Random Thoughts: The Social Implications of Argentina

By Todd Harrison  APR 19, 2012 12:05 PM

Unintended consequences earn their reputation for a reason.


Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

The world's wildest reality show is in full swing as corporate earnings collide with a bevy of European debt auctions.  I can process and assimilate a multitude of information with the best of 'em—it's both a blessing and a curse—but even my head is spinning given the sheer abundance of what we're witnessing. 

Where to start? How about Argentina? That, to me, is one of the biggest stories of the week that has somehow been lost in this shuffle.

Lest you missed it, Repsol (REPYF) was in talks to sell its YPF SA (YPF) stake to Sinopec (SHI) right before the Argentine government took its ball—or, in this case, its oil company—and went home.  No free-market solution, no higher bid, no courtesy call; they just up and nationalized their oil industry, which pretty much means they’ve removed their entire country from the capital market structure.

This has all sorts of implications for social mood—does this set a precedent?  Will other countries, in lieu of austerity and upward taxation, take back their assets?  This has an eerily familiar ring to it! 

To wit, circa 2006:

There is one topic that I couldn’t seem to shake, and that’s the growing chasm between the "haves vs. the have nots" and the steady deterioration of the middle class.

I offer this not only in the context of our societal fabric but with regard to the growing trend of nationalization and tendencies of international hoarding.

Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, and other countries flush with natural resources denominated in dollars, seem to be losing patience with our current reserve currency.

Remember, we pointed to globalization on the front end of the bubble as validation and rationalization of a rising tide. There are two sides to every trade and they both warrant our attention as seeds of isolationism continue to sow.
I know, I know, even a broken clock is right twice a day—I get that—and I'm not smart enough to know if it matters now (truth be told, stocks have thus far thumbed their nose at this).  But, as we strive to see both sides to every trade, every day, we must let this marinate a bit. 

I will remind ye faithful, particularly those who are new to our community, that we long ago offered that credit of a different breed—that of credibility—would be the issue at hand for markets at large (if we continued on that particular path).  That was more than four years ago and the dynamic is cumulative in cause and effect.

This may well be another chapter in "The Book of Financial Systems" that our grandchildren will one day study.  One can only hope this doesn't take The War on Capitalism to an entirely more disturbing level, one that provokes countries to take matters into their own hands. 

Some Random Thoughts:

Twitter: @todd_harrison

No positions in stocks mentioned.