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Three bizarre reasons why inflation is here to stay

When I was about five years old in the early 1980s, my dad brought home our first computer.

I’ll never forget it– it was an clunky IBM with a tiny, orange, monochromatic monitor, and dual floppy disks. It had 640 kilobytes of RAM, and no hard disk.

I loved it. With that computer I learned how to program, how to navigate a command-line interface, how to design algorithms, and how to solve constant problems… because it was ridiculously buggy and would break down all the time.

It was also painfully slow. The boot-up process could easily take an hour, from the time I flipped on the power switch, to the time I saw the ‘DOS prompt’.

Sometimes I think that computer is a great metaphor for the global economy. Turning it off is nothing; you flip the switch and the power goes off. But starting it back up again takes a long time. And the process isn’t so smooth– sometimes it crashes during bootup.

Last March when the Great Plague was upon us, nearly every industry, in nearly every country in the world, practically shut down.

And many businesses went bust, never to return.

Eighteen months later businesses have largely reopened. But like my old computer, the reboot process has been riddled with critical errors and system failures.

For example, right now there are countless businesses in industries from retail to manufacturing that are experiencing severe labor shortages. Supply chains around the world are breaking down, resulting in product shortages and major transportation bottlenecks.

The end result of this dumpster fire is that prices are soaring. And I wanted to spend some time today connecting the dots to help explain some of these important trends.

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

How long will the US dollar’s dominance last?

301 AD was a big year for the Roman Empire.

That was the year that, amid spiraling inflation, Emperor Diocletian issued his Edict on Maximum Prices, essentially fixing prices of just about everything across the Roman Empire.

The price of wheat, a day labor’s wages, a quart of olive oil, transportation rates– everything was established by the Emperor’s edict, and enforced under penalty of death.

Diocletian’s edict infamously didn’t work, and the empire plunged into even more severe inflation.

The other big event of 301 AD was the introduction of the solidus gold coin, roughly 4.5 grams of nearly pure gold.

And while the Romans had a history of debasing their other coins, like the silver denarius and sesterce, the government actually did a pretty good job maintaining the value and purity of the gold solidus.

Even hundreds of years later, after the western empire in Rome had fallen to the barbarians, and imperial power was concentrated in Byzantium, the gold solidus was still approximately as pure as it was in the early 300s.

That’s an extraordinary track record for currency stability. Confidence in the gold solidus was so high, in fact, that various tribes and kingdoms around the world used the coin for trade and savings.

This became a source of pride for the Byzantine Empire; Justinian I, who ruled in the mid 500s, stated that the solidus was “accepted everywhere from end to end of the Earth,” and that it was “admired by all men in all kingdoms, because no kingdom has a currency that can be compared to it.”

It wasn’t until the mid 11th century, more than seven centuries after the introduction of the solidus, that an Emperor began to debase the currency.

Just like Hemingway described going bankrupt, the debasement of the solidus was gradual… then sudden.

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

Delta variant throws the world back into Orwellian autocracy

Are you ready for this week’s absurdity? Here’s our Friday roll-up of the most ridiculous stories from around the world that are threats to your liberty, risks to your prosperity… and on occasion, inspiring poetic justice.

Doctors could lose medical licenses if they spread vaccine “misinformation”

The Federation of State Medical Boards told doctors they could lose their medical licenses if they spread Covid-19 vaccine misinformation on social media.

The July 29 news release says doctors “must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health.”

Consensus driven? Since when did science become a popularity contest? The entire idea is to present a hypothesis, and gather data to prove or disprove that hypothesis.

Conclusions should be driven by data, not by what’s popular or convenient.

Incredible. People who spent their entire careers studying the human body are now being threatened with cancellation if they spread fact-based information that the establishment wants to keep suppressed.

Click here to read the statement.

Australia Descends into Authoritarian Orwellian Hell

The Australian state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, is in the midst of a nine week lockdown; and this lockdown is being enforced with the military and helicopters.

One video shows a helicopter blasting a message over a loudspeaker to a handful of young men playing soccer. It says what they are doing is illegal, and that if they don’t ’t disperse the police would fine them.

Army personnel will also be going door-to-door in Sydney to make sure everyone is staying home.

Thousands of people turned out last weekend for a protest against the insane lockdowns— which prompted an Australian politician from New South Wales to propose Draconian fines for free speech.

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

No inflation? Even used car prices are soaring

We’ve reached a point now where anyone who can’t see inflation is clearly not paying attention.

Inflation has now become so ridiculous that, according to the Wall Street Journal, even the price of a USED car is increasing… by a lot.

Since January 2020, NEW car prices have increased 9.6%. But USED car prices are up 16.7% over the same period.

This is pretty extraordinary given that used cars are supposed to depreciate. According to one used car dealer, “What is normally a depreciable asset has been appreciating. It’s certainly surreal. . .”

It’s not just used cars, of course. Prices across the economy are rising rapidly. NielsenIQ retail price data sets show that consumer goods have been rising in excess of 10% over the last year on everything from beauty products to seafood prices (which have risen by 18.7% over the past three months).

There are lots of reasons for inflation.

For example, there’s plenty of pent-up consumer demand from people having been locked down for more than a year, at a time when many businesses are still closed or operating at below normal capacity.

This combination of high demand and tight supply is causing prices to rise. And in theory that’s a temporary phenomenon.

But there are other, more permanent factors that could continue pushing prices up for a long time.

For starters, governments around the world are proposing higher taxes– carbon taxes, Value-Added Taxes, higher corporate income taxes. This is all inflationary, because eventually these tax costs are passed on to consumers.

The more important contributor to inflation, though, is astonishing quantity of new money in the financial system, thanks in large part to massive government spending.

In the US alone, the federal government is trying to pass spending bills totaling $11+ trillion this year.

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

Three reasons why inflation is rising. Two of them aren’t going away

A remarkable thing happened yesterday that tells you everything you need to know about inflation.

In the morning, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated bluntly that “interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn’t overheat. . .”

For economists, an ‘overheating economy’ means inflation. So she was essentially saying that rates would have to rise to prevent inflation.

Yet hours later, she completely reversed herself, saying that interest rates would NOT have to rise because “I don’t think there’s going to be an inflationary problem.”

You don’t need a PhD in economics to smell the BS.

Inflation is not some potential issue down the road. Inflation is already here.

As Warren Buffett told investors only days ago, “We’re seeing very substantial inflation.”

Plenty of companies have already announced price increases to their consumers–

Proctor & Gamble, for instance, announced price hikes across the board on just about everything from diapers to beauty creams.

Hershey’s announced in February that it would be raising prices.

Food giant General Mills complained in February about a “higher inflationary environment” and “input cost pressures” due to rising commodity prices.

Clorox, Shake Shack, Kimberly-Clark, Whirlpool, Hormel, and Woka Kola Coca Cola are among the many companies that have also announced price increases.

And according to Bank of America Global Research, the number of mentions of “inflation” on corporate earnings calls has increased 800% compared to last year.

Inflation is clearly a concern of the largest companies in the world. Investors are worried. Consumers can see it.

And in a rare moment of truth yesterday morning, a politician almost admitted that she was concerned about inflation too.

This is not some wild conspiracy. Inflation is real. It’s happening. Let’s look at three key drivers:

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

It’s time to start thinking about inflation

In the year 215 AD, the young Roman Emperor Caracalla, then just 27 years of age, decided to ‘fix’ Rome’s perennial inflation problem by minting a brand new coin.

Caracalla’s predecessors over the previous several decades had ordered an astonishing debasement of Roman currency; the silver content in Rome’s ‘denarius’ coin, for example, was reduced from roughly 85% in the early 150s AD, to less than 50% by the early 200s.

And with the silver content in their currency greatly reduced, government mints cranked out unprecedented quantities of coins.

They spent the money as quickly as they minted it, using the flood of debased coins, for example, to finance endless wars and buy up food supplies for their soldiers.

Needless to say this caused rampant inflation across the empire.

Egypt was a province of Rome at the time, and the one of the Empire’s major agricultural producers. Its local provincial coin, the drachma, had also been heavily debased.

A measure of Egyptian wheat in the early 1st century AD, for example, cost only 8 drachmas. In the third century that same amount of Egyptian wheat cost more than 100,000 drachmas.

Caracalla tried to fix this by simply creating a new coin– the antoniniamis.

It was originally minted with 50% silver content. But the antoniniamis was debased down to just 5% silver within a few decades.

Caracalla’s undisciplined attempt at controlling inflation was about as effective as Venezuela trying to ‘fix’ its hyperinflation by chopping five zeros off its currency.

In fact this same story has been told over and over again throughout history:

Governments who spend too much money almost invariably resort to debasing the currency.

In ancient times, ‘debasement’ meant reducing the gold and silver content in their coins.

In early modern times, it meant printing vast quantities of paper money.

Today, it means creating ‘electronic’ money in the banking system.

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

Gold vs. the stock market

More than 3,000 years ago in the early 12th century BC, Greco-Roman legend tells us of a mythical pair of monsters located in the Strait of Messina in southern Italy.

The monsters were named Scylla and Charybdis. And both Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid describe the terror of sailors who came into contact with them.

Scylla was on one side of the Strait, and Charybdis on the other. But because the Strait is so narrow, it was impossible for sailors to avoid both of the monsters, essentially forcing the captain to choose between the lesser of two evils.

In Homer’s narrative, for example, Odysseus is advised that the whirlpools of Charybis could sink his entire ship, while Scylla might only kill a handful of his sailors.

So Odysseus chooses to sail past Scylla: “Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew.”

The story is a myth. But the idea of having to choose between two terrible options is very real.

It appears that the Federal Reserve has landed itself in this position.

In its efforts to boost the economy during the pandemic, the Fed slashed interest rates so much that the average 30-year mortgage rate for homebuyers reached an all-time low of 2.65% earlier this year.

Similarly, AAA-rated corporate bond yields reached record low 2.14% last summer.

The US government 10-year Treasury Note dropped to a record low 0.52%.

And the 28-day US government Treasury Bill rate actually turned negative for a brief period– something that has never happened before.

The effects of such cheap rates are obvious.

With corporate borrowing rates so low, the stock market has boomed. With consumers able to borrow money so cheaply, home prices have surged to an all-time high.

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

 

Historical lessons in prosperity vs. poverty

Historical lessons in prosperity vs. poverty

As the grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan had a lot to prove.

So he set his eyes on the biggest prize in the known world at the time: southern China.

Kublai Khan completed his conquest of China in 1279, forging a new empire and creating the Yuan dynasty.

The Mongols were known for their expensive habits— they liked war and women especially. So when the money started to run out, administrators in the Yuan dynasty started printing paper money.

Yuan officials weren’t the first to come up with this idea; the government from the prior Song dynasty had also printed paper money. But there was a huge difference—

Paper currency from the Song dynasty, known as guanzi, was backed by copper, silver, and gold coins.

The Yuan currency, however, was backed by nothing. So whenever the government started to run out of money, they simply printed more.

By 1350, Kublai Khan had been dead for decades. But the Yuan dynasty’s economic overseers were still printing paper money like crazy. And it was causing severe hyperinflation across China.

People’s lives were turned upside down by the government’s fiscal irresponsibility, and rebellions broke out across the country.

By 1368, the Yuan dynasty had completely collapsed, and a destitute peasant farmer-turned-monk named Zhu Yuanzhang rose up to become Emperor and found the new Ming Dynasty.

To stimulate the economy ravaged by inflation, the Ming dynasty created an unprecedented level of economic freedom.

Markets and industries were deregulated; the government abandoned its monopoly on salt production, for example, and merchants were encouraged to allow market competition to set prices.

In time, the government stabilized the currency and reintroduced metallic coins. And by the 1500s Ming officials even allowed foreign currencies like the Spanish Silver Dollar to circulate in China.

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

This is a Financial Revolution

This is a Financial Revolution

At precisely 2:32pm Eastern time on May 6, 2010, the US stock market started to drop.

The decline was sudden, and vicious. Within minutes, more than $1 trillion of market capitalization had vanished, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing nearly 10% of its value.

This event became known as the ‘Flash Crash’. And early explanations pointed to the big investment banks and their high-tech trading algorithms, i.e. software that could buy and sell stocks without human involvement.

When the market started its decline that day, banks’ trading algorithms went haywire and started selling everything. This caused the market to decline even further, which triggered the algorithms to sell even more.

The humans were powerless to stop it. There were stories of panicked tech teams at investment banks frantically ripping cables out of the floor trying to shut down the machines.

But the selling went on for 36 minutes… during which time the banks and big funds racked up enormous losses.

For me, however, the Flash Crash was great. I was ‘short’ the stock market at the time, meaning I had bet that the market would decline.

And when the market dropped by more than 1,000 points, I happily cashed in.

But two days later I received an email from my broker explaining that they were CANCELING my trade.

The poor little investment banks had lost money because their fancy algorithms didn’t work. So the exchange was giving them a ‘do over’ at my expense.

Incredible. It hadn’t even been two years at that point since the banks had to be bailed out at taxpayer expense during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

Then, 20 months later, the Flash Crash happened. And the banks were simply able to wipe all their losses away.

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

Five ways to loosen Big Tech’s grip on your life

I imagine there are countless people right now who feel a wide range of emotions when it comes to Big Tech companies. Anger. Disgust. Confusion. Fear.

We’ve watched with exasperation as Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have systematically squashed intellectual dissent; their actions have been so commonplace that there’s even a name for it: “De-platforming”.

We all know there’s a ton of garbage on the Internet, including from mainstream sources.

But de-platforming has proven to be wholeheartedly biased, totally arbitrary, and often comically ridiculous.

This isn’t just about the election or the Capitol. For example, if you dare utter a word on social media that goes against the infinite and infallible wisdom of the Chinese-controlled World Health Organization, then you might find yourself banned.

YouTube even suspended a renowned epidemiologist– a bona fide pandemic expert– because he opposed lockdowns and was hence ‘dangerous’.

Facebook censored more than 22 million posts in Q2 of 2020 for ‘hate speech’. Naturally, its entirely up to Facebook to define hate speech and judge whether or not you’re using it.

#killallmen, for example, is NOT considered hate speech. And even by the company’s own admission, hate speech against men, or white people, is a low priority.

It’s clear these companies have an enormous amount of unchecked power. They have the ability to erase you from the Internet, destroy your reputation, and, if you’re someone who makes money online, terminate your livelihood.

But the only reason they have this power is because we’ve given it to them. Hundreds of millions of people have intertwined their entire lives into the Big Tech ecosystem, to the point that they know absolutely everything about us.

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

FDIC asks Americans to keep their money in the banks

FDIC asks Americans to keep their money in the banks

Yesterday the Chair of the FDIC released an astonishing video asking Americans to keep their money in the bank.

Accompanied by soft piano music playing in the background, the official said:

“Your money is safe at the banks. The last thing you should be doing is pulling your money out of the banks thinking it’s going to be safer somewhere else.”

Amazing. I was half expecting her to waive her hand and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…”

As I’ve written before, there’s $250 TRILLION worth of debt in the world right now: student debt, housing debt, credit card debt, government debt, corporate debt, etc.

And let’s be honest, some of that debt is simply not going to be paid.

Millions of people have already lost their jobs. Millions more (like the 10 million waiters and bartenders across America) are barely earning anything right now because their businesses are closed.

A lot of those folks have no emergency savings to fall back on during times of crisis, so they’re going to be forced to choose: pay the rent, or buy food.

The government has already suspended evictions and foreclosures, which is a green light for people to stop paying the rent or mortgage.

And that means banks will take it in the teeth.

This is what happened back in 2008– millions of people across the country stopped paying their mortgages, and the banking system nearly collapsed as a result.

Today it’s a similar situation; a lot of people are going to stop paying their mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, etc. And that directly impacts the banks.

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

Banks are going to drown in an ocean of defaults

Banks are going to drown in an ocean of defaults

On November 6, 2000, then US presidential candidate George W. Bush told a crowd of cheering supporters, “they misunderestimated me.”

Now, if English is not your native language, allow me to clear the air: ‘misunderestimate’ is not a word. But then again, George W. Bush was legendary for hilarious slip-ups like this.

There are entire books dedicated to his ‘Bushisms,’ the ridiculous made-up words and incomprehensible sayings that became routine for the 43rd US President.

‘Misunderestimate’ seems to be a conflation of the words ‘misunderstand’ and ‘underestimate’. And while that was utterly hysterical 20 years ago when Bush first said it, ‘misunderestimate’ may be the most appropriate word of today.

The entire world has completely ‘misunderestimated’ the Corona Virus.

In terms of misunderstand– that’s obvious. There’s so much that we don’t know about the virus (officially known as SARS-CoV-2) and the disease that it causes (COVID-19).

For example, a group of researchers published a “peer-reviewed” research paper earlier this month stating that the virus had split into multiple strains.

(Peer-reviewed is a type of self-regulation among academics; it means the paper had been evaluated by other experts before it was published.)

But other specialists in the field strongly disagreed with the paper’s conclusions.

Swiss biologist Richard Neher described the research as, “wrong, misleading. . . downright dangerous inferences,” while Australian virologist Ian Mackay called it a “weak paper and poor science.”

Another peer-reviewed study released in the Journal of Medical Virology concluded that the virus originated from snakes. But plenty of experts disagreed with that assertion too.

The scientific community has learned so much about SARS-CoV-2 since it first surfaced a few months ago.

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

Negative interest rates in the US are virtually guaranteed now

Negative interest rates in the US are virtually guaranteed now

On October 19, 1987, the US stock market suffered the worst crash in its more than 200 year history, dropping more than 23% in a matter of hours.

It wasn’t just in the United States, either. More than 20 major stock markets around the world, from London to Hong Kong to Australia, fell by similar amounts.

And economists estimate that stocks worldwide lost roughly $1.7 trillion of value (approximately 10% of global GDP at the time) during the October 1987 crash.

The next morning on October 20th, the Federal Reserve announced that they would do whatever it takes to support the economy.

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And ten days later they cut interest rates by 0.5%.

Yesterday the Federal Reserve did the same thing. Stock markets worldwide have been jittery lately due to Corona Virus fears, so the Federal Reserve stepped in and cut interest rates by 0.5%.

Honestly there are so many things that are remarkable about this—

First, the Fed already has a regularly scheduled meeting coming up in two weeks on March 17th. But apparently they thought the situation was so severe that they held an emergency meeting yesterday and hastily voted to cut interest rates by 0.5%.

Just think about what that means: 30+ years ago, the Fed cut rates by half a percent after, literally, the worst day in the history of the stock market.

Today’s stock market turmoil is nowhere near as bad as it was in 1987. Sure, the market is down around 10% over the past two weeks.  But where is the law that says the stock market isn’t allowed to fall? Capitalism is all about risk and reward. There are supposed to be periods of decline.

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

Gold’s long-term gains have even outperformed Warren Buffett…

Gold’s long-term gains have even outperformed Warren Buffett…

Warren Buffett, despite his extraordinary investment success, has a rather famous and long-standing love/hate relationship with precious metals.

Maybe it started with his dad– Congressman Howard Buffett of Nebraska– who, as a staunch advocate for the gold standard, argued to his colleagues on Capitol Hill that “paper money systems have always wound up with collapse and economic chaos.”

Warren himself acquired a record-setting 128 million ounces of silver back in the late 1990s… which he later sold at a profit in the early 2000s.

But to listen to him talk about precious metals these days, he’s always negative.

Buffett often quips that if you took the world’s entire supply of gold and melted it together, it would form a cube of about 68 feet (~21 meters) per side and be worth around $9 trillion.

With that same $9 trillion, you could buy every share of Apple, Disney, Google, Microsoft, JP Morgan, Exxon Mobil, all the farmland in the United States, all the developable land in Manhattan, and still have more than a trillion dollars left over.

This is Buffett’s central argument: gold doesn’t produce anything. So it’s much better to invest in a productive asset like a business, farmland, etc.

Sure, I’d rather own a profitable, productive asset than a pile of metal.

But Buffett is completely wrong to compare gold to productive assets… they’re apples and oranges.

Gold isn’t an ‘investment’. It’s an insurance policy against paper currencies will lose value over time. So a MUCH better comparison for gold is CASH.

Using Buffett’s same thought experiment, would an investor with $9 trillion rather have all that money sitting in a bank earning 0%? Or buy all the productive assets I mentioned above?

Clearly it’s more attractive to own productive assets than cash sitting in a bank.

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

How Anti-Fragile are you?

How Anti-Fragile are you?

I arrived back home to Puerto Rico late last night after traveling back from our Total Access event in Las Vegas.

It was probably around 11:15 pm when I climbed into bed. And, within minutes, just as the sound of the waves outside was carrying me off to sleep, the whole house started violently shaking.

It turned out to be a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, about 20 miles off the west coast of the island.

I lived in Chile for seven years before this– one of the world’s earthquake capitals– so I’m no stranger to seismic activity.

But earthquakes are EXTREMELY rare in Puerto Rico… as in, they almost NEVER happen. People simply do not expect them.

Hurricanes, tropical storms, etc., sure, those are common occurrences here.

And you might remember that Puerto Rico was almost wiped out from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. It devastated the island and much of the Eastern Caribbean, and two years later they still haven’t recovered.

Today there’s supposed to be some Tropical Storm coming through, which, by comparison to Hurricane Maria, is barely a bit of drizzle.

But the government here is on pins and needles, and so anxious to show that they’re ready for anything that they closed schools, many government offices, and even called up the National Guard…

I can’t help but feel bad for them. They’re so scarred from Hurricane Maria two years ago that they overreact in desperation at the first warning sign of a storm.

And then, in an instant, something completely unexpected happened: Puerto Rico was hit with a 6.0 earthquake, and the government has no idea how to react.

 …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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