Warren Buffett believes “that bonds are very overvalued“, and a recent survey of fund managers found that 80 percent of them are convinced that bonds have become “badly overvalued“. The most famous bond expert on the planet, Bill Gross, recently confessed that he has a sense that the 35 year bull market in bonds is “ending” and he admitted that he is feeling “great unrest”. Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller has added a new chapter to his bestselling book in which he argues that bond prices are “irrationally high”. The global bond bubble has ballooned to more than 76 trillion dollars, and interest rates have never been lower in modern history. In fact, 25 percent of all government bonds in Europe actually have a negative rate of return at this point. There is literally nowhere for the bond market to go except for the other direction, and when this bull market turns into a bear it will create chaos and financial devastation all over the planet.
In a recent piece entitled “A Sense Of Ending“, bond guru Bill Gross admitted that the 35 year bull market in bonds that has made him and those that have invested with him so wealthy is now coming to an end…
Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted. They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date. To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date. Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.
I wish to still be active in say 2020 to see how this ends. As it is, in 2015, I merely have a sense of an ending, a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. But if so, like death, only the timing is in doubt. Because of this sense, however, I have unrest, increasingly a great unrest. You should as well.
Bill Gross is someone that knows what he is talking about. I would consider his words very carefully.
Another renowned financial expert, Yale professor Robert Shiller, warned us about the stock bubble in 2000 and about the real estate bubble in 2005. Now, he is warning about the danger posed by this bond bubble…
In the first edition of his landmark book “Irrational Exuberance,” published in 2000, the Yale professor of economics and 2013 Nobel Laureate presciently warned that stocks looked especially expensive. In the second edition, published in 2005 shortly before the real estate bubble crashed, he added a chapter about real estate valuations. And in the new edition, due out later this month, Shiller adds a fresh chapter called “The Bond Market in Historical Perspective,” in which he worries that bond prices might be irrationally high.
For years, ultra-low interest rates have enabled governments around the world to go on a debt binge unlike anything the world has ever seen. Showing very little restraint since the last financial crisis, they have piled up debts that are exceedingly dangerous. If interest rates were to return to historical norms, it would instantly create the greatest government debt crisis in history.
2) global government debt is increasing exponentially
3) 0% interest rates are allowing governments to borrow more to pay off old loans and fund deficits
4) Global growth is declining despite money printing and bailouts And, we’ve saved the latest and greatest fact for last: as stunning as 0% interest rates sound, the mathematically-challenged-fantasyland called Europe has just one upped everyone by introducing NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES.
As of writing, over 25% of all bonds issued by European governments has a guaranteed negative return for investors.
Germany can borrow money for 5 years at an interest rate of NEGATIVE 0.10%. Yes, instead of Germany paying you interest when you lend them money, you have to pay them interest.
These same negative interest rate conditions exist across many of the Eurozone countries, as well as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Negative interest rates are by nature irrational.
Why in the world would you pay someone to borrow money from you?
It doesn’t make any sense at all, and this irrational state of affairs will not last for too much longer.
At some point, investors are going to come to the realization that the 35 year bull market for bonds is finished, and then there will be a massive rush for the exits. This rush for the exits will be unlike anything the bond market has ever seen before. Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal says that this coming rush for the exits will set off a “death spiral”…
Anyone who holds the view that the Fed will not soon raise interest rates,and soon, fails to understand the nature of the developing crisis. It will be led by a collapse of the bond market.
Market forces, somewhat misleadingly called bond-vigilantes, will lead the charge.
I am not as bearish in the short-term on the stock market. The equity markets will be volatile because of the climb in rates and look scary at times but the death spiral will be in the bond market.
As this death spiral accelerates, we are going to see global interest rates rise dramatically. And considering the fact that more than 400 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rates, that is a very scary thing.
And in case you are wondering, the stock market will be deeply affected by all of this as well. I believe that we are going to witness a stock market crash even greater than what we experienced in 2008, and other experts are projecting similar things. For example, just consider what Marc Faber recently told CNBC…
“For the last two years, I’ve been thinking that U.S. stocks are due for a correction,” Faber said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “But I always say a bubble is a bubble, and if there’s no correction, the market will go up, and one day it will go down, big time.”
“The market is in a position where it’s not just going to be a 10 percent correction. Maybe it first goes up a bit further, but when it comes, it will be 30 percent or 40 percent minimum!” Faber asserted.
Where we are right now is at the end of the party. There are some that want to keep on dancing to the music for as long as possible, but most can see that things are winding down and people are starting to head for the exits.
The irrational global financial bubble that investors have been enjoying for the past few years has stretched on far longer than it should have. But that is the way irrational bubbles work – they just keep going even when everyone can see that they have become absolutely absurd. However, eventually something always comes along and bursts them, and once that happens markets can crash very, very rapidly.
Just a few days ago, the bull market for the S&P 500 turned six years old. This six year period of time has been great for investors, but what comes next? On March 9th, 2009 the S&P 500 hit a low of 676.53. Since that day, it has risen more than 200 percent. As you will see below, there are only two other times within the last 100 years when the S&P 500 performed this well over a six year time frame. In both instances, the end result was utter disaster. And as you take in this information, I want you to keep in mind what I said in my previous article entitled “7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now“. What we are witnessing at this moment is classic “peaking behavior”, and there is a long way to go down from here. So if historical patterns hold up, those with lots of money in the stock market could soon be in for a whole lot of trouble.
According to Societe Generale analyst Andrew Lapthorne, there was an S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1929.
We all know what happened that year.
And there was another S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1999. In the end, all of those gains were wiped out when the dotcom bubble burst.
And now we are near the end of another great bull market for the S&P 500. The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article…
“Such a strong six year run up in US equities has only been seen twice since 1900, i.e., back in 1929 and 1999, neither of which ended well,” Lapthorne wrote.
Needless to say, a lot of people are not very optimistic about that right now.
And there was another very interesting bull market that ended in 1987…
On Aug. 12, the S&P 500 dipped to 102.42, setting the stage for the third-biggest bull market in stocks since 1929. Inflation and unemployment fell. In 1984, President Reagan would cruise to reelection with an ad telling voters “It’s morning again in America.” By 1987, the stock market had tripled. Shareholders who were able to see beyond the gloom of the early 1980s reaped a huge return.
Of course a lot of those huge stock market returns were eliminated in a single day. On October 19th, 1987 the Dow declined by more than 22 percent during a single trading session. That day is still known as “Black Monday” up to this present time.
Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up. So if your stock portfolio has gone up substantially over the past few years, good for you. But keep in mind that all of your gains can be wiped out very rapidly. Millions of people experienced this during the last financial crisis, and millions more will experience this during the next one.
And as I keep reminding people, so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the last great stock market collapse are happening once again.
For example, just yesterday I explained that there has been only one other time over the past decade when we have seen the U.S. dollar surge in value in such a short period of time.
That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.
Another example is what has happened to the price of oil. Since the middle of last year, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars a barrel.
In all of history, that has happened only one other time.
That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.
But you know what? Despite all of the warning signs there are still people out there that are eagerly pouring money into the stock market.
Back in 2005 and 2006, I knew people that were hurrying to buy homes before they got “priced out of the market”. So they did everything that they could to scrape together down payments and they took on mortgages that were larger than they could really afford.
Mr Odey is best known for his big macroeconomic calls, including foreseeing the 2008 global credit crisis; piling into insurers in the wake of September 2001 attacks; and picking the recent oil price rout. He famously paid himself £28 million in 2008 after shorting credit crisis casualties, including British lender Bradford & Bingley. Mr Odey’s fund returned 54.8 per cent that year.
“The market’s reaction to all of this is leave it to the professionals, leave it to those great guys, the central bankers, because they saved the day in 2009,” he said. “These guys are kind of relying on central banks pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”
The risk is that this time, monetary policy may be ineffective: “We need the crisis to reformulate policy. Central banks are not all singing and all dancing, they cannot basically avoid the natural consequences of what we are doing.”
An inadequate supply-side response to the plunge in commodity prices as the resources industry declines to reduce production was in effect stimulating supply into falling demand.
“The trouble is today the players, whether they are the miners or the oil companies or the Saudis or anybody else, they are not doing the right things. This is the first time in my career where economics 101 doesn’t work at all.”
But it was also true that the world has not had a major recession for 25 years and thanks to frequent interventions, “there is a sensation we don’t have a business cycle”. Stocks are enjoying a six-year bull market but he also hinted at liquidity issues bubbling under the surface.
“I just think that you and I have got grandstand seats here [to an imminent market shock] and my point is having found myself in the second quarter of last year selling a lot of equities and starting to go short, I found out just how illiquid it all was. You never actually see it until people try and get out of these things.”
It was unclear to Mr Odey what central banks could do to prevent a crash.
The warning signs are clear.
Soon the time for warning will be over and the crisis will be here.
Is this the end of the last great run for the U.S. stock market? Are we witnessing classic “peaking behavior” that is similar to what occurred just before other major stock market crashes? Throughout 2014 and for the early stages of 2015, stocks have been on quite a tear. Even though the overall U.S. economy continues to be deeply troubled, we have seen the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq set record after record. But no bull market lasts forever – particularly one that has no relation to economic reality whatsoever. This false bubble of financial prosperity has been enjoyable, and even I wish that it could last much longer. But there comes a time when we all must face reality, and the cold, hard facts are telling us that this party is about to end. The following are 7 signs that a stock market peak is happening right now…
#1 Just before a stock market crash, price/earnings ratios tend to spike, and that is precisely what we are witnessing. The following commentary and chart come from Lance Roberts…
The chart below shows Dr. Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted P/E ratio. The problem is that current valuations only appear cheap when compared to the peak in 2000. In order to put valuations into perspective, I have capped P/E’s at 30x trailing earnings. The dashed orange line measures 23x earnings which has been the level where secular bull markets have previously ended. I have noted the peak valuations in periods that have exceeded that 30x earnings.
At 27.85x current earning the markets are currently at valuation levels where previous bull markets have ended rather than continued. Furthermore, the markets have exceeded the pre-financial crisis peak of 27.65x earnings. If earnings continue to deteriorate, market valuations could rise rapidly even if prices remain stagnant.
#2 The average bull market lasts for approximately 3.8 years. The current bull market has already lasted for six years.
#4 Usually before a stock market crash we see a divergence between the relative strength index and the stock market itself. This happened prior to the bursting of the dotcom bubble, it happened prior to the crash of 2008, and it is happening again right now…
The first technical warning sign that we should heed is marked by a significant divergence between the relative strength index (RSI) and the market itself. This is noted by a declining pattern of lower highs in the RSI as stocks continue to make higher highs, a sign that the market is “topping out”. In the late ‘90s this divergence persisted for many years as the tech bubble reached epic valuation levels. In 2007 this divergence lasted over a much shorter period (6 months) before the market finally peaked and succumbed to massive selling. With last month’s strong rally to new records, we now have a confirmed divergence between the long-term relative strength index and the market’s price action.
#5 In the past, peaks in margin debt have been very closely associated with stock market peaks. The following chart comes from Doug Short, and I included it in a previous article…
#6 As I have discussed previously, we usually witness a spike in 10 year Treasury yields just about the time that the stock market is peaking right before a crash.
Well, according to Business Insider, we just saw the largest 5 week rate rally in two decades…
Lots of guys and gals went home this past weekend thinking about the implications of the recent rise in the 10-year Treasury bond’s yield.
Chris Kimble notes it was the biggest 5-week rate rally in twenty years!
A momentum indicator dubbed the Coppock Guide, which serves as “a barometer of the market’s emotional state,” has also peaked, Stack says. The indicator, which, “tracks the ebb and flow of equity markets from one psychological extreme to another,” is also flashing a warning flag.
The Coppock Guide’s chart pattern is flashing a “double top,” which suggests that “psychological excesses are present” and that “secondary momentum has peaked” in this bull market, according to Stack.
“All of this is just another reason for concern about an impending bear market on the not-too-distant horizon,” Stack writes.
So if we are to see a stock market crash soon, when will it happen?
Well, the truth is that nobody knows for certain.
It could happen this week, or it could be six months from now.
In fact, a whole lot of people are starting to point to the second half of 2015 as a danger zone. For example, just consider the words of David Morgan…
“Momentum is one indicator and the money supply. Also, when I made my forecast, there is a big seasonality, and part of it is strict analytical detail and part of it is being in this market for 40 years. I got a pretty good idea of what is going on out there and the feedback I get. . . . I’m in Europe, I’m in Asia, I’m in South America, I’m in Mexico, I’m in Canada; and so, I get a global feel, if you will, for what people are really thinking and really dealing with. It’s like a barometer reading, and I feel there are more and more tensions all the time and less and less solutions. It’s a fundamental take on how fed up people are on a global basis. Based on that, it seems to me as I said in the January issue of the Morgan Report, September is going to be the point where people have had it.”
Time will tell if Morgan was right.
But without a doubt, lots of economic warning signs are starting to pop up.
One that is particularly troubling is the decline in new orders for consumer goods. This is something that Charles Hugh-Smith pointed out in one of his recent articles…
The financial news is astonishingly rosy: record trade surpluses in China, positive surprises in Europe, the best run of new jobs added to the U.S. economy since the go-go 1990s, and the gift that keeps on giving to consumers everywhere, low oil prices.
So if everything is so fantastic, why are new orders cratering?New orders are a snapshot of future demand, as opposed to current retail sales or orders that have been delivered.
Posted below is a chart that he included with his recent article. As you can see, the only time things have been worse in recent decades was during the depths of the last financial crisis…
To me, it very much appears that time is running out for this bubble of false prosperity that we have been living in.
But what do you think? Please feel free to contribute to the discussion by posting a comment below…
Are we at the tail end of the stock market bubble to end all stock market bubbles? Wall Street was full of glee Monday when the Nasdaq closed above 5000 for the first time since the peak of the dotcom bubble in March 2000. And almost everyone in the financial world seems convinced that things are somehow “different” this time around. Even though by almost every objective measure stocks are wildly overpriced right now, and even though there are a whole host of signs that economic trouble is on the horizon, the overwhelming consensus is that this bull market is just going to keep charging ahead. But of course that is what they thought just before the last two stock market crashes in 2001 and 2008 as well. No matter how many times history repeats, we never seem to learn from it.
Back in October 2002, the Nasdaq hit a post-dotcom bubble low of 1108. From there, it went on an impressive run. In late 2007, it briefly moved above 2800 before losing more than half of its value during the stock market crash of 2008.
So the fact that the Nasdaq has now closed above 5000 is a really big deal. The following is how USA Today described what happened on Monday…
The Nasdaq Composite capped its long march back to 5000 Monday, eclipsing, then closing above the long-hallowed mark for the first time since March 2000.
The arduous climb came on the heels of a 10-day winning streak that ended last week, Nasdaq’s longest since July 2009. That helped fuel the technology-heavy market index to a 7% gain in February, the sixth-largest monthly climb since its 1971 launch.
The chart below shows how the Nasdaq has performed over the past decade. As you can see, we are coming dangerously close to doubling the peak that was hit just before the last stock market collapse…
By looking at that chart, you would be tempted to think that the overall U.S. economy must be doing great.
But of course that is not the case at all.
For example, just take a look at what has happened to the employment-population ratio over the past decade. The percentage of the working age U.S. population that is currently employed is actually far lower than it used to be…
So why is the stock market doing so well if the overall economy is not?
Well, the truth is that stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality at this point. Wall Street has been transformed into a giant casino, and trading stocks has been transformed into a high stakes poker game.
And one of the ways that we can tell that a stock market bubble has formed is when people start borrowing massive amounts of money to invest in stocks. As you can see from the commentary and chart from Doug Short below, margin debt is peaking again just like it did just prior to the last two stock market crashes…
Unfortunately, the NYSE margin debt data is a month old when it is published. Real (inflation-adjusted) debt hit its all-time high in February 2014, after which it margin declined sharply for two months, but by June it had risen to a level about two percent below its high and then oscillated in a relatively narrow range. The latest data point for January is four percent off its real high eleven month ago.
So why can’t more people see this?
We are in the midst of a monumental stock market bubble and most on Wall Street seem willingly blind to it.
Unless we observe a rather swift improvement in market internals and a further, material easing in credit spreads – neither which would relieve the present overvaluation of the market, but both which would defer our immediate concerns about downside risk – the present moment likely represents the best opportunity to reduce exposure to stock market risk that investors are likely to encounter in the coming 8 years.
Last week, the cyclically-adjusted P/E of the S&P 500 Index surpassed 27, versus a historical norm of just 15 prior to the late-1990’s market bubble. The S&P 500 price/revenue ratio surpassed 1.8, versus a pre-bubble norm of just 0.8. On a wide range of historically reliable measures (having a nearly 90% correlation with actual subsequent S&P 500 total returns), we estimate current valuations to be fully 118% above levels associated with historically normal subsequent returns in stocks. Advisory bullishness (Investors Intelligence) shot to 59.5%, compared with only 14.1% bears – one of the most lopsided sentiment extremes on record. The S&P 500 registered a record high after an advancing half-cycle since 2009 that is historically long-in-the-tooth and already exceeds the valuation peaks set at every cyclical extreme in history but 2000 on the S&P 500 (across all stocks, current median price/earnings, price/revenue and enterprise value/EBITDA multiples already exceed the 2000 extreme). Equally important, our measures of market internals and credit spreads, despite moderate improvement in recent weeks, continue to suggest a shift toward risk-aversion among investors. An environment of compressed risk premiums coupled with increasing risk-aversion is without question the most hostile set of features one can identify in the historical record.
Everyone knows that the stock market cannot stay detached from economic reality forever.
When Alison Norris couldn’t find work in Detroit, she searched past city limits, ending up with a part-time restaurant job 20 miles away, which takes at least two hours to get to using public transportation.
Norris has to take two buses to her job at a suburban mall in Troy, Michigan, using separate city and suburban bus systems.
For many city residents with limited skills and education, Detroit is an employment desert, having lost tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs in manufacturing cutbacks and service jobs as the population dwindled.
Sadly, her story is not an anomaly. I get emails from readers all the time that are out of work and just can’t seem to find a decent job no matter how hard they try.
It would be one thing if the stock market was soaring because the U.S. economy was thriving.
But we all know that is not true.
So that means the current stock market mania that we are witnessing is artificial.
The unelected central planners at the Federal Reserve have decided that the time has come to slightly taper the amount of quantitative easing that it has been doing. On Wednesday, the Fed announced that monthly purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds will be reduced from $45 billion to $40 billion, and monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities will be reduced from $35 billion to $30 billion. When this news came out, it sent shockwaves through financial markets all over the planet. But the truth is that not that much has really changed. The Federal Reserve will still be recklessly creating gigantic mountains of new money out of thin air and massively intervening in the financial marketplace. It will just be slightly less than before. However, this very well could represent a very important psychological turning point for investors. It is a signal that “the party is starting to end” and that the great bull market of the past four years is drawing to a close. So what is all of this going to mean for average Americans? The following are 8 ways that “the taper” is going to affect you and your family…
1. Interest Rates Are Going To Go Up
Following the announcement on Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries went up to 2.89% and even CNBC admitted that the taper is a “bad omen for bonds“. Thousands of other interest rates in our economy are directly affected by the 10 year rate, and so if that number climbs above 3 percent and stays there, that is going to be a sign that a significant slowdown of economic activity is ahead.
2. Home Sales Are Likely Going To Go Down
Mortgage rates are heavily influenced by the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. Because the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is now substantially higher than it was earlier this year, mortgage rates have also gone up. That is one of the reasons why the number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low. And now if rates go even higher that is going to tighten things up even more. If your job is related to the housing industry in any way, you should be extremely concerned about what is coming in 2014.
3. Your Stocks Are Going To Go Down
Yes, I know that stocks skyrocketed today. The Dow closed at a new all-time record high, and I can’t really provide any rational explanation for why that happened. When the announcement was originally made, stocks initially sold off. But then they rebounded in a huge way and the Dow ended up close to 300 points.
A few months ago, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just hinted that a taper might be coming soon, stocks fell like a rock. I have a feeling that the Fed orchestrated things this time around to make sure that the stock market would have a positive reaction to their news. But of course I absolutely cannot prove this at all. I hope someday we learn the truth about what actually happened on Wednesday afternoon. I have a feeling that there was some direct intervention in the markets shortly after the announcement was made and then the momentum algorithms took over from there.
Of course QE3 is not being ended, but this tapering sends a signal to investors that the days of “easy money” are over and that we have reached the peak of the market.
And if you are at the peak of the market, what is the logical thing to do?
Sell, sell, sell.
But in order to sell, you are going to need to have buyers.
And who is going to want to buy stocks when there is no upside left?
4. The Money In Your Bank Account Is Constantly Being Devalued
When a new dollar is created, the value of each existing dollar that you hold goes down. And thanks to the Federal Reserve, the pace of money creation in this country has gone exponential in recent years. Just check out what has been happening to M1. It has nearly doubled since the financial crisis of 2008…
The Federal Reserve has been behaving like the Weimar Republic, and this tapering does not change that very much. Even with this tapering, the Fed is still going to be creating money out of thin air at an absolutely insane rate.
And for those that insist that what the Federal Reserve is doing is “working”, it is important to remember that the crazy money printing that the Weimar Republic did worked for them for a little while too before ending in complete and utter disaster.
5. Quantitative Easing Has Been Causing The Cost Of Living To Rise
The Federal Reserve insists that we are in a time of “low inflation”, but anyone that goes to the grocery store or that pays bills on a regular basis knows what a lie that is. The truth is that if the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.
6. Quantitative Easing Did Not Reduce Unemployment And Tapering Won’t Either
The Federal Reserve actually first began engaging in quantitative easing back in late 2008. As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is lower today than it was back then…
The mainstream media continues to insist that quantitative easing was all about “stimulating the economy” and that it is now okay to cut back on quantitative easing because “unemployment has gone down”. Hopefully you can see that what the mainstream media has been telling you has been a massive lie. According to the government’s own numbers, the percentage of Americans with a job has stayed at a remarkably depressed level since the end of 2010. Anyone that tries to tell you that we have had an “employment recovery” is either very ignorant or is flat out lying to you.
7. The Rest Of The World Is Going To Continue To Lose Faith In Our Financial System
Everyone else around the world has been watching the Federal Reserve recklessly create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and use it to monetize staggering amounts of government debt. They have been warning us to stop doing this, but the Fed has been slow to listen.
The greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy does not involve the short-term effects that most people focus on. Rather, the greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy is the fact that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. debt.
Right now, far more U.S. dollars are used outside the country than inside the country. The rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, and major exporting nations stockpile massive amounts of our dollars and our debt.
We desperately need the rest of the world to keep playing our game, because we have become very dependent on getting super cheap exports from them and we have become very dependent on them lending us trillions of our own dollars back to us.
If the rest of the world decides to move away from the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt because of the incredibly reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble. Our current economic prosperity greatly depends upon everyone else using our dollars as the reserve currency of the world and lending trillions of dollars back to us at ultra-low interest rates.
But what the Fed did was not nearly enough. It is still going to be creating $75 billion out of thin air every single month, and the rest of the world is going to continue to lose more faith in our system the longer this continues.
8. The Economy As A Whole Is Going To Continue To Get Even Worse
And no matter what the Fed does now, our decline will continue. The tragic downfall of small cities such as Salisbury, North Carolina are perfect examples of what is happening to our country as a whole…
During the three-year period ending in 2009, Salisbury’s poverty rate of 16% was about 3% higher than the national rate. In the following three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the city’s poverty rate was approaching 30%. Salisbury has traditionally relied heavily on the manufacturing sector, particularly textiles and fabrics. In recent decades, however, manufacturing activity has declined significantly and continues to do so. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs in Salisbury — as a percent of the workforce — shrank from 15.5% to 8.3%.
But the truth is that you don’t have to travel far to see evidence of our economic demise for yourself. All you have to do is to go down to the local shopping mall. Sears has experienced sales declines for 27 quarters in a row, and at this point Sears is a dead man walking. The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter…
The market share of Sears – including K-Mart – has dropped to 2% in 2013 from 2.9% in 2005. Sales have declined for years. The company lost money in fiscal 2012 and 2013. Unless a miracle happens, and they don’t happen very often in retail, it will lose a ton in fiscal 2014, ending in January: for the first three quarters, it’s $1 billion in the hole.
Despite that glorious track record, and no discernible turnaround, the junk-rated company has had no trouble hoodwinking lenders into handing it a $1 billion loan that matures in 2018, to pay off an older loan that would have matured two years earlier.
And J.C. Penney is suffering a similar fate. According to Richter, the company has lost a staggering 1.6 billion dollars over the course of the last year…
Then there’s J.C. Penney. Sales plunged 27% over the last three years. It lost over $1.6 billion over the last four quarters. It installed a revolving door for CEOs. It desperately needed to raise capital; it was bleeding cash, and its suppliers and landlords had already bitten their fingernails to the quick. So the latest new CEO, namely its former old CEO Myron Ullman, set out to extract more money from the system, borrowing $1.75 billion and raising $785 million in a stock sale at the end of September that became infamous the day he pulled it off.
So don’t believe the hype.
The economy is getting worse, not better.
Quantitative easing did not “rescue the economy”, but it sure has made our long-term problems a whole lot worse.
And this “tapering” is not a sign of better things to come. Rather, it is a sign that the bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the past few years is beginning to end.
What 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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can thank the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing for the incredible bull market that we have seen in recent months. When the Federal Reserve does more “quantitative easing”, it is the financial markets that benefit the most. The Dow and the S&P 500 have both hit levels not seen since 2007 this month, and many analysts are projecting that 2013 will be a banner year for stocks. But is a rising stock market really a sign that the overall economy is rapidly improving as many are suggesting? Of course not. Just because the Federal Reserve has inflated another false stock market bubble with a bunch of funny money does not mean that the U.S. economy is in great shape. In fact, the truth is that things just keep getting worse for average Americans. The percentage of working age Americans with a job has fallen from 60.6% to 58.6% while Barack Obama has been president, 40 percent of all American workers are making $20,000 a year or less, median household income has declined for four years in a row, and poverty in the United States is absolutely exploding. So quantitative easing has definitely not made things better for the middle class. But all of the money printing that the Fed has been doing has worked out wonderfully for Wall Street. Profits are soaring at Goldman Sachs and luxury estates in the Hamptons are selling briskly. Unfortunately, this is how things work in America these days. Our “leaders” seem far more concerned with the welfare of Wall Street than they do about the welfare of the American people. When things get rocky, their first priority always seems to be to do whatever it takes to pump up the financial markets.
When QE3 was announced, it was heralded as the grand solution to all of our economic problems. But the truth is that those running things knew exactly what it would do. Quantitative easing always pumps up the financial markets, and that overwhelmingly benefits those that are wealthy. In fact, a while back a CNBC article discussed a very interesting study from the Bank of England which showed a clear correlation between quantitative easing and rising stock prices…
It said that the Bank of England’s policies of quantitative easing – similar to the Fed’s – had benefited mainly the wealthy.
Specifically, it said that its QE program had boosted the value of stocks and bonds by 26 percent, or about $970 billion. It said that about 40 percent of those gains went to the richest 5 percent of British households.
Many said the BOE’s easing added to social anger and unrest. Dhaval Joshi, of BCA Research wrote that “QE cash ends up overwhelmingly in profits, thereby exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it.”
So should we be surprised that stocks are now the highest that they have been in more than 5 years?
Of course not.
And who benefits from this?
The wealthy do. In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.
Unfortunately, all of this reckless money printing has a very negative impact on all the rest of us. When the Fed floods the financial system with money, that causes inflation. That means that the cost of living has gone up even though your paycheck may not have.
If you go to the supermarket frequently, you know exactly what I am talking about. The new “sale prices” are what the old “regular prices” used to be. They keep shrinking many of the package sizes in order to try to hide the inflation, but I don’t think many people are fooled. Our food dollars are not stretching nearly as far as they used to, and we can blame the Federal Reserve for that.
Sadly, this is what the Federal Reserve does. The system was designed to create inflation. Before the Federal Reserve came into existence, the United States never had an ongoing problem with inflation. But since the Fed was created, the United States has endured constant inflation. In fact, we have come to accept it as “normal”. Just check out the amazing chart in the video posted below…
The chart in that video kind of reminds me of a chart that I shared in a previous article…
Not that I expect the United States to enter a period of hyperinflation in the near future.
Actually, despite all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been doing, I expect that at some point we are going to see another wave of panic hit the financial markets like we saw back in 2008. The false stock market bubble will burst, major banks will fail and the financial system will implode. It could unfold something like this…
4 – Economic activity in the United States starts to grind to a halt.
5 – Unemployment rises above 20 percent and mortgage defaults soar to unprecedented levels.
6 – Tax revenues fall dramatically and austerity measures are implemented by the federal government, state governments and local governments.
7 – The rest of the globe rapidly loses confidence in the U.S. financial system and begins to dump U.S. debt and U.S. dollars.
I write about derivatives a lot, because they are one of the greatest threats that the global financial system is facing. In fact, right now a derivatives scandal is threatening to take down the oldest bank in the world…
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, was making loans when Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were young men and before Columbus sailed to the New World. The bank survived the Italian War, which saw Siena’s surrender to Spain in 1555, the Napoleonic campaign, the Second World War and assorted bouts of plague and poverty.
But MPS may not survive the twin threats of a gruesomely expensive takeover gone bad and a derivatives scandal that may result in legal action against the bank’s former executives. After five centuries of independence, MPS may have to be nationalized as its losses soar and its value sinks.
So when you hear the word “derivatives” in the news, pay close attention. The bankers have turned our financial system into a giant casino, and at some point the entire house of cards is going to come crashing down.
In response to the coming financial crisis, I believe that our “leaders” will eventually resort to money printing unlike anything we have ever seen before in a desperate attempt to resuscitate the system. When that happens, I believe that we will see the kind of rampant inflation that so many people have been warning about.
So what do you think about all of this?
Do you believe that Federal Reserve money printing is the real reason why the stock market is soaring?
Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…
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?
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….