Category Archives: banking

We Are All Lab Rats In The Largest-Ever Monetary Experiment In Human History, by Chris Martenson

Never before has so much fiat central bank debt been exchanged for so much fiat government debt, among other assets, and all on a global scale. Central bank balance sheets have expanded mightily. Stay tuned for how it all works out. From Chris Martenson at peakprosperity.com:

And how do things usually work out for the rat?

There are ample warning signs that another serious financial crisis is on the way.

These warning signs are being soundly ignored by the majority, though. Perhaps understandably so.

After 10 years of near-constant central bank interventions to prop up markets and make stocks, bonds and real estate rise in price — while also simultaneously hammering commodities to mask the inflationary impact of their money printing from the masses — it’s difficult to imagine that “they” will allow markets to ever fall again.

This is known as the “central bank put”: whenever the markets begin to teeter, the central banks will step in to prop/nudge/cajole the markets back towards the “correct” direction, which is always: Up!

It’s easy in retrospect to see how the central banks have become caught in this trap of their own making, where they’re now responsible for supporting all the markets all the time.

The 2008 crisis really spooked them. Hence their massive money printing spree to “rescue” the system.

But instead of admitting that Great Financial Crisis was the logical result of flawed policies implemented after the 2000 Dot-Com crash (which, in turn, was the result of flawed policies pursued in the 1990’s), the central banks decided after 2008 to double down on their bets — implementing even worse policies.

The Largest-Ever Monetary Experiment In Human History

It’s not hyperbole to say that the monetary experiment conducted over the past ten years by the world’s leading central banks (and its resulting social and political ramifications) is the largest-ever in human history:

(Source)

This global flood of freshly-printed ‘thin air’ money has no parallel in the historical records. All around the world, each of us is part of a grand experiment being conducted without the benefits of either prior experience or controls. Its outcome will be binary: either super-great or spectacularly awful.

If the former, then no worries. We’ll just continue to borrow and spend in ever-greater amounts — forever. Perpetual prosperity for everyone!

But if things hit a breaking point, then you had better be prepared for some truly bad times.

To continue reading: We Are All Lab Rats In The Largest-Ever Monetary Experiment In Human History

Advertisements

You Should Fear the Emerging Market Debt Bubble, by Nomi Prins

Actually, you should fear all debt bubbles, especially in our current hyperindebted world. Any one bubble that pops can set off a chain reaction. From Nomi Prins at daily reckoning.com:

Global debt has ballooned since the financial crisis as central banks have distorted markets and fueled debt bubbles in particular.

A lot of the increase in global debt has come from emerging market (EM) economies, especially China. In fact, a record amount of EM debt has accumulated during the past decade, mostly in dollars. A large portion of that debt is therefore denominated in U.S. dollars.

That’s why I’ve long argued that the first shoe to drop in the next crisis would likely be EM debt.

Borrowing is not a problem when dollars are cheap. Low interest rates mean the cost of servicing that debt is low.

The problem starts when the Fed raises rates or the dollar strengthens, even temporarily. The more the dollar rises, the more EM currencies and related markets fall. Dollar-denominated debt then becomes too expensive to repay or service as the dollar rises relative to EM currencies. Before long default becomes the only viable option.

This situation becomes more dangerous than even asset bubbles because debt is required to be repaid on a set schedule. If a country misses a debt payment, it could set off a chain reaction of defaults.

That’s why an EM crisis could quickly become a global crisis. In today’s world of financial globalization, any remote crisis can become an international problem in seconds. That’s the reality of today’s markets. Obviously, it could also have major ramifications for your own finances and investments.

How did we get here?

Because of the Fed’s rate hike cycle and quantitative tightening (QT) stance, the dollar has become much stronger. The dollar has risen 6.8% since late January alone. And that’s put emerging markets under considerable pressure.

Dollars are fleeing emerging market economies as investors are pouring into dollar assets and U.S. Treasuries.

As the Fed itself has warned about such a scenario, “If these risks materialized, there could be an increase in the demand for safe assets, particularly U.S. Treasuries.”

That starts a vicious cycle that only strengthens the dollar and weakens EM currencies further. In other words, emerging markets are being deprived of dollars at a time when they need them most.

Enter Turkey.

To continue reading: You Should Fear the Emerging Market Debt Bubble

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu, by Tom Luongo

Will southern European debt or emerging market debt kick off the next financial crisis? They’re both strong contenders, running neck-and-neck. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was right to call out the EU over the failure of the bridge in Genoa this week.  It was an act of cheap political grandstanding but one that ultimately rings very true.

It’s a perfect moment to shake people out of their complacency as to the real costs of giving up one’s financial sovereignty to someone else, in this case the Troika — European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Italy is slowly strangling to death thanks to the euro.  There is no other way to describe what is happening.  It’s populist coalition government understands the fundamental problems but, politically, is hamstrung to address them head on.

The political will simply isn’t there to make the break needed to put Italy truly back on the right path, i.e. leave the euro.  But, as the government is set to clash with Brussels over their proposed budget the issues with the euro may come into sharper focus.

Looking at the budget it is two or three steps in the right direction — lower, flat income tax rate, not raising the VAT — but also a step or two in the wrong direction — universal income.

Opening up Italy’s markets and lowering taxpayers’ burdens is the path to sustainable, organic growth, but that is not the purpose of IMF-style austerity.  It’s purpose is to do exactly what it is doing, strangling Italy to death and extracting the wealth and spirit out of the local population, c.f. Greece and before that Russia in the 1990’s.

So, looking at the situation today as the spat between Turkey and the U.S. escalates, it is obvious that Italy is in the crosshairs of any contagion effects into Europe’s banking system.

To continue reading: Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Lira Collapse To Jump the Mediterranean, by Tom Luongo

A number of European banks, some of which are not in such great shape, hold significant Turkish debt, which means they would be hurt if Turkey runs into funding and debt repayment problems. Their pain could spread. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me.com:

The Turkish Lira crisis is fundamentally different than the Russian Ruble crisis of 2014/15.  This one has contagion risk.

Back then no one was worried about the fall of the ruble having spillover effect.  If Sberbank failed, it wouldn’t jump to Europe.  Then again, there was little worry about that since the Russians had more than enough in reserves to cover the debts.

With Turkey, however, there is a real worry about this jumping into Europe. From Zerohedge:

Friday’s fall came after the Financial Times reported that supervisors at the European Central Bank are concerned about exposure of some of Europe’s biggest lenders to Turkey, including chiefly BBVA, UniCredit and BNP Paribas. The FT reported that along with the currency’s decline, the ECB’s Single Supervisory Mechanism has begun to look more closely at European lenders’ links with Turkey. The moves also came after the US showed no signs of lifting crippling sanctions despite the visit of a Turkish delegation to the US capital.

According to the FT, the ECB is concerned about the risk that Turkish borrowers might not be hedged against the lira’s weakness and begin to default on foreign currency loans, which make up about 40% of the Turkish banking sector’s assets.

And while it does not yet view the situation as critical, it sees Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s UniCredit and France’s BNP Paribas, which all have significant operations in Turkey, as particularly exposed, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Note the banks here.  Italian zombie-bank UniCredit.  Spain’s BBVa and France’s major zombie-bank BNP Paribas.   You can almost smell the desperation in the Financial Times’ reporting on this.

To continue reading: Lira Collapse To Jump the Mediterranean

The EU Backs Off its War on Cash. Here’s Why, by Don Quijones

It’s proving harder than its proponents thought to get rid of cash and herd people into the banking system. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

People view paying in cash “as a fundamental freedom, which should not be disproportionately restricted.”

The European Commission, in its official war on cash, admitted that physical cash is perhaps not quite the source of all evil that many EU institutions, including the Commission itself, had made it out to be. And it has abandoned its war on cash.

In a report to the European Parliament and Council on the viability of EU-wide cash payment restrictions, the Commission made three crucial observations.

1. Cash restrictions would have little effect on terrorist financing

Cash plays a major role in many terrorist activities, “offering anonymity and facilitating the ability to conceal not only illegal activities, but also ancillary legal transactions that could otherwise be tracked by law enforcement agencies,” the report points out. But according to the findings of a detailed analysis of recent terrorist attacks, restrictions on payments in cash would have had little impact on the capacity to prepare these attacks, especially given the “observed trend of the decreasing costs of terrorist attacks.”

The amounts of individual transactions are often even lower, and would therefore not have been impacted by restrictions. What’s more, many common transactions made in the preparation of recent terrorist attacks were done using traceable means (credit and debit cards, bank transfers, etc.) without raising any red flags.

2. Cash restrictions could be useful in combating money laundering but are of limited help against tax fraud.

The report notes that cash limits could be a useful tool in the fight against money laundering, of which cash transactions are normally the starting point. Despite the steady growth in non-cash payment methods and the changing face of criminality (i.e., the rise in cybercrime, online fraud and illicit online market places), criminal activities continue to generate profits in the form of large amounts of cash.

The fact that EU Member States have vastly different rules on cash limitations makes it easier for criminals to launder the proceeds of their operations as it allows them “to circumvent controls in their country of origin by investing in cash intensive businesses in another EU Member State with no or a lower control of cash expenditures.”

To continue reading: The EU Backs Off its War on Cash. Here’s Why

Housing Market Headed For “Broadest Slowdown In Years”, by Tyler Durden

Housing probably won’t be the spark for the next financial crisis, like it was for the last one. Rarely do consecutive financial crises have the same cause. However, that’s not to say that housing won’t get hurt and that house prices won’t fall. They will. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

For those who have been focusing on corporate earnings, the stock market and the global economy, a more ominous – if under-reported – flashpoint has emerged in recent days after some scary housing market numbers were published over the past week, or as Robert Shiller told Bloomberg, “This could be the very beginning of a turning point.”

The housing market is showing signs of a downward slide after existing-home sales were down in June, sales hit their slowest pace in eight months, and mortgage rates are on the rise, causing usually restive buyers to stay patiently on the the sidelines.

In reporting on the worrisome data released this week, Bloomberg notes that “the U.S. housing market — particularly in cutthroat areas like Seattle, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas — appears to be headed for the broadest slowdown in years,” due to a trend of buyers “getting squeezed by rising mortgage rates and by prices climbing about twice as fast as incomes, and there’s only so far they can stretch.”

Meanwhile, according to the latest Attom data, U.S. median home price appreciation decelerated in Q2 of 2018 to its slowest pace in two years. Here are some key indicators that we are indeed witnessing the start of a slowdown, published this week:

  • Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months.
  • Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values.
  • Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • Shares of PulteGroup Inc. fell as much as 4.9 percent Thursday morning after the national homebuilder reported that orders had declined 1 percent from a year earlier, blaming rising mortgage rates.

To continue reading: Housing Market Headed For “Broadest Slowdown In Years”

The Rules of the Bond Game, by Victor Sperandeo

Banks keep buying government bonds because if they hold them to maturity, they earn the spread between the bonds’ interest and their financing costs, and they don’t have to mark the prices of the bonds to market. From Victor Sperandeo at epochtimes.com:

There are powerful incentives for private banks to keep buying Treasurys despite rising supply and inflation

American hard money advocate, economist, and publisher Franz Pick once called government bonds “Guaranteed Certificates of Confiscation.” In making that statement, he assumed the government would eventually inflate the debt away and thus confiscate the buyers’ purchasing power.

Yet here we are, with U.S. Treasury Bonds holding steady despite seven rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, huge increases in the supply of bonds, and inflation on the rise. The obvious question is, why?

The reason why government debt keeps increasing and yields are more or less stable isn’t because of the fundamentals of the debt, deficit, or the economy. Instead, it is because the rules of the bond game are written by the banks, for the banks.

In my first book, “Methods of a Wall Street Master,” I introduced “The Gamboni.” Joe is a skilled poker player, but when he sits down at a new game, he has not learned the rules of the house, which include a special set of winning cards called “The Gamboni.” He therefore loses and goes broke. The moral of that story: If you want to win a game, you have to know the rules.

This moral holds true today and is especially applicable to the bond market.

To continue reading: The Rules of the Bond Game