International Monetary Fund
One of the key lessons we can take away from history is that the global financial system changes… frequently. Since the end of World War II, the US dollar has been the dominant currency in the world. And even though Richard Nixon ended the dollar’s convertability to gold and unilaterally abandoned the US government’s obligations under the Bretton Woods system back in 1971, the world has still clung to the dollar for the past 43-years. But this is changing rapidly...
While most understand that Ukraine owes Russia a few billion here or there for its energy bills that are past due, there is a more concerning issue. The Ukraine owes $3 billion to Russia in bonds that have been issued under UK law. One of the stipulations of the bonds is that if the Ukraine's debt-to-GDP ratio should exceed 60%, the bonds will become immediately callable. Once the Ukraine gets funding from the IMF, this is of course going to happen right away – its debt-to-GDP ratio will then most definitely exceed 60%, so the first $3 billion of any aid the Ukraine receives in the form of loans will right away flow into Russia's coffers. The American and European tax cows will no doubt be thrilled.
The Indian government has imposed a duty of ~11.3% on gold imports. Additionally, they have created bureaucratic complexities, including a requirement from gold importers to export 20% of their imports. The government claims that this has resulted in a serious drop in imports, something they wanted, given consistently high, unsustainable current-account deficits. The spot price of gold is $1,300 per ounce. In India, however, it is trading at a premium of 18%, at a price of $1,534. One might ask who is pocketing this premium? Have imports really come to a stand-still? Let's look at the reality on the ground...
With Russia warning of "boomerangs" and China threatening "unforeseeable consequences" it appears gridlock in Washington is (coincidentally) enabling the US to sit out the first round of shenanigans responses over this weekend's Crimea referendum.
*KERRY SAYS `WE NEED AID FOR UKRAINE AND WE NEED IT NOW'
But as AP reports, Congress won't be able to authorize aid to Ukraine until after March 24 amid disagreements among several Republican. Simply put, No Aid For You...
While the sight of Russian flags, pro-Russian troops, and Russian navy ships in Crimea is now a day-to-day thing; this morning brings a new normal for the eastern Ukraine region - long lines at bank ATMs as the bank runs have begun. We noted last night the dreaded inversion of Ukraine's yield curve, the greater-than-50% yields on 3-month Ukraine government debt, and the pressures on local bank debt maturities as the ability to garner dollars cost-effectively was becoming a problem but on the heels of concerns by the head of the central bank that moving cash in Crimea was difficult, ATM withdrawal limits have been cut. People in long ATM lines are reported to be concerned because "banks are closing" but it is Deutsche Bank's comments this morning that raised many an eyebrow as they suggest that Ukraine's debt is pricing in a "burden-sharing" haircut for bondholders (which as we have seen in the past - in Cyprus - can quickly ripple up the capital structure and become a depositor haircut).
At the onset of the derivatives collapse in 2007/2008 it would have been easy to assume that most of America was receiving a valuable education in normalcy bias. As much as we are for people waking up to the nature of the crisis, there comes a point when those who are going to figure it out will figure it out, and the rest are essentially hopeless. The cultism surrounding the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar is truly mind boggling, and by “cultism” we mean a blind faith in the fiat currency mechanism that goes beyond all logic, reason and evidence.
Ukraine, we are told, is infamous for its colorful proverbs and as the title suggests Citi's Matt King warns that emerging market (EM) bond investors may yet become familiar with more of them in coming weeks. Unfortunately Ukraine’s importance is greater than its economic or even geopolitical significance would suggest. Risk premia everywhere have been compressed by the prolonged force-feeding of central bank liquidity. EM in particular has benefited from enormous inflows. However, for developed market (DM), King believes even a serious deterioration in Ukraine still feels unlikely to really derail the serene march tighter we see in spreads – but even so, he warns there are some broader implications of the EM woes which investors would do well to be aware of as "drunkards know no danger".
Three weeks ago, John Kerry came, saw, and launched a blitz-diplomatic campaign which promptly resulted in, well, Russia annexing Crimea. Now it is the turn of that other foreign policy titan, neo-con John McCain, to complete Kerry's job and finally launch the GDP-boosting World War III. He may have the chance to do that as soon as Thursday, when he, along with other senators, is slated to travel to Ukraine to "show support for the government there." Or, said otherwise, to show support for the government that is in power thanks to an illegitimate and deadly coup that took place just over two weeks ago, despite the formal signing of a memorandum, endorsed by all Western powers, that stipulated a peaceful transition as well as presidential elections in the coming months. When presented like that, one almost thinks back to the roaring success that was the US endorsement of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regime (where the US too had zero involvement, repeat zero involvement) that also took over following a violent coup. As well as the largely predictable countercoup that overthrew said regime.
Despite promises by the West to do "whatever it takes" and Treasury Secretary Lew's note today that Ukraine aid could reach $15 billion, it appears the market is not buying it with June 2014 Ukraine government bond yields spiking above 53% today. Of course, this should be no surprise to Goldman Sachs clients who were told on Feb 21st that events were "unambiguously positive" for short-term bonds (then trading above 97) but are now trading below 90. It seems that the market believes default is highly likely and that any "aid" will flow directly to Russia for energy bills.
A curious story, and one which should be taken with a mine of salt, has surfaced out of the pro-Russian newspaper Iskra, which reports - so far on an entirely unsubstantiated basis - that last Friday, in a mysterious operation under the cover of night, Ukraine's gold reserves were promptly loaded onboard an unmarked plane, which subsequently took the gold to the US.
The Whole World Has Gone Into Debt
Today, far too many people put all their faith in deceitful politicians and bankers to tell them the truth and consequently are dreadfully misinformed.
I clearly have a very hard time reconciling a U.S. stock market making new all-time-highs almost daily, especially in the face of what most economists consider to be a weak domestic economy with negligible growth prospects. Moreover, when you layover the thoroughly stalled and certainly weaker overall global economic picture, it’s even harder to rationalize. Finally, throw into the mix the gravity of threatening geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the two nations with the largest stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons on earth, and the market actually welcomes it. Something majorly does not add up, well, to this Idiot anyways.
South Korea stands out as a buying opportunity amid the indiscriminate emerging markets sell-off.
President Barack Obama has recently released his budget in which he calls for an “end of austerity.” This is an amazing statement from a president whose government has spent the highest percentage of GDP in history and added more to the national debt than all past presidents combined. What must he mean by austerity? The president’s rejection of austerity represents the Keynesian view which completely rejects austerity in favor of the “borrow and spend” — increase aggregate demand — approach to recession. What he really is rejecting is the infinitesimal cutbacks in the rate of spending increases and the political roadblocks to new spending programs. President Obama and Congress should get busy doing what is best for the economy and the American public instead of enriching themselves and those who feed at the public trough.