Decades of manipulation by the Federal Reserve (through its creation of paper money) and by Congress (through its taxing and spending) have pushed the US economy into a circumstance that can't be sustained but from which there is no graceful exit. With few exceptions, all of the noble souls who chose a career in "public service" and who've advanced to be voting members of Congress are committed to chronic deficits, though they deny it. For political purposes, deficits work. The people whose wishes come true through the spending side of the deficit are happy and vote to reelect. The people on the borrowing side of the deficit aren't complaining, since they willingly buy the Treasury bonds and Treasury bills that fund the deficit. And taxpayers generally tolerate deficits as a lesser evil than a tax hike. So stay up as late as you like on election night to see who wins, but the deficits aren't going to stop anytime soon. The debt mountain will keep growing. The part of it the government acknowledges is now approaching $16 trillion, which is more than the country's gross domestic product for a year. Obviously, the debt can't keep growing faster than the economy forever, but the people in charge do seem determined to find out just how far they can push things.
In advance of ever louder demands for more, more, more NEWER QE-LTROs (as BofA's Michael Hanson says "If our forecast of a one-handle on H2 growth is realized, then we would expect the Fed to step in with additional easing, in the form of QE3") , it is an opportune time to demonstrate just what the traditional monetary "plumbing" mechanisms at the discretion of the Fed are, and more importantly, just how completely plugged they are. So without any further ado...
- Greek PM does not rule out new bailout package (Reuters)
- Euro zone agrees temporary boost to rescue capacity (Reuters)
- Madrid Commits to Reforms Despite Strike (FT)
- China PBOC: To Keep Reasonable Social Financing, Prudent Monetary Policy In 2012 (WSJ)
- Germany Launches Strategy to Counter ECB Largesse (Telegraph)
- Iran Sanctions Fuel 'Junk for Oil' Barter With China, India (Bloomberg)
- BRICS Nations Threaten IMF Funding (FT)
- Bernanke Optimistic on Long-Term Economic Growth (AP)
Albert Edwards: JPY devaluation exacerbates risk of China hard landing, drags them into currency warSubmitted by Daily Collateral on 03/08/2012 06:49 -0400
"We are a hair's breadth or, more exactly, one recession away from a market panic on outright deflation -- a panic that will send the central banks into a printing frenzy that will make their balance sheet expansion so far seem like a warm-up act for the main show." Albert Edwards
The authors identify two "externalities" to the triggers for default cascades: 1) variability of financial robustness of all of the interconnected financial entities; and 2) the average financial robustness of the interconnected entities. If all parties have similar financial robustness (variability is low), then increasing connectivity makes the system more robust. Stability is even likely through diversification if the individual parties are not very robust. It was only when the initial robustness was highly variable across agents (i.e., some agents are weak and others strong) that increasing interconnectedness tended to stimulate systemic defaults.... The lesson here is diversification is not always a good idea. If you diversify across financial entities with wide risk profiles (i.e., some are weak and some are strong) you actually increase the likelihood of a financial calamity. We don't have to confine ourselves to financial institutions. If we consider our agents to be sovereign, we expect the same problem. Creating a financial superpower out of a group of Germanys would be perfect--even a group of Greeces might be okay. But creating one out of Germanys and Greeces tends to encourage a financial catastrophe. Who could have predicted that? The authors suggest that the "fix" for this situation is to concentrate risk rather than diversify it. I wonder--in whose hands will the risk be concentrated? Perhaps if you hold gold, the risk won't find its way into yours.
It was one short week ago that both Australia surprised with hotter than expected inflation (and no rate cut), and a Chinese CPI print that was far above expectations. Yet in confirmation of Dylan Grice's point that when it comes to "inflation targeting" central planners are merely the biggest "fools", this morning we woke to find that the PBOC has cut the Required Reserve Ratio (RRR) by another largely theatrical 50 bps. As a reminder, RRR cuts have very little if any impact, compared to the brute force adjustment that is the interest rate itself. As to what may have precipitated this, the answer is obvious - a collapsing housing market (which fell for the fourth month in a row) as the below chart from Michael McDonough shows, and a Shanghai Composite that just refuses to do anything (see China M1 Hits Bottom, Digs). What will this action do? Hardly much if anything, as this is purely a demonstrative attempt to rekindle animal spirits. However as was noted previously, "The last time they stimulated their CPI was close to 2%. It's 4.5% now, and blipping up." As such, expect the latent pockets of inflation where the fast money still has not even withdrawn from to bubble up promptly. That these "pockets" happen to be food and gold is not unexpected. And speaking of the latter, it is about time China got back into the gold trade prim and proper. At least China has stopped beating around the bush and has now joined the rest of the world in creating the world's biggest shadow liquidity tsunami.
A graph is worth a thousand words. Here's three grand worth:
The surge in the U.S. money supply in recent years has sent gold into a series of new record nominal highs. Money supply surged again in 2011 sending gold to new record nominal highs. Money supply has grown again, by more than 35% on an annualized basis, and this is contributing to gold’s consolidation and strong gains in January. The Federal Reserve's latest weekly money supply report from last Thursday shows seasonally adjusted M1 rose $13.2 billion to $2.233 trillion, while M2 rose $4.5 billion to $9.768 trillion.
Last week the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England announced plans to tighten the control over the balance sheet management and the risk-taking of private banks. This is just the beginning, believe me. The nationalization of money and credit will intensify in 2012 and beyond. More regulation, more restriction, more control. Not only in defence of the bankrupt banks but also the bankrupt state. We will see curbs on trading, short-selling restrictions and various forms of capital controls. A system of state fiat money is incompatible with capitalism. As the end of the present fiat money system is fast approaching the political class and the policy bureaucracy will try and defend it with everything at their disposal. For the foreseeable future, capitalism will, sadly, be the loser. The conclusion from everything we have seen in 2011 is unquestionably that the global monetary system is on thin ice. Whether the house of cards will come tumbling down in 2012 nobody can say. When concerns about the fundability of the state and the soundness of fiat money, fully justified albeit still strangely subdued, finally lead to demands for higher risk premiums, upward pressure on interest rates will build. This will threaten the overextended credit edifice and will probably be countered with more aggressive central bank intervention. That is when it will get really interesting. We live in dangerous times. Stay safe and enjoy the holidays. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.
Take all you know about the formation of equity prices... and throw it out of the window, at least according to the following paper out of (fittingly Austrian) Erste Group, which applies Austrian theory to stock "valuation", by looking at a world in which the only determining factor for "fair value" is credit money creation. Indeed, the 2011 market, in which cross-asset correlations broke all records, and in which fundamentals were cremated once and for all, showed that the only thing that matters is who prints first, and more importantly, who frontruns said printing (it also means that most hedge fund analysts will soon be redundant). Here is Erste with a slightly less jaded view: "We come to the conclusion that it makes sense for equity investors to track monetary and, especially, debt developments closely. We believe that the changing dynamics of monetary as well as debt aggregates are often a good leading indicator for equity markets. Historic data shows that accelerating money and credit growth drives equity prices, while decelerating growth in the money and credit supply generally puts pressure on equity prices...Financial history shows that equity markets are ‘addicted’ to new money and credit creation. To keep rallies going, the equity markets need ever more fuel (faster rate of change in the money and credit supply). As soon as the rate of change is negative (decelerating money and credit supply) markets tend to become sluggish and lose momentum, even though in absolute terms the money and credit supply is still rising." And while this is not telling Zero Hedge regulars something they didn't know already, with the fiscal pathway of creating new money blocked in a (mock) austere world, the only other way to generate M1-X is by printing. Summary - much more currency debasement and devaluation ahead, only this time with a $100 base in WTI. Which most certainly means that very soon the world will need to find an extended source of cheap energy (read oil). And everyone knows what that will be...
A friend of mine took note recently that a large portion of activists involved in the Liberty Movement had hit extremely hard times, or had been struggling financially even before the general economic collapse began to take hold. He asked me my theory on why it was that so many of us are always so broke. I could only relate that it is almost always the working class poor in any society that first sees the effects of a corrupt government and a faulty economic system. Those who legitimately hold to the principles of self sustainment, and fair play, are usually the first to be stabbed in the back by the establishment, and so, they are the first to become politically active against it. That is to say, sometimes we have to lose almost everything before we are able to see the bigger picture. While I consider this fact a source of solace in these extraordinarily hard times, it still does little to put food on the table, or survival gear in the bug-out-bag. The overall consensus within the prepper community is that survival planning is expensive, and yes, it certainly can be. Another consensus is that you “get what you pay for”; also true...to a point. My belief is that while no prepping model is free of expense or of quality concerns, perhaps there is a middle road that activists with thin wallets can take which will provide solid gear for less money, and that will serve most of the functions of high-end gear that is ten times as expensive. Let’s examine a foundation list of those items that can help get you started now….
Though late to the party as usual, the proverbial man on the street – along with members of mainstream media and Wall Street heavyweights – is finally waking up to the decade-long, 700% increase in the price of gold, joining a growing buzz around the monetary metal. From questions whether gold is in a bubble to predictions that soaring prices are just around the corner, one thing is clear: a new phase of awareness for gold is upon us. How far might it move before these troubling times are over?
It has been just over 48 hours since our call that PIIGS the world over will scramble to demand the same concessions that were just granted to Greece courtesy of its economy being in the toilet and getting worse (thanks to lies to misrepresent the Greek economy as being worse than it really was). We already got Ireland yesterday. Now it is Portugal's turn. Reuters reports that "Portugal asked Mexico on Saturday to tell fellow G20 members next week that the United States should offer "financial help" to resolve the euro zone sovereign debt crisis, describing it as a "systemic and global" problem, a Portuguese government source said." Of course, the "US" is a clear proxy for "everyone else" - that the US, whose politicians can't agree on a fiscal stimulus for the US, let alone for some country by the straits of Gibraltar they have never heard of, will not move an inch to save Portugal is a given. Which means that once Portugal is, as it anticipates perfectly well, shut down by the US it will commence demanding for help from those who at least can grant it - the EMU and the Eurozone. And when those refuse, Portugal will do the glaringly obvious: take a page right out of the Greek textbook and proceed to suicide its own economy. And why not - it worked miracles for Greece. Now: two down and two to go. The only question is when does Italy do precisely the same logical next step, and tell the world that its $2+ trillion in debt, the second most in the Eurozone after only Germany, is unsustainable, and will need a modest haircut. 20% should do it. We wonder, what will that do to French banks (and their "perfectly hedged" US proxies - such as MF Global and others)?