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With the Crimea referendum passed and Russia ready to annex the region, the United States and the European Union have threatened sanctions. The full extent of these sanctions is not yet known, and announcements are pending for the end of March. If these measures are concrete, they will of course be followed inevitably by economic warfare, including a reduction of natural gas exports to the EU and the eventually full dump of the U.S. dollar by Russia and China. As I have discussed in recent articles, the result of these actions will be disastrous.
For those of us in the liberty movement, it is now impossible to ignore the potential threat to our economy. No longer can people claim that “perhaps” there will be a crisis someday, that perhaps “five or 10 years” down the road we will have to face the music. No, the threat is here now, and it is very real.
The loss of the dollar’s world reserve status will destroy the only thread holding up its value, namely, investor faith. There are only two possible outcomes from that point onward:
A) The U.S. will be forced to default because no nation will purchase our Treasury bonds and support our debt spending, causing the dollar’s value to implode.
B) The Fed will choose to restart and expand quantitative easing measures, confiscate pension funds, raid bank accounts or issue new taxes in order to keep the system afloat; this will also end in the eventual collapse of dollar value and hyperinflation.
The consequences will lead to an explosion in prices — first in commodities and necessities like petroleum, imported raw materials, food, electricity, etc. and then in all other goods and services. Austerity measures will be instituted by Federal and State governments. Cuts to social welfare programs, including food stamps, are probable. Civil infrastructure will suffer. The cost effectiveness of maintaining public utilities could become unrealistic. Anyone relying on such services may find themselves cut off for days, weeks or indefinitely. Public suffering will invariably rise, along with public crime.
If events like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are any indication, the Federal government’s response will be inadequate, to say the least. The Federal Emergency Management Agency clearly cannot be relied upon to provide food, shelter, medical care or protection for communities. In fact, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Feds did far more harm than good, corralling people into camps where death was rampant and disarming outlying neighborhoods so that they could not defend themselves. Tens of millions of dollars in donated and Federally purchased necessities were never delivered to aid survivors. Trucks were turned away, and help from civilian sources was denied.
The point is, if you find yourself in the midst of a national or international catastrophe, you should assume that you will be on your own with whatever preparations you made beforehand. To assume otherwise would be foolish, given our government’s track record.
There are some people who will argue that during an international crisis, such as an economic war or a world war, there is no purpose to preparedness. They will argue that there is nothing an individual or family can do to weather the storm or fight back, because the scale of the threat would be “too great.” There is no place for such defeatism in the life of the liberty-minded. The scale of the threat is irrelevant, and only cowards give up a fight before it even begins. Survival and freedom require an unwavering conviction. Nihilists will fulfill their own prophecies, suffering a fate exactly as they imagine for the rest of us; living in fear, slavery, and obscurity.
That said, it is also important to acknowledge the truth that the majority of Americans today are utterly unready for a minor localized disaster, let alone a national or global crisis. This problem, though, could be easily remedied with a few simple beginning steps. I find that most people are not averse to the idea of preparedness, but many have trouble taking the first steps in the right direction. For longtime preparedness champions, the information listed here might seem like old-hat. However, I challenge each liberty movement member to approach at least one friend or family member who could benefit from the steps below. Prepping appears daunting to the uninitiated; show them how simple it can actually be.
Below is a list of goals that every liberty movement member and American can easily achieve starting today and continuing over the course of the next month. If enough citizens were to take the initiative to do these things, all threats — no matter how imposing — could be overcome.
Buy Three Months Of Food Stock
Food supply is the greatest Achilles’ heel of the American populace. Most homes store less than one week’s worth of food items at any given time. The average person needs between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day to maintain sufficient energy for survival. It takes around four to six weeks for a person to die of starvation and malnutrition. In a collapse scenario, most deaths will likely occur within the first few months, either by weakness and illness, or by looting and violence. The idea is to at least get through this first catastrophic phase without becoming a villain, or falling victim to one. One person removed from starvation is one possible threat removed from the equation.
Three months of supply is not ideal by any means, but it will buy you precious time. Start with 2,000 calories per day per person. Bulk foods can be purchased cheaply (for now) and can at the very least provide sustenance during emergencies. A 20-pound bag of rice, for instance, can be had for less than $15 and provides about 30,000 calories, or 2,000 calories per day for 15 days for one person. Supplement with beans, canned vegetables and meats, honey for sugar, or freeze-dried goods, and you will be living more comfortably than 90 percent of the population.
Food stockpiling is one of the easiest and most vital measures a person could take. Yet, sadly, it is one of the last preparations on people’s minds.
Buy A Water Filter
Do not count on city water to remain functional. Even during a drawn-out economic downturn rather than an immediate crisis, there is a good chance that some utilities will be sporadic and unreliable. This means you will have to focus on rainwater collection, as well as water from unclean sources. Boiling the water will kill any bacteria, but it will not kill the taste of sediments and other materials floating around. A high-grade survival filter is the best way to get clean water that tastes good.
The average person needs about a gallon of water per day to remain healthy and hydrated. I highly recommend the Sawyer Mini Water Filter, which is a compact washable filter that can cleanse up to 100,000 gallons of water. It uses no moving parts, making it harder to break; and it costs only $20.
Buy A Small Solar Kit
Try going a week or two without electricity, and you may find how dismal life can truly be. The very absence of light at night reduces one’s productivity time drastically, and using fuel for lanterns is not practical in the long term. Solar power is truly the way to go for a grid-collapse scenario.
I’ve heard much whining about the cost of solar power, but small systems that will serve most electrical needs can be set up for less than $1,000. Two 100-watt panels, a power inverter, charge controller and four to six 12-volt deep-cycle batteries are enough to deal with most electrical needs in a survival situation; and all these items can be contained in a portable foot locker for minimal cost. New solar panels are much more effective in low-light conditions and winter weather as well, making solar a must-have prep item.
Store A Fuel Source
Twenty gallons of gasoline treated with fuel saver is not expensive to purchase today, but in the midst of hyperinflation, it may be impossible to obtain tomorrow. Kerosene is useful for heating and cooking. Propane can be stored for decades and runs numerous appliances. If you live in a forested area, dried wood can be had for free, and can keep you warm throughout the winter months (keep in mind the your local danger factor when using fire). It is vital to have a means to stay warm and fed during the most difficult seasonal changes, especially during a grid down scenario.
Find Alternative Shelter
There are no guarantees during a full-spectrum disaster. Having all your eggs in one basket is not only stupid, but unnecessary. Always have a plan B. That means scouting an alternative location for you and your family in the event that your current shelter comes under threat. This location should be far enough away from large population centers but still within a practical range for you to reach them. It should also have a nearby water source, and be defensible. Establishing supply caches near this site is imperative. Do not assume that you will be able to take all of your survival supplies with you from your home. Expect that surprises of a frighteningvariety will arise.
Buy One Semi-Automatic Rifle
At this point I really don’t care what model of rifle people purchase, as long as they have one, preferably in high capacity and semi-automatic. AR-15, AK-47, Saiga, SKS, M1A: just get one! Every American should be armed with a military-grade rifle. If you are not, you are not only negligent in your duty as a free citizen, but you are also at a distinct disadvantage against the kind of opponents you are likely to face in a collapse situation.
Buy 1,000 Rounds Of Ammunition
Again, this is by no means an ideal stockpile, but it is enough to get you through a couple rough patches if you train furiously. Cheap AK-47 ammo can be had for $5 for a box of 20 rounds. Get what you can while you can, because the prices are only going to skyrocket in the near term.
Approach One Friend Or Neighbor
Community is what will make the difference between life and death during a SHTF collapse. I challenge everyone in the liberty movement to find at least ONE other person to work with in the event of disaster. Lone-wolf operations may be strategically practical for short periods of time; but everyone needs rest, and everyone needs someone else to watch his back. Do not fall into the delusion that you will be able to handle everything on your own.
Learn One Barter Skill
Learn how to fix one vital thing or provide one vital service. Try emergency medical training, gunsmithing or metal working, as long as it is an ability that people will value. You have to be able to produce something that people want in order to sustain yourself beyond the point at which your survival stockpile runs out. Be sure that you are seen as indispensable to those around you.
Grow A Garden
Spring is upon us, and now is the perfect opportunity to grow your own food supply. If you have even a small yard, use that space to grow produce. Focus on high-protein and high-vitamin foods. Buy a dehydrator or canning supplies and save everything. Use heirloom seeds so that you can collect new seed from each crop to replant in the future. If every American had a garden in his backyard, I wouldn’t be half as worried about our survival as I am today.
Prepare Your Mind For Calamity
The most valuable resource you will ever have is your own mind. The information held within it and the speed at which you adapt will determine your survival, whether you have massive preparations or minimal preparations. Most people are not trained psychologically to handle severe stress, and this is why they die. Panic equals extinction. Calm readiness equals greater success.
The state of our financial system is one of perpetual tension. The structure is so weak that any catalyst or trigger event could send it tumbling into the abyss. Make no mistake; time is running out. We may witness a terrifying breakdown tomorrow, in a year, or if we are lucky, a little longer. The path, though, has been set and there is no turning back. All of the items above can be undertaken with minimal cash flow. If you receive a regular paycheck, you can establish a survival supply for yourself and your family. There are no excuses.
Take the steps above seriously. Set your goals for the next four weeks and see how many of them you can accomplish. Do what you can today, or curse yourself tomorrow. What’s it going to be?
You can contact Brandon Smith at: email@example.com
February 17th, 2014
If there’s one thing that’s certain about what’s happening in the world right now it’s that uncertainty is pervading every aspect of the global economy. From fabricated employment statistics and consumer spending reports to obscene levels of debt and a failing domestic monetary policy, the writing is on the wall.
According to top Casey Research analyst Marin Katusa, who has met with energy ministers and business leaders in over 100 countries, it’s only a matter of time before the world’s reserve currency goes the way of the German Reichsmark and Zimbabwe Dollar.
What we’re talking about here is nothing short of an outright collapse of our banking system, hyperinflation of the US dollar, and a complete destruction of the world as we have come to know it.
This is a must-watch for those trying to understand what’s happening with the economic landscape, how to position yourself for an unprecedented paradigm shift in how Americans live their lives, what to expect as this crisis unfolds, and how to find opportunities when everyone else is in panic mode.
If the petro-dollar ends, the American way of life will be something that will be destroyed.
The inflation will be over 100% because Americans are getting their lifestyle subsidized by the rest of the world.
This is a very complicated issue… but to be summed up quickly, the world has already started trading commodities and oil, not in the petro-dollar.
And if the petro-dollar finally does die, the American way of life is gone.
(Full interview and transcript via Future Money Trends)
When that happens – when the rest of the world finally turns its back on the United States – you’d better be positioned in the right assets… tangible assets.
Failure to do so will leave you exposed to a financial collapse unlike anything we’ve ever seen in America.
You want to invest in gold… and that’s why you really want to invest in tangible assets… because the bank system will crash.
And I’m not trying to be a doom and gloom guy, this is just factual.
You want to invest in silver, and gold, and companies that produce what the rest of the world wants, which is gold and silver.
It should be clear that China, Russia, oil-producing nations and emerging markets are positioning themselves for exactly what Marin Katusa describes. They have already established unilateral agreements to replace their petro-dollar transactions with either their own currencies or gold. When the timing is right, they’ll pull the plug, at which point all hell will break loose.
The only assets that will survive the destruction will be physical goods such as those commodities essential to survival – food, energy, water, etc.
On the monetary front, when the dollar becomes worthless, confidence in the system itself will be lost on a global scale. We saw similar effects in 2008, when banks refused to lend to businesses, individuals and even themselves for fear of counter party risk. This will leave only one viable mechanism of exchange that will be trusted by trading partners. If you happen to own some, then while everyone else is trying to figure out how to acquire food or pay for other needs, you’ll be thriving.
Insiders and the well informed like Doug Casey, Rick Rule, and Eric Sprott who want to protect and preserve their wealth are already diversifying out dollar-denominated assets. Foreign governments are doing the same, to the tune of billions of dollars being used to buy up assets in the gold production and mining sector (something sovereign wealth funds also did back in late 2008 at the height of the crisis):
The money now is showing up. For example, Rick [Rule] went and got Korean money, and then also Chinese Money. That’s a billion and a half dollars that is coming in to this sector. K.K.R, a major fund, has now put up a billion and a half dollars to set up shop in Calgary for the junior resource sector. You see a lot of funds now, starting to say, “hey, we are getting back in to the junior resource sector because it is so cheap.”
If you go to the BRI website, they talk about all of the big shareholders. You have Tocqueville, Sprott, Sun Valley, KCR…
There’s a reason that well known investment firms run by contrarians like Sprott and Casey are buying gold. Because they know what is coming down the pike.
Yellen is going to continue where Bernanke left off, with the troubles. And the reality is, this is going to make a stronger bull market for gold and silver, and it’s going to be even a better market for the junior resource sector.
If gold and silver are heading to new highs it’s because something has gone terribly wrong in our economy and financial markets.
That being said, if gold is rising and the dollar is collapsing then in all likelihood we’ll see stratospheric price increases in everything from food to fuel, so preparing a contingency plan for this scenario is absolutely critical.
The scenario described here, as noted by Marin Katusa, is not just doom and gloom. It’s fact. The system as we know it is under pressure from all sides. When it implodes you’d better be ready.
When a country destroys its debts by inflation, it ruins its creditors. The proper progressive approach is to ruin them all equally–thus it is imperative that there be no avenue by which creditors might protect themselves. At the same time, the government wishes no doubt to have its citizens continue to honour its currency, worthless though it might be.
During the Wiemar hyperinflation, despite the frenzied printing, the sum total of foreign currency that could be purchased by all the marks in circulation fell precipitously. There is a Keynesian argument to be made that the Germans didn’t print quickly enough! Of course, having Germans individually destroying the currency in great amounts by putting it to such uses as cigarette rolling papers and firewood didn’t help either.
And consider this–using the currency in lieu of hard-to-locate toilet paper may clog pipes.
Canada recently unveiled polymer bills. Just the perfect cross between plastic and paper money. And the brilliant part is, they are perfect in a hyperinflationary environment.
Plastic. Not really suitable for use as cigarette wrappers or firewood. You wouldn’t want to be burning it indoors, anyway.
And as far as toilet paper–although it is a little uncomfortable, the microtexture on the bills does seem to be helpful for cleaning up the really tough spots. And although the bills have not been field-tested for flushability, the beauty of the polymer bills is that you can just wash them and reuse! Or spend, if you prefer.
The only problem the beta testers have reported is that the bills are a little small to be used comfortably.
Submitted by Adam Taggart of Peak Prosperity,
Argentina is a country re-entering crisis territory it knows too well. The country has defaulted on its sovereign debt three times in the past 32 years and looks poised to do so again soon.
Its currency, the peso, devalued by more than 20% in January alone. Inflation is currently running at 25%. Argentina’s budget deficit is exploding, and, based on credit default swap rates, the market is placing an 85% chance of a sovereign default within the next five years.
Want to know what it’s like living through a currency collapse? Argentina is providing us with a real-time window.
So, we’ve invited Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre back onto the program to provide commentary on the events on the ground there. What is life like right now for the average Argentinian?
Aguirre began blogging during the hyperinflationary destruction of Argentina’s economy in 2001 and has since dedicated his professional career to educating the public about his experiences and observations of its lingering aftermath. He is the author of Surviving the Economic Collapse and sees many parallels between the path that led to Argentina’s decline and the similar one most countries in the West, including the U.S., are currently on. Our 2011 interview with him “A Case Study in How An Economy Collapses” remains one of Peak Prosperity’s most well-regarded.
Chris Martenson: Okay. Bring us up to date. What is happening in Argentina right now with respect to its currency, the peso?
Fernando Aguirre: Well, actually pretty recently, January 22, the peso lost 15% of its value. It has devalued quite a bit. It ended up losing 20% of its value that week, and it has been pretty crazy since then. Inflation has been rampant in some sectors, going up to 100% in food, grocery stores 20%, 30% in some cases. So it has been pretty complicated. Lots of stores don’t want to be selling stuff until they get updated prices. Suppliers holding on, waiting to see how things go, which is something that we are familiar with because that happened back in 2001 when everything went down as we know it did.
Chris Martenson: So 100%, 20% inflation; are those yearly numbers?
Fernando Aguirre: Those are our numbers in a matter of days. In just one day, for example, cement in Balcarce, one of the towns in Southern Argentina, went up 100% overnight, doubling in price. Grocery stores in Córdoba, even in Buenos Aires, people are talking about increase of prices of 20, 30% just these days. I actually have family in Argentina that are telling me that they go to a hardware store and they aren’t even able to buy stuff from there because stores want to hold on and see how prices unfold in the following days.
Chris Martenson: Right. So this is one of those great mysteries of inflation. It is obviously ‘flying money’, so everyone is trying to get rid of their money. You would think that would actually increase commerce. But if you are on the other end of that transaction, if you happen to be the business owner, you have every incentive to withhold items for as long as possible. So one of the great ironies, I guess, is that even though money is flying around like crazy, goods start to disappear from the shelves. Is that what you are seeing?
Fernando Aguirre: Absolutely. Shelves halfway empty. The government is always trying to muscle its way through these kind of problems, just trying to force companies to stock back products and such, but they just keep holding on. For example, gas has gone up 12% these last few days. And there is really nothing they can do about it. If they don’t increase prices, companies just are not willing to sell. It is a pretty tricky situation to be in.
Chris Martenson: Are there any sort of price controls going on right now? Has anything been mandated?
Fernando Aguirre: As you know, price controls don’t really work. I mean, they tried this before in Argentina. Actually, last year one of the big news stories was that the government was freezing prices on food and certain appliances. It didn’t work. Just a few days later those supposedly “frozen” prices were going up. As soon as they officially released them, they would just double in price.
Chris Martenson: Let me ask you this, then: How many people in Argentina actually still have money in Argentine banks in dollars? One of the features in 2001 was that people had money in dollars, in the banks. There was a banking holiday; a couple of weeks later, banks open up; Surprise, you have the same number in your account, only it’s pesos, not dollars. It was an effective theft, if I could use that term. Is anybody keeping money in the banks at this point, or how is that working?
Fernando Aguirre: Well, first of all, I would like to clarify for people listening: Those banks that did that are the same banks that are found all over the world. They are not like strange South American, Argentinean banks – they are the same banks. If they are willing to steal from people in one place, don’t be surprised if they are willing to do it in other places as well.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Fernando Aguirre (36m:42s):
January 30, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile
Zimbabwe. You remember those guys, right?
The country’s plight with its currency became world famous, the butt of untold jokes in economic circles. At its height, hyperinflation in Zimbabwe reached nearly 90 sextillion in 2008.
That’s a 9 with 22 zeros.
To put it in context, if you had 90 sextillion grains of sand, you could cover the entire surface of the earth all the way to the outmost layers of the atmosphere.
Then, in April 2009, the government effectively abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar. The US dollar became the official currency for all government transactions, and US dollars, British pounds sterling, euros, and South African rand became the most widely used tender in circulation.
I’ve traveled to Zimbabwe frequently; they have some of the best stories you could ever hear about standing in line at the banks with wheelbarrows, and using stacks of paper currency at home for toilet paper or furniture.
Given that Zimbabwe is literally THE poster child for hyperinflation over the last half-century, one cannot understate the irony of their latest announcement.
Just yesterday, the government there announced that the Chinese renminbi (among other currencies) will become legal tender in Zimbabwe.
This is big news. As we have discussed so many times in the past, the current fiscal and monetary antics in the United States are absolutely no different than what Zimbabwe employed several years ago.
Zimbabwe printed its currency in nearly infinite quantities. So has the United States. The only difference is that the US dollar is readily accepted around the world thanks to good ole’ American credibility that was built by previous generations.
But that credibility is rapidly deteriorating. And everywhere you look, there are obvious signs that the rest of the world is quickly moving on from the dollar.
Central banks around the world are stocking up on gold. Major powers like China and Russia are calling for a new reserve currency. And a number of nations (Zimbabwe is the latest) have already begun to use other currencies like the renminbi for international trade and central bank reserves.
It’s happening. And it’s one of those things that will play out like what Hemingway wrote about going bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly.
The dollar’s share of global reserves has slowly fallen from roughly 75% in 2001, to just over 60% today.
But the world will eventually reach a bifurcation point where investors, foreign governments, central banks, etc. panic and start rushing for the exits.
It’s something that could happen tomorrow. Or five years from now. No one knows. But rational, intelligent people shouldn’t be waiting around for it to happen.
I very strongly recommend that you take a portion of your savings and move them into real assets– precious metals and productive land are the most obvious. But even things like collectibles or nonperishable goods (like ammunition) would be preferable to US dollars.
Then there’s other currencies that you can hold. Right now, the Norwegian krone has the strongest fundamentals in the world as it is backed by the most solvent central bank on the planet.
The Hong Kong dollar is also an interesting option because it minimizes your downside currency risk while providing protection against the US dollar’s deterioration.
(Premium members: please refer to your SMC welcome guide for actionable information about holding Hong Kong dollars and Norwegian krone.)
It’s deliciously ironic that emerging market (EM) problems have flared so soon after the meeting of the rich and powerful in Davos. According to the central bankers at Davos, the financial crisis is behind us and brighter days lay ahead. According to these bankers, the EM issues which have since arisen are confined to a handful of developing countries and they won’t impact the West.
If only were that so. What the eruptions of the past week really show is that the system based on easy money created by these bankers remains deeply flawed and these flaws have been exposed by moves to tighten liquidity in the U.S. and China. The system broke down in 2008, and again in Europe in 2011 and now in EM in 2013-2014.
The market reaction to the latest events has been abrupt and violent, particularly in the currency world. In my experience, markets generally cope well when there is one crisis. If the current issue was isolated to Turkey, markets outside of this country would probably shrug their shoulders and move on. But when there are multiple spot fires like the last week, markets don’t cope as well.
What are investors supposed to do now? Well, going into this year, Asia Confidential suggested (here, here and here) being cautious on stocks given increasing deflationary risks from U.S. tapering and a China slowdown. And to go long government bonds in developed markets (the U.S) given these risks and junior gold miners due to the extraordinarily cheap valuations on offer. These recommendations have performed well year-to-date and should continue to out-perform for the remainder of 2014.
Simple explanations for the crisis
Much ink has been spilled (or keyboards worn, in this day and age) trying to make sense of the past week’s event. China’s economic slowdown has copped much of the blame. As has QE tapering. And idiosyncratic issues in Turkey and Argentina have received their fair share of attention.
There have also been more sophisticated explanations such as this one from Kit Juckes at Societe Generale:
“There has been a shift in the balance of growth as Chinese demand for raw material wanes, and as higher wages and strong currencies make many EM economies less competitive. Meanwhile, the Fed policy cycle IS turning, and 4 years of capital being pushed out in a quest for less derisory yields, are ending. This isn’t a repeat of the 1990s Asian crises, because domestic conditions are completely different but it is a turn in the global market cycle. We need to transition from a world where investment is pushed out of the US/Europe/Japan to one where it is pulled in by attractive prospects. When that happens, flows will be differentiated much more from one country (EM or otherwise) to another. But for now, we’re just waiting for global capital flows to calm down.”
Now I have a large issue with the purported attractive prospects of the US, Europe and Japan, but let’s put that aside. The bigger issue is that the explanation here appears to be addressing the symptoms of the crisis (global capital flows) rather than the disease (excess credit and an unstable global economic system).
A more nuanced view
Let me elaborate on this. In a previous post, I echoed the thoughts of India’s new central bank chief in suggesting that there were four main causes for the 2008 financial crisis:
- Rising inequality and the push for housing credit in the U.S.. Growing income inequality in America, exacerbated by technology replacing low-wage jobs and an inadequate education system which failed to re-skill people, led to politicians allowing easier credit conditions to boost asset prices and make people feel wealthier. That resulted in the subprime and housing crisis.
- Export-led growth and dependency of several countries including China, Japan and Germany. The debt-fueled consumption in the U.S. would have been inflationary were it not for these countries not meeting the consumption needs of Americans. In other words, they aided and abetted the consumption binge in the U.S.
- A clash of cultures between developed and developing countries. This relates back to 1997 when the Asian crisis force countries in the region to go from being net importers to substantial net exporters, thereby creating the conditions for a global glut in goods.
- U.S central bank policy pandering to political considerations by focusing on jobs and inflation at any cost. The bank acted in accordance with the wishes of politicians by keeping interest rates too low for too long. They did this to maintain high employment, one of the bank’s two central mandates.
It’s important to note that none of these issues has been resolved. In fact, many of them have worsened. And any hint of adjustments to one or more of these problems results in further crises (like Europe in 2011 and in EM mid-last year and today).
This isn’t to excuse the governance issues in the likes of Argentina and Turkey. But it is to suggest that they are merely symptoms of a deeper malaise.
Deflation is winning battle over inflation
If these adjustments were to happen in full, it would result in plunging global asset prices as excessive debt loads are unwound. De-leveraging, in economic terms. This deflationary action is anathema to the world’s central bankers as deflation is enemy number one. Hence, they’ll do “whatever it takes” to produce inflation. And if that means flushing currencies down the urinal, so be it. The battle between inflation and deflation is ongoing, though the latter has the upper hand right now.
The weapons of choice for central bankers to fight off deflation are QE and zero interest rates. Central bankers tell us that these policies are necessary for economies to heal. I’d suggest this is baloney and they’re exacerbating the aforementioned problems.
To see why, it’s important to understand that interest rates are the central price signal off which all assets are priced. If central banks keep rates artificially low, it distorts these asset prices. And if you keep rates low for long enough, it distorts prices to such an extent that it’s impossible to know what the real value of certain assets are.
Another issue is that by keeping rates low, businesses which should go bankrupt stay alive. That’s why government bail-outs of almost any private company are a bad idea. Keeping zombies businesses alive means economies become less competitive over time. Witness Japan since 1990.
These are but a few of the unintended consequences of the current policies.
There are three possible endgames to the current situation:
- There’s a global deflationary shock where all asset prices fall and fall hard. A la 2008. In this instance, central banks would go in all guns blazing with more money printing on an even grander scale. This would risk inflation if not hyperinflation as faith in currencies is diminished, if not lost.
- You have a gradual global recovery and inflation stays tame enough for a smooth exit from current policies.
- There’s a recovery but central banks are slow to raise rates and inflation gallops, which forces tightening and a subsequent economic slowdown.
My bet remains on the first scenario given intensifying deflationary forces from a China economic slowdown and Japan currency debasement (which aids exporters in being more price competitive).
If I’m right, there may be deflation followed by extreme inflation (or one quickly followed by the other). That makes investing a tough game. Under both of those scenarios, stocks and bonds would under-perform in a big way (my current call to own developed market government bonds is a 6-12 month one, not long-term). That’s why cash (which would out-perform in deflation), gold (which would prosper under extreme inflation) and select property and other tangible assets such as agriculture (which may out-perform under extreme inflation on a relative rather than absolute basis) should be part of any diverse investment portfolio.
This post was originally published at Asia Confidential:
This is part two of a Q&A with Willem Middelkoop about his new book The Big Reset. In his book a chapter on the ‘War on Gold’ takes a prominent position. Willem has been writing about the manipulation of the gold pricesince 2002 based on information collected by GATA since the late 1990’s. So part two of our interview will focus on this topic.
The War On Gold
Why does the US fight gold?
The US wants its dollar system to prevail for as long as possible. It therefore has every interest in preventing a ‘rush out of dollars into gold’. By selling (paper) gold, bankers have been trying in the last few decades to keep the price of gold under control. This war on gold has been going on for almost one hundred years, but it gained traction in the 1960’s with the forming of the London Gold Pool. Just like the London Gold Pool failed in 1969, the current manipulation scheme of gold (and silver prices) cannot be maintained for much longer.
What is the essence of the war on gold?
The survival of our current financial system depends on people preferring fiat money over gold. After the dollar was taken of the gold standard in 1971, bankers have tried to demonetize gold. One of the arguments they use to deter investors from buying gold and silver is that these metals do not deliver a direct return such as interest or dividends. But interest and dividend are payments to compensate for counterparty risk – the risk that your counterparty is unable to live up to its obligations. Gold doesn’t carry that risk. The war on gold is, in essence, an endeavor to support the dollar. But this is certainly not the only reason. According to a number of studies, the level of the gold price and the general public’s expectations of inflation are highly correlated. Central bankers work hard to influence inflation expectations. A 1988 study by Summers and Barsky confirmed that the price of gold and interest rates are highly correlated, as well with a lower gold price leading to lower interest rates.
When did the war on gold start?
The first evidence of US meddling in the gold market can be found as early as 1925 when the Fed falsified information regarding the Bank of England’s possession of gold in order to influence interest rate levels. However, the war on gold only really took off in the 1960’s when trust in the dollar started to fray. Geopolitical conflicts such as the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the escalation of violence in Vietnam led to increasing military spending by the US, which in turn resulted in growing US budget deficits. A memorandum from 1961 entitled ‘US Foreign Exchange Operations: Needs and Methods’ described a detailed plan to manipulate the currency and gold markets via structural interventions in order to support the dollar and maintain the gold price at $ 35 per ounce. It was vital for the US to ‘manage’ the gold market; otherwise countries could exchange their surplus dollars for gold and then sell these ounces on the free gold market for a higher price
How was the gold price managed in the 1960’s?
During meetings of the central bank presidents at the BIS in 1961, it was agreed that a pool of $ 270 million in gold would be made available by the eight participating (western) countries. This so-called ‘London Gold Pool’ was focused on preventing the gold price from rising above $ 35 per ounce by selling official gold holdings from the central banks gold vaults. The idea was that if investors attempted to flee to the safe haven of gold, the London Gold Pool would dump gold onto the market in order to keep the gold price from rising. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, for instance, at least $ 60 million in gold was sold between 22 and 24 October. The IMF provided extra gold to be sold on the market when needed. In 2010, a number of previously secret US telex reports from 1968 were made public by Wikileaks. These messages describe what had to be done in order to keep the gold price under control. The aim was to convince investors that it was completely pointless to speculate on a rise in the price of gold. One of the reports mentions a propaganda campaign to convince the public that the central banks would remain ‘the masters of gold’. Despite these efforts, in March 1968, the London Gold Pool was disbanded because France would no longer cooperate. The London gold market remained closed for two weeks. In other gold markets around the world, gold immediately rose 25% in value. This can happen again when the COMEX will default.
More evidence about this manipulation?
From the transcript of a March 1978 Fed-meeting, we know that the manipulation of the gold price was a point of discussion at that time. During the meeting Fed Chairman Miller pointed out that it was not even necessary to sell gold in order to bring the price down. According to him, it was enough to bring out a statement that the Fed was intending to sell gold.
Because the US Treasury is not legally allowed to sell its gold reserves, the Fed decided in 1995 to examine whether it was possible to set up a special construction whereby so-called ‘gold swaps’ could bring in gold from the gold reserves of Western central banks. In this construction, the gold would be ‘swapped’ with the Fed, which would then be sold by Wall Street banks in order to keep prices down. Because of the ‘swap agreement’, the gold is officially only lent out, so Western central banks could keep it on their balance sheets as ‘gold receivables’. The Fed started to informing foreign central bankers that they expected that the gold price to decline further, and large quantities of central banks’ gold became be available to sell in the open market. Logistically this was an easy operation, since the New York Fed vaults had the largest collection of foreign gold holdings. Since the 1930’s, many Western countries had chosen to store their gold safely in the US out of fears of a German or Soviet invasion.
Didn’t the British help as well by unloading gold at the bottom of the market?
Between 1999 and 2002, the UK embarked on an aggressive selling of its gold reserves, when gold prices were at their lowest in 20 years. Prior to starting, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, announced that the UK would be selling more than half of its gold reserves in a series of auctions in order to diversify the assets of the UK’s reserves. The markets’ reaction was one of shock, because sales of gold reserves by governments had until then always taken place without any advance warning to investors. Brown was following the Fed’s strategy of inducing a fall in the gold price via an announcement of possible sales. Brown’s move was therefore not intended to receive the best price for its gold but rather to bring down the price of gold as low as possible. The UK eventually sold almost 400 tons of gold over 17 auctions in just three years, just as the gold market was bottoming out. Gordon Brown’s sale of the UK’s gold reserves probably came about following a request from the US. The US supported Brown ever since.
How do they manipulate gold nowadays?
The transition from open outcry (where traders stand in a trading pit and shout out orders) to electronic trading gave new opportunities to control financial markets. Wall Street veteran lawyer Jim Rickards presented a paper in 2006 in which he explained how ‘derivatives could be used to manipulate underlying physical markets such as oil, copper and gold’. In his bestseller entitled Currency Wars, he explains how the prohibition of derivatives regulation in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (2000) had ‘opened the door to exponentially greater size and variety in these instruments that are now hidden off the balance sheets of the major banks, making them almost impossible to monitor’. These changes made it much easier to manipulate financial markets, especially because prices for metals such as gold and silver are set by trading future contracts on the global markets. Because up to 99% of these transactions are conducted on behalf of speculators who do not aim for physical delivery and are content with paper profits, markets can be manipulated by selling large amounts of contracts in gold, silver or other commodities (on paper). The $200 crash of the gold price April 12 and 15, 2013 is a perfect example of this strategy. The crash after silver reached $50 on May 1, 2011 is another textbook example.
For how long can this paper-gold game continue?
As you have been reporting yourself we can witness several indications pointing towards great stress in the physical gold market. I would be very surprised when the current paper gold game can be continued for another two years. This system might even fall apart in 2014. A default in gold and/or silver futures on the COMEX is a real possibility. It happened to the potato market in 1976 when a potato-futures default happened on the NYMEX. An Idaho potato magnate went short potatoes in huge numbers, leaving a large amount of contracts unsettled at the expiration date, resulting in a large number of defaulted delivery contracts. So it has happened before. In such a scenario futures contracts holders will be cash settled. So I expect the Comex will have to move to cash settlement rather than gold delivery at a certain point in the not too distant future. After such an event the price of gold will be set in Asian markets, like the Shanghai Gold Exchange. I expect gold to jump $1000 in a short period of time and silver prices could easily double overnight. That’s one of the reasons our Commodity Discovery Fund invests in undervalued precious metal companies with large gold/silver reserves. They all have huge up-side potential in the next few years when this scenario will play out.
In Gold We Trust
Synopsis of The Big Reset: Now five years after the near fatal collapse of world’s financial system we have to conclude central bankers and politicians have merely been buying time by trying to solve a credit crisis by creating even more debt. As a result worldwide central bank’s balance sheets expanded by $10 trillion. With this newly created money central banks have been buying up national bonds so long term interest rates and bond yields have collapsed. But ‘parking’ debt at national banks is no structural solution. The idea we can grow our way back out of this mountain of debt is a little naïve. In a recent working paper by the IMF titled ‘Financial and Sovereign Debt Crises: Some Lessons Learned and Those Forgotten’ the economist Reinhart and Rogoff point to this ‘denial problem’. According to them future economic growth will ‘not be sufficient to cope with the sheer magnitude of public and private debt overhangs. Rogoff and Reinhart conclude the size of the debt problems suggests that debt restructurings will be needed ‘far beyond anything discussed in public to this point.’ The endgame to the global financial crisis is likely to require restructuring of debt on a broad scale.
About the author: Willem Middelkoop (1962) is founder of the Commodity Discovery Fund and a bestselling Dutch author, who has been writing about the world’s financial system since the early 2000s. Between 2001 and 2008 he was a market commentator for RTL Television in the Netherlands and also appeared on CNBC. He predicted the credit crisis in his first bestseller in 2007.
This article was written by Graham Summers and originally published atPhoenixCapitalResearch.com
History is often written to benefit certain groups over others.
Indeed, you will often find the blame for some of the worst events in history placed on the wrong individuals or factors. Most Americans today continue to argue over liberal vs. conservative beliefs, unaware that the vast majority of economy ills plaguing the country originate in neither party but in the Federal Reserve, which has debased the US Dollar by over 95% in the 20thcentury alone.
With that in mind, I want to consider what actually caused the hyperinflationary period in Weimar Germany. Please consider the quote from Niall Ferguson’s book, “The Ascent of Money” regarding what really happened there:
Yet it would be wrong to see the hyperinflation of 1923 as a simple consequence ofthe Versailles Treaty. That was how the Germans liked to see it, of course…All of this was to overlook the domestic political roots of the monetary crisis. The Weimar tax system was feeble, not least because the new regime lacked legitimacy among higher income groups who declined to pay the taxes imposed on them.
At the same time, public money was spent recklessly, particularly on generous wage settlements for public sector unions. The combination of insufficient taxation and excessive spending created enormous deficits in 1919 and 1920 (in excess of 10 per cent of net national product), before the victors had even presented their reparations bill… Moreover, those in charge of Weimar economic policy in the early 1920s felt they had little incentive to stabilize German fiscal and monetary policy, even when an opportunity presented itself in the middle of 1920.
A common calculation among Germany’s financial elites was that runaway currency depreciation would force the Allied powers into revision the reparations settlement, since the effect would be to cheapen German exports.
What the Germans overlooked was that the inflation induced boom of 1920-22, at a time when the US and UK economies were in the depths of a post-war recession, caused an even bigger surge in imports, thus negating the economic pressure they had hoped to exert. At the heart of the German hyperinflation was a miscalculation.
You’ll note the frightening similarities to the US’s monetary policy today. We see:
1 Reckless spending of public money, particularly in the form of entitlement spending
2 Excessive spending resulting in massive deficits.
3 Little incentive for political leaders to rein in said spending.
4 Intentional currency depreciation in order to make debt payments more feasible.
This sounds like a blueprint for what US leaders (indeed most Western leaders) have engaged in post-2007. The multi-trillion Dollar question is if we’ve already crossed the line in terms of setting the stage for massive inflation down the road.
We believe that it is quite possible… for the following reasons.
The US now sports a Debt to GDP ratio of over 100%.
Every 1% rise in interest rates will result in over $100 billion more in interest payments on US debt.
Indications of inflation (stealth price hikes, wage protests, etc.) are showing up throughout the economy.
Indications that other countries are moving to abandon the US Dollar are present.
In a nutshell we are in a very dangerous position. This doesn’t mean hyperinflation HAS to occur. Indeed, history often times rhymes rather than repeats. However, the fact of the matter is that the same policies which create Weimar Germany are occurring in the US today. How they play out remains to be seen, but it is unlikely it will end well.
UPDATE: The Argentine Trade Balance missed surplus expectations by the most in 3 years (and 2nd most on record).
As those who follow Zero Hedge on twitter know, we have recently shown a keen interest in the collapse of the Argentine currency reserves – most recently at $29.4 billion – which have been declining at a steady pace of $100 million per day over the past week, as the central bank desperately struggles to keep its currency stable. Actually, make that struggled. Here is what we said just yesterday:
The decline continues: ARGENTINA’S RESERVES FELL $80M TODAY TO $29.4B: CENTRAL BANK
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 22, 2014
As of today it is not just the collapse in the Latin American country’s reserves, but its entire currency, when this morning we woke to learn that the Argentina Peso (with the accurate identifier ARS), had its biggest one day collapse since the 2002 financial crisis, after the central bank stopped intervening in currency markets. The reason: precisely to offset the countdown we had started several days back, namely “an effort to preserve foreign exchange reserves that have fallen by almost a third over the last year” as FT reported.
As the chart below shows, the official exchange rate cratered by over 17% when the USDARS soared from 6.8 to somewhere north of 8.
But as most readers know, just like in Venezuela, where the official exchange rate is anywhere between 6.40 and 11, and the unofficial is 78.85, so in Argentina the real transactions occur on the black market, where they track the so-called Dolar Blue, which as of this writing just hit an all time high of 12.90 and rising fast.
What happens next? Nothing good. “The risk of capital flight is rising by the minute. This will be very hard to control,” wrote Dirk Willer, strategist at Citigroup, adding that liquidity had “largely disappeared” with a risk of Venezuela-style capital controls. Ah Venezuela – that socialist paradise with a soaring stock market… even if food or toilet paper are about to become a thing of the past.
Some other perspectives via the FT:
Siobhan Morden of Jeffries said: “This is not an administration that respects or understands market pressure. They have been in the early stages of currency crisis since December, and yet their main strategy has been to pay off arrears and try to attract foreign direct investment.”
Luis Secco, Buenos Aires economist, said “It is hard to figure out what is the logic behind the authourities decision to let the peso so abruptly, without any other accompanying macroeconomic policy. It’s possible that the authorities would rather see a strong rise in the dollar, than lose, again, a large quantity of reserves.”
“It is a potentially dangerous situation…not least because it could give the impression that the authorities don’t have a very clear idea of how to manage the situation.”
Ricardo Delgado, Buenos Aires economist, said on Wednesday: “The government faces a dilemma. It wants to stop reserves from falling. But that means less imports and thus lower growth, as the economy is very dependent on imports. So the question is: do you want more growth, or higher foreign reserves.“
However, with the “currency run” having once again begun, absent a wholesale bailout and/or backstop by “solvent” central banks of Argentina, a country which has hardly been on good speaking terms with the western central banks, there is little that the nation can do.
So for all those morbidly curious individuals who are curious what the slow-motion train wrecked death of yet another currency will look like, below is a link to the DolarBlue website, aka the front row seats where the true level of the Argentina currency can be seen in real time. If and when this number takes off parabolically, that’s when the panic really begins – first in Argentina, then elsewhere.
Of course, it’s not just Argentina – most of the world’s emerging market FX is getting hammered year-to-date…
For Dominga Kanaza, it wasn’t just the soaring inflation or the weeklong blackouts or even the looting that frayed her nerves.
It was all of them combined.
At one point last month, the 37-year-old shop owner refused to open the metal shutters protecting her corner grocery in downtown Buenos Aires more than a few inches — just enough to sell soda to passersby on a sweltering summer day.
“It was scary,” said Kanaza as she yelled out prices to customers while sipping on mate, Argentina’s caffeine-rich herbal drink. The looting that began in neighboring Cordoba province when police officers left streets unguarded to strike for higher pay had spread to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, sparking panic in Kanaza’s neighborhood. The chaos, she said, was like nothing she had seen since the rioting that followed the South American nation’s record $95 billion default in 2001.
Thirteen years after that collapse, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is running out of time to avert another crisis. The policy mix that Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, used to usher in 7 percent average annual growth over the past decade — higher government spending financed by printing money — is unraveling.
Inflation soared to 28 percent last year, according to opposition lawmaker Patricia Bullrich, who divulges monthly estimates for economists cowed into silence by Fernandez’s crackdown on price reports that clash with official figures. By the government’s count, inflation was less than 11 percent.
The peso sank 3.5 percent to a record low of 7.14 per dollar yesterday, according to Banco de la Nacion Argentina, and has plunged more than 25 percent in the past 12 months. That’s its worst selloff since the devaluation that followed the default. Currencies from only three countries in the world have fallen more: war-torn Syria, Iran and Venezuela.
Power outages like the one that sunk Kanaza’s shop into darkness are becoming more frequent, deepening the economic slump, after the nation’s grid atrophied under a decade of government-set electricity price controls. The International Monetary Fund, which censured Argentina last year for misreporting inflation, predicts economic growth will slow to 2.8 percent this year, about half the 5.1 percent average across developing nations.
Fernandez’s biggest financial problem is the loss of foreign reserves. They’ve tumbled 44 percent in the past three years to $29.5 billion as prices on the country’s soy and wheat exports slumped and Argentines circumvented currency controls created to keep dollars onshore. The government sought to stiffen those restrictions again yesterday, limiting people to two online purchases a year from overseas providers.
For a country that remains locked out of international debt markets as it haggles with billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer over lawsuits stemming from the default, the reserves are its main source of dollars to pay holders of $30 billion of bonds who accepted restructuring terms. When other foreign-currency obligations are included, the amount owed swells to $50 billion.
Investors are bracing for the possibility of another default. The country’s average dollar bond yield of 12 percent is the highest among major developing nations after Venezuela. Trading in swap contracts that insure bonds shows investors see a 79 percent probability of a halt in payments over the next five years, a reflection in part of concern that Singer’s demand of full repayment on the securities he kept from the 2001 default will disrupt debt servicing.
“We’re seeing some sort of day of reckoning,” said Diego Ferro, co-chief investment officer in New York at Greylock Capital Management, which has been investing in the country’s debt since the 1990s. “The adjustment will have to happen if Argentina doesn’t want to hit a wall before 2015.”
Fernandez, 60, has overhauled her cabinet and reworked some policies in a bid to stem the capital flight. In her first day back on the job in November following surgery to remove a blood clot near her brain, she replaced the economy minister, cabinet chief, agriculture minister and central bank president. A day later, Guillermo Moreno, the trade secretary who played the strongman enforcing price controls, was gone.
The new cabinet pledged to work with the IMF to improve data, began talks to settle $6.5 billion of overdue debt with Paris Club creditor nations and unveiled plans to compensate Spain’s Repsol SA for the seizure of its local oil unit in 2012. Bonds advanced, driving yields on the country’s benchmark securities to a one-year low of 11.07 percent on Nov. 29.
Ferro doubts the measures are enough. Bolder steps, such as reaching a deal with Singer to regain access to overseas markets and lifting currency controls, are needed to regain investor confidence, he said. The bond rally began to falter in early December. By mid-month, all the gains had been erased.
An Economy Ministry spokeswoman didn’t return telephone calls seeking comment on the government’s financing plans.
Fernandez is giving no indication of what her next move is. After re-appearing following the five-week absence for surgery, she vanished again, spending much of December holed up in her 5,600-square-foot (520 square meters) brick villa in Patagonia. She went another five weeks without making a public appearance before unveiling a new student aid program before supporters in the presidential palace last night.
And that’s perhaps what angers Argentines like Miguel Llanes the most. While the looting spread across the country from Cordoba and the blackouts dragged on day after day in the capital city, Fernandez was nowhere to be seen. Llanes, unable to open his curtain shop in downtown Buenos Aires for over a week, vented by joining protesters who were burning tires and garbage in the streets.
“Where was the president?” he shouts.
And then he raises a question that holders of $50 billion of Argentine bonds are dying to know.
“How long will this last? They’ve spent all the money.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Laura Zelenko at firstname.lastname@example.org