The warnings are getting louder. Is anybody listening? For months, I have been documenting on my website how the global financial system is absolutely primed for a crisis, and now some of the most important financial institutions in the entire world are warning about the exact same thing. For example, this week I was stunned to see that the Telegraph had published an article with the following ominous headline: “$3 trillion corporate credit crunch looms as debtors face day of reckoning, says IMF“. And actually what we are heading for would more accurately be described as a “credit freeze” or a “credit panic”, but a “credit crunch” will definitely work for now. The IMF is warning that the “dangerous over-leveraging” that we have been witnessing “threatens to unleash a wave of defaults” all across the globe…
Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.
Emerging market companies have “over-borrowed” by $3 trillion in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004 and 2014, found the IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report.
This dangerous over-leveraging now threatens to unleash a wave of defaults that will imperil an already weak global economy, said stark findings from the IMF’s twice yearly report.
The IMF is actually telling the truth in this instance. We are in the midst of the greatest debt bubble the world has ever seen, and it is a monumental threat to the global financial system.
But even though we know about this threat, that doesn’t mean that we can do anything about it at this point or stop what is about to happen.
The Bank of England, the UN and the Bank for International Settlements have all issued similar ominous warnings. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Guardian…
The IMF’s warning echoes a chorus of others. The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has argued that the world is entering the latest episode of a “three-part crisis trilogy”. Unctad, the UN’s trade and development arm, would like to see advanced economies boost public spending to offset the downturn in emerging economies. The Bank for International Settlements believes interest rates have been too low for too long, encouraging too much risk-taking in financial markets. All of them fear that the global financial system is primed for a crisis.
I particularly like Andy Haldane’s likening our current situation to a “three-part crisis trilogy”. I think that is perfect. And if you are familiar with movie trilogies, then you know that the last episode is usually the biggest and the baddest.
Citigroup economist Willem Buiter also believes that big trouble is on the horizon. In fact, he is publicly warning of a “global recession” in 2016…
Citigroup economist Willem Buiter looks at the world landscape and sees an economy performing substantially below potential output, which he uses as the general benchmark for the idea of a global recession. With that in mind, he said the chances of a global recession in 2016 are growing.
“We think that the evidence suggests that the global output gap is negative and that the global economy is currently growing at a rate below global potential growth. The (negative) output gap is therefore widening,” Buiter said in a note to clients. He added, “from an output gap that was probably quite close to zero fairly recently, continued sub-par global growth is likely to put the global economy back into recession, if indeed the world ever fully emerged of the recession caused by the global financial crisis.”
Usually when we are plunged into a new crisis there is some sort of “trigger event” that creates widespread panic. Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing problems at commodity giants such as Glencore, Trafigura and The Noble Group. The collapse of any of them could potentially be a new “Lehman Brothers moment”.
But something else happened just yesterday that is also extremely concerning. Just a couple of weeks ago, I warned that the biggest bank in Germany, Deutsche Bank, was on the verge of massive trouble. Well, on Wednesday the bank announced a loss of more than 6 billion dollars for the third quarter of 2015…
Deutsche Bank’s new boss John Cryan set about cleaning up Germany’s biggest bank on Thursday, revealing a record pre-tax loss of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in the third quarter and warning investors of a possible dividend cut.
Write downs, impairments and litigation costs all contributed to the loss, the bank said.
Cryan became chief executive in July with a promise to cut costs. The Briton is accelerating plans to shed assets and exit countries to shrink the bank and is preparing to ax about 23,000 jobs, or a quarter of the bank’s staff, sources told Reuters last month.
Keep an eye on Germany – the problems there are just beginning.
Something else that I am closely watching is the fact that major exporting nations such as China that used to buy up lots of U.S. government debt are now dumping that debt at an unprecedented pace. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Five large purchasers of US Treasuries – China, Russia, Norway, Brazil, and Taiwan – have changed their minds. They’re dumping Treasuries, each for their own reasons that are now coinciding. And at the fastest rate on record.
For the 12-month period ended July, sales of Treasuries by central banks around the world reached a net of $123 billion, “the biggest decline since data started to be collected in 1978,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
China, the largest foreign owner of Treasuries – its hoard peaking at $1.317 trillion in November 2013 – has been unloading with particular passion. By July, the latest data available from the US Treasury Department, China’s pile was down to $1.241 trillion.
Yes, I know, the stock market went up once again on Thursday, and all of the irrational optimists are once again telling us that everything is going to be just fine.
The truth, of course, is that everything is not going to be just fine. Ever since I started the Economic Collapse Blog, I have never wavered in my belief that the greatest economic crisis that the United States has ever seen is coming, and I have written well over 1000 articles setting forth the case for the coming collapse in excruciating detail. Nobody is going to be able to say that I didn’t try to warn them.
Those that have blind faith in Barack Obama, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the other major central banks around the planet will continue to mock the idea that a major collapse is coming for as long as they can.
But when the day of reckoning does arrive and crisis coming knocking at their doors, what will they do then?
When financial markets crash, they do not do so in a vacuum. There are always patterns, signs and indicators that tell us that something is about to happen. In this article, I am going to share with you four patterns that are happening right now that also happened just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008. These four signs are very strong evidence that a deflationary financial collapse is right around the corner. Instead of the hyperinflationary crisis that so many have warned about, what we are about to experience is a collapse in asset prices, a massive credit crunch and a brief period of absolutely crippling deflation. The response by national governments and global central banks to this horrific financial crisis will cause tremendous inflation down the road, but that comes later. What comes first is a crisis that will initially look a lot like 2008, but will ultimately prove to be much worse. The following are 4 things that are happening right now that indicate that a deflationary financial collapse is imminent…
#1 Commodities Are Crashing
In mid-2008, just before the U.S. stock market crashed in the fall, commodities started crashing hard. Well, now it is happening again. In fact, the Bloomberg Commodity Index just hit a 13 year low, which means that it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis…
#2 Oil Is Crashing
On Monday, the price of oil dipped back below $50 a barrel. This has surprised many analysts, because a lot of them thought that the price of oil would start to rebound by now.
In early 2014, the price of a barrel of oil was sitting above $100 a barrel and the future of the industry looked very bright. Since that time, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 percent.
There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has fallen by more than $50 a barrel in such a short period of time. That was in 2008, just before the great financial crisis that erupted later that year. In the chart posted below, you can see how similar that last oil crash was to what we are experiencing right now…
#3 Gold Is Crashing
Most people don’t remember that the price of gold took a very serious tumble in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008. In early 2008, the price of gold almost reached $1000 an ounce, but by October it had fallen to nearly $700 an ounce. Of course once the stock market finally crashed it ultimately propelled gold to unprecedented heights, but what we are concerned about for this article is what happens before a crisis arrives.
Just like in 2008, the price of gold has been hit hard in recent months. And on Monday, the price of gold absolutely got slammed. The following comes from USA Today…
The yellow metal has tumbled to a five-year low amid a combination of diminishing investor fears related to foreign headwinds in Greece and China, and stronger growth in the U.S. which is leading to a stronger dollar and coming interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. Investors have been dumping shares of gold-related investments as other bearish signs, such as less demand from China and the breaking of key price support levels, add up.
Earlier today, an ounce of gold fell below $1,100 an ounce to $1,080, its lowest level since February 2010. Gold peaked around $1,900 an ounce back in 2011.
For years, I have been telling people that we were going to see wild swings in the prices of gold and silver.
And to be honest, the party is just getting started. Personally, I particularly love silver for the long-term. But you have got to be able to handle the roller coaster ride if you are going to get into precious metals. It is not for the faint of heart.
#4 The U.S. Dollar Index Is Surging
Before the U.S. stock market crashed in the fall of 2008, the U.S. dollar went on a very impressive run. This is something that you can see in the chart posted below. Now, the U.S. dollar is experiencing a similar rise. For a while there it looked like the rally might fizzle out, but in recent days the dollar has started to skyrocket once again. That may sound like good news to most Americans, but the truth is that a strong dollar is highly deflationary for the global financial system as a whole for a variety of reasons. So just like in 2008, this is not the kind of chart that we should want to see…
If a 2008-style financial crisis was imminent, these are the kinds of things that we would expect to see happen. And of course these are not the only signs that are pointing to big problems in our immediate future. For example, the last time there was a major stock market crash in China, it came just before the great U.S. stock market crash in the fall of 2008. This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Chinese Stock Market Crashed Like This?”
As an attorney, I was trained to follow the evidence and to only come to conclusions that were warranted by the facts. And right now, it seems abundantly clear that things are lining up in textbook fashion for another major financial crisis.
But even though what is happening right in front of our eyes is so similar to what happened back in 2008, most people do not see it.
And the reason why they do not see it is because they do not want to see it.
Just like with most things in life, most people end up believing exactly what they want to believe.
Yes, there is a segment of the population that are actually honest truth seekers. If you have felt drawn to this website, you are probably one of them. But overall, most people in our society are far more concerned with making themselves happy than they are about pursuing the truth.
So even though the signs are obvious, most people will never see what is coming in advance.
I hope that does not happen to you.
Some really weird things are happening in the financial world right now. If you go back to 2008, there was lots of turmoil bubbling just underneath the surface during the months leading up to the great stock market crash in the second half of that year. When Lehman Brothers finally did collapse, it was a total shock to most of the planet, but we later learned that their problems had been growing for a long time. I believe that we are in a similar period right now, and the second half of this year promises to be quite chaotic. Apparently, those that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in the entire world agree with me, because as you will see below they are quietly preparing for a “liquidity crisis” and a “market meltdown”. About a month ago, I warned of an emerging “liquidity squeeze“, and now analysts all over the financial industry are talking about it. Could it be possible that the next great financial crisis is right around the corner?
According to Reuters, the companies that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in existence are deeply concerned about what a lack of liquidity would mean for them during the next financial crash. So right now they are quietly “bolstering bank credit lines” so that they will be better positioned for “a market meltdown”…
The biggest providers of exchange-traded funds, which have been funneling billions of investor dollars into some little-traded corners of the bond market, are bolstering bank credit lines for cash to tap in the event of a market meltdown.
Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust are among U.S. fund companies that have lined up new bank guarantees or expanded ones they already had, recent company filings show.
The measures come as the Federal Reserve and other U.S. regulators express concern about the ability of fund managers to withstand a wave of investor redemptions in the event of another financial crisis. They have pointed particularly to fixed-income ETFs, which tend to track less liquid markets such as high yield corporate bonds or bank loans.
So why are Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust all making these kinds of preparations right now?
Do they know something that the rest of us do not?
Over recent months, I have been writing about how so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes seem to be repeating once again in 2015.
One of the things that we would expect to see happen just before a major event would be for the “smart money” to rush out of long-term bonds and into short-term bonds and other more liquid assets. This is something that had not been happening, but during the past couple of weeks there has been a major change. All of a sudden, long-term yields have been spiking dramatically. The following comes from Martin Armstrong…
The amount of cash rushing around on the short-end is stunning. Yields are collapsing into negative territory and this is the same flight to quality we began to see at the peak in the crisis back in 2009. The big money is selling the 10 year or greater paper and everyone is rushing into the short-term. There is not enough paper around to satisfy the demands. Capital is unwilling to hold long-term even the 10 year maturities of governments including Germany. This is illustrating the crisis that is unfolding and there is a collapse in liquidity.
There is that word “liquidity” once again. It is funny how that keeps popping up.
Here is a chart that shows what has been happening to the yield on 30 year U.S. Treasuries in 2015. As you can see, there has been a big move recently…
And what this chart doesn’t show is that the yield on 30 year Treasuries shot up to about 3.08% on Wednesday.
Of course it isn’t just yields in the U.S. that are skyrocketing. This is happening all over the globe, and many analysts are now openly wondering if the 76 trillion dollar global bond bubble is finally imploding. For instance, just consider what Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid recently told the Telegraph…
Financial regulations introduced since the crisis have required banks to hold more bonds, as quantitative easing schemes have meant central banks hold many on their own balance sheets, reducing the number available to trade on the open market.
Simultaneously, central banks have attempted to boost so-called “high money liquidity” with quantitative easing schemes and their close to zero interest rates. “What has become increasingly clear over the last couple of years is that the combination of high money liquidity and low trading liquidity creates air pockets,” said Mr Reid.
He continued: “It’s a worry that these events are occurring in relatively upbeat markets. I can’t helping thinking that when the next downturn hits the lack of liquidity in various markets is going to be chaotic. These increasingly regular liquidity issues we’re seeing might be a mild dress rehearsal.”
Those are sobering words.
And without a doubt, we are in the midst of a massive stock market bubble as well. The chaos that is coming is not just going to affect bonds. In fact, I believe that the greatest stock market crash in U.S. history is coming.
So when will it happen?
Well, Phoenix Capital Research seems to think that we have reached an extremely important turning point…
This is something of a last hurrah for stocks. We are now officially in May. And historically the period from May to November has been one of the worst periods for stocks from a seasonal perspective.
Moreover, the fundamentals are worsening dramatically for the markets. By the look of things, 2014 represented the first year in which corporate sales FELL since 2009. Sales track actual economic activity much more closely than earnings: either the money comes in or it isn’t. The fact that sales are falling indicates the economy is rolling over and the “recovery” has ended.
Having cut costs to the bone and issued debt to buyback shares, we are likely at peak earnings as well. Thus far 90% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings. Year over year earnings are down 11.9%.
So sales are falling and earnings are falling… at a time when stocks are so overvalued that even the Fed admits it. This has all the makings of a serious market collapse. And smart investors are preparing now BEFORE it hits.
Personally, I have a really bad feeling about the second half of 2015. Everything seems to be gearing up for a repeat of 2008 (or even worse). Let’s hope that does not happen, but let’s not be willingly blind to the great storm on the horizon either.
And once the next great crisis does hit us, governments around the world will have a lot less “ammunition” to fight it than the last time around. For example, the U.S. national debt has approximately doubled since the beginning of the last recession, and the Federal Reserve has already pushed interest rates down as far as they can. Similar things could also be said about other governments all over the planet. This is something that HSBC chief economist Stephen King recently pointed out in a 17 page report entitled “The world economy’s titanic problem”. The following is a brief excerpt from that report…
“Whereas previous recoveries have enabled monetary and fiscal policymakers to replenish their ammunition, this recovery — both in the US and elsewhere — has been distinguished by a persistent munitions shortage. This is a major problem. In all recessions since the 1970s, the US Fed funds rate has fallen by a minimum of 5 percentage points. That kind of traditional stimulus is now completely ruled out.”
For a long time, I have had a practice of ending my articles by urging people to get prepared. But now time for preparing is rapidly running out. My new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” was just released, but honestly my co-author and I should have had it out last year. In the very small amount of time that we have left before the financial markets crash, the amount of “prepping” that people are going to be able to do will be fairly limited.
I am not just pointing to a single event. Once the financial markets crash this time, I believe that there is not going to be any sort of a “recovery” like we experienced after 2008. I believe that the long-term economic collapse that we have been experiencing will accelerate very greatly, and it will usher in a horrible period of time for the United States unlike anything that we have ever seen before.
So what do you think?
Could I be wrong?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…
Get ready for another major worldwide credit crunch. Today, the entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt. Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system. When the system started to fail back in 2008, global authorities responded by pumping this debt spiral back up and getting it to spin even faster than ever. If you can believe it, the total amount of global debt has risen by $35 trillion since the last crisis. Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again. For example, just a few days ago the IMF warned regulators to prepare for a global “liquidity shock“. And on Friday, Chinese authorities announced a ban on certain types of financing for margin trades on over-the-counter stocks, and we learned that preparations are being made behind the scenes in Europe for a Greek debt default and a Greek exit from the eurozone. On top of everything else, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded in the United States. All of these are signs that credit conditions are tightening, and once a “liquidity squeeze” begins, it can create a lot of fear.
Over the past six months, the Chinese stock market has exploded upward even as the overall Chinese economy has started to slow down. Investors have been using something called “umbrella trusts” to finance a lot of these stock purchases, and these umbrella trusts have given them the ability to have much more leverage than normal brokerage financing would allow. This works great as long as stocks go up. Once they start going down, the losses can be absolutely staggering.
That is why Chinese authorities are stepping in before this bubble gets even worse. Here is more about what has been going on in China from Bloomberg…
China’s trusts boosted their investments in equities by 28 percent to 552 billion yuan ($89.1 billion) in the fourth quarter. The higher leverage allowed by the products exposes individuals to larger losses in the event of stock-market drops, which can be exaggerated as investors scramble to repay debt during a selloff.
In umbrella trusts, private investors take up the junior tranche, while cash from trusts and banks’ wealth-management products form the senior tranches. The latter receive fixed returns while the former take the rest, so private investors are effectively borrowing from trusts and banks.
Margin debt on the Shanghai Stock Exchange climbed to a record 1.16 trillion yuan on Thursday. In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest. The loans are backed by the investors’ equity holdings, meaning that they may be compelled to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.
Overall, China has seen more debt growth than any other major industrialized nation since the last recession. This debt growth has been so dramatic that it has gotten the attention of authorities all over the planet…
Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister says that “debt levels in the global economy continue to give cause for concern.”
Singling out China in particular, Schaeuble noted that “debt has nearly quadrupled since 2007″, adding that it’s “growth appears to be built on debt, driven by a real estate boom and shadow banks.”
According to McKinsey’s research, total outstanding debt in China increased from $US7.4 trillion in 2007 to $US28.2 trillion in 2014. That figure, expressed as a percentage of GDP, equates to 282% of total output, higher than the likes of other G20 nations such as the US, Canada, Germany, South Korea and Australia.
This credit boom in China has been one of the primary engines for “global growth” in recent years, but now conditions are changing. Eventually, the impact of what is going on in China right now is going to be felt all over the planet.
Over in Europe, the Greek debt crisis is finally coming to a breaking point. For years, authorities have continued to kick the can down the road and have continued to lend Greece even more money.
But now it appears that patience with Greece has run out.
For instance, the head of the IMF says that no delay will be allowed on the repayment of IMF loans that are due next month…
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde roiled currency and bond markets on Thursday as reports came out of her opening press conference saying that she had denied any payment delay to Greece on IMF loans falling due next month.
Unless Greece concludes its negotiations for a further round of bailout money from the European Union, however, it is not likely to have the money to repay the IMF.
And we are getting reports that things are happening behind the scenes in Europe to prepare for the inevitable moment when Greece will finally leave the euro and go back to their own currency.
For example, consider what Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday…
First, “there were reports in the media [saying] that the ECB and/or banking authorities suggested to banks to get rid of any sovereign Greek debt they had, which suggests that maybe the next step will be Greece exiting,” Cashin told CNBC.
Also, one of Greece’s largest newspapers is reporting that neighboring countries are forcing subsidiaries of Greek banks that operate inside their borders to reduce their risk to a Greek debt default to zero…
According to a report from Kathimerini, one of Greece’s largest newspapers, central banks in Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all forced the subsidiaries of Greek banks operating in those countries to bring their exposure to Greek risk — including bonds, treasury bills, deposits to Greek banks, and loans — down to zero.
Once Greece leaves the euro, that is going to create a tremendous credit crunch in Europe as fear begins to spread like wildfire. Everyone will be wondering which nation will be “the next Greece”, and investors will want to pull their money out of perceived danger zones before they get hammered.
In the past, other European nations have been willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Greece and avoid this kind of mess, but those days appear to be finished. In fact, the finance minister of France openly admits that the French “are not sympathetic to Greece”…
Greece isn’t winning much sympathy from its debt-wracked European counterparts as the country draws closer to default for failing to make bailout repayments.
“We are not sympathetic to Greece,” French Finance Minister Michael Sapin said in an interview at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings here.
“We are demanding because Greece must comply with the European (rules) that apply to all countries,” Sapin said.
Yes, it is possible that another short-term deal could be reached which could kick the can down the road for a few more months.
But either way, things in Europe are going to continue to get worse.
Meanwhile, very disappointing earnings reports in the U.S. are starting to really rattle investors.
For example, we just learned that GE lost 13.6 billion dollars in the first quarter…
One week following the announcement that it would dismantle most of its GE Capital financing operations to instead focus on its industrial roots, General Electric reported a first quarter loss of $13.6 billion.
The results were impacted by charges relating to the conglomerate’s strategic shift. A year ago GE reported a first quarter profit of $3 billion.
That is a lot of money.
How in the world does a company lose 13.6 billion dollars in a single quarter during an “economic recovery”?
Other big firms are reporting disappointing earnings numbers too…
In earnings news, American Express Co. late Thursday said its results were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, which reduced revenue booked in other countries. Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault reiterated the company’s forecast that 2015 earnings will be flat to modestly down year over year. Shares fell 4.6%.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said its first-quarter loss widened as revenue slumped. The company said it was exiting its dense server systems business, effective immediately. Revenue and the loss excluding items missed expectations, pushing shares down 13%.
And just like we saw just before the financial crisis of 2008, Americans are increasingly having difficulty meeting their financial obligations.
For instance, the delinquency rate on student loans has reached a very frightening level…
More borrowers are failing to make payments on their student loans five years after leaving college, painting a grim picture for borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Student debt continues to increase, especially for people who took out loans years ago. Those who left school in the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, had particular difficulty with repayment, with many defaulting, becoming seriously delinquent or not being able to reduce their balances, the New York Fed said today.
Only 37 percent of borrowers are current on their loans and are actively paying them down, and 17 percent are in default or in delinquency.
At this point, the American consumer is pretty well tapped out. If you can believe it, 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit today, and as I mentioned above, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded.
We have reached a point of debt saturation, and the credit crunch that is going to follow is going to be extremely painful.
Of course the biggest provider of global liquidity in recent years has been the Federal Reserve. But with the Fed pulling back on QE, this is creating some tremendous challenges all over the globe. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph…
The big worry is what will happen to Russia, Brazil and developing economies in Asia that borrowed most heavily in dollars when the Fed was still flooding the world with cheap liquidity. Emerging markets account to roughly half of the $9 trillion of offshore dollar debt outside US jurisdiction.
The IMF warned that a big chunk of the debt owed by companies is in the non-tradeable sector. These firms lack “natural revenue hedges” that can shield them against a double blow from rising borrowing costs and a further surge in the dollar.
So what is the bottom line to all of this?
The bottom line is that we are starting to see the early phases of a liquidity squeeze.
The flow of credit is going to begin to get tighter, and that means that global economic activity is going to slow down.
This happened during the last financial crisis, and during this next financial crisis the credit crunch is going to be even worse.
This is why it is so important to have an emergency fund. During this type of crisis, you may have to be the source of your own liquidity. At a time when it seems like nobody has any cash, those that do have some will be way ahead of the game.
Did you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st? We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“. In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia. And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well. Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion. That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years. Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States. So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?
The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen. Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time. All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads. In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone. That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.
Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money. But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined. You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here. As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…
Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.
The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.
As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.
And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system. The following is from a Reuters article…
The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.
Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.
If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly. A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…
A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well. In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk. Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both. The result? The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.
The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China. According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…
And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding. Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth. Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct. In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.
Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999. That is absolutely insane.
And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting. Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”…
Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.
Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.
If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well. At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years. Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.
But I am not the only one talking about it.
In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…
Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.
Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.
This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.
So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.
It is just a matter of time.
A U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash unlike anything that the world has ever seen before. If the U.S. government purposely wanted to damage the global financial system, the best way that they could do that would be to default on U.S. debt obligations. A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented. And that would just be for starters. But don’t just take my word for it. These are the things that top financial experts all over the planet are saying will happen if there is an extended U.S. debt default.
Because they are so close together, the “government shutdown” and the “debt ceiling deadline” are being confused by many Americans.
As I wrote about the other day, the “partial government shutdown” that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event. Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world. In fact, only about 17 percent of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment. This “shutdown” could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much.
On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous.
And if the U.S. government is eventually forced to start delaying interest payments on U.S. debt (which could potentially happen as soon as November), that would be absolutely catastrophic.
Once again, just don’t take my word for it. The following are 12 very ominous warnings about what a U.S. debt default would mean for the global economy…
#1 Gerald Epstein, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “If the US does default, that will make the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy look like a cakewalk”
#2 Tim Bitsberger, a former Treasury official under President George W. Bush: “If we miss an interest payment, that would blow Lehman out of the water”
#3 Peter Tchir, founder of New York-based TF Market Advisors: “Once the system starts to break down related to settlement and payments, then liquidity disappears, as we saw after Lehman”
#4 Bill Isaac, chairman of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp: “We can’t even imagine all the things that might happen, just like Henry Paulson couldn’t imagine all the bad things that might happen if he let Lehman go down”
#5 Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer: “Financial markets are all confidence-based. If that confidence is shaken, you have disaster.”
#6 Richard Bove, VP of research at Rafferty Capital Markets: “If they seriously default on the debt, what we’re really talking about is a depression”
#7 Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao: “The U.S. is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate [in Washington] and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”
#8 The U.S. Treasury Department: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”
#9 Goldman Sachs: “We estimate that the fiscal pull-back would amount to 9pc of GDP. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed quickly”
#10 Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF: “It would be insane to default, but it’s no longer a zero-percent probability”
#11 Warren Buffett about the potential of a debt default: “It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use”
#12 Bloomberg: “Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.”
A U.S. debt default could be the trigger for the “nightmare scenario” that so many people have been writing about in recent years. In fact, it could greatly accelerate the timetable for the inevitable economic collapse that is coming. A recent Yahoo article described some of the things that we would likely see in the event of an extended U.S. debt default…
A default would upend money markets, destroy bond funds, slam the brakes on lending, cause interest rates to spiral, make our banks insolvent, and deal a blow to our foreign trading partners and creditors around the globe; all of which would throw the U.S. and the world into economic disarray.
And of course stocks would crash big time. Deutsche Bank’s David Bianco believes that if the U.S. government starts missing interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds, we could see the S&P 500 go down to 850 by the end of the year.
There would be almost immediate panic among ordinary Americans as well. In fact, it is being reported that some banks are already stuffing their ATM machines will extra cash just in case…
With just 10 days left to raise the debt ceiling and congressional Republicans threatening to force the government to default on its obligations, banks are taking some dramatic steps to prepare for the economic chaos that would result should the brinkmanship continue.
The Financial Times reports that one major U.S. bank has started stuffing its automatic teller machines with extra cash in preparation for a possible bank run from panicked depositors. The New York Times reports that another bank is weighing a plan to advance funds to customers who rely on Social Security and other government payments that could stop in the event of a default.
Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that a U.S. debt default will be avoided.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Democrats are absolutely determined not to be moved from their current position a single inch. They have decided to refuse to negotiate and demand that the Republicans give them every single thing that they want.
And who can really blame them for adopting that strategy? After all, it has certainly worked in the past. Whenever Democrats have stood united and have refused to give a single inch, the Republicans have always freaked out and caved in eventually.
Will this time be any different?
The funny thing is that once upon a time, Barack Obama was adamantly against any increase in the debt limit. The following comes courtesy of Zero Hedge…
But now Obama says that it is so unreasonable to be opposed to a debt limit increase that any negotiations are out of the question.
So which Obama is right?
If the Democrats will not negotiate, a debt default could still be avoided if the Republicans give in.
And that is what they always do, right?
Perhaps not this time. Just check out what John Boehner had to say on Sunday…
“I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way,” the speaker said — with demands to defund, delay or otherwise alter the Affordable Care Act.
Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”
“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”
But will the Republicans really stand and fight?
In the past, betting on the intestinal fortitude of the Republican Party has been a loser every single time.
So we’ll see. Boehner insists that this time is different. Boehner insists that he is not going to fold like a 20 dollar suit this time. In fact, when he was asked if the U.S. government was headed toward a debt default if Obama continued to refuse to negotiate, Boehner made the following statement…
“That’s the path we’re on.”
The mainstream media has certainly been placing most of the blame at the feet of the Republicans, but at least the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to get an agreement reached. The House has voted 26 times since the Senate last voted. Harry Reid has essentially shut the Senate down until the Republicans fold and give the Democrats exactly what they want.
The funny thing is that this could probably be solved very easily. If the Democrats agreed to a one year delay to the individual mandate, the Republicans would probably jump at it. And because of epic technical failures, hardly anyone has been able to get signed up for Obamacare anyway. So a one year delay would give the Obama administration time to get their act together.
Unfortunately, the Democrats seem absolutely obsessed with the idea that they will not give the Republicans one single inch. They seem to believe that this will be to their political benefit.
But this is a very dangerous game that they are playing. The U.S. government must roll over 441 billion dollars of short-term debt between October 18th and November 15th.
If a debt ceiling increase is not in place by that time, it will send interest rates soaring. Borrowing costs for state and local governments, corporations, and ordinary Americans will go through the roof and economic activity will be hit really hard.
And as detailed above, we could potentially be looking at a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.
So let us hope for a political solution soon. That will at least kick the can down the road for a little bit longer.
If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.