5 February 2009

U.S. Debt Default, Dollar Collapse Altogether Likely

The prospect of the United States defaulting on its debt is not just likely. It's inevitable, and imminent.

The regulatory black holes into which sanity and reason disappear on a daily basis are soon to collapse under the mass of their sheer size. The circle jerk going on among G7 governments has to end – the steady advance of gold, even in the face of a managed price, exposes the real value of the U.S. dollar, as opposed to its apparent value expressed in the dollar index.

Is 2009 the year that the United States formally defaults? And with that, will the dollar collapse be rolled back ten for one or more?

There are a lot of reasons to support that theory. To Wall Street economists, such an event is heresy and therefore unthinkable. Yet Wall Street is the very La-la-land that bred the idea of a perpetually indebted nation in the first place.

Number one among the indicators favoring this scenario is what is happening in the U.S. Treasuries auction market.

Last Thursday, an $30 billion auction in five-year notes failed to stir the interest of traditional primary dealers. The auction itself was saved by an anonymous “indirect” bid.

Buyers are discouraged by the prospect of what is expected to amount to $2 trillion total issuance for the full year of 2009. The further out the maturities on notes, the more bearish the sentiment towards them. The only way to entice buyers is through the increase in yields.

But with yields at 1.82 per cent, five-year notes were met with a demand for 1.98 times the amount offered - the lowest bid-to-cover ratio since September. A sell-off in treasuries began in earnest upon the conclusion of that auction.

The U.S. Federal Reserve suggested last week that it was going to step up its treasury-buying activity, and the mainstream media interprets this as a form of market support. What it actually is evidence of growing anxiety and desperation on the part of the Fed as the realization dawns that demand for treasuries is progressively evaporating.

The increased demand for gold as an investment witnessed throughout the last two weeks that has pushed gold to a 4 month high is further evidence that investors across the board are gravitating more towards gold and away from U.S. debt.

So what is the catalyzing event that will precipitate outright capitulation?

I think the spin-controlled version of events will make the collapse of the derivatives market the red herring that facilitates the aw-shucks-we-have-no-choice shoe-gazing moment possible, and that’s exactly the parachute the government needs to retain a veneer of credibility - at least in its own delusional mirror.

The announcement that the CFTC was about to become the target of a regulatory overhaul supports this theory. Consistent with his unfortunate proclivity to hiring foxes to guard chickens, Barack Obama’s choice for CFTC commissioner Gary Gensler was the undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury when the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 was passed, and is one of its architects. This was the piece of legislation that was put forth to appease the opposition to “dark market” trading in certain OTC derivatives first noisily derided by CFTC commissioner Brooksley Born in 1998.

Ignoring Born’s admonishments with this act, it exempted credit default swaps (CDO’s) from regulation, resulting in the somewhere between 58 and 300 trillion dollars in value presently under threat if the positions were to be unwound. Because of their unregulated status, counterparties in the largest transactions can simply “roll forward” contracts, instead of the losing party in the transaction covering their loss with a transfer of money. It is this massive “nominal” value that could be the Achilles heel of what’s left of the U.S. banking system, and by extension, the U.S. dollar.

I don’t arrive at this conclusion because I like making catastrophic outlandish predictions. Its merely the result of following certain logical paths to their most likely outcome based on what has happened in the past.

In discussions on this topic with editors of top tier financial publications, such speculation is dismissed out of hand, and the argument to refute the likelihood of such outcomes is never brought forward.

Gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) are now the largest holders of physical gold, and as a proxy for investors who don’t want to be encumbered with taking delivery of the physical, provide a simple way to participate in the gold market.

United States citizens should bear in mind, however, that should the banking system be brought down completely by the collapse of the futures market, proxies for gold such as ETF’s and bullion funds could theoretically be targeted by a government desperate for possession of value. The risk from security in holding physical bullion is matched by the risk of confiscation by government in these volatile times. Don’t forget, the government confiscated and outlawed private ownership of gold in 1933 in support of an ill-conceived gold standard, which to some extent, was that era’s spin to halt the flight of gold (and real value) from U.S. soil.

Don’t think for a minute such drastic events are outside the realm of possibility. If somebody had told you in 1998 that a bunch of angry crazy pseudo-Muslims were going to fly jetliners into the World Trade Center, what would you have said?

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