Tag Archives: interest rates

Double Debt Problem, by John Mauldin

There’s no bigger global issue right now than debt. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

The selloff in GE is not an isolated event. More investment grade credits to follow. The slide and collapse in investment grade debt has begun… (and later) Don’t be fooled by bond prices holding up, because trading volumes are down. There are fewer bids in the market, and the dispersion of bids is wider. It is time to jog—not walk—to the exits of credit and liquidity risk.

– Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partners Chief Investment Officer

From a 50,000-feet viewpoint, we’re probably in a global debt bubble…Global debt to GDP is at an all-time high…This is going to be a very challenging time for policymakers moving forward.

– Paul Tudor Jones at the Greenwich Economic Forum in Connecticut, November 15, 2018

Last week, I talked about Ray Dalio’s new book on debt cycles. He describes how debt is inherently cyclical, because it enables more spending now that must be offset by less spending later.

Ray’s book helped me refine my description of The Great Reset. It’s a critical refinement, too. After reading the book, I realized it is entirely possible we will have another debt crisis before what I think of as The Great Reset. I firmly believe the latter is still coming, but there may be another “mere” credit crisis beforehand.

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Salvini Takes Control of Europe’s Future, by Tom Luongo

Will Italy face off with the European Union? From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini just declared himself the leader of the Europe’s future.  He refuses to budge one inch in negotiations with the European Union over Italy’s budget now threatening to take down the government.

And in doing this he not only speaks for Italians, he is now speaking for that growing part of the European population who sees what the EU is morphing into and recoiling in horror.

Protests in France over Emmanuel Macron’s new tax on diesel have turned violent.  The British leadership has completely betrayed the people over Brexit.  They may win this battle but the animosity towards the Britain’s leadership will only grow more virulent over time.

As the core leadership in France and Germany fades in popularity, held in place because of domestic political squabbling, Angela Merkel and Macron are ratcheting up the rhetoric against the rising nationalism Salvini represents and are now pushing hard for their Federation of Europe before both of them leave the scene in the next few years, at best.

If they lose their battles with Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orban they may be run out of office with pitchforks and firebrands.

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The Fed Will Continue Tightening Until Everything Breaks, by Brandon Smith

That current central bank policy may be on track to destroy the economy is a feature not a bug of that policy. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

Around three years ago, in September 2015, I wrote an article titled ‘The Real Reasons Why The Fed Will Hike Interest Rates‘ in which I predicted that the Federal Reserve, in the face of criticism, would soon pursue a program of interest rate hikes into economic weakness. I argued that this plan would be somewhat similar to what the Fed did in the early 1930’s; an action that prolonged the Great Depression for many more years. So far, my prediction has proven to be correct.

Despite the fact that the Fed keeps raising rates as it tightens the noose around the supposed economic “recovery”, there are still many people out there who refuse to accept that the central bank would deliberately implode the fiscal bubble that it has spent the last ten years inflating. Even today, I still see arguments proclaiming that the Fed will be forced to pull back if stocks fall beyond 15% to 20%. I also see claims that Fed officials like Jerome Powell had “better start looking for another job” because Donald Trump won’t be happy with Fed policies that could cause a crash. This is pure delusion from people who do not understand how the Fed operates.

First and foremost, let’s be clear, the Federal Reserve is an autonomous entity that does not answer to government oversight. It never has and it probably never will. This reality is supported by admissions by former Fed officials like Alan Greenspan, who publicly noted that the Fed answers to no one.

The central bank functions in quite the opposite capacity from what many people assume. As Carroll Quigley, prominent American historian and mentor to Bill Clinton, noted in his book Tragedy And Hope:

“The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank … sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world.”

In other words, governments do not assert control over central banks; central banks assert control over governments. That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, an act of Congress can be used to enforce a full audit of Fed activities, something which has never been done.

Fed propaganda asserts the lie that the bank is audited annually by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), but this is NOT an audit of Fed financial actions and policy initiatives. Rather, it is an audit of minor expenditures. Knowing how many pencils and desks the Fed purchases in a year does not help us to understand the bank’s influence over our economic security. All other audits of the Fed are done internally by the Fed’s own Board of Governors. This is hardly transparent or independent.

The only time the public has gained access to even a partial government audit of Fed activities was during the audit of TARP. This alone exposed trillions of dollars in bailouts and overnight loans to various banks and corporations, many of which were foreign.

The GAO did nothing in terms of regulatory action against the Fed after it was revealed that they were funneling trillions in capital into foreign corporations. All they did was make a ledger of the transactions, and remained silent on the rest.

I remind readers of this history and the conditions surrounding Fed actions because I want to drive the point home that, for now, the Fed and other central banks dictate the rules of the game. Some may say this has changed with the election of Donald Trump, but I disagree. If anything, as long as Trump is in office, the Fed will chase higher interest rates and steeper balance sheet cuts. They will not stop until markets break. And, the only solution (shutting down the Fed entirely) also comes with a set of extreme fiscal consequences.

There is a wall of cognitive dissonance when some in the public are confronted with this notion. They prefer to believe in a set of standard lies rather than accept that the Fed is a saboteur of our financial system. Here are those lies, listed in no particular order…

Lie #1: The Fed Is Unaware Of The Bubbles it Creates

Mainstream economists and Fed officials alike use this lie regularly. Not once has the Board of Governors of the Fed ever been audited or punished in light of an economic crisis they created. When central bank culpability is obvious, they simply claim they had no idea the fiscal bubble was as inflated as it became. The disaster “surprised them”.

The Fed’s creation of easy credit and zero oversight, not to mention its opposition to any regulation of derivatives, fed the bubble prior to 2008. Then they ignored all obvious warning signs that the bubble was about to burst. But what about the current “everything bubble” that the Fed has created through near zero interest rates and endless fiat money manufacturing? Well, Fed officials openly admit to their involvement.

As the former head of the Federal Reserve Dallas branch Richard Fisher admitted in an interview with CNBC, since 2009, the U.S. central bank has made its business the manipulation of the stock market to the upside:

“What the Fed did — and I was part of that group — is we front-loaded a tremendous market rally, starting in 2009.

It’s sort of what I call the “reverse Whimpy factor” — give me two hamburgers today for one tomorrow.

I’m not surprised that almost every index you can look at … was down significantly.” [After the first Fed rate hike]

The Fed knows when it is conjuring a bubble environment; they just won’t admit it as the bubble is deflating and economic pain is everywhere.

Lie #2: The Fed Is Unaware That It’s Tightening Policies Cause Extreme Economic Contraction

So, if the Fed is aware when it causes a bubble, is it aware when it is popping a bubble? Absolutely. As Ben Bernanke admitted in a speech in 2002:

“In short, according to Friedman and Schwartz, because of institutional changes and misguided doctrines, the banking panics of the Great Contraction were much more severe and widespread than would have normally occurred during a downturn.

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

Bernanke was referencing Milton Friedman’s assertion that the Fed’s tightening policies in the early 1930’s, after they had made markets dependent on easy credit through the 1920’s, had caused negative feedback in the system at the perfect time, destabilizing any possible recovery for years to come.

The problem is twofold, of course. The Fed was allowed to fuel a fraudulent market bubble in the first place. Then, it was allowed to pop the bubble in the most destructive way through tightening policies (like higher interest rates), which crushed Main Street support. If this sounds familiar, it is, because the same tactic is being used by the Fed today.

In an October 2012 meeting of the Federal Reserve, minutes indicate that Jerome Powell was highly vocal about what would happen if the Fed pulled support from debt addicted markets by raising interest rates and cutting assets:

“My third concern — and others have touched on it as well — is the problems of exiting from a near $4 trillion balance sheet. We’ve got a set of principles from June 2011 and have done some work since then, but it just seems to me that we seem to be way too confident that exit can be managed smoothly. Markets can be much more dynamic than we appear to think.

When you turn and say to the market, “I’ve got $1.2 trillion of these things,” it’s not just $20 billion a month — it’s the sight of the whole thing coming. And I think there is a pretty good chance that you could have quite a dynamic response in the market.

I think we are actually at a point of encouraging risk-taking, and that should give us pause.

Investors really do understand now that we will be there to prevent serious losses. It is not that it is easy for them to make money but that they have every incentive to take more risk, and they are doing so. Meanwhile, we look like we are blowing a fixed-income duration bubble right across the credit spectrum that will result in big losses when rates come up down the road. You can almost say that that is our strategy.”

Jerome Powell is now the Fed Chairman, and yet, he is following through with the same tightening actions that he warned about in 2012. He is pretending that the tightening process will be painless even though fundamental economic conditions are just as weak now as they were six years ago. Again, Powell knows the Fed is going to cause a crash, but he is moving forward anyway and he is not warning the public about the danger.

Lie #3: The Fed Is The Center Of Establishment Power, Therefore They Need The U.S. Economy To Thrive

While it is true that the Fed is currently in charge of the dollar as the world reserve currency, the idea that the Fed is somehow indispensable to the global establishment has always bewildered me. Everything the Fed has done since its inception in 1913 has been designed to diminish the U.S. economy and erode the purchasing power of our currency. I ask, at what point has the Fed ever taken an action which did NOT result in a bubble or a bubble collapse? At what point has the U.S. economy ever improved at a fundamental level because of the Fed, rather than diminished in the wake of a fake recovery the Fed conned the public into believing in?

What else does the Fed do besides sabotage?

I believe the truth is that the Fed does not care about the U.S. economy, or even the survival of the dollar, as is obvious in their actions. The Fed is merely a puppet entity of larger institutions like the Bank for International Settlements or the International Monetary Fund. These institutions seek centralization at a global level, with a global currency system and global economic authority, as they have openly admitted to in their own publications. The U.S. economy as we know it today, and the Fed by extension, are expendable in this pursuit.

The Fed will continue on its current course no matter the cost, because there is a greater strategy in play. In fact, some elites may even welcome a shutdown of the Fed at this time because this opens the path for the death of the dollar as the world reserve currency and the introduction of a new world monetary system, while all the consequences surrounding the shift can be blamed on political chaos and coincidence.

To drive the point home, I leave readers with a revealing quote from Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, as she outlines why crisis in national economies is actually good for the IMF:

“When the world around the IMF goes downhill, we thrive. We become extremely active because we lend money, we earn interest and charges and all the rest of it, and the institution does well. When the world goes well and we’ve had years of growth, as was the case back in 2006 and 2007, the IMF doesn’t do so well both financially and otherwise.”

 

“Double Whammy of Rising Rates for Us and Our Consumers”: AutoNation, by Wolf Richter

Rising rates are hitting car dealers. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

We knew “free money would inevitably end. Affordability would become an issue – particularly around new vehicles.”

It has been a tad rough in the stock market for AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the US, with 242 new-vehicle dealerships, selling 33 brands, including Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Ford, GM’s brands, Fiat-Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Infiniti, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, etc. After the company reported earnings on Tuesday, shares [AN] dropped 4%, and this morning, they’re down another 3% (despite the overall market which has been up sharply on both days). Shares have now plunged 37% from their 52-week high in January.

The problem is in new-vehicles sales.

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Debt Alarm Ringing, by John Mauldin

Globally, debt is generating less and less growth and is getting more and more costly. From John Mauldin at mauldineconomics.com:

Is debt good or bad? The answer is “Yes.”

Debt is future spending pulled forward in time. It lets you buy something now for which you otherwise don’t have cash available yet. Whether it’s wise or not depends on what you buy. Debt to educate yourself so you can get a better job may be a good idea. Borrowing money to finance your vacation? Probably not.

Unfortunately, many people, businesses, and governments borrow because they can, which for many is possible only because central banks made it so cheap in the last decade. It was rational in that respect but is growing less so as the central banks tighten their policies.

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10 & 30-Year Yields Surge, Yield Curve “Steepens,” Stocks Drop, as Fed Talks Up Rate Hikes in 2019, by Wolf Richter

Interest rates are going up, which is generally not a good thing for heavily indebted economies. That would be most of them. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Ironically, after having lamented the flattening yield curve for a year, soothsayers now lament the steepening yield curve.

On Friday, capping a rough week in the US Treasury market, the 10-year yield closed at 3.23%, the highest since May 10, 2011, and stocks fell for the second day in a row. This is an unnerving experience for pampered equity investors who’ve come to take endless stock-price inflation for granted, who’d figured for years that interest rates would never rise, and as short-term interest rates began rising, figured that long-term interest rates would never rise – and now they’re rising too.

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The Global Distortions of Doom Part 1: Hyper-Indebted Zombie Corporations, by Charles Hugh Smith

Cheap credit keeps alive a lot of corporations who should be dead. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The defaults and currency crises in the periphery will then move into the core.
It’s funny how unintended consequences so rarely turn out to be good. The intended consequences of central banks’ unprecedented tsunami of stimulus (quantitative easing, super-low interest rates and easy credit / abundant liquidity) over the past decade were:
1. Save the banks by giving them credit-money at near-zero interest that they could loan out at higher rates. Savers were thrown under the bus by super-low rates (hope you like your $1 in interest on $1,000…) but hey, bankers contribute millions to politicos and savers don’t matter.
2. Bring demand forward by encouraging consumers to buy on credit now. Nothing like 0% financing to incentivize consumers to buy now rather than later. Since a mass-consumption economy depends on “growth,” consumers must be “nudged” to buy more now and do so with credit, since that sluices money to the banks.

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