And now for a quick blast from the past: on November 26, moments after Mark Carney was announced as the Bank of England's next "shocking" head (confirming our prediction that just this would happen), we made a very simple prediction, one which ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day, that Carney would pursue a sensible policy of preserving the strength of the British pound, namely the following:
It took Goldman's Mario Draghi about 3 hours to launch an epic EUR destruction campaign. Anyone going long the GBP here needs therapy
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) November 26, 2012
Sure enough, after rising very modestly in the days after Carney's coronation, cable has since imploded and moment ago touched on a new seven month low. Those who have been long the GBPUSD throughout the ensuing 700 pip plunge, can invoice Goldman Sachs with their therapy bills.
The Chinese New Year celebration is now over, the Year of the Snake is here, and those following the Shanghai Composite have lots to hiss about, as two out of two trading days have printed in the red. But a far bigger concern to not only those long the SHCOMP, but the "Great Reflation Trade - ver. 2013", is that just as two years ago, China appears set to pull out first, as once again inflation rears its ugly head. And where the PBOC goes, everyone else grudgingly has to follow: after all without China there is no marginal growth driver to the world economy. End result: China's reverse repos, or liquidity providing operations, have ended after month of daily injections, and the first outright repo, or liquidity draining operation, just took place after eight months of dormancy. From the WSJ: "Chinese authorities took a step to ease potential inflationary pressures Tuesday by using a key mechanism for the first time in eight months. The move by the central bank to withdraw cash from the banking system is a reversal after months of pumping cash in. That cash flood was meant to reduce borrowing costs for businesses as the economy slowed last year—but recent data has shown growth picking up, along with the main determinants of inflation: housing and food prices."
In the 40 years or so since the end of the Bretton Woods system, we have seen competitive devaluations occur again and again. However as SocGen notes, it appears Japan just keeps coming out on the losing side. Based on Real Effective Exchange Rates (REER), Japan's currency is 80% stronger now than in 1971 while the US (and South Korea interestingly) are about 40% weaker. The Euro has remained in a relatively stable band as the rest of the world has de- or re-valued itself. The 20% or so drop in the JPY so far under Abe's guidance appears a blip on the REER radar screen compared to its peers but, at the other end of the spectrum, SocGen suggests the USD is notably under-valued on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis - even as 'the strong dollar policy' remains verbally in tact.
According to dictionary.com, Deflation is “a fall in the general price level or a contraction of credit and available money.” Falling prices. That sounds good, especially if you have set some cash set aside and are thinking about a major purchase. But as some additional research with Google would seem to demonstrate, that would be a naïve and simple-minded conclusion. According to received wisdom, deflation is a serious economic disease - St.Louis Fed: "...discourages spending and investment because consumers, expecting prices to fall further, delay purchases, preferring instead to save and wait for even lower price..." The problem with deflation, then - we are told, is that it feeds on itself, destroying the economy along the way. Deflation is far worse than its counterpart, inflation, because the Fed can fight inflation by raising interest rates. Deflation is nearly impossible to stop once it has started because interest rates can only be cut to zero, no lower. In case you’re not already scared straight, the deflationary doomsday has already happened in America when (according to the New York Times) it caused the Great Depression. I hope that everyone is clear on this. Now that you understand the basics, I have some questions for the people who came up with this stuff.
In this candid discussion, precious metals experts Eric Sprott, John Embry and Rick Rule discuss a wide range of topics related to precious metals investing.
By bailing out banks and targeting equity prices, the central banks are exacerbating the misallocation of savings/financial capital to historically overvalued corporate equity. What happens when central banks make credit cheap and abundant? All that cheap money chases scarce productive assets. The yields on assets drop, and speculative "risk-on" assets are boosted into bubbles. Even as corporate profits have skyrocketed (does the trajectory look sustainable? up almost 300% in four years?), equity valuations have risen apace, keeping yields at historically low levels. Anyone who claims "stocks are cheap" would do well to study these charts...
Selling snake oil and issuing unbacked paper currency are not so different. They're both wildly successful ploys for the guys pulling the strings. And they're both complete scams that depend solely on the confidence of a willing, ignorant public. But once the confidence begins to erode, the fraud unravels very, very quickly, and the perpetrators resort to desperate measures in order to keep the party going. In the case of fiat currency, governments in terminal decline resort to a very limited, highly predictable playbook in which they try to control... everything... imposing capital controls, exchange controls, wage controls, price controls, trade controls, border controls, and sometimes even people controls. These tactics have been used since the ancient Sumerians. This time is not different.
Ron Paul spoke with Bloomberg television and said that we are in a currency war and we have been for decades. He noted that governments have always competed against each other’s currencies even under Bretton Woods. It has always been a form or protectionism and will make people want to export more. Dr. Paul said don’t blame countries like China and Japan just look at the debt the U.S. is buying. There will always be currency wars. The Bank of Japan claims it has to defend itself against deflation and decades of slow growth. Ron Paul noted that the Bank of Japan’s yen devaluations will eventually lead to further price inflations that are to come. Investors and citizens will eventually reject the yen and switch to other currencies like dollars or Swiss francs. Then eventually people will move to hard assets altogether as they are losing confidence in paper assets. Dr. Paul was asked, “Do you think protectionism will lead to a crash in the international monetary system? He replied, “Nothing good can come of it. Even short run trade benefits leads to a weaker economy and higher prices. It doesn't solve the problem they won't face the truth. That is that all governments spend too much money, there is too much debt and they get away with it by taxing people”.
The purpose of keeping accurate accounts is to quantify net worth at any given point in time – as well as the change from a prior date. It goes without saying that the measure used, money, should be constant if comparisons over time are to mean anything. Only then do prices of capital goods, consumer goods and services truly reflect their changing values, giving important signals to businessmen. With unstable fiat money market signals lose much of their meaning. But those of us who understand that currency devaluation only serves to defraud the majority of society must be alarmed that the governments of nearly all the advanced economies are racing each other to rob their citizens in this way. Instead of bringing about a Lazarene recovery in the economy, this approach is already failing, because the very basis of economic calculation is being destroyed. Who knows the value of anything anymore? We do however know the inevitable outcome of this lunacy, and it is not good.
Sometimes, it feels good to hope. But since last September, nothing has really changed. At least not fundamentally. The zero-interest rate policies were going to encourage share buybacks, dividend payments and any method to allow the extraction of whatever real value is still available to extract from corporations/businesses by their owners. This meant leverage was going to increase, unemployment would remain high, capital expenditures were going to decrease and the risk of defaults was to going to rise. A year later, all these symptoms are starting to surface. One more reason to avoid stocks and be long gold. But in my view, it will take longer than many believe, for these imbalances to burst "...As long as the people of the EU put up with this situation and the EU Council (…) effectively kills democracy at the national level AND as long as the Fed continues to extend US dollar swaps, this status quo will remain… Whenever the political sustainability of the EU is challenged, we will see a run for liquidity... The trend is for asset inflation, and will last as long as the people of the EU and the US do not challenge the political status quo..." Unemployment and the tolerance of those unemployed will tell us when the time has come.
Late on Friday Venezuela shocked the world when instead of reporting an update on the ailing health of its leader, as many expected it would, it announced the official devaluation of its currency, the Bolivar by nearly 50% against the dollar yet still well below the unofficial black market exchange rate. By doing so, it may have set off a chain reaction among the secondary sovereigns in the world, those who have so far stayed away from the "big boys" currency wars, or those waged by the Big 6 "developed world" central banks, in an attempt to also "devalue their way to prosperity" and boost their economies by encouraging exports even as the local population sees a major drop in its purchasing power and living standards. So in the game, where the last player to crush their currency inevitably loses, the question is who is next. The answer may well be America's latest best north African friend, and custodian of the Suez Canal: Egypt.
While the rest of the developed world is scrambling here and there, politely prodding its central bankers to destroy their relative currencies, all the while naming said devaluation assorted names, "quantitative easing" being the most popular, here comes Venezuela and shows the banana republics of the developed world what lobbing a nuclear bomb into a currency war knife fight looks like:
VENEZUELA DEVALUES FROM 4.30 TO 6.30 BOLIVARS
VENEZUELA NEW CURRENCY BODY TO MANAGE DOLLAR INFLOWS
CARACAS CONSUMER PRICES ROSE 3.3% IN JAN.
And that, ladies and gents of Caracas, is how you just lost 46% of your purchasing power, unless of course your fiat was in gold and silver, which just jumped by about 46%. And, in case there is confusion, this is in process, and coming soon to every "developed world" banana republic near you.
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
From Fed's Stein: "The insurance company might approach a broker-dealer and engage in what is effectively a two-way repo transaction, whereby it gives the dealer its junk bonds as collateral, borrows the Treasury securities, and agrees to unwind the transaction at some point in the future. Now the insurance company can go ahead and pledge the borrowed Treasury securities as collateral for its derivatives trade." Thanks to the magic of FAS 140 banks can literally transform worthless garbage into supersafe Treasurys, then use that newly transformed collateral via further repo as cash to fund simple stock purchases, and at the end of the day nobody knows where the exposure came from, who the counterparty is, and what the ultimate liability is!
This week's Barron's cover looks like a pretty strong warning sign for stocks (not only the cover, but also what's inside). However, there may be an even more stunning capitulation datum out there, in this case a survey that we have frequently mentioned in the past, the NAAIM survey of fund managers. This survey has reached an all time high in net bullishness last week, with managers on average 104% long. The nonsense people will talk – people who really should know better - is sometimes truly breathtaking. Recently a number of strategists from large institutions, i.e., people who get paid big bucks for coming up with this stuff, have assured us that “equities are underowned”, that “money will flow from bonds to equities”, and that “money sitting on the sidelines” will be drawn into the market. These fallacies are destroyed below. And finally, while, theoretically, the “inflation” backdrop is a kind of sweet spot for stock, even to those who insist that stocks will protect one against the ravages of sharply rising prices of goods and services, As Kyle Bass recently explained, the devaluation of money in the wider sense was even more pronounced than the increase in stock prices. Stocks did not protect anyone in the sense of fully preserving one's purchasing power. The only things that actually preserved purchasing power were gold, foreign exchange and assorted hard assets for which a liquid market exists.