The economic turmoil in Venezuela has received increasing international media attention over the past few months. Earlier this month, in another attempt to ensure “happiness for all people,” Maduro began to hand out Christmas bonuses, in preparation for the coming elections in December. Although not yet officially in hyperinflation, monetary expansion is pushing Venezuela toward the brink. In such an environment, paychecks need to be distributed quickly, before prices have time to rise; hence, early bonuses. This kind of policy is nothing new in economic history: Venezuela’s hyperinflationary episode is unfolding in much the same way Germany’s did nearly a century ago. Consequently, Venezuela’s economic policy is proving to be another example of Ludwig von Mises’s argument that economic intervention, if left unchecked, leads to complete socialism. As disturbing as the thought is, the difference between the U.S. and other Western economies and Venezuela is merely one of degree, not of kind.
"It's time to deepen the offensive, go to the bone in this economic war," warned Venezuelan President Maduro - echoing Hugo Chavez's iron fist of socialism (and nationalization) before him - as his decision to jail over 100 businessmen is "defending the poor." As Reuters reports, plenty of Venezuelans have applauded his measures, saying price hikes were out of control, while others have expressed fears that Maduro could be uncorking dangerous forces as opposition forces note Maduro's economic policies were "chillingly similar" to those of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Officials say unscrupulous companies have been hiking prices of electronics and other goods more than 1,000 percent. Critics say failed socialist economic policies and restricted access to foreign currency are behind Venezuela's runaway inflation. No matter which, Maduro thundered "They are barbaric, these capitalist parasites!"
Venezuela's relatively new government has adopted arguably the best and brightest socialist policy wielded by both Hollande and Obama, namely the "fairness doctrine." However, in this case it is not about what is a "fair" tax for the wealthy (as taxes in Venezuela's socialist paradise will hardly do much to build up the desperately needed foreign currency reserves), but what is a "fair" price for electronic appliances like flat screen TVs, toasters, and ACs. The result is that Maduro's government now determines what equilibrium pricing should be. The reason for this latest socialist victory over the tyranny of supply and demand is that overnight Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro ordered the "occupation" of a chain of electronic goods stores in a crackdown on what the socialist government views as price-gouging hobbling the country's economy. Various managers of the five-store, 500-employee Daka chain have been arrested, and the company will now be forced to sell products at "fair prices," Maduro said late on Friday.
It’s hard to maintain monopoly status in a free market when you have to deal with all that competition and whatnot. Between other companies’ low prices and new, updated products entering the market each day, it’s almost like Rich Uncle Pennybags is a thing of the past. But fret not! The politicians of the world would like to offer anyone dead set on controlling an entire industry the chance to shine. So come one, come all — government agencies, cronies, and all their friends — as we present the five best ways to create a monopoly and to ensure you never have to compete again.
These men are masters of the capital markets. They are voting with their feet and pulling their capital out of them.
Now that "bail-ins" have become accepted practice all over the planet, no bank account and no pension fund will ever be 100% safe again. In fact, Cyprus-style wealth confiscation is already starting to happen all around the world. As we warned two years ago, "the muddle through has failed... and there may only be painful ways out of this."
Recall that three weeks ago we warned that "Monti Paschi Faces Bail-In As Capital Needs Point To Nationalization" although we left open the question of "who will get the haircut including senior bondholders and depositors.... given the small size of sub-debt in the capital structures." Today, as many expected on the day following the German elections, the dominos are finally starting to wobble, and as we predicted, Monte Paschi, Italy's oldest and according to many, most insolvent bank, quietly commenced a bondholder "bail in" after it said that it suspended interest payments on three hybrid notes following demands by European authorities that bondholders contribute to the restructuring of the bailed out Italian lender. Remember what Diesel-BOOM said about Cyprus - that it is a template? He wasn't joking.
The Venezuelan government is in a bind. They realize that 'the people' will stand-by idly as the nation's currency is devalued, as inflation soars, and blackouts continue as food shortages grow...(and the stock market soars) but take away a critical personal care item and the riots will begin. As Yahoo Maktoob reports, Venezuela's leftist government said Saturday it temporarily seized a major toilet paper factory hoping that it can end troublesome shortages of the staple personal care item. "The temporary occupation of [the toilet-paper manufacturing plant] is aimed at verifying that toilet paper industry production, marketing and distribution" are all in line with state policies, Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter, without indicating how long the takeover would last. This action follows 'nationalization' of large farms amid President Maduro's claims that the White House is plotting the "collapse" of his government next month by sabotaging food, electricity and fuel supplies.
The markets seem to sense that all of this. In the US we’re putting in what looks like a lower high. The market appears to be forming a Head and Shoulders pattern.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces were on a high state of alert on September 9 ahead of the first anniversary of Japan’s controversial purchase of islets in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu archipelago, particularly after a pair of Chinese bombers flew near Okinawa the previous day. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has ordered military personnel to strengthen their surveillance around the Senkakus, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan. A source in the Japanese government indicated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese maritime enforcement could take “outstanding” action in the area on September 11, the first anniversary of the purchase.
Just as we warned 4 months ago, the oldest bank in the world now faces a critical need to raise EUR2.5 billion in fresh capital - more than double its original plan. "There is no chance on the planet that they can raise [this] in 12 months... they are heading towards nationalization," exclaimed one investment banker, confirmed by another who added via Reuters, "it will be difficult to find someone to shell out all that money." The capital raise is equivalent to the entire market cap of the bank currently and it is becoming increasingly clear that the Italian state will be forced to provide the equity. The problem (for BMPS bondholders and depositors) is that under such a scenario, as Bloomberg notes, EC State Aid rules regarding a subordinated-debt bail-in could apply. However, given the small size of sub-debt in the capital structures, it is unclear who will get the haircut including senior bondholders and depositors.
Where’s Congress? That’s the question that should haunt the American people in the wake of President Obama’s apparent decision to get their country into another Mideast war. In the long history of the American experience, matters of war and peace have always been hotly debated. And those debates traditionally have been most intense and concentrated in Congress. Now we have a president who declares in word and deed that war decisions, as artificially defined by him as something short of actual war, are exclusively within his constitutional domain. And we have a Congress that shows no serious inclination to challenge that claim of prerogative and power. This is a very serious - and potentially calamitous - development in American history.
Less than a month ago, potash stocks around the world cratered overnight following news that Russian potash producer OAO Uralkali announced its decision to break up a 'marketing venture' that controlled around 43% of global potash exports in the process ending the cartel that many US fertilized companies enjoyed for years. The end of the cartel was also a big hit for former partner Belarusian Potash Company (BPS) and the host nation Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, where revenue from its potash industry accounts for almost 20 percent of the budget. Everyone, Goldman Sachs, included were confounded by the move: Such behavior by Belaruskali in a structurally oversupplied potash industry should push for stricter competition for end customers and result in a significant swift decline in pricing... " What was most surprising is that Uralkali would voluntarily engage in this move, knowing full well that the Belarus government would retaliate. The only question is how severely. Turns out the answer is "very."
The country which over the past decade is most synonymous with "financial innovation" of the less than desirable kind, such as hyperinflation, complete currency and economic collapse and wholesale property confiscation, has just taken financial central-planning brilliance to the next level and following dictator Robert Mugabe's "reelection" has announced plans to open a new and "racially exclusive" stock exchange, allowing blacks alone to trade. And not trade just anything, but shares of recently nationalized foreign companies, most of which are South African-owned miners. Or rather were, because following the most recent nationalization round, Zimbabwe would take a 51% stake in all major foreign-owned companies valued at over $7 billion. No compensation will be paid.
The man who in the first months of his reign took over the bankruptcy process turning it over on its head to benefit the state over centuries of established creditor rights (with GM, Chrysler and a whole lot of union votes), and who defined his entire first term by nationalizing the US healthcare system, who personally determined the cutoff for "wealth" at $250,000 per year (with the corresponding tax hike "benefits" to go with it), not to mention inheriting the George W. Bush personal surveillance apparatus and taking the nationalization of individual rights and liberties to a whole new level, has just decided to branch out and subordinate yet another two birds of distributed, efficient, global decision-making to his will: trade and patent law.