25 Nov 2015

Brazil in Horrific Recession: Sincerely, US Dollar.

The 7th largest economy on the entire planet, Brazil, has been gripped by a horrifying recession, as has much of the rest of South America.  But it isn’t just South America that is experiencing a very serious economic downturn.  We have just learned that Japan (the third largest economy in the world) has lapsed into recession.  So has Canada.  So has Russia.  The dominoes are starting to fall, and it looks like the global economic crisis that has already started is going to accelerate as we head into the end of the year.  At this point, global trade is already down about 8.4 percent for the year, and last week the Baltic Dry Shipping Index plummeted to a brand new all-time record low.  Unfortunately for all of us, the Federal Reserve is about to do something that will make this global economic slowdown even worse.
Throughout 2015, the U.S. dollar has been getting stronger.  That sounds like good news, but the truth is that it is not.  When the last financial crisis ended, emerging markets went on a debt binge unlike anything we have ever seen before.  But much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, and now this is creating a massive problem.  As the U.S. dollar has risen, the prices that many of these emerging markets are getting for the commodities that they export have been declining.  Meanwhile, it is taking much more of their own local currencies to pay back and service all of the debts that they have accumulated.  Similar conditions contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.
Many Americans may be wondering when “the next economic crisis” will arrive, but nobody in Brazil is asking that question.  Thanks to the rising U.S. dollar, Brazil has already plunged into a very deep recession
As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff combats a slumping economy and corruption accusations, the country’s inflation surged above 10 percent while unemployment jumped to 7.9 percent, according to the latest official data. The dour state of affairs has Barclays forecasting a 4 percent economic contraction this year, followed by 3.3 percent shrinkage next year, the investment bank said in a research note last week.
The political and economic turmoil has recently driven the real, Brazil’s currency, to multiyear lows, a factor helping to stoke price pressures.
And as I mentioned above, Brazil is far from alone.  This is something that is happening all over the planet, and the process appears to be accelerating.  One of the places where this often first shows up is in the trade numbers.  The following comes from an article that was just posted by Zero Hedge
This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that,” warns one of the world’s largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines –having collapsed to all-time record lows this week – it is the spefics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before… 2008! “It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term.”
Many “experts” seem mystified by all of this, but the explanation is very simple.
For years, global economic growth was fueled by cheap U.S. dollars.  But since the end of QE, the U.S. dollar has been surging, and according to Bloomberg it just hit a 12 year high…
The dollar traded near a seven-month high against the euro before the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s October meeting, when policy makers signaled the potential for an interest-rate increase this year.
A trade-weighted gauge of the greenback is at the highest in 12 years as Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other policy makers have made numerous pronouncements in the past month that it may be appropriate to boost rates from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 gathering. The probability the central bank will act next month has risen to 66 percent from 50 percent odds at the end of October.
But even though the wonks at the Federal Reserve supposedly know the damage that a strong dollar is already doing to the global economy, they seem poised to make things even worse by raising interest rates in December
Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy “could well” be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed’s first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade, according to minutes of its meeting Oct. 27-28.
The officials said global troubles had eased and a delay could increase market uncertainty and undermine confidence in the economy.
The meeting summary provides the clearest evidence yet that a majority of Fed policymakers are leaning toward raising the central bank’s benchmark rate next month, assuming the economy continues to progress.
Considering the tremendous amount of damage that has already been done to the global economy, this is one of the stupidest things that they could possibly do.
But it looks like they are going to do it anyway.
It has been said that those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
And right now so many of the exact same patterns that we saw just before the great financial crisis of 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.
A lot of people out there seem to assume that once we got past the September/October time frame that we were officially out of “the danger zone”.
But that is not true at all.
The truth is that we have already entered a new global economic downturn that is rapidly accelerating, and the financial shaking that we witnessed in August was just a foreshock of what is coming next.
Let us hope that common sense prevails and the Fed chooses not to raise interest rates at their next meeting.
Because if they do, it will just make the global crisis that is now emerging much, much worse.

Original Source

Negative interest rates to hit the US

It started in 1921.
World War I was over. The Treaty of Versailles had been signed two years before.
And Germany, the biggest loser from the war, had been stuck with both the blame and the bill.
Germany’s war debt– which it owed not only for its own war-related expenses, but also for reparations to the victors– was devastating.
They didn’t have the money, so they started printing it.
Not surprisingly, the German mark began to sink. It started slowly at first, but by 1921 hyperinflation had taken hold until prices soared by thousands of percent.
One of my favorite stories from this period, was of the elderly man who went to the police to report a robbery. Thieves had stolen a wheelbarrow of money.
It was common at the time to use wheelbarrows to transport the huge sums of cash that were required to buy even the most simple things like bread and milk.
When the police asked him how much was in the wheelbarrow, the man corrected them saying that the thieves had only stolen the wheelbarrow, and had left the cash behind.
Undoubtedly the entire society was upturned by this hyperinflation. But as history shows, in any situation, there are always winners and losers.
Pensioners and people who responsibly saved their money were wiped out; whereas people who had borrowed to invest in real assets did extremely well.
Owners of residential real estate suffered under government imposed rent controls, whereas owners of farmland thrived.
For people who saw the decline of the mark coming and bet against it, generational fortunes were made in a matter of years.
In the case of Germany in the 1920s, few people probably expected that hyperinflation would ensue.
Even the president of their central bank, Dr. Rudolf Havenstein, firmly believed that there was zero connection between price levels and the amount of money he printed.
Yet it happened, and those who saw the warning signs and took steps to reduce their risk did very well.
Today there is no shortage of risk in the financial system either.
Negative interest rates are becoming more and more common in developed nations and they’re on their way to America as well.
Every time there’s a recession, the government cuts interest rates by easily half a percent to a percent.
So with interest rates already at zero, when the next recession comes (and it absolutely will), you can expect interest rates to go negative.
Meanwhile, Western banking systems are highly illiquid, meaning that they have very low cash equivalents as a percentage of customer deposits.
This isn’t some wild conspiracy theory. You can see it for yourself in the financial statements banks publish every quarter.
Solvency in many Western banking systems is also highly questionable, with many loaded up on the debts of their bankrupt governments.
Banks also play clever accounting games to hide the true nature of their capital inadequacy.
We live in a world where questionably solvent, highly illiquid banks are backed by under capitalized insurance funds like the FDIC, which in turn are backed by insolvent governments and borderline insolvent central banks.
This is hardly a risk-free proposition.
Yet your reward for taking the risk of holding your money in a precarious banking system is a rate of return that is substantially lower than the official rate of inflation.
And in many cases, it’s even negative. Rates are already negative in Europe, and again, it’s coming to the US. Either way, you’re guaranteed to lose money.
Risk is a funny thing. The reason why it’s so frequently misdiagnosed is because there’s often a huge discrepancy between the actual risk and the perceived risk.
You can see that very clearly with banking.
People perceive the risk in their banking system to be zero.
And while I’m not suggesting that there is some imminent collapse, the data clearly indicate that the actual risk is significant.
Given the meager and even negative interest rates, the risk-reward ratio just doesn’t add up.
To address different types of risk in the system, I see four main solutions:
One is to hold physical cash, enabling you to effectively be your own private banker and giving you an excellent short-term hedge against risks in your domestic banking system.
However, this comes with additional physical security risks and potential political risks such as civil asset forfeiture or cash bans.
Another option is to establish a foreign bank account in a jurisdiction where banks are liquid, well-capitalized, and backed by a government with minimal debt.
It’s hard to imagine you’d be worse off for having a portion of your savings in a safe, stable, debt-free jurisdiction.
Then there’s gold and silver, which are excellent long-term hedges, not only against risks in the banking system, but the monetary system at large.
Last but not least, it is 2015, and I would be negligent if I didn’t mention cryptocurrency as a viable option to hedge risk in both the banking and financial system.

Original Source, and Podcast can be found here