Tag Archives: Credit

Resolving creeping communism, by Alasdair Macleod

Alasdair Macleod explains why socialism can’t work, particularly the socialization of money. From Macleod at goldmoney.com:

The thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain coincides with a popular resurgence of communism and a drift into more socialism. A collective amnesia sees a return of the Soviet Union’s failed policies in a Marxist Labour party in Britain. Increasing socialism is expressed by US Democrats contending for the primaries.

This article explains the basic economic fallacies common to both. It clarifies why state ownership of the means of production does not resolve the problem of economic calculation in a socialist economy. It also explains the errors in socialistic condemnation of free markets.

And finally, it points out that very few of us realise we are more socialist than we think when we endorse government control of possibly our most important common commodity, which is our everyday money. But there is a simple solution: stop accommodating crony capitalists.

Introduction

This week saw the thirtieth anniversary of the breeching of the Berlin Wall. The elapse of time means most people younger than their mid-forties fail to understand what it was all about. Indeed, many folk older than that will have forgotten that the reason the Berlin Wall fell was because the communist states in eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union were no longer able to suppress their people. And the people were suppressed because suppression of personal freedom is central to communism, the creed that says people must make sacrifices for the common good. Besides the passage of time, the uncomfortable part which makes people want to forget its horrors is that communism is the both the basis and the final destination of modern socialism.

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Time Is Money, Money Is Time, by Alasdair Macleod

Taxes takes your money, inflation devalues your money, and regulation and bureaucry cost you money, but more importantly, they all steal your precious time. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  

-Macbeth

Our limited time, our brief candle as Shakespeare’s Macbeth had it earlier in the soliloquy quoted from above, may count for very little in the grand scheme of things, but is of the utmost importance to each of us personally. Unlike the other dimensions, height, breadth and depth, the fourth is almost infinite, but individuals enjoy only a small part of it, our three-score years and ten. Time moves on. What really matters is not wasting it.

We may appear to others to be wasting time. But it is not wasting it when we take a break, recharge our batteries, or stop to think. Pleasure-seeking, pursuing happiness, removing uneasiness is making good use of time. We are all different and enjoy different things, so wasting time is not time wasted so long as it our personal choice. No one can allocate time as effectively as the individual. It is intensely personal.

While using time effectively is a private pleasure, wasting it can be very frustrating. Wasting time is the denial of personal ambition, whether it is as trivial as in a game of cards or as momentous as changing one’s circumstances. Avoiding time-wasting requires positive personal action, but we live in a world where that decision is progressively being subsumed by the state. But the state has little concept of the importance of time, replacing it with indecision and deferment. Time offers change and progress, except to the state. The evolution of events that go with time undermines the state’s certainties. The state believes it has all the time in the world to get things right by consulting, reporting, debating and eventually acting, while everyone affected has to wait.

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America’s Technology and Sanctions War Will End, by Bifurcating the Global Economy, by Alastair Crooke

The contest between the US and China will be fought primarily in the technologies of the future. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

“The true reason behind the US-China ‘trade’ war has little to do with actual trade … What is really at the basis of the ongoing civilizational conflict between the US and China … are China’s ambitions to be a leader in next-generation technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which rest on whether or not it can design and manufacture cutting-edge chips, and is why Xi has pledged at least $150 billion to build up the sector”, Zerohedge writes.

Nothing new here: yet behind that ambition, lies another, further ambition and a little mentioned ‘elephant in the room’: that the ‘trade war’ is also the first stage to a new arms race between the US & China – albeit of a different genre of arms race. This ‘new generation’ arms-race is all about reaching national superiority in technology over the longer-term, via Quantum Computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Hypersonic Warplanes, Electronic Vehicles, Robotics, and Cyber-Security.

The blueprint for it, in China, is in the public domain. It is ‘Made in China 2025’ (now downplayed, but far from forgotten). And the Chinese expenditure commitment ($ 150 billion) to take the tech lead – will be met ‘head on’ (as Zerohedge puts it), “by a [counterpart] ‘America First’ strategy: Hence the ‘arms race’ in tech spending … is intimately linked with defence spending. Note: military spending by the US and China is forecast by the IMF to rise substantially in coming decades, but the stunner is: that by 2050, China is set to overtake the US, spending $4tn on its military, while the US is $1 trillion less, or $3tn … This means that sometime around 2038, roughly two decades from now, China will surpass the US in military spending.”

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A Fretful Holiday, by James Howard Kunstler

Christmas finds that all is not well in America. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:

Many threads to tug on at the close of this tumultuous work-week before the supreme holiday of white privilege rolls through, all silver bells and hovering angels. It took hours of rumination and prayer to arrive at a coherent notion about the strange doings in Gen. Mike Flynn’s sentencing hearing, but here goes: Judge Emmet Sullivan sent Gen Flynn to the doghouse for three months to reconsider his guilty plea. The judge may believe that Gen. Flynn needs to contest the charge in open court, where all the Special Prosecutor’s janky evidence will be subject to discovery and review. Mr. Mueller tried to toss a wrecking bar into the proceedings the day before by pressing charges against two of Gen. Flynn’s colleagues in the Turkish lobbying gambit, which was meant to terrify Gen. Flynn as a hint that separate charges would be dumped on him if he doesn’t play ball. A lot can happen in three months, including the arrival of a new Attorney General, and we’ll leave it there for the moment.

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Twilight of the Euro? by Hans-Werner Sinn

The euro has not been a success, and it’s probably just a matter of time before Europe puts it out of its misery. From Hans-Werner Sinn at project-syndicate.org:

Twenty years after the formal creation of the euro, few can honestly say that the single currency has been a success. After fueling a massive credit bubble in Southern Europe in its first decade, it gave rise to an array of complex monetary-policy and transfer schemes in its second – and more trouble is looming as it enters its third.

MUNICH – In May 1998, irrevocable conversion rates for the currencies that would be merged into the euro were implemented. In a sense, this makes the single currency just over 20 years old. The first decade of its life had the feeling of a party, particularly in Southern Europe; but the second decade brought the inevitable hangover. Now, as we enter the third decade, the prevailing mood seems to be one of increasing political radicalization.

The original party was a cornucopia of cheap credit, which capital markets happily issued to the countries of Southern Europe under the protection of the euro. For a while, these countries finally had enough money to increase public-sector salaries and pensions, as well as spur private consumption and investment.

But the credit flooding into these countries created inflationary bubbles, which burst when the 2008 financial crisis in the United States spread to Europe. As capital markets refused to extend further credit, Southern Europe’s previously halfway-competitive but now overpriced economies soon ran into serious trouble.

The Southern Europeans’ response was to start printing what they could no longer borrow. Aided by the European Central Bank – which loosened its collateral policy for refinancing credits and increased its tolerance for emergency liquidity assistance and credits under the Agreement on Net Financial Assets – they drew hundreds of billions of euros out of the monetary system through so-called Target overdrafts. And from 2010 onward, they were the recipients of EU fiscal rescue packages.

But, because financial markets viewed these rescue packages as insufficient, the ECB, in 2012, issued a promise to cover unlimited member-state government bonds under its “outright monetary transactions” program, turning them into de facto euro bonds. Finally, in 2015, the ECB launched its quantitative-easing program, whereby member states’ central banks bought €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) worth of securities, including €2 billion of government bonds. Accordingly, the eurozone’s monetary base grew dramatically, from €1.2 trillion to over €3 trillion.

To continue reading: Twilight of the Euro?

Italian Bonds Tumble, Triggering Goldman “Contagion” Level As Political Crisis Erupts In Spain, by Tyler Durden

Italy’s new anti-establishment coalition government is making all sorts of noises not designed to make creditors feel comfortable. They’re responding by raising Italy’s interest rates. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

When it comes to the latest rout in Italian bonds, which has continued this morning sending the 10Y BTP yield beyond 2.40%, a level above which Morgan Stanley had predicted fresh BTP selling would emerge as a break would leave many bondholders, including domestic lenders with non-carry-adjusted losses…

… there has been just one question: when does the Italian turmoil spread to the rest of Europe?

One answer was presented yesterday by Goldman Sachs which explicitly defined the “worst-case” contagion threshold level, and said to keep a close eye on the BTP-Bund spread and specifically whether it moves beyond 200 bps.

Should spreads convincingly move above 200bp, systemic spill-overs into EMU assets and beyond would likely increase. Italian sovereign risk has stayed for the most part local so far. Indeed, the 10-year German Bund has failed to break below 50bp, and Spanish bonds have increased a meager 10bp from their lows. This is consistent with our long-standing expectation that Italy would not become a systemic event. That said, should BTP 10-year spreads head above 200bp, the spill-over effects onto other EMU sovereigns would likely intensify.

Well, as of this morning, the 200bps Bund-BTP level has been officially breached. So, if Goldman is right, it may be time to start panicking.

Ironically, almost as if on cue, just as the Italy-Germany spread was blowing out, a flashing red Bloomberg headline hit, confirming the market’s worst fears:

  • SPANISH SOCIALISTS REGISTER NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION AGAINST RAJOY.

This confirmed reports overnight that Spain’s biggest opposition party, the PSOE or Socialist Party, was pushing for a no-confidence motion again Spain’s unpopular prime minister. The no-confidence call follows the National Court ruling on Thursday that former Popular Party officials had operated an illegal slush fund, as a result of which nearly 30 people were sentenced to a total of 351 years in prison.

To continue reading: Italian Bonds Tumble, Triggering Goldman “Contagion” Level As Political Crisis Erupts In Spain

Tales from “The Master of Disaster”, by MN Gordon

Rising interest rates will deflate asset prices. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

Daylight extends a little further into the evening with each passing day.  Moods ease.  Contentment rises.  These are some of the many delights the northern hemisphere has to offer this time of year.

As summer approaches, and dispositions loosen, something less amiable is happening.  Credit markets are tightening.  The yield on the 10-Year Treasury note has exceeded 3.12 percent.

If yields continue to rise, this one thing will change everything.  To properly understand the significance of rising interest rates some context is in order.  Where to begin?

In 1981, professional skateboarder Duane Peters was busy inventing tricks like the invert revert, the acid drop, and the fakie thruster, in empty Southern California swimming pools.  As part of his creative pursuits, he refined and perfected the art of self-destruction with supreme enthusiasm.  His many broken bones, concussions, and knocked out teeth earned him the moniker, “The Master of Disaster”.

But as The Master of Disaster was risking life and limb while pioneering the loop of death, the seeds of a mega-disaster were being planted.  In particular, the rising part of the interest rate cycle peaked out in 1981.  Then, over the next 35 years, interest rates fell and these seeds of mega-disaster were multiplied and scattered across the land.

Credit and Asset Prices

The relationship between interest rates and asset prices is generally straightforward.  Tight credit generally results in lower asset prices.  Loose credit generally results in higher asset prices.

When credit is cheap, and plentiful, individuals and businesses increase their borrowing to buy things they otherwise couldn’t afford.  For example, individuals, with massive jumbo loans, bid up the price of houses.  Businesses, flush with a seemingly endless supply of cheap credit, borrow money and use it to buy back shares of their stock…inflating its value and the value of executive stock options.

To continue reading: Tales from “The Master of Disaster”