When the US income and spending figures for December came out, the punditry couldn't contain their exuberance following the massive surge in income which as we explained was merely a function of the pulled forward wages and bonuses in December due to fears of what the Fiscal Cliff and the expiration of the payroll tax cut would do to incomes in 2013 (nothing good), as well as a surge in stock dividends to avoid a dividend tax hike resulting in yet another boost in income. The spike in personal income without an offset in spending sent the savings rate to the highest in three years. Today it's payback time as moments ago we learned that the US consumer gave back all the December gains and then much following news that while spending did nothing, and came in as expected at 0.2%, personal income imploded by 3.6% on estimates of a modest 2.4% drop. This was the biggest drop in personal income in 20 years just as the US consumer's confidence was soaring at least according to such manipulated aggregators as UMich. What this also led to was that not only is the stock market back to 2007 levels, but so is the personal saving rate, which crashed from 6.4% to 2.4%, the lowest since November 2007, and leaving Americans with the least purchasing power just as the full impact of a government that is flirting with austerity is starting to be felt. And just as bad was the material 4% pullback in real disposable personal income or adjusted for inflation. "Consumers can’t spend what they don’t have, and they don’t much much,” summarized Bloomberg economist Rich Yamarone.
Europe's dual problems of low growth and weak profit margins combined with this week's vote in Italy are likely to usher in another period of European underperformance, but as JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest notes, that is the least of it as Italy overtook Japan with the worst real GDP growth of all advanced economies since 1991. In fact, other than wartime, the last few years in Italy have been the worst for growth since Italian unification in 1861. But, before the rest of Europe gloats that 'they are not Italy, or Greece', he reminds us that the slowness of French GDP growth in recent years is the slowest in over 80 years. As he warns, all things considered, from an investment standpoint, caution continues to be warranted as problems appear to be taking their toll on EU profitability.
Despite Abe's protestations, it would appear - from WSJ's index of Starbucks coffee prices around the world - that Japan's currency 'value' is similar to the US while it is Mr. Hollande (in France) that has more reason to hope for a currency devaluation in his country. With India and Mexico showing the lowest price for a grande latte (suggesting undervalued currencies), it appears Europeans (from Madrid to Paris to Athens) pay significantly more for a latte than even the New Yorkers. Forget the Big Mac Index, forget Purchasing Power Parity - the Scandinavians are suffering from over-priced currencies and significant divergence from Coffee Price Parity.
In many Western industrialized nations, debt has overwhelmed or is about to overwhelm the economy's debt-servicing capacity. In the run-up to a debt crisis, bad debt tends to move to the next higher level and may ultimately accumulate in the central bank's balance sheet, provided the economy has its own currency. Many observers assume that, once bad debt is purchased by the central bank, the debt crisis is solved for good; that central banks have unlimited wealth at their disposal, or can print unlimited wealth into existence.
However, central banks can only create liquidity, not wealth. If printing money were equivalent to creating wealth, then mankind would not have to get up early on Monday morning. Only a solvent central bank can halt hyperinflation. The longer governments run large deficits, the longer central banks continue to monetize them, and the longer their balance sheets grow, the higher the potential for enormous losses and thus hyperinflation.
Necessary preconditions for hyperinflation are a quasi-bankrupt government whose debt is monetized by a central bank with insufficient assets. One way or another, owning physical gold is the safest and most effective way of insuring against hyperinflation.
While Abenomics has failed in spurring exports, while the rise in the Nikkei has benefited some 1-2% of the population, the most direct consequence of crushing the yen some 20% is that energy costs, virtually all of them imported, are if not surging, then about to soar to all time highs. In other words, our sincerest condolences to Japan, for whom this winter will be a very cold one (and a very hot summer follows), unless of course in Japan, like in the US, energy costs don't matter when calculating CPI and inflation and the consumer can spend any amount to keep themelves warm, or cold as the case may be.
This is the first of three articles on the suppression of gold. What drives us to write about the topic? We are tired of seeing endless proof of suppression (i.e. the typical take downs in the price at either 8:20am ET or at 10am-11am ET, with impressive predictability) and at the same time, it is unfair that anyone who voices this suppression be called a conspiracy theorist. The first letter will show that, under mainstream economic theory, the suppression of the gold market is not a conspiracy theory, but a logical necessity, a logical outcome. To enforce a balance in the global fiat money market via coordination of central banks is impossible; what may be feasible is to coordinate the expansion in the supply of global fiat money. But if that is the case, the manipulation of the gold market to leave it oversupplied is the logical outcome. To pretend it is not... is a conspiracy theory!
We have noted the incessant slamdown in the precious metals markets, and highlighted that the only thing that can slow the flood of liquidity into each and every market is a rise in energy prices. The former represents 'trust' in the system; the latter represents 'real economics' as it squeezes the global economy forcing the central banks to pull back or tighten (see China's lack of rev repo recently). To wit, we just noted the plunge in WTI this morning; but Nanex, given their depth of data, noticed something considerably more concerning... "Because the circuit breaker tripped after the market had somewhat stabilized, we think another large sale appeared that would have decimated prices - which CME's circuit breaker logic picked up on, causing the halt." Did someone intentionally try to crash the WTI Crude contract? And if so, who? We don't know, but the usual suspect (singular) does emerge, considering that with gas prices hitting new February daily record every day, and every dollar in increase in WTI means even less (seasonally adjusted) GDP, and less consumer purchasing power, those evil speculators who are taking the Fed's free money to buy commodities (and very unpatriotically not the S&P or Russell 2000) must be promptly punished.
And now for a quick blast from the past: on November 26, moments after Mark Carney was announced as the Bank of England's next "shocking" head (confirming our prediction that just this would happen), we made a very simple prediction, one which ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day, that Carney would pursue a sensible policy of preserving the strength of the British pound, namely the following:
It took Goldman's Mario Draghi about 3 hours to launch an epic EUR destruction campaign. Anyone going long the GBP here needs therapy
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) November 26, 2012
Sure enough, after rising very modestly in the days after Carney's coronation, cable has since imploded and moment ago touched on a new seven month low. Those who have been long the GBPUSD throughout the ensuing 700 pip plunge, can invoice Goldman Sachs with their therapy bills.
The Chinese New Year celebration is now over, the Year of the Snake is here, and those following the Shanghai Composite have lots to hiss about, as two out of two trading days have printed in the red. But a far bigger concern to not only those long the SHCOMP, but the "Great Reflation Trade - ver. 2013", is that just as two years ago, China appears set to pull out first, as once again inflation rears its ugly head. And where the PBOC goes, everyone else grudgingly has to follow: after all without China there is no marginal growth driver to the world economy. End result: China's reverse repos, or liquidity providing operations, have ended after month of daily injections, and the first outright repo, or liquidity draining operation, just took place after eight months of dormancy. From the WSJ: "Chinese authorities took a step to ease potential inflationary pressures Tuesday by using a key mechanism for the first time in eight months. The move by the central bank to withdraw cash from the banking system is a reversal after months of pumping cash in. That cash flood was meant to reduce borrowing costs for businesses as the economy slowed last year—but recent data has shown growth picking up, along with the main determinants of inflation: housing and food prices."
In the 40 years or so since the end of the Bretton Woods system, we have seen competitive devaluations occur again and again. However as SocGen notes, it appears Japan just keeps coming out on the losing side. Based on Real Effective Exchange Rates (REER), Japan's currency is 80% stronger now than in 1971 while the US (and South Korea interestingly) are about 40% weaker. The Euro has remained in a relatively stable band as the rest of the world has de- or re-valued itself. The 20% or so drop in the JPY so far under Abe's guidance appears a blip on the REER radar screen compared to its peers but, at the other end of the spectrum, SocGen suggests the USD is notably under-valued on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis - even as 'the strong dollar policy' remains verbally in tact.
According to dictionary.com, Deflation is “a fall in the general price level or a contraction of credit and available money.” Falling prices. That sounds good, especially if you have set some cash set aside and are thinking about a major purchase. But as some additional research with Google would seem to demonstrate, that would be a naïve and simple-minded conclusion. According to received wisdom, deflation is a serious economic disease - St.Louis Fed: "...discourages spending and investment because consumers, expecting prices to fall further, delay purchases, preferring instead to save and wait for even lower price..." The problem with deflation, then - we are told, is that it feeds on itself, destroying the economy along the way. Deflation is far worse than its counterpart, inflation, because the Fed can fight inflation by raising interest rates. Deflation is nearly impossible to stop once it has started because interest rates can only be cut to zero, no lower. In case you’re not already scared straight, the deflationary doomsday has already happened in America when (according to the New York Times) it caused the Great Depression. I hope that everyone is clear on this. Now that you understand the basics, I have some questions for the people who came up with this stuff.
In this candid discussion, precious metals experts Eric Sprott, John Embry and Rick Rule discuss a wide range of topics related to precious metals investing.
By bailing out banks and targeting equity prices, the central banks are exacerbating the misallocation of savings/financial capital to historically overvalued corporate equity. What happens when central banks make credit cheap and abundant? All that cheap money chases scarce productive assets. The yields on assets drop, and speculative "risk-on" assets are boosted into bubbles. Even as corporate profits have skyrocketed (does the trajectory look sustainable? up almost 300% in four years?), equity valuations have risen apace, keeping yields at historically low levels. Anyone who claims "stocks are cheap" would do well to study these charts...
Selling snake oil and issuing unbacked paper currency are not so different. They're both wildly successful ploys for the guys pulling the strings. And they're both complete scams that depend solely on the confidence of a willing, ignorant public. But once the confidence begins to erode, the fraud unravels very, very quickly, and the perpetrators resort to desperate measures in order to keep the party going. In the case of fiat currency, governments in terminal decline resort to a very limited, highly predictable playbook in which they try to control... everything... imposing capital controls, exchange controls, wage controls, price controls, trade controls, border controls, and sometimes even people controls. These tactics have been used since the ancient Sumerians. This time is not different.
Ron Paul spoke with Bloomberg television and said that we are in a currency war and we have been for decades. He noted that governments have always competed against each other’s currencies even under Bretton Woods. It has always been a form or protectionism and will make people want to export more. Dr. Paul said don’t blame countries like China and Japan just look at the debt the U.S. is buying. There will always be currency wars. The Bank of Japan claims it has to defend itself against deflation and decades of slow growth. Ron Paul noted that the Bank of Japan’s yen devaluations will eventually lead to further price inflations that are to come. Investors and citizens will eventually reject the yen and switch to other currencies like dollars or Swiss francs. Then eventually people will move to hard assets altogether as they are losing confidence in paper assets. Dr. Paul was asked, “Do you think protectionism will lead to a crash in the international monetary system? He replied, “Nothing good can come of it. Even short run trade benefits leads to a weaker economy and higher prices. It doesn't solve the problem they won't face the truth. That is that all governments spend too much money, there is too much debt and they get away with it by taxing people”.