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Eugen von Böhm Bawerk

Eugen von Böhm Bawerk



Articles by Eugen von Böhm Bawerk

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Retirees Desperate Reach for Yield

June 10, 2017

Ben Bernanke’s creativity inspired a generation of economists and central bankers. QE, ZIRP and NIRP established a new class of economics that is mathematically sound but practically disastrous. Billions of dollars were transferred from savers to investors to boost the economy, but the wizards of quant forgot that something has to give. In this case, it was the formation of a pension crisis that threatens the golden years of millions of retirees across the world. None of the econometrics models provide a solution for the growing gap in pension funding, other than unsustainable debt accumulation.

Creativity cascaded to the less sophisticated pension fund managers. In a desperate reach for yields they increased

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Chinese Philosopher Kings, Losing their Yuan FX Religion?

January 4, 2017

It took a while, but the world are slowly coming to grips with the simple fact that the red-suzerains in Beijing are not the infallible leaders en route to a new superior economic model as they thought they were. All the craze that emanated from the spurious work of Joshua Cooper Ramo, which eventually led to works like “How China’s Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century,” are slowly catching up to reality. We never bought into it and our prediction for 2017 is that most of the pundits commenting on the red Dragon will realize how bad the situation in China really is.  That being said, there were still Japan-bulls in the late 1990s that still believed Japan would eventually become the largest economy on the planet and dominate the world. If we are right, the heliocentric worldview China apparently is taking will quickly turn geocentric, just as it is about to do in the western world. Domestic problems will engulf the leadership in Beijing, and there will be less time to squabble over petty reefs in the South China Sea. The danger is obviously that the political establishment in China will be in dire need to distract the hordes of angry masses that are about to lose their life savings.

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How to Invest in the New World Order

December 26, 2016

In our latest Toward a New World Order, Part III we ended by promising to look closer at investment implications from the political and economic shift we currently find ourselves in; and that story must begin with the dollar. While known to the investing public for years, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) recently acknowledge that the real risk-off / risk-on metric in global markets is the dollar and nothing else.
In the chart below, which we recreated from an absolute brilliant presentation by Macro Intelligence 2 Partners via RealVision-TV, we see the potential scale of the coming “dollar-problem”.  The dollar moves in cycles as most things. The lower extreme around 84, only broken when Bernanke pushed through QE2, means financial conditions for emerging markets and other commodity producing economies have gotten so out of hand that conventional risk-metrics finally lead investors to pull back. The trigger, as can be seen in the chart, is often policy driven, but the underlying structural imbalance has been building for years, if not decades, prior.
Before we move on it is of utmost importance to understand that many of the dollar liabilities accumulated outside the United States are not backed by actual dollars, but are rather claims to dollar proper.

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Toward A New World Order, part III

December 19, 2016

A new world order is coming of age and the transition is painful to accept for a Western middle class with a deep-seated sense of entitlement. We showed how the West feels threatened globally in Toward a New World Order and followed up explaining how this translate into domestic politics in Toward a New World Order Part II. We will now continue this series by showing how gross economic mismanagement have created the new political class that we described in part two. As we stated back then, a large and increasing part of the electorate, swayed by neither the political correct socialist/feminist/cultural relativist dogma presented by the left, nor the lip service paid to free markets by a corrupted right, have taken hold in western democracies. They form a directionless blob of potential voters which until recently have drifted aimlessly along the political spectrum. Now they have made up their mind and it is proving pundits clueless as to what is going on. The “worker” making millions on Wall Street or by helping Google refine their search engine is not the same “worker” we find in flyover America. The young billionaire making apps to entertain confused millennials and snowflakes is not the same capitalist as the shale oil investor we might encounter in North Dakota.

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Toward a New World Order, Part II

November 12, 2016

True Political Axis
One of the most widespread misconceptions in the realm of politics is the notion of a left-right axis. This has been used over and over to explain political outcomes and paint the various factions as polar opposites. For example, in the US the two main parties, the Republicans (right) and Democrats (left), are often portrayed as a fight between good and evil. Which party representing good and which one is advocates of evil is highly subjective and obviously, “our” team is always considered good, while “they” are evil. Then there are factions to the right and left of mainstream parties which are then considered extreme versions of left and right. To the right of right-of-center you find somewhat confusing a hodgepodge of various totally unrelated groupings such free-market libertarians, racists and fascists. On the left of left-of-center we find the usual socialists and communists.
This makes very little sense and as we have shown on these pages earlier, the chart below gives a much better description of the political reality. Libertarians are the polar opposite of fascists, but the left-right axis bundle them together on the far right side. By doing so libertarians are easy to dismiss as simple-minded racists.

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Toward a New World Order?

November 11, 2016

Share of World GDP
A Brave New World is coming? Perhaps. We had a recent discussion with a group of people in the hopeless business of doing long term forecasting. This made us think about what the world will look like over the next 20 to 40 years. A pretty thankless task, but the bottom line is without a damn good war, Asia will be the way of the future.
As an experiment, assume, as most long term forecasters do, that both Europe and the US have reached a mature plateau where growth will average around 1.5 to 2 per cent over the long term, while China will slowly decelerate from the current 6.5 to 3 per cent and India from today`s 7 to around 4. In this scenario (which we do not necessarily believe in, as China is up for en epic crash) what will be the share of global GDP by, say, 2060? And what are the geopolitical implications?
Using data from Angus Maddison, the IMF and then extrapolating with our simple assumptions (which are just as good as any) we get the following picture.
In international dollar terms (PPP) China is already the world largest economy. By 2060, under the abovementioned assumptions, China will constitute almost 30 per cent of global GDP, almost reaching the level Western Europe had when establishing the European dominance over the world.

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“Subtle forward guidance”: The marriage between best practice central banking and commodity markets

October 19, 2016

In the years following the 2008 crash and today, the use of forward guidance from central banking policy makers has become increasingly important. What this nonsense ultimately has translated into is a ridiculous track record in posting upbeat assessments on the economic environment, aimed at trying to fool the marginal investor into believing “there are no need for worry, central bankers have everything under control”. Unsurprisingly, as with all psychological conditioning, forward guidance have lost its effect as more and more market participants lose confidence in central banks and their promise that everything will eventually mean revert to happier days. Contrary to what the smartest people on the planet are saying. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

This unfortunate practice is making in-roads into the most important of commodity markets: crude oil. Ever since the last QE taper in June 2014 triggered a dollar rally and a corresponding crash in oil prices, OPEC has been struggling to find its role in this new normal. Market power has, with the emergence of QE and ZIRP/NIRP, been moved to a different set of central planners than themselves, namely those controlling the flow of credit into and around the system.

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Do our money managers really believe this will end well?

October 9, 2016

Central banks are currently creating the mother of all bubbles. To my view it was caused by masses of cheap labor in China that entered the global economy in the early 1990s.This reduced inflation and interest rates, while Chinese productivity continously improved, in particular when rural workers came into the cities.The mother of all bubbles will pop at the latest, when Chinese wages approach Western levels.

An economic bubble is essentially an economic activity that cannot sustain itself without a continuous influx of new money and credit to bid away real resources from self-funding endeavors. Financial bubbles are obviously closely related as financial assets are derivatives of underlying real production of goods and services. For example, an Apple stock is a derivative of the economic good emanating from peoples use of their cell phones. If the value placed on the services rendered from their product is high, the financial asset should reflect this through a high share price.
Aggregating this concept to include all assets and all production does not change the conclusion; valuations must reflect output somehow. In other words, there should be a causal connection between the value of assets and their ability to create output.

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The Road to Fascism in Just Two Charts

September 19, 2016

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Laws of politics have been turned upside down. The Intellectuals Yet Idiots can make no sense of it. The underdog who ‘tell it how it is’ appeal to people while established reasoning does not.

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Labour Productivity, Taxes and Okun’s Law

September 4, 2016

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The great “science” of economics once discovered an empirical relationship between GDP and unemployment that has been dubbed Okun’s Law. It simply states that the unemployment rate rises as GDP contracts, or vice versa, as production shrinks less peo…

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The Dos Santos Succession Saga

August 21, 2016

Arguably one of the easier calls for us to make after 37 years in power was that President dos Santos would find ways of affording himself another 5 years in. Like any ‘effective’ leader, Mr. Santos made sure the final deal to do just that was stitched up long before the Party Congress formally convenes in Luanda, with a lower level MPLA ‘Central Committee’ already rubber stamping his name in mid-August. That also happened to be alongside large numbers of newly minted committee members, all loyal to the Santos clan (including family relations no less) to secure his overall patronage base. All that now remains is the relatively trivial issue of winning the actual 2017 Presidential election, where Santos maintains a monopoly over all MPLA power and positions via rigged PR lists. For most observers it’s pretty tempting to stop writing about Luanda there as an ‘open-closed’ Santos case, but the real political subplot to watch next year is who actually wins the Vice Presidential nomination alongside Mr. Santos. Why? Because it plays directly into longer term succession plans. The ‘official line’ – at least for those who buy it – is rather than seeing out another full term to 2022, Santos will step down in 2018, passing the baton to the new VP.

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Toward Stagflation

August 19, 2016

Norway Real House Price Per M2
We have all heard the incredible stories of housing riches in commodity producing hotspots such as Western Australia and Canada. People have become millionaires simply by leveraging up and holding on to properties. These are the beneficiaries of a global money-printing spree that pre-dates the financial crisis by decades. The road toward such outsized gains in property is not paved with some global savings glut concocted by theoretical economists, but have rather been a process whereby the US leveraged up its economy-wide asset base allowing the Chinese to print ‘dollars’ with abandon. China, being a top-down system favoured fix asset investments as a means to grow their economy; the newly minted ‘dollars’ were thus used to bid on international commodities. That this increased the nominal values of tangibles, especially commodities with a direct Chinese bid, should come as no surprise. However, now that the Chinese economy is trying to move away from a system based on slave labour, foreign direct investment and exports to an overleveraged world, fixed asset investment growth is slowing down. That this has negatively affected Perth and Calgary is clearly visible in property data. However, one stalwart bubble remain resolute in all of this.

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Stupid is What Stupid Does – Secular Stagnation Redux

August 17, 2016

Annual population and labour force growth in Japan
Which country, the United States or Japan, have had the fastest GDP growth rate since the financial crisis? Due to Japan’s bad reputation as a stagnant, debt ridden, central bank dependent, demographic basket case the question appears superfluous. The answer seemed so obvious to us that we haven’t really bothered looking into it until one day we started thinking about the demographic situation in the two countries. As we all know, Japan has a rapidly ageing population whereby the workforce is getting smaller for every day. Japan has had a demographic growth tax ever since 1997 when population growth overtook potential labour force growth.

Annual population and labour force growth in Japan – click to enlarge.

Annual population and labour force growth in the US
The United States on the other hand only started “paying” their demographic tax in 2010 and it was not until very recently it became severe enough to make a large dent in overall growth accounting.
If we adjust for the demographic difference between the US and Japan, the Japanese economy has actually performed much better than the US. In other words, given the resources available, Japan has managed to eke out more real growth than the US.

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The FOMC Butterfly that Will Ruin the World

July 30, 2016

Imagine the financial crisis knocked you out and you did not wake up from the coma that followed until this day. Then, presented with the following three charts you were asked to guess where the federal funds rate was trading. Given the fact that
the core CPI is on a steep uptrend and currently over the arbitrarily set 2 per cent target;
unemployment below what the FOMC regards as full employment and;
GDP running at a rate far above the Federal Reserve’s own estimates of so-called potential;

 
We are certain most people would say the Federal Reserve, still very much data dependent (yes, that is what they claim), would be responsible enough to have lifted the rate far above its long term average to maintain positive real rates in order to cool down the economy.
This is what modern Keynesianism- and Monetarism teaches the zealous acolytes populating the world central banks after all.  In short, you would say the Federal Funds rate would be in the vicinity of five per cent.

Key Fed Indicators: Core CPI, Unemployment, Real GDP vs.

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Brexit or not, the pound will crash

July 16, 2016

Status quo, as our generation know it, established in 1945 has plodded along ever since. It is true that it have had near death experiences several times, especially in August 1971 when the world almost lost faith in the global reserve currency and in 2008 when the fractional reserve Ponzi nearly consumed itself. While the recent Brexit vote seem to be just another near death experience we believe it says something more fundamental about the world.
When the 1945 new world order came into existence, its architects built it on a shaky foundation based on statists Keynesian principles. It was clearly unsustainable from the get-go, but as long as living standards rose, no one seemed to notice or care. The global elite managed to resurrect a dying system in the 1970s by giving its people something for nothing. Debt accumulation collateralized by rising asset values became a substitute for productivity and wage increases. While people could no longer afford to pay for their health care, education, house or car through savings they kept on voting for the incumbents (no, there is no difference between center left and right) since friendly bankers were more than willing to make up the difference.
The Credit Ponzi is dead
It is clear for all to see but the Ph.Ds.

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Money confuses and blurs economic relations

June 30, 2016

Money, generally accepted medium of exchange, acts as a veil that confuse and blurs economic relations. This is especially true when it comes to intertemporal considerations. Whilst probably the most important institution in a free market, money can be highly destructive when politicized. Why? Because politics is about power and distribution of real wealth. And since money affect almost every single transaction, politics can span throughout society with ease when in control of money. Amchel Rothschild was spot on when he allegedly said “give me control of a nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.” Power over money is power over people and power over people is, well, pure power. Money is thus the most sacred tool in a statist’s toolbox and has become instrumental in their quest to control society and allocate resources as they see fit.
It is within this context the monstrosity called the euro need to be analyzed. By pooling Western European countries within the realm of one central bank, power over people increases immensely. There is a catch though; as power increases, greed and corruption increases with it and the temptation to go too far is obvious for all to see.

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South China Sea: Storm in an Indian Ocean Teacup

June 27, 2016

With global attention focused on BREXIT calamity, potentially more important questions are being overlooked, and especially in the South China Sea where storms are currently brewing between China and a range of littoral states for strategic control of territorial waters. To be clear, our long term geostrategic position remains unchanged;
China moving towards the ‘nine dash’ line
China will gradually secure control of the South China and East China Seas through its so called ‘nine dash’ line, with the eventual battle for geo-maritime ascendency playing out in the Indian Ocean into the 2030s between China on the one hand, and America on the other. That much remains inexorable, but it’s what happens along the way to that eventual outcome where all the residual risks remains.
The Chinese consolidation of its nine dash line
Anyone willing to stand in the way of Chinese geopolitical pull, will be pushed off the edge of a ‘geo-economic atoll’, at least when it comes to creeping Chinese consolidation of its nine dash line.

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China the lender of last resort for many oil producers

June 21, 2016

Summary:
Bawerk explains how China will be the lender of last resort of many oil producers. China might let collapse a smaller producer and become much smarter at covering its political bases across producer states to protect longer term sunk costs.

It took a while to play through, but our assessment that China would increasingly become the petro-state lender of last resort is starting to come good. The primary reason for that is producer states are rapidly running out of time to present full scale political implosion on the back of chronic economic pressures. For all the hype around current ‘price recovery’, it means absolutely nothing for most producer states. It’s becoming painfully obvious that the prevailing geopolitical price of survival is structurally out of sync with geological costs of production. Ten dollars here, ten dollar there; it doesn’t really matter: Either China ‘steps up or steps out’ as the lender of last resort to keep fragile petro-states in the black at this stage. You’d think that’s a relatively easy call to make, but it’s anything but for Beijing. Prop up one petro-state, and the same standard will be applied across the board. Let one fail, and political contagion risks become very real across China’s entire supply base.

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Dumbest monetary experimental end game in history (including Havenstein and Gono’s)

June 18, 2016

We have seen several explanations for the financial crisis and its lingering effects depressing our global economy in its aftermath. Some are plain stupid, such as greed for some reason suddenly overwhelmed people working within finance, as if people in finance were not greedy before 2007. Others try to explain it through “liberalisation” which is almost just as nonsensical as government regulators never liberalised anything, but rather allowed fraud, in polite company called fractional reserve banking, to grow unrestrained. Some point to excess savings in exporting countries as the culprit behind our misery. Excess saving forces less frugal countries reluctantly to run deficits, or so the argument goes.
While some theories are pure folly, others are partial right, but none seem to grasp the fundamental factor that pulled and keep pulling the world into such unsustainable constellations witnessed in global finance, trade and capital allocation.
Whenever we try to explain the reasons behind the crisis, such as the build-up in non-productive and counterproductive debt (see here, here and here for more details) people ask us why did this happened now, and not earlier? It is a fair question that we have thought about and believe have one simple answer.

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Saudi-Arabia: Peg or Banking Crisis?

June 4, 2016

Oil exporters recycled their dollar in US treasuries
During the reign of the mighty petro-dollar standard, it was necessary for major oil exporters to recycle their dollar holdings back into the dollar-based financial system to maintain their self-imposed exchange rate pegs.
US government bonds are the very centrepiece of this elaborate system and it is thus no surprise to see the dollar price correlate well with overall OPEC TSY holdings. In other words, when oil prices were high, oil exporters amassed a capital surplus that were channelled into, among other things, US treasury bonds. When oil prices fell, oil exporters had to liquidate TSY holdings to cover capital shortfalls.

click to expand

Fixed and flexible FX regimes
It is interesting to note that the more money and credit issued in the US the more foreign goods could be purchased by Americans and by extension the more foreign demand for US TSYs rose. The savings glut proposed by Bernanke was, and still is, nothing more than exported dollar inflation. There were no savings glut, but rather an indirect form of QE long before QE became an official policy. Home equity withdrawal lines through commercial banks, based on phony asset appreciation promoted by an accommodative Federal Reserve policy stance, increased Americans purchasing power, which inevitably leaked into global markets.

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OPEC’s Game within a Game

June 2, 2016

The fact OPEC just agreed to agree on nothing in Vienna isn’t particularly surprising given Doha wounds are still festering from the last attempt at ‘petro-diplomacy’. But the engagement ultimately has to been knocked up as a partial success for Saudi Arabia, where it’s managed to put itself back at the centre of cartel politics by thawing the ‘freeze discussion’ on Riyadh’s terms. Confused? Don’t be. As we flagged in OPEC Politics, Doha’s failure left a very dangerous door open for Saudi Arabia, where Russia and Iran could walk through with a Persian led ‘freeze agreement’ at any stage. Iran would become the darling of the cartel helping ‘weaker producers’ out of a bind, despite only producing ‘4mb/d’ compared to KSA’s 10.2mb/d.

‘freeze’ noises

Little wonder the new Saudi oil minister, Khalid al Falih starting make ‘freeze’ noises before any other oil minister Gulf Stream jets even hit the Austrian tarmac two days ago. On all counts Riyadhhadto make sure it owned that debate rather than leaving the door ajar for Iran. June therefore had nothing to do with June meetingsper se. This was all about Saudi Arabia getting back in the OPEC game for thenext December 2016 meetings. Once that immediate mission was ‘accomplished’, any tangible freeze discussions duly died today, and with it, any vague notion we’re about to see any serious supply restraint.

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Notes from ECB Press Conference

June 2, 2016

ECB press conference June 2 2016

Held in Vienna with Governor Nowotny
Keep key ECB interest rates unchanged
Will be kept at present or lower for an extended period of time, exceeding asset purchase program (80bn per month) which will end March 2017
sector program will start June 8
TLTRO start in June
New measures will strengthen growth in euro area through credit expansion
Very low inflation must not become entrenched in second round effects through effects on wages and prices.
ECB will use all available instruments to avoid lower inflation.
Economic analysis. Real GDP increased 0.5 per cent Q1, from 0.3 per cent in Q4. Supported by domestic demand and dampened by exports. Growth will be lower in Q2. Looking ahead, ECB expect moderate but steady pace of growth. Financial conditions and corp profitability help recovery. Past structural reforms help drive steady employment gains. Fiscal stance slightly expansionary. However, subdued growth prospects in EM, balance sheet adjustment and sluggish pace of structural reforms hold down euro area prospects.
6 growth in 2016 (used to be 1.5), unchanged in 2017 and 2018
Risk tilted to downside, but balance have improved
BREXIT keep a lid on confidence
HCIP -0.1 per cent, reflecting higher energy and services inflation.

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Academic Skulduggery – How Ivory Tower Hubris Wrecks your Life

May 23, 2016

In the 1970s economists started to incorporate rational expectations into their models and not long after the seminal Kydand & Prescott (1977) article named Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plan was published. Their work has been driving the mainstream macroeconomic debate ever since. The question raised in this debate is how policy-makers can credible commit to promises made today when future events may cause short-term pain if restricted by stringent rules from taking action?
For example, in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union Article 125 it clearly states that “the Union [or any Member States] shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities…” it also says in Article 123 that “[o]verdraft facilities or any other type of credit facility with the European Central Bank or with the central banks of the Member States… …in favour of Union institutions… …shall be prohibited, as shall the purchase directly from them by the European Central Bank or national central banks of debt instruments.” Both rules are there to credibly commit to not bail out EU nations either through ECB inflation or with other member states tax euros. Needless to say, after SMP, OMT, ELA, EFSF, ESM, maturity extensions and interest rates reductions these rules turned out to be useless.

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Fed Suppression, Long Term Economic Repression

May 19, 2016

The Federal Reserve really wants to raise rates, but they do not dare as the consequence of interrupting an unprecedented level of capital misallocation is too grave to face head on. So our money masters continue their low interest rate policy; pulling society further and further into a capital structure that cannot be sustained long term. In other words, scare capital is consumed in order to feed the present structure of production. Low rates thus cement what cannot be upheld and the suppression of volatility entailed by such policies simply mean internal inconsistencies accumulate without any functioning correction mechanism. Think of it as two continental plates pushing against each other; it is obviously better with thousands unremarkable earthquakes spread over time than a sudden burst of centuries with built up tension. Soviet Union did not have any functioning price system and they manage to run their economy for decades without recessions, until 1989 that is…
Our economic system should optimally experience a recession daily so unremarkable that no one even notice as these tiny corrections will help keep the system sustainable and balanced. Weeding out imbalances before they can do harm. World central bankers on the other hand suppress these corrections and consequently create conditions for massive disruptions.

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OPEC Politics: Russian King, Iranian Crown Prince?

May 12, 2016

Another month, another OPEC meeting beckons for 2nd June. But unlike typical meetings on the Danube (let alone dust filled haze of Doha), the producer group might just have a new King in town. It comes in the form of Russia; the number one global producer that’s not even technically a member of the cartel. Confused? Don’t be. The argument is quite simple.

Irianian and Russian Crude/Condensate Production

Iranian and Russian Crude/Condensate Production – click to enlarge.

Unlike Doha where the outgoing Saudi Oil Minister, Ali Naimi was lining up a Saudi led deal to leave Iran outside the tent as the odd man out refusing to join the 17 country ‘freeze’, this time round, it’s very likely Russia will come back to the table with exactly the same deal, but one they’ve directly brokered with Iran, where the Islamic Republic is conveniently claiming they’ve already hit the magic 4mb/d production targets to bring a ‘freeze agreement’ back into play. Rest assured, if Russia and Iran are on the same page, everyone else will ‘sign on the line’ given their current fiscal difficulties where every petro-dollar counts for self-preservation purposes.

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The ‘Strange’ Death of Mr. Abadi

April 30, 2016

As expected, Iranian Prime Minister Abadi was always going to come off worse in his last ditch attempt to try and regain some kind of political initiative by appointing a new look ‘technocratic’ government in Baghdad. But the ailing Prime Minister has managed to back himself into a particularly tight corner after being outplayed by Muqtada al Sadr, Iyad Allawi and even Nouri Al Maliki. Rather than sticking to his ‘technocratic guns’ Abadi blinked first on cabinet changes, by allowing more traditional ‘muhasasa’ (i.e. quota based) politics to play through, falling back on the so called ‘three presidencies’ agreement between himself, President Fuad Masum, and parliamentary speaker, Salim al-Jiburi. The move’s since been condemned as protecting ‘establishment’ interest compared to more ‘comprehensive change’ that Maliki, Sadr and Allawi are all pitching. For those well versed in Iraqi politics, you’ll realise just how perverted that political situation is, but the key point to register is Mr. Abadi is now a totally lame duck PM. Whether he can stagger on to 2018 elections looks increasingly unlikely. If anything, the only thing keeping him in post right now is the simple issue that political factions aren’t in a credible position to decide on an instant successor.

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Hillary Will be the Least of Your Worries – America has Economic Diarrhea

April 28, 2016

Economic Expansions and Recessions in the US since 1900
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the official recession arbiter, the US economy is currently at its fourth longest expansion in history. By the sheer nature of a capitalistic society with its inherent cyclicality it is a safe bet that a new economic recession will hit in the not too distant future. We have argued since June last year that the next recession is imminent and we now feel increasingly confident that our prediction will come true before November’s Presidential Election. Even mainstream forecasters seem to jump on the increasingly likely recession-bandwagon.

Economic Expansions and Recessions in the US since 1900

Total Retail Sales
Since recessions are measured by the change in a highly flawed GDP concept, where money outlays on final consumption account for about two thirds of overall flow it is natural to start our analysis with retail spending. According to latest Census Bureau data total retail sales fell 0.2 per cent in March following a slight contraction in both February and January. In other words, retail sales fell over the entire first quarter as once surging motor vehicle sales (on back of lowered credit standards) reached its apex in Q4’2015.

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Chinese Dragon: Breathing Credit Fumes

April 24, 2016

Economic forecasting, no matter how complex the underlying model may be, is essentially about extrapolating historical trends. We showed last week how economic models completely fail to pick up on structural shifts using Japan as an example. On the other hand, if an economy doesn’t really change much, as in the case of Australia over the last thirty years, model “forecast” are generally quite accurate. However, spending millions of dollars to do the job of a ruler doesn’t seem like wise resource allocation to us. That said there’s obviously a very limited market for model based GDP forecast and most of them are not exchanged among pure market based players, but rather between governmental funded agencies. True, Wall Street spews out their sell-side GDP propaganda on a regular basis, but claiming international banking is anything akin to a free market is absurd.

IMF GDP Forecast for Australia

GDP forecasting is something only wasteful organizations do and that should tell you all you need to know about these exercises in futility.

IMF GDP Forecast for Australia

Take the latest IMF forecast for China as a half decent example. According to the IMF, the credit junkie known as China, which needed one trillion dollar in fresh credit in the first quarter alone to create GDP “growth” of somewhere between 6.3 and 6.

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Circulus in probando

April 15, 2016

In the latest semi-annual Keynesian incantation spewed out by the world’s best pseudo-scientists, we learn that growth has been too slow for too long and that in itself is the cause of slow growth.
First, they promote debt-funded consumption because spending – money supply/credit and velocity – is equivalent to nominal GDP growth, and as long as you have nominal GDP growth you can always add more debt to the existing stock ad infinitum. That obviously came crashing down in 2008. At that important juncture, which proved to even the most ingrained and indoctrinated Krugmanite that something was seriously wrong with the economic model a proper re-set would be the only route toward sustainable prosperity. Instead of taking the honest path, countercyclical policy measures, both fiscal and monetary, aimed at maintaining and even expanding debt on top of the bloated and highly unsustainable level that existed at the 2008 inflection point.
As parasitical, id est consumptive, debt got thrown a lifeline by the global central bankers with the explicit condonation by the like of the IMF, it is no wonder growth has been weak or even absent in the aftermath of reaching debt saturation. Old structures have been cemented and new capital formation mal-invested.

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OPEC’s Doha Dilemma: 3mb/d US lock in?

March 29, 2016

Bawerk shows that more than 3 mb/d of American oil production was helped by US$55.5bn in credit facilities, by excessive debt. This production is now at risk and the debt may not be repaid. The big OPEC players are playing against US shale oil and some smaller OPEC members that have higher costs.

Another month, another flight to Hamad international airport for 17th April after initial agreement to hold ‘upstream horses’ in February 2016. While it’s no doubt great fun getting back into the OPEC ‘masters of the oil universe’ routine, second time round, the stakes are rapidly rising in Doha given another supposed ‘freeze’ announcement would actually be read as outright OPEC / Russia failure without clear signals the market will see actual cuts. That opens a very complex can of worms for what’s at stake here. We’ll do OPEC politics first, followed by market ‘realities’ second. On both counts, timing is crucial. And bluntly put, OPEC couldn’t have picked a worse window for another ad hoc meeting.

Leading up to Doha, market expectations will inevitably grow for some kind of cut that’s likely to put a few dollars on the barrel. Ironic given this remains a classic case of OPEC / non-OPEC heavyweights ‘talking peace, but preparing for war’ in terms of longer term volumes strategies. Obviously it’s all bluff for now, but the fact Kuwait claims it can do 3.

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