Men have had their stab at making the world into what they wanted and they made a pretty poor show of it all we might say when we look at the economy.
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, world leaders repeated a soothing mantra. There could be no repeat of the Great Depression, not only because monetary policy was much better (it was), but also because international cooperation was better institutionalized. And yet one man, the American former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, has shown how far removed from reality that claim remains. Prolonged periods of strain tend to weaken the fabric of institutional cooperation. The two institutions that seemed most dynamic and effective in 2008-2009 were the International Monetary Fund and the G-20; the credibility of both has been steadily eroded over the long course of the crisis. The Snowden affair has blown up any illusion about trust between leaders – and also about leaders’ competence.
While this story is not Friday humor, it may explain the preponderance of "erect hockeystick" formations in IMF's legacy projection charts. Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is no stranger to sexual scandal - in fact Anthony Weiner may learn a thing or two from the man who once upon a time was said would be France's next president. However, being charged with "aggravated pimping" may be a new low even for DSK, or new high if in the New Normal it is finally 50 Cent who sets ethical and moral standards. The reason for the lawsuit is that during numerous sex parties which DSK had attended in various cities over the years, there were prostitutes also present, often times in groups.
- India Joins Brazil to China in Efforts to Tighten Liquidity (BBG)
- Seven dead as police and protesters clash in Egypt (Reuters)
- U.S. senators fail to cut deal, head for showdown on filibuster (Reuters)
- Gasoline Tankers Beating Crude for First Time on Record (BBG)
- Smithfield's China bidders plan Hong Kong IPO after deal (Reuters)
- Bitcoin ETF plan struggles to find support (FT)
- Big Home Builders Gobble Up Rivals Starved for Cash (WSJ)
- Putin wants Snowden to go, but asylum not ruled out (Reuters)
- Zimmerman's lawyer calls prosecutors 'disgrace' to profession (Reuters)
- McDonald’s to bring Big Mac to Vietnam (FT)
- Korean Pilots Avoided Manual Flying, Former Trainers Say (BBG)
It looks like the International Monetary Fund has been jinxed. It’s fated. It’s doomed! The next managing director should start wearing garlic around their neck already or at least burn sage in their office to ward off evil spirits.
It has been our contention for a very long time now, that the reason most people in positions of power do absolutely nothing for the good of their respective societies even in the face of total systemic collapse is not simply greed, corruption and stupidity. They are totally compromised. As we see in this amazing article from the NY Times, former IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, lived a decadent lifestyle straight out of Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut...
Courtesy of Bloomberg, below is a compilation of the key dates to know for the first French socialist president since Francois Mitterand.
What a difference a month makes. About 4 weeks ago the European crisis was "over" - French President Sarkozy exclaimed that: “Today, the problem is solved!” Christine Lagarde, former French finance minister, and current IMF head following the framing of DSK, added that “Economic spring is in the air!”... Fast forward to today when following the inevitable end of the transitory favorable effects of the LTRO (remember: flow not stock, a/k/a the shark can not stop moving forward), the collapse of the Spanish stock market, the now daily halting of Italian financial stocks, the inevitable announcement that shorting of financials in Europe is again forbidden, and finally the record spike in Spanish CDS, Europe is broken all over again. Which brings us again the Sarkozy and Lagarde. The Frenchman who is about to lose the presidential race to socialist competitor Hollande (an event which will have major ramifications for Europe as UBS' George Magnus patiently explained two months ago), no longer sees anything as solved, and instead is openly begging for the ECB to inject more, more, more money into the system to pretend that "problems are solved" for a few more months. Incidentally, so is Lagarde, for whom in an odd change of seasons, economic spring is about to be followed by a depressionary winter. The problem is both will end up empty handed, as the well may just have run dry.
All you need to read and some more.
Much has been made of today's Reuters story how "Iran turns to barter for food as sanctions cripple imports" in which we learn that "Iran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - in return for food", and whose purpose no doubt is to demonstrate just how crippled the Iranian economy is as a result of the ongoing US embargo. Incidentally this story is 100% the opposite of the Debka-spun groundless disinformation from a few weeks ago that India was preparing to pay for Iran's oil in gold (they got the asset right, but the flow of funds direction hopelessly wrong). While there is certainly truth to the fact that the US is actively seeking to destabilize the local government, we wonder why? After all as the opportunity cost for the existing regime to do something drastic gets ever lower as the popular resentment rises, leaving the local administration with few options but to engage either the US or Israel. Unless of course, this is the ultimate goal. Yet going back to the Reuters story, it would be quite dramatic, if only it was not the case that Iran has been laying the groundwork for a barter economy for many months now, something which various other analysts perceive as the basis for the destruction of the petrodollar system. Perhaps regular readers will recall that back in July, we wrote an article titled "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System." Specifically, we wrote that "according to the FT, China has decided to commence a barter system in which Iranian oil is exchanged directly for Chinese exports. The net result: not only a slap for the US Dollar, but implicitly for all fiat intermediaries, as Iran and China are about to prove that when it comes to exchanging hard resources for critical Chinese goods and services, the world's so called reserve currency is completely irrelevant." Seen in this light the fact that Iran is actually proceeding with a barter system, something that had been in the works for quite a while, actually puts the Reuters story in a totally different light: instead of one predicting the imminent demise of the Iranian economy, the conclusion is inverted, and underscores the culmination of what may have been an extended barter preparation period, has finally gone from beta to (pardon the pun) gold, and Iran is now successfully engaging in global trade without the use of the historical reserve currency.
In an interesting history, today's WSJ points to a closed-door meeting in Washington on April 14th of this year as the moment that the attempts to 'save' Europe began to unravel. The player at the center of the debacle - one Dominique Strauss-Kahn - was pressing for more 'help' from Europe or else the IMF would not deliver more magic-money to the Greeks. The ultimatum drove a wedge between many competing camps over who should be on the hook for more or less of the money required to save this tiny sovereign. Critically, as we have pointed out again and again, it is not (in this case) size that matters, but the precedent that a nation leaving the socialist construct of the Euro 'breaks' the union and the WSJ weaves a torrid tale of this increasing tension and DSK's catalytic impact and timely 'dismissal' from the process. Furthermore, the clear 'dithering' they describe among these so-called leaders offers insights into what we can expect going forward as a new fiscal compact (same as the old one) begins to emerge with mid-March hard Greek deadlines looming fast.
"We're not doing this for the Greeks, but for us," said Angela Merkel amidst a cacophony of doomsday scenarios. It's all about propping up German banks and exporters. For the French, however, the European debt crisis doesn't seem to exist.