Aug 092019
 
 August 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Odilon Redon Street in Samois 1888

 

UK Economy Contracts On Back Of Brexit Uncertainty (G.)
The Dramatic Drop In Sterling Is Only A Taste Of What Is To Come (G.)
Johnson Plotting Abuse Of Power To Force No-Deal Brexit – Corbyn (G.)
Andrew McCabe Sues DOJ, FBI Over “Politically Motivated Firing” (ZH)
Uber Loses $5.2 Billion on $3.2 Billion in Revenue (WS)
Italy’s Matteo Salvini Calls For Fresh Elections As Coalition Fractures (G.)
China PPI Deflation Arrives While CPI Food Inflation Soars (ZH)
Three Days Of Protests Begin At Hong Kong Airport (BBC)
Malaysia Files Charges Against 17 Current, Ex-Goldman Execs Over 1MDB (AFP)
The Swiss Battle to Cheapen the Franc (Rickards)
Bayer Proposes Paying $8 Billion to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims (BBG)
Monsanto Built A Step-by-Step Strategy To Destroy My Reputation (Carey Gillam)

 

 

“UK economy suffers shock 0.2% contraction in second quarter..”

UK Economy Contracts On Back Of Brexit Uncertainty (G.)

The UK economy shrank in the second quarter, its worst performance in six and a half years, as growth was held back by Brexit uncertainty and car factory shutdowns. A 0.2% contraction between April and June was the weakest since the fourth quarter of 2012, when the economy contracted by 0.2%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. It followed growth of 0.5% in the first three months of the year, when the economy received a boost from unprecedented stockpiling by manufacturers in the run-up to the initial Brexit deadline of 29 March.


The ONS data showed that all three main sectors of the economy – services, manufacturing and construction – struggled in the three months to June. The slowdown – which leaves the annual growth rate at 1.2% – was considerably worse than the Bank of England’s forecast in its quarterly inflation report. Early evidence has suggested slightly stronger activity at the start of the third quarter of 2019.

Read more …

Just starting.

The Dramatic Drop In Sterling Is Only A Taste Of What Is To Come (G.)

As our currency plummeted last week, politicians were remarkably quiet. In normal times, a catastrophic slide in the pound would send a shockwave through Westminster. An emergency cabinet meeting might have been called. The chancellor might have made an announcement, calming markets and reassuring the public. But these aren’t normal times. Over the past three years, politics has been increasingly blind to the concerns of ordinary people. The Brexit debate is stuck on abstract constitutional issues such as the backstop. While they are important matters, the relentless focus of public discourse on them means that we are in danger of forgetting about the lives of real people.

Westminster is gripped by a fanatical race towards a cliff-edge Brexit and nobody is stopping to think about the impact it would have on the everyday lives of the people we serve as politicians. The falling pound is a perfect example. Consider for a moment the situation we find ourselves in. Three years on from the referendum, and sterling has now fallen by 15% against the euro. On average, the pound is now weaker than it was at the height of the financial crisis. We cannot dismiss this as a trivial bump in the road. This matters, because a no-deal Brexit is now the number one threat to the value of our currency, a fundamental factor driving this nation’s prosperity. And as Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, put it, a fall in the pound “makes those of us whose earnings or savings or investment income is in pounds poorer. Period.”

We simply cannot ignore the impact this is having on people in our country. August is the most popular month for Brits to go on holiday. This month, some 6 million people will go on a trip to a eurozone destination, during which they will spend an average of £574 per head, according to the Office for National Statistics. Whereas before the referendum, that would have bought a UK holidaymaker €740 on the continent, now the same spend is worth only €620. In other words, our politicians’ dangerous no-deal Brexit musings have cost travellers more than £100 per person already.

Read more …

Oh well, at least the lawyers are happy. But even they don’t know what is legal and what is not.

Johnson Plotting Abuse Of Power To Force No-Deal Brexit – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the UK’s most senior civil servant to intervene to stop Boris Johnson forcing a no-deal Brexit in the middle of an election campaign, amid rising signs the country is heading for the polls again this autumn. The Labour leader wrote to Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, accusing the prime minister of plotting an “unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power”, after it emerged No 10 would be prepared to delay an election until immediately after 31 October if Johnson loses a no confidence vote among MPs. In his letter, Corbyn demanded urgent clarification of the rules around purdah, which are meant to prevent the government taking major policy decisions during an election campaign.

He asked Sedwill to confirm that if the UK is due to leave the EU without a deal during an election campaign, then the government must seek an extension to article 50 and allow an incoming administration to take a decision about Brexit on the basis of the result. “Forcing through no deal against a decision of parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already underway, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power by a prime minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of unrepresentative Conservative party members,” he said. “I am therefore writing to seek your urgent clarification on the proper application of ‘purdah’ rules in such a scenario and the constitutional implications of failing to abide by those rules.”

Corbyn released the letter as No 10 refused to rule out delaying an election until the immediate few days after Brexit on 31 October if one is triggered by MPs voting down Johnson’s government and failing to form another administration. Asked by the BBC on Thursday if he would resign if he lost a confidence vote, Johnson swerved the question, and stressed the need to leave the EU on 31 October. “I think that what MPs should do and what I think they’ve already voted to do, when triggering article 50 and reconfirmed several times, is honour the mandate of the people and leave the EU on 31 October,” he said. He also insisted there was “bags of time” for the EU to “show some flexibility” and agree to ditch the Irish backstop, which he claimed could make the UK into a “satellite state” of Brussels.

Read more …

Former FBI chief Comey now communicates via The View?!

Andrew McCabe Sues DOJ, FBI Over “Politically Motivated Firing” (ZH)

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – flush with cash after a GoFundMe campaign raised $540,000, is the second former high-ranking FBI official to sue the Justice Department and FBI this week for what he describes as a “politically motivated firing” just days before he was set to retire with full benefits. The lawsuit describes former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray as “Trump’s personal enforcers,” who catered “to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution.” McCabe was fired after the DOJ’s Inspector General issued a criminal referral based on findings that he “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”

Specifically, McCabe authorized an F.B.I. spokesman and attorney to tell Devlin Barrett of the Wall St. Journal, just days before the 2016 election, that the FBI had not put the brakes on a separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation – at a time in which McCabe was coming under fire for his wife taking a $467,500 campaign contribution from Clinton proxy pal, Terry McAuliffe. Then he lied about it to the inspector general four times. In his defense, McCabe said said that his boss – former FBI Director James Comey, knew about and authorized the leak. Comey, in response, called McCabe a liar on The View, after host Megan McCain asked how he thought the public was supposed to have “confidence” in the FBI amid revelations that McCabe lied about the leak.

“It’s not okay. The McCabe case illustrates what an organization committed to the truth looks like,” Comey said. “I ordered that investigation.” Comey then appeared to try and frame McCabe as a “good person” despite all the lying. “Good people lie. I think I’m a good person, where I have lied,” Comey said. “I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person but the inspector general found he lied,” noting that there are “severe consequences” within the DOJ for doing so.

Read more …

Child of the Fed’s policies.

Uber Loses $5.2 Billion on $3.2 Billion in Revenue (WS)

Uber’s losses have been legendary for years, ever since they were being leaked to the public while it was still a privately held company. But this takes the cake. Uber reported this evening that it had lost $5.24 billion in the quarter through June 30. The thing is, Uber reported revenues of only $3.2 billion. In other words, its net loss exceeded revenue by $2 billion. That takes some doing. Its $5.24 billion loss came on top of its $878 million loss in the first quarter. Combined, during the first half of 2019, Uber lost $6.25 billion. Total revenue for the two quarters was $6.3 billion. The chart of Uber’s “Loss from operations” – which does not include interest expense ($368 million in the first half) and “other income (expense),” such as last year’s gain from the sale of its stakes in Grab and Yandex – shows the annual totals from 2014 through 2018 and first-half total for 2019:

Lyft, Uber’s biggest competitor in the US, reported yesterday that its Q2 revenues of $867 million had generated a loss of $644 million. And that over the first half, its revenues of $1.64 billion generated a loss of $1.78 billion. You see, this phenomenon of well-established global companies with thousands of employees generating as much or more in losses than they have in revenues causes my old-school thinking to short-circuit. Uber has been around for a decade, and it has already burned through many billions of dollars in investor money to get where it is today, and there is still no functioning business model in sight.

Read more …

He’s following the polls closely.

Italy’s Matteo Salvini Calls For Fresh Elections As Coalition Fractures (G.)

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and the leader of the far-right League party, has called for a snap election, urging the prime minister to reconvene parliament to confirm that the coalition government is no longer viable. The dramatic move on Thursday came after months of fighting between the League and its coalition partners, the anti-establishement Five Star Movement (M5S). The cavernous differences between the parties were clearly exposed on Wednesday when parliament rejected a motion by M5S to block a high-speed rail project linking Italy and France. M5S has built most of its popularity on vehemently opposing the long-stalled project but was outvoted by the League and opposition parties. In a statement, Salvini, who is also Italy’s interior minister, said it was pointless continuing the government with all the quarrelling.


“Italians need certainty and a government that does things, not a ‘Mr No’,” he said. “We do not want extra seats or ministers, nor do we want reshuffles or technical governments. After this government (which has done so many good things), the only thing is elections.” Salvini said he told the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who does not belong to either party, to reconvene parliament straight away to “acknowledge that there is no longer a majority, as evidenced by the vote [on Wednesday] and the repeated insults against me.” Conte, who had held separate talks with Salvini and the country’s President Sergio Mattarella as the crisis deepened, said in a statement later that the interior minister doesn’t summon parliament and “it’s not up to him to dictate the steps of the political crisis.”

Read more …

You know I don’t like using inflation and deflation in this way, but the idea is obvious.

China PPI Deflation Arrives While CPI Food Inflation Soars (ZH)

On Friday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that the Producer Price Index (PPI), i.e. factory prices, fell 0.3% in July from a year ago, missing the modest 0.1% decline expected by analysts. This was the first annual decline in China’s PPI in three years – since August 2016 – and just like back then, was largely the result of tumbling commodity prices which in turn depressed both manufacturing and raw material goods prices. And with oil sliding, and iron ore plunging, not to mention the whole trade war thing, it does not seem like a rebound is imminent at all.

Worse, since PPI is closely linked to corporate profitability, the decline suggests that China is badly lagging in the credit impulse arena despite having started off 2019 with a bang and some of the biggest increases in Total Social Financing on record. So what’s the big deal: China has always been able to boost inflation, all it had to do was turn on the credit spigot and inject a few trillion in new bank and shadow loans into the economy. Maybe that was the case in the past, but this time it will have a big headache, because even as PPI declined for the first time in three years, consumer prices jumped 2.8%, and coming in hotter than the 2.7% expected, were tied for the highest annual headline inflation since February 2018.

Before that one would have to go all the way to 2013 to find a hotter CPI print. A continuation of recent trends, the bulk of the inflation was the result of sharply higher food prices, which surged 9.1% Y/Y as China continues to battle the rapid spread of “pig ebola” which some expect will eradicate half of China’s entire pig population, leading to even higher prices. Sure enough, pork prices soared 27% in July from a year ago, the highest in three years, but that wasn’t even the worst of it: the prices of fresh fruit soared by 39%, the highest since 2006!

Read more …

“It will be a peaceful protest as long as the police do not show up…”

Three Days Of Protests Begin At Hong Kong Airport (BBC)

Demonstrators have gathered at Hong Kong’s airport, marking the start of three days of unauthorised rallies in the Chinese territory. Activists dressed in black sat in the arrivals hall waving banners to raise awareness among international visitors. Protests have gripped Hong Kong for weeks, beginning with anger at an extradition bill and morphing into demands for greater freedoms. The former British colony is part of China but enjoys more autonomy. It has a free press and judicial independence under the “one country, two systems” approach – freedoms activists fear are being increasingly eroded.


They have called for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protests, the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam. Beijing has warned demonstrators not to “play with fire” or to “underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government”. Demonstrators plan to stay at the airport throughout the weekend. They are waving banners written in different languages denouncing Carrie Lam and the police, and handing out leaflets with artwork explaining the recent protests. Authorities are so far tolerating the peaceful rally, which have not overly disrupted passengers. There are as yet no police at the scene. “It will be a peaceful protest as long as the police do not show up,” one demonstrator told Reuters news agency.

Read more …

Imagine the pressure the Malaysians must be under…

Malaysia Files Charges Against 17 Current, Ex-Goldman Execs Over 1MDB (AFP)

Malaysia filed criminal charges Friday against 17 current and former directors of three Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, piling further pressure on the Wall Street titan over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal. Huge sums were looted from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad in a globe-spanning fraud, which allegedly involved ex-leader Najib Razak and his inner circle. Goldman’s role has been under scrutiny as it helped arrange a series of bond issues worth $6.5 billion for the investment vehicle. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad re-opened investigations into the 1MDB affair last year after defeating Najib at the polls, in large part due to public anger at the scandal, and pressure has been steadily mounting on the bank since.


Announcing the latest charges, Attorney General Tommy Thomas said: “Custodial sentences and criminal fines will be sought against the accused… given the severity of the scheme to defraud and fraudulent misappropriation of billions in bond proceeds.” Goldman said in a statement it believed the charges were “misdirected” and would be “vigorously defended”. Thomas listed the names of the 17 accused, whom he said were directors of three Goldman subsidiaries in 2012 and 2013. In December, Malaysia filed charges against the units — Goldman Sachs International, Goldman Sachs (Asia), and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) — and two ex-employees.

Read more …

Everybody gather in the basement!

The Swiss Battle to Cheapen the Franc (Rickards)

One of the crucial insights in currency trading that many investors fail to grasp is that currencies don’t go to zero, and they don’t go through the roof. That’s a generalization, but an important one. Here are the qualifications: This observation applies to major currencies only — not to currencies of corrupt or incompetent countries like Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Those currencies do go to zero through hyperinflation. The observation also applies only in the short-to-intermediate run. In the long run, all fiat currencies also go to zero. Yet over a multiyear horizon, major currencies such as the dollar (USD), euro (EUR), yen (JPY), sterling (GBP) and the Swiss franc (CHF) retain value and do not go to extremes. Instead, they trade in ranges against each other.


That’s the key to successful foreign exchange trading. Trading profits are the result of catching the turning points. Stocks can go to zero when a company goes bankrupt. Enron, WorldCom and a host of dot-com stocks in the early 2000s are all good examples. Bonds can go to zero when a borrower defaults. That happened to Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns. But major currencies do not go to zero. They move back and forth against each other like two kids on a seesaw moving up and down and not going anywhere in relation to the seesaw. The EUR/USD cross-rate is a good example. In the past 20 years, the value of the euro has been as low as $0.80 and as high as $1.60. There have been seven separate instances of moves of 20% or more in EUR/USD in that time period. But EUR/USD never goes to zero or to $100. The exchange rate stays in the range.

Read more …

Or else.

Bayer Proposes Paying $8 Billion to Settle Roundup Cancer Claims (BBG)

Bayer is proposing to pay as much as $8 billion to settle more than 18,000 U.S. lawsuits alleging its Roundup herbicide causes cancer, according to people familiar with the negotiations, Bloomberg News reports. Though such an agreement may be months away, if successful it would ease investor pressure over the German drug and chemical company’s massive litigation exposure. Bayer’s shares have fallen more than one-third in the 14 months since its $63 billion acquisition of the weedkiller’s maker, Monsanto Co.

Read more …

Lawyers, PR firms, spin doctors. That’s Monsanto. Plus a handful of scientists.

Monsanto Built A Step-by-Step Strategy To Destroy My Reputation (Carey Gillam)

As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products. But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked. I knew the company did not like the fact that in my 21 years of reporting on the agrochemical industry – mostly for Reuters – I wrote stories that quoted skeptics as well as fans of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.

I knew the company didn’t like me reporting about growing unease in the scientific community regarding research that connected Monsanto herbicides to human and environmental health problems. And I knew the company did not welcome the 2017 release of my book, Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, which revealed the company’s actions to suppress and manipulate the science surrounding its herbicide business. But I never dreamed I would warrant my own Monsanto action plan. The company records I’ve obtained show a range of actions. One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name.

The correspondence also discussed a need to produce “third party talking points” about me. In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work. I even inspired a Monsanto spreadsheet: as part of “Project Spruce”, the “Carey Gillam Book plan” lists more than 20 items, including discussion of how the company might get third parties to post book reviews about Whitewash.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 182017
 
 November 18, 2017  Posted by at 1:49 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Rembrandt van Rijn The Three Crosses 1653

 

John Rubino recently posted a graph from Bob Prechter’s Elliot Wave that points to some ominous signs. It depicts the S&P 500, combined with consumer confidence and savings rate. As the accompanying video at Elliott Wave, What “Too Confident to Save” Means for Stocks, shows, when the gap between high confidence and low savings is at its widest, a market crash -often- follows.

In 2000, the subsequent crash was 39%, in 2007 it was 54%. We are now again witnessing just such a gap, with the S&P 500 at record levels. Here’s the graph, with John’s comments:

 

Consumers Are Both Confident And Broke

Elliott Wave International recently put together a chart that illustrates a recurring theme of financial bubbles: When good times have gone on for a sufficiently long time, people forget that it can be any other way and start behaving as if they’re bulletproof. They stop saving, for instance, because they’ll always have their job and their stocks will always go up. Then comes the inevitable bust. On the following chart, this delusion and its aftermath are represented by the gap between consumer confidence (our sense of how good the next year is likely to be) and the saving rate (the portion of each paycheck we keep for a rainy day). The bigger the gap the less realistic we are and the more likely to pay dearly for our hubris.

 

 

John is mostly right. But not entirely. Not that I don’t think he knows, he simply forgets to mention it. What I mean is his suggestion that people stop saving because they’re confident, bullish. To understand where and why he slightly misses, let’s turn to Lance Roberts. Before we get to the savings, Lance explains why the difference between the Producer Price Index (PPI) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) is important to note.

Summarized, producer prices are rising, but consumer prices are not.

 

You Have Been Warned

There is an important picture that is currently developing which, if it continues, will impact earnings and ultimately the stock market. Let’s take a look at some interesting economic numbers out this past week. On Tuesday, we saw the release of the Producer Price Index (PPI) which ROSE 0.4% for the month following a similar rise of 0.4% last month. This surge in prices was NOT surprising given the recent devastation from 3-hurricanes and massive wildfires in California which led to a temporary surge in demand for products and services.

 

 

Then on Wednesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was released which showed only a small 0.1% increase falling sharply from the 0.5% increase last month.

 

 

Such differences have real life consequences. In Lance’s words:

 

This deflationary pressure further showed up on Thursday with a -0.3% decline in Export prices. (Exports make up about 40% of corporate profits) For all of you that continue to insist this is an “earnings-driven market,” you should pay very close attention to those three data points above. When companies have higher input costs in their production they have two choices: 1) “pass along” those price increase to their customers; or 2) absorb those costs internally.

If a company opts to “pass along” those costs then we should have seen CPI rise more strongly. Since that didn’t happen, it suggests companies are unable to “pass along” those costs which means a reduction in earnings. The other BIG report released on Wednesday tells you WHY companies have been unable to “pass along” those increased costs.

The “retail sales” report came in at just a 0.1% increase for the month. After a large jump in retail sales last month, as was expected following the hurricanes, there should have been some subsequent follow through last month. There simply wasn’t. More importantly, despite annual hopes by the National Retail Federation of surging holiday spending which is consistently over-estimated, the recent surge in consumer debt without a subsequent increase in consumer spending shows the financial distress faced by a vast majority of consumers.

 

That already hints at what I said above about savings. But it’s Lance’s next graph, versions of which he uses regularly, that makes it even more obvious. (NOTE: I think he means to say 2009, not 2000 below)

 

The first chart below shows a record gap between the standard cost of living and the debt required to finance that cost of living. Prior to 2000(?!), debt was able to support a rising standard of living, which is no longer the case currently.

 

 

The cut-off point is 2009, unless I miss something in Lance’s comment. Before that, borrowing could create the illusion of a rising standard of living. Those days are gone. And it’s very hard to see, when you take a good look, what could make them come back.

Not only are savings not down because people are too confident to save, they are down because people simply don’t have anything left to save. The American consumer is sliding ever deeper into debt. And as for the Holiday Season, we can confidently -there’s that word again- predict that spending will be disappointing, and that much of what is still spent will add to increasing Consumer Credit Per Capita, as well as the Gap Between Real Disposable Income (DPI) And Cost Of Living.

The last graph, which shows Control Purchases, i.e. what people buy most, a large part of which will be basic needs, makes this even more clear.

 

With a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes, debt is only able to cover about 2/3rds of the difference with a net shortfall of $6,605. This explains the reason why “control purchases” by individuals (those items individuals buy most often) is running at levels more normally consistent with recessions rather than economic expansions.

 

 

If companies are unable to pass along rising production costs to consumers, export prices are falling and consumer demand remains weak, be warned of continued weakness in earnings reports in the months ahead. As I stated earlier this year, the recovery in earnings this year was solely a function of the recovering energy sector due to higher oil prices. With that tailwind now firmly behind us, the risk to earnings in the year ahead is dangerous to a market basing its current “overvaluation” on the “strong earnings” story.

“Prior to 2009, debt was able to support a rising standard of living..” Less than a decade later, it can’t even maintain the status quo. That’s what you call a breaking point.

To put that in numbers, there’s a current shortfall of $18,176 between the standard of living and real disposable incomes. In other words, no matter how much people are borrowing, their standard of living is in decline.

Something else we can glean from the graphs is that after the Great Recession (or GFC) of 2008-9, the economy never recovered. The S&P may have, and the banks are back to profitable ways and big bonuses, but that has nothing to do with real Americans in their own real economy. 2009 was a turning point and the crisis never looked back.

Are the American people actually paying for the so-called recovery? One might be inclined to say so. There is no recovery, there’s whatever the opposite of that is, terminal decline?!. It’s just, where does that consumer confidence level come from? Is that the media? Is The Conference Board pulling our leg? Is it that people think things cannot possibly get worse?

What is by now crystal clear is that Americans don’t choose to not save, they have nothing left to save. And that will have its own nasty consequences down the road. Let’s raise some rates, shall we? And see what happens?!

One consolation: Europe, Japan, China are in the same debt-driven decline that Americans are. We’re all going down together. Or rather, the question is who’s going to go first. That is the only hard call left. America’s a prime candidate.

 

 

Nov 132014
 
 November 13, 2014  Posted by at 9:26 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  


Dorothea Lange Negro woman who has never been out of Mississippi July 1936

Looks I have to return to the deflation topic. I’m a bit hesitant about it, because the discussion always gets distorted by varying definitions and a whole bunch of semi-religious issues. The Automatic Earth has for many years said that an immense bout of deflation is inevitable because of global debt levels, and it’s all only gotten a lot worse since we first said that. Our governments and central banks have ‘fought’ deflation with more debt, and that was always the stupidest idea in human history. Or at least, most of us were stupid for believing it would work, or was even intended to.

Just so we don’t get into yet more confusion, i probably need to explain that the debt deflation we’re talking about here is not some subdivision like consumer inflation or price inflation or cookie inflation, those are just hollow and meaningless terms. Debt deflation is deflation caused by too much debt, and the deleveraging it must and will lead to. Deflation does not equal falling prices, those are merely an effect of it.

The reason this matters is that when you equate inflation and deflation with rising or falling prices, you’re not going to be able to know when you actually have deflation. Because prices can rise for all sorts of reasons. Inflation/deflation is the money/credit supply in an economy multiplied by the speed at which money is spent in that economy, the velocity of money.

It should be obvious that prices for some items can still rise, certainly initially, when deflation sets in. Producers that see less sales can try to raise prices for their remaining buyers. Basic necessities will always be needed. Governments can raise taxes. Rising/falling prices tell us only part of the story, and with a considerable time delay.

Ergo: rising/falling prices are a lagging factor, and if you look at them only, you will have missed the point where deflation has set in. What follows, obviously, is that you can’t measure deflation by looking at consumer prices (CPI) or production prices (PPI) numbers. You’d be way behind the curve. CPI and PPI tell you something, but they don’t tell what causes falling or rising prices. And that is a valuable thing to know.

I see even John Mauldin in this week’s The Last Argument of Central Banks talk about ‘good deflation’, but that doesn’t exist any more than cookie inflation, sorry, John. Prices for some items may fall due to innovation etc. while an economy booms, but if you call that deflation, you’ll miss what’s really deflation when it arrives.

Deflation is always bad. It either occurs when money/credit is so short that people can not get their hands on it no matter how hard and productive they work, and how much demand there is for their products, or it occurs when people are too poor, too much in debt or too reluctant to part with what they have.

In a deflation, people spend only what they absolutely must, provided even that they can afford to, which leads to large swaths of an economy being liquidated. Falling prices lead to falling wages lead to ever further falling prices lead to factory closings lead to more people who can’t afford to spend which leads to closings which leads to less spending which leads to faling prices etc. This continues until the debt has been deleveraged. Governments will lose tax revenue and raise taxes, but soon enough they will in quick succession disband and be replaced, rinse and repeat until even essential services can no longer be provided.

Until recently, a shrinking money/credit supply was very clearly not in the cards. Central banks have gone absolutely nuts in their stimulus plans, and this has artificially kept price levels up somewhat, though far less than they, and scores of ‘experts’ had hoped and expected. Now that game, too, is up. Japan went crazier than ever the other day out of fear that falling oil prices would sink consumer spending even more, but the US Fed has cut QE. That is an admission it has failed to do what it officially was supposed to, not the sign of triumph it’s made out to be, as in ‘the economy is doing so well, it doesn’t need our support anymore’.

Central banks have spent like maniacs, and consumer spending only keeps falling. Just ask Japan. And while you’re at it, ask them how entrenched deflation can become even in an economy that still has the benefit of growing world market to sell its products in. We won’t have any such benefit. The world has stopped growing, and there’s no massaging of numbers left strong enough to hide it. Not that it won’t be tried. As I said earlier this week, we now live in a world built on debt and propaganda.

Since QE and other ‘plans’ never reached the real economy, most nations’ money supplies have also either fallen or at best remained stagnant. We have the perfect set-up for deflation, and we therefore have deflation. It hasn’t reached the US yet, though we should be careful with that because the numbers being reported are notoriously flaky. But it has reached Europe and Asia. Which means the US is only a matter of time. And people, reluctantly, start taking notice. Steve Hochberg and Pete Kendall penned the following for Bob Prechter’s Elliott Wave:

Deflation Rearing its Ugly Head in Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Ways Around the Globe

According to the latest figures, deflation is now perched on China’s doorstep. In September, China’s consumer price index was up 1.6%, but its producer price index fell 1.8%. The CPI increase was its lowest since 2010. [..] in September, demand for electric power, a “bellwether for China economic activity,” fell 8.4% from the prior month, the second straight monthly decline.

“Deflation is the real risk in China,” stated the chief economist at a Hong Kong bank. In Europe, deflation is no longer a possible risk; it’s reality. In September, eleven of fifteen European Union members experienced lower goods prices, and the latest quarter-over-quarter Eurozone growth in real GDP is zero.

With Alice-in-Wonderland naiveté, U.S. financial media place the United States outside the risk of global deflation. Headlines talk of “Mild Inflation” and insist that the U.S. will gain “From Good Deflation.” On October 14, Bloomberg reported that consumer spending is strong enough “to steer the U.S. economy safely through the shoals of deteriorating global growth and the turbulent financial markets.” In early September, we stated that it was only a matter of time before economic weakness and deflation (which will be anything but good) jump the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and arrive in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Labor Department, real wages for full-time employees averaged $790 a week in the third quarter, about $1 less than in the third quarter of 2007. “There’s been no net gain for workers since 1999.” In recent months, spending has been uneven. Retail sales fell 0.3% in September. Most economists are baffled: “one of the great mysteries is why the U.S. has lacked inflation despite all the money being pumped into the economy.” A study by the St. Louis Fed finds that the answer is “a dramatic increase in the private sector’s willingness to hoard money instead of spend it.”

Note: the ‘hoarding meme’ is habitually used by economists, re: Bernanke and his Chinese savings glut, to point out situations which are more often than not characterized by people being too poor to spend, not sitting on anything at all. For economists, if people don’t spend, it must be because they save, never because they’re poor. I kid you not.

For years now, the Fed along with most economists have anticipated the imminent return of inflation, but it continues stubbornly subdued. This long-term chart above of the CPI shows a succession of lower highs since the early 1980s, as inflation turned into disinflation, which is on the cusp of leading to outright deflation. Some argue that the CPI is rigged to show milder levels of inflation, but the bottom graph shows the same steady move toward the zero line in the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, an alternate inflation measure favored by the U.S. Fed.

When outright deflation hits, recognition of it will play an important role. Once its presence becomes widely observed, investors and the debt markets will belatedly take defensive action. Eventually, notes Conquer the Crash, “default and fear of default exacerbate the trend as it causes creditors to reduce lending. A downward ‘spiral’ begins feeding on pessimism just as the previous boom fed on optimism.”

Moving from theory to practice, we end up with our old friend Ambrose. Though he confuses inflation and consumer prices, and thinks they’re one and the same thing, he does have useful numbers:

Spreading Deflation Across East Asia Threatens Fresh Debt Crisis

Deflation is becoming lodged in all the economic strongholds of East Asia. It is happening faster and going deeper than almost anybody expected just months ago, and is likely to find its way to Europe through currency warfare in short order. Factory gate prices are falling in China, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore. Some 82% of the items in the producer price basket are deflating in China. The figures is 90% in Thailand, and 97% in Singapore.

These include machinery, telecommunications, and electrical equipment, as well as commodities. Chetan Ahya from Morgan Stanley says deflationary forces are “getting entrenched” across much of Asia. This risks a “rapid worsening of the debt dynamic” for a string of countries that allowed their debt ratios to reach record highs during the era of Fed largesse. Debt levels for the region as a whole (ex-Japan) have jumped from 147% to 207% of GDP in six years.

These countries face a Sisyphean Task. They are trying to deleverage, but the slowdown in nominal GDP caused by falling inflation is always one step ahead of them. “Debt to GDP has risen despite these efforts,” he said. If this sounds familiar, it should be. It is exactly what is happening in Italy, France, the Netherlands, and much of the eurozone. Data from Nomura show that the composite PPI index for the whole of emerging Asia – including India – turned negative in September.

China itself is now one shock away from a deflation trap. Chinese PPI has been negative for 32 months as the economy grapples with overcapacity in everything from steel, cement, glass, chemicals, and shipbuilding, to solar panels. It dropped to minus 2.2% in October. The sheer scale of over-investment is epic.

The country funnelled $5 trillion into new plant and fixed capital last year – as much as Europe and the US combined – even after the Communist Party vowed to clear away excess capacity in its Third Plenum reforms. Old habits die hard. Consumer prices are starting to track factory prices with a long delay. Headline inflation dropped to 1.6% in October. This is so far below the 3.5% target of the People’s Bank of China that it looks increasingly like a policy mistake. Core inflation is down to 1.4%.

China has flirted with deflation before: during its banking crisis in the late 1990s, and again during the West’s dotcom recession from 2001-2002. Both episodes proved manageable. This time the level of debt is greater by orders of magnitude, with a large chunk in trusts, wealth products, and other parts of the shadow banking nexus, and a further $1.2 trillion in “carry trade” loans from Hong Kong.

Standard Chartered thinks total debt has reached 250% of GDP. This is roughly $26 trillion, the same size as the US and Japanese commercial banking systems put together, and therefore a headache for us all. Larry Brainard from Trusted Sources says China is sliding towards a European debt-compound trap. “It’s arithmetic.Deflation will kill you if you’re leveraged. It is just a question of how quickly. We don’t know how big the problem is because China is playing a game of three-card Monte and moving the debt to different buckets,” he said.

Asia is not yet in a full-blown currency war, but no country can stand idly by as neighbours dump toxic deflationary waste on their front lawn. Korea has threatened to force down the won, pari passu with the yen. The central bank of Taiwan has been intervening. These skirmishes are happening in a region of festering grievances and territorial disputes, with no Nato-style security structure – or for that matter EU-style soft governance – to damp down fires.

[Chinese] purchases of foreign bonds have dropped to zero, down from $35bn a month at the start of the year. The yuan has appreciated 22% against the yen since June, and 50% since mid-2012. It is up 12% against the euro since the early summer. China is in effect strapped to the rocketing dollar through its quasi-peg, increasingly a torture machine.

George Magnus from UBS says this cannot continue. “What is happening in the property market is the tip of the iceberg for the whole economy. China will have to resort to monetary reflation over the winter, and I think this will include a lower yuan. We are heading into a currency war,” he said.

We have the debt. And we recognize it. Still, the line politics and media feed us is that more debt can be a good thing, that we need more debt in order to attain what they like to call ‘escape velocity’ from the financial crisis caused by that same debt. Oil on fire.

We have the propaganda. We don’t always recognize it for what it is, but the, that’s the idea, isn’t it? It’s to make people think that things are not really what they really are. That we need to spend more public funds on saving banks, not saving people, or else armageddon. There’s hardly a news story left today that is not to an extent phrased by propaganda.

And now we have deflation. Which is not the falling prices, though they are a – delayed – symptom. Still, other symptoms are as valid, as nobody is spending. Mass unemployment in southern Europe is a symptom. West Texas oil at $74 dollars today is one. The Chinese economy, allegedly still growing at $7.5%, but at 250% debt-to-GDP, is another. Throw in 207% debt-to-GDP debt levels across southeast Asia.

With deflation becoming a daily topic in our propagandistic media, despite the fact that governments and central banks are vehemently allergic to it (for good reasons), rest assured that we are entering a next phase of the crisis. Just not one that they would like you to think we are. When debt starts being deleveraged for real, deflation cannot be avoided. And debt must be deleveraged, we can’t sit on it till Kingdom Come and keep adding more while we’re at it. That was never in the cards. And we’ve accumulated too much of it to ever outgrow it. We simply can’t sell or make enough iPhones to accomplish that. Or eat enough burgers, hard as we try.

Our world, our life, has been built on debt and propaganda for many years. They have kept us from noticing how poorly we are doing. But now a third element has entered the foundation of our societies, and it’s set to eat away at everything that has – barely – kept the entire edifice from crumbling apart. Deflation.

It’s time to check where your basic needs will come from when it becomes first harder and them impossible to obtain them from the sources you have been used to. And please, get out of debt. Debt during deflation is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. Think of deflation as a biblical plague.