I was absolutely stunned to learn that the Baltic Dry Shipping Index had plummeted to a new all-time record low of 504 at one point on Thursday. I have written a number of articles lately about the dramatic slowdown in global trade, but I didn’t realize that things had gotten quite this bad already. Not even during the darkest moments of the last financial crisis did the Baltic Dry Shipping Index drop this low. Something doesn’t seem to be adding up, because the mainstream media keeps telling us that the global economy is doing just fine. In fact, the Federal Reserve is so confident in our “economic recovery” that they are getting ready to raise interest rates. Of course the truth is that there is no “economic recovery” on the horizon. In fact, as I wrote about yesterday, there are signs all around us that are indicating that we are heading directly into another major economic crisis. This staggering decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is just another confirmation of what is directly ahead of us.
Overall, the Baltic Dry Index is down more than 60 percent over the past 12 months. Global demand for shipping is absolutely collapsing, and yet very few “experts” seem alarmed by this. If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Shipping Index, the following is a pretty good definition from Investopedia…
A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).
The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of three sub-indexes that measure different sizes of dry bulk carriers (merchant ships) – Capesize, Supramax and Panamax. Multiple geographic routes are evaluated for each index to give depth to the index’s composite measurement.
It is also known as the “Dry Bulk Index”.
Much of the decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is being blamed on China. The following comes from a Bloomberg report that was posted on Thursday…
The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.
So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are playing out once again in front of our very eyes. Below, I have shared a chart that was posted by Zero Hedge, and it shows how the Baltic Dry Shipping Index absolutely collapsed in 2008 as we headed into a major financial crisis. Well, now the Index is collapsing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point back in 2008…
The evidence continues to mount that we are steamrolling toward a deflationary economic slowdown that is worldwide in scope.
Just look at the price of U.S. oil. It just keeps on falling, and as I write this article it is sitting at $40.40.
The price of oil collapsed just before the financial crisis of 2008, and the same pattern is happening again.
And look at what is happening to commodities. The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index has plummeted to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession. It is now down more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and it continues to fall.
So don’t be fooled by the temporary “stock market recovery” that we have witnessed. The underlying economic fundamentals continue to decline. We are entering a global deflationary recession, and the stock market will get the memo at some point just like we saw in 2008.
At this moment, global financial markets are teetering on the brink, and all it is going to take is some kind of major trigger event to send them tumbling over the edge.
And such an event may be coming sooner than you may think.
We live at a time when global terrorism is surging, relationships between nations are deteriorating and our planet is shaking in wild and unpredictable ways.
It wouldn’t take much to push the financial world into full-blown panic mode. A major regional war in the Middle East, a terror attack that kills thousands, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption that affects a large U.S. city are all potential examples of “black swan events” which could fit the bill.
The global financial system has never been more primed for another 2008-style crisis. Thanks to the fragility of the system, it could literally happen any day now.
So keep your eyes open – within weeks our world could be completely and totally different.
Why won’t the American people listen to the warnings? David Stockman was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1981, and he served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1985. These days, he is running a website called “Contra Corner” which I highly recommend that you check out. Stockman believes that a global “debt super-cycle” that has been building for decades is now bursting, and he is convinced that the consequences for the U.S. and for the rest of the planet will be absolutely catastrophic. His findings are very consistent with what I have been writing about on The Economic Collapse Blog, and if Stockman is correct the times ahead of us are going to be exceedingly painful.
But right now, most people don’t seem to be in the mood to listen to these types of warnings. Even though there is a mountain of evidence that the global economy has already plunged into recession, U.S. stocks had a great month in October, and so most Americans seem to think that the crisis has passed.
Of course the truth is that the stock market is not an accurate barometer of the economy and it never has been. Back in 2008, almost everything else started to go downhill before stocks did, and the same thing is happening once again. In a recent article, Stockman explained that stocks are surging to absolutely ridiculous levels even though corporate earnings are actually way down…
At this point, 75% of S&P 500 companies have reported Q3 results, and earnings are coming in at $93.80 per share on an LTM basis. That happens to be 7.4% below the peak $106 per share reported last September, and means that the market today is valuing these shrinking profits at a spritely 22.49X PE ratio.
And, yes, there is a reason for two-digit precision. It seems that in the 4th quarter of 2007 LTM earnings came in at 22.19X the S&P 500 index price. We know what happened next!
Why do so many refuse to see the parallels?
This crisis is unfolding so similarly to 2008, and yet most of the “experts” are willingly blind.
Much of the stock buying that has been happening in 2015 has been fueled by stock buybacks and by M&A (merger and acquisitions). Many firms have even been going into debt to buy back their own stocks, but now sources of financing are starting to dry up. This year we have already seen the most corporate debt downgrades since 2009, and big financial institutions are now becoming much more hesitant to loan giant stacks of cash to these large corporations at super low interest rates.
So it is very, very difficult to see how the equity markets are going to move much higher than they are right now.
Meanwhile, the global economy is starting to unravel right in front of our eyes. In his recent piece, Stockman discussed some of these data points…
In the last two days we posted the latest data on two crucial markers of global economic direction——-export shipments from Korea and export orders coming into the high performance machinery factories of Germany.
In a word, they were abysmal, and smoking gun evidence that the suzerains of Beijing have not stopped the implosion in China, and that their latest paddy wagon forays—–arresting the head of China’s third largest bank and hand-cuffing several hedge fund managers including the purported “Warren Buffett” of China—-are signs not of stabilization, but sheer desperation.
So it is not surprising that Korea’s October exports—–the first such data from anywhere in the world—were down by a whopping 16% from last year, and have now been down for 10 straight months. Needless to say, China is the number one destination for Korean exports.
Likewise, German export orders plummeted by 18% in September, and this was no one month blip.
For many more recent statistics just like these, please see my previous article entitled “18 Numbers That Scream That A Crippling Global Recession Has Arrived“.
If the global economy really was doing “just fine” as Barack Obama and others suggest, then why is the largest shipping line in the world eliminating jobs and scaling back capacity?…
A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S is scaling back capacity and cutting jobs in the world’s largest shipping line to adapt to a drop in demand.
The Danish company, which last month lowered its profit forecast for 2015 citing a gloomier outlook for the global shipping market, will shed 4,000 jobs in its Maersk Line unit as part of a program to “simplify the organization,” it said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
And why are some of the biggest banks in the western world laying off tens of thousands of workers?…
Standard Chartered Plc became the third European bank in less than two weeks to announce sweeping job cuts, bringing the total planned reductions to more than 30,000, or almost one in seven positions.
The London-based firm said Tuesday it will eliminate 15,000 jobs, or 17 percent of its workforce, as soaring bad loans in emerging markets hurt earnings. Deutsche Bank AG, based in Frankfurt, last week announced plans for 11,000 job cuts, while Credit Suisse Group AG said it would trim as many as 5,600 employees.
And if things are so great in the United States, why is Target suddenly closing stores?
The truth, of course, is that things are not great. Global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent so far this year, and total global trade has plummeted 8.4 percent.
We have entered a major global economic slowdown, and like usual, equity markets will be the last to get the memo.
But when they finally do react, that is likely going to greatly accelerate our problems. Just like we saw in 2008, when there is fear and panic in the financial markets that tends to cause the flow of credit to freeze up. And that is something that we simply cannot afford, because the flow of credit has become the lifeblood of the global economy.
So no, “the crisis” is not “over”.
Rather, the truth is that “the crisis” is just beginning, and it will soon be making front page headlines all over the planet.
Have you noticed that things have gotten eerily quiet in the month of October? After the chaos of late August and early September, many had anticipated that we would be dealing with a full-blown financial collapse by now, but instead we have entered a period of “dead calm” in which things have become exceedingly quiet in almost every way that you can possibly imagine. Other “watchmen” that I highly respect have made the exact same observation. Even though the economic numbers are screaming that we have entered a global recession, they aren’t really make any headline news. A whole host of major financial institutions around the planet are currently in danger of collapsing and creating the next “Lehman Brothers moment”, but none of them has imploded just yet. And of course Barack Obama seems bound and determined to start World War III. On Monday, it was announced that he is sending a guided missile destroyer into Chinese waters in the South China Sea. The Chinese have already stated that they might just start shooting if this happens, but Barack Obama doesn’t seem to care. But until the shooting actually begins, that is not likely to upset the current tranquility that we are enjoying either.
To me, what we are experiencing at the moment would best be described as “the calm before the storm”. If you are not familiar with this concept, this is how it is defined by How Stuff Works…
Have you ever spent an afternoon in the backyard, maybe grilling or enjoying a game of croquet, when suddenly you notice that everything goes quiet? The air seems still and calm — even the birds stop singing and quickly return to their nests.
After a few minutes, you feel a change in the air, and suddenly a line of clouds ominously appears on the horizon — clouds with a look that tells you they aren’t fooling around. You quickly dash in the house and narrowly miss the first fat raindrops that fall right before the downpour. At this moment, you might stop and ask yourself, “Why was it so calm and peaceful right before the storm hit?”
Like so many others, I believe that a great storm is coming, and yet right at this moment things seem so peaceful.
Unfortunately, this period of peace and quiet is not going to last for long, and most Americans know deep down that something is seriously wrong with our nation. In fact, a new WND/Clout poll has found that 85.3 percent of all likely voters in the United States believe that our country is going in the wrong direction…
The poll found 92.6 percent of those who identified themselves as conservative believe the nation is on the wrong track. Among those who call themselves liberal, 90.9 percent said it is going the wrong direction.
When asked what they think of the American economy after seven years of Obama’s leadership and economic policies, nearly 80 percent described it as “very fragile” or “somewhat fragile.”
Self-identified Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives were in general agreement, with about 75 percent to 80 percent describing the economy as “somewhat fragile” or “very fragile.”
But even though we are steamrolling in the wrong direction, we haven’t suffered any incredibly serious consequences for it yet.
For the moment, this is allowing the mockers to have a field day. They are fully confident that Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve knew what they were doing after all, and they are gleefully taunting those of us that have been warning of the great disaster that is heading our way.
However, those that are wise are getting prepared.
I think that we could all learn some lessons from what Overstock.com Chairman Jonathan Johnson is doing. The following is an extended excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article…
One week ago Johnson, who is also candidate for Utah governor, spoke at the United Precious Metals Association, or UPMA, which we first profiled a month ago, and which takes advantage of Utah’s special status allowing the it to use gold as legal tender, offering gold and silver-backed accounts. As a reminder, the UPMA takes Federal Reserve Notes (or paper dollars) which it then translates into golden dollars (or silver). The golden dollars are based off the $50 one ounce gold coins produced by the Treasury of The United States. They are legal tender under the law and are protected as such.
What did Johnson tell the UPMA? Here are some choice quotes:
We are not big fans of Wall Street and we don’t trust them. We foresaw the financial crisis, we fought against the financial crisis that happened in 2008; we don’t trust the banks still and we foresee that with QE3, and QE4 and QE n that at some point there is going to be another significant financial crisis.
So what do we do as a business so that we would be prepared when that happens. One thing that we do that is fairly unique: we have about $10 million in gold, mostly the small button-sized coins, that we keep outside of the banking system. We expect that when there is a financial crisis there will be a banking holiday. I don’t know if it will be 2 days, or 2 weeks, or 2 months. We have $10 million in gold and silver in denominations small enough that we can use for payroll. We want to be able to keep our employees paid, safe and our site up and running during a financial crisis.
We also happen to have three months of food supply for every employee that we can live on.
Why would such a seemingly intelligent and successful CEO of a large Internet company do such things?
It is because he can see the writing on the wall.
This period of calm will not last. A great storm is coming, and when it does arrive those that have not prepared for it are going to suffer tremendously.
Most people have no idea just how fragile our system really is. Today, some of these “too big to fail” banks supposedly have trillions of dollars in assets, but if you want to withdraw $10,000 or more in cash you have got to give them 24 hours notice to get enough money…
This is just the beginning. As anyone can tell you, it’s all but impossible to move large amounts of money into cash in the US. Even the large banks will routinely ask you for 24 hours notice if you need $10,000 or more in cash. These are banks will TRILLIONS of dollars worth of assets on their books.
And with each passing day we see even more signs of the global economic slowdown that is emerging all around us. For example, we just learned that the China Containerized Freight Index has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else, and so this is a very clear sign that global economic activity is slowing down dramatically…
By early July, the index dropped below 800 for the first time in its history, which started in 1998 when the index was set at 1,000. It soon recovered to about 850. And just when bouts of hope were rising that the worst was over, it plunged again and hit even lower levels.
The latest weekly reading dropped another 1.7% from the prior week to 752.21, the worst level ever. The CCFI is now 30% below where it had been in February this year and 25% below where it had been 17 years ago at its inception.
But for those that don’t want to believe that hard times are on the way, they can take comfort in the eerie period of calm that we are experiencing right now.
What they don’t realize is that this truly is “the calm before the storm”, and the global economic crisis that is ahead of us is going to be far beyond what most people ever dared to imagine was possible.
When someone is right over and over and over, eventually people start paying attention. Personally, I have learned to tune out the “forecasts” of most “economic experts” out there. As an attorney, I was trained to be skeptical, and I have found that most forecasts about what the financial markets are going to do are not worth the paper they are printed on. However, once in a while something comes along that really gets my attention. Over the past few days, I have seen a number of references to the remarkable forecasts of Bo Polny of Gold 2020 Forecast. In recent months he has correctly predicted that U.S. stocks would begin to drop in July, that there would be a huge plunge in August and that that the month of September would be rather uneventful. Now he is saying that he expects “November to be a complete meltdown on the U.S. and world markets”. Just because he has been right in the past does not guarantee that he will be correct this time around, but lots of people (like me) are starting to pay attention.
So how does Polny come to his conclusions? Well, he uses something that most of us hated when we were in school – mathematics. The following comes from the Daily Sheeple…
Cyclical analyst Bo Polny of Gold 2020 Forecast utilizes advanced mathematical formulas and years of cyclical analysis to make forecasts about global stock markets. In late July he noted that U.S. stock markets had hit a top and that investors should prepare for a rapid down-move in the Dow Jones and other indexes. As we now know, that prediction has come to pass.
But while many on Wall Street panicked, Polny noted that the crash was not yet imminent and that the month of September would be relatively calm, with no major moves up or down forecast to occur. Once again, his analysis proved accurate.
I want to stress that I do not know if he will be right this time around. When trying to forecast the future of the markets, there are thousands of moving pieces, and many of them cannot be accounted for easily. But without a doubt the markets are perfectly primed for a major crash, so it would not surprise me in the least if he did turn out to be correct.
And as I mentioned above, Polny does have a solid track record of accuracy…
Bo’s model appears to have an impressive track record of accurate predictions, including the following:
- Price of gold reaching $1900 in 2011
- China’s stock market peak in April 2015
- Hong Kong market peak on April 29 2015
- U.S. stock market drop beginning in July 2015
- Sharp drop in the stop market in August 2015
- U.S. stock market uneventful in September 2015
If Polny is right again this time, next month will be the most significant month for global financial markets since the crash of 2008. Here is more from Z3News…
In an interview with Future Money Trends on October 17 2015, he made the following comments:
“Now we are expecting the next leg down on the U.S. and world markets on the dollar. What we are forecasting now is the lows of August are all going to break. They could break in the month of October yet, but we believe they will break no problem into November. We expect November to be a complete meltdown on the U.S. and world markets.”
He also posted the following statements on his website:
“If you thought the crash of August 2015 was bad; November 2015 is expected to usher in the START of the US Stock, Dollar, and Treasuries Market MELTDOWN!!!”
“The end of this year ushers in the start of an Economic Meltdown that is to last years! The U.S. Dollar, Treasuries, and Stock Market bomb is set to blow in November 2015!”
Polny is projecting that stocks could ultimately fall by as much as 70 percent by the time it is all said and done. You can watch a full interview where he discusses these things right here.
Meanwhile, early signs of the kind of trouble that Polny is warning about continue to pop up.
On Wednesday, the stock price of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world absolutely crashed after a report came out claiming that it was in danger of suffering the same fate as Enron…
Hedge fund darling Valeant Pharmaceuticals is getting hammered after short-selling-firm Citron Research published a report comparing it to Enron.
The Canadian drug company’s stock was last down about 25% at around $110. It had fallen as low as $88.50.
The stock has been popular among hedge funds.
It ranked No. 10 on Goldman Sachs’ stocks that “matter most” to hedge funds list for the second quarter. According to Goldman, 32 funds had the stock as one of their top-10 stock holdings.
And this week we learned that construction machinery giant Caterpillar has now reported global sales declines for 34 consecutive months. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
Most cats bounce at least once when they die, but not this one: after CAT posted its first annual drop in retail sales in December of 2012, it has failed to see a rise in retail sales even once.
In fact, since then Caterpillar has seen 34 consecutive months of declining global sales, and 11 consecutive months of double digit declines!
Those that assume that everything is going to be “just fine” now that we have gotten past September are going to be dead wrong.
Whether it happens in November or not, the kind of chaotic financial collapse that Bo Polny is warning about will happen.
And of course factors that he is unable to account for such as war, terror attacks and major natural disasters could greatly accelerate things.
Once again, I don’t know if everything that Bo Polny is saying is going to turn out to be 100% accurate or not. I am just reporting what he is saying. But it is true that what he is forecasting fits very well with what I have been warning my readers about for months and months.
A day of reckoning is most definitely coming for global financial markets.
Will it happen in November?
The warnings are getting louder. Is anybody listening? For months, I have been documenting on my website how the global financial system is absolutely primed for a crisis, and now some of the most important financial institutions in the entire world are warning about the exact same thing. For example, this week I was stunned to see that the Telegraph had published an article with the following ominous headline: “$3 trillion corporate credit crunch looms as debtors face day of reckoning, says IMF“. And actually what we are heading for would more accurately be described as a “credit freeze” or a “credit panic”, but a “credit crunch” will definitely work for now. The IMF is warning that the “dangerous over-leveraging” that we have been witnessing “threatens to unleash a wave of defaults” all across the globe…
Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.
Emerging market companies have “over-borrowed” by $3 trillion in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004 and 2014, found the IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report.
This dangerous over-leveraging now threatens to unleash a wave of defaults that will imperil an already weak global economy, said stark findings from the IMF’s twice yearly report.
The IMF is actually telling the truth in this instance. We are in the midst of the greatest debt bubble the world has ever seen, and it is a monumental threat to the global financial system.
But even though we know about this threat, that doesn’t mean that we can do anything about it at this point or stop what is about to happen.
The Bank of England, the UN and the Bank for International Settlements have all issued similar ominous warnings. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Guardian…
The IMF’s warning echoes a chorus of others. The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has argued that the world is entering the latest episode of a “three-part crisis trilogy”. Unctad, the UN’s trade and development arm, would like to see advanced economies boost public spending to offset the downturn in emerging economies. The Bank for International Settlements believes interest rates have been too low for too long, encouraging too much risk-taking in financial markets. All of them fear that the global financial system is primed for a crisis.
I particularly like Andy Haldane’s likening our current situation to a “three-part crisis trilogy”. I think that is perfect. And if you are familiar with movie trilogies, then you know that the last episode is usually the biggest and the baddest.
Citigroup economist Willem Buiter also believes that big trouble is on the horizon. In fact, he is publicly warning of a “global recession” in 2016…
Citigroup economist Willem Buiter looks at the world landscape and sees an economy performing substantially below potential output, which he uses as the general benchmark for the idea of a global recession. With that in mind, he said the chances of a global recession in 2016 are growing.
“We think that the evidence suggests that the global output gap is negative and that the global economy is currently growing at a rate below global potential growth. The (negative) output gap is therefore widening,” Buiter said in a note to clients. He added, “from an output gap that was probably quite close to zero fairly recently, continued sub-par global growth is likely to put the global economy back into recession, if indeed the world ever fully emerged of the recession caused by the global financial crisis.”
Usually when we are plunged into a new crisis there is some sort of “trigger event” that creates widespread panic. Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing problems at commodity giants such as Glencore, Trafigura and The Noble Group. The collapse of any of them could potentially be a new “Lehman Brothers moment”.
But something else happened just yesterday that is also extremely concerning. Just a couple of weeks ago, I warned that the biggest bank in Germany, Deutsche Bank, was on the verge of massive trouble. Well, on Wednesday the bank announced a loss of more than 6 billion dollars for the third quarter of 2015…
Deutsche Bank’s new boss John Cryan set about cleaning up Germany’s biggest bank on Thursday, revealing a record pre-tax loss of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in the third quarter and warning investors of a possible dividend cut.
Write downs, impairments and litigation costs all contributed to the loss, the bank said.
Cryan became chief executive in July with a promise to cut costs. The Briton is accelerating plans to shed assets and exit countries to shrink the bank and is preparing to ax about 23,000 jobs, or a quarter of the bank’s staff, sources told Reuters last month.
Keep an eye on Germany – the problems there are just beginning.
Something else that I am closely watching is the fact that major exporting nations such as China that used to buy up lots of U.S. government debt are now dumping that debt at an unprecedented pace. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Five large purchasers of US Treasuries – China, Russia, Norway, Brazil, and Taiwan – have changed their minds. They’re dumping Treasuries, each for their own reasons that are now coinciding. And at the fastest rate on record.
For the 12-month period ended July, sales of Treasuries by central banks around the world reached a net of $123 billion, “the biggest decline since data started to be collected in 1978,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
China, the largest foreign owner of Treasuries – its hoard peaking at $1.317 trillion in November 2013 – has been unloading with particular passion. By July, the latest data available from the US Treasury Department, China’s pile was down to $1.241 trillion.
Yes, I know, the stock market went up once again on Thursday, and all of the irrational optimists are once again telling us that everything is going to be just fine.
The truth, of course, is that everything is not going to be just fine. Ever since I started the Economic Collapse Blog, I have never wavered in my belief that the greatest economic crisis that the United States has ever seen is coming, and I have written well over 1000 articles setting forth the case for the coming collapse in excruciating detail. Nobody is going to be able to say that I didn’t try to warn them.
Those that have blind faith in Barack Obama, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the other major central banks around the planet will continue to mock the idea that a major collapse is coming for as long as they can.
But when the day of reckoning does arrive and crisis coming knocking at their doors, what will they do then?
Warren Buffett once referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction“, and it was inevitable that they would begin to wreak havoc on our financial system at some point. While things may seem somewhat calm on Wall Street at the moment, the truth is that a great deal of trouble is bubbling just under the surface. As you will see below, something happened in mid-September that required an unprecedented 405 billion dollar surge of Treasury collateral into the repo market. I know – that sounds very complicated, so I will try to break it down more simply for you. It appears that some very large institutions have started to get into a significant amount of trouble because of all the reckless betting that they have been doing. This is something that I have warned would happen over and over again. In fact, I have written about it so much that my regular readers are probably sick of hearing about it. But this is what is going to cause the meltdown of our financial system.
Many out there get upset when I compare derivatives trading to gambling, and perhaps it would be more accurate to describe most derivatives as a form of insurance. The big financial institutions assure us that they have passed off most of the risk on these contracts to others and so there is no reason to worry according to them.
Well, personally I don’t buy their explanations, and a lot of others don’t either. On a very basic, primitive level, derivatives trading is gambling. This is a point that Jeff Nielson made very eloquently in a piece that he recently published…
No one “understands” derivatives. How many times have readers heard that thought expressed (please round-off to the nearest thousand)? Why does no one understand derivatives? For many; the answer to that question is that they have simply been thinking too hard. For others; the answer is that they don’t “think” at all.
Derivatives are bets. This is not a metaphor, or analogy, or generalization. Derivatives are bets. Period. That’s all they ever were. That’s all they ever can be.
One very large financial institution that appears to be in serious trouble with these financial weapons of mass destruction is Glencore. At one time Glencore was considered to be the 10th largest company on the entire planet, but now it appears to be coming apart at the seams, and a great deal of their trouble seems to be tied to derivatives. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
Of particular concern, they said, was Glencore’s use of financial instruments such as derivatives to hedge its trading of physical goods against price swings. The company had $9.8 billion in gross derivatives in June 2015, down from $19 billion in such positions at the end of 2014, causing investors to query the company about the swing.
Glencore told investors the number went down so drastically because of changes in market volatility this year, according to people briefed by Glencore. When prices vary significantly, it can increase the value of hedging positions.
Last year, there were extreme price moves, particularly in the crude-oil market, which slid from about $114 a barrel in June to less than $60 a barrel by the end of December.
That response wasn’t satisfying, said Michael Leithead, a bond fund portfolio manager at EFG Asset Management, which managed $12 billion as of the end of March and has invested in Glencore’s debt.
According to Bank of America, the global financial system has about 100 billion dollars of exposure overall to Glencore. So if Glencore goes bankrupt that is going to be a major event. At this point, Glencore is probably the most likely candidate to be “the next Lehman Brothers”.
And it isn’t just Glencore that is in trouble. Other financial giants such as Trafigura are in deep distress as well. Collectively, the global financial system has approximately half a trillion dollars of exposure to these firms…
Worse, since it is not just Glencore that the banks are exposed to but very likely the rest of the commodity trading space, their gross exposure blows up to a simply stunning number:
For the banks, of course, Glencore may not be their only exposure in the commodity trading space. We consider that other vehicles such as Trafigura, Vitol and Gunvor may feature on bank balance sheets as well ($100 bn x 4?)
Call it half a trillion dollars in very highly levered exposure to commodities: an asset class that has been crushed in the past year.
The mainstream media is not talking much about any of this yet, and that is probably a good thing. But behind the scenes, unprecedented moves are already taking place.
When I came across the information that I am about to share with you, I was absolutely stunned. It comes from Investment Research Dynamics, and it shows very clearly that everything is not “okay” in the financial world…
Something occurred in the banking system in September that required a massive reverse repo operation in order to force the largest ever Treasury collateral injection into the repo market. Ordinarily the Fed might engage in routine reverse repos as a means of managing the Fed funds rate. However, as you can see from the graph below, there have been sudden spikes up in the amount of reverse repos that tend to correspond the some kind of crisis – the obvious one being the de facto collapse of the financial system in 2008:
What in the world could possibly cause a spike of that magnitude?
Well, that same article that I just quoted links the troubles at Glencore with this unprecedented intervention…
What’s even more interesting is that the spike-up in reverse repos occurred at the same time – September 16 – that the stock market embarked on an 8-day cliff dive, with the S&P 500 falling 6% in that time period. You’ll note that this is around the same time that a crash in Glencore stock and bonds began. It has been suggested by analysts that a default on Glencore credit derivatives either by Glencore or by financial entities using derivatives to bet against that event would be analogous to the “Lehman moment” that triggered the 2008 collapse.
The blame on the general stock market plunge was cast on the Fed’s inability to raise interest rates. However that seems to be nothing more than a clever cover story for something much more catastrophic which began to develop out sight in the general liquidity functions of the global banking system.
Back in 2008, Lehman Brothers was not “perfectly fine” one day and then suddenly collapsed the next. There were problems brewing under the surface well in advance.
Well, the same thing is happening now at banking giants such as Deutsche Bank, and at commodity trading firms such as Glencore, Trafigura and The Noble Group.
And of course a lot of smaller fish are starting to implode as well. I found this example posted on Business Insider earlier today…
On September 11, Spruce Alpha, a small hedge fund which is part of a bigger investment group, sent a short report to investors.
The letter said that the $80 million fund had lost 48% in a month, according the performance report seen by Business Insider.
There was no commentary included in the note. No explanation. Just cold hard numbers.
Wow – how do you possibly lose 48 percent in a single month?
It would be hard to do that even if you were actually trying to lose money on purpose.
Sadly, this kind of scenario is going to be repeated over and over as we get even deeper into this crisis.
Meanwhile, our “leaders” continue to tell us that there is nothing to worry about. For example, just consider what former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is saying…
Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t see any bubbles forming in global markets right right now.
But he doesn’t think you should take his word for it.
And even if you did, that isn’t the right question to ask anyway.
Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event on Wednesday morning, Bernanke said, “I don’t see any obvious major mispricings. Nothing that looks like the housing bubble before the crisis, for example. But you shouldn’t trust me.”
I certainly agree with that last sentence. Bernanke was the one telling us that there was not going to be a recession back in 2008 even after one had already started. He was clueless back then and he is clueless today.
Most of our “leaders” either don’t understand what is happening or they are not willing to tell us.
So that means that we have to try to figure things out for ourselves the best that we can. And right now there are signs all around us that another 2008-style crisis has begun.
Personally, I am hoping that there will be a lot more days like today when the markets were relatively quiet and not much major news happened around the world.
Unfortunately for all of us, these days of relative peace and tranquility are about to come to a very abrupt end.