Much has been made of today's Reuters story how "Iran turns to barter for food as sanctions cripple imports" in which we learn that "Iran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - in return for food", and whose purpose no doubt is to demonstrate just how crippled the Iranian economy is as a result of the ongoing US embargo. Incidentally this story is 100% the opposite of the Debka-spun groundless disinformation from a few weeks ago that India was preparing to pay for Iran's oil in gold (they got the asset right, but the flow of funds direction hopelessly wrong). While there is certainly truth to the fact that the US is actively seeking to destabilize the local government, we wonder why? After all as the opportunity cost for the existing regime to do something drastic gets ever lower as the popular resentment rises, leaving the local administration with few options but to engage either the US or Israel. Unless of course, this is the ultimate goal. Yet going back to the Reuters story, it would be quite dramatic, if only it was not the case that Iran has been laying the groundwork for a barter economy for many months now, something which various other analysts perceive as the basis for the destruction of the petrodollar system. Perhaps regular readers will recall that back in July, we wrote an article titled "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System." Specifically, we wrote that "according to the FT, China has decided to commence a barter system in which Iranian oil is exchanged directly for Chinese exports. The net result: not only a slap for the US Dollar, but implicitly for all fiat intermediaries, as Iran and China are about to prove that when it comes to exchanging hard resources for critical Chinese goods and services, the world's so called reserve currency is completely irrelevant." Seen in this light the fact that Iran is actually proceeding with a barter system, something that had been in the works for quite a while, actually puts the Reuters story in a totally different light: instead of one predicting the imminent demise of the Iranian economy, the conclusion is inverted, and underscores the culmination of what may have been an extended barter preparation period, has finally gone from beta to (pardon the pun) gold, and Iran is now successfully engaging in global trade without the use of the historical reserve currency.
Xinhua, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China reports that a "gold rush" swept through China during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday this year, with demand for precious metals and jewelry surging since the Year of the Dragon began. Data released by China's Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce shows a 49.7% increase in sales volume for precious metals jewelry and bullion during the week-long holiday (over last year), which lasted from January 22 to 28 over that of last year's Spring Festival. One of Beijing's best-known gold retailers, Caibai, saw sales of gold and silver jewelry and bullion rose 57.6% during the week long New Years holiday according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Saturday, Other jewelry stores across the country also saw sales boom during the period, with customers favoring New Year themed gold bars and ingots and other types of Dragon themed jewelries. During the week-long holiday, which lasted from January 22 to 28, the sales volume in just one gold retailer, Caibaiand Guohua, another of Beijing's top gold retailers, reached about 600 million yuan (nearly $100 million). Caibai began selling gold bars as investment items during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but the trend of buying gold or silver bars during the Spring Festival has taken off in the past two years.
Because our political system is corrupted by corporate lobbyists, it leaves the people with few choices. Those who do not wish for a violent revolution are left with the one alternative of taking control of their own money. Money can be anything two parties in a transaction choose it to be. Precious metals is one good choice. Converting ones savings from Federal Reserve Notes into precious metals is not some kooky survivalist ploy. It is empowering a person to vote against the immoral monetary system. Hoarding food is not a kooky survivalist ploy, it is hedging against an immoral banker tax. We all have the moral obligation not to pay the banker tax. Refuse to deposit your funds into a money center bank. Support efforts to end the Federal Reserve System.
Festive Friday fun:
- FITCH TAKES RATING ACTIONS ON SIX EUROZONE SOVEREIGNS
- ITALY LT IDR CUT TO A- FROM A+ BY FITCH
- SPAIN ST IDR DOWNGRADED TO F1 FROM F1+ BY FITCH
- IRELAND L-T IDR AFFIRMED BY FITCH; OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
- BELGIUM LT IDR CUT TO AA FROM AA+ BY FITCH
- SLOVENIA LT IDR CUT TO A FROM AA- BY FITCH
- CYPRUS LT IDR CUT TO BBB- FROM BBB BY FITCH, OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
And some sheer brilliance from Fitch:
- In Fitch's opinion, the eurozone crisis will only be resolved as and when there is broad economic recovery.
And just as EUR shorts were starting to sweat bullets. Naturally no downgrade of France. French Fitch won't downgrade France. In other news, Fitch's Italian office is about to be sacked by an errant roving vandal tribe (or so the local Police will claim).
- IMF begging ECB for cash, ECB begging Germany for cash... all is well: Lagarde Says Europe Must Boost Firewall (WSJ)
- More rumors of inflation targeting: Bernanke near inflation target prize, but jobs a concern (Reuters)
- A Sears Wager Stings at Goldman (WSJ)
- Draghi Makes Euro Favorite for Most-Profitable Carry Trades With Rate Cuts (Bloomberg)
- Euro zone finance ministers to rule on Greek debt talks (Reuters)
- "Reserve Currency" - Iran Said to Seek Yen Oil Payments From India Amid Sanctions (Bloomberg)
- Hackers-for-Hire Are Easy to Find (WSJ)
- Florida’s Republican Primary Pits Romney Money Against Gingrich Momentum (Bloomberg)
- YouTube hits 4 billion daily video views (Reuters)
- Carnival CEO Lies Low After Wreck (WSJ)
- Fed Forecasts Could Awaken Treasurys (WSJ)
Two weeks ago we wrote a post that should have made it all too clear that while the US and Europe continue to pretend that all is well, and they are, somehow, solvent, Asia has been smelling the coffee. To wit: "For anyone wondering how the abandonment of the dollar reserve status would look like we have a Hollow Men reference: not with a bang, but a whimper... Or in this case a whole series of bilateral agreements that quietly seeks to remove the US currency as an intermediate. Such as these: "World's Second (China) And Third Largest (Japan) Economies To Bypass Dollar, Engage In Direct Currency Trade", "China, Russia Drop Dollar In Bilateral Trade", "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System", "India and Japan sign new $15bn currency swap agreement", and now this: "Iran, Russia Replace Dollar With Rial, Ruble in Trade, Fars Says."" Today we add the latest country to join the Asian dollar exclusion zone: "India and Iran have agreed to settle some of their $12 billion annual oil trade in rupees, a government source said on Friday, resorting to the restricted currency after more than a year of payment problems in the face of fresh, tougher U.S. sanctions." To summarize: Japan, China, Russia, India and Iran: the countries which together account for the bulk of the world's productivity and combined are among the biggest explorers and producers of energy. And now they all have partial bilateral arrangements, and all of which will very likely expand their bilateral arrangements to multilateral, courtesy of Obama's foreign relations stance which by pushing the countries into a corner has forced them to find alternative, USD-exclusive, arrangements. But yes, aside from all of the above, the dollar still is the reserve currency... if only in which to make calculations of how many imaginary money one pays in exchange for imaginary 'developed world' collateral.
While lately not much, if anything, has changed in our and the broader secular outlook on gold, which has been and continues to remain the only currency equivalent that isolates devaluation risk, and excludes counterparty risk while being an implicit bet on the stupidity of those in charge (the fact that various tenured "Ph.D. economists" hate what it represents for their tenure prospects of course only makes the bullish case far stronger). True, in the past month it has surged from $1520 to $1660 but only Ph.D. economists (indeed, that 200 DMA proved to be a complete non-event) could not have foreseen that year end liquidations in a desperate drive to shore up liquidity (as explained here) by institutions, always end, and the reversion to the above thesis sooner or later reappears. So while it won't say much new, below we present Nomura's just released Gold Sector Initiation, which is a must read for new entrants to the field of physical and paper representations of gold, as well as a timely reminder for everyone else that in the past 3 years nothing has changed with the fundamental thesis, and in fact recent actions have merely reinforced it (and if we indeed have a €1 or €10 trillion LTRO, then watch all resistance levels in the metal get blown off).
When it comes to attempts at predicting the future, it often appears that the most desirable outcome by everyone involved (particularly those from the status quo, which means financial institutions and media) is that of the "muddle through" which is some mythical condition in which nothing really happens, the global economy neither grows, nor implodes, and it broadly one of little excitement and volatility. While we fail to see how one can call the unprecedented market vol of the past 6 months anything even remotely resembling a muddle through, the recent quiet in the stock market, punctuated by a relentless low volume melt up has once again set market participants' minds at ease that in the absence of 30> VIX days, things may be back to "Goldilocks" days and the muddle through is once again within reach. So while the default fallback was assumed by most to be virtually assured, nobody had actually tried to map out the various outcome possibilities for the global economy. Until today, when Morgan Stanley's most recent addition, former Fed member Vince Reinhart, better known for proposing the Fed's selling of Treasury Puts to the market as a means of keeping rates at bay, together with Adam Parker, have put together a 3x3 matrix charting out the intersections between the US and European economic outcomes. Here is how Parker and Reinhart see the possibility of a global goldilocks outcome, and specifically those who position themselves with expectations of this being the default outcome: "A “muddle through” positioning is potentially dangerous: Our main message is that the muddle-through scenario might be the most plausible alternative, but its joint occurrence in the US and Europe is less likely than the result of a coin toss. Uncertainty is bad for multiples." Specifically - it is 37% (with roughly 3 significant digits of precision). That said, as was reported here early in the year, Morgan Stanley is one of the very few banks which expects an actual market decline in 2012, so bear that in mind as you read the following matrix-based analysis. Because at the end of the day everyone has an agenda.
Are countries which want to trade in their own currencies or to own their own central banks getting spanked ?
For months in a row, the core propaganda meme seeking to drag lambs into the ponzi, has been one of "ignore Europe - it is irrelevant." Naturally this "narrative" was primarily spread by expendable C-grade media elements whose careers will promptly terminate once this latest episode of artificial "decoupling" is over, as we have been warning for months (at a cost to the S&P of over 200 points). And judging by today's US Trade Balance, which came in at a whopping $47.8 billion on expectations of $45 billion, the widest gap since June, which was driven due a plunge in European exports as the European economy is shriveling in the grips of what is about to be a doozy of a recession, it may be time to polish those resumes as the inevitable decoupling approaches with every passing hour. Yet one of the best comments on what Europe really means for the world comes from none other than Bank of America. While we have discussed previously that BAC is doing its best to crush the market and to precipitate QE3, thus like everyone else, always having an agenda in its message, what it is saying is spot on. And it is as follows: "Europe matters, according to the most oft-heard arguments, because of its size and the euro’s reserve currency status. The Euro area’s systemic relevance (both in trade and financial terms) means that its governance crisis is a global menace. This narrative portrays Europe as a self-contained shock emitter, with the rest of the world cast as innocent bystander. Rather, much like the Lehman bust, the current Euro area crisis may be a symptom of faulty globalized finance. Europe is rightly being held to account for fiscal mismanagement, but there may be bigger cracks in the background." Spot on, and it gets even worse, which we urge everyone who still doesn't grasp the linkages between Europe and the US to read on.
Overall, there are both internal structural factors and external global factors, which contribute to the making of an epic hard landing in China. China will be really vulnerable when the US and Europe both unleash the quantitative easing. These are things China has no control of. Nevertheless, the best China can do to avoid the worst is to continue the painful structural adjustment: marketize the “big four”-dominated banking industry to allow for more efficient monetary allocation; Transform the labor intensive low value-added economy to the high value-added knowledge economy; reform the wealth redistribution system to empower the broad consumer base and honor its promise of a consumption-led economy.
While the US enjoys the luxury provided by the dollar’s world currency status and diplomatic alliance with many major trade partners to export its liquidity and inflation, China enjoys none of that. They should look at the dollars in their hands with fear and doubt. So called Beijing consensus makes little sense, because the world is fast changing, pegging a country’s growth to a certain set of policy tools or a certain reserve currency (the US dollar) is equally dangerous. The battle between Keynes and Friedman has long proven the only consensus is to adapt and change. Right now China needs to adapt and change fast. Or this will be the best time in history to short China.
Simply put, "it does not last for ever" should be ringing in the ears of every investor in the world with more than a few millisecond return horizon. And neither do any and all chartalist conventions which rely on the articial construct of reserve permanence, for one simple reason - being artificial, means the theory is flawed from the beginning. But it is JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest who frames it the best, "I am reminded of the following remark from late MIT economist Rudiger Dornbusch: 'Crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.'"
Four months ago we predicted that in response to the latest round of global economic deterioration, every central bank would very soon join the toner party. Since then we have seen the Fed commence Operation Twist and telegraph another episode of MBS asset purchases; a new QE episode at the Bank of England; a new round of covered bond purchases at the ECB, coupled with an interest rate cut by its latest Goldman Sachs-based president, not to mention the persistent attempts to generate a backstop central bank in the form the EFSF Frankenstein Swiss Army knife; a new round of asset purchases and a massive, several hundred billion snap FX intervention by the Bank of Japan; and last but not least, that stalwart of stability, the Swiss National Bank, went ahead and destroyed the Swiss Franc as the sanest among the fiats by pegging it to that most unstable of currencies, the Euro. In light of the above how gold is not trading north of $2000 is still beyond us, although whether by manipulation or market inefficiency, we can not complain: it is easier to buy gold at $1,750 than at $7,150. Yet not even we could possibly predict just how far the global ponzi cartel would fall to extend the status quo by a few extra months. Because according to Dow Jones, the latest and greatest purchaser of Heidelberg Mainstream 80 machines will be the, drum roll, the IMF! Yes, the same organization that DSK swore would never join the global central banking stupidity, since deposed with a false allegation, and now headed by the woman who brought France to the brink of ruin, will be the marginal printer, now that everyone else is "dodecatuple all in" and sitting all day on the Turbo Print button.