Economic recovery? What economic recovery? Contrary to popular media reports, government economic reporting specialist and ShadowStats Editor John Williams reads between the government-economic-data lines. "The U.S. is really in the worst condition of any major economy or country in the world," he says. In this exclusive interview with The Gold Report, John concludes the nation is in the midst of a multiple-dip recession and headed for hyperinflation.
The Gold Report: Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has given a warning to the U.S. government that it may downgrade its rating by 2013 if nothing is done to address the debt and deficit. What’s the real impact of this announcement?
John Williams: S&P is noting the U.S. government’s long-range fiscal problems. Generally, you’ll find that the accounting for unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other programs on a net-present-value (NPV) basis indicates total federal debt and obligations of about $75 trillion. That’s 15 times the gross domestic product (GDP). The debt and obligations are increasing at a pace of about $5 trillion a year, which is neither sustainable nor containable. If the U.S. was a corporation on a parallel basis, it would be headed into bankruptcy rather quickly.
There’s good reason for fear about the debt, but it would be a tremendous shock if either S&P or Moody’s Investor Service actually downgraded the U.S. sovereign-debt rating. The AAA rating on U.S. Treasuries is the benchmark for AAA, the highest rating, meaning the lowest risk of default. With U.S. Treasuries denominated in U.S. dollars and the benchmark AAA security, how can you downgrade your benchmark security? That’s a very awkward situation for rating agencies. As long as the U.S. dollar retains its reserve currency status and is able to issue debt in U.S. dollars, you’ll continue to see a triple-A rating for U.S. Treasuries. Having the U.S. Treasuries denominated in U.S. dollars means the government always can print the money it needs to pay off the securities, which means no default.
TGR: With the U.S. Treasury rated AAA, everything else is rated against that. But what if another AAA-rated entity is about to default?
JW: That’s the problem that rating agencies will have if they start playing around with the U.S. rating. But there’s virtually…
Lately, anywhere we look, there seems to be a pattern emerging: those economic thinkers who actually construct and run their own macro models (not the glorified powerpoint presenter variety) and actually do independent analysis and tracing of the money flow, instead of relying on Wall Street forecasts that have as much credibility as a Moody’s home price hockey stick from 2006, almost inevitably end up having a very dire outlook on the economy. One such person is and has pretty much always been Shadowstats‘ John Williams, whose "shadow" economic recreation puts the BLS data fudging dilettantes to shame. That said any reader of Zero Hedge who has been with us for more than a few weeks, knows all too well our eagerness to ridicule the increasingly more incoherent lies coming out of the US department of truth, so no surprise there. Yet another aspect over which there is much agreement is that no matter how one slices the data, the outcome for the US currency is a very grim one. Which is why Williams over the past several years has become a major fan of the shiny metal. Below we recreate portions of his latest observations on the upcoming currency collapse, courtesy of King World News.
John Williams today was dispatching information regarding gold, silver, M3, nearby massive selling of dollars and inflation. Here is a portion from his commentary, “Despite November 9th’s historic high gold price of $1,421.00 per troy ounce (London afternoon fix) and the multi-decade high silver price of $30.50 per troy ounce (London fix) on December 7th, gold and silver prices have yet to approach their historic high levels, adjusted for inflation.”
Real Money Supply M3: The signal of the still unfolding double-dip recession, based on annual contraction in the real (inflation-adjusted) broad money supply (M3), continues and is graphed (above). Based on today’s CPI-U report and the latest estimate on the November SGS-Ongoing M3 Estimate, that annual contraction in November 2010 was 4.0%, narrower than October’s 4.5% contraction, and May’s post-World War II record annual decline of 7.9%.
Incidentally, if there is one thing we disagree with John on is that the broadest aggregate (M3 for Williams, Shadow Banking for Zero Hedge) is declining. That said, an expansion in the most critical broad money signal is merely the missing piece of the puzzle that we…
John Williams’ comments on the GDP number were short and to the point. I am still not on board with his hyperinflation forecast preferring to stick with a pernicious stagflation, although what he sees is certainly possible, as is a Japan style deflation. That is what ‘fiat’ is all about.
The correlation in stocks across the various indices today is remarkably uniform. Do you need to buy a vowel?
The kindest thing I can say about a stock market that rallies on the "stronger than expected" news that annualized growth in second-quarter GDP was revised from 2.4% to just 1.6%, instead of to the expected 1.4% (keep in mind those numbers are quarterly growth rates raised to the fourth power), or that gyrates over meaningless swings in seasonally-distorted weekly new unemployment claims, is that it is irrational, unstable and terribly dangerous.
As the renewed tumbling in the U.S. economy throws off statistics suggestive of a continuing collapse in business activity, as a looming contraction in third-quarter GDP becomes increasingly evident to all except Wall Street and Administration hypesters, who professionally never admit to such news, it would be quite surprising if the financial markets did not react violently, with a massive sell-off in the U.S. dollar contributing to and coincident with massive sell-declines in both the U.S. equity and credit markets.
Recognition is growing rapidly of the re-intensifying economic downturn. Yet, little analysis so far has been put forth to public as to some of the unfortunate systemic implications of this circumstance. The problems range from extreme growth in the federal government’s operating deficit, tied to reduced tax revenues and to bailout expenditures for the unemployed, bankrupt states and continuing banking industry solvency issues, to U.S. Treasury funding needs to pay for same. The latter issue promises eventual heavy Federal Reserve monetization of Treasury debt, with resulting inflation problems and eventual hyperinflation (see the Hyperinflation Special Report).
On August 17, Bloomberg reported a US government release that industrial production rose twice as much as forecast, climbing 1 percent. Bloomberg interpreted this to mean that “increased business investment is propelling the gains in manufacturing, which accounts for 11 percent of the world’s largest economy.”
The stock market rose.
Let’s look at this through the lens of statistician John Williams of shadowstats.com.
Williams reports that “the primary driver of a 1.0% monthly gain in seasonally-adjusted July industrial production” was “warped seasonal factors” caused by “the irregular patterns in U.S. auto production in the last two years.” Industrial production “shrank by 1.0% before seasonal adjustments.”
If the government and Bloomberg had announced that industrial production fell by 1.0% in July, would the stock market have risen 104 points on August 17?
Notice that Bloomberg reports that manufacturing accounts for 11 percent of the US economy. I remember when manufacturing accounted for 18% of the US economy. The decline of 39% is due to jobs offshoring.
Think about that. Wall Street and shareholders and executives of transnational corporations have made billions by moving 39% of US manufacturing offshore to boost the GDP and employment of foreign countries, such as China, while impoverishing their former American work force. Congress and the economics profession have cheered this on as “the New Economy.”
Bought-and-paid-for-economists told us that “the new economy” would make us all rich, and so did the financial press. We were well rid, they claimed, of the “old” industries and manufactures, the departure of which destroyed the tax base of so many American cities and states and the livelihood of millions of Americans.
The bought-and-paid-for-economists got all the media forums for a decade. While they lied, the US economy died.
Now, back to statistical deception. On August 17 the census Bureau reported a small gain in July 2010 residential construction housing starts. More hope orchestrated. In fact, the “gain,” as John Williams reports, was due to a large downward revision” in June’s reporting. The reported July “gain” would “have been a contraction” without the downward revision in June’s “gain.”
So, the overestimate of June housing not only made June look good, but also the downward correction of the June number makes July look good, because starts rose above the corrected June number. The same manipulation is likely to…
The United States is running out of time to get its budget and trade deficits under control. Despite the urgency of the situation, 2010 has been wasted in hype about a non-existent recovery. As recently as August 2 Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner penned a New York Times column, “Welcome to the Recovery.”
As John Williams (shadowstats.com) has made clear on many occasions, an appearance of recovery was created by over-counting employment and undercounting inflation. Warnings by Williams, Gerald Celente, and myself have gone unheeded, but our warnings recently had echoes from Boston University professor Laurence Kotlikoff and from David Stockman, who excoriated the Republican Party for becoming big-spending Democrats.
It is encouraging to see some realization that, this time, Washington cannot spend the economy out of recession. The deficits are already too large for the dollar to survive as reserve currency, and deficit spending cannot put Americans back to work in jobs that have been moved offshore.
However, the solutions offered by those who are beginning to recognize that there is a problem are discouraging. Kotlikoff thinks the solution is savage Social Security and Medicare cuts or equally savage tax increases or hyperinflation to destroy the vast debts.
Perhaps economists lack imagination, or perhaps they don’t want to be cut off from Wall Street and corporate subsidies, but Social Security and Medicare are insufficient at their present levels, especially considering the erosion of private pensions by the dot com, derivative and real estate bubbles. Cuts in Social Security and Medicare, for which people have paid 15 per cent of their earnings all their lives, would result in starvation and deaths from curable diseases.
Tax increases make even less sense. It is widely acknowledged that the majority of households cannot survive on one job. Both husband and wife work and often one of the partners has two jobs in order to make ends meet. Raising taxes makes it harder to make ends meet--thus more foreclosures, more food stamps, more homelessness. What kind of economist or humane person thinks this is a solution?
Ah, but we will tax the rich. The rich have enough money. They will simply stop earning.
Let’s get real. Here is what the government is likely to do. Once Washington realizes that the dollar is…
Just what is the true rate of unemployment in our country? Our headline U-3 rate is currently 9.5%. Our U-6 rate, more broadly defined, is 16.5%.
Many people are aware of the differences between U-3 and U-6; however, renowned economist John Williams takes our analysis to an entirely new level. Williams is far ahead of the curve in his work.
William is likely not a regular on the Washington cocktail circuit. Why’s that? He goes far deeper in his work and exposes inconsistencies, if not worse, in government statistics. Let’s learn more about Williams and his work at Shadow Government Statistics:
Walter J. “John” Williams was born in 1949. He received an A.B. in Economics, cum laude, from Dartmouth College in 1971, and was awarded a M.B.A. from Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business Administration in 1972, where he was named an Edward Tuck Scholar. During his career as a consulting economist, John has worked with individuals as well as Fortune 500 companies.
Formally known as Walter J. Williams, my friends call me John. For nearly 30 years, I have been a private consulting economist and, out of necessity, had to become a specialist in government economic reporting.
One of my early clients was a large manufacturer of commercial airplanes, who had developed an econometric model for predicting revenue passenger miles. The level of revenue passenger miles was their primary sales forecasting tool, and the model was heavily dependent on the GNP (now GDP) as reported by the Department of Commerce.
Suddenly, their model stopped working, and they asked me if I could fix it. I realized the GNP numbers were faulty, corrected them for my client (official reporting was similarly revised a couple of years later) and the model worked again, at least for a while, until GNP methodological changes eventually made the underlying data worthless.
That began a lengthy process of exploring the history and nature of economic reporting and in interviewing key people involved in the process from the early days of government reporting through the present.
For a number of years I conducted surveys among business economists as to the quality of government statistics (the vast majority thought it was pretty bad), and my results led to front page stories in the New York
Yesterday’s "paper" (more in the napkin sense than as a synonym for "intellectual effort") by Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder, which was nothing more than a glorified cover letter for selected perma-Keynesian posts in the administration’s Treserve complex, was so outright bad we did not feel compelled to even remotely comment on its (lack of any) substance. A man far smarter than us, Stanford’s John Taylor (the guy who says the Fed Fund rates should be -10%, not the guy who says the EURUSD should be -10), has taken the time to disassemble what passes for analysis by the tag team of a Princeton tenurist (odd how those always end up destroying the US economy when put in positions of power), and a Moody’s economist, who is undoubtedly casting a nervous eye every few minutes on the administration’s plans for EUCs and other jobless claims criteria. Below is his slaughter of dydactic duo’s demented drivel.
Yesterday the New York Times published an article about simulations of the effects of fiscal stimulus packages and financial interventions using an old Keynesian model. The simulations were reported in an unpublished working paper by Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi. I offered a short quote for the article saying simply that the reported results were completely different from my own empirical work on the policy responses to the crisis.
I have now had a chance to read the paper and have more to say. First, I do not think the paper tells us anything about the impact of these policies. It simply runs the policies through a model (Zandi’s model) and reports what the model says would happen. It does not look at what actually happened, and it does not look at other models, only Zandi’s own model. I have explained the defects with this type of exercise many times, most recently in testimony at a July 1, 2010 House Budget Committee hearing where Zandi also appeared. I showed that the results are entirely dependent on the model: old Keynesian models (such as Zandi’s model) show large effects and new Keynesian models show small effects. So there is nothing new in the fiscal stimulus part of this paper.
If you thought John Williams, who a month ago prophesied that the US could be facing hyperinflation as soon as 2010, has changed his tune, think again. In an interview conducted by Phil Maymin of the Fairfiled Weekly, the man who has made a business out of debunking the government’s data fabrication machine, dishes out some very hard to swallow truths about the US economy and where the fiat world is headed. As always, Williams’ perspectives are debate-worthy by all, whether inflationist or deflationist: in a field of media sycophants, JW is not afraid to speak what we all know, yet rarely wish to acknowledge.
Maymin:So we are technically bankrupt?
Williams: Yes, and when countries are in that state, what they usually do is rev up the printing presses and print the money they need to meet their obligations. And that creates inflation, hyperinflation, and makes the currency worthless.
Obama says America will go bankrupt if Congress doesn’t pass the health care bill.
Well, it’s going to go bankrupt if they do pass the health care bill, too, but at least he’s thinking about it. He talks about it publicly, which is one thing prior administrations refused to do. Give him credit for that. But what he’s setting up with this health care system will just accelerate the process.
Where are we right now?
In terms of the GDP, we are about halfway to depression level. If you look at retail sales, industrial production, we are already well into depressionary [territory]. If you look at things such as the housing industry, the new orders for durable goods we are in Great Depression territory. If we have hyperinflation, which I see coming not too far down the road, that would be so disruptive to our system that it would result in the cessation of many levels of normal economic commerce, and that would throw us into a great depression, and one worse than was seen in the 1930s.
What kind of hyperinflation are we talking about?
I am talking something like you saw with the Weimar Republic of the 1930s. There the currency became worthless enough that people used it…
Although I believe that our government has every incentive to make the economy look better, employment appear stronger, and inflation seem weaker than they really are, I’m not a statistician or an economist (for what it’s worth, some might view that as a good thing).
Hence, while I can’t sit here and say for certain that our government manipulates the data in such a way that it has become meaningless, common sense tells me, for instance, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ assumption that start-up businesses accounted for 43,000 new construction jobs in May is reason enough to doubt whatever Washington is telling us (for a bit more color on this particular statistic, check out "May Employment Report Not Believable" at ChrisMartenson.com)
How’s the economy treating you? Chances are, your answer is colored largely by three things: whether you’re working (if you want to), how much you’re making and how quickly your expenses are rising. Economists rely heavily on the same factors to judge the nation’s health. At last count, 9.4% of the workforce is jobless. Compared with a year ago, the goods and services we produce are worth 5.7% less while the ones we buy are 0.7% cheaper.
Two bright people might see sharply different things in those numbers. To one, the shrinking economy is a healthy unwinding of past excess, for example, while to another it’s a dangerous downturn that calls for bold government action. But what if the numbers themselves are something we should be debating? In the alarming view of a vocal few, America’s economic measures are misstated — rigged, really.
The accusation goes like this: Surveyors collect the nation’s data and statisticians compile and report it. Politicians naturally want the numbers to show improvement. Not being
"This is not blackmail," explains new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, "we simply want to end this seemingly never-ending Greek Crisis." In what must be worryingly calm and simple to comprehend words for Brussels, Varoufakis tells CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, "this is what happens when you humilate a nation and don't give it any hope." Carefully noting that membership in the Euro is not imperative, Varoufakis concludes "bankruptcy cannot be dealt with by borrowing more," aski...
The term gets tossed around a lot, but the meaning and consequences of a “currency war” aren’t intuitively clear to most people. Especially confusing is the idea that you lose the war when your currency goes up. The suddenly very strong dollar, for instance, should, one would think, be a good thing, since it seems to imply that the rest of the world is impressed enough to covet our currency.
That’s true in a sense, but in another sense — and beyond a certain point — it becomes a potentially huge problem, because a strong currency makes exports (priced in dollars) more expensive and therefore a tougher sell. Consider today’s headlines:
Earlier today I posted an update on the January Advance Report on December Durable Goods New Orders. This Census Bureau series dates from 1992 and is not adjusted for either population growth or inflation.
Let's now review Durable Goods data with two adjustments. In the charts below the red line shows the goods orders divided by the Census Bureau's monthly population data, giving us durable goods orders per capita. The blue line goes a step further and adjusts for inflation based on the Producer Price Index for All Commodities, chained in today's dollar value. This gives us the "real" durable goods orders per capita and thus a more accurate historical context in which to evaluate the conventional reports on the nominal monthly data.
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Last week, the S&P 500 put an end to its streak of weekly losses, despite giving back some gains on Friday. Thursday provided the big catalyst, with the ECB’s announcement of its bold new monetary stimulus plan. Investors were cheered and soothed for the moment. And U.S. fundamentals still look strong. But with Greece trying to turn back time, with volatility elevated (and likely to continue as such), and with the technical situation still dicey, the near term outlook is still worrisome.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart...
An interview with John Ehlers of Stock Spotter and Mesa Software
Ilene: John, in our last discussion about trading systems in general and yours in particular (Can trading be reduced to cycles, stresses and vibrations?) you mentioned Monte Carlo simulations and their use in measuring performance. Can you explain more about how you measure the performance of a trading system?
John: Let's start with comparing trading with gambling. The two have several things in common. In both ...
So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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