The Trigger Has Been Pulled And The Slaughter Of The Bonds Has Begun

The Bears Are Unleashed On Wall StreetWhat does it look like when a 30 year bull market ends abruptly?  What happens when bond yields start doing things that they haven’t done in 50 years?  If your answer to those questions involves the word “slaughter”, you are probably on the right track.  Right now, bonds are being absolutely slaughtered, and this is only just the beginning.  Over the last several years, reckless bond buying by the Federal Reserve has forced yields down to absolutely ridiculous levels.  For example, it simply is not rational to lend the U.S. government money at less than 3 percent when the real rate of inflation is somewhere up around 8 to 10 percent.  But when he originally announced the quantitative easing program, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he intended to force interest rates to go down, and lots of bond investors made a lot of money riding the bubble that Bernanke created.  But now that Bernanke has indicated that the bond buying will be coming to an end, investors are going into panic mode and the bond bubble is starting to burst.  One hedge fund executive told CNBC that the “feeling you are getting out there is that people are selling first and asking questions later”.  And the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries just keeps going up.  Today it closed at 2.59 percent, and many believe that it is going to go much higher unless the Fed intervenes.  If the Fed does not intervene and allows the bubble that it has created to burst, we are going to see unprecedented carnage.

Markets tend to fall faster than they rise.  And now that Bernanke has triggered a sell-off in bonds, things are moving much faster than just about anyone anticipated

Wall Street never thought it would be this bad.

Over the last two months, and particularly over the last two weeks, investors have been exiting their bond investments with unexpected ferocity, moves that continued through Monday.

A bond sell-off has been anticipated for years, given the long run of popularity that corporate and government bonds have enjoyed. But most strategists expected that investors would slowly transfer out of bonds, allowing interest rates to slowly drift up.

Instead, since the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, recently suggested that the strength of the economic recovery might allow the Fed to slow down its bond-buying program, waves of selling have convulsed the markets.

In particular, junk bonds are getting absolutely hammered.  Money is flowing out of high risk corporate debt at an astounding pace

The SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond exchange-traded fund has declined 5 percent over the past month, though it rose in Tuesday trading. The fund has seen $2.7 billion in outflows year to date, according to IndexUniverse.

Another popular junk ETF, the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond, has seen nearly $2 billion in outflows this year and is off 3.4 percent over the past five days alone.

Investors pulled $333 million from high-yield funds last week, according to Lipper.

While correlating to the general trend in fixed income, the slowdown in the junk bond business bodes especially troubling signs for investment banks, which have relied on the debt markets for fully one-third of their business this year, the highest percentage in 10 years.

The chart posted below comes from the Federal Reserve, and it “represents the effective yield of the BofA Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II Index, which tracks the performance of US dollar denominated below investment grade rated corporate debt publically issued in the US domestic market.”  In other words, it is a measure of the yield on junk bonds.  As you can see, the yield on junk bonds sank to ridiculous lows in May, but since then it has been absolutely skyrocketing…

Junk Bonds

So why should the average American care about this?

Well, if the era of “cheap money” is over and businesses have to pay more to borrow, that is going to cause economic activity to slow down.

There won’t be as many jobs, part-time workers will get less hours, and raises will become more infrequent.

Those are just some of the reasons why you should care about this stuff.

Municipal bonds are being absolutely crushed right now too.  You see, when yields on U.S. government debt rise, they also rise on state and local government debt.

In fact, things have been so bad that hundreds of millions of dollars of municipal bond sales have been postponed in recent days…

With yields on the U.S. municipal bond market rising, local issuers on Monday postponed another six bond sales, totaling $331 million, that were originally scheduled to price later this week.

Since mid-June, on the prospect that the Federal Reserve could change course on its easy monetary policy as the economy improves, the municipal bond market has seen a total of $2.6 billion in sales either canceled or delayed.

If borrowing costs for state and local governments rise, they won’t be able to spend as much money, they won’t be able to hire as many workers, they will need to find more revenue (tax increases), and more of them will go bankrupt.

And what we are witnessing right now is just the beginning.  Things are going to get MUCH worse.  The following is what Robert Wenzel recently had to say about the municipal bond market…

Thus, there is only one direction for rates: UP, with muni bonds leading the decline, given that the financial structures of many municipalities are teetering. There is absolutely no good reason to be in municipal bonds now. And muni ETFs will be a worse place to be, given this is relatively HOT money that will try to get out of the exit door all at once.

But, as I wrote about yesterday, the worst part of the slaughter is going to be when the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives time bomb starts exploding.  If bond yields continue to soar, eventually it will take down some very large financial institutions.  The following is from a recent article by Bill Holter

Please understand how many of these interest rate derivatives work.  When the rates go against you, “margin” must be posted.  By “margin” I mean collateral.  Collateral must be shifted from the losing institution to the one on the winning side.  When the loser “runs out” of collateral…that is when you get a situation similar to MF Global or Lehman Bros., they are forced to shut down and the vultures then come in and pick the bones clean…normally.  Now it is no longer “normal,” now a Lehman Bros will take the whole tent down.

Most people have no idea how vulnerable our financial system is.  It is a house of cards of risk, debt and leverage.  Wall Street has become the largest casino in the history of the planet, and the wheels could come off literally at any time.

And it certainly does not help that a whole host of cyclical trends appear to be working against us.  Posted below is an extended excerpt from a recent article by Taki Tsaklanos and GE Christenson

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Charles Nenner Research (source)

Stocks should peak in mid-2013 and fall until about 2020.  Similarly, bonds should peak in the summer of 2013 and fall thereafter for 20 years.  He bases his conclusions entirely on cycle research.  He expects the Dow to fall to around 5,000 by 2018 – 2020.

Kress Cycles by Clif Droke (source)

The major 120 year cycle plus all minor cycles trend down into late 2014.  The stock market should decline hard into late 2014.

Elliott Wave Cycles by Robert Prechter (source)

He believes that the stock market has peaked and has entered a generational bear-market.  He anticipates a crash low in the market around 2016 – 2017.

Market Energy Wave (source)

He sees a 36 year cycle in stock markets that is peaking in mid-2013 and down 2013 – 2016.  “… the controlling energy wave is scheduled to flip back to negative on July 19 of this year.”  Equity markets should drop 25 – 50%.

Armstrong Economics (source)

His economic confidence model projects a peak in confidence in August 2013, a bottom in September 2014, and another peak in October 2015.  The decline into January 2020 should be severe.  He expects a world-wide crash and contraction in economies from 2015 – 2020.

Cycles per Charles Hugh Smith (source)

He discusses four long-term cycles that bottom roughly in the 2010 – 2020 period.  They are:  Credit expansion/contraction cycle;  Price inflation/wage cycle; Generational cycle;  and Peak oil extraction cycle.

Harry Dent – Demographics (source)

Stock prices should drop, on average for the balance of this decade.  Demographic cycles in the United States (and elsewhere) indicate a contraction in real terms for most of this decade.

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I was stunned when I originally read through that list.

Is it just a coincidence that so many researchers have come to such a similar conclusion?

The central banks of the world could attempt to “kick the can down the road” by buying up lots and lots of bonds, but it does not appear that is going to happen.

The Federal Reserve may not listen to the American people, but there is one institution that the Fed listens to very carefully – the Bank for International Settlements.  It is the central bank of central banks, and today 58 global central banks belong to the BIS.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world (including Bernanke) gather in Basel, Switzerland for a “Global Economy Meeting”.  At those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet.

And the BIS has just come out with its annual report.  In that annual report, the BIS says that central banks “cannot do more without compounding the risks they have already created”, and that central banks should “encourage needed adjustments” in the financial markets.  In other words, the BIS is saying that it is time to end the bond buying

The Basel-based BIS – known as the central bank of central banks – said in its annual report that using current monetary policy employed in the euro zone, the U.K., Japan and the U.S. will not bring about much-needed labor and product market reforms and is a recipe for failure.

“Central banks cannot do more without compounding the risks they have already created,” it said in its latest annual report released on Sunday. “[They must] encourage needed adjustments rather than retard them with near-zero interest rates and purchases of ever-larger quantities of government securities.”

So expect central banks to start scaling back their intervention in the marketplace.

Yes, this is probably going to cause interest rates to rise dramatically and cause all sorts of chaos as the bubble that they created implodes.

It could even potentially cause a worse financial crisis than we saw back in 2008.

If that happens, the central banks of the world can swoop in and try to save us with their bond buying once again.

Isn’t our system wonderful?

Mass Carnage: Stocks, Bonds, Gold, Silver, Europe And Japan All Get Pummeled

Car AccidentCan you smell that?  It is the smell of panic in the air.  As I have noted before, when financial markets catch up to economic reality they tend to do so very rapidly.  Normally we don’t see virtually all asset classes get slammed at the same time, but the bucket of cold water that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke threw on global financial markets on Wednesday has set off an epic temper tantrum.  On Thursday, U.S. stocks, European stocks, Asian stocks, gold, silver and government bonds all over the planet all got absolutely shredded.  This is not normal market activity.  Unfortunately, there is nothing “normal” about our financial markets anymore.  Over the past several years they have been grossly twisted and distorted by the Federal Reserve and by the other major central banks around the globe.  Did the central bankers really believe that there wouldn’t be a great price to pay for messing with the markets?  The behavior that we have been watching this week is the kind of behavior that one would expect at the beginning of a financial panic.  Dick Bove, the vice president of equity research at Rafferty Capital Markets, told CNBC that what we are witnessing right now “is not normal. It is not normal for all markets to move in the same direction at the same point in time due to the same development.”  The overriding emotion in the financial world right now is fear.  And fear can cause investors to do some crazy things.  So will global financial markets continue to drop, or will things stabilize for now?  That is a very good question.  But even if there is a respite for a while, it will only be temporary.  More carnage is coming at some point.

What we have witnessed this week very much has the feeling of a turning point.  The euphoria that drove the Dow well over the 15,000 mark is now gone, and investors all over the planet are going into crisis mode.  The following is a summary of the damage that was done on Thursday…

-U.S. stocks had their worst day of the year by a good margin.  The Dow fell 354 points, and that was the biggest one day drop that we have seen since November 2011.  Overall, the Dow has lost more than 550 points over the past two days.

-Thursday was the eighth trading day in a row that we have seen a triple digit move in the Dow either up or down.  That is the longest such streak since October 2011.

-The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries went as high as 2.47% before settling back to 2.42%.  That was a level that we have not seen since August 2011, and the 10 year yield is now a full point above the all-time low of 1.4% that we saw back in July 2012.

– The yield on 30 year U.S. Treasuries hit 3.53 percent on Thursday.  That was the first time it had been that high since September 2011.

-The CBOE Volatility Index jumped 28 percent on Thursday.  It hit 20.49, and this was the first time in 2013 that it has risen above 20.  When volatility rises, that means that the markets are getting stressed.

-European stocks got slammed too.  The Bloomberg Europe 500 index fell more than 3 percent on Thursday.  It was the worst day for European stocks in 20 months.

-In London, the FTSE fell about 3 percent.  In Germany, the DAX fell 3.3 percent.  In France, the CAC-40 fell 3.7 percent.

-Things continue to get even worse in Japan.  The Nikkei has fallen close to 17 percent over the past month.

-Brazilian stocks have fallen by about 15 percent over the past month.

-On Thursday the price of gold got absolutely hammered.  Gold was down nearly $100 an ounce.  As I am writing this, it is trading at $1273.60.

-Silver got slammed even more than gold did.  It fell more than 8 percent.  At the moment it is trading at $19.57.  That is ridiculously low.  I have a feeling that anyone that gets into silver now is going to be extremely happy in the long-term if they are able to handle the wild fluctuations in the short-term.

-Manufacturing activity in China is contracting at a rate that we haven’t seen since the middle of the last recession.

-For the week ending June 15th, initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States rose by about 18,000 from the previous week to 354,000.  This is a number that investors are going to be watching closely in the months ahead.

Needless to say, Thursday was the type of day that investors don’t see too often.  The following is what one stock trader told CNBC

“It’s freaking, crazy now,” said one stock trader during the 3 p.m. ET hour as the Dow sunk more than 350 points. “Even defensive sectors are getting smoked. The super broad-based sell off between commodities, bonds, equities – I wouldn’t say it’s panic, but we’ve seen aggressive selling on the lows.”

Unfortunately, this may just be the beginning.

In fact, Mark J. Grant has suggested that we may see even more panic in the short-term…

Yesterday was the first day of the reversal. There will be more days to come.

What you are seeing, in the first instance, is leverage coming off the table. With short term interest rates right off of Kelvin’s absolute Zero there was been massive leverage utilized in both the bond and equity markets. While it cannot be quantified I can tell you, dealing with so many institutional investors, that the amount of leverage on the books is giant and is now going to get covered. It will not be pretty and it will be a rush through the exit doors as the fire alarm has been pulled by the Fed and the alarms are ringing. There is also an additional problem here.

The Street is not what it was. There is not enough liquidity in the major Wall Street banks, any longer, to deal with the amount of securities that will be thrown at them and I expect the down cycle to get exacerbated by this very real issue. Bernanke is no longer at the gate and the Barbarians are going to be out in force.

If we see global interest rates start to shift in a major way, that is going to be huge.

Why?

Well, it is because there are literally hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives contracts sitting out there…

The interest rate derivatives market is the largest derivatives market in the world. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that the notional amount outstanding in June 2009 were US$437 trillion for OTC interest rate contracts, and US$342 trillion for OTC interest rate swaps. According to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, 80% of the world’s top 500 companies as of April 2003 used interest rate derivatives to control their cashflows. This compares with 75% for foreign exchange options, 25% for commodity options and 10% for stock options.

If interest rates begin to swing wildly, that could burst the derivatives bubble that I keep talking about.

And when that house of cards starts falling, we are going to see panic that is going to absolutely dwarf anything that we have seen this week.

So keep watching interest rates, and keep listening for any mention of a problem with “derivatives” in the mainstream media.

When the next great financial crash comes, global credit markets are going to freeze up just like they did in 2008.  That will cause economic activity to grind to a standstill and a period of deflation will be upon us.  Yes, the way that the Federal Reserve and the federal government respond to such a crisis will ultimately cause tremendous inflation, but as I have written about before, deflation will come first.

It would be wise to build up your emergency fund while you still can.  When the next great financial crisis fully erupts a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and for a while it will seem like hardly anyone has any extra money.  If you have stashed some cash away, you will be in better shape than most people.

Crushed Car By UCFFool

The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets

When financial markets in the United States crash, so does the U.S. economy.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  The financial markets crashed, the credit markets froze up, and suddenly the economy went into cardiac arrest.  Well, there are very few things that could cause the financial markets to crash harder or farther than a derivatives panic.  Sadly, most Americans don’t even understand what derivatives are.  Unlike stocks and bonds, a derivative is not an investment in anything real.  Rather, a derivative is a legal bet on the future value or performance of something else.  Just like you can go to Las Vegas and bet on who will win the football games this weekend, bankers on Wall Street make trillions of dollars of bets about how interest rates will perform in the future and about what credit instruments are likely to default.  Wall Street has been transformed into a gigantic casino where people are betting on just about anything that you can imagine.  This works fine as long as there are not any wild swings in the economy and risk is managed with strict discipline, but as we have seen, there have been times when derivatives have caused massive problems in recent years.  For example, do you know why the largest insurance company in the world, AIG, crashed back in 2008 and required a government bailout?  It was because of derivatives.  Bad derivatives trades also caused the failure of MF Global, and the 6 billion dollar loss that JPMorgan Chase recently suffered because of derivatives made headlines all over the globe.  But all of those incidents were just warm up acts for the coming derivatives panic that will destroy global financial markets.  The largest casino in the history of the world is going to go “bust” and the economic fallout from the financial crash that will happen as a result will be absolutely horrific.

There is a reason why Warren Buffett once referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  Nobody really knows the total value of all the derivatives that are floating around out there, but estimates place the notional value of the global derivatives market anywhere from 600 trillion dollars all the way up to 1.5 quadrillion dollars.

Keep in mind that global GDP is somewhere around 70 trillion dollars for an entire year.  So we are talking about an amount of money that is absolutely mind blowing.

So who is buying and selling all of these derivatives?

Well, would it surprise you to learn that it is mostly the biggest banks?

According to the federal government, four very large U.S. banks “represent 93% of the total banking industry notional amounts and 81% of industry net current credit exposure.”

These four banks have an overwhelming share of the derivatives market in the United States.  You might not be very fond of “the too big to fail banks“, but keep in mind that if a derivatives crisis were to cause them to crash and burn it would almost certainly cause the entire U.S. economy to crash and burn.  Just remember what we saw back in 2008.  What is coming is going to be even worse.

It would have been really nice if we had not allowed these banks to get so large and if we had not allowed them to make trillions of dollars of reckless bets.  But we stood aside and let it happen.  Now these banks are so important to our economic system that their destruction would also destroy the U.S. economy.  It is kind of like when cancer becomes so advanced that killing the cancer would also kill the patient.  That is essentially the situation that we are facing with these banks.

It would be hard to overstate the recklessness of these banks.  The numbers that you are about to see are absolutely jaw-dropping.  According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

To get a better idea of the massive amounts of money that we are talking about, just check out this excellent infographic.

How in the world could we let this happen?

And what is our financial system going to look like when this pyramid of risk comes falling down?

Our politicians put in a few new rules for derivatives, but as usual they only made things even worse.

According to Nasdaq.com, beginning next year new regulations will require derivatives traders to put up trillions of dollars to satisfy new margin requirements.

Swaps that will be allowed to remain outside clearinghouses when new rules take effect in 2013 will require traders to post $1.7 trillion to $10.2 trillion in margin, according to a report by an industry group.

The analysis from the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, using data sent in anonymously by banks, says the trillions of dollars in cash or securities will be needed in the form of so-called “initial margin.” Margin is the collateral that traders need to put up to back their positions, and initial margin is money backing trades on day one, as opposed to variation margin posted over the life of a trade as it fluctuates in value.

So where in the world will all of this money come from?

Total U.S. GDP was just a shade over 15 trillion dollars last year.

Could these rules cause a sudden mass exodus that would destabilize the marketplace?

Let’s hope not.

But things are definitely changing.  According to Reuters, some of the big banks are actually urging their clients to avoid new U.S. rules by funneling trades through the overseas divisions of their banks…

Wall Street banks are looking to help offshore clients sidestep new U.S. rules designed to safeguard the world’s $640 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market, taking advantage of an exemption that risks undermining U.S. regulators’ efforts.

U.S. banks such as Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) have been explaining to their foreign customers that they can for now avoid the new rules, due to take effect next month, by routing trades via the banks’ overseas units, according to industry sources and presentation materials obtained by Reuters.

Unfortunately, no matter how banks respond to the new rules, it isn’t going to prevent the coming derivatives panic.  At some point the music is going to stop and some big financial players are going to be completely and totally exposed.

When that happens, it might not be just the big banks that lose money.  Just take a look at what happened with MF Global.

MF Global has confessed that it “diverted money” from customer accounts that were supposed to be segregated.  A lot of customers may never get back any of the money that they invested with those crooks.  The following comes from a Huffington Post article about the MF Global debacle, and it might just be a preview of what other investors will go through in the future when a derivatives crash destroys the firms that they had their money parked with…

Last week when customers asked for excess cash from their accounts, MF Global stalled. According to a commodity fund manager I spoke with, MF Global’s first stall tactic was to claim it lost wire transfer instructions. Then instead of sending an overnight check, it sent the money snail mail, including checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The checks bounced. After the checks bounced, the amounts were still debited from customer accounts and no one at MF Global could or would reverse the check entries. The manager has had to intervene to get MF Global to correct this.

How would you respond if your investment account suddenly went to “zero” because the firm you were investing with “diverted” customer funds for company use and now you have no way of recovering your money?

Keep an eye on the large Wall Street banks.  In a previous article, I quoted a New York Times article entitled “A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives” which described how these banks dominate the trading of derivatives…

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

According to the article, the following large banks are represented at these meetings: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.

When the casino finally goes “bust”, you will know who to blame.

Without a doubt, a derivatives panic is coming.

It will cause the financial markets to crash.

Several of the “too big to fail” banks will likely crash and burn and require bailouts.

As a result of all this, credit markets will become paralyzed by fear and freeze up.

Once again, we will see the U.S. economy go into cardiac arrest, only this time it will not be so easy to fix.

Do you agree with this analysis, or do you find it overly pessimistic?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

The 2 Billion Dollar Loss By JP Morgan Is Just A Preview Of The Coming Collapse Of The Derivatives Market

When news broke of a 2 billion dollar trading loss by JP Morgan, much of the financial world was absolutely stunned.  But the truth is that this is just the beginning.  This is just a very small preview of what is going to happen when we see the collapse of the worldwide derivatives market.  When most Americans think of Wall Street, they think of a bunch of stuffy bankers trading stocks and bonds.  But over the past couple of decades it has evolved into much more than that.  Today, Wall Street is the biggest casino in the entire world.  When the “too big to fail” banks make good bets, they can make a lot of money.  When they make bad bets, they can lose a lot of money, and that is exactly what just happened to JP Morgan.  Their Chief Investment Office made a series of trades which turned out horribly, and it resulted in a loss of over 2 billion dollars over the past 40 days.  But 2 billion dollars is small potatoes compared to the vast size of the global derivatives market.  It has been estimated that the the notional value of all the derivatives in the world is somewhere between 600 trillion dollars and 1.5 quadrillion dollars.  Nobody really knows the real amount, but when this derivatives bubble finally bursts there is not going to be nearly enough money on the entire planet to fix things.

Sadly, a lot of mainstream news reports are not even using the word “derivatives” when they discuss what just happened at JP Morgan.  This morning I listened carefully as one reporter described the 2 billion dollar loss as simply a “bad bet”.

And perhaps that is easier for the American people to understand.  JP Morgan made a series of really bad bets and during a conference call last night CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the strategy was “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored”.

The funny thing is that JP Morgan is considered to be much more “risk averse” than most other major Wall Street financial institutions are.

So if this kind of stuff is happening at JP Morgan, then what in the world is going on at some of these other places?

That is a really good question.

For those interested in the technical details of the 2 billion dollar loss, an article posted on CNBC described exactly how this loss happened….

The failed hedge likely involved a bet on the flattening of a credit derivative curve, part of the CDX family of investment grade credit indices, said two sources with knowledge of the industry, but not directly involved in the matter. JPMorgan was then caught by sharp moves at the long end of the bet, they said. The CDX index gives traders exposure to credit risk across a range of assets, and gets its value from a basket of individual credit derivatives.

In essence, JP Morgan made a series of bets which turned out very, very badly.  This loss was so huge that it even caused members of Congress to take note.  The following is from a statement that U.S. Senator Carl Levin issued a few hours after this news first broke….

“The enormous loss JPMorgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have no business making.”

Unfortunately, the losses from this trade may not be over yet.  In fact, if things go very, very badly the losses could end up being much larger as a recent Zero Hedge article detailed….

Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least “net” is not “gross” and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.

And yes, the SEC has announced an “investigation” into this 2 billion dollar loss.  But we all know that the SEC is basically useless.  In recent years SEC employees have become known more for watching pornography in their Washington D.C. offices than for regulating Wall Street.

But what has become abundantly clear is that Wall Street is completely incapable of policing itself.  This point was underscored in a recent commentary by Henry Blodget of Business Insider….

Wall Street can’t be trusted to manage—or even correctly assess—its own risks.

This is in part because, time and again, Wall Street has demonstrated that it doesn’t even KNOW what risks it is taking.

In short, Wall Street bankers are just a bunch of kids playing with dynamite.

There are two reasons for this, neither of which boil down to “stupidity.”

  • The first reason is that the gambling instruments the banks now use are mind-bogglingly complicated. Warren Buffett once described derivatives as “weapons of mass destruction.” And those weapons have gotten a lot more complex in the past few years.
  • The second reason is that Wall Street’s incentive structure is fundamentally flawed: Bankers get all of the upside for winning bets, and someone else—the government or shareholders—covers the downside.

The second reason is particularly insidious. The worst thing that can happen to a trader who blows a huge bet and demolishes his firm—literally the worst thing—is that he will get fired. Then he will immediately go get a job at a hedge fund and make more than he was making before he blew up the firm.

We never learned one of the basic lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008.

Wall Street bankers take huge risks because the risk/reward ratio is all messed up.

If the bankers make huge bets and they win, then they win big.

If the bankers make huge bets and they lose, then the federal government uses taxpayer money to clean up the mess.

Under those kind of conditions, why not bet the farm?

Sadly, most Americans do not even know what derivatives are.

Most Americans have no idea that we are rapidly approaching a horrific derivatives crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

According to the Comptroller of the Currency, the “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is absolutely mind blowing.  Just check out the following numbers from an official U.S. government report….

JPMorgan Chase – $70.1 Trillion

Citibank – $52.1 Trillion

Bank of America – $50.1 Trillion

Goldman Sachs – $44.2 Trillion

So a 2 billion dollar loss for JP Morgan is nothing compared to their total exposure of over 70 trillion dollars.

Overall, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  That is approximately 3 times the size of the entire global economy.

It is hard for the average person on the street to begin to comprehend how immense this derivatives bubble is.

So let’s not make too much out of this 2 billion dollar loss by JP Morgan.

This is just chicken feed.

This is just a preview of coming attractions.

Soon enough the real problems with derivatives will begin, and when that happens it will shake the entire global financial system to the core.

Should We Be Alarmed That The Biggest Bond Fund In The World Has Dumped All Of Their U.S. Treasury Bonds?

Bill Gross, the manager of the biggest bond fund in the world, has forgotten more about bonds than most of us will ever learn. That is why the big move that PIMCO has just made is so unsettling.  At one time PIMCO held more U.S. government debt than any other bond fund on the globe, but now news has come out that they have gotten rid of all their U.S. government-related securities.  So should we be alarmed?  For months Gross has been warning that the bull market in bonds is coming to an end, and now it looks like he is putting his words into action.s  Gross has often publicly decried the rampant government spending that has been going on over the last several years, and apparently he has seen enough.  He is taking his ball and he is going home.  This really is a stunning move by PIMCO.  Gross must really believe that something fundamental has shifted.    Gross didn’t get to where he is today by being stupid.  But so far world financial markets are taking this news in stride.  Nobody seems all that alarmed that the largest bond fund in the world has dumped all of their U.S. Treasuries.  But with world financial markets in such a state of chaos right now, shouldn’t we all take note when one of the biggest players in the game makes such a bold move?

Gross believes that interest rates on U.S. Treasuries are way too low right now and that they will start going up when the Federal Reserve ends the current round of quantitative easing in June.  Gross has indicated that if interest rates on U.S. Treasuries go up high enough, PIMCO might get back in.

But if interest rates do start going up that is going to make servicing the monolithic U.S. national debt much more expensive, and that would not be good news for U.S. government finances.

But would the Federal Reserve really allow interest rates on U.S. Treasuries to go up substantially?  Wouldn’t they just step in at some point and start buying U.S. government debt again?

Probably.

But the truth is that the Ponzi Scheme of the U.S. Treasury issuing bonds and the Federal Reserve buying them up cannot last forever as Gross noted in his March newsletter….

“Basically, the recent game plan is as simple as the Ohio State Buckeyes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” in the 1960s. When applied to the Treasury market it translates to this: The Treasury issues bonds and the Fed buys them. What could be simpler, and who’s to worry? This Sammy Scheme as I’ve described it in recent Outlooks is as foolproof as Ponzi and Madoff until… until… well, until it isn’t.”

Gross also noted in his newsletter that the Federal Reserve is currently buying up about 70 percent of all new U.S. government debt.

So what is going to happen when that stops?

Nobody knows for certain, but it sure is going to be interesting to watch.

The market for U.S. Treasuries has not been working “normally” for quite some time now, and there is some legitimate doubt as to whether it will ever fully get back to “normal” again.

Meanwhile, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to get even worse.

The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds is now above 7 percent, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds is now above 9 percent and the yield on 10-year Greek bonds is now above 12 percent.

Most people expect European leaders to soon come to an agreement to add billions more to existing bailout funds, but there is no guarantee that is actually going to happen.

In fact, the Germans are making waves by insisting that the financially troubled nations in the EU must be willing to agree to limits on their future budget deficits.  A recent article on CNBC described the situation this way….

Before the Germans will agree to pump in extra cash from their taxpayers, backed by the French, they want each leader to agree to legislation at home that will limit the size of their future national deficits. The Greeks are already refusing point blank. Things may boil to the surface at an extraordinary summit on Friday.

So what if an agreement can’t be reached?

Could the dominoes in Europe start to fall?

Very few people actually want to see a wave of sovereign defaults in Europe, but the current situation cannot go on forever.  At some point the Germans are going to get sick and tired of bailing out other members of the EU.

The global addiction to debt is about to start having some very serious consequences.

For decades, most of the governments of the industrialized world have been running up debt as if it would never come back to haunt them.  Now the world is absolutely covered in red ink and everyone is looking for a way to solve the problem.

But there is not going to be a debt jubilee to come along and save everyone.  This debt bubble is either going to keep expanding or it is going to burst.

At one point, at least some of the debt-ridden nations will try to inflate their way out of debt by recklessly printing money.  To a certain extent that has already been going on.  But it will not work.  It will only cause a whole lot of inflation.

This is just more evidence that any economic system based on debt is destined to fall.  When we allowed a private central bank to start issuing debt-based currency in this country back in 1913 we set ourselves up to fail.  As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve should never have been allowed to come into existence, and it should have been shut down by Congress long before now.

But now the United States is caught in the same debt trap that most of the other nations around the world are caught in.  The global addiction to debt is going to have some very, very serious consequences.  Instead of moving into a great time of peace and prosperity, everything is about to come falling apart.

Things could have been different.  Things did not have to turn out this way.  But here we are on the edge of one of the biggest financial disasters in human history and most Americans still don’t understand what is happening.

So what do you all think about all of this?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

Shocking New IMF Report: The U.S. Dollar Needs To Be Replaced As The World Reserve Currency And SDRs “Could Constitute An Embryo Of Global Currency”

The IMF is trying to move the world away from the U.S. dollar and towards a global currency once again.  In a new report entitled “Enhancing International Monetary Stability—A Role for the SDR“, the IMF details the “problems” with having the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the globe and the IMF discusses the potential for a larger role for SDRs (Special Drawing Rights).  But the IMF certainly does not view SDRs as the “final solution” to global currency problems.  Rather, the IMF considers SDRs to be a transitional phase between what we have now and a new world currency.  In this newly published report, the IMF makes this point very clearly: “In the even longer run, if there were political willingness to do so, these securities could constitute an embryo of global currency.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  The SDR is supposed to be “an embryo” from which a global currency will one day develop.  So what about the U.S. dollar and other national currencies?  Well, they would just end up fading away.

CNN clearly understands what the IMF is trying to accomplish with this new report.  The following is how CNN’s recent story about the new IMF report begins….

“The International Monetary Fund issued a report Thursday on a possible replacement for the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.”

That is exactly what the IMF intends to do.

They intend to have SDRs replace the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency.

So exactly what are SDRs?

Well, “SDR” is short for Special Drawing Rights.  It is a synthetic currency unit that is made up of a basket of currencies.  SDRs have actually been around for many years, but now they are being heavily promoted as an alternative to the dollar.

The following is how Wikipedia defines SDRs….

Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are international foreign exchange reserve assets. Allocated to nations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a SDR represents a claim to foreign currencies for which it may be exchanged in times of need.

The SDR is a hybrid.  SDRs are part U.S. dollar, part euro, part yen and part British pound.  In particular, the following is how each SDR currently breaks down….

U.S. Dollar: 41.9%

Euro: 37.4%

Yen: 9.4%

British Pound: 11.3%

Now there are calls for other national currencies to be included in the basket.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has publicly called for the national currencies of Brazil, Russia, India and China to be included in the SDR.

In January, the Obama administration said that it fully supports the eventual inclusion of the yuan in the SDR.

So yes, it looks like we are definitely moving in the direction of the SDR becoming a true global currency.

But is this a good idea?

Globalist organizations such as the IMF say that having a true global currency would facilitate world trade, it would make currency wars less likely, it would stabilize the global economy and it would make the rest of the globe less reliant on what is going on in the United States.

In fact, there is a lot of discussion in international financial circles that oil should be traded in SDRs rather than in U.S. dollars.

In a recent interview, IMF Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara even suggested that the IMF may actually consider issuing bonds that are denominated in SDRs.  Apparently the goal would be to promote the use of the new “currency”.

But once again, it is important to remember that the IMF does not see SDRs lasting forever either.  Rather, the IMF considers the SDR to be an “embryo” from which a true global currency could emerge.

An IMF paper entitled “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” that was published last year even proposed that a future global currency be called the “Bancor” and that a future global central bank could be put in charge of issuing it….

“A global currency, bancor, issued by a global central bank (see Supplement 1, section V) would be designed as a stable store of value that is not tied exclusively to the conditions of any particular economy. As trade and finance continue to grow rapidly and global integration increases, the importance of this broader perspective is expected to continue growing.”

In fact, at one point the IMF report from last year specifically compares the proposed global central bank to the Federal Reserve….

“The global central bank could serve as a lender of last resort, providing needed systemic liquidity in the event of adverse shocks and more automatically than at present. Such liquidity was provided in the most recent crisis mainly by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which however may not always provide such liquidity.”

Yes, unfortunately this is what the IMF really has in mind for all of us.  A one-world economic system with a one-world currency and a one-world central bank.

Is that what we really need?

A “global Federal Reserve” that dominates the currency and the economy of the entire planet?

At least with the U.S. Federal Reserve there is hope that someday the American people can convince Congress to shut it down.

A “global Federal Reserve” would not answer to anyone.  Individual nations could attempt to pull out, but then they would potentially be isolated from the rest of the globe and potentially cut off from world trade.

That may sound very far-fetched now, but that is the direction we are headed.

And shifting away from the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.

Right now the fact that the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the world is one of the only things holding it up.  If you took that support away the U.S. dollar could end up collapsing quite quickly.

Let us hope that the American people wake up and start insisting that we want no part in a global currency.  If we ever allow a world currency to start replacing the U.S. dollar to a large extent, we will lose a great deal of our economic sovereignty.  Not that we haven’t lost most of it already, but at least if we are still using our own national currency there is a greater chance that we can reclaim it.

What the IMF is proposing right now may seem very innocent, but the long-term consequences of going down the road they want to put us on could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.

The American people need to send a very clear message to their representatives in Washington D.C…..

#1 We do not want a one-world economy.

#2 We do not want a one-world currency.

#3 We do not want a one-world central bank.

Has The Financial Collapse Of Europe Now Become Inevitable?

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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared earlier this year that this is the biggest financial crisis that the EU has ever faced….

“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.”

So just how bad are things going to get in Europe? Well, earlier this year Anthony Fry, the senior managing director at Evercore Partners had the following to say about the emerging bond crisis in Europe….

“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.

Municipal Bond Market Crash 2011: Are Dozens Of State And Local Governments About To Default On Their Debts?

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

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.

Arizona

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.

Arizona also recently announced that it has decided to stop paying for many types of organ transplants for people enrolled in its Medicaid program.

Illinois

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.

New Jersey

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

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.

Miami

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.

Camden

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

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.

Nassau County, New York

In New York, the country of Nassau (one of the wealthiest counties in the state) has a budget deficit that is approaching 350 million dollars.

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.

What’s next?

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.