By Bob Rinear
If you have been with us for any length of time you know that I've been claiming that 2013 will probably usher in some pretty ugly world markets. I've called it everything from a massive roll over to an outright crash. Naturally I have to have some "reason" to believe this, and I figure that today is as good as any to discuss the "why's" of it all.
Frankly I have no idea if the big crash will occur in 2013, 2014 ,2015 or what have you. No one truly knows the future. But, I do know that enough things are already in process that the big crash is a mathematical inevitability. We have gone over the edge, we can't walk it back. Now it's simply a matter of waiting on the Grand Finale.
So what is it that is so egregious, that we're going to be facing this economic implosion? The simple fact that you're reading our letter means you already understand the unsustainable debt loads we're under. You're smarter than the average person because frankly most people hear the word debt and shrug it off as some form of abstract concept. Well it is neither abstract nor ignorable. It is real, it has grown to outlandish proportions, and it cannot be repaid. Ever. The single greatest transfer of wealth the planet has ever seen is in full swing, it cannot be reversed and it will play out.
Some are simply too stupid to "get it". Yeah, I know that I'm not supposed to call someone stupid, but let’s just cut the air of PC for a while shall we? There are three subsets of folks when you are talking about the economic situation we all find ourselves in. The first class is either ignorant of the situation, or if they are aware of it, are just not smart enough to understand the ramifications. The next set knows full well what is really going on and have tried to secure themselves from the ravages of it. The final set, are those that "benefit immediately" from this situation, and don't give a rats ass about the consequences in the future. Most of our politicians fall into that category.
Let us consider Europe for a moment. The situation concerning Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and the other Club Med Countries is already terminal. There's no way to fix it. The relatively "good" economies such as Germany are being taxed to support the bad economies. As we speak there are more than 6 regions that want to "break away" from this nightmare. The Scots are holding a referendum to vote on the concept of breaking away from the UK and going their separate way. The cries to "stop the madness" will continue to rise and there's a very good possibility that Spain, Greece and possibly others will NOT be part of the Euro by the end of 2013. The great Socialist test tube experiment of joining 17 different "tribes" each with its own unique customs and languages, has indeed failed. Unfortunately, when it does dissolve, that will not be the end of the nightmare. See...the debts will still be there.
Spain has basically defaulted. Greece has defaulted. Yet to keep Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan from having to pay up on Credit default swaps, the ISDA has changed the language. They're calling it "collective and selective default" thus not requiring GS to have to pay up. Likewise they looked at Greece and said that because their bonds would have Salvage asset value, it’s not a default. Excuse me? When you create a Credit default swap, the deal goes like this... You want to buy Greek Bonds paying 7%, but you're afraid they might default and not pay you. So, you go to GS and buy a credit default swap. GS is basically selling you an insurance Policy. For a 1% "fee" they basically say that if Greece defaults, we'll make you whole. But you also have to agree to give GS the physical bonds. That's the "swap" part of the deal. GS gets the bonds because in any default there is some "salvage" value. Well, Spain and Greece have both defaulted and all the ISDA did was "fix it" so no one had to pay CDS payouts. How criminal does it get? Very.
So, part one of my theory of a pretty big market shake up is that the possibility of "Some - all" of the Euro zone to fly apart in 2013 is very real. Now, the ISDA (International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc.) has been able to keep their buddies at GS and JPM happy by not activating Credit default pay outs. But can they pull that off when the Euro dissolves? How many hundreds of billions are written against these bonds? If just "half" of them are forced to pay out, can GS and JPM find that much money? Does that spur another round of US bail outs because they're "too big to fail?" What I'm basically saying is that just because Europe is "way over there" and according to Jim Cramer "you don't shop at Europe".... their problems are rooted right here in the good ole US. Pension plans, Insurance companies and many other every day businesses have ties to Euro zone debt. Remember this in particular...if global activity causes the US interest rates to rise by just 3%, economic Armageddon would ensue. Yes you read that right. A 3% rise in interest rates implodes our entire system. Could the failure of Europe have that effect? It is possible.
Here in the US, we see something that can only be likened to as "get all you can while we're still solvent". The instance of outright fraud, the complete breakdown of moral justice is now in high gear. John Corzine took a billion dollars from Customers, money that was NEVER intended to be comingled with the firms’ money and lost it/stole it. He walks a free man, heck... he might even open another fund. Solindra was NEVER going to produce a single green product. Never. It was a shell company backed/owned by political "friends" that were given half a billion dollars and in less than a year, padlocked down. It was a scam, a complete "inside job". No charges, no one goes to jail. All in all, 26 supposedly "green" companies took taxpayer money, and folded like a cheap camera. Why did they need taxpayer money in the first place? Because they were scams. They could never attract private money because no one would lend to them. But hey, if you have a brother in law in Congress... then you get millions to play with and eventually steal.
PFG went belly up after regulators there found that just like MF GLobal (Corzine's outfit) they had mingled about 200 million worth of customer funds and lost it/blew it/stole it. Well it wasn't lost. It wasn't badly traded away. It was stolen in a Bernie Madoff like ponzi fashion.
Sentinel comes to mind next. After their customers sued in high court because Sentinel took customer money that by CONTRACT and by CHARTER had to be segregated. Kept separate...not mingled with the companies money for investment...Sentinel did just that. They comingled customer funds with their own, stole some, lost some, etc... But here's where the Concept of morality, justice and any believe in a rule of law goes right down the crapper... the Court sided with Sentinel. That's right and I wrote a lot about it when it happened. Our justice system is now made up of on the take criminals, not upholders of law and justice. They said that even though Sentinel promised not to co mingle customer funds with their own, doing it because they thought it would make the customers even more money was just a good intention gone wrong, nothing more. Are you kidding me?
So we have outright looting of the Treasury going on, and no one goes to jail. We have financial companies stealing customer funds and its swept under the rug. We have a judicial system that is now a farce, a bought and paid for circus. Shall I go on? You bet. Because our problems are no longer just "there's too much debt". Now our problems are considerably more wide spread.
Day after day we've had to endure all this talk about the fiscal cliff, and the bickering between the White House and the Congress. Please understand this... Cliff or no cliff, deal or no deal... the system will fail and fail horribly. Do NOT think that just because they reach some late hour deal that all is well and we can go on partying like it's 1999... it would be a colossal mistake. Yes we'd get a short term market boost on the news, but it doesn't fix or change anything. I repeat, our problems can NOT be fixed. ( Okay I take that back, yes our problems could be fixed if our Government did absolutely everything right...from opening all our lands to drilling and exploration, to getting rid of the insane laws of the EPA, to getting rid of the miles of red tape that stands in the way of opening something as insignificant as a lemonade stand, to opening 12 new refineries so we could have 2 dollar gas, to blah blah blah....as you see, it isn't going to happen)
This week, on Dec 11 and 12 the FOMC met concerning monetary policy. Remember folks, operation twist ends at the end of the year. If they had just let that expire, we would go from 80 billion a month being used to buy up treasuries and manipulate the interest rates... to "just" 40 billion. Well, just like a junkie needs ever more junk, credit markets need ever more bogus dollars. So, they announced they'd buy up 45 billion a month of Government paper, with money printed out of thin air. Just ponder that for a second. The 45 billion a month in QE4, which will go on top of the 40 billion a month in QE3.. we're talking about 85 billion a month which is $1.02 trillion a year. This is about a 14-15 trillion dollar economy and the FED is injecting one trillion straight into it...out of thin "AIR". 7% of our 14 trillion dollar economy is Bernanke's printing press. Can you say inflation? Can you say hyper inflation? Start practicing, its coming.
Consider something for a moment. Since Bernanke launched his ZIRP plan (Zero interest rate policy) We have seen an explosion in the amount of businesses that are using repo's and reverse repo's to create cash flow. In years gone by, a brokerage firm for instance, would deposit its customers account money in 90 day T bills. For instance in January of 2007, those notes were paying 5.1%. Most folks don't know this, but the bulk of most brokerage income was NOT generated by trading commissions. Nope, it was by buying reasonably safe 90 day Government paper. When Bernanke took rates to virtually zero, all these places had to scramble to come up with some way to replace that missing cash. Well, as you all know, you don't get big returns without big risk. So, what most of these outfits have turned to is the repo/reverse repo market. Don't just think it was Corzine, or PFG or Sentinel. It's just about every bank, every brokerage, every insurance company, every union pension plan, etc. There are now so many derivatives and CDS's, that the exposure rates are mind boggling. You've seen me post the charts. JPM has "assets" of say 1.5 trillion. (customer deposits) but their exposure to derivatives is 48 Trillion. The leverage factor is insane. This goes for Citi and Goldman and Banc of America, etc etc etc. Consider for a moment Goldman Sachs. If you look at “assets on deposit” versus derivative exposure, they’re at a leverage rate of over 400 times. Am I to believe the world just continues along on its merry path and none of these over the counter derivatives go bump in the night?? Sorry, no can do.
What I'm saying is this... all of this junk is coming to a head. They can't hide it any more, they can't disguise it any more. One really big black swan event, one really crazy event and the cascade goes exponential. The problem however is that you cannot react to it. Consider this.. 77% of all trades now are "Algo's" meaning computers buying and selling to each other via high frequency trading. Virtually every one of those programs is written to go "no bid" in the event of a Black swan event. What do you do if one day something wicked has happened (lets just say an atomic bomb goes off)... in seconds the entire market would go no bid. You want to sell your shares/options/futures etc... but there's no bid. No one to buy them. What happens to all the CDS's, the Reverse repo's that are sitting on "off balance sheet" ledgers when something outside "normal" hits? The entire system will lock up, and fail.
We are there. We are 3 interest rate percent from a lockup. We are one black swan event from a lockup. We are one Eurozone disaster from a lock up. We are already AT the period where firms are sweeping customer accounts, to make up for bad bets, and many more will happen. Will all this happen in 2013? I don't know. But I do know that each and every day we march another inch closer to that swan, to that interest rate spike, to that "outside the bell curve" disaster. To the day YOUR money is no longer at your brokerage, it was stolen/lost. But unlike years gone by where you could call a human and find answers and solutions, now it's all computers. Algo's. Programs. My guess is that the market will start to sniff out these very real possibilities this coming year and begin fading off in advance of it.
So, what do you do? First off there's nothing perfect. I can't sit here and tell you that gold will make everything fine. I can't tell you silver will make everything fine. I can't say land, or cattle or trees or anything else will get you through this unscathed. But I feel fairly confident that you will be MUCH better off having your money in something physical, than in slips of paper with dead Presidents on them. I personally believe that having your "wealth" in gold, silver, property, weapons, ammo, trees, livestock, etc..is considerably better than having a computer entry at your bank. Think about it folks. Your supposed wealth is nothing more than computer digits. The MONEY is not there. Your bank does NOT have your money. Your mutual fund doesn't have your money. They've taken that money and bought swaps, repo's, sovereign debt, you name it. All you have in your possession is a statement that "says" you have "X" amount of money. But you really don't and neither do they. To me that's a very scary thing. One I don't like being part of in this bizarro economic atmosphere.
2013 has the ability to be very unsettled for all the reasons I just outlined. It might not all unfold in 2013, it could be 2014...but the point is this...it's coming. It cannot be stopped. As ugly as those words are, they are a mathematical certainty. Just like I learned after living through Sandy, being prepared is key. Get yourself prepared.