In terms of economic might, BBVA has created an index of "world market power" enabling an at-a-glance view of a nation's impact on the global economy via relevance of exports, exposure to external shocks, technological content, and retained value-added. And the winner is... Hint, not USA...
Analysis of the detail discovered in historic information in the context of China's gold strategy has allowed us to make reasonable estimates of vaulted gold, comprised of gold accounts at commercial banks, mine output and scrap. There is also compelling evidence mine output and scrap are being accumulated by the government in its own vaults, and not being delivered to satisfy public demand. We believe that China is well on the way to having gained control of the international gold market, thanks to western central banks suppression of the gold price, which accelerated last year. For its geopolitical strategy to work China must accumulate large quantities of bullion... it appears well on its way to dominance of the physical gold markets.
A few weeks ago, when the US announced the first set of sanctions against Russia, we jokingly commented that among the possible retaliations would be a Russian explusion of that global US permastaple, McDonalds. As it turns out, yet another "joke" may be on its way to becoming the truth.
Market bears take the position that stocks are expensive, citing a variety of indicators and arguing that profit margins should “mean revert” from record highs. On the other side, market bulls dispute the indicators and propose that fat margins are no big deal – they might just remain at record highs indefinitely.
“High margins reflect a long-term structural change, not a short-term cyclical one,” according to one account of a popular position. Or “It’s a mistake to think that margins will revert to a long-term mean just for the sake of reverting to a mean.”
The message seems to be that mean reversion is for losers. This is a new era, or it’s a new economy, or whatever. We're paraphrasing, but the story sounds a lot like the capital letter New Economy of the late 1990s. There’s even a technology angle once again, along with huge confidence in monetary policy and recession-free growth. Above all, there’s a notion that the world might be different. Needless to say, the new, new economy story comes with plenty of red flags.
Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases on Earth, with a fatality rate as high as 90%. It causes bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth and rectum and a bloody full-body rash leading to a quick demise. It’s one of a handful of diseases that are so deadly that governments consider it a threat to national security. Luckily, so far the cumulative death toll from Ebola has been limited to sporadic epidemics in Africa, although that may change. Here, courtesy of Blooomberg, is a map of Ebola's African outbreaks in recent history.
According to this chart from JPM the market's forward P/E ratio now is precisely 15.2x. What was it at precisely the last bubble peak on October 9, 2007? 15.2x.
The world’s official economic institutions are run by people who believe in monetary fairy tales. The 70 words of wisdom below from IMF head Christine Lagarde are par for the course. She asserts that a new jabberwocky expression called “low-flation” is the main obstacle to higher economic growth in Europe and the DM areas generally and that it can be cured by more central bank money printing.
As Daniel Kay Hertz explains, the goal of these maps is not merely to depress you (you’re welcome!), but to suggest just how dramatically the reality of Chicago’s “two cities” has changed over the last few generations, how non-eternal its present state is, and that a happier alternate reality isn’t just possible, but actually existed relatively recently.
The reasons to hold gold (and silver), and we mean physical bullion, are pretty straightforward. So let’s begin with the primary ones:
- To protect against monetary recklessness
- As insulation against fiscal foolishness
- As insurance against the possibility of a major calamity in the banking/financial system
- For the embedded 'option value' that will pay out handsomely if gold is re-monetized
The punch line is this: Gold (and silver) is not in bubble territory, and its largest gains remain yet to be realized; especially if current monetary, fiscal, and fundamental supply-and-demand trends remain in play.
How long can America continue to burn up wealth? How long can this nation continue to consume far more wealth than it produces? The trade deficit is one of the biggest reasons for the steady decline of the U.S. economy, but many Americans don't even understand what it is. Our current debt-fueled lifestyle is dependent on this cycle continuing. In order to live like we do, we must consume far more wealth than we produce. If someday we are forced to only live on the wealth that we create, it will require a massive adjustment in our standard of living. We have become great at consuming wealth but not so great at creating it. But as a result of running gigantic trade deficits year after year, we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions upon millions of jobs, and America is being deindustrialized at a staggering pace.
Following the March Jobs Report, ConvergEx's Nick Colas got to thinking about the composition of employment growth rather than just the headline number. Is every new job created really the same when it comes to overall economic impact? Consider that the average household income in Maryland is $69,920, versus $39,592 in Mississippi. Or that Mining and Logging jobs pay, on average, $28.77/hour and Retail Trade positions average only $14.22/hour. To expand on this point, Colas came up with three 'Ideal' marginal hires, when considering which jobs bring the most "bang" for the wage/employment "buck". At this point in the cycle we should be focused on job quality as much as quantity.
It seems two states is not enough for billionaire investor George Soros (who is ranked the 9th most influential marijuane user in the US). As The Washington Times' Kelly Riddell reports, advocacy groups are leading the campaign to crush marijuana prohibition from coast-to-coast, and 83-year-old Soros is helping line the pockets of those making that push. "Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994, when he diverted a portion of his foundation’s funds to organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings," Riddell notes, adding that the Soros-affiliated Foundation to Promote an Open Society donates roughly $4 million annually to the Drug Policy Alliance.
For a few weeks there, as the Baltic Dry Index rose, talking-heads were ignominous in their praise of the shipping index as a leading indicator of an awesome future ahead for the world economy. The last 9 days have smashed that 'hope' to smithereens (and yet the talking-heads have gone awkwardly silent, having moved on to some other bias-confirming meme). The Baltic Dry is down 25% in the last 2 weeks, back near post-crisis lows, and has just suffered the worst start to a year in over a decade. But apart from that, seems global trade is all-good and about to take off any minute now...
The fear of deflation serves as the theoretical justification of every inflationary action taken by the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world. It is why the Federal Reserve targets a price inflation rate of 2 percent, and not 0 percent. It is in large part why the Federal Reserve has more than quadrupled the money supply since August 2008. And it is, remarkably, a great myth, for there is nothing inherently dangerous or damaging about deflation. Now unmoored from any gold standard constraints and burdened with massive government debt, in any possible scenario pitting the spectre of deflation against the ravages of inflation, the biases and phobias of central bankers will choose the latter. This choice is as inevitable as it will be devastating.