Has the Federal Reserve gone completely insane? On Wednesday, the Fed raised interest rates for the second time in three months, and it signaled that more rate hikes are coming in the months ahead. When the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, it becomes less expensive to borrow money and that tends to stimulate more economic activity. But when the Federal Reserve raises rates , that makes it more expensive to borrow money and that tends to slow down economic activity. So why in the world is the Fed raising rates when the U.S. economy is already showing signs of slowing down dramatically? The following are 12 reasons why the Federal Reserve may have just made the biggest economic mistake since the last financial crisis…
#1 Just hours before the Fed announced this rate hike, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s projection for U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter fell to just 0.9 percent. If that projection turns out to be accurate, this will be the weakest quarter of economic growth during which rates were hiked in 37 years.
#2 The flow of credit is more critical to our economy than ever before, and higher rates will mean higher interest payments on adjustable rate mortgages, auto loans and credit card debt. Needless to say, this is going to slow the economy down substantially…
The Federal Reserve decision Wednesday to lift its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter percentage point is likely to have a domino effect across the economy as it gradually pushes up rates for everything from mortgages and credit card rates to small business loans.
Consumers with credit card debt, adjustable-rate mortgages and home equity lines of credit are the most likely to be affected by a rate hike, says Greg McBride, chief analyst at Bankrate.com. He says it’s the cumulative effect that’s important, especially since the Fed already raised rates in December 2015 and December 2016.
#3 Speaking of auto loans, the number of people that are defaulting on them had already been rising even before this rate hike by the Fed…
The number of Americans who have stopped paying their car loans appears to be increasing — a development that has the potential to send ripple effects through the US economy.
Losses on subprime auto loans have spiked in the last few months, according to Steven Ricchiuto, Mizuho’s chief US economist. They jumped to 9.1% in January, up from 7.9% in January 2016.
“Recoveries on subprime auto loans also fell to just 34.8%, the worst performance in over seven years,” he said in a note.
#4 Higher rates will likely accelerate the ongoing “retail apocalypse“, and we just recently learned that department store sales are crashing “by the most on record“.
#5 We also recently learned that the number of “distressed retailers” in the United States is now at the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.
#6 We have just been through “the worst financial recovery in 65 years“, and now the Fed’s actions threaten to plunge us into a brand new crisis.
#7 U.S. consumers certainly aren’t thriving, and so an economic slowdown will hit many of them extremely hard. In fact, about half of all Americans could not even write a $500 check for an unexpected emergency expense if they had to do so right now.
#8 The bond market is already crashing. Most casual observers only watch stocks, but the truth is that a bond crash almost always comes before a stock market crash. Bonds have been falling like a rock since Donald Trump’s election victory, and we are not too far away from a full-blown crisis. If you follow my work on a regular basis you know this is a hot button issue for me, and if bonds continue to plummet I will be writing quite a bit about this in the weeks ahead.
#9 On top of everything else, we could soon be facing a new debt ceiling crisis. The suspension of the debt ceiling has ended, and Donald Trump could have a very hard time finding the votes that he needs to raise it. The following comes from Bloomberg…
In particular, the markets seem to be ignoring two vital numbers, which together could have profound consequences for global markets: 218 and $189 billion. In order to raise or suspend the debt ceiling (which will technically be reinstated on March 16), 218 votes are needed in the House of Representatives. The Treasury’s cash balance will need to last until this happens, or the U.S. will default.
The opening cash balance this month was $189 billion, and Treasury is burning an average of $2 billion per day – with the ability to issue new debt. Net redemptions of existing debt not held by the government are running north of $100 billion a month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has acknowledged the coming deadline, encouraging Congress last week to raise the limit immediately.
If something is not done soon, the federal government could be out of cash around the beginning of the summer, and this could create a political crisis of unprecedented proportions.
#10 And even if the debt ceiling is raised, that does not mean that everything is okay. It is being reported that U.S. government revenues just experienced their largest decline since the last financial crisis.
#11 What do corporate insiders know that the rest of us do not? Stock purchases by corporate insiders are at the lowest level that we have seen in three decades…
It’s usually a good sign when the CEO of a major company is buying shares; s/he is an insider and knows what’s going on, so their confidence is a positive sign.
Well, according to public data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, insider buying is at its LOWEST level in THREE DECADES.
In other words, the people at the top of the corporate food chain who have privileged information about their businesses are NOT buying.
#12 A survey that was just released found that corporate executives are extremely concerned that Donald Trump’s policies could trigger a trade war…
As business leaders are nearly split over the effectiveness of Washington’s new leadership, they are in unison when it comes to fears over trade and immigration. Nearly all CFOs surveyed are concerned that the Trump administration’s policies could trigger a trade war between the United States and China.
A decline in global trade could deepen the economic downturns that are already going on all over the planet. For example, Brazil is already experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history“, and right next door people are literally starving in Venezuela.
After everything that you just read, would you say that the economy is “doing well”?
Of course not.
But after raising rates on Wednesday, that is precisely what Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told the press…
“The simple message is — the economy is doing well.” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said at a news conference. “The unemployment rate has moved way down and many more people are feeling more optimistic about their labor prospects.”
However, after she was challenged with some hard economic data by a reporter, Yellen seemed to change her tune somewhat…
Well, look, our policy is not set in stone. It is data- dependent and we’re — we’re not locked into any particular policy path. Our — you know, as you said, the data have not notably strengthened. I — there’s noise always in the data from quarter to quarter. But we haven’t changed our view of the outlook. We think we’re on the same path, not — we haven’t boosted the outlook, projected faster growth. We think we’re moving along the same course we’ve been on, but it is one that involves gradual tightening in the labor market.
Just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve really doesn’t understand the economic environment. At that time, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke assured everyone that there was not going to be a recession, but when he made that statement a recession was actually already underway.
And as I have said before, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is ultimately announced that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 was negative.
Whether it happens now or a bit later, the truth is that the U.S. economy is heading for a new recession, and the Federal Reserve has just given us a major shove in that direction.
Is the Fed really so clueless about the true state of the economy, or could it be possible that they are raising rates just to hurt Donald Trump?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but clearly something very strange is going on…
While most of the country has been focused on the inauguration of Donald Trump, a very real crisis has been brewing behind the scenes. Foreigners are dumping U.S. debt at a faster rate than we have ever seen before, and U.S. Treasury yields have been rising. This is potentially a massive problem, because our entire debt-fueled standard of living is dependent on foreigners lending us gigantic mountains of money at ultra-low interest rates. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt just got back to 5 percent, which would still be below the long-term average, we would be paying out about a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. If foreigners keep dumping our debt and if Treasury yields keep climbing, a major financial implosion of historic proportions is absolutely guaranteed within the next four years.
One of the most significant aspects of the “Obama legacy” is the appalling mountain of debt that he has left behind. As I write this article, the U.S. national debt is sitting at 19.944 trillion dollars. During Obama’s eight years, a staggering 9.3 trillion dollars was added to the national debt. When you break that number down, it comes to more than a hundred million dollars every single hour of every single day while Obama was living in the White House. In just two terms, Obama added almost as much to the national debt as all of the other presidents before him combined.
What Obama and the members of Congress that cooperated with him have done to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.
Unfortunately, hardly anyone is talking about this right now, but the consequences are about to start catching up with us in a major way.
The only possible way that our game of “borrow, spend and stick future generations with the bill” can continue is if the rest of the world participates. In other words, we need them to continue to buy our debt.
Unfortunately for us, a major shift is now taking place. According to Zero Hedge, the most recent numbers that we have show foreigners dumping more than 400 million dollars of U.S. debt over the past 12 months…
The wholesale liquidation of US Treasuries continued in November, when according to the just released TIC data, foreign central banks sold another $936 million in US paper in November 2016, which due to an offset of $892 million in buying one year ago, means that for the 12 month period ended November, foreign central banks have now sold a new all time high of $405 million in the past 12 months, up from a record $403 million in LTM sales as of one month ago.
This isn’t a catastrophic emergency just yet, but if we continue down this road we will eventually get there. The only way that the U.S. government can continue on with business as usual is if it can continue to borrow billions upon billions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates. Now that Treasury yields are rising, some people are beginning to get quite nervous…
As we pointed out one month ago, what has become increasingly obvious is that both foreign central banks, sovereign wealth funds, reserve managers, and virtually every other official institution in possession of US paper, is liquidating their holdings at a disturbing pace, something which in light of the recent surge in yields to over 2 year highs, appears to have been a prudent move.
In some cases, like China, this is to offset devaluation pressure; in others such as Saudi Arabia and other petroleum exporting nations, it is to provide the funds needed to offset the drop in the petrodollar, and to backstop the country’s soaring budget deficit. In all cases, it may suggest concerns about a spike in future debt issuance by the US, especially now under the pro-fiscal stimulus Trump administration.
Someday historians are going to look back in horror at what took place during the Obama years.
The amount that was added to the national debt during his years comes to “approximately $75,129 for every person in the United States who had a full-time job in December”. There is no possible justification for this. But because there haven’t been any catastrophic consequences so far, most people assume that this theft from future generations of Americans must be okay.
In a previous article, I explained that government debt greatly stimulates the economy. If we had not borrowed and spent 9.3 trillion dollars over the past eight years, we would be in the worst economic depression in U.S. history right now.
But most people don’t understand this. They don’t get the fact that we are living way, way above our means. And they also don’t get the fact that the only way that Donald Trump can keep the party going is to borrow and spend just like Obama was doing.
And even with all of Obama’s recklessness, he was still the only president in all of U.S. history not to have a single year when U.S. GDP grew by at least three percent. The following comes from the Hill…
Despite the trillions of dollars in government spending pumped into the economy every year under Obama, America has never once enjoyed an annual GDP growth rate at 3 percent or higher, making Obama the least successful president—at least when it comes to economics—in modern history.
A historically sluggish GDP isn’t the only concern worth mentioning. Under Obama’s tenure, average annual food stamp enrollment has risen by more than 15 million (compared to 2008). The home ownership rate is the lowest it has been since 1995, the earliest year provided in the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 590,000 Americans say they are not in the labor force because they are discouraged, a figure that’s 26 percent higher than even the worst annual average under George W. Bush. Additionally, the employment-population ratio has been continuously below the 60-percent threshold under Obama; the last time it was this low was 1985.
Now that Donald Trump is president, he is going to have some very hard choices in front of him.
If Donald Trump and the Republicans stop borrowing and spending so much money, the economy will immediately start suffering.
But if they do continue down the same path that Obama put us on, it is a recipe for national suicide.
So either we take our medicine now, or we risk completely destroying the bright future that our children and grandchildren were supposed to enjoy.
Wake up America, because time is running out.
Since Donald Trump’s victory on election night we have seen the worst bond crash in 15 years. Global bond investors have seen trillions of dollars of wealth wiped out since November 8th, and analysts are warning of another tough week ahead. The general consensus in the investing community is that a Trump administration will mean much higher inflation, and as a result investors are already starting to demand higher interest rates. Unfortunately for all of us, history has shown that higher interest rates always cause an economic slowdown. And this makes perfect sense, because economic activity naturally slows down when it becomes more expensive to borrow money. The Obama administration had already set up the next president for a major recession anyway, but now this bond crash threatens to bring it on sooner rather than later.
For those that are not familiar with the bond market, when yields go up bond prices go down. And when bond prices go down, that is bad news for economic growth.
So we generally don’t want yields to go up.
Unfortunately, yields have been absolutely soaring over the past couple of weeks, and the yield on 10 year Treasury notes has now jumped “one full percentage point since July”…
The 10-year Treasury yield jumped to 2.36% in late trading on Friday, the highest since December 2015, up 66 basis point since the election, and up one full percentage point since July!
The 10-year yield is at a critical juncture. In terms of reality, the first thing that might happen is a rate increase by the Fed in December, after a year of flip-flopping. A slew of post-election pronouncements by Fed heads – including Yellen’s “relatively soon” – have pushed the odds of a rate hike to 98%.
As I noted the other day, so many things in our financial system are tied to yields on U.S. Treasury notes. Just look at what is happening to mortgages. As Wolf Richter has noted, the average rate on 30 year mortgages is shooting into the stratosphere…
The carnage in bonds has consequences. The average interest rate of the a conforming 30-year fixed mortgage as of Friday was quoted at 4.125% for top credit scores. That’s up about 0.5 percentage point from just before the election, according to Mortgage News Daily. It put the month “on a short list of 4 worst months in more than a decade.”
If mortgage rates continue to shoot higher, there will be another housing crash.
Rates on auto loans, credit cards and student loans will also be affected. Throughout our economic system it will become much more costly to borrow money, and that will inevitably slow the overall economy down.
Why bond investors are so on edge these days is because of statements such as this one from Steve Bannon…
In a nascent administration that seems, at best, random in its beliefs, Bannon can seem to be not just a focused voice, but almost a messianic one:
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
Steve Bannon is going to be one of the most influential voices in the new Trump administration, and he is absolutely determined to get this “trillion dollar infrastructure plan” through Congress.
And that is going to mean a lot more borrowing and a lot more spending for a government that is already on pace to add 2.4 trillion dollars to the national debt this fiscal year.
Sadly, all of this comes at a time when the U.S. economy is already starting to show significant signs of slowing down. It is being projected that we will see a sixth straight decline in year-over-year earnings for the S&P 500, and industrial production has now contracted for 14 months in a row.
The truth is that the economy has been barely treading water for quite some time now, and it isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge. The following comes from Lance Roberts…
With an economy running at below 2%, consumers already heavily indebted, wage growth weak for the bulk of American’s, there is not a lot of wiggle room for policy mistakes.
Combine weak economics with higher interest rates, which negatively impacts consumption, and a stronger dollar, which weighs on exports, and you have a real potential of a recession occurring sooner rather than later.
Yes, the stock market soared immediately following Trump’s election, but it wasn’t because economic conditions actually improved.
If you look at history, a stock market crash almost always follows a major bond crash. So if bond prices keep declining rapidly that is going to be a very ominous sign for stock traders.
And history has also shown us that no bull market can survive a major recession. If the economy suffers a major downturn early in the Trump administration, it is inevitable that stock prices will follow.
The waning days of the Obama administration have set us up perfectly for higher interest rates, a major recession and a giant stock market crash.
Of course any problems that occur after January 20th, 2017 will be blamed on Trump, but the truth is that Obama will be far more responsible for what happens than Trump will be.
Right now so many people have been lulled into a sense of complacency because Donald Trump won the election.
That is an enormous mistake.
A shaking has already begun in the financial world, and this shaking could easily become an avalanche.
Now is not a time to party. Rather, it is time to batten down the hatches and to prepare for very rough seas ahead.
All of the things that so many experts warned were coming may have been delayed slightly, but without a doubt they are still on the way.
So get prepared while you still can, because time is running out.
As the Obama administration continues to alienate almost everyone else around the entire planet, an increasing number of prominent international voices are starting to question why the U.S. dollar should be so overwhelmingly dominant in global trade. In previous articles, I have discussed Russia’s “de-dollarization strategy” and the fact that Gazprom is now asking their large customers to start paying in currencies other than the dollar. But this is not just a story about Russia any longer. As you will read about below, China and South Korea have just signed a major agreement to facilitate trade with one another using their own national currencies, and even prominent French officials are now talking about the need to use the dollar less and the euro more. John Williams of shadowstats.com recently said that things have never “been more negative” for the U.S. dollar, and he was right on the mark. The power of the almighty dollar has allowed all of us living in the United States to enjoy an extremely high standard of living for decades, but as that power now fades it is going to have profound implications for the U.S. economy. In future years the value of the dollar will go down substantially, all of the imported goods filling our stores will become much more expensive, and it is going to cost the federal government a lot more to borrow money. Unfortunately, with the stock market hitting all-time record highs and with the mainstream media endlessly touting an “economic recovery”, most Americans are not paying any attention to these things.
French oil giant Total is one of the largest energy companies in the entire world. On Saturday, Total’s CEO made an absolutely stunning statement. According to Reuters, he told reporters that there “is no reason to pay for oil in dollars”…
“Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn’t be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more,” he told reporters.
“There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,” he said. He said the fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel did not mean that payments actually had to be made in that currency.
If Gazprom’s CEO had made such a statement, it would not have really surprised anyone. But this came from a high profile French CEO. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for him to say such a thing. Wars have been started over less. Virtually all oil and natural gas around the planet has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars since the 1970s, and this is an arrangement that the U.S. government has traditionally guarded very zealously. But now that Russia has broken the petrodollar monopoly, the fear of questioning the almighty dollar appears to be dissipating.
And at this point even French government officials are not afraid to publicly discuss moving away from the U.S. dollar. Just check out what French finance minister Michel Sapin said to the press this weekend…
French finance minister Michel Sapin says “now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro” adding, more ominously for the dollar, “we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so.” Careful to avoid upsetting his ‘allies’ across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, “This is not a fight against dollar imperialism,” except, of course – that’s exactly what it is… just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.
So why are the French suddenly so upset?
Could it be the fact that we just slapped the largest bank in France with a nearly 9 billion dollar fine?…
The remarks come a week after Paris-based bank BNP Paribas (BNP) SA was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine by U.S. authorities for transactions carried out in dollars in countries facing American sanctions. The fine spurred debate in France about the right of the U.S. in extending its regulatory reach beyond its borders.
This is yet another example of how the Obama administration is alienating friends all over the globe.
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone that the Obama administration is afraid of crossing. Just a couple of days ago, the German press exploded in outrage when Germany arrested a U.S. spy. Why we feel the need to spy on our friends is something that I will never figure out.
And of course our relations with Russia are probably the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War at this point. And as the Russians now rapidly move away from the U.S. dollar, they seem intent on bringing the rest of “the BRICS” with them. The following is a short excerpt from a recent Voice of Russia article entitled “BRICS morphing into anti-dollar alliance“…
However, in her discussion with Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian central bank unveiled an elegant technical solution for this problem and left a clear hint regarding the members of the anti-dollar alliance that is being created by the efforts of Moscow and Beijing:
“We’ve done a lot of work on the ruble-yuan swap deal in order to facilitate trade financing. I have a meeting next week in Beijing,” she said casually and then dropped the bomb: “We are discussing with China and our BRICS parters the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country, if needed. A part of the currency reserves can be directed to [the new system].” (source of the quote: Prime news agency)
It seems that the Kremlin chose the all-in-one approach for establishing its anti-dollar alliance. Currency swaps between the BRICS central banks will facilitate trade financing while completely bypassing the dollar. At the same time, the new system will also act as a de facto replacement of the IMF, because it will allow the members of the alliance to direct resources to finance the weaker countries. As an important bonus, derived from this “quasi-IMF” system, the BRICS will use a part (most likely the “dollar part”) of their currency reserves to support it, thus drastically reducing the amount of dollar-based instruments bought by some of the biggest foreign creditors of the US.
Of course the key economic player in the BRICS alliance is China.
So will China actually go along with a “de-dollarization” strategy?
Well, the truth is that China has been making moves to become more independent of the dollar for a long time, and it has just been announced that China and South Korea have signed an agreement which will mean more direct trade between the two nations using their own national currencies…
China’s central bank has authorized the Bank of Communications, the country’s fifth largest lender, to undertake yuan clearing business in the South Korean capital, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement.
The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to South Korea on Friday. China is seeking to make the yuan – also known as the renminbi – used more internationally in keeping with the country’s status as the world’s second biggest economy behind the United States.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t care about any of this at all.
They don’t understand that more U.S. dollars are actually used outside the United States than are used inside the United States. Because most of the rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, this has created a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency. In other words, the value of the U.S. dollar is much higher than it otherwise would be, and this has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of products at ridiculously low prices. The standard of living that we enjoy today is highly dependent on this arrangement continuing.
And our ability to fund the federal government and our state and local governments is heavily dependent on the rest of the planet loaning our dollars back to us for next to nothing. If we actually had to pay realistic market rates to borrow money, the finances of the federal government would have already collapsed long ago.
So it is absolutely imperative for our own economic well-being that this “de-dollarization” trend not accelerate any further. The rest of the world could actually severely hurt us by deciding to stop using the almighty dollar, and the more that the Obama administration antagonizes both our friends and our foes around the globe the more likely that is to happen.
We live in very perilous times, and the almighty dollar is more vulnerable now than it has been in decades.
If it starts collapsing, it will take down the entire U.S. financial system with it.
Let us hope that we still have a bit more time before that happens, because once the U.S. dollar collapses it will be exceedingly painful for all of us.
Since leaving the White House, the Clintons have earned at least 100 million dollars and currently have a net worth of up to 50 million dollars. So why in the world do the taxpayers need to give Bill Clinton $944,000 to fund his extravagant lifestyle in 2014? If ordinary Americans truly understood how much money many former politicians are being handed every year they would go bananas. According to a Congressional Research Service report that was published earlier this year, the federal government has given a total of nearly 16 million dollars to Bill Clinton since 2001. Each one of those dollars is a dollar that some U.S. taxpayer worked really hard for or that we had to borrow. Yes, we don’t want our former presidents to go broke for a whole bunch of reasons, but it is absolutely absurd that we are showering them with millions upon millions of dollars.
Yesterday, I wrote about the trouble that Hillary has caused for herself by claiming that the Clintons were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
The way things have been set up, there is no way in the world that any former president is going to be “dead broke” ever again unless the law is changed.
According to the Washington Post, Bill Clinton has been receiving about a million dollars a year “for office space, staff, and a pension” since he left office…
According to an April report from the Congressional Research Service, Bill Clinton has received nearly $16 million in pensions and benefits from the federal government since leaving office. That includes $944,000 in fiscal year 2014 for office space, staff, and a pension.
That is insanely wasteful.
But wait, there’s more.
George W. Bush is actually receiving more money from the taxpayers than Clinton is each year…
Bush the younger is costing taxpayers $1.28 million this year, and averages 4 per cent more annual than Clinton.
The government’s General Services Administration inexplicably budgeted $102,000 for Bush’s telephone expenses in 2014, and planned to spend $135,000 more on furniture, computers, office supplies and other miscellany.
How in the world is George W. Bush racking up $102,000 in phone expenses a year?
Does he have the world’s worst calling plan?
And of course what we spend on our former presidents is peanuts compared to what we spend on our current president.
According to author Robert Keith Gray, approximately 1.4 billion dollars is spent on the Obamas every year. Here are just a few nuggets from his book…
-The Obamas have the “biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever“.
-Obama has 469 senior staff working directly under him, and 226 of them make more than $100,000 a year.
-There is always at least one projectionist at the White House 24 hours a day just in case there is someone that wants to watch a movie.
-The “dog handler” for the family dog Bo reportedly makes $102,000 per year and sometimes he is even flown to where the family is vacationing so that he can care for the dog.
Yes, the White House needs a large staff.
But at this point we spend more on our presidents than any nation on the planet does on their entire royal families.
Over the years, the political elite have tilted the rules of the game dramatically in their favor. Neither political party objects because they both benefit from riding on the endless gravy train.
If you can believe it, there are close to 15,000 retired federal employees that are currently collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually. This list includes names such as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.
And most people are astounded to hear that more than 4 million dollars a year is spent on the “personal” and “office” expenses of each U.S. Senator.
Not that they need the money. As I wrote about recently, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires at this point, and nearly 200 of them are multimillionaires.
Politics in America has become a game that is played by the elite for the benefit of the elite. If it seems like they are “out of touch” with ordinary Americans that is because they are.
Meanwhile, things just continue to get even tougher for the middle class. Even though money is flowing like wine in Washington D.C. for the moment, a brand new Gallup survey discovered that 58 percent of Americans believe that the economy is getting worse.
It is shameful that our politicians are living like rock stars while tens of millions of American families are suffering so deeply. For example, consider the case of Andrew and Kristen Cummins…
Andrew and Kristen Cummins and their 8-year-old son Colton have been in and out of homelessness for the past four years.
It all started when Andrew moved to Indiana for a temporary warehouse job that was supposed to turn into a full-time job. But instead he said he was let go as soon as the company would have had to start providing him with full-time benefits.
Since then, he has worked at several other temporary jobs that haven’t turned into full-time work either.
Kristen has been in the same position: She has also had temporary jobs, but nothing has stuck.
So for now, the three stay at a local homeless shelter called the Haven House. Since women and men are required to sleep in separate areas, Andrew doesn’t get to see his wife or son after 9 p.m. each night.
There are millions of other families just like them that are scratching and clawing their way through life the best that they can.
Perhaps our politicians should actually do something to help them instead of sitting back and living the high life at our expense.
If you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others. The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system. When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up. When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in. Just imagine someone squeezing a tube that has water flowing through it. The higher interest rates go, the more economic activity will be squeezed. If interest rates continue to rise rapidly, it will be more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money, it will be more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, the housing market may crash again, consumer debt will become more expensive, junk bond investors will be in for a world of hurt, the stock market will experience a tremendous amount of pain and there is a good chance that we could see the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble implode. And that is just for starters.
So yes, we all need to be carefully watching the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. On Friday, it opened at 2.76% and hit a high of 2.86% before closing at 2.83%. The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is up nearly 120 basis points since the beginning of May, and almost everyone on Wall Street seems convinced that it is going to go much higher.
We are truly moving into unprecedented territory, because we have been in a bull market for U.S. Treasuries for the last 30 years. Many investors don’t even know that it is possible to lose money on U.S. Treasuries. They have been described as “risk-free” investments, but that is far from the truth.
In fact, we could see bond investors of all types end up losing trillions of dollars before it is all said and done.
And those in the stock market will lose lots of money too. Low interest rates are good for economic activity which is good for the stock market. The chart posted below shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years…
When interest rates rise, that is bad for economic activity and bad for stocks. That is why so many stock analysts are alarmed that interest rates are going up so rapidly right now.
And as I wrote about the other day, we have just witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since before the last financial crisis. The stock market already seems ripe for a huge “adjustment”, and rising interest rates could give it a huge extra push in a negative direction.
By the time it is all said and done, stock market investors could end up losing trillions of dollars in the next stock market crash.
In addition, rising interest rates could easily precipitate another housing crash. As the Wall Street Journal discussed on Friday, as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up it will also cause mortgage rates to rise…
Higher yields will push up long-term borrowing cost for U.S. consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates will rise, and investors are keeping a close eye on whether this may derail the recovery of the housing market, which has shown signs of turning a corner this year.
In one of my previous articles, I included an example that shows just how powerful rising mortgage rates can be…
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent. The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.
Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?
It shouldn’t. 8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.
If you own a $300,000 house today, do you think it will be easier to sell it or harder to sell it if mortgage rates skyrocket?
Yes, of course it will be much harder. In fact, there is a good chance that you will have to reduce your selling price significantly so that prospective buyers can afford the payments.
Let us hope that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries levels off for a while. If it says at this current level, the damage will probably not be too bad.
But if it crosses the 3 percent mark and keeps soaring, things could get messy pretty quickly. In fact, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor survey, the 3.5 percent mark is when the collapse of the bond market is likely to become “disorderly”…
Our latest Credit Investor Survey, conducted July 8-11, showed that 3.5% on the 10-year is most commonly thought of as the trigger of a disorderly rotation – i.e. higher interest rates leading to outflows and wider credit spreads – among high grade investors.
Put differently, 3.0% on the 10-year will not lead to overall wider credit spreads if there is enough buying interest from institutional investors (though note that the 10s/30s spread curve would flatten further, as mutual fund/ETF holdings are concentrated in the belly of the curve, whereas institutional demand is disproportional in the long end of the curve). However, if the probability of a further move higher in interest rates to 3.5% is high – which will be the perception if interest rate volatility is high – certain institutional investors will choose to remain on the sidelines.
Thus there may not be enough institutional buying interest to mitigate retail fund outflows and contain overall high grade spread levels.
So what is causing this?
Well, there are a number of factors of course, but one very disturbing sign is that foreigners are selling off U.S. Treasuries at a pace that we have not seen since 2007…
One of the biggest fears in the financial markets is that foreign investors will stop buying U.S. Treasury securities, causing borrowing rates to surge.
Not that this is the beginning of a frightening trend, but new data from the Treasury Department shows that foreigners were net sellers in June. In fact, this is the largest net sale of U.S. securities since August 2007.
Do you remember all of the warnings that we have received over the years about what would take place when foreign countries started dumping U.S. debt?
Well, it looks like it may be starting to happen.
Unfortunately, there is no way that the party that the U.S. government has been throwing can continue without foreigners buying our debt. We have added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt since the year 2000, and according to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff we are facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are in excess of 200 trillion dollars.
Even with foreigners continuing to loan us gigantic mountains of super cheap money, it would still take a doubling of our taxes to put us on a fiscally sustainable course…
Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”
This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.
Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation] would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.
“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”
Can you afford to pay twice as much in taxes to the federal government?
Very few Americans could.
But that is how serious the financial problems of the federal government are.
And all of the above assumes that interest payments on U.S. government debt will remain at current levels. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Also, all of the above assumes that we will have a healthy financial system that does not need to be bailed out again.
But if rapidly rising interest rates cause the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble to implode, the bailout that the “too big to fail” banks will need will likely be far, far larger than last time.
In fact, once that bubble bursts there probably will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.
If the picture that I have painted above sounds bleak, that is because it is bleak.
Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I don’t feel I am communicating the tremendous danger that we are facing accurately enough.
We are heading for the worst financial crisis in modern human history, and the debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is going to go away and it is never going to come back.
You can dismiss that as “doom and gloom” and stick your head in the sand if you want, but that isn’t going to help anything. Instead of ignoring reality you should be working hard to prepare your family for what is coming and warning others that they should be getting prepared too.
When a hurricane is approaching landfall, you don’t take your family out for a picnic at the beach. That would be foolish. Unfortunately, way too many Americans are acting as if nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 could ever possibly happen again.
If you deceive yourself into thinking that all of this is going to have a happy ending somehow, you are going to get blindsided by the coming storm.
But if you make preparations now, you might just be okay.
There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.
So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. The higher it goes, the later in the game we are.
When you add maturing debt to the new debt that the federal government is accumulating, the total is quite eye catching. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government must not only borrow enough money to fund government spending for this year, it must also “roll over” existing debt that has reached maturity. Of course the government never actually pays any of that debt off. Instead, it essentially takes out new debts to cover the old ones. So the U.S. government is actually borrowing far more money each year than most Americans realize. For fiscal year 2013, the U.S. budget deficit will be about $845 billion, but on top of that the government will also have to borrow about 3 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is maturing. Overall, the U.S. government will borrow close to 4 trillion dollars this year, and that number will likely be even higher next year. That is not going to cause a crisis as long as interest rates stay super low, but if interest rates begin to rise substantially, the game will change dramatically.
When the government borrows money, it has to pay it back someday. Back in the old days, the federal government used to issue lots of debt that would not mature for a very long time. But in recent years things have been very different…
In order to fund the government, the Treasury Department periodically auctions Treasury securities with various maturities ranging from 30-day Treasury bills to 30-year Treasury bonds, with 2-3-5-7-year and 10-year Treasury notes in between. It used to be that the bulk of Treasury borrowing was done in the longer-term instruments with maturities of at least 10 years.
In more recent years, however, this trend has shifted more toward shorter-term Treasury securities. There are pros and cons to both strategies. Generally speaking, the shorter maturities are considered more risky since short-term interest rates can vary frequently. Shorter-term maturities obviously have to be rolled over much more often. That raises the risk that there might not be enough buyers when the government needs them.
At this point, the average maturity of outstanding government debt is only 65 months, and only about 10 percent of all Treasury debt matures outside of a decade.
So what does that mean?
It means that the federal government must constantly roll over massive amounts of debt. Once again, this is not too much of a problem as long as interest rates stay super low, but as John Cochrane pointed out, if rates start rising back to “normal” levels things could get quite hairy very quickly…
Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5 percent, i.e. back to normal, and the US has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion) – doubling already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation – which did not hit them, since they are on the Euro – can hit us.
Sadly, those running things appears to be quite clueless. For example, retiring U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann recently asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke why the national debt has remained frozen in place for 56 straight days even though we have been borrowing lots of money. Bernanke seemed to have no idea how to answer that question…
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, Bachmann asked how there could be no increase reported in the total debt when the government is racking up about $4 billion a day in new debt.
“After nearly 10 years as the head of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke could not answer my question today in Financial Services Committee,” Bachmann told WND.
She wondered if there’s a political motive.
“I asked whether the Treasury Department was cooking the federal government’s books as it was reported that the Feds debt balance sheet remained at $16,699,396,000,000 for 56 days straight, presumably so the Treasury Department wouldn’t officially register that once again the Congress had exceeded its legal borrowing limits.”
For the moment, the federal government is able to recklessly borrow and spend money and investors are rewarding this behavior with super low interest rates.
Unfortunately, this state of affairs is completely and totally unsustainable. At some point global financial markets will begin to behave rationally, and when that happens it is going to mean a tremendous amount of pain for the United States.
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt at a time when the U.S. economy has been steadily declining. Anyone that thinks that we can continue to pile up more debt like this indefinitely does not know what they are talking about.
The following are some more statistics about the U.S. national debt for you to consider…
-Back in 1980, the U.S. national debt was less than one trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 17 trillion dollars.
–During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
–The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
–If you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.
–If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
–If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
–Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer. Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
–If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.
–The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
–At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
–The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.
–The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.
–The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
–Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay. Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”. His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
For the moment everything is fine because interest rates are incredibly low and the mockers in the “deficits don’t matter” fan club are having a field day.
But what is going to happen when interest rates return to rational levels?
How will the U.S. government be able to borrow the trillions of dollars that it needs to borrow every single year?
That is why it is so important to watch interest rates. When they start skyrocketing, big trouble is ahead.
The “coming economic collapse” has already been happening. You see, the truth is that the economic collapse is not a single event. It has already started, it is happening right now, and it will accelerate during the years ahead. The statistics in this article show very clearly that the U.S. economy has fallen dramatically over the past ten years or so. Unfortunately, there are lots of mockers out there that love to mock the idea of an economic collapse even though one is happening right in front of our eyes. They love to say stuff like this (and I am paraphrasing): “An economic collapse is never going to happen. We can consume far more wealth than we produce forever. We can pile up gigantic mountains of debt forever. There is no way that the party is over. In fact, the party is just getting started. Woo-hoo!” That sounds absolutely ridiculous, but “economists” and “journalists” actually write things that reflect these kinds of sentiments every single day. They do not seem alarmed about the fact that our national debt is nearly 17 times larger than it was 30 years ago. They do not seem alarmed about the fact that the total amount of debt in our country is more than 28 times larger than it was 40 years ago. They do not seem alarmed about the fact that our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted and we are steadily becoming poorer as a nation. They just think that the magic formula of print, borrow, spend and consume can go on indefinitely. Unfortunately, the truth is that a massive economic disaster has already started to unfold. We inherited the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, but we totally wrecked it. We have been able to live far, far beyond our means for the last couple of decades thanks to the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet, but now that debt bubble is getting ready to burst. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming. Just open your eyes and look at the facts. The following are 40 stats that prove the U.S. economy has already been collapsing over the past decade…
#1 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001. That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.
#2 The United States was once ranked #1 in the world in GDP per capita. Today we have slipped to #14.
#3 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.
#4 Since the year 2000, the size of the U.S. national debt has grown by more than 11 trillion dollars.
#5 Back in the year 2000, our trade deficit with China was 83 billion dollars. Last year, it was 315 billion dollars.
#6 In the year 2000, about 17 million Americans were employed in manufacturing. Today, only about 12 million Americans are employed in manufacturing.
#7 The United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
#8 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
#9 Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.
#10 Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Today, China’s high-tech exports are more than twice the size of U.S. high-tech exports.
#11 In 2002, the United States had a trade deficit in “advanced technology products” of $16 billion with the rest of the world. In 2010, that number skyrocketed to $82 billion.
#12 The United States has lost more than a quarter of all of its high-tech manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
#13 The number of full-time workers in the United States is nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.
#14 The average duration of unemployment in the United States is nearly three times as long as it was back in the year 2000.
#15 Throughout the year 2000, more than 64 percent of all working age Americans had a job. Today, only 58.7 percent of all working age Americans have a job.
#16 The official unemployment rate has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row. That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.
#17 The U.S. government says that the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by 17.9 million between 2000 and 2011. During the entire decade of the 1980s, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” rose by only 1.7 million.
#18 The average number of hours worked per employed person per year has fallen by about 100 since the year 2000.
#19 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs. 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.
#20 The U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the recent recession.
#21 The percentage of Americans that are self-employed has steadily declined over the past decade and is now at an all-time low.
#22 According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration…
Bush Sr.: 11.3
Bush Jr.: 10.8
#23 In the year 2000, there were only 17 million Americans on food stamps. Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.
#24 In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent. Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.
#25 Since Barack Obama entered the White House, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen from $1.85 to $3.64.
#26 More than twice as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as will be sold in 2013.
#27 Right now there are 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
#28 The price of ground beef increased by 61 percent between 2002 and 2012.
#29 According to USA Today, water bills have actually tripled over the past 12 years in some areas of the country.
#30 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance. Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.
#31 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four years in a row.
#32 As I mentioned recently, the homeownership rate in America is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.
#33 Back in the year 2000, the mortgage delinquency rate was about 2 percent. Today, it is nearly 10 percent.
#34 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.
#35 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”. Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.
#36 According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of families in the United States declined “from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010“.
#37 According to the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.
#38 Medicare spending increased by 138 percent between 1999 and 2010.
#39 During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
#40 Today, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless. This is the first time that has ever happened in our history. That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.
Are there any other items that you would add to this list? Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…