In this 11-26-21 issue of “Black Friday” Plunge As Market Rattled By Covid Variant
- “Black Friday” As Market Plunges
- Time To Buy Oil
- Yes, Interest Rates Will Matter
- Portfolio Positioning
- Sector & Market Analysis
- 401k Plan Manager
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“Black Friday” As Market Plunges
Last week, we discussed the weakness of the underlying market as “FOMO” had returned to the market.
“The only concern we have is the lack of breadth as of late. As shown, the number of stocks above the 50-dma turned sharply lower this week. Furthermore, they are well below levels when markets typically make new highs. The same goes for the number of stocks trading above their 200-dma’s.”
Chart updated through Friday.
Over the last couple of weeks, the market has been warning to the risk of a downturn, all that was needed was a catalyst to change sentiment.
That occurred as news of a new “Covid” variant broke, stocks marked “Black Friday” by plunging firmly through the 20-dma and support at recent lows. Notably, that downside break broke the consolidation pattern (blue box in the chart below) that began in early November. While there is some minor support around 4550, critical support lies at the 50-dma at 4527. That support level also corresponds to the September peak.
With mutual fund distributions running through the first two weeks of December, there is additional downside pressure on stocks near term. However, our “money flow sell” signal is firmly intact and confirmed by the MACD signal. Such suggests we continue to maintain slightly higher levels of cash.
Notably, the market is getting oversold near-term, with the money-flow signal depressed. Such suggests that any further weakness will provide a short-term trading opportunity. As discussed last week, the statistical odds are high that we will see a “Santa Rally” as most professional managers will position for year-end reporting.
Just remember, nothing is guaranteed. We can only make educated guesses.
Will The Fed Slow Their Roll
While “Black Friday” usually marks the beginning of the retail shopping season, the question is whether the new “variant,” which is flaring concerns of additional lock-downs, will reverse the current economic recovery. As Barron’s notes, it will be worth watching the Fed closely.
“Fixed-income markets are signaling that the Federal Reserve will have to increase interest rates sooner than expected, which could put a dent in the stock market.
The yield on the 2-year Treasury note has gone from 0.5% in early November to 0.64% as of Wednesday. The move suggests that investors expect the Fed to raise interest rates to combat inflation that remains higher than expected because of soaring consumer demand and supply chains that are struggling to match demand.
Indeed, minutes released Wednesday from the Fed’s meeting earlier this month show that members of the central bank are prepared to increase rates sooner than previously anticipated if inflation remains high.”
Of course, this was before “Black Friday” sent yields plunging 10% lower in a single day. Suddenly, the bond market is starting to question the sanity of hiking rates in the face of an ongoing pandemic.
While many pundits have suggested higher interest rates won’t matter to stocks, as we will discuss momentarily, they do matter and often matter a lot.
The surge in the new variant gives the Fed an excuse to hold off tightening monetary policy even though inflationary pressures continue to mount. But, what is most important to the Fed is the illusion of “market stability.”
What “Black Friday’s” plunge showed was that despite the Fed’s best efforts, “instability” is the most significant risk to the market and you.
More on this in a moment.
Time To Buy Oil?
Once a quarter, I review the Commitment Of Traders report to see where speculators place their bets on bonds, the dollar, volatility, the Euro, and oil. In October’s update, I looked at oil prices that were then pushing higher as speculators were sharply increasing their net-long positioning on crude oil.
We suggested then that “the current extreme overbought, extended, and deviated positioning in crude will likely lead to a rather sharp correction. (The boxes denote previous periods of exceptional deviations from long-term trends.)
The dollar rally was the most crucial key to a view of potentially weaker oil prices. Given that commodities are globally priced in U.S. dollars, the strengthening of the dollar would reduce oil demand. To wit:
“The one thing that always trips the market is what no one is paying attention to. For me, that risk lies with the US Dollar. As noted previously, everyone expects the dollar to continue to decline, and the falling dollar has been the tailwind for the emerging market, commodity, and equity ‘risk-on trade.” – June 2021
Since then, as expected, the dollar rally is beginning to weigh on commodity prices, and oil in particular.
While the dollar could certainly rally further heading into year-end, oil prices are becoming much more attractive from a trading perspective. The recent correction did violate the 50-dma, which will act as short-term resistance. However, prices are beginning to reach more attractive oversold levels.
There are also reasons to believe higher oil prices are coming.
Higher Oil Prices Coming
The Biden administration released oil from the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” attempting to lower oil prices. He also tasked the DOJ to “investigate oil companies for potential price gouging.” These actions are thinly veiled attempts to regain favor with voters but will not lower oil prices.
Oil prices are NOT SET by producers. Instead, speculators and hedgers set oil prices on the NYMEX. Think about it this way:
- If oil companies are setting prices to “reap profits,” why did oil prices go below ZERO in 2020?
- Furthermore, would producers need to “hedge” current production against future delivery?
There are two drivers reflecting positioning by speculators and hedgers:
- The expected supply and demand for oil; and,
- The value of the dollar.
The more critical problem comes from the Administrations’ attack on production over “climate change” policies. As noted in Crude Investing: Energy Stocks & ESG (kailashconcepts.com):
“This isn’t rocket science. Look at the sharply lagging rig response to the rise in energy prices post the Covid crash. This is an anomaly.
According to history, there should be ~1,300 rigs in operation today based on current oil prices. With only ~480 rigs running today, oil’s prospects may be bright over the long haul.”
With output at such low levels, OPEC+ refusing to increase production, and “inefficient clean energy” increasing demand on “dirty energy,” higher future prices are likely.
If the economy falls into a tailspin, oil prices will fall along with demand, so nothing is assured. However, the ongoing decline in CapEx in the industry suggests production will continue to contract, leaving it well short of future demand.
That is the perfect environment for higher prices.
In Case You Missed It
Higher Interest Rates Will Lead To Market Volatility
Did “Black Friday’s” plunge send a warning about rates? Last week, we discussed that it isn’t a question of if, but only one of when.
I showed the correlation between interest rates and the markets. With the sharp drop in rates, it is worth reminding you of the analysis. It is all about “instability.”
The chart below is the monthly “real,” inflation-adjusted return of the S&P 500 index compared to interest rates. The data is from Dr. Robert Shiller, and I noted corresponding peaks and troughs in prices and rates.
To try and understand the relationship between stock and bond returns over time, I took the data from the chart and broke it down into 46 periods over the last 121-years. What jumps is the high degree of non-correlation between 1900 and 2000. As one would expect, in most instances, if rates fell, stock prices rose. However, the opposite also was true.
Notably, since 2000, rates and stocks rose and fell together. So bonds remain a “haven” against market volatility.
As such, In the short term, the markets (due to the current momentum) can DEFY the laws of financial gravity as interest rates rise. However, as interest rates increase, they act as a “brake” on economic activity. Such is because higher rates NEGATIVELY impact a highly levered economy:
- Rates increases debt servicing requirements reducing future productive investment.
- Housing slows. People buy payments, not houses.
- Higher borrowing costs lead to lower profit margins.
- The massive derivatives and credit markets get negatively impacted.
- Variable rate interest payments on credit cards and home equity lines of credit increase, reducing consumption.
- Rising defaults on debt service will negatively impact banks which are still not as well capitalized as most believe.
- Many corporate share buyback plans and dividend payments are done through the use of cheap debt.
- Corporate capital expenditures are dependent on low borrowing costs.
- The deficit/GDP ratio will soar as borrowing costs rise sharply.
Critically, for investors, one of the main drivers of assets prices over the last few years was the rationalization that “low rates justified high valuations.”
Either low-interest rates are bullish, or high rates are bullish. Unfortunately, they can’t be both.
What “Black Friday’s” plunge showed was the correlation between rates and equity prices remains. Such is due to market participants’ “risk-on” psychology. However, that correlation cuts both ways. When something changes investor sentiment, the “risk-off” trade (bonds) is where money flows.
The correlation between interest rates and equities suggests that bonds will remain a haven against risk if something breaks given exceptionally high market valuations. The market’s plunge on “Black Friday” was likely a “shot across the bow.”
It might just be worth evaluating your bond allocation heading into 2022.
We made no substantive changes to portfolio allocations this past week given due to the holidays. Generally, the week of Thanksgiving is a poor indicator of market sentiment given the “inmates are running the asylum.”
Therefore, despite the market swinging around a good bit this past week, we will re-evaluate our positioning and holdings when institutional traders return to their desks next week.
However, as a reminder:
“Over the last two weeks, we took profits in overbought and extended equities. We also shortened our bond duration by trimming our longer-duration holdings. Such actions rebalanced portfolio risk short-term. In addition, we run a 60/40 allocation model for our clients; such left us slightly underweight equities and bonds and overweight cash.”
Despite the sell-off on Friday, the bullish bias remains strong. We also remain in the “seasonally strong” period of the year, and the seemingly endless supply of money continues to flood into equities.
However, as discussed most of this week, mutual fund distributions will begin in earnest and continue through the second week of December. Such suggests we could see some additional volatility and potential weakness in the market as those distributions get made.
Critically, any correction will provide a decent entry point for the year-end “Santa Claus” rally and the first week of January, which tend to be strong. Therefore, we will try and take advantage of that.
While Friday’s plunge likely shocked you out of your “tryptophan-induced” coma, I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.
See you next week.
By Lance Roberts, CIO
Market & Sector Analysis
Analysis & Stock Screens Exclusively For RIAPro Members
S&P 500 Tear Sheet
The technical overbought/sold gauge comprises several price indicators (RSI, Williams %R, etc.), measured using “weekly” closing price data. Readings above “80” are considered overbought, and below “20” are oversold. The current reading is 65.83 out of a possible 100.
Portfolio Positioning “Fear / Greed” Gauge
Our “Fear/Greed” gauge is how individual and professional investors are “positioning” themselves in the market based on their equity exposure. From a contrarian position, the higher the allocation to equities, to more likely the market is closer to a correction than not. The gauge uses weekly closing data.
NOTE: The Fear/Greed Index measures risk from 0-100. It is a rarity that it reaches levels above 90. The current reading is 80.55 out of a possible 100.
Sector Model Analysis & Risk Ranges
How To Read This Table
- The table compares each sector and market to the S&P 500 index on relative performance.
- “MA XVER” is determined by whether the short-term weekly moving average crosses positively or negatively with the long-term weekly moving average.
- The risk range is a function of the month-end closing price and the “beta” of the sector or market. (Ranges reset on the 1st of each month)
- Table shows the price deviation above and below the weekly moving averages.
Weekly Stock Screens
Currently, there are four different stock screens for you to review. The first is S&P 500 based companies with a “Growth” focus, the second is a “Value” screen on the entire universe of stocks, and the last are stocks that are “Technically” strong and breaking above their respective 50-dma.
We have provided the yield of each security and a Piotroski Score ranking to help you find fundamentally strong companies on each screen. (For more on the Piotroski Score – read this report.)
S&P 500 Growth Screen
Low P/B, High-Value Score, High Dividend Screen
Fundamental Growth Screen
Aggressive Growth Strategy
Portfolio / Client Update
This past week, we took no substantive actions in portfolios. Such is because Thanksgiving week usually trades on very light volume.
“Given the more exceeding levels of FOMO in the market currently, we remain weighted towards equity risk. Therefore, from a portfolio management standpoint, we must continue to press for portfolio returns for clients. However, don’t mistake that as a disregard for the underlying risk.
Over the last two weeks, we took profits in overbought and extended equities (F, NVDA, AMD). We also shortened our bond duration by trimming our longer-duration holdings. Such actions rebalanced portfolio risk short-term. In addition, we run a 60/40 allocation model for our clients; such left us slightly underweight equities and bonds and overweight cash.
The best opportunity to increase equity would come from a correction in early December as mutual funds distribute their annual gains. Such would provide a better entry point for the year-end “Santa Claus Rally.”
As we move closer to the end of the year, I will review our annual performance in both primary models and discuss what we expect as we head into 2022. With the Fed on course to taper their balance sheet, and the market forecasting 3-rate hikes, next year will likely be an entirely different “ball game.”
There were no changes this past week.
As always, our short-term concern remains the protection of your portfolio. Accordingly, we remain focused on the differentials between underlying fundamentals and market over-valuations.
Lance Roberts, CIO
Have a great week!
The post “Black Friday” Plunge As Market Rattled By Covid Variant appeared first on RIA.
The Actual Impact Of Bitcoin On War
The Actual Impact Of Bitcoin On War
Authored by Matthew Pines via BitcoinMagazine.com,
The impact of Bitcoin on war will not simply be the…
The Actual Impact Of Bitcoin On War
The impact of Bitcoin on war will not simply be the eradication of violence, a problem of humanity since the dawn of time…
As bitcoin has appreciated and seen increased global adoption, it has emerged as a macroeconomically relevant phenomenon. This has turned formerly theoretical debates into live, practical questions on how Bitcoin will affect geopolitical relations. The current balance of global power is defined by complex arrangements of military alliances, trade flows, ethnic and religious affinity, cultural influence, linguistic agreement, and, of course, national borders.
In this author’s view, it is hubris to expect Bitcoin to singularly override or sweep away the accumulated weight and historical inertia of this tightly-bound matrix of interlinked forces. Of course, it is tempting to smooth over this irreducible complexity and hypothesize a “saved” world, where bitcoin is that “one weird trick” to fix all that’s wrong with human civilization. This temptation to “immanentize the eschaton” is common among totalizing belief systems and becomes an emotionally attractive picture of the future, especially in an era where formerly trusted verities of common belief are losing their stabilizing force. And yet, we can still, and increasingly must, analyze the question of violence – especially state violence – in a future world order where Bitcoin is a major, if not the dominant, economic and political force.
Some reason that Bitcoin will positively adjust the calculus of violence by which states decide how and where to project power and secure their respective interests. By shifting a large portion of national wealth from easily seized and vulnerable tangible assets into digital form, the incentives to violent conflict – as a means of confiscating this wealth – are substantially reduced. This moves the locus of inter-state conflict from the battlefield to the global, competitive mining market. Real wars become hash wars, and the negative externalities of the former (death and destruction) are replaced by the positive externalities of the latter (energy efficient computation and power generation).
While this is well-reasoned and accords with the likely directional influence of Bitcoin on state competition, it is overly simplistic and incomplete. For human conflict exists on a spectrum: from soft power influence and psychological operations (psyops), gray zone subversion, and deniable covert action or sabotage to more overt forms of military violence via stand-off strikes, large-scale invasion, and (in the escalatory limit) all-out nuclear war.
To claim Bitcoin will usher in an era of enduring world peace is to argue that it will eliminate all of these long-enduring sources and methods of human conflict. It is possible it will, but there are contrary forces at play that must not be overlooked. Considering the full set of relevant factors, a more reasonable thesis to hold is one in which Bitcoin may constrain certain forms of large-scale, expensive conventional war, but may not (on net) materially reduce human conflict or substantially constrain state violence.
One can argue that all property claims, when it comes down to it, are enforced via violence or the threat thereof. (Bracket off for now the strong anthropological evidence, especially in human prehistory, that it is possible for communal social arrangements to endure with group-rights to “property,” though it remains an open question how durable these arrangements are as populations scale and cultural heterogeneity erodes the informal norms and coherence of group identity which mitigates violent dispute.) If Bitcoin succeeds in transposing most property claims from a vulnerable physical form to a more easily protected digital bearer asset, then one may argue that bitcoin removes one potent locus of physical violence from the world: physical property. However, even if one holds that all physical property claims are inherent or latent sources of violence, this doesn’t imply that all sources of human violence (namely, war) result from conflict over physical property. So even if Bitcoin succeeds in reducing one driver of war, one may not feel confident in the claim that Bitcoin fixes all, or even the dominant, drivers of war.
I) Bitcoin reduces the state budget for war … but warfighting technology improvements will give states (and everyone else) “more for less” (partly because of bitcoin).
One important, and little remarked-upon, factor is a corollary of Jeff Booth’s thesis (well-articulated in his book, ”The Price Of Tomorrow”) on the deflationary impact of technology. Much recent technological progress – especially in computational hardware, machine learning/artificial intelligence, resilient network communications, quantum computation, robotics/unmanned systems, 3D manufacturing, biological synthesis, propulsion systems, novel energetics, space launch and surveillance , among others – is being driven by and for military applications. The implication of Jeff Booth’s thesis (which has been borne out to date) is that just as technology drives exponential progress in consumer goods and services getting better and cheaper, so will the warfighter get “more for less.” More problematic, however, is that this will likely result in a proliferation of advanced technology that “democratizes” violence and distributes powerful capabilities to a broad range of human actors, with their use increasingly unconstrained by rules of engagement, Geneva Conventions, or deterrence considerations.
One can imagine a world that has fully adopted a Bitcoin standard, but in which zero-day exploits in critical enterprise software and industrial control systems are found and deployed by teenage Minecraft players, autonomous drone-swarms are built and launched by hobbyists for a few hundred dollars, a disaffected postdoc cooks up synthetic viruses in his garage laboratory, and AI-bot armies execute continuous psyops campaigns against target populations. Further, as Jeff Booth has argued, Bitcoin’s natural alignment with these deflationary forces may accelerate technological progress, which while certainly positive for civilization at large, will likely have these kinds of spillover effects.
At a different scale, once bitcoin becomes a globally-adopted neutral reserve asset, protection of domestic mining operations tightly integrated into energy grids becomes a national security issue. While mining firms within each nation will likely be regulated into coopetitive arrangements that dissuade disorderly sabotage, no such constraints will exist between states. In the zero-sum battle for the next nonce (and assuming the combination block reward and fee reflect the state of global adoption), the incentive to undercut one’s global competition will be large.
This will manifest first in sophisticated corporate espionage and sabotage operations, likely involving the same sorts of firms which now hire armies of ex-intelligence and military professionals to conduct all sorts of unsavory activities around the world. As is the case with strategically important industries today, these types of activities tend to fuse with state intelligence services. Bitcoin mining may become a strategically important industry, if not the most important such industry in the most geopolitically powerful and relevant nations.
Thus, it should not be surprising if we come to see state intelligence agencies brought into service to protect domestic mining operations and develop offensive capabilities to threaten their global competitors. Given the interconnection of these mining operations with regional energy production and grid networks, this will compound the existing risks states face in protecting against cyberattacks and disruption to critical infrastructure.
States (and/or their deniable proxies) will find and exploit vulnerabilities in each other’and national Bitcoin operations, which may range from executing sophisticated supply chain attacks that compromise competitor ASICs, to outright physical or cyber-enabled sabotage. This will set off an increasingly expensive game to relocate and protect one’s domestic mining infrastructure. However, the lessons from the current spate of cyber-incidents is that the offense is inherently advantaged over defense in these types of digital environments. It could be the case that the direct, substantial incentive that Bitcoin provides energy owners to protect their networks will finally focus attention on basic cyber-hygiene, insider-threat mitigation, and effective business continuity activities, but this is more a hope than a rational expectation.
While beyond the scope of this essay to fully analyze, it is plausible that bitcoin, if adopted as the primary global neutral reserve asset, will constrain (but not eliminate) most forms of national debt finance. Note that it is likely that before it reaches equilibrium adoption as a unit of account (which could be a very long ways away), bitcoin will spend a substantial period of time as a reserve asset (taking increasingly dominant share of similar assets) in its store of value function and somewhat as a medium of exchange vehicle to settle large balances between institutions and governments and in jurisdictions which have adopted it as legal tender.
In such a period, there are reasons to believe that large states will still find willing creditors for their national debt (denominated in local currency or, more likely, USD), subject to collateral conditions relating to that nation’s (provable) bitcoin reserve. Such creditors will assess the default risk of such sovereigns in a similar manner as today (and as throughout history), and will take the nation’s bitcoin reserve, its taxing ability, fiat currency acceptability, and extant geopolitical position as factors to consider when lending out their own bitcoin to help these governments’ finance expenditures beyond their existing fiscal balance.
Note that this will likely be a much more constrained form of debt finance than we currently see, though it is hard to estimate this precisely. It most likely would not be sufficient to enable states to debt-finance large-scale, conventional wars involving mass mobilization, extensive heavy armaments, and protracted deployments, let alone decades-long occupations or “nation-building” imperial misadventures.
Even if one doubts the above argument and believes that Bitcoin will absolutely bind governments to self-fund entirely via tax arrangements subject to revised social contracts delimiting the scope of such spending, war likely won’t disappear. This is because war (especially in the form near-future technology will enable) may not be that expensive to prosecute. As we saw above, the exponential effect of technological deflation (partly enabled by bitcoin shifting investor time preference and raising the hurdle rate for productive capital investment) will accelerate the trend already underway to radically cheap, but asymmetrically effective weapons.
National defense strategies (among the most geopolitically significant states) will plausibly evolve towards a barbell strategy that combines irregular warfare capabilities with nuclear deterrence. The most expensive parts of national defense budgets derive from having to pay, train, equip, supply, transport, and provide medical benefits to human soldiers, and to construct manned platforms (e.g., aircraft carrier battlegroups) to project violent force. The next few decades will see a shift towards autonomous and unmanned weapons systems and cyber-enabled electronic warfare to deny, disrupt, and destroy similar adversary systems. Humans will be reserved for the special operations and irregular warfare activities in the broadening “gray zone” of state conflict that sits just below the threshold of overt peer-on-peer war. One perverse effect of the very power of nuclear weapons is the creation of deterrence voids for non-nuke threshold conflict, especially in deniable or gray-zone domains.
As the capabilities to cheaply execute effective operations in these domains increases, the incentive to do so, while knowing the nuclear threshold sits high above, will be strong for many states. One can imagine revanchist regimes or those disposed to take special advantage of newly affordable weapons systems to prosecute long-awaited grievances or secure what they may see as marginal, and increasingly perishable, military superiority. For example, the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war saw Azerbaijan combine drone technology and long-range sensors to direct precision fires that dominated the battlefield and decisively tipped the scales in a decades-long conflict. These capabilities would have been out of reach just a few years ago, but were made affordable to such a small state by the deflationary impact of technological progress.
It’s possible that even the relatively minimal costs of sustaining these forms of asymmetric capabilities will outweigh their benefit (priced in bitcoin, even). But this seems unlikely, especially if the technology deflation continues to make them ever cheaper, and while the world remains a contested, finite geography riven by historically embedded lines of division and political heterogeneity.
II) States will likely continue to sustain and expand world-ending nuclear capabilities, even under a Bitcoin standard, merely as a result of the locked-in logic of deterrence.
The one military technology where states are likely to be less cost sensitive are nuclear weapons. Despite the hopes of disarmament activists decades running, this particular genie isn’t going back in the bottle. The existential consequences of nuclear weapons will continue to hang like a sword of Damocles over humanity until we reach some (as yet unenvisioned) plane of enlightenment that ushers in enduring global accord. Until that time, we will require that states invest whatever is necessary in order to maintain extremely secure and reliable nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) systems.
It isn’t too much of a stretch to call the U.S. government (to take one example) as a form of nuclear monarchy. While our constitution vests the Commander in Chief (CiC) executive powers over the armed forces, it formally remands the authority to declare war with the Congress. While presidents have found various ways around this particular constraint, they still feel compelled to come to Congress to receive the political dispensation offered by “authorizations to use military force.”
The time-scales of nuclear war, however, render all of that moot. Given the precious few minutes between launch detection and detonation, the CiC is given sole and unchallenged authority to issue counter-strike orders, able to select from a menu of pre-selected target packages (defined in the Single Integrated Operational Plan). This nuclear SIOP is designed explicitly to convince our nuclear adversaries that a devastating retaliatory strike is guaranteed, a deterrence logic captured by the dictum of mutually assured destruction.
The fraught stability of this system courted catastrophe several times during the Cold War, and that era was comparatively simple from a game-theoretic perspective. As more (and less stable) states continue to nuclearize, the dynamics of multi-party deterrence becomes dangerously unpredictable. Further, technology is pushing the capability envelope, from dial-a-yield “tactical” weapons (e.g., the U.S. B61 bomb) to mega-weapons (e.g., Russia’s Status-6 unmanned nuclear torpedo with a potentially 100MT payload), as well as novel delivery platforms like hypersonic glide vehicles and fractional orbital bombardment systems (like that recently demonstrated by China).
Now, you may be asking why this excursion on nuclear weapons. Well, if the question at issue is the degree to which Bitcoin may constrain state violence, and war in particular, it seems to me absolutely imperative to recognize the deeply embedded present system of nuclear deterrence. Such a structure – which places the power of world-ending violence in the hands of individual political leaders – isn’t likely to change anytime soon (no matter what happens with Bitcoin). Humble Bitcoiners must reconcile themselves to this unfortunate reality, and hope that the enlightened Bitcoiner leaders of the future will dedicate themselves to reinvigorate the failed non-proliferation, denuclearization, and arms-reduction efforts of our current politicians.
III) Bitcoin fixes a lot of things, but war is unlikely to be one of them (at least for the foreseeable future).
More fundamentally, human conflict isn’t always (or even mostly) motivated to directly seize monetary wealth. We fight each other for many reasons, including over scarce assets (e.g., water rights, agricultural land, minerals, rare earth metals, oil, and natural geographic features like ports, navigable waterways, straits, etc.), ethnic, tribal, or religious enmity, national pride or honor, domestic political wagging-of-the-dog, or just because of some individual leader’s mania or even group collective insanity.
While humans are capable of some wondrous things, our capacity for violence and destruction (especially against our own self-considered and “rational” interest) is legion. In the “long-run,” one can, possibly, envision a utopia of abundance where all conceivable axes of human conflict have been eliminated or mitigated. But this seems so far off as to distract from the more likely practical scenarios we must navigate in the decades ahead.
Bitcoin as a bearer asset presents immense benefits as well as security challenges for individual holders. These will scale with the scale of adoption. It will be hard to steal a nation’s or a large corporation’s bitcoin, but not impossible, and the incentives to try will be large. Right now, national governments substantially invest in securing domestic critical infrastructure – especially the financial system and its centralized, interconnected digital ledgers – from cyberattack, insider exploitation, theft, sabotage, and natural hazard disruption. Bitcoin’s ledger needs no such protection thanks to the geographic distribution, scale-free self-healing network structure, and endogenous incentives of miners (bracket off the 51% attack arguments here), but our keys do.
If you don’t believe the combined intelligence and defense capabilities of the world’s (remaining, likely most powerful) states will not invest in forms of violence, compellence, theft, sabotage, and manipulation to undercut their rival’s economic stability, I encourage more “adversarial thinking.”
The precise outlines of the future state of geopolitical competition in a Bitcoin standard are hard to foresee. Exactly how the incentives of Bitcoin mining and national reserve adoption may affect the calculus of inter-state violence is unknowable. Still, we can reason and explore the parameter space of possibilities given present conditions and projected trends. There are good reasons to believe that Bitcoin may reduce the incentive for large-scale, conventional war and imperial-style occupations. At the same time, such forms of state violence may become outmoded regardless of Bitcoin due to the dramatic improvement in weapons technology to asymptotically project power with relatively little cost. Further, the posture of nuclear forces – and the taught logic of deterrence we rely on to prevent their use – will likely be entirely unchanged by Bitcoin (at least for the foreseeable future).
Where does this leave us on the question of Bitcoin and war? Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic that it will fundamentally alter the strategic balance of geopolitical forces in such a way as to substantially reduce the likelihood of destructive state conflict. This is no fault of Bitcoin, which promises a great reformation and improvement in many critical aspects of our civilization. Rather, this is merely a statement that, for all its power, Bitcoin is unlikely to change (in our lifetimes, at least) inherent aspects of the human condition, existing as we are on a finite planet, burdened by the frailties of nature and our fraught history.
Bitcoin is a net good for humanity, and especially good for those states that recognize its virtues before others. Bitcoin fixes a lot of things, and these should be explained clearly and proclaimed proudly, to all who wish to hear. For all its promise however, Bitcoin is unlikely to fix war. Until it does, stay humble and stack sats.
The Hawks Circle Here, The Doves Win There
We’ve been here before, near exactly here. On this side of the Pacific Ocean, in the US particularly the situation was said to be just grand. The economy…
We’ve been here before, near exactly here. On this side of the Pacific Ocean, in the US particularly the situation was said to be just grand. The economy was responding nicely to QE’s 3 and 4 (yes, there were four of them by that point), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had said in the middle of 2013 it was becoming more than enough, creating for him and the FOMC coveted breathing space so as to begin tapering both of those ongoing programs.
A full and complete recovery he believed was on schedule if not getting way ahead of it.
Though there were some early misgivings through the rocky summertime, taper did eventually happen by December. Bernanke then left the job in February 2014 giving way to a cautiously optimistic Janet Yellen. For most Economists and those in the financial media, there was no need to be so careful; soon the “best jobs market in decades” therefore, everyone said, a far higher inflationary potential from an “overheating” domestic economy.
As 2014 drew toward a close, by November the Fed had already effectively terminated the two QE’s, leaving it to only reinvest maturities from then onward (until QT in 2017). Rate hikes in the US were expected to follow very soon thereafter.
But that particular November wasn’t so one-sided as it may have seemed at the time. While monetary policy “hawks” were confidently gathered here, over on the opposite side of the Pacific the Chinese flipped to the entire opposite direction. On the 21st of that month, China’s central bank, the PBOC, cut its Loan Prime Rate (LPR) from 6.0% down to 5.6%.
The LPR had been a reformed market-driven benchmark put together just the year before in October 2013 and has since been revamped in August 2019. Basically, China’s top commercial banks (now 18 on the panel) submit what they say is the best loan rate for their top customers at either a 1-year (the benchmark) or 5-year term.
Calculating the LPR begins with a monetary policy rate, the MLF, upon which the panel of banks add the lowest risk premium they would charge on top of it for these best bank borrowers; making the LPR a theoretically beneficial way for China’s central bankers to influence otherwise market prices for basic lending (it’s a bit more complicated than this, but for our purposes this is a useful if truncated description).
To begin 2014, the flattening US Treasury curve warned of the impending setback – either ignored, dismissed, or rationalized – alongside the change in direction for China’s currency, CNY. The LPR later in November merely the next escalation in a growing series of alarms flushing over the eurodollar system before then the entire global economy.
More LPR cuts in China followed regularly in 2015, along with RRR cuts, and by 2016 when these did nothing to help arrest the economic and financial slide (recall August 2015’s immensely disruptive CNY crash), it was left for the Communist government to reluctantly dust off its Keynesian textbook in one last hurrah for the text as well as Li Keqiang using it.
The November 2014 cut in the LPR, the first as the LPR (there was a pre-existing benchmark loan rate before), should have poured freezing buckets of frigid water all over the Western “overheating” narrative.
On the one side over here, hawks; at the exact same time on over there, doves. This was always going to end up as an either/or situation.
History, and Janet Yellen’s confused 2015 stare, proved which way both sides would eventually fall. Rather than recovery as Bernanke had surmised in 2013, Euro$ #3 would end up wrecking it – globally – which in 2014 began to first and primarily cut into China’s (and emerging market) growth and forward prospects regardless of every PBOC action intending to counter this.
This leaves the LPR, like the RRR, not “stimulus” but rather a concrete sign of deterioration ongoing to a sufficient degree the normally patient and careful Chinese feel they can no longer afford to remain patient and careful.
Moving forward in time to 2018 and 2019, in this next instance (Euro$ #4) Chinese authorities acted in that very fashion; holding off on moving the LPR (though cutting the RRR several times in 2018) until after its second reform in August of 2019. Unlike Euro$ #3, by then the PBOC’s shift to “dovishness” would align with Jay Powell’s confused 180-degree shift into that same direction – at practically the same time.
As I started, here we are in 2022 all over again. Jay Powell’s in the process of terminating his QE6 with a schedule for hawkish rate hikes planned over the months ahead (joined this time by Europe’s ECB). Yet, at the very same time, going back to last month, actually, the PBOC has also begun moving in the opposite direction as if it was November 2014.
And, for good measure, as we’ve been documenting over the same recent months the global bond market, the UST curve joined and amplified by inversion on the eurodollar futures curve, is also siding with the Chinese in practically the same way it had seven and eight years ago (and like three and four years ago).
Given these competing directions, has the Fed’s FOMC learned anything, or has something changed in the Chinese economic and financial superstructure to delink or decouple China from the rest of the world?
The answer to that question is the reason we continue highlighting these same things by thinking back in time to review all these eerily-same episodes which keep repeating one after another. China’s internal struggles aren’t really about China nor are they kept, as they don’t originate, internally.
This is all bellwether stuff in China. Synchronized. I don’t much like quoting the guy, but you have to give Xi Jinping credit for understanding the way it all works in a way US policymakers seem unable – unwilling – to follow.
The momentum of the world either flourishes or declines; the state of the world either progresses or regresses.
While economic and inflation euphoria and certitude abounds unabated in this part of the world, around much of the rest of it the “growth scare” is in many ways already into “declines” and in serious danger of further “regressing.” That is the potential behind flattening curves, not inflation, even though those at the Fed have once again mounted its hawk.
This doesn’t mean the global economy falls off a cliff tomorrow, or necessarily at any point this year or next. What it suggests is, like 2014 or 2018, we’re pretty well assured to be heading in the wrong direction to some as-yet uncertain destination. Repeating the pattern, it’s just that American Economists, central bankers, and their media don’t realize the real dangers are visibly stacking up on the other side of the ledger from recovery, growth, and inflation.
Bitcoin Tumbles Below $37K as Investors Offload Risky Assets
Cryptocurrencies have not been performing too well since the beginning of the year, and this week continued their downward slide
The post Bitcoin Tumbles…
Cryptocurrencies have not been performing too well since the beginning of the year, and this week continued their downward slide as major economies prepare to scale back generous monetary policies in face of rising inflation.
The price of bitcoin has fallen to around $36,800 at the time of writing, marking a decline of nearly 6% from Thursday. Since the start of 2022, the cryptocurrency’s price is down over 15%, which is a substantial drop from its record-high price of $98,990 back in November. Likewise, its counterpart, ethereum, isn’t faring too well either, falling by nearly 20% since the beginning of the year.
It appears that investors are becoming worrisome about major central banks pulling back their monetary stimulus policies a lot sooner than expected in an effort to rein in surging inflation. The Bank of Canada is expected to hike its key rate as early as next week, while the Federal Reserve recently signalled that it too, will begin winding down its support ahead of the timeline.
In the meantime, a number of major governments are attempting to curb the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies. This week, Russia’s central bank has proposed a complete ban on the mining and use of cryptocurrencies in the country, as digital tokens could pose a threat to the financial stability of traditional currency. Russia’s crackdown comes merely a month after China outright banned crypto mining and trading.
But, not everyone has a bearish view on crypto prices. Goldman Sachs forecasts that bitcoin will hit $100,000 within the next five years, as the cryptocurrency could increasingly erode at gold’s market share.
Information for this briefing was found via Reuters. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.
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