While a welcome development (and probably even more welcome on the other side of the Atlantic) it doesn’t make up for the fact that the explosive price increases during the boom years were never included. And it isn’t just real estate — equities was another market that massively inflated without being counted in official inflation statistics. It would have been simple at the time to calculate the effective inflation rate with these components included. A wiser economist than Greenspan might have at least paid attention to such information and tightened monetary policy to prevent the incipient bubbles from overheating. Of course, with inflation statistics calculated in the way they are (price changes to an overall basket of retail goods) there will always be a fight over what to include and what not to include. A better approach is to include everything.
Yesterday, Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter ruffled the unelected Italian PM's feather by saying "forget Spain, Italy is next in the bailout line" - a statement which as expected was promptly loudly refuted, mocked, and scorned by everyone possible: the type of reaction that only the truth can possibly generate in Europe. So far so good: after all the typical European reaction to any instance of the truth is loud screams of "lies, lies" and promptly sticking your head deep in the sand. However, this time around Italy may not have the benefit of the doubt, nor the benefit of some sacrificial replacement of a prime minister: Silvio is long gone, and at this point switching one banker figurehead with another will do precisely nothing. Which is why this morning's assessment from Bloomberg economist David Powell is spot on: "Italy would probably be forced into receiving a bailout if it were to face another two weeks like the last seven days." But the punchline: "The bad news for Italy is the country’s stock of debt is already as large as Spain’s may become after years of fiscal turmoil. In other words, Italy already is where Spain may be heading."
Incentivize debt, and you end up relying on debt as a sustitute for productivity and income. Increase debt, and there's not enough income left for productive investments that might boost income. Incentivize debt via making interest tax deductible, and you create a self-reinforcing feedback of a rising share of declining income being devoted to interest payments. With demand and borrowing both suppressed by debt-serfdom, demand for housing, goods and services declines. Borrowing more to consume simply speeds the cycle of rising interest and falling net incomes. Incentivize debt and you create multiple overlapping death spirals. We are seeing the death-spirals play out in a fractal manner, from households to nations to entire regions. High debt levels lead to high interest payments which lead to low investment and savings rates which lead to lower productivity which leads to stagnation of income, consumption and investment: in other words, a death spiral.
A land grab shrouded in a banking takeover, wrapped in a financial crisis "rescue." As always, insiders get first dibs. (And, yes, there is an MF Global connection.)
As Many Have Predicted for Years
The financial elite - using academe for intellectual cover - want you to believe that markets are efficient, as defined by the Efficient Market Theory (EMT). Neoliberal economic philosophy is based on the belief that neoclassical economic theory is correct. That is, that “markets are efficient”. Wall Street touts markets as trustworthy and infallible, but that faith is misplaced. Gullible US politicians believe that markets are efficient and defer to them. Therefore, US politicians abdicate their responsibility to manage the overall economy, and happily for them, receive Wall Street money. Mistakenly, the primary focus during the 2008 credit crisis is on fixing the financial markets (Wall Street banks) and not the “real economy.” The financial elite are using this “cover-up and pray” policy—hoping that rekindled “animal spirits” will bring the economy back in time to save the status quo. This is impossible because the trust is gone. The same sociopaths control the economy. A Federal Reserve zero interest rate policy (ZIRP), causing malinvestment, and monetizing the national debt with quantitative easing by the Fed, and austerity for the 99% to repay bad bank loans has not worked—and doing more of the same will not work—and defines insanity.
Spain marks the fourth bailout during this Euro Zone debt crisis saga, after Ireland, Portugal and Greece, and may need more aid, while Italy is looking good to be the fifth bailout candidate
Over-collateralization rates for Spanish covered bonds goes into the stratosphere -- 200-300% -- a grim indication of loss given default.
Nobody on the Buy Side wants to sue JPM, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley et al for securities fraud on the more problematic deals of the past decade.
Mark Carney announced a few days ago the Bank of Canada will keep its benchmark interest rate steady at 1%. This announcement comes despite his previous warnings over the enormous increase in Canadian private debt. But of course the run up in debt couldn’t have occurred if interest rates were determined by market factors only. Had supply and demand been allowed to function freely, interest rates would have risen as a check on the swell in debt accumulation. Carney won’t admit this though. Like all central bankers, he has made a habit of boasting the positive effects of his low interest rates policies while avoiding blame for the negative consequences. He is a bartender who gleefully takes the drunk’s cash while replying with “who, me?” when said drunk drinks himself to death. Carney’s decision to keep interest rates suppressed is yet another instance of a central banker unable to face reality. The malinvestments will continue to accumulate and will have to be liquidated at another date. What Carney has done to mitigate the looming debt and housing bubble is effectively kick the can down the road. He has revealed through his actions the undeniable truth which holds for all central bankers: that they have no other card to play but the printing press.
The European financial ministers' meeting started at 4:00 pm CET. What are they discussing? According to the WSJ, nothing short of "a commitment to provide as much as €100 billion ($125 billion) in support for Spain's ailing banking sector." At least we now know that that Spanish bank trot so widely avoided by the mainstream media was just a little more kinetically-charged than previously expected, because for Spain to actually demand the money, even if implicitly, it means it has a capital shortfall, which can only arise from an outflow of liquidity, as mere real estate impairments do not have any impact on liquidity. So far so good. There is only one problem: Spain has yet to formally request the money! According to newspaper ABC, "Spain wants to convince European partners that IMF shouldn’t participate in aid for country’s banks because of potential stigma. Aim of talks taking place today is to agree legal framework and conditions for a potential rescue, newspaper says." Potential rescue you see: not an actual one. Just because, as we explained patiently to the 5 year old algos out there, Spain will have none of this "conditionality" that would be imposed on it by Germany, and the IMF, should it actually be formally a bail out target. Which of course would also have the unpleasant side effect of pushing its spreads tighter for a few hours, then blowing them out parabolically once carbon-based investors out there realize what has just happened. As for the ultimate question: just where will €1 of money come from in this broke continent, let alone €100 billion... why, better not to bother with details.
"The global banking system is functionally insolvent and will fail without exogenous policy action" is how QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky begins his latest treatise noting that asset monetization (and in, particular, gold monetization) would solve many more problems than it would create. The negatives would merely recognize the balance sheet damage already done and beginning to be manifest (first, in the private sector and now, increasingly in the public sector). The global economy is threatened because, in real terms, it continues to misallocate capital and rolling unfunded debts and debating in the political sphere over the merits and risks of unfunded growth or policy-administered national austerity programs is a futile endeavor. The math suggests strongly neither can work. Brodsky is convinced policy-administered asset monetization would stop the global financial system from seizing, restore sorely needed economic balance, and reset commercial incentives so that real growth can once again gain traction.