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What Will It Take to Get the Public to Embrace Sound Money?

What Will It Take to Get the Public to Embrace Sound Money? 

In the last decade, the combination of virulent asset price inflation and low reported consumer price inflation crippled sound money as a political force in the US and globally. In the new decade, a different balance between monetary inflation’s “terrible twins” — asset inflation and goods inflation — will create an opportunity for that force to regain strength. Crucial, however, will be how sound money advocacy evolves in the world of ideas and its success in forming an alliance with other causes that could win elections.

It is very likely that the deflationary nonmonetary influences of globalization and digitalization, which camouflaged the activity of the goods-inflation twin during the past decade, are already dissipating.

The pace of globalization may have already peaked, before the Xi-Trump tariff war. Inflation-fueled monetary malinvestment surely contributed to its prior speed. One channel here was the spread of highly speculative narratives about the wonders of global supply chains.

Digitalization’s potential to camouflage monetary inflation in goods and services markets, on the other hand, has come largely via its impact on the dynamics of wage determination. It has forged star firms with considerable monopoly power in each industrial sector. Obstacles preventing their technological and organizational know-how from seeping out to competitors means that wages are not bid higher across labor markets in similar fashion to earlier industrial revolutions. These obstacles reflect the fact that much investment is now in the form of firm-specific intangibles. Even so, such obstacles tend to lose their effectiveness over time.

As deflation fades, monetary repression taxes (collected for governments through central banks’ manipulation of rates to low levels so as to achieve 2 percent inflation despite disinflation as described) will undergo metamorphosis into open inflation taxes as the rate of consumer price inflation accelerates. Governments cannot forego revenue given their ailing finances. Simultaneously, asset inflation will proceed down a new stretch of highway where many crashes occur.

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

Capitalism in America: How a Dismal Decimal is Robbing Americans Blind

Capitalism in America: How a Dismal Decimal is Robbing Americans Blind

31 Facts Showing How the Rich are Getting Richer and Everybody Else Poorer

There is no hiding anymore, the United States has become an oligarch owned banana republic with nukes, and with a monopoly currency which has allowed it to rig the markets for half a century. But now we are only a couple of hours from curtain – Midnight in America.

With the stock market at all-time highs, virtually no unemployment (or so they say), and brisk GDP growth (supposedly) in the last decade, economic analysts would declare that the US economy is in excellent shape. But, it isn’t. The stock market is a central bank inflated asset bubble, and what GDP growth there has been, is an illusion brought about by the very same financial bubble and by pumping the economy up with record federal borrowings to finance the deficits that America cannot afford. Rigged statistics showing artificially low inflation serve to hold together the Trumped-up American economic narrative. (About the rigged inflation statistics, see this report https://www.awaragroup.com/blog/the-inflation-measurement-scam/?fbclid=IwAR0qmpe4i0sp5Uce9UlyEDt0_NkIv-aiDTSgvzHh5EMfZn5WQboZz_mB-XU). And the low unemployment figure is nothing but a chimera based on misleading statistics.

In reality, the US economy is failing – and the country with it. At least two-thirds of the population has seen dramatic declines in living standards and half are back to levels of developing nations – without the development.

The big story covered up by all the happy macroeconomic figures repeated by rote by the US establishment – everybody from the president to cable television pundits and Trump fanboys – is the gradual impoverishment of the American worker. That’s an inconvenient truth increasingly difficult to hide as the American dream has turned into a nightmare for huge swathes of the population.

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

Expect low oil prices in 2020; tendency toward recession

Expect low oil prices in 2020; tendency toward recession

Energy Forecast for 2020

Overall, I expect that oil and other commodity prices will remain low in 2020. These low oil prices will adversely affect oil production and several other parts of the economy. As a result, a strong tendency toward recession can be expected. The extent of recessionary influences will vary from country to country. Financial factors, not discussed in these forecasts, are likely also to play a role.

The following are pieces of my energy forecast for 2020:

[1] Oil prices can be expected to remain generally low in 2020. There may be an occasional spike to $80 or $90 per barrel, but average prices in 2020 are likely to be at or below the 2019 level. 

Figure 1. Average annual inflation-adjusted Brent equivalent oil prices in 2018 US$. 2018 and prior are as shown in BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Value for 2019 estimated by author based on EIA Brent daily oil prices and 2% expected inflation.

Figure 2 shows in more detail how peaks in oil prices have been falling since 2008. While it doesn’t include early January 2020 oil prices, even these prices would be below the dotted line.

Figure 2. Inflation adjusted weekly average Brent Oil price, based on EIA oil spot prices and US CPI-urban inflation.

Oil prices can temporarily spike because of inadequate supply or fear of war. However, to keep oil prices up, there needs to be an increase in “demand” for finished goods and services made with commodities. Workers need to be able to afford to purchase more goods such as new homes, cars, and cell phones. Governments need to be able to afford to purchase new goods such as paved roads and school buildings.

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

“Inflation Is Inevitably Going To Rise” – Is Alan Greenspan Right?

“Inflation Is Inevitably Going To Rise” – Is Alan Greenspan Right?

Via DataTrekResearch.com,

“Right now, there’s no real inflation at play. But if we go further than we are currently, inflation is inevitably going to rise.” That’s from Alan Greenspan on CNBC this week. The “further” relates to US Federal deficit spending, the idea being that +$1 trillion annual budget shortfalls will eventually trigger price inflation.

It isn’t just Greenspan that is worried about rising US consumer price inflation; as we read through the most bearish market commentaries for 2020 this concern often has pride of place. Easy monetary and fiscal policy combined with a reaccelerating US/global economy late in a cycle is THE playbook for rising prices, so fair enough. The counterarguments are more structural (aging demographics, Internet price discovery, etc.), and while those work over the long term we can’t lean on them too hard in any given year. So do the inflation hawks have a case to make about 2020?

You know our methods for evaluating questions like this – a combination of market-based expectations and historical/real time data – so let’s get right to it:

#1: Expected 10-year inflation expectations imbedded in Treasury Inflation Protected bonds (TIPS spreads):

  • Even during the period of Federal Reserve bond buying, TIPS spreads were reasonable proxies for market expectations about long-run future inflation. The lowest they ever got was 1.2% in early 2016 and they have often been +2.0% over the last decade, the Fed’s notional target (see chart below).
  • TIPS spreads were +2.0% for almost all of 2018, for example, only dropping in November along with US/global growth expectations.
  • Expected 10-year forward inflation as measured by the TIPS market hasn’t touched 2.0% in 2019 and currently sits at 1.73%.

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

A History of Inflationary Money: From 1844 to Nixon

A History of Inflationary Money: From 1844 to Nixon

So that we can understand the financial and banking challenges ahead of us, this article provides an historical and technical background. But we must first get an important definition right, and that is the cause of the periodic cycle of boom and bust. The cycle of economic activity is not a trade or business cycle, but a credit cycle. It is caused by fractional reserve banking and by banks loaning money into existence. The effect on business is then observed but is not the underlying cause.

Modern banking has its roots in England’s Bank Charter Act of 1844, which led to the practice of loaning money into existence, commonly described as fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking is defined as making loans and taking in customer deposits in quantities that are multiples of the bank’s own capital. Case law in the wake of the 1844 act, having more regard for the status quo as established precedent than for the fundamentals of property law, ruled that irregular deposits (deposits for safekeeping) were no different from a loan. Judge Lord Cottenham’s ruling in Foley v. Hill (1848) 2 HLC 28 is a judicial decision relating to the fundamental nature of a bank which held in effect that

The money placed in the custody of the banker is to all intents and purposes, the money of the banker, to do with it as he pleases. He is guilty of no breach of trust in employing it. He is not answerable to the principal if he puts it into jeopardy, if he engages in haphazardous speculation.

This was undoubtedly the most important ruling of the last two centuries on money. Today, we know of nothing else other than legally confirmed fractional reserve banking. However, sound or honest banking, with banks acting as custodians, had existed in the centuries before the 1844 act and any corruption of the custody status was regarded as fraudulent.

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

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Recently, analysts have been discussing the pros and cons of using negative interest rates to keep the U.S. economy growing.  Despite this, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said that he does not anticipate the Federal Reserve will implement a policy of negative interest rates as it may be detrimental to the economy.  One argument against negative interest rates is that they would squeeze bank margins and create more financial uncertainty. However, upon examining the actual rate of inflation we are likely already in a ‘de facto’ negative ­­interest rate environment. Multiple inflation data sources show that actual inflation maybe 5%. With the ten year Treasury bond at 1.75%, there is an interest rate gap of – 3.25%. Let’s look at multiple inflation data points to understand why there is such a divergence between the Fed assumptions that inflation is under control versus the much higher rate of price hikes consumers experience.

In October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the core consumer price index (CPI) grew by 2.2% year over year.  The core CPI rate is the change in the price of goods and services minus energy and food.  Energy and food are not included because they are commodities and trade with a high level of volatility.  However, the Median CPI shows a ten year high at 2.96% and upward trend as we would expect, though it starts at a lower level than other inflation indicators. The Median CPI excludes items with small and large price changes. 

Source: Gavekal Data/Macrobond, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11-29-19

Excluding key items that have small and large price changes is not what a consumer buying experience is like. Consumers buy based on immediate needs. When a consumer drives up to a gas pump, they buy at the price listed on the pump that day. 

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

And how do we pay for these spiraling out of control costs? By borrowing more, of course. 

If we had to choose one “big picture” reason why the vast majority of households are losing ground, it would be: the costs of essentials are spiraling out of control. I’ve often covered the dynamics of stagnating income for the bottom 90%, and real-world inflation, i.e. a decline in purchasing power. 

But neither of these dynamics fully describes the relentless upward spiral of the cost basis of our economy, that is, the cost of big-ticket essentials: housing, education and healthcare.

The costs of education are spiraling out of control, stripping households of income as an entire generation is transformed into debt-serfs by student loan debt. The soaring costs of healthcare are a core driver of higher costs in the education complex (and government in general), and to cover these higher costs, counties raise property taxes, which add additional cost burdens to households and enterprises as rents rise. 

Rising rents push the cost structure of almost every enterprise and agency higher.

Then there’s the asset inflation created by central bank ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) which has inflated a second echo-bubble in housing that has pushed home ownership out of reach of many, adding demand for rental housing that has pushed rents into the stratosphere in Left and Right Coast cities.

The increasing dominance of monopolies and cartels has eliminated competition in sector after sector. Monopolies and cartels skim immense profits even as the value, quality and quantity of their products and services decline: The U.S. Only Pretends to Have Free Markets From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year.

Thanks to their political influence, monopolies and cartels have legalized looting, raising prices and evading anti-trust regulations because they can pay whatever it takes in our pay-to-play political system.

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

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

But of all potential economic outcomes, the one least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

Investing is all about probabilities. If the perceived odds of an event are high, certain securities will be priced based on those expected probabilities. The corollary is that when an event is perceived as almost impossible, securities do not price in any chance of it occurring. If that event does occur, all sorts of securities need to re-price—often quite rapidly. I like to spend my time pondering what potential events the market completely ignores. Of all potential economic outcomes, the one that is least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. In terms of macro-portfolio wars, Japan’s experience with deflation colors all views. This seems odd to me because we have over two millennia of history showing inflation and currency debasements to be universal constants, with one outlier in Japan. The question is if Japan is the new normal or a true outlier?

Academics have studied the causes and effects of inflation ever since emperors and kings fixated on halting its effects. Despite a massive body of work, there is little agreement amongst experts on the causes of inflation. Since I tend to ignore “experts,” let me start by giving you the Kuppy definition of inflation. “Inflation is when too much of a certain currency chases a scarce resource and pushes its price higher when defined in terms of that currency.”

Using that definition, we’ve actually had rather dramatic inflation over the past decade—it just hasn’t shown up yet in the core consumer goods that central bankers are often concerned about.

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

Inflation Is Coming…

Inflation Is Coming…

Investing is all about probabilities. If the perceived odds of an event are high, certain securities will be priced based on those expected probabilities. The corollary is that when an event is perceived as almost impossible, securities do not price in any chance of it occurring. If that event does occur, all sorts of securities need to re-price—often quite rapidly. I like to spend my time pondering what potential events the market completely ignores. Of all potential economic outcomes, the one that is least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. In terms of macro-portfolio wars, Japan’s experience with deflation colors all views. This seems odd to me because we have over two millennia of history showing inflation and currency debasements to be universal constants, with one outlier in Japan. The question is if Japan is the new normal or a true outlier?

Academics have studied the causes and effects of inflation ever since emperors and kings fixated on halting its effects. Despite a massive body of work, there is little agreement amongst experts on the causes of inflation. Since I tend to ignore “experts,” let me start by giving you the Kuppy definition of inflation. “Inflation is when too much of a certain currency chases a scarce resource and pushes its price higher when defined in terms of that currency.” Using that definition, we’ve actually had rather dramatic inflation over the past decade—it just hasn’t shown up yet in the core consumer goods that central bankers are often concerned about.

Did they time-stamp the cyclical low in yields?

When a country prints money, no one knows where within the economic ecosystem it will ultimately flow. If a resource is scarce, it tends to experience inflation—when it is artificially scarce, it has even more extreme inflation.

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

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession

Federal Reserve Proposes New Rule To Let Inflation Run “Hot” Ahead Of Next Recession  

As the Federal Reserve remains unable to stoke inflation (because it refuses to measure it correctly) and refuses to factor in asset price inflation…

… it has now considered launching a new rule that would let inflation run above its 2% target to make up for lost inflation, reported the Financial Times.

Though the Fed’s policies are to protect big Wall Street banks and keep liquidity ample in the financial system, its policies have overwhelmingly created deflation through supporting zombie companies and blowing financial bubbles.

So to “make up” for lost inflation, the Fed will temporarily increase the target range above 2%, also known as “symmetric” overinflation. The policy would “make it clear that it’s acceptable that to average 2 percent, you can’t have only observations that are below 2 percent,” according to Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who recently spoke with FT.

Fed members have expressed concerns that reverting the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound will drive inflation expectations lower, a real risk of Japanification, something Albert Edwards is especially concerned about.

Officials have also lamented that the since the fed funds rate is so low compared to history, any recession could make monetary policy ineffective, though there is always the reality that the Fed will merely unleash negative interest rates during the next recession.

Meanwhile, Fed members have been experimenting with new monetary tools ahead of the next downturn. Janet Yellen said the new rule could be like “forward guidance,” which enabled the Fed to pressure short-term interest rates lower. This eventually allowed longer-term rates to fall as well.

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

Ex-BOJ Chief Regrets Not Hiking, Hated QE, Says Sub-1% Interest Rates Don’t Work

Ex-BOJ Chief Regrets Not Hiking, Hated QE, Says Sub-1% Interest Rates Don’t Work

Things are going from bad to worse in Japan: 7 years after BOJ chief Kuroda launched QQE (subsequently with yield curve control) while monetizing tens of billions in ETFs, the central banks has failed to boost either Japan’s economy or its inflation, both a dismal byproduct of Japan’s record debt load. So now that the BOJ has failed to remedy what was the consequence of massive debt loads, Japan has a cunning plan: unleash another tsunami of debt.

According to the Japan Times, Japan is set to “re-embrace the power of public spending” – because apparently the country with the world record setting 250% debt/GDP somehow did not embrace public spending before – with one of its biggest ever stimulus packages. Pointing to slowing global growth, a higher sales tax and a string of natural disasters, policymakers in Tokyo are the latest to join the worldwide shift toward a double-barreled approach of supporting the economy through fiscal measures and ultraloose monetary policy, which as we have noted before is a preamble to MMT and full-blown debt monetization by the government.

That’s good news for the Bank of Japan, which has “appeared” (but only appeared, because it now owns so many of Japan’s ETFs it has to start lending them out to prevent a market freeze) reluctant to ramp up its own massive stimulus program, as it strains at the limits of effectiveness.

As a result, in less than a month, expectations in Japan for a “modest” stimulus package with a face value of ¥5 trillion ($46 billion) have quadrupled to ¥20 trillion, despite having the developed world’s largest public debt load. And there is much more to come.

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

Doug Casey on the Destruction of the Dollar

Doug Casey on the Destruction of the Dollar

Dollar

“Inflation” occurs when the creation of currency outruns the creation of real wealth it can bid for… It isn’t caused by price increases; rather, it causes price increases.

Inflation is not caused by the butcher, the baker, or the auto maker, although they usually get blamed. On the contrary, by producing real wealth, they fight the effects of inflation. Inflation is the work of government alone, since government alone controls the creation of currency.

In a true free-market society, the only way a person or organization can legitimately obtain wealth is through production. “Making money” is no different from “creating wealth,” and money is nothing but a certificate of production. In our world, however, the government can create currency at trivial cost, and spend it at full value in the marketplace. If taxation is the expropriation of wealth by force, then inflation is its expropriation by fraud.

To inflate, a government needs complete control of a country’s legal money. This has the widest possible implications, since money is much more than just a medium of exchange. Money is the means by which all other material goods are valued. It represents, in an objective way, the hours of one’s life spent in acquiring it. And if enough money allows one to live life as one wishes, it represents freedom as well. It represents all the good things one hopes to have, do, and provide for others. Money is life concentrated.

As the state becomes more powerful and is expected to provide more resources to selected groups, its demand for funds escalates. Government naturally prefers to avoid imposing more taxes as people become less able (or willing) to pay them. It runs greater budget deficits, choosing to borrow what it needs. As the market becomes less able (or willing) to lend it money, it turns to inflation, selling ever greater amounts of its debt to its central bank, which pays for the debt by printing more money.

China’s Credit Creation Unexpectedly Collapses At The Worst Possible Time

China’s Credit Creation Unexpectedly Collapses At The Worst Possible Time

Over the weekend, we observed that China’s slumping wholesale inflation, or PPI, which is so critical for corporate profits and sparking benign, demand-driven inflation in the economy, and which in October tumbled to a three year low assuring that Chinese dumping and exports of deflation will only further depress global reflation efforts…

… will not reverse until Beijing injects another elephant-dose of credit into the Chinese financial system.

Just 48 hours later we can confirm that there is zero risk of either a sharp spike in Chinese inflation, or of China flooding the financial system with cheap credit – as it has been known to do during key economic inflection points – because according to the PBOC, China’s credit growth slowed far more than expected in October to the weakest pace since at least 2017 as a continued collapse in shadow banking, weak corporate demand for credit and seasonal effects all signaled that efforts to prop up the economy through bank lending still aren’t working.

The central bank reported that Aggregate Financing, China’s revised version of the old Total Social Financing, was a paltry 618.9 billion yuan ($88 billion), missing the median conservative estimate of 950 billion yuan, and down a whopping 72% from the 2.27 trillion yuan in September and 737.4 billion yuan in the same month of 2018. Today’s print was the lowest in the revised series history which goes back to the start of 2017, and only a slightly lower print in the old series prevents today’s total credit injection from being the lowest since 2016!

New CNY loans of 661.3 billion yuan also missed the consensus print of 800 billion yuan, resulting in outstanding CNY loan growth of 11.9% annualized in October, well below the September 13.3% annualized print. As has been the case recently, two thirds of yuan-denominated bank loans were borrowed by households in the month, while the borrowing by non-financial companies was the least in amount since August 2016.

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

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

I say these things because:

  • Money is free for those who are creditworthy because the investors who are giving it to them are willing to get back less than they give. More specifically investors lending to those who are creditworthy will accept very low or negative interest rates and won’t require having their principal paid back for the foreseeable future. They are doing this because they have an enormous amount of money to invest that has been, and continues to be, pushed on them by central banks that are buying financial assets in their futile attempts to push economic activity and inflation up. The reason that this money that is being pushed on investors isn’t pushing growth and inflation much higher is that the investors who are getting it want to invest it rather than spend it. This dynamic is creating a “pushing on a string” dynamic that has happened many times before in history (though not in our lifetimes) and was thoroughly explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises. As a result of this dynamic, the prices of financial assets have gone way up and the future expected returns have gone way down while economic growth and inflation remain sluggish. Those big price rises and the resulting low expected returns are not just true for bonds; they are equally true for equities, private equity, and venture capital, though these assets’ low expected returns are not as apparent as they are for bond investments because these equity-like investments don’t have stated returns the way bonds do. As a result, their expected returns are left to investors’ imaginations. 

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

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

Central Banks Are Just Getting Warmed Up

According to all central banks, one of the main problems they are called to solve is that countries cannot reach their inflation target of (close to but below) 2 percent. Even their religious trust in the long-discredited Phillips curve cannot explain why price inflation is low in many countries despite historically low unemployment rates. Nonetheless, central banks still enjoy immense credibility. It’s common to hear such sentences as “never bet against the Fed,” the “ECB has big bazooka primed”… and all market participants monitor each public meeting to understand what the next policy could be and how they should be positioned when it arrives.1

To reach the inflation targets and “stimulate the economy,” central banks regularly meet to devise ever-new stimulus programs, and do not despair when, inevitably, the one-off unconventional interventions quickly become the new normal. For example, the world-famous Quantitative Easing (QE) was supposed to be a one-time emergency response to the 2008 crisis, except it has now become one of the many tools of regular monetary policy, and a key component in market demand for financial assets. An undesired but perfectly predictable side effect of QE is that it allows governments to increase their spending without care for the deficit, and still pay negative interest rates in real terms, so no discipline is imposed, except for some empty promise to reduce the deficit some time in the future, if the opportunity comes. Several Western countries have embarked in QE, some in many consecutive rounds, but there is no mention of a reverse-course, an eventual, opposite Quantitative Tightening (QT). Only the United States have tried QT, and the Fed has even announced that they were on a stable and data-driven process back to normalization, to try to maintain their reputation of scientific management of the monetary aggregates.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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