Meet Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries. This infographic uses this information to show the most expensive and cheapest places to live by country. Switzerland and Norway may not surprise you as two of the most expensive countries. However, Venezuela might not have been a place that was on your radar. Of course, in retrospect, when you have inflation spiraling out of control at a rate of 64% per year, that will make things a bit pricey. Want cheap goods and services? Head over to India, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Yesterday we reported that in less than 1 month in 2015, so far a whopping 13 countries have proceeded with "surprising" rate cuts: Singapore, Europe, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, India, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, Peru, Albania, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. As of this morning, make that total 14, because in one of the more "surprising surprises" so far, it was none other than the Bank of Russia which cut its main interest rate from the 17% shocker it instituted at an emergency session on December 17 to halt the Ruble collapse (as a result of the crude price plunge) to 15% less than an hour ago. At the same time it cut the deposit rate to 14% and the repo rate to 16%.
For those keeping track of currency wars around the globe, 2015 - a year in which two central banks, those of Switzerland and Singapore have already admitted defeat, is shaping up as nothing short of historic. As DB's summarizes: just about 31 countries have, in less than a month, eased in the form of 13 mostly "surprise" rate cuts, while just 5 have tightened monetary policy.
The bottom line is that unfortunately for the BTFDers, with the Fed no longer giving explicit buy signals with the "considerable time" language struck, and with an implicit economic upgrade suggesting a rate hike is still on the table, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to frontrun the Fed's "wealth creation" intentions.
In the QE era, monetary policy has lost any semblance of discipline and coherence. As Draghi attempts to deliver on his nearly two-and-a-half-year-old commitment, the limits of his promise – like comparable assurances by the Fed and the BOJ – could become glaringly apparent. Like lemmings at the cliff’s edge, central banks seem steeped in denial of the risks they face.
While all the algos are programmed and set to scan today's FOMC statement for whether both "patient" and "considerable time" are still there (as it did last time when it supposedly sent a pseudo-hawkish message while telling Virtu and Getco to buy, buy, buy), the market is torn between the trends observed in recent days: on one hand finally succumbing to the adverse impact of USD strength, which overnight also saw the Singapore Dollar admit defeat in the ongoing currency wars, is crushing both revenues and EPS, as well as outlooks, for the bulk of US companies, even as millennials - long since given up on buying a house - allocate their meager savings to the annual incarnation of Apple's flagship product as seen in yesterday's record, blowout numbers by AAPL which is up 8% in the premarket and sending Nasdaq futures soaring compared to the stagnant DJIA or S&P. And then there is Europe where the mood is decidedly sour this morning, with Greece imploding on fears Tsipras really means business and concerns the Greek "virus" may spread to other peripheral nations whose bonds have also seen a lack of a bond bid this morning.
It’s terrifying how fast the whole Swiss yield curve sank under the waterline of zero. Now even the 15-year bond has negative interest. The franc has reached the end.
2015 will be a year of shattered illusions; social, political, as well as economic. The common claim today is that the QE of Japan and now the ECB are meant to take up the slack left behind in the manipulation of markets by the Fed. I disagree. As I have been saying since the announcement of the taper, stimulus measures have a shelf life, and central banks are not capable of propping up markets for much longer, even if that is their intention (which it is not). Why? Because even though market fundamentals have been obscured by a fog of manipulation, they unquestionably still apply. Real supply and demand will ALWAYS matter – they are like gravity, and we are forced to deal with them eventually. The elites hope that this will be enough to condition the public to support centralized financial control as the only option for survival... It is hard to say what kind of Black Swans and false flags will be conjured in the meantime, but I highly doubt the shift away from the US Dollar will take place without considerable geopolitical turmoil.
The Japanese fire at the Europeans. The Europeans fire at the Japanese & Chinese. The Chinese fire scattershot at everybody else in Asia. England & America prep to teach those they consider muppets not to play with guns. It's World War Money, if you know what I mean...
To think that multi-national companies are not complaining to government officials at this very moment is to be fully naïve. We would not doubt, given where the Treasury Secretary is, if he hasn’t been waylaid repeatedly about “doing something” about that “strong dollar.” Unfortunately, he cannot come right out and say that corporatism despises it so the administration, like those before, would prefer it sinking like a rock. Like monetarism, the fiscal side prefers not currency stability but their own, specific brand of instability.
With Fed mouthpiece Jon Hilsenrath warning - in no lesser status-quo narrative-deliverer than The Wall Street Journal - that The ECB's actions (and pre-emptive collapse in the EUR) means the U.S. economy must deal with a rapidly strengthening dollar that will make American goods more expensive abroad, potentially slowing both U.S. growth and inflation; and Treasury Secretary Lew coming out his crypt to mention "unfair FX moves," it appears The Fed (and powers that be) are worrying about King Dollar. This suggests, as Mises Canada's Patrick Barron predicts, the Fed will start charging negative interest rates on bank reserve accounts as the final tool in the war on savings and wealth in order to spur the Keynesian goal of increasing “aggregate demand”. If savers won’t spend their money, the government will take it from them.
In 55BC, Cicero stood before the Senate of Rome (warning of its looming demise), spoke of the “arrogance of officialdom” and the more one studies going ons throughout history, the clearer it becomes – the story remains the same, only the actors change - history repeats because the passions of man never change. Those who may grudgingly support the ECB stimulus in the hope that it will buy time for governments to enact structural overhauls, keep praying that politicians will push aside their own personal self-interests for once and focus of the interests of the people. Such wishful thinking is foolish since history demonstrates that only takes place when the system collapses. People who do hold to this view are also worried that looser monetary policy may work against structural measures. The European Central Bank’s stimulus diminishes any incentive for governments to reform. The policy makers and specialists at Davos were divided over the effect of even that program; but where do these people get off assuming they have the ability and right to manipulate the world?
“No stock-market crash announced bad times. The depression rather made its presence felt with the serial crashes of dozens of commodity markets. To the affected producers and consumers, the declines were immediate and newsworthy, but they failed to seize the national attention. Certainly, they made no deep impression at the Federal Reserve.” - 1921 or 2015?
"It isn’t really about interest rates or “inflation”, obviously as gold is rising as inflation “expectations” dramatically sink here, so much as gold is insurance against central banks being wrong. That seems to be the common theme all over the world ever since June when the ECB placed its desperation and impotence on full display. Everything that has occurred since then has only confirmed the monetary illusion being exactly that, including the US and its central bank’s place at really the central point of the miscalculated insanity."
There is no reason to assume that this time will be different. These boom-bust sequences will continue until the economy is structurally undermined to such an extent that monetary intervention cannot even create the illusory prosperity of a capital-consuming boom anymore. The bankers applauding Draghi’s actions today will come to rue them tomorrow.