The Alignment of Asset Reflation and a Collapsed Economy

Abandoned Roller CoasterIf all the highly informed people who’ve been waging a war the past six months against rising stock prices would just step back for a moment, they would perhaps understand better that their macro views are supported, not negated, by asset reflation. For it’s this asset reflation that hints at the singular and doomed strategy of our monetary policy, and its overlay on our collapsed economy. Just so that I’m clear: there is no macroeconomic recovery occurring in the United States. What’s unfolding currently is snap-back from last year’s crash, which led us to the bottom of a spider-hole. The positive bits of macro data, dribbling out here and there, are really just about getting us back to zero. A kind of steady-state, expected to carry on for some time to come. And that’s a best-case scenario.

Amusement ParkYou can think of the US economy as a kind of defunct amusement park, over which the FED has poured trillions of dollars of syrupy goo. The caramel candy is there for tasting, but it doesn’t turn the machines back on. The ferris wheel is silent. Since WW2, Washington has always been able to call upon Housing and Autos as the two areas to stimulate, to pull the country out of recessions. Of course, we just did that in super-sized fashion 6-7 years ago, to extract ourselves from the last recession. So, it’s kind of sad to see policy makers trying this again. Failed thinkers promote failed playbooks.

Our society’s hierarchy rests in part upon the following assumption: that the intellectual capacity of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, with his PhD and his white papers, is superior to that of a mortgage broker from Orange County, California. I think we need an adjustment to this type of assumption. Because the spread I see opening up everywhere in the US economy is what I call the Prestige-Performance gap, whereby the assertions of our elite no longer comport with observable reality. If the chairman of the Federal Reserve will not allow that the greatest credit bubble ever has now burst, or that it ever existed, then this partially explains why he would think stuffing the banking system with fresh capital would revive the economy.

Asset reflation therefore, in equities and especially in gold, should be seen not as exuberance but merely as part of the same chaos in pricing unleashed by The Federal Reserve, starting earlier this decade. As so clearly outlined in the recent data on employment, credit demand, consumer spending, and our (in)ability to save there is little to no prospect for a sustained economic recovery for one simple reason: Americans are now trapped by their debt.

For those who recognize a rising stock market as evidence of disarray, what we should anticipate now is the recognition phase where the wider public finally comes to understand the nature of our inflationary depression. My marker has been 100 dollar oil and 15% unemployment in California. That should finally get the message across. But other combinations will do: 1300 dollar gold, 1300 on the SPX, and more problems with Commercial Real Estate will also suffice. Like the prestige-performance gap, the divergence between the economy and asset prices apparently has to become even more grotesque before people will understand.