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“Farther from care than danger…”
The title above is a quote from Sir Thomas More’s classic, Utopia, describing a people’s overconfidence in their capacity for navigation given the compass for the first time.
Regular readers are aware that one of our favorite data series when it comes to demonstrating the quality aspect of the American "recovery" (the quantity is sufficiently taken care of with part-time workers filling in positions without benefits and job security in the New Normal) is that showing the annual average hourly earnings growth in nominal terms, which in November posted the tiniest bounce from its all time low print of 1.2%, rising to 1.3%. The problem as noted above, is that this is nominal wage growth. It therefore excludes the impact of inflation which according to the CPI, rose by 2.2% in October, or, in other words, wage growth was negative in real terms. But it wasn't negative only in October and November. When one takes the Y/Y change in average hourly earnings and subtracts the Y/Y change in CPI one gets a very troubling picture: wages have risen below the rate of inflation for 22 consecutive months, with real wages printing their last positive number back in January 2011 and negative ever since!
Bloomberg's Joshua Zumbrun has released a much overdue, MSM apocryphal, somewhat realistic outlook on the endspiel of Bernanke's central planning: i.e., the unwind of the Fed's balance sheet that from just under $3 trillion will reach $5 trillion by the end of 2014. We say "somewhat" because the conclusion in the article is that there is some hope still for an orderly wind down of the Fed's assets without a complete market collapse. The reality is that there is no such hope.
Isaac Newton, the father of classical mechanics and progenitor of nearly every technology we use today, was easily one of the top 10 most influential minds in all of human history... Yet as accomplished as he was, Newton credited the brilliant scientists and philosophers who came before him, acknowledging that his insights would not have been remotely possible without the foundations laid by great thinkers– Archimedes, da Vinci, Descartes, etc. No doubt, all great ideas flourish by expanding upon the works of others. Unfortunately, so do terrible ones. And one of the worst ideas in history that continues to play out today is the grand experiment of fiat money. The idea is simple. Rather than allowing money to be scarce and have intrinsic value, our fiat system grants power to a tiny elite to conjure money out of thin air. Presumably, if the ones in control are smart, honest guys, then everything should be fine. Fiat was a total failure right from the beginning... and yet the economic engines deep below are steered by people who worship at the cult of bad ideas.
In about five years the wheels will fall off the cart.
Many politicians and commentators such as Paul Krugman claim that Europe's problem is austerity, i.e., there is insufficient government spending. The common argument goes like this: Due to a reduction of government spending, there is insufficient demand in the economy leading to unemployment, which means aggregate demand falls even more, causing a fall in government revenues and an increase in government deficits. European governments pressured by Germany then reduce government spending even further, lowering demand by laying off public employees and cutting back on government transfers. This reduces demand even more in a never ending downward spiral of misery. First of all, is there really austerity in the eurozone? One would think that a person is austere when she saves, i.e., if she spends less than she earns. Well, there exists not one country in the eurozone that is austere. Public austerity is a necessary condition for private flourishing and a rapid recovery. The problem of Europe (and the United States) is not too much but too little austerity — or its complete absence. The reduction of government spending makes real resources available for the private sector that formerly had been absorbed by the state.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
Foreign money is flowing heavily into US real estate markets. Now some think that foreign money is going to prop up the entire market but this is simply not the case. The money flowing in from abroad is going specifically into targeted markets. This isn’t necessarily a US trend only. Canada is experiencing a massive housing bubble from money flowing in from China in particular. Here in Southern California many cities are seeing solid money flowing in from Asian countries. You have this occurring while big fund domestic investors are buying up low priced real estate cross the country as investments. What occurs then is the crowding out of your typical home buyer. I get e-mails from local families looking to buy saying they were outbid by $50,000 or $100,000 for properties that had nothing special. Even after the crash, why does it seem hard for domestic buyers to purchase a home?
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
It’s a safe assumption to make that the reelection of Barack Hussein Obama to the office of the United States Presidency will be talked about for decades to come. Like Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and other “transformative” presidents before him, Obama will be praised for keeping the country together in the midst of economic difficulty. The lavishing has already begun with prominent voices on the left like Paul Krugman declaring the “new America” has made Obama their champion. Like most of what passes for accepted history, this is downright propaganda. The country as a whole wasn’t frightened over sudden change by throwing out the incumbent. It wasn’t a declaration of a new, more diverse America. There is a rational explanation for the President’s reelection which doesn’t invoke a deep or complex meaning. The only way to explain the outcome is in the simplest and direct prose: the moochers prevailed.
What's Obama going to say?
A hallmark of Obama’s second term will be wide scale mortgage debt relief.
It didn't take long for mainstream economists to provide us with some inane commentary regarding the latest natural catastrophe. Allegedly, the massive destruction of wealth hurricane 'Sandy' will leave behind has a 'silver lining'. We believe the main reason behind this stance is the unquestioned acceptance of one of Keynes' great fallacies: namely the idea that all economic activity – even unproductive activity – is somehow 'good'. Naturally, if it were really true that we could create economic progress by breaking windows or digging ditches (we will admit that pyramids at least render what one might term 'monument services', even if the expense seems hardly justified by this), then the government should pay half the population for digging ditches and hire the other half to wreak wanton destruction. The loss of wealth the hurricane has inflicted is very real; the wealth destroyed by it is most definitely gone.
Two of the saving features that allowed Japan to internalize 30-some years of failed fiscal and monetary policy (and yes, not one, not two, but now 8 failed iterations of quantitative easing) and to offset one relentless deflationary vortex was i) its demographics coupled with an investing culture that favors deposits and bonds over equities, which incentivized its aging population to invest its savings into government bonds, and ii) its trade surplus which led to foreign capital flows to enter the country. Well, as far as i) is concerned, Japan may have reached its demographic limit, since as reported several months ago, Japan's pension funds are now not only selling JGBs to meet redemption and cash needs, but forced to do truly stupid things like investing in the riskiest of assets to generate a return at any cost. In other words, demographics will no longer be a natural source of demand for deficit funds. As for ii), well... here is what has happened with Japan's trade surplus status in recent weeks following the collapse in the country's foreign relationship with China.
Define headline heaven? Any time you can gratuitoulsy insert the names Art Cashin, Becky Quick and Paul Krugman in the same title. Like in this case. HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.