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The Bigger Picture


Government making mistake of piling up debt, squeezing middle class.

A trader friend opined to me yesterday that he "hears" that there are lots of "shorts" in the credit markets and it could get "squeezed".

Minyans need to look past this type of talk. As the deflationary process unfolds, we're going to be exposed to all kinds of such talk, innuendo, and mis-information. First of all the credit markets are not really structured like that. There are very few ways to "short" it. There are a few indexes, which may be crowded because of the lack of them, that people can short to hedge their exposure or bet on declines in price, but the relative notional shorts compared to the longs is insignificant.

But this is not really the point. The big picture is this. For the last twenty years the Federal Reserve has used the banking system to expand the credit base of the economy. They kept interest rates low to encourage borrowing. Beginning in 2001 and 2002 the Federal Reserve went into overdrive, driving real interest rates negative and thus encouraging massive speculation in credit. The result is a money supply six times normal relative to GDP but more importantly one bloated with debt with virtually no relative savings to support it.

The system is now broken as evidenced by the TAF facility: the very definition of this is "the financial system has no more capital left and the TAF is the only way the Federal Reserve can get capital back in the system. So the Federal Reserve has taken bad debts in exchange for capital onto their balance sheet. This makes them very nervous. It's not a far fetched thought to believe that the new SEC rules were specifically implemented to drive financial stocks up in order to allow them to raise capital through stock offerings. The capital would make it more probable that these banks are eventually able to take the bad debt back from the Fed. This serves as a warning to those who are tempted to fall for this and buy financial stocks on these secondary stock offerings.

Again, we hear from apologists that banks selling stock will "heal" the system. But again that's not how it works. It only transfers wealth from one part of the system to another because wealth is not being created. There's no production, only transfer. It's a hallmark of deflation that companies sell stock. That is deflationary. People have to use cash to buy stock. So cash goes from investors who have less cash to buy things with, to banks who use it to write down debt. But the point is banks selling stocks to investors reduces liquidity, it does not increase it.

The government's strategy is to buy time. It always is. Time allows it to slowly drain wealth from the poor/middle class and re-distribute it to the rich who own the financial system. The only important thing to me and what I think Minyanville is all about is to try to help people not be one of them.

As risk grows, lower yours. Stay out of risky assets. Stay out of debt. Don't be tempted by the trading types. All their little "tells" sound good but they don't work in a market like this. Don't bottom fish unless you have excess capital you're willing to lose. There will be opportunity at some point, and you're going to want to have savings when that occurs, but it's far from here and you will know when it happens. You'll be able to find an investment where the returns are adequate to low risk. Today we only have returns subject to very high risk (possible high returns or possible negative returns versus high risk).

Risk is high. Keep yours low. Be patient.
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