Here’s the crucial part of what Summers and Krugman are saying: this is not a temporary gig. This isn’t going to just “get better” on its own over time. This really is, as Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO would call it, the New Normal. And if you’re Jeremy Grantham or anyone for whom a stock has meaning as a fractional ownership stake in a real-world company rather than as a casino chip that gives you “market exposure” … well, that’s really bad news... Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that your deep dive into the value fundamentals of some large-cap bank has any predictive value whatsoever for the bank’s stock price, or that a return to the happy days of yesteryear is just around the corner. It doesn’t and it’s not, and even if you’re making money you’re going to be miserable and ornery while you wait nostalgically for what you do and what you’re good at to matter again. Spoiler Alert: Godot never shows up.
There is nothing any of us can do at this point, except navigate the rapids as well as possible, and to stay out of the way of a dying empire, which is still very dangerous in its death throes. We are actually very privileged to be alive and witnessing this next transition, to what we do not know just yet. But what an honor to live at this time, not in ignorance but with an existential resolve to come out of it alive and much the wiser.
Another of history’s many lessons is that governments under pressure become thieves. And today’s governments are under a lot of pressure.
The Obama Administration believes military action will send a powerful message. In that, they are correct. Where they are wrong is in what message it will send and in what way that message will elicit a response. In much of the world where people share the religion common to much of Syria, the message will be: America attacks yet another Moslem nation. In the rest of the world, where governments have already declined participation in any message-sending action (except for the one exhibiting the quintessential Napoleon Complex), the message will be: there they go again, doing something they would never want done to them, and demonstrating that they alone think they can decide what deaths constitute a moral obscenity and what constitute mere unfortunate collateral damage.
Today the financial world will focus on one singular person. He is not elected but appointed. He kind of, sort of, reports to Congress but there is a football field of slippage in that observation. With the wave of a hand or the choice of a word he can send markets to the moon or leave them bleeding in the streets. It is a fascinating position that Mr. Bernanke occupies as he can take money or create money as easily as he can order his morning coffee. The fun begins when the question and answer session begins. Then it is rather like a video game. Traders all across the world sitting with their fingers on the keyboard just waiting to press the button if the wisp of some word blows left or right, up or down. It is the adult version of "Call of Duty, Modern Warfare."
There are countless examples of rampant criminality and corruption as well as blatant evidence of a two-tier system of justice in America today. Too many to note or write about, but in this case we want to focus on this concept of “money laundering” in light of the recent shutdown of Liberty Reserve. The crackdown on Liberty Reserve has nothing to do with “money laundering.” It’s about a cartel of “too big to jail” banks and the fraud financial system they operate eliminating any players that try to encroach on their turf. That isn’t capitalism, or socialism and it certainly isn’t anything close to freedom. It is a parasitic, oligarch created feudalistic structure that must be done away with. We often hear people say “we never learn from our mistakes.” Incorrect. People learn from their mistakes when there are consequences to their actions. Of course criminals don’t learn from their mistakes when there are no serious consequences to their crimes.
So you are a large corporate with local accounts in Italy or Spain, does today's solution tickle you pink? Pass the scotch tape...
Grillo refers to Berlusconi as “the psycho dwarf.” Grillo’s vision of Bersani is a “dead man walking.” In an interview that Grillo had with the New York Times over the weekend he said he would support neither side and that doing so “would be like Napoleon making a deal with Wellington.” He went on to say that, “We can change everything in the hands of respectable people, but the existing political class must be expelled immediately.” He has called for a nationwide referendum on Italy’s participation in the European Union and indicated that while Italy will pay its debts; it might be done in Lira. Do not underestimate this man. Do not assume that Italy will go on as usual and that this is just a split between the Left and the Right because this is not the case. Grillo’s call is for a new order, a new way of doing business and a new spirit for the Italians.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Lexington Partners; Tudor Investment, Brevan Howard, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Bank of Korea; BNP Paribas, Fidelity Investments, Deutsche Bank,, Freeman and Co., Bank America, National Bureau of Economic Research, FDIC, Interamerican Development Bank; 4 hedge funds, BTG Pactual, Gavea Investimentos; Reserve Bank of Australia, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Einaudi Institute, Bank of Italy; Swiss National Bank; Pension Real Estate Association; Goodwin Proctor, Penn State University, Villanova University, Shroeder’s Investment Management, Premiere, Inc, Muira Global, Bidvest, NRUCF, BTG Asset Management, Futures Industry Association, ACLI, Handelsbanken, National Business Travel Association, Urban Land Institute, Deloitte, CME Group; Barclays Capiital, Treasury Mangement Association, International Monetary Fund; Kairos Investments, Deloitte and Touche, Instituto para el Desarrollo Empreserial de lat Argentina, Handelsbanken, Danske Capital, WIPRO, University of Calgary, Pictet & Cie, Zurich Insurance Company, Central Bank of Chile, and many, many more.
In the spirit of the holidays and hope for a more prosperous 2013, we thought readers might appreciate a little humor to partially offset the relentless 'cliff' doom and gloom. So please, don’t take this too seriously. But if you happen to stumble across a ‘paperbug’ or two over the holidays, perhaps you could share some of the points made here. Humor sometimes helps people realize just how hopelessly misguided they are... Quantitative easing changes nothing. Remember, the PhDs are in charge of our economies and they know exactly how much our money should be worth. Those of us concerned that our money might lose purchasing power are just being paranoid. Choice is dangerous. Think Adam and Eve and you’ll get my point. Those arguing in favour of monetary freedom, of choice in money, of repealing legal tender laws, they’re just like that nasty snake Lillith in the Garden of Eden, the source of all trouble I tell you. ‘Tis the season to borrow and spend folks, as indeed it has been since 1971.
As we approach the end of the year and the various cliffs, bungee jumps and political idiocy that is in front of us you might want to take some time and pay attention to some friendly advice. Yes, of course you know everything, yes of course there is nothing that escapes your attention and you are personally plugged in to the inter-galactic computer that provides not only financial answers and but divine indulgences but still; keeping an open ear might be a novel experience. Take some profits. You and I have no idea what these “detached retinas” might do in Washington. If you are betting for a living then I would say that the craps table is now safer than Europe. These people have flown over the cuckoo’s nest and have become disoriented by the flight. Parties such as this are funny things; the jesters jest, the Kings lord, the Palace of Versailles is abuzz and it all goes along until someone switches off the lights. Keep your eyes on the switches!
Markets, you see, always live in this “day before” where the bend in the highway never comes, where the path is always straight and fixed and where it is generally thought that nothing of consequence will happen. Then some event takes place, something magical or wonderful or awful occurs and the world is turned on its axis and nothing is ever the same again. We are in danger, “clear and present danger” and the strategy of the “day before” is no longer appropriate. $400 billion has poured into bond funds this year, an all-time record, with yields at depressed levels indicating a quite real flight to safety. The United States lost thirty-six percent of its wealth during the American Financial Crisis and, people or institutions, the song rolls across the landscape, “We won’t get fooled again!”
The most important alliance within the EU, the one that has ultimately defined the union's course over the past few decades, is the French-German axis. It appears that this is no longer the case. The once so strong friendship is in danger of fraying ever since the socialist Francois Hollande has become president of France. Not only was he elected on an 'anti austerity' platform (disguised as a 'pro growth' agenda, which is of course one of the most laughable misrepresentations ever), it has turned out that his big-brother, anti-free market socialist agenda wasn't merely an electoral ploy to differentiate himself from Sarkozy. He actually means it. One thing is certain: the markets have not yet fully assimilated what is going on here.
Another week of central bank watching ahead, and markets will play their customary game of chicken with the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Both central banks have policy meetings this week – the Fed’s concludes on Wednesday, the ECB’s on Thursday – and capital markets have been moving higher in recent days on the hope of coordinated action. For investors and traders, this sets up a classic “Buy the rumor, sell the news” pattern for the week ahead - as the overarching theme is that human history repeats because human nature does not change. But Nic Colas of ConvergEx asks the deeper question, and the one that will retard any lasting move to the upside, is how much central banks can do without help from fiscal policymakers.