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.
The US Presidential election has ended and the market is beginning to return to reality. And reality is not pretty...
Does China have what it takes to get from here (industrialized export economy) to there (sustainable growth, widespread prosperity)? The same can be asked of every nation: do they have what it takes to move beyond their current limitations to the next level? Consider corruption. Corruption isn't just a "values" issue: corrupt societies have corrupt economies, and these economies are severely limited by that corruption. A deeply, pervasively corrupt economy cannot get from here to there. Corruption acts as a "tax" on the economy, siphoning money from the productive to the parasitic unproductive Elites skimming the bribes, payoffs, protection money, unofficial "fees," etc. By definition, the money skimmed by corruption reduces the disposable income of households and enterprises, reducing their consumption and investment... Pull aside the curtain and what you find is a China crippled by corruption and debt.
- Greek Aid Payment Call Won’t Be Made Next Week, EU Official (Bloomberg)
- Eurozone faces brinkmanship on Greece (FT)
- Pressure Rises on Fiscal Crisis (WSJ)
- The JC Penney massacre continues (BBG) - In other news, any minute now Bill Ackman will get that 15x return...
- SEC left computers vulnerable to cyber attacks (Reuters) cue "back door Trojan" jokes
- Former Goldman trader accused of fraud (FT)
- Elizabeth Warren's Inadvertent Best Friends: Wall Street and Republicans (BusinessWeek)
- Zurbruegg Says Managing SNB Currency Reserves Is Major Challenge (BBG)
- Obama ally leads push on fiscal cliff (FT)
- Britain threatens to block banking union (FT)
- PBOC’s Zhou Says China’s Economy Improving as Data Due (Bloomberg)
- China slaps duties on steel tube imports (FT)
- Obama to Make Statement on Economic Growth, Cutting Deficit (Bloomberg)
And why not with her on top of the heap?
While there was clarity in the recent election results - there will not be any impending vote recounts that would leave control of the country hanging in the balance - Tuesday night’s results did nothing to change the basic dysfunctional dynamic between the two political parties. Now the fiscal cliff will have to be addressed in the coming lame duck session, and it won’t be easy to find a solution... Victory guarantees the president nothing more than the headache of building consensus in a gridlocked capital on behalf of a polarized public, that has become tired of struggling with heightened uncertainty. In Abe Gulkowitz's latest 'The Punchline' note below, reiterates his concerns regarding the growing gulf between the behavior of investors enamored with monetary largess and the realities on the ground of globally weak economies... Add the risk of more corporate-earnings disappointments and we have a situation that needs remedying. His 17-page one-stop-shop of unvarnish everything everywhere truthiness is a must-read.
The people have spoken and President Obama will serve another four years presiding over the United States. Furthermore, there is very little change to the makeup of the House and the Senate, which leaves the Administration in the same battle for control as it was prior to the election. The question now is what will the next four years look like economically? The amount of debt required today to create a single dollars' worth of GDP today is clearly unsustainable. However, the current Administration has been increasing Federal debt at a run rate of more than $1.2 Trillion annually to date. The understanding of the impact of increasing debt on economic growth is crucially important to understand. Overall, the set up going forward looks like it has in the past couple of years. It is unlikely that Obama will move to the center and be more of a politician with the best interest of the economy at heart. It is also just as unlikely that the Republicans will back down and begin to cooperate with the Senate. However, the weight of evidence is stacked in favor of "more of the same" which means less for you and me.
It is not going to be a new government that necessarily ushers in a whole new era of growth, prosperity and confidence. Even under the revered Ronald Reagan, the period of secular growth and bull market activity took two years to unfold — it didn't happen right away. It took the inflationary excesses to be wrung out of the system and concrete signs that the executive and legislative branches could work together to usher in true fiscal reform — and to get blue Democrats on board with reduced top marginal tax rates. Hope isn't generally a very useful strategy, but there is reason to be hopeful nonetheless. The critical issue is going to be how we get Washington to move back to the middle where it belongs. This requires bipartisanship which in turn requires leadership. Reagan's whole eight-year tenure in the 1980s occurred with the House being in Democrat hands the whole way through. Bill Clinton's second term coincided with both the House and Senate controlled by the Republicans.
It can be done!
With this in mind, the best that can happen is a Reaganesque and Clintonesque return to compromise on the road to fiscal reform. It will be painful. We all know it will be painful.