If we were going to see a stock market crash in the United States in the fall of 2015 (to use a hypothetical example), we would expect to see commodity prices begin to crash a few months ahead of time. This is precisely what happened just before the great financial crisis of 2008, and we are watching the exact same thing happen again right now. On Wednesday, commodities got absolutely pummeled, and at this point the Bloomberg Commodity Index is down a whopping 26 percent over the past twelve months. When global economic activity slows down, demand for raw materials sinks and prices drop. So important global commodities such as copper, iron ore, aluminum, zinc, nickel, lead, tin and lumber are all considered to be key “leading indicators” that can tell us a lot about where things are heading next. And what they are telling us right now is that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown.
If the global economy was actually healthy and expanding, the demand for commodities would be increasing and that would tend to drive prices up. But instead, prices continue to go down.
The commodities rout that’s pushed prices to a 13-year low pulled some of the biggest mining and energy companies below levels seen during the financial crisis.
The FTSE 350 Mining Index plunged as much as 4.9 percent to the lowest since 2009 on Wednesday, with BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc leading declines. Gold and copper are near the lowest in at least five years, while crude oil retreated to $50 a barrel.
“This commodity bear market is like a train wreck in slow motion,” said Andy Pfaff, the chief investment officer for commodities at MitonOptimal in Cape Town. “It has a lot of momentum and doesn’t come to a sudden stop.”
Commodity prices have not been this low since April 2002. According to Bloomberg, some of the commodities being hit the hardest include soybean oil, copper, zinc and gasoline. And this commodity crash is already having a dramatic impact on some of the biggest commodity-producing nations on the globe. Just consider what Gerald Celente recently told Eric King…
We now see that the Australian dollar is at a six-year low against the U.S. dollar. What are Australia’s biggest exports? How about iron-ore and other metals.
If we look at Canada, their currency is also now at a six-year low vs the U.S. dollar. Well, Canada is a big oil exporter, particularly some tar sands oil, which is expensive to produce.
We also now have the Brazilian real at a 10-year low vs the U.S. dollar. Why? Because it’s a natural resource rich country and they don’t have a strong market to sell their natural resources to.
Meanwhile, the Indian rupee is at a 17-year low vs the U.S. dollar. This is because manufacturing is slowing down and there is less development. If the Americans aren’t buying, the Indians, the Chinese, the Vietnamese — they’re not making things.
All of this is so, so similar to what we experienced in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008. Just a couple of days ago, I talked about how the U.S. dollar got really strong just prior to the last stock market crash. The same patterns keep playing out over and over, and yet most in the mainstream media refuse to see what is happening.
Something else that happened just a few months before the last stock market crash was a collapse of the junk bond market.
That is starting to happen again too. Just check out this chart.
I know that I must sound like a broken record. But I think that it is extremely important to document these things. When the next financial collapse takes place, virtually everyone in the mainstream media will be talking about what a “surprise” it is.
But for those that have been paying attention, it won’t be much of a “surprise” at all.
When the stock market does crash, how far might it fall?
During a recent appearance on CNBC, Marc Faber suggested that it could decline by up to 40 percent…
The U.S. stock market could “easily” drop 20 percent to 40 percent, closely followed contrarian Marc Faber said Wednesday—citing a host of factors including the growing list of companies trading below their 200-day moving average.
In recent days, “there were [also] more declining than advancing stocks, and the list of 12-month new lows was very high on Friday,” the publisher of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“It shows you a lot of stocks are already declining.”
Others, including myself, believe that what we are going to experience is going to be even worse than that.
We live in such a fast-paced world, and most of us don’t have the patience to wait for long-term trends to play out.
If the stock market is not crashing today, to most people that means that everything must be fine.
But once it has crashed, everyone is going to be complaining that they weren’t warned in advance about what was coming and everyone will be complaining that nobody ever fixed the things that caused the exact same problems the last time around.
Personally, I am trying very hard to make sure that nobody can accuse me of not sounding the alarm about the storm that is on the horizon.
The world has never been in more debt, our “too big to fail” banks have never been more reckless, and global financial markets have never been more primed for a collapse.
Amazingly, there are still a lot of “experts” out there that insist that everything is going to be okay somehow.
Of course many of those exact same “experts” were telling us the same thing just before the stock market crashed in 2008 too.
A great financial shaking has already begun around the world, and it will hit U.S. financial markets very soon.
I hope that you are getting ready while you still can.
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.
When an economy is healthy, there is lots of buying and selling and money tends to move around quite rapidly. Unfortunately, the U.S. economy is the exact opposite of that right now. In fact, as I will document below, the velocity of M2 has fallen to an all-time record low. This is a very powerful indicator that we have entered a deflationary era, and the Federal Reserve has been attempting to combat this by absolutely flooding the financial system with more money. This has created some absolutely massive financial bubbles, but it has not fixed what is fundamentally wrong with our economy. On a very basic level, the amount of economic activity that we are witnessing is not anywhere near where it should be and the flow of money through our economy is very stagnant. They can try to mask our problems with happy talk for as long as they want, but in the end it will be clearly evident that none of the long-term trends that are destroying our economy have been addressed.
Discussions about the money supply can get very complicated, and that can cause people to tune out, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
To put it very basically, when there is lots of economic activity, there is lots of money changing hands.
When there is not very much economic activity, the pace at which money circulates through our system slows down.
That is why what is happening in the U.S. right now is so troubling.
First, let’s look at M1, which is a fairly narrow definition of the money supply. The following is how Investopedia defines M1…
A measure of the money supply that includes all physical money, such as coins and currency, as well as demand deposits, checking accounts and Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) accounts. M1 measures the most liquid components of the money supply, as it contains cash and assets that can quickly be converted to currency. It does not contain “near money” or “near, near money” as M2 and M3 do.
As you can see from the chart posted below, the velocity of M1 normally declines during a recession. Just look at the shaded areas in the chart. But a funny thing has happened since the end of the last recession. The velocity of M1 has just kept falling and it is now at a nearly 20 year low…
Next, let’s take a look at M2. It includes more things in the money supply. The following is how Investopedia defines M2…
A measure of money supply that includes cash and checking deposits (M1) as well as near money. “Near money” in M2 includes savings deposits, money market mutual funds and other time deposits, which are less liquid and not as suitable as exchange mediums but can be quickly converted into cash or checking deposits.
In the chart posted below, we can once again see that the velocity of M2 normally slows down during a recession. And we can also see that the velocity of M2 has continued to slow down in the “post-recession era” and has now dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…
This is a highly deflationary chart.
It clearly indicates that economic activity in the U.S. has been steadily slowing down.
In addition, the employment situation in this country is much less promising than we have been led to believe. According to a report put out by the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, an all-time record one out of every eight men in their prime working years are not in the labor force…
“There are currently 61.1 million American men in their prime working years, age 25–54. A staggering 1 in 8 such men are not in the labor force at all, meaning they are neither working nor looking for work. This is an all-time high dating back to when records were first kept in 1955. An additional 2.9 million men are in the labor force but not employed (i.e., they would work if they could find a job). A total of 10.2 million individuals in this cohort, therefore, are not holding jobs in the U.S. economy today. There are also nearly 3 million more men in this age group not working today than there were before the recession began.”
Never before has such a high percentage of men in their prime years been so idle.
But since they are not counted as part of “the labor force”, the government bureaucrats can keep the “unemployment rate” looking nice and pretty.
Of course if we were actually using honest numbers, the unemployment rate would be in the double digits, our economy would be considered to have been in a recession since about 2005, and everyone would be crying out for an end to “the depression”.
And those that run the Federal Reserve know all of this.
That is one of the reasons for all of the “quantitative easing” that they have been doing. The folks at the Fed know that the U.S. economy would probably drift into a deflationary depression if they just sat back and did nothing. So they flooded the system with money in a desperate attempt to revive economic activity. But instead, most of the new money just ended up in the pockets of the very wealthy and further increased the divide between those at the top and those at the bottom in this country.
And now Fed officials are slowly scaling back quantitative easing because they apparently believe that the economy is getting “back to normal”.
We shall see.
Many are not quite so optimistic.
For example, the chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, Peter Boockvar, believes that the S&P 500 could plummet 15 to 20 percent when quantitative easing finally ends.
Others believe that it will be much worse than that.
So when the inevitable crash does arrive, it will be much, much worse than it could have been.
Sadly, most Americans do not understand these things. Most Americans simply trust that our “leaders” know what they are doing. And so in the end, most Americans will be completely blindsided by what is coming.
If you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others. The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system. When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up. When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in. Just imagine someone squeezing a tube that has water flowing through it. The higher interest rates go, the more economic activity will be squeezed. If interest rates continue to rise rapidly, it will be more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money, it will be more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, the housing market may crash again, consumer debt will become more expensive, junk bond investors will be in for a world of hurt, the stock market will experience a tremendous amount of pain and there is a good chance that we could see the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble implode. And that is just for starters.
So yes, we all need to be carefully watching the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. On Friday, it opened at 2.76% and hit a high of 2.86% before closing at 2.83%. The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is up nearly 120 basis points since the beginning of May, and almost everyone on Wall Street seems convinced that it is going to go much higher.
We are truly moving into unprecedented territory, because we have been in a bull market for U.S. Treasuries for the last 30 years. Many investors don’t even know that it is possible to lose money on U.S. Treasuries. They have been described as “risk-free” investments, but that is far from the truth.
In fact, we could see bond investors of all types end up losing trillions of dollars before it is all said and done.
And those in the stock market will lose lots of money too. Low interest rates are good for economic activity which is good for the stock market. The chart posted below shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years…
When interest rates rise, that is bad for economic activity and bad for stocks. That is why so many stock analysts are alarmed that interest rates are going up so rapidly right now.
And as I wrote about the other day, we have just witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since before the last financial crisis. The stock market already seems ripe for a huge “adjustment”, and rising interest rates could give it a huge extra push in a negative direction.
By the time it is all said and done, stock market investors could end up losing trillions of dollars in the next stock market crash.
In addition, rising interest rates could easily precipitate another housing crash. As the Wall Street Journal discussed on Friday, as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up it will also cause mortgage rates to rise…
Higher yields will push up long-term borrowing cost for U.S. consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates will rise, and investors are keeping a close eye on whether this may derail the recovery of the housing market, which has shown signs of turning a corner this year.
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent. The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.
Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?
It shouldn’t. 8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.
If you own a $300,000 house today, do you think it will be easier to sell it or harder to sell it if mortgage rates skyrocket?
Yes, of course it will be much harder. In fact, there is a good chance that you will have to reduce your selling price significantly so that prospective buyers can afford the payments.
Let us hope that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries levels off for a while. If it says at this current level, the damage will probably not be too bad.
But if it crosses the 3 percent mark and keeps soaring, things could get messy pretty quickly. In fact, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor survey, the 3.5 percent mark is when the collapse of the bond market is likely to become “disorderly”…
Our latest Credit Investor Survey, conducted July 8-11, showed that 3.5% on the 10-year is most commonly thought of as the trigger of a disorderly rotation – i.e. higher interest rates leading to outflows and wider credit spreads – among high grade investors.
Put differently, 3.0% on the 10-year will not lead to overall wider credit spreads if there is enough buying interest from institutional investors (though note that the 10s/30s spread curve would flatten further, as mutual fund/ETF holdings are concentrated in the belly of the curve, whereas institutional demand is disproportional in the long end of the curve). However, if the probability of a further move higher in interest rates to 3.5% is high – which will be the perception if interest rate volatility is high – certain institutional investors will choose to remain on the sidelines.
Thus there may not be enough institutional buying interest to mitigate retail fund outflows and contain overall high grade spread levels.
So what is causing this?
Well, there are a number of factors of course, but one very disturbing sign is that foreigners are selling off U.S. Treasuries at a pace that we have not seen since 2007…
One of the biggest fears in the financial markets is that foreign investors will stop buying U.S. Treasury securities, causing borrowing rates to surge.
Not that this is the beginning of a frightening trend, but new data from the Treasury Department shows that foreigners were net sellers in June. In fact, this is the largest net sale of U.S. securities since August 2007.
Do you remember all of the warnings that we have received over the years about what would take place when foreign countries started dumping U.S. debt?
Well, it looks like it may be starting to happen.
Unfortunately, there is no way that the party that the U.S. government has been throwing can continue without foreigners buying our debt. We have added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt since the year 2000, and according to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff we are facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are in excess of 200 trillion dollars.
Even with foreigners continuing to loan us gigantic mountains of super cheap money, it would still take a doubling of our taxes to put us on a fiscally sustainable course…
Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”
This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.
Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation] would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.
“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”
Can you afford to pay twice as much in taxes to the federal government?
Very few Americans could.
But that is how serious the financial problems of the federal government are.
And all of the above assumes that interest payments on U.S. government debt will remain at current levels. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Also, all of the above assumes that we will have a healthy financial system that does not need to be bailed out again.
In fact, once that bubble bursts there probably will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.
If the picture that I have painted above sounds bleak, that is because it is bleak.
Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I don’t feel I am communicating the tremendous danger that we are facing accurately enough.
We are heading for the worst financial crisis in modern human history, and the debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is going to go away and it is never going to come back.
You can dismiss that as “doom and gloom” and stick your head in the sand if you want, but that isn’t going to help anything. Instead of ignoring reality you should be working hard to prepare your family for what is coming and warning others that they should be getting prepared too.
When a hurricane is approaching landfall, you don’t take your family out for a picnic at the beach. That would be foolish. Unfortunately, way too many Americans are acting as if nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 could ever possibly happen again.
If you deceive yourself into thinking that all of this is going to have a happy ending somehow, you are going to get blindsided by the coming storm.
But if you make preparations now, you might just be okay.
There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.
So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. The higher it goes, the later in the game we are.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time. During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows. This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt. During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows. All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal? If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that. In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else. What will that do to home sales and car sales? And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession. We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up. We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that. The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.
This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that. Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.
So who would replace him? Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion. She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy. It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.
But is it a fundamentally sound path? Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point. In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…
“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.
“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”
Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades. This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply. This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…
Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!
And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…
Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!
Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!
In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.
If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.
And we have seen this pattern before.
As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…
As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.
As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.
So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead. If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.
And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point. He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.
The financial system of the third largest economy on the planet is starting to come apart at the seams, and the ripple effects are going to be felt all over the globe. Nobody knew exactly when the Japanese financial system was going to begin to implode, but pretty much everyone knew that a day of reckoning for Japan was coming eventually. After all, the Japanese economy has been in a slump for over a decade, Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of well over 200 percent and they are spending about 50 percent of all tax revenue on debt service. In a desperate attempt to revitalize the economy and reduce the debt burden, the Bank of Japan decided a few months ago to start pumping massive amounts of money into the economy. At first, it seemed to be working. Economic activity perked up and the Japanese stock market went on a tremendous run. Unfortunately, there is also a very significant downside to pumping your economy full of money. Investors start demanding higher returns on their money and interest rates go up. But the Japanese government cannot afford higher interest rates. Without super low interest rates, Japanese government finances would totally collapse. In addition, higher interest rates in the private sector would make it much more difficult for the Japanese economy to expand. In essence, pretty much the last thing that Japan needs right now is significantly higher interest rates, but that is exactly what the policies of the Bank of Japan are going to produce.
There is a lot of fear in Japan right now. On Thursday, the Nikkei plunged 7.3 percent. That was the largest single day decline in more than two years. Then on Monday the index fell by another 3.2 percent.
And according to Business Insider, things are not looking good for Tuesday at this point…
Are we witnessing the beginning of a colossal financial meltdown by the third largest economy on the planet? The Bank of Japan is starting to lose control, and if Japan goes down hard the crisis could spread to Europe and North America very rapidly. The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers…
As Japan has indicated, when bonds start to plunge, it’s not good for stocks. Today the Japanese Bond market fell and the Nikkei plunged 7%. The entire market down 7%… despite the Bank of Japan funneling $19 billion into it to hold things together.
This is what it looks like when a Central Bank begins to lose control. And what’s happening in Japan today will be coming to the US in the not so distant future.
If you think the Fed is not terrified of this, think again. The Fed has pumped over $1 trillion into foreign banks, hoping to stop the mess from getting to the US. As Japan is showing us, the Fed will fail.
Investors, take note… the financial system is sending us major warnings…
If you are not already preparing for a potential market collapse, now is the time to be doing so.
And all of this money printing is absolutely crushing the Japanese yen. Since the start of 2013, the yen has declined 16 percent against the U.S. dollar, even though the U.S. dollar is also being rapidly debased. Just check out this chart of the yen vs. the U.S. dollar. It is absolutely stunning…
The term “currency war” is something that you are going to hear a lot more over the next few years, and what you can see in the chart above is only the beginning.
What the Bank of Japan is doing right now is absolutely unprecedented. It has announced that it plans to inject the equivalent of approximately $1.4 trillion into the Japanese economy in less than two years.
“What they’re doing represents 70% of what the Fed is doing here with an economy 1/3 the size of ours”
The big problem for Japan will come when government bond yields really start to rise. The yield on 10 year government bonds has been creeping up over the past few months, and if they hit the 1.0% mark that will set off some major red flags.
Because Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 200 percent, the only way that it can avoid a total meltdown of government finances is to have super low interest rates. The video posted below does a great job of elaborating on this point…
It really is very simple. If interest rates rise substantially, Japan will be done.
Investor Kyle Bass is one of those that have been warning about this for a long time…
There’s a fatalism, he says, in everyone he talks to in Japan. Their thinking is changing, and the way they talk to him about debt is changing. They already spend 50% of tax revenue on debt service.
“If rates go up, it’s game over.”
The financial problems in Cyprus and Greece are just tiny blips compared to what a major financial crisis in Japan would potentially be like. The Japanese economy is larger than the economies of Germany and Italy combined. If the house of cards in Japan comes tumbling down, trillions of dollars of investments all over the globe are going to be affected.
And what is happening right now in Japan should serve as a sober warning to the United States. Like Japan, the money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing has caused economic activity to perk up a bit and it has sent the stock market on an unprecedented run.
Unfortunately, no bubble that the Federal Reserve has ever created has been able to last forever. At some point, we will pay a very great price for all of the debt that the U.S. government has been accumulating and all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been engaged in.
So enjoy the calm before the storm while you still can.
Did you know that the greatest period of economic growth in American history was during a time when there was absolutely no federal income tax? Between the end of the Civil War and 1913, there was an explosion of economic activity in the United States unlike anything ever seen before or since. Unfortunately, a federal income tax was instituted in 1913, and this year it turned 100 years old. But there was no fanfare, was there? There was no celebration because the federal income tax is universally hated. Sadly, most Americans just assume that there is no other option to an income tax. Most Americans just assume that it has always been with us and that it will always be with us. This year, the American people will shell out approximately $4.22 trillion in state and federal income taxes. That amount is equivalent to approximately 29.4 percent of all income that Americans will bring in this year, and that does not even take into account the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year. At this point, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long, and those that are honest and pay their taxes every year are being absolutely shredded by this system. But wouldn’t the federal government go broke if we didn’t have a federal income tax? No, actually the truth is that the federal government did just fine before there was an income tax. In fact, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve were created by Congress back in 1913. As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve system was actually designed to trap the United States in a debt spiral from which it could never possibly escape, and the federal income tax was needed to greatly expand the size of the federal government and to soak the American people of the funds necessary to service that debt. But it doesn’t have to be this way. America was once much better off before the income tax and the Federal Reserve were created, and we could easily go to such a system again.
What we desperately need to do is to teach the American people a little history lesson. The truth is that the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was between the Civil War and 1913 when there was no federal income tax at all. The following is from Wikipedia…
The Gilded Age saw the greatest period of economic growth in American history. After the short-lived panic of 1873, the economy recovered with the advent of hard money policies and industrialization. From 1869 to 1879, the US economy grew at a rate of 6.8% for real GDP and 4.5% for real GDP per capita, despite the panic of 1873. The economy repeated this period of growth in the 1880s, in which the wealth of the nation grew at an annual rate of 3.8%, while the GDP was also doubled.
Sadly, most Americans cannot even conceive of an economy like that. Most Americans cannot even imagine having a nation without a massively bloated federal government and without an unelected central bank centrally planning our financial system.
But you know what?
It worked. In fact, it worked fantastically well.
The period between the Civil War and 1913 propelled the United States to greatness. Just check out all of the good things that Wikipedia says happened for the U.S. economy during those years…
The rapid economic development following the Civil War laid the groundwork for the modern U.S. industrial economy. By 1890, the USA leaped ahead of Britain for first place in manufacturing output.
An explosion of new discoveries and inventions took place, a process called the “Second Industrial Revolution.” Railroads greatly expanded the mileage and built stronger tracks and bridges that handled heavier cars and locomotives, carrying far more goods and people at lower rates. Refrigeration railroad cars came into use. The telephone, phonograph, typewriter and electric light were invented. By the dawn of the 20th century, cars had begun to replace horse-drawn carriages.
Parallel to these achievements was the development of the nation’s industrial infrastructure. Coal was found in abundance in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania south to Kentucky. Oil was discovered in western Pennsylvania; it was mainly used for lubricants and for kerosene for lamps. Large iron ore mines opened in the Lake Superior region of the upper Midwest. Steel mills thrived in places where these coal and iron ore could be brought together to produce steel. Large copper and silver mines opened, followed by lead mines and cement factories.
In 1913 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, a step in the process that became known as mass-production.
But if we didn’t have an income tax, how did we fund the government? Well, we mostly did it with tariffs and excise taxes. The following is from a recent article by Thomas R. Eddlem…
Prior to ratification of the 16th (income tax) Amendment in February 1913, the federal government managed its few constitutional responsibilities without an income tax, except during the Civil War period. During peacetime, it did so largely — or even entirely — on import taxes called “tariffs.” Congress could afford to run the federal government on tariffs alone because federal responsibilities did not include welfare programs, agricultural subsidies, or social insurance programs like Social Security or Medicare. After the Civil War, tariff revenues sometimes suffered under a protectionist policy ushered in by the Republican Party that supplemented federal income via excises on alcohol, tobacco, and inheritances. But before the war, the need for tariff revenue to finance the federal government generally kept the tariff at reasonable levels. During wartime throughout early American history, the Founding Fathers were able to raise additional revenue employing a different method of direct taxation authorized by the U.S. Constitution prior to the 16th Amendment. These alternative taxing methods gave the young American nation embarrassing peacetime budget surpluses that several times came close to paying off the national debt.
So why didn’t we stick with that system?
Well, early in the 20th century the “progressives” and the social planners started to take control in Washington.
And one of the things that “progressives” and social planners love is an income tax. In fact, the second plank of the Communist Manifesto is a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax”.
Of course they promised us that income tax rates would always remain low. And at first they were quite low. The following is from an article by Adam Young…
The presidential election of 1912 was contested between three advocates of an income tax. The winner, Woodrow Wilson, after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, called a special session of Congress in April 1913, which proceeded to pass an income tax of 1% on incomes above $3,000 and applied surcharges between 2% and 7% on income from $20,000 to $500,000.
But once the “progressives” and the social planners get their feet in the door, they always want more.
1 – The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long. If you took all of William Shakespeare’s works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.
2 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements. Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.
3 – 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long. Today, they are 189 pages long.
4 – There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade. It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.
5 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.
6 – Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly. For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household. All 46 of them came up with a different result.
7 – In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household. All five of them came up with a different result.
8 – The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.
9 – According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes. Back in 1900, “Tax Freedom Day” came on January 22nd.
10 – When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.
11 – Residents of New Jersey pay $1.64 in taxes for every $1.00 of federal spending that they get back.
13 – According to Forbes, the 400 highest earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent.
14 – Warren Buffett had an effective tax rate of just 17.4 percent for 2010.
15 – The top 20 percent of all income earners in the United States pay approximately 86 percent of all federal income taxes.
16 – Sadly, as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.
17 – The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world (35 percent). In Ireland, the corporate tax rate is only 12.5 percent. This is causing thousands of corporations to move operations out of the United States and into other countries.
18 – Some tax havens are doing a booming business in setting up sham headquarters for U.S. corporations. For example, the city of Zug, Switzerland only has a population of 26,000 people but it is the headquarters for 30,000 companies.
19 – In 1950, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue. In 2012, corporate taxes will account for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.
The wealthy have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes, and the poor are not able to pay much.
So who always gets squeezed?
The middle class does.
No matter what our politicians promise us, the hammer is always brought down on the middle class.
And now, according to The Huffington Post, the IRS says that it can even read our old emails without a warrant to make sure that we are paying all of the taxes that we should be…
The IRS apparently interprets that authority very broadly, the documents show: as long as you’ve stored your email in a cloud service like Google Mail, and as long as those emails haven’t been deleted after a few months, the agency thinks it doesn’t need a warrant to read them.
The idea of IRS agents poking through your email account might sound at the very least creepy, and maybe unconstitutional. But the IRS does have a legal leg to stand on: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows government agencies to in many cases obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant.
That’s why an internal 2009 IRS document claimed that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.
It should be noted that the IRS is claiming that it does not use emails “to target” specific taxpayers, but notice that they are not promising not to use old emails against taxpayers once they are officially being audited or investigated…
“Contrary to some suggestions, the IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
In any event, the truth is that we have one of the most complicated and one of the most intrusive tax systems in the history of the world.
Don’t the American people deserve better?
What do you think?
Should America go back to a system where there is no income tax and no Federal Reserve?
Please feel free to share what you think by leaving a comment below…