Budget Deficit

Gold Q2, 2012 - Investment Statistics And Commentary

The World Gold Council have just published their commentary on gold’s price performance in various currencies, its volatility statistics and correlation to other assets in the quarter - Gold Q2, 2012 - Investment Statistics and Commentary. It provides macroeconomic context to the investment statistics published at the end of each quarter and highlights emerging themes relevant to gold’s future development. One of their key findings is that gold will act as hedge against possible coming dollar weakness and gold will act as a "currency hedge in the international monetary system." The key findings of the World Gold Council’s report are presented inside.

The Stunning Political Reality Of The Fiscal Cliff Debate

In his testimony over the last two days, Bernanke has listed the 'fiscal cliff' as one of the two greatest risks to the US economy, along with the situation in Europe, and urged Congress to enact 'earlier rather than later' a plan that achieves 'short-term and long-term objectives,' with the primary short-term objective to adjust the timing of the near-term fiscal contraction "to allow the recovery a little more space to continue." . However, like us, Goldman believes that resolving the two key issues - the fiscal cliff and the need to raise the debt limit - will be more difficult than it was last year, for three reasons: (1) the "easiest" options to lower the deficit have already been adopted, so the remaining options touch more controversial areas than those enacted last year; (2) some members of both parties have indicated that they regret the agreements reached in 2010 and 2011, implying less willingness to compromise this year, and (3) both parties appear to be contemplating strategies that involve allowing most or all of the policies to change at year end, as a means to achieving their ultimate policy goal. Stunning! Sure enough, as debate on the fiscal cliff gets underway in earnest, the tone of rhetoric has predictably worsened. We suspect the only way they will ever agree is after the market makes it clear that any other path is unacceptable.

UBS Issues Hyperinflation Warning For US And UK, Calls It Purely "A Fiscal Phenomenon"

From UBS: "We think that a creditor nation is less at risk of hyperinflation than a debtor nation, as a debtor nation relies not only on the confidence of domestic creditors, but also of foreign creditors. We therefore think that the hyperinflation risk to global investors is largest in the US and the UK. The more the fiscal situation deteriorates and the more central banks debase their currencies, the higher the risk of a loss of confidence in the future purchasing power of money. Indicators to watch in order to determine the risk of hyperinflation therefore pertain to the fiscal situation and monetary policy stance in high-deficit countries. Note that current government deficits and the current size of central bank balance sheets are not sufficient to indicate the sustainability of the fiscal or monetary policy stance and thus, the risk of hyperinflation. The fiscal situation can worsen without affecting the current fiscal deficit, for example when governments assume contingent liabilities of the banking system or when the economic outlook worsens unexpectedly. Similarly, the monetary policy stance can expand without affecting the size of the central bank balance sheet. This happens for example when central banks lower collateral requirements or monetary policy rates, in particular the interest rate paid on reserves deposited with the central bank. A significant deterioration of the fiscal situation or a significant expansion of the monetary policy stance in the large-deficit countries could lead us to increase the probability we assign to the risk of hyperinflation."

Guest Post: Government Employees, Unions, And Bankruptcy

During an economic boom, exuberance finds itself lodged in all types of industries.  When profits soar, so does the public’s disregard for prudence.  And as tax revenues rise, politicians can’t help but give in to their bread and butter of buying votes.  In the case of a credit-expansion boom fueled primarily by fractional reserve banking and interest rate manipulation through a central bank, the boom conditions are destined toward bustLiquidation then becomes necessary as the bust gets underway and malinvestments come to light. What the city of Scranton has in common with San Bernardino, Detroit, et al. is that its dire fiscal condition is due to one thing and one thing only: benefits promised to unionized workers, and, it appears, "the salad days of the government employee are coming to an end, as they have already in Greece, Italy and Spain." To those sick and tired of the tax-eater mentality that is destroying the very core of society’s productive capacity and moral base, those days can’t come soon enough.

Deja 2011 Vu Part 2: Goldman Sees Another US Downgrade In 2013

Two of the three major credit ratings agencies have recently affirmed their outlook on the US sovereign credit rating, but all three continue to hold a negative outlook on the rating. In Goldman's view there is little likelihood that additional ratings actions will be taken this year, but the possibility of a ratings change is another risk posed by the "fiscal cliff," debt limit, and related debate over medium-term fiscal reforms that looks likely in 2013. All three rating agencies look likely to reassess the rating over the next year or so. In light of the recent announcements and upcoming fiscal events that could influence the rating, Goldman Sachs Economics team provides some updated thoughts on the intersection of fiscal policy and the US sovereign rating, in Q&A form.

Dummies Guide To Europe's Ever-Increasing Jumble Of Acronyms

It seems every week there are new acronyms or catchy-phrases for Europe's Rescue and Fiscal Progress decisions. Goldman Sachs provides a quick primer on everything from ELA to EFSM and from Two-Pack (not Tupac) to the Four Presidents' Report.

Frontrunning: July 12

  • If Hilsenrath leaks a Fed party line and nobody cares, does Hilsenrath exist? Fed Weighs More Stimulus (WSJ)
  • Clock Is Ticking on Crisis Charges (WSJ)
  • South Korea in first rate cut since 2009 (FT)
  • Shake-Up at New York Fed Is Said to Cloud View of Risk at JPMorgan (NYT)
  • Italy stats office threatens to stop issuing data (Reuters)... because Italy is "out of money"
  • China New Yuan Loans Top Forecasts; Forex Reserves Decline (Bloomberg).. and here are Chinese gold imports
  • Italy Faces 'War' in Economic Revamp, Monti Warns (WSJ)... says Mario Monti from Sun Valley, cause Italy is "out of money"
  • NY Fed to release Libor documents Friday (Reuters)
  • U.S. House Again Votes to Repeal Obama’s Health Care Law (Bloomberg)
  • Germany May Turn to Labor Programs as Crisis Worsens, Union Says (Bloomberg)
  • Ireland to unveil stimulus package (FT)

The Seeds For An Even Bigger Crisis Have Been Sown

On occasion of the publication of his new gold report (read here), Ronald Stoeferle talked with financial journalist Lars Schall about fundamental gold topics such as: "financial repression"; market interventions; the oil-gold ratio;  the renaissance of gold in finance;  "Exeter’s Pyramid"; and what the true "value" of gold could actually look like. Via Matterhorn Asset Management.

Overnight Action: European Knee Jerk Fade

SSDD. Europe has a late night conference, regurgitates stuff, gives no details, makes lots of promises, peripheral bonds tighten only to blow out, etc, etc, etc. Seen it all before. Unlike a week ago, Spanish bonds, when Spanish bonds ripped by 1%, this time we can barely muster a 25 bps move tighter, with the 10 year "down" to  6.82%. It was 6.25% a week ago. Expect the blow out as has been empirically proven time and again. Hint: there is no magic money tree nor is there a magic collateral tree.

Frontrunning: July 10

  • EU talks up Spanish banks package, markets skeptical (Reuters)
  • China’s Import Growth Misses Estimates For June (Bloomberg)
  • The monkeyhammering continues: Paulson Disadvantage Minus Fund down 7.9% in June, down 16% in 2012 (Bloomberg)
  • Draghi pledges further action if needed (FT)
  • JPMorgan Silence on Risk Model Spurs Calls for Disclosure (Bloomberg)
  • Norway's Statoil to restart production after govt stops strike (Reuters)
  • Top Fed officials set table for more easing (Reuters)
  • Euro-Split Case Drives Danish Krone Appeal in Binary Bet (Bloomberg)
  • Obama Intensifies Tax Fight (WSJ)
  • Europe Automakers Brace for No Recovery From Crisis (Bloomberg)
  • Boeing’s Air-Show Revival Leaves Airbus Nursing Neo Hangover (Bloomberg)
  • Libor Woes Threaten to Turn Companies Off Syndicated Loans (Bloomberg)

Spain's Budget Deteriorates So Much, It Gets A One Year Extension By The EU To Meet Deficit Targets

Remember the running joke about Spain's constantly deteriorating budget? Or was that Greece's? No matter: there was a time when Spain was expected to hit a 5.3% budget deficit in 2012, and the Maastricht mandated 3.0% by 2013. So much for that. It turns out the Spanish economy has deteriorated so much in the last few months, that the EU had no choice but to grant Spain a 1 year extension, according to Europapress. In doing so, the EU has eased deficit targets for Spain by 1% in 2013, granting it a 6.3% deficit miss, a number which will be revised at least once more before the year is over, and the 2013 target is now widened by 1.5% to 4.5%. So much for serious deficit cutting. But let's blame "austerity" while we are at it. It would, however, be great if countries in Europe, or anywhere, were actually austere, and cut their deficits, instead of just blaming austerity for every economic problem while never actually enacting such policies (as we explained before). So while Spain gets an extension due to a "recession of rare violence", the trade off will be even greater supervision by the Eurogroup, or said otherwise, more people will watch how Spain does nothing to actually fix itself and then 6 months from now everyone will be shocked, shocked, when the 2013 deficit is over 8%. In other news, Spain 10 Year bond were trading at 7.08%, well wide for the day and about 20 bps shy of the all time record lows.

Cash Strapped California Votes For $68 Billion Monorail To Get Federal Bailout

California's budget deficit may be $16 billion (up from $9 billion in January), the state's cities may be keeling over and filing for bankruptcy left and right (Stockton and Mammoth Lakes), and overall container traffic at the Port of Long Beach may have dropped 7.2% in May compared to last year, but at least California is about to get its own monorail. Well, maybe not monorail, but certainly a high speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco for the low, low price of at least $4.5 billion in debt to start (and much, much more to actually end). The winners: Keynesians and labor groups. The losers: anyone who has ever taken math for idiots. From USA Today: "California lawmakers approved billions of dollars Friday in construction financing for the initial segment of what would be the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state Senate voted 21-16 on a party-line vote after intense lobbying by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders and labor groups." And while nobody really expects the train to actually be built, here is the real reason for passing the legislation: "The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile (210-kilometer) stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday." In summary, just passing the bill, gives California a $3.2 billion federal bailout while the actual use of funds may or may not ever appear (or money is on the latter). If still confused think Greece and Germany, because Federal tax collections were just used to give California a very fungible cash injection. Where the money ends up now is anyone's guess.

There Aren't Enough Rich People To Tax

The colossal size (and growth) of the US government's budget deficit is a problem that seems to remain on the sidelines all the time the Fed is buying and maintaining interest rates at an acceptable level. As we noted last night, nothing points to investor concern (yet) aside from an increasing diversification from the USD as a trade currency. Many have suggested raising taxes on the rich to cover the difference between what the government collected in revenue and what it spent. Professor Antony Davies takes on this thorny issue and demonstrates that taxing-the-rich will not be sufficient tyo make the budget deficit disappear as he notes: "the budget deficit is so large that there simply aren't enough rich people to tax to raise enough to balance the budget"; instead we should work on legitimate solutions like cutting spending.

Guest Post: Learning To Laugh At the State

I’ll be the first to admit the incredible aggravation I feel whenever liberty is trampled upon by the state’s obedient minions.  Everywhere you look, government has its gun cocked back and ready to fire at any deviation from its violently imposed rules of order.  A four year old can’t even open a lemonade stand without first bowing down and receiving a permit from bureaucrats obsessed with micromanaging private life.  The state’s stranglehold on freedom is as horrendous as it is disheartening. The worst part is that the trend shows no signs of slowing down, let alone reversing.  Politicians are always developing some harebrained scheme to mold society in such a way to circumvent the individual in favor of total dictation.  If it isn’t politicians, then it’s an army of unelected bureaucrats acting as mini-dictators.