Collateral matters when it comes to assessing the value of the debt. If a bank lists the mortgages in its "assets" column at full value even though the underlying collateral (the houses) has lost much of their value, then the bank is grossly over-estimating the value and security of the mortgage. The bank's "assets" are based on phantom collateral. Take away $1 in collateral and you impair $4, $10, $20 or even $30 of debt. Recall that the vast majority of real estate equity and financial wealth is owned by the top 20%, with the majority of that concentrated in the top 5%. That means the bottom 80% own little collateral to leverage into debt. How about leveraging income into more debt? Since the top 10% receive almost 50% of the income, and most of the bottom 90%'s income goes to non-discretionary spending and taxes, then only the top 10% have discretionary income that can be leveraged into more debt.
By way of post-mortem of this afternoon's epic Paul vs Paul Bloomberg TV cage-match, we reflect on the various headlines the two gentlemen made during the event and in the context of the credibility with which one of the gentlemen discusses his ability to manage the world and the 'ease' with which he and his henchmen can control inflation (and yet an unmanaged economy is subject to 'extreme volatility'), we remind readers of the post-WWII years and the extreme swings in purchasing power that their so-called managed economy created. As ever it appears the mutually-assured-destruction fall-back premise of Keynesian Krugman is trumped by the fact-based method of the more Pragmatic Paul.
- *KRUGMAN SAYS UNMANAGED ECONOMY SUBJECT TO "EXTREME VOLATILITY"
- *PAUL SAYS FED IS LENDER OF LAST RESORT FOR POLITICIANS
- *KRUGMAN SAYS U.S. ECONOMY IS "PERSISTENTLY DEPRESSED"
- *RON PAUL: FED HAS DESTROYED 98% OF DOLLAR'S VALUE SINCE 1913
Stock World Weekly visits w/ Mark Hanna, Washington's Blog, Allan Trends, Lee Adler and Pharmboy.
Way back in 2009, we remember fielding all manner of questions from people wanting to invest in gold, having seen it spike from its turn-of-the-millennium slump, and worried about the state of the wider financial economy. A whole swathe of those were from people wanting to invest in exchange traded funds (ETFs). John Aziz always and without exception slammed the notion of a gold ETF as being outstandingly awful, and solely for investors who didn’t really understand the modern case for gold — those who believed that gold was a 'commodity' with the potential to 'do well' in the coming years. People who wanted to push dollars in, and get more dollars out some years later. 2009 was the year when gold ETFs really broke into the mass consciousness. Yet by 2011 the market had collapsed: people were buying much, much larger quantities of physical bullion and coins, but the popularity of ETFs had greatly slumped. This is even clearer when the ETF market is expressed as a percentage of the physical market. So what does this say about gold now? Especially as Zhang Jianhua of the PBoC noted "No asset is safe now. The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency — gold."
Krugmann fails to address even a single one of the arguments forwarded by Spitznagel. This is no surprise, as he has often demonstrated he does not even understand the arguments of the Austrians and moreover has frequently shown that his style of debate consists largely of attempts to knock down straw men. After appraising us of his economic ignorance (see the idea that time preferences can actually 'go negative' implied by his argument on the natural interest rate above), he finally closes a truly Orwellian screed by claiming that everybody who is critical of the Fed and the financial elite is guilty of being 'Orwellian'. As we often say, you really couldn't make this up.
Recall what we said less than an hour ago: "what will most likely happen is a print in the mid to upper 380,000s, while last week's number will be revised to a 390K+ print, allowing the media to once again declare that the number was an improvement week over week. In other words, SSDD." SSDD it is: last week's 386K number was revised to 389K, meaning the massive miss relative to expectations of 370K last week just got even worse. This is the 10th week in a row of misses to the weaker side and the 16th of the last 18. And while this week's miss was whopping as usual, with expectations of 375K being soundly missed after the print came at 388K on its way back to 400K, the media can sleep soundly because the absolute lack of BLS propaganda means that the sequential progression is one of, you got it, improvement. In other words here is what the headlines in the Mainstream Media will be: "Initial claims improve over prior week." In fact here it is from Bloomberg: "U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Fell 1,000 to 388,000 Last Week." Absolutely brilliant.No propaganda. No data fudging. No manipulation at all. Just endless laughter at the desperation.
Modern investing offers the promise that investors who "do their homework" and use data more intelligently than the herd can gain a valuable edge. But what if the underlying data available to the investing public is fundamentally flawed?
It's easy to expand the money supply and difficult to expand the actual production of real goods in the real world. Expanding the money supply and issuing debt that lacks collateral is just like printing quatloos on the desert island: you can print a million quatloos but that doesn't create a single additional coconut. If you print enough quatloos, then people will no longer accept them in exchange for coconuts. You will actually need a real coconut to exchange for fish. This is why Greek towns are reportedly reverting to barter, the exchange of real goods for other real goods. We can anticipate that silver and gold will soon enter the barter as means of exchange that can't be counterfeited or printed by wise-guys (central bankers).This is what happens when abstract representations, i.e. "money," vanish into thin air. Alternative systems of exchanging goods and services arise: actual goods are exchanged via barter, tangible concentrations of value that cannot be counterfeited such as gold and silver are used as a means of exchange, letters of credit or equivalent are traded and settled with tangible goods or gold/silver, and eventually, a means of exchange ("money") that is backed by tangible goods in the real world that can be trusted to actually represent the value being traded might enter the market. That which is phantom will vanish into thin air, while the real goods and services remain to be traded in the real world.
One scene from the movie Titanic depicts a lounge in one of the upper class quarters of the ship as it slowly sinks beneath the waves. Notwithstanding the vessel listing alarmingly, a motley band of toff revelers are determined to go out in the finest style. Some continue to play at cards with a fatalistic resolve while others determinedly quaff spirits direct from the bottle. Having considered for some time the most appropriate metaphor for the current market environment, we think this may be it: one may be doomed, but one can still party on. Having already hit the iceberg, one major problem we see is the common perspective for both investors and the asset management industry to view debt and equity as the entire universe of investor choices available. Having long exhausted the armory of conventional policies to keep the unsustainably indebted show on the road, increasingly desperate politicians are doing increasingly desperate things, be that gifting money to the IMF in a brazen display of fiscal denial that we can ill afford (US, UK) or simply stealing from other sovereigns (Argentina). The ironic triumph of the Keynesians means that, in trying to save the economy, our central bank may end up destroying it completely by means of the printing press; as a consequence, we now get to experience some of the full-on horror of the Japanese malaise.
Krugman Rebutts (sic) Spitznagel, Says Bankers Are "The True Victims Of QE", Princeton-Grade Hilarity EnsuesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/21/2012 14:54 -0500
At first we were going to comment on this "response" by the high priest of Keynesian shamanic tautology to Mark Spitznagel's latest WSJ opinion piece, but then we just started laughing, and kept on laughing, and kept on laughing...
Just a little snippet. Geert Wilders has walked away from the negotiations this afternoon. It may be about a purchasing power reduction for the lowest income class of one percent. This is what the rich fumblers at the CPB have calculated and is considered quite reasonable by some. Of course, the CPB has been wrong on occasion. The SP would like to see elections as quickly as possible, while the PvdA would like to have a debate in the house. Updates posted here as I have the time to add them.
Four time Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles: "As long as the Federal Reserve is required to buy government securities at the will of the market for the purpose of defending a fixed pattern of interest rates established by the Treasury, it must stand ready to create new bank reserves in unlimited amount. This policy makes the entire banking system, through the action of the Federal Reserve System, an engine of inflation. (U.S. Congress 1951, p. 158)... [We are making] it possible for the public to convert Government securities into money to expand the money supply....We are almost solely responsible for this inflation. It is not deficit financing that is responsible because there has been surplus in the Treasury right along; the whole question of having rationing and price controls is due to the fact that we have this monetary inflation, and this committee is the only agency in existence that can curb and stop the growth of money.. . . [W]e should tell the Treasury, the President, and the Congress these facts, and do something about it....We have not only the power but the responsibility....If Congress does not like what we are doing, then they can change the rules. (FOMC Minutes, 2/6/51, pp. 50–51)"
On April 16, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced that her Argentine government would expropriate and re-nationalize YPF, an energy company operating mostly in Argentina founded by its government in the 1920s and de-nationalized in the 1990s. Repsol, a Spanish company that owns (owned) 57% of YPF called the act “illegal and unjustified” and vowed to sue. As Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance of QBAMCO note, in times past such expropriation would surely be an act of war. FdeK’s timing was brilliant, to re-nationalize the Spanish-controlled energy company when Spain’s economy and funding are teetering means the Spanish government and businesses domiciled there lack the clout to make demands of Euro confederates. The political calculus among leaders of sovereign governments reduces to short-term domestic political benefits vs. threats of economic or military retaliation but with regard to natural resources, the QBAMCO pair critically note, the bigger implication that it is sovereign vs sovereign as the paper bets representing global production and resources that we call “capital markets” is in jeopardy of becoming a sideshow. Baseless paper money, fractional banking, revenue shuffling, financial returns, ever-increasing debts, unwarranted confidence building, nominal output growth and politicians posing as policy makers cannot sustain the most basic needs of societies.
All morning we have been blasted with 2011 deja vu stories how the IMF panhandling effort has finally succeeded, and how Lagarde's Louis Vuitton bag is now full to the brim with $400 billion in fresh crisp US Dollars bills courtesy of BRIC nations, and other countries such as South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Japan (adding $60 billion to its total debt of Y1 quadrillion - at that point who counts) and, uhh, Poland. From Reuters: "The Group of 20 nations on Friday were poised to commit at least $400 billion to bulk up the International Monetary Fund's war chest to fight any widening of Europe's debt crisis." We say deja vu because it is a carbon copy of headlines from EcoFin meetings from the fall of 2011 in which we were "assured", "guaranteed" and presented other lies that the EFSF would surpass $1 trillion, even $1.5 trillion on occasion, any minute now. Alas, that never happened, and while we are eagerly waiting to find out just what the contribution of Argentina will be to bail out Spanish banks (just so it can expropriate even more assets from the country that rhymes with Pain), we have one simple question: does the I in the IMF stand for Idiots? Why? Because this is merely yet another example of forced capital misallocation, only this time at a global scale.
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released a new report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as Food Stamps) earlier this week with some fresh data on the program. Given our earlier note on Mr.EBT, we thought the following brief clip from Bloomberg TV on the $82bn-per-year program would provide some rather shockingly sad insights and then Nic Colas' recent focus on the SNAP report provides some much more in depth color. First and foremost, there are 46.5 million Americans in the program as of the most recent information available (January 2012), comprising 22.2 million households. That’s 15% of the entire population, and just over 20% of all households. Moreover, despite the end of the official “Great Recession” in June 2009, over 10 million more Americans have been accepted into the program since that month, and the year-over-year growth rate for the program is still +5%. The USDA’s report is, not surprisingly, very upbeat on the utility of the program. Fair enough. But what does it mean when 20% of all households cannot afford to buy the food they need for their families? To our thinking, it highlights an underappreciated new facet of American economic life – one that will be felt everywhere from the ballot box to the upcoming Federal Deficit debates.