17 Sep 2011

Forget Operation Twist: Rosenberg Says Bernanke Will Shock Everyone With What Is About To Come

As we have been pointing out since the beginning of the week, the one defining feature of the past 5 days has been a relentless short covering rally. And while the mechanics were obvious, one thing was missing: the reason. Well, courtesy of David Rosenberg's latest, we may now know what it is. Bottom line: for all who think that Bernanke is about to serve just Operation Twist next week... you ain't seen nothing yet. "The consensus view that the Fed is going to stop at 'Operation Twist' may be in for a surprise. It may end up doing much, much more." Rosie continues: "Look, we are talking about the same man who, on October 2, 2003, delivered a speech titled Monetary Policy and the Stock Market: Some Empirical Results. I kid you not. This is someone who clearly sees the stock market as a transmission mechanism from Fed policy to the rest of the economy. In other words, if Bernanke wants to juice the stock market, then he must do something to surprise the market. 'Operation Twist' is already baked in, which means he has to do that and a lot more to generate the positive surprise he clearly desires (this is exactly what he did on August 9th with the mid-2013 on- hold commitment). It seems that Bernanke, if he wants the market to rally, is going to have to come out with a surprise next Wednesday." In other words, stocks are now pricing in not just OT 2, and a reduction in the IOER, but also an LSAP of a few hundred billion. There is, however, naturally a flipside, to Bernanke's priced in announcement: "If he doesn't, then expect a big selloff." In everything, mind you, stocks, bonds, and certainly precious metals. And, of course, vice versa.
Full note from Today's Breakfast with Dave:
The consensus view that the Fed is going to stop at 'Operation Twist' may be in for a surprise. It may end up doing much, much more. And this may be one of the reasons why the stock market is starting to rally (a classic 50%+ retracement, which always occur after the first 20% down-leg in a cyclical bear market would imply a test of 1,250 on the S&P 500 at the very least). Hedge funds do not want to be short ahead of next week's FOMC meeting, and who can blame them?
Here are 10 reasons why:
  1. Just go back to August 9th. The Fed was supposed to make a more emphatic comment in the press statement about "extended period" as it pertained to the length of time the Fed would stay ultra-accommodative on the rates front. Bernanke went much further than anyone thought with his pledge to keep the funds rate at the floor at least to mid-2013.
  2. Ben Bernanke has shown repeatedly that he is willing to take risks and be very aggressive.
  3. Everyone knows that the Dow finished the August 9th session with a huge 430 point gain after the FOMC press statement was fully digested. Not only that, but when Bernanke held his two-day meeting in mid-December of 2008 and unveiled QE1, the Dow soared 360 points. And last November, the day after that two-day meeting when Bernanke made it clear in his Washington Post op-ed article how key it was to ignite the stock market, the Dow jumped 220 points. It may all be just for a near-term trade, but in an industry where every basis point counts, who wants to be short knowing all that?
  4. At that August meeting, we know both from the statement and minutes that additional rounds of unconventional easing were discussed. And Mr. Bernanke made it very clear at Jackson Hole that they would be on the table again at the coming meeting
  5. The Fed would like to be out of the picture during the election campaign (especially if Richard Perry ends up winning the GOP nomination).
  6. The Fed has cut its GDP forecasts at each of the past three meetings.
  7. The stock market is actually little changed from where it was at the last meeting and we know based on that Washington Post op-ed, that it is equity valuation (specifically the Russell 2000) that Ben wants to see rally. Sanctioning lower bond yields is just a means to that end.
  8. There is no fiscal stimulus to bolster the economy, with the odds very high that the Obama jobs plan — some in his own party object to the package as per yesterday's New York Times — will be dead-on-arrival on the House floor. The Fed is the only game in town.
  9. Financial conditions have tightened nearly 100 basis points since the spring and deserve a policy response.
  10. Bernanke announced at Jackson Hole that this coming meeting was going to be a two-day affair, not one day. The last time he did this was back in December 2008 and that was when he invoked QE1. There has to be a reason why it is two days, and it must be because he wants to build the case for three dissenters. The Board is being sequestered for a reason!
Look, we are talking about the same man who, on October 2, 2003, delivered a speech titled Monetary Policy and the Stock Market: Some Empirical Results. I kid you not. This is someone who clearly sees the stock market as a transmission mechanism from Fed policy to the rest of the economy. Here is a key excerpt from that sermon:
Normally, the FOMC, the monetary policymaking arm of the Federal Reserve, announces its interest rate decisions at around 2:15 p.m. following each of its eight regularly scheduled meetings each year. An air of expectation reigns in financial markets in the few minutes before to the announcement. If you happen to have access to a monitor that tracks key market indexes, at 2:15 p.m. on an announcement day you can watch those indexes quiver as if trying to digest the information in the rate decision and the FOMC's accompanying statement of explanation. Then the black line representing each market index moves quickly up or down, and the markets have priced the FOMC action into the aggregate values of U.S. equities, bonds, and other assets.

Even the casual observer can have no doubt, then, that FOMC decisions move asset prices, including equity prices. Estimating the size and duration of these effects, however, is not so straightforward. Because traders in  equity markets, as in most other financial markets, are generally highly informed and sophisticated. any policy decision that is largely anticipated will already be factored into stock prices and will elicit little reaction when  announced. To measure the effects of monetary policy changes on the stock market, then, we need to have a measure of the portion of a given  change in monetary policy that the market had not already anticipated before the FOMC's formal announcement [emphasis added].
In other words, if Bernanke wants to juice the stock market, then he must do something to surprise the market. 'Operation Twist' is already baked in, which means he has to do that and a lot more to generate the positive surprise he clearly desires (this is exactly what he did on August 9th with the mid-2013 on- hold commitment). It seems that Bernanke, if he wants the market to rally, is going to have to come out with a surprise next Wednesday. If he doesn't, then expect a big selloff.
What he is likely to do is another story, but here are some options:
  1. Expand the balance sheet further and simply buy more bonds (at the longer end of the curve).
  2. Eliminate the interest paid to commercial banks on excess reserves (to try to spur lending).
  3. Announce an explicit ceiling on the 10-year note yield (say 1.5%), which the Fed has done in the distant past. Based on Bernanke's prior rhetoric, this would seem to be a preferred strategy (though the Fed relinquishes control of the balance sheet).
  4. Buy foreign securities (bail out Europe and weaken the U.S. dollar — talk about killing two birds with one policy stone).
  5. Announce an explicit higher inflation target or perhaps a lower unemployment rate target (i.e. reinforce the DUAL mandate).
  6. As Mr. Bernanke stated for the record in November 2002, the Fed does have broad powers to lend to the private sector indirectly via banks, through the discount window. It could offer fixed-term loans to banks at low or zero interest, with a wide range of private assets (including, among others, corporate bonds, commercial paper, bank loans, and mortgages) deemed eligible as collateral. For example, the Fed might make 90-day or 180-day zero-interest loans to banks, taking corporate commercial paper of the same maturity as collateral. Such a program could significantly reduce liquidity and term premiums on the assets used as collateral. Reductions in these premiums would lower the cost of capital both to banks and the nonbank private sector.
Note that this is all for a trade. As we saw back on August 9th, we had a huge rally but the market is no higher today than it was then. All we have seen since is a huge amount of volatility.

16 Sep 2011

Dealing with the Sovereign Debt Crisis

To wrap up the week with a bit of humor on the European Debt situation.



Although the trading day is still early, varying factors are pushing gold in opposing directions but the downside has so far been the stronghold. The metal fell about $40 overnight and early this morning to its current trading value of $1,775/oz. What was the cause of this drop?
Two major releases came out today which are likely pressuring the price of gold: US inflation data and an announcement of dollar liquidity financing to the European Central Bank.
ECB, SNB, BoE, BoJ to Provide Dollar Funding
First, what surprised most investors, was gold fell even as dollar stimulus measures were announced out of the ECB. Europe’s unified bank issued plans to provide dollar liquidity operations to those participating in their repo (repurchase agreement) system. The move is likely being done to stem any fall out from a likely Greek default and/or continued banking troubles arising from other troubled nations in the periphery of Europe. Similar actions are also being taken by the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank to contain any fallout.
On June 29th the Federal Reserve announced a continuation of swap lines with the above central banks in anticipation of an event like this where they would be required. The lines provide dollar credit to foreign central banks in exchange for the borrowing banks local currency serving as collateral. During the height of the financial crisis in 2009, as much $600 billion in credit was outstanding from these liquidity swaps. Since use of the swap lines means dollar liquidity will flood markets and quell demand for dollars, many expected that the announcement of this move would be a positive for gold prices. The fall today in gold amidst this release by the ECB is likely the result of another balancing force: US inflation data and QE3 expectations.
CPI Higher Than Expected
Today, the consumer price index (CPI) was released and showed growth at a faster than expected pace, indicating recent high inflation was not the transitory phenomenon the Federal Reserve predicted. The year over year growth rate was 3.8% for the 12 months leading into the release, which puts the year’s price increases almost twice as high as the Fed’s 2% target. The major implication to be drawn from the data relates to Fed policy and whether or not another major easing program can be expected from the Fed.
Initially, the Fed led us to believe that inflation would need to be “dangerously low”, bridging on deflation, before another round of quantitative easing could take place. This mentality was largely abandoned, however, as growth greatly disappointed the Fed’s expectations in the first half of the year and their focus then shifted. As a result, the Fed began to give indications that if growth were to falter in the second half of the year more stimulus would be necessary. With August’s jobs report showing no job growth and other indicators turning sour, the market expectations for more Fed stimulus before the year’s end grew.
Today’s very high inflation reading, however, may have shifted the Fed once again. The Fed has long been selling markets on atransitory story for inflation, blaming high inflation on temporary factors from mid-east revolutions to weather disruptions. So far this picture has not involved and, in fact, is moving in the opposite direction. With the Fed’s inflation expectations being disappointed, there is a chance they are more timid when it comes to stimulating growth. The effect of this policy expectation shift on gold is generally negative, as the metal’s price growth relies on the negative yields and inflationary trends produced by the Fed and their stimulative policies.
This is likely the major factor forcing gold prices down today. More clarity on the issue may be given at the upcoming Fed policy meeting next week with a statement being released on September 21.
Bottom Line
The reason CPI data outweighed the release of stimulus measures out of Europe is somewhat complicated. For one, the swap lines to be utilized by the ECB are only being done so with a three month maturity when they may unwind. While there is a good chance the credit is rolled over, the size and temporary nature of the borrowing likely pales compared to what was expected from another quantitative and/or qualitative easing from the Fed. QE2 was well over a trillion large, for example. Moreover, the ECB signalling that dollar shortages might develop in Europe can also be seen as a temporarily negative sign for gold. A short term spike in the price of the dollar, should the ECB fail to mitigate the demand influx, could drive down commodity prices including gold.
In all, the fundamentals for gold are unaffected by these short term moves to dollars though and are actually a positive influence in the end. Any demand drive to dollars will wane but often some of the dollars printed in the intermediary will overhang after the fact, keeping metal prices even higher in the long term. Also, expectations for the Fed avoiding stimulus policy in light of higher inflation underestimates the need for the Fed to keep expanding their balance sheet and continue deluding themselves to the real nature of inflation. We can almost certainly expect the Fed to continue blaming inflation on transitory factors and the arrival of QE3 and/or other forms of easing is only a matter of time. In this sense, buying dips like today if you are a long term gold buyer is probably the correct strategy.

Poverty In America: A Special Report

America is getting poorer.  The U.S. government has just released a bunch of new statistics about poverty in America, and once again this year the news is not good.  According to a special report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 46.2 million Americans are now living in poverty.  The number of those living in poverty in America has grown by 2.6 million in just the last 12 months, and that is the largest increase that we have ever seen since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.  Not only that, median household income has also fallen once again.  In case you are keeping track, that makes three years in a row.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States dropped 2.3% in 2010 after accounting for inflation.  Overall, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation since December 2007.  So should we be excited that our incomes are going down and that a record number of Americans slipped into poverty last year?  Should we be thrilled that the economic pie is shrinking and that our debt levels are exploding?  All of those that claimed that the U.S. economy was recovering and that everything was going to be just fine have some explaining to do.
Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty.  Today,15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.  The last time the poverty level was this high was back in 1993.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the government definition of poverty rises based on the rate of inflation.  If inflation was still calculated the way that it was 30 or 40 years ago, the poverty line would be much, much higher and millions more Americans would be considered to be living in poverty.
So why is poverty in America exploding?  Who is getting hurt the most?  How is America being changed by this?  What is the future going to look like if we remain on the current path?
Let's take a closer look at poverty in America....
The Shrinking Number Of Jobs
Unemployment is rampant and the number of good jobs continues to shrink.  Once upon a time in America, if you really wanted a job you could go out and get one.  Today, competition for even the lowest paying jobs has become absolutely brutal.  There simply are not enough chairs at the "economic table", and not being able to get a good job is pushing large numbers of Americans into poverty.....
*There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million people to the population since then.
*Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.
*If you gathered together all of the unemployed people in the United States, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the world.
*According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if you factored in all of the short-term discouraged workers, all of the long-term discouraged workers and all of those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, the real unemployment rate right now would be approximately 23 percent.
*If you have been unemployed for at least one year, there is a 91 percentchance that you will not find a new job within the next month.
The Working Poor
The number of low income jobs is rising while the number of high income jobs is falling.  This has created a situation where the number of "the working poor" in America is absolutely skyrocketing.  Millions of Americans are working as hard as they can and yet they still cannot afford to lead a middle class lifestyle.
*Since the year 2000, we have lost approximately 10% of our middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.
*Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.
*Between 1969 and 2009, the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.
*According to a report released in February from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries are accounting for 40 percent of the job losses in America but only 14 percent of the job growth.  Lower wage industries are accounting for just 23 percent of the job losses but 49 percent of the job growth.
*Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.
*Last year, 19.7% of all U.S. working adults had jobs that would not have been enough to push a family of four over the poverty line even if they had worked full-time hours for the entire year.
*The number of Americans that are going to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 46% since 2006.
Unprecedented Dependence On The Government
Because they cannot get good jobs that will enable them to support themselves and their families, millions of Americans that used to be hard working contributors to society are now dependent on government handouts.  Nearly every single measure of government dependence is at a record high, and there are no signs that things are going to turn around any time soon.
*One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one government anti-poverty program.
*Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment benefits.  That number is almost four times larger than it was back in 2007.
*More than 45 million Americans are now on food stamps.  The number of Americans on food stamps has increased 74% since 2007.
*Approximately one-third of the entire population of Alabama is now on food stamps.
*More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid.
*Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today,approximately one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.
*In 1980, just 11.7% of all personal income came from government transfer payments.  Today, 18.4% of all personal income comes from government transfer payments.
The Suffocating Cost Of Health Care
Millions of American families are being financially crippled by health care costs.  The U.S. health care system is deeply, deeply broken and Obamacare is going to make things even worse.  Health care is one of the top reasons why American families get pushed into poverty.  Most of us are just one major illness or disease from becoming financially wrecked.  Just ask anyone that has gone through it.  The health insurance companies do not care about you and they will try to wiggle out of their obligations at the time when you need them the most.  If you talk to people that have been through bankruptcy, most of them will tell you that medical bills were at least partially responsible.
*In America today, there are 49.9 million Americans that do not have any health insurance.  One single medical bill could easily wipe out the finances of most of those people.
*Only 56 percent of Americans are currently covered by employer-provided health insurance.
*According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.  Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.
*According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980.  Today they account for approximately 16.3%.
More Children Living In Poverty
The United States has a child poverty rate that is more than twice as high as many European nations.  We like to think that we have "the greatest economy on earth", but the reality is that we have one of the highest child poverty rates and it increased once again last year.
*The poverty rate for children living in the United States increased to 22% in 2010.  That means that tonight more than one out of every five U.S. children is living in poverty.
*The poverty rate for U.S. adults is only 13.7%.
*Households that are led by a single mother have a 31.6% poverty rate.
*Today, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.
*It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point in their lives before they reach the age of 18.
*There are 314 counties in the United States where at least 30% of the children are facing food insecurity.
*More than 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.
*It is estimated that up to half a million children may currently be homeless in the United States.
The Plight Of The Elderly
The elderly are also falling into poverty in staggering numbers.  They may not be out protesting in the streets, but that does not mean that they are not deeply, deeply suffering.
*One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.
*Between 1991 and 2007 the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that filed for bankruptcy rose by a staggering 178 percent.
*The Baby Boomers have only just begun to retire, and already our social programs for seniors are starting to fall apart.  In 1950, each retiree's Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 U.S. workers.  According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now only 1.75 full-time private sector workers for each person that is receiving Social Security benefits in the United States.
Squeezed By Inflation
Rising inflation is squeezing the budgets of average American families like never before.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claims that inflation is still low, but either he is delusional or he has not been to a supermarket lately.
Personally, I do a lot of grocery shopping at a number of different stores, and without a doubt prices are absolutely soaring.  Many of the new "sale prices" are exactly what the old "regular prices" were just a few weeks ago.
Some companies have tried to hide these price increases by shrinking package sizes.  But there is no hiding the pain on the old wallet once you fill up your cart with what you need to feed your family.
*Over the past year, the global price of food has risen by 37 percent and this has pushed approximately 44 million more people around the world into poverty.
*U.S. consumers will spend approximately $491 billion on gas this year.  That is going to be a brand new all-time record.
*Right now, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is$3.649.  That is 94 cents higher than 12 months earlier and it is a brand new record for this time of the year.
A Smaller Share Of The Pie
The size of the "economic pie" in America is shrinking, and the share of the pie for those that are poor is shrinking a lot faster than the share of the pie for those that are wealthy.
*According to the Washington Post, the average yearly income of the bottom 90 percent of all U.S. income earners is now just $31,244.
*When you look at the ratio of employee compensation to GDP, it is now the lowest that is has been in about 50 years.
*At this point, the poorest 50% of all Americans now control just 2.5% of all of the wealth in this country.
*Big corporations are even recognizing the change that is happening to America. Just consider the following example from a recent article in the Huffington Post....
Manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, the household-goods giant responsible for everything from Charmin and Old Spice to Tide, are concentrating their efforts on luxury and bargain items, putting less emphasis on products aimed at the middle class, the Wall Street Journal reports.
America is fundamentally changing.  We were a nation that had the largest middle class in the history of the globe, but now we are becoming a nation that is deeply divided between the haves and the have nots.
Perhaps you are still doing fine.  But don't think that economic disaster cannot strike you.  Every single day, thousands more Americans will lose their jobs or will discover a major health problem.  Every single day, thousands more Americans will lose their homes or will be forced to take a pay cut.
If you still have a warm, comfortable home to sleep in, you should be thankful.  Poverty is a very sneaky enemy and it can strike at any time.  If you are not careful, you might be the next American to end up sleeping in your car or living in a tent city.
It is easy to disregard a couple of statistics, but can you really ignore the vast amount of evidence presented above?
It is undeniable that America is getting poorer.  Poverty is spreading and hopelessness and despair are rising.  There is a reason why the economy is the number one political issue right now.  Millions upon millions of Americans are in deep pain and they want some solutions.
Unfortunately, it appears quite unlikely that either major political party is going to offer any real solutions any time soon.  So things are going to keep getting worse and worse and worse.
Should we just keep doing the same things that we have been doing over and over and over and yet keep expecting different results?
What we are doing right now is not working.  We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline.  Both major political parties have been fundamentally wrong about the economy.  It is time to admit that.
If we continue on this path, poverty in America is going to continue to get a lot worse.  Millions of families will be torn apart and millions of lives will be destroyed.
America please wake up.
Time is running out.

13 Sep 2011

On the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?

Are we on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?  Rumors of an imminent default by Greece are flying around all over the place and Greek government officials are openly admitting that they are running out of money.  Without more bailout funds it is absolutely certain that Greece will soon default on their debts.  But German officials are threatening to hold up more bailout payments until the Greeks "do what they agreed to do".  The attitude in Germany is that the Greeks must now pay the price for going into so much debt.  Officials in the Greek government are becoming frustrated because the more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy shrinks.  As the economy shrinks, so do tax payments and the budget deficit gets even larger.  Meanwhile, hordes of very angry Greek citizens are violently protesting in the streets.  If Germany allows Greece to default, that is going to start financial dominoes tumbling around the globe and it is going to be a signal to the financial markets that there is a very real possibility that Portugal, Italy and Spain will be allowed to default as well.  Needless to say, all hell would break loose at that point.
So why is Greece so important?
Well, there are two reasons why Greece is so important.
Number one, major banks all over Europe are heavily invested in Greek debt.  Since many of those banks are also very highly leveraged, if they are forced to take huge losses on Greek debt it could wipe many of them out.
Secondly, if Greece defaults, it tells the markets that Portugal, Italy and Spain would likely not be rescued either.  It would suddenly become much, much more expensive for those countries to borrow money, which would make their already huge debt problems far worse.
If Italy or Spain were to go down, it would wipe out major banks all over the globe.
Recently, Paul Krugman of the New York Times summarized the scale of the problem the world financial system is now facing....
Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What’s under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area’s G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.
Most Americans don't spend a lot of time thinking about the financial condition of Europe.
But they should.
Right now, the U.S. economy is really struggling to stay out of another recession.  If Europe has a financial meltdown, there is no way that the United States is going to be able to avoid another huge economic downturn.
If you think that things are bad now, just wait.  After the next major financial crisis what we are going through right now is going to look like a Sunday picnic.
The following are 20 signs of imminent financial collapse in Europe....
#1 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 60 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 110 percent.  Basically, world financial markets now fully expect that Greece will default.
#2 European bank stocks are getting absolutely killed once again today.  We have seen this happen time after time in the last few weeks.  What we are now witnessing is a clear trend.  Just like back in 2008, major banking stocks are leading the way down the financial toilet.
#3 The German government is now making preparations to bail out major German banks when Greece defaults.  Reportedly, the German government is telling banks and financial institutions to be prepared for a 50 percent "haircut" on Greek debt obligations.
#4 With thousands upon thousands of angry citizens protesting in the streets, the Greek government seems hesitant to fully implement the austerity measures that are being required of them.  But if Greece does not do what they are being told to do, Germany may withhold further aid.  German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says that Greece is now "on a knife’s edge".
#5 Germany is increasingly taking a hard line with Greece, and the Greeks are feeling very pushed around by the Germans at this point.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard made this point very eloquently in a recent article for the Telegraph....
Germany’s EU commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger said Europe should send blue helmets to take control of Greek tax collection and liquidate state assets. They had better be well armed. The headlines in the Greek press have been "Unconditional Capitulation", and "Terrorization of Greeks", and even “Fourth Reich”.
#6 Everyone knows that Greece simply cannot last much longer without continued bailouts.  John Mauldin explained why this is so in a recent article....
It is elementary school arithmetic. The Greek debt-to-GDP is currently at 140%. It will be close to 180% by year’s end (assuming someone gives them the money). The deficit is north of 15%. They simply cannot afford to make the interest payments. True market (not Eurozone-subsidized) interest rates on Greek short-term debt are close to 100%, as I read the press. Their long-term debt simply cannot be refinanced without Eurozone bailouts.
#7 The austerity measures that have already been implemented are causing the Greek economy to shrink rapidly.  Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has announced that the Greek government is now projecting that the economy will shrink by 5.3% in 2011.
#8 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.
#9 Major banks in the U.S., in Japan and in Europe have a tremendous amount of exposure to Greek debt.  If they are forced to take major losses on Greek debt, quite a few major banks that are very highly leveraged could suddenly be in danger of being wiped out.
#10 If Greece goes down, Portugal could very well be next.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph explains it this way....
Yet to push Greece over the edge risks instant contagion to Portugal, which has higher levels of total debt, and an equally bad current account deficit near 9pc of GDP, and is just as unable to comply with Germany's austerity dictates in the long run. From there the chain-reaction into EMU's soft-core would be fast and furious.
#11 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 15 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.
#12 Portugal, Ireland and Italy now also have debt to GDP ratios that are well above 100%.
#13 Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about3 trillion euros combined.
#14 Major banks in the "healthy" areas of Europe could soon see their credit ratings downgraded.  For example, there are persistent rumors that Moody's is about to downgrade the credit ratings of several major French banks.
#15 Most major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt.  Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.
#16 The ECB is not going to be able to buy up debt from troubled eurozone members indefinitely.  The European Central Bank is already holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 444 billion euros of debt from the governments of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.  On Friday, Jurgen Stark of Germany resigned from the European Central Bank in protest over these reckless bond purchases.
#17 According to London-based think tank Open Europe, the European Central Bank is now massively overleveraged....
"Should the ECB see its assets fall by just 4.23pc in value . . . its entire capital base would be wiped out."
#18 The recent decision issued by the German Constitutional Court seems to have ruled out the establishment of any "permanent" bailout mechanism for the eurozone.  Just consider the following language from the decision....
"No permanent treaty mechanisms shall be established that leads to liability for the decisions of other states, especially if they entail incalculable consequences"
#19 Economist Nouriel Roubini is warning that without "massive stimulus" by the governments of the western world we are going to see a major financial collapse and we will find ourselves plunging into a depression....
“In the short term, we need to do massive stimulus; otherwise, there's going to be another Great Depression”
#20 German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler is warning that "an orderly default" for Greece is not "off the table"....
''To stabilize the euro, we must not take anything off the table in the short run. That includes, as a worst-case scenario, an orderly default for Greece if the necessary instruments for it are available.''
Right now, Greece is caught in a death spiral.  The more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy slows down.  The more their economy slows down, the more their tax revenues go down.  The more their tax revenues go down, the worse their debt problems become.
Greece could end up leaving the euro, but that would make their economic problems far, far worse and it would be very damaging to the rest of the eurozone as well.
Quite a few politicians in Europe are touting a "United States of Europe" as the ultimate solution to these problems, but right now the citizens of the eurozone are overwhelming against deeper economic integration.
Plus, giving the EU even more power would mean an even greater loss of national sovereignty for the people of Europe.
That would not be a good thing.
So what we are stuck with right now is the status quo.  But the current state of affairs cannot last much longer.  Germany is getting sick and tired of giving out bailouts and nations such as Greece are getting sick and tired of the austerity measures that are being forced upon them.
At some point, something is going to snap.  When that happens, world financial markets are going to respond with a mixture of panic and fear.  Credit markets will freeze up because nobody will be able to tell who is stable and who is about to collapse.  Dominoes will start to fall and quite a few major financial institutions will be wiped out.  Governments around the world will have to figure out who they want to bail out and who they don't want to bail out.
It will be a giant mess.
For decades, the governments of the western world have been warned that they were getting into way too much debt.
For decades, the major banks and the big financial institutions were warned that they were becoming way too leveraged and were taking far too many risks.
Well, nobody listened.
So now we get to watch a global financial nightmare play out in slow motion.
Grab some popcorn and get ready.  It is going to be quite a show.

12 Sep 2011

The Richest 0.1% Have Launched A War On Us – It’s Time To Fight Back And Hold These 400 Billionaires Personally Responsible For Our Economic Crisis

We have endured financial oppression for long enough. In a time of national crisis and shared sacrifice, the richest one-tenth of one percent of the population cannot continue on their merry way, living in obscene wealth and detached from reality, while the majority of the population desperately struggles to make ends meet. We are under attack, and it’s time to fight back.
I work over 60 hours a week and still barely make ends meet. Increased costs of living and thousands of dollars in medical bills have made me and my family move three times in the past three years to downsize and cut living expenses. I’m certainly not alone in this dire economic situation, tens of millions of Americans are fighting this daily war to keep their family fed and healthy with a roof over their head.
In fact, as long as I can keep up this intensive work schedule at my current income level, I’m actually better off than many Americans. Over 46 million Americans are currently relying on food stamps to feed their family, over 50 millioncan’t afford health care, 62 million have zero or negative net worth and 64% of Americans have less than $1000 saved. As the economic downturn begins to accelerate once again, the majority of the population, which has been struggling for over three years now, is going to be pushed to a breaking point.
Meanwhile, in this time of national crisis, as we keep hearing calls for “shared sacrifice,” tens of trillions of dollars are consolidated within the hands of the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population. This unprecedented consolidation of wealth continues unabated, as we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in American history. US millionaire households now have over $46 trillion in wealth, yet only one-tenth of one percent of the population makes over $1 million per year.
Let me be clear, I don’t fault a person for being rich. If you are great at what you do and work hard, you should be financially better off than people who slack off, are bad at what they do and don’t work hard. Almost all Americans agree with that. However, the problem we currently have is that people who are extremely bad at what they do are now all too often the people who have the most money. For example, the very people who caused this economic crisis have profited off of it and are now among the richest people in the world.
The reality of our current crisis is that we now have an aristocracy in this country that lives beyond the rule of law. They have used their wealth to rig the government and the economy. Through campaign finance, lobbying and the revolving door between Washington and the most powerful global corporations, the world’s richest people have now effectively rigged the system against hardworking Americans. This economic crisis is the result of a deliberate systemic looting engineered by the global financial elite. To attempt to dismiss this reality as some unproven conspiracy theory is to display a stunning level of ignorance.
Just look at the bailout of Wall Street: trillions of dollars in national wealth were given to the people who engaged in fraudulent activity and crashed the economy. They then used the public’s wealth to give themselves all-time record-breaking bonuses. And now, while the rich people who caused this crisis have never been richer, the government is giving them tax breaks and cutting vital programs that we need to keep our society functioning. To say that America has descended into a neo-feudal banana republic is not using bombastic rhetoric or hyperbole, it is a technical fact to anyone who spends time analyzing our current economic and socio-political condition.
As our society is incrementally and steadily deteriorating, millions of people are growing more desperate by the day. American families can no longer remain passive when under such a prolonged and ongoing economic attack. We literally can’t afford to. Clearly, this is a highly unsustainable and dangerous situation that cannot continue for much longer. A small fraction of society has systemically robbed the country and destroyed the economic future of the majority of the population. As more people realize this, and as desperate times continue, the mega-wealthy will eventually reap what they have sown.
To understand our future prospects, we just need to look at the civil unrest that is currently spreading throughout the world. The same people who robbed America have also robbed many other countries. People worldwide who have been pushed into severe poverty are rebelling because they have no other choice. It’s either fight back or let your family die a slow death. The massive protests and riots that have swept from Cairo to London are just the first wave of a tsunami of rebellion and unrest that, if the present course is not urgently and significantly changed, is sure to hit America soon.