Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Real Federal Spending Growth Since 2000 Has Outstripped Real GDP 3 To 1

Your government in action
People who keep saying government should spend more to grow the economy more don't want to confront the fact that despite the growth in real federal outlays between fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2012, real GDP growth has lagged far behind by a ratio of 2.77 to 1.

Federal outlays in fiscal 2000 (in 2005 dollars) were $2.0406 trillion, and $3.2125 trillion in 2012, according to the Tax Policy Center, here. That's an increase in real spending of 57.4% over the period.

Contrast that with real GDP. On October 1, 2000 real GDP stood at $11.325 trillion. Twelve years later it was only $13.6654 trillion, an increase in real GDP of only 20.7% over the same years.

If federal spending counts just as much as private spending for GDP, it's not self-evident from these numbers that the higher rate of spending is doing anything to boost real GDP. Quite the opposite.

A more prudent way to look at would be to say that maybe all those federal expenditures in excess of the 20.7% of real economic growth were wasted, even destroyed, and that in fiscal 2012 real federal spending should have been $750 billion less than it was.

Meanwhile the bureaucrats scream bloody murder over a lousy $85 billion across the board spending cut for 2013.

Cutting off a drunk is never pretty.

On the other hand, he probably won't remember who last put a foot in his ass, either.

Housing, Shmousing. Here's What's Really Been Happening.

RC Whalen, here, in January:

"[J]udicial states remain mired in foreclosure backlogs that still stretch ahead for years to come.  Because Barack Obama and Tim Geithner refused to restructure the truly sick parts of the US housing sector (and the zombie banks with these exposures), only sectors where speculative capital can be deployed quickly and easily are showing signs of life.  You don’t see private equity firms buying homes in Scarsdale, NY, or Greenwich, CT, now do you?  Even ignoring the horrible effects of SS Sandy, was NJ housing really recovering?"  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mish Finally Calls This Economy Fascism

Took him long enough, here:

"In short, the problems we face are not the result of free market capitalism, but rather the results of Fed sponsored corporate and military fascism."

The instrumentality through which fascism is expressed in the United States today is the banking system reorganized in 1913 under the Federal Reserve. The brakes put on it with the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933 after it cracked-up the first time after only twenty years were released in 1999 with the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

It took only nine years to crack up the second time.

Number One Insult Which Made Tamerlan Tsarnaev Angry

"Your mother just wears a suicide vest because she's flat."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Imagine A World Without Balloons? How About One Without Idiots?

Another remove-all-doubt moment from the irrepressible Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, here, on "helium", one of America's "real concerns".

Saturday, April 27, 2013

We Need All The Global Warming We Can Get: An Ice Age Is Coming

So WUWT here:

"[T]here have been 5 interglacial events in the last 500,000 years. At ~10,500 years our current cooler but benign Holocene interglacial is coming towards its end and the reversion of our planet to a real ice age is foreseeable."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Big Deal: Debt To GDP Ratio Comes In At 105%

The debt as of 4/24/13 was $16.7943 trillion. GDP in the latest report was $16.0102 trillion. So the one divided by the other yields 1.05, or 105%. To which I say, Big deal.

In other words, the current annualized national income no longer is sufficient to cover what we owe. But there is no situation in which anyone stops consuming and simply works for a year to pay off everything one owes. At this you'd last maybe 40 days if you were Jesus Christ, but trust me, you aren't Jesus Christ. This is not the way to look at it. Instead, we should look at the debt like a mortgage.

Interest payments on this ever-growing debt in fiscal 2012 came to $360 billion, implying an interest rate paid of a little more than 2%. This rate is artificial. It is the result of manipulation afforded to us by the Federal Reserve's deliberate policy we affectionately call ZIRP, zero interest rate policy, which pushes long term interest rates down into the cellar. A more realistic rate would be double that, 4%, about a half point higher than current averages for 30-year mortgages (call it an extra penalty for having less than AAA status if you want). So, if one were to treat the total public debt outstanding like a mortgage amortized over 30 years at 4% fixed, our "mortgage" payment to pay off the debt would be $80.304 billion monthly, or about $964 billion a year. And you'd have to stop deficit spending.

In the current spending environment, $964 billion annually is about 25% of current government outlays of $3.8 trillion. Current government receipts, however, have lagged the outlays by about $1 trillion annually, so the "mortgage" payment would be closer to 35% of income.

Responsible persons all over this country pay off mortgages with that percentage of income devoted to debt service, and they do it all the time. It's high time the federal government started acting like them. In order to do so, however, current spending apart from the "mortgage" payment would have to be cut $1.96 trillion annually, or 48%, to $1.84 trillion annually for all programs. (That squealing you hear is the sound of stuck pigs).

Somebody get on this right away.     

Q1 2013 Real GDP First Estimate At 2.5%, Q4 2012 Remains At 0.4%

So reports the BEA here:

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 0.4 percent.

Inflation-adjusted GDP under Obama continues to print in a narrow low range, averaging just 0.83% from 2009 through 2012, the worst on record in the post-war. With an average annual report of 2.04% under George Bush, economic growth was almost 2.5 times better under Bush than under Obama. GDP under Bush only seemed so bad because growth under Clinton's second term was so good at 4.5% per year.

In order to best George Bush's lacklustre record, Barack Obama is going to have to put up average real GDP numbers every year 2013 through 2016 of at least 3.5%.

At 2.5% in today's report, he's already off to a very slow start.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Central Bankers Buying Stocks: Is This Another Sign Of A Top?

Bloomberg reports here:

Central banks, guardians of the world’s $11 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, are buying stocks in record amounts as falling bond yields push even risk-averse investors toward equities.

In a survey of 60 central bankers this month by Central Banking Publications and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, 23 percent said they own shares or plan to buy them. The Bank of Japan, holder of the second-biggest reserves, said April 4 it will more than double investments in equity exchange-traded funds to 3.5 trillion yen ($35.2 billion) by 2014. The Bank of Israel bought stocks for the first time last year while the Swiss National Bank and the Czech National Bank have boosted their holdings to at least 10 percent of reserves. ...

Currency reserves among the world’s central banks climbed by $734 billion in 2012 to a record $10.9 trillion, according to data from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. That’s about 20 percent of the $55 trillion market value of global stocks, data compiled by Bloomberg show. ... 

Even so, 70 percent of the central bankers in the survey indicated that equities are “beyond the pale.”

Notice how the first paragraph calls central banks "risk-averse investors", showing that the line between investing and banking has been completely erased in the popular reporting even as the evidence of the survey shows that for most central bankers the line remains boldly drawn. Banks don't invest, they bank.

Purchases of gold by central banks in recent years is interesting in that context. While buying stocks might mean investing to central bankers, something to be shunned, buying gold is not really investing, otherwise they wouldn't have been doing so much of it.

Gold reserves in the world now total roughly 31,000 tonnes, or about $1.5 trillion if gold is $1,500 the ounce. This amounts to 13.7% of the total forex reserves of $10.9 trillion mentioned in the article. In the context of the Basel III capital rules, that's considerably more hard collateral being set aside by the folks running the show as time goes by than by the downstream bankers who protest against building up to seven, eight or nine percent capital ratios.

I'm glad central banks are buying more gold. They should do even more of it. But investing in stocks by banks, central or otherwise, isn't banking. It's gambling, especially at these levels.

Compared to all of 2013, initial claims for unemployment are down 10% in the last month.

The 4-week moving average of raw first time claims for unemployment is 339,000. Today's initial claims  report is here, showing the contrasting seasonally adjusted figure at 358,000, about 6% higher than the raw numbers indicate is the situation over the last month.

The lower raw figure yields an annualized rate of 17.6 million in the last month, the higher seasonally adjusted figure an annualized rate of 18.6 million. Up until today the raw annualized rate for all of 2013 has been running at 19.5 million, so the trend is definitely lower, almost 10% lower, in the last four weeks and is positive for job gains. 

The Millions Who Lost Their Jobs, 2001-2012

What follows are first time claims for unemployment compensation, not-seasonally-adjusted, by year from 2001 through 2012, using Department of Labor figures, here, rounded to the nearest thousand weekly and totaled:

2001 20.9 million
2002 20.9 million
2003 20.8 million
2004 17.7 million
2005 17.7 million
2006 16.2 million
2007 16.7 million
2008 21.6 million
2009 29.5 million
2010 23.7 million
2011 21.7 million
2012 19.4 million.

George W. Bush, first term average = 20.1 million annually (387,000 weekly)
Barack H. Obama, first term average = 23.6 million annually (454,000 weekly)

George W. Bush, second term average = 18.1 million annually (348,000 weekly)
Barack H. Obama, second term average = ? (at 375,000 weekly for the first 15 weeks of 2013, that's an annual rate of 19.5 million to date)

George W. Bush, total average over both terms = 19.1 million annually (367,000 weekly)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FBI Can't Keep Track Of 27,000 Threats In TIDE Database, So Forget 159 Million On Visas

About 40% of illegal aliens in the US overstay their visas.

Reuters reports here:

The FBI found nothing to suggest [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] was an active threat, but all the same placed his name on the "Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment" list. The FBI has not said what it did find about Tsarnaev.

But the database, which holds more than half a million names, is only a repository of information on people who U.S. authorities see as known, suspected or potential terrorists from around the world.

Because of its huge size, U.S. investigators do not routinely monitor everyone registered there, said U.S. officials familiar with the database.

As of 2008, TIDE contained more than 540,000 names, although they represented about 450,000 actual people, because some of the entries are aliases or different name spellings for the same person. Fewer than 5 percent of the TIDE entries were U.S. citizens or legal residents, according to a description of the database on the NCTC website.

Janet Napolitano's System Works Again

Rich Liberals Pay People Under The Table. Doesn't Everyone?

The Washington Post has drunk the KoolAid offered up by The New Yorker that there is an enormous underground economy out there where child-walkers and nannies get paid under the table helping to account for as much as $2 trillion in unreported income. $2T! Imagine it!

This must be part of a softening up campaign underway to raise taxes on the middle class. After all, we can afford to pay, they lie to themselves. But in all my long life in the middle class, I have known exactly two persons who could afford a nanny, one of whom can't anymore. She is an MBA who worked in an industry that actually made things. People stopped buying those things, and she lost her very good job. The other one deals in trouble. She is a liberal insurance company lawyer who still has hers. As for the child-walkers, I have known exactly none. In fact, I've never even seen one, not in Colorado, not in Illinois, and not in Michigan where I now live.

This is a liberal fantasy projected onto the rest of the country. It is rich liberals, denizens of America's great cities, who hire the nannies and pay the child-walkers, all under the table. The rest of us drive our own kids to school or walk them to the bus ourselves, clean our own homes, and do all the other things of daily living for ourselves. We can't afford to hire anybody. In fact, we're plundering our retirement accounts just to maintain our former standard of living. You know, the one we had in the years B.O., Before Obama. For many of us in the years A.O., our income has been cut in half because we got fired after long, productive careers. The nearly 30 million people who filed first time claims for unemployment in 2009 were a response to the 2008 election, not the effect of you know who. Employers knew what was coming, and boy, were they right. That contractor I'd like to hire and pay cash to replace the windows with the broken seals will just have to wait, about four more years is my guess.

In 2011 over 80% of wage earners made less than $60K per year, but we are somehow supposed to be the ones paying all these people under the table for services we can't afford? That's 122 million wage earners out of 151 million who are shelling out all this dough? You know, the same ones who've canceled cable, stopped eating out, jacked-up all their deductibles and learned a hundred ways to make red beans and rice.  

They used to call it liberal projection syndrome back in the day when education was good enough to transmit subtlety. Now we just call it bull.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Home Sales Under Obama The Worst Since 1960s

Unlike previous dips to the 400,000 level going back to the 1960s, there's been no sharp recovery in sales of new single family homes back up to the 800,000 level. In four out of six previous dives to the depths new housing sales quickly punched back up above 800,000.

We, by contrast, seem to remain stuck in the basement. The second graph shows new sales under Obama, also at the seasonally adjusted annual rate, averaging 374,000 in 2009, 321,000 in 2010, 307,000 in 2011, and 367,000 in 2012. That's a pathetic average of 342,000 new home sales annually during Obama's first term.

Pace Karl Popper, The Open Society Has Become The Enemy.

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance."
We don't make sure foreigners visiting our country legally actually leave, as reported here:

The Senate is discussing an overhaul that would require the government to track foreigners who overstay their visas. The problem is the U.S. currently doesn't have a reliable system for doing this. ...

Talk of illegal immigration often conjures images of people sneaking across the U.S. border from Mexico, but an estimated 40% or more of those now illegally in the U.S. entered with a valid visa. ...

In 2011, there were 159 million nonimmigrant visits to the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security. More than three-quarters were for pleasure. But millions also involved business travelers, temporary workers and students.

Sean Hannity Is Hopeless

Sean Hannity is hopeless.

He's playing as of yesterday in the opening to his radio program the excerpt of Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz shouting his profanity over the weekend, bleeped, of course.

What do you tell your kid when he asks, "Why'd they bleep that, daddy?" Not even talk radio can be left on in earshot of the children.

That's libertarianism for you, unable to conserve much of anything, including your kid's innocence.

Terrorists Win: Fascist Police Shred 4th Amendment In Watertown MA

Where are the Oathkeepers now, huh?

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army” – Gen. George Washington, to his troops before the battle of Long Island

After violating the 4th Amendment rights of just about everybody in Watertown, Massachusetts, the incompetent police couldn't find Tsarnaev, but the wretched of Watertown meekly groveled and even thanked their oppressors.

"Haende Hoch!" the Gestapo cries in the video, except in English. You'll be hearing this next at your local train station, bus stop and at road checkpoints manned by Obama's ever-expanding army of TSA goons, just as you do now at every airport. 

Video here.

Story here.

Incompetent FBI Interviewed T. Tsarnaev In 2011, Overlooked Travel In 2012

What we have after all these billons of tax dollars wasted by DHS, TSA, FBI and the rest of the federal alphabet soup is another case of the one that got away. The "security" was just theatre.

As one astute guest said yesterday on the Sean Hannity show, nobody at the FBI remembered a guy whom they interrogated personally in 2011 (after being alerted by the Russians in 2010) when they reviewed photo and video evidence of the bombing in Boston showing Tamerlan Tsarnaev in April 2013. That's right. It took a victim, Jeff Bauman, to finger Tamerlan's brother to get to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

And now Sen. Lindsey Grahamnesty is claiming the exit of Tamerlan Tsarnaev to visit Russia in 2012 for what looks like six months of terrorist training was missed by the FBI because his name was misspelled.

That was the same problem with the Fruit of Kaboom bomber, who got on a flight to the US because even though he was supposed to be on a no-fly list his name, Abdulmutallab, was misspelled by a government employee, as reported here:

"Officials say the failed plot also tipped them off to the potentially serious consequences of a small mistake: a spelling error. The State Department incorrectly spelled Abdulmutallab's name on his visa application. When Abdulmutallab's father warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that his son had been radicalized, embassy staffers couldn't find Abdulmutallab's name in their visa database — because it was entered with an incorrect spelling."

That was months before the flight to Detroit.

As I've maintained before, people who can't spell are dangerous.

CBS story here.

Washington Times story here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The New Yorker Magazine Engages In Pure Fantasy About The Underground Economy

This is your stereotypical New York look-down-your-nose-at-the-rubes dismissal of fly-over country where God, guns and cash deals are the bogeymen gussied up with an appeal to an ignorant authority even as real retail adjusted for population shows we are still over 8% below the 2005 peak:

Off-the-books activity also helps explain a mystery about the current economy: even though the percentage of Americans officially working has dropped dramatically, and even though household income is still well below what it was in 2007, personal consumption is higher than it was before the recession, and retail sales have been growing briskly (despite a dip in March). Bernard Baumohl, an economist at the Economic Outlook Group, estimates that, based on historical patterns, current retail sales are actually what you’d expect if the unemployment rate were around five or six per cent, rather than the 7.6 per cent we’re stuck with. The difference, he argues, probably reflects workers migrating into the shadow economy. “It’s typical that during recessions people work on the side while collecting unemployment,” Baumohl told me. “But the severity of the recession and the profound weakness of this recovery may mean that a lot more people have entered the underground economy, and have had to stay there longer.”

It's pure fantasy that $2 trillion in income (!) didn't get reported to the IRS based on nominal numbers of less than, for example, $5 trillion in retail sales in 2012, all generated by suddenly sidelined people (!), when real retail adjusted for population growth and ex-gasoline is still over 8% below the 2005 high:

(See Doug Short's discussion, here.)

That's right. The patriotic core of the country is a bunch of dishonest tax-evaders who are robbing the government blind with their vibrant, dishonest cash economy! They don't even have bank accounts, the pikers!

How dare they?!

The Line Of The Day Belongs To Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh parodied Rev. Jeremiah Wright today:

"Obama's Chechens . . . have come home . . . to roost!"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In Boston Bombing Case, The Score Is Actually Police 0, Citizens 2

Victim Jeff Bauman identified the bagman.
Boatowner Dave Henneberry bagged him.

Julius Genachowski's Favorite Baseball Player Talks Just Like The Terrorists' Friends

The Boston Red Sox' David Ortiz and Azmat and Diaz share a rather limited vocabulary.

Story here.

Julius Genachowski, Public Menace At The FCC

Obama's amoral commie at the FCC.

To Julius Genachowski, public menace:

Your statement excusing the public profanity of Red Sox player David Ortiz is completely unacceptable.

It's public officials like you who are responsible for advancing the decline of America pushed by its worst examples in sports and entertainment. You are supposed to enforce standards of public decency, but your disgusting rationalizations only mean our children will be exposed to more and more barbarity without our consent, degradations from which we find it increasingly difficult to protect them.

I can't say for whom I feel more contempt, David Ortiz, you, or the ne'er-do-well who gave you your job.


A Patriot

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Incompetent Government Couldn't Stop Tsarnaev Or Find Him Afterwards

Our incompetent government, after spending billions of our dollars to stop terrorists and shredding our liberties in the process through surveillance of email and cellphone traffic and body searches at airports, couldn't stop yet another massacre by a couple of determined punks.

And afterwards it couldn't find the last suspect, even though the rights of a free people were trampled with the imposition of a police state and the shut down of a great American city:

"Up until the younger man's capture, it was looking like a grim day for police. As night fell, they announced that they were scaling back the hunt because they had come up empty-handed," it was reported here.

Maybe we should rethink who we let in here and why, instead of what we are doing, which is acting more like the unfree world from which immigrants to our country flee.

Why A Hailstorm Of Gunfire If Tsarnaev Was Found By Homeowner Curled-Up In A Ball?

These reports don't add up:

CNN here, where the video doesn't show the boat covered in a blue tarp but white, casting doubt on the credibility of what the stepson says but CNN seems to accept as fact anyway:

Henneberry [the homeowner] climbed a stepladder to look inside. "He basically stuck his head under the tarp (and) noticed a pool of blood," Duffy said. It was dark under the tarpaulin, so the boat owner could only make out vague contours, "but he definitely noticed there was something crumpled up in a ball," the stepson said. A pool of blood; a manhunt in Watertown; time to call 911. Squad cars with lights flashing raced in and lined the streets. Officers fanned out around the house. ... Duffy said he tried frantically to call his mother and stepfather as he watched on TV while law officers unleashed a hailstorm of gunfire into the backyard.

UK Daily Mail here, whose photos clearly show not a blue tarp but white, quotes the police spokesman unaccountably ringing the same bell that Tsarnaev was too out of it to resist:

'He had lost a lot of blood. He was so weak that we were able to just go in and scoop him up,' state police spokesman David Procopio told the Boston Herald adding that the suspect was in 'serious if not critical condition'.

Another video of gunfire, here, which is mostly noteworthy for what you hear, not what you see:

Barack Obama Wants Us All To Become Yuri Zhivago

"Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is essentially apolitical but he is also an idealist and when he returns home from the war to Moscow to discover that the People have taken over his home and moved 15 families into it, he pauses to process this infomation and then says 'It's much better this way. More just.' When his slightly more cynical uncle (Ralph Richardson) laughs at this, Yuri insists, 'but it is more just!'"

-- Kyle Smith, here

"President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget has a section prohibiting individuals from accumulating over $3 million in tax-preferred retirement accounts. It states: 'Individual Retirement Accounts and other tax-preferred savings vehicles are intended to help middle class families save for retirement. But under current rules, some wealthy individuals are able to accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving. The budget would limit an individual’s total balance across tax-preferred accounts to an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of not more than $205,000 per year in retirement, or about $3 million for someone retiring in 2013.'"

-- Blake Hurst, here

Friday, April 19, 2013

Louis Woodhill: Gold As Money Is Inevitably Deflationary In Terms Of Its Supply

So says Louis Woodhill for Forbes, here:

"The most fundamental issue that determines the workability of a gold standard is whether it attempts to use gold as money.  Any gold standard system where the size of the monetary base is determined by the physical supply of gold will eventually suffer a deflationary collapse.  The economic catastrophe that occurred in 1930 was inevitable, given the design of the gold standard system in use at the time. ...

"The use of gold as base money would quickly become the biggest single source of demand for gold, just as was the case during the years prior to the Great Depression.  Sooner or later, this new demand for gold would cause the real price of gold to start rising.  This would automatically cause the real value of the dollar to rise, precipitating a financial and economic crisis.

"Our highly leveraged financial system simply cannot tolerate monetary deflation.  During a financial crisis, everyone tries to become more liquid at the same time.  That is, everyone tries to increase their holdings of money, because the possession of money itself is the only thing that can guarantee that you will be able to pay your debts.

"If gold is money, and money is gold, this means that, once a liquidity crisis started, the demand for gold would increase.  This would drive up gold’s real value even farther, intensifying the crisis.  A destructive feedback loop would develop, leading to a complete meltdown of the financial system and the real economy.  This is exactly what happened in 1930."

It should be added that a monetarist system, by way of contrast, cannot tolerate credit deflation, but that is exactly what the United States is now facing with total credit market debt outstanding slowing to a crawl of $1.17 trillion added per year between 2007 and 2012. At the very slowest it should be growing at a rate of $4.33 trillion per year by historical measures, and at its fastest by $8.31 trillion per year.

The United States at present is in the throes of a deflationary collapse of monetarist making, not of dollar currency but of credit money, and it is the principal reason for the collapse of GDP. One of the largest sources of the "currency" of credit money in recent years has been mortgages, which are now effectively unacceptable as collateral because of the rot permeating the system in the form of defaults and underwaters.

Federal Reserve policy has actually been removing such collateral from circulation, along with US Treasuries, by placing it on its balance sheet. But since there is nothing "real" behind the dollars the Fed replaces this collateral with, there is no corresponding expansion of credit in size to match the former vigor of the process.

So perhaps the Fed should QE gold instead of MBS and Treasuries to provide something real behind the money created which would give that money a surer basis in collateral.

Central banks around the world have been buying gold in quantities not seen in 30 years in order to fill the collateral gap. The Fed should join them.

Bob Pisani's Wrong: GLD ETF Is Much Larger Than He Says

Bob Pisani reported here on Monday that the ETF GLD "only has 1,300 tons of gold":

"The largest gold ETF, the GLD, only has 1,300 tons of gold. Compare that to the 8,000 tons the U.S. has."

But Bloomberg's Nicholas Larkin reported here on Tuesday it's twice that amount as recently as December, and still nearly 2,400 tons since the price drop:

"The metal’s drop wiped out almost $1 billion of hedge-fund manager John Paulson’s wealth in the past two days. The 57-year-old began the year with about $9.5 billion invested across his hedge funds, of which 85 percent was in gold share classes. He’s sticking with his thesis that gold is the best hedge against inflation and currency debasement, John Reade, a partner and gold strategist at New York-based Paulson & Co., said in an e-mailed statement.

"Paulson is the largest investor in the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the biggest bullion-backed exchange-traded product. Global holdings in the products declined 9.5 percent this year to 2,382.4 tons, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Assets reached a record 2,632.5 tons in December.

"The cost of protecting gold from losses in the options market increased. Puts protecting against a 10 percent drop in the SPDR Gold Trust cost 4.28 points more than calls betting on a 10 percent gain, the biggest difference on record, according to three-month data compiled by Bloomberg."

GLD is a much larger market maker for gold than many people realize.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Forget The "Threat" Of Deflation. Its Crushing REALITY Means Monetarism Is Doomed.

Galactic hitchhikers know this is the answer to everything.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Lars Christensen, here, think deflation is only an omnipresent threat:

The world is still in a contained depression. Sliding commodities tell us global money is if anything too tight. "There is a threat of deflation almost everywhere. A lot of central banks will have to follow the Bank of Japan, whatever they say now," said Lars Christensen from Danske Bank.

The era of money printing is young yet. Gold will have its day again.

I couldn't agree less. The threat isn't everywhere. The reality is everywhere.

Total credit market debt outstanding (TCMDO) for the five years ended on July 1, 2012 was up a paltry $5.83 trillion. Yes, I said paltry. For monetarism to continue working as it has in the past, TCMDO needs to double on average every 8.25 years. That's the historical experience of America going back to the beginning of the post-war. At the current rate since 2007, however, it's going to take until the year 2049 for TCMDO to double from July 1, 2007.

We've had periods of doubling as short as six years for TCMDO, and periods as long as 11.5 years, but at the current rate over the last five years continued into the indefinite future it's going to take 42 years to double. 42 years. Not 11.5 years. And not 6 years. 42 YEARS. America has hit a brick wall.

People who talk about an L-shaped recovery and decades of economic shrinkage ahead may not appreciate quite adequately enough just how right they are.

Deflation is on CNBC's radar.

Jeff Cox, here:

"What seemed like economic fantasy could soon become cold reality as the global economy wrestles with deflation despite hundreds of billions in central bank money creation."

Jim Cramer Gets It Right, Links Long Rise Of Commodity Prices To Creation Of ETFs

Think GLD, SLV, etc., as we've been saying.

"In the past two decades we have seen an unprecedented financialization, if you will, of all commodities. Pretty much everything is traded either through glibly created ETFs or through futures backed up by warehouses somewhere or through physical hoarding via tanker ships. The pools of money that have chosen to make commodities as an asset class is much larger than we can ever know because those funds aren't registered anywhere and pretty much report to no one.

"I am sure at one time, before the ETFs and the large pools of capital, you might have traded these commodities on actual supply and demand. ...

"What mattered was the financial buyer not the natural buyer."

So we all have been paying too much for this stuff for a long time already.

Same thing happened in housing, and commodities will end up just like housing, down big time.

Twelve Times Today's Silver Price Means $279 Gold

Louis Woodhill doesn't get there by the same rule, but he's in the same ballpark in this story from May 2012, when the average price of gold was $1,586:

[I]t only makes sense that the gold price be set by the application of a rule, and not via discretion exercised by “experts”.

It is possible to imagine catastrophic consequences to setting the value of the dollar in terms of either a gold price of $800 or $1600/oz.  In The Golden Constant, Roy Jastram argued that, over time, gold maintains its value in terms of the general price level.  If Jastram is correct (and he may well be), the gold price that would be consistent with today’s general price level would be around $225/oz.

Based on the average price of silver in May 2012, twelve times that yielded $343 gold.

Plato's Gold/Silver Ratio was 12, Founding Fathers' 15. At this hour it is 59.7!

Now answer this further question: you say that if one acquires more than the amount one has spent, it is gain?

I do not mean, when it is evil, but if one gets more gold or silver than one has spent.

Now, I am just going to ask you about that. Tell me,  if one spends half a pound of gold and gets double that weight in silver, has one got gain or loss?

Loss, I presume, Socrates for one's gold is reduced to twice, instead of twelve times, the value of silver.

But you see, one has got more; or is double not more than half?

Not in worth, the one being silver and the other gold.

-- Plato's Hipparchus 231cd

First Time Claims for Unemployment In 2013 Still About Like Last Year: Bad

The raw number of first time unemployment claims averaged 336K per week in the last month in today's report. The seasonally-adjusted 4-week average number of first time claims for unemployment is higher at 361,000.

The raw figure of 336K yields an annualized 17.5 million, the seasonally-adjusted number 18.8 million. Both are still in excess of the annual actuals for 2006 or 2007, before the financial crisis, which were 16.2 million and 16.7 million respectively.

Actual claims for 2012 were 19.4 million, so we are right now in the last month still doing better than last year's overall rate of claims, at roughly 10% higher than pre-crisis averages. However, the average of all the raw claims for 2013 year to date is running at 375,000 per week, which annualized is 19.5 million, just slightly worse than last year.

At the height of the unemployment crisis in 2009 the raw number of first time claims totaled 29.5 million for the year, a rate of 567,000 per week.

Today's report is here. The link to past data which was unusually missing in last week's report got put back in today's.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Margaret Thatcher's Last Words

Barry Ritholtz Is Against The World Religion Of Gold

Barry Ritholtz here recently had some fun with the goldbugs, whom he ridicules as devotees of a "religious cult".

The piece is regrettably inflammatory. Doesn't he know he's writing off the whole world as a bunch of religious kooks in this temper tantrum? That's pretty much what ideologues do when reality won't cooperate with their theories, but surely he must know that sovereigns and central banks the world over continue to build their hoardes of gold year upon year, now approaching 32,000 tonnes and 20% of all the stuff ever pulled out of the ground. That's quite the foundation for the edifice of the worldwide church of gold.

In fact, many of the central banks in particular have been on a tear recently, acquiring the stuff in quantities not seen in 30 years. Evidently they are to a man possessed by the Oracle of Au (pronounced "Ow"). But try as they may to acquire new gold reserves, no one of them yet even comes close to the chief priest bowing and scraping before the barbarous relic, namely the USA, the number one holder of gold in reserve to the tune of 8,134 tonnes (not to be confused with tons). 

That even the USA with all its fiat money still considers this gold to be the most sublime of all currencies can be seen in its own gold issues. Gold Eagles, in one ounce sizes down to tenth ounce, are denominated from $50 down to $5. It says so right on the coins. (I understand if you don't believe me because you haven't seen one. They are expensive these days.) I myself haven't seen one of these things in my change at Walmart recently, or anywhere else, but theoretically you could. In various places around the country they are in fact found in Salvation Army kettles from time to time, usually around the time of a holiday formerly known as "Christmas".

There is a reason for what appears on a Gold Eagle: The US government has decreed that gold is money, and that the price of gold cannot fall. It has fixed the price at $42.22 per troy ounce since 1973, and it hasn't fallen since. The one ounce $50 Gold Eagle thus closely approximates this valuation, as it should if America wants to maintain its credibility as the leader of the free world and the spokesman for truth, justice and the, well, American way. The excess, in case you were wondering, is simply a small bonus in exchange for providing the world with both its security and its reserve currency, both of which are quite costly to the inhabitants of the land of the free.

Over our long history, the price of gold has indeed risen despite the best efforts of "manipulators" to stop it from doing so. For a long time the price of gold had been ruthlessly kept down at $20.67, from the War Between the States to FDR, but suddenly became $35 when the greatest Democrat ever saved us from the bad old ways. Not to be outdone, however, the great Republican Richard Nixon managed to make gold higher still, at $42.22, where it has stood ever since.

See, the price of gold hasn't ever fallen in America, it's only risen, just like Jesus. It's God's will. It is our manifest destiny.

That said, more people these days do need to come to accept the reality of this defacto gold standard to which our benevolent government all too secretly adheres. Younger generations of mockers actually have arisen among us who need to repent of their intemperate outbursts against gold and believe in the Gold Gospel once again. Instead of denying the reality of this kingdom of gold, which is really present here and now in the sacramental dollar, they need to wake up and consider the future possibilities of our great civilization and its gold religion.

Perhaps then there would be more public support for all these central bankers who print funny money to drive gold prices higher, especially for our own Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve who far excells all others at this. What he really needs most right now is more public encouragement to use that funny money like our competitors do in the world. Like them, we need to start augmenting our gold reserves once again using funny dollars to buy gold just as they are doing using, say, funny yuans. After all, this is actually a divinely sanctioned practice, what the Bible calls making use of "unrighteous mammon". You can look it up, it's right in there. Ben really needs to get on this right away. It should be a matter of his monetary policy to drive up the price of gold by hoarding it. Who knows, maybe we can even get our tonnage back up where it used to be after WWII, around 20,000 tonnes, and just think, all it will cost us is some paper and ink.

Meanwhile gold continues to work for us in season and out of season, in good times and in bad. Our reserves have seen us through thick and thin, whether it's been the boom times under Reagan/Bush/Clinton or the misery index years of Jimmy Carter or the new depression years of Barack Obama. Our gold is still there, just like the flag. It hasn't rusted, shrunk in the rain, or even tarnished. Good as gold as they say. Things might be even better if we had more of it, but you've got to be thankful for your blessings, thankful for what you do have.

The truth is, even in the very worst of circumstances imaginable gold has performed miracles for people. A few well-placed gold coins not that long ago meant the difference between some of our fellow countrymen coming here or going to the gas chambers. Ask them and their progeny if escaping an apocalypse wasn't "just fine", even if they were penniless afterward.

No, the only suckers when it comes to gold have been those who let theirs go when misguided government came looking for it. Some of those babies confiscated in 1933 now fetch $300,000. The rest appreciated in value in their melted down form in the government's vault, but only 6600%. You could go to Harvard today with just 120 of those ounces. In the present banks and governments across the globe are finding the collateral gold provides rather more reliable than US Treasuries in a pinch, which is why they keep acquiring it. Evidently we haven't yet understood the message that this sends. 

It's true in a sense that gold is a rejection of government control, but only in the sense of its opposite, self-control, which is what in America is the unique basis of our form of government. It was an idea bequeathed to us by Protestantism, and also by Plato, both of which are unhappily out of favor. But seeking to control your own destiny, which is what many foreigners are doing by acquiring gold, is actually the sincerest form of flattery of what the United States used to stand for. Free from the control of a reserve currency, there's no telling what others in the world may accomplish without us. But under a universal currency, there's no telling what we could still accomplish together. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

QE Removes Banking Collateral, So Gold Steps In And The Price Plunges

So says Jeffrey Snider of Alhambra Investment Partners, here, who sees it as a sign of big trouble ahead, with banks out front in the lead:

[I]n times of extreme stress, gold acts like a universal liquidity stopgap – when all else fails, repo gold. The operational reality of a gold repo is a gold lease, charged at the forward rate (GOFO). In terms of market mechanics, a dramatic increase in gold leasing is seen as a massive increase in supply on the paper markets. For various reasons in the past five years, collateral chains and the available collateral pool has dwindled dramatically. That has left banks to scramble for operational bypasses, but it also has led to periods of very acute stress. When we match the price of gold against these stressed periods, they coincide perfectly. In other words, whenever collateralized lending has become problematic banks appeal to the universal collateral. Unfortunately, that looks like gold selling to the uninitiated. These large declines in gold prices match date for date the extreme developments in the banking system across several currencies. And in each case the gold selloff has previewed a larger decline in systemic liquidity that eventually catches other asset classes.

Did you get that? The price drops on the appearance of a massive increase in supply, on the paper markets, when in actuality there is nothing of the kind.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another Gold Bear Recognizes Fair Value Is Below $500 The Ounce

Noted by Bob Pisani, here:

Gold bears like MKM note that if gold had simply moved with the CPI basket since 1913, it would stand at $490 an ounce. Wow. That is more than 60 percent below it's [sic] already low price. I doubt it will go anywhere near there.

Pisani and just about everyone else is focusing on the run-up in gold since 2008 to its extraordinarily high levels of recent years, finding it nearly inconceivable that gold could lose all of those gains since 2008, while ignoring at the same time the run-up to 2008 which established gold's floor for the last five years' move to the stratospheric level.

It would be easy to blame the financial crisis and/or QE for the last five years of gold price rises to $1900, but QE had nothing to do with the five to seven years before 2008 when gold rose to $800 from $300. Perhaps easy money could be credited with that in the 2000s, but we've had easy money before 2003, too. Alan Greenspan's easy money from 1995 did nothing for gold, which continued down to $263 by late 2000. So what made gold skyrocket beginning after 2003? Everyone is ignoring who were the buyers then who helped drive up the price of gold.

The answer is buyers of GLD, the gold ETF launched in 2004. If puny little Cyprus can set off a wave of gold selling today with 14 lousy metric tonnes in question at the maximum, think about what GLD has done to gold buying, and thus to the gold price, over the years building up a wave of 1300 tonnes from 2004. GLD easily qualifies as the major player in the buying action in an annual production environment of about double that figure. It's just that now the limit has been reached under current conditions, and people are starting to realize that confiscation is becoming thinkable again. The gold price has slowly eroded from the September 2011 peak, and is now being shoved over the edge by confiscation fears.

You build a market and they will come, until actual ownership becomes more important than a paper proxy. That is a problem GLD cannot solve, nor any other gold "investment" which does not involve transfering physical possession to the buyer. Germany, for example, no longer trusts its gold in others' hands and wants it back in country. Try telling that to GLD, which won't be transferring gold to any "owners". I'd say that's very negative for GLD going forward, and very negative for gold prices generally because of GLD's sheer heft, just as possible confiscation of weak sovereigns' gold looming as a very real possibility is negative for gold prices because of their relative size and importance.

When it comes to GLD or any other form of paper gold, the only important question is, "Where are all the customers' yachts?"

Carnage in Gold Creates Near Perfect Gold/Oil Ratio of 15.2

The collapse in NY gold from $1501 on Friday to $1352 tonight adds a nearly 10% decline on top of Friday's 4% decline.

Oil closed down too, today, just below 89, yielding a nearly perfect gold/oil ratio of 15.2.

Based on the decline in the ratio down to this point, the buy signal for oil the higher ratio indicated comes off. But that doesn't mean we've got a buy signal for gold. Yet.

At 82.29, the US Dollar Currency Index is not indicating any real new strength on these developments.

Caution is indicated as gold may well continue down, and oil may follow it.

TIPS Sell-Off A Sign Of Deflation In The Economy?

Bloomberg has the story about the sell-off in Treasury inflation-protected securities, here:

For the first time since the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, mutual funds that target Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities have seen outflows for three straight months, according to Morningstar Inc.

Even after the Fed injected more than $2.3 trillion into the financial system since 2008, inflation is under control, bolstering the appeal of bonds while providing the central bank with more scope to provide stimulus as needed to foster the economic recovery. Commodity prices are down and wages have grown just 1.9 percent on average since 2009, below the 3.1 percent in the prior three years, government data show.

“With such weak labor markets, flat income growth and flat wages, and commodities weak, we just won’t see the inflation that the TIPS market is pricing in,” Dan Heckman, a fixed- income strategist at the U.S. Bank Wealth Management unit of U.S. Bancorp, which manages $110 billion, said in telephone interview April 9.

Art Cashin Looks For A Watering Hole, Out Of The Deflationary Wind

Five o'clock has been replaced. Our kind of guy:

"It's always noon somewhere."

On the Friday just past, here.

Illegal Immigration Magnet In Chief

They say,

"Obama's gonna let me go."


“Where do I go for my amnesty?”

Story here.

Josh Brown Doesn't Think Too Much Of Your Paper Gold

Oliver Cromwell
And he's not too fond of the real thing sitting right in front of you, either, here:

'It is utterly uninteresting to me and gold equity investing - things like paper ETFs and the shares of horrible gold miners - seems to defeat the whole purpose of an end-of-the-world asset class in the first place. I promise, should a torrent of plague and genocide wash across the land on a roaring floodtide of blood and economic catastrophe, your stupid-ass "stock market gold" shan't be left unscathed.  And if I am dismissive of it as an investment, you can imagine how I feel about it as an actual real-life medium of exchange - I live in the United States of America in the 21st Century and I have no interest in exchanging dollars in my savings account for something that hedge funds and sovereign governments can pump and dump at will.'

Well, they can pump and dump worthless paper currencies, too, and are. That's the problem. But as I pointed out here last year, gold has been on a tear ever since paper gold in the form of GLD made its appearance in November 2004. At the time, the US Dollar Currency Index opened the month at 81.82, just a little under where it is today, and then promptly rose, but gold closed that year under $440 the ounce, as it had the year before. After dropping about 4% on Friday to $1,501 the ounce, gold today is presently down another 6% to $1,404, but even that is a price which is much too high even though gold is now technically in a bear market, down over 26% from the September 2011 highs around $1,900.

They have made a market of gold which didn't exist before, and the price went up, up, up, just as they have made a market of mortgages and of houses through securitization and commoditization, and the price went up, up, up, until it came down, down, down.

I'd say gold has about another $1,000 down to go to get to fair value, but if you follow Louis Woodhill a price in the $200s is more like it, and John Tamny rather likes it at $800. Which is to say, there is lots of distortion in markets generally which is preventing price discovery.

Time will tell. So keep your powder dry as they say, if you've got any left. If you don't, maybe you'll have to sell some gold.

"Invest" In Housing? Real Home Prices Up 0.2 Percent Per Annum 1890-1990.

So warns Robert Shiller, here:

"Home prices look remarkably stable when corrected for inflation. Over the 100 years ending in 1990 — before the recent housing boom — real home prices rose only 0.2 percent a year, on average. The smallness of that increase seems best explained by rising productivity in construction, which offset increasing costs of land and labor."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tax Compliance Costs: Over A Full Week Of Your Time

The poll tax in the north for 1873
If it takes 6.1 billion hours to comply with the tax code as reported here, for 114.7 million households that's over 53 hours per household, or 6.7 eight hour days, each.

It took me four six hour days but still, this is insane. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

If Babies Had Guns . . .

Libertarian Megan McArdle Makes Me Want To Puke

Because she thinks there is anything which can make abortion humane, here:

"I knew about the Gosnell case, and I wish I had followed it more closely, even though I'd rather not.  In fact, those of us who are pro-choice should be especially interested.  The whole point of legal abortion is to prevent what happened in Philadelphia: to make it safer and more humane.  Somehow that ideal went terribly, horribly awry.  We should demand to know why."

Abortion at any stage is the brutal murder of another human being, the mark of an unrefined, barbarous people, and our country is full of them. To exercise humanity in this situation would be to sterilize every woman who comes into an abortion clinic, and every man who put her there. They should have no right ever again to inflict such pain and injustice on another utterly defenseless human being.

Robert Samuelson: Obama Is Timid, Lazy, Phony, Tiny and Small

"Timid, lazy, phony, tiny and small" doesn't quite have the same ring as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short", but you never know, it might catch on.

There is something profoundly timid about President Obama's proposed $3.778 trillion budget for 2014. ... [T]he budget is a status-quo document. It lets existing trends and policies run their course, meaning that Obama would allow higher spending on the elderly to overwhelm most other government programs. This is not "liberal" or "conservative" so much as politically expedient and lazy. ...

Obama remains unwilling to grapple with basic questions posed by an aging population, high health costs and persistent deficits. Why shouldn't programs for the elderly be overhauled to reflect longer life expectancy and growing wealth among retirees? Shouldn't we have a debate on the size and role of government, eliminating low-value programs and raising taxes to cover the rest? The "spin" given by the White House -- and accepted by much of the media -- is that the president is doing precisely this by putting coveted "entitlement" spending on the bargaining table.

It's phony. Compared with the size of the problem, Obama's proposals are tiny. The much-discussed shift in the inflation adjustment for Social Security benefits to the "chained" consumer price index would save $130 billion over a decade; that's about 1 percent of projected Social Security spending of $11.23 trillion over the same period. ...

The work of politics is persuasion. It is orchestrating desirable, though unpopular, changes. (Popular changes don't require much work.) . . . Already, his small proposed cuts in Social Security benefits have outraged much of the liberal base.

So Obama has taken a pass. He has chosen the lazy way out. He's evading basic choices while claiming he's bold and brave. ...

Despite Gold's Drop, Gold/Oil Ratio Finishes The Week At Oil-Bullish 16.45

Even at the spot price of gold of $1,477 after the NY close the ratio is 16.18, indicating that oil remains on sale relative to gold.

Gold closed at $1501.40, well below what is understood to be a key support level of $1,521. There is talk of price falling to below $1,300 by early 2014.

At current prices of oil around $90, $1,300 gold would be an attractive buy, but it remains to be seen if oil can remain that expensive in a period of reduced demand due to chronic, severe unemployment, increasing domestic supply from oil shales, replacement of diesel with natural gas and increased passenger vehicle efficiency standards.

Rising dollar strength from early February to as high as 83.22 on the index in late March may well be the result of these oil trends, along with relative constraints on US federal spending due to divided government and more certainty about government revenue streams due to the settlement of long-standing income tax impermanencies.