Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Collapse of Occult Economics and US$ Based World

I see bad libor rising
I see trouble on the way
I see market crashes and (near) defaults
I see bad times today

Don't go 'round tonight
For it's bound to take your cash
There's a bad libor on the rise

Ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan has been accused of occulting (hiding from people's view) dissent from the Fed's panglossian housing market forecasts in 2004. While I'd love for that to be true, I'm with Felix Salmon, who, after reading the whole transcript (always a good idea before jumping to an opinion) discerned the offensive quote (see below) referred to debate over Fed transparency and not the housing market.

We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understandFed Transcript

To my mind, a more interesting quote can be found in Ms. Minehan's discussion of US economic growth at the same meeting: And like everybody else, I don’t know why the pace of hiring has been as slow as it has been or whether it will get slower or speed up more quickly than we expect.

There's an admission worth noting, she, like everyone else at the table didn't know why the pace of hiring had been as slow as it had been (perhaps because Fed liquidity had gone more to overseas markets than at home would be my guess). In other words, the only occulting that occurred at Fed meetings was the far less sinister, but much more ominous blind leading the blind.

I think the same phenomenon lies behind TPM's discovery of occult practices at the US Treasury in their dealings with Congress (Ms. Pelosi has recently reported the meeting to first request funds came at her, not the Treasury's, request) prior to the request for TARP funds. It isn't sinister, it's just a case of enforced ignorance, as in, let's try whistling past the graveyard, it might work.

Neither Greenspan, nor Rubin, nor Summers (whose financial prescience was shown to be flawed at Harvard) nor Blankfein nor any other of the financial big wigs knows what's going to happen in the financial world because they believe this time is different. (If they did know they would have run for the hills long ago) They have thrown away the only tool that allows economic forecasting, the assumption that the rules of economics always operate (qualifying the proper conditions as they relate to the past being the tricky part of the game, whether I've done so accurately this time remains to be seen).

The collapse of occult economics to which I refer is the apocalypse (Greek for unveiling) of the US$ based system as operating under the same rules of finance that have always operated, specifically the fact that true provision of global liquidity can only come (in a US$ based trading system) through increased US$ supply, a.k.a. Triffin's Dilemma.

As I've previously discussed, Robert Triffin noted the dilemma at the heart of the US$ based global trading system- in order for the world to get the liquidity it wants US$ balances overseas will have to grow, thus eventually weakening the US$ such that it could no longer serve as global reserve currency.

Two events are conspiring to unveil Triffin's Dilemma to the world, the coming economic slowdown in China as a result of previous credit over-extension and current tightening and the current emerging crisis in the Euro periphery- the "G"-less PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece (who've gotten their bail-out), and Spain). The "G"-less PIGS must have felt a bit left out of the liquidity party for Greece this past weekend and are now clamoring for their own rescue package.

As an aside, I'm only partially facetious when I suggest a most profitable Hedge Fund theme, find liquidity deprived countries to invest in a fund that will blow out your spreads (CDS and swaps) and create the need for a bail-out. As an added bonus, the rescue deal will likely include a fully funded financial rescue package.

As always there are options available to policy makers. They could allow defaults to occur but that is the "it" (being deflation) Bernanke promised wouldn't happen here (in the US, and by extension, the world), and that option too would likely lead to the end of the US$ based trading system. The other option, the option that has become the rule is more liquidity, and in this case, barring a significant decline in the Euro and RMB vs. the US$, the Fed will have to supply that liquidity at a time when they would prefer to begin unloading some of the toxic securities they bought from the TBTF banks.

Unlike the 2008, 2000-2001 and 1997-1998 crises, however, Fed Funds are already near zero. Quantitative easing, in the form of continued declines in acceptable collateral for Central Bank discounting will be the tool- monetization of poor credit, in large amounts.

At that point, I suspect, Gold will begin to soar against all currencies, and the search for a new global international reserve will being in earnest.

The signs of impending crisis are already manifesting: 1) global stock markets are rolling over 2) credit default swap prices for the "G"-less PIGS are rising rapidly 3) the pace of decline in US$ swap rates has eased.

In the not too distant future, if stock markets continue to weaken, US$ swaps rates will rise. US$ liquidity will, once again, be in short supply and the Fed will be called on to rescue the world.

Let the unveiling commence.

p.s. the primary rule of economics that, in my view, has been occulted from view, because it is so distasteful (to some) is the no free lunch rule...just my, rapidly depreciating, two cents

p.p.s yes, I'm way out on a limb on this one, but what the heck, I'm just a pajama-wearing blogger

Full Disclosure: Long lots of Gold


Saladin said...

You are not the only one long lots of physical gold (anyone with an IQ over 25 should have about a 95% allocation at this point).

Karma is the best thing since sliced bread! Do good for the world and you will be paid in multiples. Do evil for the world and you will be eviscerated in multiples.

God, karmic justice is the BOMB!

I love it.

Makes life worth living.

(And who said studying philosophy couldn't make you rich?)


"GLOATING" Sometimes, it's okay.

Dude said...


I feel ya' bro....but, 2 thoughts of caution: 1) intelligence is a bit like CPU speed, only as good as the data it believes 2) be sparing with indulgences of schadenfreude (no matter how good it may feel, and I'll admit, sometimes it feels good).

Saladin said...

I don't normally do it. But yesterday, it just seemed, well, approprate.

(Notice I said "sometimes") ;)

There is way to much work to be done to sit around gloating routinely. Yesterday, I permitted myself the luxury of doing so. Today, it's back to work.