July 12: Daily Contrarian Reads

Why Bitcoin Is Booming

The SEC action prompted obituaries, but bitcoin is thriving. A prime reason is the distrust many citizens have in their government’s currency. They want to use bitcoin as a hedge or an alternative mechanism of payment and transfer when government currency doesn’t efficiently perform such basic functions. It’s no surprise that millennials, many of whom understand the digital currency much better than their baby-boom forbears, are investing in bitcoin at far greater rates.

The GOP Agenda—Dead In the Water

Most immediately, GOP leaders and President Trump are under enormous pressure to approve health-care legislation — but that is only the beginning. Virtually every piece of their ambitious legislative agenda is stalled, according to multiple Republicans inside and outside of Congress. They have made no serious progress on a budget despite looming fall deadlines to extend spending authorization and raise the debt ceiling. Promises to launch an ambitious infrastructure-building program have faded away. And the single issue with the most potential to unite Republicans — tax reform — has yet to progress beyond speeches and broad-strokes outlines.

Chasing The Tape Goes Full Retard—Institutional Cash At Lowest Since 2008 Crash

Institutional investors are holding roughly 2.25% of assets under management in cash, the lowest since at least the start of the eight-year bull market, according to survey data compiled by Citigroup. It marks a significant drop from the quarter ended September 30, 2016, when those same traders held about 7.5% of holdings in cash, the most since 2008. The large decline in cash holdings shows “investors are chasing the tape and putting money to work,” Citigroup chief US equity strategist Tobias Levkovich wrote in a client note.

Wonderful Monetary Policy and Beautiful Deleveragings, Not!

I find his choice of words inflammatory, but I guess when you’re worth $16.8bn (Forbes) you can write what and how you please. In past CBBs I took strong exception with Ray Dalio’s “beautiful deleveraging” thesis. Data these days speak incontrovertibly to the fact that from a systemic standpoint there has been a huge accumulation of additional debt – at home and globally. The notion of deleveraging is a myth. It is the unprecedented inflation of “money” at the very foundation of global finance that is real. As for “wonderful monetary policy,” at best the jury’s still out. I’ll be shocked if we look back in five or ten years and tag this period’s monetary management in a positive light.

Mall Tour 2017—-Why They Are Dying, Part 2

Malls are bearing the brunt of changes in retail, but they’re only the canary in the coal mine. Let’s start with a simple premise; commercial real estate (CRE) will change more in the next decade than it has in the past hundred years. Anyone who thinks they can fully foresee how it will evolve is lying to you. The only certainty is that highly leveraged real estate investors and lenders will be obliterated as current models evolve faster than anticipated.

Trump’s Maoist Steel Obsession

The reason this is important today is because Trump has promised “bold action” against steel imports — steel imports from China, coincidentally — presumably to show off American “industrial might,” according to this article. Trump also believes action against imports will provide “a source of well-paying blue-collar jobs.” Mao would be proud. In April, as a clever ruse to justify new protectionist measures, Trump instructed his administration to investigate the national security implications of importing steel. An announcement about the outcome of this charade is expected any day now.

The Breaking Point & Death Of Keynes

While I am not so sure it would actually make a great movie to watch – it is the ongoing saga we will continue to witness unfold over the next decade. While the video below is entertaining, it does lay out the key differences between Keynesian and Austrian economic theories…… Just last week, the Federal Reserve released a report which forms the basis of the semi-annual testimony Ms. Yellen will give to Congress this week. There was much in this report which suggests the models the Federal Reserve continues to use are at best flawed and, at worst, broken. For decades, ivory tower economists have heaped high praise on Keynesian policies as they have encouraged Governments to drive deeper into debt with the expectation of reviving economic growth.

Forget El Chapo—-Mexican Drug Violence Only Getting Worse

Matters have not turned out at all the way drug warriors and other optimists assumed. Instead, El Chapo’s capture has made the violent chaos in Mexico worse—much worse. His fall created a power vacuum throughout Mexico’s ruthless drug trade. The extent of the upsurge in violence as his would-be successors maneuver for control is horrifying. In May alone, there were 2,186 fatalities—the third time in 2017 when the monthly death toll topped 2,000. That is more than twice the average monthly pace of the bloody years of Felipe Calderon’s presidency (2006-2012), when more than 60,000 Mexicans perished in drug-related carnage. The May total was a new record, and it brought the total number of deaths in 2017 to 9,906. That was an increase of 33 percent over 2016, which had already seen a worrisome rise.

The US Is Not “One Nation” — And it Never Was

When it comes to cultural matters, however, Buchanan has long held to a peculiar and empirically questionable version of American history in which the United States was once a mono-culture in which everyone was once happily united by “a common religion,” a “common language,” and a “common culture.” Now, he’s at it again with his most recent column in which he correctly points out that the United States is culturally fractured, and speculates as to whether or not Thomas Jefferson’s call to “dissolve political bands” in the Declaration of Independence might be sound advice today. Buchanan is correct in noting that the US is culturally divided today. But, he appears to have a selective view of history when he contends there was a time when this was not so. If there ever was such a period, it’s unclear as to when exactly it was.

President Trump: End The Korean War!

Because North Korea has scraped and skimped for decades to build nuclear weapons for the sole reason of deterring a major US attack, including the use by the US of tactical nuclear weapons.  Pakistan ‘ate grass’ for decades to afford nuclear weapons to offset the threat from far more powerful India.  Israel uses the same argument to justify its large nuclear arsenal. After Washington overthrew the rulers of Iraq and Libya, it became painfully apparent that small nations without nuclear weapons were vulnerable to US ‘regime change’ operations.  The North Koreans, who are very eccentric but not stupid, rushed to accelerate their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.