According to the stock markets in the US and in Europe, the world’s economy is not just in good shape, but is in the best shape it’s ever been. The S&P 500 hit an intraday new record high of 1,858.71 on Feb 24, 2014, and is now 18.6% above the peak it hit in 2007, a moment everybody now recognizes was heavily overvalued. An almost 19% gain above the prior all time high is an enormous and unusual event. Surely, you are thinking, there must be an equally compelling story and loads of fundamental data to support such a bull market?
Well, there really isn’t.
What others describe as the Deep State we term the National Security State which enables the American Empire, a vast structure that incorporates hard and soft power--military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education--in a system of global domination and influence. One key feature of the Deep State is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies or approves the decisions. A second key feature is that the Deep State decision-makers have access to an entire world of secret intelligence. What would best serve the Deep State is a dollar that increases in purchasing power and extends the Deep State's power.
Many speak of China now as more assertive, confident and sure of its position in the world. And yet wealth and the hard power that has come with it seem in fact to have made China’s behavior more insecure, not less so. Insecurity above all is the more accurate description of China’s diplomatic character at the moment, rather than a newfound confidence.
Yes, a tentative settlement has been reached, following mediation by European Union foreign ministers, with a promise of early elections. But such settlements have been proposed before, and no agreement is likely to gain broad acceptance unless it includes the immediate departure of President Viktor Yanukovich. The vast majority of demonstrators on the Maidans across the country are ordinary people angry about abuse of power, state violence, official impunity, and corruption. For the venal and vicious elites who have taken control of Ukraine, the real threat is these demonstrators’ perseverance, not the provocations of a radical fringe. "Indeed, while I refuse to believe that Ukraine’s march to civil war is unstoppable, I also know that our citizens will never be silenced again."
What are we to make of this sudden rash of banker suicides? Does this trail of dead bankers lead somewhere? Or could it be just a coincidence that so many bankers have died in such close proximity? We will be perfectly honest and admit that we do not know what is going on. But there are some common themes that seem to link at least some of these deaths together.
With the Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia is again in the global spotlight – and President Vladimir Putin is taking the opportunity to present his country as a resurgent power. But, beneath the swagger and fanfare lie serious doubts about Russia’s future. In fact, long-term price trends for the mineral resources upon which the economy depends, together with Russia’s history (especially the last two decades of Soviet rule), suggest that Putin’s luck may well be about to run out.
Now that Ben Bernanke has handed over the keys of the Federal Reserve, there are all sorts of theoretical arguments, pro and con, concerning his bold quantitative easing (QE) programs, in which the Fed massively expanded its balance sheet. Many critics have worried that this will disrupt the proper functioning of credit markets, and threatens to severely debase the US dollar. The defenders of Bernanke have argued that he spared the US (and indeed the world) from a second Great Depression. One of the odd (more farcical) points that people raise in Bernanke’s defense is the case of Japan... We do have historical examples of central banks ruining their economies/currencies through massive expansions of their balance sheets (Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, etc.). To our knowledge, this has never actually worked anywhere in history...
Today’s economic model was best summed up by dictator Benito Mussolini in one short sentence: “Fascism … is the perfect merger of power between the corporations and the state”. But tyranny also has its life-cycle within the balance between the past and the future. Once the past becomes far too much of a millstone for the future generations to carry any longer, governments fall and debt and servitude recede. Empires can fall largely without violence and allow a new, freer system to emerge, as most of the satellite states of the Soviet Union achieved. Or the legacy of fallen empire becomes violent chaos followed by renewed oppression, like the French Revolution. This bottom-up style revolution is happening to nations across our 21st Century. The future lies in the balance. The bell tolls for all Western nations, too. So, in the United States, it seems, liberty will have its chance again before too long.
The world is now beginning to realize Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s true intentions. With his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which memorializes war dead, including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, he is no longer hesitant to reveal his true nature: without question, the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history. By encouraging a spirit of nationalism, Abe is hoping to engender self-confidence and patriotism among the Japanese public. But what exactly is his future agenda?
The 'cash on the sidelines' myth has more lives than a cat. No matter how often the logical fallacy underlying it is pointed out, Wall Street continues to propagate it. Nevertheless, money and credit are of course extremely important factors in the analysis of asset markets. The below provides what are hopefully a few useful pointers as to which data one should keep an eye on in this context.
Yields on United States 10-year bonds rose above 3% at the beginning of January. The yield on the 10-year had reached its lowest point in history in July 2012 at 1.43% as a result of the Fed’s policy of Quantitative Easing. Since then yields have doubled as markets have incorporated the impact of the Fed tapering their purchase of U.S. Government securities. This raises the question, how high could interest rates go from here? Could interest rates move up to 3% per quarter? U.S. interest rates were that high back in 1981 when the yield on US 10-year Treasuries hit 15.84% and 30-year mortgage rates hit 18.63%. What about 3% per month?
U.S. foreign policy is aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and meddling. It sanctions the destabilization and overthrow of governments, the assassination of leaders, the destruction of industry and infrastructure, the backing of military coups, death squads, and drug traffickers, and imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism. It supports corrupt and tyrannical governments and brutal sanctions and embargoes. It results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United States. The question, then, is simply this: Can U.S. foreign policy be fixed? We propose a four-pronged solution from the following perspectives: Founding Fathers, military, congressional, libertarian.
We have become a delusional state dependent upon fallacies to convince ourselves our foolhardy beliefs, ludicrous economic policies, corrupt captured political system, and preposterously fraudulent financial system are actually based on sound logic and reason. The fallacy being flogged by government drones and the legacy media about companies not hiring new employees because it has been cold and snowy during the winter is beyond absurd. The other fallacy being pontificated by retail executives in denial, cheerleaders on CNBC and the rest of the propaganda press is weather is to blame for terrible retail sales over the last quarter. Revealing the truth about pitiful employment growth and dreadful retail sales would destroy the fallacy of economic recovery stimulated by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and fiscal policies of the Federal government. We have a country built on a Himalayan mountain of fallacies.
Sad affairs have been heating up in the tiny Alpine republic in the center of the European Union. While Austria experiences record unemployment at record growth rates and tax revenues have fallen behind optimistic projections, the looming bankruptcy of a mid-sized regional bank, Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA), may propel the country to the disdained position of being the catalyst for a new round of bank failures due to interwoven banks risks on both the domestic and the international level. On Monday Austrian financial market authority FMA publicly said what the official Austria never wanted to hear as it is now confronted with a widening public discussion on a problem it had surrealstically hoped to brush under the carpet. Austria's banking woes look eerily similar to the failure of Creditanstalt in 1931 that was the fuse for the last European Kondratieff winter.
Trust is gone and credit is going and debt is sitting between a rock and a hard place with its grubby hands pressed together, praying that it will be forgiven, forgotten, or overlooked a little while longer. By the way, the reason trust and credit are gone is because oil is no longer cheap and world economies can’t grow anymore. They can’t afford to run the day-to-day operations of a techno-industrial society. They can only pretend to afford it. The stock markets are mere scorecards for players who can only lie and cheat now to keep the game going. Somewhere beyond all the legerdemain and fraud, however, there remains a real world that is not going away. We just don’t know what it will look like when the smog of fraud clears.