Gold bugs weren’t wrong - just super early. If central banks ever got religion and pulled a Volcker and hiked rates to the moon, it would be a remarkably bad time to hold gold. However, throughout history, there have been times where people were very sad that they didn’t own gold. We talk about one of them here. It’s very real, and the history of fiat currencies is also quite sad.
It has been a mostly quiet overnight session with Europe solidly green on another bout of Greek hope even as Bundesbank's Weidmann warned that Greek insolvency risks are rising and Greece reporting that its unemployment rose once more from 26.1% to 26.6% in Q1, in which we got two more rate cuts by New Zealand (which sent the Kiwi crashing the most since 2011) and South Korea (the Won initially dipped only to rebound) but China stole the stage with its latest report on retail sales, industrial production, and fixed investment all of which showed a modest bounce from multi-year lows suggesting the PBOC's attempts to shock the economy into growth may be starting to work (which is bad news for the market).
Financial markets in the United States and around the world are all waiting with “bated breath” for when the Federal Reserve modifies its “easy money” policy and starts to raise interest rates. No one, however, asks a simple question: Why is the American central bank in the interest rate setting business?
"Only if the economy is powered by the marginal borrower who will no longer borrow after a 0.25% hike, does it make sense to believe a hike will derail the economy. Comparisons to 1937, where a hike pushed the US into recession, are incomparable and groundless. On the other hand, maybe the FOMC is worried that the ‘no free lunch’ concept makes them suspicious of the possibility of a meaningfully deleterious market reaction which could have a negative impact on the broader economy. However, under this logic, delaying a hike would only exacerbate such a response."
History has not been kind to major trade blunders. Just as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 sparked a global trade war that may well have put the “great” in the Great Depression, Congressional enactment of enforceable currency rules today could spark retaliatory actions that might devastate the free flow of trade that a sluggish global economy desperately needs.
In downgrading the city, Moody’s said it expected “Chicago's credit challenges will continue, both in the near term and in the long term [as] unfunded liabilities of the Municipal, Laborer, Police, and Fire pension plans grow and exert increasing pressure on the city's operating budget.” That looks to have been an accurate assessment, because as Bloomberg reports, Chicago’s budget gap is set to triple by 2017.
It’s no secret that the protracted negotiations between Athens and its creditors are taking a toll on the Greek economy in general, on the Greek banking sector more specifically, and on Greek citizens most tragically. Now, thanks to a new report from the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Enterprises, we can quantify the daily economic toll of failed negotiations.
A look at the economic data and market psychology as a new week begins.
Matching the hindrances of the interventionist state is the manipulations of money and interest rates by central banks everywhere, which distorts markets, misdirects capital and labor use resulting in unsustainable booms and inescapable downturns that bring about wrongly invested capital and misallocated labor. This “wrong twists” to the market takes time to overcome and correct. It is government impediments to open, competitive markets – whether in America or in other parts of the world – that are the causes to behind slow growth and sluggish job creation, not “the rich” and their savings.
What is extremely clear is that there is something amiss with the statistical headline employment and economic data. While there are indeed pockets of improvement, which should be expected following a recessionary contraction, there is a lack of widespread recovery. That sentiment is clearly reflected in every major poll of American's over the last year. What is important is that there is a clear disconnect between the financial markets, statistical economic headlines, and the reality of the vast majority of American consumers. So, riddle me this - what happens when that disconnect is eventually resolved?
At least 22 states are facing budget shortfalls thanks to a combination of fiscal mismanagement and falling oil prices. The negative impact on the public sector has been dramatic suggesting that in the event of a sustained economic downturn, citizens' patience for austerity could wear thin leading to political instability and social unrest.
The UK General Election will be held tomorrow. The polls close at 10 pm. We should have a pretty clear picture of the overall seat count by 5 to 6 am on Friday morning. The result, as SocGen notes, is almost certain to be a hung parliament. Then the fun will really start. However, at the macro level the implications of the election may be less pronounced than many anticipate. Monetary policy has been de-politicised through the BoE’s independence, the formation of a coalition government is likely to involve convergence towards centrist positions, and a minority administration that pursues policies outside the mainstream would be unlikely to survive given its fragile parliamentary basis. In either case, the political system is unlikely to deliver radically different macroeconomic outcomes.
"Greece is so far off course on its $172bn bailout programme that it faces losing vital International Monetary Fund support unless European lenders write off significant amounts of its sovereign debt, the fund has warned Athens’ eurozone creditors," FT reports, indicating that the organization may force the ECB and implicitly the German taxpayer to take the hit if Greece wants to receive the last tranche of aid under its existing program.
Peering into the froth of a cappuccino, we noticed various sized bubbles. There is a fine line between froth and bubbles. As we continued our gaze, both eventually disappeared. Stirring made the frothy bubbles disappear more quickly. Markets are beginning to stir (more later). Unsustainable states ultimately end.