Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Eurozone

Swiss Issue an Unequivocal Buy Signal for Gold

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, December 5, 2014:

Rarely do the precious markets receive such an unequivocal, unblemished, unalloyed buy signal as the one issued by the Swiss when they voted down, 3-to-1, a referendum that would have modestly restricted the activities of its central bank.

Months earlier, polls showed that the “Save Our Swiss Gold” initiative was likely to pass, but massive publicity campaigns and moves by Citigroup to cash in on it caused a huge shift in public sentiment, with the final vote on Sunday, November 30 defeating it by a 78-22% margin.

The Swiss, being a direct democracy, are known for referendums, voting on an average of five of them every year, with most of them failing. But this one caused rejoicing among observers and Swiss National Bank (SNB) officials that likely put in a bottom in the gold market. Had it passed, the referendum would have required the SNB to

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Crude Oil Price Declines Reveal Who’s Swimming Naked

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, December 3, 2014: 

Ali Al Naimi

Ali Al Naimi

One of the most famous homespun quotes Warren Buffett ever uttered is this: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” With the decline in crude oil prices of nearly 50 percent since June, more and more people are finding themselves swimming naked, or they’re about to.

Consider the formerly invincible oil cartel, OPEC, which seems to be suffering from delusions of its former glory by taking on oil producers in America. Instead of cutting production in order to “stabilize” oil prices, the cartel, led by the aging big kahuna, Saudi Arabia, has decided to

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Lower Crude Oil Prices Already Pinching Producers

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, December 2, 2014:

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

As crude oil prices continued their breathtaking drop, the CEO of Canadian Natural Resources, Canada’s largest oil company, Murray Edwards (the 14th wealthiest Canadian) was asked on Friday just how much further crude oil prices could decline. His response:

On a given day you can have market fluctuations where prices fluctuate far more than the underlying economic value of the unit. Prices could spike down to $30, $40. It got down to $35 in 2008, for a very short period of time.

On Monday crude oil prices briefly stabilized and then dropped further on Tuesday, hitting new four-year lows.

This pronouncement is at odds with an oil production estimate by the seemingly eternal oil optimist and economist Mark Perry, who rejoiced on Monday that

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Thanks to America’s Fracking Boom and Skilled Labor Force, Re-shoring of Jobs is Accelerating

More than half of 200 US companies with sales greater than $1 billion are moving jobs back to the US, or are planning to, within the next two years. The announcement by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on Tuesday confirms a subterranean paradigm shift that’s been underway for at least

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Staff Report from the IMF Blames the European Union for Mishandling the Greek Crisis

The report from the International Monetary Fund is remarkable in its candor: efforts to bail out Greece were fumbled as the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank all tried to promote their own agendas with little regard for the lowly Greek citizen.

Happily the disclaimer appeared on the front page:

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Pro-Euro German Finance Minister Now Having Second Thoughts?

This, at least, is the gist of the headline from the AP: “German who helped start euro now calls for its end.” The AP article that backed it up was just four paragraphs long and led me to think: this guy has awakened to reality! He’s been converted to free market principles! Hallelujah!

Even Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the conservative writer for the liberal Telegraph, seemed to buy the line, saying

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The Modern German Economic Model is a Myth

Dessau, a small and steadily shrinking town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt in what used to be East Germany, is doing the best it can. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall the anticipated “miracle” enjoyed by West Germany following World War II failed to materialize for Dessau and so it is in the process of

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The coming Tobin Tax and Wall Street

I have watched in utter amazement as the stock market continues inexorably to climb to new highs nearly on a daily basis. I have wondered aloud and in writing how such an upward march could be justified. I have looked in vain. There is nothing going on in the economy that, in my opinion, justifies this. Smarter people than I have failed to find justification for it either. The markets don’t care, it seems. They just continue to move higher.

But perhaps Wall Street is watching something that is about to happen in Europe

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Bank of Cyprus Expands Robbery of Depositors’ Money

Outrage upon outrage. Audacity upon audacity. In an email to its depositors last week, the wonderful amazing Bank of Cyprus informed its trusting depositors that it was going to take more of their money. Instead of limiting the theft of amounts over $130,000 to 40% the BOC is raising the amount of the robbery to 60%!

But there’s good news!  37.5% of the theft will be converted into ownership in the wonderful amazing bank with – ready? – full voting rights! And, in addition – wait for it! – they will receive any dividends the bank might declare in the future accruing to that ownership!

Oh, but there’s bad news as well. Sorry. The wonderful amazing BOC is going to withhold “temporarily” an additional 22.5% to “ensure” that the bank can meet the terms imposed by its new true real owners: the Eurozone commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

It gets even better. The BOC is setting up a commission (always good to hear that) to study 1) just how long that “temporary” hold will be, and 2) the possibility that that additional amount will also be converted into ownership of the wonderful amazing bank. Here’s how Bloomberg phrased it:

The Central Bank of Cyprus will appoint an independent valuer for the commercial lender and all or part of the 22.5 percent additional haircut may also be converted into shares within 90 days of that process being completed, according to the statement. Any remaining amount will be returned to customers with interest, the central bank said.

But not everyone gets to participate in this wonderful amazing opportunity to own a part of a wonderful amazing bank. Only if you have more than $130,000 in your account do you get to participate. If you have less than that, well, too bad, you’ll just have to muddle through without being offered this grand opportunity:

The so-called bail-in won’t apply to Bank of Cyprus account holders whose debts to the lender bring their net balance below the 100,000-euro threshold, according to the statement. Holders of accounts at other banks on the Mediterranean island aren’t being touched.

Well, shoot! It must mean that only depositors at the wonderful etc. BOC will be able to participate. This is discrimination! This is unfair! There ought to be a law!

The message being sent via email by the BOC is being received by every bank depositor in the world: your bank can take your money and keep it. That’s just how things are these days. Get used to it.

 

 

 

Cyprus Deal Turns Bank Depositors into Lenders, Abolishes National Sovereignty

Late Sunday night the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, was officially informed of the deal the unelected Eurogroup had come up with in order for Cyprus to receive its bailout from the European Central Bank. Anastasiades flew to Brussels on Sunday to meet with Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Jose Barroso, the president of the European commission. The meeting was run by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council. On his way to the meeting, Anastasiades admitted that

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Gold Standard Arguments Being Promoted Again

Two years ago Steve Forbes, two-time candidate for nomination for president by the Republican Party and Editor of Forbes magazine, predicted “a return to the gold standard by the United States within five years … [because it would] help the nation solve a variety of economic, fiscal and monetary ills.” It’s now two years into his prediction and articles explaining how such a return would work, and why, are beginning

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More of America’s National Debt Being Bought by Foreign Governments

On Monday, December 17th, the US Treasury Department announced that China and Japan have increased their purchases of United States government securities despite concerns over the continuing negotiations about the fiscal cliff. Foreign holdings rose to $5.5 trillion in October, or about one-third of the country’s $16 trillion national debt. The increased interest in owning US government debt by foreign governments is welcome as the government’s monthly deficits continue growing at about $150 million every month. 

Although China is often referred to as the primary financier of America’s continuing profligacy, that country’s total holdings, some $1.16 trillion, represents just a little over 7 percent of the US’s national debt. Japan comes in at second place, owning $1.13 trillion, with Brazil holding $255 billion.

In contrast, two-thirds of the country’s national debt is owed by individual American investors and by Social Security and civil service and military pension plans. The balance of $1.6 trillion is owned by the Federal Reserve.

How much longer can such profligacy with its resulting trillion-dollar annual deficits continue? Back in 1995, Harry Figgie wrote Bankruptcy 1995 and predicted the end would occur within five years:

The good news and the bad is that neither we nor any other nation can continue the sin of deficit spending indefinitely. The laws of economics eventually exact their punishment, and we are dangerously close to getting ours.

Just as interest compounds in a savings account, it compounds on our debt. The $4 trillion debt we owed in 1992 becomes $6.56 trillion in 1995 and $13 trillion by the year 2000 just from the accumulation of deficits and interest alone.

Only a fool would contend that this insanity doesn’t have to end.

That was 13 years ago and yet that “day of reckoning” hasn’t arrived. Part of the reason is those “laws of economics” that resulted when interest rates were forced down by the Federal Reserve following the bursting of the dot.com bubble and have remained historically low ever since. That brought the cost of borrowing to record lows as well. For instance, the percentage of taxes that were devoted to interest payments on the national debt in 1991 was nearly 20%, but by 2003, it had declined to just over 8 percent. When compared to the country’s gross domestic product, interest was eating up just 1.4% of it. As Bill Sardi noted, “America was saved by cheap money.”

But with interest rates at near zero, how much longer will investors, foreign and domestic, continue to put up with such low returns in the face of an ever-increasing risk of default? Following the debt ceiling crisis during the summer of 2011, the rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded its rating on U.S. Government debt for the first time in history. And unless something positive comes out of the fiscal cliff negotiations, Fitch Ratings is likely to follow.

The Tax Policy Center, using rosy economic assumptions, projected that deficits would continue at least out to the year 2017, and would average $700 billion a year. As Sardi noted, “There is no substantiation for this scenario.” And so something’s got to give.

Indeed, if the average monthly deficits of $150 billion were simply extended in a straight line into the future, deficits over the next five years would add $9 trillion to the national debt, bringing the total to over $24 trillion by 2017.

There are several reasons why that “day of reckoning” may in fact be years away. For one thing, where else would China and Japan invest their surpluses? Name one country that boasts, at least on paper, a better credit rating than the US. With Germany and Japan in recession, and the Eurozone countries struggling to stay afloat, options for “safe” places to invest are limited.

Second, because at present the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, there continues to be a demand for them no matter what they might be worth. Since Saudi Arabia must deal in dollars when selling the West their oil, there is a floor under that demand. And the recent drop in the price of oil shows, for the moment at least, that Saudi Arabia is happy with the arrangement.

And then there’s the Federal Reserve offering itself as the lender of last resort, announcing last week that it will continue to buy at least half of the government’s deficit for the foreseeable future.

The “day of reckoning” may instead occur in baby steps as the value of the American dollar continues its slow decay in purchasing power.

Despite the cries of worthies like Figgie and Sardi that the end is near, it may not be. The cross-currents of forces demanding further deficit spending are increasingly being met by demands for fiscal sanity will likely put off that “day of reckoning” for a long time, perhaps years into the future. That may indeed be enough time for those demands for sanity to be heard by enough in Washington to begin the sensible rebuilding of the country’s fiscal integrity, in which case the “day of reckoning” would happily never arrive.

 

 

 

 

Making Sense of Europe’s Nonsense

The official emblem of the European Parliament.

The official emblem of the European Parliament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthony Wile is at it again. While most were caught up in the national election and the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy and General Betrayus, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, explained what the implosion in Europe is all about. In speaking to the European Parliament last Wednesday, she shed all cover and told all who would listen what’s really going on:

Of course the European Commission will one day become a government, the European Council a second chamber and the European Parliament will have more powers – but for now we have to focus on the euro and give people a little more time to come along.

Wile has been saying this for years. That’s part of why his blog has grown so rapidly: he sees with a view and an insight that truth seekers appreciate. Out of 644 million active websites  Alexa ranks www.thedailybell.com at 16,991 in the United States. More than 6,700 people come to his Switzerland-based website every day. And his readership has grown 60% just in the last three months.

He’s like the 500-pound canary: when he speaks, people listen!

He notes that the European Union was always, from the very beginning, designed with

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The Trouble with Outright Monetary Transactions

Mario Draghi presents his credentials as candi...

Mario Draghi presents his credentials as candidate ECB president (Photo credit: European Parliament)

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), spoke before Germany’s Parliament on Wednesday, defending his decision to purchase government bonds from member states needing financial assistance but without unleashing inflation. Similar to the Federal Reserve’s continuing attempts to stimulate the economy through the purchase of government securities, called Quantitative Easing, or QE, Draghi’s Outright Monetary Transactions, or OMT, “will not lead to inflation,” he claimed in the closed-door session. He said:

In our assessment, the greater risk to price stability is currently falling prices in some euro-area countries. In this sense, OMTs are not in contradiction to our mandate; in fact, they are essential for ensuring we can continue to achieve it.

This is utter nonsense, wrote Mish Shedlock, in his blog Global Economic Analysis. Since Draghi’s “mandate” is similar to that of the Federal Reserve — that is, to maintain price stability along with low unemployment — it’s impossible to increase the supply of money by buying government bonds with credits created out of thin air without eventually unleashing price inflation at the consumer level in the economy. Shedlock wrote:

The problem with such nonsense is you cannot break the law while screaming you are upholding it. Draghi now sounds and acts like hypocr[itical] US presidents of both political parties.

Both President Bush and President Obama (as well as the treasury departments under each administration) have shown little concern for the law. Increasingly presidents are of the mind [that] “we have to destroy capitalism [in order] to save it” or as President Bush stated and Obama practices: “ I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”

What the members of the German Parliament wanted to hear was that Draghi would not be

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Quick! Who is the Most Powerful Person on the Planet?

English: EPP Congress Bonn: Podium discussion ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mario Draghi. Who? According to Matthew Lynn, writing at MarketWatch.com, “measured by what [he] can actually do, the most powerful person will soon be the president of the European Central Bank, the Italian banker Mario Draghi.” He explains:

In the last few weeks, we have seen an extraordinary expansion of the European Central Bank’s powers. It can now set interest rates, control financial markets, and effectively dictate tax and spending policies across what remains — despite its current difficulties — the world’s largest single economic bloc.

To explain how this former Goldman Sachs executive  ascended to such a high perch in the world of international finance would take far more room than we have here. Suffice to say, the path to power has been under construction for decades, and deliberately planned, going all the way back to

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Austrian School Economics in Estonia

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many, Austrian school economics is theoretical nonsense. It’s nice to read about. It’s nice and logical. It’s common sense economics. But it really can’t apply to the real world. After all, with paper currency backed by nothing and central banks running the show, Austrian thinking is strictly theoretical.

Or maybe not.  Frank Shostak, a scholar at the Mises Institute, has uncovered something quite remarkable in Estonia:

Against the background of a severe economic crisis in the eurozone, one is surprised to find a member of the euro area that is actually showing good economic performance. This member is Estonia. In terms of so-called real gross domestic product (GDP) the average yearly rate of growth in Estonia stood at 8.4 percent in 2011 against overall eurozone performance of 1.5 percent. So far in 2012 the average yearly growth stood at 2.8 percent in Estonia versus -0.2 percent in the eurozone.

How about unemployment there?

Also note that the unemployment rate in Estonia displays a visible decline: it fell to 5.9 percent in August from 7.6 percent in January. In contrast, the unemployment rate in the eurozone climbed to lofty levels in August. After closing at 10.8 percent in January, the eurozone unemployment rate shot up to 11.4 percent in August.

One of the basic premises of Austrian economics is the “cleansing” process that must take place to

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“Fiscal Cliff” Already Slowing the Economy

English: A closeup of the fireball and mushroo...

Mushroom cloud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Patrice Hill of the Washington Times makes a very good point:  the impact of the so-called “fiscal cliff” – Taxmageddon – is already being felt in the economy. People are frightened about the future, and so they are hunkering down.

And it’s no wonder. Here’s what the “cliff” looks like:

  • reductions in itemized deductions and personal exemptions
  • increases in taxes on capital gains and dividends
  • the marriage penalty returning
  • estate tax reinstated
  • increase in the payroll tax
  • cuts in unemployment benefits
  • child tax credit cut in half
  • 10 percent cut in military spending
  • 8 percent cut in discretionary government spending

And these are just a few of what happens on January 1st if Congress does nothing about them.

Please understand that this is not a plea for Congress to “do something”! It’s just an iteration of

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Spain’s Catalonia Region Demands Independence

Draft of New Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia...

Draft of New Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia of 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every September 11 the people of Catalonia, an independent region in northeast Spain, celebrate their “national day” — Diada — by taking the day off and parading through the streets of Barcelona. In past years the celebration was a festival used by some citizens as an excuse to get some fresh air, make some noise, and have some fun. This year, nearly one-quarter of the region’s seven million citizens used the celebration as an excuse to swarm into Barcelona to protest Spain’s austerity measures, which have raised unemployment in Catalonia — referred to locally as Catalan — to nearly 25 percent.

The immensity of the crowd far exceeded expectations so that parade routes had to be adjusted and parking places found for the more than 1,000 buses chartered to bring Catalans into the city. Most revelers were waving flags that said, “Catalonia: a new European state.” Said Alfred Bosch, a member of the Catalonian government:

All the flags I can see are the pro-independence flags of Catalonia with the lonely star right in the middle of the triangle.

And everybody is wearing these flags. I have never seen so many pro-independence flags in my all life.

Catalonia is a largely autonomous region of Spain with about 15 percent of the country’s population; it generates about 20 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product. It also pays more in taxes to Madrid than it receives in benefits. The fact that Spain levies taxes on Catalans and then sends only some of the money back to the region is galling, especially to those who

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Spain is Bleeding to Death

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Deposit flight from Spanish banks smashes record in July

Data from the European Central Bank shows that outflows from Spanish commercial banks reached [$92 billion] in July, twice the previous monthly record. This brings the total deposit loss over the past year to 10.9 percent [of deposits]…

Mariano Rajoy en Bilbao. Imagen tomada por Ike...

Mariano Rajoy en Bilbao. Imagen tomada por Iker Parriza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In any capitalist economy, bank deposits represent capital in liquid form. Spain is bleeding to death. Evans-Pritchard quotes another expert:

This is highly significant. Deposit outflows are clearly picking up and the balance sheet of the Spanish banking system is contracting.

This is called deflation: a contraction in the supply of money.

I give blood on a regular basis. But I’m only allowed to give one pint at a time, and I can’t go back in less than six weeks to give another pint. Once, when I was into bike racing, I was reminded by Penrose Hospital that it was time to give blood again. I waited until after the race was over. I wanted to be at my best.

The politicians in Spain don’t know about bike racing, and I have serious doubts about their understanding of capital flows. They’re much more interested in continuing to spend other peoples’ money without hindrance.

Says Evans-Pritchard:

The drip-drip of grim figures came amid fears of a constitutional crisis after the Spanish region of Catalonia requested a €5 billion rescue package yesterday from the central government but refused to accept any political conditions.

There it is in a nutshell: loan us more money so we can keep spending, but without conditions on the loan!

Evans-Pritchard reiterated:

Nothing can happen until Spain requests a loan package and signs a “memorandum” giving up fiscal sovereignty. It remains unclear whether Mr. Rajoy [Spain’s prime minister] will agree to this.

It’s the socialist mindset: only banks and governments can revive the sinking economy. Investors with their own funds in the banks see the lie, and are getting their money out while the getting is good.

Spain is bleeding to death.

Bailout of Spain Just a “Credit Line,” Says New Prime Minister

Mariano Rajoy

Following another last-minute late-weekend meeting of European Finance Ministers, Spain’s new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy happily announced that not only was his country going to get more bailout funds than it needs, it’s coming without any strings attached. This is because, according to Rajoy, the new measures instituted since the victory of his People’s Party last November have been so effective in bringing common sense and prudent behavior back to the country’s financial markets. Those “radical” fiscal, labor-market, and financial-sector reforms that were instituted were the key, he said, adding,

If we hadn’t done this in these past five months, what was put forward [on Sunday] would have been a bailout of the Kingdom of Spain. Because we had been doing our homework for five months, what did happen…what was agreed, was the opening of a line of credit for our financial system.

There is no conditionality of any kind.

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Spain needed at least $50 billion to rescue and recapitalize its banks. But the Finance Ministers decided to up the ante significantly, to $125 billion, just to be safe. Said Olli Rehn, the European Union’s top economist, “This is a very clear signal to the markets, to the public, that the Eurozone is ready to take determined action.” He added, “We deliberately wanted to ensure there is some additional safety margin…. This is preemptive action.”

What Rajoy failed to mention is that there are most certainly strings attached, and when

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.