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Deluded Currency Cultists Believe The Dollar Is Invincible

Deluded Currency Cultists Believe The Dollar Is Invincible.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 05:25 Brandon Smith

At the onset of the derivatives collapse in 2007/2008 it would have been easy to assume that most of America was receiving a valuable education in normalcy bias.

In 2006, the amount of ego on display surrounding mortgage investment was so disturbingly grotesque anyone with any true understanding of the situation felt like projectile vomiting. To watch the smug righteousness of MSNBC and FOX economic pundits as they predicted the infinite rise of American property markets despite all evidence to the contrary was truly mind blowing. When the whole system imploded, it was difficult to know whether one should laugh, or cry.

The saddest aspect of the credit crisis of 2008 was not the massive chain reaction of bankruptcies or the threat of institutional insolvency. Rather, it was the delusional assumptions of the public that the grand mortgage casino was going to go on forever. There is nothing worse than witnessing the victim of a Ponzi scheme defend the lie which has ultimately destroyed him. As much as I am for people waking up to the nature of the crisis, there comes a point when those who are going to figure it out will figure it out, and the rest are essentially hopeless.

The cultism surrounding the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar is truly mind boggling, and by “cultism” I mean a blind faith in the fiat currency mechanism that goes beyond all logic, reason and evidence.

In recent weeks it has become more visible as global financiers play both sides of the Ukrainian conflict, luring Americans into a frenzy of false patriotism and an anti-Russo-sports-team-mentality. My personal distaste for Vladimir Putin revolves around my understanding that he is just as much a puppet of the International Monetary Fund and international banks as Barack Obama, but many Americans hate him simply because the mainstream media has designated him the next villain in the fantasy tale of U.S. foreign policy.

Open threats from Russia that they will dump U.S. treasury bond holdings and the dollar’s world reserve status if NATO interferes in the Ukraine have been met with wildly naive chest beating from dollar cultists.  I am beginning to see the talking points everywhere.

“Let them dump the dollar, Russia’s holdings are minimal!” Or, “Let them throw out Treasuries, they’ll just be shooting themselves in the foot!” are the battle cries heard across the web. I wish I could convey how insane this viewpoint is, especially in light of the fact that many alternative economic analysts, including myself, have been predicting just such a scenario for years.

Despite the childish boastings of the dollar devout, there is an extraordinarily good possibility that the life of the greenback will be snuffed out in the near term. Here are the facts…

1) Russia will not be alone in its decouple from the dollar system. China, our largest foreign creditor, and India (a supposed ally) have clearly sided with Russia on the Ukranian issue. China has stated that it will back Russia’s play in the event that sanctions are brought to bear by NATO, or if a shooting conflict erupts.

2) China has already been slowly dumping the dollar as a world reserve currency using bilateral trade agreements with numerous countries, including Russia, India, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, etc. These agreements allow FOREX currency swaps and export/import purchases to be made with China without the use of the dollar. China has been preparing itself for a divorce from U.S. economic dependence for at least a decade. The idea that they would actually follow through over political tensions should NOT surprise anyone if they have been paying attention.

3) A total drop of the dollar or U.S. treasury bonds by Russia and China would send shock waves through global markets. Russia is a major energy supplier for most of Europe. China is the largest export/import nation in the world. If they refuse to accept dollars as a trade mechanism, numerous countries will fall in line to abandon the greenback as well. The fact that so many Americans refuse to acknowledge this reality is a recipe for disaster.

The only advantage the U.S. has traditionally offered in terms of international trade has been the American consumer, whose unchecked debt spending partly fueled the rise of the industrialized East, not to mention the biggest credit bubble in history. The role of America as a consumer market is collapsing today, however. The mainstream media and the Federal Reserve can blame the steady decline in retail sales on the “weather” all they want, but negative indicators in global manufacturing often take many months to register in the statistics, meaning, this destabilization began long before the days turned cold.

4) China has been shifting away from export dependency since at least 2008, calling for a larger consumer based market at home. This process of enriching the Chinese consumer has almost been completed. The lie that China “needs the U.S.” in order to survive economically needs to be thrown out like the utter propaganda it is.

5) China (and most of the world) has ended new dollar purchases for their FOREX reserves, and has no plans to make new purchases in the future.

6) China executed the second largest dump of U.S. Treasury bonds in history in the past month.

7) Russia, China, and numerous other countries, including U.S. “allies”, have been calling for the end of the dollar’s world reserve status and the institution of a new global basket currencyusing the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR). Even Putin has suggested that the IMF take over administration of the global economy and issue the SDR as a world currency system. This flies in the face of those who argue that the IMF is somehow “American run”. The truth is, the IMF is run by global banks and no more answers to the U.S. government than the Federal Reserve answers to the U.S. government.

 

8) The Federal Reserve has been creating trillions of dollars in fiat just to prop up U.S. markets since 2008, and we are still seeing a considerable decline in global manufacturing, retail, personal home sales, and a general malaise in consumer demand. Without a full audit, there is no way to know exactly how much currency has been generated or how much is floating around in foreign markets. Any loss of world reserve status would send that flood of dollars back into the U.S., most likely ending in a hyperinflationary environment.

9) Another rather dubious argument I see often is the claim that the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury could simply “negate” a Treasury dump by refusing to acknowledge creditor liabilities. Or, that they could simply print what they need to snap up the bonds, much like the German government tried to do during the Weimar collapse. Unfortunately, this plan did not work out so well for the Germans, nor has it worked for any other nation in history, so I’m not sure why people think the U.S. could pull it off. However, this is the kind of cultism we are surrounded by. These folks think the U.S. economy and the dollar are untouchable.

Yes, the Fed and the Treasury could hypothetically erase existing liabilities, but what dollar cultists do not seem to grasp is that the dollar’s value is not built on Treasury purchases. The dollar’s value is built on faith and reputation. If a nation refuses to pay out on its debts, this is called default. A default by the U.S. would immediately damage the reputation of bonds and dollars as a good investment. Global markets will refuse to purchase or hold any mechanism that they think will not earn them a profit. How many investors today are anxious to jump into Greek treasury bonds, for instance?

Finally, it is unwise to operate on the assumption that foreign creditors will accept dollars as payment on U.S. Treasury bonds if they believe the Federal Reserve is monetizing the debt. When Weimar imploded under the weight of currency devaluation, many foreign governments refused to accept the German mark as payment. Instead, they demanded payment in raw commodities, like coal, lumber and ore. Expect that China and other debt holders will demand payment in U.S. goods, infrastructure, or perhaps even land.

10) Most treasury holdings in foreign coffers are not long term bonds. Rather, they are short term bonds which mature in weeks or months, instead of years. Dollar proponents constantly cite the continued accumulation of treasury bonds by other governments as a sign that the dollar is still desirable as ever. Unfortunately, they have failed to look at the nature of these bond purchases. When China rolls over millions in short term bonds and replaces them with other short term bonds, this does not suggest they have much faith in America’s long term ability to service its debt. It would also make sense that if China had plans to remove itself from the dollar system, they would move into short term bonds which can be liquidated quickly.

11) China is on the fast track to becoming the largest holder of physical gold in the world. Russia has also greatly expanded its gold purchases. Whatever losses they might suffer from a dump of their Treasury bond investments; it will be more than made up in the incredible explosion in precious metals prices that would follow.

12) The most common argument against the dollar losing world reserve status has been that such a shift would be “impossible” because no other currency in the world has the adequate liquidity needed to replace the dollar in global trade. These people have apparently not been paying attention to the Chinese yuan. China has been quietly issuing trillions in yuan denominated bonds, securities and currency around the world. Current estimates calculate around $24 trillion created by the PBOC and the banks under its control.

Mainstream talking heads are calling this a “debt bubble.” However, this debt creation makes perfect sense if China’s plan is to create enough liquidity in its currency in order to offer a viable alternative to the U.S. dollar. Linking the yuan to the IMF’s basket currency would complete the picture, forming a perfect dollar replacement while dollar cheerleading-economists stand dumbstruck.

13) China’s retreat away from dollar denominated investments has left a hole in the U.S. bond market.  Recently, that negative space was filled by an unexpected source; namely Belgium.  A country whose GDP represents less than 1% of total global GDP buying more U.S. bonds than China?  The whole concept sounds bizarre.  Where is the capital coming from?

Think about it this way – Belgium is the political center of the European Union and a haven for international financiers.  There are more corporate cronies, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and foreign dignitaries in Belgium than in all of Washington D.C.  But more importantly, Belgium struck a deal with the IMF in 2012 to begin pumping SDR denominated funds into “low income economies”.  I would suggest that this funding flows both ways, and that now, the IMF is feeding capital into Belgium in order to buy U.S. Treasury Bonds.  That is to say, the IMF is going to start using smaller member countries with limited savings as proxies to purchase U.S. debt using IMF money.

The ultimate danger of the IMF (run by internationalists, not the U.S. government) pre-positioning itself as the primary buyer of U.S. debt is that when the U.S. finally defaults (and it will), the IMF is likely to become the “guardian angel” of the U.S. economy, offering aid in exchange for total administrative control of our financial system, and the institution of the SDR as a world reserve replacement for the dollar.

14) The serious prospect of regional conflict or world war over tensions between the Ukraine and Russia, Japan and China, the U.S. and Syria, the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. and North Korea, etc., could make the effort of exposing the plan to shift economic power into a one world system centralized under the IMF almost meaningless.  How many people will truly care about the financial power grab by banking elites if it drifts under the surface of catastrophic engineered wars?  They’ll be too busy hating and fighting artificially created boogeymen to pay attention to the real globalist culprits.

I have been pointing out for quite a long time that globalists need a “cover event”; a disaster, an economic war or a shooting war, in order to provide a smokescreen for the collapse of the dollar. Alternative analysts have been consistently correct in predicting the trend towards the dump of the dollar. Years ago, we were laughed at for suggesting China would shift towards a consumer based economy and away from U.S. dependence. Today, it is mainstream news. We were laughed at for suggesting that nations like Russia and China would drop the dollar as a reserve currency. Today, they are already in the process of doing it. And, we were laughed at for suggesting that Russia or China would use their debt holdings as leverage against the U.S. in the event of a geopolitical conflict. Today, they are openly making threats.

I have to say, I’ve grown tired of the dollar cultists. How many times can a group of people be wrong and still argue with those who have been consistently right? The answer is that zealots never actually escape their own delusions, even when their delusions lead them and those around them to ruin. I suspect that in the face of complete dollar collapse, they will still be rationalizing the chaos and pontificating on our “lack of understanding” while the theater burns down around them.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Dollar and the Deep State.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish.

I have been studying the Deep State for 40 years, before it had gained the nifty name “deep state.” What others describe as the Deep State I term the National Security State which enables the American Empire, a vast structure that incorporates hard and soft power–military, diplomatic, intelligence, finance, commercial, energy, media, higher education–in a system of global domination and influence.

Back in 2007 I drew a simplified chart of the Imperial structure, what I called the Elite Maintaining and Extending Global Dominance (EMEGD):

At a very superficial level, some pundits have sought a Master Control in the Trilateral Commission or similar elite gatherings. Such groups are certainly one cell within the Empire, but each is no more important than other parts, just as killer T-cells are just one of dozens of cell types in the immune system.

One key feature of the Deep State is that it makes decisions behind closed doors and the surface government simply ratifies or approves the decisions. A second key feature is that the Deep State decision-makers have access to an entire world of secret intelligence.

Here is an example from the late 1960s, when the mere existence of the National Security Agency (NSA) was a state secret. Though the Soviet Union made every effort to hide its failures in space, it was an ill-kept secret that a number of their manned flights failed in space and the astronauts died.

The NSA had tapped the main undersea cables, and may have already had other collection capabilities in place, for the U.S. intercepted a tearful phone call from Soviet Leader Brezhnev to the doomed astronauts, a call made once it had become clear there was no hope of their capsule returning to Earth.

Former congressional staff member Mike Lofgren described the Deep State in his recent essay Anatomy of the Deep State:

There is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime.

I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

I would say that only senior military or intelligence officers have any realistic grasp of the true scope, power and complexity of the Deep State and its Empire.Those with no grasp of military matters cannot possibly understand the Deep State. If you don’t have any real sense of the scope of the National Security State, you are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature is perhaps two feet tall.

The Deep State arose in World War II, as the mechanisms of electoral governance had failed to prepare the nation for global war. The goal of winning the war relegated the conventional electoral government to rubber-stamping Deep State decisions and policies.

After the war, the need to stabilize (if not “win”) the Cold War actually extended the Deep State. Now, the global war on terror (GWOT) is the justification.

One way to understand the Deep State is to trace the vectors of dependency. The Deep State needs the nation to survive, but the nation does not need the Deep State to survive (despite the groupthink within the Deep State that “we are the only thing keeping this thing together.”)

The nation would survive without the Federal Reserve, but the Federal Reserve would not survive without the Deep State. The Fed is not the Deep State; it is merely a tool of the Deep State.

This brings us to the U.S. dollar and the Deep State. The Deep State doesn’t really care about the signal noise of the economy–mortgage rates, minimum wages, unemployment, etc., any more that it cares about the political circus (“step right up to the Clinton sideshow, folks”) or the bickering over regulations by various camps.

What the Deep State cares about are the U.S. dollar, water, energy, minerals and access to those commodities (alliances, sea lanes, etc.). As I have mentioned before, consider the trade enabled by the reserve currency (the dollar): we print/create money out of thin air and exchange this for oil, commodities, electronics, etc.

If this isn’t the greatest trade on Earth–exchanging paper for real stuff– what is?While I am sympathetic to the strictly financial arguments that predict hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar, they are in effect touching the toe of the elephant.

The financial argument is this: we can print money but we can’t print more oil, coal, ground water, etc., and so eventually the claims on real wealth (i.e. dollars) will so far exceed the real wealth that the claims on wealth will collapse.

So far as this goes, it makes perfect sense. But let’s approach this from the geopolitical-strategic perspective of the Deep State: why would the Deep State allow policies that would bring about the destruction of its key global asset, the U.S. dollar?

There is simply no way the Deep State is going to support policies that would fatally weaken the dollar, or passively watch a subsidiary of the Deep State (the Fed) damage the Deep State itself.

The strictly financial arguments for hyper-inflation and the destruction of the U.S. dollar implicitly assume a system that operates like a line of dominoes: if the Fed prints money, that will inevitably start the dominoes falling, with the final domino being the reserve currency.

Setting aside the complexity of Triffin’s Paradox and other key dynamics within the reserve currency, we can safely predict that the Deep State will do whatever is necessary to maintain the dollar’s reserve status and purchasing power.

Understanding the “Exorbitant Privilege” of the U.S. Dollar (November 19, 2012)

What Will Benefit from Global Recession? The U.S. Dollar (October 9, 2012)

Recall Triffin’s primary point: countries like China that run trade surpluses cannot host reserve currencies, as that requires running large structural trade deficits.

In my view, the euro currency is a regional experiment in the “bancor” model,where a supra-national currency supposedly eliminates Triffin’s Paradox. It has failed, partly because supra-national currencies don’t resolve Triffin’s dilemma, they simply obfuscate it with sovereign credit imbalances that eventually moot the currency’s ability to function as intended.

Many people assume the corporatocracy rules the nation, but the corporatocracy is simply another tool of the Deep State. Many pundits declare that the Powers That Be want a weaker dollar to boost exports, but this sort of strictly financial concern is only of passing interest to the Deep State.
The corporatocracy (banking/financialization, etc.) has captured the machinery of regulation and governance, but these are surface effects of the electoral government that rubber-stamps policies set by the Deep State.

The corporatocracy is a useful global tool of the Deep State, but its lobbying of the visible government is mostly signal noise to the Deep State. The only sectors that matter are the defense, energy, agriculture and international financial sectors that supply the Imperial Project and project power.

What would best serve the Deep State is a dollar that increases in purchasing power and extends the Deep State’s power. It is widely assumed that the Fed creating a few trillion dollars has created a massive surplus of dollars that will guarantee a slide in the dollar’s purchasing power and its demise as the reserve currency.

Those who believe the Fed’s expansion of its balance sheet will weaken the dollar are forgetting that from the point of view of the outside world, the Fed’s actions are not so much expanding the supply of dollars as offsetting the contraction caused by deleveraging.

I would argue that the dollar will soon be scarce, and the simple but profound laws of supply and demand will push the dollar’s value not just higher but much higher. The problem going forward for exporting nations will be the scarcity of dollars.

If we consider the Fed’s policies (tapering, etc.) solely within the narrow confines of the corporatocracy or a strictly financial context, we are in effect touching the foot of the elephant and declaring the creature to be short and roundish. The elephant is the Deep State and its Imperial Project.

Bitcoin and Gold: Currency versus Money

Bitcoin and Gold: Currency versus Money.

Bitcoin holders — especially those who bought in during the crypto-currency’s recent surge past $1,000 — are a bit shell-shocked this week:

 

Bitcoin prices plunge as problems persist

Bitcoin prices plunged again Monday morning after Mt.Gox, the major exchange for the virtual currency, said technical problems require it to continue its ban on customer withdrawals. 

Mt.Gox said it has discovered a bug that causes problems when customers try to use their account to make a transfer or payment of bitcoins to a third party. It said the problem is not with Mt.Gox software but affects all transfers of bitcoins to third parties.

The exchange said it was suspending withdrawals and third-party payments until the problem is fixed, although trading in bitcoins continues.

A bug is allowing a third party receiving a bitcoin transfer to make it look as if the transfer did not go through, which can lead to improper multiple transfers, Mt.Gox said.

Bitcoin prices on Mt.Gox plunged from about $693 just early Monday to $510 at 6 a.m. ET, soon after the statement was posted. Prices had been as high as $831 just after 7 p.m. Thursday before Mt.Gox’s halt of withdrawals was first disclosed early Friday morning.

Mt.Gox tried to put the best face on the technical problems in its latest statement, noting that the technology is “very much in its early stages.”

“What Mt.Gox and the Bitcoin community have experienced in the past year has been an incredible and exciting challenge, and there is still much to do to further improve,” it said.

This is one of those “teaching moments” that the President likes to point out. But the lesson isn’t that bitcoin in particular or crypto-currencies in general are fatally flawed. It is that they are currencies, not money or investments, and the differences between these three concepts is crucial to doing asset management right.

An investment is something that, if successful, generates cash flow and potentially capital gains, but if less successful can produce a capital loss. Money, in contrast, is capital. It is what you receive when you sell an investment and/or where you store the resulting wealth until you decide to buy something with it. Money does not generate cash flow and does not “work” for you the way an investment does. Instead, it preserves your capital in a stable form for later use.

“Sound” money exists in limited quantity and doesn’t have counterparty risk – that is, its value doesn’t depend on someone else keeping a promise – so it tends to hold its value over long periods of time. Gold and silver, for instance, have functioned as sound money for thousands of years. As you’ve no doubt heard many times, the same ounce of gold that bought a toga in ancient Rome will buy a nice suit today. Ditto for oil, wheat and most of life’s other necessities.

Currency, meanwhile, is the thing we use for buying and selling. It can also be money, as in past societies where gold and silver coins circulated. But it doesn’t have to be. Paper dollars, euro, and yen are representations of wealth rather than wealth itself and are only valuable because we trust the governments managing them to control their supply and banks to give us back our deposits on demand. Such currencies are not very safe but are extremely convenient, so even people who understand the inherent flaws of today’s currencies keep some around for transacting.

As for bitcoin, for a while the more excitable in the techie community seemed to think that crypto-currencies could function not just as currency but as money, i.e., as a form of savings, because the supply of bitcoin was limited by the algorithm that creates it. But they were overlooking counterparty risk. Since the vast majority of bitcoins in circulation are stored electronically and transmitted over the Internet, they’re only valuable if those media function correctly. Let a system fail, as Mt. Gox apparently has, and the bitcoins in that system are either unavailable (in which case their immediate value is zero) or suddenly very risky, in which case they’re obviously not a good savings vehicle.

Is this a deal-breaker for crypto-currencies? No. In many ways bitcoin is a better currency than the dollar because it can’t be inflated away by a desperate government or confiscated in the coming wave of bank bail-ins.

People who understand crypto-currencies and own a small amount of bitcoin for transactional purposes are probably unfazed by the latest speed bump. And people who had their life savings in it have received a valuable lesson in the nature of money.

Activist Post: Top Adviser To The Chinese Government Calls For A “Global Currency” To Replace The U.S. Dollar

Activist Post: Top Adviser To The Chinese Government Calls For A “Global Currency” To Replace The U.S. Dollar.

Michael Snyder
Activist Post

The former chief economist at the World Bank, Justin Yifu Lin, is advising the Chinese government that the time has come for a single global currency.  Lin, who is also a professor at Peking University, says that the U.S. dollar “is the root cause of global financial and economic crises” and that moving to a “global super-currency” will bring much needed stability to the global financial system. And considering how recklessly the Federal Reserve has been pumping money into the global financial system and how recklessly the U.S. government has been going into debt, it is hard to argue with his logic.

Why would anyone want to trust the United States to continue to run things after how badly we have abused our position? The United States has greatly benefited from having the de factoreserve currency of the planet for the past several decades, but now that era is coming to an end. In fact, the central bank of China has already announced that it will no longer be stockpiling more U.S. dollars.

The rest of the world is getting tired of playing our game. Our debt is wildly out of control and we are creating money as if there was no tomorrow. As the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, global power is going to shift even more to the East, and that is going to have very serious consequences for ordinary Americans.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize what is happening. These comments by a top adviser to the Chinese government should have made front page news all over the nation. I had to go to China Daily to find the following excerpt…

The World Bank’s former chief economist wants to replace the US dollar with a single global super-currency, saying it will create a more stable global financial system.

“The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,” Justin Yifu Lin told Bruegel, a Brussels-based policy-research think tank. “The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency.”

Lin, now a professor at Peking University and a leading adviser to the Chinese government, said expanding the basket of major reserve currencies — the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and pound sterling — will not address the consequences of a financial crisis. Internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer, either, he said.

And this is not the first time that we have heard these kinds of comments coming out of China.  For example, Xinhua News Agency called for a “de-Americanized world” back on October 14th…It is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.

That particular news agency is controlled by the Chinese government, and if the Chinese government did not approve of that statement it never would have made it into the paper.

Then in November, the central bank of China announcedthat it is going to stop stockpiling U.S. dollars.

Most Americans don’t want to hear this, but what we are witnessing is a massive shift in global power.  China is catching up to us in a multitude of ways, and they are getting tired of playing second fiddle to the United States. In fact, China is already surpassing the U.S. in a number of key areas…

-China accounts for more global trade than anyone else in the world.

-China imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than anyone else in the world.

-China imports more oil overall than anyone else in the world.

-It is now being projected that Chinese GDP will surpass U.S. GDP in 2017.

When the rest of the world quits using U.S. dollars to trade with one another and quits lending our dollars back to us at ultra-low interest rates, things are going to start changing very rapidly.

In a previous article, I discussed why having the reserve currency of the world is so important to the United States…

The largest exporting nations such as Saudi Arabia (oil) and China (cheap plastic trinkets at Wal-Mart) end up with massive piles of U.S. dollars.

Instead of just sitting on all of that cash, these exporting nations often reinvest much of that cash into low risk securities that can be rapidly turned back into dollars if necessary.

For a very long time, U.S. Treasury bonds have been considered to be the perfect way to do this.  This has created tremendous demand for U.S. government debt and has helped keep interest rates super low.  So every year, massive amounts of money that gets sent out of the country ends up being loaned back to the U.S. Treasury at super low interest rates.

And it has been a very good thing for the U.S. economy that the federal government has been able to borrow money so cheaply, because the interest rate on 10 year U.S. Treasuries affects thousands upon thousands of other interest rates throughout our financial system.  For example, as the rate on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has risen in recent months, so have the rates on U.S. home mortgages.

Our entire way of life in the United States depends upon this game continuing.  We must have the rest of the world use our currency and loan it back to us at ultra low interest rates.  At this point we have painted ourselves into a corner by accumulating so much debt.  We simply cannot afford to have rates rise significantly.

As the rest of the globe moves away from the dollar, demand for the dollar is going to go down and that is going to cause a lot of inflation – especially for imported goods.  So the days of piling lots of cheap plastic stuff made in China into your shopping carts is coming to an end.

And as the rest of the globe moves away from U.S. debt, interest rates are going to go much higher than they are today.  Eventually, the U.S. government will be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt and all loans throughout our entire financial system will have higher interest rates.  This is going to cause economic activity to slow down dramatically.

On the global economic stage, China is playing checkers and we are playing chess, and we are getting dangerously close to checkmate.

Meanwhile, China is also rapidly catching up to us militarily.

At a time when U.S. military spending is actually decreasing, China is spending money on the military aggressively.

In 2014, Chinese military spending will rise to $148 billion, which represents an increase of 6 percent over 2013.

The balance of power is shifting right in front of our eyes.

For example, at one time the U.S. Navy reigned supreme and the Chinese Navy was a joke.

But now that is rapidly changing.  The following is from an article posted on military.com

The Chinese navy has 77 surface combatants, more than 60 submarines, 55 amphibious ships and about 85 missile-equipped small ships, according to the report first published by the U.S. Naval Institute. The report explains that more than 50 naval ships were “laid down, launched or commissioned” in 2013 and a similar number is planned for 2014.

Of particular concern is the growth of the Chinese submarine fleet.  The Chinese now have submarine launched ballistic missiles with a maximum range of about 4,000 miles…

ONI raised concerns about China’s fast-growing submarine force, to include the Jin-class ballistic nuclear submarines, which will likely commence deterrent patrols in 2014, according to the report. The expected operational deployment of the Jin SSBN “would mark China’s first credible at-sea-second-strike nuclear capability,” the report states.

The submarine would fire the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile, which has a range of 4,000 nautical miles and would “enable the Jin to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS [continental United States] from East Asian waters,” ONI assessed.

In addition, China is also working on “hypersonic glide vehicles” that can travel “at speeds of up to Mach 10 or 7,680 miles an hour”.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Washington Free Beacon article…

The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed China’s Jan. 9 flight test of a hypersonic glide vehicle that the Pentagon has called the WU-14.

The experimental weapon is a new strategic strike capability China’s military is developing that is designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses. China could use the vehicle for both nuclear and conventional precision strikes on targets, including aircraft carriers at sea.

U.S. officials said that, while the glide vehicle test was not an intelligence surprise, it showed China is moving much more rapidly than in the past in efforts to research, develop, and test advanced weaponry.

The world is changing, and the United States is not the only superpower anymore.  China is thriving and Russia is also on the rise.  Five years from now, the world is going to look far, far different than it does today.

Sadly, most Americans do not care about these things at all.  Most of them are much more concerned about the latest celebrity scandal or about what Justin Bieber has been doing.

In the end, most Americans will have no idea what is happening until it is far too late to do anything about it.

This article first appeared here at the American Dream.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

Death of the Dollar | Zero Hedge

Death of the Dollar | Zero Hedge.

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We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Chucked something in the wash and turned it on too high, only to see it pop out at the end of the cycle and it ends up the size of your hamster. Well, Obama has been doing the same. Except this time it’s not your winter woollies that he’s shrinking, it’s the greenback.

The US currency is shrinking as a percentage of world currency today according to the International Monetary Fund. It’s still in pole position for the moment, but business transactions are showing that companies around the world are today ready and willing to make the move to do business in other currencies.

The US Dollar has long been the world’s number one denomination in world currency supply. It represents 62% of total holdings in foreign exchange in central banks around the world. But, it is in for a tough race from up-and-coming strong currencies. The Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan are both giving the Americans a good run for their money. The Swiss franc is too (surprisingly). There is $6 trillion in foreign exchange holdings around the world at any given time, on average and the US Dollar represents almost two-thirds of that.

The fact that Brazil and China have also just signed a currency-swap deal worth something to the tune of $30 billion stands as living proof that the dollar may be further on the wane. China will exceed all expectations in the future as the world’s largest economy. The US will be overtaken. The Chinese currency will one day overtake the Dollar too. Has to be!

Although, it’s not quite there for the moment. China is not near being the world’s reserve currency yet. In order to be the world’s reserve currency there would be the need to produce enormous quantities of what the world wants. China has got that one off pat already. Then, countries holding the reserve currency would need to be able to spend that currency elsewhere in other countries or find a place to put it while waiting to do so. World capital markets are currently in dollars (40%), which means that there would be no possibility of using the Chinese currency. But, that’s only a matter of time. Some are predicting this will happen pretty soon.

The Federal Reserve has come in for some strong criticism over the unconventional Quantitative Easing methods that have resulted in 3 trillion spanking new dollars rolling off the printing presses. This has certainly brought about some degree of worry around the world that the dollar is not quite as safe as it might have been thought to be in the past. Is the world worrying that the dollar is not as safe a bet as it used to be in world domination. Are central banks worried that it will shrink in the wash and the colors will run?

Some are predicting that the dollar will shrink rapidly over the next two years and it will lose its top place as the world’s reserve currency by 2015. In the 1950s the dollar was 90% of total foreign currency holdings around the world. The dollar has definitely lost out to other currencies that are stronger. If there is a continued move and the dollar shrinks, then the resulting catastrophe that will ensue will have a spiral effect on the already enormous US budget deficit (over $1 trillion a year on average).

The only reason the Federal Reserve has been in a position to print more money recently is simply because they are in the strong position to be able to do so as the world’s leading reserve currency. If that changes, then the Americans won’t have the possibility of just hitting the button and setting the printing presses rolling. That means the US will be in no other position than to end up having to pay their debt back.

The US economy and the market are starting to show signs of recovery. Signs. It’s not sustained, hope as they might. If the dollar loses its attraction, then it won’t be used as the international reserve currency. Businesses will start using another currency and the dollar will lose out further still.

Some experts are saying that the problems of the dollar are like a time-bomb ready to explode. Ultimately, it will bring about the death of the dollar. As we stand on and watch, huddled around the coffin as it is lowered into the ground, we know it’s all too late. The flowers have been sent and the Stars and Stripes has been played in recognition of loyal service for the nation.

The QE methods are nothing more than aiding and abetting the already problematic situation of the greenback. We might look back in years to come and reminisce over whether it was the right (long-term) solution to use QE, whether printing bucks sent the greenback to an early grave, or whether it just reached the end of its life and croaked peacefully without making too much noise.

But, criticism of and worry over the dollar and its longevity have been hot topics for years now. The US dollar is a fiat currency that can easily lose status, deriving its value from government regulation and law. But, then again, so is the Euro. So, people living in Europe shouldn’t start throwing stones…they live in glass houses too…and that’s before they start.

Originally posted: Death of the Dollar

You might also enjoy: You’re Miserable USA! | Emerging Markets: Lock, Stock and Barrel | End of the Financial World 2014 |  Kristallnacht on Wall Street? Bull! | China’s Credit Crunch | Working for the Few | USA:The Land of the Not-So-Free  

From PetroDollar to PetroYuan – The Coming Proxy Wars » Golem XIV – Thoughts

From PetroDollar to PetroYuan – The Coming Proxy Wars » Golem XIV – Thoughts.

by  on JANUARY 31, 2014 in LATEST

Why would the central bank of Nigeria decide to sell dollars and buy Yuan?

At first glance it might not seem the most interesting or pressing question for you to consider. But I think it is one of those little loose threads that if pulled upon carefully begins to unravel the hints and traces of a much larger story. But please be warned this is speculative.

Two days ago the Nigerian Central Bank announced it was going to increase the share of its foreign currency reserves held in Yuan from 2% at present, to up to 7%. To do this it was going to sell US Dollars. Now a 5% swing in anything financial is big. In our debt drunk times it’s difficult somethimes to remember that 2.15 billion dollars (which is what 5% comes to) is actually a great deal of money, even if it is less than a drop in America’s multi trillion dollar debt ocean. On the other hand even a 5% increase in Yuan would still leave 80% of Nigeria’s $43 billion worth of reserves in dollars.

BUT while it is small in raw financial terms I think it is significant in geopolitical terms.

Nigeria is Africa’s second largest oil and gas exporter. It holds as many dollars as it does because oil is sold in dollars. Nigeria gets paid in dollars which it then needs to recycle. This is the famous petrodollar in action. It is also a major reason the dollar is still the world’s major reserve currency and that in turn is why America can have such a monumental pile of debt and still (for now) be the  risk-off haven that institutional  investors run to when other currencies and markets become too risky and unstable.

What interest me is that prior to this announcement from Nigeria’s central bank, China has, for some years now, been working hard and succesully to buy exploitation rights in Nigeria’s oil fields. In 2009 The Wall Street Journal reported,

 Chinese companies have proposed investing $50 billion to buy 6 billion barrels of oil reserves in Nigeria, the African nation’s presidential adviser on energy said Tuesday.

A year later in 2010 the WSJ reported,

Nigeria and China have signed a tentative deal to build three oil refineries in the West African state at a cost of $23 billion, in a move to boost badly needed gasoline supply in Nigeria and to position China for more access to the country’s coveted high-quality oil reserves.

And just last year China extended a $1.1 billion loan in return for a reported agreement that oil exports to China would increase from around 20 000 barrels a day to 200 000 per day by 2015. This loan was on top of a range of development agreements betwen the two countries for various infrasctructure projects such a telecoms and railways.

Nigeria had, as of 2011, over 37 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. China is now one of its major trading partners. China wants Nigerian oil and my guess is that if it isn’t doing so already it is going to trade it entirely in Yuan. Such a move would mean Nigeria would need fewer dollars and more Yuan and the PetroYuan would begin to rise at the expense of the Petrodollar.

For some years now China has been making the Yuan a settlement currency. I have written about this a lot over the years. In 2012 I wrote a piece called “A new reserve currency to challenge the dollar – What’s really going on in the Straits of Hormuz.” China has created a series of bilateral settlement agreements with, among others, the EU, South Korea, Iran, India and Russia. All of these agreements by-pass the US dollar. If China now trades its oil in Yuan where will that leave the dollar?  Of course Saudi would never agree to such a thing, would it?

Now Its a long way from Nigeria’s 200 000 barerels a day to overthrowing the dollar as the premiere oil currency. But let’s face it the US has gone to war on more than one occasion recently in part because the country involved had been going to sell its oil in Euros. And the US is Europe’s friend, isn’t it?

The US hawks have always been afflicted with dominophobia – fear of falling dominoes. Somewhere in a room in the Pentagon or Langley, there is a huddle of spooks, military types, oil men and State department advisors all wondering how to prevent this new creeping menace. Because you cannot afford to be complacent you know. It starts in one country and if you don’t do something other’s will follow and before you know it the rich Western Africa oil bonanza is flowing into Yuan, to be followed by all those North African and Middle Eastern Arab Spring countries where the clean-cut boys are already having to ‘advise’ on the need to take a firm line with potentially anti-American Muslim Brotherhood types by  locking them up, shooting them and generally branding them as terrorists.

What would happen, someone will mention almost in a whisper, if Qatar were to triumph over Saudi and then cut a multi-lateral deal to sell its gas in Euros to Europe and in Yuan to China?

But to return from the overheated imaginations of the Virginia Hawks to some sort of reality, Nigeria is increasing its Yuan reserve at the expense of the dollar and is developing far closer ties to China than to the US. Which is why I think you will soon find the US dramatically increasing its involvement, both financial and military, in Angola.

Angola is going to be America’s answer to China’s Nigeria. And I think the signs are already there.

While in Nigeria Chinese companies are expanding, in Angola the big players are the Western Oil majors: Chevron/Texaco(US), Exxonmobil (US), BP (UK), ENI (Italy), Total (FR), Maersk (DK) and Statoil (NOR). There are others but these are the big players. Of these Total is probably the largest presence producing about a third of all Angola’s oil output. And Total has recently increased its presence. Of the others Chevron is one of the largest and is expanding aggressively.

Angola itself is busy selling off new concessions. 10 new blocks containing an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil, which is over half of all Angola’s proven reserves  are to be auctioned this year. Angola has recently edged ahead of Nigeria to be Africa’s largest oil exporter. If I’m correct I expect the Western nations/companies, led by the US and new best war-buddy, France to make sure the Chinese do not get a large share of the spoils.  One to watch.

As part of this new Western push, I expect to see China also restricted in any new oil fields around Sao Tome and Principe.  The big players to date are Chervon, Exxonmobil and Nigeria. The latter suggesting a way in for the Chinese that I think the Westerners will want to push shut.  To which end what I found interesting about recent events in Soa Tome and Principe is the visit there of Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s President for life. I have written about her and her banking empire in The Eurofiscal Corruption Contest – The Portuguese entry.  Isobel is most often refered to as Africa’s or Angola’s most famous business woman or Africa’s richest woman (She’s a billionaire). Rarely does anyone from the press raise the question of how she became so vastly wealthy.

She made a visit to the islands and both she and Angola’s state companies have begun to invest heavily. Angolan companies now have a very commanding position in the island’s economy and Angola, even though its own people live in poverty, found the money to loan Sao Tome and Principe  $180 million which is half of the island’s GDP. Top that Beijing! The Islands are Portuguese speaking, the largest bank is Portuguese, and the islands also house a broadcast station for Voice of America.

I think taken together the signs are that the West, led by America, has in mind to try to contain or perhaps even confront Chinese expansion particularly as it concerns access to oil and gas in West and North Africa, and to rare earth minerals – but that’s another story. I don’t think there can be any doubt that America and Europe are looking at Chinese expansion and its hunger for resources and see a threat. The question is what will they do?  America is accustomed to being the hegemonic power and its hawks have proved over and over that they are are quite prepared for military confrontation. The question for them would be how? Invading countries who have – in reality – very little military or economic might is one thing, but directly confronting another superpower is another.  I think all sides would see direct and open military confrontation to be out of the question. Not just for military reasons but for global economic ones as well. They need to find ways of fighting that do not sink the world economy  – neither its flows of goods and trade , nor its flows of captail and debt. Which is why I wonder about the possibility of seeing an era of new proxy wars being faught out in tit-for-tat destabilization escalating up to protracted gorilla/civil wars.

In West Africa the  front line seems to run between Angola and Nigeria.  So who would like to play a game of destabilize your neighbour? There is already unrest about Chinese goods flooding Nigeria. How tempting might it be to think about fanning flames of unrest in already unstable Nigeria espeicially in the delta?

In return what would you have to do to re-ignite the lines of mistrust and division which blighted Angola through decades of civil war? Dos Santos and the MPLA may have been the Soviet proxy but he’s a capitalist now. So, how about a nice cold-war style proxy war?  I cannot bring myself to believe that no one at the Pentagon has dusted off the old plans for such conflict and set some analysts to working up some new ones with China scribbled in, in place of Russia.

Something is, I suspect, already afoot. One last pull on that little thread, one last detail that makes me wonder. Just last April (2013) the Israeli billionaire, Dan Gertler sold back to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the  oil companies/exploration blocks he had bought from it, but for 300% more than he paid. Anti-corruption campaigners have been up in arms.

Two facts interest me . One, that the purchase was actually financed by Sanangol, the Angolan state oil company (the company from which $32 billion had gone missing. Missing billions: billionaire dos Santos… No connection obviously). The DRC is to pay Sanangol back from oil revenue. Until that time, of course, Sanangol calls the tune.  Two, that this oil block lies between the DRC and Angola in what was contested territory but has since been decreed a zone of cooperation.

Now this sale by Gertler could just be a bog standard pillage-Africa deal. And I might well be seeing things that just aren’t there, but why now? This sort of big money, that is connected to the top of the DRC government (how do you think Gertler was able to buy the concession at the price he did? And who do you think might be the, so far, hidden second beneficiary of Gertler’s oil company? The government minister who sold the concession to him in the first place,  maybe?) moves when its contacts suggest this is a better time to lock in profit than times to come.

All in all, if I were a religious man, I would be saying a prayer for the children of Nigeria and Angola.

A note on all this speculation and non-financial stuff.  I don’t usually write this much speculation but recently I have become more convinced that we are in a watershed in which everything around us, all the rules we are used to, all the lines on the map, are up for grabs and are changing around us. For me, finance is not separate from politics so we have to understand how they rub against one another.  I hope you will bear with me.

China’s Credit Crunch | Zero Hedge

China’s Credit Crunch | Zero Hedge.

We hear, read and listen day in and day out that it’s the Dollar that’s dead, that’s it’s the USA that will be knocked off the top of the roost and come hurtling to the ground with its neck being throttled by 1.364 billion Chinese hoards. We learn that it’s the USA that is the corrupt one and that the Federal Reserve can’t solve the financial woes of the country. The banks don’t have the money and no end of Quantitative Easing will solve the problem. But, it’s the Middle Kingdom that looks as if it’s in for a rough ride now as the credit crunch gets ready to punch the Chinese guys right in the eyeballs.

The People’s Bank of China has announced that it’s going to be delaying transfers of cash funds in both Dollars and also Yuan. Hey! I thought the Yuan was meant to be the up-and-coming world reserve currency that knew no problems and felt no crisis? It was only the Dollar that suffered, wasn’t it? The People’s Bank has invoked the need to update systems and do some maintenance. Apparently, it’s nothing to worry about and is just the ‘normal system maintenance’ that always takes place at this time of the Chinese Lunar-New Year celebrations. Transfers will be delayed right after January 30th until February 2nd for domestic transfers and it will continue until February 7th and the end of the holiday for foreign currency transfers.
Right, so there is no problem and the maintenance in the systems are going to take that long to deal with? Let’s hope they don’t get a glitch in there somehow and the entire Chinese banking system goes up in a cloud of mushrooms. There are always delays at the New Year period in China, but, the ones that have taken place in previous years haven’t had the backdrop of the previous problems with liquidity in China. That’s the whole difference in this story and that should be making the rest of us just slightly worried. The Chinese might be stealing the industrial rug from under our feet, but a world without the Chinese finances (at least what they tell us they have) would be a whole different spring roll ahead of us.

Admittedly, as many are willing to express, there is now the race that is on to be the first that predicts the fall of China. But, no need to race, that crystal-ball prediction was forecasted years ago before China even got out of its Communist pants after its long march.
But, today the financial sector in China is having liquidity problems that are getting worse. January 20th saw the interbank rates increase as much as 10%, when the PBOC stepped in. That was an increase from 3% the previous week. It is now at more stable (although still high) levels of 4.65%.

The POBC has urged banks in China to deal better with liquidity in particular at this time of year and to rely less on short-term funding.
But, the holiday-period is a frightening time for the banks as their liquidity drops and therefore trust between the banks gets worse as cash is depleted. The system maintenance comes at a wonderful time. The Chinese are taking a leaf out of the books of the best spin-doctors around and telling the world exactly what isn’t true, but what will be good to hear. Telling us all ‘hey, we’re up it without a paddle’ just isn’t going to instil confidence in the market is it? Welcome to the world of marketing in China.

Lies, lies and wool over your eyes. Until the penny drops, that is.

Originally posted: China’s Credit Crunch

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TSX Down More Than 200 Points After 2 Nasty Days On Wall Street

TSX Down More Than 200 Points After 2 Nasty Days On Wall Street.

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market plunged over 200 points as emerging market worries persuaded investors to avoid riskier assets like equities and commodities.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 215.18 points to 13,717.79. The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.21 of a cent to 90.31 cents US.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 318.24 points to 15,879.11 after plunging 176 points on Thursday. The Nasdaq was 90.7 points lower to 4,128.17 while the S&P 500 index was down 38.17 points to 1,790.29.

Investors are worried about sharp drops in the values of currencies in several emerging markets, including Turkey, Russia, South Africa and Argentina.

These drops were sparked by moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut back on its massive bond purchases, a key stimulus measure that kept long-term rates low.

But U.S. bond yields have risen as the Fed moves to taper its purchases, and investors have responded by taking their money out of emerging markets.

A New Way to Hold Gold: The Aurum | Peak Prosperity

A New Way to Hold Gold: The Aurum | Peak Prosperity.

What if you could carry and exchange gold in the exact same manner as you do with the dollar bills in your wallet?

I’ve recently been introduced to a technology that’s making this possible.

In today’s podcast, I speak with Adam Trexler, President of Valaurum, about this technology and the gold-infused notes it creates. Valaurum’s mission is to democratize ownership of gold by converting it into a form affordable to anyone.

Democratizing Gold

In short, a fractional gram’s worth of gold is affixed to layers of polyester, creating a note – called an “Aurum” similar in dimension and thickness to a U.S. dollar bill. This gold (usually 1/10th or 1/20th of a gram) is commercially recoverable. So an Aurum offers similar potential as a coin or bar, in terms of providing a vehicle for storing and exchanging known, dependable increments of precious metals – just in much smaller (and more affordable) amounts than commercially available to date.

The big idea here? In a world where a 1oz coin of gold costs over $1,200, an Aurum will let you hold a few dollars’ worth of gold in a single note. If you’ve got pocket change, you can be a precious metals owner.

And you don’t have to change your behavior. You can store and transport an Aurum in your billfold along with your dollars.

Understanding the Aurum

As the saying goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Here’s a picture of an Aurum designed for Peak Prosperity that the Valaurum team produced for us:

(click here to purchase – PP.com will NOT receive a fee if you do)

You’ll see that with even just 1/20th of a gram of gold involved, it’s enough to make the Aurum appear to be “made of” gold. The characteristic luster, color, and shine of the 24-karat gold used is immediately apparent.

The Aurum is designed to be handled in the same manner as we do with our “paper” money. And, despite having a more ‘plastic’ feel to it (resulting from the polyester backing), it’s as flexible, lightweight, and familiar-feeling as paper currency.

The big difference, of course, is that instead of being a claim on something else, it simply is what it is: a fractional gram of gold. It can be stored, traded, or melted down – just like a coin or bar.

Here’s a brief video that gives an overview of the production process:

Implications

Being able to hold gold in this form is significant for several reasons.

First, it makes gold ownership available to all budgets. Many of the world’s households have been priced out of gold to date. This changes that completely.

Second, it enables the potential for everyday transactions should we ever return to a precious metal-backed monetary standard. It answers the challenge: How will you pay for your groceries with gold? With an Aurum, it’s now easy.

Whether Valaurum’s product emerges as the winning horse or not, the world definitely needs this type of solution (i.e., convenient fractional physical metal) to go mainstream.

I’m very excited by this new innovation in the bullion industry, and I explore the matter in depth in this podcast. If you’re similarly intrigued, it’s worth the listen.

And for those of you interested in owning an Aurum of your own, you can learn how to purchase the Peak Prosperity Aurum pictured above by clicking here (Peak Prosperity does NOT receive a fee on these sales).

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Adam Trexler (36m:59s):

TRANSCRIPT

Adam Taggart: Hello, and welcome to the Resilient Life podcast. Resilient Life is part of PeakProperity.com, and it is where we focus on practical and actionable knowledge for building a better future. I am your host, Adam Taggart, and today’s guest is Adam Trexler. Adam Trexler is the president of Valaurum, which is a very interesting company that Chris and I have come across.

One of the very common criticisms, I guess you could say, that we will oftentimes encounter with people when we talk about the wisdom of owning precious metals, particularly in physical form, is, Well, hey, if you are ever at a point where we are using precious metals to actually make real purchases in the world, you are not going to bring down your one-ounce gold coin to buy a loaf of bread. How practical actually is returning to some sort of metals-backed standard really going to be?

Well, this company, Valaurum, that Adam has helped found and is running, has built a product that could potentially be an excellent solution for that use-case. What Valaurum does is it has a proprietary technology that applies a certain amount of precious metals – I think right now their majority product is a gold-backed one or a gold-based one – and it injects that gold directly onto a surface; they can put it pretty much on any surface, but right now it is doing it in note form. So it is a product that looks very much, in terms of dimensions, like the dollar bills that you would put in your wallet, but it actually has a certain percentage of a gram of gold actually injected into the product. And it is enough gold that you can actually very clearly see that this product has gold on it or in it. So it is your opportunity and ability to basically transact or share fractional grams of gold with other people.

We will have some images of what Valaurum’s product, it is called the Aurum, looks like, that will accompany this podcast, so you see visually what we are talking about. But I wanted to talk with Adam about the product, about the mission behind the company, why he has decided to create this technology, what his vision for the future is. And how people that are interested in potentially owning some physical precious metal in this format, where they can go to learn more about it, and if they want to actually buy some for themselves, how they can do that as well.

So I would like to welcome Adam to the program. Adam, thank you so much for joining me today.

Adam Trexler: Thanks for having me, Adam.

Adam Taggart: You are very welcome. I know we are going to get a little confusing, I think, with the Adams here, but hopefully our audience can follow along.

Well, first, Adam, I want to give thanks to a mutual friend of ours, a Peak Prosperity reader, who brought Valaurum to our attention. I believe he might be on your board of advisors, and I am sure this person is listening and knows who he is. But I had not been familiar with your product until he made the recommendation. And since you and I have been talking and I have actually gotten the opportunity to hold some Aurums in my hot little hands, I have really become a big fan of the product. And then you and I met when you were out here in Northern California a few months ago, meeting with your production team. We got to talk a little bit more in detail about the company, and I have really found it very intriguing, so I wanted to bring this to the attention of the Peak Prosperity audience.

And I think probably the easiest way to start here is just at the beginning. What is the mission behind the company? Why was it created?

Adam Trexler: Well, Aurum was actually invented, I should say, by a husband-and-wife team, Paul and Laurie, and all credit to them for having the vision that you could have a gold instrument of this size, of a sub-gram size. I came across the technology and thought it was just the most fascinating thing that you could have $2, $4, $6 worth of gold embedded in a form that was far easier to use. And what I saw pretty quickly, when I began to think about this, was that this made gold investment available to all people, and also made gold easier to hold in the physical form than anything else on the market.

And I thought this was a product that people in the U.S. would want, people in the developed world would want, but also where the gold market has been going is in Asia in the developing markets. That is where we see the largest demand for gold. And as gold has gone up from $300 – there was a high there a couple years back, but still, at $1200, $1300 an ounce, people just cannot afford to own gold, and cannot afford to own gold in the increments that are available. And this product makes that possible.

So I believe in gold ownership. I believe in precious metals. I believe in physical assets and an investment relationship to the real world. And I saw that this was something that was truly novel and had the opportunity to be huge, and I wanted to serve that vision.

Adam Taggart: Great. So it really sounds like the democratization of the ownership of precious metals, particularly gold, was a driving force here. And we will get into the Aurum itself in just a moment, but the samples that I have held, one had a 10th of a gram of gold in it and one had a 20th of a gram of gold.

Adam Trexler: Right.

Adam Taggart: And I am not going to embarrass myself by doing the math on the fly here at current prices. But basically, to your point, it is a couple of dollars’ worth of gold that is applied there to the note. So you are taking an option that is probably not affordable for most people, if they are considering buying an ounce of gold, and you are giving them the ability with fractional grams to really take pocket change and actually convert that into precious metals, should they want to.

Adam Trexler: That is right. And one thing that really hooked me when I was first researching this project was, I was traveling in Costa Rica looking at some artisanal gold mines. I got very interested in where gold comes from. And I talked to a gentleman who had had a gold production facility. He made rings, and he had a wonderful business, where all men in Costa Rica had to have gold rings. And it was a way for them to hold tradable, physical wealth.

And what happened is, the rings just became too expensive. Nobody could afford them anymore, and they moved to a more consumerist model of holding wealth. People wanted cheap cars, and suddenly nobody had gold anymore. And there was a transfer away from that, which I think is really significant. And this idea of democratizing gold ownership as gold goes up, as the world recognizes that we need these kinds of hard assets, to me seems really important, a critical issue for our time.

Adam Taggart: Yeah, and one of the things I love about what the technology enables – and I do not know if this is the vision of the company, so do not make me ascribe a motive here to you – but as I have reflected on the product, now that I have actually held samples of it, is, were we ever to move back to a precious metal backing to a currency or our currency, you can have what we had back in the early 1900s, where you have a paper note that is a claim on a certain amount of precious metal, and that you can take your paper note down to the central bank and exchange it for some amount of actual, physical metal. What I love about Valaurum’s technology is, you remove a step there. You actually inject the metal in the note itself, so the note does not need to be brought anywhere to be exchanged. It actually is the amount of precious metals that it says it is. It is one of the things I love about with the promise of the technology here. I do not know if your plans are as grandiose as to have it be used for a national currency somewhere, but I suppose the technology or one like it could do that. Is that correct?

Adam Trexler: That is correct. And it is worth saying that we have anti-counterfeiting features built into it. If a government was ever to adopt it as tender, that would be very interesting. My interest in the technology is that it really puts the gold into the hands of people, and there is not that counterparty risk. So when you see gold held in a vault, promises of gold, these kinds of things, that is wonderful. And it makes a lot of sense for certain kinds of transactions. But I think that people should also seriously consider that they might want to actually, physically hold their metal, and this is a means to do that.

Adam Taggart: And as Peak Prosperity listeners know, Chris and I have been longtime advocates of the precious metals. We have also been longtime advocates of holding a material portion of that, at least, physically. This is just yet another way to do that.

So let us use this to segue into a description of what exactly an Aurum is. And again, just not to lose people here, we have talked about the company itself, which is called Valaurum, and the product they have, which is the note with precious metal actually injected into it, that is called an Aurum. On your website, Adam, for the product, you list a couple of benefits here. I am just going to quickly read them, and then I am going to give you floor to talk about the product in any way you think is meaningful for listeners to know about it.

Adam Trexler: Sure.

Adam Taggart: You describe these precious-metal-injected notes as safe, easier to verify, and harder to counterfeit than conventional gold coins, bars, or foil. They are convenient. They are thin, lightweight. They easily fit in a wallet or purse, so you do not need to change your behavior at all in terms of how you carry this around.

Adam Trexler: Right.

Adam Taggart: They are divisible. They can be in much smaller quantity than traditional coins or bars – and that is very true; we have been talking about fractional grams here versus ounces. They are durable, protected between layers of strong and transparent polyester film. I will let you talk more about that when you talk about the creation process. You have here “beautiful.” That is a design element here, where just like coins can be works of art, the Valaurum notes have designs on them. And to be honest, I think the design options are probably – you have a substantially greater number of options with Valaurum, because basically if you can design it, you can apply that to the surface here, just like you could with any note.

Adam Trexler: That is right.

Adam Taggart: And you experiment with colors and all sort of different things, and I will let you talk about that. I will also give a little preview that we will be previewing what some of these Valaurum look like in the post along with this podcast.

And lastly, they are affordable. We have talked a bit about this, but you can have them in all sorts of increments. But in particular, very small increments, at least relative to other types of precious metals, so you could literally be holding a couple of dollars of gold in your hand, which is actually pretty hard to do with coins and bars.

So those are the benefits that the company itself has been touting. Let me hand the mic over, here, to you, and tell people, what is an Aurum?

Adam Trexler: Well, it is a funny thing, Adam. It is the sort of thing, and I think you can vouch for this, that the Aurum makes much more sense when you see it in a hand. It is something that does not describe well, but as soon as you see it, you get it. It looks just like a dollar bill or a note from another country. It is plastic on the outside, which is what gives it its strength. There is a polyester layer, and laminated within it is 24-karat pure gold. We are able to print on the polyester layer, in quite high-resolution with color, which means that we can put anything we want on it; there is a customizable element. And in fact, we have begun designing a Peak Prosperity Aurum that has some of your stuff on it. We really like Peak Prosperity.

And basically, you can carry it, hold it, just like you would a dollar bill. You can carry it in your wallet. It is really quite durable, and you can do the same sorts of things with it. It moves well. It travels well. For five hundred years, we have had bars and coins, and not much has changed in that; certainly for several thousand years we have had gold coins. The need for the Aurum really emerges when you start to see gold at $1300 an ounce for long periods of time, $1200 an ounce, certainly over $1000 an ounce.

I actually have a one-gram bar. It is almost impossible to hold on to. The only way they sell it is laminated into a credit card. When you start talking about a 10th of gram, a 20th of a gram, it is very, very difficult, almost impossible to keep track of that sort of thing. Similarly, as I am sure many of your readers do, I have one-ounce silver rounds. They are just not very friendly in the pocket. It is not a handy thing to carry around. You can carry the same worth of gold in your wallet quite easily with an Aurum, and I think that’s the convenience – and, frankly, the beauty. We have had some great designers work on them. We hope to continue in that vein, and we are still learning more about the artistic capacities of this. We actually had Aurum in an art show at one of MoMA’s galleries in New York City. We can print in very high resolution, and because of the way that the gold is layered, it actually creates a unique image on the back which is kind of a negative image. It looks almost like the gold is engraved. And that creates quite a striking effect, as well.

Adam Taggart: I will agree with that. And you mentioned a few minutes ago that we have actually created an Aurum for Peak Prosperity. I really like how it looks. And we will have a picture of that, as I mentioned earlier, on the post accompanying this podcast, so people can see it for themselves.

One of the things that is striking about the Aurum is that it makes me think when you go and visit some of these churches and domed structures around the world where they have gold leaf on the dome, and you find out that it takes actually a surprisingly small amount of gold to be hammered into that incredibly thin gold leaf that then gets applied to these structures. But even in that incredibly thin leafing, it is still very bright and very obvious that it is gold. Even though we have a fractional gram on these Aurum notes here, it is certainly enough to coat the entire surface of the bill here such that the whole thing looks like it is made out of gold. So it is very bright; it is very striking to the eye. And I have shown it to a number of people, and I have shown it to a number of people in the gold and silver space. I mean, a lot of the people who, I think a lot of folks listening to this podcast actually read their work or purchase bullion from their dealerships. I have had the pleasure of being the first person to hand them an Aurum and see their eyes light up and them hold it up to the light and have a delighted reaction to it.

So anyways, like you said earlier, it is much better seeing the product than actually hearing someone explain it. And like I said, we will have some pictures on the site, so in this case, I am sure the pictures will be worth thousands of our words here.

Adam Trexler: I would like to pick up, Adam, on something you said comparing it to gold leaf. One of the fascinating things about gold is that it is one of the most malleable materials that we have. It can be drawn into very, very long wire, and it can be hammered into gold leaf. And when people see this, one common thing for people to think is, Oh, well, what is so different about this? There has been gold leaf for, again,thousands of years.

Well, the way that gold leaf is made is that basically people – largely in India, often families, it is kind of a cottage industry – will take a piece of gold, and with a leather mallet, hammer it repeatedly until it gets thinner and thinner and thinner. And there are two problems with that. The first, for our purposes, it works wonderful for art, but it is very delicate, for obvious reasons. And more importantly, at an atomic level, it is not regular at all. It is really wavy, as you would expect if you just hammered something. It is thin but not precise.

And what one of the main benefits of the Aurum and the technology underpinning the Aurum – and really the genius of the inventor; I cannot take any credit for it at all – is that we can get within one percent and never below this precise amount of gold and this small increment of gold. So, using an electron microscope, when you look at an Aurum, the atoms are completely flat, whereas it would look like mountains and valleys with gold leaf. And that precision is what makes this a value instrument that is unprecedented for these increments in precious metals.

Adam Taggart: Right; meaning, you can have confidence that it has exactly what it says it has in there, because the control is so fine.

Adam Trexler: Exactly. And developing that control was no small engineering feat, I can tell you. The other thing I would say, and you mentioned this earlier about verifiability, is that the Aurum has a real benefit in terms of, the gold atoms are spread out very thin. So whereas, with bars, we have heard about scandals with tungsten in the middle of them. With coins, of course, people have been counterfeiting this for centuries by gold-plating other metals. It is much more difficult to do this with an Aurum; the fact that the gold is on such a small surface, the fact that the equipment to make it is far more expensive and very difficult to develop. Anti-counterfeiting features, we have it built in. And for the thinner Aurum, you can actually see through the gold with a strong light. And gold, unlike most other metals, has a precise turquoise/aqua/blue-green color when you look through it. Even most gold experts do not know this, but if you look through a 1/20th gram Aurum, you will see this blue-green color, and it is actually the color of gold as the light passes through it. And that is another anti-counterfeiting feature.

Adam Taggart: Great, and so, to say this in other words, one of the ways in which you can assay or at least quickly check to see if an Aurum, indeed, is gold or not, is, you can shine a light through it.

Adam Trexler: Correct. With the 1/20th. The 1/10th starts to get thick enough that it is difficult to do that, and we have other anti-counterfeiting features. But that word “assay” is very important to us. We assay every batch.

The gold is actually quite easy to recover from an Aurum. If you melt off the plastic and pull out the impurities related from the plastic, you get a very small gold pellet. And we assay every single batch to make sure – we have other checks, but – to make sure that every Aurum that is sent out is a precise amount of gold for our customers. We live and die on that.

Adam Taggart: Great, and that is where I wanted to go next, which is, I think, one of the first questions that arises when somebody has this is in their hand is, How do I know this is real gold? And if I ever want to recover the gold, how is that done? So speak just a little bit more about the process of, let’s just say somebody is holding on to a bunch of Aurums, whether it is an individual, but maybe let us think about the gold dealer. Let’s just say you have decided to actually start accepting Aurums, and at some point, you have got a big stack of them. And you want to recover the gold itself. How would you go about doing that?

Adam Trexler: Well, it is a very simple process. We use a fire assay in our lab, really for every batch. And what we do is we put it into a crucible; we use some borax to pull out the material from the plastic that is residual, and then you have a weighable pellet. It is very common in the gold industry to recover gold from substrates of various kinds; we can provide a list of that.

But there is something else to emphasize, which is that people say, Can I melt this down? Yes, you absolutely can. The gold is absolutely recoverable. It is not lost in any way. We have to do this ourselves. We have to recover the gold because we have overspray when we manufacture these, so we do this quite regularly. But what is important to emphasize as well is that gold in this form is more valuable than a lump of gold. And this is the same as coins and bars. A U.S. tenth of an ounce coin is much more valuable per increment than a kilo bar would be. So you actually lose money by melting them down. And there is a clear economic argument for that. Gold in this form is more useable, it is more precise, it is more easily tradable than gold in a huge lump. So we think there is real value in maintaining the Aurum in this form, and we would want to encourage dealers and individuals to trade for it on that basis.

Adam Taggart: Great, so let us talk about that, then. I had never heard about the Aurum before we were introduced, and of course, I think it is really innovative and interesting. And it or a product like it should be in the solution set of ways to hold physical gold. What type of traction are you seeing right now among the important opinion leaders, participants that are going to help determine whether or not this product – or, again, a product like it – will potentially go mainstream? Are you seeing bullion dealers react positively to it? Are consumers able to find it and start buying? Just where are we in the adoption cycle here?

Adam Trexler: Sure. It is a very exciting time for Valaurum. We are really starting to get huge traction with bullion dealers throughout North America. We are talking to one currently about having the U.S. exclusive distribution rights for a year or two. I cannot announce that as of today yet, but that is looking very exciting. We are setting up Canadian dealers, and it is just a very exciting time.

Sorry, Adam; there was another piece to your question. I want to make sure I answer it.

Adam Taggart: I really just wanted to know what type of reception are you getting so far in introducing it into the ecosystem. Are you getting positive reactions? Sounds like you are, from some of the initial dealers that you have talked to. And what do you see as the key milestones for getting this from something we are telling people about for the first time to something that is hopefully a little bit more mainstream?

Adam Trexler: Sure. I think that it will become mainstream, and it is just a process. The dealers that we see are very, very excited about this. They see that it makes gold available. I have shown it to a dozen industry gold leaders – people who comment on gold, people that your readers would be very familiar with – and I would say that two-thirds of them see it, and their jaw drops, and they say, Oh, my gosh, this makes gold usable in a way that it just has not been. And they are thrilled about it. The other third – and I am willing to admit this – the other third doesn’t get it, and the reason they do not get it is because they say, Hey, what is the problem? All my readers can buy kilo bars. I say to them, I believe that this is the personal computer of gold. There was a time when people thought, Oh, nobody will really need a computer. We have mainframe. Big businesses will need them, but why would you need a computer in the home? I think this is very similar. This makes gold available to all people. And we will see a widespread push to own gold in this form, and we will also see, at some point, a push in terms of the demand for gold as a result as well. That is my real vision for this company.

Adam Taggart: Okay, great. And let us flash forward five, ten years. Hopefully you have hit your strategic objectives for this product. If one of our listeners were to go buy an Aurum in the future, is your hope that this would be something that, they would walk into their typical coin dealer and it would just be there amongst the options right next to the coins and the bars?

Adam Trexler: I think that is right, and one of the reasons we’ve wanted to grow a dealer network is precisely so there is a buy-and-sell market, and that is the first objective. But I think in the longer term, if the Aurum is accessible enough, you will start to see it in other spaces. I would love to see it in financial exchanges. So when you go to the airport, and you are going to England, and you would say, I would like some British pounds or euros, that you would also be able to change that into gold. And I think that could happen at banks as well.

So in the longer term, I think that this will become a means by which you can buy and sell gold just as easily as you buy and sell the paper currency of other countries.

Adam Taggart: Interesting, great. Well, it would be interesting to see if India lets you in, in that scenario. They still have their gold controls in place; hopefully they won’t. So it is also worth noting as with gold coins and bars, that, as you said earlier, the smaller the increment, the higher its economic value, because it is more tradable, etc., but there is also more work involved to breaking a kilo bar up into a bunch of 1/10th of an ounce gold coins. So the premiums per smaller unit are higher in the precious metal space. And I am assuming, too, the technology is still relatively new. And the scale is not where you will be, hopefully, in five or ten years, at least given your goals. So we should probably be very clear about – if people are buying an Aurum – that there is a premium involved in it, and it is going to be a higher premium than you would have if you bought a one-ounce coin, and that is because it is a much smaller fragment.

Do you want to just elaborate a little bit on the percentage of the premium in the current product, where you think that is going to go, just so people have an eyes-wide-open understanding of, when they are buying a Valaurum, what the economics are?

Adam Trexler: Sure. This is a little bit tricky to answer because we generally do not sell direct to the public, so it’s really up to dealers to price this product. And we do not have a set RRP; we let dealers make their decision about what they think the market will bear. Typically what we are seeing is roughly in the double spot area. If you draw an economic curve of what gold should cost as different increments, this seems roughly in line with the curve that you see from kilo bars down to ounce coins, down to sub-ounce coins, and then down to the Aurum. It is very simple – and our readers and your readers, I am sure, are familiar with this – it is not special to precious metals. It is the same reason you can go to Costco and buy a case of detergent much cheaper than if you go to 7- Eleven and buy a one-use set of tabs. My argument would be that you might want the convenience of the Aurum in addition to holding the majority of your gold in ounces or bars.

Adam Taggart: Right, right. Yeah, and I think right now, because you are so early in the adoption curve, most uses I have seen of the Aurum have been almost more sort of, it is more of a collectible, it is more of a fun way for a company to brand itself and whatnot. But as a consumer who actually is looking at this and saying, I am actually willing to pay a premium to have precious metals in this format at this point in time, just for the insurance factor if we ever got to a point where I needed to give somebody a little slice of gold to do something for me, this is a fantastic medium for that. And as you said, there is an economic curve at which the smaller you go, the higher the premium will go anyways. And as I mentioned earlier – if you can comment on this, it would be great – I am sure you have got a cost of production right now that is also going into that premium that will decrease over time if your business grows and you get greater economies of scale. Is that true?

Adam Trexler: That is absolutely true. This is a high-tech nanotechnology, and doing a couple thousand for Peak Prosperity is not the cheap way to manufacture this. But as we grow, we have clear projections and a pretty clear schedule that shows that the price goes radically down.

Adam Taggart: Great, well, hopefully those dealership relationships that you mentioned you have been getting traction with, as those begin to grown and order volumes begin to increase, you begin to hit those economies of scale. So let us transition quickly to talking about the Peak Prosperity Aurum, because we do have one designed. I think it is very pretty; of course, I am an incredibly biased source. But we will have an image of it here, and people can take a look for themselves.

If you are listening to this and looking at the Peak Prosperity Aurum and thinking that might be a fun thing to own, we are going to have a link there, Adam, that is going to plug into Valaurum’s commerce system, and people will actually be able to buy these. Is that correct?

Adam Trexler: That is correct, yes. And you can go ahead and order them from our site, and we will deliver.

Adam Taggart: All right. Well, fantastic. And I assume over time, if Valaurum gains the traction that it hopes it will, and I hope you guys do, they will start seeing other designs with other providers out there in the world as more people decide that having an Aurum of their own makes strategic sense for them – or is just good art and pleasing to the eye.

Adam Trexler: That is right, and I think it is both those things. I think that your readers will hopefully think,Oh, I would like to see one of those and just see what this is about. And then may think, as I do, that If I am going to hold several ounces of gold, I might want to have an ounce worth in an Aurum, or two ounces worth or some percentage of their precious metal ownership.

Adam Taggart: Yep, that is definitely the approach I am taking. So let us see here, Adam, as we begin to wrap up here, you just happen to live and breathe the precious metal space, given this product, so I would be remiss not to ask you if you are seeing any trends or if you have any market intelligence that our readers who are reading other precious metal sites right now may not have already gotten exposure to in terms of your insider viewpoint, your perspective, or whatnot. Basically this is the Where do you see precious metals going from here? question.

Adam Trexler: Sure. I think that the underlying drivers of precious metals are only going up. I think that there will continue to be global risk. I think there will continue to be global debt problems, and we have seen why people want to own that. But I think the larger trends is the growth of wealth in Asia and other developing countries, where people have historically, for hundreds and hundreds of years, owned gold as a way to hedge their wealth. And the demand trends are very clear. The demand for physical gold has continued to grow even as the price has gone down.

And one thing that I look at that most other commentators may not is I look very, very carefully at the demands numbers for jewelry because there is a sector that is buying coins and bars, and you see that quite often in the United States – people who want to invest, invest in coins and bars. In other countries – I mentioned that ring manufacturer. The way that people invest in other countries is they buy jewelry. And it is typically a lower-increment investment, and that is the overlap with the Aurum. And what you see is that as the price of gold has fallen, that number has surged, both in the U.S. and abroad. And what it says to me is that as gold becomes more affordable, more people jump in and want it. And what I think that represents is a huge pent-up demand for gold, and people not being able to afford the increments that have been on the market.

So I think that the future of gold is very bright. I think that we have an increasing population, a limited supply of gold in the entire world. I don’t see that going anywhere except up over the medium term. And I think as more people have access to gold, have access to incremental wealth that lets them want to stick a bit of money away in this form, it can only go up.

Adam Taggart: All right. Well, I cannot say any of that disagrees with my perspective or that of Chris, so I think we do see the world very similarly to you. And as we see and embrace that trend of more people wanting to own gold more widely, which means having it be available to people at price-entry points that they can afford, it is really wonderful to see innovation and new products like the Aurum on the marketplace. So we wish you all the best.

And, Adam, I know I am going to get a ton of questions after this podcast about the actual process for manufacturing and Aurum and the technology that is involved. And I had intended to get into that, but we just did not have the time for it. I know we have a short video clip that you created that I’ll post along with this write up on the site. But I can definitely see myself inviting you back in the not-too-distant future to talk maybe a little bit more nuts-and-bolts about how the product is actually made.

Adam Trexler: Oh, that would be great, Adam. I have really enjoyed my time, and thanks for having me on.

Adam Taggart: Oh, really, my pleasure. Well, great talking with you, Adam, and best of luck with all your goals for world dominance with the Aurum here.

Adam Trexler: Well, it is really about dominance of the world and recognizing that the physical wealth that we can all have a part in, we should all have access to, and the Aurum is just a piece of that.

Adam Taggart: Very well said. All right, look forward to talking to you again soon, Adam.

Adam Trexler: Thank you.

“Two Roads Diverged” – Wall Street’s Doubts Summarized As “The Liquidity Tide Recedes” | Zero Hedge

“Two Roads Diverged” – Wall Street’s Doubts Summarized As “The Liquidity Tide Recedes” | Zero Hedge.

From Russ Certo, head of rates at Brean Capital

Two Roads Diverged

As we know, it has been a suspect week with a variety of earnings misses.  Although I have been constructive on risk asset markets generally, equities anecdotally, as figured year end push for alpha desires could let it run into year end.  New year and ball game can change quickly.  Just wondering if a larger rotation is in order.

There is an overall considerable theme of what you may find when a liquidity tide recedes as most major crises or risk pullbacks have been precipitated by either combination of tighter monetary or fiscal policy.  Some with a considerable lag like a year after Greenspan departed from Fed helm, or many other examples.  I’m not suggesting NOW is a time for a compression in risk but am aware of the possibility, especially when Fed Chairs take victory laps, Bernanke this week.  Symbolic if nothing more.       Cover of TIME magazine?

I happen to think that 2014 is a VERY different year than 2013 from a variety of viewpoints.  First, there appears to be a dispersion of opinion about markets, valuations, policy frameworks and more. This is a healthy departure from YEARS of artificiality.  Artificiality in valuations, artificiality in market and policy mechanics and essentially artificiality in EVERY financial, and real, relationship on the planet based on central bank(s) balance sheet expansion and other measures intended to be a stop-gap resolution to  tightening financial conditions, adverse expectations of economic activity, and the great rollover….of both financial and non-financial debt financing.       Boy, what a week in the IG issuance space with over $100 billion month to date, maybe $35 billion on the week.        Debt rollover on steroids.

Beneath the veneer of market aesthetics, I already see fundamental (and technical) relevance.  This could be construed as an optimist pursuit or reality that markets are incrementally transcending reliance and/or dependence on the wings of central bank policy prerogatives.  The market bird is trying to fly on its own with inklings of a return to FUNDAMENTAL analysis.  A good thing, conceptually, and gradualist development of passing the valuation baton back to market runners.  A likely major pillar objective of policy despite more than a few critics worried about seemingly dormant lurking imbalances created by immeasurable policy and monetary and fundamentally skewed risk asset relationships globally.

This exercise of summarization of ebb and flow and comings and goings of markets and policy naturally funnels a discussion to what stature of central bank policy currently or accurately exists?  Current events.  What is the accurate stage of policy?

I actually think this is a more delicate nuance than I perceive viewed in overall market sentiment. Granted, we have taken a major step for mankind, which is the topical engagement of some level of scope or reduction of liquidity provisioning,” not tightening.”  Tip of the iceberg communique with markets to INTRODUCE the concept of stepping off the gas but not hitting the break.  Reeks of fragility to me but narrative headed in right direction to stop medicating the patient, the global economy.

Some markets have logically responded in kind.  The highest beta markets as either beneficiaries or vulnerable to monetary policy changes, the emerging markets, have reflected at least the optics of change with policy.  More auditory than optics in hearing a PROSPECTIVE change in garbled Fedspeak.  The high flyer currencies which capture the nominal flighty hot money flows globally affirmed the Fed message.

In literally the simplest of terms, the G7 industrialized, not peripheral; interest rate complex has simply moved the needle in form of +110 basis point higher moves in nominal sovereign interest rates.  And there are a bevy of other expressions which played nicely and rightly conformed to the messages coming out of the central bank sandbox.  But there are ALSO notable dichotomies, which send a different or even the opposite message.

I perceive a deviation in perception of message as some markets or market participants appear to be betting on taper or a return to normalcy in global growth or U.S. growth outcomes???  OR no taper, or conversely QE4 or whatever.  Sovereign spreads have moved materially tighter vs. industrial and supposed risk free rates (Tsys, Gilts, Bunds) both last year and in the first three weeks of 2014. Something a new leg of QE would represent, not a taper.   A different year!!!

There have been VERY reliable risk asset market beta correlations over the last 5 years and sovereign or peripheral spreads have been AS volatile and correlated as any asset class.  These things trade like dancing with a rattle-snake.  Greece, Spain, France etc.  They can bite you with fangs.  They have been meaningfully more correlated to high yield spreads and yields and to central bank balance sheet expansion as nearly any asset class.  So, the infusion of central bank liquidity into markets has seen “relief” rallies in peripherals and one would think the converse would be true as well.  The valuations have represented the flavor and direction of risk on/risk off or liquidity on/liquidity off reliably for many months/years.

But I THOUGHT markets were deliberating tapering views and expressions as validated by some good soldier markets BUT that is not necessarily what the rally in riskiest of sovereign “credits” is suggesting.  The complex seems to be decoupling with Fed balance sheet correlation and message.  Some are OVER 100 standard deviations from the mean!  They are rich and could/should be sold.     Especially if one was to follow the obvious correlation with the direction of central bank as stated.

But look to other arena’s like TIPS breakevens which also have been correlated with liquidity and risk on/off and central bank balance sheet expansion.  Correlated to NASDAQ, HY, peripherals and the like.   BUT this complex COUNTERS what peripherals are doing.  They haven’t shown up to the punch bowl party yet.  Not invited.      This is a departure of markets that have largely and generally been in synch from a liquidity and performance correlation view.

Like gold and silver which got tattooed vis a vis down 35%+ performance last year MOSTLY, but not exclusively, due to perceptions of winds of central bank change.  BUT even within a contrary, the fact that rallies in Spain, France, Greece, and Italy reflect more of central bank easing notions, the opposite of taper.  In essence, the complex has gone batty uber-appreciation this year.  Sure, many eyeball the Launchpad physical metals marginal stabilization no longer falling on a knife but the miner bonds and the mining stocks are string like bull with significant appreciation.  This decidedly isn’t the stuff of taper which had the bond daddy’s romancing notions of 3% 10yr breaks, 40 basis point Green Eurodollar sell-offs,  emerging market rinse, and upticks in volatility amongst other things.

Equity bourses appear to be changing hands between investors with oscillating rotations which mark the first prospective 3 week consecutive sell-off in a while.  New year.  This is taper light.       Somewhere in between and further blurs the correlation metrics.

So, which is it?  Are we tapering or not and why are merely a few global asset classed pointed out here, why are they deviating or arguably pricing in different central bank prospects or scenarios or outcomes?

I’m not afraid but I am intrigued as to the fact that there may some strong opinions within markets and I perceive a widely received comfortability with taper or tightening notions, negative leanings on interest rate forecasts, a complacency of Fed call if you will.  And all of these hingings occur without intimate knowledge of the most critical variable of all, what Janet Yellen thinks? She has been awfully quiet as of late and there are many foregone conclusions or assumptions in market psyche without having heard a peep from the new MAESTRO.

Moreover, looking in the REAR view mirror within a week where multiple (two) Fed Governor proclamations, communicated and implicated notions which arguably would be considered radical in ANY other policy period of a hundred years.  How to conduct “monetary policy at a ZERO lower bound (Williams) ” and “doing something as surprising and drastic as cutting interest on excess reserves BELOW zero (Kocherlakota).”

This doesn’t sound like no stinking taper?  A tale of two markets.  To be or not to be.  To taper or not to taper.  Two roads diverged and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  Robert Frost.

Which is it? Different markets pricing different things.  Right or wrong, the market always has a message; listen critically.

Russ

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