In Collins’s fictional world known as Panem, a despotic government rules over all with a violent iron fist. There is a strict separation between the political class and the rest of the populace, with the latter working in slave-like conditions to support the former. Throughout Catching Fire, the subject of revolution is paramount. Stories such as the Hunger Games are wonderful things because they spark what conservative statesman Edmund Burke called the “moral imagination.” Whether viewers know it or not, the basic plot of the Hunger Games series is an appeal to the moral imagination that men should be free from working as servants to others. We may not be living hand-to-mouth while being forced to labor for thuggish overlords but the modern trend is clear: the political class is consuming more and more wealth-generating capital for themselves.
Predictions for 2014 from a cold war spy
Keep a close eye on China: it is on the cusp between the end of the leverage cycle (where as we reported over the past two days, it has been pumping bank assets at the ridiculous pace of $3.5 trillion per year) and on the verge of having its debt bubble bursting. What happens then is unclear.
In fitting with the pre-holiday theme, and the moribund liquidity theme of the past few months and years, there was little of note in the overnight session with few event catalysts to guide futures beside the topping out EURJPY. Chinese stocks closed a shade of red following news local banks might be coming under further scrutiny on their lending/accounting practices - the Chinese banking regulator has drafted rules restricting banks from using resale or repurchase agreements to move assets off their balance sheets as a way to sidestep loan-to-deposit ratios that constrain loan growth. The return of the nightly Japanese jawboning of the Yen did little to boost sentiment, as the Nikkei closed down 104 points to 15515. Japan has gotten to the point where merely talking a weaker Yen will no longer work, and the BOJ will actually have to do something - something which the ECB, whose currency is at a 4 year high against Japan, may not like.
A great many long refuted Keynesian shibboleths keep being resurrected in Krugman's fantasy-land, where economic laws are magically suspended, virtue becomes vice and bubbles and the expropriation of savers the best ways to grow the economy. According to Paul Krugman, saving is evil and savers should therefore be forcibly deprived of positive interest returns. This echoes the 'euthanasia of the rentier' demanded by Keynes, who is the most prominent source of the erroneous underconsumption theory Krugman is propagating. Similar to John Law and scores of inflationists since then, he believes that economic growth is driven by 'spending' and consumption. This is putting the cart before the horse. We don't deny that inflation and deficit spending can create a temporary illusory sense of prosperity by diverting scarce resources from wealth-generating toward wealth-consuming activities. It should however be obvious that this can only lead to severe long term economic problems. Finally it should be pointed out that the idea that economic laws are somehow 'different' in periods of economic contraction is a cop-out mainly designed to prevent people from asking an obvious question: if deficit spending and inflation are so great, why not always pursue them?
Here’s the crucial part of what Summers and Krugman are saying: this is not a temporary gig. This isn’t going to just “get better” on its own over time. This really is, as Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO would call it, the New Normal. And if you’re Jeremy Grantham or anyone for whom a stock has meaning as a fractional ownership stake in a real-world company rather than as a casino chip that gives you “market exposure” … well, that’s really bad news... Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that your deep dive into the value fundamentals of some large-cap bank has any predictive value whatsoever for the bank’s stock price, or that a return to the happy days of yesteryear is just around the corner. It doesn’t and it’s not, and even if you’re making money you’re going to be miserable and ornery while you wait nostalgically for what you do and what you’re good at to matter again. Spoiler Alert: Godot never shows up.
The video covers the race to debase and the manipulation of precious metal prices: "They can mess around with the price all they want, ultimately the price of everything in the long term will be dictated by supply and demand, particulary for a physical commodity like gold".
Looking ahead at the week ahead, data watchers will be kept fairly occupied before Thanksgiving. Starting with today, we will see US pending home sales with the Treasury also conducting the first of 3 bond auctions this week starting with a $32 billion 2yr note sale later. We will get more housing data tomorrow with the release of housing starts, home prices as well as US consumer confidence. Durable goods, Chicago PMI, initial jobless claims and the final UofM Consumer Sentiment print for November are Wednesday’s highlights although we will also get the UK GDP report for Q3. US Equity and fixed income markets are closed on Thursday but US aside we will get the BoE financial stability report, German inflation, Spanish GDP and Chinese industrial profit stats. Expect market activity to remain subdued into Friday as it will be a half-day for US stocks and bond markets. As ever Black Friday sales will be carefully monitored for consumer spending trends. So a reasonably busy, holiday-shortened week for markets ahead of what will be another crucial payrolls number the following week.
Another day, another carry currency-driven futures melt-up to daily record highs (the all important EURJPY soared overnight on the return of the now standard overnight Japanese jawboning of the JPY which sent the EURJPY just shy of a new 4 year high of 138 overnight), and another attempt by the ECB to have its record high market cake, and eat a lower Euro too (recall DB's said the "pain threshold" for the EUR/USD exchange rate - the level at which further appreciation impairs competitiveness and economic recovery - is $1.79 for Germany, $1.24 for France, and $1.17 for Italy) this time with ECB's Hansson repeating the generic talking point that the ECB is technically ready for negative deposit rates. However, with the halflife on such "threats" now measured in the minutes, and soon seconds, the European central bank will have to come up with something more original and creative soon, especially since the EURJPY can't really rise much more without really crushing European trade further.
Confirming that the brotherhood of the "fairness doctrine" in which everyone is equal to everyone else (but some are too big to fail or prosecute, and are thus a little more equal) will have to do much more work to bring wayward Swizterland, home to some of the world's biggest companies, fattest bank accounts and wealthiest individuals, into the socialist fold was the announcement moments ago that Switzerland roundly rejected a proposal to limit executive salaries to 12 times that of the lowest paid employee, with 66% of the voters opposing. This so-called "1:12 initiative for fair pay," was brought about by the youth wing of the Social Democrats (JUSO) which claimed that nobody should earn more in a month than others earn in a year. The outcome is notable because it was in March when Swiss voters backed proposals to impose some of the world's strictest controls on executive pay, with some 70% of voters thought to have supported plans to give shareholders a veto on compensation and ban big payouts for new and departing managers. Surprisingly, just over six months later, the drive to bring more equality to all appears to have lost it steam.
"We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again. We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe. My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is "peace for our time." Go home and get a nice quiet sleep." - Neville Chamberlain, September 30, 1938
The White House has released their (lengthy) fact sheet...
"During the six-month initial phase, the P5+1 will negotiate the contours of a comprehensive solution... Over the next six months, we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure.
Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue
Israelis, Saudis, and Republicans are already questioning the decision...
Once Gold was no longer pegged to world currencies there was only a single period in which stocks outperformed the precious metal. That period was from 1997-2000 during the height of the Tech Bubble (the single biggest stock market bubble in over 100 years).
Since the Financial Crisis erupted in 2007, the US Federal Reserve has engaged in dozens of interventions/ bailouts to try and prop up the financial system. Now, I realize that everyone knows the Fed is “printing money.” However, when you look at the list of bailouts/ money pumps it’s absolutely staggering how much money the Fed has thrown around.
Expenditure on social benefits in the EU fell to 29.1% of GDP in 2011 from 29.7% in 2009, Eurostat said yesterday. However, do not feel too bad for the broad European social state. While France (as one might expect) nears the top of the list with over 33% of GDP spent on "social benefits", Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes that it is Denmark that spends the most on welfare at 34.3% of GDP, and Latvia spent the least, 15.1%. Of course, in the new normal, as in the US, retirees accounted for the majority of the trasnfer payments with an average of 46% of total expenditure while unemployment benefit accounted for 6%. Interestingly, Greece nears the top of the list with almost 31% of GDP spent on welfare.