"Supercommittee That Runs America" Urges End To The "Zero Bound", Demands Issuance Of Negative Yield BondsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/01/2012 10:40 -0400
One of the laments of the uberdoves in the world over the past several years has naturally been the fact that interest rates are bound by Zero on the lower side, and that the lowest possible rate on new paper is, by definition, 0.000%. Which is what led to the advent of QE in the first place: in lieu of negative rates, the Fed was forced to actively purchase securities to catch up to a negative Taylor implied rate. This may be about to change, because as the just released letter from the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, or as we affectionately called the JPMorgan/ Goldman Sachs Chaired committee, the "Supercommittee That Runs America", simply because it alone makes up Tim Geithner's mind on what America needs to do funding wise, demand, "It was broadly agreed that flooring interest rates at zero, or capping issuance proceeds at par, was prohibiting proper market function. The Committee unanimously recommended that the Treasury Department allow for negative yield auction results as soon as logistically practical." And what JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs want, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs get. And once we get the green light on negative yields at auction, next up will be the push for the Fed to impose negative rates on all standing securities, which means that coming soon savers will be literally paying to hold cash. And that will be the final straw.
The headlines are crowing of the magnificent CAT earnings (channel stuffing?) which in turn is helping the Dow reach its highest point since May 2008 (CAT is responsible for 27 of the Dow's 30 point gain today alone). This must be the signal that we-the-consuming-people need to borrow-and-spend again right? Well, no. Unfortunately, as many already know, the process of indexing is implicitly flawed in many ways - most importantly survivorship bias. If we compare the performance of the components of the Dow at the start of 2008 to the actual Dow index performance, there is a very significant divergence of around 7% (or around 900 points). This is actually understating the difference (as it is an average) as we note that 5 of the 30 names from 2008 have lost more than 70% of their value (GM, AIG, C, BAC, and AA) since January 2008 (averaging -88% among those). Three names have risen by more than 70% (MCD, HD, and IBM - thank you Warren) as 18 of the 2008 Dow 30 names are lower (on average -36.5%) with the remaining 12 Dow 2008 names up on average 33%. What is worse is the realization of the dramatic loss in real purchasing power as Gold has risen by more than 100% since the start of January 2008 as the Fed continues to realize it can abuse the lemming-like focus on nominal returns.
Scared by PM Volatility? Identify Severe Undervaluation Points in Gold & Silver v. Trying to Call Perfect BottomsSubmitted by smartknowledgeu on 01/26/2012 06:39 -0400
For a new investor in gold and silver, here is the most lucid piece of advice I can offer. Identifying severe undervaluation points in gold and silver, buying gold and silver assets during these times, and not worrying about interim short-term volatility, even if the immediate volatility is downward, is much more likely to impact your accumulation of wealth in a positive manner than trying to perfectly time market tops and bottoms in the highly manipulated gold and silver game.
If we learn nothing, then we deserve to lose. This is not a popular concept in America at this point in its history, when monumental errors are denied, excused, rationalized or quickly absolved by those who committed them. As a small-fry investor, when I veer away from my discipline and system, I predictably lose money. As I sift the ashes of the trade, I always remind myself: if I learn nothing from my studies and experience, then I deserve to lose. What exactly has America learned since January 1, 1999, 13 years that included two stupendous financial/credit bubbles, two hot wars and an explosion in public and private debt? If we examine the policy changes and institutional changes since the 2008 global financial meltdown, then we have to conclude that we've learned a very few things...
For an update on the sad state of the hedge fund industry, we go to the FT which confirms what we had been reporting every week in 2011 courtesy of the periodic HSBC hedge fund industry report, namely that less than one third of all hedge funds in 2011 paid material bonuses to their employees (or if they did, they better have done it without the knowledge of their LPs), because "more than two-thirds of hedge funds are below their high water mark., the point at which they are able to charge investors performance fees." And since performance fees, or the 20 in the "2 and 20 part", is where the discretionary component of analyst, trader and PM compensation comes from, it is safe to say that the bulk of hedgies did not have a good year in 2011. And, in fact, for many the anger goes far back: "It can be a long way back. Credit Suisse calculates that 13 per cent of hedge funds have not earned any incentive fees since at least 2007. Most of these are small funds with assets of less than $100m, which struggle to retain staff without the income available from performance fees." One such fund was of course Citadel which after its abysmal performance in 2008 only managed to climb above its high water mark in the past week for the first time since 2007. And while this is not really news, what is far more curious is that according to Credit Suisse hedge funds have resumed levering once again.
The only thing that is as consistent as Marc Faber's message to get out of government bonds ahead of a bout of global hyperinflation which will arrive once the vicious cycle of printing to pay interest finally dawns (which in turn would happen once central planners lose control of an artificially created situation, which by definition, always eventually happens), is the passion with which he repeats it over... and over... and over, like a man possessed, if ultimately 100% correct. In an interview with Bloomberg's Sara Eisen and Erik Schatzker this morning, he does what he does best - cuts to the chase: "if you think it through and you are as bearish as I am, and you think the whole financial system will one day collapse, we don't know if in 3 years, or 5 years, or 10 years, but one day there will be a reset, and everything will be essentially started anew, then you are better off in equities than in government bonds, because a lot of government bonds will either default or they will have to print so much money that the purchasing power of money will depreciate very rapidly." When asked if he feels uncomfortable predicting a calamity in bonds again, as he did back 2009, Faber is laconically empathic: "it is true that last year the 30 year bond returned 30%, and i owe David Rosenberg a bottle of whiskey" but analogizes: "from August 1999 to March 2000, the Nasdaq doubled, but at no time in that timeframe was it a good buy. And after it people lost a lot of money. We have now a symptom of monetary inflation and this is record corporate profits, and the second symptoms is essentially a bubble in high quality bonds: people seem so insecure and so much worried, they would rather be in a US bond with no yield, than in bonds that may not repay me, or in equities that may drop 30%. But it does not make them a good buy longer term." Yep: only Faber can get away with calling the bond market the second coming of the Nasdaq bubble and look cool doing it.
Mario Draghi once again mistakes a Solvency issue for one of Liquidity
Demand in Asia continues to be strong. China remains the world’s largest producer of mined gold. Premiums for gold bullion bars in Asia are rising again and are at their highest since October in Hong Kong and Singapore. Premiums are at $2.15/oz in Hong Kong and $1.65/oz in Singapore. Bullion’s strength was also attributed to the euro’s 16 month low, with Fitch warning the ECB to purchase assets to try to stabilize the euro. Spot gold was up 0.6 percent at $1,650.34 an ounce at 1009 GMT, having earlier touched a one-month high at $1,652.30. U.S. gold futures for February delivery were up $12.60 an ounce at $1,652.20. A stronger rupee has boosted the purchasing power of gold bullion consumers in India. This is in the run up for the Indian Wedding Season which resumes January 15th and continues until April, leaving a few weeks break for a period that is considered bad luck for nuptials. Chinese demand will weaken next week as many factories and businesses are set to close for the Lunar New Year’s celebrations.
One of the recurring analogues we have used in the past to describe the centrally planned farce that capital markets have become and the global economy in general has been one of a increasingly chaotic sine wave with ever greater amplitude and ever higher frequency (shorter wavelength). By definition, the greater the central intervention, the bigger the dampening or promoting effect, as central banks attempt to mute or enhance a given wave leg. As a result, each oscillation becomes ever more acute, ever more chaotic, and increasingly more unpredictable. And with "Austrian" analytics becoming increasingly dominant, i.e., how much money on the margin is entering or leaving the closed monetary system at any given moment, the same analysis can be drawn out to the primary driver of virtually everything: the inflation-vs-deflation debate. This in turn is why we are increasingly convinced that as the system gets caught in an ever more rapid round trip scramble peak deflation to peak inflation (and vice versa) so the ever more desperate central planners will have no choice but to ultimately throw the kitchen sink at the massive deflationary problem - because after all it is their prerogative to spur inflation, and will do as at any cost - a process which will culminate with the only possible outcome: terminal currency debasement as the Chaotic monetary swings finally become uncontrollable. Ironically, the reason why bring this up is an essay by Pimco's Neel Kashkari titled simply enough: "Chaos Theory" which looks at unfolding events precisely in the very same light, and whose observations we agree with entirely. Furthermore, since he lays it out more coherently, we present it in its entirety below. His conclusion, especially as pertains to the ubiquitous inflation-deflation debate however, is worth nothing upfront: "I believe societies will in the end choose inflation because it is the less painful option for the largest number of its citizens. I am hopeful central banks will be effective in preventing runaway inflation. But it is going to be a long, bumpy journey until the destination becomes clear. This equity market is best for long-term investors who can withstand extended volatility. Day traders beware: chaos is here to stay for the foreseeable future." Unfortunately, we are far less optimistic that the very same central bankers who have blundered in virtually everything, will succeed this one time. But, for the sake of the status quo, one can hope...
Australia is the sixth-largest country (2.9m square miles) on earth, just a tad smaller than the contiguous United States (3.1m). They are a little short on people (22.8m), which comes handy, since they dig up their entire country and sell the dirt to China. Australia has a remarkably low government dept-to-GDP ratio (29% ), low unemployment (5.2%), a moderate budget deficit (3.4% of GDP) and moderate inflation. However, Australia has been running current account deficits of up to 6% of GDP for more than 50 years. The “mates”, until recently, didn’t like to save, hence most investment has to be financed by borrowing from foreigners. I was curious as to how much of the success was due to exporting dirt to China. From the Australian Bureau of Statistics you get the following data about their top-10 export markets (accounting for 82% of all exports)...
While Americans were purchasing stuff they don't need with money they don't have to impress people they don't like in the holiday week (but making sure to keep those tags off - you don't get record gift returns if you damage the product or rip the tags off), it appears they did so by walking everywhere. Either that or when it comes to determining real consumer purchasing power, the real answer lies at the pump. According to MasterCard, U.S. gasoline demand sank 14 percent from the prior week to the lowest level in more than seven years of records, as reported by Bloomberg. "Drivers bought 8.16 million barrels a day of gasoline in the week ended Dec. 30, down from 9.46 million the week before, according to MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report. MasterCard’s data goes back to July 2004." So we have just had the lowest gas demand week on record, and that's with gas still at relatively low prices considering what has happened with WTI. One wonders what will happen to end demand when prices finally trickle through. Or perhaps this is all just the central planners' insidious plan to get everyone in America to buy Government Motors magically exploding electrical fire hazard bumper cars? The people demand to know.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the Japanese experience with deleveraging over the past few decades it’s that deleveraging cycles have there own special rhythm of reflationary and deflationary interludes. Pretty simple thinking as balance sheet deleveraging by definition cannot be a short term process given the prior decades required to build up the leverage accumulated in any economic/financial system. If deleveraging were a short term process, it would play out as a massive short term depression. And clearly any central bank would act to disallow such an outcome, exactly has been the case not only in Japan over the last few decades, but now also in the US and the Eurozone. We just need to remember that this is a dance. There is an ebb and flow to the greater (generational) deleveraging cycle. Just as leveraging up was not a linear process, neither will the process of deleveraging be linear. Why bring this larger picture cycle rhythm up right now? The recent price volatility we’ve seen in assets that can be characterized as offering purchasing power protection within the context of a global central banking community debasing currencies as their preferred method of reflation for now, specifically recent the price volatility of gold.
2011 was an abysmal year for the global insurance industry, which had to cover yet another enormous increase in damages from natural disasters. Unknown to most casual observers is the fact that during the past few decades the frequency of weather-related disasters (floods, fires, storms) has been growing at a much faster pace than geological disasters (such as earthquakes). This spread between the two types of insurable losses has moved so strongly that it prompted Munich Re to note in a late 2010 letter that weather-related disasters due to wind have doubled and flooding events have tripled in frequency since 1980. The world now has to contend with a much higher degree of risk from weather and climate volatility, and this has broad-reaching implications. And critically, it has a particular impact on food.
Until now, the crisis has touched mostly the financial world. But in 2012, it will hit the real economy.
Last week the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England announced plans to tighten the control over the balance sheet management and the risk-taking of private banks. This is just the beginning, believe me. The nationalization of money and credit will intensify in 2012 and beyond. More regulation, more restriction, more control. Not only in defence of the bankrupt banks but also the bankrupt state. We will see curbs on trading, short-selling restrictions and various forms of capital controls. A system of state fiat money is incompatible with capitalism. As the end of the present fiat money system is fast approaching the political class and the policy bureaucracy will try and defend it with everything at their disposal. For the foreseeable future, capitalism will, sadly, be the loser. The conclusion from everything we have seen in 2011 is unquestionably that the global monetary system is on thin ice. Whether the house of cards will come tumbling down in 2012 nobody can say. When concerns about the fundability of the state and the soundness of fiat money, fully justified albeit still strangely subdued, finally lead to demands for higher risk premiums, upward pressure on interest rates will build. This will threaten the overextended credit edifice and will probably be countered with more aggressive central bank intervention. That is when it will get really interesting. We live in dangerous times. Stay safe and enjoy the holidays. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.