President Obama released his 2015 budget proposal this week...and as expected, it contained even more language about his MyRA initiative. As we’ve discussed so many times in the past, IRAs are an irresistible kitty for such a bankrupt government. The US government itself estimates that over $5 trillion is tucked away in American retirement accounts. They need that money. Your money. The US government is struggling to come up with new funding sources… and retirement accounts are by far the easiest target. Why? Because the majority of retirement accounts at trapped at big Wall Street banks, which are all de facto agents of the government. All the Treasury Department has to do is make a phone call. Yesterday’s budget announcement constitutes the next phase: automatic enrollment.
"If you're sick in Greece, you have an expiration date," is the cheery message from Greece. As WaPo reports, while economists proclaim Europe is turning the corner, a look across the still-bleak landscape, from Greece to Spain, Ireland to Portugal, suggests a painful aftermath, where the plight of millions of Europeans is worsening even as the financial crisis passes with public health being hit in the most troubled corners of the European Union. Greece is the hardest hit and while Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis is attempting to create a fund to help the most acute cases, his concluding remarks are chillingly blunt, "illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless you are in the final stages."
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney surprised his audience at a conference late last year by speculating that banking assets in London could grow to more than nine times Britain’s GDP by 2050. These may be reasonable assumptions, but the estimate was deeply unsettling to many. Hosting a huge financial center, with outsize domestic banks, can be costly to taxpayers. In Iceland and Ireland, banks outgrew their governments’ ability to support them when needed. The result was disastrous. Quite apart from the potential bailout costs, some argue that financial hypertrophy harms the real economy by syphoning off talent and resources that could better be deployed elsewhere.
The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
They have promised more than they can possibly deliver, so a lot of their promises are going to be broken before we see the end of this current bust that began in 2000. And that outcome of broken promises describes the huge task that we all face. There will be a day of reckoning. There always is when an economy and governments take on more debt than is prudent, and the world is far beyond that point. So everyone needs to plan and prepare for that day of reckoning. We can't predict when it is coming, but we know from monetary history that busts follow booms, and more to the point, that currencies collapse when governments make promises that they cannot possibly fulfill. Their central banks print the currency the government wants to spend until the currency eventually collapses, which is a key point of The Money Bubble. The world has lost sight of what money What today is considered to be money is only a money substitute circulating in place of money. J.P. Morgan had it right when in testimony before the US Congress in 1912 he said: "Money is gold, nothing else." Because we have lost sight of this wisdom, a "money bubble" has been created. And it will pop. Bubbles always do.
The winner of a currency war is the country that ends up with the most gold.
- Global makets plunge (Reuters)
- Goodbye Mrs. Watanabe - Japan Sees Worst Developed-Stock Rout as Nikkei 225 Drops (BBG)
- Who could have possibly predicted this - Firms Pinched by Pressure to Hold Down Their Prices (WSJ)
- RBA Shifts to Neutral as It Signals Comfort With Aussie’s Level (BBG)
- Fractures Emerge Between Obama, Congressional Democrats (WSJ)
- Brazil suffers record trade deficit (FT)
- El Salvador fisherman washes up in Marshall Islands after year adrift (Reuters)
- Apple Quietly Builds New Networks (WSJ)
- One-year prison sentence for 21-year-old Twitter user who glorified terrorists (El Pais)
In order to understand what solutions to our energy predicament will or won’t work, it is necessary to understand the true nature of our energy predicament. Most solutions fail because analysts assume that the nature of our energy problem is quite different from what it really is. Analysts assume that our problem is a slowly developing long-term problem, when in fact, it is a problem that is at our door step right now.
I predicted this clearly, with loads of evidence, last spring. I even tipped the SEC/UK authorities. Tthe chickens come home to roost. Let it be known, Wall Street's margin IS my business model!!!
And so following yet another Fed taper, coupled with another disappointing manufacturing data point out of China, emerging markets did their thing first thing this morning and all the most unstable EM currency pairs - the TRY, the RUB, the ZAR and the HUF - all plunged promptly in the process pushing down the USDJPY which as become a natural carry offset to EM troubles, only to rebound promptly. Specifically, USDTRY blew out 400 pips to 2.3010 highs after which it bounced, and has now stabilized around 2.27, well above the Turkish central bank intervention level, USDZAR is back down to 11.2120 after hitting five-year highs of 11.3850, the Ruble also plunged after which it jumped on speculation of Russian central bank intervention, while futures are tracking even the tiniest moves by USDJPY and pushing the Emini which is trading in a liquidity vaccum by a quarter point for ever 2 or pips. And with all news overnight shifting from bad to worse (keep an eye on declining German inflation now) it goes without saying, that EM central banks around the world now are desperately trying to keep their currencies under control: which is why the market's jitteryness is only set to increase from here on out.
A story that won't go away: The German central bank 'proposing' an emergency "capital levy" in "conditions of extraordinary national crisis."