I recently wrote an article that addresses the subject of sociopaths and how they insinuate themselves into society. Although the subject doesn't speak directly to what stock you should buy or sell to increase your wealth, I think it's critical to success in the markets. It goes a long way towards explaining what goes on in the heads of people like Bernie Madoff and therefore how you can avoid being hurt by them. But there's a lot more to the story. At this point, it seems as if society at large has been captured by Madoff clones. If that's true, the consequences can't be good. So what I want to do here is probe a little deeper into the realm of abnormal psychology and see how it relates to economics and where the world is heading. If I'm correct in my assessment, it would imply that the prospects are dim for conventional investments – most stocks, bonds and real estate. Those things tend to do well when society is growing in prosperity. And prosperity is fostered by peace, low taxes, minimal regulation and a sound currency. It's also fostered by a cultural atmosphere where sociopaths are precluded from positions of power and intellectual and moral ideas promoting free minds and free markets rule. Unfortunately, it seems that doesn't describe the trend that the world at large and the US in particular are embarked upon. In essence, we're headed towards economic and financial bankruptcy.
European markets are seen trading higher as North America comes to market, with some momentum seen following the release of the forecast-beating German ZEW Survey. An economist from the institution commented that downside risks have decreased significantly over the past month, prompting some risk-appetite in Europe during the morning. Participants were also looking towards the Spanish T-Bill auction with particular focus, but it did not confirm the nation’s worst fears as the auction passed with strong bid/covers, selling to the top of the indicative range. Yields, however, did increase over both lines. As such, the Spanish 10-yr yield has fallen below the key 6% mark and remained below that level for most of the session. Peripheral 10-yr spreads against the German Bund are seen tighter throughout the day, amid some market talk early in the session of domestic accounts buying the paper, however this remains unconfirmed.
Before there was seamless connectivity, before there was one global electronic currency and instantaneous global debt creation, before there was the internet, supply-chain "logistics", World Bank, IMF, and economic hitmen, there were... ships. Because in order to allow modern Ricardian economics to flourish (we would be curious to read some/any scholarly papers probing the failure of Ricardo's theories in a ZIRP regime, unfortunately there are none, as never before has the cost of money been zero essentially until regime end), and before money could be printed with impunity, backed solely by full lack of faith and eroding credit, nations had to actually trade with each other, and money was simply a means to facilitate said trade, which in turn allowed the formation of wealth and subsequent asymmetric power relationships. Needless to say, any nation that imported itself to death would be promptly wiped out by its heretofore friendly neighbors who would simply invade it when the money to buy stuff and to fund armies ran out: sadly TARGET2 was not available during Victorian times. So where are we going with this? Ben Schmidt, a Princeton graduate student, using ship logs has conceived of this tremendous time lapse of every single major known ship route taken by Dutch, Spanish and English vessels during the "age of transition", the period between 1750 and 1850, which set the stage for today's "global economy." The result is a fantastic insight into the early stages of globalization.
All you need to read and some more.
Heading into the US open, European stock markets are experiencing a mixed session with particular underperformance noted once again in the peripheral IBEX and FTSE MIB indices. The Portuguese banking sector specifically is taking heavy hits following overnight news from Banco Espirito di Santo that they are to issue a large quantity of new shares, prompting fears that further banks may have to recapitalize. The financials sector is also being weighed upon by a downbeat research note published by a major Japanese bank on the Spanish banking sector. Elsewhere, the Italian BTP auction was released in a fragmented fashion showing softer bid/covers and the highest yield since mid-January in the only on-the-run line sold today. Similarly to yesterday’s auction, the sale was not quite as poor as some as feared. Italy sold to the top of the range and as such, the Italian/German 10-yr yield spread is now tighter by 13BPS, currently at 361BPS. From the UK, the DMO sold 20-year gilts with a lower bid/cover ratio and a large yield tail, prompting gilt futures to fall by around 10 ticks after the release. Later in the session, participants will be looking out for US PPI data and the weekly jobless numbers.
- Fed's No. 2 Strongly Backs Low-Rate Policy (Hilsenrath)
- World Bank Cuts China 2012 Growth Outlook on Exports (Bloomberg)
- BlackRock's Street Shortcut: Big Banks Would Be Bypassed With Bond Platform; 'Not Going to Cannibalize' (WSJ)
- George Soros - Europe’s Future is Not Up to The Bundesbank (FT)
- Fed May Have Aggravated Income Inequality, El-Erian Says(Bloomberg)
- Shirakawa Pledges Japan Easing Amid Political Pressure (Bloomberg)
- Spain’s Debt Struggle Opens Door to Sarkozy Campaign Message (Bloomberg)
- Iran Woos Oil Buyers With Easy Credit (FT)
- Syria Pledges to Observe Ceasefire (FT)
- With a 2 Year delay, both FT and WSJ start covering the shadow banking system. For our ongoing coverage for the past 2.5 years see here.
- Trouble in shipping turns ocean into scrapheap (Telegraph)
- First-Quarter Home Prices Down 20.7% in Capital (China Daily)
- Bernanke Says Banks Need Bigger Capital Buffer (Reuters)
- Monti’s Overhaul Can’t Stop Pain From Spain: Euro Credit (Bloomberg)
- Spain Confronts Crisis Threat as Rajoy Seeks Deficit Cuts (Bloomberg)
- Japan’s Noda Announces Anti-Deflation Talks as BOJ Sets Policy (Bloomberg)
- White House makes case for Buffett Rule (CNN)
- Cameron to Make Historic Myanmar Trip (FT)
- 'Time for Closer Ties' With India (China Daily)
Four months ago we presented what was easily the clearest and most undiluted by media propaganda clue about the future of the European experiment, when we noted that even immigrants from places such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, using Greece as a stepping stone onward to the gateway Shengen country of Italy, no longer have the urge to pursue their European dreams, and instead return home. As Art Cashin explained, "Over the decades, immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other poor nations would work their way to Patras. They would stay for days or weeks awaiting a chance to smuggle themselves on to a freighter headed for Italy. Once there, they could make their way north into Europe to find hope and opportunity and maybe a job. Last week his relatives told him that things were changing. The immigrants still come to their way station of Patras (hope still blooms). But now, after a couple of weeks in Greece, they are trying to hop ships going the other way. They are going back home. Life was better, or at least no worse, where they came from and they had friends and family for support back there." It appears that the immigrant boycott is spreading, only this time instead of "discretionary" immigrants, or those that have not been fully assumed by society (think "cheap labor" along America's south, such as California, Texas and Arizona), it is starting to hit the core of the cheap PIIGS labor force: the migrant workforce, and in this case the Albanian diaspora working out of Greece at a fraction of the normal cost. And as one Albanian migrant worker, so critical to keeping the Greek construction sector supplied with cheap jobs puts it, "It looks like there's no money left," he said of Greece. "It all dried up." As a result even the Greek illegal-yet-symbiotic-aliens are giving up and going back home. Yes folks: the "indicators" on the ground are telling us that it is now easier to make money in Albania than in Greece.
(The most) bankrupt countries to bail out bankrupt countries. And taxpayers get to foot the bill.
The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.
Six centuries ago, when London and Paris were irrelevant, plague-infested backwaters, and New York City wasn’t even on the map, the greatest city in the world was Nanjing– the capital of the Great Ming. At the time, Nanjing was not only the most populous city on the planet, it was also the pinnacle of civilization. Art, science, technology, and commerce flourished in the Ming Dynasty’s liberalized economy, which constituted a full 31% of global GDP at the time. (By comparison, the US economy is roughly 25% of global GDP today…) Taxes were low, the currency was strong, and overseas trade thrived. For a time, Nanjing truly was the center of the world. Over the next several hundred years, the tide shifted. The Ming Dynasty fell, and power was transferred further west to the Ottoman Empire, and eventually to Europe which had finally emerged from the Dark Ages as the most advanced civilization on Earth... This phenomenon has lasted for several hundred years now… but as history has shown repeatedly, power centers frequently shift. The world is now witnessing yet another transition of power, this time from west to east, as the US-led western hierarchy suffocates within its own debt-laden Keynesian fiat bubble.
On Thursday morning, President Hu Jintao of China, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia , President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India shook hands at the start of the one day meeting in New Delhi. Top of the agenda was the creation of the grouping's first institution, a so-called "BRICS Bank" that would fund development projects and infrastructure in developing nations. Less noticed and commented upon is the aspirations of the BRIC nations to become less dependent on the global reserve currency, the dollar and to position their own currencies as internationally traded currencies. The leaders of BRIC nations and other emerging market nations have adopted the idea of conducting trade between the five nations in their own currencies. Two agreements, signed among the development banks of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, say that local currency loans will be made available for trade between these countries. The five fast growing nations participating in local currency trade will allow participants to diversify their foreign exchange reserves, hedging against the growing risk of a euro or dollar crisis. The BRICS want to have easy convertibility of currency to make it easier to use the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi and rand amongst themselves without having to always use the US dollar. Higher intra-Brics trade, conducted in their own currencies would shield their economies from economic dislocations in the west. Left unsaid so far is the possibility that one of the BRICs or the BRICs in unison might peg the value of their respective currencies to the ultimate store of value and money - gold.
It appears that these days a EUR1 trillion hot liquidity injection (such as that from the ECB's LTRO 1+2) will buy you about 3 months of breathing room. Then the ostriches have no choice but to pull their head out of the sand, especially in Europe, where after three months of spread tightening, and hence the belief that "all is fixed", things are starting to turn ugly again: sovereign government spreads are beginning to widen, Europe is demanding more money from the IMF (i.e. America, even as the BRIC countries are starting to consider a world without the USD as a reserve currency, and are now forming their own bank) to boost its firewall, strikes are promptly converting to riots, Italian bank stocks are being halted due to rapid moves lower, the LTRO stigma trade is at 2012 wides, in short everything we grew to know and love in Q3 and Q4 of 2011. Ironically, having papered over the symptoms courtesy of fresh new money, the underlying causes were never addressed, and only got worse as the deteriorating European economic data suggests. What is scary, as UBS shows, is that this is just the delayed carryover from 2011! Just like the US which had the benefit of abnormally warm weather to mask a "bounce" in the economy which was never structural, so Europe had a relatively quiet quarter in terms of newsflow. Things are about to change: read the following for why the eye of the hurricane is about to pass over Europe and why this time around there is $1.3 trillion less in firepower to delay the onset of reality.