Europe and the world are eagerly awaiting the decision of Germany’s Constitutional Court on September 12 regarding the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the proposed permanent successor to the eurozone’s current emergency lender, the European Financial Stability Mechanism. The Court must rule on German plaintiffs’ claim that legislation to establish the ESM would violate Germany’s Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Nobody knows how the Constitutional Court will rule on these objections. It is good that the Court’s decisions cannot be forecast, and even better that the Court cannot be lobbied or petitioned. The European Union can be based only on the rule of law. If those in power can break its rules on a case-by-case basis, the EU will never develop into the stable construct that is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity.
"Everybody's going to war but we don't know what we are fighting for."
– Nerina Pallot, from "Everybody's Gone to War"
All sides in the coming conflict – except for the civilian populations and the soldiers maimed and killed – believe they will benefit from a limited war in the Middle East if everything goes according to plan. However, nothing ever goes according to plan in wars and this is the problem the world will face. Prolonged recession or depression, wealth and benefit confiscation throughout the EU, US and other Western democracies and the risk of a Middle East conflict spreading around the world is our fear. Who is guaranteed to win regardless of the outcome of the war and whether it can be contained? The Anglo-American financial elites and the bankers always win every conflict regardless of the military outcome. This is the history of the 20th century and we see no reason that will change now.
We are often asked for glossaries or background posts to help in the comprehension of how-we-got-here?, where-here-is?, and where-we-are-going? We hope that our posts, while diverse in nature, build upon one another and provide an educational platform for all levels of market/economy participant (active traders, passive investors, and working / non-working citizens alike) but as far as a succinct primer on how broken the status quo is and the 'euphoric' economy that very few could see through their Keynesian "debt doesn't matter" blinders, Steve Keen's introductory lecture at UWS is perhaps the most complete soup-to-nuts discussion we have seen recently. From the OECD's total ignorance to Bernanke's 'Great Moderation' miss; from economic 'religion' to science; and from Keynes to Minksy, Keen explains, in language even Chuck Schumer could understand, how more debt doesn't solve too much debt, how stability breeds instability, and why the US won't be finished deleveraging until 2025 (at this rate).
Miseseans choose to reach their conclusions not from data, but instead from praxeology; pure deduction and logic. This is quite unlike the early Austrians like Menger who mainly used a mixture of deductionism and data. Like all sciences, economics should be driven by data. For if we are not driven by data than we are just daydreaming. As Menger — the Father of Austrianism, who favoured a mixture of deductive and empirical methods — noted:
The merits of a theory always depends on the extent to which it succeeds in determining the true factors (those that correspond to real life) constituting the economic phenomena and the laws according to which the complex phenomena of political economy result from the simple elements.
Praxeology is leading Austrian economics down a dead end. Austrianism would do well to return to its root — Menger, not Mises.
Will Steve Keen be proven 'early' and correct? We suspect so; and the following infographic from DebtConsolidation.com.au provides some more compelling evidence of the growth of the Aussie housing bubble and its geographical diversity (and should you consider a trade on the back of this - Australian bank CDS are trading near 12-month tights).
Over the weekend, we pointed out that the old mechanism for the People’s Bank of China to expand its balance sheet and create base money has been broken by new funds flow pattern, and it will sooner or later require some sort of large scale asset purchases programme a.k.a. quantitative easing to offset the impact of the broken mechanism (after other tools such as cutting RRR reach their limits). However, we also mentioned that as the private sector is currently quite overstretched and will start the deleveraging process (if they have not already started), and that would render traditional monetary tools useless, and quantitative easing ineffective. And that would necessitate deficit spending at both local and central government levels. If we have read the social mood correctly that China might be more pro-austerity than pro-Keynesian, and if policymakers indeed share that view, then the consequence in the near term could be rather grim. The delay in stimulus as well as the small size of it so far has already done damage, if you like. The economy is already on course to a hard landing.
Going nowhere fast was the theme today as equities managed to end practically unchanged (SPX/Dow down, NDX up) but intraday saw some very gappy behavior (though admittedly in a very small range). VIX is the story of the day in our view - realized volatility has dropped to near-record lows (which had, until a week ago, been a big driver of front-end implied vol compression) and yet VIX pushed higher (with implied vol now at almost a three-month high premium to realized). The point being - protection is bid, and a VIX of 16.5% is much more concerning given its premium than some would believe. Volume was above its very recent and dismal average but still around 15-20 percentage points below normal summer doldrums levels. Risk assets in general trod water today with modest outperformance by Treasuries (yields lower 1-2bps) and negligible moves in FX carry trades - even as the USD is down 0.35% since Friday (mirroring Silver's 0.35% gain). With Consumer confidence dismal, somewhat strangely both Consumer Staples and Discretionary outperformed on the day. Very low average trade size, a low high-low range, and a general inability to pull away from VWAP (+/-3pts only) suggested everyone is on hold (or buying protection as we noted above); but the small flush into the close was not very encouraging.
The causal relationship between scarcity, demand, and price is intuitive. Whatever is scarce and in demand will rise in price; whatever is abundant and in low demand will decline in price to its cost basis. The corollary is somewhat less intuitive, but still solidly sensible: the cure for high prices is high prices, meaning that as the price of a commodity or service reaches a threshold of affordability/pain, suppliers and consumers will seek out alternatives or modify their behaviors to lower consumption. Much of the supposedly inelastic demand for goods is based on the presumptive value of ownership. For many workers, there simply won’t be enough income to indulge in the ownership model. The cost in cash and opportunity are too high. This leads to a profound conclusion: What will be scarce is income, not commodities.
China’s credit risk is rising, probably much more rapidly than the official non-performing loan (NPL) statistics indicate. SocGen is concerned as they think we are only seeing the beginning of the end of this NPL cycle. While they do not anticipate an outright banking crisis, as the government will certainly keep intervening at each turn on the way to avoid such an outcome, this is no reason to feel relieved. The reason being a major structural element in China's NPL cycle as many industries have massive excess capacity - after years of aggressive expansion that ran way ahead of demand growth - which eventually has to be eliminated. This process will take some time, during which faster depreciation in the form of deleveraging and consolidation will be unavoidable; and while expectations of an imminent hard landing may be overdone, the landing will nevertheless be multi-year and bumpy in their view.
When Ben Bernanke launched QE 2 in 2010 he outlined a third mandate for the Federal Reserve - the boosting of consumer confidence. He stated that the goal of QE 2 was to boost asset prices in order to spur consumer confidence through the "wealth effect" which should translate into economic growth. In 2010 he was right, and QE 2 not only boosted asset prices sharply, but kept the economy from slipping into a recessionary spat. As Friday's speech from the economic summit in "Jackson Hole" draws near - Bernanke should be taking a clue from today's release of consumer confidence in considering his next move.
Regimes are shifting. Can you feel it? While at the surface, indices tumble along in small ranges and AAPL does its thing, asset-class movements and sector-rotations suggest something is afoot. Since the peak in the S&P 500 last week, we have seen a clear rotation from cyclicals to non-cyclicals, a major rotation from stocks into bonds, and a significant regime change in the relationship between Gold, the USD, and Treasury prices. One thing is clear - the heads-I-win, tails-you-lose high-beta strategy (on the ECB/Fed 'has your back' thesis) appears to be weakening a little (though in 100 milliseconds from now - who knows?)
A week ago everyone was convinced that in three days, Bernanke would reveal the second coming or whatever the equivalent biblical event is these days that would send the Dow to 36,000 in a heartbeat. We laughed at such naive suggestions. Then over the past five days the market has seen a profound transformation with what was initially a seed of doubt that the Chairman may in fact disappoint his stock buying disciples, having sprouted into a full blown weed of outright denial, fear and loathing. Which makes sense: in a world in which everything is jawboning, everyone's hope is always on the event just over the event horizon, but never on the one that is imminent: that way when the inevitable disappointment happens one can just say it was all premeditated and is coming "next time." However, in case the market has finally had enough of being led by the nose, lied to, and does throw a temper tantrum, there are way to take advantage of this. One bank that suggests just a way to do this without trading in that insane asset class known as stocks, where up is down, down is purple, and the triangle-square-square-circle killer combo sequence now works in reverse, is Credit Suisse, which suggests to put on a short bond position in anticipation of a major selloff which should inevitably accompany a disappointment from the Fed. Their suggestion: put on a $50K DV01 short at 1.64% and expect a steep selloff when the Fed disappoints, with a 1.75% target. If all works out according to plan, everyone involved should be $500,000 richer at market close on Friday with Bollingers all around.
"We accept the world as it is presented to us. If True American really wished to discover the truth, I would be unable to prevent him from doing so. But he is much happier in my artificial world than he would be in the real world. Since there are so many painful consequences to seeking the truth, he quite rightly prefers to live in my artificial world."
Complicity reigns supreme as everyone benefiting from a scam keeps quiet about everyone else's skim lest their own share of the spoils fall under the harsh light of inquiry. Can an economy that has become dependent on lies, misrepresentation, "fudging" of numbers, fraud, embezzlement and a multitude of skimming and scamming operations escape the moral and financial black hole it has created? The self-evident answer is "no."