Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

The New Depression explained

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Bank mania mess continues

HSBC Offshore tax-evasion and crushing entrepreneurs

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The ‘blow up’ protection in place

The US and Canadian banks are all setup right now to essentially steal ALL deposits, in an instant.

 

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DOW at 17,000! Do not get fooled by the hype …

I have said, welcome to the top of the ride before and I was in error, for one cannot fight the FED with the power of printing that it has.

This summary by Peter Schiff covers most of the territory.

The main point is to not be fooled into believing that higher numerical assessment means that you have more value in your portfolio. The continued debasement of the currency is destroying such numerical value faster than it can organically grow.

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Everything old is new again! or not.

When I saw that large funds were ‘buying’ houses, I saw this as a likely result.

Re-hypothecation is all that the banks can do now …

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Levelling, re-set and emancipation

The time to get your precious metals is now.

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Beyond Economics, Beyond Crime, too big to fail …

Neil Barofsky is interviewed by Bill Moyers.

Even if you know nothing of the economic crisis or anything about what may have ’caused’ the situation, the statements by Barofsky must be heard.

When you come to understand these words and what they mean for the future, you may have a different understanding of why a truly ‘private’ money system is needed.

Link: http://youtu.be/NjNCOM7Hztk

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Not enough lipstick to make this pig look pretty anymore

Governments On Both Sides of the Atlantic Try to Put Lipstick on a Pig

pig needing lipstick

piggy waiting for lipstick

We noted yesterday that the big banks have criminally conspired since 2005 to rig $800 trillion dollar Libor-based market.

Barclay’s chairman says that the Bank of England gave explicit approval for the manipulation.

A former Barclay’s executive – who was close to the Libor-setting manipulation – told the Daily Mail that Barclay’s manipulated Libor to make the bank look healthier than it really was, and , and the cover-up led to a slow policy response which prolonged the financial crisis.

This appears to be very similar to what happened in America.   As I noted last year:

The Tarp Inspector General has said that [then-Secretary of the Treasury Hank] Paulson misrepresented the big banks’ health in the run-up to passage of TARP. This is no small matter, as the American public would have not been very excited about giving money to insolvent institutions.

(Paulson also threatened martial law if Tarp was not passed.)

As we reported last year:

[All of the big banks were] insolvent in the 1980s, but the government made a concerted decision to cover that up.

Financial writers such as Mish and Reggie Middleton pointed out in late 2007 and early 2008 that B of A was again insolvent.

Nouriel Roubini noted in January 2009 that the entire U.S. banking system is “bankrupt” and “effectively insolvent”:

“I’ve found that credit losses could peak at a level of $3.6 trillion for U.S. institutions, half of them by banks and broker dealers,” Roubini said at a conference in Dubai today. “If that’s true, it means the U.S. banking system is effectively insolvent because it starts with a capital of $1.4 trillion.”

***

“The problems of Citi, Bank of America and others suggest the system is bankrupt,” Roubini said. “In Europe, it’s the same thing.”

Indeed, the American government’s zero interest rate policy is very much like the British Libor manipulation scandal … it’s nothing but an attempt to breathe life back into the insolvent banks, at the expense of the taxpayer.  And see this.

And the “financial reform” laws passed in the wake of the crisis have, in some ways, actually weakened regulations of the financial markets, allowed the big banks to get a lot bigger, and have intentionally allowed fraudulent accounting (and see this).

Likewise, the “stress tests” in both Europe and America have been a total scam … a naked attempt to put lipstick on a pig to cover up the fact that the big banks are insolvent.

By choosing the big banks over the little guy – and failing to rein in the fraud which caused the crisis in the first place – the governments on both sides of that Atlantic are dooming both the financial system and the people to failure.

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The stage 4 CANCER of the currency system:

By Graham Summers of Seeking Alpha

Cancer of the currency

Cancer of the currency

Friday I noted that the “addict/dealer” metaphor for the Fed’s intervention in the markets was in fact not accurate and that the Fed’s actions would be more appropriately described as permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system, thereby killing Democratic Capitalism which is the basis of the capital markets.

Today I’m going to explain what the “final outcome” for this process will be. The short version is what happens to a cancer patient who allows the disease to spread unchecked (death).

In the case of the Fed’s actions we will see a similar “death” of Democratic Capitalism and the subsequent death of the capital markets. I am, of course, talking in metaphors here: the world will not end, and commerce and business will continue, but the form of capital markets and Capitalism we are experiencing today will cease to exist as the Fed’s policies result in the market and economy eventually collapsing in such a fashion that what follows will bear little resemblance to that which we are experiencing now.

The focus of this “death” will not be stocks, but bonds, particularly sovereign bonds: the asset class against which all monetary policy and investment theory has been based for the last 80+ years.

Indeed, basic financial theory has proposed that sovereign bonds are essentially the only true “risk-free” investment in the world. While history shows this theory to be false (sovereign defaults have occurred throughout the 20th century) this has been the basic tenant for all investment models and indeed the financial system at large going back for 80 some odd years.

The reason for this is that the Treasury (US sovereign bond) market is the basis of the entire monetary system in the US and the Global financial system in general. Indeed, US Treasuries are the senior most assets on the Primary Dealers’ (world’s largest banks) balance sheets. To understand why this is as well as why the Fed’s policies will ultimately destroy this system, you first need to understand the Primary Dealer system that is the basis for the US banking system at large.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Primary Dealers, these are the 18 banks at the top of the US private banking system. They’re in charge of handling US Treasury Debt auctions and as such they have unprecedented access to US debt both in terms of pricing and monetary control.

The Primary Dealers are:

Bank of America (BAC)
Barclays Capital Inc. (BCS)
BNP Paribas Securities Corp. (BNP)
Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.
Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (C)
Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC (CS)
Daiwa Securities America Inc. (DSECF.PK)
Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. (DB)
Goldman, Sachs & Co. (GS)
HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. (HBC)
J. P. Morgan Securities Inc. (JPM)
Jefferies & Company Inc. (JEF)
Mizuho Securities USA Inc. (MFG)
Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated (MS)
Nomura Securities International Inc. (NMR)
RBC Capital Markets
RBS Securities Inc. (RBS)
UBS Securities LLC. (UBS)

I’m you’ll sure you’ll recognize these names by the mere fact that they are the exact banks that the Fed focused on “saving” thereby removing their “risk of failure” during the financial crisis.

These banks are also the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s largest monetary policies: QE 1, QE lite, QE 2, etc. Indeed, we now know that QE 2 was in fact was meant to benefit those Primary Dealers in Europe, not the US housing market.

The Primary Dealers are the firms that buy US Treasuries during debt auctions. Once the Treasury debt is acquired by the Primary Dealer, it’s parked on their balance sheet as an asset. The Primary Dealer can then leverage up that asset and also fractionally lend on it, i.e. create more debt and issue more loans, mortgages, corporate bonds, or what have you.

Put another way, Treasuries are not only the primary asset on the large banks’ balance sheets, they are in fact the asset against which these banks lend/ extend additional debt into the monetary system, thereby controlling the amount of money in circulation in the economy.

When the Financial Crisis hit in 2007-2008, the Fed responded in several ways, but the most important for the point of today’s discussion is the Fed removing the “risk of failure” for the Primary Dealers by spreading these firms’ toxic debts onto the public’s balance sheet and funneling trillions of dollars into them via various lending windows.

In simple terms, the Fed took what was killing the Primary Dealers (toxic debts) and then spread it onto the US’s balance sheet (which was already sickly due to our excessive debt levels). This again ties in with my “cancer” metaphor, much as cancer spreads by infecting healthy cells.

When the Fed did this it did not save capitalism or the Capital Markets. What it did was allow the “cancer” of excessive leverage, toxic debts, and moral hazard to spread to the very basis of the US, indeed the entire world’s, financial system: the US balance sheet/ Sovereign Bond market.

These actions have already resulted in the US losing its AAA credit rating. But that is just the beginning. Indeed, few if any understand the real risk of what the Fed has done.

The reality is that the Fed has done the following:

1) Set itself up for a collapse: at $2.8 trillion, the Fed’s balance sheet is now larger that the economies of Brazil, the UK, or France. And with capital of only $54 billion, the Fed is leveraged at 51 to 1 (Lehman was at 30 to 1 when it failed).

2) Called the risk profile of US sovereign debt into question: foreign investors, now fully aware that the US’s balance sheet is suspect (the US has lost its AAA credit rating), are dumping Treasuries (see China and Russia). This has resulted in the Fed now being responsible for the purchase of up to 91% of all new long-term (20+ years) US debt issuance.

3) Put the entire financial system (not just the private banks) at risk.

The financial system requires trust to operate. Having changed the risk profile of US sovereign debt, the Fed has undermined the very basis of the US banking system (remember Treasuries are the senior most asset against which all banks lend).

Moreover, the Fed has undermined investor confidence in the capital markets as most now perceive the markets to be a “rigged game” in which certain participants, namely the large banks, are favored, while the rest of us (including even smaller banks) are still subject to the basic tenants of Democratic Capitalism: risk of failure.

This has resulted in retail investors fleeing the markets while institutional investors and those forced to participate in the markets for professional reasons now invest based on either the hope of more intervention from the Fed or simply front-running those Fed policies that have already been announced.

Put another way, the financial system and capital markets are no longer a healthy, thriving system of Democratic Capitalism in which a multitude of participants pursue different strategies. Instead they are an environment fraught with risk in which there is essentially “one trade,” and that trade is based on cancerous policies and beliefs that undermine the very basis of Democratic Capitalism, which in the end, is the foundation of the capital markets.

In simple terms, by damaging trust and permitting Wall Street to dump its toxic debts on the public’s balance sheet, the Fed has taken the financial system from a status of extremely unhealthy to terminal.

The end result will be a crisis that makes 2008 look like a joke. It will be a crisis in which the US Treasury market implodes, taking down much of the US banking system with it (remember, Treasuries are the senior most assets on US bank balance sheets).

I cannot say when this will happen. But it will happen. It might be next week, next month, or several years from now. But we’ve crossed the point of no return. The Treasury market is almost entirely dependent on the Fed to continue to function. That alone should make it clear that we are heading for a period of systemic risk that is far greater than anything we’ve seen in 80+ years (including 2008).

The Fed is not a “dealer” giving “hits” of monetary morphine to an “addict”… the Fed has permitted cancerous beliefs to spread throughout the financial system. And the end result is going to be the same as that of a patient who ignores cancer and simply acts as though everything is fine.

That patient is now past the point of no return. There can be no return to health. Instead the system will eventually collapse and then be replaced by a new one.

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The State of the World: A Framework


By George Friedman | February 21, 2012
Security Weekly

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a new series on the national strategies of today’s global power and other regional powers. This installment establishes a framework for understating the current state of the world.

The evolution of geopolitics is cyclical. Powers rise, fall and shift. Changes occur in every generation in an unending ballet. However, the period between 1989 and 1991 was unique in that a long cycle of human history spanning hundreds of years ended, and with it a shorter cycle also came to a close. The world is still reverberating from the events of that period.

On Dec. 25, 1991, an epoch ended. On that day the Soviet Union collapsed, and for the first time in almost 500 years no European power was a global power, meaning no European state integrated economic, military and political power on a global scale. What began in 1492 with Europe smashing its way into the world and creating a global imperial system had ended. For five centuries, one European power or another had dominated the world, whether Portugal, Spain, France, England or the Soviet Union. Even the lesser European powers at the time had some degree of global influence.

After 1991 the only global power left was the United States, which produced about 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) each year and dominated the oceans. Never before had the United States been the dominant global power. Prior to World War II, American power had been growing from its place at the margins of the international system, but it was emerging on a multipolar stage. After World War II, it found itself in a bipolar world, facing off with the Soviet Union in a struggle in which American victory was hardly a foregone conclusion.

The United States has been the unchallenged global power for 20 years, but its ascendancy has left it off-balance for most of this time, and imbalance has been the fundamental characteristic of the global system in the past generation. Unprepared institutionally or psychologically for its position, the United States has swung from an excessive optimism in the 1990s that held that significant conflict was at an end to the wars against militant Islam after 9/11, wars that the United States could not avoid but also could not integrate into a multilayered global strategy. When the only global power becomes obsessed with a single region, the entire world is unbalanced. Imbalance remains the defining characteristic of the global system today.

While the collapse of the Soviet Union ended the European epoch, it also was the end of the era that began in 1945, and it was accompanied by a cluster of events that tend to accompany generational shifts. The 1989-1991 period marked the end of the Japanese economic miracle, the first time the world had marveled at an Asian power’s sustained growth rate as the same power’s financial system crumbled. The end of the Japanese miracle and the economic problem of integrating East and West Germany both changed the way the global economy worked. The 1991 Maastricht Treaty set the stage for Europe’s attempt at integration and was the framework for Europe in the post-Cold War world. Tiananmen Square set the course for China in the next 20 years and was the Chinese answer to a collapsing Soviet empire. It created a structure that allowed for economic development but assured the dominance of the Communist Party. Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was designed to change the balance of power in the Persian Gulf after the Iraq-Iran war and tested the United States’ willingness to go to war after the Cold War.

In 1989-1991 the world changed the way it worked, whether measured in centuries or generations. It was an extraordinary period whose significance is only now emerging. It locked into place a long-term changing of the guard, where North America replaced Europe as the center of the international system. But generations come and go, and we are now in the middle of the first generational shift since the collapse of the European powers, a shift that began in 2008 but is only now working itself out in detail.

What happened in 2008 was one of the financial panics that the global capitalist system periodically suffers. As is frequently the case, these panics first generate political crises within nations, followed by changes in the relations among nations. Of these changes, three in particular are of importance, two of which are directly linked to the 2008 crisis. The first is the European financial crisis and its transformation into a political crisis. The second is the Chinese export crisis and its consequences. The third, indirectly linked to 2008, is the shift in the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of Iran.

The European Crisis

The European crisis represents the single most significant event that followed from the financial collapse of 2008. The vision of the European Union was that an institution that would bind France and Germany together would make the wars that had raged in Europe since 1871 impossible. The vision also assumed that economic integration would both join France and Germany together and create the foundations of a prosperous Europe. Within the context of Maastricht as it evolved, the European vision assumed that the European Union would become a way to democratize and integrate the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe into a single framework.

However, embedded in the idea of the European Union was the idea that Europe could at some point transcend nationalism and emerge as a United States of Europe, a single political federation with a constitution and a unified foreign and domestic policy. It would move from a free trade zone to a unified economic system to a single currency and then to further political integration built around the European Parliament, allowing Europe to emerge as a single country.

Long before this happened, of course, people began to speak of Europe as if it were a single entity. Regardless of the modesty of formal proposals, there was a powerful vision of an integrated European polity. There were two foundations for it. One was the apparent economic and social benefits of a united Europe. The other was that this was the only way that Europe could make its influence felt in the international system. Individually, the European states were not global players, but collectively they had the ability to become just that. In the post-Cold War world, where the United States was the sole and unfettered global power, this was an attractive opportunity.

The European vision was smashed in the aftermath of 2008, when the fundamental instability of the European experiment revealed itself. That vision was built around Germany, the world’s second-largest exporter, but Europe’s periphery remained too weak to weather the crisis. It was not so much this particular crisis; Europe was not built to withstand any financial crisis. Sooner or later one would come and the unity of Europe would be severely strained as each nation, driven by different economic and social realities, maneuvered in its own interest rather than in the interest of Europe.

There is no question that the Europe of 2012 operates in a very different way than it did in 2007. There is an expectation in some parts that Europe will, in due course, return to its old post-Cold War state, but that is unlikely. The underlying contradictions of the European enterprise are now revealed, and while some European entity will likely survive, it probably will not resemble the Europe envisioned by Maastricht, let alone the grander visions of a United States of Europe. Thus, the only potential counterweight to the United States will not emerge in this generation.

China and the Asian Model

China was similarly struck by the 2008 crisis. Apart from the inevitably cyclical nature of all economies, the Asian model, as seen in Japan and then in 1997 in East and Southeast Asia, provides for prolonged growth followed by profound financial dislocation. Indeed, growth rates do not indicate economic health. Just as it was for Europe, the 2008 financial crisis was the trigger for China.

China’s core problem is that more than a billion people live in households earning less than $6 a day, and the majority of those earn less than $3 a day. Social tensions aside, the economic consequence is that China’s large industrial plant outstrips Chinese consumer demand. As a result, China must export. However, the recessions after 2008 cut heavily into China’s exports, severely affecting GDP growth and threatening the stability of the political system. China confronted the problem with a massive surge in bank lending, driving new investment and supporting GDP growth but also fueling rampant inflation. Inflation created upward pressure on labor costs until China began to lose its main competitive advantage over other countries.

For a generation, Chinese growth has been the engine of the global economic system, just as Japan was in the previous generation. China is not collapsing any more than Japan did. However, it is changing its behavior, and with it the behavior of the international system.

Looking Ahead

If we look at the international system as having three major economic engines, two of them — Europe and China — are changing their behavior to be less assertive and less influential in the international system. The events of 2008 did not create these changes; they merely triggered processes that revealed the underlying weaknesses of these two entities.

Somewhat outside the main processes of the international system, the Middle East is undergoing a fundamental shift in its balance of power. The driver in this is not the crisis of 2008 but the consequences of the U.S. was in the region and their termination. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran has emerged as the major conventional power in the Persian Gulf and the major influence over Iraq. In addition, with the continued survival of the al Assad regime in Syria through the support of Iran, there is the potential for Iranian influence to stretch from western Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea. Even if the al Assad regime fell, Iran would still be well-positioned to assert its claims for primacy in the Persian Gulf.

Just as the processes unleashed in 1989-1991 defined the next 20 years, so, too, will the processes that are being generated now dominate the next generation. Still powerful but acutely off-balance in its domestic and foreign policies, the United States is confronting a changing world without yet having a clear understanding of how to deal with this world or, for that matter, how the shifts in the global system will affect it. For the United States strategically, the fragmentation of Europe, the transformation of global production in the wake of the Chinese economy’s climax, and the dramatically increased power of Iran appear as abstract events not directly affecting the United States.

Each of these events will create dangers and opportunities for the United States that it is unprepared to manage. The fragmentation of Europe raises the question of the future of Germany and its relationship with Russia. The movement of production to low-wage countries will create booms in countries hitherto regarded as beyond help (as China was in 1980) and potential zones of instability created by rapid and uneven growth. And, of course, the idea that the Iranian issue can be managed through sanctions is a form of denial rather than a strategy.

Three major areas of the world are in flux: Europe, China and the Persian Gulf. Every country in the world will have to devise a strategy to deal with the new reality, just as 1989-1991 required new strategies. The most important country, the United States, had no strategy after 1991 and has no strategy today. This is the single most important reality of the world. Like the Spaniards, who, in the generation after Columbus’ voyage, lacked a clear sense of the reality they had created, Americans have no clear sense of the world they find themselves in. This fact continues to define how the world works.

Therefore, we next turn to American strategy in the next 20 years and consider how it will reshape itself.

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