The Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July. Isn’t that great news? I truly wish that it was. If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about “economic collapse” and start blogging about cats or football. Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now. Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it…
Get ready to step over some landmines, investors. The number of companies defaulting on their debt is hitting levels not seen since the financial crisis, and it’s not just a problem for bondholders.
So far this year, 46 companies have defaulted on their debt, the highest level since 2009, according to S&P Ratings Services. Five companies defaulted this week, based on the latest data available from S&P Ratings Services. That includes New Jersey-based specialty chemical company Vertellus Specialties and Ohio-based iron ore producer Cliffs Natural. Of the world’s defaults this year, 37 are of companies based in the U.S.
Meanwhile, coal producer Peabody Energy (BTU) and surfwear seller Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) this week filed plans for bankruptcy protection. Shares of Peabody have dropped 97% over the past year to $2 a share and Pacific Sunwear stock is off 98% to 4 cents a share.
A lot of big companies in this country have fallen on hard times, and it looks like bankruptcy attorneys are going to be absolutely swamped with work for the foreseeable future.
So why are stock prices soaring right now? After all, it doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
And it isn’t just a few bad apples that we are talking about. All across the spectrum, corporate revenues and corporate earnings are down. At this point, earnings for companies on the S&P 500 have plunged a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it is being projected that corporate earnings overall will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.
As earnings decline, a lot of big companies are getting into trouble with debt, and we have already seen a very large number of corporate debt downgrades. In recent interviews, I have been bringing up the fact that the average rating on U.S. corporate debt has now fallen to “BB”, which is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.
A lot of people don’t seem to believe me when I share that fact, but it is absolutely true.
One of the big reasons why corporate debt is being downgraded is because a lot of these big companies have been going into enormous amounts of debt in order to buy back their own stock. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Downgrades ascribed to “shareholder compensation,” as Moody’s calls share buybacks and dividends, have been soaring, according to John Lonski, Chief Economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Research. The moving 12-month sum of Moody’s credit rating downgrades of US companies, jumped from 32 in March 2015, to 48 in December 2015, and to 61 in March 2016, nearly doubling within a year.
The last time the number of downgrades attributed to financial engineering reached 61 was in early 2007. It would hit its peak of 79 in mid- 2007, a few months before the beginning of the Great Recession in Q4 2007. At the time, stocks were on the verge of commencing their epic crash.
When corporations go into the market and buy back their own stock, they are slowly cannibalizing themselves. But we have seen these stock buybacks soar to record levels for a couple of reasons. Number one, big investors want to see stock prices go up, and so big investors tend to really like these stock buybacks and will generally support corporate executives that wish to engage in doing this. Number two, if you are a greedy corporate executive that is heavily compensated by stock options, you very much want to see the stock price go up as well.
So the name of the game is greed, and stock buybacks have been fueling much of the rise in U.S. stock prices that we have been seeing recently.
However, the truth is that nothing in the financial world lasts forever, and this irrational bubble will ultimately come to an end as well.
Back then, as could be the case today, a bull market & a US-led economic recovery was rudely interrupted by a crisis in Emerging Markets. The crisis threatened to hurt Main Street via Wall Street (the Nasdaq fell 33% between Jul-Oct 1998, when [Long-Term Capital Management] went under). Policy makers panicked and monetary policy was eased (with hindsight unnecessarily). Fresh liquidity combined with apocalyptic investor sentiment very quickly morphed into a violent but narrow equity bull market/bubble in 1998/99, one which ultimately took valuations & interest rates sharply higher to levels that eventually caused a “pop”.
Like Hartnett, I definitely believe that a major “pop” is on the way, although I would like for it to be delayed for as long as possible.
Someday we will look back on these times with utter amazement. It has been absolutely incredible how the financial markets have been able to defy economic reality for so long.
In a new CNNMoney/E*Trade survey of Americans who have at least $10,000 in an online trading account, over half (52%) gave the U.S. economy as a “C” grade. Another 15% rated the economy a “D” or “F.”
This gloom persists despite the fact that the stock market is on the upswing again. The Dow topped 18,000 Monday for the first time since July 2015.
If some Americans think that the U.S. economy deserves a “D” or an “F” grade right now, just wait until they see what is in our immediate future.
Personally, I give our economy an “A” for being able to maintain our unsustainable debt-fueled standard of living for as long as it has. Somehow we have managed to consume far more than we produce for decades, and the largest debt bubble in the history of the planet just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Of course we are very much living on borrowed time at this point, but I truly hope that the bubble economy can keep going for at least a little while longer, because nobody should want to see what is coming afterwards.
*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*
Did you notice that Greece’s creditors are not rushing to offer the Greeks a new deal in the wake of the stunning referendum result on Sunday? In fact, it is being reported that the initial reaction to the “no” vote from top European politicians was “a thunderous silence“. Needless to say, the European elite were not pleased by how the Greek people voted, but they still have all of the leverage. In particular, it is the Germans that are holding all of the cards. If the Germans want to cave in and give the Greeks the kind of deal that they desire, everyone else would follow suit. And if the Germans want to maintain a hard line with Greece, they can block any deal from happening all by themselves. So in the final analysis, this is really an economic test of wills between Germany and Greece, and time is on Germany’s side. Germany doesn’t have to offer anything new. The Germans can just sit back and wait for the Greek government to default on their debts, for Greek banks to totally run out of cash and for civil unrest to erupt in Greek cities as the economy grinds to a standstill.
In ancient times, if a conquering army came up against a walled city that was quite formidable, often a decision would be made to conduct a siege. Instead of attacking a heavily defended city directly and taking heavy casualties, it was often much more cost effective to simply surround the city from a safe distance and starve the inhabitants into submission.
In a sense, that is exactly what the Germans appear to want to do to the Greeks. Without more cash, the Greek government cannot pay their bills. Without more cash, Greek banks are going to start collapsing left and right. Without more cash, the Greek economy is going to completely and utterly collapse.
So yes, the Greeks voted for change, but the Germans still hold the purse strings.
And right now the Germans do not sound like they are in any mood to compromise. The following comes from a Reuters report that was published on Monday…
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy said Athens had wrecked any hope of compromise with its euro zone partners by overwhelmingly rejecting further austerity.
Merkel and French President Francois Hollande conferred by telephone and will meet in Paris on Monday afternoon to seek a joint response. Responding to their call, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that euro zone leaders would meet in Brussels on Tuesday evening (1600 GMT).
German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Merkel’s centre-left Social Democratic junior coalition partner, said it was hard to conceive of fresh negotiations on lending more billions to Athens after Greeks voted against more austerity.
Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had “torn down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise,” Gabriel told the Tagesspiegel daily.
In addition, Angela Merkel’s office released a statement on Monday that placed the onus on making a new proposal to end this crisis on the Greek government…
“It is up to Greece to make something of this. We are waiting to see which proposals the Greek government makes to its European partners,” the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s leading austerity advocate, said in a statement.
Just because the Greek people want the Germans to give them a very favorable deal does not mean that the Germans will be inclined to do so. The Germans know that whatever they do with the Greeks will set a precedent for the rest of the financially-troubled nations all across Europe. If Greece gets a free lunch, then Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and France will expect the same kind of treatment…
Angelos Chryssogelos, an expert on Greek politics at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the strength of Sunday’s mandate handed to Tsipras means it will be almost impossible for the prime minister’s leftist Syriza party to make a deal with European creditors.
“The Europeans made it pretty clear where they stand, and they have been consistent,” Chryssogelos said, adding that the creditors also are unlikely to back down. “Right now, voters across the eurozone largely support the tough stance taken by the eurozone.”
Chryssogelos said Greek voters may have underestimated the resolve of the creditors to reach an accord on their terms. “If someone is seen getting preferential treatment, then someone else will want that treatment,” he said, referring to other eurozone debtors such as Ireland and Portugal.
And remember, there is a very important Spanish election coming up in December.
If Syriza comes out as the big winner in this crisis, it will empower similar movements in Spain and all over the rest of the continent.
In a move sure to increase pressure on Greece’s flailing banks, the European Central Bank on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program, raising fears that Greece could soon go completely bankrupt.
The move put a swift crimp on Greek leaders’ jubilation after winning a landslide endorsement from their citizens to reject Europe’s austerity demands and seek a new bailout bargain. Now they must seek a bargain before the money runs out within days, which would likely force them off the euro.
Basically we are watching a very high stakes game of chicken play out. And as the cash dwindles, economic activity in Greece is slowly grinding to a halt. The following comes from the Washington Post…
The dwindling cash is sucking the life out of everything from coffee shops to taxis, as anxious Greeks economize amid fears for the future. Greek leaders also banned transfers of money abroad, meaning that very little can now be imported into the country.
Printing plants are warning that they may run out of paper to print newspapers by the end of the week. Butchers say that stocks of imported meat are dwindling.
Some are even projecting that we could see civil unrest erupt in Greece in about “48 hours” once the ATM machines run out of cash…
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras probably has 48 hours to resolve a standoff with creditors before civil unrest breaks out and ATMs run out of cash, hedge fund Balyasny Asset Management said.
Yes, the Greek people exhibited great resolve in voting against the demands of the creditors on Sunday.
But how long can they endure this economic siege?
It is inevitable that a breaking point will come. Either the Greek government will give in, or the Greeks will leave the euro and start to transition back to the drachma.
If we do see a “Grexit”, and many analysts believe that one is coming, it could set off a chain of events that could cause immense financial pain all over the planet. There are tens of trillions of dollars of derivatives that are tied to European bond yields, European interest rates, etc. The following is an excerpt from a piece authored by Phoenix Capital Research that explains what kind of jeopardy we could potentially be facing…
The global derivatives market is roughly $700 trillion in size. That’s over TEN TIMES the world’s GDP. And sovereign bonds… including even bonds from bankrupt countries such as Greece… are one of, if not the primary collateral underlying all of these trades.
Greece is not the real issue for Europe. The entire Greek debt market is about €345 billion in size. So we’re not talking about a massive amount of collateral… though the turmoil this country has caused in the last three years gives a sense of the importance of the issue.
Spain, by comparison has over €1.0 trillion in debt outstanding… and Italy has €2.6 trillion. These bonds are backstopping tens of trillions of Euros’ worth of derivatives trades. A haircut on them would trigger systemic failure in Europe.
If Greece gets a “haircut” on their debt, other European nations would want the same and that would cause massive chaos in the derivatives markets.
But if Greece does not get a deal and ends up leaving the eurozone, that will cause bond yields to go crazy all over Europe and that would also cause tremendous chaos in the derivatives markets.
So much depends on keeping this system of legalized gambling that we call “derivatives trading” stable. We have allowed the global derivatives bubble to become many times larger than the GDP of the entire planet, and in the end we will pay a great price for this foolishness.
Every pyramid scheme eventually collapses, and this one will too.
But the difference with this pyramid scheme is that it is going to take the entire global financial system down with it.
As we enter the second half of 2015, financial panic has gripped most of the globe. Stock prices are crashing in China, in Europe and in the United States. Greece is on the verge of a historic default, and now Puerto Rico and Ukraine are both threatening to default on their debts if they do not receive concessions from their creditors. Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has so much financial chaos been unleashed all at once. Could it be possible that the great financial crisis of 2015 has begun? The following are 16 facts about the tremendous financial devastation that is happening all over the world right now…
1. On Monday, the Dow fell by 350 points. That was the biggest one day decline that we have seen in two years.
2. In Europe, stocks got absolutely smashed. Germany’s DAX index dropped 3.6 percent, and France’s CAC 40 was down 3.7 percent.
3. After Greece, Italy is considered to be the most financially troubled nation in the eurozone, and on Monday Italian stocks were down more than 5 percent.
4. Greek stocks were down an astounding 18 percent on Monday.
5. As the week began, we witnessed the largest one day increase in European bond spreads that we have seen in seven years.
6. Chinese stocks have already met the official definition of being in a “bear market” – the Shanghai Composite is already down more than 20 percent from the high earlier this year.
7. Overall, this Chinese stock market crash is the worst that we have witnessed in 19 years.
8. On Monday, Standard & Poor’s slashed Greece’s credit rating once again and publicly stated that it believes that Greece now has a 50 percent chance of leaving the euro.
11. Yields on 10 year Greek government bonds have shot past 15 percent.
12. U.S. investors are far more exposed to Greece than most people realize. The New York Times explains…
But the question of what happens when the markets do open is particularly acute for the hedge fund investors — including luminaries like David Einhorn and John Paulson — who have collectively poured more than 10 billion euros, or $11 billion, into Greek government bonds, bank stocks and a slew of other investments.
Through the weekend, Nicholas L. Papapolitis, a corporate lawyer here, was working round the clock comforting and cajoling his frantic hedge fund clients.
“People are freaking out,” said Mr. Papapolitis, 32, his eyes red and his voice hoarse. “They have made some really big bets on Greece.”
13. The Governor of Puerto Rico has announced that the debts that the small island has accumulated are “not payable“.
14. Overall, the government of Puerto Rico owes approximately 72 billion dollars to the rest of the world. Without debt restructuring, it is inevitable that Puerto Rico will default. In fact, CNN says that it could happen by the end of this summer.
15. Ukraine has just announced that it may “suspend debt payments” if their creditors do not agree to take a 40 percent “haircut”.
16. This week the Bank for International Settlements has just come out with a new report that says that central banks around the world are “defenseless” to stop the next major global financial crisis.
Without a doubt, we are overdue for another major financial crisis. All over the planet, stocks are massively overvalued, and financial markets have become completely disconnected from economic reality. And when the next crash happens, many believe that it will be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008. For example, just consider the words of Jim Rogers…
“In the United States, we have had economic slowdowns every four to seven years since the beginning of the Republic. It’s now been six or seven years since our last stock market problem. We’re overdue for another problem.”
In Rogers’ view, low interest rates caused stock prices to increase significantly. He believes many assets are priced beyond their fundamentals thanks to the ultra-easy monetary policies by the Federal Reserve. Fed supporters argue such measures are good for investors, but Rogers takes a different view.
“The Fed might tell us we don’t have to worry and that a correction or crash will never happen again. That’s balderdash! When this artificial sea of liquidity ends, we’re going to pay a terrible price. When the next economic problem occurs, it will be much worse because the debt is so much higher.”
Of course Rogers is far from alone. A recent article by Paul B. Farrell expressed similar sentiments…
America’s 95 million investors are at huge risk. Remember the $10 trillion losses in the crash and recession of 2007-2009? The $8 trillion lost after the dot-com technology crash and recession of 2000-2003? This is the third big recession of the century. Yes, America will lose trillions again.
Especially with dead-ahead predictions like Mark Cook’s 4,000-point Dow correction. And Jeremy Grantham’s warning of a 50% crash around election time, with negative stock returns through the first term of the next president, beyond 2020. Starting soon.
Why is America so vulnerable when the next recession hits? Simple: The Fed’s cheap-money giveaway is killing America. When the downturn, correction, crash hits, it will compare to the 2008 crash. The Economist warns: “the world will be in a rotten position to do much about it. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a recession,” whatever the trigger.
Things have been relatively quiet in the financial world for so long that many have been sucked into a false sense of security.
But the underlying imbalances were always there, and they have been getting worse over time.
The Greek financial system is in the process of totally imploding, and the rest of Europe will soon follow. Neither the Greeks nor the Germans are willing to give in, and that means that there is very little chance that a debt deal is going to happen by the end of June. So that means that we will likely see a major Greek debt default and potentially even a Greek exit from the eurozone. At this point, credit default swaps on Greek debt have risen 456 percent in price since the beginning of this year, and the market has priced in a 75 percent chance that a Greek debt default will happen. Over the past month, the yield on two year Greek bonds has skyrocketed from 20 percent to more than 30 percent, and the Greek stock market has fallen by a total of 13 percent during the last three trading days alone. This is what a financial collapse looks like, and if Greece does leave the euro, we are going to see this kind of carnage happen all over Europe.
Greece is heading for a state of emergency and an exit from the euro following the collapse of talks to agree a bailout deal, senior EU officials warned last night.
Europe must be prepared to step in otherwise Greek society would face an unprecedented crisis with power blackouts, medicine shortages and no money to pay for police, they said.
In the past, the Greeks have always buckled under pressure. But this new Greek government was elected with a mandate to end austerity, and so far they have shown a remarkable amount of resolve. In order for a debt deal to happen, one side is going to have to blink, and at this point it does not look like it will be the Greeks…
The world’s financial markets are facing up to the possibility that Greece could soon become the first country to crash out of Europe’s single currency. Talks between Athens and its eurozone creditors have collapsed in acrimony just days before a final deadline for Greece to unlock the €7.2bn (£5.2bn) in bailout funds it needs to avoid a catastrophic debt default.
The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, accused the creditor powers of hidden “political motives” in their demands that Greece make further cuts to public pension payments in return for the financial aid. “We are shouldering the dignity of our people, as well as the hopes of the people of Europe,” Mr Tsipras said in a defiant statement. “We cannot ignore this responsibility. This is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. This is about democracy.”
As we approach the point of no return, both sides are preparing for the endgame.
In Greece, members of parliament have been studying what happened in Iceland a few years ago. Many of them believe that a Greek debt default combined with a nationalization of Greek banks and a Greek exit from the euro could set the nation back on the path to prosperity fairly rapidly. The following comes from the Telegraph…
The radical wing of Greece’s Syriza party is to table plans over coming days for an Icelandic-style default and a nationalisation of the Greek banking system, deeming it pointless to continue talks with Europe’s creditor powers.
Syriza sources say measures being drafted include capital controls and the establishment of a sovereign central bank able to stand behind a new financial system. While some form of dual currency might be possible in theory, such a structure would be incompatible with euro membership and would imply a rapid return to the drachma.
The confidential plans were circulating over the weekend and have the backing of 30 MPs from the Aristeri Platforma or ‘Left Platform’, as well as other hard-line groupings in Syriza’s spectrum. It is understood that the nationalist ANEL party in the ruling coalition is also willing to force a rupture with creditors, if need be.
Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to get the Greeks to give in at the last moment, Greek’s creditors are preparing to pull out all the stops in order to put as much financial pressure on Greece as possible…
Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the creditors are drawing an ultimatum to the Greeks, threatening to cut off Greek access to the European payments system and forcing capital controls on the country as soon as this weekend. The plan would lead to the temporary closure of the banks, followed by a rationing of cash withdrawals.
For a long time, most in the financial world assumed that a debt deal would eventually happen. But now reality is setting in. As I mentioned at the top of this article, the cost to insure Greek debt has risen by an astounding 456 percent since the beginning of this year…
Given these dramatic stakes, the risk of a Greek default has gone way up. One way to measure that risk is by looking at the skyrocketing price of insurance policies that would pay out if Greek bonds go bust. The cost to insure Greek debt for one year against the risk of default has skyrocketed 456% since the start of the 2015, according to FactSet data.
These insurance-like contracts, known as credit default swaps, imply there is a 75% to 80% probability of Greece defaulting on its debt, according to Jigar Patel, a credit strategist at Barclays.
The probability of a Greek default soars to a whopping 95% for five-year CDS, Patel said.
“Default is looking more and more likely,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.
And in recent days, we have also seen Greek stocks and Greek bonds totally crash. The following comes from CNN…
The Greek stock market has plummeted 13% over the past three trading days, including a 3% drop on Tuesday alone.
In the bond market, the yield on Greek two-year debt has skyrocketed to 30.2%. A month ago, the yield was only 20%. Yields rise as bond prices fall.
Of course if there is a Greek debt default and Greece does leave the euro, it won’t just be Greece that pays the price.
As I have written about previously, there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to currency exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to interest rates. A “Grexit” would cause the euro to drop like a rock and interest rates all over the continent would start to go crazy. The financial chaos that a “Grexit” would cause should not be underestimated.
And there are signs that some of Europe’s biggest banks are already on the verge of collapse. For example, just consider what has been going on at the biggest bank in Germany. Both of the co-CEOs at Deutsche Bank recently resigned, and it is increasingly looking as if it could soon become Europe’s version of Lehman Brothers. The following summary of the recent troubles at Deutsche Bank comes from an article that was posted on NotQuant…
Here’s a re-cap of what’s happened at Deutsche Bank over the past 15 months:
In April of 2014, Deutsche Bank was forced to raise an additional 1.5 Billion of Tier 1 capital to support it’s capital structure. Why?
1 month later in May of 2014, the scramble for liquidity continued as DB announced the selling of 8 billion euros worth of stock – at up to a 30% discount. Why again? It was a move which raised eyebrows across the financial media. The calm outward image of Deutsche Bank did not seem to reflect their rushed efforts to raise liquidity. Something was decidedly rotten behind the curtain.
Fast forwarding to March of this year: Deutsche Bank fails the banking industry’s “stress tests” and is given a stern warning to shore up it’s capital structure.
In April, Deutsche Bank confirms it’s agreement to a joint settlement with the US and UK regarding the manipulation of LIBOR. The bank is saddled with a massive $2.1 billion payment to the DOJ. (Still, a small fraction of their winnings from the crime).
In May, one of Deutsche Bank’s CEOs, Anshu Jain is given an enormous amount of new authority by the board of directors. We guess that this is a “crisis move”. In times of crisis the power of the executive is often increased.
June 5: Greece misses it’s payment to the IMF. The risk of default across all of it’s debt is now considered acute. This has massive implications for Deutsche Bank.
June 6/7: (A Saturday/Sunday, and immediately following Greece’s missed payment to the IMF) Deutsche Bank’s two CEO’s announce their surprise departure from the company. (Just one month after Jain is given his new expanded powers). Anshu Jain will step down first at the end of June. Jürgen Fitschen will step down next May.
June 9: S&P lowers the rating of Deutsche Bank to BBB+ Just three notches above “junk”. (Incidentally, BBB+ is even lower than Lehman’s downgrade – which preceded it’s collapse by just 3 months)
And that’s where we are now. How bad is it? We don’t know because we won’t be permitted to know. But these are not the moves of a healthy company.
For a very long time, I have been warning that a major financial crisis was coming to Europe, and for a very long time the authorities in Europe have been able to successfully kick the can down the road.
But now it looks like we have reached the end of the road, and a day of reckoning is finally here.
Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but almost everyone agrees that it isn’t going to be pretty.
So you better buckle up, because it looks like we are all in for a wild ride as we enter the second half of this year.
All over the planet, large banks are massively overexposed to derivatives contracts. Interest rate derivatives account for the biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the notional value of all interest rate derivatives contracts outstanding around the globe is a staggering 505 trillion dollars. Considering the fact that the U.S. national debt is only 18 trillion dollars, that is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible. When this derivatives bubble finally bursts, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out. The key to making sure that all of these interest rate bets do not start going bad is for interest rates to remain stable. That is why what is going on in Greece right now is so important. The Greek government has announced that it will default on a loan payment that it owes to the IMF on June 5th. If that default does indeed happen, Greek bond yields will soar into the stratosphere as panicked investors flee for the exits. But it won’t just be Greece. If Greece defaults despite years of intervention by the EU and the IMF, that will be a clear signal to the financial world that no nation in Europe is truly safe. Bond yields will start spiking in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and all over the rest of the continent. By the end of it, we could be faced with the greatest interest rate derivatives crisis that any of us have ever seen.
The number one thing that bond investors want is to get their money back. If a nation like Greece is actually allowed to default after so much time and so much effort has been expended to prop them up, that is really going to spook those that invest in bonds.
At this point, Greece has not gotten any new cash from the EU or the IMF since last August. The Greek government is essentially flat broke at this point, and once again over the weekend a Greek government official warned that the loan payment that is scheduled to be made to the IMF on June 5th simply will not happen…
Greece cannot make debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund next month unless it achieves a deal with creditors, its Interior Minister said on Sunday, the most explicit remarks yet from Athens about the likelihood of default if talks fail.
Shut out of bond markets and with bailout aid locked, cash-strapped Athens has been scraping state coffers to meet debt obligations and to pay wages and pensions. With its future as a member of the 19-nation euro zone potentially at stake, a second government minister accused its international lenders of subjecting it to slow and calculated torture.
After four months of talks with its eurozone partners and the IMF, the leftist-led government is still scrambling for a deal that could release up to 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in aid to avert bankruptcy.
And it isn’t just the payment on June 5th that won’t happen. There are three other huge payments due later in June, and without a deal the Greek government will not be making any of those payments either.
“The money won’t be given . . . It isn’t there to be given,” Nikos Voutsis, the interior minister, told the Greek television station Mega.
This crisis can still be avoided if a deal is reached. But after months of wrangling, things are not looking promising at the moment. The following comes from CNBC…
People who have spoken to Mr Tsipras say he is in dour mood and willing to acknowledge the serious risk of an accident in coming weeks.
“The negotiations are going badly,” said one official in contact with the prime minister. “Germany is playing hard. Even Merkel isn’t as open to helping as before.”
And even if a deal is reached, various national parliaments around Europe are going to have to give it their approval. According to Business Insider, that may also be difficult…
The finance ministers that make up the Eurogroup will have to get approval from their own national parliaments for any deal, and politicians in the rest of Europe seem less inclined than ever to be lenient.
So what happens if there is no deal by June 5th?
Well, Greece will default and the fun will begin.
In the end, Greece may be forced out of the eurozone entirely and would have to go back to using the drachma. At this point, even Greek government officials are warning that such a development would be “catastrophic” for Greece…
One possible alternative if talks do not progress is that Greece would leave the common currency and return to the drachma. This would be “catastrophic”, Mr Varoufakis warned, and not just for Greece itself.
“It would be a disaster for everyone involved, it would be a disaster primarily for the Greek social economy, but it would also be the beginning of the end for the common currency project in Europe,” he said.
“Whatever some analysts are saying about firewalls, these firewalls won’t last long once you put and infuse into people’s minds, into investors’ minds, that the eurozone is not indivisible,” he added.
But the bigger story is what it would mean for the rest of Europe.
If Greece is allowed to fail, it would tell bond investors that their money is not truly safe anywhere in Europe and bond yields would start spiking like crazy. The 505 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives scam is based on the assumption that interest rates will remain fairly stable, and so if interest rates begin flying around all over the place that could rapidly create some gigantic problems in the financial world.
In addition, a Greek default would send the value of the euro absolutely plummeting. As I have warned so many times before, the euro is headed for parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is going to go below parity. And since there are 75 trillion dollars of derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the euro and other major global currencies, that could also create a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Over the past six years I have written more than 2,000 articles, I have authored two books and I have produced two DVDs. One of the things that I have really tried to get across to people is that our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world. Big banks all over the planet have become exceedingly reckless, and it is only a matter of time until all of this gambling backfires on them in a massive way.
It isn’t going to take much to topple the current financial order. It could be a Greek debt default in June or it may be something else. But when it does collapse, it is going to usher in the greatest economic crisis that any of us have ever seen.
So keep watching Europe.
Things are about to get extremely interesting, and if I am right, this is the start of something big.
The Greek government says that a “moment of truth” is coming on June 5th. Either their lenders agree to give them more money by that date, or Greece will default on a 300 million euro loan payment to the IMF. Of course it won’t technically be a “default” according to IMF rules for another 30 days after that, but without a doubt news that Greece cannot pay will send shockwaves throughout the financial world. At that point, those holding Greek bonds will start to panic as they realize that they might not get paid as well. All over Europe, there are major banks that are holding large amounts of Greek debt and derivatives that are related to the performance of Greek debt. If something is not done to avert disaster at the last moment, a default by Greece could be the spark that sets off a major European financial crisis this summer.
As I discussed the other day, neither the EU nor the IMF have given any money to Greece since August 2014. So now the Greek government is just about out of money, and without any new loans they will not be able to pay back the old loans that are coming due. In fact, things are so bad at this point that the Greek government is openly warning that it will default on June 5th…
Greece cannot make an upcoming payment to the International Monetary Fund on June 5 unless foreign lenders disburse more aid, a senior ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday, the latest warning from Athens it is on the verge of default.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government says it hopes to reach a cash-for-reforms deal in days, although European Union and IMF lenders are more pessimistic and say talks are moving too slowly for that.
Of course this is all part of a very high stakes chess game. The Greeks believe that the Germans will back down when faced with the prospect of a full blown European financial crisis, and the Germans believe that the Greeks will eventually be feeling so much pain that they will be forced to give in to their demands.
So with each day we get closer and closer to the edge, and the Greeks are trying to do their best to let everyone know that they are not bluffing. Just today, a spokesperson for the Greek government came out and declared that unless there is a deal by June 5th, the IMF “won’t get any money”…
Greek officials now point to a race against the clock to clinch a deal before payments totaling about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the IMF come due next month, starting with a 300 million euro payment on June 5.
“Now is the moment that negotiations are coming to a head. Now is the moment of truth, on June 5,” Nikos Filis, spokesman for the ruling Syriza party’s lawmakers, told ANT1 television.
“If there is no deal by then that will address the current funding problem, they won’t get any money,” he said.
The outlook for the Greek banking system is negative, primarily reflecting the acute deterioration in Greek banks’ funding and liquidity, says Moody’s Investors Service in a new report published recently. These pressures are unlikely to ease over the next 12-18 months and there is a high likelihood of an imposition of capital controls and a deposit freeze.
The new report: “Banking System Outlook: Greece”, is now available on www.moodys.com. Moody’s subscribers can access this report via the link provided at the end of this press release.
Moody’s notes that significant deposit outflows of more than €30 billion since December 2014 have increased banks’ dependence on central bank funding. In our view, the banks are likely to remain highly dependent on central bank funding, as ongoing uncertainty regarding Greece’s support programme continues to compromise depositors’ confidence.
Unfortunately, when things really start going crazy in Greece people might be faced with much more than just frozen bank accounts. As I wrote about just a few days ago, there is a very strong possibility that we could actually see Cyprus-style wealth confiscation implemented in Greece when the banks collapse.
Athens is promoting the idea of a special levy on banking transactions at a rate of 0.1-0.2 percent, while the government’s proposal for a two-tier value-added tax – depending on whether the payment is in cash or by card – has met with strong opposition from the country’s creditors.
A senior government official told Kathimerini that among the proposals discussed with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund is the imposition of a levy on bank transactions, whose exact rate will depend on the exemptions that would apply. The aim is to collect 300-600 million euros on a yearly basis.
Fee won’t include ATM withdrawals, transactions up to EU500; in this case Greek govt projects EU300m-EU600m annual revenue from measure.
Sadly, most people living in North America (which is most of my audience) does not really care much about what happens on the other side of the world.
But they should care.
If Greece defaults and the Greek banking system collapses, stocks and bonds will crash all over Europe. Many believe that such a crash can be “contained” to just Europe, but that is really just wishful thinking.
In addition, the euro would plummet dramatically, which would cause substantial financial problems all over the planet. As I recently explained, the euro is headed to parity with the U.S. dollar and then it is going to go below parity. Before it is all said and done, the euro is going to all-time lows.
Of course the U.S. dollar is eventually going to totally collapse as well, but that comes later and that is a story for another day.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro, the value of the U.S. dollar and the value of other global currencies.
So if you believe that what is happening in Greece cannot have massive ramifications for the entire global financial system, you are dead wrong.
What is happening in Greece is exceedingly important, and it is time for all of us to start paying attention.
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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.
Europe is on the verge of a horrifying financial meltdown, and there are only a few short weeks left to avert total disaster. On Monday, talks that were supposed to bring about yet another temporary “resolution” to the Greek debt crisis completely fell apart. The new Greek government has entirely rejected the idea of a six month extension of the current bailout. The Greeks want a new deal which would enable them to implement the promises that have been made to the voters. But that is not going to fly with the Germans, among others. They expect the Greeks to fulfill the obligations that were agreed to previously. The two sides are not even in the same ballpark at this point, and things are starting to get very personal. It is no secret that the new Greek government does not like the Germans, and the Germans are not particularly fond of the Greeks at this point. But unless they can find a way to work out a deal, things could get quite messy very rapidly. The Greek government has about three weeks of cash left, and any changes to the current bailout arrangement would have to be approved by parliaments all over Europe by March 1st. And the stakes are incredibly high. If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel. In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.
On Monday, eurozone officials tried to get the Greeks to extend the current bailout package for six months with the current austerity provisions in place. Greek government officials responded by saying that “those who bring this back are wasting their time” and that those negotiating on behalf of the eurozone are being “unreasonable”…
A Greek government official said that a draft text presented to eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday spoke of Greece extending its current bailout package and as such was “unreasonable” and would not be accepted.
Without specifying who put forward the text to the meeting chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the official said: “Some people’s insistence on the Greek government implementing the bailout is unreasonable and cannot be accepted.”
Most observers have speculated that the new Greek government would give in to the demands of the rest of the eurozone when push came to shove.
But these new Greek politicians are a different breed. They are not establishment lackeys. Rather, they are very principled radicals, and they are not about to be pushed around. I certainly do not agree with their politics, but I admire the fact that they are willing to stand up for what they believe. That is a very rare thing these days.
On Monday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis shared the following in the New York Times…
I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed.
Does that sound like a man that is going to back down to you?
Meanwhile, the other side continues to dig in as well.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, accused the Greek government of “behaving irresponsibly” by threatening to tear up agreements made with the eurozone in return for access to the loans which are all that stand between Greece and financial collapse.
“It seems like we have no results so far. I’m quite skeptical. The Greek government has not moved, apparently,” he said.
“As long as the Greek government doesn’t want a program, I don’t have to think about options.”
Global financial markets are still acting as if they fully expect a deal to get done eventually.
I am not so sure.
And without a doubt, time is running short. As I mentioned above, something has got to be finalized by March 1st. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
Any changes to the content or expiration date of Greece’s existing €240 billion ($273 billion) bailout have to be decided by Friday, to give national parliaments in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands enough time to approve them before the end of the month. Without such a deal, Greece will be on its own on March 1, cut loose from the rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund that have sustained it for almost five years.
So what happens if there is no deal and Greece is forced to leave the eurozone?
The drachma would be back. The euro would be effectively abandoned, and Greece would return to the drachma, its previous currency (it might take a new name). The drachma would likely tumble in value against the euro as soon as it was issued, and how much the government could print quickly would be a big issue.
It would have to be fast, with capital controls. There would be people trying to pull their money out of Greece’s banks en masse. The Greek government would have to make that illegal pretty quickly. The European Central Bank drew up Grexit plans in 2012, and might be dusting them off now.
European life support for Greek banks would be withdrawn. Greek banks can currently access emergency liquidity assistance from the ECB, which would be removed if Greece left the euro.
Likely unrest and disorder. Barclays expects that this sudden economic collapse would “aggravate social unrest”, and notes that historically similar moves have caused a 45-85% devaluation of the currency. Capital Economics suggests that the drop could be more mild, closer to 20%, and Oxford Economics says 30%.
Greece would resume economic policymaking. Greece’s central bank would probably start doing its own QE programme, and the government would likely return to running deficits, no longer restrained by bailout rules (though investors would probably want large returns, given the risk of another default).
Inflation would spike immediately, but both Capital Economics and Oxford Economics say that should be temporary. It might look a bit like Russia this year — with the new currency in freefall until it finds its level against the euro, prices inside Greece would rise at dramatic speed. The inflation might be temporary, however, because with unemployment above 20%, Greece has plenty of spare labour slack to produce more.
That certainly does not sound good.
And once Greece leaves, everyone would be wondering who is next, because there are quite a few other deeply financially troubled nations in the eurozone.
In spite of the “recovery” in Spain, close to 24% are still unemployed. That statistic explains Pessimism in the Streets.
The crisis is here to stay according to significant majority of Spaniards. The general perception is that the current situation in which the country is negative and far from getting better, can only stay stagnant or even worse.
A Metroscopia poll published in El País makes it clear that the Spanish are unhappy with the current state of the country. Five out of six (83%) see the economic situation as “bad”, while more than half of the remaining perceive “regular”.
Right now, Europe is already teetering on the brink of an economic depression.
If this Greek debt crisis is not resolved, it could set in motion a chain of events which could start collapsing financial institutions all over Europe.
Yes, we have been here before and a deal has always emerged in the end.
But this time is different. This time very idealistic radicals are running things in Greece, and the “old guard” in Europe has no intention of giving in to them.
So let’s watch and see how this game of “chicken” plays out.
I have a feeling that it is not going to end well.
Who is to blame for the staggering collapse of the price of oil? Is it the Saudis? Is it the United States? Are Saudi Arabia and the U.S. government working together to hurt Russia? And if this oil war continues, how far will the price of oil end up falling in 2015? As you will see below, some analysts believe that it could ultimately go below 20 dollars a barrel. If we see anything even close to that, the U.S. economy could lose millions of good paying jobs, billions of dollars of energy bonds could default and we could see trillions of dollars of derivatives related to the energy industry implode. The global financial system is already extremely vulnerable, and purposely causing the price of oil to crash is one of the most deflationary things that you could possibly do. Whoever is behind this oil war is playing with fire, and by the end of this coming year the entire planet could be dealing with the consequences.
Ever since the price of oil started falling, people have been pointing fingers at the Saudis. And without a doubt, the Saudis have manipulated the price of oil before in order to achieve geopolitical goals. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Topf…
We don’t have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
If the Saudis wanted to stabilize the price of oil, they could do that immediately by announcing a production cutback.
The fact that they have chosen not to do this says volumes.
In addition to wanting to harm U.S. shale producers, some believe that the Saudis are determined to crush Iran. This next excerpt comes from a recent Daily Mail article…
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
There are others out there that are fully convinced that the Saudis and the U.S. are actually colluding to drive down the price of oil, and that their real goal is to destroy Russia.
“Did you know there’s an oil war? And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia,” he said in a speech to state businessmen carried live on state TV.
“It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” he added, accusing the United States of trying to flood the market with shale oil.
Venezuela and Russia, which both have fractious ties with Washington, are widely considered the nations hardest hit by the global oil price fall.
And as I discussed just the other day, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to agree with this theory…
“We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.”
Without a doubt, Obama wants to “punish” Russia for what has been going on in Ukraine. Going after oil is one of the best ways to do that. And if the U.S. shale industry gets hurt in the process, that is a bonus for the radical environmentalists in Obama’s administration.
There are yet others that see this oil war as being even more complicated.
Marin Katusa believes that this is actually a three-way war between OPEC, Russia and the United States…
“It’s a three-way oil war between OPEC, Russia and North American shale,” says Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War,” and chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research.
Katusa doesn’t see production slowing in 2015: “We know that OPEC will not be cutting back production. They’re going to increase it. Russia has increased production to all-time highs.” With Russia and OPEC refusing to give up market share how will the shale industry compete?
Katusa thinks the longevity and staying power of the shale industry will keep it viable and profitable. “The versatility and the survivability of a lot of these shale producers will surprise people. I don’t see that the shale sector is going to collapse over night,” he says. Shale sweet spots like North Dakota’s Bakken region and Texas’ Eagle Ford area will help keep production levels up and output steady.
Whatever the true motivation for this oil war is, it does not appear that it is going to end any time soon.
And so that means that the price of oil is going to go lower.
How much lower?
One analyst recently told CNN that we could see the price of oil dip into the $30s next year…
Few saw the energy meltdown coming. Now that it’s here, industry analysts warn another move lower is possible as the momentum remains firmly to the downside.
“If this doesn’t hold, we could go back to price levels in late 2008 and early 2009 — down in the $30s. There’s no reason why it couldn’t happen,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at Telvent DTN.
Others are even more pessimistic. For instance, Jeremy Warner of the Sydney Morning Herald, who correctly predicted that the price of oil would fall below $80 this year, is now forecasting that the price of oil could fall all the way down to $20 next year…
Revisiting the past year’s predictions is, for most columnists a frequently humbling experience. The howlers tend to far outweigh the successes. Yet, for a change, I can genuinely claim to have got my main call for markets – that oil would sink to $US80 a barrel or less – spot on, and for the right reasons, too.
Just in case you think I’m making it up, this is what I said 12 months ago: “My big prediction is for $US80 oil, from which much of the rest of my outlook for the coming year flows. It’s hard to overstate the significance of a much lower oil price – Brent at, say, $US80 a barrel, or perhaps lower still – yet this is a surprisingly likely prospect, the implications of which have been largely missed by mainstream economic forecasters.”
If on to a good thing, you might as well stick with it; so for the coming year, I’m doubling up on this forecast. Far from bouncing back to the post crisis “normal” of something over $US100 a barrel, as many oil traders seem to expect, my view is that the oil price will remain low for a long time, sinking to perhaps as little as $US20 a barrel over the coming year before recovering a little.
But even Warner’s chilling prediction is not the most bearish.
A technical analyst named Abigail Doolittle recently told CNBC that under a worst case scenario the price of oil could fall as low as $14 a barrel…
No one really saw 2014’s dramatic plunge in oil price coming, so it’s probably fair to say that any predictions about where it’s going from here fall somewhere between educated guesses and picking a number out of a hat.
In that light, it’s less than shocking to see one analyst making a case—albeit in a pure outlier sense—for a drop all the way below $14 a barrel.
Abigail Doolittle, who does business under the name Peak Theories Research, posits that current chart trends point to the possibility that crude has three downside target areas where it could find support—$44, $35 and the nightmare scenario of, yes, $13.65.
But the truth is that none of those scenarios need to happen in order for this oil war to absolutely devastate the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.
There is a very strong correlation between the price of oil and the performance of energy stocks and energy bonds. But over the past couple of weeks this correlation has been broken. The following chart comes from Zero Hedge…
It is inevitable that at some point we will see energy stocks and energy bonds come back into line with the price of crude oil.
And it isn’t just energy stocks and bonds that we need to be concerned about. There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has crashed by more than 50 dollars in less than a year. That was in 2008 – just before the great financial crisis that erupted in the fall of that year. For much, much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
Whether the price of oil crashed or not, we were already on the verge of massive financial troubles.
But the fact that the price of oil has collapsed makes all of our potential problems much, much worse.
As we enter 2015, keep an eye on energy stocks, energy bonds and listen for any mention of problems with derivatives. The next great financial crisis is right around the corner, but most people will never see it coming until they are blindsided by it.