- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

Reputable financial houses, as they are described online, are telling their clients how to prepare for potential “global collapse” over the next two years. France’s Societe Generale, according to the London Daily Telegraph’s chief investigative reporter, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, is such a house that is now “mapping a strategy of defensive investments to avoid wealth destruction.”

A 68-page report, headed by the bank’s asset chief, Daniel Fermon, explores forthcoming dangers but does not forecast which of three possible outcomes of the ongoing crisis it sees coming.

Under the gloomiest “Bear Case” scenario the dollar would slide further and global equities would retest the March lows, Mr. Evans-Pritchard wrote, adding that property prices would tumble again and oil would fall back to $50 per barrel in 2010 (but could shoot up to $200 or $300 if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities).

“Governments have already shot their fiscal bolts,” Mr. Evans-Pritchard writes. “Even without fresh spending, public debt would explode within two years to 105 percent of GDP in the United Kingdom, 125 percent in the United States and the European Union, and 270 percent in Japan. Worldwide state debt would reach $45 trillion, up 2 1/2 times in a decade.

“Inflating debt away might be seen by some governments as the lesser of two evils” and, if so, says the forecaster, gold would go “up, and up, and up” as the only safe haven from “fiat paper money.”

“Even if the U.S. savings rate stabilizes at 7 percent” - highly doubtful - “and all of it is used to pay down debt, it will take nine years for households to reduce debt/income ratios to the safe levels of the 1980s,” Mr. Evans-Pritchard wrote.

Societe Generale advises “bear” clients to sell the dollar short and to “short” cyclical equities such as technology, auto and travel to avoid being caught in the “inherent deflationary spiral,” the item in the Daily Telegraph said. Mr. Fermon says his report has electrified clients on both sides of the Atlantic as “everybody wants to know what the impact will be. A lot of hedge funds and bankers are worried.”

Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Business School and a prominent citizen of the Internet, says in his latest contribution, “Bigger than the budget deficit, America has a leadership gap. Despite last February’s $787 billion stimulus package, the economic recovery is not creating jobs; unemployment is rising (34 million, including those whose benefits have expired, out of a work force of 153.9 million); and the president and Congress offer little more than nostrums and platitudes.”

Along with oil imports, cheap consumer goods from China account for nearly the entire trade gap, writes this former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. “China undervalues its currency to boost its U.S. sales, domestic employment and growth. Its economic miracle is engineered by Beijing buying hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars with freshly printed yuan, to keep the currency undervalued and Chinese products inexpensive in U.S. stores. Then China uses those dollars to buy U.S. Treasury securities.” And President Obama, afraid China won’t buy more U.S. debt, failed to challenge China on currency and trade during his visit there last week.

“The Republicans offer little more than tort reform … and the Democrats,” concludes Mr. Morici, “fearful that unemployment, stagnant wages and their fiscal follies will result in big electoral losses in 2010, are cooking up another stimulus package. They will call it a … ‘jobs initiative.’ After both the Bush and Obama stimulus packages failed, it has few prospects of creating lasting jobs. All this calls to mind bread and circuses as in a declining Roman Empire. Those kept the crowds happy while the state was failing.”

The conservative Financial Intelligence Report says dollar devaluation is a done deal. “Since taking office almost a year ago,” FIR thunders, “the Obama administration has increased the monetary base by a staggering $10 trillion … and doubled the expected annual budget deficit to almost $2 trillion.” The Financial Times’ Martin Wolf, highly respected the world over, says shady trading activities destroyed the financial system.

What Mr. Wolf regards as intolerable are huge rewards for those who have been rescued by the state and bear responsibility for the crisis in the first place: “Even more intolerable is that they have devastated the prospect of hundreds of millions of innocents all over the globe.”

Today’s huge bank profits “are in large part the fruit of the free money provided by the central bank,” says Mr. Wolf, and thus “the state is giving banks a license to print money. In 2006 Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earmarked $16.7 billion for year-end bonuses. One top trader was awarded $70 million (which he deemed insufficient given his superior talents and resigned). Hyperbonuses are already back: Goldman Sachs’ bonus pool at the end of 2009 was $20 billion.

The 1987 Oliver Stone movie “Wall Street,” in which Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, now on the lecture circuit as a published financial author after 14 years in the slammer for insider trading and security fraud, is being reprised as “Wall Street II.” This time round the same sleazy track, Mr. Douglas, playing Gekko, fails in his attempt to warn people about the imminent fall of Wall Street.

“Shakedown,” the first novel for Wall Street insider Andie Ryan, with 20 years of experience in senior management in major firms, is thinly disguised fiction. “The Sellout: How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System” by former Wall Street Journal reporter Charles Gasparino is climbing the best-seller charts.

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