Virtue's Lie

This note was originally published at 8am on March 03, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“So our virtues Lie in the interpretation of the time.”

-William Shakespeare

 

This morning Global Equity markets are begging for Libyan resolve. The Chinese and Russians talking down a US no-fly zone notwithstanding, fidgety bulls are trading on a tick with the direction of the price of oil. That is “the interpretation of the time.” That price volatility is also becoming this market’s greatest risk.

 

The longer term risk management question as to the pace of Global Inflation Accelerating remains – if peace and love were to breakout across the Middle East tomorrow, will that stop the world’s reserve currency from being debauched?

 

Looking at the Global Currency market’s real-time vote on money printing, Ben Bernanke’s 2-day Semi-Annual Storytelling on US Monetary Policy was a disaster. Whether The Ber-nank chooses to be willfully blind to this or not, the US Dollar Index is now down for 8 of the last 10 weeks and collapsing to lower-lows.

 

Proving that petrodollars are indeed affected by the dollar’s price or that US Dollar priced inflation at the pump is a consumption tax on US growth is a trivial exercise. What isn’t trivial to the American public is the math. And that’s not because the math isn’t trivial. It’s because we have allowed an Almighty Central Planner to garner so much political power that he can not only obfuscate things like math – but make up his own interpretations of the times.

 

Before I get into Bernanke’s definition of what the US Dollar is (Ron Paul asked him for it yesterday), here’s the math on the inverse correlations between US Dollars and things that are inflating:

  1. Oil = -0.86
  2. Gold = -0.90
  3. CRB Commodities Index = -0.90

*Note to Fed: this correlation risk is running extremely high

 

And if you want the R-squares on these relationships they run between 0.74-0.82, so the correlation between what the US Dollar is doing and inflation is doing is crystal clear. Now some academic brainiac who is defending the Keynesian Kingdom of thought is going to quickly say something in response about “causality versus correlation” and, while there may be differences in certain scientific exercises, it’s a crock when it comes to analyzing the Fed’s mandate.

 

The Fed’s official marketing mandate is “price stability.” Whereas the Bernanke Fed’s operative has been to print money and inflate. He has only raised interest rates ONCE (2006) and he has overseen the highest levels of PRICE VOLATILITY that modern day markets have ever seen. Ever is a long time.

 

What is causality? What are the root causes of inflation? Is the global market place or The Bernank going to resolve this debate? Mr. Macro Market all but evaporated the Keynesians with The Inflation of the 1970s – are we looking to roll the bones to see if we get one of those again? (see the chart below of long-term median price inflation going back to the year 1500 from Reinhart & Rogoff’s This Time Is Different, page 181)

 

First, to attempt to briefly address some answers to these questions, let’s define what the US Dollar and Causality are:

  1. Causality (per Wikipedia) – is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first (agreed).
  2. The US Dollar (per Bernanke yesterday) – is the buying power of a piece of paper for things that people actually need to buy (agreed).

Now, since Bernanke says there is no inflation, he says the “price stability” and buying power of the US Dollar are just fine. And every American who doesn’t have a car service take them to work will tell you that’s the most ridiculous conclusion they’ve ever heard. In fact, most Americans think Bernanke is simply part of the government lying to them about real-world inflation – and you know what, most Americans aren’t as stupid as Bernanke must think they are – they are right.

 

Back to causality - to understand the cause of inflation, one must study the history by which The Inflation is priced – fiat currencies:

 

Pre-WWI

  1. 1913 – US Federal Reserve Act allows the US to move towards a money printing model that would eventually abandon the Gold Standard
  2. 1917 – US Treasury is given discretion to issue US Treasury Debt (to finance War, not national deficits and political careers)
  3. 1919 – Post WWI, 60% of Global Reserves are denominated in US Dollars

Post-WWII

  1. 1950’s – France ran deficit and devaluation policies (debauching the franc and France’s currency credibility)
  2. 1960’s – Britain ran deficit and devaluation policies (debauching the pound and Britain’s currency credibility)
  3. 1970’s – USA ran deficit and devaluation policies (debauching the dollar and America’s currency credibility)

Do we need to bring back a great American leader (Herb Brooks) to line The Bernank up on the blue line and repeat – “Again”… “Again”… “Again”? Or do we need a Miracle? Developed economies (including our own) have tried this over… and over… and over again with the cause (politics) and effect (inflation) being the same.

 

To make matters worse, it appears that the Big Government Spenders of longstanding European and modern American ilk haven’t learned a damn thing from all this. Bernanke seems readily prepared to blame any unintended consequences associated with this US Dollar Crisis on either Congress or someone in the Middle East. Gotta love the accountability in that. ‘Congress needs to stop spending, but I need to keep printing’ – he said it, not me.

 

My bearish view of Bernanke’s process isn’t a new one. Neither is managing the systemic risk that the Federal Reserve imposes on global market prices. Anyone who has been managing market risk for the last decade has been paid to accept and understand that the Greenspan/Bernanke interpretations of the times have not worked. As the late Murray Rothbard (distinguished Austrian School of economics professor) wrote in “The Case Against The Fed” in 1994:

 

“The Federal Reserve System is accountable to no one; it has no budget; it is subject to no audit; and no Congressional committee knows of, or can truly supervise, its operations… and this strange situation, if acknowledged at all, is invariably trumpeted as virtue.”

 

Maybe it has become the virtue of the few who hold centralized power in the palm of their hands – but this is not the virtue of the American Constitution. Neither is it the virtue of this Canadian who thought he was building an American family and firm under a President’s marketing pitch about Transparency, Accountability, and Trust. This virtue is a lie.

 

My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1291 and 1319, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Virtue's Lie - f1

 

Virtue's Lie - f2


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