Saturday, October 22, 2011

FROM ARAB SPRING TO RADICAL ISLAMIST WINTER

FROM ARAB SPRING TO RADICAL ISLAMIST WINTER

I have watched over the past few days the Euro-news, British television and newspaper coverage of the capture and murder, yes murder of Colonel Gaddafi.

The fact that he was a cruel sadistic ruthless dictator has been proven beyond doubt. His direct and alleged involvement in murder on British soil of an innocent policewoman and the downing of the Pan Am flight are unpardonable crimes against humanity. How dreadful to see a British Prime Minister and an American President greeting, embracing and in Tony Blair’s case subsequently befriending, such a monster.

But what is even worse is showing live TV footage of a man, covered in blood, begging for his life, moments before his slaughter. How extraordinary that despite seeing at least 20 witnesses of this barbarous event on video, the current “official version” is that no-one really knows quite how he died.

How would we react to witnessing an unarmed SAS soldier, or innocent contract  worker, executed in this manner? Does anyone remember Mogadishu?

Equally abhorrent is the continued coverage given to the corpse of ex President Gadaffi, “lying in state” half naked in what looks like a warehouse surrounded by boxes and rubbish. This bijoux location was clearly chosen and maintained by our much vaunted allies the new regime in Libya. Have they no shame?

Is the West using this macabre scene to send shivers up the spine of Syria and Iran?

Does Gadaffi have no wife, no children, no relatives, no members of his tribe, with a right to grieve with dignity at a moment of immense distress, at least for them if for no-one else? If it is only 20% from his tribe, assuming they have not already been ethnically cleansed, this is still one million people, from whom no doubt we will see a next generation of Jihadists.

We should denounce this despicable act and make all efforts to bring the murderer to justice, otherwise we show ourselves to be nothing better than those we so freely condemn. Why else did we have the Nuremburg trials and now an International Court of Justice? Equally the Western media and the press should use their blessed freedom, enjoyed in very few countries in the world, to inform and educate not merely to acquiesce in a form of journalism that only stimulates the most base of human instincts.

As for our coalition “leadership” Messrs Sarkozy, Cameron and Rasmussen may well be busy congratulating themselves on their “victory” but it appears that they have done little more that replace one murderous tyrant with an equally bloodthirsty and savage interim government.

Perhaps when they we watch the Arab Spring turn into the Radical Islamist Winter they will begin to understand what they have really done.

Friday, October 21, 2011

IRISH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

IRISH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

With the mid term holidays looming next week, I was scraping the bottom of the drawers working out how to raise some spare cash.

I have of course been completely outclassed by a truly inspirational person, who shows a level of Entrepreneurial spirit, if not accomplishment, at least on a par with the late Steve Jobs.

A man from Northern Ireland has been jailed after an experiment in which he attempted to turn his own feces into gold went wrong and started a fire in a block of flats.

Paul Moran will now serve three months in jail and a further 12 months on license after the failed experiment caused a fire at his Housing Executive home in Derrin Park, Ennis Killen.

Moran admitted arson and endangering the lives of others in the fire, which reportedly caused over £3,000 worth of damage.

It is thought that as part of the bizarre experiment Moran left his feces, along with other waste products such as fertilizer, on a heater.

In his ruling Judge McFarland told Moran: “Rather bizarrely you were attempting to make gold from human feces and waste products.

“It was an interesting experiment to fulfill the alchemist’s dream, but wasn’t going to succeed.”

This should give inspiration also to our global financial leaders, who have almost succeeded in reverse engineering the process.

Certainly they have succeeded with the USD the EUR and CHF but so far they have failed miserably with Gold.

However failure for these people will probably be rewarded not by a prison sentence but by a Nobel prize for Economics!!!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

THE BEST LAID SCHEMES OF MICE AND MEN

THE BEST LAID SCHEMES OF MICE AND MEN

We are witnessing a unique period in history. All the latent divisions in Europe, present since the beginning of the EU project and papered over, are coming to the surface and Europe as we know it is being torn apart.

Citizens of the rich industrialized countries do not want to pay for the profligacy and irresponsibility of their neighbors, by increased taxes or taking over massive debts.

Why then despite all the evidence and grass roots revolt from the ordinary citizens are the politicians ignoring the voice of the people and trying so hard to hold their “Utopia” together, by further creation of massive debts?

The plain truth is that the elected politicians do not answer to the people; they simply require the people to vote periodically to get them elected. To achieve this a politician needs notoriety and most of all funding; witness the tragic spectacle of the US Presidential elections. 

Thereafter they answer to their real bosses, the business and financial elites and their lobbyist minders, whose funding got them elected. If they play the game it will ensure that they will be re-elected, step out of line, show any sign of integrity, loyalty to country, and by bye birdie.

Why would these forces, hidden in full view, wish their bought and paid for politicians to bury the wealthier nations in the debts of their poorer neighbors?

The only way to realize the dream of a truly United Europe with one government is to destroy national identity, the undeclared goal of the Euro project from the beginning. There are two ways to destroy nation states the first by War, tried and failed twice in Europe, or by debt; project ongoing!!!

Debt enslaves the poor and profligate nations for generations, and bail outs ensnare and reduce to servitude the prudent and more affluent.

The purpose of all this leveling of the playing field serves the interests of power hungry unelected bureaucrats, Brussels politicians, banks and major multinationals who see markets for their ubiquitous products increased by the transfer of your wealth into ever wider hands. None of the above parties will feel the pain of this change being insulated by fat salaries benefits packages and bonuses.

The means of implementing this transformation however, have to be subtle; otherwise the general population will wake up and really revolt as in France in 1789. Softly, softly does it. The mechanisms used include:

Quantitative Easing”QE” to be used by central banks to buy government bonds, on terms for which there would be no other buyers. This artificially keeps interest rates down, otherwise government financing costs would skyrocket and the world would see the truth.

Low interest rates, designed to strip wealth from the saver who is forced to live off capital. This is a much more effective, instantaneously implementable, completely undemocratic means of wealth redistribution, and unlike taxes, need not even be voted on. Just a grandiose non-explanatory statement from a Central banker will suffice.

Competitive currency devaluation, again achieved by money printing, is much loved by the Swiss National Bank. This is a stealth default on bonds, and also on the currency in your pocket, which due to inflation, become worth infinitely less in purchasing power.

In the face of this integrated functioning system of destruction and redistribution of wealth, over which the ordinary citizen has almost no understanding and absolutely no control, where is there a safe haven?

Traditionally the answer was Gold & Silver, where given the combined effect of all the above the prices should already have skyrocketed.

Why then has this not happened?

Because a Cartel composed of Governments, Central Banks; Global  banks, notably JPMorgan and HSBC intervene and suppress Gold & Silver prices in all markets around the world, 24/7 by a practice known as short selling. This is the practice that European Governments have tried their best to prevent concerning Government bonds and Bank shares, but apparently it is perfectly acceptable if it concerns Gold & Silver and the related shares, and the Government is doing it. This will be discussed much more in a later post.

This merging of State and Industry and Banks is the very definition of a Statist economy, and the antithesis of a free market system, and although it is masked by the bungling exterior appearances of the EU leadership, Barosso, Von Rompuy and La Baronne Ashton, the underlying trend is very sinister.

The reality is malinvestment and mismanagement has taken the system to a breaking point. Intervention in every form, QE, low interest rates, stock market, Gold & Silver and commodity price manipulation, is having less and less impact. Internal conflicts between states such as France and Germany are becoming increasingly fractious as each desperately tries to get the best deal for themselves. In short the centrally planned “Utopia” is in its death throes. Being a Scotsman I quote the immortal words of Robbie Burns which summarizes the situation perfectly:

The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy”




BANKERS SET ATHENS ON FIRE

BANKERS SET ATHENS ON FIRE

While watching the fires burn in Athens and listening to news commentators “analyze” the situation, perhaps there is merit in looking at the root causes and not the sensational headline provoking side effects.

The origin of the Greek problem is no different from the malaise in the UK the US and the EEC. The Greek citizen is no more immoral or lazy than the rest. Indeed Greeks are among the greatest innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, businessmen the planet has ever seen, for example Onassis, Niarchos, Livanos, Latsis, Sir Stelios and many more.

History has dealt Greece some cruel blows; they picked the wrong side in WW 1, and were defeated in their expansionist folly against Turkey. The Greek people endured acute hardship in WW 2 with occupation, bombardment, executions, disease and starvation. In the post war period they had the Colonels and a slew of utterly corrupt politicians set on establishing their own dynasty, including the Papandreou's 

The father Papandreou, jailed by Metaxas the fascist leader for being a “Trotskyite”, escaped to the US and even obtained a PhD from Harvard, would you believe in Economics. He could hardly say "I know nothing." The son George the current Greek Prime Minister of course benefited enormously from his father's connections, to the political, financial and business leaders of the US.

From the above description, Greece was hardly an ideal new member of industrialized, post war northern European countries. The International community, bankers, businessmen knew this full well.

They also knew full well that the few elite families paid no taxes, many officially living in London or Monaco, but in reality taking their private helicopters from their Mansions in Athens to Piraeus etc. and returning at night to party.


The international financial community knew from day 1 that burdening Greece with excessive debt would result in default, but did it anyway, without consulting with the people. Haven’t we seen this somewhere near to us?

The multiple objectives were earn fees on debt issuance, give the Greek people the good time they were previously deprived of, create masses of new jobs in the public sector, making it much easier for  politicians to get re-elected. Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would have been proud of theses achievements!! The resulting debt would be stuffed into the investment portfolios of major Western banks. This new disposable “phony wealth” in Greece boosted export markets for Germany the UK   etc. all kinds of products, from cars to washing machines to air conditioners, and most importantly made the elitist families in Greece extremely RICH

Everybody was very happy with the fact that the bankers with full knowledge aforethought had saddled Greece with an unsustainable debt load.

Why were the bankers not worried about the situation they had created, because that was their plan from the beginning.

In the event of default, they would strip Greece, a country of thousands of years of history, of its income producing assets, in a fire price sale, and leave enough debts left over to ensure the Greek people are in servitude to the banks for decades. Because it would be inelegant to do this directly, the means to achieve this are the IMF, the de facto debt collector for the world's rich countries charged with stripping the poor countries of what they own.


When the IMF flies to a country, in private jets of course, they usually come accompanied by the same investment bankers who advised when the loans were granted. They invite a horde of multinational CEO's with a pre-prepared shopping list of what they intend to take, advised of course by the same investment banking firms in completing the deal.

If for any reason the target country tells them to go to hell, then they play the "they have betrayed us, they are lazy, they are stupid, they fraudulently misled us, we need a bail out, or our bank will fail and the Western financial system will collapse” In other words the usual litany. Just look at the French banks and Morgan Stanley if in any doubt.

The essential feature is that the bankers should never lose.

So where is Papandreou in all this is he an elitist globalist, actively selling his own country down the river, or is he defending the interests of the sovereign Greek state. I leave you to be the judge.

My fervent hope is that the Greeks will show the courage of their ancestors, and tell these corrupt politicians, bankers etc. where to go. They will, after a period of great hardship, similar to that experienced recently in Iceland, be able to return to what they were, not stripped of their freedom, their assets, their dignity and identity and indebted for generations to come.

Let this situation be a warning to any other excessively indebted country seeking IMF help or indeed any form of bail out. The IMF has played this game countless times before, the victim only once.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PAGING MR HILDEBRAND


The SNB took a further step towards disaster this week with the decision to maintain the peg with the EUR.

The CHF is a currency of refuge in times of crisis. It is the currency of a country which is not insolvent, has properly funded social liabilities and the lowest level of debt in the OECD.  Hence in a world where all other countries are printing money and debasing their money the CHF should be even more attractive.

For the Swiss Citizen this as all good, the imports are cheap and purchasing power abroad is very strong. The strong currency poses problems for multinationals seeing their profits, and management bonuses in CHF fall, for exporters whose profit margins can be severely squeezed and for the tourism sector for the same reason. All these groups have powerful lobbying bodies, enough to ensure policy changes “for the greater good”.

Enter the SNB which has vowed to purchase “unlimited quantities” of  EUR to defend the CHF 1.20 exchange rate barrier. The ECB was luke warm to say the least in its reaction to the SNB decision, observing that it had been informed of the SNB decision and “this decision has been taken by the SNB under its responsibility” Pontius Pilate could not have washed his hands of the whole affair any better.
What are the intended and unintended consequences?
In simple terms the SNB strategy can be summarized as the more the EUR becomes worthless through money printing, sovereign debt default, or attacks by predatorial speculators, the more the SNB will buy. No Swiss “hausfrau” or “bon père de famille” would ever contemplate doing something so irresponsible.
The more EUR the SNB owns the bigger the danger. If it buys EUR 300 Billon and the EUR goes down a further 10%, a loss of CHF 30 Billion, then the SNB is instantaneously bankrupted. At present we are about half way there. The losses over the last 18 months are USD 29 Billion, 12 times more than the rogue trader at UBS.
This strategy has the risk of turning the SNB into a highly leveraged hedge fund instead of a guarantor of the stability of the currency.
If Greece defaults followed by the other PIIGS then all bets are off and a run on the Swiss Franc could very easily ensue. Thanks to the SNB you could then sell your EUR and get your CHF at bargain basement prices subsidized by the Swiss taxpayer.
Currency speculators the world over are cognizant of this situation, but for the moment there are richer pickings elsewhere, however Switzerland’s time will come very soon. Some may remember when Soros broke the Bank of England, with a well timed and coordinated attack. He is still around and has lost none of his guile.
The SNB are surely fully aware of this situation and the risks. Why apart from pandering to powerful lobbying influences do they do it, and have they taken full account of the potential unintended consequences?
Should the EUR go into oblivion when the SNB has racked up hundreds of Billions more EUR purchases the exchange losses could be gigantic, 50% of GDP or more, impossible to quantify.
Rather than take these colossal losses an alternative would be to abandon the CHF and enter the Euro Zone. A stealth entry achieved against the will of the people followed by abolishment of the CHF.
Should this transpire, Switzerland a country justifiably proud of its democratic system would have been completely outmaneuvered and its 700 year old sovereignty totally undermined, without a shot being fired.
Mr Hildebrand, please abandon the peg before you are overwhelmed by the unintended consequences.  

THE MERKOZIAN KNOT


What a pleasure to get back to my Blog after a week filled with tax declarations and urgent client work.

And what a week it has been, with the World mourning the departure of Steve Jobs, and Jean Claude Trichet mourning his own departure.

 What a contrast, Jobs an adopted child, college dropout, perfectionist, egomaniac and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. He has created thousands of jobs worldwide, revolutionized the computer industry and left behind a vibrant company, which a few months ago had more cash on its balance sheet than the US Government.

Trichet on the other hand is a French apparatchik, a graduate of the ultra elitist ENA the National School for Administration. He had a lucky escape from the French justice system concerning his involvement with the failed bank Credit Lyonnais. These antecedents obviously made him the perfect candidate for the top job at the ECB. His legacy is an ECB on the edge of collapse, with a balance sheet laden with unsaleable debt. In his favor he never worked for Goldman Sachs and resisted money printing. But wait a minute Mr Draghi his successor did work for Goldman Sachs and does believe in money printing. Oh well you can’t win them all.

The next fiasco is without doubt Dexia, subject of an earlier post, the bank that a few short months ago was too good to fail? The French Belgian and Luxembourg Governments have now all rushed in to “help”.

I wonder what Jobs would have said, if in his last days, these same governments had offered to save Apple? Apart from a string of expletives, perhaps something like:

YOU CAN ONLY NATIONALIZE FAILURE

Talking of which, we are now witnessing Mr. & Mrs. Merkozy, in a waltz around how to solve the other sovereign debt problems in the Euro-zone, or more particularly how to dump the malinvestment of the banks on the tax payer. Merkel believes that each country should deal with this internally before resorting to the EFSF and Sarkozy, whose major banks are in a far more parlous situation, obviously believes in spreading the pain around.

It is interesting that Mme LaGarde the new luminary at the IMF, an organization best known for its rapacious activities, both during and outside office hours, seems to have grasped already that the hole is USD 200 Billion.

I would beg to differ and offer you this excellent view of the situation prepared by Reuters.


Applying plausible assumptions, the hole is much, much bigger than the LaGarde USD 200 Billion and only addresses Sovereign debt issues.

Everything else of course is perfectly all right, so look no further.

While congratulating Reuters on their tool, rest assured that the major governments and investment banks have had much more sophisticated analysis at their disposal for years, and are positioning themselves accordingly.

Rather like the Gordian Knot of Greek Mythology, symbolizing an intractable problem cut by a bold strike, the world waits for an outcome.

Curiously enough the only country brave enough to take the axe, is not Germany or France, who are preoccupied with procrastination, worthy of a production of Hamlet, but tiny Slovakia.

May Slovakia’s courage be rewarded and their place in history assured, but most of all may their politicians not be bought off.

Watch this space……….

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CREDIT COLLAPSE - DEXIA  SOC-GEN PARIBAS

We are witnessing the end of the Keynesian Experiment.

Lehman went under in 2008, and there would appear to be a general recognition today, that the situation is at least as serious as at that time.

We are watching Dexia go under, only to be bailed out by Belgium, a state which not only has no Government, but whose actions will render the country even more insolvent than the bank it is endeavoring to save.

Both Societe Generale and BNP/Paribas have such massive short term liquidity problems, that they are probably already on stealth life support, provided by unsuspecting taxpayers. No doubt the French action to support Dexia is directly linked to the above.

Watching the Politicians, the Bankers and the talking heads on TV, one could almost believe that none of this could have been anticipated or prevented.

Phrases such as “unprecedented” or “could not have been foreseen” made popular by Gordon Brown, and seized upon by so many others, stick in the mind.

I would beg to differ, and cite the example of Ludwig Von Mises, (1881-1973), the famous Austrian School Economist. Mises believed that knowledge of Economics was central to our lives, that all people should study and understand it. He concluded that the only viable economic policy for the human race was a policy of unrestricted laissez-faire, of free markets and the unhampered exercise of the right of private property, with government strictly limited to the defense of person and property within its territorial area.

As regards excessive credit expansion he had the following to say:

There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”
It would appear that hubris, political posturing, denial, and ever more disastrous Government intervention, will lead us down the second path.

What a pity no-one listened.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SWISS NATIONAL BANK - GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY


The Swiss National Bank (“SNB”), is one of the country’s most venerated institutions, and arguably the best Central Bank in the world, amongst its increasingly discredited peers.

It is a publicly listed company, whose activities are regulated by the Swiss Constitution and statute. In particular it has to “act in the interest of the country as a whole”. The principal shareholders are the Cantons, the Cantonal Banks and other public institutions, for some 60%, and thereafter private shareholders for the balance.

The SNB has an11 man Bank Council, charged with the oversight of the activities, and a 3 man Governing Board, of which Philip Hildebrand is Chairman. Its main mandate is to ensure price stability, although it also has sole right to issue bank notes, and also holds the Swiss Gold reserves and foreign currency reserves.

If you are not financially minded please skip the section in italics.

The assets on the Balance Sheet of the SNB are principally Foreign Currencies CHF 281 Billion; Gold CHF 49 Billion and Other assets CHF 35 Billion.
Total CHF 365 Billion

The liabilities are Sight Deposits from domestic Banks CHF 192 Billion; Other Sight Liabilities CHF 32 Billion; SNB Debt Certificates CHF 44 Billion; Bank Notes CHF 49 Billion; Other Liabilities CHF 18 Billion and Shareholder Funds CHF 30 Billion.
Total CHF 365 Billion.

In summary, what the financial statements show, and is absolutely staggering is that the SNB Balance Sheet has swollen almost 300%, from a Total CHF 126 Billon in 2007, to CHF 365 Billion at end August, 2011, or over 60% of Swiss GDP.

Almost all the increase is in Foreign exchange holdings. At 30 June, 2011, the last figures published, this was composed of CHF 109 Billion in EUR; CHF 49 Billion in USD; CHF 19 Billion in JPY; and CHF 20 Billion Other. Total CHF 196 Billion.

This alarming situation gives rise to an initial series of key questions:

  • Where did the SNB get the Swiss Francs, used to buy  these foreign currencies
  • Why is SNB investing in currencies which are either going to be massively debased or go into oblivion
  • Why is SNB choosing to debase its citizens currency  in a race to the bottom
  • Why does SNB think it can ensure price stability in coming years
  • Why is  asset allocation  to EUR of 3.6x SNB equity,  a prudent strategy
  • Why is Gold backing allowed to drop from 27% of total assets 2007 to 13% today
  • Why does SNB consider these acts “in the interest of the country as a whole”

Good though they may be, SNB have not always got it right. We need look no further back than 2005, when they decided to sell 50% of the Swiss Gold holdings, considering they were no longer necessary. The remaining Gold has increased in value from CHF 34 Billion in 2007 to CHF 48 Billion today.

This time unfortunately the stakes are very much higher.

While this analysis is inevitably incomplete, its is up to the SNB to be accountable and fully transparent to their shareholders, the indirect stakeholders in the 60% held by the Cantons and the Cantonal Banks, as well as the Swiss population as a whole.



CASH IS KING - EUROPEAN BANKING CRISIS - NEXT VICTIMS


With the imminent demise of DEXIA, several other banks which rely heavily on short term funding are extremely vulnerable to a liquidity crisis.
Attached is a summary published on ZeroHedge, prepared by Espirito Santo Bank,  showing a 2-D matrix of liquidity (i.e. liquid assets as a % of wholesale funding assets), versus reliance on wholesale funding.
If your bank is in the red sector, then you should start considering your options very urgently before the market decides them for you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM


There comes a time in the life of all budding Bloggers, when external events have to take precedence.

No it is not William & Kate’s separation, which singer/actor/footballer has gone into rehab, who won the X factor, although for many, this is clearly of much greater importance.

Today is my mother’s birthday, and without her you would not be reading this Blog!!!

At the age of 89, she has been a widow for 27 years; she lives alone, is completely independent, still drives a car, sweeps the snow from her driveway in winter, uses the internet,  and Skype’s me regularly to tell me to go to the doctor or not work too hard.

When my grandfather died aged 37, my mother started work in the Post Office, at the age of 13, I repeat 13, to help my grandmother a nurse to make ends meet.

She had two passions in life, tennis and music, and although she was never a finalist at Wimbledon, she paid to learn the piano and ultimately became a music teacher, married and brought up two boys in 1950’s Britain.

 I am sure many readers will recognize in this post, close similarities to their own parents, and like me will feel justifiably proud.

She is from a generation that rarely complained about their lot, had never heard of Social Justice in all its guises; Entitlements; Government Hand-outs; and would shun this even today. She would certainly not vote for a politician offering Freebies without asking first where the money is coming from.

Mr Cameron, as the Conservative Party Conference is just beginning, look no further than to our parent’s generation, to find the solution. Britain does not need reforming it simply needs to be restored to what it once was.  


Saturday, October 1, 2011

MORGES – BRITISH CAR RALLY



What a great day this has been. I went with friends to Morges, a lakeside town some 40 km from Geneva, to the annual British Car Rally. This event started some 10 years ago and has become really popular, with British cars from all over Switzerland and further afield, lining the waterfront and around the Chateau beside the lake. It is the local equivalent of the Goodwood revival without the racing, with car enthusiasts and the curious mingling freely.

I am in great admiration of the entrepreneurship and creativity of those Brits, who made such beautiful cars, frequently in small workshops, with a handful of talented people and risked their own limited financial resources, to realize their dream.  Many of the veteran and vintage cars exposed have now disappeared completely or been absorbed into the ownership of the major manufacturers.

All this was done without trade unions, health and safety, and endless regulations, but at a time bank finance was actually available for small businesses. One has to ask if the motor car were invented today, would all this achievement be possible, or would we simply have opted to go back to riding horses.

As Rick Wagoner, the ex CEO of General Motors eloquently summarized the situation, I came to be boss of a Car company, I ended up being the administrator of a Union Pension Fund.