There are two characteristics of a currency that make it useful in international trade: one, it is issued by a large trading nation itself, and, two, the currency holds its value vis-à-vis other commodities over time. These two factors create a demand for holding a currency in reserve. Of course, psychological factors entered the demand for dollars, too, since the US was seen as the military protector of all the Western nations against the communist countries for much of the post-war period. Today we are seeing the beginnings of a change. The Fed has been inflating the dollar massively, reducing its purchasing power in relation to other commodities, causing many of the world’s great trading nations to use other monies upon occasion. President Obama’s imminent appointment of career bureaucrat Janet Yellen as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is evidence that the US policy of continuing to cheapen the dollar via Quantitative Easing will continue. As we noted before, nothing lasts forever... (especially in light of China's earlier comments)
Big picture and dispassionate discussion.
Yesterday millions of "shoppers" living on the government dole left their shopping carts in droves in checkout counters, exited countless foodstamp-accepting stores, and made Wal-Marts and other general merchandise stores into veritable ghost towns, after a power outage at Xerox Corp, made EBT usage in 17 states for most of Saturday impossible, and left tens of millions of poverty-level Americans unable to engage in one of their favorite pastimes: shop with other people's money. In short: the Walfare States of America were probably closer to a state of outright revolution than at any time before in history. And had the EBT stoppage continues into today, things would have certainly spilled out from the shopping aisle to main streets where the people's anger may have culminated in an violent expression of disgust at a state which gives with one hand and a xerox company that takes with the other.
The popular take on the current debt ceiling stand-off is that the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has a delusional belief that it can hit the brakes on new debt creation without bringing on an economic catastrophe. While Republicans are indeed kidding themselves if they believe that their actions will not unleash deep economic turmoil, there are much deeper and more significant delusions on the other side of the aisle. Democrats, and the President in particular, believe that continually taking on more debt to pay existing debt is a more responsible course of action. Even worse, they appear to believe that debt accumulation is the equivalent of economic growth.
The Fed's Broken Piping In One Chart: JPM "Purchasing Dry Powder" Rises To All Time High $550 BilllionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/11/2013 11:54 -0500
As of the most recent data, which saw JPM's deposit holdings surge by the most ever (except of course for the inorganic "acquisition" of WaMu in Q3 2008) or $78 billion in just one quarter, while loans continued to be flat, we now knows that JPM had marginable power to chase risk higher to the tune of $552 billion, an all time record in excess deposits over loans!
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