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.
Earlier this week, we followed up the CBO’s publication of its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook with a chart that we believe should have been included. But what would Rick Santelli say? Only Rick would think to mix our debt projections with cheeseburgers and a magnifying glass. Here’s his entertaining "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a cheeseburger today" take on our chart...
David Asman: What happens now? If it’s Yellin she'll be like Bernanke on steroids. What does that mean for our economy?
Dr Paul: Prepare for the destruction of the dollar and the crash of the bond market one day. The bond bubble is weakening although the interest rates have doubled in the last year.
Schizophrenic Bank Of India Stuns World With Inflation-Fighting Rate Hike, While Pursuing More Liquidity Boosting PoliciesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2013 06:55 -0500
Global central bankers really need to work on their "clear" communication skills: first, the Fed shocked everyone by not tapering on Wednesday, and now, in his first decision since taking over the reins of the Reserve Bank of India, its new head Raghuram Rajan, stunned the world even more, and all 36 analysts who predicted an unchanged decision by the central bank, with the first hike of the country's repurchase rate since 2011, by 25 bps to 7.5% in an attempt to rein in inflation. And just to keep the confusion to a maximum, the RBI also piled on the stunners by concurrently pursuing various other policies that contradicted the repo rate hike, and directly seek to inject even more liquidity into the market, thus offsetting any inflation-battling measures.
There are very few people that actually give even one hoot and even fewer that could give two of them when it comes to poverty of people that are living in society alongside us.
There is one good thing about money, apart from the fact that there is a race to grab it and keep in in our claws making it highly in demand, and that’s the fact that wealth attracts wealth. Money is a dirty little magnate that can only attract more money and it’s not a question of opposites attracting here.
In light of this morning's Obama-Boehner volleys, we thought a reflection on the facts was useful. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook yesterday morning, and its government debt projections are dismal... But the CBO’s featured chart only tells a small part of the story. The baseline scenario happens to be bogus. Even as it shows our addiction to debt worsening, it doesn’t do justice to the severity of that addiction. (You may want to show the chart to your children. After all, they’ll be the ones who’ll have to deal with the debt we’re piling on today.)
Seth Klarman's Baupost Group will be returning money to investors at year-end. As II Alpha reports, though the amount has yet to be determined, this would be only the second time the hedge fund has returned money in the firm's 31-year history. With the world of asset managers, as we recently noted, increasingly become herd-like beta-chasers, it seems Klarman - just as he noted earlier in the year - will return capital unless investment opportunities dramatically increased - and that hasn't happened.
Back in April, we saw that merely asking the local economy minister what Argentina's rate of inflation is, was enough to prematurely terminate any interview and result in a mocking, viral twitter meme. Since then, things for Argentina haven't exactly worked out too well: a recent Appeals court ruling found in favor of Elliott and the holdout bondholders, resulting in a downgrade of the country to CCC+, and leaving it with the possibility of having to fund billions in deferred obligations. "The lawsuit could result in the interruption of payments on bonds currently under New York jurisdiction, or it could prompt Argentina to undertake a debt exchange that we could view as distressed," S&P said in the statement. "There is at least a one-in-three chance of either occurring within the coming 12 months." Of course, to many the fact that Argentina has still not redefaulted is even more surprising. The reason for that is that despite president Fernandez ongoing rose-colored glasses PR campaign, the domestic economy has been deteriorating at an accelerating pace with runaway inflation destroying local purchasing power for years. As a result of the ongoing authoritarian crackdown on not only individual liberties, but economic data, it has gotten to the point that the government is criminally prosecuting anyone who dares to publish independent inflation data.
For the right answer, we look to the past....