Friday, November 15, 2013

From the Daily Mail's science and technology desk

Daily Mail science & technology desk - Will the world end in 100 days? Sounding of ancient trumpet in York warns of Viking apocalypse on 22 February 2014.

Hurray! This is so much better than that sissy Mayan apocalypse. There'll be sea monsters and horrible battles, drinking and wanton wenches.

‘Following a study published in 2010 that bearded men are more trustworthy than those without, we’re also looking for fantastic displays of facial hair, so that we can identify those with the potential to take us into the brave new world that is foretold to follow Ragnarok,’ said Danielle Daglan director of the Jorvik Viking Festival.
I'm so not shaving anymore.

Alix Resources and the Bitcoin thing

PS Dave - Alix does the VSE old school! Some shitty microcap lifestyle company has decided to do bitcoins instead of gold.

FP - Canadian "miner" (ha ha!) to pay contractor in Bitcoins. Because why pay dollars for shitty gold intercepts when you can pay bitcoins for shitty tungsten intercepts? I assume they must be shitty, since AIX had a $1.5M market cap before they came out with this bitcoin nonsense.

Northern Miner - Alix Resources to set up bitcoin exchange to support their extravagant lifestyles. Because the drill-pump-PP cycle takes too much work.

By the way, here's a warning for you. When they track down the guy behind Cryptolocker (my bet is he's the same guy from Rajasthan who's also behind the "Microsoft customer service" fraud), expect Bitcoin to crash. It's only going up right now because hundreds of thousands of people have to buy bitcoins to pay this scammer off. Once he's busted, bitcoin demand collapses.

That's my bet, anyway.

But I'd really like it if the rest of the crappy pennycrapper explorecos would emulate Alix. Truly I would. After all, it's easy money, you don't have to waste a penny drilling anything, and bitcoin is already all the rage among the goldbug set so it's instant popularity.

And most importantly it'll help the rest of us differentiate the fraudulent lifestyle companies from the people who are actually professional geologists looking for real deposits.

And now, some slightly more serious news

Yeah, screw it, I just can't be serious about any of this.

BI - yay, Marxist class rhetoric is back in fashion! Venezuela recently arrested over a hundred capitalist parasites; Maduro announced "we have more than 100 of the bourgeoisie behind bars at the moment."

This is so awesome, because now it's cool again to use words like exploitation, proletariat, worker's struggle, world revolution, and rentier capitalism. (Just don't mention the lumpenproletariat if you want to make friends!)

Plus maybe we can start up new Baader-Meinhof gangs, with hot communist chicks carrying machine guns:

My favourite scene from der Baader Meinhof Komplex. Yeah, I fapped vigourously to this chick.

What a beautiful world this will be.

Reuters - China unveils boldest reforms in decades. The thing about the China policy leak.

FT beyond brics - China's Plenum: not a dud. Wendy Liu at Normura nails it:
The equity market is driven by a series of short-term macro and micro considerations. A mix of some misplaced hopes and overlooking some real nuggets may have contributed to investor disappointment.

We did not expect the reforms to offer short-term upside, but rather medium-term structural upside.

Based on the policy priorities outlined in the 3rd plenum Communique, it appears to us that Beijing has taken a pass at going after the short-term gain.
Well, duh.

Bloomberg - Republicans asserting reliance on gold as world loses faith. A nice long article on how the gold trade is mixed up with the American retard trade. Frankly, one big strike against gold is that it's the god of the clueless moron set.

Ritholtz - remember that thing about QE meaning currency debasement and inflation? Usually Josh is the asshole in this duo, but today Barry O'Ritholtz lets his Irish heritage shine with a succinct reminder of who the morons are who were predicting hyperinflation back in 2010. And who's on the list? Zerohedgers like Cliff Asness, James Grant and Jim Chanos; but also Republicans Dick Bove and Bill Kristol. And thus, the deeper truth: Republicans are morons.

And it's important to read the comments for some context: even if these guys someday end up right, in the meantime they're wrong, and thus their prediction was untradeable.

And this is important to remember: as far as I'm concerned, the guy who "will be proven right someday!!1" is not worth listening to. I'm not going to wait 5-50 years to put on an armageddon trade! I want to make money now. In any case, these clowns are never saying "we'll be proven right someday!!1"; every single missive coming out of their ignorant mouths asserts that apocalypse is right around the corner. Thus they continually prove themselves wrong all over again, each day.

Also interesting to me is this little gem from Barry about John Mauldin in the comments section:
Years ago, I used to post John's work sight unseen. As he went deeper into the partisan craze, less of it appeared here.

You will note that I post less and less of his work these days.
Since you read this blog religiously, you'll know what I think of that apocalyptic clown Mauldin and his recent association with the Ayn Rand worshipping fruits at Casey "Research". So it's nice for Barry to come out and admit that it was a bad idea to dump that clown's blather in our inboxes.

Today's China move, and how Wall Street Whitey still has no clue what he's doing

So apparently the details of the Third Plenum meeting leaked out on Weibo or something, and now China is on a tear:

FXI is what stupid white people from Wall Street buy when they want to play China. I say this because it's nothing but an ETF of corrupt and inefficient state-owned garbage. They've bought $700M of this corrupt and inefficient state-owned garbage today.

What about other China plays?

Only about $300K of the China all-cap has been bought. (Nice breakout and MACD btw.)

And only about $600K of the Guggenheim China tech has been bought.

So Wall Street Whitey is playing China wrong.

I mean, if Jim O'Neill, who invented the "BRICS" term that these guys love, now says that "old China is dead and new China is the shit", then you shouldn't be buying FXI, now, should you? You should be buying "new China".

And, of course, just two days ago everyone was "sell China" because the initial communique didn't wet their panties. What a bunch of fucking lemmings.

Now, here's a thing. If you're a Wall Street Whitey, ignorant of China, ignorant of their economy, yeah you can buy FXI; but eventually you're going to realize that the central theme of the Third Plenum is change, and thus you should change your China focus.

So you should probably look into China tech.

But here's another thing:

If the Plenum is all about restructuring the Chinese economy to ensure continued wealth creation in China, then why aren't you buying the yellow metal? China's the largest consumer of the yellow metal right now; do you think the Plenum was all about stopping purchases of the yellow metal?

Morning newsitainment

That's entertainment!

Ritholtz - #askJPM, hilarity ensues. This sort of hilarity right here:

Time - Fifty Shades of Grey tests positive for herpes. Looks like this novel wasn't your mom's first risque experience!

The Local - Swedish ice hotel, made of ice, which is frozen water, told to install fire alarms. Outrageous! This is what you get with sociamalism!

Real news later when I can be arsed.

Friday videos - Violent Femmes live

Here's the Violent Femmes, doing "Kiss Off":

One of the great "so punk that even punk hates them" wrist-slashing punk bands of American history, their first album is one of the best things to have ever come out of the 80s.

Here's the album version, without moving pictures:

I need someone a person to talk to
someone who'd care, to love
could it be you could it be you
situation gets rough then I start to panic
it's not enough it's just a habit
hey kid you're sick well darling this is it

you can all just kiss off into the air
behind my back I can see them stare
they'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
they'll hurt me bad they do it all the time

I hope you know this will go down
on your permanent record
oh yeah well don't get so distressed
did I happen to mention that I'm impressed

I take one one one cause you left me and
two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my lonely and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 - I forget what 8 was for - and
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything

you can all just kiss off into the air
behind my back I can see them stare
they'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
they'll hurt me bad they do it all the time

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And a bit of evening news

A few evening newsbits for you:

Bespoke - bullish sentiment declines. And yet this is supposedly a bubble?

Ritholtz - not quite a bubble yet. If everyone is calling it a bubble, it's not a bubble. By definition, dumbass.

Reformed Borker (Bork Bork Bork!) - it sucks when intentional suicide doesn't work. He purposefully went out and bought DDD and SSYS for no reason except he though they were cool. Turns out he was right.

IKN - Eric Sprott has given up on gold. He's dumped all his gold bullion holdings because he'd rather save a few percent on debt. How are young Sprottlings like Charles Oliver, John Embry and Rick Rule going to spin this the next time they appear on BNN? Your boss dumped all his bullion to pay down debt. That means he thinks paying down debt will earn him more money than holding gold from this point forward. Is he going to admit that he was wrong? That he deluded a bunch of ignorant goldbugs? Is he?

Argentina tries to look good in the eyes of the world again, fails again

Windsor Star - Catholic fringe defies pope, disrupts interfaith Kristallnacht ceremony at Argentine cathedral.

Stay classy, Argentina!

The late news

Sorry I'm late. I had to spend a couple hours going through the Highway Traffic Act to explain why an engineer should lose his license and stop smoking crack.

And now, the news:

Bespoke - another breakout. Quote:
As shown in our trading range chart below, the index never managed to pull below overbought territory (>1 standard deviation above its 50-DMA) over the last two weeks.  Instead, the index's moving averages played catch-up, so even though it's higher than it was when it last hit an all-time high, the S&P is less overbought now than it was then.
And this is important, for several reasons. #1, yes your averages can catch up. But #2, in a bull market an overbought condition tends to stay overbought, instead you should be changing your criteria for when to go contrarian.

Bespoke - if you like 10-baggers. Do you like 10-baggers? Then why are you screwing with miners when you could have simply bought Ford, Chipotle, Fossil, Expedia, Seagate or in 2009? Is it because your radical right-wing politics demands you only buy shitty miners?

NYT - Switzerland's proposal to pay people for being alive. Quote:
Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, has done some of the best research on the results. Some of her findings were obvious: Poverty disappeared. But others were more surprising: High-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down. “If you have a social program like this, community values themselves start to change,” Forget said.
So in other words, it saves money. Something similar, btw, has already been shown to work for third-world aid: screw handing money over to governments. Just give each poverty-stricken peasant $100, and they invest it in livestock, tools, and other things that will provide them a steady income.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A question that's been haunting me for thirty years has been answered today

After thirty years a nagging question has been answered.

"I said do you speak-a my language?
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich."

I always wondered what the hell it was they were saying.

Morning news, including postplenary pithiness

First, here's what Billy Bishop at Sinocism had to say about the Third Plenum:
If you want to take a more positive view, I think you can find the possibility for aggressive reform within the very ambiguous language of the document. But if you have a more negative bent you can easily read it as just more bureaucratically paralyzed boilerplate. We may have a slightly better idea when a version of the full report is released, possibly within the next week.

I will guess that this document is going to lead to significant reforms that will play out over the next few years.

One of the most important measures announced in the communique is the establishment by Party Center of a “Comprehensively Deepening Reform Leading Small Group”. This group is not just tasked with economic reform[....]

According to Xinhua the group will “be in charge of designing reform, arranging and coordinating reform, pushing forward reform and supervising the implementation of plans.” It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a punt on hard reforms or just another bureaucratic impediment. These leading small groups are very important. The leadership and composition will be key and I will bet it will be chaired by a PBSC member, which will give it the heft to push difficult reforms through the bureaucracies.

This document is not a blueprint but a statement of high-level intentions. Lots of reform could happen based on what is written in it, or very little. Political will and implementation will be the deciding factors, and it may be a long time before we see tangible results or can form an informed opinion about this meeting.

One term we may start hearing more about is “六个紧紧围绕” (The “six tightly revolve arounds” for lack of a better translation). Awkward, but probably not to be ignored.

1. trading on the initial statement, before the full report comes out, is retarded;

2. the Leading Group announcement is indeed significant, according to someone who has his head in Chinese politics instead of up Wall Street's ass;

3. this ten-year program will take years to implement, and is simply a statement of intentions, and therefore isn't something you put short-term trades on.

In other words, Wall Street should quit being ignorant cokeheads.

And now, the news:

FT Alphaville - the morning after the plenum. Seems the markets are unimpressed by the plenum, because they weren't handed either democratic reforms or neoliberal policy. In other words, they're disappointed because the Chinese leadership is going to enact changes for the good of China, and not for the good of Whitey.

Daniel Drezner - the mother of all authoritarian capitalism experiments. Wherein he focuses on the major Whitey disappointment, the very obvious and succint language in Doc9 that indicates plainly to even the most incompetent observer (i.e. Wall Street) that the Chinese leadership fully and completely reject economic neoliberalism.

WSJ China Realtime - China to be more decisive on natural resources. Here's what should be making Wall Street buy miners:
In overseas markets, the government appears to be encouraging state-owned companies to compete for major global metal assets. Three or four consortia of Chinese companies are duking it out for Glencore Xstrata PLC’s Peruvian copper asset Las Bambas, which has been valued at about $5 billion, Glencore senior executives have said.
Interesting, no?

Bespoke - BRICs, EMs hold on for dear life. I guess cos the "Dectaper" or something. Funny how there's all those headlines have disappeared about how undervalued the EMs are.

PS Dave - what's in it for me. A post far too late on how junior miners suck™. Quote:
One place we have not seen contraction is at the corporate management level. I have seen some news release touting 10% cuts at the corporate level but that is usually the low hanging fruit like clerks, assistants, receptionists etc... Not the $100,000-$500,000 salaried officer positions, those cuts are yet to materialize. 10% cut really means you had 20 people in your office and now you are down to 18 and if you just got rid of your marketing girl and the accounting clerk all you really did is cut $80,000 in salaries. Meanwhile some Corporate Secretary pulls $250,000, the Director of Corporate Communications $300,000 or the CFO $500,000 and the CEO, we have harped on about those numbers enough. We all know "what's in it for them', but "what's in it for me"?

Instead of a dividend a few companies attempted to follow through on a "Normal Course Issuer Bid", this is where a CEO gets to make the bold promotional statement " We believe our share price is to low and exceptional value therefor we are going buy the stock back". Rarely does a company ever buy back the allotted amount they claim they are going to buy. I have read many articles that most NCIB's fail to deliver value. In fact one company has managed to buy .19% of their allotted 5% that they can buy and have more shares outstanding today than when they announced the NCIB. There was something it for someone, but what was in it for me?
If a management-level person at a publicly-listed corporation has no fucking clue how to keep capital happy, then his company will go out of business period. Capital does what's best for capital. What amazes me is how few of these clowns understand that this is exactly what's happening to their industry.

Mineweb - Stillwater takes $290M impairment charge on Altar. Hey guys! Thanks for that one-day 150% profit I made on Peregrine! Who the hell ever said I shouldn't try to sell to someone stupider than me?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Some lunchtime news

Gold is getting monkey-hammered since 11AM. I guess there's something EM-negative going on, since EEM is also down.

Anyway, here's some news:

Bespoke - Dow trying to break out. After that, I guess it's clear sky. I guess the international banking cabal has forestalled the whole "dishonest system coming apart at the seams", eh? Eh? Cos obviously the fundamentals don't support a Dow breakout, eh? Eh?

Calculated Risk - looking for stronger growth in 2014. Apparently fiscal contraction is a growth-killer, and when you stop fiscally contracting you can start growing. Unfortunately this offends conservatives.

Krugman - Germany's unsurprising lack of reciprocity. Quote:
Germany was able to achieve large gains in competitiveness without deflation, because Spain and others were willing to accept inflation well above 2 percent. But now the eurozone has overall core inflation below 1 percent, which means that Spain can only achieve internal devaluation through crippling deflation.

The Germans, in other words, aren’t asking the southern Europeans to emulate them; they’re demanding that they accomplish a feat Germany never had to manage, and which hardly anyone has ever managed.
In other words, Germans are still cunts. Surprised?

Bonddad - Europe is at a buying point. Fine, Mr. TA, let's see how that works out for us.

BI - the EM warning signs are flashing again. US yields going back up means we're back to the old "puke the EMs" play again. Except maybe this time the puke isn't as bad, since the stomach is already mostly empty from the last time? Anyway, chalk up another hasty and poorly-considered move to the supposed coming "Dectaper".

Esquire - stuff about George Clooney. Sounds like a hilarious guy, actually. Quote:
Being Clooney, he does not only write to Brad Pitt, however. He also writes as Brad Pitt. A few years ago, he even had some stationery made up with Brad Pitt’s letterhead. Then he found a book about acting and accents and sent it to Meryl Streep, with an accompanying note. It said, “Dear Meryl, this book really helped me with my accent for Troy. I hope it helps you too.” He signed it “Brad Pitt.” Then he sent another letter to Don Cheadle on “Pitt’s” stationery. As long as Cheadle has been acting, he has dreamt of playing Miles Davis. So the letter informed Cheadle that Pitt’s production company had acquired the rights to Davis’s life story. The letter said that Pitt wanted him to star in it.

As Charlie Parker.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fruitcake Raoul Pal is back again, this time pumping Bitcoin

I was wondering why I was getting so many hits for these old posts:

Best Fucking Blog in the Universe - Let's all laugh at Mr. Bottom-Tick, Raoul Pal, and his Doomy Doominess Of Doom
This Man Is a Transcendent Genius Who Paul Krugman Totally Agrees With On Everything - Raoul Pal? Fucktard, apparently

Wherein, if you don't remember and haven't the interest in following the damn links, I made fun of how Raoul Pal perfectly and precisely bottom-ticked the June 2012 bottom with a sell call based on dire predictions of coming ultracollapse.

Since the very day of his predictions, QQQ and SPY have both flown up by over 35%.

Anyway, turns out that Raoul Pal is now hawking Bitcoins to the goldbug crowd:

Silver Doctors - Raoul Pal on why Bitcoin's upside is 5000x the price of gold
Zerohedge - As bitcoin plunges 25% on government scrutiny, the first BTC "fair value" reco has a stunning price target

With reposts at Max Keiser's website and Prison Planet.

So, I guess it's to be expected. The goldbugs are well and truly being herded into Bitcoin, and the coming collapse of civilization will see Bitcoin as the world's new currency, backed by gold or something, despite that whole little problem about having to maintain the worldwide internet backbone when society collapses. And, um, electricity distribution.

And I guess the only goldbugs left in this world have retreated to the conspiracist echo chamber run by Alex Jones and Max Keiser.

I will simply repeat here that Raoul Pal's sell call perfectly bottom-ticked the 2012 correction.

On the post that initiated the Silence of Mickeyman

Here's something interesting.

World Complex - junior gold explorers have a structural problem.

The post ends thus:
Clearly the emphasis on gold exploration is anomalous. An anomalously large amount of money being invested in one sector--more than is capable of providing an economic return--is the definition of a bubble. It is painful for me to admit this, as I work in the sector. If we allow ourselves to consider this possibility, we may also recognize the justifying statement--"you can always sell gold"--is equivalent to "house prices always go up" or "just buy the nifty fifty".

Just because a bubble has lasted a long time doesn't mean it will last forever. And just because it deflates from 10x normal to only 5x normal doesn't mean that we have experienced all the pain we will ever experience in the sector. We may have to consider that the current pain we are experiencing in the exploration industry is just the beginning of a return to reality. There could be much more pain to come as 80% of junior gold explorecos disappear.

I don't know what juniors are going to do. They can't really go into base metal exploration, at least not under the current financing regime, as they have no credible ability to raise the large amounts of capital to develop their deposits. It may be that the only way for them to survive will be as wholly- or partly-owned subsidiaries of major mining companies.

Eventually sanity will have to return to the economic system--the financialization will be reversed and goods will be manufactured in the developed countries--and the exploration budgets will favour base metals over gold.

And after this, all went silent at his blog. As if the loss of gold's lustre means his heart can no longer stir at all the beauty of phase space charts and complexity theory and math stuff.

Mickeyman, where have you gone? Please tell us you're still alive!

It's all because of this chart:

And because, if I'm reading him correctly, he feels that capital invested in gold exploration no longer sees a positive return.

Seriously, I've been thinking about that myself, and have awaited a time when some mathy type like him or John Kaiser might bother to investigate the problem in detail. Because this does seem to be a question whose answer is vital for determining whether to participate in the junior scene at all.

How much return on capital is earned for every $1 invested in explorecos?

Or rather, to make it easier to do the math, how much return on capital is earned on $1,000,000, invested equally across all the gold exploration companies on the TSX-V, over some arbitrary timeframe like 5 years?

If you can only get negative return on your money, then yes indeed the gold exploration model in general is broken: if it is not possible for capital to make a profit investing in exploration, then there will be no capital invested in exploration. Capital goes where profit is.

And that's why I've been sending off worried emails to people like Brent Cook and John Kaiser, opining that maybe the TSX-V will die off completely, perhaps replaced by a state-funded model from a totalitarian regime like China or Russia. Cos if exploration offers a negative return, capital will turn its back on exploration, and exploration thus fails within a capitalist system.

But there's something about Mickeyman's assumptions.

In the exploration budgets chart above, gold's share of total does indeed spike after 1980, and yes that's because of the price signal that gold sent to the market.

It seems to start going down after leaching came into existence, which then suggests something.

Why shouldn't gold's share of total exploration have spiked after 1980? The price went up. That means the profitability of deposits went up, the value of ore went up, the possibility of putting g/t deposits into production went up (instead of oz/t deposits).

Was there an equivalent spike in the base metals prices at any time? Can you redraw that chart, but instead of drawing total exploration expenditures as % of total, maybe draw it as each commodity group's price as % of some total annual worldwide consumption basket - and if so, does it maybe look nearly the same?

And just wait a sec.

Leave aside for now the possibility of gold exploration becoming entirely a Soviet & Maoist venture in future. It's an interesting idea, but let's ignore it for now.

If explorers stop exploring, then the pipeline dries up. But then, unless the world stops buying gold, the price of gold goes up as new mined supply disappears. So then, shouldn't money flow back into exploration? I mean, without any gold being mined, there's nothing to stop gold going sky-high, right? Isn't that how free markets are supposed to deal with supply and demand fluctuations in commodities?

So let's look at his chart again:

He thinks we might go back to 1950-1979 level gold exploration as % of total, where base metals become the majority of exploration expenditure.

But here's the thing, Mickey. You said this:
Looking at this chart, the dominance of gold exploration came into effect as a consequence of the rising gold price into 1980; which itself was a consequence of Nixon removing the US dollar from the gold standard. 

Let me rewrite that sentence for you and let's see if it looks different in your eyes:
Looking at this chart, the dominance of gold exploration came into effect as a consequence of the rising gold price into 1980; which itself was a consequence of Nixon removing the artificial price control on gold

There was no such thing as a "gold standard" immediately pre-Nixon. There was simply a price control regime where the government decreed by fiat that gold miners could only sell gold for $35/oz.

Why the hell would anyone back then have wanted to explore for a metal that they could only get $35/oz for? I mean, there aren't many deposits in the world that you could have discovered, which would obviously have been able to be mined profitably at $35/oz, right?

$35 in 1975 dollars equals only $150 today, per US CPI. How many of today's mines turn a profit at Au $150?

So of course nobody wanted to explore for gold pre-1980! It's the old Chicago School story about producer response to price controls, all over again.

If you're saying gold exploration is going to fall to ~10% of total exploration in the future, that seems to suggest that nobody's going to want gold anymore. So the question really does still boil down to what the next 10-20 years are going to bring in China and India.

When Paul Krugman agrees with me, it proves what a genius I am

The Krugginator has been rapping on France a fair bit recently. You should go over and read the actual articles because he includes lots of charts to make his point patently obvious to even the most ignorant fucktard, but I'll give you some nice long teaser quotes here:

NYT - ideological ratings. Quote:
I’m sorry, but I think that when S&P complains about lack of reform, it’s actually complaining that Hollande is raising, not cutting taxes on the wealthy, and in general isn’t free-market enough to satisfy the Davos set. Remember that a couple of months ago Olli Rehn dismissed France’s fiscal restraint — which has actually been exemplary — because the French, unacceptably, are raising taxes rather than slashing the safety net.

So just as the austerity drive isn’t really about fiscal responsibility, the push for “structural reform” isn’t really about growth; in both cases, it’s mainly about dismantling the welfare state.

S&P may not be participating in this game in a fully conscious way; when you move in those circles, things that in fact nobody knows become part of what everyone knows. But don’t take this downgrade as a demonstration that something is really rotten in the state of France. It’s much more about ideology than about defensible economic analysis.

NYT - non-crisis France. Quote:
The first decade of the euro left Spain very overvalued, Germany very undervalued. France was in between, so there was no big news either way.

To use the jargon, the euro area suffered from very large asymmetric shocks — but France, which roughly tracked the euro average, wasn’t subject to these shocks.

So again, why the downgrade?

In 2011-2012 markets turned on France, for a while. But this was a liquidity issue, not a real concern about solvency, and it went away when the ECB signaled that it was willing to do its job as lender of last resort[.]

Oh, and here was the massive action after S&P’s announcement: [...] Seven whole basis points!

So I stand by my assessment: S&P wasn’t really assessing French default risk, it was slapping the French on the wrist for not being sufficiently committed to dismantling the welfare state.

NYT - more notes on France-bashing. Quote:
By just about any measure I can find, however, France looks not too bad by European standards. GDP has recovered roughly to pre-crisis levels; the budget deficit is fairly small and the medium-term debt outlook not at all scary; the long-term budget outlook is actually pretty good compared with its neighbors, thanks to a higher birth rate.

Yet the country is the subject of vituperative, over-the-top commentary. Here’s The Economist, a year ago, declaring France “The time bomb at the heart of Europe”. Here’s CNN declaring that France is in “free fall”.


CNN also declares,

France’s decline is best illustrated by the rapid deterioration in its foreign trade. In 1999, France sold around 7% of the world’s exports. Today, the figure is just over 3%, and falling fast.

Hmm. Just about every advanced country, the United States very much included, has a declining share of world exports (Germany is an exception); this New York Fed research paper notes that this decline is more or less in line with the declining share of advanced economies in world GDP as emerging nations rise, and it portrays France as more or less typical.

Again, the point is not that France is problem-free; the question is why this only moderately troubled nation attracts rating downgrades and so much apocalyptic rhetoric.

And the answer just has to be politics. France’s sin isn’t excessive debt, especially poor growth, lousy productivity (it has more or less matched Germany since 2000), poor job growth (ditto), or anything like that. Its sin is that of balancing its budget by raising taxes instead of slashing benefits. There’s no evidence that this is a disastrous policy — and in fact bond markets don’t seem concerned — but who needs evidence?

Now, Krugger is a perfesser, so despite the legendary "toss the grenade thru the doorway and move on" succinctness of his posts at NYT he's still given to using far too many words to make his point. Still, it's nice to see that he's in complete agreement with my far, far more to-the-point analysis of France, which is:


I await my honourary Ph.D. in Economics.

Some noontime newsiness

Some noontime reading:

Calculated Risk - state and local austerity is over. State and local used to be a headwind; now it's a tailwind. How hard is it for you to do the math on this?

Reformed Borker (Bork Bork Bork!) - don't fight the global Fed! Hey wait! You mean "money printing" is going on in other countries too? Well, I guess it's not important because America is the only real country.

Bonddad - the oil choke collar continues to disengage. Again, how hard is it for you to do the math? I mean, it must be hard, since everyone is still so bearish the SPY.

Bloomberg - hedge funds cut gold bets on stimulus outlook. Because gold has nothing to do with any country except the USA, who don't actually buy any gold except in ETF form.

A philosophical inquiry into the bullshit of the miners' charts

Look at these charts, please. There is a quiz later on, and you can win a shiny silver coin if you get the answer right.

It looks like people aren't worried about BHP Billiton going out of business, no? Wonder why?

Freeport Mac seems to have ridden a wave of optimism the past few months, no?

Hm. Rio Tinto looks to be getting a bit of love from the capital markets, eh?

Vale seems to be printing an optimistic chart, eh?

Now here's a lesson in chart analysis for you. Here's a chart of GDX versus base metals miners since October 2012:

Which seems to have done best over the past twelve months? The base metals miners or the gold miners?

Now, why do you suppose the base metal miners have had such radically different performance? Pick the answer that seems to make the most sense:

1. gold is sold in dollars, while base metals are sold in some weird other currency we haven't heard of, like the Triganic Pu or Federation of Planets credits.
2. gold has gone down because the fear of inflation has abated, while base metal prices are never affected by inflation at all.
3. gold has gone down because US "money-printing" is about to end, while the effect of money supply on base metals is much less than the effect of rainbows coming out of my ass or something.
4. gold has gone down because there's a supply glut, with massive new gold projects in the pipeline, while the world is manifestly running out of stuff like copper and iron and therefore nobody can mine base metals at a profit.
5. because fuck you is why.
6. none of the above.

Hard to pick the right answer, eh?

Here, let me give you a hint. Here's a chart of base metals miners versus FXI, a worthless ETF of crappy state-owned Chinese companies that is little more than a sentiment indicator for American hedge funds' perception of the Chinese economy, showing price movements from the China dooooom fear selloff of end June to the present:

I say, that looks like tight correlation to me!

Now, back to my question, but rephrased slightly.

In what way is gold not like copper and iron?

Topical post for today

In WWI, there were 10 million military casualties, but 7 million civilian casualties.

In WWII, there were 22-30 million military casualties, but 38-55 million civilian casualties.

Leave aside the question of young men who got hoodwinked into thinking that it was noble to get slaughtered in the name of keeping Serbia out of the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or rather of "maintaining the power balance of Europe".

What flower are you wearing today to remember the millions of innocents who were butchered in the name of "politics by other means"?

New York Observer - a century's legacy: war against civilians. Here's a quote of the article in its entirety:
I spent the last days of the old century reading about the time and place where it all began, it being the now departed 1900′s. Academics and those who wish they were (and even a few who are glad they aren’t) are fond of saying that the 20th century didn’t really begin until a Serbian nationalist walking down a narrow lane in Sarajevo in the summer of 1914 found himself staring at a car carrying the heir-apparent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife. The driver was lost; the royal couple paid for a wrong turn with their lives, and so did the millions of Germans, Poles, Russians, Frenchmen, Englishmen and Austrians who were dispatched to the abattoir that came to be known as World War I.

The slaughter was of a scale unsurpassed in human history, until, of course, the next war. But what earned World War I its place as the beginning of something new was the introduction of a thoroughly modern, utterly 20th-century idea: that all is fair in war-even the mass killing of the old and infirm, of women and children. While civilian deaths in war were hardly unknown to history before 1914, mankind had deluded itself into thinking that it had escaped the clutches of barbarism, that the 19th century had shown that great military powers could conduct their wretched, though sometimes necessary, business without slaughtering noncombatants. The most famous 19th-century battle in North America, Gettysburg, saw thousands of young men consigned to early graves, but there was only one civilian casualty, and that one was an accident. In Europe, Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 without killing children for the crime of sharing Bonaparte’s nationality.

The 20th century made Gettysburg and Waterloo seem almost quaint. As British historians Martin Gilbert and John Keegan note in their respective chronicles of World War I (both called The First World War ), once Germans began killing Belgian civilians in the war’s first few weeks, all the old rules were relegated to history’s dustbin. From Belgium in 1914 to Kosovo in 1999, nations calling themselves civilized freely, even wantonly, made war on defenseless civilians - not by accident, but as part of a deliberate strategy known as total war.

So many dates, people, inventions and attitudes can be, and will be, associated with the 20th century. Surely our casual attitude toward civilian deaths in wartime will be listed among the era’s defining characteristics. We may have put funny little artifacts in a thousand time capsules, but what history will remember about us are places and dates we seem to have forgotten: Belgium, 1914; Armenia, 1918; Nanjing, 1932; London, 1940; Dresden, 1945; Hiroshima, 1945; Cambodia, 1975; Rwanda, 1996; East Timor, 1999. Add to that dreadful roster three more expressions of 20th-century barbarity - the Holocaust; ethnic cleansing and international terrorism - and three mass murderers - Hitler, Stalin and Mao - and it becomes clear that only fools would dare to judge the tyrants and standards of the past.

Historians one day will note that even as the century came to an end, the corrosive effects of total war, the legacy of Belgium, 1914, were very much in evidence. Terrorists were holding a planeload of civilians hostage in Afghanistan. Ordnance that failed to explode during the NATO war against Serbia, including the evil weapons known as cluster bombs, were killing civilians in the Balkans. Land mines in Africa and Asia were adding to the century’s body count. And, in America, millions of people spent the New Year’s holiday in fear of a spectacular terrorist attack designed to kill as many civilians as possible. We may have celebrated the end of the century, but our fears and the daily realities of life in war-torn nations remind us that the 20th century hasn’t really gone away at all.

Those who intend to leave a mark on the 21st century no doubt have a great many plans to achieve what they regard as progress, but if they fail to rid the planet of wars against civilians, any other achievements may seem beside the point. As long as politicians and nations believe that war may be made on the defenseless, even the cybercitizens of the third millennium will be condemned as mere barbarians, as ignorant and amoral as the most bloodthirsty savages of the Dark Ages. Or of the 20th century, for that matter.

As Mr. Gilbert notes in his study of World War I, the power elites of the early 20th century thought that free trade, international travel and the intermarriage of global aristocracy made war unthinkable. Today’s Fabians no doubt would make a similar argument, with similarly discouraging results. But while war may be inevitable, war against civilians - strategic bombing, genocide, terrorism - ought to be regarded once again as a global taboo.

That, of course, would require genuine moral leadership. And there is none in sight.

Three bits of morning reading from FT

Some morning reading from beyond brics:

FT beyond brics - China's Singles Day sales breaks records for online shopping. Relevant to Jim O'Neill's thesis about "new China versus old China"; the internet should become a very big thing in this country, you'd think.

FT beyond brics - showing off in the virtual world. A fun little background story about what goes on in the internet in China.

FT beyond brics - Crisil breaks down India's prosperity state by state. The details are interesting: there are still very, very few households in India that have a computer, motor vehicle, TV and phone. It's interesting to me because Indian politicians, media and economists think that these are the only households that exist. It's a big blind spot. Here's a Times of India article that goes into more detail, with fucking pop-up ads.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday news: spot the goldbug articles.

A veritable pot of pourri tonight:

Chronicles of Brodrick - invest like a pirate. It sounds like a good idea in the headline - buy a bunch of guns, get together a big gang, go looting the rich and robbing banks, then spend your ill-gotten gains on booze and whores in Trinidad. But instead, Sean talks about sissy shit like marketing and management. Dude, do you even know what pirates are?

Bullion Bulls Canada - in which Jeff Nielson, banned from GATA for anti-Semitism, chalks it up to (ahem) you guessed it, a worldwide conspiracy of a certain banking family known for their Jewish heritage. Dude, the Rothschilds have been a target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists for two centuries. If you don't want to be labelled a Nazi, then quit talking like one. And no, the Rothschild family isn't after you; you're a fucking insect with a blog. You're really not that important. - Russian nails own testicles to ground in front of horrified tourists. It's like I always say: don't do business with Russian performance artists.