Correction below, 12/30/10.This week—what with Christmas on one end and the new year’s celebration on the other, and everthing in between covered in snow—nothing much is gonna happen: It’s a week that’s about as dead as Dillinger. So I figured I should take stock of where we are—and more importantly, where we’re going.
The second biggest macro-economic story of the year—though not by much—was the successful monetization of 75% of the U.S. Federal government deficit by Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. I use the word “successful” in a morality-free, completely pragmatic sense: Bernanke achieved monetization with minimal market disruption. In fact, a lot of people would argue that QE-lite and QE-2 were not policies of debt monetization—that is how successful Bernanke has been. (Talk about “reality distortion field”! Steve Jobs ain’t got nuthin’ on Benny!)
This “success” has allowed the U.S. Federal government to continue to avoid making necessary, critical budgetary decisions—paradoxically accelerating the U.S.’s deteriorating fiscal situation.
The third biggest macro-economic story of 2010 has been the inexorable rise in commodity prices. Everyone’s been paying attention to silver and gold, but the real story has been industrial metals—especially copper—and agricultural commodities—especially grains—especially wheat—and corn, corn, corn!
To be sure, there were other important stories in 2010—the Mortgage Mess, Wikileaks, Wayne Rooney. But these three issues—auguries of EMU collapse, successful Fed monetization, and commodity price rises—are the ones that mattered on a macro-economic level this past year.
In 2011, every other financial story will be either a cause or consequence of one of these three issues: Guaranteed.
Now then—to specifics: