Each day we hear another piece of bad news on the banking front. It was called the sub-prime crisis, then it was the credit crunch; what we have in reality is a full blown banking crisis. Where in the past credit was easily given, full-blown consumer spending was encouraged and when it went too far, bankers saw asset values were dropping below loans against them and banks started to go bust. We are now seeing banks sued by the New York Attorney General. Hardly an environment in which confidence in the banking and financial systems can be retained?
The banks are now retreating into the old-fashioned credit criteria before issuing loans in the hope that they will recover the massive losses of the last year. This is shrinking credit far faster than the Administration can pump new money into the system through spending incentives. All of this has to lead to such a degree of credit deflation that it is causing a shrinkage of money overall. The entire exercise is a statement of just how much banks have become part of everyone's life. The days when one used banks simply for loans went long ago. Today banks take a small slice out of every single transaction we make. Cash is now expensive and abhorred by banks, because it cuts them out. After a generation of inserting themselves into every aspect of our financial lives and vigorously promoting the "live now, pay later" culture in Western Society, the tribulations of easy money are eating into all our lives, as the banks beat a retreat into conservative lending, taking growth with them.
Is it any wonder that investors are seaching for a place away from this shrinking money envirnment into precious metals and commodities that are out of the reach of debt obligations? The joy of precious metals is they cannot be printed; they are nobody's promise of payment. A glance at a banknote shows that that note is simply a piece of paper, entirely dependent on the banking system that issued it. And if the issuer's promises become suspect, then a move has to be made away from them.
But as we have all been drawn into them, where does one go? The precious metals market cannot surely replace the banking system's paper money? Of course not, but for those decisive enough it has, is and will, prove a "safe haven" for those holding them in these extreme days. Until these extreme days turn back into confident growth, precious metals will continue to be favored by a broad spread of investors. In 2004 gold was at $300 now it is facing up to $1,000. Is the rise over? Are the problems of the financial system over?
Banks are such a fundamental part of our lives having become the heart of the modern commercial system. The sight of the Bush Administration and the Federal Reserve frantically trying to keep our levels of confidence in the system up is frightening, as we see fear sap confidence persistently. And confidence once it starts to decay is a delicate commodity. Mr. Paulson is leading the Bush administration's struggle to contain an economic contagion stemming from a disintegrating housing sector, volatile financial markets and frozen credit, skyrocketing energy and food prices, widening job losses, and a steadily falling $. What a burden to fall on him and Mr. Ben Bernake!
Paulson, who stood against "excessive regulation" of the financial sector, is being forced to oversee sweeping government intervention in the economy from now on, in attempts to contain the gaping holes through which asset values are draining away. To counter this the printing presses of money are being used [as never before] to replace the losses the credit collapse is causing, simply in an attempt to keep money supply flowing through the economy like blood in the veins, as Banks struggle to recover multibillion-$ losses on real estate by curtailing loans to American businesses, depriving even healthy companies of money for expansion and hiring.
The credit crunch has moved away from simply a housing problem to every aspect of the commercial world including basic commercial and industrial loans from banks, and short-term "commercial paper" not backed by collateral. These types of financing have already dropped almost 3% over last year, to $3.27 trillion from $3.36 trillion. The scarcity of credit is infecting growth whittling away what remains of the healthy economy by withholding capital from many sound companies, aiding the growing loss of jobs and decimating consumer spendng, the foundation of the growth of the last five years in the U.S.
Real growth turns to the development of productive assets for sustainability, but this is now seeing the delay of cancellation of expansion plans as finance for these dries up. By mid-June, bank credit was declining at an annualized pace of more than 6%. That is a drop of nearly $150 billion, an amount much larger than the value of the tax rebates the government has sent to households this year in an effort to spur economic activity. So forget the boost from that quarter and the big fuss that was made when it was pushed through, this crisis has already overwhelmed such stimuli.
And the decay is becoming global, not just limited to the States! Britain's Bank of England is part of a rescue of their housing sector and is soon to issue billions of pounds to that end. Over in Europe, in Spain in particular, the housing crisis is frightening that economy so dependent on retirees coming to Spain for their golden years.
The atrophy of money is crossing the globe. Until last summer, banks lent freely, because they sold most of the loans they issued, making them less concerned about whether the customer could handle repayment. Not so, anymore.
Now add to the decay of money the decreasing value it is facing as inflation rises. Caught between two destructive forces, money as we know it is not providing the hope and security it was intended to. That is why gold was used in the past, as money.
The huge gap between the value of gold and the value of money must narrow. Whether it is through the rise in the value of gold and silver or through the fall of the value of money dictates the future of the financial system. Either way, gold and silver will prove to be the safe-haven it has been since money was part of man's world. And the second half of this year is likely to be as dramatic as the first half but with a golden or silver sheen to it.
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