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Rickards: Bad News, I’m Afraid

Rickards: Bad News, I’m Afraid

The breakdown of global supply chains is well-known by now. Whether it’s finding groceries in your supermarket, buying a new car or buying appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators, goods are scarce. Also, deliveries take forever and choices are limited.

Many people wonder why the problem isn’t going away. Here’s the answer:

The supply chain is a complex dynamic system. When any complex system collapses, you can look for specific causes but that’s usually a waste of time. Systems collapse internally because they are too large and too interconnected and require too many energy inputs to keep going.

Any specific cause is more likely to be a symptom than a true cause. It’s frustrating, but that’s the answer.

Most Americans’ first encounter with the supply chain meltdown was in the spring of 2020 during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Shoppers noticed that items like hand sanitizer and paper goods at Costco and other big-box stores were cleaned out.

It seemed that Americans who were locked down and quarantined at the time were hoarding these products because they had no idea when they would be allowed to venture out again.

The shortages were real, but were limited to specific products. The other aisles at Costco were stocked and so were all the other stores around (at least those that were allowed to remain open).

Now It’s Everything

But it’s not just Costco this time. It’s every supermarket, convenience store and other retail outlet from coast to coast. And it’s not just cleaning products and paper goods. Your local supermarket might have bare shelves for eggs, peanut butter, milk and other staples.

It’s not a case of being stocked out of all goods all the time. Your store is like a box of Cracker Jack – you never know what’s inside.

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

The Great Supply Chain Collapse

The Great Supply Chain Collapse

What’s at the root of the supply chain breakdown? That’s a critical question but the answer is almost irrelevant. The supply chain is a complex dynamic system of immense scale. It is of a complexity comparable to the climate as a system.

This means that exact cause and effect cannot be computed because the processing power needed exceeds the combined processing power of every computer in the world.

Most people have some notion of how supply chains work, but few understand how extensive, complex and vulnerable they are. If you go to the store to buy a loaf of bread, you know that the bread did not mystically appear on the shelf.

It was delivered by a local bakery, put on the shelf by a clerk, you carried it home and served it with dinner. That’s a succinct description of a supply chain – from baker to store to home.

Yet that description barely scratches the surface. What about the truck driver who delivered the bread from the bakery to the store? Where did the bakery get the flour, yeast and water needed to make the bread? What about the ovens used to bake the bread? When the bread was baked, it was put in clear or paper wrappers of some sort. Where did those come from?

Even that expanded description of a supply chain is just getting started in terms of a complete chain. The flour used for baking came from wheat. That wheat was grown on a farm and harvested with heavy equipment. The farmer hires labor, uses water and fertilizer and sends his wheat out for processing and packaging before it gets to the bakery.

The manufacturer who built the oven has his own supply chain of steel, tempered glass, semiconductors, electrical circuits and other inputs needed to build the ovens…

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

Tyranny

Tyranny

I’d like to stop writing about COVID, but I can’t because it has such strong economic implications, which can’t be separated. And I’m afraid policies will be enacted that will only make things worse.

We all know the Delta variant of the COVID virus (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading rapidly in the U.S. and Australia. Major outbreaks have also hit India and Brazil.

What has received less attention is the fact that the Delta variant is now also spreading in China. That’s ironic because the virus started in China at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

While the virus spread around the world, China quickly eliminated the spread inside China itself. Now, the virus has come full circle and is back in China in a new, more virulent form.

There’s a huge difference in how China approaches the virus from a public health perspective compared to the U.S., Japan or Europe. China’s lockdowns are far more extreme.

Why China Enforces Extreme Lockdowns

China will quickly identify an outbreak and cut off all car, train and air services to the affected area. China will also quickly shut down major ports and distribution centers if even a single case appears.

China knows that the spread of the virus is a threat to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. China cares more about Party loyalty and Party survival than it does about economic growth.

China is now imposing extreme measures, including canceling many domestic flights, closing ports and restricting vacation travel. China’s economy was already slowing before this new wave of the virus. Given China’s more extreme forms of COVID control, their economy will slow even further.

That’s bad news for China – and bad news for the world. Global growth will slow noticeably in the months ahead, partly because of the extreme nature of China’s lockdown approach.

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

Biden’s Crime Against the Economy

Biden’s Crime Against the Economy

I try to keep politics out of my economic analyses, and my approach is non-partisan. But sometimes I can’t avoid it because political policies can have significant economic impacts. Today is one of those times.

One of Joe Biden’s first acts as President was to kill construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This is a pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Midwest United States. From there it would be moved through other pipelines or refined and distributed to gas stations and industrial users in America.

Biden’s decision was destructive for a long list of reasons.

The immediate impact was to kill about 10,000 high-paying union jobs with benefits in construction, transportation and expert services. The ripple effects were even greater. Once a pipe delivery operation is killed, the trucking company and pipe manufacturer lay off more personnel and those workers stop spending at local restaurants and so on.

But killing the pipeline accomplishes nothing from an environmental standpoint. The decision to end the pipeline is pointless because the oil still moves out of Alberta. In the absence of a pipeline, the oil moves by railroad tanker cars on rail lines owned by Warren Buffett.

Pipelines Are Better for the Environment

It’s just that the railroad uses more energy and has higher CO2 emissions than a pipeline. If you cared about the environment, you’d favor a pipeline over railroads. But opponents don’t really care about the environment, they just want to shut down the oil and gas industries completely.

Shutting the pipeline is a step in that direction. Claims about local environmental damage and crossing Native American tribal areas were just feel-good red herrings. The goal was always just to kill the pipeline. Mission accomplished. Now, the Biden administration may have done more damage than thought at first.

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

The Real Russian Threat

The Real Russian Threat

I’ve written for years about different nations’ persistent efforts to dethrone the U.S. dollar as the leading global reserve currency and the main medium of exchange.

At the same time, I’ve said that such processes don’t happen overnight;  instead, they happen slowly and incrementally over decades.

The dollar displaced sterling as the leading reserve currency in the twentieth century, but it took thirty years, from 1914 to 1944, to happen. The decline started with the outbreak of World War I and the UK’s liquidation of assets and money printing to finance the war.

It ended with the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944 that cemented the dollar’s link to gold as the new global standard.

Even after the gold link was broken in 1971, the dollar standard remained because there was no good alternative. Then the 1974 deal with Saudi Arabia (along with other OPEC cartel members) to price oil in dollars created increased global demand for the dollar.

Because of the deal, dollars would be deposited with U.S. banks, so they could be loaned to developing economies, who could then buy U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products.

This would help the global economy and allow the U.S. to maintain price stability. The Saudis would get more customers and a stable dollar, and the U.S. would force the world to accept dollars because everyone would need dollars to buy oil.

By the way, behind this “deal” was a not so subtle threat to invade Saudi Arabia and take the oil by force.

I personally discussed these invasion plans in the White House with Henry Kissinger’s deputy, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, at the time. But the Petro-Dollar plan worked brilliantly, and the invasion never happened.

Despite all this, nearly 50 years later, the erosion of the dollar’s role has begun and is visible in many metrics.

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

The Only Way Out of the Death Trap

The Only Way Out of the Death Trap

I’ve said the U.S. is caught in a debt death trap. Monetary policy won’t get us out because the velocity of money, the rate at which money changes hands, is dropping.

Printing more money alone will not change that.

Fiscal policy won’t work either because of high debt ratios. At current debt-to-GDP ratios, each additional dollar spent yields less than a dollar of growth. But because it must be borrowed, it does add a dollar to the debt. Debt becomes an actual drag on growth.

The ratio gets higher, and the situation grows more desperate. The economy barely grows at all while the debt mounts. You basically become Japan.

The national debt is $27.8 trillion. A $27.8 trillion debt would not be an issue if we had a $50 trillion economy.

But we don’t have a $50 trillion economy. We have about a $21 trillion economy, which means our debt is bigger than our economy.

The debt-to-GDP ratio is about 130%. Before the pandemic, it was about 105% (the policy response to the pandemic caused the spike).

Already in the Danger Zone

But even a ratio of 105% is in the danger zone.

Economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart carried out a long historical survey going back 800 years, looking at individual countries, or empires in some cases, that have gone broke or defaulted on their debt.

They put the danger zone at a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90%. Once it reaches 90%, debt becomes a drag on growth.

Meanwhile, we’re looking at deficits of $1 trillion or more, long after the pandemic subsides.

In basic terms, the United States is going broke. We’re heading for a sovereign debt crisis.

I don’t say that for effect. I’m not looking to scare people or to make a splash. That’s just an honest assessment based on the numbers.

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

 

How Gold Is Manipulated

How Gold Is Manipulated

How Gold Is Manipulated

Is there gold price manipulation going on? Absolutely. There’s no question about it. That’s not just an opinion.

There is hard statistical evidence to make the case, in addition to anecdotal evidence and forensic evidence. The evidence is very clear, in fact.

I’ve spoken to members of Congress. I’ve spoken to people in the intelligence community, in the defense community, very senior people at the IMF. I don’t believe in making strong claims without strong evidence, and the evidence is all there.

I spoke to a PhD statistician who works for one of the biggest hedge funds in the world. I can’t mention the fund’s name but it’s a household name. You’ve probably heard of it. He looked at COMEX (the primary market for gold) opening prices and COMEX closing prices for a 10-year period.

He was dumbfounded.

He said it was is the most blatant case of manipulation he’d ever seen. He said if you went into the aftermarket, bought after the close and sold before the opening every day, you would make risk-free profits.

He said statistically that’s impossible unless there’s manipulation occurring.

I also spoke to Professor Rosa Abrantes-Metz at the New York University Stern School of Business. She is the leading expert on globe price manipulation. She has actually testified in gold manipulation cases.

She wrote a report reaching the same conclusions. It’s not just an opinion, it’s not just a deep, dark conspiracy theory. Here’s a PhD statistician and a prominent market expert lawyer, expert witness in litigation qualified by the courts, who independently reached the same conclusion.

How do these manipulations occur?

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

“1984” Has Come to China

“1984” Has Come to China

“1984” Has Come to China

You’re probably familiar with George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; (it’s often published as 1984). It was written in 1948; the title comes from reversing the last two digits in 1948.

The novel describes a world of three global empires, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, in a constant state of war.

Orwell created an original vocabulary for his book, much of which is in common, if sardonic, usage today. Terms such as Thought Police, Big Brother, doublethink, Newspeak and memory hole all come from Nineteen Eight-Four.

Orwell intended it as a warning about how certain countries might evolve in the aftermath of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. He was certainly concerned about Stalinism, but his warnings applied to Western democracies also.

When the calendar year 1984 came and went, many breathed a sigh of relief that Orwell’s prophesy had not come true. But that sigh of relief was premature. Orwell’s nightmare society is here today in the form of Communist China…

China has most of the apparatus of the totalitarian societies described in Orwell’s book. China uses facial recognition software and ubiquitous digital surveillance to keep track of its citizens. The internet is censored and monitored. Real-life thought police will arrest you for expressing opinions opposed to the government or its policies.

Millions of Chinese have been arrested and sent to “reeducation” camps for brainwashing (the lucky ones) or involuntary organ removal without anesthetic (the unlucky ones who die in excruciating pain and are swiftly cremated as a result).

While these atrocities are not going to happen in the U.S. or what passes for the West these days, the less extreme aspects of China’s surveillance state could well be. And while you might not be arrested for expressing unpopular opinions or challenging prevailing dogmas (at least not yet), you could face other sanctions. You could even lose your job and find it nearly impossible to find another.

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

Contagion!

Contagion!

Contagion!

The world is confronting the effects of the “coronavirus.” It likely originated in Wuhan, China, where it jumped from animals to humans at a local food market. It has since spread to other parts of China and beyond.

So far, there are 2,886 confirmed total cases of the coronavirus. All but 61 of them are in mainland China. The death toll so far is 81.

But cases have also been found in France, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere. That list includes the world’s three largest economies (the U.S., China and Japan).

For many, it recalls the SARS outbreak of 2003, which also originated in China. It ultimately killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 in different parts of the world.

Not surprisingly, global markets are on edge over fears of the “coronavirus” contagion spreading. And the U.S. stock market sold off today.

The Dow lost 454 points. The S&P and Nasdaq also had awful days. But gold has a good day, up over $10 to $1,582, as investors looked for safety.

But let’s discuss the word “contagion,” because it applies to both human populations and financial markets — and in more ways than you may expect.

There’s a reason why financial experts and risk managers use the word “contagion” to describe a financial panic.

Obviously, the word contagion refers to an epidemic or pandemic. In the public health field, a disease can be transmitted from human to human through coughing, shared needles, shared food or contact involving bodily fluids.

An initial carrier of a disease (“patient zero”) may have many contacts before the disease even appears.

Some diseases have a latency period of weeks or longer, which means patient zero can infect hundreds before health professionals are even aware of the disease. Then those hundreds can infect thousands or even millions before they are identified as carriers.

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

Don’t Mess With the U.S. (Financially)

Don’t Mess With the U.S. (Financially)

Don’t Mess With the U.S. (Financially)

I’ve been documenting financial warfare in my articles for years, but it still doesn’t get the mainstream attention it deserves.

Because as you’ll see below, it can directly impact your wealth.

Financial warfare tools include account seizures and freezes, expulsion from global payment systems, secondary fines and penalties on banks that do business with targeted entities, embargoes, tariffs and many other impositions.

These tools are amplified by the unique role of the U.S. dollar, which is the currency behind 60% of global reserves, 80% of global payments and almost 100% of transactions in oil.

The U.S. controls the banks and payments systems that process dollar transactions. This leaves the U.S. well positioned to impose dollar-related sanctions.

Much has been made of the recent killing of Iranian terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani. Many say it was an act of war. But guess what, folks?

We’ve been in a full-scale war with Iran for two years now. It’s just that most people don’t realize it.

It’s not a kinetic war with troops, missiles and ships (except Iran’s use of terrorist bombs and the U.S.’ use of drones). And it’s severely damaged the Iranian economy, which has led to protests against the regime.

From the U.S. side, it’s a financial war. People need to stop thinking about financial sanctions as an extension of trade policy, for example.

This is warfare. It’s just a different form of warfare.

It’s critical to understand that financial war is not a sideshow. It may actually be the main event in today’s deeply connected and computerized world.

North Korea is also the current target of a U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign, where harsh sanctions are applied to a wide range of banks, companies and individuals.

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

The Fed Will Not Give up “Dark Money”

The Fed Will Not Give up “Dark Money”

When it comes to second quarter U.S. economic growth figures, interpretation is everything.

On one hand, the projection of 4.1% second quarter growth is a sign of a surging economy set to grow for years to come.

But on the other hand, it is seen as temporary sugar rush created by tax cuts and debt. It’s unsustainable in the light of higher tariffs, an escalating trade war that could impact large portions of the economy, and rising federal deficits that put America even deeper in debt.

Another data point to determine which of these two camps is most accurate for predicting the future of the U.S. economy is job’s figures. July’s jobs report came in with fewer than expected jobs, a gain of 157,000 jobs vs. a forecast of 190,000.

While that miss in itself may not mean much, since the overall jobless rate dropped to 3.9%, the fact that wages are growing slowly remains a concern.

Also concerning is the record amount of household debt. Consumers are using it to spend and that is partially responsible for that 4.1% GDP growth, as I noted on Fox Business recently. But it’s not sustainable.

Add it all up and there’s considerable reason to believe that the 4.1% growth rate is only temporary.

It will not represent the full GDP growth figure over all of 2018, nor will it be the growth figure in 2019 or 2020. Even the Fed admits growth will slacken over the next couple of years.

I don’t often agree with the Fed. But on this point, I agree with the Fed’s forecast for slower growth to come. That outlook presents options for the Fed to create more credit, or what I call dark money to support the markets, to confront inevitable periods of volatility ahead.

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

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon

I’ve written for years that Chinese economic development is partly real and partly smoke and mirrors, and that it’s critical for investors to separate one from the other to make any sense out of China and its impact on the world.

My longest piece on this topic was Chapter Four of my second book, The Death of Money (2014), but I’ve written much else besides, including many articles for my newsletters.

There’s no denying China’s remarkable economic progress over the past thirty years. Hundreds of millions have escaped poverty and found useful employment in manufacturing or services in the major cities.

Infrastructure gains have been historic, including some of the best trains in the world, state-of-the-art transportation hubs, cutting edge telecommunications systems, and a rapidly improving military.

Yet, that’s only half the story.

The other half is pure waste, fraud and theft. About 45% of Chinese GDP is in the category of “investment.” A developed economy GDP such as the U.S. is about 70% consumption and 20% investment.

There’s nothing wrong with 45% investment in a fast-growing developing economy assuming the investment is highly productive and intelligently allocated.

That’s not the case in China. At least half of the investment there is pure waste. It takes the form of “ghost cities” that are fully-built with skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, clubs, and transportation networks – and are completely empty.

This is not just western propaganda; I’ve seen the ghost cities first hand and walked around the empty offices and hotels.

Chinese officials try to defend the ghost cities by claiming they are built for the future. That’s nonsense. Modern construction is impressive, but it’s also high maintenance. Those shiny new buildings require occupants, rents and continual maintenance to remain shiny and functional. The ghost cities will be obsolete long before they are ever occupied.

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

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