For a while there, one might have been forgiven for believing that all was going to be well; that the recovery was V-shaped and the new-normal was nothing but the old-normal and Goldilocks would reappear. It appears, however, that the central bank lipstick slapped on the deflationary pig of the over-levered global economy is starting to wear off. As the following 4 charts show, things are not as 'recovering' as many hoped (and still hope).
If you don’t collapse the system, the system will collapse you.
These photos illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of fiat (paper) money. Why do we prefer the $100 greenback over the $100 trillion note issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe? The purchasing power of the Benjamin far exceeds the purchasing power of the $100 trillion bill. But the Benjamin is not immune to inflation; the dollar has lost about 95% of its 1900 purchasing power. If 95% of households are experiencing a loss of purchasing power and most of the new money and credit are flowing to the top 5%, you get asset bubbles, not demand-driven inflation. When 95% of the households are poorer in terms of purchasing power and financial wealth, where can demand-driven inflation arise in a global economy of massive manufacturing and labor over-capacity? The rise in costs within industries controlled by cartels (healthcare, higher education, defense, etc.) may look like demand-driven inflation, but are actually transfers of wealth and purchasing power from households to the government-protected cartels.
We all know what's supposed to happen in the global economy: we get more of everything: more stuff manufactured, more coal dug up and burned, more "aggregate demand" i.e. insatiable desire for more of everything, more innovation, more wealth, more money printed, more debt taken on to buy more stuff and more education, more tourists occupying more beaches sipping more drinks, more strip malls built, more airports expanded, more jobs created, more taxes collected-- more "growth" of everything, in every way and every day. But what if this baseline scenario doesn't appear and the center cannot hold, and the Status Quo devolves - there will be less of everything, not more, and a gradual but steady erosion of all "growth" baselines: fewer jobs, lower wages, fewer taxes collected, less profits, fewer retail outlets. In this case, printing more money and spewing more reassuring propaganda will no longer tamp down the crisis. Rather, the failure of these Status Quo responses will unleash an even more destabilizing crisis.
The Troika has run roughshod over the rule of law. By calling for a universal bail-in of depositors (the securest part of bank capital ladder) before extracting money from shareholders, junior and subordinated bondholders, the EU bureaucrats and IMF have unilaterally ripped up the legal framework for property rights. This is a truly worrying and frightening progression – actually regression – in economic freedom. Unfortunately bank depositors (savers) have long been under the misguided impression that they are potentially immune from a bank collapse, with the State providing a safety net in the form of deposit guarantees up to a declared sum. I would argue that individuals, partly due to government propaganda in the good times, have long since forgotten – or indeed have never understood – that once you deposit your money into a bank, you give up your right to ownership, ie, It’s a LOAN! An asset which is lent out multiple times as is the agreed practice under fractional reserve banking, clearly has a risk of no return, albeit a seemingly a low risk when confidence and trust is high in the economic system... The bail-in announcement for the Cypriot banks late Friday night was one of those events when we all look back and think that was the beginning of the end of the real global financial crisis. This should leave any individual in Europe under no illusion that the political elite will enact whatever it deems fit to protect their positions in the name of the euro and their own positions of power.
Prior to yesterday, if you were trying to handicap how the unelected leaders of the Eurozone were going to react to a tough situation, you only had to refer to the quote "When it becomes serious, you have to lie" from Mr. Junker to understand their mindset. But so long as someone at the ECB was willing to flood the world with free EURs (with significant backup provided the US Federal Reserve) the market closed its eyes, held its breath and took the leap of faith that all was well. However, post the Cyprus decision, the curtain has been pulled back and wizard revealed with all his faults and warts. It would be hard to over-emphasize how significant the Cyprus situation is. The damage done here is not related to the size of the haircut - currently discussed between 3 and 13% - but rather that the legal language which each and every investor on the planet must rely on in order to maintain confidence in the system has been subordinated to the needs of the powerful elite.
Just a reminder: this time won't be different.
They didn't see it coming last time either. Back in 2007, President Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and just about every prominent voice in the financial world were all predicting that we would experience tremendous economic prosperity well into the future. In fact, as late as January 2008 Bernanke boldly declared that "the Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession." At the time, only the "doom and gloomers" were warning that everything was about to fall apart. And of course we all know what happened. But just a few short years later, history seems to be repeating itself. All of our "leaders" swear that everything is going to be okay. You can believe them if you want, but denial is not just a river in Egypt, and another crash is inevitably coming.
Why do I bring all of this up? Because it was China’s stimulus and China’s economy that supposedly lead the world back towards growth again. China is the proverbial canary in the coalmine, the economy that most quickly reveals what’s coming and where we’re all heading…
While chart analogs provide optically pleasing (and often far too shockingly correct) indications of the human herd tendencies towards fear and greed, a glance through the headlines and reporting of prior periods can provide just as much of a concerning 'analog' as any chart. In this case, while a picture can paint a thousand words; a thousand words may also paint the biggest picture of all. It seems, socially and empirically, it is never different this time as these 1936 Wall Street Journal archives read only too well... from devaluations lifting stocks to inflationary side-effects of money flow and from short-covering, money-on-the-sidelines, Jobs, Europe, low-volume ramps, BTFD, and profit-taking, to brokers advising stocks for the long-run before a 40% decline.
The markets have begun to wonder whether the Fed (and other central banks) will ever be able to exit from its Quantitative Easing policy. We believe there is only one reasonable exit the Fed can take. Rather than sell its portfolio of bonds or allow them to mature naturally, we believe the Fed’s only practical exit will be to increase the size of all other balance sheets in relation to its own. This “exit” will be part of a larger three-part strategy for resetting the over-leveraged global economy, already underway...
The key point being made in The Global Endgame is that the entire global economy is in the final stages of the "winter" cycle of credit destruction and collapse of phantom collateral. The key dynamics here are debt saturation and diminishing returns: piling on more debt (i.e. borrowing more money) to stimulate spending only leads to fantastic excesses of speculation and mal-investment: $70,000 biopsies, $200 million fighter aircraft, $200,000 bachelor's degrees, McMansions in the middle of nowhere, and so on. The central banks are attempting to nullify the cycle of credit expansion and destruction by buying much of the sovereign debt being issued by profligate, hopelessly insolvent governments. Is pushing consequence forward the same as eliminating consequence? We will find out at some point in the near future.
Presenting The Currence Crises, Devaluations And Regime Changes Since The Collapse Of The Gold StandardSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/11/2013 12:42 -0400
One of the often repeated "truisms" of modern economics, is that the advent of central banking, and the end of the gold standard ushered in a far more stable, safe and secure financial system. Facts notwithstanding (because hard as we try, we can't find a historic episode where the entire developed world had to coordinate to fund, guarantee and backstop a $30+ trillion global bail out - using even more money created out of thin air, i.e., debt - to prevent the nearly $1 quadrillion derivative complex from collapsing, not to mention the failure of every single modern financial institution, during the gold standard), the reality is just slightly different. As the following table from Bloomberg's Joseph Brusuelas shows, modern "stabilty" is certainly in the eye of the beholder, in this case manifesting itself in countless periods of uni- and multi-lateral currency devaluation, beggar thy neighbor, and currency, trade, and various other types of war.
China has become a key locomotive for global growth, in many ways taking over the role traditionally played by the United States in business cycles. It is now the world’s second largest economy, and has grown much faster than any other major economy over the past couple of decades. China’s role as a key driver of global growth brings with it increased scrutiny by investors and economists: a significant slowdown in China – never mind a collapse - would have significant implications for economies and financial markets around the world. This was most recently seen in 2012, when slower economic growth – fostered in large part by policy tightening to alleviate inflation pressures and structural imbalances – generated fears of a “hard landing” that served as a headwind to financial market performance for much of last year. Barclays' Beyond the Miracle series carefully analyzes the transition that China is undergoing from various perspectives, and also discusses the economic and financial market implications. It argues that China will successfully make the transition from ‘economic miracle’ to normal development in the next decade. But there is an important caveat: China must embark on a multi-pronged set of reforms if the country is to move to a slower, more sustainable growth rate that deemphasizes trade, construction and investment and instead places a greater weight on consumer spending as a source of growth. Everything you wanted (and need) to know about China but were afraid to ask...
First it was a sudden bout of tightening following a series of record liquidity withdrawing repos, then it was two disappointing PMIs, then it was a warning that China's property market is (as usual) overheating and major curbs were being implemented, then it was China's "state of the union" address in which the country trimmed substantially its outlook for the remainder of the year, predicting well below trendline economic growth, inflation and credit expansion, then we got an absolute collapse in Chinese imports indicating the domestic economy had gone into a state of if not shock then outright stasis, and finally overnight we got an update on China's retail sales and industrial output which both had their weakest combined start to a year since the global recession in 2009, leading Bloomberg to title its summary article, "China’s Economic Data Show Weakest Start Since 2009", and further adding that the data is now "adding to signs of a moderating rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy." Luckily, in the new batshit normal, who needs the fastest growing marginal economy: the weight of the growing world can obviously be dumped on the shoulders of the savings-less, part-time working US consumer, accountable for 70% of US GDP, and thus about 20% of the global economy. What can possibly go wrong?