Taleb video: credit crunch not black swan, moral hazard now worse

From Bloomberg:


Some great comments on the OMB (“lying on their forecasts”), Geithner (“who has a mortage on a house not far from mine… who didn’t understand risk and real estate prices”), Summers (“uses wrong mathematics in his papers” and has “systemic arrogance”), and Bernanke (“the one who crashed the plane”).

He has praise for David Cameron, whom he thinks understands how to solve the crisis.

Plenty of fodder for inflationists and bond bears here: Hard assets like metals and agricultural land would be a good way to protect value. Forget the stock market and most real estate.

Does anybody, such as professors, now understand the issues he raises? No. Don’t go to business school, but if you go, don’t take any business class that has equations in it: “it’s all bogus.”

Chart roundup

Greetings from the USA. I’ve been on the move and under the weather (why is it I only get colds in the US?) for a couple of weeks.

Here’s an old standby, 20-day average equity Put:Call vs. S&P500. As you can see, extreme readings are a very powerful indicator, but the market can take its time in responding, as it is now:


The action these days reminds me of May-July 2007, with its extreme optimism, complacency and overvaluation. Remember how quickly things cracked in late July and August, when we went from Goldilocks to Cramer’s famous (and probably scripted) tantrum about how Bernanke needed to lower rates?

Here’s another chart I’m watching. Would you sell it short?


The VIX has printed a new low, but its slope is flattening out:


One measure of risk is not registering new extremes, the Gold:Silver ratio:


Here’s TLT (30 year bond proxy) priced in gold. I’m not saying it’s definitely printed a bottom, but I wouldn’t short this:


I gather people are starting to fret about gasoline prices again. I’m not worried, since sentiment is getting pretty lopsided even as prices fail to register new highs:


To filter out the reflation effect, here’s crude oil priced in gold. It has done all it needs to clear the oversold condition, with a kiss of 0.08, last seen in early 2007:


Dr. Copper’s also all cleared for a fall:

As for the funnymentals, revenues and earnings are still way down from Q3 2008, which was already well into the recession. Quarter over quarter improvements in operating earnings mean nothing without revenue growth, and pricing power is shot. Analyst estimates assume a return to peak earnings within two years, which is insane, since the credit bubble that produced those numbers is not coming back. Credit of every kind is still shrinking. Bank credit just went negative for the first time since the Fed started keeping track in 1974:


This remains a technical rally, a relief of universally bearish sentiment that has turned into a momentum-driven, low-volume, low-participation mini-mania. When the momentum runs out, there won’t be a bid to stop the fall for hundreds of S&P points.

We’ve been at peak conditions for about two months now, in terms of the VIX, put:call and sentiment surveys, and prices have fulfilled all kinds of technical targets. What can’t be sustained, won’t.

Rosenberg: Latest employment and credit figures show deflationary depression unabated

This morning’s Breakfast With Dave is good one.

There are so many headwinds confronting the U.S. consumer it’s not even funny. For a look at the new harsh reality of soaring usage of grocery vouchers, as well as other supplements to the household budget, have a look at the grim article on page 2 of the weekend FT (Families Take Up Food Stamps as Wages Shrink). On the very same page, there is an article on the latest trend in terms of 21st-century breadlines — Middle Classes Turn to Car Park Handouts. To think we still get asked why we aren’t more bullish over the outlook for spending. Truly amazing.


The U.S. economy is actually 9.4 million jobs short of being anywhere remotely close to being fully employed, which is why any inflation that can somehow be created by the Fed is simply going to be unsustainable noise along a fundamental downtrend in pricing power. After last Friday’s report, we have now lost 6.9 million positions that have been cut during this recession and we have to count in the additional 2.5 million jobs that need to be created — but never were — just to absorb the new entrants into the labour market. The ‘real’ unemployment rate is now 16.8%, so to suggest that this down-cycle was anything but a depression is basically a misrepresentation of the facts.


It is interesting that the equity market has begun to wobble (fade last Friday’s rally on such low volume) because we have noticed that some key liquidity indicators are not behaving very well, all of a sudden. M1 fell 1.0% in the August 24th week and over the past four weeks is down at a 6.5% annual rate. M2 has contracted in each of the past four weeks too and over that time has slipped at a 12.2% annualized pace, which is a near-record decline. We see the same trend in the broad MZM money measure — off at a 15.8% annual rate over the past month. Bank credit also remains in a fundamental downtrend — contracting at an epic 9% annualized pace over the past four weeks.

So for the first time in the post-WWII era, we have deflation in credit, wages and rents, and from our lens this is a toxic brew that in the end will ensure that the focus on capital preservation and income orientation will be the winning strategy over a strict reliance on capital appreciation.

Greenspan was Framed! Blame bankers’ moral hazard, not their lackey.

Source: The Johnsville News

Source: The Johnsville News

The Cover Story

It has become commonplace to lay blame for the greatest of asset bubbles on the inflationary policies of Sir Allen Greenspan and his employer. A typical critique goes something like this: For the last 20 years, every time the market started to liquidate bad debts and malinvestments (the junk bond bust, the crash of ’87, the early ’90s recession, the LTCM blowup, and dot-com crash), Greenspan just turned on the money spigot and made it all better again with lower rates. Because he so encouraged borrowers and lowered or eliminated reserve limits for lenders, we avoided the necessary catharsis and let bad investment pile upon bad investment, with ever increasing asset prices and debt levels, until we reached the stratosphere last year. By then the system had become so saturated with debt, and asset prices so high, that mass bankruptcy and liquidation was inevitable.

The Real Killers

This history is correct, but not complete, and it lays no blame on the true evil at the heart of the age-old problem of the credit cycle. In any analysis of historical events, one must sift through dunes of BS, and the best way to do that is to ask, Qui Bono? (“as a benefit to whom?”). The answer of course, is bankers and their perennial sidekicks, politicians. The latter designation includes the ‘Maestro,’ whom, while valuable for his mastery of obfuscation, could have easily been replaced had he not played ball. Bankers have no qualms about overextending credit, because they, more than any other party, control the government. Politicians and the bureaucracies they create have always worked for money, and bankers have always been the highest bidders.

The Means

The primary mechanism by which bankers steal from the public is fractional reserve lending, which is enabled by the socialization of losses through FDIC insurance and the Federal Reserve’s monopoly over currency.  FDIC absolves commercial bankers from responsibility for their client’s deposits, and the Fed and Treasury lock the public into the rigged system.

The Motive

Within FDIC limits, depositors have no incentive to seek out banks that employ sound lending standards. Because banks are all equally safe from the depositor’s point of view, bankers have no incentive to be cautious. They have a strong disincentive to be so, because the more credit banks extend (the higher their leverage), and the shakier the enterprises to which they lend (at higher interest), the higher their rate of return during the credit expansion (inflation) phase of the cycle. The name of the game is to grow your balance sheet as fast as possible, with little concern as to reserve ratios or collateralization.

The Opportunity

Once the bust arrives, bank executives have already collected so much in salary and bonuses and sold so much stock to an ever-credulous public, that it isn’t very painful for them if their bank fails, since they have become rich. But once a bank gets big enough (remember, the name of the game is to expand your balance sheet), it is easy for its now powerful executives to ‘convince’ politicians that failure would be so damaging that the Treasury (i.e., public) must assume its debts for the greater good.  At critical times, it may be desirable to cut out the middle man and place a trusted member of the cartel directly in the federal executive.

The Fed is Just an Accomplice

In the meantime, the Federal Reserve is called upon to extend cheap credit to banks in general, which often entails the printing of new paper or digital money. The lower base rates that ensue help banks to get off their feet again by encouraging the public to borrow more than is warranted by economic conditions. (Note: The above is how things worked before we reached Peak Credit last year, and the bankers and Fed are trying with all their might to inflate again, but they will be continually confounded. The game is now over, because nobody wants or can afford any more debt, and banks are finally so impaired by defaults that they cannot lend. Also, at $50 trillion in total private debt, the entire mess is now too big to bail, given the Fed’s mere $900 billion balance sheet.)

A Long History of Offense

So that is it in a nutshell: a completely corrupt monetary system. It is nothing new. We have had episodes like this since before Andrew Jackson abolished the first national bank. So long as a national bank has a monopoly on money creation and legal tender laws obligate the public to use fiat currency and not an alternative such as gold, bankers will retain a lock on the economy and the boom-bust cycle will continue, at great expense to our security and quality of life.

Can They Help it? Isn’t it Just Human Nature?

The credit cycle is a natural phenomenon, yes, but so is war. And just as right-thinking people oppose that other means by which the public is exploited by the oligarchy, so they should oppose fractional reserve lending and the institutions that support it: the Federal Reserve system, the FDIC, and legal tender laws.