A vision of Hell troubles our sleep. It is the vision of what the United States will be like when the authorities have obliterated almost three millennia of monetary progress and have their boots on our necks.
Six months ago we warned that Austria was considering it, and now, as Kronen-Zeitung reports, with no rigged Swiss-like referendum required, Austrian Central Bank Governor Edwald Nowotny has committed to repatriating 110 tonnes of gold. This is part of Nowotny's new "gold strategy" and with his position (on paper) as one of Draghi's foremost lieutenants, appears to be a huge stab in the back for super-Mario. While gold withdrawals from the NY Fed are incessant, this time it appears the Bank of England faces the trust-fall as 80% of Vienna's gold is held there.
"China... across the board... is preparing for something big in currency markets... The world has an unease about the dollar system... former President Hu of China said 'the dollar is a product of the past'."
Since QE programs have not been effective at creating organic economic growth, the only effective monetary policy tool of the Fed to stave off the effects of a recessionary drag, lowering interest rates, is not available. This is why, despite weak economic growth, little inflation and a large amount of labor slack in the economy, the Fed has consistently hinted that they will likely raise the overnight lending rates in June. Therefore, since the Fed is "data dependent," a boost to GDP, via the recalculation of the numbers, would be vastly supportive in justifying that increase. However, is economic growth really stronger than currently reported? We can look at some alternative measures of the economy to answer that question.
"Protesters hailing from as far away as Kansas City and New York City participated in a demonstration at McDonald's Oak Brook headquarters Wednesday, urging that hourly wages for the burger giant's front-line workers be increased to $15 an hour", the Chicago Tribune reports. Police estimated the crowd at about 2,000 people. Organizers had projected that upward of 5,000 would participate in the demonstration.
It was about two years ago when we summarized all the known and confirmed rigged markets. Since then things have gone from bad to worse for believers in fair and efficient markets, with not only countless more banks now admitting they rigged Libor and FX. It all culminated with yesterday's settlement in which five of the world's biggest banks, including JPM, Citi and Barclays, agreed to plead guilty in a currency-rigging probe. And, to Bloomberg's dismay, the public yawned.
“You can’t stop an idea whose time has come.”
The uncertainty surrounding the inevitability, if not the exact timing, of multiple and possibly overlapping volatility drivers is itself a source of volatility. For the average person, these signs can be scary. Taking steps to avoid the circus as much as possible, such as extracting money from the markets, securing personal assets, and waiting out the swings, can be a source of emotional comfort and future financial stability.
Stanley Kubrick's highly-disturbing film-version of A Clockwork Orange takes place in a dystopian futuristic London and exposes the extreme battle of good versus evil. Extracting out the violence, we can’t help but notice the symbolic similarities of the motif-ridden story with the 2008 financial market fallout and subsequent attempts at economic rehabilitation. The film forces us to consider how much liberty we are willing to give up for order, and how much order we are willing to give up for liberty. The central idea of the film has to do with the freedom of the individual to make free choices, but free choice becomes problematic when it undermines the safety and stability of society. It reminds us of the markets price discovery mechanisms (or lack thereof).
A robust economy would allow central banks to raise rates and still allow debts to be paid down. But that is not what is happening. And it won’t happen. Junkies rarely go out and get a job... and gradually “taper off” their habit. No. They have to crash... hit bottom... and sink into such misery that they have no choice but to go cold turkey. Now, major central banks are committed to QE and ZIRP forever. They have created an economy that is addicted to EZ money. It will have to be smashed to smithereens before the feds change their policies.
Bank of America advocates adding gold to one’s portfolio along with higher levels of cash. Citing factors such as liquidity, profits, technological disruption, regulation, and income inequality they say there exists a potential for a “cleansing drop in asset prices.”
That the Fed and other central banks have unleashed the speculative furies is an unassailable and baleful reality. What is going on here plain and simple is a one-sided game of chicken. The robo-traders and hedge fund buccaneers on Wall Street press the market higher on virtually no volume or conviction whenever macro-economic weakness presents itself, virtually daring the Fed to maintain is ultra-accommodative stance still longer. The casino gamblers will keep chop, chop choppin’ higher until they finally lose confidence that the Eccles building is heaven’s door to further riches. Then the machines will sell, sell, sell. There will be no credible Fed speakers to stop them.
Do you remember what happened when Cyprus decided to defy the EU? In the end, the entire banking system of the nation collapsed and money was confiscated from private bank accounts. Well, the nation of Greece is now approaching a similar endgame. At this point, the Greek government has not received any money from the EU or the IMF since August 2014. As you can imagine, that means that Greek government accounts are just about bone dry.
Boom-and-Bust City at its glorious best.