Sunday 18 December 2011

Trust is breaking down wholesale, hoarding has begun - UPDATED 02 Jan 2012

The following started off on my grumble outlet Bearwatch, but looks like it's getting more serious:

“You can’t trust anybody and the entire system is collapsing. What’s the takeaway from this? It’s to make sure you have every penny in your pocket.”

Gerald Celente, Trends Research Institute founder, following the disappearance of his six-figure holdings at MF Global shortly before he was due to take delivery of physical gold. More here.

Update: and the chorus swells...

"It is up to you to decide how much you're willing to risk losing to a crook. If the answer is "none" or you cannot reduce the at-risk portion of your assets to what you're willing to lose to fraud then you can no longer participate in the market at all, in any form, nor even do business with a bank." - Karl Denninger.

"Now may be the time to exit all arrangements not specifically guaranteed directly by the government, and bring your money home. And better yet if no guarantees are required, and no parties standing between you and your wealth." - Jesse.

... and swells...

"Ultimately, I will not be at all surprised to see Europe’s banking system shut for days while the losses and payments issues are worked out. People forget that the term “bank holiday” was invented in the 1930’s when the banks were shut for exactly the same reason." - Dr Pippa Malmgren

"The whole system is going down. Pull your money out your Fidelity account, your Schwab account, and your ETFs." - Gerald Celente (again)

- both quoted here.

"Odds of a big market breakdown are both high and rising." - Mish.

... and balloons...

"The bottom line is that apparently some warehouses and bullion dealers are not a safe place to store your gold and silver, even if you hold a specific warehouse receipt." - Jesse (17 Dec 2011)

This gels with a recent post by David Malone, where he discusses a little-known rider to the (US) Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The amendment concerned overrides bankruptcy protection protocols that are designed to treat creditors equally, such that if Bank A has "repo" or derivatives contract business with Bank B, and Bank B fails (or is forced into failure...), Bank A can grab the collateral straight away, not waiting for the trustee to sort out who gets what.

And if some of that collateral is money or other valuables you (an innocent third party) deposited with Bank B, hard luck, it seems.

Ostensibly, this legislation was to prevent systemic collapse as Bank B's failure could make Bank A insolvent, then subsequently Banks C and D etc. But, as Malone points out, it's also potentially an invitation to stronger (or at least, public-money-supported) banks to tip weaker ones into insolvency and grab assets, leaving other creditors to sue for their return (if they can afford to do so). Possession is nine points of the law, as the adage goes. Apparently, this deadly revision is written into banking legislation beyond America's shores.

In turn, that reminds me of something Malone wrote back in October, reporting what a top Irish banker said to him, off the record:

"According to this very senior banker it was now known that the plan was all but agreed to re-capitalize all the banks but to the very minimum degree. France and Germany were agreed on this. As I wrote before I left, there has been a bidding war looking for the lowest amount.

"The horse trading and arguing is of a quite different nature.What is being thrashed out is a list, for use after this across the board, minimum bail out, of which banks will be saved and which will be left to die when they next have a problem. The horse trading is over who will be saved and who damned.

"In other words the decision has been reached that this is the last pan-Europe, all bank bail out attempt. After this it is recognized that Europe and the IMF cannot save all the banks. And so only the most systemically vital are going to be saved and the rest will be allowed to save themselves if they can or die if they cannot."

It's possible that a vicious internecine cannibalism is about to commence in the international banking industry, and plenty of innocent bystanders could suddenly find they're hurt.

Little wonder, then that even bankers have started to hoard food.

Further update (27 December - hat-tip to Jesse): Gonzalo Lira writes...

Now, question: When is there ever a panic? When is there ever a run on a financial system?

Answer: When enough participants no longer trust the system. It is the classic definition of a tipping point. It’s not that all of the participants lose faith in the system or institution. It’s not even when most of the participants lose faith: Rather, it’s when a mere some of the participants decide they no longer trust the system that a run is triggered.

And though this is completely subjective on my part—backed by no statistics except scattered anecdotal evidence—but it seems to me that MF Global has shoved us a lot closer to this theoretical run on the system.

As I write this, a lot of investors whom I know personally—who are sophisticated, wealthy, and not at all the paranoid type—are quietly pulling their money out of all brokerage firms, all banks, all equity firms. They are quietly trading out of their paper assets and going into the actual, physical asset.

Note that they’re not trading into the asset—they’re simply exchanging their paper-asset for the real thing.

Why? MF Global.

More... 2 January: James Howard Kunstler's 2012 forecast...

There are signs that a lot of people who still have something resembling money invested in various funds will go to cash in the weeks ahead, including under-the-mattress style. The distrust and paranoia is palpable now, with the frenzies of Yuletide bygone for another year. After all, why trust banks, especially the TBTF monsters. Such a mass move could take the starch even out of highly manipulated equity markets.
INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash (and index-linked National Savings Certificates), and missing all those day-trading opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content.


dearieme said...

Even though property prices look high, it makes me wonder about buying property. Even a government that can't service its debts will presumably try to protect property rights?

What I have to do is guess where a legit government will hang on to power. I'm wondering whether it's likelier in Scotland than in rather Third World London.

Sackerson said...

I think it's a sign of the growing concern that people are considering buying overvalued tangibles merely to preserve some percentage of their savings. It's no longer about making a killing, but holding on to some of what you have.

If I could just get a reasonable house where I want one, and a job for the next five years, and know my occupational and State pensions were secure, the world of investment would cease to interest me.

dearieme said...

In the Dark Ages, Romano-British civilisation managed to hang on in Wales and the West Country for a good while. There's even signs that its influence hung on in Southern Scotland, even though that was north of The Wall. In much of England it vanished pretty swiftly. That is the obvious analogy, isn't it?

Sackerson said...

Hmmm, spell that one out for me. More Boudiccan-type massacres, were there?

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Sackerson said...

Sorry, don't see the relevance of the last comment above.