Can Austerity Work?
We have now entered the fifth year of this Fourth Turning Crisis. George Washington and his troops were barely holding on at Valley Forge during the fifth year of the American Revolution Fourth Turning. By year five of the Civil War Fourth Turning 700,000 Americans were dead, the South left in ruins, a President assassinated and a military victory attained that felt like defeat. By the fifth year of the Great Depression/World War II Fourth Turning, FDR’s New Deal was in place and Adolf Hitler had been democratically elected and was formulating big plans for his Third Reich. The insight from prior Fourth Turnings that applies to 2012 is that things will not improve. They call it a Crisis because the risk of calamity is constant. There is zero percent chance that 2012 will result in a recovery and return to normalcy. Not one of the issues that caused our economic collapse has been solved. The “solutions” implemented since 2008 have exacerbated the problems of debt, civic decay and global disorder. The choices we make as a nation in 2012 will determine the future course of this Fourth Turning. If we fail in our duty, this Fourth Turning could go catastrophically wrong. I pray we choose wisely. Have a great 2012.
Life goes on, so does the stock market.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the Japanese experience with deleveraging over the past few decades it’s that deleveraging cycles have there own special rhythm of reflationary and deflationary interludes. Pretty simple thinking as balance sheet deleveraging by definition cannot be a short term process given the prior decades required to build up the leverage accumulated in any economic/financial system. If deleveraging were a short term process, it would play out as a massive short term depression. And clearly any central bank would act to disallow such an outcome, exactly has been the case not only in Japan over the last few decades, but now also in the US and the Eurozone. We just need to remember that this is a dance. There is an ebb and flow to the greater (generational) deleveraging cycle. Just as leveraging up was not a linear process, neither will the process of deleveraging be linear. Why bring this larger picture cycle rhythm up right now? The recent price volatility we’ve seen in assets that can be characterized as offering purchasing power protection within the context of a global central banking community debasing currencies as their preferred method of reflation for now, specifically recent the price volatility of gold.
While we’re not bubbling over with optimism, we believe the New Year will be anything but boring.
How Jim O'Neill still has a job is beyond us. Not only is he the head of the worst performing vertical at Goldman Sachs, not only is he the creator of the Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept (BRIC), but now this? Come on...
Hey, it helps the big banks ... so shut up, already!
While it will not surprise anyone that Japan, which for the past 3 decades has been a monetary policy basket case caught in what bankers like calling a deflationary spiral (yet which others like Sean Corrigan merely define as prices re-indexing to a fair value absent endless cheap credit crutches), has constantly had to resort to a record loose monetary policy coupled with endless episodes of quantitative easing, some may not know that over the past month Japan has seen its current account balance swell by $250 billion, or nearly half the entire Fed QE2 monetization mandate. And as the BOJ continues to disclose the full extent of the Japanese economic devastation following March 11, we are confident that very soon the most recent episode of Japanese “printing” will surpass the $600 billion that the Fed is injecting into the US economy (in addition to the roughly $250 billion in Treasury bonds monetized by the BOJ each year): an amount roughly 5 times greater than America's when expressed as a ratio of GDP. It is thus no surprise then that Bernanke does not seem too concerned with the purported end of QE – after all money printing is merely moving from developed world point A to developed world point B. And thanks to monetary linkages of “globalization” all this brand new money will once again find its way into speculative assets, and thus, Fed mandate #3 favorite - Russell 2000. Below we provide a closer look at what exactly the current and future, Japanese QEasing will look like.
A well-trodden meme of TV and cinema has been the plot in which someone or something uses tantalizing illusions to sap humans of their will to resist while simultaneously pursuing hostile ends. In The Martian Chronicles, the subtle race of Martians distracted the invading Americans with irresistible life-like illusions that spoke to their most intimate yearnings. In one episode of the X-Files, a fungus slowly digested an unlucky couple who lay in a field and were rendered completely passive by the fungus’ hallucinogenic properties. And then, most famously, the machines of the movie The Matrix ruled over a ruined wasteland and seduced people with a beguiling virtual reality in order to maintain their passivity while they tapped humanity’s body heat as an energy source. Now, a lot of investors believe that life is imitating art in an alliance of the Federal Reserve and the big banks to create the illusion of healthy equity markets despite massive retail equity withdrawals in the years following the financial crisis.
Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher, who despite his recent quite vocal disagreement with Fed policies (Dallas Fed's Fisher Stunner: Admits Worries Fed Has Created Nothing But Bubbles), yet who conveniently forgot to dissent with the decision to continue the status quo at the latest FOMC committee, thereby making the current batch of hawks even more useless than the previous one (at least back then Hoenig had the guts to put his dissent where his mouth was) is once more on the tape, and following last week's announcement by the Dallas Fed president, was once again caught stating that he will not support further Fed accommodation and he will dissent with further QE decisions. At this point it is mostly theatrics. Should there truly be more QE, as Ben Bernanke implied may be the case during last week's Press meeting, then watch oil, commodities and those pesky precious metals quickly ground any such ambitions.
The market was relatively quiet today as protesters in Egypt clashed with pro-government supporters (apparently one group wore plaid and another wore stripes, how gauche)...
One of the more peculiar observations we noted in our analysis of the Fed's balance sheet yesterday, was that in the week just ended, reserves held by banks with the Federal Reserve dropped by a very material $64.2 billion even as the Fed ended up buying a net of $4 billion in securities: a $68 billion mismatch between an increase in reserves and Fed asset increases. A quick look at how this mismatch has progressed since the announcement of QE Lite (and QE 2) demonstrates this phenomenon very distinctly: while during the QE Lite phase, net holdings of the Fed were flat, bank reserves, which should have followed suit in fact declined notably, by almost $40 billion. Yet it is during the POMO phase of QE 2 that this difference become glaring. During a period when the Fed added a total of $88 billion (net of MBS paydowns) in securities, reserves increased by only $14 billion. This does not include the cumulative differential since QE Lite. And all this came to a head in the just ended week, when the difference between cumulative asset purchases and reserve changes hit a whopping $138 billion. This is very disturbing for a variety of reasons, the number of which is that, as Jim Bianco points out, banks are rapidly exchange securities with higher reserve requirements for those with lower: the net result is a far slower increase in reserves held with the Fed. It also means that banks ever since QE Lite have been stealthily offloading lower quality fixed income products to the market and replacing these with Treasuries (motivation being unclear but likely having to do with presenting a better capitalized state). If true, this would mean that during the entire orchestrated HY bond rally sine August, those who have been buying are in fact the greatest suckers, and have been buying hundreds of billions worth of lower quality paper from none other than the allegedly smart money banks. Alternatively, what this means, is that instead of opening up capacity for banks to bid up riskier corporates and thus stimulate the economy, banks are forced to gobble up the toxic treasuries, that the Treasury puts upon them each and every week. Should this divergent trend persist, we would be very mindful of obtaining verification of either of these two hypotheses.
In my article "Something Is Happening" I noted a glimmer of positive economic data. I was cautious to not call it a "recovery" yet because there isn't a clear trend. I still feel that way. The Fed and the federal government may yet blow up a recovery. But ... I can't ignore positive signs. I read the same data as other free market oriented blogs out there, I am just about the only one seeing this. "Believe what your eyes see, not what you want to believe."
QE explained in such a brilliantly simplistic manner that even asleep-at-the-wheel Americans whose lives revolve around the NFL team they call god can understand what it is.
Don't know who created this, but it is worth watching ...