“…And when output has increased and prices have risen, the effect of this on liquidity-preference will be to increase the quantity of money necessary to maintain a given rate of interest…” (J. M. Keynes, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”, Chapter 13, Section III, 1936).
Please, click here to read this article in pdf format: december-22-2009
Before we go on to discuss the latest development, I invite you to refer back to my letter from May 26th, 2009 (www.sibileau.com/martin/2009/05/26 , “A short description of the process”). In that letter, I laid out the main drivers of the adjustment process, after the monetary expansion. Given the market action in December, I think it is worth reviewing these comments.
Apart from the international coordination in monetary policies and globalization of production chains, there really isn’t anything new that a good macroeconomics book will not tell you. We witnessed a full transfer of private deficits to the balance sheet of governments. On top of that, governments were already running their own deficits and now, with the assumption of liabilities from the private sector and the fall in revenue, they will have to either reduce spending or increase taxes. And they will of course increase taxes. They will tax us to death: They will tax more of your income flows, they will tax your savings flows and your wealth no matter where you store it. And should citizens of the world decide to store it in gold….they will see it confiscated by their governments. The sooner this happens, the faster we will be better off. It is like a vomit… you feel much better after it and there is no point in delaying it.
In the meantime, the government that is best equipped to handle its deficits is of course the US government, because of the international reserve status of its liabilities, in which its debt is also denominated. The market is now discriminating sovereign risk and sees the US as the lesser of all evils. It buys USD accordingly not because it loves USD, but because it hates Euros and gold, the two alternatives.
The cycle where US yields are to rise within a steepening move kicked off, and in full force. Some analysts disagree with me, and believe that the fall we witnessed yesterday in the 30-yr Treasury (dropping to 96+ from 99) is explained by the illiquidity proper to this short week. It is true, volume in Treasuries yesterday was below average (73%) but you would have to be naive to miss the trend triggered since the end of November. As well, in corporate credit, we saw the CDX IG13 Index (tracks the credit default swaps of a pool of 125 liquid North American investment grade companies) compress to 85.5bps, from the 90+ we had only a week ago.
Within a steady low-interest-rate environment and ongoing quantitative easing policies, higher sovereign yields and lower corporate credit spreads will be positive of USD equities and negative for gold. As you can see below (Source: Bloomberg), I have included today two charts. To the left, we have crude oil, in 2008, when it began to fall until it reached $32/bbl. To the right, we have gold, in USD/oz. The two charts look very similar and give me horribly ominous feeling on gold.