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THIS is What a Margin Call Looks Like: the Consequences of Stock Market Mania

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on various examples of stock market mania that have exploded in 2021.

Now it’s time to examine a major event that could be a clear harbinger for “the big one” to come. It starts with a name you never heard of before March, a modest hedge fund operating as a “family office” named Archegos Capital, and it ends with some of the world’s biggest brokers engaged in a mutually-destructive fire sale that wiped out $35 billion in market value.

Let’s take a closer look at what Slate’s Alex Kirshner calls The Dumbest Financial Story of 2021 (so far).

Leverage: Fantastic on the Way Up, Hideous on the Way Down

Bill Hwang, convicted inside trader, founded Archegos as a “family office.” Kirshner explains this legal nicety “functions like a hedge fund but manages the assets of just one or a few wealthy families. In theory, a family office gives a problem trader less opportunity to harm others, because they are not playing with outsiders’ money.”

At Forbes, Antoine Gara explains why this matters: “a family office exempts it from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s reporting requirements for investment firms.”

Hwang’s new firm approached big banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Japan’s Nomura and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse. These firms extended leverage, or margin loans, to Archegos, which invested heavily on swap trades:

Swaps are an effective tool to take big risks without disclosing much. Total return swaps, for instance, allow an investor to negotiate a trade with their broker to own the total return of a stock, or basket of stocks, for a predetermined size and period of time, and at an agreed cost…

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

birch gold group, archegos, financial markets, leverage, hedge funds, leverage

Gold Will Emerge Stronger Than Ever From the Post-Pandemic Environment: CPM Group

We’ve often heard that gold is a primary beneficiary of crises unlike any other, when investors and the average person alike wondered what would happen tomorrow. Now, when at least some of the fear has diminished, CPM Group took a look at how the crisis aggravated existing problems that have been turning people to gold for decades.

In their Gold Yearbook, CPM highlighted sovereign and private debt, government deficits and loose monetary policies as the drivers that will position gold exceptionally well over the medium and long-term. The scramble for money to keep their economies afloat by both the U.S. and governments around the world have worsened these issues in monumental fashion. Growth was already contracting prior to the crisis, and CPM believes low growth could be the biggest consequence of the official sector’s liquidity rush.

With many countries appearing to adopt even more protectionist policies, CPM points to the long-standing trade conflict between the U.S. and China as something to look out for. The group also noted that many economies are projected to post a much slower recovery than that of the U.S. Regarding gold price, CPM doesn’t expect any major rushes such as the one seen last year. Instead, its analysts think investors will become more attracted to the metal over a longer period of time, slowly buying gold whenever a dip occurs. (More in line with the behavior expected of buy-and-hold investors rather than speculators’ constant turnover.)

Their sentiment agrees with many reports asserting that money managers are reassessing the traditional portfolio model and coming to view gold as a necessary inclusion…

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

birch gold group, gold, precious metals, pandemic, money, wealth, cpm,

MMT Has Lit the Fuse on This Inflation Powder Keg

An economic framework called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) governs the financial world today, but fails to account for the consequences of its practices. In fact, MMT is leading us to an extremely dangerous financial situation that could blow up at any time.

What is MMT?

Before we get to that, it helps to know what MMT means. It is a theory that states:

monetarily sovereign countries like the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Canada, which spend, tax, and borrow in a fiat currency they fully control, are not constrained by revenues when it comes to federal government spending. These governments do not rely on taxes or borrowing for spending since they can print as much as they need and are the monopoly issuers of the currency. Since their budgets aren’t like a regular household’s, their policies should not be shaped by fears of rising national debt. [emphasis added]

Put more simply, the Federal Reserve can create as much new money as it wants to pay off old debts and fund new government spending. Meanwhile, most individuals don’t concern themselves with the rising national debt (like you most certainly would if your own personal debts were growing).

With such powerful “magic” at their fingertips, Modern Monetary Theorists don’t pay much attention to the fundamentals of the economy. After all, they’ve been taught that the fundamentals don’t matter.

For example, if you’re concerned about the Fed’s nasty habit of running up the national debt and inflating the money supply, MMT tells us not to worry:

With a public debt approaching $30 trillion and a money supply that has increased by 25% in the last two years, the worry seems justified. However, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) says we have nothing to worry about.

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

birch gold group, modern monetary theory, mmt, money printing,

Look to Prices, Not Official Metrics, for Inflation’s “Smoking Gun”

Look to consumer prices to see where gold and silver are headed

As worries about currency erosion and inflation abound, the question of how to measure these crucial benchmarks has become a cornerstone of the debate. The Federal Reserve’s insistence that inflation is being kept in check and below its annual targeted rate of 2% seems impossible considering the oceans of money poured into the economy. Economics 101 teaches us that, when money supply goes up without a corresponding increase in goods for sale, prices must rise. It’s virtually a law of nature.

Statements by officials have given rise to even more red flags, whether one refers to the Fed’s willingness to let inflation run rampant or former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers’s warning that the Fed would “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.”

But how can the average citizen know whether there has been a sudden spike in inflation, and just how quickly their purchasing power is wasting away?

FAO Food Price Index

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 116.0 points in February 2021, 2.8 points (2.4 percent) higher than in January, marking the ninth month of consecutive rise and reaching its highest level since July 2014. source

 

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

birch gold group, inflation, price inflation, food price inflation, fed, us federal reserve, consumer prices

New Normal: High Unemployment, Near-Zero Interest Rates and Out of Control Inflation

Since the pandemic began a year ago, the term “new normal” has become part of the American lexicon. Not “new” as in better or improved. But rather “new” as in contrast to the way things used to be.

Much of the mainstream discussion argues that returning to the “old” normal isn’t likely to happen. Things like pre-pandemic employment, closer-to-normal price inflation, and less economic uncertainty just aren’t on the map.

The Street summed it up generously as: “Numerous chain reaction ripple impacts will delay the economic recovery.” Some of these “ripple effects” were in motion long before the pandemic hit.

For example, the Fed was already in a state of panic thanks to an out-of-control repo rate fiasco from 2019, mounting debt, and potential ineffectiveness of its main tools.

During the “old normal” the Fed would have been able to deploy its tools to control rates and keep unemployment under control — but that might not be possible now or in the future.

Under the post-pandemic “new normal,” the potential exists for the “ripple effects” from the state closure of small businesses, developing automation, and fractures in the food supply chain to be felt more permanently.

Is the U.S. Heading for Permanently High Unemployment?

In a way, thanks to the pandemic, yes it is. But it depends on many factors.

Wolf Richter laid out why he thinks the sudden economic shifts that happened in 2020 will take years to sort out:

Now the Pandemic has forced businesses to change. There is no going back to the old normal. And these technologies impact employment in both directions.

If the pandemic has forced businesses to adopt technologies that automate certain functions, then the employees that performed those functions will no longer be necessary.

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

 

Forbes: Excessive Monetary Stimulus Leaves Gold “Greatly Undervalued”

This week, Your News to Know rounds up the latest top stories involving gold and the overall economy. Stories include: How the expansion of money supply is boosting gold’s allure, an overview of last year’s precious metals imports to the U.S., and U.S. Mint releases final batch of American Gold Eagle coins with current design.

Historic monetary stimulus is casting a bright light on tangible assets

The multi-trillion dollar stimulus appears to have achieved the desired effect, at least in the short term. The influx of freshly-printed, free floating money encouraged risk-on sentiment, increased bond yields and caused money managers to once again turn away from gold.

Yet, as Forbes columnist Frank Holmes points out, the pressures coming down on gold right now could turn out to be its most powerful tailwind further down the line.

According to the Forbes article, M1 (the amount of readily-available or liquid money in circulation) should be approached the same as any other asset class. This is usually the case; many investors treat cash as a part of their portfolios. Therefore, the law of supply and demand should also be applied to cash. In light of the recent monetary expansion, cash quickly starts to look overabundant in the economy.

Holmes notes that M1 has expanded by 355% year-on-year, marking the highest annual rate increase on record by a wide margin. Unsurprisingly, inflation expectations for the next five years based on the Treasury breakeven rate have risen to their highest level since 2011, when gold posted its previous all-time high. Today’s gold price may be some ways off from August’s peak of $2,070, but there are plenty of analysts calling for a retrace this year, and Holmes thinks inflation could kickstart the next round of gold price gains.

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

 

Culmination of Fed Interventions Inflates Historic “Everything Bubble”

We reported on last year’s partial deflation of the “everything bubble,” aided in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and erratic response to it.

But it could be a bit premature to consider that partial crash a singular event, followed by another period of economic recovery.

In fact things seem a lot worse economically, and this time in the worst way possible. At The Hill, Desmond Lachman describes how the U.S. may have reached the end of the economic road:

Herb Stein famously said that if something cannot go on forever it will stop. He might very well have been talking about today’s everything bubble in U.S. and world financial markets, which has largely been fueled by the Federal Reserve’s extraordinarily easy monetary policy.

The “everything bubble” Lachman refers to is easy to see in the current Shiller Price Earnings Ratio. It’s higher than the 1929 Depression, and on a trajectory towards “dot-com bust” levels from 2000. You can see for yourself on the latest Shiller PE chart below:

Everything Bubble: Shiller Price Earnings Ratio Chart

Schiller PE measures the price to average earnings from the past ten years. Today, on average, an investor pays $34.87 to secure $1 annual earnings.

Both of the past economic peaks, the Great Depression and the Dot-com crash, were “everything bubbles”. Today’s Shiller PE ratio has already surpassed Black Tuesday‘s…

You’ve seen charts before – why care about this one? A few reasons: its inventor, Robert J. Shiller, won the 2013 Nobel Prize for economics (and a bucket of other prizes). He’s been on the list of 100 most influential economists in the world since 2008. His book Irrational Exuberance came out in March 2000, warning that the stock market was in a bubble. (He was right.) Almost exactly one year before Lehman Brothers collapsed, Shiller authored a prescient warning – here’s the summary:

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

 

Yellen Challenges Powell’s Unlimited Control of the Markets

The Fed attempts to maintain control of various rates (including inflation, unemployment and long-term interest rates) through its monetary policy decisions. In the past, poor choices arguably led to both the dot-com bubble and the Great Recession. But that’s old news.

Today, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is trying to get the U.S. economy moving. A combination of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing,” which means buying bonds directly. Both these interventions increase the amount of money in circulation. Ultimately, this would lead to inflation, as you’d expect.

And of course, inflation is closely tied to market rates. In response to the pandemic, the Fed rate policy that Powell currently advocates is keeping money market rates close to zero for an extended period of time. The Fed also seem to intervene quite a bit, attempting to maintain tight control on those rates.

Powell has to balance economic recovery and employment against market bubbles and excessive inflation. That’s a lot of balls in the air… What if one drops?

Unleashing a “tsunami” of cash

Enter Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who just threw a big monkey wrench in Powell’s plans to maintain any semblance of tight control over rates. What did she say? As Newsmax reported:

Already low short-term interest rates are set to sink further, potentially below zero, after the Treasury announced plans earlier this month to reduce the stockpile of cash it amassed at the Fed over the last year to fight the pandemic and the deep recession it caused.

That sounds sensible, right? There’s just one problem: the Treasury is planning to “unleash what Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Zoltan Pozsar calls a ‘tsunami’ of reserves into the financial system and on to the Fed’s balance sheet.”

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

 

U.S. Mint Rations Bullion Coins – Why Aren’t Prices Rising, Too?

Why bullion prices don’t seem to be in line with demand

Despite record demand for gold and silver bullion coins month after month, the prices of both metals continue to linger within limited ranges. Gold even pulled back to just above $1,800 during Friday’s trading session. So what’s going on? Why isn’t the clearly-demonstrated demand driving prices higher?

U.S. Mint director Ed Moy, whose tenure stretched from 2006 to 2011, recognizes today’s situation and draws many parallels to the start of 2008:

The last time demand was this high was during the [2008-2009] financial crisis. People were panicking and buying into gold, and prices were shooting up. Then the government started injecting both fiscal and monetary stimulus, and you saw gold correct down maybe 20-30%. And then, over the next three years, gold began to climb until it set a new record of $1,925 in 2011. Afterward, gold didn’t decline until it became clear that the economic recovery was going to be slow, which eliminated the uncertainty. The Fed also had the time to mop up all the excess liquidity before it caused inflation.

The former director explained that, besides overloaded mints and supply chain disruptions, there are several other factors that could play an interesting role in shaping up gold’s price over the coming months and years. Moy believes that perhaps the biggest reason for the disconnection between price and demand lies in Wall Street’s shorting of the metals.

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

 

The Foundation for Potential Price Hyperinflation is Being Laid

The Federal Reserve sure seems to have a tough time finding and reporting signs of rising inflation — especially when it’s hidden in other sectors like a lack of demand for energy.

A recent example of the Fed’s “inflation blindness” comes from a speech Chairman Jerome Powell gave to the Economic Club of New York. According to a MarketWatch piece that reported on that speech:

Powell said he doesn’t expect “a large nor sustained” increase in inflation right now. Price rises from the “burst of spending” as the economy reopens are not likely to be sustained.

It’s odd that Powell would say he doesn’t expect a sustained increase in inflation, because food price inflation has consistently run 3.5 to 4.5 percent since April last year. That sure seems like a sustained increase in food prices.

What Powell seems to have “forgotten” is that some of the overall inflation includes negative energy price inflation (as low as negative 9 percent at one point). But now that the demand for fuel is returning, the official gasoline index rose 7.4 percent in January.

It will be much more challenging for Powell to keep downplaying the risk of hyperinflation once energy price inflation rises back to “pre-pandemic” levels.

In fact, Robert Wenzel thinks the main inflation event is “just about to hit.” If it does, and inflation does rise past Powell’s two percent target, it isn’t likely to stop there. Jim Rickards thinks that’s when hyperinflation can gain momentum:

If inflation does hit 3%, it is more likely to go to 6% or higher, rather than back down to 2%. The process will feed on itself and be difficult to stop. Sadly, there are no Volckers or Reagans on the horizon today. There are only weak political leaders and misguided central bankers.

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

 

Fed’s Near-Zero Rates Might Sound Good (Until This Happens)

But it’s much different when your retirement savings depends on getting a return on investment (ROI). In that case, near-zero interest rates can put pensions and other retirement accounts in serious jeopardy.

The Fed dropped interest rates to 0-0.25% starting last September. And according to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, those near-zero rates could stick around for a while:

Expects to hold interest rates near zero at least until 2023 because of the pandemic. That spells lower returns for retirement accounts, and it adds to the underfunding of pensions that has worried retirees for many years now.

“Low returns from the market are essentially a tax on retirees,” said Olivia Mitchell, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy.

Then there are real interest rates, which are measured by the difference between 10-year treasuries and Fed inflation expectations. We figure this out by comparing the yields on Treasury inflation protected securities (TIPS) to 10-year Treasury yields. Here’s a comparison of real interest rates (2000-present) from the official Cleveland Fed chart:

Ten-year TIPS yields vs real yields

You can see that since 2012, the real rate has struggled to get to 1%, and recently dipped into the negative.

Low rates mean low returns

According to an op-ed on MarketWatch, the drop in real interest rates isn’t a good thing:

This persistently low-rate environment means workers will have to contribute significantly more to their 401(k), or invest in riskier assets, than they did at the turn of the century.

Many of the assets retirement savers have relied on for decades, including Treasury bonds, CDs, annuities, money market accounts, even the humble savings account, cannot preserve your purchasing power any more.

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

interest rates, fed, us federal reserve, central banks, birch gold group, inflation

U.S. Mint Sold Out of Gold & Silver Coins

This week, Your News to Know rounds up the latest top stories involving gold and the overall economy. Stories include: U.S. Mint can’t keep pace with demand again, Goldman chief calls silver a supercharged version of gold, and amateur prospector unearths a long-lost golden treasure from Medieval times.

U.S. Mint runs out of gold and silver coins

Just when we’d hoped the U.S. Mint might’ve worked its way through the pandemic-driven backlog of gold and silver coins, a new surge in demand worsened supply shortages. Last year, the U.S. Mint saw a 258% increase in purchase of gold coins and a 28% increase in silver coins, with heavy buying continuing into 2021. They probably didn’t plan for what happened next…

On the heels of Reddit’s wallstreetbets triumphant (if brief) GameStop frenzy, the day traders searched for a new target. Some have settled on silver. Amid claims that silver’s price should be closer to $1,000 than $25, day traders have flocked to both gold and silver. This made the ongoing supply crunch even worse.

While silver’s price is still trading around $27, the supply dynamics tell a different tale. The U.S. Mint sold 220,500 American Eagle gold bullion coins in January 2021, a staggering 290% year-on-year increase from last January. It’s not just unexpected demand that’s causing problems, though.

As noted by a retailer of precious metals coins, “There was going to be a backlog in the silver bullion supply chain that rendered silver eagles more scarce either way.” This is because the U.S. Mint is currently changing designs for its American Eagle gold and silver coins, expected to debut this summer. Once available, the U.S. Mint will ration distribution of gold, silver and platinum coins to dealers due to heavy demand.

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

 

 

How to Protect Your Local Economy From the Great Reset

Sadly, the majority of people tend to take action only when they have hit rock bottom.

In recent months the pandemic lockdown situation has provided a sufficient wake up call to many conservatives and moderates. We have seen the financial effects of pandemic restrictions in blue states, with hundreds of thousands of small businesses closing, tax revenues imploding and millions of people relocating to red states just to escape the oppressive environment.

Luckily, conservative regions have been smart enough to prevent self destruction by staying mostly open. In fact, red states have been vastly outperforming blue states in terms of economic recovery exactly because they refuse to submit to medical tyranny.

I outlined this dynamic in detail recently in my article Blue State Economies Will Soon Crumble – But Will They Take Red States With Them?

The data is undeniable: the states and cities that enforce lockdown mandates are dying, the states that ignore mandates are surviving. However, with a Biden presidency there is a high probability that the federal government will now seek to force compliance from all states. In other words, lockdowns will become a national issue rather than a state issue.

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

 

The U.S. Dollar Could Be Nearing Its “End Game”

From foreign countries trying to dethrone the dollar’s hegemony as global reserve currency, all the way to rising inflation weakening it… the U.S. dollar is in trouble.

Pundits like Jim Rickards said (back in 2016): “The dollar won’t lose its reserve currency status overnight” — and he was right. But a new and disturbing signal could finally be revealing the end game.

You can see the dollar’s loss of about 10% value against other currencies and its persistent downward trend since March 2020 reflected in the dollar index chart below:

dollar index chart from March 2020-February 2021

To get an even better idea of that persistent downward trend, we need to look all the way back to 2002, when the dollar index (DXY) peaked around 117. Not only is today’s dollar worth 10% less than last year’s – it’s 25% weaker than in 2002.

In fact, one forecast reported on Bloomberg in June 2020 called for a 35% decline in value by the end of 2021, which would leave the dollar index at 65. If that plays out, the index would be reporting its lowest value in at least 35 years.

In addition, a new Bloomberg report gave three reasons why the “dollar is now trading at the lowest level against its peers since 2018”:

1) Sharp widening in the U.S. current-account [trade] deficit.
2) Rise of the euro.
3) A Federal Reserve that would do little in response to any weakness in the greenback.

There is no doubt the trade deficit is a problem. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gap between imports and exports is at its widest since 2006. That won’t help the dollar recover.

The Fed’s inflation policy isn’t likely to help the dollar much because it “printed” itself into a corner with its loose monetary policy. The same Bloomberg piece further clarifies the Fed’s inflation strategy:

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

 

This Potentially Catastrophic Inflation Surge Slipped Under the Radar (Until Now)

FAO Food Price Index hits a three-year high in 2020, following additional gains in December

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 107.5 points in December 2020, up 2.3 points (2.2 percent) from November, marking the seventh month of consecutive increase.

You’ve read about housing market bubblesstock bubbles, and even credit bubbles. But the next bubble you’re about to discover could be even more dangerous, and may have even more far-reaching consequences.

It’s called a food price bubble, and it’s been inflating under our noses since March 2020. You can also see the dangerous trajectory it’s on compared to three previous years in the FAO chart.

The official January 7, 2021 release from the Food and Agriculture Organization explains the chart above in more detail.

And according to a Business Insider piece, grain has risen in price 50% over the last six months while other commodities like industrial metals are starting to drop in price.

In fact, according to an official source, food price inflation has risen each month by at least 3.5% (year over year) since April 2020 both at home and away from home.

And December didn’t show any signs of that trend letting up, with a price increase of 3.9% over December 2019. Keep in mind, we’re talking about food here. Technically this price surge isn’t a bubble ‑ it’s inflation.

This is exactly what we expect to see when the Fed’s loose-money policies support bubbles in the housing, stock and credit markets. An excess of currency chasing a fixed supply of paper assets inflates prices, which isn’t a big problem as long as the feeding frenzy stays contained in the paper asset markets. So long as amateur day-traders stick to playing stock-market roulette with the likes of Tesla and GameStop, the day-to-day world can go about business as usual.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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