Oil and other commodity prices have recently been dropping. Is this good news, or bad? Many people have the impression that falling oil prices mean that the cost of production is falling, and thus that the feared "peak oil" is far in the distance. This is not the correct interpretation, especially when many types of commodities are decreasing in price at the same time. We would argue that falling commodity prices are bad news. It likely means that the debt bubble which has been holding up the world economy for a very long time – since World War II, at least – is failing to expand sufficiently. If the debt bubble collapses, we will be in huge difficulty.
Back in 1930, Keynes looked out into the future and saw that with the proper management of the economy, monetary policy and the like, the world could attain a type of utopian stasis: Keynes expected growth to come to an end within two to three generations, and the economy to plateau. He referred to this imaginary state of equilibrium as "bliss," noting “thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem - how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well." However, Keynes did say this would happen if mankind avoided any calamitous wars and if there was no appreciable increase in population. Two more flawed base assumptions there could not have been.
Ever wonder why for the US, it is all about reflating the stock market bubble in order to boost the "wealth effect", if only for a small portion of the population? Or, for that matter, why in China where the Shanghai Composite has gone absolutely nowhere since the Lehman crash (and certainly isn't up some 200% unlike the liquidity-supercharged S&P 500), it is all about preserving the sanctity of the housing bubble? Then the following chart should make it all clear.
Given that all the leading candidates for Global Hegemon are hastening down paths of self-destruction, perhaps there will be no global hegemon dominating the 21st century.
While the rest of the world is focused on what any given "developed" (or Chinese) central bank will do to continue the relentless liquidity-driven rally to new record highs, China has bigger problems as it continues to scramble in its attempts to figure out how to halt the slow motion housing crash that has now firmly gripped the nation. So firmly, that according to overnight data from the National Bureau of Statistics, monthly house prices dropped in some 68 of 70 tracked cities, the most in over three years, since January 2011 when the government changed the way it compiles the data.
During the FOMC pregame show, they punctually trotted out Johnny Waterboy Hilsenrath via SpreeCast, the sparkling new-media darling interactive webcast platform, to serve up another fresh jug of spiked reinvigorating Gatorade to his favorite NY Stock Market team.
China may need to expand its goalseek template to include the other far more important measure of Chinese economic activity, such as Industrial production, retail sales, fixed investment, and even more importantly - such key output indicators as Cement, Steel and Electricity, because based on numbers released overnight, the Q2 Chinese recovery is now history (as the credit impulse of the most recent PBOC generosity has faded, something we have discussed in the past), and the economy has ground to the biggest crawl it has experienced since the Lehman crash. What's worse, and what we predicted would happen when we observed the collapse in Chinese commodity prices ten days ago, capex, i.e. fixed investment, grew at the slowest pace in the 21st century: the number of 16.5% was the lowest since 2001, and suggests that the commodity deflation problem is only going to get worse from here.
UPDATE:*BARCELONA POLICE SAY 1.8M PEOPLE AT PRO-INDEPENDENCE DEMO
The Spanish government is militarizing, gearing up for violent protests against the EU that are expected to turn up before a hot autumn. Spain is now equipping the police with over one billion million euros with new combat equipment. Opposition leader Antonio Trevin called the purchase therefore “a return to the times we would rather forget.” The Interior Ministry has responded merely justifying their rearming as necessary - “because of the current social dynamics”, reports the Guardian. Simply put, Spain is moving toward civil war.
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.
At the end of the day, everything the Fed has done has been focused on propping up a broken system. Eventually the Fed’s efforts will fail at which point so will the Fed (just as the last two Central Banks in the US failed).
We believe independence terrifies some people because it requires a human being to challenge the unknown and take responsibility for the consequences if he fails. Followers trade in their mental and spiritual freedom to governments, oligarchs and gatekeepers so that they never have to face these difficulties. Sometimes, they are simply lazy. Sometimes, they lack confidence in their own abilities. Sometimes, they are just cowards. In any case, the result is the same: a life of relative ease riding the tides in a vast school of self-serving minnows but always prey to the ever circling sharks. We say don’t be a minnow; man-up, and build something of your own.
Although I never thought it was possible, it makes me angry to write this book review. I'm not angry because I don't like the book. On the contrary, this is the best economics book I've ever read. Indeed, it may be the best and most influential book I've ever read in my life. I only wish I had read it the moment it was published in April 2013.
I was looking at the entire history of the volatility index (the oft-cited "VIX') and found an interesting parallel.
How do we know when an asset class is in a bubble? When everyone who stands to benefit from the continuation of the expansion declares it can't be a bubble.
There rarely seems to be a “reason” for why market crashes happen. Market observers are e.g. debating to this day what actually “caused” the crash of 1987. It is in the nature of the beast that once liquidity evaporates sufficiently that not all bubble activities can be sustained at once any longer, bids begin to become scarce in one market segment after another. Eventually, they can disappear altogether – and sellers suddenly find they are selling into a vacuum. Once this happens, the usual sequence of margin calls and forced selling does the rest. Risk premiums normalize abruptly, and there doesn't need to be an obvious reason for this to happen. Compressed risk premiums can never be sustained “forever”.