“Massive Deterioration” – Worse Than 2008

BALTMORE – “Stocks still not finding bottom” warned a headline at Investor’s Business Daily. On Thursday, the Dow ended down 255 points – or 1.6%. The index is down by almost 9% since the start of the year.

“These developments, if they prove persistent, could weigh on the outlook for economic activity…” proffered a nervous-looking Janet Yellen in her testimony on Capitol Hill. She was signaling to investors.

 

Yellen_cartoon_02.27.2015Smoke signals…

 

“Don’t worry about us,” she may as well have said. “If we can get away with a big U-turn, we’re not going to raise rates anymore.”

On Tuesday, Maersk Group, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it was suffering a “massive deterioration” in its business.

“It is worse than 2008,” its CEO, Nils Andersen, told the Financial Times. But this is not even near the bottom for the world economy. Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass warns that the other shoe is a big one… and it hasn’t dropped yet.

 

The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam August 16, 2013. The 55,000 tonne ship, named after the son of the founder of the oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, has a length of 400 meters and cost $185 million. A.P. Moller-Maersk raised its annual profit forecast for the business on Friday, helped by tighter cost controls and lower fuel prices. Maersk shares jumped 6 percent to their highest in 1-1/2 years as investors welcomed a near-doubling of second-quarter earnings at container arm Maersk Line, which generates nearly half of group revenue and is helping counter weakness in the company's oil business. REUTERS/Michael Kooren (NETHERLANDS - Tags: MARITIME TRANSPORT BUSINESS) - RTX12NIUA Maersk container ship…the line is feeling the pinch – the Baltic Dry Index has collapsed to just 291 points (from approx. 11,800 at the 2008 peak) and container shipping rates have declined sharply as well.

Photo credit: Michael Kooren / Reuters

 

China’s economy is heavily dependent on capital investment. It puts its money into building factories, highways, offices, apartment blocks, railroads, ports, and airports. What do all these projects require? Rebar!

Concrete is reinforced with steel bars. As the pace of building slows, the price of rebar goes down. In 2008, a ton of rebar cost about 5,500 renminbi ($836). Now, it costs barely 2,000 renminbi ($304) – the lowest price in at least 15 years.

 

Steel rebar futures, weeklyShanghai steel rebar futures, weekly in RMB – click to enlarge.

 

Compared to the size of its economy, China has two to three times the debt the U.S. had in 2008 – a total of $34 trillion, said Bass. As the Chinese economy slows, more steel mills, real estate developers, and manufacturers can’t pay their debts.

Total losses from debt defaults could be four times U.S. losses in the 2008 crisis. And that is just the beginning. Next week, we’ll explain why… and why Trump and Sanders are getting so much of the millennial vote. In the meantime, here’s an essay from the archives…

 

Convenient Beliefs

[Ed. note: Originally published August 2, 2005]

People come to believe whatever they need to believe when they need to believe it. Recent studies of voting patterns confirm the obvious. Zombies vote for higher taxes. Cronies vote for lower taxes. All believe they are voting for matters of principle.

Alan Greenspan believed strongly in gold – until he became a central banker.  Then he believed he could do a better job than gold. Or at least he pretended to.  It was a job requirement.  A priest who didn’t believe in the resurrection would be useless. So would a plumber who didn’t believe in using a wrench.

 

GreenspanThings Alan Greenspan said before he became master of the fiat mint…

 

$19 Trillion and Counting…

In public life, people generally believe the dominant myth of the system in which they live. We are all democrats in the U.S. We believe in electing our leaders.  But there is no particular reason why this method should be superior to choosing our leaders by lottery or hand-to-hand combat.

Throughout most of history, people believed in other systems.  If we lived in a kingdom, we would probably believe strongly in monarchy. If we had a dictator, we’d probably have his name on our bumpers. And if we lived in a theocracy, we would kneel for prayer at the appointed hour.

 

egg_man-cAs libertarian philosopher Stefan Molineux argues, there has always been only one purpose to having rulers, whether they are elected or not: the (tax)-farming of other humans.

 

Are we so much smarter now?  Maybe not.  Circumstances change. Ideas change with them.  The U.S. became an empire without anyone noticing. But now, Americans believe in empire… So much so that they are willing to spend trillions of dollars to maintain it.

The national debt of the U.S. is $19 trillion. At least $5 trillion of that can be traced to the costs of empire.  We have military bases all over the world. We believe we must meet challenges in Iraq, Syria, North Korea – all around the periphery of the empire.

We may just as well leave the poor Iraqis, Syrians, and North Koreans to take care of their own problems… But the thought wouldn’t be compatible with the imperial purple.  An empire acts like an empire.

 

Parasites of the Affluent Class

 And a rich person acts like a rich person. He cannot get richer and richer forever. So he must find ways to get rid of his money. Trees do not grow to the sky. There is no yin without a yang… no day without night… no boom without bust.

Everything regresses to the mean – including the wealth of an individual or a group. Even our own lives regress. No one was ever born who was not destined to die. The mean is the grave – for which we are all bound.

When a man gets a certain amount of money, he takes up the beliefs of a man who needs to spend it. He believes he needs a bigger house. He believes that more expensive wine is better than the cheap stuff. He may even take a course on wine… and bore his friends and neighbors with his sophisticated palette.

 

the-most-expensive-wines-in-the-worldFrom “tastes like vinegar past its due date”: beverages designed to liberate the wealthy of some of their loot.

Image credit: Wine Folly

 

He believes a Mercedes-Maybach is superior to a Chevy. He believes he needs a mistress. Or a yacht. Wealth brings duties, as well as advantages. When a man makes some money, he finds himself the subject of attention of what Gloom, Boom & Doom Report publisher Marc Faber calls “the immediate parasites of the affluent class.”

As Faber puts it, these are the “real estate agents, stockbrokers, financial planners, investment bankers, fund managers… economists, derivative traders, salesmen of high-end cars, pleasure boats, and private jets, art dealers, diamond merchants, mistresses, second, third and fourth trophy wives, spoiled children, estate and tax planners, and lawyers.”

Then there are the “secondary parasites.”  Faber again… “They include life coaches, cosmetic surgeons, personal trainers, dog walkers and pet sitters, personal assistants, beauty consultants, massage therapists, and wedding planners.”

 

Too Many Zombies

A rich man’s duty is to believe these people give him some advantage. But all these things come at a price. They are handicaps.  When he is engaged in a quarrelsome divorce, a rich man has less time to devote to his business.

He forgets to study his sales figures when he is at wine school. And much of his fortune could be easily separated from him by clever financial planners. He gives himself these handicaps until he is able to get his wealth down to more reasonable levels – closer to the mean, that is.

If he dies before his work is done – while he still has some change in his pockets – he can be sure that the next generation will finish what he began. In a few years, the family will have average wealth rather than extraordinary wealth.

So, too, does a rich society need to give itself handicaps – so that its wealth and power can come back to a meaner level.  The U.S. surpassed Britain as the world’s leading economy in the 1890s when Queen Victoria was on the throne and Benjamin Harrison was American president.

 

the-three-branches-of-government-greed-cronyism-and-propagandaBilly’s offers a theory of government

Cartoon by Stan Fill

 

America’s lead gained over the next five decades – greatly aided by two devastating European wars… one of which it helped prolong and make far more disastrous for Europe than it otherwise would have been.

But along with its wealth, America’s handicaps increased. It now spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.  After 9/11, it might have put a few more cops on the case… instead, it launched a “War on Terror” – another costly, distracting handicap.

Over the years, the U.S. has also increased its expensive social welfare programs, and the economic freedom that made its economy the leader of the world has given way to a rigged and heavily regulated economy.

GM – once the largest and most profitable business in the world – now has the handicap of having to spend thousands of dollars in health and retirement costs for every car it builds. Its competitors in China have almost none. Eventually, convenient beliefs become inconvenient. Handicaps take too much time and too much money.

Too many zombies. Too many cronies. Too many pointless wars and futile government spending programs. Too many hobbies. Too many trophy wives. Then the rich man, GM, and the empire – all take up more modest roles and more modest beliefs.

 

Chart by: BarChart.com

 

Chart and image captions by PT

 

The above article originally appeared as “Worse than 2008” at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 
 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 
 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke

   
 

One Response to “Convenient Beliefs”

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • US Financial Markets – Alarm Bells are Ringing
      A Shift in Expectations When discussing the outlook for so-called “risk assets”, i.e., mainly stocks and corporate bonds (particularly low-grade bonds) and their counterparts on the “safe haven” end of the spectrum (such as gold and government bonds with strong ratings), one has to consider different time frames and the indicators applicable to these time frames. Since Donald Trump's election victory, there have been sizable moves in stocks, gold and treasury bonds, as the election...
  • Modi’s Great Leap Forward
      India’s Currency Ban – Part VIII India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced on 8th November 2016 that Rs 500 (~$7.50) and Rs 1,000 (~$15) banknotes would no longer be legal tender. Linked are Part-I, Part-II, Part-III, Part-IV, Part-V, Part-VI and Part-VII, which provide updates on the demonetization saga and how Modi is acting as a catalyst to hasten the rapid degradation of India and what remains of its institutions.   India’s Pride and Joy   Indians are...
  • Global Recession and Other Visions for 2017
      Conjuring Up Visions Today’s a day for considering new hopes, new dreams, and new hallucinations.  The New Year is here, after all.  Now is the time to turn over a new leaf and start afresh. Naturally, 2017 will be the year you get exactly what’s coming to you. Both good and bad.  But what else will happen?   Image of a recently discarded vision... Image by Michael Del Mundo   Here we begin by closing our eyes and slowing our breath.  We let our mind...
  • The Great El Monte Public Pension Swindle
      Nowhere City California There are places in Southern California where, although the sun always shines, they haven’t seen a ray of light for over 50-years.  There’s a no man’s land of urban blight along Interstate 10, from East Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley, where cities you’ve never heard of and would never go to, are jumbled together like shipping containers on Terminal Island.  El Monte, California, is one of those places.   Advice dispensed on Interstate...
  • A Trade Deal Trump Cannot Improve
      Worst in Class BALTIMORE – People can believe whatever they want. But sooner or later, real life intervenes. We just like to see the looks on their faces when it does. By that measure, 2017 may be our best year ever. Rarely have so many people believed so many impossible things.   Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for...
  • Pope Francis Now International Monetary Guru
      Neo-Marxist Pope Francis Argues for Global Central Bank As the new year dawns, it seems the current occupant of St. Peter’s Chair will take on a new function which is outside the purview of the office that the Divine Founder of his institution had clearly mandated.   Neo-Papist transmogrification. We highly recommend the economic thought of one of Francis' storied predecessors, John Paul II, which we have written about on previous occasions. In “A Tale of Two Popes” and...
  • Where’s the Outrage?
      Blind to Crony Socialism Whenever a failed CEO is fired with a cushy payoff, the outrage is swift and voluminous.  The liberal press usually misrepresents this as a hypocritical “jobs for the boys” program within the capitalist class.  In reality, the payoffs are almost always contractual obligations, often for deferred compensation, that the companies vigorously try to avoid.  Believe me.  I’ve been on both sides of this kind of dispute (except, of course, for the “failed”...
  • Trump’s Trade Catastrophe?
      “Trade Cheaters” It is worse than “voodoo economics,” says former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. It is the “economic equivalent of creationism.” Wait a minute -  Larry Summers is wrong about almost everything. Could he be right about this?   Larry Summers, the man who is usually wrong about almost everything. As we have always argued, the economy is much safer when he sleeps, so his tendency to fall asleep on all sorts of occasions should definitely be welcomed....
  • Trump’s Plan to Close the Trade Deficit with China
      Rags to Riches Jack Ma is an amiable fellow.  Back in 1994, while visiting the United States he decided to give that newfangled internet thing a whirl.  At a moment of peak inspiration, he executed his first search engine request by typing in the word beer.   Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce firm. Once he was a school teacher, but it turned out that he had enormous entrepreneurial talent and that the world of wheelers, dealers, movers and...
  • Side Notes, January 14 - Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs
      Red Flags Over Goldman Sachs Just to prove that I am an even-handed insulter, here is a rant about my former employer, Goldman Sachs. The scandal at 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund from which it appears that billions were stolen by politicians all the way up to the Prime Minister, continues to unfold.   The main players in the 1MDB scandal. Irony alert: apparently money siphoned off from 1MDB was used to inter alia finance Martin Scorcese's movie “The Wolf of...
  • Money Creation and the Boom-Bust Cycle
      A Difference of Opinions In his various writings, Murray Rothbard argued that in a free market economy that operates on a gold standard, the creation of credit that is not fully backed up by gold (fractional-reserve banking) sets in motion the menace of the boom-bust cycle. In his The Case for 100 Percent Gold Dollar Rothbard wrote:   I therefore advocate as the soundest monetary system and the only one fully compatible with the free market and with the absence of force or fraud...
  • Silver’s Got Fundamentals - Precious Metals Supply-Demand Report
      Supply-Demand Fundamentals Improve Noticeably Last week was another short week, due to the New Year holiday. We look forward to getting back to our regularly scheduled market action.   Photo via thedailycoin.org   The prices of both metals moved up again this week. Something very noticeable is occurring in the supply and demand fundamentals. We will give an update on that, but first, here’s the graph of the metals’ prices.   Prices of gold and silver...

Austrian Theory and Investment

Support Acting Man

Own physical gold and silver outside a bank

Archive

j9TJzzN

350x200

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com