Black Swan

Three Days Ahead Of Election, Candidates Tied Reuters Finds; Bill Maher Jokes

With only three days to the big unveiling, the candidates are essentially tied for the Presidential election. The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released this morning has (of likely voters) 47% backing Obama and 46% backing Romney. The two statistics fall within the realm of statistical noise implying there is no difference and that is why so much time is now being spent in the battleground states; especially since the same poll has Obama leading on electoral college votes and such a huge swathe of 'undecideds' who remain very balanced. The closeness of the race does raise the concern about Bush-Gore-like hanging-chad discord and as we have discussed in the past (the 70-percent, the 3.5 class society, and the Political Black Swan). The chances of social unrest at a close decision are non-negligible in the current environment and should not be dismissed; though we are not sure that Bill Maher's 'comedic' sentiment is really helping: "If you're thinking about voting for Mitt Romney, I would like to make this one plea: black people know who you are and they will come after you."

"Not Counted" Does Not Mean "Not There"

The ECB has $15 trillion in loans outstanding to Europe. They claim a $4 trillion balance sheet based upon not counting guaranteed loans by various nations and by not counting contingent liabilities. This is the same scheme that is used for calculating the debt to GDP ratios of the countries in Europe. If a loan, a debt, is guaranteed by a nation or if the liability is “contingent;” it is not counted. This, of course, does not mean that possibility of having to fund or write-off something is not there; it just means it is not counted. Do not disregard or minimize the recent announcement by Germany, Finland and the Netherlands that was joined twenty-four hours later by Austria. The funding nations in Europe placed a line in the concrete when they rejected assisting legacy issues and loans. This group of nations vacated, in this one statement, all of the pleas and demands of the periphery countries that had lined up for aid and ever-more aid relying upon the pledges of the solidarity of Europe and they got an answer, a very Germanic answer which is not, I am quite sure, what they wanted to hear.

Is The Fed's Rate-Volatility-Suppression Sowing The Seeds Of Its Own Destruction?

It would appear the concerns regarding rising rates in the Treasury Bond market are overblown - no matter how much the inflation break-evens spike. Implied volatility for the Interest Rate market is practically at all-time record lows currently as the Fed continues to remove duration and high convexity assets from the market. One thing concerns us though - the velocity of spikes in volatility once it gets down to these levels has empirically been tremendous - though we are sure this time it's different. In fact this time is different, since this time it is the Fed (as majority owner) that faces the pain from the now-marginal Minsky-like seller of Treasuries running away from inflation-flares (or China/Japan tensions) - and what would Treasury do without that pass-through ponzi revenue from the Fed's winnings? Or as Taleb wrote: "There is no freedom without noise - and no stability without volatility."

Perspectives On Gold's "Parabolic" Catch-Up Phase

Since 2007 our analysis has suggested the likelihood of economic outcomes that most have considered unlikely: significant and ongoing monetary inflation, policy-administered currency devaluation, substantial global price inflation, and an eventual change in how the forty year old global monetary system is structured. Most observers have viewed such outlooks as tail events – highly unlikely, unworthy of serious consideration or a long way off. We remain resolute, and believe last week’s movements in Frankfurt and Washington towards perpetual quantitative easing confirmed and accelerated the validity of our outlook. With QBAMCO's view that $15,000 - $19,000 Gold is possible, timing of the catch-up phase is impossible - though they suspect last week's events may be the catalyst that begins to raise public awareness of the link between monetary inflation and price inflation.

Guest Post: The Resilience And Fragility Of The Status Quo

The odds of some instability erupting globally in 2013-14 seem high, but what the trigger might be remains unknown. The fragility and vulnerability of systems pushed to extremes are like sandpiles: it doesn't really matter which grains finally trigger the cascade; the system's rising instability is the causal factor. Where does this put us? If the ultimate crisis is another decade away, we might as well enjoy what we can in the meantime and assemble the pieces of a semi-sustainable life: income streams that we own/control, a very low cost of living, and property in areas that are universally desirable, i.e. they have decent weather, surface supplies of water, concentrations of intellectual and financial capital, and ideally, a functioning local government that isn’t hopelessly corrupted by vested interests. Any disadvantages in these resources can be offset by a solid network of friends, family, associates, business contacts, etc., i.e. social capital. I think it is safe to assume the promises of Social Security, Medicare and pensions will be chipped away by one force or another (inflation, taxation, “austerity,” etc.) and so those who have written these out of their own personal expectations will be psychologically primed for self-reliance embedded in local support networks.

Guest Post: The Perils Of Underestimating Complexity And Mispricing Risk

"If you’re rich you get a bailout. If you’re poor you get a handout. And if you’re middle class you get left out." That's not a sustainable way to run the system, exclaims investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald. A cancer at the core of our current economy is the magical thinking, "no pain, all gain" philosophy, pursued by those running it. They are doing all they can to remove the consequences of failure from the system -- blind to failure's essential 'waste-clearing' function in a healthy free market. Without the discipline of Darwinism, the individual actors in the system make all sorts of malinvestments that would never make sense in an efficient marketplace. But since the losses from these inane pursuits are socialized, there's no incentive to stop making them. At least, up until the point where the class whose back is burdened with paying for the socialized messes finally breaks.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture


The US is clearly heading into another recession in the context of a larger depression. And it’s doing this while in the worst economic shape in its post-WWII history. We’ve never once entered a recession when the average duration of unemployment is at an all time high, industrial production has failed to break above its previous peak, and food stamp usage is at a record high. We’ve never done this.

Deep Fried Black Swan Lands As China Admits It Has A Food Inflation Problem, Releases Corn, Rice From Reserves

Last week we wrote an article that to many was anathema: namely an explanation why everyone is deluding themselves in their expectation that the PBOC would ease, soft, hard, or just right landing notwithstanding. The reason? The threat that food inflation is about to read its ugly head which is "Why The Fate Of The Global Equity Rally May Rest In The Hands Of Soybeans." This was merely a continuation of our observations from a month ago that as a result of the Black Swan being "deep fried" in 2012, that the threat of food inflation will keep key BRIC central banks in check for a long time. As of today the threat has become fact, because as China Daily reports "China will release corn and rice from state reserves to help tame inflation and reduce imports as the worst US drought in half a century pushes corn prices to global records, creating fears of a world food crisis...The release may prompt Chinese importers to cancel shipments in the near term and take some pressure off international corn prices, which set a new all-time high on Friday as the US government slashed its estimate of the size of the crop in the world's top grain exporter." Sure, as every other short-termist measure the world over, it may help with prices in the short-term, but will merely expose China, and thus everyone, to the threat of a much greater price spike in the future. Because just as the strategic petroleum reserve release did nothing to help gas prices, nor the short selling ban in the US and Europe did anything to help the underlying broken financial system, so this will merely force the local population to scramble and ration whatever food they can get asap, now that the government has admitted there is, indeed, a food inflationary problem.

Chart Of The Day: Schrödinger (Dis)Inflation

As reported on Wednesday night, China's economy is contracting faster than anyone expected. As further reported last night, China loan creation at 540.1 billion yuan was far below economist estimates of 700 billion. In other words: the world's marginal economy is starting to crack. So the PBOC has no choice but to ease right? Wrong. As we showed yesterday, the Chinese central bank has one mandate above all: food price stability, or else suffer the consequences of "1+ billion people instability." And as the USDA report just confirmed, Soybean is going nowhere but up. Which in turn means Chinese food inflation, which makes up 30% of the headline CPI (unlike America's 7.8%) is set to follow. Still hoping and praying that the PBOC will ease even as the deep fried black swan we warned about 2 weeks ago is rapidly flapping its wings toward Beijing? Hope and pray harder.

RickAckerman's picture

Anyone betting that the global financial system will continue to muddle along indefinitely deserves to reap the whirlwind that’s coming.  As the rest of us well know, the international banking system is being kept afloat solely by political lies, stupidity, corruption, greed and, most of all, egregiously misplaced confidence. It would seem to be only a matter of time before the rotted timbers of this belief system give way.  But what will be the catalyst?  The possibility or even likelihood that the financial system will be toppled by some event no one was expecting was an implicit theme of Nassim Taleb’s widely read 2004 book.

670 Million People In India Without Power As Electric Grid Fails

Two weeks ago we touched upon the possibility that the US climatic deep fried black swan could soon stretch to India where the Monsoon season was 22% below normal conditions for this time of year. Today India is the locus of another flightless bird sighting following an epic powergrid meltdown which left half of its 1.2 billion people without power on Tuesday "as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth... More than a dozen states with a total population of 670 million people were without power, with the lights out even at major hospitals in Kolkata." Indicatively this is the same as every man, woman and child in America having no electricity. Twice over."Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade. Trains were stranded in Kolkata and Delhi and thousands of people poured out of the sweltering capital's modern metro system when it ground to a halt at lunchtime. Office buildings switched to diesel generators and traffic jammed the roads." Hopefully, two events in a row don't confirm a trend. Although if indeed systemic, and if suddenly the Indian power infrastructure is unable to handle the local drought-related conditions, thus serving as a natural cap on economic expansion, all bets may be off as to the unlimited upside potential capacity of the BRICs.