Ben Bernanke will deliver the semiannual report on monetary policy to the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. The market is hoping and praying that the Chairsatan will make it rain. He won't. In fact, as explained earlier, it is likely that Ben will say absolutely nothing of significance today and in a world in which only the H.4.1 matters, this is not going to be taken well by the market. Of course, if Benny does crack and promises to push the S&P to 1450 just in time for the re-election, all bets are off.
Lots of people have made good profits on Treasuries by buying them and flipping them to a greater fool or a central bank. On the other hand, so did many during the NASDAQ bubble, or during the ’00s ABS bubble. Bubbles are profitable for some, and that’s why there have been so many throughout history. But once the money starts to dry up they become excruciatingly painful. In theory, there are no limits to how low rates could go. In theory, nominal yields could go deeply negative, so long as there are buyers coming into the market ready to buy at a lower rate, and a push a profit to bond flippers. The inherent value in a bond is its yield; everything else is speculation. It is hard to really call the timing on the end of a bubble. People and events can always get more irrational. Japan has kept the Treasury ball (painfully) rolling for far longer than most of us expected (through market rigging as much as anything else). But this cannot end well.
In broad brush, financialization enabled the explosive rise of politically dominant cartels (crony capitalism) that reap profits from graft, legalized fraud, embezzlement, collusion, price-fixing, misrepresentation of risk, shadow systems of governance, and the use of phantom assets as collateral. This systemic allocation of resources and the national income to serve their interests also serves the interests of the protected fiefdoms of the State that enable and protect the parasitic sectors of the economy. The productive, efficient private sectors of the economy are, in effect, subsidizing the most inefficient, unproductive parts of the economy. Productivity has been siphoned off to financialized corporate profits, politically powerful cartels, and bloated State fiefdoms. The current attempts to “restart growth” via the same old financialization tricks of more debt, more leverage, and more speculative excess backstopped by a captured Central State are failing.
Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/private vested interests have bled the middle class dry.
The debt-to-GDP ratio is gradually falling, yet it is still at a far higher level than the historical average, and it is still proportionately higher than industrial output. And at the same time, consumers are re-leveraging, and government debt is soaring. And industrial production is barely above where it it was a decade ago, and far below its pre-2000 trend line. We have barely started, and already this has been a slow and grinding deleveraging; rather than the quick and brutal liquidation like that seen in 1907 where the banking system was effectively forced into bailing itself out, the stimulationist policies of low rates, quantitative easing and fiscal stimulus have kept in business zombie companies and institutions carrying absurd debt loads. Like Japan who experienced a similar debt-driven bubble in the late ’80s and early ’90s, we in the West appear to have embarked on a low-growth, high-unemployment period of deleveraging; and like Japan, we appear to be simply transferring the bulk of the debt load from the private sector to the public, without making any real impact in the total debt level, or any serious reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio.
On occasion of the publication of his new gold report (read here), Ronald Stoeferle talked with financial journalist Lars Schall about fundamental gold topics such as: "financial repression"; market interventions; the oil-gold ratio; the renaissance of gold in finance; "Exeter’s Pyramid"; and what the true "value" of gold could actually look like. Via Matterhorn Asset Management.
Gold Report 2012: Erste's Comprehensive Summary Of The Gold Space And Where The Yellow Metal Is GoingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/11/2012 12:21 -0400
Erste Group's Ronald Stoeferle, author of the critical "In gold we trust" report (2011 edition here) has just released the 6th annual edition of this all encompassing report which covers every aspect of the gold space. What follows are 120 pages of fundamental information which are a must read for anyone interested in the yellow metal. From the report: "The foundation for new all-time-highs is in place. As far as sentiment is concerned, we definitely see no euphoria with respect to gold. Skepticism, fear, and panic are never the final stop of a bull market. In the short run, seasonality seems to argue in favor of a continued sideways movement, but from August onwards gold should enter its seasonally best phase. USD 2,000 is our next 12M price target. We believe that the parabolic trend phase is still ahead of us, and that our long-term price target of USD 2,300/ounce could be on the conservative side."
A question on the minds of many people today (increasingly those who manage or invest money professionally) is this: How do I preserve wealth during a period of intense official intervention in and manipulation of money supply, price, and asset markets? As every effort to re-inflate and perpetuate the credit bubble is made, the words of Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises lurk ominously nearby: "There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner, as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later, as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." Because every effort is being made to avoid abandoning the credit expansion process -- with central banks and governments lending and borrowing furiously to make up for private shortfalls -- we are left with the growing prospect that the outcome will involve some form of "final catastrophe of the currency system"(s). This report explores what the dimensions of that risk are.
If we look at the global economy with unclouded eyes, we reach this conclusion: "This whole thing is about leverage." If leverage doesn't increase, the system implodes. But since collateral is disappearing from the global economy like sand castles in a rising tide, and disposable income has stagnated, there is no foundation for more leverage. As a result, the State/finance cartel has only one choice: increase leverage by whatever means are left. There are only two:
- Allow banks to claim phantom assets as capital/reserves
- Lower interest rates so stagnant income can leverage ever greater quantities of debt
The State/finance Empire and its army of academic toadies (economists) must cloak this reliance on leverage from the citizenry, lest they grasp the precariousness of the entire financial system. As the economic Establishment is discredited by reality (that their sputtering reflation policies have come at an unbearable cost is now undeniable), their attempts to discredit their critics become increasingly comic: only PhD economists in the employ of the Empire are qualified to comment on the Empire's policies, etc.
Attempts to manipulate free markets invariably end badly - after all, they are, supposedly, by their very nature, free. Over the past few weeks, the exposure of the Libor-rigging scandal has monopolized the headlines of the financial press. The rather obvious implication being that given almost half the reported inputs that help establish the Libor rate are discarded immediately, Barclays simply CANNOT have manipulated the Libor rate alone. Period. At best this is a cartel, at worst it’s outright fraud on a scale that is completely unprecedented. In Grant Williams' humble opinion, the Libor scandal will mark a fundamental change in the treatment of financial conspiracy theories in the media. The sheer amount of coverage it will undoubtedly receive will signal a shift in attitude towards the exposing of such scandals rather than the blind-eyes that have been regularly turned in recent years. Prime amongst conspiracy theories that may soon be finally proven to be either valid or the figments of overactive imaginations, are those alleged in the gold and silver markets. If the long-stated claims about government-sanctioned, bank-led manipulation of precious metals markets are eventually proven to have any validity whatsoever, the fallout from the Libor scandal will prove to be (to use the words of Jamie Dimon) just another “tempest in a tea pot” as the precious metals are the very underpinnings of the entire global financial system.
If you are reading this, you are probably a member of what the sociologists would term middle class (albeit at the upper end). This is precisely the segment of society which is poised to come off worst from what is coming. Here is a very disturbing idea. As this crisis develops, if you are an equity portfolio manager and you want to outperform the market, you are going to have to position your portfolio so that it benefits most from your own wealth destruction and that of your family, friends and colleagues. Almost everybody is going to lose and there aren’t many places to hide. This is deeply unpleasant but you can blame the central planners. I’ve written about my own investing, e.g. gold and silver, equities in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, etc. In this Thunder Road Report (below) and going forward, I will discuss this middle class theme and highlight positions I have in individual stocks, etc. The only good thing that can come out of this is a rise in awareness. It’s just awful.
The plan to fleece the entire country in order to sustain the survival of an obsolete social welfare system is doomed, yet it may be implemented for a few months. But endeavouring to also fleece our German friends is a dangerous and reckless ambition. Why should they accept to contribute to the financing of a 60 year retirement age in France when they have just raised it domestically to 67? Certainly, Germany would have a lot to lose with the implosion of the euro. But it is politically untenable to demand support for social benefits that the Germans have denied for themselves and unrealistic to imagine they can single-handedly carry the burden of a spendthrift Europe.
Local Governments Which Entered Into Interest Rate Swaps Got Scalped
Ah Moldova… the poorest country in Europe, which just so happens to have had a Communist party majority in its parliament since 1998. These two points are not unrelated. Despite having achieved its independence from the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, the state is still a major part of the Moldovan economy…from setting prices and wages to media, healthcare, agricultural production, air transport, and electricity. Under such management, it’s no wonder, for example, that Moldova has to import 75% of its electricity. It is the exact opposite of self-sustaining. The government does a reasonable job of chasing away foreigners as well. Agriculture is the mainstay of Moldova’s economy… and while on one hand they say “we welcome foreign investment in agriculture,” on the other they say “foreign investors cannot own agricultural property.” It’s genius.
I won a bet today.
A few weeks ago I wagered with a coworker that the United States Supreme Court would uphold the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare. He reasoned that the federal government has no authority under the Constitution to force an individual to purchase a product from a private company. My reasoning was much simpler. Because the Supreme Court is a functioning arm of the state, it will do nothing to stunt Leviathan’s growth. The fact that the Court declared no federal law unconstitutional from 1937 to 1995—from the tail end of the New Deal through Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—should have been proof enough. He naively believed in the impartialness of politically-appointed judges. For the first time he saw that those nine individuals are nothing more than politicians with an allegiance to state supremacy.
It was a tough but valuable lesson to learn.
For the past six months we have extensively discussed the topics of asset depletion, aging and encumbrance in Europe - a theme that has become quite poignant in recent days, culminating with the ECB once again been "forced" to expand the universe of eligible collateral confirming that credible, money-good European assets have all but run out. We have also argued that a key culprit for this asset quality deterioration has been none other than central banks, whose ruinous ZIRP policies have forced companies to hoard cash, but not to reinvest in their businesses and renew their asset bases, in the form of CapEx spending, but merely to have dry powder to hand out as dividends in order to retain shareholders who now demand substantial dividend sweeteners in a time when stocks are the new "fixed income." Yet while historically we have focused on Europe whose plight is more than anything a result of dwindling cash inflows from declining assets even as cash outflow producing liabilities stay the same or increase, the "asset" problem is starting to shift to the US. And as everyone who has taken finance knows, when CapEx goes, revenues promptly follow. Needless to say, at a time when still near record corporate revenues and profit margins are all that is supporting the US stock market from joining its global brethren in tumbling, this will soon be a very popular point of discussion in the mainstream media... in about 3-6 months.