Quantum Pranx

ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Credit Crisis

The Nightmare after Christmas

leave a comment »

by Detlev Schlichter
of The Cobden Center
Posted December 26, 2011

THE PATHETIC STATE OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM WAS AGAIN ON DISPLAY THIS WEEK. Stocks around the world go up when a major central bank pumps money into the financial system. They go down when the flow of money slows and when the intoxicating influence of the latest money injection wears off. Can anybody really take this seriously? On Tuesday, the prospect of another gigantic cash infusion from the ECB’s printing press into Europe’s banking sector, which is in large part terminally ill but institutionally protected from dying, was enough to trigger the established Pavlovian reflexes among portfolio managers and traders.

None of this has anything to do with capitalism properly understood. None of this has anything to do with efficient capital allocation, with channelling savings into productive capital, or with evaluating entrepreneurship and rewarding innovation. This is the make-believe, get-rich-quick (or, increasingly, pretend-you-are-still-rich) world of state-managed fiat-money-socialism. The free market is dead. We just pretend it is still alive.

There are, of course those who are still under the illusion that this can go on forever. Or even that what we need is some shock-and-awe Über-money injection that will finally put an end to all that unhelpful worrying about excessive debt levels and overstretched balance sheets. Let’s print ourselves a merry little recovery.

How did Mr. Bernanke, the United States’ money-printer-in-chief put it in 2002? “Under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending…” (Italics mine.)

Well, I think governments and central banks will get even more determined in 2012. And it is going to end in a proper disaster.

Lender of all resorts

Last week in one of their articles on the euro-mess, the Wall Street Journal Europe repeated a widely shared myth about the ECB: “With Germany’s backing, the ECB has so far refused to become a lender of last resort, …” This is, of course, nonsense. Even the laziest of 2011 year-end reviews will show that the ECB is precisely that: A committed funder of states and banks. Like all other central banks, the ECB has one overriding objective: to create a constant flow of new fiat money and thus cheap credit to an overstretched banking sector and an out-of-control welfare state that can no longer be funded by the private sector. That is what the ECB’s role is. The ECB is lender of last resort, first resort, and soon every resort.

Let’s look at the facts. The ECB started 2011 with record low policy rates. In the spring it thought it appropriate to consider an exit strategy. The ECB conducted a number of moderate rate hikes that have by now all been reversed. By the beginning of 2012 the ECB’s policy rates are again where they were at the beginning of 2011, at record low levels.

So why was the springtime attempt at “rate normalization” aborted? Because of deflationary risks? Hardly. Inflation is at 3 percent and thus not only higher than at the start of the year but also above the ECB’s official target.

The reason was simply this: states and banks needed a lender of last resort. The private market had lost confidence in the ability (willingness?) of certain euro-zone governments to ever repay their massive and constantly growing debt load. Certain states were thus cut off from cheap funding. The resulting re-pricing of sovereign bonds hit the banks and made it more challenging for them to finance their excessive balance sheets with money from their usual sources, not least U.S. money market funds.

So, in true lender-of-last resort fashion, the ECB had to conduct a U-turn and put those printing presses into high gear to fund states and banks at more convenient rates. While in a free market, lending rates are the result of the bargaining between lenders and borrowers, in the state-managed fiat money system, politicians and bureaucrats define what constitutes “sustainable” and “appropriate” interest rates for states and banks. The central bank has to deliver.

The ECB has not only helped with lower rates. Its balance sheet has expanded over the year by at least €490 billion, and is thus 24% larger than at the start of the year. This does not even include this week’s cash binge. The ECB is funding ever more European banks and is accepting weaker collateral against its loans. Many of these banks would be bust by now were it not for the constant subsidy of cheap and unlimited ECB credit. If that does not define a lender of last resort, what does?

And as I pointed out recently, the ECB’s self-imposed limit of €20 billion in weekly government bond purchases (an exercise in market manipulation and subsidization of spendthrift governments but shamelessly masked as an operation to allow for smooth transmission of monetary policy) is hardly a severe restriction. It would allow the ECB to expand its balance sheet by another €1 trillion a year. (The ECB is presently keeping its bond purchases well below €20 billion per week.)

Deflation? What deflation?

It is noteworthy that there still seems to be a widespread belief that all this money-printing will not lead to higher inflation because of the offsetting deflationary forces emanating from private bank deleveraging and fiscal austerity.

Read the rest of this entry »

America “makes the cut” – So what happens next?

with one comment

by Brandon Smith
Posted on Alt-Market, August 7, 2011

AROUND THE WORLD, STARTING MONDAY, ALL EYES ARE ON THE MARKETS. The tension is palpable. The uncertainty is ample. And anger is heavy in the air. As predicted, the debt ceiling deal was not only NOT enough to assuage economic fears, it actually exacerbated them, triggering a flight from the Dow, and creating a decisive opportunity for ratings agency S&P to cut the once perfect U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+.

At Alt-Market, we often talk about points of balance, and how certain moments in history become highly visible indicators of balance lost. If we pay close attention, and know what we are looking for, these moments can be recognized, allowing us time to shield ourselves from the explosion and the resulting financial shrapnel. The past two weeks have culminated into one of these defining events that tell us the tide has fully turned, and something new and dangerous is just over the horizon. The question now is; what should we expect?

The nature of the credit downgrade situation is not necessarily “unprecedented” in history, but it is surely unprecedented on the scale we see currently in the U.S. It is difficult to predict how exactly the investment world will react. Some consequences, though, are probable, if not inevitable. Let’s examine the events we are likely to see in the coming weeks as well as the coming months, as nations attempt to adjust to America’s final plunge…

1) Ratings Agencies under attack

This has already begun. Italian authorities have raided the offices of S&P and Moody’s, apparently perturbed that their credit rating is not under their control. The U.S. is accusing S&P of making “accounting mistakes” and jumping the gun on the American downgrade. The battle between insolvent governments and the ratings agencies from here on will escalate quickly. More offices will be investigated and raided. The mainstream media will try to assert that the downgrades are “not that important”, and that the U.S. will recover quite nicely without a perfect score. Eventually, as the collapse becomes more evident, ratings agencies will fill the role as the go to scapegoat / economic hitman at which all governments will point accusing fingers.

“S&P is gonna’ cut you man! S&P’s a blade-man, man!”

In my view, it’s all theater. First, let’s set aside the recent ratings cuts altogether and look at the facts. The U.S. should have been downgraded years ago, especially after the Federal Reserve decided to begin purchasing U.S. Treasury Bonds in place of dwindling foreign interest and turned to monetizing our debt to the point of rampant inflation. Italy and numerous other EU members should have been downgraded to junk status a long time ago as well. If anything, the ratings agencies over the past few years have been PROTECTING the credit reputations of many countries which in no way deserve it. The recent downgrades are long overdue…

Second, suddenly governments and MSM pundits feel it necessary to point out the large part ratings agencies played in the derivatives bubble and subsequent credit crisis? Please! They were perfectly content with S&P or Moody’s giving fraudulent top ratings for toxic garbage securities, and even defended agency actions after the bubble burst! Now, after they finally start doing their jobs by downgrading bad debt, governments want an investigation?

Third, ratings agencies were not alone in the creation of the derivatives bubble. The private Federal Reserve artificially lowered interest rates and flooded the markets with cheap fiat. International banks used this fast money to create the easy mortgage groundswell and the derivatives poison that was fed it into the system. Ratings agencies went along with the scam and graded the worthless securities as AAA. The federal government and the SEC allowed all of this to take place by purposely ignoring the crime and refusing to apply existing regulations in investigating the fraud.

The Bottom line? You CANNOT create an economic crisis like the one we face today without collusion between big business, government, regulatory bodies, and ratings agencies. The Obama Administration is well aware of this, and the attacks on S&P are nothing more than a show. S&P is not to blame for the downgrade this past weekend. They are ALL to blame.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gold and silver: We were right – they were wrong

leave a comment »

by Brandon Smith of Alt Market
Posted July 25, 2011

ONLY NOW, AFTER THREE YEARS OF ROLLER COASTER MARKETS, EPIC DEBATES, and gnashing of teeth, are mainstream financial pundits finally starting to get it. At least some of them, anyway.

Precious metals have continued to perform relentlessly since 2008, crushing all naysayer predictions and defying all the musings of so called “experts”, while at the same time maintaining and protecting the investment savings of those people smart enough to jump on the train while prices were at historic lows (historic as in ‘the past 5000 years’).

Alternative analysts have pleaded with the public to take measures to secure their hard earned wealth by apportioning at least a small amount into physical gold and silver. Some economists, though, were silly enough to overlook this obvious strategy. Who can forget, for instance, Paul Krugman’s hilarious assertion back in 2009 that gold values reflect nothing of the overall market, and that rising gold prices were caused in large part by the devious plans of Glen Beck, and not legitimate demand resulting from oncoming economic collapse.

To this day, with gold at $1600 an ounce, Krugman refuses to apologize for his nonsense. To be fair to Krugman, though, his lack of insight on precious metals markets is most likely deliberate, and not due to stupidity, being that he has long been a lapdog of central banks and a rabid supporter of the great Keynesian con. [And he a Nobel Prize winner!] Some MSM economists are simply ignorant, while others are quite aware of the battle between fiat and gold, and have chosen to support the banking elites in their endeavors to dissuade the masses from ever seeking out an alternative to their fraudulent paper. The establishment controlled Washington Post made this clear with its vapid insinuation in 2010 that Ron Paul’s support of a new gold standard is purely motivated by his desire to increase the value of his personal gold holdings, and not because of his concern over the Federal Reserve’s destructive devaluing of the dollar!

So, if a public figure owns gold and supports the adaptation of precious metals to stave off dollar implosion, he is just trying to “artificially drive up his own profits”. If he supports precious metals but doesn’t own any, then he is “afraid to put his money where his mouth is”. The argument is an erroneous trap, not to mention, completely illogical.

Numerous MSM pundits have continued to call a top for gold and silver markets only to be jolted over and over by further rapid spikes. Frankly, it’s getting a little embarrassing for them. All analysts are wrong sometimes, but these analysts are wrong ALL the time. And, Americans are starting to notice. Who beyond a thin readership of mindless yuppies actually takes Krugman seriously anymore? It’s getting harder and harder to find fans of his brand of snake oil.

Those who instead listened to the alternative media from 2007 on have now tripled the value of their investments, and are likely to double them yet again in the coming months as PM’s and other commodities continue to outperform paper securities and stocks. After enduring so much hardship, criticism, and grief over our positions on gold and silver, it’s about time for us to say “we told you so”. Not to gloat (ok, maybe a little), but to solidify the necessity of metals investment for every American today. Yes, we were right, the skeptics were wrong, and they continue to be wrong. Even now, with gold surpassing the $1600 an ounce mark, and silver edging back towards its $50 per ounce highs, there is still time for those who missed the boat to shield their nest eggs from expanding economic insanity. The fact is, precious metals values are nowhere near their peak. Here are some reasons why…

Debt ceiling debate a final warning sign

If average Americans weren’t feeling the heat at the beginning of this year in terms of the economy, they certainly are now. Not long ago, the very idea of a U.S. debt default or credit downgrade was considered by many to be absurd. Today, every financial radio and television show in the country is obsessed with the possibility. Not surprisingly, unprepared subsections of the public (even conservatives) are crying out for a debt ceiling increase, while simultaneously turning up their noses at tax increases, hoping that we can kick the can just a little further down the road of fiscal Armageddon. The delusion that we can coast through this crisis unscathed is still pervasive.

Some common phrases I’ve heard lately: “I just don’t get it! They’re crazy for not compromising! Their political games are going to ruin the country! Why not just raise the ceiling?!”

What these people are lacking is a basic understanding of the bigger picture. Ultimately, this debate is not about raising or freezing the debt ceiling. This debate is not about saving our economy or our global credit standing. This debate is about choosing our method of poison, and nothing more. That is to say, the outcome of the current “political clash” is irrelevant. Our economy was set on the final leg of total destabilization back in 2008, and no amount of spending reform, higher taxes, or austerity measures, are going to change that eventuality.

We have two paths left as far as the mainstream economy is concerned; default leading to dollar devaluation, or, dollar devaluation leading to default. That’s it folks! Smoke em’ if you got em’! This train went careening off a cliff a long time ago.

If the U.S. defaults after August 2, a couple of things will happen. First, our Treasury Bonds will immediately come into question. We may, like Greece, drag out the situation and fool some international investors into thinking the risk will lead to a considerable payout when “everything goes back to normal”. However, those who continued to hold Greek bonds up until that country’s official announcement of default know that holding the debt of a country with disintegrating credit standing is for suckers. Private creditors in Greek debt stand to lose at minimum 21% of their original holdings because of default. What some of us call a “21% haircut”.

With the pervasiveness of U.S. bonds around the globe, a similar default deal could lead to trillions of dollars in losses for holders. This threat will result in the immediate push towards an international treasury dump.

Next, austerity measures WILL be instituted, while taxes WILL be raised considerably, and quickly. The federal government is not going to shut down. They will instead bleed the American people dry of all remaining savings in order to continue functioning, whether through higher charges on licensing and other government controlled paperwork, or through confiscation of pension funds, or by cutting entitlement programs like social security completely.

Finally, the dollar’s world reserve status is most assuredly going to be placed in jeopardy. If a country is unable to sustain its own liabilities, then its currency is going to lose favor. Period. The loss of reserve status carries with it a plethora of very disturbing consequences, foremost being devaluation leading to extreme inflation.

If the debt ceiling is raised yet again, we may prolong the above mentioned problems for a short time, but, there are no guarantees. Ratings agency S&P in a recent statement warned of a U.S. credit downgrade REGARDLESS of whether the ceiling was raised or not, if America’s overall economic situation did not soon improve. The Obama Administration has resorted to harassing (or pretending to harass) S&P over its accurate assessment of the situation, rather than working to solve the dilemma. Ratings company Egan-Jones has already cut America’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.

Many countries are moving to distance themselves from the U.S. dollar. China’s bilateral trade agreement with Russia last year completely cuts out the use of the greenback, and China is also exploring a “barter deal” with Iran, completely removing the need for dollars in the purchase of Iranian oil (which also helps in bypassing U.S. sanctions).

So, even with increased spending room, we will still see effects similar to default, not to mention, even more fiat printing by the Fed, higher probability of another QE announcement, and higher inflation all around.

This period of debate over the debt ceiling is liable to be the last clear warning we will receive from government before the collapse moves towards endgame. All of the sordid conundrums listed above are triggers for skyrocketing gold and silver prices, and anyone not holding precious metals now should make changes over the course of the next month.

What has been the reaction of markets to the threat of default? Increased purchasing of precious metals! What has been the reaction of markets to greater spending and Fed inflation? Increased purchasing of precious metals! The advantages of gold and silver are clear…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek “Ultimatum”: Bailout (for the Bankers) and (loss of) Sovereignty

with one comment

by Tyler Durden
Posted May 29, 2011

SO, AFTER ONE YEAR OF BEATING AROUND THE BUSH, IT IS FINALLY MADE CLEAR THAT, as many were expecting all along, the ultimate goal of the Greek “bailouts” is nothing short of the state’s (partial for now) annexation by Europe. According to an FT breaking news article, “European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens. People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures.”

Thus Greece is faced with the banker win-win choice, of not only abandoning sovereignty, a first in modern “democratic” history, in the pursuit of “Greek” policies that are beneficial for Europe, or not get a bailout, which would only serve to prevent senior bondholder impairments. How could Greek leaders and its population possibly not accept such an attractive option which either leaves the country as another Olli Rehn protectorate, or forces it to not bailout Europe’s overleveraged banker class. In essence Europe is now convinced, just like Hank Paulson was on September 14, 2008, that the downstream effects from letting Greece implode are manageable. But the key development is that the Greek bankruptcy, which from the beginning, and as Peter Tchir’s note below demonstrates, was always simply a Greek choice, was just made that much easier.

From the FT:

People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures. Officials hope that as much as half of the €60bn-€70bn ($86bn-$100bn) in new financing needed by Athens until the end of 2013 could be accounted for without new loans. Under a plan advocated by some, much of that would be covered by the sale of state assets and the change in repayment terms for private debtholders.

Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund would then need to lend an additional €30bn-€35bn on top of the €110bn already promised as part of the bail-out programme agreed last year. Officials warned, however, that almost every element of the new package faced significant opposition from at least one of the governments and institutions involved in the current negotiations and a deal could still unravel.

In the latest setback, the Greek government failed on Friday to win cross-party agreement on the new austerity measures, which European Union lenders have insisted is a prerequisite to another bail-out. In addition, the European Central Bank remains opposed to any restructuring of Greek debt that could be considered a “credit event” – a change in terms that could technically be ruled a default. One senior European official involved in the talks, however, said ECB objections could be overcome if the rescheduling was structured properly.

Despite the hurdles, pressure is building to have a deal done within three weeks because of an IMF threat to withhold its portion of June’s €12bn bail-out payment unless Athens can show it can meet all its financing requirements for the next 12 months.

And the latest set of very timely observations from TF Market’s Peter Tchir:

You can lead a Trojan Horse to water but you can’t make him drink

Restructuring in one form or another seems imminent rather than years away
Well, it seems as though this week’s news flow has spurred the mainstream media into action. Everywhere you look there are stories about the Greek credit crisis. It is encouraging to see that more of them now agree with my view that a restructuring would occur sooner rather than later. Only a month ago, almost every article and every piece of official street research made it clear that a restructuring was at least a year off, if not longer. I demonstrated why I thought that opinion was wrong, and although I haven’t been proven correct yet, I am no longer in a tiny minority. Restructuring (reprofiling or default or whatever you want to call it) will not be easy, but I remain convinced that it is the best outcome for Greece and in the long run will be the best outcome for Europe even with the short term pain it will cause.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to hyperinflation hell: Following currency devaluation, Belarus economy implodes, sets blueprint for developed world future

with 3 comments

by Tyler Durden
Posted Zero Hedge, May 25, 2011

A ‘91-STYLE MELTDOWN IS ALMOST INEVITABLE.” So says Alexei Moiseev, chief economist at VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia’s second-largest lender, discussing the imminent economic catastrophe that is sure to engulf Belarus following the surprise devaluation of the country’s currency by over 50%. “Unless Belarus heeds Russia’s call for mass privatization of state assets, it is headed for “hyperinflation, massive un- and under-employment, and a shutdown of production” Moiseev concludes.

Ah: “privatization” as Greece is about to learn, the lovely word that describes a fire sale of assets to one’s creditors, courtesy of a “globalized” new world order. Ironically, this is precisely the warning that will be lobbed at each country in the developed world, as the global race to devalue currencies, first against each other on a relative basis, and ultimately against hard currencies, or on an absolute basis, as the world realizes that there simply is not enough cash flow to cover the interest payments on a debt load, in both the public and private sectors, that continues to rise at an astronomic rate, even as the world prepares to exit from the latest transitory, centrally-planned bounce in the Great Financial Crisis-cum-Depression that started in earnest in 2007 and has been progressing ever since.

Ultimately, Belarus will succumb to hyperinflation, as will each and every other government seeking to devalue its currency (hint: all of them): “Unless Belarus heeds Russia’s call for mass privatization of state assets, it is headed for “hyperinflation, massive un- and under-employment, and a shutdown of production,” VTB’s Moiseev said. The ruble will slide to 10,000 per dollar, he added.” Of course, this is the primary side effect of attempting to avoid formal bankruptcy through currency devaluation. And all those who continue to believe deflation is an outcome that will be allowed by the Fed, need to look just to the former Soviet satellite to see what lies in store for everyone currently doing all in their power to devalue their currency.

First look at the Belarus Ruble chart below: this is what always happens to every country that resolutely continues to live outside its means. Always.

And here are some additional observations from Bloomberg on the country that everyone in the media continues to ignore, yet which will very soon be the model for virtually everyone else engaging in central planning warfare.

The Belarusian central bank let the managed ruble weaken by 36 percent versus the dollar on May 24 as demand for dollars and euros from importers and households threatened to derail an economy already laboring under a current-account deficit equal to 16 percent of gross domestic product. Russia and other former Soviet partners last week agreed to give Belarus a $3 billion loan and urged President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government to sell $7.5 billion of assets to replenish the state’s coffers.

Finance ministers from former Soviet nations agreed in Minsk on May 19 to give Belarus up to $3.5 billion over three years, with the first $800 million payment expected in the week after a separate meeting on June 4, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in Moscow yesterday. The Nationalnyi Bank Respubliki Belarus set its official dollar-ruble rate at 4,931 for today’s trading, from 3,155 on May 23, according to its web site. Trading of foreign currency between companies, banks and individuals needs to stay within a 2 percent range of the daily rate, the regulator said May 23, when it announced the devaluation and reintroduced restrictions lifted on the interbank market on April 19 and for households on May 11.

Devaluing the currency will only worsen the situation for Belarus, VTB’s Moiseev said.

“The main problem is that the economy produces goods which consist of little else than a combination of imported spare parts,” he said. “So devaluation only makes things worse.” Belarus’s economy effectively collapsed in 1991 as the disintegration of the Soviet Union eliminated natural markets for the country’s exports of farm machinery, textiles and agricultural products. The catalyst for the country’s imploding economy: socialism and price controls. Sound familiar?

Lukashenko reintroduced controls on prices and the currency and re-nationalized some companies and infrastructure after coming to power in July, 1994, on a platform of “market socialism.” The nation’s economy returned to growth in 1996, according to World Bank data.

At the Minsk Refrigerator Plant Co. shop in the capital today, about 20 people queued in drizzling rain to use their rubles to buy fridges. While the shop didn’t open on the day of the devaluation, most of the models in the store already had ‘Sold Out’ stickers on their doors. “I came on Saturday and it was a nightmare, the store was stormed by people who wanted to spend their rubles because of rumors about the devaluation,” said Nikolay, a 74-year-old pensioner who declined to provide his last name. His entire savings of 6 million rubles now buy one fridge compared with three before the devaluation, he said.

Read the rest of this entry »