Mainstream media discussion of the macro economic picture goes something like this: “When there is a recession, the Fed should stimulate. We know from history the recovery comes about 12-18 months after stimulus. We stimulated, we printed a lot of money, we waited 18 months. So the economy ipso facto has recovered. Or it’s just about to recover, any time now.” But to quote the comedian Richard Pryor, “Who ya gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” However, as Hayek said, the more the state centrally plans, the more difficult it becomes for the individual to plan. Economic growth is not something that just happens. It requires saving. It requires investment and capital accumulation. And it requires the real market process. It is not a delicate flower but it requires some degree of legal stability and property rights. And when you get in the way of these things, the capital accumulation stops and the economy stagnates.
The sovereign debt of the developed world has risen from approximately 80% of GDP to 110%, an additional $12 trillion of debt, while interest rates have fallen to nothing. A ‘normal’ short term interest rate is one that is in line with inflation, which has been an average of 2% for the period 2007-2013. Therefore we can roughly calculate that ‘citizen-savers’ of the world have lost $1.75 trillion in unreceived interest. This is nothing short of being an undeclared tax levied by the State. As the quantum of debt has increased, a rise in interest rates would bring hefty costs to the State; currently, interest outlay in the USA alone, at 2.5%, is $400 billion per annum. Any sustained interest rate rise with the continued level of deficit is not manageable without growth being greater than the yields paid. Simply put, interest rates cannot rise without high growth, therefore a ‘lost interest generation’ is unfolding.
Our public finances are a mess, notwithstanding the misinformation you’ll hear tomorrow. When President Obama rolls out his proposed budget, you’ll hear boasts about improvements in the deficit since the depths of the Great Recession. You’ll also hear claims that those improvements are easily sustained; that a much talked about “grand bargain” on long-term debt reduction can wait. But once you see through the phony numbers in government projections, it’s clear that we’re on a path from a stupidly high debt burden to a much higher burden. Washington would need to find some leadership and foresight to change that path, and there’s no sign of that happening anytime soon.
Government spending is out of control. But even if voters and politicians wanted to stop, they couldn't. The root of the problem is a flaw in the nature of the dollar.
The strength of the real estate market should not be measured by price appreciation, or the number of new and existing home sales. It should be measured by the support of underlying fundamentals and whether they can help to withstand economic cycles without policy makers having to go hog wild just to avoid a total collapse.
So how healthy is the real estate market today?
Gold is up 3.3% this week and headed for the biggest weekly advance since October as U.S. economic data was again worse than expected. This increased safe haven demand and the biggest exchange-traded product saw holdings rise to a two-month high. Call options on gold, giving the buyer the right to buy June 2015 futures at $2,200 an ounce, surged 24% to a five-week high as prices climbed to a three-month high. Gold has traded above the 100 day moving average since February 10, and is heading for a close above the 200 day moving average for the first time since February 2013. A weekly close above the 200 day moving average and the psychological level of $1,300/oz will be very positive for gold and could lead to gold challenging the next level of resistance at $1,357/oz and $1,434/oz. Gold is up 5.3% so far in February and 9.3% so far this year as concerns about emerging market markets, currencies, and the U.S. economy boosted safe haven demand. Recent employment and sales data was poor. U.S. jobless claims reached 339,000 in the week ended February 8 and retail sales in the U.S. declined in January by the most in 10 months.
Although there are no policy making meetings, central banks will still dominate the agenda in the week ahead.
- Here is why AAPL bounced off $500: Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in Two Weeks (WSJ)
- German Court Refers OMT Decision to Europe's Top Court (WSJ)
- Inflation Fuels Crises in Two Latin Nations (WSJ)
- U.S. job growth seen snapping back from winter chill (Reuters)
- Google to own $750 million Lenovo stake after Motorola deal closes: HK exchange (Reuters)
- Frigid Winter Spells Trouble for U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Winter Games to open, Putin keen to prove doubters wrong (Reuters)
- Regulators Ready to Proceed on Bank Leverage Limit (WSJ)
- Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII (BBG)
The death of the middle class in America has become so painfully obvious that now even the New York Times is doing stories about it. Millions of middle class jobs have disappeared, incomes are steadily decreasing, the rate of homeownership has declined for eight years in a row and U.S. consumers have accumulated record-setting levels of debt. Being independent is at the heart of what it means to be "middle class", and unfortunately the percentage of Americans that are able to take care of themselves without government assistance continues to decline. In fact, the percentage of Americans that are receiving government assistance is now at an all-time record high. This is not a good thing. Anyone that tries to tell you that the middle class is going to be "okay" simply has no idea what they are talking about. The following are 28 signs that the middle class is heading toward extinction...
Even before the new myRA program was announced, there had been whispers about the need for the US government to assume some risk for US retirement accounts. That's code for forced conversion of private retirement assets into government bonds. As bad as it is to deceive naïve Americans into trading their hard-earned retirement savings for garbage (i.e., Treasury securities), the myRA program potentially represents something far worse... the first step toward the nationalization of existing private retirement accounts.
Show this article to anyone that believes that the economy has actually improved in the last 5 years. On Tuesday evening, the President once again attempted to convince all of us that things have gotten better while he has been in the White House. He quoted a few figures, used some flowery language and made a whole bunch of new promises. And even though he has failed to follow through on his promises time after time, millions upon millions of Americans continue to believe him. To say that his credibility is "strained" would be a massive understatement. No, things have not been getting better in America. In fact, they continue to get even worse. The following are 32 statistics that Obama neglected to mention during the State of the Union address...
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens:
...Make no mistake: the consequences of our actions are here. And the days of the United States as the world's dominant superpower are finished.
...No, this may not be the country that you all grew up in. But it is the state of our union... whatever remains of it.
As we previously noted, the 85 richest people in the world have about as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire global population does. In other words, 85 extremely wealthy individuals have about as much wealth as the poorest 3,500,000,000 do. There is certainly nothing wrong with making money. In fact, the founders of the United States intended for this nation to be a place where free markets thrived and where everyone could pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, this country (along with the rest of the world) has moved very much in the opposite direction. Today, we have a debt-based global financial system which is dominated by gigantic predator corporations and big banks. Working together with national governments, these corporations and banks have constructed a system in which the percentage of all global wealth that is being funneled to the very top of the pyramid steadily grows over time. The Founding Fathers were very correct to be very suspicious of large concentrations of power. In the early days of the United States, the federal government was very small and the size and scope of corporations was greatly limited. Our nation thrived and a huge middle class blossomed. Sadly, over the past several decades the pendulum has completely swung in the other direction.
Americans have never had less economic freedom than they do right now. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom has just been released, and it turns out that the level of economic freedom in the United States has now fallen for seven consecutive years. But of course none of us need a report or a survey to tell us that. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around. At this point our entire society is completely dominated by control freaks and bureaucrats. Our economy is literally being suffocated to death by millions of laws, rules and regulations and each year brings a fresh tsunami of red tape. As you will see below, the U.S. government issued more than 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations last year on top of what we already had. Even if we didn't have all of the other monumental economic problems that we are currently facing, all of this bureaucracy alone would be enough to kill our economy.
In January 2009, the number of "officially unemployed" workers plus the number of Americans "not in the labor force" was sitting at a grand total of 92.6 million. Today, that number has risen to 102.2 million. That means that the number of working age Americans that are not working has grown by close to 10 million since Barack Obama first took office. The cold, hard reality of the matter is that there has not been an economic recovery in this nation. Anyone that tries to tell you that is lying to you. If we were going to have a recovery, it would have happened by this point. In fact, this is all the "recovery" that we are going to experience. From here on out, this is about as good as things are going to get.