November 11, 2019

Bank Behind World's Largest Money Laundering Scandal Offered Russians Gold Bars To Hide Their Fortune

When we last looked at Danske Bank, the Danish lender was at the center of what has been dubbed the world's largest, $220 billion money-laundering scandal that allegedly involved Russians transferring funds offshore in violation of European regulations (it also involved the chronically criminal Deutsche Bank). Then, two months ago, the scandal took a lethal turn when the CEO of the bank's Estonia branch was found dead in a still-unexplained suicide. Now, we learn of yet another bizarre twist in what some have dubbed the biggest dirty money scandal of all time: the Danish lender was offering gold bars to wealthy clients to help them keep their fortunes hidden.

According to Bloomberg, the bank’s Estonian branch - whose CEO committed suicide - which was already wiring billions of client dollars to offshore accounts, told a select group of mostly Russian customers some time around 2012, that they could now also convert their money into gold bars and coins.

So for those asking the benefits of holding money in physical gold instead of fiat (or crypto), here is the answer: aside from offering a hedge against risk, Danske presented gold as a way for clients to achieve “anonymity,” according to the documents. More importantly, the bank said that using gold ensured "portability" of assets, according to an internal presentation dated June 2012.

As one would expect, the gold/money-laundering service did not come cheap: Danske charged a fee of 0.5% on larger orders, while smaller orders had a commission of as much as 4%.

This is the first time we learn that Danske offered such "services" - in the bank's own report on its non-resident unit, the bank listed the services it provided to clients. Aside from payments, these included setting up foreign-exchange lines, as well as bond and securities trading. The bank didn’t list the sale of gold bars.

While it’s not known how much gold Danske managed to sell while the now defunct Estonian unit was still running, an internal email seen by Bloomberg revealed that at least some clients used the service. Local private banking clients were also offered the service.

Furthermore, for gold bars weighing 250 grams or more, Danske clients could obtain the precious metal without a sealed pack or paper certificates. Bloomberg adds that anti-money laundering approval was needed before customers could collect the gold, but such approvals weren’t necessary if the gold was kept in long-term storage, according to the documents.

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November 8, 2019

Global Debt Is Up To $188,000,000,000,000 – This Is Officially The Biggest Debt Bubble The World Has Ever Seen

The world is now 188 trillion dollars in debt, and that number continues to grow rapidly each year.  It is a form of enslavement that is deeply insidious, because most of those living on the planet do not even understand how the system works, and even if they did most of them would have absolutely no hope of ever getting free from it.  The borrower is the servant of the lender, and the global financial system is designed to funnel as much wealth to the top 0.1% as possible.  Of course throughout human history there has always been slavery, and the primary motivation for having slaves is to extract an economic benefit from those that are enslaved.  And even though most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as “slaves” today, the truth is that the global elite are extracting more wealth from all of us than ever before.  So much of our labor is going to make them wealthy, and yet most people don’t even realize what is happening.

Let’s start with a very simple example to help illustrate this.

When you go into credit card debt and you only make small payments each month, you can easily end up paying back more than double the amount of money that you originally borrowed.

So where does all that money go?

Well, of course it goes to the financial institution that you got your credit card from, and in turn that financial institution is owned by the global elite.

In essence, you willingly became a debt slave when you chose to go into credit card debt, and the hard work that it took to earn enough money to pay back that debt with interest ended up enriching others.

On a much larger scale, the same thing is happening to entire nations.

Today, the United States government is nearly 23 trillion dollars in debt.  In essence, we have been collectively enslaved, and we have been obligated to pay back all of that money with interest.  Of course at this point it is literally impossible for us to ever pay back all that debt, and every year we add another trillion dollars or so to the balance.  The global elite are now extracting more than 500 billion dollars in interest from this debt on an annual basis, and it is expected that number will greatly escalate in the years ahead.

It is not an accident that the Federal Reserve and the federal income tax were both instituted in 1913.  The Federal Reserve system was designed to create an endless debt spiral that would get the federal government in as much debt as possible, and since that time the size of our national debt has gotten more than 7000 times larger.  And the federal income tax was needed as the mechanism through which our wealth is transferred to the government to service all of this debt.

It is truly a deeply, deeply insidious system, and the American people should refuse to back any politician that does not favor shutting it down, but at this point this isn’t even a major political issue in our nation.

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November 7, 2019

As US Moves To Ban Huawei 5G, CEO Says Good Riddance Ahead Of Great Decoupling

The great economic decoupling has started, this is something that we've warned about since the trade war began. Years of elevated financial market volatility will follow as the world is sliced in half, with one side being controlled by the US, and the other side controlled by China.

The latest evidence of decoupling comes from Huawei Technologies CEO Ren Zhengfei, who spoke with The Wall Street Journal and said: "We can survive very well without the US. The China-U.S. trade talks are not something I'm concerned with."

In May, the Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei, the world's largest 5G equipment and smartphone producer, from doing business US firms.

Zhengfei said, "we have virtually no business dealings in the US" since the blacklisting.

Huawei was a major buyer of US semiconductors before it was blacklisted. Sales figures showed the company bought $11 billion of technology from US suppliers in 2018. The blacklisting has forced Huawei to find alternative sourcing.

Zhengfei said the company is rapidly expanding its 5G network products across the world without US chips. He said 5,000 5G base stations are being constructed every month.

Despite the blacklisting, Huawei is still purchasing some chips from US firms that produce offshore, where US restrictions don't apply.

Will Zhang, Huawei's president of corporate strategy, told The Journal that purchasing levels of US chips are at 70% to 80% of its previous level.

The Trump administration has spent at least 15 months creating Sinophobia across the world, by warning countries not to use Huawei 5G equipment because of spying concerns.

Zhengfei has denied the allegations that it spies on its customers or any government, though the Trump administration has labeled Huawei a national security threat.

Beijing views Huawei as a centerpiece of its economic success and is considered an essential piece of any future trade deal between the US.

The next several quarters will be critical for Huawei. That is if it can continue sourcing most of its chips from alternative producers and continue dominating the global smartphone space and the build-out of 5G networks across the world, then that will indicate the great decoupling from West to East is well underway.

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November 6, 2019

Is The Global Dollar In Jeopardy?

Since the end of World War II, the United States dollar has been at the heart of international finance and trade. Over the decades, and despite the many ups and downs of the global economy, the dollar retained its role as the world’s favorite reserve asset. When times are tough or uncertainty reigns, investors flock to dollar-denominated assets, particularly US Treasury debt – ironically, even when there is a financial crisis in the US. As a result, the Federal Reserve – which sets US dollar interest rates – has enormous sway over economic conditions around the world.

For all the associated innovation evident since the launch of the decentralized blockchain-based currency Bitcoin in 2009, the arrival of modern cryptocurrencies has had essentially zero impact on the global taste for dollars. Promoters of these new forms of money still have their hopes, of course, that they can challenge the existing financial system, but the impact on global portfolios has proved minimal. The most powerful central banks (the Fed, the European Central Bank, and a few others) are still running the global money show.

Suddenly, however, there is a new, potentially serious player in town: Facebook’s Libra initiative. Facebook and a currently shifting coalition of firms are planning to launch their own private form of money that would, in some sense, be secured by holdings of major currencies.

Without question, Libra could become a widely used form of payment – partly because Facebook has over two billion monthly active users, but also because the existing financial system is full of inefficiencies. If private money could make it cheaper, easier, and safer to make payments, then consumers would be happy to use it. Few people care what is under the hood of the monetary engine; most just want crash-proof transactions.

The unfortunate truth is that our current payment system is expensive to run, including for sending money overseas in the form of remittances sent by workers back to their home countries. If Libra could allow people to send money as easily (and as cheaply!) as they post updates to Facebook, the currency would get a lot of likes.

We have repeatedly experienced how quickly a disruptive new digital technology can transform the economic landscape. Think of how fast taxis came under pressure from Uber and Lyft.

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November 5, 2019

The Deutsche Bank Death Watch Has Taken A Very Interesting Turn

The biggest bank in Europe is in the process of imploding, and there are persistent rumors that the final collapse could happen sooner rather than later.  Those that follow my work on a regular basis already know that this is a story that I have been following for years.  Deutsche Bank is rapidly bleeding cash, they have been laying off thousands of workers, and the vultures have been circling as company executives desperately try to implement a turnaround plan.  Unfortunately for Deutsche Bank, it may already be too late.  And if Deutsche Bank goes down, it will be even more catastrophic for the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers was in 2008.  Germany is the glue that is holding the EU together, and so if the bank that is right at the heart of Germany’s financial system collapses, the dominoes will likely start falling very rapidly.

There has been a tremendous amount of speculation about Deutsche Bank over the past several days, and so let’s start with what we know.

We know that Deutsche Bank has been losing money at a pace that is absolutely staggering…

Deutsche Bank reported a net loss that missed market expectations on Wednesday as a major restructuring plan continues to weigh on the German lender.

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November 4, 2019

China To Establish $10 Trillion Economic Zone In Space

Having already created 12 free trade zones (with 6 more coming soon) in and around major Chinese metro areas...

. Beijing's next project to boost commerce is more ambitious than anything seen on earth before. Literally.

According to the Global Times, China plans to establish an Earth-moon space economic zone by 2050, which is expected to generate $10 trillion worth of services per year. The zone will cover areas of space near Earth, the moon and in between.

Bao Weimin, director of the Science and Technology Commission of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, revealed the ambitious plan at a seminar last week on the space economy, Chinese media reported Friday. CAST is a state-owned company focused on researching, making and launching carrier rockets, satellites, spacecraft and space stations. 

Perhaps because by 2050 all of China will be one giant free trade zone (even though the US Trade war will still not be over), the proposed zone will cover areas of space near Earth, the moon and in between, Weimin said, adding that companies involved in basic industries, application exploration and development will feature at the zone, which will focus on three key fields: interspace transport, space resource detection and space-based infrastructure.

In a report on developing earth and moon space, Bao shared his thoughts on the economic potential in this field and pledged that the country would study its reliability, cost and flight-style transportation system between the Earth and moon, The Science and Technology Daily reported Friday.

He pledged to complete basic research and make a breakthrough on key technologies before 2030 and establish the transportation system by 2040.  By 2050, China could successfully establish an earth-moon space economic zone, he said.

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November 1, 2019

Chinese Bank On Verge Of Collapse After Sudden Bank Run

First it was Baoshang Bank , then it was Bank of Jinzhou, then, two months ago, China's Heng Feng Bank with 1.4 trillion yuan in assets, quietly failed and was just as quietly nationalized. Today, a fourth prominent Chinese bank was on the verge of collapse under the weight of its bad loans, only this time the failure was far less quiet, as depositors of the rural lender swarmed the bank's retail outlets, demanding their money in an angry demonstration of what Beijing is terrified of the most: a bank run.

Local business leaders, political cadres and banking executives rallied Thursday at the main branch of Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank, just outside the central Chinese city of Luoyang, where they stood one by one before a microphone to pledge their backing for the bank, as smiling employees brandished wads of cash before television cameras to demonstrate just how much cash, literally, the bank had.

It was China's latest, and most desperate attempt yet to project stability and reassure the public that all is well after rumors spread that the bank’s chairman was in trouble and the bank was on the brink of insolvency. However, as the WSJ reports, it wasn’t enough for 31-year-old Li Xue, who showed up for the third day Thursday to withdraw thousands of yuan of her mother’s life savings after hearing from fellow villagers that Yichuan Bank - which is the largest lender in Yichuan county by the number of branches and capital, and it is also a member of PBOC’s deposit insurance system, according to the local government - was going under.

Just like any self-respecting Ponzi scheme, the bank's branch managers tried to persuade her to keep her money with them until March, when her mother’s three-year deposits would mature, yielding more than 10,000 yuan in interest. And then, just like any Ponzi scheme, to sweeten the offer, the bank managers also offered her even higher-yielding products, plus supermarket gift cards, just to keep her money there..

"Our bank is state-backed, and your money is insured by deposit insurance," one female manager told her, but Ms. Li refused, her confidence in the state's lies crushed.

“We really can’t afford to lose the money,” she said.

The bank run at Yichuan Bank, located in China's landlocked province of Henan, makes it at least the fourth bank that authorities have rushed to rescue this year. It won't be the last.

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October 31, 2019

China's Bond Market Faces Turmoil Amid Maturity Deluge

While the US bond market has had its share of harrowing slumps and vomit-inducing short squeezes in the past year as consensus shifted from one of "the neutral rate is far away" to "here comes NIRP", China's bonds have been a bastion of stability, trading in a tight range between 3% and 3.50% for the past year.

hat may be about to change.

The reason: a wall of bond maturities is about to flood across China’s sovereign-bond market, which in the past three months has already been reeling from a global sell-off and rising inflation.

According to Bloomberg, more than 2 trillion yuan ($283 billion) of local-government notes will mature in 2020, a record and 58% more than this year’s level. This means fresh debt to refinance upcoming maturities will start hitting the market soon, with a the southern province of Guangdong expected to sell notes as early as November.

This is happening as China's 10-year yield rose 3 basis points to 3.31%. the highest since late May, while the cost on 12-month interest rate swaps jumped 5 basis points to 2.92%. The yield on China Development Bank’s 3-year bonds due January 2022 rose 10 basis points to 3.25%.

Despite trading in a narrow range, China’s government bonds have been sliding for nearly two months, starting around the time a "growth shock" hit US rates and sparked the infamous quantastrophe, with the 10-year yield hitting the highest since May as selling momentum accelerated. Naturally, a flood of new supply will only exacerbate the weakness, especially as real, inflation-adjusted yields are barely above zero, a rarity for emerging markets.
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October 30, 2019

U.S. Shale Braces For Brutal Earnings Season

The timing comes as the shale sector is facing somewhat of a reckoning. After years of price volatility – with more downs than ups – oil prices have failed to return even remotely close to pre-2014 levels. For several years, shale E&Ps took on debt and issued new equity, promising investors that they would profit both from a rebound in prices and from rapid production growth.

They delivered on gains to output, but not on profits. At some point in the last year, investors really began to lose faith. Oil stocks have been the worst performers in the S&P 500 this year.

The latest release of earnings will probably do little to quell unease from big investors. Oil and natural gas prices have dropped this year, by about 17 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Job cuts have returned and bankruptcies are on the rise again.

The oil majors are pressing forward with their aggressive shale development plans. That may prevent a noticeable decline in production. But their earnings – many of the majors report this week – are expected to be down roughly 40 percent from a year ago, which will raise some tough questions.

Some of the largest banks have slashed their credit lines to smaller shale E&Ps. According to Reuters, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and the Royal Bank of Canada are among some of the lenders that have reduced the amount of credit they are offering to drillers.

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October 29, 2019

Texas Could Be The Epicenter Of The Next Subprime Auto Crisis

In a recent report, we outlined how the largest subprime auto lender, Santander, is currently experiencing one of the most significant accelerations in subprime auto loan delinquencies, not seen since the dark days of 2008. Now, in a separate report via the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, there is new evidence that the epicenter of the next auto loan meltdown could start in Texas.  

The Texas auto subprime market began experiencing a troughing event in serious auto delinquencies in 2015, with a rapid turn up in 2016. By the end of 2018, the serious auto delinquency rate was at 16.7%, approaching 2010 levels of 18.2%. Despite the "greatest economy ever," the Dallas Fed admits rising wealth inequality could be responsible for the growing delinquencies in Texas. 
"It's clear something is going on," said Emily Ryder Perlmeter, an adviser for the Dallas Fed and one of the report's authors. "The economy may not be working as well for everyone."

Michael Carroll, an economist at the University of North Texas, suggests the report is a clear indication that consumers in easy money times took on too much auto debt. Carroll also said consumer distress in Texas could be a bellwether for the broader economy and a warning sign that the consumer is weakening. 
Perlmeter said rising auto loan delinquencies across the country is a severe problem, but the meltdown unfolding in Texas is much worse than any other major metropolitan area. 
The Dallas Morning News noted the average auto loan in the state is $23,500 as of late 2018. 

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October 28, 2019

Innovation BIS 2025: A Stepping Stone Towards An Economic "New World Order"

The IMF’s annual meetings held in Washington DC last week demonstrated that when the institution issues new economic projections or warnings of a downturn, the mainstream press are not averse to giving them prominent coverage. After the Fund was founded in 1944 (off the back of World War Two), it became part of what internationalists call the ‘rules based global order‘. For 75 years, the IMF has been regarded by the political establishment and banking elites as a lynch pin of the world financial system.

Contrary to what some may believe, the IMF was not the first global monetary institution.

That accolade belongs to the Swiss based Bank for International Settlements, which predates the IMF by fourteen years. Its creation in 1930 was, according to the BIS, primarily to settle reparation payments ‘imposed on Germany following the First World War‘. Without WWI – a major crisis event – there would have been no mandate for the BIS to exist. Much as there would have been no mandate for the IMF to exist were it not for the spectre of WWII.

As well as settling German reparation payments, the BIS was also recognised from the outset as a forum for central bankers – the first of its kind – where they could speak candidly and direct the course of global monetary policy.

The board of directors at the BIS is taken up predominantly by the heads of the leading central banks in the world. Right now the governor of the German Bundesbank Jens Weidmann is chairman of the board. As public servants they gather in Basel every eight weeks or so for a series of bimonthly meetings, the discussions from which ordinary citizens are not privy to.

In 2013 author Adam Labor published a book called ‘The Tower of Basel‘ which analysed certain key figureheads behind the early years of the BIS. What Labor detailed is how many of them were integral members of the Nazi regime.

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October 25, 2019

Don't Blame The Global Slowdown On Trump's Trade War

Ever since last year, nothing has grabbed economists' attention as much as the whipsawing evolution of the US-China trade war. Just last week, the IMF downgraded its global growth forecast for 2020, citing trade and geopolitical tensions.

But economic forecasters are misunderstanding the primary cause of the current global slowdown, which means that they'll also miss what's coming next.

In hindsight, it's clear that actual global industrial production growth started slowing at the end of 2017. In other words, the year-over-year pace of increase in the world's total industrial output began a sustained decline in late 2017. That's the definition of a global industrial slowdown.

Most analysts focus on the global purchasing managers' index (PMI) data for their read on global growth because it's published each month about a month and a half before the actual production data. While the global PMI generally has a positive correlation with global industrial production growth, it doesn't measure actual industrial production, as it's based on a survey of purchasing executives about conditions facing their companies. It's really a proxy for industrial production growth, which measures real output for all companies within the manufacturing, mining and utilities industries.

In this case, while the global manufacturing PMI also started easing at the end of 2017, its decline didn't become evident until a few months into 2018, when the sustained nature of the downturn became increasingly difficult to dismiss as meaningless "noise." Coincidentally, that's just about when President Trump began his trade war, slapping tariffs on washing machines and steel and aluminum imports. Because the trade war was front and center, economists thought it was to blame for the drop in PMI and global industrial growth.

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October 24, 2019

China's Growth Much Worse Than Reported, What About The US?

China doubles value of infrastructure project approvals to stave off economic slowdown amid trade war.

The South China Morning Post reports China Doubles Value of Infrastructure Project Approvals to Stave Off Slowdown.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved 21 projects, worth at least 764.3 billion yuan (US$107.8 billion), according to South China Morning Post calculations based on the state planner’s approval statements released between January and October this year.

The amount is more than double the size of last year’s 374.3 billion yuan (US$52.8 billion) in approvals recorded over the same period, which included 11 projects such as railways, roads and airports.

Local governments have been under increasing pressure from Beijing to support the economy, but they have less budget room due to lower tax revenues after the central government over the past year ordered individual and business tax cuts.

To fill the gap, Beijing has allowing local governments to sell more special purpose bonds, whose proceeds can only be used to fund infrastructure projects. At the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Finance raised the quota for special bonds to 2.15 trillion (US$302 billion) from 1.35 trillion (US$190 billion) last year. And when local governments came close to exhausting their annual quota set this autumn, the central government brought forward a portion of their 2020 quota so they could continue to raise funding for new projects.

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October 23, 2019

China Just Injected The Most Liquidity Since January... And It's Not Enough

Just days after China's GDP unexpectedly dropped to a sub-consensus 6.0%, the lowest in three decades (with Beijing now set to reveal a 5-handle GDP in the coming months), China watchers were convinced that this week would start with Beijing again lowering its "Libor rate", i.e., the previously discussed Loan Prime Rate, especially with the Fed expected to cut rates once again next week. However, that did not happen as China kept its one-year prime rate for new corporate loans unchanged in October, at 4.2%, and above the 4.15% consensus estimate. The five-year benchmark was also kept unchanged at 4.85%.

As we reported previously, the Loan Prime Rate, also called China's "Libor", is a revamped market indicator of the price that lenders charge clients for new loans, and is linked to the rate at which the central bank will lend financial institutions cash for a year. The rate, which is updated once a month, is made up of submissions from a panel of 18 banks, although ultimately it is Beijing that sets the final rate.

Analysts were quick to step in and "explain" away the unexpected move: Commerzbank's Zhou Hao said that a static one-year rate shows China “may be trying to balance the shrinking margins of banks with support to the real economy,” adding that "the PBOC remains restrained on policy easing.”

The market, however, was less sanguine, as the PBOC's lack of easing was promptly taken as an ill-omen: China's government bonds dropped while money-market rates climbed, amid bets that the policy makers are not in a rush to loosen monetary policy (why? perhaps China's gargantuan debt load and rapidly devaluing currency have something to do with it). On Monday, the yield on 10-year sovereign notes rose three basis points to 3.22%, the highest since July 1, while the costs on 12-month interest-rate swaps advanced to the highest level since late May.

While the Chinese economy has been under pressure amid a prolonged trade dispute with the US, many have expected that the central bank would match the Fed's easing and lower corporate borrowing costs and further cut bank reserve ratios. However, so far the PBOC hasn’t embarked on an aggressive stimulus program as some market watchers had hoped.

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October 22, 2019

"We're Being Robbed" - Central Bank 'Stimulus' Is Really A Huge Redistribution Scheme

When an economy turns from expansion to contraction there is an order of events. The first signs are an unexpected increase in inventories of unsold goods, both accompanied with and followed by business surveys indicating a general softening in demand. For monetarists, this is often confirmed by an inverting yield curve, which tells them that at the margin the short-term rates set by the central bank are becoming too high for business conditions.

That was the position for the US 10-year bond less the 2-year bond very briefly at the end of August, since when this measure, which is often taken to predict recessions, has turned mildly positive again. A generally negative sentiment, fueled mainly by the escalating tariff war between America and China, had earlier alerted investors to an international trade slowdown, expected to undermine the American economy in due course along with all the others. It stands to reason that backward-looking statistics have yet to reflect the global slowdown on the US economy, which is still buoyed up by consumer credit. The German economy, which is driven by production rather than consumption is perhaps a better guide and is already in recession.

After an initial hit, a small recovery in investor sentiment is understandable, with the negative outlook perhaps having got ahead of itself. But we must look beyond that. History shows the combination of a peak in the credit cycle and tariffs can be economically lethal. A brief return to a positive yield curve achieves little more than a sucker rally. It may be enough to put further monetary expansion on pause. But when that is over, and jobs begin to be threatened, there can be no doubt that central banks will ramp up the printing presses.

So reliant have markets become on monetary expansion that the default assumption is that an economy will always be rescued from recession by an easing of monetary policy, and furthermore that monetary inflation will prevent it from being any more than mild and short. We see this in the performance of stock market indices, which reflect perpetual optimism.

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