Warren Buffett believes “that bonds are very overvalued“, and a recent survey of fund managers found that 80 percent of them are convinced that bonds have become “badly overvalued“. The most famous bond expert on the planet, Bill Gross, recently confessed that he has a sense that the 35 year bull market in bonds is “ending” and he admitted that he is feeling “great unrest”. Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller has added a new chapter to his bestselling book in which he argues that bond prices are “irrationally high”. The global bond bubble has ballooned to more than 76 trillion dollars, and interest rates have never been lower in modern history. In fact, 25 percent of all government bonds in Europe actually have a negative rate of return at this point. There is literally nowhere for the bond market to go except for the other direction, and when this bull market turns into a bear it will create chaos and financial devastation all over the planet.
In a recent piece entitled “A Sense Of Ending“, bond guru Bill Gross admitted that the 35 year bull market in bonds that has made him and those that have invested with him so wealthy is now coming to an end…
Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted. They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date. To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date. Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.
And the way that he ended his piece sounds rather ominous…
I wish to still be active in say 2020 to see how this ends. As it is, in 2015, I merely have a sense of an ending, a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. But if so, like death, only the timing is in doubt. Because of this sense, however, I have unrest, increasingly a great unrest. You should as well.
Bill Gross is someone that knows what he is talking about. I would consider his words very carefully.
Another renowned financial expert, Yale professor Robert Shiller, warned us about the stock bubble in 2000 and about the real estate bubble in 2005. Now, he is warning about the danger posed by this bond bubble…
In the first edition of his landmark book “Irrational Exuberance,” published in 2000, the Yale professor of economics and 2013 Nobel Laureate presciently warned that stocks looked especially expensive. In the second edition, published in 2005 shortly before the real estate bubble crashed, he added a chapter about real estate valuations. And in the new edition, due out later this month, Shiller adds a fresh chapter called “The Bond Market in Historical Perspective,” in which he worries that bond prices might be irrationally high.
For years, ultra-low interest rates have enabled governments around the world to go on a debt binge unlike anything the world has ever seen. Showing very little restraint since the last financial crisis, they have piled up debts that are exceedingly dangerous. If interest rates were to return to historical norms, it would instantly create the greatest government debt crisis in history.
A recent letter from IceCap Asset Management summarized where we basically stand today…
1) governments are unable to eliminate deficits
2) global government debt is increasing exponentially
3) 0% interest rates are allowing governments to borrow more to pay off old loans and fund deficits
4) Global growth is declining despite money printing and bailouts And, we’ve saved the latest and greatest fact for last: as stunning as 0% interest rates sound, the mathematically-challenged-fantasyland called Europe has just one upped everyone by introducing NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES.
As of writing, over 25% of all bonds issued by European governments has a guaranteed negative return for investors.
Germany can borrow money for 5 years at an interest rate of NEGATIVE 0.10%. Yes, instead of Germany paying you interest when you lend them money, you have to pay them interest.
These same negative interest rate conditions exist across many of the Eurozone countries, as well as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Negative interest rates are by nature irrational.
Why in the world would you pay someone to borrow money from you?
It doesn’t make any sense at all, and this irrational state of affairs will not last for too much longer.
At some point, investors are going to come to the realization that the 35 year bull market for bonds is finished, and then there will be a massive rush for the exits. This rush for the exits will be unlike anything the bond market has ever seen before. Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal says that this coming rush for the exits will set off a “death spiral”…
Anyone who holds the view that the Fed will not soon raise interest rates,and soon, fails to understand the nature of the developing crisis. It will be led by a collapse of the bond market.
Market forces, somewhat misleadingly called bond-vigilantes, will lead the charge.
I am not as bearish in the short-term on the stock market. The equity markets will be volatile because of the climb in rates and look scary at times but the death spiral will be in the bond market.
As this death spiral accelerates, we are going to see global interest rates rise dramatically. And considering the fact that more than 400 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rates, that is a very scary thing.
And in case you are wondering, the stock market will be deeply affected by all of this as well. I believe that we are going to witness a stock market crash even greater than what we experienced in 2008, and other experts are projecting similar things. For example, just consider what Marc Faber recently told CNBC…
“For the last two years, I’ve been thinking that U.S. stocks are due for a correction,” Faber said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “But I always say a bubble is a bubble, and if there’s no correction, the market will go up, and one day it will go down, big time.”
“The market is in a position where it’s not just going to be a 10 percent correction. Maybe it first goes up a bit further, but when it comes, it will be 30 percent or 40 percent minimum!” Faber asserted.
Where we are right now is at the end of the party. There are some that want to keep on dancing to the music for as long as possible, but most can see that things are winding down and people are starting to head for the exits.
The irrational global financial bubble that investors have been enjoying for the past few years has stretched on far longer than it should have. But that is the way irrational bubbles work – they just keep going even when everyone can see that they have become absolutely absurd. However, eventually something always comes along and bursts them, and once that happens markets can crash very, very rapidly.
The Obama administration and the hotheads in Congress are threatening to hit Russia with “economic sanctions” for moving troops into Crimea. Yes, those sanctions would sting a little bit, but what our politicians should be made aware of is the fact that Russian officials are promising “to respond” if economic sanctions are imposed on them. As you will read about below, one top Kremlin adviser is even suggesting that Russia could abandon the U.S. dollar and start dumping U.S. debt. In addition, he is also suggesting that if sanctions are imposed that Russian companies would not repay the debts that they owe U.S. banks. Needless to say, Russia could do far more economic damage to the United States than the United States could do to Russia. The U.S. financial system relies on the fact that the rest of the planet is going to use our currency to trade with one another and lend gigantic piles of it back to us at super low interest rates. If the rest of the world starts changing their behavior, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble. Those that believe that the United States is “economically independent” are being quite delusional.
In order for U.S. economic sanctions against Russia to be effective, Europe would also have to get on board.
But that simply is not going to happen.
As I noted yesterday, Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the planet. And Russia is also Europe’s largest supplier of energy.
There is no way that Europe could risk having Russia cut off the gas, especially considering the economic condition that Europe is currently in.
To get an idea of just how incredibly dependent the rest of Europe is on Russian natural gas, check out the chart in this article. A whole bunch of European nations get more than half their natural gas from Russia.
And according to the Telegraph, even the UK has already completely ruled out economic sanctions…
Europe would be pushed back into recession, Russia into financial meltdown. This is not the sort of self harm Europe is prepared to contemplate right now. Indeed, thanks to the indiscretion of a UK official, who was snapped going into Downing Street with his briefing documents on display for all the world to see, we know this to be the case. Trade and financial sanctions have already been ruled out.
So the U.S. can do whatever it wants, but Europe is not going to be any help. Perhaps Canada will stand with the U.S., but that will be about it.
On the flip side, the Russian Foreign Ministry is promising “to respond” if the United States does impose economic sanctions…
Russia said on Tuesday that it would retaliate if the United States imposed sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
“We will have to respond,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. “As always in such situations, provoked by rash and irresponsible actions by Washington, we stress: this is not our choice.”
So what would the response look like?
Lukashevich did not say, but top Kremlin adviser Sergei Glazyev is suggesting that Russia could abandon the U.S. dollar and refuse to pay back loans to U.S. banks…
“In the instance of sanctions being applied to stated institutions, we will have to declare the impossibility of returning those loans which were given to Russian institutions by U.S. banks,” RIA quoted Glazyev as saying.
“We will have to move into other currencies, create our own settlement system.”
He added: “We have excellent trade and economic relations with our partners in the east and south and we will find a way to reduce to nothing our financial dependence on the United States but even get out of the sanctions with a big profit to ourselves.”
Glazyev also stated that Russia could start dumping U.S. debt and encourage other nations to start doing the same. The following comes from a Russian news source…
“We hold a decent amount of treasury bonds – more than $200 billion – and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner,” he said. “We will encourage everybody to dump US Treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency and leave the US market.“
Clearly Russian officials understand the economic leverage that they potentially have. In fact, Glazyev seems fully convinced that Russia could cause “a crash for the financial system of the United States”…
“An attempt to announce sanctions would end in a crash for the financial system of the United States, which would cause the end of the domination of the United States in the global financial system.”
On that last point Glazyev is perhaps overstating things.
On their own, the Russians could do a considerable amount of damage to the U.S. financial system, but I doubt that they could completely crash it.
However, if much of the rest of the world started following Russia’s lead, then things could get very interesting.
Just yesterday, I wrote about how China has chosen to publicly stand in agreement with Russia on the Ukrainian crisis.
If China also decided to abandon the U.S. dollar and start dumping U.S. debt, it would be an absolute nightmare for the U.S. financial system.
And keep in mind that the Chinese were already starting to dump a bit of U.S. debt even before this latest crisis. In fact, China dumped nearly 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt in December alone.
The only way that the current bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity in the U.S. can continue is if the rest of the world continues to lend us trillions of dollars at ridiculously low interest rates that are way below the real rate of inflation.
If the rest of the world stops behaving in such an irrational manner, interest rates on U.S. government debt would rise dramatically and that would also mean that interest rates on virtually all other loans throughout our financial system would rise dramatically.
And if that happened, it would be a complete and utter nightmare for our economy.
Unfortunately, most Americans have no understanding of these things. They just assume that we are “the greatest economy in the world” and that nothing is ever going to threaten that.
Well, the truth is that we are rapidly approaching a “turning point”, and after this bubble of false prosperity pops things will never be the same in the United States again.
In order for our current level of debt-fueled prosperity to continue, the rest of the world must continue to use our dollars to trade with one another and must continue to buy our debt at ridiculously low interest rates. Of course the number one foreign nation that we depend on to participate in our system is China. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the planet (including the United States), and most of that trade is conducted in U.S. dollars. This keeps demand for our dollars very high, and it ensures that we can import massive quantities of goods from overseas at very low cost. As a major exporting nation, China ends up with gigantic piles of our dollars. They lend many of those dollars back to us at ridiculously low interest rates. At this point, China owns more of our national debt than any other country does. But if China was to decide to quit playing our game and started moving away from U.S. dollars and U.S. debt, our economic prosperity could disappear very rapidly. Demand for the U.S. dollar would fall and prices would go up. And interest rates on our debt and everything else in our financial system would go up to crippling levels. So it is absolutely critical to our financial future that China continues to play our game.
Unfortunately, there are signs that China has now decided to start looking for a smooth exit from the game. In November, I wrote about how the central bank of China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves”. That means that the pile of U.S. dollars that China is sitting on is not going to get any higher.
In addition, China has signed a whole host of international currency agreements with other nations during the past couple of years which are going to result in less U.S. dollars being used in international trade. You can read about many of these agreements in this article.
This week, we learned that China started to dump U.S. debt during the month of December. Many have imagined that China would try to dump a flood of our debt on to the market all of a sudden once they decided to exit, but that simply does not make sense. Instead, it makes sense for China to dump a bit of debt at a time so that the market will not panic and so that they can get close to full value for the paper that they are holding.
As Bloomberg reported the other day, China dumped nearly 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December…
China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced holdings of U.S. Treasury debt in December by the most in two years as the Federal Reserve announced plans to slow asset purchases.
The nation pared its position in U.S. government bonds by $47.8 billion, or 3.6 percent, to $1.27 trillion, the largest decline since December 2011, according to U.S. Treasury Department data released yesterday.
This is how I would do it if I was China. I would try to dump 30, 40 or 50 billion dollars a month. I would try to make a smooth exit and try to get as much for my U.S. debt paper as I could.
So if China is not going to stockpile U.S. dollars or U.S. debt any longer, what is it going to stockpile?
It is going to stockpile gold of course. In fact, China has been voraciously stockpiling gold for quite some time, and their hunger for gold appears to be growing.
According to Bloomberg, more than 80 percent of the gold that was exported from Switzerland last month went to Asia…
Switzerland sent more than 80 percent of its gold and silver bullion and coin exports to Asia last month, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration said today in an e-mailed report. It imported most from the U.K.
Hong Kong was the top destination at 44 percent on a value basis, with India at 14 percent, the Bern-based customs agency said in its first breakdown of the gold trade data since 1980. Singapore accounted for 8.6 percent of exports, the United Arab Emirates 7.9 percent and China 6.3 percent.
When China imports gold, most of it goes through Hong Kong. We know that imports of gold from Hong Kong into China are at an all-time record high, but we don’t know exactly how much gold China has accumulated at this point because they quit reporting that to the rest of the world a number of years ago.
When it comes to global finance, China is playing chess and the United States is playing checkers. China knows that gold is a universal currency that will hold value over the long-term. As the paper currencies of the world race toward collapse, China could end up holding most of the real money and that would be a huge game changer when they finally reveal that fact…
The announcement of China’s new gold hoard will send shockwaves through the financial markets, and make China and the Chinese yuan (their national currency) even bigger players at the international table.
International banking expert James Rickards compared it to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em poker:
“You want a big pile of chips. The U.S. has a big pile of chips, Europe has a big pile of chips. The U.S. has 8,000 tonnes [metric tons] of gold, 17 members of the euro system have 10,000 tonnes. China at 1,000 tonnes is not a player, but at 5,000 tonnes, they are a player.”
There are some really good points made in the quote above, but I do take exception with a couple of things. First of all, I believe that China now has far more than 5,000 tons of gold. Secondly, I seriously doubt that the U.S. still actually has 8,000 tons of gold or that Europe still actually has 10,000 tons of gold.
As China (and eventually the rest of the world) moves away from a U.S.-based financial system, the consequences are going to be dramatic.
For instance, right now the average rate of interest that the U.S. government pays on debt is just 2.477 percent. That is ridiculously low and it is way below the real rate of inflation. It is simply not rational for anyone to lend the U.S. government money so cheaply, and at some point we are going to see a dramatic shift.
When that day arrives, interest rates are going to rise dramatically. And if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent (and it has been much higher than that in the past), we will be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Even more frightening is what a rapidly changing interest rate environment would mean for our banking system. There are four large U.S. banks that each have exposure to derivatives in excess of 40 trillion dollars. You can find the identity of those banks right here. Interest rate derivatives make up the biggest chunk of those derivatives contracts. As John Embry told King World News just the other day, when that bubble bursts the carnage is going to be unprecedented…
“Stockman brought up a brilliant point, the fact that we have hundreds of trillions of dollars of interest rate swaps, which are polluting the world’s banking system. If we see growing volatility in interest rates, and I think that’s inevitable with what’s going on, that would cause spasms in the financial system. And if something goes wrong in the derivatives market, Heaven help us because the leverage that is imparted to the banking system through these derivatives is unholy.”
Unfortunately, very few of the “experts” will ever see this crash coming.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2000.
Very few of them saw it coming in 2008.
And very few of them will see it coming this time.
I really like what Paul B. Farrell had to say about this…
Early warnings of a crash are dismissed over and over (“just a temporary correction”). They gradually numb us about the inevitable. Time after time we forget history’s lessons. Until finally a big surprise catches us totally off-guard. Financial historian Niall Ferguson put it this way: Before the crash, our world seems almost stationary, deceptively so, balanced, at a set point. So that when the crash finally hits — as inevitably it will — everyone seems surprised. And our brains keep telling us it’s not time for a crash.
Till then, life just goes along quietly, hypnotizing us, making us vulnerable, till a shocker like Lehman Brothers upsets the balance. Then, says Ferguson, the crash is “accelerating suddenly, like a sports car … like a thief in the night.” It hits. Shocks us wide awake.
Don’t let the upcoming crash take you by surprise.
The warning signs are very clear.
Get ready while you still can.
Did you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st? We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“. In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia. And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well. Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion. That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years. Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States. So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?
The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen. Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time. All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads. In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone. That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.
Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money. But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined. You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here. As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…
Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.
The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.
As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.
And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system. The following is from a Reuters article…
The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.
Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.
If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly. A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…
A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well. In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk. Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both. The result? The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.
The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China. According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…
And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding. Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth. Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct. In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.
Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999. That is absolutely insane.
And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting. Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”…
Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.
Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.
If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well. At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years. Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.
But I am not the only one talking about it.
In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…
Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.
Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.
This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.
So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.
It is just a matter of time.
Is the U.S. consumer tapped out? If so, how in the world will the U.S. economy possibly improve in 2014? Most Americans know that the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending. If average Americans are not out there spending money, the economy tends not to do very well. Unfortunately, retail sales during the holiday season appear to be quite disappointing and the middle class continues to deeply struggle. And for a whole bunch of reasons things are likely going to be even tougher in 2014. Families are going to have less money in their pockets to spend thanks to much higher health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a wide variety of tax increases, higher interest rates on debt, and cuts in government welfare programs. The short-lived bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years is rapidly coming to an end, and 2014 certainly promises to be a very “interesting year”.
Obamacare Rate Shock
Most middle class families are just scraping by from month to month these days.
Unfortunately for them, millions of those families are now being hit with massive health insurance rate increases.
In a previous article, I discussed how one study found that health insurance premiums for men are going to go up by an average of 99 percent under Obamacare and health insurance premiums for women are going to go up by an average of 62 percent under Obamacare.
Most middle class families simply cannot afford that.
Earlier today, I got an email from a reader that was paying $478 a month for health insurance for his family but has now received a letter informing him that his rate is going up to $1,150 a month.
Millions of families are receiving letters just like that. And to say that these rate increases are a “surprise” to most people would be a massive understatement. Even people that work in the financial industry are shocked at how high these premiums are turning out to be…
“The real big surprise was how much out-of-pocket would be required for our family,” said David Winebrenner, 46, a financial adviser in Lebanon, Ky., whose deductible topped $12,000 for a family of six for a silver plan he was considering. The monthly premium: $1,400.
Since Americans are going to have to pay much more for health insurance, that is going to remove a huge amount of discretionary spending from the economy, and that will not be good news for retailers.
Get Ready For Higher Taxes
When you raise taxes, you reduce the amount of money that people have in their pockets to spend.
Sadly, that is exactly what is happening.
Congress is allowing a whopping 55 tax breaks to expire at the end of this year, and when you add that to the 13 major tax increases that hit American families in 2013, it isn’t a pretty picture.
This tax season, millions of families are going to find out that they have much higher tax bills than they had anticipated.
And all of this comes at a time when incomes in America have been steadily declining. In fact, real median household income has declined by a total of 8 percent since 2008.
If you are a worker, you might want to check out the chart that I have posted below to see where you stack up. In America today, most workers are low income workers. These numbers come from a recent Huffington Post article…
-If you make more than $10,000, you earn more than 24.2% of Americans, or 37 million people.
-If you make more than $15,000 (roughly the annual salary of a minimum-wage employee working 40 hours per week), you earn more than 32.2% of Americans.
-If you make more than $30,000, you earn more than 53.2% of Americans.
-If you make more than $50,000, you earn more than 73.4% of Americans.
-If you make more than $100,000, you earn more than 92.6% of Americans.
-You are officially in the top 1% of American wage earners if you earn more than $250,000.
-The 894 people that earn more than $20 million make more than 99.99989% of Americans, and are compensated a cumulative $37,009,979,568 per year.
It is important to keep in mind that those numbers are for the employment income of individuals not households. Most households have more than one member working, so overall household incomes are significantly higher than these numbers.
Higher Interest Rates Mean Larger Debt Payments
On Tuesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rose to 3.03 percent. I warned that this would happen once the taper started, and this is just the beginning. Interest rates are likely to steadily rise throughout 2014.
The reason why the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is such a critical number is because mortgage rates and thousands of other interest rates throughout our economy are heavily influenced by that number.
So big changes are on the way. As a recent CNBC article declared, the era of low mortgage rates is officially over…
The days of the 3.5% 30-year fixed are over. Rates are already up well over a full percentage point from a year ago, and as the Federal Reserve begins its much anticipated exit from the bond-buying business, I believe rates will inevitably go higher.
Needless to say, this is going to deeply affect the real estate market. As Mac Slavo recently noted, numbers are already starting to drop precipitously…
The National Association of Realtors reported that the month of September saw its single largest drop in signed home sales in 40 months. And that wasn’t just a one-off event. This month mortgage applications collapsed a shocking 66%, hitting a 13-year low.
And U.S. consumers can expect interest rates on all kinds of loans to start rising. That is going to mean higher debt payments, and therefore less money for consumers to spend into the economy.
Government Benefit Cuts
Well, if the middle class is going to have less money to spend, perhaps other Americans can pick up the slack.
Or maybe not.
You certainly can’t expect the poor to stimulate the economy. As I mentioned yesterday, it is being projected that up to 5 million unemployed Americans could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of 2014, and 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.
So the poor will also have less money to spend in 2014.
The Wealthy Save The Day?
Perhaps the stock market will continue to soar in 2014 and the wealthy will spend so much that it will make up for all the rest of us.
You can believe that if you want, but the truth is that there are a whole host of signs that the days of this irrational stock market bubble are numbered. The following is an excerpt from one of my recent articles entitled “The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory“…
The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before. In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks. These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.
If the stock market bubble does burst, the wealthy will also have less money to spend into the economy in 2014.
For the moment, the stock market has been rallying. This is typical for the month of December. You see, the truth is that investors generally don’t want to sell stocks in December because they want to put off paying taxes on the profits.
If stocks are sold before the end of the year, the profits go on the 2013 tax return.
If stocks are sold a few days from now, the profits go on the 2014 tax return.
It is only human nature to want to delay pain for as long as possible.
Expect to see some selling in January. Many investors are very eager to start taking profits, but they wanted to wait until the holidays were over to do so.
So what do you think is coming up in 2014? Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
A U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash unlike anything that the world has ever seen before. If the U.S. government purposely wanted to damage the global financial system, the best way that they could do that would be to default on U.S. debt obligations. A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented. And that would just be for starters. But don’t just take my word for it. These are the things that top financial experts all over the planet are saying will happen if there is an extended U.S. debt default.
Because they are so close together, the “government shutdown” and the “debt ceiling deadline” are being confused by many Americans.
As I wrote about the other day, the “partial government shutdown” that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event. Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world. In fact, only about 17 percent of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment. This “shutdown” could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much.
On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous.
And if the U.S. government is eventually forced to start delaying interest payments on U.S. debt (which could potentially happen as soon as November), that would be absolutely catastrophic.
Once again, just don’t take my word for it. The following are 12 very ominous warnings about what a U.S. debt default would mean for the global economy…
#1 Gerald Epstein, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “If the US does default, that will make the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy look like a cakewalk”
#2 Tim Bitsberger, a former Treasury official under President George W. Bush: “If we miss an interest payment, that would blow Lehman out of the water”
#3 Peter Tchir, founder of New York-based TF Market Advisors: “Once the system starts to break down related to settlement and payments, then liquidity disappears, as we saw after Lehman”
#4 Bill Isaac, chairman of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp: “We can’t even imagine all the things that might happen, just like Henry Paulson couldn’t imagine all the bad things that might happen if he let Lehman go down”
#5 Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer: “Financial markets are all confidence-based. If that confidence is shaken, you have disaster.”
#6 Richard Bove, VP of research at Rafferty Capital Markets: “If they seriously default on the debt, what we’re really talking about is a depression”
#7 Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao: “The U.S. is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate [in Washington] and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”
#8 The U.S. Treasury Department: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”
#9 Goldman Sachs: “We estimate that the fiscal pull-back would amount to 9pc of GDP. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed quickly”
#10 Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF: “It would be insane to default, but it’s no longer a zero-percent probability”
#11 Warren Buffett about the potential of a debt default: “It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use”
#12 Bloomberg: “Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.”
A U.S. debt default could be the trigger for the “nightmare scenario” that so many people have been writing about in recent years. In fact, it could greatly accelerate the timetable for the inevitable economic collapse that is coming. A recent Yahoo article described some of the things that we would likely see in the event of an extended U.S. debt default…
A default would upend money markets, destroy bond funds, slam the brakes on lending, cause interest rates to spiral, make our banks insolvent, and deal a blow to our foreign trading partners and creditors around the globe; all of which would throw the U.S. and the world into economic disarray.
And of course stocks would crash big time. Deutsche Bank’s David Bianco believes that if the U.S. government starts missing interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds, we could see the S&P 500 go down to 850 by the end of the year.
There would be almost immediate panic among ordinary Americans as well. In fact, it is being reported that some banks are already stuffing their ATM machines will extra cash just in case…
With just 10 days left to raise the debt ceiling and congressional Republicans threatening to force the government to default on its obligations, banks are taking some dramatic steps to prepare for the economic chaos that would result should the brinkmanship continue.
The Financial Times reports that one major U.S. bank has started stuffing its automatic teller machines with extra cash in preparation for a possible bank run from panicked depositors. The New York Times reports that another bank is weighing a plan to advance funds to customers who rely on Social Security and other government payments that could stop in the event of a default.
Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that a U.S. debt default will be avoided.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Democrats are absolutely determined not to be moved from their current position a single inch. They have decided to refuse to negotiate and demand that the Republicans give them every single thing that they want.
And who can really blame them for adopting that strategy? After all, it has certainly worked in the past. Whenever Democrats have stood united and have refused to give a single inch, the Republicans have always freaked out and caved in eventually.
Will this time be any different?
The funny thing is that once upon a time, Barack Obama was adamantly against any increase in the debt limit. The following comes courtesy of Zero Hedge…
But now Obama says that it is so unreasonable to be opposed to a debt limit increase that any negotiations are out of the question.
So which Obama is right?
If the Democrats will not negotiate, a debt default could still be avoided if the Republicans give in.
And that is what they always do, right?
Perhaps not this time. Just check out what John Boehner had to say on Sunday…
“I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way,” the speaker said — with demands to defund, delay or otherwise alter the Affordable Care Act.
Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”
“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”
But will the Republicans really stand and fight?
In the past, betting on the intestinal fortitude of the Republican Party has been a loser every single time.
So we’ll see. Boehner insists that this time is different. Boehner insists that he is not going to fold like a 20 dollar suit this time. In fact, when he was asked if the U.S. government was headed toward a debt default if Obama continued to refuse to negotiate, Boehner made the following statement…
“That’s the path we’re on.”
The mainstream media has certainly been placing most of the blame at the feet of the Republicans, but at least the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to get an agreement reached. The House has voted 26 times since the Senate last voted. Harry Reid has essentially shut the Senate down until the Republicans fold and give the Democrats exactly what they want.
The funny thing is that this could probably be solved very easily. If the Democrats agreed to a one year delay to the individual mandate, the Republicans would probably jump at it. And because of epic technical failures, hardly anyone has been able to get signed up for Obamacare anyway. So a one year delay would give the Obama administration time to get their act together.
Unfortunately, the Democrats seem absolutely obsessed with the idea that they will not give the Republicans one single inch. They seem to believe that this will be to their political benefit.
But this is a very dangerous game that they are playing. The U.S. government must roll over 441 billion dollars of short-term debt between October 18th and November 15th.
If a debt ceiling increase is not in place by that time, it will send interest rates soaring. Borrowing costs for state and local governments, corporations, and ordinary Americans will go through the roof and economic activity will be hit really hard.
And as detailed above, we could potentially be looking at a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.
So let us hope for a political solution soon. That will at least kick the can down the road for a little bit longer.
If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.
If you want to track how close we are to the next financial collapse, there is one number that you need to be watching above all others. The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, because it affects thousands of other interest rates in our financial system. When the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up, that is bad for the U.S. economy because it pushes long-term interest rates up. When interest rates rise, it constricts the flow of credit, and a healthy flow of credit is absolutely essential to the debt-based system that we live in. Just imagine someone squeezing a tube that has water flowing through it. The higher interest rates go, the more economic activity will be squeezed. If interest rates continue to rise rapidly, it will be more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money, it will be more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, the housing market may crash again, consumer debt will become more expensive, junk bond investors will be in for a world of hurt, the stock market will experience a tremendous amount of pain and there is a good chance that we could see the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble implode. And that is just for starters.
So yes, we all need to be carefully watching the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. On Friday, it opened at 2.76% and hit a high of 2.86% before closing at 2.83%. The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is up nearly 120 basis points since the beginning of May, and almost everyone on Wall Street seems convinced that it is going to go much higher.
We are truly moving into unprecedented territory, because we have been in a bull market for U.S. Treasuries for the last 30 years. Many investors don’t even know that it is possible to lose money on U.S. Treasuries. They have been described as “risk-free” investments, but that is far from the truth.
In fact, we could see bond investors of all types end up losing trillions of dollars before it is all said and done.
And those in the stock market will lose lots of money too. Low interest rates are good for economic activity which is good for the stock market. The chart posted below shows that stock prices have generally risen as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has steadily declined over the past 30 years…
When interest rates rise, that is bad for economic activity and bad for stocks. That is why so many stock analysts are alarmed that interest rates are going up so rapidly right now.
And as I wrote about the other day, we have just witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since before the last financial crisis. The stock market already seems ripe for a huge “adjustment”, and rising interest rates could give it a huge extra push in a negative direction.
By the time it is all said and done, stock market investors could end up losing trillions of dollars in the next stock market crash.
In addition, rising interest rates could easily precipitate another housing crash. As the Wall Street Journal discussed on Friday, as the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries goes up it will also cause mortgage rates to rise…
Higher yields will push up long-term borrowing cost for U.S. consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates will rise, and investors are keeping a close eye on whether this may derail the recovery of the housing market, which has shown signs of turning a corner this year.
In one of my previous articles, I included an example that shows just how powerful rising mortgage rates can be…
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent. The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.
Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?
It shouldn’t. 8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.
If you own a $300,000 house today, do you think it will be easier to sell it or harder to sell it if mortgage rates skyrocket?
Yes, of course it will be much harder. In fact, there is a good chance that you will have to reduce your selling price significantly so that prospective buyers can afford the payments.
Let us hope that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries levels off for a while. If it says at this current level, the damage will probably not be too bad.
But if it crosses the 3 percent mark and keeps soaring, things could get messy pretty quickly. In fact, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor survey, the 3.5 percent mark is when the collapse of the bond market is likely to become “disorderly”…
Our latest Credit Investor Survey, conducted July 8-11, showed that 3.5% on the 10-year is most commonly thought of as the trigger of a disorderly rotation – i.e. higher interest rates leading to outflows and wider credit spreads – among high grade investors.
Put differently, 3.0% on the 10-year will not lead to overall wider credit spreads if there is enough buying interest from institutional investors (though note that the 10s/30s spread curve would flatten further, as mutual fund/ETF holdings are concentrated in the belly of the curve, whereas institutional demand is disproportional in the long end of the curve). However, if the probability of a further move higher in interest rates to 3.5% is high – which will be the perception if interest rate volatility is high – certain institutional investors will choose to remain on the sidelines.
Thus there may not be enough institutional buying interest to mitigate retail fund outflows and contain overall high grade spread levels.
So what is causing this?
Well, there are a number of factors of course, but one very disturbing sign is that foreigners are selling off U.S. Treasuries at a pace that we have not seen since 2007…
One of the biggest fears in the financial markets is that foreign investors will stop buying U.S. Treasury securities, causing borrowing rates to surge.
Not that this is the beginning of a frightening trend, but new data from the Treasury Department shows that foreigners were net sellers in June. In fact, this is the largest net sale of U.S. securities since August 2007.
Do you remember all of the warnings that we have received over the years about what would take place when foreign countries started dumping U.S. debt?
Well, it looks like it may be starting to happen.
Unfortunately, there is no way that the party that the U.S. government has been throwing can continue without foreigners buying our debt. We have added more than 11 trillion dollars to the national debt since the year 2000, and according to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff we are facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are in excess of 200 trillion dollars.
Even with foreigners continuing to loan us gigantic mountains of super cheap money, it would still take a doubling of our taxes to put us on a fiscally sustainable course…
Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”
This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.
Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation] would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.
“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”
Can you afford to pay twice as much in taxes to the federal government?
Very few Americans could.
But that is how serious the financial problems of the federal government are.
And all of the above assumes that interest payments on U.S. government debt will remain at current levels. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
Also, all of the above assumes that we will have a healthy financial system that does not need to be bailed out again.
But if rapidly rising interest rates cause the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble to implode, the bailout that the “too big to fail” banks will need will likely be far, far larger than last time.
In fact, once that bubble bursts there probably will not be enough money in the entire world to fix it.
If the picture that I have painted above sounds bleak, that is because it is bleak.
Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I don’t feel I am communicating the tremendous danger that we are facing accurately enough.
We are heading for the worst financial crisis in modern human history, and the debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is going to go away and it is never going to come back.
You can dismiss that as “doom and gloom” and stick your head in the sand if you want, but that isn’t going to help anything. Instead of ignoring reality you should be working hard to prepare your family for what is coming and warning others that they should be getting prepared too.
When a hurricane is approaching landfall, you don’t take your family out for a picnic at the beach. That would be foolish. Unfortunately, way too many Americans are acting as if nothing like the financial crisis of 2008 could ever possibly happen again.
If you deceive yourself into thinking that all of this is going to have a happy ending somehow, you are going to get blindsided by the coming storm.
But if you make preparations now, you might just be okay.
There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.
So watch the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. The higher it goes, the later in the game we are.
There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is. When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little “mini-bubble” in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the tide is now turning. Interest rates are starting to move up steadily, even though the Federal Reserve has been trying very hard to keep that from happening. A few weeks ago, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may start to “taper” the rate of quantitative easing eventually, the bond market had a conniption and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up dramatically. In an attempt to calm the market, the Fed stopped all talk of a “taper” and that helped settle things down for a brief period of time. But now the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is starting to rise aggressively again. Today it closed at 2.71 percent, and many analysts believe that it will go much higher. This is important for the housing market, because mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. And if mortgage rates keep rising like this, another great real estate crash is inevitable.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he could use quantitative easing to control long-term interest rates. He assured us that he could force mortgage rates down for an extended period of time and that this would lead to a housing recovery.
But now the Fed is losing control of long-term interest rates. If this continues, either the Federal Reserve will have to substantially increase the rate of quantitative easing or else watch mortgage rates rise to absolutely crippling levels.
Three months ago, the average rate on a 30 year mortgage was 3.35 percent. It has shot up more than a full point since then…
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan rose to 4.39% from 4.31% last week. Rates are a full percentage point higher than in early May.
And as the chart below shows, mortgage rates have a lot more room to go up…
As mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments.
And monthly payments are already beginning to soar. Just check out this chart.
So what happens if mortgage rates eventually return to “normal” levels?
Well, it would be absolutely devastating to the housing market. As mortgage rates rise, less people will be able to afford to buy homes at current prices. This will force home prices down.
To a large degree, whether or not someone can afford to buy a particular home is determined by interest rates. The following numbers come from one of my previous articles…
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent. The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.
Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?
It shouldn’t. 8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.
And we are already seeing rising rates impact the market. The number of mortgage applications has fallen for 11 of the past 12 weeks, and this has been the biggest 3 month decline in mortgage applications that we have witnessed since 2009.
Rising interest rates will also have a dramatic impact on other areas of the real estate industry as well. For example, public construction spending is now the lowest that it has been since 2006.
And I find the chart posted below particularly interesting. As a Christian, I am saddened that construction spending by religious institutions has dropped to a stunningly low level…
So what does all of this mean?
Well, unless interest rates reverse course it appears that we are in the very early stages of another great real estate crash.
Only this time, it might not be so easy for the big banks to swoop in and foreclose on everyone. Just check out the radical step that one city in California is taking to stop bank foreclosures…
Richmond is the first city in the country to take the controversial step of threatening to use eminent domain, the power to take private property for public use. But other cities have also explored the idea.
Banks, the real estate industry and Wall Street are vehemently opposed to the idea, calling it “unconstitutional” and a violation or property rights, and something that will likely cause a flurry of lawsuits.
Richmond has partnered with San Francisco-based Mortgage Resolution Partners on the plan. Letters have been sent to 32 servicers and trustees who hold the underwater loans. If they refuse the city’s offer, officials will condemn and seize the mortgages, then help homeowners to refinance.
If more communities around the nation start using eminent domain to stop foreclosures, that is going to change the cost of doing business for mortgage lenders and it is likely going to mean more expensive mortgages for all the rest of us.
In any event, all of this talk about a “bright future” for real estate is just a bunch of nonsense.
You can’t buy a home if you don’t have a good job. And as I wrote about the other day, there are about 6 million less full-time jobs in America today than there was back in 2007.
You can’t get blood out of a stone, and you can’t buy a house on a part-time income. The lack of breadwinner jobs is one of the primary reasons why the homeownership rate in the United States is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.
And we aren’t going to produce good jobs if our economy is not growing. And economic growth in the U.S. has been anemic at best, even if you believe the official numbers.
We were originally told that the GDP growth number for the first quarter of 2013 was 2.4 percent. Then it was revised down to 1.8 percent. Now it has been revised down to 1.1 percent.
So precisely what are we supposed to believe?
Overall, since Barack Obama has been president the average yearly rate of growth for the U.S. economy has been just over 1 percent.
That isn’t very good at all.
But remember, the government numbers have been heavily manipulated to look good.
The reality is even worse.
According to the alternate GDP numbers compiled by John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in a recession since 2005.
And now interest rates are rising rapidly, and that is very bad news for the U.S. economy.
I hope that you have your seatbelts buckled up tight, because it is going to be a bumpy ride.