What Happened After Europe's Last Three Currency "Unions" Collapsed

It may come as a surprise to some of our younger readers, that the Eurozone, and its associated currency, is merely the latest in a long series of failed attempts to create a European currency union and a common currency. Three of the most notable predecessors to the EUR include the Hapsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Obviously, these no longer exist. Just as obvious, all of these unions, having spent time, energy, money, and effort to change the culture and traditions of member countries and to perpetuate said unions, had no desire, just like Brussels nowadays, to see these unions implode. The question then is: what happened after these multi-nation currency unions fails. VOX kindly answers: "they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation."

Guest Post: Will Bernanke Save The Equity Markets?

How far is the Fed from reaching the bottom of its ammunition box? Well, both Mario Draghi and Ben Bernanke said no to yet more monetary stimulus recently. Wall Street unsurprisingly was disappointed. Wall Street expected more stimulus, as institutional investors are analyzing monetary policy from their own perspective rather than the central bank's viewpoint – understandable, but a big mistake. Wall Street's Conundrum: with the S&P 500 up less than 7% in 2012, the year is almost over, and the investment firms have little to show for it.

Bernanke Just Assured That The Student Loan Bubble Will Be The Next "Financial Stability Issue"

"At this juncture . . . the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained" - Ben Bernanke, March 28, 2007

"I don’t think student loans are a financial stability issue to the same extent that, say, mortgage debt was in the last crisis because most of it is held not by financial institutions but by the federal government" - Ben Bernanke, August 7, 2012

Please mark your calendars accordingly as yesterday the Chairman just guaranteed that student loans will be cause for the next "financial stability issue."

The Fed's Gold Is Being Audited... By The US Treasury

When we started reading the LA Times article reporting that "the federal government has quietly been completing an audit of U.S. gold stored at the New York Fed" we couldn't help but wonder when the gotcha moment would appear. It was about 15 paragraphs in that we stumbled upon what we were waiting for: "The process involved about half a dozen employees of the Mint, the Treasury inspector general's office and the New York Fed. It was monitored by employees of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm." In other words the Fed's gold is being audited... by the Treasury. Now our history may be a little rusty, but as far as we can remember, the last time the Fed was actually independent of the Treasury then-president Harry Truman fired not one but two Fed Chairmen including both Thomas McCabe as well as the man after whom the Fed's current residence is named: Marriner Eccles, culminating with the Fed-Treasury "Accord" of March 3, 1951 which effectively fused the two entities into one - a quasi independent branch of the US government, which would do the bidding of its "political", who in turn has always been merely a proxy for wherever the money came from (historically, and primarily, from Wall Street), which can pretend it is a "private bank" yet which is entirely subjugated to the crony interests funding US politicians (more on that below). But in a nutshell, the irony of the Treasury auditing the fed is like asking Libor Trade A to confirm that Libor Trader B was not only "fixing" the Libor rate correctly and accurately, but that there is no champagne involved for anyone who could misrepresent it the best within the cabal of manipulation in which the Nash Equilibrium was for everyone to commit fraud.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock Answers: Is Global Trade About To Collapse; And Where Are Oil Prices Headed?

As markets continue to yo-yo and commentators deliver mixed forecasts, investors are faced with some tough decisions and have a number of important questions that need answering. On a daily basis we are asked what’s happening with oil prices alongside questions on China’s slowdown, why global trade will collapse if Romney wins, why investors should get out of stocks, why the Eurozone is doomed, and why we need to get rid of fractional reserve lending. Answering these and more, Mike Shedlock's in-depth interview concludes: "The gold standard did one thing for sure. It limited trade imbalances. Once Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, the U.S. trade deficit soared (along with the exportation of manufacturing jobs). To fix the problems of the U.S. losing jobs to China, to South Korea, to India, and other places, we need to put a gold standard back in place, not enact tariffs."

The Reality Of The Rest Of Draghi's 'Believe-Me' Speech

While it is probably not surprising that so many decided to focus on those few words of relevance to an implicitly self-aggrandizing crowd of long-only risk-takers and commission-makers; the truth is that, as UBS notes, "Draghi was stating a fact, not changing a policy". Putting the fateful sentence in the context of the rest of his speech/interview is critical and most importantly, we agree with UBS' Justin Knight's opinion that Draghi did nothing more than make a technical observation on an impairment in monetary policy transmission (as we discussed here). Regardless, if our interpretation is correct, then the rally in peripheral bonds should unwind quickly. The size of the move probably has knocked many shorts out of the market.

Economic Countdown To The Olympics 3: A Winning FX Strategy

In part three of our five-part series tying the Olympics to economics (previously here and here), we note that in a rather surprising coincidence, the Olympics' host nation has been a rather simple tool to pick long-term 'winners' in the FX market. As Goldman points out, while we doubt that the Olympics directly affects the FX market, it has provided excellent long-term appreciation potential. We assume this means that the BoE will stop QE or we really don't see cable extending this performance record, though the findings suggest that systematically picking the 'next' host tends to pick winners more than losers.

China Aims To Be "Major Gold Trading Center" With Interbank Gold Trading

China has proposed to broaden trading of precious metals in its local market in order to help China become a "major gold trading centre" (see News). The Wall Street Journal was briefed about China's plans by "a person involved with the matter." The paper reports that "the move could increase liquidity and help Beijing gain stronger pricing power for key commodities like gold". China is the largest consumer and now the largest producer of gold in the world and has aspirations to become a major gold trading center on a par with London and New York. China is also the fifth largest holder of gold reserves in the world after the U.S., Germany, France, Italy. Chinese officials have spoken of China’s aspirations to have gold reserves as large as the U.S. in order to help position the yuan or renminbi as a global reserve currency. Indeed, it would be only natural for China to aspire to have their currency become the global reserve currency in the long term. In the longer term, being a major gold trading center would make China a more powerful financial and economic player and indeed could allow them to influence commodity and other important market prices. Indeed, Reuters reported that becoming a major gold trading center "would boost the country's clout in setting global prices".

UBS Issues Hyperinflation Warning For US And UK, Calls It Purely "A Fiscal Phenomenon"

From UBS: "We think that a creditor nation is less at risk of hyperinflation than a debtor nation, as a debtor nation relies not only on the confidence of domestic creditors, but also of foreign creditors. We therefore think that the hyperinflation risk to global investors is largest in the US and the UK. The more the fiscal situation deteriorates and the more central banks debase their currencies, the higher the risk of a loss of confidence in the future purchasing power of money. Indicators to watch in order to determine the risk of hyperinflation therefore pertain to the fiscal situation and monetary policy stance in high-deficit countries. Note that current government deficits and the current size of central bank balance sheets are not sufficient to indicate the sustainability of the fiscal or monetary policy stance and thus, the risk of hyperinflation. The fiscal situation can worsen without affecting the current fiscal deficit, for example when governments assume contingent liabilities of the banking system or when the economic outlook worsens unexpectedly. Similarly, the monetary policy stance can expand without affecting the size of the central bank balance sheet. This happens for example when central banks lower collateral requirements or monetary policy rates, in particular the interest rate paid on reserves deposited with the central bank. A significant deterioration of the fiscal situation or a significant expansion of the monetary policy stance in the large-deficit countries could lead us to increase the probability we assign to the risk of hyperinflation."

Gold Leading Equities Down As Bernanke Disappoints

Treasuries seemed to shrug off the QE-on trade from yesterday in the lead up to this morning's big disappointment from Bernanke. Gold lost it first and then as the statement came - with no mention of hyperinflation, helicopters, or new printers - so equities dumped - gapping down to converge with the rest of risk assets. The USD rallied as its cloests relative neighbor in disaster the EUR legged lower and the USD strength exaggerated commodity weakness further (Silver and Copper worst but all falling). ES is back to the post-ramp open on cliff on Friday at the magic 1340 level but momentum is not in its favor now and Treasury yields are reverting lower now also. Financials were the early laggards and have extended losses with GS back in the red and JPM down notably.

Guest Post: The First Spanish Cut

And so it begins...Last Friday the Spanish government published a proposal to cut government expenditure and raise taxes to reduce the fiscal deficit by 56.4billion euros by 2015.  I have outlined why austerity will not work in Europe, but it looks like this is a lesson Europeans will have to learn for themselves--for a second time.  The writing is on the wall in Ireland, who ailed in the same ways that Spain is currently ailing, but what Lord Merkel wants, Lord Merkel gets.  The immediate malaise from these austerity measures will be large-scale social unrest, which is already being planned by many of the 50% of the country's unemployed young people.  Regardless of one's stance on the economic merit of austerity, what is indisputable is that riots are real and riots do not end well.  With nothing to lose, this round of Spanish austerity protesting has the potential to end in catastrophe.

US Treasury Curve 1990-2012 In Its Full 3-D Glory: Redux

Just under two years ago, when we mocked then Morgan Stanley's analyst Jim Caron's call for a surge in long-dated yields on the back of an improvement in the economy (not something more realistic like the Fed losing all control of the TSY curve), we penned "Visualizing The Past Of The Treasury Yield Curve, And Deconstructing The Great Confusion Surrounding Its Future" in which we said that contrary to pervasive expectations of a bull steepener, the treasury curve would continue flattening more and more, until the whole thing would become one big pancake. Today, we have decided to revisit that post: in short - Jim Caron was fired by Morgan Stanley as head of rates following 3 consecutive years of bad calls starting in 2009 (only to be rehired in June as a Portfolio Manager... oops), while our view that sooner or later the 2s30s will be 0 bps is over one third complete.