Tom Luongo is not trying to be cute and his points and arguments are clear, which is not always the case. He takes a complicated set of issues and makes them understandable. This is one of his best. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Live images flashing by Like windshields towards a fly Frozen in that fatal climb But the wheels of time, just pass you by -RUSH, “Between the Wheels”
In part I of this series I told you the war over the US dollar was over because the bane of domestic monetary policy, Eurodollar futures, lost the battle with SOFR, the new standard for pricing dollars.
The ignominious end of the Eurodollar system is a study in the evolution of markets, as a new system replaces an old one. Old systems don’t die overnight. We don’t flip a switch and wake up in a new reality, unless we are protagonists in a Philip K. Dick novel.
More than a decade ago I looked at the responses to President Obama cutting Iran out of the SWIFT system as the beginning of the end of the petrodollar system. The goal was to take Iran out of the global oil markets by shutting Iran out from the dominant dollar payment system.
Out of necessity Iran opened up trade with its major export partners, most notably India, in something other than dollars. India and Iran started up a ‘goods for oil’ trade, or as Bloomberg called it at the time, “Junk for Oil.”
The stick of sanctions created a new market for pricing Iranian oil and a way around the monopoly of US dollar oil trading. India, struggling with massive current account deficits because of their high energy import bill, welcomed the trade as a way to lessen the pressure on the rupee.
Iran needed goods. They worked out some barter trade and the first shallow cuts into the petrodollar system were made.
It is the last freedom train, and it’s not too late to get on board. From T.W. Thiltgen at schiffgold.com:
Most people believe the Federal Reserve stabilizes the economy and our money. In reality, the central bank incentivized debt and destroys wealth. Is there a way to sidestep the destructive forces of central banking and fiat money?
T.W. Thiltgen believes there is a freedom train we can escape on — gold.
The following guest post was written by T.W. Thiltgen. The opinions expressed are his and don’t necessarily reflect those of Peter Schiff or SchiffGold.
I pose this question to you so that you can begin to consider that there is currently a macroeconomic problem that is more important than all other problems this country faces. That macro condition is the relentless destruction of capital throughout the world and the US in particular.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines capital as “accumulated possessions to bring in income.”
For our purposes here, I will just call it SAVINGS.
In economics, one of the important identities is S=I or Savings = Investment.
You cannot invest if you have not saved, and you will be able to invest less if your savings fall. This may seem obvious but bear with me.
Your savings can be destroyed by other than your own bad investment decisions. Negative real interest rates (interest rates adjusted for inflation) are the central driver in the destruction of capital for at least the last 14 years from the start of the 2008-2009 collapse.
By keeping interest rates below the rate of inflation, the Federal Reserve has destroyed saving on an unimaginable scale. Even today, US Treasury interest rates are still 3% points below the rate of inflation. And that’s using the government’s numbers. The real inflation rate using the methodology of the 1980s would put today’s inflation rate near 15%. Either of these numbers is disastrous, but taking the average of the number between 7% and 15% or 11 ½ % means that the value (purchasing power) of your savings is being destroyed in a very short number of years. Even if inflation falls back to 3 – 4%, your real inflation-adjusted saving will decline at a rate that will ultimately lower your standard of living.
One day Wall Street and Washington will discover—as countless regimes have discovered—that nothing real comes from fake money. From Jeff Deist at mises.org:
Does cheap money and credit make us richer? Does more money and credit create more stuff, or better stuff? Do they make us happier and more productive? Or do these twin forces actually distort the economy, misallocate resources, and degrade us as people?
These are fundamental questions in an age of monetary hedonism. It is time we began to ask and answer them. Millions of people across the West increasingly recognize the limits of monetary policy, understanding that more money and credit in society do not magically create more goods and services. Production precedes consumption. Capital accumulation is made possible only through profit, which is generated by higher productivity, thanks to earlier capital investment. At the heart of all of it is hard work and human ingenuity. We don’t get rich by legislative edict.
How we lost sight of these simple truths is complex. But we can begin to understand it by listening to someone smarter! The great financial writer James Grant probably knows more about interest rates than anyone on the planet. So we should pay attention when he suggests America’s four-decade experiment in rates that only go down, down, and down appears to be over.
The striking thing about the bond market and interest rates is that they tend to rise and fall in generation-length intervals. No other financial security that I know of exhibits that same characteristic. But interest rates have done that going back to the Civil War period, when they fell persistently from 1865 to 1900. They then rose from 1900 to 1920, fell from 1920 or so to 1946, and then rose from 1946 to 1981—and did they ever rise in the last five or 10 years of that 35-year period. Then they fell again from 1981 to 2019–20.
So each of these cycles was very long-lived. This current one has been, let’s say, 40 years. That’s one-and-a-half successful Wall Street careers. You could be working in this business for a long time and never have seen a bear market in bonds. And I think that that muscle memory has deadened the perception of financial forces that would conspire to lead to higher rates.
It was a lot more fun on the way up than it will be on the way down. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
Who believed that central banks’ financial perpetual motion machine was anything more than trickery designed to generate phantom wealth?
Central banks seem to have perfected the ideal financial perpetual motion machine: as credit expands, money pours into risk assets, which shoot higher under the pressure of expanding demand for assets that yield either hefty returns (junk bonds) or hefty capital gains as the soaring assets suck in more capital chasing returns.
As assets soar in value, they serve as collateral for more credit. Higher valuations = more collateral to borrow against. This open spigot of additional credit sluices capital right back into the assets that are climbing in value, pushing them higher–which then creates even more collateral to support even more credit.
This self-reinforcing feedback of expanding credit feeding expanding valuations feeding expanding collateral which then feeds expanding credit has no apparent end. Modest houses once worth $100,000 are now worth $1,000,000, and nobody’s complaining except those priced out of the infinite spiral of prices and credit.
For those priced out of traditional assets, there’s NFTs, meme stocks and short-duration options. The credit-asset bubble-economy casino has a gaming table for everyone’s budget and desire to “make it big” via speculation, since the traditional ladders to middle-class security have all been splintered.
This financial perpetual motion machine distorts traditional incentives. Why bother renting a house bought for speculative gains? Renters are problematic, better to just let it sit empty and rack up huge capital gains.
Monetary inflation fuels asset price increases. Houses are an asset. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
Home price growth of the sort we’ve seen in recent years simply cannot be sustained without a continued commitment to easy money from the central bank, and it shows.
Home prices continued to slide in August as the economy cooled, and as the Fed hit the Pause button on quantitative easing while allowing interest rates to rise. Home prices in August were 13.0 percent higher nationally compared with August 2021, according to newly released data from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index. That is down from a 15.6 percent annual gain in the previous month. This is a big shift downward, and as CNBC reported Tuesday, “The 2.6% difference in those monthly comparisons is the largest in the history of the index, which was launched in 1987, meaning price gains are decelerating at a record pace.” The new trend was further described by a Case-Shiller spokesman as “forceful deceleration in U.S. housing prices … [while] price gains decelerated in every one” of the twenty cities measured by the survey. Every city in the index saw a larger year-over-year decline in August than in July. (In the seasonally adjusted numbers, the month-over-month decline was the largest since 2009.)
However, even with this rapid deceleration, the year-over-year growth is still similar to what was reported in the boom period of the last housing boom, in 2005. YOY growth peaked at 14.5 percent, year over year, in September 2005, but turned negative by March of 2007. Home price growth during the current cycle appears to have peaked during April of this year at 20.8 percent, but has rapidly moved downward in the four months since.
We’re living through the final crack-up of central banking. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
Central bankers’ narratives are falling apart. And faced with unpopularity over rising prices politicians are beginning to question central bank independence. Driven by the groupthink coordinated in the regular meetings at the Bank for International Settlements, they became collectively blind to the policy errors of their own making.
On several occasions I have written about the fallacies behind interest rate policies. I have written about the lost link between the quantity of currency and credit in circulation and the general level of prices. I have written about the effect of changing preferences between money and goods and the effect on prices.
This article gets to the heart of why central banks’ monetary policy was originally flawed. The fundamental error is to regard economic cycles as originating in the private sector when they are the consequence of fluctuations in credit, to which we can add the supposed benefits of continual price inflation.
Destroying the value of a debt-based fiat currency destroys the value of a lot of other assets as well. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
In recent articles I have argued that the era of a financialised fiat dollar standard is ending. This article takes my hypothesis further and explains that it is not just the emergence of new commodity backed currencies in Asia that will threaten the dominance of Western currencies, but the Fed’s failing monetary policies and those of the other major central banks. An unstoppable rise in interest rates will in large part be responsible for their demise.
Financial markets in thrall to the state underestimate the forces collapsing the financial bubble. Even the existence of the bubble is disputed by those within its envelope. But financial assets represent most of the collateral securing the banking system, and their collapse triggered by higher interest rates will take out businesses, banks, even central banks and make financing of soaring government deficits impossible without accelerated currency debasement.
Will central banks try to preserve financial asset values to stop the West’s financial system from imploding? Keynesian theory demands increased deficit spending to counteract the contraction of bank credit.
Economies have never, cannot be, and never will be controlled from above, buy either governments or central banks. From David Stockman at internationalman.com:
Goodness me, even the Wall Street Journal is catching on. In a piece about the inflationary rebound theory of a former UK central banker named Charles Goodhart, it actually tees-up the possibility of high inflation for a decade or longer due to an adverse, epochal shift in the global labor supply.
He argued that the low inflation since the 1990s wasn’t so much the result of astute central-bank policies, but rather the addition of hundreds of millions of inexpensive Chinese and Eastern European workers to the globalized economy, a demographic dividend that pushed down wages and the prices of products they exported to rich countries. Together with new female workers and the large baby-boomer generation, the labor force supplying advanced economies more than doubled between 1991 and 2018.
He got that right. Now, however, the working-age population has started shrinking for the first time since World War II in developed economies, compounded by an ever more generous banquet of Welfare State free stuff that is shrinking the available labor pool even further. At the same time, China’s working force is expected to contract by a staggering 20% over the next three decades.
Needless to say, as global labor becomes more scarce, developed world workers will finally have bargaining leverage to push up their own previously stagnant wages. In the US leisure and hospitality sector, for instance, where worker shortages are most acute, Y/Y wage gains have averaged 15% for the last three months running.
What happens when we serfs get uppity? From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
Eventually the “flock of timid and industrious animals” changes their minds about how much exploitation by the few is acceptable.
You may have noticed the news flow beyond the hot war in Ukraine is largely focused on capital:financial capital (markets, liquidity, interest rates, commodities, central bank tightening, etc.) and political capital (geopolitical maneuvering, sanctions, revising energy and defense policies, etc.)
Notice who’s left out, unnoticed and invisible? The serfs, the bottom 90% who have been decapitalized in the developed world and exploited in the developing world for the past 45 years.
With capital ascendant, the vast majority of financial and political gains flowed to the top tier of speculative capital (banks and billionaires) while the purchasing power of labor (i.e. wages) has been in a 45-year descent. (See chart below)
This disemboweling of labor transferred $50 trillion from labor to capital in the U.S. alone. Financialization and globalization devalued labor and working-class assets such as savings and boosted leveraged speculative bets only available to financiers and corporations, for example, stock buybacks funded by the tsunami of free money for financiers unleashed by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. (See chart below)
Even though the corporate media gives it no notice, serf-expression will become increasingly consequential. No, serf-expression is not a typo for self-expression, the core doctrine of modernism. By serf-expression I mean the serf’s expression of what is no longer acceptable. Another term for this is cultural revolution. I address social and cultural revolutions in my new book, Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States.
Faustian bargains always have a way of making those who made them deeply regret it. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:
The unprecedented credit-fueled bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate are popping, and America’s corrupt leaders can only stammer and spew excuses and empty promises.
Unbeknownst to most people, America’s leadership made a pact with the Devil: rather than face the constraints and injustices of our economic-financial system directly, a reckoning that would require difficult choices and some sacrifice by the ruling financial-political elites, our leaders chose the Devil’s Pact: substitute the creation of asset-bubble “wealth” in the hands of the few for widespread prosperity.
The Devil’s promise: that some thin trickle of the trillions of dollars bestowed on the few would magically trickle down to the many. This was as visibly foolish as the promise of immortality on Planet Earth, but our craven, greedy leadership quickly sealed the deal with the Devil and promptly inflated the greatest credit-asset bubble in human history.
Rather than trade away one’s soul, America’s leaders traded away the future security and stability of the nation. By refusing to deal with the real problems exposed by the collapsing financial scams in 2008-09, our leaders–both the unelected Federal Reserve and the elected “best government money can buy”–chose to bail out the scammers who had greased their palms so generously and sacrificed the prosperity of the many to do so.
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