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Central Banks Rush to Protect Themselves from Incoming Disaster

Central Banks Rush to Protect Themselves from Incoming Disaster

Image courtesy of European Central Bank

The times, they are a-changin’, as Bob Dylan tells us.

On the global economic stage, the U.S. isn’t the dominant economic superpower that it once was. This conclusion comes from the declining popularity of dollars among global central banks.

Around the world, national central banks stockpile “reserves” in order to back up the value of their own national currency. Here’s how Investopedia explains monetary reserves:

  • The currency, precious metals, and other assets held by a central bank or other monetary authority
  • Monetary reserves back up the value of national currencies by providing something of value that the currency can be exchanged or redeemed for by note holders and depositors
  • Reserves themselves can either be gold or denominated in a specific currency, such as the dollar or euro

In a sense, holding any asset as part of a nation’s monetary reserves is a vote of confidence in it (which is a big reason central banks own tons of gold bars).

Here’s the concern: according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, the U.S. dollar (USD) has been hobbling along at a 26-year low in terms of its share of global reserve currencies.

Wolf Richter explained the specifics: “The global share of US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves declined to 59.15% in the third quarter, from 59.23% in the second quarter.”

The world is losing faith in the dollar as a safe, stable store of value. Take a look at the history of the USD share of global reserve currencies since 1967 on the chart below.

Take special note of how high the share was in 1977 (85%) before inflation spiraled out of control. Then note how much of that share disappeared by 1991:

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What Will Surprise Us in 2022

What Will Surprise Us in 2022

What seemed so permanent for 13 long years will be revealed as shifting sand and what seemed so real for 13 long years will be revealed as illusion. Magical thinking isn’t optimism, it is folly.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future, but let’s look at what we already know about 2022. Viewed from Earth orbit, 2022 is Year 14 of extend and pretend and too big to fail, too big to jail and Year 2 of global supply chains break and energy shortages.

The essence of extend and pretend is to substitute income earned from increases in productivity–real prosperity–with debt–a simulation of prosperity –that doesn’t solve the real problems, it simply adds a new and fatal problem: since productivity hasn’t expanded across the spectrum, neither has income or prosperity.

All that happened over the past 13 years is that debt–money borrowed against future productivity gains and energy consumption–funded illusions of prosperity in all three sectors: households, enterprise and government.

The explosion of debt and interest due on that debt could not occur if interest rates still topped 10% as they did 40 years ago in the early to mid-1980s. We couldn’t add tens of trillions of dollars, yen, yuan and euros in new debt unless interest rates were pushed down to near-zero (for the government, the wealthy and corporations only, of course–debt-serfs still pay 7%, 10%, 15%, 19%, etc.)

This monetary trick was accomplished by making central banks the linchpin of the entire global economy as central banks created “money” out of thin air and used the currency to buy trillions in government and corporate bonds, artificially creating near-infinite demand which then drove the rate of interest into the ground.

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What I See for 2022: Interest Rates, Mortgage Rates, Real Estate, Stocks & Other Assets as Central Banks Face Raging Inflation

What I See for 2022: Interest Rates, Mortgage Rates, Real Estate, Stocks & Other Assets as Central Banks Face Raging Inflation

An extra-special cocktail of three powerful ingredients with no cherry on top awaits us in 2022.

Super-inflated asset prices such as housing, stocks, and bonds; massive inflation; and central banks that have started to react.

Many central banks have started pushing up interest rates; others have ended asset purchases. And Quantitative Tightening (QT) – central banks shedding assets – is on the table.

Rising interest rates in the US won’t catch up with raging inflation in 2022 – CPI inflation is now 6.8%, the highest in 40 years.

But unlike 40 years ago, inflation is now on the way up. In the early 1980s, it was starting to head down. We need to compare the current situation to the 1970s, when inflation was spiraling higher. So we’re entering a new environment where the economy will be doing things we haven’t seen in many decades. It will be a new ballgame for just about everyone.

As is always the case, the year-over-year inflation figures will fluctuate. CPI could go over 7% or 8% and then fall back to 5% only to jump again, providing moments of false hopes – as they did during the waves of inflation in the 1970s – only to race even higher.

Inflation has now spread deep into the economy, with services inflation picking up, and there are no supply-chain bottle necks involved. This includes the inflation measures for housing costs. Those housing inflation measures have begun to surge.

We know that the figures for housing inflation, which account for about one-third of total CPI, will surge further in 2022, based on housing data that we saw in 2021, and that is now slowly getting picked up by the inflation indices. They started heading higher in mid-2021 from very low levels, and they’re going to be red-hot in 2022.

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Weekly Commentary: 2021 Year in Review

Weekly Commentary: 2021 Year in Review

Books will be written chronicling 2021. I’ll boil an extraordinary year’s developments down to a few simple words: “Things Ran Wild”. Covid ran wild. Monetary inflation ran wild. Inflation, in general, ran completely wild. Speculation and asset inflation ran really wild. More insidiously, mal-investment and inequality turned wilder. Extreme weather ran wild. Bucking the trend, confidence in Washington policymaking ran – into a wall.
Covid running wild. With the hope for vaccines and a waning pandemic, few anticipated the tragedy of more than 475,000 Covid deaths (exceeding 2020). As the year comes to its conclusion, we are shocked by daily new cases exceeding 500,000 – and two million for the week. Globally, daily cases exceed two million.

Inflation running wild. CPI surged 6.8% y-o-y in November, the strongest consumer price inflation since June 1982. Core PCE, the Fed’s favored inflation gauge, rose above 6% for the first time since 1983. Surging food and energy prices, in particular, punish those who can least afford it.

Monetary inflation running wild. Federal Reserve Credit expanded $1.391 TN over the past year, or 19%, to a record $8.742 TN. The Fed’s balance sheet inflated an astonishing $5.015 TN, or 135%, in the 120 weeks since QE was restarted in September 2019. Federal Reserve Assets have now inflated 10-fold since the mortgage finance Bubble collapse.

M2 “money” supply inflated another $2.478 TN (12 months through November) to a record $21.437 TN – with egregious two-year growth of $6.185 TN, or 40.6%. Bank Deposits surged $1.957 TN over the past year (12.1%), with two-year growth of $4.812 TN (36%). Money Fund Assets rose another $408 billion y-o-y, or 9.5%, to $4.70 TN. The myth that QE effects remain well contained within Treasury and securities markets has been debunked.

In the seven pandemic quarters through Q3 2021, Non-Financial Debt surged $9.183 TN, or 16.8%, in history’s greatest Credit expansion.
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Ellen Brown: The Real Antidote to Inflation

Ellen Brown: The Real Antidote to Inflation

The Fed has options for countering the record inflation the U.S. is facing that are far more productive and less risky than raising interest rates.
[Images Money / CC BY 2.0]

The Federal Reserve is caught between a rock and a hard place. Inflation grew by 6.8% in November, the fastest in 40 years, a trend the Fed has now acknowledged is not “transitory.” The conventional theory is that inflation is due to too much money chasing too few goods, so the Fed is under heavy pressure to “tighten” or shrink the money supply. Its conventional tools for this purpose are to reduce asset purchases and raise interest rates. But corporate debt has risen by $1.3 trillion just since early 2020; so if the Fed raises rates, a massive wave of defaults is likely to result. According to financial advisor Graham Summers in an article titled “The Fed Is About to Start Playing with Matches Next to a $30 Trillion Debt Bomb,” the stock market could collapse by as much as 50%.

Even more at risk are the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are the backbone of the productive economy, companies that need bank credit to survive. In 2020, 200,000 more U.S. businesses closed than in normal pre-pandemic years. SMEs targeted as “nonessential” were restricted in their ability to conduct business, while the large international corporations remained open. Raising interest rates on the surviving SMEs could be the final blow.

Cut Demand or Increase Supply?

The argument for raising interest rates is that it will reduce the demand for bank credit, which is now acknowledged to be the source of most of the new money in the money supply…

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My “Wealth Effect Monitor” & “Wealth Disparity Monitor” for the Fed’s Money-Printer Economy: December Update

My “Wealth Effect Monitor” & “Wealth Disparity Monitor” for the Fed’s Money-Printer Economy: December Update

Billionaires got more billions, bottom half of Americans got peanuts and inflation.

My “Wealth Effect Monitor” uses the data that the Fed releases quarterly about the wealth of households. The Fed, after having released the overall data for the third quarter earlier in December, has now released the detailed data by wealth category for the “1%,” the “2% to 9%,” the “next 40%” (the top 10% to 50%) and the “bottom 50%.”

Wealth here is defined as assets minus debts. The wealth of the 1% ($43.9 trillion, according to the Fed) is owned by 1% of the population. The wealth of the “bottom 50%” (only $3.4 trillion) gets split across half the population. My Wealth Effect Monitor takes this a step further and tracks the wealth of the average household in each category.

The average wealth in the 1% category ticked up by only $121,000 in Q3 from Q2, after skyrocketing over the prior five quarters, to $34,478,000 per household (red line). In the bottom 50% category, the average wealth ticked up by $6,800 $53,600 (green line). And get this: About half of that “wealth” at the bottom 50% is the value of consumer durable goods such as cars, appliances, etc. Even the top 2% to 9% (yellow), have been totally left behind by the explosion of wealth at the 1%:

Note the immense increase in the wealth for the 1% households, following the Fed’s money-printing scheme and interest rate repression in March 2020.

A household is defined by the Census Bureau as the people living at one address, whether they’re a three-generation family or five roommates or a single person. In the third quarter, there were 127.4 million households in the US, per Census estimates.

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Peter Schiff: There Is No Ceiling on Inflation

Peter Schiff: There Is No Ceiling on Inflation

Gold closed out the week before Christmas above $1,800 an ounce, despite rising bond yields. The $1,800 level has been viewed as a ceiling for the price of gold. In his podcast, Peter Schiff said people need to start thinking of $1,800 as a floor. And he said they will once they realize there is no ceiling on inflation.

We got the personal income and spending data for November last week. Incomes grew at a slower pace than projected — 0.4%. Meanwhile, spending was up 0.6%. Obviously, if spending is outpacing income, the difference has to come from somewhere. It appears Americans are dipping into their savings to cope with rising prices. The savings rate declined to 6.9%. That is the lowest level since December 2017.

We also know that consumers are turning to debt to make ends meet, with credit card balances growing at a fast pace.

The savings rate shot up and Americans paid down their credit cards when the government showered them with stimulus. Peter said it appears the stimulus has run out.

Obviously, Americans have now exhausted that windfall. They’ve depleted that savings war-chest that was built up with stimulus money, and now it’s gone. And so, they’re having to go into debt.”

Consumers have a double problem. They’ve run out of savings and consumer prices keep going up. That is robbing people of their purchasing power.

That robber is the government, because it’s the government that’s creating the inflation that is causing the cost of living to go up. But the cost of living is going up, yet consumers have even less savings to afford that increase in the cost of living.”

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Inflation In 2021 Far Different From What We Had In 1979

Inflation In 2021 Far Different From What We Had In 1979

The inflation of today is a starkly different creature than what we faced in 1979. The world is massively different and presenting us with a strain of inflation that will most likely be stronger and more difficult to combat without major disruptions to our economy. This article is an attempt to highlight the differences and why today the position we find ourselves in is much more precarious.New data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed price inflation in November rose to the highest in forty years. Allianz Chief Economic Advisor Mohamed El-Erian warned the Federal Reserve is losing credibility by not tapering its balance sheet to rein in inflation. Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he stated the most significant miscalculation in decades is the Fed’s inability to characterize inflation correctly. It was only on November 30th that Fed Chair Jerome Powell finally retired the term “transitory” and opted to label inflation as persistent.

President Biden responded to rising inflation has been to call upon Congress to pass his Build Back Better plan. Biden claims this will lower how much families pay for health care, prescription drugs, child care, and more.” In reality, of course, the passage of BBB would increase inflationary pressure throughout the economy and only transfer these soaring costs from the individual to the government.

The idea the economy of 2021 is strong enough to allow a rapid and huge surge in interest rates such as those imposed upon America in 1981 is false. During America’s prior bout with inflation 40 years ago the economy was able to withstand the shock…

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Gold and silver prospects for 2022

Gold and silver prospects for 2022

It has been a disappointing year for profit-seeking precious metal investors, but for those few of us looking to accumulate gold and silver as the ultimate insurance against runaway inflation it has been an unexpected bonus.

After reviewing the current year to gain a perspective for 2022, this article summarises the outlook for the dollar, the euro, and their financial systems. The key issue is the interest rate outlook, and how that will impact financial markets, which are wholly unprepared for the consequences of the massive expansions of currency and credit over the last two years.

We look briefly at geopolitical factors and conclude that Presidents Putin and Xi have assessed President Biden and his administration to be fundamentally weak. Putin is now driving a wedge between the US and the UK on one side and the pusillanimous, disorganised EU nations on the other, using energy supplies and the massing of troops on the Ukrainian border as levers to apply pressure. Either the situation escalates to an invasion of Ukraine (unlikely) or America backs off under pressure from the EU. Meanwhile, China will continue to build its presence in the South China Sea and its global influence through its silk roads. Less appreciated is that China and Russia continue to accumulate gold and are ditching the dollar.

And finally, we look at silver, which is set to become the star performer against fiat currencies, driven by a combination of poor liquidity, ESG-driven industrial demand and investor realisation that its price has much catching up to do compared with lithium, uranium, and copper. The potential for a fiat currency collapse is thrown in for nothing.
2021 — That was the year that was

This year has been disappointing for precious metals investors. Figure 1 shows how gold and silver have performed since 31 December 2020.


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Ruling the World of Money

Ruling the World of Money

Ten times a year— once a mouth except in August and October— a small elite of well dressed men arrives in Basel, Switzerland. Carrying overnight bags and attache cases, they discreetly check into the Euler Hotel, across from the railroad station. They have come to this sleepy city from places as disparate as Tokyo, London, and Washington, D.C., for the regular meeting of the most exclusive, secretive, and powerful supranational club in the world. Each of the dozen or so visiting members has his own office at the club, with secure telephone lines to his home country. The members are fully serviced by a permanent staff of about 300, including chauffeurs, chefs, guards, messengers, translators, stenographers, secretaries, and researchers. Also at their disposal are a brilliant research unit and an ultramodern computer, as well as a secluded country club with tennis courts and a swimming pool, a few kilometers outside Basel.

The membership of this club is restricted to a handful of powerful men who determine daily the interest rate, the availability of credit, and the money supply of the banks in their own countries. They include the governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, and the German Bundesbank. The club controls a bank with a $40 billion kitty in cash, government securities, and gold that constitutes about one tenth of the world’s available foreign exchange. The profits earned just from renting out its hoard of gold (second only to that of Fort Knox in value) are more than sufficient to pay for the expenses of the entire organization. And the unabashed purpose of its elite monthly meetings is to coordinate and, if possible, to control all monetary activities in the industrialized world…

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Inflation Is a Policy That Cannot Last

Inflation Is a Policy That Cannot Last

Are we heading toward a Fed policy that fixes inflation at a permanent rate of five to six percent?

We could be.

But inflation is a policy that cannot last.

We’re currently experiencing a massive wave of price inflation. This should come as no surprise. The Fed has increased the M2 money supply by around 40% since the end of 2019. The US government showered that newly created money on American consumers in the form of stimulus. Meanwhile, governments effectively shut down the US economy. That led to a big drop in production. This created the perfect inflationary storm. We have more money chasing fewer goods and services.

Prices are rising.

Now the Federal Reserve has a big problem. It needs to tighten monetary policy to take on inflation. But the economy depends on easy money. Economic growth is built on borrowing. Any significant tightening of monetary policy will pop the bubble and the whole house of cards will fall down.

The Fed has finally abandoned the “transitory” inflation narrative and it appears to be getting more serious about addressing the issue. But how will the central bank really play this?

In an article published by the Mises Wire, economist Thorsten Polleit asserts there are basically two scenarios in play.

(1) The Fed means business; it really wants to lower consumer goods price inflation back toward the 2% mark.

(2) The Fed just wants to keep inflation from spiraling out of control, but it does not want to abandon the new regime of increased inflation.

Scenario (1) is not impossible, but it is relatively unlikely. Under the prevailing economic and political doctrine, the Fed is not meant to curb inflation at the expense of triggering another economic and financial crisis…

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Chaos and the Triumph of Survival

CHAOS AND THE TRIUMPH OF SURVIVAL

One of the most horrifying works of art is Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Death” painted in 1562. The painting depicts the end of life on earth.

I sincerely hope that this is not what the world will literally look like in the next decade or two but metaphorically this is not an unlikely depiction of the chaos that could hit us all.

For a detailed description of the grim painting see here

Triumph of death

The Black Death plague of the 14th century, which killed up to half of the world’s population, clearly had a major influence on the painter.

The moral message is that when chaos hits, the destruction will affect everyone, rich and poor, young and old. No one will escape by power or devotion.

The financial, economic and moral devastation which is about to hit the world will for more than 99.5% of the people come out of the blue like a flash from a clear sky.

For most people, coming events will thus be like the definition of the word CHAOS: “A state of total confusion and disorder”.

CHAOS NUMBER 1: COVID

Talking about disorder, just like the Black Death that inspired Bruegel’s painting, the world is now facing a global pandemic. But rather than the nearer 50% of global population that perished in the mid 1300s, today we are looking at total deaths from the current pandemic of 0.06% of the world population! And even that figure might be overestimated due to the classification rules applied.

For that minuscule percentage the world has now been paralysed for the third year soon.

There are lockdowns, quarantines, compulsory vaccines with unlined boosters, covid passports, closed schools, closed offices, major industries like leisure haemorrhaging, airlines going bankrupt, shortages of labour, components, products, closed borders, and for the few people who dare to and can travel across borders, more bureaucracy, paperwork and tests than in a police state…

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“Potential For Extreme Havoc”: $50 Trillion Question Is What If Yields Spike Higher

“Potential For Extreme Havoc”: $50 Trillion Question Is What If Yields Spike Higher

The size of the global government bond market surged by $10 trillion in the space of two years to reach about $50 trillion. Those outstanding borrowings are at least one gorilla in the room as investors gear up for a year in which yields are expected to climb as central banks step back and economies extend their recovery.

At the very least the weight of all that debt acts to enhance the role that “price-insensitive” investors play in repressing yields.

The savings glut is a big part of that pool. Across Asia and beyond there’s a generation or two who grew wealthy from the postwar booms and are now more concerned about preserving capital than about adding to it.

Their presence helps to explain the waves of buying that contributed to capping yields at about 1.7% for 10-year Treasuries this year, as does demand from pension funds and insurers — remember the U.S. defined-benefit funds who switched into bonds.

Then there are the essentially forced investments from banks that have to hold sovereign securities to meet rules introduced after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

And we have the trillions of dollars that central banks hold, both via QE programs and in their foreign-exchange reserves.

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China’s Banking Assets Are $52 Trillion, Growing By $40 Trillion Since 2008: “This Is What Hyper MMT Looks Like”

China’s Banking Assets Are $52 Trillion, Growing By $40 Trillion Since 2008: “This Is What Hyper MMT Looks Like”

Thermodynamics

“The interaction of inflation-focused monetary policies in the west and China’s mercantilist model created what I call The Refrigeration Mode,” said the CIO, sitting atop his prodigious pile. “The process has been ongoing for twenty years,” he continued. “The inflation-focused policy framework is based on the fallacy that you can model an economy using an equilibrium framework,” he said. “Wicksell was the father of classical equilibrium in economics. He observed that for a pure credit economy – with no external gold backing for money, just credit-backed deposits – there were no clear forces that would drive the system toward equilibrium. To the 19th century Wicksell, a pure credit economy was a fictitious, futuristic concept, but it is effectively what we have today – and it is a path dependent system.”

“What is a path dependent system?” asked the CIO, not waiting for my answer. “Take the male driver when lost. Despite all evidence around him, the male believes he is not lost. He is, of course. And yet has no need for a map. The male is merely taking a different route, maybe a better a route to the same inevitable, incorrect destination. That destination being equilibrium. It’s all taking place in the male’s head. The reality on the road, meanwhile, is rather different. He turned left at the fork in the road when he should have gone right. There is, now, no natural force – other than blind luck and a tactful passenger – which can rescue him. Further wrong turns, and his destiny await. His destination is path dependent.”

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Irish central bank raises gold reserves by 33%, worried by inflation

Irish central bank raises gold reserves by 33%, worried by inflation

Recently the Central Bank of Ireland joined the ranks of sovereign gold buyers, adding 2 tonnes of gold to its monetary gold reserves in 2 months, consisting of a tonne of gold bought in each of September and October 2021.

While in relative terms, the actual quantity of gold added by the Irish central bank was quite small, in percentage terms it was very substantial, since in August Ireland only held 6 tonnes of gold (supposedly held at the Bank of England), and as of the end of October Ireland now holds 8 tonnes of gold, i.e. a 33% increase (and a significant number for those in the know).

These latest monetary gold purchases by Ireland’s central bank are also notable because it’s not often that a central bank that is a) a Western European country, b) a Euro member country, and c) an OECD member country, buys monetary gold. In this instance, Ireland ticks the boxes on all three.

For example, during October 2021, while three of the four largest sovereign buyers of gold in the world were the notable gold aficionados namely Kazakhstan (6 tonnes), India (3.8 tonnes), and Russia (3 tonnes), the fourth, was Ireland (1 tonne), not what you would expect.

Central Bank of Ireland’s gold reserves rose by 33% over September and October 2021

What sparked the Central Bank of Ireland to add to its monetary gold reserves is unclear, because like all Euro puppet central banks and BIS lackeys, the Irish central bank thinks that it does not need to be democratically accountable when it comes to monetary gold.

On a Need to Know Basis – And you don’t need to know!

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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