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Monetary failure is becoming inevitable

Monetary failure is becoming inevitable 

This article posits that there is an unpleasant conjunction of events beginning to undermine government finances in advanced nations. They combine the arrival of a long-term trend of rising welfare commitments with an increasing certainty of a global-scale credit crisis, in turn the outcome of a combination of the peak of the credit cycle and increasing trade protectionism. We see the latter already undermining the global economy, catching both governments and investors unexpectedly.

Few observers seem aware that an economic and systemic crisis will occur at a time when government finances are already precarious. However, the consequences are unthinkable for the authorities, and for this reason it is certain such a downturn will lead to a substantial increase in monetary inflation. The scale of the problem needs to be grasped in order to assess how destructive it will be for government finances and ultimately state-issued currencies.

Introduction

Water graph

Listening to recent commentaries about the repo failures in New York leads one to suppose there is insufficient money in the system. This is not the real issue, as the chart below of the fiat money quantity for the dollar clearly shows. 

The fiat money quantity is the amount of fiat money (in this case US dollars) both in circulation and held in reserve on the central bank’s balance sheet. Before the Lehman crisis, it grew at a fairly constant compound growth rate of 5.86%. Since the Lehman crisis, it has grown at an average of 9.45%, even after the slowdown in its rate of growth that started in January 2017. FMQ is still $5 trillion above where it would have been today if the massive monetary expansion in the wake of the Lehman crisis had not happened. If there is a shortage of money, it is because the process of debt creation to fund current expenditure is spiralling out of control.

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

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Stop and Go

Weekly Commentary: The Perils of Stop and Go

Please join Doug Noland and David McAlvany this coming Thursday, April 18th, at 4:00PM EST/ 2:00pm MST for the Tactical Short Q1 recap conference call, “What are Central Banks Afraid of?” Click here to register.

China’s Aggregate Financing (approximately system Credit growth less government borrowings) jumped 2.860 billion yuan, or $427 billion – during the 31 days of March ($13.8bn/day or $5.0 TN annualized). This was 55% above estimates and a full 80% ahead of March 2018. A big March placed Q1 growth of Aggregate Financing at $1.224 TN – surely the strongest three-month Credit expansion in history. First quarter growth in Aggregate Financing was 40% above that from Q1 2018.  

Over the past year, Aggregate Financing expanded $3.224 TN, the strongest y-o-y growth since December 2017. According to Bloomberg, the 10.7% growth rate (to $31.11 TN) for Aggregate Financing was the strongest since August 2018. The PBOC announced that Total Financial Institution (banks, brokers and insurance companies) assets ended 2018 at $43.8 TN.

March New (Financial Institution) Loans increased $254 billion, 35% above estimates. Growth for the month was 52% larger than the amount of loans extended in March 2018. For the first quarter, New Loans expanded a record $867 billion, about 20% ahead of Q1 2018, with six-month growth running 23% above the comparable year ago level. New Loans expanded 13.7% over the past year, the strongest y-o-y growth since June 2016. New Loans grew 28.2% over two years and 90% over five years.  

China’s consumer lending boom runs unabated. Consumer Loans expanded $133 billion during March, a 55% increase compared to March 2018 lending. This put six-month growth in Consumer Loans at $521 billion. Consumer Loans expanded 17.6% over the past year, 41% in two years, 76% in three years and 139% in five years.  

China’s M2 Money Supply expanded at an 8.6% pace during March, compared to estimates of 8.2% and up from February’s 8.0%. It was the strongest pace of M2 growth since February 2018’s 8.8%. 

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

The Bank Of Japan Bought 5.6 Trillion Yen In Stocks Last Year

The Bank Of Japan Bought 5.6 Trillion Yen In Stocks Last Year

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.  

                – Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

In recent years, thanks to central bank intervention in virtually every asset class, writing about capital markets in the context of some valuation or fundamental analysis framework has become a laughable, surreal, and self-defeating exercise, and here is a perfect example why.

For one reason or another, overseas investors dumped Japanese stocks by the largest margin in 31 years in the fiscal year ended Sunday, according to official market data: specifically, market participants abroad unloaded about 5.63 trillion yen ($50 billion) worth of shares on a net basis, the Tokyo Stock Exchange reported Thursday, for a second straight year of net selling and the highest sell-off since 1987.

And yet this barely caused a ripple in asset prices for one simple reason: the Bank of Japan’s asset purchases absorbed all the bleeding, exposing the central bank’s outsize role in the market. Indeed, as the Nikkei adds, this near-record liquidation was matched nearly yen for yen by the BOJ’s pumping of money into the economy through asset purchases, with the central bank buying 5.65 trillion yen worth of equity!

Of course, there were legitimate reasons why foreign investors felt the urge to liquidate Japanese holdings: international investors unloaded Japanese shares as they became alarmed by concerns about a global slowdown. With many Japanese manufacturers reliant on exports, overseas analysts cut their recommendations for those stocks amid China’s decelerating economy and Beijing’s trade war with the US.

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

The Art of Defaulting

… the debt-financed overspending of the 1960s had continued into the early 1970s. The Fed had funded this spending with easy-credit policies, but by paying back its debts with depreciated paper money instead of gold-backed dollars, the U.S. effectively defaulted.

Ray Dalio

Principles for navigating big debt crises

Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates is one of my role models in life and, when he writes a new book, I would normally visit Amazon.co.uk more quickly than you can count to ten, but not this time!

What? Have I fallen out of love with Ray’s way of thinking? Not at all, but I found out that his new book – Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises – can actually be downloaded for free. Ray, being the class act he is, has decided that everybody should know how to navigate a debt crisis; hence he has chosen to make it freely available (as a PDF copy).

Much (but not all) of the content below is inspired by Ray’s thinking. He is not as explicit in his new book as I am below (and as he has been before) in terms of the timing of the next debt crisis, but it’s pretty clear that he also thinks the writing is on the wall.

If you want to read the wise words of a very smart man, I suggest you give yourself one for Christmas, which you can do here. Christmas presents rarely come cheaper than this.

Debt crises of different sorts

In the following, I will focus on what Ray calls major debt crises – crises that have caused a slump in GDP of at least 3% but, in reality, there are different types of major debt crises.

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

Clinging to Old Theories of Inflation

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong, I think I am starting to understand your view of inflation. It is very complex. I think some people cannot think beyond a simple one dimension concept as you often say. So I am trying to be more dynamic in my thinking process. Here you point out that when debt is collateral it is the same as printing money but worse because it pays interest. Then you point out that hyperinflation takes place not because of printing money but because a collapse in confidence and people then hoard their wealth which reduces the economic output and that compels a government to print more to cover expenses. So there is a line that is crossed and kicks in that collapse in confidence as in Venezuela. This is very interesting but complex. Is this a fair statement?

ANSWER: You are doing very well. You are correct. Some people cannot get beyond an increase in money supply is automatically inflationary one-dimensional thinking. If that was true, then why did 10 years of Quantitative Easing by the ECB fail completely to create inflation given that theory? It is like brainwashing kids with global warming ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

There is yet another dimension that you have to add to this complexity. The BULK of the money is actually created by the banks in leveraged lending. If I lent you $100 and you signed a note that you would repay it, then the note becomes my asset on my balance sheet. I can take that to a bank and borrow on my account receivables. In this instance, just you and I are creating money. Now let a bank stand between us.

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

How “Wealthy” Would We Be If We Stopped Borrowing Trillions Every Year?

How “Wealthy” Would We Be If We Stopped Borrowing Trillions Every Year?

These charts reflect a linear system that is wobbling into the first stages of non-linear destabilization.

The widespread presumption is the U.S. is wealthy beyond words, and will remain so as far as the eye can see: wealthy enough to fund trillion-dollar weapons systems, trillion-dollar endless wars, multi-trillion dollar Medicare for all, multi-trillion dollar Universal Basic Income, and so on, in an endless profusion of endless trillions.

Just as a thought experiment, let’s ask: how “wealthy” would we be if we stopped borrowing trillions of dollars every year? Or put another way, how “wealthy” would we be if the rest of the world stops buying our trillions in newly issued bonds, mortgages, auto loans, etc.?

The verboten reality is our “wealth” is nothing but a sand castle of debt. Take away more borrowing and the castle melts away. I’ve gathered a selection of charts that show just how dependent we are on massive debt expansion that continues essentially forever, as any pause in debt expansion will collapse the entire system.

Corporate buybacks have powered rising corporate earnings–and the buybacks are funded by debt. Corporate debt has exploded higher in the past decade, enabling stock buybacks on an unprecedented scale.

Government debt–federal, state and local– is rising an exponential rates.We’re not paying for more government programs with earnings–we’re simply borrowing trillions and hoping we can borrow the interest payments that will also rise along with the debt.

Household debt, student loans, auto loans–all are soaring. The corporate sector, government and the household sector–all are living on borrowed money, and relying on magical thinking to mask the inevitable consequences.

Here’s debt to GDP. Yes, the economy expanded, but debt expanded much faster. Every additional dollar of GDP now requires multiple dollars of new debt.

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

Our “Prosperity” Is Now Dependent on Predatory Globalization

Our “Prosperity” Is Now Dependent on Predatory Globalization

Nowadays, trade and “prosperity” are dependent on currencies that are created out of thin air via borrowing or printing.

So here’s the story explaining why “free” trade and globalization create so much wonderful prosperity for all of us: I find a nation with cheap labor and no environmental laws anxious to give me cheap land and tax credits, so I move my factory from my high-cost, highly regulated nation to the low-cost nation, and keep all the profits I reap from the move for myself. Yea for free trade, I’m now far wealthier than I was before.

That’s the story. Feel better about “free” trade and globalization now? Oh wait a minute, there’s something missing–the part about “prosperity for all of us.” Here’s labor’s share of U.S. GDP, which includes imports and exports, i.e. trade:

Notice how labor’s share of the economy tanked once globalization / offshoring kicked into high gear? Now let’s see what happened to corporate profits at that same point in time:

Imagine that–corporate profits skyrocketed once globalization / offshoring kicked into high gear. Explain that part about “makes us all prosperous” again, because there’s no data to support that narrative.

What’s interesting about all this is the way that politicians are openly threatening voters with recession if they vote against globalization. In other words, whatever “prosperity” is still being distributed to the bottom 80% is now dependent on a predatory version of globalization.

Let’s rewind to the era of truly free trade, from the late Bronze Age up to the Roman Era. In the late Bronze Age (circa 1800 to 1200 B.C.), vigorous trade tied together the ancient empires and states of the Mideast and the Mediterranean. In the Roman Era, trade in silk and other luxuries tied China, India, Africa, the Mideast and the Roman Mediterranean together in a vast trading network.

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

China Announces New Stimulus Measures

Another day, another stimulus announcement by China.

One day after Beijing threw in the towel, and in addition to monetary easing announced it would be far more “proactive” in fiscally stimulating the country, Chinese banks received notice from regulators on Wednesday that a core capital requirement will be eased in order to support lending, as Beijing uses the ongoing trade war as a scapegoat to unleash another massive stimulus – think Shanghai Accord just without the foreign central bankers and without the US.

This is merely the latest in a wild scramble of easing initiatives unleashed by China in the past three months, and summarized in the chart below.

As Bloomberg reports, the PBOC told some institutions Wednesday that the so-called “structural parameter” in the Macro-Prudential Assessment of their balance sheets will be lowered by around 0.5 points, reducing required capital buffers.

Acording to Bloomberg sources, the PBOC said that the change is being made to support local financial institutions in meeting credit demand effectively, which is another way of saying allowing the country’s banks to purchase more of China’s AA- rated “junk bonds” which have tumbled in recent months.

Last week, the PBOC offered a record amount of Medium-term Lending Facility loans with the proceeds meant to be used for purchasing the riskiest bonds – and has cut reserve-requirement ratios three times this year.

China’s scramble to stimulate the economy, both monetarily and fiscally, comes as the country’s broadest credit aggregate, Total Social Financing, has fallen to a record low as a % of China’s M2.

The financial deleveraging campaign since early 2017 has resulted in a severe negative shock to aggregate credit supply. The real economy has begun to feel the pain, as credit growth slumps and interest rates rise.

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

Inflation Rearing Its Ugly Head

Inflation Rearing Its Ugly Head

The world of finance and investment, as always, faces many uncertainties. The US economy is booming, say some, and others warn that money supply growth has slowed, raising fears of impending deflation. We fret about the banks, with a well-known systemically-important European name in difficulties. We worry about the disintegration of the Eurozone, with record imbalances and a significant member, Italy, digging in its heels. China’s stock market, we are told, is now officially in bear market territory. Will others follow? But there is one thing that’s so far been widely ignored and that’s inflation.

More correctly, it is the officially recorded rate of increase in prices that’s been ignored. Inflation proper has already occurred through the expansion of the quantity of money and credit following the Lehman crisis ten years ago. The rate of expansion of money and credit has now slowed and that is what now causes concern to the monetarists. But it is what happens to prices that should concern us, because an increase in price inflation violates the stated targets of the Fed. An increase in the general level of prices is confirmation that the purchasing power of a currency is sliding.

According to the official inflation rate, the US’s CPI-U, it is already running significantly above target at 2.8% as of May. Oil prices are rising. Brent (which my colleague Stefan Wieler tells me sets gasoline and diesel prices) is now nearly $80 a barrel. That has risen 62% since last June. If the US economy continues to grow the Fed will have to put up interest rates to slow things down. If it doesn’t, as money-supply followers fear, the Fed may still be forced to put up interest rates to contain price inflation.

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

Deutsche Bank: This Does Not Make Sense

Amid the growing debate whether rates will keep rising once they hit 3.00%, or they will fall as asset managers find the new level attractive enough to dip their toes and buy duration, one analyst laughs at everyone calling for lower rates from here onward.

In a note published overnight, Deutsche Bank credit strategist Jim Reid writes that “rates and yields will continue to structurally move higher in the quarters and years ahead regardless of any short-term moves, and we hope policymakers won’t be derailed by the inevitable macro issues that this will bring.”

While we will share some more details from this note, the first in a series of why Deutsche believes that global yields have nowhere to go but up, we wanted to highlight one chart which according to Deustche does not make any sense in the context of the ongoing debate of potentially lower yields: the projection of global debt to GDP forecasts for the next 30 years.

According to Reid, “notwithstanding the short-term low supply expectations in Europe, a real head-scratcher going forward is how the market will cope over the years and even decades to come with the central case scenario of higher and higher government debt around the world. Figure 13 looks at the US, Germany and Japan government debt/GDP with forecasts from the US CBO and BIS.”

And here is the chart that is at the crux of Reid’s conundrum: this is the same chart which prompted Fed president Robert Kaplan to suggest that the US debt trajectory is headed toward unsustainability.

Reid’s summary:

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

Dutch Central Bank Warns Of Market Calm Before The Storm:

Dutch Central Bank Warns Of Market Calm Before The Storm:

With one foot out of the door of Germany’s finance ministry, the former head of the German economy, Wolfgang Schäuble, 75, delivered a fire and brimstone warning over the weekend, telling the FT in an interview that there was a danger of “new bubbles” forming due to the trillions of dollars that central banks have pumped into markets. Schäuble also warned of risks to stability in the eurozone, particularly those posed by bank balance sheets burdened by the post-crisis legacy of non-performing loans, something we warned about since 2012, and an issue which remains largely unresolved.

Taking a broad swipe at the current financial regime – which he helped design – Schauble warned that the world was in danger of “encouraging new bubbles to form”.

Economists all over the world are concerned about the increased risks arising from the accumulation of more and more liquidity and the growth of public and private debt. I myself am concerned about this, too,” he said echoing the concern voiced just one day earlier by IMF head Christine Lagarde, who said the world was enjoying its best growth spurt since the start of the decade, but warned of “threats on the horizon” from “high levels of debt in many countries to rapid credit expansion in China, to excessive risk-taking in financial markets”.

And while Schauble’s dramatic warning was not surprising – prominent economists have a habit of telling the truth once their tenure is over, and once they start selling books warning about all the consequences of policies they helped adopt – one day later a more surprising, and just as urgent warning was delivered by the Dutch central bank, DNB, which on Monday said that ultra-loose monetary policy in the euro zone has run its course, and excessive risks seem to be building up in financial markets making the financial sector vulnerable to a sudden correction.

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

Money Multiplier is Really About Credit Out of “Thin Air”

According to traditional economics textbooks, the current monetary system amplifies the initial monetary injections of money. The popular story goes as follows: if the central bank injects $1 billion into the economy and banks have to hold 10% in reserve against their deposits the initial injection of $1 billion will become $10 billion i.e. money supply will expand by a multiple of 10. Note that in this example the central bank has actively initiated monetary pumping of $1 billion, which in turn banks have amplified to $10 billion.

Economists from the post-Keynesian school of economics (PK) have expressed doubt about the validity of this popular framework of thinking[1]. One of the advocates of this school, Bill Mitchell, in an article on his blog – Money Multiplier and other Myths – wrote that,

It (money multiplier) is also not even a slightly accurate depiction of the way banks operate in a modern monetary economy characterised by a fiat currency and a flexible exchange rate. In the present monetary framework, it is held the job of the central bank is to ensure that the level of cash in the money market is in tune with the interest rate target.

According to Mitchell,

The way banks actually operate is to seek to attract credit-worthy customers to which they can loan funds to and thereby make profit.

Furthermore, according to Mitchell,

So the idea that reserve balances are required initially to “finance” bank balance sheet expansion via rising excess reserves is inapplicable. A bank’s ability to expand its balance sheet is not constrained by the quantity of reserves it holds or any fractional reserve requirements. The bank expands its balance sheet by lending. Loans create deposits which are then backed by reserves after the fact. The process of extending loans (credit) which creates new bank liabilities is unrelated to the reserve position of the bank.

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

The Chart of Doom: When Private Credit Stops Expanding…

The Chart of Doom: When Private Credit Stops Expanding… 

Once private credit rolls over in China and the U.S., the global recession will start its rapid slide down the Seneca Cliff.

Few question the importance of private credit in the global economy. When households and businesses are borrowing to expand production and buy homes, vehicles, etc., the economy expands smartly.

When private credit shrinks–that is, as businesses and households stop borrowing more and start paying down existing debt–the result is at best stagnation and at worst recession or depression.

Courtesy of Market Daily Briefing, here is The Chart of Doom, a chart of private credit in the five primary economies:

Why is this The Chart of Doom? It’s fairly obvious that private credit is contracting in Japan and the Eurozone and stagnant in the U.K.

As for the U.S.: after trillions of dollars in bank bailouts and additional liquidity, and $8 trillion in deficit spending, private credit in the U.S. managed a paltry $1.5 trillion increase in the seven years since the 2008 financial meltdown.

Compare this to the strong growth from the mid-1990s up to 2008.

This chart makes it clear that the sole prop under the global “recovery” since 2008-09 has been private credit growth in China. From $4 trillion to over $21 trillion in seven years–no wonder bubbles have been inflated globally.

Combine this expansion of private credit in China with the expansion of local government and other state-sector debt (state-owned enterprises, SOEs, etc.) and you have the makings of a global bubble machine.

In other words, the faltering global “recovery” and all the tenuous asset bubbles around the world both depend on a continued hyper-velocity rocket rise in China’s private credit. What are the odds of this happening? Aren’t the signs that this rocket ship has burned its available fuel abundant?

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

The Chart That Explains Everything

The Chart That Explains Everything

It’s the policy, stupid. And here’s the chart that explains exactly what the policy is.

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.06.21 PM

(Richard Koo: The ‘struggle between markets and central banks has only just begun’, Business Insider)

What the chart shows is that the vast increase in the monetary base didn’t impact lending or trigger the credit expansion the Fed had predicted. In other words, the Fed’s madcap pump-priming experiment (aka– QE) failed to stimulate growth or put the economy back on the path to recovery. For all practical purposes, the policy was a flop.

QE did, however, touch off an unprecedented 6-year bull market rally that pushed stocks into the stratosphere while the real economy continued to languish in a long-term slump. And the numbers are pretty impressive too. For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which bottomed at 6,507 on March 9, 2009, soared to an eye-popping 18,312 points by May 19, 2015, an 11,805 point-surge in just five years. And the S&P did even better. From its March 9, 2009 bottom of 676 points, the index skyrocketed to a record-high 2,130 points on May 21, 2015, tripling its value at the fastest pace in history.

What the chart shows is that the Fed knew from 2010-on that stuffing the banks with excess reserves was neither lowering unemployment or revving up the economy. The liquidity was merely driving stocks higher.

It’s worth noting, that the Fed knows that credit does not flow into the economy without a transmission mechanism, that is, unless creditworthy borrowers are willing to to take out loans. Absent additional lending, the liquidity remains stuck in the financial system where it eventually creates asset bubbles.

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

Professor Bernanke’s Bogus Contra-factual, Part 2: Why The Friedman/Bernanke Thesis About The Great Depression Was Dead Wrong

Professor Bernanke’s Bogus Contra-factual, Part 2: Why The Friedman/Bernanke Thesis About The Great Depression Was Dead Wrong

In explaining to the FT’s Martin Wolf why he bailed out the Wall Street gamblers at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley while crushing millions of ordinary American savers and retirees, Bernanke typically repaired to his go to argument. It had nothing to do with the mild excesses of inventories and labor that had built up in the main street economy owing to the Greenspan housing and credit boom, as explained in Part 1.

That’s because Bernanke was not aiming to ameliorate the mild economic liquidation that ensued after the Lehman event; and which, as previously demonstrated, would have runs its course and self-corrected without any help from the Fed in any event.

No, Ben S. Bernanke will be someday remembered as the world’s most destructive battleship admiral. Not only was he fighting the last war, but his whole multi-trillion money printing campaign after September 15, 2008 was aimed at avoiding an historical Fed mistake that had never even happened!

As Bernanke explained it:

I should have done more (to mitigate anti-Fed sentiments). But I was very much engaged in trying to put out the fire. So I don’t know what to say. It was kind of predictable. The Federal Reserved failed in the 1930s. I think we did much better than in the 1930s.

The claim that the Fed resorted to “extraordinary policies” of ZIRP and QE because it was fighting a recurrence of Great Depression 2.0 is completely, profoundly, unequivocally and destructively wrong.

It is the giant fig leaf that obscures what really happened during and after the crisis. Namely, that the main street economy recovered on its own, and that the flood of money generated by Bernanke never left the canyons of Wall Street, thereby causing the destruction of honest price discovery in the financial markets once and for all.

So doing, the Fed and other central banks have turned financial markets into dangerous, unstable casinos. In the name of precluding the contra-factual——that is, Great Depression 2.0—-they have generated the mother of all financial bubbles.

…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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