A Historically Unique Event

We keep watching what is happening in Cyprus with morbid fascination. As a reminder, the unhappy island was the first major “haircut” victim in Europe. Its bankers, who had flagrantly over-traded their capital and won prizes for running “the best banks in Europe” along the way, erroneously believed the repeated promises of assorted EU commissars that Greece would never – never! – be allowed to go bankrupt. Consequently they stuffed their balance sheets to the gills with supposedly risk-free Greek government bonds, only to eventually see them get “haircut” twice in a row.

 

Laiki-Bank_People-smDesperate depositors queuing in front of Laiki Bank, the second largest Cypriot bank,

which was eventually wound up

 Photo credit: Yorgos Karahalis / Reuters

 

With their capital thus depleted, the banks became dependent on “ELA” funding from the ECB in order to pay depositors who wished to withdraw their money. So as to avoid a panic, the Cypriot government and the EU lied for months to the customers of these banks, assuring them that their deposits were perfectly safe. This inter alia gave the friends and families of well-connected politicians and oligarchs (including close family members of the then president of Cyprus) the opportunity to get all their money out before the curtain came down.

Citizens of Cyprus would have done well to inform themselves about the fraudulent nature of fractional reserve banking. Many might perhaps have been able to avoid what happened next: they were expropriated overnight in an act of confiscatory deflation.

Note here that we are not saying bank depositors should not bear risks, nor are we saying that they should be bailed out by taxpayers. In fact, we cannot offer an alternative to what happened, except perhaps to state that if any bank-related bailouts are implemented (such as the ongoing ECB QE program), depositors should ideally be first in line to partake of the central bank’s largesse. We mainly want to point to the fact that depositors were lied to about these risks all along, which vastly reduced their chances to save their hard-earned money while it was still possible to do so.

We have kept a close eye on the stock market of Cyprus, and lo and behold, it made a new all time low in late 2015:

 

1-CyprusThe Cyprus stock market has declined by 99.986% – of every 100 euro invested at the peak, a mere 0.014 euro are left. In other words, 100 euro have been transformed into just 1.4 cents – click to enlarge.

 

In order to fully grasp the extent of this devastation, consider the following: had you bought the market after it had declined by 90%, you would quickly have lost another 90%. Had you bought after it had declined by 90% twice, you would just as quickly have lost almost another 90%. So since 2007, this market has seen three consecutive declines of 90%. As far as we know this is unparalleled. If there had been a stock market in the Roman Empire, it might have done something similar around AD 400 – AD 500.

 

Boom, Bust and the Money Supply

As we have frequently pointed out, euro-area wide money supply is growing at an astonishing pace thanks to the ECB printing money 24/7 of late. The most recent annual change rate of the narrow money supply M1, which is the aggregate that most closely resembles money TMS (true money supply) stands at around 14% (a few items are missing from this measure to make it fully comparable to TMS, such as deposits owned by non-residents. However, adding them would probably have little effect on the rate of change).

 

2-Euro area TMSEuro area M1 (demand deposits and currency) – roughly equal to TMS. Thank God the central bank provides such admirable “stability” (as indicated by the line in blue, which looks a bit like the EKG of a heart attack victim). Since 2012 money supply growth has gone “parabolic”. This isn’t going to end well – click to enlarge.

 

However, this aggregate statistic actually masks the extremely uneven distribution of money supply growth across the euro area. For instance, Germany’s money supply has increased by approximately 125% since 2008. Countries that have been hit by severe banking and economic crises – particularly Greece and Cyprus, in both of which the commercial banking system has essentially collapsed – have seen their money supply nosedive in the same span.

In order to illustrate this, we have charted the amount of deposit money extant in the Cypriot banking system since 2008. After the initial crisis in 2008, Cyprus “benefited” from the inflationary push the ECB implemented in 2009-2010 in the form of LTROs. When these LTROs began to be paid back and euro area-wide money supply growth screeched to a halt in 2011, the Greek and Cypriot crises not surprisingly went into overdrive. All the losses that had been masked by monetary inflation up to that point suddenly became obvious.

After the decision in favor of a depositor haircut in Cyprus had been made, the country’s deposit money supply collapsed by about 44% over the ensuing two years, with the bulk of the decline occurring in 2012. Since then, it has essentially flat-lined:

 

3-Cyprus, deposit moneyDeposit money in the banking system of Cyprus: total (in red), the portion owned solely by residents in black. Total deposit money is still down more than 40% from the 2011 peak – click to enlarge.

 

However, prior to the bust, the money supply of Cyprus was growing immensely – which explains the unhealthy artificial boom that ruined the island’s economy. The responsibility for this is equally shared between the country’s reckless banks and their new “lender of last resort”, the ECB. The central planners had suppressed interest rates to a level they thought appropriate for Germany, which was long held to be Europe’s “sick man”. These rates were however highly inappropriate for Europe’s periphery.

 

4-cyprus-money-supply-m1Cyprus, M1 during the boom years – going gangbusters – click to enlarge.

 

In case you’re wondering: M1 is no longer reported separately by the Central Bank of Cyprus, so we had to make do with piecing together extant deposit money as a reasonable proxy for the Cypriot money supply.

 

Cyprus Shows us Why the Fiat Money System is Doomed

This brings us to our point: what this inter alia shows us, is how strongly asset prices depend on monetary inflation. The stock market of Cyprus rose nearly six-fold from 2003 to 2007 – exactly the time when money supply growth started to go “parabolic”. This was not the result of business getting “six times better” in any sense. It was simply a reflection of money printing.

Now consider what a roughly 44% decline in the money supply has led to: a 99.986% collapse in stocks prices. Given that stock prices can be used as a proxy for the trend in asset prices in general, a lot of the collateral backing loans in Cyprus is likely worth far less than the outstanding debt it supposedly covers. Indeed, house prices in Cyprus have declined with nary an interruption since 2008 as well (recently a small bounce could be detected) – albeit to a far smaller extent than stocks. Still, the housing bubble that was a notable feature of the boom years has essentially been wiped out as well.

 

5-cyprus-housing-indexCyprus house price index: declining for almost seven years, which has wiped out nearly all the price gains made in the “parabolic” stage of the bubble – click to enlarge.

 

In fact, the events in Cyprus, Greece and more recently Puerto Rico reveal a harsh truth: nearly all the socialist regulatory welfare/warfare states of the West are in reality bankrupt. The only thing holding up the charade is the fact that central banks are able to create nigh unlimited amounts of money from thin air. As soon as a country or a self-governing region no longer enjoys a central bank backstop, it is game over.

This leaves only very little by way of choices. Look again at the chart of the euro area money supply above, or a recent chart of US money TMS-2. What would happen if these money supply measures were to deflate, or merely stop growing?

Just as in Cyprus, asset prices would decline to reflect such a deflation – and these price declines would have to be expected to be very pronounced, given the extent of monetary inflation that has already occurred and the degree to which asset prices have been disproportionately affected. Stocks are titles to capital, and these price distortions have also affected capital goods.

This would in turn lower the value of much of the collateral supporting outstanding bank loans. The monetary system would likely suffer a deflationary implosion. This wouldn’t be a bad thing per se, even though it would be quite disruptive. After all, the existing real capital would continue to exist. Not a single factory would cease to exist if the money supply somehow declined. Only prices would change, and ownership of real capital would in many cases change as well.

Moreover, the essential insolvency of the system, including the insolvency of the governments running today’s welfare/warfare states would be revealed, and a lot of unproductive and wasteful activity would cease by necessity. Unfortunately, just as has happened in Cyprus, many innocent and hitherto prudent bystanders would become victims of this economic disruption as well.

Our guess is that the powers-that-be simply won’t let that happen, so they will be “forced” to take option two: they will keep inflating, and very likely at an ever more accelerating pace. In the end this will be even more destructive, although it will keep buying time for a while, just as it has since 2008.

Government and central bank officials will naturally choose the “buying time” option, hoping that the really big problems won’t materialize on their watch, but rather on that of their successors. In that sense, Ben Bernanke has timed his exit from the Fed exceedingly well.

 

Conclusion

The modern debt money system has a limited life span and it cannot stand still. The problem is that with every iteration of the boom-bust cycle, more real wealth is destroyed and more obstacles to the creation of real wealth are erected.

Hapless governments desperately try to squeeze blood out of a turnip by taxing and regulating the private sector to death, while central banks keep promoting monetary inflation. At some point the limit to this game will be reached – and the longer it takes to get to that point, the more devastating the eventual denouement will be.

We don’t see it as our task to offer a solution – with respect to that, we can only reiterate that a return to an unhampered free market system is the only way out, painful as it may initially prove to be. We know however that modern-day governments will simply not go down this path, as it would involve a vast loss of power for them.

All we can do is point out the risks, so that people can at least prepare on an individual level. A major lesson everybody should take to heart from the Cyprus experience is this: when the next crisis strikes, do not believe any of the promises uttered by government or central bank officials. You will be lied to in the critical moments, and you could stand to lose a lot if you believe the lies.

You don’t have to take our word for it: just ask anyone in Greece or Cyprus what they got for believing their deposits were safe.

 

Charts by bigcharts, ECB, tradingeconomics, acting-man.com

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

2 Responses to “Revisiting the Greatest Crash in History”

  • rodney:

    You don’t have to take our word for it: just ask anyone in Greece or Cyprus what they got for believing their deposits were safe.

    You forgot to mention that EU citizens can now expect to lose their deposits without anyone lying to them: the EU “Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive” is officially being implemented, bail-ins and all, from 1st January, 2016, i.e. a few days ago. Deposits are last in line for a bail-in, but banks have such little reserves and capital nowadays that you can expect the worst.

    This is now the law of the land and it is in full force and operation. No need for lying, they just take them

    Gentlemen, if you live in Europe, it is now your responsibility to perform some due dilligence on banks and to diversify your deposits. Especially if you live in peripheral Europe, do not think twice before diversifying some of your deposits in either German or Swiss Banks.

  • Kreditanstalt:

    “Hapless governments desperately try to squeeze blood out of a turnip by taxing and regulating the private sector to death, while central banks keep promoting monetary inflation. At some point the limit to this game will be reached – and the longer it takes to get to that point, the more devastating the eventual denouement will be.”

    Of course…such an outcome is a “lead pipe cinch”, as they used to say back in, I think, the 1920s.

    Unfortunately, I think most pundits and observers missing something: these things move like glaciers. Exceedingly slowly. And they don’t affect an entire economy or population evenly: things change at the margin, and move towards the centre.

    As we are seeing, some economic actors suffer more than others. Some jurisdictions. Some entities. Some jobs, some incomes, some business models. So people, obsessed with short-term statistics, miss the epochal OVERALL decline in the standard of living. The disappearance of breadwinner jobs and that stubborn and (to the mainstream) inexplicable statistic “those not in the labour force” are dismissed or footnoted, but not taken as the harbingers of permanent social change that they are.

    LIVING STANDARDS ARE PERNICIOUSLY, INCREMENTALLY FALLING…

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Pushing Past the Breaking Point
      Schemes and Shams Man’s willful determination to resist the natural order are in vain.  Still, he pushes onward, always grasping for the big breakthrough. The allure of something for nothing is too enticing to pass up.   From the “displays of disbelief, revealing touching old-fashioned notions” file... [PT]   Systems of elaborate folly have been erected with the most impossible of promises.  That prosperity can be attained without labor.  That benefits...
  • The Myth of Capitalism - A Book by Jonathan Tepper
      Crony Capitalism vs. Free Markets Many of our readers are probably aware of the excellent work our friend Jonathan Tepper does for Variant Perception (VP)*****, a financial research boutique that really does bring a unique perspective to the table*. Jonathan (with co-author Denise Hearn) has just added a new book to his résumé, which is going to be released on 12 November: The Myth of Capitalism (MoC) – Monopolies and the Death of Competition** (a link to the official site is at the...
  • Three Cheers for James Riley!
      Going All In All people, of both good and questionable character, share a singular talent.  They excel at taking something that’s tolerable in moderation, and then pushing it to the outer limits of absurdity.  Why live with restraint when you can get radical?   A fairly famous stretch of LA riverbed graffiti... [PT] Photo credit: saber   Public and private debt levels, NASDAQ stock valuations, the federal register, face tattoos, canned energy drinks.  You name...
  • Crumbling Piles of Sand
      Just a Little Avalanche or an Implosion? A few years ago, we briefly discussed the dynamics of sand piles in these pages, which are a special field of study in mathematics and physics (mathematically inclined readers can take a look at two papers on the subject here:”Driving Sandpiles to Criticality and Beyond “ (PDF) and  'Games on Line Graphs and Sand Piles “(PDF) – unfortunately two other studies that used to be available have in the meantime disappeared from the...
  • When Fake Money Becomes Scarce
      Remaining Focused A rousing display of diversions this week assured the American populace was looking every which way but right under its collective nose.  Midterm elections.  White House spats with purveyors of fake news.  The forced resignation of Attorney General Sessions...   Old drug warrior (otherwise recused) on his way home to Alabama...   Sideshows like these, and many more, offered near limitless opportunities to focus on matters of insignificance.  Why...
  • Fun and Profit - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      While Not Saving The Planet, Let Us At Least Have A Good Time The price of gold went up seven bucks, and that of silver rose eight pennies. For many people, the attraction to gold and silver began with a desire to protect themselves from the monetary train wreck of 2008. That often grew into a sense that gold is the solution to that problem.   The post 2008 GFC monetary train wreck: US true broad money supply is expanded by more than 153% in a mere decade, as the Fed takes...
  • Wizard’s First Rule – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      The Last to Go Terry Goodkind wrote an epic fantasy series. The first book in the series is entitled Wizard’s First Rule. We recommend the book highly, if you’re into that sort of thing.   An image from the title page of Terry Goodkind's best-selling fantasy epic “Wizard's First Rule”. We'd be at bit wary of standing around on that stone-slab bridge to be honest. [PT]   However, for purposes of this essay, the important part is the rule...
  • US Stock Market - Re-Coupling with a Panic Cycle?
      The Mighty Gartman Investment newsletter writer Dennis Gartman (a.k.a. “the Commodities King”) has been a target of ridicule at Zerohedge for a long time. His pompous style of writing and his uncanny ability to frequently make perfectly mistimed short term market calls have made him an easy target.* It would be quite ironic if a so far quite good recommendation he made last week were to turn into the call of a lifetime (see ZH: “Gartman: 'We Are Officially Recommending Shorting...
  • Roger Barris for Congress!
      Economic Man Threatens to Leave You Alone if Elected This one is mainly for readers residing in that glorious water source for California commonly known as Colorado. In case you are not aware of it yet, Roger “Economic Man” Barris, an occasional contributor to this site, is running for Congress in Colorado on a Libertarian Party ticket. We will briefly explain why you should vote for Roger, but first two pictures:   Roger Barris, Libertarian Party candidate for the House...
  • Revisiting the Halloween Effect
      From Crash Danger to End-of-the-Year Ramp   [Ed note by PT: we are unfortunately a week late in posting this issue of SI, which didn't reach us in time due to a technical problem. We decided to post it belatedly anyway: for one thing, the effect under discussion is normally in effect until the end of the year; for another, the statistical validity of this information goes beyond the current year, as it is a recurring phenomenon. Lastly we would note that we have a strong...
  • It's Not That Day Just Yet - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Degrees of Urgency Monday was Veterans Day, a bank holiday in the US. The prices of gold and silver dropped $23 and $0.61 respectively. “But isn’t gold supposed to go up when...?”   Warren Buffet and Aragorn discuss what to do with the gold. Aragorn wants it, because he knows that even if it's not today, “that day” will come. [PT]   Why? Because everyone else will bid it up. Why? Because they expect someone else to bid it up. Why? Warren Buffet is...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

Austrian Theory and Investment

j9TJzzN

The Review Insider

Archive

Dog Blow

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

Mish Talk

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!