Category Archives: Debt

Russia’s intentions are clarifying, by Alasdair Macleod

The Russians have a not-so-secret weapon that would devastate the U.S.: back the ruble with gold. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

We have confirmation from the highest sources that Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) are considering using gold for pan-Asian trade settlements, fully replacing dollars and euros.

In an article written for Vedomosti, a Moscow-based Russian newspaper published on 27 December, Sergey Glazyev, a prominent economic adviser to Vladimir Putin who is heading up the Eurasian Economic Union committee charged with devising a replacement for dollars in trade settlements sent a very clear signal to that effect. It appears he will drop earlier plans to design a new commodity-linked trade currency because it has been superseded.

Furthermore, increasing numbers of nations have joined or have applied to join the SCO as dialog members, including Saudi Arabia and other important Gulf Cooperation Organisation members. The economic benefits of discounted energy, China’s investment capital, and sound money are the ingredients for a new, Asia-wide industrial revolution, while the economies of the western alliance sink under rising prices, rising interest rates, collapsing financial markets, and collapsing currencies.

While it will mark the end of the road for the western alliance and its fiat currencies, Putin must be careful not to take the blame. Now that the alliance is racking up tanks and other equipment for the Ukrainians, they are actively promoting a new battle, with NATO getting almost directly involved. It is that action which will drive up commodity prices, undermine western financial markets, undermine government finances, and ultimately collapse their currencies. 

Putin is likely to use NATO’s impetuous action in defence of Ukraine as cover for securing Russia’s future as an Asian superstate, which will be the west’s undoing.

Introduction

We forget, perhaps, that from 1 March 1950 the Soviet rouble was on a gold standard at 4 roubles 45 kopecks for 1 gram of pure gold until 1961, when Khrushchev devalued it and refixed it to the dollar. Stalin had been a signatory to the Bretton Woods agreement but refused to join it and make the rouble subservient to the dollar as its intermediary for a gold standard.

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The Most Egregious Mistake, by Alastair Crooke

Without the reserve currency, U.S. power will be greatly diminished and the government will have to come to terms with a multipolar world. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

The U.S. government is hostage to its financial hegemony in a way that is rarely fully understood.

It is the miscalculation of this era – one that may begin the collapse of dollar primacy, and therefore, global compliance with U.S. political demands, too. But its most grievous content is that it corners the U.S. into promoting dangerous Ukrainian escalation against Russia directly (i.e. Crimea).

Washington dares not – indeed cannot – yield on dollar primacy, the ultimate signifier for ‘American decline’. And so the U.S. government is hostage to its financial hegemony in a way that is rarely fully understood.

The Biden Team cannot withdraw its fantastical narrative of Russia’s imminent humiliation; they have bet the House on it. Yet it has become an existential issue for the U.S. precisely because of this egregious initial miscalculation that has been subsequently levered-up into a preposterous narrative of a floundering, at any moment ‘collapsing’ Russia.

What then is this ‘Great Surprise’ – the almost completely unforeseen event of recent geo-politics that has so shaken U.S. expectations, and which takes the world to the precipice?

It is, in a word, Resilience. The Resilience displayed by the Russian economy after the West had committed the entire weight of its financial resources to crushing Russia. The West bore down on Russia in every conceivable way – via financial, cultural and psychological war – and with real military war as the follow-through.

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A Dollar Collapse Is Now In Motion – Saudi Arabia Signals The End Of Petro Status, by Brandon Smith

More and more countries are signalling that they no longer want to trade real commodities, particularly oil, for pieces of paper or computer entries. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

The decline of a currency’s world reserve status is often a long process rife with denials. There are numerous economic “experts” out there that have been dismissing any and all warnings of dollar collapse for years. They just don’t get it, or they don’t want to get it. The idea that the US currency could ever be dethroned as the defacto global trade mechanism is impossible in their minds.

One of the key pillars keeping the dollar in place as the world reserve is its petro-status, and this factor is often held up as the reason why the Greenback cannot fail. The other argument is that the dollar is backed by the full force of the US military, and the US military is backed by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve – In other words, the dollar is backed by…the dollar; it’s a very circular and naive position.

These sentiments are not only pervasive among mainstream economists, they are also all over the place within the alternative media. I suspect the main hang-up for liberty movement analysts is the notion that the globalist establishment would ever allow the dollar or the US economy to fail. Isn’t the dollar system their “golden goose”?

The answer is no, it is NOT their golden goose. The dollar is just another stepping stone towards their goal of a one-world economy and a one-world currency. They have killed the world reserve status of other currencies in the past, why wouldn’t they do the same to the dollar?

Globalist white papers and essays specifically outline the need for a diminished role for the US currency as well as a decline in the American economy in order to make way for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and a new global currency system controlled by the IMF. I warned about this years go, and my position has always been that the derailment of the dollar would likely start with the end of its petro status.

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Decline of Empire: Parallels Between the U.S. and Rome, Part IV, by Doug Casey

Part IV of Doug Casey’s exploration of parallels between the Roman and American empires. From Casey at internationalman.com:

rome

See here for Part III

Now to gratify the Druids among you.

Soil exhaustion, deforestation, and pollution—which abetted plagues—were problems for Rome. As was lead poisoning, in that the metal was widely used for eating and drinking utensils and for cookware. None of these things could bring down the house, but neither did they improve the situation. They might be equated today with fast food, antibiotics in the food chain, and industrial pollutants. Is the U.S. agricultural base unstable because it relies on gigantic monocultures of bioengineered grains that in turn rely on heavy inputs of chemicals, pesticides, and mined fertilizers? It’s true that production per acre has gone up steeply because of these things, but that’s despite the general decrease in depth of topsoil, destruction of native worms and bacteria, and growing pesticide resistance of weeds.

Perhaps even more important, the aquifers needed for irrigation are being depleted. But these things have all been necessary to maintain the U.S. balance of trade, keep food prices down, and feed the expanding world population. It may turn out, however, to have been a bad trade-off.

I’m a technophile, but there are some reasons to believe we may have serious problems ahead. Global warming, incidentally, isn’t one of them. One of the reasons for the rise of Rome—and the contemporaneous Han in China—may be that the climate cyclically warmed considerably up to the 3rd century, then got much cooler. Which also correlates with the invasions by northern barbarians.

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New England Farmer Sues Town for ‘Home Equity Theft’ In Federal Court, by Matthew Vadum

This is blatant theft. From Matthew Vadum at The Epoch Times via zerohedge.com:

After a town in central Massachusetts seized dramatically more than what a farmer owed in property taxes, the farmer is suing the town in federal court for alleged “home equity theft.”

Alan DiPietro in an undated photograph at his alpaca farm in central Massachusetts. (Courtesy Pacific Legal Foundation)

Alpaca farmer Alan DiPietro, an engineer by training who lives outside of Worcester, filed suit (pdf) earlier this month against the town of Bolton, claiming that the seizure constitutes an unlawful taking of his property in violation of the Massachusetts Constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

When Bolton took DiPietro’s home in December 2021, it had a market value of at least $370,000. The town subtracted his debt of about $60,000 and pocketed the remaining approximately $310,000 in equity.

Massachusetts law permits the government to keep the excess amount. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which is representing DiPietro, calls this home equity theft. Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow local governments and private investors to seize dramatically more than what’s owed from homeowners who fall behind on property tax payments, according to the PLF, which issued a December 2022 report on the practice, The Epoch Times reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon take up the issue of home equity theft in a PLF case.

On Jan. 13, the court agreed to hear Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, the appeal of a 94-year-old homeowner who’s challenging the constitutionality of laws that allow local governments to take the full value of a home as payment for much smaller property tax debts. The county seized Geraldine Tyler’s condo, valued at $93,000, and sold it for just $40,000. Instead of keeping the $15,000 it was owed, the county retained the full $40,000, amounting to a windfall of $25,000, according to the PLF. A date for the hearing has yet to be determined.

DiPietro had been raising alpacas and marketing their fleece since 2008 in Bolton, a town in the Nashoba Valley region. But by 2014, he needed more land, so he purchased 34 undeveloped acres situated in Bolton and the neighboring town of Stow. He mowed the existing fields and put up fencing and some small structures, unaware that Bolton would claim that the improvements required local permits.

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Don’t Call It Capitalism: The Fed’s $8 Trillion Hoard of Financial Assets, by Ryan McMaken

There’s not an important area of the economy into which the government does not meddle, which means those areas are mixed economy, not capitalist. Nowhere is this more evident than in banking. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

It’s a sure bet that as the economy worsens, unemployment surges, foreclosures rise, defaults climb, and economic misery ensues, we’ll be told it’s all capitalism’s fault. The question one must ask, however, is, “What capitalism?”

The claim that “too much” capitalism drives every economic calamity is standard among anticapitalists on both the left and the right. They have many bullet points claiming government programs and government spending are everywhere retreating while free-market capitalism is experiencing a resurgence. This can be easily shown to be empirically false. Evidence can be found in everything from the continual flood of government regulations to rising per capita taxation and spending to the growing army of government employees. That’s all in the United States, mind you, the supposed headquarters of “free-market capitalism.” We might also point to how the US welfare state, including the immense amounts of government spending on healthcare and pensions, is on a par with European welfare states in terms of size. The supposed lack of social benefits programs in the US has long been a myth. The trend in spending, taxation, and regulation is unambiguously upward.

In recent years, though, one additional indictor of just how little capitalism is actually going on has surfaced: central banks around the world are buying up huge amounts of financial assets in order to subsidize certain industries, inflate prices, and generally manipulate the economy. This is certainly true of the American central bank, the Federal Reserve.

How the Federal Reserve Came to Dominate Financial Asset Markets

While the Fed has long bought government debt in its so-called open-market operations to manipulate the interest rate, wholesale buying of financial assets began in 2008. This included both US government Treasurys and—in a new development—private-sector mortgage-backed securities (MBSs). This was done to prop up banks and other firms that had bet on the lie that “home prices always go up.” The value of mortgage-backed securities was falling fast, so beginning in 2008, the Fed bought up MBSs to the tune of $1.7 trillion. That was all before covid.

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Open Madness in Global Bond Markets: Got Gold? by Matthew Piepenburg

It’s inevitable that sovereign bond markets of bankrupt sovereigns will fall apart. From Matthew Piepenburg at goldswitzerland.com:

The slow but steady implosion of global bond markets is no longer a debate but fact. Knowing this, investors can better brace themselves for the policy and market reactions to come.

Below, we once again follow the patterns of math and cycles (as well as the open failure of policy makers) to foresee the direction of risk assets, currencies and gold.

The End of Negative Yields: Anything but a Good Sign

Recently, Bloomberg happily announced that the era of “negative yielding” (which technically means “defaulting”) USD bonds is over as yields are now “nominally positive.”

Global bond markets

“Great news!” they tell the huddling masses.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Let me repeat that: Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yields are only outpacing already embarrassing inflation metrics because bond prices, which move inversely to yields, are tanking in a world which no longer wants or trust USD-based IOUs.

In other words: All this means is that bonds are tanking and inflation is roaring at the same time.

Great news?

Furthermore, this so-called “return to normalcy” in positive nominal yields is in fact a neon-flashing sign (or needle) pointing toward the end (and bursting) of a global debt bubble in government bonds.

What’s worse, and as the following graph makes objectively clear, is that it’s not just sovereign bonds that are tanking, but the entire credit asset class, from CMBS to Investment Grade.

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Contrarian Thoughts on the Petro-Yuan and Gold-Backed Currencies, by Charles Hugh Smith

Charles Hugh Smith has a pretty good handle on how currencies work. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

Rather than cheer the concept of a new currency, we’re better served to look at the velocity of that currency and the cycles of investing that currency in assets denominated in that currency for a low-risk return.

Longtime readers know not to expect me to rubber-stamp anything, be it the status quo or proposed alternatives. Our interests are best served by screening everything through the mesh of independent analysis, a.k.a. contrarianism. Which brings us to the two sources of alt-media excitement in the currency space, the petro-yuan and another wave of proposed gold-backed currencies.

I’m all for competing currencies. The more transparent and open the market for currencies, the better. In my view, everyone should be able to buy and trade whatever currencies they feel best suits their goals and purposes.

In all the excitement over de-dollarization, some basics tend to get overlooked.

1. The yuan remains pegged to the US dollar, so it remains a proxy for the USD. It will only become a true reserve currency when China lets the yuan float freely on the global FX market and yuan-denominated bonds also float freely on global bond markets. In other words, a currency can only be a reserve currency rather than a proxy if the price and risk of the currency is discovered by global markets, not centralized monetary/state authorities.

2. Most commentators stop on first base of the oil-currency cycle: China buys oil from exporting nations by exchanging yuan for oil. So far so good. But what can the oil exporters do with the yuan? That’s the tricky part: the petro-yuan has to work not just for China but for the oil exporters who will be accumulating billions of yuan.

The oil exporters can hold some yuan as reserves, but the global market for yuan is not very large. What assets can they buy with yuan? Again, the global market of assets denominated in yuan is limited. The oil exporters can buy assets in China, of course, but with China’s property bubble finally popping, deglobalization sapping its export sector and Xi’s widespread disruption of private capital, the bloom is off the China Story in fundamental ways.

Why would oil exporters invest billions of yuan while Chinese wealth is leaving China?

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Global South: Gold-backed currencies to replace the US dollar, by Pepe Escobar

Keep in mind that a currency isn’t “gold-backed” unless it’s exchangeable for gold from the issuer. We’re still a long way from that. From Pepe Escobar at thecradle.co:

The adoption of commodity-backed currencies by the Global South could upend the US dollar’s dominance and level the playing field in international trade.

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/the-power-of-BRICS-3.jpg

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Let’s start with three interconnected multipolar-driven facts.

First: One of the key take aways from the World Economic Forum annual shindig in Davos, Switzerland is when Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, on a panel on “Saudi Arabia’s Transformation,” made it clear that Riyadh “will consider trading in currencies other than the US dollar.”

So is the petroyuan finally at hand? Possibly, but Al-Jadaan wisely opted for careful hedging: “We enjoy a very strategic relationship with China and we enjoy that same strategic relationship with other nations including the US and we want to develop that with Europe and other countries.”

Second: The Central Banks of Iran and Russia are studying the adoption of a “stable coin” for foreign trade settlements, replacing the US dollar, the ruble and the rial. The crypto crowd is already up in arms, mulling the pros and cons of a gold-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) for trade that will be in fact impervious to the weaponized US dollar.

A gold-backed digital currency

The really attractive issue here is that this gold-backed digital currency would be particularly effective in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Astrakhan, in the Caspian Sea.

Astrakhan is the key Russian port participating in the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC), with Russia processing cargo travelling across Iran in merchant ships all the way to West Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

The success of the INSTC – progressively tied to a gold-backed CBDC – will largely hinge on whether scores of Asian, West Asian and African nations refuse to apply US-dictated sanctions on both Russia and Iran.

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Japan Is Perhaps the Most Important Risk in the World, an Interview with Jim Grant and Christoph Gisiger

The Japanese bond market is a financial time bomb whose fuse has been lit. From Christoph Gisiger and Jim Grant at themarket.ch:

Speculation is mounting that the Bank of Japan is losing control of the bond market. Jim Grant, editor of «Grant’s Interest Rate Observer», believes this could trigger a shock to the global financial system. He also explains why he expects further surges in inflation and why gold should be part of your portfolio.

The news caught markets off guard: On December 20th, the Bank of Japan surprisingly extended the target range for the yield on ten-year government bonds to plus/minus 0.5%. A move that not a single economist had expected.

This week, the Bank of Japan could announce a major policy shift amid rising government bond yields and a strengthening yen. Although barely a month has passed since the BoJ’s last meeting, the bond market is already testing the new upper limit of the yield curve control regime.

«To us, Japanese interest rate policy resembles the Berlin Wall of the late Cold War era, a stale anachronism that must sooner or later fall,» says Jim Grant. For the editor of the iconic investment bulletin «Grants’ Interest Rate Observer,» recent developments in Japan pose an underestimated risk to global financial markets. Not least because virtually no one is talking about it.

In an in-depth interview with The Market NZZ, which has been slightly edited for clarity, Mr. Grant explains what it means for financial markets if the Bank of Japan is forced to scrap its yield curve control policy. But first, he says why he doesn’t believe inflation will end soon, why bonds may be at the start of a long bear market, and why he believes gold is the best choice as a store of value.

«If the past is prologue and if the great bond bull market is over, then on form, we are looking at what could be a very prolonged and perhaps gradual move higher in interest rates»: Jim Grant.

«If the past is prologue and if the great bond bull market is over, then on form, we are looking at what could be a very prolonged and perhaps gradual move higher in interest rates»: Jim Grant.

What do you observe when you look at the financial world today?

Well, it’s always the same, and – here’s the catch – it’s always a little different. The trick is to identify the unique or unusual feature of a familiar cycle. In this regard, it helps to know a little bit of financial history, and to just that extent it helps to be a little old. But what is not helpful is to mistake the past for a certain roadmap to the future.

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