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THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO


A walk around the fringes of finance

By Grant Williams

To learn more about Grant's new investment newsletter, Bull's Eye Investor, Click here

22 JULY 2013

Horse, Pig, Helmet, Man, Woman


"Sometimes the reader will decide something else than the author's intent; this is certainly true of attempts to empirically decipher reality." John M. Ford "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." George Orwell, 1984 "Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something REALLY infinite." C.S. Lewis "The past is always tense, the future perfect." Zadie Smith
Copyright Mauldin Economics. Unauthorized disclosure prohibited. Use of content subject to terms of use stated on last page.

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THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO

Contents
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ....................................................3
Nigel Farage and Marina Hyde Go for A Pint ......................................................14 The Painful Truth: Greece Needs a Debt Haircut Now ...........................................15 Gold Futures Hiccup Indicates Demand Outpacing Supply ......................................17 "Detroit Will Rise Again": Glimmers Of Defiance After City's Bankruptcy .....................18 Man With Plan ..........................................................................................19 How an Airline Buyer's Buddies Crashed, Burned .................................................20 Now That Detroit's Gone Bust, Is Your City Next? .................................................22 How To Spot a Liar ....................................................................................24 Maybe It's May? .........................................................................................25 Cooking the Numbers in Buenos Aires ..............................................................27

CHARTS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ..................................................29 WORDS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM... ..................................................33 AND FINALLY ................................................................................34

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm...


Arthur Evans died in July of 1941 at the age of 90. A rather ordinary name disguised an extraordinary life during which the famed archaeologist made many notable discoveries, including the unearthing of the Minoan Palace at Knossos, the site of a famous Greek mythological tale. Legend has it that this huge palace complex which comprised hundreds of rooms linked by a labyrinth of passages, was home to the fearsome Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull who devoured seven young Athenian men and seven maidens every seven years until he was killed by Theseus with the sword of his father, King Aegeus. Of course, this being Greek mythology, an unequivocally happy ending just wouldn't do, so the tale finishes with Theseus's neglecting to raise a white sail upon his return as a sign to his father that he has been successful in his quest, and Aegeus's promptly committing suicide by throwing himself into the sea that today bears his name. What is it with Greeks and a dearth of happy endings? Actually, scratch that question. We'll get back to it later. Where were we? Ah yes, Arthur Evans. During his excavation at Knossos, Evans would also discover a series of tablets dating back to the Bronze Age that bore a riddle in the form of a set of mysterious inscriptions destined to baffle the world for the next half a century haunting Evans to his grave. The inscriptions were like nothing ever seen previously: although they contained a set of pictograms that were fairly easy to decipher, there was also a set of cryptic characters that would consume some of the smartest minds of a generation until, 52 years after their discovery, an Englishman called Michael Ventris would at last be credited with solving the riddle of the language that Evans had, for reasons known to only himself, named Linear Script Class B or Linear B for short. In the years that intervened between Evans's discovery and Ventris's solution, an American college professor named Alice Kober would devote her life to the unraveling of Linear B; but, though her work undoubtedly laid the groundwork for Ventris's discovery, it was the Englishman who received the acclaim. Such is the way in matters like these, unfortunately.

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The pictograms contained in Linear B were simple in construction let's face it, even I could have figured this little lot out:

Horse

Pig

Helmet

Man

Woman

... but the rest of the inscriptions were baffling. In fact, after 40 years of studying them, Evans had managed to decipher just a single word: total. This word appeared at the bottom of what were clearly accounts and inventories, but the wider meanings of the components of those accounts were shrouded in mystery. Ventris didn't come across Kober's life's work until two years after her death at age 43. Then, using an all-important "key" derived from her exhaustive research, he finally unlocked the code and solved the riddle. By then, of course, it was too late for Evans and too late for Kober. It may well be that, in 40 years or so, historians will uncover the recent comments and testimony of Ben Bernanke and his fellow Fed governors and spend a lifetime parsing them to detect any semblance of sense contained therein. Unfortunately, we who would invest or do business are forced to try and decipher them in the here and now, and that causes enormous problems. Lately, Fedspeak Nonlinear B has plummeted to new depths of indecipherability as frantic Fed governors, terrified by the extent of the reaction to the slightest hint that the Free Money Express is pulling into the station, have scrambled to fine-tune the effects their hieroglyphics have had on markets.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal

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Bernanke himself has been the "key" to solving the latest riddle, but so far the Da Benci Code has remained an enigma. Take for example this week's Humphrey Hawkins testimony his last before he retires in January 2014 . The closest we have to a "key" these days is something called the "Hilsenrath Stone", which was uncovered a few years ago based on word-frequency patterns in Bernanke's speech. Using the Hilsenrath Stone, we can readily discern the specific bits of language that Bernanke himself thought were important, and by extension we may be able to decipher the wider code. Let's begin. In his recent post-testimony piece in the Wall Street Journal, Hilsenrath highlights four key passages from Bernanke that the Fed wants us to focus on he thinks are important and then comments on them. I lay them out below with the keys from the Hilsenrath Stone underlined in bold. Using these 'keys' we can decipher a message hidden amidst the runes: (WSJ): 1) WHAT HE SAID: "The risks remain that tight fiscal policy will restrain economic growth over the next few quarters by more than we currently expect, or that the debate concerning other fiscal policy issues, such as the status of the debt ceiling, will evolve in a way that could hamper the recovery. More generally, with the recovery still proceeding at only a moderate pace, the economy remains vulnerable to unanticipated shocks, including the possibility that global economic growth may be slower than currently anticipated." WHAT IT MEANS: Lots of focus on downside risks here which is striking, because the Fed said in its June policy statement that downside risks to the economy had diminished. That's a slightly "dovish" tilt toward easy money. 2) WHAT HE SAID: "I emphasize that, because our asset purchases depend on economic and financial developments, they are by no means on a present course. On the one hand, if economic conditions were to improve faster than expected, and inflation appeared to be rising decisively back toward our objective, the pace of asset purchases could be reduced somewhat more quickly. On the other hand, if the outlook for employment were to become relatively less favorable, if inflation did not appear to be moving back toward 2 percent, or if financial conditions which have tightened recently were judged to be insufficiently accommodative to allow us to attain our mandated objectives, the current pace of purchases could be maintained longer."

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WHAT IT MEANS: Mr. Bernanke tries to be even-handed here about the outlook for bond purchases, but he spends a lot more time talking about the conditions that could convince the Fed to leave bond buying in place than he does on the conditions that would convince the Fed to pull back sooner than planned. Another dovish tilt. 3) WHAT HE SAID: "If a substantial part of the reductions in measured unemployment were judged to reflect cyclical declines in labor force participation rather than gains in employment, the committee would be unlikely to view a decline in unemployment to 6.5 percent (unemployment rate) as a sufficient reason to raise its target for the federal funds rate. Likewise, the committee would be unlikely to raise the funds rate if inflation remained persistently below our longer-run objective." WHAT IT MEANS: The Fed has said it won't raise the fed funds rate until after the jobless rate falls below 6.5%. These comments, along with others Bernanke has made, suggest the Fed could wait for a while even after the jobless rate falls below 6.5% before trying to raise short-term rates. The 6.5% threshold appears to carry less and less meaning as the Fed tries to emphasize low rates for a long time. 4) WHAT HE SAID: "The [Fed] is certainly aware that very low inflation poses risks to economic performance for example by raising the real cost of capital investment and increases the risk of outright deflation. Consequently, we will monitor this situation closely as well, and we will act as needed to ensure that inflation moves back toward our 2 percent objective over time." WHAT IT MEANS: There seems to be a little shift in emphasis here. The Fed's preferred measure of inflation is around 1%, below the Fed's 2% goal. In his press conference in June, Mr. Bernanke emphasized his view that inflation has been driven down by "transitory factors." Wednesday he seemed to emphasize the damaging effects of low inflation. A little tilt toward keeping monetary policy easy. Yes, the Hilsenrath stone makes it quite clear that Bernanke's testimony is decidedly dovish, and it's hardly surprising he would lean that way, given the market's reaction to this little Bernanke nugget contained in the June FOMC statement: (Marketwatch): If the incoming data are broadly consistent with this forecast, the Committee currently anticipates that it would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year. And if the subsequent data remain broadly aligned with our current expectations for the economy, we would continue to reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps through the first half of next year, ending purchases around midyear .... The market saw these words and deciphered them instantly to mean that the Fed was going to begin "tapering" later this year and end bond purchases altogether around halfway through 2014.

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Now, I have absolutely no idea how the market could possibly read that into Bernanke's statement, do you? Thanks to the total clarity of his statement, experienced commentators were able to immediately hop up on Twitter and share their conclusive opinions on the Da Benci Code. Felix Salmon, who knows a bit about these things, tweeted: "The message I'm getting from FOMC/Bernanke is dovish; the markets are hearing it as hawkish." John Carney another experienced watcher disagreed with him 100%: "You are wrong." Mission accomplished. Another great result for the communications arm of the Federal Reserve. In his subsequent press conference, Bernanke then tossed a few more confusing crumbs to the faithful, to help them decipher the code: ... the Committee expects a considerable interval of time to pass between when the Committee will cease adding accommodation through asset purchases and the time when the Committee will begin to reduce accommodation by moving the federal funds rate target toward more normal levels. Dovish! No, hawkish! No, Dovish! Wait ... what was the question again? In the end, the S&P 500 decided that discretion was the better part of valor ... and promptly fell out of bed:
S&P500 Index June 19 2013
1655

1 2 3

1650

1645

1640

1
1635

FOMC Statement Released Bernanke Press Conference Begins Market deciphers code

2 3

1630

1625

10:00am

11:00am

12:00pm

1:00pm

2:00pm

3:00pm

4:00pm

Source: Bloomberg 23 JULY 2013 7

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While the yield on the US 10-year treasury spiked higher in anticipation of the taper:
US 10-Year T reasury Yield (%) 2013
Damage Control Begins

3.0

2.5

% T aper T alk Begins

2.0

1.5

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

Source: Bloomberg

Yet another brilliant chunk of the Code was delivered to the marketplace by the same people who brought you the document entitled "FOMC Policy on External Communications of Committee Participants" (updated on January 29, 2013). Its preamble states: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is committed to providing clear and timely information to the public about the Committee's monetary policy actions and the rationale for those decisions. Do you want to tell them, or shall I? In the Q&A that followed the first day of his testimony this week, however, in the midst of yet more confusing and contrary words, Bernanke may have given us a true "key" that will enable us to finally decipher FOMC communications. When asked how the Fed would prevent a spike in interest rates, Bernanke chose to play the answer for laughs: "By communicating, by not surprising people, by letting them know what our plan is and how it relates to the economy." When asked how the Fed would exit its easy money policy, he went for hubris: "We know how to exit. We know how to do it without inflation.... We have all the tools we need to exit without any concern about inflation." When asked about the market's addiction to Fed policy, he just plain went off the reservation: "Well, the main thing that supports the stock market or other markets is the underlying economy ...."
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But wait, there's more: "The reason I think that markets have improved so much since 2009 is because Fed policy and other policies have succeeded in providing a stronger economy with low inflation." Oh Boy! But then, when questioned about the strength of the economy, Bernanke gave us what looks to be the true key to deciphering the confusing symbols around the "taper": "I don't think the Fed can get interest rates up very much, because the economy is weak, inflation rates are low. If we were to tighten policy, the economy would tank." Yes, when you use that key, everything magically falls into place, just as it did for Michael Ventris when he saw Alice Kober's notes on Linear B. However, just to muddy the waters a bit further, on the same day July 13 Fed governors Charles Plosser and James Bullard both spoke on the subject of tapering, and the symbols were once again ... perplexing: (Dow Jones): Mr. Bullard said that if inflation goes under 1%, he'd want the Fed to act. He said the "simplest" way the Fed could counter under-target inflation is by extending its current bond-buying stimulus program for longer than currently planned, and take off the table for now any move toward shrinking the monthly size of the effort.... Mr. Bullard's outlook was countered by Philadelphia Fed leader Charles Plosser, who also spoke Friday. "The time has come for us to exit our current asset purchase program and commit to a way forward that seeks to normalize monetary policy," the official said in a speech. Mr. Plosser wants the bond-buying effort completed by year end. He said that he's open shrink the program whenever other policymakers are ready, and he said he was agnostic about the strategy for slowing the purchases. The official also doubts that pressing forward with bond buying could push up inflation over the medium term. The difference? The dovish Bullard is a voting member of the FOMC, and the hawkish Plosser isn't. In talking about a "tanking" economy, Bernanke was referring to ZIRP not QE and was at great pains to reinforce the idea that rates will be held essentially at zero for some considerable time to come; but the crucial point is his statement that "the Fed [can't] get interest rates up very much, because the economy is weak...." In a nutshell, that is the problem. The US economy and by extension the US government simply cannot afford to let interest rates rise, because the economy is too weak to support higher rates, and the government can't afford to pay higher interest rates on its massively increased debt load.
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The important point is that, ultimately, it won't be the Fed that decides where interest rates are, but rather the market; and should the Fed follow through on its trial balloon and begin to wind back bond purchases, the market has demonstrated that it will send rates higher very quickly indeed a completely unaffordable outcome. As always, Bill Fleckenstein (readers can subscribe to Bill's peerless service his thoughts are the very first thing I read each and every morning by clicking HERE) put things into calm perspective this week, and his comments on the situation the Fed finds itself in bear repeating to a wider audience: Thus, when I contemplate the amount of damage that will be done by four years (and counting) of QE, I really just shudder in wonder at how big the disaster might be, though there is no doubt it will be a disaster. The Fed has expanded its balance sheet to $3.5 trillion and now owns over 20% of outstanding U.S. debt. Either it is going to continue to buy bonds forever, which is impossible, or there is going to be a massive dislocation at some moment in time because someone else is going to have to buy that debt when the Fed ultimately stops, even if it doesn't choose to sell anything (and just lets the debt run off). There will be no painless extrication from QE, and as I have said, I don't believe the Fed will be able to leave ZIRP willingly. Precisely. But it's not only Bernanke and his cronies who talk in mysterious dialects. Everywhere we look over the past few years, strange communications have been popping up, such as this peculiar one from May 2010 that I've pored over and can't seem to make heads or tails of: (Reuters): European finance ministers triggered a record 110 billion euro ($147 billion) bailout for debt-stricken Greece on Sunday after Athens committed itself to years of painful austerity. After weeks of tough talk and procrastination due to fierce public opposition to handouts for the Greeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel finally threw her full support behind the EU/IMF package, vowing to fight for parliamentary approval by Friday. Euro zone ministers, meeting in emergency session, approved the three-year package of emergency loans and agreed the first funds would be released in time for Athens to make a big debt repayment to creditors on May 19. In exchange for by far the largest bailout ever assembled for a country, Prime Minister George Papandreou announced further spending cuts and tax increases totaling 30 billion euros over three years on top of tough measures already taken.... "These sacrifices will give us breathing space and the time we need to make great changes," he said....

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Economists were more positive. "The aid package will help defuse the primary cause of concern for creditors which is the imminent risk of default," said Lena Komileva, head of G7 market economics at Tullett Prebon.... Papaconstantinou said the deal would cover a large part of Greek borrowing needs for the next three years. In return Athens promised to slash its budget deficit to the EU limit of three percent of GDP by 2014 from 13.6 percent last year. Papaconstantinou said Greece's public debt would soar to nearly 150 percent of GDP a higher peak than forecast earlier but start falling from 2014. Both he and EU and IMF officials insisted there had been no talk of restructuring Greece's debts. Now, I am familiar with some of these character combinations, but others baffle me. "Debt-stricken Greece" I can understand immediately, and "Eurozone ministers, meeting in emergency session" is another very familiar string of characters, but then we get to the more cryptographically challenging chunks, such as "These sacrifices will give us breathing space and the time we need to make great changes" and "The aid package will help defuse the primary cause of concern for creditors which is the imminent risk of default". I have no idea what these symbols, strung together, might mean. Then there's this weird and wonderful string: Athens promised to slash its budget deficit to the EU limit of three percent of GDP by 2014 from 13.6 percent last year. Now, generally speaking, as we have discussed, when trying to decipher strange languages, a key is used that comprises known symbols that can be matched against the text in order to discern patterns. In the case of the above runes, one might, for example, use a set of symbols that makes perfect sense, such as this one that was uncovered during a recent dig at the famous Der Spiegel site in Germany: The Greek recovery may be facing yet another hurdle. According to a report by German daily Sddeutsche Zeitung, the beleaguered country needs another massive influx of money if it is to avoid insolvency. The paper cites an unnamed official at the European Commission as saying that the "financial gap" could be as large as 10 billion. A shortfall in Greek accounts of 10bn? Now THAT makes far more sense. The unknown characters "defuse ... the imminent risk of default" look vaguely similar to another passage uncovered at Der Spiegel that might offer clues to their meaning: Greek Economy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told German daily Die Welt earlier this month that he expects Europe to agree to another debt haircut for the country. ... but it's hard to align the two and make any kind of real sense out of them.
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The simple truth is that, despite strange pronouncements to the contrary, Greece is coming back to the trough again; and, over time, even another 10bn will not be enough to solve the country's problems. Greece is bankrupt. Still. It is trussed up in the straitjacket of the euro when it needs flexibility in its currency; and the decisions being made in the name of preserving the European dream are condemning the nation to disaster but that reality never seems to tally with what policy makers, intent on doling out catnip to the masses, are saying. The whole matter of the disconnect is itself a baffling sort of meta-code that could stand some deciphering. Why can't these economic officials talk straight? What all this clearly demonstrates is that everywhere you look, the language emanating from governments and central banks is becoming more and more difficult to sort out; and I am afraid there is a very simple reason for that: they have ventured into uncharted realms and have absolutely no idea how they will ever find their way back. The one thing I am certain of, though, is that the trip our so-called leaders are taking us on will end in disaster, and perhaps by using a disastrous outcome as the cipher key we may find that all the symbols fall neatly, if disturbingly, into place. Shortly before he turned 30, Michael Ventris, an architect (who, rather improbably for such a profession, had never attended university), finally solved the mystery of Linear B by simply using three-symbol strings to phonetically spell out Cretan place names. As he plugged in various cities, a chain reaction began, and the language unmasked itself before his grateful eyes. On June 1, 1952, Ventris announced to the world that he had solved the riddle of Linear B, a language that had been spoken 500 years before Homer and 700 years before the Greek alphabet was devised. Four years later, he was dead, victim of a car crash that looked suspiciously like suicide. Laboring to decipher the indecipherable can lead to the most unpredictable of outcomes. Had the Minoans known that people like Evans, Kober, and Ventris would be haunted to their graves trying to figure out what was to the Minoans a perfectly straightforward way to communicate, perhaps they would have tried to do things a little differently but then, they weren't actually trying to hide anything or guide anyone to a preferred conclusion. They were just counting horses, pigs, helmets, men, and women. Pay careful attention, folks, and do your best to discern the true meanings behind the words that tumble, willy-nilly, from the mouths of policy makers around the globe. What they say and what they really mean are, I am afraid, two completely different things; and unlike the simple Minoan accounts, the ones we have to reconcile today are corrupted by trillions of dollars of freshly printed money.

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Something just doesn't add up. (The amazing story of Linear B is the subject of a wonderful book called The Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox, and a BBC documentary, "A Very English Genius", which you can watch by clicking on the links here: Part I Part II Part III Part IV)

*******
With all that cleared up nicely, let's get into the meat of this week's Things That Make You Go Hmmm..., which leads off with perhaps the only truly straightforward politician of them all, Nigel Farage, whom we find enjoying a pint in an English pub with Marina Hyde. From the pub we venture to Detroit in the aftermath of the biggest municipal bankruptcy in US history; to Greece to hear all about that little matter of a 10bn shortfall; to Japan, where last weekend's Diet election (the Diet is the Japanese parliament, not a slimmed-down vote) has cleared the way for Abenomics to really hit its stride; to Buenos Aires, where the Kirchner government continues to meddle in the kitchen; and to China, where an airline magnate has crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. The upheaval in the bullion market is front and center again this week, as we take another look at what the disturbance in the GOFO rate means, view some great long-term charts from Nick Laird of ShareLynx, marvel at collapsing COMEX inventories, and enjoy a magnificent interview with Andrew Maguire, who does a superb job of clarifying some of the more confusing action in the world of gold. We have a rare chance to hear from John Paulson; Mike Shedlock covers a wide range of subjects in a great interview; we find out how to spot a liar and take in an interesting chart on America's missing money; and finally there is a welcome return by my great friend David Hay of Evergreen, who kindly shares his thoughts on the current state of the US bond market and points out some strong parallels with days gone by. That's all from me for now....

Until Next Time. *******

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Nigel Farage and Marina Hyde go for a pint


Obviously gunpoint would be involved, but can you rank the three main party leaders in order of who you'd have a pint with? "Easy peasy," says Nigel Farage, leader of local elections breakout star the UK Independence party. "Clegg first. We were MEPs together for five years, and he's a perfectly nice bloke. The other two well, Cameron last he doesn't even like people, apart from his own narrow little set." Would Ed Miliband drink a pint, I wonder? "I think he'd have a fruit crush," giggles Farage. "But are they fun people who you'd want to have a pint with? No " I am having a pint with Farage well, he's having a pint and I'm having a bottled beer, like the Lady Muck I am because I wrote a column in which I said I could stand to have a pint with him, and the Guardian took it as a features pitch. I think Noel Edmonds calls this sort of wish fulfillment "cosmic ordering". Farage, of course, hasn't had the best of luck in pubs, what with being barricaded in an Edinburgh one by Scottish lefties, so we eschew the Gorbals in favour of St James. As we walk to meet him, Ukip's press officer insists this is categorically the last time anyone is going to be allowed to photograph him with a pint in his hand. "That's what they say," laughs Farage later, "but they won't get to me." The walk takes a while, because Farage has mistaken which Red Lion we're supposed to be meeting in. We wander between various Red Lion pubs looking for Farage, which feels vaguely like it might be a metaphor for Where We At as a nation, before finding him having a pint (bitter, naturally) and a fag (Rothmans, naturally) outside somewhere called The Golden Lion. Speaking of metaphors, I say when we're settled, let's talk about that light aircraft crash you somewhat miraculously survived during the 2010 general election. To recap: you nosedived to Earth, on polling day, in an accident literally caused by Ukip branding, in that your plane became tangled in a party banner it was trailing. Lesser men than you might have seen that as some sort of sledgehammer political omen. "Quite the reverse!" hoots Farage, who came through a car smash and testicular cancer in his early 20s and since then has opted to "just not worry about anything too much". "Looking back on that plane ride, it was a ridiculously stupid thing to have done, like so much of my life". As expected, Farage delights in telling a story against himself, a disarming trait which has assisted him in his rise from affable, pint-toting anti-politician to affable, pint-toting antipolitician who might conceivably, in the increasingly bizarro world of British politics, hold some sort of balance of power at some point in the future. Over a couple of pints, we cover all the big stuff: Victoria Beckham, rivers of blood, what it'll be like being deputy PM to Boris ("Boris needs me; he needs lightening up"), and the attempt to ban menthol cigarettes.

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(I need hardly tell you which joyless international political body is planning that, but the good news is that Farage has promised to get on a plane to Brussels and ruddy sort them out.) We establish that he'd never do reality TV, unless they do Strictly Come Drinking, and marvel that Ukip has got where it is with a mere nine nine! paid staff, and a war chest Farage classifies as "two bob and a bag of marbles". He cheerfully admits he couldn't name a favourite novel even from the days he still had time to read them, and can only narrow down his cinematic tastes to "spy stuff" and Richard Curtis-style "English stuff". Scrupulous about standing his round, he stresses that as a point of principle, he'd never, ever, involve his wife or four children in his work, which is partly the reason he was up in the plane that day to avoid the cliched snap of them all striding en famille to the polling station. Of the other leaders, he marvels: "They talk about doing school runs and things like that. I do that twice a term." So do they, probably. "Well, who knows, but they all tell you how wonderful they are with children. They're really good at doing the nappy changes and all this sort of thing, and I've got to tell you: I'm useless with young children. Completely useless. I mean, so bad it's frightening." In the absence of domestic-bliss propaganda, perhaps the Ukip message would benefit from some celebrity endorsement? "I'm working on some big ideas," Farage confides. No names, no pack drill, obviously, though he will say that: "Jamie Oliver's comments were very interesting the other day. When I get time off, I'm going to follow up and go and see him. Posh Spice," he adds, "is vehemently Eurosceptic. She's made some very, very strong comments about it." My gut feeling is that she'll stay out of it. "I don't know," he replies, shortly before confirming his personal credo as: "I travel optimistically".
*** UK GUARDIAN / LINK

The Painful Truth: Greece Needs a Debt Haircut Now


German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schuble visited a ghost town in Athens on Thursday. The only thing left that can help Greece pull itself out of the crisis is a debt haircut by public creditors. Anything else is reckless. Athens must have come across like a ghost town to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schuble during his visit to the Greek capital on Thursday. The city center was sealed off and protests were banned. There were considerable fears that riots might break out because of the hatred many Greek people harbor toward the finance minister. The leftist newspaper Avgi greeted his arrival with a well-known Latin slogan: "Ave, Schuble, morituri te salutant" Hail, Schuble, those who are about to die salute you. When state visitors in a united Europe are received in that fashion, something has clearly gone terribly wrong.

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Source: Der Spiegel

Athens gives Schuble a good opportunity to view the rubble of the failed policies toward Greece of recent years. At the beginning of the crisis, experts with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a short period of pain for the country. If it worked hard to achieve its austerity homework, the worst would soon pass, they said. Instead, the Greek economy has been in a state of recession for five years now, with no end in sight. Unemployment is at 27 percent. And the country's so-called rescuers would consider it a success if that figure were to climb just a little bit slower. Of course there are no easy fixes for a crisis this deep nor is there a single culprit. The forces of inertia among Greece's political and administrative elite contributed a great deal to the current misery. But Schuble has also played a rule by blocking possible paths out of the crisis for the country. The issue now is a further debt haircut that would make it possible for the country to shed itself of a tremendous burden. During the current calendar year, Greece's mountain of debt will grow by around 330 billion ($432 billion). That's almost 180 percent of annual economic output. Few other countries in the world have liabilities that high at least none with the kind of weak economic structure Greece has. The interest payments the Greek state has to send abroad are making the recession even worse, which in turn is causing debt levels to rise. How is Greece ever going to get itself out of this vicious circle? It already happened once, at the beginning of 2012, that private creditors forgave a part of Greece's debt. But it was already clear at the time that it wouldn't go far enough. In order to truly and sustainably help the country out, public creditors (e.g. the governments of countries like Germany) would also have to write off part of the money they lent to Greece. Currently, two-thirds of Greece's bonds are held by public creditors abroad.

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Whether one wants to call that step a haircut, debt forgiveness or a state bankruptcy is of secondary importance the different designations only define the conditions under which the debt is trimmed. What is clear, though, is that Greece would be given a fair chance to grow its way out of the crisis on its own. Of course, there is one hitch. The pain would no longer be felt exclusively by the Greeks it would also hit taxpayers in the rest of Europe, especially those in Germany. For the first time in the four years of the crisis, their pocketbooks would be hit massively because the money from the loans to Greece that are written off would then be missing somewhere else in government budgets.
*** DER SPIEGEL / LINK

Gold futures hiccup indicates demand outpacing supply


A dislocation in the gold futures market indicating that demand for physical delivery of the metal is now far outweighing supply has intensified in recent weeks, increasing concern in the market that the change may not be a momentary blip and participants may have become overleveraged. Gold went into backwardation in comparison to the three-month futures contract in early January, meaning the spot price rose above the short-dated future contact. Now that process looks set to creep out the futures curve to longer-dated maturities, signalling some cause for alarm. "The fact that has remained and widened ... indicates that the physical market has tightened up substantially, a postulation that is corroborated by the growing premiums being paid ... and the ongoing wholesale delays in the delivery of substantial bullion tonnage," wrote Ned NaylorLeyland of Cheviot Asset Management in a report this month. "What is happening now is that the absolutely inevitable 'run' on the 100:1 leveraged bullion banking system is truly underway." Backwardation is a concern in gold markets because in theory demand for physical delivery should never outweigh supply, since the amount of available gold is a known, fixed quantity. The event is not unprecedented, as it also happened during the financial crisis of 2008 and corrected itself the following year. The current dislocation indicates that holders of gold futures have begun demanding delivery. But because of the large amount of leverage in the market, participants are not able to deliver on their obligations. "More and more people want their gold today, at a higher price, no matter that they can buy a future much cheaper," said Guillermo Barba, economist at the New Austrian School of Economics in Mexico.

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The high demand lately for spot physical delivery has played a part in the yellow metal's recent rebound from its low of US$1200 per troy ounce at the end of June to US$1283 on July 18. But analysts say it is difficult to determine both the cause of the backwardation and whether it will persist. "It could be a whole range of factors; a bullion bank may have overcommitted in the physical market, miners have reinitiated hedging programs since the April price dive and have to borrow gold to hedge, and that may have cascaded up the chain of physical demand," said Robin Bhar, commodities strategist at Societe Generale. "With the gold market you don't find out the reasoning or explanation for an event until days, weeks, or even months after the event. What's strange here is that a time of seasonal demand weakness we have strong physical demand and backwardation."
*** REUTERS / LINK

"Detroit will rise again": glimmers of defiance after city's bankcruptcy


James Morris is the owner of DSE, a downtown Detroit T-shirt business. He hadn't noticed that his city had filed for bankruptcy and he doesn't particularly care. "There hasn't been a moment when Detroit wasn't dealing with problems. Now it's just official," he said. The facts of Detroit's dissolution are astonishing: 76,000 homes and buildings in onceprosperous neighbourhoods abandoned; vast factories crumbling like monuments to America's manufacturing heyday. But on the weekend following the city's symbolic admission of defeat, there was defiance in the air and a sense that Detroit can turn the corner. "This was always a place of great community," said writer and publisher Cary Loren. "The car industry's gone and it's not coming back. Capitalism has failed us, but so what? We'll just go on to the next thing." The resurrection of Detroit will not happen overnight. No city better illustrates an economist's nightmare scenario collapsing industry triggering a rapid decline in population to the point that there is no longer a tax base to meet ever-increasing pension and healthcare costs, or the money to maintain services. In Detroit's application for protection from creditors, emergency manager Kevin Orr said that by 2017, 65% of the city's financial obligation will be "legacy" costs on previous debts. No other major US city has similar obligations exceeding 20% of revenues. Orr, who was appointed in March, explained his decision to act: "We were not getting to where we need to be, so I pulled the trigger." He added that the financial irregularities in Detroit's management were hardly new. "This has been going on for a very long time."

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As it stands, 40% of Detroit street lights are broken. It takes, on average, an hour for police or ambulance services to respond to emergency calls. Gang murders are carried out in vacant buildings that are then set on fire, in the knowledge that overstretched emergency services will not attempt a search. The flight from blighted areas appears to be accelerating in the past decade alone, Detroit's population has fallen by 26%. It now stands at 700,000, having once been two million. Remaining residents in districts such as Brightmoor, north-west of the centre, are besieged by vandalism and crime. Streets have been turned into ad hoc dumps for car tyres and abandoned boats. One spray-painted sign reads simply: "Dumpers will be shot." What isn't dumped is stolen. Factories and homes have largely been stripped of anything of value, so thieves now target cars' catalytic converters. Illiteracy runs at around 47%; half the adults in some areas are unemployed. In many neighbourhoods, the only sign of activity is a slow trudge to the liquor store. In 1950, Detroit was 82% white. The "white flight" after the 1967 race riots flipped the ratio it's now 82% black. When the 2008 financial crisis reduced the cost of living in the suburbs, the black population moved out of the centre, too. "No other city in America has been blighted like Detroit but I think the bankruptcy will bring an end to it," said Lenon Smith, a lifelong Detroit resident. "Everybody is optimistic that we can now reinvest in our communities and amenities."
*** THE OBSERVER / LINK

Man with plan


Six years ago, during his first, dismal term as Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe championed the nationalist but spacey slogan of wanting to build a "beautiful country". All voters could see, however, was a gaffe-prone cabinet and a struggling economy. In 2007, in an election for half of the 242 seats in the upper house of the Diet, they dealt Mr Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a crushing defeat at the hands of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Mr Abe was soon gone, and just two years later the LDP was evicted from government altogether. Now, campaigning for an upper-house election again, on July 21st, Mr Abe talks of little but livelihoods and the economy. On the stump in Yamagata prefecture, a farming heartland in the north of Japan's main island, he goes into excruciating detail about companies' summer bonuses and boasts of Japan's strong growth in the first three months of the year (an annualised 4.1%) all to wild applause. Mr Abe likes to acknowledge that it was not so much his party that won the general election bringing the LDP back to power last December. Rather, it was the DPJ that lost it: after its euphoric victory in 2009, it made a hash of government. Yet now voters appear to warm to the LDP on its own merits. Despite the party's history of tending to vested interests, it has taken up the economic concerns of a broader slice of the population.
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In particular, the fizz of "Abenomics", the programme of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms, has caught on with the country. Businesses large and small, along with their employees, are the loudest cheerleaders for the economic revival plan. So uncannily high and stable is the popular support for Mr Abe's government in opinion polls, that Shisaku, a wry blog on Japanese politics, wonders whether the LDP is replicating thousands of supporters in a biocomplex under its Tokyo headquarters. Mr Abe's cabinet is the first in twodozen years to have had rising approval rates for three straight months after taking office, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the country's biggest newspaper. Some 57% of Japanese approve of the cabinet today, according to the public broadcaster, almost twice the typical rate for Japanese governments at the same stage (and much higher than Mr Abe's first one). Such popularity gives the LDP every chance of winning back control of the powerful upper house, allowing the government more easily to bring in deep-seated changes. Supply-side measures such as making the labour market more flexible are the most far-reaching part of Abenomics, but they require radical legislation. Just how big a win the LDP will pull off is the question. Polls for the seats to be allocated by proportional representation suggest that around 40% of Japanese back the party, compared with just 6% for the DPJ. With New Komeito, its coalition partner, the LDP looks likely to win the 63 seats needed to control the upper house. Mr Abe is openly aiming for a 70-seat win, which would allow the coalition to dominate the chamber's legislative committees. Mr Abe's dearest wish is to secure the two-thirds majority, including allies, that he already enjoys in the lower house. It would allow him radically to revise the meek constitution imposed by America after Japan's wartime defeat. It is a key part of his dreams for a "beautiful country". Yet the electoral arithmetic looks too daunting, for he would need 92 more seats.
*** ECONOMIST / LINK

How an Airline Buyer's Buddies Crashed, Burned


Eight years after Li Zeyuan bought an entire airline, earning the wings he still wears today as a legendary investor, the 60-year-old was breathing with an oxygen mask and fighting tears while pleading innocent in a Beijing courtroom. Li no longer controls Shenzhen Airlines, although he remains on staff as a generously paid senior consultant. He's also a well-connected financier and ex-con who was in and out of prison before raising via questionable officials say illegal means 2.72 billion yuan to buy Shenzhen Airlines. Li's holding company, Shenzhen Huirun Investments Co. Ltd., acquired a 65 percent stake in the nationwide carrier in a May 2005 auction, frustrating more prominent bidders, including CITIC Group and Air China.

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Authorities say Huiran, set up in March 2005 with registered capital of a mere 10 million yuan in borrowed cash, was little more than a shell for a financing scheme that funneled borrowed money into the deal. And Li raised the cash by massaging his personal connections to highranking military, government and business leaders. "I don't have money" personally, he said. "I'm just foolishly bold." The airline succeeded, winning Li respect for his business savvy. Today, Shenzhen Airlines operates a fleet of nearly 100 aircraft, and serves 135 domestic and international routes. But since 2010, Huirun has been only a minor stakeholder while Air China holds a 51 percent stake. One morning in late 2009, police stopped Li on a highway while he drove to Chongqing from Hunan Province. He was detained and held until last April, when he was brought to Beijing to stand trial with five other former Shenzhen Airlines executives, including ex-chairman Zhao Xiang and former China Southern Airlines chief Li Kun. Each man was charged in Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court with embezzling some of the more than 2 billion yuan tied to the airline takeover. Prosecutors say Li, for example, fleeced the airline to pay back Huirun's original investors. Li once admitted that to finance the airline's takeover he had "borrowed a chicken to lay eggs, borrowed a ship to make a voyage." In other words, his plan was always based on leveraging what was expected to be growing equity in the airline for new loans, which in turn would be used to pay down debt. Li was confident the company would grow quickly, and his financing strategy, at least for awhile, succeeded. Prosecutors say the executives embezzled airline funds for personal gain. Li is also charged with breaking his parole requirements, and thus could be forced to serve not only prison time for embezzlement a crime that carries a maximum life in prison but also serve the six years remaining on his previous prison term when he was released in 2003. As of late June, Li had been brought into the Beijing court for three hearings. At the first hearing in April, an emotional Li suffered a serious nose bleed. He showed up for the May hearing with an IV tube in his arm. And in June, a haggard Li faced judges while wearing an oxygen mask. As of early July, Li and his former colleagues were awaiting court rulings. There was no timetable for decisions.
*** CAIXIN / LINK

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Now That Detroit's Gone Bust, Is Your City Next?


Detroit's bankruptcy filing is one depressing read. Poverty, crime, blight you name the malady and there's plenty of data to back it up. And unfortunately, Detroit's not alone. You may be wondering which city hits the wall next. I'm not making predictions, but I've looked at one indicator that may offer some clues: population loss. As any good Ponzi Schemer will tell you, your future looks much better when there are more people moving in than moving out. Once the population change turns negative, a vicious circle can take hold, and that's exactly what we saw in Detroit. In addition to spending excesses and mismanagement, the city's financial problems stem from the challenges of downsizing infrastructure as quickly as the tax base contracts. Here are a few lowlights from the bankruptcy declaration: The average cost to demolish an abandoned building of which Detroit has about 78,000, or 20% of the housing stock is approximately $8500. Of about 11,000 to 12,000 fires each year, approximately 60% occur in abandoned buildings. The city closed 210 parks in fiscal year 2009 and recently announced that 50 of the remaining 107 parks were slated for closure. The city's Public Lighting Department is able to keep only about 60% of the approximately 88,000 street lamps in operation. The Detroit courts' case clearance rates have been running at only 18.6% for violent crimes and 8.7% for all crimes. Only 10 to 14 of the city's 36 ambulances were in service in the first quarter of 2013. And now for a look at other cities that are battling severe population loss. Here are the top 15, ranked by the decline from each city's population peak, according to the decennial U.S. census:

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Source: Zerohedge

And here are the top 15 ranked by the percentage decline (for this list, I required a population of at least 125,000 in or before 1960):

*** ZEROHEDGE / LINK

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How to Spot a Liar


Want to know if someone's lying to you? Telltale signs may include running of the mouth, an excessive use of third-person pronouns, and an increase in profanity. These are among the findings of a recent experimental study that delves into the language of deception, detailed in the paper Evidence for the Pinocchio Effect: Linguistic Differences Between Lies, Deception by Omissions, and Truths, which was published in the journal Discourse Processes. Asked why the topic of deception is important to business research, negotiation expert Deepak Malhotra responds wryly: "As it turns out, some people will lie and cheat in business!" Malhotra, the Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, coauthored the paper with Associate Professor Lyn M. Van Swol and doctoral candidate Michael T. Braun, both from the University of WisconsinMadison. "Most people admit to having lied in negotiations, and everyone believes they've been lied to in these contexts," Malhotra says. "We may be able to improve the situation if we can equip people to detect and deter the unethical behavior of others." "Evidence for the Pinocchio Effect" fills a key gap in the field of deception research, says Van Swol, the study's lead author. Previous studies have examined the linguistic differences between lies and truthful statements. But this one goes a step further to consider the differences between flat-out lying and so-called deception by omission that is, the willful avoidance of divulging important information, either by changing the subject or by saying as little as possible. To garner a sample of truth tellers, liars, and deceivers by omission, the researchers recruited 104 participants to play the ultimatum game, a popular tool among experimental economists. In the traditional version of the game, one player (the allocator) receives a sum of money and proposes how to divvy it up with a partner (the receiver). The receiver has the option of either accepting the proposed split or refusing the allocator's proposal in which case neither player gets any of the money. Because receivers will often reject offers they perceive as unfair, leaving both parties with nothing, it behooves the allocator to offer an amount that will be deemed fair by the receiver. In many instances, allocators choose to share half, Malhotra says. For the purposes of the deception experiment, the rules of the ultimatum game differed from the traditional version in three ways. First, in this version, the allocator received an endowment of either $30 or $5 to share with the receiver. The receiver had no way of verifying how much money the allocator had been given, information which the allocator was not required to divulge. Hence, an allocator could conceivably give the receiver $2 and keep $28, and the receiver would be none the wiser, perhaps assuming only $5 was in play. The second change was that if the receiver rejected the allocator's offer he or she would receive a default amount of $7.50 (or $1.25) whereas the allocator would get no money at all.

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Finally, each game included two minutes of videotaped conversation in which the receiver could grill the allocator with questions, prior to deciding whether to accept or reject the offer. This provided ample opportunity for the allocator to tell the truth about the money, lie, or try to avoid the subject altogether. "We wanted to create a situation where people could choose to lie or not lie, and it would happen naturally," Van Swol says. Ultimately, the receiver had to decide whether the proposed allocation was fair and honest, based only on a conversation with the allocator. Thus, it behooved the allocator to be either a fair person or a good liar. As it turned out, 70 percent of the allocators were honest, telling the receivers the true amount of the endowment and/or offering them at least half of the pot. The remaining 30 percent of allocators were classified either as liars (meaning they flat-out lied about the amount of the endowment) or as deceivers by omission (meaning they evaded questions about the amount of the endowment, but ultimately offered the receiver less than half).
*** HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL/WORKING KNOWLEDGE / LINK

Maybe It's May?


Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Not to be confused with that first day of May, when the workers of the world unite to march down boulevards with TV cameras rolling, before they themselves roll into a nearby pub, the "mayday" I'm talking about is the legendary distress signal. In case you think I was annoyingly redundant (even more than usual) with my opening threepeat, that's the way it is done at least if it's done right. The triple iteration is to make sure this broadcast of a life-threatening crisis is not confused with random noise like the kind our beloved Fed seems to specialize in lately. Moreover, if you wondered why the most cherished day of Bolsheviks everywhere came to represent the ultimate SOS, it's because it evolved from the French term "venez m'aider," or "come help me." (Given the current state of France's economy and government finances, you can rest assured that President Francois Hollande will soon be yelling "Venez m'aider!" at the top of his lungs.) It's been a very long time since the US government bond market needed to issue its own mayday call. In fact, it was nine years ago, back in May of 2004, when the yield on Treasuries zoomed to a level that seemed almost inconceivable just a few weeks earlier. Admittedly, the bond bloodbath in 2004 started in April, but it gained momentum in the first two weeks of May before essentially peaking out at just under 5%, up a shocking 100 basis points (1%) from where it was trading on April Fool's Day of that year. (See Figures 11 and 12.)

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Of course, as Mark Twain was wont to say, history doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme; thus, this year has not been an exact clone of 2004. However, there's been a lot of rhyming happening based on the fact that nearly the entire run-up in Treasury yields that would happen over the full Fed tightening cycle from June of 2004 until December of 2006 was achieved by mid-May of that year. To be precise, even though the Fed would soon embark on a tightening campaign that would last for two and a half years, during which it raised its overnight rate 17 times by a total of 400 basis points (4%), almost the entire increase in longer term Treasury yields was over by the second week in May of 2004! And, as you can see in Figure 12 on the previous page, this was before the Fed even raised rates once, a move it didn't make until late June of that year. Although it's true that the 10-year Treasury note did poke its head above a 5% yield numerous times over the next few years, the reality is that the bulk of the rate rise occurred before then Fed-head Alan Greenspan ever lifted his finger (or overnight rate). Remarkably, in early 2007 despite rising inflation, surging commodity prices, and a credit-fueled housing and consumer spending boom the yield on the 10-year treasury note was right where it was in mid-May of 2004: 4.8%. By contrast, 10 years earlier, in 1994, the bond market pasting which bankrupted Orange County, California coincided with actual Fed hikes and played out over a much longer time frame, as you can see below. (See Figures 13 and 14.)

*** DAVID HAY (EVERGREEN CAPITAL) / FULL COMMENTARY

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Cooking the numbers in Buenos Aires


Argentina's official economic growth surprised analysts with a 7.8% year over year jump in May. MercoPress: Argentina's economic activity jumped 7.8% in May from a year earlier, according to the country's questioned stats office, Indec. President Cristina Fernandez had anticipated the news earlier in the week in a televised speech. ...The monthly EMAE economic activity index is a close proxy for GDP, which is reported quarterly. Cristina Fernandez should be congratulated for this incredible achievement in the face of numerous adversities faced by the nation. But can the growth numbers be trusted? MercoPress: Argentina is widely accused of manipulating inflation data and, to a lesser extent, growth data. It faces potential sanctions by the IMF, which has issued a "declaration of censure" against Argentina over the quality of its statistics. Even though the inflation number is heavily "understated", the growth numbers reported by the offficials should be more reliable? But this 7.8% number is meant to approximate the "real" instead of the "nominal" measure of the GDP growth. Which means that inflation numbers are key to this determination. The official inflation rate reported by the same government agency is 10.5%, while the actual number is more than double that amount. Computed using a more accurate inflation measure, the real GDP is likely to be negative. GS: The official Indec figures (0.8% mom, 10.5% yoy in June) are reporting less than half the inflation in the economy as measured by non-official entities. Inflation is likely to remain entrenched above 20% during 2013-2014, given inertial pressures, the continuation of very accommodative monetary conditions, a deteriorating fiscal stance, and accelerating ARS [Argentina peso] depreciation. The monetary stance remains very lax (negative real interest rates), and the central bank continued to accommodate inflation at a very high level. In all, we expect the authorities to continue to subordinate low and stable inflation to fiscal and growth imperatives (severe fiscal dominance). This strategy is likely to lead to further pressure on the ARS to depreciate. And pressure on the ARS continues. Earlier this year when Argentina was expected to default on its dollar debt (see post), the dollar hoarding in the black market forced greenbacks to spike to over 10 pesos. Since then the peso stabilized at around 8, but recently the black market activity has picked up again.

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Source: Sober Look

With inflation numbers understated (and unlikely to improve), the real GDP growth is made to look far better than it really is. And given that the economy will be a major determinant of the October 2013 mid-term elections outcome, the Cristina Fernandez government continues to cook the country's key economic indicators.
*** SOBER LOOK / LINK

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Charts That Make You Go Hmmm...

Source: Stacy Herbert

The contrast between the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and the COMEX is put into
clear focus by this collection of charts from Stacy Herbert. Though volume on the COMEX dwarfs that of the SGE, it's clear from the massive disparity between these two exchanges, as far as deliveries of physical metal are concerned, that one is a paper market and the other a real market for physical gold. More and more, the bullion markets are beginning to focus on Shanghai to find out what the real demand is like for physical metal.

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Source: ZeroHedge

With a national debt approaching $17 trillion, Uncle Sam is tightening his belt and

looking under the cushions for extra change. But a closer look at his pocket book reveals just how little he knows about where your money is going. The following infographic provides a few examples that will make you think twice about Uncle Sam's accounting skills.
*** ZEROHEDGE / LINK

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Source: ShareLynx

The chart above

is one of a series of fantastic long-term gold and silver charts that Nick Laird of ShareLynx has painstakingly put together over an extended time period. He has made them available to nonsubscribers to his work, and they make fascinating viewing for anybody interested in precious metals. Any chart that goes back EIGHT CENTURIES can be relied upon to give a pretty good perspective, in my opinion, and these charts do just that. Yet more phenomenal work from Nick.

For over

a month, JPMorgan managed to mysteriously avoid matching up the gold held in its (world's largest) vault with the Comex delivery notice update. However, as of today, that particular can will be kicked no more. Starting yesterday, JPM reported that just under 12,000 ounces of Eligible gold (the same Registered gold that two days earlier saw its warrants detached and converted to Eligible) were withdrawn from its warehouse 100 feet below CMP 1. But it was today's move that was the kicker, as a whopping 90,311 ounces of Eligible gold were withdrawn, accounting for a massive 66% of the firm's entire inventory of non-Registered gold, and leaving a token 46K ounces, or a little over 1 tonne, in JPM's possession.

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Needless to say, today's massive move, which increasingly puts JPM's gold holdings in the danger zone vis-a-vis future delivery notices which just refuse to stop, has pushed total JPM vault gold to a new all time low of just 436k ounces, or a little under 14k tonnes, with just 12 tonnes, or 390k ounces, of Registered gold left and rapidly draining. And to think that two years ago around this time JPM had over 3 million ounces of gold in its possession.

*** ZEROHEDGE / LINK

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Words That Make You Go Hmmm...


Mike Shedlock is
a regular in these pages, and this week we get to hear his thoughts on the identity of the next Fed Chair ... person, the bond market, gold, Europe, the German elections, and much more....

CLICK TO LISTEN

Following on

from last week's Things That Make You Go Hmmm... and the ongoing disappearance of gold from storage facilities, Andrew Maguire gives a great interview with Eric King on the tight supply being seen in the gold (and silver) bullion markets. Andrew has an incredible understanding of the mechanics of the bullion markets, and he explains what is happening with great clarity. This is a must-listen for anyone interested in trying to figure out what all the evidence means for gold.... CLICK TO LISTEN

John Paulson is a name that has

become synonymous with gold over the past few years, and the amount of scorn heaped upon the performance of his gold fund has been utterly ridiculous. In this excellent interview, Paulson discusses this fact and the rationale around his gold trade and offers a bunch of other fascinating insights on money printing, inflation, the Fed, and the housing market to name but a few. A great chance to spend twenty minutes with one of the sharpest minds in the business.... CLICK TO WATCH

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and finally...
Rory McIlroy has
beaten just about every human on the planet, so for the latest European Tour challenge he's up against a robot. Or a Golf Laboratory Computer Controlled Hitting Machine, to be precise...

CLICK TO WATCH

Hmmm...

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Grant Williams
Grant Williams is the portfolio manager of the Vulpes Precious Metals Fund and strategy advisor to Vulpes Investment Management in Singapore a hedge fund running over $280 million of largely partners' capital across multiple strategies. The high level of capital committed by the Vulpes partners ensures the strongest possible alignment between the firm and its investors. Grant has 28 years of experience in finance on the Asian, Australian, European and US markets and has held senior positions at several international investment houses. Grant has been writing Things That Make You Go Hmmm... since 2009. For more information on Vulpes, please visit www.vulpesinvest.com.

*******
Follow me on Twitter: @TTMYGH YouTube Video Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GWTTMYGH 66th Annual CFA Conference, Singapore 2013 Presentation: 'Do The Math' Mines & Money, Hong Kong 2013 Presentation: 'Risk: It's Not Just A Board Game' Fall 2012 Presentation: 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Markets' California Investment Conference 2012 Presentation: 'Simplicity': Part I : Part II As a result of my role at Vulpes Investment Management, it falls upon me to disclose that, from time to time, the views I express and/or the commentary I write in the pages of Things That Make You Go Hmmm... may reflect the positioning of one or all of the Vulpes fundsthough I will not be making any specific recommendations in this publication.

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