Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Will Helicopter Ben Drop Another Load Tomorrow?

I don't know whether Ben Bernanke and the FED will lower rates tomorrow and provide welfare for "suffering" millionaire Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers. But I do know that he will be dropping billions of dollars from his helicopter over the next few months to reflate the US economy and avoid deflation. Right on! Helicoper Ben!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

There's a panic in asset backed securities!

Investors use this market to hedge against these assets. It looks as if the underlying asset values are collapsing, particularly recently. It's a shocking chart.


This article helps explain that chart.


Is it any wonder that a number of banks in the US and around the world are having to write off huge chunks of their net worth. It looks as if they are only just beginning this process! Merrill Lynch had to admit to having to write off over $8 billion dollars the other day. Is that just the tip of the iceberg for this and other US and European banks?

Are these devices(derivatives) a clever way to disperse risk or are they as Warren Buffet has said, “financial weapons of mass destruction”,that are poorly understood and perilous boosters of credit? "The Economist" print edition 19/4 2007

Gold and silver will be the main beneficiaries here.

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Ecstasy of Gold from "The Good The Bad and the Ugly"

Aholebroke used the orchestral version of this on Gold Eagle's Gold Forum. However, on a day like today I don't mind stealing a good idea! Gold and silver are going great guns today. It's only a matter of time until the public wake up to the value present in PM stocks.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

"The Counterfeiters" : how the Germans tried to destroy the British and American economies by printing money during the World War II.

Money is being printed at an ever increasing rate in most countries in the world. It's around 14% in the UK and maybe more than 10% in the US. Of course, the public are not aware of this as they have been told that inflation is only linked the CPI (the Consumer Price Index). This is widely said to be around 2-3%. What a joke as the index is composed of items that mainly exclude inflation and items that do, food, oil, house-prices, are excluded. Geobels would be proud of how modern governments manipulate statistics. Perhaps that is why these governments are so proud of them. Statistics are used for measuring everthing. The problem is they set false goals therefore statistics are merely an illusion and not worth a damn! The modern obsession with "target setting" can be reduced to a modern mania for creating illusions for the public mind control.

The excellent, recent German film, "The Counterfeiters" is based on real events. The Germans tried to use a master forger and his team to destroy the currencies of the UK and USA by printing money worth several times more than each country's reserves. This German inspired effort also represents the last big attempt to flood Britain and the US with specially printed money! However, one could argue that each country has been doing this already since the Fed was founded in 1913! For inflation has reduced the value of each currency by around 98% since the First World War.

Counterfeiters - Trailer

Posted Sep 19, 2007

Towards the end of World War II, the National Socialists forged millions of British pounds in order to weaken the enemy's economy. A counterfeiting plant was set up with prisoners in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

German Team Damn UK Economic 'Miracle' As A Sham by The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The latest by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is an excellent piece on the sham economics of Britain over the last 15 years and well worth repeating here in full.

German team damn UK economic 'miracle' as a sham By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor

Britain's economic resurgence over the last fifteen years has been driven by record levels of household debt and a public spending spree that cannot continue, according a German-led team of economists.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Did the Fed hit the brakes too hard?
HSBC warns of hot money exodus from Britain
Get the latest news on the UK economy

In a damning new report "More Mirage than Miracle" published by the free-market think tank Policy Exchange, the analysts said Britain was relapsing into high-tax and high-regulation sclerosis just as the rest of Europe begins to shake itself out of statist lethargy.

The country's underlying slippage has been masked by a housing boom that creates a false sense of wealth and encourages people to over-spend by drawing cash from their homes.

The British are resorting to a Faustian Pact that leaves many of them with an ever greater debt burden.

"From 2001 to 2006, a total of £256bn in equity was extracted from UK property values in this way. Dependent as it is on rising house prices, housing equity withdrawl cannot continue to prop up our consumer spending at its current level," said the report.

The dramatic change in attitudes to debt has caused the UK savings rate to plummet from 8.3pc of disposable income fifteen years ago to around zero. Personal debt has risen by 137pc since June 1993 to £1,343bn, greater that annual GDP for the first time.

"Just as private households have been living beyond their means, so has the state. The expansion of the public sector artificially inflates GDP growth data: it cannot continue much longer.

"Judging by the fiscal deficit trend, the UK is now in worse fiscal shape than almost any other major Western country. In the event of an economic downturn, the UK now has little leeway for stimulus," it said. The report was mostly written by two German economists: Holger Schmieding, chief Europe economist for Bank of America, and Policy Exchange's chief economists Oliver Hartwich.

"We're two Germans who came to Britain believing its was a free-market haven and we're disturbed by what we've found. This is the year when the state sector in the UK as a share of GDP rises above the level in Germany. It's shocking," said Dr Hartwich. "The rest of Europe has been cutting taxes and pushing through reforms, and what has Britain done? The economy has in effect been been 'bailed out' by housing inflation and debt," he said.

The report cited a World Bank study showing that Britain earned top score as a place to do business in just one respect; "the ease of getting credit". It came 54th in the category of dealing with licences, a sign that the regulatory arteries are furring up.

Separately, Barclays said it was downgrading its forecast for the UK economy and now expects the Bank of England to cut rates a quarter point in Feburary and again in May, rather than remaining on hold deep into next year.

Barclays said the debt markets have not yet returned to normal following the August credit crunch in America and the Northern Rock debacle in Britain. Households and firms are likely to face a "pronounced rise in the effective borrowing rate".

"We now think domestic demand will slow markedly in the next few quarters," said the bank's UK economist George Johns. Britain's heavy reliance on the City will also take its toll. Barclays expects growth to fall from 3.1pc this year to 2.2pc in 2008.

Bank of America is forecasting four rate cuts to 4.75pc by the end of next year as the chickens come home to roost in Britain, with sterling dropping from £2.03 to around to £1.84 against the dollar.

In a sign of changing perceptions in Europe, the Spanish financial group Coface said Britain faces a "dangerous cocktail of a real estate bubble and household indebtedeness".

The group also put Spain on negative watch, warning that the country would soon follow the US and the UK into trouble as the property dominoes topple.

Britain's household debt levels are the highest of any major economy in Europe or North America, but with rates at 5.75pc it has ample room to ease monetary policy to cushion a hard-landing.

Those southern Euro-zone countries facing deflating property booms may not be so lucky. Their interest rates are now set in Frankfurt, largely to meet the quite different needs of Germany and Northern Europe.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

BBC Radio 4's recently dramatised version of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin"

BBC Radio 4's recent dramatised production of the de Berniere's "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" can be downloaded as a bittorent file from here. It's around 160 megabytes. It's a very good production and certainly worth listening to help understand the novel. It's a pity the same could not be said of the film.


How to study poems and write essays about them

My Last Duchess

Lord knows I've prepared advice sheets like this one several times. Still it's worth giving another take on this. This advice on how to write about poetry comes from the excellent CEA, Northern Ireland's Exam Board. The internet back-up support and notes for their anthologies is superb. Here is the link to their site. Scroll down to see the available poems for notes, interpretation, etc.


Writing about poetry: some general pointers
To begin with it is likely that you may be asked to write about an individual poem and later you’ll find yourself faced with more complex tasks that will require you to compare and/or contrast poems.
We’ll first look at how to analyse a single poem. Later, we’ll look at working with more than one.

Analysing an individual poem
Below are a series of sub-headings that should allow you to break down the task of analysis into more user-friendly bites.

a. To begin by looking at the SUBJECT MATTER of the poem is logical: what event, situation or experience does the poem feature?

b. Does the poet have a PURPOSE or a THEME or a MESSAGE? What was the poet's purpose in writing this - what is being conveyed?

c. What is the MOOD or FEELING of the poem? Is there a key emotion or mood within the poem? Does that mood change during the course of the poem? What response does the poet conjure up in his/her reader?

d. What are the poem’s KEY FEATURES? What TECHNIQUES has the poet used, what are the specific skills that have been employed in creating this poem? (This would be a major element within your analysis and it has been considered in detail in the section below.)

e. Finish off with YOUR SUMMARY. You’ve analysed the poem, now pull together the significant information. What impact has the poem had upon you? How successful is it? Do you think that it succeeds in its purpose, or if not, why has it failed?

This deals with the HOW question: how does the poet achieve a particular effect? What techniques have been used, and what is their effect?
The following outline is to help you understand the major elements of craftsmanship.

STRUCTURE: how is the poem structured? Does it have a conventional structure such as a sonnet, or an ode? Does it have stanzas with a regular number of lines, or any other features in its structural make up?

LANGUAGE: how would you describe the poet's use of words – are they vivid, striking, effective, drab, predictable or unusual? Is the language in keeping with the subject and/ or theme, and what part, importantly, does the language play in the poem's achievement?

IMAGERY: are there any striking examples of similes, metaphors, personification or symbols in the poem? Of much more consequence, what is their effect and what has been achieved by their use?

RHYTHM: does the poem have a regular (slow or fast) or fragmented rhythm? And again, most significantly what is the effect of a poem’s rhythmic qualities?

SOUNDS: Does the poem have any significant sound features? Is it musical? Does the poet use onomatopoeia, alliteration, or assonance? Does the poem rhyme? Having recognised these, your major emphasis should be on what influences these features of sound have on the achievement of the poem?

Analysing two poems
Let’s begin by stating the obvious - a successful comparison of two poems demands a close understanding of the texts.
So what methods of organising such a comparison are open to you?
Two alternatives immediately present themselves:

• the titles
• a thematic approach
A sequential approach is where you work your way through one of the poems and then work your way through the second after that. This is appealing in that you only have to concentrate on one poem at a time, however, the need to compare the two poems will mean that, as you comment on the second poem, you have to make cross-references with the first. This can be more difficult than the second approach.

The thematic approach is more difficult, initially, only because you have to plan thoroughly before beginning to write your response. This will require you to be confident enough to use some of your precious time for planning as opposed to writing - which is what every exam candidate feels they should be doing all the time! No matter which of these approaches you choose to use, what you must bear in mind throughout is the focus demanded by the question. (One final thought before leaving this – practising will certainly help!)

The following planning strategy might help:
• the titles
• the context of the poems
• their perspectives
• their form
• the use made of imagery
• their mood and tone
• your preferences and conclusions

Operation White Noise Steps Into The Limelight

Jim Sinclair's latest missive is articulated just as only he can.

Operation White Noise Steps Into The Limelight Author: Jim Sinclair

Dear CIGAs,
I told you so.
“Operation White Noise,” the attempt to hide the breakdown in credit structured products (over the counter credit derivative meltdown) is a make believe dyke starting to leak badly.
If the credit problem was being repaired then why set up a fund at all? This is a $20 trillion dollar problem with a total over the counter problem size of $450 trillion worldwide. You can be sure that all holders of all kinds of structured products are looking very carefully at the cartoon called market to model because there is no market to mark to.
I do not find benefit in going into large dissertations on the simple conclusion I have been trying to drive home.
This is it.
The model is the Weimar Republic.
The catalyst of the cataclysm is a failure in over the counter derivatives.
The price of gold is a product of the trend in the US dollar.
The price of the dollar is controlled by my Formula. Click here to review the Formula.
The US dollar is going to .7200, .6200 and then on its way to .5600 USDX.
Gold is therefore headed right now to $782, a Cherub on its way to $848 - $852 before moving onward to four figures and $1650.
Every Angel will be touched and exceeded.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Peter Brimelow's "Wary Gold Bugs See Several Soaring Scenarios"

Peter Brimlow is one of the better US financial journalists who has presented the case for the precious metals for much longer than most. In this intriging article he ponders the next few months in gold and gold shares when so many goldbugs have fallen away. The lack of a public fanfare as gold has reached historic highs is one of the most powerful reasons to suggest a much higher price for gold and silver in the coming months. Joe Sixpack may be about to come onboard the goldtrain to push prices higher as high gold prices gain wider publicity.

And what are my positions in gold and silver? I'm almost fully invested in the US and the UK after having diversified my holdings further. Only one of them, TMG, is causing me some concern and even that one may result in a better conclusion than it would appear.

I liked John Doody's point in the latest Financialsense broadcast in which he thought that investments in PM stocks in Dollar-based or Dollar linked economies would yield premium returns as their costs would be lower than in countries with stronger currencies. He also thinks that this point is not, as yet, recognised by the market.

Gold's time to set price records?
Commentary: Wary gold bugs see several soaring scenarios
By Peter Brimelow, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Could gold be "melting up"? Some letters think so.
Friday's close in New York, $10.70 above the previous week's close at $743.10, was the highest monthly close ever. (Gold briefly cleared $800 on an intra-month basis in back in 1980). The ultra-long term $US 5 X 3 Point and Figure chart made available freely by the public-spirited The Privateer Website looks stunningly handsome.


And after all, gold bugs reason, just about every other commodity price has smashed through to all-time highs recently. Why not gold?
This is the point of view of James Turk in his Freemarket Gold & Money Report, which has supplied a sophisticated assessment of gold for more than 20 years. Turk writes:
"A blow-off leg in gold is looking increasingly likely once it clears $1,000. Think about this a moment. The US dollar is now trading at record lows, with no bottom in sight. Commodity prices are soaring, with wheat at over $9 per bushel and crude oil looking increasingly well supported over $80 per barrel.
Gold is rising against all the world's currencies, indicating that fiat national currencies backed by nothing but promises from over-indebted governments are becoming increasingly doubted. Britain just experienced the world's biggest bank run since the 1930s ...We should be mentally prepared for the possibility that gold exceeds $1,000 within the next few months, and then just keeps climbing to a blow-off high.
"How high? A doubling of the gold price has happened before in blow-offs like the one I am describing, so $1,500 or more is not out of the question."
Sentiment indicators don't rule this out. True, MarketVane's Bullish Consensus for gold jumped 3 points on Friday to 90%, which is the highest since May 2006 - when gold made its previous recent high. On the other hand, back then gold spent a full two weeks gamboling happily with confidence in the 90s.
Furthermore, letters with a direct commercial interest in the public's appetite for the gold story are complaining.

Bill Murphy, whose Le Metropole Café Web site depends on subscriptions, laments: "What is even more remarkable is the lack of enthusiasm over this coming historic move to the upside. The Café Sentiment Indicator fell to a 3 yesterday, as gold made a 28-year high on the COMEX, and so far is nowhere ... even TODAY thus far. I just heard from a veteran broker of a major Planet Wall Street firm who specializes in the gold shares. He said his 'shop was very quiet.'
"What amazes me is how many Café members, both paying and trial members, have dropped by the wayside over the years and continue to do so." See Web site)

Other much-cited evidence: the poor performance of the junior gold shares, the purest play on stock-market gold optimism. Neither the Amex Gold Bugs Index (HUI:HUI XAU,) indices of major gold shares have made new highs despite gold's performance. Reportedly, gold share mutual funds continue to experience redemptions.
The primary logical obstacle to a melt up is the possibility of intensified Central Bank sales. Le Metropole Café was pleased last week to see Wall Street Establishmentarian Citigroup, Inc. (C:Citigroup, Inc News, chart, profile, more acknowledging this possibility. It said: "Gold undoubtedly faced headwinds this year from resurgent central bank selling, which was clearly timed to cap the gold price."

Gold bugs, much scarred by two hard decades, worry that ballooning open interest on COMEX suggests a determined, possibly policy-motivated, seller is present. Nevertheless, this is a market to watch.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

"The Lives Of Others" directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Here is a trailer for a brilliant and timely film about a paranoid state (The East German GDR in 1984) and its obsession "to know everything" about its citizens, who were treated little better than "inmates". The film ironically positions itself during the time of George Orwell's novel entitled after the same year.

Given the regular cases that crop up in the US of people being spied on by their neighbours and work colleagues FOR YEARS and the sheer numbers of CCTV cameras in Britain (at the last count 4.2 million. One for every fourteen people in the UK!) the coming economic downturn will create a climate of western states who want "to know everything" about their citizens. Western governments are already well down that particular path as technology makes spying on people far easier than it has been before.

Paul Greengrasses's fast-moving "The Bourn Ultimatum" explores a similar issue. You would need to go back to Francis Ford Coppulas' "The Conversation" (1974) featuring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul to find another narrative about bugging in which the listener is affected by those he listens into. But then the 1970s was a period during which government paranoia was also high.

The Lives Of Others - Trailer - HiQ

Posted Jun 07, 2007

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's movie debut focuses on the horrifying, sometimes unintentionally funny system of observation in the former East Germany.

"The Lives of Others" is a must-see movie!

Friday, 5 October 2007

The coming months for gold and the dollar

Jim Willie agrees

"We are witnessing a failure of economic and banking stewardship, management, and performance. The entire world is held hostage. Their banking systems are reinforced by gargantuan sums of US$-based securities. To call them 'secure' at all is a bad joke and a misnomer in every sense. The backlash from the subprime bond export, complete with fraud, mispricing, mislabeling, and premeditation, has in no way been fully played out. With the European, British, and Japanese central banks frozen on policy, urged to hold on interest rates at the point of a gun, the gold price will serve as a relief valve. These major central banks are expanding the money supply in magnificent fashion, over 14% together. With the US Federal Reserve certain to cut rates further, and with far less likelihood of foreign major central banks to follow suit, the USDollar is in great jeopardy. With the Arab states which form the Gulf Coop Council contemplating a removal of the US$ peg, a fracture in the PetroDollar defacto standard is near. Implications to the USDollar negatively, and to gold positively, are profound. The Asians and Arabs are hedging against US$-based bond losses by purchasing increasing amounts of gold. The transactions are not being hidden. Gold is heading for $1000 in the coming several months. The USDollar is heading for DX=70 in the coming several months. The euro is heading for 150 in the next several months. The Canadian Dollar is heading for 110 in the next several months. The precious metal mining stocks are poised for a substantial runup in the next several months. The season will work favorably until the spring."

For more from Jim Willie:

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Citigroup says "mining shares are poised to surge"

Fleet Street's most honest and best economic journalist has just published another thunderous report on the dollar and gold.

Dollar crunch puts gold centre stage
By Ambrose Evans- Pritchard
Last Updated: 1:30am BST 03/10/2007
Have your say Read comments
The dominoes are toppling. What began as a credit crunch has turned into a dollar crunch. We are witnessing a run on the world's paramount reserve currency, an event that occurs twice a century or so, and never with a benign outcome.
The US dollar has fallen through parity against the Canadian dollar and plummeted to all-time lows against a basket of currencies. This is dangerous. None of the mature economic blocs seems able to take the strain, let alone step in to restore order.
Ultimately, Europe and Japan are in worse shape than the US. A mood of sauve qui peut is taking hold.
Is this what gold is sniffing as it breaks out against all currencies, smashing through €500 an ounce against the euro, and vaulting to a 28-year high of $743 against the dollar?
"Central banks have been forced to choose between global recession or sacrificing control of gold, and have chosen the perceived lesser of two evils," said Citigroup in a fresh report.
"We believe that the policy resolution to the credit crunch will take the form of a massive, extended 'Reflationary Rescue', in a new cycle of global credit creation and competititive currency devaluations. This could take gold to $1,000 an ounce, or higher."
The report's authors, John Hill and Graham Wark, say the avalanche of central bank bullion sales earlier this year was "clearly timed to cap the gold price".
They do not explain this explosive allegation, long promoted by the gold group GATA. But it would not surprise me if the European Central Bank's motive for selling 37 tonnes in April and May was to hold the euro price of gold below €500.
Citigroup said the game was up once the Federal Reserve slashed rates a half point and opened the liquidity floodgates.
Talk of "competitive devaluations" is a new twist, although Bernard Connolly from Banque AIG has been warning for a long time that this would be the denouement. Gold bugs often prattle about the dollar's demise - condign punishment for a country that has amassed $3 trillion of net liabilities abroad, slashed its savings rate below zero and spent itself into a debtor's gaol - but they rarely ask what currency it is supposed to collapse against.
China is a leveraged play on US shopping malls. Japan is already buckling. Its economy contracted 0.3pc in Q2. Wages have fallen for eight months in a row. The Abe government has fallen - the first sub-prime victim, but not the last.
Until now, the euro has served as the "anti-dollar", the default choice for Asians and petrodollar powers wary of US assets. This cannot last.
A rate of $1.43 (it was 83 cents in 2000) will combine, after a one-year lag, with deflating property bubbles in the Club Med bloc to cause a crisis in 2008. It will then become clear that the needs of the Germanic and Latin zones are incompatible and that a coin with no treasury, debt union, or polity to back it up cannot displace the dollar - if it survives at all.
Airbus is already underwater, unable to meet its dollar contracts unless it shifts plant from Europe. Every 10-cent rise in the euro costs €1bn.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in guerrilla warfare against the ECB, threatening to invoke Maastricht Article 109, which gives EU politicians power to set a fixed exchange rate (by unanimity) or a "dirty float" (by majority).
The mood is moving his way. Eurogroup chair, Jean-Claude Juncker, has stopped pretending that all is well. "We have begun to have great concern about the exchange rate of the euro," he said.
Europe will not let America export its day of reckoning to the rest of the world. It will counter with its own devaluation.
No doubt Ben Bernanke will use all means to avert disaster, including the "printing press" he invoked in November 2002. By this he meant that the Fed could inject unlimited stimulus by purchasing as many bonds and assets as it wants. He believes the Fed could have avoided the Depression if it had been more creative in 1931.
Even so, I am not sure that the Bernanke Fed will move fast enough, given fears of moral hazard, or, indeed, whether the rate cuts on offer are enough to head off an insolvency crisis. The chart of S&P 500 looks eerily similar to October 1987, the last time a tumbling US dollar set off a crash.
A Bundesbank rate rise was the trigger then. If the ECB's hawks are pig-headed enough to ram through one last rise on October 4, we might see a replay.
Large parts of the global credit system are still shut. The $2.2 trillion market for commercial paper has shrunk by $368bn over the past seven weeks as lenders refuse to roll over loans. The $2.5 trillion market for "structured finance" remains frozen.
US sales of new houses are down 21pc in a year. Median prices have fallen 14pc since March to $225,700. Builders are having to slash tariffs to move stock at all.
We wait to see what happens as "teaser rates" on some $1.5 trillion of mortgages jump with a venomous kick in coming months. The Fed should have thought about this three years ago when rates were 1pc. It is too late now.
How do you play gold rally? Citigroup says the mining shares are poised to surge after lagging badly, offering a "Gold beta" leverage of 2.36. "The market is likely to be shocked at how much cash the major Golds generate at $700 an ounce," it said.
It certainly looks as if gold has at last "decoupled" from the stock markets, regaining its role as the ultimate store of value. Whether the mining equities have decoupled is another matter.
If Wall Street takes a beating this autumn, the safest play is pure metal.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

About Me

I teach Film, Media and English Lit.