The more things don't change, the more they remain the same. You can quote us on that.
On the surface, very little changed in thetwo months we were away.
The Dow was about 13,000 in mid-Feb. It's still about 13,000.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
The yield on theten year US note was about 2%. No change there either.
The euro was about $1.30. It's $1.30 today.
Gold is a little lower. Big deal.
But down deeper, did anything more substantial change, evolve, develop?
Apparently not. Back in the winter, the Europeans were pretending to fix Greece. Now they're pretending to fix Spain.
But wait, here's something that might be changing, now nobody believes the fixes will stay fixed.
"Europe's Rescue Plan Falters," says the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday, widely reported was the fact that Spanish banks held more delinquent loans than at any time since 1995. The world seemed to be waking up too to the realisation that when you pour bad money after good money you end up with no money.
The ECB's $1.3trn worth of loans to banks was supposed to put a stop to liquidity problems. After all, investors know that borrowers can get more money. The ECB lends to the banks. The banks lend to the governments. You can't go broke that way. Not as long as the money keeps flowing.
But wait again... "After months of using that cash to buy their government's debt," reports the WSJ, "banks in Spain and Italy have little left."
Let's look at this more closely.
The banks have a lot of bad debt, left over from the go-go lending mania in the bubble years.
Led by Ireland, the governments bailed them out. But that put the governments themselves in jeopardy. They didn't have any real money to lend the banks. They had to borrow. They just gave the banks money that they had borrowed themselves. So then investors began to wonder about Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy. And guess what? They found that they were going broke too.
That's when the central bank came to the rescue. The idea was to bail out the banks and the governments at the same time. The ECB's LTRO program looked like a winner, for a while. The plan was simple enough: lend the money to the banks; make sure the banks lend to the governments.
You see the problem, don't you? It was just a variation on the US model of trying to fix a debt problem with more debt. In the US version, the Fed buys US government debt, effectively financing the government with printing press cash. In Europe's version, the ECB lends to banks, who then lend to, say, Greece. Now, they all have more debt than they can pay.
So now, bond yields are rising again with Spanish debt back over 6%. And Spanish banks are in worse shape than ever.
Meanwhile, the Italians are staggering under the same kind of weight. In order to get financing last year, they promised to balance the budget next year. But now next year is getting close and a balanced budget is still far away. Says Mario Monti... well, maybe the year after!
You go, Mario. Keep spending, keep borrowing and tell your friends at the ECB to keep printing...
So what's changed?
Nothing. And it's going to keep not changing until it can't go on any longer.
And some more thoughts...
You see, dear reader, change is a natural thing. So is the desire to prevent it. And what we're seeing now is a natural struggle between the Great Correction which wants to eliminate debt... and the Great Blundering Reflation in which the feds desperately try to add to the world's debt supply.
Why are the feds so keen to add debt? They're not really. What they want to do to is to prevent change. And they only things they've got to work with are brute force... counterfeit money... and debt.
But even the USA is scheduled to enter a phase of European-style austerity. Beginning next on 1 Jan, a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts should grip America and force it into something the newspapers are calling "Taxmaggedon."
In Greece, debtors kill themselves, children go hungry, the unemployed threaten insurrection.
In Spain, mobs attack banks, half of all youths are unemployed and the banks face huge losses from bad debt.
So far, America has avoided those scenes of desperation. But unless Congress takes action to deny what it has promised, like Mario Monti did yesterday, the Great Correction is about to get even greater. Tax rates are scheduled to go up. Automatic spending cuts are scheduled to take deficits down. These are the cans that Congress kicked down the road last year. The Bush/Obama tax cuts will expire in 2013. And because Congress was unable to come up with a sensible budget the axe will fall on government spending too.
What will happen if "taxmaggedon" comes as scheduled? Experts say GDP will fall by 3%. Hey, that would put it in negative territory.
And the recovery? Over. Finito. Kaput. And unemployment? Up. House prices? Down.
But wait... will the feds allow such a thing?
No, probably not. They will try to block it. Congress will kick the can again. Tax rates will rise... but not as much as they are supposed to rise. Spending will be trimmed, around the edges but not seriously.
And then - when the economy and stock market take another dive, as they in August of 2010 and again in September of 2011 - the Fed will announce another programme of QE.
If there is any real change a real Great Correction, in other words it will be over their dead bodies.
Which is just the way we'd like it.
Don't miss Bill's next Daily Reckoning. To receive the next article straight into your inbox as soon as he's written it, sign up to the email list here .
Information in The Daily Reckoning is for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon by individual readers in making (or not making) specific investment decisions. Appropriate independent advice should be obtained before making any such decision. Your capital is at risk when you invest in shares - you can lose some or all of your money, so never risk more than you can afford to lose. Always seek personal advice if you are unsure about the suitability of any investment. The Daily Reckoning is an unregulated product published by Fleet Street Publications Ltd. Customer services: 020 7633 3600. Fleet Street Publications Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. https://www.fsa.gov.uk/register/home.do FSA number: 1152 34
Who is the richest person in the world?
The top five richest people in the world have a combined net worth of $825 billion. Who takes the crown for the richest person in the world?
By Vaishali Varu Published
Top 10 stocks with highest growth over past decade - from Nvidia, Microsoft to Netflix, which companies made you the most money?
We reveal the 10 global companies with the biggest returns since 2013. One firm has posted an astonishing 9,870% return, meaning a £1,000 investment would now be worth almost £82,000.
By Ruth Emery Published