For the greater part of human history, leaders who were in a position to exercise power were accountable for their actions. The problem we are faced with today is that our political and (frequently) business leaders are not being held responsible for their actions. Thomas Sowell sums it up well: "It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong." Fortunately, there is an institution that exercises control over the academics at the Fed; it is called the 'real' market economy... and it has badly humbled the professors at the Fed.
A week ago, we first reported that Bridgewater's Ray Dalio had finally thrown in the towel on his latest iteration of hope in the "Beautiful deleveraging", and realizing that a 3% yield is enough to grind the US economy to a halt, moved from the pro-inflation camp (someone tell David Rosenberg) back to buying bonds (i.e., deflation). This was music to Bill Gross' ears who in his latest letter, in which he notes in addition to everything else that while the Fed has to taper eventually, it doesn't actually ever have to raise rates, and writes: "The objective, Dalio writes, is to achieve a “beautiful deleveraging,” which assumes minimal defaults and an eventual return of investors’ willingness to take risk again. The beautiful deleveraging of course takes place at the expense of private market savers via financially repressed interest rates, but what the heck. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if the Fed’s (and Dalio’s) objective is to grow normally again, then there is likely no more beautiful or deleveraging solution than one that is accomplished via abnormally low interest rates for a long, long time." How long one may ask? "the last time the U.S. economy was this highly levered (early 1940s) it took over 25 years of 10-year Treasury rates averaging 3% less than nominal GDP to accomplish a “beautiful deleveraging.” That would place the 10-year Treasury at close to 1% and the policy rate at 25 basis points until sometime around 2035!" In the early 1940s there was also a world war, but the bottom line is clear: lots and lots of central planning for a long time.
Don't Blame Free Market Capitalism ... We Haven't Had It for a While
In case there was any concern that the umbilical cord between US corporations and government has never been thicker (especially in light of recent revelations that the NSA views the AAPL Borg Collective as useful "zombies", abusing their credit cards just so they can be spied upon in new and improved ways) the New York Police Department is here to remind everyone of just that.
Since 2002 the US government has presided over one of the most dramatic financial bubbles of all time: the bubble of the military-industrial complex. (A few will remember that Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about this in 1961.) This bubble, like all others, will pop, and it looks to be deflating right now - as we have pointed out vociferously. The amounts of money that have been spent in the past decade can only be characterized as obscene. But the point that really matters is this: Military spending is just part of the bubble. The military-industrial-intelligence-law enforcement complex has only a few choices left in front of it. (Aside from rational things, like giving up their immoral and abusive game.)
The man who could barely recall anything at his various Congressional hearings, has no problem with remembering one key aspect of the MF Global bankruptcy: Jon Corzine is innocent! And, as a result, yesterday his lawyers filed a motion to dismiss a civil case brought against him by the CFTC in which the legal team shows that the best defense is a good offense and openly critiques the commodities regulator. DealBook excerpts from the filing: "There is no evidence demonstrating that Mr. Corzine knowingly directed unlawful conduct or acted without good faith," wrote the lawyers from Dechert, Andrew J. Levander and Benjamin E. Rosenberg. "Rather than acknowledge that reality and move on, the C.F.T.C. has clung to its baseless presumptions and manufactured charges of wrongdoing that are supposedly connected to Mr. Corzine." Right: the commingling just happened on its own. Twas but a glitch.
There is also consensus among the people inhabiting the real world -the one that is found outside the ivory towers of the economics departments of all US and global Tier 1, 2 and 3 universities - that the only reason the world is currently in its sad, deplorable and deteriorating economic state (which however keeps making the rich richer), is precisely due to these same economists, whose tinkering and experimentation with DSGE models, differential equations, curved lines, and all such things all of which have no real world equivalent, and specifically due to economists like Greenspan and Bernanke. These two men, both of whom barely have seen the real world for what it is or held a real job outside of their academic outposts, who surround themselves with brownnosing sycophants and who do the bidding of Wall Street, are the primary reason for the current centrally-planned quagmire. Which is why we wonder: is the fact that some 313 economists (and counting) have signed a petition pushing for Janet Yellen (aka Freudian slip "he" if you are the president), and against Larry Summers, sufficient grounds to actually like the outspoken former Harvard head?
The press that Google Glass has received already been stunning, particularly considering there's hardly a person on the planet sporting a pair of these things on the bridge of their nose yet, but I've got a feeling that, like Google Wave (remember that? anyone? I didn't think so..........) it will be a flop. Here's why:
While central planning has seemingly achieved its goal, they have merely created another bubble. A bubble in which fundamentals will have their day and a completely unsustainable societal situation has emerged. Rising rents and falling incomes. For example, in Minnesota we find that “since 2000, rents have risen about 6 percent statewide, but renter incomes have dropped about 17 percent.”
The new American Dream is to one day be able to move out of your parent's basement and rent from Blackstone.
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) August 22, 2013
- Bernanke Seeks to Divorce QE Tapering From Interest Rates (BBG)
- China launches crackdown on pharmaceutical sector (Reuters)
- Barclays, Traders Fined $487.9 Million by U.S. Regulator (BBG) - or a few days profit
- Barclays to fight $453 million power fine in U.S. court (Reuters)
- When an IPO fails, raise money privately: Ally Said to Weigh Raising $1 Billion to Pass Fed Stress Tests (BBG)
- Bank of England signals retreat from quantitative easing (FT) ... Let's refresh on this headline in 6 months, shall we.
- Russia's Putin puts U.S. ties above Snowden (Reuters)
- Smartphone Upgrades Slow as 'Wow' Factor Fades (WSJ)
- Snowden could leave Moscow airport in next few days (FT)
- New Egypt government may promote welfare, not economic reform (Reuters)
Let us be blunt: Our capitalist system is approaching failure. Or, perhaps better said: Our marginally capitalist, partly-free market systems are approaching a massive collapse. Not because of what capitalism is, mind you, but because the powers that be have bastardized it. Capitalism can bear many distortions and abuses, but it is not indestructible. And, make no mistake, the ‘capitalist’ system we have today has been massively corrupted, so much so that it’s sagging under the load... and will continue to do so until the proverbial straw breaks its back.
- China, the single biggest contributor to global growth over the past decade, slowing markedly.
- World trade now flirting with recession.
- OECD industrial production in negative territory YoY.
- Southern Europe showing renewed signs of political tensions as unemployment continues its relentless march higher and tax receipts continue to collapse.
- Short-term interest rates almost everywhere around the world that are unable to go any lower, even as real rates start to creep higher.
- Valuations on most equity markets that are nowhere near distressed (except perhaps for the BRICS?).
- A World MSCI that has now just dipped below its six month moving average.
- A diffusion index of global equity markets that is flashing dark amber.
- Margins in the US at record highs and likely to come under pressure, if only because of the rising dollar.
There has been much angst over Bernanke's recent comments regarding an "improving economic environment" and the need to begin reducing ("taper") the current monetary interventions in the future. What is interesting, however, is the mainstream analysis which continues to focus on one data point, to the next, to determine if the Fed is going to continue its interventions. Why is this so important? Because, as we have addressed in the past, the sole driver for the markets, and the majority of economic growth, has been derived solely from the Federal Reserve's programs. The reality is that such analysis is completely useless when considering the volatility that exists in the monthly data already but then compounding that issue with rather subjective "seasonal adjustments." The question, however, is whether such "QE" programs have actually sparked any type of substantive, organic, growth or simply inflated asset prices, and pulled forward future consumption, for a short term positive effect with negative long term consequences? The recent increases in interest rates, combined with still very weak wage growth, higher costs of living and still elevated unemployment is likely to keep the Fed engaged for the foreseeable future as any attempt to remove its "invisible hand" is likely to result in unexpected instability in the financial markets and economy.
The bloodbath in the bond markets has led some 'greatly rotating' commentators to see this as the end of the long bull market (and the beginning of a lost decade for Treasuries); in fact, as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, the financial wreckage left in the wake of Bernanke's taper talk has generated a lot of interesting commentary. But, he asks (and answers eloquently in this far-reaching anatomy of all-the-world's-views-on-what-the-Fed-is-doing) what if (as we have noted) tapering has nothing to do with the US economy having reached a sustainable take-off velocity? From Janjuah to Rosenberg, and from Wolf to Faber, Edwards explains how his Ice-Age thesis (lower lows and lower highs for nominal economic quantities in each cycle... with each recovery bringing a partial reversal to the process and each recessionary phase taking us to shocking new lows, both in bond yields and in equity multiples) is very much still in play (despite the risks that are evident) since governments will take the path of least resistance, which is to print their way out of this looming fiscal catastrophe. Marc Faber is right. QE99 here we come.
... the Complaint charges that MF Global (i) unlawfully failed to notify the CFTC immediately when it knew or should have known of the deficiencies in its customer accounts; (ii) filed false reports with the CFTC that failed to show the deficits in the customer accounts; and (iii) used customer funds for impermissible investments in securities that were not considered readily marketable or highly liquid in violation of CFTC regulation; and that Holdings controlled the operations of MF Global and is therefore liable as a principal for MF Global’s violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations.