Monday, December 30, 2019

Reader Alert: Q&A Interview Coming Soon with Robert Pringle (

The role of central banks in our monetary system is one that is sometimes hotly debated. Regardless of whether you see central banks as a positive or negative force on the system, there can be no doubt that they have had and continue to have an enormous impact on our money and the system we use to engage in commercial activity. 

Perhaps no one has had a better inside view of the impact of central banks and money on our society during out lifetimes than Robert Pringle. Here is a bit of background on his long and distinguished career which included his founding of Central Banking Publications.

The late Paul Volcker in conversation with Robert Pringle in 2014
(in this article Robert Pringle suggests Paul Volcker was a secret central bank skeptic)


"Robert Pringle has pursued a career as an economics author, editor and commentator, specializing in money, banking and capital markets.
He is also an entrepeneur. In 1990 he founded  Central Banking Publications, a financial publisher specialising in public policy and financial markets. Central Banking journal, which he edited for 20 years, has subscribers in 120 countries including the great majority of the world’s central banks. He remains chairman of the company.
Robert has monitored and commented on changes in financial markets and the monetary policies of central banks around the world for more than 40 years.
In addition to numerous articles for a wide variety of  journals, he has published several books and edited more than 50 volumes of collected papers, surveys and training manuals for central bankers and market regulators. He has organised regular seminars and training sessions attended by more than 1,000 senior  monetary policy-makers.
After obtaining a Masters degree in economics, sociology and history from King’s College, Cambridge University and post-graduate study at the London School of Economics, Robert joined The Banker, part of the FT group, later being appointed the Editor.
He also served as deputy director of the Committee on Invisible Exports, a body representing a wide range of UK service sectors, which was set up by the Bank of England to study and publicise the contribution made by financial, business, professional and allied services to world trade and the UK economy. He led a study that made the first published estimates of the invisible earnings of UK professions such as law, medicine and accountancy.
From 1979 to 1986  he was the first executive director of the Group of 30, an influential think tank based at the time in the World Trade Centre, New York (it has since moved to Washington, DC). For the G30, Robert co-authored pioneering studies of the foreign exchange and interbank markets, and on IMF borrowing from the private markets, and the emerging profession of official reserve management.
His books and monographs include “Banking in Britain”, “The Growth Merchants”  (a polemic on the monetary policies pursued by the UK in the 1970s), and “The Contemporary Relevance of David Hume” a study of  the Scottish philosopher. With co-author Marjorie Deane, he  wrote “The Central Banks” (Hamish Hamilton, 1994), with a foreword by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
At Central Banking (now part of Incisive Media) he represents the company at conferences around the world, and knows personally many of the leading financial statesmen, central bank governors and ministers of finance."
After following these issues for many years, I see all kinds of views out there towards central banks and the monetary system we have today. Debate continues to rage on whether or not the system we have now is sustainable long term. Should we expect things to stay pretty much the same for a long time? Will some kind of new crisis upend our present system forcing some kind of major change? If that does happen, what will that change look like?
I suspect most people would be very interested to hear what someone who has worked inside this system for decades thinks about these kinds of questions. Most of us would love to get a chance to ask questions like this to someone who has seen how things work (and sometimes don't work) inside the system now primarily run by the major central banks around the world.
Readers here will soon get that opportunity. Robert Pringle has offered to share some of his insights into all these issues with us based on his direct observations of how the system operates. Mr. Pringle does not have to speculate about how things work because he has seen it all unfold from the inside.
I plan to run three articles for readers here in January 2020:
1) The Q&A interview with Robert Pringle - will publish on January 2, 2020.
2) A summary of some key points from his new book The Power of Money that Robert Pringle provided me by email. 
3) A followup article where I select a couple of his answers in the Q&A interview that I want to emphasize as important points for readers here
I hope this interview article will get as many readers as possible so please feel free to pass it along to anyone who may have any interest in these kinds of issues.

Friday, December 27, 2019

"Clean Energy" Future Will Require a Lot of Mining

This is a bit off topic, but since energy basically powers the modern world and is a major component of economic activity, the future of energy can potentially impact the stability of the financial system. There is no question that the world is moving towards what is often called a "clean energy" or "green energy" future where a variety of renewable energy sources will play an increasing role in world energy supply. Part of this trend will include an ongoing increase in the number of hybrid and electric vehicles which reduce or eliminate the use of an internal combustion engine. 

Sometimes it seems like that there is a belief that these energy sources are "free" or involve no activities at all that may impact the environment. Obviously energy from the sun or the wind is "free" in one sense. But of course, to harness those energy sources, a lot materials are required to make things like batteries and components to help transmit the electricity, etc. Let's look at couple of well written articles that take a deeper dive into that.

While solar energy from the sun and blowing winds are available sources of energy, there are some key components needed to harness their energy for practical use. These include a number of elements found in the earth that must be mined in significant quantities. Things like silver, lithium, cobalt, palladium, platinum, rhodium, etc. I found a couple of well written articles that dive into all this that I think readers might find worthwhile to read. Below are links to these articles with a few excerpts and some added comments.

"It’s no secret that Elon Musk has some revolutionary ideas.

And by most measures, he has been wildly successful. Tesla orders hit a record 97,000 vehicles globally in the third quarter (not to mention 250,000 preorders for the new CyberTruck). The stock has more than doubled since May 1.   . . . ."

"But there’s something you may not know about Elon Musk. He won't admit it publicly. Neither will most “green” company CEOs. But it’s a reality for all of them. They desperately need silver.

The fact is, the growing green revolution requires the use of silver. Due to its unique chemical makeup, silver is one of the elements that, directly or indirectly, make green technologies what they are.

Whether you know it not, incorporating more green technologies and products into your life means you are, by default, using more silver. Ditto society as a whole.

Here’s where silver plays a key role in the green revolution . . . . ."   click here to read the full article


(editors note: I added underlines below for additional emphasis)

"Over the next two decades, the world’s ability to supply resources is going to be pressed to its limit, and no other market segment is going to be harder pressed than materials needed for the transition to automotive clean energy.
Over the past four years, I have become a student of these transitions and the metals markets that enable the same. I have become jaded with our global market analysts not doing more to scream and shout, and drawing attention to the obvious constraints that lie ahead in terms of resource limitations. Let me do my best to lay this out in an easy to digest fashion."
. . . .
"Battery Electrical Vehicles (BEV): Some forecasts have BEV sales climbing to 20M, 40M, or even 60M/year by 2040 or 2050. Jumping ahead in my analysis, the world will struggle to make 15M BEV’s, with lithium battery materials constraints. Nickel, lithium, cobalt, vanadium, and graphite are all shown to be in significant structural deficits by 2023/27 trying to make 3M to 5M BEV’s a year. With Lithium Battery densities achieving only 2x to 2.5x gains with foreseeable technologies like lithium-oxygen, how do we achieve 20M, 40M or 60M BEV’s a year with increased hybrids, too? We can’t without substantial expansion in low-cost mining. Mining exploration and investment won’t happen without significantly higher material prices. Higher prices take BEV’s from a near competitive cost position with gasoline to not cost effective. So net-net I don’t see a path to more than around 10M-15M BEV with reasonable lithium BEV battery costs to remain on par with gasoline."
. . . .
Critical Battery Material Market Constraints:
"Cobalt: Multiple analysts, and even Tesla supply chain people have highlighted the probable gap in overall global Cobalt production to meet the emerging BEV ramp. Here there is a dramatic need to expand the global portfolio of Cobalt mining projects. Currently per pound, Cobalt is the most expensive element used in lithium batteries. This is part of the drive to reduce the cobalt loadings is to effect cost."
. . . .
"Nickel: Multiple analysts have highlighted the probable gap in overall global Nickel production to meet the emerging BEV ramp. A solid lineup of mining projects are under consideration. However the projected structural deficits are alarming for Nickel. See the following analysis from Wood Makenzie. Closing this demand gap is a huge issue. Simply put, nickel prices need to continue to climb to get investment communities to increase exploration funding. The part of this equation that doesn’t make sense is the price of Nickel has a direct impact on the battery cost. As prices rise, so do battery costs."
. . . .
"Lithium: Investment in new lithium projects will be required to keep up with demand. Existing operational supply is in place to meet demand to 2021. For additional producers to meet the demands of the market in 2022, development would need to commence in 2019. Therefore without further investment in new projects there will be a supply shortage by 2022 where EV growth will accelerate as they reach cost parity with ICE vehicles Lithium supply chain requires further project developments to provide continuity of supply for EV’s."
My added comments: The second article linked above appearing on is a very detailed deep dive into the whole issue of the problem of supply constraints on various essential elements we must have to actually implement the practical use of green sources of energy. I rarely see this part of the equation discussed in any way in most articles that talk about the future of green energy. What this article shows very clearly is that no matter what kind of "mandates" governments may attempt to implement requiring the use of green energy in vehicles, the reality is that society can only move in that direction at the speed that these essential elements can be mined out of the earth. 
The author explains that this is the reason that reasonable future projections of the move towards fully electric vehicles (that we can take seriously) have to account for this. The article includes a future projection (see his chart below and in the linked article) which does show a continual gradual increase in the number of electric vehicles in the coming 30 years. But, even if demand for electric vehicles sky rocketed upwards very rapidly, we simply cannot produce them faster than we can mine these critical elements needed for them to work. And it will take a lot of mining activity to produce these elements as well which does have some environmental impact itself. Shortages of these key elements will also send their prices higher impacting the overall cost to the consumer.
It's one of the best in depth analysis I have seen on this topic so I wanted to share it with readers here.  

Chart Key: 
FCEV - Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle
BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle
PHEV - Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Hybrids - Like the Toyota Prius, etc.
ICE - Internal Combustion Engine (note: he projects ICE's are still 2/3's of all new cars sold in 2030)
Click here to read this article which explains the chart above
Added note: I ran across this interesting article if you want to see a contrarian view to the idea that the planet is headed towards doom and despair environmentally. It says we just lived through the best decade in human history and predicts things will get better going forward. The article takes the position that good news is not worthwhile news to most media outlets.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Politics Aside - What Do We Watch in 2020? -- The Fed (Plus Jim Rickards Thoughts)

By now it has become obvious that the ongoing political war has completely consumed the US media and overtaken virtually every other storyline. This is actually in line with things we have talked about here for some time. Our best guess analysis was that the enormous political divide that exists, not only in the US, but now around the word, would only ramp up in intensity. It seems clear this is exactly what is happening and very likely to continue in the US no matter who wins the elections next year.

Now it's time to set politics aside and see if we can find another major issue that we need to watch carefully headed into 2020. It appears there is such an issue and we have noted it here a few times already.

While everyone's attention in the media seems completely focused on the daily political war in progress related to impeachment and the counter effort to "drain the swamp" of "deep state" activists said to be trying to remove the President from office to protect their own interests, something potentially very substantial continues to play out over at the Federal Reserve. It started this last fall when the Fed began emergency repo market operations. The Fed insists that these operations are temporary and are needed to maintain systemic stability. They say their efforts are working as intended and that there is nothing to be concerned about in regard to these unusual actions they have been taking and continue to take. They have also advised that these actions will now continue to ramp up. These actions have already involved the creation of hundreds of billions in new money and a very rapid surge back upwards in the size of their balance sheet. All this after spending a long time struggling to reduce their balance sheet and to try and get interest rates a bit higher without "popping any bubbles" and destabilizing markets.

Below I am featuring links to a couple of recent articles related to all this because I do think readers need to keep a careful eye on all this heading into an already potentially volatile election year in the US in 2020. Most people understand that tight Fed policies are generally perceived to be an obstacle to a President running for re election while loose policies are generally perceived to provide a wind to the back of a President. So we have clearly have a highly charged political environment in place as the Fed undertakes these unusual market operations heading into an election year. Beyond that, many Fed critics are suspicious that the Fed is actually trying to cover up systemic problems with these actions even as the Fed completely denies that. Whatever the truth really is, I think this may be the most important issue to monitor and try to understand in the coming year. 

In this article on CNBC on December 10th, Credit Suisse predicts the Fed will soon openly announce a new QE policy regardless of whatever you want to call the policy already underway now. Here is a quote from the article:

"The Federal Reserve could be launching another round of money-printing in the next few weeks as problems in the overnight lending markets reemerge and force the central bank into more aggressive action, according to a Credit Suisse analysis."

. . . .

“If we’re right about funding stresses, the Fed will be doing ‘QE4’ by year-end,” Pozsar wrote. “Treasury yields can spike into year-end, and the Fed will have to shift from buying bills to buying what’s on sale – coupons.”

This is a reputable banking institution commenting in an article carried by CNBC. So clearly there is some skepticism about the Fed's assurance that nothing concerning is going on. 

Now lets look at an in depth analysis of all this Fed activity in a non mainstream article. This article by Daniel Amerman notes that the amount of new money created by the Fed since this fall has perhaps been used to fund nearly 90% of the government debt issued during this time frame. This is very in depth analysis so I will just quote a couple of excerpts below and refer readers to the full article here.

"As can be seen in the graph above (see article for the graph), for the last 12 weeks there has been a stunning visual correlation between the yellow bars of the total weekly funding of deficits by the Federal Reserve, and the green bars of the weekly deficit spending by the United States government.

Total deficit spending, the extent to which monies spent by the federal government exceeded taxes collected, was a staggering $422 billion in just the last 12 weeks. In total, $367 billion of the funding for this increase in the national debt was provided at very low interest rates, via the mechanism of the Federal Reserve simply creating the money needed to fund the government spending."

I encourage readers to read this full article. Just the fact that the Federal deficit is exploding to such high levels alone right now is enough to get your attention. If the Fed really is creating a lot of new money to buy up nearly 90% of that new debt, we certainly need to pay close attention to that. We know that Fed has completely reversed course from a long grinding effort to decrease the size of its balance sheet and that since all this started last fall their balance has surged quickly back up over $4 Trillion. So something has changed their thinking for sure.

There are questions we need to ask and follow during 2020:

Why is the Fed having to continue these "temporary market operations" so long into the future?

Is the Fed trying to cover up some kind of serious systemic problem that we do not know about yet?


Is all this "nothing to see here" as the Fed continues to say?

What pressure (if any) is the Fed feeling to keep the economy propped up and liquified during an intense upcoming election year?

What happens next year if something goes wrong with all this and the stability of the entire system comes into question somewhat like happened in 2008?  Who will get blamed if something like that happens? How would it impact the elections?

As always, the hope here is that nothing threatening systemic stability happens next year and that whatever the Fed is doing is not an attempt to mask systemic problems. But clearly we have an important issue to monitor here and one that is somewhat being completely ignored by major media due to the obsession with all the daily political fighting taking place. I encourage readers to try to filter out all the political noise and focus on these kinds of issues next year even if they are not heavily covered by most media.

I sent this article to Jim Rickards and he kindly offered me this reply to include for readers here. It is his analysis on this situation and I feel it is important to pass it on. A thank you to Jim for offering it:

"You're right about the importance of this. But, one needs to stay focused on the fact that the Fed is buying short-term notes and bills, not long-term assets. This has to do with avoiding an inversion of the yield curve. If the long-end is falling in yield for economic reasons, the short-end has to fall faster to avoid an inversion. The paradox is that by buying short-term securities (to provide liquidity to the market) the Fed is depriving the market of those very securities (which tends to drive up yields on what's left). By trying to lower yields (with liquidity) the Fed is raising yields (through scarcity). This is another Fed blunder playing out in real time."  -   James Rickards (author of Aftermath)

Added notes: I sent a link to the first article above in CNBC to one expert who replied with the word:


Given the high credibility of this expert, I wanted readers to see that I am not the only one who believes this issue should be watched carefully in the months ahead.

If the second article linked above is accurate, that may be even more "frightening" than the CNBC article. If markets sense the US is having the Fed monetize its debt, it could rattle them at some point.

Added 12-16-2019: Here is another non mainstream take on all this Fed activity from another Fed skeptic worth considering. It is fair to point out that the Fed says they have things under control and there is no need for concern. It's also fair for skeptics to raise these kinds of questions about these unusual operations by the Fed given the huge amounts of new money involved. Time, as always, tends to gives us the answers.

Added note 12-20-2019: Robert Pringle has a new book out called The Power of Money. I hope to be able to publish a Q&A interview here on the blog early next year with Robert Pringle. He has had a long and distinguished career working alongside central bankers around the world so his insights based on that experience are very valuable. He provides a look inside the system that you won't find in most media coverage of these issues.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

News Update on the Ongoing Political Battle in the US

We have repeatedly said that we prefer to avoid politics as much as possible on this blog since the blog is not intended to have any kind of political agenda and is intended to be informational in nature.

We do however, have to monitor political events in the US because they can potentially significantly impact markets and even systemic stability if something very dramatic does take place.

We have reported here during the Trump Administration that the ongoing political battle between the President and his political opponents is ramped up beyond the normal political fighting that really goes on all the time so we have to monitor any impact related to impeachment proceedings and the counter claims that improper actions were taken by high US government officials against the Trump Campaign including claims that some of those actions may have been criminal in nature.

Our take on all this so far has been to advise readers to monitor markets to see if they detect anything truly disruptive is really happening. By this we mean something that could rattle markets to the point that there is actually systemic risk to the entire system. We pointed out that so far markets have mostly ignored everything related to this ongoing political war indicating there is no serious belief that President Trump will eventually be removed from office or that high officials in the previous Administration are likely to be convicted of serious criminal activity.

This week we have a lot of news relevant to this ongoing political battle but still no major impact on markets. So we see no reason to change what we have said here for some time. If we see a major stock market decline (far beyond a normal correction) and/or a major sharp move higher in gold and silver, that would be an indicator that markets are rattled.

This week final impeachment proceedings have led to a vote to impeach the President that will likely end in his acquittal in the Republican controlled Senate since it takes a 2/3 vote to convict and there is no indication the votes are there to convict. It appears that markets are discounting that as the logical outcome and are not indicating any signs of distress.

Also this week we had the release of the report of the Inspector General on the activities of various Justice Department employees in conducting ongoing monitoring of the Trump Campaign leading up to and even following his election. The Inspector General found a lot of problems with the way the investigation was handled, but his report said it did not find evidence of political bias in starting up the investigation.

Attorney General William Barr reacted to the IG report with this statement (pasted in below):

Monday, December 9, 2019

Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on the Inspector General's Report of the Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation

Attorney General William P. Barr issued the following statement:
"Nothing is more important than the credibility and integrity of the FBI and the Department of Justice.  That is why we must hold our investigators and prosecutors to the highest ethical and professional standards.  The Inspector General’s investigation has provided critical transparency and accountability, and his work is a credit to the Department of Justice.  I would like to thank the Inspector General and his team.
The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.  It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.  Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.  In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source.  The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory.  While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.
FISA is an essential tool for the protection of the safety of the American people.  The Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to rectify the abuses that occurred and to ensure the integrity of the FISA process going forward.
No one is more dismayed about the handling of these FISA applications than Director Wray.  I have full confidence in Director Wray and his team at the FBI, as well as the thousands of dedicated line agents who work tirelessly to protect our country.  I thank the Director for the comprehensive set of proposed reforms he is announcing today, and I look forward to working with him to implement these and any other appropriate measures.
With respect to DOJ personnel discussed in the report, the Department will follow all appropriate processes and procedures, including as to any potential disciplinary action."

US Attorney John Durham who was tasked by Attorney General Barr to look into the possible criminal abuse of the system during all this activity also issued this statement (pasted in below):

Monday, December 9, 2019

Statement of U.S. Attorney John H. Durham

“I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff.  However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department.  Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.  Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.” 

My added comments: It appears that there is still nothing that has upset markets that has emerged from all this. However, the statements by the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney do imply that a criminal investigation is still ongoing and is looking into activities beyond the scope of the investigation released by the Inspector General.  It is interesting to note that U.S. Attorney Durham states that he is looking at information "from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S." The Inspector General would not have access to people outside the U.S. Justice Department for his investigation so the result of that investigation will be closely watched in coming months.

So, we will just continue to monitor events to see if anything significant enough to disrupt markets does eventually emerge.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Heads Up from a Reader on Fed Joining the US Faster Payments Council

A thank you to a blog reader for passing along this news related to the Fed. Below I have pasted in the full press release on this. I added the bold for additional emphasis.


The Federal Reserve Joins the U.S. Faster Payments Council as Founding Sponsor

December 5, 2019
CHICAGO, Dec. 5, 2019 – The Federal Reserve System today announced it has joined the U.S. Faster Payments Council (FPC) (Off-site) as a founding sponsor.
“Our payment system is a vital part of America's infrastructure that touches everyone,” said Esther George, president and chief executive officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and sponsor of the Federal Reserve’s payments improvement initiative. “We can collectively achieve safe, widely available faster payments capabilities that will benefit all by working together with the U.S. Faster Payments Council and other payments stakeholders.”
The FPC and its members seek to facilitate faster payments in the United States, enabling Americans to securely pay anyone, anywhere, at any time with near-immediate funds availability. Its priorities include faster payments education and fraud mitigation.
“The Federal Reserve supports the FPC’s priorities, and we look forward to contributing to its work as a founding sponsor and active participant,” said Kenneth C. Montgomery, first vice president and chief operating officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and FedNowSM program executive. “We also anticipate robust dialogue within the FPC as the Federal Reserve develops its FedNow Service. Once in place, this service will provide critical interbank real-time gross settlement and integrated clearing infrastructure to enable financial institutions of all sizes to offer real-time payments services for their retail and commercial customers.”
Connie Theien, senior vice president and director, payments industry relations, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, will represent the Federal Reserve on the FPC and coordinate its participation in FPC work groups and other engagements.
“In many ways, the Fed’s collaboration with the industry to advance faster payments has come full circle, from our work to facilitate the Faster Payments Task Force to full membership in the FPC,” Theien said. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to work together to design the faster payments ecosystem from the ground up. Ongoing collaboration is essential for addressing the opportunities and challenges ahead, encouraging faster payments adoption and further transforming the U.S. payment system.”
The Federal Reserve convened the Faster Payments Task Force in 2015. In 2017, the task force recommended development of a faster payments governance framework that eventually became the FPC. The Federal Reserve provided early support and facilitation of the FPC’s design and creation in 2018.

About the Federal Reserve and Payments

As the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve System provides payment services and seeks to foster the stability, integrity and efficiency of the nation’s monetary, financial and payment systems. In 2013, the Federal Reserve initiated a broadly collaborative effort to enhance the end-to-end speed, security and efficiency of payments in the United States. The 2015 Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System (Off-site, PDF) paper defined five desired outcomes and strategies for pursuing advancements in speed, security, efficiency and international payments through stakeholder collaboration. For more information, visit (Off-site).

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Off Topic Update

Earlier this year I reported that my brother was going to need a liver transplant for long term survival. I am happy to now report that this past week he did receive a liver transplant which went well and his new prognosis is very good.

When you go through things like this, you learn a lot. My brother was very fortunate to have one of the best transplant teams in the country available. This team was the DFW Baylor Hospital system transplant team that works out of Baylor Hospital in Dallas and Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth. Here is the transplant surgeon who performed this one for my brother.

I cannot say enough good things about the quality of this team in every respect. A huge thank you to them.

In addition, whenever a someone is given a new hope for long term life there is a donor involved. One thing that really strikes you in this situation is how grateful you are to the donor and their family. They have suffered a huge loss and yet had a heart to make something good come out of the experience by offering someone else new hope.

These donors and their families deserve a special place of honor in our society and represent the very best of what we can be. An eternal thank you to them will always be present in our family.

Added note: I will be assisting my brother with his recovery efforts for awhile this month so new articles here will probably be postponed until he is back home and things are back to normal.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reuters -- Russia Says BRICS Nations Favor Common Payment System

Russia and other BRICS nations have long been talking about various ways to bypass the US dollar based global payments system. While nothing major has happened there yet, here is yet another article appearing in Reuters quoting Russian officials on this topic. Below is a brief excerpt.


"Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a group of major emerging economies known as BRICS, back the idea of developing a common payment system, a Russian official said on Thursday.

Russia and its BRICS peers have been looking for ways to decrease their dependence on the U.S. dollar and have advocated using their national currencies in mutual trade."

This article in the South China Morning Post says China is encouraging Chinese corporations to "diversify away for US dollar debt". In this case Euro based debt is promoted by the Chinese government.

Added comment: The article also says the BRICS nations has "discussed" the idea of using a "common cryptocurrency for mutual payments". However, it also goes on to point out that in the past Russian officials have spoken out against cryptocurrencies. So far, this all seems to be an area where a lot of study and discussion takes place, but no actual payments system based on any kind of cryptocurrency has emerged out of it.

Additional added note: The ongoing major repo operation at the US Fed continues to generate a lot of speculation. As the "temporary" program seems to expand further out into the future, more and more skeptics are raising questions as to what is going on here. 

Some suggest the Fed is trying to cover up some kind of problem inside the banking system. Meanwhile, the Fed continues to insist nothing unusual is going on with Chairman Powell directly stating that in this recent written testimony to Congress as follows:

"In response to the funding pressures in money markets that emerged in mid-September, we decided to maintain a level of reserves at or above the level that prevailed in early September. To achieve this level of reserves, we announced in mid-October that we would purchase Treasury bills at least into the second quarter of next year and would continue temporary open market operations at least through January. These actions are purely technical measures to support the effective implementation of monetary policy as we continue to learn about the appropriate level of reserves. They do not represent a change in the stance of monetary policy."

This article appearing in non mainstream Wall Street on Parade is an example of the kind of skeptical analysis of these unsual Fed actions. It points out that two congressmen from Texas raised questions to Chairman Powell about all this. It quotes Chairman Powell responding to these questions at one point in this way (I added underline for emphasis):

"Powell: “We’re doing a lot of forensic work to understand why. Some of that may be reserves – the level of reserves needs to be higher than we thought, which means our balance sheet a little bigger. There may also be aspects of our supervisory and regulatory practice that we can look at that would allow the liquidity that we have, that we think is the appropriate level, to flow more freely in the system. Without, though, undermining safety and soundness.”

This recent article in Zero Hedge points out that the "little bigger balance sheet" has already jumped up to over $4 Trillion once again and represents a very rapid reversal of all the hard fought efforts to reduce their balance sheet with its QT (Quantitative Tightening) program. So it is not surprising we see articles like the one in Zero hedge questioning all this. 

We have stated here that readers should follow this closely over time to see if "there is nothing to see here" or if something troubling is going on inside the banking system that the Fed prefers not to make public. It is worth pointing out that the last major financial crisis in 2008 supposedly "caught everyone by surprise" and that the Fed obviously would not want to create public panic by announcing some kind of major problem even if they are working on some kind of problem behind the scenes. As always, time will give us the answer.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Input from Readers

With not much new to report here, I did get some reader emails suggesting various articles that might be of interest to readers here. So below I have pasted in the links to those articles with a brief excerpt from each just below the link.


The Guardian - How Big Tech is Dragging Us Towards the Next Crash

"In every major economic downturn in US history, the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom,” said the late, great management guru Peter Drucker. I cannot help but wonder if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and possibly the world) heads toward its next big slowdown. Downturns historically come about once every decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” institutions responsible for our falling stock portfolios, home prices and salaries. Technology companies, by contrast, have led the market upswing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role."

"Tunisia has announced the launch of its digital currency, the ‘E-dinar.’ With this, the tiny North African country claims to be the first country to launch a central bank digital currency (CBDC)."

"China's President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that the country's communist party should regard blockchain as a core technology for important innovative breakthroughs and should commit to accelerating the development of the technology, according to a report from"


"Banks' shadow, or money creation by banks beyond traditional loans, plays an important role in China's money-creation process, posing a number of challenges to monetary policy operations and financial risk management. This paper analyzes the money-creation mechanisms of China's shadow banking sector in detail, provides accurate measurements, investigates its effects on financial risk, and surveys recent regulation. To strengthen supervision, China's regulators should closely track the evolution of various shadow banking channels, both on- and off-balance sheet. Specific macroprudential regulation tools, such as asset reserves and risk reserves, should be applied separately to banks' shadow and traditional shadow banking."

My added comments: A thank you to readers for their input and forwarding the links to these articles. Always appreciate the help.

Added note: I like to include these kinds of stories when I see people doing good things to help out a neighbor. This one happened to take place right nearby us, but got some national attention. Enjoy:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pre Holiday Update

As we head into the Holiday Season, I expect that there is not likely to be much new information to report here related to any kind of major monetary system reform. This post will attempt to serve as an update on things based on the information available at this time. Below is a Q&A style format to discuss the status of the issues as they appear at this time.

Q: Do you see any indications that some kind of major change in the monetary system is likely?

A: Not right now. We have been reporting here for some time that we do not see any signs of major change unless some kind of new major financial crisis were to emerge that basically forced the system to make major changes or even be fully reset. That is still what we would report for now. This analysis is based on following news reports and from direct input I get from a number of experts around the world that I view as highly credible.

Q: So what could trigger the kind of major crisis that might prompt major change?

A: There are a number of potential triggers that are always out there that we have covered here extensively. Global debt (private and public) is at all time highs. We still have trillions in derivatives contracts in an interconnected global banking system. Geo political negative surprises are always possible at any time (trade wars, currency wars, etc.) So far the powers that be (mostly central banks) have managed to keep the system functioning in a way that most people don't sense an imminent crisis is coming. Perhaps the most noticed event recently is the ongoing efforts by the US Fed to support overnight lending markets with liquidity and an apparent resumption in their policy to expand their balance sheet. The Fed says there is nothing worrisome to see here, while Fed critics and skeptics are suspicious that the Fed may be trying to hide something going seriously wrong behind the scenes. It is certainly worth following to see what happens. As always, time will tell us the answer.

Q: How does the ongoing political war in the US impact the chances for some kind of financial system or monetary system disruption?

A: That has been an interesting irony so far. Despite three years of intense political fighting virtually daily and constant news stories that well known officials may be indicted for crimes, the markets have almost completely ignored it all. We have told readers here that perhaps the best thing to do is just monitor market reactions. They are more likely to let you know if anything truly disruptive to the present system is really going on. So far the stock market has been strong, the US dollar has been strong, and gold and silver prices have been trading in a range with upward, bias but are not indicating any kind of major crisis is at hand yet. If you see gold move sharply up to or above all time highs around $2000, that would be a possible signal. The same for a move in silver above the $25-$26 level or even back up to all time highs around $50. Until you see things like that, the markets are not indicating they are too concerned with all the political maneuvering we see virtually daily now. It's always possible something truly significant could arise. However, the sources I hear from do not expect the impeachment process to result in a removal of President Trump from office and the markets also seem to view things that way. While rumors have persisted for years now that some former high officials in the Obama Administration could be charged with crimes related to efforts to remove President Trump, nothing has happened yet on that front either. So far, everything seems to be more related to political strategies to try and gain an advantage in the 2020 elections If anything major does emerge from this, it will be obvious to us all. For now, the markets are not the least bit concerned about it. One prediction that seems pretty safe is that we will see the political war continue and even escalate into the elections and that will probably suck all the oxygen out of the room until the 2020 elections are over. If President Trump is re elected, not much is likely to change unless a crisis forces change. If a Democrat is elected, change is more likely and the US will likely move more sharply towards socialism. That is pretty easy to predict.

Q: What will this blog do if nothing much changes any time soon?

A: Just continue as we are now. Try to watch for any major signs of trouble. Post a few articles when we can find something relevant to our mission here. Report any change in the situation if we hear of that from any of the experts that provide input from time time. We try to report things (like input from some experts we hear from) you are not likely to see reported in mainstream news since those stories are already widely reported. We do also monitor several alternative media sites in case something of note appears there. We will pass along anything we see that we think might be useful information.
Added note: If all the political fighting has you thinking we are a nation with no hope for the future, take a look at this short video and perhaps you will change your mind:

Added note 11-14-2019: After the first impeachment hearings in the US Congress, we are still seeing no market reaction that would suggest anything disruptive is going on or that markets think the President will be removed from office. So no change from the analysis posted above for now.

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Report on Central Bank Digital Currencies from OMFIF and IBM

I am alerting readers to a new report jointly issued by the OMFIF (Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum) on the status of future prospects for a retail version of a Central Bank Digital Currency.

We have covered this topic for some time. This new report is in line with what we have reported here. It suggests that we may see some central banks try out a retail version of a central bank digital currency sometime in the next 3-5 years. The report does note that due to emergence of such things as Project Libra from Facebook, there has been a shift in focus at some central banks from the concept of a "wholesale" digital currency (used just by financial institutions) to a "retail" version (used by the general public).

Below I have pasted in the conclusion section of the report to give readers a summary view of it. You can access the full report by going here and providing email information. (I added bold below for additional emphasis)

Advent of a retail CBDC expected within five years

"IN THIS report we have set out – with help from the global policy-makers who participated in our survey, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude – current central bank perceptions of the advent of disruptive financial technologies and the possible introduction of central bank-issued digital currencies. Policymakers’ assessments are many and varied, and depend much on their economies’ size and monetary policy objectives. But one thing is certain: regulators will not sit idly by as new systems pose potentially severe threats to existing structures. Policy-makers dare not risk being left behind as the technology continues to advance. 

The principal conclusion is that we are likely to witness the introduction of a central bank – that is fiat – retail digital currency within the next five years, either as a complement to or as a substitute for notes and coins. It is improbable that the first such issuance will come from a G20 central bank; it is considerably more likely to be launched in a smaller and less complex economy in response to a specific policy objective and use case. 

This may relate to improving the overall effectiveness and resilience of a national payments system by reducing the prevalence of cash. Alternatively, it could be associated with extending financial inclusion; reducing the size of the dark economy; countering financial crime; or for a specific purpose, such as transforming the cross-border transmission of migrant worker remittances. 

In most instances, the development is most likely to be nationally driven, but increasing co-operation and collaboration between monetary authorities are likely to become the norm. There will be no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and we expect to see the emergence of several different models, use cases and approaches, some perhaps even in direct intellectual competition with one another.

Although the primary drivers of these initiatives will be central banks and associated national authorities, we anticipate extensive private-public sector partnerships wherein the private sector provides or indeed runs technology, infrastructure and operations on an outsourced or more deeply collaborative basis. We believe there will be a growing number of studies, use cases and pilot programmes as both sectors explore, design and test the art of the possible and desirable. We note, however, that these initiatives will be driven by policy and not technology. 

It remains unclear whether blockchain technology or its analogues are the best route forward for digital currency implementation, and central banks by and large are technology agnostic. Ideally, they will settle on their precise policy objectives and then find the most appropriate technological solution, rather than be wedded to a specific technology beforehand.

We do not envisage privately-issued digital currencies gaining significant traction or acceptance in a universal context, although there may be closed private networks in which they operate. The determination of national governments to protect the monopoly enjoyed by fiat currency, and the commitment of regulators to financial stability, will in our view raise insuperable hurdles to the establishment of a private digital currency as a significant means of exchange, however gilt-edged its asset backing. Pure, unbacked cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin will remain the minority pursuit of speculators and denizens of the dark web.

Our hope is that this report will serve policy-makers, industry specialists, economic commentators, scholars and the general reader as a useful companion to the impending and all-but certain changes to retail payments systems. We at OMFIF and IBM welcome comments, affirming or otherwise, and look forward to charting the future of central bank digital currencies in further studies and through our continuing dialogue with policy-makers the world over."
My added comments: Please note that this summary conclusion is very much in line with what we have been reporting here for some time. Change is more likely to evolve gradually over time without some kind of new major crisis to prompt sudden change.

We have made all the following points noted above here on this blog for some time:

- There is no current new "universal global digital currency" ready to deploy at the global level at this time waiting in the background behind the scenes at the IMF or anywhere else

- Blockchain is mostly just a buzz word so far and by no means has been adopted by central banks or the IMF as a preferred future technology

- Central Banks (and national governments) will do whatever they have to do in order to protect the monopoly status of their fiat currencies. Some may partner with private enterprises, but it will on terms dictated by the Central Banks.

- While the concept of "global cooperation" is always mentioned, the reality is that these potential initiatives by central banks are going to start off at the national level and will more likely compete with each other instead of introducing some new universal global central bank digital currency. Here is how the summary above puts it:

"In most instances, the development is most likely to be nationally driven, but increasing co-operation and collaboration between monetary authorities are likely to become the norm. There will be no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and we expect to see the emergence of several different models, use cases and approaches, some perhaps even in direct intellectual competition with one another."

All of this is in agreement with the input we have received here from experts on this topic that we have mentioned many times. This report once again confirms the accuracy of the input provided us and what we have been reporting here on this blog. This what we just reported in October from KlickEx CEO Robert Bell:

"As far as real systemic change... There's nothing on the cards for the monetary system. The digital services spoken of (in the Bloomberg article) will not change anything fundamental, and the IMF and BIS are even further behind where most central banks are. 

The central banks will implement real time slowly, and banks will reduce cross border prices slowly. 

Swift and their GPI project is already doing this work, but banks are taking a long time to reduce prices, that's all. 

Open Banking, is speeding things up a bit, but not much."    ---- Robert Bell (KlickEx)

As you can see, this process is more likely to unfold over many years rather than something we would see imminently and no universal digital currency or the technology to implement such a thing has been chosen thus far.
Added note: China's President wants to China to take a leading role in the future of blockchain technology. This will be yet another competing effort rather than some kind of universal global effort. It is clear from the context of the speech that China wants to be in control of the technology used rather than any institution outside of China. We might call this a "China First" initiative on their part.