Category Archives: Debt

Should Trump “Unleash” Wall Street? by Bill Bonner

Wall Street is a perfect case study in how an industry deteriorates in a mixed economy. From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:
LOVINGSTON, VIRGINIA – Stocks show little movement. Investors are waiting for something to happen.

And wondering…

Corporate earnings have been going down for nearly three years. They are now about 10% below the level set in the late summer of 2014.

Unleashing Wall Street

Why should stocks be so expensive?

Oh, yes… because the Trump Team is going to light a fire under Wall Street.

But they must be wondering about that, too.

Raising up stock prices – as we’ve seen over the last eight years – is not the same as restoring economic growth and family incomes.

And as each day passes, the list of odds against either seems to be getting longer and longer. As the petty fights, silly squabbles, and tweet storms increase, the less ammunition the administration has available to fight a real battle with Congress or the Deep State.

Still…

“Goldman Stock Hits Record on Bets Trump Will Unleash Wall Street,” reads a Bloomberg headline.

Goldman Sachs is a pillar of the Establishment, with its man, Steve Mnuchin, heading the Department of the Treasury. So a win for Goldman is not necessarily a win for us.

“Unleashing” suggests a win-win deal, as in allowing the financial industry to get on with its business. But there are different kinds of “unleashings.”

Some things – like Dobermans – are kept on a leash for a good reason. Unleashing the mob… or a war… might not be a good idea, either.

Untying Wall Street from bureaucratic rules is at least heading in the right direction. But it will only benefit the Main Street economy if Wall Street is doing business honestly, facilitating win-win deals by matching real capital up with worthy projects.

Deep State Industry

That, of course, is what it is NOT doing. It is a Deep State industry aided and abetted by the Fed’s fake money.

To continue reading: Should Trump “Unleash” Wall Street?

 

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Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia, and the Petrodollar, by Nick Giambruno

The petrodollar has been the anchor of the world’s dollar-reserve currency system since Nixon abandoned the last vestige of the gold standard in 1971. It has also been a huge boon for the US, and abandonment of it will make it much harder for Americans to live beyond their means. From Nick Giambruno at internationalman.com:

Obama pulled out his veto pen 12 times during his presidency.

Congress only overrode him once…

In late 2016, Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The bill would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in US courts.

With only months left in office, Obama wasn’t worried about the political price of opposing the bill. It was worth protecting Saudi Arabia and the petrodollar system, which underpins the US dollar’s role as the world’s premier currency.

Congress didn’t see it that way though. Those up for reelection couldn’t afford to side with Saudi Arabia over US victims. So Congress voted to override Obama’s veto, and JASTA became the law of the land.

The Saudis, quite correctly, see this as a huge threat. If they can be sued in US courts, their vast holdings of US assets are at risk of being frozen or seized.

The Saudi foreign minister promptly threatened to sell all of the country’s US assets.

Basically, Saudi Arabia was threatening to rip up the petrodollar arrangement, which underpins the US dollar’s role as the world’s premier currency.

Donald Trump and the Saudis

Unlike every president since the petrodollar’s birth, Donald Trump is openly hostile to Saudi Arabia.

Recently he put this out on Twitter:

Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.

The dopey prince that Trump is referring to is Al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent member of the Saudi royal family. He’s also one of the largest foreign investors in the US economy, particularly in media and financial companies.

The Saudis openly backed Hillary during the election. In fact, they “donated” an estimated $10 million–$25 million to the Clinton Foundation, making them the most generous foreign donors.

To continue reading: Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia, and the Petrodollar

 

How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track, by John Rubino

Sooner or later, Europe and its euro will collapse under its debt load. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

Every few years, it seems, one or another mismanaged eurozone country falls into one or another kind of crisis. This leads to speculation about the end of the common currency, which in turn spooks the global financial markets. Then the ECB conjures another trillion euros out of thin air, buys up and/or guarantees all the offending country’s bonds, and calm returns for a while.

At least, that’s how it’s gone in the past.

The latest crisis has more than the usual number of flash-points and could, therefore, be something new and different. Currently:

Greece. This charming but apparently ungovernable country only got into the eurozone in the first place because its corrupt leaders conspired with Goldman Sachs to hide the true condition of the government’s finances. It quickly blew up and has been on intensive care ever since. Now the latest bailout has become deal-breakingly messy:

‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning

(Guardian) – With another bailout set to bring more cuts, quitting the euro is back on the agenda.

The country’s epic struggle to avert bankruptcy should have been settled when Athens received €110bn in aid – the biggest financial rescue programme in global history – from the EU and International Monetary Fund in May 2010. Instead, three bailouts later, it is still wrangling over the terms of the latest €86bn emergency loan package, with lenders also at loggerheads and diplomats no longer talking of a can, but rather a bomb, being kicked down the road. Default looms if a €7.4bn debt repayment – money owed mostly to the European Central Bank – is not honoured in July.

Amid the uncertainty, volatility has returned to the markets. So, too, has fear, with an estimated €2.2bn being withdrawn from banks by panic-stricken depositors since the beginning of the year. With talk of Greece’s exit from the euro being heard again, farmers, trade unions and other sectors enraged by the eviscerating effects of austerity have once more come out in protest.

To continue reading: How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track

Alan Greenspan: Ron Paul Was Right About The Gold Standard, by Tyler Durden

Former Ayn Rand acolyte and gold standard proponent Alan Greenspan is a mess of contradictions. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

As John Rubino eloquently puts it, “when the history of these times is written, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan will be one of the major villains, but also one of the greatest mysteries. This is so because he has, in effect, been three different people.” Greenspan started his public life brilliantly, as a libertarian thinker who said some compelling and accurate things about gold and its role in the world. An example from 1966: “This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.”

Yet everything changed a few decades later when Greenspan was put in charge of the Federal Reserve in the late 1980s, instead of applying the above wisdom, for example by limiting the bank’s interference in the private sector and letting market forces determine winners and losers, he did a full 180, intervening in every crisis, creating new currency with abandon, and generally behaving like his old ideological enemies, the Keynesians. Predictably, debt soared during his long tenure.

Along the way he was also instrumental in preventing regulation of credit default swaps and other derivatives that nearly blew up the system in 2008. His view of those instruments:

The reason that growth has continued despite adversity, or perhaps because of it, is that these new financial instruments are an increasingly important vehicle for unbundling risks. These instruments enhance the ability to differentiate risk and allocate it to those investors most able and willing to take it. This unbundling improves the ability of the market to engender a set of product and asset prices far more calibrated to the value preferences of consumers than was possible before derivative markets were developed. The product and asset price signals enable entrepreneurs to finely allocate real capital facilities to produce those goods and services most valued by consumers, a process that has undoubtedly improved national productivity growth and standards of living.

To continue reading: Alan Greenspan: Ron Paul Was Right About The Gold Standard

Not Nearly Enough Growth To Keep Growing, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Growth has been in a long-run downtrend, and the Chinese credit spigot that has kept the global economy afloat is running into the law of diminishing returns. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

It’s amusing to see how views start to converge, at the same time that it’s tiresome to see how long that takes. It’s a good thing that more and more people ‘discover’ how and why austerity, especially in Europe, is such a losing and damaging strategy. It’s just a shame that this happens only after the horses have left the barn and the cows have come home, been fed, bathed, put on lipstick and gone back out to pasture again. Along the same lines, it’s beneficial that the recognition that for a long time economic growth has not been what ‘we’ think it should be, is spreading.

But we lost so much time that we could have used to adapt to the consequences. The stronger parties in all this, the governments, companies, richer individuals, may be wrong, but they have no reason to correct their wrongs: the system appears to work fine for them. They actually make good money because all corrections, all policies and all efforts to hide the negative effects of the gross ‘mistakes’, honest or not, made in economic and political circles are geared towards making them ‘whole’.

The faith in the absurd notion of trickle down ‘economics’ allows them to siphon off future resources from the lower rungs of society, towards themselves in the present. It will take a while for the lower rungs to figure this out. The St. Louis Fed laid it out so clearly this week that I wrote to Nicole saying ‘We’ve been vindicated by the Fed itself.’ That is, the Automatic Earth has said for many years that the peak of our wealth was sometime in the 1970’s or even late 1960’s.

To continue reading: Not Nearly Enough Growth To Keep Growing

 

“Seriously Delinquent” Auto Loans Surge, by Wolf Richter

The latest canary in the coal mine is surging auto loan delinquencies. The upturn in the auto industry cannot withstand a credit retrenchment. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

The New York Fed, in its Household Debt and Credit Report for the fourth quarter 2016, put it this way today: “Household debt increases substantially, approaching previous peak.” It jumped by $226 billion in the quarter, or 1.8%, to the glorious level of $12.58 trillion, “only $99 billion shy of its 2008 third quarter peak.”

Yes! Almost there! Keep at it! There’s nothing like loading up consumers with debt to make central bankers outright giddy.

Auto loan balances in 2016 surged at the fastest pace in the 18-year history of the data series, the report said, driven by the highest originations of loans ever. Alas, what the auto industry has been dreading is now happening: Delinquencies have begun to surge.

This chart – based on data from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, which varies slightly from the New York Fed’s data – shows how rapidly auto loan balances have ballooned since the Great Recession. At $1.112 trillion (or $1.16 trillion according to the New York Fed), they’re now 35% higher than they’d been during the crazy peak of the prior bubble. Note that during the $93 billion increase in auto loan balances in 2016, new vehicle sales were essentially flat:

No way that this is an auto loan bubble. Not this time. It’s sustainable. Or at least containable when it’s not sustainable, or whatever. These ballooning loans have made the auto sales boom possible.

To continue reading: “Seriously Delinquent” Auto Loans Surge

This Is How the Status Quo Unravels: As the Pie Shrinks, Everybody Demands Their Piece Should Get Bigger, by Charles Hugh Smith

Demographics and debt guarantee that the American pie will shrink for a long time. That will inevitably lead to political conflict. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Fragmentation, discord, discontent, class war: this is the inevitable result of a shrinking pie.

The politics of the past 70 years was all about horsetrading who got what share of the growing pie: the “pie” being cheap energy, government revenues and consumption, sales and profits.

Horsetrading over a growing pie is basically fun. There’s always a little increase left for the losers, so there is a reason for everyone to cooperate in a broad political consensus.

Horsetrading over a shrinking pie is not fun. Everybody is shrilly demanding their piece of the pie should either grow or be left untouched; any cuts must come out of someone else’s slice.

Everyone turns on their most compelling emotion-based defense: “we wuz promised” is a reliable standard, as is “we need more money to defend the nation from the rising threat of XYZ.” “Help those in need” plays the heartstrings effectively–as long as the “help” comes out of somebody else’s pocket.

Everyone sharpens their knives, the better to carve a slice off somebody else’s slice of the pie. A passive-aggressive free-for-all ensues as everyone reacts with aggrieved defensiveness to any attempt to diminish their slice, even as they launch shrill attacks on everyone else’s defense.

As the pie shrinks, the motivation to join a broad consensus vanishes like mist in Death Valley. Any cooperation is merely a brief tactical move designed to carve a big chunk off another player’s slice. Once that’s accomplished, the alliance quickly splinters as the survivors battle over the meager spoils.

To continue reading: This Is How the Status Quo Unravels: As the Pie Shrinks, Everybody Demands Their Piece Should Get Bigger