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Art Berman: Think Oil Is Getting Expensive? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

A global supply crunch approaches…

After issuing clear warnings on this program that sub-$50 oil prices were going to be short-lived, oil expert and geological consultant Art Berman returns to the podcast this week to explain why today’s $70 oil prices will go higher — likely much higher — and start materially contricting world economic growth.

Art explains how the current glut of oil created by the US shale boom — along with high crude output by both OPEC and non-OPEC  producers — is a temporary anomaly. Fundamentally, we are not finding nearly as much oil as we need to continue the trajectory of the global demand curve. And at the same time, we’re extracting our reserves at a faster rate than ever. That’s a mathematical recipe for a coming supply crunch — it’s not a matter of if, but when:

The price of oil has gone up 30%+ percent just here in the last year alone. There are some very good reasons for that.

In the United States, we’ve been drawing down our reserves, our inventory and the amount of oil we have in storage, consistently since February of 2017. We’re going into the 15th month of drawing from storage each week because we’re not producing enough to meet the need.

To those paying attention: the United States is right now producing more oil than it ever has in its history. We are a million barrels a day higher than the peak in 1970 — the one that King Hubbert got in trouble for warning about. We’re higher by 50,000 or so barrels per month of production. Yet, here we are, still sucking oil out of storage. What does that tell you? There is only one way to interpret that: We are using more than we are producing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Savings as the Engine of Economic Growth

Most economists concur with the view that what keeps the economy going is consumption expenditure. Furthermore, it is generally held that spending rather than individual saving is the essential condition for production and prosperity.

Savings is seen to be detrimental to economic activity as it weakens the potential demand for goods and services.

In this framework of thinking, economic activity is depicted as a circular flow of money. Spending by one individual becomes part of the earnings of another individual, and spending by another individual becomes part of the first individual’s earnings.

If however, people become less confident about the future it is held they will cut back on their outlays and hoard more money. Therefore, once an individual spends less, this worsens the situation of some other individual, who in turn also cuts his spending.

A vicious circle emerges– the decline in people’s confidence causes them to spend less and to hoard more money. This lowers economic activity further, thereby causing people to hoard more etc. The cure for this, it is argued, is for the central bank to pump money.

By putting more cash in people’s hands, consumer confidence will increase, people will then spend more and the circular flow of money will reassert itself.

All this sounds very appealing and various surveys of business activity show that during a recession businesses emphasize the lack of consumer demand as the major factor behind their poor performances.

Notwithstanding this, can demand by itself generate economic growth? Furthermore, nothing is said here about goods and services – are we to take them for granted? Are they always around and all that is required is to have demand for them?

It would appear that what impedes economic prosperity is the scarcity of demand. However, is it possible for the general demand for goods and services to be scarce?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

GLOBAL FINANCIAL BREAKDOWN CONTINUES: Economic Growth Chokes On Massive Debt Increases

GLOBAL FINANCIAL BREAKDOWN CONTINUES: Economic Growth Chokes On Massive Debt Increases

The U.S. and global economies are choking on a massive amount of debt.  While Wall Street and the Mainstream financial media continue to rationalize the skyrocketing debt as merely the cost of doing business, the disintegrating fundamentals point to an economic catastrophe in the making.

Of course, a full-blown economic meltdown may not occur this year or even next, but as time goes by, the situation continues to deteriorate in an exponential fashion.  So, the cheerleaders for higher stock, bond, and real estate prices will continue to get their way until the economy is thrown into reverse as decades of increasing debt, leverage and margin finally destroy the engine for good.

Yes, I say for good.  What seems to be missing from the analysis is this little thing called energy.  The typical economist today looks at the global markets much the same way as a child who is waiting for the tooth fairy to exchange a tooth for a $20 bill.  When I was a kid, it was $1 per tooth, but like with everything today, inflation is everywhere.

Mainstream economists just look at market forces, percentages, and values on a piece of paper or computer.  When economic activity begins to fall, they try to find the cause and remedy it with a solution.  Most of the time, the solutions are found by printing more money, increasing debt, changing interest rates or tax percentages.  And… that’s about it.

There is no mention of what to do with energy in the economist’s playbook.  For the typical economist, energy is always going to be there and if there are any future problems with supply, then, of course, the price will solve that issue.  Due to the fundamental flaw of excluding energy in College economic courses; the entire profession is a complete farce.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Systems Thinking, Critical Thinking, and Personal Resilience

As a writer focused on the global sustainability crisis, I’m often asked how to deal with the stress of knowing—knowing, that is, that we humans have severely overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity, making a collapse of both civilization and Earth’s ecological systems likely; knowing that we are depleting Earth’s resources (including fossil fuels and minerals) and clogging its waste sinks (like the atmosphere’s and oceans’ ability to absorb CO2); knowing that the decades of rapid economic growth that characterized the late 20th and early 21st centuries are ending, and that further massive interventions by central banks and governments can’t do more than buy us a little bit more time of relative stability; knowing that technology (even renewable energy technology) won’t save our fundamentally unsustainable way of life.

In the years I’ve spent investigating these predicaments, I’ve been fortunate to meet experts who have delved deeply into specific issues—the biodiversity crisis, the population crisis, the climate crisis, the resource depletion crisis, the debt crisis, the plastic waste crisis, and on and on. In my admittedly partial judgment, some of the smartest people I’ve met happen also to be among the more pessimistic. (One apparently smart expert I haven’t had opportunity to meet yet is 86-year-old social scientist Mayer Hillman, the subject of this recent article in The Guardian.)

In discussing climate change and all our other eco-social predicaments, how does one distinguish accurate information from statements intended to elicit either false hope or needless capitulation to immediate and utter doom? And, in cases where pessimistic outlooks do seem securely rooted in evidence, how does one psychologically come to terms with the information?

Systems Thinking

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The world needs less from us (and more) (by Tim Crownshaw)

The world needs less from us (and more) (by Tim Crownshaw)

Ghosts Of The Concrete World by Cameron Gray (parablevisions.com)

Around two decades ago, scientists began seriously discussing the prospects and suitability of geoengineering as a response to climate change. The options which have the potential to make a difference over a short timeframe revolve around ‘Solar Radiation Management’ (SRM)―technological interventions in the earth’s climate system designed to enhance the reflection of incoming solar radiation and counteract anthropogenic warming. The debate is still ongoing as proponents suggest that these schemes may buy time and offer a means to avert the worst possible climate outcomes, while detractors emphasize the high costs, lack of demonstrated feasibility at scale, ethical concerns, and risks of unintended consequences. Proposed methods are becoming more outlandish as the climate threat mounts. Aside from stratospheric aerosol injection (the earliest and most widely discussed SRM technique), conceptual designs now include spreading reflective silica across vast tracts of the Arctic, thickening sea ice by pumping water onto the ice surface in winter, building space-based light deflectors, and even constructing giant walls and artificial islands to shore up disintegrating glaciers and ice sheets.

While at first glance you might want to applaud their audacity, let’s be blunt: these proposals are absurd. First, there are the obvious problems. SRM doesn’t slow the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, therefore, fails to address ocean and aquatic habitat acidification. SRM interventions would unavoidably produce a range of geochemical side effects, such as ozone depletion and changes to hydrological cycles. This translates to greater extremes of wet and dry, and hot and cold, with higher probability of severe droughts in equatorial regions. Consequently, implementing SRM would be tantamount to placing our economic and lifestyle priorities ahead of the basic needs of communities in developing regions already severely stressed by climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Economy Is Cooked

© Albund | Dreamstime.com

The Economy Is Cooked

The growth cycle has peaked

Hours ago, European Central Bank chief Mario Dragho conceded: “The growth cycle may have peaked”

Of course, those paying attention to the data already knew this. Our politicians and central planers have been peddling to us the fantasy that the global economy is strengthening, finally ready to fire on all cylinders after nearly ten years of dependence on monetary stimulus.

That just ain’t so.

The Federal Reserve of Atlanta’s GDPNow measure, which gives a forecast of Q1 2018’s expected GDP, is currently coming in at 2.0%, down from the much more vigorous 5.4% growth predicted as recently as early February:

Generating this growth, meager as it is, has required a tremendous amount of new debt. So much more so that the US will soon have a worse debt-to-GDP ratio than perennial fiscal basket-case Italy:

U.S. Debt Load Seen Worse Than Italy’s by 2023, IMF Predicts (Bloomberg)

In five years, the U.S. government is forecast to have a bleaker debt profile than Italy, the perennial poor man of the Group of Seven industrial nations.

The U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is projected widen to 116.9 percent by 2023 while Italy’s is seen narrowing to 116.6 percent, according to the latest data from the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. will also place ahead of both Mozambique and Burundi in terms of the weight of its fiscal burden.

The numbers put renewed focus on the U.S. deteriorating budget after the enactment in December of $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, and the passage more recently of $300 billion in new spending. President Donald Trump’s administration argues that the tax overhaul combined with deregulation will help the economy accelerate, which in turn will generate enough extra revenue to avoid any fiscal fallout.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trade Wars Just Beginning…The War Is a Fight Over an Indefinitely Shrinking Pie

Trade Wars Just Beginning…The War Is a Fight Over an Indefinitely Shrinking Pie

From a growth perspective, it doesn’t matter if the world is 7.5 million or 7.5 billion persons…it only matters how many more there are from one year to the next.  Economic growth (or the ability to consume more…not produce more) is about the annual growth of the population among those with the income, savings, and access to credit (or governmental social pass-through programs).  That’s what this trade war is all about and why it’s just beginning.  First it was a fight for decelerating growth…but now it’s about a shrinking pool of consumers.
Nowhere is this decline in potential consumers more acute than East Asia (China, Japan, N/S Korea, Taiwan, plus some minor others).  I have previously detailed China’s situation HERE but the chart below shows the broader East Asia total under 60 year old population (blue line) and annual change in red columns.  Peak growth in the under 60yr/old population (consumer base) took place way back in 1969, annually adding 22 million potential consumers.  As recently as 1988, an echo peak added 19 million annually but the deceleration of growth since ’88 has been inexorable.  Then in 2009, decelerating growth turned to decline and the decline will continue indefinitely.  What began as a gentle decline is about to turn into progressively larger tumult.  By 2030, the under 60yr/old population will be 9% smaller than present.  East Asia’s domestic consumer driven market is collapsing in real time and it’s reliance on exports greater than ever.

The chart below shows the total 0-65 year old global population (minus Africa and India…blue line) and the annual change in that population in the red columns.  Why excluding Africa/India?  Because they represent nearly all global population growth, consume less than 10% of the global exports, and haven’t the income, savings, or access to credit to consume relative to the rest of the world.  Growth (x-Africa/India) peaked in 1988, annually adding 52 million prime consumers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whatever Happened to Saving for a Rainy Day?

The National Debt Clock is a very very large digital display of the current gross national debt of the United StatesMichael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Whatever Happened to Saving for a Rainy Day?

The US will be paying for its current fiscal excesses with the promise of future payments. But inefficient economic stimulus now will not give future generations the productive resources needed to make good on it.

CAMBRIDGE – More than a decade ago, I undertook a study, together with Graciela Kaminsky of George Washington University and Carlos Végh, now the World Bank’s chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, examining more than 100 countries’ fiscal policies for much of the postwar era. We concluded that advanced economies’ fiscal policies tended to be either independent of the business cycle (acyclical) or to lean in the opposite direction (countercyclical). Built-in stabilizers, like unemployment insurance, are part of the story, but government outlays also worked to smooth the economic cycle.

The benefit of countercyclical policies is that government debt as a share of GDP falls during good times. That provides fiscal space when recessions materialize, without jeopardizing long-run debt sustainability.

By contrast, in most emerging-market economies, fiscal policy was procyclical: government spending increased when the economy was approaching full employment. This tendency leaves countries poorly positioned to inject stimulus when bad times come again. In fact, it sets the stage for dreaded austerity measures that make bad times worse.

Following its admission to the eurozone, Greece convincingly demonstrated that an advanced economy can be just as procyclical as any emerging market. During a decade of prosperity, with output close to potential most of the time, government spending outpaced growth, and government debt ballooned. Perhaps policymakers presumed that saving for a rainy day is unnecessary if this time is different and perpetual sunshine is the new normal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Economy is a Degenerative System

Impacts of resource hungry exploitative economies

“What is 120 times the size of London? The answer: the land or ecological footprint required to supply London’s needs.” — Herbert Giradet

Our ecological footprint exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate. A number of useful indicators and frameworks have been developed to measure the ecological impact that humanity and its dominant economic system with its patterns of production, consumption and waste-disposal are having on the planet and its ecosystems. The measure and methodology for ecological footprinting translates the resource use and the generation of waste of a given population (eg: community, city, or nation) into the common denominator of bio-productive land per person, measured in Global Hectares (Gha), that are needed to provide these resources and absorb those wastes.

Much of the educational power of this tool is its capacity to compare between how much bio-productive land exists on the planet with how much bio-productive land would be needed to sustain current levels of consumption. In addition it also helps us to highlight the stark inequalities in ecological impact that exists between different countries.

Source: Global Footprint Network

Ecological Footprinting is basically an accounting tool that compares how much nature we have and how much nature we use. He are currently using about 50% more ecological resources than nature is regenerating naturally every year.

This point of spending more than is coming in every year — or living of the capital rather than the interest — was reached by humanity in the late-1960s. It is called Ecological Overshoot and every year since Earth Overshoot Day — the day when humanity as a whole has already used up the bio-productivity of Earth in that year — is a little earlier. Here is a little video (3:30 min.) to explain the concepts of ecological overshoot and footprint.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Can Money Pumping Stimulate Economic Growth?

According to most economic experts when an economy falls into a recession the central bank can pull it out of the slump by means of money pumping. This way of thinking implies that money pumping can somehow grow the economy.  Indeed US historical evidence supposedly does show that easy money policy seems to work. For instance on average between 1970 and 2018.2 it took about 11 months before increases in money supply caused increases in the growth rate of industrial production (see chart).

The question is how is this possible? After all if money printing can grow the economy then why not to print plenty of it and make massive economic growth? By doing that, central banks could have created an everlasting prosperity for every individual on the planet.

For most commentators the arrival of a recession is due to unexpected events such as shocks that push the economy away from a trajectory of stable economic growth. Shocks weaken the economy i.e. cause lower economic growth so it is held.

We suggest that as a rule a recession emerges in response to a decline in the growth rate of money supply. Usually this takes place in response to a tighter stance of the central bank.

As a result various activities that sprang up on the back of the previous strong money growth rate (usually this emerges because of loose central bank monetary policy) come under pressure.

These activities cannot support themselves – they survive because of the support that the increase in money supply provides. The increase in money diverts to them real wealth from wealth generating activities. Consequently, this weakens these activities i.e. wealth-generating activities.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Synchronized Global Growth is Ending: Shocks Come Next

Economic pleasant surprises are in the past, as is the buildup of the balance sheet. The future is deleveraging.

Alarm bells are ringing. No one cares. By now, everyone knows stock only go up.

For those in tune with other ideas, Financial Times writer Stephen King suggests the Global Economy is Due for a Downswing.

Jim Bianco at Bianco Research comments on synchronized growth in his report Concerted Economic Growth is in Jeopardy of Ending.

Summary

Less than 50% of the world’s economies are now producing economic data surprises. Realized economic data following suit in the months to come would remove the tailwind of ‘concerted economic growth’ for risk assets and central banks. Emerging markets may be first on the list to experience higher volatility.

Comment

We have all been discussing ‘concerted global economic growth’ since early 2017 as a tailwind to risk assets and central bank policies. The chart below shows the percentage of the world’s economies producing economic data surprises (orange line) and above-average data changes (blue line) since 2004.

Over 90% of economies were indeed posting realized data changes at above-average growth rates in mid-2017. However, reported data has slowed its ascent over the past month led by the Eurozone and Canada. The percentage of economies with upside surprises has fallen to 44%, which has been a leading indicator for actual data changes like payrolls, industrial production, and durable goods orders. Above-average data changes have also rolled over to 67%. A break below 50% would mean ‘concerted economic growth’ should no longer be proclaimed.

Economic Misses

The next chart offers the median returns by major asset classes after the percentage of economies growing above-average falls below 60%. The impact is not immediate, but higher volatility and drawdowns do ensue over the following months.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The $233 Trillion Dollar Dark Cloud of Global Debt

The $233 Trillion Dollar Dark Cloud of Global Debt

Global debt has reached record heights without any signs of relief. While central bankers try to explain away the phenomenon of these out-of-control numbers, it’s not much of a mystery. Immediate consumption with the promise of repayment sometime in the future has consequences. Global debt is staggering to the point most of it will never be repaid. Certainly not in our generation. Perhaps by our grandchildren, but as global debt keeps mounting, the picture is doubtful.

The per capita global debt is $30,000. Who, exactly, will be making repayments?

Economists insist that the 2007 financial crisis could not have been predicted. Yet, all the signs of out-of-control credit where there. Today, economists are repeating the same mantra, despite the spiraling world debt. The question is not if the next bubble will strike. It’s a matter of when.

The math is fairly simple. The more a country increases its debt to simply stay afloat, the more like the increasing debt will cause a tightening of credit. The next step in the equation is a burst bubble and economic crisis. This is what happened in 1929, happened again in 2007, and it’s happening now. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Out-of-control credit will undoubtedly slow down the US’s current economic growth. It probably won’t cause an outright crisis. Other countries may not be as fortunate.

Countries such as China, Belgium, South Korea, Australia, and Canada are experiencing an unprecedented credit bubble, with few systems in place to control it. The resulted inflation or simply write-offs of debts could result in a global financial disaster we have not seen before. The current economic upswing is unlikely to continue.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Global Economy’s Wile E. Coyote Moment

The Global Economy’s Wile E. Coyote Moment

Economies and markets may already be plunging off a cliff.
Always behind.
Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Our prediction last year of a global growth downturn was based on our 20-Country Long Leading Index, which, in 2016, foresaw the synchronized global growth upturn that the consensus only started to recognize around the spring of 2017.

With the synchronized global growth upturn in the rearview mirror, the downturn is no longer a forecast, but is now a fact.

The chart below shows that quarter-over-quarter annualized gross domestic product growth rates in the three largest advanced economies — the U.S., the euro zone, and Japan — have turned down. In all three, GDP growth peaked in the second or third quarter of 2017, and fell in the fourth quarter. This is what the start of a synchronized global growth downswing looks like.

Still, the groupthink on the synchronized global growth upturn is so pervasive that nobody seemed to notice that South Korea’s GDP contracted in the fourth quarter of 2017, partly due to the biggest drop in its exports in 33 years. And that news came as the country was in the spotlight as host of the winter Olympics.

Because it’s so export-dependent, South Korea is often a canary in the coal mine of global growth. So, when the Asian nation experiences slower growth — let alone negative growth — it’s a yellow flag for the global economy.

The international slowdown is becoming increasingly obvious from the widely followed economic indicators. The most popular U.S. measures seem to present more of a mixed bag. Yet, as we pointed out late last year, the bond market, following the U.S. Short Leading Index, started sniffing out the U.S. slowdown months ago. Specifically, the quality spread — the difference between the yields on junk bonds and investment-grade corporate bonds — has been widening for several months.

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We need to end growth dependency, but how?

We need to end growth dependency, but how?

Introduction: escaping growth-dependency

It has long been understood that the standard economic prescription of economic “growth”, to fix multiple economic, social and environmental ills, is highly implausible3. This stems from the elementary observation that you cannot expand the material throughput of the economy (the materials and energy it consumes) without coming up against the limits imposed by the biophysical systems of the earth that we all rely on. There are other dimensions to the critique of “growth”, 1) the destabilising economic impacts of the reducing return on investment as materials and energy sources become scarcer, 2) the failure of economic growth to benefit those who are economically and socially disadvantaged, and 3) to deliver increases in well-being for the population as a whole (once a certain overall standard of living has been reached), which supports the idea that we need a different kind of civilisation ethic, one based on sufficiency rather than excess4. Against the implausible wager on “growth”, I and colleagues in Steady State Manchester have argued for a Viable Economy,

… an economy that is resilient and dynamic, providing enough for all, while supporting social well-being. And it must be ecologically viable, not causing further damage to the earth’s fragile systems without which life is not possible.”5

The understanding that you cannot grow the material economy for ever was given a clear focus by the work of Donella Meadows and colleagues in the 1970s with their Limits to Growth report6. That report was criticised, largely on spurious grounds, leading to its eclipse and the dominance of the fudge of “sustainable development”, that you can continue to grow while producing environmental and social benefit. The bankruptcy of that idea is ever more clear as the earth’s ecological and biophysical systems lurch into a series of danger zones of which climate change, biodiversity loss and pressures on freshwater systems are just the most obvious ones.7

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When Will the Next Credit Crisis Occur?

The timing of any credit crisis is set by the rate at which the credit cycle progresses. People don’t think in terms of the credit cycle, wrongly believing it is a business cycle. The distinction is important, because a business cycle by its name suggests it emanates from business. In other words, the cycle of growth and recessions is due to instability in the private sector and this is generally believed by state planners and central bankers.

This is untrue, because cycles of business activity have their origin in the expansion and contraction of credit, whose origin in turn is in central banks’ monetary policy and fractional reserve banking. Cycles of credit are then manifest in variations of business activity. Cycles are the cause, booms and slumps the consequence. It follows that if we understand the characteristics of the different phases, we can estimate where we are in the credit cycle.

With sound money, that is to say money that neither expands nor contracts, cycles in business activity cannot exist, except for plagues and wars which interrupt the balances between money-hoarding, saving and consumption. Any exceptions to this rule are bound to be insignificant and non-cyclical, because with a steady money supply, failures are random instead of cyclically clustered by monetary policy.

Capital is always allocated by entrepreneurs to favour the efficient production of the goods and services wanted by consumers. Allocations of earnings and profits to savings are set by entrepreneurial demands for monetary capital to finance production until the goods and services produced are sold. Failures, the result of errors of judgement by entrepreneurs, are inevitable, but are quickly accepted, and capital is redeployed accordingly.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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