FRA is joined by Yra Harris, Ronald-Peter Stoeferle, and Jayant Bhandari in a discussion on the possible shift toward populism and on the future of cryptocurrencies.
Yra Harris is a world-recognized Trader with over 40 years of experience in areas of commodities and futures trading, with broad expertise in currency markets. He has a proven track record of successful trading through combination of technical work and fundamental analysis of global trends; historically based analysis on global money flows. He has served as a member of the Board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Yra Harris is a Floor Broker and Floor Trader. He is a regular guest on Bloomberg and CNBC.
Ronald is a Managing Partner and Investment Manager of Incrementum AG. Together with Mark Valek, he manages a global macro fund which is based on the principles of the Austrian School of Economics. Previously he worked seven years for Vienna-based Erste Group Bank where he began writing extensive reports on gold and oil. His benchmark reports called ‘In Gold We Trust’ draw international coverage and interest. Next to his work at Incrementum he is a lecturing member of the Institute of Value based Economics and lecturer at the Academy of the Vienna Stock Exchange.
Jayant Bhandari is constantly traveling the world looking for investment opportunities, particularly in the natural resource sector. He advises institutional investors about his finds. Earlier, he worked for six years with US Global Investors (San Antonio, Texas), a boutique natural resource investment firm, and for one year with Casey Research. Before emigrating from India, he started and ran Indian subsidiary operations of two European companies. He still travels multiple times a year to India. He has an MBA from Manchester Business School (UK) and B. Engineering from SGSITS (India). He has written on political, economic and cultural issues for the Liberty magazine, the Mises Institute (USA), Mises Institute (Canada), Casey Research, International Man, Mining Journal, Zero Hedge, Lew Rockwell, the Dollar Vigilante, Fraser Institute, Le Québécois Libre, Mauldin Economics, Northern Miner, Mining Markets etc. He is a contributing editor of the Liberty magazine.
A big theme in Bernanke’s recent speech was the rise of populism. Bernanke uses phrasing similar to Karl Marx in 1844. His speech paints the Fed into a corner. Why is Yellen so concerned about wage inflation as the Fed’s reason for raising rates when wages have been so stagnant? You’re going to kick the American worker and workers all over the world; even Draghi picked up on that theme as well as Japan and even Mark Carney. Wages have certainly not picked up, and it’s only asset values that have increased.
Populism is a consequence of the economy. It’ just a symptom and one very disturbing number that shows 70% of all households in developed countries have stagnating or declining household income. It’s no wonder that populism is going up because people are actually not doing very well, so of course they vote for change and not the status quo. That’s the same in the US, and with Brexit, and all over Europe. Populism going up is just a consequence of the economic mess we’re in, and historically it’s always been like that.
When it comes to the Fed, they’re quite desperate because they’ve lost an enormous amount of credibility over the last couple of years. Now they kind of want to appear very hawkish. We all know the Fed is tightening into weakness. We’re also seeing massive recession threats come in: tax receipts are very weak, industrial production is weak, credit growth is collapsing. We’re seeing so many economic numbers get weaker and weaker, sooner or later the Fed will have to make a U-turn, and that’s the point where gold will pick up momentum and rise 5-10% within a matter of a few weeks or even days.
We are in an advance stage of democracy around the world. Democracy automatically leads to populism and over-regulation. The reason is if the masses don’t understand the devastation over-regulation and populism lead us to. Over-regulation means there are too many regulations imposed on the businesses and populism means they are taxed to death if they are doing business. The result is decay in economic growth.
INTEREST RATES/YIELD CURVE SIGNALLING
The yield curves are difficult signals because of the destruction of the signalling mechanism of debt markets. Real yields are the normative measures. Now we just don’t know yet what’s going on in the markets: the 2-10 and 5-30 yield curves are both flattening in sync. That hasn’t been true until about 3-4 months ago, and now they’ve both flattened. The Fed could be raising rates but that has more of an effect on the short term rates than anything beyond two years. It would traditionally mean the Fed would be wrong for tightening here. Everyone’s making a big deal about what Draghi said, but there wasn’t any hawkishness in his speech and the ECB is still going to be buying $60B a month until December.
The yield curve in China is flattening significantly as well. A recession is something normal; it’s just a normal cleaning process within a cycle and afterwards the economy will be on a more solid base. However, we all know what central bankers and politicians will do, as soon as the word ‘recession’ comes up, there will be actions by central banks. They’re not out of ammunition yet, but it has to become more extreme. In Europe, the market recognizes that the Federal Reserve will have to stop the rate hike cycle sooner or later. On the other hand, the ECB will have to become slightly more hawkish. There’s enormous pressure on the ECB, especially from the Germans, as real estate prices go nuts. If Trump really wants to succeed with his reindustrialization of the US economy, he needs a weak Dollar. At the moment it seems the bull market in the USD is over for now, which would be a pretty good environment for gold and commodities.
Usually flattening yield curves are bullish for a currency, but we’re not seeing it. The Germans realize a strong economy needs a strong currency, and you only have to look at the most prosperous countries to see they’re all hot currencies. Most of the time, weak currency countries are usually on the bottom of all those statistics. A strong currency is like a fitness program for the economy.
UPDATE ON INDIA
Indians have almost completely refused to use electronic money because the transaction costs are huge, and the money keeps disappearing. Businesses continue to fail, and then next week they are rolling out a new indirect taxation system which will be completely different from what India has had so far, which will require even small businesses to submit a minimum of 40 tax returns a year. There are all sorts of regulations the government is imposing on businesses.
The wealthy part of the population is interested in cryptocurrencies. About 10% of the trade in BitCoin is because of Indians, but this is still going to be a marginal part of India because Indians are technically backward. The only way they can run that mainstream economy is by using physical cash.
A lot of people are getting into cryptocurrencies because they’ve gone up in the recent past, and that is always a bad way to trade. For people in emerging markets who have no way to move their money outside their own jurisdictions, cryptocurrencies are a great way to move their money and preserve their wealth. Unfortunately, there is no inherent value in cryptocurrencies
The market cap of BitCoin at the moment is roughly $50B USD while the total market cap of all gold is $7T. There should be competing currencies, and cryptocurrencies make people start questioning and discussing money, which is an important discussion. The technology behind cryptocurrencies will be changing whole industries in the next couple of years. There’s a real revolution going on in the crypto-space.
POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS
When push comes to shove, governments do not like competition. When there are alternatives, the Fed doesn’t have monopoly power. If they think BitCoin is ‘funding’ terrorists, the government has the ability to force it to stop.
Blockchain technology is going to change the future of many things. The problem is that blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are not backed by anything physical and it can be easy for governments to cause troubles in the cryptocurrency space. If crytocurrencies become too big, there will be government interventions. At some point governments will realize this is competition for their monopoly on money.
It’s likely that governments will get into the cryptocurrency space and turning fiat currencies into a cryptocurrency of some sort and at the same time allowing private-based cryptocurrencies to exist as long as they’re able to do it based on regulatory compliance with the financial system. While they may be outside of the banking system they’ll still be within the financial system. That’s a big distinction there. It’s in the interest of governments to go to cryptocurrencies, in particular central banks to implement negative interest rates because of the problems of having physical cash in implementing central bank policy.
Wall Street makes a lot of money on the rehypothecation of so many assets that have collateral base to it. If people could hold their stocks through blockchain technology in their name and not at the DTCC anymore, and Wall Street wouldn’t have access, that would destroy a big profit center – especially of Wall Street.
Abstract by: Annie Zhou <firstname.lastname@example.org>