Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 2011: Over the Edge Lies Fear

G. G. Bain Plunge 1921
"Joan Desborough (ready for a dive); Starlight Park, the Bronx"

Ilargi: Amidst another entire slew of bad news in the markets, the claim to fame for story of the day must go to French bank Société Générale, and the over 22% drop in share price it had at a certain point today - though it was pushed up back to (only?!)-14%-, and the persistent rumors of major trouble and even a potential bankruptcy that have been making the rounds for a few days now. President Sarkozy cut short his holidays to address the situation (other French banks joined the plunge, and France itself may be downgraded).

The best part of it all, however, if you ask me, was this from Bloomberg:
Société Générale "categorically denies all market rumors," Emmanuelle Renaudat, a spokeswoman for the French bank said in an interview. She declined to be more specific.

Well, hey, Emmanuelle, sorry I asked... But wouldn't you want to know what rumors you're denying exactly, before denying them? This is going to sound to a lot of people like you're admitting your company is in trouble. Just saying...

Wall Street, and its banks in particular, once again and still, have their own rumors to deal with. And most of all, they now have to deal with encroaching fear. A fear that is starting to look like it might be very hard to shake.

The Dow closed down 520 points today. 520, or 4.63%! Citi, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs all lost over 10%. It's like we've shifted into a whole new mindset. And Stoneleigh explains why that is:

Stoneleigh: The nature of markets has long been a major focus here at The Automatic Earth. Whereas most commentators treat markets as being driven in some kind of rational fashion by external events, we have concentrated on the irrational endogenous dynamics and the role of sentiment in creating the perceptions that drive positive feedback loops - either virtuous or vicious circles. Sentiment, and therefore perception, can change very abruptly, with far-reaching effects. The events of this past week or so have been a prime example.

The rally of the past two and a half years continued longer than we had anticipated, but on balance of probabilities it is now over, and we are entering the next phase of the credit crunch - the period where a majority begins to appreciate what a credit crunch really means. The first phase, from October 2007 to March 2009, was little more than a mild introduction for many, although even that was enough to push  a large number of casualties silently over the edge.

With the dramatic end to the rally (and a loss of over $7.8 trillion in mere days) comes the end of the complacency it engendered. Fear is in the ascendancy once again, and fear is extremely catching. We are already seeing it spread like wildfire and begin to feed upon itself, creating self-fulfilling prophecies. The fundamentals have not changed materially, but the perception of them has, and that is the game changer.

When markets are rising, thanks to optimism and hope, people develop a false sense of predictability, as if events were somehow proceeding as they were meant to, and that they should, by rights, continue to do so. Under such circumstances, market volatility is typically low. In contrast, when markets decline, as fear tightens its grip, that comforting sense of pseudo-certainty evaporates very quickly. Fear breeds extreme volatility as investors try to second guess rapidly unfolding moves, and also each other. The best measure of this volatility is the VIX index.

Initially investors look to buy the dips, on the assumption, born of three decades of expansion, that every decline represents a buying opportunity. Later that assumption will falter, and then fail, but residual optimism takes time to dissipate completely. Every temporary upswing all the way down will rekindle echoes of it. The only relative safety is to be found on the sidelines in cash. While there is money in volatility for some aggressive (and lucky, or well-connected) traders, there will be far more opportunities to lose a fortune than to make one for those who cannot stop playing the game.

Going forward, we can expect more of the stomach-churning market declines we have seen over the past week, but also apparently rocket-fueled, yet short-lived rallies. The sharpest and largest upswings happen in bear markets, interspersed with cascading movements to the downside. 

We advise our readers to proceed with great caution and to ignore rationalizations and spurious causation discussed in the mainstream media. In extrapolating past trends forward, failing to anticipate discontinuities, and propagating the smoke-and-mirrors posturing of central authorities desperate to obscure what is happening for as long as possible, they will be arriving at completely incorrect conclusions as to the financial consequences we are facing and what actions we may be able to take in order to protect ourselves. They will also be unhelpfully fanning the flames of fear.

Global commentators have focused recently on the pure political theatre of the rise in the debt ceiling in the US, and subsequently on the downgrade of the US by a single credit-rating agency, but these events do not presage what mainstream opinion has suggested at all. Quite the opposite in fact.

The debt ceiling debate was merely a staged game of brinkmanship, softening up the US population for austerity measures and coming cuts in entitlement programmes targeting the weakest members of society. Imminent default was never a risk. The real risk is the acceleration of the wealth and power grab that has been going on under the guise of quantitative easing for the duration of the rally.

The coverage of the ratings downgrade likewise obscures the real threat. Commentators boldly assert that the US will inevitably have to pay more to borrow, that treasuries are increasingly risky, that the US dollar is doomed and that inflation is an imminent threat. The Automatic Earth has long held diametrically opposed opinions with respect to the next few years, and those are already being vindicated by events. 

Our position has long been that the US will benefit from a flight to safety as the least worst option, initially at Europe's expense. Money will flood from where the fear is to where the fear is not, and one look at bond rates and credit default swap spreads is all it takes to see that the fear is concentrated in Europe, while the US is seen as a safe haven. 

When fear rules, small relative differences are enormously amplified, leading eventually to record spreads between debts and debtors perceived to be risky and those perceived not to be, even if that perception is distorted or outright incorrect. As we have said, fear generates self-fulfilling prophecies. As interest rates spiral higher for supposedly risky borrowers, they become less and less able to pay, and default becomes a certainty.

Imposing austerity measures only makes the situation worse, as it forces a contraction that further impairs ability to pay. This is the situation the European periphery finds itself in, and the fear is spreading to include the centre. Today France is in the crosshairs, and even German bond rates are rising. 

In contrast rates in the US are falling into negative territory, reflecting the desperation of investors looking for a safe haven and prepared to pay for the privilege. Yields are low because the market is not asking for higher returns, but for a means to preserve capital. The market sets interest rates, not central bankers or governments who only chose a rate to defend, and not ratings agencies without a shred of real credibility left after their performance of recent years.

Interest rates on short term US government debt should stay low throughout the coming period of deleveraging. Short term treasuries represent one of the safest options available, as they are highly liquid, and liquidity will matter more than almost anything else in the depression we are rapidly descending into. Longer term debt may well be a different story, as that has the added risk of having to wait far too long to be repaid, or selling into the secondary market. 

Asserting that US treasuries are risky deters ordinary people from seeking the relative safety they offer, even while the insiders take full advantage of it. Similarly, warning people away from US dollars while telling them to hold their nerve in the markets, benefits only those insiders who seek to keep the bubble inflated for long enough to extract their own wealth from a collapsing system.

The US dollar (and other safe haven currencies such as the Swiss franc) is set to benefit, during the period of deleveraging, from the same flight to safety that treasuries will enjoy. It is still the reserve currency, and is likely to stay that way for several years at least. As dollar denominated debt (of which there is more than any other kind worldwide) deflates, demand for dollars, from those seeking to pay down that debt, will push up their value.

The inflation obsession, which central bankers are only too pleased to encourage, also continues to deter people from protecting themselves. Those who are afraid of inflation or hyperinflation will not address the threat of debt or hold the cash that will remain king as the debt bubble bursts and deleveraging aggravates the credit crunch. It is deflation - the collapse of a pyramid of excess claims to underlying real wealth - that we are facing. That is the inevitable result of a bursting bubble.

Widening credit spreads will send the interest rates payable on the debts of ordinary people, companies, banks and lower levels of government through the roof, even as the rate payable on the debts perceived to be safest falls and remains low. At the same time, monetary contraction, credit destruction, spiking unemployment, benefit cuts and skyrocketing bankruptcies will increase the burden that debt represents.

Actual cash will be scarce and few will have access to much of it. Under such circumstances, people will be forced to sell assets for pennies on the dollar to those who still have purchasing power. This is a recipe for extreme wealth concentration, and that, as we are already seeing around the world, leads to increasing social unrest. People need to protect themselves while they still can, but listening to the mainstream media and central authorities is emphatically not the way to do so.

The effect of the US downgrade is ironically far more likely to be felt in Europe than in America. Other triple-A sovereign debtors perceived to be riskier than the US are now at risk of being downgraded, and where fear has already a foothold with respect to sovereign debt default, such moves are likely to aggravate it. Attempts to restore confidence are likely to backfire badly, as existing adverse risk perception merely makes such moves appear desperate, so that they tend to be interpreted as evidence of major problems rather than as reassurance.

Failure is likely to be followed by overtly defensive moves such as the reimposition of capital controls and increasing protectionism, which will only encourage greater fear and greater capital flight. Confidence is ephemeral, and once damaged it can be almost impossible to revive until the underlying imbalance has been resolved, and we are years of deleveraging away from that point.

It is clear the the European Financial Stability Fund, recently increased but still obviously insufficient to cover even the sovereign debt problems already admitted to, cannot solve the rapidly escalating crisis. The scope of this is increasing dramatically as financial contagion spreads to larger states with more intractable debt problems. The European Stability Mechanism, intended to be implemented as a permanent solution in 2013, will never have a chance, as monetary union will long since have been overtaken by events before it can be established. 

The European centre has no mandate for further integration, bought, as it would have to be, through the centre agreeing to shoulder far more financial risk than it has done so far. That will likely prove to be politically impossible. The countries of the periphery, caught in a downward spiral of increasingly severe austerity measures and exploding debt, will ultimately resist, perhaps violently, the enormous loss of sovereignty greater integration would involve.

The goodwill necessary to build consensus or render burden-sharing acceptable does not exist, and acrimony is increasing as the situation continues to deteriorate. Larger political accretions become fissile as there is not enough to go around and divisions grounded in history become accentuated anew. This is clearly the risk for Europe.

While rallies are kind to policy makers, casting them in a gloss of apparent competence and effectiveness, declines abruptly strip away the comforting illusion of central control. Policy makers appear increasingly incompetent and out of touch with reality as events unfold far more rapidly than they can be responded to. In reality there is little they can do faced with a bubble blown over at least three decades. Once blown, bubbles always implode.

The demand artificially brought forward during the boom years must be repaid with years of falling demand for almost everything, as difficult as that is to imagine from the top of the pyramid. That is the last thing people are expecting, but it is already underway. Even commodities appear to have topped on speculation going into reverse, and falling demand will accentuate falling prices. The growth dynamic is going into reverse, and with it many of our preconceived and deeply held notions.

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SocGen Stock Tumbles, Leads Fall in French Banks
by Adria Cimino and Sonia Sirletti - Bloomberg

Societe Generale posted a record decline and led a drop in French banking shares as the cost of insuring the country’s government bonds increased. UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank, paced a retreat in Italian banks after the country’s credit-default swaps widened. Societe Generale shares slumped as much as 23 percent and were down 16 percent at 21.89 euros at 4:27 p.m. in Paris. Credit-default swaps on the bank rose 29 basis points to a record 299 basis points.

Societe Generale "categorically denies all market rumors," Emmanuelle Renaudat, a spokeswoman for the French bank said in an interview. She declined to be more specific. Bank shares lost 5.3 percent, for the biggest decline among the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index and the steepest drop since May 2009. French and Italian banks led the retreat. BNP Paribas SA shed 11 percent to 35.06 euros and Credit Agricole SA sank 15 percent to 5.82 euros.

"If credit default swaps on France are under attack, that’s not a good sign," said Yves Marcais, a sales trader at Global Equities in Paris. "That means that France is under attack and that’s worrisome. French banks hold a lot of French bonds." The cost to insure French government debt against default rose 10 basis points to a record 171 basis points, according to CMA.

The FTSE Italia All-Share Banks Index fell as much as 9.4 percent, the most since May 2010. UniCredit dropped as much as 9.1 percent, and was down 8.9 cents to 98 cents by 4:40 p.m., giving the bank a market value of 19 billion euros ($27 billion). Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, the second-largest lender, lost as much as 13 percent, and was down 17 cents to 1.14 euros.

Rome Meeting
Italian government officials are meeting representatives of labor unions and business executives in Rome to discuss the country’s austerity initiatives amid the euro region’s debt crisis. The meeting follows the Aug. 6 announcement by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that Italy will balance the budget in 2013, a year earlier than previously planned, to prevent a contagion to Europe’s third-biggest economy.

The European Central Bank bought Spanish and Italian bonds today, according to four people with knowledge of the transactions. The amount of securities acquired by the central bank was smaller than in the past two days, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the trades are confidential.

Buying Bonds
An ECB spokesman declined to comment on whether the central bank bought the bonds. European Central Bank President Jean- Claude Trichet signaled on Aug. 7 he was ready to start buying Italian and Spanish debt.

Investors currently demand about 90 basis points of extra yield to buy 10-year French debt rather than German bunds, even though both carry AAA grades from the major rating companies. That spread is almost triple the 2010 average of 33, and compares with 17 in the second half of the previous decade.

French bonds are the most costly AAA government securities to insure as investors raise bets that top-rated euro-region nations may be next in the firing line after the U.S. was downgraded by one notch to AA+ by S&P on Aug. 5.

French Fried Banks: Euro Financial Losers
by Niamh Sweeney - The Street

French banks fell victim to mounting speculation Wednesday that France's triple-A credit rating may be under threat, causing prices to plunge to two and a half year lows. Shares of Societe Generale had lost 19% of their value by mid-afternoon Wednesday -- the biggest drop since January 2009 -- but recovered slightly to finish down 14% for the day when European markets closed a short time ago. BNP Paribas sank 10%, while Credit Agricole suffered a 13% drop.

Attention has turned to the remaining triple-A nations following last week's Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt. France, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 84% and a budget deficit of 6%, has come under most scrutiny.

Five-year French credit default swaps were trading at 1.63% Wednesday - double the rate asked to protect German debt, even though both countries are rated triple-A. Meanwhile the spread between French and Germany 10-year bonds widened to 87 basis points Wednesday, even as yields on French 10-years fell slightly to 3.104%.

The French president Nicholas Sarkozy, who returned to Paris from the Cote d'Azur unexpectedly on Tuesday, met with key cabinet ministers and the governor of the Bank of France to consider new measures to cut France's budget deficit, which he described as "imperative," according to published reports.

French government estimates of 2% economic growth this year, on which current deficit-cutting efforts are based, have been rubbished after second quarter growth fell back to 0.3% from 0.9% in the first quarter. France has a 6% deficit-- the highest of any triple-A rated nation.

[Updated] Why is Socgen offering 12-month gold for less than spot? Or is it a typo?
by Izabella Kaminska - FT Alphaville

[ATTENTION - It is very possible the data in the Reuters chart could be a typo in the Reuters or LBMA system]

Something is afoot at the French banks.

At pixel time Societe Generale was trading 11.5 per cent lower:

BNP Paribas was off 7.5 per cent:

We have no idea what’s suddenly motivated these price falls, though we did notice that Societe Generale (a bullion bank) was recorded offering 12-month gold forwards in the London bullion market at a rate lower than the one-month rate.

This (we think)  is pretty rare:

And please do let us know if it’s not.

Could the French banks have a large exposure to the Swiss franc via their position as prominent commodities financiers? (There are other rumours of France being downgrading, but how many times has that one gone round the village green?) Notably this sell-off has arrived without any parallel sell-off in Italian or Spanish bonds.

Of course, we stress that’s only a theory. We have no idea. And would not want to do a Daily Mail.

Commerzbank Profit Drops 93% on Greek Debt: €760 Million in Losses
by Nicholas Comfort - Bloomberg

Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second- largest lender, said quarterly profit slumped 93 percent after writing down the value of Greek bond holdings.

Net income fell to 24 million euros ($34.4 million) in the three months to June 30, from 352 million in the year-earlier period, the Frankfurt-based bank said today in a statement. That missed the 34.4 million-euro average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The shares rose the most in three months as operating profit at the "core bank" more than doubled.

Commerzbank booked 760 million euros of impairments on Greek sovereign bonds as European banks write down their holdings as part of a deal to help bail out the country. The gain in operating profit countered yesterday’s announcement that Chief Financial Officer Eric Strutz plans to leave when his contract expires in March. "The earnings were very positive if you strip out the Greek writedown," said Dirk Becker, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Kepler Capital Markets who recommends buying the shares. "It’s never good to unexpectedly lose a CFO, but at least he is staying until next year and it appears he wasn’t fired and is leaving for personal reasons."

Commerzbank rose as much as 9.7 percent and was up 5.8 percent to 2.26 euros as of 9:15 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. The stock is the worst performer on Germany’s benchmark DAX Index this year, slumping 49 percent. Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest lender, fell 19 percent in the same period.

Earnings Targets
The bank said today that the debt crisis has hurt the stability of markets, a precondition of reaching its full-year earnings targets. "The targets set in the year 2009 are still conditional upon stable markets, which we are presently only seeing to a restricted extent owing to the sovereign debt crisis," Chief Executive Officer Martin Blessing said in the statement. "A return to more stable markets is dependent on how the current crisis develops."

The bank follows BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank and other European lenders in writing down holdings of Greek sovereign debt after signing the Institute of International Finance’s rescue proposal last month. The plan requires investors to take an average 21 percent loss on holdings that mature by 2020. "We also carried on reducing our holding of securities from the peripheral countries of the euro zone and we intend to continue to pursue this reduction strategy," Blessing said.

Sovereign Risk
Commerzbank cut its sovereign risks related to Greece to 2.2 billion euros as of June 30, from 3 billion euros six months earlier, the bank said. Italian risk was cut 10 percent to 8.7 billion euros in the period while exposure to Spain declined 6.5 percent to 2.9 billion euros and Portugal remained unchanged at about 900 million euros. The figures for June 30 don’t include risks from asset- based finance shipping, the bank said.

Europe’s biggest banks stand to lose 20.6 billion euros on their Greek government bonds after lenders in the region pledged to contribute to the new rescue package for Greece announced on July 21. Strutz, 46, who joined the bank in 2001 and became finance chief in 2003, told the supervisory board he doesn’t wish to extend his mandate, the bank said. As a management board member since 2004, he helped lead the bank during the purchase of unprofitable rival Dresdner Bank before the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Strutz, who plans to spend more time with his family, is "convinced" the bank’s strategy is correct and doesn’t have a conflict with Blessing, according to an interview with a Commerzbank employee magazine.

Operating profit at the so-called core bank, which excludes asset-based finance where the Greek writedown was booked as well as the portfolio restructuring division, rose to 913 million euros in the quarter from 397 million euros. Earnings at all four divisions of the core bank rose. Commerzbank cited lower costs at its private customers unit and said a "stable" German economy benefitted business with mid-sized companies.

Commerzbank said it will probably have to put aside less money for risky loans this year. Loan-loss provisions are likely to be less than 1.8 billion euros in 2011 compared with the previous estimate of 2.3 billion euros, the lender said. Commerzbank said June 7 that it completed a 5.3 billion- euro share sale in addition to raising 5.7 billion euros from selling conditional mandatory exchangeable notes to repay government aid.

Repaying Aid
Blessing said in April that the bank planned to repay about 14.3 billion euros in so-called silent participations to Germany’s Soffin bank-rescue fund by June through the sale of new shares and use of excess reserves. The lender received more than 18 billion euros from the state after agreeing to buy Dresdner two weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Soffin maintained its stake of 25 percent plus one share in the lender. Commerzbank said in May that it had already repaid 4.3 billion euros of silent participations, a form of non-voting capital used in Germany, after completing the first step of the capital increase.

The second side of the financial storm
by Todd Harrison - Marketwatch

"Outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl."
-Bob Dylan

It’s easy to finger the bears as a cabal of pessimistic pundits who root against the world but following the worst decade in financial market history, they’ve earned the benefit of their own market doubt. As negative headlines abound and social mood sours, some might view the mounting malaise as a contrary indicator. One could argue that the prolonged period of substandard performance is on the margin constructive; that a regression to the historical mean would suggest double-digit returns for the foreseeable future.

I would agree, if not for the fragility of the global market construct and the magnitude of the economic condition. We often discuss the current crossroads; government drugs that mask the symptoms after years of societal largesse versus medicine that cures the disease in the form of asset class deflation and debt destruction and restructuring. We repeat this often for good reason: it’s true.

I may be off base — I’ve learned to stay humble or the market will do it for me — but a single word continues to resonate in my mind’s eye as we edge our way through this historic juncture. That word is “cumulative.” As offered at the Minyanville retreat in Ojai in 2005, “The problem that comes from engaging in high-risk behavior for which the consequences are absent, even if only temporarily, is that such high-risk behavior begins to appear normal and the entire scale of risk gets adjusted and pushed out.”

Therein lies the fatal flaw of our current conundrum. We’ve been pushing risk further out on the time continuum for such a long time that it’s become an accepted — dare I say normalized — pattern that interconnects the world through a tangled web of derivatives.

Last year, I wrote that we were in the eye of the financial storm, a relative calm between the first phase of the financial crisis and a sovereign sequel that’ll flush — and perhaps reset — the system. As we navigate that near-term reality, one thing is clear: this decade will require steadfast stamina and proactive patience. While the first half will be focused on preservation and perseverance, the back nine will be ripe with rewards.

Perspective directive
Some may view the above-mentioned vibe as overtly negative but I’ll offer a different take. I shared the following thoughts in September 2008 and they’re equally apt today as the second side of the storm gains steam. There are many ways to view this seismic shift: anger (as expressed by Main Street), sadness (as savings are destroyed), fear (as reality bites), and confusion (as folks try to understand how this could ever happen).

And there’s anticipation, as we cast an eye forward and look for the phoenix that will eventually arise from the scorched earth. The unfortunate capital market destruction is an inevitable comeuppance, the cumulative result of risk gone awry. It’s been percolating under the seemingly calm surface for years, magnified by financial engineering and consumed by an immediate gratification society.

The socioeconomic consequences will be pervasive as Mother Nature unleashes her pent-up wrath and explores the other side of the business cycle that politicians and policy makers have tried so hard to avoid. It’s certainly scary, as new beginnings typically are; therein lies the opportunity. The media portrays the Great Depression as one where everyone in America stood on street corners or waited in a bread line. A closer look shows that, similar to our current situation, economic hardship for the middle class began well before 1929.

We’ve got a few lean years ahead but that’s nothing to fear. In fact, it’s a healthy and positive progression. To get through this, we need to go through this and, as painful as the process is, it takes us one step closer to an eventual recovery. I view the Great Depression as the framework for optimism. Most of society worked, great discoveries were made and formidable franchises were established.

Disney built a global franchise through that period. Hewlett-Packard was born on the back-end. Texas Instruments, Tyson Foods, and Continental Airlines were birthed. Indeed, if the greatest opportunities are bred from the most formidable obstacles, we’re about to enter a most auspicious era.

This will be a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for the mainstream American who doesn’t know a derivative from a dividend. We can point fingers and wallow in the “why” or take a deep breath and begin the process of recovery.

It’s unfortunate that the structural foundation of capitalism had to shake before people — and policy makers — paid attention to the root causes of our current conundrum but we can’t dwell on what was; we need to focus on what can and will be. Surround yourself with people you trust. Practice risk management over reward chasing. Preserve capital, reduce debt and become financially aware of your surroundings. It won’t be an easy road but it won’t be impossible either.

For as my grandfather Ruby used to tell me, “This too, shall pass.”

Fast forward to today
Minyanville editor-in-chief Kevin “Pepe” Depew offered the following thought in 2008; and I quote,

“A Depression doesn’t run hot and fierce like some crazed meth burner. A Depression is methodical, purposeful, patient. It will build a shelter out of tree branches and newspaper, light a small, well-contained campfire and wait you out, brother. While you feed on the empty calories of denial and popcorn, it will quietly gather shards of broken dreams and fashion them into a terrible weapon of blunt force reality.”

As unconventional as that view was at the time, the events of the last few years have validated his perspective; ironically, as that very same point of recognition manifests, we’ll edge closer to a secular market bottom.

The causal factor for this modern stealth depression can be traced to the job market; while the Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains the unemployment rate is hovering around 9%, they’ve missed the mark in more ways than one. I understand employment is a lagging indicator coming out of any recession, but I’ll share the following fare:
  • The “underemployment” rate, which includes those who’ve taken a part-time job to make ends meet or stopped looking for work altogether, is 20% (one in five).
  • The unemployment rate for 16-19 year-olds is 25% (one in four).
  • The unemployment rate for 20-24 year-olds is 15% (one in six).
  • And perhaps most eye-popping, 15% of Americans are on the food stamp program (one in six!).

The most important takeaway from the evolving dynamic in social mood is this: identifying a personal balance isn’t just about living within one’s means; it’s about redefining what those means are and adjusting your boundaries.

If our past was focused on wealth, accumulation and consumption, the next few years will witness a migration toward something altogether more austere, if not more sensible. My personal view is that the stock market could retest the March 2009 lows in 2013. That doesn’t make it right, and the goal isn’t just to position yourself to profit if you’re correct, but to persevere if you’re not.

Debt reduction and the rejection of — and guilt projection toward — materialism will continue what began in 2008. It won’t just be about doing more with less, but doing less… period, and finding happiness through avenues other than money.

Rally Masks Real Fears
by Tom Lauricella and Jessica Silver-Greenberg - Wall Street Journal

Investors Express Little Confidence in Policy Makers to Tackle Real Problems

A day after a scary plunge, financial markets got a boost Tuesday from the Federal Reserve's pledge to keep interest rates low. But the much-needed rally, coming in another wild, skittish session that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average seesawing, did little to erase investors' underlying fear: Can policy makers manage the significant headwinds buffeting European and American economies?

A promise by the Fed to keep rates "exceptionally low" until 2013 and some new, but vague, language about the "tools" at the central bank's disposal to stimulate the economy was enough to spark a 430-point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average—a partial recovery after the benchmark index had dropped more than 1,000 points in the previous three trading days.

While the Fed's move may have stanched the bleeding in the stock markets and soothed frayed nerves, investors questioned its impact on the real economy, with interest rates already having been at rock bottom for nearly three years. "Whatever benefit you would usually get [from lower Treasury yields] is diminished," says Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Asset Management, which manages roughly $250 billion.

In fact, even as the stock market rallied, yields on 10-year Treasurys fell to record lows, a sign that investors expect the economy to remain weak . "The Fed has spent a lot of its bullets," says Mead Briggs, a retired investor who headed up bond trading desks on Wall Street for many years. "The real focus lies on what's going on with the political side of the equation. That's where the problem needs to get solved, not what the Fed does."

While the credibility of policy makers has historically been a concern for emerging-markets investors, it is unusual for political fears to play such a big role in market sentiment in the world's largest economies. Yet the erosion in confidence in the ability of political and monetary authorities to handle the challenges posed by U.S. and European economies saddled with massive loads of debt has been at the root of the market's latest bout of turmoil.

On one side of the ledger, investors express frustration with the perceived unwillingness among government officials on both continents to make necessary choices that would be unpopular in the short-term with voters. In the U.S., the flashpoint among investors was the political acrimony over raising the debt ceiling. As the clock ticked down toward a possible default, investors voiced disbelief that not only had the fight dragged on but that it was resulting in a budget reduction plan that fell far short of the "Grand Bargain" that had seemed within reach just a week before.

The disappointment at the debt-ceiling deal was amplified by last week's decision by Standard & Poor's to strip the U.S. of its triple-A credit rating for the first time ever. For Mandy Williams, the wrangling over the debt ceiling was the last straw. The 54-year old entrepreneur, who largely manages her own investments, worries that politicians lack the courage to legislate real sacrifice and savings. Ms. Williams, who lives in Houston, moved roughly $10,000 from growth stocks to gold last week. "There's simply no political will to improve jobs or employment," she says.

In Europe, the frustration has been building for months, spreading from the continent's periphery to the core economies of Spain and Italy. A challenge as big as the European debt crisis "requires leadership and coordination and we just haven't gotten that," says Michael Story, a London-based economist at Western Asset Management. The second loss of confidence is in the ability of central banks to do much more to shelter investors, businesses and consumers from the pain of massive overhangs of debt. "Policy makers have been scratching the bottom of the barrel," says RBC's Mr. Lascelles. "The capacity of monetary policy to deliver [relief] is fading."

Aside from the debt ceiling fight, the issues driving the recent loss of confidence have been swirling since even before the 2008 financial crisis. In 2008, governments and central bankers were able to step in to provide liquidity and shore up confidence, albeit with missteps along the way. This time around, investors sense there is no quick fix. "We've gone through the denial phase and we've been seeing some of the anger phase but we're not quite in the acceptance phase," says Stephen Cucchiaro, chief investment officer at Boston based Windhaven Investment Management, which manages $6.6 billion.

Mr. Cucchiaro says he views the current crisis as an opportunity for elected officials to deal with structural fiscal problems in the U.S. when it comes to both entitlements and the tax code. "Both sides need to come together," he says. "But no-one is doing that."

Housing and the jobs market are two areas where investors say government help is needed. Both have remained troubled despite the Fed's moves. Part of the problem for political leaders, some investors say, is that they have not yet come to grips with the new economic environment. "We've had twenty years of pretty strong and less volatile economic growth," says Peter Fisher, global head of fixed income at BlackRock Inc. "It's really hard for politicians to adjust to lower and more volatile economic growth than they are used to."

Bernanke’s Interest-Rate Timeframe Draws Most Negative Votes in 18 Years
by Craig Torres and Joshua Zumbrun - Bloomberg

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s plan to hold interest rates near zero through at least mid-2013 provoked the most opposition among voting policy makers in 18 years as central bank consensus frayed.

The Fed chief achieved unanimous support on the Federal Open Market Committee in 2008 when he lowered interest rates to near zero, and in 2009 when he launched $1.73 trillion in bond purchases. Last year, his plan to buy another $600 billion in assets drew one dissent. Yesterday, three policy makers dissented from the decision to apply a specific date to the Fed’s low rate pledge for the first time.

Bernanke’s move shows that a Fed chairman can govern with more than two opposing votes, opening the door to bolder action if necessary, said Roberto Perli, a former economist in the Fed’s Division of Monetary Affairs, which helps craft the language of the FOMC statements. "We have reached the point where Bernanke is taking control and saying we have to do the right thing no matter how many people dissent," said Perli, a managing director at International Strategy & Investment Group in Washington. "It shows the committee can move forward."

Seven members of the panel favored the action. Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Charles Plosser of Philadelphia and Narayana Kocherlakota of Minneapolis voted no, preferring to maintain the existing "extended period" language. The last time three FOMC voters dissented was on Nov. 17, 1992, under Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan.

History of Discomfort
Fed officials have a long history of discomfort with pledges that limit their policy flexibility, minutes of their meetings show. The deterioration of the economic outlook, and the limits of monetary policy when interest rates are already near zero, prompted Bernanke to opt for the time commitment -- even at the cost of three dissenting votes, said former Fed Governor Laurence Meyer. "He must be unhappy about that, but with no regrets," said Meyer, now a senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC. "The chairman is the decider, and he will do whatever he thinks needs to be done."

Ten-year Treasury yields touched a record low, and U.S. stocks rebounded from the worst drop since 2008. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 4.7 percent to close at 1,172.53 yesterday. The 10-year yield fell as low as 2.03 percent before paring its decline to 2.25 percent. The Federal Open Market Committee lowered its economic assessment, saying it now "expects a somewhat slower pace of recovery over the coming quarters." It left the door open for more action, saying it discussed "the range of policy tools available to promote a stronger economic recovery."

More Action
The dissents may have weighed against stronger action for now, said Vincent Reinhart, a former director of the Division of Monetary Affairs. The FOMC majority could push for further easing at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this month, he said. "The dissents signal a strongly divided committee," said Reinhart, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The Bernanke majority "did less than they wanted to probably. But they set themselves up for Jackson Hole to be a midcourse correction."

In previous eras, dissents could signal rebellions against the chairman. On February 24, 1986, Paul Volcker was outvoted when four governors appointed by President Ronald Reagan wanted to lower the discount rate.

Considered Resigning
Volcker considered resigning immediately, according to the book "Secrets of the Temple" by William Greider. He remained chairman until 1987, when Alan Greenspan was appointed. Meyer, in his 2004 book "A Term at the Fed," said Greenspan built consensus before meetings, sometimes lobbying governors one by one.

There were "two imaginary red chairs around the table -- the ‘dissent chairs.’ The first two FOMC Members who sat in those chairs were able to dissent. After that, no one else could follow," Meyer said in the book. A third dissent would represent "open revolt" against the chairman, Meyer said.

Greenspan faced three dissents on November 17, 1992. Unlike yesterday, the opposition was split. Cleveland Fed President Jerry Jordan dissented in favor of "immediate action" to increase the availability of reserves.= Fed governor John LaWare and St. Louis Fed President Thomas Melzer dissented because they believed the economy was strengthening and central bank policy might "well-establish a basis for greater inflation later."

'Deep Concerns'
Yesterday’s dissents highlight a lack of full support for Bernanke’s policies at a time when the central bank is under greater scrutiny. After the Fed announced a $600 billion second round of bond purchases in November, House Speaker John Boehner and three other Republicans sent Bernanke a letter expressing "deep concerns."

"The reality is at the end of the day Bernanke has an operational majority and he’s not afraid to ram things through over the objection of the minority," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. "There’s nobody on the board who’s likely to dissent, and there’s a handful of presidents who" share Bernanke’s views on monetary easing.

Prior to yesterday’s meeting, there had been 23 dissents during Bernanke’s tenure as Fed chairman. Nine of those came from Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig. He voted eight straight times in 2010 against record stimulus, tying former Governor Henry Wallich’s record in 1980 for most dissents in a single year.

Fisher, Plosser
Fisher and Plosser both dissented in March and April of 2008 in favor of less accommodative monetary policy, with Fisher also dissenting three other times that year. The voting membership of the FOMC next year has members less inclined to open disagreement with the majority, as presidents from Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco and Richmond rotate onto the committee.

Atlanta’s Dennis Lockhart and Cleveland’s Sandra Pianalto have never dissented. San Francisco’s John Williams will be new to the committee, though his predecessor, Janet Yellen, never dissented. That leaves Richmond’s Jeffrey Lacker as the only president with a history of dissenting, having objected to five previous FOMC statements.

The FOMC has had divisive debates over pegging interest rates to a time period before. In August of 2003, the committee adopted a phrase from Greenspan’s semi-annual testimony in July and said "policy accommodation can be maintained for a considerable period."

Debate on Language
After a unanimous vote to leave the benchmark lending rate unchanged at 1 percent, then-Boston Fed President Cathy Minehan began a debate on the "considerable period" language. "I’m just wondering whether that’s veering a little too much toward the commitment side than we need to or ought to do at this point," Minehan said.

Presidents Jack Guynn of Atlanta, Hoenig of Kansas City, William Poole of St. Louis and J. Alfred Broaddus Jr. of Richmond were among the seven officials who opposed the phrase among a total of 18 FOMC participants. The majority won after Greenspan called a vote. Bernanke, then a Fed governor, argued in favor of retaining the phrase, saying it would "go some way to bringing policy expectations in the market toward what I heard around the table during the entire meeting."

Reinhart, who was involved in formulating the Fed Board’s communication strategy, said a policy maker approached him one day and told him his tombstone would read: "Here Lies Vincent Reinhart, For a Considerable Period."

Fed is as paralyzed as Congress is
by Rex Nutting - MarketWatch

The U.S. economy is slumping, and the word Tuesday from the Federal Reserve is that the central bank is just as paralyzed as Congress is.

The most remarkable thing about the policy statement from the Fed was the wide gulf between the Fed’s diagnosis of what’s ailing the economy and the Fed’s prescribed medicine. The economy is in much worse shape than we thought, the Fed said. And we won’t — or can’t — lift a finger to do anything about it.

Up until now, the Fed had been clinging to a hope that the softening in the economy would prove to be transitory, that temporary factors — such as high energy prices and the supply shock of the Japanese earthquake — were to blame. No longer.

The Fed has come to grips with the reality: If temporary factors “account for only some of the recent weakness in economic activity,” then it follows that permanent, structural or fundamental factors must account for most of our problems. And those problems will take years to resolve. Sure, the Fed made some news by saying that it would likely keep interest rates exceptionally low until the middle of 2013. Never before has the Fed put a date-certain stamp on any of its actions. That sounds like a pretty dramatic announcement, but actually it was a statement of impotence.

The promise to keep interest rates near zero for two more years will do very little to stimulate the economy in the near term. On the margin, the Fed’s promise will help cement market expectations that the Fed won’t be tightening monetary policy any time soon. Everyone already expected the Fed to sit tight for a long time, so what does it really achieve?

The mid-2013 promise falls well short of the market’s hopes, but it was as far as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke could push his committee. Three of the 10 members of the Federal Open Market Committee dissented, which by central-banking standards is practically a mutiny.

The three dissents tell us that the Fed won’t implement a new round of bond buying — not unless the situation gets a lot worse. The remaining arrows in Bernanke’s quiver will stay right there, unused. And the economy — and the market — must fend for itself.

Interpreting the Fed: what Bernanke really told us
by Gavyn Davies - FT

Opinion is sharply divided about what the Fed intended to signal in the statement issued on Tuesday. Some have seen the statement as very dovish, because it said that the Fed intended to leave short rates at "exceptionally low levels" until mid 2013 – the first time that a specific date of this sort has ever been set by the FOMC.

Others, however, concluded that the statement contained nothing really new, since the markets had already assumed that short rates would be close to zero for the next two years. Furthermore, the fact that there were three dissents from the majority decision has led some to deduce that the further large step to more quantitative easing (QE3) is still a long way off. On this view, nothing really changed.

One way of trying to assess whether the Fed eased policy on Tuesday is to use the Taylor Rule, which translates economic conditions into the "appropriate" setting for monetary policy.

There are many versions of this rule doing the rounds in economic research, but I am going to use the one which some economists say is the closest to that used by the FOMC. This was published by Glenn Rudebusch of the San Francisco Fed in June 2010. The equation translates the core rate of inflation, and the gap between actual and structural unemployment, into the appropriate short term interest rate using the Fed’s historical response function. (Strictly, this does not give us the "correct" short rate, just the one which the Fed would set if it acts in the same way as it has on average in past 20 years.)

Using the FOMC’s most recent forecasts for core inflation and unemployment in 2011 Q4, we find that the implied fed funds rate is -2.5 per cent. However, in order to discover what rate the Fed should actually set today, we also need to take into account of the expansionary effect of QE. Rudesbusch also enables us to do this. On his central estimates, updated for the arrival of QE2 since he published his research, the increase in the Fed’s balance sheet has been equivalent to a reduction in the short rate of about 3.2 per cent. Consequently, the "correct" short rate right now would be about 0.7 per cent – fractionally higher than where it is today.

This, and the fact that the FOMC believes that inflation expectations are no better than "stable", probably explains why the Fed has been reluctant to ease monetary policy further as economic activity has slowed down in recent months. Even Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and his dovish supporters have given no sign of any relaxation until the statement on Tuesday. Unlike last year, there has been no indication from them that monetary policy is "too tight".

What about the future for short rates? After the June FOMC meeting, the committee published its central projections for core inflation and unemployment for 2012 Q4 and 2013 Q4. We can use these to interpolate their projections for mid 2013, the relevant date for the new commitment made on Tuesday.

Using the economic projections made in June, the Taylor Rule suggests that the correct level of the short rate in mid 2013 would be 3.1 per cent, if the size of the Fed’s balance sheet remained unchanged until then. In other words, based on what the Fed expected for the economy in June, it was reasonable to expect that there would be a progressive tightening in monetary policy in the next two years, either coming from higher short rates, or a reduction in the size of the balance sheet.

However, this expectation has now changed, mainly because the Fed said that the paths for real GDP and unemployment are now worse than they expected in June, both in the past and in the future.  Furthermore, the downside risks to this forecast are said to have increased, and inflation is thought likely to settle at rates "at or below" the 2 per cent which is deemed consistent with the Fed’s mandate.

We do not know the precise forecasts which the Fed is now using, but we can make a reasonable estimate. I assume that the unemployment rate projected for mid 2013 is now 8.5 per cent (up from 7.6 per cent before), while the core inflation rate is 1.5 per cent (down from 1.7 per cent previously). On this basis, the correct short rate in mid 2013 would be 1.1 per cent, assuming that the Fed leaves its balance sheet unchanged in the meantime.

The Fed has now committed itself to leave rates unchanged at "exceptionally low levels" until mid 2013. So is it intending to pursue a monetary policy which is easier than the Taylor Rule suggests? Not necessarily. For one thing, "exceptionally low" rates could be taken to be consistent with rates rising to 1 per cent. For another, the Fed has not told us what it is assuming will happen to its balance sheet between now and 2013. If the Fed’s security holdings were to shrink by about one third over that period, roughly reversing the effects of QE2, then the appropriate short rate would be around its current level: close to zero.

Either way, the Fed does not seem to have committed itself to any easing in monetary conditions in the next two years. It is not yet ready to get ahead of the curve, and take pro-active steps to prevent the economy from slowing further. It is quite likely that it will ease policy further if unemployment and GDP growth deteriorate, but inflation expectations seem to be standing in the way of that happening pre-emptively.

Mr Bernanke showed that he will not allow a few dissenting voices on the FOMC to stop him easing further if he believes that conditions warrant such a move. That constitutes a smidgeon of dovish news, compared to what we knew before. But by that time, the economy might be in recession.

The Fed’s Stuck
by Alen Mattich - Wall Street Journal

With equity markets melting down at an accelerating pace over the past few weeks, central bankers will be looking to do another round of emergency responses. To that end, all eyes will be on the Federal Reserve.

If the Fed persists with another round of unorthodox medicine, say QE3, it will be perpetuating the same catastrophic stupidity it did last year. That’s because it would be misdiagnosing the problem and thus end up dosing the patient with another dose of what’s in effect, poison.

Equity markets are not selling off because of sovereign debt worries in Italy or the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt, or even of the latest indication that the global economy is slowing. Equity markets were rising through June and July when there were already signs of a global economic relapse. If the S&P downgrade really mattered, why then are Treasury bonds–presumably the asset class most at risk–rocketing? And Italy’s woes are merely the latest manifestation of the euro zone sovereign debt crisis that’s been rolling around for the best part of two years.

No, the markets are responding to the end of the Fed’s QE2 program at the end of June. Indeed, the S&P 500 is nearly back down to levels of a year ago when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke gave his Jackson Hole speech, paving the way for more quantitative easing.

Ostensibly, QE2 came about because the Fed was worried about deflation. In fact, as the Fed admitted later on, it was because Bernanke and co. were targeting asset prices. Not only were rising equity prices meant to create a wealth effect to boost the underlying confidence in the U.S. economy and, thereafter, consumption, but they also were seen as a barometer of how well the central bank was doing.

To that end, the Fed inflated equity prices far above their historic norms–between a third and a half, depending on whether you use replacement costs of assets or cyclically smoothed earnings as your valuation methodology. Without QE, equity prices will have a tendency to revert to these trend levels. And that’s what they’re doing now.

They may fall even further below trend because of a secondary effect of the last round of QE, rampant commodity price inflation. The surge in commodity prices, that tracked equity prices, also acted as a huge tax on the struggling U.S. economy. It ate away at household resources, hitting ordinary people’s consumption. So, while rampant equity prices allowed bankers and the rich to behave as if the fiscal crisis never happened, food and energy price rises crippled the rest of the population.

Will the Fed do it again? Possibly. After all, it has been instrumental in inflating asset bubbles for at least 15 years and largely the same people are in charge now as have been the whole while. But to repeat these mistakes would be criminal.

So what should it do instead? John Hussman, of Hussman Funds, puts his finger on the problem in his latest weekly note. What the U.S. economy needs is a restructuring of bad debt. Until this restructuring happens, the economy will remain on its knees. It can be argued that the Fed is seeking to restructure these bad debts through inflation. Perhaps. But maybe it should use its regulatory powers to do as much as it can too.

Merkel faces revolt over eurozone deal
by Quentin Peel - FT

Battle lines are being rapidly drawn up in the German Bundestag for what promises to be a bruising debate over the crisis measures to stabilise debt markets in the eurozone.

Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble face a revolt among their own supporters in both the Christian Democratic Union and the Free Democratic Party, junior partner in the ruling coalition in Berlin, over the deal they agreed last month with their 16 eurozone partners in Brussels.

The complex political landscape means that Ms Merkel is determined to resist pressure from her partners, and from the European Commission, for any further measures – such as increasing the size of the €440bn European Financial Stability Facility, or introducing eurozone bonds – for fear of losing her parliamentary majority.

Some members of the CDU have already called for an emergency party conference to debate the government’s entire eurozone strategy. They include new powers for the EFSF to buy eurozone government bonds in the secondary market, and to issue precautionary loans to countries with liquidity problems, and to recapitalise banks.

A separate move by dissidents in the FDP to call an emergency session of the Bundestag seems likely to be blocked, because the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) back the government line to wait for the parliament to reconvene in September.

The German government is also facing a highly critical press in the wake of the weekend decision by the European Central Bank to buy Italian and Spanish bonds, a move that was welcomed by Berlin, although it is opposed by the Bundesbank, Germany’s highly independent central bank, in Frankfurt. The calls for an emergency party conference have come from the Hesse state branch of the CDU, and from the head of the party’s youth wing, Philipp Missfelder, who is a member of the party’s national executive.

In an interview with the mass circulation Bild newspaper on Tuesday, Mr Missfelder said he would call for an emergency party conference at the next meeting of the executive on August 22, if Italy were forced to seek help from the eurozone rescue fund. "The party has a right to participate in such momentous decisions," he said. But he left an escape route for the party, because Italy is technically not getting help from the EFSF rescue fund, but from the European Central Bank.

A more serious threat to Ms Merkel’s 21 seat majority in the Bundestag comes from the liberal Free Democrats, who are fighting desperately to recover from a slump in popularity, which has dropped from 14 per cent to barely 3 per cent in the polls since the last election in 2009. One third of the delegates at the last FDP party conference voted for a resolution rejecting the plans for a permanent European Stability Mechanism, which is supposed to replace the EFSF from 2014.

On Tuesday, Philipp Rösler, the economy minister and party leader, came up with a proposal for a European "stability council" which would set "stress tests" to measure the competitiveness of individual eurozone members, and impose automatic sanctions to force reforms upon them. The move was seen as an attempt to head off a growing revolt from his backbenchers.

Ms Merkel insists that she will deliver her majority in favour of the deal. If more than 21 supporters refused to back the deal, she would be forced to rely on the opposition SPD and Greens, both of whom are in favour. That would ensure German approval for the eurozone reform package, but it would be politically devastating for the chancellor not to be able to count on majority support from her own ranks, and could cause the government to fall.

Sigmar Gabriel, SPD chairman, on Tuesday promised his party’s support once again, and argued that the German government should go further, and allow eurozone bonds to be introduced, ensuring easier borrowing for the most debt-strapped eurozone member states.

Beware the ECB’s brave new world
by Martin Sandbu - FT

Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, has torn up his institution’s implicit rule book by buying Italian and Spanish sovereign debt. Does this make him Europe’s great defender, who has turned back a near-fatal onslaught by market forces? Or is he rather a Molotov cocktail-throwing radical, tearing down the foundations of the eurozone’s social contract by opening the door to monetised public deficits?

He could, of course, be both. It is quite possible, indeed plausible, that the project of monetary union can only survive if some of the premises on which it was founded – such as a ban on using pooled resources to help member states who cannot pay their debts – are jettisoned. If so, Mr Trichet is indeed a revolutionary, but one whose radical measures aim at preserving the established order.

There is a more likely possibility: that for all its radicalism, the ECB’s action will not have much effect at all. Granted, the immediate impact of the governing council meeting on Sunday and the next day’s market intervention was tremendous. Driving down the sovereign yield of a €1,600bn-a-year economy by almost a full percentage point shows that the ECB is no pushover.

The question is not about the force of the ECB’s punch but about its staying power. Its intervention in the sovereign bond markets of Greece, Ireland and Portugal is instructive in this regard. These are much smaller – more cheaply manipulable – than those of Spain and Italy.

The ECB launched its Securities Markets Programme in May 2010, when the first eurozone rescue of Greece was arranged. It later added Irish and Portuguese bonds to its portfolio. Before this week’s intervention, the SMP held €74bn-worth of government securities from these three countries. That is 14 per cent of the around €520bn of bonds they have outstanding, presumably more if counted at face value.

Since Italian and Spanish bonds amount to some €2,250bn, and trade at higher prices than those of the small peripheral countries, the ECB would need to spend well more than €300bn to hold a similar share. If the goal is to induce markets to offer states low-borrowing costs, this amount of bond-buying is clearly far too timid to succeed. Greek 10-year bonds now yield about 15 per cent; Irish and Portuguese ones about 10. Why expect any more success from buying Italian and Spanish bonds?

The answer depends on what precisely the ECB wants to do: make markets lend at reasonable rates, or permanently substitute its own favourable rates for unsustainable market yields? For now, the answer is surely the former: the ECB – and everybody else in their right mind – must hope the intervention will flip market psychology so that investors return at normal prices. This is not a delusional proposition: everywhere except Greece, the biggest cause of rising yields has been self-fulfilling market worries about market access.

But the effect of policy on market psychology is never mechanistic, least of all in times as uncertain as these. The ECB’s action, instead of reassuring investors, could quite possibly make them think that if such a desperate measure is needed, it is better to get out of the market and stay out until things look better. This could accelerate the crisis. More probably, doubts will simply linger until market panic flares up again.

What then? It will be the true test of the ECB’s radicalism. If markets remain unconvinced that Italy’s or Spain’s market access is secure, the ECB has only one tool left. That is to take over the whole market – buy all new or outstanding Italian or Spanish debt at a certain yield – or promise to do so, which it can only credibly do by actually going ahead.

It is inconceivable that the ECB would do this, and there are reasons why it should not. One is efficacy: it is not clear how Italian and Spanish access to private debt markets at reasonable terms would be secured by supplanting those private markets with monetary financing.

Moreover, purely monetary action cannot provide the public sector with real resources on a sustained basis without those resources ultimately being paid for by the private sector. The usual way that this happens is through an inflation tax: net holders of nominal claims see the real value of their assets eroded. In a currency union this would affect all countries and amount to a real transfer from creditor country citizens to debtor states.

Transfers can happen in other ways: if bonds were not honoured in full, the entire eurozone must help make the ECB whole for its losses. Whichever the mechanism, transfers resulting from monetary policy are anathema to the terms Germany thought it secured for the euro.

But this outcome can only be ruled out by finding another solution, and soon. Creditor nations’ taxpayers are already exposed. Politicians must grasp, then explain, that their money is best protected by putting it explicitly behind the commitments made to solvent but illiquid sovereigns. The obvious way to do this is the most impolitic one: boost the eurozone’s rescue facilities – the European Financial Stability Facility and the future European Stability Mechanism – to a level that can cover the entire eurozone’s gross public financing needs for the next couple of years, some €3,000bn.

This would end the crisis. EFSF and ESM bonds, like US ones, will not face buyers’ strikes, regardless of ratings. It would also be profitable – a point missed by politicians who complain about "unjustified" yields. If markets price bonds irrationally, the EFSF can make money for taxpayers by buying them. Sadly, not everyone has Mr Trichet’s capacity for such radical thinking.

Bail-outs chip away at France and Germany too
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph

Investors have begun to question whether France and Germany can credibly underwrite the debts of southern Europe without losing their AAA ratings and succumbing to the crisis themselves.

Credit Default Swaps (CDS) measuring risk on German bonds have doubled since early July to 85 basis points, rising above British CDS contracts for the first time despite the London riots. Non-EMU Sweden enjoys lower borrowing costs than Germany. This has not been seen for half a century. "What is happening is momentous," said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS. "The more Europe steps in to buy Italian and Spanish debt, the more Germany shifts towards the group of countries that could be attacked."

French CDS have surged 161 and are now by far the highest of the AAA club. Yields on French 10-year bonds decoupled from core EMU states such as the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland. "France is now on the radar of investors. It is expected to be a back-stop for the bail-out fund but according to the IMF it has to do almost twice as much fiscal tightening to keep its economy on an even keel," said Mr Roberts. The IMF said last month that France had the highest debt ratio of any AAA state this year at 85pc of GDP.

The decision by EU leaders two weeks ago to empower the bail-out fund (EFSF) to buy the bonds of Italy and Spain has profoundly changed the European Project, ushering in a 'Transferunion' and debt pool. This has big implications for the paymaster states. RBS has warned that France may have to accept a rise in its debt-to-GDP ratio to 112pc, and Germany to 110pc, if they ultimately have to raise the EFSF's firepower to €2 trillion (£1.75 trillion).

Stephen Jen, head of SLJ Macro Partners and a former IMF official, said Europe is replicating mistakes made by financial authorities after the Lehman crisis when good banks were merged with bad banks - as with Lloyds and HBOS. This time the destructive "fission" is taking place between solvent and insolvent states. Investors are taking flight before the fission turns "explosive".

Mr Jen said Standard & Poor's downgrade of the US will have knock-on effects for Europe since the rating agency will have to apply the same logic. "On virtually all debt measures, France looks much worse than the US. If S&P includes America's unfunded Social Security liabilities, which it did, it should also include France's contingent liabilities in all of the mega-bailouts. Even Germany's AAA rating may not be assured if Europe remains on its current policy path," he said.

Mr Jen said the ECB itself may pay a high price as it is forced to soak up South Europe's debts. "Italian and Spanish bonds are weakening for very natural reasons. One day, the ECB will need to be recapitalised (bailed out) by governments," he said.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB's president, gave an emotional defence of the ECB's actions yesterday. "It is the worst crisis since the Second World War, and it might have been the worst since the First World War if those in charge had not taken very robust decisions," he told Europe-1.

Professor Volker Grossmann from Fribourg University said the ECB was the only institution that could take on the task. "The EFSF rescue fund cannot bail out Italy and Spain because politicians will never agree to pay these huge sums. They know it would be political suicide. It is a pretence," he said. "The debt crisis will be resolved through higher inflation. That will hurt everybody and raise borrowing costs for Germany," he said.

Criticism is mounting in Germany over the authoritarian creep of the Europe's crisis measures. Otmar Issing, the ECB's former chief economist and the country's most authoritative voice on the euro, said the EMU project was spinning out of control. Far from evolving into an authentic fiscal union with "a European government controlled by a European Parliament, elected according to democratic principles", it is turning into a deformed creature where moral hazard is unchecked and the EU is intruding on sovereign matters.

By subverting the 'no bail-out' clause of the Maastricht Treaty the eurozone is "on a slippery road to a regime of fiscal indiscipline drowning hitherto solid countries in the morass of over-indebtedness." Implicit transfers are taking place without parliamentary approval. "This type of political union would not survive. Its collapse would be brought by resistance from the people. In the past, cries of 'no taxation without representation' have brought war," he said.

Italy's leader Silvio Berlusconi lashed out at Europe yesterday after a leaked letter showed that the ECB had dictated the exact details of Rome's new austerity policies as a condition for ECB bond purchases. "They made us look like an occupied government. They bought the bonds to save themselves, not Italy," he said, according to Il Messaggero. "We're a long way from collective governance capable of scaring speculators. If it's our turn today, it can be Paris's turn tomorrow."

European Bank Stress Measurements Hit Levels Unseen Since Lehman Collapse
by Gavin Finch and Elisa Martinuzzi - Bloomberg

Measures that gauge the level of European banks’ reluctance to lend to one another are approaching levels unseen since the aftermath of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse.

Banks in the region are paying the biggest premium to borrow in dollars since December 2008, with the three-month cross currency basis swap falling to 90 basis points below the euro interbank offered rate today. The difference between three- month Euribor and the overnight indexed swap rate, a measure of banks’ reluctance to lend to each other, jumped to 0.64 percentage point today, the widest spread since May 2009.

"We’re going back to a post-Lehman scenario where banks are reliant on the ECB and funding is more expensive," said Marcello Zanardo, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in London. "This may lead to a credit crunch" if banks can’t pass on all their costs.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet last week offered banks unlimited money for six months and extended existing liquidity measures to quell concern that southern European lenders may struggle to borrow in the debt markets. The central bank has also started to purchase Italian and Spanish bonds to stem the sovereign debt crisis. Banks deposited 145 billion euros ($207 billion) with the European Central Bank’s overnight facility as of yesterday, the most since August 2010. ECB lending to banks rose by 7.75 billion euros last week to 505.1 billion euros.

'Not a Good Sign'
"Banks are beginning lend more cautiously, and increasingly park their money at central banks," ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny told Austrian state radio ORF today. "Bank deposits at the ECB have risen massively. That’s not a good sign."

The extra yield investors demand to buy bank bonds instead of benchmark German debt surged to 251 basis points on Aug. 8, or 2.51 percentage points, the highest since May 2010, data compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch show. The cost of insuring that debt against default surged to a record today. The Markit iTraxx Financial Index linked to senior debt of 25 European banks and insurers rose to 218 basis points today.

Credit Suisse Group AG fell below the lowest price hit during the financial crisis of 2008. The Swiss lender dropped 3.9 percent in Zurich trading to 21.75 francs, the lowest since March 2003. The Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index was 0.4 percent higher at the close in London after falling as much as 4.9 percent.

"What you’re seeing is a massive move to deposit cash at the shortest-term maturity, just like we saw a couple of years ago," said Simon Maughan, head of sales and distribution at MF Global Ltd. in London. "International banks are extremely unwilling to lend to southern European banks."

'Spell Out’ Strategy
The ECB’s purchases of Spanish and Italian bonds may be draining liquidity from the interbank markets, analysts said. Unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, the ECB sterilizes its bond purchases, using term deposits to reabsorb the same amount of cash it spends.

If the ECB chooses to sterilize its Italian and Spanish bond purchases by holding bank deposits of the same size, that could encourage banks to boost their deposits at the ECB rather than lend to each other, analysts said.

"The ECB needs to spell out what the strategy for its bond purchases is and the net cash impact," said Jonathan Tyce, senior analyst for the Bloomberg Industries European banking team in London. "Falls across the banking sector and a rise in Euribor-OIS -- despite falling Italian and Spanish yields -- suggest the market is concerned about sterilization and as a result, negative impacts on bank liquidity."

The yield on 10-year Spanish government bonds has fallen 120 basis points in the past week to 5.06 percent today. The yield on Italian debt of a similar maturity slid 95 basis points to 5.18 percent in the same period.

European Central Bank must go nuclear to save Europe
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph

A chorus of global economists has called on the European Central Bank to go far beyond pin-prick purchases of eurozone debt. It needs to launch quantitative easing on a massive scale to head off a eurozone debacle, if necessary purchasing half the entire stock of Italian and Spanish debt, they argue.

Stephen King, HSBC's chief economist, said the ECB should drop its ideological opposition to QE and embrace easy money in "exactly the same" way as the US Federal Reserve. "At the heart of the problem is the ECB's unwillingness to be seen 'monetizing' government debt. Yet if the alternative to QE is the collapse of the euro or a descent into depression, then massive expansion of the ECB's balance sheet seems a small price to pay," he said.

The ECB should not 'sterilize' purchases of Italian and Spanish bonds to offset stimulus but instead allow the liquidity to course through the system. Dr King said the eurozone will have to embrace fiscal union in the end or face the same sort of "fiscal anarchy leading to financial implosion" that destroyed post-Soviet rouble area. New York professor Nouriel Roubini called on the ECB to reverse monetary tightening immediately given the darkening global picture. "It should reduce rates to zero, and make big purchases of government bonds," he said.

Frankfurt is unlikely to heed the advice. The bank's president Jean-Claude Trichet, last week stuck to his anti-inflation script and said "we do not do QE". The ECB began buying Spanish and Italian bonds for the first time yesterday, causing 10-year yields to plunge by 90 basis points. However, an ECB statement over the weekend came with too many strings to satisfy investors. The bank is likely to be tested over coming weeks.

David Marsh, co-chairman of OMFIF, said the statement was "half-hearted" and suggested that dissenting German hawks were imposing limits. "The ECB is clearly not going in with all guns blazing," he said. Investors have not forgotten that the ECB failed to stop Greek, Irish, and Portuguese yields from spiralling out of control before each needed a rescue, even though it purchased almost a fifth of their combined debts.

Gary Jenkins from Evolution Securities said Greek yields fell from 12.43pc to 7.35pc in the week following the ECB's first bond purchases, only to creep back up over the next six weeks. Jacques Cailloux, Europe economist at RBS, said the ECB's intervention had stopped a collapse of South European bond markets for now, but ultimately the ECB will have to act as buyer-of-last-resort on a huge scale.

Investors will take advantage of bond rallies to cut exposure to Italy and Spain, shifting the risk onto the ECB and the taxpayer. The crisis will flare up again if the ECB stops buying. Mr Cailloux said private investors will not return to the market until the debts of Italy and Spain are on a "clear declining trend" and there is no longer any serious risk of contagion.

"That simply cannot happen in the foreseeable future. Over time, we believe that ongoing selling pressure will force the ECB – and [the eurozone's bailout fund] EFSF – eventually to hold close to half the long-term traded debt of Spain and Italy or around €850bn. This huge risk-pooling will not come easily and the risk of political fall-out will be large," he said.

The ECB acted on the assurance that the EFSF will take over the responsibility once its new powers have been ratified by national parliaments, which may not be until October. This creates an implicit limit to ECB purchases since the fund is not authorized to lend its full €440bn, and a large chunk of that is already earmarked for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.

Brussels has called for more firepower, and Citigroup has called for a €2.5 trillion fund to silence all doubts. Yet this is anathema to Berlin, where key figures on Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition are near revolt. A weekend statement by Dr Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy made no mention of boosting the fund. "Given this, it remains unclear in what size the ECB is willing to intervene," said Giada Giani from Citigroup.

Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann has been an open critic of bond purchases, warning that such "collectivisation of risks" will undermine EMU. German bail-out fatigue is leading to a tetchy mood and it will not be lost on politicians in Berlin that Germany suffered the biggest stock market fall of any major country in Europe on Monday, with the DAX down 5pc. "It is clear that somebody is going to have to pay for all these bail-outs, and it is going to be the German taxpayer," said David Bloom, currency chief at HSBC.

Mr Bloom said market psychology had broken down across the world over recent days. Barely a month ago the consensus thought recovery was at hand. "We were looking at the end of QE, and exit strategies, and we could see an oasis across the desert. Now we realize it was just a mirage. We are nowhere near salvation, and the markets have just woken up to this fact," he said.

What the Financial Crisis Means for Germany
by David Böcking - Spiegel

Germany has been enjoying the biggest economic boom in a generation, shrugging off the debt crisis raging in several of its trading partners. But the prospect of a double-dip recession in the US could put a stop to that.

One of the most common catchphrases in the consulting business is that there are opportunities to be found in every crisis. The global financial crisis of 2008 indeed provided the German economy with the chance to shine. German businesses enjoyed stronger growth than most rivals once the worst of the crisis was over. Germany emerged as a world champion of the economic rebound.

But is the worst truly over? With its downgrading of the United States' top credit rating on Friday, Standard & Poor's triggered fears that we may be facing a double-dip recession.

Up until now, Germany has appeared to be largely immune from the economic problems plaguing other countries. Whereas southern Europe and the US appeared to plunge from the financial crisis almost directly into the debt crisis, Germans enjoyed record economic growth. Will that continue to be the case if other economies elsewhere slide back into recession?
A double-dip recession could affect Germany in two ways:
  • as an exporting nation selling goods to crisis-afflicted countries
  • and as a credit guarantor for other euro-zone countries hit by the crisis

A number of indicators have suggested in recent weeks that the German economic boom is winding down , even before the latest escalation of the debt crisis. In June, German industry sales stagnated, according to the latest statistics, with foreign demand falling by 0.1 percent. Germany's engineering sector, a particularly strong and important part of the economy, showed growth of only 1 percent in June according to industry association VDMA. Meanwhile, the most recent purchasing manager's index showed declines in demand for German products in a number of countries.

Ralph Wiechers, chief economist at the VDMA, says the current slowdown in German industry is attributable mainly to the winding down of catch-up investments -- expenditures that had been postponed during the crisis and resumed once it ended. But Wiechers said he would not rule out a further worsening of the situation, either. "The unresolved dollar and euro crisis is an economic risk and thus also a potential burden for our businesses."

One concern is that interest rates could rise in response to the downgrading of the US credit rating. If that were to happen, American consumers and companies would likely invest less, meaning also that less money would flow to Germany as a trading partner.

Germany Less Vulnerable to the US
But the US is a significantly less important market for German products than it used to be. "In the 1970s, up to 14 percent of German exports went to the US, whereas it was just 6.8 percent in 2010," said Michael Pfeifer, head of state-owned economic agency Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI). The strong recovery of the German economy was driven less by the US than by emerging economies. Germany has benefited from its focus on the kind of machinery that countries such as China and Brazil need to expand their economies.

"German experts are diversified, which makes us less vulnerable than we were a few years ago," said Ansgar Belke, an analyst at Berlin's German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). Nevertheless, the US remains the biggest foreign investor in Germany. According to GTAI, more than a quarter of direct investment ventures since 2003 have been made by US companies. And US firms employ almost 750,000 people in Germany. In May, more than half of firms polled by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany said they planned to hire more workers in 2011.

While Germany could cope with a slight weakening of US demand, a real double-dip recession in the world's largest economy would pull Germany down with it. "In the long term, it's impossible to decouple from the US economy," said DIW economist Belke.

A further problem is that other engines of growth may be about to start sputtering. Emerging markets are struggling to stop their economies from overheating and there are fears that a real estate bubble may be about to burst in China. The economies are likely to keep on growing, but they won't be unscathed by the turmoil in financial markets. On Monday, Latin American stocks were heading for their largest losses in over a year.

Strong Euro, Weak Euro Partners
In addition, Germany's European partners may be about to suffer slowing growth, which is bad news for Germany in two ways: firstly, it endangers the country's most important sales market. In June, just under 42 percent of German exports went to euro-zone countries, and 61 percent went to nations in the wider European Union.

Secondly, it could force Germany to devote further billions to shoring up over-indebted euro-zone member states. It already shoulders around €120 billion of the euro bailout fund's €440 billion. If the fund is enlarged, Germany's share will grow commensurately.

The borrowing costs of Italy and Spain fell on Monday after the European Central Bank started purchasing government bonds issued by those countries. But DIW economist Belke believes that the euro will remain strong because of the US crisis. "That is bad for the peripheral countries," he says -- a strong euro makes it hard for those countries to export goods and attract foreign investment.

It would be particularly unpleasant for Germany if speculation about a ratings downgrade for France were to come true. The French are the biggest buyers of German products, with annual imports exceeding €90 billion. France is also the second biggest contributor to the EU bailout fund.

If France were to require help itself, these guarantees would vanish, and Germany would probably have to provide much higher guarantees than at present. Standard & Poor's last week confirmed its top AAA rating for France at the end of last week. But price increases for credit default swaps on French government bonds on Monday showed that some investors are starting to speculate against the second-biggest economy of the euro zone.

For the time being, Germany itself looks safe from attacks by speculators. The country is benefiting from its reputation as a safe haven, and thanks to its membership of the euro, it is avoiding the currency surge that safe-haven buying usually entails. Switzerland, by contrast, is laboring under a sharp appreciation of the franc.

And because the yields on German government bonds have fallen to new lows in recent days, the country can borrow money even more cheaply now -- while other nations struggle to obtain new loans at prohibitive rates.

Call to Downsize Giants of Ratings
by Jeannette Neumann - Wall Street Journal

Three weeks ago, Egan-Jones Ratings Co. downgraded America. Almost no one paid attention. "S&P's downgrade was on the front page of every newspaper," said Sean Egan, president of the Haverford, Pa., ratings firm, which has been issuing ratings since 1995.

Mr. Egan's disappointment that Standard & Poor's rattled the world with its Friday-night rating cut on long-term U.S. government debt to double-A-plus, from triple-A, while his identical move was essentially ignored, is a sign of the grip on the debt-ratings industry held by its three giants.

McGraw-Hill Cos.' S&P unit, Moody's Corp.'s Moody's Investors Service unit and Fitch Ratings, a unit of French company Fimalac SA, have about 2.7 million ratings on corporate, municipal, sovereign and other types of debt, according to securities filings. The seven other ratings firms overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission have around 82,000 ratings.

The three biggest credit-ratings firms have "been given a monopoly," Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said in an interview last week, before S&P's downgrade. "Whether we like it or not, the rating agencies are hard-wired into the system."

Criticism of the industry's dominance heightened following S&P's downgrade, especially after the company went ahead with the downgrade after U.S. officials said they noticed a $2 trillion error in S&P's calculations. The mess is fueling an unusual consensus among Democrats and Republicans that more competition might be needed in order to limit the impact of any single firm's ratings moves on financial markets.

S&P, Moody's and Fitch have a U.S. market share of about 95%, based on spending by issuers that pay the firms to rate their debt, estimates Peter Appert, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. Their dominance of the business didn't change after they lost some credibility for being overly optimistic about the performance of thousands of mortgage-related bonds before and during the financial crisis. Many investors still are furious, but no other ratings firm can come close to matching the number of analysts, broad coverage and decades of experience.

Moody's got into the credit-rating business in 1909, followed by S&P in 1923 and Fitch in 1927. The oldest ratings firm, A.M. Best Co., began issuing ratings in 1907 but specializes in insurers. For decades, the industry was loosely overseen by regulators. SEC officials took over in 2007 after Congress passed a law partly aimed at encouraging more competition. Even existing rating firms had to win approval from the SEC to become so-called nationally recognized statistical rating organizations.

Pension plans, mutual funds and other large investors often have mandates to buy securities with ratings from one or more of the 10 firms registered with the SEC. The list also includes Egan-Jones, Kroll Bond Rating Agency Inc. and Morningstar Credit Ratings LLC, a unit of Morningstar Inc. Some critics of the three giants claim tighter regulation made it even harder to ignore those firms when they put triple-A ratings on collateralized debt obligations and other securities spawned by the housing boom. "The SEC protected the structured-finance business of the Big Three all the way into the subprime crisis," said James H. Gellert, chairman and chief executive of Rapid Ratings International Inc.

The New York firm issues bond ratings but decided not to seek SEC approval because of compliance and administrative costs. Since Rapid Ratings isn't overseen by the U.S. government, that means some financial players can't make investment decisions based solely on the firm's ratings, potentially limiting the market for its ratings. Proposed regulation, however, is seeking to change that. "It is important to remember that all rating agencies are not the same, and each must be judged on its own merits," a Fitch spokesman said in a statement. "Markets benefit from a diversity of credit opinions."

A Moody's spokesman said the firm believes "that the market benefits from healthy competition based on analytical quality and a diversity of credit opinions, and we support efforts to promote that diversity, whether through credit ratings or alternative means of measuring risk." A spokesman for S&P said the firm welcomes "competition because we think the market benefits from a variety of opinions on credit risk," adding that "we believe investors continue to find value in the transparency and comparability of our ratings and the quality of our research."

As a result of last year's Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, the SEC has proposed rules that would require rating firms to disclose more information on the accuracy of their ratings and how they decide them. SEC spokesman John Nester said those details will help investors compare firms, enhancing competition.

But Toronto-based DBRS Ltd., said it is worried that the costs of complying with tougher disclosures if the rules go through could discourage upstarts from seeking SEC approval. "I don't think competition has changed at all," said Mary Keogh, DBRS's managing director of global regulatory affairs. Mr. Nester, the SEC spokesman, declined to comment on costs triggered by the agency's oversight. The SEC isn't currently reviewing any applications for approval to become nationally recognized statistical rating organizations.

Dodd-Frank also requires U.S. regulators to purge references to ratings by one of the 10 SEC-approved firms from their rules. If approved, the move might encourage bond issuers to seek ratings from smaller firms and prod investors to pay more attention to them. "There is no need for a charmed circle of 'Here are the guys we are going to rely on,' said Lawrence J. White, an economics professor at New York University.

McGraw-Hill shares fell 1.5% on Tuesday. Some investors last week revealed increased stakes in the company, potentially heralding a push to break up the conglomerate. S&P's downgrade and this week's tumultuous markets haven't affected an ongoing strategic review by McGraw-Hill, said a person familiar with the matter. Employees at S&P headquarters in lower Manhattan got a reminder around noon Tuesday about the furor swirling around the ratings firm. A small plane flew by the skyscraper, towing a banner that said: "THANKS FOR THE DOWNGRADE. YOU SHOULD ALL BE FIRED."

Debt-Stress Gauge Shifts to Core Zone
by Art Patnaude

There has been a steady shift in the European sovereign credit-default swap market over the past month as concerns have shifted to include the core euro-zone countries as well as those on the periphery.

The price of Germany's five-year credit-default swap, briefly overtook the U.K. for the first time Tuesday, while France's CDS now trades close to double that of Germany's. CDS are derivatives that function like a default insurance contract for debt. If a borrower defaults, the contract dictates sellers compensate buyers.

The moves haven't been a knee-jerk reaction to the recent capitulation in the financial markets over the past few days, although the stock-market plunge has certainly quickened the upward trend. Whereas the U.K.'s five-year CDS is now about a third wider from the beginning of July, Germany's has more than doubled over the same period.

Germany's five-year CDS was at 0.83 percentage point Tuesday, which means it now costs an average of $83,000 a year to insure $10 million of debt issued by the country, according to data-provider Markit. This for a time surpassed the level for the U.K., a first for the CDS market. At the start of July, Germany's five-year CDS was at 0.40 point, while France traded at 0.79 point. At the close of the trading day, the U.K. was at the same level as Germany at 0.83 point.

The thrust behind the recent climb started when market participants began in early July to circle Italy and Spain, the two largest "peripheral" economies on the geographical edge of Europe, which also includes the three countries that have already received international bailouts—Greece, Ireland and Portugal. The concern was how these two countries would, if necessary, receive financial assistance should their funding costs become unsustainable. They are both widely viewed as "too big to fail."

While the rise in core European sovereign CDS has been steady since the start of July, it was the Standard & Poor's credit rating downgrade of the U.S. that helped move them into the spotlight. "The thinking is if the U.S. can be downgraded, then the likes of the U.K. and France could be next in the firing line," said ING NV rates strategist Padhraic Garvey in a note. The most-recent assistance for the peripheral countries came from the European Central Bank, which during the past two trading sessions bought Italian, Spanish and Irish government bonds to help bring down their yields.

This "puts the ECB on the hooks, in which all the euro zone states are a shareholder," said rates strategists at Société Générale SA in a note by Ciaran O'Hagan. However, the powers of the European Financial Stability Facility—the euro- zone's temporary sovereign bailout fund—could be increased if new policies are passed in national parliaments by the end of September.

"The EFSF will take over from the ECB once national parliaments have approved the new powers to the EFSF," said Tobias Blattner, analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets. Given the current size of the fund, and what might yet be needed to larger bailouts, "we are likely to see yet another discussion on an increase in the lending size of the EFSF in the months to come."

Quickly resolving this discussion is the subject of debate. There is, in addition, a potential fly in the ointment, as Mr. Garvey explains. "EFSF issuance adds directly to debt/GDP ratios, which raises the stakes for all euro zone triple-A rated issuers that underwrite with liquidity guarantees," he said. Such a change, if implemented, would mean core countries would be saddled with even more responsibility for the periphery in the long run

UK house price falls wipe £250 billion off homeowners' wealth
by Ian Cowie - Telegraph

House prices are still falling, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICs) reports today, wiping a total of £250bn off homeowners’ wealth since the beginning of the credit crisis, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

But the good news is that most homebuyers are better placed to ride out the storm in the property market now than they were during the last housing slump – and only half as many have fallen into negative equity as did then. More than a fifth of the surveyors questioned by RICs said house prices were lower last month than in the one before, with 7pc of the sample reporting fewer properties for sale in July and only 5pc noting an increase in inquiries from potential buyers. Spokesman Ian Perry commented: "The housing market continued to stall during July; prices edged lower and sales levels remained subdued."

But the CML says lower interest rates and fewer redundancies than those seen 20 years ago look set to enable more homebuyers to maintain mortgage payments and hang onto the roof over their head. It calculates that 827,000 homebuyers – or about 8pc of the total – currently have mortgage debts exceeding the market value of their home, compared to more than 1.6m in this position during the early 1990s housing slump.

While lenders claim there is no causal connection between negative equity and mortgage payment problems, fears about throwing good money after bad may well have contributed to soaring arrears and a total of 78,000 homes being repossessed in 1991.

But experts who can remember just how bad things were then argue the outlook is much better today. Ed Mead, a director of Douglas & Gordon estate agents, explained there are two reasons to expect fewer people to become overwhelmed by their debts during the current credit crisis: "One is old fashioned and good – that is,  people are paying down mortgages – the other less so and purely due to low interest rates leading to less acquired debt, as there’s been no increase in mortgage payments and a gentler fall in values."

CML calculations suggest nearly half of all homebuyers have an ‘equity cushion’ of 30pc – because the market price of their property exceeds their mortgage by that much – and these borrowers’ wealth still exceeds their debts by a total of £800bn, even after house price falls since 2007.

David Hollingworth of London & Country mortgage brokers said: "The research helps paint a picture of where homeowners find themselves following the turbulence of the last few years. "Overall, many will still have substantial amounts of equity in their homes, which means they can take advantage of the best deals in the marketplace.  Of course that’s not the story across the board and there’s still a number that will have quite the opposite experience having little or no options due to their negative equity."

While others continue to predict a house price crash, Melanie Bien of mortgage broker Private Finance forecasts a less dramatic outcome: "Evidence suggests that property prices are holding up better during this recession than in the 1990s, while the market has not been flooded with repossessed homes sold at knockdown prices.

"Indeed, buyers and sellers alike are sitting on their hands and adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude. While this would have been prohibitively expensive in the early 1990s, now it is affordable." Of course, that reassuring outlook depends on interest rates and unemployment remaining subdued. But, despite all the economic doom and gloom elsewhere, homebuyers can take some comfort from the fact that things are not as bad as they used to be 20 years ago.

Worst 40-Year Bond Sale Shows Cash King as Investors Flinch: Japan Credit
by Yoshiaki Nohara and Monami Yui - Bloomberg

The worst demand on record for 40- year Japanese bonds sold yesterday signals growing concern about Japan’s ability to service the world’s biggest debt pile and the risk of holding long-term securities while markets are volatile.

The 400 billion yen ($5.2 billion) sale drew bids valued at 2.03 times the amount on offer, the weakest since the Ministry of Finance began selling the securities in 2007. The result caused bonds to reverse gains that sent the yield on the 10-year to the lowest all year. Ten-year debt yields 1.04 percent in Japan, the lowest in the world, and compared with 2.35 percent in the U.S. and 2.27 percent in Germany.

Japanese bonds and the yen have surged as Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. and Europe’s lingering debt crisis spurred a global sell-off in risky assets. Yesterday’s auction signals Japan’s super long-term bonds may have been overbought, as the nation must still find a way to reduce a debt burden that’s twice as big as its annual economic output.

"It’s hard to hold longer-dated bonds when a risk-averse environment spreads across the world," said Toru Suehiro, a market analyst in Tokyo at Mizuho Securities Co., one of the 25 primary dealers obliged to bid at the government’s debt sales. "Investors have been pretty cautious about the long-end zone because of the likelihood Japan’s credit rating will be cut after America’s downgrade, while they find short-term notes safer. That led to the bad result at the 40-year bond auction.

Japan introduced 40-year bonds in November 2007, locking in long-term borrowing costs as government debt jumped. The Ministry of Finance plans to sell a record 1.6 trillion yen of the securities in the year ending March 31, 2012, according to the agency’s web site.

Global Bond Surge
The market value of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Broad Market Index has increased $132.4 billion since the end of July to $42.1 trillion as of Aug. 8, the most in data going back to 1996. The index, containing more than 19,000 bonds sold by governments, banks and the world’s biggest companies, returned 1.09 percent this month as a stock rout on Aug. 8 wiped out about $2.5 trillion in global equity values, extending total losses since July 26 to $7.8 trillion.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange SPX Volatility Index, the VIX, surged to 48 on Aug. 8, the highest since May 2010. The benchmark for U.S. stock options is known as Wall Street’s fear gauge because it typically increases as stocks fall. The yield on the 2.2 percent bond maturing in March 2051 jumped 15 basis points to 2.335 percent as of 5:07 p.m. in Tokyo at Japan Bond Trading Co., the nation’s largest interdealer debt broker. The price slid 3.16 yen to 97.21 yen. Ten-year yields increased 2.5 basis points on the day after earlier falling to 0.975 percent, the least since November.

Average Yield
The average yield at the sale was 2.32 percent, the highest since a 2.3 percent rate at the January 2010 auction. A Bloomberg News survey of 13 traders before the result indicated that the highest-accepted yield would be 2.24 percent.

"It’s scary when you look at the auction’s results," said Satoshi Yamada, who helps oversee about $13 billion as manager of fixed-income trading at Okasan Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. "You can keep the securities until they mature if yields are high enough, but they’re not at the level where you can comfortably hold on to them. Investors will avoid this zone when volatility rises and they try to reduce risk."

S&P said the credit worthiness of the U.S. was diminished when it cut its rating to AA+ from AAA on Aug. 5. The company downgraded Japan in January for the first time since 2002, reducing the ranking to AA- from AA. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings said in May they may also cut their ratings on Japan.

G-7, ECB
Group of Seven ministers and central bank governors pledged in a statement this week to "take all necessary measures to support financial stability and growth." The European Central Bank said in a statement it will "actively implement" its bond-purchase program, and has purchased Italian and Spanish bonds to curb a surge in yields.

Of Japan’s 880 trillion yen of debt, 3.6 trillion yen of it is in 40-year bonds, Bloomberg data show. The nation’s four biggest life insurers said in April they’ll focus investments on longer-term bonds this fiscal year. "Thirty- and 40-year bonds have been so strong that the government decided to increase the amount of issuance this year for those terms," Mizuho Securities’ Suehiro said. "But if demand remains weak as we see, Japan may need to rely on shorter-term bonds."

Debt Service
Japan’s Ministry of Finance said that every 1 percentage- point increase in 10-year yields above 2 percent would add 1 trillion yen in debt-servicing costs to a projection of 22.9 trillion yen for the fiscal year starting April 2012. The nation’s total debt may reach 219 percent of gross domestic product next year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Data this week showed that China sold Japan’s medium- and long-term debt for the first time in nine months in June. China sold a net 508.5 billion yen of the fixed-income securities in June, according to data by Japan’s Ministry of Finance in Tokyo released on Aug. 8. China was a net seller of 8.4 billion yen in short-term notes maturing in less than a year.

The yen advanced 1.2 percent against the dollar in June and 5 percent last month. The currency touched 76.30 per dollar on Aug. 1, near its record 76.25 reached in March and prompting Japan to unilaterally sell the yen three days later.

Dylan Ratigan gets mad

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Ashvin said...

Great article summarizing the coming deflationary storm and how to protect against it, yet there is one more thing that should be addressed: gold. What is gold doing and what will it do? Gold has been appreciating consistently against equities and with the safe havens over the last few weeks, although the dollar hasn't really made much progress at all on the exchanges just yet. US bond, on the other hand, are at insanely low yields across the curve.

The giddiness on HI-oriented forums is palatable right now, even through the internet, as people feel they are getting richer by the day as gold makes its relentless surge upwards. They are taking part in the imminent transition down "Exter's Pyramid", when the true save haven asset reveals itself in full force... or so they think. It's important to remember that none of the gains in gold for the average person holding physical are realized until you sell that gold into the market. The reason is because gold, like stocks or mortgage-backed bonds, is not used as everyday currency for commercial transactions. It can't really be used to pay off debts.

Before getting too giddy about gold, people must ask themselves whether they are "investing" in gold short-term or "saving" in gold long-term. If the former, then they must realize that no gains on those investments are realized until the gold is sold. The dollar is very unlikely to remain so weak for much longer, and gold is unlikely to stick with the dollar for very long either in either direction. Everything points towards deflation right now, except the price of gold. So, continuously ask yourself, what are the chances that the price of gold keeps going up without a major reversal. I'm not talking about your garden variety correction, either, but a mass liquidation of gold by large institutional investors and perhaps even sovereign nations. If you can't afford to have liquid wealth tied up in gold right now, then you should seriously considering selling.

PS - I own gold, and am not short gold or anything of the sort. And, the above is not investment advice, blah blah blah...

Ric said...

Thanks, Stoneleigh. Your analysis and suggestions always strike me as clear-sighted and wise.

Anonymous said...

"Our position has long been that the US will benefit from a flight to safety as the least worst option, initially at Europe's expense. Money will flood from where the fear is to where the fear is not, and one look at bond rates and credit default swap spreads is all it takes to see that the fear is concentrated in Europe, while the US is seen as a safe haven."

Yes, Stoneleigh, you've been saying this since I started reading TAE three years ago.

Thank you for the incisive analysis.

p01 said...

Looting. The thing is, they're all kids. And if this does not smell like inter-generational war starting-up, I don't know what does. I'm not sure it's a class war anymore, as classes have become visibly generational.

Just wait until they realize there's really nothing more to have, and that the shallowest generation wasted it all. Scary.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...


Do you think Exter's pyramid is wrong?

Greenpa said...

Soon, soon, I hope. Somewhere, there has to be a Head of State who can see the opportunity.

Banks taking everything? Credit downgraded- nobody loves you anymore?

Use your army, before you lose it. Seize the banks; and the bankers. They ARE criminals- just toss them; and their lawyers, in prison and convict them. Everything they stole from you and your people- you take back.

Now you have a NEW bank, who says your credit is good! Yep, the whole world will be horrified, and shocked; for 3 days. Then there will be a typhoon or something, and the press will move on. In a month- no one will remember. All the bankers in all the other countries will not remember a thing- when you offer them a deal. Guaranteed, and history agrees.

Just that easy. LIthuania, are you listening?

snuffy said...

My take on todays post is that we have started the long slide to the bottom.There will be the short, sharp upward spikes of a true bear market,but its over boys and girls.

Now is the gradual,almost imperceptible disintegration of the body politic that will be due to "austerity". Money is the glue of political alliances.When that starts to go,watch out.

I have taken your advice to heart on many levels Stoneleigh.Now,its time to be careful and serious about how we proceed through the next evolution of the phase-change our society is experiencing.Little room for mistakes now.
For myself,I think I will get real,real serious about trying to pay off the last chunk of the house,as well as maintaining reserves of about anything that will start to become scares as the various supply lines start to break/dry up.I expect we have a year or two of relative abundance as stocks of most goods are available at discounted prices...but at some point...the shelves will start to thin as stock once not.

I have a gate to weld up...and need more concrete...later.

Bee good,or
Bee careful


Ashvin said...


No, not really. I have written in articles and comments numerous times, both here and at FOFOA, that dollar HI will eventually occur and physical gold will generally become the most valuable means of exchange (and store of value), depending of course on where exactly you are located. The pyramid, though, is a very simplistic and general representation of capital flow over time and therefore should only be used as a guide in a correspondingly general way. It also leaves out perhaps the most important assets of all at the bottom of the inverted pyramid, net energy flows and stable ecology. Not so coincidentally, these assets are also largely ignored by Austrian economists (to be fair, almost all economists) and Freegold advocates, because it would be rather inconvenient to consider them.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

I don't think any freegold advocate is ignoring energy flows. Fofoa places energy right beneath gold on physical plane pyramid.

I myself don't subscribe to peak energy theories though so I don't fret about it.

Shamba said...

Thank you, Stoneleigh and Ilargi, for being the ones who have the most accurate explanation for what is happening to us! and thanks to the other writers who post articles as well.

I can also say that you have been very consistent with your message over the past 4 or so years.

peace to all,shamba

Ashvin said...

Putting energy flows on a "physical plane" beneath gold is little more than acknowledging they exist...

Ignoring serious net energy issues such as peak oil = ignoring the fundamental importance of the asset in our socioeconomic structures.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

I'll believe it when I see it.

Say you are right and it's coming anyway. What's the point in worrying about something I can't stop? I'm already hoarding for hyperinflation anyway.

Additionally, to me human innovation is our greatest asset. We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future.

VK said...

Lolz. CAC 40 is 20pc higher than it's March 2009 lows.
70pc of it's post '09 gains have been wiped out.
What took 2.5 years to build was largely wiped out in 12 days or so.

Don't fight Central Banks :)

Ashvin said...


Let me ask you: If you weren't so confident about the theory of Freegold, then what would you feel about the prospects of prolonged dollar deflation before dollar HI? I asked that question on the FOFOA forum before and never got an answer.

The point of understanding energy and environmental issues is to a) physically prepare for its implications and b) adequately evaluate the economic arguments of others. It sounds like you are already doing the former in preparation for HI. But HI and Freegold are not the same thing. Allow me to quote FOFOA:

Today we have many fine, intelligent and exacting analysts all looking at the same economic data and coming up with vastly different analyses of the present global financial crisis. What sets them all apart from each other is not intelligence, or math skills, or even popularity. What sets them apart is the foundational premises on which they operate.

And a false premise can skew a brilliant analysis 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Few analysts fully disclose their premises. But Karl Marx did, and in this we can find the one, key flaw that sent his analysis off in a disastrous direction.

I don't agree with his assertion about Marx, but even if I did, then isn't he still starting from the false premise that net energy and environmental issues are a relatively short-term factor to consider? Shouldn't those be considered in his analysis? So when you dig deeper into those issues, the Freegold argument becomes significantly more suspect. And if that's true, then are we still so convinced that dollar HI is imminent?

Ashvin said...

Sorry, the above should read, "...then isn't he still starting from the false premise that net energy and environmental issues are NOT a relatively short-term factor to consider?"

Ashvin said...

"Additionally, to me human innovation is our greatest asset. We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future."

RLP, I highly recommend you check out the latest post by John Michael Greer of The Archdruid Report:

Salvaging Science

It speaks directly to the issue you mention in your comment.

VK said...

As Nate Hagens said on Chris Martenson's podcast, we don't have a shortage of energy, we have a longage of expectations.

Consumer society is built on fluff. And are largely inefficient resource wise.

Why do we waste so much time on gold? Pointless. Bill Still's ideas on debt free currency is a much better idea.

Ilargi said...

"Robert LeRoy Parker said...
I'll believe it when I see it.

I'm already hoarding for hyperinflation anyway.

We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future."

That's two pertinent assumptions. You'd do well to apply your own "I'll believe it when I see it" to those two. Would save you a lot of trouble.


Anonymous said...

Gold goes up in deflation (default risk) and down during Inflation-

Everything deflates against gold in deflation-

This boards does not understand this yet-in spite of all sorts of historical data that proves it to be true-

Ashvin said...

The only institution which was lying today more than SocGen with its "categorically deny" statement, was, surprise surprise, another major bank. BAC just fully validated that it is desperate for cash and, therefore, invalidates any and all reassurances by BAC in its conference call today that the company is not approaching insolvency like a freight train.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

I'll read the report you posted later tonight.

This is how confident I am with FOFOA. I'm half cash and half gold. And I'm comfortable with that. If Fofoa is right then I'll be much wealthier than I am now. If deflation wins then I'll have far more purchasing power than I do now, assuming I keep my job.

I think deflation could go on a long time like you say. After all, hyperinflation needs the trigger event. When will that come, if ever, who knows?

It appears the way you two seeing things play out isn't all that different until we get to the endgame.

I suppose the big difference is Fofoa thinks gold will continue to outperform in a deflationary environment while you do not. So far, gold is doing well, and is very liquid.

I could put an ad on craigslist right now to sell my gold at spot and I'd have 100 calls in the first hour. Why will gold become more illiquid than short term treasuries exactly?

p01 said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...
Additionally, to me human innovation is our greatest asset. We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future.

Let me guess: You're an "investor".
Well, that, or you're new here.

VK said...

Greece with it's austerity lite has shed 81pc in stock Market cap in the last 4 years. It's below it's 2009 low. Global markets are all set to go Greek. Booo yaaa Cramerica!

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

Not new, just havn't commented much. I found AE back in 2009 long before I found Fofoa. I find his arguments more convincing so I now am in the hyperinflation camp.

p01 said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...
Not new, just havn't commented much. I found AE back in 2009 long before I found Fofoa. I find his arguments more convincing so I now am in the hyperinflation camp.

That's interesting. And who's arguments about energy did you find convincing for your first statement, if you don't mind sharing?

Anonymous said...

Available future energy IS future ability to work to pay off debt. Without my ability to hurl 1000 kgs of bagged cement off to work down a highway at 100 mph in my car (power of oil) my future debt burden looks hard to pay off indeed. Energy accounting is where the real detective work is done.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

Julian Simon, Matt Ridley, my own observations.

p01 said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...
Julian Simon, Matt Ridley, my own observations.

Looks like you are an investor. Best of luck, then!

Ashvin said...


"I suppose the big difference is Fofoa thinks gold will continue to outperform in a deflationary environment while you do not."

FOFOA thinks the deflation will occur in gold, not dollars. That's a huge difference, because it means dollars will become worthless. They may both appreciate together for a little while, but that won't last very long according to him. Which also makes me think, shouldn't Freegold be occuring very soon? Unless you all think the Fed and USG will engage in major QE/stimulus that will keep things together for another year or two... that's just a tad bit unlikely now, though, given the fact that the Fed and USG have been placed in straight jackets in a padded room with the door locked from the outside. They will do what they can to transfer remaining wealth, but it won't be what the real estate and stock brokers ordered, and is very unlikely to benefits debtors, savers, workers or retirees.

"I could put an ad on craigslist right now to sell my gold at spot and I'd have 100 calls in the first hour. Why will gold become more illiquid than short term treasuries exactly?"

Time won't stand still for craig's list these days. An asset that requires you to post an ad, wait for responses and finalize a transaction is not relatively liquid right now. That is especially true if it is in the process of being sold off en masse, and investors are scrambling for the exits. Short term T-bills and cash will be more liquid precisely because they continue to be in increasingly high demand for commercial and financial transactions. Paper gold (ETFs) and even stocks are somewhat liquid right now, but that won't be true when the liquidations really get underway. By the time you click the "sell" button and the exchange processes your transaction, your position could lose anywhere from 5-50% of its value, if not more. Physical assets like gold will be even more illiquid (assuming paper spot and physical prices stick together, of course), and RE will be the most illiquid.

ogardener said...

My goodness! The trolls don't want to hear any trash talk.

SecularAnimist said...

""I myself don't subscribe to peak energy theories though so I don't fret about""

Of course you don't - because it would destroy your precious economic theories - and we can't have that.

Worry not, the "magic" of the market will guide us(like an invisible hand) with it's omnipotent price points, to a solution. And if by chance this does not work out, it will be because of evil government interventions.

Archie said...

More perspective on the London riots.

So what do YOU have in your portfolio?

Anonymous said...

A few choice excerpts from James H. Kunstler's latest:

"Europe is telling itself one cockamamie story after another. We've got a rescue fund! Only it has no money! But we will bail out Italy nonetheless! But Italy is too big to bail out - and we tried stuffing it under the carpet, but there's no more room with Greece, Ireland, and Portugal already suffocating in there."

"All I know is I hope the whole gang printed up some fresh lira, francs, marks, drachma, pesetas, punts, and whatnot. It would be nice to go back to one of these cute places some day at a discount."

" ...poor Obama looks like one of those hapless, floating creatures in the second-to-last scene of O Brother, Where Art Thou."

"Everybody is broke now: national treasuries, giant banks, pension funds, insurance companies. The wonder so far is that credit default swaps have not yet been triggered by interest rate changes or some other silly shit, but when that comes to pass there is no way the counterparties can settle their contracts. Ruin will thunder through the financial system like winged death."

"The exact sequence of failures is unpredictable. But you can be sure Nature is telling you to get local, get smaller, get finer, downscale, solidify your friendships, and drop your stupid grandiose fantasies about running WalMart on algae. This is change you don't have to believe in, because it is about to jump up and bite you on the lips."

NZSanctuary said...

Ash said...
I highly recommend you check out the latest post by John Michael Greer of The Archdruid Report: Salvaging Science

A great post as usual from JMG, however I think his idea that science met it's natural limit to extend human knowledge in any meaningful way a long time ago is slightly off – rather it should be that the institutionalisation of science met it's natural limit to extend our knowledge . . .

Archie said...

The new Golden Rule:

Do unto others as they’ve always done to you.

It's coming to a neighborhood near you.

p01 said...

GOLD, B1tch3Z!!!111 crowd is getting very very chatty and patting themselves on the back, real-estate "only up-up-up-and-away" style.

This means a gold correction imminent.

Chas said...

VIPSX was up strongly today.

Can someone please why money is flocking to TIPS?

Chas said...

I'm in a US Gov't Only Short-Term Treasury Fund with T. Rowe Price. What's the risk level compared to holding the Treasuries directly? Is there any probability I won't be able to get my money out?

Glennjeff said...

Robert LeRoy Parker

Dood, peak net energy, it's all around you. You must have a real nice pair of rose coloured glasses.

Best of luck whilst waiting for the perpetual motion machine and Light Helium Fusion.

scrofulous said...

"We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future."

ilargi,, my son, he ain't wrong, they calls that the 'shovel to shovel' economy' in not much more than three generations!

scrofulous said...

"Blogger p01 said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...
Julian Simon, Matt Ridley, my own observations.

Looks like you are an investor. Best of luck, then!

Just to be clear, you take the opposite side and are a speculator?

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

Well now, it's no surprise that Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) would have a penchant for gold and of course he plum missed out on most of the oil age. So he could be forgiven for not knowing about Hubbert's work.

Whoever this imposter is, he's making some effort to stay in character.

@ Chas

There is actually some probability that you won't be able to get your money out even if it's in your mattress. But, having any idea what the actual probabilities are for any repository is way beyond my capabilities. You are into the territory of the unknown unknowns.

seychelles said...

Great time to lurch into buying PMs when every financial advisor and news headline is talking them up. They have already exploded to the upside in a fairly short period. Gold was the only major risk asset that did not have a blowoff in 2008; it is having a delayed blowoff now. Once the great deflation gets going in earnest and the USD starts appreciating bigtime, gold will crater. It is not legal tender and at this time is not practical for day-to-day transactions. Owning some is not a bad idea but not at these lofty prices. Buy/sell timing is critical with PMs as values can go up and down quickly and then go nowhere for decades.

Nassim said...

"We're just showing the rich people we can do what we want"

Buy/sell timing is critical with PMs as values can go up and down quickly and then go nowhere for decades.

Quite right. The only problem is that events do not occur at a steady pace. Right now, history is moving at a fast pace.

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

Umm, isn't one of the favorite storylines around here that the big banks are going to end up owning EVERYTHING? There is a contrapuntal line that says some of them are well on their way to selling everything.

Fire Sale of Bank Assets beginning?

Another high frequency trill here is outrage over the failure of law enforcement with regard to the banksters. You know the ones Mad Max labels as financial terrorists. I present this clip as what I think may be an allegory for how such banditry is often resolved. Mind you I'm too ignorant to know if it is actually allegorical or not. I'm also musically eclectic enough to enjoy the theme song. Gene Pitney - (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance

DancesWithStapler said...

Why does the market keep making these sharp movements in the last couple hours of trading? Weird.

DancesWithStapler said...

Chas, I'm in that same TRowe price fund through my work 401k. I'm 100% in that one. Safest choice available. The only reason I'm in the 401k at all is that my work matches my contributions to an extent.

Steve From Virginia said...

The always lucid Nicole Foss lays out a banquet of clarity in the land of confusion. She makes an excellent point: the efforts of the insiders to effectively convince the less certain to act in ways contrary to their interests. Bravo Nicole and thank you!

The 'dollar death' folks are in this category, those promoting this idea are quick to take your 'worthless' bucks for whatever they are peddling ... this would include gold which has gone parabolic over the past few days.

20% leap in a month is a bubble and under current circumstances a panic/safety fantasy- driven bubble. At $1800/oz liquidity is 'relative': people hold gold off the market with the expectation of much higher prices later. With little physical to buy, bidders have no choice but to turn to the paper gold sellers who have empty boxes with the word 'gold' on the label.

The paper gold sets the price for the metal and the leverage of paper over physical increases dramatically.

Gold parallels the crude bubble in 2008: the cracks will appear when a big bullion trader or two bellies up due to manipulation by other big traders. This will be the equivalent of Semgroup's implosion in 2008. This will be the alarm as it will mean margin calls -- in a bull market! That will be the last chance to get out while the getting is good.

How high the bubble? $3000/oz isn't out of the question. However, when deleveraging starts taking place the gold specs will be stuck in the price trap of their own making. Gold will be the only asset with increasing value and first to be liquidated to satisfy margin calls. The paper Ponzi will collapse at once.

When the gold market breaks there will be no bids! People never understand this. They assume that there will always be bids! Deflation drives cash out of markets into the 'Posturepedic National Bank'. There won't be buyers except for the Too Big To Fails on the 'short' side of futures markets who take exchange positions. Margin calls will take place across the asset class and most paper investors will be completely ruined probably within minutes ... two words:

flash crash.

Remember: there are no hedges against deflation. 'Winning' positions aren't as counterparties and exchanges fail and are unable to meet their obligations. All of this has happened over and over during panics. This is why deflation is so subversive: it undermines money-making-money (gambling) as a viable activity.

The hyperinflation argument is a) defunct and b) irrelevant: it fits currency- based economies where participants are relatively prosperous savers. Savings become the fuel for the spending frenzy which is the means by which financiers steal the savers' funds.

USA has credit based economy with negligible savings. People aren't spending: folks would have to borrow the funds they would spend in hyperinflation! How would that work? Who would borrow as consumer rates are much higher than inflation?

Americans have lived with inflation since WWII; the standard hedge has been real estate not gold. RE is an asset that has declined in value since 2007.

DancesWithStapler said...

What was the trigger to this second stage of the crisis? It seemed like all of a sudden the Spanish and Italian yields started rising and all hell broke loose. That was before the S&P downgrade and after the debt ceiling deal. What finally set things off?

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...



Bigelow said...

Gold's run up has years to go. Money fleeing European government defaults in the 1930s created increasing demand for US debt, US$ scarcity and hence deflation. The cash US$ is king thing -like the 1930s- ignores the USA is the major debtor today not a creditor. The primacy of the world reserve currency rests on the any remaining inertia of Brenton Woods. Gold as reserve currency is returning if only temporarily. There are calls for a new world reserve currency, its what the Globalists want. You won't be able to own it. And all other moneies will be measured by it. Whether the reserve unit turns out to be gold or energy or food, the criminal finance class is fighting over it. When they win we will return to stability; a stability of global domination.

seychelles said...

Very nice, SFV!

Another contrarian factoid about the yellow metal: central banks are buying, which they do at tops. They sold big time at the lows in the late 90s.

Bigelow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
snuffy said...

I like Greenpa's Idea...but, the real powers-that-be would turn whatever state did such a wonderful thing,to a green-glass[nuclear]plain.. to remind us all who really runs the world,or,they might make a multi-national force to "restore order"to such a despotic regime.Like ol' Saddam when he wanted euros for his oil...Saw how well that worked out..
NZ Sanctuary,I think you are closer to the concept of what [JMG] is try get across.In all things,[with exception of one]there are define a set,by stating the perimeters.[The one exception was defined by Einstein,and that was human stupidity:)]

We have spent a lot of time in the USA acting as if we had a credit card with a infinite limit.It looks as if the whole world has hit their spending limits at the same time and no one seems to have figured out what we do now.

Is there going to be a world bankruptcy court that each nation goes to to have their assets stripped and sold to the highest bidder as is being done to southern members of Europe?Will BIS step forward and start selling off the Statue of Liberty and other assets of the USA,as well as our military when all the derivatives notes come due? ...You can laugh now but 2 years ago I bet the folks in France would have laughed at talk of downgrading of the debt of the USA...or of their own

I don't doubt for a nanosecond that the military labs have some real eye-opening advances in every science known to man..[what do you think those billions upon billions of dollars of research bought over the years],but it would/will take literally a earth shattering occurrence for them to come out of the [top-cosmic-I-tell-you-then-kill-you]secret status such discovery's would have.A good example is the transistor,which was developed by the military for a missile brain,and 20 years after its release to industry.
Personally I wish the direction of science in biology would really delve into understanding the total implications of research and development of genetic modification of food plants BEFORE release into our biosphere of such tinkered-with critters.The near misses they had have so far have been enough to scare any rational person spit-less.
Way too much is happening way too fast now.The structures and institutions we are most familiar with may not withstand the forces of the storms now gathering.I have no way to mitigate how these forces will affect my country,but I know that currents and social movements that have been forcible restrained by the powers-that-be for their own benefit,as well as their outrageous misuse of power will eventually have consequence none of us may now know.
Many have addressed the energy issue..its a very dead horse here.If there is those who believe that a wonderful techno-fix exists for peak oil [and peak everything]my own feelings are that you would be good candidates for whatever Cargo-Cult like religion pops up when it clear to all just how majestically,and totally screwed we all really are.

Way tired and too many projects to do work on..

Bee good,or
Bee careful


SunsetSu said...

@Snuffy - I agree with your view that money is the glue that keeps our civil society going - and that things will rapidly decline now that so little money is available. We've already seen major cutbacks in education, libraries, the arts, health, environmental protection, road maintenance and all the other things that make up a functioning civilization.

The US is like a 60-year-old person looking in the mirror - This is as good as we're ever going to look. More teachers will get laid off, potholes will keep growing, bridges will collapse; ilibraries will close down, fewer children will be vaccinated, long-eradicated diseases will return and crime will worsen.

We can no longer rely on "the government" to provide basic services. The rich refuse to pay taxes and the government is dying. We will have to provide for our needs on a very local, perhaps neighborhood basis.

It's time to start building up social capital. Get to know your neighbors, trade tools, garden produce, babysitting and other favors. It's all very well to hoard gold & silver, but social capital is ultimately more valuable and can't be taken away.

It's also time to learn the old skills, like making and amending soil, growing and canning food, home maintenance, bicycle repair, etc. We need to stockpile necessities like do-it-yourself reference books, canning jars, food staples, seeds, etc.

Check out an excellent thoughtful blog about increasing one's self-reliance: The Archdruid Report.

I moved my money out of the stock market in 1999 at the start of the dot com crash and have never gone back. In late 2008, I cashed in my teacher's pension to pay off my house, a decision I have not regretted. I have no stomach for gambling; I'm a bird-in-the-hand kind of peson, with my money in cash in a credit union.

I agree that it's essential to get out of debt, and stay the hell out of Ponzi schemes like the stock market or even Treasury bills. Resist the Big Lie of the stock market making you rich enough to retire for the last 30 years of your life. If the GI Generation is very lucky, it might be able to stay comfortably retired. We Boomers and our kids and grandkids will never have that luxury.

Invest money in paying off debt, learning self-reliant skills and in large durable goods: good quality gardening tools, a woodstove, a large cistern to store rainwater caught from your roof.

Expect to work until you drop, as people have for most of human history. Learn to do something useful so it's worthwhile for the young people to keep you around.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

Thanks for the reply Ash.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

Secular Animist,

Sorry I offended you and any others.

Patrick said...

"As for the future, "This is my long-run forecast in brief," says Simon. "The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indefinitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today's Western living standards."

Julian Simon, Wired archives May 2002.

Well we certainly seem headed in that direction--or not?

Nassim said...

War Effort Leads to Poorer Readiness

The Norwegians have finally realised that moving resources to Afghanistan leads to less on the home front.

The translation is not brilliant. However, they are admitting that it took longer than it should have on the 22nd July because the helicopters were not there.

Here is a different article in the same paper:

"It took forever before anyone came". It is an interview of one of the rescuers who says "De frivillige hjelperne på Utvika camping fikk nei da de ba om hjelp til å berge overlevende fra Utøya." which actually translates to "The volunteer helpers at the Utvika camping site asked for help (from the authorities) to save survivors and got 'no' for an answer"

It seems that these "wars of convenience" have hidden costs that don't show up in the budgets.

Anonymous said...

Precious metals are the only form of money that stand the test of time. They are genuinely market driven; humans decide they are money, so they are money, and we haven't invented anything better yet, not dollars, not Euros, nothing.

I appreciate the big picture thinking of individuals like Stoneleigh, but for them to peddle dollars, and then go on to blame others for peddling gold, is disgusting and the height of hypocrisy.

As Gerald Celente, who I don't always agree with it, puts it, dollars aren't worth the paper they aren't printed on. Why you people believe digits on a screen have value is beyond me; it must stand as a form of mass delusion, a delusion that humans 50 years out will look on with wonder and bemusement.

Bernanke is not a fool - he may be helpless, but he's not a fool. When he says that deflation is impossible under a fiat currency regime, he is 100% right, and he will prove it to every last one of you.

The reason why Japan chose deflation was purely political - they preferred that route rather than inflation.

Every indication is that America prefers inflation. We fight deflation, because it doesn't fit into our cultural narrative of everything getting better and bigger, all the time.

This will end in tears for the savers of digital dollars in bank accounts, and that's really sad because they shouldn't be the ones to take the loss.

But they will.

Bigelow said...

"We are going to have a war on terror which you can never win, and so you can always keep taking people's liberties away. The media is going to convince everybody that the war on terror is real. The ultimate goal is to get everybody in the world chipped with an RFID chip, and have all money be on the chips, and if anyone wants to protest what we do, we turn off the chip."
--Nicholas Rockefeller to producer Aaron Russo (America: From Freedom to Fascism) eleven months before the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks

Stoneleigh said...


Precious metals are the only form of money that stand the test of time. They are genuinely market driven; humans decide they are money, so they are money, and we haven't invented anything better yet, not dollars, not Euros, nothing.

I appreciate the big picture thinking of individuals like Stoneleigh, but for them to peddle dollars, and then go on to blame others for peddling gold, is disgusting and the height of hypocrisy.

Since when have I blamed anyone for 'peddling gold'? Gold will indeed hold its value over the long term, as it has for thousands of years. For those who can sit on it for the long term it will be a great store of value, albeit dangerous to trade as would be the case for any very concentrated source of value.

The problem is for those who cannot hold PMs for years, but would need to trade them in the shorter term. Gold is in bubble territory at the moment, hence the spot price is set to fall. On top of that, when too many are forced to sell at once to raise scarce cash, they will not get anywhere near the spot price, since they will have no bargaining power at all. Owning gold won't help them much. They would have been better off with the cash.

Our view of gold ownership is far more nuanced than most. We paint a much more comprehensive picture than most as to who would expect to benefit and why, and what the risks are. Look up the primer A Golden Double-Edged Sword for more detail.

As Gerald Celente, who I don't always agree with it, puts it, dollars aren't worth the paper they aren't printed on. Why you people believe digits on a screen have value is beyond me; it must stand as a form of mass delusion, a delusion that humans 50 years out will look on with wonder and bemusement.

Dollars (as in real physical dollars) will be worth a lot for a while, as they were in the Great Depression. At some point that will no longer be the case, but we are nowhere near that point. Electronic digits are a different story entirely, as we have always made clear to readers here. We have NEVER recommended holding savings in a bank, FDIC or no FDIC. Deposit insurance will not be worth the paper it's written on. Bank balances are excess claims to underlying real wealth and will inconveniently evaporate at some point.

Bernanke is not a fool - he may be helpless, but he's not a fool. When he says that deflation is impossible under a fiat currency regime, he is 100% right, and he will prove it to every last one of you.

I disagree completely. If he was not a fool he would never have accepted his current position, where he can expect to be blamed for what is coming. He thinks he understands the Great Depression, but he clearly does not. Monetarists fail to appreciate the crucial role of credit, and therefore to understand the nature of deflation.

Every indication is that America prefers inflation. We fight deflation, because it doesn't fit into our cultural narrative of everything getting better and bigger, all the time.

History doesn't give a **** about anyone's cultural narrative. We are not masters of our own collective fate and do not have a choice as to how this ends. Having allowed a massive bubble to inflate we will now suffer the consequences, as have so many societies before us, back to antiquity. All we can do is to mitigate the pain.

This will end in tears for the savers of digital dollars in bank accounts, and that's really sad because they shouldn't be the ones to take the loss.

They need to extract their dollars from the grip of the banking system for those dollars to hold their value. Holding physical cash allows one to transition to hard goods at an affordable price without debt over the next few years. This is incredibly important.

p01 said...

Precious metals are the only form of money that stand the test of time. They are genuinely market driven; humans decide they are money, so they are money, and we haven't invented anything better yet, not dollars, not Euros, nothing.

You're not paying attention. What happens now is completely unprecedented in human history. If you look at the young generation, they have more love for the Nike "whatever they're called now" snickers than for precious metals. A working ipod might be worth more than those kilos of gold. Cargo cults are not out of the question, really. It's completely unprecedented, also, because as the economy contracts (even if it stays alive), the quantity of gold stays the same. I would bet on skills, not gold.

Glennjeff said...

Stoneleigh, did you just swear, I'm shocked.

Stoneleigh said...


Additionally, to me human innovation is our greatest asset. We have overcome energy issues in the past and can do so in the future.

If only it were so simple. We cannot make energy, no matter how ingenious we are. We can develop clever means to use it, but without energy, our technology is nothing but funny shaped sculptures.

We have a built-in structural dependence on fossil fuels. Net energy is in sharp decline, and we do not have time to make a painless transition to reliance on a new energy source even if we found one tomorrow. Such a transition would takes decades.

We are heading rapidly into a period where money will be the limiting factor, but even though financial crisis buys us time initially, it does so at the cost of making matters worse later on. Energy will put a very hard ceiling on what we can achieve in the future. Fossil fuels are a once-in-a-planet's-lifetime deal.

As for ingenuity, my main worry for the future is that we may employ our faculties in seeking ways to harm and torment each other over a shrinking wealth pie.

Stoneleigh said...


Sorry, it does happen sometimes ;)

Jim R said...

Snuffy, I beg to differ about the transistor.

It was invented by the phone company, they used to do basic research. Also, they were looking for a reliable way to send information over long distances. Claude Shannon worked for the phone company, btw.

The Internet was a military plaything, however, until Al Gore (yeah, really!) pulled some strings to spread the technology around. In _that_ case, the phone company was dragging its feet.

p01 said...

Robert Lustig's latest fructose moral quest, from the Ancestral Health Symposium. I have not watched it yet, but I know he did some factual errors in his regular presentation (that fatty acids, not glucose raises insulin at about 1 hour mark in the original video, and more I cannot remember) that are very convenient in putting the blame squarely on the carbohydrate fructose, thus saving face (or what remains of it) and allowing for even more so called "research" in this extremely simple matter.

Ashvin said...


No one "blamed" anyone else for advocating gold. In fact, I and others here (such as Stoneleigh) do advocate owning gold, even now, under the right circumstances. So that is a complete straw man argument, which conveniently ignores the substantive issues. It seems these character-based attacks always eventually surface when people caution against investing in gold, and I really wish they wouldn't.

Your assertion that BB and politicians will never allow deflation is a much more substantive argument, but there are many reasons why it is flawed. If BB was so hell bent on buying up all the bad debt out there, why didn't he launch a major QE3 asset purchase program a few days ago? If there was any good time to indicate such a program, it would have been then, considering the fact the markets had plunged 20% in the last week. Instead he took a bit of duration risk off the table (which was never really on the table), got a brief market rally and then had it all wiped out the next day. Meanwhile, S&P's downgraded sovereign debt to AA+ in a pretty clear attempt to pressure US policy makers into more serious austerity. Is that how nominal promises are all made whole, GS? I don't think so.

Greenpa said...

minor predictions department: US stock futures are down today. My analysis: stocks will finish the day up.

Not a guess; but a little meta-analysis. In the past months, the pre trading futures numbers have been counter indications to finish, approximately 65% of the time.


Greenpa said...

Re: energy, peaks, innovation, and science:

"Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. military is preparing to launch a test flight of a hypersonic aircraft capable of reaching any target in the world in less than an hour.

"Designed by the military research group DARPA, which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the triangular wedge of zoom is capable of reaching Mach 20, which is approximately 13,000 miles per hour, according to the agency. At such a speed, the aircraft will be subject to temperatures in excess of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The test of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, called HTV-2, is slated for Thursday between 10 a.m. ET and 4 p.m. ET from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will be launched off of a Minotaur IV rocket and then re-enter the earth's atmosphere over the Pacific.

"This is the second run for the hypersonic vehicle. A first test in April 2010 ended with the HTV-2 crashing into the Pacific after a loss of contact nine minutes into the flight. But those nine minutes provided DARPA with some key information about flying at 3.6 miles per second. The second flight will build on that as the team tests the capability of maintaining control and communications, resisting the intense heat and other effects of flying 22 times faster than a commercial jetliner. As DARPA puts it on the HTV-2 site, at that speed "air doesn't travel around you - you rip it apart."

"The launch, originally slated for Wednesday but then scrubbed because of weather, will not be broadcast live but the public can follow progress on the DARPA Twitter feed."

Institutional science is indeed in a shambles; I left it 30 years ago largely because of my perception of exactly that.

However. High-functioning scholars continue to exist, and work, and strive to find environments where they are allowed to. It's not impossible, just painful.

I'm intimately familiar with cutting edge materials science; I hold patents in metallurgy, in spite of being an evolutionary ecologist. There are truly astonishing things going on there.

It is not impossible that paradigm shattering innovations in energy capture, use, and storage may happen within our lifetimes. It's not predictable, however.

My main point for this discussion; Homo is already at the point on this planet where energy availability per se is not the primary limiting factor to population or quality of life. It's oh so much more complicated than that. Complexity itself is already a harder limit.

Don't count on energy breakthroughs for anything. IF they happen- the other limits will instantly be apparent; and in force.

scandia said...

This morning on CBC radio Paul Martin, former Cdn PM and finance minister, says Canada should use its strong fiscal position to invest in infrastructure and education. He also does NOT see contraction. Sounds like he was put on air to reduce pessimism.
Any Cdn listening to Martin this morning would not prepare for hard times.

Greenpa said...

and; re my market movement predction; 1/2 hour after open, DOW up 130.

So far, so good, as the man said passing the 10th floor.

p01 said...

Must be Merkel meeting Sarkozy again. Imagine the boom we would have if they moved together. a matter of fact that would be interesting...maybe put them in a little place of their own would be nice.

Rumor said...

Scandia, I wonder what happened to Paul Martin's insight from the 2010 Liberal party's thinker's conference?

If you recall, as David Dodge was giving a talk on the economic and demographic prospects of the near future:

As former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna whispered to former prime minister Paul Martin halfway through debate on one of the intractable problems: "We're f---ed."

Responded Martin: "The whole world is f---ed."

Mister Roboto said...

We have NEVER recommended holding savings in a bank, FDIC or no FDIC. Deposit insurance will not be worth the paper it's written on. Bank balances are excess claims to underlying real wealth and will inconveniently evaporate at some point.

So I guess that would also mean that you are even less sanguine about money-market accounts, FDIC or no FDIC. (Kind of a "no-duh" question, but I prefer to be clear about things.)

Ashvin said...

PM Cameron says, "Homeowners and businesses will be reimbursed under Riot Damages Act."

So basically, the taxpayers will have to pay for the riots, because insurance companies are only held to their obligations when things are going well and property destruction is proceeding in an orderly fashion. I wonder what kind of massive bureaucracy these homeowners and businesses will have to navigate before they ever see that money.

Draft said...

Thanks for the post Stoneleigh! I'm really glad to see you back.

I was wondering - what events or markers either in the markets or geopolitics or etc. do you expect to see through the rest of this year?

Ashvin said...

First, Europe says a short selling ban is imminent, and now there are rumors that the CHF will be PEGGED to the Euro by the SNB. Such moves are disastrous for risk markets, as they take away traditional options for hedging investments and further validate the systemic fear over the dire situation in Europe. Initial reactions may be favorable, but I wouldn't count on those forming any sort of sustainable trend.

jal said...

Robos are in charge and doing their job.

I'm sure that there are people reading this that recall the days when the market use to only trade within single digits then it went to double digits.

Now the robos can handle triple digits moves as a normal intra day movements.

Will we soon see triple digits as the "good old days"?


Anonymous said...


Stop believing the liars. That's #1. They lie. #2 is take an econ 101 course.

You are right that Bernanke isn't stupid... neither is he honest.

I'm going to state some simple facts and then posit a question a yes or no question for you...

1. The Federal Reserve is controlled by a private mega bank cartel.
2. The controlling Owners of these banks are the richest people on the planet.
3. Being the richest people on the planet, the Owners also own other mega corporations.
4. These Owners that control the Federal Reserve have had their mega front corporations have stashed away TRILLIONS in cash on the sidelines.
5. These mega banks and their Federal Reserve own much of the debt in the country.
6. Devaluing the currency will cost them trillions in losses and bail out the debtors on fixed rates.

If you were the Owners that control the Federal Reserve, would you inflate your trillion away to nothingness and bail out debtors by allowing them to pay off their home with a loaf of bread?

If you were Dr. Evil, would you lie about the economy being the strongest ever at the very apex of the bubble (to get all the suckers in possible), try to get everyone possible into risk assets so you can bail out, collapse the system and take possession of the debtor's real property leavign them homeless and then, AND ONLY THEN, hyperinflate to balance your own books... after you've busted all the debtors and taken over their real property.

Mister Roboto said...

Full disclosure: I myself invested quite a bit in gold (but my actual goal was preserving value, not profit-taking) shortly after the Big Crash of 2008. I wasn't originally going to put so much in gold, but I ended up doing so because short-term treasuries had such a pathetic yield compared to a money-market account (and we can at least partially thank the Zeropercent Interest Rate Policy for that.) I didn't anticipate gold becoming a the bubble it has become, another thing for which we can thank the ZIRP at least in part. I recently sold off some of my gold and took the profit (a pretty decent-sized one, IMHO) because realizing that gold was in a bubble, I knew that there would at some point be disproportionate lows to match the disproportionate highs; therefore, taking the profit was a hedge against this future price-crash. Besides, you can't realize a profit in gold until you convert it back into cash, right?

Anyway, one hesitation I have about your advice to deposit your cash into the First National Bank of Posturpedic is that I don't really live in a secure building, and I've been told that keeping stuff in safety-deposit boxes at banks in a time of crisis is a very bad idea. I guess it's all more "what-ifs" for me to ponder.

Mister Roboto said...

Some final thoughts: Another reason I'm having second thoughts about owning gold is that strategy is advocated by the likes of Chris Martensen, and the more I look at his website, the more I want to call it "Doomerism for F---ing Republicans." (Yes, I have Democratic political temperament, though I have long since given up hope on the Democratic Party.)

Another thing: If you are buying and selling gold through an Internet-based trading platform such as BullionVault, then what happens if things get so bad that you lose your Internet access and the libaries start closing so that you can't even access the WWW from one of them?

Ashvin said...

Mister Roboto,

I would definitely consider investing in a home safe if you plan on staying where you are right now for awhile. You can store a lot of your valuables in there (gold, cash, firearms, etc.), and while it's not a perfect mode of protection by any means, at least its outside of the banking system and much better than literally under your mattress. They also make some that a fire and water resistant to a certain degree. The bigger ones may run you a few grand, but there are also smaller ones that are only a few hundred. Check out Amazon or Ebay.

el gallinazo said...

Those I consider to be the smartest guys in the room indicated that the short lived upward explosion after the Bernank announcement was a simple short covering by major traders. They wanted to get into cash for a few nanoseconds and see where the herd was going. Was not a reflection of mindless herd optimism.

BTW, my recent silence was caused by a modem failure. In the silver lining department, the replacement modem is operating at the prescribed rate which is double the best speeds of what I was getting for the last several months.


Great lead essay and great comments. You have been missed here lately. One observation though. Treasury bills are also electron detritus and not valuable pieces of paper and ink:-)

Regarding the comment earlier about whether it is better to hold treasuries direct or through a broker, it is really a no-brainer. Hold them direct if you can, since part of the risk would be broker bankruptcy. However, one cannot hold with tax deferred accounts.

Re banks and MM accounts. The thing that sent Hankenstein running for his Depends were the MM funds "breaking the buck." It was then that he pulled out his bazooka and told congress that I am going to shoot this puppy if you don't give me $ 3/4 T.

Stoneleigh said...

El G,

You have been missed here lately. One observation though. Treasury bills are also electron detritus and not valuable pieces of paper and ink:-)

I'll try to be more prolific. It was difficult when I was driving around the US by myself. My schedule here in Europe isn't so packed, so I should have more time.

I know treasuries are electronic and I consider physical cash safer, despite some fairly obvious risks (fire, flood, theft etc) which can be minimized. I suggest that people hold several months to a year's worth of cash if they can. Only if they have more than that do I recommend alternatives. There are risks with treasuries, but less so than for most others options. It simply wouldn't be practical to obtain more than a certain amount of cash, and large amounts of cash can leave one vulnerable to an eventual currency reissue in a way that small amounts would not.

There are no easy options, only safer and less safe possibilities, and of course a full range of disastrous choices where liquidity is very likely to disappear rapidly.

On the whole, maximizing liquidity and holding physical stores of monetary value (cash or physical PMs if you can truly afford them) under your own control is the way to go. If you're going to allow someone else to look after your assets, be very sure it's someone who's on the same page as you regarding the future and that you can trust them completely.

scrofulous said...

"They need to extract their dollars from the grip of the banking system for those dollars to hold their value."

A rant for Stoneleigh:

If A little country like Zimbabwe could pay off its bondholders, I would guess a big country like the USA would be capable of doing the same, that along with backing up bank accounts with FDIC. A little Pyrrhic that would be, but who's counting, eh?

Get a once in a lifetime chance to buy a cheap but solid dividend rich energy stock at its insane low, and all you got is a handful of paper and your online brokerage only deals in digital? Oh dear! Make your day, save in gold, speculate in digital fiat!

I doubt there is a single saver on this board, no matter how old, whom does not figure he will live another 20 years. Which would you rather hold over that period,gold or fiat?

And ultimately, if you think about it, if we get to the chaotic situation where digital fiat goes west, we would get a situation along the line of Weimar, Zimbabwe, (a plain vanilla default with a New Currency topping?), or what say, even if you like ... Mad Max ... at such a time do you want to be caught holding fiat in any form, or gold coin?

Hold a few physical dollars for a psychotic economic break, but only what would be useful in the very short term, you know, before everyone twigs to what they really are worth. Zero value in digits equals zero value in paper, IMO.

beneaththesurface said...

"We have NEVER recommended holding savings in a bank, FDIC or no FDIC. Deposit insurance will not be worth the paper it's written on. Bank balances are excess claims to underlying real wealth and will inconveniently evaporate at some point."

In some ways, my life choices exemplify good choices financially. I'm in my thirties, and I've never been in debt of any kind, not even once in my life. I've never owned a credit card. I never have invested in the stock market and don't plan on doing so. I've lived comfortably on a slightly above poverty level for the last seven years, still managing to save thousands of dollars, because I'm ultra-frugal and avoid participating in the consumer-economy to the extent I can. If I became unemployed right now, I could survive about six years entirely on my savings, assuming currency held its value.

My question is what to do with my rather substantial cash savings? Right now they are all in FDIC-insured savings account or certificates of deposit. Should I be holding some of that in physical cash? In the future, will I be able to sense a bit in advance that I soon may not be able to access money, and be able to withdraw money before it becomes inaccessible? I know it's hard to predict things, but does anyone have an idea how long FDIC-insured savings might be safe and when major crises might affect their accessibility? Can I wait a little longer?

Some suggest using one's extra money to buy tools, stored food, land, other equipment, or in acquiring practical skills. Just not sure what specifically would be wise in my situation.

el gallinazo said...


Re the hypersonic Falcon

They should have hired a Saudi actor with a terminal disease to sit astride a camel as a final target. Could have used the same agency as the OBL hit. Probably a lot cheaper as 6'4" Saudi actors are rare and can fetch a premium. Though our money does not appear to be an object.


I hope they will at least give us some options as to where they will implant the RFID.

The big mystery: Is this collapse going according to plan or is it an "inconvenience." Part of the plan was definitely to consolidate Europe, monetary, fiscal, then political. The MotU are quite clear about that. If the EMU blows apart it would be a sure sign that, "Houston, we have a problem."

SecularAnimist said...

"Doomerism for F---ing Republicans."

No, it's doomersim for capitalists. You'll notice a lot of the libertarian's are glomming onto peak oil for monetary design reasons or to push austerity and kills the "welfare state". The seemingly don't realize it completely destroys the market system as an anticipatory or correction mechanism. In fact this dynamic will just make matters worse. I imagine as conditions deteriorate and emergent social movements pop up to deal with the "markets" destructive forces this group will align with the neo-malthusian crowd.

The evil money power would like nothing more than for us to believe that our problems are caused by
"overpopulation" and "shortage of resources", since those "explanations" conveniently obscure the true structural and political nature of our societal
insanity. And again: the purpose of Malthusian ideas was at the beginning, and was for a great many over two centuries, and still is for many today, to justify the depredations of capitalism and the ongoing exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few.

I say all this as an ex-Malthusian, myself -- now "in recovery", you might say. I did not realize the implications of what I was saying. I also did not
realize the flat-out WRONGNESS of what I was saying, regarding so-called "overpopulation". My thinking had not yet matured.

Neo-Malthusianism has always been closely linked with right/reactionary/fascistic tendencies, and it will be so again in the near future, I think. "There's not enough to go around"is the PERFECT quasi-scientific cover-story for racism, imperialism, and genocide-by-neglect (if not out-and-out

el gallinazo said...


"If A little country like Zimbabwe could pay off its bondholders, I would guess a big country like the USA would be capable of doing the same"

Agree. Also if a little animal like a water skeeter insect can run across a lake, I am quite sure an elephant could do it as well.

"I doubt there is a single saver on this board, no matter how old, whom does not figure he will live another 20 years."

Good thing for you that isn't a bona fide bet.

Ashvin said...

Muchtooloose said, "If A little country like Zimbabwe could pay off its bondholders, I would guess a big country like the USA would be capable of doing the same, that along with backing up bank accounts with FDIC. A little Pyrrhic that would be, but who's counting, eh?"

I know the rant was for Stoneleigh, but...

Personally, I think you're missing the fundamental transformation that occurs when going from a small-scale economy like Zimbabwe, which can afford to hyper-inflate with USD reserve currency waiting in the background, and the much larger-scale US economy which has no such thing. Think about this way: there wasn't a single major financial institution in the world that was really dependent on the Zimbabwe dollar maintaining its value, but almost all of them are dependent on the US dollar doing so.

SecularAnimist said...

Secular Animist,

Sorry I offended you and any others.

Normally, I don't mind silly ancient superstitions, expect when it is a force that is guiding the whole planet to social catastrophe and permanent disrepair. Then it becomes offensive, as it should be to all people of good conscious.

el gallinazo said...


Stoneleigh has been very clear on this, including today. Hide up to one year's expenses in FRN cash under your control. Sign up with and put the balance in short term T-bills. I recommend 90 day bills.

Re Ash's suggestion for a good safe in the house, this has a lot to be said for it. But it only protects you from burglary, not armed robbery. If Hank Paulson breaks into your house, puts his bazooka to your head, and says open the safe or you're dead, then it serves little purpose.

Another approach if you own land of any sort, preferable seafront, is the Plumbers of the Caribbean approach, where you bury your cash, preferably on a nice white sandy beach. One might use a 12" piece of 2 or 3 inch PVC pipe, the good, thick walled type for pressure supply, good PVC solvent, and two caps on the ends. Double pack in zip lock bags and throw in a few desiccant bags. Of course the main danger with this is to be seen burying your treasure, and the hole should be camouflaged so it isn't obvious. Also inconvenient for frequent accessing. To remove, use a hacksaw with care. Forms a water tight container good for a lot longer than we are and no metal, all PVC and cellulose.

Stoneleigh said...


I doubt there is a single saver on this board, no matter how old, whom does not figure he will live another 20 years. Which would you rather hold over that period,gold or fiat?

You miss my point. After 20 years gold is a better bet, but only if you can hold it that long, and it still wouldn't be risk-free even if you could.

If you can have no debt, have sufficient cash on hand and buy gold without having to rely on the value it represents for those 20 years, then by all means buy gold, even at today's high spot prices.

In contrast, if you have debt and no cash, holding gold will not help you. You'll be forced to sell it into the ultimate buyers' market in order to get hold of cash to live on. For people with less resources, harder choices are necessary. They can't invest in a not-to-be-touched store of value, however good a store of value it may be. For them it's about trying to maintain their purchasing power for essentials over the much shorter term. For that you need cash.

Paying way over the odds for gold now only to have to sell at a major loss within a couple of years is not a viable strategy. Better to hold the cash up front. It's not a long term store of value at all, but a means of staying alive in order that you have a long term to worry about.

And ultimately, if you think about it, if we get to the chaotic situation where digital fiat goes west, we would get a situation along the line of Weimar, Zimbabwe, (a plain vanilla default with a New Currency topping?), or what say, even if you like ... Mad Max ... at such a time do you want to be caught holding fiat in any form, or gold coin?

IMO we won't have to worry about inflation or hyperinflation for years. Cash is likely to be king for a long time. Eventually real printing is quite likely, but only once the international debt financing model is thoroughly broken, and with it the power of the bond market. If you follow our prescription of holding cash during the deleveraging and converting to hard goods at the point where you personally can afford it without debt, then you will be prepared for hyperinflation when it comes as well. It is a matter of timing for those who cannot afford to have it all up front.

Hold a few physical dollars for a psychotic economic break, but only what would be useful in the very short term, you know, before everyone twigs to what they really are worth. Zero value in digits equals zero value in paper, IMO.

I disagree completely.

Ashvin said...

A couple good articles speaking to the point of increasingly short half lives for interventions (diminishing returns) as well as unintended consequences, such as the most obvious one of further promoting systemic instability and fear. First, CHS:

Welcome to the Age of Instability

The misguided attempts to engineer a false stability by suppressing "undesirable" volatility have created an intrinsically fragile system that is doomed to crises of ever greater dimension even as the periods of calm between crises shrink from years to months. Recall that risk is like water in a closed system: it can never be squeezed into nothingness. The more pressure that builds up, the more inevitable it is that the risk will burst out in some part of the financial system that was viewed as “safe” and “stable,” for example, home mortgages.

The rules of the investment/speculation “game” will be changed without warning as authorities attempt to stabilize an increasingly chaotic financial system. Their attempts to force a superficial stability will only make the next round of instability more severe and less controllable.

Second, Bruce Krasting on ZH writing more specifically about the SNB's recent interventions:

Desperate Measures

From long experience in this business I can tell you that short-term currency traders HATE negative carry trades. A long CHF position now has a big cost to it. If a trader has a short Dollar/Swiss position of $100mm (a modest currency position for these folks) the cost of holding it is now $25,000 a week. This cost was zero two weeks ago. This squeeze on short date swaps is a very good reason to cut those short dollar positions. That is exactly what has happened so far today. The CHF has backed off (a bit) against all other currency pairs as of this morning. As of today, the SNB has achieved its objective of getting people out of the currency market.

This won’t last for long. There will be another tremble in the market that gets people scrambling for safety. The “go to” trade will still be to buy CHF when that happens. The cost of ownership be damned. What will happen as a result of the liquidity steps is that greater volatility in spot Swissie will occur.

The relative rate of the CHF versus Euros or Dollars is important to the SNB. But even more important is the rate of change. The short date squeeze by the SNB may result in a bit of retrenchment for a few days. But it will almost certainly result in increased volatility.

My take on the actions by the SNB is that they are trying to buy time and create a more orderly adjustment to a stronger CHF. I think the consequences will be that we will have violent intraday adjustments, but over the course of a month the Franc will be stronger anyway. The SNB is trying to buy time as measured in days. To me, that is no plan at all, just a desperate act by a desperate central bank.

We recently heard that Bank of NY Mellon was charging .13% on "excess deposits" of cash, which suggests that institutional investors are so fearful of risk assets that they are willing to pay the bank for holding on to their dollars. The same dynamic will be demonstrated with the CHF, but on a much larger scale, as the Euro comes under heavy fire yet again within the next month or week.

scrofulous said...

For them it's about trying to maintain their purchasing power for essentials over the much shorter term. For that you need cash."

What short term do you have in mind? Best as far as I get on DXY is 3 year and about par, the other periods are pretty phooey!

Using gold as a marker all fiat has been erroding.

scrofulous said...


Thanks for the reply , mine to your last was so short because my wife and I are canning peaches today. Which reminds me that the only thing I learned in my limited economic education (econ 101) was that cash is not wealth and I think that is a pretty sound place for anyone to start their thinking. Currency speculation is not for everyone, but IMO peaches are!;)

Stoneleigh said...


What short term do you have in mind?

I am thinking of getting through the next couple of years for a start. When credit ceases to be available, unemployment spikes even higher, benefits/entitlements are slashed and interest on outstanding debt becomes a huge burden, accessible cash will be a precious thing. The timeframe for converting to hard goods will vary between individuals.

My guess is that the dollar rally should last a year or two. There may be problems with other fiat currencies (most notably the euro) in that time, but dollars should be a good bet, both internationally against other currencies and domestically against goods and services.

Using gold as a marker all fiat has been erroding.

Of course it has. Gold is in a bubble, and a falling dollar has been part and parcel of the rally period. Many trends dependent on the ebb and flow of liquidity are set to reverse at about the same time. The rally was associated with rising equities and commodity prices and a falling dollar, and phase two of the credit crunch should see all those trends reverse.

Stoneleigh said...


Which reminds me that the only thing I learned in my limited economic education (econ 101) was that cash is not wealth and I think that is a pretty sound place for anyone to start their thinking.

Cash is a means to preserve purchasing power through a great deleveraging (ie a plummet in asset prices and consumer prices conversely means a great increase in the purchasing power of cash). Having preserved purchasing power, you are then free to convert it to tangible goods at an affordable price. Of course some goods have to be purchased sooner than others, as their supply (at any price) may be threatened in the longer term. The more resources you have, the fewer hard choices you have to make, because the world is not a fair place.

Currency speculation is not for everyone, but IMO peaches are!;)

Every decision you make means acting (speculating) on one view of the world or another. We don't have the option to remain spectators. The game is compulsory.

Unfortunately peaches are not for me except rarely and in very small quantities. I love them, but they have too much sugar for me. Enjoy though ;)

scrofulous said...

"Gold is in a bubble"

Darn Stoneleigh, I said I was canning peaches and have sticky fingers and all on my keyboard and you start talking about gold bubbling, and can I let that pass?

If the banks have been doing their damnedest to hold gold down, then would say there is not so much a bubble as a force to be reckoned with.

Stoneleigh said...

Mr Roboto,

Low returns on treasury bills are not a problem. In fact such low rates indicate how safe the big players feel they are, and it's the return OF capital that matters, not the return ON capital.

Besides, the increasing purchasing power of the liquid asset in a deflation means that the real rate of return is much higher than the nominal rate anyway. Even if the nominal rate is zero or moderately below zero, the real rate of interest will still be high and positive under conditions of a contracting money supply.

Greenpa said...

Social order in the UK is going to be very educational to watch over the next months. Way too interesting.

The announced "fightback" (ok, that neologism cracks me up, repeatedly, for its neener-neener juvenility) measures so far seem extraordinarily naive:

"The prime minister promised he would do "whatever it takes" to restore order to the streets as he set out a range of measures aimed at helping businesses and homeowners affected by the riots.

"They included:

"To look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via social media when "we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality"

"Plans to look at whether wider powers of curfew and dispersal orders were needed

"New powers for police to order people to remove facemasks where criminality is suspected

"Courts could be given tougher sentencing powers

"Landlords could be given more power to evict criminals from social housing

"Plans to extend the system of gang injunctions across the country and build on anti-gang programmes, similar to those in the US

"He said the government would meet the cost of "legitimate" compensation claims and the time limit for applying would increase from 14 to 42 days

"A £10m Recovery Scheme to provide additional support to councils in making areas "safe, clean and clear"

"A new £20m high street support scheme to help affected businesses get back up and running quickly
Plans for the government to meet the immediate costs of emergency accommodation for families made homeless."

My summary of actual word content: "we're planning to plan some stuff that'll fix those damn guys."

The yobbos have the potential to be, and become, vastly more sophisticated than this. The fact that they faded away when the cops were reinforced is a possible indication. Very basic guerilla principle; never, never, face the opponent when they're in force.

Meanwhile the PTB is still deeply delusional; to calls to repeal planned cutbacks in police;

"Mr Cameron insisted the cuts were "totally achievable" without any reduction in the visible policing presence on the streets."

When your Primo Minister believes 2+2=10; there's trouble ahead.

Stoneleigh said...


LOL - sorry about the sticky keyboard ;)

If the banks have been doing their damnedest to hold gold down, then would say there is not so much a bubble as a force to be reckoned with.

I don't think anyone is holding gold down. I think it'll go down all by itself in the not too distant future, first as speculation goes into reverse and then later as people are forced to raise cash. I expect it to bottom early in this depression though, and for gold ownership by ordinary people to be made illegal, as it was in the 1930s. That will make it very difficult (ie dangerous) to trade for cash or anything else you might need. All the more reason to need to be able to sit on it for long periods without having to trade it.

I expect a major consolidation of gold ownership over the next few years. It is a very concentrated source of value that an awful lot of powerful (either financially or physically) people are going to want. Trading it means admitting you own it, and that can attract the wrong kind of attention from some dodgy people. Be very careful if you opt to go the gold route. It's a great long term store of value, but still no panacea. Being too close to extreme value can be as dangerous as being too close to the centre of power. It can mean always having to look over your shoulder. If you want tangible sources of value, you might well be better off with control over the means of obtaining the essentials of your own existence. Food for thought anyway.

Rumor said...


I notice that none the PM's proposed measures involve addressing the plight of aimless, hopeless, unemployed youth. In other words, nothing ensuring that there aren't so many young folks with nothing to lose and reasons to be angry at the world around them.

Can't see the forest for the trees, can he?

seychelles said...

Another point about wads of Franks increasing in purchasing power while sitting in your safe/PVC tube during a major deflation: This "profit" carries no
nada zero cypher taxation.

p01 said...

Oops, HGV-2. Better luck with HGV-3, I guess...if ever.

Greenpa said...

Well, the Falcon flopped, and is being widely called a "failure".

I'd bet it wasn't; just more learning. They're trying to operate in a world where we are not really familiar with the rules.

If you look at the theoretical videos;

the designers were thinking a lot about steering and stability- and my guess would be that a very tiny aberration/vibration/oops turned into a tumble. At Mach Whatever- how the heck do you correct an overcorrection? You'd be dead before you noticed it.

That thing is an arrowhead. Needs to be an arrow; with feathers. See? Problem solved.

Ashvin said...

"That thing is an arrowhead. Needs to be an arrow; with feathers. See? Problem solved."

That thing doesn't need to exist. Spending millions of dollars on some contraption that only benefits the belligerent, imperialistic sociopaths running the current system is the definition of diminishing returns to instutional science. Having that thing "fail" is really a net benefit for anyone who wants to return to more stable balance of economics, science, logic and ecology. Still a huge waste, but not nearly as bad as if it was fully operational and "effective".

el gallinazo said...

The Falcon is of course a drone, just like the higher echelons of government. It would turn a human to Jello with g forces. If it were to go into production it would be immensely expensive. Can you imagine the fuel necessary to drive that can at mach 20? But what is the point to it, even from a sociopathic point of you? If conventional, what can it do that a much cheaper cruise missile or predator drone can't. And if nuclear, a sub launched missile? Seems like a total boondoggle from any perspective.

Eliza Blue said...

Falcon = Catnip for Kunstler

Frank said...

@Ash & el G

Some of us are still nerds. No apologies.

Ashvin said...


I imagine you're right from the imperialistic perspective. Sociopaths are, after all, the driving force behind increasingly complex institutions that have diminishing returns. The Guardian article says this about it:

The plane was born from a Darpa plan called Prompt Global Strike, which sought to give military commanders the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world within an hour. Had the project worked, the Falcon HTV might have replaced intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But I'm sure any marginal gains in the speed of global striking capability would soon be massively offset by the costs associated with those things, at a time when governments around the world can hardly afford to keep their own private economies afloat and populations from revolting. I'm neither surprised nor disappointed that the project failed.

What would have happened is a bunch of large contractors would further siphon money from the people producing and servicing these things for a little while, and a bunch of worthless "scientists" and "engineers" would have been congratulating each other on a job well done. So, yeah, I'm glad it failed.

snuffy said...


Your right,my bad,the source of that Factoid was conversation I had with a engineer at a base ....and the discussion was the gee-whiz gizmos that mil folk might have squirreled away..When I checked fact turns out they[the .mil] were the secondary development phase...Now that private industry has all the goodies as far as research grants there is even less of a chance of any kind of life changing tech getting out until some one can make a buck[or a lot of them] off thee and me.
On of the things that have been said about Depressions is that they destroy existing inefficient structures and "deadwood", allowing society to re-build from the resources then freed up from that destruction.I am not sanguine about that working out to the benefit of american society this time the structures that exist now...the massive corporations that have more money and resources than some countries...might weather the storm and become even more of a power unto themselves than now...Speculative fiction has played with this topic a lot,and gives an Idea of what one may face in a future dominated "The company"

I have some major bee chores to do..later folks. later folks.

Bee good,or
Bee careful


Alexander Ac said...

Well. Hear hear. Riots in London. AMERICA IS NEXT!


Anonymous said...


Great comments! A lot of good comments from commentariat as well -- Ash, El G, and others. Thank you!

Re Falcon

Happy it failed!


Greenpa said...

Ash; re the Falcon- well, I disagree. :-)

Granted, all your points are valid. But there are a couple more points, I think.

One of them being reality- the thing already exists, as does the military, and they're not going away. Might as well cull a little good stuff, if possible.

"Space", per se, is not a bad place for human endeavor. Vast drawbacks, of course, insane quantities of energy currently used, but, still. Civilization among the asteroids would have interesting advantages, if we could get over the humps.

This Falcon thingy has virtually no chance of becoming a usable weapon, it seems to me. But there's a ton of basic information that might be gleaned. Scramjets are interesting. It's a different world.

el gallinazo said...


Regarding your employment as of this morning with the firm at the short term equities trading desk.


The Donald

Supergravity said...

Relative to the velocity of Gravity said vehicle is too slow to afford military advantage.

The Queen's speech adressing the riots was a smashing success and showed that the monarchy isn't yet irrelevant, so that by representing the moral conscience and cultural coherence of the nation, the monarch being above political strife, was able to present a conciliatory opportunity to contrast Cameron's symptomatic repression routine.

jal said...

Who is that peon that is feeding the ROBO information?

That peon is making all the traders look like idiots.


Frank said...

@el G Greenpa's point is why I doubt your claim that the government has a working spacedrive that they're using for black ops.

At 10% of current launch costs, there's serious money to be made out there -- enough to interest the MIC.

At 1% of current launch costs, there's Rothschild/Squid sized money to be made out there. Enough to put crashing society on hold for a couple of decades.

el gallinazo said...

Even the indomitable Tyler Durden has a hard time rationalizing today's market. Covering shorts? HFT playing pingpong with 100 shares of APLL? The PPT? Nah, everyone thinks they are still all at the Hamptons smothered in coconut oil, coke, and champagne. Schizophrenia?

It's kind of like the VIP lounge on the Titanic having one last giant bash before they board the lifeboats and wave goodbye to the hoi polloi. I find it very strange. Maybe they thought that the market sold out too low and was ready for a bounce back. With a score of disasters looming including BOA and SocGen about to fail, Italy about to fail, the leaders of the EMU running about like headless chickens or refusing to leave the beach, and Merkel, Sarko, and Carla Bruni shacking up together, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING :-)

Frank said...

@Supergravity re Queen's speech. That's the secret to a parliamentary system that works. The head of state must still have a certain amount of moral (and preferably legal) authority.

Today she played good cop/bad cop with the PM. Other times within my memory, she has called the PM to Buckingham Palace and something stupid that looked very likely has not happened.

cf The president of Iceland's ability to call a referendum. The president of Ireland cannot even do that. What a difference, eh?

p01 said...

Markets, markets, markets...using an Occam's sharp razor to rip your face off again?

Stoneleigh said...

This kind of volatility in a bear market is nothing to get excited about. It's just par for the course. There doesn't have to be a reason for days like today, although rumours of banning short sales in Europe may have had an influence is generating a short squeeze. IMO this is just one of those rocket-fueled advances I wrote about yesterday. There'll be plenty more of them in this market fall, but they're typically reversed quite sharply too.

el gallinazo said...


I really wouldn't want to get into a discussion or debate on it here on this blog. First, I think you might very well deny it even if you were taken for a ride :-) Doesn't fit in with your world view. Second, Ilargi would have a hissy fit. And there is not a damn thing that we could do about it anyway. I just don't like to be played for a fool.

However, there is now a large group of skilled tinkerers working on it on an open source basis, and there is some chance that the genie could escape from the bottle despite the Owners strongest intention to surpress it.

But, to set the "record" straight, I do not think that they are using it normally for black ops, not in any conventional or military sense. I think it is, in itself, a black ops of the highest classification. I would give serious odds that neither W nor Obama were ever briefed on it, though Cheney probably was involved. I am not that gullible and have a background in the physical sciences also. There is a lot of data out there.

But rather than positing whether or not a source of near infinite and cheap non-poluting energy, commonly referred to as zero point or quantum energy has been developed at the absolute highest levels of compartmentalized secrecy of the MIC, an interesting thought problem is whether it would be released for public use if it were. I am reasonably sure that it has and that it won't be. Why? Because the Owners are serious Sickos. The primary psychological need is to keep the mass of humanity under their total control and at their beck and call. The heart of evil lies in limiting other people's freedom to evolve. It does not have that much to do with "wealth" in the conventional sense.

Supergravity said...

"Today she played good cop/bad cop with the PM."

I was being ironically hopeful, to my knowledge the Queen has given no such speech addressing the riots, I assume you were also being ironic by stating she did so today, but if she hasn't already done so she ought to, if the monarchy is to have any relevancy in terms of moral conscience.

Cameron doesn't project the proper moral authority, few politicians could, as people percieve politicians to be confidence-tricksters, maybe less so with the Queen, who might engender more trust. Although I do consider hereditary rule to be a barbarous relic, it may still have its uses when transcendence above partisan political strife is needed, and for lack of a more homogenous moral authority.

Archie said...

This is pretty cool!! (No pun intended)

Tsunami Did a Number on Antarctic Ice Shelves

Joe in NC said...

Great quote from Yves at Naked Capitalism:

"The markets are beginning to feel like a patient with an infection that is resistant to antibiotics, and the medics are out of remedies. But all the Bloomberg of the world can do is cheer the officialdom, in the hope that placebo effect might provide some relief."

Greenpa said...

El Gal - "Regarding your employment as of this morning with the firm at the short term equities trading desk..."

whaddya mean?? I said up, and it's up! :-)

Greenpa said...

ha! validation, of sorts!

a moderately obscure report on the first Falcon failure- guess what? it started to tumble. They were gonna fix it by "changing the center of gravity..."

piffle. don't care how fast your reaction systems are for that arrowhead; at those speeds, they can't be fast enough.

It's obvious. :-)

Ashvin said...


"Granted, all your points are valid. But there are a couple more points, I think.

One of them being reality- the thing already exists, as does the military, and they're not going away. Might as well cull a little good stuff, if possible."

Well, I'd have to re-disagree with this added point. I don't think its a certainty that the vast military-intelligence networks as they exist today will continue indefinitely into the future. Their very existence is justified by both the abundant access to energy/resources we had inherited and the twisted economic/financial systems that we had adopted. I also don't think the "well it exists and someone's going to keep working on things like it" argument is persuasive to support my own interest in seeing it succeed or be researched further.

I understand that people from an engineering or physical sciences background would be very interested in these things. I had a lot of friends at college (Virginia Tech) who were engineering students and they watched shows like "Mythbusters" on Discovery channel all of the time, dissecting every little thing that happened. I found stuff like that interesting sometimes, but not nearly as much. Anyway, I get really frustrated with most space-oriented projects right now, and definitely with projects to militarize space or use space as some means to develop weapons technology. I guess weapons technology research in general frustrates me.

It is perhaps the scientific field most shrouded in secrecy, extremely expensive for taxpayers and inherently prone to institutional corruption and abuse. Of course, it's not the only field like that, and many non-scientific ones are just as bad, but just because I'm interested in politics or finance, doesn't mean I want to go work for some policy think tank or financial institution and help them figure out better ways of killing and fleecing the global population.

Spacecrafts, interplanetary civilizations and Mars-backed securities are neither in the future I envision nor the one I would like to envision. At least, not just yet... but we may just have to agree to re-disagree on this one!

thethirdcoast said...

@ Ash:

Prepare to get a lot more frustrated after you read this overview of the shambles the US Air Force's manned fighter programs are in:

Why the USAF is in Trouble

After one digests all the magical imperial thinking, they realize the "world-class" Usanistan Air Force is saddled with the ancient F-15 & 16, the unflyable F-22 fleet and the phantom F-35.

Meanwhile all the filthy socialists in Europe are flying around in fully combat-ready Gripens, Rafales, and Typhoons, oh my...

Ashvin said...

re: the market action

I think these comments on ZH just about sum it up:

"not unlike the days of Oct 87

26-Oct-87 -8.0%
23-Oct-87 0.0%
22-Oct-87 -3.8%
21-Oct-87 10.1%
20-Oct-87 5.9%
19-Oct-87 -22.6%
16-Oct-87 -4.6%
15-Oct-87 -2.4%
14-Oct-87 -3.8%
13-Oct-87 1.5%
12-Oct-87 -0.4%
09-Oct-87 -1.4%
08-Oct-87 -1.4%
07-Oct-87 0.1%
06-Oct-87 -3.5%"


"Also not unlike the month of October 2008 ... just remember that market bottomed out in March 09."


"history bitchez!"

scrofulous said...

"I don't think anyone is holding gold down."

Stoneleigh, don't let ilargi know what you think, he would be crushed,considering how often he has said how banks control gold.

Here is a peach of an article on, likely ineffectual, gold suppression that stuck to my fingers;)

Gold Futures Margins Increased 22% by CME as Investors Drive Record Rally

Greenpa said...

Ash- we don't disagree by much; I wasn't even suggesting the Falcon should be pursued/funded- not at all; just that we should be free to enjoy what we can't stop anyway. :-)

A piece of new news, I just ran into; the gene jockeys have come up with another Big Shiny New Hammer to play with-

They've inserted an artificial gene, for an unnatural amino acid- into a multicellular organism for the first time; and are whooping it up.

"The technique, they say, could give biologists "atom-by-atom control" over the molecules in living organisms."

wow. Seriously delusional; and dangerously so.

Supergravity said...

Exogenetic contamination is the most dangerous and intractable form of industrial pollution known to be produced by man.

Bioengineering is a spectacular failure when measured in conditional yield increases and safeguarding macrogenetic integrity. Its rumored that literally all of Monsatano's product lineup is dysfunctionally mutagenic or outright lethal, and is already causing minor extinctions wherever unleashed.

JoeFahy said...

In Engdahl's "Century of War", he wrote that the U.S. under Nixon, through Kissenger approached the KSA to quadruple the price of OPEC oil to "encourage" the resultant excess petrodollars to be invested in the U.S. buying up our tremendous debt as a result of our misadventure in S.E. Asia.

Is the S&P downgrade and the resultant investment flight from Europe to U.S. Treasuries accomplishing the same thing? Finance is just war by other means, right?

Nobody at S&P has been been approached by DOJ for their participation in the fraudulent MBS's they gave AAA ratings to have they? Quid pro quo.

Joe Fahy

Bigelow said...

There are other opinions about precious metals price suppression.

The Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc.: Gold suppression is public policy and public record, not 'conspiracy theory' Or Max Keiser’s for another. Being that JP Morgan has silver shorts to the tune of ”– an estimated $1.5tn liability – against their market capital of $150bn…” and if silver exceeds JPM stock price for long they are toast.

Lynford1933 said...

Stoneleigh: If you look here and go to the three month graph you will see a 'W' at the end which to me signifies the battle between greed and panic.

And note the 'W' is well below the 12600 high a couple weeks ago. Also the volume for the last few days is well above the three month average.

Ashvin said...


Fair enough. I'll admit I enjoy discussing stuff like modern economics/finance in an objective way, even if I'd also like to see it break down over time. Like right now, I'm enjoying watching the markets squirm.


I don't the S&P downgrade decision was solicited by the Obama administration, but I do think it was made at a time when a flight to safety (US treasuries) was already well underway, so as not to rock the bond market boat too much.

scrofulous said...

A flight to safety into USD should really put paid to US exports. Lovely, now how does the US pay for it's oil imports? Oh I know with all the increased value of those USD, Q.E.D., eh?

Hmmm, anyone think that those guys who invented Arabic Numerals are smart enough to soon reckon what is wrong with that sort of figurin and just give the USD a big sigh and Yuan.(Sorry about that last bit)

I know their 'good neighbours' have twigged.

Supergravity said...

That notable accomplishment of the artificial amino-acid integrated into a multicellular organism and the advent of the functional quadruplet codon must have marvellous potential somewhere, scientifically and commercially, but because of the biotech-financial-hubristic complex, and in light of the established record of malfunctioning bioenhanced foodcrop products yielding uncontrollable exogenetic contaminant vectors, so rapidly degrading macrogenetic integrity across the foodchain by the misuse of more familiar genetic syntax, it would now seem a particularly ill-advised idea to haphazardly expand the genetic code by such replicative neo-organic devices as are fully alien to life on this planet, and therefore maximally unpredictable in transgenetic interactions and containment parameters.

Anonymous said...


To the extent that I understand what you just posted, I couldn't agree more. I have long said that our technology has far outpaced our humanity. Collapse might even the score a bit, but catastrophic ecological armageddon is the last thing we need right now. I would sooner live in a world without electricity than live in the techno-dystopia that will certainly be the result of too many more years of the partnership of science and capitalism run amok.

Science is a tool. In the right hands, for the right reasons a tool can be greatly beneficial, in the wrong hands it can be deadly.

bosuncookie said...


Speaking of "more familiar... syntax," here's hoping you'll find some. The normal concept carrying-capacity of short-term memory is limited; at least for me. By the time I get through parsing all your embedded constructions, I've forgotten the topic. Have mercy on us mere mortals! LOL.

Anonymous said...

It has come to my attention that Einstein beat me to the punch on pointing out that "...our technology has surpassed our humanity."

I agree with Einstein then.

Greenpa said...

progressivepopulist said...

"To the extent that I understand what you just posted, I couldn't agree more."

I was actually getting a huge kick out of the fact that for once, reading Superg, I was actually able to read and comprehend right along. Speaking my language!

And yes, exactly; and now for a bit of MORE fun DNA news I just caught- NASA has announced they're really pretty sure they've isolated DNA components, and more- from uncontaminated meteorites. Genes from space.

"The meteorites also contained trace amounts of three molecules associated with nucleobases, called nucleobase analogs, but two of those are almost never seen in biology, providing the necessary proof that these DNA components were actually created in outer space."

Whatch'a wanna bet, next years science fair- have a dozen kids will have inserted the alien components into E. coli. Oops, and spilled a little...

There just seems to be no end to the shit available to shovel into fans...

Greenpa said...

I just realized; that last post by Super G- is all in one sentence.

I am in awe. :-)

bosuncookie said...

Greenpa said...

I just realized; that last post by Super G- is all in one sentence.

I am in awe. :-)

I, on the other hand, am in huffing indignation! ;-)

scrofulous said...

Treasury Bond Auctions Save U.S. $647 Million

"The U.S. auctioned $72 billion of notes and bonds this week at the lowest average yield for a refunding on record, saving taxpayers $647 million in interest payments during the life of the securities less than a week after Standard & Poor’s removed the nation’s AAA rating.

Golly, gee! It is good I do not have a suspicious bone in my body, or else what would my head-bone be thinking at now?

ApleAnee said...

-Exogenetic contamination
-conditional yield increases
-macrogenetic integrity
-dysfunctionally mutagenic
-containment parameters
-replicative neo-organic devices

Ah, be still my beating heart. Finally, I have found my "Bloviator For All Seasons."

My only regret is that it is Monsanto not Monsatano.

Nassim said...

Oops, HGV-2. Better luck with HGV-3, I guess...if ever


I guess that must be a Feudian slip. HGV = Heavy Goods Vehicle and HTV = Hypersonic Technology Vehicle :)

Nassim said...

Entire U.S. Stealth Fighter Fleet Grounded

I guess some more "learning" needs to be done.

Glennjeff said...

Super G

Don't let them deter you, your writing is always good value.

Excellent for maintaining fitness of the Broca and Wernicke neurons.

p01 said...

I was somehow thinking of TGV (train a grand vitesse) LOL.

sumacarol said...

Super G - you rock!

scandia said...

There I was, only half awake, on my way back from the corner store with a quart of milk when I stumbled into bliss.
The scent of morning dew on planks of cedar set off a rush of endorphins,dopamine. I was transported back up north on the shores of Lake Superior, huddled under ancient, heavy cedar bows to escape a pounding rain. The man building the deck came up to me wondering why I was crying. I managed a "the scent of your wood, longing for home..." His eyes glazed over too as he said, " Ah yes, the north..."
I have not realized until this morning how the landscape of my youth is one source of well being. I want to go home!

Greenpa said...

In plain speech, no irony; I greatly enjoyed SuperG's Celtic knot complexity- in large part because I did follow it all, and understand it. Good fun.

It's one of the great blessings of this site that one can speak in the most obscure specialist lingo possible, and make very remote literary allusions- and count on being understood, and not castigated for willful obfuscation. It's a burden to always have to guard one's words, so as not to be called egghead.

Ok; time to move on. Today, immediately before market open, stock futures are up slightly. My hypothesis that futures have become counter indicators of market movement suggests then that today's market will close down. ish. :-)

Frank said...

" Ah yes, the north..."


Lynford1933 said...

Only the memory of home is worth crying about. I did a Google Earth to see what my home during the 40s looks like now. It is a parking lot.

scandia said...

@Lynford1933...jeez, a parking lot! Ouch! I hope you have " home " where you are now.

el gallinazo said...


The Donald never makes a mistake but sometimes he is misinformed by his subordinates. You may resume your place at the trading desk.

The Donald


Re Gravity (super and ordinary)

Actually I have found him to be more intelligible during the last few months since he has stopped referring to recursive functions of general relativity :-) This may be as good as it gets. I always enjoy his comments. But his recent one referring the the Queen in the context of the good mother is naive at best. She is a brood, live birth reptile.


If I were to make a list of the four greatest dangers to humanity which would include, for example, an all out thermonuclear exchange, I would definitely include GMO "food." The food is poisonous and the poison genes are transferable in the "wild" to very different organisms. There is a serious possibility that the terminator gene which makes the plants incapable of producing fertile seeds for pissants to plant the next year, is transferable to mammals.
Just received this in an email from a friend:

"I just took action, telling Secretary Vilsack and the USDA to not approve the release of Monsanto's new GMO drought corn, which potentially poses serious risks to human health and the environment."

Actually, I don't see how Monsanto can phuck up corn any more than they already have. I avoid it which can get tricky in Mexico.

Re Carry trade for the yen and the USD

There are no statistics for the size of these trades. But as yen increases in value, and as Stoneleigh predicts the dollar will also, this unwinding will have a thermonuclear effect. Forex trades are the most leveraged of all. A rise in the value of the yen and USD of a few more percent will trigger a positive feedback loop of margin calls, forcing the traders to sell other assets to buy yen and USD to unwind their trades. As they buy the yen and USD to do so, the relative values of each currency increases, furthering the cascading event. The central banks will be unable to reverse it for more than a few days. Maybe they don't want to now. In the last yen intervention, the BOJ was told to do it on their own without international coordination. The most interesting part of this is that the carry traders will be forced to dump other assets for cash at whatever the market will bear. The money masters have had another pump in the last 2.5 years, but they make the really big bucks on the dump.

el gallinazo said...

CHS does an excellent technical / fundamental analysis of corporate profits and the fate of the equities markets today. Well worth the read. He and Stoneleigh are in step together with this.

p01 said...

Payo' bill motha!.
Thasam serious phun there, yo!

Lynford1933 said...

I left there when I was 19 to fly fighters. We are doomers and live in the high desert north of Reno. The late cold weather gave us fits this year but now things are coming on. Also we have a high tunnel hoop house to grow well into the fall. So far, life is good.

el gallinazo said...

My letter to Sec. Ag. Vilsack who is going to make a determination of Monsanto's GMO drought corn shortly.

Secretary Vilsack,

I have been a certified science teacher in several states. I consider Monsanto's GMO foods to be poisonous to humanity. Additionally, their Frankenstein genes are able to cross not only species but genus and order barriers in the wild, contaminating the world's food supply involuntarily. Once the world understands how dangerous they are, it will take decades to eradicate them from the food supply. I consider the threat of the GMO foods to be as serious to humanity as a major thermonuclear exchange. Personally, I no longer will even go near corn or canola oil. Do the right thing. Your grandchildren will thank you.


el gallinazo said...

Appeals court rules against Obama healthcare law

p01 said...

I consider Monsanto's GMO foods to be poisonous to humanity

Recently I was reading about a huge problem with horses becoming diabetic from grains (possibly because of hybridization and genetic modifications made to obtain even more bad calories/acre). The poor cows also seem to be affected, and already many environmentalists and vegans are calling for a stop to this madness of feeding grains to cows.

Humanity?! Who cares? Give'em cake!

scandia said...

@p01...loved Felonious Monk! Right on, man!

@lynford1933..." The high desert" sounds romantic to me:)
How is your water supply?

@El G, bravo for your letter to
Sec. Vilsack. Share the response, please, if you get one.

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

Non-nuclear Thorium powered car concept.


el gallinazo said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...

This article commingles thorium as a nuclear fission energy source and as a holder of potential energy, essentially a battery, in a car. It might turn out to be a more effective car battery than the current leader, lithium ion.

"The key to the system developed by inventor Charles Stevens, CEO and chairman of Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems, is that when silvery metal thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat."

But the energy must come from somewhere else, coal, NG, or fission plants like Fuckupshima. The article itself is deliberately misleading and directed toward the scientifically illiterate.

p01 said...

Robert LeRoy Parker said...
Non-nuclear Thorium powered car concept.

WTF. I have a concept for a non-poluting-ever-working-perpetual-mobile. Coming up next year, always. Here are some nice pics I just rendered.
Wanna invest?

el gallinazo said...


You think I can replace that ugly, white sheet metal LP water heater in the closet with a WTF thorium atomic pile? I think it looks really cute, all shiny with sexy flanges. Is that a little window into the pile so I could watch the nuclei disintegrate while I wait for the tub to fill?

Frank said...

@p01 I think the diet wars were before your time. I also think most of us would like to keep them in the past.

p01 said...

@el gallinazo
Is that a little window into the pile so I could watch the nuclei disintegrate while I wait for the tub to fill?

Actually no, that's out patented "Window into The soul oF the MAchiNe" WTF-MAN (TM).
We cannot disclose its purpose because we don't know it yet.

p01 said...

Frank said...
@p01 I think the diet wars were before your time. I also think most of us would like to keep them in the past.


p01 said...


Pray tell what diet war you're referring to?

el gallinazo said...

Yeah, about 2.5 years ago we had some serious diet wars here between the meatavores and the veggie-avores. It created so much carnage (interesting root to that word) that Ilargi had to ban the subject. But the ashes are not out and it occasionally flares up.

Frank said...

@p01 Ahimsa, and Carpe Diem, who hasn't been around for awhile, are vehement vegans. Back in the day we also had some eloquent and dedicated meat eaters, most prominently Dr. J who does still turn up occasionally.

Much more heat than light was generated in extended discussion of what constituted a healthy diet, and Ilargi eventually banned the topic.

p01 said...

@el gallinazo
Cattle and horses' diet too?! Geez, is there any subject we can touch?

French vs English? Nazal French vs Quebec French? Especially if we don't know anything about it?

Stoneleigh said...

I pinned my colours to the mast, so to speak, over diet some time ago. I am carbohydrate intolerant and could never be vegan. I spent a week eating vegetarian at an econmic retreat recently and found that I can't do that either. I felt much hungrier after a week of eating too many carbs, even though they were complex carbs, than I did later after a week of fasting entirely.

There are many people with the same sensitivity that I have - not everyone to be sure, but there are plenty of people who would benefit enormously from largely eliminating carbs from their diet. Personally I have never looked back. I am thinner, fitter, never hungry and have far more energy than at any other time in my life.

For some, eliminating refined carbs would be enough, but for me, and others with metabolic syndrome, it is not.

el gallinazo said...

p01 said...
@el gallinazo
Cattle and horses' diet too?

Only if you advocate feeding them blutwurst.

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...


It's kind of like the NASCAR rulebook, which almost noone is allowed to possess. Any topic Ilargi has introduced is expressly open for discussion. Interestingly, almost noone ever seems to want to discuss the sujet du jour.

Yes, there were diet wars. I innocently sparked one myself. All I will say by way of warning, but you have already experienced a wisp of it, is that mentioning dietary habits can cause Ahimsa to go all himsa on you. And she has supporters, including my beloved grandson VK. Best to just stay away from it. It can turn into a real bark fest.

el gallinazo said...

I. M. Nobody said...

"Any topic Ilargi has introduced is expressly open for discussion. Interestingly, almost noone ever seems to want to discuss the sujet du jour."

Yeah, sometimes I feel like a Philistine writing about financial matters :-) But my days of sowing oats are over.


Do you think that your metabolic intolerance to carbs increased greatly with age, or do you think it was pretty severe as well in your 20's and 30's but you didn't make the connections then?

Lynford1933 said...

We have a well with a 220VAC electric pump for normal use and in the same well we also have a hand pump convertable to solar in five minutes. Right now it is solar and I use it to irrigate the gardens. After several years of drought in the 90s the water level was at 35 feet and this year it is about 22 feet. The solar panels charge batteries which run the 12 VDC pump motor and put out about 150 GPH.

This company is about 45 miles south of us. Very nice product.

Frank said...

@p01 Actually it was the V word. They actually don't want you feeding cattle anything, since they don't want you to have cattle.

And if you are an omnivore environmentalism is a minor reason to object to feedlot beef.

Also feeding more than a 'dessert portion' of grain to either horses or cattle is bad for them whether or not it's GMO.

On the third hand lactating Holsteins and working Clydesdales have great difficulty getting enough nutrition without a grain supplement. The ancestral plumbing is just not set up to support those hypertrophied udders or muscles.

Lynford1933 said...

About an electric cars. Get something that will last a while. NiFe batteries are a bit pricy but last a long time. They are not too particular to charge voltage and work well with solar. The 1912 Detroit Electric Car with NiFe Battery is still operational with the original batteries.

DW said...

RE: Diet [sic]

It's the next advance in Low-Carb->Paleo->Primal->???

And really explains the good science behind all this.


el gallinazo said...


How does the solar motor run the lift rod? Your link doesn't give any sort of diagram. Is it some sort of geared thing with a drop back? Never had to work with deep well pumps. Don't find them in NYC and small Caribbean islands :-) For the moment, just curious.

Lynford1933 said...

The electric motor is geared down to about 60 RPM @ 12 VDC. Inside the rectangular box there is a lever arm with length adjustments to a roller bearing. The roller bearing runs inside an eccentric track to change the rotary motion to a linear up and down motion.

A friend has a 200 foot water table and the pump will not work because the fiberglass sucker rod stretches every cycle and produces only a half cup (or less) water per cycle. I bought the pump from him and it works fine in my well. It pulls from ~2 to ~10 amps depending on the part of the pump cycle. 10 amps when lifting over a pint of water 25 feet and only 2 amps when pushing the pump back down.

p01 said...



Sorry about that Mark's Daily Apple link.

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...



OK, you weren't here for that either. I granted VK honorary grandsonship, which he reciprocated. It's just something I do, though I understand I am not by any means the only practitioner. I have done similar to a couple of others among our happy (?) band.

VK comes by his vege proclivities naturally via his heritage. I have to honor it. Others have invented their own religion.

p01 said...

Been reading TAE for a long time, just did not read the comments. I was devouring just about everything energy-related after I realized "this is the peak, this is it" (I knew it would come around that time, but life has a funny way of making you forget this stuff) but I did not know about nor paid attention to finance and bubbles. And then, somehow, from all that information, it suddenly clicked when I heard one of Stoneleigh's interviews.
I just was not reading the comments, and now I regret, but I don't have the time to get back to reading them. Have to prepare and (re)learn the practical stuff.

NZSanctuary said...

p01 said...
Recently I was reading about a huge problem with horses becoming diabetic from grains (possibly because of hybridization and genetic modifications made to obtain even more bad calories/acre). The poor cows also seem to be affected...

Yeah but it'll be good for the veterinary business and the pharma companies making the drugs used to treat the animals. So, you know, making the animals sick might be good for GDP. Can't be bad then, right?

Greenpa said...
don't care how fast your reaction systems are for that arrowhead; at those speeds, they can't be fast enough.

You're full arrow concept is good. Either that or they need to make the thing spin like a rifled bullet.

I bet they discounted the importance and amount of electromagnetic activity in the upper atmosphere, too. It would be interesting to know if this had any impact on the success of the flights. Even elves and sprites that form in the upper atmosphere are still generally considered artifacts of terrestrial charge only, instead of an equilibrium mechanism for the earth's electromagnetic interaction with the sun and other bodies. Little wonder, given that currents from the sun have recently been "discovered" by NASA and described as twisted magnetic ropes. WTF? Birkeland currents have been described for a century - but instead misleading concepts are created because of narrow-minded attachment to established ideas. Sigh . . . science has definitely become mired in the status quo of money grubbing, ego, and pandering to big business.

Anonymous said...


The concept is pretty simple.

1. About 95% of money is credit.
2. Society is saturated in debt.
3. When the debt-dollar Ponzi collapses, money goes into the debt-dollar black hole as credit is rarely issued to anyone - including the government.
4. When millions of families are worried about dinner at night, it is not very likely that people will pay $1700 for an ounce of gold.

Perhaps you disagree that is where the economy is taken. Maybe you think Osama bin Bernanke will is itching to put $1,000,000 into your bank account before the system can collapse. Fair enough, but that's not the view of Stoneleigh.

Let me put it to you this way. If you have an ounce of silver and haven't flossed your teeth for 90 days, will give up that ounce of silver for 200 yards of dental floss (that is no longer available at the store because credit dried up)?

You probably would, but guys like me probably wouldn't even consider it.

I hope we don't to that point, but we might. In the Great Depression, food rotted in one town while others starved in another - no money to transport the food.

We aren't there yet. We aren't even close. The credit bubble proceeds of the of the last 3 decades still has a lot of froth looking for a home.

Tech stocks, homes, gold... all frothy.

BTW, why is the big money betting on deflationary depression via the bond market? What do they know that you don't?

After all, Big Finance Capital controls the mega banks that control the Federal Reserve who will decide what policy to apply.

They own everything else BIG, but most people can't set aside their emotions to even consider this idea.

p01 said...


Flossing, eh? Real men don't need no stinkin' floss. :-)

el gallinazo said...

Guillotine display stuns Rothschild's 'tent city'
French Revolution symbol becomes main attraction at Tel Aviv's protest center, as rallies continue to spread across country. Protest leaders say Beersheba to hold next mass rally

A guillotine, the symbol of the French Revolution, has been placed Wednesday in the center of Tel Aviv's "tent city," turning into one of the biggest attractions in this ongoing social protest.

The surprising display arrived in Rothschild Boulevard following another long night of protests across the country, this time focusing on contractor conditions. Demonstrators in five different cities participated in rallies Wednesday night against working conditions, wearing white masks and chanting: "Contractor companies are organized crime.",7340,L-4107640,00.html

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...

It has been a helluva week all around. Who would have predicted Israeli's would be the first to roll out a guillotine? Who will be next?

No doubt there will be more astounding events to come. But, for now I thought it appropriate to commemorate the activities of those HTV wastrels with this classic song performed by an unexpected talent.


A moderator said...

Let's take a time out and get back to a higher level of civility. Flame wars are for Zero Hedge, so let's not even begin to start one here.

Anonymous said...

@ P01

Hey, you missed the good times! :)

Carpe Diem was great and VK was awesome!! We all love VK! BTW, if I remember correctly, even El G and his Chilean spouse were trying out a veggie diet.

Buenas noches a todos!

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