Monday, April 30, 2012

China Takes Steps to Push for the Convertibility of the Yuan

China takes a step further to push for the convertibility of her currency, the yuan.

From (bold emphasis mine)

China will widen channels for capital outflows and push for a bigger role for its own currency in cross-border trade, the country's central bank said Saturday.

The People's Bank of China also repeated past pledges to continue efforts to promote convertibility of the yuan under the capital account.

"As foreign capital takes an active role in China's financial markets we will continue to allow domestic capital to participate in global financial markets," the People's Bank of China said in a summary of its China 2011 Global Financial Market Report posted on the website of its Shanghai office.

"China will further expand the use of the yuan in cross-border trade and investment, and create a virtuous circle for cross-border flows of the currency," the bank said.

The summary didn't give any details of the central bank's plans though it said the full report will be issued Saturday.

The People's Bank of China has repeatedly stated it wants to ease restrictions on converting the yuan under the capital account though it has avoided giving any timetable.

China has been encouraging its companies to take a bigger role in the global economy, and one of the key requirements for this has been to let them move foreign exchange offshore.

Beijing has also been trying to promote the use of its own currency in trade settlement, and the central bank's statements on this issue are in line with previously stated policy goals.

So based on the economy, China has been pushing for trade, integration (regionalism) and the yuan as the region's reserve currency.

But based on geopolitics, China does the “gunboat diplomacy”.

These two simply don’t add up.

Go figure.

Quote of the Day: The Bottom One Percent

We hear a lot about the top 1%. We don't hear a lot about the bottom 1%. There are about 313 million people in America today. 1% of 313 million is 3,130,000. In our prisons today are 2,200,000 people. So the people in prison are 2/3 of one percent. And their wages are typically about 23 cents an hour. They are, essentially, the bottom 1%.

Many of them are there for violent crimes, theft, fraud, and other such things. But hundreds of thousands of them are there for buying, selling, or producing illegal drugs. The drug war has put them there. And we taxpayers are paying $30,000 a year and more to keep them there.

So let me get this straight: high-income people are paying lots of taxes so that the government can put poor people in prison and keep them poor or put non-poor people in prison and make them poor.

We hear the occupy people advocate taxing the top 1% more. I've got a better idea: let's tax the top 1% less--they're already paying a disproportionately high share of taxes--and let a few hundred thousand of the bottom one percent out of prison and out of their grinding poverty in prison.

That’s from Professor David Henderson.

The Philippine Financial Markets Shrugs off the Scarborough Shoal Standoff

The financial markets and politicians backed by mainstream media apparently lives in two distinct worlds.

If one goes through the daily barrage of sensationalist headlines, one would have the impression that the Philippines must be in a state of panic. That’s because media has been projecting what seems as intensifying risk of a full blown shooting war over the contested islands, the Scarborough Shoal with China. And all these should have been sending investors scrambling for the exit doors, if not the hills.

But has such alarmism represented reality?


Of course by reality we rely on expressed and demonstrated preferences and not just sentiment. Over the marketplace, people voting with their money have fundamentally treated the recent geopolitical impasse as pragmatically nonevents.

The Phisix has been little change for the week but importantly trades at FRESH record high levels.

Meanwhile the local currency the Philippine Peso posted its SIXTH CONSECUTIVE weekly gains and has been approaching February’s high, whereas local bonds ADVANCED for the week, amidst the geopolitical bedlam[1]

Contrived Risks and Real Risks

There’s a world of difference between real risk and that of a pseudo, or may I suggest concocted, geopolitical risk.

Media has slyly been luring the gullible public into oversimplified “emotionally framed” explanations based on flimsy correlations which blatantly overlooks the behind-the-scenes causal factors[2]. Emotionalism thus opens the door for politicians to prey on the public by manipulating them through the foisting of repressive policies that benefits them at the expense of the taxpayers and importantly of our liberties. The recent call for nationalism via “unanimity” by a national political figure is just an example[3].

Politicians use fear or what the great libertarian H. L. Mencken calls as endless series of imaginary hobgoblins as standard instruments of social controls meant to advance their agenda or self-interests through the political machinery.

Aside from possible factors for the standoff, such as the smoke and mirrors tactic probably employed by China to divert the world from witnessing the brewing internal political schism[4] and or the promotion of sales for the benefit of the military industrial complex, it could also be that the call for “unanimity” may be associated with the domestic impeachment trial of a key figure of the judiciary where “rallying around the president” would extrapolate to the immediate closure of the case in the favor of the administration.

In doing so, the incumbent administration will be able control three branches of government and impose at will any measures that suits their political goals with hardly any opposition, all done under the sloganeering or propaganda of anti-corruption.

Yet the brinkmanship geopolitics in Asia, has not been limited to the controversial territorial claims in Scarborough and Spratlys, as well as Japan claimed Senkaku Islands[5]. Recent events includes the recent widely condemned missile test by North Korea, as well as, missile tests of former archrivals India and Pakistan[6]

Yet market’s responses to these events have disparate.

clip_image003Pakistan’s Karachi index (KSE:100 orange) trades at the highest levels since 2009 and seems on the way to knock on the doors of the 2007 highs, whereas India’s BSE (SENSEX green) has struggled since peaking late February.

In short, the recent missile tests by both countries hardly influenced financial markets for the two South Asian giants.


The reason for this has been due to substantially improving trade relations[7] that has dramatically eased political tensions between them.

This validates the great free trader Claude Frédéric Bastiat[8] prediction centuries ago.

if goods don t cross borders, armies will

North Korea as the Real Geopolitical Risk


The North Korea-South Korea tiff cannot be seen in the same light.

Since the North Korea’s announcement of a missile test last March 16th, South Korea’s KOSPI has been struggling. (chart from


The South Korean currency, the won, has also wobbled in the face of Nokor’s actions. (chart from

Nokor’s largely embarrassing failed missile launch[9] last April 13th has not deterred the new regime under Kim Jong Un from threatening to do another nuclear blasting test[10]

The fundamental difference from the abovementioned instances, including the unfortunate Scarborough-Spratlys affair, has been the near absence or the lack of trade linkages of Nokor which has not fostered social cooperation or goodwill with other nations.

Instead, Nokor’s despotic communist government’s survival has long been dependent on the ‘blackmail diplomacy’ in securing foreign aid. Yet uncertainty shrouds on the direction of Nokor’s foreign policy under the new leadership which appears as being manifested on the markets.

The good news is that so far there has been no sign of panic. This means South Korea’s consolidating markets could be digesting or has been in the process of assessing the political and security risks from Nokor’s new regime.

Otherwise if the worst option does occur, where posturing turns into armed confrontation the ensuing violence will spillover the world markets. But again Nokor has been more of a paper tiger than a real military power considering their dire economic status. A war is likely to cause the Kim regime to disintegrate under its own weight as famished and ill equipped soldiers are likely to defect to the South or a coup will force down the leadership.

The Free Trade Factor and Geopolitical Linkages


The same premise tells us why domestic politicians and media live in a different world from the citizenry. And this is why I hardly touch on mainstream news, except when scouring for the facts. I avoid from reading “opinions”, especially from so-called experts. That’s because mainstream’s opinions blindly represents the interests of the establishment[11].

China ballooning trade with ASEAN, which includes the Philippines[12], represents a very important deterrent from aggression.

As the great Professor Ludwig von Mises wrote in his magnum opus[13],

Man curbs his innate instinct of aggression in order to cooperate with other human beings. The more he wants to improve his material well-being, the more he must expand the system of the division of labor. Concomitantly he must more and more restrict the sphere in which he resorts to military action. The emergence of the international division of labor requires the total abolition of war.

So aside from her thrust to use the yuan as region’s foreign currency reserve as evidenced by the push for wider Free trade zone (including the ASEAN China Free Trade Agreement which began operations in 2010[14]) hardly squares with the bellicosity that has been publicly portrayed.


Free Trade agreements in Asia has exploded since China’s Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world bannered by the famous catchphrase “To get rich is glorious” (which according to some has been misattributed to him)[15]

Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute points out that[16]

In 1975 there was one free trade agreement in the region but in 2011, there are now currently 245 free trade agreements that have been proposed, under negotiation or concluded.

Besides it is naïve to see events in the lens of a single prism.

An outbreak of military conflagration will likely draw in various major players that could lead to a world war, an event which hardly any party would like to indulge in (despite the politicians arrogant rhetoric), considering the today’s age of NUCLEAR and DRONE warfare, standing armies have been rendered obsolete, and mutually assured destruction[17] will likely be the outcome.

So aside from some missile tests by Asian countries, recently Vietnam hosted a joint naval exercise with US[18] while on the other hand China and Russia also recently completed naval war games[19]. While these may look like a show of force for both parties, they could also just be pantomimes.

Yet for me all these seem like watching a movie that gives you the vicarious effect, especially from the 3D vantage point. However when the closing or end credit appears or when the curtains fall, we come to realize that this has been just a movie.

So far the financial markets seem to be exposing on the exaggerations of the so called gunboat diplomacy, or perhaps too much of yield chasing activities may have clouded people’s incentives that has led them to underestimate such a risk.

While I believe the yield chasing factor has functioned as a substantial contributor to the current state of markets domestically and internationally, I also think that the local market has rightly been discounting the territorial claims issue for reasons cited above.

So unless politicians here or abroad totally losses their sanity, the issue over territorial claims will eventually fade from the limelight.

So be leery of politicians calling for patriotism or nationalism, that’s because as English author Samuel Johnson famously warned on the evening of April 7, 1775[20]

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

[1] Philippine Peso Completes Sixth Weekly Gain on Growth Outlook, April 27, 2012

[2] See The Scarborough Shoal Standoff Has Not Been About Oil April 16, 2012

[3] See Scarborough Shoal Dispute: The Politics of Nationalism April 28, 2012

[4] See China’s Political System Reeks of Legal Plunder, April 20 2012

[5] See From Scarborough Shoal to Senkaku Islands April 19, 2012

[6] Will Pakistan and India’s Back-to-Back Missile Tests Spoil the Mood?, April 25, 2012

[7] Pak may be allowed to invest in India February 16, 2012

[8] The Claude Frédéric Bastiat

[9] See See North Korea’s Failed Missile Launch Reflects on Dire Economic Status, April 14, 2012

[10] North Korea Poised to Rattle Region With Nuclear Blast April 27, 2012

[11] See The Toxicity of Mainstream News March 13, 2012

[12] China, India and Asia: The Anatomy of an Economic Relationship (Draft Copy) 2009

[13] von Mises Ludwig 4. The Futility of War XXXIV. THE ECONOMICS OF WAR Human Action

[14] ASEAN–China Free Trade Area

[15] Deng Xiaoping

[16] Barfield Claude TAIWAN AND EAST ASIAN REGIONALISM American Enterprise Institute, November 10, 2011

[17] Mutual assured destruction

[18] Vietnam begins naval exercises with the US, April 23, 2012

[19] China, Russia end naval exercises, April 27, 2012

[20] The Patriot Samuel Johnson's political views

Rotational Dynamics Behind the Phisix Record Highs

The surge to the record levels by the Phisix has been unfolding exactly the way I have been anticipating them—particularly rotational dynamics (or the relative effects of money applied to the stock market) as symptom of an inflationary boom.

I previously wrote[1],

my long held view of a broad based rotational process where there had been a rotation away from big caps to the broader market (second and third tier issues), rotation among sectors (from leaders to laggards) and rotation of issues within specific sectors.

All of which have been manifestations of an inflationary boom.

Rotation among sectors.


The current market leaders, the property sector and the financial sectors, whose gains may have been overextended seems to have taken a recess this week. Thus the shift out of the current leaders into this year’s laggard the mining sector and the service sector.


From the price trend perspective, the green ellipse exhibits the divergences of the banking (black candle), property (violet) holding (green) and commercial (blue) over the short term from the mining (gold) and service (red) sectors. The leaders climbed as the mining sector consolidated while the service sector declined. For last week, that relationship seem to have reversed.

Rotation of issues from within specific sectors.


Since the property heavyweights have taken a rest, the market’s attention promptly shifted to second and third tier issues.

Former laggards have morphed into virtual rock stars.


The heavyweights Ayala Land (ALI-Blue), SM Investments (SM- orange) and Robinsons (RLC-green) whom led the markets higher from the start of the year appear to be undergoing a correction mode.

However over the past week, laggards Filinvest Land (FLI- violet) Megaworld (MEG- red) and Empire East (ELI-black candle) made a belated charge.


While the Phisix did post marginal gains over the week, this was neutralized by the slightly negative market breadth where by sellers edged out advancers.

Given the recent hefty rise to record levels, profit taking should be expected from the Phisix and the overall markets. But any retrenchment will likely to be muted as the easy money environment will continue prompt for more rotational actions that leads to the “rising tide” phenomenon.

[1] See Phisix: The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step, March 12, 2012

“Pump and Dump” Policies Pumps Up Miniature and Grand Bubbles

A friend recently called to say that there have been numerous accounts of “miniature bubbles” in the local markets. Others claim that these have been brought about by unscrupulous people engaged in “pump and dump”.

In reality as I have been pointing out, miniature bubbles are symptoms of the ultimate bubble blower—central bank policies. Central bank policies distort people’s incentives towards money. Savings, investment and consumption patterns will have all been skewered. Where negative real rates punish savers, naturally people whose savings are being diminished through the erosion of purchasing power will seek higher yield, and thus, redeploy their savings into other activities which may include more consumption activities, speculation or high risk investments and or take up more debt to fund these activities. Even private sector Ponzi schemes has been flourishing under today’s environment[1]

In essence policies that tamper with money motivates the public to value short term over the long term.

Thus heightened price volatilities which are deemed as “pump and dump” or as “miniature bubbles” represent as symptoms rather than the cause. People will look for excuses to push up prices or speculate for the simple reason that policies have egged them to do so.

The easy money climate lures the vulnerable public to go for momentum and chase prices using any available tools (charts, corporate fundamentals or even tips[2] and rumors) to do so. And this is why pump and dumps happen.

Large price swings make some people think that stock market operators are culpable for such swing. But this would be mistaking trees for the forests. Absent easy money policies, bubbles and pump and dumps hardly has been a feature. Had there been mini bubbles or pump and dumps during the bear market of 2007-2008? No, because inflated assets were all deflating in response or as contagion to the real estate-banking crisis abroad.

Broken Markets

And as earlier pointed out[3], the US today has not been different, junk bonds or high yielding debt has been booming.

Writes the Buttonwood (Philipp Coggan) of the Economist[4]

Of course, the broader point is that investors are being pushed into these high-yielding assets because of the policy of the Fed (and most developed world central banks) of keeping interest rates close to zero. Similar reasoning drove the enthusiasm for structured products that financed the subprime boom.

Zero bound rates have prompted for yield chasing actions, here or in the US.

The mainstream finally comes to admit what I have been saying all along—that markets have been vastly distorted where one cannot use “fundamentals” in the traditional and conventional sense to evaluate investments.


The excessive price volatility in today’s markets does not match with the fluctuations of conventional metrics of financial ratios. Today’s price volatility has been incongruent with trends of corporate fundamentals. And thus as I earlier pointed out[5], anyone who believed in “fundamentals” would have sold as early as March.

Considering the huge jump in prices from the start of the year, we should be around at near the peak of 2007. So anyone who believes in this stuff ought to be shorting or selling the market. I won’t.

The left window from the chart above as I earlier posted last March has a time series that ended November of 2011. The right chart from DBS represents a more updated one albeit was updated until last March. Considering that the Phisix has now been drifting at over 5,150 which means valuations continues to climb higher away from these charts, the Phisix has become “priciest” stock market in Asia.

Yet leaning on earnings or conventional fundamental metrics, like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, becomes a permanently moving target which is impossible to pin down, especially punctuated under today’s easy market climate.

Will I sell on the account of earnings/fundamentals? My answer is still no. Not until interest rates climb in response to consumer price inflation, or through heightened demand for credit, or questions over credit quality of government papers or the scarcity of capital becomes apparent[6]. Nominal interest rates are not a one-size-fits-all thing, and there are many measures (like real interest rates, CDS, yield curve to gauge if the monetary environment has begun to tighten for one reason or another. This also should come in the condition that the hands of central bankers have also been shackled and would be unable to respond forcefully as they have been doing today.

For now central banks around will continue to find ways and means to push more easing measures in support of the asset markets which was highlighted by last week’s additional stimulus by the Bank of Japan (BoJ)[7]

The following excerpt from the mainstream loudly resonates on what I have been saying.

From the Financial Times[8],

Markets are broken. Accepted investment wisdom has been overturned and the basic tenets of value and diversification no longer work. The financial crisis put the market into a volatile “risk on, risk off” – or Roro – mode for which there is no cure.

For many investors, this has made stockpicking seemingly an impossible task. Markets once responded to their fundamentals. Now, disparate assets have a much greater tendency to move together, individual characteristics lost. Trusted strategies such as relative value and currency carry trades are nearly useless, overwhelmed by daily market-wide volatility.

“Assets now behave as either risky assets or safe havens, and their own fundamentals are secondary,” writes HSBC strategist Stacy Williams in a recent note. “In a world where most asset classes are synchronised, it becomes very difficult to achieve diversification. It also means that since most individual assets are dominated by a common price component, it becomes increasingly futile to invest in them based on their usual fundamentals.”

Though asset classes had been moving in closer correlation since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, the Roro trend became most apparent after the collapse of Lehman Brothers a year later. The uncertainty helped turn investing bimodal, where every price has been contaminated by systemic risk. Everything became a bet on whether we were closer to a global recovery or to deeper crisis.

So what recommendations do they offer for the public to deal with the state of “broken markets? They have three. One is to pick a position from the boom or the bust scenario, second is to chase momentum and third is to hedge positions through index futures.

I would like to emphasize on the second option, not because this is my preferred approach but because of its relevance to the conditions of the local markets, from the same article,

Another option is to seek out an investment strategy that still works. Momentum investing – in effect, buying the winners and selling the losers – is a method that HSBC analysts highlight as having been largely impervious to the risk trade. To chase a trend aims to harvest small but systematic mispricing of assets, and there is no reason to suppose these anomalies would disappear in bimodal markets, the broker argues. (In this context, the growth of high-frequency trading since the start of the crisis is unlikely to be coincidental.)

This simply means that the mainstream will largely be chasing momentum, by targeting frequency over magnitude through “harvest small but systematic mispricing of assets”. So in essence, high risk speculative activities or gambling (a.k.a “miniature bubbles” and “pump and dump”) has been recognized as the common or standardized feature of the current market place. So history will rhyme and a bust will be around the corner.

I would rather “time” the bubble cycle rather than go chasing prices. And this is why it is imperative for any serious investors to understand the bubble process or the boom bust cycle.

Stock Market is about Human Action


Finally financial markets signify a social phenomenon. There is a popular aphorism from former President John F. Kennedy, who said in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion[9], which seems relevant to the financial markets,

Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan.

Winning issues and or market tops tend to attract substantial participants as a function of easy money (get rich quick mentality), keeping up with the Joneses (bandwagon effect) or survivorship bias (focus on survivors or winners at the expense of the others) or social signaling (desire for greater social acceptance, elevated social status and or ego trips).

On the other hand market bottoms results to the opposite: depression, avoidance, isolation and animus behaviour for those caught by the crash.

Most people don’t realize that emotional intelligence or self discipline is key to surviving the market’s volatility, not math models or charts or any Holy Grail or Greek formulas. And this comes from the desire to attain self discipline than from advices of other people.

Yet self discipline is earned and acquired through knowledge and through the whetting of one’s skills based on these accrued knowledge. Alternatively, self discipline cannot be not given or inherited. And that’s why I vehemently opposed the suggestion by a popular religious personality, who had investments on a mutual fund, to get housemaids to invest in the stock market[10].

The incentive to acquire the desired knowledge and skills varies from individual to individual because they are largely driven by the degree of stakeholdings or the stakeholder’s dilemma or stakeholder’s problem[11].

Today’s information age has democratized access to information. What can be given are information relevant to attaining knowledge and skills. What can NOT be given is the knowledge that dovetails to one’s personality for the prudent management of one’s portfolio. Like entrepreneurship this involves a self-discovery process.

And most importantly, what can NOT be given are the attendant actions to fulfill the individual’s objectives.

Stock market investing is about people and their actions. That’s why this is a social phenomenon. No more, no less.

[1] See After 5,000: What’s Next for the Phisix?, March 5, 2012

[2] See New Record Highs for the Philippine Phisix; How to Deal with Tips February 20, 2012

[3] See Self-Discipline and Understanding Market Drivers as Key to Risk Management, April 12, 2012

[4] Buttonwood Hooked on junk, April 27, 2012, The Economist

[5] See Earnings Drive Stock Prices? International Container Terminal and Ayala Land, March 6, 2012

[6] See Global Equity Market’s Inflationary Boom: Divergent Returns On Convergent Actions, February 13, 2002

[7] See Bank of Japan Adds More Stimulus, April 17, 2012

[8] Financial Times ‘Roro’ reduces trading to bets on black or red April 20, 2012

[9] Quotation Details John F. Kennedy, "A Thousand Days," by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr [1965]., p289. Comment made by JFK in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, 1961.

[10] See Should Your Housemaid Invest In The Stock Market? September 5, 2010

[11] See Knowledge Acquisition: The Importance of Information Sourcing and Quality, March 6, 2011

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quote of the Day: Bourgeois Virtues

Give a woman some rice, and you save her for a day. That’s the simplest form of what Christians flatter themselves by calling “Christian charity.” Give a man some seed and you save him for a year. That’s the plan of investment in capital, tried for decades in foreign aid, without much success. But give a man and a woman the liberty to innovate, and persuade them to admire enterprise and to cultivate the bourgeois virtues, and you save them both for a long life of wide scope, and for successively wider lives for their children and their grandchildren, too. That’s the Bourgeois Deal, which paid off in the Age of Innovation.

This brilliant passage is from Deirdre McCloskey’s 2010 landmark volume, Bourgeois Dignity page 449 as excerpted by Professor Don Boudreaux at Café Hayek.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Scarborough Shoal Dispute: The Politics of Nationalism

The reports

As the dispute between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal entered its 18th day Friday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called on the nation to rally behind President Aquino in asserting the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)…

At the hearing, Enrile explained that the dispute over territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea was not political.

“This is a national issue that requires the support of the entire nation, and we support the President on this,” Enrile said. There should be no deviation. “There should be unanimity of all Filipinos in supporting Malacañang regardless of political persuasion and affiliation on this particular issue,” he said.

“We must show the People’s Republic of China that in this particular issue, the Filipino nation is one in supporting the leadership of the Republic of the Philippines in asserting the sovereign rights of this republic and the Filipino people over the Scarborough Shoal and the Reed Bank, and all the areas the Republic of the Philippines occupy in the South China Sea,” said Enrile.

Say what? Asking for popular approval is NOT about politics?

The definition of politics according to

exercising or seeking power in the governmental or public affairs of a state, municipality, etc.: a political machine; apolitical boss.

of, pertaining to, or involving the state or its government: apolitical offense.

So seeking power in public affairs and or the involvement of the state IS political. And we have a national politician stirring up dangerous nationalist fervor with sloganeering based on untruths.

As George Orwell once wrote,

Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

As I earlier pointed out, the Scarborough Shoal territorial dispute has NOT been about oil or resources and which has mostly likely been about political DIVERSION amidst internal political divisions in China and or the PROMOTION of arms sales for the military industrial complex. Further it is not in the interest of China to provoke military conflagrations when she has been promoting her currency as the region's foreign currency reserve.

And the seeming insouciance of financial markets over the brinkmanship politics, expressed through the price mechanism, has limned on the perceived risk environment where political sensationalism has departed from people voting with their money. The Phisix closed the week at record highs while the local currency the Philippine Peso closed the week up at 42.37 and seems to be approaching the February highs.

In other words, what politicians sees as urgency that requires “unanimity of all Filipinos” which is being touted by mainstream media, seems to depart from the actions of the marketplace, where the latter sees the risks of a shooting war to be negligible.

Of course, politicians know that in case of a real military skirmish, they or their families will not be at the battlefront (they will most likely be ensconced abroad), thus their audacity to call for implied aggressive populist nationalism that might justify an armed confrontation.

Furthermore, considering that both Spratlys and Scarborough Shoals have largely been uninhabited or has no population, the main benefits over the disputed “resource rich” islands will likely accrue to the cronies and the interests of political authorities than that of the nation. Yet the masses are being conjured to fight for their interests via calls for pretentious nationalism.

The history of war, said Michael Rivero, is the history of powerful individuals willing to sacrifice thousands upon thousands of other people’s lives for personal gains.

Finally, the real target of these war mongers are our civil liberties and economic freedom.

As French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote,

All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.

Thus, the call for nationalism over territorial disputes is like putting the proverbial lipstick on the political pig.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Quote of the Day: The True Job Creators

Citing the success of Apple, libertarian author Robert Ringer points out that the genuine source of productive job creation, that leads to economic prosperity, comes from entrepreneurs.

Mr. Ringer writes,

Apple’s ingenuity and marketing skills are so good that its sales in China not only are skyrocketing, but playing a major role in its meteoric growth. Imagine — a U.S. company so good at what it does that even the Chinese are rushing to buy its products.

How could Apple accomplish such amazing feats without a government bailout or government “investment” in its technology? Because it had an entrepreneur at the helm who had the creativity, marketing savvy, personal ambition, and drive to bring the company back from the dead. No other help needed, thank you.

It is more than just a bit ironic that Steve Jobs’ last name is a testament to how entrepreneurs, when left to their own devices, are the true job creators. It also highlights the arrogance of politicians, particularly those who have never created or marketed anything, who believe they somehow have the ability — let alone the right — to take money from private citizens and “invest” it in technologies of their choosing.

Unfortunately the public does not recognize the true heroes, and at worst, have been bedazzled by the voodoo of politics.

Bank of Japan Adds More Stimulus

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) added to their stimulus measures for the third time this year. Central bankers have standardized Quantitative Easing (QE) operations [euphemism for money printing] as their principal tool for crisis management.

And this serves as another “I told you so moment”.

From the

The Bank of Japan on Friday said it will increase the size of its asset purchase program by 5 trillion yen ($61.88 billion) to a total of ¥70 trillion, while leaving its policy interest rate in the current target range of 0% to 0.1%. The increase in the size of the asset purchases, a quantitative easing measure aimed at improving demand, compared with the ¥5 trillion to ¥10 trillion addition that was already priced in by markets, according to a Reuters report. The BOJ said it would increase purchases of Japanese government bonds by about ¥10 trillion, while adjusting lower its purchases of another type of asset by ¥5 trillion.

This really has not been about “demand” which functions no less than a masquerade or an excuse to justify such repressive redistributive political action.

But all these has been about the stealth grand collaborative scheme to sustain and preserve the 20th century political institutions built around the cartel of the politically privileged banking system, the welfare (and warfare) state and central banks, through bailouts in the form of financial repression and inflationism.

To reiterate, as a universal rule, inflation is a policy that will not last.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Google Launches the Google Drive

The information age will bring about a deluge of innovative consumer friendly applications in the thrust to competitively serve the consumers.

Yesterday, technology giant Google launched the Google Drive which aims to integrate much of Google’s applications and MORE.

From the Google Official Blog, (hat tip

Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.


With Google Drive, you can:

  • Create and collaborate. Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, so you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
  • Store everything safely and access it anywhere (especially while on the go). All your stuff is just... there. You can access your stuff from anywhere—on the web, in your home, at the office, while running errands and from all of your devices. You can install Drive on your Mac or PC and can download the Drive app to your Android phone or tablet. We’re also working hard on a Drive app for your iOS devices. And regardless of platform, blind users can access Drive with a screen reader.
  • Search everything. Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time.

You can get started with 5GB of storage for free—that’s enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on. You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.

Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience. You can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+, and soon you’ll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail. Drive is also an open platform, so we’re working with many third-party developers so you can do things like send faxes, edit videos and create website mockups directly from Drive. To install these apps, visit the Chrome Web Store—and look out for even more useful apps in the future.

This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come.

Since alot of my work has been based on the Google platform, I applied for the free option and await for their notice of access.

And yes, as a fan of technology, although I hardly know how to use the many conventional sophisticated gadgets, I expect much more consumer friendly services to come not only from Google from the rest of the industry.

An Austrian Economist’s Message to the US Federal Reserve: Lock the Doors and Leave the Building

Austrian economist Robert Wenzel in a stirring speech in front of central bankers at the New York Federal Reserve has a poignant message for them: Abandon Ship.

Mr. Wenzel's closing statement:

Let’s have one good meal here. Let’s make it a feast. Then I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you all, walk out of here with me, never to come back. It’s the moral and ethical thing to do. Nothing good goes on in this place. Let’s lock the doors and leave the building to the spiders, moths and four-legged rats.

Read Mr. Wenzel’s provocative speech here.

Quote of the Day: Omniscient Social Justice

The question is not what anybody deserves. The question is who is to take on the God-like role of deciding what anyone else deserves. You can talk about 'social justice' all you want. But what death taxes boil down to is letting politicians take money from widows and orphans to pay for goodies that they will hand out to others, in order to buy votes to get reelected. That is not social justice or any other kind of justice

That’s from the brilliant Professor Thomas Sowell who defends inherited wealth from charges of inequality in his book the Controversial Essays. The equally profound David Gordon of the Mises Institute has a review of the book from which the above quote has been sourced.

Video: Milton Friedman: Abolish the Fed! (2)

In the following 1994 interview (17:17), the preeminent free market Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman said that he favored the abolishment of the US Federal Reserve primarily due to its blatant string of policy failures. His position then seems consistent even with his 2006 interview which I earlier posted.

Unfortunately, as David Kramer points out at the Lew Rockwell Blog, while Mr. Friedman desired the elimination of the FED, he maintained a pro-central banking stance, which seemed a bizarre paradox.

Video: Government Debt Problems are Spending Problems

Michael Moroney of LearnLiberty sends me this instructive video where Professor Antony Davies explains why the problem of government debt represents a spending problem. Thanks Mike.
A policy of deficit spending saps the very foundation of all interpersonal relations and contracts. It frustrates all kinds of savings, social security benefits and pensions.
Ludwig von Mises

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: The Politics of Taxation

The fact that the income tax burden is distributed so unevenly produces great politically borne fiscal problems. People who pay little or no income taxes become natural constituents for big-spending politicians. After all, if you pay no income taxes, what do you care if income taxes are raised? Also, you won't be enthusiastic about tax cuts; you'll see them as a threat to your handouts.

That’s from Professor Walter E. Williams

Are Falling Gold Mining Stocks Signaling Deflation?

Gold mining stocks in the US seems to have diverged from prices of gold.


There have been suggestions that such divergence could be indicative of “deflation”. For some of the hardcore devotees of the Keynesian religion, any price declines (be it consumer, equities, commodities) represents “deflation”. The definitional context of the term has been lost out of the desperation to prove the merits of their case.

However it’s really not just gold, but the same underperformance can be seen in prices of oil stocks.


Charts above from US Global Funds


Commodities, in general seem to have foundered since March whether in Agriculture (GKX), Energy (DJAEN) or Industrial metals (DJAIN) [chart from]

And feebleness in commodity prices may get reflected on consumer prices.

Yet the current price weakness in commodities seems coincidental with the price declines of the Spain’s equity market via the Madrid General Index…


…along with China’s Shanghai index, both of which saw significant slumps in March.


Nevertheless global equity markets, overall, remains buoyant in spite of the reemergence of the euro debt crisis and of concerns over China’s economic slowdown.


Yet current conditions suggest that following the strong surge from the start of the year, global equity markets may be in a natural consolidation phase, perhaps awaiting for the next round of central bank actions. You see, no trend goes in a straight line.

And lower CPI prices will likely motivate central bankers to go for more credit easing measures.

So the above exhibits the divergences playing out between stocks and commodities.

Does this signal "deflation" in the monetary sense? Obviously not.

What we are seeing instead has been the relative effects of money on asset prices. While commodity and commodity related stocks have generally underperformed (perhaps partly due to China or the Euro crisis) much of the money from easing policies of major central banks have been flowing into equity and other financial “credit” assets. In short, central bank policies have produced more asset (price) inflation than commodity (price) inflation

Proof of this is of the record flows of investor money into hedge funds.

From Reuters,

Investors poured billions of dollars into hedge funds in the first quarter, helping to send total industry assets into record territory, data released Thursday shows.

Investors allocated a net $16 billion to hedge funds in the first three months of the year, according to Hedge Fund Research, which tracks industry flows and performance.

With the new capital, as well as average gains of about 5 percent for hedge funds in the first quarter, total industry assets reached $2.13 trillion, HFR found. An earlier record was set halfway through 2011, when total capital invested with hedge fund managers hit $2.04 trillion.

In one of its worst annual performances in history, hedge funds lost about 5 percent in 2011. However, the industry seemed to get its groove back in the beginning of 2012 as global equity and credit markets rallied, and managers recorded the best first quarter of performance in five years.

Thus the weakness in the commodity sector may have filtered into oil and gold stocks which have caused their divergences with the prices of gold and oil. Such anomaly will likely be resolved soon as gold and oil prices should move higher.

Outside the policymaking actions, seasonal factors could also be a factor


Chart from US Global Investors

But I won’t give so much weight on this

And finally falling commodities, which may translate to lower consumer price inflation, does not translate to the absence of a brewing boom-bust cycle.

The great Murray Rothbard explained that consumer prices had not been a factor in 1920 recession or boom bust cycle (America’s Great Depression p.169-170) [bold emphasis mine]

Actually, bank credit expansion creates its mischievous effects by distorting price relations and by raising and altering prices compared to what they would have been without the expansion. Statistically, therefore, we can only identify the increase in money supply, a simple fact. We cannot prove inflation by pointing to price increases. We can only approximate explanations of complex price movements by engaging in a comprehensive economic history of an era—a task which is beyond the scope of this study. Suffice it to say here that the stability of wholesale prices in the 1920s was the result of monetary inflation offset by increased productivity, which lowered costs of production and increased the supply of goods. But this “offset” was only statistical; it did not eliminate the boom–bust cycle, it only obscured it. The economists who emphasized the importance of a stable price level were thus especially deceived, for they should have concentrated on what was happening to the supply of money. Consequently, the economists who raised an alarm over inflation in the 1920s were largely the qualitativists. They were written off as hopelessly old-fashioned by the “newer” economists who realized the overriding importance of the quantitative in monetary affairs. The trouble did not lie with particular credit on particular markets (such as stock or real estate); the boom in the stock and real estate markets reflected Mises’s trade cycle: a disproportionate boom in the prices of titles to capital goods, caused by the increase in money supply attendant upon bank credit expansion.

For as long as central bankers remain on a monetary expansionary mode or continues to adapt rampant inflationism, my expectations is that current weakness represents a temporary and natural outcome of the relative effects of money.