Guest Post: Trigger Points, Black Swans, And Other Unpleasant Realities

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By Giordano Bruno of Neithercorp Press

Trigger Points, Black Swans, And Other Unpleasant Realities

An avalanche is not an “event”, it is an epic; a series of smaller
events drifting and compacting one after another until the contained
potential energy reaches an apex, a point at which it can no longer be
managed or inhibited. A single tremor, an inopportune echo, an
unexpected shift in the winds, and the entire icy edifice, the product
of countless layered storms, is sent crashing down the valley like a
great and terrible hand. In this way, avalanches in nature are quite
similar to avalanches in economies; both events accumulate over the long
span of seasons, and finally end in the bewildering flash of a single
moment.

The problem that most people have today is being unable to tell the
difference between a smaller storm in our economy, and an avalanche.
Very few Americans have ever personally witnessed a financial collapse,
and so, when confronted with an initiating event, like the stock market
plunge of 2008, they have no point of reference with which to compare
the experience. They misinterpret the crash as a finale. Untouched,
they breathe a sigh of relief, unaware that this is merely the beginning
of something much more complex and threatening.

So, without personal experience on our side to help us recognize a
trigger point incident; the catalyst that brings down our meticulously
constructed house of cards, how will we stand watch? Will we miss the
danger parading right in front of our faces? Will we be caught
completely off-guard?

The key in avoiding such a scenario is in identifying the primary
pillars of our particular financial system, and tracking them carefully.
Once we are able to cut through the haze of distractions and minor
events promoted mostly by the mainstream media, and focus on that which
is truly important, our ability to foresee danger greatly increases.
But what are the crucial mainstays of our economy, and what kind of
disastrous occurrence could possibly bring them tumbling down?

Mortgage Crisis Redux

The health of property markets is a vital indicator of the stability
of almost any country, but most especially in the United States. The
reason why the bust in mortgage values is so dangerous to our particular
economy is because Americans allowed themselves to become completely
dependent on debt in order to sustain their consumption. We have been
surviving on mortgage loans and Visa cards for nearly two decades! The
fantastical boost in stocks and retail during the late 90’s and early
2000’s was an illusion built on artificially low interest rates and easy
credit. Of course, it doesn’t help that corporate interests outsourced
most of our industrial foundation to the third world leaving us with an
emaciated jobs market utterly reliant on the service sector. Many
people were given few options besides taking loan after loan using homes
they couldn’t afford in the first place as collateral.

Regardless, without the support of solid industry and innovation in a
system to supply employment opportunities and create true wealth (not
debt), we have only “derivatives” and toxic securities, worthless bits
of paper representing liabilities that will never be repaid. Now that
these contracts are known to be worthless, there is only one thing left
to prop up the economy; fiat printing of the U.S. dollar.

Back in 2008, I called the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a
“black hole” of debt which would siphon the last remaining vestiges of
wealth from the American taxpayer, and this is exactly what has
happened. Every quarter, MSM analysts claim the housing market has
“bottomed” and is ready for a rebound, yet, every quarter the mortgage
crisis gets just a little bit worse. It is now projected that Fannie
and Freddie could end up costing taxpayers over $1 Trillion:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/37982580/Fannie_Freddie_Bailout_Could_Cost_Taxpayers_1_Trillion

This is a conservative estimate in my opinion, considering both firms
comprise about $5 Trillion of the U.S. housing market, and mortgage
defaults have continued unabated for nearly three years now. Until this
past month, banks had accelerated their foreclosure rates by 25%:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/09/16/homes-lost-foreclosure-percent/

The more homeowners declare bankruptcy, the more money U.S. citizens
will have to pay to bailout banks and mortgage companies to keep them
afloat, and the more the private Federal Reserve will create fiat
dollars to continue this process. However, a new development has made
this bad situation even more volatile.

In any major economic collapse, there is always another
Jack-in-the-box. This time, it’s in the home foreclosure process
itself. The Attorney General’s office in every state is now
investigating banks like JP Morgan, Citigroup, Well’s Fargo, Bank Of
America, etc, for flawed foreclosure documents, “automated”
foreclosures, and the signing of foreclosure papers without properly
ensuring their accuracy:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-18/u-s-bank-earnings-face-mortgage-scrutiny-as-49-billion-in-value-vanishes.html

These four banks control over 55% of the billing and collections
market in U.S. home loans, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac usually own a
piece of every mortgage these companies are involved in. Any sign of
malfeasance on the part of these corporations may indicate widespread
imbalances and fraud. Such news could trigger a flight of investors
away from companies tied to this relapse in mortgage uncertainty, along
with renewed bank failures in the vein of Lehman Bros. In response,
some states have completely frozen home foreclosures. Florida, site of
the third highest foreclosure rates in the country, will continue it’s
freezing of home seizures for at least another month:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-25/florida-foreclosures-still-on-hold-as-banks-say-they-ve-resumed-seizures.html

There are two very big problems with this situation. First, while I am
all for Americans keeping their homes and making life difficult for the
bankers, a foreclosure freeze creates the possibility of a heightened
banking collapse, which could lead to quantitative easing programs on a
scale that dwarfs previous measures. This means even more tax dollars
going into the “too big to fails”. Therefore, globalist banks actually
BENEFIT from a foreclosure upheaval. It could also lead to a direct
bailout of the mortgage market itself. In either case, the response
will be more massive printing of fiat, and a catastrophic devaluation of
the dollar.

Second, foreclosures now make up over 30% of all home sales in this
country. In some states, including California, foreclosures make up
nearly half of all home sales:

http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/30/3069035/foreclosures-make-up-nearly-half.html

If you think home sales are in trouble now, imagine what will happen
if all foreclosure sales stopped in their tracks for several months or
more! Poof! 30% to 40% of the housing market gone, just like that! I
have no doubt that this would inspire considerable outflows of
investment from the U.S. economy, especially by foreign nations. This
is already happening in certain sectors. Central Banks across the world
recently dumped a record $57 billion in U.S. Agency bonds. These bonds
support such entities as Fannie and Freddie, and an expanded property
market disaster would greatly damage their value:

http://jsmineset.com/2010/09/16/central-banks-dump-57-billion-of-us-agency-debt/

Interestingly, this dump began almost right before the
“foreclosure-gate” issue arose, which suggests that some central banks
were aware that the mortgage crisis in the U.S. would hit a new stage
before it even happened.

Essentially, any announcement of an extended foreclosure freeze would
set in motion a domino effect that is likely to contribute to
systematic failure in our economy, and most especially, in the now
precarious health of the dollar. News of a nation-wide freeze without
an announcement of a time-frame should be considered by those in the
Liberty Movement as a neon red warning sign that the situation is about
to get ugly.

Stock Market Bubble Burst

So much fiat is being pumped into banks and the Dow by the Treasury
and the Federal Reserve it is difficult to tell what is truly going on
in the stock market. There are, though, certain signs we can look for
to gage when a stock bubble implosion could take place. One method is
to track the cash holdings of mutual funds.

When mutual funds have a lot of cash on hand, it often means they
ready to funnel new capital into markets when the time is right. When
mutual funds are very low on cash, this might signal that the market is
ready to begin an extensive sell off. Currently, mutual fund cash
levels have hit an all-time record low:


http://pragcap.com/mutual-funds-are-all-in

This shows one of two things; either the stock market is inflated to
its peak, and mutual funds have invested as much as they can to support
it, or, mutual fund participants are beginning to pull their money out
of their portfolios, in which case, the stock rally is built almost
entirely on infusions from other sources (the Federal Reserve). The
latter is supported by reports of an exodus of investors from mutual
funds since August of this year:

http://www.kiplinger.com/news/article.php/retail-investors-pull-money-from-mutual-funds-is-19929663.html

Both problems reveal a severe weakness in stocks, one that could
instigate an eventual Dow drop on par with the consecutive market dives
of the Great Depression.

Another signal of a stock collapse is the “net short positions” of
Commercial (corporate) traders in the market. When commercials short
stocks heavily, it means they are betting on a substantial fall in
market value. Being that many of these larger banks and hedge funds
have an “inside track” on market information, they are usually correct
in their predictions. Current net short positions of commercial traders
have hit levels higher than any in the past 5 years:

http://pragcap.com/is-the-smart-money-getting-short

In my view, the next extended market drop we see is liable to be the
last. Today’s economy is so unstable, and based on so much faith rather
that fundamentals, any uncertainty in the Dow will pull the rug out
from under us. A sudden 20% to 30% loss in stock values would be more
than enough to create a trigger point in the destabilization of the rest
of our financial system and should be taken very seriously by those in
the Liberty Movement. This could happen over a period of months, or in a
series of flash crashes lasting a matter of days.

Escalation Of Currency Conflict

Recently, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that the U.S.
had no intention of devaluing the dollar for export advantage over the
rest of the world, and that the G20 should work on “aligning” their
Forex positions to avoid wars over currency devaluation. This is
fascinating, mainly because this statement is completely counter to what
Geithner has been saying for the past couple years. Did ‘Tiny Tim’
grow a heart, or a brain, and realize the currency war rhetoric is a
disaster waiting to happen for the United States? I really doubt it.

Such talk is typical in the midst of G20 conferences, but rarely if
ever does this translate into any positive action by globalists.
Currency devaluations, including that of the dollar, are well underway,
and lip service paid by Geithner is not going to change anything. I’m
sure he’s well aware of this.

The manner in which the currency war plays out hinges on a few key
events. First, legislation put forward in Congress to institute trade
duties on China is awaiting approval before the end of this year. The
passage of this legislation WILL bring on the full force of a currency
fight, and probably the dumping of U.S. T-bonds by China. Second, the
Treasury Department trade report on China, which is expected to label
the country as a currency manipulator, has been delayed even though it
is required by law to be posted every 15th of October. The delay will
probably last until after the November elections:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/7249676.html

If this report is released with the intention of accusing China of manipulation, expect escalation.

Finally, a further loss in the value of the dollar index, perhaps
below the 74 point resistance level, could also result in an increased
dumping of U.S. T-bonds by foreign central banks. Those looking for
preemptive warning of collapse should keep a close eye on the dollar
index as well as foreign liquidations of T-bond reserves.

Escalation Of Resource Conflict

Most people are aware of the import and export implications of a
global trade war. Tariffs and duties are put in place, prices on
foreign goods skyrocket, international investment tanks, and everyone
becomes generally miffed with everyone else. It’s a perfect recipe for a
full scale financial meltdown. However, one factor that is
particularly detrimental to the U.S. is the use of vital resources by
other nations as leverage to initiate a breakdown in the foundations of
our domestic trade.

The U.S. imports everything and produces almost nothing. Trade
duties on China would cause swelling prices on nearly all products,
being that most items we buy are made in China, but this is nothing
compared to the resource and commodity valuations that will follow,
along with the scarcity of materials withheld by governments out of
spite.

Oil, for instance, will obviously be the first resource used as a
trade weapon. For now, crude oil is holding at around $80 a barrel, but
this will not last much longer. The dollar’s world reserve currency
status is intact for the moment, and oil is traded across the planet
almost exclusively in dollars. A dollar devaluation, even in the face
of commodity market manipulation, would eventually lead to an oil spike.
A trade war would exacerbate this scenario by reducing the steady flow
of oil into the U.S. OPEC members are now calling for oil to rise to
$100 a barrel to counter weakness in the dollar. This would bring us
back to $3 to $3.50 a gallon gas, if crude values and supplies remain at
that level:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-15/opec-members-seek-100-a-barrel-oil-as-sliding-dollar-cuts-real-revenue.html

I suspect with added currency instability, $150 a barrel oil is
conceivable within the next 6 months. Two years ago, high gas prices
frustrated Americans, but were still bearable. Today, after two years
of static 20% real unemployment and trillions in lost savings, $150 oil
would crush what’s left of this economy.

Another good example of resource control would be China’s domination
of “rare earth”, a metals material necessary for the manufacture of most
electronics and some military defense products. China regulates about
97% of the rare earth market, and is beginning to hoard the needed ore
(while claiming they will not) in response to economic collapse and
trade decoupling:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-20/china-pledges-to-maintain-rare-earth-sales-official-says-exports-may-rise.html

China’s exports of rare earth fell by 72% in July. The price of rare
earth metals has increased seven-fold in the past six months.
Considering the fact that one of the few industries left in the U.S.,
computer chips, relies entirely on this resource, its use as a trade
weapon is evident.

While mushrooming commodity prices are a good sign of inflation in
the dollar, in some cases they can also reflect the first stages of
trade combat. Tracking them can give you precious insight into more
insidious hazards just over the horizon.

Quantitative Easing To The Max

How many bailouts does it take to get to the center of a
hyperinflationary collapse? Three? Or maybe just one continuous
undefined fiat injection…

Federal Reserve officials meeting on November 2-3 will decide yet
again how much money they will create out of thin air to prop up the
economy. Some estimate that the Fed will pour around $300 billion into
the system, while others are predicting around $2 trillion. I should
mention, though, that whatever sum the Fed openly announces it will be
irrelevant to those who understand how the central bank operates. The
bailouts begun in 2008 never really stopped, and it’s impossible to say
how much currency exactly the Fed has Xeroxed into circulation without
taking a look at their books, which they won’t let anyone do.

The announcement will matter psychologically to those investors who
don’t understand the shadowy nature of the Fed, and blindly believe
whatever they are told.

A statement by Ben Bernanke of $300 billion or less in quantitative
easing will probably have a calming effect on the fall of the dollar, at
least for a short time, and a minor drop in the value of gold. An
announcement of $1 trillion or more in easing will cause greater dollar
instability, and a spike in gold. What mainstream investors will not
comprehend is that ANY stimulus announcement is a very bad sign for the
coming year. The Fed has been tossing dollars into the financial system
at will without oversight and without public approval. Why would they
now decide to make their program public? I believe the easing is meant
to preempt a trigger point event in the markets yet to take place, as
well as set the stage for further global currency tensions. The money
creation that starts in early November will be an extension of that
which has been going on unabated since 2008, but it will also herald a
new phase, one which brings a frightening velocity to matters.

Austerity In A Land Of Excess

A society which has lived for a long time in a state of economic
uncertainty and then faced with austerity measures is going to have to
hurdle some serious obstacles to survive. On the other hand, a society
that has grown used to a luxurious standard of living by comparison, and
then forced into austerity, is liable to freak out padded-room style
and make an unprecedented mess of things.

I honestly cannot imagine the full extent of an American reaction to
austerity. Cuts in social security, medical care, unemployment welfare,
food stamps, education, police, military spending, government jobs,
etc, would at the very least result in rioting, not to mention leave a
lot of starving, homeless people in its wake. This is, of course, what
happens when you encourage dependency on government and a lack of self
sufficiency in a culture. The life of the nanny state is often assumed
eternal, even when its debts and currency are blatantly unsustainable.

According to Citigroup’s chief economist, “savage austerity” is already in the making for the U.S.:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-20/-savage-austerity-is-in-u-s-s-future-citigroup-s-buiter-says-tom-keene.html

A proclamation of austerity measures would be a high profile trigger
point, sending shockwaves throughout our economy. Austerity would
likely be preceded by defaults in municipal debts in cities across the
country, as well as confiscation of employee pension funds. The
government may try to use greater fiat injections to avoid having to cut
certain services to the public, but some austerity will take place,
seeds that will grow over time as the dollar loses its reserve status
and its perceived value. Any sign of austerity in the U.S. is a sign of
total collapse, period.

Black Swans Come Home To Roost

A “Black Swan” is an event which defies predictability and affects
the very nature of a system in unexpected ways. A terrorist attack (or
false flag), which causes investor sentiment to falter and stocks to
disintegrate, would be an example of a Black Swan. Surprise cataclysms
are in most cases only possible when there are already acute imbalances
in a system (which have been ignored by the public) present to act as
tinder for the fire. Like a twisted game of Jenga, global banks have
pulled numerous supports from our financial structure, causing it to
teeter on the brink of oblivion. It is indeed extremely vulnerable to
unanticipated incidents.

There is absolutely no guarantee that life tomorrow will be anything
like life today. Expectations of continuity and safety are a crutch for
those who lack the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Accepting the reality of possible upheaval is the first step in
preparing one’s self to weather unfortunate circumstances, or even to
prevent them. By recognizing trigger points in our economy, we can
remove the shock factor, and thus the teeth of the dilemma. By
familiarizing ourselves with the potential for danger, we steel
ourselves to its ferocity. Even the shadow of a Black Swan is nothing
to those who are intuitive, informed, savvy, and capable. The goal for
those of us in the Liberty Movement is to encourage these qualities in
our friends, family, and neighbors, until their ability to foretell
financial and social jeopardy is carefully honed.

One thing is certain; we cannot go on simply waiting for misfortune
to strike like lightening. We cannot play at life, pretending all is
well until the final curtain falls, and acknowledging the need for
vigilance could go a long way in seeing that it never does….