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Guest Post: What's In A Bubble?





Bubbles are on a lot of minds lately. Bonds. Housing. Stocks. Are any of these in a bubble? How do we decide? Both the stock market and the dollar price of gold are influenced by monetary creation. As long as money continues to be created, we should expect both to increase in price. There have been times in the past when the money blew up the stock market much more rapidly than gold, and if that were to happen again, there may be an arbitrage opportunity. Such does not appear to be the case today. In a time of monetary or credit creation, there are opportunities to preserve wealth through investments in productive enterprises as well as gold. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish between enterprises that are truly productive and those which merely look productive as long as the credits keep flowing.

 
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How The Economic Machine Works





The economy is like a machine. At the most fundamental level, Bridgewater's Ray Dalio explains in this excellent video introduction, it is a relatively simple machine. But, he adds, many people don’t understand it – or they don’t agree on how it works – and this has led to a lot of needless economic suffering. The clip and article below shares his simple but practical economic template explaining how he believes it works. As he notes "my description of how the economy works is different from most economists'. It has worked better, allowing me to anticipate the great deleveragings and market changes that most others overlooked." The likely reason for this is because it is more practical. Simply put, Dalio notes, "This different way of looking at the economy and markets has allowed us to understand and anticipate economic booms and busts that others using more traditional approaches have missed."

 
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China's Ghost Cities... Are Multiplying





Nowhere is China's historic misallocation of capital (resulting from a pace of credit creation that makes even the most fervent Keynesian western central banker green with envy) more evident and tangible, than in videos showing the tumbleweeds floating down the main streets of its ghost cities. We did that first in 2009, then followed up two years later only to find nothing has changed. Today, on yet another "two years later" anniversary, we go back to the scene of the excess capacity crime, to find out if thing may have finally normalized. For that we follow SBS' Adrian Brown who back in 2011 did an extensive report on what were some of the then unknown ghost cities dispersed across the mainland. What we find is that not only is the overcapacity problem nowhere close to being resolved, but that 20 new "ghost" cities are taking shape in this year alone.

 
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Venezuela Seizes Toilet Paper Factory Amid Fears Of US Sabotage





The Venezuelan government is in a bind. They realize that 'the people' will stand-by idly as the nation's currency is devalued, as inflation soars, and blackouts continue as food shortages grow...(and the stock market soars) but take away a critical personal care item and the riots will begin. As Yahoo Maktoob reports, Venezuela's leftist government said Saturday it temporarily seized a major toilet paper factory hoping that it can end troublesome shortages of the staple personal care item. "The temporary occupation of [the toilet-paper manufacturing plant] is aimed at verifying that toilet paper industry production, marketing and distribution" are all in line with state policies, Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter, without indicating how long the takeover would last. This action follows 'nationalization' of large farms amid President Maduro's claims that the White House is plotting the "collapse" of his government next month by sabotaging food, electricity and fuel supplies.

 
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Al-Qaeda's Iraq/Syria Leader Killed





As suicide bombs devastate and terrorist attacks remain front-and-center in the headlines, we thought this worth sharing...

 

Al-Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian branches merged this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.

 
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The Nairobi Mall Massacre Visual Timeline (Death Toll Rises To 68)





UDPATE: Death toll rises to 68

UPDATE: Massive explosion reported at Kenya's Westgate Mall

Kenyan President Kenyatta this morning confirmed his nation's unrelenting "war on terror" reflecting that they have dealt with terrorists before and will again. Urging nations not to issue travel warnings, he reassured a nation that the attackers (believed to be the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab) in the upscale (frequented by ex-pats) Mall "are cornered." The slaying of at least 59 people makes this one of the worst attacks in Kenya's history and as the dreadful images below show, the terrorists appeared to have no limits. As news breaks of the army readying a rescue mission and confirmation that "many" civilians are still trapped, the situation is fluid to say the least.

 
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Merkel Wins Federal Election But Coalition Partner Below Bundestag Threshold: Final Outcome Too Close To Call





While the outcome of the election from the perspective of "the grand coalition" is still too close to call, Exit polls make it clear that Merkels CDU/CSU party has won the election with 42.5% of the vote. However, there are some very interesting results that could be a problem for Europe's 'program-based' nations: GERMAN AFD TAKES 4.8% IN FEDERAL ELECTION, ZDF EXIT POLL SHOWS; GERMAN FDP TAKES 4.5% IN FEDERAL ELECTION, ZDF EXIT POLL SHOWS. So the anti-Euro party has more votes (nearly the 5% required to enter the Bundestag) than Merkel's current coalition partner FDP party which creates major uncertainty over the forming of a coalition (which took 3 weeks in 2005) - which as we noted seemed to priced into Greek stocks on Friday. The pirate party is projected to have 2.5% of the vote. If the anti-Euro AfD enters the parliaments, a "Grand Coalition" appears inevitable. However, if it does not cross the 5% threshold, Merkel may end up with an absolute majority in the Bundestag and will not nead a coalition partner.

 
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Guest Post: Gold And Monetary Inflation Prospects





On Wednesday last the Fed surprised most people by deciding not to taper. What is not generally appreciated is that once a central bank starts to use monetary expansion as a cure-all it is extremely difficult for it to stop. This is the basic reason the Fed has not pursued the idea, and why it most probably never will. Fiat Money Quantity is now hyper-inflating. It currently requires a $3.6 trillion contraction of deposits to return this measure of currency quantity back to trend. This accurately sums up the problem facing the Fed. We must understand they are in an almost impossible position that dates back to their monetary response to the banking crisis. Not even Paul Volcker could have got us out of this one. Once the addiction to weak money hits this pace there is no solution without threatening to bring down the whole system.

 

 
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Warren Buffett: "The Fed Is The Greatest Hedge Fund In History"





In a world in which all the matters is "scale", the ability to Martingale down on losing bets as close to infinity as possible (something which JPMorgan learned with the London Whale may not be the best strategy especially when one can't print money out of thin air), and being as close to the Fed's Heidelberg rotary printer as possible, it was expected that that "expert" of government backstops and bailouts, the Octogenarian of Omaha, Warren Buffett, would have only kind words for Ben Bernanke. But not even we predicted that Buffett would explicitly admit what we have only tongue-in-cheek joked about in the past, namely that the Fed is the world's greatest (and most profitable) hedge fund. Which is precisely what he did: "Billionaire investor Warren Buffett compared the U.S. Federal Reserve to a hedge fund because of the central bank’s ability to profit from bond purchases while accumulating a balance sheet of more than $3 trillion. "The Fed is the greatest hedge fund in history,” Buffett told students yesterday at Georgetown University in Washington. It’s generating “$80 billion or $90 billion a year probably” in revenue for the U.S. government, he said.

 
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Hong Kong Braces For Worst Storm In 34 Years As Typhoon Usagi Approaches, "Astronomical" Storm Surge Forecast





One year ago New York had Superstorm Sandy. Now, with Typhoon Usagi closing in, Hong Kong is bracing for impact as the strongest storm in 34 years is set to hit the financial hub head on. As Severe Typhoon Usagi bore down on the city, the Hong Kong observatory issued a "severe threat'' warning. It hoisted the No 3 typhoon signal at 11.40pm yesterday and warned people in low-lying areas to take special precautions. “The water level may rise and cause flooding in the evening,” said Sandy Song Man-kuen, the observatory’s senior scientific officer. This happened as the Observatory issued a No 8 storm signal for Usagi.  The Hong Kong Observatory said that Usagi would make landfall to the east of Hong Kong and will skirt the territory at around 100km or less to the north later tonight and early tomorrow morning. Observatory senior scientific officer Mok Hing-yim warned of "astronomical" high tides and a storm surge. Mok said that if the typhoon signal No 8 was issued, Usagi would be the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong since Typhoon Hope in 1979, which killed 12 people and injured 260.

 
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Mortar Shell Hits Russian Embassy In Damascus, Three Diplomats Wounded





Let's see here: the party attacking the embassy of Assad-supporting Russia in Damascus is a) the Syrian government or b) the local Al Qaeda-funded Islamist fanatics and Qatari mercenaries, aka "rebels"? Surely a YouTube clip will promptly emerge, confirming it was a).

 
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Food Stamp Nation





From the art of selling excess food stamp dollars at the end of each month, to JP Morgan profiting from the program as a line of business, Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger introduces the following micro-documentary on the rise of our food stamp nation. Produced by Future Money Trends, this video covers it all, exposing the dismal and far-reaching consequences to society.

 
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JPMorgan Says "Buy Gold"





The FOMC shocked markets by deciding not to slow its large-scale asset purchase program, after all the signals it had sent out in previous months that it would do so. While increasing policy risk, JPMorgan notes, this puts the asset-reflation trades back on the table. In their view, the main driver of gold’s performance over the past five years has been QE. As QE continued and inflation expectations remained subdued, the demand for an inflation hedge subsided, ETF positions were unwound and gold prices fell. However, JPM now believes, as a result of the Fed's volte-face on tapering, uncertainty about future inflation may pick up and suggest a long position in gold. Of course, the question is - are they buying or is this a last ditch effort to drain what little remaining gold they have in their vault to their hapless clients?

 
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What Bernanke Did





What Ben Bernanke did by not Tapering was expose the fragility of the US economy for all to see. His actions, Mises Institute's Peter Klein explains in this brief clip, based on the premise that the US economy was not capable of sustaining any reduction in the $85 billion per month stimulus free-money, means once again "the economy is so dependent on artificial stimulation from the central bank... that the economy is in another artificial boom just like the artificial boom we have been trying to get out of." Critically, for all those proclaiming the US as a "cleanest shirt," Bernanke proved them wrong (and exposed the fallacy of data such as the unemployment rate and jobless claims as having any value - as we have explained). In conclusion, Klein notes "any signs of economic growth or progress that we have experienced since 2008 are solely the result of government stimulus; in other words, more malinvestment." This will not end well.

 
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Guest Post: Is Italy Set To Become Europe's Japan?





Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, Italy’s GDP has declined by about 8%, nearly a million workers have lost their jobs, and real wages have come under increasing pressure. The most striking aspect of Italy’s recent turmoil is what has not happened: citizens have not poured into the streets demanding reform. Indeed, throughout the crisis, Italian society has remained uncharacteristically stable. Japan’s experience – characterized by more than 20 years of economic stagnation – offers important lessons for crisis-stricken democratic countries with aging populations. During Japan’s “lost decades,” successive Japanese governments allowed public debt to skyrocket and refused to confront the economy’s deep-rooted problems, allowing sclerosis to take hold. In fact, Japan’s leaders had little incentive to pursue bold reform, because voters consistently failed to demand it. The question now is what kind of shock would be required to motivate Italians to demand similar action.

 
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