Real Interest Rates
In a recent NBER paper, Ken Rogoff and Vince and Carmen Reinhart address the long-lasting consequences of high public debt loads. The authors findings are shocking to many - especially those who choose to look at 10Y Treasury rates as an indication of stress (as opposed to our earlier note on the stresses beginning to occur in the less financially repressed USA sovereign CDS market). Across 50 countries, they find 26 periods of public debt overhangs where the government has pushed gross public debt to GDP over 90% and held it there for at least five years. The stunning reality of their empirical work is four-fold: 1) the median duration of these overhang periods in 23 years (that's a lot of can-kicking); 2) real GDP growth averages 1.2% lower than trend during these overhangs; 3) real GDP drops by on average around 25% at the end of the deleveraging episode; and 4) most critically, "waiting for markets to signal a problem may be waiting too long because governments have the ability to suppress market signals." So while all the chatter of renewed growth in Europe has us ebullient with an unchanged US equity market today, the longer-term reality is - unless this time is different, there's a long and painful road ahead.
There are deepening concerns in Switzerland about the debasement of the Swiss franc. The SNB has pegged the franc to the euro and is engaged in the same ultra loose monetary policies as the Federal Reserve, BOE and the ECB. The SNB won't allow the franc to rise above an arbitrary “ceiling” against the euro Walter Meier himself said on April 5 that the SNB is ready to buy foreign currencies in "unlimited quantities." Meier’s comments regarding the vastly depleted Swiss gold reserves came after Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, called on the SNB to disclose where its gold is stored, in a letter published in the respected Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Meier said that the SNB holds its physical gold reserves “domestically and internationally, with provisions for a crisis scenario being a main factor in the decision for this decentralized storage”. “The criteria for the storage countries are: appropriate regional diversification, exceptionally stable economic and political environments, immunity for central bank investments, access to a gold market where stocks could be liquidated if necessary,” he continued. He concluded by saying that “such a decentralized storage is still preferable to an exclusive storage in Switzerland. The listed factors can change over time and that’s why the central bank is reviewing and adapting the storage locations periodically.” The SNB’s monetary policies have been imprudent in recent years and their gold sales have lost the Swiss people a lot of money.
There is nothing quite like a $70 billion debt auction settlement at the last day of a month to bring total US debt to a record $15.692 trillion, which happens to be just $600 billion shy of the $16.394 trillion debt ceiling. (and no, contrary to simple economic textbook lesson, this does not mean that the private sector just got another $70 billion in debt capacity courtesy of taxpayers, as explained here). And now that we know what Q1 GDP was at the end of Q1, or namely $15.462 trillion, it is simply math to divine that today alone total US/debt to GDP rose by 50 bps to a mindboggling 101.5%.
While in 'normal' times the commonly held view is that P/E ratios tend to fall as real interest rates rise, as we recently pointed out here, the relationship is highly non-linear and nowhere is this regime-dependence more evident than in the following chart from Morgan Stanley. Empirically, the current interest-rate regime (the 2-3% 10Y) is as good as it gets and whether rates rise or fall from here, equity valuations are likely to drop. The market rarely trades at the average multiple, though the current market trades at near average levels currently (not cheap as many would like us to believe). Of course, as Morgan Stanley notes, there are a number of other drivers but on a long-term basis and top-down, equity valuations have a hard hill to climb to prove its different this time.
Support for gold is at $1,612/oz and resistance is at $1,663/oz and $1,684/oz.
No wonder one third of Americans are obese. The crap we are shoveling into our bodies is on par with the misinformation, propaganda and lies that are being programmed into our minds by government bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, corporate media gurus, and central banker puppets. Chief Clinton propaganda mouthpiece, James Carville, famously remarked during the 1992 presidential campaign that, “It’s the economy, stupid”. Clinton was able to successfully convince the American voters that George Bush’s handling of the economy caused the 1991 recession. In retrospect, it was revealed the economy had been recovering for months prior to the election. No one could ever accuse the American people of being perceptive, realistic or critical thinking when it comes to economics, math, history or distinguishing between truth or lies. Our government controlled public school system has successfully dumbed down the populace to a level where they enjoy their slavery and prefer conscious ignorance to critical thought.
Central Banks Favour Gold As IMF Warns of “Collapse of Euro” and “Full Blown Panic in Financial Markets”Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/18/2012 07:40 -0400
The Eurozone could break up and trigger a “full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight” and a global economic slump to rival the Great Depression, the IMF warned yesterday. In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out. It warned that a disorderly exit of one member country would have untold knock-on effects. "The potential consequences of a disorderly default and exit by a euro area member are unpredictable... If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies perceived to have similar risk characteristics would come under severe pressure as well, with full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight from several banking systems," said the report. "Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out." “This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse," said the report. The risks outlined by the IMF are real and are being taken seriously by central banks who are becoming more favourable towards diversifying foreign exchange reserves into gold. Central bank reserve managers responsible for trillions of dollars of investments are shunning euro assets and questioning the currency’s haven status because of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, research has found, according to the FT.... Elsewhere, gold demand in India, the world’s biggest importer, may climb as much as 25 percent during a Hindu festival next week, according to Rajesh Exports Ltd., reviving jewelry buying that was curtailed by a nationwide shutdown.
There is the slow realisation that the complacency of recent months was again misplaced. It remains obvious that the euro zone debt crisis is far from over and this will support gold in the coming months – especially in euro terms.
Gold in euro terms has been consolidating above €1,200/oz for six months now. With the eurozone crisis set to deepen and the continuing risk of contagion, we could see gold break out in euro terms prior to doing so in dollars, pounds and other currencies.
Before even taking into account the aftermath of the “unexpected” NFP result, it has been amazing to see over these past few months the number of experts, especially those that reside solely within the “science” of economics, proclaiming a successful engineering of the long sought-after recovery. That this has been the third such claim in as many years is lost in the noise of confusing “headwinds” that are somehow beyond the control of those that now control most everything within the financial arena. Stock speculators are beneficial components to the healthy financial transmission mechanism into the real economy (even when all they are supposed to do is provide liquidity 20,000 times per second), but anybody that dares speculate in the far more vital energy sector (or any real commodity) is the pure incarnation of evil. That these two apparently disconnected speculative classes are really one and the same shows just how obtuse (not always intentionally) economists and the pandering classes really are.
There are many reasons why gold is still our favorite investment – from inflation fears and sovereign debt concerns to deeper, systemic economic problems. But let's be honest: It's been rising for over 11 years now, and only the imprudent would fail to think about when the run might end. Is it time to start eyeing the exit? In a word, no. Here's why. There's one indicator that clearly signals we're still in the bull market – and further, that we can expect prices to continue to rise. That indicator is negative real interest rates.
In advance of ever louder demands for more, more, more NEWER QE-LTROs (as BofA's Michael Hanson says "If our forecast of a one-handle on H2 growth is realized, then we would expect the Fed to step in with additional easing, in the form of QE3") , it is an opportune time to demonstrate just what the traditional monetary "plumbing" mechanisms at the discretion of the Fed are, and more importantly, just how completely plugged they are. So without any further ado...
Gold has been trading in a tight box around $1,660/oz today, as eurozone finance ministers meet in Copenhagen to discuss the scale of the permanent “bailout fund” set for July. Gold has been stuck in range of roughly $1,630/oz to $1,700/oz in recent weeks as risk appetite has returned after the latest European debt “solution” which saw the battered can kicked down the shortening road once again. Nothing has been solved with regard to the European debt crisis, and debt crises in Japan, the UK and the US now loom. The misguided panacea of heaping debt upon debt and shifting debt onto government balance sheets, debt monetisation and currency debasement is leading to continuing currency devaluations internationally. Despite this or maybe because of this - risk appetite returned with a vengeance as evidenced in equities internationally rising to multi-month and multi-year highs and the slight weakness in gold in March. So far in 2012, gold has performed well and is set to end the first quarter in 2012 with gains in all major currencies. Gold is 6.3% higher in US dollars, 3.2% higher in euros, 3.1% higher in pounds, 2.25% higher in Swiss francs and 12% higher in Japanese yen which fell sharply in the quarter.
First it was Bob Janjuah throwing in the towel in the face of central planning, now we get the same sense from Bill Gross who in his latest letter once again laments the forced transfer of risk from the private to the public sector: "The game as we all have known it appears to be over... moving for the moment from private to public balance sheets, but even there facing investor and political limits. Actually global financial markets are only selectively delevering. What delevering there is, is most visible with household balance sheets in the U.S. and Euroland peripheral sovereigns like Greece." Gross' long-term view is well-known - inflation is coming: "The total amount of debt however is daunting and continued credit expansion will produce accelerating global inflation and slower growth in PIMCO’s most likely outcome." The primary reason for Pimco's pessimism, which is nothing new, is that in a world of deleveraging there will be no packets of leverage within the primary traditional source of cheap credit-money growth: financial firms. So what is a fund manager to do? Why find their own Steve McQueen'ian Great Escape from Financial Repression of course. " it is your duty to try to escape today’s repression. Your living conditions are OK for now – the food and in this case the returns are good – but they aren’t enough to get you what you need to cover liabilities. You need to think of an escape route that gets you back home yet at the same time doesn’t get you killed in the process. You need a Great Escape to deliver in this financial repressive world." In the meantime Gross advises readers to do just what we have been saying for years: buy commodities and real (non-dilutable) assets: "Commodities and real assets become ascendant, certainly in relative terms, as we by necessity delever or lever less." As for the endgame: "Is a systemic implosion still possible in 2012 as opposed to 2008? It is, but we will likely face much more monetary and credit inflation before the balloon pops. Until then, you should budget for “safe carry” to help pay your bills. The bunker portfolio lies further ahead."
The global economy remains on shaky ground. China’s manufacturing activity contracted for its 5th straight month, the US recovery is still very early to call, and the euro zone debt crisis may not be finished. Eurozone PMI data is due later today which will show how the economy is doing after Greece averted default earlier this month. Thomson Reuters GFMS have said that gold at $2,000/oz is possible - possibly in late 2012 or early 2013. Thomson Reuters GFMS Global Head of metals analytics, Philip Klapwijk, featured on Insider this morning and advised investors to "buy this gold dip”. Gold should be bought on this correction especially if we go lower still as we may need a shake-out of "less-committed investors." Klapwijk suggested that a brief dip below $1,600 is on the cards but the global macro environment still favours investment, notably zero-to-negative real interest rates and he would not rule out further easing by either the ECB or the Fed before year end.