The most recent gold bear raid has vastly enriched the bullion bankers, once again, at the expense of everyone trying to protect their wealth from global central bank money printing. The central plank of Bernanke's magic recovery plan has been to get everybody back borrowing, spending, and "investing" in stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. But not equally so - he has been instrumental in distorting the landscape towards risk assets and away from safe harbors. That's why a 2- year loan to the US government will only net you 0.22%, a rate that is far below even the official rate of inflation. After the two years is up, you are up $44k (interest) but out $260k (inflation) for net loss of $216,000. That wealth, or purchasing power, did not just vanish: it was taken by the process of inflation and transferred to someone else. This explains, almost completely, why the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening so rapidly, and why financiers now populate the top of every Forbes 400 list. There is no mystery, just a process of wealth transfer of magnificent and historic proportions; one that has been repeated dozens of times throughout history.
Despite the mainstream analysts' calls for a "great rotation" by investors from bonds to stocks - the reality has been quite the opposite. While the 10-year treasury rate rose from the recessionary lows signaling some economic recovery in 2009; the decline in rates coincided with the evident peak in economic growth for the current cycle that begin in earnest in 2012 - "With rates plunging in recent weeks the indictment from the bond market concurs with the longer term data that the economy remains at risk." Despite the calls for the end of the "bond bubble" the current decline in interest rates are suggesting that the real risk is to the economy. The aggressive monetary intervention programs by the Federal Reserve, along with the ECB and BOJ, continue to support the financial markets but are gaining little traction within the real economy. Of course, this is likely why the current quantitative easing program is "open-ended" because the Fed has finally realized that there is no escape. The next economic crisis is coming - the only questions are "when" and "what causes it?" The problem is that next time - monetary policy might not save investors.
Preview of tomorrow's BOE minutes and Osborne's budget.
Our last discussion of the miracle of earnings expectations focused on the bottom-up hockey-stick that it seems the consensus believes is ahead (always out there in the future). Today's 'factual' and 'empirical' whiteboard lecture on the 'miracle' comes courtesy of CNBC's Rick Santelli, who appears as frustrated at his co-correspondents permabullishness (see Liesman's flip-flopping views on retail sales today) as the implicit disconnect between the market and fundamentals. To wit, the fact that expectations for GDP growth and earnings are so divergent. With earnings growth expected to be +14.7% this year and nominal GDP around +3-4%, Santelli asks his guest where nominal GDP 'normally' is for such strong earnings expectations - the answer 7.6% nominal GDP growth... reality discussion ensues...
The UK government appears to be contemplating changing the BOE's mandate so it can be freer tolerate greater near-term price pressures. The Tory-led government is commented to fiscal consolidation--austerity--the same kind of policies many want to see the US adopt, and needs greater monetary stimulus to avoid a deeper contraction in the UK economy.
With their crackpot monetary ideas, central banks have been robbing Peter to pay Paul without knowing which one was which. And a problem here is this thing behavioral psychologists call self-attribution bias. It describes how when good things happen to people they think it’s because of something they did, but when bad things happen to them they think it’s because of something someone else did.... When we look around we can’t help feeling something similar is happening. The 99% blame the 1%; the 1% blame the 47%. In the aftermath of the Eurozone’s own credit bubbles, the Germans blame the Greeks. The Greeks round on the foreigners. The Catalans blame the Castilians. And as 25% of the Italian electorate vote for a professional comedian whose party slogan “vaff a” means roughly “f**k off ”, the Germans are repatriating their gold from New York and Paris. Meanwhile in China, that centrally planned mother of all credit inflations, popular anger is being directed at Japan, and this is before its own credit bubble chapter has fully played out. (The rising risk of war is something we are increasingly worried about…) Of course, everyone blames the bankers (“those to whom the system brings windfalls… become ‘profiteers’ who are the object of the hatred”).
Consensus suggests India is a basket case while China is recovering. We think both views are incorrect and therein lies opportunities for contrarian investors.
ECRI's Lakshman Achuthan holds firm to his belief that "a recession started around the middle of last year" and even as he notes consensus expectations for payrolls tomorrow at 160-170k, "year-over-year payroll jobs growth will go to a 16-month low." In this Bloomberg TV interview, the embattled prognosticator explains how "the entire West is in the Yo-Yo years. They have all been having growth stair-stepping down. It is very weak growth with higher cycle-volatility which will give you more frequent recessions." Critically he notes, "Economies do not hang out at 0.5% or 1%. They do not get this low growth steady state muddle through recession-free kind of growth at 1%, which everybody seems to think might be possible. It is not possible. Free markets have economic cycles. they accelerate and they decelerate. if you are doing it at a very low growth rate, the odds of a slowdown going into recession are very high." Some excess truthiness in this brief clip.
... And this time it is a true parabola.
Central banks are the devil. Hinde Capital explains that they are like drug dealers except they administer regular doses of supposedly legally prescribed barbiturates to their addicts. The 'easy money' or 'credit' they create is an opiate and like all addictions there is a payback for the addicts, one exacted only in loss of health, misery and death. The economic system is an addict, but that system is comprised of banks, corporations, non-profit organisations, small businesses all of which are communities. And what comprises communities, us, human beings - individuals. We are the addicts. It is Hinde's contention that central banks feel they need to maintain the balance of credit in the system as it currently stands by adjusting the money supply and monetary velocity (MV) but by doing so they merely circumvent the necessary adjustment in the economic system that comes about by market failure. If they don't allow this failure then any attempt to influence MV will only lead to higher prices (P) at the expense of output (T) in the famous monetary equation MV=PT. Sadly the desire of the State to control money and administer it like a drug has left our economies unproductive and incapable of standing on their own two feet. Full must read Hinde Insight below...
- China drains cash to curb liquidity (FT) - no longer just a New Year issue...
- Hilesnrath speaks (but nobody cares anymore) - Fed Split Over How Long To Keep Cash Spigot Open (WSJ)
- Chasm opening between weak French and strong German economies (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Said to Seek First Sale of Mortgage Bonds Since Crisis (BBG)
- China's Bo Xilai not cooperating on probe, been on hunger strike (Reuters)
- Fed minutes send warning on durability of bond buying (Reuters)
- Sony Seeks an Extra Life in New PlayStation 4 (BBG)
- Rajoy pledges fresh round of reforms (FT) - and by reforms he means kickbacks?
- Doubts loom over eurozone recovery (BBG)
- China Extending Zhou Stay Seen as Aid to Financial Overhaul (BBG)
- King Pulls Out Stops to Energize Economy in Carney Handover (BBG)
- Central Banks Discussed Nominal GDP Targets at G-20 (Businessweek)
- Grand Central Owner Opposes IPO of Empire State Building (BBG)
From the management of a global currency war to the 1998 Committee to Save The World, QBAMCO provides an all encompassing escape into the reality our current - and future - monetary (and inflationary) world. While Brodsky and Quaintance do not expect a breakdown in global monetary oversight, they do expect fiat currency debasement to continue to mask the driver of real economic malaise and contraction - global bank deleveraging; and they do expect this process to lead to a popular loss of confidence in today’s major currencies as savings instruments – perhaps beginning in the global capital markets in 2013. What will eventually (or soon) occur will be the rare occasion when return-on-savings trounces return-on-investment, implying precious metals will outperform the great majority of financial assets (except for shares in precious metals miners and natural resource producers).
Yesterday we presented a simplistic analysis of why for Japan "This Time Won't Be Different", a preliminary observation so far validated by the just announced Japanese December current account deficit which was not only nearly double the expected 144.2 billion yen, printing at some 264.1 billion yen, but was only the first back-to-back monthly current account deficit since 1985. But perhaps we are wrong and this time Abe will succeed where he, and so many others, have failed before. And, as is now widely understood, perhaps Japan will succeed in finally launching the necessary and sufficient currency war that would be part and parcel of Japans great reflation, as even various G-8 members have recently acknowledged. The question is will it, and when? One attempt at an answer comes from the fine folks at Bienville Capital who have compiled the definitive pros and cons presentation on what Japan must do, and how it will play out, at least if all goes according to plan.
Asset inflation often produces something called "wealth illusion," the belief that pricier asset holdings necessarily make one permanently richer. Illusions are dangerous. Eventually, painful reality intervenes. The "wealth illusion" of asset inflation is seductive, which is why central banks in charge of a fiat currency and subject to no external disciplines so often drift in that direction. Politicians smile in satisfaction and powerful Washington lobbies cry for more. But an economy built on an illusion is hardly a sound structure. We may be doomed to learn that lesson once again before long.
G4+CHF can fight the currency wars longer and more aggressively than small G10 and EM countries can. However, as Citi's Steven Englander notes, it also takes a lot of depreciation to crowd in a meaningful amount of net exports. His bottom line, GBP, CHF and JPY have a lot further to depreciate. In principle, the USD can easily fall into this category as well, but right now the USD debate is focused on Fed policy – were it to become clear that balance sheet expansion will end well beyond end-2013, the USD would fall into the category of currency war ‘winners’ as well. Critically, though, the reality of currency wars is that policymakers do not use FX as cyclical stimulus because of its effectiveness; they use it because they have hit a wall with respect to the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies, and are unwilling to bite the structural policy bullet. The following seven points will be on every policymakers' mind - or should be.