The failure to understand money is shared by all nations and transcends politics and parties. The destructive monetary expansion undertaken during the Democratic administration of Barack Obama by then Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke began in a Republican administration under Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Republican Richard Nixon’s historic ending of the gold standard was a response to forces set in motion by the weak dollar policy of Democrat Lyndon Johnson. For more than 40 years, one policy mistake has followed the next. Each one has made things worse. What they don’t understand is that money does not “create” economic activity.
Despite Krugman's “Mission Accomplished” Announcement, the Giant Banks Are Worse Than Ever
Practically since the day Lehman went down in September 2008 Washington has been conducting a monumental farce. It has been pretending to up-root the causes of the thundering financial crisis which struck that month and to enact measures insuring that it would never happen again. In fact, however, official policy has done just the opposite. The Fed’s massive money printing campaign has perpetuated and drastically enlarged the Wall Street casino, making the pre-crisis gamblers in CDOs, CDS and other derivatives appear like pikers compared to the present momentum chasing madness. In a nutshell, the Fed’s prolonged regime of ZIRP and wealth effects based “puts” under risk assets has destroyed two-way markets.
After years of obfuscation and, simply put, lies; TEPCO has admitted in a new report that more nuclear fuel had melted at the Fukushima nuclear reactor than previously stated. While this is dreadful news, it gets worse, as the report further confirms that despite Abe's promises and TEPCO's state-funded efforts to build ice-walls, it may miss an important deadline binding it to clean radioactive water stored inside the Fukushima nuclear plant. Bloomberg reports officials commenting "we are doing everything we can do," but it appears, that is not enough as tens of thousands of tons of toxic water are expected to remain at the site by the imposed deadline.
Look for a speech on Friday August 22nd by Janet Yellen where she officially signals financial markets that they better start finding their respective chairs.
"...the numbers that they crank out to make everybody feel good are almost as phony as the numbers that the Argentine government cranks out... I would say that inflation is realistically in the 8-10% range here in the US—and it’s going much higher. The growth is all a fantasy. It’s all a result of the assumption that there is no inflation, when there really is because what we have is inflation masquerading as economic growth. But the bottom line is the economy is really contracting, that’s why the labor force is shrinking, that’s why we’re using less energy, that’s why the people’s standard of living is going down, and real incomes are falling and job opportunities are disappearing. It’s because we’re in a recession and no one wants to admit it."
If Venezuela is the case study of a country in the late stages of transition into a socialist utopia, then France is the clear runner up. The most recent case in point, aside from the already sliding French economy, whose recent contraction can be best seen be deteriorating PMI data which hints at the dreaded "triple dip" recession, nowhere is the economic collapse in France more evident than in its housing market which as even Bloomberg admits, citing industry participants, is now "in total meltdown." Pierre-Andre de Chalendar, chief executive officer of Saint-Gobain, summarized the current dire situation best: "Current figures are worrying and will be disastrous if nothing is done; clients of the building sector are sounding the alarm bell.”
"One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama...He turned out to be something else altogether. Not long ago optimism was in vogue. Obama’s slogan then was “Yes we can.” Today it could be “It turns out we can’t.”"
The 2008 Wall Street meltdown is long forgotten, having been washed away by a tsunami of central bank liquidity. Indeed, the S&P closed today up by nearly 200% from its March 2009 low. Yet four cardinal measures of Main Street economic health convey nothing like a 2x pick-up from the post-crisis bottom.
One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...
With U.S. rates higher than those of major foreign markets, investors are provided with an additional reason to look favorably on increased investments in the long end of the U.S. treasury market. Additionally, with nominal growth slowing in response to low saving and higher debt we expect that over the next several years U.S. thirty-year bond yields could decline into the range of 1.7% to 2.3%, which is where the thirty-year yields in the Japanese and German economies, respectively, currently stand.
What if Janet Yellen is wrong?
So not only are we dealing with an investment landscape in which virtually no working fund manager has experienced a bear market in bonds… we’ve actually got an entire generation of investment professionals who have experienced only one increase in interest rates in 14 years.
"The world has changed," explains the 27-year old daughter of David Stevens - CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Despite her father's constant 30-year pitch of the merits of homeownership - and knowing full well that rates are low, rents are high, and owning a home 'builds wealth' - Sara Stevens is not buying. After watching "cousins and other family members go through pretty tough situations in 2008 and 2009," her skepticism is broad-based as Bloomberg reports, t’s more than the weight of student loans, an iffy job market and tight credit -- even those who can buy are hesitant. As Bloomberg so eloquently concludes, when even the cheerleader-in-chief for housing can’t get a rah-rah out of his daughter, you know this time is different.
Maybe its time for a new version of the old regime at the Fed. That is, for the Eccles Building to eschew interest rate-pegging and ZIRP entirely, and thereby allow financial markets to once again engage in honest price discovery and two-way trading; and to allow the natural business cycle to meander along its own capitalist path as determined not by the 12 members of the monetary politburo, but the 317 million consumers, producers, investors, entrepreneurs and even speculators who comprise the real main street economy.