The high priests of academic and “official” history love a good villain for two reasons: First, because good official villains make the struggles and accomplishments of good official heroes even more awe-inspiring. And, second, because nothing teaches (or propagandizes) the masses more thoroughly than the social or political lessons inherent in the documented rise and fall of the world's most despicable inhabitants. We get shivers of fear and excitement when we discuss the evils and the follies of ancient monsters like Nero, Attila the Hun, Caligula, etc, or more modern monsters, like Mussolini, Stalin Hitler, Goebbels, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and so on. We take solace in the idea that “we are nothing like them”, and our nation has “moved beyond” such animalistic behavior.
Many well-meaning commentators look back on the era of strong private-sector unions and robust U.S. trade surpluses with longing. The trade surpluses vanished for two reasons: global competition and to protect the dollar as the world's reserve currency. It is impossible for the U.S. to maintain the reserve currency and run trade surpluses. It's Hobson's Choice: if you run trade surpluses, you cannot supply the global economy with the currency flows it needs for trade, reserves, payment of debt denominated in the reserve currency and credit expansion. If you don't possess the reserve currency, you can't print money and have it accepted as payment. In other words, the U.S. must "export" U.S. dollars by running a trade deficit to supply the world with dollars to hold as reserves and to use to pay debt denominated in dollars. Other nations need U.S. dollars in reserve to back their own credit creation.
New Revelations Are Breaking Every Day
"There is nothing safe anymore, because the money-printing distorts all asset prices," is the uncomfortable response Marc Faber gives to Thai TV during this interview when asked for investment ideas. Faber explains how we got here "massive money-printing and ZIRP creates a huge pool of liquidity that does not flow evenly," as it washes from Nasdaq stocks to real estate to emerging markets and so on. Each time, "the bubble inflates and then is deflated as the capital (liquidity) floods out." The Fed, based on the doubling of interest rates since they began QE3 "has lost control of the bond market," Faber warns; adding that while he expects some "cosmetic tapering," the Fed members and other neo-Keynesian clowns will react to a "weakening US and global economy," and we will be a $150 billion QE by the end of next year, as the world is held hostage to US monetary policy.
There was a time when the only geographic region that made up for contracting global Caterpillar sales was Latin America, which was the only silver lining amongst an otherwise dreary year-over-year sales performance landscape. As of August, that is no longer the case, with LatAm sales for the heavy industrial equipment maker plunging from a positive 11% to -3%. This was the first Y/Y drop in LatAm sales for Cat since September of 2012, and joins virtually every other global region in posting a drop in year over year sales. It also dragged total world sales down to -10% on a year over year basis, down from -9% and -8% in July and June, and is the lowest sales "growth" since March. Just three more percentage points and Cat will have the biggest annual drop in global sales since 2010. The only good news in the report: North American sales cautiously peaked out from negative territory where they were hiding since December, and posted a measly +1% growth in August, even as every other world region was substantially in the red. The implications of this report are of course great for stocks: bad CAT, bad end demand, bad global economy, no taper, Turbo QE. Because bad news has never been gooder for the BTFATH chasers.
There is one good thing about money, apart from the fact that there is a race to grab it and keep in in our claws making it highly in demand, and that’s the fact that wealth attracts wealth. Money is a dirty little magnate that can only attract more money and it’s not a question of opposites attracting here.
Saudi Arabia is pumping out more crude that at any time since the 1970s and in Kuwait and The UAE, oil production levels have hit record highs. As The FT reports, the US might be 'drowning' in oil, but the world is still dependent on Saudi Arabia for the marginal barrel. This is crucial since, "whatever is happening in the US, the Gulf states remain critical to the global oil trade,” says Credit Suisse's Jan Stuart, "the fact they are producing so much shows that the global oil balance is far more stretched than consensus would have you believe." The trigger for the jump in Gulf production has been huge disruption to supplies from Libya; and with the three large Gulf producers meeting 17.1% of global demand (it has never topped 18%), the dependence on the Gulf appears to be growing. The concern remains, despite apparent nonchalance, that consuming nations like the US, China, and India will be stifled should production disruptions last.
To say that bonds are under pressure would be an understatement. Over the last few months, sentiment about fixed income has flipped dramatically: from a favored investment destination that is deemed to benefit from exceptional support from central banks, to an asset class experiencing large outflows, negative returns and reduced standing as an anchor of a well-diversified asset allocation. Similar to prior periods, history will regard the ongoing phase of dislocations in the bond market as a transitional period of adjustment triggered by changing expectations about policy, the economy and asset preferences – all of which have been significantly turbocharged by a set of temporary and ultimately reversible technical factors. By contrast, history is unlikely to record a change in the important role that fixed income plays over time in prudent asset allocations and diversified investment portfolios – in generating returns, reducing volatility and lowering the risk of severe capital loss. Understanding well what created this change is critical to how investors may think about the future.
Britain has been popping the champagne corks over the economic recovery that has been announced and the bubbly has been flowing. They might want to leave the EU but, they still import more champagne than any other country.
"A broad-based tax cut, for example, accommodated by a program of open-market purchases to alleviate any tendency for interest rates to increase, would almost certainly be an effective stimulant to consumption and hence to prices. Even if households decided not to increase consumption but instead re-balanced their portfolios by using their extra cash to acquire real and financial assets, the resulting increase in asset values would lower the cost of capital and improve the balance sheet positions of potential borrowers. A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money ."
- Ben Bernanke, Deflation: Making Sure "It" Doesn't Happen Here, November 21, 2002
Much to the amazement of doom-and-gloomers, everything's been fixed and as a result, everything's great. The list is impressive: China: fixed. Japan: fixed. Europe: fixed. U.S. healthcare: fixed. Africa: fixed. Mideast: well, not fixed, but no worse than a month ago, and that qualifies as fixed. Doom and gloomers have been wrong, just like Paul Krugman said. The solution to every problem is at hand: create more money and credit, in ever larger sums, until a tsunami of cash washes away all difficulties. Let's scroll through a brief summary of everything that's been fixed.
Policy officials believe that growth and inflation would fix the problem of large debts, but growth fueled by public spending that is financed by debt or central banks is not sustainable. Like most Ponzi schemes, it doesn’t end well. Reducing total debt was always a better solution, but it would have resulted in even slower economic activity and lower living standards. However, in the long run, the system would have been purged of unsustainable excesses. ‘Short term pain’ for ‘long term gain’ is often shunned for fear of electoral defeat and lobby group pressure. Now, we are stuck with financial repression. Investment is being directed toward funding the public sector. Policy rewards debtors over creditors. Such policy cannot go on forever. In reality, “unlimited” rarely means unlimited, because imbalances become too great. The Fed’s current quagmire has aspects resembling the Triffin Dilemma. The recent adverse spillover from Fed policies in emerging market economies and currencies may be the first hint of cracks in the global monetary system. At a minimum, foreign central banks have deviated from good policy in order to prevent sharp destabilizing fluctuations in the value of their currencies and to arrest volatile inflows and outflows of capital.
In the first three parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of this disheartening look back at a century of central banking, income taxing, military warring, energy depleting and political corrupting, we made a case for why we are in the midst of a financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse. In this final installment we’ll give our best estimate as to what happens next. There are so many variables involved that it is impossible to predict the exact path to our world’s end. Many people don’t want to hear about the intractable issues or the true reasons for our predicament. They want easy button solutions. They want someone or something to fix their problems. They pray for a technological miracle to save them from decades of irrational myopic decisions. As the domino-like collapse worsens, the feeble minded populace becomes more susceptible to the false promises of tyrants and psychopaths. Anyone who denies we are in the midst of an ongoing Crisis that will lead to a collapse of the system as we know it is either a card carrying member of the corrupt establishment, dependent upon the oligarchs for their living, or just one of the willfully ignorant ostriches who choose to put their heads in the sand and hum the Star Spangled Banner as they choose obliviousness to awareness. Thinking is hard. Feeling and believing a storyline is easy.
- Hedge Funds Cut Back on Fees (WSJ) as we predicted would happen in May
- Syria's Assad denies chemical weapons use; U.S. presses case for strike (Reuters)
- Unemployment Falling for Wrong Reason Creates Fed Predicament (BBG)
- U.S. tapped into networks of Google, Petrobras, others (Reuters)
- Chinese Zombies Emerging After Years of Solar Subsidies (BBG)
- Monte Paschi doubles planned capital hike to 2.5 billion euros (Reuters)
- Loan Size to Be Cut for Fannie, Freddie (WSJ)
- Japan Growth Revision Opens Door to Sales Tax Rise (FT)
- Inside the End of the U.S. Bid to Punish Lehman Executives (NYT)
- Financial Crisis: Lessons of the Rescue, A Drama in Five Acts (WSJ)
- Time Warner Joins IBM in Health Shift for Retirees (WSJ)
- Mideast Derails Key Issues in Congress (WSJ)
Emerging markets’ currencies are crashing, and their central banks are busy tightening policy, trying to stabilize their countries’ financial markets. Who is to blame for this state of affairs? The cause of this state of affairs, in one word, is austerity. Weak demand in Europe is the real reason why emerging markets’ current accounts deteriorated (and, with the exception of China, swung into deficit). Thus, if anything, emerging-market leaders should have complained about European austerity, not about US quantitative easing. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s talk of “tapering” quantitative easing might have triggered the current bout of instability; but emerging markets’ underlying vulnerability was made in Europe.