Ironically, the very success of stock market manipulation only thins the market of legitimate participants and thus increases the probability that risk that has been suppressed for years will erupt uncontrollably. That the stock market is manipulated is no longer in question. One explicit goal in the Fed's zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP) is to drive capital into risk assets such as stocks. That is a first-order, transparent policy of manipulation, i.e. a centrally managed policy aimed at managing markets to meet a key central-planning goal: creating an illusion of prosperity via an elevated stock market and the resultant "wealth effect" for the 10% who own enough stocks to matter. Indirect manipulation is hidden from public view lest the rigging of the market taint the perception that a rising market is "proof" that Federal Reserve and Administration policies are "succeeding." Indirect manipulation is achieved via Federal Reserve quantitative easing operations, unlimited liquidity and lines of credit to fund bank speculations and masked buying of market futures. This multilevel manipulation creates a Boolean either/or for any Bear market: either it is a planned "panic" that profits the banks or a systemic failure of the orchestrated campaign of market manipulation.
In the spirit of the holidays and hope for a more prosperous 2013, we thought readers might appreciate a little humor to partially offset the relentless 'cliff' doom and gloom. So please, don’t take this too seriously. But if you happen to stumble across a ‘paperbug’ or two over the holidays, perhaps you could share some of the points made here. Humor sometimes helps people realize just how hopelessly misguided they are... Quantitative easing changes nothing. Remember, the PhDs are in charge of our economies and they know exactly how much our money should be worth. Those of us concerned that our money might lose purchasing power are just being paranoid. Choice is dangerous. Think Adam and Eve and you’ll get my point. Those arguing in favour of monetary freedom, of choice in money, of repealing legal tender laws, they’re just like that nasty snake Lillith in the Garden of Eden, the source of all trouble I tell you. ‘Tis the season to borrow and spend folks, as indeed it has been since 1971.
Not surprisingly when wages and salaries are growing at a slower rate there is a corresponding weakness in the level of retail sales. The peak in wages and salaries occurred in early 2011 with the subsequent growth rate trending weaker. This corresponds with the economy which has continued to muddle along at a very anemic pace. While it may be likely that the damage from Hurricane Sandy may have soured some sales, particularly in the North East, it is unlikely to have had much of an effect on the retail sales nation wide. For majority of America the "fiscal cliff" debate largely goes unnoticed as it remains a battle between the White House and the "rich" - for the rest the country it is more of a distraction from the things that matter like "Honey Boo Boo" and "Housewives Of Whereever". What does matter though, as stated above, are incomes. The decline in incomes, which can be seen in the roughly 1.2 million person increase in food stamp participation from June to September, is why retail "holiday" spending is weaker. With credit limits reduced, incomes stagnant and real costs of living on the rise - it is not surprising that retail sales are far weaker than the NRF's holiday season predictions.
As unemployment rose toward 10%, the January 1975 cover of Ramparts magazine blared: The End of Affluence: The Last Christmas in America. (TLCIA). Now statistics are echoing that last great recession: rising prices for essentials, systemically high unemployment and stagnant wages. So how does a society deal with the End of Work when it also means The End of Affluence, even for many of those with jobs? How does government deal with declining tax revenues and rising interest rates? The death throes of the debt-based consumerist lifestyle are already visible beneath the glossy propaganda of "rising revenues this Christmas season." The Fed is desperately attempting to re-inflate the debt bubble by lowering interest and mortgage rates and buying up all sorts of semi-toxic/impaired debt. What the Fed dreads is the reality we all feel and see: fear of the future due to diminished wealth and shaky incomes.
The subject of inflation has remained an emotionally charged topic of debate over the last several years. As rising prices for individuals, and businesses, has negatively impacted their prosperity; reported inflation has remained at very low levels. With the Fed pumping trillions of dollars into financial system the fear of much higher inflation, as the dollar is debased, has caused gold prices to soar in recent years. The sole purpose in measuring inflation is to help businesses, individuals and government adjust their financial planning for the impact of inflation. Inflation erodes future purchasing power, and decreases economic prosperity, if not accurately accounted for. The accuracy of measuring inflation, and accounting for it properly, is essential to long term economic prosperity. Shortly after Clinton entered the White House the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) altered the calculation of inflation by changing the weighting of goods in the CPI fixed basket. But the manipulation of the data did not stop there.
The world makes less sense every day. Little children are randomly slaughtered in their schoolrooms. Corrupt, bought off politicians pander to the lowest common denominator as their votes are only dependent upon who contributed the most to their election campaigns, which never end. Delusional, materialistic, egocentric, math challenged consumers (formerly known as citizens) live for today, enslave themselves in debt, vote themselves more entitlements, and care not for future generations. The alienation and isolation created by our sprawling, automobile dependent, technology obsessed, government controlled, debt financed society has spread like a cancerous tumor, slowly killing our country. The oligarchs will not give up without a fight. Their realization that the Brave New World method of controlling the masses has run its course has convinced them to shift their methods towards Orwell’s 1984 tactics.
Once upon a time there lived an independent and industrious people in a land called Ameristan deep in the realm of Middle Income. Their kingdom was unlike any other recorded in the ancient histories, primarily because they had no “king”. Instead, the Ameristanians had decided long ago that kings were much more trouble than they were worth, and, using cost/benefit ratio analysis, came to the conclusion that it was better to hang such ambitious power mongers by their necks and govern themselves instead. Unfortunately, many generations had passed, and the revolutionary fire of Ameristan had grown tired and dormant. Eventually, many of the people began to forget where they had come from... Ameristan had become a land of Unicorn-burger flippers, Swamp Banshee back washers, Dwarf tossers, Jabberwocky jugglers, Bugbear shavers, etc. They were like the peasants of the old days; beggars, thieves, and slaves.
We are sorry to interupt regularly scheduled Banzai7 Holiday Programming with this consummate farce...
It must be pointed out that gold is certainly no longer the bargain it was at the lows over a decade ago (at which time Warren Buffett undoubtedly hated it just as much as today). This is by no means akin to saying that there is no longer a bull market in force though. What seems however extremely unlikely to us is that the long term bull market is anywhere near to being over. After all, the people in charge of fiscal and monetary policy all over the globe are applying their 'tried and true' recipe to the perceived economic ills of the world in ever bigger gobs of 'more of the same'. Until that changes – and we feel pretty sure that the only thing that can usher in profound change on that score is a crisis of such proportions that the ability of said authorities to keep things under control by employing this recipe is simply overwhelmed – there is no reason not to hold gold in order to insure oneself against their depredations.
Behold the fund-tastic four: Ireland, Greece, Spain and... the US? These are the four countries that in the past four years have accumulated the greatest deficit as a % of GDP (and yes, at just under 50%, the US is worse than Spain whose cumulative deficit has been over 40% of GDP), which in turn they have had to fund with what else: new debt.
We face one of the deepest crises in history. A prognosis for the economic future requires a deepening of the concepts of inflation and deflation. Inflation is a political phenomenon because monetary aggregates are not determined by market forces but are planned by central banks in agreement with governments. Inflation is a tax affecting all real incomes. Inflation is a precondition of extreme deflation: depression. Should in fact the overall debt collapse, there would be an extreme deflation or depression because the money aggregate would contract dramatically. In fact the money equivalent to the defaulted debt would literally vanish. It is for this reason that central banks monetize new debt at a lower interest rates, raising its value. All the financial bubbles and the mass of derivatives are just the consequence of debt monetization. How will this all end? In history, debt monetization has always produced hyperinflation. In Western countries, despite the exponential debt a runaway inflation has not yet occurred. Monetary policy has only inflated the financial sector, starving the private one, which is showing a bias towards a deflationary depression. Unfortunately governments and banks will go for more inflation. As history teaches, besides money the freedom of citizens can also be the victim.
Gold fell $3.10 or 0.18% in New York yesterday and closed at $1,693.60/oz. Silver climbed to $33.24 then slid to $32.51, but finished after an afternoon rally with a loss of 0.33%.
Gold inched down on Thursday, near the monthly low reached in the prior session under pressure from a stronger greenback as players await the European Central Bank rate decision at 1245 GMT and US Initial Jobless Claims at 1330 GMT.
Physical buying of gold bullion has increased on the dip, particularly in Asia, and many are seeing these levels as a floor for prices.
Sixteen years ago today, Alan Greenspan spoke the now infamous words "irrational exuberance" during an annual dinner speech at The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Much has changed in the ensuing years (and oddly, his speech is worth a read as he draws attention time and again to the tension between the central bank and the government). Most critically, Greenspan was not wrong, just early. And the result of the market's delay in appreciating his warning has resulted in an epic shift away from those same asset classes that were most groomed and loved by Greenspan - Stocks, to those most hated and shunned by the Fed - Precious Metals. While those two words were his most famous, perhaps the following sentences are most prescient: "A democratic society requires a stable and effectively functioning economy. I trust that we and our successors at the Federal Reserve will be important contributors to that end."
To think it took a really ugly economic number, such as the Services PMI reported last night, to stir the Chinese stock market out of a hypnotic drift lower, and push it up by 2.7%. Why? Because in the New Normal bad economic news means hope that central banks get involved, and as we have explained the ongoing SHCOMP collapse is purely a function of the PBOC remaining on the sidelines. Last night, rumors (very unfounded and very incorrect) that the central bank would intervene put a stop to the drop. Sadly, as the PBOC has no intention of ending its ultra-short term reverse-repo driven market support strategy, the bounce will be very short lived. However, that coupled with more jawboning out of the BOJ that it would act, if it has to (whether under Abe or Noda), sent the JPY even weaker, and futures ramping on tiny overnight volume which wiped out all the previous day's losses.
The Great Depression brought about the Keynesian Revolution, complete with new analytical tools and economic programs that have been relied upon for decades. In dampening each successive downturn, authorities accumulated increasingly larger deficits and brought about a debt supercycle that lasted in excess of half a century. The efficacy of these tools and programs has slowly been eroded over the years as the accumulation of policy actions has reduced the flexibility to deal with crises as we reach budget constraints and stretch the Fed’s balance sheet beyond anything previously imagined. Some have referred to this as reaching the Keynesian endpoint. Keynes would barely recognize where we now find ourselves. In this ultra loose policy environment we are limited by our Keynesian toolkit. Without a new economic paradigm, the deleterious consequences of the current misguided policies are a foregone conclusion.