Purchasing Power

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Guest Post: What Happens When All The Money Vanishes Into Thin Air?

It's easy to expand the money supply and difficult to expand the actual production of real goods in the real world. Expanding the money supply and issuing debt that lacks collateral is just like printing quatloos on the desert island: you can print a million quatloos but that doesn't create a single additional coconut. If you print enough quatloos, then people will no longer accept them in exchange for coconuts. You will actually need a real coconut to exchange for fish. This is why Greek towns are reportedly reverting to barter, the exchange of real goods for other real goods. We can anticipate that silver and gold will soon enter the barter as means of exchange that can't be counterfeited or printed by wise-guys (central bankers).This is what happens when abstract representations, i.e. "money," vanish into thin air. Alternative systems of exchanging goods and services arise: actual goods are exchanged via barter, tangible concentrations of value that cannot be counterfeited such as gold and silver are used as a means of exchange, letters of credit or equivalent are traded and settled with tangible goods or gold/silver, and eventually, a means of exchange ("money") that is backed by tangible goods in the real world that can be trusted to actually represent the value being traded might enter the market. That which is phantom will vanish into thin air, while the real goods and services remain to be traded in the real world.

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Guest Post: Project “End Up Like Japan” Continues To Advance Well In The West

One scene from the movie Titanic depicts a lounge in one of the upper class quarters of the ship as it slowly sinks beneath the waves. Notwithstanding the vessel listing alarmingly, a motley band of toff revelers are determined to go out in the finest style. Some continue to play at cards with a fatalistic resolve while others determinedly quaff spirits direct from the bottle. Having considered for some time the most appropriate metaphor for the current market environment, we think this may be it: one may be doomed, but one can still party on. Having already hit the iceberg, one major problem we see is the common perspective for both investors and the asset management industry to view debt and equity as the entire universe of investor choices available. Having long exhausted the armory of conventional policies to keep the unsustainably indebted show on the road, increasingly desperate politicians are doing increasingly desperate things, be that gifting money to the IMF in a brazen display of fiscal denial that we can ill afford (US, UK) or simply stealing from other sovereigns (Argentina). The ironic triumph of the Keynesians means that, in trying to save the economy, our central bank may end up destroying it completely by means of the printing press; as a consequence, we now get to experience some of the full-on horror of the Japanese malaise.

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Krugman Rebutts (sic) Spitznagel, Says Bankers Are "The True Victims Of QE", Princeton-Grade Hilarity Ensues

At first we were going to comment on this "response" by the high priest of Keynesian shamanic tautology to Mark Spitznagel's latest WSJ opinion piece, but then we just started laughing, and kept on laughing, and kept on laughing...

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Dutch Budget Negotiations Fail, Elections Likely

Just a little snippet. Geert Wilders has walked away from the negotiations this afternoon. It may be about a purchasing power reduction for the lowest income class of one percent. This is what the rich fumblers at the CPB have calculated and is considered quite reasonable by some. Of course, the CPB has been wrong on occasion. The SP would like to see elections as quickly as possible, while the PvdA would like to have a debate in the house. Updates posted here as I have the time to add them.

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Who Is Lying: The Federal Reserve Or... The Federal Reserve? And Why Stalin "Lost"

Four time Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles: "As long as the Federal Reserve is required to buy government securities at the will of the market for the purpose of defending a fixed pattern of interest rates established by the Treasury, it must stand ready to create new bank reserves in unlimited amount. This policy makes the entire banking system, through the action of the Federal Reserve System, an engine of inflation. (U.S. Congress 1951, p. 158)... [We are making] it possible for the public to convert Government securities into money to expand the money supply....We are almost solely responsible for this inflation. It is not deficit financing that is responsible because there has been surplus in the Treasury right along; the whole question of having rationing and price controls is due to the fact that we have this monetary inflation, and this committee is the only agency in existence that can curb and stop the growth of money.. . . [W]e should tell the Treasury, the President, and the Congress these facts, and do something about it....We have not only the power but the responsibility....If Congress does not like what we are doing, then they can change the rules. (FOMC Minutes, 2/6/51, pp. 50–51)"

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Paul Brodsky On The State of Play: Statists At Play

On April 16, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced that her Argentine government would expropriate and re-nationalize YPF, an energy company operating mostly in Argentina founded by its government in the 1920s and de-nationalized in the 1990s. Repsol, a Spanish company that owns (owned) 57% of YPF called the act “illegal and unjustified” and vowed to sue. As Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance of QBAMCO note, in times past such expropriation would surely be an act of war. FdeK’s timing was brilliant, to re-nationalize the Spanish-controlled energy company when Spain’s economy and funding are teetering means the Spanish government and businesses domiciled there lack the clout to make demands of Euro confederates. The political calculus among leaders of sovereign governments reduces to short-term domestic political benefits vs. threats of economic or military retaliation but with regard to natural resources, the QBAMCO pair critically note, the bigger implication that it is sovereign vs sovereign as the paper bets representing global production and resources that we call “capital markets” is in jeopardy of becoming a sideshow. Baseless paper money, fractional banking, revenue shuffling, financial returns, ever-increasing debts, unwarranted confidence building, nominal output growth and politicians posing as policy makers cannot sustain the most basic needs of societies.

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Does The I In IMF Stand For Idiot?

All morning we have been blasted with 2011 deja vu stories how the IMF panhandling effort has finally succeeded, and how Lagarde's Louis Vuitton bag is now full to the brim with $400 billion in fresh crisp US Dollars bills courtesy of BRIC nations, and other countries such as South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Japan (adding $60 billion to its total debt of Y1 quadrillion - at that point who counts) and, uhh, Poland. From Reuters: "The Group of 20 nations on Friday were poised to commit at least $400 billion to bulk up the International Monetary Fund's war chest to fight any widening of Europe's debt crisis." We say deja vu because it is a carbon copy of headlines from EcoFin meetings from the fall of 2011 in which we were "assured", "guaranteed" and presented other lies that the EFSF would surpass $1 trillion, even $1.5 trillion on occasion, any minute now. Alas, that never happened, and while we are eagerly waiting to find out just what the contribution of Argentina will be to bail out Spanish banks (just so it can expropriate even more assets from the country that rhymes with Pain), we have one simple question: does the I in the IMF stand for Idiots? Why? Because this is merely yet another example of forced capital misallocation, only this time at a global scale.

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FoodStamp Nation

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released a new report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as Food Stamps) earlier this week with some fresh data on the program. Given our earlier note on Mr.EBT, we thought the following brief clip from Bloomberg TV on the $82bn-per-year program would provide some rather shockingly sad insights and then Nic Colas' recent focus on the SNAP report provides some much more in depth color.  First and foremost, there are 46.5 million Americans in the program as of the most recent information available (January 2012), comprising 22.2 million households.  That’s 15% of the entire population, and just over 20% of all households.  Moreover, despite the end of the official “Great Recession” in June 2009, over 10 million more Americans have been accepted into the program since that month, and the year-over-year growth rate for the program is still +5%.  The USDA’s report is, not surprisingly, very upbeat on the utility of the program.  Fair enough.  But what does it mean when 20% of all households cannot afford to buy the food they need for their families?  To our thinking, it highlights an underappreciated new facet of American economic life – one that will be felt everywhere from the ballot box to the upcoming Federal Deficit debates.

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Want To Trade FX Like A Central Banker On Full Tilt? Apply Here

Tired of being stopped out by the latest HFT FX algo du jour? Disappointed by having only 500x margin purchasing power? Disenchanted by not having an infinite balance sheet, the inability to manipulate markets (in currencies and commodities) at a whim, and worst of all, having to account for risk in addition to return and always fearing taxpayers may not bail you out after that 1000 pip move against you? Most of all: wishing you were Mikael Charoze and finally being able to trade every asset class with the impunity of a central banker on full tilt? Then this is the opportunity for you: for any wannabe real masters of the universe (sorry Goldman, you are just so... 2009), now that only FX trading matters in the great race to the devaluation bottom, please send your resume, together with your cover letter why you should be picked over all the other sociopaths, and why you deserve to make the decision what is in the best interest of billions of people, to Sonya Zilka, head of talent management at the Bank of International Settlement, aka the Central Banks' Central Bank. And best of luck.

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The Risk Of 'Hot' Inflation

Ideological deflationists and inflationists alike find themselves both facing the same problem. The former still carry the torch for a vicious deflationary juggernaut sure to overpower the actions of the mightiest central banks on the planet. The latter keep expecting not merely a strong inflation but a breakout of hyperinflation. Neither has occurred, and the question is, why not? The answer is a 'cold' inflation, marked by a steady loss of purchasing power that has progressed through Western economies, not merely over the past few years but over the past decade. Moreover, perhaps it’s also the case that complacency in the face of empirical data (heavily-manipulated, many would argue), support has grown up around ongoing “benign” inflation. If so, Western economies face an unpriced risk now, not from spiraling deflation, nor hyperinflation, but rather from the breakout of a (merely) strong inflation. Surely, this is an outcome that sovereign bond markets and stock markets are completely unprepared for. Indeed, by continually framing the inflation vs. deflation debate in extreme terms, market participants have created a blind spot: the risk of a conventional, but 'hot,' inflation.

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Guest Post: 10 More Years Of Low Returns

sp500-realprice-deviation-041612Ten more years of low returns in the stock market.  If you are one of the millions of baby boomers headed into retirement - start saving more and spending less because the stock market won't bail you out.  Now that I have your attention I will explain why this is the likely future ahead for investors. In this past weekend's newsletter I wrote that “If you put all of your money into cash today and don’t look at the market for another decade – you will be better off..."  I realize that this statement is equivalent to heresy where Wall Street is concerned but there is one simple reason behind my apparent madness - the power of "reversion". This is not a new concept by any means as witnessed by Bob Farrell's rule #1 - "Markets tend to return to the mean over time."  However, the reality of what "reversion" means is grossly misunderstood by Wall Street, and the mainstream media, as witnessed by the many valuation calls that "stocks are now cheap because the market is now trading in line with its long term average."

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Guest Post: Why the Middle Class Is Doomed

The Federal government is supporting its dependents and its crony-capitalist Elites with borrowed money: $1.5 trillion every year, fully 40% of the Federal budget. It is in effect filling the gap between exploding costs and declining income, just like the middle class did until they ran out of collateral to leverage. The dwindling middle class, now at best perhaps 25% of the workforce, has been reduced to tax donkeys supporting those above and below who are dependent on Federal largesse. Fisher found that this cycle ends in transformational political upheaval. No wonder; even as the class paying most of the taxes shrinks and is pressured by higher costs, the class of dependents expands as the economy deteriorates and the super-wealthy Power Elites continue to control the levers of Central State power.

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Deja 2011 All Over Again

From the first day of 2012 we predicted, and have done so until we were blue in the face, that 2012 would be a carbon copy of 2011... and thus 2010. Unfortunately when setting the screenplay, the central planners of the world really don't have that much imagination and recycling scripts is the best they can do. And while this forecast will not be glaringly obvious until the debt ceiling fiasco is repeated at almost the same time in 2012 as it was in 2011, we are happy that more and more people are starting to, as quite often happens, see things our way. We present David Rosenberg who summarizes why 2012 is Deja 2011 all over again.

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El-Erian Breaches The Final Frontier: What Happens If Central Banks Fail?

"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.

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Dudley Joins Yellen In Leaving QE Door Wide Open

Last night it was uber-dove Janet Yellen, today it is uberer-dove, former Goldmanite (what is it about Goldman central bankers and easing: Dudley unleashing QE2 in 2010, Draghi unleashing QE LTRO in Europe?) Bill Dudley joining the fray and saying QE is pretty much on the table. Of course, the only one that matters is Benny, and he will complete the doves on parade tomorrow, when he shows that all the hawkish rhetoric recently has been for naught. Cutting straight to the chase from just released Dudley comments:"we cannot lose sight of the fact that the economy still faces significant headwinds and that there are some meaningful downside risks... To sum up, the incoming data on the U.S. economy has been a bit more upbeat of late, suggesting that the recovery may be getting better established.  But, while these developments are certainly encouraging, it is far too soon to conclude that we are out of the woods in terms of generating a strong, sustainable recovery.  On the inflation front, the year-over-year rate of consumer price inflation has slowed in recent months, and despite the recent rise of gasoline prices, we expect inflation to moderate further in 2012." Translate: NEW QE is but a CTRL-P keystroke away now that all the inflation the Fed usually ignores continues to be ignored.

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