For most people, the collapse of civilizations is a subject much more appetizingly viewed in the rear-view mirror than straight ahead down whatever path or roadway we are on. Jared Diamond wrote about the collapse of earlier civilizations to great acclaim and brisk sales, in a nimbus of unimpeachable respectability. The stories he told about bygone cultures gone to seed were, above all, dramatic. No reviewers or other intellectual auditors dissed him for suggesting that empires inevitably run aground on the shoals of resource depletion, population overshoot, changes in the weather, and the diminishing returns of complexity. Yet these are exactly the same problems that industrial-technocratic societies face today, and those of us who venture to discuss them are consigned to a tin-foil-hat brigade, along with the UFO abductees and Bigfoot trackers.
In August of 2011, Argentina’s government slowly began to implement a series of actions destined to curtail the right of citizens to access US dollars (foreign exchange in general). The goal was and is to force savings into pesos, as pesos are after the taxable asset in a country that cannot access capital markets and fully monetizes its deficits. From that moment onward physical US dollars started to trade at a premium. First-hand experience on the ground in Patagonia confirm the irreversible damage caused by interventionist policies: Widespread poverty, abandoned infrastructure, scarcity of consumer goods, unseen unemployment and criminality, and the madness of hedging against inflation with the purchase of new cars. The streets of any forgotten small town in Patagonia are filled with brand new 4×4 vehicles that would be the envy of many in North America. We can now see that the sustainability of the manipulation in a segmented/broken foreign exchange market causes a negative carry, which would create a quasi-fiscal deficit in Argentina (i.e. the deficit of the Banco Central), fully opening the gates to hyperinflation.
Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting
With last night's China PMI disappointing expectations and eking out a just-expansionary miasma of hope for the growth enthusiasts, the very real question of global growth sustainability (while not on US equity market participants' minds) is coming to the fore. As Michael Pettis notes, Martin Wolf's recent perspective that it may be useful to think about Japan as a model for understanding the adjustment process in China since the Japanese model shows how risky it is to shift to a slow-growth model. While expectations for a 'relatively moderate' slowdown are common (at rates considered rapid for most economies); Pettis asks rhetorically, if part of the explanation for China’s spectacular growth of the past three decades has to do with the positive feedback loops that are so typical of developing countries with fragile and unsophisticated financial systems, then a moderate slowdown in growth may be an impossible target to achieve. Once growth starts to slow, the self-reinforcing impact on urbanization, on credit growth, on financial distress, and on expectations may force growth rates to drop far more sharply than any 'plausible' analysis would suggest.
The highlights from Bill Gross' monthly letter: "The past decade has proved that houses were merely homes and not ATM machines. They were not “good as money.” Likewise, the Fed’s modern day liquid wealth creations such as bonds and stocks may suffer a similar fate at a future bubbled price whether it be 1.50% for a 10-year Treasury or Dow 16,000.... if there are no spending cuts or asset price write-offs, then it’s hard to see how deficits and outstanding debt as a percentage of GDP can ever be reduced.... Current policies come with a cost even as they act to magically float asset prices higher, making many of them to appear “good as money”. And the take away: "PIMCO’s advice is to continue to participate in an obviously central-bank-generated bubble but to gradually reduce risk positions in 2013 and perhaps beyond. While this Outlook has indeed claimed that Treasuries are money good but not “good money,” they are better than the alternative (cash) as long as central banks and dollar reserve countries (China, Japan) continue to participate....a bond and equity investor can choose to play with historically high risk to principal or quit the game and earn nothing."
We recently asked:"are there really unpredictable market shocks or are investors paid not to care? To us, all signs point towards the next currency reset. We think monetary authorities are compulsively destroying the current global monetary system; they simply have no choice if they are to keep it afloat in the short term." With Bernanke not attending Jackson Hole, we think the choice for next Fed Chair may have profound economic implications, and that it would not require expertise in econometric modeling, credit policy management, and maintaining the public perception of economic stability. We think the next Fed Chairman will oversee a conversion of the global monetary regime. Neither growth nor austerity nor gloom of night will stay these currencies from their appointed devaluations. Bank balance sheets must be preserved; ergo sufficient inflation must be manufactured. We think the dull but persistent economic malaise amid increasingly aggressive monetary intervention policies will soon engender fear among the not-so-great washed – net savers. We think all should question whether we are 100% wrong. If not, then prudence dictates some allocation to properly held precious metals. (Presently, it is less than 1% of all global pensions.)
We have no personal experience in the business of false flag terrorism, but we imagine that engineering a successfully staged terror attack to be blamed on innocent or semi-innocent parties with the goal of psychologically manipulating a population requires that one also be an accomplished storyteller. It demands an avid imagination and an organized sense of foresight. And, most of all, it requires a consistency of narrative. Without consistency, the audience’s ability to suspend its disbelief is damaged, and they become disconnected from the fantasy being portrayed. The establishment and the useful idiots they manipulate want to make the “threat” the center of attention, but ultimately, the threat is irrelevant. There will always be the danger of terrorism and death. True crisis lay in what we refuse to see, and the greatest crisis today is not the bombing of a marathon, but the destruction of our freedoms in the name of “security”. The bottom line? Our civil liberties are not up for compromise. Period. Shootings, bombs, nukes, nothing! There is no rationalization that will ever make tyranny a moral enterprise. We are not frightened, and we are not ignorant. No attack, no matter how heinous, will ever convince us to hand over our freedom.
While precious little space has been dedicated in the US media to what remains an uncontained epidemic of the H7N9 bird flu in China, cases continue to spread even as the number of deaths mount, taking at least 22 reported lives at last check. Things just got from bad to worse, as the bird flu is now following in the footsteps of the 2003 SARS breakout, with the first reported case outside of China hitting newswires overnight.
A lot has changed in 30 years - from Miami Vice and Flashdance to Hunger Games and Taylor Swift; but away from the end of legwarmers (and rolled-up jacket sleeves), GDP has more than tripled from $3.5 trillion as household incomes, home prices, and employment have shifted dramatically but not equally...
- China’s Recovery Falters as Manufacturing Growth Cools (BBG)
- Gloomy eurozone output points to rate cut (FT)
- Limit Austerity, EU appartchik Barroso Says (WSJ)
- Regulators Get Banks to Rein In Bonus Pay (WSJ)
- SEC looks to ease rules for launching ETFs (Reuters)
- Easy come, easy go: U.S. Seizes $21 Million From Electric Car Maker Fisker (WSJ)
- Japan nationalists near disputed isles (Reuters)
- OECD in fresh warning on Japan debt (FT)
- S&P says more than one-third chance of Japan downgrade, cites risks to Abenomics (Reuters)
Yesterday it was headlines from Bini-Smaghi and Weidmann punching the lights out for the Euro (which as we have been saying all along, needs to be lower not higher to promote some glimmer of hope for Europe). Moments ago it was two new headlines, which if not market crushing on their own, show how increasingly precarious Europe is.
- ITALY PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT IN FIRST BALLOT
- MERKEL FALLS SHORT OF COALITION MAJORITY ON CYPRUS VOTE
In other words, despite hopes that the Italian political chaos would stabilize following a compromise presidential candidate (which we noted earlier today we would believe when we saw), Italy continues to be an ungovernable chaos. As for Germany, Merkel was forced to rely on opposition votes to pass the critical Cyprus rescue package on which she has literally bet the future of Germany and her political career. While not unexpected, this portends poorly for the Chancellor's September reelection chances, especially if the German anti-Euro party continues its recent surge in popularity in the past few weeks.
After leaving rates unchanged and following Kuroda's efforts overnight, it appears Draghi had to do something in his press conference. Despite Barroso's assurances that the worst of the crisis is over, ECB's Draghi admits:
*DRAGHI SAYS ECONOMIC WEAKNESS EXTENDED INTO BEGINNING OF YEAR
*DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE
*DRAGHI SAYS RECOVERY IN 2H IS SUBJECT TO 'DOWNSIDE RISKS'
*DRAGHI: WEAKNESS IS EXTENDING TO COUNTRIES W/OUT FRAGMENTATION
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL ASSESS DATA AND STANDS READY TO ACT
This 'negativity' jawboning, which is really nothing new to anyone who looks at real data, has battered EURUSD 80 pips lower and implicitly smacked S&P 500 futures down 5-6 points as the verbal currency wars continue.
While the world twiddles it thumbs, buys stocks, and ignores any and every risk, tensions continue to mount on Korea. Bloomberg is reporting that:
*N. KOREA BANS S. KOREANS FROM ENTERING GAESEONG, S. KOREA SAYS
*N. KOREA ENTRY BAN HINDERS 'STABLE OPERATION' OF GAESEONG: KIM
*S.KOREA SAYS N. KOREA GAESEONG ENTRY BAN IS 'EXTREMELY SERIOUS'
The city of Gaeseong, due to its situation on the border, hosts cross-border economic exchanges ($2bn per year in trade for the impoverished North) between the two countries and is seen as "the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation." In light of this, perhaps it is no surprise that the WSJ reports, the U.S. positioned a ship capable of shooting down ballistic missiles near the Korean peninsula amid South Korea demands that the military should "make a strong and swift response in initial combat without any political considerations."
It's 2:30am, do you know where your deposits are? Tune in to see the Eurogroup explain how this is in the best interest of the Cypriot people, how the 'deal' illustrates the solidarity of the European people, and how the worst of the crisis is now behind us.
*EU COMMISSION SAYS NO CYPRUS PARLIAMENT VOTE NEEDED: SCHAEUBLE
*SCHAEUBLE SAYS TROIKA TO CONTACT RUSSIAN GOVT ON DEAL :BOCY CY
In 1729, that Jonathan Swift (of Gulliver's Travels fame) penned a famous satirical essay from England entitled "A Modest Proposal." It's still famous to this day as mandatory reading in many a high school literature class. As you may recall, Swift addresses the problem of the ultra-depressed Irish economy and mockingly advocates that the Irish should sell their children for rich Englishmen to eat. Lovely thought. I thought about the essay this morning when one of our Liberty Alert Service researchers alerted me to a new bill just introduced in the Land of the Free, HR 1160. The bill aims "to set the retirement benefits age for today's six-year-olds at age 70." Maybe Swift wasn't so far-fetched. Screw the kids. No doubt, governments are adroit at finding ways to steal from people.