Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Davos on the Edge 9.30.2009


John Williams of Shadow Statistics: Not a Recovery, Dire Shape,

30 Minute point on, Part 1

World Bank Head Sees Dollar’s Role Diminishing

“The greenback’s fortunes will depend heavily on U.S. choices,” Mr. Zoellick said. “Will the United States resolve its debt problems without a resort to inflation? Can America establish long-term discipline over spending and its budget deficit?”

FDIC Bankrupt? Uh huh.

From CNBC's "Breaking News" banner:

FDIC to Ask Banks to Pre-Pay Premiums to Inject Cash Into Deposit Insurance Fund (story developing)


Somehow I suspect it will be something like this:

(Gee, I need to graft Geithner's head on that one..... along with Bair!)

Anyway, the point stands. The FDIC is clearly out of money, and this is nothing more than yet another legalized accounting fraud game, where they'll get "the money" now but allow the banks to "recognize" that "charge" over time.

Gee, what happens if the bank doesn't have any money somewhere between now and then and fails?

Mark To Myth Losers: Americans

I have often written about the fraud in marking so-called "assets" to mythical values. But nowhere does the damage of this practice hit more home than it does in places like this:

Vacant homes can become havens for drug sales and other crimes. Health and sanitation is another issue when homeless people move in to properties where utilities have been disconnected. And as the weather cools, there is yet another worry -- fires started by intruders trying to keep warm in vacant homes.

"They want to find a place to get out of the cold," Rigler says at another home near 300 East and 800 South. Several windows and even two doors have needed boarding up in recent months to keep out those doggedly determined to take up residence.

Those homes are the "visible side" of accounting fraud.

This is not limited to Utah. In Oakland CA:

"Just about every foreclosed property on my beat has some kind of problem," said Derek Smitheram, a police officer in East Oakland, which he said has thousands of vacant homes.

Again, the issue here is that these properties are being intentionally kept back from the market due to valuation.

Or in Miami....

But the real estate agent now brings a pistol when he visits the foreclosures he is trying to sell for banks, in case he runs into squatters in the long-vacant homes.

The problem in all three places, and thousands of towns across the country, is the same: Banks have every incentive to drag their feet in both recognizing that loans are delinquent and thus to prosecute foreclosure in the first place, but also, once that has occurred, they have every incentive to hold properties off the market - the so-called "shadow inventory" - to avoid recognizing losses that have already occurred.

The Case for Inflation

Faber and the Dollar

PhD economist Marc Faber said in May:

“I am 100% sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation.”

Faber said he thinks – in the medium-term – we could have high levels of inflation (and see this and this).

Faber’s argument is that a weakening dollar will lead to inflation (as every dollar will buy less goods and services).

Government Printing

The government has injected trillions of dollars into the economy in the form of TARP bailout funds and other programs. Indeed, the government’s own watchdog over the TARP program – the special inspector general – said that number could be $23 trillion dollars in a worst-case scenario.

The basic argument for inflation is – as everyone knows – that the government has injected so much money into the economy (through bailouts, quantitative easing, purchase of treasuries, etc.) that there will be a lot more dollars chasing the same number of goods and services, which will drive up prices. In other words, the supply is the same, but demand has increased.

Indeed, the U.S. has also provided huge sums of dollars to foreign central banks. Could dollars given abroad cause inflation inside the U.S.? Yes – because some proportion of those dollars will be spent by citizens in those countries to buy stocks, commodities, goods and services within the U.S.

Three well-known advocates of the inflation argument are Rogers, Buffet and Schiff.

Specifically, billionaire investor Jim Rogers said we are facing an “inflationary holocaust”.

Warren Buffett said:

The policies that government will follow in its efforts to alleviate the current crisis will probably prove inflationary and therefore accelerate declines in the real value of cash accounts.

And Peter Schiff has argued for years that hyperinflation will wipe out the value of the dollar, so people should get all of their money out of dollars and into foreign currencies and assets.

But is all this government printing and quantitative easing really enough to cause inflation?

The back-of-the-envelope figures I’ve seen bandied about say no. Because of the massive destruction of credit (which – as Mish has repeatedly pointed out – must be included in discussions of inflation versus deflation), the government would probably have to print one-and-a-half to two times as much as it already has in order to create inflation.

The government could still do so. Yes, it would be suicidal for the dollar and might cause foreign buyers of U.S. treasuries to stop buying, but the boys in Washington could – if they were crazy enough – increase the money printing and quantitative easing to the point where inflation actually kicks in.

Will they do so? Summers, Geithner and Bernanke have proven themselves willing to do a lot of crazy things over the past year, so I wouldn’t rule the possibility out altogether.

Hyperinflation is Coming! Weimar Republic of Germany

Simon Johnson: Prospects for Your Future (Video on page)

Your Airplane Nate: Take care!