Economic policymakers seeking successful models to emulate apparently have an abundance of choices nowadays. Led by China, scores of emerging and developing countries have registered record-high growth rates over recent decades, setting precedents for others to follow. While advanced economies have performed far worse on average, there are notable exceptions, such as Germany and Sweden. “Do as we do,” these countries’ leaders often say, “and you will prosper, too.” Look more closely, however, and you will discover that these countries’ vaunted growth models cannot possibly be replicated everywhere. The real heroes of the world economy – the role models that others should emulate – are countries that have done relatively well while running only small external imbalances.
Thailand is known for a lot of things – quintessential white sandy beaches, hard partying nightlife, quiet Buddhist reverence... But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Bangkok is probably one of the most important cities in the world when it comes to illegal trafficking. Human trafficking. Narcotrafficking. Money laundering. Weapons. Forged documents. Etc. Bangkok is just as vital to these industries as New York or London to the global financial sector. And now, thanks to India’s sagging economy, they can add one more to this list: gold smuggling... In Thailand, however, gold demand is up 125% from the 3rd quarter of 2012.
One of the biggest lies in finance is this perpetual deception that inflation is good. Ben Bernanke, the current high priest of US monetary policy, recently remarked that it’s “important to prevent US inflation from falling too low.” Well of course, we wouldn’t want that, would we? Just imagine the chaos and devastation that would ensue if the cost of living actually remained… you know… the same. One shudders at the mere thought of price stability.
Yesterday, the World Gold Council released its Gold Demand Trends 2013 Report which demonstrates quite clearly that the Chinese continue to accumulate gold; gold continues to flow east to both government and consumer channels.
Despite the great shale revolution, US exports posted a $0.4 billion decline to $188.9 billion in October driven by decreases in industrial supplies and materials ($1.3 billion), other goods ($0.2 billion), consumer goods ($0.2 billion), and capital goods ($0.1 billion). This was offset by a $2.7 billion increase in imports to $230.7 billion broken down by increases in industrial supplies and materials ($0.9 billion); automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.9 billion); capital goods ($0.8 billion); and consumer goods ($0.6 billion). End result: a September trade balance of $41.8 billion, which was higher than the highest forecast of $41.6 billion among 72 economists queried by Bloomberg, and the highest deficit print in 4 months.
Japan growth cut in half, Europe growth cut by more than half, but none of that matters: today it will be all about the coronation of QEeen Yellen, who testifies before the Senate Banking Committee at 10am. Not even Japanese finance minister Aso's return to outright currency intervention warnings (in addition to the BOJ's QE monetary base dilution), when he said that Japan must always be ready to send signal to markets to curb excessive and one sided FX moves and it is important that Japan has intervention as FX policy option, which sent the USDJPY back up to 100 for the first time since September 11 made much of an impact on futures trading which after surging early in the session following the release of Yellen's prepared remarks, have now "tapered" virtually all gains. Certainly, the follow up from Europe doing the same and also warning it too may engage in QE, has been lost. Which is odd considering the entire developed world is now on the verge of engaging in the most furious open monetization of virtually everything in history.
Just in case anyone thought the entire world's wasn't going to the tenth, centrally-planned circle of hell in a handbasket, here comes the head of the Indian FBI to disabuse everyone out of such childish sentiments, thanks to a comment that not even the PR brain trust behind #AskJPM could have conceived. To wit: "India’s top police official was under fire Wednesday for saying, “If you can’t prevent rape, you might as well enjoy it.” And scene.
Financial innovation is a recurring theme in the NY Fed's review of historic crises. The 1720 South Sea Company structured the national debt in a way that was initially attractive to investors, but the scheme to finance the debt-for-equity swap ultimately proved to be noncredible and the market collapsed. Now fast-forward to 2013 and the five-year anniversary of Lehman's failure. As Fed Governor Jeremy Stein pointed out in a recent speech, a combination of factors such as financial innovation, regulation, and a change in the economic environment, contribute to an overheating of credit markets. So, the NY Fed asks - has the current reach for yield led to ever more complex, leveraged investments and the next credit market bubble? Or will the lessons from the Great Recession last at least a lifetime?
In the Chinese bastion of capitalism, where there is demand, there will be supply. And in this case, the supply of gold storage is to be found in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, where the physical gold ends up in custodial limbo as it is not considered "imported" by China. In fact, the gold is theoretically in no man's land and as such can be reexported out of China, or sent deeper into the mainland, to China's banks or private buyers, on a whim. Of course, all that is on paper. If and when the Communist Party says "enough" all the gold in the FTZ would be "reappropriated." Bloomberg reports, that a gold vault that can store 2,000 metric tons, double China’s projected consumption this year, opened in Shanghai this month as owner Malca-Amit Global Ltd. seeks to benefit from rising demand in Asia’s largest economy.
- China Pledges Greater Role for Market in Economy (WSJ), China vows 'decisive' role for markets, results by 2020 (Reuters)
- China expected to cut growth target to 7% (FT)
- World Trade Center Tower Debuts in Manhattan Leasing Test (BBG)
- Job Gap Widens in Uneven Recovery (WSJ)
- Khamenei’s conglomerate thrived as sanctions squeezed Iran (Reuters)
- Swiss referendum on wages of high earners stirs debate (FT)
- Obama to Nominate Massad to Head CFTC (WSJ)
- Japan readies additional $30 billion for Fukushima clean-up (Reuters)
- Target Fills Its Cart With Amazon Ideas (WSJ)
- Shadow banks reap Fed rate reward (FT)
Following a brief hiatus for the Veterans Day holiday, the spotlight will again shine on treasuries and emerging markets today. The theme of higher US yields and USD strength continue to play out in Asian trading. 10yr UST yields are drifting upwards, adding 3bp to take the 10yr treasury yield to 2.78% in Japanese trading: a near-two month high and just 22 bps away from that critical 3% barrier that crippled the Fed's tapering ambitions last time. Recall that 10yr yields added +15bp in its last US trading session on Friday, which was its weakest one day performance in yield terms since July. USD strength is the other theme in Asian trading this morning, which is driving USDJPY (+0.4%) higher, together with EM crosses including the USDIDR (+0.6%) and USDINR (+0.6%). EURUSD is a touch weaker following a headline by Dow Jones this morning that the Draghi is concerned about the possibility of deflation in the euro zone although he will dispute that publicly, citing Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who source an unnamed ECB insider. The headline follows a number of similar stories in the FT and Bloomberg in recent days suggesting a split in the ECB’s governing council.
It would appear that the Horatio Alger myth - that hard work and pluck will lift a person from dire circumstances to enviable success - is not living up to expectations for Americans. As WSJ's Lauren Weber notes, 40% of Americans think it’s fairly common for someone to start off poor, work hard and eventually rise to the top of the economic heap but a new Pew study shows that in reality, only 4% of Americans travel the rags-to-riches path. Unfortunately, they discovered considerable “stickiness” at both ends of the income spectrum and that Americans attached to the rags-to-riches myth might be disappointed to know that other countries show greater mobility among have-nots - "this is what we call the 'parental penalty,' and it's really high in the U.S. - If you’re born in the bottom here, your likelihood of sticking in the bottom is much higher."
Asian economic growth (or lack thereof) is often seen as the bellwether to global growth. While the following heatmap (covering 10 Asian economies across 8 measures of macro-economic health) has its fair share of red (growth upswing) indications, as Bloomberg's Rob Subbaramam notes, a closer inspection reveals a theme on extremely uneven economic performance - and is expected to become more prominent. However, based on a GDP-weighted perspective the heatmap would signal cooling in aggregate for Asian growth.
- Philippines Left Reeling in Wake of Storm (WSJ)
- Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures (RTRS)
- Race to Bottom Resumes as Central Bankers Ease Anew (BBG)
- U.S. Postal Service to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays (LA Times)
- Obama Stocks Among Best After Re-Election as Rally Tested (BBG)
- Health-Law Rollout Weighs on Obama's Ratings, Agenda (WSJ)
- Twitter in Celebrity Spat With Facebook as Rivalry Builds (BBG)
- Iran deputy industry minister shot dead (AFP)
- Financier of Taliban-linked group shot dead in Pakistan (RTRS)
- Obama: The Lonely Guy (Vanity Fair)
The death of the dollar is coming, and it will probably be China that pulls the trigger. What you are about to read is understood by only a very small fraction of all Americans. Right now, the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the planet. Most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars, and almost all oil is sold for U.S. dollars. More than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars, and far more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than inside of it. As will be described below, this has given the United States some tremendous economic advantages, and most Americans have no idea how much their current standard of living depends on the dollar remaining the reserve currency of the world. Unfortunately, thanks to reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve and the reckless accumulation of debt by the federal government, the status of the dollar as the reserve currency of the world is now in great jeopardy.