Guest Post: The Cantillon Effect

Expansionary monetary policy constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from those who hold old money to whoever gets new money. This is known as the Cantillon Effect, after 18th Century economist Richard Cantillon who first proposed it. In the immediate term, as more dollars are created, each one translates to a smaller slice of all goods and services produced. How we measure this phenomenon and its size depends how we define money....  What is clear is that the dramatic expansion of the monetary base that we saw after 2008 is merely catching up with the more gradual growth of debt that took place in the 90s and 00s. While it is my hunch that overblown credit bubbles are better liquidated than reflated (not least because the reflation of a corrupt and dysfunctional financial sector entails huge moral hazard), it is true the Fed’s efforts to inflate the money supply have so far prevented a default cascade. We should expect that such initiatives will continue, not least because Bernanke has a deep intellectual investment in reflationism.

Guest Post: Gold, Price Stability & Credit Bubbles

Eventually — because the costs of the deleveraging trap makes organicy growth very difficult — the debt will either be forgiven, inflated or defaulted away. Endless rounds of tepid QE (which is debt additive, and so adds to the debt problem) just postpone that difficult decision. The deleveraging trap preserves the value of past debts at the cost of future growth. Under the harsh discipline of a gold standard, such prevarication is not possible. Without the ability to inflate, overleveraged banks, individuals and governments would default on their debt. Income would rapidly fall, and economies would likely deflate and become severely depressed. Yet liquidation is not all bad.  The example of 1907 — prior to the era of central banking — illustrates this. Although liquidation episodes are painful, the clear benefit is that a big crash and depression clears out old debt. Under the present regimes, the weight of old debt remains a burden to the economy.

The "Game Tree" Explains Why The "Risk Of An Ugly End Game Is Rising"

Virtually all developments in Europe over the past two years can be easily explained using a simple version of three actor game theory. So can the endless delays in reaching an actionable resolution. The problem, however, as Bill Gross earlier, and now Bank of America, shows, is that the incentive to delay, based at least on one the actors' preferences - that of the market - is becoming very tenuous, and "the risk of an ugly end game is rising." By implication, this means that the goodwill of both Europe's monetary and political authorities is waning by the day, as last Thursday demonstrated so very vividly.

Europe's Question Of Today: “If They Will Fund And How?”; The Question Of Tomorrow “Can They Afford It?”

Never forget; there are two sides to the European fiscal proposition. There are the funding nations and the borrowing nations and I suggest that the focus of the markets will soon turn to the funding countries and their capacity to provide capital without endangering themselves. I think the attention of the markets is about to turn to Germany and France, the largest components of the European Union, and with GDP’s of $3.2 trillion and $2.77 trillion respectively the question is going to come around to just how much these two countries can support without sending themselves into a serious economic quagmire. The EU officially recognized sovereign debt of Greece is now 22.33% of the GDP of Germany and 25.80% of the GDP of France. The banks in Europe dwarf the sovereigns with balance sheets three times larger than of all of the EU nations and with Spain having now fallen and Italy about to go; just how much that can be afforded is quickly coming into the focus of many money managers.

Guest Post: What Democracy?

Rather than give the people a voice, democracy allows for the choking of life by men and women of state authority.  When Occupy protestors were chanting “this is what democracy looks like” last fall, they wrongly saw the power of government as the best means to alleviate poverty.  What modern day democracy really looks like is endless bailouts, special privileges, and imperial warfare all paid for on the back of the common man. None of this is to suggest that a transition to real democracy is the answer.  The popular adage of democracy being “two wolves and lamb voting on what’s for lunch” is undeniably accurate.  A system where one group of people can vote its hands into another’s pockets is not economically sustainable.  Democracy’s pitting of individuals against each other leads to moral degeneration and impairs capital accumulation.  It is no panacea for the rottenness that follows from centers of power.  True human liberty with respect to property rights is the only foundation from which civilization can grow and thrive.

Bank Of America Has Lost Money Trading On Only Three Days In 2012

From the just released Bank of America 10-Q: "During the three months ended June 30, 2012, positive trading-related revenue was recorded for 95 percent, or 60 of the 63 trading days of which 75 percent (47 days) were daily trading gains of over $25 million and the largest loss was $11 million. These results can be compared to the three months ended March 31, 2012, where positive trading-related revenue was recorded for 100 percent (62 days) of the trading days of which 95 percent (59 days) were daily trading gains of over $25 million. There were no daily trading losses recorded during the three months ended March 31, 2012." This vaguely reminds us of the JPM's trading performance. Just before they got busted for hiding a $350 billion hedge fund in the firm's "risk hedging" aka CIO/Treasury division that is. Also, if anyone else has problems believing that BofA's trading desk, with or without Merrill, both of which are better known as the C-grade (and that is being generous) of Wall Street traders, could generate profits on 122 of 125 trading days, please lift your hand.

Have No Fear; You Can Always Hide In High-Dividend-Paying Stocks

Investors are piling into income-generating stocks at the fastest pace seen in decades. In the second zero-rate environment created by the Fed over the last decade, JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest brings attention to the frenzy of demand for income. This has led to a rush into income-producing stocks (e.g., ones that pay high dividends). As shown in the accompanying chart from Mike Goldstein at Empirical Research, the P/E ratio of the highest dividend payers is at a record valuation premium compared to the P/E of the broad market. Of course, this will not end well; as the constant apples-to-unicorn comparison of 'risky' stock dividend yields to risk-free Treasury yields (risk-free in terms of capital return - no matter what your view on inflation/default) that we have pounded the table (here and here most recently) about remains a stock-seller's commission-maker's portfolio-manager's stock-broker's dream.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture


To me the message is clear, Germany is going to do all it can to appear ready to help, but it will forestall any actual helping, especially if it involves increasing Germany’s exposure to the PIIGS (note: Merkel stated that there would never be Euro-bonds for as long as she lived). This is not political posturing. Germany has already brought its own solvency into question (see the Moody’s warning) by propping up the EU. Angela Merkel is not going to lose Germany’s AAA status the year before she’s up for re-election.


Jeremy Grantham: "I, For One, Wish That The World Would Get On With Whatever Is Coming Next"

"The economic environment seems to be stuck in a rather unpleasant perpetual loop. Greece is always about to default; the latest bailout is always about to save the day and yet never seems to; China is always about to collapse but instead teases us by inching down; and I swear the Financial Times is beginning to recycle its reports! In the U.S., the fiscal cliff looms along with debt limits and the usual election uncertainties. The dysfunctional U.S. Congress continues for the time being in its intractable ways. The stock market rises and falls and rises and falls again. It is getting difficult to find anything new to say at client meetings. I, for one, wish that the world would get on with whatever is coming next."

Phoenix Capital Research's picture


The Moody’s outlook change on Germany lets us know that this time around the debate is more than political posturing. If Germany loses its AAA status, then it’s GAME OVER for the EU: the German population, already outraged by the EU bailouts, and now facing a recession will NOT tolerate a credit rating downgrade.