Category Archives: Financial markets

Contagion! By James Rickards

In a massively over-indebted and interconnected world, financial collapse can spread like wildfire. The Chinese property sector may be the beginning of the conflagration. From James Rickard at dailyreckoning.com:

There has been a litany of bad news recently, including the U.S. August humiliation in Afghanistan, China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and increased tensions with Iran, North Korea and Russia.

It will take the U.S. years, possibly decades, to recover from the debacle of August 2021 and the collapse of American prestige. All of these geopolitical events combine to undermine confidence in U.S. power.

When that happens, a loss of confidence in the U.S. dollar is not far behind.

And, perhaps most importantly of all recent bad news, is a market meltdown and slowing growth in China.

Greatest Ponzi Ever

I’ve long advised my readers that the Chinese wealth management product (WMP) system is the greatest Ponzi in the history of the world. Retail investors are led to believe that WMPs are like bank deposits and are backed by the bank that sells them. They’re not.

They’re actually unsecured units in blind pools that can be invested in anything the pool manager wants.

Most WMP funds have been invested in the real estate sector. This has led to asset bubbles in real estate (at best) and wasted developments that cannot cover their costs (at worst). When investors wanted their money back, the sponsor would simply sell more WMPs and use the money to pay back the redeeming investors.

That’s what gave the product its Ponzi characteristic.

The total amount invested in WMPs is now in the trillions of dollars used to finance thousands of projects sponsored by hundreds of major developers. Chinese investors are all-in with WMPs.

Now the entire edifice is collapsing as I predicted it would.

The largest property developer in China, Evergrande, is quickly headed for bankruptcy. That’s a multibillion-dollar fiasco on its own. Evergrande losses will arise in WMPs, corporate debt, unpaid contractor bills, equity markets and unfinished housing projects.

China’s entire property and financial system is on the verge of a world-historic crack-up. And it won’t remain limited to China.

It comes back to contagion.

Continue reading→

Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class, by Whitney Webb

There is nothing Wall Street can’t monetize, and that includes nature. From Whitney Webb at unlimitedhangout.com:

A project of the multilateral development banking system, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Stock Exchange recently created a new asset class that will put, not just the natural world, but the processes underpinning all life, up for sale under the guise of promoting “sustainability.

Last month, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced it had developed a new asset class and accompanying listing vehicle meant “to preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.” Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.” These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end of goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.

Though described as acting like “any other entity” on the NYSE, it is alleged that NACs “will use the funds to help preserve a rain forest or undertake other conservation efforts, like changing a farm’s conventional agricultural production practices.” Yet, as explained towards the end of this article, even the creators of NACs admit that the ultimate goal is to extract near-infinite profits from the natural processes they seek to quantify and then monetize.

NYSE COO Michael Blaugrund alluded to this when he said the following regarding the launch of NACs: “Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that’s intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.”

Framed with the lofty talk of “sustainability” and “conservation”, media reports on the move in outlets like Fortune couldn’t avoid noting that NACs open the doors to “a new form of sustainable investment” which “has enthralled the likes of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink over the past several years even though there remain big, unanswered questions about it.” Fink, one of the world’s most powerful financial oligarchs, is and has long been a corporate raider, not an environmentalist, and his excitement about NACs should give even its most enthusiastic proponents pause if this endeavor was really about advancing conservation, as is being claimed.

Continue reading→

Doug Casey on Why the US Is Headed into Its Fourth Turning

We’re definitely in the Fourth Turning of Strauss and Howe’s generational cycle. From Doug Casey at internationalman.com:

Fourth turning

International Man: The economic, political, social, and cultural situation seems to have become increasingly volatile in the United States and more broadly in the West. Is this a unique situation or part of a recurring historical cycle?

Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe introduced a popular theory in their book, The Fourth Turning, outlining the recurring generational cycles that have occurred throughout American history.

What are your thoughts?

Doug Casey: I read Strauss and Howe’s first book, Generations, when it came out back in 1992. I thought it was brilliant.

Let me start off by recommending both Generations and The Fourth Turning to everybody. Both books offer quite a scholarly, readable, and prescient view of the cyclicality of history. And offer a very plausible forecast for the 2020s.

History’s best seen as cyclical, rather than a straight-line progress to some preordained end the way both the Marxists and the Abrahamic religions see it. But then, Ecclesiastes has its famous quote that there’s nothing new under the sun.

Plato in the Republic talks about how the younger generation—and we’re talking fourth century BC—can’t stand up to the moral values of their forefathers.

Older people have always thought that the younger generation wouldn’t quite measure up. In recent American history, you’ll recall, the younger generation were the beatniks in the ’50s, the hippies in the ’60s, and the yuppies in the ’80s—so it’s a passing parade. Older people have a tendency to think the world is going downhill. Nothing new there. But there’s always a rebirth.

Niccolò Machiavelli, in his Florentine Histories, said:

Virtue gives birth to tranquility, tranquility to leisure, leisure to disorder, disorder to ruin… and similarly from ruin, order is born, from order virtue, from virtue, glory and good fortune.

The bottom line is that societies arise from poverty through moral strength—and that brings them prosperity. But that prosperity brings on arrogance, and the arrogance brings on laziness, which brings on weakness and moral decline. Then they’re reduced to a condition of slavery and poverty again. Change is the only constant—except in human nature.

As I look at the United States, it seems to me the peak of American culture was the time just before Teddy Roosevelt came into office. Teddy is certainly among the top five worst presidents. And there’s plenty of competition for that title.

He was the first real “progressive” president; he wanted the government actively involved in all areas of life.

Continue reading→

Will Risk Parity Blow Up…??? by Harris “Kuppy” Kupperman

You own bonds to offset the risks of stocks and vice versa, but what happens when they both go down in extended bear markets? From Harris “Kuppy” Kupperman at wolfstreet.com:

When something that is this widely adopted blows up, it tends to blow up spectacularly.

By Harris “Kuppy” Kupperman, founder of Praetorian Capital, Adventures in Capitalism:

For four decades, the US stock market has traded up and to the right. During those brief moments of setback, treasuries rallied strongly. The fact that these two asset classes seemed to offset each other, creating a smoothed-out return profile, was not lost on certain fund managers who created portfolios comprised of the two. Then, to better market this portfolio to the sorts of institutional investors who cannot bear drawdowns, the overriding strategy was given the pseudo-intellectual sounding Risk Parity moniker.

Over time, the reliability of Risk Parity funds has astonished most observers, especially after being tested by fire during the GFC. As a result, portfolio managers took the logical next step and added copious leverage—because in finance, when you do a back-test, every return stream works better with leverage.

Naturally, as Risk Parity continued to produce returns, inflows bloated these funds. Risk Parity strategies, in one form or another, now dominate many institutional asset allocations. While everyone makes their sausage a bit differently, trillions in notional value are now managed using this strategy—long equities, long treasuries. Are they highly-leveraged time-bombs??

Taking a step back, it’s important to ask, what created this smooth stream of Risk Parity returns? Was it investor brilliance or was it a four-decade period of declining interest rates that systematically increased equity market multiples while reducing bond yields? What if all the sausage-making was just noise?

Continue reading→

Will Gold Reach Unthinkable Heights? by Egon Von Greyerz

If the world’s governments and central banks continue to create unthinkable amounts of fiat debt instruments, gold’s price as measured against those instruments could well reach unthinkable heights. From Egon Von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:

It serves no purpose to hold gold.

Why should anyone hold gold when it has lost value against most other assets since 2009. At the end of this article, I will tell you when you must not hold gold and why I think gold will reach new highs shortly.

Making money is a cinch in today’s stock markets so why do I need gold?

For the investors who have managed to combine a good portion of luck with modest investment skills, they could have made 2,000X their money since 1997 on Apple or 2,170X on Amazon, also since 1997.

So $10,000 invested in both Apple and Amazon in 1997 would today be worth a neat $40 million.

BITCOIN IS UP 470,000X

And what about Bitcoin? If you spent $10,000 on Bitcoin in 2010 at 10 cents, you would today have 100,000 BTCs worth $4.7 billion. If you did, you hopefully haven’t lost your key.

But to rely solely on electronic entries on a computer or memory stick is clearly a very inferior form of wealth preservation.

Also, hindsight is a wonderful investment method and the most exact of all sciences.

Yet, you didn’t need to be an expert stock picker to make money in recent decades.

If you for example spent $10,000 on the Nasdaq in 2009, you would today have over $140,000 and that without selecting one single stock.

But by using 2009 as starting point, you will have conveniently forgotten that you had before that lost 80% on the Nasdaq since 2000.

So we can always prove the ultimate performance by choosing the right starting point.

GOLD – WORST ASSET CLASS SINCE 2011 AND BEST SINCE 1999

When gold antagonists want to disprove gold’s virtues, they choose the 1980 top as $850 as starting point. They then deride gold investors that it took 28 years before that level was reached again. They conveniently forgot to mention that gold reached new highs between1971 and 1980, going up 24X.

Stock investors could also point out that they have outperformed gold by 200% since 2011. But they forget to mention that since 1999 the Dow has lost 60% against gold (excluding dividends).

Again, this shows is that you can always prove the investment performance by picking a suitable starting point.

Still, it is an undeniable fact that gold has been the best asset class in this century.

Continue reading→

Life’s a Beach Until the Tsunami Hits: Four Waves Nobody Cares About–Yet, by Charles Hugh Smith

The rug is being pulled from under the financial markets. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Four monster waves are about to crash onto the Fed’s beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers.

Hey, is the water in the bay receding? Never mind, free drinks are on the Federal Reserve, so party on, life’s a beach, asset bubbles will never pop, we’re safe. Of course you are. The Fed is all-powerful and would never let a rogue wave turn all its precious phantom wealth into broken detritus.

The water is fast receding and a wave is visible if you care to look, but nobody cares to look. Why bother? The Fed is invincible, that’s all you need to know to mint another fortune.

Just to keep life interesting, let’s look anyway. Gordon Long and I discuss four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed’s beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers:

1. Declining liquidity: while everyone is focused on the Fed’s ceaselessly repeated reassurance that the liquidity spigot will never be closed, never ever ever, so party on, asset bubbles will never pop, never ever ever, other central banks have already started reducing global liquidity while domestically, the Treasury General Account (TGA) is soaking up liquidity to fund the federal government’s monumental deficit spending.

2. Declining global growth: long before the pandemic swept ashore in 2020, global growth was faltering: the business cycle had not been abolished, despite Fed assurances that growth and asset bubbles will continue expanding until they reach Alpha Centuri and beyond (Dow one trillion, yowza baby!), growth by any conventional measure (PMI, ISM, industrial production, global trade flows, etc.) had stagnated or rolled over.

Continue reading→

“Catastrophic” Property Sales Mean China’s Worst Case Scenario Is Now In Play, by Tyler Durden

The financial situation of a number of Chinese property developers is dire, but the most serious issue is the state of the Chinese property market. Property is a huge part of Chinese people’s assets, and weakness there will translate directly into economic weakness and perhaps a recession. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

o matter how the Evergrande drama plays out – whether it culminates with an uncontrolled, chaotic default and/or distressed asset sale liquidation, a controlled restructuring where bondholders get some compensation, or with Beijing blinking and bailing out the core pillar of China’s housing market – remember that Evergrande is just a symptom of the trends that have whipsawed China’s property market in the past year, which has seen significant contraction as a result of Beijing policies seeking to tighten financial conditions as part of Xi’s new “common prosperity” drive which among other things, seeks to make housing much more affordable to everyone, not just the richest.

As such, any contagion from the ongoing turmoil sweeping China’s heavily indebted property sector will impact not the banks, which are all state-owned entities and whose exposure to insolvent developers can easily be patched up by the state, but the property sector itself, which as Goldman recently calculated is worth $62 trillion making it the world’s largest asset class, contributes a mind-boggling 29% of Chinese GDP (compared to 6.2% in the US) and represents 62% of household wealth.

It’s also why we said that for Beijing the focus is not so much about Evegrande, but about preserving confidence in the property sector.

Continue reading→

How to Fight the Investment Enemies Now Mobilizing, by MN Gordon

As an investor, what do you do if the Federal Reserve can’t bail markets out? From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

Default averted!

That was the dispatch made by the popular press on Thursday following word there would be a short-term debt limit extension.  But was a default really averted?

Was a default averted when Nixon closed the gold window and put the world on an irredeemable paper standard?

Naturally, Wall Street didn’t bother considering the long-term effects of Washington’s policies of infinite debt – or the soft inflationary default Congress is engineering.  Instead, Wall Street did what it loves to do most; it bid up the major stock market indexes.

What a difference a week makes.  September may have been painful for stocks.  But the first week of October has been all pleasure.

Once again, Washington has a plan to keep the money spigots flowing.  It’s roughly the same plan that’s been in operation for the last 50 years.  The playbook is real simple: kick the can down the road.

Wall Street generally favors this plan.  More debt, both public and private, has loosely translated to higher stock market indexes.  And higher stock prices make everyone believe they’re getting rich.

There have been several notable episodic exceptions.  But, by and large, the rampant influx of debt based money has brought forth higher stock market indexes.

Still, this relationship is not set in stone.  What if things don’t go according to plan?  What if the recent past turns out to be much different than the near future?

What would then happen to investors?

We’ll have more on this in just a moment.  But first, some perspective is needed…

Continue reading→

Inflation Bites! Rising Prices Are Eating Up Personal Income Gains, by Schiffgold

Inflation is never benign, it always ends up transferring wealth from individuals to the government. From Schiffgold at schiffgold.com:

Inflation bites!

Personal income rose again in August, but once again rising prices ate up all the gains and then some.

Economists and pundits talk about inflation as an academic exercise. They rarely reflect on the fact that rising prices have real impacts on real people.

Personal income from all sources rose by 0.2% from July to August. This includes wages, stimulus payments, transfer payments (unemployment, Social Security benefits, etc.) along with income from other sources such as interest, dividends, and rental income, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But when you factor in inflation, “real” personal income fell by 0.2%. When factoring out government transfer payments, “real” personal income dropped 0.3% and fell below the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

So, while Americans saw more money in their wallets, they were able to buy less with those dollars. As WolfStreet put it, “It’s tough getting beaten up by the worst bout of inflation in 30 years.”

The green line represents the pre-pandemic trend.

This is the second month in a row real incomes have dropped.

Continue reading→

European Energy Crisis — And is That Gas You Think You’re Burning? by Tom Luongo

Like virtually all emergency shortages, the current European Energy Crisis has been created by European elites per some sort of arcane political calculations. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Continue reading→