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Category Archives: Money

The Upside-down World of Currency

Alasdair Macleod wrote . . . . . . . . .

The gap between fiat currency values and that of legal money, which is gold, has widened so that dollars retain only 2% of their pre-1970s value, and for sterling it is as little as 1%. Yet it is commonly averred that currency is money, and gold is irrelevant.

As the product of statist propaganda, this is incorrect. Originally established in Roman law, legally gold is still money and the states’ debauched currencies are not — only a form of credit. As I demonstrate in this article, the major western central banks will be forced to embark on a new round of currency debasement, likely to put an end to the matter.

Central to my thesis is that commercial bank credit will contract sharply in response to rising interest rates and bond yields. This retrenchment is already ending the everything bubble in financial asset values, is beginning to undermine GDP, and given record levels of balance sheet leverage makes a major banking crisis virtually impossible to avoid. Central banks which are already in a parlous state of their own will be tasked with underwriting the entire credit system.

In discharging their responsibilities to the status quo, central banks will end up destroying their own currencies.

So, why do we persist in pricing everything in failing currencies, when that will almost certainly change? When the difference between legal money and declining currencies is finally realised, the public will discard currencies entirely reverting to legal money. That time is being brought forward rapidly by current events.

Why do we impart value to currency and not money?

A question that is not satisfactorily answered today is why is it that an unbacked fiat currency has value as a medium of exchange. Some say that it reflects faith in and the credit standing of the issuer. Others say that by requiring a nation’s subjects to pay taxes and to account for them guarantees its demand. But these replies ignore the consequences of its massive expansion while the state pretends it to be real money. Sometimes, the consequences can seem benign and at others catastrophic. As explanations for the public’s tolerance of repeated failures of currencies, these answers are insufficient.

Let us do a thought experiment to highlight the depth of the problem. We know that over millennia, metallic metals, particularly gold, silver, and copper came to be used as media of exchange. And we also know that the use of their value was broadened through credit in the form of banknotes and bank deposits. The relationships between legal money, that is gold, silver, or copper and credit in its various forms were defined in Roman law in the sixth century. And we also know that this system of money and credit with the value of credit tied to that of money, despite some ups and downs, has served humanity well ever since.

Now let us assume that in the absence of metallic money, in the dawn of economic time a ruler instructed his subjects to use a new currency which he and only he will issue for the public’s use. This would surely be seen as a benefit to everyone, compared with the pre-existing condition of barter. But the question in our minds must be about the durability of the ruler’s new currency. With no precedent, how is the currency to be valued in the context of the ratios between goods and services bought and sold? And how certain can one be about tomorrow’s value in that context? And what happens if the king loses his power, or dies?

Clearly, without a reference to something else, the king’s new currency is a highly risky proposition and sooner or later will simply fail. And even when a new currency has been introduced and linked to an existing form of money, if the tie is then cut the currency will struggle to survive. Without going into the good reasons why this is so, the empirical evidence confirms it. Chinese merchants no longer use Kubla Khan’s paper made out of mulberry leaves, and German citizens no longer use the paper marks of the early 1920s. But they still refer to metallic money.

Yet today, we impart values to paper currencies issued by our governments in defiance of these outcomes. An explanation was provided by the great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises in his regression theorem. He reasonably argued that we refer the value of a medium of exchange today to its value to us yesterday. In other words, we know as producers what we will receive today for our product, based on our experience in the immediate past, and in the same way we refer to our currency values as consumers. Similarly, at a previous time, we referred our experience of currency values to our prior experience. In other words, the credibility and value of currencies are based on a regression into the past.

Mises’s regression theory was broadly confirmed by an earlier writer, Jean-Baptiste Say, who in his Treatise on Political Economy observed:

“Custom, therefore, and not the mandate of authority, designates the specific product that shall pass exclusively as money, whether crown pieces or any other commodity whatever.”

Custom is why we still think of currencies as money, even though for the last fifty-one years their link with money was abandoned. The day after President Nixon cut the umbilical cord between gold and the dollar, we all continued using dollars and all the other currencies as if nothing had happened. But this was the last step in a long process of freeing the paper dollar from being backed by gold. The habit of the public in valuing currency by regression had served the US Government well and has continued to do so.

The role of a medium of exchange

Being backed by no more than government fiat, to properly understand the role that currencies have assumed for themselves, we need to make some comments about why a medium of exchange is needed and its characteristics. The basis was laid out by Jean-Baptiste Say, who described the division of labour and the role of a medium of exchange.

Say observed that human productivity depended on specialisation, with producers obtaining their broader consumption through the medium of exchange. The role of money (and associated credit) is to act as a commodity valued on the basis of its use in exchange. Therefore, money is simply the right, or title, to acquire some consumer satisfaction from someone else. Following on from Say’s law, when any economic quantity is exchanged for any other economic quantity, each is termed the value of the other. But when one of the quantities is money, the other quantities are given a price. Price, therefore, is always value expressed in money. For this reason, money has no price, which is confined entirely to the goods and services in an exchange.

So long as currency and associated forms of credit are firmly attached to money such that there are minimal differences between their values, there should be no price for them either, other than a value difference arising from counterparty risk. A further distinction between money and currencies can arise if their users suspect that the link might break down. It was the breakdown in this relationship between gold and the dollar that led to the failure of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971.

Therefore, in all logic it is legal money that has no price. But does that mean that when its value differs from that of money, does currency have a price? Not necessarily. So long as currency operates as a medium of exchange, it has a value and not a price. We can say that a dollar is valued at 0.0005682 ounces of gold, or gold is valued at 1760 dollars. As a legacy of the dollar’s regression from the days when it was on a gold standard, we still attribute no price to the dollar, but now we attribute a price to gold. To do so is technically incorrect.

Perhaps an argument for this state of affairs is that gold is subject to Gresham’s law, being hoarded rather than spent. It is the medium of exchange of last resort so rarely circulates. Nevertheless, fiat currencies have consistently lost value relative to legal money, which is gold, so much so that the dollar has lost 98% since the suspension of Bretton Woods, and sterling has lost 99%. Over fifty-one years, the process has been so gradual that users of unanchored currencies as their media of exchange have failed to notice it.

This gradual loss of purchasing power relative to gold can continue indefinitely, so long as the conditions that have permitted it to happen remain without causing undue alarm. Furthermore, for lack of a replacement it is highly inconvenient for currency users to consider that their currency might be valueless. They will hang on to the myth of its use value until its debasement can no longer be ignored.

What is the purpose of interest rates?

Despite the accumulating evidence that central bank management of interest rates fails to achieve their desired outcomes, monetary policy committees persist in using interest rates as their primary means of economic intervention. It was the central bankers’ economic guru himself who pointed out that interest rates correlated with the general level of prices and not the rate of price inflation. And Keynes even named it Gibson’s paradox after Arthur Gibson, who wrote about it in Banker’s Magazine in 1923 (it had actually been noted by Thomas Tooke a century before). But because he couldn’t understand why these correlations were the opposite of what he expected, Keynes ignored it and so have his epigonic central bankers ever since.

As was often the case, Keynes was looking through the wrong end of the telescope. The reason interest rates rose and fell with the general price level was that price levels were not driven by interest rates, but interest rates reacted to changes in the general level of prices. Interest rates reflect the loss of purchasing power for money when the quantity of credit increases. With their interests firmly attached to time preference, savers required compensation for the debasement of credit, while borrowers — mainly businesses in production — needed to bid up for credit to pay for higher input costs. Essentially, interest rates changed as a lagging indicator, not a leading one as Keynes and his acolytes to this day still assume.

In a nutshell, that is why Gibson’s paradox is not a paradox but a natural consequence of fluctuations in credit and the foreign exchanges and the public’s valuation of it relative to goods. And the way to smooth out the cyclical consequences for prices is to stop discouraging savers from saving and make them personally responsible for their future security. As demonstrated today by Japan’s relatively low CPI inflation rate, a savings driven economy sees credit stimulation fuelling savings rather than consumption, providing capital for manufacturing improvements instead of raising consumer prices. Keynes’s savings paradox — another fatal error — actually points towards the opposite of economic and price stability.

It is over interest rate management that central banks prove their worthlessness. Even if they had a Damascene conversion, bureaucrats in a government department can never impose decisions that can only be efficiently determined by market forces. It is the same fault exhibited in communist regimes, where the state tries to manage the supply of goods— and we know, unless we have forgotten, the futility of state direction of production. It is exactly the same with monetary policy. Just as the conditions that led the communists to build an iron curtain to prevent their reluctant subjects escaping from authoritarianism, there should be no monetary policy.

Instead, when things don’t go their way, like the communists, bureaucrats double down on their misguided policies suppressing the evidence of their failures. It is something of a miracle that the economic consequences have not been worse. It is testament to the robustness of human action that when officialdom places mountainous hurdles in its path ordinary folk manage to find a way to get on with their lives despite the intervention.

Eventually, the piper must be paid. Misguided interest rate policies led to their suppression to the zero bound, and for the euro, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc, even unnaturally negative deposit rates. Predictably, the distortions of these policies together with central bank credit inflation through quantitative easing are leading to pay-back time.

Rapidly rising commodity, producer and consumer prices, the consequences of these policy mistakes, are in turn leading to higher time preference discounts. Finally, markets have wrested currency and credit valuations out of central banks’ control, as it slowly dawns on market participants that the whole interest rate game has been an economic fallacy. Foreign creditors are no longer prepared to sit there and accept deposit rates and bond yields which do not compensate them for loss of purchasing power. Time preference is now mauling central bankers and their cherished delusions. They have lost their suppressive control over markets and now we must all face the consequences. Like the fate of the Berlin Wall that had kept Germany’s Ossies penned in, monetary policy control is being demolished.

With purchasing powers for the major currencies now sinking at a more rapid rate than current levels of interest rate and bond yield compensation, the underlying trend for interest rates is now rising and has further to go. Official forecasts that inflation at the CPU level will return to the targeted 2% in a year or two are pie in the sky.

While Nero-like, central bankers fiddle commercial banks are being burned. A consequence of zero and negative rates has been that commercial bank balance sheet leverage increased stratospherically to compensate for suppressed lending margins. Commercial bankers now have an overriding imperative to claw back their credit expansion in the knowledge that in a rising interest rate environment, their unfettered involvement in non-banking financial activities comes at a cost. Losses on financial collateral are mounting, and the provision of liquidity into mainline non-financial sectors faces losses as well. And when you have a balance sheet leverage ratio of assets to equity of over twenty times (as is the case for the large Japanese and Eurozone banks), balance sheet equity is almost certain to be wiped out.

The imperative for action is immediate. Any banker who does not act with the utmost urgency faces the prospect of being overwhelmed by the new interest rate trend. The chart below shows that the broadest measure of US money supply, which is substantially the counterparty of bank credit is already contracting, having declined by $236bn since March.

Contracting bank credit forces up interest rates due to lower credit supply. This is a trend that cannot be bucked, a factor that has little directly to do with prices. By way of confirmation of the new trend, the following quotation is extracted from the Fed’s monthly Senior Loan Officers’ Opinion Survey for October:

“Over the third quarter, significant net shares of banks reported having tightened standards on C&I [commercial and industrial] loans to firms of all sizes. Banks also reported having tightened most queried terms on C&I loans to firms of all sizes over the third quarter. Tightening was most widely reported for premiums charged on riskier loans, costs of credit lines, and spreads of loan rates over the cost of funds. In addition, significant net shares of banks reported having tightened loan covenants to large and middle-market firms, while moderate net shares of banks reported having tightened covenants to small firms. Similarly, a moderate net share of foreign banks reported having tightened standards for C&I loans.

“Major net shares of banks that reported having tightened standards or terms cited a less favourable or more uncertain economic outlook, a reduced tolerance for risk, and the worsening of industry-specific problems as important reasons for doing so. Significant net shares of banks also cited decreased liquidity in the secondary market for C&I loans and less aggressive competition from other banks or nonbank lenders as important reasons for tightening lending standards and terms.”

Similarly, credit is being withdrawn from financial activities. The following chart reflects collapsing credit levels being provided to speculators.

In the same way that the withdrawal of bank credit undermines nominal GDP (because nearly all GDP transactions are settled in bank credit) the withdrawal of bank credit also undermines financial asset values. And just as it is a mistake to think that a contraction of GDP is driven by a decline in economic activity rather than the availability of bank credit, it is a mistake to ignore the role of bank credit in driving financial market valuations.

The statistics are yet to reflect credit contraction in the Eurozone and Japan, which are the most highly leveraged of the major banking systems. This may be partly due to the rapidity with which credit conditions are deteriorating. And we should note that the advanced socialisation of credit in these two regions probably makes senior managements more beholden to their banking authorities, and less entrepreneurial in their big-picture awareness than their American counterparts. Furthermore, the principal reason for continued monetary expansion reflects both the euro-system and the Bank of Japan’s continuing balance sheet expansion, which feed directly into the commercial banking network bolstering their balance sheets. It is likely to be state-demanded credit which overwhelms the Eurozone and Japan’s statistics, masking deteriorating changes in credit supply for commercial demand.

The ECB and BOJ’s monetary policies have been to compromise their respective currencies by their continuing credit expansion, which is why their currencies have lost significant ground against the dollar while US interest rates have been rising. Adding to the tension, the US’s Fed has been jawing up its attack on price inflation, but the recent fall in the dollar on the foreign exchanges strongly suggests a pivot in this policy is in sight.

The dilemma facing central banks is one their own making. Having suppressed interest rates to the zero bound and below, the reversal of this trend is now out of their control. Commercial banks will surely react in the face of this new interest rate trend and seek to contract their balance sheets as rapidly as possible. Students of Austrian business cycle theory will not be surprised at the suddenness of this development. But all GDP transactions, with very limited minor cash exceptions at the retail end of gross output are settled in bank credit. Inevitably the withdrawal of credit will cause nominal GDP to contract significantly, a collapse made more severe in real terms when the decline in a currency’s purchasing power is taken into consideration.

The choice now facing bureaucratic officialdom is simple: does it prioritise rescuing financial markets and the non-financial economy from deflation, or does it ignore the economic consequences of protecting the currency instead? The ECB, BOJ and the Bank of England have decided their duty lies with supporting the economy and financial markets. Perhaps driven in part by central banking consensus, the Fed now appears to be choosing to protect the US economy and its financial markets as well.

The principal policy in the new pivot will be the same: suppress interest rates below their time preference. It is the policy mistake that the bureaucrats always make, and they will double down on their earlier failures. The extent to which they suppress interest rates will be reflected in the loss of purchasing power of their currencies, not in terms of their values against each other, but in their values with respect to energy, commodities, raw materials, foodstuffs, and precious metals. In other words, a new round of higher producer and consumer prices and therefore irresistible pressure for yet higher interest rates will emerge.

The collapse of the everything bubble

The flip side of interest rate trends is the value imparted to assets, both financial and non-financial. It is no accident that the biggest and most widespread global bull market in history has coincided with interest rate suppression to zero and even lower over the last four decades. Equally, a trend of rising interest rates will have the opposite effect.

Unlike bull markets, bear markets are often sudden and shocking, especially where undue speculation has been previously involved. There is no better example than that of the cryptocurrency phenomenon, which has already seen bitcoin fall from a high of $68,000 to $16,000 in twelve months. And in recent days, the collapse of one of the largest crypto-exchanges, FTX, has exposed both hubris and alleged fraud, handmaidens to extreme public speculation, on an unimaginable scale. For any student of the madness of crowds, it would be surprising if the phenomenon of cryptocurrencies actually survives.

Driving this volte-face into bear markets is the decline in bond values. On 20 March 2020, when the Fed reduced its fund rate to zero, the 30-year US Treasury bond yielded 1.18%. Earlier this week the yield stood at 4.06%. That’s a fall in price of over 50%. And time preference suggests that short-term rates, for example over one year, should currently discount a loss of currency’s purchasing power at double current rates, or even more.

For the planners who meddle with interest rates, increases in rates and bond yields on that scale are unimaginable. Monetary policy committees, being government agencies, will think primarily about the effect on government finances. In their nightmares they can envisage tax revenues collapsing, welfare commitments soaring, and borrowing costs mounting. The increased deficit, additional to current shortfalls, would require central banks to accelerate quantitative easing without limitation. To the policy planners, the reasons to bring interest rates both lower and back firmly under control are compelling.

Furthermore, officials believe that a rising stock market is necessary to maintain economic confidence. That also requires the enforcement of a new declining interest rate trend. The argument in favour of a new round of interest rate suppression becomes undeniable. But the effect on fiat currencies will accelerate their loss of purchasing power, undermining confidence in them and leading to yet higher interest rates in the future.

Either way, officialdom loses. And the public will pay the price for meekly going along with these errors.

Managing counterparty risk

Any recovery in financial asset values, such as that currently in play, is bound to be little more than a rally in an ongoing bear market. We must not forget that commercial bankers have to reduce their balance sheets ruthlessly if they are to protect their shareholders. Consequently, as over-leveraged international banks are at a heightened risk of failing in the new interest rate environment, their counterparties face systemic risks increasing sharply. To reduce exposure to these risks, all bankers are duty bound to their shareholders to shrink their obligations to other banks, which means that the estimated $600 trillion of notional over the counter (OTC) derivatives and on the back of it the additional $50 trillion regulated futures exchange derivatives will enter their own secular bear markets. OTC and regulated derivatives are the children of falling interest rates, and with a new trend of rising interest rates their parentage is bound to be tested.

We can now see a further reason why central banks will wish to suppress interest rates and support financial markets. Unless they do so, the risk of widespread market failures between derivative counterparties will threaten to collapse the entire global banking network. And that is in addition to existential risks from customer loan defaults and collapsing collateral values. Central banks will have to stand ready to rescue failing banks and underwrite the entire commercial system.

To avert this risk, they will wish to stabilise markets and prevent further increases in interest rates. And all central banks which have indulged in QE already have mark-to-market losses that have wiped out their own balance sheet equity. We now face the prospect of central banks that by any commercial measure are themselves financially broken, tasked with saving entire commercial banking networks.

When the trend for interest rates was for them to fall under the influence of increasing supplies of credit, the deployment of that credit was substantially directed into financial assets and increasing speculation. For this reason, markets soared while the increase in the general level of producer and consumer prices was considerably less than the expansion of credit suggested should be the case. That is no longer so, with manufacturers facing substantial increases in their input costs. And now, when they need it most, bank credit is being withdrawn.

It is not generally realised yet, but the financial world is in transition between economies being driven by asset inflation and suppressed commodity prices, and a new environment of asset deflation while commodity prices increase. And it is in the valuations of unanchored fiat currencies where this transition will be reflected most.

Physical commodities are set replace paper equivalents

The expansion of derivatives when credit was expanding served to soak up demand for commodities which would otherwise have gone into physical metals and energy. In the case of precious metals, this is admitted by those involved in the expansion of London’s bullion market from the 1980s onwards to have been a deliberate policy to suppress gold as a rival to the dollar.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, at the end of last year gold OTC outstanding swaps and forwards (essentially, the London Bullion Market) stood at the equivalent of 8,968 tonnes of bullion, to which must be added the 1,594 tonnes of paper futures on Comex giving an identified 10,662 tonnes. This is considerably more than the official reserves of the US Treasury, and even its partial replacement with physical bullion will have a major impact on gold values. Silver, which is an extremely tight market, is most of the BIS’s other precious metal statistics content and faces bullion replacement of OTC paper in the order of three billion ounces, to which we must add Comex futures equivalent to a further 700 million ounces.

On the winding down of derivative markets alone, the impact on precious metal values is bound to be substantial. Furthermore, the common mistake made by almost all derivative traders is to not understand that legal money is physical gold and silver — despite what their regulating governments force them to believe. What they call prices for gold and silver are not prices, but values imparted to legal money from depreciating currencies and associated credit.

While it may be hard to grasp this seemingly upside-down concept, it is vital to understand that so-called rising prices for gold and silver are in fact falling values for currencies. Some central banks, predominantly in Asia are taking advantage of this ignorance, which is predominantly displayed in western, Keynesian-driven derivative markets.

Perhaps after a currency hiatus and when market misconceptions are ironed out, we can expect legal money values to behave as they should. If a development which is clearly inflationary emerges, it should drive currency values lower relative to gold. But instead, in today’s markets we see them rise because speculators take the view that currencies relative to gold will benefit from higher interest rates. A pause for thought should expose the fallacy of this approach, where the true relationship between money and currencies is assumed away.

In the wake of the suspension of the Bretton Woods agreement and when the purchasing power of currencies subsequently declined, interest rates and the value of gold rose together. In February 1972, gold was valued at $85, while the Fed funds rate was 3.3%. On 21 January 1980 gold was fixed that morning at $850, and the Fed funds rate was 13.82%. When gold increased nine-fold, the Fed’s fund rate had more than quadrupled. And it required Paul Volcker to raise the funds rate to over 19% twice subsequently to slay the inflation dragon.

In the seventies, the excessive credit-driven speculation that we now witness was absent, along with the accompanying debt leverage in the financial sectors of western economies and in their banking systems. A Volcker-style rise in interest rates today would cause widespread bankruptcies and without doubt crash the entire global banking system. While markets might take us there anyway, as a deliberate act of official policy it can be safely ruled out.

We must therefore conclude that there is another round of currency destruction in the offing. Potentially, it will be far more extensive than anything seen to date. Not only will central-bank currency and QE expansion fund government deficits and attempt to compensate for the contraction of bank credit while supporting financial markets by firmly suppressing interest rates and bond yields, but insolvent central banks will be tasked with underwriting insolvent commercial banks.

At some stage, the inversion of monetary reality, where legal money is priced in fiat, will change. Instead of legal money being priced in fiat, fiat currencies will be priced in legal money. But that will be the death of the fiat swindle.


Source : Goldmoney

How Fiat Money Ruins Civilization

Jimmy Song wrote . . . . . . . . .

We want nice things. We want to live in a nice house, eat good food and have fulfilling relationships. We want to travel to exotic places, listen to great music and experience fun. We want to build something that lasts, achieve something great and leave a better world for tomorrow.

These are all part of being human, of participating in society and of progressing humanity. Unfortunately, all these things and more get ruined by fiat money. We want nice things, but we can’t have them, and the reason is because of fiat money.

Governments want the power to decree prosperity, fulfillment and progress into existence. They’re like the alchemists of yesteryear, who wanted to turn lead into gold through some formula. Actually — they’re worse. They’re like a five-year-old that thinks by wishing hard enough, that she can fly.

Being the delusional power-drunk politicians that they are, the elites think that by decreeing something to be so, it magically happens. That’s indeed where the word “fiat” comes from. The word literally means “Let there be,” — in Latin and in English, it’s become an adjective to describe creation by decree. This can be most easily seen in Genesis 1:3 in Latin. The phrase there is “fiat lux” which means “let there be light.”

Of course, creation by decree doesn’t quite work like it does in Genesis. If you want a building, you can’t just say, “Let there be a building.” Someone has to dig, pour a foundation, add framing, etc. Decrees don’t really do anything without capital and labor. In the absence of the market forces of supply and demand, decrees require people and resources to be enlisted. In other words, as much as governments would love for reality to be different, a decree by itself doesn’t really do anything. By itself, a decree is about as useless as an old man yelling at the sun. There has to be some coercion involved to fulfill the decree. Fiat decrees are a euphemism for using force and violence.

For buildings, it’s obvious that creation by decree doesn’t do anything. Yet for money, decreeing it into existence seems legit, maybe even compassionate. Keynesian economists see fiat money as something that by itself does something. Of course, they’re wrong and no amount of calling it “debt we owe to ourselves,” changes the fact that it’s theft. That’s about as honest as Enron’s accounting.

The deviousness of fiat money is that it makes government violence look like a market process. Fiat money printing steals from the other holders of the currency and pays people to do the government’s bidding. That theft is hidden and combined with a good dose of Keynesian propaganda, which makes fiat money seem innocuous, perhaps even benevolent.

In a sense, fiat money is less violent than other forms of fiat rule. But that’s like saying mobsters that give you a chance to pay them off are less violent than street thugs.

Dictators use obvious violence to compel their citizens to fulfill the desires of the dictator. Forced conscription, war and poverty are common in these societies, and theirs is a miserable existence with little human freedom to speak of. Fiat rule is terrible for humanity as can be clearly seen in how backwards the Soviet Union was or how backwards North Korea is now. Progress is very hard in a society built on slave labor.

Fiat money, by contrast, at least looks voluntary. Yet in many ways, it’s still very harmful to civilization. Fiat money is more like organized crime, which makes everything seem voluntary.

FIAT MONEY RUINS INCENTIVES

Fiat money ruins many market incentives. The reason is because there’s a special buyer in the market that has much less price sensitivity. That buyer, of course, is the fiat money creator. They can and do print money for all sorts of reasons — some benevolent (welfare for the poor), others not (military buildup). They spend like drunken sailors who just found pirate treasure.

The problem with a buyer like the government is that someone always sits in the middle. It’s not the “government” per se, that actually buys a fighter jet or an office building. There’s always someone that acts as an agent of the government that does this buying. The agent works on behalf of the government to procure various goods and services and the government entrusts the agent with the authority to spend on its behalf.

Unfortunately, this arrangement is ripe for abuse. The agents are essentially spending other peoples’ money for other peoples’ gain, so they aren’t incentivized to trade very efficiently. Their incentives are as skewed as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

When we are buying and selling in the market with our own money for our own benefit, we do complicated economic analyses to figure out whether we’ll benefit enough from the good or service to be willing to part with our money. Thus, we’ll be price sensitive and attempt to get the most value for the money we pay.

For a government bureaucrat that’s in charge of procurement, however, getting value for the money is not their priority. They are incentivized to spend in a way that’s for their own benefit and not the governments’. This doesn’t have to be in obvious ways as with bribes. They can spend much less time examining the goods and services, or buy from people that they like. The result is generally a bad trade where the agent gets some small benefit at a much larger expense to the government. In a sound money economy, the government would fire such people — but in a fiat money economy, the government doesn’t care as much since money is abundant and they’re not price-sensitive. You can do that when there’s a cookie jar that you can always steal from.

So in the final math, the agent benefits at the expense of everyone else. These people are what we call rent seekers. They don’t add any benefit but still get paid. And it’s not just government bureaucrats. If you are an investment banker that takes extremely leveraged bets, you are a rent seeker, too. Generally, they get to keep the profits when their investments win, but get bailed out when their investments lose. They, too, don’t add anything and leech off of society. What’s worse, these are supposed to be some of the most talented and driven people in society. Instead of building things that would benefit civilization, they’re engaged in grand larceny! Of course, they’re not the only ones guilty of rent-seeking theft. Sadly, most jobs in a fiat money society have a huge rent-seeking component.

One rule of thumb that we’ll get to later in this article about how to tell if something is rent seeking is by seeing how much of the job is political and not value-adding. The more politics involved, the more rent seeking there generally is.

Rent-seeking jobs cheat the system and when people have the incentive to cheat, many will. You only need to look at online gaming to know that. Cheating is attractive because it’s a lot easier than doing hard work and if the cheating is normalized, as it is today, there’s little moral impediment. We’ve all become that soccer player that pretends to be in pain to influence the referee.

Rent seeking is understandable since creating a good or service that the market wants is not only hard, but it’s very fickle. What you produce today is an innovation away from becoming obsolete. Rent-seeking positions, even with less compensation, are nevertheless more desirable because of their certainty. Is it any wonder that rent-seeking positions are so sought after?

Think about how many people want to become investment bankers, venture capitalists or politicians. They’re way more profitable than providing a good or service, require way less effort and have lots more certainty.

Fiat money incentives are more broke than Sam Bankman-Fried.

FIAT MONEY RUINS MERITOCRACY

The existence of so many rent-seeking positions means that a large part of the economy does not run on normal supply-demand market forces. Even the possibility of rent seeking means that goods and services need to account for a tilting of the playing field. Fiat money ruins meritocracy.

In a normal market system, the best products win. Not the most politically-connected products. Not the products that employ the most people. The best products win because they satisfy the needs and wants of more people. Fiat money changes the equation by adding politics.

When the government can print money, the people that benefit the most are the people that get access to that money first. This is called the Cantillon Effect and it’s the reason why rich people get richer without adding much, if anything. So how does the government determine who gets access to the money? As with everything government related, decisions on who gets what money is determined through politics. And when the money printer is political, everything else becomes political. Politics is a cancer that spreads through the entire market.

The “haves” in a fiat money economy tend to be the ones that are good political players. They know how to get newly printed money directed toward them and they have a large advantage over those that don’t. Politically savvy companies will do better than the non-politically savvy companies that make better products. Thus, surviving companies in a fiat money economy are very politically savvy. It’s no wonder so many companies seem to be led by politicians rather than entrepreneurs, especially as these companies age.

Thus, politically savvy incumbents have a tremendous advantage in a fiat money economy. They will saddle newcomers with regulatory costs and get subsidized by newly printed money, ossifying their position. The marketplace will be filled with older, worse goods and newer, better goods will never come to market given these unfair advantages. The incumbents get to play CalvinBall and change the rules whenever they’re losing.

Labor unions, zombie companies and old politicians are all indicators that institutions last way beyond their usefulness to society. They all use political means to make up for their lack in fulfilling market desires. The decrepit and the dying never die to make room for the innovative. Politics stifles entrepreneurialism and creativity. It is a cancer that destroys the good cells that keep the body alive.

Merit, in other words, has been overtaken by politics everywhere.

FIAT MONEY RUINS PROGRESS

The ubiquity of politics over merit means that it’s become harder than ever for civilization to improve. Better stuff doesn’t necessarily win and markets tilt toward the political. Fiat money protects the existing politically connected players against the newer, more dynamic players from gaining market share.

Hence, fiat money ruins progress. Civilization ossifies because the incumbent players have way more power to stop new players. The incumbents often will put up huge regulatory moats, under-price newer competitors through fiat subsidization, hire away the best employees with fiat money or as a last gasp, just buy out the new players altogether. All of these strategies work through access to newly printed money. The zombies survive by eating brains.

We should have nuclear powered everything right now, but that technology is completely stifled by regulation. Government can enforce this mandate through fiat money. Oil, natural gas and coal continue to dominate because we don’t make scientific progress on other ways to provide better energy. Technologies like wind and solar get government backing because they’re politically popular, despite their clear inferiority in variance, energy density and portability. We’re going backwards in energy.

The Luddites win in a fiat monetary system because fiat money and political considerations essentially force everything to stay the same. It’s profoundly conservative in that the old and decrepit are saved at the expense of the new and meritorious. If that sounds familiar, it should. That’s the exact math that was used to justify the lockdowns of the past few years.

We can see this dynamic in the airline industry. The time to travel from New York to London is worse now than it was 50 years ago. We can also see this dynamic in dishwashers. A dishwasher 50 years ago could clean a full load in under one hour. It now takes more than 3 hours. Regulations protect incumbents and put politics as a priority over merit. The result is that civilization doesn’t progress.

Instead, fiat money has regressed civilization. The nuclear engineers of yesteryear are working on React.js apps and scammy Web3 products because that’s where the money is. The inventors of yesteryear are investment bankers creating high-frequency trading systems. The incentives are broken — merit is no longer a consideration, so is it any wonder we’re regressing as a civilization?

We peaked as a civilization in 1969 when we landed a man on the moon. Everything since then hasn’t pushed humanity forward, but turned it inward. At best, it’s preserved what we already have. At worst, it’s destroying humanity’s progress.

What’s worse, all this rent seeking has inflamed the entitlement mindset. Having good political connections, these rent seekers think they are entitled to these negative-sum positions. Nothing is more toxic to progress than people whose incentives are to keep things from getting better. Fiat money changes productive people into entitled brats.

FIAT MONEY IS PROFOUNDLY CONSERVATIVE

Bad incentives are at the core of fiat money. If you can steal instead of work, most people will steal — and they can, through politics. Politics, unfortunately, is a negative-sum game and that means regression for civilization. Like war, politics is about consuming accumulated capital.

Fiat money redistributes wealth so that the incumbents can stick around. There’s little room for new ideas or new goods or new products because the incumbents have so much political clout.

Indeed, we’ve reached a tipping point where there’s more rent seekers than there are productive people creating stuff. How many people work email jobs? How many people even work? Way too many people are happy with an XBox, a mattress and pizza delivery. Do these people benefit society in any way? It’s no wonder so many people are so depressed.

The politicization and zombification of the economy has had real consequences in how society functions. Building codes make new forms of housing very difficult to build. Airline regulations make new designs completely illegal. Nuclear regulations make different, more efficient forms of energy really expensive.

Ancient industries, companies long past their expiration date suck productivity out of the economy. They provide little value, but continue getting subsidized through fiat money. Industries like oil, trains, airlines and cars have all become zombies and are protected from extinction through fiat money. Heck, even some electronics producers, and software companies, which are relatively new to the economy, are zombies at this point. The zombies are winning.

And the zombification is accelerating. Facebook probably transitioned from producer to rent seeker much more quickly, than, say, IBM.

Sadly, this is the reality of fiat money. The producers at a certain point turn into rent seekers as they politicize. The zombies soon start outnumbering the normal people and everything goes downhill.

BITCOIN FIXES THIS

The good news is that Bitcoin fixes these incentives. Removing fiat money means the normal market process of supply and demand and prices can work. Politics takes much less of a role and the zombification of the economy reverses. Civilization can progress again. Bitcoin is the antidote and the great hope for reversing the decline.

Unfortunately, we have about 100 years of rot to clear out and that’s going to take some time. The people most embedded in the current system, the Cantillon winners, such as Ivy League business school graduates, rich old people and bureaucrats of all types, are the least likely to convert to Bitcoin and will fight tooth and nail to preserve their positions. These people are not going away quietly and you can already see that they’re making their own bid to further zombify with CBDCs.

Thankfully, Bitcoin has the advantage of time on its side. The Cantillon losers, such as young people, citizens of developing countries and actual producers of goods and services will inevitably turn toward the much fairer system in Bitcoin. The zombies will be consuming themselves.

Welcome to the revolution. Now go save civilization.


Source : Bitcoin Magazine

12 Lessons on Money and More From Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger

Haywood Kelly wrote . . . . . . . . .

It’s easy for me to make a list of ideas from Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway that have influenced my own thinking and that of my fellow Buffett-heads here at Morningstar. The hard thing is confining the list to only 12. But here goes.

1) Be Skeptical of Exotic Financial Instruments

Buffett and Munger have been consistent critics of derivatives, catastrophe bonds, crypto, and other types of financial “innovation.” The way they run Berkshire Hathaway reflects this prudence. The company operates with very little debt and a large cushion of cash and investments, an approach that has influenced the way Morningstar manages its own balance sheet. The skepticism of Wall Street’s creativity in new-product development has influenced our analysts over the years when faced with the latest and greatest product offering from asset managers or investment banks.

One of my favorite Buffett quotes is, “If you’ve been playing poker for a half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.” Unfortunately, the financial industry is chock-full of players eager to induce you to play the game on their terms, always with a hefty entry fee attached. To this day, I’ll admit I’ve never bought or sold an option, shorted a stock, bought a triple-inverse-short ETF or 130/30 fund, dabbled in structured notes, or invested in a variable annuity. Simplicity is good. It certainly lowers costs.

2) Inflation Is Another Reason to Favor Moats

Until 2022, it had been easy to ignore inflation for about 40 years. But any student of Buffett’s writings knows that inflation was a regular topic of his in the 1970s and early 1980s. What he emphasized then was the difficulty for companies, especially those most exposed to inflationary cost pressures, to earn decent returns for shareholders in a period of high inflation. Very few companies—those with strong economic moats—can raise prices to offset the erosion of purchasing power. This underlying pricing power is one reason we like wide-moat companies so much. They’re better able to withstand what the macro environment throws their way. Now that inflation is back with a vengeance, it’s a good time to reread Buffett’s sobering inflation commentary.

3) Volatility Is Not Risk

My longtime boss at Morningstar was a Buffett and Munger fan, and the first words I ever heard out of her mouth were: “Beta is bullshit.” (I knew then that Morningstar would be an interesting place to work.) Given that writing massive insurance policies is a significant part of Berkshire Hathaway’s business, it’s no surprise that risk has consumed a large part of Buffett’s and Munger’s attention. They have a very different conception of risk than academic finance and its emphasis on metrics like beta or standard deviation. Financial academics like using volatility as a proxy for risk (largely because it’s so easy to measure), but that has the perverse effect of implyingthat an asset becomes riskier when it drops in price—the exact opposite of how a rational buyer thinks about a lower price. Risk, says Buffett, is the chance you suffer a permanent loss of capital. I’ve also appreciated that Buffett and Munger have consistently emphasized systemic and existential risks—for example, the risk that derivatives cause a series of financial institutions with interlocking exposures to collapse like dominoes, or the risk of nuclear war or biological infection (natural or otherwise). As investors and citizens, we need to acknowledge these risks and do what we can to minimize them.

4) Integrity Made Simple

Buffett famously said to the employees of Salomon Brothers when he stepped in to run the company in 1991: “Lose money for the firm, and I’ll be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I’ll be ruthless.” He also suggested the following as a guide to behavior: If you would be comfortable having your actions described in detail on the front page of your local newspaper, where your family and friends will read it, go ahead and do it. At Morningstar, we modified this to: Would you be comfortable with this appearing on page C1 of The Wall Street Journal?

5) Fund Boards Are Lap Dogs

That was Buffett’s conclusion in his classic 2002 letter to shareholders, and it certainly jibes with what Morningstar has seen over the years. Despite their explicit role as guardians for fund shareholders, fund directors—even independent directors—rarely push back against fund managers, and almost never vote to fire the fund manager. Buffett criticized corporate boards for the same reason: Their culture of rubber-stamping what management or compensation consultants put in front of them. (He’s even been critical of his own performance as a board member.) The lesson: Look for board members with business experience and skin in the game (in the form of meaningful ownership in the company they oversee), but even then don’t expect much. Most important is that the management team and other employees have integrity (see previous point). Hoping that a board of directors, no matter how independent on paper, can effectively police a management team is a pipe dream.

6) In Investing, It’s OK to Do Nothing

Buffett compared investing to a baseball hitter waiting for a fat pitch—a nice straight ball down the heart of the plate. But unlike in baseball, in investing you’re not called out after three strikes. You can let as many pitches whiz past as you want. This concept of patience has influenced the way we rate stocks at Morningstar in that we have no minimum number of stocks we have to rate 5-stars; sometimes we have very few stocks we recommend. In my personal portfolio, I’ve never felt pressure to swing if I’m not comfortable. Letting cash pile up is fine. There will usually be a market correction at some point to bring prices down again to attractive levels.

7) Always Be Learning

Both Buffett and Munger are always reading, and Munger in particular emphasizes the importance of science—including an understanding of evolution—as essential for understanding what makes people tick. Many of my favorite books were Munger recommendations, including Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, and Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Such eclecticism has always influenced the hiring philosophy at Morningstar. We’d much rather hire someone with intellectual curiosity than a narrow focus on finance. Munger once said, “You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

8) The Markets Are Good, but Not Perfect

Having studied economics at the University of Chicago, I started my professional career with a firm faith in the wisdom of markets. Fortunately (at least in retrospect), my first job was analyzing Japanese stocks just as the bubble in Japanese asset prices, arguably the most egregious asset-price bubble in history, was bursting. It was an early lesson that sometimes markets go haywire—or more precisely, the people who make up markets go haywire and come to believe that trees grow to the sky. It’s amusing now to think about it now, but serious people in the late 1980s and early 1990s concocted stories about why price/earnings ratios of 80 or 90, which were common in Japan at the time, were reasonable, or recommended allocating 30% or 40% of a portfolio to Japanese stocks because that offered the optimal mix of risk and reward. Reading Buffett and the kinds of books Buffett and Munger recommend, you come to internalize that while markets usually do a wonderful job of allocating capital, they’re only as reliable as the (imperfect) humans making up the market.

9) Index Funds Are a Wonderful Invention

This may appear at odds with the previous point about imperfect markets, but it’s actually not. Markets may sometimes go haywire, but it’s still mighty hard to outperform them. When I started at Morningstar in 1991, it seemed the only fans of index funds were Jack Bogle, a few university professors, and a handful of academically minded financial advisors. Index funds made up a tiny percentage of overall fund assets. My, how things have changed. One might think Buffett—the quintessential active investor—would have been among the biggest detractors of index funds. I remember many Morningstar conferences at which active managers pooh-poohed index funds as un-American or as settling for mediocrity. (Most of these managers are long gone.) Buffett, by contrast, has consistently heaped praise on index funds as the best way for most investors to gain exposure to the stock market. He repeatedly singled out Bogle for special praise for launching the index revolution. Buffett showed that intellectually you can embrace both active and passive investing—it’s not either/or.

10) No Good Investor Is Either “Value” or “Growth”

Munger famously helped induce Buffett to move beyond Ben Graham’s cigar-butt-style of value investing (which consists of looking for stocks with one good puff left in them) and embrace great companies—even if it means paying higher prices for them. The key insight is that the worth of any company is a function of its growth prospects and how confident one can be that the growth will materialize. You shouldn’t analyze a “value” company any differently than a “growth” company. While we popularized the distinction between growth and value with the Morningstar Style Box—and it is a helpful shorthand to see what kind of companies a particular fund manager favors—from the perspective of a stock investor, to think of value and growth as separate investing styles is a mistake.

11) What It Means to Win the Birth Lottery

The final two lessons apply to life in general and not just the little corner of life we spend investing. Buffett has emphasized how lucky he was to be born where he was (the United States) and when he was (the 20th century). Had he been born in another time and place, his somewhat specialized talents of company assessment would have been worthless. He’s called this the birth lottery. It’s a good reminder to all of us the role luck has played in our lives. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been pretty darn lucky. I know I have.

12) The Key to Happiness

The key to a happy marriage isn’t a beautiful spouse, smart kids, or pleasant conversation. No, say Buffett and Munger, the key to a happy marriage is finding someone with low expectations.

The same holds for reading articles like this one; I hope you clicked on it with sufficiently low expectations. And the same holds true for investment success. I make a habit of mentally lopping off 30% of whatever my portfolio value happens to be, simply because stuff happens. Generalizing this bit of wisdom, I’d suggest that low expectations are pretty much the best way to ensure a lack of regrets on one’s deathbed. And the best way not to be disappointed after death, too!


Source : Morning Star

Infographic: Dove vs. Hawk – The Financial Conditions Index

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

In Latest Recession Signal, Money-Supply Growth Plummeted to a Three-Year Low in August

Ryan McMaken wrote . . . . . . . . .

Money supply growth fell again in August, dropping to a 36-month low. August’s drop continues a steep downward trend from the unprecedented highs experienced during much of the past two years. During the thirteen months between April 2020 and April 2021, money supply growth in the United States often climbed above 35 percent year over year, well above even the “high” levels experienced from 2009 to 2013.

During August 2022, year-over-year (YOY) growth in the money supply was at 4.35 percent. That’s down from July’s rate of 4.84 percent, and down from August 2021’s rate of 8.28 percent. The growth rate peaked in February 2021 at 23.12 percent.

The growth rates during most of 2020, and through April 2021, were much higher than anything we’d seen during previous cycles, with the 1970s being the only period that came close. Since then, however, we have seen a fast fall from previous highs and such rapid declines generally point to economic contraction in following months.

The money supply metric used here—the “true” or Rothbard-Salerno money supply measure (TMS)—is the metric developed by Murray Rothbard and Joseph Salerno, and is designed to provide a better measure of money supply fluctuations than M2. The Mises Institute now offers regular updates on this metric and its growth. This measure of the money supply differs from M2 in that it includes Treasury deposits at the Fed (and excludes short-time deposits and retail money funds).

In recent months, M2 growth rates have followed a similar course to TMS growth rates. In August 2022, the M2 growth rate was 4.077 percent. That’s down from July’s growth rate of 5.25 percent. August’s rate was also well down from August 2021’s rate of 13.42 percent. M2 growth peaked at a new record of 26.91 percent during February 2021.

Money supply growth can often be a helpful measure of economic activity, and an indicator of coming recessions. During periods of economic boom, money supply tends to grow quickly as commercial banks make more loans. Recessions, on the other hand, tend to be preceded by slowing rates of money supply growth. However, money supply growth tends to begin growing again before the onset of recession.

Another indicator of recession appears in the form of the gap between M2 and TMS. The TMS growth rate typically climbs and becomes larger than the M2 growth rate in the early months of a recession. This occurred in the early months of the 2001 and the 2007–09 recession. A similar pattern appeared before the 2020 recession.

Notably, this has happened again beginning in May this year as the M2 growth rate in fell below the TMS growth rate for the first time since 2020. Put another way, when the difference between M2 and TMS moves from a positive number to a negative number, that’s a fairly reliable indicator the economy has entered into recession. We can see this in this graph:

In the two “false alarms” over the past 30 years, the M2-TMS gap reverted to positive territory fairly quickly. However, when this gap firmly enters negative territory, that is an indicator that the economy is already in recession. The gap has now been negative for 3 of the past 5 months. Interestingly, this indicator also appears to follow the pattern of yield curve inversion. For example, the 2s/10s yield inversion went negative in all the same periods where the M2-TMS gap pointed to a recession. Moreover, the 2s/10s inversion was very briefly negative in 1998, and then almost went negative in 2018.

This is not surprising because trends in money supply growth have long appeared to be connected to the shape of the yield curve. As Bob Murphy notes in his book Understanding Money Mechanics, a sustained decline in TMS growth often reflects spikes in short-term yields, which can fuel a flattening or inverting yield curve. Murphy writes:

When the money supply grows at a high rate, we are in a “boom” period and the yield curve is “normal,” meaning the yield on long bonds is much higher than on short bonds. But when the banking system contracts and money supply growth decelerates, then the yield curve flattens or even inverts. It is not surprising that when the banks “slam on the brakes” with money creation, the economy soon goes into recession.

In other words, a sizable drop in the TMS growth levels often precedes an inversion in the yield curve, which itself points to an impending recession. Strong recession signals can be found elsewhere, as well. GDP growth turned negative in both the first and second quarter of this year, and two consecutive quarters of negative growth virtually always indicate recession. Average national home price growth in the US has recently turned negative for the first time in a decade. Real weekly earnings have gone negative for the past 17 months in a row. Consumer debt is surging as consumers borrow more money to make ends meet in this inflationary environment.

In other words, numerous other indicators point to just what we would expect: economic weakness and recession following a drop in money supply growth.


Source : Mises Institute

Chart: Annual U.S. Social Security Cost-of-living Adjustment

Source : CNBC

Infographic: World Cup in Qatar – The Most Expensive Ever

Source : Statista

Deflation Risks Loom in China Amid Property Crisis, Survey Shows

China faces increasing risks from deflation as demand crumbles under the weight of an ongoing property crisis and is threatened by continued Covid restrictions — a stark contrast with other major economies, according to a private survey.

Companies reported the weakest growth in sales prices since the last quarter of 2020 in the three months through September, according to indexes compiled by China Beige Book International in a report published Tuesday. That’s despite wages and input costs picking up slightly from the previous quarter.

CBBI, a provider of independent economic data, polled 4,354 firms during the period.

“While nearly the whole world panics over surging inflation, the specter of deflation looms over China thanks to the demand-crushing effects of Covid Zero,” said Leland Miller, chief executive officer of CBBI, in a statement.

The bulk of the deflationary pressure has so far come from the property industry, according to the report, which noted that retail and services industries each saw prices accelerate in the third quarter. Lockdowns in areas such as Shanghai and Jilin province, which curbed activity earlier in the year, were lifted by the summer, although other cities such as Chengdu have been locked down more recently.

Home prices slumped for the 12th straight month in August. And homeowners are citing a wider range of concerns — from poor construction to noise pollution — as justification to boycott mortgage payments, deepening the property crisis.

“A closer look at our sector results provides some relief,” the report said, noting the pickup in retail and services. “So no need to worry. Unless, of course, you think winter could bring broader lockdowns, undo retail and services price gains, and shove deflation concerns to the foreground.”

China’s headline consumer price index rose 2.5% in August as pork prices continued to climb and fuel costs remained elevated. But the pace of the increase slowed from a month prior, and core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — was unchanged at 0.8% last month.

Turmoil in the housing market is pointing to “a new era of much slower growth” for China, as the government has failed to put in place policies that would stimulate consumption, Miller said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“Property has been taken out as a growth driver going forward, so you’re gonna have much slower growth completely independent of what’s happening with Covid,” said Miller. “So you got this very difficult situation where you’re shifting away from the old model of growth, but you don’t have immediately obvious new growth drivers.”

The CBBI survey also painted a worrying picture for the manufacturing industry. Indicators including those for profit margins and sales prices in the third quarter deteriorated, both compared to the April-to-June period and to the third quarter of 2021.

Retail and services showed a recovery in those indicators from the second quarter, though they remained below 2021 levels.

Corporate borrowing activity, meanwhile, continued to decline in the third quarter, suggesting the People’s Bank of China’s policies of monetary easing have yet to significantly impact companies. A CBBI gauge measuring corporate loans slumped to the lowest level since data began in 2012, while another gauge measuring company bond issuances tumbled to the worst since 2016.

“Firms don’t want to plan for the future if they don’t know the future. And to know the future, they need to get rid of Covid Zero,” said Miller in an interview with Bloomberg TV.


Source : BNN Bloomberg

Singapore Overtakes Hong Kong in World Financial Centers Ranking

Alex Millson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Singapore has overtaken Hong Kong to become Asia’s top financial center — and the third in the world — according to a new report that puts New York and London in the first and second spots.

Hong Kong slipped to fourth place, battered by strict Covid restrictions and an exodus of talent, while San Francisco moved up two spots to round out the Global Financial Centres Index’s top five.

Hong Kong is struggling to revive its role as a global finance hub as it continues to follow China’s lead in trying to keep Covid cases to a minimum, while the rest of the world opens up. A November summit of global bankers, designed to restore confidence in the city, has secured pledges from some 20 leading firms to send top executives. But uncertainty surrounding the easing of quarantine rules, which has kept visitor numbers low, still threatens to affect turnout.

Singapore, on the other hand, is expecting to see more than 4 million visitors in 2022. A slate of high-profile events including the Milken Institute Asia Summit, the Forbes Global CEO Conference and the Singapore Grand Prix will help to raise the city’s profile as a travel destination.

The Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen all maintained spots in the GFCI’s top 10, in spite of crippling Covid mitigation measures that have effectively cut the country off from the rest of the world.

Other findings in the report were:

  • Paris made a return to the top 10, while Tokyo tumbled to 16th place
  • Sydney leapt 10 spots up the ranks to number 13
  • Dubai and Abu Dhabi reigned supreme in the Middle East, sitting in 17th and 32nd place respectively
  • Russian financial centers suffered as a result of the war in Ukraine, with Moscow down 22 places to 73, and St Petersburg falling 17 places to 114
  • Barbados, Xi’an and Wuhan were the bottom three locations on the list

The index, compiled by think tanks Z/Yen Partners and the China Development Institute, ranks 119 financial centers and uses data collected from thousands of financial services professionals responding to an online questionnaire.


Source : BNN Bloomberg

Americans Have Lost $4,200 in Annual Income Under the Biden Administration

New economic numbers show that the average American has lost the equivalent of $4,200 in annual income under the Biden administration because of inflation and higher interest rates.

Heritage experts calculated this shocking number based on different sets of data. Consumer prices have risen 12.7% since January 2021, significantly faster than wages, so that the average American worker has lost $3,000 in annual purchasing power. Further, as the Federal Reserve implements tighter monetary policy to reduce inflation, interest rates are rising. Higher rates have in turn increased borrowing costs on mortgages, vehicle loans, credit cards, and more. The higher interest rates and borrowing costs have effectively reduced the average American’s purchasing power another $1,200 on an annualized basis.

EJ Antoni, research fellow in regional economics with The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, released the following statement Thursday evening on his findings:

“Simply put, working Americans are $4,200 poorer today than when Biden took office. This financial catastrophe for American families is the direct result of a president and Congress addicted to spending our money, combined with a Federal Reserve compliantly enabling this addiction by printing more dollars. Washington recklessly spent trillions of dollars it did not have and paid for it with newly printed money, causing rampant inflation that has destroyed people’s purchasing power and jeopardized Americans’ financial futures.

“Instead of correcting course over a year ago when inflation began rising, the Biden administration and Congress continued the profligate spending spree and the Fed let the printing presses roll. Many Americans have taken on additional debt to cope with higher living costs. Now, the Fed is finally fighting inflation, which is pushing up interest rates and increasing financing costs. Rates on all kinds of consumer debt are rising. Mortgage interest rates have doubled since Biden took office, greatly increasing Americans’ monthly payments.

“We are in vicious spiral, but it’s one of Joe Biden, the Democrat-controlled Congress, and the Fed’s own making.”

BACKGROUND: Under former President Trump’s low-inflation economy, the average American worker’s real annual earnings increased by $4,000. That has been completely wiped out in about a year and a half under the Biden administration. Despite seeing the failure of various policies, such as paying people more to stay home than remain employed, the Biden administration has doubled down on these mistakes so that families can no longer afford to live in Biden’s America.


Source : Heritage.org