The problem with all Keynesian styled philosophy is, it works well, and seems utterly brilliant on paper and in the classrooms of academia - when trouble arises its "To the text books!" for answers and BAM! – crisis solved. However in the real world it doesn't work that way. Just like war, when the battle starts, all earlier plans get thrown in the dust heap. And make no mistake, this was all started via armchair generals who believed monetary policy could be managed from within the Ivory Towers of academia and the consequences of these policies are multiplying by the day. As Mike Tyson once said so eloquently: (I’m paraphrasing) "Everybody's got a plan – till someone punches them in the face." The SNB has just landed the first blow. Now what?
It’s not entirely clear what will happen in the near term, but the financial markets are already pushed to extremes by central-bank induced speculation. With speculators massively short the now steeply-depressed euro and yen, with equity margin debt still near record levels in a market valued at more than double its pre-bubble norms on historically reliable measures, and with several major European banks running at gross leverage ratios comparable to those of Bear Stearns and Lehman before the 2008 crisis, we're seeing an abundance of what we call "leveraged mismatches" - a preponderance one-way bets, using borrowed money, that permeates the entire financial system. With market internals and credit spreads behaving badly, while Treasury yields, oil and industrial commodity prices slide in a manner consistent with abrupt weakening in global economic activity, we can hardly bear to watch...
We've heard it all: snow, cold weather, hot weather, non one-time recurring, "one-time, non-recurring" charges, and even Bush. But when it comes to "excuses" for why one is wrong, this morning Goldman's note "Central banks stall a more bearish gold outlook" absolutely takes the cake.
This morning both the SNB stunner from two weeks ago, and the less than stunning ECB QE announcement from last Thursday are long forgotten, and the only topic on markets' minds is the startling surge of Syriza and its formation of a coalition government with another anti-bailout party - a development that many in Europe never expected could happen, and which has pushed Europe to the bring of the unexpected yet again. And while there is much speculation that this time Europe is much better positioned to "handle a Grexit", the reality is that European bank balance sheets are as bad if not worse than in 2014, 2013, 2012 or any other year for that matter, because none of ther €1+ trillion in NPLs have been addressed and the only thing that has happened is funding bank capital deficiencies with newly printed money. You know what they say about solvency and liquidity.
"...as the Swiss National Bank has shown, risk can come back with a vengeance. The same thing can happen of course, in any other market. If the Federal Reserve wants to pursue an "exit" to its intervention, if it wants to go down this path, well, volatility is going to come back. Everything else equal, it means asset prices have to be priced lower. That is the problem if you base an economic recovery exclusively on asset price inflation. We are going to have our hands full trying to kind of move on from here. In that context, what the Swiss National Bank has done is it is just a canary in the coal mine that there will be more trouble ahead."
Even if you think you know how competitive devaluation works, this primer is worth it because parts 2-4 of this series will blow your socks off leaving you wondering, "Damn, why didn't I tink of that?"
Non-bombastic, non-insulting simply straight-forward look at next week's key events and data. If you are so inclined...
When you read about female doctors feeling forced to prostitute themselves to feed their children, about the number of miscarriages doubling, and about the overall sense of helplessness and destitution among the Greek population, especially the young, who see no way of even starting to build a family, then I can only say: Brussels is a bunch of criminals. And Draghi’s QE announcement is a criminal act. It’s a good thing the bond-buying doesn’t start until March, and that it’s on a monthly basis: that means it can still be stopped.
Over the past 48 hours, the world has been bombarded with a relentless array of soundbites, originating either at the ECB, or - inexplicably - out of Greece, the one place which has been explicitly isolated by Frankfurt, that the European Central Bank's QE will benefit everyone. Setting the record straight: it won't, and not just in our own words but those of JPM's Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, who just said what has been painfully clear to all but the 99% ever since the start of QE, namely this: "The wealth effects that come with QE are not evenly distributing. The boost in equity and housing wealth is mostly benefiting their major owners, i.e. the wealthy." Thank you JPM. Now if only the central banks will also admit what we have been saying for 6 years, then there will be one less reason for us to continue existing.
Someday, maybe, these central banks will find that secret formula that unlocks the commanded utopia from its monetary prison, but I think it more like what led to the end of the first Gulf War, where continued air raids upon Iraqi positions amounted to destroying rubble. As Colin Powell put it, “we were bouncing rubble with billion-dollar missiles.” That seems to be a fitting, paraphrased description of the European state of monetarism, bouncing economic rubble with trillion-euro debt missiles.
So who pays? Someone has to, you can not just create money out of thin air. The answer is “we do, you and I”, in the form of a devalued: currency, diminished savings and devaluing pensions.
You are witness to possibly the greatest economic slight of hand ever perpetuated on a people, when the long gaze of history looks at this decision, deflation fears will not be part of the final analysis, arrogance, stupidity and theft will be.
Yesterday the European Central Bank acknowledged that the currency it manages is being sucked into a deflationary vortex. It responded in the usual way with, in effect, a massive devaluation. Eurozone citizens have also responded predictably, by converting their unbacked, make-believe, soon-to-be-worth-a-lot-less paper money into something tangible. They’re bidding gold up dramatically.
“No stock-market crash announced bad times. The depression rather made its presence felt with the serial crashes of dozens of commodity markets. To the affected producers and consumers, the declines were immediate and newsworthy, but they failed to seize the national attention. Certainly, they made no deep impression at the Federal Reserve.” - 1921 or 2015?
"It isn’t really about interest rates or “inflation”, obviously as gold is rising as inflation “expectations” dramatically sink here, so much as gold is insurance against central banks being wrong. That seems to be the common theme all over the world ever since June when the ECB placed its desperation and impotence on full display. Everything that has occurred since then has only confirmed the monetary illusion being exactly that, including the US and its central bank’s place at really the central point of the miscalculated insanity."