Monday, August 15, 2016

Burning Down the House

By James Howard Kunstler and originally published at  
There’s a new feature to the Anything-Goes-and-Nothing-Matters economy: Nothing-Adds-Up. The magicians who pretend to measure the growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product — the monetary value of all the finished goods and services) came up with a second quarter “adjusted” figure of 1.2 percent. That would have to be construed by anyone acquainted with basic econ stats as perfectly dismal. And yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a sparkly Nonfarm Payroll Report of 255,000 for July, way above the forecast 180,000.
There were so many ways to game the jobs number — between people forced to work more than one s#!t job and the notorious “birth/death model” used to just make up any old number for political purposes — that no one can take this information seriously. Anyway, the GDP number was instantly forgotten and the jobs number launched the stock markets to previously uncharted record altitude.
It’s that time of the year for the hedge fund boys, with their testosterone flowing, to start burning down their house rentals in the Hamptons. And it’s also the time of year for an ever more stressed financial system to go down in flames. And, of course, it’s a presidential election season. Even for one allergic to conspiracy theories, it’s not farfetched to imagine a coordinated effort by central banks — under government direction — to generate Money-Out-Of-Thin-Air (QE) for the purpose of allowing “liquidity” flows to end up in US equity and bond markets in order to paint a false picture of “recovery” so as to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. I think that is exactly behind the recent money-printing activities by the Japanese and European Central Banks, and the Bank of England.
Why would it end up in US markets? For bonds, because the Euro and Japanese bond sovereign yields are in sub-zero territory and the BOE just cut its prime rate lower than the US Federal Reserve’s prime rate; and for stocks, because the value of the other three currencies is sliding down and the dollar has been rising — so, dump your falling currency for the rising dollar and jam it into rising US stocks. It’ll work until it doesn’t.
Why do this for Hillary? Because she represents the continuity of all the current rackets being used to prop up belief in the foundering business model of western civilization. If she doesn’t get into the White House there may be no backstopping of the insolvent banks and bankrupt governments and a TILT message will appear in the sky. That TILT message is likely to appear anyway because, remember,  the authorities are only pretending that they can manage events. In fact, all of their “management” strategies and shenanigans only insure the further distortion of the basic operating system, which is already so far out of whack from twenty years of previous management efforts that nothing in banking and markets really works anymore.
Companies don’t make money, despite rising share prices. No one in his right mind buys bonds with negative yields — that promise to pay back less over time — so governments have to pretend to buy them. (In fact, they don’t so much “buy” them as simply extinguish them by playing three-card-monte with national treasuries.) And, of course, the masses of people in all these nations — including the patsy USA — sink ever deeper into penury every month.
The release of tension is being felt in the ground game of politics where outsider candidates here and abroad are rising on a tide of rage and resentment. The fecklessness and stupidity of the elites has been epic, sacrificing everything to maintain the illusion of normality. Nothing is normal and “the people” are finally onto it. Sadly, it looks as if both politics and finance are veering toward crack-up simultaneously. The daisy-chained Too-Big-To-Fail banks are already choking on the suicide bolus of derivatives. The equity markets are one algo accident away from cratering. The bond markets are a sick joke. And Hillary may win the booby prize of presiding over the smoldering wreckage of it all. When it happens, she will have no idea what to do.