Guest Post

Guest Post: As M2 Money Supply Rolls Over, The Stock Market Will Follow

As many observers have noted, you can expand the money supply but if that money ends up stashed as bank reserves, it never enters the real economy, nor does it flow into household earnings. The velocity of that "dead money" is near-zero. M2 declined in the housing bubble as the velocity of money skyrocketed: everyone was pulling money out of housing equity via HELOCs (home equity lines of credit) and spending the "free money" on cruises, furniture, big-screen TVs, boats, fine dining, etc. The recipients of that spending also borrowed and spent as if the "free money" would never end. If M2 expansion is the only thing propping up an artificial market, what happens to the stock market rally as M2 rolls over?

Guest Post: Propping Up The Gold Price?

Ultimately, the surge in demand for gold reflects one thing alone: distrust of the increasingly messy, interconnected, over-leveraged and fraudulent financial system. Whether it is China — fearful of dollar debasement — loading up on bullion, or retail investors in the United States or Europe — fearful of another MF Global (or PFG, or Lehman Brothers) — stacking Krugerrands in their basement, demand for gold reflects distrust in finance, distrust in the financial establishment, distrust in banks, distrust in regulators, distrust in government and distrust in the financial media. And it is that distrust — not (by any stretch of the imagination) central bank interventionism — that is the force moving demand for gold. There will be no bear market for physical gold until trust in the financial system and regulators is fixed, until markets trade fundamentals instead of the possibility of the NEW QE, until governments represent the interests of their people instead of the interests of tiny financial elites.

Guest Post: Peak Employment

Peak employment is the theory that due to factors such as efficiency, driven by technological innovation, and demand, developed economies may have already passed beyond the highest point of employment and that from this point onwards employment will continue to fall and unemployment inexorably rise causing increased social tension. Employment is falling, unemployment is rising but hidden behind those headlines is the fact that part time Employment is rising. Less people have full time jobs, more people have part time jobs, which means that the hours of work are being spread increasingly more thinly across the population. Some might argue that it is only because of the economic slump that all of these things are happening and that it is only temporary. But there is enough evidence to suggest that this is a long term trend that has just been disguised by the boom of the last ten years and is only now really becoming apparent. The fear is that we have already passed Peak Employment and the downward trend will continue, perhaps disguised by increasingly more part time employment.

 

Guest Post: Our Money Is Dying

A question on the minds of many people today (increasingly those who manage or invest money professionally) is this: How do I preserve wealth during a period of intense official intervention in and manipulation of money supply, price, and asset markets? As every effort to re-inflate and perpetuate the credit bubble is made, the words of Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises lurk ominously nearby: "There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner, as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later, as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." Because every effort is being made to avoid abandoning the credit expansion process -- with central banks and governments lending and borrowing furiously to make up for private shortfalls -- we are left with the growing prospect that the outcome will involve some form of "final catastrophe of the currency system"(s). This report explores what the dimensions of that risk are.

Guest Post: The Global Economy - It's All About Increasing Leverage

If we look at the global economy with unclouded eyes, we reach this conclusion: "This whole thing is about leverage." If leverage doesn't increase, the system implodes. But since collateral is disappearing from the global economy like sand castles in a rising tide, and disposable income has stagnated, there is no foundation for more leverage. As a result, the State/finance cartel has only one choice: increase leverage by whatever means are left. There are only two:

  1. Allow banks to claim phantom assets as capital/reserves
  2. Lower interest rates so stagnant income can leverage ever greater quantities of debt

The State/finance Empire and its army of academic toadies (economists) must cloak this reliance on leverage from the citizenry, lest they grasp the precariousness of the entire financial system. As the economic Establishment is discredited by reality (that their sputtering reflation policies have come at an unbearable cost is now undeniable), their attempts to discredit their critics become increasingly comic: only PhD economists in the employ of the Empire are qualified to comment on the Empire's policies, etc.

Guest Post: Election Year 2012: Two Landslides in the Making?

The stock market is precariously close to slipping into a landslide. If the economy and stock market both continue declining into late October, the presidential election could also turn into a landslide--against the incumbent. There is nothing particularly partisan about this possibility; people who vote tend to vote their pocketbooks, and a re-election campaign that boils down to "hey, it's not as bad as The Great Depression" is unlikely to inspire great loyalty in voters who are already culturally predisposed to tire quickly of presidents, wars and a tanking economy. If the economy and stock markets are both slip-sliding away, the opponent need only be "not the incumbent" to win. Presidents facing re-election in deteriorating economic conditions find their support in the critical non-partisan middle is a mile wide and an inch deep. A recessionary economy acts like a drought on that shallow lake of support, and when it dries up then the incumbent loses, and often loses big.

Guest Post: How Is Dr. Copper Feeling?

Copper is sometimes referred to as "Dr. Copper," because the metal is used in so many industrial applications and is essential for many different sectors of the economy, from infrastructure to housing to consumer electronics. That usually makes its price action a good indicator of the state of the global economy. Between China's stockpiles, slowing demand, and output of copper products expected to slow; and Europe's market 'expected to be dead' for the rest of the year, Casey Research's Louis James is bearish economically near-term and bearish on Dr. Copper - preferring instead to build a shopping list of good contrarian picks for when the economic situation doesn't look so dire.

Guest Post: The Real Fiscal Cliff

More and more Asian nations — led by China and Russia — have ditched the dollar for bilateral trade (out of fear of dollar instability). Tension rises between the United States and Asia over Syria and Iran. The Asian nations throw more and more abrasive rhetoric around — including war rhetoric. And on the other hand, both Obama and Romney — as well as Hillary Clinton — seem dead-set on ramping up the tense rhetoric. Romney seems extremely keen to brand China a currency manipulator. In truth, both sides have a mutual interest in sitting down and engaging in a frank discussion, and then coming out with a serious long-term plan of co-operation on trade and fiscal issues where both sides accept compromises — perhaps Asia could agree to reinvest some of its dollar hoard in the United States to create American jobs and rebuild American infrastructure in exchange for a long-term American deficit-reduction and technology-sharing agreement? So the future, I think, will more likely involve both sides jumping off the cliff into the uncertain seas of trade war, currency war, default-by-debasement, tariffs, proxy war and regional and global political and economic instability.

Guest Post: The Real Testosterone Junkies

We especially enjoy reading things that we disagree with, and that challenge my own beliefs. Strong ideas are made stronger, and weak ideas dissolve in the spotlight of scrutiny. People who are unhappy to read criticisms of their own ideas are opening the floodgates to ignorance and dogmatism. Yet sometimes our own open-minded contrarianism leads us to something unbelievably shitty.

The financial system is being regulated by clueless schmucks — many of whom would also castigate Zero Hedge as a “big fat hoax”, while ignoring grift and degeneracy within the financial establishment and the TBTF banks. In the face of such grotesque incompetence who can blame market participants for wanting a hedge against zero?

Guest Post: Why Spanish Social Tension Does Not Boil Over?

It is truly difficult to believe that social tensions may be contained indefinitely under a deteriorating economic scenario – although there is the 'frog in the pot analogy' again. There are also escape valves which surely help keep social tension from mounting such as the ongoing criminal investigation in which former Bankia chairman Rodrigo Rato and 32 members of the failed bank’s board were formally cited this week as suspects of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and the falsification of financial documents; a necessary but inconceivable turn of events compared to only two months ago. Ultimately, however, unless the long-yearned European breakthrough (which nobody has managed to properly define) occurs soon and some form of economic upturn begins to be seen as within reach, there is no reason to believe that Spain’s situation will improve over the next several months. If the summer turns out to be as “hot” as expected, Rajoy may at least have to revise his communication strategy and start facing the public. The cooling variables which currently work in favor of keeping society simmering in a state of fear rather than boiling with outrage may not hold the fire.

Guest Post: "Russia And China Will Pay A Price"

Hillary Clinton just made a very memorable statement.

I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all – nothing at all – for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.  The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price

So — exactly what price must Russia and China pay? The real question though, is what Hillary Clinton thinks she can achieve through throwing unveiled threats around and destabilising the fragile global system?

Guest Post: Border Controls Are Back In Europe

For the last several days, I’ve been weaving between northern Italy and Switzerland checking out great places to bank, new places to store gold, and taking in these gorgeous lake views. Every single time I’ve crossed the border, I’ve been met by rather snarly police on both sides; they’re stopping cars, turning people’s trunks inside out, and causing major traffic problems. A friend of mine who came up on the train from Florence to meet me for lunch in Lugano said he was stopped at the border for nearly an hour as thuggish customs agents randomly questioned train passengers and demanded to see their IDs. So much for Europe’s 26-country ‘borderless area.’ Based on Europe’s 1985 Schengen Treaty and 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, you’re supposed to be able to drive from Tallinn, Estonia to Lisbon, Portgual without so much as slowing down at the border. This is not dissimilar from driving between states in the US or provinces in Canada. Yet as Europe descends into greater financial and social chaos, leaders are starting to ignore these agreements which guarantee freedom of movement across the continent.

Guest Post: Snapback - Stockton, Calif. And All The Cities To Follow

Every government entity that reckoned it was moated from the market economy will be snapped back to "discover" risk and consequence. Let's lay out the dynamic:

1. Every government can only spend what its economy generates in surplus.
2. Every government transfers risk and consequence from itself, its employees and its favored vested interests to the citizenry and taxpayers.
3. Every government collects and distributes the surplus of its private sector to its employees, favored constituencies and vested interests.
4. Since the government (State) promises guaranteed salaries, benefits and entitlements to its employees and favored constituencies, these individuals believe they are living in a risk-free Wonderland that is completely protected from the market economy.
5. Risk cannot be repealed or eliminated, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

... continued

Guest Post: Is Marxism Coming Back?

The system of corporatism we have today has far more akin with Marxism and “social management” than Marxists might like to admit. Both corporatism and Marxism are forms of central economic control; the only difference is that under Marxism, the allocation of capital is controlled by the state bureaucracy-technocracy, while under corporatism the allocation of capital is undertaken by the state apparatus in concert with large financial and corporate interests. The corporations accumulate power from the legal protections afforded to them by the state (limited liability, corporate subsidies, bailouts), and politicians can win re-election showered by corporate money. The fundamental choice that we face today is between economic freedom and central economic planning. The first offers individuals, nations and the world a complex, multi-dimensional allocation of resources, labour and capital undertaken as the sum of human preferences expressed voluntarily through the market mechanism. The second offers allocation of resources, labour and capital by the elite — bureaucrats, technocrats and special interests. The first is not without corruption and fallout, but its various imperfect incarnations have created boundless prosperity, productivity and growth. Incarnations of the second have led to the deaths by starvation of millions first in Soviet Russia, then in Maoist China... As the financial system and the financial oligarchy continue to blunder from crisis to crisis, more and more people will surely become entangled in the seductive narratives of Marxism. More and more people may come to blame markets and freedom for the problems of corporatism and statism. This is deeply ironic — the Marxist tendency toward central planning and control exerts a far greater influence on the policymakers of today than the Hayekian or Smithian tendency toward decentralisation and economic freedom.

Guest Post: Guess Who’s Bailing Out Bankrupt Western Governments Now...

Fourteen years ago during the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia endured a currency collapse, a severe 2-year recession, and an embarrassing IMF bailout. Western bureaucrats wagged their fingers incessantly at Indonesia, lecturing the country about the dangers of excess and fiscal irresponsibility. How sweet the irony is. In a stunning rags-to-riches story, Indonesia contributed US$1 billion to the IMF last week in order to help bail out bankrupt Western nations. Unlike Japan, the US, and Europe — which all seem to think the answer to an economic bust brought on by a debt-binge is to borrow and spend even more money– Indonesia took its medicine when its economy collapsed back in 1998. Ironically, US President Barack Obama spent some of his childhood in this same suburb of Jakarta. Unfortunately, as he pulls out all stops to cling to power for a second term, the kind of tough decisions that could help the US emerge from its economic malaise have no chance of being made. It’s the ENTIRE system that’s the problem. And that goes for nearly every Western, “free market,” democracy out there.