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How We Got Here: the Global Economy’s 75-Year Stumble to the Precipice

How We Got Here: the Global Economy’s 75-Year Stumble to the Precipice

Not only will there not be a recovery, but there can’t be a recovery, as those brittle extremes have been lost for good.

How did the global economy end up teetering on a precarious financial precipice? To formulate a cogent answer, let’s take a whirlwind tour of the history of the global economy 1946-2020.

Before we start the tour, I want to return briefly to my first Musings of the year, which was posted on January 4, 2020, before Covid-19 was officially announced on January 23, 2020. (The Musings Reports are sent weekly to patrons and subscribers at the $5/month or higher level.)

Instability Rising: Why 2020 Will Be Different:
“Economically, the 11 years since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 have been one relatively coherent era of modest growth, rising wealth/income inequality and coordinated central bank stimulus every time a crisis threatened to disrupt the domestic or global economy.This era will draw to a close in 2020 and a new era of destabilization and uncertainty begins.”

The long-term trends set up a row of dominoes that the pandemic has toppled. But any puff of air that toppled the first domino would have toppled all the dominoes of fragility, instability and unsustainable extremes that characterize the global economy.

The whirlwind tour of the global economy’s history must include these essential dynamics: energy, currencies, globalization, debt and financialization, which broadly speaking refers to everything that renders finance (borrowing, leverage, speculation) more profitable than actually generating goods and services.

The “glorious thirty” (Les Trente Glorieuses) years from 1946 to 1975 were decades of rising prosperity in the developed world (Europe, Japan, North America) and rapid development in the first tier of developing countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. (Decolonized nations and China struggled with political, social and economic turmoil.)

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

Never Before Have I Seen So Much Fake Unemployment & Jobs Data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Department Nails It

Never Before Have I Seen So Much Fake Unemployment & Jobs Data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Department Nails It

Labor Department today: People on state & federal unemployment insurance jumped to 31.5 million, worst ever.

Bureau of Labor Statistics today: 4.8 million jobs created, unemployment dropped by 3.2 million.

BLS under-reported unemployment by 13.7 million, based on data from the Labor Department. What’s happening is infuriating. Read and cringe.

Normally, the jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is released on the first Friday of the month. And the unemployment claims report is released Thursday every week. But this month, the monthly jobs report was also released today because of the 4th of July weekend. And now we have this delicious situation of both reports on the same day, with the Labor Department’s unemployment insurance data – people who are actually receiving unemployment benefits under state and federal programs – calling the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey-based report a liar. And we’ll go through them.

What the Labor Department reported today:

The total number of people who continued to receive unemployment compensation in the week ended June 27 under all state and federal unemployment insurance programs, including gig workers, surged by 937,810 people in the week, to 31.49 million (not seasonally adjusted), the highest and worst and most gut-wrenching ever:

The number of people receiving state unemployment insurance (blue columns in the chart above) has essentially been flat for three weeks (it ticked up this week), as many people got their jobs back while many other people were newly laid off. But the number of people on federal unemployment programs, including gig workers (red columns), has been soaring.

What the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today:

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

“Panic-Driven Hoarding Of Bank Notes”: People Aren’t Abandoning Cash During The Pandemic, They’re Socking It Away

“Panic-Driven Hoarding Of Bank Notes”: People Aren’t Abandoning Cash During The Pandemic, They’re Socking It Away

Habits change in the midst of a global recession, not to mention a global pandemic. We have already looked at how the pandemic has caused seismic shifts in many industries, but it is also causing a shift in how people think about, handle and (in this case) hoard cash. 

While we have been told non-stop that the pandemic is going to prompt the demise of paper currency and the words “digital dollar” continue to make appearances in government white papers and studies, the Bank of England found that there was actually a marked increase in bills in circulation in places like the U.S., Canada, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Australia and Russia. 

And while we continue to hear arguments about a cashless society being more efficient and less virus-friendly, it would still pose a major challenge to implement and would – in the case of this study – directly contradict how people are handing their cash during the global pandemic, according to Bloomberg

Charles Goodhart and co-author Jonathan Ashworth wrote in their study: “While the economic shutdowns and increased use of online retailing are currently diminishing cash’s traditional function as a medium of exchange, it seems that this is being more than offset by panic driven hoarding of banknotes.”

“Cash in circulation has actually been growing strongly,” they continued. And while it may just be a small portion of a percentage of the cash that Central Banks have printed, the velocity of money can’t be ignore for inflationary purposes.

The research stands at odds with President Donald Trump’s former economic adviser Gary Cohn, who recently advocated for the disappearance of cash. Up until now, cash use has been on the decline due to credit cards and electronic transferring of money. 

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

The Fed Just Picked the “Big Guys” (Again) Over Individuals

The Fed Just Picked the “Big Guys” (Again) Over Individuals

Fed against people
Photo by Flickr.com CC BY | Photoshopped

In a recent disclosure to Congress, the Fed revealed that it just purchased $429 million in bonds from 86 corporations.

They did this through something called a Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF). Buried on the Fed’s website, the press release explains the intention behind this purchase of bonds:

The SMCCF will purchase corporate bonds to create a corporate bond portfolio that is based on a broad, diversified market index of U.S. corporate bonds. This index is made up of all the bonds in the secondary market that have been issued by U.S. companies that satisfy the facility’s minimum rating, maximum maturity, and other criteria.

According to Agora’s 5-Minute Forecast, the Fed also plans to purchase an additional $320 million of corporate bonds in the near future.

If you read the bolded phrase above from the Fed’s press release, you might think they intend to use this as an opportunity to help the “little guy” weather the recent economic storm.

But the “broad, diversified market index” that the Fed claims it’s rescuing doesn’t appear that broad… or that diversified.

The list includes giants like AT&T, Walgreens, Microsoft, Pfizer, Apple, Walmart, Comcast, Ford, Boeing, Cisco and Visa.

It goes without saying that these behemoths can weather out the storm while the smaller corporations struggle and lay off employees.

Fed Doing Its Best to Make Sure the “Big Guys” Keep Winning

The same edition of Agora’s 5-Minute Forecast sums up another example of a confused Fed:

The fact the Fed is buying corporate bonds at all signals favoritism toward big existing players — indebted lumbering behemoths that can’t innovate. It’s not as if the Fed is going to take the largesse it creates from thin air and spread it around to a plucky but capital-starved startup, right?

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

Central Banks & the Hidden Agenda to Control Society

Central Banks & the Hidden Agenda to Control Society

We will be releasing this report this week which includes, as part of the Great Reset, the push to eliminate currency to move toward a digital currency world where they can track everything we do and allow for drastic increases in taxation. They have been suddenly justifying this by claiming that viruses can live on surfaces. So after using money in coins or paper since 700 BC, we have suddenly determined that money is too dirty and we need only digital money to be safe in the future.

The Bank of Canada is the latest to move towards this Gates coalition to control the world population in every way possible. They state on their website:

The Bank of Canada is embarking on a program of major social significance to design a contingent system for a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which can be thought of as a banknote, but in digital form. This project will require us to break new ground. It will take into consideration a wide variety of factors, including policy considerations, diverse stakeholder needs, difficult technical challenges and the development of a technical architecture to realize a CBDC pilot system. 

The future will never be the same. We are staring in the face of a totally new fascist type of authoritarian state. Anyone who disagrees is immediately called a “conspiracy nut” or a “right-wing zealot” because they will never debate the issues — they simply prefer to attack the messenger.

The Flim-Flam Men

The Flim-Flam Men

I suspect if average Joe or Jane were asked to identify modern examples of ‘Flim-Flam Men’, many would point to Bernie Madoff or Allen Stanford. (Remember them from the last “Great Financial Crisis” of 2008?) Or even to a long list of Too Big To Fail bank CEO’s past and present, plus various corporate, government and Federal Reserve officials who’ve graced our lives over the last twenty or more years.

And you know what? I couldn’t argue with them for a second because they’d be correct. But do those examples really illustrate the deeper, more mundane meaning of the common street hustle or financial confidence game? And are we in denial of our own critical role in ‘The Big Con‘?

Madoff and Stanford (and the Federal Reserve of course) would fall into the category of ‘The Big Con’ since they successfully roped thousands, even tens of thousands, of people into their web of deceit. More importantly, they fleeced their ‘marks’ for years, decades even, and every single mark was smiling right up until the end. Why? Because everyone thought they were on the inside track to a sweet heart deal that paid better than average returns. In other words, they were ‘chosen’ (usually because of their own self described brilliance) and thus they had a leg up on everyone else. That is, until reality rushed in to fill the vacuum and their glorious illusion imploded.

What I wish to explore here is some of the emotional and psychological components of the common confidence game (professional money management subdivision, three-card Monte category) perpetrated on the public by the political and financial ‘industry’ in general, and some of our local money managers/financial advisors in particular. It’s one thing to run a onetime financial con on an individual or small group of people and another entirely to do so consistently, ‘professionally’ and as an accepted member of society.

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

The New Normal: Extremes of Neofeudalism, Incompetence, Authoritarianism and Relocalization

The New Normal: Extremes of Neofeudalism, Incompetence, Authoritarianism and Relocalization

The pendulum swung to an extreme of globalization, financialization, centralization and monopoly, all of which created extreme systemic fragility.

Here’s what to expect in the rapidly evolving New Normal: extremes become even more extreme as the status quo attempts to force compliance with its last-ditch schemes to preserve what was always unsustainable while painting a happy face on the stock market, the one thing they can push higher as the global economy unravels.

Mark, Jesse and I discuss this dynamic in Salon #10: Remember when Maximum Pessimism and Irrational Exuberance were mutually exclusive? (54 minutes): realistic pessimism is lashed to the mast with the irrational exuberance of stock market soothsayers, central bank cheerleaders and the organs of propaganda (Wall Street) and control of the narratives (social media and search monopolies).

Cognitive dissonance? Yes. Schizophrenia? Sure. Crazy-making? Undoubtedly. So the default “solution” is petty Authoritarianism to ensure we only see approved narratives, that we focus on the happy-happy signal of the glorious stock market (best rally ever!), that we pay higher taxes without complaint, and so on.And of course, buy, buy, buy and borrow, borrow, borrow, lest the flimsy house of cards collapse.

As I explain in my book Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reformthe only possible output of central bank monetary stimulus is financialization, and the only possible output of financialization is unprecedented wealth and income inequality.

As Max Keiser, Stacy Herbert and I discuss in Fractals of Incompetence (15:30), the problem with pushing extremes is the system is incompetent at every level, from school boards to the Federal Reserve. Rather than solve problems, our institutions have devolved into mechanisms to protect clerisy / insiders from transparency and accountability.In the New Normal, systemic incompetence isn’t going to magically transform into competence, it’s going to reach new extremes of incompetence and self-serving hubris.

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

The Chain Reaction is Now in Process

THE CHAIN REACTION IS NOW IN PROCESS

Much has been written about the economic consequences of Covid-19, yet, just as in many of the analyses of the Great Depression and the 2008 crisis, the years of accumulating debt preceding the event do not attract the attention they deserve. Covid-19—or to be more precise, the lockdown—has initiated a cascading liquidation of the debt bubble which has been building for a generation. From the early 1980s, each recession has been responded to with iteratively lower interest rates. Following the bursting of the late-1980s credit bubble, Greenspan inaugurated the loosest monetary policy for a generation, creating the Dot Com Bubble. When this burst in 2000, it was responded to with even lower interest rates, reaching 1% from 2003-4, generating the Housing Bubble. When this burst in 2007/8, the response was zero percent interest rates, turning a $150 trillion global debt bubble as it was then—already the largest In history—into a $250 trillion global debt bubble.

At the Cobden Centre we have organised many talks around the world on the nature of the debt bubble, including in the European Parliament, the Bank of England and the OECD headquarters. When central banks set interest rates it fundamentally distorts the pricing mechanisms of credit markets, just like price setting in other parts of the economy. Friedrich von Hayek won the Nobel Prize in 1974 for articulating that interest rates, like other prices, should be set by the market rather than central planning committees. We are not surprised when the government setting the price of food in Venezuela leads to food shortages so we should not be surprised that zero percent interest rates have led to a $250 trillion global debt bubble. Below is a speech I gave in the European Parliament in 2018 in which I adumbrated these points for a political audience:

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The COVID Class War

varoufakis67_Sean GallupGetty Images_germanyprotesteurocrisis

The COVID Class War

The European Union’s proposed recovery fund to counter the pandemic’s economic fallout seems destined to leave the majority in every member state worse off. Finance will again be protected, if badly, while workers are left to foot the bill through new rounds of austerity.

ATHENS – The euro crisis that erupted a decade ago has long been portrayed as a clash between Europe’s frugal North and profligate South. In fact, at its heart was a fierce class war that left Europe, including its capitalists, much weakened relative to the United States and China. Worse still, the European Union’s response to the pandemic, including the EU recovery fund currently under deliberation, is bound to intensify this class war, and deal another blow to Europe’s socioeconomic model.

If we have learned anything in recent decades, it is the pointlessness of focusing on any country’s economy in isolation. Once upon a time, when money moved between countries mostly to finance trade, and most consumption spending benefited domestic producers, the strengths and weaknesses of a national economy could be separately assessed. Not anymore. Today, the weaknesses of, say, China and Germany are intertwined with those of countries like the US and Greece.

The unshackling of finance in the early 1980s, following the elimination of capital controls left over from the Bretton Woods system, enabled enormous trade imbalances to be funded by rivers of money created privately via financial engineering. As the US shifted from a trade surplus to a massive deficit, its hegemony grew. Its imports maintain global demand and are financed by the inflows of foreigners’ profits that pour into Wall Street.

This strange recycling process is managed by the world’s de facto central bank, the US Federal Reserve. And maintaining such an impressive creation – a permanently imbalanced global system – necessitates the constant intensification of class war in deficit and surplus countries alike.

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

Big Banks Win, You Lose (Volume 32,836)

Big Banks Win, You Lose (Volume 32,836)

bank risk

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the “Volcker Rule” was intended to prevent big banks from taking irresponsible risks.

It’s named after a former Fed Chair, the late Paul Volcker, who used this concept to curb out-of-control inflation in the 1980s.

But in spite of an already-uncertain economy, regulators are now proposing to ease these rules. According to CNBC:

The Volcker Rule was designed to prevent banks from acting like hedge funds. The general principle is that they are allowed to facilitate trades for clients, but not allowed to strap on risk for big proprietary bets.

The amount of risk a big bank can take on is about to change, thanks to the easing of these regulations.

The same CNBC article points out: “The change, which was floated earlier this year, will allow banks to invest more of their own capital in venture capital funds that invest in start-ups and small businesses alongside clients.”

So basically, the money you deposit into your bank account can be used by your bank for riskier investments that have greater potential of backfiring.

According to a ThinkAdvisor article, one of the reasons these changes were proposed in the first place was the difficulty in deciding which investments did or did not pass the Volcker Rule:

FDIC Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams argued when the final changes passed that simplifying the post-crisis Volcker Rule, ushered in by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, was needed, as Volcker has been “the most challenging to implement” for regulators and the industry. “Distinguishing between what qualifies as proprietary trading and what does not has proven to be extremely difficult,” she said.

Now that the changes are finalized, an estimated $40 billion could be freed up. It gives the impression of a “backdoor bank bailout” being given to banks, which were feeling financial pressure thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns.

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

Citibank Joins Mainstream Gold Bulls Forecasting Record Prices

Citibank Joins Mainstream Gold Bulls Forecasting Record Prices

Citibank has joined other mainstream gold bulls calling for record gold prices.

Citi raised its gold price forecast this week. It now projects a three-month price of $1,825 per ounce and for the yellow metal to head into record territory in 2021. Citi analysts expect gold to eclipse the $2,000 mark early next year.

Citibank joins several other mainstream players that now project record gold prices in the coming months. Last week, we reported Goldman Sachs now forecasts record gold prices within the next 12 months and Bank of America released a note saying gold could break its US dollar record by the end of the year if it continues to breach key resistance levels.

Meanwhile, SGMC Capital Founder & CEO Massimiliano Bondurri told Bloomberg he thinks gold may hit close to $2,000 by the end of this year and could rally further due to dollar weakness.

It can rally much, much further than here, for a number of reasons. First of all, we expect dollar depreciation to continue, so that’s likely to benefit gold.”

And Edison Investment Research is even more bullish, saying gold has the potential to go as high as $3,000.

Gold has been on a strong run over the last couple of weeks as the number of coronavirus cases has surged. Bullion is up better than 12% in this quarter.

Safe-haven demand has given gold a boost, but the big driver is the Federal Reserve and its unprecedented money printing. As US Global CEO Frank Holmes recently pointed out, there is a strong correlation between the expansion of the central bank’s balance sheet and the price of gold. We’ve already seen the balance sheet balloon by over $3 trillion in response to the coronavirus pandemic and it currently stands at over $7 trillion. Holmes said he thinks the central bank will likely grow its balance sheet to $10 trillion before all is said and done. If history is any teacher, that could mean $4,000 gold.

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

TOM CLOUD PRECIOUS METALS UPDATE: U.S. Dollar Troubles Ahead & Are Banks Safe?

TOM CLOUD PRECIOUS METALS UPDATE: U.S. Dollar Troubles Ahead & Are Banks Safe?

In the newest precious metals update, Tom Cloud discusses the platinum market, U.S. Dollar troubles, and is your money safe in banks.  Tom says that more individuals and companies are moving some of their cash out of banks and into physical metals than he as ever seen before.  Americans are becoming increasingly worried about their ability for the FDIC to insure their money at banks.

Tom Cloud discusses why the U.S. Dollar is in trouble, A dollar crash is virtually inevitable, Asia expert Stephen Roach warns:

Stephen Roach, one of the world’s leading authorities on Asia, is worried a changing global landscape paired with a massive U.S. budget deficit will spark a dollar crash.

“The U.S. economy has been afflicted with some significant macro imbalances for a long time, namely a very low domestic savings rate and a chronic current account deficit,” the former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Monday. “The dollar is going to fall very, very sharply.”

His forecast calls for a 35% drop against other major currencies.

Tom told me during our phone chat that he believes the industry will suffer from even more substantial shortages of physical gold and silver bullion products when the next BIG WAVE of buying hits the market.  I totally agree.  Tom stated that during late March and in April, he saw more new clients purchasing physical gold and silver than he has seen in quite a while.

The biggest issue that concerns Tom and some of his clients is the safety of their FDIC insured money in banks.  Individuals and companies who hold a significant amount of funds in banks are becoming worried that the FDIC will not have the funds to protect customers when there is a RUN on the BANKS.  I believe this is coming in time.  Especially when the U.S. Dollar gets into trouble.

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

Who Will Get Hit When Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) Blow Up? Banks or Unsuspecting “Market Participants”?

Who Will Get Hit When Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) Blow Up? Banks or Unsuspecting “Market Participants”?

Answers emerge from the murky business of CLOs.

There has been quite some hoopla surrounding Collateralized Loan obligations (CLOs) because the underlying leveraged loans – junk-rated loans often used by private equity firms to fund leveraged buyouts (LBO) and other high-risk endeavors such as special dividends – are now starting to come apart. There are approximately $700 billion in US-issued CLOs outstanding.

US banks hold $99 billion of these CLOs, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The rest are held by various institutional investors, such as insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity firms, and the like. They’re also held by entities overseas, including certain banks in Japan that have gorged on these US CLOs. But that’s their problem.

One third of the CLOs in the US banking system are held by just one bank: JPMorgan Chase; and 80% of the CLOs in the US banking system are held by just three banks. But at each of these three gigantic banks, CLOs account for only 1.2% to 1.3% of total assets (total asset amounts per Federal Reserve Q1 2020):

  • JPMorgan Chase: $34.0 billion in CLOs = 1.3% of its $2.69 trillion in assets.
  • Wells Fargo: $24.6 billion in CLOs = 1.2% of its $1.76 trillion in assets.
  • Citigroup: $21.4 billion in CLOs = 1.3% of its $1.63 trillion in assets.

In 11th position down the list is the second largest bank in the US, Bank of America, with just $807 million in CLOs, accounting for barely over 0% of its $2.03 trillion in assets.

In other words, the largest four banks in the US hold $81 billion of the $99 billion of CLOs in the US banking system – but given the gargantuan size of their assets, this percentage-wise small CLO exposure is the least of their problems.

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – June 29 2020: What if it’s just begun?

Blain’s Morning Porridge – June 29 2020: What if it’s just begun?

What if the real pain is still to come?

“That about sums it up for me..”

There is an amusing piece on the FTs’ Alphaville listing 20 things investors should look for when trying to work out who will be the next Wirecard. You don’t need to be a financial genius to work out which company they might be talking about… It’s a basic wake-up call. In periods of economic darkness, its all-to-easy to be persuaded as to the efficacy of snake oil. If something over-promises, makes lots of noise while underdelivering, and is basically a personality cult – then it’s long-term unlikely to be a particularly successful investment.

Back in the real world…

We are nearly half-way through 2020. Although we’ve been shocked, surprised and buffeted by the Virus, and buoyed by the swift and effective intervention of Governments to support companies and mitigate job losses while Central Banks have calmed markets with the opium of QE Infinity, I can’t help wonder if the real earthquake is yet to come. 

I am still bullish about long-term recovery as we adapt to the virus and it spurs a new tech development age. But I can’t help feeling deeply uneasy about current markets and the resilience of global financial systems. 

This crisis is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Normally a market crash is explosive event – it occurs when something in the financial sphere breaks; like confidence in housing and financial systems in 2007, or valuations in the Dot.Com crash, or faith in credit constructs like during the European Sovereign Debt crisis in the 2010s. In each of case of financial mayhem I’ve experienced since the Great Perp Crash of 1986, the initial shock and horror gradually lessens as the market discounts the shock, shrugs it off, and carries on. 

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

Natural Gas Price Plunge Could Soon Lead To Shut-Ins

Natural Gas Price Plunge Could Soon Lead To Shut-Ins

Natural gas prices plunged to new lows this week, falling below $1.50/MMBtu, a catastrophically low price for U.S. gas drillers.  The factors afflicting the gas market are multiple. Prices had already fallen below $2/MMBtu at the start of 2020, weighed down by oversupply. But it wasn’t a problem confined to the U.S. There was also a global glut of LNG due to a wave of capacity additions in 2019.  

That was the situation heading into 2020. But just as the Covid-19 pandemic tore apart the oil market, natural gas also went into a tailspin. Global gas demand is expected to fall by 4 percent this year, “largest recorded demand shock” in history, according to the International Energy Agency. 

Buyers of U.S. LNG are now cancelling shipments at a rapid clip. U.S. LNG exports have declined by more than half compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“There would have been too much LNG in the world even without Covid-19,” Ben Chu, a director at Wood Mackenzie’s Genscape service, said in a statement. “Covid-19 has made it worse.”

Buyers abroad are willing to pay a cancellation fee instead of receiving shipment from U.S. exporters, a sign of how badly the market has deteriorated. For August delivery, between 40 and 45 cargoes have been cancelled, nearly double the rate of cancellation in June. 

Typically, cheaper gas can stimulate demand, particularly in the electric power sector. But that outlet is not as large as it may have been in the past, not least because gas has already been cheap for quite some time. Thus, the coal-to-gas option is limited. Without an export route, and without larger uptake from utilities, the gas glut has deepened. 

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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