Tag Archives: Debt bubble

We’re in a Bubble that’s Too Big To Fail, by Mark E. Jeftovic

Keeping the bubble inflated requires ever-increasing injections of fiat debt, but sooner or later not even those injections will keep the bubble from popping. From Mark E. Jeftovic at bombthrower.com:

I’ve been hearing the phrase “Everything Bubble” come up more often lately. This isn’t a new phrase, Graham Summers was among the first to coin it in his 2017 book “The Everything Bubble: The Endgame for Central Bank Policy”:

“The Everything Bubble chronicles the creation and evolution of the US financial system, starting with the founding of the US Federal Reserve in 1913 and leading up to the present era of serial bubbles: the Tech Bubble of the ‘90s, the Housing Bubble of the early ‘00s and the current bubble in US sovereign bonds, which are also called Treasuries.

Because these bonds serve as the foundation of our current financial system, when they are in a bubble, it means that all risk assets (truly EVERYTHING), are in a bubble, hence our title, The Everything Bubble. In this sense, the Everything Bubble represents the proverbial end game for central bank policy: the final speculative frenzy induced by Federal Reserve overreach.”

Most recently the idea of the Everything Bubble came up on Coindesk’s Breakdown with NLW edition about NFT’s and the record setting sale of Beeple’s The First Five Thousand Days for $69 million USD. I say this as a guy who has been into crypto since 2013 and is getting even more involved today: I don’t get NFTs. Or rather, it only makes sense why they’re selling for such excessive valuations when you consider it to be a phenomenon occurring within the dynamics of an Everything Bubble.

Endgame is another theme asserting itself, that’s what Grant Williams and Bill Fleckenstein call their podcast (it recently went premium, but the first bunch of episodes are widely available across all major platforms). In Grant Williams’ February newsletter (“Let Them Eat Risk”), he afforded a lot of coverage to Bitcoin, including a piece by Ray Dalio and Rana Faroohar’s “Bitcoin’s Rise Reflects America’s Decline” (originally an op ed for the Financial Times).

What struck me about her piece, and to a similar extent, Dalio’s, was this recognition that even if they hadn’t themselves embraced the idea of crypto, it would be a mistake to dismiss crypto-currencies as merely a speculative bubble. Said differently, even Bitcoin skeptics are beginning to understand that Bitcoin’s rise means something. It portends a shift. A big one:

“A little over 100 years ago, there was a bubble asset that rose and fell wildly over the course of a decade. People who held it would have lost 100 per cent of their money five different times. They would have, at various points, made huge fortunes, or seen the value of their asset destroyed by hyperinflation.

The asset I’m referring to is gold priced in Weimar marks. If this reminds you of bitcoin, you are not alone. In his newsletter Tree Rings, analyst Luke Gromen looked at the startling similarities in the volatility of gold in Weimar Germany and bitcoin today. His conclusion? Bitcoin isn’t so much a bubble as “the last functioning fire alarm” warning us of some very big geopolitical changes ahead.” (emphasis added)

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Government Stimulus Is Blowing Up A Massive Economic Bubble, by Michael Maharrey

What happens if the money from the government stops? Will it ever stop? From Michael Maharrey at shiffgold.com:

 

We’re told we’re on the road to economic recovery. The $1.9 trillion stimulus is all we need to get us over the hump. But the truth is, Americans started spending like they were over the hump months ago. In fact, American consumers high on stimulus have been on a spending spree since last summer. The Federal Reserve printed money. Uncle Sam handed it out. American consumers spent it on imported goods.

This isn’t the formula for a genuine economy. It’s the formula for a giant bubble.

During the Great Recession, consumers cut spending. This is what you generally expect during an economic downturn. The economy contracts, people lose jobs, money gets tight and consumers spend less. You can see this in the numbers. Spending on durable goods plunged by 19% from the peak in October 2007 to the trough in April 2009. Meanwhile, spending on nondurable goods (food and gasoline) dropped by 10% during the Financial Crisis, from the peak in July 2008 to the trough in March 2009.

This spending cutback during an economic downturn creates what economists call “pent-up demand.” This helps drive spending upward during an economic recovery. You can see how the pent-up demand drove spending on durable goods post-recession in this graph produced by WolfStreet.

You can also see that consumer spending during the pandemic downturn took an entirely different trajectory. After a sharp but brief drop in the first months of the pandemic, spending surged.

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The Hannibal Trap Will Crush Global Wealth, by Egon von Greyerz

What goes up, especially that which goes up propelled by central bank helium and hopium, generally comes down. From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:

Is the global investment world about to be caught in the Hannibal trap?

Hannibal was considered as one of the greatest military tacticians and generals in history. He was a master of strategy and regularly led his enemies into excruciating defeats.

The trap that investors are now being led into has many similarities with Hannibal’s strategy in his victory over the Romans at Lake Trasimene in 217 BC.

Hannibal was a general and statesman from Carthage (now Tunisia) who successfully fought against the Romans in the Second Punic War.

THE BATTLE AT LAKE TRASIMENE

In 218 BC Hannibal took his troops, with cavalry and elephants, over the Alps and into Italy. Hannibal enticed the Roman Consul Flaminius, and his troops, in 217 BC to follow him to Lake Trasimene in Umbria. The Romans followed Hannibal’s troops into a narrow valley on the northern shores of the lake. When the Roman troops were inside the valley, they were trapped. They had the Carthaginians ahead of them, the lake on their right and hills on their left.

What the Romans didn’t know was that Hannibal had hidden his light cavalry and part of his army up in the hills. So once the Romans were locked into the valley, they were attacked from both ends with nowhere to escape.

Over 15,000 Romans were killed and 10,000 captured in a catastrophic defeat.

So what has Hannibal got to do with the present world? Well, it is pretty obvious. It is all about being led into a fatal trap without even being aware.

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The Solvency Problem, by Doug Noland

Central banking—socialized credit—has blown up history’s biggest credit bubble, not capitalism. Now that the bubble is popping, its is crucial that the blame is correctly assigned. From Doug Noland at creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com:

Being an analyst of Credit and Bubbles over the past few decades has come with its share of challenges. Greater challenges await. I expect to dedicate the rest of my life to defending Capitalism. One of the great tragedies from the failure of this multi-decade monetary experiment will be the loss of faith in free market Capitalism – along with our institutions more generally.

Somehow, we must convince younger generations that the culprit was unsound finance. And it’s absolutely fixable. Deeply flawed, experimental central banking was fundamental to dysfunctional markets and resulting deep financial and economic structural impairment. The Scourge of Inflationism. If we just start learning from mistakes, we can get this ship headed in the right direction.

Over the years, I’ve argued for “rules-based” central banking that would sharply limit the Federal Reserve’s role both in the markets and real economy. The flaw in “discretionary” central banking was identified generations ago: One mistake leads invariably to only bigger blunders.

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The Inevitable Bursting of Our Bubble Economy, by Charles Hugh Smith

Debt bubbles that grow faster than the underlying economy’s ability to service that debt invariably pop. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

All of America’s bubbles will pop, and sooner rather than later.

Financial bubbles manifest three dynamics: the one we’re most familiar with is human greed, the desire to exploit a windfall and catch a work-free ride to riches.

The second dynamic gets much less attention: financial manias arise when there is no other more productive, profitable use for capital, and these periods occur when there is an abundance of credit available to inflate the bubbles.

Humans respond to the incentives the system presents: if dealing illegal drugs can net $20,000 a month compared to $2,000 a month from a regular job, then a certain percentage of the work force is going to pursue that asymmetry.

In our current economy, corporations have sunk $2.5 trillion in buying back their own stocks because this generates the highest work-free return. This reflects two realities:

1. Corporations can’t find any other more productive, profitable use for their capital than buying back their own shares (enriching the managers via stock options and the 10% of American households who own 93% of the stocks)

2. Thanks to the Federal Reserve and other central banks injecting trillions of dollars of nearly-free credit into the financial sector, corporations can borrow billions of dollars to play with at near-zero rates that are historically unprecedented.

So borrow billions at 2.5%, pour it all into buying back your own stock and reap the gains as your stock rises 10%. Recall the basic mechanism of stock buy-backs: by reducing the number of shares outstanding, sales and profits go up on a per share basis–not because the company generated more revenues and profits, but because the number of shares has been reduced by the buy-backs.

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Bubbles, Balloons, Needles and Pins, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Will the Chinese economy implode? From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

It’s no surprise that China has its own plunge protection team -but why were they so late?-, nor that Beijing blames its problems on Trump’s tariffs. GDP growth was disappointing at 6.5%, but who’s ever believed those almost always dead on numbers? It would be way more interesting to know what part of that growth has been based on debt and leverage. But that we don’t get to see.

So we turn elsewhere. How about the Shanghai Composite Index? It may not be a perfect reflection of the Chinese economy, no more than the S&P 500 is for the US, but it does raise some valid and curious questions.

Borrowing from Wolf Richter, here are some stats and a graph::
• Lowest since November 27, 2014, nearly four years ago
• Down 30% from its recent peak on January 24, 2018, (3,559.47)
• Down 52% from its last bubble peak on June 12, 2015 (5,166)
• Down 59% from its all-time bubble peak on October 16, 2007 (6,092)
• And back where it had first been on December 27, 2006, nearly 12 years ago.

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The Global Financial System Is Unraveling, And No, the U.S. Is Not immune, by Charles Hugh Smith

The impending financial crisis will be global, which means the US won’t escape it. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Currencies don’t melt down randomly. This is only the first stage of a complete re-ordering of the global financial system.
Take a look at the Shanghai Stock Market (China) and tell me what you see:
A complete meltdown, right? More specifically, a four-month battle to cling to the key technical support of the 200-week moving average (the red line). Once the support finally broke, the index crashed.
Now take a look at the U.S. S&P 500 stock market (SPX):

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How “Ghost Collateral” And “Yin-Yang” Property Deals Will Collapse China’s Credit Bubble, by Tyler Durden

SLL has long said that China may well be where the debt bubble implosion gets going in earnest. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

One lesson from the 2007-08 crisis was that the vast majority of financial market participants, never mind the general public, were unfamiliar with subprime mortgages until the crisis was underway. Even now, we doubt many have much understanding of repo, the divergence between LIBOR and Fed Funds from 9 August 2007 and Eurodollar liquidity. In a similar way, when China’s bubble bursts, we doubt the majority will be that familiar with “ghost collateral” and “yin-yang” property contracts either.
 
A second lesson from the 2007-08 crisis was that as the value of the collateral underpinning the vast amount of leverage declined, the surge in margin calls led to cascading waves of selling in a downward spiral.

A third lesson was that the practice of re-hypothecating the same subprime mortgage bonds more than once, meant collateral supporting the most vulnerable part of the credit bubble was non-existent. It only became apparent with the falling prices and margin calls. Few people realised the bull market was built on such flimsy foundations, as long as prices kept rising.

A fourth lesson was that in order for the bubble to reach truly epic proportions, key financial institutions, especially banks, needed to conduct themselves in a negligent fashion and totally ignore increasing risks.

Each of these warning signs from the 2007-08 crisis exists in China’s property market now – and other parts of its financial system – bar one…falling prices leading to cascading waves of selling. However, as we’ll explain, we think it’s only a matter of months away now.

 We should note that our thesis that China’s bubble would eventually be undermined by a “black hole” of insufficient collateral is one that we have been developing for several years. What we came to realise is that insufficient collateral is nothing more than normal business practice in the Chinese economy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s related to commodity-backed loans, property speculation or managing redemptions in the Wealth Management Products (WMPs) sector.

 

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End? by Charles Hugh Smith

All debt bubbles end because in a bubble the debt expands faster than the economy’s capacity to service it. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

There are multiple sources of friction in the Perpetual Motion Money Machine.

We’ve been playing two games to mask insolvency: one is to pay the costs of rampant debt today by borrowing even more from future earnings, and the second is to create wealth out of thin air via asset bubbles.
The two games are connected: asset bubbles require leverage and credit. Prices for homes, stocks, bonds, bat guano futures, etc. can only be pushed to the stratosphere if buyers have access to credit and can borrow to buy more of the bubbling assets.
If credit dries up, asset bubbles pop: no expansion of debt, no asset bubble.
The problem with these games is the debt-asset bubbles don’t actually expand the collateral (real-world productive value) supporting all the debt. Collateral can be a physical asset like a house, but it can also be the ability to earn money to service debt.
Credit card debt, student loan debt, corporate debt, sovereign debt–all these loans are backed not by physical assets but by the ability to service the debt: earnings or tax revenues.
If a company earns $1 million annually, what’s its stock worth? Whether the market values the company at $1 million or $1 billion, the company’s earnings remain the same.
If a government collects $1 trillion in tax revenues, whether it borrows $1 trillion or $100 trillion, the tax revenues remain the same.
If the collateral supporting the debt doesn’t expand with the debt, the borrower’s ability to service debt becomes increasingly fragile. Consider a household that earns $100,000 annually. If it has $100,000 in debt to service, that is a 1-to-1 ratio of earnings and debt. What happens to the risk of default if the household borrows $1 million? If earnings remain the same, the risk of default rises, as the household has to devote an enormous percentage of its income to debt service. Any reduction in income will trigger default of the $1 million in debt.