Involuntary Early Retirement of a Middle Eastern General

The procession of news through the week – namely that chronicling the aftermath of the targeted drone strike and killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – advanced with an agreeable flow.  The reports at the start of the week were that Orange Man Bad had spun up a Middle Eastern mob of whirling dervishes beyond recall. World War III was imminent.

 

The recently expired general, when he was still among the quick – and seemingly in a good mood.  [PT]

Photo via harpy.ir

 

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Fiat Currency Rankings – From Bad to Worse

Today, as we step into the New Year, we reach down to turn over a new leaf.  We want to make a fresh start.  We want to leave 2019’s bugaboos behind. But, alas, lying beneath the fallen leaf, like rotting food waste, is last year’s fake money.  We can’t escape it.  But we refuse to believe in its permanence.

 

This is what “monetary stability in the Fed-administered fiat money regime looks like: in the year the Fed was established it took $3.80 to buy what $100 buy today – provided the government’s CPI data are actually a valid gauge of the dollar’s purchasing power. [PT]

 

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GDP – A Poor Measure of “Growth”

Last week the prices of the metals rose $35 and $0.82. But, then, the price of a basket of the 500 biggest stocks rose 62. The price of a barrel of oil rose $1.63. Even the euro went up a smidgen. One thing that did not go up was bitcoin. Another was the much-hated asset in the longest bull market. We refer to the US Treasury.

 

BofA Merrill Lynch high yield master II option-adjusted spread: on Dec. 23 it tightened to the  lowest level of 2019, fairly close to its post-crisis low established in 2018. This seemingly signals that risk is very small –  in reality, risk is probably extremely high. [PT]

 

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World Class Entertainer in the Cross-Hairs

Christmas is no time to be given the old heave-ho.  This is a time of celebration, redemption, and excess libation.  A time to shop ‘til you drop; the economy depends on it. Don’t get us wrong.  There really is no best time to receive the dreaded pink slip.  But Christmas is the absolute worst.  Has this ever happened to you?

 

The verdict: Orange man bad! [PT]

 

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Disrupted Disruptor – Legal Setback Sweepstakes

It seems Uber just can’t catch a break these days. First its license to operate in London was revoked. At issue was apparently that 43 unlicensed drivers were able to take an estimated 14,000 “unauthorized trips” due to a flaw in the Uber app (note that 45,000 licensed Uber drivers are working in London) .

 

Uber’s service has become an important part of London’s transport infrastructure – and a thorn in the side of established taxi services. [PT]

Photo credit: uber.com

 

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Plans and Consequences

You are probably already getting into the holiday spirit, perhaps you are even under a little stress. But the turn of the year will soon be here – an occasion to review the past year and make plans for the new one. Many people are doing just that – and their behavior is creating the strongest seasonal rally in the precious metals markets.

 

Anonymous industrial stackers showing off their freshly purchased silver hoard. [PT]

 

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A Critical Appraisal of a Hero of Central Monetary Planning

We apologize for publishing this Report late. We have been very busy developing the business. Last week the price of gold moved up $16, and that of silver $0.39. Almost two groceries leaked out of that store of value par excellence, bitcoin. But hey, stocks are up!

 

We admit to having a soft spot for the politically incorrect Paul Volcker. He frequently expressed bemusement at the newfangled obsessions of his successors at the Fed (as an example, at a conference in 2006 he remarked on the increasing emphasis on “core” inflation: “A great mantra of central bankers these days is ‘inflation targeting.’ I don’t understand that nomenclature. I didn’t think central bankers were in the business of targeting inflation. I thought we were supposed to be targeting stability.” h/t Grant’s). Nevertheless, we are on board with the criticism voiced below. Volcker was indeed instrumental (along with Milton Friedman, otherwise a champion of free markets, but oddly blind to the insidious nature of a monetary central planning agency) in persuading Nixon to abandon the last remnant of the gold standard, the Bretton Woods “gold exchange standard” that permitted foreign central banks to exchange their US dollar reserves for gold at a fixed exchange rate. Not only did this decision unleash a decade of economic and currency market chaos, it ultimately paved the way for the unbridled expansion in money and credit in train since the early 1980s. In the meantime we have arrived at a juncture where central banks are “forced” to adopt ever more insane policies as they rush from trying to prevent one potential systemic collapse after another. [PT]

 

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Addicted to Spending

There are many falsehoods being perpetuated these days when it comes to money, financial markets, and the economy. But when you cut the chaff, three related facts remain: Uncle Sam needs your money. He needs a lot of your money. And he needs it bad!

 

The inescapable logic of tax & spend: empty vault… empty pockets… gimme more! [PT]

 

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Re-Purposing of Tractor Parts in South Dakota

 

The price of gold was all but unchanged, but the price of silver dropped another 46 copper pennies last week.

We came across an article showing pictures of something we have previously described: sculptures made from parts taken from farm tractors.

Here is a picture I took:

 

The good old Predator made of tractor parts – looks almost like the real thing! Here is background information on the artist and more pictures of his work. [PT]

 

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Panem et Circenses

The transfer of wealth from workers and savers to governments and big banks continued this week with Swiss-like precision. The process is both mechanical and subtle. Here in the USA the automated elegance of this ongoing operation receives little attention.

 

Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt… so said Juvenal, reportedly [PT]

 

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Great Moqueur

Poor Donald Trump. The Chinese won’t play ball with him. The Democrats are trying to impeach him. And now, other world leaders are laughing at him!

 

Mesmerized by his glorious radiance – the shepherd alights amid his flock. [PT]

 

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Credit Market Bifurcation

By all accounts, credit markets remain on fire. 2019 is already a record year for corporate bond issuance, beating the previous record set in 2017 by a sizable margin. Demand for the debt of governments and government-related issuers remains extremely strong as well, despite non-existent and often even negative issuance yields. Even now, with economic activity clearly slowing and numerous  threats to the post-GFC recovery looming on the horizon, the occasional rise in credit spreads is routinely reversed. And yet, under the placid surface problems are beginning to percolate. Consider exhibit A:

 

The chart shows option-adjusted credit spreads on three rating categories – while spreads on ‘BB’ rated (best junk bond grade) and ‘BBB’ rated (weakest investment grade) bonds remain close to their lows, spreads on ‘CCC’ rated bonds continue to break higher – considerably so. An increase by 473 basis points from their late 2018 low indicates there is quite a bit of concern.

 

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Most read in the last 20 days:

  • How the Fed Robs You of Your Life
      Fiat Currency Rankings - From Bad to Worse Today, as we step into the New Year, we reach down to turn over a new leaf.  We want to make a fresh start.  We want to leave 2019’s bugaboos behind. But, alas, lying beneath the fallen leaf, like rotting food waste, is last year’s fake money.  We can’t escape it.  But we refuse to believe in its permanence.   This is what “monetary stability in the Fed-administered fiat money regime looks like: in the year the Fed was...
  • Wealth Consumption vs. Growth - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      GDP – A Poor Measure of “Growth” Last week the prices of the metals rose $35 and $0.82. But, then, the price of a basket of the 500 biggest stocks rose 62. The price of a barrel of oil rose $1.63. Even the euro went up a smidgen. One thing that did not go up was bitcoin. Another was the much-hated asset in the longest bull market. We refer to the US Treasury.   BofA Merrill Lynch high yield master II option-adjusted spread: on Dec. 23 it tightened to the  lowest level...
  • Geopolitical Shocks and Financial Markets
      Involuntary Early Retirement of a Middle Eastern General The procession of news through the week – namely that chronicling the aftermath of the targeted drone strike and killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – advanced with an agreeable flow.  The reports at the start of the week were that Orange Man Bad had spun up a Middle Eastern mob of whirling dervishes beyond recall. World War III was imminent.   The recently expired general, when he was still among the quick...

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