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Should You Worry About Europe’s Back Door Bank Run?

On Wednesday, Fitch Ratings Inc. downgraded its credit ratings on five of Europe’s biggest banks, and while that decision made headlines, it’s not the most important story to come out of Europe this week.The real story, which the mainstream media is neglecting, is that there are signs of an underground run on Europe’s banks.

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On Wednesday, Fitch Ratings Inc. downgraded its credit ratings on five of Europe’s biggest banks, and while that decision made headlines, it’s not the most important story to come out of Europe this week.The real story, which the mainstream media is neglecting, is that there are signs of an underground run on Europe’s banks.

Almost nobody’s talking about it, but there are indications money is already moving out of the European Union (EU) faster than rats abandoning a sinking ship.

Not through the front door, mind you. There are no lines, no distraught customers and no teller windows being boarded up – not yet, anyway.

For now the run is through the back door, and there are four things that make me think so:

  1. Italy’s planned ban on cash transactions over 1,000 euros, or about $1,300.
  2. French, Spanish, and Italian banks have run out of collateral and are now pledging real assets.
  3. Swiss officials are preparing for the end of the euro with capital control measures.
  4. Europe’s CEOs are actively preparing for the end of the euro despite governmental reassurances.

Signs of a Run

Let’s start with Italy and Prime Minister Mario Monti‘s plans to restrict cash transactions over 1,000 euros (down from the current limit of 2,500 euros, or about $3,200).

Ostensibly the move is about reducing tax evasion by prohibiting the movement of large sums of cash outside the official transactional system, but I think it speaks to something far more sinister – namely that the Italian government knows things are going to get far worse than they’re publicly admitting.

Consider: Cash is a stored value mechanism. There’s not a lot of it because at any given point in time, most of it is on deposit with banks in any country. That’s as true in Italy as it is here in the United States when real interest rates are positive during “healthy” times.

But when real interest rates turn negative, people are likely to withdraw cash and stuff it quite literally under mattresses or in coffee tins. (Real interest rates are the official lending interest rates as adjusted for inflation.)

In such an environment, holding cash in a bank becomes nothing more than an imputed tax and a disincentive for deposits. It’s also a significant thorn in the side of central bankers who want to control their country’s money supply, because cash can operate outside the system and, specifically, logjam reform efforts.

The reason is really pretty simple. If you have negative real interest rates, and cash transactions are largely restricted or removed altogether, then the only way to effectively use cash is to withdraw it and spend it… immediately.

In other words, by limiting cash transactions to 1,000 euros or less, Italy is putting into place a punitive financial control fully intended to keep money moving in a system lest it become worthless or worse – hoarded and worthless.

Now let’s move on to banks.

Banking Breakdown

Many investors have never thought about it before, but there are really only three sources of funding for a bank:

  1. Money that’s effectively “lent” to the bank by customers placing their assets on deposit;
  2. Short-term money market funds;
  3. And long-term bonds or securitized products based on long-term paper sold to bond investors.
Together, the three funding sources are like the legs on a stool – lose any one of them and the stool will topple over because it is no longer balanced. Cut the legs down and the stool collapses – that’s what is happening now.

Individuals, pension funds and institutions alike are withdrawing funds from Italian, Spanish and French banks. Money has long since left Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.Thing is, though, it’s not just European money that’s fleeing. Various reports from The EconomistBloombergCNBC and others suggest that American financials may have pulled more than 40% of their funds from all European banks and nearly two-thirds of their total deposits away from French banks. This is drying up short-term lending capacity and driving up interbank lending costs.

At the same time, money managers the world over are selling their European bonds. This is driving prices lower and yields higher to the point where the cost of debt is now prohibitive (bond prices and yields move in opposite directions). As a result, new bank bond issuance may be down as much as 85% over the past two years, which further hobbles cash hungry European banks.

Finally, facing a near total loss of short-term financing alternatives and having run out of short-term liquidity needed to operate, a number of EU banks are reportedly having to pledge real assets as collateral for badly needed loans.

Normally, banks would use loans, leases or receivables to accomplish the same thing. The fact that they’re now having to throw in real estate, their own property, and other assets into the mix signals extreme levels of financial stress that are far worse than what’s been disclosed publicly.

Bracing for the Inevitable

Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf noted to the Swiss Parliament that she’s got a working group examining capital controls and negative interest rates as a means of preventing an economy-crushing Swiss franc appreciation when the euro fails. That’s not if the euro fails, but when the Euro fails.

This is an especially dire sign because capital control measures like those the Swiss officials are considering are inevitably the end of any failed monetary system.

European CEOs and their companies are taking matters into their own hands by actively preparing for the destruction of the euro.

Some, like German machinery maker GEA Group AG (PINK: GEAGY) are limiting the maximum funds on deposit with any single bank. Others, like Grupo Gowex, are moving cash and deposits to Germany away from Spanish banks (and Grupo Gowex is a Spanish company based in Madrid, so this is especially telling). BMW plans to cut production by 30% while also tapping into central bank reserves. According to Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner, the company is already reducing its leasing portfolio to cope with the potential decrease in car values that would impact its borrowing capacity.

As for what all this means for our money, that’s pretty clear – think SAFETY FIRST. The return of your capital is far more important than the return on your capital at the moment.

Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Buy dollars – I know they’re a bad long-term bet, but short-term, they’re the best looking horse in the global glue factory as long as the euro is under pressure.
  2. Stick with what you have in place now and manage risk with trailing stops. Confine new stock purchases to high-growth, low-debt emerging markets rather than low-growth, high-debt developed markets.
  3. Short gold and oil in the short-term. Both are priced in dollars, which means both will fall as the dollar rises in conjunction with panic in the EU.
  4. Purchase inverse funds that track the broader markets. If the euro fails, it will tank the broader markets. Then, once it becomes clear that the world will live on, the markets will disconnect from Europe and begin to rise again in earnest.
  5. Run the other way if people tell you that banks are a great investment. They are speculative at best given the number of skeletons still in the closet.

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Trump Says He Will Make A “Major Statement” When He Returns To The US

After a 12-day tour through five Asian countries where he discussed the threat posed by North Korea and how America might shrink its massive trade deficits, President Donald Trump is heading back to the US Tuesday. And in true Trump fashion, the president hinted that he would be making a “major announcement” upon his return to the states – but offered no clues about what the topic of said “announcement” might be.

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After a 12-day tour through five Asian countries where he discussed the threat posed by North Korea and how America might shrink its massive trade deficits, President Donald Trump is heading back to the US Tuesday. And in true Trump fashion, the president hinted that he would be making a “major announcement” upon his return to the states – but offered no clues about what the topic of said “announcement” might be.

Here’s the tweet, sent around 1 a.m. Eastern Time:

Of course, there’s a lot happening in Washington right now, and Trump’s hinted-at announcement could be in reference to one of any number of issues. Will he deliver an update on the administration’s position regarding tax reform as two bills that differ in dramatic fashion wend through Congress? Perhaps some type of security announcement? Or the revelation that the US has finally entered into talks with North Korea after Trump adopted a notably softer tone toward his favorite Asian antagonist over the weekend?

There’s also the possibility that he could deliver an official statement about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who Trump previously said should “do the right thing” and step aside if allegations about him having inappropriate sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl turn out to be true?

Shortly before his teaser tweet about the upcoming announcement, the president hinted that he had made some major breakthroughs on behalf of the US’s trading relationship in the region, claiming that the US’s regional partners now understand that trade deficits “most come down”?

The president also took the time to thank the staff of the US embassy in the Phillipines for doing such “GREAT WORK” during his visit. Strangely, similar praise for other US embassies in the region was not forthcoming.

He also took a swing at polls that reflect a presidential approval rating below 40%, pointing to a Rassmussen poll that puts his approval rating at a reasonable 46%…

With the House gearing up to pass its version of the tax reform program on either Thursday or Friday, it’s possible Trump could be taking to the bully pulpit to try and whip up votes among intransigent blue-state Republicans. Or the announcement could be on any one of a number of topics. North Korea, trade, tax reform, the upcoming Alabama special election – all are priorities for the White House and the Republican Party right now.

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The Price Swings In Bitcoin Are Making Me Sick To My Stomach

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Well, that de-escalated quickly…

All the hopes and dreams of Bitcoin Cash officianados have been dashed in the last 24 hours. After its mega spike from $600 to over $2400, the forked cryptocurrency has crashed back to around $1000 overnight as traders switch back to the mainstream Bitcoin branch, sending it surging back above $6600 – erasing all the weekend’s “the end is nigh” losses…

As CoinTelegraph reports, cross-exchange data for Bitcoin Cash, which describes itself as “the best money in the world,” shows a swift turnaround in the altcoin’s fortunes through the weekend.

The result of a giant publicity effort from its proponents, BCH saw mass investment as it heads towards a potentially contentious hard fork set for just after 7 p.m. GMT today.

The failure of SegWit2x, coupled with endorsement from the soon-to-be-defunct Bitcoin Classic team meant BCH became the major ‘competitor’ to Bitcoin overnight.

Its rapid rise has ignited the community, with widespread condemnation of lead supporters Roger Ver and Jihan Wu coming in tandem with public praise from Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin.

As BCH approached its highest-ever point Nov. 11, Buterin delivered his “congratulations” to Ver on Twitter, adding it was a “key reason why he is now so confident in crypto.”

Criticism meanwhile has focused on the ‘corporatized’ nature of BCH in contrast to Bitcoin’s decentralization, while figures involved insist the altcoin is an improvement on Bitcoin.

The project even has a CEO in the form of Finnish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge, who released a statement aimed at harmonizing its structure.

“…As Chief Executive Officer of this disorganization with made-up titles, where every document is as official as people pretend it to be, I further emphasize that we cannot resolve social disputes by voting, for two reasons: first, there is no boundary on the electorate that determines who gets to vote, which creates winning by trickery rather than by argument, and second, we don’t want to vote anyway.”

But that is all over for now…

As Bitcoin soars back above $6600…

Leaving Bitcoin Cash about half the market cap of Ethereum once again…

So what happens next?

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7 Quotes That Sum Up Buffett’s Entire Strategy

Unlike other highly successful value investors, Buffett spends a large amount of time doing interviews. There have also been thousands of articles written about him and possibly hundreds of books.

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Warren Buffett is the world’s greatest and most prominent value investor.  Unlike other highly successful value investors, Buffett spends a large amount of time doing interviews. There have also been thousands of articles written about him and possibly hundreds of books.

Not only is Buffett the world’s most successful investor, he is also the investing world’s biggest celebrity. In some ways, this success has been a doubled-edged sword.

Since Buffett is a larger-than-life celebrity, his interviews stray away from the topic of investing. At the same time, he has produced so many sound bites on the topic of investing, many have lost their true meaning. For instance, almost all investors know Buffett’s first two rules — “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” More often than not, however, I have seen this interpreted as “If I don’t sell, I don’t lose money” — clearly not the right viewpoint at all.

So considering all of the above, in this article I have tried to pull together seven quotes I believe best describe Buffett’s investment process and give essential insight into how the average investor should look for value and high-quality investments. These are not one-liners, they are specifically picked to give as much detail as possible.

How to pick the best businesses:

“I like businesses I can understand. We’ll start with that. That narrows it down about 90%. There are all kinds of things I don’t understand, but fortunately, there’s enough I do understand. You got this big, wide world out there. Almost every company is publicly owned. You got all American business, practically, available to you. Now, to start with, it doesn’t make sense to go with things you think you can[‘t] understand. But you can understand some things. I can understand this (picks up can of Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)). I mean you can understand this. Anybody can understand this. I mean this is a product that basically hasn’t been changed much since 1886, and it’s a simple business. It’s not an easy business. I don’t want a business that’s easy for competitors. I want a business with a moat around it with a very valuable castle in the middle. And then I want the duke who’s in charge of that castle to be honest and hard-working and able. And then I want a big moat around the castle, and that moat can be various things.

The moat in a business like our auto insurance business at GEICO is low cost. I mean people have to buy auto insurance so everybody’s going to have one auto insurance policy per car, basically, or per driver. And I can’t sell them 20, but they have to buy one. What are they going to buy it on? They’re going to buy it based on service and cost. Most people will assume the service is fairly identical among companies, or close enough, so they’re going to do it on cost, so I gotta be the low-cost producer. That’s my moat. To the extent my costs get further lower than the other guy, I’ve thrown a couple of sharks into the moat.”

 



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