Has the Federal Reserve gone completely insane? On Wednesday, the Fed raised interest rates for the second time in three months, and it signaled that more rate hikes are coming in the months ahead. When the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, it becomes less expensive to borrow money and that tends to stimulate more economic activity. But when the Federal Reserve raises rates , that makes it more expensive to borrow money and that tends to slow down economic activity. So why in the world is the Fed raising rates when the U.S. economy is already showing signs of slowing down dramatically? The following are 12 reasons why the Federal Reserve may have just made the biggest economic mistake since the last financial crisis…
#1 Just hours before the Fed announced this rate hike, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s projection for U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter fell to just 0.9 percent. If that projection turns out to be accurate, this will be the weakest quarter of economic growth during which rates were hiked in 37 years.
#2 The flow of credit is more critical to our economy than ever before, and higher rates will mean higher interest payments on adjustable rate mortgages, auto loans and credit card debt. Needless to say, this is going to slow the economy down substantially…
The Federal Reserve decision Wednesday to lift its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter percentage point is likely to have a domino effect across the economy as it gradually pushes up rates for everything from mortgages and credit card rates to small business loans.
Consumers with credit card debt, adjustable-rate mortgages and home equity lines of credit are the most likely to be affected by a rate hike, says Greg McBride, chief analyst at Bankrate.com. He says it’s the cumulative effect that’s important, especially since the Fed already raised rates in December 2015 and December 2016.
#3 Speaking of auto loans, the number of people that are defaulting on them had already been rising even before this rate hike by the Fed…
The number of Americans who have stopped paying their car loans appears to be increasing — a development that has the potential to send ripple effects through the US economy.
Losses on subprime auto loans have spiked in the last few months, according to Steven Ricchiuto, Mizuho’s chief US economist. They jumped to 9.1% in January, up from 7.9% in January 2016.
“Recoveries on subprime auto loans also fell to just 34.8%, the worst performance in over seven years,” he said in a note.
#4 Higher rates will likely accelerate the ongoing “retail apocalypse“, and we just recently learned that department store sales are crashing “by the most on record“.
#5 We also recently learned that the number of “distressed retailers” in the United States is now at the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.
#6 We have just been through “the worst financial recovery in 65 years“, and now the Fed’s actions threaten to plunge us into a brand new crisis.
#7 U.S. consumers certainly aren’t thriving, and so an economic slowdown will hit many of them extremely hard. In fact, about half of all Americans could not even write a $500 check for an unexpected emergency expense if they had to do so right now.
#8 The bond market is already crashing. Most casual observers only watch stocks, but the truth is that a bond crash almost always comes before a stock market crash. Bonds have been falling like a rock since Donald Trump’s election victory, and we are not too far away from a full-blown crisis. If you follow my work on a regular basis you know this is a hot button issue for me, and if bonds continue to plummet I will be writing quite a bit about this in the weeks ahead.
#9 On top of everything else, we could soon be facing a new debt ceiling crisis. The suspension of the debt ceiling has ended, and Donald Trump could have a very hard time finding the votes that he needs to raise it. The following comes from Bloomberg…
In particular, the markets seem to be ignoring two vital numbers, which together could have profound consequences for global markets: 218 and $189 billion. In order to raise or suspend the debt ceiling (which will technically be reinstated on March 16), 218 votes are needed in the House of Representatives. The Treasury’s cash balance will need to last until this happens, or the U.S. will default.
The opening cash balance this month was $189 billion, and Treasury is burning an average of $2 billion per day – with the ability to issue new debt. Net redemptions of existing debt not held by the government are running north of $100 billion a month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has acknowledged the coming deadline, encouraging Congress last week to raise the limit immediately.
If something is not done soon, the federal government could be out of cash around the beginning of the summer, and this could create a political crisis of unprecedented proportions.
#10 And even if the debt ceiling is raised, that does not mean that everything is okay. It is being reported that U.S. government revenues just experienced their largest decline since the last financial crisis.
#11 What do corporate insiders know that the rest of us do not? Stock purchases by corporate insiders are at the lowest level that we have seen in three decades…
It’s usually a good sign when the CEO of a major company is buying shares; s/he is an insider and knows what’s going on, so their confidence is a positive sign.
Well, according to public data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, insider buying is at its LOWEST level in THREE DECADES.
In other words, the people at the top of the corporate food chain who have privileged information about their businesses are NOT buying.
#12 A survey that was just released found that corporate executives are extremely concerned that Donald Trump’s policies could trigger a trade war…
As business leaders are nearly split over the effectiveness of Washington’s new leadership, they are in unison when it comes to fears over trade and immigration. Nearly all CFOs surveyed are concerned that the Trump administration’s policies could trigger a trade war between the United States and China.
A decline in global trade could deepen the economic downturns that are already going on all over the planet. For example, Brazil is already experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history“, and right next door people are literally starving in Venezuela.
After everything that you just read, would you say that the economy is “doing well”?
Of course not.
But after raising rates on Wednesday, that is precisely what Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told the press…
“The simple message is — the economy is doing well.” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said at a news conference. “The unemployment rate has moved way down and many more people are feeling more optimistic about their labor prospects.”
However, after she was challenged with some hard economic data by a reporter, Yellen seemed to change her tune somewhat…
Well, look, our policy is not set in stone. It is data- dependent and we’re — we’re not locked into any particular policy path. Our — you know, as you said, the data have not notably strengthened. I — there’s noise always in the data from quarter to quarter. But we haven’t changed our view of the outlook. We think we’re on the same path, not — we haven’t boosted the outlook, projected faster growth. We think we’re moving along the same course we’ve been on, but it is one that involves gradual tightening in the labor market.
Just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve really doesn’t understand the economic environment. At that time, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke assured everyone that there was not going to be a recession, but when he made that statement a recession was actually already underway.
And as I have said before, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is ultimately announced that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 was negative.
Whether it happens now or a bit later, the truth is that the U.S. economy is heading for a new recession, and the Federal Reserve has just given us a major shove in that direction.
Is the Fed really so clueless about the true state of the economy, or could it be possible that they are raising rates just to hurt Donald Trump?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but clearly something very strange is going on…
Most Americans do not understand this, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy than anyone else does, and that includes Donald Trump. Politicians tend to get the credit or the blame for how the economy is performing, but in reality it is an unelected, unaccountable panel of central bankers that is running the show, and until something is done about the Fed our long-term economic problems will never be fixed. For an extended analysis of this point, please see this article. In this piece, I am going to explain why the Federal Reserve is currently setting the stage for a recession, a new housing crisis and a stock market crash, and if those things happen unfortunately it will be Donald Trump that will primarily get the blame.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates, and there is even the possibility that they will call for an acceleration of future rate hikes…
Economists generally believe the central bank’s median estimate will continue to call for three quarter-point rate increases both this year and in 2018. But there’s some risk that gets pushed to four as inflation nears the Fed’s annual 2% target and business confidence keeps juicing markets in anticipation of President Trump’s plan to cut taxes and regulations.
During the Obama years, the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor, and this artificially boosted the economy. In a recent article, Gail Tverberg explained how this works…
With falling interest rates, monthly payments can be lower, even if prices of homes and cars rise. Thus, more people can afford homes and cars, and factories are less expensive to build. The whole economy is boosted by increased “demand” (really increased affordability) for high-priced goods, thanks to the lower monthly payments.
Asset prices, such as home prices and farm prices, can rise because the reduced interest rate for debt makes them more affordable to more buyers. Assets that people already own tend to inflate, making them feel richer. In fact, owners of assets such as homes can borrow part of the increased equity, giving them more spendable income for other things. This is part of what happened leading up to the financial crash of 2008.
But the opposite is also true.
When interest rates rise, borrowing money becomes more expensive and economic activity slows down.
For the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates right now is absolutely insane. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s most recent projection, GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 is supposed to be an anemic 1.2 percent. Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we actually ended up with a negative number for the first quarter.
As Donald Trump has explained in detail, the U.S. economy is a complete mess right now, and we are teetering on the brink of a new recession.
So why in the world would the Fed raise rates unless they wanted to hurt Donald Trump?
Raising rates also threatens to bring on a new housing crisis. Interest rates were raised prior to the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2007 and 2008, and now we could see history repeat itself. When rates go higher, it becomes significantly more difficult for families to afford mortgage payments…
The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage reached its all-time low in November 2012, at just 3.31%. As of this week, it was 4.21%, and by the end of 2018, it could go as high as 5.5%, forecasts Matthew Pointon, a property economist for Capital Economics.
He points out that for a homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage fixed at 3.8%, annual payments are $14,000. If that homeowner moved to a similarly-priced home but had a 5.5% rate, their annual payments would rise by $3,000 a year, to $17,000.
Of course stock investors do not like rising rates at all either. Stocks tend to rise in low rate environments such as we have had for the past several years, and they tend to fall in high rate environments.
And according to CNBC, a “coming stock market correction” could be just around the corner…
Investors are in for a rude awakening about a coming stock market correction — most just don’t know it yet. No one knows when the crash will come or what will cause it — and no one can. But what’s worse for most investors is they have no clue how much they stand to lose when it inevitably happens.
“If you look at the market historically, we have had, on average, a crash about every eight to 10 years, and essentially the average loss is about 42 percent,” said Kendrick Wakeman, CEO of financial technology and investment analytics firm FinMason.
If stocks start to fall, how low could they ultimately go?
One technical analyst that has a stunning record of predicting short-term stock market declines in recent years is saying that the Dow could potentially drop “by more than 6,000 points to 14,800″…
But if the technical stars collide, as one chartist predicts, the blue-chip gauge could soon plunge by more than 6,000 points to 14,800. That’s nearly 30% lower, based on Friday’s close.
Sandy Jadeja, chief market strategist at Master Trading Strategies, claims several predicted stock market crashes to his name — all of them called days, or even weeks, in advance. (He told CNBC viewers, for example, that the August 2015 “Flash Crash” was coming 18 days before it hit.) He’s also made prescient calls on gold and crude oil.
And he’s extremely concerned about what this year could bring for investors. “The timeline is rapidly approaching” for the next potential Dow meltdown, said Jadeja, who shares his techniques via workshops and seminars.
Most big stock market crashes tend to happen in the fall, and that is what I portray in my novel, but the truth is that they can literally happen at any time. If you have not seen my recent rant about how ridiculously overvalued stocks are at this moment in history, you can find it right here. Whether you want to call it a “crash”, a “correction”, or something else, the truth is that a major downturn is coming for stocks and the only question is when it will strike.
And when things start to get bad, most of the blame will be dumped on Trump, but it won’t primarily be his fault.
It was the Federal Reserve that created this massive financial bubble, and they will also be responsible for popping it. Hopefully we can get the American people to understand how these things really work so that accountability for what is coming can be placed where it belongs.
The ninth largest economy in the entire world is currently experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history”, and in a country right next door people are being encouraged to label their trash so that the thousands upon thousands of desperately hungry people that are digging through trash bins on the streets can find discarded food more easily. Of course the two nations that I am talking about are Brazil and Venezuela. The Brazilian economy was once the seventh largest on the globe, but after shrinking for eight consecutive quarters it has now fallen to ninth place. And in Venezuela the economic collapse has gotten so bad that more than 70 percent of the population lost weight last year due to a severe lack of food. Most of us living in the northern hemisphere don’t think that anything like this could happen to us any time soon, but the truth is that trouble signs are already starting to erupt all around us. It is just a matter of time before the things currently happening in Brazil and Venezuela start happening here, but unfortunately most people are not heeding the warnings.
Just a few years ago, the Brazilian economy was absolutely roaring and it was being hailed as a model for the rest of the world to follow. But now Brazil’s GDP has been imploding for two years in a row, and this downturn is being described as “the worst recession in recorded history” for that South American nation…
Latin America’s largest economy Brazil has contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016, shrinking for the second year in a row; statistics agency IBGE said on Tuesday. It confirmed the country is facing its longest and deepest recession in recorded history.
Data shows gross domestic product (GDP) fell for the eighth straight quarter in the three months to December, down 0.9 percent from the previous quarter. The figure was worse than the 0.5 percent decline economists had forecast and left the country’s overall GDP down 3.6 percent for the full year following a 3.8 percent drop in 2015.
“In real terms, GDP is now nine percent below its pre-recession peak,” Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, told the Financial Times.
“This is comfortably the worst recession in recorded history,” he added.
It had been hoped that things in Brazil would be getting better by now, but instead they just keep getting worse.
The number of bankruptcy filings has soared to an all-time record high, and the official unemployment rate has more than doubled since the end of 2013. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
In a stunning deterioration, the unemployment rate in Brazil spiked to 12.6% in the rolling three-month period through January, a record in the new data series going back to 2012, according to Brazil’s statistical agency IBGE. Up from 11.8% in the three-month period through October. Up from an already terribly high 9.5% a year ago. And more than double the 6.2% in December 2013.
Meanwhile, hordes of hungry people are rummaging through garbage cans in Venezuela in order to find something to fill their aching stomachs.
Things have gotten so bad that one of President Maduro’s chief opponents has urged citizens to label which trash bags have food in them so that people that are searching through the garbage can find food scraps more easily…
Controversial Priest and opponent to President Nicolás Maduro’s administration Father Jose Palmar posted on social media this week about labeling discarded waste so those looking through it for food can do so more easily and “with dignity.”
Palmar called on Venezuelans to celebrate Lent by identifying bags where food has been discarded for those with no where else to turn. That way, they don’t have to dig through non-edible items to find it.
And previously I have written about how people are so hungry in Venezuela that some of them are actually slaughtering and eating cats, dogs, pigeons and zoo animals.
I keep telling people that this is coming to America, but a lot of people out there don’t want to believe me.
But it is most certainly coming.
Thanks to chronically empty store shelves and severe food shortages, people in Venezuela are losing weight at an astounding pace. In the United States it would be a good thing if much of the population lost this much weight, but in Venezuela it definitely is not…
Three quarters of the country’s population lost an average of over 18 pounds over food shortages in 2016, according to a survey by Venezuelan universities and nonprofit groups. Last year, over 80 percent of foodstuffs disappeared from shelves and many had to get by with one meal a day, Foreign Policy reported.
Venezuela was once South America’s most powerful petrostate. But decades of government mismanagement sent the country into decline. Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez choked the economy with heavy-handed regulations, price controls, and a campaign to nationalize major industries that chased out foreign investments.
Further north, very alarming signs are starting to pop up in Mexico.
It probably won’t happen next week or next month, but there are indications of emerging “liquidity problems” which could precipitate a major debt crisis at some point…
In Mexico foreign investors hold around $100 billion of the country’s local-currency government debt, the most for any emerging market economy. That’s almost 20 times what it was 20 years ago. They also hold billions of euros worth of corporate bonds, which are also showing signs of strain, prompting some Mexican business leaders to call for “new programs” to be implemented before the situation causes “a large-scale crisis” among Mexican companies.
The most ominous sign yet came last week when Bloomberg reported sources saying that the Bank of Mexico (or Banxico, as it is referred to) had sought a swap line from the Federal Reserve in case of “liquidity problems,” which immediately triggered furious denials from Banxico. “I can say clearly and unequivocally that we are not in the process of asking for any credit line from any authority,” said the central bank’s governor, Agustin Carstens, who has postponed by six months his departure from the bank, initially scheduled for May.
One of the biggest problems for nations such as Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico is the strength of the U.S. dollar. During the good times they went into tremendous amounts of debt, and much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars. So when the U.S. dollar becomes stronger, it takes more of their own local currencies to pay that debt back.
And if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates at their next meeting, that will strengthen the U.S. dollar even more and put even more pressure on emerging market economies.
Unfortunately, it appears that this is precisely what the Fed is going to do…
Even one small interest rate increase by the Fedcould have a sweeping impact on U.S. and world economies, Komal Sri-Kumar told CNBC on Monday.
“I think they are going to hike” on March 15, Sri-Kumar said on “Squawk Box,” echoing a theory shared by many analysts. “But that is going to prompt capital outflows from the euro zone, especially with the political risk. It is going to increase the capital outflow from China, and the U.S. economy will feel the impact.”
The global economy is more interconnected than ever before, and pain that starts in one region can rapidly spread to others.
The biggest debt bubble that the world has ever seen is starting to burst, and over the coming years we are going to see financial pain on a scale that would be unimaginable to most of us at this moment.
But even now there are those that would suggest that this colossal debt bubble can continue growing much faster than global GDP indefinitely, and this sort of exceedingly reckless optimism is leading many astray.
Now that Donald Trump has won the election, the Federal Reserve has decided now would be a great time to start raising interest rates and slowing down the economy. Over the past several decades, the U.S. economy has always slowed down whenever interest rates have been raised significantly, and on Wednesday the Federal Open Market Committee unanimously voted to raise rates by a quarter point. Stocks immediately started falling, and by the end of the session it was their worst day since October 11th.
The funny thing is that the Federal Reserve could have been raising rates all throughout 2016, but they held off because they didn’t want to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election.
And during Barack Obama’s eight years, there has only been one rate increase the entire time up until this point.
But now that Donald Trump is headed for the White House, the Federal Reserve has decided that now would be a wonderful time to raise interest rates. In addition to the rate hike on Wednesday, the Fed also announced that it is anticipating that rates will be raised three more times each year through the end of 2019…
Fed policymakers are also forecasting three rate increases in 2017, up from two in September, and maintained their projection of three hikes each in 2018 and 2019, according to median estimates. They predict the fed funds rate will be 1.4% at the end of 2017, 2.1% at the end of 2018 and 2.9% at the end of 2019, up from forecasts of 1.1%, 1.9% and 2.6%, respectively, in September. Its long-run rate is expected to be 3%, up slightly from 2.9% previously. The Fed reiterated rate increases will be “gradual.”
So Barack Obama got to enjoy the benefit of having interest rates slammed to the floor throughout his presidency, and now Donald Trump is going to have to fight against the economic drag that constant interest rate hikes will cause.
How is that fair?
As rates rise, ordinary Americans are going to find that mortgage payments are going to go up, car payments are going to go up and credit card bills are going to become much more painful. The following comes from CNN…
Higher interest rates affect millions of Americans, especially if you have a credit card or savings account, or want to buy a home or a car. American savers have earned next to nothing at the bank for years. Now they could be a step closer to earning a little more interest on savings account deposits, even though one rate hike won’t change things overnight.
Rates on car loans and mortgages are also likely to be affected. Those are much more closely tied to the interest on a 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, which has risen rapidly since the election. With a Fed hike coming at a time when interest on the 10-year note is also rising, that won’t help borrowers.
The higher interest rates go, the more painful it will be for the economy.
If you recall, rising rates helped precipitate the financial crisis of 2008. When interest rates rose it slammed people with adjustable rate mortgages, and suddenly Americans could not afford to buy homes at the same pace they were before. We have already been watching the early stages of another housing crash start to erupt all over the nation, and rising rates will certainly not help matters.
But why does the Federal Reserve set our interest rates anyway?
We are supposed to be a free market capitalist economy. So why not let the free market set interest rates?
Many Americans are expecting an economic miracle out of Trump, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the economy than anyone else does. Trump can try to reduce taxes and tinker with regulations, but the Fed could end up destroying his entire economic program by constantly raising interest rates.
Of course we don’t actually need economic central planners. The greatest era for economic growth in all of U.S. history came when there was no central bank, and in my article entitled “Why Donald Trump Must Shut Down The Federal Reserve And Start Issuing Debt-Free Money” I explained that Donald Trump must completely overhaul how our system works if he wants any chance of making the U.S. economy great again.
One way that Trump can start exerting influence over the Fed is by nominating the right people to the Federal Open Market Committee. According to CNN, it looks like Trump will have the opportunity to appoint four people to that committee within his first 18 months…
Two spots on the Fed’s committee are currently open for Trump to nominate. Looking ahead, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s term ends in January 2018, while Vice Chair Stanley Fischer is up for re-nomination in June 2018.
Within the first 18 months of his presidency, Trump could reappoint four of the 12 people on the Fed’s powerful committee — an unusual amount of influence for any president.
By endlessly manipulating the economy, the Fed has played a major role in creating economic booms and busts. Since the Fed was created in 1913, there have been 18 distinct recessions or depressions, and now the Fed is setting the stage for another one.
And anyone that tries to claim that the Fed is not political is only fooling themselves. Everyone knew that they were not going to raise rates during the months leading up to the election, and it was quite clear that this was going to benefit Hillary Clinton.
But now that Donald Trump has won the election, the Fed all of a sudden has decided that the time is perfect to begin a program of consistently raising rates.
If I was Donald Trump, I would be looking to shut down the Federal Reserve as quickly as I could. The essential functions that the Fed performs could be performed by the Treasury Department, and we would be much better off if the free market determined interest rates instead of some bureaucrats.
Unfortunately, most Americans have come to accept that it is “normal” to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners running our economic system, and so it is unlikely that we will see any major changes before our economy plunges into yet another Fed-created crisis.
The big credit card companies don’t make much money off of those that pay their bills on time, and so they often specifically target less educated and less sophisticated consumers that don’t really understand the dangers of credit card debt. The goal is to find people that will carry credit card balances from month to month, because that is where the real money can be made. The average U.S. household that carries balances from month to month has approximately $15,310 in credit card debt right now. At an average interest rate of about 15 percent, the profits pile up very quickly for the big credit card companies. After all these years, so many of us still have not learned the truth about credit cards, and so credit card debt is absolutely crippling tens of millions of American families.
In 2015, the total amount of credit card debt in this country increased by a staggering 71 billion dollars. In a previous article, I explained to my readers that American consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.
Many analysts are forecasting that the total amount of credit card debt will surpass a trillion dollars by the end of 2016. This is why there is such a crying need for financial education in this nation. Millions upon millions of us are being taken for a ride, and as I mentioned above, the big credit card companies often target those of us that are the least sophisticated about financial matters. The following comes from Bloomberg…
Credit-card companies need people to spend more than they can afford, but not so much that they default on their payments. So they could benefit from targeting individuals who are more likely to have cognitive failings. This is the dark side of behavioral finance.
Some new research by economists Antoinette Schoar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hong Ru of Nanyang Technological University claims to find exactly such a result. The authors use data from a private company that tracks credit-card offers. They find that less educated consumers — who are likely to be less financially sophisticated — are more frequently given offers that include back-loaded costs. Those are plans that start with low rates, but increase later, with extra-high over-limit and late-payment fees. In other words, those are likely to be the borrowers who make bad financial decisions — racking up debt and eventually paying much more in interest. Meanwhile, more educated households tend not to be offered these plans.
Do you understand what that is saying?
The large credit card companies want to find those of us that are the most vulnerable, because that is where their biggest profits can be made.
And of course most of us have gotten into trouble with credit card debt at some point. They don’t teach us how to manage our finances in high school or in college, and so most of us are very financially naive when we first get out into the real world. Card offers are being showered on our young people, and cash-strapped young adults can find it very easy to “buy now and pay later”…
Psychologically, it can be easier for people to pay using a credit card because no paper money is involved, Danford said. A Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend an average of 12 to 18 percent more when using a credit card instead of cash.
“I think that’s one of the traps. It’s almost too easy to use a credit card,” Danford said. “You don’t have to think of the consequences.”
According to 2015 data from Experian, the average American had 2.24 credit cards, up from 2.18 in 2014.
Of all credit card users, what percentage do you think carries a balance from month to month?
Well, according to Time Magazine only 35 percent of those that use credit cards completely pay them off every single month. That means that 65 percent of those that use credit cards do carry a balance…
Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance–they pay off their bill every month, like you’re supposed to. They use credit cards for convenience, and perhaps to generate bonus points and rewards, not because they need to borrow. If you’re a member of this group, you’re known as a “convenience user.” (Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for not being on the hook for high interest rates, but don’t gloat.) The other, more typical credit card users are known as “revolvers” because they don’t pay off their bills in full so the debt revolves. To them, credit limit increases are essentially invitations to spend more. It’s unsettling: “for revolvers, a 10% increase in credit is followed by a 1.3 percent increase in debt within one quarter and a 9.99% increase in debt over the long term,” the study found.
Unfortunately for the big credit card companies and the overall U.S. economy, it appears that U.S. consumers are starting to get tapped out.
Retail sales fell 2.9 percent in April, and then they dropped by 3.9 percent in May. As a result of these declining sales, corporate profits are suffering, and it is being projected that the final numbers for the second quarter of 2016 will show that corporate profits in the U.S. have now fallen for five quarters in a row.
That is not an “economic recovery”. Rather, that is what normally happens at the beginning of a major recession.
And don’t expect this to turn around any time soon, because Americans just don’t have the kind of discretionary income that they once did. The following comes from a New York Post article entitled “A staggering percentage of Americans are too poor to shop“…
Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20 percent of Americans are simply too poor to shop.
These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979.
So much of what is happening right now is very reminiscent of 2008. There was an explosion of credit card debt just before that crash as well.
We should have learned some very hard lessons the last time around, but we didn’t, and so now the pain for American families will be even greater this time.
If you are in credit card debt at this moment, it would be wise to try to eliminate it as soon as you can, because you definitely don’t want to be drowning in debt when times get really, really hard.
If the stock market crash of last Thursday and Friday had all happened on one day, it would have been the 7th largest single day decline in U.S. history. On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 367 points after finishing down 253 points on Thursday. The overall decline of 620 points between the two days would have been the 7th largest single day stock market crash ever experienced in the United States if it had happened within just one trading day. If you will remember, this is precisely what I warned would happen if the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. But when news of the rate hike first came out on Wednesday, stocks initially jumped. This didn’t make any sense at all, and personally I was absolutely stunned that the markets had behaved so irrationally. But then we saw that on Thursday and Friday the markets did exactly what we thought they would do. The chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, David Rosenberg, is calling the brief rally on Wednesday “a head-fake of enormous proportions“, and analysts all over Wall Street are bracing for what could be another very challenging week ahead.
When the Federal Reserve decided to lift interest rates, they made a colossal error. You don’t raise interest rates when a global financial crisis has already started. That is absolutely suicidal. It is the kind of thing that you would do if you were trying to bring down the global financial system on purpose.
Surely the “experts” at the Federal Reserve can see what is happening. Junk bonds have already crashed, just like they did in 2008. The price of oil has crashed, just like it did in 2008. Commodity prices have crashed, just like they did in 2008. And more than half of all major global stock market indexes are already down at least 10 percent for the year so far.
You don’t raise interest rates in that kind of an environment.
You would have to be utterly insane to do so.
The Federal Reserve has thrown fuel onto a global financial inferno that is already raging, and things could spiral out of control very rapidly.
As far as this upcoming week is concerned, we have now entered “liquidation season”. Investors are going to be pulling their money out of poorly performing hedge funds before the end of the calendar year, and as CNBC has pointed out, more hedge funds have already failed in 2015 than at any point since the last financial crisis…
Liquidation season occurs when clients of poorly performing hedge funds ask for their money back. It tends to occur at the end of a quarter or year. In response, hedge funds must sell stocks in the open market to raise the money that needs to be returned to investors.
That means if a hedge fund performed poorly this year; it is probably flooded with liquidation requests right now. In fact, there have been more failed hedge funds this year than any time since 2008.
The dominoes are starting to fall. We have already seen funds run by Third Avenue Management, Stone Lion Capital Partners and Lucidus Capital Partners collapse. Amazingly, there are some people out there that are still attempting to claim that “nothing is happening” even in the midst of all of this chaos.
As they say, “denial” is not just a river in Egypt.
And this crisis is going to get even worse as we head into 2016. Egon von Greyerz, the founder of Matterhorn Asset Management, is convinced that we will soon see “one disaster after another”…
Greyerz predicts, “I think we will have one disaster after another, first in the junk bond market, then in emerging markets and, after that, the subprime markets. Subprime car loans and student loans I see as another massive problem area. It is going to be one thing after another that will unravel. Since 2008, when the world almost went under, we have printed or increased credit by 50% or by $70 trillion, and the world economy is still struggling to survive. I think the real change in confidence will come down when markets come down. . . . I think things will come down very quickly.”
And I think that he is right on target. The global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, and when one financial institution fails, it inevitably affects dozens of others. And the failures that we have already seen are already spreading a wave of fear and panic that may be difficult to stop. The following comes from Business Insider, and I think that it is a pretty good explanation of what we could see next…
- Funds such as Third Avenue and Lucidus close, liquidating their portfolios.
- Investors, spooked by the closures and the risk that they might not be able to get their money out of these funds, make a rush for the exits while they still can.
- That creates even more selling pressure.
- Funds sell the assets that are easiest to sell as they look to reduce risk, which pushes the selling pressure from the risky parts of the market to the higher-quality part of the market.
- Things evolve from there.
If you have been waiting for the next financial crisis to arrive, you can stop, because it is already unfolding right in front of our eyes.
The only question is how bad it is going to become.
In the final analysis, I find myself agreeing quite a bit with Charles Hugh Smith, the author of “A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All“. He believes that the ridiculous monetary policies of the Federal Reserve have played a primary role in setting the stage for this new crisis, and that now this giant financial “Death Star” that they have created “is about to blow up”…
By slashing rates to zero, the Fed ruthlessly eliminating safe returns for savers, pension funds, insurers and the millions of people with 401K retirement nesteggs. In effect, the Fed-Farce has pushed everyone into risk assets–and then played another Dark Side mind-trick by masking the true dangers of these risky assets.
As oil-sector debt blows up, as junk bonds blow up, and emerging markets blow up, we are finally starting to see the real costs of going over to the Dark Side of endless credit expansion and throwing the gasoline of near-zero interest rates on the speculative fires of financialization.
The Fed’s hubris has led it to the Dark Side, and now its Death Star of impaired debt, phantom collateral, speculative frenzy and bogus mind-tricks is about to blow up.
Personally, instead of saying that it “is about to blow up”, I would have said that it is already blowing up.
We have already seen trillions upon trillions of dollars of wealth wiped out around the world.
Energy companies are failing, giant hedge funds are going under, and the 7th largest economy on the entire planet has already plunged into “an outright depression“.
Everyone that warned of financial disaster in the second half of 2015 has been proven right, but this is just the beginning. Now that the Federal Reserve has thrown gasoline onto the fire, our problems are only going to accelerate as we head into 2016.
So for the upcoming year, let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.
Are we about to witness widespread panic in the global financial marketplace? This week is shaping up to be an absolutely critical week for global stocks. Coming into December, more than half of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world were down more than 10 percent year to date, and last week stocks really started to slide all over the world. Here in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down about 600 points over the past week or so, and at this point it is down more than 1000 points from the peak of the market. That brings us to this week, during which the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the very first time since the last financial crisis. If that happens, that could potentially be enough to accelerate this “slide” into a full-blown crash.
And just look at what is already happening. Trading for stocks in the Middle East has opened for the week, and we are already witnessing tremendous carnage…
Following Friday’s further freefall in crude oil prices, The Middle East is opening down notably. Abu Dhabi, Saudi, and Kuwait are lower; Israel is weak and UAE and Qatar are tumbling, but Dubai is worst for now. Dubai is down for the 6th day in a row (dropping over 3% – the most in a month) extending the opening losses to 2-year lows. The 11% drop in the last 6 days is the largest since the post-China-devaluation global stock collapse. Leading the losses are financial and property firms.
Things in Asia look very troubling as well. As I write this, the Japanese market has just opened, and the Nikkei is already down 508 points.
In recent days I have been explaining to my readers how everything is lining up in textbook fashion for another major market crash. In particular, the implosion of junk bonds is a major red flag. Late last week, Third Avenue Management shocked Wall Street by freezing withdrawals from a 788 million dollar credit mutual fund. The following comes from Bloomberg…
A day after a prominent Wall Street firm shocked investors by freezing withdrawals from a credit mutual fund, things only got nastier in the junk-bond market. Prices on the high-risk securities sank to levels not seen in six years and, to add to the growing sense of alarm, billionaire investor Carl Icahn said the selloff is only starting.
“The meltdown in High Yield is just beginning,” Icahn, who’s been betting against the high-yield market, wrote on his verified Twitter account Friday.
Icahn’s comments come as junk-bond investors, already stung by the worst losses since 2008, are the most nervous they’ve been in three years after Third Avenue Management took the rare step of freezing withdrawals from a $788 million credit mutual fund.
What Third Avenue Management just did was absolutely huge. Now investors that have money in any similar funds are going to be racing to get it out. We could be on the verge of a run on bond funds that is absolutely unprecedented. This is so obvious that even CNBC’s Jim Cramer is sounding the alarm…
Friday was a day where Cramer’s ears were burning with concern because of the troubles discovered with a high yield bond fund run by Third Avenue Management. It decided to bar investors from getting their money out of its Focused Credit Fund, because it could not meet demands to get cash back to them in an orderly way.
This was significant because when it tries to sell the bonds needed to satisfy these orders for redemptions, it could destroy the high yield bond market because there are no buyers anywhere near the amount that they want to sell.
“I cannot emphasize enough just how disconcerting this move is,” Cramer said.
I know that for the ordinary person on the street, all of this sounds very complicated.
But it basically comes down to this – anyone that has a lot of money invested in these bond funds is in danger of getting totally wiped out.
In a situation like this, it is those that are “first out the door” that come out as the winners. I like how Wolf Richter explained what we are currently facing…
It works like this: When an “open-end” bond fund starts losing money, investors begin to sell it. Fund managers first use all available cash to pay investors. When the cash is gone, they sell the most liquid securities that haven’t lost much money yet, such as Treasuries. When they’re gone, they sell the most liquid corporate paper. As they go down the line, they sell bonds that have already lost a lot of value. By now the smart money is betting against the fund, having figured out what’s happening. They’re shorting the very bonds these folks are trying to sell.
The longer this goes on, the more money investors lose and the more spooked they get. It turns into a run. And people who still have that fund in their retirement account are getting cleaned out.
Bond funds can be treacherous – especially if they hold dubious paper, which is never dubious until it suddenly is. And when they get in trouble, you want to be among the first out the door.
I would anticipate that we will see more junk bond carnage this week – especially if the Fed raises rates.
And as I have discussed previously, a stock crash almost always follows a junk bond crash. If the Fed does raise rates this week and stocks do start falling significantly, one key day to watch will be Friday. JPM’s head quant Marko Kolanovic has warned that “the largest option expiry in many years” will happen on that day…
This important event falls at a peculiar time—less than 48 hours before the largest option expiry in many years. There are $1.1 trillion of S&P 500 options expiring on Friday morning. $670Bn of these are puts, of which $215Bn are struck relatively close below the market level, between 1900 and 2050. Clients are net long these puts and will likely hold onto them through the event and until expiry. At the time of the Fed announcement, these put options will essentially look like a massive stop loss order under the market.
A perfect storm for stocks is brewing, and this week could potentially be one of the most chaotic that we have seen in a very long time.
But of course the Federal Reserve could decide to surprise us all by not raising rates, and that would change things substantially.
So what do you think will happen this week?
Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…
All over the planet, large banks are massively overexposed to derivatives contracts. Interest rate derivatives account for the biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the notional value of all interest rate derivatives contracts outstanding around the globe is a staggering 505 trillion dollars. Considering the fact that the U.S. national debt is only 18 trillion dollars, that is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible. When this derivatives bubble finally bursts, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out. The key to making sure that all of these interest rate bets do not start going bad is for interest rates to remain stable. That is why what is going on in Greece right now is so important. The Greek government has announced that it will default on a loan payment that it owes to the IMF on June 5th. If that default does indeed happen, Greek bond yields will soar into the stratosphere as panicked investors flee for the exits. But it won’t just be Greece. If Greece defaults despite years of intervention by the EU and the IMF, that will be a clear signal to the financial world that no nation in Europe is truly safe. Bond yields will start spiking in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and all over the rest of the continent. By the end of it, we could be faced with the greatest interest rate derivatives crisis that any of us have ever seen.
The number one thing that bond investors want is to get their money back. If a nation like Greece is actually allowed to default after so much time and so much effort has been expended to prop them up, that is really going to spook those that invest in bonds.
At this point, Greece has not gotten any new cash from the EU or the IMF since last August. The Greek government is essentially flat broke at this point, and once again over the weekend a Greek government official warned that the loan payment that is scheduled to be made to the IMF on June 5th simply will not happen…
Greece cannot make debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund next month unless it achieves a deal with creditors, its Interior Minister said on Sunday, the most explicit remarks yet from Athens about the likelihood of default if talks fail.
Shut out of bond markets and with bailout aid locked, cash-strapped Athens has been scraping state coffers to meet debt obligations and to pay wages and pensions. With its future as a member of the 19-nation euro zone potentially at stake, a second government minister accused its international lenders of subjecting it to slow and calculated torture.
After four months of talks with its eurozone partners and the IMF, the leftist-led government is still scrambling for a deal that could release up to 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in aid to avert bankruptcy.
And it isn’t just the payment on June 5th that won’t happen. There are three other huge payments due later in June, and without a deal the Greek government will not be making any of those payments either.
It isn’t that Greece is holding back any money. As the Greek interior minister recently explained during a television interview, the money for the payments just isn’t there…
“The money won’t be given . . . It isn’t there to be given,” Nikos Voutsis, the interior minister, told the Greek television station Mega.
This crisis can still be avoided if a deal is reached. But after months of wrangling, things are not looking promising at the moment. The following comes from CNBC…
People who have spoken to Mr Tsipras say he is in dour mood and willing to acknowledge the serious risk of an accident in coming weeks.
“The negotiations are going badly,” said one official in contact with the prime minister. “Germany is playing hard. Even Merkel isn’t as open to helping as before.”
And even if a deal is reached, various national parliaments around Europe are going to have to give it their approval. According to Business Insider, that may also be difficult…
The finance ministers that make up the Eurogroup will have to get approval from their own national parliaments for any deal, and politicians in the rest of Europe seem less inclined than ever to be lenient.
So what happens if there is no deal by June 5th?
Well, Greece will default and the fun will begin.
In the end, Greece may be forced out of the eurozone entirely and would have to go back to using the drachma. At this point, even Greek government officials are warning that such a development would be “catastrophic” for Greece…
One possible alternative if talks do not progress is that Greece would leave the common currency and return to the drachma. This would be “catastrophic”, Mr Varoufakis warned, and not just for Greece itself.
“It would be a disaster for everyone involved, it would be a disaster primarily for the Greek social economy, but it would also be the beginning of the end for the common currency project in Europe,” he said.
“Whatever some analysts are saying about firewalls, these firewalls won’t last long once you put and infuse into people’s minds, into investors’ minds, that the eurozone is not indivisible,” he added.
But the bigger story is what it would mean for the rest of Europe.
If Greece is allowed to fail, it would tell bond investors that their money is not truly safe anywhere in Europe and bond yields would start spiking like crazy. The 505 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives scam is based on the assumption that interest rates will remain fairly stable, and so if interest rates begin flying around all over the place that could rapidly create some gigantic problems in the financial world.
In addition, a Greek default would send the value of the euro absolutely plummeting. As I have warned so many times before, the euro is headed for parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is going to go below parity. And since there are 75 trillion dollars of derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the euro and other major global currencies, that could also create a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Over the past six years I have written more than 2,000 articles, I have authored two books and I have produced two DVDs. One of the things that I have really tried to get across to people is that our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world. Big banks all over the planet have become exceedingly reckless, and it is only a matter of time until all of this gambling backfires on them in a massive way.
It isn’t going to take much to topple the current financial order. It could be a Greek debt default in June or it may be something else. But when it does collapse, it is going to usher in the greatest economic crisis that any of us have ever seen.
So keep watching Europe.
Things are about to get extremely interesting, and if I am right, this is the start of something big.
Will rapidly rising interest rates rip through the U.S. financial system like a giant lawnmower blade? Yes, the U.S. economy survived much higher interest rates in the past, but at that time there were not hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives hanging over our financial system like a Sword of Damocles. This is something that I have been talking about for quite some time, and now a Mexican billionaire has come forward with a similar warning. Hugo Salinas Price was the founder of the Elektra retail chain down in Mexico, and he is extremely concerned that rising interest rates could burst the derivatives bubble and cause “massive bankruptcies around the globe”. Of course there are a whole lot of people out there that would be quite glad to see the “too big to fail” banks go bankrupt, but the truth is that if they go down our entire economy will go down with them. Our situation is similar to a patient with a very advanced stage of cancer. You can try to kill the cancer with drugs, but you will almost certainly kill the patient at the same time. Well, that is essentially what our relationship with the big banks is like. Our entire economic system is based on credit, and just like we saw back in 2008, if the big banks start failing credit freezes up and suddenly nobody can get any money for anything. When the next great credit crunch comes, every important number in our economy will rapidly start getting much worse.
The big banks are going to play a starring role in the next financial crash just like they did in the last one. Only this next crash may be quite a bit worse. Just check out what billionaire Hugo Salinas Price told King World News recently…
I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies. I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis. This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).
There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates. The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off. What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.
What is going to be left after the dust settles is gold, and some people are going to have it and some people are not. Then the problem is going to be to hold on to what you’ve got because it’s not going to be a very pleasant world.
Right now, there are about 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there. If interest rates stay about where they are right now and they don’t go much higher, we will be fine. But if they start going much higher, all bets will be off and we could see financial carnage on a scale that we have never seen before.
And at the moment the big banks have got to behave themselves because the government is investigating allegations that they have been cheating pension funds and other investors out of millions of dollars by manipulating the trading of interest rate derivatives. The following is from an article that the Telegraph posted on Friday…
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is probing 15 banks over allegations that they instructed brokers to carry out trades that would move ISDAfix, the leading benchmark rate for interest rate swaps.
Pension funds and companies who invest in interest rate derivatives often deal with banks to insure against big movements in the ISDAfix rate or to speculate on changes to interest rate swaps
ISDAfix is published each morning after banks submit bids for swaps via Icap, the inter-dealer broker, in a number of currencies. The CFTC has been investigating suggestions that the banks deliberately moved the rate in order to profit on these deals.
Given the hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives trades that occur annually, even the slightest manipulation can have a substantial effect. The CFTC, which started to investigate ISDAfix after last summer’s Libor scandal has now been handed emails and phone call recordings that show the rate was deliberately moved, according to Bloomberg.
Essentially they got their hands caught in the cookie jar and so they have got to play it straight (at least for now).
Meanwhile, it looks like the Fed may not be able to keep long-term interest rates down for much longer.
The Federal Reserve has been using quantitative easing to try to keep long-term interest rates low, but now some officials over at the Fed are becoming extremely alarmed about how bloated the Fed balance sheet has become. For example, the following was recently written by the head of the Dallas Fed, Richard Fisher…
This later program is referred to as quantitative easing, or QE, by the public and as large-scale asset purchases, or LSAPs, internally at the Fed. As a result of LSAPs conducted over three stages of QE, the Fed’s System Open Market Account now holds $2 trillion of Treasury securities and $1.3 trillion of agency and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Since last fall, when we initiated the third stage of QE, we have regularly been purchasing $45 billion a month of Treasuries and $40 billion a month in MBS, meanwhile reinvesting the proceeds from the paydowns of our mortgage-based investments. The result is that our balance sheet has ballooned to more than $3.5 trillion. That’s $3.5 trillion, or $11,300 for every man, woman and child residing in the United States.
Fisher has compared the current Fed balance sheet to a “Gordian Knot”, and he hopes that the Fed will be able to unwind this knot without creating “market havoc”…
The point is: We own a significant slice of these critical markets. This is, indeed, something of a Gordian Knot.
Those of you familiar with the Gordian legend know there were two versions to it: One holds that Alexander the Great simply dispatched with the problem by slicing the intractable knot in half with his sword; the other posits that Alexander pulled the knot out of its pole pin, exposed the two ends of the cord and proceeded to untie it. According to the myth, the oracles then divined that he would go on to conquer the world.
There is no Alexander to simply slice the complex knot that we have created with our rounds of QE. Instead, when the right time comes, we must carefully remove the program’s pole pin and gingerly unwind it so as not to prompt market havoc. For starters though, we need to stop building upon the knot. For this reason, I have advocated that we socialize the idea of the inevitability of our dialing back and eventually ending our LSAPs. In June, I argued for the Chairman to signal this possibility at his last press conference and at last week’s meeting suggested that we should gird our loins to make our first move this fall. We shall see if that recommendation obtains with the majority of the Committee.
But of course it should be obvious to everyone that the Fed is not going to be able to reduce the size of its balance sheet without causing huge distress in the financial markets. A few weeks ago, just the suggestion that the Fed may eventually begin to slow down the pace of quantitative easing caused the markets to throw an epic temper tantrum.
Unfortunately, the Fed may not be able to keep control of long-term interest rates even if they continue quantitative easing indefinitely. Over the past several weeks long-term interest rates have been rising steadily, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries crept a bit higher on Monday.
At this point, many on Wall Street are convinced that the bull market for bonds is over and that rates will eventually go much, much higher than they are right now no matter what the Fed does. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article…
The Federal Reserve will lose control of interest rates as the “great rotation” out of bonds into equities takes off in full force, according to one market watcher, who sees U.S. 10-year Treasury yields hitting 5-6 percent in the next 18-24 months.
“It is our opinion that interest rates have begun their assent, that the Fed will eventually lose control of interest rates. The yield curve will first steepen and then will shift, moving rates significantly higher,” said Mike Crofton, President and CEO, Philadelphia Trust Company told CNBC on Wednesday.
If the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries does hit 6 percent, we are going to have a major disaster on our hands.
Hugo Salinas Price is exactly right – the derivatives bubble is the number one threat that our financial system is facing, and it could potentially bring down a whole bunch of our big banks.
But for the moment, Wall Street is still in a euphoric mood. The Dow is near a record high and many investors are hoping that this rally will last for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on that happening. The truth is that the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.
Since March 2009, the size of the U.S. economy has grown by approximately $1.3 trillion, but stock market wealth has grown by an astounding $12 trillion.
And the stock market has just kept on rising even though GDP growth forecasts have been steadily falling.
It doesn’t make any sense.
But Obama, Bernanke and the wizards on Wall Street assure us that there is no end to the party in sight.
Believe them at your own peril.
The people at the controls are completely and totally clueless and we are rapidly careening toward disaster.
Perhaps we should do what one little town in Minnesota did and put a 4-year-old kid in charge.
That kid certainly could not be much worse than our current leadership, don’t you think?