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November 01, 2010

Financial Briefing: Pre-election Madness!

Irish D-Day -- oddly enough, the same as Pearl Harbor day here in the US: December 7.

How bad is the shipping glut? Ships have to sail slower than 19th-century clipper-ships just to stay busy. Overcapacity in shipping means lower demand for the finished goods overall. This is also a prime reason why export-driven economies (China, Germany) are in for a pretty dramatic adjustment soon. They've been counting on an economic recovery in America and Europe to soak up all that excess production, but it looks like things are going to stay weak for at least another six months to a year.

That big stack of cash that companies are supposedly "sitting on"? It doesn't exist. Or rather, it exists in the same manner that my good friend Ya'n'al A'goth ar N'Gartulth of the fifteenth Ur-Dimension exists. (And Ya'n'al is an unreliable, back-stabbing bastard if truth be known. The bromance is over!)

What happens if a US state defaults? This is a wargame-type scenario, and it tends to assume a more orderly chain of events than might be true in a real-world event, but still -- interesting, if you're into this kind of thing. (One thing I'd point out -- an actual default of a US state like California would have global ripple effects. And I'd expect several states to default at approximately the same time.)

I've said it before: The Fed wants inflation. We're in a (temporary) deflationary cycle right now, and deflation terrifies the Fed. But the problem with inflation is that it's very hard to wring out of the monetary system once it gets underway; the Fed may have more inflation than they counted on a couple of years from now. They might have so much they choke on it. The only way the bubble is going to deflate is if we stop pumping air into it. A certain amount of deflation is both good and necessary. (We may get an exciting, close-up look at runaway inflation in our erstwhile trading partner, China.) Put simply: if you're coming out of a bubble, deflation is a good thing. You don't respond by pumping the bubble back up again. (This is why real estate values continue to be in the dumper two full years after the crisis peaked. The housing stock is never going to achieve those ridiculous highs again, but both banks and homeowners find it hard to accept that fact.)

The Fed declares mush to be an essential part of any decent breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And evening snack. And late-night munchie-fodder. The Fed knows mush; the Fed likes mush. The Fed understands mush. Therefore, the Fed will give you all the mush you can choke down, and then some.

As Vice Dullard "Slow Joe" Biden might say, "This election is a big f'n deal!" (That "troglodyte" crack cut me, though. It cut me deep. Trog must now go hector gay caveman in next valley to regain sense of self-worth. GARG!)

Remember all those stories about how Americans were becoming more frugal and saving more of their income? Well, apparently, our bad habits are beginning to reassert themselves.

Spending up while income drops. Basically, the economy is still flat-lining.

A big GOP win in the election means a big kick in the nuts to Europe. They say that like it's a bad thing.

You can't fix the damage in the housing/real-estate markets until you know how much damage there is. And our government, in league with the banks, has expended much effort (and many billions of dollars) to make sure that the extent of that damage remains hidden.

$343 Billion in cuts. And you won't feel a thing.

How boned is California? So boned that everyone can see disaster looming, everyone agrees that a lack of action guarantees doom, and yet...no one actually does anything to solve the problem. Here's the thing about playing Russian roulette, California: often, nobody wins. All the players end up on the floor, dead by their own hand. And every one of them probably thought that they'd be the one to beat the odds.

-----------------------------------------------

Monty's retirement account. Inflation-protected, universally negotiable. And cursed.

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posted by Monty at 10:24 AM

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