Purchasing Power

Voices Grow Louder To End The US Dollar's Reserve Status

When no lesser establishmentarian than Obama's former chief economist Jared Bernstein called for an end to the US Dollar's reserve status, it raised a few eyebrows, but as the WSJ recently noted, the voices discussing how the burden of being the world's reserve currency harms America, more than just Vladimir Putin is paying attention. While some argue that “no other global currency is ready to replace the U.S. dollar.” That is true of other paper and credit currencies, but the world’s monetary authorities still hold nearly 900 million ounces of gold, which is enough to restore, at the appropriate parity, the classical gold standard: the least imperfect monetary system of history.

Oh, Portugal!!

It has been centuries since the Portuguese last dominated the world's seaways, but in glancing over recent headlines one would be forgiven for thinking that their pirates are still running around. With the economy still reeling from the effects of the devastating financial crisis in 2010-11, Portugal has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals which go to the very core of the political and financial establishments. Portugal's economic divergence relative to Europe’s core is striking; it has even been overtaken by an average of the newcomers that joined the European Union in 2004, many of which are former communist countries. This in spite of Portugal receiving billions in structural reform funds from Brussels for almost three decades now – a process which is still ongoing. So how did this significant underperformance come about?

ECB Inflation Expectations Crash; Slashed By Half In Just 9 Months

Back in March the ECB predicted 2014 inflation would be 1.0%, with prices rising to 1.3% in 2015. Since then one can say that deflation has once again taken hold, and following two consecutive cuts to 2014 inflation expectations, moments ago Draghi just released the ECB's latest set of inflation expectations. In a nutshell: in just 9 short months, the ECB's current year inflation forecast has been cut in half, with 2015 inflation also down nearly 50%, from 1.3% to 0.7%.

"I Am A Hard-Working Taxpayer Who Is Getting Pretty Fed Up..."

“... I am a hard working taxpayer who is getting pretty fed up with having my savings earning no interest and possibly being devalued (see Japan) and of not being able to find any sensible place to invest my hard earned due to central bank policies making it impossible to make any return anywhere without taking crazy risks.”

"When a social construct (gold as money) survives for 6,000 years I would expect curious people to inquire as to whether it is tied to some immutable underlying law... [instead], our court economists prefer to write this off as a 6,000 year old delusion. That says a lot about the sorry state of the economics discipline today.”

'We Are Entering A New Oil Normal"

The precipitous decline in the price of oil is perhaps one of the most bearish macro developments this year. We believe we are entering a “new oil normal,” where oil prices stay lower for longer. While we highlighted the risk of a near-term decline in the oil price in our July newsletter, we failed to adjust our portfolio sufficiently to reflect such a scenario. This month we identify the major implications of our revised energy thesis.  The reason oil prices started sliding in June can be explained by record growth in US production, sputtering demand from Europe and China, and an unwind of the Middle East geopolitical risk premium. The world oil market, which consumes 92 million barrels a day, currently has one million barrels more than it needs.... Large energy companies are sitting on a great deal of cash which cushions the blow from a weak pricing environment in the short-term. It is still important to keep in mind, however, that most big oil projects have been planned around the notion that oil would stay above $100, which no longer seems likely.

"Panicking" Ukrainians Face Soaring Prices, Warn "Inflation Is War"

With Ukraine, according to President Poroshenko, on the verge of World War III, it appears the people of the divided nation face another all too familiar war... on their living standards. As Hyrvnia continues to collapse to record-er lows, Ukraine's Central Bank warns of further stress and FX (think USDollar or EUR) demand because the "population is in panic." With a 19.8% inflation rate last month and a 48% devaluation in the currency this year, Bloomberg reports the costs of imported goods from gasoline to fruit and from medicine to meat is soaring. One store-owner reflected that she "feels the hryvnia devaluation everywhere," and another noted "I can't imagine how people survive on a single pension. We can’t even go to the drug store. We try to use herbs instead." The Central bank expects inflation to keep rising (having previously peaked at 10,256% in 1993 as the Soviet economy was dismantled). "Inflation is the same as the war," warns one analyst, "it may lead to protests if people blame the authorities for failing to conduct proper policies."

Thankful For Inflation? Turkey Day Dinner Is Up 6,000% Since 1909

While not hyperinflating, the slow and insidious diminishment of the fiat US Dollar's purchasing power (and thus the living standards of lower- and middle-class Americans - who are not balls deep invested in the US stock 'market') is nowhere more evident than in the soaring costs of Thanksgiving Day dinner during the Fed's 100 year reign...

The Swiss Referendum On Gold: What's Missing From The Debate

A “YES” vote for the gold referendum is a first step towards redressing the imbalance that exists between the SNB and the people of Switzerland. A “YES” vote will begin a process to restore restraint, accountability, and transparency on an institution that took advantage of the removal of its previous gold holding constraint already once before to explode its balance sheet, reinvent itself as a hedge fund, and significantly expand into areas of policy far beyond its original remit. Central banks should be lenders of last resort and systemic regulators. In a direct democracy, decisions regarding taxation, membership in trade / political unions, and the autonomy of the national currency should be determined by popular vote not decreed or circumvented by central bank edict.