Ronald Reagan would be turning in his grave, wouldn’t he? In what became known as the most anti-communist speech of all time given by Reagan in 1987 on the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), the former President of the United States of America said that the Soviet Union was the ‘evil empire’.
“The Federal Reserve, any central bank, should not be asked to do too much to undertake responsibilities that it cannot responsibly meet with its appropriately limited powers,” Volcker said. He said a central bank’s basic responsibility is for a “stable currency.” “Credibility is an enormous asset,” Volcker said. “Once earned, it must not be frittered away by yielding to the notion that a little inflation right now is a good a thing, a good thing to release animal spirits and to pep up investment.” “The implicit assumption behind that siren call must be that the inflation rate can be manipulated to reach economic objectives,” according to Volcker. “Up today, maybe a little more tomorrow and then pulled back on command. Good luck in that. All experience demonstrates that inflation, when fairly and deliberately started, is hard to control and reverse.”
To an extent that reveals a thorough misunderstanding of the market forces, the financial media has failed to consider the different motivations and beliefs that drive the different types of investors who are active in the gold market. By treating the gold market as if it were comprised of just one type of investor, analysts have drawn false conclusions about the recent volatility.
A week later and everyone is a bit more nervous, with the speculation that US sovereign debt purchases by the Federal Reserve will wind down and with the Bank of Japan completely cornered. In anticipation to the debate on the Fed’s bond purchase tapering, on April 28th (see here) we wrote why the Federal Reserve cannot exit Quantitative Easing: Any tightening must be preceded by a change in policy that addresses fiscal deficits. It has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment or activity levels. Furthermore, it will require international coordination. This is also not possible. In light of this, we are now beginning to see research that incorporates the problem of future higher inflation to the valuation of different asset classes. Why is this relevant? The gap between current valuations in the capital markets (both debt and credit) and the weak activity data releases could mistakenly be interpreted as a reflection of the collective expectation of an imminent recovery. The question therefore is: Can inflation bring a recovery? Can inflation positively affect valuations? The answer, as explained below, is that the inflationary policies carried out globally today, if successful will have a considerably negative impact on economic growth.
Is the coming financial collapse going to be inflationary or deflationary? Are we headed for rampant inflation or crippling deflation? This is a subject that is hotly debated by economists all over the country. Some insist that the wild money printing that the Federal Reserve is doing combined with out of control government spending will eventually result in hyperinflation. Others point to all of the deflationary factors in our economy and argue that we will experience tremendous deflation when the bubble economy that we are currently living in bursts. So what is the truth? Well, for the reasons listed below, we believe that we will see both.
Inflation is hot property today, hyperinflation is even hotter! We think we are modern, contemporary, smart and ready to deal with anything. We’ve got that seen-it-all-before, been-there-done-it attitude. But, we are not a patch on what some countries have been through in the worst cases of hyperinflation in history.
Unless there's a shock to the system when people start seeking safety, there's not much upside momentum for gold.
As virtual fantasy worlds go, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 is particularly foreboding. Within this fairly straightforward gaming framework, virtual “gold” is used as currency for purchasing weapons and repairing battle damage. Over time, virtual gold can be used to purchase ever-more resources for confronting ever-more dangerous foes. But in the last few months, various outposts in that world have borne more in common with real world places like Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 or Berlin in 1923 than with Dante’s Inferno. A culmination of a series of unanticipated circumstances has over the last few weeks produced a new and unforeseen dimension of hellishness within Diablo 3: hyperinflation. Considering the level of planning that goes into designing and maintaining virtual gaming environments, if a small, straightforward economy generating detailed, timely economic data for its managers can careen so completely aslant in a matter of months, should anyone be surprised when the performance of central banks consistently breeds results which are either ineffective or destabilizing? The Austrian School has long warned of the arrogance and naïveté intrinsic to applying rigid, quantitative measures to the deductive study of human actions and the events of the last week provide a stark reminder of the power and inescapability of the laws of economics.
In August of 2011, Argentina’s government slowly began to implement a series of actions destined to curtail the right of citizens to access US dollars (foreign exchange in general). The goal was and is to force savings into pesos, as pesos are after the taxable asset in a country that cannot access capital markets and fully monetizes its deficits. From that moment onward physical US dollars started to trade at a premium. First-hand experience on the ground in Patagonia confirm the irreversible damage caused by interventionist policies: Widespread poverty, abandoned infrastructure, scarcity of consumer goods, unseen unemployment and criminality, and the madness of hedging against inflation with the purchase of new cars. The streets of any forgotten small town in Patagonia are filled with brand new 4×4 vehicles that would be the envy of many in North America. We can now see that the sustainability of the manipulation in a segmented/broken foreign exchange market causes a negative carry, which would create a quasi-fiscal deficit in Argentina (i.e. the deficit of the Banco Central), fully opening the gates to hyperinflation.
With the shadow (or blue) market for Argentina Pesos already devalued by an incredible 50%, it is little surprise that the population is bidding for any store of value. Demand for luxury cars is soaring (BMW sales up 30% in the last 20 months) and Bitcoin activity is often discussed as the population transfer increasingly worthless Pesos into a fungible "currency" or domestic CPI protection; but it is USD that are the most-cherished item (despite a ban on buying USD) as hyperinflation hedges. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, a lot of US Dollar bills are tucked away somewhere in Argentina (in stacks of $100 bills since the number in circulation has risen from 58% of the total to 62% since 2008). One table is a 2012 Fed paper on demand abroad for US currency shows net inflows to Russia and Argentina has increased by 500% since 2006 (compared to US demand up around 10%). In fact, demand for large dollar transfers to Argentina since 2006 has outstripped demand for dollar cash overall in the world. It is safe to surmise from the data (that is relatively well guarded by the government) that over $50bn is being hoarded in Argentina (or well over one in every fifteen dollars). It is little wonder that the government is furiously digging at the country's undeclared (stashed under the mattress) wealth.
So, apparently, according to Jon Hilsenrath, "QE to Infinity" is actually "finite" after all. There is no doubt that the Federal Reserve will do everything in its power to try and "talk" the markets down and "signal" policy changes well in advance of actual action. However, that is unlikely to matter. The problem with the financial markets today is the speed at which things occur. High frequency trading, algorithmic programs, program trading combined with market participant's "herd mentality" is not influenced by actions but rather by perception. As stated above, with margin debt at historically high levels when the "herd" begins to turn it will not be a slow and methodical process but rather a stampede with little regard to valuation or fundamental measures. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is "no bubble" in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control. Of course, that is what we heard at the peak of the markets in 2000 and 2008 just before the "race for the door." This time will be no different.
Given the global central banker's determination to stop prices falling, worries that the outlook is deflationary are unlikely to be realised. In the main this is the view of neoclassical economists, Keynesians and monetarists, who generally foresee a 1930s-style slump unless the economy is stimulated out of it. So successful was the Fed leading other central banks to save the world in 2009 that the precedent is established: if things take a turn for the worse or a systemically important financial institution looks like failing, Superman Ben and his cohort of central bankers will save us all again. Call it kryptonite, or failing animal spirits if you like. It is closer to the truth to understand we are witnessing the early stages of erosion of confidence in government and ultimately its paper money. Ordinary people are finally beginning to suspect this, signalled by the world-wide rush into precious metals last month.
After reading the Spiegel article below, which reveals so much about German thinking, it becomes very clear that not only is Cyprus the "benchmark", but that the second some other PIIG country runs into trouble again, and its soaring non-performing loans inevitably demand a liability "resolution" a la Cyprus, it will be Germany once again at the helm, demanding more of the same equity, unsecured debt and ultimately depositor impairment. As the following punchline from Spiegel summarizes, "It would be more sensible -- and fairer -- for the crisis-ridden countries to exercise their own power to reduce their debts, namely by reaching for the assets of their citizens more than they have so far. As the most recent ECB study shows, there is certainly enough money available to do this." And that is the crux of the wealth-disparity demand of the European Disunion.
The state of Arizona may become the second state to use gold and silver coins as legal tender. Last week, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that makes precious metals legal tender. Arizona is the second state after Utah to allow gold coins created by the U.S. Mint and private mints to be used as currency. Utah has had the law on the books for the past 2 years and is working on a system for using the precious metals as currency. The Arizona Senate Bill 1439 would allow the holder of gold or silver coins or bullion to pay a debt. However, the coins must be issued by the U.S. government or approved by a court, like an American Eagle Coin. Oddly the government does not require that persons or business must use or accept gold or silver as legal tender in contravention of the U.S. Constitution. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Chester Crandell, would need a final state Senate vote after approval by the House, and if passed the law would not take effect until 2014. Crandell said, "The whole thing came from constituents".
The fleecing of the American public continues. The theft takes different forms, but it all serves one purpose — to transfer wealth from the average Joe to the crony corporatists and their political lackeys. Capitalism and free markets depend upon trust, integrity, property rights and the rule of law. Without these, there are no advantages to free markets. Nor are there any incentives to create wealth. Instead, an economy becomes little more than a massive plunder scheme where the powerful exploit the weak. No economic recovery is possible under such circumstances. Historians judge that it took Rome almost two hundred years to die. The US is in similar position. Unless you believe in the miracle of sovereign resurrection, the US is over. The coroner-historians have not pronounced death yet, but they, like with Rome, are behind the curve. This dead man too will eventually fall down.