The science of economics has taken a decidedly wrong turn sometime in the 1930s. In the field of monetary science specifically, sober analysis has given way to broad-based support of central economic planning, with both policy makers and their advisors seemingly trying to trump each other with ever more lunatic proposals.
Moody's puts $3 billion in student debt-backed ABS on default watch leading us to wonder when 30% delinquency rates in a market where nearly $1.3 trillion in credit has been extended will finally result in the bursting of what is America's most spectacular debt bubble.
Sentiment in general remains poor and all the focus is on gold's weakness in dollar terms, despite gold's strong gains in euro terms in 2014 and so far in 2015. Poor sentiment is of course bullish from a contrarian perspective and suggests all the froth has been washed out of the gold market.
Greek FinMin Varoufakis is meeting sovereign debt lawyer Lee Buchheit today, the ‘fairy godmother to finance ministers in distress’... The big questions concern not just the difference between on the one hand, economic issues and on the other, political ones. Syriza doesn’t have the mandate to take Greece out of the eurozone. That is a huge point. But neither does it have the mandate to give in to the troika’s insistence on pensions cuts. At a certain moment, it may come down to what can be explained to the Greek people, and how well it can be explained. This explanation will almost certainly have to come after the fact, since holding a referendum pre-Grexit would carry far too much potential risk of uncontrolled demolition of the entire Greek economy and banking system.
- 2010: The first full year of the recovery was a growth recession with a collapse in inventories (after the restocking was complete), and continued private sector deleveraging.
- 2011: There were a series of events, including the Japanese tsunami, spike in oil prices and US debt downgrade by S&P.
- 2012: The crisis in the Eurozone intensified with concerns over a Greek exit and a breakup of the Eurozone. The policy response abroad was lackluster and there were concerns of another financial crisis.
- 2013: The combination of the sequester, debt ceiling fight and government shutdown created an environment of heightened uncertainty and fiscal restraint.
- 2014: The polar vortex delayed economic activity and led to a permanent loss of growth.
- 2015: Rapid appreciation of the dollar and heightened uncertainty about the winners and losers from plunging oil prices has hurt growth. A small part of the weakness may be related to the weather and the dock strike.
Over the past several weeks we have heard repeated comments that you should ignore the recent retail sales weakness for a variety of reasons such as cold winter weather, consumers don't believe the drop in gas prices, etc. Putting aside the fact that cold weather almost always occurs during winter (which is why the data is seasonally adjusted to begin with), or that more than 70% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, should we dismiss the data entirely?
Vladimir Putin holds his annual live Q&A event where, over the course of more than four priceless hours, the Russian President takes questions from across the country and discusses everything from foreign relations, to military might, to his sleeping habits, to not wanting to be cloned.
Just as the S&P appeared set to blast off to a forward GAAP PE > 21.0x, here comes Greece and drags it back down to a far more somber 20.0x. The catalyst this time is an FT article according to which officials of now openly insolvent Greece have made an informal approach to the International Monetary Fund to delay repayments of loans to the international lender, but were told that no rescheduling was possible. The result if a drop in not only US equity futures which are down 8 points at last check, but also yields across the board with the German 10Y Bund now just single basis points above 0.00% (the German 9Y is now < 0), on its way to -0.20% at which point it will lead to a very awkward "crossing the streams" moment for the ECB.
Yanis Varoufakis’ publisher, Public Affairs Books, posted a promo for an upcoming book by the Greek Finance Minister, due out only in 2016 that reveals a few things that haven’t gotten much attention to date. Varoufakis simply analyzes the structure of the EU and the eurozone, as well as the peculiar place the ECB has in both. Some may find what he writes provocative, but that’s beside the point. It’s not as if Europe is beyond analysis; indeed, such analysis is long overdue. Indeed, it may well be the lack of it, and the idea in Brussels that it is exempt from scrutiny, even as institutions such as the ECB build billion dollar edifices as the Greek population goes hungry, that could be its downfall. It may be better to be critical and make necessary changes than to be hardheaded and precipitate your own downfall.
True, the world faces issues today… so it’s not odd for bond yields to be lower… but are those issues on par with a disease that wiped out 25%+ of Europe’s population… or the single largest military conflict in history?
Some thoughts on boosting aggregate demand
In spite of the landmark decision 80 years ago against the imposition of economic fascism in America, the U.S. government has continued to grow in power over the American people. But it should be remembered that men of courage, integrity, and principle can stand up to Big Brother and resist the headlong march into economic tyranny. That unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1935 was one bright example of it.
Princeton University and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder unleashes his self-serving smorgasbord of Fed apologism in today's WSJ Op-Ed. The Fed should be patient-er for longer, he explains; and as far as the "loudly and frequently worried 'impatience crowd'," Blinder states, fears of policy "causing financial-market 'distortions' and bubbles might burst, causing untold damage to our economy," can apparently be ignored because, as he explains "none of the hypothesized financial hazards have surfaced." So - because we haven't crashed yet... policy is right - "This is a time to be patient."
Unemployment is the one statistic that one would have thought is easy to define: just total up the number of people on unemployment benefit and there's your answer.