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One Percent versus Ninety Nine Percent: A Debate

INDIA DOESN’T NEED FDI IN RETAIL TO GROW — Joseph Stiglitz

Nobel Laureate of 2001 in Economic Joseph Stiglitz (who shared it with two more), presently Professor at University of Columbia, is  credited with starting the “1% versus 99%” debate. The Columbia University professor talks about his latest book, “The Price of Inequality”, in which he argues that economic inequality leads to instability

• The title of the book reflects a view that counters the right-wing argument that inequality may be a bad thing but to do anything about inequality is to kill the goose that lays golden eggs. Inequality is bad for economy, democracy and society. Much of the inequality in the US arises out of rent-seeking —monopoly, exploitive practices by banks and corporate exploitation of public resources. In the Indian context, you will call it corruption but we call it corruption American style, where you give away natural resources below market prices. India is doing it now but America has a long history of doing this.

There is a clear association between inequality and instability. People at the top don’t spend too much, they save a lot but people at the bottom spend everything. So you redistribute income from the bottom to the top and demand goes down. That makes an economy weak. That is what happened in the US. We would have had a weaker economy, but the Feds stepped in by creating a bubble that created more demand to offset the demand that was going down. Of course, creating a bubble was creating instability.

• Stiglitz confessed that both the IMF and the UN commission that I chaired came to the conclusion that inequality was one of the major causes for the crisis. It is not the direct, precipitating cause that bad lending was, but bad lending was a result of deregulation and the interest rates that were itself a result of inequality. If we don’t improve inequality and don’t do something else, it is going to be hard to get back to robust growth and prosperity. We are likely to have another housing bubble.

• He further opines, that in the presidential debates none of the candidates have mentioned the word ‘inequality’ as American politics is money-intensive and money-driven. Each of the candidates is expected to spend a billion dollars. When you spend so much, you have to go where the money is, and money in America is at the top. Therefore it is not a surprise that in the campaign you don’t hear a lot of discussion about inequality and the 1%. You don’t bite the hand that is feeding you in the middle of an election.

• He say that this debate may last or  may remain a phrase, he is not sure of, but it will be a part of America unless the problem of inequality gets addressed. It is just not that the top 1% get three to four times more that what they got in the 1980s, but the middle class today is worse off. When you have this degree of stagnation in the middle, there will be an expression through the political process.

• Stiglitz feels that GDP is not a real measure (or say per capita income) of development. he says that, I haven’t looked at India exactly, but it has strong implication for every country. In the case of China, if you take into account the environmental degradation and resource depletion, growth is much less than what it seems. You need that debate in India. Your GDP is going up, you have per capita highest number of billionaires but at the same time you have many people in poverty. So the GDP per capita doesn’t capture what is happening. In India, the progress in the middle and at the bottom has been less than what GDP in itself would like you to believe.

• When asked about the current issue in Indian Economy, that is FDI in retail, he puts it this way.  The advocates of FDI have probably put too much emphasis on it. India is in a different position than a small, developing country. You have a large pool of entrepreneurs. They are globally savvy, have access to global technology and they have a lot of wealth. So, if there were large returns to large-scale supermarkets, the domestic industry would have supplied it. Not having access to FDI is not an impediment in India. Wal-Mart is able to procure many goods at lower prices than others because of the huge buying power they have and will use that power to bring Chinese goods to India to displace Indian production. So the worry is not so much about the displacement of the small retail store but displacement further down the supply chain.

When an argument that ‘But big chains may create more jobs’; he told that  some of the profits of companies like Wal-Mart come from free riding on our society. They don’t provide healthcare benefits and assume that the spouses of the workers get healthcare benefits from their other employees or through some other mechanism. They might not be a good employer.

Always Yours — As Usual —- Saurabh Singh

Source: TOI

A FICTION: NOT FAR AWAY FROM RECENT FUTURE REALITY

A FICTION: NOT FAR AWAY FROM RECENT FUTURE REALITY

In late evening, when I had just pressed the shut down button of my workstation, a colleague of mine entered the office chamber (Officially allotted to me to work).Hello, was the first word uttered out by her and before I could ask the purpose, she herself expressed that she planned to have my company while walking back to home, at least the part of distance that was common to we both. I welcomed the idea and also thanked her for the same. Thus the journey homewards started. While on walk the momentary silence was done away by my colleague, when she requested the permission to ask question that was coming to her mind. I agreed to help her to the limited capacity of mine.Image- Bricks of Gold

 Probably it was the prices of yellow metal that were troubling her and my colleague wanted to know, where the prices are expected to move in future and why. This I am inferring from the talks that continued.

She started the conversation by posing her curiosity as ahead: “Where do you see the price of gold going in the days to come?”

Since, at that moment, I was not exactly focusing on ‘investment advisory’, so I responded by saying that “on a broad level, the price are supposed to continue their northward journey.”

It seems that my response confused her a bit, as she soon came up with another question that “what I mean, when I say a broad level.”

I got the point and then explained to her that “the prices of any commodity do not move in a straight line. When I say on a broad level, it means that the prices will keep moving northwards, but in between they may drop as well, but they will pick up again, and thus will continue to scale up.”

It seems, that she was not ready to buy anything that I said, therefore, she questioned that what lay behind my confidence, which she visualized while I was answering her first curiosity.

Suddenly I realized that majority of investors; rarely scan the external and vital economic variables that are often of political nature. This made me aware that now I need to go bit detailed and also in a manner that she could easily comprehend.

“Well, I was just reading through some material and I realized that there is another solid reason for gold prices to go up,” I told her.

“Is it something other than all the money printing that is happening and is likely to happen in the days to come, all around the world?” she asked.

“Yes”, I answered.

“So what is this new reason?” she was now more curious.Image - Gold with a Medival Painiting in Background

Now I started by posing a question as ahead “Ever heard of Hugo Chavez?” Pat came the reply, “nope” with a supplementary question that now who’s he?

He is the President of Venezuela, a country in South America.”                                

Probably she got a bit more confused and said that she knew that, but expressed her surprise on the issue that what “Venezuela” has got to do with the price of gold.

This made me aware that now my job was to explain history, international polity, and international trade, cost of transaction and accounting to her, and all this in very limited time of few minutes. I knew that I may be bombarded with whorls of questions.

 I started with letting her know that Venezuela has the 15th largest gold reserves in the world amounting to 401.1 tonnes. A lot of this gold is lying abroad in bImage - Golden Fairyanks in New York, London and Zurich.

“But why will a country keep its gold overseas?” she interrupted.

 I started to introduce her with history. I said that “a part of the reason comes from history. Till August 15, 1971, the world was on a gold standard. Paper currencies were ultimately convertible into gold. This meant that countries had to settle their deficits in gold.” I followed this by giving an instance from international trade. I asked her to assume that England and Germany are exporting and importing goods from each other. At the end if France exports more to England than England to France, there is a deficit.” This means that England had to pay France. This payment was to be made in gold. A look at her face made me feel that she has now started picking up what I was attempting to explain. I carried on by adding that “now this meant that gold had to be physically moved from England to France, which of course was a pain. Movement meant cost of insurance as well as security.”

Image - Gold being Transported via Air

She was prompt in asking that “what was the way out?”

 I added for these reasons “a lot of this gold is simply stored overseas at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (a part of the Federal Reserve of the United States, the Central Bank of the US).”

“How do you think this is going to help?”

It’s simple; I added and just narrated what Peter Bernstein writes in his book “The Power of Gold”. For example, if England lost gold to France, a guard at the Federal Reserve had merely to bring a dolly to England’s closet, trundle the gold to the French closet, and note the change in the bookkeeping records.’

She got the point, and allowed my request to take her back to Hugo Chavez.

The deliberations continued further, certainly with some statistical inferences. Estimates suggest that nearly 211 tonnes of the 400-odd tonnes of gold that Venezuela has are with banks abroad. Chavez has asked this gold to repatriated back to Venezuela.”Image - Hugo Chavez Nationalises the Gold Mines

Now this brings a twist in the story, and the discussion to follow will also attempt to answer possible reason for Hugo Chavez’s such an act.

 “Chavez has had an anti-US stance for years and may feel that because of that Venezuela runs the risk of its gold being seized.”

“Gold Seized? Why would such happen and does the possibility of such an act exist?” was the latest in series of questions.

“It sure is. I explained the same by making her aware of the ongoing Libyan foreign exchange reserves crisis, which happens to be an outcome of its foreign reserves being seized by allied nations with declaration of war earlier this year.”

 “But what has all this got to do with the price of gold? To me it’s as simple as me wanting to have gold in my own locker rather than the bank locker.”

I agreed to her statement, while continuing to explain by adding that all is not that straightforward as concluded by her, though to some extent she was correct. The straight forward part of transaction would be limited to 99 tonnes of total 211 tonnes lying abroad, as this 99 tonnes are deposited with the Bank of England in London. Repatriating that back to Venezuela would be a straightforward process.”

Image - Gold Jewellary at Display

 Now comes the not so straight forward part, which happens to be of the tune of 112 tonnes of the gold and same is lying abroad with what are known as bullion banks. J P Morgan is one of them. Estimates suggest that Venezuelan gold worth $807 million (or around 450,000 ounces of gold) is lying with it.”

 She was instant, and argued that this should also be as straight forward as it is in the case of Bank of England, London, while simultaneously her facial expressions conveyed me that she wanted to know, if I dare to differ from her opinion. Certainly, I had to differ, and added that things are not always as simple as they seem to be. The statistics again came handy in quoting that “estimates suggest that the total amount of physical gold with J P Morgan currently stands at around 338,303 ounces (1 troy ounce equals 31.1 grams).”

Now, it seemed that she was out of reasons, as she expressed her ignorance about having to come across any news in media regarding, such a huge bank robbery in which approximately 1,11,697 ounce or 3473.8 kilo grams worth gold was looted.  I had to instantly chip in by saying that, this is not a case of bank lifting, but a way of functioning of financial system in general and banking sector in particular. Let me add an example to illustrate it? I sought her permission. The phenomenon goes as explained ahead [the attempt was to explain the process by making it as easy as possible, so that even a novice can understand].Image - Gold of Merchants in Various Weights put at London Central Bank

“Central banks around the world had a huge amount of gold lying in their vaults, not earning any return. The end of 2007 witnessed the stock of gold with central banks around the world rising to 32,000 tonnes of gold.”

 I requested her to be more attentive to whatever I was going to add now. Out of the 32,000 tonnes gold held, the Central Bank lent approximately 14,000 tonnes to Bullion Banks like J P Morgan. James Turk and John Rubino in their coauthored book The Collapse of the Dollar, have argued that “lending, for instance, involves the central bank transferring gold to a major private bank, known as bullion bank, which pays the central bank a small-but-positive interest rate, then sells the gold in the open market.”

In this manner “central banks convert the gold into cash and then deploy this cash, somewhere to earn some positive rate of return. This based on a very fundamental assumption that idle assets provide no return, and there is fair possibility that such assets may ultimately add up some cost to the holder.” These costs may range from cost of storage to cost of security. As per meaning conveyed by the operative word “lending”, since the gold has been lent, therefore, the central banks have all the rights to, and can demand it back, whenever they want.

She chipped in by adding that probably “this is what Venezuela is doing right now”; and thus conveyed me a feeling that she was sincerely following the every single word uttered by me. 

 I nodded in agreement and continued further by adding that, since, the bullion banks have promised to return the borrowed gold to the central banks so they will have to return the same. In prevailing situations these bullion banks are not having the volume of gold that was lent to them by Central Bank. In financial and monetary world, this position is conveyed by the term ‘short’, and this means that these bullion banks are ‘short’ gold.

Now comes a significant turn in events, that may work as catalyst to force the prices of gold to break the roof. As the situation deliberated above suggests that, in case, sometime in future, these bullion banks are asked to deposit the volume of  gold lent to them by central bank, they will be left with no choice and would be obligated to buy gold in order to repay the central banks’.”

“So, as I can get, it goes like, that in such a scenario the bullion banks like J P Morgan will now have to buy back gold from the market in order to repay the Venezuelan government, given the situation that Venezuela has around 450,000 ounces of gold deposited with J P Morgan, whereas J P Morgan at present has only 338,303 ounces of gold in its accounts/ record books,” she added.

Exactly, I said in agreement, and carried the deliberations forward by adding, that this buying will lead to the price of gold rising further. I knew that now she has got answer to her question, but then too, I continued it by saying that this is only one part of the story.

Much like a child, who is curious to know about everything, she was now eager to learn that what the remaining part of story was now. She requested me to unfold the other part of the story.

I continued by giving her a reference of a report titled “Thing That Make You Go Hmmm” , and told that this report points out, ‘Chavez’s move could set in motion a chain of events whereby Central banks who store the bulk of their gold overseas in ‘safe’ locations scramble to repossess their country’s true ‘wealth’. If that happens, the most high-stakes game of musical chairs the world has ever seen will have begun’,” I said.

“This sounds very scary”, she added.

Image - Gold derails the US $ and US Economy“Yes, you are very much correct while mentioning that the report further states that ‘any delay in repatriating Venezuela’s gold could potentially start a frantic scramble by central banks to claim their physical. God save the scenario, but if it actually happens, rest assured that gold price will be on fire. A scenario will take place, which has neither been seen in past, nor even imagined.

It will give birth to an economic tsunami of magnitude, which will turn the great economic recession witnessed by world or even the jasmine revolution and contribution of social media to same to seem dwarf.

Don’t be surprised if I that there is enough in media to believe U S Govt. Manufactured Fake Gold

Perhaps, there are only few who can imagine the magnitude of risk, specifically if they are not linked to foreign trade. Let me illustrate it. It’s one thing to counterfeit a twenty or hundred dollar bill. The amount of financial damage is usually limited to a specific region and only affects dozens of people and thousands of dollars. Secret Service agents quickly notify the banks on how to recognize these phony bills and retail outlets usually have procedures in place (such as special pens to test the paper) to stop their proliferation.

Image - U S Government Manufactured Fake Gold

This is the most sacred of all commodities because it is thought to be the most trusted reliable and valuable means of saving wealth.

A recent discovery — in October of 2009 — has been suppressed by the main stream media but has been circulating among the “big money” brokers and financial kingpins and is just now being revealed to the public. It involves the gold in Fort Knox — the US Treasury gold — that is the equity of our national wealth. In short, millions (with an “m”) of gold bars are fake!.Who did this? None, but the United States Government, as claimed by Chinese Authorities.

Background
In October of 2009 the Chinese received a shipment of gold bars. Gold is regularly exchanges between countries to pay debts and to settle the so-called balance of trade. Most gold is exchanged and stored in vaults under the supervision of a special organization based in London, the London Bullion Market Association (or LBMA). When the shipment was received, the Chinese government asked that special tests be performed to guarantee the purity and weight of the gold bars. In this test, four small holed are drilled into the gold bars and the metal is then analyzed.

Officials were shocked to learn that the bars were fake. They contained cores of tungsten with only a outer coating of real gold. What’s more, these gold bars, containing serial numbers for tracking, originated in the US and had been stored in Fort Knox for years. There were reportedly between, 5600 to 5700 bars, weighing 400 oz. each, in the shipment!

At first many gold experts assumed the fake gold originated in China, the world’s best knock-off producers. The Chinese were quick to investigate and issued a statement that implicated the US in the scheme.

 

What the Chinese Uncovered

Roughly 15 years ago — during the Clinton Administration [think Robert Rubin, Sir Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers] — between 1.3 and 1.5 million 400 oz tungsten blanks were allegedly manufactured by a very high-end, sophisticated refiner in the USA [more than 16 Thousand metric tonnes]. Subsequently, 640,000 of these tungsten blanks received their gold plating and WERE shipped to Ft. Knox and remain there to this day.

According to the Chinese investigation, the balance of this 1.3 million to 1.5 million 400 oz tungsten cache was also gold plated and then allegedly “sold” into the international market. Apparently, the global market is literally “stuffed full of 400 oz salted bars”. Perhaps, its worth is as much as, 600-billion U S dollars.

Always Yours — As Usual — Saurabh Singh

 RELATED LINKS FOR READERS WHO WANT TO GO IN MORE DETAILS TO BEFORE COMMENTING ON STORY
  1. http://etfdailynews.com/2011/08/17/venezuelan-president-hugo-chavez-sends-precious-metal-etfs-a-wakeup-call-gld-iau-slv-gdx-agq/
  2. http://philosophers-stone.co.uk/wordpress/2011/08/hugo-chavez-gold-runs-bank-runs-and-bank-holidays/
  3. http://profit.ndtv.com/news/show/chavez-officially-nationalizes-venezuela-s-gold-industry-174207
  4. http://notime4bull.com/aggregator/sources/13
  5. http://mikepiro.com/blog/as-chavez-pulls-venezuelas-gold-from-jp-morgan-is-the-great-scramble-for-physical-starting/
  6. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/traders-brace-for-venezuela-gold-transfer/article2134031/print/
  7. http://www.bighaber.com/haber/chavez-to-nationalize-venezuelan-gold-industry-1072000.html
  8. http://www.advisorperspectives.com/commentaries/global_082611.php
  9. http://americasfinancialmeltdown.blogspot.com/2010/11/below-is-antiwar_4391.html
  10. http://mikepiro.com/blog/ron-paul-audit-federal-reserve-gold-stores/
  11. http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/News/061976-2009-11-26-us-govt-manufactured-fake-gold.htm
  12. http://www.the-boondocks.org/forum/index.php?t=msg&&goto=157202#msg_157202s

US Prez Barack Obama as well as The rest of the world, too, is having nightmares about a possible US debt default

Last Seven Sleepless Night of United States President Mr. Barack Obama

The Reason Behind the Phenomenon has been detailed below in Issue and It’s possible reason Format.

What is the crisis about?

Since 1917, the US Congress has stipulated that there has to be a statutory limit on US public debt (debt of US federal govt). This limit has been periodically raised and now stands at $14.3 trillion (95% of the US GDP). The US will hit this limit on Tuesday, Aug 2, unless Congress approves a fresh hike. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democrat-controlled Senate haven’t been able to work out a consensus

Why are they fighting?

The Republicans want any debt limit hike linked to deep cuts in govt spending. They want the increase to be effective for a year, with fresh discussions after that. The objective is obviously to make it an issue ahead of the 2012 presidential elections. Democrats favour tax increases and a one-shot raising of the ceiling. They are also opposed to any cuts that could jeopardize the economic stimulus and welfare payments

What happens if debt ceiling is not raised?

US govt can’t pay     employees, social security benefits, defence contractors, medical insurance bills and interest to lenders. Credit rating will plunge from top ‘AAA’ to bottom D’
What will be the global impact?

Govts, investors and businesses across the world will stop investing in US bonds. There will be panic in financial markets globally, with investors exiting equities for safe havens like liquid cash and gold

Does it affect India?

Indirectly, though much less than countries/blocs with big trade and debt dealings with US, like EU and China. Still, a worldwide downturn could hit Indian exports and FDI flows

When did this debt accumulate?

 Barack Obama (fighting recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) $2.4tn

George W Bush (wars and tax cuts) $6.1tn

Bill Clinton $1.4tn

George Bush $1.5tn

Ronald Reagan $1.9tn

Earlier $1tn

Whose money has the US taken?

Foreign countries (including China $1.2 tn) $4tn

US public and cos $3.6tn

US federal system $6.2tn

 

Always Your — As Usual Saurabh Singh

FEELING HEAT ON US DEBT : EARNINGS AND INDEX POISED TO EXHIBIT UNWANTED OSCILLATIONS

Wrangling over the US debt ceiling and questions marks over corporate earnings mean markets are unlikely to get a break any time soon.

Wall Street is set to close its worst three months in a year as July draws to a close next week after a roller coaster ride for markets. Whacked out fund managers hitting the beach in August may find themselves fiddling with their BlackBerrys more than the little umbrella in their cocktails.

“I need a vacation, man. After all the stuff that’s happened in the last three months I’m pretty much shot, I’m getting weird,” said one New Jersey-based fund manager, who was packing his bags for a destination in the Caribbean as temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City.

With euro zone leaders having reached a deal for yet another bailout for debt-laden Greece, investors will be free to chew over the rancor in Washington with even more attention.

Negotiations between President Barack Obama and the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, still looked far from a deal to avert a looming US default, lawmakers said on Friday, raising the likelihood of more volatility next week if no solution is reached over the weekend.

“It’s likely an agreement in any form will cause a relief rally for equities,” said global head of sales trading at Dahlman Rose in New York.

“Coming on the heels of overall pretty good earnings numbers and some sort of resolution in Greece and that could make for a rally in the market,” he said.

But on the other side of the coin, the prolonged and partisan dispute over solving the country’s debt crisis means there is still a big downside risk.

“Who knows where that is going to go,” as per an analyst at MF Global in Chicago. “We’re vulnerable to a buyers’ strike if we don’t get any news.”

In addition, the corporate earnings season suggests other risks could dog the market. Despite generally good results so far, there have been some worrisome signs. The S&P 500 rallied 6% in the run-up to reporting season, but earnings misses from big industrial names like Rockwell Collins and Caterpillar Inc weighed on the Dow and S&P 500 on Friday.

Earlier in the week several big consumer names such as Whirlpool and Pepsi warned about sluggishness in developed markets, sending their shares sharply lower.

“The market still has a high degree of skepticism in it,” said the analyst, summing up the earnings season so far.

As per him, he will be closely following earnings from sector and economic bellwethers next week. Those include the package delivery company UPS, chipmaker Texas Instruments, and online retailer Amazon.

Around 30 percent of the S&P 500’s USD 12.3 trillion market caps have reported earnings so far. They have outpaced consensus estimates by 3.8%, and only 7% have missed estimates, according to data from Morgan Stanley.

But share prices of those that have fallen short of estimates have taken a severe beating. Given the fragile sentiment a few more prominent misses could derail the market.

“The market is punishing these misses more than it is rewarding beats, an asymmetry we have been calling for and we forecast will continue,” wrote Morgan Stanley’s US equity strategist in a note to clients.

“Our view remains that first half of the year numbers are achievable but the second half of the year looks challenged,” he said.

Next week is also a big week for economic data. Fears of a slowdown in the economy have been a large driver of market volatility over the last few months, and the coming releases will be parsed very closely.

They include early regional manufacturing data from Chicago and New York, a reading of consumer sentiment, and a first reading of US growth for the second quarter, expected to show the economy grew just 1.9% in the period.

Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Blackrock, one of the world’s largest fund managers with around USD 1.6 trillion of equities under management, said this week that the US economy is at a critical juncture.

Doll points out that since 1960 every time year-on-year growth has fallen under 2% the US economy has gone into recession.

“Our bottom line view is that investors should maintain a reasonably constructive bias toward risk assets, but should also be prepared to scale back exposure if evidence of economic growth acceleration does not materialize.”

Always Yours — As Usual —- Saurabh Singh

Note: Compiled from published News and Views

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