Are we right on the verge of one of the greatest financial collapses in American history? I have been repeatedly warning that our ridiculously over-inflated stock market bubble could burst at any time, but former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan believes that the bond bubble actually presents an even greater danger. When you look at the long-term charts, you will see that an epic bond bubble has been growing since the early 1980s, and when it finally collapses the financial carnage is going to be unlike anything we have ever seen before.
Since the last financial crisis, global central banks have purchased trillions of dollars worth of bonds, and this has pushed interest rates to absurdly low levels. But of course this state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely, and Greenspan is extremely concerned about what will happen when interest rates start going in the other direction…
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan issued a bold warning Friday that the bond market is on the cusp of a collapse that also will threaten stock prices.
In a CNBC interview, the longtime central bank chief said the prolonged period of low interest rates is about to end and, with it, a bull market in fixed income that has lasted more than three decades.
“The current level of interest rates is abnormally low and there’s only one direction in which they can go, and when they start they will be rather rapid,” Greenspan said on “Squawk Box.”
And of course Greenspan is far from alone. In recent months there have been a whole host of prominent voices warning about the devastation that will take place when the bond market begins to shift. For example, the following comes from Nasdaq.com…
Advisors and investors beware, the long-swelling bubble in the bond market looks set to pop. Major bond investors are as worried as they have ever been, mostly because of the reduction in easing that is finally coming to markets. Central banks are letting off the gas pedal for the first time in almost a decade, which could have a devastating effect on the bond market. According to the head of fixed income at JP Morgan Asset Management, who oversees almost half a trillion in AUM, “The next 18 months are going to be incredibly challenging. I am not an equity investor, but I can just imagine how equity investors felt in 1999, during the dotcom bubble”. He continued, “Right now, central banks are printing money at a rate of around $1.5tn per year. That is a lot of money going into bonds. By this time next year, we think this will turn negative”.
So how will we know when a crisis is imminent?
Some analysts are telling us to watch the 30-year yield. When it finally moves above its “mega moving average” and stays there, that will be a major red flag…
It’s still too soon to tell, but this could be the beginning of a realignment with both rates getting in sync again. This will not be confirmed, however, until the 30-year yield rises and stays above its mega moving average, currently at 3.18%.
As you know, this moving average is super important.
It’s identified and confirmed the mega downtrend in long-term interest rates ever since the 1980s. In other words, it doesn’t change often. So, if this trend were to change and turn up, it would be a huge deal.
Today, the 30-year yield moved up to 2.83 percent, and so we aren’t too far away.
There are so many prominent voices that are warning of imminent financial disaster, but there are others that believe that we have absolutely nothing to be concerned about. In fact, Jim Paulsen just told CNBC that he believes that this current bull market “could continue to forever”…
The stock market “has an awful good gig going,” with the economic recovery reaching all corners of the globe and U.S. inflation and interest rates still at historic lows, Leuthold Chief Investment Strategist Jim Paulsen told CNBC on Friday.
“We’ve got a fully employed economy, rising real wages. We restarted the corporate earnings cycle. We’ve got strong confidence among business and consumers,” he said on “Squawk Box.”
“The kick is we can do all of this without aggravating inflation and interest rates,” he said. “If that’s going to continue, I think the bull market could continue to forever.”
I think that Paulsen will end up deeply regretting those words.
No bull market lasts forever, and analysts at Goldman Sachs are warning that there is a 99 percent chance that stock market returns will be sub-optimal over the next decade.
But most people believe what they want to believe no matter what the facts may say, and Paulsen apparently wants to believe that things will never be bad for the financial markets ever again.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, the powers that be decided to patch the old system up. Instead of addressing the root causes of the crisis, they chose to paper over our problems instead, and now we are in the terminal phase of the biggest financial bubble in history.
This time around, it is absolutely imperative that we do things differently. The Federal Reserve is the primary reason why our economy is on an endless roller coaster ride. We have had 18 distinct recessions or depressions since 1913, and now another one is about to begin. By endlessly manipulating the system, they have caused these cycles of booms and busts, and it is time to get off of this roller coaster once and for all.
Like Ron Paul, I believe that we need to shut down the Federal Reserve and get our banks under control. I also believe that we should abolish the federal income tax and go to a much fairer system. From 1872 to 1913, there was no central bank and no federal income tax, and it was the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history. If we rebuild our financial system on sound principles, we could actually have a shot at a prosperous future. If not, the long-term future for our economy looks exceedingly bleak.
If you believe in what I am trying to do, I would like to ask for your help. I am running for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and since there is no incumbent running for this seat the race is completely wide open. Every time I share my message, more voters are coming over to my side, and if I am able to get my message out to every voter in this district I will win.
And I would like to encourage like-minded people to run for positions all over the country on the federal, state and local levels. Individually, there is a limit to what we can do, but if we work together we can build a movement which could turn this nation completely upside down.
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.
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.
There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is. When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little “mini-bubble” in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the tide is now turning. Interest rates are starting to move up steadily, even though the Federal Reserve has been trying very hard to keep that from happening. A few weeks ago, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may start to “taper” the rate of quantitative easing eventually, the bond market had a conniption and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up dramatically. In an attempt to calm the market, the Fed stopped all talk of a “taper” and that helped settle things down for a brief period of time. But now the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is starting to rise aggressively again. Today it closed at 2.71 percent, and many analysts believe that it will go much higher. This is important for the housing market, because mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. And if mortgage rates keep rising like this, another great real estate crash is inevitable.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he could use quantitative easing to control long-term interest rates. He assured us that he could force mortgage rates down for an extended period of time and that this would lead to a housing recovery.
But now the Fed is losing control of long-term interest rates. If this continues, either the Federal Reserve will have to substantially increase the rate of quantitative easing or else watch mortgage rates rise to absolutely crippling levels.
Three months ago, the average rate on a 30 year mortgage was 3.35 percent. It has shot up more than a full point since then…
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan rose to 4.39% from 4.31% last week. Rates are a full percentage point higher than in early May.
And as the chart below shows, mortgage rates have a lot more room to go up…
As mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments.
And monthly payments are already beginning to soar. Just check out this chart.
So what happens if mortgage rates eventually return to “normal” levels?
Well, it would be absolutely devastating to the housing market. As mortgage rates rise, less people will be able to afford to buy homes at current prices. This will force home prices down.
To a large degree, whether or not someone can afford to buy a particular home is determined by interest rates. The following numbers come from one of my previous articles…
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent. The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.
Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?
It shouldn’t. 8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.
And we are already seeing rising rates impact the market. The number of mortgage applications has fallen for 11 of the past 12 weeks, and this has been the biggest 3 month decline in mortgage applications that we have witnessed since 2009.
Rising interest rates will also have a dramatic impact on other areas of the real estate industry as well. For example, public construction spending is now the lowest that it has been since 2006.
And I find the chart posted below particularly interesting. As a Christian, I am saddened that construction spending by religious institutions has dropped to a stunningly low level…
So what does all of this mean?
Well, unless interest rates reverse course it appears that we are in the very early stages of another great real estate crash.
Only this time, it might not be so easy for the big banks to swoop in and foreclose on everyone. Just check out the radical step that one city in California is taking to stop bank foreclosures…
Richmond is the first city in the country to take the controversial step of threatening to use eminent domain, the power to take private property for public use. But other cities have also explored the idea.
Banks, the real estate industry and Wall Street are vehemently opposed to the idea, calling it “unconstitutional” and a violation or property rights, and something that will likely cause a flurry of lawsuits.
Richmond has partnered with San Francisco-based Mortgage Resolution Partners on the plan. Letters have been sent to 32 servicers and trustees who hold the underwater loans. If they refuse the city’s offer, officials will condemn and seize the mortgages, then help homeowners to refinance.
If more communities around the nation start using eminent domain to stop foreclosures, that is going to change the cost of doing business for mortgage lenders and it is likely going to mean more expensive mortgages for all the rest of us.
In any event, all of this talk about a “bright future” for real estate is just a bunch of nonsense.
You can’t buy a home if you don’t have a good job. And as I wrote about the other day, there are about 6 million less full-time jobs in America today than there was back in 2007.
You can’t get blood out of a stone, and you can’t buy a house on a part-time income. The lack of breadwinner jobs is one of the primary reasons why the homeownership rate in the United States is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.
And we aren’t going to produce good jobs if our economy is not growing. And economic growth in the U.S. has been anemic at best, even if you believe the official numbers.
We were originally told that the GDP growth number for the first quarter of 2013 was 2.4 percent. Then it was revised down to 1.8 percent. Now it has been revised down to 1.1 percent.
So precisely what are we supposed to believe?
Overall, since Barack Obama has been president the average yearly rate of growth for the U.S. economy has been just over 1 percent.
That isn’t very good at all.
But remember, the government numbers have been heavily manipulated to look good.
The reality is even worse.
According to the alternate GDP numbers compiled by John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in a recession since 2005.
And now interest rates are rising rapidly, and that is very bad news for the U.S. economy.
I hope that you have your seatbelts buckled up tight, because it is going to be a bumpy ride.
If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008? That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again. Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009. It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around. So will we be able to handle a financial crash as bad as we experienced back in 2008? What if it is even worse this time? Considering the fact that we have been through this kind of thing before, you would think that our leaders would be feverishly trying to keep it from happening again and the American people would be rapidly preparing to weather the coming storm. Sadly, none of that is happening. It is almost as if they cannot even see the disaster that is staring them right in the face. But without a doubt, disaster is coming. The following are 18 similarities between the last financial crisis and today…
#1 According to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch equity strategy team, their big institutional clients are selling stock at a rate not seen “since 2008“.
#2 In 2008, stock prices had wildly diverged from where the economic fundamentals said that they should be. Now it has happened again.
#3 In early 2008, the average price of a gallon of gasoline rose substantially. It is starting to happen again. And remember, whenever the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. has risen above $3.80 during the past three years, a stock market decline has always followed.
#6 Prior to the financial crisis of 2008, there was a spike in the number of adjustable rate mortgages. It is happening again.
#7 Just before the last financial crisis, unemployment claims started skyrocketing. Well, initial claims for unemployment benefits are rising again. Once we hit the 400,000 level, we will officially be in the danger zone.
#8 Continuing claims for unemployment benefits just spiked to the highest level since early 2009.
#9 The yield on 10 year Treasuries is now up to 2.60 percent. We also saw the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rise significantly during the first half of 2008.
#10 According to Zero Hedge, “whenever the annual change in core capex, also known as Non-Defense Capital Goods excluding Aircraft shipments goes negative, the US has traditionally entered a recession”. Guess what? It is rapidly heading toward negative territory again.
#11 Average hourly compensation in the United States experienced its largest drop since 2009 during the first quarter of 2013.
#12 In the month of June, spending at restaurants fell by the most that we have seen since February 2008.
#13 Just before the last financial crisis, corporate earnings were very disappointing. Now it is happening again.
#14 Margin debt spiked just before the dot.com bubble burst, it spiked just before the financial crash of 2008, and now it is spiking again.
#18 Prior to the last financial crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke assured the American people that home prices would not decline and that there would not be a recession. We all know what happened. Now he is once again promising that everything is going to be just fine.
Are the American people going to fall for it again?
And the truth is that most Americans already know that we are in deep trouble. Today, 61 percent of all Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track.
It isn’t that so many people are choosing to be pessimistic. It is just that an increasing number of Americans are waking up to the cold, hard reality that we are facing.
Decades of incredibly foolish decisions have brought us to this point. We allowed our economic infrastructure to be gutted, we consumed far more wealth than we produced, our politicians kept doing incredibly stupid things but we kept voting the same jokers back into office again and again, and over the past 40 years we have blown up the biggest debt bubble in all of human history.
We have been living so far above our means for so long that most of us actually think that our current economic situation is “normal”.
But no, there is nothing normal about what we are experiencing. We are entering the terminal phase of a colossal debt spiral, and when it flames out the economic devastation is going to be absolutely spectacular.
When the next major wave of the economic collapse comes and unemployment soars well up into the double digits, millions of businesses close and millions of American families lose their homes, I hope that those that are assuring all of us that there will not be an economic collapse will come back and apologize.
There are tens of millions of people out there right now that are not making any preparations at all because they have been promised that everything is going to be okay. When the next financial crash happens, most of them will be absolutely blindsided by it and many of them will totally give in to despair.
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.
In the United States, it is not just the federal government that has a horrific debt problem. Today, state and local governments across America are collectively deeper in debt than they ever have been before. In fact, state and local government debt is now sitting at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP. Once upon a time, municipal bonds (used to fund such things as roads, sewer systems and government buildings) were viewed as incredibly safe investments. They were considered to have virtually no risk. But now all of that has changed. Many analysts are now openly speaking of the possibility of a municipal bond market crash in 2011. The truth is that dozens upon dozens of city and county governments are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Even the debt of some of our biggest state governments, such as Illinois and California, is essentially considered to be “junk” at this point. There are literally hundreds of governmental financial implosions happening in slow motion from coast to coast, and up to this point not a lot of people in the mainstream media have been talking about it.
Fortunately, a recent report on 60 Minutes has brought these issues to light. If you have not seen it yet, do yourself a favor and click on the video below and spend a few minutes watching it. It is absolutely stunning.
In the piece, one of the people that 60 Minutes interviewed was Meredith Whitney – one of the most respected financial analysts in the United States. According to Whitney, the municipal bond crisis that we are facing is a massive threat to our financial system….
“It has tentacles as wide as anything I’ve seen. I think next to housing this is the single most important issue in the United States and certainly the largest threat to the U.S. economy.”
State and local governments across the United States are facing a complete and total financial nightmare. The 60 Minutes report posted below does a pretty good job of describing the problem but it doesn’t even pretend to come up with any solutions….
Unlike the federal government, state and local governments cannot just ask the Federal Reserve to print up endless amounts of cash. If state and local governments want to spend more than they bring in, they must borrow it from investors.
If the municipal bond market crashes, and investors around the world are no longer willing to hand over gigantic sacks of cash to state and local governments in the United States, then the game is over. Either state and local governments will have to raise taxes or they will have to start spending within their means.
Most Americans have no idea what this would mean. For decade after decade, state and local governments throughout the nation have been living way, way, way above their means. If the debt cycle gets cut off, it is going to mean that many local communities around the nation will start degenerating into rotting hellholes nearly overnight.
We are already seeing this happen in places such as Detroit, Michigan and Camden, New Jersey but if the municipal bond market totally collapses we are quickly going to have dozens of Detroits and Camdens from coast to coast.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the state and local governments that are in some of the biggest trouble….
California is facing a 19 billion dollar budget deficit next year, and incoming governor Jerry Brown is scrambling to find billions more to cut from the California state budget. At this point, investors are becoming increasingly wary about loaning any more money to the state. The following quote from Brown about the desperate condition of California state finances is not going to do much to inspire confidence in California’s financial situation around the globe….
“We’ve been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I’m shocked.”
Unfortunately, the economic situation in California continues to degenerate. For example, 24.3 percent of the residents of El Centro, California are now unemployed. In fact, the number of people unemployed in the state of California is approximately equivalent to the populations of Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
The housing market in the state is also a major drag on the economy there. For instance, the average home in Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years.
The state of California is swamped with so much debt that there literally appears to be no way out.
The state government of Arizona is so incredibly starved for cash that it actually sold off the state capitol building, the state supreme court building and the legislative chambers. Now they are leasing those buildings back from the investors that they sold them to.
Illinois is widely regarded to be in the worst financial condition of all the U.S. states. At this point, Illinois has approximately $5 billion in outstanding bills that have not been paid.
According to 60 Minutes, the state of Illinois is six months behind on bill payments. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded….
“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state.”
The University of Illinois alone is owed 400 million dollars. There are approximately two thousand not-for-profit organizations that are collectively owed a billion dollars by the Illinois state government.
The New Jersey state budget has been slashed by 26 percent, a billion dollars have been cut from education and thousands of teachers have been laid off.
But even with all of those cuts, New Jersey is still facing a $10 billion budget deficit next year, and the state has $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $65 billion in unfunded health care liabilities that it is somehow going to have to address in the future.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has come up with a new way to save money. He wants to cut 20 percent of Detroit off from essential social services such as road repairs, police patrols, functioning street lights and garbage collection.
One Miami commissioner declared earlier this year that bankruptcy may be the city’s only financial hope.
Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento
Major cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento have instituted “rolling brownouts” in which various city fire stations are shut down on a rotating basis.
The second most dangerous city in the United States – Camden, New Jersey – is about to lay off about half its police in a desperate attempt to save money.
Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that due to severe budget cuts there are a number of crimes that his department will simply not be able to respond to any longer. The crimes that the Oakland police will no longer be responding to include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism.
America used to be viewed as the land of great economic progress, but that is no longer the case. Sadly, all over the United States there are signs that we are actually going backwards as a country.
All over the nation, asphalt roads are actually being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain. The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.
Just think about that – we are actually going back to gravel roads.
But this is what is going to happen all over America if dozens of state and local governments start defaulting and the municipal bond market crashes.
In fact, don’t look now, but there are signs that a “bloodbath” in the municipal bond market has already begun. The months of November and December have been incredibly rocky for municipal bonds.
The days when U.S. states and cities could borrow seemingly endless amounts of incredibly cheap money are officially over.
So where are state and local governments going to get the money that they need?
Well, they are going to come and try to get it from you of course. Over the past two years, 36 of the 50 U.S. states have jacked up taxes or fees.
Many local governments are trying to raise funds any way that they can. For example, from now on if you are caught jaywalking in Los Angeles you will be slapped with a $191 fine.
This kind of thing is happening all over America. Police departments are being turned into revenue raising operations. Police are so busy writing tickets that they barely have any time to investigate actual crimes anymore.
But it simply is not going to be enough. State and local governments across the U.S. are facing financial holes of legendary proportions.
The 60 Minutes report above stated that the combined unfunded pension and health care liabilities of the 50 states is $1 trillion. Unfortunately, that is an estimate that is probably way too conservative. In fact, two prominent university professors have calculated that the combined unfunded pension liability for all 50 U.S. states is approximately 3.2 trillion dollars.
So if the municipal bond market does crash will the federal government step in and bail everyone out?
Well, this upcoming spring the $160 billion in federal “stimulus money” runs out. At that point there will likely be a huge cry for even more “stimulus money” for state and local governments.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the federal government is also flat broke and swimming in an ocean of endless red ink. Congress could potentially step in and try to bail all the state and local governments out, but in the end it is the American people who are going to have to pay the bill.
We are on the verge of a horrific economic collapse which is going to change life in this country as we know it forever. All of this debt is absolutely going to swamp us. Our politicians can keep trying to kick the can down the road for as long as they can, but eventually the financial nightmare that so many of us have been dreading is going to overtake us.
Selling government debt is a gigantic confidence game. For decades, investors all over the globe have gobbled up massive amounts of U.S. debt at incredibly low interest rates because they believed that it was a certainly that they would be paid back and be able to make a little bit of profit on top of it. Unfortunately, things have changed. Confidence is U.S. Treasuries is dying, and if confidence in U.S. government debt completely collapses at some point we could literally be looking at financial Armageddon. Why is that so? Well, when the world totally loses faith in U.S. Treasuries, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries will have to keep going up until enough investors are found to buy them. But much higher interest rates will mean much higher interest on the national debt and thus much higher federal budget deficits. That will erode confidence in U.S. Treasuries even further. In the end, a vicious cycle of eroding confidence and higher interest rates could ultimately lead to hyperinflation as the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve flood the system with endless amounts of paper money to try to keep the system solvent.
Faith in U.S. Treasury bonds is absolutely critical if the world financial system is going to continue to operate in a stable manner. In the post-World War 2 era, U.S. Treasuries have been largely viewed as the absolutely safest investment out there. So if there comes a point when the market for U.S. Treasuries completely collapses, it is going to cause unprecedented financial chaos. The worldwide derivatives market, which is already highly unstable, would almost certainly implode. Credit markets all over the globe would seize up. Global trade would quickly grind to a standstill.
This isn’t going to happen overnight (hopefully). Rather, the loss of confidence in U.S. Treasuries is something that is likely to take months or even years to play out. But once that confidence is gone, it is not something that will be able to be rebuilt easily.
Think of it this way – once you drive a car off a cliff, is it easy to reconstruct it?
Of course not.
Well, that is where we are headed with U.S. Treasuries.
The Federal Reserve is flooding the system with new dollars, Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress seem poised to pass a new tax deal which does not include corresponding spending cuts which will cause U.S. government budget deficits to become even more bloated, and there is a tremendous lack of faith both in U.S. political leaders and in the Federal Reserve at this point.
The rest of the world is losing faith that the U.S. government is going to be able to handle all of the debt that it has accumulated. We may be approaching a “tipping point” soon.
The following are 10 signs that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying….
#1 The financial community is extremely concerned that the tax deal that Barack Obama is pushing is going to dramatically increase U.S. government budget deficits over the next two years. On Monday, Moody’s warned that if Barack Obama’s tax deal with the Republicans becomes law, it will increase the likelihood that Moody’s could soon be forced to slash the rating of U.S. government debt.
#2 Already there are signs that some bond investors are looking for the exits. Last week, U.S. Treasuries suffered their largest two day sell-off since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in September 2008.
#3 The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds set a six-month high on Monday before pulling back a bit. Most analysts believe that Treasury yields are going to push significantly higher in coming weeks.
#4 This trend of rising yields has been going on for a while. In fact, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds have been steadily rising since October 7th.
#5 Even before the recent tax deal was announced there were already troubling signs regarding the growth of U.S. government debt. The U.S. government budget deficit rose to $150.4 billion in November, which was the largest November budget deficit ever recorded.
#6 It is not just the new tax deal that has investors around the globe spooked. The truth is that the rest of the globe reacted very negatively to the new round of quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve announced back in November. The Federal Reserve is flooding the system with liquidity and the rest of the world is not amused.
#7 The American people have less faith in the Federal Reserve and in the financial system than at any other point in recent memory. For example, a new Bloomberg National Poll has found that a majority of Americans now want the Federal Reserve to either be held more accountable or to be abolished entirely.
#8 Investors all over the globe are starting to wake up and realize that America’s debt problem is unsolvable. David Bloom, the currency chief at HSBC, raised eyebrows when he recently stated that “if yields are rising because people think America’s fiscal situation is unsustainable, then its Armaggedon.”
#9 There is also a growing feeling among investors that the Federal Reserve simply does not care about the danger of inflation, and this is making bondholders very nervous. Stephen Lewis of Monument Securities recently put it this way….
“There is a feeling that the Fed doesn’t care about inflation – in fact, wants more of it – and that is certainly not in the interest of bondholders.“
#10 Over the next 12 months, the U.S. government is going to be rolling over trillions of dollars in debt along with all of the new borrowing that it is going to be doing. In fact, the U.S. government is somehow going to have to find a way to finance debt that is equivalent to 27.8 percent of GDP in 2011.
For years our politicians have told us that “deficits don’t matter”, but the truth is that they do matter. The national debt of the United States is now the biggest debt in the history of the world by far, and yet most Americans do not seem to grasp the absolute financial horror that we are facing as a nation.
In the end, debt is always painful. It can be a lot of fun to run out and buy a beautiful new house, a couple of brand new cars and to run your credit cards up to the max, but eventually it catches up with you. Well, the same thing is now happening to us on a national level.
We are getting to the point where eventually we are not even going to be able to service the debt that we have already piled up. Once that happens we can either declare national bankruptcy or we can try to hyperinflate our way out of trouble.
Meanwhile, the once great U.S. economic machine is dying as well. The only reason we have been able to survive with all of this debt as long as we have is because of how powerful our economy has been.
The mighty economic machine which is supposed to provide funds to pay off all of this debt is being dismantled right in front of our eyes.
There was no way in the world that U.S. government debt was going to be sustainable even if our economy remained vibrant and healthy. The sad truth is that U.S. government debt is approximately 13 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.
But now that the “real economy” is dying a savage death there is simply no hope that this thing is ever going to turn around. The only thing left to do is to take bets on when the implosion is going to happen.
All of this “great tax cut debate” nonsense going on in Washington D.C. right now is just a bunch of incompetent politicians running around rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Perhaps these tax cuts will provide enough of a short-term economic boost to get many of them re-elected in 2012. Meanwhile, our long-term economic problems continue to get a lot worse.
It has become quite obvious that Barack Obama is completely clueless about the economy, and what is even sadder is that the “highly educated” Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, seems almost equally as clueless.
Unfortunately, Americans have become so dumbed-down that they don’t even realize that their leaders are incompetent. In fact, as sad as it is to say, most Americans you will meet on the street probably cannot even tell you what U.S. Treasuries are.
Let us hope and pray that investors around the globe continue to have at least some confidence in U.S. Treasuries for at least a little while longer. When “financial Armageddon” finally does happen, it isn’t going to be pleasant for any of us.
So enjoy these happy economic times while you still have them, because at some point things are going to get a whole lot worse.