Are we about to witness trillions of dollars of “paper wealth” vaporize into thin air? During the next financial crisis, a lot of “wealthy” investors are going to be in for a very rude awakening. The truth is that securities are only worth what someone else is willing to pay for them, and that is why liquidity is so important. Back on April 17th, I published an article entitled “The Global Liquidity Squeeze Has Begun“, but it didn’t get nearly as much attention as many of my other articles do. But now that the liquidity crisis is intensifying, hopefully people will start to grasp the implications of what is happening. The 76 trillion dollar global bond bubble is threatening to implode, and if it does, the amount of “paper wealth” that could potentially be lost during the months ahead is almost unimaginable.
For those that do not consider the emerging liquidity crisis to be important, I would suggest that they check out what the financial experts are saying. For instance, the following comes from a recent Bloomberg report…
There are three things that matter in the bond market these days: liquidity, liquidity and liquidity.
How — or whether — investors can trade without having prices move against them has become a major worry as bonds globally tanked in the past few months. As a result, liquidity, or the lack of it, is skewing markets in new and surprising ways.
Things have already gotten so bad that Zero Hedge says that some fund managers “are starting to panic” about the lack of liquidity in the marketplace…
Fund managers who together control trillions in assets are starting to panic in the face of an acute bond market liquidity shortage.
Dealer inventories have collapsed in the post-crisis regulatory regime, eliminating the traditional source of liquidity in secondary corporate credit markets, while HFTs and central banks have combined to create the conditions under which USTs and German Bunds can, at any given time, trade like penny stocks (October’s Treasury flash crash and May’s dramatic Bund rout are the quintessential examples).
For a moment, just imagine what would happen if someone yelled “fire” in a very crowded movie theater, and the only exit was a very small doggie door that only one person at a time could squeeze through. According to experts, that is what the bond market could soon look like…
“When the unwind comes, like we’ve seen in the past few months, it comes abruptly and sharply as the exit door is tiny,” said Ryan Myerberg, a London-based fund manager at Janus Capital Group Inc., which oversees about $190 billion.
Are you starting to get the picture?
In the end, I believe that those that “squeezed through the door” during this time period are going to be very glad that they got out while they still could.
Another very prominent voice that is deeply concerned about bonds is Carl Icahn. The following is what he told CNBC on Wednesday…
Carl Icahn warned investors on Wednesday that he believes the market is “extremely overheated—especially high-yield bonds.”
“I think the public is walking into a trap again as they did in 2007,” the activist investor told CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report.” “I think it’s almost the duty of well-respected investors, like myself I hope, to warn people, to tell people, that really you are making errors.”
Icahn compared the current market situation to the prerecession days, when mortgage-backed securities were being widely sold. “It’s almost deja vu,” he said.
Let’s talk about high-yield bonds for a moment. Prior to the last financial crisis, they started crashing way before stocks did, and now we see the exact same pattern repeating once again.
Normally high yield credit tracks stocks very closely. When there is a disconnect, that can be a huge sign of trouble. The following chart comes from Zero Hedge, and it brilliantly demonstrates how similar things are today to the period just before the stock market crash of 2008…
It is glaringly apparent that we are due for a “correction”. And even though stocks have recently hit brand new record highs, there are rumblings under the surface that a big move down is right around the corner.
For example, USA Today is reporting that mutual fund investors have pulled more money out of stocks than they have put in for 16 weeks in a row….
In a sign of stock market nervousness on Main Street, mutual fund investors have yanked more money out of U.S. stock funds than they put in for 16 straight weeks.
The last time domestic stock funds had positive net cash inflows was in the week ending Feb. 25, according to data from the Investment Company Institute, a mutual fund trade group.
In the week ended June 17, the most recent data available, mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks suffered net outflows of $3.45 billion, according to the ICI.
Since late February, U.S. stock funds have suffered estimated outflows of nearly $55 billion. Those net withdrawals come despite the fact the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 hit a fresh record high of 2130.82 on May 21 and the Dow Jones industrial average notched a fresh record on May 19.
Those that are smart are getting out while the getting is good.
In all the time that I have been publishing The Economic Collapse Blog, I have never seen stocks so primed for a crash. If you were writing up a scenario for a textbook that imagined what a lead up to a major stock market crash would look like, you could very easily use the last six months as a model.
For a long time, many people out there (including some of my readers) have been very impatiently waiting for the financial markets to crash. But this is not something that any of us should want to see. When this next great financial crisis comes, it is going to be absolutely horrible. Millions upon millions of workers will lose their jobs, and there will be tremendous economic suffering all over the planet.
Tomorrow I plan to share something that is going to shock a lot of people.
It is going to be something that I have never done before, but the time has come.
As we move toward the second half of 2015, signs of financial turmoil are appearing all over the globe. In Greece, a full blown bank run is happening right now. Approximately 2 billion euros were pulled out of Greek banks in just the past three days, Barclays says that capital controls are “imminent” unless a debt deal is struck, and there are reports that preparations are being made for a “bank holiday” in Greece. Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are absolutely crashing. The Shanghai Composite Index was down more than 13 percent this week alone. That was the largest one week decline since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In the U.S., stocks aren’t crashing yet, but we just witnessed one of the largest one week outflows of capital from the bond markets that we have ever witnessed. Slowly but surely, we are starting to see the smart money head for the exits. As one Swedish fund manager put it recently, everyone wants “to avoid being caught on the wrong side of markets once the herd realizes stocks are over-valued“.
I don’t think that most people understand how serious things have gotten already. In Greece, so much money has been pulled out of the banks that the European Central Bank admits that Greek banks may not be able to open on Monday…
The European Central Bank told a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Thursday that it was not sure if Greek banks, which have been suffering large daily deposit outflows, would be able to open on Monday, officials with knowledge of the talks said.
Greek savers have withdrawn about 2 billion euros from banks over the past three days, with outflows accelerating rapidly since talks between the government and its creditors collapsed at the weekend, banking sources told Reuters.
All over social media, people are sharing photos of long lines at Greek ATMs as ordinary citizens rush to get their cash out of the troubled banks. Here is one example…
And if there is no debt deal by the end of this month, the Greek debt crisis is going to totally spin out of control and financial chaos will begin to erupt all over Europe. But instead of trying to be reasonable, EU president Donald Tusk “has delivered an ultimatum to Greece”, and it almost appears as if EU officials are more concerned about winning a power struggle than they are about averting financial catastrophe…
EU president Donald Tusk has delivered an ultimatum to Greece, claiming the country must ‘accept an offer or default’ at an emergency summit set for Monday – in a last-ditch effort to stop the debt-stricken nation crashing out of the euro.
‘We are close to the point where the Greek government will have to choose between accepting what I believe is a good offer of continued support or to head towards default,’ Mr Tusk said today.
His comments come as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned that his country’s exit from the eurozone would trigger the collapse of the single currency.
‘The famous Grexit cannot be an option either for the Greeks or the European Union,’ he said in an Austrian newspaper interview.
‘This would be an irreversible step, it would be the beginning of the end of the eurozone.’
While all of this has been going on, the obscene stock market bubble in China has started to implode. Just check out the following numbers from Zero Hedge…
As the carnage began last night in China we noted the extreme levels of volatility the major indices had experienced in recent weeks. By the close, things were ugly with the broad Shanghai Composite down a stunning 13.3% on the week – the most since Lehman in 2008 (with Shenzhen slightly better at down 12.8% and CHINEXT down a record-breaking 14.99%).
Under normal circumstances, numbers like these would be reason for a full-blown financial panic over in Asia. But these are not normal times. Even with these losses, stock prices in China are still massively overinflated. For example, USA Today is reporting that the median stock over in China is “trading at 95 times earnings”…
Margin debt in China has soared to a record $363 billion, according to Bloomberg, and the median stock in mainland China is now trading at 95 times earnings, which even tops the price-to-earnings multiple of 68 back at the 2007 peak.
That is absolutely ridiculous. When a stock is trading at 25 or 30 times earnings it is overpriced. So these numbers that are coming out of China are beyond crazy, and what this means is that Chinese stocks have much, much farther to fall before they get back to any semblance of reality.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. money is flowing out of bonds at a staggering pace. The following quote originally comes from Bank of America…
“High grade credit funds suffered their biggest outflow this year, and double the previous week (and also the biggest since June 2013). High yield outflows also jumped to $1.1bn, the biggest since the start of the year. However, government bond funds suffered the most amid the recent spike in volatility, with outflows surging to the highest weekly number on record ($2.7bn). This brings the total outflow from fixed income funds to almost $6bn over the last week, the highest since the Taper Tantrum and the third highest outflow ever.”
Yesterday during an interview on MSNBC, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he has some big names in mind for the Treasury secretary if he wins the White House. “I’d like guys like Jack Welch. I like guys like Henry Kravis. I’d love to bring my friend Carl Icahn.” He also opined on the economy and the stock market, admitting that the Fed has benefited people like him but that the economy and is in a “big fat economic and financial bubble like you’ve never seen before.“
Ron Paul also believes that this financial bubble is going to end very badly. Just check out what he told CNBC earlier this week…
Despite record highs in the market, former Rep. Ron Paul says the Fed’s easy money policies have left stocks and bonds are on the verge of a massive collapse.
“I am utterly amazed at how the Federal Reserve can play havoc with the market,” Paul said on CNBC’s “Futures Now” referring to Thursday’s surge in stocks. The S&P 500 closed less than 1 percent off its all-time high. “I look at it as being very unstable.”
In Paul’s eyes, “the fallacy of economic planning” has created such a “horrendous bubble” in the bond market that it’s only a matter of time before the bottom falls out. And when it does, it will lead to “stock market chaos.”
Yes, this financial bubble has persisted far longer than many believed possible, but all irrational bubbles eventually burst.
And you know what they say – the bigger they come the harder they fall.
When this gigantic financial bubble finally implodes, it is going to be absolutely horrifying, and the entire planet is going to be shocked by the carnage.
Is the financial collapse that so many are expecting in the second half of 2015 already starting? Many have believed that we would see bonds crash before the stock market crashes, and that is precisely what is happening right now. Since mid-April, the yield on 10 year German bonds has shot up from 0.05 percent to 0.89 percent. But much of that jump has come this week. Just a couple of days ago, the yield on 10 year German bonds was sitting at just 0.54 percent. And it isn’t just Germany – bond yields are going crazy all over Europe. So far, it is being estimated that global investors have lost more than half a trillion dollars, and there is much more room for these bonds to fall. In the end, the overall losses could be well into the trillions even before the stock market collapses.
I know that for most average Americans, talk about “bond yields” is rather boring. But it is important to understand these things, because we could very well be looking at the beginning of the next great financial crisis. The following is an excerpt from an article by Wolf Richter in which he details the unprecedented carnage that we have witnessed over the past few days…
On Tuesday, ahead of the ECB’s policy announcement today, German Bunds sagged, and the 10-year yield soared from 0.54% to 0.72%, drawing a squiggly diagonal line across the chart. In just one day, yield increased by one-third!
Makes you wonder to which well-connected hedge funds the ECB had once again leaked its policy statement and the all-important speech by ECB President Mario Draghi that the rest of us got see today.
And today, the German 10-year yield jump to 0.89%, the highest since October last year. From the low in mid-April of 0.05% to today’s 0.89% in just seven weeks! Bond prices, in turn, have plunged! This is the definition of a “rout.”
Other euro sovereign bonds have gone through a similar rout, with the Spanish 10-year yield soaring from 1.05% in March to 2.07% today, and the Italian 10-year yields jumping from a low in March of 1.03% to 2.17% now.
What this means is that the central banks are losing control.
In particular, the European Central Bank has been trying very hard to force yields down, and now the exact opposite is happening.
This is very bad news for a global financial system that is absolutely teeming with red ink. Since the last financial crisis, our planet has been on the greatest debt binge of all time. If we are moving into a time of higher interest rates, that is going to cause enormous problems. Unfortunately, CNBC says that is precisely where things are headed…
The wild breakout in German yields is rocking global debt markets, and giving investors an early glimpse of the uneasy future for bonds in a world of higher interest rates.
The shakeout also carries a message for corporate bond investors, who have snapped up a record level of new issuance this year, and are now seeing negative total returns in the secondary market for the first time this year.
So why is this happening?
Why are bond yields going crazy?
According to the Wall Street Journal, financial regulators in Europe are blaming the ECB’s quantitative easing program…
A recent surge in government bond market volatility can be blamed on the quantitative easing program of the European Central Bank, according to one of Europe’s top financial regulators.
EIOPA, the body responsible for regulating insurers and pension funds in the European Union, has warned that the ECB’s decision to buy billions of euros’ worth of sovereign bonds, to kick-start the region’s economy, has caused markets to become choppier.
And actually this is what should be happening. When central banks start creating money out of thin air and pumping it into the markets, investors should rationally demand a higher return on their money. This didn’t really happen when the Federal Reserve tried quantitative easing, so the Europeans thought that they might as well try to get away with it too. Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to catch up with the scam.
So what happens next?
Well, European bond yields are probably going to keep heading higher over the coming weeks and months. This will especially be true if the Greek crisis continues to escalate. And unfortunately for Europe, that appears to be exactly what is happening…
Greece will not make a June 5 repayment to the International Monetary Fund if there is no prospect of an aid-for-reforms deal with its international creditors soon, the spokesman for the ruling Syriza party’s lawmakers said on Wednesday.
The payment of 300 million euros ($335 million) is the first of four this month totaling 1.6 billion euros from a country that depends on foreign aid to stay afloat.
Greece owes a total of about 320 billion euros, of which about 65 percent to euro zone governments and the IMF, and about 8.7 percent to the European Central Bank.
On Tuesday, Greece’s creditors drafted the broad outlines of an agreement to put to the leftist government in Athens in a bid to conclude four months of negotiations and release aid before the country runs out of money.
“If there is no prospect of a deal by Friday or Monday, I don’t know by when exactly, we will not pay,” Nikos Filis told Mega TV.
Biagio Bossone and Marco Cattaneo write that according to several recent media reports, both the Greek government and the ECB are taking into consideration the possibility (for Greece) to issue a parallel domestic currency to pay for government expenditures, including civil servant salaries, pensions, etc. This could happen in the coming weeks as Greece faces a severe shortage of euros. A new domestic currency would help make payments to public employees and pensioners while freeing up the euros needed to pay out creditors.
If Greece defaults and starts using another currency, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields all over the continent are going to start heading into the stratosphere.
That is why it is so important to keep an eye on what is going on in Greece.
But no matter what happens in Greece, it appears that we are moving into a time when there will be higher interest rates around the world. And since 505 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rate levels, that could lead to a financial unraveling unlike anything that we have ever seen before in the history of our planet.
As I have warned about so many times before, 2008 was just the warm up act.
The main event is still coming, and it is going to be extraordinarily painful.
Warren Buffett believes “that bonds are very overvalued“, and a recent survey of fund managers found that 80 percent of them are convinced that bonds have become “badly overvalued“. The most famous bond expert on the planet, Bill Gross, recently confessed that he has a sense that the 35 year bull market in bonds is “ending” and he admitted that he is feeling “great unrest”. Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller has added a new chapter to his bestselling book in which he argues that bond prices are “irrationally high”. The global bond bubble has ballooned to more than 76 trillion dollars, and interest rates have never been lower in modern history. In fact, 25 percent of all government bonds in Europe actually have a negative rate of return at this point. There is literally nowhere for the bond market to go except for the other direction, and when this bull market turns into a bear it will create chaos and financial devastation all over the planet.
In a recent piece entitled “A Sense Of Ending“, bond guru Bill Gross admitted that the 35 year bull market in bonds that has made him and those that have invested with him so wealthy is now coming to an end…
Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted. They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date. To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date. Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.
I wish to still be active in say 2020 to see how this ends. As it is, in 2015, I merely have a sense of an ending, a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. But if so, like death, only the timing is in doubt. Because of this sense, however, I have unrest, increasingly a great unrest. You should as well.
Bill Gross is someone that knows what he is talking about. I would consider his words very carefully.
Another renowned financial expert, Yale professor Robert Shiller, warned us about the stock bubble in 2000 and about the real estate bubble in 2005. Now, he is warning about the danger posed by this bond bubble…
In the first edition of his landmark book “Irrational Exuberance,” published in 2000, the Yale professor of economics and 2013 Nobel Laureate presciently warned that stocks looked especially expensive. In the second edition, published in 2005 shortly before the real estate bubble crashed, he added a chapter about real estate valuations. And in the new edition, due out later this month, Shiller adds a fresh chapter called “The Bond Market in Historical Perspective,” in which he worries that bond prices might be irrationally high.
For years, ultra-low interest rates have enabled governments around the world to go on a debt binge unlike anything the world has ever seen. Showing very little restraint since the last financial crisis, they have piled up debts that are exceedingly dangerous. If interest rates were to return to historical norms, it would instantly create the greatest government debt crisis in history.
2) global government debt is increasing exponentially
3) 0% interest rates are allowing governments to borrow more to pay off old loans and fund deficits
4) Global growth is declining despite money printing and bailouts And, we’ve saved the latest and greatest fact for last: as stunning as 0% interest rates sound, the mathematically-challenged-fantasyland called Europe has just one upped everyone by introducing NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES.
As of writing, over 25% of all bonds issued by European governments has a guaranteed negative return for investors.
Germany can borrow money for 5 years at an interest rate of NEGATIVE 0.10%. Yes, instead of Germany paying you interest when you lend them money, you have to pay them interest.
These same negative interest rate conditions exist across many of the Eurozone countries, as well as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Negative interest rates are by nature irrational.
Why in the world would you pay someone to borrow money from you?
It doesn’t make any sense at all, and this irrational state of affairs will not last for too much longer.
At some point, investors are going to come to the realization that the 35 year bull market for bonds is finished, and then there will be a massive rush for the exits. This rush for the exits will be unlike anything the bond market has ever seen before. Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal says that this coming rush for the exits will set off a “death spiral”…
Anyone who holds the view that the Fed will not soon raise interest rates,and soon, fails to understand the nature of the developing crisis. It will be led by a collapse of the bond market.
Market forces, somewhat misleadingly called bond-vigilantes, will lead the charge.
I am not as bearish in the short-term on the stock market. The equity markets will be volatile because of the climb in rates and look scary at times but the death spiral will be in the bond market.
As this death spiral accelerates, we are going to see global interest rates rise dramatically. And considering the fact that more than 400 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rates, that is a very scary thing.
And in case you are wondering, the stock market will be deeply affected by all of this as well. I believe that we are going to witness a stock market crash even greater than what we experienced in 2008, and other experts are projecting similar things. For example, just consider what Marc Faber recently told CNBC…
“For the last two years, I’ve been thinking that U.S. stocks are due for a correction,” Faber said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “But I always say a bubble is a bubble, and if there’s no correction, the market will go up, and one day it will go down, big time.”
“The market is in a position where it’s not just going to be a 10 percent correction. Maybe it first goes up a bit further, but when it comes, it will be 30 percent or 40 percent minimum!” Faber asserted.
Where we are right now is at the end of the party. There are some that want to keep on dancing to the music for as long as possible, but most can see that things are winding down and people are starting to head for the exits.
The irrational global financial bubble that investors have been enjoying for the past few years has stretched on far longer than it should have. But that is the way irrational bubbles work – they just keep going even when everyone can see that they have become absolutely absurd. However, eventually something always comes along and bursts them, and once that happens markets can crash very, very rapidly.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time. During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows. This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt. During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows. All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal? If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that. In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else. What will that do to home sales and car sales? And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession. We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up. We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that. The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.
This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that. Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.
So who would replace him? Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion. She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy. It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.
But is it a fundamentally sound path? Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point. In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…
“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.
“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”
Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades. This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply. This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…
Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!
And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…
Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!
Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!
In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.
If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.
And we have seen this pattern before.
As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…
As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.
As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.
So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead. If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.
And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point. He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.
Is the financial collapse of Italy going to be the final blow that breaks the back of Europe financially? Most people don’t realize this, but Italy is actually the third largest debtor in the entire world after the United States and Japan. Italy currently has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 120 percent, and Italy has a bigger national debt than anyone else in Europe does. That is why it is such a big deal that Italian voters have just overwhelmingly rejected austerity. The political parties led by anti-austerity candidates Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo did far better than anticipated. When you combine their totals, they got more than 50 percent of the vote. Italian voters have seen what austerity has done to Greece and Spain and they want no part of it. Unfortunately for Italian voters, it has been the promise of austerity that has kept the Italian financial system stable in recent months. Now that Italian voters have clearly rejected austerity, investors are fearing that austerity programs all over Europe may start falling apart. This is creating quite a bit of panic in European financial markets right now. On Tuesday, Italian stocks had their worst day in 10 months, Italian bond yields rose by the most that we have seen in 19 months, and the stocks of the two largest banks in Italy both fell by more than 8 percent. Italy is already experiencing its fourth recession since 2001, and unemployment has been steadily rising. If Italy is now “ungovernable”, as many are saying, then what does that mean for the future of Italy? Will Italy be the spark that sets off financial armageddon in Europe?
All of Europe was totally shocked by the election results in Italy. As you can see from the following excerpt from a Bloomberg article, the vote was very divided and the anti-austerity parties did much better than had been projected…
The results showed pre-election favorite Pier Luigi Bersani won the lower house with 29.5 percent, less than a half a percentage point ahead of Silvio Berlusconi, the ex-premier fighting a tax-fraud conviction. Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, got 25.6 percent, while Monti scored 10.6 percent. Bersani and his allies got 31.6 percent of votes in the Senate, compared with 30.7 percent for Berlusconi and 23.79 percent for Grillo, according to final figures from the Interior Ministry.
So what do those election results mean for Italy and for the rest of Europe?
Right now, there is a lot of panic about those results. There is fear that what just happened in Italy could result in a rejection of austerity all over Europe…
“I think the election results (or lack thereof) are a negative for the euro, which will likely keep the currency pressured for some time,” Omer Esiner, chief market analyst for Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, told me. But it’s not just the political uncertainty in Italy, he adds. “The shocking gains made by anti-establishment parties in Italy signal a broad-based frustration with austerity among voters and a decisive rejection of the policies pushed by Germany in nations across the euro zone’s periphery. That theme revives unresolved debt crisis issues and could threaten the continuity of reforms across other countries in the euro zone.”
And the financial markets have clearly interpreted the election results in Europe as a very bad sign. Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad news out of Europe that we saw on Tuesday…
Swiss 2Y rates turned negative once again for the first time in a month; EURUSD relatively flatlined around 1.3050 (250 pips lower than pre-Italy); Europe’s VIX exploded to almost 26% (from under 19% yesterday); and 3-month EUR-USD basis swaps plunged to their most liquidity-demanding level since 12/28. Spain and Italy (and Portugal) were the most hurt in bonds today as 2Y Italian spreads broke back above 200bps (surging over 50bps casting doubt on OMT support) and 3Y Spain yields broke above 3% once again. The Italian equity market suffered its equal biggest drop in 6 months falling back to 10 week lows (and down 14% from its end-Jan highs). Italian bond yields (and spreads) smashed higher – the biggest jump in 19 months as BTP futures volume exploded in the last two days.
Not that things in Europe were going well before all this.
In Spain, a major real estate company, Reyal Urbis, collapsed last week, leaving already battered banks on the hook for millions of euros in losses. Meanwhile, the government faces a corruption scandal and a steady stream of anti-austerity demonstrations. Thousands of people took to the streets again on Saturday, protesting deep cuts to health and other services, as well as hefty bank bailouts.
Life is no better in a large swath of the broader EU. In Britain, Moody’s cited the continuing economic weakness and the resulting risks to the government’s tight fiscal policy for its rating cut. In Bulgaria, where the government fell last week and the economy is in a shambles, rightists who joined mass demonstrations across the country burned a European Union flag and waved anti-EU banners. Other austerity-minded governments in the EU face similar murky political futures.
At this point, Europe is a complete and total economic mess and things are rapidly getting worse.
And that is really bad news because Europe is already in the midst of a recession. In fact, according to the BBC, the recession in the eurozone got even deeper during the fourth quarter of 2012…
The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.
The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.
It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.
But this is just the beginning.
The truth is that government debt is not even the greatest danger that Europe is facing. In reality, a collapse of the European banking system is of much greater concern.
Why is that?
Well, how would you feel if you woke up someday and every penny that you had in the bank was gone?
In the U.S. we don’t have to worry about that so much because all deposits are insured by the FDIC, but in many European countries things work much differently.
For example, just check out what Graham Summers recently had to say about the banking system in Spain…
It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank.
So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever (see the above article for proof).
This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything.
And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.
Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We’re literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe’s banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I’m joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening.
Like Graham Summers, I am extremely concerned about the European banking system. Europe actually has a much larger banking system than the U.S. does, and if the European banking system implodes that is going to send huge shockwaves to the farthest corners of the globe.
But if you want to believe that the “experts” in Europe and in the United States have “everything under control”, then you might as well stop reading now.
After all, they are very highly educated and they know what they are doing, right?
But if you want to listen to some common sense, you might want to check out this very ominous warning from Karl Denninger…
I hope you’re ready.
Congress has wasted the time it was given by the Europeans getting things “temporarily” under control. But they didn’t actually get anything under control, as the Italian elections just showed.
Now, with the budget over there at risk of being abandoned, and fiscal restraint being abandoned (note: exactly what the US has been doing) the markets are recognizing exactly the risk that never in fact went away over the last couple of years.
It was hidden by lies, just as it has been hidden by lies here.
Bernanke’s machinations and other games “gave” the Congress four years to do the right thing. They didn’t, because that same “gift” also destroyed all market signals of urgency.
As such you have people like Krugman and others claiming that it’s all ok and that we can spend with wild abandon, taking our fiscal medicine never.
They were wrong. Congress was wrong. The Republicans were wrong, the Democrats were wrong, and the Administration was wrong.
Congress is out of time; as I noted the deficit spending must stop now, irrespective of the fact that it will cause significant economic damage.
For the past couple of years, authorities in the U.S. and in Europe have been trying to delay the coming crisis by kicking the can down the road.
By doing so, they have been making the eventual collapse even worse.
What in the world is happening over in Europe? Well, it is actually quite simple. We are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the euro and of the European financial system. At this point, many analysts are convinced that a full-blown financial implosion in Europe has become inevitable. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt. Meanwhile, Germany and the few other “healthy” members of the EU continue to try to keep all of the balls in the air by bailing everyone out. But can Germany keep bailing the rest of the EU out indefinitely? Are the German people going to continue to be willing to hand out gigantic sacks of cash to fix the problems of other EU nations? The Irish were just bailed out, but their problems are far from over. There are rumors that Greece will soon need another bailout. Spain, Portugal, Italy and France have all entered crisis territory. At the same time, there are a whole host of nations in eastern Europe that are also on the verge of financial collapse. So is there any hope that a major sovereign debt crisis can be averted at this point?
One would like to think that there is always hope, but each month things just seem to keep getting worse. Confidence in European government debt continues to plummet. The yield on 10-year Irish bonds is up to 8.97%. The yield on 10-year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 12.01%. The cost of insuring French debt hit a new record high on December 20th.
Bond ratings all over Europe are being slashed or are being threatened with being slashed. For example, Moody’s Investors Service recently cut Ireland’s bond rating by five levels. Now there is talk that Spain, Belgium and even France could soon all have their debt significantly downgraded as well.
But if the borrowing costs for these troubled nations keep going up, that is just going to add to their financial problems and swell their budget deficits. In turn, larger budget deficits will cause investors to lose even more confidence.
So how far are we away from a major crisis point?
Professor Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citibank, is warning that quite a few EU nations could financially collapse in the next few months if they are not quickly bailed out….
“The market is not going to wait until March for the EU authorities to get their act together. We could have several sovereign states and banks going under. They are being far too casual.”
Many analysts are even calling for some of these troubled nations to stop using the euro for a while so that they can recover. In fact, Andrew Bosomworth, the head of portfolio management for Pimco in Europe says that Greece, Ireland and Portugal must all quit the euro at least for a little while if they expect to survive….
“Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot get back on their feet without either their own currency or large transfer payments.”
Sadly, most Americans don’t realize just how bad the situation in Europe is becoming. This is truly a historic crisis that is unfolding.
“The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.”
So what is the answer?
Well, many are speculating that the EU could actually break up over this whole thing, but another possibility is that we could eventually see much greater integration.
In fact, for the first time the idea that “euro bonds” could be issued is gaining some traction. This would spread the risk of European government debt throughout the European Union. At this point, Andrew Bosomworth says that things have gotten so bad that it now seems inevitable that we will soon see the creation of euro bonds….
“Whether now or later, there is no way around a euro bond.”
“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher.”
So why should Americans care about all this?
Well, what is happening to these troubled European states is eventually going to happen to us.
If rates on U.S. government debt eventually hit 8 or 12 percent it will literally be financial armageddon in this country. The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and if we continue piling up debt at the pace that we are, then it will only be a matter of time before the IMF is demanding that we implement our own “austerity measures”.
As I have written about previously, there are already numerous indications that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying. If that happens, we could literally see interest costs on the national debt double or even triple.
But it is not just the U.S. government that is in trouble. A bloodbath in the municipal bond market has already started. Hundreds of state and local governments across the United States are on the verge of bankruptcy.
So don’t laugh at what is going on in Ireland or Greece. The next victims could be financially troubled states such as California and Illinois.
In the history of global finance, we have never faced a sovereign debt crisis like we are seeing now. All over the globe governments are being suffocated by absolutely crushing debt loads. Once a couple of dominoes fall, it is going to be really hard to keep the rest of the dominoes from falling.
This is the biggest crisis that the euro has ever faced. At some point Germany will either be unwilling or unable to continuing rescuing the rest of the EU countries from the unsustainable mountains of debt that they have accumulated. When that moment arrives, it is going to throw world financial markets into turmoil.
But this is what happens when we allow long-term debt bubbles to be created. Eventually they always burst.
So keep your eye on the euro, because if a financial collapse does happen in Europe it is going to have a dramatic impact on the United States as well.