The 21st century has proven interesting when it comes to Time's choices for person of the year: George Dubya, twice, Barack Obama, twice, Vladimir Putin, Ben Bernanke, and of course, Mark Zuckerberg. And now, moments ago, the Time person of the year 2013 has been revealed: the winner - Pope Francis, best known recently for bashing materialists and those who cry over a 2 point drop in stocks everywhere. Sorry Miley Cyrus - more twerking will be required in 2014 to make up for this epic loss.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
From Bernanke's infamous 2008 "not forecasting a recession" call to Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines 2004 "subprime assets are riskless" commentary, the following 10 "predictions" - as opposed to Wien "surprises" - will go down in infamy for their degree of errant-ness...
We warned here (and here most recently), the most insidious way in which the Fed's ZIRP policy is now bleeding not only the middle class dry, but is forcing companies to reallocate cash in ways that benefit corporate shareholders at the present, at the expense of investing prudently for growth 2 or 3 years down the road. It seems the message is being heard loud and very clear among 'some' of the FOMC members; most notably Richard Fisher:
"Without fiscal policy that incentivizes rather than discourages U.S. capex (capital expenditure), this accommodative monetary policy aimed at reducing unemployment (especially structural unemployment) or improving the quality of jobs is rendered flaccid and less than optimally effective... I would feel more comfortable were we to remove ourselves as soon as possible from interfering with the normal price-setting functioning of financial markets."
Perhaps Yellen (and others) will listen this time?
Just out from the NYT's Fed watcher Appelbaum:
Fed’s Plan to Taper Stimulus Effort Not Expected Until Next Year
At the same time, out from the WSJ's Hilsenrath:
Fed Closes In On Winding Down Bond Purchasing
Who is right? Are both right? Are both wrong? Does anyone even care? Far more relevant is what is the Fed's price target for the Monday and year end close.
Western central banks have tried to shake off the constraints of gold for a long time, which have created enormous difficulties for them. They have generally succeeded in managing opinion in the developed nations but been demonstrably unsuccessful in the lesser-developed world, particularly in Asia. It is the growing wealth earned by these nations that has fuelled demand for gold since the late 1960s. There is precious little bullion left in the West today to supply rapidly increasing Asian demand, and it is important to understand how little there is and the dangers this poses for financial stability.
The Hong Kong branch of Spink & Son, a British firm originally founded in the mid-1600s, was putting a series of Bruce Lee memorabilia under the hammer. When the bidding for the first lot opened, the price immediately surpassed the auctioneer’s initial estimates. It was a frenzy. Now, we know that modern auctions are supposed to be a pure form of the free market– buyers from around the world meeting for the purpose ‘price discovery’, with the item eventually going to the highest bidder. Further, economists and university finance often teach that such markets are ‘efficient’, meaning that prices always reflect the most relevant information and are hence an accurate reflection of an asset’s value. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The auction was an emotional frenzy. It’s not an efficient market. It’s full of fear, euphoria, and aggression. The stock market is the same way. Even though just about every rational metric suggests that many global markets (especially the US) are absurdly overvalued, emotional investors keep bidding prices up.
Getting ready for Christmas? What’s Santa got in his sack for you this year? Well, if there’s one thing you should be preparing for, then it can only be the big crash of February 2014.
In Bernanke's centrally-planned, inverse Robin Hood world, record stock prices for the few unfortunately mean record homelessness for the many: this is what the state of Massachusettes found out the hard way after it was flooded with a record number of homeless families who are overwhelming the state's emergency shelter system. As the Boston Globe reports, citing a recent report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of homeless people in shelters and living on the streets in Massachusetts has risen 14 percent since 2010 to a record 20,000 in January 2013, even as homelessness has declined nationally. However, in what may be the most curious twist, and yet another example of how perverted the incentive and capital allocation system in the US is, the nearly 2,100 families who could not find place in shelters, were housed in motel rooms at a greater cost to all US taxpayers amounting to tens of millions.
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.
Many believe that government and its partner the Federal Reserve are wise and strong enough to avoid this crash. If printing money and spending money were a solution, there would be no poverty anywhere in the world. Even the poorest country has a government and can afford a printing press. Thus far there has been no collapse. However, that is equivalent to the man who jumps off the Empire State building and is heard to say as he flashes by the fortieth floor: “So far, so good.” His fate was sealed when he jumped. Similarly, so is our economy’s. Economics has its own gravity. A complete cleansing of the mal-investments, distorted incentives and regulatory burdens must occur before a true recovery can take place.
Think of it this way: You’re a baseball player trying to break into the majors despite mediocre fielding skills, no foot speed, and a batting average that hovers around 250. Egged on by your friend, A-Rod, you think you can make it by using steroids and turning yourself into a power hitter. But it doesn’t work out as planned. After a year, you’re losing hair, your skull’s gotten bigger, there’s fatty tissue on your chest that wasn’t there before, and you’ve still only managed 18 home runs in a season. You finally accept that it’s not going to happen for you. In the baseball scenario, steroids didn’t show enough payoff before the side effects told you enough was enough. And you can say pretty much the same thing about our economic scenario and monetary steroids. We’re seeing dubious benefits and fast developing side effects from the Fed’s actions, causing many observers to recommend a rethink of the Big Experiment. Yet, the experiment continues...
Early signs of Walmart sink...
There is no free lunch. Either we kill growth via financial repression of savers or we embrace the painful process of debt restructuring for the major industrial nations.
When the US government said the sequester would cripple its ability to single-handedly rule over the world, it wasn't kidding. Either that, or Joe Biden's Joint Strategic Plan to "curb" copyright infringement was just a case of very confused humor by the vice president gone badly wrong, and he meant to "encourage." Whatever the reason, the fact that the Obama administration was just busted with a $50 million case of software piracy involving none other than the US Army, is indicative that while the Bureau of Labor Statistics was adopting all the best features of the Chinese Department of Truth, the US government was busy copycatting China's respectful approach toward intellectual property. Yet what is even worse, is that the software that was pirated managed the US army's troop and supply movements: in other words, the US government relied on pirated software to prepare for and engage in eventual war.