America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray. Top officials lurch from crisis to crisis, improvising strategies as they go, but rarely pursuing a consistent set of policies. Some blame this indecisiveness on a lack of resolve at the White House, but the real reason lies deeper. It lurks in a disagreement among foreign policy elites over whether Russia or China constitutes America’s principal great-power adversary.
When it comes to Europe, Greece lost the blame game, and just like the Ukraine civil war last year, became an unwitting catalyst greenlighting Germany's concession to ECB QE, this time it may be Greece that launches the next step in the ECB's master plan: not just QE but more QE. This is precisely what Goldman's Franceso Garzarelli, co-head of macro and markets research, admitted earlier today in an interview on Bloomberg TV, when he said that the ECB "will have to go big" if the situation in Greece worsens and leads to wider peripheral bond yield spreads.
The oil price collapse of 2014-2015 began one year ago this month (Figure 1). The world crossed a boundary in which prices are not only lower now but will probably remain lower for some time. It represents a phase change like when water turns into ice: the composition is the same as before but the physical state and governing laws are different. The market must balance before things get better and prices improve. That can only happen if production falls and demand increases. That will take time. The most likely case is that oil prices will decrease in the second half of 2015 and that financial distress to all oil producers will increase. The hope and expectation that the worst is over will fade as the new reality of prolonged low oil prices is reluctantly accepted.
Investors are losing money, which strikes us as largely inevitable with asset prices where they are and economic growth and profits on a downward trajectory. Losing the least amount of money may be the best source of success this year.
Cheap, easy credit has created moral hazard and nurtured magical thinking throughout the global economy.
Risk-taking in financial markets has gone on for too long. And the illusion that markets will remain liquid under stress has been too pervasive. But the likelihood of turbulence will increase further if current extraordinary conditions are spun out. The more one stretches an elastic band, the more violently it snaps back. Restoring more normal conditions will also be essential for facing the next recession, which will no doubt materialise at some point. Of what use is a gun with no bullets left?
The next round of the great crisis is here. 2008 was just A Crisis… we've just begun THE Crisis.
All banks and the Greek stock exchange are closed today. Greek citizens cued in long lines at ATMs or cash machines over the weekend and a run on the banks left most ATMs empty. There is a €60 limit on withdrawals from cash machines under strict capital controls.
It’s happening. As expected, dynastic politics is prevailing in campaign 2016. After a tease about as long as Hillary’s, Jeb Bush (aka Jeb!) officially announced his presidential bid last week. Ultimately, the two of them will fight it out for the White House, while the nation’s wealthiest influencers will back their ludicrously expensive gambit. And here’s a hint: don’t bet on Jeb not to make it through the Republican gauntlet of 12 candidates (so far). After all, the really big money’s behind him.
Trillions upon trillions in “stimulus” and the FOMC is left, pathetically, fighting for the distinction of “it’s not as bad as it looks.” That would seem to make this the most costly economic age ever conceived, with global implications that are just now starting to be felt as whatever faith was leftover from 2008, wrong or right, wears off all over the world. That is a highly combustible deficiency, since the longer the global economy remains disorientated the more likely it is to experience not just recession but, since this is all still so leveraged (even more poorly this time), something potentially worse.
"Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs. It is remarkable that so much energy has been expended on advancing the things Americans oppose, and preventing the things Americans want. The same routine plays out over and again. We are told a massive bill must be passed, all the business lobbyists and leaders tell how grand it will be, but that it must be rushed through before the voters spoil the plan. And when ordinary Americans who never asked for the plan, who don’t want the plan, who want no part of the plan, resist, they are scorned, mocked, and heaped with condescension."
There’s a specific sort of instability in the world today – a game theoretic instability – which means that it has an identifiable pattern and rhythm you can understand in order to improve your investment strategy. It’s the instability of the game of Chicken, and once you start looking for it, you will see it everywhere here in the Golden Age of the Central Banker. Greece vs. the Troika? Chicken. Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine? Chicken. OPEC vs. US energy producers? Chicken. ECB vs. the Swiss National Bank? Chicken. Fed monetary policy communications to markets? Chicken. Abenomics? Chicken. US policy towards China? Chicken. ISIS vs. the world? Chicken.
A fund manager for one of the largest mutual fund and investment groups in the world, Fidelity, has warned investors and savers to have an allocation to “physical cash,” “including precious metals” to protect against "systemic risk".
We have now reached the point where the euro does not have a problem – the euro is the problem. De-risking it should be a priority for European leaders, as it now poses a chronic risk to global financial stability. Either the outliers need to leave or the countries inside the eurozone needs to move down the pathway to full political, economic and monetary union.
What the stock bubble shows is the unthinkable degree of difficulty in trying to actually manage letting air out of any bubble in an orderly fashion. It may already be too late, as growth declines still further month by month, but stock prices go even more insane, drawing in more and more “retail” accounts and regular Chinese. In other words, the reform idea may have been impossible from the start; that the PBOC went ahead anyway, and still continues despite all that has happened, more than suggests that they now recognize the most dangerous existence is asset bubbles, far and away more important than even “necessary” growth.