Less than four weeks after starting his new job, Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela already has a serious challenge to deal with: empty grocery shelves. This is largely a self-inflicted wound that was bound to happen.
Fresh on the heels of his victory in May, the then President-elect announced that one of his first orders would be to regulate prices for staple food products. He followed through on his promise, establishing price controls on certain brands of roughly two dozen items like chicken, rice, eggs, and bread. And within a matter of weeks, many grocery store shelves are already empty, at least for the regulated items. It’s not quite Venezuela or Cuba where it can be downright impossible to buy a roll of toilet paper. But it’s more proof that price controls almost always backfire.
Bloomberg carried out a study and it has just been published. It covers conference calls from 2004 to 2014 and it analyzes how American CEOs speak and what words they use.
?Economics is like a Monet painting. Stand too close and all you see is a bunch of seemingly random paint strokes. Back up a few steps and an image emerges. The painting of bubblenomics started with the Plaza Accord, September 1985, where five nations agreed to manipulate the dominant currencies at the time. Japan enjoyed a 50% devaluation of the US$ vs the yen, artificially enriching its citizens so they could travel the world in busloads with eighty pounds of cameras around their necks. The consequences of that bubble have yet to be corrected. Based on healthy guidelines, the price of real estate is far too expensive today, or, more precisely, the cost of housing is too high but we may need another crisis before the market will wake up to the needed changes. In the meantime, money printing and hype will continue.
Ssshh... The trade only works if everyone is lulled into staying on the long side until it's too late.
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.
There has been much discussion as of late about the end of the current quantitative easing program and the beginning of the Federal Reserve "normalizing" interest rates. The primary assumption is that as interest rates normalize, the financial markets will continue to rise as economic growth strengthens. While this certainly seems like a logical assumption, is it really the case?
The sell off was greeted by Chinese buyers as Chinese premiums edged up to just over $1 an ounce on the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE).
Gold price drops this year have led to a marked increase in demand for gold as seen in very large increases in ETF holdings (See chart - Orange is Gold, Purple is absolute change in gold ETF holdings). The smart money in Asia, the West and globally continues to use price dips as an opportunity to allocate to gold.
Vested interests are threatened by the losses generated by small financial fires, so these are systemically suppressed. As a result, the fallen deadwood piles ever higher, creating more fuel for the next random lightning strike to ignite. Once the deadwood piles high enough, the random lightning strike ignites a fire so fast-moving and so hot that it cannot be suppressed, and the entire financial system burns to the ground. So go ahead and keep defending the Status Quo as the best system possible, or believe Elites will keep suppressing fires forever because they're so powerful, or whatever excuse, rationalization or justification you prefer. It won't matter, because the firestorm won't respond to words, beliefs, ideological certainties, reassurances or official pronouncements. It will do what fires do, which is burn all available fuel until there's no fuel left to consume.
This week was interesting to say the least and it is ending with a bang. We are covering a number of brief subjects this week. I hope you enjoy them.
Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all. I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.
This is misguided and not in the U.S. national interest and could backfire spectacularly. After a period of relative calm, currency wars look set to escalate and will make owning gold important again in the coming months.
Based on historical patterns and the alarming state of our current monetary system, Mike Maloney, monetary historian believes the fiat US dollar is in its last years as a viable currency. He sees its replacement as inevitable in the near term - as in by or before the end of the decade - "All of this is converging with the crazy experiments the Federal Reserve has done. During the last three monetary shifts, it was only the world's central banks and big international banks that were affected and were worried. The common man didn't even know what was going on. With this one, everybody is going to feel it. Everybody is going to know it. You will either be a winner or a loser, but everybody is playing this game."
Many in Ukraine are talking about major revisions to the Constitution (leading one local journalist to ask – “Why don’t we use the American Constitution? It was written by really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and they’re not using it anymore…”) He’s right. Much of the West, in fact, has descended into the same extractive system as Ukraine. There’s a tiny elite showering itself with free money and political favors at the expense of everyone else. Ukraine may be in the midst of turmoil right now, but they at least hit the big giant reset button and are looking to build something new. The West, meanwhile, continues down its path of more debt, more money printing, more regulations, and less freedom. How long can this really go on without consequence?
Opinions about the U.S. economy boil down to two views: 1) the recovery is now self-sustaining, meaning that the Federal Reserve can taper and end its unprecedented interventions without hurting growth, or 2) the current uptick in auto sales, new jobs, housing sales, etc. is as good as it gets, and the weak recovery unravels from here. The reality is that nothing has been done to address the structural rot at the heart of the U.S. economy. You keep shoving in the same inputs, and you guarantee the same output: another crash of credit bubbles and all the malinvestments enabled by monetary heroin.