In a few weeks the Treasury will most likely launch Floating Rate Notes. Will that be the signal to get out of Dodge? If history is any precedent, and especially the 1951 Accord... you bet.
The black swan is probably the most widely misunderstood philosophical term of this century. I tend to find it being thrown around to refer to anything surprising and negative. But that’s not how Taleb defined it. Taleb defined it very simply as any high impact surprise event. Of course, the definition of surprise is relative to the observer. To the lunatics at the NYT who push bilge about continuing American primacy, a meteoric decline in America’s standing (probably emerging from some of the fragilities I have identified in the global economic fabric) would be a black swan. It would also be a black swan to the sorry swathes of individuals who believe what they hear in the mainstream media, and from the lips of politicians (both Romney and Obama have recently paid lip service to the idea that America is far from decline). Such an event would not really be a black swan to me; I believe America and her allies will at best be a solid second in the global pecking order — behind the ASEAN group — by 2025, simply because ASEAN make a giant swathe of what we consume (and not vice verse), and producers have a historical tendency to assert authority over consumers. But black swans are not just events. They can also be non-events. To Harold Camping and his messianic followers who confidently predicted the apocalypse on the 21st of May 2011 (and every other true-believing false prophet) the non-event was a black swan. Surprising (to them at least) and high impact, because it surely changed the entire trajectory of their lives. (Camping still lives on Earth, rather than in Heaven as he supposedly expected). To true-believing environmentalists who warn of Malthusian catastrophe (i.e. crises triggered by overpopulation or resource depletion), history is studded with these black swan non-events.
In simple terms, this time around, when Europe goes down (and it will) it’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And this time around, the world Central Banks are already leveraged to the hilt having spent virtually all of their dry powder propping up the markets for the last four years. Again, this time it is different. I realize most people believe the Fed can just hit “print” and solve everything, but they’re wrong. The last time the Fed hit “print” food prices hit records and revolutions began spreading in emerging markets. If the Fed does it again, especially in a more aggressive manner as it would have to, we would indeed enter a dark period in the world and the capital markets.
Much of the fiscal and monetary insanity that has come out of the EU over the last two years can be summated by one of my central global theses: politics determine Europe's policies, not economics. And Europe now appears to be shifting towards a more leftist/ anti-austerity measure political environment. If this shift is cemented in the coming Greek, French, and Irish elections/ referendums, then things could get ugly in the Eurozone VERY quickly.
Because of its interventions and bond purchases, ¼ of the ECB’s balance sheet is now PIIGS debt AKA totally worthless junk. And the ECB claims it isn’t going to take any losses on these holdings either. No, instead it’s going to roll the losses back onto the shoulders of the individual national Central Banks. How is that going to work out? The ECB steps in to save the day and stop the bond market from imploding… but the minute it’s clear that losses are coming, it’s going to roll its holdings back onto the specific sovereigns’ balance sheets?
Taking Bernanke’s statement to indicate that QE is coming in April is wishful thinking at best. Bernanke’s actual words imply, if anything, that the Fed may have failed to fix the US economy. This is more of the Fed playing damage control because the reality is that Bernanke is well aware of this: by the Fed’s own data we’re clearly in a structural Depression, NOT a cyclical recession.
If there is one thing 2011 taught us is that one totally unpredictable and unexpected event, such as the great March 11 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima disaster, can wreak massive havoc on otherwise stable economic ecosystems, models and forecasts. According to many, most certainly the Fed, the events in Japan had a major spillover effect on global GDP that lasted for months, in turn forcing fiscal and monetary responses around the world. A true black swan. As the following brief video summarizes, 2011 was the year of earthquakes. Has the earth become increasingly unstable? Will the pattern from 2011 continue into 2012 and beyond? Is mother nature getting angrier? We have no idea, but we do know that the following clip is quite awesome: make sure you have your volume turned up high.
While he does have some new philosophy (at X% off MSRP of course, coming to a Kindle near you) to preach, Nassim Taleb's re-emergence from the darkness of the media spotlight starts with a bang: "I realized that something wrong is going on, and only one candidate 'Ron Paul' seems to have grasped the issues and is offering the right remedies". He was given quite a lengthy period to proselytize as he outlines the Big Four problems he sees with the USA (and for that matter the world): Deficits (metastatic governments), The Fed, Militarism, and non-Bailouts (what is fragile should break early). As Ron Paul notes, "It's an illusion that the USD can bailout the world", Taleb makes many interesting, though a little murmur-some for our liking, points like "you don't gamble with hyperinflation" and his comparison between the US and the Soviet Union will surely raise some headlines as he rants of the growing divide between public and private employees standards of living, our "need to do something drastic about it" and on Obama/Government and deficit reduction that "the whole thing is rotten".
The coming years will be marked by a seismic change in the economic landscape in the US. Firstly and most importantly, we are going to see economic growth slow down dramatically. The reasons for this slow down are myriad but the most important are: 1) Age demographics: a growing percentage of the population will be retiring while fewer younger people are entering the workforce. 2) Excessive debt overhang.
Folks, this is a DE-pression. And those who claim we’ve turned a corner are going by “adjusted” AKA “massaged” data. The actual data (which is provided by the Federal Reserve and Federal Government by the way) does not support these claims at all. In fact, if anything they prove we’ve wasted money by not permitted the proper debt restructuring/ cleaning of house needed in the financial system.
Over the weekend, the BIS released its latest quarterly review of financial organizations, which despite being chock full of assorted data, merely summarizes what banks already report. As such, it completely avoids the potentially black swan areas, such as derivative, off-balance sheet and shadow banking exposure. In other words, it is largely a waste of time. One section, however, that is useful,is the analysis by Morten Bech on "FX volume during the financial crisis and now" which has created a constant time series to evaluate FX trading volumes all the way through October 2011, as opposed to the traditional BIS Triennial survey, the next of which is due in April 2013. Morten's finding: "I estimate that in October 2011 daily average turnover was roughly $4.7 trillion based on the latest round of FX committee surveys."
Germany just launched a €480 billion fund that it will use to backstop its banking system should a Crisis hit. And in the fine print, which no one has caught,... the fund will also allow German banks to dump their EU sovereign bonds... as in German banks' PIIGS/ EU exposure disappearing in an instant. So... why would Germany do this?
Some of these 15 swans are blacker than others....
For those who are in a hurry today, the bottom line is that Japan is in serious trouble right now and is a top candidate to be the next black swan. Here are the elements of difficulty that concern me the most, each one serving to reduce Japan's economic and financial stability:
- The total shutdown of all 54 nuclear plants, leading to an energy insufficiency
- Japan's trade deficit in negative territory for the first time in decades, driven largely by energy imports
- A budget deficit that is now 56% larger than revenues (!!)
- Total debt standing at a whopping 235% of GDP
- A recession shrinking Japan's economy at an annual rate of 2.3%
- Renewed efforts underway to debase the yen
As I wrote a shortly after the earthquake in March 2011, Japan is facing an economic meltdown. If it is not careful, it may well face a currency meltdown, too. These things take time to play out, but now almost exactly a year after the devastating earthquake of 2011, the difficulties for Japan are mounting -- as expected.
Today's Black Gold Swan - Presenting The Reason Why The CME's Crude Market Was Halted For Over One HourSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2012 20:49 -0400
Earlier today, we reported on the extended halt of the CME Globex crude market, which following an errant trading pattern, did not quite crash, but did the next best thing - go offline for a full 75 minutes. Why did this happen? Our initial speculation was that this "may have been an algo gone berserk in advance of what may or may not have been a block order.... Someone take quote stuffing a little too far today?" It turns out we were not too far off. Below is Nanex visualization of just what occurred in those seconds between 13:59:57 and 14:04:55 when "a blast of quotes corrupted a memory queue causing the software to believe the queue was full all the time." In other words just under two years after the May 2010 flash crash, another algo may have been the reason for the halt in one of the world's most important markets. At least this time there was no 10% "correction." How long until there is, and when it does happen again, will it be limited to just 10%? Oh, and whatever you do, most certainly don't expect this little incident to be brought up ever again by those in control, for any precautionary measure to be taken, or for the SEC to ever get involved. Any of those three would immediately imply something is very wrong with the market. And that's simply not allowed.