The Greek government says that a “moment of truth” is coming on June 5th. Either their lenders agree to give them more money by that date, or Greece will default on a 300 million euro loan payment to the IMF. Of course it won’t technically be a “default” according to IMF rules for another 30 days after that, but without a doubt news that Greece cannot pay will send shockwaves throughout the financial world. At that point, those holding Greek bonds will start to panic as they realize that they might not get paid as well. All over Europe, there are major banks that are holding large amounts of Greek debt and derivatives that are related to the performance of Greek debt. If something is not done to avert disaster at the last moment, a default by Greece could be the spark that sets off a major European financial crisis this summer.
As I discussed the other day, neither the EU nor the IMF have given any money to Greece since August 2014. So now the Greek government is just about out of money, and without any new loans they will not be able to pay back the old loans that are coming due. In fact, things are so bad at this point that the Greek government is openly warning that it will default on June 5th…
Greece cannot make an upcoming payment to the International Monetary Fund on June 5 unless foreign lenders disburse more aid, a senior ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday, the latest warning from Athens it is on the verge of default.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government says it hopes to reach a cash-for-reforms deal in days, although European Union and IMF lenders are more pessimistic and say talks are moving too slowly for that.
Of course this is all part of a very high stakes chess game. The Greeks believe that the Germans will back down when faced with the prospect of a full blown European financial crisis, and the Germans believe that the Greeks will eventually be feeling so much pain that they will be forced to give in to their demands.
So with each day we get closer and closer to the edge, and the Greeks are trying to do their best to let everyone know that they are not bluffing. Just today, a spokesperson for the Greek government came out and declared that unless there is a deal by June 5th, the IMF “won’t get any money”…
Greek officials now point to a race against the clock to clinch a deal before payments totaling about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the IMF come due next month, starting with a 300 million euro payment on June 5.
“Now is the moment that negotiations are coming to a head. Now is the moment of truth, on June 5,” Nikos Filis, spokesman for the ruling Syriza party’s lawmakers, told ANT1 television.
“If there is no deal by then that will address the current funding problem, they won’t get any money,” he said.
But the Germans know that the Greeks desperately need more money and can’t last much longer. The Greek banking system is so close to collapse that Moody’s just downgraded it again and warned that “there is a high likelihood of an imposition of capital controls and a deposit freeze” in the months ahead…
The outlook for the Greek banking system is negative, primarily reflecting the acute deterioration in Greek banks’ funding and liquidity, says Moody’s Investors Service in a new report published recently. These pressures are unlikely to ease over the next 12-18 months and there is a high likelihood of an imposition of capital controls and a deposit freeze.
The new report: “Banking System Outlook: Greece”, is now available on www.moodys.com. Moody’s subscribers can access this report via the link provided at the end of this press release.
Moody’s notes that significant deposit outflows of more than €30 billion since December 2014 have increased banks’ dependence on central bank funding. In our view, the banks are likely to remain highly dependent on central bank funding, as ongoing uncertainty regarding Greece’s support programme continues to compromise depositors’ confidence.
Unfortunately, when things really start going crazy in Greece people might be faced with much more than just frozen bank accounts. As I wrote about just a few days ago, there is a very strong possibility that we could actually see Cyprus-style wealth confiscation implemented in Greece when the banks collapse.
In fact, the Greek government is already talking about the possibility of a special tax on banking transactions…
Athens is promoting the idea of a special levy on banking transactions at a rate of 0.1-0.2 percent, while the government’s proposal for a two-tier value-added tax – depending on whether the payment is in cash or by card – has met with strong opposition from the country’s creditors.
A senior government official told Kathimerini that among the proposals discussed with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund is the imposition of a levy on bank transactions, whose exact rate will depend on the exemptions that would apply. The aim is to collect 300-600 million euros on a yearly basis.
Fee won’t include ATM withdrawals, transactions up to EU500; in this case Greek govt projects EU300m-EU600m annual revenue from measure.
Sadly, most people living in North America (which is most of my audience) does not really care much about what happens on the other side of the world.
But they should care.
If Greece defaults and the Greek banking system collapses, stocks and bonds will crash all over Europe. Many believe that such a crash can be “contained” to just Europe, but that is really just wishful thinking.
In addition, the euro would plummet dramatically, which would cause substantial financial problems all over the planet. As I recently explained, the euro is headed to parity with the U.S. dollar and then it is going to go below parity. Before it is all said and done, the euro is going to all-time lows.
Of course the U.S. dollar is eventually going to totally collapse as well, but that comes later and that is a story for another day.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro, the value of the U.S. dollar and the value of other global currencies.
So if you believe that what is happening in Greece cannot have massive ramifications for the entire global financial system, you are dead wrong.
What is happening in Greece is exceedingly important, and it is time for all of us to start paying attention.
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.
And the way that he ended his piece sounds rather ominous…
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.
A recent letter from IceCap Asset Management summarized where we basically stand today…
1) governments are unable to eliminate deficits
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.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece staying in the eurozone is no longer “the base case” for European officials, and one even told the Journal that “literally nothing has been achieved” in negotiations with the new Greek government since the Greek election almost three months ago. In other words, you can take all of that stuff you heard about how the Greek crisis was fixed and throw it out the window. Over the next few months, a big chunk of Greek government bonds held by the IMF and the European Central Bank will mature. Unless negotiations produce a load of new cash for Greece, there will be a default, and right now there is very little optimism that we will see an agreement any time soon. In fact, as I wrote about the other day, behind the scenes banks all over Europe are quietly preparing for a Grexit. European news sources are reporting that the Greek banking system is on the verge of collapse, and over the past couple of weeks Greek bond yields have shot through the roof. Most of the things that we would expect to see in the lead up to a Greek exit from the eurozone are happening, and now we will wait and see if the Greeks actually have the guts to pull the trigger when push comes to shove.
At this point, many top European officials are quietly admitting that it is more likely than not that Greece will leave the euro by the end of this year. The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article that I mentioned above…
It’s still possible that Greece can remain in the eurozone—though that is no longer the base case for many policy makers. At the very least, most fear the situation is going to get much, worse before it gets any better. No one now expects a deal to unlock Greek bailout funding at this week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga—originally set as the final deadline for a deal. The new final, final deadline is now said to be a summit on May 11.
But among European politicians and officials gathered in Washington DC last week for the International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meetings, there was little optimism that a deal will be agreed by then.
The two sides are no closer to an agreement than when the Greek government took office almost three months ago. “Nothing, literally nothing has been achieved,” says an official.
Literally nothing has been achieved?
That is not what the mainstream media has been telling us over the past few months.
They kept telling us that agreements were in place and that everything had been fixed.
I guess not.
The Germans believe that the risks of a “Grexit” have already been priced in by the financial markets and that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” without any serious risk of contagion.
So they are playing hardball with the Greeks.
On the other hand, the Greeks believe that the risk of contagion will eventually force the Germans to back down…
Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that if Greece were to leave the euro zone, there would be an inevitable contagion effect.
“Anyone who toys with the idea of cutting off bits of the euro zone hoping the rest will survive is playing with fire,” he told La Sexta, a Spanish TV channel, in an interview recorded 10 days ago.
“Some claim that the rest of Europe has been ring-fenced from Greece and that the ECB has tools at its disposal to amputate Greece, if need be, cauterize the wound and allow the rest of euro zone to carry on.”
In this case, I believe that the Greeks are right about what a Grexit would mean for the rest of Europe and the Germans are wrong.
Once one country leaves the euro, that tells the entire world that membership in the euro is only temporary. Immediately everyone would be looking for the “next Greece”, and there are lots of candidates – Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.
There is a very good chance that a Grexit would set off a full-blown European financial panic. And once a financial panic starts, it is very hard to stop. The danger that a Grexit poses is so obvious that even the Obama administration can see it…
A Greek exit from the euro zone would carry significant risks for the global economy and no one should be under the impression that financial markets have fully priced in such an event, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said.
The comments by Jason Furman in an interview with Reuters in Berlin are among the strongest by a senior U.S. official and are at odds with those of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told an audience in New York last week that contagion risks from a so-called “Grexit” were limited.
“A Greek exit would not just be bad for the Greek economy, it would be taking a very large and unnecessary risk with the global economy just when a lot of things are starting to go right,” Furman said.
Meanwhile things continue to get even worse inside Greece. If you have any money in Greek banks, you need to move it immediately. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
Things for insolvent, cashless Greece are – not unexpectedly – getting worse by the day.
Following yesterday’s shocking decree that the government will confiscate local government reserves and “sweep” them into the central bank to provide the country more funds as it approaches another month of heavy IMF repayments, earlier today Bloomberg reported that the ECB would add insult to injury and may increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing Emergency Liquidity Assistance, thus “reining in” the very critical emergency liquidity which has kept Greek banks operating in recent weeks as the bank run sweeping the domestic banking sector has gotten worse by the day.
And many Greeks don’t even have any money to put in the banks because they haven’t been paid in months…
Meanwhile, the reality is that for a majority of the Greek population, none of this really matters because as Greek Ta Nea reports, citing Labor Ministry data, about one million Greek workers see delays of up to 5 months in salaries payment by their employers. The Greek media adds that about 45% of salaried workers in Greece make no more than €751 per month, the country’s old minimum wage; which also includes part-time workers.
No matter what European officials try, things just continue to unravel in Greece and in much of the rest of Europe.
We stand on the verge of the next great global economic crisis. The lessons that we should have learned from the last crisis were never learned, and instead global debt levels have exploded much higher since then. In fact, according to Doug Casey, the total amount of global debt is 57 trillion dollars higher than it was just prior to the last crisis…
In 2008, excess debt pushed the global financial system to the brink. It was a golden opportunity for governments and banks to reform the system. But rather than deal with the problem, they papered over it by issuing more debt. Worldwide debt levels are now $57 trillion higher than in 2008.
The eurozone as it is constituted today is doomed.
That doesn’t mean that the Europeans are going to give up on social, economic and political integration. It just means that we are entering a time of transition that is going to be extremely messy.
And once the European financial system begins to fall apart, the rest of the world will quickly follow.
If a major financial crisis was approaching, we would expect to see the “smart money” getting out of stocks and pouring into government bonds that are traditionally considered to be “safe” during a crisis. This is called a “flight to safety” or a “flight to quality“. In the past, when there has been a “flight to quality” we have seen yields for German government bonds and U.S. government bonds go way down. As you will see below, this is exactly what we witnessed during the financial crisis of 2008. U.S. and German bond yields plummeted as money from the stock market was dumped into bonds at a staggering pace. Well, it is starting to happen again. In recent months we have seen U.S. and German bond yields begin to plummet as the “smart money” moves out of the stock market. So is this another sign that we are on the precipice of a significant financial panic?
Back in 2008, German bonds actually began to plunge well before U.S. bonds did. Does that mean that European money is “smarter” than U.S. money? That would certainly be a very interesting theory to explore. As you can see from the chart below, the yield on 10 year German bonds started to fall significantly during the summer of 2008 – several months before the stock market crash in the fall…
So what are German bonds doing today?
As you can see from this next chart, the yield on 10 year German bonds has been steadily falling since the beginning of last year. At this point, the yield on 10 year German bonds is just barely above zero…
And amazingly, most German bonds that have a maturity of less than 10 years actually have a negative yield right now. That means that investors are going to get back less money than they invest. This is how bizarre the financial markets have become. The “smart money” is so concerned about the “safety” of their investments that they are actually willing to accept negative yields. I don’t know why anyone would ever put their money into investments that have a negative yield, but it is actually happening. The following comes from Yahoo…
The world’s scarcest resource right now is safe yield, and the shortage is getting more extreme. Most German government bonds that mature in less than 10 years now have negative yields – part of some $2 trillion worth of paper with yields below zero.
This is what happens when the European Central Bank begins a trillion-euro bond-buying binge with rates already miniscule.
Yesterday, ECB boss Mario Draghi – unfazed by the protest stunt at his press conference – reaffirmed his plan to keep bidding for paper that yields more than -0.2% – that’s minus 0.2%.
Yes, the ECB is driving a lot of this, but it is still truly bizarre.
So what about the United States?
Well, first let’s take a look at what happened back in 2008. In the chart below, you can see the “flight to safety” that took place in late 2008 as investors started to panic…
And we have started to witness a similar thing happen in recent months. The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has plummeted as investors have looked for safety. This is exactly the kind of chart that we would expect to see if a financial crisis was brewing…
What makes all of this far more compelling is the fact that so many other patterns that we have witnessed just prior to past financial crashes are happening once again.
Yes, there are other potential explanations for why bond yields have been going down. But when you add this to all of the other pieces of evidence that a new financial crisis is rapidly approaching, quite a compelling case emerges.
For those that do not follow my website regularly, I encourage you to check out the following articles to get an idea of what I am talking about…
-“Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
-“Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…”
-“10 Key Events That Preceded The Last Financial Crisis That Are Happening Again RIGHT NOW”
-“Guess What Happened The Last Time The U.S. Dollar Skyrocketed In Value Like This?…”
-“7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now”
-“Guess What Happened The Last Two Times The S&P 500 Was Up More Than 200% In Six Years?”
Of course no two financial crashes ever look exactly the same.
The crisis that we are moving toward is not going to be precisely like the crisis of 2008.
But there are similarities and patterns that we can look for. When things start to get bad, investors act in predictable ways. And so many of the things that we are watching right now are just what we would expect to see in the lead up to a major financial crisis.
Sadly, most people are not willing to learn from history. Even though it is glaringly apparent that we are in a historic financial bubble, most investors on Wall Street cannot see it because they do not want to see it. They want to believe that somehow “things are different this time” and that stocks will just continue to go up indefinitely so that they can keep making lots and lots of money.
And despite what you may think, I actually want this bubble to continue for as long as possible. Despite all of our problems, life is still relatively good in America today – at least compared to what is coming.
I like to refer to this next crisis as our “third strike”.
Back in 2000 and 2001, the dotcom bubble burst and we experienced a painful recession, but we didn’t learn any lessons. That was strike number one.
Then came the financial crash of 2008 and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. But we didn’t learn any lessons from that either. Instead, we just reinflated the same old financial bubbles and kept on making the exact same mistakes as before. That was strike number two.
This next financial crisis will be strike number three. After this next crisis, I don’t believe that there will ever be a return to “normal” for the United States. I believe that this is going to be the crisis that unleashes hell in our nation.
So no, I am not eager for that to come. Even though there is no way that this bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity can last indefinitely, I would like for it to last at least a little while longer.
Because what comes after it is going to be truly terrible.
Who is to blame for the staggering collapse of the price of oil? Is it the Saudis? Is it the United States? Are Saudi Arabia and the U.S. government working together to hurt Russia? And if this oil war continues, how far will the price of oil end up falling in 2015? As you will see below, some analysts believe that it could ultimately go below 20 dollars a barrel. If we see anything even close to that, the U.S. economy could lose millions of good paying jobs, billions of dollars of energy bonds could default and we could see trillions of dollars of derivatives related to the energy industry implode. The global financial system is already extremely vulnerable, and purposely causing the price of oil to crash is one of the most deflationary things that you could possibly do. Whoever is behind this oil war is playing with fire, and by the end of this coming year the entire planet could be dealing with the consequences.
Ever since the price of oil started falling, people have been pointing fingers at the Saudis. And without a doubt, the Saudis have manipulated the price of oil before in order to achieve geopolitical goals. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Topf…
We don’t have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
If the Saudis wanted to stabilize the price of oil, they could do that immediately by announcing a production cutback.
The fact that they have chosen not to do this says volumes.
In addition to wanting to harm U.S. shale producers, some believe that the Saudis are determined to crush Iran. This next excerpt comes from a recent Daily Mail article…
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
There are others out there that are fully convinced that the Saudis and the U.S. are actually colluding to drive down the price of oil, and that their real goal is to destroy Russia.
In fact, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro openly promoted this theory during a recent speech on Venezuelan national television…
“Did you know there’s an oil war? And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia,” he said in a speech to state businessmen carried live on state TV.
“It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” he added, accusing the United States of trying to flood the market with shale oil.
Venezuela and Russia, which both have fractious ties with Washington, are widely considered the nations hardest hit by the global oil price fall.
And as I discussed just the other day, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to agree with this theory…
“We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.”
Without a doubt, Obama wants to “punish” Russia for what has been going on in Ukraine. Going after oil is one of the best ways to do that. And if the U.S. shale industry gets hurt in the process, that is a bonus for the radical environmentalists in Obama’s administration.
There are yet others that see this oil war as being even more complicated.
Marin Katusa believes that this is actually a three-way war between OPEC, Russia and the United States…
“It’s a three-way oil war between OPEC, Russia and North American shale,” says Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War,” and chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research.
Katusa doesn’t see production slowing in 2015: “We know that OPEC will not be cutting back production. They’re going to increase it. Russia has increased production to all-time highs.” With Russia and OPEC refusing to give up market share how will the shale industry compete?
Katusa thinks the longevity and staying power of the shale industry will keep it viable and profitable. “The versatility and the survivability of a lot of these shale producers will surprise people. I don’t see that the shale sector is going to collapse over night,” he says. Shale sweet spots like North Dakota’s Bakken region and Texas’ Eagle Ford area will help keep production levels up and output steady.
Whatever the true motivation for this oil war is, it does not appear that it is going to end any time soon.
And so that means that the price of oil is going to go lower.
How much lower?
One analyst recently told CNN that we could see the price of oil dip into the $30s next year…
Few saw the energy meltdown coming. Now that it’s here, industry analysts warn another move lower is possible as the momentum remains firmly to the downside.
“If this doesn’t hold, we could go back to price levels in late 2008 and early 2009 — down in the $30s. There’s no reason why it couldn’t happen,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at Telvent DTN.
Others are even more pessimistic. For instance, Jeremy Warner of the Sydney Morning Herald, who correctly predicted that the price of oil would fall below $80 this year, is now forecasting that the price of oil could fall all the way down to $20 next year…
Revisiting the past year’s predictions is, for most columnists a frequently humbling experience. The howlers tend to far outweigh the successes. Yet, for a change, I can genuinely claim to have got my main call for markets – that oil would sink to $US80 a barrel or less – spot on, and for the right reasons, too.
Just in case you think I’m making it up, this is what I said 12 months ago: “My big prediction is for $US80 oil, from which much of the rest of my outlook for the coming year flows. It’s hard to overstate the significance of a much lower oil price – Brent at, say, $US80 a barrel, or perhaps lower still – yet this is a surprisingly likely prospect, the implications of which have been largely missed by mainstream economic forecasters.”
If on to a good thing, you might as well stick with it; so for the coming year, I’m doubling up on this forecast. Far from bouncing back to the post crisis “normal” of something over $US100 a barrel, as many oil traders seem to expect, my view is that the oil price will remain low for a long time, sinking to perhaps as little as $US20 a barrel over the coming year before recovering a little.
But even Warner’s chilling prediction is not the most bearish.
A technical analyst named Abigail Doolittle recently told CNBC that under a worst case scenario the price of oil could fall as low as $14 a barrel…
No one really saw 2014’s dramatic plunge in oil price coming, so it’s probably fair to say that any predictions about where it’s going from here fall somewhere between educated guesses and picking a number out of a hat.
In that light, it’s less than shocking to see one analyst making a case—albeit in a pure outlier sense—for a drop all the way below $14 a barrel.
Abigail Doolittle, who does business under the name Peak Theories Research, posits that current chart trends point to the possibility that crude has three downside target areas where it could find support—$44, $35 and the nightmare scenario of, yes, $13.65.
But the truth is that none of those scenarios need to happen in order for this oil war to absolutely devastate the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.
There is a very strong correlation between the price of oil and the performance of energy stocks and energy bonds. But over the past couple of weeks this correlation has been broken. The following chart comes from Zero Hedge…
It is inevitable that at some point we will see energy stocks and energy bonds come back into line with the price of crude oil.
And it isn’t just energy stocks and bonds that we need to be concerned about. There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has crashed by more than 50 dollars in less than a year. That was in 2008 – just before the great financial crisis that erupted in the fall of that year. For much, much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
Whether the price of oil crashed or not, we were already on the verge of massive financial troubles.
But the fact that the price of oil has collapsed makes all of our potential problems much, much worse.
As we enter 2015, keep an eye on energy stocks, energy bonds and listen for any mention of problems with derivatives. The next great financial crisis is right around the corner, but most people will never see it coming until they are blindsided by it.
Do you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year? Just keep an eye on junk bonds. Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first. And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again. The primary reason for this is the price of oil. The energy sector accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the entire junk bond market, and those energy bonds are taking a tremendous beating right now. This panic in energy bonds is infecting the broader high yield debt market, and investors have been pulling money out at a frightening pace. And as I have written about previously, almost every single time junk bonds decline substantially, stocks end up following suit. So don’t be fooled by the fact that some comforting words from Janet Yellen caused stock prices to jump over the past couple of days. If you really want to know where the stock market is heading in 2015, keep a close eye on the market for high yield debt.
If you are not familiar with junk bonds, the concept is actually very simple. Corporations that do not have high credit ratings typically have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money. The following is how USA Today describes these bonds…
High-yield bonds are long-term IOUs issued by companies with shaky credit ratings. Just like credit card users, companies with poor credit must pay higher interest rates on loans than those with gold-plated credit histories.
But in recent years, interest rates on junk bonds have gone down to ridiculously low levels. This is another bubble that was created by Federal Reserve policies, and it is a colossal disaster waiting to happen. And unfortunately, there are already signs that this bubble is now beginning to burst…
Back in June, the average junk bond yield was 3.90 percentage points higher than Treasury securities. The average energy junk bond yielded 3.91 percentage points higher than Treasuries, Lonski says.
That spread has widened to 5.08 percentage points for junk bonds vs. 7.86 percentage points for energy bonds — an indication of how worried investors are about default, particularly for small, highly indebted companies in the fracking business.
The reason why so many analysts are becoming extremely concerned about this shift in junk bonds is because we also saw this happen just before the great stock market crash of 2008. In the chart below, you can see how yields on junk bonds started to absolutely skyrocket in September of that year…
Of course we have not seen a move of that magnitude quite yet this year, but without a doubt yields have been spiking. The next chart that I want to share is of this year. As you can see, the movement over the past month or so has been quite substantial…
And of course I am far from the only one that is watching this. In fact, there are some sharks on Wall Street that plan to make an absolute boatload of cash as high yield bonds crash.
One of them is Josh Birnbaum. He correctly made a giant bet against subprime mortgages in 2007, and now he is making a giant bet against junk bonds…
When Josh Birnbaum was at Goldman Sachs in 2007, he made a huge bet against subprime mortgages.
Now he’s betting against something else: high-yield bonds.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Joshua Birnbaum, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who made bets against subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, now has more than $2 billion in wagers against high-yield bonds at his Tilden Park Capital Management LP hedge-fund firm, according to investor documents.
Could you imagine betting 2 billion dollars on anything?
If he is right, he is going to make an incredible amount of money.
And I have a feeling that he will be. As a recent New American article detailed, there is already panic in the air…
It’s a mania, said Tim Gramatovich of Peritus Asset Management who oversees a bond portfolio of $800 million: “Anything that becomes a mania — ends badly. And this is a mania.”
Bill Gross, who used to run PIMCO’s gigantic bond portfolio and now advises the Janus Capital Group, explained that “there’s very little liquidity” in junk bonds. This is the language a bond fund manager uses to tell people that no one is buying, everyone is selling. Gross added: “Everyone is trying to squeeze through a very small door.”
Bonds issued by individual energy developers have gotten hammered. For instance, Energy XXI, an oil and gas producer, issued more than $2 billion in bonds just in the last four years and, up until a couple of weeks ago, they were selling at 100 cents on the dollar. On Friday buyers were offering just 64 cents. Midstates Petroleum’s $700 million in bonds — rated “junk” by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s — are selling at 54 cents on the dollar, if buyers can be found.
So is there anything that could stop junk bonds from crashing?
Yes, if the price of oil goes back up to 80 dollars or more a barrel that would go a long way to settling things back down.
Unfortunately, many analysts are convinced that the price of oil is going to head even lower instead…
“We’re continuing to search for a bottom, and might even see another significant drop before the year-end,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen $1.69 today to $54.78.
If the price of oil stays this low, junk bonds are going to keep crashing.
If junk bonds keep crashing, the stock market is almost certainly going to follow.
For additional reading on this, please see my previous article entitled “‘Near Perfect’ Indicator That Precedes Almost Every Stock Market Correction Is Flashing A Warning Signal“.
But just like in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, there are all kinds of naysayers proclaiming that a collapse will never happen.
Even though our financial problems and our underlying economic fundamentals have gotten much worse since the last crisis, they are absolutely convinced that things are somehow going to be different this time.
In the end, a lot of those skeptics are going to lose an enormous amount of money when the dominoes start falling.
Are we about to see U.S. stocks take a significant tumble? If you are looking for a “canary in the coal mine” for the U.S. stock market, just look at high yield bonds. In recent years, almost every single time junk bonds have declined substantially there has been a notable stock market correction as well. And right now high yield bonds are steadily moving lower. The biggest reason for this is falling oil prices. As I wrote about the other day, energy companies now account for about 20 percent of the high yield bond market. As the price of oil falls, investors are understandably becoming concerned about the future prospects of those companies and are dumping their bonds. What is happening cannot be described as a “crash” just yet, but there has been a pretty sizable decline for junk bonds over the past month. And as I noted above, junk bonds and stocks usually move in tandem. In fact, junk bonds usually start falling before stocks do. So does the decline in high yield bonds that we are witnessing at the moment indicate that we are on the verge of a significant stock market correction?
That is a question that CNBC asked in a recent article entitled “Near perfect sell signal says stocks should drop“…
The S&P 500 and the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF are a mirror image since the start of the year, but since the end of October, high yield has diverged to the lower right, and yet the S&P 500 has continued to record highs. Since separating in October, the S&P 500 is up 3 percent, while the high-yield ETF is down 4 percent.
On 10 occasions since 2007, the high-yield ETF dropped 5 percent in 30 trading days. During nine of those instances, the S&P 500 fell as well, with an average return of negative 9 percent, according to CNBC analysis using Kensho.
Only once did high yield give a false sell signal. That was last year, when the market was already entranced by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, which has seemed to elevate stocks with an abnormal consistency. And even then, the S&P 500 managed just a 0.4 percent climb amid the junk debt rout.
Personally, I am convinced that this correlation between junk bonds and stocks is very significant.
Let’s just go back and look at what happened during the financial crash of 2008 for a moment.
In the chart posted below, you can see that high yield bonds began crashing in the middle of September that year…
But U.S. stocks did not crash at the same time. In fact, the chart below shows that they did not really begin crashing until early October…
That is why analysts often refer to junk bonds as a “leading indicator”. What happens to high yield debt is often a really good indicator of what is about to happen to stocks.
Now let’s take a look at what is happening today.
Since the beginning of November, junk bonds have been falling steadily…
Meanwhile, the Dow has continued to reach new heights…
This is not a state of affairs that can persist indefinitely. Either junk bonds will rebound or U.S. stocks will start falling.
If the U.S. economy was on solid footing, you could perhaps argue that it could go either way.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. At this point, the stock market has become completely divorced from economic fundamentals. Price to earnings ratios are at absurd levels, margin debt is hovering near record highs, and the “real economy” continues to fall apart. We are enjoying a massively inflated standard of living which is being propped up by the largest mountain of debt in world history, and it is only a matter of time before reality starts catching up with us.
And the signs of our long-term economic decline are all around us if you are willing to look at them. For example, the lead headline on the Drudge Report today was about how China has now overtaken us and has become the largest economy on the planet…
Hang on to your hats, America.
And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.
It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.
The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.
Meanwhile, some of the most iconic companies in the United States continue to struggle deeply. For instance, Sears has just announced that the number of store closings for this year is going to reach a total of 235 and that the company lost more than half a billion dollars during the third quarter of 2014 alone…
Sears Holdings Corp., posted a disappointing third quarter Thursday that saw revenue, earnings, and sales at stores open at least a year all fall as the retailer tries to salvage its business.
Sears, which owns Kmart, lost $548 million, or $5.15 a share, for the period ended Nov. 1. That’s up from a loss of $534 million, or $5.03 a share, in the year-ago period.
Even though Sears is losing more than 500 million dollars a quarter, banks and investors continue to inject new money into the corporation. That is a crying shame, because Sears is a company that is going to zero. Anyone that is investing in Sears at this point is just pouring their money into a black hole. As Kevin O’Leary would say, they are guilty of murdering money.
And of course what is happening to Sears is just part of the broader “retail apocalypse” that I keep writing about. In order for retailers to thrive they need healthy consumers, and consumers are not financially healthy because the real economy is a disaster zone.
But these days so many people are in denial. The stock market has been soaring for so long that many skeptics are now proclaiming that another 2008-style crash will never happen. Even though the fact that we are in the midst of an absolutely insane financial bubble should be glaringly obvious to anyone with half a brain, these skeptics have convinced themselves that the current state of affairs can persist indefinitely.
Sadly, it looks like what is about to hit us in 2015 is going to serve as a very rude wake up call for them and for the millions of other Americans that currently have their heads in the sand.
When is the U.S. banking system going to crash? I can sum it up in three words. Watch the derivatives. It used to be only four, but now there are five “too big to fail” banks in the United States that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Today, the U.S. national debt is sitting at a grand total of about 17.7 trillion dollars, so when we are talking about 40 trillion dollars we are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable. And unlike stocks and bonds, these derivatives do not represent “investments” in anything. They can be incredibly complex, but essentially they are just paper wagers about what will happen in the future. The truth is that derivatives trading is not too different from betting on baseball or football games. Trading in derivatives is basically just a form of legalized gambling, and the “too big to fail” banks have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the planet. When this derivatives bubble bursts (and as surely as I am writing this it will), the pain that it will cause the global economy will be greater than words can describe.
If derivatives trading is so risky, then why do our big banks do it?
The answer to that question comes down to just one thing.
The “too big to fail” banks run up enormous profits from their derivatives trading. According to the New York Times, U.S. banks “have nearly $280 trillion of derivatives on their books” even though the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated how dangerous they could be…
American banks have nearly $280 trillion of derivatives on their books, and they earn some of their biggest profits from trading in them. But the 2008 crisis revealed how flaws in the market had allowed for dangerous buildups of risk at large Wall Street firms and worsened the run on the banking system.
The big banks have sophisticated computer models which are supposed to keep the system stable and help them manage these risks.
But all computer models are based on assumptions.
And all of those assumptions were originally made by flesh and blood people.
When a “black swan event” comes along such as a war, a major pandemic, an apocalyptic natural disaster or a collapse of a very large financial institution, these models can often break down very rapidly.
For example, the following is a brief excerpt from a Forbes article that describes what happened to the derivatives market when Lehman Brothers collapsed back in 2008…
Fast forward to the financial meltdown of 2008 and what do we see? America again was celebrating. The economy was booming. Everyone seemed to be getting wealthier, even though the warning signs were everywhere: too much borrowing, foolish investments, greedy banks, regulators asleep at the wheel, politicians eager to promote home-ownership for those who couldn’t afford it, and distinguished analysts openly predicting this could only end badly. And then, when Lehman Bros fell, the financial system froze and world economy almost collapsed. Why?
The root cause wasn’t just the reckless lending and the excessive risk taking. The problem at the core was a lack of transparency. After Lehman’s collapse, no one could understand any particular bank’s risks from derivative trading and so no bank wanted to lend to or trade with any other bank. Because all the big banks’ had been involved to an unknown degree in risky derivative trading, no one could tell whether any particular financial institution might suddenly implode.
After the last financial crisis, we were promised that this would be fixed.
But instead the problem has become much larger.
When the housing bubble burst back in 2007, the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world had risen to about 500 trillion dollars.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, today the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world has ballooned to a staggering 710 trillion dollars ($710,000,000,000,000).
And of course the heart of this derivatives bubble can be found on Wall Street.
What I am about to share with you is very troubling information.
I have shared similar numbers in the past, but for this article I went and got the very latest numbers from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report. As I mentioned above, there are now five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives…
Total Assets: $2,476,986,000,000 (about 2.5 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $67,951,190,000,000 (more than 67 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,894,736,000,000 (almost 1.9 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,944,502,000,000 (nearly 60 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $915,705,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,564,516,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $2,152,533,000,000 (a bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,457,605,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $831,381,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,946,153,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)
And it isn’t just U.S. banks that are engaged in this type of behavior.
As Zero Hedge recently detailed, German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more exposure to derivatives than any of the American banks listed above…
Deutsche has a total derivative exposure that amounts to €55 trillion or just about $75 trillion. That’s a trillion with a T, and is about 100 times greater than the €522 billion in deposits the bank has. It is also 5x greater than the GDP of Europe and more or less the same as the GDP of… the world.
For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.
At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.
It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.
Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.
The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks. If they fail, so do the rest of us.
We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.
In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.
At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.
If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.
But as you have just read about in this article, they are being more reckless than ever before.
We are steamrolling toward the greatest financial disaster in world history, and nobody is doing much of anything to stop it.
Things could have turned out very differently, but now we will reap the consequences for the very foolish decisions that we have made.
Did you know that a major event just happened in the financial markets that we have not seen since the financial crisis of 2008? If you rely on the mainstream media for your news, you probably didn’t even hear about it. Just prior to the last stock market crash, a massive amount of money was pulled out of junk bonds. Now it is happening again. In fact, as you will read about below, the market for high yield bonds just experienced “a 6-sigma event”. But this is not the only indication that the U.S. economy could be on the verge of very hard times. Retail sales are extremely disappointing, mortgage applications are at a 14 year low and growing geopolitical storms around the world have investors spooked. For a long time now, we have been enjoying a period of relative economic stability even though our underlying economic fundamentals continue to get even worse. Unfortunately, there are now a bunch of signs that this period of relative stability is about to end. The following are 14 reasons why the U.S. economy’s bubble of false prosperity may be about to burst…
#1 The U.S. junk bond market just experienced “a 6-sigma event” earlier this month. In other words, it is an event that is only supposed to have a chance of 1 in 500 million of happening. Billions of dollars are being pulled out of junk bonds right now, and that has some analysts wondering if a financial crash is right around the corner.
#2 The last time that we saw a junk bond rout of this magnitude was back during the financial crash of 2008. In fact, as the Telegraph recently explained, bonds usually crash before stocks do…
The credit market usually leads the equity market during turning points, as happened when credit markets cracked first in 2008.
Will the same thing happen this time around?
#3 Retail sales have missed expectations for three months in a row and we just had the worst reading since January.
#4 Things have gotten so bad that even Wal-Mart is really struggling. Same-store sales at Wal-Mart have declined for five quarters in a row and the outlook for the future is not particularly promising.
#5 The four week moving average for mortgage applications just hit a 14 year low. It is now even lower than it was during the worst moments of the financial crisis of 2008.
#6 The tech industry is supposed to be booming, but mass layoffs in the tech industry are actually 68 percent ahead of last year’s pace.
#7 According to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of all households in the United States are currently showing signs of financial stress.
#8 The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to the lowest level since 1995.
#9 According to one survey, 76 percent of Americans do not have enough money saved to cover six months of expenses.
#10 Rumblings of a stock market correction have become so loud that even the mainstream media is reporting on it. For example, just check out this CNN headline from earlier this month: “Is a correction near? Wall Street on edge“.
#11 The civil war in Iraq is spiraling out of control, and Barack Obama has just announced that he is going to send 130 troops to the country in a “humanitarian” capacity. Iraq is the 7th largest oil producing nation on the entire planet, and if the flow of oil is disrupted that could have serious consequences.
#12 As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the United States, Canada and the European Union have slapped sanctions on Russia. In return, Russia has slapped sanctions on them. Will this slowdown in global trade significantly harm the U.S. economy?
#13 The three day cease-fire between Hamas and Israel is about to end, and Hamas officials are saying that they are preparing for a “long battle“. If a resolution is not found soon, we could potentially see a full-blown regional war erupt in the Middle East.
#14 The number of Ebola deaths continues to grow at an exponential rate, and if the virus starts spreading inside the United States it has the potential to pretty much shut down our entire economy.
Meanwhile, things look even more dire in much of the rest of the globe.
For example, the economic slowdown has gotten so bad in some nations over in Europe that they are actually experiencing deflation…
Portugal has crashed into deep deflation and Italy’s inflation rate has fallen to zero as the eurozone flirts with recession, automatically pushing these countries further towards a debt compound spiral.
The slide comes amid signs of a deepening slowdown in the eurozone core, with even Germany flirting with possible recession. Germany’s ZEW index of investor confidence plunged from 27.1 to 8.6 in July, the sharpest fall since June 2012, during the European sovereign debt crisis. “The European Central Bank has to act now,” said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS.
And in Japan, GDP just contracted at a 6.8 percent annual rate during the second quarter…
Japan’s economy suffered its worst contraction since 2011 in the second quarter as consumer spending on big items slumped in the wake of a sales tax rise.
Gross domestic product shrunk by an annualized 6.8% in the three months ended June, Japan’s Cabinet Office said Wednesday. The result was actually better than the 7% contraction expected by economists.
On a quarterly basis, Japan’s GDP dropped by 1.7% as business and housing investment declined. Japan’s economy last suffered a hit of this magnitude after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
There is no way that this bubble of false prosperity was going to last forever. It was never real to begin with. It was just based on a pyramid of debt and false promises. In fact, the condition of the global financial system is now far worse than it was just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.
Sadly, most people do not understand these things. Most people just assume that our leaders have fixed whatever caused the problems last time. And when the next crisis arrives, they will be totally blindsided by it.