The “Sugar-Rush” Economy

This post The “Sugar-Rush” Economy appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

It’s useful to think of the economy as we’ve known it as the “sugar-rush economy.” Allow me to explain.

Scientific research indicates that heavy doses of refined sugar may impact the human brain in a manner similar to addictive drugs. Stanford professor and neuroscientist Eric Stice has run experiments using MRI scans to study how our brains respond to sweetness. Consuming sugar releases dopamine, the brain’s “reward” chemical. The impact is similar to that of cocaine and other addictive drugs.

After scanning hundreds of volunteers, Stice concluded that heavy sugar consumers steadily build up a tolerance. The result: One must consume more and more sugar to release the same amount of dopamine. This process dampens the “reward center” of your brain in response to food.

The rising tolerance of the human brain to drugs (or sugar) mirrors how economies can build up a tolerance to government deficits and central bank stimulus. Balanced budgets and shrinking money supplies would bring about withdrawal symptoms that crash the economy.

So in order to maintain the status quo, the prescription is more drugs, more sugar, more spending and money printing. And if the effect starts to wane and withdrawal symptoms appear, the economists running policy predictably say, “Double the dose!”

Bubble-driven economies build up a tolerance for ever-higher doses of money and credit. The “Austrian” School of economics warns that once economies fall into addiction, the long-term consequences are tragic: either a deflationary collapse or hyperinflation. I agree with that assessment.

An alternative path might be a policy that proactively weans the system from addiction, but such a policy is politically impossible these days.

The Federal Reserve, along with every other central bank, has for the past decade been trying to prop up an unstable mountain of debt while simultaneously avoiding the collapse of confidence in their currencies.

The Fed’s rate hikes in 2017 and 2018 were partly to rebuild confidence in the dollar. Nothing builds confidence in paper money like being able to earn a positive real interest rate while holding it on deposit.

But we know how that confidence-building exercise ended at the end of 2018. The Fed retreated at the first sign of adversity and went right back to placating the financial system tantrum with sugar.

Interest rates on U.S. dollar bank deposits and Treasury bills were above zero for such a short period of time that the economic system barely had any time to get used to it. Now we face the prospect of zero interest rates for years into the future.

That might sound good if you are a borrower, but don’t forget that there’s a lender on the other side of the transaction. And in today’s economy, lenders employ many Americans and earn interest that’s passed on to pensioners. There are clear consequences to endless zero rates, as Japan’s financial system has shown everyone.

The Fed was in a difficult balancing act over the entirety of the post-2008 economic recovery. Now throw in the radical uncertainty of …read more

Urgent Questions

This post Urgent Questions appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

“Failure to comply with this order will result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in prison…”

We woke this morning to this menacing threat. It came issuing from the loudspeaker of a prowling police cruiser.

It mandated residents to remain indoors (unless necessary)… else take the consequences described.

“We are all in this together,” the recorded message concluded — exhorting a spirit of solidarity among the homebound, a sense of shared wartime sacrifice.

Together… yet separate, isolated, desolate.

And so it has come to pass…

The land of the free has become the land of the locked down. And the home of the brave is the home of the fearful.

Viewing the slaughter in New York City, the hysteria appears warranted…

Horror in New York

The city has endured some 1,100 fatalities… and underprepared hospitals overflow with COVID-19 cases.

Nurses and doctors are falling in the line of duty, condemned by the very patients they mean to save.

Refrigerator trucks have been repurposed as makeshift morgues.

We are warned additional cities can expect parallel miseries.

The latest figures have United States infections at 206,207. They may run into the many millions eventually.

National fatalities presently exceed 4,000.

The medical men project 100,000–200,000 ultimate fatalities nationwide. And these grim figures assume a very severe and effective “social distancing.”

Deaths could run to the millions without it — again, so we are told.

Yet the questions are so many… and the answers so few.

Questions, Questions, Questions

Will the slightest exposure to the virus afflict you with a life and death battle? Or will only a heavier infestation breach your defenses?

Is the mass production of ventilators the solution? Or is it largely a waste of dear resources?

One New Orleans physician reports that 70–90% of the ventilated succumb to the illness regardless.

How can we even trust the numbers? In the absence of mass testing, how do we know the number of Americans with the virus? And how accurate are the tests?

Our agents report the possibility of substantial false readings in both directions.

But if many more Americans harbor the virus who never displayed symptoms… or only minor symptoms… it implies a drastically lower mortality rate.

Is it wise to switch off the economy for a virus that may murder under 1% of victims?

Off by a Factor of Three… or 300

Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis — professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University — harbors severe doubts about the figures:

The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the …read more

A Warning From the Great Depression

This post A Warning From the Great Depression appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

3.28 million.

That is the total number of unemployment claims Americans filed last week — nearly five times the prior record of 695,000, from October 1982.

“We’ve known this number was coming for a week and a half,” laments Tom Gimbel, who captains a Chicago employment agency, adding:

It doesn’t surprise me at all. When you see a city like Las Vegas get shut down, I don’t know what other options there were than seeing a number like this.

A fellow must take his comforts where he can find them these days. And precious few are on offer.

But if it is consolation you seek, here you have it: Some economists had forecast as many as 7 million claims.

Here is additional cheer, however transient: The stock market had itself another day at the races today.

Stimulus, at Last!

The Dow Jones recaptured another 1,351 points. The S&P gained 154, the Nasdaq 413.

Today’s stock market surge follows last evening’s Senate passage of a $2 trillion relief package. It is the largest ever in United States history. The vote was unanimous.

The bill includes, per CNBC:

One-time direct payments to individuals, stronger unemployment insurance, loans and grants to businesses and more health care resources for hospitals, states and municipalities. It includes requirements that insurance providers cover preventive services for COVID-19.

Qualified individuals will receive cash payments of $1,200. Couples will receive $2,400… with an additional $500 for each child.

A Lobbyist’s Dream

883 pages in length, we can only imagine the skullduggery and chicanery within, the sweet venoms the lobbyists put in.

But who has time to read all 883 pages while American life dangles by a strand? And who can say no?

The legislation next goes to the House of Representatives for the rubber stamp — which it will assuredly receive tomorrow morning when the vote is scheduled.

Then it jumps to the White House for the presidential signature. Mr. Trump has pledged to sign it “immediately.”

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said today the checks will mail within three weeks.

But as we have questioned previously… what will they accomplish?

Say’s Law

The issue at hand is not one of demand. It is one of supply. And a shuttered-in economy produces little.

Filling an idle man’s pocket with fabricated money does not increase supply. It merely increases the bid for existing supplies.

Let us not forget Say’s law — that supply creates its own demand. “Products are paid for with products,” argued Jean-Batiste Say over two centuries ago.

One man produces bread. Another produces shoes.

The cobbler who requires bread for his dinner appears before the baker. And the baker who must clad his feet appears before the baker.

They may transact in money… but money merely throws an illusory veil across their transactions.

Ultimately the baker purchases his shoes with the bread he has baked. And the cobbler purchases his bread with the shoes he has cobbled.

Concludes Monsieur Say:

Money performs but a momentary function in this double exchange; and when the transaction is finally closed, it will …read more

Get Ready for World Money

This post Get Ready for World Money appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Since Federal Reserve resources were barely able to prevent complete collapse in 2008, it should be expected that an even larger collapse will overwhelm the Fed’s balance sheet.

That’s exactly the situation we’re facing right now.

The specter of a global debt crisis suggests the urgency for new liquidity sources, bigger than those that central banks can provide. The logic leads quickly to one currency for the planet.

The task of re-liquefying the world will fall to the IMF because the IMF will have the only clean balance sheet left among official institutions. The IMF will rise to the occasion with a towering issuance of special drawing rights (SDRs), and this monetary operation will effectively end the dollar’s role as the leading reserve currency.

The Federal Reserve has a printing press, they can print dollars. The IMF also has a printing press and can print SDRs. It’s just world money that could be handed out.

The IMF could function like a central bank through more frequent issuance of SDRs and by encouraging the use of “private SDRs” by banks and borrowers.

What exactly is an SDR?

The SDR is a form of world money printed by the IMF. It was created in 1969 as the realization of an earlier idea for world money called the “bancor,” proposed by John Maynard Keynes at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944.

The bancor was never adopted, but the SDR has been going strong for 50 years. I am often asked, “If I had 100 SDRs how many dollars would that be worth? How many euros would that be worth?”

There’s a formula for determining that, and as of today there are five currencies in the formula: dollars, sterling, yen, euros and yuan. Those are the five currencies that comprise in the SDR calculation.

The important thing to realize that the SDR is a source of potentially unlimited global liquidity. That’s why SDRs were invented in 1969 (when the world was seeking alternatives to the dollar), and that’s why they will be used in the imminent future.

At the previous rate of progress, it may have taken decades for the SDR to pose a serious challenge to the dollar. But as I’ve said for years, that process could be rapidly accelerated in a financial crisis where the world needed liquidity and the central banks were unable to provide it because they still have not normalized their balance sheets from the last crisis.

“In that case,” I’ve argued previously, “the replacement of the dollar could happen almost overnight.”

Well, guess what?

We’re facing a global financial crisis worse even than 2008. That’s because each crisis is larger than the previous one. The reason has to do with the system scale. In complex dynamic systems such as capital markets, risk is an exponential function of system scale. Increasing market scale correlates with exponentially larger market collapses.

This means a market panic far larger than the Panic of 2008.

SDRs have been used before. They were issued in …read more

The Great Dollar Shortage

This post The Great Dollar Shortage appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The coronavirus pandemic is a human tragedy. It’s also an economic tragedy, as the global economy is collapsing around us.

Second-quarter U.S. GDP may drop as much as 30%, which is a staggering figure. Many economists predict a third-quarter recovery, but there are still so many unknowns that it’s impossible to say.

It’s still too soon to say when America will reopen for business. And you can’t just flip a switch and return things to normal. That’s not how economies function.

Many industries may never recover and millions may be out of work for extended periods.

At the very least, we’re heading into a severe recession. And we could well be heading for a full-scale depression.

That’s not being alarmist.

The crisis will also accelerate the collapse of the dollar as the world’s leading reserve currency. So you need to prepare now. What do I mean?

The U.S. dollar is at the center of global trade.

The dollar represents about 60% of global reserve assets, 80% of global payments and almost 100% of global oil sales. About 40% of the world’s debt is issued in dollars.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) estimates that foreign banks hold over $13 trillion in dollar-denominated assets.

All this, despite the fact that the U.S. economy only accounts for about 15% of global GDP.

The reason the dollar is the world’s leading reserve currency is because there’s a very large liquid dollar-denominated bond market. Investors can go buy 30-day 10-year, 30-year Treasury notes, etc. The point is there’s a deep, liquid dollar-denominated bond market.

But the coronavirus crisis is creating a massive problem for foreign nations dependent on the dollar.

That’s because the world is facing a critical dollar shortage.

Many observers are surprised to hear about a dollar shortage. After all, didn’t the Fed print almost $4 trillion to bail out the system after 2008?

Yes, but while the Fed was printing $4 trillion, the world was creating $100 trillion in new debt.

This huge debt pyramid was fine as long as global growth was solid and dollars were flowing out of the U.S. and into emerging markets.

But that’s no longer the case, and that’s an understatement. Global growth was anemic before the crisis hit. Now it’s contracting rapidly.

If dollars are in short supply, China can’t control its currency and emerging markets can’t roll over their debts.

But again, you might say, isn’t the Fed engaged in its most massive liquidity injections ever and extending swap lines to foreign central banks to ensure they can access dollars?

Yes, but it’s not nearly enough to meet global funding needs.

Foreign nations are scrambling to acquire dollars right now. And that surging demand for dollars only drives up the value of the dollar, which puts additional strain on their ability to service debt.

When those debt holders want their money back, $4 trillion is not enough to finance $100 trillion, unless new debt replaces the old. That’s what causes a global liquidity crisis.

We’re facing a global liquidity crisis far worse than …read more

The Only Way to Avoid Depression?

This post The Only Way to Avoid Depression? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Hope, it is said, springs eternal.

Today the stock market was up and away on hopeful wings… for it believes “fiscal stimulus” is imminent.

Nancy Pelosi gushed there was “real optimism” about a deal today. Sen. Charles Schumer conferred with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Said the senator:

There are still a few little differences. Neither of us think they are in any way going to get in the way of a final agreement.

At writing, no agreement has been reached.

The Dow Jones nonetheless regained 11.26% today, a full 2,093 points — its finest day since October 2008.

Both S&P and Nasdaq turned in comparable romps.

But when you want it bad, you often get it — bad.

Getting It Bad

We have no doubt the lobbyists have been busy. Crisis is when these swamp inhabitants sniff their chance.

Any legislation will be loaded to the rails with “stimulus” having nothing to do with the economic cataclysm before us.

But it will butter their parsnips.

Most in Congress who vote for the bill will never even read it… precisely as they failed to read the Patriot Act in 2001.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” as a certain Obama official said after the next crisis.

Coming home…

Taxpayer money will flow to the same corporations that took on record debts this past decade to conduct stock buybacks and other financial gimmickry.

Might corporations have rebuilt their balance sheets, restocked their acorns for winter, stored in reserves for lean times?

They might have, yes. Alas they did not. The lure of stock market riches tugged too strongly.

But it is laissez-faire in bountiful times — and aidez-nous when events swing against them.

But let it go for now. Consider instead this question:.

What will a deluge of fiscal stimulus accomplish… besides plunging the entire nation deeper into debt?

A Recipe for Inflation

The gears of commerce have wound to a violent and arresting halt.

The nation faces a “supply” shortage, that is — not a “demand” shortage.

It is not possible to purchase goods that do not exist.

And so massively more money will chase fewer goods. That of course writes a recipe for inflation. Potentially even hyperinflation.

Perhaps that is why gold takes impending fiscal stimulus rather differently than the stock market…

Gold went rocketing $92 today. Yes, $92.

We can recall nothing comparable.

And Goldman Sachs hollers it is time to buy this, “the currency of last resort.”

Meantime, our men inform us that acquiring physical gold is nearly impossible.

Jim Rickards warned his readers for years to purchase gold before the crisis came. It would prove impossible to find afterward, he said.

The crisis has come.

Plunging Into Depression

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs estimate second-quarter United States GDP will plummet 30%. And unemployment will run to 13%.

Morgan Stanley economists:

Economic activity has come to a near standstill in March. As social distancing measures increase in a greater number of areas and as financial conditions tighten further, the negative effects on near-term GDP growth become that much greater.

These crackerjacks project a third-quarter recovery springing …read more

Rickards: It’ll Get Worse it Before It Gets Better

This post Rickards: It’ll Get Worse it Before It Gets Better appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

We’re well into the coronavirus pandemic at this point. As of this writing, there are 360,765 reported infections and 15,491 deaths worldwide.

Over the next few days, you may be certain that those numbers will be significantly higher.

That’s how pandemics work. The cases and fatalities don’t grow in a linear fashion; they grow exponentially.

It’s widely acknowledged that this pandemic will get much worse before it gets better. There’s no doubt about that.

It didn’t take long for the coronavirus crisis to turn into an economic and financial crisis.

The Worst Collapse Since the Great Depression

The U.S. is falling into the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression in 1929. This will be worse than the dot-com collapse of 2000–01 and worse than the Great Recession and global financial crisis of 2008–09.

Don’t be surprised to see second-quarter GDP drop by 10% or more and for the unemployment rate to race past 10% on its way to 15% or higher.

The questions for economists are whether the lost output will be permanent or temporary and whether U.S. growth will return to trend or settle on a new path that is below the pre-virus trend.

Some lost expenditure may just be a timing difference. If I plan to buy a new car this month and decide not to buy it until August, that’s just a timing difference; the sale is not permanently lost.

But if I don’t go out for dinner tonight and then do go out a month from now, I’m not going to order two dinners. The skipped dinner is a permanent loss.

Unfortunately, 70% of the U.S. economy is based on consumption and the majority of that consists of services rather than goods. This suggests that much of the coronavirus impact will consist of permanent losses, not timing differences.

More important is the question of whether growth returns to trend by next year or follows a new lower trend. (Bear in mind that “trend” for the past 11 years has been 2.2% growth compared with average growth in all recoveries since 1980 of 3.2%; any decline in trend growth would be from an already low base.)

This is unknown, but the result will be as much psychological as policy driven.

The Fed’s Bazooka Is Empty

In situations like this, the standard policy response is for the Fed to cut rates, which it has certainly done.

The Fed has also launched massive amounts of quantitative easing.

In addition, they have guaranteed or offered credit facilities to banks, primary dealers, money market funds, the municipal bond market and commercial paper issuers so far.

Now the central bank has taken the unprecedented step of committing to buy as many U.S. government bonds and mortgage-backed securities as needed to keep the market functioning.

The problem is that the Fed’s programs won’t work as a form of stimulus. We’re seeing a supply shock as the economy grinds to a standstill. What’s everyone going to buy with all the money?

Still, they may …read more

Go Big or Go Home

This post Go Big or Go Home appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

To understand why the financial dominoes toppled by the Covid-19 pandemic lead to global insolvency, let’s start with a household example. The point of this exercise is to distinguish between the market value of assets and net worth, which is what’s left after debts are subtracted from the market value of assets.

Let’s say the household has done very well for itself and owns assets worth $1 million: a home, a family business, 401K retirement accounts and a portfolio of stocks and other investments.

The household also has $500,000 in debts: home mortgage, auto loans, student loans and credit card balances.

The household net worth is thus $1,00‌0,00‌0 minus $500,000 = $500,000.

Let’s say a typical financial crisis and recession occur, and the household’s assets fall 30%. 30% of $1 million is $300,000, so the market value of the household’s assets falls to $700,000.

Deduct the $500,000 in debts and the household’s net worth has fallen to $200,000. The point here is debts remain regardless of what happens to the market value of assets owned by the household.

Then the speculative asset bubbles re-inflate, and the household takes on more debt in the euphoric expansion of confidence to buy a larger house, expand the family business and enjoy life more.

Now the household assets are worth $2 million, but debt has risen to $1.5 million. Net worth remains at $500,000, since debt has risen along with asset values.

Alas, all bubbles pop, and the market value of the household assets decline by 30%, or $600,000. Now the household assets are worth $2,00‌0,00‌0 minus $600,000 or $1,400,000. The household net worth is now $1,40‌0,00‌0 minus $1,50‌0,00‌0 or negative $100,000. The household is insolvent.

On top of that, the net income of the family business plummets to near-zero in the recession, leaving insufficient income to pay all the debts the household has taken on.

This is an exact analog for the entire global economy, which pre-pandemic had assets with a market value of $350 trillion and debts of $255 trillion and thus a net worth of around $100 trillion.

The $11 trillion that has evaporated in the market value of U.S. stocks is only a taste of the losses in market value. Global stock markets has lost $30 trillion, and once yields rise despite central bank manipulations (oops, I mean intervention), $30 trillion in the market value of bonds will vanish into thin air.

The market value of junk bonds has already plummeted by trillions, and that’s not even counting the trillions lost in small business equity, shadow banking and a host of other non-tradable assets.

Then there’s the most massive asset bubble of all, real estate. Millions of properties delusional owners still think are worth $1.4 million will soon revert to a more reality-based valuation around $400,000, or perhaps even less, meaning $1 million per property will melt into air.

Once the market value of global assets falls by $100 trillion, the world is insolvent.

Everyone expecting the financial markets to …read more

It’s Over

This post It’s Over appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The financial elites are pushing a narrative that asset prices, sales and profits will all return to January 2020 levels as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic fades.

Get real, baby.

Nothing is going back to January 2020 levels. Rather than the “V-shaped recovery” expected by Goldman Sachs et al., the crash in asset prices will eventually gather momentum.

Why? It’s simple: for 20 years we’ve over-invested in speculative bubbles and squandered borrowed money on consumption and under-invested in productivity-increasing assets.

To understand why the market value of assets will relentlessly reprice lower, a process sure to be interrupted with manic rallies and false dawns of hope that a return to speculative good times is just around the corner, let’s start with the basics:

The only sustainable way to increase broad-based wealth is to boost productivity across the entire economy.

That means producing more goods and services with less capital, less labor and fewer inputs such as energy.

Rather than boost productivity, we’ve lowered productivity via mal-investment and by propping up unproductive sectors with immense sums of borrowed money.

The poster child for this dynamic is higher education: rather than being pushed to innovate as costs skyrocketed, the higher education cartel passed its inefficiencies and bloated cost structure onto students, who have paid for the bloat with $1. 6 trillion in student loans few can afford.

As for Corporate America squandering $4.5 trillion on stock buybacks, the effective gains on productivity from this stupendous sum is not just zero. It’s negative, as the resulting speculative bubble suckered in institutions and individuals who’d been stripped of safe returns by the Federal Reserve’s low-interest-rates-forever policy.

What could that $4.5 trillion have purchased in terms of increasing the productivity of the entire economy?

Considerably more than the zero productivity generated by stock buybacks. The net result of uneven gains in productivity and the asymmetric distribution of whatever gains have been made is stagnant wages for the bottom 90% and rising costs for everyone.

Those of us who are self-employed or owners of small businesses know that healthcare insurance costs have been ratcheting higher by 10% or more annually for years.

Whatever gains in health that have been purchased with the additional trillions of dollars poured into the healthcare cartels have been offset with declining life spans, soaring addictions to opioids and numerous broad-based declines in overall health.

The widespread addiction to smartphones and social media have deranged and distracted millions, crushing productivity while greatly increasing loneliness, insecurity and a host of social ills.

Two dynamics define the economy in the 21st century:

1. We have substituted debt-driven speculation for productive investment

2. We have substituted debt for earnings

This is why the repricing of speculative-bubble assets can’t be stopped: debt-driven speculation is not a sustainable substitute for investing in increasing productivity, and debt-fueled consumption masquerading as “investment” is not a sustainable substitute for limiting consumption to what we earn and save.

All bubbles pop, period. Once Corporate America’s credit lines are pulled and its revenues and profits plummet, the financial manipulation …read more

A Disease of the Mind

This post A Disease of the Mind appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

What are we afraid of? In recent weeks, I have been travelling around the globe and observing the rapid emptying of airports.

Does this mean that most people are in a panic over a new form of highly infectious flu?

It called to mind my studies long ago with the great economist and game theorist Thomas Schelling, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2005 mostly for his theories of “micromotives and macrobehavior.”

His book by that title showed that such phenomena as empty airports or traffic-jammed freeways or even segregated communities could reflect only the slightest changes in mindset.

Even small changes in people’s minds, oriented in the same direction, can effect massive changes in people’s collective behavior.

“Though a society can resist epidemics of physical disease,” as I paraphrase philosopher-psychologist Karl Jung in Wealth & Poverty…

“It is defenseless against diseases of the mind. Against ‘psychic epidemics’ our laws and medicines and great factories and fortunes are virtually helpless.”

We’re currently facing a disease of the mind as well as a disease of the body.

Before my weekend break, my publisher interviewed me on the impact of the coronavirus.

Hey, I also have views on Tom Brady, quantum computing, President Trump, artificial intelligence, Bernie Sanders, integrated circuits, Pope Francis, 5G, Ronan Farrow, Wi-Fi 6, Kobe Bryant, the electromagnetic spectrum and Harvey Weinstein, among others.

I also have views on women that are too salacious to divulge at my age.

I share with most other commentators a lack of any relevant expertise or knowledge on the subject of the virus.

I suppose that under duress I could tell you the difference between bacteria and viruses. I am not altogether clear why a virus is harder for the immune system to combat, though I suppose it has something to do with the virus hitchhiking on other cells, using its Trojan horse strategy.

You get the picture, an ignoramus with the usual smattering of conventional knowledge — what the great Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset called a “barbarian of specialization.”

I parlay my knowledge of certain particular fields into opinions on subjects on which I know little.

The barbarians are invading everywhere these days, using their confidence as actors, or microchip experts, or lawyers, or doctors of philosophy, or politicians to express confident opinions on subjects they know nothing about, such as God or CV-19.

I have a brilliant daughter who is a physician at a refugee camp in Thailand and may be in charge of its response. She believes anti-malarial drugs may be effective. I have a son who works for American Airlines and a daughter-in-law who works for JetBlue.

They can comment on the impact on the travel industry. It is understandably dire, but air travel is not going to go away.

I’ve had the flu from time to time and I’ve been to China, Italy and London.

Diamonds Form Under Pressure

What I do know something about is capitalism and markets. The barbarians today seem to believe that a crisis is …read more

It Could Last 18 Months — “or Longer”

This post It Could Last 18 Months — “or Longer” appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

547.5 days. 78.2 weeks. 18 months. “Or longer.”

That is how long the coronavirus scourge may endure. This we learn by way of The New York Times.

It has done us all a capital service by executing a rare feat of journalism.

For its spies have captured a government document “not for public distribution or release.”

From which:

A pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness… Increasing COVID-19 suspected or confirmed cases in the U .S. will result in increased hospitalizations among at-risk individuals, straining the health care system… Supply chain and transportation impacts due to ongoing COVID-19 outbreak will likely result in significant shortages for government, private sector and individual U.S. consumers.

Potentially critical shortages may occur of medical supplies and staffing, due to illnesses among public health and medical workers, and potentially also due to exhaustion. SLTT governments (state, local, tribal and territorial), as well as health systems will be stressed and potentially less reliable. Health systems may run low on resources inhibiting the ability to make timely transitions between postures and maintenance of efficacy.

We are precious sick of the coronavirus after four days of home jailing.

How can any man withstand 18 months — “or longer”?

And how can the economy hold?

Consider one week of deadness upon the automobile industry. Reports auto man Eric Peters:

If people stop buying new cars for one week because dealers are forced to close shop – which has already happened in at least one state — or because instantly unemployed people are no longer shopping for new cars — it will cost the car industry $7.3 billion in earnings — and cost 94,400 Americans their jobs. It would also cost the government some $2 billion in taxes.

That’s one week. How about three months?

Indeed… how about 18 months?

We stagger and reel at the prospect.

Meantime, the National Restaurant Association — this organization has actual existence — projects its industry will shed “5–7 million jobs.”

We expect hotels and the tourist trade to withstand parallel holocausts.

In the immediate run…

JPMorgan’s primary U.S. economist, Michael Feroli by name, has hacksawed his second-quarter GDP forecast to a ghastly 14% drop.

The third and fourth quarters may yield a recovery. But that is far from certain if the virus remains amok.

And how about six entire quarters?

“If life doesn’t get back to normal for ‘18 months,’” argues catastrophist Michael Snyder, “we are going to witness a societal meltdown of epic proportions.”

More from whom:

If the entire world shut down for 30 days, this pandemic would quickly be brought under control. If only the U.S. shuts down, it is inevitable that the virus would keep coming back into the country as the pandemic continues raging elsewhere on the globe.

Of course we aren’t going to get the entire globe to agree to shut down simultaneously for 30 days.

So this outbreak will continue to spread and the case numbers …read more

“Hell Is Coming”

IMG 1

This post “Hell Is Coming” appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

We sense that we are among unrealities…

It is as if some hinge, deep within the national psychology, has suddenly given way.

The daily rites of life are suspended. Businesses, schools and arenas the nation over have gone dark. Travel is hopeless…. and borders are sealed shut.

Unemployment claims are piling up. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has suggested they may ultimately scale a depression-level 20%.

San Francisco residents are under house arrest, confined to barracks 24 hours of the day. Emergencies and food shopping provide the only officially sanctioned furloughs.

(Our spies report large numbers of lawless who are flouting the ban.)

Rumors are on foot that other municipalities — New York City included — will follow.

USNS Comfort — a hospital ship — is presently plowing a course for New York Harbor, under presidential orders.

An identical vessel steams for the West Coast.

You Can’t Even Go to Church

Locally, a blanketing hush has fallen over the city of Baltimore. Residents have abandoned the streets. Dining and ale houses are shuttered.

Those who hazard a public appearance approach one another with suspicion… as if every stranger has a gun in his hand and murder on his mind.

Even the churches have suspended their Godly operations, their flocks scattered to the winds:

Even in wartime a fellow can take refuge in the comforting arms of God. But not when a pestilence is loose.

Yet the trees near our office are in blossom:

And old Washington keeps his reassuring watch over the city:

And we shall remain chained to our post… bound in solemn duty.

Three Years of Gains Wiped Out

The stock market went to the devil again today.

The Dow Jones slipped into the 18,000s today. It “recovered” to 19,899 by closing whistle… a 1,338-point loss on the day.

The S&P shed another 130 points; the Nasdaq 345.

Thus all market gains since Mr. Trump assumed his office are eliminated — three years of gains into the furnace.

“We’re only about halfway there,” hazards one trader. That of course being the bottom.

Gold, meantime, absorbed another slating today, down $30 and change.

But the 10-year Treasury yield went shooting in the other direction…

Yields vaulted 27% to 1.266%.

The reason is the promise of economic “stimulus” (more on which below).

The “Coronavirus Investment Summit”

Jim Rickards predicted the coronavirus scourge in early February, before markets caught the fever.

Wrote Jim in an email dated Feb. 5:

The real infection rate and death rate may be 10 times the official statistics… If you want to see how bad things can get, study the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918–20. Over 50 million dead.

And while the stock market was thundering down, Jim’s readers enjoyed the opportunity to nearly triple their money with one of his recommended trades — in one single day.

“Hell Is Coming”

We presently confront a springtime not of growth and life but of sickness and death.

And the carefree days of summer will likely yield to the careful days of summer… heavy with the mighty fear of a miniature bug.

The president — after all — …read more