Category Archives: Economics

A Discussion of the Merits of Short Term Interest Rate Management, Part I

4/28/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

One of our working hypotheses here at The Mint is that short-term interest rate management, the primary tool employed by the Central Banks of the world to implement monetary policy, is necessarily harmful to the economy by providing incentives for achieving what otherwise would be suboptimal economic outcomes.  By extension, we believe that these suboptimal outcomes are not simply a lost opportunity or a generator of wasted efforts and resources, but a primary contributor to the imbalances in the environment which today bears the label “climate change.”

Recently, we were invited to present our hypothesis at a Global Macro Roundtable for discussion.  Today and over the next several days, we will present a slightly redacted transcript of the roundtable for the consideration of our fellow taxpayers.  Names (with the obvious exception of our own) have been changed to protect both the innocent and guilty.

As you will see, the discussion (which we have color coded in order to help follow the cast through the maze of discussion) takes many twists and turns, and in a way reveals how far-reaching the influence of short-term interest rates has become, as well as the broad misunderstanding of the concept of money that persists to this day.

Enjoy!

A Discussion of the Merits of Short Term Interest Rate Management

The hypothesis:

Why Short-Term Interest Rate Management is Harmful to the Economy: The Unseen Funding Dynamic 

While the evidence is clear that centralized planning is a failure, pointing to the reasons why can prove elusive. Recently, a revelation regarding the problem with centralized management of short-term interest rates came upon us. The revelation is the following: Imagine you are a banker who needs to fund a loan. In order to fund this loan, you would presumably need to have the money available with which to fund it. This is simple logic, however, in the real world of banking, the decision of whether or not to fund a loan is completely disconnected from the availability of funds, which is primarily determined by the overnight funding markets which, in turn, are completely reliant upon short-term interest rates.

In a world that followed the rules of financial physics, the short-term interest rates would be completely dependent upon the availability of funds in the system. However, the centralized management of interest rates makes this critical data point, which would otherwise provide a snapshot of the amount of capital in an economic system which is held in liquid form and available for deployment, irrelevant, as the amount of capital available in today’s centrally managed system can be determined on whim.

As such, the ability of the banker to fund the loan is not dependent upon an availability of funds that represents the amount of capital available in the real world, rather, his ability to fund the loan is completely dependent upon the borrower’s ability to pay and the size of the loan in relation to the structure of the bank’s balance sheet.

The three criteria above are important, as any underwriter will tell you, but the invisible fourth criteria, the true availability of the funds for the loan, or funding dynamic, is completely ignored in the following fashion:

When the short-term interest is managed to be low, as is the case currently, any borrower who has the capacity to pay and has a lending need that fits well with a certain bank’s loan mix is extremely likely to get funded, regardless of whether or not the economics system as a whole has the capital available to fund his or her loan. When the short-term interest rate is managed to be high, as it was in the early 1980’s in the US, funding any loan, regardless of the ability to pay and fit within bank’s balance sheet, becomes impossible to fund.

In both cases, both borrower and banker are left completely in the dark as to whether or not there exists the necessary capital stock or productive capacity in the economy for the funds to be deployed in the manner that the borrower envisions, for the short-term interest rate signal has been genetically modified to send a common signal to all participants.

Unfortunately, it is a signal that blinds everyone to the facts of the situation. For many are the hopes, dreams, and ideas of mankind, but it is the funding dynamic which keeps these hopes, dreams, and ideas in harmony with the natural world upon which we all depend.

Right now, we are floating in the clouds, completely disconnected from reality. The landing caused by the next round of high rates, via a natural rebalancing of accounts or further genetic modification of the short-term rates, will be very hard indeed.

The funding dynamic is so delicate that mankind cannot hope to optimize it via genetic modification, for when left alone, it is optimized by definition. Again, by definition, every attempt to modify will bring about sub-optimal results.

As with all complex economic and political systems, dissent is information, and serves to manage the system’s outputs while at the same time increasing the resiliency of the system, making it less susceptible to shocks.

Centralized short-term interest rate management must be abandoned before it is too late, for it is leading the activities of mankind towards a dangerous showdown with the limitations of the natural world.

Discussion

Contributor A:  This brings to mind the Pareto curve reaching a knee limit and catastrophe theory when there is a Quantum state change in the system being considered (the twig will snap, the water will boil as energy (money) is added, etc.). We are expanding the money supply and disregarding that eventually an infinite amount will be needed.

One other point is the Multiplier effect at the Bank who gets $ 1 Million from the fed and uses a low Reserve to make loans greatly exceeding that because the Loans are an asset on their books ; and, as repayments come in multipliers on those. Where does it stop? When the twig snaps and then raging inflation must kick in at an Exponential level with time. Then SNAP!

Contributor B:  I have no disagreement with the conclusion, however, the facts leading there need to be adjusted/considered. For example, in the early 80’s, liquidity was not nearly the issue as it was raised in the statement. Not only did my clients acquire funding as required in that period, but I [stupidly] agreed to a mortgage in that period with an interest rate that still gives me nightmares. For the last few years interest rates have been suppressed, but at the same time my middle market clients have complained of there being insufficient liquidity to fund their business loans, meaning that new business ventures were not realised. This has relaxed in the past year or two slightly, but you need to remember one of the issues regarding the vast amount of dollars being held in banks.

When the FED began shipping huge quantities of dollars to friendly banks after the 2008 crash in order to stabilise some very shaky balance sheets, the FED promised to pay interest to the banks on those funds kept in storage with one absolutely unbreakable codicil: under no circumstances could the banks use those funds as part of their asset base in making loans. In other words, none, zero, zip, nada, NONE of those FED funds could be used for loans. Clearly, this move suppressed what would have been an immediately inflationary environment in the US, a highly destructive inflationary environment. But it also left these banks which were otherwise strapped for funds floundering for any money to loan out to their best small business customers. The banks may have stabililsed in the past few years of lean flow of funds, but it is not that much better in the commercial market for small and mid-sized customers.

The Mint:  As Contributor A highlights, the entire modern monetary system is extremely fragile and, given its debt base, could quickly disintegrate were a crisis of confidence to emerge or a widespread failure of technology make it inaccessible.

Contributor B (to whom I will defer on funding experiences of the early 80’s) brings up an important point in the form of the “unbreakable codicil” of the FED with regards to funding intended to shore up the Federal Reserve system. While this move made the banks and system technically solvent, the Fed has ignored the fact that the US economy has outgrown the Federal Reserve system, as the economy is starved for money at a time when the Fed’s measurements indicate that quite the opposite is true.

In the 2008 panic, the Federal Reserve deviated significantly from its traditional funding mechanisms to save its system and has altered the normal monetary transmission protocol. I believe that this has created a feedback loop which will result in the Federal Reserve system receding and other mediums of exchange posturing to take its place.

Contributor B:  I thoroughly agree that it will be reset, David. However, while you may see market forces and evolved consumer needs driving this reset, I tend to pay attention to the political aggression of states not at all amicable to the interests of the FED and believe the geopolitical transformation we will witness may be the lynchpin upon which the existence of the FED depends. In the long run it will not really matter to the FED whether it is driven by the economic needs of the consumer or the geopolitical ambitions of another nation, but it will matter to the ordinary participants, I suspect. The withering of FED control worn away by alternative exchange mechanisms will provide a much different life at ground level than the sudden repudiation of the USD as the world reserve currency as anticipated (and desired it seems) by the Chinese military (along with a few others who are tired of US economic hegemony). The former is a transformative change more gradual in nature while the latter can be far more sudden in keeping with the rapid shifts in the global market; the former providing the opportunity to adjust more peacefully while the latter is expected to lead to widespread disruptions in service, food, and support delivery at the ground level. Food riots, water riots, just plain riots, and toilet paper riots… sorry, basic staples of urban and 21st century life will be in short supply. I think I’ll find farmland in another country far away. 😉

For ease of transition, I’d vote for alternative exchange mechanisms. Curiously, I saw an article a few weeks ago that noted extreme activity increases in southeast Asia on Bitcoin and the development of alternatives… either opportunity or another front in the attack on the USD. It can be both.

Now, to envision a world without central banks. That takes us back a while in history…

Then again, perhaps this graph {Editor’s Note:  Regarding the Longevity of currency reserve status over the past 600 years} tells it all:

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2012/01/20120103_JPM_reserve.png

… and speaking of market competitors, Googlecoin? it is being touted already.

Contributor C:  

“Centralized short-term interest rate management must be abandoned before it is too late, for it is leading the activities of mankind towards a dangerous showdown with the limitations of the natural world.”

I like above statement. 

This game of interest rate putting up and down could create a crisis if somebody implemented at the wrong time. I consider interest rate as a weapon of mass of destruction if we manage it recklessly. Interest rate volatility creates problems for investors, homeowners and other savers. What about instruments linked to interest rates? What will happen if we don’t carefully manage  or misuse those instruments? Why do we see higher interest rates in some periods and lower interest rates in some periods? Can’t we find solution to fix interest rates without creating volatility?”

The discussion, which is about to take many an unforeseen turn, continues tomorrow…things are about to get lively (at least lively as far as short-term interest rates discussions go) indeed!

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for April 28, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.07
Oil Price per Barrel:  $100.93

Corn Price per Bushel:  $5.07
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.68%
Bitcoin price in US:  $431.71
FED Target Rate:  0.10%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,303

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,361
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,721,500,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,353,000,000,000

Basel III Liquidity Ratios

4/18/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Up until the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond, most Americans who were not alive during the early 1930’s had grown up in a world where choosing a bank was largely a matter of preference.  Once the FDIC insurance program was instituted on January 1, 1934, depositors had little to worry about.

The financial crisis that the world just experienced was a wake up call on many levels.  The first alarm rang for many Americans, members of congress included, when the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was sent on a freight train through the House and Senate under the threat of an imminent global financial meltdown.  Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Central Bank and European Union take a series of measures to shore up both their banking system as well as the finances of their member nations.

Giving away trillions of dollars to businesses who made bad decisions, while ultimately the chief function of government, is, paradoxically, politically unpopular.  As such, the governments of the world, who found themselves on the hook for losses in the financial system of a nature that many of them could not hope to understand in terms of nature and scope, began to devise a series of rules that would ensure that this sort of thing would never happen again.

So it was that, sometime in 2009, the word Basel, which until that time was a typo on a recipe card, became prevalent in the world of banking.

Basel is a city in Switzerland where the world’s banking regulators chose to meet to put their minds together as to what types of rules were needed so that the financial crisis would never happen again.  Today, five years later, the rules that they took so much time to tailor are indeed perfect for a world that existed five years ago.  As it stands today, the rules could very well be the cause of the next financial crisis.

The Basel accords and, more specifically, the Basel III Liquidity ratio, which is our focus today, are generally aimed at ensuring that large banks (those with $50 billion USD or more in assets, “too big to fail”, if you will) will always have enough liquid assets to meet the demands made on it each day.

The Basel III liquidity ratio is a simple ratio which places a banks Liquid Assets, meaning cash, Treasuries, and Agencies) over its Stressed Cash Outflows (meaning maximum foreseen withdrawals during a liquidity crisis).  The banks must report this ratio at a set time every business day.  If the ratio is over 100%, all is well.  If not, not, meaning the bank could be forced by regulators to initiate a strategy to unwind its operations.

Serious stuff.

While the numerator of the liquidity ratio is extremely simple to calculate, it is driven by the denominator, which is infinitely more complex.  This is where you and I, fellow taxpayer, come in.

Banks will be required to stratify their deposit customers well beyond the simple consumer and business account denominations that have sufficed to some degree until now.  They are now required to carefully monitor customers to better understand their daily inflows and outflows from their accounts in order to arrive at a maximum Stressed Cash Outflow number for each category of account.

As a practical matter, the bank will assign each category of customer and account a “run-off” factor, which is expressed as a % of the account’s balance on any given day that may “run” out of the bank.  Again, this number is critical for the bank, as it ultimately determines its reinvestment strategy and, by extension, how profitable a deposit customer is.

The good news is that consumer and small business accounts which are FDIC insured are, as of the most recent comment period, assigned a 3% run-off factor.  Meaning that for every $100 on deposit, the bank must buy $3 worth of Treasuries as an offset, and it is free to invest the remaining 97% in loans or other more profitable investments.

This means that competition for deposits from consumers and small businesses just got more intense, which should generally be good news for customers.  They should expect to see increased savings rates and incentives to hold both more cash and conduct more business at a specific bank, as it will be in the bank’s best interests to retain them and understand their spending habits.

The bad news begins outside of the realm of FDIC insured accounts.  For all balances over the FDIC limits for the same customers, the run-off factor, which, all things being equal, has an inverse relationship with a bank’s profitability, jumps to 10%.

For larger Corporate customers, who tend to have operating (daily transaction) and non-operating (reserve) accounts, the run-off factor jumps to 25% on operating accounts and 40% on non-operating accounts.  This makes large corporate customers somewhat less attractive.

The people that no one will want to bank with, from a run-off factor standpoint, are financial companies (think Insurance companies, small banks, etc.) who are presumed to have a run-off factor of 100%, meaning these companies, under Basel III liquidity rules, must be seen as ready to walk into the bank on any given day and withdraw all of their accounts.

In a way, the 100% run-off factor on financials makes sense, as it requires all large banks to hold Treasuries to backstop the accounts of financial companies.  It is a “regulatory” guarantee that these companies will always be liquid.

The way around the 100% run-off factor for financials and other large institutions are accounts with covenants to provide the bank with at least 30 days notice before withdrawal.  This type of notice requirement, in theory, gives the bank time to arrange its investments to be able to meet the cash outflow without impacting overall stressed cash outflows.

As one can imagine, Basel III will lead to a number of new banking products in terms of accounts and credit lines.  Briefly, this is what consumers and companies can expect to see as January 1, 2015 approaches:

1.  A dogfight for small, FDIC insured deposits.

2.  Decreased access to business lines of credit, as the Treasuries will be the default reinvestment vehicle for banks as they attempt to sort out their daily Liquidity ratio.

3.  Point 2 above means that low-interest rates on Treasuries are likely to be embedded for quite some time.

4.  Deposit products which cannot be withdrawn with less than 30 days notice without steep penalties.  One idea we have heard is a “perpetual 31 day time deposit,” meaning that the 30 day withdrawal notice requirement is embedded in the covenant, it is like an operating account that the customer has to give 30 days notice, like they would a landlord, to the bank before withdrawing.

As the Affordable Care Act has fundamentally changed the healthcare industry, Basel III will fundamentally change the banking industry.  While its aim is to forever stabilize financial markets, its implementation may be the biggest threat that financial markets have seen since late 2008.  Beyond that, it places the bedrock of finance firmly on the shoulders of sovereign bonds, which, despite being seen as completely liquid, hold a myriad of unknown risks.

Basel III, coming January 1, 2015.  The time to prepare is running out, and the time for action is upon us.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for April 18, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.03
Oil Price per Barrel:  $104.30

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.94
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.72%
Bitcoin price in US:  $475.00
FED Target Rate:  0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,294

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,409
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,704,700,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,330,600,000,000

More Evidence of the Impending Wage/Price Spiral Appears

4/2/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

The wage/price spiral.  It is a nasty economic phenomenon where the labor market suddenly tightens, causing a chain reaction of relative scarcity of output, which leads to higher prices for goods, which leads workers to demand higher wages, which employers pay for by raising prices and attempting to increase output, which finds itself back staring back at the tight labor market, where each available worker now knows he or she is worth much more.

The wage/price spiral, which is generally only possible on a broad scale in times like our own, when credit passes as money, appears to be accelerating.

Graphic courtesy of Deutsche Bank Research
Graphic courtesy of Deutsche Bank Research

The tightness in the US labor market has been happening in near stealth mode.  While the Unemployment rate remains above 6.5%, the line drawn in the sand by the FED for consideration of tighter monetary policy, what is lost in the data is that Baby Boomers are retiring.  While it is true that their overall consumption will likely decrease, it is also true that their staggering output as a generation is falling even faster, leaving fewer workers to fill the gaps, especially in highly skilled positions.

What does it mean?  If you are a worker feeling squeezed by higher prices, ask your boss for a raise.  If they won’t comply, start looking for another employer.  Chances are, by the time you have found a better offer, your current employer will realize what is happening, and make you an even better offer to stay.  This is a hypothetical situation, of course, and each person must carefully consider their own situation.  However, when this spiral takes off, you will want to be well ahead of the curve.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for April 2, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.04
Oil Price per Barrel:  $99.20
Corn Price per Bushel:  $5.05
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.80%
Bitcoin price in US:  $469.48
FED Target Rate:  0.06%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,292
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,541
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,694,800,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $11,229,900,000,000

The Great Work of Janet Yellen

3/29/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

“…Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together in the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they intended to harm me.

            I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down.  Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?’  They send to me four times like this; and I answered them the same way…”

– Nehemiah 6:3

Nearly 30 days and nights have passed since our last correspondence, fellow taxpayer, and we, like Nehemiah, have only one excuse:

We are doing a great work.

Nehemiah’s great work, referred to above, was to rebuild Jerusalem, the Holy City.  He found that, though he had been given authority to perform the work, on the ground, he often encountered hostility and detriments to the work that came from quarters where he had reason to expect help or, at a minimum, indifference.

Our great work at the moment, fellow taxpayer, is to concurrently rebuild a Fiscal department and restore an accounting record that has fallen into disrepair, all while undergoing an annual audit and responding to the day-to-day tasks and myriad of reporting requests which come with the territory of modern financial management.

{Editor’s Note:  While it is a subject for another day, we must comment on the tool of the trade that is being employed in the great work, the Yardi Voyager accounting software.  We last touched Yardi over 10 years ago and, while the software retains many of its origins, the current version is a beast in terms of cloud processing.  We reckon that, given the correct tactician at the helm (which we humbly consider ourselves to be), accounting records in Yardi can be administered by considerably fewer finance staff than many competitors.}

For the moment, we face no hostility and, generally speaking, the finance profession is free from mortal danger.  However, there is great interest in the work as there are ultimately a great number of interested parties, and we find that, like Nehemiah, we are often called to the ‘villages in the plain of Ono’ for other matters.

There are risks in undertaking any great work, and there is also great exhilaration in making progress and ultimately, after facing all of the difficulties and suffering through the doubts of naysayers, doing the impossible.

Janet Yellen’s Great Work

Janet Yellen came onto the job as the Federal Reserve’s first Chairwoman on February 3, 2014, just 10 days after we began our great work.  Unlike ourselves, Yellen has had the benefit of watching her predecessor hone his craft as Vice Chairman for four years and has enjoyed the benefits of the revolving door between government and academia since the early ’80s.

In other words, Yellen has no real world experience, which is a prerequisite to serve in any high-ranking office in America, circa 2014.

A Shameless plug on our volume dealing with the constant unity of Capitalism and Socialism
A Shameless plug on our volume dealing with the constant unity of Capitalism and Socialism, click to purchase

According to her dossier, it counts among her previous great works a study dealing with East Germany’s integration into the German economy upon the reunification of the country. {Editor’s Note:  For those to young or indifferent to recall such matters, the East German integration was a major windfall for West Germany at the time, who then (1990) was jockeying for position in what was to be the European Union.  The reunification caused 16 million more Germans to appear overnight, giving the unified Germany a considerable voice in the negotiations.}  Beyond this, Yellen is given credit for a form of clairvoyance regarding the financial crisis in 2007, apparently seeing something amiss from her post as the President of the San Francisco Fed (she must have seen Jim Cramer’s rant in July).

Janet Yellen now has a new great work to undertake as Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.  While she was likely performing many of Bernanke’s tasks from at least October of last year when President Obama nominated her as Bernanke’s successor, one task that could not be delegated was that of the press conference.

As such, Yellen took the stage on March 19th, 2013 and dutifully attempted to explain the rationale for the decisions of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC regarding short-term interest rates and its Quantitative Easing programs.

The press conferences, which began under Ben Bernanke, were meant to clear up any confusion, which may have been read into the numbers and written statements provided by the FOMC which had until then served as the primary window for the outside world into the machinations of the committee which decides how much credit will be conjured out of thin air.

For some reason, perhaps the novelty, the press conferences have taken on a life of their own.  The reason for this is that, while the FOMC may have deliberated and arrived at a consensus regarding their curious task, the person who gives the press conference ultimately has the last word and, though the event is meant to be carefully scripted, it cannot help but introduce an element of uncertainty into a process (the conjuring of credit out of thin air) which already defies the laws of economics and indeed works in direct opposition to nature herself.

At minute 20, which we have clipped below, Jon Hilsenrath of Wall Street Journal calls out the fact that there is an upward drift in a dot plot reflecting expectations for short-term interest rates of the individuals on the committee, and how one should reconcile that with the guidance given in the FOMC statement.

Yellen deflects Hilsenrath from the dot plots and then goes on to target the end of 2016 as the time when rates will likely rise.  She also calls out 6.5% as the target for the unemployment rate, and reiterates the eternal 2% target for inflation as triggers for tightening.  As you can see below, unemployment clocked in at 6.7%, meaning tightening could be around the corner.

This degree of upside uncertainty, which Yellen interjected as part of her great work at the press conference, managed to spook markets, as, while 2016 may be a long ways off in Yellen’s mind, as it would be when one is waiting to obtain their driver’s license, for those who are writing bonds today based on the Fed’s guidance, 2016 is in many cases a thing of the past, and Yellen’s utterances shattered a countless number of assumptions that the bond market had begun to hold dear.

Conjuring credit out of thin air is risky business as it is, and when those who are primarily responsible for it attempt to explain their actions, things can become incoherent in a hurry.

In the near future, we may hear Yellen uttering Nehemiah’s refrain the next time she is called to the press conference,

“I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down.  Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?”

For the last time Yellen came down, fixed income nearly imploded.  The risky business of conjuring credit out of thin air is best performed in the dark, if at all.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for March 29, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.02
Oil Price per Barrel:  $101.07
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.92
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.71%
Bitcoin price in US:  $501.24
FED Target Rate:  0.08%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,295
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,323
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,694,800,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $11,229,900,000,000

The Division of Labor Gives Rise to the Monetary Premium

2/8/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Today we find ourselves, along with the rest of the inhabitants of the Willamette Valley, enjoying what has been dubbed “Snowpocalypse 2014.”  The valley’s residents are now three days into this rare event and, while much in the way of normal transit has been disrupted (truly, it does not take much snow to paralyze Portland).  We do not have a solid measure of just how much snow has fallen and whether or not the event lives up to its name, what is unmistakable is that the snow is beautiful and is has revealed many a great sledding hill in our midst.

Some of our faithful readers will recall that back in December, we began exploring the Monetary Premium, the portion of an item’s relative value owed to the utility of an item as money (those new to The Mint can glance back at these essays for a thorough exploration of the definition of money).  In that essay, we presented the portion of the Monetary premium that arises as a result of an Imperial authority demanding tribute in said currency.  Logically, it may also be said that laws declaring what is legal tender or any law which dictates the monetary unit in which debts are to be cancelled in an economic zone will also give rise to the monetary premium.

Of Money and Metals by David MIntGiven the above example, it may appear that the primary drivers for an economic good to carry the monetary premium are related to imperial or government action.  However, this is decidedly not the case, for the ultimate origin of and primary factor contributing to the monetary premium of any economic good has nothing to do with the government or what is used as money, rather, the Monetary premium comes into being as a result of an increase in the division of labor.

For those not familiar with the term, the division of labor is what makes urban society possible.  While perhaps the most easily understood metaphor is that of the assembly line, where each individual worker dedicates him or herself to completing one facet of the production process, relying on their counterparts on either side of them to ensure that the chain of production, of which they form part of, remains unbroken.

Economic systems are, in a sense, a collection of interconnected assembly lines both large and small, with each member of the system dedicating themselves to a set of tasks; the more time and energy that each individual is allowed to dedicate to their task, the more efficient each individual generally becomes.  The fact that each individual dedicates an increased amount of time and energy to a specific task gives rise for other members of society to pitch in and specialize in tasks that others cannot do for themselves given the specific scope of their labors.

The division of labor, if allowed to rise and sort itself out on its own, is generally good for economic output, as increased efficiencies translate into increased outputs.  However, as individuals increasingly specialize in certain tasks, they increasingly rely upon other members of society to fulfill their need.  As logic would follow that the increased division of labor does not allow much time for barter transactions, an increase in the division of labor always gives rise to the need for a monetary premium to both emerge and expand, attaching itself not only to traditional transmitters but giving rise to new ones as well.

Once the monetary premium expands, it gives rise to an increase in the division of labor, and in this way the dynamic between the two drives real economic growth.

Limitations on the Division of Labor and Monetary Premium

After reading the above, it should be clear that both the division of labor and the monetary premium are generally good for humankind, and that both factors driving real economic growth, if left to operate unhindered would eventually run up against and adapt to the limitations of the natural environment.

However, today, circa 2014, both the division of labor and monetary premium are hindered not by natural limitations, but by limitations placed upon them by well meaning legislators.  While all legislation tends to have either a direct or indirect effect on economic activity, there are two kinds that are particularly harmful to economic growth as they cut off the lifeblood of economic expansion:  The dual expansion of the division of labor and the monetary premium.

The first are laws dealing with minimum wages.  While minimum wages laws strive to guarantee a living wage for all members of society, they never achieve this goal and, in the process, serve to directly hinder the expansion of the division of labor when actual wage rates for certain activities are below the minimum wage rate, and serve no purpose when wage rates are above it.

The second set of laws are those referenced above; legal tender laws.  While Legal tender laws strive to codify what serves as money in a society, they invariably serve to direct an inordinate amount of the monetary premium into instruments that are not worthy of serving as money on a grand scale.  In the process, they serve as a severe limitation on what can carry the monetary premium and, by extension, the expansion of the monetary premium and the division of labor.

We all suffer to some degree due to manmade hindrances to the expansion of either the monetary premium or the division of labor; however, it is those farthest from monetary spigots, as defined by legal tender laws, who suffer the most.  In order for peace and prosperity to accrue to the greatest possible number of persons, it is critical that we grasp the importance of encouraging the division of labor to operate unhindered.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for February 8, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.26
Oil Price per Barrel:  $99.88

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.44
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.68%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $680.00
FED Target Rate:  0.07%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,267

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  6.6%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.3%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,794
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,752,800,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $10,968,700,000,000

How Money is Made

1/13/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

We were fortunate to have the video below brought to our attention recently.  As you can see, this brilliant video presentation of what is wrong with the current monetary system does in 30 minutes something that we have taken lengthy stabs at expressing via the written word over the past three years, and it does so with some nice animation to boot!

Enjoy this presentation of “How Currency is Made, How Debt is Created, and How you are Impoverished,” the fourth video in a series on the monetary system courtesy of Liveleak.com:

We are especially fond of the scene where the workers shovel the currency into the piggy bank, only to have a large bird swoop down, pick it up, and fly it to the offices of the tax authority.  It is truly something that nearly all of our fellow taxpayers can related to, and this depiction drives the point home.

For better or worse, this is the monetary and taxing regime in which we live.  Getting out of it is as simple as changing your mind with regards to such matters.  The difficult part is changing the minds of others so that meaningful advances towards monetary freedom can be made.  For if you act alone, you are merely a prepper, but if you act in concert with all of those in your community and circle of trade, you are a history maker.

One way or another, we will all find ourselves in the latter camp, but, like campsites on the fourth of July weekend, the best spots will go to those who get there early.  Will you be one of them?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Its 2014: Just do it

1/7/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

The New Year has come according to the Gregorian calendar, and we wish our fellow taxpayers a happy and healthy 2014.  We can hardly contain our excitement, as the calendar change seems to have awoken the slumbering giants of economic progress who have been holed up the past five years.

As an aside, if you are in the Portland area, tomorrow evening at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton there will begin an important series of Bible classes at 6:30 pm.  For those who are just now joining us, at the beginning of each calendar year, we choose approximately ten books of the Bible to be taught on and teach one of them each Wednesday evening until the 10 are complete, wrapping up the series of classes sometime in March.

The classes are unique in that each year we are opening the Bible as if we have never opened it before, throwing out preconceived notions and opinions and letting the Bible study us, not the other way around as is the common practice in much of Christendom, where the faithful study the Bible, as if we had something to add to it or the Bible required our approval.  It is a simple juxtaposition of subjects that makes all the difference.  We do not study the Bible, the Bible studies us.

Starting from this place, the teaching is fresh and earth shattering every time, for all who are in attendance become both teacher and student in this unique format.  Again, the series begins tomorrow evening, January 8th at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton.  Our assignment this season is on Deuteronomy, and we will be allowing it to study us in mid February.

Its 2014:  Just do it

 

Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve
Janet Yellen becomes the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve

2014 is setting up to be an extremely prosperous year, and, now that Janet Yellen has been confirmed as the Federal Reserve’s first Chairwoman, what could possibly go wrong?

The answer, of course, is many things.  The world’s economy is built upon a shaky premise and the obligation to use debt-based currency brings with it a whole slew of unknowns that may become known over the next several months, such as, “what happens when borrowing and lending of a debt based currency become so disjointed that trading in said currency becomes not just unpalatable, but nearly impossible?” or “what happens when a $2.2 trillion dollar corporate cash hoard gets deployed all at once?”

The answers to these and other burning questions are likely to reveal themselves over the next several months.

Here at The Mint, we have been busy churning out proposals and other documents in hopes of attracting a portion of the downpour of cash that awaits those of us just beyond the spigot of the Federal Reserve System, hence the lapses in our faithful correspondence.

As we alluded to above, it will be an exciting year and one in which our broad advice is once again best encompassed in the three words made famous by a neighboring company:

Just do it.

If there is something you have put off, a dream, an idea, a plan, 2014 seems like as good of a time as any to execute it, the wind is at your back in terms of monetary measures.  There is more than enough of it to go around, and were the money supplies of the world not centrally managed in what is an essentially Socialist system, it would be more evenly distributed throughout the economy by now.

As this is decidedly not the case, prepare to see large scale dislocations exacerbated by the widespread confusion surrounding the newest provisions of the health care law taking effect which will be most noticeable in the fact that getting an appointment with a medical provider will simply not be as easy as it has been in the past.

In other words, you can give everyone the right to health care but you can’t create doctors and nurses to provide said care out of thin air.

For this reason, we drink to the health of all our fellow taxpayers as the earth begins its latest run around the sun on the Gregorian calendar.  The odds are it may be the only thing one needs to maintain in order to prosper this year.

Janet Yellen is taking care of the rest.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for January 7, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $3.35
Oil Price per Barrel:  $94.00

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.26
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.94%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $909.00
FED Target Rate:  0.08%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,232

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.0%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,531
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,758,400,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,062,600,000,000

The Monetary Premium is the Fed Alternative

12/24/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Here at The Mint we are preparing for a record-breaking year in 2014.  As we look out upon the horizon, we see that the eternal tension between inflation and deflation that is the bane of the insane debt is money monetary system is beginning to subside.  While many at this point are standing on the beach watching the monetary tide recede to an unimaginable extreme, those who watch the weather know that this phenomenon is but the precursor to a tsunami.

Inflation will soon be here, and it is time to adjust revenue targets accordingly.

We make this forecast not out of any sort of clairvoyance, but largely as a hunch.  The Federal Reserve, which just passed its 100th anniversary and appears to be going strong, has no choice but to inflate, as it is their only tool and default bias.

What is changing in 2014 are the Federal Reserve’s tactics.  The FED will spend much of 2014 and beyond fighting inflation as a matter of policy.  Each coming policy, such as the recent $5 Billion/month token (or courtesy) taper that was recently announced, in theory will serve to reduce the monetary base.  What many do not realize is that the monetary base will not shrink as a result for at least three and a half years.

At this point our long-suffering readers are welcome to point out that The Mint was wrong.  We had predicted that the Fed would increase the target rate before tapering, as the target rate was more of a random subsidy while the taper recipients have come to expect it as a form of state banking welfare.  We humbly admit that, given the latest announcement, we were technically wrong.

What the taper reduction is accomplishing, in practice, is a form of marginal stimulus.  The Fed is herding the banks and other lenders out of Treasuries, as holding too many Treasuries in a taper environment is categorically inadvisable.  Some reports have the Fed representing 80-90% of the market for treasuries.  As they scale their participation rate back via the taper, Treasuries will be forced to find a market price, and if what happened to the 7 year after the announcement (a roughly 264 bp drop) is any indication, the market has an opinion of Treasuries that is quite different from those held by the Fed.

The point is that, as the banks have the spigot open at .09%, this money will, at long last, find its way into the hands of credit hungry consumers and businesses.

The giant of the US Economy is waking up.  Part of the activity can be attributed to the Christmas season, however, in early 2014, much of the initial uncertainty surrounding Obamacare will begin to sort itself out, and both businesses and consumers will find themselves both willing and, for the most part, able to do what they do best:  spend.

The Fed has worked tirelessly to shore up the monetary base for five years, and, despite what one may think of Yellen’s dovish bias, she is likely smart enough to realize that the best shot the Fed has now to stimulate the economy is to appear to head to the closet to pick up the liquidity mop.

The Importance of Tribute, and the Fed Alternative

After 100 years, the Federal Reserve has done much.  Their most amazing exploit, one that is lost on most, is that they made the US and much of the world believe that debt was money, and indeed, a great deal of the monetary premium has gravitated to Federal Reserve notes.

Clairvoyant Political Cartoon circa 2012 by Adam Crozier
Clairvoyant Political Cartoon circa 2012 by Adam Crozier

{Editor’s Note:  Click here to see more clairvoyant political cartoons circa 1912, just before the Fed was granted its monopoly on the US money supply}

In the end, what is a Federal Reserve note?  It is a Central Bank liability, which is an irredeemable hot potato that at best represents an indirect claim on wealth but in the end maintains its allure on the part of those forced to transact in it because the US Empire requires that all taxes be reported and paid in them.

Think about it, the hammerlock that any currency has on a citizenry, no matter how putrid its fundamentals may be (and they don’t get much worse than the paradox of debt based money), is that the sovereign requires tribute to be rendered in said currency.

The logical proof is this, were the US Government to require payroll and income tax remittances in Euros or corn bushels, how long is the Federal Reserve Note likely to retain its value and usefulness in trade?

The requirement to use a monetary unit or currency in rendering tribute is a important component of what we call the “monetary premium,” which is loosely defined as the portion of aggregate value that something carries related to its relative function of a transmitter of value.  It is embedded in the supply and demand dynamic of all quasi-monetary instruments, such as gold, silver, and most recently, Bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

While most fix their eyes on credit markets to determine the value of currency in trade, they would do better to observe the Monetary Premium, for it represents the collective hopes and dreams of humankind in the material world, and where it goes, relative riches follow.

For this reason, the Federal Reserve and other Central banks of the world will fight to the last (insert your preferred noun) to retain a share of the monetary premium, for it is their only value proposition in what is a terminally defective, if not purposefully fraudulent, product mix.

In 2014, the Fed will lose its iron grip on the Monetary Premium and take its place amongst currencies relegated to tax remittance and nothing more.

Bitcoin’s resilience is but one item in a long list of evidence that the monetary premium attributed to central bank notes is attaching itself to other indirect claims on wealth and items representing unencumbered claims on wealth.

The economic activity that this tacitly coordinated shift out of Federal Reserve notes will cause in 2014 and beyond will be breathtaking.  They will call it inflation, and it will be the Fed’s death knell.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for December 24, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.31
Oil Price per Barrel:  $99.21

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.35
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.98%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $698.87
FED Target Rate:  0.09%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,205

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.0%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,358
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,583,700,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,024,400,000,000

It is Winter, do you know what and where your Bitcoins are?

12/3/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

“It is winter, a time to pause, the driveway is half shoveled out, but I lay down the shovel, and I pause to enjoy this moment, after all, this is my first heart attack.”

A Poem recited by Red Green during The Winter of our Discount Tent show segment

For those who were fortunate enough to see Red Green in his prime, circa 1991, the words “it is winter” immediately bring a sense of comic anticipation to mind.  Really, the mere sound of the man’s voice will bring a smile to your face if not cause one to break out in laughter.

Red Green, a Canadian, brought a unique brand of humor to the late night airwaves.  While there is really nothing to compare it to, if one were to imagine a cross between Al Bundy (Married with Children) and Crocodile Dundee in Canada doing a variety show against the backdrop of an ongoing storyline in his men’s lodge, you would be in the ballpark.

Yet as the poem above hints at, you never quite knew what would come out of Red’s mouth, but his dry delivery and lighthearted machismo made nearly anything the man said pass for hilarious. (see the poem read live by Red below and see for yourself).

It is winter, and while any number of narratives continue to fill the financial landscape, they all have one thing in common:  Inflation is here to stay and the Federal Reserve and it cohorts around the world are not about to do anything stupid, like raise rates or end bond buying programs, at this stage of the game.  From their standpoint, risks are on the side of deflation, no matter what your grocery bill is.

In the context of this stance by the caretakers of the world’s currencies, a developer known as Satoshi Nakamoto launched the Bitcoin Genesis block back in 2009, like a self replicating message in a bottle to the world that reads “try using this as money.”

Today, as we near the end of 2013, it is becoming clear that the message is reaching quite a few individuals, and that they are taking action.  The message came to us in March of 2012, when the Bitcoin/USD ratio hovered around $5-$16, and it took us until March of 2013, when the ratio was near $150 to act upon it.  The ratio now sits at around $1,100 and has garnered so much attention that a US Senate committee called a hearing in a feeble attempt to understand what it is and why it is valuable.

As anyone who has followed such hearings can attest, they rarely, if ever, shed light on the subject being discussed, and it was clear in watching that the Senators who attended as well as their expert witnesses have no idea what Bitcoins truly are.

Misinformation regarding Bitcoins abounds, indeed, a discussion we have been following in one of our Treasury groups has drug on for weeks with the participants vacillating from the stance that Bitcoins are a good idea and viable fiat alternative to them being a Ponzi scheme.  Our take is that those who are obviously confused are not hindered in their understanding of what Bitcoins are as much as they are hindered by their failure to understand what money is in the first place {Editor’s Note:  If you count yourself among the confused, stay with us for a spell or pick up a copy of one of the following publications:  What is Money, Of Money and Metals, or Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them}

Our take here at The Mint is twofold.  First, Bitcoins are clearly a Ponzi scheme, however, they are a self-limiting Ponzi scheme with no clear beneficiary, and in these respects are superior to other widely accepted Ponzi schemes such as equities and fiat currencies, which share similar characteristics to that of Bitcoin in terms of representing and indirect claim on wealth.

Second, and more importantly at the moment, Bitcoins are the gold standard with regards to digital currencies by virtue of being the first and most widely accepted.  All other digital currencies to come are practically forced to use the Bitcoin market as a point of reference in the same way the gold market looks to comex prices.

During the past few days, a Welshman named James Howells has been in the news because he tossed out a hard drive containing approximately 7,500 Bitcoins.  The same article mentions a man named Stefan Thomas who allegedly lost 7,000 Bitcoins according to Der Spiegel.  Indeed, we have a friend who told us he had wiped “thousands” of Bitcoins off of his hard drive.

While these types of stories may seem to offer a reason not to dabble in Bitcoins, we see them as yet another reason that the Bitcoin/USD ratio will continue to go vertical for the foreseeable future, as there will only be 21 million Bitcoins ever created, and, if the system is as tight as it appears to be, neither Mr. Howells’, Mr. Thomas’, nor our friend’s lost Bitcoins will ever be circulated again, making the remaining Bitcoins that are tradable all the more scarce and, at the moment, valuable.

A bit of free advice from The Mint.  While it seems counterintuitive, we encourage you to store your wallet online at a service such as blockchain.info to avoid the fate of the above mentioned individuals.  This goes without saying, but choose an extremely complex password.

Finally, if you are convinced that Bitcoins are a Ponzi scheme, remember that so are equities and fiat currencies, the only difference is that Bitcoins are still in an extremely early stage.  Think of it as buying Apple or Microsoft in the 80s, only better, as Bitcoins represent a confluence of technology and commerce that has just begun the search for its value.

It is winter, do you know where your Bitcoins are?

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for December 3, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.16
Oil Price per Barrel:  $97.19
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.22
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.78%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $1,158
FED Target Rate:  0.09%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,224
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,915
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,563,700,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,942,300,000,000

Planning and Execution of Business Strategy

11/21/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

The gift of time we have been given here at The Mint has not been wasted.  In a way, it has given us a chance to reevaluate what we are doing and how we can best serve humankind.  Now that we have discovered the key to reversing the effects of climate change without limiting human reproduction or dooming large swaths of land to “conservation,” we wish to encourage others to embrace these ideals and employ them to their benefit.

How can we accomplish this?  By assisting them not only with strategy planning, but execution of said strategy.  It is perhaps a little known fact that there is very little, if any, bad strategy that makes it past any form of group debate (bad strategy is almost always born in a vacuum and dictated).  What tends to go badly is the execution of said strategy.  It is then commonplace to pin the blame of what was really a failure to execute on the only one without a voice and a job to save, the strategy itself.  Voila!  Bad strategy.

Strategy is generally good because it does not just guide action, it demands action.  It may come as a further shock that, while there are a great deal of tasks that are associated under the umbrella of the English word “work,” it is almost at the point that one acquires a job and is remunerated for it when they stop what we call action, or striving forward to improve conditions so that less work must be done to achieve the same or superior results.

Sadly much of the work done today is aimed at maintaining and increasing efforts to justify why the “work” must be done.

Action is progress, work is, well, work.  This is not to say that all work is like this, but it is a nasty tendency that is the byproduct of the insane “debt is money” currency system that we trade and save in, a system that, in just over 40 years of widespread operation, has distorted incentives to the point to where GDP is increased by increasing debt, which by definition is consumption, not “Product.”

But we digress, as we are excited to help you personally and your organization stop working and start progressing.  How can we do this?  Read on…

The Mint Strategy Planning and Execution Services for Individuals and Businesses

The local and national economy is undergoing a large scale reset which will impact nearly every business model.  This is creating both challenges and opportunities that may be a once in a generation event.  Are you an individual, business owner or division head in need of fresh ideas from an outside perspective?  If so, we invite you to have a Mint.

Here at The Mint, we offer both group and one on one strategy sessions for small to mid-sized companies who wish to grab hold of the opportunities that await them as their larger counterparts go the way of the dinosaur.  Initial consultations will generally last one hour and can be done via email, over the phone, or in person if located in the Portland area.

The purpose of the strategy session is to brainstorm with you about your business and the challenges and opportunities you face.  It is often best done outside of one’s normal office environment, as being surrounded by day to day tasks (we call them distractions) often stifles creativity and blinds one to what is occurring outside one’s own four walls.

Battle of Borodino 1812 by Louis Francios, Baron Lejeune
Napoleon at Borodino, poor execution, and plan B was even worse!

While strategy is important, what is even more important is the execution of a strategy.  Strategies, from the battlefield to the boardroom, are well thought out, detailed plans.  Plans that can be utterly useless and counterproductive if there are persistent errors in executing it.

At The Mint, we do not want to see that happen to any of our clients, and our hope is that we will find something practical that we can assist with in aiding you with said execution of your shiny new strategy, such as seeking funding or streamlining processes.

That said, we consider the strategy session to be sacred and confidential, and it will never be reduced to a petty sales pitch.

We are carrying out this exercise chiefly because we want to play a small part, if possible, in invigorating our local and national economy.  We have an international MBA, hold the designation of Certified Treasury Professional, and 18 years of experience in finance and accounting in various industries and would love to hear from you!

If you are interested, please send and email to davidminteconomics@gmail.com with your industry, approximate annual revenues and assets, and the biggest challenge you see on the horizon as well as your preferred method of contact (phone, email, in person) and, of course, a way to contact you.

Let The Mint help you avoid approaching Waterloo or Gettysburg unprepared or, should you find yourself at Borodino, let us help you plan your retreat.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for November 21, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.18
Oil Price per Barrel:  $95.09

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.23
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.78%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $736.79
FED Target Rate:  0.09%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,242

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,010
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,662,000,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $10,895,800,000,000

Bitcoin going Viral as The Mint Receives the Gift of Time

11/9/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

For those who have not yet taken notice, the USD/Bitcoin ratio now sits at $322, after touching a high of $395 today.  For those who are unfamiliar with what a Bitcoin is, we strongly encourage you to read our brief primer on Bitcoins entitled “Bitcoins:  What they are and how to use them.”

Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them
Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them

While the title itself is cryptic by design, the book is a straightforward analysis of not only what Bitcoins are, but also what their design and function as money means.  Now that we have a bit more time on our hands (more on that below), we hope to return to edit and update this volume.  While the Bitcoin itself is unlikely to change, there are now many more applications for it than there were when we penned it back in April of this year.

The combination of they monetary premium and technology has made the Bitcoin industry run on jet fuel, and it won’t slow down anytime soon.   The simple reason is that Bitcoins are a bizarre yet perfect form of equity that, like Twitter, is more of a public service.

In the case of Twitter, the need to randomly comment or blow off steam at someone else’s running digital commentary may only be marginally, if at all, profitable, but the value of it as a tool that people will rarely pay to use is priceless.

In the case of Bitcoin, the need for a means of exchange which can both hold a large portion of the monetary premium and be completely portable and ethereal is self evident and, while the Bitcoin itself generates no revenues, its value as a tool that people will use but not necessarily pay for is priceless.

Contrary to most of financial theory, discounted cash flows cannot capture the concept of value, as much of what people value in this world cannot be neatly summed up in financial models.  The Bitcoin falls squarely into this lofty realm where finance fails and dreamers soar.

{Editor’s Note:  If you would like assistance investing in Bitcoins or Bitcoin related ventures, please write us an email with the word BITCOIN in the subject.  There is much to be done and, consequently, much money to be made in this nascent industry that is moving like a wave across the earth}

Time on our hands

We have recently been notified that we are soon to be relieved of the burden of what is best described as our day job.  Over the last year, we set out to work ourselves out of a job through a series of process improvements in the Treasury Department.  Shockingly, it worked.

While on one hand the prospect of quickly ramping up our other activities (The Mint being one of many) is daunting, it is also exhilarating as we are of the peculiar breed that lie awake at night and early in the morn and watch a light show of ideas cross our mind.  Some we are able to capture and quickly act on.  Others we take note of and treasure them in our heart as we await the time that they come around again in and present themselves ever more brilliantly to our mind’s eye.

As we have one other time in our life, on September 10th, 2001, we are faced with the choice to either carry on in the 9 to 5 world or to pause and chase these ideas to their conclusion, watching where they lead and enjoying the ride as we chase them there.

These types of choices, frankly, are too much for us to bear, which is why we leave them in God’s hands.  It is He who opens and shuts doors.  Our job is to pursue the ones that are open until He shouts “enough!”

What we do have on the horizon, along with a number of projects that are providently moving towards fruition, are the preparation of a class on Deuteronomy, a 20 page biology article to edit, and any number of tasks that, while each one on its own would appear to be from different fields, when taken together make up the colorful tapestry of our life, as we blindly chase through the open doors with only one clear mandate:

Help people.

If you care to join us on this adventure, feel free to drop us a line.  You never know what we might accomplish together!

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for November 9, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.25
Oil Price per Barrel:  $94.60
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.27
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.75%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $322.90
FED Target Rate:  0.08%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,289

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,761
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,515,000,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $10,867,000,000,000

Why What We Use as Money Matters

10/29/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Could it be that it is not how, but what we use as money that matters when contemplating the root causes of Climate Change and other global problems?  This is the question that is at the root of our Economic and Philosophical Treatise which bears the cryptic name:

Why What We Use as Money Matters:  Unpacking the Key to Reversing the Effects of Climate Change is an Economic and Philosophical Treatise

Why What We Use as Money Matters
Why What We Use as Money Matters now in print!

Our Monetary Magnum Opus is now available in print at the following embedded links on Amazon.com and Createspace.com.

While there seems to be an endless debate as to what humankind should do in order to reduce our impact on the environment, ironically most of this and indeed countless other political debates result in more action being taken, either to cease and desist an activity or mobilize to clean up and reduce future environmental impacts of certain actions.

However, every action brings about some sort of reaction, often in the form of an “unintended consequence” which serves to negate any good that the carrying out of the well intended initial mandate had managed to accomplish.

Despite Al Gore’s call to action, realistic and manageable solutions to Climate Change remain elusive.  As such, where Gore and other Climate crusaders have failed, we have been compelled to step in.  You see, there is really a quite simple, certain, and palatable solution to Climate Change that could be implemented today.

The solution lies not in well-known solutions such as recycling, Cap and Trade schemes, development restrictions, technological advances, or taxes and other social engineering methods.  In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with what people do or what they or their governments spend their money on.

It lies in What we use as money circa 2013.

What the world uses as money is not really money, but a highly liquid debt instrument.  While the difference is imperceptible to most, the accumulation of mistaken incentives and resulting actions on behalf of humankind which are inherent in the insane debt as currency model are beginning to manifest themselves in nature, and nature itself is beginning to bring itself into balance unilaterally.

Where humankind and the land once lived in a peaceful, mutually beneficial balance with one another, the relationship has become antagonistic and will remain so until the defects in the money supply are remedied.

How, then, can these defects be remedied?  Ah, fellow taxpayer, it is for this reason that the above mentioned book contains 400 pages, for while the answer is simple, it will require that humankind let go of some deeply ingrained ideas which a vast majority of us do not even know we hold fast to.

Start letting go by ordering your copy today!

Print editions are currently available at Amazon.com and Createspace.com and Electronic editions are available on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Google’s Play Store, and a variety of formats via Smashwords.

Thank you for joining us in this quest.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for October 29, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.26
Oil Price per Barrel:  $97.83
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.32
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.51%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $212.51
FED Target Rate:  0.08%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,344
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.2%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,680
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,515,000,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,867,000,000,000

Why the IMF has no clue how to deal with the Spaniards and Italians

10/15/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

As the world continues to bite its collective nails while it waits for the US Government to decide whether to punt the ball down the road another stretch or capitulate on its debt in what we have dubbed “The Ultimate Stimulus Measure,” the IMF is busy scolding the US Government and proposing hack solutions which completely miss the point.

Just try to tax usThe world that the IMF operates in exists only in theory, it is like the perfectly closed system where energy is a constant which is the the basis of many physics theories.  On one hand, the assumption of a closed system is the only way to test a hypothesis.  On the other, to assume that the closed system is a given in real world situations is folly in the physics profession.

While the physics professor recognizes the limitations of his theory in practice and makes the requisite adjustments, these limitations are all too often lost on the IMF and others in the economics profession.  The situation of the latter is dangerous, as for some bizarre reason their theories influence wide-ranging policy decisions which affect the lives of billions based on its closed system fantasy.

Such is the case with the recommendations made in its October 2013 World Economic and Financial Survey which is eerily titled “Taxing Times.”

Taxing Times IMF 10-2013

In the report, the IMF makes two data driven observations:  That the national debt load in certain Euro zone countries is excessive and that there is a certain level of net family wealth in these countries.

Fair enough, however, what happens next is disturbing, for it reveals both the closed system fallacy as well as the arrogance of those at the IMF.  The IMF takes the above two data points and arrives at the following conclusion:

A one time, 10% tax on net family wealth in certain heavily indebted countries would make the national debt loads once again “manageable.”

If you have yet to laugh, cry, or hurl at what we have just described, you may stop reading as you are unlikely to get what follows and reading it will be a waste of time you can otherwise spend watching CNBC or the teletubbies.  Please carry on.

If you are still with us, allow us to heap it on by adding that the IMF believes that this one time family wealth tax would help as it would simply reduce the national debt, specifically in Italy and Spain, who, true to form, have managed to avoid full-scale bailouts suffered by the Irish, Greeks, Portuguese, and Cypriots to this point and gamed the ECB into issuing bonds on their behalf.

This last point should give you, fellow taxpayer, all the information you need to understand why, as ludicrous as a family wealth tax sounds, it becomes even more ludicrous when one thinks that it can be imposed on Spaniard and Italians, who are hands down the world champions in tax avoidance.

The governments of Italy and Spain have managed to have the ECB foot the bill for their respective bailouts to this point.  However, the only reason they need a bailout in the first place is because their citizens are experts in tax avoidance (it is a genetic adaptation acquired during Roman times which has grown stronger and more agile over time, that is all you need to know.)

Now, the IMF, in its infinite wisdom, glances at the problem and a dim light bulb goes on!  If you just tax 10% of each family’s wealth, you can reduce the national debt to an acceptable level!  “Voila,” says Lagarde!  “C’est comment son fait!”

“The genius of the tax,” she continues “is that it is one time only, so it won’t have any effect on investment or savings preferences!  Its perfect, I tell you, perfect!!!!”

This is why she’s paid 300,000 pounds a year, of course, to put two and two together.  At this moment, Christina Lagarde has now transformed into Cruella DeVille, the villainess of Disney fame (a transformation that requires only a slight wardrobe adjustment and a little imagination.)

As word of the IMF’s latest ploy spreads, the few Spaniards who have not opened a Bitcoin wallet called up their grandchildren and asked them to do it for them.

(Wondering what a Bitcoin is?  Check out our reasonably priced e book on the subject here)

By the time any sort of 10% one time wealth tax hits the Spanish and Italian Peoples, there won’t be a peseta or lira, er, Euro to be found from the Pyrenees and Alps to the Mediterranean coast, where avoiding the looting hands of emperors has been a national pastime for over 2000 years.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for October 15, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.28
Oil Price per Barrel:  $101.38
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.37
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.70%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $152.89
FED Target Rate:  0.09%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,277
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,236
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,689,400,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,790,700,000,000

Why Cash Costs the U.S. Economy Real Money

10/2/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Why What We Use as Money Matters
Why What We Use as Money Matters

We recently came across an article by Diane Brady at Businessweek which touched on a theme that is near and dear to us here at The Mint:  The “cost” of money.

The reason that things like this interest us is that we believe the point of something acting as money (more accurately, the monetary premium) is that it has a cost.  Not only a cost, but a cost which, if allowed to be set by free market conditions, provides the perfect, tacit governance of the activities of humankind on this earth.

Brady’s article, as you can see, fell short of our high philosophical ideals and, instead of analyzing why cash has a cost, degenerated to the default position held by many that money should be free:

Why Cash Costs the US Economy Real Money 

Disappointing but not entirely unexpected from the Senior Editor of a financial publication.

The truest saying in all of economics is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  There may be a lunch that costs you nothing but the time spent to approximate oneself to the plate and consume it, but rest assured that the cost of the ingredients and preparation of the lunch itself have been borne elsewhere.

The same dynamic is at work in the monetary realm.  Whether or not one needs to go to an ATM or simply swipe their credit card or tap their mobile phone is of consequence only to that person, but the cost of the production and exchange of money is being borne not by the economy, as Brady suggests, but by the earth itself, which is daily thrown further out of balance by the misguided actions of humankind.

This state of affairs will continue as long as we use debt as money.

Key Indicators for October 2, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.24
Oil Price per Barrel: $101.55
Corn Price per Bushel: $4.39
10 Yr US Treasury Bond: 2.65%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US: $137.07
FED Target Rate: 0.06% ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce: $1,288 THE GOLD RUSH IS STILL ON!
MINT Perceived Target Rate*: 0.25%
Unemployment Rate: 7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI): 0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 15,192
M1 Monetary Base: $2,470,500,000,000 ANOTHER MARKED DROP
M2 Monetary Base: $10,789,400,000,000

 

 

Fine Wine Investing – Everything You Need to Know about Bordeaux

10/1/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints….

Appellations, Banks, Gravel, and Clay all work together in the Southwestern region of France which has become legendary for its wine production:  Bordeaux

While the word Bordeaux may ring a bell, many of us would be hard pressed to hone in on specifics when it comes to selecting a fine wine investment from this or any other region for that matter.

Until now.

The following is a synopsis of the Bordeaux region and the fine wines that it produces.  Think of it as the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy of fine wines which fall under this prestigious umbrella.

THE BORDEAUX EFFECT AND THE VINTAGES SHE PRODUCES

Red Bordeaux (or “Claret” as the British have always known it) can be the epitome of fine wine. The best wines exhibit a wonderful complexity of aromas and flavours, great elegance and refinement and an ability to age gracefully – some for a hundred years.

Like all of France, quality wine production in Bordeaux is governed by a set of regulations known as “Appellation Contrôlée”, often abbreviated to “AC”. An AC covers a certain geographical district and governs production of wine within the district. The whole of the Bordeaux region is covered by a couple of catch-all, generic ACs: AC Bordeaux and AC Bordeaux Supérieur (the latter is higher in alcohol, but not necessarily better). An enormous quantity of inexpensive, “everyday” wine is made under these ACs. Though this is not the “great” Claret that all the fuss is about, it can provide very attractive, reliable drinking.

There are also many smaller, named areas, each entitled to its own AC: AC Fronsac, or AC Pomerol for example. These more specific ACs are usually superior to generic Bordeaux and have stricter regulations.

To the west of the river Gironde, the vineyards of the Médoc and Graves are based on gravelly soil and are planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon vines. To the east lie Pomerol and St-Emilion, two smaller areas of predominantly clay soil, planted with a higher proportion of Merlot. Hence we have “left bank” and “right bank” wines.

The wines from each area can have quite a different character because of the different soils and predominant grape variety. This also means that one is usually more successful than the other in any given year.

Bordeaux Grapes no matter where they are from, almost all red Bordeaux is blended wine: made from two or more grapes. Red wine grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux, in order of importance, are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon,
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot

Bordeaux also produces considerable quantities of white wine. Grape varieties permitted are:

  • Sémillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Muscadelle.
Bordeaux Wine Regions
Map of Bordeaux Wine Regions created by Domenico-de-ga

Classic Bordeaux Regions – 

The Médoc

The Médoc is home to most of the great, classic Clarets. You will find wines labelled AC Médoc that are usually one step above basic Bordeaux, but the very best wines of the Médoc come from even more tightly defined ACs within the Médoc. The best of these individual ACs include:

  • AC Margaux,
  • AC St-Julien,
  • AC Pauillac
  • AC St-Estèphe.

This region is dominated by large wine-making estates, known as châteaux. Whilst many of these do indeed have a château as their HQ, others have nothing more than the vineyards and a collection of ordinary working buildings. Unlike many producers from other parts of the world, each château tends to produce only one “grand vin” which carries its name. Some of them also make a white wine, and many make a second wine, from vats not considered good enough for the “grand vin”.

Each of the top ACs of the Médoc has its own character:

  • Margaux is home to the most perfumed, elegant and “feminine” wines
  • Pauillac three 1ers Crus. Classic, powerful yet elegant wines
  • St-Julien the epitome of Claret: savoury, well-balanced and refined
  • St-Estèphe wines are structured, tannic, long-lasting, “masculine” wines.

In 1855 Médoc wines were classified. From the many thousands of wines produced in the area, just sixty were thought worthy of classification. These sixty were sorted into five ranks or, in French, “Crus” (meaning “growths”), i.e. “Premier Cru” (first growth), “Deuxième Cru” (second growth) and so on.

There are only five top ranking, Premier Cru wines:

  • Château Lafite-Rothschild
  • Château Latour
  • Château Margaux
  • Château Haut-Brion (actually in Graves)
  • Château Mouton-Rothschild.

All classed growth wines command very high prices, many of these, particularly the Premiers Crus, are bought by investors all across the world. To this day the classification remains more-or-less unchanged and many of the original classified châteaux are still producing some of the world’s greatest wines. Of course strong arguments could be made for promotions and relegations within the classification. A group of wines known as the “super seconds” are generally acknowledged to be Premiers Crus in all but name, and a few of the original châteaux have either gone or have lost their reputation. However, apart from some obvious anomalies, it is remarkable how the bulk of the classification holds up, even after 150 years.

The Médoc Crus Bourgeois

Just below these classed growth superstars of Bordeaux are a host of wines known as the “Crus Bourgeois”. Many fine wines can be found within this classification – some are worthy of classed growth status, yet are available at a fraction of the price. I have found properties such as Chasse-Spleen, Meyney, Coufran and d’Angludet to be consistently good. However, in 2006 a court case found that the classification of the Crus Bourgeois was illegal, and pending a restructuring which means wines will have to be independently assessed for inclusion each vintage, the whole classification was temporarily suspended.

Graves 

Graves lies to the south of the city of Bordeaux. This region produces both red and dry white wines on the very gravelly soils after which the region is named. The red wines tend to express a soft, earthy quality. Like the Médoc this region was also classified, but not until 1959. Only a couple of dozen châteaux are entitled to the words “Grand Cru” on their label. The best vineyard sites of the Graves are clustered in the North of the region. That is where almost all the Grands Crus are situated. In 1987, this area was given a brand new AC of its very own: Pessac-Léognan. Wines bearing these words on their label should be of higher quality than most Graves. The undoubted super-star of the area is Château Haut-Brion. As noted earlier, this property was actually declared a Premier Cru in the 1855 classification of the Médoc due to its exceptional quality. Uniquely, it is allowed to have both classifications on its label: Médoc Premier Cru and Graves Grand Cru. Its sister property, La Mission Haut-Brion, is also capable of the highest quality.

St-Emilion 

Although the area is quite large, the properties here tend to be much smaller and less grand, and the wines (exclusively red) are very different. The soil is clay and limestone rather than gravel, and the dominant grape variety is not Cabernet Sauvignon, but the softer Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The wines tend to be approachable at a younger age and to have a warm-blooded fruitiness. It is an area that requires a little bit of caution because of its classification system. St-Emilion wines are divided into 5 classifications. In ascending order, these are:

  • St-Emilion
  • St-Emilion Grand Cru
  • St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé
  • St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “B”
  • St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”.

Pomerol

Pomerol is by far the smallest of the great regions. It has 2 basic constituents that determine the character of its wines: the soil is thick, heavy clay and one grape variety dominates: Merlot. Pomerol wines are extremely soft, seductive and full of spice and vivid fruit. The production tends to be tiny in the area, so the wines are generally expensive. Indeed, Pomerol is home to some of the world’s most expensive wines such as Châteaux Pétrus and Le Pin, the latter producing little more than 500 cases each year. You will rarely see these wines in shops as they are snapped up years in advance of production. Look for more reasonably priced wines such as Petit-Village, Le Bon Pasteur and Clos René. The wines of Pomerol have never been classified.

Sauternes and Barsac

The Bordeaux area also produces world class white wines, though invariably in tiny quantities. The most famous of these are the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, including the almost legendary Château d’Yquem. These luscious wines (also classified in 1855) are created by a particular and unpredictable fungus, called botrytis. Botrytis rots the grapes, leaving them high in sugar and glycerine which leads to their eventual silky, honeyed sweetness. The best dry white wines come from the Graves area. Though often of tremendous quality, these tend to be scarce and the famous names are very expensive.

The minor regions

From the inexpensive, soft, fruity and delicious wines of the Premières Côtes de Blaye in the north of the Bordeaux region, to the moderately-priced structured, tannic and impressive clarets of Fronsac or Lalande de Pomerol, the “lesser” red wines of Bordeaux are not to be despised. Whilst the finesse and breeding of the top classed growths might be missing, the red wines of the region are generally very reliable and well made.

The dry whites of the region, from areas like Entre-Deux-Mers or simple AC Bordeaux can produce refreshing, zippy, occasionally slightly tart wines for drinking young. Areas around Sauternes, like Sainte-Croix-du-Mont or Loupiac which lie just across the Gironde, also produce sweet, sometimes botrytis affected wines that can be very good and are moderately priced. Rosé is also produced in the Bordeaux region, often from the Cabernet Sauvignon. It can be delicious stuff with bright, supple fruit and refreshing acidity.

Indeed, the Bordeaux Region and its Appellations are the epicenter of Fine Wine investment.  A basic understanding of the region and the wines that are produced there, which we hope you have gained by reading the above information, is absolutely crucial for anyone who wishes to dabble in fine wine for investment purposes.

If you or any of your clients would like more information on fine wine investments, simply email us at: davidminteconomics@gmail.com with the word “WINE” in the subject line.

More to come on the Fine Wine Market.

Stay Fresh!

Investing in Fine Wines has Never been Easier

Fine wines have always commanded a premium on restaurant menus, but have you ever stopped to consider the other side of the trade on a romantic dining experience?

Tempranillo Photo credit: Mick Stephenson
Tempranillo Photo credit: Mick Stephenson

Fine Wine Investing

Today we begin a short series on investing in Fine Wine.  Fine Wines as an investment opportunity may sound like something that well heeled folks with large estates and walk in wine cellars are equipped to dabble in.  However, as with many things the rich do, they tend to do it because there is money in it.

The market for Fine Wines is remarkably stable and refreshingly uncorrelated with other asset classes, which is why the rich, apart from bragging rights, have no qualms about storing a portion of their nest egg in corked glass bottles.

Today, the stability and out sized price gains in the Fine Wine market are available to almost anyone willing to invest.  The best part is, you don’t even need to build a wine cellar or worry about your retirement account spilling in an unfortunate accident or being accidentally enjoyed at a candlelight dinner at home.  You can now invest in Fine Wines as you would any other asset class, via the internet.

You still own the wine, naturally, you just don’t need to deal with the hassle of transport and storage.  All you need is a minimum investment of 5,000 British pounds and a bit of information.

If you would like more information on this investment opportunity, which is available through one of our partners, simply email us at: davidminteconomics@gmail.com with the word “WINE” in the subject line.

For the moment, we present the following information as a brief overview of the market of Fine Wines.  While it should go without saying, we present the following information as a general overview and cannot and will not comment upon whether or not Fine Wines are appropriate for each individual’s investment situation, this is a decision that must be made by the individual.  However, if you or someone you know determines that Fine Wine investing is agreeable to their taste, we will gladly facilitate the transaction.

Enjoy!

WINE MARKET ORIGINS

From its origins as an exotic drink, wine has become a long standing commodity, with a lineage that dates back to the Greek empire and beginning of trade in 1600 BC. The ancient Greeks carried wine throughout the Mediterranean coast, with Europe leading the way in consumption, production and movement. A major transformation occurred when Napoleon III requested a classification of best Bordeaux wines in France in the year 1855. Following this, wines were classified on a recognised price-based ranking, leading to the grading of the world’s finest wines.

PRESENT DAY INVESTMENT AND MARKET PERFORMANCE

The traditional notion that wine investment is about buying two cases of young wine so that, after a period of maturation, you drink one case and sell the other to finance both may have a certain romantic appeal.

As an investment philosophy, though, it is heavily discounted by today’s serious investor. Investment is all about risk and good investment choices are made when the exposure to risk is clearly understood.

Fine wines has been one of the strongest areas for investment in recent years What may surprise many is that an investment in fine wine has consistently been a low risk investment opportunity compared to oil, the FTSE 100 and even gold. Combined with strong absolute performance and low correlation to other assets, that has led wine to find a home in many serious investment portfolios.

Those interested in accessing the fine wine market have more options available to them than ever before with a range of tax-efficient structures available. The timing looks opportune too: prices came off significantly in 2011, leaving the possibility of a substantial upturn in the medium term, and inflationary fears are enhancing the attractiveness of physical assets.

There is very little correlation between financial markets and fine wine prices. For example, whilst many stocks, shares and markets crashed during the financial crisis of 2008, most wines continued to significantly appreciate in value. Whilst wine prices are not always free of volatility, the market tends to be far more resilient than many traditional investments that investors go for. The reasoning behind this is actually very simple. Fine wine is a completely tangible asset, a luxury product in which supply is always exceeded by demand. As a particular vintage wine is consumed, more of that wine cannot be produced, so the wine appreciates in value.

Fine wines frequently outperform share indices, for example between May 2010 and May 2011, whilst the FTSE 100 appreciated by 15.6%, the fine wine index increased by a considerably higher 21.1%. The Live-Ex 100 Fine Wine Index is the industry’s main performance benchmark, and represents the price movement of the 100 most sought-after fine wines. The price index is calculated on a monthly basis, with the vast majority being Bordeaux wines. Over the last 25 years the very best wines have appreciated by 15-25% per annum, a staggering return on investment very difficult to find anywhere else without very high risks.

THE FINE WINE MARKET AND SUPPLY AND DEMAND

It is the underlying supply and demand characteristics of wine which make it attractive as an investment proposition. On the supply side, Bordeaux (considered by many to produce the only investment grade wine) is a finite geographical area in France with an essentially fixed number of wine producers (châteaux). The initial supply of wine is therefore finite, and over time can only fall as bottles of the wine are consumed.

Meanwhile demand tends to rise, for two reasons. First, the quality of the wine improves over time as it matures, making it more attractive to drink. Second, global demand continues to rise as new markets for the wine open up. In the last 25 years alone we have seen Japan, Russia, Korea and China ‘discover’ fine wine and consume it in large quantities, with countries such as India and South America yet to come ‘on stream.’

Intrigued?  More to come on this interesting and exciting opportunity.

Stay Fresh!

August and Everything After All Over Again

9/23/2013 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Most persons in the financial industry, and likely beyond may recall that a mere five years ago, the Lehman Brother’s bankruptcy filing rocked the financial markets and served as the official notice that the blind 25 basis point hikes in the FED target rate that had passed as “monetary policy” during the go-go years of the early 2000’s were not exactly what the economy ordered.

In a matter of months, an entire industry that had been operating in a nearly infallible uptrend since the early 1970’s began to retool itself to cope with significant downside risk.

The Lehman event took place on September 15th and, while it did not exactly catch the US Treasury and the FED off guard, it did catch them without the resources or authority to do anything about it.  As Phillip Swagel details in this piece “Why Lehman Wasn’t Rescued,”:

“Lehman failed before TARP was passed or even proposed to the Congress. This meant that the Treasury Department had no legal authority to put government money into the firm or provide a guarantee for its obligations. This changed with the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Bill on Oct. 3, 2008, which provided $700 billion in TARP financing to be used to purchase troubled assets (used in the end mostly to purchase preferred shares in banks).”

Swagel goes on to state that the cases of both Bear Stearns and AIG, whose subsequent bailouts caused Lehman stakeholders, amongst others, to cry foul, differed on one very significant count:

“To all eyes, the problem at Lehman was one of solvency while the issue in the other two cases was liquidity. The Fed’s actions on Bear and A.I.G. were thus appropriate in its role as a lender of last resort and the same with its caution at Lehman.”

And so began the cascade of minifailures which have become collectively known as the Financial Crisis of 2008, as liquidity was provided to the solvent while the insolvent went quickly into history’s dustbin.

At The Mint, we refer to this odd period of time as “August and Everything After,” with apologies to the Counting Crows.  It was a time when the industry threw in the towel, and the prevailing current became one of loss avoidance.

Today, just over 5 years later, we believe that we are at a similar inflection point with regards to tendencies in the financial markets, hence our tagline “August and Everything After All Over Again,” only this time, the tremendous risks in the financial system are not on the downside, where everyone is looking for them, they are on the upside, where few dare to tread.

The few who have tread confidently on the upside risks, despite the commonly held beliefs to the contrary, would have nearly tripled their money by doing something as mindless as going long the Dow circa March 2009, when it appeared the Dow companies themselves were to be swallowed up.

At this point in time, the upside risks are hidden from most.  While the stock market continues to churn out an impressive performance, a more significant trend has been playing out in plain sight:  Private investment activity is going through the roof.

While publicly traded equities get nearly all of the airtime, it is becoming clear that the advantages of being a publicly traded company are being outweighed by the regulatory burden and incredible scrutiny that public companies are under.  To sum up the plight of public companies circa 2013, they are easy targets.

The answer for many has been to “go private,” and go private they have, from Ford to Blackberry, companies that once basked in the public limelight have found that going private may be just what the doctor ordered.

To accentuate this trend, today is the day that a key provision of the JOBS act takes effect, allowing private companies and startups to solicit accredited investors publicly rather than needlessly lurking about in the shadows as they had done since the days of the Great Depression.

The Role of the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve, in direct violation of Natural Law
The Federal Reserve, in direct violation of Natural Law

FED observers watched in near disbelief last week as the US Central Bank declined to “Taper,” which means to scale back the amount of money that they simply print and hand to holders of US Treasuries and Mortgage Backed Securities, citing downside risks.

In observing the FED, we can confirm that the economy currently faces unimaginable upside risks, as they are paradoxically always the last to react to market realities which they have unwittiningly created.

The FED and their observers labor under a belief that is both accurate and woefully misguided all at once.  It is true that the Federal Reserve, in regulating short term interest rates and the base money supply, has nearly unchecked influence on the level of economic activity anywhere that dollars are used in exchange.  This is a simple reality of the insane “debt is money” monetary system that the world suffers under.  The primary issuer of the debt determines how much money there is.

They are wrong in thinking that the FED is clairvoyant in any sense of the word and can somehow time their interventions to achieve desired effects on the underlying economy.  In this sense, the FED is always the last to react as it has no idea what the true timing of the cause and effect of their policy decisions are.  While they have produced reams of academic work to prove their theories, in practice, it is nothing more than guesswork with the benefit of hindsight.

This is also why the FED will only “taper” when nobody cares whether or not they taper, i.e. when there is so much money flooding the system that the dangers are clearly on the side of hyperinflation.  Inflation, in their mind, is much easier to fight than the deflationary spiral the the Lehman event triggered five short years ago.

They are right in the sense that in a hyperinflationary environment, the monetary system simply needs less juice, where a deflationary environment threatens their stranglehold on the world’s monetary system.

To understand the depth of the incompetence of the FED and Central Bankers at large, one need only look to their latest hero, Michael Woodford.  Mr. Woodford wrote a book titled “Interest and Prices:  Foundations of a Theory of Monetary Policy” in which he deals with problems of zero bound rates and quantitative easing, ideas that were being toyed with back in 2003 when the book was published as mere theory.  Now, they are part of a Central Banker’s everyday life, and Woodford’s book is considered their bible.

The base of Woodford’s theory, which we have come to know as “foreword guidance,” is that when monetary policy is accommodating maximum liquidity and the system still lacks it, policy makers must resort to telling market participants what they will do, essentially tying their hands in the future, in order for liquidity to exceed its theoretical limits.  This is the only reason why Ben Bernanke now holds a press conference after FED policy meetings, so that this theory can be implemented.

Woodford’s theory of Foreword Guidance, like Quantitative easing, is further evidence that the current monetary system has failed.  It has failed in the sense that even unlimited amounts of debt masquerading as money cannot satiate the need for liquidity in global markets, which are so disconnected from actual physical conditions that it is impossible to tell which projects are a net benefit to humankind and which take humankind further down the path to fantasyland, where all play and no work promises a lot of pain and scarcity down the line.

The risk in the “After August” period is to the upside, and central bank notes will become irrelevant as the global economy goes into overdrive and a new monetary system will be tacitly agreed upon by all participants.

When the Central Bankers of the world look up from Woodford’s textbook, they may catch a glimpse as the Tsunami of liquidity washes their currencies away.

The FED has nearly doubled the base money since 2008, are re you ready for it to multiply?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus!

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for September 23, 2013

Copper Price per Lb: $3.27
Oil Price per Barrel:  $103.40
Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.53
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.71%
Mt Gox Bitcoin price in US:  $133.43
FED Target Rate:  0.09%  ON AUTOPILOT, THE FED IS DEAD!
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,322
MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  7.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  15,401
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,469,100,000,000
M2 Monetary Base:  $10,783,000,000,000