A Quadrillion Yen And Counting – The Japanese Debt Bomb Could Set Off Global Panic At Any Moment

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, JapanHow much is 1,000,000,000,000,000 yen worth?  Well, a quadrillion yen is worth approximately 10.5 trillion dollars.  It is an amount of money that is larger than the “the economies of Germany, France and the U.K. combined“.  It is such an astounding amount of debt that it is hard to even get your mind around it.  The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan will reach 247 percent this year, and the Japanese currently spend about 50 percent of all central government tax revenue on debt service.  Realistically, there are only two ways out of this overwhelming debt trap for the Japanese.  Either they default or they try to inflate the debt away.  At this point, the Japanese have chosen to try to inflate the debt away.  They have initiated the greatest quantitative easing experiment that a major industrialized nation has attempted since the days of the Weimar Republic.  Over the next two years, the Bank of Japan plans to zap 60 trillion yen into existence out of thin air and use it to buy government bonds.  By the time this program is over, the monetary base in Japan will have approximately doubled.  But authorities in Japan are desperate.  They know that the Japanese debt bomb could set off global panic at any time, and they are trying to find a way out that will not cause too much pain.

Unfortunately, the only way that this bizarre quantitative easing program will work is if investors in Japanese bonds act very, very irrationally.  You see, the only way that Japan has been able to pile up this much debt in the first place is because they have been able to borrow gigantic piles of money at super low interest rates.

Right now, the yield on 10 year Japanese bonds is sitting at an absurdly low 0.76%.  But even with such ridiculously low interest rates, the central government of Japan is still spending about half of all tax revenue on debt service.

If interest rates go up, the game is over.

But now that the Japanese government has announced that it plans to double the monetary base, it would be extremely irrational for investors not to demand higher rates on Japanese government debt.  After all, why would you want to loan money to the Japanese government for less than one percent a year when the purchasing power of your money could potentially be halved over the next two years?

Amazingly, this is exactly what the Japanese government is counting on.  They are counting on being able to wildly print up money and monetize debt, but also keep yields on Japanese bonds at insanely low levels at the same time.

For the moment, it is actually working.  Investors in Japanese bonds are behaving very, very irrationally.

But if that changes at some point, we could potentially be looking at the greatest Asian economic crisis of all time.

And there are some very sharp minds out there that believe that is exactly what is going to happen.

For example, the founder of Hayman Capital Management, Kyle Bass, has been sounding the alarm about Japan for a long time.  He correctly predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown, and in the process he made hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients.  Now he believes that the next major crash is going to be in Japan.

According to Bass, the bond bubble in Japan is so large that once it begins to implode fear is going to start spreading like wildfire…

Remember, Japanese banks in general have 900% of their tangible assets invested in JGBs that are the most negatively convex instrument you can put into a portfolio. Assume for instance that a bank holds a 10 year bond yielding 80 basis points. A 100 basis point move will cost the JGB investor about 10 years of expected interest payments.

Think about the psychology of all the players and financial implications if rates do move 100 basis points. Think about the solvency of a nation which currently spends 50% of its central government tax revenues on debt service, half of which earns the lowest yields of any country in the world.

You can’t look at this as a simple question. You need to think about this as a multivariate equation. You have to think about the incentives and the fears of all the participants. And you need to think about the fiscal sustainability of the government.

If rates even rise by a full percentage point, it could start a stampede toward the exits that nobody in the entire world would be able to control…

I ran a survey of 1,009 Japanese investors where we asked: “If rates were to move up 100 basis points, would that engender more confidence and make you want to buy more JGBs?” or, “Would you take your money elsewhere, even if it were hamstringing your government’s ability to operate?” 8 – 9% of respondents that said that they would buy more bonds and almost 80% said they would run, not walk the other way.

For much more on this, you can watch a video of Kyle Bass discussing why Japan is doomed right here.

And of course Japan is not the only “debt bomb” that could potentially go off over in Asia.  As I mentioned in another article, the major problem over in China is the level of private debt…

In China, the big problem is the absolutely stunning growth of private domestic debt.  According to a recent World Bank report, the total amount of credit in China has risen from 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to 23 trillion dollars today.

That increase is roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. commercial banking system.

There is simply way, way too much debt in our world today.  Never before has there been so much red ink all over the planet at the same time.

Many in the mainstream media insist that this party can go on indefinitely.

But that is what they said about the housing bubble too.

Sadly, the truth is that every financial bubble eventually bursts, and this global debt bubble will be no exception.

I hope that you are getting prepared while you still can.

30 Statistics That Show That The Middle Class Is Dying Right In Front Of Our Eyes As We Enter 2012

Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class that the world has ever seen.  Unfortunately, that is rapidly changing.  The statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the U.S. middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012.  The decline of the middle class is not something that has happened all of a sudden.  Rather, there has been a relentless grinding down of the middle class over the last several decades.  Millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas, the rate of inflation has far outpaced the rate that our wages have grown, and overwhelming debt has choked the financial life out of millions of American families.  Every single day, more Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty.  In fact, more Americans fell into poverty last year than has ever been recorded before.  The number of middle class jobs and middle class neighborhoods continues to decline at a staggering pace.  As I have written about previously, America as a whole is getting poorer as a nation, and as this happens wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated at the very top of the income scale.  This is not how capitalism is supposed to work, and it is not good for America.

Today I went over to Safeway and I was absolutely appalled at the prices.  I honestly don’t know how most families make it these days.  I ended up paying over 140 dollars for about two-thirds of a cart of food.  That was after I “saved” 67 dollars on sale items.

When the cost of the basic things that we need – housing, food, gas, electricity – go up faster than our incomes do, that means that we are getting poorer.

Sadly, if you look at the long-term numbers, some very clear negative trends emerge….

-The number of good jobs continues to decrease.

-The rate of inflation continues to outpace the rate that our wages are going up.

-American consumers are going into almost unbelievable amounts of debt.

-The number of Americans that are considered to be “poor” continues to grow.

-The number of Americans that are forced to turn to the government for financial assistance continues to go up.

After you read the information below, it should become abundantly clear that the U.S. middle class is in a whole heap of trouble.

The following are 30 statistics that show that the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012….

#1 Today, only 55.3 percent of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have jobs.

#2 In the United States today, there are 240 million working age people.  Only about 140 million of them are working.

#3 According to CareerBuilder, only 23 percent of American companies plan to hire more employees in 2012.

#4 Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

#5 According to the New York Times, approximately 100 million Americans are either living in poverty or in “the fretful zone just above it”.

#6 According to that same article in the New York Times, 34 percent of all elderly Americans are living in poverty or “near poverty”, and 39 percent of all children in America are living in poverty or “near poverty”.

#7 In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.  Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.

#8 Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

#9 The total value of household real estate in the U.S. has declined from $22.7 trillion in 2006 to $16.2 trillion today.  Most of that wealth has been lost by the middle class.

#10 Many formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into ghost towns.  Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent.  In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.

#11 Since 1971, consumer debt in the United States has increased by a whopping 1700%.

#12 The number of pages of federal tax rules and regulations has increased by 18,000% since 1913.  The wealthy know how to avoid taxes, but most of those in the middle class do not.

#13 The number of Americans that fell into poverty (2.6 million) set a new all-time record last year and extreme poverty (6.7%) is at the highest level ever measured in the United States.

#14 According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

#15 According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years.  During 2010 it got even worse.  Last year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

#16 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#17 Most Americans are scratching and clawing and doing whatever they can to make a living these days.  Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

#18 Food prices continue to rise at a very brisk pace.  The price of beef is up 9.8% over the past year, the price of eggs is up 10.2% over the past year and the price of potatoes is up 12% over the past year.

#19 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#20 The average American household will have spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline by the end of 2011.

#21 If inflation was measured the exact same way that it was measured back in 1980, the rate of inflation in the United States would be well over 10 percent.

#22 If the number of Americans considered to be “looking for work” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#23 According to the Student Loan Debt Clock, total student loan debt in the United States will surpass the 1 trillion dollar mark at some point in 2012.  Most of that debt is owed by members of the middle class.

#24 Incredibly, more than one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps at this point.

#25 Since Barack Obama took office, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 14.3 million.

#26 In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

#27 In 1970, 65 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.  By 2007, only 44 percent of all Americans lived in “middle class neighborhoods”.

#28 According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately one out of every three Americans that grew up in a middle class household has slipped down the income ladder.

#29 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#30 The poorest 50 percent of all Americans now collectively own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

Sadly, this article could have been much, much longer.  There are so many other statistics about the middle class that could have been included.

For even more insane economic numbers that show just how dramatically the U.S. economy is declining, just check out this article: “50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe“.

What is even more frightening is that this is about as good as things are going to get.

We have already had “the economic recovery”, such as it was.

Now we are heading for another major financial crisis.  Just like back in 2008, the entire world is going to feel the pain.

But we never recovered from the last financial crisis.  We are like a boxer that is not ready to handle another blow.

And who is going to get hurt the most?  It will be those at the bottom of the food chain of course.  Tens of millions of Americans that are living in poverty will experience a massive amount of pain, and millions more Americans will fall out of the middle class and will join them.

If you have a good job, do your best to hang on to it.  If you don’t have a job, do your best to get one while you still can.  Jobs will become very precious in the years ahead.

But also try to do what you can to become less dependent on the system.  Almost anyone can find ways to make some extra money on the side.  Yes, it will likely cut into your television time.  If someday you were to lose your job you don’t want to be left with zero income.

Right now, the U.S. economy is slowly dying and as time goes by the number of middle class Americans it will be able to support will continue to decrease.

Yes, it is like a perverse game of musical chairs, but this is where we are at.

I encourage all of you to think about how you plan to make it through the collapse that is ahead.

Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything is going to be okay is not going to help anyone.

But if we all start planning for the storm that is ahead, and if we get others around us to wake up as well, that is going to do a great deal of good in the long run.

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