Total Pageviews

Monday, December 30, 2013

The "Recovery"

Everything is getting statistically better, right?  Look at the Stock Market.  Look at bond yields.  Look at GDP.  Look at the declining unemployment rate.  Look at Gold.  Look at Corporate profits.  They must be selling to someone.  Right?  Right?

How to justify the outlandish position that it's all a statistical mirage?

Well there's an old joke about a bar where ten underemployed temp workers are drinking dollar beers, when Bill Gates walks in and orders a 1000 dollar bottle of Dom Perignon.  Suddenly, statistically, everyone in the bar is a multi millionaire and the average bar patron is spending 100 bucks on expensive drinks.

What if that describes the US recovery?

What if the recovery consists of hedge fund managers shelling out 150 million dollars for a Jeff Koons Ballon Dog here, and 300 million dollars to buy another Hedge Funds managers' summer home in the Hamptons there.  It adds up.  A few hundred million here and there, spread around amongst 500 billionaires and you're talking real money.

Unfortunately none of it is Multiplying in the real economy.  How do I know that?  LOOK:

And even "lower" upper class dudes with only 100 million are spending wildly indiscriminate amounts on luxury vanity items that employ almost nobody, and create no new jobs.  Yet the purchases count towards GDP.

Meanwhile the Fed keeps pumping fantastic sums into the Banks where these people all work.

How can there be a real recovery when Wages and Salaries as a percent of GDP looks like this:

Maybe that's clear to you.  But not to me.

As far as I can see if you're in a business selling Vanity Massages to these top 1 percent - good for you.  You're in the recovery.  Everyone else: Not so much.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Shilling: expect 2 percent GDP growth to contiue for years

By Gary Shilling
In the third quarter, real GDP grew 2.8% at annual rates from the second quarter. Without the increase in inventories, the rate would be 2.0%, in line with the 2.3% average growth since the economic recovery commenced in the second quarter of 2009.

Furthermore, the step-up in inventory-building from the second quarter may have been unintended, suggesting cutbacks in production and weaker growth in future quarters.

Also, consumer spending growth, 1.5% in the third quarter, continues to slip from 1.8% in the second quarter and 2.3% in the first while business spending on equipment and software actually fell at a 3.7% annual rate for only the second time since the recovery started in mid-2009. 

Government spending was about flat with gains in state and local outlays offsetting further declines in federal expenditures. Non-residential outlays for structures showed strength as did residential building. The 16-day federal government shutdown didn't commence until the start of the fourth quarter, October 1, but anticipation may have affected the third quarter numbers.

Recovery Drivers
The 2.3% average real GDP growth in the recovery, for a total rise of 10%, has not only been an extraordinarily slow one but also quite unusual in structure. Consumer spending has accounted for 65% of that growth, actually below its 68% of real GDP, as shown in the second column of Chart 1. Government spending—which in the GDP accounts is direct outlays for personal and goods and services and doesn't include transfers like Social Security benefits—has actually declined. Federal outlays fell 0.4% despite massive stimuli since most of it went to welfare and other transfers to state governments. But state and local spending dropped 0.9% due to budget constraints.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A little perspective please
This is a picture of the gold price going back to 1800.  If you extend the chart back to 1800 BCE it would look almost identical.  The only reason it pops from about 1920 onward is because of the creation of the Central Bank System of paper money creation.

Money gets created out of thin air and placed in the pockets of the Member Banks and the Government-Favored Corporations who own and control the Central Banks.  Those who own and control the corporations and the member banks get most of that money.  Some of it trickles down - at times - when the money MULTIPLIES by changing hands rapidly through generalized economic activity. 

Right now gold is retracing some of its gains.  It could go down to $1000.  So what?  You don't own gold to get rich.  You own gold to protect yourself against a Loss of Confidence in the Global Central Banking System.

Central Bank Money Creation is still accelerating at an incredible pace.  But the money is getting stuck in the Member Banks and the Corporations with huge Government Favored status (Preferential tax, trade, regulatory status).  The money is NOT MULTIPLYING - except at the Luxury Level of Society.

This creates a deflationary pressure that combats the inlationary pressure of the money creation.  The two enormous pressures are currently at an incredibly delicate equilibrium.

But this incredibly delicate equilibrium can be and will be upset at any time by any number of Exogenous Events.  A massive bank collapse due to Fraud or Mismanagement.  A massive insurance collapse.  A a terror attack.  A drought.  A flood.  A War.  A sudden uprising.  Make up your own.   It doesn't matter what.

The point is that now that money has stopped multiplying, anything at any time can lead to a loss of confidence in the 99 percent of humanity that is getting royally screwed by the Central Bank Money Creation system.

It happened 5 years ago.  The Central Banks took 18 trillion dollars from the 99 percent and gave it to the Banks.  Nobody said peep.  When it happens again, I doubt the will be able to engineer a similar theft without massive protest.

And when that happens Gold will help protect you from the chaos that ensues.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Fed Cuts Bond-Buying Pace to $75 Billion a Month on Labor Market Outlook in Unwinding of Stimulus


Just asking: How is printing 75 billion dollars every month and pouring them into the Big Banks unwinding the stimulus?

Why wouldn't that be adding to the stimulus.  Adding 75 billion dollars a month.

If I am eating 80 lard filled doughnuts every day, and I cut back to 75 lard filled doughnuts, will I get thinner?

Early 14th Century ironic art: the Lamb of God

You might not think of the early Medieval period as being a hotbed of Irony.  You would be wrong.  The French nobility all learned Greek and it is not possible to learn Greek without becoming well versed in irony.  The word itself mean "to dissemble."  A later Medieval Greek scholar, Machievalli, wrote the definitive handbook on political dissembling; "The Prince."

The Coin/Artwork above was created by Philip IV of France, a Greek scholar in his own right, and a master of Irony.  He was the most powerful ruler in Europe at the time, and to prove it he moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, where he became, in effect, the Father to the Holy Father.  He then issued this coin, wherein he is depicted at the Lamb of God: the Humble Servant of Christ,  The irony is that everybody in all of Europe understood that this humble Lamb was in fact an all powerful Tyrant, with life and death power over the Pope, and all Christians.

Ironic, no?  And historically important.  And at $20,000 you could buy 3500 of them for the price of one "Balloon Dog." (see the last post.)  Oh, but 3500 don't exist.  In fact this example is one of two that have appeared on the market in the last 10 years.  Another might not appear for another decade.  Better save up for the thousands and thousands of Balloon Dogs that will be available over the next ten years.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sculpture Modern vs Ancient


 Art pop indeed! Months and months of press by association with Lady Gaga has paid off. Last night artist Jeff Koons set an auction record at Christie’s. His “Balloon Dog (Orange)” was sold for $58.4 million ($62.6 million including fees.) The price smashed Koons’s previous auction high of $33 million. Not only that, it beat the auction house’s set price of $55 million. And it ended Gerhard Richter’s big sales record from last spring.

The Koons sale was the largest ever for a living artist.

Okay.  Balloon Dog Orange might be "Ironic" but then so is every joke on every television sitcom.  Especially the jokes uttered by precocious 9 year olds with dimples, braids, and snappy deliveries.   And maybe some of them get paid 58 million to deliver those jokes.  But those shows make back their money by selling products in paid commercial spots.  Anyone hoping to make back their money on this one-note ironic joke better hope that in a year or two people still value "irony."

Of course, the "irony" of the piece above is not really irony at all.  It tells a joke the says: "Hey, aren't people who value crass commercial culture stupid!  Ha ha.  Not like us sophisticates. Ha ha."  Actually, that's sarcasm, not irony.

Here's another sculpture for you (by the folks who invented irony):

This two-sided sculpture, signed by the artist Kimon in 410 BCE, just sold for about $700,000 in a recent Swiss Auction.   Again, much smaller than the Jeff Koons.  But I think you'll agree the level of craftsmanship is much higher.  But you might object: "What about Irony!"  And it's true the sculpture above is entirely lacking in the Sarcasm that passes for Irony.  But it is not lacking in true irony, which is a "joke": wherein the Hero is unaware of things of which the entire audience is fully aware.  In this case Acheluous the man-headed bull-God, symbollic of pastoral earth God culture, is blissfully unaware he is soon to be conquered by the Achaen Sky God-worshipping  hordes invading Greece.  

How Ironic.

And you can buy about 70 of them for the price of one Balloon Dog.  If there were 70 of them.  But there aren't.  Maybe there are a dozen or so, and none of the others in this condition.  Oh well, too bad.  Save up for the next Balloon Dog.  There are sure to be many thousands of those, all in perfect condition.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

the "Recovery": Cui bono?

Median Household income:
2007: $55,627
2008: $53,644
2009: $53,285
2010: $51,892
2011: $51,100
2012: $51,017


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Modern Art Versus Ancient Art

Andy Warhol auction record shattered

A man looks at Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash painting The grisly Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster) is part of Warhol's death and disaster series.  It sold for $105m (£65.5m) in the US, breaking the artist's record by more than $30m.

Now, Andy Warhol is an interesting artist.   And much of his artwork has certainly stood the test of almost fifty years.  Fifty whole years.  Wow.  If something has not only retained value - but appreciated over 50 years, we can say for sure that by a certain narrow set of standards endorsed by a tiny group of experts it has been judged to be a worthwhile creative endeavor, as well as a solid investment.

But what about in oh, let's say another 50 years.  What will people think then?  Or say in 500 years.  Will anybody really care about this painting in 500 or 1000 years?  Who knows.  Chances are pretty dim.  It looks a lot like a lot of other Andy Warhol "paintings." And there are probably about 50,000 other genuine warhols and maybe that many fakes - which are damned hard to tell apart, since they look identical.

Of course, whoever shelled out 105 million probably doesn't care about the value of this painting in 50 years.  They only care that there might be someone to shell out 200 million in two years.  And there may be.  Possibly. 

But let's say you don't have a hundred million to throw around.  What about an artwork from 480 BCE?   Like the Athenian Dekadrachm (ten drachm piece) pictured below.  There are less than a dozen known.  And of those, very few in this extremely fine condition.  It sold for $375,000 three years ago.  It would probably cost twice that now. 

The Dekadrachm of Athens

Triton XIV, Lot: 124. Estimate $200000.
Sold for $375000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Sure it's not as big a the warhol.  And not as grisly.  And you can't hang it on your wall.  It's only 42 grams and 31 milimeters.  Big enough to have some heft in your hand, but it may not  impress many of your friends.  On the other hand there are less than a dozen known.  And of those, very few in this extremely fine condition. And though there are a few fakes they are not that difficult to discredit.

As for the question of what will people think of this artwork in 50 years - well, it's already been admired as a masterpiece for 2500 hundred years.  So in another 50 or 500 it's doubtful that opinion will change much.  But it was also used to commemorate the Battle of Marathon - one of history's greatest battles.  And it is emblematic of classical Athens - the city that invented Democracy.  The city that invented the entire system of political thought upon which our society is based.  That's kind of interesting too.  And you could sell the one Warhol above to buy 200 of these coins.  Oh, but only five or six exist in this condition.  And even if you wanted to buy one: None are for sale right now.  Too bad.  Maybe you'd have to settle for this coin:

Triton XVII, Lot: 263. Estimate $15000.

This portrait of Dionysus reclining on a rock was done by some Kyzekene artist in 450 BCE.  It's being auctioned off in January.  It's estimated at $15000 but I'll bet you'll have to pay closer to $30,000   There are probably fifteen or so in existence - not terribly rare by the standards of Kyzekene Electrum coinage - But there are probably a couple hundred Kyzekene Staters in this near extremely fine condition.  Fairly common right?  (Though not quite as common as the 40-50000 Warhols.)  Still, there is an elegance, and dignity, and a decadence to the portrait, that speaks volumes about the importance of the entire Dionysiac Religious philosophy to the people of 450 BCE - a tradition that extends back to 3000 BCE.  Kind of interesting, no?

And will it be interesting still to people in 500 or 1000 years?  Pretty safe bet.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If we're in a recovery....

Just a few questions.

If we're in a recovery:

A) Why are Fed Funds rates still at zero?

B) Why are real rates still negative?

C) Why is the ten year still below 3 pecent?

D) Why is the Fed still pumping money into the banks at the rate of  85 billion $ a month?

C) Why is the Fed still buying 90 percent of all new Treasury issues?

D) Why is the participation rate still at 20 year lows?

E) Why is household income still falling and back to where it was in 1990?

F) Why is household income adjusted for inflation back to where it was in 1970?

Sure, analysts who make many millions of dollars a year see that the economy is pretty good.  Because for them - and all their friends - it is.  

Monday, December 9, 2013


Baidu Stops Accepting Bitcoins After China Ban

Baidu Inc., China’s biggest search engine, stopped accepting Bitcoins after the nation’s central bank barred financial institutions from handling transactions, triggering a drop in the virtual currency.
Bitcoin fell more than 20 percent and was quoted at 4,250 yuan ($863) as of 3:25 p.m. Shanghai time on BTC China, the most active online exchange where it’s traded. It lost 30 percent to $575 on Bitstamp, another web platform where the digital money is exchanged for dollars and other currencies.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Faber on gold

Marc Faber: World Bankers Are Going To Bankrupt The World

December 4th, 2013

marc faberIn a recent interview with Equity Management Academy, Dr. Marc Faber and Patrick MontesDeOca outlined how he believes that central banks around the world, by printing money, are setting up the global economy for collapse.
Faber is the author and publisher of the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report,which highlights unusual investment opportunities, as well as several books on investment. He was managing director of Drexel, Burnham Lambert, and has lived in Hong Kong since 1973.

Faber believes that demand for gold will continue to be high and, if anything will increase. He said, “In Asia it has always been traditional to own gold….It was illegal to own gold in China until about ten years ago. Now the government is actually encouraging people to own gold.” Therefore, he said, demand is “very strong” and, with increasing numbers of wealthy people in Asia, “demand is rising very rapidly.” Furthermore, Faber believes that if the Chinese economy slows down, the government in China will do what governments everywhere else in the world have done, and print money. If that happens, then “gold demand from China would actually increase and not decrease.”

n the long view, Faber discussed that shift in the economic balance of power from the Old World, which is Western Europe, the United States and to some extent Japan to Asia, and especially China.  Much of the recent growth in the world economy has been in Asia. 

However  Western Central Banks still own about 21% of all the gold in the world, if they still have it, which is “the big question Eric Sprott has raised on numerous occasions” in interviews with EMA and others. China has about $3 trillion in reserves, but only 2% or 3% of it is in gold. Faber argued that if China follows the pattern of other emerging economies, it will slowly increase its gold holdings, which will further increase demand.

He said, “I prefer to own physical gold and to store it outside the United States.” He stressed that where you store your gold is an important issue, given the possibility of government intervention in the personal ownership of gold. Wherever you store it, however, he said, “I prefer to own physical gold because I think the entire financial system is going to collapse at some point in the future.”
As many experts have said before, he said, “I’ve been arguing for a long time that US monetary policies are a disaster. You cannot purposely create bubbles to grow the economy.  If do, get bubbles….[and the] Damage to the economy is far greater than the earlier benefit.”
He said, “They all say Mr. Bernanke saved the world in 2008-2009, when in fact Mr. Greenspan and Bernanke almost destroyed the world.”

Keeping interest rates artificially low punishes savers, who have saved all their lives for retirement. Money in the bank returns next to nothing, so savers are forced to speculate and, Faber said, “it will end very, very badly.” He does not know when it will end, but the longer it goes on, the farther the economy will fall when it ends. There is, he said, no end of such policies in sight. In November 2008 when QE was introduced, there was talk of an exit strategy. “You never hear such talk now,” he said. “We are going to go to QE99, because when governments introduce new programs under the excuse of an urgent need to fix something, usually these programs stay in place for a very long time. Maybe they’ll do a cosmetic tapering at some point…but as soon as there is any sign of a crisis, they’ll go to $150 billion a month or more.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

But How will a handful or underpaid regualtors police as army of super rich bank lawyers?

Regulators Set to Approve Toughened 'Volcker Rule'

Agencies Plan Votes Next Week After Adding More Restrictions on Hedging by Banks

Updated Dec. 3, 2013 8:36 p.m. ET
U.S. regulators are expected to approve next week a toughened version of the Volcker rule, ushering in an era of stricter oversight for Wall Street with restrictions on the trading banks can do with their own money.
Four of the five agencies wrestling over the rule since it was proposed by President Barack Obama in January 2010 said Tuesday that they will vote Dec. 10 on a finished version of the trading curbs. The fifth agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, is likely to take action "on or about" the same day, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White said.
The trading crackdown is named after former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, shown at a conference earlier this year. Bloomberg News
Barring a last-minute surprise, the votes will result in tighter restrictions on certain trading activities that go beyond what regulators had agreed to just a few weeks ago, according to people familiar with the matter. Since then, regulators have been locked in tense negotiations that threatened to upend the provision.
Under the final rule, regulators are expected to closely track trading activities with an eye on whether certain trades known as hedges are designed to post a profit rather than offset risks that accompany trading with clients.

The finished version of the Volcker rule is likely to require that hedges be designed to reduce specific risks, according to a portion of the proposed rule reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Hedging activity should shrink or alleviate "one or more specific, identifiable risks" such as market risk, currency or foreign-exchange risk, and interest-rate risk, the language says.
"This is the new era of Big Brother banking," said Michael Mayo, an analyst with CLSA Americas. "Now banks' fortunes are more closely tied to the government."
Critics say the Volcker rule leaves the U.S. financial industry more vulnerable to competition from other countries and could harm the broader economy. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., GS -0.02% J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.53% & Co. and Morgan Stanley, MS +0.16% three Wall Street giants affected by the Volcker rule, declined to comment Tuesday on the likely approval of the finished rule.
It isn't clear if the final version of the rule will contain identical language from the proposal, but the five federal agencies have largely reached agreement on how to define hedging activities, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

China postioning itself long term to supplant the US$ as reserve currecny. Then how do we finance our debt?

Chinese Yuan Surpasses Euro, Becomes Second Most Used Currency In Trade Finance

Tyler Durden's picture

Slowly but surely the Chinese currency is catching up to the world's reserve and moments ago, according to SWIFT, the Yuan just surpassed the Euro in trade (remember trade: that's how countries once upon a time would generate capital flows in a time when central banks weren't there to literally print domestic funding needs) finance usage leaving just the USD in front.
More from Bloomberg:
  • Chinese currency had 8.66% share in letters of credit and collections, or trade finance, in Oct., Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications says in statement today.
  • Euro’s shr in trade finance was 6.64% in Oct.
  • Top 5 countries using yuan for trade finance in Oct. were China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany and Australia
  • Yuan mkt shr in global payments was 0.84% in Oct. vs. 0.86% in Sept.
  • Yuan payments value rose 1.5% in Oct. vs. 4.6% growth for all currencies: Swift
And so while the "developed" world is busy crushing its fiat through trillions in annual currency dilution and debasement in an attempt to make its exports cheaper and outtrade its peers through beggar thy neighbor policies (not to mention inflate away its debt), the leader of the "emerging" world, China, is doing just that.