Guest Post: Preserve and Protect: Mapping The Tipping Points

Submitted by Gordon T Long of Tipping Points

Preserve and Protect: Mapping The Tipping Points

The economic news has turned decidedly negative globally and a sense of ‘quiet before the storm’ permeates the financial headlines. Arcane subjects such as a Hindenburg Omen now make mainline news. The retail investor continues to flee the equity markets and in concert with the institutional players relentlessly pile into the perceived safety of yield instruments, though they are outrageously expensive by any proven measure. Like trying to buy a pump during a storm flood, people are apparently willing to pay any price.  As a sailor, it feels like the ominous period where the crew is fastening down the hatches and preparing for the squall that is clearly on the horizon. Few crew mates are talking as everyone is checking preparations for any eventuality. Are you prepared?

What if this is not a squall but a tropical storm, or even a hurricane? Unlike sailors, the financial markets do not have the forecasting technology for protection against such a possibility. Good sailors before today’s technology advancements avoided this possibility through the use of almanacs, shrewd observation of the climate and common sense. It appears to this old salt that all three are missing in today’s financial community.

Looking through the misty haze though, I can see the following clearly looming on the horizon.

Since President Nixon took the US off the Gold standard in 1971, the increase in global fiat currency has been nothing short of breath taking. It has grown unchecked and inevitably has become unhinged from world industrial production and the historical creators of real tangible wealth.

Do you believe trees grow to the sky?
Or, is it you believe you are smart enough to get out before this graph crashes?

Apparent synthetic wealth has artificially and temporarily been created through the production of paper. Whether Federal Reserve IOU notes (the dollar) or guaranteed certificates of confiscation (treasury notes & bonds), it needs to never be forgotten that these are paper. It is not wealth. It is someone else’s obligation to deliver that wealth to the holder of the paper based on what that paper is felt to be worth when the obligation is required to be surrendered. It must never be forgotten that fiat paper is only a counter party obligation to deliver. Will they? Unfortunately, since fiat paper is no longer a store of value, it is recklessly being created to solve political problems. What you will inevitably receive will be only be a fraction of the value of what you originally surrendered.

In the chart above, we see that just when the exponential expansion seemed to have run its course during the dotcom bubble implosion, we subsequently accelerated even faster. Cheap central bank money; the unregulated, off-shore, off-balance sheet increase in securitization products; a $617T derivatives market; and the domination of the credit producing Shadow Banking system then took us to even greater levels. Bubble after bubble continues to propel us, as more recently the Bond Bubble replaced the Real Estate bubble.  Similar to trees not growing to the sky, something always happens which creates a tipping point, a moment of instability or a critical phase transition. Suddenly what worked no longer works.

I have written extensively in a series entitled “Sultans of Swap” and another series entitled “Extend & Pretend” the growing and clearly evident tipping points that are unquestionably now on the horizon. You can ignore them at your peril, but when the storm swells hit, don’t say you were never warned and no one saw this coming. 

Consolidating the trends and distortions outlined in these two series, we arrive at the following ‘large brush’ death spiral leading to a failure of fiat based currency regimes.

The above cycle is well supported by recent and still unfolding developments. These have been mapped onto the cycle.

MAPPING THE TIPPING POINTS

Let’s now list the Tipping Points which have become abundantly evident over the last few years and which are continuously expanded on our web site Tipping Points.  We track each of these on a daily basis on the site.  The rankings shown below, though they do shift, we have found to stay relatively stable on a quarterly basis.  Each Tipping Point has the capability of individually being a catalyst to advance the sector marked in red above.

SEQUENCE & TIMEFRAMES

We can never be sure of the sequence and time frame of any particular Tipping Point. Like a house of cards you never know which one, or what movement will precisely bring the house of cards down. What you know however, is that it will happen – you just need to be patient and prepared. Unfortunately few have the patience or think they can time it for even more profit. The greatest trader of all time, Jesse Livermore, wrote after a life time of trading, that his best gains were made when “he bought right and sat tight!”

Our current analysis on Tipping Points reflects the following:

DETERMINING MORE GRANULARITY – We are in the 2010-2011 Transition Phase

In my articles EXTEND & PRETEND: A Guide to the Road Ahead and EXTEND & PRETEND: A Matter of National Security I outlined even more granularity to the virtuous cycle turning vicious spiral.

We can now overlay the Tipping Points onto this map. We arrive at the following.

A – EXIT FROM ECONOMIC CRISIS STAGE

  • Commercial Real Estate – Finally forced to account properly for mark-to market valuations.
  • Housing Real Estate – Option ARMS come due and FHA / FNM / FDE / FDIC are seen as insolvent.
  • Corporate Bankruptcies – Unfunded Pension impacts and debt loads (gearing) on reduced revenues.
  • State, City & Local Government Financial Implosion – Non Accrued Pension Obligations, falling tax revenue and years of accounting gimmicks come home to roost.
  • Central & Eastern Europe – The ‘sub-prime’ of Europe will soon erupt on the EU banking network as evidenced recently by Hungary and the Baltic States.

TRANSITION: 

HIGHER INTEREST RATES
Significantly Increasing Interest Rates – A Major Global News Focus

A $5T Quantitative Easing (QE II) Emergency Action
It will likely be triggered by a geo-political event or false flag operation.

B – ENTER POLITICAL CRISIS STAGE

  • Entitlement Crisis -  The unfunded and underfunded Pension charade ends
  • Credit Contraction II – Credit Shrinks Violently
  • Banking Crisis II – Banking Insolvency no longer able to be hidden through Extend & Pretend.
  • Reduced Rating Levels  - Falling Asset Values and Collateral Calls on $430T Interest Rate Swaps
  • Government Back-Stopped Programs -  FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie MA, FDIC go bust

C - HITTING ‘MATURITY WALL’ STAGE

Lending ‘Roll-Over’ – Game Ends

CONCLUSION

A recent Zero Hedge contributing author summarized the current environment nicely:

“There is an entrenched insolvency problem in the United States, and a picture is worth a thousand words. Insolvency is not illiquidity; insolvency is about income that can’t service debt burden. Notice where things fall off the cliff: I believe we are getting close to this point. Just need a catalyst. Sequential bond auction failures here, a sovereign default there, massive liquidity drain all around, worse… whatever. The fumes running the engine (QE, or credit easing) are dwindling.”

There is an old sailor’s saying:

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning!

Every morning the next batch of economic numbers is released and the indications are consistently red. Of course the market initially drops, and then miraculously rises on no volume. Since 2007 we have potentially constructed the largest head and shoulders topping formation we have ever seen.

This doesn’t mean the markets are imminently headed down. What it does mean is you should be meticulously battening down your financial hatches and checking your options for every eventuality.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Gordon T Long          
Tipping Points