The recent market sell-off has not been about the re-election of President Obama but rather the repositioning of assets by professional investors in anticipation of three key events coming between now and the end of this year - the "fiscal cliff", the debt ceiling and the expiration of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG). Each of these events have different impacts on the economy and the financial markets - but the one thing that they have in common is that they will all be battle grounds between a divided House and Senate. While there has been a plethora of articles, and media coverage, about the upcoming standoff between the two parties - little has been written to cover the details of exactly what will be impacted and why it is so important to the financial markets and economy. We remain hopeful that our elected leaders will allow cooler heads to prevail and that they will begin to work towards solutions that alleviate some of the risks of economic contraction while setting forth logical plans for fiscal reform. However, while we are hopeful of such progress, "hope" is not an investment strategy to manage portfolios by. If we are right things are likely to get worse before a resolution is reached - but maybe that is why the "investment professionals" have already been heading for the exits.
Of all the hollow and uninspired elections that this country has suffered through over the past several decades, one might think that at some point long ago the American public would have finally struck a plateau of disenfranchisement; that we could sink no further into despondency, that there is a saturation limit to the corruption of our voting process. Unfortunately, there has been no such luck. We have to say that in all honesty we have never seen more people gut jumbled and disgusted with our electoral system than we have in 2012. In 2012, it will not be about voting. It will not be about “winning”. It will not even be about getting to the next election. It will be about survival. We're sorry to say that the idea that one man will do less damage than the other is a naïve sentiment. Democrat? Republican? Obama? Romney? The crimes and calamities wrought will be exactly the same. Take a look into our crystal ball and see the future. Here is how the winner will destroy America.
Tim Geithner's public "servant" tenure has not been without its blemishes: from his deplorable run as the (figure)head of the New York Fed (from 2003 until 2009), when the entire financial system literally imploded under his watch, to his epic failing up as Hank Paulson's replacement as treasury Secretary of the United States, despite his legendary inability to navigate the Minotaurian labyrinth that is the TurboTax income tax flowchart, the Dartmouth alum has had his share of run ins with adversity (and adversity won). Of course, Geithner's tenure in charge of the Treasury in the past 4 years has been somewhat mollified by the fact that here too here was merely a figurehead, and the true entity that runs the US printing presses is none other than the JPM and Goldman Sachs co-chaired Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (for more on the TBAC read here and especially here as pertains to the former LTCM trader and current head of JPM's CIO group), meaning that the US Treasury, just like the Fed, are merely branches of the one true power in US governance: Wall Street. Geithnerian figureheadedness aside, the one undeniable fact is that Tim Geithner's days as head of the Treasury are now numbered: he has made it quite clear that he will not accompany Obama (should the incumbent be reelected) into his second term. So what is a career "public servant" to do once the public no longer has any interest in retaining his services? Bloomberg's Deborah Solomon has some suggestions...
Before the campaign contributors lavished billions of dollars on their favorite candidate; and long after they toast their winner or drink to forget their loser, Wall Street was already primed to continue its reign over the economy. For, after three debates (well, four), when it comes to banking, finance, and the ongoing subsidization of Wall Street, both presidential candidates and their parties’ attitudes toward the banking sector is similar – i.e. it must be preserved – as is – at all costs, rhetoric to the contrary, aside. Obama hasn’t brought ‘sweeping reform’ upon the Establishment Banks, nor does Romney need to exude deregulatory babble, because nothing structurally substantive has been done to harness the biggest banks of the financial sector, enabled, as they are, by entities from the SEC to the Fed to the Treasury Department to the White House.
- Japan grapples with own fiscal cliff (Bloomberg)
- Japan Protests After Four Chinese Vessels Enter Disputed Waters (Bloomberg)
- Asian Stocks Rise as Exporters Gain on China, U.S. Data (Bloomberg)
- An obsolete Hilsenrath speaks: Fed Keeps Rates Low, Says Growth Is Moderate (WSJ)
- ECB Said to Push Spain’s Bankia to Swap Junior Debt for Shares (Bloomberg)
- Spain’s Bad Bank Seen as Too Big to Work (Bloomberg)
- China postpones Japan anniversary events (China Daily)
- Carney Says Rate Increase ‘Less Imminent’ on Economy Risk (Bloomberg)
- Credit Suisse to Cut More Costs as Quarterly Profit Falls (Bloomberg)
- Obama offers a glimpse of his second-term priorities (Reuters)
- Draghi defends bond-buying programme (FT)
With the Associated Press report appended here, the German gold audit story has just exploded into the English-language press with some important revelations.
Ben Bernanke is so desperate to find support regarding his steal from the poor and give to the 0.01% policies he is now telling blatant lies about famous, dead economists that can’t refute what he says. In this case Milton Friedman. In his Q&A today, The Bernank claimed:
BERNANKE: MILTON FRIEDMAN WOULD HAVE SUPPORTED WHAT FED DOING
Well I suppose it’s easy to make things up about people that can’t claim otherwise, but he made a big mistake this time. Why? Because Anna Schwartz, who co-wrote the famous work “A Monetary History of the United States” with Milton Friedman in 1963, actually came on the record on several occasions calling out The Bernank and saying there’s no way Friedman would agree. The sad part about this is it seems Bernanke waited until Schwartz died to really start spewing the lies. This guy is not only dangerous he is despicable and increasingly desperate… Don’t take it from me though, back in October 2008 Anna Schwartz had this to say in the Wall Street Journal.
...the pushback from Wall Street was intense and multi-pronged. The Blob oozed through the halls of government, seeking, through its glutinous embrace, to immobilize the legislative and regulatory apparatus, thereby preserving the status quo. The executive jets of the Wall Street air force flew sortie after sortie, transporting high-ranking emissaries from new York to Washington to meet with the SEC, [Senator Chris] Dodd and [Senator Richard] Shelby staff, and the staff of other senators on the Banking Committee. Some of the executives, no doubt less enthusiastically, even met with Josh and me. The research companies and market experts Wall Street employs also raised their voices against us. At times it got ugly. Ted was called a crackpot and dangerously uninformed. He was accused of “politicizing” market regulation (a strange notion considering he wasn’t running for election). It seemed as if Wall Street, which wasn’t used to someone on Capitol Hill asking in-depth questions about arcane issues, wished to silence or marginalize its critics. Industry people would always ask me, “What got Kaufman so interested in this stuff?” Used to politicians whose top priorities were to please their home-state business interests and raise money, they had trouble fathoming that Ted was so interested because it was the right thing to do. He believed in fair markets. And because he was genuinely concerned about emerging issues that threatened the stock market, where half of all Americans keep a sizable portion of their retirement savings.
- Anti-Japan demonstrators protest in New York City (China Daily) ...and the propaganda: Younger generation feels wave of emotions (CD)
- And the retaliation: Obama to launch auto trade case against China (Reuters)
- Spanish Banks Bleeding Cash Cloud Bailout Debate (Bloomberg)
- Chicago teachers extend strike (Reuters); Emanuel Promises He’ll Sue to End Chicago Teacher Strike (Bloomberg)
- China hurts own credibility with Xi's vanishing act (Reuters)
- European Squabbling on Euro Crisis Solution May Test Rally (Bloomberg)
- Two South Africa mines reopen, most don't (Reuters)
- Finance Industry Warns of ‘Cliff Effect’ in ECB’s Bond Plan (Bloomberg)
- China struggles to cure the violent ills of health system (Reuters)
- QE3 is for Main Street, except... it isn't: QE3 hit by mortgage processing delays (FT)
- Probe focuses on JPMorgan's monitoring of suspect transactions (Reuters)
- As explained here before: Spanish Bonds Decline as EU Policy Makers Clash on Bank Plan (Bloomberg)
If 2011's Arab Spring was all about the propaganda "hope" of democracy (driven paradoxically by soaring global good prices as we predicted in early 2011 before the first Tunisian domino toppled), then 2012 Arab Fall, is all about the blowback to US policies and intervention in the region. And while we are amused by the media's narrative that an entire continent can suddenly come to arms against Pax Americana over a YouTube clip, we are confident that what some hate-mongering preacher has to say about Mohammed is about as relevant to what is happening in the Middle East today, as how the global economy performs impact the S&P. Absolutely none. What we do know is that the anti-American revulsion, which started on September 11 in Egypt and has since taken Libya and Yemen by storm, is spreading like wildfire. The NYT writes: 'Protests were also reported at American missions in Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, where the police also fired tear gas to disperse crowds." It is only going to get far worse, as suddenly geopolitics, and the US response thereto, becomes the biggest issue in the presidential debate.
- Germany says U.S. debt levels "much too high" (Reuters)
- Netanyahu ramps up Iran attack threat (Reuters)
- Burberry plummets by most ever, slashes guidance, rattles Luxury-Goods Industry as Revenue Growth (Bloomberg)
- FoxConn Again Faces Labor Issue on iPhones (NYT)
- Southern whites troubled by Romney's wealth, religion (Reuters)
- China's Xi not seen in public because of ailment (Reuters)
- Another California muni default: Oakdale, Calif., Restructuring Debt, Planning Rate Raise After Default (Bond Buyer)
- Spain's PM expects "reasonable" terms for any new aid (Reuters)
- Bernanke Proves Like No Other Fed Chairman on Joblessness (Bloomberg) - Ineffective like no other?
- John Lennon’s Island Goes on Sale as Irish Unpick Property Boom (Bloomberg)
- China Output Growth Slows as Leadership Handover Looms (Bloomberg); Weak China trade data raises Beijing spending stakes (Reuters)
- Italy Q2 GDP revised down to -0.8% year-on-year on weak domestic demand (Economic Times)
- Troika disagreed with €2 billion in Greek "cuts" (Reuters)
- No Greek bottom in sight yet: Greek IP, Manufacturing Output plunge compared to year earlier (WSJ)
- France's Hollande sees 2013 growth forecast about 0.8 pct (Reuters), France plots tax hikes of up to 20 bln euros (Reuters)
- Euro Crisis Faces Tests in German Court, Greek Infighting (Bloomberg)
- Geithner sells more AIG stock (FT)
- Japan infuriates China by agreeing to buy disputed isles (Reuters)
- Euro crisis to worsen, Greece could exit euro: Swedish FinMin Anders Borg (Economic Times)
- ‘Lead or leave euro’, Soros tells Germany (FT)
- German MP makes new court complaint against euro plans (Reuters)
- Obama super-Pac in push to raise $150m (FT)
If you haven't heard yet, the United States of America just hit $16 trillion in debt yesterday. On a gross, nominal basis, this makes the US, by far, the greatest debtor in the history of the world. It took the United States government over 200 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of debt. It took only 286 days to accumulate the most recent trillion dollars of debt. 200 years vs. 286 days. This portends two key points:
- Anyone who thinks that inflation doesn't exist is a complete idiot;
- To say that the trend is unsustainable is a massive understatement.
This is banana republic stuff, plain and simple... and smart, thinking people ought to be planning on capital controls, wage and price controls, pension confiscation, and selective default. Because the next trillion will be here before you know it.
We have critically examined the question of whether the stock market 'discounts' anything on several previous occasions. The question was for instance raised in the context of what happened in the second half of 2007. Surely by October 2007 it must have been crystal clear even to people with the intellectual capacity of a lamp post and the attention span of a fly that something was greatly amiss in the mortgage credit market. Then, just as now, both the ECB and the Fed had begun to take emergency measures to keep the banking system from keeling over in August. This brings to mind the 'potent directors fallacy' which is the belief held by investors that someone – either the monetary authority, the treasury department, or a consortium of bankers, or nowadays e.g. the government of China – will come to their rescue when the market begins to fall. 'They' won't allow the market to decline!' 'They' won't allow a recession to occur!' 'They can't let the market go down in an election year!' All of these are often heard phrases. This brings us to today's markets. Nowadays, traders are not only not attempting to 'discount' anything, they are investing with their eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror – they effectively trade on yesterday's news.
If you haven’t heard yet, the committee which is drafting the platform for next week’s US Republican National Convention has announced that they are including a proposal to return to the gold standard. Big news. Remember, a gold standard is a monetary system in which individual currency units are fixed to an amount of gold held by the government; under a gold standard, the paper money supply cannot be expanded without also increasing the amount of gold on hand. At present, the market value of the federal government’s gold holdings only amounts to about $250 billion which constitutes a mere 2.5% of US money supply. Clearly one of the key risks in this scenario is that the US government would need to acquire as much gold as they can get their hands on, likely through Roosewellian-style gold confiscation, and if so - the safest place for your gold is going to be a snug safety deposit box in a place like Hong Kong or Singapore.