Negative Interest Rates and the War on Cash

As momentum builds in the developing deflationary spiral, we are seeing increasingly desperate measures to keep the global credit ponzi scheme from its inevitable conclusion. Credit bubbles are dynamic — they must grow continually or implode — hence they require ever more money to be lent into existence. But that in turn requires a plethora of willing and able borrowers to maintain demand for new credit money, lenders who are not too risk-averse to make new loans, and (apparently effective) mechanisms for diluting risk to the point where it can (apparently safely) be ignored. As the peak of a credit bubble is reached, all these necessary factors first become problematic and then cease to be available at all. Past a certain point, there are hard limits to financial expansions, and the global economy is set to hit one imminently. Continue reading “Negative Interest Rates and the War on Cash”

Gold – Follow the Yellow Brick Road?

In light of the rapidly-propagating loss of confidence, and consequent shift to deflation, with falling prices across the board as a result, it is appropriate to review our stance on gold. The yellow metal is often perceived as a panacea – a safe haven guarding against all manner of potential financial disruption. It has long been our stance at the Automatic Earth that this is far too simplistic a position to take. We live in a complex world for which there are no simple one-dimensional solutions. It is important to distinguish between the markets for paper gold and for physical gold, and to understand the risks inherent in gold ownership in order to manage them. As we wrote back in 2009:

Firstly, the goldbugs are right that physical gold is real money (unlike paper gold, which is just another Ponzi scheme). It has held its value for thousands of years and will continue to do so over the long term. However, that does not mean that gold prices cannot fall or that purchasing gold now is the right way for everyone to preserve capital….People’s circumstances are different. Those circumstances determine their freedom of action, both now and in the future.

Continue reading “Gold – Follow the Yellow Brick Road?”

Dollar-Denominated Debt Deflation

Since I generally tell people to hold cash or cash equivalents, it makes sense to expand on that a little, and to point out some of the location-specific risks of doing so. I tell people to hold cash because that is what they will need access to in order to make debt payments and to purchase the essentials of life in a society with little or no remaining credit. The value of cash domestically – in terms of goods and services in your own local area – is what matters most.

Domestic currency value relative to other currencies internationally will be very much a secondary concern for most people, as the ability to exchange one currency for another is not likely to last far into the coming era of capital controls. Currency risk is likely to become very large, and almost everyone will be better off holding whatever passes for cash wherever they happen to be. Continue reading “Dollar-Denominated Debt Deflation”

A Golden Double-Edged Sword

Given the fervour over gold, and the fact that our view of it differs from that of many other commentators, it seems fitting to review our position on gold ownership. Firstly, the goldbugs are right that physical gold is real money (unlike paper gold, which is just another Ponzi scheme). It has held its value for thousands of years and will continue to do so over the long term. However, that does not mean that gold prices cannot fall or that purchasing gold now is the right way for everyone to preserve capital. Timing is critical, and people’s circumstances are different. Those circumstances determine their freedom of action, both now and in the future. Continue reading “A Golden Double-Edged Sword”

The Special Relativity of Currencies

People often ask us which currency they should hold and whether or not we think the US dollar is about to plummet, so I thought it would be a good topic for a primer. Basically, the value of a currency can be looked at in two ways – relative to other currencies internationally and relative to goods and services domestically. It is the former that people are generally concerned about, but it should be the latter. Deflation is already outpacing the ability of central bankers and governments to ‘print money’ (monetize debt), and in a deflation, cash is king, relative to goods and services.

You need liquidity, and you need it in a form that will be accepted in your locality, whatever that currency is worth relative to others. As a fully liquid cash equivalent, you could also consider short term bonds (30-90 days) issued by your own government, as long as your government isn’t Zimbabwe or anywhere comparable.  Our horizons will contract drastically as we move towards a far more local world – a world where trading one currency for another might not be possible at all for most people. For most people, the time to think internationally is over. Credit expansion effectively shrank the world and turned it into a global village, but the world is about to get much larger again. Continue reading “The Special Relativity of Currencies”