ETC

Guest Post: You’ll Love The New Nickname They Have For The Dollar Here…

No doubt, Eastern Europe is a part of the world where people are accustomed to being abused by politicians. After decades of Soviet Rule, the cultures in places like Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Belarus, etc. have been inculcated with a strong mistrust of government. All government. One obvious sign of this is how little confidence people have in their own national currencies. Here in Ukraine, for example, people who have any level of wealth whatsoever hold hard currency– dollars and euros, rather than the local hryvna. (Naturally, their relative confidence in dollars and euros is misplaced, though I was pleased to see that gold is starting to penetrate the cultural psyche here.) They even have a funny nickname for these regional currencies that get inflated and devalued by corrupt central bankers and politicians– rabbits… because they grow and multiply in such huge numbers so quickly. As two different economics students this weekend told me, ‘we are starting to look at the US dollar in the same way…’ I guess that makes the euro a dodo bird.

Guest Post: Why the U.S. Dollar Is Not Going to Zero Anytime Soon

The conventional view looks at the domestic credit bubble, the trillions in derivatives and the phantom assets propping the whole mess up and concludes that the only way out is to print the U.S. dollar into oblivion, i.e. create enough dollars that the debts can be paid but in doing so, depreciate the dollar's purchasing power to near-zero. This process of extravagant creation of paper money is also called hyper-inflation. While it is compelling to see hyper-inflation as the only way out in terms of the domestic credit/leverage bubble, the dollar has an entirely different dynamic if we look at foreign exchange (FX) and foreign trade. Many analysts fixate on monetary policy as if it and the relationship of gold to the dollar are the foundation of our problems. These analysts often pinpoint the 1971 decision by President Nixon to abandon the gold standard as the start of our troubles. That decision certainly had a number of consequences, but 80% the dollar's loss of purchasing power occurred before the abandonment of dollar convertibility to gold.

Cashin On Transports And 'End Of The World' Headlines

The avuncular Art Cashin is sounding a lot less sangune than many of his market-watching peers. UBS' main man notes that traders are particularly struck by the continued weakness in the transports group (with FedEx and UPS down 8 of the last 11 sessions - and the Dow Transports down the equivalent of 300 points for the Industrials on Friday alone). "The sharp contraction in the Transport area and recent sharp drops in several trucking statistics add to growing fears that the economy may have stalled over the last four weeks," is how he puts it, but it is his cocktail-napkin charting that concerns the most. Historically, even in years that don't have multiple "end of the world as we know it" headlines in the news, the equity markets decline in the week after July option expiration. Twice in the last five years the S&P lost more than 4% in the week after July expiration. So, does that mean we should tether the elephants? No, but we should be alert and nimble on a week with a somewhat spotty history - with 1332/1335 as his key line in the sand for more downside in cash S&P.

Guest Post: Falling Interest Rates Destroy Capital

Falling interest rates are a feature of our current monetary regime, so central that any look at a graph of 10-year Treasury yields shows that it is a ratchet (and a racket, but that is a topic for another day!).  There are corrections, but over 31 years the rate of interest has been falling too steadily and for too long to be the product of random chance.  It is a salient, if not the central fact, of life in the irredeemable US dollar system. Irving Fisher, writing about falling prices (I shall address the connection between falling prices and falling interest rates in a forthcoming paper) proposed a paradox: “The more the debtors pay, the more they owe.” Debtors slowly pay down their debts and reduce the principle owed.  This would reduce the NPV of their debts in a normal environment.  But in a falling-interest-rate environment, the NPV of outstanding debt is rising due to the falling interest rate at a pace much faster than it is falling due to debtors’ payments.  The debtors are on a treadmill and they are going backwards at an accelerating rate. How apropos is Fisher’s eloquent sentence summarizing the problem!

Guest Post: This Major Trend Is An Obvious Business Opportunity

Tour operators in China do their best to arrange excursions, but it pales in comparison to what could be done. Someone could create tremendous value by facilitating transactions between these potentially buyers and sellers… essentially helping to create a marketplace. This type of business is scalable; it could be done on a small, local level in individual cities and tourist hotspots, or on a much larger, international level.  The demand is there, the door is open. This is just one example… but it goes to show that regardless of how much money they print or how many freedoms they try to take away, there are always great opportunities out there.

Guest Post: What's So Bad About Deflation?

One of the most widely accepted truisms of our time is that deflation is bad: bad for debtors, bad for the indebted government, and therefore bad for the economy. What all this overlooks is how wonderful mild deflation is for those who owe no debt but who own the debt and the income streams that flow from debt. What the "deflation is bad" argument ignores is who controls the financial and political systems, and what set of conditions benefits them. Everyone assuming the Federal government has the power to create inflation and that inflation is "good" should examine the interests of those who control the government's policies, i.e. those who own the debt. Put another way: here's what will be scarce: reliable income streams and liquidity.

Guest Post: Where Is The Line For Revolution?

The subject of revolution is a touchy one.  It’s not a word that should be thrown around lightly, and when it is uttered at all, it elicits a chaotic jumble of opinions and debates from know-it-alls the world over.  The “R” word has been persona non grata for quite some time in America, and until recently, was met with jeers and knee-jerk belligerence.  However, let’s face it; today, the idea is not so far fetched.  We have a global banking system that is feeding like a tapeworm in the stagnant guts of our economy.  We suffer an election system so fraudulent BOTH sides of the political spectrum now represent a hyper-rich minority while the rest of us are simply expected to play along and enjoy the illusion of choice.  We have a judicial body that has gone out of its way to whittle down our civil liberties and to marginalize our Constitution as some kind of “outdated relic”.  We have an executive branch that issues special orders like monarchical edicts every month, each new order even more invasive and oppressive than the last.  And, we have an establishment system that now believes it has the right to surveil the citizenry en masse and on the slightest whim without any consideration for 4th Amendment protections. Unless tomorrow brings a miraculous shift in current totalitarian trends, revolution may be all we have left...

Ray Dalio's Bridgewater On The "Self Re-Inforcing Global Decline"

The world's largest hedge fund is not as sanguine about the hope that remains in the markets today. The firm's founder, Ray Dalio, who has written extensively on the good, bad, and ugly of deleveragings, sounds a rather concerned note in his latest quarterly letter to investors as the "developed world remains mired in the deleveraging phase of the long-term debt cycle" and has spread to the emerging world "through diminished capital flows which have weakened their growth rates and undermined asset prices". Between China, Europe, and the US, which he discusses in detail, he sees the lack of global private sector credit creation leaving the world's economies highly reliant on government support through monetary and fiscal stimulation. The breadth of this slowdown creates a dangerous dynamic because, given the inter-connectedness of economies and capital flows, one country's decline tends to reinforce another's, making a self-reinforcing global decline more likely and a reversal more difficult to produce. After discounting a relatively imminent return to normalcy in early 2011, markets are now pricing in a meaningful deleveraging for an extended period of time, including negative real earnings growth, negative real yields, high defaults and sustained lower levels of commodity prices. Lastly he believes the common-wisdom - that the Germans and the ECB will save the day - is misplaced.

VIX Implodes As Low Range, Low Volume, Low Average Trade Size Market Fails At Three Month Highs

Is it us? Today felt very nervous. The equal narrowest range in S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) in over 3 months along with dismally low volume and even worse average trade size as we peaked over July 5th's swing high and fell back. Aside from the farcical trading in the big Dow supporting stocks that we just noted, most asset classes traded along with stocks - in a very narrow range. The big movers were oil - up over $92 - on Israel-Iran tensions (among other things) and the major financials - which in general have retraced all of their post-EU Summit euphoria now (with MS breaking down 6% today). EURUSD did its by no standard dip and rip through the US open to EU close and ended the day unchanged. Treasuries limped a little higher in yield (~1-2bps). VIX plummeted to 15.45% (zero premium to realized vol), down 0.75vols - its lowest close in over 3 months - but this was not enough to provide any more juice for stocks which meandered, ending fractionally higher. Gold and Silver slithered sideways - with a very modest upward bias as Copper was helplessly led a little higher by Oil's exuberance and a slight limp lower in the USD on the day as the AUD extends its gain to 2% on the week against the greenback. We can't help but reflect on this chart as we see a retest on low volume and low average trade size following the very same path as last year. For now, complacency rules.

Guest Post: We've Decoupled, Alright - From Reality

In the U.S. economy, the driplines are debt-based spending and leverage. Thanks to endless intervention and manipulation, the economy is now totally dependent on massive debt-based spending and increased leverage for its "growth." The person or business that becomes dependent on welfare loses resiliency and resourcefulness. To the degree that economies become dependent on debt and leverage just like individuals and companies become dependent on welfare, entire economies lose their resilience and resourcefulness. A healthy forest offers another apt analogy. A healthy temperate-region forest depends on occasional forest fires to clear out deadwood and refertilize the depleted soil with ashes. In suppressing all fires--what we might call "stress" and feedback-- management virtually guaranteed that when the forest was eventually set ablaze by a random lightning strike, the resulting fire would be catastrophic because the deadwood had been allowed to pile far higher than Nature would have allowed. The "managers" of the economy have let a couple hundred billion dollars in bad debt burn, and they think the $15 trillion economy is now restored to health. Writing off a couple hundred billion is like letting a few acres of grassland around the parking lot burn and reckoning you've cleared the entire forest of deadwood. The buildup of deadwood--fraud, impaired debt, leverage, bogus accounting, malinvestments, promises that cannot possibly be met and the multiple pathologies of crony capitalism--continues apace, untouched by Federal Reserve intervention. Masking risk and suppressing feedback do not restore resiliency or vitality; they cripple the system's ability to respond to reality.