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Jim Cook

 

RUNAWAY SOCIAL SYMPATHY

Every once in a while I switch the TV channel from Fox to CNBC to see what the liberals are saying.  After listening awhile I get a deep sense of hopelessness and foreboding for our country.  The most important thing for the left is giving money to people.  They are happy to see the growth of food stamps, disability payments, housing subsidies, free healthcare and all the other welfare benefits.  They utterly fail to see the damage it is doing to the recipients.  Whole cities that once flourished have deteriorated into rotting eyesores populated with shambling hulks of chemically dependent drones.  These people are no longer employable.  They have become incompetent and helpless and the liberals can’t see that it’s their doing.

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The Best of Jim Cook Archive

 
Best of Doug Noland
April 28, 2008
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I could not be more pessimistic with regard to our economy’s prognosis. And certainly much more severe Credit problems lay ahead. I could argue further that recent Credit system developments are indeed consistent with the unfolding "worst-case scenario". Yet I tend this evening to see benefits from analyzing the current backdrop in terms of the conclusion of the first Stage of the Crisis. The key aspect of this "first Stage" was a breakdown in Wall Street’s highly leveraged risk intermediation and securities speculation markets. The speed and force of the unwind was extraordinary and in notable contrast to traditional banking crises that track real economy developments. "Resolution" came only through the Federal Reserve and federal government assuming unprecedented risk – and at a cost of a policymaking mix of interest-rate cuts, marketplace interventions, and government guarantees. It is worth pondering some of the near-term ramifications.

First of all – and as the market recognized this week – yields have been driven to excessively low levels. Fed funds are today ridiculously priced in comparison both to the inflationary backdrop and to global rates. Mr. Feldstein is calling for a halt to rate cuts when it would be more appropriate for the Fed to move immediately to return rates to a more reasonable level. They, of course, would not contemplate as much. So I will presume that today’s non-imploding Credit system – replete with government-backed mortgage securitizations, government-guaranteed bank Credit, presumed government-backstopped money funds and a recovering debt issuance apparatus – will suffice in the near-term in generating Credit sufficient to perpetuate our enormous Current Account Deficits. This is no minor point.

I have in past Bulletins made the case that U.S. Credit and Economic Bubbles had become untenable – the scope of Credit and risk intermediation necessary to support the maladjusted economy had become too large. Extraordinary measures to effectively "nationalize" mortgage and market liquidity risk change somewhat the direction of the analysis. I would today argue that the risk of a precipitous economic downturn has been reduced in the near-term. As a consequence, U.S. Credit growth could surprise on the upside with risks to global Price Instability increasing markedly.

I would argue firmly that – in the face of a rapidly weakening economic backdrop - global inflation dynamics coupled with our highly maladjusted economy ensure intractable trade deficits. I would further argue that the current inflationary backdrop will prove an impetus to Credit creation – that then begets only more heightened inflationary pressures. There are certainly indications that the over-liquefied global "system" is not well situated today to handle more dollar liquidity (akin to throwing gas on a fire). Inflation and its consequences have quickly become major issues around the world.

With crude hitting a record $117 today, there is every reason to expect that newly created global liquidity will further inflate energy, food, and commodity prices generally. The Goldman Sachs Commodities index has gained 21% already this year. But when it comes to Monetary Instability, our financial markets might just prove the unappreciated wildcard. When the Fed and Washington radically altered the rules of U.S. finance last month, they placed in jeopardy huge positions that had been put in place to hedge against and profit from systemic crisis. With the end of "Stage one" arises a major short squeeze in the Credit, equities, and derivatives markets. And when it comes to contemplating the scope and ramifications of today’s "hedging" activities, we’re clearly in Uncharted Waters. It is not beyond reason that a disorderly unwind of "bearish" Credit market positions could incite a mini bout of liquidity, speculation, and Credit excess that exacerbates Global Monetary Instability - while Setting the Backdrop for Stage Two of the Crisis.

Doug Noland is a market strategist at Prudent Bear Funds. Their website is www.prudentbear.com.