We face one of the deepest crises in history. A prognosis for the economic future requires a deepening of the concepts of inflation and deflation. Inflation is a political phenomenon because monetary aggregates are not determined by market forces but are planned by central banks in agreement with governments. Inflation is a tax affecting all real incomes. Inflation is a precondition of extreme deflation: depression. Should in fact the overall debt collapse, there would be an extreme deflation or depression because the money aggregate would contract dramatically. In fact the money equivalent to the defaulted debt would literally vanish. It is for this reason that central banks monetize new debt at a lower interest rates, raising its value. All the financial bubbles and the mass of derivatives are just the consequence of debt monetization. How will this all end? In history, debt monetization has always produced hyperinflation. In Western countries, despite the exponential debt a runaway inflation has not yet occurred. Monetary policy has only inflated the financial sector, starving the private one, which is showing a bias towards a deflationary depression. Unfortunately governments and banks will go for more inflation. As history teaches, besides money the freedom of citizens can also be the victim.
There was some confusion as to why yesterday various Eurozone consumer confidence indices posted a surprising jump and beat expectations virtually across the board: turns out Europeans had an advance warning of today's horrendous economic data among which we learned that Eurozone October unemployment just hit a record 11.7%, up 0.1% from September (we are trying to get data if the Eurozone is gaming its unemployment number the way the US does by collapsing its labor participation rate), with Italy unemployment surging to 11.1% from 10.8%, on expectations of a 10.9% print, French consumer spending in October was down 0.2%, compared to an unchanged reading in September, but far more troubling was that German retail sales imploded at a rate of 2.8%, the biggest monthly collapse in 4 years, and worse than even the most bearish forecast. Do we hear "Sandy's fault."
The overnight session has so far been marked with one after another economic debacle out of Asia. First Japan announced that its Q3 GDP fell an annualized 3.5% in Q3, more than the 3.4% expected, the worst decline since last year's earthquake. The drivers were sliding exports and a collapse in consumer spending. The announcement brought on a barrage of platitudes by various Japanese officials who are shocked, shocked, that 32 years of Keynesian miracles have resulted in this horrifying outcome. Of course, everyone knows 33 years is the charm for Keynesian miracles. So much for the boosts from Japan's QE 8 aad QE 9: bring on QE 10. The pundits appear surprised now that Japan is back in a solid recession, which to us is quite surprising as well - does this mean that Japan ever exited the depression? Then China came out with an announcement that its credit growth plunged in October with Chinese banks extended CNY 505bn new yuan loans in October, down from CNY 623bn in September and less than the CNY 590 expected. The trifecta of bad news was rounded off by India, whose Industrial Production joined the rest of the world in global recession, when it dropped 0.4% in September on expectations of a 2.8% rise, even as Consumer prices rose 9.75% Y/Y - the global stagflation wave has arrived... For all those wondering why futures have managed to eek out a modest overnight ramp.
The upcoming week comes less loaded with policy events. The only major one is the Eurogroup meeting on Monday, however EU officials have already confirmed that no decision on the next Greek aid tranche will be made before the Troika’s next report on Greece’s adherence to the bailout conditions. Greece has scheduled an auction for Tuesday in order to roll over €3.1 bn in T-bills expiring by the end of the week. Additionally, in the US, the President has invited leadership of both parties for a first round of talks on the fiscal cliff. The data calendars also look lighter, with the publication of the FOMC minutes on Wednesday, and US Philly Fed on Thursday.
It is not going to be a new government that necessarily ushers in a whole new era of growth, prosperity and confidence. Even under the revered Ronald Reagan, the period of secular growth and bull market activity took two years to unfold — it didn't happen right away. It took the inflationary excesses to be wrung out of the system and concrete signs that the executive and legislative branches could work together to usher in true fiscal reform — and to get blue Democrats on board with reduced top marginal tax rates. Hope isn't generally a very useful strategy, but there is reason to be hopeful nonetheless. The critical issue is going to be how we get Washington to move back to the middle where it belongs. This requires bipartisanship which in turn requires leadership. Reagan's whole eight-year tenure in the 1980s occurred with the House being in Democrat hands the whole way through. Bill Clinton's second term coincided with both the House and Senate controlled by the Republicans.
It can be done!
With this in mind, the best that can happen is a Reaganesque and Clintonesque return to compromise on the road to fiscal reform. It will be painful. We all know it will be painful.
If trying to explain why S&P futures are up another 9 points to 1417, and are now 25 ticks from the Monday night lows, there are so many catalysts: perhaps it was the European September unemployment rate rising to a new record of 11.6%, (Italy unemployment is now 10.8% up from 10.6% but it still has a way to go until it hits Spain's 25%) even as Consumer prices kept inflation at a steady 2.5% rate, or that French producer prices rose more than expected even as spending missed expectations, or that Spanish housing permits collapsed by 37.2% in August from July, or that Greek retail sales plunged by 7.2% Y/Y and the Greek 2013 economic outlook was cut in the latest budget with the budget deficit now seen at 5.2% from 4.2% before and that Greece now sees 189.1% debt/GDP in 2013 up from 175.6% in 2012, or that Japan just cut its economic outlook last night after its manufacturing PMI came at 46.9, the lowest since 2009 excluding Fukushima, or that UK consumer confidence printed -30, vs -28 last and the lowest since April, or that Taiwan slashed its 2012 GDP forecast from 1.66% to 1.05%, or that nothing has been resolved on the Greek labor reforms or the now two month overdue Troika bailout, or that insolvent Spain has still not requested a bailout, or that virtually every company that has reported revenues in the last two "dark days" missed expectations, or that US Mortgage applications tumbled 6% for its fourth straight weekly decline (government refi index down 5.5%, mortgage apps down 4.8%), or of course that Hurricane Sandy will cut both Q4 GDP and corporate profits (not to mention sales). Truly, there are so many reasons why the S&P has now soared since Apple announced the termination of its two key executives on Monday afternoon, one doesn't know where to start (and don't you dare say "window dressing"). Perhaps Kevin Henry would, but sadly his Bloomberg status is now "gray"...
What Do Economic Indicators Show? What Do Economists Say?
Pump it up, until you can feel it, Pump it up, when you don't really need it...
Marc Faber, one of the few analysts, to have predicted the current crisis correctly and to have protected his clients in the process, remains very bullish on gold. In another excellent Bloomberg interview, Faber said that “the trend for gold prices will be steady but the trend for the dollar and other currencies will be down. So in other words gold in dollar terms will trend higher.” “How high it will go, you will have to call Mr Bernanke and at the Fed there are other people who actually make Mr Bernanke look like a hawk and so they are going to print money.” Faber is on record as to the importance of owning physical gold and he again warned about the importance of owning gold but not storing it in the U.S. “You ought to own some gold but don’t store it in the U.S., the Fed will take it away from you one day,” Faber astutely noted. He said that Bernanke is a money printer and this could lead to massive inflation and the Dow Jones at 20,000, 50,000 or 10 million. Faber cheerily predicted that the “the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy will destroy the world” and “eventually we will have a systemic crisis and everything will collapse.”
Consumer Prices Soar By Most Since June 2009, Retail Sales Ex-Autos And Gas Expose Lethargic ConsumerSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/14/2012 07:47 -0500
Following yesterday's producer price shock, when PPI soared by the most since June 2009, today's CPI follows suit, with the largest jump in over 2 years, printing up 0.6%, in line with expectations, up from an unchanged print in July. In other words, the food inflation which is already spreading through the economy courtesy of the record drought, is about to be supported by some brand new Fed-generated inflation. Luckily, as yesterday, nobody uses gas or food. And in other news, retail sales posted yet another very disappointing print, when despite a better than expected headline print of 0.9% in August advance retail sales, a number which included gas and auto sales, retail sales excluding these very volatile components, rose by only 0.1%, on expectations of a 0.4% rise, and a downward revision from 0.9% to 0.8%. This was the 5th miss in 6 months, and ugly all around. In other words, the US consumer, revised consumer credit data notwithstanding, is levering up and not generating any real new sales. Expect yet another round of GDP revisions. However, in light of yesterday's Bernanke announcement, it is pretty obvious that no macro economic data for public consumption does the disaster that is the economy in the Fed's eyes, justice, and makes us wonder just how ugly the underlying reality must be. All that said: with inflation spiking, and consumers lethargic, it certainly appears that Bernanke picked the perfect time for more monetary paper dilution.
- Italy Says It Won't Seek Aid (WSJ)... and neither will Spain, so no OMT activation, ever. So why buy bonds again?
- European Lenders Keep Ties to Iran (WSJ)
- Fink Belies Being Boring Telling Customers to Buy Stocks (Bloomberg)
- Dutch Voters Buck Euro Debt Crisis to Re-Elect Rutte as Premier (Bloomberg)
- China's Xi cited in state media as health rumors fly (Reuters)
- China vs Japan: Tokyo must come back 'from the brink' (China Daily)
- Manhattan Apartment Vacancy Rate Climbs After Rents Reach Record (Bloomberg)
- Well-to-do get mortgage help from Uncle Sam (Reuters)
- Princeton Endowment Expected to Rise Less Than 5% in Year (Bloomberg)
- Protesters Encircle U.S. Embassy in Yemen (WSJ)
- US groups step up sales of non-core units (FT)
Earlier this week, former U.S. president Bill Clinton gave the keynote address to the Democractic National Convention in an effort to lend some of his popularity to Barack Obama. With the unemployment rate still stubbornly high at 8.1%, Obama has lost many of the enthused voters who put him into the Oval Office in 2008. Clinton was tapped to deliver the speech not only because of his image of a wonkish pragmatist but because of his presiding over the booming economy of the late 1990s. Like a prized mule, Clinton was dragged out to give Democrats someone to point to and say that his policies were the hallmark of smart governance. Today, Clinton still takes credit for Greenspan’s manipulated boom. His supporters on the left love nothing more than to point at his presidency as vindication of the backwards theory that higher taxes equal more growth. Clinton wasn’t a policy wonk; he was a politician who dipped into the Social Security trust fund to give an appearance of balancing the budget while the national debt still climbed higher. Through all of his financial scandals, womanizing, aggressive foreign policy approaches, and possible cover ups, it is actually fitting that Clinton is still looked to by the political establishment as someone worthy of respect. He is representative of F.A. Hayek’s timeless lesson: in government the worst rise to the top and state power corrupts.
At the end of December 2010, Philipp Bagus (he of the must watch/read 'Tragedy of the Euro') provided a clarifying and succinct rebuttal or Bernanke's belief in the extreme monetary policy path he has embarked upon. Bernanke's latest diatribe, or perhaps legacy-defining, self-aggrandizing CYA comment, reminded us that perhaps we need such clarification once again. Critically, Bagus highlights the real exit-strategy dangers and inflationary impacts of Quantitative Easing (a term he finds repulsive in its' smoke-and-mirrors-laden optics) adding that:
Money printing cannot make society richer; it does not produce more real goods. It has a redistributive effect in favor of those who receive the new money first and to the detriment of those who receive it last. The money injection in a specific part of the economy distorts production. Thus, QE does not bring ease to the economy. To the contrary, QE makes the recession longer and harsher.
Or we might name it after the intentions behind it: "Currency Debasement I," "Bank Bailout I," "Government Bailout II," or simply "Consumer Impoverishment."
With a price hovering around $1,600 an ounce and the prospect of "additional monetary accommodation" hinted to in the latest meeting of the FOMC, gold is once again becoming a hot topic of discussion. Krugman, praising 'The Atlantic's recent blustering anti-Gold-standard riff, points to gold's volatility, its relationship with interest rates (and general levels of asset prices - which we discussed here), and the number of 'financial panics' that occurred during gold-standards. These criticisms, while containing empirical data, are grossly deceptive. The information provided doesn’t support Krugman’s assertions whatsoever. Instead of utilizing sound economic theory as an interpreter of the data, Krugman and his Keynesian colleagues use it to prove their claims. Their methodological positivism has lead them to fallacious conclusions which just so happen to support their favored policies of state domination over money. The reality is that not only has gold held its value over time, those panics which Krugman refers to occurred because of government intervention; not the gold standard. Keynes himself was contemptuous of the middle class throughout his professional career. This is perhaps why he held such disdain for gold.