The Czech election is taking place today, with the ‘Czech Donald Trump’, Andrej Babis, expected to be voted in as Prime Minister. As we noted last week, Babis is the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest person, is demanding the return of greater sovereignty from the EU, rejects the Euro and is against Muslim immigration. He has pledged to run the country like a business, while eliminating corruption. Oh, and he is also facing criminal charges for fraud. Babis’s anti-establishment party ANO stands for “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” and is also the Czech word for “yes”. *** The Prague Daily Monitor (PDM) reports that ‘ANO is the clear favourite of (sic) the election that will take place on Friday and Saturday. Opinion polls indicate that ANO is likely to win two times more votes than the CSSD, which may be narrowly overcome by the Communists (KSCM) and possibly even the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement of populist Tomio Okamura or the right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS).’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 21, 2017.
The shock landslide defeat of PM Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the recent Tokyo metropolitan elections – and the triumph there of Tokyo Governor Koike’s new party (Tomin First) – has lit a faint hope that the radical Japanese monetary expansion policy could be on its way out. The flickering light though is not strong enough to soothe the mania in Japan’s carry trades and so the yen continued to slide in the aftermath of the elections. Between mid-June and early July the Japanese currency depreciated by some 5% against the US dollar and 10% against the euro. The perception in currency markets is that Japan will not be embarking on monetary normalization this year or next, in contrast to Europe where ECB Chief Draghi has hinted that the train (to monetary normalization) will start next year, even though the journey promises to be very slow. The US train to normalization continues at a glacially slow pace including some periods of reverse movement. Moreover the monetary climate prior to the journey commencing is even more extreme in the case of Japan than in Europe or the US. It was possible to imagine that the shock election setback for the LDP could have caused Shinzo Abe to withdraw support from his money-printer in chief, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (whose term ends in April 2008), thereby signaling an early end to negative interest rates and quantitative easing. But markets in their wisdom have concluded this is not to be. Many elderly Japanese are pleased with their stock market and real estate gains even though they complain about negative interest rates and the threat of inflation. In any case it was young voters, responding to the stink of alleged corruption scandals, who turned out en masse for Governor Koike’s new party.
This is how desperate the Italian Banking Crisis has become. When things get serious in the EU, laws get bent and loopholes get exploited. That is what is happening right now in Italy, where the banking crisis has reached tipping point. The ECB, together with the Italian government, have just this weekend to resolve Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, two zombie banks that the ECB, on Friday night, ordered to be liquidated. Unlike Monte dei Pachi di Siena, they will not be bailed out primarily with public funds. Senior bondholders and depositors will be protected while shareholders and subordinate bondholders will lose their shirts. However, as the German daily Welt points out, subordinate bondholders at Monte dei Pachi di Siena had billions of euros at stake, much of it owned by its own retail customers who’d been sold these bonds instead of savings products such as CDs. So for political reasons, they were bailed out. Junior bonds play a smaller role at the two Veneto-based banks. According to the Welt, the two banks combined have 1.33 billion (at face value) in junior bonds outstanding. They last traded between 1 cent and 3 cents on the euro. So worthless. Only about 100 million were sold to their own customers, not enough to cause a political ruckus in Italy. So they will be crushed.
This post was published at Wolf Street by Don Quijones ‘ Jun 25, 2017.
While Marine le Pen has reversed her position on introducing a new French franc saying she will set the rate at one-to-one to the euro and then allow it to float, whereas previously she said she would peg it to a basket of currencies. Meanwhile, we are looking at the collapse of the Fifth Republic formed by Charles de Gaulle. France is clearly on the brink of another political revolution. It has been astonishing to watch four career political candidates for the presidency be rejected by voters – two former presidents and two former prime ministers. Franois Fillon is on the ropes for political corruption. He tries to hold on for personal reasons rather than recognizing he is helping to destroy the Fifth Republic.
Next Tuesday will mark four weeks since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his surprise demonetization announcement that has sent shockwaves throughout the South Asian country’s economy. In an effort to combat corruption, tax evasion and counterfeiting, all 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes are no longer recognized as legal tender. I’ve previously written about the possible ramifications of the ‘war on cash,’ which is strengthening all over the globe, even here in the U. S. Many policymakers, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, are in favor of axing the $100 bill. In May, the European Central Bank (ECB) said it would stop printing the 500 euro note, though it will still be recognized as legal currency. The decision to scrap the ‘Bin Laden’ banknote, as it’s sometimes called, hinged on its association with money laundering and terror financing. Electronic payment systems are convenient, fast and easy, but when a government imposes this decision on you, your economic liberty is debased. In a purely electronic system, every financial transaction is not only charged a fee but can also be tracked and monitored. Taxes can’t be levied on emergency cash that’s buried in the backyard. Central banks could drop rates below zero, essentially forcing you to spend your money or else watch it rapidly lose value. Inevitably, low-income and rural households have been hardest hit by Modi’s currency reform. Barter economies have reportedly sprung up in many towns and villages. Banks have limited the amount that can be withdrawn. Scores of weddings have been called off. Indian stocks plunged below their 200-day moving average. Demonetization has also weighed heavily on the country’s manufacturing sector. The Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI fell to 52.3 in November from October’s 54.4. Although still in expansion mode, manufacturing production growth slowed, possibly signaling further erosion in the coming months.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 2 December 2016.
For a long time, I’ve advocated that the world’s governments should default on their debt. I recognize that this is an outrageous-sounding proposal. However, the debts accumulated by the governments of the U.S., Japan, Europe and dozens of other countries constitute a gigantic mortgage on the next two or three generations, as yet unborn. Savings are proof that a person, or a country, has been living below their means. Debt, on the other hand, is evidence that the world has been living above its means. And the amount of government debt and liabilities in the world is in the hundreds of trillions and growing rapidly, even with essentially zero percent interest rates. This brings up several questions: Will future generations be able to repay it? Will they be willing to? And, if so, should they? My answers are: No, no and no. The ‘should they’ is one moral question that should be confronted. But I’ll go further. There’s another reason government debt should be defaulted on: to punish the people stupid enough, or unethical enough, to lend governments the money they’ve used to do all the destructive things they do. I know it’s most unlikely you’ve ever previously heard this view. And I recognize there would be many unpleasant domino-like effects on today’s over-leveraged and unstable financial system. It’s just that, when a structure is about to collapse, it’s better to have a controlled demolition, rather than waiting for it to collapse unpredictably. That said, governments will perversely keep propping up the house of cards, and building it higher, pushing the nasty consequences further into the future, with compound interest. With that in mind, a few words on the euro, the E.U. and the European Central Bank are in order.
Bonds that allow issuers to defer interest payments are nosediving less than a week after they were sold amid a sell-off of fixed-income assets. Ardagh Group SA’s 845 million euros ($948 million) payment-in-kind toggle notes due September 2023 are indicated at 95.5 cents on the euro, down 4.5 cents from when the Luxembourg-headquartered packaging company sold them on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. German auto components maker Schaeffler AG’s 750 million euros of notes due September 2026 are quoted 97.2 cents down from a sale price of 100 cents on Thursday, the data show.
In a recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff declared that there’s ‘little debate among law-enforcement agencies that paper currency, especially large notes such as the $100 bill, facilitates crime.’ Rogoff would like to discontinue the $100 in order to – try not to laugh – reduce crime. Can the eminent economist really be so nave as to presume that the disappearance of a piece of paper would prove effective at making the U. S. (and the world) more honest and safe? Apparently he does, while lightly acknowledging what economists refer to as the ‘substitution effect.’ If $100 Federal Reserve notes prove scarce, then similar euro and Pound bills will do the job, as will 10,000 yen notes. If $100 bills simplify big criminal transactions, wouldn’t little gold coins simplify crime even more? While Rogoff is fully focused on the problems presented by $100 bills for government, he ignores how problematic it is that our government is so large and intrusive as to want to take away something that we the people (law abiding and not) find convenient. Did it ever occur to Rogoff that maybe there are too many laws and too many crimes as opposed to too many $100 bills? To you the reader, if cocaine and heroin are legalized tomorrow, will you become users? As opposed to wanting to abolish the $100 bill in order to increase our individual freedoms, Rogoff seeks an end to the $100 to increase the size and scope of government. A principle reason Rogoff is in favor of abolishing the C-note is because ‘Cash is also deeply implicated in tax evasion, which costs the federal government some $500 billion a year in revenue.’ Lower federal revenues are apparently bad in the eyes of Rogoff and his ilk, but they’re surely good for the rest of us. Ignored by Rogoff, or worse, understood by the Keynesian thinker, is that a dollar collected by the IRS is an extra dollar for Congress to spend.
The odds are stacked against Matteo Renzi’s economic ambitions for Italy. The prime minister needs to see a blistering pace in the second half of this year to meet his goal of a 1.2 percent expansion in 2016. Economists say that’s not happening, spelling trouble for Renzi and the wider euro area. With Renzi facing a referendum in the autumn that could decide his political future, a stagnant economy and banks hobbled by bad debt are adding to his challenges. While cheaper oil, a weaker euro and unprecedented European Central Bank stimulus helped the Italian economy emerge last year from its longest recession since World War II, that can only take the recovery so far. ‘Italy’s potential growth rate is, as of today, still zero if not slightly negative,’ said Raffaella Tenconi, a London-based economist at Wood & Co. ‘Companies are still too indebted, profitability in the aggregate is very low and the economy overall is in a particularly challenging position having no fiscal or monetary-policy independence.’ Renzi’s government so far is standing by the 2016 growth projection it made in April, despite an economy that stalled in the three months through June. A constitutional reform referendum expected in November is rapidly turning into a test of the 41-year-old premier’s popularity, with unemployment that unexpectedly rose to 11.6 percent in June and a banking crisis that rattled investors large and small. Renzi has said he would quit if he loses the vote.
The Greek government is calling for full disclosure of ALL household wealth. The Greeks are to disclose everything they own – cash worldwide, jewelry, real estate, paintings, and furniture. The Greek government is totally insane and intends to exploit its population simply to remain in the euro without the simplest shred of evidence that such a measure would even benefit the country. They are preparing to impose a compulsory levy to reduce debt owed to Brussels and Germany. This will send the Greek economy into a Fourth World order and destroy one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. There is zero chance of altering the future since the corruption of the Greek government – not the people – created this nightmare to begin with. Now the Greek population will have to pay for the fraud their government carried out with the aid of Goldman Sachs.
Last week everyone was clamoring about Italy. In the aftermath of the UK’s European Union referendum, markets started worrying about what a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, would mean for one of the euro area’s sore spots: Italian banks. But this week attention has started to shift over to Portugal – and not just because of its victory over France in the Euro 2016 final. Rather, markets are once again feeling antsy about the Iberian nation’s banking problems as macroeconomic conditions start to deteriorate. ‘The UK referendum hit an already vulnerable banking system in the eurozone. Italian banksare on the front burner, but the temperature is rising in Portugal,’ Marc Chandler, the global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, wrote in a Monday note to clients. ‘The country is struggling with a systemic banking crisis, the lack of a convincing medium-term fiscal plan and excessive public and private sector leverage,’ a Barclays team led by Antonio Garcia Pascual observed in a note to clients.
Bloomberg’s Tom Keene (Monday, June 27, 2016): ‘If I take Paul Krugman and Alan Greenspan’s primal cry, ‘we want simple models.’ Is our solution now to think simple or is there a value to the complexity of globalization and the complexity of institutions? Which way should we turn now?’ Alan Greenspan ‘You want to have as simple a model as you can get that actually captures the complexity of the forces in play… The FRBUS (Federal Reserve Board US) model… that model works exceptionally well for the non-financial area… The financial model was awful. It captured nothing. It didn’t grasp what the issue is. And I tried to reproduce what I would do in ‘The Map and the Territory 2.0′… And I demonstrate what we have going – that we don’t measure correctly – are bubbles and their implications. Bubbles per se are not toxic. The 2000 bubble collapsed. We barely could see a change in economic activity. On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones went down 23% in one day. You will not find the slightest indication of that collapse of that bubble in the GDP number – or in industrial production or anything else. So I think that you have to basically decide what is causing what. I think the major issue in the financial models has got to be to capture the bubble effect. Bubbles are essentially part of of the fact that human nature is not wholly rational. And you can see it in the data very clearly.’ As Mr. Greenspan spoke on Bloomberg Radio Monday morning, the UK’s FTSE 100 Index was trading just above 6,000. Europe’s STOXX 600 Banks Index was down 7.2% for the session at 120. Germany’s DAX index was quoted at 9,370. Also suffering post-Brexit effects, S&P500 futures were trading just above 2000. Bloomberg ran the headlines: ‘Greenspan: Brexit ‘Terrible Outcome in All Respects.” ‘Greenspan: Euro is Unstable Currency.’ The former Fed chairman was extraordinarily gloomy on the UK, Europe and the world. Markets that morning appeared wholly rational.
Money, generally accepted medium of exchange, acts as a veil that confuse and blurs economic relations. This is especially true when it comes to intertemporal considerations. Whilst probably the most important institution in a free market, money can be highly destructive when politicized. Why? Because politics is about power and distribution of real wealth. And since money affect almost every single transaction, politics can span throughout society with ease when in control of money. Amchel Rothschild was spot on when he allegedly said ‘[g]ive me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.’ Power over money is power over people and power over people is, well, pure power. Money is thus the most sacred tool in a statist’s toolbox and has become instrumental in their quest to control society and allocate resources as they see fit. It is within this context the monstrosity called the euro need to be analyzed. By pooling Western European countries within the realm of one central bank, power over people increases immensely. There is a catch though; as power increases, greed and corruption increases with it and the temptation to go too far is obvious for all to see. Money coordinates production with consumption, saving with investment and properly done, money will create the means for a smooth flow of resources among the millions or even billions of people transacting with each other. Politicize money and economic imbalances, between economic agents and even over time, will grow and destabilize the system. It is no exaggeration to say that the welfare and prosperity of the populace depends on a well-functioning monetary system.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 30, 2016.
Money, generally accepted medium of exchange, acts as a veil that confuse and blurs economic relations. This is especially true when it comes to intertemporal considerations. Whilst probably the most important institution in a free market, money can be highly destructive when politicized. Why? Because politics is about power and distribution of real wealth. And since money affect almost every single transaction, politics can span throughout society with ease when in control of money. Amchel Rothschild was spot on when he allegedly said ‘[g]ive me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.’ Power over money is power over people and power over people is, well, pure power. Money is thus the most sacred tool in a statist’s toolbox and has become instrumental in their quest to control society and allocate resources as they see fit. It is within this context the monstrosity called the euro need to be analyzed. By pooling Western European countries within the realm of one central bank, power over people increases immensely. There is a catch though; as power increases, greed and corruption increases with it and the temptation to go too far is obvious for all to see. Money coordinates production with consumption, saving with investment and properly done, money will create the means for a smooth flow of resources among the millions or even billions of people transacting with each other. Politicize money and economic imbalances, between economic agents and even over time, will grow and destabilize the system. It is no exaggeration to say that the welfare and prosperity of the populace depends on a well-functioning monetary system. The most important function money has, in our view, is its ability to create recessions, or as we like to call it, disruptions of unsustainable resource flows.
The yuan drew close to eclipsing the lows reached during January’s turmoil as factory data failed to damp concern about the economic outlook and speculation mounted that the Federal Reserve is preparing to raise interest rates. The Chinese currency fell 0.05 percent to 6.5815 a dollar as of 5:11 p.m. in Shanghai, about 0.2 percent away from its five-year low in January. The exchange rate dropped as much as 0.25 percent on Wednesday, but pulled back amid talk of state support as well as a surge in the euro. Manufacturing gauges released Wednesday showed activity remained subdued in May, after April economic data trailed estimates. Investors are now predicting a 53 percent chance the Fed will raise interest rates at its July meeting, up from 26 percent a month ago. The U. S. and China will hold their annual economic meeting next week. ‘Today’s PMI reports and the recent dollar strength both point to further weakening pressure on the yuan,’ said Kenix Lai, a Hong Kong-based foreign-exchange analyst at Bank of East Asia Ltd. ‘The People’s Bank of China may also want to let the currency follow market forces to weaken ahead of the U. S.-China economic dialogue later this month.’
In the 1970s economists started to incorporate rational expectations into their models and not long after the seminal Kydand & Prescott (1977) article named Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plan was published. Their work has been driving the mainstream macroeconomic debate ever since. The question raised in this debate is how policy-makers can credible commit to promises made today when future events may cause short-term pain if restricted by stringent rules from taking action? For example, in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union Article 125 it clearly states that ‘the Union [or any Member States] shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities…’ it also says in Article 123 that’[o]verdraft facilities or any other type of credit facility with the European Central Bank or with the central banks of the Member States… …in favour of Union institutions… …shall be prohibited, as shall the purchase directly from them by the European Central Bank or national central banks of debt instruments.’Both rules are there to credibly commit to not bail out EU nations either through ECB inflation or with other member states tax euros. Needless to say, after SMP, OMT, ELA, EFSF, ESM, maturity extensions and interest rates reductions these rules turned out to be useless. Rational actors obviously adapt their behaviour accordingly as the European Union turns into tragedy of the commons where moral hazard abounds. Actually, the whole monetary union has been a monetary tragedy of commons since its inception as credit expansion in one country did not have any of the adverse effects associated with either falling exchange rates or gold outflows. The euro area essentially incentivises maximized inflation with no natural correcting mechanisms apart from gargantuan capital consumption that goes along with it.
The dollar’s three-week rally is just the beginning, according to Deutsche Bank AG. A slump by the greenback earlier this year has ‘likely run its course,’ analysts at the world’s second-largest currency trader wrote in a note Friday. The bank favors buying the U. S. currency versus emerging markets – such as China, Mexico and South Korea – following a shakeout in speculative bets on the dollar, George Saravelos, co-head of global foreign-exchange research in London, wrote. With policy makers from the Group-of-Seven economies meeting in Japan, the Federal Reserve this week gave the dollar a boost by signaling that it may raise interest rates as soon as June. That helped send the greenback to a seven-week high, providing relief to policy makers outside the U. S. who have watched with dismay as a weaker dollar eroded the stimulatory effect of interest-rate cuts and bond purchases. ‘The dollar still has some legs,’ said Sebastien Galy, a strategist at Deutsche Bank in New York. ‘The global dollar trend is probably far less appealing than it used to be, but there’s still some opportunity there.’ The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which tracks the dollar versus 10 peers, added 0.8 percent this week. The greenback rose 0.8 percent to $1.1224 per euro and gained 1.4 percent to 110.15 yen.
As interest rates in Europe fall near or below zero, lawmakers and consumer advocates in Spain and Portugal are attacking an ancient tenet of finance by insisting that lenders can owe money to borrowers. Banks in the two countries, struggling to recover from recessions that shook their financial systems, are fighting back, with billions of dollars in mortgage interest payments potentially at stake. Portugal’s central-bank governor, in a reversal, has rushed to defend the banks against a proposed law that would require them to pay borrowers when interest rates turn negative. Banks in both countries are rewriting new mortgage contracts to warn homeowners that they could never profit from subzero rates. In Spain and Portugal, banks typically tie interest rates on mortgages to the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, a fluctuating rate banks pay to borrow from each other. In addition, interest rates in both countries include a fixed percentage of the loan, called the spread. In much of Europe, by contrast, fixed mortgage rates are common. Euribor began turning negative last year after the European Central Bank cut interest rates below zero – charging lenders to hold deposits – to stimulate the Continent’s economies. That has pulled mortgage rates into negative territory in a few isolated cases in Portugal.
Italy is running out of economic time. Seven years into an ageing global expansion, the country is still stuck in debt-deflation and still grappling with a banking crisis that it cannot combat within the paralyzing constraints of monetary union. ‘We have lost nine percentage points of GDP since the peak of the crisis, and a quarter of our industrial production,’ says Ignazio Visco, the rueful governor of the Banca d’Italia. Each year Rome hopefully pencils in a fall in the ratio of public debt to GDP, and each year the ratio rises. The reason is always the same. Deflationary conditions prevent nominal GDP rising fast enough to outgrow the debt. The putative savings from drastic fiscal austerity – cuts in public investment – were overwhelmed by the crushing arithmetic of the ‘denominator effect’. Debt was 121pc in 2011, 123pc in 2012, 129pc in 2013. It came close to levelling out last year at 132.7pc, helped by the tailwinds of a cheap euro, cheap oil, and Mario Draghi’s fairy dust of quantitative easing. This triple stimulus is already fading before the country escapes the stagnation trap. The International Monetary Fund expects growth of just 1pc this year. The global window is closing in any case. US wage growth will probably force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and wild speculation will certainly force China to rein in its latest credit boom. Italy will enter the next downturn – perhaps early next year – with every macro-economic indicator in worse shape than in 2008, and half the country already near political revolt.
Money was in the news this week as Treasury Secretary Jack Lewsided with Ben Bernanke, announcing that the father of crony capitalism gets to stay on the ten dollar bill while Andrew Jackson makes way for Harriett Tubman. But why stop at Jackson? As Ryan McMaken argues, the country would be better off eliminating all politicians from our currency. Then again many in government and the halls of central banks would prefer to simply do away with cash entirely, with the European Central Bank announcing they will no longer produce 500 notes this week. Of course, more important than the banknotes themselves are the policies behind them. And while the Euro Zone moves toward helicopter money, China is busy taking steps to make the yuan redeemable in gold.