Things have been a little erratic lately here in US, but not really headline-worthy. The economy continues to grow, sort of, houses continue to sell and stock and bond prices fluctuate but can’t seem to follow through in either direction. We are not, in short, engulfed in any kind of crisis. But out in the world, especially in once-hot emerging markets like Brazil and China, the story is very different. So can the US stay placid when the rest of the world turns chaotic? Highly doubtful. There’s a market phenomenon in which one investment play blows up and forces those on the wrong side of the trade to dump their liquid assets to raise cash. Which causes the high-quality assets to fall as much or more than the junk. As Noland notes, the world’s premier liquid asset is the Treasury bond. If the developing world’s need to raise cash is a factor in the recent spike in US interest rates, this implies a feedback loop in which rising US rates further destabilize emerging markets, forcing the sale of more Treasuries, and so on.
"By propping up asset markets, the Fed has created an illusion that wealth is being created. The next step, according to Bernanke’s plan, should be for growth to follow. In fact, there is no reason why the rise in prices of financial assets should lead to actual investments or a rise in the median income. So far, it has not. There has been no real increase in the private sector propensity to borrow, and the danger may be that any further public sector borrowing will hasten the decline because of our “permanent asset hypothesis”. This means that, should the Fed lose control of asset prices (is this what is now happening in Japan?), then the game will be up and the downside move in markets may well be terrifying."
In a confirmation that the S&P is starting to get worried about the drones surrounding the McGraw Hill building resulting from the ongoing litigation with Eric Holder's Department of Injustice, not to mention a reminder that US downgrades always happen after hours, while upgrades must hit before the market opens, Standard & Poors just upgraded the Standard & Poors 500 the US outlook from Negative to Stable. On what "receding fiscal risks" did the S&P raise its assessment of the US - the fact that the US is now at its debt limit, that there is no imminent resolution to the credit issue, or the 105% and rising debt/GDP - read on to find out. And of course, the countdown until the S&P wristslap settlement with the DOJ is announced begins now, as does the upgrade watch by Buffett's controlled Moody's of the US to AAAA++++.
"I think we are going to go through the ringer... It is bad enough already, but there is no way that we can step back."
"I think monetizing debt and spending and deficit is going to get much, much worse until the world rejects the dollar."
"when people become frightened, they look for things of real value, and I don't think they can repeal the laws of economics that says that for 6,000 years metals have been beneficial. They will go to monetary metals, gold and silver"
"...if we have an authoritarian government, that is our greatest threat. So, I would like to think that there is no perfect protection, other than shrinking the size and scope and power of government, so that we can be left alone and take care of ourselves."
On this day in 1943 the “Current Tax Payment Act”, was passed by Congress. It provides for income taxes on wages and salaries to be withheld by employers from paychecks. The purpose stated was that is was an emergency provision for the War. Sure — but it is still with us today. Milton Friedman, who was a key player in implementing the “tax withholding” system realized what he had done and sought redemption: "... It never occurred to me at the time that I was helping to develop machinery that would make possible a government that I would come to criticize severely as too large, too intrusive, too destructive of freedom. Yet, that is precisely what I was doing."
The last war America fought openly through proxy was the Vietnam War. The sad and disturbing reality is that most wars fought by our country over the course of the past century have not been fought on principle. Instead, they have been fought for profit and for the consolidation of power and oligarchy. The war in Syria will not be about Syria. It will not be about the freedom of the people. It will not be about dethroning Assad or establishing democracy. It will not be about defusing violence in the region. Syria will not be the target; we will be the target — our society, our rights, our nation. America is in the middle of the most insidious consolidation of power in history and Syria is merely a stepping stone in the game. If we cannot maintain our vigilance and allow ourselves to be sucked into the proxy war façade, the elites will get their global conflict with little to no home opposition. The globalists will win, and everyone else will lose.
If we see the economy as a system, we understand why removing or suppressing feedback inevitably leads to financial crashes. The essential feature of stable, robust systems (for example, healthy ecosystems) is their wealth of feedback loops and the low-intensity background volatility that complex feedback generates. The essential feature of unstable, crash-prone systems is monoculture, an artificial structure imposed by a central authority that eliminates or suppresses feedback in service of a simplistic goal--for example, increasing the yield on a single crop, or pushing everyone with cash into risk assets. Resistance seems futile, but the very act of suppressing feedback dooms the system to collapse.
The wild ride in Japan's bond market is a prelude to what will happen in other developed markets.
"QE detractors... see something quite different. They see QE as not responding to the collapse in the money multiplier but to some extent causing it. In this account QE – and the flatter yield curves that have resulted from it – has itself broken the monetary transmission mechanism, resulting in central banks pushing ever more liquidity on a limper and limper string. In this view, it is not inflation that’s at risk from QE, but rather, the health of the financial system. In this view, instead of central banks waiting for the money multiplier to rebound to old normal levels before QE is tapered or ended, central banks must taper or end QE first to induce the money multiplier and bank lending to increase."
The US currency is shrinking as a percentage of world currency today according to the International Monetary Fund. It’s still in pole position for the moment, but business transactions are showing that companies around the world are today ready and willing to make the move to do business in other currencies.
It doesn't take an Econ Ph.D to realize that what Japan is trying to do: which is to recreate the US monetary experiment of the past four years, which has had rising stocks and bonds at the same time, the first due to the Fed's endless monetary injections (and pent up inflation expectations) and the second due to quality collateral mismatch and scarcity and shadow bank system funding via reserve currency "deposit-like" instruments such as TSYs, is a problem. After all, those who understand that the BOJ is merely taking hints from the Fed all along the way, have been warning about just that, and also warning that once the dam breaks, and if (or when) there is a massive rotation out of bonds into stocks, it is the Japanese banks - levered to the gills with trillions of JGBs - that will crack first. Apparently, this elementary finance 101 logic has finally trickled down to the BOJ, whose minutes over the weekend revealed that members are pointing out "contradictions" in the Kuroda-stated intent of doubling the monetary base in two years, unleashing inflation, sending the stock market soaring, all the while pressuring bondholders to not sell their bonds. As the FT reports, "According to the minutes of the April 26 policy meeting, released on Monday, a “few” board members said the BoJ’s original stance “might initially have been perceived by market participants as contradictory”, causing “fluctuations in financial markets”.
First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.
Just when you thought the R&R debate was finished, it seems Paul Krugman's latest "spectacularly uncivil behavior" pushed Reinhart and Rogoff too far. In what can only be described as the most eruditely worded of "fuck you"s, the pair go on the offensive at Krugman's ongoing tete-a-tete. "You have attacked us in very personal terms, virtually non-stop... Your characterization of our work and of our policy impact is selective and shallow. It is deeply misleading about where we stand on the issues. And we would respectfully submit, your logic and evidence on the policy substance is not nearly as compelling as you imply... That you disagree with our interpretation of the results is your prerogative. Your thoroughly ignoring the subsequent literature... is troubling. Perhaps, acknowledging the updated literature on drawbacks to high debt-would inconveniently undermine your attempt to make us a scapegoat for austerity."
We are approaching a critical point (again) in the “battle royal” between the forces of inflation and deflation. Deflationary forces are threatening to overwhelm the reflationary push-back of the world’s central banks - although this is not reflected in most equity markets (especially the US). Open-ended QE was only announced by the Fed last Autumn, but the impact on (market-based) inflation expectations plateaued within months and has started turning down. A decision to taper QE would obviously be negative for equities in the absence of a sufficiently strong offsetting improvement in economic fundamentals – which is difficult to envisage right now.
The theory of Petrodollar Warfare can be attributed to US analyst and author William R Clarke, and his 2005 book of that title which interpreted the US-UK decision to invade Iraq in 2003. He called this an "oil currency war", but the concept of the petrodollar system and petrodollar recyling dates back to the eve of the first Oil Shock in 1973-1974. The role of the petrodollar system as a driving force of US foreign policy is explained by analysts and historians as basic to maintaining the dollar's status as the world's dominant reserve currency - and the currency in which oil is priced. Today however, with the major and massive changes of oil resource availability revealed by the shale energy revolution, rising global oil production capabilities, stagnating oil demand, and rising renewable energy supplies in all major developed countries, and the constantly declining role of oil in the economy, the Petrodollar System's days are surely numbered