Heading into the North American open, European equity futures are trading lower, with comments from Fitch’s Riley, who suggested that the ECB must do more to prevent cataclysmic EURO collapse, causing the most recent bout of risk averse sentiment. As a result, major FX pairs are trading lower, with EUR/USD testing 1.2700, while GBP/USD fell through 1.5400 level. Looking elsewhere, apart from being buoyed by Fitch comments, German Bunds benefited from a well received German Bobl auction. Of note, European bond yield spreads are predominantly tighter for the time being, with analysts noting buying of Spanish and Italian paper by domestic and real money account names. Finally, there is little in terms of macro-economic data and instead the attention will be on the publication of various EU related economic outlooks and the US Treasury is set to sell USD 21bln in 10-y notes.
Nearly 10-years ago to the day, the government of Argentina collapsed. Beset by weighty deficit spending and a completely unrealistic currency peg to the US dollar, Argentina became the poster child for the golden rule of economics: ‘that which is unsustainable will not be sustained.’ It’s reversion to the mean. Within a matter of days, the country had burned through several presidents, the currency collapsed, inflation soared, unemployment shot up, crime rates spiked, and the government defaulted on its debt. After limping along for most of the last decade with a socialist agenda, the government of Argentina is at it again. The economy is rapidly deteriorating, and street-inflation has surpassed 25%.
One of the recurring analogues we have used in the past to describe the centrally planned farce that capital markets have become and the global economy in general has been one of a increasingly chaotic sine wave with ever greater amplitude and ever higher frequency (shorter wavelength). By definition, the greater the central intervention, the bigger the dampening or promoting effect, as central banks attempt to mute or enhance a given wave leg. As a result, each oscillation becomes ever more acute, ever more chaotic, and increasingly more unpredictable. And with "Austrian" analytics becoming increasingly dominant, i.e., how much money on the margin is entering or leaving the closed monetary system at any given moment, the same analysis can be drawn out to the primary driver of virtually everything: the inflation-vs-deflation debate. This in turn is why we are increasingly convinced that as the system gets caught in an ever more rapid round trip scramble peak deflation to peak inflation (and vice versa) so the ever more desperate central planners will have no choice but to ultimately throw the kitchen sink at the massive deflationary problem - because after all it is their prerogative to spur inflation, and will do as at any cost - a process which will culminate with the only possible outcome: terminal currency debasement as the Chaotic monetary swings finally become uncontrollable. Ironically, the reason why bring this up is an essay by Pimco's Neel Kashkari titled simply enough: "Chaos Theory" which looks at unfolding events precisely in the very same light, and whose observations we agree with entirely. Furthermore, since he lays it out more coherently, we present it in its entirety below. His conclusion, especially as pertains to the ubiquitous inflation-deflation debate however, is worth nothing upfront: "I believe societies will in the end choose inflation because it is the less painful option for the largest number of its citizens. I am hopeful central banks will be effective in preventing runaway inflation. But it is going to be a long, bumpy journey until the destination becomes clear. This equity market is best for long-term investors who can withstand extended volatility. Day traders beware: chaos is here to stay for the foreseeable future." Unfortunately, we are far less optimistic that the very same central bankers who have blundered in virtually everything, will succeed this one time. But, for the sake of the status quo, one can hope...
Lesson to be learned - never be a small investor!
We have now entered the fifth year of this Fourth Turning Crisis. George Washington and his troops were barely holding on at Valley Forge during the fifth year of the American Revolution Fourth Turning. By year five of the Civil War Fourth Turning 700,000 Americans were dead, the South left in ruins, a President assassinated and a military victory attained that felt like defeat. By the fifth year of the Great Depression/World War II Fourth Turning, FDR’s New Deal was in place and Adolf Hitler had been democratically elected and was formulating big plans for his Third Reich. The insight from prior Fourth Turnings that applies to 2012 is that things will not improve. They call it a Crisis because the risk of calamity is constant. There is zero percent chance that 2012 will result in a recovery and return to normalcy. Not one of the issues that caused our economic collapse has been solved. The “solutions” implemented since 2008 have exacerbated the problems of debt, civic decay and global disorder. The choices we make as a nation in 2012 will determine the future course of this Fourth Turning. If we fail in our duty, this Fourth Turning could go catastrophically wrong. I pray we choose wisely. Have a great 2012.
A REAL “black swan event” - an event that deviates by 180 degrees from what is “normally expected” - would be a political debate over root causes and basic principles. The great merit of Ron Paul - and the great service he is giving to his own and every other nation - is the fact that he is doing everything he can to raise the debate to that level. That makes Dr Paul a unique politician, a man who tells people what most of them DON’T want to hear or understand. Or at least they don’t think they want to understand it. Dr Paul’s great and merited attractiveness to a growing number of admirers has a very simple source. He is that rarest of creatures - a FREE man. He is beholden to nobody. He has developed his ideas and his convictions over a long and fruitful life of independent thinking. He does not compromise. He homes in on the fundamental issue and principle of any political issue and serves it up without salt or other “seasoning”. He says what he means and he means what he says. He is the living embodiment of the “dream” that most Americans have long since given up on as they saw it slip further and further beyond their grasp.
Commodities such as copper have led the market for years; recently they've rolled over while the stock market surges higher. Once again, either historic correlations have been decisively severed or there is a gargantuan divergence that's about to be resolved. Sentiment readings are firmly in extreme bullish territory, but hey, maybe the market will reward the majority with a rally that feeds on rising complacency. And maybe the truism "volume is the weapon of the bull" is also voided, as low volume rallies may well lead to lower-volume rallies. The market has been acting as if all these signs are bullish. Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, the witches are cackling quietly over their bubbling brew, and it certainly sounds like some evil is being conjured up.
For anyone who still hasn't grasped the magnitude of the central planning intervention over the past four years, the following two charts should explain it all rather effectively. As the bottom chart shows, currently the central banks of the top three developed world entities: the Eurozone, the US and Japan have balance sheets that amount to roughly $8 trillion. This is more than double the combined total notional in 2007. More importantly, these banks assets (and by implication liabilities, as virtually none of them have any notable capital or equity) combined represent a whopping 25% of their host GDP, which just so happen are virtually all the countries that form the Developed world (with the exception of the UK). Which allows us to conclude several things. First, the rapid expansion in balance sheets was conducted primarily to monetize various assets, in the process lifting stock markets, but just as importantly, to find a natural buyer of sovereign paper (in the case of the Fed) and/or guarantee and backstop the existence of banks which could then in turn purchase sovereign debt on their own balance sheet (monetization once removed coupled with outright sterilized asset purchases as is the case of the ECB). And in this day and age of failed economic experiments when a dollar of debt buys just less than a dollar of GDP (there is a reason why the 100% debt/GDP barrier is so informative), it also means that central banks now implicitly account for up to 25% of developed world GDP!
Those attempting to pressure Iran by increasing "tensions" and thus the price of oil have it precisely backwards. The one sure way to fatally destabilize the Iranian theocracy is to adjust the demand and supply of oil so the price plummets (as it did in December 2008) to $25/barrel, and stays there for at least six months. It has been estimated that the Iranian theocracy cannot fund its bloated bureaucracies, military and its welfare state if oil falls below around $40-$45/barrel. Drop oil to $25/barrel and keep it there, and the Iranian regime will implode, along with the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Saber-rattling actually aids the Iranian regime by artificially injecting a "disruptive war" premium into the price of oil: they can make the same profits from fewer barrels of oil. The way to put them out of business is drop the price of oil and restrict their sales by whatever means are available. They will be selling fewer barrels and getting less than production costs for those barrels. With no income, the regime will face the wrath of a people who have become dependent on the State for their sustenance and subsidized fuel. How do you drop oil to $25/barrel? Easy: stop saber-rattling in the mideast and engineer a massive global recession with a side order of low-level trade war. Though you wouldn't know it from the high price of oil, the world is awash in oil; storage facilities are full, and production has actually increased a bit in North America.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the Japanese experience with deleveraging over the past few decades it’s that deleveraging cycles have there own special rhythm of reflationary and deflationary interludes. Pretty simple thinking as balance sheet deleveraging by definition cannot be a short term process given the prior decades required to build up the leverage accumulated in any economic/financial system. If deleveraging were a short term process, it would play out as a massive short term depression. And clearly any central bank would act to disallow such an outcome, exactly has been the case not only in Japan over the last few decades, but now also in the US and the Eurozone. We just need to remember that this is a dance. There is an ebb and flow to the greater (generational) deleveraging cycle. Just as leveraging up was not a linear process, neither will the process of deleveraging be linear. Why bring this larger picture cycle rhythm up right now? The recent price volatility we’ve seen in assets that can be characterized as offering purchasing power protection within the context of a global central banking community debasing currencies as their preferred method of reflation for now, specifically recent the price volatility of gold.
Is idiosyncracy the substitute for a fledgling Sovereign Bond Market? Including our recommendations for 2012
There Is No Joy In Muddlethroughville: World's Biggest Hedge Fund Is Bearish For 2012 Through 2028, And Is Long GoldSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/02/2012 22:33 -0500
That Ray Dalio, famed head of the world's largest (and not one hit wonder unlike certain others) hedge fund has long been quite bearishly inclined has been no secret. For anyone who missed Dalio's must see interview (and transcript) with Charlie Rose we urge you to read this: "Dalio: "There Are No More Tools In The Tool Kit." For everyone who is too lazy to watch the whole thing, or read the transcript, the WSJ reminds us once again that going into 2012 Dalio's Bridgewater, which may as well rename itself Bearwater, has not changed its tune. In fact the CT hedge fund continues to see what we noted back in September is the greatest threat to the modern financial system: a debt overhang so large, at roughly $21 trillion, that one of 3 things will have to happen: a global debt restructuring/repudiation; global hyperinflation to inflate away this debt, or a one-time financial tax on all individuals amounting to roughly 30% of all wealth. That's pretty much it, at least according to mathematics. And according to Bridgewater. From the WSJ: "Bridgewater Associates has made big money for investors in recent years by staying bearish on much of the global economy. As the new year rings in, the hedge fund firm has no plans to change that gloomy view...What you have is a picture of broken economic systems that are operating on life support," Mr. Prince says. "We're in a secular deleveraging that will probably take 15 to 20 years to work through and we're just four years in." So basically scratch everything between 2012 and 2028? But, but, it was that paragon of investment insight Jim "Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept" O'Neill keeps telling us stocks will go up by 20%... stocks will go up by 20%....stocks will go up by 20%...