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Geopolitics: the world is splitting into two

Geopolitics: the world is splitting into two

While we are being distracted by Ukraine, President Putin has advanced his geopolitical goals materially. Aided and abetted by President Xi, Putin is taking the Asian continent into his control. That mission is well on its way to being achieved. He now awaits the winter months to finally force the EU to reject America’s hegemony. Only then, will the western end of the Eurasian continent be truly free of American interference.

This article explains how he is achieving his strategic goals. It examines the geopolitics of the Asian landmass and the nations tied to it, which are commercially and financially turning their backs on the US-led western alliance.

I look at geopolitics from President Putin of Russia’s viewpoint, since he is the only national leader who seems to have a clear grasp of his long-term objectives. His active strategy conforms closely with Halford Mackinder’s predictive analysis of nearly 120 years ago. Mackinder is regarded by many experts as the founder of geopolitics.

Putin is determined to remove the American threat to his Western borders by squeezing the EU to that end. But he is also building political relationships based on control of global fossil-fuel supplies — a pathway opened for him by American and European obsessions over climate change. In partnership with China, the consolidation of his power over the Eurasian landmass has progressed rapidly in recent weeks.

For the Western Alliance, financially and economically his timing is particularly awkward, coinciding with the end of a 40-year period of declining interest rates, rising consumer price inflation, and a deepening recession driven by contracting bank credit. 

It is the continuation of a financial war by other means, and it looks like Putin has an unbeatable hand. He is on course to push our fragile fiat currency based financial system over the edge.

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

A tale of two civilisations

A tale of two civilisations

In recent years, America’s unsuccessful attempts at containing China as a rival hegemon has only served to promote Chinese antipathy against American capitalism. China is now retreating into the comfort of her long-established moral values, best described as a mixture of Confucianism and Marxism, while despising American individualism, its careless regard for family values, and encouragement of get-rich-quick financial speculation.

After America’s defeat in Afghanistan, the geopolitical issue is now Taiwan, where things are hotting up in the wake of the AUKUS agreement. Taiwan is important because it produces two-thirds of the world’s computer chips. Meanwhile, the large US banks are complacent concerning Taiwan, preferring to salivate at the money-making prospects of China’s $45 trillion financial services market.

The outcome of the Taiwan issue is likely to be decided by the evolution of economic factors. China is protecting herself against a global credit crisis by restraining its creation, while America is going full MMT. The outcome is likely to be a combined financial market and dollar crisis for America, taking down its Western epigones as well. China has protected herself by cornering the market for physical gold and secretly accumulating as much as 20,000-30,000 tonnes in national reserves.

If the dollar fails, which without a radical change in monetary policy it is set to do, with its gold-backing China expects to not only survive but be able to consolidate Taiwan into its territory with little or no opposition.

Introduction

On the one hand we have America and on the other we have China. As civilisations, America is discarding its moral values and social structures while China is determined to stick with its Confucian and Marxist roots. America is inclined to recognise no other civilisations as being civilised, while China’s leadership has seen America’s version and is rejecting it…
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Eurozone finances have deteriorated

Eurozone finances have deteriorated

Despite negative interest rates and money printing by the European Central Bank, which conveniently allowed all Eurozone member governments to fund themselves, having gone nowhere Eurozone nominal GDP is even lower than it was before the Lehman crisis.

Then there is the question of bad debts, which have been mostly shovelled into the TARGET2 settlement system: otherwise, we would have seen some substantial bank failures by now.

The Eurozone’s largest banks are over-leveraged, and their share prices question their survival. Furthermore, these banks will have to contract their balance sheets to comply with the new Basel 4 regulations covering risk weighted assets, due to be introduced in January 2023.

And lastly, we should consider the political and economic consequences of a collapse of the Eurosystem. It is likely to be triggered by US dollar interest rates rising, causing a global bear market in financial assets. The financial position of highly indebted Eurozone members will become rapidly untenable and the very existence of the euro, the glue that holds it all together, will be threatened.
Introduction

Understandably perhaps, mainstream international economic comment has focused on prospects for the American economy, and those looking for guidance on European economic affairs have had to dig deeper. But since the Lehman crisis, the EU has stagnated relative to the US as the chart of annual GDP in Figure 1 shows.


Clearly, like much of the commentary about it, the EU has been in the doldrums since 2008. There was a series of crises involving Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. And the World Bank’s database has removed the UK from the wider EU’s GDP numbers before Brexit, so that has not contributed to the EU’s underperformance…
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The dollar’s debt trap

The dollar’s debt trap

I start by defining the currencies we use as money and how they originate. I show why they are no more than the counterpart of assets on central bank and commercial bank balance sheets. Including bonds and other financial issues emanating from the US Government, the individual states, with the private sector and with broad money supply, dollar debt totals roughly $100 trillion, to which we can add shadow banking liabilities realistically estimated at a further $30 trillion.

This gives us an idea of the scale of the threat to asset values and banking posed by higher interest rates, which are now all but certain. The prospect of contracting financial asset values is potentially far worse than in any post-war financial crisis, because the valuation base for them starts at zero and even negative interest rates in the case of Europe and Japan.

I focus on the dollar because it is everyone’s reserve currency and I show why a significant bear market in financial asset values is likely to take down the dollar with it, and therefore, in that event, threatens the survival of all other fiat currencies.

Introduction

Dickensian attitudes to debt (Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, misery) reflected the discipline of sound money and the threat of the workhouse. It was an attitude to debt that carried on even to the 1960s. But the financial world changed forever in 1971 when post-war monetary stability ended with the Nixon shock, exactly fifty years ago.
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Suffering a sea-change

Suffering a sea-change

There is an established theoretical relationship between bonds and equities which provides a framework for the future performance of financial assets. It would be a mistake to ignore it, ahead of the forthcoming rise in global interest rates.Price inflation is roaring, and so far, central banks are in denial. But it is increasingly difficult to see how monetary policy planners can extend the suppression of interest rates for much longer. There can only be one outcome: markets, that is to say prices determined by non-state actors, will force central banks to capitulate on interest rates in the summer.

Hardly noticed, China is deliberately putting the brakes on its economy, which will cause an inflationary dollar to collapse, unless the US defends it by putting up interest rates. Deliberate? Almost certainly, as part of its strategy, China is taking the financial war with the US into the foreign exchanges.

Bond yields will rise, with the US Treasury 10-year bond leaving a 2% yield far behind. Equity markets will sense the danger, and it might turn out that the month of May marks a peak in financial asset values — following cryptocurrencies into substantial bear markets.
Introduction

There is an old stock market adage that you should sell in May and go away. It has already proved its worth in the case of cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin more than halving at one point, and Ethereum losing 57% between 10—19 May. A sea-change in cryptocurrencies’ market sentiment has taken place.

As for equities, it could also turn out that 10 May, which so far has marked the S&P 500 Index’s high point, will mark the beginning of their decline. But it’s too soon to tell…

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Inflation watch: Beware the ides of March

Inflation watch: Beware the ides of March

President Biden has now had his $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed into law, and it will not be the last in the current fiscal year. Covid is not over and is sure to resurge with new variants next winter.But even assuming that is not the case, we still have to contend with the aftermath of the pre-covid conditions, whereby banks had run out of balance sheet capacity combined with trade tariffs predominantly aimed at China. These conditions were a doppelganger for late-1929, and between 8 February and 20 March the S&P500 index faithfully tracked a similar course to that of October 1929.

As far as possible, this article quantifies inflationary financing of government spending from March to September last year, and already sees evidence on the CBO’s own figures of that exceptional covid response being exceeded in the first half of the current fiscal year just ending. It points to something which no one has really foreseen, that the rate of monetary inflation has increased beyond the banking system’s capacity to accommodate it.

Even if the US manages to emerge from lockdowns in the coming months, the legacy of the turn in the credit cycle, trade tariffs and supply chain disruption threatens a full-scale depression. There can be no doubt monetary inflation will accelerate, and we are beginning to see the consequences in rising bond yields.
Introduction

It is nearly a year since the Fed on 23 March 2020 responded to stock market pressures and cut its funds rate to the zero bound and followed that three days later by increasing quantitative easing to $120bn every month. A further $300bn credit was to be directed at businesses, employers and consumers. The Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility and the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility allowed the Fed to directly support corporate bond prices for large employers.

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Crazy days for money

Crazy days for money

This article anticipates the end of the fiat currency regime and argues why its replacement can only be gold and silver, most likely in the form of fiat money turned into gold substitutes.

It explains why the current fashion for cryptocurrencies, led by bitcoin, are unsuited as future mediums of exchange, and why unsuppressed bitcoin has responded more immediately to the current situation than gold. Furthermore, the US authorities are likely to suppress the bitcoin movement because it is a threat to the dollar and monetary policy.

This article explains why growth in GDP represents growth in the quantity of money and is not representative of activity in the underlying economy. The authorities’ monetary response to the current economic situation is ill-informed, based on a misunderstanding of what GDP represents.

The common belief in the fund management community that rising interest rates are bad for gold exposes a lack of understanding about the consequences of monetary inflation on relative time preferences. Rising interest rates will be with us shortly, and they will burst the bond bubble with negative consequences for all financial assets and the currencies that have inflated them.

In short, we are sitting on a monetary powder-keg, the danger of which is barely understood by policy makers and which could explode at any time.

Introduction

We have entered a period the likes of which we have never seen before. The collapse of the dollar and dollar assets is growing increasingly certain by the day. The money-printing of the dollar designed to inflate assets will end up destroying the dollar. We know this thanks to the John Law precedent three hundred years ago. I last wrote about this two weeks ago, here. In 1720, it was just France and Law’s livre…

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The Golden Road Remains Constant

The Golden Road Remains Constant

One must always be careful to distinguish between a truism, a claim or narrative which is so deeply embedded into the fabric of cultural understanding that it is taken to be an indisputable historical fact, and truth, a continuing, self-evident feature of reality which is available to be observed, reasoned about, and tested in the present. Truisms are the handmaidens of convention which, for economic participants, eventually come to replace objective observations. The result is that the ‘science’ of economics is transformed into a battleground for subjective beliefs, where the soldiers are not self-evident observations or testable predictions, but, rather, fashionable claims and politically-correct statements. In recent times, we have seen this to be the case for the Philips Curve, the theory of aggregate demand, and Keynes inversion of Say’s Law.[1] These, among many similar economic ideas, are modern truisms which, though falsified by present-day economic observation, persist as structures of belief which are dearly held by the economists and politicians who shape our collective future.

In this essay, I will draw the reader’s attention to a truism which endures as conventional wisdom today, even though it can be easily falsified by plain experience and objective examination. I speak of a belief which colours the whole of recent economic history: the judgment that the natural element Gold (Au) is now relegated to its present status as a store of value because payment technology has evolved beyond physical media. The whiggish story goes something like this: just as we humans evolve, so, too, does our civilization progress along the rising road of history; therefore, just as our maturing societies exhibit increased technical capabilities, so do our monetary instruments undoubtedly improve with the march of time…

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

Markets are all about flows

Markets are all about flows

This article looks at prospective supply and demand factors for financial assets in the New Year and beyond. Investors should take into account money flowing into and out of financial assets as well as stock flows, particularly escalating government bond issuance, which looks likely to accelerate significantly in the coming years. It adds up to the fundamental case for physical gold and silver.

At this time of year, the thoughtful soul considers prospects for markets. Pundits are laying out their forecasts, and they fall into two broad camps. There are brokers and fund managers who talk of value. Their income and assets under management depend on continually inflating prices. Then there are the pessimists, a ragbag of doom-mongers who sweepingly point to risks on a grand scale. The collapse of Italy, Deutsche Bank, China, Brexit… take your pick. Very few engage on the subject that really matters, and that is the underlying monetary flows into and out of financial markets.

We must assess the pace of monetary expansion relative to the demand for money and credit, and where that expansion goes. Early in the credit cycle, there is little demand from the non-financial sector for monetary expansion, so excess money and bank credit go into the financial sector, pushing up financial asset prices. As the cycle progresses, it begins to be demanded by the non-financial economy and money then flows from the financial sector to non-financials. This is why we have observed that just as business conditions in the real economy start improving, just as valuations begin to be vindicated, interest rates and bond yields start rising and shares enter a bear market.

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Singapore, Trade and Geopolitics

Singapore, Trade and Geopolitics

The Western media was incredulous. The Donald had disregarded diplomacy, scuttled out of the G7 meeting in Canada without endorsing the G7 agreement, and ended up shaking hands with a previously avowed enemy in Singapore. The formally leisurely pace of global diplomacy, where all is pre-agreed before the photo-op showing unanimity of leadership, was ditched in favour of the Art of the Deal. Foreign correspondents for the established media were confused and obviously out of their depth, particularly over the deal with President Kim Jong-un.

As a female journalist pointed out at the press conference after the meeting, Kim has proven to be ruthless and untrustworthy, killing members of his own family and imprisoning and torturing his own people. How could Trump possibly come to terms with him, and concede, apparently without consulting South Korea, to suspend joint exercises, and agree to the objective of a complete denuclearisation of the peninsular, which is the implication of the eventual withdrawal of American forces entirely from the South?

The Singapore deal was in fact not a deal, but an endorsement of the earlier agreement between the two Koreas at Panmunjom on 27th April. And this is the point, Singapore was the US confirming it accepted Panmunjom.

The razzmatazz of a Singaporean summit plays well to Trump’s electoral base, as did his disdain for G7 and his trashing of Trudeau, who he described as “very dishonest and weak” over trade. Trump’s supporters also buy into his fake-news accusations, conveniently placing him beyond criticism so far as they are concerned. Now they are seeing concrete results from the man they elected President, ahead of the mid-term elections in November.

We need to look into the North Korean situation with greater objectivity, before commenting on recent trade policy developments.

Korea and its economic role in Asia

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Austrians get (some) mainstream credibility

Austrians get (some) mainstream credibility 

Well, well: who would have believed it. First the Bank for International Settlements comes out with a paper that links credit booms to the boom-bust business cycle, then Britain’s Adam Smith Institute publishes a paper by Anthony Evans that recommends the Bank of England should ditch its powers over monetary policy and move towards free banking.

Admittedly, the BIS paper hides its argument behind a mixture of statistical and mathematical analysis, and seems unaware of Austrian Business Cycle Theory, there being no mention of it, or even of Hayek. Is this ignorance, or a reluctance to be associated with loony free-marketeers? Not being a conspiracy theorist, I suspect ignorance.

The Adam Smith Institute’s paper is not so shy, and includes both “sound money” and “Austrian” in the title, though the first comment on the web version of the press release says talking about “Austrian” proposals is unhelpful. So prejudice against Austrian economics is still unfortunately alive and well, even though its conclusions are becoming less so. The Adam Smith Institute actually does some very good work debunking the mainstream neo-classical economics prevalent today, and is to be congratulated for publishing Evans’s paper.

The BIS paper will be the more influential of the two in policy circles, and this is not the first time the BIS has questioned the macroeconomic assumptions behind the actions of the major central banks. The BIS is regarded as the central bankers’ central bank, so just as we lesser mortals look up to the Fed, ECB, BoE or BoJ in the hope they know what they are doing, they presumably take note of the BIS. One wonders if the Fed’s new policy of raising interest rates was influenced by the BIS’s view that zero rates are not delivering a Keynesian recovery, and might only intensify the boom-bust syndrome.

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

Euro-sclerosis

Euro-sclerosis

There appears to be little or nothing in the monetarists’ handbook to enable them to assess the risk of a loss of confidence in the purchasing power of a paper currency. Furthermore, since today’s macroeconomists have chosen to deny Say’s Law1, otherwise known as the laws of the markets, they have little hope of grasping the more subtle aspects of the role of money in price formation. It would appear that this potentially important issue is being ignored at a time when the Eurozone faces growing systemic risks that could ultimately challenge the euro’s validity as money.

The euro is primarily vulnerable because it has not existed for very long and its origin as money was simply decreed. It did not evolve out of marks, francs, lira or anything else; it just replaced the existing currencies of member states overnight by diktat. This contrasts with the dollar or sterling, whose origins were as gold substitutes and which evolved in steps over the last century to become standalone unbacked fiat. The reason this difference is important is summed up in the regression theorem.

The theorem posits that money must have an origin in its value for a non-monetary purpose. That is why gold, which was originally ornamental and is still used as jewellery endures, while all government currencies throughout history have ultimately failed. It therefore follows that in the absence of this use-value, trust in money is fundamental to modern currencies.

The theorem explains why we can automatically assume, for the purposes of transactions, that prices reflect the subjective values of the goods and services that we buy. This is in contrast with money that is not consumed but merely changes hands, and both parties in a transaction ascribe to money an objective value. And this is why the symptoms of monetary inflation are commonly referred to as rising prices instead of a fall in the purchasing power of money.

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

 

Inaccurate statistics and the threat to bonds

Inaccurate statistics and the threat to bonds

Statistics have become very misleading: in particular we are being badly misled into believing that the US is teetering on the edge of price deflation, because the US official rate of inflation is barely positive, a level that US bonds and therefore all other financial markets have priced in without accepting it is actually significantly higher.

There are two possible approaches to assessing the true rate of price inflation. You can either reverse all the tweaks government statisticians have implemented over the decades to reduce the apparent rate, or you can collect a statistically significant sample of price data independently and turn that into an index. John Williams of Shadowstats.com is well known for his work on the former approach, but until recently I was unaware that anyone was attempting the latter. That is until Simon Hunt of Simon Hunt Strategic Services drew my attention to the Chapwood Index, which deserves wider publicity.

This is from the website: “The Chapwood Index reflects the true cost-of-living increase in America. Updated and released twice a year, it reports the unadjusted actual cost and price fluctuation of the top 500 items on which Americans spend their after-tax dollars in the 50 largest cities in the nation.” It is, therefore, statistically significant, and it consistently shows price inflation to be much higher than that indicated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The table below shows this difference since 2011, and how it affects real GDP.

Chapwood index

Sources: Chapwood Index, US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Figures may not total due to rounding.

The Chapwood number in the table is the simple arithmetic average of the 50 cities. The year-in, year-out 10% inflation rate is notable. Furthermore, Chapwood shows cumulative inflation rate as shown by the CPI for the four years to be understated by 39.9%, and using Chapwood numbers in place of the GDP deflator, real GDP has slumped a cumulative total of 21.4% over the four years.

 

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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