Category Archives: Economy and Meltdown

Jeremy Grantham: "I, For One, Wish That The World Would Get On With Whatever Is Coming Next"


We will share much more of Jeremy Grantham‘s latest just released must read letter shortly, but for now the following section will suffice because, in short, we agree with every single word said in it.

“Groundhog Day”

 

The economic environment seems to be stuck in a rather unpleasant perpetual loop. Greece is always about to default; the latest bailout is always about to save the day and yet never seems to; China is always about to collapse but instead teases us by inching down; and I swear the Financial Times is beginning to recycle its reports! In the U.S., the fiscal cliff looms along with debt limits and the usual election uncertainties. The dysfunctional U.S. Congress continues for the time being in its intractable ways. The stock market rises and falls and rises and falls again. It is getting difficult to find anything new to say at client meetings. I, for one, wish that the world would get on with whatever is coming next.

 

One slight change, though, is that fantastic (almost unbelievable) profit margin and earnings gains have finally weakened a little. They, together with Bernanke’s super low rates, have been the twin pillars of the market and not bad ones at all: here we are up 8% for the year in a thoroughly unsettling financial and economic world. With margins weakening, one of the twin pillars is looking shaky and price declines look more likely than before.

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Guest Post: The European Tinder Box


Submitted by Moraymint of The Needle blog,

I wonder if harsh economic realities could transcend generally accepted logic.  The common perception of unravelling events relies, by and large, on politicians remaining in close control of events and in particular in tight control of their societies.

 

But when institutions start running out of cash and people don’t get paid on a grand scale (which must now be well and truly on the cards in saying the coming 1 – 3 years, if not within the coming months), then politicians’ grand economic and political plans can rapidly turn in to the proverbial ‘ball of chalk’.

Like many people I struggle to discern the details of unfolding events over the coming months.  However, my age and instinct tell me that Europe’s political elites are losing control of their own societies even now.  There are more than 18 million people unemployed in Europe today and, for as long Europe’s political class stays on its current course, that unemployed rate will climb and climb.  That’s a really bad state of affairs; indeed, it’s life-threatening.

Eventually, I judge that the smouldering European tinder box will burst forth in to flame and thence on to conflagration.  At which point all bets are off.  No amount of logical and neat arguments about how politicians will engineer a European superstate without an explicit democratic mandate so to do will counteract the incandescent rage that could grip a critical mass of European citizens going without work, going without shelter, going hungry and living without hope.

It’s this ‘direct action’ by angry citizens that would scupper the controlled, totalitarian formation of a European superstate, I believe.  But I accept that I may be quite wrong in this and that the Europeans could well end up stumbling like lambs to the slaughter when it comes to their political masters implementing acoup de continent’ and forcing the formation of the United States of Europe on 495 million people.  God help them if it happens that way.

And if it does, there would need to be revolution in the UK to prevent our own political class from stitching us in to that self same socialist-fascist nightmare that would be the nascent USE.

Frankly, with each passing day now I can barely believe what the European political class is doing and getting away with.  It’s both scary and shameful and made so much worse by the benign way in which our own ignorant and cowardly political class just goes with the flow. Europe is on the verge of being raped and our own politicians don’t know where to look, still less what to do.

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The Fed On Gold Price Manipulation


Lately various media outlets have been swamped with stories and allegations of precious metal manipulation ranging from the arcane, to the bizarre to the outright ridiculous. At issue is not that these claims of price fraud are unfounded – they very well may be completely true – but without a notarized facsimile of an actual trade ticket signed by Brian Sack, or his replacement Simon Potter, or any of the BIS traders confirming they are indeed selling gold on behalf of the Fed, BOE, ECB, SNB or BOJ simply to keep the price of the metal down, what such constant factless accusations (and no, sorry, a chart showing that the price of gold may go up or go down sharply indicates merely that and nothing about the underlying factors for such a move) do is to habituate the broader public to the real issues surrounding precious metal, and other asset class, manipulation. So instead of searching for circumstantial evidence which one can easily find everywhere, we decided to go straight to the source. To do that we go back to a post we wrote back in September of 2009, based on an internal previously confidential Fed document, which conveniently enough explains everything vis-a-vis gold manipulation and leaves nothing to speculation or misinterpretation. Zero Hedge presents the smoking gun that may provide responses to all the various open questions regarding the Fed’s Modus Operandi in the gold arena which answer the core question – motive – courtesy of a declassified memorandum, written by none other than the then Fed Chairman, and addressed to the president of the United States.

From Zero Hedge, September 27, 2009.

Exclusive Smoking Gun: The Fed On Gold Manipulation

Zero Hedge has recently presented several declassified documents from the pre-1971 “Nixon Shock” days, that endorse the case for gold as a major historical factor in US monetary and foreign policy, as demonstrated by State Department and CIA disclosure. Gold’s special status in policy and administrative decision-making was a direct factor in Nixon’s choice to abolish the gold reserve at a time of an exploding budget deficit.

Yet what about the days after 1971, and specifically, how did that critical “behind the scenes” organization, the Federal Reserve, perceive and manipulate gold in the post Bretton-Woods world? Was gold, freed from its shackles to the dollar, once again merely a symbolic representation for money?

Zero Hedge presents the smoking gun that may provide responses to all the various open questions, courtesy of a declassified memorandum, written by none other than the then Fed Chairman, addressed to the president of the United States.

On June 3, 1975, Fed Chairman Arthur Burns, sent a “Memorandum For The President” to Gerald Ford, which among others CC:ed Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, discussing gold, and specifically its fair value, a topic whose prominence, despite former president Nixon’s actions, had only managed to grow in the four short years since the abandonment of the gold standard in 1971. In a nutshell Burns’ entire argument revolves around the equivalency of gold and money, and furthermore points out that if the Fed does not control this core relationship, it would “easily frustrate our efforts to control world liquidity” but also “dangerously prejudge the shape of the future monetary system.” Furthermore, the memo goes on to highlight the extensive level of gold price manipulation by central banks even after the gold standard has been formally abolished. The problem with accounting for gold at fair market value: the risk of massive liquidity creation, which in those long-gone days of 1975 “could result in the addition of up to $150 billion to the nominal value of countries’ reserves.” One only wonders what would happen today if gold was allowed to attain its fair price status. And the threat, according to Burns: “liquidity creation of such extraordinary magnitude would seriously endanger, perhaps even frustrate, out efforts and those of other prudent nations to get inflation under reasonable control.” Aside from the gratuitous observation that even 34 years ago it was painfully obvious how “massive” liquidity could and would result in runaway inflation and the Fed actually cared about this potential danger, what highlights the hypocrisy of the Fed is that when it comes to drowning the world in excess pieces of paper, only the United States should have the right to do so. 

Another notable observation is that despite a muted antagonism between the Fed and the US Treasury persisting for decades, the fuse is and always has been short, and the conflict can promptly hit a crescendo, with the Fed ultimately always getting the upper hand. In the case of the Burns memo, the Fed’s position was diametrically opposed to what the Treasury proposed was the proper approach. The result: full on assault by the Federal Reserve over the Treasury’s credibility and even then, more than three decades ago, a veiled threat by the Fed involving escalating problems if the recommendation of the Treasury was picked over that of the Fed. “Severe criticism on the part of prominent and influential financiers would inevitably follow if the Treasury’s present position prevailed.” It is not surprising that the Fed’s modus operandi has not changed one bit since 1975: it is our way or virtually assured destruction/embarrassment way.

Additionally, a curious tangent of the Burns memo is the fact that gold was explicitly used as an engine to enact political doctrine: “If the United States took a stand on the gold question that failed to satisfy the French in current international negotiations, would there be adverse economic or political consequences? I doubt it… If we do ever accede to French views on gold, we should at least use our bargaining leverage to achieve some major political advantage.” And while gold as a policy mechanism was unable to satisfy its role this time, one wonders on how many subsequent occasions was global democracy trampled over in order to placate the US Federal Reserve:

“I have consulted Henry Kissinger as to whether there is some political quid pro quo we might want to extract from the French in exchange for acceding to some part or all of their desired position on gold. But Henry tells me there is none at this time.”

At some point governments of advanced nations will say “enough” to the covert domination of their controlling bodies by the Federal Reserve, which through manipulation of its gold and money interests, effectively has control over not just the French, but every government which has a monetary basis to its respective economy and a relationship to the US “reserve” currency… Which means virtually every country in the world. The backlash, if and when it occurs, will be memorable.

Lastly, the memo presents a useful snapshot into the cloak-and-dagger, and highly nebulous world of Central Bank negotiations and gold price manipulation:

“I have a secret understanding in writing with the Bundesbank that Germany will not buy gold, either from the market or from another government, at a price above the official price.”

So to all conspiracy theorists claiming that gold is being manipulated on a daily basis by the Federal Reserve: when it occurs over and over, and is so well documented, it is no longer a theory, it is merely sad. And the fact that the US government goes to great lengths to hide the illicit dealings of the Federal Reserve, which through its monetary tentacles, has prima facie control over not just US policy but also over sovereign governments, is an unprecedented failure in the checks and balances system that the founding fathers had planned when they created the United States of America. Yet saddest is that the United States no longer pursues strategic goals that are in the best interest of the majority of its citizens, but merely manipulates other, less powerful nations into a servile existence that only provides gain to a very limited subset of the American financial oligarchy. It is time for the Fed’s unprecedented control over affairs, both global and domestic, to end.

Full memo from Arthur Burns presented, compliments of Geoffrey Batt who collaborated in the creation of this post.

 

* * *

As a post-script to all those complaining about gold, silver and other PM price suppression, here is one simple question: can one buy more gold at $1,600 or at $16,000? This is not a trick question.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock Answers: Is Global Trade About To Collapse; And Where Are Oil Prices Headed?


From James Stafford of OilPrice.com

Is Global Trade About To Collapse? Where are Oil Prices Headed? A chat with Mike Shedlock

As markets continue to yo-yo and commentators deliver mixed forecasts, investors are faced with some tough decisions and have a number of important questions that need answering. On a daily basis we are asked what’s happening with oil prices alongside questions on China’s slowdown, which commodities or instruments will provide safety in the current environment, will the Euro-zone split in the future and what impact the presidential election is going to have on the economy and markets?

To help Oilprice.com look into these issues and more we were fortunate enough to speak with the award winning economic commentator Mike “Mish” Shedlock.

Mike’s blog: Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis is one of the most popular and informative economic blogs online. His millions of dedicated monthly readers find his advice invaluable and we recommend anyone interested in learning more about the global economy and financial markets to stop in and take a look: http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

To find his blog, you can also do a Google search for Mish

In the interview, Mish discusses:

 

·         Why global trade will collapse if Romney wins

·         Why investors should get out of stocks and commodities

·         Why we have been oversold on shale gas and renewable energy

·         Why oil prices will likely fall in the short-term

·         Why the Eurozone is doomed

·         Why there may soon be an oil war with China

·         How government interference is ruining the renewable energy sector

·         Why we need to get rid of fractional reserve lending

 

Oilprice.com: With oil prices now in the high 80’s and news out of Europe getting worse every day, do you expect prices to stay in this range, or do you see them dropping in the short term?

Mish: There are two conflicting forces here. One of them is oil prices over the long-term and the other is oil prices over the short-term.

Even in the short-term you will find there are conflicting forces at play. For example, stress in the Middle-East puts an upward pressure on oil prices. However, economic problems in Europe, a slow-down in Asia and a slow-down in the United States put downward pressure on oil prices. New orders are falling at a staggering rate across the board in Asia, China, Japan, Europe, and the United States which also puts further downward pressure on oil prices.

Long-term, forces such as peak oil and population growth in China are putting pressures to the upside.

One needs to balance all of those factors out when they are about ready to give a prediction on oil prices. My opinion is that over the short to mid-term, oil prices will go down. Long-term, energy is a good place to invest.

Oilprice.com: If your prediction is correct and oil prices do go down – what sort of impact do you see this having on the U.S. economy, if any?

Mish: That’s an interesting question. However, the question puts the cart before the horse.

Looking at prices in a vacuum is a mistake. One also has to look at why prices are doing what they’re doing. For example, falling oil prices that happen when supply shocks are alleviated are a positive thing. Falling oil prices because of falling demand is another. You seldom see this kind of distinction in mainstream media.

Right now, oil prices are primarily falling because of falling demand, and that is in spite of geopolitical tensions. That is not a healthy sign for the economy.

Oilprice.com: As we have seen with the recent oil workers strike in Norway and subsequent rise in oil prices. Geopolitical risks always remain to keep the markets off balance. Apart from Iran are there any other geopolitical risks you think people should be aware of?

Mish: A key geopolitical risk in the long-term is that China cannot continue at its expected rate of growth. For years, the mantra has been “China, China, China,” and many thought China could maintain its 8% to 10% per year growth going forward. That’s not going to happen.

I agree with Michael Pettis at China Financial Markets, that China is more likely to see 2% growth than 8% or even 6% growth over the next decade.

2% growth is a shocking reduction, even from the lowered expectations that we’ve seen regarding China. The implication is commodity prices, especially base metals, are going to be under extreme pressure because of China stockpiles. For further discussion please see “China Rebalancing Has Begun”; What are the Global Implications?

Oilprice.com: What are your longer term projections for oil prices – say 3-5 years out?

Mish: I think it’s a fool’s game to make such projections. Most of the projections on the price of gold, silver and oil are ridiculous. They are designed to sell newsletters. The bigger the hype, the greater the sales. On occasion, I will make a call. For example, when crude hit $140+ in the summer of 2008, and others called for $200, I said oil prices would drop to the $45.00 – $50.00 range or so. Oil went to $35.

Moreover, those predicting $200.00 never bothered to think what that would do to the global economy. We saw the same thing in natural gas. People were predicting $25. Look at prices now, at roughly $3.00 NG fell all the way to $2.20, lower than even this staunch deflationist thought.

I’m not willing to go out on the same limb and predict energy prices three years in advance. The reason is we really don’t know for sure how central bankers are going to respond. China is particularly important. If there’s universal printing of money everywhere, I would expect a lot of that to flow back into prices of gold, perhaps of silver, and perhaps energy, but we really don’t know what they’re going to do. We don’t know when or how the Euro Zone is going to break up. I think it will, but how is as important as when.

In the US, we don’t know the results of tax hikes following the 2012 election. Heck, we don’t even know who the next president in the United States is going to be. Will it be Republican? Will it be Democrat? Numerous political and economic forces are pulling and tugging in different ways.

I don’t believe there’s anyone out there that can predict, with any kind of accuracy, what oil prices are going to do. Which is why I believe trying to predict oil prices in the midst of all of these possibilities is a fool’s game.

 

Oilprice.com: What are your views on inflation and hyperinflation.

Mish: Hyperinflation is a complete collapse in currency. It is a political event that kicks off hyperinflation, not a monetary one. Hyperinflation talk hit an extreme when oil prices hit $140. Such talk was silly then, and it is still silly now.

Hyperinflationists in general fail to understand the role of collapsing demand for credit. The total credit market is over $54 trillion. Base money supply is $2.6 trillion and excess reserves are about $1.5 trillion. Seems to me we had huge expansion in credit and Bernanke is struggling to reignite demand. I suggest he will not succeed.

The idea the US$ will suddenly go to zero is ridiculous. The US is the world’s largest holder of gold reserves, and that alone would stop it. Also note that Bernanke, as misguided as his policies are, is still beholden to the banking system. As such he has no desire for it to collapse.

As far as inflation goes, I am still widely misunderstood. I view inflation as an increase in money supply and credit, with credit marked to market. Deflation is the opposite. If one insists that inflation is about prices, then we are in a state of inflation with 10-year treasury rates below 1.5%.  

For those who woodenly view inflation in terms of prices, well, prices may or may not rise. Price have generally risen, but credit is the key behind housing prices, family formation, hiring, and in fact everything driving the economy. So, where is credit going? Demographics and student debt suggests nowhere. Indeed, credit has gone nowhere in spite of heroic efforts by Bernanke.

Oilprice.com: You just mentioned that we don’t know who the next president is going to be and sticking to this topic how big an impact do you see energy prices having on this year’s presidential elections?

Mish: I don’t think energy prices are what’s on people’s minds. What’s on people’s minds right now are jobs. Oil prices have kind of stabilized and in the very short-term they are likely to stay stable unless there are some dramatic results in the Mid-East or a dramatic slowdown in the US economy.  Both are possible, but a major US slowdown is arguably more likely. Regardless, I think energy prices are going to be a minor election issue.

Oilprice.com: The message on peak oil seems to be confused. Many are adamant that peak oil is the largest threat to ever face humanity, whilst others believe that with new technologies and new fields being found, peak oil is a myth and we are actually swimming in oil. What are your thoughts?

Mish: The idea that we’re swimming in oil is preposterous. Moreover, abiotic oil is a ridiculous pipe-dream. That said, the idea that the global economy is going to come grinding to a halt in the next year or two because of oil is also preposterous (discounting a geopolitical Mid-East shutdown). In general, I would side with the peak oil folks, noting that a global recession will likely pressure prices more than anyone thinks, barring a breakout of war or supply disruptions  in the Mid-East.

Long-term, 8% growth in China is mathematically not going to happen. People really need to get a grip on exponential math and the implications thereof. If China does attempt to grow at 8-10% as some people have predicted, there’s going to be an oil war of some kind between the United States and China because there’s simply not enough oil.

For a good discussion on the limits of exponential growth, please see Calpers Pension Plan Reports 1% Return; Stunning “What If” Charts at Various Compound Annualized Rates-of-Return Going Forward

Oilprice.com: Shale gas has been generating a great deal of headlines recently. Do you believe it could be the solution to America’s energy challenges? We are also seeing developments in oil & gas extraction technologies. Have we been oversold on such possibilities?

Mish: I think we’re oversold on everything. We’re oversold on the idea of cheap energy, of free energy, of green energy, of clean energy. We’re oversold on the stock market. We’re oversold on what Obama can deliver. We’re oversold on what Mitt Romney can deliver. We’re oversold in so many areas, I can’t even mention them.

In regards to new technologies, how much water will it take to extract these reserves in the midst of these droughts? What are we going to do with the contamination, how do we get rid of the waste byproducts? These kinds of projects look good on paper, but are they truly scalable in practice?

I hope I am wrong.

Oilprice.com: What is the role of government in alternative energy sources?  

Mish: The role of government should be to get the hell out of the way and let the free market work. If peak oil really is a problem (and I think it is), the free market will come up with a solution if left alone.

Instead, the government is trying to pick winners. Look at the results. President Obama backed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and the DOE loan guarantee scheme blew sky high.

Our ethanol program is a total disaster. By government mandate, corn has been diverted to ethanol production smack in the midst of a drought. Corn is not an efficient way to produce ethanol, even if there was not a drought.

Governments seldom back winners. Instead, government bureaucrats back companies that contribute to their campaigns. This is worse than it looks because such activities deprives companies with real solutions a chance at funding.

We need to get government out of the energy business completely and let the free market work.

Oilprice.com: Sticking with the renewable energy theme, do you see them making a meaningful contribution to global energy production over the next 10 years?

Mish: Adding to my previous answer, government subsidies of unviable products and unviable ideas gets in the way of the free market actually producing viable products and viable ideas. Simply put, the more government interferes, the less likely we are going to see advances in the actual direction of a true solution.

Oilprice.com: In regards to presidential elections, how do you think energy will fare under Obama and under Romney? Which sectors will benefit, and which will suffer?

Mish: Mitt Romney has declared that if he’s elected he is going to label China a currency manipulator and increase tariffs on China across the board. That’s something that I believe he might be able to do by mandate. If he’s elected and he does follow through, I think the result will be a global trade war the likes of which we have not seen since the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act compounded problems during the Great Depression. Simply put, I think that global trade will collapse if Romney wins and he follows through on his campaign promises.

Unfortunately, campaign rhetoric now is heating up to the point where President Obama and Mitt Romney are trying to outdo each other on who’s going to do more to China. Thus, we may very well see a global trade war regardless of who wins.

As an aside, Mitt Romney is pledging to increase military spending. Given Romney’s statements on Iran, it’s more likely he would start a war with Iran than Obama. Note that the U.S. military is one of the biggest users of petroleum worldwide and oil price shocks could be devastating.

 

None of this is any good for the world economy at all. I believe that Romney will do what he says. I believe he’s more likely to start wars than Obama, but that doesn’t make Obama any good. This is the worst slate of candidates in U.S. history running for president, and I’m writing in Ron Paul.

Oilprice.com: As the global economy slows, where do you see the best investment opportunities available to investors?

Mish: At this point, the best thing to do is wait for better opportunities. I am talking my book, but something like 70-80% cash (or hedged equities) and 20-30% gold seems reasonable. I’m telling people, “Get out of the stock market. Get out of commodities except gold and perhaps a bit of silver.”

A global slowdown is underway. Actually, I made a Case for US and Global Recession Right Here, Right Now.

Although nothing is certain, central bankers worldwide are highly likely to pump up money supply hoping to counteract the slowdown. If so, I think gold is going to be one of big beneficiaries. Silver may be a huge beneficiary, and I like it here. However, silver is also an industrial commodity, so gold is safer.

Bear in mind, I may seem like a broken record on this thesis given cash and gold has been my call for the last year and a half or so.

In spite of calling the global economy exceptionally well, I’ve simply been wrong about U.S. equities. They have risen far more than I thought, but I still caution that risk is high.

I’m going to repeat my general message here, that another slow-down, and another big downturn in the stock market is highly likely. Equities are quite overvalued at this point, cash is not trash, and staying liquid now, with a percentage in gold, is a good idea.

Oilprice.com: I was hoping you could tell us your thoughts on the Euro. You mentioned previously, that you think the E.U. will split in the future, why do you think this will occur, and what will the economic and political implications be?

Mish: I think it’s pretty clear that the euro’s going to split because no currency union in history has ever survived without there being a corresponding fiscal union in place. Right now we’re in a situation where Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says that “There should be no fiscal union until there’s a political union.” Francois Hollande said, “There should be no political union until there’s a banking union,” and the German Supreme Court will not allow a political union or a fiscal union, nor a banking union without a German referendum.

I did a post on this, and it’s called, “It’s Just Impossible.”

If politicians could not get agreements when times were good, how are they going to get these agreements now, when they’re bickering over every little thing, including the amount of the ESM, whether or not the bailout of Spain should be via the ESM or the EFSF, and whether or not the Spanish government should be backstopping this loan.

They can’t get an agreement on anything, and the German Constitutional Court is hanging like a Sword of Damocles over the entire thing.

For these reasons, the Euro is going to bust up. What happens to the price of the Euro depends on how it busts up. If the breakup is piecemeal and disorderly, it means one thing. If it’s orderly and prepared in advance with Germany leaving and the northern states leaving, it’s a completely different scenario. Any point along that line is possible, but piecemeal seems more likely. How disorderly remains to be seen.

For example, if Germany exits the Euro and goes on the deutschmark, the value of the deutschmark will soar, whilst the value of the Euro will decline.

Instead, if we see a break-up by Spain leaving, by Greece leaving, by Italy leaving, and the bulk of what’s left is Germany and the northern States, then the value of the Euro can soar. Those are the two conflicting possibilities here. The market has not decided which one of those is more likely.

Meanwhile, the Euro is in a low 1.20 range to the U.S. dollar. A breakout or a breakdown might be a signal that the market is expecting one of those possibilities over the other.

We are in uncharted territory and everyone is guessing.

Short-term I am neutral on the US dollar at this level because the euro is a bit oversold, the idea of a Greek exit is no longer unfathomable, and the Fed is likely to initiate QE3 at some point. This is a change from my previous US dollar bullish stance.

Oilprice.com: We mentioned China earlier, and I was wondering what you think the future holds for China, both politically and economically.

Mish: A regime change in China is coming up. The current regime has been focused on growth. However, I think the next Chinese government already understands that the growth at any cost of the current regime is not sustainable. If so, we’re going to see a major shift away from an export-driven production model dependent on investment on roads, on bridges, and more production, to a consumption-driven model. That shift will be one of the major forces in the global economy.

If I’m correct on this, then it’s going to be a painful adjustment, regardless of what China does. For example, a Chinese slow-down towards consumption would increase the value of the renminbi, would decrease their exports, would help the balance of trade between China and the United States and Europe, and would put intense pressure on commodity prices. In turn, asset prices and currencies of the commodity producing countries, like Australia, Brazil, and Canada will come under heavy pressure.

Oilprice.com: Mark Faber is not a fan of the Federal Reserve, blaming them for the current US economic situation. He said, “Usually under a gold standard you have a bubble under one sector of the economy but you don’t have it across the board globally and that’s really what the Federal Reserve has done over the last couple of years.” Do you agree? Is the Fed to blame? And what can be done to avoid this in the future?

Mish: I agree with part of it, if not most of it. However, the idea that the gold standard itself causes bubbles is fallacious. The gold standard does not cause huge bubbles. The real culprit is fractional reserve lending. Historically, problems happened when banks lent out more money than there was gold backing it up.

The gold standard did one thing for sure. It limited trade imbalances. Once Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, the U.S. trade deficit soared (along with the exportation of manufacturing jobs).

To fix the problems of the U.S. losing jobs to China, to South Korea, to India, and other places, we need to put a gold standard back in place, not enact tariffs.

Oilprice.com: Mish, thank you for your time this has been a very enjoyable and enlightening conversation for us.

For those of you who haven’t seen Mish’s superb blog and daily economic commentary we strongly recommend you visit his site: http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com. You can also do a Google search for Mish.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Interviews/Global-Trade-Likely-to-Collapse-if-Romney-Wins-Interview-with-Mike-Shedlock.html

Interview by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

The Reality Of The Rest Of Draghi’s ‘Believe-Me’ Speech


While it is probably not surprising that so many decided to focus on those few words of relevance to an implicitly self-aggrandizing crowd of long-only risk-takers and commission-makers; the truth is that, as UBS notes, “Draghi was stating a fact, not changing a policy”. Putting the fateful sentence in the context of the rest of his speech/interview is critical and most importantly, we agree with UBS’ Justin Knight’s opinion that Draghi did nothing more than make a technical observation on an impairment in monetary policy transmission (as we discussed here). Regardless, if our interpretation is correct, then the rally in peripheral bonds should unwind quickly. The size of the move probably has knocked many shorts out of the market.

 

Justin Knight, UBS: Mr. Draghi was Stating a Fact, not Changing Policy

Peripheral bond markets rallied sharply on a single sentence uttered by Mario Draghi in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday. When read in isolation, the sentence appears to indicate a change in policy in which the ECB would begin targeting peripheral yields. However, it is important to put the fateful sentence in the context of Mr. Draghi’s overall remarks. Thus, in our opinion he was doing nothing more than making a technical observation on an impairment in monetary policy transmission.

The sentence in question is:

“To the extent that the size of these sovereign premia hamper the functioning of the monetary policy transmission channels, they come within our mandate”

This implies, perhaps strongly, that the ECB’s mandate includes bringing yields to levels where they do not hamper policy transmission and then keeping yields there. However, this interpretation does not fit either with the context of the rest of his interview, or with previous equally strong statements to the contrary. Indeed, it does not mesh with the current institutional framework in Europe.

Mr. Draghi immediately followed the above remark with

“So we’ll have to cope with this financial fragmentation, addressing these issues”.

Financial fragmentation – the fact that some banks have better access to market liquidity than others ? is the subject of this section of his speech. This sentence suggests that the policy response should be aimed more directly at financial fragmentation directly rather than peripheral yields per se. Put another way, it seems to us that he was simply stating that elevated sovereign risk premia impair the transmission of monetary policy as they raise the cost of bank borrowing (and therefore of lending). In the last ECB press conference, Mr. Draghi stated the favoured policy response to fragmentation:

“But in a highly fragmented situation, when a bank is short of funding, they only can go to the ECB. And if the bank is solvent, the ECB stands ready to provide all the liquidity they need. That is important. We should not forget that. I have been saying this on and on and on since the beginning. The ECB is providing liquidity and will keep all liquidity lines open to solvent banks.”

As policy, this is a far cry from the market’s interpretation du jour. Mr Draghi has been vocal about the ECB’s inability to target peripheral yields. In December he referenced the need to respect the spirit of the rules on monetary financing laid out in the Treaty. In the July press conference he also said:

“With regard to the ECB, I have said on numerous occasions that we are certainly supporting the euro area economy by achieving our objective of price stability in the medium term, and we want to act within the limits of our mandate. I don’t think there is anything to gain by asking the institution to act outside the limits of its mandate, thereby destroying its credibility”

Taking these statements together, it appears to us that the ECB already is addressing financial fragmentation. The Bank is providing unlimited liquidity to banks at the policy rate, and has proven quite willing to adjust its collateral requirements.

More broadly, it seems evident that the ECB does not have a mandate to create the informal fiscal transfer union that a cap on peripheral yields would ultimately imply. The fiscal authorities could provide that mandate. However, from our layman’s perch they seem relatively unconcerned with recent market developments. Furthermore, Article 123 of the EU Treaty, which prohibits monetising debt, has its origins in German economic thinking on the hyperinflation of the early 1920s. Therefore, it is very unlikely to be compromised easily.

We expect Mr. Draghi to clarify his comments in the coming days. That might mean waiting until the August 2 press conference. Regardless, if our interpretation is correct, then the rally in peripheral bonds should unwind quickly. The size of the move probably has knocked many shorts out of the market.