Perceived Wealth

Filed under: Economy — Peter Asher at 10:42 pm on Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Stimulus post lays out the mechanics of how the recession was an inevitable result of an economy built on runaway consumer credit. There is also another phenomenon in play in the form of savings that are comprised of wealth that does not really exist.

In recent decades, ownership of stocks has become more of an up or down speculative activity rather than purchasing shares for yield or appreciation tied directly to true growth. Regardless, other than IPO’s, share purchases are the cash reimbursement of ownership, not actually investing in the true sense of the word.

These trillions of dollars of wealth are actually a perception. Every dollar of stock sale receipt comes from some one else’s earnings. The share buyer’s savings becomes the seller’s spending money. It is wealth transfer; A zero sum game! It is currently coming unglued. All stock market value depends on the future expenditure of other people’s disposable earnings! As those disposable earnings disappear, The perceived purchasing power of shareholders disappears also.

The title of an award winner of mine in April of 2000 was “There’s no Such Thing as Money in the Market.”

What follows is the original post:
Econoclast (04/13/00; 11:46:58MDT – Msg ID:28561)

Re your >>>I’ve had a thought which leads to a question…
If anybody had any opinions on this, please share. — As far as I’ve reasoned it out so far, if a share of stock that was worth $100 yesterday is only worth $50 today. Was that $50 of lost value simply extinguished from the money supply?<<<<

Peter Asher (04/13/00; 12:59:10MDT – Msg ID:28562)

None of the money supply is “in” the market to be extinguished. — I went back and edited Y2K out of a previously posted tome, itself a composite of earlier posts. Hopefully, this will clarify rather then confuse this controversial issue.

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All money must firstly lie in a bank ledger, a wallet, a strong box or under a mattress. All of us here have agreed with the empirical fact that money does not ‘lie’ in the stock market; even the money spent on an IPO becomes someone else’s working capital, residing in their bank account.

So there is a lot of money out there, always being ‘someone’s’ spending power unless it cycles back to the bank, reversing the fractionalization creation, or to the Fed as a repayment from the bank that originally borrowed it. Therefore the question is, who has that spending power and what might they intend to do with it?

A record breaking amount of discretionary income has detoured through the equity markets. Specifically the earners of that income have, instead of spending it on consumption, on the capitalizing of production, or ‘saving it’; decided to reimburse an owner of shares in a company and then the seller of those shares makes the decision to consume, capitalize or spend. Ergo, money “Flows thorough” the stock market rather then being “In” it.

Let us assume for now, the continuation of the present level of sales and employment and therefore the same level of discretionary income. If stock market sentiment were to decline, then the spending decisions will swing back to the income earners. In that environment, will there be more homes and new cars bought, more businesses started or expanded, or more money ‘saved’? (The latter, of course, is allowing the Banks to expand the amount of that money and then loan it out for one or the other of the former.)

An expanded money supply, demanding more goods and services from a specific quantity of production facility, would be inflationary. On the other hand, if a lot of spending power were used to hire the creation of more production facilities, it would not. Finally, if their was an excess of production facilities created, there would be deflation. Recession or depression only occurs if the cycle of produce and consume breaks down, from whatever cause.

Envision the Free market economy depicted as justice is, by a sculpture of a blindfolded lady holding a scale. One side weighs production, the other consumption. It all comes down to a question of balance.

In a falling market, the *outstanding money supply is changing hands, not changing in size*. If the stock market declines, gradually or otherwise, those who get less for their stock than they paid for it, have allowed some of their earnings to permanently stay in the hands of others.

What will be increasing when less money “cycles through the market” is the amount of spending decided by the original receivers of income, rather then when that spending decision was made by stock sellers. I believe last year I posted a concept of stock certificates being the fifth currency, after the dollar, yen, mark, and SF. Other than the right to take part in company affairs, the only difference is the form in which that (stock) currency is exchanged. That is why the wealth effect exists. People perceive their stock as a saved currency that will increase in value against the dollar.

It is not the inflated values considered to be the “Bubble” that I see as the danger. It is the magnitude of the overall investment capital that is passing through the equity conversion machine and exiting as spending money.

The challenge to AG & Co. is to keep that flow-through steady without expanding the bubble or scaring investors out of it either. It would appear that Investors fear of loss is becoming strongly counter-balanced by the fear of missing out on exorbitant capital gains. AG could be shrewdly playing this “like a violin” as they say.

One day some optimistic comment or an as expected rate announcement. A few days later, a little bit of a discouraging word. The market rallies, the market corrects. Investors are no longer ‘making’ their twenty percent. At some point they may be just breaking even. But they’ll never know if next week everything will go roaring upward again. Damned if they sell and damned if they don’t.

I’ve stated that money is a form of bookkeeping, and that a dollar is a “production chit.” So, let’s say a dollar is a note that says, “Pay to the bearer on demand one dollar worth of goods or services from the people of the USA. My point is that the government is not the writer of that note. The USG is the Title Company guaranteeing that note. The govt. doesn’t really owe it; that note is based on the American People’s ability and willingness to honor it.

As long as the citizens of this country are getting up and going to work and keeping the economic machine going, they are the primary underpinning of the US dollar. The secondary factor is how the trade value of the dollar floats in the currencies game. This massive debt that occurs from printed money represents goods and services consumed in return for goods and services not yet created. So, maybe there is a check and balance here. If global money games devalue the dollar, then the demand for American goods and services would rise, the trade balance would improve, and the debt level decrease. The threat to the global economy comes from excesses. If default or devaluation of sufficient magnitude occurs then the domino effect gets triggered.

The gist of all this is that fiat money depends on maintaining the agreements behind it. (Dun and Bradstreet’s motto is “Credit: Man’s Confidence in Man”) If the agreement can not be held in place, then a medium of exchange is necessary to hold onto value earned, and this is where GOLD has always functioned.. The big question is to what degree does one need to devote production into hoarded gold, in order to secure earnings. (That is what the central banks are wrestling with at this time. Do they back their currencies, or purchase more national necessities such as weapons, welfare or favors)

The money supply expands or contracts depending on the loaning or returning of funds, (credits) out of or into the banking system. The effect of a market crash would certainly be first and foremost a decline in spending. The “Wealth Factor”, which is nothing more than an expectation of future stock sales being paid for by money being ‘saved’ out of future earnings, would be devastated. If stock market sentiment were to decline, then the spending decisions would swing back to the income earners. In that environment, would there be more homes and new cars bought, more businesses started or expanded, or more money saved? (The latter allocation, of course, would result in the banks expanding the money supply and then issuing loans for consumption or capitalization.) However, if there wasn’t a demand for new loans due to a crash in consumer confidence, then that money would exit the Money Supply.

Years ago, people used to say” I have some stock in AT&T” or whatever company. Not “My money is in AT&T.” That’s all people have, a share in a company. The only money that is actually IN the market is whatever bid is on the floor of the exchange at that particular moment. If at noon tomorrow there are bids for 2000 shares of AMZN @ $50 per share, and nothing else, then in that moment in time, the total wealth factor of the company could be seen as $100,000. First guy to sell his 2000 shares is the one who “Gets (some of) his money out of the market.”

If that flow through of savings into stock sales diminished, spending would then depend on what money people were earning, and whether they saved it or purchased consumer goods. If they saved it in banks it would contract the money supply, If they kept it circulating, purchasing things, then the ‘price’ inflation/ deflation would depend on the willing buyer/willing seller dynamic that is the heart and soul of economics. My definition of the cause of inflation is “The power to command price.” Even if wages are not earned due to a shortage of supplies to run the production, prices can still stay up there if there is ‘saved’ money in circulation to acquire the remaining available goods. For deflation to occur there would have to be enough goods eagerly seeking a small pool of buyers who still were willing to spend. If everyone who still had unspent credit was scared into gold, it could go to the moon while everything else was in the tank.

I would define a depression as a situation where people cannot find the opportunity to produce and exchange with each other. The government can always print our way out of a depression. But then those who still have purchasing power will not have the opportunity to buy up the world for a pittance, so, the question then becomes “Who will the government be working for”

There is one cardinal difference between Gold (and silver) and bank note currency. All bank notes are credits; they will purchase things from others, but only so long as their debt is honored by the society that uses them for rights of exchange. A banknote basically a WeOU. “We the people of this country owe you this numerical value of goods or services.” (Dependent on where inflation or deflation has taken that value when you call in the entitlement.) So in a sense, when you take currency out of the bank you are saying, “Hey tear me out that piece of the page where you have my deposit written down. I’d rather hold on to it myself.” Therefore, an FRN is the last refuge of credit money. No matter what fails in the world of electronic or paper ledgers, holding your own “Ledger to go” as Aragorn then described this, is a safe solution.

What cash has in common with gold is possession at the expense of lost interest. The big difference is that only gold protects against lost value. Gold or silver or precious stones are in effect, credits exercised and transformed into the ownership of portable value. That value may fluctuate as does a currency, but it can not be defaulted. In post #2400 of 2/14-PM, I defined Gold as ‘asset’ money and currency as ‘credit’ money; I keep coming back to that as the basic criteria for analyzing the relationship between gold and paper.

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