As I begin my further analysis of the unfolding political/economic factors facing the global markets I seek your indulgence and set the table by quoting from what I believe is one of the most significant chapters in western literature. Notes From Underground takes its title from the essay of the same name of by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The tagline, 2+2=5, is a summation by Dostoyevsky to poke at the Rationalists of his day. But the chapter of note is from the novel The Brothers Karamazov titled, “The Grand Inquisitor.” The scene is set as the Grand Inquisitor has arrested the Christ figure for daring to upset the social order that the Church has created. The entire chapter is so moving but allow me to quote a small part:
Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’
As 2014 draws to a close, the financial landscape is definitely a tale of two disparate economies as the U.S. reports 5 percent GDP while Europe struggles to maintain zero growth and avoid “recession.” (I despise the official definition of a recession being two consecutive quarters of negative growth.) In Spain, Italy, Greece Portugal, France and other countries, double-digit unemployment defines a recession and the potential it brings for political turmoil.
First, on the geopolitical front the enforcement of sanctions on Russia is being met with disdain by some large European corporations. French energy giant Total is in talks with the largest privately held Russian energy company Lukoil to develop gas and oil fields using the latest drilling techniques. On Wednesday, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser met directly with Russian President Putin and assured him that Siemens will not let temporal political problems upset the solid business relationship that the German conglomerate has developed with Russian technology and medical groups. The use of sanctions is problematic in a world defined by business interests. The German small and medium enterprises have vast business relations with Russia and it is estimated that 500,000 jobs are related to the export side of the equation. Russia sends energy and Germany responds with advanced, highly engineered products.
Notes From Underground: Are the Sanctionists Playing Russian Roulette With the U.S. Global Financial Position?March 25, 2014
The theme of this blog has been and will continue to be that nothing is as it seems on the surface. In an effort to be as non-partisan as possible, a question arises over the G-7’s immediacy to place sanctions on Putin’s pals as retribution for Russia’s aggression on the Ukraine and Crimea. The use of sanctions under the control of the U.S. Treasury Department and its potential harmful effects on any nation’s economy forces the question: Why would global financial entities desire to do business in dollars or with U.S. domiciled financial institutions? Any time that the U.S. government questions the foreign policy demands of another country, will sanctions be the initial response? If China tomorrow chooses a military response to the issue of the Senkaku Islands, would the U.S. push for sanctions against Chinese financial institutions out of respect for the U.S. alliance with Japan?
The news out of the Crimea places the vote on the referendum at 95.5 percent in favor Russian control. The outcome was predetermined but one would think that the pro-Russian faction would have at least fixed the results to make it appear somewhat legit. Why, it makes me wonder if the Chicago boys had been secretly brought into the Crimea to garner such a ridiculous outcome. Now the EU and the U.S. are going to find sanctions to make the oligarchs and other hoarders of Russian wealth suffer the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s 19th century actions. But this will not be a one-sided affair as Russia will be able to invoke counter measures of its own. There are many things to ponder:
Last Sunday I warned in a blog post that the Ukraine situation would heat up after the Olympics as Vladimir Putin would not wish to draw attention away from his beloved event as he did during the Beijing Olympics by maneuvering against Georgia. Right on cue the Russians moved against the Crimea in an effort to protect its geographic and strategic interests. The Crimea has been extremely important to the Russians for 300 years as the tsars desired a warm-water port to allow Russian commerce and imperial designs to proceed even when the Northern waters were frozen during the winter months. The Russians will defend their interests just like any other world power and it is in their immediate backyard. The Europeans and U.S. can threaten sanctions and other such nonsense but as Churchill noted long ago, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” (October 1939)
As the U.S. Congress and executives continue the pursuit of political one-upmanship, it seems as if nothing else matters in the global finance. European banks, German politics, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, IMF upgrading the British economic outlook … nope nothing going on except in the BOWELS of Washington. The U.S. has the media’s focus but today the Washington drama affected the bond markets in a very serious way. At 10:30 a.m. CST, Treasury auctioned 4-week TREASURY BILLS at 0.35%, the highest since October 2008, as markets are beginning to WORRY about some type of U.S. government default. There was a lack of bidders for the short-term BILLS as bond traders and market makers worry that default fears will make certain debt instruments unacceptable as collateral.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn delivered a speech today in Beijing, lambasting the leadership of Europe for its “state of denial” about the severity of the credit crisis. It seems that an angry DSK is speaking his mind now that he has no official capacity and can lash out at European leaders. The former IMF managing director was well received by his Chinese hosts who showed their appreciation for all the work DSK did to elevate the status of the Chinese in the IMF.
It was a day of dueling flapjawing as the European elite was out talking about everything that needs to be done to save the EURO and Sarkozy promising that there would not be any European defaults. Again to paraphrase Jimmy Breslin: Sarkozy is a little man in search of a balcony. The time for public orations is past and the call to action is immediate and real. Global investors don’t want any more rhetoric. Next Friday is considered the day of reckoning but if the EUROCRATS have any sense all the needed policy will have been put in place by the December 9th meeting so that the markets will have absorbed the “shock and awe” and there will be no disappointment.
(Another day older and deeper in debt.)
No surprises from the ECB as they held rates at 1.5% as Trichet ended his reign at the helm of European banking by paying homage to the FONZ: Never admit that you were wrong. The ECB did announce that it was extending its policy of providing liquidity to EUROZONE banks at extremely low rates for a period of 12 and 13 months in an effort to prevent any immediate bank run. Also, the ECB announced that it would buy up to 40 billion euro of covered bonds, but that should not be a big deal for covered bonds are the best collateral so many banks will probably not be running for funding posting the highest rated debt.