We have commented numerous times on the inexorable rise in Spanish non-performing loans (NPLs). Since the Spanish economy started to weaken at the end of 2006, NPLs have been rising sharply; but the subsequent collapse of the Spanish property market exacerbated the matter further, causing a spike in NPLs in 2007 and 2008. Since then, the Euro area crisis and subsequent sharp rise in unemployment have led NPLs at Spanish banks to make new record highs. However, they are not alone. Italian banks did not suffer a property market collapse and so the rise in NPLs started later than in Spain and was not as severe. However, as JPMorgan notes, the sharp rise in unemployment we have seen since mid 2011 has led to an acceleration in NPLs at Italian banks. What should be most worrying for incoming PM Letta, is that from the respective troughs for each country (the trough for Spain was a lot earlier than for Italy, about two years in actual fact), Italy is looking eerily similar. The rise in NPLs at Spanish banks over the past two years has had a lot to do with the recession and rise in unemployment. To the extent that Italian unemployment has only started to rise sharply a year and a half ago, the future path for NPLs at Italian banks looks set to follow that of Spain. So why aren't bond spreads blowing wider? Answer below...
Despite the many differences between China and the U.S., their basic problems are remarkably similiar: an economy that increasingly serves a tiny Elite, and a political/financial system that is incapable of meaningful reform. Setting aside the latest bird flu outbreak and sagging indicators of growth, China 2.0 is in trouble (with 1.0 being the Communist era of 1949 -1977 and 2.0 being the modernization/globalization era of 1978 - 2013), for it remains overly reliant on unsustainable growth dynamics. Add it all up and you get a clear picture of a government and economy that is incapable of making the kind of structural reforms that are needed to make growth sustainable.
It is a convoluted world. The money rolls in from the Fed, the ECB and various European funds where money is pledged by each country and put up by none. Pledges, contingent liabilities, guarantees of bank debt are not counted but have not vanished and show up when the bills are due decreasing the assets of everyone. The newly printed money must find a home and so supports the sovereign debt yields while costing each European government more in the process. Austerity fails, unemployment rises, economies decline, more taxes are applied and the use of newly printed money is the only thing that separates us from some sort of financial chaos. The differential between the European economies and the European markets increases and the actual losses increase. Print forever. Lies without end. Reality redefined.
The crypto-currency Bitcoin is still merely a speck on the global monetary landscape. It is young, experimental, and for all we know, it may ultimately fail to break into the monetary mainstream. However, on a conceptual level some are willing to call it a work of genius and arguably the most exciting development in the field of money for more than 130 years. The outcome is probably binary: Either Bitcoin ultimately fails and the individual Bitcoins end up worthless. Or Bitcoin takes off and Bitcoins are worth hundreds of thousands of paper dollars, paper yen, paper euros, or paper pounds. Maybe more. Those who buy Bitcoin as a speculative investment should consider it an option on the future success of the crypto-currency. We still consider gold to be the essential self-defense asset in the ongoing paper money crisis. The brand-new crypto-currency Bitcoin has to first earn its stripes as a monetary asset by proving itself as a ‘common’ medium of exchange. That is why we view Bitcoin very differently from gold, although the attraction of both has its origin in the demise of entirely elastic, politicized state fiat money. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.
Even those at the top of the neofeudal debtocracy know our economy and political order need real reform. Behind closed doors, they will discuss this with others in the Power Elite and gloomily shake their heads. The usual reasons why real reform is impossible are duly trotted out: political stalemate/gridlock, the power of vested interests, etc. The real reasons are deeper than economics or politics.
In yet another worse-than-expected macro data point, Spain has just breached the 27% unemployment level - the highest since at least 1976, when data began following dictator Francisco Franco's death. At 27.2% this is already higher than the IMF's year-end estimate of 27% suggesting growth estimates are already overly optimistic. What is more concerning is the rate of increase in the joblessness is rising once again. The 1.1 percentage point rise is the largest in a year and 177,700 more households now have no actively employed members than a year ago. The greatest fear though, for European leaders and the Spanish people themselves, is the surge in youth unemployment. As we have noted a number of times in the past, the possibility of social unrest is exaggerated significantly by this number and at an incredulous 57.2% of under-25s out of work, Spain is closing in on Greece, according to official data, for the worst youth unemployment situation in Europe.
The political class set in motion the eventual obliteration of our economic system with the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. Placing the fate of the American people in the hands of a powerful cabal of unaccountable greedy wealthy elitist bankers was destined to lead to poverty for the many, riches for the connected crony capitalists, debasement of the currency, endless war, and ultimately the decline and fall of an empire. The 100 year downward spiral began gradually but has picked up steam in the last sixteen years, as the exponential growth model, built upon ever increasing levels of debt and an ever increasing supply of cheap oil, has proven to be unsustainable and unstable. Those in power are frantically using every tool at their disposal to convince Boobus Americanus they have everything under control and the system is operating normally. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It appears, once again, that the government's inept approach to spending 'other people's money' has blown up in their face. As HotAir.com reports, newly obtained documents show the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan. Just as with Solyndra, Congress seemed convinced to spend billions of taxpayer money 'investing' in green-tech startups - only to lose everything. Simply put, in our humble opinion, the pattern is explained by the 'monopoly money' perspective we suspect these funds are viewed as in light of Bernanke's inexorable funding of the government's largesse. None other than the great Joe Biden reveled in the news in 2009 that Fisker would re-open a closed GM plant creating jobs, jobs, jobs; it never completed the task and never created one job. When the money isn't yours, 'investing' public funds is oh so easy and it appears, with zero consequence for the decision makers - again. But this story is not over yet, as Fisker heads to Congress looking for the right "financial and stretgic resources" once again.
“This isn’t the end of the world,” says Rick Rule. “This is a normal – and ultimately healthy – cyclical decline in a longer term bull market. This is a sale.” None of the macroeconomic, geopolitical, or global demographic conditions pointing to a long term increase in gold and commodity prices are any different today than before the metal’s price began a multi-day slide last week.
We have been reporting extensively on the terminal disconnect between the paper gold market, which tumbled ten days ago for a variety of reasons, and the physical gold market which one can safely say, has seen a record surge in demand by those who wish to take advantage of the tumbling prices, depleting inventories of gold and silver in virtually all jurisdictions, and leading to the a record purchase of gold in the US mint a week ago as also reported here. Today, we learn that, as expected, none other than the US Mint has officially run out of small denomination gold coins, in this case One-Tenth ounce American Eagle gold bullion coins. We are confident this incontrovertible proof of soaring retail demand for physical will somehow result in JPM or another bullion bank dumping a few extra thousands ounces of paper/electronic gold or silver to further disconnect the paper price from what is actually going on with physical demand. As for the US Mint, first it's fractions of an ounce: look forward to the mint running out of all bullion denominations in the coming days and week, first in gold, then in silver as well.
“Recovery” has become the shibboleth constantly invoked by people running things after the crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, no such recovery was underway. It was papered over by the twin Federal Reserve policies of quantitative easing and financial repression – a combination of the nation’s central bank loaning vast new amounts of money into existence at ultra-low interest rates (hardly any interest to pay back) and creating steady monetary inflation to reduce the burden of existing debt by shrinking the dollar value of the debt. The program was a racket in the sense that it was fundamentally dishonest. The presumed purpose of these shenanigans from the point of view of the Federal Reserve and the White House was to keep the financial system stable and afloat, and therefore to keep “normal” American daily life going. Unfortunately, it was based on the unreal assumption that the financial norms of, say, 2006 could be ginned back up again, and this premise was just inconsistent with the reality of a post-Peak-Cheap-Oil world. Unfortunately, there was no organized counter-view to this wishful thinking anywhere within the boundaries of the political establishment.
The parallels between games like chess and poker and trading are many-fold, but poker is probably a little closer to trading, as it involves things like incomplete information, bet sizing and 'reading opponents', none of which play a role in chess. The following infographic, from tradimo.com, lists a number of famous traders and poker players who are good at both activities as well as a number of characteristics applying to both trading and poker. What really caught our attention though was the statistic right at the end...
After a disastrous few days in early April, bitcoin is back over $100 and up on the month, the year and its short lifetime. ConvergEx's Nick Colas is intrigued and continues to believe that this phenomenon is the most provocative economic experiment since the invention of the euro and well worth watching. The next chapter of the story, he believes, will be the entry of a host of "Smart money" venture capitalists looking to build the currency's infrastructure. Money and currency are exactly the kind of large, scalable and complex opportunity that gets VCs very, very excited. Yes, it could all still end in tears, either by regulation or mismanagement. But bitcoin isn’t dead just yet, and it remains one of the most potentially disruptive forces in modern finance. In summary, bitcoin is what he calls a "Beta currency." How it all shakes out, however, will be both instructive to watch and potentially profitable for those on the right side of this very novel trade.
Participants don’t see them. Outsiders shake their heads, until they get sucked in. Central banks create them, but deny their existence. Risks no longer exist. Take natural gas.
With European stocks and bonds, US bonds, commodities and precious metals all hinting at problems, the near-all-time-highs levels of the US equity market remain a mirage. We discussed here whether we had seen 'peak economic recovery' and today we extend that analysis. The point of this exercise is to allow your brain to juxtapose visual data to the ongoing mainstream diatribe of economic recovery. Evidence continues to mount that we have seen the peak of activity for the current economic cycle. The implications of such an occurrence are broad and suggests that the Fed's liquidity driven interventions, and zero interest rate policy, may have well seen the end of their effectiveness.