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 causal relationship between scarcity, demand, and price is intuitive. Whatever is scarce and in demand will rise in price; whatever is abundant and in low demand will decline in price to its cost basis. The corollary is somewhat less intuitive, but still solidly sensible: the cure for high prices is high prices, meaning that as the price of a commodity or service reaches a threshold of affordability/pain, suppliers and consumers will seek out alternatives or modify their behaviors to lower consumption. Much of the supposedly inelastic demand for goods is based on the presumptive value of ownership. For many workers, there simply won’t be enough income to indulge in the ownership model. The cost in cash and opportunity are too high. This leads to a profound conclusion: What will be scarce is income, not commodities.
Up until now, the title of "Spain's scariest chart" belonged to one depicting its youth (and general) unemployment, both of which are so off the charts it is not even funny (especially to those millions of Spaniards who are currently unemployed). As of today we have a contender for joint ownership of said title - Spain's monthly deposit outflows, which in July hit the highest amount ever, and where the YTD deposit outflow is now the highest on record. One look at the chart below confirms that nobody in Spain got the June 29 Euro summit memo that "Europe is fixed"...
Yesterday, Spain was kind enough to advise those who track its economy, that things in 2010 and 2011 were in fact worse than had been reported, following an adjustment to both 2010 and 2011 GDP "historical" data. Today, we learn that Q2 data (also pending further downward adjustments), contracted by 0.4% sequentially in Q2, in line with expectations, but somehow, and we have to figure out the math on this, the drop on a Year over Year basis was far worse than expected, printing at -1.3% on expectations of just a -1.0% decline. However, while its economic collapse is well known by all, the surprise came in the deposits department which imploded by a whopping 5% in July, plunging to 1.509 trillion euros at end-July from 1.583 trillion in the previous month. Keep in mind this is after the June 29 European summit which supposedly fixed everything. Turns out it didn't, and the people are no longer stupid enough to believe anything Europe's pathological liar politicians spew.The good news: Greek deposits saw a dead cat bounce after collapsing by ridiculous amounts in the past several years: at this point anyone who puts their money in Greek banks must surely realize that the probability of getting even one cent back is equal odds with going to Vegas and at least having a good time while watching one's money burn.
We advise you to take note of the political opposition that is coalescing in Europe. The cry across the Continent, in various languages, is “Enough.” All of the grand designs speculated about for the ECB rest upon the use of the EFSF and/or the ESM as stated specifically by Mr. Draghi. Over the weekend the Bundesbank was absolutely critical of any such plans and they were supported by several statements made by Ms. Merkel. It is now dubious, in my view, whether Austria, the Netherlands, Finland and perhaps Germany would support not pledges but more actual money to be used for Greece, Portugal and Spain. The rub is on and the size of these potential programs will, without doubt, affect the funding nations in Europe along with the nations that need the capital. Muddling is no longer possible, delay has run out of road, postponement is no longer an option as recession grips the Continent and as each solvent nation seeks to defend itself.
We have critically examined the question of whether the stock market 'discounts' anything on several previous occasions. The question was for instance raised in the context of what happened in the second half of 2007. Surely by October 2007 it must have been crystal clear even to people with the intellectual capacity of a lamp post and the attention span of a fly that something was greatly amiss in the mortgage credit market. Then, just as now, both the ECB and the Fed had begun to take emergency measures to keep the banking system from keeling over in August. This brings to mind the 'potent directors fallacy' which is the belief held by investors that someone – either the monetary authority, the treasury department, or a consortium of bankers, or nowadays e.g. the government of China – will come to their rescue when the market begins to fall. 'They' won't allow the market to decline!' 'They' won't allow a recession to occur!' 'They can't let the market go down in an election year!' All of these are often heard phrases. This brings us to today's markets. Nowadays, traders are not only not attempting to 'discount' anything, they are investing with their eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror – they effectively trade on yesterday's news.
If you haven’t heard yet, the committee which is drafting the platform for next week’s US Republican National Convention has announced that they are including a proposal to return to the gold standard. Big news. Remember, a gold standard is a monetary system in which individual currency units are fixed to an amount of gold held by the government; under a gold standard, the paper money supply cannot be expanded without also increasing the amount of gold on hand. At present, the market value of the federal government’s gold holdings only amounts to about $250 billion which constitutes a mere 2.5% of US money supply. Clearly one of the key risks in this scenario is that the US government would need to acquire as much gold as they can get their hands on, likely through Roosewellian-style gold confiscation, and if so - the safest place for your gold is going to be a snug safety deposit box in a place like Hong Kong or Singapore.
Stranger than fiction perhaps but the FT is reporting that the gold standard has returned to mainstream US politics for the first time in 30 years with a 'gold commission' set to become part of official Republican party policy. While this could simply be a reach for as many Ron Paul marginal voters as possible (with the view that the GOP would never really go for it); it appears drafts of the party platform from the forthcoming rain-soaked convention call for an audit of the Fed and a commission to look at restoring the link between the dollar and gold. The FT, citing a spokesperson, adds that "There is a growing recognition within the Republican party and in America more generally that we’re not going to be able to print our way to prosperity," but "We’re not going to go from a standing start to the gold standard," although it would provide a chance to educate politicians and the public about the merits of a return to gold. Interestingly, the Republican platform in 1980 referred to "restoration of a dependable monetary standard", while the 1984 platform said that "the gold standard may be a useful mechanism."
This morning's update on the ECB's FX swap usage confirmed what those who care about this kind of stuff already know: the USD shortage in Europe, all Libor and other manipulated and fraudulent signs to the contrary, is getting worse: in the week starting August 23, the number of banks demanding a 7 day USD swap with the NY Fed, and intermediated by the ECB, rose to 12, or the highest since February, while the amount requested was $8.5 billion, or the second highest in 2012 so far. In other words, while everyone knows the EUR interbank market in Europe is slammed shut, most likely in perpetuity, courtesy of the trillions in EURs raining from the ECB, it is now once again time for the USD market to implode, something it last did in the beginning of 2012 when the advent of the short-term benefit from LTRO 1 and 2 fixed the funding situation, albeit briefly.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, one of the landmark philosophical texts of the last century. The central thesis of the book is that science advances in fits and starts, clustered around the advent of new 'Paradigms' - a term that Kuhn introduced in the book and much of academia subsequently coopted as their own. This was a novel thought for the times, since the conventional philosophy held that science advanced through the ages in plodding but rigorous steps. Kuhn’s observation about science is equally applicable to capital markets, for the range of 'Paradigm shifts' underway goes a long way to explaining everything from why companies refuse to invest to why earnings multiples on U.S. stocks remain so low. Today, in celebration of Kuhn's opus, ConvergEx's Nick Colas offers up a list of the 'Top 10 Paradigm Shifts' currently underway; and notes that new paradigms don't often have as much to them as the old ideas they replace. They are often actually inferior. Over time they get their bearings, yes. But the transition is rough.
The market has reached a level where only recurring hopes and prayers of incremental monetization and easing by one or more central banks have any impact. For the past two months it has been primarily the ECB which continues to talk a lot but do nothing, with infrequent and false speculation that the Fed will step in during the annual Jackson Hole pilgrimage in 10 days and add more reasons to send gasoline to all time highs for this time of year 2 short months ahead of the election. It won't. Which always left the PBOC. However, as we have repeatedly explained, concerns about food inflation have and will keep China in check for a long time. The market finally appears to have grasped this last night, when the regional Asian markets reacted accordingly, and the dour theme has merely carried over into Europe and now the US, especially following the ECB's sound refutation of the Spiegel fishing expedition.
http://usawatchdog.com - The stock market rallied on news the European debt crisis is on its way t
Now that the "alternative energy" industry is in shambles following one after another solar company bankruptcy, as the realization that at current prices, alternative energy business models are still just too unsustainable, no matter how much public equity is pumped into them, more "traditional" companies have resumed circling the drain. First, it was Patriot Coal, which finally succumbed to reality a month ago. Now it is the turn of ATP Oil and Gas, which filed Chapter 11 in Texas last night. And sure enough, in a world in which nobody is to blame, and everything is someone else's fault, the CEO promptly made a case that he is blameless and it is all Obama's fault. According to Forbes: "The founder and chairman of [ATP Paul Bulmahn] wants the world to know that the Obama Administration—and its illegal ban on deepwater drilling in the wake of the BP disaster—is to blame for the implosion of his company. Not him. “It is all directly attributable to what the government did to us,” he rails. “This Administration has gone out of its way to create problems for my company, the company that I formed from scratch.”
Measuring the 'contentedness' during this summer of total comfort is tricky. With equities at the year's highs in nominal prices in the US and breaking multi-month highs in Europe, how do we 'know' the relative richness or cheapness (or hope or despair) that is priced into stocks and what the 'fall' ahead looks like. We may have found a way. Europe's economic and implicitly market performance is very much based on the explicit belief that the EMU remains in tact and that Draghi's recent 'promise' will enable sovereigns to go about their economic business (austerity and growth) without the hindrance of those nasty speculating long-only fixed income managers repricing cost-of-funds and eating into the nation's growth. In the US, it's all about multiples - P/E expansion (in the face of lower 'E') has maintained the hope; and so it is in Europe. The following chart shows the extremely high correlation between European equity P/E (hope multiples) and European Sovereign risk. At the end of LTRO2, European stocks were exuberant only to fade away; currently, European stock multiples are once again back to those exuberant 'hope' heights. Trade accordingly.
When financialization fails, the consumerist economy dies. This is what is happening in Greece, and is starting to happen in Spain and Italy. The central banks and Central States are attempting resuscitation by issuing credit that is freed from the constraints of collateral. The basic idea here is that if credit based on collateral has failed, then let's replace it with credit backed by phantom assets, i.e. illusory collateral. In essence, the financialization system has shifted to the realm of fantasy, where we (taxpayers, people who took out student loans, homeowners continuing to make payments on underwater mortgages, etc.) are paying very real interest on illusory debt backed by nothing. Once this flimsy con unravels, the credibility of all institutions that participated in the con will be irrevocably destroyed. This includes the European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve, the E.U., "too big to fail" banks, and so on down the financialization line of dominoes. Once credit ceases to expand, asset bubbles pop and consumerism grinds to a halt