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Woody Tasch: Slow Money

Chris Martenson - September 21, 2014 - 12:31

The Slow Money movement focuses on deploying capital, locally, to strengthen small food enterprises. Its goal is to improve the quality, dependability and sustainability of our food source, while financially nurturing communities and delivering an attractive return on investment to native investors.

Woody Tasch is the founder and chairman of Slow Money - in this week's podcast, he and Chris discuss the templates his organization is piloting across over 350 ventures in local food production, processing, distribution and marketing.

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/21 - The Rise Of Unexpected Medical Bills, Can The U.S. Achieve Energy Self-Sufficiency?

Chris Martenson - September 21, 2014 - 09:42
  • CIA Insider Warns: "25-Year Great Depression is About to Strike America"
  • Why Federal College Ratings Won’t Rein In Tuition
  • Slamming A Door On Hedge Funds
  • Financial Criminals Have Been Fined Billions, but They Rarely Pay
  • Paying Till It Hurts: After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know
  • Can U.S. achieve energy self-sufficiency?
  • This Scottish Island Is Nearly Free of Fossil Fuels
  • A Land Under Waves

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/20 - Scotland's Attack On The Status Quo, Life In Timbuktu

Chris Martenson - September 20, 2014 - 11:43
  • A Kingdom Still Whole, but Far From United
  • Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo
  • Texas man must pay $40.4M for running Bitcoin-based scam
  • Bank of America using three intelligence firms to attack WikiLeaks
  • H.R.24 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013
  • U.S. Faces Tough Struggle on Ground to Oust ISIS
  • Life in Timbuktu: how the ancient city of gold is slowly turning to dust
  • Lockdown Begins in Sierra Leone to Battle Ebola

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Categories: Economics

Coop Trains Next Generation of Community Acupuncturists Debt Free

Shareable Magazine - September 20, 2014 - 11:16

Nearly a decade ago, Lisa Rohleder and Skip Van Meter of Portland dreamed up a low cost, high volume community acupuncture business model. They wanted to provide access to acupuncture for those that couldn't afford the standard fees and also to earn a sustainable living as practitioners serving lower income communities. In 2002, the first iteration of this model, called Working Class Acupuncture, was born.

Categories: Economics

Assets & Liabilities - Crash Course Chapter 14

Chris Martenson - September 19, 2014 - 19:29

Building on the previous chapter on the US' tremendous and exponentially-increasing debt, this chapter looks at the shocking shortfall between our nation's assets and its liabilities.

In short, America is deeply insolvent. We're just not admitting it yet.

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Categories: Economics

Testing Your Soil for a Pond Site

Chris Martenson - September 19, 2014 - 12:57

If you are planning to build a compacted pond without a liner, it is a good idea to test the soil to determine the clay content. The clay content will tell you whether or not the existing soil can be compacted. If you have clay content of 30% or higher, you can be pretty confident that with proper compaction, your pond will seal.

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/19 - Scotland's 'No' Vote A Win For Betting Markets, Gold Bars Entice Super-Rich

Chris Martenson - September 19, 2014 - 07:19
  • This is the start of a long constitutional wrangle for the UK
  • Scotland’s ‘No’ Vote: A Loss for Pollsters and a Win for Betting Markets
  • Super-rich rush to buy 'Italian Job' style gold bars
  • Malaysian Flight M17 Crash Analysis, By The Russion Union Of Engineers
  • The Enchanted Land Where Community College Is Free? Welcome to Tennessee in 2015
  • The Next Crisis – Part one
  • Commodities Suffer As Oil And Gas Takes Rail Priority
  • Busy Days Precede a March Focusing on Climate Change

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Categories: Economics

My Week with PirateBox, the DIY Mobile Cloud Storage Device

Shareable Magazine - September 19, 2014 - 06:54

Sharing books you've read can be as enjoyable as reading them again, and for centuries books have frequently changed hands from person to person, library to library. But what if you could share an entire archive of books from the palm of your hand with anyone in earshot? I spent a week experimenting with a DIY PirateBox to see how it works, but first let's explore notable episodes in the history of book sharing...

Categories: Economics

Chris at the College of Charleston, SC

Chris Martenson - September 18, 2014 - 13:50

Chris has been invited to give a public presentation at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

The 2-hour event will leave lots of time for Q&A and interaction with Chris, and will focus on the declining availability of "The American Dream", as well as better paths for today's youth to consider taking.

Details on how to register for the event will be available soon.

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Categories: Economics

Stanford's Coal Divestment: Meet 2 Students—And 1 President—Who Made It Happen

Erica Knox: Leveraging privilege

Stanford University student Erica Knox went to see Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour in November 2012. That’s when McKibben and launched a divestment movement to address climate change and challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. Knox has been involved with divestment group Fossil Free Stanford ever since. “It’s definitely the group on campus where I feel like I’m actually creating change,” she said.

Modeled after the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s and ’80s, the divestment campaign pressures universities and other institutions to sell their stock in fossil fuel companies. The movement has spread to more than 300 schools nationwide, as well as cities and faith-based institutions. San Francisco and Seattle, churches including the United Church of Christ, and small colleges such as Hampshire and Pitzer have already pledged to divest.

Divestment is just one strategy to combat climate change, says Knox, who is majoring in earth systems. But she says Stanford students can use their connection to the university’s $18.7 billion endowment to make a strong statement. “It’s important for us while we’re at a university with this kind of power and privilege to leverage that to actually make a difference.”

Donald Kennedy: President Emeritus for fossil fuel divestment

Divestment is nothing new to Donald Kennedy. While he was serving as president of Stanford in the 1980s, the university divested from specific companies that supported the apartheid regime in South Africa. Now, the former president and current Bing Professor of Environmental Science and Policy is supporting the university’s decision to begin divesting from coal-mining companies.

Kennedy was one of 170 tenured professors who signed a letter addressed to President Hennessy and the Board of Trustees. The letter, which followed a university-wide divestment petition that gathered nearly 2,000 signatures, called for Stanford to divest from all fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas. As President Emeritus, Kennedy’s was one of the most prominent names supporting the request to divest.

Kennedy, whose research interests include global climate change, believes coal divestment is valid, as there are alternative fuels that could be substituted for coal. He hopes there will be “careful and thoughtful analysis of what might be done elsewhere in order to promote a more effective set of climate policies.” He’s in favor of actions like divestment that encourage companies to pursue “a more controlled approach to the very serious problem of climate change.”

Amy Tomasso: Calling for climate change action now

Amy Tomasso, a Stanford urban studies major from Farmington, Conn., was drawn to Fossil Free Stanford’s focus on student activism and the momentum that divestment was gaining on campus.

Last year, the group met with the university’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing to request divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. After months of review, Stanford’s Board of Trustees announced on May 6, 2014, that it had agreed to begin divesting its stock in coal-mining companies.

The announcement, which came sooner than expected, was a surprise to Tomasso and other activists on campus. It positioned Stanford as the first major university to make a commitment to divest from coal. Fossil Free Stanford organizers celebrated their victory while planning to push for divestment from all fossil fuels, including oil and natural gas. Tomasso says it’s important for young people to lead the fight for fossil fuel divestment because they’re the first generation who’ll be living through the consequences of climate change.

“Everyone can be an activist,” says Tomasso. “Everyone has things they care about and love. If you take a moment to think about them, you’ll realize that the call to action is now.”

Dana Drugmand wrote this article for The End of Poverty, the Fall 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. Dana is a YES! editorial intern.

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Categories: Economics

Chris & Adam Present in Lima, PERU

Chris Martenson - September 18, 2014 - 09:08

Chris and I have been invited to Lima, Peru to present a full-day seminar titled "New Global Scenarios That Will Define Peru for the Next 20 Years"

Entrepreneurs, corporate executives and government officials will be in attendance. If you live in or near Peru, this will be a valuable "meeting of the minds" at which the future of the country (and South America, in general) will be discussed in detail.

Key focus of the event:

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Categories: Economics

Off the Cuff: A Look Across the Pond

Chris Martenson - September 18, 2014 - 08:46

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Alasdair Macleod discuss:

  • Independence For Scotland
    • The implications of this week's historic vote
  • Gold's Depressed Price
    • The establishment benefits from a low price
  • Europe vs Russia
    • Why the EU holds a losing hand
  • The Evils of Central Banking
    • Creating worse problems than they're supposed to solve

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/18 - Why Money Is Worse Than Debt, True Cause Of Fracking Leaks Found

Chris Martenson - September 18, 2014 - 07:44
  • Subprime Is Back With A Vengeance
  • House votes to arm Syrian rebels
  • Inequality, Nick Hanauer and the Patriot's Moral Code
  • Bank of England Panic! Scottish Independence Bank Run Already Underway!
  • Why Money Is Worse Than Debt
  • Libertarian ‘Utopia’ Styled After Ayn Rand Book Spectacularly Falls Apart Almost Immediately
  • Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch
  • True Cause Of Fracking Leaks Found – Industry Breathes A Sigh Of Relief
  • Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions
  • Water-based nuclear battery can be used to generate electrical energy 
  • Obama delays key power plant rule of signature climate change plan

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Categories: Economics

Ever Wondered How Little Free Libraries Change Neighborhoods?

Shareable Magazine - September 17, 2014 - 21:42

Photo credit: Standing Still.

It’s not about the books. At the heart of it, neighborhood book exchanges are a DIY tactic for changing a neighborhood. Stewards introduce a neighborhood book exchange in hopes of altering particular aspects of neighborhood life.

Categories: Economics

Car Emergency Kit List

Chris Martenson - September 17, 2014 - 13:44

A nice discussion of the benefits of having a well thought out list of emergency supplies and tools in your car for those times when you get stuck with your car and help could be a long time coming

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Categories: Economics

11 Tiny House Villages Redefining Home

Shareable Magazine - September 17, 2014 - 09:05

Tiny house villages are a new part of the tiny house movement, yet they hold a lot of potential to transform lives and communities. The idea behind these villages is straightforward: bring tiny houses together in one place to create communities that share land, time together, skills, support, and other resources.

Categories: Economics

Occupy Offshoot Cancels $4 Million in Predatory Student Loans—and Starts a Debtors Union

Photo by Shutterstock.

Nathan Hornes was sitting on the couch watching Maury when he saw the ad for Everest College.

Owned by the for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges, Inc., Everest commercials are known to target low-income people, promising a flexible education and, through it, jobs that earn more than minimum wage. They're often aggressive, the actors calling viewers out for being lazy and then daring them to live up to their full potential. Hornes was an easy target.

“The first commercial I saw was the girl and she’s like ‘Oh, you’ve got to get off the couch,’” he said. “You can go to work, go to school, everything like that.”

Hornes, who had dropped out of high school to pursue a career in music, had just turned 20 and thought getting a degree sounded like a good idea. Plus, the woman in the ad promised, he could work around his current gigs. So he called Everest.

After that first informational call, Hornes said Everest representatives phoned him constantly, sometimes up to four times a day. They told him he needed to enroll for classes in order to graduate as soon as possible. They promised that a “network of employers” would be waiting after he graduated, and they would help him find a job. So Hornes signed up for a degree in business management, and at Everest’s suggestion he took out loans to pay for it.

Nathan Hornes on graduation day. Photo courtesy of Nathan Hornes.

“I used to always tell people I went to Everest,” he said of the early days, when he was proud of being a college student. But now, he said, “I don’t even like telling people I went to this school.”

At the time he enrolled, Hornes didn’t know how to evaluate a school’s accreditation or what to expect from college classes. Sometimes teachers didn’t even show up, and much of what they did teach felt like common sense. He said he didn’t even really have homework.

When he started to look for work after graduation, Hornes quickly realized his options were not as abundant as Everest had led him to believe. Job leads from the career center were sometimes forwarded from Craigslist. He hadn’t realized that many other colleges and employers don’t take degrees from for-profit colleges seriously.

“Employers find it laughable,” he said. “I’ve literally taken it off my resume. That’s how embarrassing it is.”

Now 24, Hornes shares a Los Angeles studio apartment with his aunt. He often works 16 hours a day at two part-time jobs, one of them at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in the airport.

And that degree from Everest? He owes $56,000 for it.

A Rolling Jubilee for student debt

The abysmal quality of Hornes' academic experience may be extreme, but the debt—and the way it will constrain his life, possibly for decades—is not. Hornes and millions of other former students and their families are part of a student debt crisis of tremendous proportions: Americans—some of them senior citizens—together owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt, the figure steadily rising as states and the federal government cut funding for higher eduction. Even credit card debt is not as large.

Graphic from Demos.

That's why Strike Debt, an organization that emerged out of Occupy Wall Street to protect debtors' rights, announced today it has purchased—and abolished—more than $4 million in student debt. It's a first for the organization, which until now has only canceled medical debt.

The organization's Rolling Jubilee project used $100,000 of raised capital to buy the privately owned debt of more than 2,700 Everest College students. They did this by purchasing private student loans from secondary markets for pennies on the dollar—just the way collection agencies do. And then, they simply canceled it.

The idea arose from conversations three years ago at Occupy Wall Street. There, and at smaller gatherings focused specifically on the issue of debt, people who held student loans or medical debts often stood in a circle and encouraged each other to shake off their feelings of guilt. Sometimes they brought their bills or other paperwork and set them on fire. Meanwhile, members were constantly studying the mechanisms through which banks, collection agencies, and other organizations traded and profited from debt.

They took what they learned and turned it into Rolling Jubilee.

The project kicked off in November 2012—on the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from New York’s Zuccotti Park—and organizers raised more than $250,000. Because Strike Debt was paying only about $5 for $100 of debt, that amount allowed them to purchase millions of dollars worth of other peoples’ unpaid medical obligations.

In the nearly two years since then, organizers this week told YES! that Rolling Jubilee has canceled more than $15 million in medical debt.

But unlike hospital bills, federal student loans are guaranteed by the government and are mostly unavailable for purchase on secondary markets. This is where debt collectors usually hunt for it. However, because Everest College encourages students to privately borrow a percentage of their tuition to supplement money available through federal student loans, this for-profit school created a unique pool of student debt ripe for the raiding.

“We started with medical debt because there is a clear moral argument,” said Laura Hanna, a Strike Debt organizer. “People shouldn't be forced into debt because they get sick.”

Hanna said education was a natural next step, from an ethical point of view: “With education, people are trying to work to improve their lives. To make something better for themselves. Instead, most people fall into a debt trap. And there is no escape ... not even through bankruptcy.”

Graphic from Demos.

Predatory Lending U

Yesterday, the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Corinthian Colleges, Inc., for defrauding tens of thousands of students. The CFPB accused Corinthian of running a “predatory lending scheme,” enrolling students in an overpriced education that would never help them get a job.

Corinthian is charged with lying to prospective students about job placement statistics. Ben Lopez, a former Everest student, told us he was hired as a librarian's assistant in January when he finished his program, but after his graduation ceremony a few months later, he was laid off. Part of the company’s schtick is to hire recent grads to inflate career placement numbers, classifying one or two days’ employment as a career.

When 20-year-old Hornes first talked to Everest on the phone, the numbers they fed him were based on this and similar practices.

According to the suit, from July 2011 to March 2014, Corinthian issued 130,000 private loans to pay its own exorbitant fees. The outstanding loans total more than $568 million.

And what kinds of students did they target? The CFPB claims that according to Corinthian's own internal documents, they sought out people with “low self-esteem” and “[f]ew people in their lives who care about them”; “isolated” people who felt “stuck, unable to see and plan well for future.” They intentionally marketed to people with little-to-no financial literacy or credit history.

Everest recruits through daytime television advertisements like this one, which Hornes says he saw.

Moreover, the school misled students to believe it had no financial interest in the private loans they were pushing, known as “Genesis” loans. But because the law prevented Everest schools from receiving all of their funding from federal loans, they were incentivized to convince students to take private ones, which then allowed the school to receive more public money. As the Bureau put it, “Every Genesis loan dollar that Corinthian induced its students to borrow, in effect, allowed Corinthian to receive up to an additional nine dollars in Title IV aid.”

Corinthian has been under fire for a long time. It’s been accused of fraud by more than one federal agency and is on the verge of collapse. (For more on Corinthian's sad backstory, check out John Oliver below).

If won, the CFPB’s case will secure more than $500 million, which will be used to cancel existing private student loans. That would be great for former students like Hornes. But it could also take years, while many who owe the company money slog away at minimum wage, trying to pay down their Genesis loan.

When asked whether he might consider going to college somewhere else in the meantime, Hornes says he is interested, but wary. Going to school almost anywhere else would, for him, mean more debt.

A debtors union

As effective as Rolling Jubilee has been in calling attention to debt issues, $4 million hardly makes a dent in a trillion-dollar picture—not to mention the billions of dollars tied up in medical and other debts.

“Rolling Jubilee is a fantastic way to punch through the illusion that you actually owe what the 1 percent thinks you owe,” said Thomas Gokey, a Rolling Jubilee co-founder who's eager to take things to the next level. “It’s not going to be possible to buy all the debt out there and get rid of it, so we’re going to need other tactics to win … it’s going to be a coordinated, large-scale effort.”

Alongside today’s $4 million abolition announcement, Strike Debt is also unveiling plans for a new project: Debt Collective. Gokey, who's forthright about his personal investment in the effort (“My student debt today is significantly more than the last time I talked to YES!” he told us—and that was just two years ago), calls Debt Collective an “on ramp” to bigger changes and more aggressive tactics when it comes to abolishing debt. “There’s never been something like a debtors union before.”

Gokey envisions a movement where debtors are empowered to “renegotiate, resist, and refuse unfair debts” in the same way labor unions collectively leverage better pay, safer work environments, and time off. And to beat down the enormous pile of debt in general, they’ll advocate for free education and universal health care.

Hanna compares Debt Collective to “the factory floor of the past,” when labor organizers, gathered in the same physical space, came up with tactics like slowdowns, walkouts, and strikes. As debtors, Hanna said, “We might engage in collective bargaining or more robust refusal campaigns down the line … with an aim to transform the way we fund and access social goods.”

As for this round of jubilee, Strike Debt has been sending letters to the thousands of debtors from Everest, delivering the news of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Hornes will not be one of them (debts are purchased anonymously, and Strike Debt only finds out debtors' identities afterward). Still, he’s not giving in to the prospect of a lifetime of interest payments while working minimum wage jobs.

Our Economy Wants You to Be In Debt—5 Things You Can Do to Take Charge

Back in Los Angeles, Hornes is now a key organizer with the Everest Avengers, a group of nearly 200 current and former Everest College students who feel they were duped into believing they were paying for a good education and are now burdened with crippling debt because of it. And within the Avengers, the Corinthian Collective was formed.

Made up of about 40 former students from the for-profit school system, the Corinthian Collective has been working directly with Strike Debt to strategize around freeing students from unfair and fraudulent loans. On the table, Hornes hopes, will be options like legal action and working to convince the Department of Education to discharge outstanding debts for Everest students across the country.

He may have missed out on the high-quality education in business management he aspired to. Instead, though, Hornes has gotten a crash course in leadership and organizing. Today, he’ll be facilitating national conversations uniting Everest students, publicizing the facts behind his fraudulent debt, and fielding questions from the media.

Finishing up his short shift break before heading back to Carl’s Jr. last night, he said he now sees himself as a “buffer” who helps demoralized classmates understand that the education they received at Everest College will likely never lead to the jobs they were promised. Instead, it has brought them together.

Liz Pleasant, Christa Hillstrom, and James Trimarco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions.

Liz is web assistant and Christa and James are web editors at YES!


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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/17 - Stable Yen Key For Japan Businesses, Fracking Causing Earthquakes in NM

Chris Martenson - September 17, 2014 - 07:06
  • Joe Hockey dismisses Australian property bubble claims as 'lazy analysis'
  • Costa Rica Rating Cut to Junk as Deficit Keeps Widening
  • UK house prices hit new record as London average breaks £500,000
  • Gas production blamed for rise in Colorado, New Mexico quakes
  • BOJ's Kuroda says stable yen key for Japan businesses
  • China Provides 500 Billion Yuan Liquidity to Five Banks
  • U.S. Stocks Rise While Oil Rallies as PBOC Adds Stimulus
  • Italian bank lending falls for 28th straight month in August
  • Ruble Drops to Record as Russia Sanctions Fuel Dollar Shortage
  • Puerto Rico to pay $9.7 mn to restructuring consultant
  • San Diego sidewalks in bad shape
  • Italian economy may contract this year - economy minister

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Categories: Economics

The Dollar May Remain Strong For Longer Than We Think

Chris Martenson - September 16, 2014 - 19:50

I have long been a dollar bull, not for any over-arching reasons based on inflation, deflation, rising geopolitical multi-polarity or any of the other issues that touch on the dollar’s valuation vis-à-vis other currencies. My analysis focuses on a few basics:  the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency, Triffin’s Paradox (a.k.a. Triffin’s Dilemma) and global capital flows into the dollar and dollar-denominated assets such as U.S. Treasury bonds.

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Categories: Economics

Why the Dollar Could Strengthen - A Lot - From Here

Chris Martenson - September 16, 2014 - 19:50
Executive Summary
  • The critical role of interest rates and carry trades
  • How capital flows across borders
  • The growth in supply of dollars is slowing
  • The rationale for the dollar strengthening from here by 50-100%

If you have not yet read Is Part 1: The Dollar May Remain Strong For Longer Than We Think available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part 1, we reviewed the key concepts that drive supply/demand (and thus the price/relative value) of the U.S. dollar. In Part 2, we’ll cover the dynamics that could push the value of the USD vis-à-vis other currencies much higher in the years ahead.

Interest Rates, Bonds and Carry Trades

To understand the price of any currency—measured in other currencies, gold, oil, etc.—we look at a currency as a special kind of commodity, one that greases transactional trade of goods and services and also serves as a store of value. Like any commodity, its price relative to other commodities is determined by supply and demand.

If demand is strong and supply is tight, the value will increase. This is the same for dollars, gold, oil, grain, bat guano, etc. The reverse is equally true: if demand slackens and supply balloons, the value will decline.

To understand the supply and demand for currencies, we need to understand the role of interest rates, sovereign bonds and carry trades.

The connection between interest rates and demand is self-explanatory: if interest rates paid at home are near-zero, and another nation’s bonds are paying a higher yield, it makes sense to sell (or borrow) one’s own currency and buy a bond denominated in another currency.

This is the foundation of currency carry trades.’s own Davefairtex recently offered an excellent explanation of how carry trades work on the Gold & Silver Group forum:

I believe that QE causes inflation in other countries by dropping rates to 0% which encourages carry trades, whereby traders borrow USD for extremely low rates here in the US, and then send it overseas to find a yield.  Cheap money in the US causes money to flow elsewhere, where rates are higher.

Carry Trade For Dummies:

Step 1) Borrow $1 billion US at LIBOR-1M rate; cost 0.16%.

Step 2) Trade $1 billion US for 1.075 billion AUD.

Step 3) Buy 1.075 billion 2-year AUD govt bonds; yield 2.52%

Step 4) Collect $23 million USD/year for doing no work at all.

Carry trades work in both directions for the dollar...

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Categories: Economics