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Foreigners Are Dumping U.S. Debt At A Record Pace And Our $20 Trillion National Debt Is Poised To Become A Major Crisis

Dollar Spiral - Public DomainWhile most of the country has been focused on the inauguration of Donald Trump, a very real crisis has been brewing behind the scenes. Foreigners are dumping U.S. debt at a faster rate than we have ever seen before, and U.S. Treasury yields have been rising. This is potentially a massive problem, because our entire debt-fueled standard of living is dependent on foreigners lending us gigantic mountains of money at ultra-low interest rates. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt just got back to 5 percent, which would still be below the long-term average, we would be paying out about a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. If foreigners keep dumping our debt and if Treasury yields keep climbing, a major financial implosion of historic proportions is absolutely guaranteed within the next four years.

One of the most significant aspects of the “Obama legacy” is the appalling mountain of debt that he has left behind. As I write this article, the U.S. national debt is sitting at 19.944 trillion dollars. During Obama’s eight years, a staggering 9.3 trillion dollars was added to the national debt. When you break that number down, it comes to more than a hundred million dollars every single hour of every single day while Obama was living in the White House. In just two terms, Obama added almost as much to the national debt as all of the other presidents before him combined.

What Obama and the members of Congress that cooperated with him have done to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone is talking about this right now, but the consequences are about to start catching up with us in a major way.

The only possible way that our game of “borrow, spend and stick future generations with the bill” can continue is if the rest of the world participates. In other words, we need them to continue to buy our debt.

Unfortunately for us, a major shift is now taking place. According to Zero Hedge, the most recent numbers that we have show foreigners dumping more than 400 million dollars of U.S. debt over the past 12 months…

The wholesale liquidation of US Treasuries continued in November, when according to the just released TIC data, foreign central banks sold another $936 million in US paper in November 2016, which due to an offset of $892 million in buying one year ago, means that for the 12 month period ended November, foreign central banks have now sold a new all time high of $405 million in the past 12 months, up from a record $403 million in LTM sales as of one month ago.

This isn’t a catastrophic emergency just yet, but if we continue down this road we will eventually get there. The only way that the U.S. government can continue on with business as usual is if it can continue to borrow billions upon billions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates. Now that Treasury yields are rising, some people are beginning to get quite nervous

As we pointed out one month ago, what has become increasingly obvious is that both foreign central banks, sovereign wealth funds, reserve managers, and virtually every other official institution in possession of US paper, is liquidating their holdings at a disturbing pace, something which in light of the recent surge in yields to over 2 year highs, appears to have been a prudent move.

In some cases, like China, this is to offset devaluation pressure; in others such as Saudi Arabia and other petroleum exporting nations, it is to provide the funds needed to offset the drop in the petrodollar, and to backstop the country’s soaring budget deficit. In all cases, it may suggest concerns about a spike in future debt issuance by the US, especially now under the pro-fiscal stimulus Trump administration.

Someday historians are going to look back in horror at what took place during the Obama years.

The amount that was added to the national debt during his years comes to “approximately $75,129 for every person in the United States who had a full-time job in December”. There is no possible justification for this. But because there haven’t been any catastrophic consequences so far, most people assume that this theft from future generations of Americans must be okay.

In a previous article, I explained that government debt greatly stimulates the economy. If we had not borrowed and spent 9.3 trillion dollars over the past eight years, we would be in the worst economic depression in U.S. history right now.

But most people don’t understand this. They don’t get the fact that we are living way, way above our means. And they also don’t get the fact that the only way that Donald Trump can keep the party going is to borrow and spend just like Obama was doing.

And even with all of Obama’s recklessness, he was still the only president in all of U.S. history not to have a single year when U.S. GDP grew by at least three percent. The following comes from the Hill

Despite the trillions of dollars in government spending pumped into the economy every year under Obama, America has never once enjoyed an annual GDP growth rate at 3 percent or higher, making Obama the least successful president—at least when it comes to economics—in modern history.

A historically sluggish GDP isn’t the only concern worth mentioning. Under Obama’s tenure, average annual food stamp enrollment has risen by more than 15 million (compared to 2008). The home ownership rate is the lowest it has been since 1995, the earliest year provided in the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 590,000 Americans say they are not in the labor force because they are discouraged, a figure that’s 26 percent higher than even the worst annual average under George W. Bush. Additionally, the employment-population ratio has been continuously below the 60-percent threshold under Obama; the last time it was this low was 1985.

Now that Donald Trump is president, he is going to have some very hard choices in front of him.

If Donald Trump and the Republicans stop borrowing and spending so much money, the economy will immediately start suffering.

But if they do continue down the same path that Obama put us on, it is a recipe for national suicide.

So either we take our medicine now, or we risk completely destroying the bright future that our children and grandchildren were supposed to enjoy.

Wake up America, because time is running out.

It Is Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off All Of Our Debt

Money - Public DomainDid you know that if you took every single penny away from everyone in the United States that it still would not be enough to pay off the national debt?  Today, the debt of the federal government exceeds $145,000 per household, and it is getting worse with each passing year.  Many believe that if we paid it off a little bit at a time that we could eventually pay it all off, but as you will see below that isn’t going to work either.  It has been projected that “mandatory” federal spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare plus interest on the national debt will exceed total federal revenue by the year 2025.  That is before a single dollar is spent on the U.S. military, homeland security, paying federal workers or building any roads and bridges.  So no, we aren’t going to be “paying down” our debt any time in the foreseeable future.  And of course it isn’t just our 18 trillion dollar national debt that we need to be concerned about.  Overall, Americans are a total of 58 trillion dollars in debt.  35 years ago, that number was sitting at just 4.3 trillion dollars.  There is no way in the world that all of that debt can ever be repaid.  The only thing that we can hope for now is for this debt bubble to last for as long as possible before it finally explodes.

It shocks many people to learn that our debt is far larger than the total amount of money in existence.  So let’s take a few moments and go through some of the numbers.

When most people think of “money”, they think of coins, paper money and checking accounts.  All of those are contained in one of the most basic measures of money known as M1.  The following definition of M1 comes from Investopedia

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.

As you can see from the chart below, M1 has really grown in recent years thanks to rampant quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.  At the moment it is sitting just shy of 3 trillion dollars…

M1 Money Supply 2015

So if you gathered up all coins, all paper currency and all money in everyone’s checking accounts, would that even make much of a dent in our debt?

Nope.

We’ll have to find more “money” to grab.

M2 is a broader definition of money than M1 is, because it includes more things.  The following definition of M2 comes from Investopedia

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.

As you can see from the chart below, M2 is sitting just short of 12 trillion dollars right now…

M2 Money Supply 2015

That is a lot more “money”, but it still wouldn’t pay off our national debt, much less our total debt of 58 trillion dollars.

So is there anything else that we could grab?

Well, the broadest definition of “money” that is commonly used is M3.  The following definition of M3 comes from Investopedia

A measure of money supply that includes M2 as well as large time deposits, institutional money market funds, short-term repurchase agreements and other larger liquid assets. The M3 measurement includes assets that are less liquid than other components of the money supply, and are more closely related to the finances of larger financial institutions and corporations than to those of businesses and individuals. These types of assets are referred to as “near, near money.”

The Federal Reserve no longer provides charts for M3, but according to John Williams of shadowstats.com, M3 is currently sitting somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 trillion dollars.

So even with the broadest possible definition of “money”, we simply cannot come up with enough to pay off the debt of the federal government, much less the rest of our debts.

That is not good news at all.

Alternatively, could we just start spending less than we bring in and start paying down the national debt a little bit at a time?

Perhaps that may have been true at one time, but now we are really up against a wall.  Our rapidly aging population is going to put an enormous amount of stress on our national finances in the years ahead.

According to U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, interest on the national debt plus “mandatory” spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will surpass the total amount of federal revenue by the year 2025.  That is before a single penny is spent on homeland security, national defense, paying federal workers, etc.

But even now things are a giant mess.  We are told that “deficits are under control”, but that is a massive hoax that is based on accounting gimmicks.  During fiscal year 2014, the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars.  That is not “under control” – that is a raging national crisis.

Many believe that that we could improve the situation by raising taxes.  And yes, a little bit more could probably be squeezed out of us, but the impact on government finances would be negligible.  Since the end of World War II, the amount of tax revenue taken in by the federal government has fluctuated in a range between 15 and 20 percent of GDP no matter what tax rates have been.  I believe that it is possible to get up into the low twenties, but that would also be very damaging to our economy and the American public would probably throw a huge temper tantrum.

The real problem, of course, is our out of control spending.

During the past two decades, spending by the federal government has grown 63 percent more rapidly than inflation, and “mandatory” spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has actually doubled after you adjust for inflation.

We simply cannot afford to keep spending money like this.

And then there is the matter of interest on the national debt.  For the moment, the rest of the world is lending us gigantic mountains of money at ridiculously low interest rates.  However, if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was just to return to the long-term average, we would be spending more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

So the best possible environment for “paying down our debt” that we are ever going to see is happening right now.  The only place that interest rates on U.S. government debt have to go is up, and our population is going to just keep getting older and more dependent on government programs.

Meanwhile, our overall debt continues to spiral out of control as well.  According to CNBC, the total amount of debt that Americans owe has reached a staggering 58.7 trillion dollars…

As the nation entered the 1980s, there was comparatively little debt—just about $4.3 trillion. That was only about 1.5 times the size of gross GDP. Then a funny thing happened.

The gap began to widen during the decade, and then became basically parabolic through the ’90s and into the early part of the 21st century.

Though debt took a brief decline in 2009 as the country limped its way out of the financial crisis, it has climbed again and is now, at $58.7 trillion, 3.3 times the size of GDP and about 13 times what it was in 1980, according to data from the Federal Reserve’s St. Louis branch. (The total debt measure is not to be confused with the $18.2 trillion national debt, which is 102 percent of GDP and is a subset of the total figure.)

As I discussed above, there isn’t enough money in our entire system to even pay off a significant chunk of that debt.

So what happens when the total amount of debt in a society vastly exceeds the total amount of money?

Is there any way out other than collapse?

You can share what you think by posting a comment below…

The 441 TRILLION Dollar Interest Rate Derivatives Time Bomb

The Derivatives Time BombDo you want to know the primary reason why rapidly rising interest rates could take down the entire global financial system?  Most people might think that it would be because the U.S. government would have to pay much more interest on the national debt.  And yes, if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rose to just 6 percent (and it has actually been much higher in the past), the federal government would be paying out about a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  But that isn’t it.  Nor does the primary reason have to do with the fact that rapidly rising interest rates would impose massive losses on bond investors.  At this point, it is being projected that if U.S. bond yields rise by an average of 3 percentage points, it will cause investors to lose a trillion dollars.  Yes, that is a 1 with 12 zeroes after it ($1,000,000,000,000).  But that is not the number one danger posed by rapidly rising interest rates either.  Rather, the number one reason why rapidly rising interest rates could cause the entire global financial system to crash is because there are more than 441 TRILLION dollars worth of interest rate derivatives sitting out there.  This number comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements – the central bank of central banks.  In other words, more than $441,000,000,000,000 has been bet on the movement of interest rates.  Normally these bets do not cause a major problem because rates tend to move very slowly and the system stays balanced.  But now rates are starting to skyrocket, and the sophisticated financial models used by derivatives traders do not account for this kind of movement.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the global financial system is potentially heading for massive amounts of trouble if interest rates continue to soar.

Today, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds rocketed up to 2.66% before settling back to 2.55%.  The chart posted below shows how dramatically the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has moved in recent days…

10 Year Treasury Yield

Right now, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is about 30 percent above its 50 day moving average.  That is the most that it has been above its 50 day moving average in 50 years.

Like I mentioned above, we are moving into uncharted territory and this data doesn’t really fit into the models used by derivatives traders.

The yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries has been moving even more dramatically…

5 Year Treasury Yield

Last week, the yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries rose by an astounding 37 percent.  That was the largest increase in 50 years.

Once again, this is uncharted territory.

If rates continue to shoot up, there are going to be some financial institutions out there that are going to start losing absolutely massive amounts of money on interest rate derivative contracts.

So exactly what is an interest rate derivative?

The following is how Investopedia defines interest rate derivatives…

A financial instrument based on an underlying financial security whose value is affected by changes in interest rates. Interest-rate derivatives are hedges used by institutional investors such as banks to combat the changes in market interest rates. Individual investors are more likely to use interest-rate derivatives as a speculative tool – they hope to profit from their guesses about which direction market interest rates will move.

They can be very complicated, but I prefer to think of them in very simple terms.  Just imagine walking into a casino and placing a bet that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries will hit 2.75% in July.  If it does reach that level, you win.  If it doesn’t, you lose.  That is a very simplistic example, but I think that it is a helpful one.  At the heart of it, the 441 TRILLION dollar derivatives market is just a bunch of people making bets about which way interest rates will go.

And normally the betting stays very balanced and our financial system is not threatened.  The people that run this betting use models that are far more sophisticated than anything that Las Vegas uses.  But all models are based on human assumptions, and wild swings in interest rates could break their models and potentially start causing financial losses on a scale that our financial system has never seen before.

We are potentially talking about a financial collapse far worse than anything that we saw back in 2008.

Remember, the U.S. national debt is just now approaching 17 trillion dollars.  So when you are talking about 441 trillion dollars you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

Meanwhile, China appears to be on the verge of another financial crisis as well.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

China is on the verge of a “Lehman” moment as its shadow banking system implodes. China had pumped roughly $1.6 trillion in new credit (that’s 21% of GDP) into its economy in the last two quarters… and China GDP growth is in fact slowing.

This is what a credit bubble bursting looks like: the pumping becomes more and more frantic with less and less returns.

And Chinese stocks just experienced their largest decline since 2009.  The second largest economy on earth is starting to have significant financial problems at the same time that our markets are starting to crumble.

Not good.

And don’t forget about Europe.  European stocks have had a very, very rough month so far

The narrow EuroStoxx 50 index is now at its lowest in over seven months (-5.4% year-to-date and -12.5% from its highs in May) and the broader EuroStoxx 600 is also flailing lower. The European bank stocks pushed down to their lowest in almost 10 months and are now in bear market territory – down 22.5% from their highs. Spain and Italy are now testing their lowest level in 9 months.

So are the central banks of the world going to swoop in and rescue the financial markets from the brink of disaster?

At this point it does not appear likely.

As I have written about previously, the Bank for International Settlements is the central bank for central banks, and it has a tremendous amount of influence over central bank policy all over the planet.

The other day, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Jaime Caruana, gave a speech entitled “Making the most of borrowed time“.  In that speech, he made it clear that the era of extraordinary central bank intervention was coming to an end.  The following is one short excerpt from that speech…

“Ours is a call for acting responsibly now to strengthen growth and avoid even costlier adjustment down the road. And it is a call for recognizing that returning to stability and prosperity is a shared responsibility. Monetary policy has done its part. Recovery now calls for a different policy mix – with more emphasis on strengthening economic flexibility and dynamism and stabilizing public finances.”

Monetary policy has done its part?

That sounds pretty firm.

And if you read the entire speech, you will see that Caruana makes it clear that he believes that it is time for the financial markets to stand on their own.

But will they be able to?

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. financial system is a massive Ponzi scheme that is on the verge of imploding.  Unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve has helped to prop it up for the last couple of years, and there is a lot of fear in the financial world about what is going to happen once that unprecedented intervention is gone.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but one thing seems certain.  The last half of 2013 is shaping up to be very, very interesting.

Farewell Bernanke – Thanks For Inflating The Biggest Bond Bubble The World Has Ever Seen

Barack Obama And Ben BernankeFederal 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…

Interest Rate On 10 Year U.S. Treasuries

So what will that “adjustment” look like?

The following analysis is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

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.

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