Thursday, April 4, 2013

Money, Money Everywhere, But Not a Buck to Lend

The world is awash in liquidity, but nobody seems to have any money.

At least that is the case for the 90% of Americans - and probably 95% of the rest of the world - that don't have access to easy money from central banks around the world.

Consider today's action by the Bank of Japan's new finance minister Haruhiko Kuroda, pladging unprecedented monetary stimulus by doubling Japan's central bank balance sheet by the end of 2014 through outright purchases of government bonds, ranging anywhere from short term notes to the 40-year Japanese bond.

The move puts Japan on a par with the mad money printer, Ben Bernanke, and in the same camp as the ECB's Mario Draghi, who vowed last year to do anything possible to save the Euro.

Such policies, like the Fed's $85 billion monthly purchases of treasuries and MBS (near-worthless), would have been unheard of just ten years ago, but today they are accepted as matter-of-fact as the bank heads continue trying to prop up zombie banks that have been bankrupt since 2008 (1992 in Japan's case) and governments which made promises to their people in the form of health care and retirement benefits that are slowly but surely bankrupting their entire nations.

These policies are doomed to fail, as they inflate various economies, crushing the purchasing power of the average citizen to a point at which many are priced out of mere survival. Ergo, the 49 million Americans receiving food stamps, unprecedented numbers on disability or welfare, programs which strip away the dignity of the individual, making them wards of the state.

Governments worldwide cannot balance their budgets due to these absurd entitlement programs, yet common people go about their business like the legendary "Annie Hall," tripping through life, dismissing any pitfalls with a cheery "la-dee-da."

Wall Street and the markets in Japan, London and Europe are no different. Obvious economic headwinds, like today's massive miss on first time unemployment claims (385,000 on expectations of 345K) are simply shrugged off as investors have no other place to put money to work but in risky stocks, though the correct strategy in times of impending hyper-inflation would be to park in cash and tangible assets such as land, gold, silver and productive machinery, because today's prices will look like peanuts compared to what people will be paying once the inflation tiger is unleashed.

Thus far, central bankers have been lucky. Inflation hasn't been all that ferocious, though spikes in oil, gas, food and other commodities have already been notable. Keeping inflation in line has been the stagnant to negative growth of incomes. With less money, people simply can't afford to splurge, and if less money is chasing the same amount of goods, prices will remain relatively stable, though that certainly cannot be guaranteed with the incredible amount of liquidity being force-fed into the system.

Also aiding their efforts is the fact that most of the inflation has been in stocks, which are ridiculously priced. All this may be coming to an abrupt ending with first quarter earnings reports. Many companies are just barely making their estimates even though the bar continues to be lowered. At some point, investors will demand more, along the lines of 15% year-over-year earnings acceleration, higher dividends and better margins, all the things a healthy market economy would normally expect.

Earnings begin trickling out on Monday, but before that, Friday's non-farm payroll report for March needs to be presented, and, from the looks of the close today, nobody is really sweating that.

After the last three weeks of unemployment figures, however, maybe they should.

Dow 14,606.11, +55.76 (0.38%)
NASDAQ 3,224.98, +6.38 (0.20%)
S&P 500 1,559.98, +6.29 (0.40%)
NYSE Composite 9,027.83, +44.44 (0.49%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,470,237,625
NYSE Volume 3,566,827,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4003-2357
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 123-65
WTI crude oil: 93.26, -1.19
Gold: 1,552.40, -1.10
Silver: 26.77, -0.03

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