by Simon Davies & Donald Hunt
02 November 2008
On both sides of the Atlantic there is
incredulity at the gall of bankers.
Goldman Sachs is reported to have set
aside $7 billion for bonuses having received $6 billion from the federal
government in bailout funds; while The Royal Bank of Scotland is scheduled
to pay out a much more modest $2.9 billion equivalent.
The age old argument that bonuses have to be paid to keep people from
walking has of course been trotted out.
In the current atmosphere, it might
be said that bankers are lucky not to be walking the plank let alone getting
a bonus. Indeed, in any just society many of them would be in jail already.
World stock markets rebounded strongly last week. The major world indices
all gained back more than they lost the week before, with the ones that fell
the most rising the most.
The Hang Seng was up 19%
The Nikkei was up
The Dow rose 11% after only falling 5% the week before
Oil prices rose regaining about half of what was lost the week before
however continued its suspicious decline
U.S. Federal Reserve Board announced another interest rate cut, reacting
to more news of contraction in the real economy and of plummeting consumer
confidence, which seemed to help stocks and oil regain previous losses.
The markets this week
Previous week's close
This week's close
$ / €
0.7922 / 1.2624
0.7858 / 1.2725
$ / ₤
0.6290 / 1.5898
0.622 / 1.6077
$ / ¥
94.318 / 0.0106
98.465 / 0.0102
US Fed Funds
$ 10 year
You may have noticed some new numbers in a new format. We have added a
sampling of the world's stock indexes along with the Japanese Yen and
British Pound exchange rates.
Here is a brief summary of what these numbers
Gold Price in Dollars
Gold has held value for thousands of years, for far longer than any
currency. So the price of gold can be considered to measure the value of
currencies. Gold is also a commodity however, so it is a rare thing: a
commodity and a currency. Historically, gold is seen as a haven/store of
value in uncertain and volatile times.
Gold Price in Euros
Following this number allows us to determine, to some extent, whether gold
is rising in price or whether the dollar is falling. If gold stays stable
against the euro but rises against the dollar, than what is really happening
is that the dollar is falling.
Historically, an ounce of gold has bought about ten barrels of oil. This
ratio can sometimes get out of balance in one direction or the other. But it
can tell us if there is an unusual run-up in either gold or oil, or if what
we are seeing is a general rise in the price of all commodities. That is
another way of saying that all currencies are worth less.
Stock indexes are total groups of stocks traded in different world stock
exchanges. They can be weighted in different ways, such as price-weighted or
capitalization-weighted (capitalization meaning the total value of a
company's stock) but the idea is to have a snapshot of the perceived health
of companies traded in different stock exchanges.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average. An index of 30 "Blue Chip" U.S. stocks, or
stocks of prestigious, well-established corporations. These stocks often pay
regular dividends. The stocks that make up the Dow change over time, but
represent leading companies in different industries, such as Disney, DuPont,
Kraft, General Motors, General Electric, ATT, Coca-Cola, IBM, you get the
idea. Big-time American corporations.
Pronounced "Footsie," the FTSE 100 is like a British Dow Jones, comprised of
the leading 100 British corporations.
The DAX is an index of 30 leading stocks traded in the Frankfurt exchange,
so it's like a German Dow. The DAX is a good way to get an idea of the
health of European corporations, since Germany is the leading economy in
The Nikkei 225 is the most important Japanese index. The Nikkei is a
price-weighted index of 225 leading Japanese stocks traded on the Tokyo
stock exchange. Along with the Hang Seng, it is a good indicator of the
health of Asian capitalism. Most of your favorite Japanese companies are in
the Nikkei, such as Sony, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Konica-Minolta, etc.
The Hang Seng is an index of 45 stocks traded on the Hong Kong stock
exchange. It is a good indicator of the health of Chinese capitalism in
particular, and, along with the Nikkei, Asian capitalism in general.
Mainland China's stock exchanges are not yet mature enough to be a reliable
indicator, but may be soon as their banking and regulatory systems mature.
The Bovespa index measures Brazilian stocks traded on the Sao Paolo stock
exchange. Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and can be seen as
an indicator of second-tier capitalist countries on the verge of the first
Currency Exchange Rates
The greenback is the world's most important reserve currency (for now). The
dollar's supremacy is due to US economic and military dominance of much of
the world, and the pricing/trading of commodities in dollars.
The currency of the European Union and newest of the major currencies. It is
the official currency of 15 of the member states of the E.U. It has joined
the dollar as a major reserve currency, giving a stable alternative to those
central banks that want to diversify away from the dollar.
Japan's currency is the third most traded currency after the dollar and euro
and is also used as a reserve currency.
The grand old lady of world reserve currencies. Reflects the strength of
Anglo capitalism and the world's oldest central bank, the Bank of England.
The pound is the third-ranked reserve currency. Not bad for a former
imperial power. Maybe the British bankers are not so "former" after all.
U.S. 10-Year Treasury Note
How much annual interest you get for loaning the U.S. government money for
ten years, in other words for buying a 10-year Treasury Note. The main
indicator of long term interest rates for the dollar.
U.S. Dollar, 3 Month Rate
How much interest (on an annual equivalent basis) you would get lending
money to the US government for 3 months.
U.S. Federal Funds Rate
The rate that US banks lend reserves held with the Federal Reserve to each
other on an overnight basis. While determined between the banks, the Federal
Reserve targets the nominal rate as a means of controlling money supply.
While markets rebounded in the US on Halloween,
October remained ugly and the state of the real economy continues to worsen:
Ugly October ends with an upbeat day on Wall St
Fri Oct 31, 5:10 pm ET
U.S. stocks ended one of their worst months on record, but signs of further
thawing in credit markets lifted battered shares on Friday.
Hammered by worries over the extent of the damage the credit crunch has
inflicted on the global economy, the Dow Jones industrial average logged its
biggest monthly decline in a decade, while the S&P 500 had its worst month
since the October 1987 market crash.
The decrease in overnight interbank borrowing costs prompted hopes that
global efforts to bolster confidence in credit markets are taking hold
following the Federal Reserve's interest-rate cut earlier this week and
spurred investors to search for bargains.
"It seems like you have some continued mild improvement in the credit
markets and that seems to be buoying hopes but people should know,
conditions may have improved, but they're improving slowly," said Chip
Hanlon, president of Delta Global Advisors Inc, in Huntington Beach,
U.S. consumers cut their monthly spending for the first time in two years
during September, according to a U.S. Commerce Department report...
In other economic news, an index of consumer sentiment suffered its steepest
monthly drop on record, according to the Reuters/University of Michigan
Surveys of Consumers' final reading for October.
And the Chicago Purchasing Management Index showed that business activity in
the Midwest came to a halt in October as production and new orders
Despite the rise in stocks last week, the real economy looks as bad as it
Payrolls Probably Fell, Factories Shrank
Nov. 2 Bloomberg
U.S. employers probably eliminated jobs in October for a 10th consecutive
month, while manufacturing contracted at the fastest pace since the 2001
recession, economists said before reports this week.
Payrolls shrank by 200,000 workers, according to the median estimate of
economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Labor Department's report
on Nov. 7. The unemployment rate may jump to its highest level in more than
The loss of almost one million jobs, falling property values, slumping
stocks and frozen credit may cause consumers and businesses to keep
retrenching. The state of the economy gave Democrat Barack Obama a lift over
Republican rival John McCain as Americans, who will elect a new president in
two days, perceived the Democrat from Illinois had a better grasp of the
The jobless rate last month probably rose to 6.3 percent from 6.1 percent in
September, the survey also showed.
''Unemployment is likely to rise sharply over the next several months as
repercussions from the credit crisis ripple through the economy,'' said
Russell Price, senior economist at H&R Block Financial Advisors in Detroit.
''The economy is the most important issue on the minds of voters.''
''Downside risks to growth remain,'' the Federal Reserve said last week as
it lowered its key rate by a half point to 1 percent. ''Business equipment
spending and industrial production have weakened in recent months, and
slowing economic activity in many foreign economies is damping the prospects
for U.S. exports.''
''Swift and decisive actions are necessary in response to today's global
economic conditions,'' Chief Executive Officer Charles ''Chip'' McClure said
in a statement.
Service industries, which range from homebuilders to mortgage lenders,
retailers and restaurants, and account for almost 90 percent of the economy,
also probably contracted in October, economists forecast another report from
the Institute for Supply Management will show on Nov. 5.
The economy shrank at a 0.3 percent pace in the third quarter, with consumer
spending dropping by 3.1 percent, the biggest decline since 1980, the
Commerce Department reported last week. Business investment in equipment and
software fell at a 5.5 percent rate.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg
forecast the economy will contract at a 0.8 percent rate in the fourth
Circles of Power
Last week we
talked a bit about Circles of Power stating that,
history, bankers have formed circles and clubs around them, the present day
is no different. The members of these circles, of which there are inner,
intermediate and outer, some interlocking some not, are bound by common
values and psychology (psychopathy and characteropathy), by blood,
inheritance, education, history, money and ultimately of course, power and
the desire to retain it absolutely."
A fine example of these 'circles of power' and how they operate has been the
recent revelations in the UK regarding
Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire
Nathan Rothschild, a member of
the Rothschild banking family
Peter Mandelson, a controversial Labour Party minister
a senior member of the Conservative party opposition
Nathaniel Philip James Rothschild, co-chairman of Atticus Capital, is the 37
year old only son of Jacob Rothschild (4th Baron Rothschild).
Richard Young/Rex Features
His father controls
RIT Capital Partners, holds shares in
Continuation Holdings, is said to have strong personal and business links
with Henry Kissinger and maintains exceptionally strong links with Israel,
the family having given the Knesset and Supreme Court buildings to Israel.
Rothschild Continuation Holdings' UK operating company, N.M Rothschild &
Sons lists as "notable current and former employees" men at the top of:
This list of men
in politics and public service is equally impressive including:
President of France
French Minister of Economy
Governor of the Bank of
British Finance Minister
Chancellor and Germany
UK Chief of the Defense Staff
In 2003 Jacob Rothschild was found to have exceptionally close links with
Russian oil oligarch
Mikhail Khodorkovsky when
it became public that the
voting rights on Khodorkovsky's shares in
Yukos passed to him in the event
of Khodorkovsky being unable "to act as beneficiary". Thus solving the
apparent mystery as to how a handful of unknown's succeeded in buying up the
crown jewels of the Russian economy, therefore transforming themselves into
"Oligarchs". As the expression goes, "follow the money".
Young Nathan Rothschild, in keeping with the family tradition, is the
"financial advisor" to
Oleg Deripaska purportedly Russia's richest man.
Deripaska, like all the Russian Oligarchs, is under pressure from his
bankers having borrowed heavily to finance his expansive business empire.
During this last summer (2008) Rothschild held a party aboard Deripaska's
immense yacht, the Queen K, while it was moored in Corfu.
party and staying on the yacht, was Peter Mandelson EU Trade Commissioner
and now a British government minister.
Mandelson is regarded by many as
being exceptionally corrupt in both his personal life, where he is reported
to have a penchant for young boys, and in his business and political
dealings, which have led him to be dismissed from government office twice
For an EU Trade Commissioner to have such a close relationship with a man of
Deripaska's reputation is highly suspicious to many including
the UK Sunday
Times. What Mandelson lacks in personal integrity he makes up for in
political cunning, representing therefore a potent threat to the political
opposition in the UK.
So it is that it must have seemed a chance too good to miss for
George Osbourne, a university friend of Nathan Rothschild and shadow chancellor for
the Conservative Party, having attended the party on the Queen K as well,
not to leak Mandelson's attendance to the press in the hope of scoring a
potentially fatal political blow to Mandelson.
However, while Mandelson has indeed been wounded, it has been fascinating to
see the counterattack against Osbourne which has emanated,
in a public
letter, from none other than Nathan Rothschild.
The counter accusations of
political impropriety against Osbourne have been investigated and he is
deemed innocent but one can only wonder at the comment in the UK Daily
"George Osborne and the [Conservative] Party have been warned that
they should stop their attempts to 'rubbish' Nat Rothschild, or risk being
Last week we commented:
What is needed is not a new currency system although that is the focus of
much rhetoric as we have seen [...] At this stage we don't see there being
sufficient stress in the currency markets to swing a new currency on a
single region [...]
All the talk of current institutions being insufficient
to manage global affairs and of individual countries being swamped by
capital movements suggests to us that there is a move afoot to bring in a
global central bank; and not the BIS which would remain in the background,
at least for the time being.
This might be achieved via some sort of reform
of the IMF but we doubt it.
The Euro, British Pound and Japanese Yen had all depreciated substantially
against the US dollar. While more dramatic depreciations had been in
commodity based and emerging market currencies, led by the Australian and
New Zealand dollars with the currencies of Korea, Poland, Hungary, Mexico
and South Africa among those quickly following.
No sooner had we commented than on October 26th
the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors had this
We reaffirm our shared interest in a strong and stable international
financial system. We are concerned about the recent excessive volatility in
the exchange rate of the yen and its possible adverse implications for
economic and financial stability. We continue to monitor markets closely,
and cooperate as appropriate.
Plus a mass of "currency crisis" headlines hit
Denmark made its clearest commitment to a currency u-turn as it became the
latest country to clamor for the euro as a result of the financial
Among the 12 'new' members who joined since 2004, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta
have adopted the euro and Slovakia will follow on January 1, while
high-level opposition dramatically softened in Poland this week with talk of
a 2012 entry date.
Hungary also said that it wanted to speed up entry following the damaging
run on the forint which led to Wednesday's $25 billion international rescue
package for its economy.
"The euro ensures political and economical stability in Europe and the
current financial turmoil makes it evident that Denmark has to join the
Danish voters have been very skeptical of euro entry, rejecting the
Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and only passing it with an opt-out for the single
currency, and again resisting the currency in a referendum in 2000 by 53.2
per cent to 46.8 per cent on a massive 87.6 per cent turnout. But a recent
poll showed that a slim majority, 50.1 per cent, were now in favor.
Support for the euro is also on the up in Sweden, with a poll this week
showing 42 per cent in favor and 47 per cent again, with 11 per cent
undecided. In May, just 34.6 per cent were in favor and 51.7 per cent
The financial crisis has also concentrated minds in Poland, where the
euro-skeptic President, Lech Kaczynski, has relaxed his opposition and seems
likely to support the constitutional changes needed to adopt the single
currency, following a referendum.
The other small country buffeted by the worst of the financial storms and
eyeing the security of the euro is Iceland - which would first have to join
the EU. Polls are showing a huge change of heart in the island with 70 per
cent in favor of membership of the organization.
The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc
threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western
Europe.... Currency pegs are being tested to destruction on the fringes
of Europe's monetary union in a traumatic upheaval that recalls the collapse
of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.
"This is the biggest currency crisis the world has ever seen," said
Mellor, a strategist at Bank of New York Mellon.
The risk is a surge in capital flight from Austria - the country, as it
happens, that set off the global banking collapse of May 1931 ....
The latest data from the
Bank for International Settlements shows that
Western European banks hold almost all the exposure to the emerging market
bubble, now busting with spectacular effect... Austria's bank exposure to
emerging markets is equal to 85% of GDP - with a heavy concentration in
Hungary, Ukraine, and Serbia - all now queuing up (with Belarus) for rescue
packages from the International Monetary Fund.
Exposure is 50% of GDP for Switzerland, 25% for Sweden, 24% for the UK,
and 23% for Spain. The US figure is just 4%. America is the staid old lady
in this drama... Amazingly, Spanish banks alone have lent $316bn to Latin
America, almost twice the lending by all US banks combined ($172bn) to what
was once the US backyard.... as Argentina spirals towards another default,
and Brazil's currency, bonds and stocks all go into freefall.
IMF's experts drafted a report two years ago - Asia 1996 and Eastern
Europe 2006 - Déjà vu all over again? - warning that the region exhibited
the most dangerous excesses in the world.
Inexplicably, the text was never published, though underground copies
It is just blood in the water for hedge funds sharks, eyeing a long line of
Russia too is in the eye of the storm, despite its energy
wealth.... The foreign debt of the oligarchs ($530bn) has surpassed the
country's foreign reserves. Some $47bn has to be repaid over the next two
"It is almost guaranteed that euroland money supply is about to implode," he
The threat to Britain lies in emerging Asia, where banks have lent $329bn,
almost as much as the Americans and Japanese combined.
The last of these being from Ambrose
Evans-Pritchard at the UK Daily Telegraph who quickly followed up
a couple of days later with the catchy headline, "IMF may need to "print
money" as crisis spreads":
International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever
growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America,
Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap
taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the
nuclear option of printing its own money.
Brad Setser, an expert on capital flows at the
Council for Foreign
Relations, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and India have together spent $75bn of
their reserves defending their currencies this month, and South Korea is
grappling with a serious banking crisis.
"Right now the IMF is too small to meet the foreign currency liquidity needs
of the larger emerging economies. We're in a dangerous situation and there
is the risk of extreme moves in the markets, as we have seen with the
Brazilian real. I hope policy-makers understand how serious this is," he
What a clear message the Council on Foreign Relations is sending to those in
the intermediate and outer circles of power, and to us too. There will be
extreme moves in the markets controlled, indirectly of course, by those very
people that can make such starkly accurate predictions when it suits them.
So we were right, there wasn't sufficient stress in the currency markets to
justify a new currency system but all that can be changed in a week with a
bit of market manipulation and perception management.
We are about to have a
finely engineered currency crisis with all that that entails in terms of
human suffering at one end of the scale and further accumulation of wealth
at the other. More pain and suffering and further shocks to the system to
add to the pressure upon people so that we clamor for certainty and welcome
our new slavery with open arms.
Not only will we have a currency
crisis but it seems we are being softened up for a global central bank. One
that might even create it's own money.
The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the
capital markets by issuing 'AAA' bonds under its own name. It has never
resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.
The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in
effect acting as if it were the world's central bank. This was done briefly
after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic
tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.
"The IMF can in theory create liquidity like a central bank,"
..... The IMF clearly fears a domino effect in Eastern Europe where a
collapse in one country automatically leads to a collapse in another,"
The root problem is that Eastern Europe and Russia have together borrowed
$1,600bn from foreign banks in Euros and Dollars to fund their catch-up
growth spurt over the last five years, according to data from the Bank for
International Settlements. These loans are now coming due at an alarming
pace. Even rock-solid companies are having trouble rolling over debts.
Mr Schering said Turkey was likely to join the queue for bail-outs very
"Their external liabilities have reached $186bn, and a lot of this is
short-term debt that has to be rolled over in coming months," he said.
Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that his
country would not "darken its future by bowing to the wishes of the IMF",
but it is unclear how long Ankara can maintain its defiant stand as capital
flight drains reserves.
Pakistan - now facing imminent bankruptcy - has also raised political
hackles, balking at IMF demands for deep cuts in military spending as a
condition for a standby loan.
Diplomats say it is unlikely that the West
will let the nuclear-armed Islamic state slip into chaos.
So crisis upon crisis is set to roll over us, just as we discussed last
The Origins of Totalitarianism
Hannah Arendt, in
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) demonstrates the
interconnected nature of racism, expansionist capitalism and imperialism.
Bureaucracy and racism were the main traits of colonial imperialism which
might be better called unlimited capitalist expansionism. Excess capital was
built up in European nation states during the 19th century and had to be
invested outside those nation states.
Very soon, the export of money led to
the export of government power in protection of that money. Business was
transformed into a political issue and the narrow economic interests of a
relatively small group became equated with national interests.
became an end in itself and its protagonists became,
functionaries of violence [who] could only think in terms of power politics.
They were the first who, as a class and supported by their everyday
experience, would claim that power is the essence of every political
We children of the 20th century have never known a world not dominated by
the equating of business interests with national interests. All modern
foreign policy is about business.
The new feature of this imperialist philosophy is not the predominant place
it gave to violence, nor the discovery that power is one of the basic
political realities. Violence has always been the ultima ratio in political
action and power has always been the visible expression of rule and
government. But neither had ever before been the conscious aim of the body
politic or the ultimate goal of any definite policy.
For power left to
itself can achieve nothing but more power, and violence administered for
power's (and not for law's) sake turns into a destructive principle that
will not stop until there is nothing left to violate.
Arendt was writing in 1951 about a philosophy that developed the previous
Since then Western, and in particular US, power backed by violence
wielded for the benefit of global corporations has dominated history. While
masquerading as "freedom" facing the implacable "communist" enemy it was all
too easy for many to fail to observe the true nature of events spanning the
globe from Latin America to Southeast Asia.
Now, seen for the naked
expansionism that it is, with its overt and covert racism, unmitigated
brutality and violence at home and abroad, we can only thank Hannah Arendt
for her perspicacity in seeing its origins and detailing where, by virtue of
its own nature it has to end - Totalitarianism.
So here we are, at the natural conclusion of all that power and violence in
the thrall of a singular creed of monetary greed, or as Arendt put it, "the
unlimited accumulation of capital". It is our conjecture that we are in a
new, and possibly final, phase of this "unlimited accumulation of capital".
A phase in which the meager "capital" that ordinary people have accumulated,
or have any hope of accumulating in the future, is in the process of being
stripped from them so as to become concentrated in the hands of a very small
As we look into the economic abyss we must also face the political and
social abyss that is the totalitarian society that steadily surrounds us,
which those in the circles of power are working feverishly to consolidate
before enough of us wake up to make a difference.
There are alternatives to this 19th century philosophy gone wild.
economist Herman Daly, delivered a paper to the Sustainable Development
Commission in the UK in April this year in which he reiterated his idea of a
Steady State Economy that can replace the "failed growth economy". We will
be exploring his ideas on the macro-economic scale and some of our own on
the micro-economic scale next week.
However, the issues of our time extend far beyond the economic sphere, they
extend to our very conception of ourselves and each other and the true
circumstances in which we find ourselves.
We need to learn how to survive
within the system in which we find ourselves while also building our own new
systems. It would seem to us to be foolhardy to cut ourselves off from the
existing system as that system is so dominating and so clearly intent on
total global domination that we must find a role to play in it to maintain
our very existence.
Yet, if we wish for a better world, one in which a
different set of values maintains, we have to take responsibility and build
that world ourselves.
One of the saddest attributes of the political systems in which we find
ourselves is that we have surrendered our political rights and social
responsibilities to the state.
It is time we reclaimed both.