We Have Seen This Happen Before The Last 3 Recessions – And Now It Is The Worst It Has Ever Been

Since the last financial crisis, we have witnessed the greatest corporate debt binge in U.S. history.  Corporate debt has more than doubled since then, and it is now sitting at a grand total of more than 9 trillion dollars.  Of course there have been other colossal corporate debt binges throughout our history, and they all ended badly.  In fact, the ratio of corporate debt to U.S. GDP rose above 40 percent prior to each of the last three recessions, but this time around we have found a way to top that.  According to Forbes, the ratio of nonfinancial corporate debt to U.S. GDP is now nearly 50 percent…

Since the last recession, nonfinancial corporate debt has ballooned to more than $9 trillion as of November 2018, which is nearly half of U.S. GDP. As you can see below, each recession going back to the mid-1980s coincided with elevated debt-to-GDP levels—most notably the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the 2000 dot-com bubble and the early ’90s slowdown.

You can see the chart they are talking about right here, and it clearly shows that each of the last three recessions coincided with the bursting of an enormous corporate debt bubble.

This time around the corporate debt bubble is larger than it has ever been before, and risky corporate debt has been growing faster than any other category

Through 2023, as much as $4.88 trillion of this debt is scheduled to mature. And because of higher rates, many companies are increasingly having difficulty making interest payments on their debt, which is growing faster than the U.S. economy, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

On top of that, the very fastest-growing type of debt is riskier BBB-rated bonds—just one step up from “junk.” This is literally the junkiest corporate bond environment we’ve ever seen.

Needless to say, the stage is set for a corporate debt meltdown of epic proportions.

What makes this debt bubble even worse is the way that our big corporations have been spending the money that they are borrowing.

Instead of spending the money to build factories, hire workers and expand their businesses, our big corporations have been spending more money on stock buybacks than anything else.

Every year, publicly traded corporations spend hundreds of billions of dollars buying back their own stocks from shareholders, and much of that is being done with borrowed money.

For example, in recent years General Motors has spent nearly 14 billion dollars on stock buybacks.  And that number certainly sounds quite impressive until you learn that General Electric has spent a whopping 40 billion dollars on stock buybacks.

Sadly, both corporate behemoths are now absolutely drowning in debt as a result of their foolishness.

In the final analysis, borrowing money to fund stock buybacks is little more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme.  In their endless greed, corporate executives are cannibalizing their own companies because it makes some people wealthier in the short-term.

And now this giant corporate debt bubble has reached a bursting point, and there is no way that this story is going to end well.

Meanwhile, another financial bubble of epic proportions is also getting a lot of attention these days.  If you are not familiar with “shadow banking”, here is a pretty good explanation from CNBC

Nonbank lending, an industry that played a central role in the financial crisis, has been expanding rapidly and is still posing risks should credit conditions deteriorate.

Often called “shadow banking” — a term the industry does not embrace — these institutions helped fuel the crisis by providing lending to underqualified borrowers and by financing some of the exotic investment instruments that collapsed when subprime mortgages fell apart.

This kind of lending has absolutely exploded all over the globe since the last recession, and it has now become a 52 trillion dollar bubble

In the years since the crisis, global shadow banks have seen their assets grow to $52 trillion, a 75% jump from the level in 2010, the year after the crisis ended. The asset level is through 2017, according to bond ratings agency DBRS, citing data from the Financial Stability Board.

Who is going to pick up the pieces when a big chunk of those debts start going bad during the next financial crisis?

Never before in human history have we seen so much debt.  Government debt is at all-time record levels all over the world, corporate debt is wildly out of control and consumer debt continues to surge.

A system that requires debt levels to grow at a much faster pace than the overall global economy is growing to maintain itself is a fundamentally flawed system.

But that is what we are facing.  If global debt growth fell to zero, the global economy would instantly plunge into a horrific depression.  The only way to keep the game going is to keep expanding the debt bubble, and the larger it becomes the worse the future crash will be.

Most of us have been in this system for our entire lives, and so most of us don’t even realize that it is possible to have a financial system that is not based on debt.  This is one of the reasons why I get so frustrated with the financially-illiterate politicians who insist that everything will be just fine if we just tweak our current system a little bit.

No, everything is not going to be just fine.  In fact, we have perfectly set the stage for the worst financial meltdown in human history.

At this point nobody has put forth a plan to fundamentally change the system, and there is no way out.

All that is left to do is to keep this current bubble going for as long as humanly possible, and then to duck and cover when disaster finally strikes.

Get Prepared NowAbout the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

Stock Prices Are Surging Because Corporations Are Spending More Money On Stock Buybacks Than Anything Else

The primary reason why stock prices have been soaring in recent months is because corporations have been buying back their own stock at an unprecedented pace.  In fact, the pace of stock buybacks is nearly double what it was at this time last year.  According to Goldman Sachs, S&P 500 companies spent 384 billion dollars buying back stock during the first half of 2018.  That is an absolutely astounding number.  And in many cases, corporations are going deep into debt in order to do this.  Of course this is going to push up stock prices, but corporate America will not be able to inflate this bubble indefinitely.  At some point a credit crunch will come, and the pace of stock buybacks will fall precipitously.

Prior to 1982, corporations were not permitted to go into the market and buy back stock.

The reason for this is obvious – stock buybacks are a really easy way for corporations to manipulate stock prices.

But these days it is expected that most large corporations will engage in this practice.  Large stockholders love to see the price of the stock go up, and they are never going to complain when smaller shareholders are bought out and their share of the company is increased.  And corporate executives love buybacks because so much of their compensation often involves stock options or bonuses related to key metrics such as earnings per share.

So in the end, stock buybacks are often all about greed.  It is a way to funnel money to those at the very top of the pyramid, and those stock market gains are taxed at capital gains rates which are much lower than the rates on normal income.

Normally, you would expect successful companies to invest most of their available cash back into operations so that they can make even more money in the future.  And for 19 of the past 20 years, corporations have spent more on capital investments than anything else.  But now, share buybacks have actually surpassed capital spending.  The following comes from CNN

But that doesn’t mean companies aren’t spending on job-creating investments, like new equipment, research projects and factories. Business spending is up 19% — it’s just that buybacks are growing much faster.

In fact, Goldman Sachs said that buybacks are garnering the largest share of cash spending by S&P 500 firms. It’s a milestone because capital spending had represented the single largest use of cash by corporations in 19 of the past 20 years.

And this trend seems to be accelerating during the second half of 2018.  It is being projected that firms will spend more than 600 billion dollars on stock buybacks during the second half of this year, and that will bring the grand total for 2018 to more than a trillion dollars

And the trend may not be done yet. Goldman Sachs predicted that share buyback authorizations among all US companies in all of 2018 will surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever.

Wow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more than a trillion dollars that we could put toward reducing the national debt?

This is the reason why stocks hit another new all-time record high this week.  Stock buybacks have reached absolutely insane levels, and what we are witnessing is essentially a giant orgy of greed.

To give you some perspective, the previous annual record for stock buybacks was just 589 billion dollars in 2007.

This year, we may come close to doubling the previous record.

And let us not forget that the year after 2007 was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So what corporations are the worst offenders?  Here is more from CNN

Apple (AAPL) alone spent a whopping $45 billion on buybacks during the first half of 2018, triple what it did during the same time period last year, the firm said. That included a record-shattering sum during the first quarter.

Amgen (AMGN), Cisco (CSCO), AbbVie (ABBV) and Oracle (ORCL) have also showered investors with big boosts to their buyback programs.

As I noted earlier, corporate insiders greatly benefit from stock buybacks, and they took advantage of massively inflated stock prices by selling off $10.3 billion worth of their shares during the month of August.

Inflating your stock price by cannibalizing your own shares is not a good long-term strategy for any corporation, but without a doubt it is making a lot of people very wealthy.

But in the process, the size of the stock market as a whole has been steadily shrinking.  In fact, the number of shares on the S&P 500 has fallen by almost 8 percent since the beginning of 2011…

According to Ed Yardeni, the number of S&P 500 shares has shrunk by 7.7% since the start of 2011. This tends to increase the earnings per remaining share and the dividends available per remaining share.

This is yet another example that shows why the stock market has become completely disconnected from economic reality.  Wall Street is inhabited by con men that are promoting Ponzi scheme after Ponzi scheme, and it is only a matter of time before the entire system collapses under its own weight.

But for now, the euphoria on Wall Street continues as stock prices continue to march higher.  Meanwhile, we continue to get more signs of trouble from the real economy.  For instance, this week we learned that the third largest bank in the entire country is going to lay off thousands of workers

Wells Fargo, the third-biggest U.S. bank, plans to lower its employee headcount by 5 percent to 10 percent in the next three years as part of its ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday.

The bank has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs.

Why would they do that if the economy was in good shape?

And globally, the emerging market currency crisis has continued to escalate.  According to one source, more than 80 percent of all global currencies have fallen in value so far this year…

A review of the values of 143 global currencies indicates that so far this year, more than 80 percent have fallen in value.

Another eleven appear to be pegged to the dollar and 13 have risen in value. Of the 13 that have increased in value, only six are up more than 1 percent versus the dollar.

There have been outsized declines in countries like Venezuela (down 99 percent), Argentina (53 percent) and Turkey (38 percent). However, Brazil is down 20 percent, Russia 15 percent, India 11 percent, Sweden 10 percent, and the Philippines 8 percent. Big economies like China are experiencing a 5 percent currency value decline while the Euro is off by 3 percent.

I applaud those that have made lots of money in the stock market, but the party will not last forever.

In 2007 corporations were pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into stock buybacks, and it propped up the market for a time.  But eventually the bubble burst and the crisis of 2008 was so dramatic that it will be remembered forever.

Now we are facing a similar scenario, and it is just a matter of time before this bubble bursts as well.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

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