The present global financial ‘crisis’ began in 2007-8. It is not nearly over. And that simple fact is a problem. Not because of the life-choking misery it inflicts on the lives of millions who had no part in its creation, but because the chances of another crisis beginning before this one ends, is increasing. What ‘tools’ - those famous tools the central bankers are always telling us they have – will our dear leaders use to tackle a new crisis when all those tools are already being used to little or no positive effect on this one?
With the Fed unleashing its bubble-watchers last week, on the heels of warnings from the Central Bankers' Central Bank (BIS), The IMF has decided it is time to chirp in. As Mises' David Howden notes, after promoting QE for years (see here and here), the IMF is finally coming to realize what has been apparent for years now to almost everyone who doesn’t work for the Fed or the IMF: that low interest rates encourage risky decisions.The IMF warns, "financial market indicators suggested investor bets funded with borrowed money looked 'excessive' and that markets could quickly deflate if there were surprises in U.S. monetary policy or the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East."
"[A] crash is coming, and it may be terrific... The vicious circle will get in full swing and the result will be a serious business depression. There may be a stampede for selling which will exceed anything that the Stock Exchange has ever witnessed. Wise are those investors who now get out of debt."
A look at new arguments suggesting that globalization is fragmenting. Are they really new? Are they true?
As always, the bottom line is about leverage and bargaining power. It is here that, miraculously, things once again devolve back to, drumroll, oil, and the fact that an independent Scotland would keep 90% of the oil revenues! As we showed several days ago, Scotland's oil may be the single biggest wildcard in the entire Independence movement. It is this oil that as SocGen's Albert Edwards shows earlier this morning, is what gives Scotland all the leverage.
Generally since 1999, and especially since 2008, the financial world has been dominated by Keynesian lunacy. Collectively, Central Banks have cut interest rates over 500 times and printed more than $12 trillion combating a brief 9-12 month period of deflation.
What’s the easiest way to make a 500x return on investment?
CNBC’s long-running “jobs Friday” fetish is getting downright appalling. Each month the BLS puts out a treasure trove of data on the rich and complex mosaic of the US labor market - a download that embodies a truly frightening trend of economic failure. Yet the clowns who assemble in its screen boxes to opine on Hampton Pearson’s 30-second summary of the BLS release never have a clue. Namely, that outside of health and education there has not been one net new job created in the American economy since July 2000! Yes, not a single new jo - as in none, nein, nichts, nada, zip! The point here, however, is about economics, not social worth. And in the realm of economics, the notion implicit in “jobs Friday” - that all jobs are created equal - is simply a fatuous shibboleth.
The term “jobless recovery” is itself an oxymoron since the main function of any economic advance is to broaden participation. Thus a “jobless recovery” is nothing of the sort, indicating more so the re-arranging of numbers rather than full achievement – the hallmarks of redistribution.
As financialism spreads, so does disharmony, not just in function but in breaking correlations among economic accounts and statistics that were once seemingly so unconquerable.
Labor unions are a dying breed. According to the Pew Research Center, union membership in America “is at its lowest level since the Great Depression.” In 1983, there were approximately 17.7 million union workers. Today, that number stands at 14.5 million, with every estimate showing a continued downward trajectory. Clearly, the Norma Raes of the world are going extinct. But as Samuel Johnson quipped, one should never dismiss the triumph of hope over experience. With economic growth still staggering, the decline of union membership can’t come soon enough. Freed from the demands of overpaid bargainers, innovation and productivity inevitably rise. Increasing numbers of Americans are migrating to states with less strenuous union laws. When given a choice, workers go where the money is; not where there’s tough talk about bargaining rights. Ayn Rand had unions pegged best when she declared their purpose has never been to empower the average worker. “Unions and trade associations,” she wrote, “are not directed against employers or the public but against the best among their own members.” The goal has never been about “raising the weak in any way whatever, but simply forcing the strong down to the level of the moron.”
Here are some of the choice excerpts from the man who is baffled by a new effort to punish him, proud of past triumphs and incensed by criticism: “You’ll have to ask those people, ‘What do you have against Mozilo, what did he do?’” he said in a 30-minute call with Bloomberg News before Labor Day, one of his few interviews since the firm’s downfall. “Countrywide didn’t change. I didn’t change. The world changed.” Mozilo doesn’t understand why he and his firm, blamed by lawmakers and authorities for lax underwriting and predatory lending, have been seen as villains. “No, no, no, we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said, adding that a real estate collapse was the root of the crisis. “Countrywide or Mozilo didn’t cause any of that.” Yes, the Moz talks about himself in the third person.
That 4% market correction was quick and virtually painless. Not missing a beat after the market briefly tested 1900, the dip buyers came roaring back - gunning for the 2000 marker on the S&P 500, confident that longs were not selling and that shorts had long ago been obliterated. Needless to say, bubblevision had its banners ready to crawl triumphantly across the screen. When the algos finally did print the magic 2000 number, it represented a 200% gain from the March 2009 lows. And to complete the symmetry, the S&P 500 thereby clocked in at exactly 20X LTM reported earnings based on consistent historical pension accounting. The bulls said not to worry because the market is still “cheap” - like it always is, until it isn’t. To be sure, the Fed is a serial bubble machine. But even it cannot defy economic gravity indefinitely.
From Arab Spring-related uprisings in Libya or Egypt, to a civil war in Syria and now violence in Iraq and the Ukraine, geopolitics are impacting oil. True, geopolitical risk measured by combat deaths does not always correlate well with market volatility. But wars and conflict are easy to spot on an oil price series. With combat deaths rising four fold in the last 10 years, oil markets should prepare for more turmoil. BofA 's Francisco Blanch asks "Can the US preserve geopolitical stability?" America still takes up 38% of global military spending, but appetite for foreign adventures has been low. As an example, a drop in US combat deaths in recent years has been mirrored by a rise elsewhere. Following a drop to multi-decade lows, implied vol in long dated oil options at 15% looks cheap. Oil after US hegemony may not be as steady.
"We seem to be headed for such a fateful turn. We are approaching a serious turning point that may reshape the world as did 1932 following the economic trend of the Great Depression. We are witnessing the collapse of democracy."