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Toto deVeer

Take 2: Gonzolo Lira's Hyperinflation : Poll

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Hyperinflation of the dollar? Gonzolo Lira thinks so...

I’ve been writing about the possibility of hyperinflation, if there is ever a run on Treasury bonds. My argument has been, Treasuries are the New & Improved Toxic Assets, a termite-riddled house waiting to collapse. If and when there is a run on them, money will flow to a safe haven, which I am predicting will be commodities. As a byproduct of this sell off in Treasuries and buy up of commodities, consumer prices will rise catastrophically in a hyperinflationary event—and the dollar will be left dead on the highway like roadkill.

This scenario got me thinking about the last time there was a panicked run-up in commodities: The stagflation of the 1970’s in the United States, specifically the period 1979–1983. Oil nearly doubled in price, gold and silver went hyperbolic. Gas shortages were rampant—the situation almost got to the point where the government considered rationing gasoline. In fact, ration cards were printed—that’s how bad things got.

Because of the Oil Shock, the inflation index rose to a peak of 15%—yet unemployment also exploded, reaching almost 11%. This combination of unemployment and inflation was what gave the period its name—stagflation: “Stagnant inflation”.

Thinking about this period, I asked myself a simple question: Could the ‘79 Oil Shock, and subsequent bout of stagflation, be better understood as a period of incipient hyperinflation? And if so, what lessons could it teach us about today?

First, a bit of history:

Starting in late 1977, protests against the regime of the Shah of Iran culminated in his overthrow in January, 1979, and the subsequent disruption of Iranian oil production. From an average of 5.75 million barrels of oil a day, Iranian production dropped catastrophically—at one point to zero—to a new average of about 2.25 million barrels per day.

This event naturally led to oil prices ballooning, from a nominal average of $15 per barrel in 1978, to $25 per barrel in 1979 (data is here). This had a profound impact on inflation throughout the American and world economies.

Up to the overthrow of the Shah, the U.S. inflation index had been at a moderate-to-high plateau. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) averaged 6.5% during all of 1977 and for the first third of 1978.

But in the lead-up to the Revolution and the subsequent overthrow of the Shah, inflation got in high gear: For the rest of 1978, inflation averaged 8.13%, and by March of ‘79—two months after the Iranian oil supply was disrupted—inflation was tracking at over 10% annually. By the end of 1979, average inflation for the year was 11.22%, and by March of 1980, inflation was peaking just shy of 15% (data is here.)

That was also the winter when gold and silver took off in parallel speculative jags that reached all-time highs—that winter was retrospectively the peak of inflation in the United States.

Keep that date in mind: March of 1980. Annualized inflation: 15%.

Though the inflation index was rising, unemployment hardly budged for a full year after the Oil Shock. Unemployment was at 5.9% when the Shah was overthrown in January of ‘79. And during the rest of ‘79—even though oil prices skyrocketed and the attendant inflation swept the economy—U.S. unemployment was more or less steady at or below 6%—

—until 1980: Starting that winter, unemployment bumped up to 6.9%, and it didn't look back. Unemployment would eventually reach a plateau of 10%, and stay at that plateau for a whole year (July 1982 to June 1983), peaking at 10.8% in November of ‘82.

Though unemployment would slowly fall, it wouldn’t be until September of 1987—almost nine years after the start of the crisis—before it reached its pre-Oil Shock level of 5.9% (unemployment data is here).

But during those years—nearly a decade, really—of staggering unemployment, what happened to inflation?

Well, in a word, it got a stake driven through its black heart—but like all scary movies, it was a close call.

The article continues...

Gonzolo Lira at Zerohedge...

Having read this article, I don't agree.

First, there is no foundation for wage inflation follow through. Second, I believe that hyperinflation has already occurred for the dollar, against gold and other currencies since 2002. Thirdly, in the worst case the reaction to a loss of confidence in the dollar will actually accelerate the debt unwind. This will cause the dollar to soar, as dollars are destroyed. And it could happen on a gargantuan scale, never before seen. It would only take a 1 to 2 % rise in fed funds rates to trigger such an event.

We've already had hyperinflation, it's just that its been carefully hidden from the average joe by some very clever bankers...

Edited by Toto deVeer

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Agreed, US$ has hyperinflated already they have just hidden it with their accomplices China and Japan.

One of the clearest signs of hyperinflation is the astounding property tax that is paid. In many metropolitan areas the property tax for an average (3 bdr) house is in excess of $15,000 per year. There is no way this can be sustained, and it is a major factor behind declining sales activity. House prices are falling off a cliff, but property tax is not following. Taxes, assets, debt etc must all deflate before this is over. I saw one article where a property had fallen more than 50% in value, but taxes were over $60,000 per year! Even the developers are not interested. This was in Washington or Oregon I believe.

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Why don't you think wage inflation will follow? There is a lot of money floating about, seeking yield. Investing in businesses, and therefore staff, would seem like one logical conclusion.

Secondly, items which aren't bought with credit would seem unlikely to fall in price if credit is restricted. If base money is increasing, through defaults followed by bank bailouts, this could result in everyday items increasing in price. This is the classic Austrian style bust.

Thirdly, the only way credit can be destroyed, is by repaying the debt which created it. Are you suggestion we will have credit deflation because everyone will keep on paying down debt, rather than defaulting? How about jingle mail in the US? How about bankruptcy procedures world wide?

If debt is defaulted on, savers and bond holders are going to take a hair cut (when banks fail) - this seems unlikely, framed against the current political backdrop. Therefore, they will likely continue to print and bail, to save them. This may be deflationary (in terms of goods prices) in the short term (as fear causes hoarding), it is storing up inflation (in terms of goods prices) for later (when all that printed money surges forth - perhaps into commodities).

As it could be suggested that they needed double figure interest rates to head off a hyperinflation in the 70s, they may need to go much higher than that now. This could compound the problem of defaults, resulting in more printing, resulting in more inflation... etc. Eventually, the debt will be cleared via inflation and they could come up with USD 2.0, then stop the printers: Mission accomplished, despite ruining the economy and anyone with fiat/paper savings.

Or maybe not... but I can see the argument for it.

EDIT: added a few bits

Edited by Traktion

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Why don't you think wage inflation will follow? There is a lot of money floating about, seeking yield. Investing in businesses, and therefore staff, would seem like one logical conclusion.

Secondly, items which aren't bought with credit would seem unlikely to fall in price if credit is restricted. If base money is increasing, through defaults followed by bank bailouts, this could result in everyday items increasing in price. This is the classic Austrian style bust.

Thirdly, the only way credit can be destroyed, is by repaying the debt which created it. Are you suggestion we will have credit deflation because everyone will keep on paying down debt, rather than defaulting? How about jingle mail in the US? How about bankruptcy procedures world wide?

If debt is defaulted on, savers and bond holders are going to take a hair cut (when banks fail) - this seems unlikely, framed against the current political backdrop. Therefore, they will likely continue to print and bail, to save them. This may be deflationary (in terms of goods prices) in the short term (as fear causes hoarding), it is storing up inflation (in terms of goods prices) for later (when all that printed money surges forth - perhaps into commodities).

As it could be suggested that they needed double figure interest rates to head off a hyperinflation in the 70s, they may need to go much higher than that now. This could compound the problem of defaults, resulting in more printing, resulting in more inflation... etc. Eventually, the debt will be cleared via inflation and they could come up with USD 2.0, then stop the printers: Mission accomplished, despite ruining the economy and anyone with fiat/paper savings.

Or maybe not... but I can see the argument for it.

EDIT: added a few bits

I guess that I agree with Michael Hudson that "Debt that can't be paid back, won't be paid back". And Stoneleigh over at AutomaticEarth also expresses it succinctly, "The excess claims against real assets will have to be extinguished".

With such a high uneployment rate, and a global labour market, I just can't see wage inflation on the horizon. This was a completely different situation in the 1970's. Russia, China, and to a large extent Japan were not participating in the global economy. Now there are 4 billion more workers who are available, compared to that time. For these reasons I disagree with Lira's hypothesis.

The worst case there may be a step change in the value of all currencies against commodities, but I can't see the follow through that could cause hyperinflation.

Lira is from Chile and those countries whose debt is denominated in other currencies will be at the greatest risk of any (internal) hyperinflationary event.

I think that this may be a major reason why the IMF is pushing SDR's...it reduces the risk of hyperinflation for small countries borrowing against only Dollars or Euros.

Don't see this hyperinflationary event as a logical outcome for the dollar now...

Edited by Toto deVeer

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I guess that I agree with Michael Hudson that "Debt that can't be paid back, won't be paid back". And Stoneleigh over at AutomaticEarth also expresses it succinctly, "The excess claims against real assets will have to be extinguished".

Agreed.

With such a high uneployment rate, and a global labour market, I just can't see wage inflation on the horizon. This was a completely different situation in the 1970's. Russia, China, and to a large extent Japan were not participating in the global economy. Now there are 4 billion more workers who are available, compared to that time. For these reasons I disagree with Lira's hypothesis.

They are fair points, but if you want the right staff, you have to pay the appropriate wages. I could imagine a disconnect opening up between 'hired hands' and professionals. This has already been happening with automation, of course, but the gulf could widen further.

The worst case there may be a step change in the value of all currencies against commodities, but I can't see the follow through that could cause hyperinflation.

Those with money (of which there is much sloshing about) could speculate on commodities. That's all that's needed, IMO. A change of opinion on what is 'safe' could be self fulfilling.

Wages may not be able to keep up with the increased prices, but that doesn't mean they won't happen. Those left holding cash will just find their lives getting progressively harder, up until the point that they bail out of cash too.

Lira is from Chile and those countries whose debt is denominated in other currencies will be at the greatest risk of any (internal) hyperinflationary event.

I think that this may be a major reason why the IMF is pushing SDR's...it reduces the risk of hyperinflation for small countries borrowing against only Dollars or Euros.

Don't see this hyperinflationary event as a logical outcome for the dollar now...

Does it matter though? All currencies could devalue against commodities as faith in paper ebbs away. Perhaps those countries with foreign denominated debt would actually benefit if said countries hyperinflated - it would be a lot easier to pay off, for sure.

I find the idea of deflation fine on paper, but reality is a different thing, especially when you only have a handful of 'too big to fail' banks making up the lion's share of your economy...

Whether we get away with high inflation or hyperinflation are my only two concerns in the medium/long term. We may have some deflation in the short term, as people refuse to spend and try to pay down debt, but I don't think that can continue indefinitely. Inflation will cometh, it is just a matter of when and how much, IMO.

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Agreed.

They are fair points, but if you want the right staff, you have to pay the appropriate wages. I could imagine a disconnect opening up between 'hired hands' and professionals. This has already been happening with automation, of course, but the gulf could widen further.

Those with money (of which there is much sloshing about) could speculate on commodities. That's all that's needed, IMO. A change of opinion on what is 'safe' could be self fulfilling.

Wages may not be able to keep up with the increased prices, but that doesn't mean they won't happen. Those left holding cash will just find their lives getting progressively harder, up until the point that they bail out of cash too.

Does it matter though? All currencies could devalue against commodities as faith in paper ebbs away. Perhaps those countries with foreign denominated debt would actually benefit if said countries hyperinflated - it would be a lot easier to pay off, for sure.

I find the idea of deflation fine on paper, but reality is a different thing, especially when you only have a handful of 'too big to fail' banks making up the lion's share of your economy...

Whether we get away with high inflation or hyperinflation are my only two concerns in the medium/long term. We may have some deflation in the short term, as people refuse to spend and try to pay down debt, but I don't think that can continue indefinitely. Inflation will cometh, it is just a matter of when and how much, IMO.

The dollar has already experienced hyperinflation against commodities and currencies over the last 10 years. An unprecedented decline in value. This was cleverly masked by the Fed, by creating a housing bubble based upon free and unlimited dollars.

The turn to deflation, initiated by the extinguishing of debt, started in 2007, and led to a hyperbolic gain in value of the dollar. In Q1 of 2009, a world coordinated printing frenzy has delayed this activity, but only temporarily.

Wages in America are going to continue to decline. This is a trend that has been under way for 3 decades, and is not going to stop now. The question is, will those lower wages buy more or less than they did before? My view is that they will buy more, say 5 years from today.

Excess liquidity can and does push up commodity prices, temporarily. But the long term value of commodities will return to the demand/supply position. If people can't buy corn to eat, they will eat something else, or starve. Even Gold has multiple markets, investment, jewelry, industry. At the moment the investment/speculation aspect is dominant for Gold, but this is not affecting the average Joe in the US. If Gold goes to $5000, but you can still buy a burger for $2, does it really matter?

When the great unwind occurs in earnest, there will be a greatly reduced demand for commodities. Just can't see hyperinflation in the US. Currently government is getting the chop. The last bastion is the banks, who are sitting squarely in the cross hairs. Meredith Whitney has recently said that the banks are going to be hit next. There are predictions of layoffs in the City approaching 80,000 within the next 2 years.

When the banks are hit, the speculation stops, and the great unwind begins in earnest.

Edited by Toto deVeer

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The dollar has already experienced hyperinflation against commodities and currencies over the last 10 years. An unprecedented decline in value. This was cleverly masked by the Fed, by creating a housing bubble based upon free and unlimited dollars.

The turn to deflation, initiated by the extinguishing of debt, started in 2007, and led to a hyperbolic gain in value of the dollar. In Q1 of 2009, a world coordinated printing frenzy has delayed this activity, but only temporarily.

Wages in America are going to continue to decline. This is a trend that has been under way for 3 decades, and is not going to stop now. The question is, will those lower wages buy more or less than they did before? My view is that they will buy more, say 5 years from today.

Excess liquidity can and does push up commodity prices, temporarily. But the long term value of commodities will return to the demand/supply position. If people can't buy corn to eat, they will eat something else, or starve. Even Gold has multiple markets, investment, jewelry, industry. At the moment the investment/speculation aspect is dominant for Gold, but this is not affecting the average Joe in the US. If Gold goes to $5000, but you can still buy a burger for $2, does it really matter?

When the great unwind occurs in earnest, there will be a greatly reduced demand for commodities. Just can't see hyperinflation in the US. Currently government is getting the chop. The last bastion is the banks, who are sitting squarely in the cross hairs. Meredith Whitney has recently said that the banks are going to be hit next. There are predictions of layoffs in the City approaching 80,000 within the next 2 years.

When the banks are hit, the speculation stops, and the great unwind begins in earnest.

I hear what you are saying - it's the text book argument for deflation.

My problem with it is that I don't see how many of these debts can be repaid, while those with cash are hoarding it and those without are left without the means to repay it. This leads to defaults, rather than repayment and we've yet to see the developed world wanting to go down the route of a hard default, rather than a soft one.

Unless the money (credit) is prised out of those who have it, ending up in the hands of those who are in debt, I just don't see how this scenario can play out.

IMO, the government (who created the imbalance) should be thinking of ways to restore the balance between those with lots of debt and those with lots of credit. The extremes need to come closer together or the debts are going to default.

P.S. I don't disagree that we're going to have continue (real price) deflation of items bought with credit, particularly land/property. However, as this ruins banks, we seem to be pushing up the cost of everything else to stop the nominal prices falling. Again, classic Austrian bust stuff.

Edited by Traktion

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I hear what you are saying - it's the text book argument for deflation.

My problem with it is that I don't see how many of these debts can be repaid, while those with cash are hoarding it and those without are left without the means to repay it. This leads to defaults, rather than repayment and we've yet to see the developed world wanting to go down the route of a hard default, rather than a soft one.

Unless the money (credit) is prised out of those who have it, ending up in the hands of those who are in debt, I just don't see how this scenario can play out.

IMO, the government (who created the imbalance) should be thinking of ways to restore the balance between those with lots of debt and those with lots of credit. The extremes need to come closer together or the debts are going to default.

P.S. I don't disagree that we're going to have continue (real price) deflation of items bought with credit, particularly land/property. However, as this ruins banks, we seem to be pushing up the cost of everything else to stop the nominal prices falling. Again, classic Austrian bust stuff.

Mish, ever the deflationist, believes that for Lira's thesis to come true, there would have to be a 'Shazaam' moment, when everyone turns from Treasuries. But I think that even a 'Shazaam' moment will be short-lived, and not of any lasting impact.

In my view there is really only one thing that could lead to dollar hyperinflation. A major war, say in the Pacific. That would be a hyperinflationary firestorm for the US. It could happen, but it's not on the horizon yet. I believe that eventually this will happen (I agree with Faber on this), but it is many years into the future.

The dollar, in the early 1900's, already occupied about 60% of global settlement activity. The US experienced a massive bond crisis in the 1920's, when France and others stopped buying Treasuries (I am not sure but I believe that as a percentage of GDP it was comparable to today's situation). Yet this represented a small blip in the scheme of things.

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Mish, ever the deflationist, believes that for Lira's thesis to come true, there would have to be a 'Shazaam' moment, when everyone turns from Treasuries. But I think that even a 'Shazaam' moment will be short-lived, and not of any lasting impact.

In my view there is really only one thing that could lead to dollar hyperinflation. A major war, say in the Pacific. That would be a hyperinflationary firestorm for the US. It could happen, but it's not on the horizon yet. I believe that eventually this will happen (I agree with Faber on this), but it is many years into the future.

The dollar, in the early 1900's, already occupied about 60% of global settlement activity. The US experienced a massive bond crisis in the 1920's, when France and others stopped buying Treasuries (I am not sure but I believe that as a percentage of GDP it was comparable to today's situation). Yet this represented a small blip in the scheme of things.

But how do people pay down debt, if those with money (bank credit or bonds) are hoarding it? IMO, this is crucial, as if we have defaults then we are going to have hair cuts one way or another (letting bond holders and savers take a hit, or inflation) and neither is good for those holding paper.

Edited by Traktion

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But how do people pay down debt, if those with money (bank credit or bonds) are hoarding it? IMO, this is crucial, as if we have defaults then we are going to have hair cuts one way or another (letting bond holders and savers take a hit, or inflation) and neither is good for those holding paper.

The feature that supports debt-based fiat currency is taxation. This creates a demand for a given currency. It is no surprise that, under Woodrow Wilson, the Federal Reserve Act and a Federal Income Tax were put in place within days of each other.

The dollar is the currency of trade exchange globally. This creates a demand for dollars beyond the demand created by taxation only. Most of the sovereign and private debt world-wide is in dollars. No other currency holds this position. The Euro has tried, but it is faltering.

It is precisely the default of dollar debt that will increase the value of the dollar. The available pool of dollars will be decreasing, rapidly. This is why the Fed had to enter into currency swaps during 2008 and 2009. Otherwise the international demand for dollars would have driven the DX to over 100.

The default of dollar debt will lead to a strengthening of the dollar, this is ultimately how claims will be extinguished. This will also lead to deflation.

There is an interesting story by Buckminster Fuller. In the early 30's, he was approached by a man to design and build the world's most advanced car. Fuller told this chap that it would take $26,000 and they wrote and agreed a half page contract that allowed Fuller complete freedom and complete control. The guy handed over his money, as cash.

By the time Fuller returned to his home in Connecticut, Roosevelt had closed the banks, and was confiscating gold. Fuller was standing there with $26,000 in his pockets.

He was able to hire out the largest warehouse and hire the best engineers for peanuts, as nobody had any cash. He also designed and built the dymaxian car.

Edited by Toto deVeer

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The feature that supports debt-based fiat currency is taxation. This creates a demand for a given currency. It is no surprise that, under Woodrow Wilson, the Federal Reserve Act and a Federal Income Tax were put in place within days of each other.

The dollar is the currency of trade exchange globally. This creates a demand for dollars beyond the demand created by taxation only. Most of the sovereign and private debt world-wide is in dollars. No other currency holds this position. The Euro has tried, but it is faltering.

It is precisely the default of dollar debt that will increase the value of the dollar. The available pool of dollars will be decreasing, rapidly. This is why the Fed had to enter into currency swaps during 2008 and 2009. Otherwise the international demand for dollars would have driven the DX to over 100.

So, you think the US will default on foreign treasury holders?

The default of dollar debt will lead to a strengthening of the dollar, this is ultimately how claims will be extinguished. This will also lead to deflation.

How will a strengthening dollar help extinguish domestic (assuming the above assertion) debt? The value of the debt will increase with the value of the dollar too. Unless you see the US defaulting on domestically held treasuries too?

Given this scenario, why should people hold treasuries now?

There is an interesting story by Buckminster Fuller. In the early 30's, he was approached by a man to design and build the world's most advanced car. Fuller told this chap that it would take $26,000 and they wrote and agreed a half page contract that allowed Fuller complete freedom and complete control. The guy handed over his money, as cash.

By the time Fuller returned to his home in Connecticut, Roosevelt had closed the banks, and was confiscating gold. Fuller was standing there with $26,000 in his pockets.

So, you're saying there will be defaults on treasuries, but those holding cash will find their value increasing? In this case, I assume you would recommend people take their cash out of the banking system and to store it safely? This would assume that (bank credit) savers would get a hair cut and the central bankers wouldn't liquidate the assets for the banks, to supply the required liquidity too - I find this hard to believe.

What if the government decides to refuse tax payment in said old notes too?

He was able to hire out the largest warehouse and hire the best engineers for peanuts, as nobody had any cash. He also designed and built the dymaxian car.

Cool car! B)

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So, you think the US will default on foreign treasury holders?

No. I think that defaults will occur in the private sector, particularly on the balance sheets of the banks. It's happening at this moment. If mark to market was enforced, there would be an almighty destruction of dollars.

How will a strengthening dollar help extinguish domestic (assuming the above assertion) debt? The value of the debt will increase with the value of the dollar too. Unless you see the US defaulting on domestically held treasuries too?

If you take a snapshot of the past and a snapshot of the future, the 'obligations' that the US will incur in the future are far greater those of the past. These future 'obligations' will be easier to pay if deflation is allowed to proceed. Additionally, the interest rates under a deflationary scenario (staying low for an extended period) will make the existing debt easier to service.

Given this scenario, why should people hold treasuries now?

Because their purchasing power will be worth more in the future than today.

So, you're saying there will be defaults on treasuries, but those holding cash will find their value increasing? In this case, I assume you would recommend people take their cash out of the banking system and to store it safely? This would assume that (bank credit) savers would get a hair cut and the central bankers wouldn't liquidate the assets for the banks, to supply the required liquidity too - I find this hard to believe.

What if the government decides to refuse tax payment in said old notes too?

I don't think that I said treasuries would default, only dollar denominated debt. But it may come to putting cash under the mattress before this is over.

Edited by Toto deVeer

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Sorry for the delay - been busy.

No. I think that defaults will occur in the private sector, particularly on the balance sheets of the banks. It's happening at this moment. If mark to market was enforced, there would be an almighty destruction of dollars.

So you think that the US government will stop bailing out the banks and let savers take a hair cut?

How about the deposit guarantees - will these be defaulted on or will the US government continue to honour them (with printed money)? If it's the latter, the debts won't be extinguished, so there will be more money competing for goods (when people stop hoarding).

If you take a snapshot of the past and a snapshot of the future, the 'obligations' that the US will incur in the future are far greater those of the past. These future 'obligations' will be easier to pay if deflation is allowed to proceed. Additionally, the interest rates under a deflationary scenario (staying low for an extended period) will make the existing debt easier to service.

I still don't follow you - the nominal values of debts will remain the same, whether the currency strengthens or weakens.

Because their purchasing power will be worth more in the future than today.

So, deposits will be given a hair cut, but treasuries will be saved? As the banks hold both and the guarantees are only on the former (up to the limit), why would only the treasuries be saved?

I don't think that I said treasuries would default, only dollar denominated debt. But it may come to putting cash under the mattress before this is over.

As above - as the banks hold the treasuries (AFAIK), why would they be saved if the banks were liquidating?

In addition, would you trust the government to accept the old dollars in such a scenario? Personally, I'd be happier holding commodities, which have value regardless to the whims of government, but each to their own.

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  • 142 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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