Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

False confidence rising in the US

A recent article argues that the increasing demand for consumer credit is an indicator of increasing consumer confidence. The argument seems reasonable due to the way it is presented--there is an entirely different conclusion one would draw were the argument presented differently.

If you had a very low income, and few assets, yet people kept lending you money--money that greatly exceeded your assets--would that not suggest that these lenders had confidence in you? It may be that this confidence is unjustified--but we can infer its existence by the continued willingness of others to lend you money despite the fact that you appear to be ruined.

In just the same manner, we can infer the confidence that lenders have in a country by computing the ratio of a nation's debt to its actual holdings of real money. A high ratio suggests great confidence--even though it could just as easily be a measure of ruin. In the case of the US, we have used the ratio of its official debt to its official gold holdings. For other countries, we would have to include foreign currency holdings as "wealth".

Confidence in the US hit an all-time high in September 2001. Then something happened, and confidence in the US fell steadily until the end of 2012. The falling confidence level occurrred because the value of the US gold holdings rose faster than its debt (which itself was increasing at the greatest rate ever). In other words, the US dollar was losing value (relative to gold) faster than the US gov't could spend it.

Confidence increased in 2013, as the gold price fell while debt continued to increase. But is this real confidence?

The ratio of debt to gold can only be considered a measure of confidence if foreign entities are willfully buying the debt. If, on the other hand, the government simply monetizes the debt itself, or orders its vassal states to purchase the debt, then it wouldn't be correct to look at this ratio to be a measure of confidence. It is a measure of ruin--and faked confidence.

We have also seen that higher confidence correlates to periods of lower unemployment. The correlation appears to have continued into 2013, but with all the shenanigans involved in reporting unemployment, I have to caution that I have no confidence in the reported unemployment rate. However, it appears that goosing confidence may be a fore-runner to improved employment, and reiterate that there are only three ways governments and central banks can bring about such a result--increase debt (without the gold price falling); sell gold; or pray for the gold price to fall. Pray hard. Very, very hard.

The second chart really shows faked confidence compared to faked unemployment numbers (particularly the last couple of years). But at least it shows that things are getting "better" in the US.

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