Daniel Mankani "DynamicTrader – Trend Trading Dynamics" Trading for a living, systematically profiting from longer term trends.

10Apr/160

Comparing 1930s with Today

"The Greater Depression Has Started" - Comparing 1930s & Today
Submitted by Doug Casey via InternationalMan.com.
You've heard the axiom "History repeats itself." It does, but never in exactly the same way. To apply the lessons of the past, we must understand the differences of the present.
During the American Revolution, the British came prepared to fight a successful war—but against a European army. Their formations, which gave them devastating firepower, and their red coats, which emphasized their numbers, proved the exact opposite of the tactics needed to fight a guerrilla war.
Before World War I, generals still saw the cavalry as the flower of their armies. Of course, the horse soldiers proved worse than useless in the trenches.
Before World War II, in anticipation of a German attack, the French built the "impenetrable" Maginot Line. History repeated itself and the attack came, but not in the way they expected. Their preparations were useless because the Germans didn't attempt to penetrate it; they simply went around it, and France was defeated.
The generals don't prepare for the last war out of perversity or stupidity, but rather because past experience is all they have to go by. Most of them simply don't know how to interpret that experience. They are correct in preparing for another war but wrong in relying upon what worked in the last one.
Investors, unfortunately, seem to make the same mistakes in marshaling their resources as do the generals. If the last 30 years have been prosperous, they base their actions on more prosperity. Talk of a depression isn't real to them because things are, in fact, so different from the 1930s. To most people, a depression means '30s-style conditions, and since they don't see that, they can't imagine a depression. That's because they know what the last depression was like, but they don't know what one is. It's hard to visualize something you don't understand.
Some of them who are a bit more clever might see an end to prosperity and the start of a depression but—al­though they're going to be a lot better off than most—they're probably looking for this depression to be like the last one.
Although nobody can predict with absolute certainty what this depression will be like, you can be fairly well-assured it won't be an instant replay of the last one. But just because things will be different doesn't mean you have to be taken by surprise.
To define the likely differences between this depres­sion and the last one, it's helpful to compare the situa­tion today to that in the early 1930s. The results aren't very reassuring.
CORPORATE BANKRUPTCY
1930s
Banks, insurance companies, and big corporations went under on a major scale. Institutions suffered the consequences of past mistakes, and there was no financial safety net to catch them as they fell. Mistakes were liquidated and only the prepared and efficient survived.
Today
The world’s financial institutions are in even worse shape than the last time, but now business ethics have changed and everyone expects the government to "step in." Laws are already in place that not only allow but require government inter­vention in many instances. This time, mistakes will be compounded, and the strong, productive, and ef­ficient will be forced to subsidize the weak, unproductive, and inefficient. It's ironic that businesses were bankrupted in the last depression because the prices of their products fell too low; this time, it'll be because they went too high.
UNEMPLOYMENT
1930s
If a man lost his job, he had to find another one as quickly as possible simply to keep from going hungry. A lot of other men in the same position competed desperately for what work was available, and an employer could hire those same men for much lower wages and expect them to work harder than what was the case before the depression. As a result, the men could get jobs and the employer could stay in business.
Today
The average man first has months of unemployment insurance; after that, he can go on welfare if he can't find "suitable work." Instead of taking whatever work is available, especially if it means that a white collar worker has to get his hands dirty, many will go on welfare. This will decrease the production of new wealth and delay the recovery. The worker no longer has to worry about some entrepreneur exploiting (i.e., employing) him at what he considers an unfair wage because the minimum wage laws, among others, precludes that possibility today. As a result, men stay unemployed and employers will go out of business.
WELFARE
1930s
If hard times really put a man down and out, he had little recourse but to rely on his family, friends, or local social and church group. There was quite a bit of opprobrium attached to that, and it was only a last resort. The breadlines set up by various government bodies were largely cosmetic measures to soothe the more terror-prone among the voting populace. People made do because they had to, and that meant radically reducing their standards of living and taking any job available at any wage. There were very, very few people on welfare during the last depression.
Today
It's hard to say how those who are still working are going to support those who aren't in this depression. Even in the U.S., 50% of the country is already on some form of welfare. But food stamps, aid to fami­lies with dependent children, Social Security, and local programs are already collapsing in prosperous times. And when the tidal wave hits, they'll be totally overwhelmed. There aren't going to be any breadlines because people who would be standing in them are going to be shopping in local supermarkets just like people who earned their money. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of it is that people in general have come to think that these programs can just magically make wealth appear, and they expect them to be there, while a whole class of people have grown up never learning to survive without them. It's ironic, yet predictable, that the programs that were supposed to help those who "need" them will serve to devastate those very people.
REGULATIONS
1930s
Most economies have been fairly heavily regulated since the early 1900s, and those regulations caused distortions that added to the severity of the last depression. Rather than allow the economy to liquidate, in the case of the U.S., the Roosevelt regime added many, many more regulations—fixing prices, wages, and the manner of doing business in a static form. It was largely because of these regulations that the depression lingered on until the end of World War II, which "saved" the economy only through its massive reinflation of the currency. Had the government abolished most controls then in existence, instead of creating new ones, the depression would have been less severe and much shorter.
Today
The scores of new agencies set up since the last depression have created far more severe distortions in the ways people relate than those of 80 years ago; the potential adjustment needed is proportionately greater. Unless government restrictions and controls on wages, working conditions, energy consumption, safety, and such are removed, a dramatic economic turnaround during the Greater Depression will be impossible.
TAXES
1930s
The income tax was new to the U.S. in 1913, and by 1929, although it took a maximum 23.1% bite, that was only at the $1 million level. The average family’s income then was $2,335, and that put average families in the 1/10th of 1 percent bracket. And there was still no Social Security tax, no state income tax, no sales tax, and no estate tax. Furthermore, most people in the country didn't even pay the income tax because they earned less than the legal minimum or they didn't bother filing. The government, therefore, had immense untapped sources of revenue to draw upon to fund its schemes to "cure" the depression. Roosevelt was able to raise the average income tax from 1.35% to 16.56% during his tenure—an increase of 1,100%.
Today
Everyone now pays an income tax in addition to all the other taxes. In most Western countries, the total of direct and indirect taxes is over 50%. For that reason, it seems unlikely that direct taxes will go much higher. But inflation is constantly driving everyone into higher brackets and will have the same effect. A person has had to increase his or her income faster than inflation to compensate for taxes. Whatever taxes a man does pay will reduce his standard of living by just that much, and it's reasonable to expect tax evasion and the underground economy to boom in response. That will cushion the severity of the depression somewhat while it serves to help change the philosophical orientation of society.
PRICES
1930s
Prices dropped radically because billions of dollars of inflationary currency were wiped out through the stock market crash, bond defaults, and bank failures. The government, however, somehow equated the high prices of the inflationary '20s with prosperity and attempted to prevent a fall in prices by such things as slaughtering livestock, dumping milk in the gutter, and enacting price supports. Since the collapse wiped out money faster than it could be created, the government felt the destruction of real wealth was a more effective way to raise prices. In other words, if you can't increase the supply of money, decrease the supply of goods.
Nonetheless, the 1930s depression was a deflationary collapse, a time when currency became worth more and prices dropped. This is probably the most confusing thing to most Americans since they assume—as a result of that experience—that "depression" means "deflation." It's also perhaps the biggest single difference between this depression and the last one.
Today
Prices could drop, as they did the last time, but the amount of power the government now has over the economy is far greater than what was the case 80 years ago. Instead of letting the economy cleanse itself by allowing the nancial markets to collapse, governments will probably bail out insolvent banks, create mortgages wholesale to prop up real estate, and central banks will buy bonds to keep their prices from plummeting. All of these actions mean that the total money supply will grow enormously. Trillions will be created to avoid deflation. If you find men selling apples on street corners, it won't be for 5 cents apiece, but $5 apiece. But there won't be a lot of apple sellers because of welfare, nor will there be a lot of apples because of price controls.
Consumer prices will probably skyrocket as a result, and the country will have an inflationary depression. Unlike the 1930s, when people who held dollars were king, by the end of the Greater Depression, people with dollars will be wiped out.
THE SOCIETY
1930s
The world was largely rural or small-town. Communications were slow, but people tended to trust the media. The government exercised considerable moral suasion, and people tended to support it. The business of the country was business, as Calvin Coolidge said, and men who created wealth were esteemed. All told, if you were going to have a depression, it was a rather stable environment for it; despite that, however, there were still plenty of riots, marches, and general disorder.
Today
The country is now urban and suburban, and although communications are rapid, there's little interpersonal contact. The media are suspect. The government is seen more as an adversary or an imperial ruler than an arbitrator accepted by a consensus of concerned citizens. Businessmen are viewed as unscrupulous predators who take advantage of anyone weak enough to be exploited.
A major financial smashup in today's atmosphere could do a lot more than wipe out a few naives in the stock market and unemploy some workers, as occurred in the '30s; some sectors of society are now time bombs. It's hard to say, for instance, what third- and fourth-generation welfare recipients are going to do when the going gets really tough.
THE WAY PEOPLE WORK
1930s
Relatively slow transportation and communication localized economic conditions. The U.S. itself was somewhat insulated from the rest of the world, and parts of the U.S. were fairly self-contained. Workers were mostly involved in basic agriculture and industry, creating widgets and other tangible items. There wasn't a great deal of specialization, and that made it easier for someone to move laterally from one occupation into the next, without extensive retraining, since people were more able to produce the basics of life on their own. Most women never joined the workforce, and the wife in a marriage acted as a "backup" system should the husband lose his job.
Today
The whole world is interdependent, and a war in the Middle East or a revolution in Africa can have a direct and immediate effect on a barber in Chicago or Krakow. Since the whole economy is centrally controlled from Washington, a mistake there can be a national disaster. People generally aren’t in a position to roll with the punches as more than half the people in the country belong to what is known as the "service economy." That means, in most cases, they're better equipped to shuffle papers than make widgets. Even "necessary" services are often terminated when times get hard. Specialization is part of what an advanced industrial economy is all about, but if the economic order changes radically, it can prove a liability.
THE FINANCIAL MARKETS
1930s
The last depression is identified with the collapse of the stock market, which lost over 90% of its value from 1929 to 1933. A secure bond was the best possible investment as interest rates dropped radically. Commodities plummeted, reducing millions of farmers to near subsistence levels. Since most real estate was owned outright and taxes were low, a drop in price didn't make a lot of difference unless you had to sell. Land prices plummeted, but since people bought it to use, not unload to a greater fool, they didn't usually have to sell.
Today
This time, stocks—and especially commodities—are likely to explode on the upside as people panic into them to get out of depreciating dollars in general and bonds in particular. Real estate will be—next to bonds—the most devastated single area of the economy because no one will lend money long term. And real estate is built on the mortgage market, which will vanish.
Everybody who invests in this depression thinking that it will turn out like the last one will be very unhappy with the results. Being aware of the differences between the last depression and this one makes it a lot easier to position yourself to minimize losses and maximize profits.
* * *
So much for the differences. The crucial, obvious, and most important similarity, however, is that most people's standard of living will fall dramatically.
The Greater Depression has started. Most people don't know it because they can neither confront the thought nor understand the differences between this one and the last.
As a climax approaches, many of the things that you've built your life around in the past are going to change and change radically. The ability to adjust to new conditions is the sign of a psychologically healthy person.
Look for the opportunity side of the crisis. The Chinese symbol for "crisis" is a combination of two other symbols - one for danger and one for opportunity.
The dangers that society will face in the years ahead are regrettable, but there's no point in allowing anxiety, frustration, or apathy to overcome you. Face the future with courage, curiosity, and optimism rather than fear. You can be a winner, and if you plan carefully, you will be. The great period of change will give you a chance to regain control of your destiny. And that in itself is the single most important thing in life. This depression can give you that opportunity; it's one of the many ways the Greater Depression can be a very good thing for both you as an individual and society.

10Apr/160

Trends; Socialist Cycle.

Here is the socialist cycle we are going through written as a pseudo computer program:

Start
Lawmakers tout free stuff

People demand free government stuff

People elect lawmakers to pass laws for free stuff
Lawmakers try to raise taxes to pay for free stuff
People scream no we only wanted the free stuff
Lawmakers run deficits to pay for not so free stuff
More people get free stuff
Lawmakers raise the deficits higher

Test
Lawmakers forced to raise taxes to lower deficit
Central bank lowers interest rate to lower debt cost and make capital available to people
If taxes cannot be raised or interest rates cannot be lowered go to reset
People are now poorer and in need of more free stuff
Go back to start.

Reset
If Central bank has credit do a QE else Currency is devalued.
If Central bank is out of credit go to bust
Go back to start.

Bust
All forms of Credit and Debt are exhausted and the bubble is popped.
Debt devalued by large amounts.
Most Free stuff is done.

Country can only import using the exact credits of export because world credit is dead (for the moment) 

10Apr/162

Modern Banking System diverges gold prices.

"The Gold Price Has Been Captured By The Modern Banking System" - Submitted by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

It is commonly assumed that the gold price and interest rates move in opposite directions.
In other words, a tendency towards higher interest rates is accompanied by a lower gold price. Like all assumptions about prices, sometimes it is true and sometimes not.

The market today is all about synthetic gold, gold which is referred to but rarely delivered. The current relationship is therefore one of relative interest rates, because positions in synthetic gold, in the form of futures and forwards, are financed from wholesale money markets. This is why a rumour that interest rates might rise sooner than expected, if it is reflected in forward interbank rates, leads to a fall in the gold price.

To the extent that this happens, the gold price has been captured by the modern banking system, but it was not always so. The chart below shows that rising interest rates were accompanied by a higher gold price in the 1970s after 1971.
We can divide the decade into four distinct phases, numbered accordingly on the chart.

  
In Phase 1, to December 1971, interest rates fell and gold increased in price, much as today's market expectations would suggest, but from then on until the end of the decade a strong positive correlation between the two is clear. So why was this?

Those of us who worked in financial markets at the time may remember the development of stagflation in the late sixties and into the first half of the seventies, whereby prices appeared to be rising without a corresponding increase in underlying demand for the goods concerned. This put central banks in a difficult position. In accordance with post-war macroeconomic thinking, monetary policy was (as it is to this day) one of the principal tools for promoting economic growth, and so the lack of growth was put down to insufficient stimulus. Therefore, monetary policy was diametrically opposed to the higher interest rates needed to counter increasing price inflation. The result was central bankers wished for low interest rates but were forced by markets into raising them, which they did reluctantly and belatedly. This is the logical reason the gold price rose to discount the increasing rate of price inflation, instead of being suppressed by increasing interest rates. This was Phase 2 on the chart.

Stagflation was very evident up to the end of 1974. Dollar price inflation measured by the producer price index increased by over 25% that year, reflecting higher oil prices imposed by the OPEC cartel. Inflation measured by the CPI peaked at 12%. Equity markets collapsed, with the Dow halving and London's FT30 falling by over 70% from its 1972 high. In London, the secondary banking crisis, triggered by rising interest rates, led to the failure of banks which had loaned money to property developers, resulting in a financial crash in November 1973. Again, mainstream economists were confounded, because the collapse in demand following that crisis should have led to deflation, but prices kept on rising.

The gold story was not just a simple one of belated and insufficient rises in interest rates, as the economic runes suggest. The riches endowed on the Middle East from rising oil prices benefited, in western terms, a backward society which invested a significant portion of its windfall dollars in physical gold. This was natural for the Arabs, who believed gold was money and dollars were a sort of funny paper. Investing in physical gold was also recommended to them by their Swiss private bankers. The recycling of petrodollars into gold routinely cleaned out the US Treasury's gold auctions, which failed to suppress the rising gold price.

The financial crisis and the associated collapse of stock markets in 1974 lead us into Phase 3 on the chart. Interest rates declined after the stock markets began to recover from the extreme depths of negative sentiment at that time. The gold price also declined, with the price almost halving from just under $200 in December 1974 to just over $100 in August 1976. It had become apparent that the financial world would survive after all, so bond yields fell while stockmarkets recovered their poise during that period. Fear subsided.

Again, the gold price had correlated with interest rates, this time declining with them. We then commenced Phase 4. From 1976 onwards, economic activity stabilised and price inflation picked up later that year, with the dollar CPI eventually hitting 13% in 1980. Interest rates rose along with price inflation, and gold ran up from the $100 level to as high as $850 at the London PM fix on 21 January 1980. For a third time, the gold price correlated with rising interest rates.

From the history of the 1970s, we have learned that today's non-correlating relationship between gold and interest rates cannot be taken as normal in future market relationships. Admittedly, derivative markets and the London bullion market were not as well-developed then as they are today. But they certainly were in gold's next bull market, from the early 2000s to 2011. However, the comparison with the seventies is the more interesting, particularly given the emergence of stagflation at that time.

While official inflation figures today show the relative absence of price inflation, much of that is down to changes in the way it is calculated. John Williams of ShadowStats.com estimates that inflation today, calculated as it was in the eighties, runs consistently higher than official figures suggest. He reckons it is currently at about 5%. And the Chapwood Index, compiled quarterly including 500 commonly bought items in 50 American cities, records price inflation at 1970s levels, closer to 9%.

As always, official statistics such as the CPI should be treated with immense caution, as John Williams's and the Chapwood inflation estimates confirm. But even the suppressed official CPI is likely to rise beyond the Fed's 2% target within a year from now, if the recent increases in prices of raw materials and energy hold. This is because the negative factors that have suppressed the index, such as the oil price, will soon be dropping out of the back-end of the statistic, giving the CPI an upward boost. Furthermore, rising raw material and energy prices will have little to do with the level of economic demand in the US, because the US economy is no longer the driver for commodity prices. That role now belongs to China, which plans to use vast quantities of raw materials for domestic economic and Asia-wide infrastructure development, and accordingly is beginning to stockpile them.

On this simple analysis, we can see how domestic US prices could record a significant rise without any increase in domestic demand. In other words, the conditions now exist for the stagflation that became so pernicious from the late 1960s onwards. The question then arises as to how the Fed will respond.

One thing hasn't changed over the decades, and that is central bankers' assumptions that prices are tied, however loosely, to demand. This is the text-book basis of the inflation target, which assumes that a 2% inflation rate is consistent with sustainable economic growth. There is, in conventional macroeconomics, no explanation for stagflation, despite evidence the condition exists.

No one is more surprised than the forward-thinking members of the Fed's policy-making committees, who anticipate the same dilemma that their predecessors faced in Phase 2 of our chart of the 1970s. The US economy will be stagnating, while price inflation is rising. The Fed will be torn between the need to keep interest rates low to stimulate credit demand, and raising interest rates to control price inflation. Only this time, a rise in interest rates and bond yields averaging no more than two per cent could be curtains for the Fed itself, because the losses on its bond investments, acquired in the wake of the financial crisis and through quantitative easing, will easily exceed its so-called capital.

The dynamics behind the gold market are however different now from the early seventies. Debt levels today are so high they risk destabilising the whole financial system, making it impossible for the Fed to raise interest rates much without causing a financial wipe-out. Asian governments, such as the Chinese and the Russians are known to have been accumulating strategic positions in physical gold, and the Chinese and Indian populations along with other Asian people have also exhibited notable appetites for physical metal. Instead of starting from a position where the US Treasury on its own in 1969 still held 14% of estimated above-ground stocks, its holding is officially at less than 5% of them today. That is, if you believe it still has the stated 8,134 tonnes.

This time, the gold price is likely to be driven by physical shortages in the old world, as American and European investors wake up to stagflation, their central bank's interest rate dilemma, and the loss of physical liquidity from their vaults.
Today's market set-up, particularly if Chinese demand for energy and commodities materialises in accordance with her new five-year plan, looks like replicating the early stage of Phase 2 in the introductory chart to this article. Gold increased fivefold from $42 to a high of about $200 in three years. The circumstances today have notable differences, not least the launch-pad of negative interest rates. But we can begin to see why, despite the near infinite growth of derivatives as a price-control mechanism, it could be mistaken to assume that the link between interest rates and gold is normally one of non-correlation, and will continue to be so.

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