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.
By hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has brought a surge of international attention to the state of its economy, its interethnic relations, its domestic politics, and its foreign policy. Already much of the scrutiny has become unwelcome. The reluctance of many foreign leaders to come to Sochi provides a convenient scorecard by which to evaluate Russia’s global standing. Corruption, terrorism, human rights protests, high-level no-shows—all these represent ways in which the Sochi Olympics have embarrassed Putin. Yet in each case, the problem goes well beyond any connection to the Games. Each reflects a major tension in the system that Putin has created...
Low-wage workers clocked the shortest workweek on record in December - even shorter than at the depth of the recession, new Labor Department data showed Friday. The figures underscore concerns about the Obamacare employer insurance mandate's impact on the work hours and incomes of low-wage earners. Still, as Krugman told Colbert recently, he's "ok with a little bit of wealth redstribution from people who have been lucky to people who are unlucky."
As the State of the Union address highlighted, both the Russia Federation and the United States have leaders that lean toward various degrees of autocratic government to achieve their agendas. President Putin rules with an iron fist and treats the legislative branch as an afterthought to use as needed but otherwise ignores. President Obama declares he will use executive action to get what he wants and quietly uses government agencies to intimidate and stifle his opposition in flagrant abuses of power. Putin has dismantled the Russian free press and imprisoned vocal opponents. The majority of the American press does Obama’s bidding for him while the administration puts movie makers in jail.
Today, under the disguise of a promise of physical security, governments treat each of us as if we were suspected criminals and not free citizens with rights: they record our conversations, intercept our mails, take our fingerprints and as many pictures as they deem necessary, do body searches and leave us half naked when we travel as if it were business as usual, and ruthlessly hunt down as traitors those who uncover these practices. We must understand once and forever more that security is not only liberty’s enemy, but an impediment to prosperity. In fact, security and prosperity are antonyms.
How long can economic growth continue in a finite world? In simplest terms, our problem is that we as a people are no longer getting richer. The reason we are getting poorer is because hidden parts of our economy are now absorbing more and more resources, leaving fewer resources to produce the goods and services we are used to buying. The promised collapse, from 1972's The Limits of Growth, is practically right around the corner, beginning in the next year or two. In fact, many aspects of the collapse appear already to be taking place, such as the 2008-2009 Great Recession and the collapse of the economies of smaller countries such as Greece and Spain. How could collapse be so close, with virtually no warning to the population?
Many have sought to draw comparisons between Asia today and Europe in the run-up to WWI. Most notably, in a widely covered speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared his country’s current bilateral relationship with China to that of England and Germany before WWI. Specifically, Abe used the example of London and Berlin before WWI to warn that China and Japan’s extensive economic ties do not necessarily preclude them from going to war. Now it appears that some in Asia believe the current regional environment is more similar to Europe just before WWII. However, there appears to be some disagreement over which country in Asia most resembles Nazi Germany.
With reporters stunned by Sochi's unreadiness and athletes now quitting individual events on the lack of preparedness of the snow, the Winter Olympics in Russia is off to a less than stellar start. The last time Russia hosted the Olympics – the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow - the Soviet Union was a superpower, stagnant but stable. Not so today, notes Nina Khruschcheva; Putin’s Russia is weak, tawdry, and corrupt – and underserving as an Olympic host. The atmosphere surrounding the Sochi Games reflects many of Russia’s worst traits. In the immortal words of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, describing the country’s economic transition of the 1990’s: “We hoped for the best, but things turned out as usual.”
Reality will reassert itself in 2014, with lemmings, flippers, and hedgies getting slaughtered as the housing market comes back to earth with a thud. The continued tapering by the Fed will remove the marginal dollars used by Wall Street to fund this housing Ponzi. The Wall Street lemmings all follow the same MBA created financial models. They will all attempt to exit the market simultaneously when their models all say sell. If the economy improves, interest rates will rise and kill the housing market. If the economy tanks, the stock market will plunge, creating fear and killing the housing market. Once it becomes clear that prices have begun to fall, the flippers will panic and start dumping, exacerbating the price declines. This scenario never grows old.
The United States’ rapport with the Russian Federation is one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships. Russia maintains a large nuclear arsenal and is a resurgent player in world affairs. Russia has considered Ukraine to be a vassal for the last five hundred years. Russian President Putin has routinely referred to Ukraine as a Russian state rather than a free and independent country. How would the United States react if Moscow was able to exert influence over Mexico and install a pro-Russian government? America needs to take off her rose colored glasses and look at the world with a Machiavellian view. We should decide to intervene in centuries old conflicts only when there are clear American security interests involved. Unfortunately for the idealistic leaders of American foreign policy, Ukraine does not meet this test. The Ukrainian people have shown an ability over the two decades to have a natural ability to take matters into their own hands and are quite capable of deciding this issue among themselves.