Should central banks create money out of thin air and give it directly to governments and average citizens? If you can believe it, this is now under serious consideration. Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times, they have injected 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs, and we have seen an explosion of government debt unlike anything we have ever witnessed before. But despite these unprecedented measures, the global economy is still deeply struggling. This is particularly true in Japan, in South America, and in Europe. In fact, there are 16 countries in Europe that are experiencing deflation right now. In a desperate attempt to spur economic activity, central banks in Europe and in Japan are playing around with negative interest rates, and so far they seem to only have had a limited effect.
So as they rapidly run out of ammunition, global central bankers are now openly discussing something that might sound kind of crazy. According to the Telegraph, central banks are becoming increasingly open to employing a tactic known as “helicopter money”…
Faced with political intransigence, central bankers are openly talking about the previously unthinkable: “helicopter money”.
A catch-all term, helicopter drops describe the process by which central banks can create money to transfer to the public or private sector to stimulate economic activity and spending.
Long considered one of the last policymaking taboos, debate around the merits of helicopter money has gained traction in recent weeks.
Do you understand what is being said there?
The idea is basically this – central banks would create money out of thin air and would just give it to national governments or ordinary citizens.
So who would decide who gets the money?
Well, they would.
If you are anything like me, this sounds very much like Pandora’s Box being opened.
But this just shows how much of a panic there is among central bankers right now. They know that we are plunging into a new global economic crisis, and they are desperate to find something that will stop it. And if that means printing giant gobs of money and dropping it from helicopters over the countryside, well then that is precisely what they are going to do.
In fact, the chief economist at the European Central Bank is quite adamant about the fact that the ECB can print money out of thin air and “distribute it to people” when the situation calls for it…
ECB chief Mario Draghi has refused to rule out the prospect, saying only that the bank had not yet “discussed” such matters due to their legal and accounting complexity. This week, his chief economist Peter Praet went further in hinting that helicopter drops were part of the ECB’s toolbox.
“All central banks can do it“, said Praet. “You can issue currency and you distribute it to people. The question is, if and when is it opportune to make recourse to that sort of instrument“.
Apparently memories of the Weimar Republic must have faded over in Europe, because this sounds very much like what they tried to do. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to risk going down that road again.
Here in the United States, the Federal Reserve is not openly talking about “helicopter money” just yet, but that is only because the stock market is doing okay for the moment.
Most Americans don’t realize this, but the primary reason why stocks are doing better in the U.S. than in the rest of the world is because of stock buybacks. According to Wolf Richter, corporations spent more than half a trillion dollars buying back their own stocks over the past 12 months…
During the November-January period, 378 of the S&P 500 companies bought back their own shares, according to FactSet. Total buybacks in the quarter rose 5.2% from a year ago, to $136.6 billion. Over the trailing 12 months (TTM), buybacks totaled $568.9 billion.
When corporations buy back their own stocks, that means that they are slowly liquidating themselves. Instead of pouring money into new good ideas, they are just returning money to investors. This is not how a healthy economy should work.
But corporate executives love stock buybacks, because it increases the value of their stock options. And big investors love them too, because they love to see the value of their stock holdings rise.
So we will continue to see big corporations cannibalize themselves, but there are a couple of reasons why this is starting to slow down.
Number one, corporate profits are starting to fall steadily as the economy slows down, so there will be less income to plow into these stock buybacks.
Number two, many corporations have used debt to fund buybacks, but now it is getting tougher for corporations to get new funding as corporate defaults rise.
As stock buybacks slow, this is going to put downward pressure on the market, and we will eventually catch up with the rest of the planet. At this point, many experts are still calling for stocks to fall by another 40, 50 or 60 percent from current levels. For example, the following comes from John Hussman…
From a long-term investment standpoint, the stock market remains obscenely overvalued, with the most historically-reliable measures we identify presently consistent with zero 10-12 year S&P 500 nominal total returns, and negative expected real returns on both horizons.
From a cyclical standpoint, I continue to expect that the completion of the current market cycle will likely take the S&P 500 down by about 40-55% from present levels; an outcome that would not be an outlier or worst-case scenario, but instead a rather run-of-the-mill cycle completion from present valuations. If you are a historically-informed investor who is optimistic enough to reject the idea that the financial markets are forever doomed to extreme valuations and dismal long-term returns, you should be rooting for this cycle to be completed. If you are a passive investor, you should at least align your current exposure with your investment horizon and your tolerance for cyclical risk, which we expect to be similar to what we anticipated in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009.
When the S&P 500 does fall that much eventually, the Federal Reserve will respond with emergency measures.
So yes, we may see “helicopter money” employed in Japan and in Europe first, but we will see it here someday too.
I know that a lot of people out there are feeling pretty good about things for the moment because U.S. stocks have rebounded quite a bit lately. But remember, the fundamental economic numbers just continue to get even worse. Just today we learned that existing home sales in the United States had fallen by the most in six years. That is definitely not a sign that things are “getting better”, and I keep trying to warn people that tumultuous times are dead ahead.
And if global central bankers did not agree with me, they would not be talking about the need for “helicopter money” and other emergency measures.
As stocks continue to crash, you can blame the Federal Reserve, because the Fed is more responsible for creating the current financial bubble that we are living in than anyone else. When the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor and injected lots of hot money into the financial markets during their quantitative easing programs, this pushed stock prices to wildly artificial levels. The only way that it would have been possible to keep stock prices at those wildly artificial levels would have been to keep interest rates ultra-low and to keep recklessly creating lots of new money. But now the Federal Reserve has ended quantitative easing and has embarked on a program of very slowly raising interest rates. This is going to have very severe consequences for the markets, but Janet Yellen doesn’t seem to care.
There is a reason why the financial world hangs on every single word that is issued by the Fed. That is because the massively inflated stock prices that we see today were a creation of the Fed and are completely dependent on the Fed for their continued existence.
Right now, stock prices are still 30 to 40 percent above what the economic fundamentals say that they should be based on historical averages. And if we are now plunging into a very deep recession as I contend, stock prices should probably fall by a total of more than 50 percent from where they are now.
The only way that stock prices could have ever gotten this disconnected from economic reality is with the help of the Federal Reserve. And since the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the entire planet, the actions of the Fed over the past few years have created stock market bubbles all over the globe.
But the only way to keep the party going is to keep the hot money flowing. Unfortunately for investors, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed have chosen to go the other direction. Not only has quantitative easing ended, but the Fed has also decided to slowly raise interest rates. The Fed left rates unchanged on Wednesday, but we were told that we are probably still on schedule for another rate hike in March.
So how did the markets respond to the Fed?
Well, after attempting to go green for much of the day, the Dow started plunging very rapidly and ended up down 222 points.
The markets understand the reality of what they are now facing. They know that stock prices are artificially high and that if the Fed keeps tightening that it is inevitable that they will fall back to earth.
In a true free market system, stock prices would be far, far lower than they are right now. Everyone knows this – including Jim Cramer. Just check out what he told CNBC viewers earlier today…
Jim Cramer was tempted to resurface his “they know nothing” rant after hearing the Fed speak on Wednesday. He was hoping that a few boxes on his market bottom checklist might be checked off, but it seems that the bear market has not yet run its course.
“The Fed’s wishy-washy statement on interest rates today left stocks sinking back into oblivion after a nice rally yesterday,” the “Mad Money” host said.
Without artificial help from the Fed, stocks will most definitely continue to sink into oblivion.
That is because these current stock prices are not based on anything real.
And so as this new financial crisis continues to unfold, the magnitude of the crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.
It has often been said that the higher you go the farther you have to fall. Because the Federal Reserve has pumped up stock prices to ridiculously high levels, that just means that the pain on the way down is going to be that much worse.
It is also important to remember that stocks tend to fall much more rapidly than they rise. And when we see a giant crash in the financial markets, that creates a tremendous amount of fear and panic. The last time there was great fear and panic for an extended period of time was during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and this created a tremendous credit crunch.
During a credit crunch, financial institutions because very hesitant to lend to one another or to anyone else. And since our economy is extremely dependent on the flow of credit, economic activity slows down dramatically.
As this current financial crisis escalates, you are going to notice certain things begin to happen. If you own a business or you work at a business, you may start to notice that fewer people are coming in, and those people that do come in are going have less money to spend.
As economic activity slows, employers will be forced to lay off workers, and many businesses will shut down completely. And since 63 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many will suddenly find themselves unable to meet their monthly expenses. Foreclosures will skyrocket, and large numbers of people will go from living a comfortable middle class lifestyle to being essentially out on the street very, very rapidly.
At this point, many experts believe that the economic outlook for the coming months is quite grim. For example, just consider what Marc Faber is saying…
It won’t come as a surprise to market watchers that “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber isn’t getting any more cheerful.
But the noted bear at least found a sense of humor on Wednesday into which he could channel his bleakness.
The publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” told attendees at the annual “Inside ETFs” conference that the medium-term economic outlook has become “so depressing” that he may as well fill a newly installed pool with beer instead of water.
If the Federal Reserve had left interest rates at more reasonable levels and had never done any quantitative easing, we would have been forced to address our fundamental economic problems more honestly and stock prices would be far, far lower today.
But now that the Fed has created this giant artificial financial bubble, the coming crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been. And the tremendous amount of panic that this crash will cause will paralyze much of the economy and will ultimately lead to a far deeper economic downturn than we witnessed last time around.
Once the Fed started wildly injecting money into the system, they had no other choice but to keep on doing it.
By removing the artificial support that they had been giving to the financial markets, they are making a huge mistake, and they are setting the stage for an economic tragedy that will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in America.
Every great con game eventually comes to an end. For years, global central banks have been manipulating the financial marketplace with their monetary voodoo. Somehow, they have convinced investors around the world to invest tens of trillions of dollars into bonds that provide a return that is way under the real rate of inflation. For quite a long time I have been insisting that this is highly irrational. Why would any rational investor want to put money into investments that will make them poorer on a purchasing power basis in the long run? And when any central bank initiates a policy of “quantitative easing”, any rational investor should immediately start demanding a higher rate of return on the bonds of that nation. Creating money out of thin air and pumping into the financial system devalues all existing money and creates inflation. Therefore, rational investors should respond by driving interest rates up. Instead, central banks told everyone that interest rates would be forced down, and that is precisely what happened. But now things have shifted. Investors are starting to behave more rationally and the central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and that is a very bad sign for the rest of 2015.
And of course it isn’t just bond yields that are out of control. No matter how hard they try, financial authorities in Europe can’t seem to fix the problems in Greece, and the problems in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France just continue to escalate as well. This week, Greece became the very first nation to miss a payment to the IMF since the 1980s. We’ll discuss that some more in a moment.
Over in Asia, stocks are fluctuating very wildly. The Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 5.4 percent on Thursday before regaining all of those losses and actually closing with a gain of 0.8 percent. When we see this kind of extreme volatility, it is a very bad sign. It is during times of extreme volatility that markets crash.
Remember, stocks generally tend to go up during calm markets, and they generally tend to go down during choppy markets. So most investors do not want to see lots of volatility. Unfortunately, that is precisely what we are witnessing all over the world right now. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
“Volatility over the last days has been breathtaking, especially in bond markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, senior investment strategist at Russell Investments. He said that it rippled through equity and currency markets, which overreacted.
The yield on the benchmark German 10-year bond touched 0.99%, its highest level since September, before erasing the day’s rise and falling back to 0.84%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, which hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.42% earlier Thursday, recently fell back to 2.33%. Yields rise as prices fall.
Sometimes when bond yields go up, it is because investors are taking money out of bonds and putting it into stocks because they are feeling really good about where the stock market is heading. This is not one of those times. As Peter Tchir has noted, the huge moves in the bond market that we are now seeing are the result of “sheer panic in the market”…
In a morning note before the open, Brean Capital’s Peter Tchir wrote: “It is time to reduce US equity holdings for the near term and look for a 3% to 5% move lower. The Treasury weakness is NOT a ‘risk on’ trade it is a ‘risk off’ trade, where low yields are viewed as a risk asset and not a safe haven.” And Tom di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates and credit at ED&F Man Capital Markets, told Bloomberg, “This is sheer panic in the market from the standpoint of what’s been happening in Europe … Most of Wall Street is guarded here as far as taking on new positions.”
But this wasn’t supposed to happen.
After watching the Federal Reserve be able to successfully use quantitative easing to drive down interest rates, the European Central Bank decided to try the same thing. Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to behave more rationally. The central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and bond yields are soaring. I think that Peter Boockvar summarized where we are currently at very well when he stated the following…
I’ve said this before but I’m sorry, I need to say it again. What we are witnessing in global markets is the inherent contradiction writ large that is modern day monetary policy where dangerously ZIRP, NIRP and QE are considered conventional policies. The contradiction is simply this: the desire for higher inflation if fulfilled will result in higher interest rates that central banks are trying so hard and desperately to suppress.
Outside of the short end of the curve, markets will always win for better or worse and that is clearly evident now. The ECB is getting their first taste of the market talking back and in quite the violent way. In the US, the bond market is watching the Fed drag its feet (its never-ending) with wanting to raise interest rates and finally said enough is enough. The US Treasury market is tightening for them. Since mid April, the 5 yr note yield is higher by 40 bps, the 10 yr is up by 55 bps and the 30 yr yield is up by 65 bps.
And if global investors continue to move in a rational direction, this is just the beginning. Bond yields all over the planet should be much, much higher than they are right now. What that means is that bond prices potentially have a tremendous amount of room to go down.
One thing that could accelerate the global bond crash is the crisis in Greece. Negotiations between the Greeks and their creditors have been dragging on for four months, and no agreement has been reached. Now, Greece has missed the loan payment that was due to the IMF on June 5th, and it is asking the IMF to bundle all of the payments that are due this month into one giant payment at the end of June…
Greece has asked to bundle its four debt payments to the International Monetary Fund that fall due in June so that it can pay them in one batch at the end of the month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.
The request is expected to be approved by the IMF, the newspaper said. That would mean Greece does not have to pay the first tranche of 300 million euros that falls due on Friday.
Greece faces a total bill of 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF over four installments this month.
Of course that payment will not be made either if a deal does not happen by then. And with each passing day, a deal seems less and less likely. At this point, the package of “economic reforms” that the creditors are demanding from Greece is completely unacceptable to Syriza. The following comes from an article in the Guardian…
Fresh from talks in Brussels, Tsipras faced outrage on Thursday from highly skeptical members of his own Syriza party. A five-page ultimatum from creditors, presented by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was variously described as shocking, provocative, disgraceful and dishonourable.
“It will never pass,” said Greece’s deputy social security minister, Dimitris Stratoulis. “If they don’t back down, the country won’t be lost … there are alternatives that would cost less than our signing a disgraceful and dishonourable agreement.”
Ultimately, I don’t believe that we are going to see an agreement.
Well, I tend to agree with this bit of analysis from Andrew Lilico…
The Eurozone does not want to make any compromise with the current Greek government because (a) they don’t believe they need to because Greek threats to leave the euro are empty both because internal polling suggests Greeks don’t want to leave and because if they did leave that doesn’t really constitute any threat to the euro; (b) because they (particularly perhaps Angela Merkel) believe that under enough pressure the Greek government might collapse and be replaced by a more cooperative government, as has happened repeatedly before in the Eurozone crisis including in Italy and Greece itself; and (c) because any deal with Greece that is seen to involve or be presentable as any victory for the Greek government would threaten the political positions of governments in several Eurozone states including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and perhaps even the Netherlands and Germany.
Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the Eurozone creditors at this stage would have much interest in any deal based upon promises, regardless of how much the Greek had verbally surrendered. Things have gone too far now for mere words to work. They would need to see the Greeks deliver actions — tangible economic reforms and tangible, credible primary surplus targets and a sustainable change in the long-term political mood within Greece that meant other Eurozone states might eventually get their money back. That is almost certainly not doable at all with the current Greek government. The only deal possible would be with some replacement Greek government that had come in precisely on the basis that it did want to do a deal and did want to pay the creditors back.
On the Syriza side, I see no more appetite for a deal. They believe that austerity has been ruinous for the lives of Greeks and that decades more austerity would mean decades more Greek economic misery. From their point of view, default or even exit from the euro, even if economically painful in the short term, would be better than continuing with austerity now.
You can read the rest of his excellent article right here.
Without a deal, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields over in Europe will go through the roof. I am fully convinced that this is the beginning of the end for the eurozone as it is currently constituted, and that we stand on the verge of a great European financial crisis.
And of course the financial crisis that is coming won’t just be in Europe. The global financial system is more interconnected than ever, and there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are tied to foreign exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are tied to interest rates. When this giant house of cards collapses, the central banks won’t be able to stop it.
In the end, could we eventually see the entire central banking system itself totally collapse?
That is what Phoenix Capital Research believes is about to happen…
Last year (2014) will likely go down in history as the “beginning of the end” for the current global Central Banking system.
What will follow will be a gradual unfolding of the next crisis and very likely the collapse of the Central Banking system as we know it.
However, this process will not be fast by any means.
Central Banks and the political elite will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, even if this means breaking the law (freezing bank accounts or funds to stop withdrawals) or closing down the markets (the Dow was closed for four and a half months during World War 1).
There will be Crashes and sharp drops in asset prices (20%-30%) here and there. However, history has shown us that when a financial system goes down, the overall process takes take several years, if not longer.
We stand at the precipice of the greatest economic transition that any of us have ever seen.
Even though things may seem very “normal” to most people right now, the truth is that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed, and cracks in the system are starting to appear all over the place.
When this system does collapse, it will take most people entirely by surprise.
But it shouldn’t.
All con games eventually fall apart in the end, and we are about to learn that lesson the hard way.
The long-anticipated collapse of the euro is here. When European Central Bank president Mario Draghi unveiled an open-ended quantitative easing program worth at least 60 billion euros a month on Thursday, stocks soared but the euro plummeted like a rock. It hit an 11 year low of $1.13, and many analysts believe that it is going much, much lower than this. The speed at which the euro has been falling in recent months has been absolutely stunning. Less than a year ago it was hovering near $1.40. But since that time the crippling economic problems in southern Europe have gone from bad to worse, and no amount of money printing is going to avert the financial nightmare that is slowly unfolding right before our eyes. Yes, there may be some temporary euphoria for a few days, but it is important to remember that reckless money printing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while too before it turned into an utter disaster. Now that the ECB has decided to go this route, it is essentially out of ammunition. The only thing that it could potentially do beyond this is to print even larger quantities of money. As the global financial crisis begins to unfold over the next couple of years, the ECB is pretty much going to be powerless to do anything about it. Over the next couple of months, we can expect the euro to continue to head toward parity with the U.S. dollar, and eventually it is going to go to all-time lows. Meanwhile, the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt. If it does break up, the elite of Europe will probably try to put it back together in some sort of new configuration, but the damage will already have been done.
Over the next 18 months, the European Central bank will create more than a trillion euros out of thin air and will use that money to buy debt. The following is how this new QE program for Europe was described by the Telegraph…
“The combined monthly purchases of public and private sector securities will amount to €60bn euros,” said Mr Draghi at a press conference following a meeting of the ECB’s governing council.
“They are intended to be carried out until end-September 2016 and will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation,” he added, meaning the package will amount to at least €1.1 trillion.
Mr Draghi’s package of asset purchases, including bonds issued by national governments and EU institutions such as the European Commission, is intended to boost the eurozone’s flagging economy and to ward off the spectre of deflation.
When you print more money, you drive down the value of your currency. And the euro has already been crashing for months as you can see from the chart below…
As I write this, the euro is down to $1.13. And most analysts seem to agree that it is likely heading even lower.
How low could it ultimately go?
One prominent currency strategist recently told CNBC that he believes that it is actually heading beneath parity with the U.S. dollar…
The euro plunged to an 11-year low on Thursday, after the European Central Bank announced that it would begin a 60-euro monthly asset purchasing program. But it could still have a ways to fall.
Brown Brothers Harriman global head of currency strategy Marc Chandler predicts that the euro, which fell as low as 1.1362 on Thursday after trading near 1.4000 in May, is heading below 1.0. That widely watched level is the point at which it will just take a single U.S. dollar to purchase a euro, a condition known in the currency markets as “parity.”
I totally agree with Chandler.
In fact, I believe that the euro is ultimately going to break the all-time record low against the dollar.
I also believe that the current configuration of the eurozone is eventually going to fall to pieces. The euro may survive as a currency, but Europe is ultimately going to look a whole lot different than it does right now.
In fact, we could see things start to come apart for the eurozone as soon as Sunday. If Syriza wins a decisive victory in the upcoming Greek elections, it could create all sorts of chaos…
The polls put Alexis Tsipras and Syriza ahead of the ruling New Democracy party of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Tsipras has vowed to convince the ECB and euro zone to write down the value of their Greek debt holdings to allow him to increase public spending and stimulate job growth.
“There is a good chance they could win, and if they begin moving away from fiscal austerity, other members of the EU are going to say: ‘No more lending, no more life support.’ On Monday morning you’ll know,” De Clue said.
But of course Europe is far from alone. Financial problems are erupting all over the planet, and central banks are getting desperate.
Over the past week, seven major central banks have made moves to fight deflation. But the more that they cut interest rates and print money, the less effect that it has. And eventually, the people of the world are going to seriously lose confidence in these central banks as they realize what a sham the system really is.
I think that these recent words from Marc Faber are very wise…
“My belief is that the big surprise this year is that investor confidence in central banks collapses. And when that happens — I can’t short central banks, although I’d really like to, and the only way to short them is to go long gold, silver and platinum,” he said. “That’s the only way. That’s something I will do.”
So what do you think?
Do you agree with Marc Faber?
And what do you think is next for the euro?
Do you agree with me that it is going to record lows?
Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
Central banks lie. That is what they do. Not too long ago, the Swiss National Bank promised that it would defend the euro/Swiss franc currency peg with the “utmost determination”. But on Thursday, the central bank shocked the financial world by abruptly abandoning it. More than three years ago, the Swiss National Bank announced that it would not allow the Swiss franc to fall below 1.20 to the euro, and it has spent a mountain of money defending that peg. But now that it looks like the EU is going to launch a very robust quantitative easing program, the Swiss National Bank has thrown in the towel. It was simply going to cost way too much to continue to defend the currency floor. So now there is panic all over Europe. On Thursday, the Swiss franc rose a staggering 30 percent against the euro, and the Swiss stock market plunged by 10 percent. And all over the world, investors, hedge funds and central banks either lost or made gigantic piles of money as currency rates shifted at an unprecedented rate. It is going to take months to really measure the damage that has been done. Meanwhile, the euro is in greater danger than ever. The euro has been declining for months, and now the number one buyer of euros (the Swiss National Bank) has been removed from the equation. As things in Europe continue to get even worse, expect the euro to go to all-time record lows. In addition, it is important to remember that the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s began when Thailand abandoned its currency peg. With this move by Switzerland set off a European financial crisis?
Of course this is hardly the first time that we have seen central banks lie. In the United States, the Federal Reserve does it all the time. The funny thing is that most people still seem to trust what central banks have to say. But at some point they are going to start to lose all credibility.
Financial markets like predictability. And gigantic amounts of money had been invested based on the repeated promises of the Swiss National Bank to use “unlimited amounts” of money to defend the currency floor. Needless to say, there are a lot of people in the financial world that feel totally betrayed by the Swiss National Bank today. The following comes from an analysis of the situation by Bruce Krasting…
Thomas Jordan, the head of the SNB has repeated said that the Franc peg would last forever, and that he would be willing to intervene in “Unlimited Amounts” in support of the peg. Jordan has folded on his promise like a cheap suit in the rain. When push came to shove, Jordan failed to deliver.
The Swiss economy will rapidly fall into recession as a result of the SNB move. The Swiss stock market has been blasted, the currency is now nearly 20% higher than it was a day before. Someone will have to fall on the sword, the arrows are pointing at Jordan.
The dust has not settled on this development as of this morning. I will stick my neck out and say that the failure to hold the minimum rate will result in a one time loss for the SNB of close to $100B. That’s a huge amount of money. It comes to 20% of the Swiss GDP!
Most experts are calling this an extremely bad move by the Swiss National Bank.
But in the end, they may have had little choice.
The euro is falling apart, and the Swiss did not want to be married to it any longer. Unfortunately, when any marriage ends the pain can be enormous. The following comes from CNBC…
How do you know you’re looking at a bad marriage?
Well if one or both of the spouses can’t wait to get out as soon as the smallest crack in the door opens, you have a pretty good clue.
Something like that just happened in Europe as we learned the real reason why so many traders were still invested in the euro: They had nowhere else to go.
As the Swiss National Bank unlocked the doors on its cap on trading euros for Swiss francs, the rush to exit the euro was faster than one of those French bullet trains.
But this move has not been bad for everyone. In fact, for many of those that live in Switzerland but work in neighboring countries what happened on Thursday was very fortuitous…
“I heard the news this morning. I’m so happy!” Vanessa, who refused to give her last name, told AFP outside of one of many mobbed exchange offices in Geneva.
She has reason to be extatic: she is one of some 280,000 people working in Switzerland but living and paying bills in eurozone countries France, Germany or Italy.
These so-called “frontaliers”, or border-crossers, are the biggest winners in Thursday’s Swiss franc surge, seeing their incomes jump 30 percent in the blink of an eye.
In normal times, things like this very rarely happen.
But in times of crisis, things can change very rapidly. We are moving into a time of great volatility in global financial markets, and great volatility is often a sign that a great crash is coming.
This move by the Swiss National Bank is just the beginning. Expect more desperate moves on the global economic chessboard in the days ahead. But in the end, none of those moves is going to prevent what is coming.
And one of these days, another extremely important currency peg is going to end. Right now, the Chinese have tied their currency very tightly to the U.S. dollar. This has helped to artificially inflate the value of the dollar. Unfortunately, as Robert Wenzel has noted, someday the Chinese could suddenly pull the rug out from under our currency, and that would be really bad news for us…
In other words, the SNB is no People’s Bank of China type patsy, where the PBOC has taken on massive amounts of dollar reserves to prop up the dollar.
Will the PBOC learn anything from SNB? If so, this will not be good for the US dollar.
So keep a close eye on what happens in Europe next.
It is going to be a preview of what is eventually coming to America.
This is the big problem with fiat currency – eventually the temptation to print more of it when you are in a jam becomes too powerful to resist. In a surprise move on Friday, the Bank of Japan dramatically increased the size of the quantitative easing program that it has been conducting. This sent Japanese stocks soaring and the Japanese yen plunging. The yen had already fallen by about 11 percent against the dollar over the last year before this announcement, and news of the BOJ’s surprise move caused the yen to collapse to a seven year low. Essentially what the Bank of Japan has done is declare a currency war. And as you will see below, in every currency war there are winners and there are losers. Let’s just hope that global financial markets do not get shredded in the crossfire.
Without a doubt, the Japanese are desperate. Their economic decline has lasted for decades, and their debt levels are off the charts. In such a situation, printing more money seems like such an easy solution. But as history has shown us, wild money printing always ends badly. Just remember what happened in the Weimar Republic and in Zimbabwe.
At this point, the Bank of Japan is already behaving so recklessly that it is making the Federal Reserve look somewhat responsible in comparison. The following is how David Stockman summarized what just happened…
This is just plain sick. Hardly a day after the greatest central bank fraudster of all time, Maestro Greenspan, confessed that QE has not helped the main street economy and jobs, the lunatics at the BOJ flat-out jumped the monetary shark. Even then, the madman Kuroda pulled off his incendiary maneuver by a bare 5-4 vote. Apparently the dissenters——Messrs. Morimoto, Ishida, Sato and Kiuchi—-are only semi-mad.
Never mind that the BOJ will now escalate its bond purchase rate to $750 billion per year—-a figure so astonishingly large that it would amount to nearly $3 trillion per year if applied to a US scale GDP. And that comes on top of a central bank balance sheet which had previously exploded to nearly 50% of Japan’s national income or more than double the already mind-boggling US ratio of 25%.
The Japanese are absolutely destroying the credibility of their currency in a last ditch effort to boost short-term economic growth.
So why would they want to devalue their currency?
Well, there are too main reasons why nations do this.
One reason is that it makes it easier to pay off debt. The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is approximately 250 percent at the moment, and the total debt to GDP ratio is approximately 600 percent. When you have lots more money floating around, servicing crippling levels of debt becomes more feasible.
Secondly, nations like to devalue their currencies because it makes their products less expensive on the world stage.
In other words, it helps them sell more stuff to other people.
But in the process, this hurts other exporters. For example, what the Bank of Japan just did is already having serious consequences for South Korean automakers…
In Seoul, shares of auto makers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors fell 5.9% and 5.6%, respectively, on Monday.
South Korean and Japanese companies often compete head-to-head in the same product groups in global markets, notably cars and electronics goods.
From the Bank of Japan’s standpoint, “you’re giving your industry a head start relative to someone else’s,” said Markus Rosgen, regional head of equity strategy at Citi in Hong Kong. “The perception in the equity market will be that they [South Korea] will have to take a hit from the lack of competitiveness versus the Japanese.”
This is why I said that there are winners and there are losers in every currency war.
If you boost your exports by devaluing your currency, you take away business from someone else. And ultimately other nations start devaluing their currencies in an attempt to stay competitive. That is why they call it a currency war.
For now, the Japanese are celebrating. On Friday, Japanese stocks surged almost five percent for the day and reached a seven year high. Investors tend to love quantitative easing, and they were very pleasantly surprised by what the Bank of Japan decided to do.
But of course rising stock prices are not always a good thing. As Kyle Bass recently explained, wild money printing caused Zimbabwe’s stock market to skyrocket to unprecedented heights as well and that turned out very, very badly…
Amid the euphoria… Kyle Bass provided a few minutes of sanity this morning in an interview with CNBC’s Gary Kaminsky. Bass starts by reflecting on the ongoing (and escalating) money-printing (or balance sheet expansion as we noted here) as the driver of stock movements currently and would not be surprised to see them move higher still (given the ongoing printing expected).
However, he caveats that nominally bullish statement with a critical point, “Zimbabwe’s stock market was the best performer this decade – but your entire portfolio now buys you 3 eggs” as purchasing power is crushed. Investors, he says, are “too focused on nominal prices” as the rate of growth of the monetary base is destroying true wealth. Bass is convinced that cost-push inflation is coming (as the velocity of money will move once psychology shifts) and investors must not take their eye off the insidious nature of underlying inflation – no matter what we are told by the government (as they will always lie when its critical). Own ‘productive assets’, finance them at low fixed rates (thank you Ben)…
And just like we have experienced with quantitative easing in the United States, Japan’s money printing has done very little to help the real economy. Here is more from David Stockman…
Notwithstanding the massive hype of Abenomics, Japan’s real GDP is lower than it was in early 2013, while its trade accounts have continued to deteriorate and real wages have headed sharply south.
So up to this point Japan’s experiment in crazy money printing has been a dismal failure.
Will printing even more money turn things around?
We shall see, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the European Central Bank is getting ready for more quantitative easing. Central banks all over the planet are becoming increasingly desperate for answers, and the temptation to print, print and print some more is extremely strong.
Nobody is quite sure how this currency war will play out, but I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty.
Mark this day on your calendars. The Dow is at 16974, the S&P 500 is at 1982 and the NASDAQ is at 4549. From this day forward, we will be looking to see how the stock market performs without the monetary heroin that the Federal Reserve has been providing to it. Since November 2008, the Fed has created about 3.5 trillion dollars and pumped it into the financial system. An excellent chart illustrating this in graphic format can be found right here. Pretty much everyone agrees that this has been a tremendous boon for the financial markets. As you will see below, even former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan says that quantitative easing was “a terrific success” as far as boosting stock prices. But he also says that QE has not been very helpful to the real economy at all. In essence, the entire quantitative easing program was a massive 3.5 trillion dollar gift to Wall Street. If that sounds unfair to you, that is because it is unfair.
So why is the Federal Reserve finally ending quantitative easing?
Well, officially the Fed says that it is because there has been so much improvement in the labor market…
The Fed’s language, however, did suggest that they were getting more comfortable with the economy’s improvement. It cited “solid job gains,” citing a “substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market,” as well as pointing out that “underutilization” of labor resources is “gradually diminishing.”
But that is not true at all.
The percentage of Americans that are working right now is about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession. Just check out this chart…
So there has been no “employment recovery” to speak of at all.
And as I wrote about yesterday, the percentage of Americans that are homeowners has been steadily falling throughout the quantitative easing era…
So let’s put the lie that quantitative easing helped the “real economy” to rest. It did no such thing.
Instead, what QE did do was massively inflate stock prices.
The following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report about a speech that former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan made to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday…
Mr. Greenspan’s comments to the Council on Foreign Relations came as Fed officials were meeting in Washington, D.C., and expected to announce within hours an end to the bond purchases.
He said the bond-buying program was ultimately a mixed bag. He said that the purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities did help lift asset prices and lower borrowing costs. But it didn’t do much for the real economy.
“Effective demand is dead in the water” and the effort to boost it via bond buying “has not worked,” said Mr. Greenspan. Boosting asset prices, however, has been “a terrific success.”
Moving forward, what did Greenspan tell the members of the Council on Foreign Relations that they should do with their money?
This might surprise you…
Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.
It almost sounds like Greenspan has been reading the Economic Collapse Blog.
Since November 2008, every time there has been an interruption in the Fed’s quantitative easing program, the stock market has gone down substantially.
Will that happen again this time?
Well, the market is certainly primed for it. We are repeating so many of the very same patterns that we saw just prior to the last two financial crashes.
For example, there have been three dramatic peaks in margin debt in the last twenty years.
One of those peaks came early in the year 2000 just before the dotcom bubble burst.
The second of those peaks came in the middle of 2007 just before the subprime mortgage meltdown happened.
And the third of those peaks happened earlier this year.
You can view a chart that shows these peaks very clearly right here.
The Federal Reserve appears to be confident that the stock market will be okay without the monetary heroin that it has been supplying.
We shall see.
But it should be deeply troubling to all Americans that this unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers has far more power over our economy than anyone else does. During election season, our politicians get up and give speeches about what they will “do for the economy”, but the truth is that they are essentially powerless compared to the immense power that the Federal Reserve wields. Just a few choice words from Janet Yellen can cause the financial markets to rise or fall dramatically. The same cannot be said of any U.S. Senator.
We are told that monetary policy is “too important” to be exposed to politics.
We are told that the independence of the Federal Reserve is “sacred” and must never be interfered with.
I say that is a bunch of nonsense.
No organization should have the power to print up trillions of dollars out of thin air and give it to their friends.
The Federal Reserve is completely and totally out of control, and Congress needs to start exerting power over it.
The first step is to get in there and do a comprehensive audit of the Fed’s books. This is something that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz called for in a recent editorial for USA Today…
Americans are seeing near-zero interest rates on their savings accounts while median incomes are falling, and millions of people are facing higher gas prices, food prices, electricity prices, health insurance prices. Enough is enough, the Federal Reserve needs to open its books — Americans deserve a sound and stable dollar.
Whether you agree with Ted Cruz on other issues or not, this is one issue that all Americans should be able to agree on.
If you study any of our major economic problems, usually you will find that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of that problem.
So if we ever hope to solve the issues that are plaguing our economy, the Fed is going to need to be dealt with.
Hopefully the American people will start to send more representatives to Washington D.C. that understand this.
It is widely expected that the Federal Reserve is going to announce the end of quantitative easing this week. Will this represent a major turning point for the stock market? As you will see below, since 2008 stocks have risen dramatically throughout every stage of quantitative easing. But when the various phases of quantitative easing have ended, stocks have always responded by declining substantially. The only thing that caused stocks to eventually start rising again was a new round of quantitative easing. So what will happen this time? That is a very good question. What we do know is that the the performance of the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality, and in recent weeks there have been signs of market turmoil that we have not seen in years. Could the end of quantitative easing be the thing that finally pushes the financial markets over the edge?
After all this time, many Americans still don’t understand what quantitative easing actually is. Since the end of 2008, the Federal Reserve has injected approximately 3.5 trillion dollars into the financial system. Of course the Federal Reserve didn’t actually have 3.5 trillion dollars. The Fed created all of this money out of thin air and used it to buy government bonds and mortgage-backed securities.
If that sounds like “cheating” to you, that is because it is cheating. If you or I tried to print money, we would be put in prison. When the Federal Reserve does it, it is called “economic stimulus”.
But the overall economy has not been helped much at all. If you doubt this, just look at these charts.
Instead, what all of this “easy money” has done is fuel the greatest stock market bubble in history.
As you can see from the chart below, every round of quantitative easing has driven the S&P 500 much higher. And when each round of quantitative easing has finally ended, stocks have declined substantially…
And of course the chart above tells only part of the story. Since April 2013, the S&P 500 has gone much higher…
If someone from another planet looked at that chart, they would be tempted to think that the U.S. economy must be expanding like crazy.
But of course that is not happening.
This market binge has been solely fueled by reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve. It is not backed up by economic fundamentals in any way, shape or form.
And now that quantitative easing is ending, many are wondering if the party is over.
For example, just check out what CNN is saying about the matter…
Even in this bull market, all good things must come to an end.
The Federal Reserve is expected to close a chapter in history this week and announce the conclusion of its massive stimulus program. Known as quantitative easing, the program is widely credited with driving investors back into stocks in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
“I think to some extent quantitative easing has provided an assurance to investors that (has) kept them optimistic,” said Bruce McCain, Chief Investment Strategist of Key Private Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. “Now we’re going to have to see whether investors can ride without training wheels.”
Everyone knows that quantitative easing was a massive gift to those that own stocks.
So how will the stock market respond now that the monetary heroin is ending?
We shall see.
Meanwhile, deflationary pressures are already starting to take hold around the rest of the globe. The following is an excerpt from a recent Reuters report…
After months of focus on slack in U.S. labor markets, the Federal Reserve faces a new challenge: the possibility that weak inflation may be so firmly entrenched it upends the return to normal monetary policy.
The soft global inflation backdrop, from sliding oil prices to stagnant wages in advanced economies, has triggered debate over whether the Fed and its peers merely need to wait for a slow-motion business cycle to improve, or face a shift in the underlying nature of inflation after the global recession.
That uncertainty has become the Fed’s chief concern in recent weeks, likely to shape upcoming policy statements and delay even further the moment when interest rates, pinned near zero for nearly six years, will start rising again.
If the Federal Reserve and other global central banks were not printing money like mad, the global economy would have almost certainly entered a deflationary depression by now.
But all the Federal Reserve and other global central banks have done is put off the inevitable and make our long-term problems even worse.
Instead of fixing the fundamental problems that caused the great financial crash of 2008, the central bankers decided to try to paper over our problems instead. They flooded the global financial system with easy money, but today our financial system is shakier than ever.
In fact, we just learned that 10 percent of the biggest banks in Europe have failed their stress tests and must raise more capital…
The European Central Bank says 13 of Europe’s 130 biggest banks have flunked an in-depth review of their finances and must increase their capital buffers against losses by 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion).
The ECB said 25 banks in all were found to need stronger buffers — but that 12 have already made up their shortfall during the months in which the ECB was carrying out its review. The remaining 13 now have two weeks to tell the ECB how they plan to increase their capital buffers.
Most people do not realize how vulnerable our financial system truly is. It is essentially a pyramid of debt and credit that could fall apart at any time.
Right now, the “too big to fail” banks account for 42 percent of all loans and 67 percent of all banking assets in the United States.
Without those banks, we essentially do not have an economy.
But instead of being careful, those banks have taken recklessness to unprecedented heights.
At this moment, five of the “too big to fail” banks each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.
Most Americans don’t even understand what derivatives are, but when the next great financial crisis strikes we are going to be hearing a whole lot about them.
The big banks have transformed Wall Street into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and there is no way that this is going to end well.
A great collapse is coming.
It is just a matter of time.
All of a sudden, the Nasdaq is absolutely tanking. On Monday, it fell more than 1 percent after dropping 3.6 percent on Thursday and Friday combined. At this point, the Nasdaq is off to the worst start to a year that we have seen since 2008, and we all remember what happened back then. So why is this happening? In recent years, the Nasdaq has been ground zero for “dotcom bubble 2.0”. The hottest stocks in the entire world are on the Nasdaq – we are talking about stocks like Yahoo, Netflix, Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook. Those stocks have gone to absolutely incredible heights, but now they are starting to fall. Some are blaming insider selling, and without a doubt the “smart money” is starting to flee the stock market. Just check out this chart. Others are blaming low expectations for first-quarter earnings or the tapering of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. But whatever is causing this decline, it is starting to get alarming. The Nasdaq just experienced its largest three day fall since November 2011.
No stock can resist gravity forever. What goes up must eventually come down. This is especially true for stock prices that become grotesquely distorted.
On Wall Street, a price to earnings ratio of 20 to 25 is usually considered fairly normal. In recent years, the price to earnings ratios for many of these “hot tech stocks” have gone way, way beyond that. For example, posted below is a screen capture from Bloomberg TV that was featured in a recent Zero Hedge article…
There is no way in the world that such valuations are justified.
We have been living in another dotcom bubble, and it was inevitable that it was going to burst at some point.
The following is how one financial industry insider described the carnage that we have seen on the Nasdaq over the past few days…
Gary Kaltbaum, president of money-management firm Kaltbaum Capital Management, describes the carnage of once high-flying “growth” names in the Nasdaq composite, that have come crashing down to earth: “The best we can describe what we have been recently seeing in ‘growth-land’ is a 50-car pileup,” Kaltbaum told clients in a morning research note. “Call them what you want … risk areas, growth stocks, froth areas … they are melting away.“
And of course it isn’t just the Nasdaq that has been seeing declines over the past few days. On Monday, some of the biggest names on the Dow also fell precipitiously…
Visa, Goldman Sachs and Boeing are among the biggest drags on the Dow Monday, falling 2.1%, 2.9% and 1.4% respectively. Weakness in these stocks is especially problematic since the Dow gives greatest weight to the stocks with the highest per-share prices. And at $203.41, $158.56 and $125.59 respectively, Visa, Goldman and Boeing are the stocks that really matter to the measure.
And the trouble in these stocks isn’t just today. So far this year, Visa is down 8.7%, Goldman is off 10.5% and Boeing is down 8.0%.
This recent decline has many analysts groping for answers.
Some believe that it is simply a “rotation” as investors leave growth stocks that have become overvalued and move into safer, more traditional stocks.
Others are pointing their fingers at the Federal Reserve…
Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at Lindsey Group, believes it’s all about the Fed. “I’m still amazed at the complacency with the Fed taper, and a lot of people still don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s a coincidence that the high-fliers are getting popped when the Fed is half way done with QE. We’ve got tightening smack in front of your face with the taper.”
In fact, some believe that the really big stock market decline will happen later this year when the Fed starts to wrap up quantitative easing completely…
Once the Fed begins to truly reduce its massive bond buying program later this year, markets could see a quarter of their value wiped off the books, a private equity pro told CNBC on Friday.
Jay Jordan, founder of the Jordan Company, issued the dire warning during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying a 25 percent drop could extend to all asset classes. He blames the monetary policies of former Fed chair Ben Bernanke for artificially inflating asset prices through super-low interest rates.
Yet others point to the fact that we are now moving into earnings season, and it is being projected that corporate earnings will come in at very poor levels. In fact, it is being estimated that overall earnings for companies in the S&P 500 for the first quarter will be down 1.2 percent.
So what should we expect to see next?
Whether it happens this month or not, at some point a massive stock market correction is coming. In recent years, the financial markets have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and that is a state of affairs that cannot last indefinitely.
Many have compared the current state of affairs to 2008, but to me what is happening right now is eerily reminiscent of 2007. The Dow soared to record heights quite a few times that year, but there were constant rumblings of economic trouble in the background. Stocks began to drop steadily late in the year, and 2008 ultimately turned out to be an utter bloodbath.
I believe that what is happening right now is setting the stage for another financial bloodbath. I truly believe that we will look back on this two year time period and regard it as a major “turning point” for America.
And as I have written about previously, we are in far worse shape as a nation than we were back in 2008. We have far more debt, the “too big to fail banks” have a much larger share of the banking industry, the derivatives bubble has gotten completely and totally out of control, and our overall economy is far weaker than it was back then.
In other words, we are now even more vulnerable. When the next great financial crisis strikes us, it is going to be absolutely crippling.
Now is not the time to get complacent.
Now is the time to get prepared, because time is running out.