Quick: which BRIC nation has the highest consumer loan default rate?
If you said China, India or Russia, you are wrong. Actually, if you said China you are probably right, but since absolutely all economic "data" in China is worthless, manipulated propaganda, only a retrospective post-mortem after the Chinese credit, housing, commodity, consumption bubbles have all burst will we know the answer. So excluding China, which country's consumers after a multi-year shopping spree funded entirely on credit, are suddenly suffering the epic hangover of soaring non-performing loans as they suddenly find themselves unable to even pay the interest on the debt? Just ask former billionaire Eike Batista whose OGX oil corporation is days away from filing bankruptcy. The answer, with 5.6% of all loans in default, above Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and India, is Brazil.
"You don't need me to tell you that the developed countries, the US, Europe, Japan, are insolvent.... I don't want to paint a picture of clarity about the workout of this thing. Because once a society, a financial system gets in a position of the central bank being trapped, and being unwilling or frightened of stopping this merry go round, things get very dicey. They may move to stopping the money printing, markets collapse, then they panic, go the other way... We are in a period where confidence should be jostled and it could be lost at any time for a variety of reasons, how this works out nobody knows.... There is one right thing to do right now: after five years of 0% interest rates, after $3.5 trillion here and several trillion sprinkled around the globe, this Fed chairman, the next Fed chairman, should say: "We've done enough. It is up to the president and Congress to remove the impediments for growth and provide the catalysts for growth, and help this country grow. The country is capable of growing at a far faster rate than it has been. And I think that the Fed, which is the only central bank which has a dual mandate, has embraced this dual mandate in a very harmful way because they actually revel in the role of being Atlas, holding up the world by themselves."
We strongly suspect that both government debt growth and money supply inflation will continue unabated – any pause will immediately bring about the kind of short term economic pain these policies have explicitly sought to prevent and will therefore be quickly reversed. It is not unlike the situation the revolutionary assembly of France found itself in during the late 18th century: when it issued new money, industry seemed to revive. As soon as it stopped, industry slumped again. And so it was decided to issue ever more money, until the entire scheme blew up. There can be little doubt that modern-day governments are on the road to a similar date with destiny – and lately the speed at which they travel toward it has increased markedly.
There is a profound disconnect between the Higher Education cartel and the economy and what higher education should cost in a world where information, instruction, and knowledge have fallen to the cost of bandwidth; i.e., near zero. What was once costly and scarce (knowledge and instruction) is now nearly free and abundant, readily available on any digital device anywhere in the world with a connection to the Web. There is no need to concentrate students in a campus with a library; every web-connected digital device is a library and university combined. The Higher Education cartel is perfectly happy to encourage degree inflation (at enormous expense, of course), but this zeal for issuing student-loan-funded diplomas fails to address two structural disparities: the one between the skills needed to prosper in the emerging economy and the skills colleges are providing students, and the widening income/wealth/education gap between the wealthy and the non-wealthy.
From Cascading Complexity To Systemic Collapse: A Walk Thru "Society's Equivalent Of A Heart Attack"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/05/2013 22:59 -0500
"The commonalities of global integration mean that diverse hazards may lead to common shock consequences. The systems that transmit shocks are also the systems we depend upon for our welfare and the operation of businesses, institutions and society... One of the primary consequences of a generic shock is an interruption in the flow of goods and services in the economy. This has diverse and profound implications - including food security crises’, business shut-downs, critical infrastructure risks and social crises... More generally it can entail multi-network and delocalised cascading failure leading to a collapse in societal complexity.... This is a complex society’s equivalent of a heart attack. When a person has a heart attack, there is a brief period during which CPR can revive the person. But beyond a certain point when there has been cascading failure in co-dependent life support systems, the person cannot be revived. The extent of our contemporary complex global system dependencies, and our habituation to a long period of broadly stable economic and complexity growth means a systemic collapse would present profound and existential challenges."
This chart from Citi's Matt King pretty much sums it up.
The financial crisis of 2008 killed a lot of things. It killed the line of credit, it killed the finances of millions of people around the world, it ousted governments and relegated leaders to the back offices and it was the kiss of death to a failed system and brought down entire states.
There may be temporary 'benefits in terms of employment gains' if the Fed creates an even more gigantic echo bubble than it has already done. We are willing to grant that much. The Fed apparently believes these days that there should be no limits whatsoever to the Fed's monetary pumping. 'Inflation' targets? Forget about it! Asset bubbles? Who cares! It is as if the past 20 years had not happened – as if they had simply erased the whole period from his memory. Do they really believe that pumping up another giant bubble will have more benefits than drawbacks? Where does it all end? However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there cannot be an 'eternal boom' by simply continuing to print, as once envisaged by Keynes. All that will happen is that the ultimate disaster will be even greater. In fact, is seems ever more likely that the next disaster will be the last one of the current monetary system.
Fingers of Instability
Last night Japan reported August CPI/inflation news that at least on the surface were astoundingly good: at 0.8%, the core CPI (excluding fresh irradiated food) was more than expected and higher than July's 0.7%. And yet, even the most absurdly clueless economist is silent this morning in their praise of Abenomics, which supposedly has succeeded in its one goal - bringing sexy inflation back. Why? Perhaps the reason is that whereas Keynesian inflation in which prices and wages are broadly if modestly rising as a result of a properly functioning monetary system, is indeed just what the Doctor of modern economics ordered, soaring input costs driven by FX differentials and current account flows, "offset" by plunging wages is precisely the opposite of what Abenomics was supposed to be. Which is exactly what is going on in Japan.
Being bullish on the market in the short term is fine... The expansion of the Fed's balance sheet will continue to push stocks higher as long as no other crisis presents itself. However, the problem is that a crisis, which is 'always' unexpected, inevitably will trigger a reversion back to the fundamentals. The market will eventually correct as it always does - it is part of the market cycle. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is 'no bubble' in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control.
On Wednesday last the Fed surprised most people by deciding not to taper. What is not generally appreciated is that once a central bank starts to use monetary expansion as a cure-all it is extremely difficult for it to stop. This is the basic reason the Fed has not pursued the idea, and why it most probably never will. Fiat Money Quantity is now hyper-inflating. It currently requires a $3.6 trillion contraction of deposits to return this measure of currency quantity back to trend. This accurately sums up the problem facing the Fed. We must understand they are in an almost impossible position that dates back to their monetary response to the banking crisis. Not even Paul Volcker could have got us out of this one. Once the addiction to weak money hits this pace there is no solution without threatening to bring down the whole system.
Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, Italy’s GDP has declined by about 8%, nearly a million workers have lost their jobs, and real wages have come under increasing pressure. The most striking aspect of Italy’s recent turmoil is what has not happened: citizens have not poured into the streets demanding reform. Indeed, throughout the crisis, Italian society has remained uncharacteristically stable. Japan’s experience – characterized by more than 20 years of economic stagnation – offers important lessons for crisis-stricken democratic countries with aging populations. During Japan’s “lost decades,” successive Japanese governments allowed public debt to skyrocket and refused to confront the economy’s deep-rooted problems, allowing sclerosis to take hold. In fact, Japan’s leaders had little incentive to pursue bold reform, because voters consistently failed to demand it. The question now is what kind of shock would be required to motivate Italians to demand similar action.
The last two years have been disappointing for gold investors and what happened this week to the yellow metal epitomized the frustrating price movement. Yet the case for investing in gold does not depend on the market’s reaction to the Fed’s latest doings. For the investor, whether or not to buy gold necessarily entails forming a judgement about the larger and more enduring forces that impinge on its price. Is our politico-economic system, in other words, congenitally disposed to the cheapening of the currency? Those who invest in gold basically answer yes. And they have very solid grounds for that stance. Over the past forty two years, one would have been better off holding what Keynes called the barbarous relic than what are commonly described as the safest securities in the world. Unless there is a tectonic change in our politico-economic structure - such as a return to a hard money standard - it’s hard to see how this will change.