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The One Trillion Dollar Consumer Auto Loan Bubble Is Beginning To Burst

Soap Bubble - Public DomainDo you remember the subprime mortgage meltdown from the last financial crisis?  Well, this time around we are facing a subprime auto loan meltdown.  In recent years, auto lenders have become more and more aggressive, and they have been increasingly willing to lend money to people that should not be borrowing money to buy a new vehicle under any circumstances.  Just like with subprime mortgages, this strategy seemed to pay off at first, but now economic reality is beginning to be felt in a major way.  Delinquency rates are up by double digit percentages, and major auto lenders are bracing for hundreds of millions of dollars of losses.  We are a nation that is absolutely drowning in debt, and we are most definitely going to reap what we have sown.

The size of this market is larger than you may imagine.  Earlier this year, the auto loan bubble surpassed the one trillion dollar mark for the first time ever

Americans are borrowing more than ever for new and used vehicles, and 30- and 60-day delinquency rates rose in the second quarter, according to the automotive arm of one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus.

The total balance of all outstanding auto loans reached $1.027 trillion between April 1 and June 30, the second consecutive quarter that it surpassed the $1-trillion mark, reports Experian Automotive.

The average size of an auto loan is also at a record high.  At $29,880, it is now just a shade under $30,000.

In order to try to help people afford the payments, auto lenders are now stretching loans out for six or even seven years.  At this point it is almost like getting a mortgage.

But even with those stretched out loans, the average monthly auto loan payment is now up to a record 499 dollars.

That is the average loan size.  To me, this is absolutely infuriating, because only a very small percentage of wealthy Americans are able to afford a $499 monthly payment on a single vehicle.

Many middle class American families are only bringing in three or four thousand dollars a month (before taxes).  How in the world do they think that they can afford a five hundred dollar monthly auto loan payment on just one vehicle?

Just like with subprime mortgages, people are being taken advantage of severely, and the end result is going to be catastrophic for the U.S. financial system.

Already, auto loan delinquencies are rising to very frightening levels.  In July, 60 day subprime loan delinquencies were up 13 percent on a month-over-month basis and were up 17 percent compared to the same month last year.

Prime delinquencies were up 12 percent on a month-over-month basis and were up 21 percent compared to the same month last year.

We have a huge crisis on our hands, and major auto lenders are setting aside massive amounts of cash in order to try to cover these losses.  The following comes from USA Today

In a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford reported in the first half of this year it allowed $449 million for credit losses, a 34% increase from the first half of 2015.

General Motors reported in a similar filing that it set aside $864 million for credit losses in that same period of 2016, up 14% from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, other big corporations are also alarmed about the economic health of average U.S. consumers.  Just check out what Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos had to say about this just the other day

I know that when we look at globally the overall U.S. population, it seems like things are getting better. But when you really start breaking it down and you look at that core consumer that we serve on the lower economic scale that’s out there, that demographic, things have not gotten any better for her, and arguably, they’re worse. And they’re worse, because rents are accelerating, healthcare is accelerating on her at a very, very rapid clip.

The stock market may seem to be saying that everything is fine (for the moment), but the hard economic numbers are telling a completely different story.  What we are experiencing right now looks so similar to 2008, and this includes big institutions just dropping dead seemingly out of the blue.  On Tuesday, we learned that ITT Technical Institute is immediately shutting down and permanently closing all locations.  This is from a Los Angeles Times report

The company that operates the for-profit chain, one of the country’s largest, announced that it was permanently closing all its campuses nationwide. It blamed the shutdown on the recent move by the U.S. Education Department to ban ITT from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.

“Two quarters ago there were rumors about the school having problems, but they told us that anyone who was already a student would be allowed to finish,” said Wiggins, who works as the assistant manager for a family-run auto parts business and went to ITT to open new opportunities.

“Am I angry?” he said. “I’m like angry times 10 million.”

As a result of this shutdown, 35,000 students are suddenly left out in the cold and approximately 8,000 employees have lost their jobs.

This is what happens during a major economic downturn.  Large institutions that may have been struggling under the surface for quite a while suddenly give up and drop a bomb on those that were depending on them.  In the months ahead, there will be a lot more examples of this.

Already, some of the biggest corporate names in America have been laying off thousands of workers in 2016.  Mass layoffs are usually an early warning sign that big trouble is ahead, so keep a close eye on those companies.

The pace of the economic decline has been a bit slower than many (including myself) originally anticipated, but without a doubt it has continued.

And it is undeniable that the stage is set for a crisis that will absolutely dwarf 2008.  Our national debt has nearly doubled since the beginning of the last crisis, corporate debt has doubled, student loan debt has crossed the trillion dollar mark, auto loan debt has crossed the trillion dollar mark, and total household debt has crossed the 12 trillion dollar mark.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble in world history, and there are signs that this giant bubble is now starting to burst.  And when it does, the pain is going to be greater than most people would dare to imagine.

The Subprime Auto Loan Meltdown Is Here

Debt Loans Auto Loans - Public DomainUh oh – here we go again.  Do you remember the subprime mortgage meltdown during the last financial crisis?  Well, now a similar thing is happening with auto loans.  The auto industry has been doing better than many other areas of the economy in recent years, but this “mini-boom” was fueled in large part by customers with subprime credit.  According to Equifax, an astounding 23.5 percent of all new auto loans were made to subprime borrowers in 2015.  At this point, there is a total of somewhere around $200 billion in subprime auto loans floating around out there, and many of these loans have been “repackaged” and sold to investors.  I know – all of this sounds a little too close for comfort to what happened with subprime mortgages the last time around.  We never seem to learn from our mistakes, and a lot of investors are going to end up paying the price.

Everything would be fine if the number of subprime borrowers not making their payments was extremely low.  And that was true for a while, but now delinquency rates and default rates are rising to levels that we haven’t seen since the last recession.  The following comes from Time Magazine

People, especially those with shaky credit, are having a tougher time than usual making their car payments.

According to Bloomberg, almost 5% of subprime car loans that were bundled into securities and sold to investors are delinquent, and the default rate is even higher than that. (Depending on who’s counting, delinquency is up to three or four months behind in payments; default is what happens after that). At just over 12% in January, the default rate jumped one entire percentage point in just a month. Both delinquency and default rates are now the highest they’ve been since 2010, when the ripple effects of the recession still weighed heavily on many Americans’ finances.

The chart below was posted by David Stockman, and it shows how the delinquency rate for subprime borrowers has hit the highest level since 2009.  In fact, we are not too far away from totally smashing through the previous highs that were set during the last crisis…

Subprime Auto Loans

It is quite foolish to try to sell expensive cars to people with bad credit.  This is especially true now that the economy is slowing down significantly in many areas.  But people are greedy and they are going to do what they are going to do.

The most disturbing thing to me is that many of these loans are being “repackaged” and sold off to investors as “solid investments”.  The following description of what has been happening comes from Wolf Richter

The business of “repackaging” these loans, including subprime and deep-subprime loans, into asset backed securities has also been booming. These ABS are structured with different tranches, so that the highest tranches – the last ones to absorb any losses – can be stamped with high credit ratings and offloaded to bond mutual funds designed for retail investors.

Deep-subprime borrowers are high-risk. Typically they have credit scores below 550. To make it worth everyone’s while, they get stuffed into loans often with interest rates above 20%. To make payments even remotely possible at these rates, terms are often stretched to 84 months. Borrowers are typically upside down in their vehicle: the negative equity of their trade-in, along with title, taxes, and license fees, and a hefty dealer profit are rolled into the loan. When the lender repossesses the vehicle, losses add up in a hurry.

It almost makes you want to tear your hair out.

This is exactly the kind of thing that caused so much chaos with subprime mortgages.

When will we ever learn?

Meanwhile, we continue to get even more numbers that indicate that a substantial economic slowdown has already begun

We just got the clearest sign yet that something is wrong with the US economy.

Markit Economics’ monthly flash services purchasing manager’s index, a preliminary reading on the sector, fell into contraction for the first time in over two years.

The tentative February index was reported Wednesday at 49.8.

Statistic after statistic is telling us that a new recession is already here.  And of course some would argue that the last recession never actually ended.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in contraction mode since 2005.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.  All over the world, “non-performing loans” are starting to become a major problem, and already some financial institutions are starting to get tighter with credit.

As credit conditions tighten up, this is going to cause economic activity to slow down even more.  And as economic activity slows down, it is going to become even harder for ordinary people to make their debt payments.

Deflationary forces are on the rise, and most global central banks are just about out of ammunition at this point.

Everyone knew that the global debt bubble could not keep expanding much faster than the overall rate of economic growth forever.

It was only a matter of time until the bubble burst.

Now we can see signs of crisis popping up all around us, and things are only going to get worse in the months ahead…

America’s Insatiable Demand For More Expensive Cars, Larger Homes And Bigger Debts

McMansionOne of the things that this era of American history will be known for is conspicuous consumption.  Even though many of us won’t admit it, the truth is that almost all of us want a nice vehicle and a large home.  They say that “everything is bigger in Texas”, but the same could be said for the entire nation as a whole.  As you will see below, the size of the average new home has just hit a brand new record high and so has the size of the average auto loan.  In the endless quest to achieve “the American Dream”, Americans are racking up bigger debts than ever before.  Unfortunately, our paychecks are not keeping up and the middle class in the United States is steadily shrinking.  The disparity between the lifestyle that society tells us that we ought to have and the size of our actual financial resources continues to grow.  This is leading to a tremendous amount of frustration among those that can’t afford to buy expensive cars and large homes.

I remember the days when paying for a car over four years seemed like a massive commitment.  But now nearly a quarter of all auto loans in the U.S. are extended out for six or seven years, and those loans have gotten larger than ever

In the latest sign Americans are increasingly comfortable taking on more debt, auto buyers borrowed a record amount in the first quarter with the average monthly payment climbing to an all-time high of $474.

Not only that, buyers also continued to spread payments out over a longer period of time, with 24.8 percent of auto loans now coming with payment terms between six and seven years according to a new report from Experian Automotive.

That’s the highest percentage of 6 and 7-year loans Experian has ever recorded in a quarter.

Didn’t the last financial crisis teach us about the dangers of being overextended?

During the first quarter 0f 2014, the size of the average auto loan soared to an all-time record $27,612.

But if you go back just five years ago it was just $24,174.

And because we are taking out such large auto loans that are extended out over such a long period of time, we are now holding on to our vehicles much longer.

According to CNBC, Americans now keep their vehicles for an average of six years and one month.

Ten years ago, it was just four years and two months.

My how things have changed.

And consumer credit as a whole has also reached a brand new all-time record high in the United States.

Consumer credit includes auto loans, but it doesn’t include things like mortgages.  The following is how Investopedia defines consumer credit…

Consumer credit is basically the amount of credit used by consumers to purchase non-investment goods or services that are consumed and whose value depreciates quickly. This includes automobiles, recreational vehicles (RVs), education, boat and trailer loans but excludes debts taken out to purchase real estate or margin on investment accounts.

As you can see from the chart below, Americans were reducing their exposure to consumer credit for a little while after the last financial crisis struck, but now it is rapidly rising again at essentially the same trajectory as before…

Consumer Credit 2014

Have we learned nothing?

Meanwhile, America also seems to continue to have an insatiable demand for even larger homes.

According to Zero Hedge, the size of the average new home in the United States has just hit another brand new record high…

There was a small ray of hope just after the Lehman collapse that one of the most deplorable characteristics of US society – the relentless urge to build massive McMansions (funding questions aside) – was fading. Alas, as the Census Bureau today confirmed, that normalization in the innate desire for bigger, bigger, bigger not only did not go away but is now back with a bang.

According to just released data, both the median and average size of a new single-family home built in 2013 hit new all time highs of 2,384 and 2,598 square feet respectively.

And while it is known that in absolute number terms the total number of new home sales is still a fraction of what it was before the crisis, the one strata of new home sales which appears to not only not have been impacted but is openly flourishing once more, are the same McMansions which cater to the New Normal uberwealthy (which incidentally are the same as the Old Normal uberwealthy, only wealthier) and which for many symbolize America’s unbridled greed for mega housing no matter the cost.

There is certainly nothing wrong with having a large home.

But if people are overextending themselves financially, that is when it becomes a major problem.

Just remember what happened back in 2007.

And just like prior to the last financial crisis, Americans are treating their homes like piggy banks once again.  Home equity lines of credit are up 8 percent over the past 12 months, and homeowners are increasingly being encouraged to put their homes at risk to fund their excessive lifestyles.

But there has been one big change that we have seen since the last financial crisis.

Lending standards have gotten a lot tougher, and many younger adults find that they are not able to buy homes even though they would really like to.  Stifled by absolutely suffocating levels of student loan debt, many of these young adults are putting off purchasing a home indefinitely.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article about this phenomenon…

The Millennial generation is great at many things: texting, social media, selfies. But buying a home? Not so much.

Just 36% of Americans under the age of 35 own a home, according to the Census Bureau. That’s down from 42% in 2007 and the lowest level since 1982, when the agency began tracking homeownership by age.

It’s not all their fault. Millennials want to buy homes — 90% prefer owning over renting, according to a recent survey from Fannie Mae.

But student loan debt, tight lending standards and stiff competition have made it next to impossible for many of these younger Americans to make the leap.

This is one of the primary reasons why homeownership in America is declining.

A lot of young adults would love to buy a home, but they are already financially crippled from the very start of their adult lives by student loan debt.  In fact, the total amount of student loan debt is now up to approximately 1.1 trillion dollars.  That is even more than the total amount of credit card debt in this country.

We live in a debt-based system which is incredibly fragile.

We experienced this firsthand during the last financial crisis.

But we just can’t help ourselves.

We have always got to have more, and society teaches us that if we don’t have enough money to pay for it that we should just go into even more debt.

Unfortunately, just as so many individuals and families have found out in recent years, eventually a day of reckoning arrives.

And a day of reckoning is coming for the nation as a whole at some point as well.

You can count on that.

Money Is A Form Of Social Control And Most Americans Are Debt Slaves

Money Is A Form Of Social Control And Most Americans Are Debt Slaves - Photo by Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USAIs America really “the land of the free”?  Most people think of money as simply a medium of exchange that makes economic transactions more convenient, but the truth is that it is much more than that.  Money is also a form of social control.  Just think about it.  What did you do this morning?  Well, if you are like most Americans, you either got up and went to work (to make money) or to school (to learn the skills that you will need to make money).  We spend a great deal of our lives pursuing the almighty dollar, and there are literally millions of laws, rules and regulations about how we earn our money, about how we spend our money and about how much of our money the government gets to take from us.  Not that money is a bad thing in itself.  Without money, it would be really hard to have a modern society.  Unfortunately, our money is based on debt, and debt levels in the United States have exploded to absolutely unprecedented levels in recent years.  The borrower is the servant of the lender, and if you are like most Americans, nearly every major purchase that you make in your life is going to involve debt.  Do you want to get a college education so that you can get a “good job”?  You are told to get a student loan.  Do you want a car?  You are encouraged to get an auto loan and to stretch out the payments for as long as possible.  Do you want a home?  You are probably going to end up with a big fat mortgage.  And of course I could go on and on and on.  The cold, hard truth of the matter is that most Americans are debt slaves.  Most of us spend our entire lives trapped in an endless cycle of debt that we never escape until we die, and meanwhile our years of hard labor are greatly enriching those that own our debts.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why you can never seem to get ahead financially no matter how hard you work?

Well, it is probably because you have gotten yourself enslaved to debt.

Just consider the following example about credit card debt from a former Goldman Sachs banker

On the debt side of things, how much does your credit card company earn if you carry just an average of a $5,000 credit card balance, paying, say, 22% annual interest rate (compounding monthly) for the next 10 years?

In your mind you owe a balance of only $5,000, which is not a huge amount, especially for someone gainfully employed.  After all, $5,000 is just a quick Disney trip, or a moderately priced ski-trip, or that week in Hawaii.  You think to yourself, “how bad could it be?”

The answer, including the cost of monthly compounding, is $44,235, or about 9 times what it appears to cost you at face value.

But a large percentage of Americans never pay off their credit cards at all.  They make small payments each month, but then they just keep on adding to their balances.

In the end, that is financial suicide.

If you carry an “average balance” on your credit cards each month, and those credit cards have an “average” interest rate, you could end up paying millions of dollars to the credit card companies by the end of your life…

Let’s say you are an average American household, and you carry an average balance of $15,956 in credit card debt.

Also, as an average American household, let’s assume you pay an average current rate of 12.83%.

Finally, let’s assume you carry this average balance for 40 years, between ages 25 and 65.  How much did your credit card company make off of you and your extreme averageness?

Answer: $2,629,618.64

Sadly, approximately 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.

How stupid can we be as a nation?

When you become enslaved to the credit card companies, your toil and sweat makes them much wealthier.  It is a form of slavery that does not require anyone pointing a gun at you.

But we never seem to learn.  Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.

As the chart below demonstrates, consumer credit actually declined for a short while during the last recession, but now it has turned around and the growth of consumer credit is on the same trajectory as it was before the last economic crisis…

Consumer Debt

Today, the total amount of consumer credit in the United States is 15 times larger than it was 40 years ago.

And every major “milestone” in our lives typically involves even more debt.

-The total amount of student loan debt in the United States recently passed a trillion dollars, and approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loan debt at this point.

-Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago, and mortgage debt as a percentage of GDP has more than tripled since 1955.

-Car loans just keep getting longer and longer, and approximately 70 percent of all car purchases in the United States now involve an auto loan.

-Want to get married?  That average cost of a wedding is now $26,989 which is probably going to mean even more debt unless you have wealthy parents.

-Do you have a serious medical problem?  According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.

Are you starting to understand why approximately half of all Americans die broke?

And I have not even begun to talk about our collective debts yet.

Government debt is a collective form of debt.  You may not have voted for any of the politicians that have been racking up debt in your name, but part of it still belongs to you.

Since the year 2000, state and local government debt has more than doubled.  These are collective debts for which we are all responsible…

State And Local Government Debt

And of course the biggest collective debt of all is the U.S. national debt.

In a previous article, I discussed how the national debt has exploded out of control in recent years.  If you can believe it, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio has increased from 66.6 percent to 103 percent since 2007, and the U.S. government accumulated more new debt during Barack Obama’s first term than it did under the first 42 U.S. presidents combined.

When you break things down by household, the numbers look even more frightening.

During Barack Obama’s first four years in the White House, the amount of new debt accumulated by the federal government breaks down to approximately $50,521 for every single household in the United States.

And as I have mentioned previously, if you started paying off just the new debt that the federal government has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.

Well, you might argue, none of that debt will ever be paid off in our lifetimes.

And you would be right.

But what we are doing is consigning our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans to a lifetime of debt slavery.

How nice of us, eh?

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. national debt has grown by an average of 9.3 percent per year, but the overall U.S. economy has only grown by an average of just 1.8 percent per year.

How do we expect to continue doing this?

Fortunately, more Americans are starting to wake up to how foolish all of this is.

For example, the following is what Home Depot Founder Kenneth Langone told CNBC on Tuesday…

“The fundamentals haven’t changed … And we don’t know when the storm is going to hit,” he predicted. “It has to happen.If you look at our debt to GDP, eventually you reach a point where there’s no turning back.”

He used an analogy to make his point. “If you had one meal left, and you had your grandchild with you, would you eat if or give it to your grandchild?”

He said all people would say “give it to my grandchild.”

But pursuing the president’s vision, he argued, “[Is] eating the grandchildren’s breakfast, lunch and dinner right now. And the [grandchildren] haven’t been born yet.”

What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is beyond criminal.  We are selling away their futures in order to make our lives more pleasant.

Right now, we are stealing more than 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.

So where is the outrage over this theft?

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize that all of this is by design.  When the Federal Reserve system was created back in 1913, it was designed to get the U.S. government trapped in an endless spiral of debt.

And it worked.  Today, the U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

Our society has become addicted to debt, and that means that we have become addicted to slavery.

We are not the “land of the free”.  The truth is that we are now the “land of the servants”.

Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt owed in the United States (government, business, consumer, etc.) has grown from less than 2 trillion dollars to more than 55 trillion dollars

Total Credit Market Debt Owed

So who benefits from all of this?

I talked about this in a previous article.  The ultra-wealthy and the international bankers make enormous profits by lending money to all the rest of us.

According to a stunning report that was released last summer, the global elite have up to 32 trillion dollars stashed away in offshore tax havens around the globe.

How did they get so much money?

The borrower is the servant of the lender.  They have gotten rich at our expense.

But most people live their entire lives without ever understanding how the game is being played.

Today, most Americans see that the Dow is back above 14,000 and they hear the mainstream media telling them that happy days are here again and so they just believe that things are going to turn out okay somehow.

And it certainly does not help that most people seem to let others do their thinking for them.  In fact, about 23% of all Americans can’t even read at this point.

So is there any hope for us?

Please feel free to post a comment with your opinion below…

Money - Photo by selbstfotografiert

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