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Unfiled June 16, 2006
Why You’re Fucked
Financial Crisis II: Another Sequel By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3

Central bank reserves in Russia are approaching an insane $240 billion, while China's $880 billion now exceeds Japan's. More and more money is being pumped, inflating prices on any piece of crap asset, from Brazilian bonds to partly-built Moscow panel apartment blocks.

Just as record low interest rates in the US led to unprecedented rises in housing prices, year after year, all this easy money is leading to massive price rises in commodities. Copper has doubled just this year alone. Oil -- everyone here knows what's happened. In Moscow and elsewhere in Russia, housing prices have soared every year since 1999, including 45% in Moscow just this year alone. The stock market also boomed 50% before falling.

This is the bubble. Easy credit swells prices to ridiculous heights. The credit-issuance bubble is untenable. And now it's starting to pop. And what's making it pop is an ever-so-slight pullback from five years of reckless easy money in the US, where it all started -- in the form of today's higher US Federal Reserve interest rates. Even though they've raised rates 16 times, they're set to continue raising rates because inflation is still rising, and the dollar is still weak. The catch is that inflation is rising because of the easy credit. If the credit's cut off, inflation will slow, but the bubble will pop and take the whole thing crashing down. If credit remains easy, inflation will continue to spin out of control, requiring even more credit tightening later and an even bigger bubble burst.

Recent signals that the Fed planned to continue raising rates were the catalyst for this past month's credit-bubble pop -- and why Russia's stock market is tanking. That's because the US still controls, to an incredible degree, international finance. If US rates keep going up, that means money gets less and less easy. No one in the financial markets world wants to be the last to the gate. So they pull out of the speculative markets first -- like Russia -- and as the bubble burst grows, money retreats to safe places, such as US bonds, which are now returning rates not all that different from Brazilian bonds. Panic sets in -- money follows money, and just as asset inflation becomes irrational, so does asset deflation.

The bottom line is this: the global economy is experiencing one of those insane, untenable imbalances, all emanating from New York and Washington, just like the last time around, most of the effects of which will be felt in Mumbai, Istanbul and Moscow.

As the easy credit dries up in the US, assets that inflated most wildly -- like American houses and Russian stocks -- are the first to fall. And both already are.

What's happening with emerging market stocks is just a snapshot of what's to come. In just the last month, the stock market selloffs have wiped out $2 trillion in wealth around the globe. That's scary, and that means that more money's going to be leaving places like Russia. And just like last time, first it's the stocks and bonds that get hit, and eventually, property prices get creamed as more and more money leaves.

How far everything will fall, and for how long, is anyone's guess. All one can do is hope. And my hope is that the whole fucking house of cards comes crashing down, to the point where in a couple of years from now, humanoids will be roaming barren cities in packs, competing with crows and stray dogs for carcass bones. Because when that happens, everything, even a nifty three-room apartment in Kitai Gorod, or a humble condo at Zuma Beach in Malibu, will be affordable to a lifelong fuckup like me.

So keep the easy credit rolling, ye greedy finance goons...the higher it rises, the harder it will fall. And the more for me.

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