German Federal Election 2017 Outcome

Germany’s Federal election 2017, is due to be held this Sunday 24th September. It could prove illuminating about the political fortunes of Germany and the EU at large.

Don’t hold your breath however. It looks like more of the same. Even if there is a reduced majority held by the CDU/CSU coalition under Angela Merkel, German stocks should rally off the back of the election result. The rally will be a muted affair however.

EURUSD will also rally in line with our previously published forecast of 1.22-1.23. There is not enough of a biased sentiment to be able to predict an outcome based on the “Law of Contrary Opinion”.

It seems the important game changing news is more to do with the US Federal Reserve decision. They plan to wind down its balance sheet which will have far lasting repercussions.

Pendulum of Government Overreach has Peaked

The pendulum of government overreach has peaked in most liberal democratic countries around the world (for now). The major political events of 2016 have shown increasing resistance to government given the rising number of breaches in civil liberties and failure of government to identify and respond to the disenfranchised members of their societies.

Many segments of society have felt themselves becoming impoverishment. At the same time they have watched the hubris, greed and failure of politicians to deliver solutions to resolve the various politically made crises. One of the recurring questions that will emerge is the role of government in the lives of people.

By the time politicians’ hubris has completely evaporated, the nature of liberal democratic countries will have changed. We see major risk of political, economic and social upheaval occurring between now and 2028-2033 This phase may extend before social, political and economic stability becomes the norm. As always the pendulum will one day swing again towards increasing government involvement in the lives and affairs of ordinary people.

The Structure of Collapse: 2016-2019

Charles Hugh Smith writing on his blog Of Two Minds:

The end-state of unsustainable systems is collapse. Though collapse may appear to be sudden and chaotic, we can discern key structures that guide the processes of collapse.

Though the subject is complex enough to justify an entire shelf of books, these six dynamics are sufficient to illuminate the inevitable collapse of the status quo.

1. Doing more of what has failed spectacularly. The leaders of the status quo inevitably keep doing more of what worked in the past, even when it no longer works. Indeed, the failure only increases the leadership’s push to new extremes of what has failed spectacularly. At some point, this single-minded pursuit of failed policies speeds the system’s collapse.

2. Emergency measures become permanent policies. The status quo’s leaders expect the system to right itself once emergency measures stabilize a crisis. But broken systems cannot right themselves, and so the leadership is forced to make temporary emergency measures (such as lowering interest rates to zero) permanent policy. This increases the fragility of the system, as any attempt to end the emergency measures triggers a system-threatening crisis.

3. Diminishing returns on status quo solutions. Back when the economic tree was loaded with low-hanging fruit, solutions such as lowering interest rates had a large multiplier effect. But as the tree is stripped of fruit, the returns on these solutions diminish to zero.

4. Declining social mobility. As the economic pie shrinks, the privileged maintain or increase their share, and the slice left to the disenfranchised shrinks. As the privileged take care of their own class, there are fewer slots open for talented outsiders. The status quo is slowly starved of talent and the ranks of those opposed to the status quo swell with those denied access to the top rungs of the social mobility ladder.

5. The social order loses cohesion and shared purpose as the social-economic classes pull apart. The top of the wealth/power pyramid no longer serves in the armed forces, and withdraws from contact with the lower classes. Lacking a unifying social purpose, each class pursues its self-interests to the detriment of the nation and society as a whole.

6. Strapped for cash as tax revenues decline, the state borrows more money and devalues its currency as a means of maintaining the illusion that it can fulfill all its promises. As the purchasing power of the currency declines, people lose faith in the state’s currency. Once faith is lost, the value of the currency declines rapidly and the state’s insolvency is revealed.

Each of these dynamics is easily visible in the global status quo.

As an example of doing more of what has failed spectacularly, consider how financialization inevitably inflates speculative bubbles, which eventually crash with devastating consequences. But since the status quo is dependent on financialization for its income, the only possible response is to increase debt and speculation—the causes of the bubble and its collapse—to inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.

This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns: each reflation of the failed system requires greater commitments of capital and debt. Financialization is pushed to new unprecedented extremes, as nothing less will generate the desired bubble.

 Rising costs narrow the maneuvering room left to system managers. The central bank’s suppression of interest rates is an example. As the economy falters, central banks lower interest rates and increase the credit available to the financial system.

This stimulus works well in the first downturn, but less well in the second and not at all in the third, for the simple reason that interest rates have been dropped to zero and credit has been increased to near-infinite.

The last desperate push to do more of what failed spectacularly is for central banks to lower interest rates to below-zero: it costs depositors money to leave their cash in the bank. This last-ditch policy is now firmly entrenched in Europe, and many expect it to spread around the world as central banks have exhausted less extreme policies.

The status quo’s primary imperative is self-preservation, and this imperative drives the falsification of data to sell the public on the idea that prosperity is still rising and the elites are doing an excellent job of managing the economy.

Since real reform would threaten those at the top of the wealth/power pyramid, fake reforms and fake economic data become the order of the day.

Leaders face a no-win dilemma: any change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.

Welcome to 2016-2019.

Source: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune16/collapse6-16.html

The Coming Cashless Society

Electronic-EuroYou are now watching newspapers, TV shows, and other forms of media preparing for the coming cashless society. This is a marketing campaign, and may indeed be what October 1, 2015 is all about – 2015.75. I doubt that the USA will be able to move to a cashless society as easily as Europe. The dollar is used around the world and cancelling that outstanding money supply would bring tremendous international unrest. Additionally, the USA is not in crisis financially, as is the case in Europe.

Europe, on the other hand, has an entirely different problem. The failure to have consolidated the debts of member states meant that the reserves of the banks were constituted from a politically correct mixture of debt. Instead of fixing the problem, politicians who are lawyers always move one-step forward with laws. To them the logical solution is to eliminate cash to protect banks from a panic run that would collapse Europe and take Brussels with it.

This is now a deliberate marketing campaign. I know how these things work and pay attention. They are selling this idea everywhere and that is the preparation for the inevitable action. With the speed at which they are moving, it certainly appears they are gearing up for October 1 on our model. It is also interesting that some German press misquoted our date as October 17. I was not sure why they would do that, but perhaps that was intentional as well. This is very curious, for when they take that final step, it will most likely be sudden and overnight. They would announce it and give everyone some time frame to take their paper currency and deposit it into their bank accounts.

For European readers, swap to dollars for hoarding and you can open accounts in the U.S., which for now is a safety valve. While gold makes sense for local hoarding, it may have lost its movability.

Source: http://armstrongeconomics.com/archives/31028

Stock Market Update

Most stock appear set to kick off in 2015 with some decent falls. Its too early to tell if this is the beginning of a broad secular bear market or the beginnings of a healthy correction that will last 3-9 months before stocks continue their advance.

Our broad scenario update “The End of the Long Game 2009-2018” will be released over the next three days outlining the bull and bear cases and provide context for what emerges in 2015.

Eating Our Seed Corn: How Much of our “Growth” Is From One-Time Cashouts?

Charles Hugh Smith of http://www.oftwominds.com/blog.html writes:

We as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.

Anecdotally, it seems a significant percentage of our recent economic “growth” is being funded by one-time cashouts of IRAs, 401Ks, sales of parents’ homes, etc. This is the equivalent of eating our seed corn. Once these pools of savings/equity/capital are gone, they aren’t coming back.

I personally know a number of people who have cashed out their retirement account 401Ks (and paid the taxes) to pay for their kids’ college expenses–in effect, cashing out their retirement to lower but not eliminate the debt burden of their offspring who bought the “going away to college” experience.

The cashed-out 401K delighted the government, which reaped huge penalties and income taxes, as the cashout pushed the annual income of the recipient into a high tax bracket. (“Hardship” withdrawals for medical care and education waive the penalties, but the income tax takes a big chunk of the withdrawal.)

The middle-aged person who cashed out their retirement will not work long enough to save an equivalent nestegg. Not only is time against such an accumulation of retirement savings, so is the stagnant economy: companies are slashing 401K contributions to offset rising healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare) expenses, and many workers young and old alike are finding jobs that pay them as self-employed contractors or part-time jobs with no benefits.

Another set of middle-aged people are withdrawing from IRAs (and paying the penalties) just to fill the gap between expenses and income. For a variety of reasons, many people are loathe to cut expenses or are unable to do so without drastic changes in their lifestyle. So they withdraw from the IRA (individual retirement account) to cover expenses that are left after income has been spent.

This “solution” is appealing to those whose incomes have declined in what they perceive as “temporary” hard times.

Another pool of equity that is being drained is the home equity in aging parents’ homes. The government will only pay for one set of medical expenses (long-term care, for example) if the elderly person has assets of less than $2,000 (as I recall). Given this cap, it makes sense for elderly homeowners to transfer ownership of their home to their offspring well before they need long-term care (which can cost $12,000 to $15,000 a month).

A variety of other medical expenses can arise that cause the home to be sold to raise cash–either expenses for the elderly parents or for their late-middle-age offspring who develop costly health issues. Family disagreements over sharing the equity can arise, leading to the sale of the house and the division of the equity among the offspring.

This cash is immediately hit with a variety of demands: a grandkid needs a car, somebody needs money to go back to graduate school (pursuing the fantasy that another degree will provide financial security), and so on–not to mention “we deserve a nice vacation, a new car, etc.“, the temptations in a consumerist culture that we all “deserve.

Once the family home is sold, the furnishings and other valuables are also sold off to raise cash. In many cases, the expense of transporting the items across the country to relatives exceeds the value of the furnishings.

One common thread in all these demands for liquidation of equity is the short-term need is pressing. A consumerist culture offers few incentives for long-term savings other than life insurance, IRAs and 401Ks, and all of these can be tapped once a pressing need arises.

Though people may want to hang on to their nestegg, they are faced with short-term needs: how else can I pay tuition, or this medical bill?

As incomes have stagnated and costs for big-ticket expenses such as college and healthcare have soared, the gap between income and expenditures has widened every year for the bottom 90%.

 

Even those in the top 10% are not protected from draw-downs in retirement funds and family equity in homes and other assets.

Retirement funds, home equity, family assets–these are the financial equivalent of seed corn. Once they’re cashed out and spent, they cannot be replaced.

In more prudent and prosperous times, these nesteggs of capital were conserved to be passed on to the next generation not for consumption but as a nestegg to be conserved for the following generation. That chain of capital preservation and inheritance is being broken by the ravenous need for cash to spend, not later but right now.

So how much of the recent “growth” in GDP results from our consumption of seed corn? It is difficult to find any data on this, something which is unsurprising as the data would reveal the entire “recovery” story as a grandiose illusion: we as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.

We face not just an impoverishment in consumption but in expectations and generational assets.

Source: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb14/one-time-cashout2-14.html

 

 

Merkel’s Walking a Tightrope… If She Falls, the EU Could Implode

By Phoenix Capital Research:

The single most important issue for Europe today remains Germany on both an economic and political front.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has walked a tightrope over the last few years of keeping the EU together without infuriating the German populace to the point of having to abandon ship.

To do this, Merkel has maintained a firm stance of “we’ll write the check provided conditions are met” much as a parent would give a child his or her allowance provided the child performed its chores satisfactorily. In the case of German, the “chores” are required conditions of austerity measures and budgetary requirements in exchange for bailout funds.

By doing this, Merkel is able to play hardball on an economic front (having failed to meet its German-required financial targets Greece had to wait an additional six months to receive another installment of its Second bailout) without appear too hard-nosed on a political front (she continually pushes to keep the Euro together, expressing a willingness to help other nations… as long as they meet her budgetary requirements).

The policy has thus far been a success with Merkel’s approval rating soaring to its highest level since 2009 (before her re-election bid). However, the latest state election in Germany might upset this situation.

Germany’s center-left opposition won a wafer-thin victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition in a major state election Sunday, dealing a setback as she seeks a third term at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy later this year.

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens won a single-seat majority in the state legislature in Lower Saxony, ousting the coalition of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the pro-market Free Democrats that has run the northwestern region for 10 years. The same parties form the national government.

The 58-year-old Merkel will seek another four-year term in a national parliamentary election expected in September. She and her party are riding high in national polls, but the opposition hoped the Lower Saxony vote would show she is vulnerable.

The outcome could boost what so far has been a sputtering campaign by Merkel’s Social Democratic challenger, Peer Steinbrueck.

“This evening gives us real tailwind for the national election,” said Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a leader of Steinbrueck’s allies, the Greens. “We can and will manage to replace the (center-right) coalition.”

However, the close outcome also underscores the possibility of a messy result in September, with no clear winner.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/merkel-risks-election-year-setback-state-vote

To understand the significance of this, you need to understand a key difference between the US and Europe. In the US, the economy often drives politics (often but not always). In Europe, politics drives everything.

You will never hear a discussion of “how involved should the Government be in the economy?” in most of Europe; it is just assumed that the Government should always be involved to a significant degree. The question is whether it should be a lot (the public sector accounts for 30% of jobs in Germany) or almost entirely (the public sector accounts for 56% of jobs in France).

With that in mind, Merkel is up for re-election in the fall of this year (likely in September). Her bid for re-election will be a major issue for the future of the EU and the Euro in 2013.

The other two candidates for the job are Peer Steinbrück, former Finance Minister to Merkel who has been extremely critical of Merkel’s handling of the EU Crisis and Rainer Brüderle who believes that Greece leaving the EU would not be a “calamity.”

Obviously whoever wins this election will change the political landscape for Europe significantly. As a result, the run up to this election will have a significant impact on the markets for 2013, much as the Obama-Romney Presidential campaigns had significant impacts on the US markets in 2012.

An important issue for this campaign will be the German economy. Germany is the second largest exporter of goods in the world behind China. And the German economy is getting slammed due to:

  1. The EU economy collapsing.
  2. The ECB’s interventions have pushed the Euro higher hurting export profits.

By most counts Europe is an economic disaster. Southern countries such as Spain and Greece have begun to resemble third world countries with commensurate poverty and malnutrition. However, even when we include stronger economies such as Germany, the EU as a whole is back in recession as of September 2012. With 71% of German exports going to the EU, this is a real problem for the German economy.

Regarding #2, every tick higher in the Euro means less profits for Germany. And the Euro has been rising dramatically since July when the ECB first hinted at providing unlimited bond buying to backstop the EU banking system.

As a result of this, the German economy is estimated to have shrunken 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012. If things continue to worsen here, Germany’s population will grow increasingly unhappy with the prospect of more EU bailouts. And with Merkel battling for re-election this year, this could potentially upset her high wire act of balancing German voter sentiment with a pro-EU agenda.

With that in mind, the recent state election loss is a bad omen for Merkel. True, the loss occurred by a razor thin margin. But as we mentioned before, politics is everything in Europe. The more energy Merkel has to devote to wooing German voters the less energy she will have to focus on maintaining her “we’ll backstop the EU” policy.

This will make for a very volatile year in European markets as the markets will be hinging on German officials’ statements throughout the campaign trail. With that in mind, the German economy will be an absolutely critical issue both for the German Federal elections and the solidarity of the EU as a whole in 2013.

We have produced a FREE Special Report available to all investors titled What Europe’s Collapse Means For You and Your Savings.

This report features ten pages of material outlining our independent analysis real debt situation in Europe (numbers far worse than is publicly admitted), the true nature of the EU banking system, and the systemic risks Europe poses to investors around the world.

It also outlines a number of investments to profit from this; investments that anyone can use to take advantage of the European Debt Crisis.

Best of all, this report is 100% FREE. You can pick up a copy today at:

http://gainspainscapital.com/eu-report/