One interpretation is that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. Another is that we are being led to financial slaughter.
"None dare call it a “currency war” because that would be counter to G-10/G-20 policy statements that stress cooperation as opposed to “every country for itself”, but an undeclared currency war is what the world is experiencing. Close to the same thing happened in the 1930’s, a period remarkably similar to what many countries’ policies resemble today.... Negative/zero bound interest rates may exacerbate, instead of stimulate low growth rates in all of these instances, by raising savings and deferring consumption... Asset prices for stocks, high yield bonds and other supposed 5-10% returning investments, become stretched and bubble sensitive; Debt accumulates instead of being paid off because rates are too low to pass up – corporate bond sales leading to stock buybacks being the best example. The financial system has become increasingly vulnerable only six years after its last collapse in 2009.... Central banks have gone and continue to go too far in their misguided efforts to support future economic growth."
The deterioration in the subprime auto market is perhaps the clearest sign yet that we have learned literally nothing from the crisis years. That is, this is precisely the same dynamic and it will end precisely the same way: defaults will rise, investors in assets backed by these loans will suffer outsized losses, and the assets themselves will become completely illiquid.
Under normal circumstances, after 2008's conflagration of the calamitous collateralizations, we shouldn’t have seen such irrational, reckless, greedy behavior from Wall Street for another generation. But, Wall Street didn’t have to accept the consequences of their actions. They were bailed out and further enriched by their puppets at the Federal Reserve, the lackey politicians they installed in Washington D.C., and on the backs of honest, hard-working, tax paying Americans. The lesson they learned was they could continue to take excessive, reckless, unregulated risks without concern for losses, downside, or consequences.
The politicians of Europe are plunging into a form of ideological fratricide as they battle over Greece. Accordingly, all the combatants - the German, Greek and other national politicians and the apparatchiks of Brussels and Frankfurt - are fundamentally on the wrong path, albeit for different reasons. Yet by collectively indulging in the sum of all statist errors they may ultimately do a service. Namely, discredit and destroy the whole bailout state and central bank driven financialization model that threatens political democracy and capitalist prosperity in Europe - and the rest of the world, too.
A measles outbreak in the U.S. has prompted a national debate over vaccinations, a debate that quickly turned ugly baby vaccinebecause both sides think they are protecting their children from harm. Some parents say that they should have the right to refuse vaccines if they think it is in their children’s best interest, while others argue that ill-informed parental views can be overridden by the State if the public health is at stake. When argued on the traditional battleground, the problem has no solution. As with school prayer, immigration policies, parade permits for controversial groups, or allowing the homeless in “public” libraries, here too there is no way to solve the problem except by letting private property owners set the rules on their land.
It seems like everyone and his brother today are wringing their hands about AI and some impending “Singularity”, a moment of future doom where non-human intelligence achieves some human-esque sentience and decides in Matrix-like fashion to turn us into batteries or some such. Please. The Singularity is already here. Its name is Big Data. Big Data is magic, in exactly the sense that Arthur C. Clarke wrote of sufficiently advanced technology. But here’s the magic trick that we're worried about for investors...
What any student with an eye to getting on in the world should realize is the core truth underpinning right-minded economic analysis: the value of assets in a properly constituted economic system is a direct function of the money created by the central bank. All other knowledge is subsidiary to this key insight. I know this to be true because the great minds of Princeton declare it to be so, and who am I to argue? This insight results in the key truth that money equals value. It therefore follows that the more money that is created, the more value there is in the system. As the discoverer of these great truths, Lord Keynes has clearly shown this to be true... but there is another way.
"Central bank polices have ruptured the proper functioning of capital markets. Some investors myopically believe that 'money printing needs a home' and that it will end up in equities (the asset class with upside). However, such a belief needs to include a deep faith in the central bank’s abilities to navigate a soft landing. History is not on their side. Investors pouring into equities might be playing an epic game of chicken."
- Germany Sees No Need to Scrap Troika in Overseeing Greek Turnaround (WSJ)
- European markets subdued as Chinese data weighs (Reuters)
- U.S. Oil Workers Strike Enters Second Day as Crude Prices Slide (BBG)
- Oil prices rally above $55 as investors pile in (Reuters)
- Obama Wants a New Tax on U.S. Companies' Overseas Profits (BBG)
- If Trading Bonds Is Hard, Think About Pain When Rates Rise (BBG)
- Julius Baer Braces for Swiss Franc Impact (WSJ)
- Coke, Budweiser win as Super Bowl ad battle gets serious (Reuters)
What happens if one expands the Eurozone NIRP universe to include the debt of other countries including Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and so on? Conveniently, JPM has done the analysis and finds that a mindblowing $3.6 trillion of government debt traded with a negative yield as recently as last week. This represents 16% of the JPM Global Government Bond Index, or in other words nearly a fifth of all global government debt is now trading with a negative yield, meaning investors pay sovereigns, using other people's money of course, for the privilege of buying their issuance!
Suppose you could print up counterfeit dollars, euros or yen that were identical to the real things. Fun, you think? Here's how it plays out.
- Alexis Tsipras: the Syriza leader about to take charge in Greece (Guardian)
- Tsipras to form anti-bailout Greek government after big victory (Reuters)
- Tsipras Forges Anti-Austerity Coalition in EU Challenge (BBG)
- East Coast braces, flights canceled as 'historic' blizzard bears down (Reuters)
- Rebels press Ukraine offensive, Obama promises steps against Russian-backed 'aggression (Reuters)
- Syriza Victory Brings Hope for Immigrants of EU Access (BBG)
- For Saudis, Falling Demand for Oil Is the Biggest Concern (BBG)
- Oil prices fall on market relief over Saudi policy (Reuters)
- Sovereign QE not working in Europe
- Emerging market capital flight
- Political risk/popularist governments
- US wage inflation
- Increased currency volatility
- Insurance against natural catastrophes
Over the past 48 hours, the world has been bombarded with a relentless array of soundbites, originating either at the ECB, or - inexplicably - out of Greece, the one place which has been explicitly isolated by Frankfurt, that the European Central Bank's QE will benefit everyone. Setting the record straight: it won't, and not just in our own words but those of JPM's Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, who just said what has been painfully clear to all but the 99% ever since the start of QE, namely this: "The wealth effects that come with QE are not evenly distributing. The boost in equity and housing wealth is mostly benefiting their major owners, i.e. the wealthy." Thank you JPM. Now if only the central banks will also admit what we have been saying for 6 years, then there will be one less reason for us to continue existing.