• Steve H. Hanke
    05/04/2016 - 08:00
    Authored by Steve H. Hanke of The Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Hanke. A few weeks ago, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) sprang a surprise. It announced that a...


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Why Asset-Allocators Are Anxious And Balanced-Funds Are Baloney

Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) is broken. That is how we interpret Niels Jensen's (Absolute Return Partners) latest missive as he draws a concerning line between the number of managers who rely sheep-like on the diversifying 'artifacts' of MPT in a new normal world of undiversifiable systemic risks. The shifts in intra- and inter-asset class correlations (both long- and short-term) have been incredible both in terms of direction change and magnitude - for example (as Nielsen notes) - In the 2000-03 bear market commodities were an excellent diversifier against equity market risk with the two asset classes being virtually uncorrelated (+0.05). Nowadays, the two are highly correlated (+0.69). This shift to a risk-on / risk-off world, fed by central bankers, makes the empirical Sharpe ratios of olde and track records of your favorite balanced-fund manager entirely useless for any investor seeking protection from not just volatility risk but ultimate risk - the permanent loss of capital.

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Frontrunning: August 1

  • Bundesbank’s Weidmann Says ECB Shouldn’t Overstep Mandate (Bloomberg)
  • Hollande and Monti Vow to Protect Euro (FT) - be begging Germany to death
  • Monti Calls French, Finns to Action as Italy Yields Rises (Bloomberg)
  • not working though: Banking license for bailout fund is wrong: German Economy Minister (Reuters)
  • Switzerland is ‘New China’ in Currencies (FT)
  • Regulator Says no to Obama Mortgage Write-Down Plan (Reuters) - tough: there will be socialism
  • Gauging the Triggers to Fed Action (WSJ)
  • When domestic monetization is not enough: Azumi Spurns Calls for Bank of Japan to Buy Foreign Bonds to Curb Yen (NYT)
  • Indonesia’s July Inflation Accelerates on Higher Food Prices (Bloomberg) - remember: the Deep Fried black swan
  • China Manufacturing Teeters Close to Contraction (Bloomberg)
  • Spain Introduces Regional Debt Ceilings to Achieve Budget Goals (Bloomberg) - yes, they said "budget goals"
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With Total Viewers Sliding To 7 Year Lows, Is CNBC Fading Into Obscurity?

In the past 24 hours, some readers have been surprised to learn that as Jeff Reeves of InvestorPlace states, total Q2 CNBC viewership as calculated by Nielsen, has tumbled to to the lowest it has been since Q3 2005. This merely confirms that the trendline in our periodic observations of CNBC traffic was more than merely seasonal or VIX-related: it has been one long secular decline, peaking in the quarter of Lehman's demise and down hill ever since.

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Is Central Planning About To Cost The Jobs Of Your Favorite CNBC Anchors?

Something funny happened when last August CNBC hired access journalist extraordinaire Andrew Sorkin to spiff up its 6-9 am block also known as Squawk Box: nothing. At least, nothing from a secular viewership basis, because while the block saw a brief pick up in viewership driven by the concurrent (first of many) US debt ceiling crisis and rating downgrade, it has been a downhill slide ever since. In fact, as the chart below shows, the Nielsen rating for the show's core 25-54 demo just slid to multi-year lows. And as NY Daily News, the seemingly ceaseless slide has forced CNBC to start panicking: "CNBC insiders tell us executives at the cable business channel are “freaking out” because viewership levels are down essentially across-the-board, particularly with its marquee shows, “Squawk Box” and “Closing Bell." “Their biggest attractions have become their biggest losers,” says one TV industry insider familiar with the cable channel’s numbers. According to Nielsen ratings obtained by Gatecrasher, from April 2011 to April 2012, “Squawk Box” is down 16 percent in total viewers and 29 percent in the important 25-54 demographic bracket that advertisers buy." Yet is it really fair to blame the slide of the morning block's show on just one man?

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Presenting The Source Of The "US-Europe Decoupling" Confusion

Over the past several months, starting with the great US stock market surge back in October 2011 which was not paralleled by virtually any other index in the world (and especially not Spain which recently breached its March 2009 low), there has been a great deal of speculation that just because the US stock market was doing "better", that the US economy has by implication "decoupled" from Europe. Well, as yesterday's GDP number showed in Q1 the economy ended up rising at a pace that was quite disappointing, but more importantly, which even Goldman admits is due for a substantial slow down in the coming months. And ironically, in the past 6 months it was not the Fed, but the ECB, that injected over $1.3 trillion in the banking system. One would think that this epic "flow" of liquidity from the central bank would result in a surge in the only metric that matters to 'Austrians', namely the expansion in money (or in this case the widest metric officially tracked on an apples to apples basis - M2). One would be very wrong. Because as the chart below shows, while US M2 has soared from the 2009 troughs, money "movement" in Europe has barely budged at all.

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Frontrunning: March 19

  • There is no Spanish siesta for the eurozone (FT)
  • Greece over halfway to recovery, says PM (FT) - inspired comedy...
  • Sarkozy Trims Gap With Rival, Polls Show (WSJ) - Diebold speaks again
  • IMF’s Zhu Sees ‘Soft-Landing’ Even as Property Slides: Economy (Bloomberg)
  • Obama Uses Lincoln to Needle Republicans Battling in Illinois (Bloomberg)
  • Three shot dead outside Jewish school in France (Reuters)
  • Osborne Seeks to End 50% Tax Spat With Pledge to Aid U.K. Poor (Bloomberg)
  • Monti to Meet Labor Unions Amid Warning of Continued Euro Crisis (Bloomberg)
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Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: March 7

Markets appear to be tentatively recovering some of yesterday’s heavy losses, recording modest gains so far this morning. Comments made overnight by the German finance minister as well as senior officials from the Greek finance ministry may have mercifully given market participants some hope as they are confident the Greek PSI deal will be completed by the deadline tomorrow evening. The DAX index has underperformed the other European equity indices in recent trade following the release of some disappointing factory orders data for January, with markets expecting an expansion of 0.6%, however the reading came in at -2.7%, moving DAX stock futures into negative territory. WTI crude and Brent have also retraced some of their losses made earlier in the week following a drawdown in US gasoline inventories reported last night as well as a generally weak USD index in the FX markets today. Markets are awaiting US ADP employment change later in the session, as well as the weekly DOE oil inventories casting further light on the US energy stocks.

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Credit Suisse The Sequel: "Probability Of The Largest Disorderly Default Loss In History On March 20 Has Increased"

A week ago we presented an excerpt from Credit Suisse's most excellent piece "The Flaw" - merely the latest in one of the best overviews of the neverending Greek soap opera by William Porter. Yet every soap opera eventually ends. Although when it comes to Nielsen ratings, the denouement is usually a whimper. In the case of Greece, it will be anything but. Yet listening to the daily cacafony of din from Europe's leaders, who are likely more clueless than the average reader as to what is really going on, one may be left with the impression that there is a simple solution to the problem, and Greece may be "saved... in hours." It can't. In fact, as of today, Porter's s conclusion is: "we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way."

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Global Economic 'Mojo' Still Lacking

As of Q3 2011, the citizens of less than 20% of the countries involved in Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence, Concerns, and Spending Intentions Survey were on average confident in their future economic confidence. Not surprisingly, Nic Colas of ConvergEx points out, six were in Asia, the least confident were in Eastern and Peripheral European nations, and furthermore overall global consumer confidence remains 9.3% below 2H 2006 (and 6.4% below Q4 2010) readings as the global economy still has a long way to get its 'mojo' back. Colas points to the fact that 'confidence is an essential lubricant of any capitalist-based system' and one of the key challenges that worst hit Europe (and other regions and nations) face is capital markets that are assessing the long shadow of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis impact on the world's Consumer Confidence.

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Preliminary Thoughts On The European Downgrade From Goldman And Morgan Stanley

It has been a busy weekend for Wall Street, which has been doing all it can to spin the S&P downgrade in the best favorable light, although judging by the initial EURUSD and EURJPY reaction, so far not succeeding. Below we present a quick report written by Goldman's Lasse Nielsen on why in Goldman's view the downgrade's "impact is likely to be limited" and also the quick notes from an impromptu call MS organized for institutional clients (which had just two questions in the Q&A section, of which only one was answered - it appears virtually noboby believes that global moral hazard will allow anyone to fail at this point, so why bother even going out of bed).

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Review Of Europe In 2010, And The 2011 Continental Outlook From The Rosy Prism Of Erik Nielsen; Is A New European Brady Plan Coming?

Reading Goldman's economic thoughts as recently as 1 month ago used to be insightful, and in many ways educational (this included its trading recommendations as well: after all, as the saying goes, someone who bats 0.000 - with perfect consistency - is just as valuable as someone who does 1.000). Unfortunately, ever since the firm, buckling under the demands of someone or something, or merely as an expression of its latest counter-agenda, flipped by 180 degrees, we are sad to say that it is nothing less than a complete chore to go through what is now an endless stream of Kool Aid, which while at least trying to be somewhat objective previously, is now like sitting through a Third Reich propaganda movie circa 1940. Which is why we scanned Erik Nielsen's latest "thoughts" on what happened in Europe in 2010 and what he expects to happen in 2011 with only a cursory focus. We present them here for those who care to know what the greater fools will be influenced by (to a little or greater extent). The key topics covered are: "Some thoughts on 2010, what we got right and what we got wrong; Will early 2011 be as bad as everyone seems to expect?; Reiterating my views on rescue or no rescue for Spain and Portugal; And the two key conditions for the longer term." The only really interesting observation is Nielsen's take on the European Plan B should all other measures fail: a Brady type of debt buyback. To wit: "The only real suggestion I have seen so far on this issue was the suggestions by the ECB’s Bini Smaghi, who pointed to a Brady style buyback of debt in the secondary market using loans from the official sector.  I like that.  As some of you know, I worked on the Brady plan at the World Bank years back, and this venue worked well in several cases." The bottom line is that even according to Nielsen, Europe has to become increasing more entrenched as not only a monetary but also fiscal union, with perpetual backstops at every stop. And since the dollar funding shortfall in the world amounts to over $6 trillion per last year's BIS analysis, said backstop will ultimately have to be funded by the Fed (with the respective consequences to the dollar as the Fed is engaged in printing nearly double digit trillion amounts of US currency). That said, Nielsen is certainly right about one thing: there will be some "amazingly interesting" events in 2011...

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Weekly Perma-Rosiness From Erik Nielsen

Below is Erik Nielsen's latest dose of European permabullishness. At this point it is pretty much pointless to keep track of who is who at Goldman - the last attempt to reignite "The Ponz" is going gull blast, and every single person has forsaken their credibility in order to pitch the propaganda line. How Goldman's strategists pretend to be even remotely relevant any more is a mystery to anyone. The bottom line, and cutting through all the bullshit, is that Germany will do almost everything to keep the Euro, and thus import the periphery's monetary weakness, keeping its exports cheep, absent a fiscal union, no matter what the petrified bureaucrat Schauble says. Luckily Angela Merkel gets it... for now. Which is why all those who were expecting the WSJ interview with the German finance minister to push the EURUSD higher in Monday trading are in for a disappointment judging by the early action in the pair.

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Erik Nielsen's Resurgent Optimism Doused As Europe Is On The Verge Again

Who would have thought it only takes for PIIGS spreads to go back to all time records, and for Ireland and Portugal to be hours away from joining Greece in the bailout corner, for Goldman's Erik Nielsen to turn bearish again. To wit: "if investors are running for the door out of fear of being the last one left behind, then there’ll be a liquidity crisis (as there would be for anyone with a financing need), and they’ll need help." Way to stay ahead of the curve Erik. The problem is that while the economic reality below the surface cracks and collapses, investors are largely ignoring the perpetual words of optimism from Europe's politicians, and sellside cheerleaders (which begs the question - is it time to take this Goldman acknowledgment of reality as a buying opportunity?). What happened in Greece may have been brushed under the carpet for a few months, but the policy response there, which is identical to what is happening in Ireland and Portgula now, i.e., blatant lies, has left those holding relevant securities with a bitter taste in the mouth. And now, unlike before, the possibility of holder haircuts is distinctly on the table. Which is why we expect that before the Asian open, there well may be some key news out of Ireland (and/or Portugal)- no matter how much Nielsen believes that Ireland is not in a solvency crisis, with Bund spreads in the 700 range, no matter how much prefunding the government has, it will be irrelevant and will create yet another toxic debt spiral. The biggest threat is not so much to Ireland, which supposedly has its cash needs met through mid 2011, but contagion hitting other European countries, which do have solvency issues, yet have been spared the liquidity hammer so far. And with Italy CDS also hitting record highs, look for the core to start crumbling as everyone, especially Chiswick's perpetual optimist, to appreciate the gorgeous mushroom cloud over the European periphery.

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Weekly European Recap From Erik Nielsen

Who thought one could write 2000 words to describe the beneficial and very transitory impact of a currency plunge in a fiat world where everyone's goal is now to devalue their own monetary equivalent. Yet that is precisely what Goldman's European analyst Erik Nielsen has done in his weekly recap of European events past and future. Below are the just released views of Chiswick's perpetually cheery resident.

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Optimistic Outlook From Chilly Chiswick Means Erik Nielsen Is Back

Looking at the European theater of Keynesian war, Erik Nielsen says, "We optimists have had a very good week in Europe." Well, when after a 70 year sabbatical, it is once again the pan-continental doctrine to fabricate a lie so bold, the population has no choice but to believe in it, it is truly a victory for the bulls. Yet even the consummately rosiest outlook out of Chiswick agrees there are at least a few thunderclouds on the horizon: "Hungary is a space worthwhile watching. Orban’s government seems to have taken a populist line, but I think the EU and IMF will be prepared to make a demonstration effect out of Hungary, if needed. The government will most likely end up caving, but it could become quite messy before then."

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