Diapason Commodities' Sean Corrigan provides an insightful introduction to the critical importance of a market-set rate of interest and central banks' manipulated effect on the factors of production.
"Fixated with using their illusory ‘wealth effect’ to avoid a full realization of the losses we have all suffered in a boom very much of those same central bankers’ creation - or else cynically trying to achieve the same denial of reality by driving the income-poor into accepting utterly inappropriate levels of financial risk – they are destroying both the integrity and the signalling ability of those same capital markets which are the sine qua non of a free society."
As Ron Paul also confirms in the clip below "with artificial interest rates, we get an artificial economy driven by mal-investment leading to the inevitable bubbles" and while central banks hope for this 'created credit/money' to flow into productive means (Capex), instead it has (in today's case where QE is no longer working) created an investor-class demand for yield - implicitly driving management to forfeit growth-and-investment for buybacks-and-dividends.
This objective one-stop-shop report concisely summarizes the important macro events over the past week.
The question whether China will suffer a "hard" or "soft" landing is, in the long-term, largely irrelevant and misleading. A far more critical question is whether the period of 10%, or even 7% annual growth, for the world's biggest marginal growth dynamo of the past decade, is now over. Read on for the answer.
Hopes for an early recovery in the global economy may be overoptimistic, according to CLSA's Russel Napier, as he notes the expansion of China's reserves, which has been an engine of global economic growth, is about to come to a shuddering halt. As eFinancial News notes, Chinese reserves have decelerated dramatically over the last five years and are now close to zero. Napier said of the graph: "It is the most important chart in the world. The growth in Chinese reserves has determined all the key developments in financial markets in the last two decades. It printed lots of currency and artificially depressed the US yield curve. It has been the cornerstone of global growth, and now it's over."
Over the past year there have been many articles published about the decoupling of the U.S. economy from the the Eurozone. The belief was based on the simple fact that the Eurozone was facing a debt crisis, combined with austerity measures, which the U.S. would avoid. While there have been brief moments where the U.S. looked like it could stand on its own in the past - the drag from a global slowdown proved too strong to withstand. This time, as expected, appears to be no different.
Back in April, we did an extensive analysis of what, in our opinion, is the primary reason for the slow burn experienced by the US, and global economy, and why virtually every liquidity pathway used by central banks is hopeless clogged: the complete lack of capital expenditures at the corporate level, and lack of (re)investment spending. Specifically we said that in both the context of Japan's plunging corporate profitability over the past 30 years despite year after year of record budget deficits, and its implications everywhere else, that "we get back to what we have dubbed the primary cause of all of modern capitalism's problems: a dilapidated, aging, increasingly less cash flow generating asset base! Because absent massive Capital Expenditure reinvestment, the existing asset base has been amortized to the point of no return, and beyond. The problem is that as David Rosenberg pointed out earlier, companies are now forced to spend the bulk of their cash on dividend payouts, courtesy of ZIRP which has collapsed interest income. Which means far less cash left for SG&A, i.e., hiring workers, as temp workers is the best that the current "recovering" economy apparently can do. It also means far, far less cash for CapEx spending. Which ultimately means a plunging profit margin due to decrepit assets no longer performing at their peak levels, and in many cases far worse." Today, with the usual six month or so delay, this fundamental topic has finally made the mainstream media with a WSJ piece titled "Investment Falls Off a Cliff: U.S. Companies Cut Spending Plans Amid Fiscal and Economic Uncertainty."
The dollar rises for the same reason gold and grain rise: scarcity and demand. Which is easier to export: manufactured goods that require shipping ore and oil halfway around the world, smelting the ore into steel and turning the oil into plastics, laboriously fabricating real products and then shipping the finished manufactured goods to the U.S. where fierce pricing competition strips away much of the premium/profit? Or electronically printing money and exchanging it for real products, steel, oil, etc.? I think we can safely say that creating money out of thin air and "exporting" that is much easier than actually mining, extracting or manufacturing real goods. This astonishing exchange of conjured money for real goods is the heart of the "exorbitant privilege" that accrues to the issuer of the global reserve currency (U.S. dollar). To understand the reserve currency, we must understand Triffin's Paradox.
Together, the market and democracy are what we like to call "the system." The system has driven and enticed bankers and politicians to get the world into trouble. One of the side effects of the crisis is that all ideological shells have been incinerated. Truths about the rationality of markets and the symbiosis of market and democracy have gone up in flames. Is it possible that we are not experiencing a crisis, but rather a transformation of our economic system that feels like an unending crisis, and that waiting for it to end is hopeless? Is it possible that we are waiting for the world to conform to our worldview once again, but that it would be smarter to adjust our worldview to conform to the world? At first glance the world is stuck in a debt crisis; but, in fact, it is in the midst of a massive transformation process, a deep-seated change to our critical and debt-ridden system, which is suited to making us poor and destroying our prosperity, social security and democracy, and in the midst of an upheaval taking place behind the backs of those in charge. A great bet is underway, a poker game with stakes in the trillions, between those who are buying time with central bank money and believe that they can continue as before, and the others, who are afraid of the biggest credit bubble in history and are searching for ways out of capitalism based on borrowed money.
Kyle Bass, Larry Edelson, Charles Nenner, Jim Rogers and Marc Faber Predict Widespread War
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
Thomson Reuters GFMS has published research that says they project silver prices to rise 38% in 2013 from current levels, as a sluggish global economy increases safe haven demand. The bullish silver GFMS forecast was published on the Silver Institute website yesterday and is unusual as the GFMS have been quiet bearish on silver in recent years despite rising prices. Philip Klapwijk of GFMS said that “a rebound in investment demand stemming from continuing loose monetary policies is expected to drive silver prices towards and possibly over $50 during 2013.” Spot silver has risen over 17% this year overtaking gold’s 10% gain, and paving the way for its third consecutive rise in four years. "Strong investment demand, higher gold prices on the back of monetary easing, rising inflation expectations and the persistence of ultra-low interest rates," are among the factors that will lure buyers to the safety of silver,” said Philip Klapwijk of GFMS. "We are thinking prices will trend higher next year. I'm not convinced that we are going to $50. I think we will definitely see $40 to $45 prices."
Will Congress go over the fiscal cliff? Yes, we've been going for decades, really since the social unrest of the 1970s.
Whenever the case is made for a stronger U.S. dollar (USD), the feedback can be sorted into three basic reasons why the dollar will continue declining in value:
- The USD may gain relative to other currencies, but since all fiat currencies are declining against gold, it doesn’t mean that the USD is actually gaining value; in fact, all paper money is losing value.
- When the global financial system finally crashes, won’t that include the dollar?
- The Federal Reserve is “printing” (creating) money, and that will continue eroding the purchasing power of the USD. Lowering interest rates to zero has dropped the yield paid on Treasury bonds, which also weakens the dollar.
All of these objections are well-grounded. However, the price of gold is not consistently correlated to the monetary base, the trade-weighted dollar, or interest rates. We have seen interest rates leap to 16% and fall to near-zero; gold collapse, stagnate, and then quadruple; and the dollar gain and lose 30% of its trade-weighted value in a few years. None of these huge swings had any correlation to broad measures of domestic activity such as GDP. Clearly, interest rates occasionally (but not always) affect the value of the trade-weighted dollar, and the monetary base occasionally (but not always) affects the price of gold, but these appear to have little correlation to productivity, earnings, etc., or to each other. Gold appears to march to an independent drummer.
Farce #1: “Market value” and “free markets” have become a joke.
Farce #2: Private, self-assigned, fake value is being traded for public money at 100 cents on the dollar.
Farce #3: Printed money is backed by nothing.
Farce #4: We have a “free” enterprise system dominated by monopolies that force people to buy inferior goods and services at exorbitant rates.
Farce #5: High-level financial crimes, no matter how egregious or widespread, are not being prosecuted.
Farce #6: Risk is gone. Now there is only liability borne by citizens.
Farce #7: Productivity has been supplanted by parasitism.