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Thread: The cheh shaped recovery – Part I: End of the beginning - Eric Janszen

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    Default The cheh shaped recovery – Part I: End of the beginning - Eric Janszen

    The cheh shaped recovery – Part I: End of the beginning

    Cyrillic letter depicts the FIRE Economy Depression
    Defusing the Dollar Bomb
    What mixes like oil and water? Deflation theory and $70 oil.

    Forget the boom bust cycle. This economic crisis spells the end of the FIRE Economy. The elongated process of devolution has many components, from the FIRE Economy debt hangover that drives the Debt Deflation Bear Market to Peak Cheap Oil. Going into midterm elections in 2010 with U-3 unemployment over 10%, the political component looms large.

    Political Pig Pile

    Harsh cover article in this month’s Harper’s Magazine. Kevin Baker in "Barrack Hoover Obama" hammers the new president for lack of sack. The chorus of armchair presidents including Bill Maher opines: the policy of do-it-all bi-partisan appeasement is failing. You can’t reason people out of their perceived self-interest. Obama should channel his inner Dick Cheney to bring out the conniving take-no-prisoners ass kicker within to punch a pared down to-do list.

    To be fair, the administration inherited an overflowing economic outhouse built atop 30 years of politically expedient policy effluent dumped by both Republicans and Democrats. Monetarist in booms, Keynesian in busts, by turns the two parties filled the ground that was America’s productivity promise with a heap of reeking debt to overflowing.

    The soggy floor above it all sagged under the weight of the Bush administration’s megalomaniac military ambition to keep oil cheap by force of arms starting in 2001. Oil prices responded by heading in the wrong direction and the floor caved in. But as hastily as the GOP scampered from the building as all the floor boards crumbled away President Obama leapt in like a kid into a lily pond on a hot summer’s day, without so much as holding his nose.

    At a news conference at the end of April, he said that one of the biggest surprises of his first months in office was the sheer number of crucial issues that have come to the fore at the same time.

    Democrats confronted this unforeseen challenge as Dave Barry once aptly described in a quip that distills our two political two parties to their essence:
    "The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club."
    True to form, the Obama administration quickly set about burning down the FIRE Economy to save it. He hired a Treasury secretary with a record of ineffectuality and the knavish genius Larry Summers to manage economic policy. Within days of taking office, the bloom of change was already off the rose.

    The Wall Street Journal reported:
    Top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers received about $5.2 million over the past year in compensation from hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from major financial institutions.

    A financial disclosure form released by the White House Friday afternoon shows that Mr. Summers made frequent appearances before Wall Street firms including J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. He also received significant income from Harvard University and from investments, the form shows.

    In total, Mr. Summers made a total of about 40 speaking appearances to financial sector firms and other places, with fees totaling about $2.77 million. Fees ranged from $10,000 for a Yale University speech to $135,000 for an appearance paid for by Goldman Sachs & Co.
    Bribery in third world countries goes on under the table, behind closed doors, hidden from nosy journalists. In the U.S. bribery of public officials occurs in broad daylight, paid out as speaker’s fees and advisor’s compensation.

    I know, I know. You don’t want to hear this. The crisis passed. Green shoots and all that. Jon Stewart’s dressing down of Jim Cramer? Dismissed. The assertion by Bill Black, the senior federal savings and loan regulator during the S&L crisis, to Bill Moyers that the current banking crisis is “1000 times worse, perhaps, certainly 100 times worse, than the Savings and Loan crisis" yet no one has been prosecuted? Forgotten. The revelation from Simon Johnson, Director of the Research Department at the IMF and Sloan School of Management at MIT Professor of Entrepreneurship, that the U.S. is not run by either Republican or Democratic parties but by a American bank oligarchs?

    Simon who?

    Down the memory hole they go. Within months, the events of the Cramer’s ear boxing, Bill Black’s warning, and Johnson’s epiphany will join those of last year’s winners of “So You Think You Can Dance?” in America’s collective gnat memory.

    Defusing the Dollar Bomb

    Already lost is the fact that by the time Obama took office in early 2009, the Fed had already fired every monetary bullet fighting the early stages of the FIRE Economy Depression. Only fiscal stimulus remained to pull the nation out of a spin dive. But can we afford it?

    Buried far deeper in the bottomless abyss of American’s forgotten past are the darkest days of the Carter administration when U.S. deficits spiraled out of control. Gold prices doubled and doubled again as one hundred articles pronounced the dollar doomed.
    Shrinking Role for U.S. Money
    Oct. 15, 1979 (TIME Magazine)

    Frenzy in the gold and currency markets heightens an urgent issue

    From the harried canyons of Wall Street to the outwardly calm boardrooms of Zurich, the world's financial centers experienced a whiff of panic last week. In two days of frantic trading, the price of gold on the London exchange soared a breathtaking $50 per oz. to $447 at one point; then it plunged back down almost as steeply, closing the week at $385. Silver, platinum and copper also gyrated wildly. Said a New York bullion trader: "The market's gone bananas."

    The madness, as usual, was not over precious metals so much as money—specifically the battered U.S. dollar. Once again greenbacks were being sold off heavily in world markets in exchange for more robust currencies. Struggling to keep the buck from plunging further, which would hurt West German exports, the Bundesbank spent $1.2 billion in deutsche marks to buy up unwanted dollars last week. By happenstance, as the buck was worrying down again, central bankers, finance ministers and some 6,000 other leading moneymen were gathering in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, for the annual meeting of the 138-nation International Monetary Fund. Treasury Secretary G. William Miller and Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker had hardly arrived when they were besieged with calls for U.S. action to stem the panic.
    Twenty years before GATA and conspirational gold manipulation theories appeared, real live gold manipulation occurred out in the open, with Volcker in the lead.
    Volcker promptly returned to Washington to draft plans for what could be the second massive dollar-rescue program the U.S. has had to mount in eleven months. Among the steps under discussion:

    LARGER GOLD SALES. The 750,000 oz. of Fort Knox bullion the U.S. now sells monthly might be doubled, in hopes that this might help drive prices down. Hinting at such a strategy, Under Secretary of the Treasury Anthony Solomon said last week that the gold boom was "extremely unhealthy for the world economy."
    Owners of U.S. debt held a mere fraction of a percent of GDP on those days, modest by today’s standards. Yet when the U.S. started running a tiny sub-billion dollar trade deficit lenders demanded that future U.S. bonds be issued in local currencies, aka Carter Bonds.
    MORE "CARTER BONDS." Since last November the U.S. has sold $4.2 billion of so-called Carter bonds in West Germany in order to raise marks for the dollar defense. Plans have been worked out to issue more such bonds.

    The foreign moneymen worry about the Carter Administration's resolve to hold down inflation at the cost of higher unemployment as the 1980 political campaign picks up steam. They found fresh reason for skepticism last week: it was revealed that to get the unions to join in the Carter anti-inflation program, the Administration agreed not to try to penalize any violators of the "voluntary" wage and price guidelines. Miller attempted to soothe his colleagues in Belgrade by promising that the Administration would "stay the course" in battling inflation, but doubt remained. Said one West German Cabinet minister: "The problem is Carter's chaotic leadership."
    The macroeconomic backdrop for the FIRE Economy Depression is 50 percent 1975 and 50 percent 1930. Three items top of the 1930 depression versus 1970s recession comparison checklist. One, is the economy collapsing under the strain of a post credit bubble debt deflation? Check. Two, is monetary ammo exhausted and deficit spending the remaining line of defense? Check. Three, is U.S. a net creditor? No it is not. This will prove to be the critical difference as U.S. creditors back away from the dollar like a construction crew from an unexploded bomb discovered while digging the foundation for a new building—very carefully.

    You’ve heard apologists for America’s unofficial weak dollar policy explain that the U.S. external debt position does not expose the U.S. to balance of payments crisis such as led Argentina down a road to ruin that culminated in a currency crash and capital flight in 2001. You see, the U.S., owes its foreign debts in its own currency.

    Not if current trends continue and the U.S. owes more and more in short term debt and soon Obama Bonds.
    Top Chinese banker Guo Shuqing calls for wider use of yuan
    June 15, 2009 (Telegraph - Malcolm Moore in Shanghai)

    The head of China's second-largest bank has said the United States government should start issuing bonds in yuan, rather than dollars, in the latest indication of the increasing importance of the Chinese currency.

    It was the first time the head of a major Chinese bank has called for the wider use of the yuan, although a chorus of senior government officials have already voiced their concerns about the stability of the dollar and have said the yuan should be used more widely.

    "I think the US government and the World Bank can consider the issuing of renminbi bonds," he said, asking for a "mutual cooperation" between the US and China to promote Chinese financial services. He said bond issuance could be relatively small, at between 1bn and 3bn yuan (£100m to £300m).
    Shuqing’s shot added to the salvo of criticisms launched by Chinese officials at the Obama administration, each claiming reckless public spending to bail out the FIRE Economy and shaky banks stretched America’s credit limit. Only six months earlier, ex-New York Fed economist Richard C. Koo, now the Chief Economist of Nomura Research, pointed to the experience of Japan in the early 1990s as an object lesson on how not to manage debt deflation. He made a convincing case that aggressive monetary policy will prevent the U.S. economy from collapsing into a deflationary spiral as in the 1930s, but that only fiscal stimulus can prevent the U.S. economy from devolving into a Japan style “lost decade.”

    Oil and water: Deflation forecasts and $70 oil

    Whatever happened to that deflation spiral, anyway? The deflationists have been mighty quiet lately.

    Issuing debt in other nation’s currency, no matter how modest at first, signals a return to a stage of devolution that took the U.S. dollar to the brink of losing reserve currency status in the late 1970s. Investors seem to know this, bidding up the prices of oil and other commodities to hedge the loss of future dollar purchasing power.

    The dollar has only ever been about oil; a review of history ends the mystery of how the U.S. has avoided a 1930s style deflation spiral or Japan style liquidity trap. Continuing the 1979 TIME story:
    The central bankers were especially doubtful about the President's ability to cut U.S. oil imports, a chief cause of the dollar's weakness. Only last week did Congress step up work on the energy program that Carter presented in July. Overriding objections from environmentalists, the Senate voted to create an Energy Mobilization Board that will be empowered to cut through the federal, state and local regulatory barriers that delay key energy projects. This week the Senate Finance Committee is expected to pass its version of the important windfall profits tax that will finance the new projects. The Senate is likely to approve a tax one-third smaller than the $104 billion House version: President Carter originally demanded a $142 billion tax.

    The urgency for action on the energy program becomes clearer all the time. Brandishing the oil weapon in Belgrade, Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister Mohammed Ali Abdul Khail warned that continued depreciation of the dollars that the OPEC countries are paid for their oil might very well "evoke reactions." By that he presumably meant that the OPEC countries might force buyers to pay in a "basket" of many currencies rather than just in dollars; if this were to happen, demand for dollars would decline and they would slide further in value.
    The global monetary system was at the brink.
    Though the greenback strengthened a bit late last week as the markets anticipated new dollar defense moves, worry remains deep about the future of the monetary system that helped create the world's postwar prosperity. The central problem is the roughly 1 trillion footloose dollars that slosh around banks and currency markets outside the U.S. For many years during the 1950s and 1960s, Europeans complained about a "dollar gap." Greenbacks were the only currency that was accepted everywhere, though there were not enough of them around to finance world trade and development. But the dollar gap has since become a dollar glut. Due to heavy foreign spending, first to pay for the Viet Nam War, more recently for oil imports, the U.S. has exported enough dollars in the past decade to boost the reserves held by foreign central banks from $24 billion to $300 billion. Private international banks hold another $600 billion in Eurodollars, which are dollars loaned abroad.
    Today these numbers sound quaint. All this before the U.S. worked out the petrodollar recycling program that saved the day by putting oil producers’ earnings on account at the Fed as reserves. But while crisis was forestalled for 30 years the problem never went away.
    Central banks and private holders are reluctant to accept any more dollars, whose value declines almost daily. OPEC countries in particular are attempting to put new oil earnings into marks, yen or gold. Says Washington Economic Consultant Harald Malmgren: "The Arabs have learned that they pump oil out of the sand, hold the dollars, and the dollars turn back to sand." Nervous central bankers also fear that dollar holders will suddenly try to move large funds into another currency or into gold. Warns Karl Otto Pohl, president-designate of the German Bundesbank: "If this mass of dollars ever begins to crumble, it could start an avalanche that would bury all other currencies."
    The avalanche did not happen. Yet. But imagine three years from now the following report, perhaps in TIME Magazine:
    The “foreign moneymen” worry about the Obama Administration's resolve to hold down inflation at the cost of higher unemployment as the 2010 mid-term elections pick up steam. They found fresh reason for skepticism this week: it was revealed that to get the banks to join in the Obama re-inflation program, the Administration agreed not to try to penalize any violators of the bank stress test guidelines. Geithner attempted to soothe his colleagues in China by promising that the Administration would "stay the course" in maintaining a strong dollar, but doubt remained. Said one Chinese official: "The problem is Obama’s chaotic leadership."
    Or something like that. Whether we see high, moderate, or modest inflation from here, a question we dig deeply into in Part II, one fact is certain, throughout the crash we did not nor were we ever in danger of falling into a deflationary spiral. Everyone who made that call can officially throw in the towel.

    Game over for deflation forecasters. No deflation spiral.

    (Hat tip to member Largowinch: Full report here.)
    We have delayed our re-distribution of part of our gold and Treasuries barbell portfolio until we see one of these Fed crashes in action as it attempts to raise interest rates without raising interest rates. Key measures we keep an eye on:

    1. Yield curve
    2. Unemployment
    3. Dollar
    4. Commodities
    5. Oil
    6. Housing
    7. Personal Consumption Expenditures
    8. Freight Rail Traffic
    9. Bank solvency
    10. Personal Consumption Expendatrues

    Staying in gold and Treasuries since 2001 has yielded us approximately 7.4% compound annual returns with zero transaction costs or management fees with no draw down. As the first rule of iTulip is do not harm, and taking a trade minimalist stance, we approach any changes to this position with care.

    We have been doing diligence on energy, and oil in particular. We are convinced that the markets have another big crash in the wings, as the Fed experiments with ways to reverse its creative anti-deflation policies in an environment of fiscal stimulus/deficit spending fueled economic growth, and that the rally off March 2009 lows has been driven first by technicals, then by sentiment, and most recently by funds who cannot be seen by their clients sitting in the dust behind funds that got into the rally early.

    But as we demonstrate in Part II, there is no fundamental justification for a rally of this magnitude, and nothing to sustain it beyond a widespread fear of not being in it. Not one politically difficult major root cause of the crisis has been addressed, and many new crises set in motion by the collapse or before are about to arrive.

    While we read about U and V and L shaped recoveries, we had to go to Russia’s Cryllic alphabet to find a letter shaped like the outcome we see for the end of the FIRE Economy, a crash, a rebound, and a long decline—unless current policies change.

    The cheh shaped recovery – Part II: Yield curve says what? ($ubscription)

    ZIRP hell for debtors
    First Bounce is over
    Entering the high volatility zone

    The yield curve is talking. Rising of the short end to long, the steepening curve says: inflation. But why?

    Here we take a different path than we took in Deflation fare thee well, we hardly knew ye - Part II: Asset valuations in a post-market world. Rather than looking for confirmation of that analysis we instead look at all of the reasons why the yield curve is getting steeper other than the one that conforms to the theory that inflation expectations are rising due to:

    • Credit crunch induced supply shock
    • Weakening dollar and cost-push inflation from energy imports
    • Inflationary impact of excessive money growth
    • Inflationary institutional policy bias
    • Bankruptcies induced industrial concentration

    Is it possible that the economy is simply on a path to self-sustaining recovery? More ($ubscription)

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    Last edited by FRED; 08-13-09 at 05:16 PM.

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