The global economy is tumbling, but we might be able to find some hope in cryptocurrencies.
Around the world, personal financial stress is peaking. A recent study in America found that more than three in four people feel anxious about their financial situation. This is seeding anti-risk mentalities and prompting fears around the safety of long-term savings, including retirement funds.
However, that shouldn’t mean hiding money under the floorboards. Nor should it necessarily mean handing over the reins to a low-growth pension fund, which at current rates of inflation, are likely to be losing value. It means being smarter about assessing all options and diversifying. And that requires freedom.
That’s what Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R) was advocating when he proposed the Financial Freedom Act in May, which would permit all Americans with self-directed retirement plans to add cryptocurrency to their 401(k)s — a defined-contribution, personal pension account. It was prompted by a piece of regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor in March attempting to bar 401(k) accounts from investing in crypto.
Too often, freedom is seen as the enemy of stability, when in fact fear is the enemy of stability. And that’s exactly what the U.S. government’s caginess around alternative assets is stirring up. Much of the media has also been quick to jump on the anti-crypto bandwagon. A quick Google search of the coverage of Fidelity’s announcement that they would soon let participants invest as much as 20 percent of their employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan in Bitcoin reveals overwhelming negativity, or at least scepticism.
To compound perceptions, many have been further put off incorporating rockstar assets like cryptocurrencies into their pension portfolios following May’s collapse of the Terra ecosystem. Most people just want to have the option to retire comfortably — they’re not planning on buying a yacht or a seat on Elon Musk’s Starship — and they're worried that digital assets won’t provide the stability and steady interest they need to build a solid retirement nest egg.
Age does not always equal wisdom
While caution in the crypto space is always advised, completely steering people away from considering digital assets in their retirement portfolio is itself dangerous. It’s discouraging people from accessing what could be the solution to a dying system and pension-eroding inflation.
Because, the truth is, the old ways aren’t a safe bet, either. Traditional pension funds are struggling. All but 12 of America’s 100 largest 401(k) funds have posted double-digit losses so far this year thanks to surging inflation and a turbulent U.S. stock market. At the same time, inflation chips away at purchasing power of cash while interest rates remain eye-wateringly low.
Even the property market is not a “sure thing.” Many are speculating on a housing bubble for reasons that include Chinese property giant Evergrande edging toward default. Property ownership is increasingly seen as a pipedream for younger generations.
It thus becomes clear that clinging purely to the old ways — including traditional financial instruments and an outdated banking system — is not viable for people who want future-proof retirement savings.
Cryptocurrencies are becoming an opportunity for retirement planning
As inflation approaches a 40-year high in the U.S., it is no longer “transitory.” Instability is also becoming a semi-permanent fixture in light of climate change and the global turmoil surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s hard for anyone to know what the future holds, including pension funds, so people should be free to place their bets where they see fit, including in their own retirement plans.
Real weekly earnings are down for a record 16th consecutive month.— zerohedge (@zerohedge) August 10, 2022
Inflation-adjusted earnings have declined for 89% (16 of 18 months) of Biden's presidency pic.twitter.com/IAgFtBaXJ6
Stablecoins, for example, can be a prudent addition to a 401(k). It’s just about picking the right kind — one that can store wealth and hedge against the damaging effects of inflation. As an algorithmic stablecoin, Terra was innately vulnerable to speculative attacks thanks to a lack of independent asset backing. Stablecoins backed by physical assets, such as gold, on the other hand, hold enormous potential as vehicles for wealth preservation.
Gold has time and again weathered economic crises far better than stocks, bonds and fiat currencies. In 2021, for example, as the pandemic saw fiat currencies around the world turn volatile, the price of gold sat steadily between $1,700 and $1,950 an ounce, proving both its stability and value.
Taking a wider view, gold has increased in value by more than 500 percent in the years since the gold standard was abolished, with central banks making sure that their reserves remain abundant. But it is only now that gold is digitized and infinitely more accessible, making it easier to buy in fractional amounts and to transact with it. Economist Danielle Di Martino has even noted that gold, historically, is the least correlated asset class in existence with inflation. More than simply offsetting its effects, gold has maintained a positive correlation with rising inflation rates, and achieved an average yearly performance of +10.6 percent over the last 50 years. Gold has performed well in times of high volatility, in bear markets, and even outperformed stock markets at times.
Governments have a role to play in encouraging our economic salvation
Let’s face it. Retirement is a daunting prospect, even more so as it becomes more difficult to find growth in the economic environment, as well as protection and liquidity. Americans looking down the line toward an increasingly distant eventuality are right to think conservative. But they have to think conservative in a way that embraces the future.
Investing in digital gold is the ultimate “future conservative” move, combining the best of both worlds: the historic backing of traditional currencies, and the flexibility and autonomy of decentralised, blockchain-based digital currencies.
Governments need to recognize the potential of these assets and, instead of limiting investor options or scaring them into an anti-change mentality, they should provide cross-border oversight and promote increased transparency, empowering investors to achieve financial freedom by providing a context of safety.
The global economy is evolving toward alternative assets. Retirement wealth cannot be an exception to that. Individuals simply can’t afford to exclude alternative assets from their retirement plans, particularly with inflation already lapping at their hard-earned savings. It’s time for everyone to take control of their wealth and look to better, safer, and fairer alternatives to the status quo.
The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice.bonds pandemic stocks cryptocurrency bitcoin blockchain crypto currencies crypto stock markets gold
Plunging pound and crumbling confidence: How the new UK government stumbled into a political and financial crisis of its own making
Liz Truss took over as prime minister with an ambitious plan to cut taxes by the most since 1972 – investors balked after it wasn’t clear how she would…
The new British government is off to a very rocky start – after stumbling through an economic and financial crisis of its own making.
Just a few weeks into its term on Sept. 23, 2022, Prime Minister Liz Truss’ government released a so-called mini-budget that proposed £161 billion – about US$184 billion at today’s rate – in new spending and the biggest tax cuts in half a century, with the benefits mainly going to Britain’s top earners. The aim was to jump-start growth in an economy on the verge of recession, but the government didn’t indicate how it would pay for it – or provide evidence that the spending and tax cuts would actually work.
Financial markets reacted badly, prompting interest rates to soar and the pound to plunge to the lowest level against the dollar since 1985. The Bank of England was forced to gobble up government bonds to avoid a financial crisis.
After days of defending the plan, the government did a U-turn of sorts on Oct. 3 by scrapping the most controversial component of the budget – elimination of its top 45% tax rate on high earners. This calmed markets, leading to a rally in the pound and government bonds.
As a finance professor who tracks markets closely, I believe at the heart of this mini-crisis over the mini-budget was a lack of confidence – and now a lack of credibility.
A looming recession
Truss’ government inherited a troubled economy.
Growth has been sluggish, with the latest quarterly figure at 0.2%. The Bank of England predicts the U.K. will soon enter a recession that could last until 2024. The latest data on U.K. manufacturing shows the sector is contracting.
Consumer confidence is at its lowest level ever as soaring inflation – currently at an annualized pace of 9.9% – drives up the cost of living, especially for food and fuel. At the same time, real, inflation-adjusted wages are falling by a record amount, or around 3%.
It’s important to note that many countries in the world, including the U.S. and in mainland Europe, are experiencing the same problems of low growth and high inflation. But rumblings in the background in the U.K. are also other weaknesses.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the U.K. has suffered from lower productivity compared with other major economies. Business investment plateaued after Brexit in 2016 – when a slim majority of voters chose to leave the European Union – and remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels. And the U.K. also consistently runs a balance of payments deficit, which means the country imports a lot more goods and services than it exports, with a trade deficit of over 5% of gross domestic product.
In other words, investors were already predisposed to view the long-term trajectory of the U.K. economy and the British pound in a negative light.
An ambitious agenda
Truss, who became prime minister on Sept. 6, 2022, also didn’t have a strong start politically.
The government of Boris Johnson lost the confidence of his party and the electorate after a series of scandals, including accusations he mishandled sexual abuse allegations and revelations about parties being held in government offices while the country was in lockdown.
Truss was not the preferred candidate of lawmakers in her own Conservative Party, who had the task of submitting two choices for the wider party membership to vote on. The rest of the party – dues-paying members of the general public – chose Truss. The lack of support from Conservative members of Parliament meant she wasn’t in a position of strength coming into the job.
Nonetheless, the new cabinet had an ambitious agenda of cutting taxes and deregulating energy and business.
Some of the decisions, laid out in the mini-budget, were expected, such as subsidies limiting higher energy prices, reversing an increase in social security taxes and a planned increase in the corporate tax rate.
But others, notably a plan to abolish the 45% tax rate on incomes over £150,000, were not anticipated by markets. Since there were no explicit spending cuts cited, funding for the £161 billion package was expected to come from selling more debt. There was also the threat that this would be paid for, in part, by lower welfare payments at a time when poorer Britons are suffering from the soaring cost of living. The fear of welfare cuts is putting more pressure on the Truss government.
A collapse in confidence
Even as the new U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng was presenting the mini-budget on Sept. 23, the British pound was already getting hammered. It sank from $1.13 the day before the proposal to as low as $1.03 in intraday trading on Sept. 26. Yields on 10-year government bonds, known as gilts, jumped from about 3.5% to 4.5% – the highest level since 2008 – in the same period.
The jump in rates prompted mortgage lenders to suspend deals with new customers, eventually offering them again at significantly higher borrowing costs. There were fears that this would lead to a crash in the housing market.
In addition, the drop in gilt prices led to a crisis in pension funds, putting them at risk of insolvency.
The International Monetary Fund, which bailed out the U.K. in 1976, even offered its figurative two cents on the tax cuts, urging the government to “reevaluate” the plan. The comments further spooked investors.
To prevent a broader crisis in financial markets, the Bank of England stepped in and pledged to purchase up to £65 billion in government bonds.
Besides causing investors to lose faith, the crisis also severely dented the public’s confidence in the U.K. government. The latest polls showed the opposition Labour Party enjoying a 24-point lead, on average, over the Conservatives.
So the government likely had little choice but to reverse course and drop the most controversial part of the plan, the abolition of the 45% tax rate. The pound recovered its losses. The recovery in gilts was more modest, with bonds still trading at elevated levels.
Putting this all together, less than a month into the job, Truss has lost confidence – and credibility – with international investors, voters and her own party. And all this over a “mini-budget” – the full budget isn’t due until November 2022. It suggests the U.K.‘s troubles are far from over, a view echoed by credit rating agencies.
David McMillan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.recession covid-19 subsidies bonds government bonds housing market pound lockdown recession recovery interest rates european europe uk
Roubini: The Stagflationary Debt Crisis Is Here
Roubini: The Stagflationary Debt Crisis Is Here
Authored by Nouriel Roubini via Project Syndicate,
The Great Moderation has given way to…
The Great Moderation has given way to the Great Stagflation, which will be characterized by instability and a confluence of slow-motion negative supply shocks. US and global equities are already back in a bear market, and the scale of the crisis that awaits has not even been fully priced in yet.
For a year now, I have argued that the increase in inflation would be persistent, that its causes include not only bad policies but also negative supply shocks, and that central banks’ attempt to fight it would cause a hard economic landing. When the recession comes, I warned, it will be severe and protracted, with widespread financial distress and debt crises. Notwithstanding their hawkish talk, central bankers, caught in a debt trap, may still wimp out and settle for above-target inflation. Any portfolio of risky equities and less risky fixed-income bonds will lose money on the bonds, owing to higher inflation and inflation expectations.
How do these predictions stack up? First, Team Transitory clearly lost to Team Persistent in the inflation debate. On top of excessively loose monetary, fiscal, and credit policies, negative supply shocks caused price growth to surge. COVID-19 lockdowns led to supply bottlenecks, including for labor. China’s “zero-COVID” policy created even more problems for global supply chains. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves through energy and other commodity markets. And the broader sanctions regime – not least the weaponization of the US dollar and other currencies – has further balkanized the global economy, with “friend-shoring” and trade and immigration restrictions accelerating the trend toward deglobalization.
Everyone now recognizes that these persistent negative supply shocks have contributed to inflation, and the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the US Federal Reserve have begun to acknowledge that a soft landing will be exceedingly difficult to pull off. Fed Chair Jerome Powell now speaks of a “softish landing” with at least “some pain.” Meanwhile, a hard-landing scenario is becoming the consensus among market analysts, economists, and investors.
It is much harder to achieve a soft landing under conditions of stagflationary negative supply shocks than it is when the economy is overheating because of excessive demand. Since World War II, there has never been a case where the Fed achieved a soft landing with inflation above 5% (it is currently above 8%) and unemployment below 5% (it is currently 3.7%). And if a hard landing is the baseline for the United States, it is even more likely in Europe, owing to the Russian energy shock, China’s slowdown, and the ECB falling even further behind the curve relative to the Fed.
Are we already in a recession? Not yet, but the US did report negative growth in the first half of the year, and most forward-looking indicators of economic activity in advanced economies point to a sharp slowdown that will grow even worse with monetary-policy tightening. A hard landing by year’s end should be regarded as the baseline scenario.
While many other analysts now agree, they seem to think that the coming recession will be short and shallow, whereas I have cautioned against such relative optimism, stressing the risk of a severe and protracted stagflationary debt crisis. And now, the latest distress in financial markets – including bond and credit markets – has reinforced my view that central banks’ efforts to bring inflation back down to target will cause both an economic and a financial crash.
I have also long argued that central banks, regardless of their tough talk, will feel immense pressure to reverse their tightening once the scenario of a hard economic landing and a financial crash materializes. Early signs of wimping out are already discernible in the United Kingdom. Faced with the market reaction to the new government’s reckless fiscal stimulus, the BOE has launched an emergency quantitative-easing (QE) program to buy up government bonds (the yields on which have spiked).
Monetary policy is increasingly subject to fiscal capture. Recall that a similar turnaround occurred in the first quarter of 2019, when the Fed stopped its quantitative-tightening (QT) program and started pursuing a mix of backdoor QE and policy-rate cuts – after previously signaling continued rate hikes and QT – at the first sign of mild financial pressures and a growth slowdown. Central banks will talk tough; but there is good reason to doubt their willingness to do “whatever it takes” to return inflation to its target rate in a world of excessive debt with risks of an economic and financial crash.
Moreover, there are early signs that the Great Moderation has given way to the Great Stagflation, which will be characterized by instability and a confluence of slow-motion negative supply shocks. In addition to the disruptions mentioned above, these shocks could include societal aging in many key economies (a problem made worse by immigration restrictions); Sino-American decoupling; a “geopolitical depression” and breakdown of multilateralism; new variants of COVID-19 and new outbreaks, such as monkeypox; the increasingly damaging consequences of climate change; cyberwarfare; and fiscal policies to boost wages and workers’ power.
Where does that leave the traditional 60/40 portfolio? I previously argued that the negative correlation between bond and equity prices would break down as inflation rises, and indeed it has. Between January and June of this year, US (and global) equity indices fell by over 20% while long-term bond yields rose from 1.5% to 3.5%, leading to massive losses on both equities and bonds (positive price correlation).
Moreover, bond yields fell during the market rally between July and mid-August (which I correctly predicted would be a dead-cat bounce), thus maintaining the positive price correlation; and since mid-August, equities have continued their sharp fall while bond yields have gone much higher. As higher inflation has led to tighter monetary policy, a balanced bear market for both equities and bonds has emerged.
But US and global equities have not yet fully priced in even a mild and short hard landing. Equities will fall by about 30% in a mild recession, and by 40% or more in the severe stagflationary debt crisis that I have predicted for the global economy. Signs of strain in debt markets are mounting: sovereign spreads and long-term bond rates are rising, and high-yield spreads are increasing sharply; leveraged-loan and collateralized-loan-obligation markets are shutting down; highly indebted firms, shadow banks, households, governments, and countries are entering debt distress.
The crisis is here.
A Policy Mistake In The Making
A Policy Mistake In The Making
Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,
“Market Instability” Causes BOE To Reverse QT….
“Market Instability” Causes BOE To Reverse QT. Is The Fed Next?
“Market instability” remains the most significant risk to central banks globally. Despite their desire to combat surging inflation, market instability is a greater risk to global economies due to the massive amounts of leverage. We previously discussed the importance of controlling instability. To wit:
“Interestingly, the Fed is dependent on both market participants and consumers, believing in this idea. With the entirety of the financial ecosystem now more heavily levered than ever due to the Fed’s profligate measures of suppressing interest rates and flooding the system with excessive levels of liquidity, the “instability of stability” is now the most significant risk.
The ‘stability/instability paradox’ assumes that all players are rational, and such rationality implies avoidance of complete destruction. In other words, all players will act rationally, and no one will push ‘the big red button.’”
So far, the Fed remains fortunate with a low volatility decline in markets. In other words, “market stability” continues to afford the Federal Reserve the operating room needed for the most aggressive rate hiking campaign since the late 70s. Market volatility and credit spreads remain “well contained” despite drastically higher interest rates and an ongoing stock market decline.
However, stable markets can become unstable rapidly when something breaks due to rising rates or volatility. The Bank of England (BOE) is an excellent example of what happens when things go awry. The BOE was forced to start buying bonds to solve a potential crisis with U.K. pension funds. The pension funds receive margin with yields fall and post additional collateral when yields rise. However, when yields spike, as they have recently, the pension funds are hit with “margin calls,” which have the potential to cause market instability. Due to leverage built up through the entire financial system, market instability can spread like a virus through global markets. Such was last seen with the Lehman Crisis in 2008.
Is the BOE’s actions an isolated event? Maybe not. According to Charles Gasparino, the Fed could be next.
SCOOP (1/2): @federalreserve officials getting increasingly worried about "financial stability" as opposed to inflation as higher rates begin to crush bonds, several big investors tell me. Fed growing worried about possible "Lehman Moment" w a 4% FF rate as Bonds and derivatives— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) September 30, 2022
The Market Instability Risk
The Federal Reserve is deeply committed to its aggressive campaign to quell surging inflation. As Jerome Powell stated at this year’s Jackson Hole Summit:
“Restoring price stability will take some time and requires using our tools forcefully to bring demand and supply into better balance. Reducing inflation is likely to require a sustained period of below-trend growth. Moreover, there will very likely be some softening of labor market conditions. While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses. These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation. But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain.”
While the Federal Reserve is willing to cause “some pain” to achieve victory, they hope to do so without evoking a recession. Such may be a challenge for two primary reasons:
The Fed remains focused on lagging economic data, such as employment, which are highly subject to future revisions, and;
Changes to monetary policy do not show up in the economy until roughly 9-12 months in the future.
The problem with the Fed’s use of economic data to guide monetary policy decisions was the subject of a St. Louis Federal Reserve research note. To wit:
“In the two quarters leading up to the average recession, all measures were still experiencing varying degrees of positive growth. Meanwhile, immediately following the onset of the average recession, all six indicators declined, which ultimately persisted for the entirety of the recession.”
Such brings us to the second most critical point.
Changes to monetary policy have a 9-12 month lag before showing up in the economy. Therefore, as the Fed is hiking rates based on lagging economic data, the risk of a “policy mistake” becomes heightened. By the time the economic data deteriorates, the preceding rate hikes have yet to impact the economy, which eventually deepens the recession.
As shown, the annual rate of change of the Fed Funds rate is now the most aggressive increase in history. However, every previous rate hiking campaign has led to a recession, bear markets, or economic event.
However, the Federal Reserve does not operate in an economic vacuum. Other factors also contribute to the tightening of monetary policy and the impact on economic growth. When those other factors such as higher interest rates, falling asset prices, or a surging dollar coincide with the Fed’s policy campaign, the risk of “market instability” increases.
A Policy Mistake In The Making
The current bout of inflation is vastly different than that seen in the late 70s.
Milton Friedman once stated corporations don’t cause inflation; governments create inflation by printing money. There was no better example of this than the massive Government interventions in 2020 and 2021 that sent subsequent rounds of checks to households (creating demand) when an economic shutdown constrained supply due to the pandemic.
The following economic illustration shows such taught in every “Econ 101” class. Unsurprisingly, inflation is the consequence if supply is restricted and demand increases by providing “stimulus” checks.
The problem for the Fed is the influence of lagging economic data on its decisions. In contrast, forward estimates for inflation are already falling quickly as economic demand falters due to collapsing liquidity.
Historically, the “best cure for high prices is high prices.” In other words, inflation would resolve itself as high costs curtail consumption. However, the Fed is not operating in a vacuum. While the Fed is hiking interest rates to slow economic activity, interest rates and the dollar have also increased dramatically in recent months. Those increases apply further downward economic pressures by increasing costs domestically and globally. Not surprisingly, sharp annual increases in the dollar are coincident with market instability and economic fallout.
Furthermore, the surge in the dollar accompanied the sharpest increase in interest rates in history. Sharp increases in interest rates, particularly in a heavily indebted economy, are problematic as debt servicing requirements and borrowing costs surge. Interest rates alone can destabilize an economy, but when combined with a surging dollar and inflation, the risks of market instability increase markedly.
The Fed Will Blink
After more than 12 years of the most unprecedented monetary policy program in U.S. history, the Federal Reserve has put itself into a poor situation. They risk an inflation spiral if they don’t hike rates to quell inflation. If the Fed hikes rates to kill inflation, the risk of a recession and market instability increases.
As noted at the outset, the behavioral biases of individuals remain the most serious risk facing the Fed. For now, investors have not “hit the big red button,” which gives the Fed breathing room to lift rates. However, the BOE discovered that market instability surfaces quickly when “something breaks.”
When will the Fed find the limits of its monetary interventions? We don’t know, but we suspect they have already passed the point of no return, and history is an excellent guide to the adverse outcomes.
In the early ’70s, it was the “Nifty Fifty” stocks,
Then Mexican and Argentine bonds a few years after that
“Portfolio Insurance” was the “thing” in the mid -80’s
Dot.com anything was an excellent investment in 1999
Real estate has been a boom/bust cycle roughly every other decade, but 2007 was a doozy.
Today, it’s real estate, FAANNGT, debt, credit, private equity, SPACs, IPOs, “Meme” stocks…or rather…” everything.”
The Federal Reserve continues to state its intentions to hike rates and reduce its balance sheet at the fastest pace in history, as inflation is the enemy it must defeat. However, while high inflation is detrimental to economic growth, market instability is far more insidious. Such is why the Federal Reserve rushed to bail out banks in 2008.
Unfortunately, we doubt the Fed has the stomach for “market instability.” As such, we doubt they will hike rates as much as the market currently expects.
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