The lesson from the events of 2007-2008 should have been clear: Boosting GDP with loose money can only lead to short term booms followed by severe busts. A policy of artificially cheapened credit cannot but cause mispricing of risk, misallocation of capital and a deeply dislocated financial infrastructure, all of which will ultimately conspire to bring the fake boom to a screeching halt. The ‘good times’ of the cheap money expansion, largely characterized by windfall profits for the financial industry and the faux prosperity of propped-up financial assets and real estate (largely to be enjoyed by the ‘1 percent’), necessarily end in an almighty hangover. The crisis that commenced in 2007 was therefore a massive opportunity: An opportunity to allow the market to liquidate the accumulated dislocations and to bring the economy back into balance. That opportunity was not taken and is now lost – maybe until the next crisis comes along, which won’t be long. It has become clear in recent years – and even more so in recent months and weeks – that we are moving with increasing speed in the opposite direction: ever more money, cheaper credit, and manipulated markets (there is one notable exception to which I come later). Policy makers have learned nothing. The same mistakes are being repeated and the consequences are going to make 2007/8 look like a picnic.
Futures green? Check. Overnight ramp in either the EURUSD or USDJPY carry funding pair? Check? Lack of good economic news and plethora of economic misses? Check. In short, all the ingredients for continued New Normal record highs, driven only by the central bank liquidity tsunami are here. The weakness started with Australia's stunning unemployment jump overnight which saw a 36,100 drop in jobs on just 7,500 expected. A miss in Chinese auto sales was next, with 1.59MM cars sole in March, below the 1.596 expected, and even despite the surge in M2 and loan data, the Shanghai Composite closed down once again, dropping 0.29% to 2219.6. Nikkei continued its deranged liquidity-fueled ways, rising 1.96% even as Kuroda is starting to become quite concerned about the rapid move in the Yen, saying he "may adjust policy before the 2% target is reached if the economy and other indicators are growing rapidly." They aren't, and won't be, but if the Nikkei225 is confused for the economy, he just may push on the breaks which would send the only reason for the latest rally, the USDJPY tumbling. Finally, looking at Europe, Italy sold well less than the maximum €6 billion targeted in 2016, 2017 and 2028 bonds, which dented some of the enthusiasm for Italian paper although with Japanese money desperate to be parked somewhere, it will continue going into European and all other fixed income, distorting market signals for a long time. In short, expect the central-bank risk levitation to continue as all the deteriorating fundamentals and reality are ignored once more, and hopium and P/E multiple expansion are the only story in town.
France is engulfed by a political, economic and moral paralysis. The president has record low popularity, unemployment is making new highs and the tax czar of a supposedly left wing government just quit after repeatedly lying about a pile of cash he had stashed in a Swiss bank account. From such a sorry state of affairs, you might think that things could only get only get better. Unfortunately, economic cycles do not work this way and it is my contention that France is about to enter what was known during the gold standard era as a “secondary depression.” The rigid design of the euro system means the whole eurozone is prone to the kind of brutal cyclical adjustments seen in that hard money era of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But having reached the logical limits of its decades long experiment in state-run welfare-capitalism France is far more exposed than even its struggling neighbors. Until quite recently, our working assumption was that a full-blown French debt crisis would occur between 2014 and 2017. In light of the extraordinary malfeasance of the current government we have changed our mind and believe that France is now extremely near to that abyss. Fasten your seat belt in Europe - the world’s last truly Communist country is about to implode.
Everyone learned a lesson from Cyprus, painful ones. German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
"All this money printing, massive debt, and reckless deficit spending – and we have 2% inflation? I'm beginning to believe that either the deflationists are right, or the Fed's interventions are working." While a low CPI may be puzzling in the midst of massive, global currency abuse, there are three realities about inflation that convince us it's not only coming, but will catch an unsuspecting citizenry off guard. Let's take a look at why we're convinced inflation will be one of the next big catalysts for the gold price...
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
Back in December 2011, Europe swooned and bond yields soared when it was shocked, shocked, to learn that Spain had been lying about its budget deficit all year, a number which was subsequently hiked several more times. Then in 2012, to keep up with the pretense that things are better, Spain once again did what it does best: fudged numbers, this time desperate to make it appear that its actual government deficit was better than expected because one had to 'obviously' exclude all those items that are not part of the government spending... like payments for its broke provinces, or indirect funding for its broke banks. Now it turns out that in addition to fudging the definition of "budget", Spain was, surprise surprise, lying once again. From Bloomberg: "The Spanish government said its 2012 budget deficit will be bigger than first estimated after the European Union requested changes in how tax claims are computed. The budget shortfall excluding aid to the banking sector was 6.98 percent of gross domestic product last year, more than the 6.74 percent predicted on Feb. 28, Deputy Budget Minister Marta Fernandez Curras told reporters in Madrid today. That compares with 8.96 percent in 2011."
The hallmark of human nature is adaptability. Faced with a changing environment, the human spirit and its social manifestations change in response. But once the human endeavor itself creates the environment, how can such adaptation be a simple exercise in instinct? Simply put, it cannot. Throughout all of this crisis, the global elites have displayed consistently worsening signs of decadence, psychopathic tendencies, and overall detachment from reality. And who can blame them? There has been no tap on the shoulder, no knock on the door, no raid on the office to indicate that anything is seriously wrong. Such is the contemporary reality we live in. People try to live their lives, to avert their eyes, to hide their children from the sight and effect of the monstrous cavorting of the elites. Perhaps a crazed fad for frugality will break out and suppress the urges of the elites. In the meantime, hide your valuables as well as you can, and treat your children with the sympathy they deserve. They are among the chief victims of our era’s unholy orgies of risk and corruption. Frugality or fragility? The choice is yours, as well as theirs.
- Euro zone call notes reveal extent of alarm over Cyprus (Reuters)
- Stagnant Japan Rolls Dice on New Era of Easy Money (WSJ)
- Cyprus, European data batters shares and euro (Reuters)
- UK cuts taxes to revive stagnant economy (FT)
- "Quality Control" Rat Body Linked to Blackout at Fukushima (NYT)
- North Korea issues fresh threat to U.S., South probes hacking (Reuters)
- South Korea Says Chinese Code Used in Computer Attack (BBG)
- Osborne paves way for Carney to retool Bank of England (Reuters)
- Carney Gets ‘Escape Velocity’ Mandate With Limiter (BBG)
- Osborne Pledges Five More Years of U.K. Austerity (BBG)
- Bernanke Saying He’s Dispensable Suggests Tenure Ending (BBG)
- Senate Passes Bill to Fund Operations (WSJ)
We present readers with a pop quiz: the chart below show the ratio of total financial assets to host nation GDP. The tragic cases of Cyprus and Iceland are well-known, as per Reuters, and highlighted on the chart. We urge readers to guess what the supposedly very stable countries X and Y are on the chart, whose total financial system assets to GDP are approaching those of Cyprus, especially since depositors in their banking systems may be due for a very unpleasant surprise next if indeed Iceland and now Cyprus are the case studies.
As part of its 2013 budget, the UK announced something quite dramatic - a government-funded housing subsidy. The government will to commit GBP 3.5 billion of capital spending over the next three years to shared equity loans. The Loans will be up to 20% of the value of a new-build home. The government will also offer mortgage guarantee to lenders to help them provide more loans to people who can’t afford big deposits. Guarantees will be sufficient to support GBP130b of mortgages, Osborne says. "These guaranteed mortgages will be available to all homeowners, subject to the usual checks on responsible lending,” Osborne says.
Here is a quick overview of what is going on. Besides reviewing the key developments, we explain why the EU Summit, which is not attracting much attention, is in fact important.
While the people of France voted for a wealth distributing tax-the-rich Socialist President, it appears Francois Hollande is not living up to his electorate's hope for change as his policies are increasingly seen as simply more of the same as Sarkozy - “often the line is very fine between the two but Hollande must maintain the idea that he is more left wing.” Hollande’s popularity fell in February, leaving him the most unpopular French leader since 1981, a TNS-Sofres poll showed. More than two-thirds of the French and 44% of those who voted for him say they’re disappointed with him. It seems Socialism is not all it's cracked up to be as "the [European] obligation to cut deficits and spending and make reforms... exactly what Sarkozy had to deal with... annuls all measures Hollande wants to impose to boost jobs and growth." Hollande has restated his promise to reverse the unemployment trend and chanted his three mantras "constancy, endurance and hope," but, as Bloomberg notes, the last five opinion surveys have been disastrous for the self-proclaimed 'normal' president but have no fear as the 'old fuddy-duddy' is going back to the people in a charm offensive.
A few observations about growth and policy backdrop that is shaping the investment climate. It is a large overview that may be helpful to start the week.
Much virtual ink has been spilled over the decline of the mainstream media, measured by circulation, advertising revenue, or a general sense of irrelevance. Furthermore, news consumers increasingly recognize that the mainstream media outlets are basically public relations services for government agencies, large companies, and other influential organizations. Journalists do very little actual journalism — independent investigation, analysis, reporting. A news outlet that deviates from the Narrative by doing its own investigation or offering its own interpretation risks being cut off from the flow of anonymous briefings which means a loss of prestige and a lower status. In exchange for sticking to the Narrative, they get access to official sources. Give up one, you lose the other. Readers are beginning to recognize this, and they don’t want to pay. Nowhere is this situation more apparent than the mainstream reporting on budget sequestration.