What will be the fates of real money (gold) and fake monies (currencies) in 2023? From the Internet’s best economist, Alasdair Macleod, at goldmoney.com:
his article is in two parts. In Part 1 it looks at how prospects for gold should be viewed from a monetary and economic perspective, pointing out that it is gold whose purchasing power is stable, and that of fiat currencies which is not. Consequently, analysts who see gold as an investment producing a return in national currencies have made a fundamental error which will not be repeated in this article.
Part 2 covers geopolitical issues, including the failure of US policies to contain Russia and China, and the consequences for the dollar. By analysing recent developments, including how Russia has secured its own currency, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s political migration from a fossil fuel denying western alliance to a rapidly industrialising Asia, and China’s plans to replace the petrodollar with a petro-yuan crystalising, we can see that the dollar’s hegemonic role will rapidly become redundant. With about $30 trillion tied up in dollars and dollar-denominated financial assets, foreigners are bound to become substantial sellers — even panicking at times.
The implications are very far reaching. This article limits its scope to big picture developments in prospect for 2023 but can be regarded as a basis for further debate.
Part 1 — The monetary perspective
Whether to forecast values for gold or fiat currencies
This is the time of year when precious metal analysts review the year past and make predictions for the year ahead. Their common approach is of investment analysis — overwhelmingly their readership is of investors seeking to make profits in their base currencies. But this approach misleads everyone, analysts included, into thinking that precious metals, particularly gold, is an investment when it is in fact money.
Most of these analysts have been educated to think gold is not money by schools and universities which have curriculums which promote macroeconomics, particularly Keynesianism. If their studies had not been corrupted in this way and they had been taught the legal distinction between money and credit instead, perhaps their approach to analysing gold would have been different. But as it is, these analysts now think that cash notes issued by a central bank is money when very clearly it has counterparty risk, minimal though that usually is, and it is accounted for on a central bank balance sheet as a liability. Under any definition, these are the characteristics of credit and matching debt obligations. Nor do the macroeconomists have an explanation for why it is that central banks continue to hoard massive quantities of gold bullion in their reserves. Furthermore, some governments even accumulate gold bullion in other accounts in addition to their central banks’ official reserves.
Posted in Banking, Business, Currencies, Debt, Economics, Economy, Financial markets, Geopolitics, Governments, History
Tagged Bank balance sheets, Gold, Leverage
Very few financial fiduciaries are set up for rising interest rates. Many of them are using leverage to bet that interest rates will stay stable or decline, which makes it quite painful when they go up. From Bill Bonner at bonnerprivateresearch.com:
BlackRock’s liabilities, the Bank of England’s pivot and the folly of fake rates…
(Source: Getty Images)
And it’s the first time for most of them. No chance to practice. No opportunity to learn.
And so, the mood was glum at the end of last week. The jobs report on Thursday showed a stronger employment market than expected. Investors figured the odds of a Fed U-turn had gone down. They sold stocks. MarketWatch:
While markets have not yet morphed into an actual state of alarm, an increasingly dark sentiment is starting to brew behind the scenes.
Nikko Asset Management’s John Vail said a “short but scary” global recession is likely to be ahead. Ben Emons of Medley Global Advisors said Wednesday’s decision by major oil producers to cut production, starting next month, has the potential to turn into a prolonged stretch of higher inflation and big market swings. And volatility expert Harley Bassman said stocks could drop as much as 20% from where they are now — a magnitude similar to the single-day decline that took place during 1987’s “Black Monday” scare.
As the Fed raises rates, they become more ‘normal’ than they’ve been for many years. But ‘normal’ terrifies investors. It makes them realize how weird things have gotten and that they may have to back up before they can go forward. That is, they may have to give up their Bubble Era profits and admit that much of what they believed was either a lie or a delusion.
Leverage—borrowed money—amplifies both gains and losses. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
Stock market leverage, the big accelerator on the way up, and on the way down.
Increasing leverage – borrowing money to buy stocks – puts buying pressure on the stock market up. Declining leverage – selling stocks to reduce leverage – puts selling pressure on the market. Stock market leverage has ballooned over the past 20 months by historic proportions, which has contributed to the historic surge in stock prices. So we’ll keep an eye on leverage.
The tip of the iceberg of stock-market leverage that we can actually see is margin debt, which is reported on a monthly basis by FINRA, based on data reported by its member brokers.
Other forms of stock-market leverage occur in the shadows, such as Securities Based Lending (SBA) that isn’t tracked and reported in a centralized manner, though some banks choose to disclose it quarterly or annually.
There is leverage associated with options and other equities-based derivatives. Then there is leverage at the institutional level such as with hedge funds, which doesn’t show up until a fund implodes, such as Archegos, and everyone gets to pick through the debris.
There’s more to running a successful investment bank than borrowing a lot of money and putting it to speculative use. From Matt Tiabbi and Eric Salzman at taibbi.substack.com:
Nearly fifteen years ago, on December 10, 2006, the CEO of Senderra, a subprime mortgage lender owned by Goldman, Sachs, sent grim news to its parent company. “Credit quality has risen to become the major crisis in the non-prime industry,” Senderra CEO Brad Bradley wrote, adding that “we are seeing unprecedented defaults and fraud in the market.”
Within four days, senior executives at Goldman decided to “get closer to home” by unloading risky mortgage instruments. They didn’t alert regulators, of course, but did save their own hides, with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein soon after ordering subordinates to sell off the ugly “cats and dogs” in their mortgage portfolio.
Around the same time that Goldman was having its come-to-Jesus moment, the heads of rival Lehman Brothers were going the other way. In one meeting, the bank’s head of fixed income, Mike Gelband, pounded a table, telling the firm’s infamous Vaderqsque CEO Richard “Dick” Fuld and hatchetman-president Joe Gregory there was a $15-18 trillion time bomb of lethal leverage hanging over the markets. Once it blew, it would be the “grandaddy of credit crunches,” and Lehman would be toast.
Fuld and Gregory scoffed. They didn’t understand mortgage deals well and thought Gelband lacked nerve. “Be creative,” they told him, adding, “What are you afraid of?”
“We called it ‘Goldman Penis Envy,’” says Lawrence McDonald, former Lehman trader and author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. In telling the Gelband story, he explains that Fuld and Gregory were so desperate to beat out Goldman and become the richest men on Wall Street, they chased every bad deal at the peak of the speculative bubble.
Leverage is called leverage because borrowed money levers markets up . . . and down. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
Archegos shows how leverage is the great accelerator of stock prices on the way up, and on the way down. One of its bets, ViacomCBS, after skyrocketing, collapsed by 60%.
Vast, unreported, and at the time unknown amounts of leverage blew up Archegos Capital Management, dishing out enormous losses to its investors, the banks that brokered the swaps, and holders of the targeted stocks. The amount of leverage became known only after it blew up as banks started picking through the debris. ViacomCBS [VIAC] was one of the handful of stocks on which Archegos placed huge and highly leveraged bets, thereby pushing the shares into the stratosphere until March 22, after which they collapsed by 60%.
Archegos is an example of how leverage operates: It creates enormous buying pressure and drives up prices as leverage builds, and then when prices decline, the leveraged bets blow up as forced selling sets in. Most of the leverage in the markets is unreported until it blows up. The only type of stock-market leverage that is reported is margin debt – the amount that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings as tracked by FINRA at its member brokerage firms. Margin debt is an indicator for overall leverage, and it has reached the zoo-has-gone-nuts level.
It’s a question of when, not if, the timebomb explodes. From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:
Credit Suisse is hours from collapse and the consequences could be a systemic failure of the financial system.
Disappointingly, my dream last night stopped there. So unfortunately I didn’t experience what actually happened.
As I warned in last week’s article on Archegos and Credit Suisse, investment banks have created a timebomb with the $1.5 quadrillion derivatives monster.
A few years ago, the BIS (Bank of International Settlement) in Basel reduced the $1.5 quadrillion to $600 trillion with a pen stroke. But the real gross figure was still $1.5q at the time. According to my sources, the real figure today is probably over $2 quadrillion.
A major part of the outstanding derivatives are OTC (over the counter) and hidden in off balance sheet special purpose vehicles.
LEVERAGED ASSETS JUST GO UP IN SMOKE
The $30 billion in Archegos derivatives that went up in smoke over a weekend is just the tip of the iceberg. The hedge fund Archegos lost everything and the normal uber-leveraged players Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Nomura etc lost at least $30 billion.
These investment banks are making casino bets that they can’t afford to lose. What their boards and top management don’t realise or understand is that the traders, supported by easily manipulated risk managers, are betting the bank on a daily basis.
Most of these ludicrously high bets are in the derivatives market. The management doesn’t understand how they work or what the risks are and the account managers and traders can bet billions on a daily basis with no skin in the game but massive potential upside if nothing goes wrong.
European banks are a strong contender in the contest to see which institution or institutions leads the world into a humongous financial crisis. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:
he European Commission is failing. Its response to Brexit and the pandemic, where it is now threatening emergency powers in order to secure vaccines is a latest throw of the political dice. Even before this development markets were getting the message with capital flight worsening.
The only thing that holds the Commission together is the magic money tree that is the ECB.
Following the recent change in the Commission’s leadership, the political dysfunction in Brussels is a new challenge for the ECB. It is already juggling with overindebted member states, a global rise in bond yields, a rotten settlement system and commercial banks both over-leveraged and with mounting pandemic-related bad debts.
It really is a horror show in the making.
This week, the ECB took the next step towards its inevitable destruction of itself, its system and its currency. This ending, a sort of financial suttee where it joins the failing EU Commission on it funeral pyre, is plainly inevitable, and will increasingly be seen to be so.
On 3 March, Bloomberg reported “European Central Bank policy makers are downplaying concerns over rising bond yields, suggesting they can manage the risk to the euro-area economy with verbal interventions including a pledge to accelerate bond-buying if needed.”
Then last week, the story changed: the ECB vowed that: “Based on a joint assessment of financing conditions and the inflation outlook, the Governing Council expects purchases under the PEPP over the next quarter to be conducted at a significantly higher pace than during the first months of this year”.[i]
Posted in Banking, Business, Collapse, Currencies, Debt, Economics, Economy, Financial markets, Governments
Tagged ECB, European banks, European Union, Leverage