The US approach to the Russia/Ukraine situation reflects a serious misunderstanding of the situation. Russia has little choice but to try to raise the price of products it is selling, any way it can. It needs to cut out those who cannot afford its products, including the Ukraine. If Europe increasingly cannot afford its products, Russia needs to find customers who can afford them. There is little chance that the United States is going to be able to help Europe with its natural gas needs in any reasonable timeframe. Our best chance at keeping the global economy “working” for a little longer is to try to keep globalization working as best we can. This will likely require “making nice” to countries we are unhappy with, and putting up with what looks like aggression. Policymakers like to think that the US has more power than it really does, and like to encourage stories suggesting great power in the press. Unfortunately, these stories are not true; we need policymakers who understand our real situation
The verbal combat continues as the US resorts to using Jack Lew in its latest barrage of panic-inducing threats:
*LEW SAYS RUSSIA NEEDS TO 'TAKE A STEP BACK'; U.S., ALLIES WORKING TO ENSURE RUSSIANS 'PAY THE PRICE'
*LEW SAYS U.S. PREPARED TO ACT IF RUSSIA DOESN'T STEP BACK
As a gentle reminder, while the Ruble has weakened since the sanctions (oh and Russia's credit rating has been downgraded), it is US equities that suffered the largest "costs"...
Despite the considerable risks created by the situation in eastern Europe, most western stock, bond and property markets, fed on massive central bank fiat liquidity, continue to flirt with new highs. This strikes me as an exercise in whistling past the graveyard. In the short term, investors may continue to profit from risk-taking in financial markets. In the larger picture, much of the geopolitical balance of power that has been in place for much of the past 25 years will be tested on the banks of the Black Sea. Investors should take a few minutes from their daily technical chart analysis to consider these major developments.
One of the recurring themes the western media regurgitates at every opportunity is that while the western "diplomatic" sanctions against Russia are clearly a joke, one thing that will severely cripple the economy is the capital market embargo that has struck Russian companies, which are facing $115 billion of debt due over the next 12 months. Surely there is no way Russia can afford to let its major corporations - the nexus of its petroleum trade - go insolvent, which is why Putin will have to restrain himself and beg western investors to come back and chase appetiziing Russian yields (with other people's money of course). Turns out this line of thought is completely wrong.
As China's ravenous appetite for oil surpasses that of the US which is enjoying an unexpected, if transitory, boom of shale oil production, which according to some experts may have already peaked, it means suddenly China is far more are the mercy of its core suppliers - the same way that for decades the US had no choice but to be best friends with Saudi Arabia, at least until Canada became the biggest supplier of crude to the US by a huge margin. So which are the countries that China relies most on for its daily energy importing needs? The map below has the answer.
We summarized yesterday's both better and worse than expected Chinese GDP data as follows: "a substantial deterioration of the economy, one which was to be expected yet one which can be spun as either bullish thanks to the GDP "beat", and negatively if the purpose is to make a case for more PBOC stimulus." Sure enough here are the headlines that "explain" the latest overnight futures surge which has once again brought the S&P into the green on the year - a 40 point Spoo move in hours since yesterday's bottom when the Nikkei "leaked" Japan's economy is on the ropes :
- Stocks Rise on China Stimulus Speculation
Here one should of course add the comment that launched yesterday's rebound, namely the Japanese warning that its economy is about to contract, adding to calls for more BOJ stimulus, and finally this other Bloomberg headline:
- The Strengthening Case for ECB Easing
And there you have it - goodbye "fundamental" case; welcome back "central banks will once again bail everyone out" case. Hopefully today's news are absolutely abysmal to add "US economic contraction fear renew calls for untapering" to the list of headlines that should send the S&P to all time highs by the end of today.
Combining China's aggregate domestic production and apparent imports indicates that she has now over 3,514 tonnes. Assuming the U.S. still owns all the gold held by the Fed, this would make China the world's second largest national owner... but it remains unclear whether the Fed's published Gold holdings are actually the property of other nations. Clearly the recent price rise in gold owes something to inflation fears, repressed interest rates and to the Ukrainian situation. In the meantime, a growing awareness of a possible serious and increasing shortage of physical gold and a decline in the power of western central banks to suppress the price, point to a resumption of the fundamental bull market in gold, despite a possible increase in fears of recession.
As the bitcoin bubble bursts, the residual price momentum and "mining" bubbles remain only in those currencies where the "mining" of bitcoin is easier. This explains the shift from bitcoin to litecoin. In other words, where it is easier to create digital currencies out of thin air and where there is still a momentum-based surge in popularity. In yet other words - to permit a faster dilution of the existing currency pool.
Curious what the fate of the petrodollar is? Look no farther than this Interfax update blasted moments ago by Bloomberg: "Gazprom Considers 'Symbolic' Yuan Bond Issue, Interfax Says."
As we have discussed numerous times, nothing lasts forever - especially reserve currencies - no matter how much one hopes that the status-quo remains so, in the end the exuberant previlege is extorted just one too many times. Headline after headlines shows nations declaring 'interest' or direct discussions in diversifying away from the US dollar... and as SCMP reports, Standard Chartered notes that at least 40 central banks have invested in the Yuan and several more are preparing to do so. The trend is occurring across both emerging markets and developed nation central banks diversifiying into 'other currencies' and "a great number of central banks are in the process of adding yuan to their portfolios." Perhaps most ominously, for king dollar, is the former-IMF manager's warning that "The Yuan may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible."
Dr Faber discussed the importance of not owning gold stored in the U.S., the mystery of the Fed gold, why Singapore is safest for gold storage, the risks of bitcoin and how small countries should revert to national currencies. The must watch interview can be watched here ...
China is coming under close scrutiny these days, as the leadership scurries to find new sources of economic growth and control its debt. Some analysts have reassured China watchers that the Chinese government can simply write off its bad debt, at least within the major banks, and pass it on to the asset management companies that handle that resale of distressed debt (or have it later purchased by the Ministry of Finance). Others have warned that some of the debt is serious, such as that incurred by local government financing vehicles, and are dubious about the sustainability of these entities. To worry or unwind? How much debt can China really absorb?
As the Ukrainian crisis festers and other dangers in the Pacific and the Mideast grow, an odd consensus among alternative analysts is taking hold — namely the belief that President Vladimir Putin and Russia represent some kind of opposition to globalization and the rule of corporate financiers. Perhaps moments in Putin’s rhetoric have seduced elements of the Liberty Movement into assuming that Russia is a “victim” in the grand schemes of Western oligarchy and that Russia is truly the "white knight", the underdog willing to stand up against the New World Order. We're sorry to say that nothing could be further from the truth. Russia is just as much a tool of the global elite today as it was after the Bolshevik Revolution, and Vladimir Putin is just as much a socialist puppet as Barack Obama.
Though the mainstream financial media and the blogosphere differ radically on their forecasts - the MFM sees near-zero systemic risk while the alternative media sees a critical confluence of it - they agree on one thing: the Federal Reserve and the “too big to fail” (TBTF) Wall Street banks have their hands on the political and financial tiller of the nation, and nothing will dislodge their dominance. In addition, the U.S. dollar’s status as a reserve currency is a key component of U.S. global dominance. Were the dollar to be devalued by Fed/Wall Street policies to the point that it lost its reserve status, the damage to American influence and wealth would be irreversible. What if there is another possibility to the consensus view that the Fed/Wall Street will continue to issue credit and currency with abandon until the inevitable consequence occurs, i.e. the dollar is devalued and loses its reserve status. What if Wall Street’s power has peaked and is about to be challenged by forces that it has never faced before. Put another way, the power of Wall Street has reached a systemic extreme where a decline or reversal is inevitable.