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.
Should central banks create money out of thin air and give it directly to governments and average citizens? If you can believe it, this is now under serious consideration. Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times, they have injected 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs, and we have seen an explosion of government debt unlike anything we have ever witnessed before. But despite these unprecedented measures, the global economy is still deeply struggling. This is particularly true in Japan, in South America, and in Europe. In fact, there are 16 countries in Europe that are experiencing deflation right now. In a desperate attempt to spur economic activity, central banks in Europe and in Japan are playing around with negative interest rates, and so far they seem to only have had a limited effect.
So as they rapidly run out of ammunition, global central bankers are now openly discussing something that might sound kind of crazy. According to the Telegraph, central banks are becoming increasingly open to employing a tactic known as “helicopter money”…
Faced with political intransigence, central bankers are openly talking about the previously unthinkable: “helicopter money”.
A catch-all term, helicopter drops describe the process by which central banks can create money to transfer to the public or private sector to stimulate economic activity and spending.
Long considered one of the last policymaking taboos, debate around the merits of helicopter money has gained traction in recent weeks.
Do you understand what is being said there?
The idea is basically this – central banks would create money out of thin air and would just give it to national governments or ordinary citizens.
So who would decide who gets the money?
Well, they would.
If you are anything like me, this sounds very much like Pandora’s Box being opened.
But this just shows how much of a panic there is among central bankers right now. They know that we are plunging into a new global economic crisis, and they are desperate to find something that will stop it. And if that means printing giant gobs of money and dropping it from helicopters over the countryside, well then that is precisely what they are going to do.
In fact, the chief economist at the European Central Bank is quite adamant about the fact that the ECB can print money out of thin air and “distribute it to people” when the situation calls for it…
ECB chief Mario Draghi has refused to rule out the prospect, saying only that the bank had not yet “discussed” such matters due to their legal and accounting complexity. This week, his chief economist Peter Praet went further in hinting that helicopter drops were part of the ECB’s toolbox.
“All central banks can do it“, said Praet. “You can issue currency and you distribute it to people. The question is, if and when is it opportune to make recourse to that sort of instrument“.
Apparently memories of the Weimar Republic must have faded over in Europe, because this sounds very much like what they tried to do. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to risk going down that road again.
Here in the United States, the Federal Reserve is not openly talking about “helicopter money” just yet, but that is only because the stock market is doing okay for the moment.
Most Americans don’t realize this, but the primary reason why stocks are doing better in the U.S. than in the rest of the world is because of stock buybacks. According to Wolf Richter, corporations spent more than half a trillion dollars buying back their own stocks over the past 12 months…
During the November-January period, 378 of the S&P 500 companies bought back their own shares, according to FactSet. Total buybacks in the quarter rose 5.2% from a year ago, to $136.6 billion. Over the trailing 12 months (TTM), buybacks totaled $568.9 billion.
When corporations buy back their own stocks, that means that they are slowly liquidating themselves. Instead of pouring money into new good ideas, they are just returning money to investors. This is not how a healthy economy should work.
But corporate executives love stock buybacks, because it increases the value of their stock options. And big investors love them too, because they love to see the value of their stock holdings rise.
So we will continue to see big corporations cannibalize themselves, but there are a couple of reasons why this is starting to slow down.
Number one, corporate profits are starting to fall steadily as the economy slows down, so there will be less income to plow into these stock buybacks.
Number two, many corporations have used debt to fund buybacks, but now it is getting tougher for corporations to get new funding as corporate defaults rise.
As stock buybacks slow, this is going to put downward pressure on the market, and we will eventually catch up with the rest of the planet. At this point, many experts are still calling for stocks to fall by another 40, 50 or 60 percent from current levels. For example, the following comes from John Hussman…
From a long-term investment standpoint, the stock market remains obscenely overvalued, with the most historically-reliable measures we identify presently consistent with zero 10-12 year S&P 500 nominal total returns, and negative expected real returns on both horizons.
From a cyclical standpoint, I continue to expect that the completion of the current market cycle will likely take the S&P 500 down by about 40-55% from present levels; an outcome that would not be an outlier or worst-case scenario, but instead a rather run-of-the-mill cycle completion from present valuations. If you are a historically-informed investor who is optimistic enough to reject the idea that the financial markets are forever doomed to extreme valuations and dismal long-term returns, you should be rooting for this cycle to be completed. If you are a passive investor, you should at least align your current exposure with your investment horizon and your tolerance for cyclical risk, which we expect to be similar to what we anticipated in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009.
When the S&P 500 does fall that much eventually, the Federal Reserve will respond with emergency measures.
So yes, we may see “helicopter money” employed in Japan and in Europe first, but we will see it here someday too.
I know that a lot of people out there are feeling pretty good about things for the moment because U.S. stocks have rebounded quite a bit lately. But remember, the fundamental economic numbers just continue to get even worse. Just today we learned that existing home sales in the United States had fallen by the most in six years. That is definitely not a sign that things are “getting better”, and I keep trying to warn people that tumultuous times are dead ahead.
And if global central bankers did not agree with me, they would not be talking about the need for “helicopter money” and other emergency measures.
As stocks continue to crash, you can blame the Federal Reserve, because the Fed is more responsible for creating the current financial bubble that we are living in than anyone else. When the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor and injected lots of hot money into the financial markets during their quantitative easing programs, this pushed stock prices to wildly artificial levels. The only way that it would have been possible to keep stock prices at those wildly artificial levels would have been to keep interest rates ultra-low and to keep recklessly creating lots of new money. But now the Federal Reserve has ended quantitative easing and has embarked on a program of very slowly raising interest rates. This is going to have very severe consequences for the markets, but Janet Yellen doesn’t seem to care.
There is a reason why the financial world hangs on every single word that is issued by the Fed. That is because the massively inflated stock prices that we see today were a creation of the Fed and are completely dependent on the Fed for their continued existence.
Right now, stock prices are still 30 to 40 percent above what the economic fundamentals say that they should be based on historical averages. And if we are now plunging into a very deep recession as I contend, stock prices should probably fall by a total of more than 50 percent from where they are now.
The only way that stock prices could have ever gotten this disconnected from economic reality is with the help of the Federal Reserve. And since the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the entire planet, the actions of the Fed over the past few years have created stock market bubbles all over the globe.
But the only way to keep the party going is to keep the hot money flowing. Unfortunately for investors, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed have chosen to go the other direction. Not only has quantitative easing ended, but the Fed has also decided to slowly raise interest rates. The Fed left rates unchanged on Wednesday, but we were told that we are probably still on schedule for another rate hike in March.
So how did the markets respond to the Fed?
Well, after attempting to go green for much of the day, the Dow started plunging very rapidly and ended up down 222 points.
The markets understand the reality of what they are now facing. They know that stock prices are artificially high and that if the Fed keeps tightening that it is inevitable that they will fall back to earth.
In a true free market system, stock prices would be far, far lower than they are right now. Everyone knows this – including Jim Cramer. Just check out what he told CNBC viewers earlier today…
Jim Cramer was tempted to resurface his “they know nothing” rant after hearing the Fed speak on Wednesday. He was hoping that a few boxes on his market bottom checklist might be checked off, but it seems that the bear market has not yet run its course.
“The Fed’s wishy-washy statement on interest rates today left stocks sinking back into oblivion after a nice rally yesterday,” the “Mad Money” host said.
Without artificial help from the Fed, stocks will most definitely continue to sink into oblivion.
That is because these current stock prices are not based on anything real.
And so as this new financial crisis continues to unfold, the magnitude of the crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.
It has often been said that the higher you go the farther you have to fall. Because the Federal Reserve has pumped up stock prices to ridiculously high levels, that just means that the pain on the way down is going to be that much worse.
It is also important to remember that stocks tend to fall much more rapidly than they rise. And when we see a giant crash in the financial markets, that creates a tremendous amount of fear and panic. The last time there was great fear and panic for an extended period of time was during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and this created a tremendous credit crunch.
During a credit crunch, financial institutions because very hesitant to lend to one another or to anyone else. And since our economy is extremely dependent on the flow of credit, economic activity slows down dramatically.
As this current financial crisis escalates, you are going to notice certain things begin to happen. If you own a business or you work at a business, you may start to notice that fewer people are coming in, and those people that do come in are going have less money to spend.
As economic activity slows, employers will be forced to lay off workers, and many businesses will shut down completely. And since 63 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many will suddenly find themselves unable to meet their monthly expenses. Foreclosures will skyrocket, and large numbers of people will go from living a comfortable middle class lifestyle to being essentially out on the street very, very rapidly.
At this point, many experts believe that the economic outlook for the coming months is quite grim. For example, just consider what Marc Faber is saying…
It won’t come as a surprise to market watchers that “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber isn’t getting any more cheerful.
But the noted bear at least found a sense of humor on Wednesday into which he could channel his bleakness.
The publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” told attendees at the annual “Inside ETFs” conference that the medium-term economic outlook has become “so depressing” that he may as well fill a newly installed pool with beer instead of water.
If the Federal Reserve had left interest rates at more reasonable levels and had never done any quantitative easing, we would have been forced to address our fundamental economic problems more honestly and stock prices would be far, far lower today.
But now that the Fed has created this giant artificial financial bubble, the coming crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been. And the tremendous amount of panic that this crash will cause will paralyze much of the economy and will ultimately lead to a far deeper economic downturn than we witnessed last time around.
Once the Fed started wildly injecting money into the system, they had no other choice but to keep on doing it.
By removing the artificial support that they had been giving to the financial markets, they are making a huge mistake, and they are setting the stage for an economic tragedy that will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in America.
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…
One of the most important banks in the western world says that the 7th largest economy on the entire planet has entered a full-blown economic depression. Brazil’s economy has now contracted for three quarters in a row, and many analysts believe that things are going to get far worse before they have a chance to get any better. Earlier this year, I warned about “the South American financial crisis of 2015“, and now it is in full swing. The surging U.S. dollar is absolutely crushing emerging markets such as Brazil, and if the Fed raises interest rates this month that is going to make the pain even worse. The global financial system is more interconnected than ever before, and the decisions made by the Federal Reserve truly do have global consequences. So much of the “hot money” that was created by the Fed poured into emerging markets such as Brazil during the good times, but now the process is starting to reverse itself. At this point, it is hard to see how much of South America is going to avoid a complete and total economic disaster.
It is one thing for Michael Snyder from the Economic Collapse Blog to say that the Brazilian economy has entered a “depression”, but it is another thing entirely when Goldman Sachs comes out and publicly says it. The following comes from a Bloomberg article that was just posted entitled “Goldman Warns of Brazil Depression After GDP Plunges Again“…
Latin America’s largest economy shrank more than analysts forecast, as rising unemployment and higher inflation sapped domestic demand, pulling the nation deeper into what Goldman Sachs now calls “an outright depression.”
Gross domestic product in Brazil contracted 1.7 percent in the three months ended in September, after a revised 2.1 percent drop the previous quarter, the national statistics institute said in Rio de Janeiro. That’s worse than all but three estimates from 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, whose median forecast was for a 1.2 percent decline. It also marks the first three-quarter contraction since the institute’s series began in 1996, and a seasonally adjusted annual drop of 6.7 percent.
And when you look deeper into the numbers they become even more disturbing.
Unemployment is rising, consumer spending is way down, and investment spending is absolutely collapsing. Here is some of the data that Goldman Sachs just released that comes via Zero Hedge…
Private consumption has now declined for three consecutive quarters (at an average quarterly rate of -8.5% qoq sa, annualized), and investment spending for nine consecutive quarters (at an average rate of -10.0% qoq sa, annualized). Overall, gross fixed investment declined by a cumulative 21% from 2Q2013. The declining capital stock of the economy (declining capital-labor ratio) hurts productivity growth and limits even further potential GDP. The sharp contraction of real activity during 3Q was broad-based: both on the supply and final demand side. Final domestic demand weakened sharply during 3Q2015 (-1.7% qoq sa and -6.0% yoy) with private consumption down 1.5% qoq sa (-4.5% yoy) and gross fixed investment down 4.0% qoq sa (-15.0% yoy). Finally, on the supply side, we highlight that the large labor intensive services sector retrenched again at the margin (-1.0% qoq sa; -2.9% yoy).
The term “economic depression” is not something that should be used lightly, because it conjures up images of the Great Depression of the 1930s. And the Brazilian economy is very important to the global economic system. As I mentioned above, there are only six countries in the entire world that have a larger economy, and Brazil accounts for more than 242 billion dollars worth of exports every year.
So if Brazil is feeling pain, it is going to affect all of us.
Up to this point, everyone had been calling what has been going on in Brazil a “recession”, but now Goldman Sachs is the first major bank to label it “an outright economic depression”…
“What started as a recession driven by the adjustment needs of an economy that accumulated large macro imbalances is now mutating into an outright economic depression given the deep contraction of domestic demand,” Alberto Ramos, chief Latin America economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote in a report Tuesday.
Of course Brazil is far from alone. The third largest economy on the globe, Japan, has also now slipped into recession territory. So has Russia. And just today we learned that Canadian GDP is plunging…
Who could have seen that coming? It appears, for America’s northern brethren, low oil prices are unequivocally terrible. Against expectations of a flat 0.0% unchanged September, Canadian GDP plunged 0.5% – its largest MoM drop since March 2009 and the biggest miss since Dec 2008.
It is just a matter of time before this global economic downturn catches up with us here in the U.S. too.
In fact, there is evidence that this is already happening.
According to brand new numbers that just came out, manufacturing activity in the U.S. is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession…
Manufacturing in the U.S. unexpectedly contracted in November at the fastest pace since the last recession as elevated inventories led to cutbacks in orders and production.
The Institute for Supply Management’s index dropped to 48.6, the lowest level since June 2009, from 50.1 in October, a report from the Tempe, Arizona-based group showed Tuesday. The November figure was weaker than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey. Readings less than 50 indicate contraction.
Another indicator that I am watching is the velocity of money.
When an economy is healthy, money tends to flow fairly freely. I buy something from you, and then you buy something from someone else, etc.
But when economic conditions start to get tough, people start to hold on to their money. That means that money doesn’t change hands as quickly and the velocity of money goes down. As you can see below, the velocity of money has declined during every single recession since 1960…
When a recession ends, the velocity of money normally starts going back up.
But a funny thing happened when the last recession ended. The velocity of money ticked up slightly, but then it started going down steadily. In fact, it has kept on declining ever since and it has now hit a brand new all-time record low.
This is not normal. Yes, Wall Street is temporarily flying high for the moment, but the underlying economic fundamentals are all screaming that something is horribly wrong.
A global crisis has begun, and the U.S. will not be immune from it. I truly believe that we are heading toward the worst economic downturn that any of us have ever experienced.
But there are many out there that insist that nothing is the matter and that happy times are ahead.
So who is right and who is wrong?
We will just have to wait and see…
I was absolutely stunned to learn that the Baltic Dry Shipping Index had plummeted to a new all-time record low of 504 at one point on Thursday. I have written a number of articles lately about the dramatic slowdown in global trade, but I didn’t realize that things had gotten quite this bad already. Not even during the darkest moments of the last financial crisis did the Baltic Dry Shipping Index drop this low. Something doesn’t seem to be adding up, because the mainstream media keeps telling us that the global economy is doing just fine. In fact, the Federal Reserve is so confident in our “economic recovery” that they are getting ready to raise interest rates. Of course the truth is that there is no “economic recovery” on the horizon. In fact, as I wrote about yesterday, there are signs all around us that are indicating that we are heading directly into another major economic crisis. This staggering decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is just another confirmation of what is directly ahead of us.
Overall, the Baltic Dry Index is down more than 60 percent over the past 12 months. Global demand for shipping is absolutely collapsing, and yet very few “experts” seem alarmed by this. If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Shipping Index, the following is a pretty good definition from Investopedia…
A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).
The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of three sub-indexes that measure different sizes of dry bulk carriers (merchant ships) – Capesize, Supramax and Panamax. Multiple geographic routes are evaluated for each index to give depth to the index’s composite measurement.
It is also known as the “Dry Bulk Index”.
Much of the decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is being blamed on China. The following comes from a Bloomberg report that was posted on Thursday…
The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.
So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are playing out once again in front of our very eyes. Below, I have shared a chart that was posted by Zero Hedge, and it shows how the Baltic Dry Shipping Index absolutely collapsed in 2008 as we headed into a major financial crisis. Well, now the Index is collapsing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point back in 2008…
The evidence continues to mount that we are steamrolling toward a deflationary economic slowdown that is worldwide in scope.
Just look at the price of U.S. oil. It just keeps on falling, and as I write this article it is sitting at $40.40.
The price of oil collapsed just before the financial crisis of 2008, and the same pattern is happening again.
And look at what is happening to commodities. The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index has plummeted to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession. It is now down more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and it continues to fall.
So don’t be fooled by the temporary “stock market recovery” that we have witnessed. The underlying economic fundamentals continue to decline. We are entering a global deflationary recession, and the stock market will get the memo at some point just like we saw in 2008.
At this moment, global financial markets are teetering on the brink, and all it is going to take is some kind of major trigger event to send them tumbling over the edge.
And such an event may be coming sooner than you may think.
We live at a time when global terrorism is surging, relationships between nations are deteriorating and our planet is shaking in wild and unpredictable ways.
It wouldn’t take much to push the financial world into full-blown panic mode. A major regional war in the Middle East, a terror attack that kills thousands, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption that affects a large U.S. city are all potential examples of “black swan events” which could fit the bill.
The global financial system has never been more primed for another 2008-style crisis. Thanks to the fragility of the system, it could literally happen any day now.
So keep your eyes open – within weeks our world could be completely and totally different.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced legislation that would deal a tremendous blow to the U.S. dollar. If Putin gets his way, and he almost certainly will, the U.S. dollar will be eliminated from trade between nations that belong to the Commonwealth of Independent States. In addition to Russia, that list of countries includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Obviously this would not mean “the death of the dollar”, but it would be a very significant step toward the end of the era of the absolute dominance of the U.S. dollar. Most people don’t realize this, but more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than are used inside this country. If the rest of the planet decides to stop accumulating dollars, using them to trade with one another, and loaning them back to us at ultra-low interest rates, we are going to be in for a world of hurt. Unfortunately for us, it is only a matter of time until that happens.
When I first read the following excerpt from a recent RT article, I was absolutely stunned…
Russian President Vladimir Putin has drafted a bill that aims to eliminate the US dollar and the euro from trade between CIS countries.
This means the creation of a single financial market between Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
“This would help expand the use of national currencies in foreign trade payments and financial services and thus create preconditions for greater liquidity of domestic currency markets”, said a statement from Kremlin.
For a long time, tensions have been building between the United States and Russia over Syria, Ukraine, the price of oil and a whole host of other issues. But I didn’t anticipate that things would get to this level quite yet. It is expected that Putin’s new bill will become law, and this is only one element of a much larger trend that is now developing.
You see, the truth is that Russia and China have both been dumping dollar-denominated assets for months. The following comes from a recent piece by Mac Slavo…
Last year Russia began unloading massive amounts of their US dollar reserves. In the month of December 2014 alone Putin sold some 20% of the country’s U.S. Treasurys, a move that further increased tensions surrounding what can only be described as economic warfare between East and West.
Then, as if part of a coordinated effort, this summer it was revealed that China had implemented a similar strategy, dumping half a trillion in dollar denominated assets.
But that’s just the beginning of the end for the US dollar. Amid a major meltdown in Chinese stock markets the People’s Republic sold off billions in dollar assets last week in what was reported to be an effort to stabilize their collapsing financial markets.
And now, as Russia’s economy collapses under the weight of American and European sanctions, including what many believe to be widespread downward manipulation of oil prices, Vladimir Putin is sending a clear signal to the central bank of the world’s reserve currency.
China has the second largest economy on the entire planet, and Russia has the tenth largest. In recent years, these two superpowers have become much tighter. For example, just consider this headline from Sputnik News that I came across just today: “Crippling US Foreign Policy Draws Russia, China Closer Together“.
And I don’t know if you have noticed, but U.S. relations with China have turned rather sour lately. Lots of accusations about spying and trade violations have been flying around, and just this week five Chinese warships were spotted off the coast of Alaska. In the months ahead, expect our relationship with China to continue to unravel.
If China and Russia were to both fundamentally reject the U.S. dollar at some point, much of the rest of the world may choose to follow suit.
So why is that important?
The fact that most of the nations of the world use our dollars to trade with one another creates a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency. In other words, the U.S. dollar is valued much higher than it otherwise would be just because it is the de facto reserve currency of the planet.
As a result, we can import massive amounts of products at super cheap prices. When we go to Wal-Mart or the dollar store, we can fill up our carts with lots and lots of ridiculously inexpensive stuff. Our standard of living is way higher than it actually should be.
And because the U.S. dollar is used so widely in global trade, major exporting nations end up with giant piles of our currency which they have been willing to lend back to us at ultra-low interest rates. This has made it possible to fund our massively bloated federal government and to go 18 trillion dollars in debt.
If the rest of the world stops using our dollars and stops playing our game, we will be in a tremendous amount of trouble. The cost of imported products would absolutely skyrocket and our standard of living would go way down.
In addition, the federal government (along with state and local governments) would have to pay much more to borrow money which would rapidly create a gigantic debt crisis.
So Russia knows where they could really hurt us. Most of the “power” that America currently projects around the world is based on having the de facto reserve currency of the planet. If you take our financial power away, we would be far, far less imposing on the global stage. Sadly, the truth is that the U.S. military is rapidly shrinking and has largely been defanged by the Obama administration.
A lot of people that will read this article will not understand this, but it is very, very important to keep an eye on this emerging Russian/Chinese alliance. I believe that it is going to play a critical role in world events during the years ahead.
So do you agree with me or do you disagree? Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…
Every great con game eventually comes to an end. For years, global central banks have been manipulating the financial marketplace with their monetary voodoo. Somehow, they have convinced investors around the world to invest tens of trillions of dollars into bonds that provide a return that is way under the real rate of inflation. For quite a long time I have been insisting that this is highly irrational. Why would any rational investor want to put money into investments that will make them poorer on a purchasing power basis in the long run? And when any central bank initiates a policy of “quantitative easing”, any rational investor should immediately start demanding a higher rate of return on the bonds of that nation. Creating money out of thin air and pumping into the financial system devalues all existing money and creates inflation. Therefore, rational investors should respond by driving interest rates up. Instead, central banks told everyone that interest rates would be forced down, and that is precisely what happened. But now things have shifted. Investors are starting to behave more rationally and the central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and that is a very bad sign for the rest of 2015.
And of course it isn’t just bond yields that are out of control. No matter how hard they try, financial authorities in Europe can’t seem to fix the problems in Greece, and the problems in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France just continue to escalate as well. This week, Greece became the very first nation to miss a payment to the IMF since the 1980s. We’ll discuss that some more in a moment.
Over in Asia, stocks are fluctuating very wildly. The Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 5.4 percent on Thursday before regaining all of those losses and actually closing with a gain of 0.8 percent. When we see this kind of extreme volatility, it is a very bad sign. It is during times of extreme volatility that markets crash.
Remember, stocks generally tend to go up during calm markets, and they generally tend to go down during choppy markets. So most investors do not want to see lots of volatility. Unfortunately, that is precisely what we are witnessing all over the world right now. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
“Volatility over the last days has been breathtaking, especially in bond markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, senior investment strategist at Russell Investments. He said that it rippled through equity and currency markets, which overreacted.
The yield on the benchmark German 10-year bond touched 0.99%, its highest level since September, before erasing the day’s rise and falling back to 0.84%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, which hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.42% earlier Thursday, recently fell back to 2.33%. Yields rise as prices fall.
Sometimes when bond yields go up, it is because investors are taking money out of bonds and putting it into stocks because they are feeling really good about where the stock market is heading. This is not one of those times. As Peter Tchir has noted, the huge moves in the bond market that we are now seeing are the result of “sheer panic in the market”…
In a morning note before the open, Brean Capital’s Peter Tchir wrote: “It is time to reduce US equity holdings for the near term and look for a 3% to 5% move lower. The Treasury weakness is NOT a ‘risk on’ trade it is a ‘risk off’ trade, where low yields are viewed as a risk asset and not a safe haven.” And Tom di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates and credit at ED&F Man Capital Markets, told Bloomberg, “This is sheer panic in the market from the standpoint of what’s been happening in Europe … Most of Wall Street is guarded here as far as taking on new positions.”
But this wasn’t supposed to happen.
After watching the Federal Reserve be able to successfully use quantitative easing to drive down interest rates, the European Central Bank decided to try the same thing. Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to behave more rationally. The central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and bond yields are soaring. I think that Peter Boockvar summarized where we are currently at very well when he stated the following…
I’ve said this before but I’m sorry, I need to say it again. What we are witnessing in global markets is the inherent contradiction writ large that is modern day monetary policy where dangerously ZIRP, NIRP and QE are considered conventional policies. The contradiction is simply this: the desire for higher inflation if fulfilled will result in higher interest rates that central banks are trying so hard and desperately to suppress.
Outside of the short end of the curve, markets will always win for better or worse and that is clearly evident now. The ECB is getting their first taste of the market talking back and in quite the violent way. In the US, the bond market is watching the Fed drag its feet (its never-ending) with wanting to raise interest rates and finally said enough is enough. The US Treasury market is tightening for them. Since mid April, the 5 yr note yield is higher by 40 bps, the 10 yr is up by 55 bps and the 30 yr yield is up by 65 bps.
And if global investors continue to move in a rational direction, this is just the beginning. Bond yields all over the planet should be much, much higher than they are right now. What that means is that bond prices potentially have a tremendous amount of room to go down.
One thing that could accelerate the global bond crash is the crisis in Greece. Negotiations between the Greeks and their creditors have been dragging on for four months, and no agreement has been reached. Now, Greece has missed the loan payment that was due to the IMF on June 5th, and it is asking the IMF to bundle all of the payments that are due this month into one giant payment at the end of June…
Greece has asked to bundle its four debt payments to the International Monetary Fund that fall due in June so that it can pay them in one batch at the end of the month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.
The request is expected to be approved by the IMF, the newspaper said. That would mean Greece does not have to pay the first tranche of 300 million euros that falls due on Friday.
Greece faces a total bill of 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF over four installments this month.
Of course that payment will not be made either if a deal does not happen by then. And with each passing day, a deal seems less and less likely. At this point, the package of “economic reforms” that the creditors are demanding from Greece is completely unacceptable to Syriza. The following comes from an article in the Guardian…
Fresh from talks in Brussels, Tsipras faced outrage on Thursday from highly skeptical members of his own Syriza party. A five-page ultimatum from creditors, presented by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was variously described as shocking, provocative, disgraceful and dishonourable.
“It will never pass,” said Greece’s deputy social security minister, Dimitris Stratoulis. “If they don’t back down, the country won’t be lost … there are alternatives that would cost less than our signing a disgraceful and dishonourable agreement.”
Ultimately, I don’t believe that we are going to see an agreement.
Well, I tend to agree with this bit of analysis from Andrew Lilico…
The Eurozone does not want to make any compromise with the current Greek government because (a) they don’t believe they need to because Greek threats to leave the euro are empty both because internal polling suggests Greeks don’t want to leave and because if they did leave that doesn’t really constitute any threat to the euro; (b) because they (particularly perhaps Angela Merkel) believe that under enough pressure the Greek government might collapse and be replaced by a more cooperative government, as has happened repeatedly before in the Eurozone crisis including in Italy and Greece itself; and (c) because any deal with Greece that is seen to involve or be presentable as any victory for the Greek government would threaten the political positions of governments in several Eurozone states including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and perhaps even the Netherlands and Germany.
Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the Eurozone creditors at this stage would have much interest in any deal based upon promises, regardless of how much the Greek had verbally surrendered. Things have gone too far now for mere words to work. They would need to see the Greeks deliver actions — tangible economic reforms and tangible, credible primary surplus targets and a sustainable change in the long-term political mood within Greece that meant other Eurozone states might eventually get their money back. That is almost certainly not doable at all with the current Greek government. The only deal possible would be with some replacement Greek government that had come in precisely on the basis that it did want to do a deal and did want to pay the creditors back.
On the Syriza side, I see no more appetite for a deal. They believe that austerity has been ruinous for the lives of Greeks and that decades more austerity would mean decades more Greek economic misery. From their point of view, default or even exit from the euro, even if economically painful in the short term, would be better than continuing with austerity now.
You can read the rest of his excellent article right here.
Without a deal, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields over in Europe will go through the roof. I am fully convinced that this is the beginning of the end for the eurozone as it is currently constituted, and that we stand on the verge of a great European financial crisis.
And of course the financial crisis that is coming won’t just be in Europe. The global financial system is more interconnected than ever, and there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are tied to foreign exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are tied to interest rates. When this giant house of cards collapses, the central banks won’t be able to stop it.
In the end, could we eventually see the entire central banking system itself totally collapse?
That is what Phoenix Capital Research believes is about to happen…
Last year (2014) will likely go down in history as the “beginning of the end” for the current global Central Banking system.
What will follow will be a gradual unfolding of the next crisis and very likely the collapse of the Central Banking system as we know it.
However, this process will not be fast by any means.
Central Banks and the political elite will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, even if this means breaking the law (freezing bank accounts or funds to stop withdrawals) or closing down the markets (the Dow was closed for four and a half months during World War 1).
There will be Crashes and sharp drops in asset prices (20%-30%) here and there. However, history has shown us that when a financial system goes down, the overall process takes take several years, if not longer.
We stand at the precipice of the greatest economic transition that any of us have ever seen.
Even though things may seem very “normal” to most people right now, the truth is that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed, and cracks in the system are starting to appear all over the place.
When this system does collapse, it will take most people entirely by surprise.
But it shouldn’t.
All con games eventually fall apart in the end, and we are about to learn that lesson the hard way.