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The path to monetary collapse

The path to monetary collapse

Few mainstream commentators understand the seriousness of the economic and monetary situation. from a V-shaped rapid return to normality towards a more prolonged recovery phase.

The fact that a liquidity crisis developed in US money markets five months before the virus hit America has been forgotten. Only a rising gold price stands testament to a deeper crisis, comprised of contracting bank credit while central banks are trying to rescue the economy, fund government deficits and keep the market bubble inflated.

The next problem is a crisis in the banks, wholly unexpected by investors and depositors. At a time when lending risk is soaring off the charts, their financial condition is more fragile than before the Lehman crisis. Failures in European G-SIBs in the next month or two are almost impossible to avoid, leading to a full-blown monetary and credit crisis which promises to undermine asset values, government financing and fiat currencies themselves.

We can now discern the path leading to the destruction of fiat currencies and take reasonably guesses as to timing.

How central banks view the current situation.

The financial world is bemused: what is it to make of the economic effects of the coronavirus? The official answer, it seems, is on the lines of don’t panic. The earliest fears of millions of deaths have subsided and in the light of experience, a more rational approach of easing lockdown rules is now being implemented in a number of badly hit jurisdictions. Whether this evolving policy is right will be proved in due course. But the motivation is moving from saving lives to restricting the economic damage.

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The looming derivative crisis

The looming derivative crisis 

The powerful forces of bank credit contraction are at the heart of a rapidly evolving financial crisis in global derivatives, whose gross value is over $600 trillion; an unimaginable sum. Central banks are on course to destroy their currencies through unlimited monetary expansion, lethal for bullion banks with fractionally reserved unallocated gold accounts, while being dramatically short of Comex futures.

This article explains the dynamics behind the current crisis in precious metal derivatives, and why it is the observable part of a wider derivative catastrophe that is caught in the tension between contracting bank credit and infinite monetary inflation.

Introduction

One of the scares at the time of the Lehman crisis was that insolvent counterparties risked collapsing the whole over-the-counter derivative complex. It was for this reason that AIG, a non-bank originator of many derivative contracts, had to be bailed out by the Fed. By a mixture of good judgement and fortune a derivative crisis was averted, and by consolidating some of the outstanding positions, the gross value of OTC derivatives was subsequently reduced.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, in mid-June last year all global OTC contracts outstanding were still unimaginably large at $640 trillion, a massive sum in anyone’s book. It is unlikely to have changed much by today. But in bank balance sheets only a net figure is usually shown, and you have to search the notes to financial statements to find evidence of gross exposure. It is the gross that matters, because each contract bears counterparty risk, sometimes involving several parties, and derivative payment failures could make the payment failures now evident in disrupted industrial supply chains look like small beer.

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Precious metals round-up

Precious metals round-up 

 By October 24, 2019 

Growing evidence of an economic downturn despite unprecedented monetary inflation since Lehman means a new credit and systemic crisis is becoming increasingly certain. In an attempt to prevent a new crisis developing, this time the scale of monetary inflation by the authorities will have to be even greater. The rise in the price of gold since December 2015 and its break-out from a three-year consolidation period earlier this year confirms that the risks of a credit and systemic crisis undermining fiat currencies have been increasing for some time. 

It is now likely that in future portfolio managers will increase their investment allocations in favour of gold and actively consider investing in silver and platinum as well. It is in this context that this article looks at the price relationships between the three precious metals and their relevant monetary and investment characteristics.

Introduction

Markets are playing a dangerous game of chicken with economic reality, which every passing day tells us that trade is slowing, and credit everywhere is maxed out. Key economies are beginning to reflect this in statistics, having for much of this year screamed the message at us through business surveys. Central banks know their monetary policies have failed. The ECB has already announced deeper negative deposit rates and is reviving its asset purchase programme (printing) from next month. The Fed is injecting liquidity (more printing) through repos in far larger quantities into its monetary system which, mysteriously, is short of money despite commercial banks having combined reserves of $1.44 trillion at the Fed.

We should not be surprised at its inability to join the dots between cause and effect, but warnings from the IMF about a $19 trillion corporate debt timebomb, coming from an organisation that is the deep-state of the economic system and has been consistently advocating monetary inflation, is tantamount to an official admission of global monetary failure. Where to now? Print, and print again. 

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Post-tariff considerations

Post-tariff considerations 

President Trump has declared he will extend tariffs of 25% on all America’s imports of Chinese goods. China is responding with tariff increases of its own. The consequences of this action and reaction will be to kick-start higher monetary inflation in America and an economic slump. This article explains how an overdue credit crisis will be made considerably worse by trade protectionism. It could become the credit crisis to end all credit crises and undermine the whole fiat currency system.

Introduction

Following President Trump’s imposition of 25% tariffs on all Chinese imports, it is time to assesses the consequences. Already, we have seen a contraction in US-China trade of 20% in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same quarter last year, and also compared with the average outturn for the whole of 2018.[i] This contraction was worse than that which followed the Lehman crisis.

In assessing the extent of the impact of Trump’s tariffs on the US economy, we must take into account a number of inter-related factors. Clearly, higher prices to US consumers will hit Chinese imports, which explains why they have dropped 20% so far, and why they will likely drop even more. Interestingly, US exports to China fell by the same percentage, though they are about one quarter of China’s exports to the US. 

These inter-related factors are, but not limited to:

  • The effect of the new tariff increases on trade volumes
  • The effect on US consumer prices
  • The effect on US production costs of tariffs on imported Chinese components
  • The consequences of retaliatory action on US exports to China
  • The recessionary impact of all the above on GDP
  • The consequences for the US budget deficit, allowing for likely tariff income to the US Treasury.

These are only first-order effects in what becomes an iterative process, and will be accompanied and followed by:

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The Arrival of the Credit Crisis

Those of us who closely follow the credit cycle should not be surprised by the current slide in equity markets. It was going to happen anyway. The timing had recently become apparent as well, and in early August I was able to write the following:

“The timing for the onset of the credit crisis looks like being any time from during the last quarter of 2018, only a few months away, to no later than mid-2019.” [i]

The crisis is arriving on cue and can be expected to evolve into something far nastier in the coming months. Corporate bond markets have seized up, giving us a signal it has indeed arrived. It is now time to consider how the credit crisis is likely to develop. It involves some guesswork, so we cannot do this with precision, but we can extrapolate from known basics to support some important conclusions.

If it was only down to America without further feed-back loops, we can now suggest the following developments are likely for the US economy. Warnings about an economic slowdown are persuading the Fed to soften monetary policy, a process recently set in motion and foreshadowed by US Treasury yields backing off. However, price inflation, which is being temporarily suppressed by falling oil prices, will probably begin to increase from Q2 in 2019. This is due to a combination of the legacy of earlier monetary expansion, and the consequences of President Trump’s tariffs on consumer prices.

After a brief pause, induced mainly by the threat of an unstoppable collapse in equity prices, the Fed will be forced to continue to raise interest rates to counter price inflation pressures, which will take the rise in the heavily suppressed CPI towards and then through 4%, probably by mid-year.

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

The Arrival Of The Credit Crisis

The Arrival Of The Credit Crisis

Those of us who closely follow the credit cycle should not be surprised by the current slide in equity markets. It was going to happen anyway. The timing had recently become apparent as well, and in early August I was able to write the following:

“The timing for the onset of the credit crisis looks like being any time from during the last quarter of 2018, only a few months away, to no later than mid-2019.” [i]

The crisis is arriving on cue and can be expected to evolve into something far nastier in the coming months. Corporate bond markets have seized up, giving us a signal it has indeed arrived. It is now time to consider how the credit crisis is likely to develop. It involves some guesswork, so we cannot do this with precision, but we can extrapolate from known basics to support some important conclusions.

If it was only down to America without further feed-back loops, we can now suggest the following developments are likely for the US economy. Warnings about an economic slowdown are persuading the Fed to soften monetary policy, a process recently set in motion and foreshadowed by US Treasury yields backing off. However, price inflation, which is being temporarily suppressed by falling oil prices, will probably begin to increase from Q2 in 2019. This is due to a combination of the legacy of earlier monetary expansion, and the consequences of President Trump’s tariffs on consumer prices.

After a brief pause, induced mainly by the threat of an unstoppable collapse in equity prices, the Fed will be forced to continue to raise interest rates to counter price inflation pressures, which will take the rise in the heavily suppressed CPI towards and then through 4%, probably by mid-year.

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

Could GE’s Slow Collapse Ignite A Financial Crisis?

Could GE’s Slow Collapse Ignite A Financial Crisis?

Will GE be the proverbial “black swan?” – It had come to my attention that General Electric was locked out of the commercial paper market three weeks ago after Moody’s downgraded GE’s short term credit rating to a ratings level (P-2) that prevents prime money market funds from investing in commercial paper. Commercial paper (CP) is an important source of short term, low-cost, liquid funding for large companies. At one point, GE was one of the largest users of CP funding. As recently as Q2 this year, 14.3% of GE’s debt consisted of CP. Now GE will have to resort to using its bank revolving credit to fund its short term liquidity needs, which is considerably more expensive than using CP.

Moody’s rationale for the downgrade was that, “the adverse impact on GE’s cash flows from the deteriorating performance of the Power business will be considerable and could last some time.” Keep in mind that the ratings agencies, especially Moody’s, are typically reluctant to downgrade highly regarded companies and almost always understate or underestimate the severity of problems faced by a company whose fundamentals are rapidly deteriorating.

As an example, Moody’s had Enron rated as investment grade until just a few days before Enron filed bankruptcy. At the beginning of November 2001, Moody’s had Enron rated at Baa1. This is three notices above a non-investment grade rating (Ba1 for Moody’s and BB+ for S&P). Currently Moody’s and S&P have GE’s long term debt rated Baa1/BBB+. In the bond market, however, GE bonds are trading almost at junk bond yields.

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

Train Crash Preview

Train Crash Preview

Today we will summarize something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Exactly how will we get from the credit crisis, which I think is coming in the next 12–18 months, to what I call the Great Reset, when the global debt will be “rationalized” via some form of nonpayment. Whatever you want to call it, I think a worldwide debt default is likely in the next 10–12 years.

I began this tale last week in Credit-Driven Train Crash, Part 1. Today is Part 2 of a yet-undetermined number of installments. We may break away for a week or two if other events intrude, but I will keep coming back to this. It has many threads to explore. I’m going to talk about my expectations given today’s reality, without the prophetically inconvenient practice of predicting actual dates.

Also, while I think this is the probable path, it’s not locked in stone. Later in this series, I’ll describe how we might avoid the rather difficult circumstances I foresee. While it is difficult now to imagine cooperation between the developed world’s various factions, it has happened before. There are countries like Switzerland that have avoided war and economic catastrophe. We’ll hope our better angels prevail while taking a somber look at the more probable.

The experts who investigate transport disasters, crimes, and terror incidents usually create a chronology of events. Reading them in hindsight can be haunting—you know what’s coming and you want to scream, “Don’t do that!” But of course, it’s too late.

We do something similar in economics when we look back at past recessions and market crashes. The causes seem obvious and we wonder why people didn’t see it at the time. In fact, some people usually did see it at the time, but excessive exuberance by the crowds and willful ignorance among the powerful drowned out their warnings. I’ve been in that position myself and it is quite frustrating.

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How High Is The Risk of a Currency Crisis?

How High Is The Risk of a Currency Crisis?

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“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”, quipped Mark Twain in response to a newspaper report that said he was on his deathbed. The same could be said about many fiat currencies. Whether we are looking at the US dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen or the British Pound: In the wake of the financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009, quite a few commentators painted a rather bleak future for them: high inflation, even hyperinflation, some even forecast their collapse. That did not happen. Instead, fiat money seems to be still in great demand. In the United States of America, for instance, peoples’ fiat money balances relative to incomes are at a record high.

How come? Central banks’ market manipulations have succeeded in fending off credit defaults on a grand scale: Policymakers have cut interest rates dramatically and injected new cash into the banking system. In retrospect, it is clear why these operations have prevented the debt pyramid from crashing down: 2008/2009 was a “credit crisis.” Investors were afraid that states, banks, consumers, and companies might no longer be able to afford their debt service — meanwhile, investors did not fear that inflation could erode the purchasing power of their currencies as evidenced by dropping inflation expectations in the crisis period.

Central banks can no doubt cope with a credit default scenario: As the monopoly producer of money, central banks can provide financially ailing borrowers with any amount deemed necessary to keep them afloat. In fact, the mere assurance on the part of central banks to bail out the financial system if needed suffices to calm down financial markets and encourages banks to refinance maturing debt and even extend new credit. Cheap and easy central bank funding prompted lenders and borrowers to jump right back into the credit market. The debt binge could go on.

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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.

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Will Macro-Economists Ever Learn?

As we lurch through successive credit crises, central bankers and economists believe they learn valuable lessons every time, and that the ultimate prize, the suppression of business cycles through monetary policy, will be achieved.

We saw, over Brexit, how wrong the Bank of England’s and the UK Treasury’s models were, and these errors were also evident in the OECD’s model. Brexiteers smelled conspiracy, but in the absence of evidence, perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the errors were genuine. If so, all computer economic modelling has been a waste of time.

Then there’s the old mantra of garbage in, garbage out, which is certainly true. However, the problem goes deeper than the models, and is rooted in the rejection of classical economic theory. This rejection dates from Keynes’s General Theory, published in 1936, which forms the basis of today’s macroeconomics. Even though macroeconomics began to evolve during the depression years, Keynes’s book really marked the birth of it becoming mainstream.

The failures are manifest and multiple. And while we have no knowledge of the counterfactual, there is good reason to believe the errors made by following macroeconomic theory are far greater than if we were still basing government policy on classical economics. Admittedly, this is a broad statement that does not allow for differences of opinion between the classical economists of yesteryear, and differences of opinion between economists post-war. But there are some fundamental distinctions between the two disciplines that can be agreed.

The most fundamental is of approach. Classical economists agreed that demand is subordinate to supply. In other words, the time-line of goods and services acquired by the individual is that his demand for them must be successfully anticipated before being produced and supplied. The reasoning is unarguable.

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With Over $13 Trillion In Negative-Yielding Debt, This Is The Pain A 1% Spike In Rates Would Inflict

With Over $13 Trillion In Negative-Yielding Debt, This Is The Pain A 1% Spike In Rates Would Inflict

Friday’s unprecedented surge to all time highs in both stock and treasury prices, has got analysts everywhere scratching their heads: which is causing which, and what happens if there is a violent snapback in yields like for example the infamous bund tantrum of May 2015.

But first, the question is what exactly will pause what the WSJ calls the “Black Hole of Negative Rates” which is dragging down yields everywhere.  Here is how the WSJ puts it:

The free fall in yields on developed-world government debt is dragging down rates on global bonds broadly, from sovereign debt in Taiwan and Lithuania to corporate bonds in the U.S., as investors fan out further in search of income. Yields in the U.S., Europe and Japan have been plummeting as investors pile into government debt in the face of tepid growth, low inflation and high uncertainty, and as central banks cut rates into negative territory in many countries. Even Friday, despite a strong U.S. jobs report that helped send the S&P 500 to a near-record high, yields on the 10-year Treasury note ultimately declined to a record close of 1.366% as investors took advantage of a brief rise in yields on the report’s headlines to buy more bonds.

As yields keep falling in these haven markets, investors are looking for income elsewhere, creating a black hole that is sucking down rates in ever longer maturities, emerging markets and riskier corporate debt.

“What we are seeing is a mechanical yield grab taking place in global bonds,” said Jack Kelly, an investment director at Standard Life Investments. ” The pace of that yield grab accelerates as more bond markets move into negative yields and investors search for a smaller pool of substitutes.”

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

KKR’s Chilling Message about the “End of the Credit Cycle”

KKR’s Chilling Message about the “End of the Credit Cycle”

“Opportunities in Distressed Assets” as current investors get crushed

After seven years of “emergency” monetary policies that allowed companies to borrow cheaply even if they didn’t have the cash flow to service their debts, other than by borrowing even more, has created the beginnings of a tsunami of defaults.

The number of corporate defaults in the fourth quarter 2015 was the fifth highest on record. Three of the other four quarters were in 2009, during the Financial Crisis.

At stake? $8.2 trillion in corporate bonds outstanding, up 77% from ten years ago! On top of nearly $2 trillion in commercial and industrial loans outstanding, up over 100% from ten years ago. Debt everywhere!

Of these bonds, about $1.8 trillion are junk-rated, according to JP Morgan data. Standard & Poor’s warned that the average credit rating of US corporate borrowers, at “BB,” and thus in junk territory, hit a record low, even “below the average we recorded in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 credit crisis.”

The risks? A company with a credit rating of B- has a 1-in-10 chance of defaulting within 12 months!

In total, $4.1 trillion in bonds will mature over the next five years. If companies cannot get new funds at affordable rates, they might not be able to redeem their bonds. Even before then, some will run out of cash to make interest payments.

A bunch of these companies are outside the energy sector. They have viable businesses that throw off plenty of cash, but not enough cash to service their mountains of debts! Among them are brick-and-mortar retailers that have been bought out by private equity firms and have since been loaded up with debt. And they include over-indebted companies like iHeart Communications, Sprint, or Univsion.

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The “Terrifying Prospect” Of A Triumph Of Politics Over Economics

The “Terrifying Prospect” Of A Triumph Of Politics Over Economics

The Triumph of Politics

 All of life’s odds aren’t 3:2, but that’s how you’re supposed to bet, or so they say. They are not saying that so much anymore, or saying that history rhymes, or that nothing’s new under the sun. More and more theys seem to be figuring out that past economic and market experiences can’t be extrapolated forward – a terrifying prospect for the social and political order.

 Consider today’s realities:

Global economies have grown to their current scale thanks to a glorious secular expansion of worldwide credit – credit unreserved with bank assets and deposits; credit extended to brand new capitalists; credit that can never be extinguished without significant debt deflation or hyper monetary inflation

Economies no longer form sufficient capital to sustain their scales or to justify broad asset values in real terms

Markets cannot price assets fairly in real terms without risking significant declines in collateral values supporting them and their underlying economies

Politicians that used to anguish (rhetorically) over the right mix of potential fiscal policies, ostensibly to get things back on track (as if somehow finding the right path would have actually been legislated into existence), have come to realize the limits of their power to have a meaningful impact

Monetary authorities have become the only game in town,assassinating all economic logic so they may juggle public expectations in the hope – so far successfully executed – that neither man nor nature will be the wiser.

The good news for policy makers is that man remains collectively unaware and vacuous; the bad news is that nature abhors a vacuum. The massive scale of economies relative to necessary production (not to mention already embedded systemic leverage) suggests this time is truly different.

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The global financial system stands on the brink of second credit crisis

The global financial system stands on the brink of second credit crisis

The world financial system stands on the brink of a second credit crisis as interbank lending shows increasing risk

The world economy stands on the brink of a second credit crisis as the vital transmission systems for lending between banks begin to seize up and the debt markets fall over. The latest round of quantitative easing from the European Central Bank will buy some time but it looks like too little too late.

It was the collapse of US house prices back in 2007 that resulted in the seizure of the credit markets and banking crisis of 2008. And it would be easy to lay the blame for the 2008 financial crisis at the doorstep of American home owners, easy but wrong. The collapse of the US housing market was not the cause of the crisis, it was merely a symptom of the more insidious ills of cheap credit, low risk and the promise of another bailout round the corner.

The Keynesian pump priming that has taken place on a colossal scale across the world is failing. The Chinese economy was growing at 12pc in 2010, but that slowed to 7.7pc in 2013 and 7.4pc last year — its weakest in 24 years. Economists expect Chinese growth to slow to 7pc this year. It is the once booming property sector that has turned into a bust, and is now dragging down the wider economy as the bubble deflates.

 

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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