The largest and most important bank in the largest and most important economy in Europe is imploding right in front of our eyes. Deutsche Bank is the 11th biggest bank on the entire planet, and due to the enormous exposure to derivatives that it has, it has been called “the world’s most dangerous bank“. Over the past year, I have repeatedly warned that Deutsche Bank is heading for disaster and is a likely candidate to be “the next Lehman Brothers”. If you would like to review, you can do so here, here and here. On September 16th, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Justice wanted 14 billion dollars from Deutsche Bank to settle a case related to the mis-handling of mortgage-backed securities during the last financial crisis. As a result of that announcement, confidence in the bank has been greatly shaken, the stock price has fallen to record lows, and analysts are warning that Deutsche Bank may be facing a “liquidity event” unlike anything that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in 2008.
At one point on Friday, Deutsche Bank stock fell below the 10 euro mark for the first time ever before bouncing back a bit. A completely unverified rumor that was spreading on Twitter that claimed that Deutsche Bank would settle with the Department of Justice for only 5.4 billion dollars was the reason for the bounce.
But the size of the fine is not really the issue now. Shares of Deutsche Bank have fallen by more than half so far in 2016, and this latest episode seems to have been the final straw for the deeply troubled financial institution. Old sources of liquidity are being cut off, and nobody wants to be the idiot that offers Deutsche Bank a new source of liquidity at this point.
As a result, Deutsche Bank is potentially facing a “liquidity event” on a scale that we have not seen since the financial crisis of 2008. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
It is not solvency, or the lack of capital – a vague, synthetic, and usually quite arbitrary concept, determined by regulators – that kills a bank; it is – as Dick Fuld will tell anyone who bothers to listen – the loss of (access to) liquidity: cold, hard, fungible (something Jon Corzine knew all too well when he commingled and was caught) cash, that pushes a bank into its grave, usually quite rapidly: recall that it took Lehman just a few days for its stock to plunge from the high double digits to zero.
It is also liquidity, or rather concerns about it, that sent Deutsche Bank stock crashing to new all time lows earlier today: after all, the investing world already knew for nearly two weeks that its capitalization is insufficient. As we reported earlier this week, it was a report by Citigroup, among many other, that found how badly undercapitalized the German lender is, noting that DB’s “leverage ratio, at 3.4%, looks even worse relative to the 4.5% company target by 2018” and calculated that while he only models €2.9bn in litigation charges over 2H16-2017 – far less than the $14 billion settlement figure proposed by the DOJ – and includes a successful disposal of a 70% stake in Postbank at end-2017 for 0.4x book he still only reaches a CET 1 ratio of 11.6% by end-2018, meaning the bank would have a Tier 1 capital €3bn shortfall to the company target of 12.5%, and a leverage ratio of 3.9%, resulting in an €8bn shortfall to the target of 4.5%.
The more the stock price drops, the faster other financial institutions, investors and regular banking clients are going to want to pull their money out of Deutsche Bank. And every time there is news about people pulling money out of the bank, that is just going to drive the stock price even lower.
In other words, Deutsche Bank may be entering a death spiral that may be impossible to stop without a government bailout, and the German government has already stated that there will be no bailout for Deutsche Bank.
Banking customers have a total of approximately 566 billion euros deposited with the bank, and even if a small fraction of those clients start demanding their money back it is going to cause a major, major crunch.
Instead of doing what many have correctly suggested he should be doing, namely focusing on ways to raise more capital for the undercapitalized Deutsche Bank in order to stem the slow (at first) liquidity leak, first thing this morning CEO John Cryan issued another morale-boosting note to employees of Deustche Bank who have been watching their stock price crash to another record low, dipping under €10 in early trading for the first time ever. In the memo the embattled CEO worryingly did what Dick Fuld and other chief executives did when they felt the situation slipping out of control, namely blaming evil “rumor-spreading” shorts, saying “our bank has become subject to speculation. Ongoing rumours are causing significant swings in our stock price. … Trust is the foundation of banking. Some forces in the markets are currently trying to damage this trust.”
Just as important, Cryan confirms the Bloomberg report that “a few of our hedge fund clients have reduced some activities with us. That is causing unjustified concerns.” As we explained last night, the concerns are very much justified if they spread to the biggest risk-factor for the German bank: its depositors, which collectively hold over €550 billion in liquidity-providing instruments.
If you would like to ready the full memo, you can do so right here.
One of the reasons why Deutsche Bank is considered to be so systemically “dangerous” is because it has 42 trillion euros worth of exposure to derivatives. That is an amount of money that is 14 times larger than the GDP of the entire nation of Germany.
Some firms that were derivatives clients of the bank have already gotten spooked and have moved their business to other institutions. It was this report from Bloomberg that really helped drive down the stock price of Deutsche Bank earlier this week…
The funds, a small subset of the more than 800 clients in the bank’s hedge fund business, have shifted part of their listed derivatives holdings to other firms this week, according to an internal bank document seen by Bloomberg News. Among them are Izzy Englander’s $34 billion Millennium Partners, Chris Rokos’s $4 billion Rokos Capital Management, and the $14 billion Capula Investment Management, said a person with knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified talking about confidential client matters.
“The issue here is now one of confidence,” said Chris Wheeler, a financial analyst with Atlantic Equities LLP in London.
So what comes next?
Monday is a banking holiday for Germany, so we may not see anything major happen until Tuesday.
An announcement of a major reduction in the Department of Justice fine may buy Deutsche Bank some time, but any reprieve would likely only be temporary.
What appears to be more likely is the scenario that Jeffrey Gundlach is suggesting…
But Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said investors betting that Berlin would not rescue Deutsche could find themselves nursing big losses.
‘The market is going to push down Deutsche Bank until there is some recognition of support. They will get assistance, if need be,’ said Gundlach, who oversees more than $100 billion at Los Angeles-based DoubleLine.
It will be very interesting to see how desperate things become before the German government finally gives in to the pressure.
The complete and total collapse of Deutsche Bank would be an event many times more significant for the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers was. Global leaders simply cannot afford for such a thing to happen, but without serious intervention it appears that is precisely where we are heading.
Personally, I don’t know exactly what will happen next, but it will be fascinating to watch.
Could rapidly falling oil prices trigger a nightmare scenario for the commodity derivatives market? The big Wall Street banks did not expect plunging home prices to cause a mortgage-backed securities implosion back in 2008, and their models did not anticipate a decline in the price of oil by more than 40 dollars in less than six months this time either. If the price of oil stays at this level or goes down even more, someone out there is going to have to absorb some absolutely massive losses. In some cases, the losses will be absorbed by oil producers, but many of the big players in the industry have already locked in high prices for their oil next year through derivatives contracts. The companies enter into these derivatives contracts for a couple of reasons. Number one, many lenders do not want to give them any money unless they can show that they have locked in a price for their oil that is higher than the cost of production. Secondly, derivatives contracts protect the profits of oil producers from dramatic swings in the marketplace. These dramatic swings rarely happen, but when they do they can be absolutely crippling. So the oil companies that have locked in high prices for their oil in 2015 and 2016 are feeling pretty good right about now. But who is on the other end of those contracts? In many cases, it is the big Wall Street banks, and if the price of oil does not rebound substantially they could be facing absolutely colossal losses.
It has been estimated that the six largest “too big to fail” banks control $3.9 trillion in commodity derivatives contracts. And a very large chunk of that amount is made up of oil derivatives.
By the middle of next year, we could be facing a situation where many of these oil producers have locked in a price of 90 or 100 dollars a barrel on their oil but the price has fallen to about 50 dollars a barrel.
In such a case, the losses for those on the wrong end of the derivatives contracts would be astronomical.
At this point, some of the biggest players in the shale oil industry have already locked in high prices for most of their oil for the coming year. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard…
US producers have locked in higher prices through derivatives contracts. Noble Energy and Devon Energy have both hedged over three-quarters of their output for 2015.
Pioneer Natural Resources said it has options through 2016 covering two- thirds of its likely production.
So they are protected to a very large degree. It is those that are on the losing end of those contracts that are going to get burned.
Of course not all shale oil producers protected themselves. Those that didn’t are in danger of going under.
For example, Continental Resources cashed out approximately 4 billion dollars in hedges about a month ago in a gamble that oil prices would go back up. Instead, they just kept falling, so now this company is likely headed for some rough financial times…
Continental Resources (CLR.N), the pioneering U.S. driller that bet big on North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch when its rivals were looking abroad, is once again flying in the face of convention: cashing out some $4 billion worth of hedges in a huge gamble that oil prices will rebound.
Late on Tuesday, the company run by Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who once sued OPEC, said it had opted to take profits on more than 31 million barrels worth of U.S. and Brent crude oil hedges for 2015 and 2016, plus as much as 8 million barrels’ worth of outstanding positions over the rest of 2014, netting a $433 million extra profit for the fourth quarter. Based on its third quarter production of about 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, its hedges for next year would have covered nearly two-thirds of its oil production.
When things are nice and stable, the derivatives marketplace works quite well most of the time.
But when there is a “black swan event” such as a dramatic swing in the price of oil, it can create really big winners and really big losers.
And no matter how complicated these derivatives become, and no matter how many times you transfer risk, you can never make these bets truly safe. The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh Smith…
Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.
Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.
This illusory vanishing act hasn’t made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.
The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.
In recent years, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.
Most of the time the big banks are very careful to make sure that they come out on top, but this time their house of cards may come toppling down on top of them.
If you think that this is good news, you should keep in mind that if they collapse it virtually guarantees a full-blown economic meltdown. The following is an extended excerpt from one of my previous articles…
For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.
At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.
It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.
Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.
The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks. If they fail, so do the rest of us.
We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.
At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.
If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.
Our entire economy is based on the flow of credit. And all of that debt comes from the banks. That is why it has been so dangerous for us to become so deeply dependent on them. Without their loans, the entire country could soon resemble White Flint Mall near Washington D.C….
It was once a hubbub of activity, where shoppers would snap up seasonal steals and teens would hang out to ‘look cool’.
But now White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland – which opened its doors in March 1977 – looks like a modern-day mausoleum with just two tenants remaining.
Photographs taken inside the 874,000-square-foot complex show spotless faux marble floors, empty escalators and stationary elevators.
Only a couple of cars can be seen in the parking lot, where well-tended shrubbery appears to be the only thing alive.
I keep on saying it, and I will keep on saying it until it happens. We are heading for a derivatives crisis unlike anything that we have ever seen. It is going to make the financial meltdown of 2008 look like a walk in the park.
Our politicians promised that they would do something about the “too big to fail” banks and the out of control gambling on Wall Street, but they didn’t.
Now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, and it is going to horrify the entire planet.
The unelected central planners at the Federal Reserve have decided that the time has come to slightly taper the amount of quantitative easing that it has been doing. On Wednesday, the Fed announced that monthly purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds will be reduced from $45 billion to $40 billion, and monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities will be reduced from $35 billion to $30 billion. When this news came out, it sent shockwaves through financial markets all over the planet. But the truth is that not that much has really changed. The Federal Reserve will still be recklessly creating gigantic mountains of new money out of thin air and massively intervening in the financial marketplace. It will just be slightly less than before. However, this very well could represent a very important psychological turning point for investors. It is a signal that “the party is starting to end” and that the great bull market of the past four years is drawing to a close. So what is all of this going to mean for average Americans? The following are 8 ways that “the taper” is going to affect you and your family…
1. Interest Rates Are Going To Go Up
Following the announcement on Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries went up to 2.89% and even CNBC admitted that the taper is a “bad omen for bonds“. Thousands of other interest rates in our economy are directly affected by the 10 year rate, and so if that number climbs above 3 percent and stays there, that is going to be a sign that a significant slowdown of economic activity is ahead.
2. Home Sales Are Likely Going To Go Down
Mortgage rates are heavily influenced by the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries. Because the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is now substantially higher than it was earlier this year, mortgage rates have also gone up. That is one of the reasons why the number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low. And now if rates go even higher that is going to tighten things up even more. If your job is related to the housing industry in any way, you should be extremely concerned about what is coming in 2014.
3. Your Stocks Are Going To Go Down
Yes, I know that stocks skyrocketed today. The Dow closed at a new all-time record high, and I can’t really provide any rational explanation for why that happened. When the announcement was originally made, stocks initially sold off. But then they rebounded in a huge way and the Dow ended up close to 300 points.
A few months ago, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just hinted that a taper might be coming soon, stocks fell like a rock. I have a feeling that the Fed orchestrated things this time around to make sure that the stock market would have a positive reaction to their news. But of course I absolutely cannot prove this at all. I hope someday we learn the truth about what actually happened on Wednesday afternoon. I have a feeling that there was some direct intervention in the markets shortly after the announcement was made and then the momentum algorithms took over from there.
Of course QE3 is not being ended, but this tapering sends a signal to investors that the days of “easy money” are over and that we have reached the peak of the market.
And if you are at the peak of the market, what is the logical thing to do?
Sell, sell, sell.
But in order to sell, you are going to need to have buyers.
And who is going to want to buy stocks when there is no upside left?
4. The Money In Your Bank Account Is Constantly Being Devalued
When a new dollar is created, the value of each existing dollar that you hold goes down. And thanks to the Federal Reserve, the pace of money creation in this country has gone exponential in recent years. Just check out what has been happening to M1. It has nearly doubled since the financial crisis of 2008…
The Federal Reserve has been behaving like the Weimar Republic, and this tapering does not change that very much. Even with this tapering, the Fed is still going to be creating money out of thin air at an absolutely insane rate.
And for those that insist that what the Federal Reserve is doing is “working”, it is important to remember that the crazy money printing that the Weimar Republic did worked for them for a little while too before ending in complete and utter disaster.
5. Quantitative Easing Has Been Causing The Cost Of Living To Rise
The Federal Reserve insists that we are in a time of “low inflation”, but anyone that goes to the grocery store or that pays bills on a regular basis knows what a lie that is. The truth is that if the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.
6. Quantitative Easing Did Not Reduce Unemployment And Tapering Won’t Either
The Federal Reserve actually first began engaging in quantitative easing back in late 2008. As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is lower today than it was back then…
The mainstream media continues to insist that quantitative easing was all about “stimulating the economy” and that it is now okay to cut back on quantitative easing because “unemployment has gone down”. Hopefully you can see that what the mainstream media has been telling you has been a massive lie. According to the government’s own numbers, the percentage of Americans with a job has stayed at a remarkably depressed level since the end of 2010. Anyone that tries to tell you that we have had an “employment recovery” is either very ignorant or is flat out lying to you.
7. The Rest Of The World Is Going To Continue To Lose Faith In Our Financial System
Everyone else around the world has been watching the Federal Reserve recklessly create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and use it to monetize staggering amounts of government debt. They have been warning us to stop doing this, but the Fed has been slow to listen.
The greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy does not involve the short-term effects that most people focus on. Rather, the greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy is the fact that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. debt.
Right now, far more U.S. dollars are used outside the country than inside the country. The rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, and major exporting nations stockpile massive amounts of our dollars and our debt.
We desperately need the rest of the world to keep playing our game, because we have become very dependent on getting super cheap exports from them and we have become very dependent on them lending us trillions of our own dollars back to us.
If the rest of the world decides to move away from the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt because of the incredibly reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble. Our current economic prosperity greatly depends upon everyone else using our dollars as the reserve currency of the world and lending trillions of dollars back to us at ultra-low interest rates.
But what the Fed did was not nearly enough. It is still going to be creating $75 billion out of thin air every single month, and the rest of the world is going to continue to lose more faith in our system the longer this continues.
8. The Economy As A Whole Is Going To Continue To Get Even Worse
And no matter what the Fed does now, our decline will continue. The tragic downfall of small cities such as Salisbury, North Carolina are perfect examples of what is happening to our country as a whole…
During the three-year period ending in 2009, Salisbury’s poverty rate of 16% was about 3% higher than the national rate. In the following three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the city’s poverty rate was approaching 30%. Salisbury has traditionally relied heavily on the manufacturing sector, particularly textiles and fabrics. In recent decades, however, manufacturing activity has declined significantly and continues to do so. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs in Salisbury — as a percent of the workforce — shrank from 15.5% to 8.3%.
But the truth is that you don’t have to travel far to see evidence of our economic demise for yourself. All you have to do is to go down to the local shopping mall. Sears has experienced sales declines for 27 quarters in a row, and at this point Sears is a dead man walking. The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter…
The market share of Sears – including K-Mart – has dropped to 2% in 2013 from 2.9% in 2005. Sales have declined for years. The company lost money in fiscal 2012 and 2013. Unless a miracle happens, and they don’t happen very often in retail, it will lose a ton in fiscal 2014, ending in January: for the first three quarters, it’s $1 billion in the hole.
Despite that glorious track record, and no discernible turnaround, the junk-rated company has had no trouble hoodwinking lenders into handing it a $1 billion loan that matures in 2018, to pay off an older loan that would have matured two years earlier.
And J.C. Penney is suffering a similar fate. According to Richter, the company has lost a staggering 1.6 billion dollars over the course of the last year…
Then there’s J.C. Penney. Sales plunged 27% over the last three years. It lost over $1.6 billion over the last four quarters. It installed a revolving door for CEOs. It desperately needed to raise capital; it was bleeding cash, and its suppliers and landlords had already bitten their fingernails to the quick. So the latest new CEO, namely its former old CEO Myron Ullman, set out to extract more money from the system, borrowing $1.75 billion and raising $785 million in a stock sale at the end of September that became infamous the day he pulled it off.
So don’t believe the hype.
The economy is getting worse, not better.
Quantitative easing did not “rescue the economy”, but it sure has made our long-term problems a whole lot worse.
And this “tapering” is not a sign of better things to come. Rather, it is a sign that the bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the past few years is beginning to end.
The Federal Reserve is creating hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and using that money to buy U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities and take them out of circulation. Since the middle of 2008, these purchases have caused the Fed’s balance sheet to balloon from under a trillion dollars to nearly four trillion dollars. This represents the greatest central bank intervention in the history of the planet, and Janet Yellen says that she does not anticipate that it will end any time soon because “the recovery is still fragile”. Of course, as I showed the other day, the truth is that quantitative easing has done essentially nothing for the average person on the street. But what QE has done is that it has sent stocks soaring to record highs. Unfortunately, this stock market bubble is completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and when the easy money is taken away the bubble will collapse. Just look at what happened a few months ago when Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may begin to “taper” the amount of quantitative easing that it was doing. The mere suggestion that the flow of easy money would start to slow down a little bit was enough to send the market into deep convulsions. This is why the Federal Reserve cannot stop monetizing debt. The moment the Fed stops, it could throw our financial markets into a crisis even worse than what we saw back in 2008.
The problems that plagued our financial system back in 2008 have never been fixed. They have just been papered over temporarily by trillions of easy dollars from the Federal Reserve. All of this easy money is keeping stocks artificially high and interest rates artificially low.
Right now, the Federal Reserve is buying approximately 85 billion dollars worth of U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities each month. We are told that the portion going to buy U.S. government debt each month is approximately 45 billion dollars, but who knows what the Fed is actually doing behind the scenes. In any event, by creating money out of thin air and using it to remove U.S. Treasury securities out of circulation, the Federal Reserve is essentially monetizing U.S. government debt at a staggering rate.
But Federal Reserve officials continue to repeatedly deny that what they are doing is monetizing debt. For instance, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart strongly denied this back in April: “I object to the view that the Fed is monetizing the debt”.
How in the world can Fed officials possibly deny that they are monetizing the debt?
Well, because the Fed is promising that it is going to eventually sell back all of the securities that it is currently buying.
Since the Fed does not plan to keep all of this government debt on its balance sheet indefinitely, that means that they are not actually monetizing it according to their twisted logic.
Try not to laugh.
And of course that will never, ever happen. There is no possible way that the Fed will ever be able to stop recklessly creating money and then turn around and sell off 3 trillion dollars worth of government debt and mortgage-backed securities that it has accumulated since 2008. Just look at the chart posted below. Does this look like something that the Federal Reserve will ever be able to “unwind”?…
Remember, just the suggestion that the Fed would begin to slow down the pace of this buying spree a little bit was enough to send the financial markets into panic mode a few months ago.
If the Fed does decide to permanently stop quantitative easing at some point, stocks will drop dramatically and interest rates will skyrocket because there will be a lot less demand for U.S. Treasuries. In fact, interest rates have already risen substantially over the past few months even though quantitative easing is still running.
Right now, the Fed is supplying a tremendous amount of the demand for U.S. debt securities in the marketplace. According to Zero Hedge, Drew Brick of RBS recently made the following statement about the staggering amount of government debt that is currently being monetized by the Fed…
“On a rolling six-month average, in fact, the Fed is now responsible for monetizing a record 70% of all net supply measured in 10y equivalents. This represents a reliance on the Fed that is greater than ever before in history!“
Overall, the Federal Reserve now holds 32.47 percent of all 10 year equivalents, and that percentage is rising by about 0.3 percent each week.
If the Federal Reserve does not keep doing this, the financial markets are going to crash because they are being propped up artificially by all of this funny money.
But if the Federal Reserve keeps doing this, it is going to become increasingly obvious to the rest of the world that the Fed is simply monetizing debt and is starting to behave like the Weimar Republic.
The remainder of the planet is watching what the Federal Reserve is doing very carefully, and they are starting to ask themselves some very hard questions.
Why should they continue to use our dollars to trade with one another when the Fed is wildly creating money out of thin air and rapidly devaluing the existing dollars that they are holding?
And why should they continue to lend us trillions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates that are way below the real rate of inflation when the U.S. government is already drowning in debt and the money that will be used to pay those debts back will be steadily losing value with each passing day?
The Federal Reserve is in very dangerous territory. If the Fed wants the current system to continue, it is going to have to stop this reckless money printing at some point or else the rest of the world will eventually decide to stop participating in it.
If the Fed wants to go ahead and make quantitative easing a permanent part of our system, then eventually it will need to go all the way and start monetizing all of our debt.
Right now, the Fed is stuck in the middle of a “no man’s land” where it is monetizing a significant amount of U.S. government debt but it is trying to sell everyone else on the idea that it is not really monetizing debt. This is a state of affairs that cannot go on indefinitely.
At some point, the Fed is going to have to make a decision. And for now the Fed seems to be married to the idea that eventually things will get back to “normal” and they will stop monetizing debt.
Even Janet Yellen is admitting that quantitative easing “cannot continue forever”.
Well, at this point quantitative easing has been going on in one form or another for about five years now.
Will it ever end?
And when it does, how bad will the financial crash be?
Meanwhile, with each passing day the faith that the rest of the world has in our dollar and in our financial system continues to erode.
If the Fed continues to behave this recklessly, it is inevitable that the rest of the globe will begin to move even more rapidly away from the U.S. dollar and will become much more hesitant to lend us money.
Ultimately, the Federal Reserve is faced with only bad choices. The status quo is not sustainable, ending quantitative easing will cause the financial markets to crash, and going “all the way” with quantitative easing will just turn us into the Weimar Republic.
But anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that this debt-based financial system that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of was going to end tragically anyway. The 100 year anniversary of the Federal Reserve is coming up, and the truth is that it should have been abolished long ago.
The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are catching up with us, and this is all going to end very, very badly.
Did you actually think that mortgage rates were going to stay at all-time lows forever? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was able to grossly distort the market for a while by buying up massive amounts of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, but there was no way in the world that the market was going to stay that distorted forever. It simply does not make sense to give American families 30 year mortgages at a fixed interest rate of less than four percent when the real rate of inflation is somewhere around eight to ten percent and the mortgage delinquency rate in the United States is 9.72 percent. If we actually did have “free markets” and they were behaving rationally, mortgage rates would be far, far higher. Well, now that the Fed has indicated that they are going to be starting to “taper” QE at some point, bond yields have skyrocketed and this is rapidly pushing up mortgage rates. According to Freddie Mac, we just witnessed the largest weekly increase in mortgage rates in 26 years. Sadly, this is only just the beginning. Unless the Federal Reserve intervenes, mortgage rates are going to continue to try to revert to normal.
When mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments. All of a sudden, families that could afford the monthly payments on a $300,000 mortgage are no longer able to do so. This is why when mortgage rates rise, it tends to push housing prices down.
If rates continue to go up, it is going to become increasingly difficult to sell your house. Less people will be able to afford the monthly payments as rates rise. Many families will have to end up reducing their selling prices.
And right now we are watching rates rise at a rate that we have not seen since the 1980s. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate of interest on a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage jumped by more than half a percentage point just last week…
The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.93 percent last week to 4.46 percent this week; the highest it has been since the week of July 28, 2011. This represents the largest weekly increase for the 30-year fixed since the week ended April 17, 1987.
A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.
The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.
Currently, the 30 year rate is sitting at 4.46 percent.
The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1512.93.
If the 30 year rate rises to 7 percent, the monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage would be $1995.91.
Does 7 percent sound crazy to you?
As the chart posted below demonstrates, a 7 percent mortgage was considered “normal” a decade ago…
As you can see, mortgage rates have nowhere to go but up.
And as they go up, they are going to absolutely crush any semblance of a “housing recovery”.
Meanwhile, Americans continue to get poorer.
This week we learned that real per capita disposable income plunged at an annualized rate of 9.21 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
That is absolutely astounding. We haven’t seen anything like that since the darkest days of the last recession.
If Americans do not have money to spend, that is going to hurt every industry – including housing.
And already we are seeing pain in the housing market. For example, the number of mortgage applications has fallen by 29 percent over the last eight weeks.
And rising rates are also causing a lot of families to turn to adjustable rate mortgages.
They played a major role in the last housing crash, and according to CNBC they are now making a comeback…
After hovering around record lows for the past few years, mortgage rates are rising dramatically. That has consumers not only shopping more but also considering adjustable rate mortgages, which offer lower rates and lower monthly payments.
These ARMs, many requiring interest payments only, were popular during the latest housing boom but quickly fell out of favor when safer, fixed-rate loan rates fell to record lows.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that the tiny little “mini-bubble” that we have seen in housing this year is rapidly coming to an end.
It also means that it is going to become far more difficult to buy or sell a house. Monthly payments are going to go up substantially, and many homeowners are going to find that they are not going to be able to sell their homes for what they had anticipated.
If you are already in the process of buying a house, hopefully you locked in a really good rate while you could. Those record low mortgage rates sure were nice, and we will probably never see them again.
Now we are headed for a very painful “adjustment” thanks to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. They should never have distorted the housing market so much, and now we are all going to suffer the consequences.
QE3 has barely even started and some folks on Wall Street are already clamoring for QE4. In fact, as you will read below, one equity strategist at Morgan Stanley says that he would not be “surprised” if the Federal Reserve announced another new round of money printing by the end of the year. But this is what tends to happen when a financial system starts becoming addicted to easy money. There is always a deep hunger for another “hit” of “currency meth”. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was probably hoping that QE3 would satisfy the wolves on Wall Street for a while. His promise to recklessly print 40 billion dollars a month and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities is being called “QEInfinity” by detractors. During QE3, nearly half a trillion dollars a year will be added to the financial system until the Fed decides that it is time to stop. This is so crazy that even former Federal Reserve officials are speaking out against it. For example, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker says that QE3 is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember. But the big Wall Street banks are never going to be satisfied. If QE4 is announced, they will start calling for QE5. As I noted in a previous article, quantitative easing tends to pump up the prices of financial assets such as stocks and commodities, and that is very good for Wall Street bankers. So of course they want more quantitative easing. They always want bigger profits and bigger bonus checks at the end of the year.
But at this point the Federal Reserve has already “jumped the shark”. If you don’t know what “jumping the shark” means, you can find a definition on Wikipedia right here. Whatever shreds of credibility the Fed had left are being washed away by a flood of newly printed money.
Those running the Fed have essentially used up all of their bullets and the next great financial crisis has not even fully erupted yet.
So what is the Fed going to do if the stock market crashes and the credit market freezes up like we saw back in 2008?
How much more extreme can the Fed go?
One can just picture “Helicopter Ben” strapping on a pair of water skis and making the following promise….
“We are going to print so much money that we’ll make Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic look like wimps!”
Sadly, the truth is that money printing is not a “quick fix” and it never has been. Just look at Japan. The Bank of Japan is on round 8 of their quantitative easing strategy, and yet things in Japan continue to get even worse.
But that is not going to stop the folks on Wall Street from calling for even more quantitative easing.
For example, the top U.S. equity strategist for Morgan Stanley, Adam Parker, made headlines all over the world this week by writing the following….
“QE3 will likely be insufficient to significantly boost equity markets and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Fed dramatically augment this program (i.e., QE4) before year-end, particularly if economic and corporate news continue to deteriorate as they have over the past few weeks.”
Did you get what he is saying there?
He says that QE3 is not going to be enough to boost equity markets (the stock market) so more money printing will be necessary.
But wasn’t QE3 supposed to be about creating jobs and helping the middle class?
I can almost hear many of you laughing out loud already.
As I have written about before, QE3 is unlikely to change the employment picture in any significant way, but what it will do is create more inflation which will squeeze the poor, the middle class and the elderly.
The truth is that quantitative easing has always been about bailing out the banks, and the hope is that this will trickle down to the folks on Main Street as well, but that never seems to happen.
Wall Street is not calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for you and I. Rather, Wall Street is calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for them.
The Federal Reserve’s latest easing move has been nicknamed everything from “QE3” to “QE Infinity” to “QEternal,” but some on Wall Street question whether the unprecedented move will be QEnough.
And of course everyone pretty much understands that QE3 is definitely not going to fix our economic problems. Even most of those on Wall Street will admit as much. In the CNBC article mentioned above, a couple of economists named Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales at Capital Economics were quoted as saying the following….
“The Fed can commit to deliver whatever economic outcome it likes, but the problem is that the crisis in the euro-zone and/or a stand-off in negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff in the U.S. may well reveal it to be like the proverbial Emperor with no clothes”
An emperor with no clothes?
I think the analogy fits.
The Federal Reserve is going to keep printing and printing and printing and things are not going to get any better.
The Federal Reserve’s QE3 bond buying program announced earlier this month could last until the middle of 2015 and eventually reach $2 trillion, according to an estimate from economists at Goldman Sachs.
The Goldman economists also wrote in a report that they believe the Fed will not raise the federal funds rate until 2016. This rate, which is used as a benchmark for a wide variety of consumer and business loans, has been near 0% since December 2008. The Fed said in its last statement that it expected rates would remain low until mid-2015.
So why is Wall Street whining and complaining so loudly right now?
Well, even with all of the bailouts and even with all of the help from the first two rounds of quantitative easing, things are still tough for them.
For example, Bank of America recently announced that they will be laying off 16,000 workers.
In addition, there are rumors that 100 highly paid partners at Goldman Sachs are going to be getting the axe. It is said that Goldman will save 2 billion dollars with such a move.
We haven’t even reached the next great financial crisis and the pink slips are already flying on Wall Street. Meredith Whitney says that she has never seen anything quite like this….
“The industry is as bad as I’ve seen it. So it’s certainly not a great time to be on Wall Street.”
But of course Wall Street is not going to get much sympathy from the rest of America. The truth is that things have been far rougher for most of the rest of us than things have been for them.
When the last crisis hit, they got trillions of dollars in bailout money and we got nothing.
So most people are not really in a mood to shed any tears for Wall Street.
But of course the Federal Reserve is definitely hoping to help their friends on Wall Street out by printing lots of money.
You never know, by the time this is all over we may see QE4, QE5, QE Reloaded, QE With A Vengeance and QE The Return Of The Bernanke.
Meanwhile, Europe is gearing up to print money like crazy too.
“Within our mandate, the European Central Bank is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and believe me, it will be enough.”
And of course the Bank of Japan has joined the money printing party too. The following is from a recent article by David Kotok….
The recently announced additional program by the BOJ includes a fifty-percent allocation to the purchase of ten-year Japanese government bonds. The other fifty percent will buy shorter-term government securities. Thus, the BOJ is applying half of its additional QE stimulus to extracting long duration from the government bond market, denominated in Japanese yen.
All of the central banks seem to be getting on the QE bandwagon.
“Another round of QE is understandable – but it will fail to fix the problem. There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”
Sadly, most Americans have a ton of faith in the people running our system, but the truth is that they really do not know what they are doing. Just check out what Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the other day….
“The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody – in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet – has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank – not, at least, the Federal Reserve – has ever been on this cruise before.”
Can you imagine the head coach of a football team coming in at halftime and telling his players the following….
“Nobody on the coaching stuff really has any idea what will work.”
That sure would not inspire a lot of confidence, would it?
Perhaps the Fed should be open to some input from the rest of us.
Actually, back on September 14th the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco posted a poll on Facebook that asked the following question….
You can’t accuse Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of not living up to his nickname. Back in 2002, Bernanke delivered a speech entitled “Deflation: Making Sure ‘It’ Doesn’t Happen Here” in which he referenced a statement by economist Milton Friedman about fighting deflation by dropping money from a helicopter. Well, it might be time for a new nickname for Bernanke because what he did today was a lot more than drop money from a helicopter. Today the Federal Reserve announced that QE3 will begin on Friday, but it is going to be much different from QE1 and QE2. Both of those rounds of quantitative easing were of limited duration. This time, the quantitative easing is going to be open-ended. The Fed is going to buy 40 billion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities per month until they have decided that the economy is in good enough shape to stop. For those that get confused by terms like “quantitative easing” and “mortgage-backed securities”, what the Federal Reserve is essentially saying is this: “We’re going to print a bunch of money and buy stuff for as long as we feel it is necessary.” In addition, the Federal Reserve has promised to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels all the way through mid-2015. The course that the Federal Reserve has set us on is utter insanity. Ben Bernanke can rain money down on us all he wants, but it is not going to do much at all to help the real economy. However, it will definitely hasten the destruction of the U.S. dollar.
And the Federal Reserve is apparently very eager to get QE3 going. Purchases of mortgage-backed securities are going to start on Friday.
In the coming months, hundreds of billions of dollars that the Federal Reserve has zapped into existence out of nothing will be injected into our financial system.
So what will happen to all of this new money?
If banks and financial institutions use that money to make loans then it could have somewhat of a positive impact on the economy in the short-term.
However, the truth is that it isn’t as if banks are hurting for cash to loan out. In fact, right now banks are already sitting on $1.6 trillion in excess reserves. Just like with the first two rounds of quantitative easing, a lot of the money from QE3 will likely end up being put on the shelf.
But the stock market loved the news because they know that the previous two rounds of quantitative easing have been great for the financial markets. On Thursday, the stock market soared to levels not seen since December 2007.
There is much rejoicing on Wall Street right now.
And this stock market bounce is great for Bernanke’s good buddy Barack Obama.
Obama nominated Bernanke to a second term as Fed Chairman, and this might be Bernanke’s way of paying him back.
But of course the Fed is supposed to be “above politics” so that would never happen, right?
The Federal Reserve essentially “crossed the Rubicon” today. No longer will quantitative easing be considered an “emergency measure”. Rather, it will now be considered just another “tool” that the Fed uses in the normal course of business.
Considering how vulnerable the U.S. dollar already is, announcing an “open-ended” round of quantitative easing is utter foolishness. According to the Fed, when you add the 40 billion dollars of new mortgage-backed security purchases per month to all of the other “easing” measures the Fed is continuing to do, the grand total is going to come to about 85 billion dollars a month. The following is from the statement that the Fed released earlier today….
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.
The Fed also promised to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” until mid-2015….
To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee also decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.
It seems that whenever the U.S. economy gets into trouble, Bernanke and his friends at the Fed only have one prescription and it goes something like this….
“Print more money and promise to keep interest rates near zero even longer.”
Of course a lot of Republicans are quite disturbed that QE3 was announced with just a couple of months remaining in a very heated election battle.
Even big news organizations such as CNBC are commenting on this….
Though the Fed is ostensibly politically independent, the decision comes at a ticklish time with the presidential election less than two months away.
And without a doubt the mainstream media will be proclaiming this to be “good news” for the economy in the short-term.
But is QE3 really going to help the average person on the street?
Well, first let’s take a look at employment. We are told that one of the primary reasons for QE3 is jobs.
But did QE1 and QE2 create jobs?
The answer is clearly no.
As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of working age Americans with a job fell dramatically during the last recession and has not bounced back since that time despite all of the quantitative easing that has been done already….
So why try the same thing again when it did not work the first two times?
But what more quantitative easing is likely to do is to pump up stock market values because a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up being put into stocks and other investments.
This is going to help the wealthy get even wealthier, and it is going to make the “wealth gap” between the rich and the poor even larger in America.
QE3 is also probably going to cause commodity prices to rise just like QE1 and QE2 did.
That means that you will be paying more for gasoline, food and other basic necessities.
So there may not be more jobs, but at least you will get the privilege of paying more for things.
The inflation that QE3 will cause will be particularly cruel for those on fixed incomes such as retirees.
None of the extra money from QE3 is going to go into their pockets, but they will have to pay more to heat their homes and fill up their shopping carts.
And the “exceptionally low interest rate” policy of the Federal Reserve is absolutely devastating for those that have saved for retirement and that are relying on interest income for their living expenses.
In short, quantitative easing is very good for the wealthy and it is very bad for the average man and woman on the street.
Perhaps the biggest danger from QE3 is that it could greatly hasten the day when the U.S. dollar ceases to be the reserve currency of the world.
The rest of the world is not stupid. They see that the Federal Reserve is now firing up the printing presses whenever they feel like it. They can see the games that we are playing with our currency.
Why should the rest of the world continue to use the U.S. dollar to trade with one another when the United States is constantly debasing it and playing games with its value?
As I wrote about the other day, China and Russia have been calling for a new reserve currency for the world for several years. They have been leading the charge to conduct international trade in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and I have documented many of the major international agreements to move away from the U.S. dollar that have been made in the last couple of years.
The status of the U.S. dollar in the world has already been steadily slipping, and now Helicopter Ben Bernanke pulls this kind of nonsense.
We are handing the rest of the world an excuse to abandon the U.S. dollar on a silver platter.
And when the rest of the globe rejects the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, the dollar will crash, the cost of living will increase dramatically, our standard of living will go way down and we will never fully recover from it.
So if you think that things are “bad” now, just wait until that happens.
The U.S. dollar is one of the best things that the U.S. economy still has going for it, and Helicopter Ben Bernanke is doing his best to absolutely destroy that.
What is your opinion of QE3? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
The U.S. Federal Reserve is getting ready to conduct another gigantic bailout of the big banks, but this time virtually nobody in the mainstream media will use the term “bailout” and the American people are going to get a lot less upset about it. You see, one lesson that was learned during the last round of bank bailouts was that the American people really, really do not like it when the U.S. Congress votes to give money to the big banks. So this time, the financial “powers that be” have figured out a way around that. Instead of going through the massive headache of dealing with the U.S. Congress, the Federal Reserve is simply going to print money and give it directly to the banks. To be more precise, the Federal Reserve is going to use a procedure known as “quantitative easing” to print money out of thin air in order to purchase large quantities of “troubled assets” (such as mortgage-backed securities) from the biggest U.S. banks at well above market price. Some are already openly wondering if this next round of quantitative easing is going to be the biggest bank robbery in history. Most Americans won’t understand these “backdoor bailouts” well enough to get upset about them, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be just as bad (or even worse) than the last round of bailouts. In the end, all of the inflation that this new round of quantitative easing is going to cause is going to be a “hidden tax” on all of us.
These new backdoor bailouts are going to work something like this….
1) The big U.S. banks have massive quantities of junk mortgage-backed securities that are worth little to nothing that they desperately want to get rid of.
2) They convince the Federal Reserve (which the big banks are part-owners of) to buy up these “toxic assets” at way above market price.
3) The Federal Reserve creates massive amounts of money out of thin air to buy up all of these troubled assets. The public is told that all of this “quantitative easing” is necessary to stimulate the U.S. economy.
4) The big banks are re-capitalized and have gotten massive amounts of bad mortgage securities off their hands, the Federal Reserve has found a way to pump hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of dollars into the economy, and most of the American people are none the wiser.
During a recent appearance on MSNBC, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone did a great job of explaining how this all works….
But this isn’t the only way that the Federal Reserve forks over massive amounts of cash to the big U.S. banks. In a previous article, I described how the U.S. Federal Reserve lends huge quantities of nearly interest-free money to big U.S. banks which they turn around and invest in U.S. Treasuries which bring in a return of three percent or so. In essence, it is a legalized way for the big U.S. banks to make mountains and mountains of free money.
The truth is that the Federal Reserve does whatever it can to ensure that the big U.S. banks stay fat and happy.
So what about the small banks? What happens to them?
Well, the vast majority of the small banks are considered “not big enough for bailouts” and they are allowed to die like dogs.
Don’t let anyone ever fool you into thinking that the U.S. banking system has a level playing field.
For weeks, Federal Reserve officials have been coming out and have been dropping hints about how important it is for them to take “action” and implement another round of quantitative easing in order to help stimulate the U.S. economy.
But nobody ever really asks who is going to be the first to get their hands on all this money that the Fed is going to pump into the economy.
The answer, of course, is obvious.
It is going to be the big banks – the same banks that are part-owners of the Federal Reserve and that have tremendous influence over Fed policies.
But even though this is all more than a little shady, is it such a bad thing for the rest of us if the Federal Reserve bails out the big banks and brings some much needed stability back to the U.S. financial system?
After all, if “Foreclosure-Gate” could potentially cause a nightmarish financial meltdown, isn’t it better for the Federal Reserve to step in and soak up large amounts of these toxic assets?
Those are legitimate questions.
Certainly the Federal Reserve has the power to step in and smooth over all sorts of short-term problems by papering them with money, but in the end printing more money will just make our long-term problems even worse.
Whenever a new dollar is introduced into the system, every other dollar in existence loses a little bit of value.
When trillions of new dollars get introduced into the system, it has the potential to create an inflationary nightmare.
Already, a number of top Fed officials are publicly saying that inflation is “too low” and that we need to purposely generate more inflation in order to “stimulate” the U.S. economy.
Yes, that is just as insane as it sounds, but that is what they are actually proposing.
Apparently many top Federal Reserve officials honestly believe that they can pump trillions into the economy, jack up inflation significantly, and little harm will be done.
But even before “QE2” has begun, we are already starting to see all kinds of little bubbles beginning to develop in the financial system. For example, commodity prices are skyrocketing right now, and that will soon be affecting the price we pay for food at the supermarket.
We are already on the road to serious inflation and the Federal Reserve has not even fired up the money hoses yet. So what is going to happen after they pump trillions more into the economy?
Printing more money and giving it to the banks is not going to solve our economic problems. It is just going to make them worse.
But unfortunately, American voters get no say about any of this. Our national monetary policy is in the hands of an unelected central bank that does pretty much whatever it wants.
An economic nightmare is coming, and you had better get ready.
In order for a financial system to be able to function properly, it is absolutely essential that the general population has faith in it. After all, who is going to want to invest in the stock market or entrust their money to big financial institutions if there is not at least the perception of honesty and fairness in the financial marketplace? For decades, the American people did have faith in Wall Street. But now that faith is being shattered by a string of recent revelations. It seems as though the rampant corruption on Wall Street is seeping up almost everywhere now. In fact, some of the things that have come out recently have been absolutely jaw-dropping. The truth is that the corruption on Wall Street is much deeper and much more systemic than most of us ever dared to imagine. As the general public digests these recent scandals, it is going to result in a tremendous loss of faith in the U.S. financial system. Once faith in a financial system is lost, it can take years or even decades to get back. So how is the U.S. financial system supposed to work properly when large numbers of people simply do not believe in it anymore?
Just consider some of the recent revelations of Wall Street corruption that have come out recently….
*Bloomberg is reporting that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars. The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments. Apparently what was going on was that it was decided in advance who would win the auctions of guaranteed investment contracts, which public entities purchase with the proceeds from municipal bond sales, and then other intentionally losing bids were submitted in order to make the process look competitive. The U.S. Justice Department claims that this fraud has been industry-wide and has been going on for years. In fact, at least four financial professionals have already pleaded guilty in this case.
*An industry insider has come forward with “smoking gun” evidence that some of the biggest banks have been openly and blatantly manipulating the price of gold and silver. For a time it looked like the federal government was just going to ignore all of this fraud, but after substantial public uproar some action is indeed being taken. In fact, it has been reported that federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals markets.
*New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether eight major Wall Street banks purposely misledthe big credit ratings agencies so that they would give their mortgage-backed securities AAA ratings that they did not deserve.*There has been a ton of legal action surrounding mortgage-backed securities lately. For example, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are now investigating Morgan Stanley as part of a probe into whether Wall Street firms deliberately misled investors regarding the sale of mortgage-related securities.
*Goldman Sachs is getting most of the press about fraud in the mortgage-backed securities market these days. Of course Goldman is strenuously denying that it “bet against its clients” when it changed its position in the housing market in 2007. But we all know the truth at this point. The truth is that Goldman Sachs clearly bet against its clients and was involved in a whole lot of things that were even worse than that. Many did not think the U.S. government would dare go after Goldman, but that is what we are starting to see. U.S. federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its trading of mortgage-backed securities, and it will be very interesting to see if anything comes of that investigation.
*But not everyone is being held accountable for their actions. The guy who helped bring down AIG is going to get off scott-free and is going to be able to keep the millions in profits that he made in the process.
*Entire U.S. cities have been victims of this rampant Wall Street fraud. In fact, it is now being alleged that the biggest banks on Wall Street are ripping off some of the largest American cities with the same kind of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece.
*The really sad thing is that fraud is very, very lucrative. Executives at many of the big banks that received large amounts of money during the Wall Street bailouts are being lavished with record bonuses as millions of other average Americans continue to suffer economically. Even the CEOs of bailed-out regional banks are getting big raises. It must be really nice to be them.
So does all of this make you more likely or less likely to invest in the stock market?
Do you think that the American people can see all of this and still believe that the financial system is “fair” and “honest”?
The truth is that Wall Street is full of rip-off artists and fraudsters who don’t even try to hide their greed anymore.
It is as if a thousand junior Gordon Gekkos have been unleashed and they are all trying to be masters of the universe at any cost.
But what they are doing is ripping the heart out of the U.S. financial system.
If people lose faith in the system the system will ultimately fail.
A financial system that allows open fraud and manipulation is operating on borrowed time.
So will the rampant corruption on Wall Street now be cleaned up?