"The euro crisis is certainly not over yet," is how the Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann begins this intriguingly honest interview, adding that, resolution "will take some time." Perhaps his most telling statement comes early on when he explains that "believing that everything is okay now simply because the situation on the financial markets has eased is an illusion and does not help matters," as imbalances remain unresolved. From French un-competitiveness to Italy's potential about-turn on reforms, the outspoken German then goes on to address a critical point: "There are indeed some who see a solution to the crisis in the shape of higher inflation. I would regard such an approach as potentially incendiary. Once you allow inflation, it becomes very difficult to tame. In the short term, our projections show no excessive increase in prices. However, I would caution against underestimating the medium to long-term risks to stability. There must be no doubt that, when the time is right, we will tighten monetary policy."
Why is the global economy in so much trouble? How can so many people be so absolutely certain that the world financial system is going to crash? Well, the truth is that when you take a look at the cold, hard numbers it is not difficult to see why the global financial pyramid scheme is destined to fail. In the United States today, there is approximately 56 trillion dollars of total debt in our financial system, but there is only about 9 trillion dollars in our bank accounts. So you could take every single penny out of the banks, multiply it by six, and you still would not have enough money to pay off all of our debts. Overall, there is about 190 trillion dollars of total debt on the planet. But global GDP is only about 70 trillion dollars. And the total notional value of all derivatives around the globe is somewhere between 600 trillion and 1500 trillion dollars. So we have a gigantic problem on our hands. The global financial system is a very shaky house of cards that has been constructed on a foundation of debt, leverage and incredibly risky derivatives.
- Euro zone call notes reveal extent of alarm over Cyprus (Reuters)
- Stagnant Japan Rolls Dice on New Era of Easy Money (WSJ)
- Cyprus, European data batters shares and euro (Reuters)
- UK cuts taxes to revive stagnant economy (FT)
- "Quality Control" Rat Body Linked to Blackout at Fukushima (NYT)
- North Korea issues fresh threat to U.S., South probes hacking (Reuters)
- South Korea Says Chinese Code Used in Computer Attack (BBG)
- Osborne paves way for Carney to retool Bank of England (Reuters)
- Carney Gets ‘Escape Velocity’ Mandate With Limiter (BBG)
- Osborne Pledges Five More Years of U.K. Austerity (BBG)
- Bernanke Saying He’s Dispensable Suggests Tenure Ending (BBG)
- Senate Passes Bill to Fund Operations (WSJ)
February marks the first three-months of consecutive declines in restaurant sales in almost three years as Bloomberg reports consumers caught in "an emotional moment" spooked by higher payroll taxes, surging healthcare premia, and spiking energy costs. "February was pretty ugly" for many chains after January delivered an initial blow." Malcolm Knapp notes that "it's important to keep in mind that companies also are facing unusually tough comparable sales because of favorable weather in 2012," so the result is an industry that’s been "a lot softer so far this year." "People are acting fearfully, or you could almost say rationally in a way,” because it’s not surprising they change their dining habits when they feel less confident; as once again it's the middle class that appears under pressure. Casual dining is "definitely being squeezed" because "it's not food on-the-go and it's not high-end food for people trying to treat themselves."
Prior to yesterday, if you were trying to handicap how the unelected leaders of the Eurozone were going to react to a tough situation, you only had to refer to the quote "When it becomes serious, you have to lie" from Mr. Junker to understand their mindset. But so long as someone at the ECB was willing to flood the world with free EURs (with significant backup provided the US Federal Reserve) the market closed its eyes, held its breath and took the leap of faith that all was well. However, post the Cyprus decision, the curtain has been pulled back and wizard revealed with all his faults and warts. It would be hard to over-emphasize how significant the Cyprus situation is. The damage done here is not related to the size of the haircut - currently discussed between 3 and 13% - but rather that the legal language which each and every investor on the planet must rely on in order to maintain confidence in the system has been subordinated to the needs of the powerful elite.
The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is clearly sliding toward unavoidable bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are transitioning from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. We are one crisis away from a police state. All the powers are in place. Someone will flip the switch. Whether a Cyber Attack, escalating Currency War tensions or a 'terrorist' attack by indebted college youth, it is only a matter of time and circumstance... We are one crisis away from a police state. All the powers are in place. Someone will flip the switch. Whether a Cyber Attack, escalating Currency War tensions or a 'terrorist' attack by indebted college youth, it is only a matter of time and circumstance.
They didn't see it coming last time either. Back in 2007, President Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and just about every prominent voice in the financial world were all predicting that we would experience tremendous economic prosperity well into the future. In fact, as late as January 2008 Bernanke boldly declared that "the Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession." At the time, only the "doom and gloomers" were warning that everything was about to fall apart. And of course we all know what happened. But just a few short years later, history seems to be repeating itself. All of our "leaders" swear that everything is going to be okay. You can believe them if you want, but denial is not just a river in Egypt, and another crash is inevitably coming.
Gasoline prices in the U.S. Midwest have pulled back from the seasonal highs reported in February. Motor group AAA reported Monday that U.S. commuters paid, on average, $3.69 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, just over 1 percent less than they paid last week. For some markets, that's the first time gasoline prices have declined this year. A series of refinery issues, coupled with higher oil prices, left some motorists in February paying the highest they've ever paid seasonally for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. By the end of February, some drivers in the Midwest were paying nearly $4 per gallon on average, sparking congressional debate over the impact of speculation in the energy market. Given concerns over costs associated with healthcare, insurance and other issues not related directly to energy, it's curious why there aren't hearings when prices begin to fall.
Since the second half of 2012, financial markets have recovered strongly worldwide. But this financial market buoyancy is at odds with political events and real economic indicators. In short, we are witnessing a rapid decoupling between financial markets and inclusive social and economic well-being. As a result, the income of the global elite is growing both rapidly and independently of what is happening in terms of overall output and employment growth. Demand for luxury goods is booming, alongside weak demand for goods and services consumed by lower-income groups. All of this is happening in the midst of extremely expansionary monetary policies and near-zero interest rates, except in the countries facing immediate crisis. Structural concentration of incomes at the top is combining with easy money and a chase for yield, driving equity prices upward. And yet, despite widespread concern and anxiety about poverty, unemployment, inequality, and extreme concentration of incomes and wealth, no alternative growth model has emerged.
Why are citizens of the developed world looking a gift horse in the mouth? The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied beyond 14,300 points this week, passing the highs it reached in 2007 just as the world economy was starting to wobble. And yet, this week, investors and pundits warned us not to read too much into it. They have a point. In the half-decade since the western financial system almost collapsed, the relationship between stock markets and the “real” economy has seemed more tenuous. Part of the reason people get less giddy about the Dow than they did five years ago is because they have learnt a bit about inequality. What looks like a recovery, a rally or an increase in consumer confidence may just be the effect of elites passing money among themselves. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2tn to its balance sheet since 2007. In general, that tide of liquidity ought to lift all boats in the harbour. But when the harbour is an equity market, you won’t find your yacht lifted unless you own one.
Because America Is a Battlefield In The Eyes of the Government
The most unsurprising news of the day has just hit, and while we have already had some 20+ rumors on this issue previously, this time it is official:
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has died, says VP Maduro
Chavez who ruled Venezuela since 1999, died from cancer at the age of 58
Venezuela's army chiefs pledge to support President Nicolas Maduro after Hugo Chavez's death
Special deployment of armed forces announced in Venezuela after death of Hugo Chavez
Time to celebrate Hugo's memory with some more currency devaluation? It is unclear if Goldman's record profits on Venezuela exposure (see How The Glorious Socialist Revolution Generated A 681% Return For Goldman Sachs) are about to snap back with a vengeance.
In what we are sure will be a BLS job creating moment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will create a common platform for issuing MBS as they wind down operations and plan for a future in which the two companies no longer exist. Big is about to get bigger as Bloomberg reports, these two GOEs will start sharing risk with private financiers in the single-family loan market. FHFA head Ed DeMarco comments that they are beginning to move to a "post-conservatorship world," though we assume still as explicitly and implicitly guaranteed by the good taxpaying public of America. The merger and creation of a joint securitization company with the goal of executing $30bn each in transactions partnered with the private sector will attempt to reduce that taxpayer load and "ease the transition from where we are today to wherever lawmakers decide the country ought to ultimately go."
- Must defend against Chinese colonial expansion and get the Nigerian oil: U. S. Boosts War Role in Africa (WSJ)
- BOJ nominee Kuroda sets out aggressive policy ideas (Reuters)
- China becomes world’s top oil importer (FT)
- Baby Cured of HIV for the First Time, Researchers Say (WSJ)
- Obama to nominate Walmart's Burwell as White House budget chief (Reuters)
- Wal-Mart Anxious to Combat Amazon’s Lead in Web Vendors (BBG)
- Nasdaq executing trades at a loss (FT)
- Spending cut debate casts pall over Obama's second-term agenda (Reuters)
- Russell Indexes to Reclassify Greece as Emerging Market (BBG)
- Bond Bears Collide With Swaps Showing Low Rates (BBG)
- Buffett Deputies Leaving Billionaire in the Dust Get More Funds (BBG)
- Brazil's leftist president fights to win back business (Reuters)
- U.S. Special Forces train Syrian Rebels in Jordan (Le Figaro)
- Carlos Slim Risks Losing World’s Richest Person Title as Troubles Mount (BBG)
If we can't even cut federal spending by 2.4 percent without much of the country throwing an absolute hissy fit, then what hope does America have? All of this whining and crying about the sequester is absolutely disgraceful. The truth is that even if the sequester goes into effect, the U.S. government will still take in more money than ever before in 2013 and it will still spend more money than ever before in 2013. So it is a bit disingenuous to call what is about to happen "a spending cut", but for the sake of argument let's concede that point. If this is how bad things are now, how bad will they be when a day of reckoning for our economy arrives? And a day of reckoning is coming. Our politicians can try to keep kicking the can down the road for as long as they can, but eventually time will run out. We can borrow our way to prosperity for a while, but in the end there is always a very bitter price to pay for doing so. I would love to tell you that there is a chance that all of this will be turned around, but the truth is that all of this whining and crying about the sequester shows that America is doomed.