Just as natural selection selects for traits that improve the odds of success/survival in the natural world, Economic Darwinism advances people and policies that boost profits and power within the dominant environment. If there was one phrase that summarized the current malaise, it would be "The Federal Reserve's 20-year policy of easy money created an environment virtually assured to select bankers, bureaucrats, educators, and elected officials who least understood the consequences of a credit crisis." In other words, a hyper-financialized environment of near-zero interest and abundant credit rewarded those people and policies that succeed in that environment.
If SocGen is right in its just released oil price forecast in a "Syrian war world", then the global economy is about to undergo an apoplectic shock the likes of which have not been seen since the summer of 2008, when Lehman brothers had to be taken under to generate the deflationary shock sending crude from $130 to $30 in the matter of days. The French bank's forecast in a nutshell: "Base case scenario: $125 for Brent. We believe that in the coming days, Brent could gain another $5-10, surging to $120-$125, either in anticipation of the attack or in reaction to the headlines that an attack had started. In our base case, we assume an attack begins in the next week. Upside scenario: $150 for Brent If the regional spill over results in a significant supply disruption in Iraq or elsewhere (from 0.5 – 2.0 Mb/d), Brent could spike briefly to $150." And if indeed 2008 is coming back with a vengeance, the next question is who will be this year's unlucky Lehman Brothers?
One of the most published academics on gold in the world is Dr Brian Lucey of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and he and another academic who has frequently covered the gold market, Dr Constantin Gurdgiev have just this week had an excellent research paper on gold published.
They have researched the gold market, along with Dr Cetin Ciner of the University of North Carolina and their paper, ‘Hedges and safe havens: An examination of stocks, bonds, gold, oil and exchange rates’ finds that gold is a hedge against US dollar and British pound risk due to “its monetary asset role.”
This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character. There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo. Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park.
We do not inhabit a “normal” economy. We live in a financialised world in which our banks cannot be trusted, our politicians cannot be trusted, our money cannot be trusted, and – not least thanks to ongoing spasms of QE and expectations of much more of the same – our markets cannot be trusted. At some point (though the timing is impossible to predict), asset markets that cannot be pumped artificially any higher will start moving, under the forces of inevitable gravitation, lower.
Greed; corporate arrogance; lobbying influence; excessive leverage; accounting tricks to hide debt; lack of transparency; off balance sheet obligations; mark to market accounting; short-term focus on profit to drive compensation; failure of corporate governance; as well as auditors, analysts, rating agencies and regulators who were either lax, ignorant or complicit. This laundry list of causes has often been used to describe what went wrong in the credit crunch crisis of 2008-2010. Actually these terms were equally used to describe what went wrong with Enron more than twenty years ago. Both crises resulted in what at the time was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history — Enron in December 2001 and Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Naturally, this leads to the question that despite all the righteous indignation in the wake of Enron's failure did we really learn or change anything?
Today's broad "rewriting of history" GDP revision is set to "boost" US GDP by about 3% cumulatively (or about the size of Belgium's economy) and shave off 1-2% from US GDP. That's great. For the sake of the world, however, we hope that the rest of the developed (and less than developed) world's countries promptly follow in America's footsteps and fudge their own numbers post haste because things are rapidly getting out of hand, as the following chart conveniently reminds. Nowhere is this more so than in Japan, where as has been the case now for almost a year, Goldman Sachs, the central bank and local government (in order of decisionmaking importance) have all doubled down on their "all in" bet that the only thing that fixes recorder debt is moar recordest debt.
Here’s a question– if you’re in the Land of the Free, do you think those green pieces of paper in your wallet are dollars? They’re not. Those green pieces of paper are Federal Reserve notes. “Notes” in this case meaning liabilities to the central bank of the United States. That makes you, me, and anyone else holding those green pieces of paper essentially creditors of the Federal Reserve, whether we signed up for it or not. And at this point, thanks to a long-standing policy of wanton money printing, the Fed has more liabilities than ever before in its history. By an enormous margin. Given that the Fed’s assets are so closely tied to the finances of the US government, the outlook should concern independent, thinking people. The US, Japan, and Europe are already too indebted to bail out their central banks. An insolvent government cannot bail out an insolvent central bank.
If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008? That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again. Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009. It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around. We have been living so far above our means for so long that most of us actually think that our current economic situation is "normal."
Over the past several decades, people around the world have become so brainwashed that few people really give much thought anymore to the safety of their currency. It’s not something people really understand... there’s apparently some Wizard of Oz type figure at the top of the hill pulling all the levers of the monetary system. And we just trust them to be good guys. This power rests primarily in the hands of four men who control roughly 75% of the entire world money supply. So, how are they doing?
While the conventional way of looking at hedge fund assets has traditionally been to simply add up the assets under management to estimate gross exposure, as so often happens conventional wisdom is wrong. Because what the "traditional" approach simplistically looks at is merely a fund's equity and ignores all leverage through assorted generic and "shadow" conduits such as repo, loans, rehypothecation, "hedging" and others. Luckily, as a result of Dodd-Frank, hedge funds were required to present their full market exposure when netting leverage as per an annual SEC form known as Form PF. It is here that we learn that SAC's market exposure, something very relevant now that the firm is facing an imminent or eventual winddown, is likely orders of magnitude above what the market believes.
We need to think about lessening the economic “skin-in-the-game” for RMBS and focusing anew on enforcing US securities laws...
In every era, there are certain people and institutions that are held in the highest public regard as they embody the prevailing values of society. Not that long ago, Albert Einstein was a major public figure and was widely revered. Can you name a scientist that commands a similar presence today? Today, some of the most celebrated individuals and institutions are ensconced within the financial industry; in banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms. Which is odd because none of these firms or individuals actually make anything, which society might point to as additive to our living standards. Instead, these financial magicians harvest value from the rest of society that has to work hard to produce real things of real value. Money is power. And history has shown that power is never ceded spontaneously or willingly. But the stability of this parasitical system begins to weaken quickly when the lifeblood it depends on begins to dry up. And that's when things can begin to go south in a hurry
"In the last week of June, the dollar value represented by ARM applications accounted for 16 percent of mortgage requests, the highest share since July 2008, two months before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, according to Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington." Oops.
In the US, our regulators have publicly embraced a "too big to prosecute" doctrine. We are restraining, underfunding and dismantling regulatory oversight in the interests of short-term stability for the status quo. Which as a criminologist, Black knows with certainty creates an environment where bad actors will act in their self-interest with assumed (and likely real, at this point) impunity... And so there is no more destructive asset against trust than elite fraud.