Gettin’ High on Bubbles

By Keith Weiner

Back in the drug-soaked, if not halcyon, days known at the sexual and drug revolution—the 1960’s—many people were on a quest for the “perfect trip”, and the “perfect hit of acid” (the drug lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD). We will no doubt generate some hate mail for saying this, but we don’t believe that anyone ever attained that goal. The perfect drug-induced high does not exist. Even if it seems fun while it lasts, the problem is that the consequences spill over into the real world.

Today, drunk on falling interest rates, people look for the perfect speculation. Good speculations generally begin with a story. For example dollar-collapse. And then an asset gets bid up to infinity and beyond (to quote Buzz Lightyear, who is not so close a friend as our buddy Aragorn). It happened in silver in 2010-2011. It happened more recently in bitcoin.

Most speculators don’t care about the economic causes and effects of bubbles. They just want to buy an asset as the bubble begins inflating, and sell just before it pops. But bitcoin and many gold proponents are different. They promise that their favorite asset will cure many social ills, fix many intractable problems, and increase liberty. Oh yeah and get-rich-quick.

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Milking the Savers

By Keith Weiner

Do you want to lend your hard-earned money to the US government? In exchange for the high, high interest rate of 2.8%? It’s a most generous deal, even though the Federal Reserve is committed to dollar devaluation at the rate of 2% per annum. So you are getting 0.8% per year, assuming that the Fed hits its goal. In exchange for lending to a profligate and counterfeit borrower—the government has neither the means nor intent to repay.

No, you don’t? This sounds like a bad deal? Well, tough.

It sucks, but if you need to hold a cash balance, your other choices suck more. Instead of lending to the government, you could deposit the cash in a bank. There’s only one problem. The bank will lend to the government. After taking out the costs of compliance, this rate is 2% according to the St Louis Fed.

This is actually up from 0.13% over the last three years, in our current bout of risinginterestrate-itis. Enjoy this high rate while you can.

In any case, the bank adds risk. On top of all of the risks you incur by lending to the government, you take the risk of bank insolvency too. The government does provide deposit insurance—but this is the same government whose risk you are trying to avoid by not buying its bonds.

Finally, you could hold paper cash, $20 bills. Ignoring the risk of theft, there is still a problem with this. You are lending to the Fed. The Fed issues dollars, which are its liability, to fund its purchase of Treasury bonds. The dollar is backed by government bonds.

To have a dollar is not to own a thing. It is a credit relationship. Someone else owes you. If you own the dollar bill, the Fed owes you.

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U.S. Dollar: Why it Pays to Use the Elliott Wave Model

By Elliott Wave International

The signs that could’ve helped you nail two junctures in the greenback’s trend

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi believed that a winning team is built on mastering the game’s basics — so much so that at the start of the season he would “remind” veteran players, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Lombardi would even take them out to the field, discuss the boundaries and remind the players that the goal is to get the football into the end zone.

This relentless review of the basics paid off. His team, the Green Bay Packers, won five championships, including the first Super Bowl.

It also pays to master the basics of Elliott wave analysis.

The basic Elliott wave pattern for financial markets is five waves in the direction of the main trend with corrections, i.e., moves against the trend, unfolding in three waves.

So, in an uptrend, prices would rise in five waves and fall in three waves. In a downtrend, prices would fall in fives and rise in three waves.

With that in mind, let’s review how our U.S. Short Term Update editor made this bearish call on the U.S. Dollar Index last November.

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Slaves to Government Debt Paper

By Keith Weiner

Picture, if you will, a group of slaves owned by a cruel man. Most of them are content, but one says to the others, “I will defy the Master.” While his statement would superficially appear to yearn towards freedom, it does not. It betrays that this slave, just like the others, thinks of the man who beats them as their “Master” (note the capital M). This slave does not seek freedom, but merely a small gesture of disloyalty. Of course, he will not get his liberty (but maybe a beating).

Today we do not have slavery, but we are shackled nevertheless. Savers are forced to use the government’s debt paper as if it were money. Most are content, but one says “gold will go up.” He does not expect a beating (but maybe a price suppression).

The slave cannot escape from his bondage, until he stops thinking of the brute as “Master” with a capital M. Freedom does not come from a little show of resentment. So long as malcontent slaves are content to limit themselves to petty disobedience, the Master is content that his rule is absolute. Freedom first takes an act of thinking. One must see the brute for what he is.

Today’s investor cannot escape from the bondage of the Federal Reserve, until he stops thinking of the dollar as “Money” with a capital M. So long as malcontent investors are content to limit themselves to betting on the dollar-price of gold, the Federal Reserve is content that its rule is absolute. Freedom takes an act of thinking. One must see the dollar for what it is.

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Standing Ready to Lease Gold

By Keith Weiner

We will take another break from capital destruction, to treat a topic which has come up this week. On March 11, we said:

“…central bankers do not think about gold.

Granted, they once did. In the 1960’s, there was the now-infamous London Gold Pool to keep the price of gold at $35. This is endlessly cited as evidence of current central bank price suppression, without bothering to mention that until 1971 the official US policy was to maintain the dollar to gold exchange rate of $35 to the ounce. …

But today? We see no sign that central bankers care about the price of gold.”

This turned out to be very controversial. Some conspiracy theorists cited Deputy Secretary of State Thomas O. Enders in 1974. The State Department records the minutes of a meeting with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Here is an excerpt:

“Henry Wallich, the international affairs man, this morning indicated he would probably adopt the traditional position that we should be for phasing gold out of the international monetary system…”

Changing the Dollar

This meeting can only be understood in context. So let’s review three key changes to the dollar that led up to it. The dollar had long been redeemable in gold. However, in 1933 President Roosevelt was desperate to stop the run on the banks (and to push interest rates down). He ended gold redeemability to Americans in 1933 (and criminalized the possession of gold).

When the soon-to-be-victorious Allied Powers met in 1944 at Bretton Woods, they agreed to an insane postwar monetary system, in which the national currencies would be pegged to the US dollar which would be redeemable in gold at a fixed exchange rate. This system contained the seeds of its own destruction as Robert Triffin said in the 1960’s. However, the Allied economies were in ruins (not to mention the Axis)—so who was in a position to say no?

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Dollar Strength Is Hiding In Plain Sight

By Heisenberg

And One Strategist Says It’s Here To Stay

Overnight, the yen rose against all its G10 peers because Donald Trump has lost his mind completely and is now firing everyone in sight.

On Thursday evening, the Washington Post reported that a “very stable genius” called “Dennison” is now planning on ridding himself of national security adviser H.R. McMaster who, according to some accounts, once called Trump an “idiot” with “the intelligence of a kindergartner” at a dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz.

This kind of thing usually gets reflected in risk appetite one way or another and right now USDJPY is even more of a natural expression than it would be anyway thanks to a variety of factors not the least of which is that the ongoing land scandal has everyone on edge about Aso and ultimately Abe, which in turn raises questions about the future of Abenomics. Here’s USDJPY overnight:

USDJPY

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Super-Duper-Irrational Exuberance, Report

By Keith Weiner

Think back to the halcyon days of the dot com boom. This was a time after Greenspan declared “irrational exuberance”. Long Term Capital Management collapsed in 1998, and Greenspan decided to risk propelling exuberance to a level beyond irrational. Super-duper-irrational exuberance?

Anyway, Greenspan cut interest rates a few times in late 1998. Technology companies were able to raise $5 million or more with just a sketch on a napkin (“serviette” for those outside the US). Companies at a “later stage”, though without revenues, could raise $30 million. A company called “Webvan” was able to raise nearly a billion dollars without ever becoming profitable.

These companies should not have been able to raise so much capital. At any given point in the development of a company, there are only so many things that need spending. Not to mention can be justified to investors.

It is obvious in retrospect that those particular companies wasted investor money (if not the broader principles), after investors booked the losses, but it was anything but clear at the time. Keith recalls debating the so called hypothesis of efficient markets with some people who believed that all market prices are correct. That all changes in price are random, unpredictable.

We have written a lot about how falling interest rates cause capital consumption. It drives speculation, which is a process of conversion of one speculator’s wealth into another’s income. No one wants to spend his wealth, but people are happy to spend their income.

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Gold is a Giant Ouija Board

By Keith Weiner

We have been promising to get back to the topic of capital destruction, which we put on hiatus for the last several weeks to make our case that the interest rate remains in a falling trend. Today, we have a different way of looking at capital destruction.

Socialism is the system of seeking out and destroying capital. Redistribution means taking someone’s capital and handing it over as income to someone else. The rightful owner would steward and compound it, not consume it. But the recipient of unearned free goodies happily and uncaringly eats it up. Socialism is not sustainable. It inherits seed corn from a prior, happier system, and it lasts only as long as the seed corn.

Totalitarian Socialism

There are different flavors of socialism. The 20th century witnessed an aggressive totalitarian form. Both communism and Naziism feature military occupation of domestic territory and conquest of foreign lands. Few people willingly feed whatever they have into the sausage grinder of State sacrificial collectivism. And so totalitarian socialism has armed thugs all over the streets, both open military and secret police. There are frequent killings, of those suspected of disloyalty or holding back small scraps. In their constant fear of uprising, they use disappearances, interrogations, and torture to root out the names of traitors to their bloody revolution.

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