark-Infested Waters, Resolve of Two Giants Is Tested (NYT)
  • China jails Wang Lijun for 15 years (FT)
  • China closes in on Bo Xilai after jailing ex-police chief (Reuters)
  • European Leaders Struggle to Overcome Crisis Stalemate (Bloomberg)
  • Politicians 1: Austerity 0 - Portugal Gives Ground on Worker Contributions (WSJ)
  • Obama Controls Most of His Money as Republicans Have More (Bloomberg)
  • Coeure Says Not Clear That Further ECB Interest-Rate Cut Needed (Bloomberg)
  • France Seeks Labour Overhaul (WSJ)

Overnight Sentiment: 'Rumors Regurgitated, Refuted' Redux As German Economy Slips Again

The last time we saw a bevy of regurgitated European rumors shortly refuted was last Friday. Today we get a redux, following a hard push by none other than Spiegel (precisely as we predicted a month ago: "And now, time for Spiegel to cite "unnamed sources" that the EFSF is going to use 3-4x leverage") to imagine a world in which the ESM can be leveraged 4x to €2 trillion. This is merely a replay of last fall when Europe's deus ex for 2 months was clutching at a cobbled up superficial plan of 3-4x EFSF leverage, which ultimately proved futile. Why? Because, just like in 2011, one would need China in on this strategy as there is simply not enough endogenous leverage in either the US or Europe which would make this plan feasible. And China, we are sad to say, has a whole lot of its own problems to worry about right about now, than bailing out the shattered dream of a failed monetary unions still held by a few lifelong European bureaucrats, which this thing is all about. As expected, moments ago Germany refuted everything. Via Reuters: "Germany's finance ministry said on Monday that talk of the euro zone's permanent bailout fund being leveraged to 2 trillion euros via private sector involvement was not realistic, adding that any discussion of precise figures was "purely abstract." This also explains why we devoted precisely zero space to this latest leverage incarnation rumor yesterday: we were merely waiting for the refutation.

The Fed Has Another $3.9 Trillion In QE To Go (At Least)

Some wonder why we have been so convinced that no matter what happens, that the Fed will have no choice but to continue pushing the monetary easing pedal to the metal. It is actually no secret: we explained the logic for the first time back in March of this year with "Here Is Why The Fed Will Have To Do At Least Another $3.6 Trillion In Quantitative Easing." The logic, in a nutshell, is simple: everyone who looks at modern monetary practice (as opposed to theory) through the prism of a 1980s textbook is woefully unprepared for the modern capital markets reality for one simple reason: shadow banking; and when accounting for the ongoing melt of shadow banking credit intermediates, which continues to accelerate, the Fed has a Herculean task ahead of it in restoring consolidated credit growth. Shadow banking, as we have explained many times most recently here, is merely an unregulated, inflationary-buffer (as it has no matched deposits) which provides the conventional banking credit transformations such as maturity, credit and liquidity, in the process generating term liabilities. In yet other words, shadow banking creates credit money which can then flow into monetary conduits such as economic "growth" or capital markets, however without creating the threat of inflation - if anything shadow banks are the biggest systemic deflationary threat, as due to the relatively short-term nature of their duration exposure, they tend to lock up at the first sing of trouble (see Money Markets breaking the buck within hours of the Lehman failure) and lead to utter economic mayhem unless preempted. Well, preempting the collapse in the shadow banking system is precisely what the Fed's primary role has so far been, even more so than pushing the S&P to new all time highs. The problem, however, as we will show today, is that even with the Fed's balance sheet at $2.8 trillion and set to rise to $5 trillion in 2 years, it will not be enough.

The Global Trade Cycle Turns Lower

It should come as no surprise - to anyone but the most whocouldanode crowd - but global trade volumes are slowing notably, and surprise surprise, Europe is leading the lag. Between the total lack of any sustainable trade advantage that the PIIGS suffer from (discussed here) and recent outlook cuts from FedEx and UPS (detailed here), it is not a shock that the following detailed charts of Import and Export volumes for China, US, Japan, and Europe are starting to drop notably. Just as we pointed out here, Europe remains the hub of around half of World Trade and as is clear, the myth of decoupling among the world's largest economies is smoke-and-mirrors as it is a lead-lag relationship that is now proven to be entirely un-decoupled as 'obviously' the import and export sides of the world's imbalanced economies show trade is falling in a hurry.

Greece Caught Underreporting Its Budget Deficit By Nearly 50%

There was a time about a year ago, before the second Greek bailout was formalized and the haircut on its domestic-law private sector bonds (first 50%, ultimately 80%, soon to be 100%) was yet to be documented, when it was in Greece's interest to misrepresent its economy as being worse than it was in reality. Things got so bad that the former head of the Greek Statistics Bureau Elstat, also a former IMF employee, faced life in prison if convicted of doing precisely this. A year later, the tables have turned, now that Germany is virtually convinced that Europe can pull a Lehman and let Greece leave the Eurozone, and is merely looking for a pretext to sever all ties with the country, whose only benefit for Europe is to be a seller of islands at Blue Aegean water Special prices to assorted Goldman bankers (at least until it renationalizes them back in a few short years). So a year later we are back to a more normal data fudging dynamic, one in which Greece, whose July unemployment soared by one whole percentage point, will do everything in its power to underrepresent its soaring budget deficit. Case in point, on Friday the Finance Ministry proudly announced its budget deficit for the first eight months was "just" €12.5 billion, versus a target of €15.2 billion, leading some to wonder how it was possible that a country that has suffered terminal economic collapse, and in which the tax collectors have now joined everyone in striking and thus not collecting any tax revenue, could have a better than expected budget deficit. Turns out the answer was quite simple. According to Spiegel, Greece was lying about everything all along, and instead of a €12.5 billion deficit, the real revenue shortfall is nearly double this, or €20 billion, a number which will hardly incentivize anyone in Germany to give Greece the benefit of another delay, let along a third bailout as is now speculated.

iRage: Apple's FoxConn China Plant Damaged As Riots Resume

Following the riots at Apple's FoxConn Chengdu plant in June, engadget is reporting that FoxConn's Taiyuan plant - the scene of earlier strikes over salary disputes back in March - has suffered damage as workers riot. Police are on site to control the crowd and while the motive is not clear, it is apparently unrelated to the recent anti-Japan protests. It appears - based on the clip and photos below - that much damage has been done in the process.

Weekly Chartopia

The weekly summary of all charts of note, which again belong neither here nor there, yet which all have a story to tell.

From Complacency To Crisis Around The World

We have discussed the CRIC cycle a number of times - especially with regards Europe - but it seems the never-ending story of Crisis-Response-Improvement-Complacency has struck once again as Morgan Stanley notes when complacency becomes pervasive, it usually gives way to a renewed crisis. Complacent financial markets appear to be looking through the fact that the global economy remains stuck in a 'twilight zone' between expansion and recession. Dismissing weak PMIs in China and EU, markets have feasted in QEternity and OMT and this has, as expected, affected European policy-makers (e.g. ongoing disagreements over the details of the much-anticipated negative-feedback-loop-breaking banking union; and Spain/Italy's 'belief' they can avoid an ESM 'austerity' program). This feels eerily like the March/April period when post-LTRO improvements induced euphoria in traders and governments/ECB to relax prematurely and as Brevan Howard explains below - every major developed economy is facing significant downside risks - no matter how enthusiastic markets appear to be.

Gold Counterfeiting Goes Viral: 10 Tungsten-Filled Gold Bars Are Discovered In Manhattan

A few days ago, our report on the discovery of a single 10 oz Tungsten-filled gold bar in Manhattan's jewelry district promptly went viral, as it meant that a tungsten-based, gold-counterfeiting operation, previously isolated solely to the UK and Europe, had crossed the Atlantic. The good news was that the counterfeiting case was isolated to just one 10 oz bar. This morning, the NYPost reports that as had been expected, in the aftermath of the realization that the sanctity of the gold inventory on 47th Street just off Fifth Avenue has been polluted, and dealers promptly check the purity of their gold, at least ten more fake 10-ounce "gold bars" filled with Tungsten has been discovered.

China Officially Warns Japan Not To Infringe Its Territorial Sovereignty; Japan Reciprocates

If yesterday it was the Middle East's turn to escalate, today it is the Far East, aka Pacific Rim, where China and Japan both remind the world nothing has been fixed in the diplomatic snafu between the two countries over a barren rock in the East China Sea. First, it was China, which on the front page of the biggest daily Xinhua, over the weekend, demanded that Japan immediately stop infringing upon its "territorial sovereignty. To wit: "China asked Japan to immediately stop all acts that harm China's territorial sovereignty, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said late Saturday, after some Japanese landed on the Diaoyu Islands. Hong said the Japanese landed on the Diaoyu Islands Friday evening with the excuse of preventing Taiwanese activists from landing on the islets. "It is a severe infringement upon China's territorial sovereignty, and the Chinese government has lodged solemn representations and strong protests to the Japanese side," Hong said in a statement." Other headlines make it quite clear that it is in China's interest to stir populist anger at Japan instead of seeking an amicable resolution. What, however, was the most important article in today's Pacific Rim press is this one which has nothing to do with Japan, and everything to do with China's expanding zone of influence: "China's top security official on Saturday made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, the first time in 46 years that a Chinese leader set his foot on the soil of this landlocked Asian country."

Guest Post: The Next Industrial Revolution

Large, centrally-directed systems are inherently fragile. Think of the human body; a spontaneous, unexpected blow to the head can kill an otherwise healthy creature; all the healthy cells and tissue in the legs, arms, torso and so forth killed through dependency on the brain’s functionality. Interdependent systems are only ever as strong as their weakest critical link, and very often a critical link can fail through nothing more than bad luck. Yet the human body does not exist in isolation. Humans as a species are a decentralised network. Each individual may be in himself or herself a fragile, interdependent system, but the wider network of humanity is a robust independent system. One group of humans may die in an avalanche or drown at sea, but their death does not affect the survival of the wider population. The human genome has survived plagues, volcanoes, hurricanes, asteroid impacts and so on through its decentralisation.

Iran Accuses German Siemens Of Sabotaging Its Nuclear Plant As Turkey Sends Heavy Weapons To Syria Border

It seems you can't turn your back on the Middle East for more than a few minutes without something going bump in the desert. Sure enough, a few shorts hours after we reported that the leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards is certain war with Israel is coming, here comes Iran again with the stunning admission that none other than German industrial conglomerate, and occasional maker of nuclear power plants, Siemens was reponsible for "implanting tiny explosives inside equipment the Islamic Republic purchased for its disputed nuclear program. Prominent lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Iranian security experts discovered the explosives and removed them before detonation, adding that authorities believe the booby-trapped equipment was sold to derail uranium enrichment efforts. "The equipment was supposed to explode after being put to work, in order to dismantle all our systems," he said. "But the wisdom of our experts thwarted the enemy conspiracy." Expert wisdom aside, what is stunning is not the ongoing attempts by everyone and the kitchen sink to terminally corrupt the Iranian nuclear power plant: after Stuxnet one would expect nothing less than every form of conventional and "new normal" espionage thrown into the pot to cripple the only peaceful argument Iran would have for demanding nuclear power, which by implication would mean that all ongoing nuclear pursuits are geared solely toward aggressive, military goals, of the type that demand immediate military retaliation by the democratic superpowers. No, what is stunning is the implicit admission that Germany's, and Europe's, largest electrical engineering company, has been not only quietly transacting with none other than world peace (as portrayed by the MSM) enemy #1, Iran, but instrumental in its nuclear program.

Former ECB Chief Economist Says ECB Is In Panic, As Czech President Warns The End Of Democracy Is Imminent

If anyone thought the bad blood between Germany and the rest of the insolvent proletariat, aka the part of the Eurozone which is out of money (most of it), and which has been now confirmed will be supporting Obama (one wonders what the quid for that particular quo is, although we are certain we will find out as soon as December), complete collapse of the Greek neo-vassal state of the globalist agenda notwithstanding, had gone away, here comes former ECB chief economist Juergen Stark to dispel such illusions. In an interview with Austrian Die Presse, the former banker said what everyone without a PhD understands quite well: "The break came in 2010. Until then everything went well..."Then the ECB began to take on a new role, to fall into panic.... Together with other central banks, the ECB is flooding the market, posing the question not only about how the ECB will get its money back, but also how the excess liquidity created can be absorbed globally. "It can't be solved by pressing a button. If the global economy stabilises, the potential for inflation has grown enormously... It gave in to outside pressure ... pressure from outside Europe" Why, whichever bank headquartered at 200 West, NY, NY might he be referring to?

Guest Post: Draghi's Coup D'Etat And Why OMT Is Illegal

According to Mario Draghi, OMT, or Outright Monetary Transactions, is a program of conditional bond buying targeted at specific countries to restore the perception of the euro's irreversibility and stability, and repair a broken monetary policy transmission mechanism.  Once launched, OMT has no ex ante limits, it is within the ECB's price stability mandate, and it can be halted or interrupted based on achievement of its objectives or non-compliance with conditions imposed upon the targeted national government. We would posit that OMT is much more than what the party line states.  Here are some alternative interpretations for your consideration.  We challenge you to refute the logic of any of them.

IceCap Asset Management: Three Days That Shook The World, And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

Let’s review the tricks the central banks & governments have available to beat back any financial challenges presented by the debt reaper.

  • Money tool # 1 = deficit spending. For years, the G7 countries have believed that spending more than you make, will create jobs and prosperity. To measure the success of this strategy, we invite you to hang out in Spain, Greece or Italy.
  • Money tool # 2 = cut interest rates to 0%. All the really smart people in the World know that lower interest rates encourage people and companies to borrow more money and spend this money. To measure the success of this strategy, we invite you to hang out at the US Federal Reserve and help them count the $1.5 trillion in excess money held by the big banks.
  • Money tool # 3 = when all else fails print money. Everyone knows by now the reason the Great Depression was great was because no one had the idea to print money to kick start the economy. To measure the success of this strategy, we definitely do not invite you to visit Japan. The Japanese have been printing money for over 10 years and that hasn’t shaken their economy from its funk one bit.

As we enter the always dangerous months of September and October, central bankers and governments just can’t get their heads around the fact that their cherished money tools are not shaking the World. Never one to quit, someone somewhere muttered “we must do something” – and something they did.

On The Rise Of ETFs As A Driver Of Bond Returns

The seemingly inexorable rise of corporate bond ETFs (most specifically HYG and JNK is the high-yield market, and LQD in investment grade) have been discussed at length here as both a 'new' factor in the underlying bond market's technicals (flow) as well as their correlated impact on equity and volatility markets. Goldman Sachs' credit team delve deep into the impact of these relatively new (and rapidly growing) structures with their greater transparency but considerably higher sensitivities and conclude that not only are they here to stay but the consequences of ETF-inclusion (dramatic outperformance bias relative to non-ETF bonds) are deepening the liquidity divide (and relative-value) of what is already a somewhat sparsely-traded market. Our concern is that, as the divide grows (and liquidity is concentrated in ETF bonds), given the crowding tendency we have witnessed, (even with call constraints at extremes thanks to low interest rates), this is yet another crowded 'hot potato' trade hanging like a sword of Damocles over our markets (courtesy of Bernanke's repression).