Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SAR #9013

I got debts that no honest man can pay

Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City.

Justice! Federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury to investigate Roger Clemens for perjury when he denied taking performance enhancing drugs. Mr. Madoff, meanwhile, remains comfortably at home after admitting taking $50 billion.

Cup and Lip: Last October Sony forecast a $2 billion profit, Toshiba 1.5. Analysts now expect Sony operations to lose $1 billion, Toshiba $2 billion. Back in the USA, Alcoa lost $1.2 billion.

Bottom Unemployment Line: Even if Obama's stimulus plans work out as expected, it is anticipated that unemployment will stay around 7.5% for three years, house prices will continue to fall and people will still have more debt than they can ever pay back.

Speculating on Speculation: 60 Minutes told America that speculators manipulated the futures market in crude oil to drive the price up to $147 last summer. Next week: How speculators drove the spot price of iron ore to $196 a ton in February and let it collapse to $62 in October - without a futures market in the ore. Supply and demand connected to the global recession had nothing to do with it, nor the fluctuating value of the dollar, nor margin calls...

For there to be a Future: If (a) you understood some of what's wrong, (b) had some reasonable ideas of where we need go, (c) thought someone might listen, (d) wrote clearly and well and (e) turned out a list of suggestions for Obama -you might produce something like this.

Markets Explained: Big secret: for every transaction there's a buyer and a seller, and both are speculating.

Brother's Keepers: Just because the US can't imagine life without foreigners supporting its continued financial existence does not mean that those foreigners are not running out of reserves to recycle into Treasuries. Or just tired of throwing their money away.

Stamping Out Hunger: Enrollment in the Food Stamp program increased 14% last month from 2007, while the program's cost increased by a third. The poor and hungry seem to be the only production increase in recent US history.

Cheaper Than Coffee: The IEA says that while the world's thirst for oil may dip a bit next year, global demand will keep growing so that by 2015 we will need an second Saudi Arabia to meet the increase in demand, and a third to offset the 6.7% annual decline in production from existing fields. That's not going to happen for we are fresh out of Saudi Arabias. Crude oil provides 36% of the world's energy and nearly 90% of all transportation. And soon that's not going to happen either.

Illegals: Most of the 15,000 prisoners US forces are holding in Iraq have never been charged with a crime and under Iraqi law - which is now the law in Iraq, despite desperate US efforts - should be released.

We're Only Just Begun: Roubini is recycling last year's prognostications and adding ever more dire adjectives. "We are still only in the early stages of this crisis." My apprehensions would make Roubini look pollyannish.

Unforgiven? Isn't the global savings glut an illustration of some of the unspoken (and perhaps unspeakable) problems with unregulated free-market capitalism? 1) It works too well, 2) producing more stuff than can be consumed because 3) in search of lower costs it beggars the workers and thus its customers 4) while accumulating profits that fund riskier -and more questionable and non-productive - debts and investments and 5) because it is premised on perpetual expansion (exponential growth in a petri dish) it carries its own doom? Just asking.

Porn O'Graph: Export experts stumble and fall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was no global savings glut. Well at least in terms of China which was always named as the saver.

The huge Chinese trade surplus with the US, a good portion of which came back to the US in the form of the purchase of Treasuries and agency paper, was not savings.

Chen's Widgets sold $100 in widgets to Wallmart. He took the hundred dollars to the bank and got RNB's. Those dollars ended up in the Chinese central bank who then bought the US paper.

Input $100
Output $100 equivalent in RNB
$100 to buy Treasuries

Input $100

How did they do this? They issued RNB's but did not take the dollars to buy them, they printed them. For one thing there was no external RNB to buy since there is no external RNB.

This was monetary expansion on a vast scale. None of that old fashioned fuddy duddy multiplier effect of fractional reserve banking. No, this was money creation with Nitros and a Tubo.

Those 'saving' were printed.