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On Surviving The Monetary Meltdown

After 40 years of boozing on easy money and feasting on fantastical asset price inflations, the global monetary system is approaching catharsis, its arteries clogged and instant cardiac arrest a persistent threat. ‘Muddling through’ is the name of the game today but in the end authorities will have two choices: stop printing money and allow the market to cleanse the system of its dislocations. This would involve defaults (including those of sovereigns) and some pretty nasty asset price corrections. Or, keep printing money and risk complete currency collapse. We think they should go for option one but we fear they will go for option two. In this environment, how can people protect themselves and their property? Our three favourite assets are, in no particular order, gold, gold and gold. After that, there may be silver. We are, in our assessment, in the endgame of this, mankind’s latest and so far most ambitious, experiment with unconstrained fiat money. The present crisis is a paper money crisis. Whenever paper money dies, eternal money – gold and silver – stage a comeback. Remember, paper money is always a political tool, gold is market money and apolitical.

Global Shadow Banking System Rises To $67 Trillion, Just Shy Of 100% Of Global GDP

Earlier today, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), one of the few transnational financial "supervisors" which is about as relevant in the grand scheme of things as the BIS, whose Basel III capitalization requirements will never be adopted for the simple reason that banks can not afford, now or ever, to delever and dispose of assets to the degree required for them to regain "stability" (nearly $4 trillion in Europe alone as we explained months ago), issued a report on Shadow Banking. The report is about 3 years late (Zero Hedge has been following this topic since 2010), and is largely meaningless, coming to the same conclusion as all other historical regulatory observations into shadow banking have done in the recent past, namely that it is too big, too unwieldy, and too risky, but that little if anything can be done about it. Specifically, the FSB finds that the size of the US shadow banking system is estimated to amount to $23 trillion (higher than our internal estimate of about $15 trillion due to the inclusion of various equity-linked products such as ETFs, which hardly fit the narrow definition of a "bank" with its three compulsory transformation vectors), is the largest in the world, followed by the Euro area with a $22 trillion shadow bank system (or 111% of total Euro GDP in 2011, down from 128% at its peak in 2007), and the UK in third, with $9 trillion. Combined total shadow banking, not to be confused with derivatives, which at least from a theoretical level can be said to offset each other (good luck with that when there is even one counterparty failure), is now $67 trillion, $6 trillion higher than previously thought, and virtually the same as global GDP of $70 trillion at the end of 2011.

Argentina Ignores US Court Decision, Will Not Pay Elliott And Holdouts

Several weeks ago we summarized the highly entertaining (if largely futile) fight between naval commodore second class Paul Singer of Her Majesty's Elliott Capital Navy, and the defaulted and soon to be re-defaulted state of Argentina. The punchline, much to the chagrin of all those other "sophisticated" bloggers who read so very much into the recent decision of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, was the following: "What this really means is that Western courts have decided that Elliott has not been stripped of pre-petition rights despite, or rather in spite of, holding out, and is entitled to collecting up to par recovery. There is one problem: there is absolutely no enforcement mechanism! And therein lies the rub: because how does a court located on Pearl Street in New York order the Argentina State Treasurer located in Buenos Aires to wire a payment on bonds, via intermediary banks, that Argentina effectively has disowned? It can't." Today, Argentina just made it very clear that once again those desperate for page views by analyzing and overanalyzing an utterly meaningless court decision's implications for rogue sovereign debtor will have to try even harder, following Reuters' report confirming precisely what we said would happen - that Argentina would completely ignore the appeals court decision, and not pay holdout, read Elliott, bondholders.

Guest Post: Is There Wisdom In The Crowd?

Back in the 1960s, a clever but financially disadvantaged fellow placed a small ad in a national magazine that read something like: Money needed. Please send $1 to the address below. Do it today! No specific need was given, and nothing was promised in return, so that fraud could not later be charged. Yet within a few months, thousands of dollars arrived in his mailbox, a considerable sum in those days. Or so the urban legend goes. A half-century later, many things have changed, but one thing remains unchanged: People still need money, and they have not ceased to innovate ways in which to get it. Clearly there are a lot of new and imaginative ways of moving money around that vie for our attention. Many of them would be considered crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, if thought of merely as the pooling of resources for a common cause, is as old as human groupings. But that isn't the way it's thought of nowadays. The current king of the hill, Kickstarter, launched in April of 2009, has been a great success. So, is crowdfunding the future capital source for every new venture under the sun? Well, probably not... although we can't say for sure, because it does sometimes seem that way as new and imaginative ways of moving money around vie for our attention.

Kyle Bass: Fallacies Such As MMT Are "Leading The Sheep To Slaughter" And "We Believe War Is Inevitable"

"Trillions of dollars of debts will be restructured and millions of financially prudent savers will lose large percentages of their real purchasing power at exactly the wrong time in their lives. Again, the world will not end, but the social fabric of the profligate nations will be stretched and in some cases torn. Sadly, looking back through economic history, all too often war is the manifestation of simple economic entropy played to its logical conclusion. We believe that war is an inevitable consequence of the current global economic situation."

Guest Post: Ceilings, Cliffs And TAG - 3 Immediate Risks

The recent market sell-off has not been about the re-election of President Obama but rather the repositioning of assets by professional investors in anticipation of three key events coming between now and the end of this year - the "fiscal cliff", the debt ceiling and the expiration of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG).  Each of these events have different impacts on the economy and the financial markets - but the one thing that they have in common is that they will all be battle grounds between a divided House and Senate.  While there has been a plethora of articles, and media coverage, about the upcoming standoff between the two parties - little has been written to cover the details of exactly what will be impacted and why it is so important to the financial markets and economy. We remain hopeful that our elected leaders will allow cooler heads to prevail and that they will begin to work towards solutions that alleviate some of the risks of economic contraction while setting forth logical plans for fiscal reform.  However, while we are hopeful of such progress, "hope" is not an investment strategy to manage portfolios by.  If we are right things are likely to get worse before a resolution is reached - but maybe that is why the "investment professionals" have already been heading for the exits.

The FHA's Fatal Scattergram Flaw

Judging by the media rancor, the fact that the FHA has run out of capital is a stunning shock since besides, housing is in recovery right? Well, there is one simple reason why the FHA is FUBAR and is only going to get worse (cue Geithner Bailout). As the only player left, the FHA has simply been the sole source of mortgage provision to the worst of the worst. The following chart from Chicago Booth's Amir Sufi shows the diabolic-distribution of poor-performing zip codes that the FHA has lent into - even during the crisis.

Guest Post: Start Your Own Financial Media Channel with This Template

You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.

Meanwhile In Argentina...

Dear Buenos Aires: we have three words of advice - "hide yo' catamarans" (before Paul Singer comes and collects them all once you default again in what the market now deems is inevitable to occur in the next few weeks). 5Y CDS on Argentina just reverse-Baumgartnered to over 3000bps (49/53% upfront) and short-dated CDS imply a 60% probability of default (assuming a 25% recovery).

Guest Post: The Nearly-Free University

The key to understanding higher education in the U.S. is to grasp that it is at heart just another debt-dependent neofeudal cartel. In other words, it is just like sickcare and the national defense complex. The most implacable enemy of innovation is monopoly. If you're protected from real competition, then you have no incentive or need to innovate. That is the essence of cartel-capitalism and the neofeudal model. In the case of the higher education cartel, the Federal funding is both cash grants and loans issued to newly minted debt-serfs. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy like other debt; these loans have ballooned to about $1 trillion. This is the essence of the neofeudal model: a protected Elite parasitically extracts wealth from the debt-serfs below. Should the debt-serfs resist, the State steps in to coerce compliance. The problem with protected cartels (neofeudal fiefdoms) is that they are unsustainable.

DTCC Provides Update On Status Of Flooded Securities Vault

As has been widely reported previously, while the NY Fed's deep underground gold vault remained dry during the Sandy flooding in downtown NY, one institution which got badly hurt was the DTCC, aka Cede & Co (profiled here in July of 2009 in " The Biggest Financial Company You Have Never Heard Of"), which is the entity serving as custodian of virtually every electronically traded security in the modern marketplace (equity, debt, derivative, synthetic, in fact anything which is not a physical asset in itself and is not in the hands, or safe, of the rightful owner). We put the emphasis on electronically, because DTCC is also the actual custodian of all physical proof of stock ownership, such as certificates, bond deeds, and the like. It is the largely irrelevant latter (because it has been several decades since anyone actually demanded a physical copy of the stock certificates backing their shares of company XYZ) that the DTCC got in trouble for when its securities vault got flooded, and in the process destroyed countless physical stock certificates. Note we did not use the word electronic because those are there and accounted for in numerous back up data sites, with full designation and attribution. In other words anyone who made a mountain out of this particular mole hill sadly has no idea how modern markets operate, since all that the DTCC needs to do to remedy the flooding damage is to notify transfer agents of this natural disaster, and then have duplicate stock certificates printed at a cost of 1 cent for every thousands or so print outs. Which is more or less what the DTCC also just said in its press release.

Bernanke Laments Lack Of Housing Bubble, Demands More From Tapped Out Households

Moments ago Ben Bernanke released a speech titled "Challenges in Housing and Mortgage Markets" in which he said that while the US housing revival faces significant obstacles, the Fed will do everything it can to back the "housing recovery" (supposedly on top of the $40 billion in MBS it monetizes each month, and/or QEternity+1?). He then goes on to say that tight lenders may be thwarting the recovery, and is concerned about high unemployment, things that should be prevented as housing is a "powerful headwind to the recovery." In other words - the same canned gibberish he has been showering upon those stupid and naive enough to listen and/or believe him, because once the current downtrend in the market is confirmed to be a long-term decline, the 4th dead cat bounce in housing will end. But perhaps what is most amusing is that the Fed is now accusing none other than the US household for not doing their patriotic duty to reflate the peak bubble. To wit: "The Federal Reserve will continue to do what we can to support the housing recovery, both through our monetary policy and our regulatory and supervisory actions. But, as I have discussed, not all of the responsibility lies with the government; households, the financial services industry, and those in the nonprofit sector must play their part as well." So "get to work, Mr. Household: Benny and the Inkjets, not to mention Chuck Schumer's careers rest on your bubble-reflation skills."