Category Archives: Currencies

China is killing the dollar, by Alasdair Macleod

If a country is clearly bent on depreciating its own currency, why hold either the currency or assets denominated in that currency. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

In the wake of the Fed’s promise of 23 March to print money without limit in order to rescue the covid-stricken US economy, China changed its policy of importing industrial materials to a more aggressive stance. In examining the rationale behind this move, this article concludes that while there are sound geopolitical reasons behind it the monetary effect will be to drive down the dollar’s purchasing power, and that this is already happening. More recently, a veiled threat has emerged that China could dump all her US Treasury and agency bonds if the relationship with America deteriorates further. This appears to be a cover for China to reduce her dollar exposure more aggressively. The consequences are a primal threat to the Fed’s policy of escalating monetary policy while maintaining the dollar’s status in the foreign exchanges.

Introduction

On 3 September, China’s state-owned Global Times, which acts as the government’s mouthpiece, ran a front-page article warning that

“China will gradually decrease its holdings of US debt to about $800billion under normal circumstances. But of course, China might sell all of its US bonds in an extreme case, like a military conflict,” Xi Junyang, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics told the Global Times on Thursday”[i].

Do not be misled by the attribution to a seemingly independent Chinese professor: it would not have been the frontpage article unless it was sanctioned by the Chinese government. While China has already taken the top off its US Treasury holdings, the announcement (for that is what it amounts to) that China is prepared to escalate the financial war against America is very serious. The message should be clear: China is prepared to collapse the US Treasury market. In the past, apologists for the US Government have said that China has no one to buy its entire holding. The most recent suggestion is that China’s Treasury holdings will be put in trust for covid victims — a suggestion if enacted would undermine foreign trust in the dollar and could bring its reserve role to a swift conclusion.[ii] For the moment these are peacetime musings. At a time of financial war, if China put her entire holding on the market Treasury yields would be driven up dramatically, unless someone like the Fed steps in to buy the lot.

If that happened China would then have almost a trillion dollars to sell, driving the dollar down against whatever the Chinese buy. And don’t think for a moment that if China was to dump its holding of US Treasuries other foreign holders would stand idly by. This action would probably end the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency with serious consequences for the US and global economies.

There is another possibility: China intends to sell all her US Treasuries anyway and is making American monetary policy her cover for doing so. It is this possibility we will now explore.

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The 21st Century Is Marked By Crisis and Political Division, by Bill Bonner

We’re twenty percent into the 21st century and it hasn’t been a great start. From Bill Bonner at rogueeconomics.com:

Week 26 of the Quarantine

In this bright future, you can’t forget your past.

– Bob Marley

SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – What a colossal flop!

We’re talking about the 21st century. A failure in almost every way.

We now have 30 million people on unemployment – nearly 20% of the labor force.

We have a budget deficit of nearly 20% of GDP.

And, despite already spending $2 for every $1 they collect in taxes, the feds are planning to spend more.

We have phony “conservatives” waving the flag… and real radicals trying to tear it down. On both sides are more and more loonies, locked and loaded…

Even many of our own dear readers are ready to go to war with each other. This is from yesterday’s mailbag:

Hey Dude, we are at WAR! Trump leads the Win-the-War Party! The Neo Repubs are the “What? Me, worry?” Party. And you are like the pet dog nipping at the heels of the soldiers marching past!

No matter the cost, we must win the war against socialism and the Ds. There is time enough to purify ourselves after we win! If we lose, it will be a “thousand years” before our experiment is tried again… Meanwhile it is your obligation to support those who are fighting, regardless of technique and strategy… TRUMP!

Nasty Themes

It is hard to figure out how an administration that declares a moratorium on rent collection, stifles free trade, and runs a deficit of 20% of GDP could save us from socialism… But in this great 21st-century future, wonders never cease.

This week, in this “new normal,” we’ve been trying to remember what the “old normal” was like. And was it really better? Or is it just us?

We recalled what it must have been like when we were born. Of course, it was a very different world back then.

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Dear Jerry and James: You’re Both Wrong About New York, by Charles Hugh Smith

The merchants of debt took over New York and other cities after President Nixon cut the dollars link to anything real back in 1971. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The “system” known as a city, now bloated and overgrown by decades of mal-investment, will be forced to become self-supporting.

So let’s look at the urban exodus that’s exciting so much commentary. Two essays pin each end of the urban exodus spectrum: James Altucher’s NYC Is Dead Forever, Here’s Why focuses on the technological improvements in bandwidth that enable digital-economy types to work from anywhere, and the destabilizing threat of rising crime. In his telling, both will drive a long-term, accelerating urban exodus.

Jerry Seinfeld’s sharp rebuttal, So You Think New York Is ‘Dead’, focuses on the inherent greatness of NYC and other global metropolises based on their unique concentration of wealth, arts, creativity, entertainment, business, diversity, culture, signature neighborhoods, etc.

Today I’m publishing a guest essay on the topic by correspondent R.J.:

Dear Jerry and James: You’re Both Wrong About New York, And I doubt you’ll ever be able to see why.

Fifty years ago, cartoons of New York Mayor John Lindsay were splashed across the editorial pages of American media. Pockets emptied and with a comical expression, he was depicted as a pathetic beggar, hoping somebody, anybody would loan his city the money it desperately needed to continue paying its bills.

His challenge was reflected in just about every other major city, where commercial flight, infrastructure rot, and population loss was on-going and devastating to already corrupt civic finances.

Turned out cities weren’t selling what people wanted to buy. People wanted space, property, and autonomy—the supplies of which cities are specifically designed to restrict for their leader’s own personal aggrandizement. The unprecedented prosperity of the postwar years created a large American middle class with options.

And they opted to move out.

So the city’s economic model fell apart.

Yet twenty years later after John Lindsay went begging, most large cities were experiencing a civic renaissance–with investments in world-class infrastructure, an influx of youth and talent, and rates of population growth that would rival previous heydays.

Budgets were even being balanced.

What happened?

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Economic War With China Is The Final Step Before The “Great Reset”, by Brandon Smith

Can a trade, currency, and debt eruption with China lead to the new world order? From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

This article was written by Brandon Smith and originally published at Birch Gold Group

With the pandemic dominating the news cycle, the general public has been completely distracted from a much more important crisis; namely, the economic crisis. To be sure, economic decay is not as swift or exciting, but I doubt that’s why the mainstream media mostly ignores the issue. From my experience, the media tends to omit coverage of the things they don’t want the population to notice or think about.

Right now, the only word spoken on the economy is “recovery”. Of course, if you’ve been reading my recent articles, you know that the recovery narrative is nonsense. With the small business sector on the verge of collapse, the U.S. economy has no means to recover unless we see a sudden resurgence in industrial production and domestic factories built, and with corporate debt at historic highs, there’s simply no money for that right now. Good luck trying to bankroll a manufacturing renaissance in the middle of a stagflationary environment.

That’s not to say that the rest of the world is much better off, but the U.S. suffers from the added weight of its past financial and monetary “success”. Let me explain…

Recent generations have grown up conditioned to believe that, through the power of central bank fiat currency, all problems can be solved. There has even been a concerted effort within the media to support this lie. Remember when propaganda rags like The Atlantic claimed that central bankers like Ben Bernanke were “the real heroes” saving the economy?

That’s the narrative young adults and investors today have grown up with. Now, whether they believe it is another matter, but as we can see in the world of Robinhood stock trading, there has been little concern for the concept of “bubble markets”. These kids think that the party is eternal because they are backstopped by the Fed, and there’s a lot of shoe-shine boys in the media telling them they are right. However, what they are not being told is that we are in the middle of a collapse dynamic, and the structures they view as reliable are now crumbling.

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Inflation, deflation and other fallacies, by Alasdair Macleod

In history’s most economically productive periods, prices have usually fallen, not risen. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

There can be little doubt that macroeconomic policies are failing around the world. The fallacies being exposed are so entrenched that there are bound to be twists and turns yet to come.

This article explains the fallacies behind inflation, deflation, economic performance and interest rates. They arise from the modern states’ overriding determination to access the wealth of its electorate instead of being driven by a genuine and considered concern for its welfare. Monetary inflation, which has become runaway, transfers wealth to the state from producers and consumers, and is about to accelerate. Everything about macroeconomics is now with that single economically destructive objective in mind.

Falling prices, the outcome of commercial competition and sound money are more aligned with the interests of ordinary people, but that is so derided by neo-Keynesians that today almost without exception everyone believes in inflationism.

And finally, we conclude that the escape from failing fiat will lead to rising nominal interest rates, with all the consequences which that entails. The inevitable outcome is a flight to commodities, including gold and silver, despite rising interest rates for fiat money.

Demand-siders and supply-siders

In a macroeconomics-driven world, economic fallacies abound. They are periodically trashed when disproved, only to arise again as received wisdom for a new generation of macroeconomists determined to justify their statist beliefs. The most egregious of these is that inflation can only occur as the handmaiden of economic growth, while deflation is similarly linked to a recession spinning out of control into the maelstrom of a slump.

This error is the opposite of the facts.

Conventionally, macroeconomists split into two groups. There are the Keynesians who believe in stimulating demand to ensure there will always be markets for goods and services, which they attempt to achieve through additional spending by governments and by discouraging saving, because it is consumption deferred. And there are the supply-siders, who believe in stimulating production through lower corporate taxes and lighter regulation. Both demand and supply-siders advocate monetary inflation in the belief that their methods stimulate an economy so that government spending need not be cut.

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Europeans Discover the Myth About ‘Safety Nets’ the Hard Way, by John Tamny

Cranking out a fiat currency is not a safety net. The only real “safety net” is one based on actual production. From John Tamny at realclearmarkets.com:

Economic discussions would be much better if it were understood that no one receives dollar, euro, yen, pound or yuan “aid.” They receive the goods that those currencies can be exchanged for. Money on its own doesn’t feed, shelter or clothe. It’s only useful insofar as it’s accepted by the producers of actual goods and services.

This simple truth is hopefully useful as a backdrop to what’s happening in Europe right now. As Liz Alderman of the New York Times reported on Tuesday, Europeans are presently suffering rather painful job cuts. In Alderman’s words, “At BP, 10,000 jobs. At Lufthansa, 22,000. At Renault, 14,600.”

To the half awake in our midst, what’s happening is a statement of the obvious. Some of the most stringent lockdowns related to the coronavirus happened in Europe. The shutdowns in France were the strictest, including limits on simply leaving one’s home. The virus spread despite, but so did economic contraction.

That contraction spread was a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Lockdowns by their very name limit activity, including that related to work. With Europeans suddenly experiencing reduced personal and economic mobility, production was naturally going to decline.

All that, plus the only closed economy is the world economy. A not insubstantial portion of Europe’s economic vitality is a consequence of production elsewhere. Translated, tourism looms large on a continent that increasingly limited the inflow of tourists. European goods of the car and clothes variety similarly enchant the world’s citizenry, but with global demand a consequence of supplying first, it’s no insight to say that Europe’s countries suffered economically the lockdowns that took place far from Europe.

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A Rogue Institution and a Clear and Present Danger to Liberty in America, by David Stockman

A central bank is completely incompatible with a free society. From David Stockman at internationalman.com:

We have never heard more gibberish, double talk, and lies from one podium than we have from Fed Chairman Powell.

There is no other way to say it: The Fed has become a dangerous rogue institution that has usurped plenary power over the financial system.

This is all based on implicit theories that eventually lead to a massive speculative blow-off, even as it sucks the vitality out of the Main Street economy in the interim.

The implicit theory is brazenly simple: The Fed believes that relentless credit expansion fosters greater economic growth and full employment. It believes that there is no practical limit to how much debt the household, business, and government sectors of the economy can tolerate or any notable adverse trade-offs from ever-higher leverage ratios.

Self-evidently, lower interest rates foster more debt issuance.

When economic growth falters for any reason, the Fed’s first action is to push rates even lower. This ratcheting process has gone on for more than three decades, and interest rates have, for all practical purposes, been obliterated.

The chart below takes all the short-run bobbing and weaving out of the GDP data by showing the rolling 20-year average of annual growth.

It is dispositive.

By 2019, the rolling 20-year growth trend had fallen to 2.1% per annum—a figure less than half of the 4.4% level in place exactly 50 years ago.

The above dismal trend line was not for want of trying with the debt elixir.

At the end of 1969, total public and private debt (blue area in the chart below) stood at $1.54 trillion, which has since mushroomed to, well, nearly $78 trillion!

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Sound Money Is Key to Defending Our Liberties, by Thorsten Polleit

If humanity is ever to be free, money must be private, with government having no role in it at all. From Thorsten Polleit at mises.org:

The title of this article epitomizes what the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) called the “sound money principle.” As Mises put it:

The sound-money principle has two aspects. It is affirmative in approving the market’s choice of a commonly used medium of exchange. It is negative in obstructing the government’s propensity to meddle with the currency system.1

And further:

It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realise that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments. Ideologically it belongs in the same class with political constitutions and bills of right.2

Mises tells us that sound money is an indispensable line of defense of people’s liberties against the encroachment on the part of the state and that sound money is a kind of money that is not dictated by the state but is chosen by the people in the free marketplace. The world we find ourselves in is a rather different place. Our monies—be it the US dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the yen, or the Swiss franc—represent fiat currencies, monopolized by the state.

Fiat money is economically and socially destructive—with far-reaching and seriously harmful economic and societal consequences, effects that extend beyond what most people would imagine. Fiat money is inflationary; it benefits a few at the expense of many others; it causes boom-and-bust cycles; it leads to overindebtedness; it corrupts society’s morals; and it paves the way toward the almighty, all-powerful state, toward tyranny.

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Doug Casey on Whether It’s Possible to Find Freedom in an Unfree World

The short answer is no, it’s not possible to find freedom in an unfree world, the best you can do is have enough money that you can in some measure protect yourself. From Doug Casey at internationalman.com:

Freedom

A growing number of people are interested in using the State’s power to tell others how to live. They are also voting themselves freebies at the expense of others.

It’s clear that those who want to be left alone won’t be. Is it possible to find freedom in an unfree place?

Doug Casey: Back in 1973, my old friend Harry Browne wrote a really fantastic book called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, where he dealt with exactly that question.

Remember, that was almost 50 years ago now—a lifetime.

The book was timely, even though the world was much freer then than it is now. We now have vastly more financial and travel controls, however—many new penalties for saying, or even appearing to think, the “wrong” things. You’re now monitored in many more ways.

Harry’s book is brilliant and actually more important to read now than it was then. His answers to how you find freedom in an unfree world are useful and relevant.

But the fact is that you can run but you can’t hide.

That’s because the world has been infected by a virus. I don’t mean the ridiculous COVID virus. I mean the virus of statism and collectivism.

There’s really nowhere you can go to be safe from it—only some places that are better than others.

For instance, the so-called Five Eyes countries—the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. They were once the major bastions of Western Civilization, the only civilization—ever—that held personal freedom as an ideal. But now they’re the very ones leading the route downhill.

It’s a real problem for freedom lovers. We’re a smaller and smaller minority. Most people, however, prefer a strong leader promising the illusion of safety and security. Nothing has changed since the days of Rome. It devolved from a yeoman republic to a multicultural empire with onerous taxes in order to pay for bread and circuses to keep the capite censi under control.

In the latter days of the empire, many of its citizens attempted to escape, to live among the barbarians—even while the barbarians were taking over the empire itself. Pretty much the same thing is happening now in the West in general and the US in particular.

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The Fed and the looming capital market meltdown, by Tuomas Malinen

Massive fiat debt issuance is just digging the hole deeper. From Tuomas Malinen at gnseconomics.com:

The Federal Reserve system made a future financial panic or currency panic impossible. It made stable for the first time in the history of the United States the credit system of the people of the United States. – Senate Documents, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., December 6, 1916

We have been watching the “shock-and-awe” bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve with astonishment.  Never before has a central bank tried single-handedly to rescue both the financial system and a large proportion of U.S. corporations. We were taken aback then by Fed actions and are now just as worried about what it has given birth to.

We are unfortunately now in a situation where we cannot speak of “markets” anymore. The Fed has nurtured a dangerous, centrally controlled financial system, á la the Soviet Union. Like its ‘role model’, monolithic systems always fail, as the complexity of financial interactions and the economy will eventually overwhelm the central planners.

Alas, we fear that we are approaching the breaking point of the modern financial order.

The Federal Reserve

After the collapse of banks of the families Peruzzi and Bardi in 1343 and 1346 (the first financial crisis of the Middle Ages), a discussion about a ‘liquidity back-stop’ of the banking system began. The idea of the modern central bank emerged.

For the same reasons, the ‘Panic of 1907’ was a game-changer in an attempt to create a central bank in the US. To put a stop to the bank runs, a coalition led by the illustrious banker J.P. Morgan repeatedly intervened to restore the solvency of several New York banks, which in turn gave more impetus to demands that the U.S. banking system required a permanent institutional source of liquidity.

However, the creation of the Federal Reserve system, in 1913, was beset by worries that it would lead to the “socialization” of the economy. To calm these fears, the authority of the Fed to issue legal tender (or “currency”) was restricted by both the ‘real bills doctrine’ and the distribution of financial power.

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