While markets await details on the next round of quantitative easing (QE) -- whether refreshed bond buying from the Fed or sovereign debt buying from the European Central Bank (ECB) -- it's important to ask, What can we expect from further heroic attempts to reflate the OECD economies? The 2009 and 2010 QE programs from the Fed, and the 2011 operations from the ECB, were intended as shock treatment to hopefully set economies on a more typical, post-recession, recovery pathway. Here in 2012, QE was supposed to be well behind us. Instead, parts of Southern Europe are in outright depression, the United Kingdom is in double-dip recession, and the US is sweltering through its weakest “recovery” since the Great Depression. QE is a poor transmission mechanism for creating jobs. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Every summer, my colleagues and I invite young people from all over the world for an intensive 4-day workshop about freedom and entrepreneurship. This year’s workshop just concluded yesterday afternoon, and it was, without doubt, the best one ever. For the past several years, we have been conducting this event at a lovely resort in the Lithuanian countryside. It’s a pretty place– a nice, comfortable, relaxing environment away from all the noise and distraction of daily life. Now, I pay for the whole thing myself. I rent out the entire resort and pick up the total cost of food, lodging, entertainment, etc. For this year’s event, my staff was able to negotiate the same price as last year, and I was happy about this. But after the first two days, we began to notice something different: the resort was actually skimping out on our food portions! In other words, they kept the price the same as last year… but they were delivering less value than before. In this case, it was in the form of food portions that were at least 10% smaller!
“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.” Nice, Mr. Draghi, but at what cost? And who will ultimately bear this cost? It is already far beyond the measure of mere money; democracy, truth and sovereignty have all been destroyed to prop up the central bankers' Status Quo. We can presume Mr. Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are in on the propaganda campaign, and so we need to examine the words and promises of these two central bankers, as well as what they have not said. Is talking about printing money as good as actually printing money? It would seem so. Is promising to "do whatever it takes" as good as actually doing whatever it takes? Once again, it seems so; global markets leaped at the "news" that the financial Status Quo was going to be "saved" yet again.
What if it is beyond saving?
Will the Fed then just keep printing forever and ever? As an aside, financial markets are already trained to adjust their expectations regarding central bank policy according to their perceptions about economic conditions. There is a feedback loop between central bank policy and market behavior. This can easily be seen in the behavior of the US stock market: recent evidence of economic conditions worsening at a fairly fast pace has not led to a big decline in stock prices, as people already speculate on the next 'QE' type bailout. This strategy is of course self-defeating, as it is politically difficult for the Fed to justify more money printing while the stock market remains at a lofty level. Of course the stock market's level is officially not part of the Fed's mandate, but the central bank clearly keeps a close eye on market conditions. Besides, the 'success' of 'QE2' according to Ben Bernanke was inter alia proved by a big rally in stocks. But what does printing money do? And how does the self-defeating idea of perpetual QE fit with the Credit Cycle relative to Government Directed Inflation (or inability to direct inflation where they want it in the case of the ECB and BoE)?
The conventional view looks at the domestic credit bubble, the trillions in derivatives and the phantom assets propping the whole mess up and concludes that the only way out is to print the U.S. dollar into oblivion, i.e. create enough dollars that the debts can be paid but in doing so, depreciate the dollar's purchasing power to near-zero. This process of extravagant creation of paper money is also called hyper-inflation. While it is compelling to see hyper-inflation as the only way out in terms of the domestic credit/leverage bubble, the dollar has an entirely different dynamic if we look at foreign exchange (FX) and foreign trade. Many analysts fixate on monetary policy as if it and the relationship of gold to the dollar are the foundation of our problems. These analysts often pinpoint the 1971 decision by President Nixon to abandon the gold standard as the start of our troubles. That decision certainly had a number of consequences, but 80% the dollar's loss of purchasing power occurred before the abandonment of dollar convertibility to gold.
There is one personality trait that no gold and silver investor should ever be without.
One of the most widely accepted truisms of our time is that deflation is bad: bad for debtors, bad for the indebted government, and therefore bad for the economy. What all this overlooks is how wonderful mild deflation is for those who owe no debt but who own the debt and the income streams that flow from debt. What the "deflation is bad" argument ignores is who controls the financial and political systems, and what set of conditions benefits them. Everyone assuming the Federal government has the power to create inflation and that inflation is "good" should examine the interests of those who control the government's policies, i.e. those who own the debt. Put another way: here's what will be scarce: reliable income streams and liquidity.
Macroeconomic issues currently playing out in Europe, Asia, and the United States may be linked by the same dynamic: over-leveraged banking systems concerned about repayment from public- and private-sector borrowers, and the implication that curtailment or non-payment would have on their balance sheets. Global banks are linked or segregated by the currencies in which they lend. Given the currencies in which their loan assets are denominated, market handicapping of the timing of relative bank vulnerability is directly impacting the relative value of currencies in the foreign exchange market, which makes it appear that the US dollar (and economy?) is, as Pimco notes, “the cleanest dirty shirt”. Is there a clean shirt anywhere – creased, pressed and folded? QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky (in a deep dramatic voice-over) sets the scene: In a world where time series stand still... and real purchasing power value has no meaning... a few monetary bodies stand between economic death and destruction... between commercial hope and financial despair... between risk-free returns and return-free risk. Amid this set of conditions it seems entirely prudent to position purchasing power in vehicles that would benefit as the nominal stock of base money grows at a rate far in excess of the gold stock growth rate.
From UBS: "We think that a creditor nation is less at risk of hyperinflation than a debtor nation, as a debtor nation relies not only on the confidence of domestic creditors, but also of foreign creditors. We therefore think that the hyperinflation risk to global investors is largest in the US and the UK. The more the fiscal situation deteriorates and the more central banks debase their currencies, the higher the risk of a loss of confidence in the future purchasing power of money. Indicators to watch in order to determine the risk of hyperinflation therefore pertain to the fiscal situation and monetary policy stance in high-deficit countries. Note that current government deficits and the current size of central bank balance sheets are not sufficient to indicate the sustainability of the fiscal or monetary policy stance and thus, the risk of hyperinflation. The fiscal situation can worsen without affecting the current fiscal deficit, for example when governments assume contingent liabilities of the banking system or when the economic outlook worsens unexpectedly. Similarly, the monetary policy stance can expand without affecting the size of the central bank balance sheet. This happens for example when central banks lower collateral requirements or monetary policy rates, in particular the interest rate paid on reserves deposited with the central bank. A significant deterioration of the fiscal situation or a significant expansion of the monetary policy stance in the large-deficit countries could lead us to increase the probability we assign to the risk of hyperinflation."
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."