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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Reality

Gold and silver: We were right – they were wrong

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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…

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“Growing your way out of debt” is a fantasy

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by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
Originally posted June 22, 2011

ADD RISING INTEREST PAYMENTS AND HIGHER TAXES to declining assets and incomes and you don’t get “growth,” you get insolvency. The Status Quo consensus is that “kicking the can down the road” a.k.a. “extend and pretend” will work because “Greece, Spain, Ireland et al. are going to “grow their way out of debt.” That is a fantasy.

Here’s why.

1. There’s a funny little feature of debt called interest. The Status Quo solution for Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain et al. is A) increase their debt load with more loans and B) roll over their old debt into new loans, without the old lenders taking any “haircut” on the principal. Both of these “solutions” add more interest costs. That means more of the national income stream must be diverted to pay the lenders their pound of flesh. That means there is less money in the national economy to buy goods and services, which means the economy must shrink to pay the higher interest costs.

This is why unemployment in Spain and Greece has skyrocketed and why 100,000 small businesses have closed in Greece in the past year.

2. A funny little feature of interest is that when people see you’re at risk of default, they start charging you more to borrow their moneyAnd it isn’t a tiny bit more interest, it’s a lot. Think subprime teaser loan at 3% shooting to 8%, or 28% if you’re trying to sell new debt on the open market. For the E.U. to “help” Greece and Ireland by rolling over their already crushing debt loads into new, higher interest loans is like “helping” a sick patient by sticking a knife into their back.

3. Governments over-promise future benefits to win elections in the here and now. This makes sense, of course, because you win the elections and power now and the problem of paying for these excessive benefits is left to future politicos and taxpayers. But when the phony “growth” (think metasticizing cancer) fueled by rapidly rising debt is finally cut off, then the government has no choice but to raise taxes, and keep raising them, to pay for the extravagant past promises made to citizens.

That means more of the national income is diverted to taxes, only part of which flow through as cash benefits to consumers. Much of the tax revenues flow to cronies, fiefdoms and of course those higher interest payments on the ballooning debt.

4. Cheap abundant credit has a funny little consequence: asset bubbles. When everybody can borrow vast sums of nearly-free money at costs much lower than the outlandish gains being reaped by real estate speculators and punters pouring cash into stocks and commodities, then of course it is a perfectly rational decision to leverage yourself to the max, borrow as much as you can and join the speculative frenzy.

So assets bubble up to frothy levels, and McMansions sprout by the thousands on Irish and Spanish soil. The “demand” is not for shelter; it was all speculative demand for something to flip and churn. So when the debt bubble pops, so too do all the asset bubbles.

5. Leverage has a funny little feature called collateral and that other peculiar feature, interest. The land and house are the collateral for a mortgage (debt). As the real estate bubble popped, then the value of the collateral plummeted. Now the collateral is worth less than the loan–the borrower is “underwater.” The lender foolishly reckoned this would never happen, and now taking the collateral when the borrower defaults is an unsavory option because the lender will have to absorb a huge loss (“haircut”) if they take the property.

So they choose to “extend and pretend,” offering the borrower new terms, lower payments, etc., anything to keep the loan value on the books at 100%.

All of this is just artifice, of course; the borrower is insolvent, and so is the lender. As long as the borrower has to pay interest and principal, then there is not enough income left to “grow” anything. As long as the lender keeps the impaired loan on the books at the bogus valuation, then the lender is treading on the thin ice of insolvency.

6. As the national income and asset valuations both decline, the government imposes “austerity” programs which further cut incomes. A funny little feature of government “austerity” is the cuts come from the citizen’s side of the expense ledger, not from the crony/fiefdom side. Here in the U.S., for example, the library hours are slashed and the parks are closed to save $22 million in a $100 billion annual budget (those are the numbers in California) while various favored fiefdoms continue to get their swag. The “pain” of austerity is anything but evenly distributed.

7. People facing financial uncertainty and duress have a funny little habit called saving. As the reality of instability becomes crystal-clear to all, then people rather naturally rally round and circle the wagons, i.e. start saving money to cushion them through the hard times. Trusting in future benefits and bubbles is obviously foolish, and the only avenue of relative safety is cash (or equivalent) in hand. As people save more of their declining income, there is even less national income left to be spent on goods and services.

8. These forces are self-reinforcing. The worse times get, the more people save. the lower the national income, the more taxes will be raised. The more visible these trends become, the more interest lenders demand as they see the positive feedback loops leading to insolvency.

Once a household or nation is burdened with stupendous debt loads and stagnating earnings, “growing your way out of debt” is impossible. The E.U. may succeed in strong-arming Greece into swallowing even more debt, more austerity and higher interest payments, but that will only speed up the self-reinforcing dynamics of insolvency, and guarantee the losses kicked down the road for a few months will be even more devastating.

Death by Debt

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by Chris Martenson
Originally posted June 8, 2011

ONE OF THE CONCLUSIONS THAT I TRY TO COAX, LEAD and/or nudge people towards is acceptance of the fact that the economy can’t be fixed. By this I mean that the old regime of general economic stability and rising standards of living fueled by excessive credit are a thing of the past. At least they are for the debt-encrusted developed nations over the short haul – and, over the long haul, across the entire soon-to-be energy-starved globe.

The sooner we can accept that idea and make other plans the better. To paraphrase a famous saying, Anything that can’t be fixed, won’t.

The basis for this view stems from understanding that debt-based money systems operate best when they can grow exponentially forever. Of course, nothing can, which means that even without natural limits, such systems are prone to increasingly chaotic behavior, until the money that undergirds them collapses into utter worthlessness, allowing the cycle to begin anew.

All economic depressions share the same root cause. Too much credit that does not lead to enhanced future cash flows is extended. In other words, this means lending without regard for the ability of the loan to repay both the principal and interest from enhanced production; money is loaned for consumption, and poor investment decisions are made. Eventually gravity takes over, debts are defaulted upon, no more borrowers can be found, and the system is rather painfully scrubbed clean. It’s a very normal and usual process.

When we bring in natural limits, however, (such as is the case for petroleum right now), what emerges is a forcing function that pushes a debt-based, exponential money system over the brink all that much faster and harder.

But for the moment, let’s ignore the imminent energy crisis. On a pure debt, deficit, and liability basis, the US, much of Europe, and Japan are all well past the point of no return. No matter what policy tweaks, tax and benefit adjustments, or spending cuts are made – individually or in combination – nothing really pencils out to anything that remotely resembles a solution that would allow us to return to business as usual.

At the heart of it all, the developed nations blew themselves a gigantic credit bubble, which fed all kinds of grotesque distortions, of which housing is perhaps the most visible poster child. However outsized government budgets and promises might be, overconsumption of nearly everything imaginable, bloated college tuition costs, and rising prices in healthcare utterly disconnected from economics are other symptoms, too. This report will examine the deficits, debts, and liabilities in such a way as to make the case that there’s no possibility of a return of generally rising living standards for most of the developed world.  A new era is upon us. There’s always a slight chance , should some transformative technology come along, like another Internet, or perhaps the equivalent of another Industrial Revolution, but no such catalysts are on the horizon, let alone at the ready.

At the end, we will tie this understanding of the debt predicament to the energy situation raised in my prior report to fully develop the conclusion that we can –and really should – seriously entertain the premise that there’s just no way for all the debts to be paid back.  There are many implications to this line of thinking, not the least of which is the risk that the debt-based, fiat money system itself is in danger of failing.

Too Little Debt! (or, your one chart that explains everything)

If I were to be given just one chart, by which I had to explain everything about why Bernanke’s printed efforts have so far failed to actually cure anything and why I am pessimistic that further efforts will fall short, it is this one:

There’s a lot going on in this deceptively simple chart so let’s take it one step at a time.  First, “Total Credit Market Debt” is everything – financial sector debt, government debt (federal, state, and local), household debt, and corporate debt – and that is the bold red line (data from the Federal Reserve).

Next, if we start in January 1970 and ask the question, “How long before that debt doubled and then doubled again?” we find that debt has doubled five times in four decades (blue triangles).

Then if we perform an exponential curve fit (blue line) and round up, we find a nearly perfect fit with a R2 of 0.99.  This means that debt has been growing in a nearly perfect exponential fashion through the 1970’s, the 1980’s, the 1990’s and the 2000’s.  In order for the 2010 decade to mirror, match, or in any way resemble the prior four decades, credit market debt will need to double again, from $52 trillion to $104 trillion.

Finally, note that the most serious departure between the idealized exponential curve fit and the data occurred beginning in 2008, and it has not yet even remotely begun to return to its former trajectory.

This explains everything.

It explains why Bernanke’s $2 trillion has not created a spectacular party in anything other than a few select areas (banking, corporate profits), which were positioned to directly benefit from the money. It explains why things don’t feel right, or the same, and why most people are still feeling quite queasy about the state of the economy. It explains why the massive disconnects between government pensions and promises, all developed and doled out during the prior four decades, cannot be met by current budget realities.

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Our economic future – From best to worst case

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by Doug Casey of Casey Research
Posted originally June 7, 2011

THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE OF THE U.S. ECONOMY MAY LOOK LIKE – so I decided to take a stab at what’s likely to happen over the next 20 years. That’s enough time for a child to grow up and mature, and it’s long enough for major trends to develop and make themselves felt.

I’ll confine myself to areas that are, as the benighted Rumsfeld might have observed, “known unknowns.” I don’t want to deal with possibilities of the deus ex machina sort. So we’ll rule out natural events like a super-volcano eruption, an asteroid strike, a new ice age, global warming, and the like. Although all these things absolutely will occur sometime in the future, the timing is very uncertain – at least from the perspective of one human lifespan. It’s pointless dealing with geological time and astronomical probability here. And, more important, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about such things.

So let’s limit ourselves to the possibilities presented by human action. They’re plenty weird and scary, and unpredictable enough.

THE MARKET FOR PROGNOSTICATION

People are all ears for predictions, whether from psychics or from “experts,” despite the repeated experience that they’re almost always worthless, often misleading and more than rarely the exact opposite of what happens.

Most often, the predictors go afoul by underrating human ingenuity or extrapolating current trends too far. Let me give you a rundown of the state of things during the last century, at 20-year intervals. If you didn’t know it’s what actually happened, you’d find it hard to believe.

1911— The entire world is at peace. Stability, freedom and prosperity prevail almost everywhere. Almost every country in Europe is ruled by a king or queen. Western civilization has spread to nearly every corner of the world and is received with appreciation. Stunning breakthroughs are being made in science and technology. There’s no sign of a gigantic world war about to come out of nowhere to rip apart the political and cultural map of Europe and bankrupt everybody. Who imagined that a dictatorial communist regime would arise in Russia?

1931— It’s early in a disastrous worldwide depression. Attention is on economic troubles, not on the virtually unthought-of possibility that in less than 10 years a new world war would be under way against Nazism and a resurgent Germany.

1951— Except for Vietnam, all that remains of the colonies the West had established in the 19th century are quiescent. Nobody guessed almost all would either be independent, or on their way, in 10 years. China has joined Russia – and many other countries – as totally collectivist. Who imagined that Germany and Japan, although literally leveled, would be perhaps the best investments of the century? Who guessed that the U.S. was already at its peak relative to the rest of the world?

1971— Communist and overtly socialist countries all over the world seem to be in ascendance, soon to be buoyed further by a decade of rising commodity prices. The U.S. and the West are entering a deep malaise. Little significance is attached to rumblings from the Islamic world.

1991— Communism has collapsed as an ideology, the USSR has disappeared, and China has radically reformed. Islam is increasingly in the news.

2011—The world financial/economic crisis is four years old, but things are still holding together. Islamic terrorism and collapse of old regimes in the Arab world dominate the news. China is viewed as the world’s new powerhouse.

BAD AND WORSE

Regrettably, I’m not much of a linguist. But I do pick up interesting semantic trivia. In Spanish they don’t say “in the future,” as we do in English, which implies a definite outcome. Instead they say “en un futuro” – in a future – which implies many possible outcomes. It’s a better way of assessing reality, I think.
Here are three 20-year futures to consider. There are, obviously, many, many more – but I think these encompass the three most realistic broad possibilities.

• BEST CASE – FACTS GET FACED

Realizing what a disaster the complete destruction of their currencies would be, most governments decide to endure the pain of allowing interest rates to rise and limiting increases in the money supply. Poorly run corporations and banks are left to fail. Talk of abolishing the Federal Reserve, and using a commodity for money, becomes serious and widespread.

Shaken, the U.S. ends its profligate ways, in part because it lacks the means to continue, and in part because everyone but collectivist ideologues has actually learned something from the brutal ‘10s and ‘20s.

Amidst massive protests, the government closes much of its counterproductive apparatus, eliminates many taxes, and lets 30% of its employees go. It also, albeit reluctantly, liberalizes its regulation of the economy because it has become impossible to deny that the U.S. has been falling behind in all areas.

Although there is a resurgence of libertarian thought – reminiscent of the Reagan-Thatcher era – simple practicality is mainly responsible for forcing the government’s hand. For one thing, it can’t afford the bureaucracy needed to enforce detailed interference. For another, entrepreneurs are increasingly just doing what they please, partly from necessity and partly from a growing sense of righteousness. Interest rates go to 25%, to compensate for high levels of inflation. That’s high enough to make it worthwhile for people to save, and the capital base starts growing. The stock market has collapsed to its lowest level in living experience (in real terms), but the values available encourage people to become investors. Business is restructured on a sound, debt-free basis, with little speculation.

The U.S. radically cuts its military spending and pulls almost all troops out of their foreign bases and wars. The War on Drugs comes to an end, and the crime rate in both the U.S. and Mexico plummets.

The government solves most of its overhanging financial problems with a seriously devalued – but not hyperinflated – dollar. The Social Security deficit is eliminated by abstaining from benefit increases and by inflating away much of what had been promised before. Most Americans suffer a severe drop in their standard of living, as they’re forced into new patterns of production and consumption. A generation of college students find that their degrees in sociology, political science, economics, English lit, Black studies, gender studies and underwater basket weaving are of no real value.

When it’s all over, the tough times that started in ’07 prove to have been no more than a cyclical bump in the road, like all the other recessions since WW2, just much bigger.

A rough and memorable ride, but it ends with a return to prosperity.

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

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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.

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Germany looks to Justin Bieber to solve the crisis

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From Simon Black of Sovereign Man
Posted May 23, 2011

THE WORLD IS NOW DIVIDED INTO ESSENTIALLY THREE CATEGORIES:
 (1) those nations that can effectively sidestep catastrophic meltdown;
 (2) those nations that cannot avoid meltdown, but can afford to kick the can down the road
 (3) those nations that must face their grim, unavoidable meltdown reality now…

The United States, for better or worse, is in category 2. Politicians can keep pretending that the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round because, at present, there are too many other countries in category 3… namely, much of Europe.

Greece is on the brink of official insolvency… yet in an exceedingly bizarre interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel published today, Jean-Claude Junker insists that (a) Greece is not broke, (b) if Greece doesn’t make its debt payments, this is not the same as ‘default,’ and (c) it’s OK for politicians to lie because people don’t understand capital markets.

(*Note, suspension of disbelief IS required to read this interview; Junker caps it off with a metaphoric riddle, “If the donkey were a cat it could climb a tree. But it is not a cat,” which has about as much insight as “Confucius say: Man who go to bed with itchy butt wake up with smelly finger….”)

As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and president of the Euro Group, Junker is a very important figure in European finance… and in the interview, he makes it quite clear where his priorities lie: with the bankers. As Junker states, “If Greece were to declare a national bankruptcy tomorrow, the country would have no access to the international financial market for years to come, and its most important creditors, the banks in Germany and Europe, would have an enormous problem…”

Well, certainly no one should expect Europe’s banks to suffer their own losses after making idiotic loans to corrupt governments. It’s much easier to stick the people with the bill by establishing a trillion dollar bailout fund with taxpayer money.

Problem is, people in Europe are starting to wake up and get it.

The anti-euro “True Finn” party in Finland recently surged in the polls to become the country’s third-largest political party and a major obstacle for any European bailout. This weekend, Spain’s ruling Socialist party was hammered with losses as voters voiced their utter disgust with the current government’s handling of the economy. In Germany, this year’s state election results are showing that voters are sick and tired of shouldering the financial burden for the rest of Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party is losing miserably, though in a pathetically desperate move, some local governments are changing suffrage limits and allowing 16-year olds to vote.

This is the strongest indicator yet of how bad the situation in Europe has become: German banks are so over-exposed to the PIIGS sovereign debt that, in the face of political revolt all across Europe, German politicians have resorted to recruiting the Justin Bieber crowd to maintain the status quo.

Simply put, if Greece fails, the banks will collapse, and European financial markets will tank. Politicians will stop at nothing to prevent this from happening… including sticking every man, woman, and child with the bailout bill, as well as pulling socialist-minded teenagers into the voting booths to ensure they stay in power.

Eventually, though, these efforts will prove fruitless. Greece has two months of cash left… and a default by any other name is still a default. The ‘have’ nations in Europe don’t want to foot the bailout bill any more than the ‘have not’ nations in Europe want to accept deep austerity measures. This is going to cause a lot of turmoil in Europe in the short-term… and as the US government has successfully kicked its can down the road through late summer thanks to the Treasury Department plundering public pension money, investors are free to get their worry on in Europe.

I would suspect gold and silver in euro terms to do quite well as the market looks around, once and for all and realizes that there are truly no good major currency alternatives. This could be the start of a chain reaction.

Printing and Propaganda

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From Mike Krieger of KAM LP
Posted May 19th, 2011

Desolate and without purpose
Radiating from so many septic sources
Forming the fabric of a wayward people
Disappearing as the vestiges of our past

Scratched like tartan into virgin soil
A substrate for progress and disarray
A spreading network of broken dreams
Searching for a thoroughfare to take us away

Just a little tale from the streets of America
Sparkled promises paved with pathos and hysteria
Trenchant, weary native sons
Step back, step back
And see the damage done
Shoot straight to the horizon
The streets of America

– Bad Religion, “Streets of America”

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
– John F. Kennedy

AS I HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, the misguided Keynesian witch doctor central planners unfortunately in charge of our economic fate are attempting a grand experiment on us based on completely insane and nonsensical theories that have no chance at success. These clowns claim to have all sorts of “tools” but in reality they have nothing. When faced with a complete credit collapse of proportions never seen before in recorded history there were and are only two “tools.” It’s the two P’s: Printing and Propaganda.

While I have written about both of these “tools” before I am going to focus on the propaganda part today since it is the most applicable to the current state of the financial markets. We all know by now that the centrals planners believe the tail wags the dog. So the economy doesn’t lead to higher stock prices but higher stock prices will lead to a better economy. Insane? Absolutely. Is it their religion? 100%. The other important thing for investors to be aware of now when they are comparing the current state of affairs to what many lived through in the 1970’s is that the central planners have learned some lessons. What we must always remember about central planners is that they will never renege on their core philosophy which is that an elite academic and political class in their wisdom are better stewards than free humans interacting in a marketplace.

That said, most people do not share their worldview for obvious reasons (who wants their lives micromanaged?) so the trick of the central planners is to micromanage your life while you think you are in charge. As Goethe said “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” He didn’t just make up this clever quote, it is a tried a true method of the most successful control systems throughout history.

So even the brainwashed masses out there understand that price controls were tried in the 1970’s and failed. We also know why. Therefore, the last thing the current group of central planners will want to do is announce price controls. That doesn’t mean they don’t attempt them anyway. They have been rigging stocks in the United States consistently for the past two years and most people get this and accept it as a part of the current state of disunion we are in. However, as I wrote last week we have now entered Phase 2.  This was represented by the raid on commodities.

A tried and true strategy that TPTB have used in precious metals for years has been to create such tremendous volatility in gold and silver and especially the shares that most investors stay away since they can’t stomach it. This strategy is now seemingly being employed to a much wider spectrum of commodities, hence my warning on trading futures last week. The entire game was perfectly summarized by a quote in the most recent 13D report where it was stated:  “Unfortunately, this battle between finding a safe haven and the authorities’ desire to render it ‘unsafe’ is only in its earliest stages. Our mantra since 2007 – governments can and will do anything to survive.”

The Bernank Bluff    

So part of the propaganda “tool” used by the central planners is the manipulation of financial markets, which seems to increased in emphasis in recent weeks. The other consists of outright lies and disinformation. Put yourself in The Bernank’s shoes for a moment. This guy loves printing more than Hewlett Packard. He is despondent beyond belief that the markets and an increasing amount of financial commentators have criticized his precious QE insanity. Meanwhile, the economic data is starting to roll over and housing looks set to launch into another spiral lower. So what is a Bernank to do? Bluff the heck out of the markets. He knows that the only way he can have cover for his printing party is to smash commodities because the rise in commodities is the biggest point of contention amongst the masses.

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