The Beginning Of The End
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QE4? The Big Wall Street Banks Are Already Complaining That QE3 Is Not Enough

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.

A CNBC article entitled “Fed May Need to Boost QE ‘Dramatically’ This Year: Pros” discussed Wall Street’s desire for even more money printing….

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.

At this point, economists at Goldman Sachs are already projecting that QE3 will likely stretch into 2015….

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.

A couple months ago, European Central Bank President  Mario Draghi made the following pledge….

“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.

But will this fix anything?

Unfortunately it will not, at least according to Paul Volcker….

“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….

What effect do you think QE3 will have on the U.S. economy?

The following are the 5 answers that got the most votes….

-“Long term, disastrous”

-“Negative”

-“Thanks for $5 gas”

-“I can’t believe you think this will work!”

-“Fire Bernanke”

So what do you think about the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve is doing?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

The Federal Reserve Is Systematically Destroying Social Security And The Retirement Plans Of Millions Of Americans

Last week the mainstream media hailed QE3 as the “quick fix” that the U.S. economy desperately needs, but the truth is that the policies that the Federal Reserve is pursuing are going to be absolutely devastating for our senior citizens.  By keeping interest rates at exceptionally low levels, the Federal Reserve is absolutely crushing savers and is systematically destroying Social Security.  Meanwhile, the inflation that QE3 will cause is going to be absolutely crippling for the millions upon millions of retired Americans that are on a fixed income.  Sadly, most elderly Americans have no idea what the Federal Reserve is doing to their financial futures.  Most Americans that are approaching retirement age have not adequately saved for retirement, and the Social Security system that they are depending on is going to completely and totally collapse in the coming years.  Right now, approximately 56 million Americans are collecting Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to grow to a whopping 91 million.  By law, the Social Security trust fund must be invested in U.S. government securities.  But thanks to the low interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on those securities just keeps dropping and dropping.  The trustees of the Social Security system had projected that the Social Security trust fund would be completely gone by 2033, but because of the Fed policy of keeping interest rates exceptionally low for the foreseeable future it is now being projected by some analysts that Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023.  Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The collapse of Social Security is inevitable, and the foolish policies of the Federal Reserve are going to make that collapse happen much more rapidly.

The only way that the Social Security system is going to be able to stay solvent is for the Social Security trust fund to earn a healthy level of interest.

By law, all money deposited in the Social Security trust fund must be invested in U.S. government securities.  The following is from the official website of the Social Security Administration….

By law, income to the trust funds must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government. All securities held by the trust funds are “special issues” of the United States Treasury. Such securities are available only to the trust funds.

In the past, the trust funds have held marketable Treasury securities, which are available to the general public. Unlike marketable securities, special issues can be redeemed at any time at face value. Marketable securities are subject to the forces of the open market and may suffer a loss, or enjoy a gain, if sold before maturity. Investment in special issues gives the trust funds the same flexibility as holding cash.

So in order for the Social Security Ponzi scheme to work, those investments in government securities need to produce healthy returns.

Unfortunately, the ultra-low interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve is making this impossible.

The average rate of interest earned by the Social Security trust fund has declined from 6.1 percent in January 2003 to 3.9 percent today, and it is going to continue to go even lower as long as the Fed continues to keep interest rates super low.

A recent article by Bruce Krasting detailed how this works.  Just check out the following example….

$135 billion of old bonds matured this year. This money was rolled over into new bonds with a yield of only 1.375%. The average yield on the maturing securities was 5.64%. The drop in yield on the new securities lowers SSA’s income by $5.7B annually. Over the fifteen year term of the investments, that comes to a lumpy $86 billion.

So what happens when the Social Security trust fund runs dry?

As Bruce Krasting also noted, all Social Security payments would immediately be cut by 25 percent…..

Anyone who is 55 or older should be worried about this. Based on current law, all SS benefit payments must be cut by (approximately) 25% when the TF is exhausted. This will affect 72 million people. The economic consequences will be severe.

In other words, it would be a complete and total nightmare.

Sadly, the truth is that the Social Security trust fund might not even make it into the next decade.  Most Social Security trust fund projections assume that there will be no recessions and that there will be a very healthy rate of growth for the U.S. economy over the next decade.

So what happens if we have another major recession or worse?

And most Americans know that something is up with Social Security.  According to a Gallup survey, 67 percent of all Americans believe that there will be a Social Security crisis within 10 years.

Part of the problem is that there are way too many people retiring and not nearly enough workers to support them.

Back in 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 U.S. workers.  But now things are much different.  According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now only 1.75 full-time private sector workers for each person that is receiving Social Security benefits in the United States.

And remember, the number of Americans drawing on Social Security will increase by another 35 million by the year 2035.

Another factor that is rapidly becoming a major problem is the growth of the Social Security disability program.

Since 2008, 3.6 million more Americans have been added to the rolls of the Social Security disability insurance program.

Today, more than 8.7 million Americans are collecting Social Security disability payments.

So how does this compare to the past?

Back in August 1967, there were approximately 65 workers for each American that was collecting Social Security disability payments.

Today, there are only 16.2 workers for each American that is collecting Social Security disability payments.

The Social Security Ponzi scheme is rapidly approaching a crisis point.

Sadly, the Federal Reserve has made it incredibly difficult to save for your own retirement.

Millions upon millions of Baby Boomers that diligently saved money for retirement are finding that their savings accounts are paying out next to nothing thanks to the ultra-low interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve.

The following is one example of how the low interest rate policies of the Fed have completely devastated the retirement plans of many elderly Americans….

You can understand the impact of the invisible tax on the elderly by watching the decline of interest income from $50,000 invested in a five-year Treasury obligation. As recently as 2000, this would have yielded about 6.15 percent and an interest income of $3,075 a year. Now the same obligation is yielding 0.7 percent and an interest income of $350 a year. This is the lowest yield on this maturity of Treasury debt since the Federal Reserve started keeping an index of the yields in 1953.

But it’s more than a low interest rate. It’s an income decline of nearly 89 percent in just 12 years.

And after you account for inflation, those that put money into savings accounts today are actually losing money.

Of course most Americans have not saved up much money for retirement anyway.  According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

Overall, a study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research discovered that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.

So needless to say, we have a major problem.

Baby Boomers are just starting to retire and the Social Security system is still solvent at the moment, and yet the number of elderly Americans that are experiencing financial problems is already soaring.

For example, between 1991 and 2007 the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that filed for bankruptcy rose by a staggering 178 percent.

Also, at this point one out of every six elderly Americans is already living below the federal poverty line.

So how bad are things going to be when Social Security collapses?

That is frightening to think about.

In the short-term, millions upon millions of retired Americans that are living on fixed incomes are going to be absolutely crushed by the inflation that QE3 is going to cause.

Just like we saw with QE1 and QE2, a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up in agricultural commodities and oil.  That means that retirees (and all the rest of us) are going to end up paying more for food at the supermarket and gasoline at the pump.

But those on fixed incomes are not going to see a corresponding increase in their incomes.  That means that their standards of living will go down.

Things are tough for retirees right now, but they are going to get a lot tougher.

Right now, there are somewhere around 40 million senior citizens.  By 2050 that number is projected to increase to 89 million.

So how will our society cope with more than twice as many senior citizens?

Sadly, we will likely never get to find out.

The truth is that our system is almost certainly going to totally collapse long before then.

We are rapidly approaching a financial crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before in U.S. history, and the foolish policies of the Federal Reserve just keep making things even worse.

QE3: Helicopter Ben Bernanke Unleashes An All-Out Attack On The U.S. Dollar

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.

So what does all of this mean?

I really like how one analyst put it when he described this announcement as a “I’m gonna ease till your eyes bleed kinda statement“.

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.

But what else would you expect from the Federal Reserve?

It is imperative that we educate the American people about the Federal Reserve and about how they are destroying our economy.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve“.

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….

A Financial Nightmare For Italy: The Yield Curve For Italian Bonds Is Turning Upside Down

What we are all watching unfold right now is a complete and total financial nightmare for Italy.  Italian bond yields are soaring to incredibly dangerous levels, and now the yield curve for Italian bonds is turning upside down.  So what does that mean?  Normally, government debt securities that have a longer maturity pay a higher interest rate.  There is typically more risk when you hold a bond for an extended period of time, so investors normally demand a higher return for holding debt over longer time periods.  But when investors feel as though a major economic downturn or a substantial financial crisis is coming, the yield on short-term bonds will often rise above the yield for long-term bonds.  This happened to Greece, to Ireland and to Portugal and all three of them ended up needing bailouts.  Now it is happening to Italy and Spain may follow shortly, but the EU cannot afford to bail out either of them.  An inverted yield curve is a major red flag.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much hope that there is going to be a solution to this European debt crisis any time soon.

We are witnessing a crisis of confidence in the European financial system.  All over Europe bond yields went soaring today.  When I finished my article about the financial crisis in Italy on Tuesday night, the yield on 10 year Italian bonds was at 6.7 percent.  I awoke today to learn that it had risen to 7.2 percent.

But even more importantly, the yield on 5 year Italian bonds is now sitting at about 7.5 percent, and the yield on 2 year Italian bonds is about 7.2 percent.

The yield curve for Italian bonds is in the process of turning upside down.

If you want to see a frightening chart, just look at this chart that shows what has happened to 2 year Italian bonds recently.

Do phrases like “heading straight up” and “going through the roof” come to mind?

This comes despite rampant Italian bond buying by the European Central Bank.  CNBC is reporting that the European Central Bank was aggressively buying up 2 year Italian bonds and 10 year Italian bonds on Wednesday.

So what does it say when even open market manipulation by the European Central Bank is not working?

Of course some in the financial community are saying that the European Central Bank is not going far enough.  Some prominent financial professionals are even calling on the European Central Bank to buy up a trillion euros worth of European bonds in order to soothe the markets.

Part of the reason why Italian bond yields rose so much on Wednesday was that London clearing house LCH Clearnet raised margin requirements on Italian government bonds.

But that doesn’t explain why bond yields all over Europe were soaring.

The reality is that bond yields for Spain, Belgium, Austria and France also skyrocketed on Wednesday.

This is a crisis that is rapidly engulfing all of Europe.

But at this point, bond yields in Europe are still way too low.  European leaders shattered confidence when they announced that they were going to ask private Greek bondholders to take a 50% haircut.  So now rational investors have got to be asking themselves why they would want to hold any sovereign European debt at all.

There is no way in the world that any rational investor should invest in European bonds at these levels.

Are you kidding me?

If there is a very good chance that private bondholders will be forced to take huge haircuts on these bonds at some point in the future then they should be demanding much, much higher returns than this.

But if bond yields continue to go up in Europe, we are going to quickly come to a moment of very great crisis.

The following is what Rod Smyth of Riverfront Investment Group recently told his clients about the situation that is unfolding in Italy….

“In our view, 7% is a ‘tipping point’ for any large debt-laden country and is the level at which Greece, Portugal and Ireland were forced to accept assistance”

Other analysts are speaking of a “point of no return”.  For example, check out what a report that was just released by Barclays Capital had to say….

“At this point, Italy may be beyond the point of no return. While reform may be necessary, we doubt that Italian economic reforms alone will be sufficient to rehabilitate the Italian credit and eliminate the possibility of a debilitating confidence crisis that could overwhelm the positive effects of a reform agenda, however well conceived and implemented.”

But unlike Greece, Ireland and Portugal, the EU simply cannot afford to bail out Italy.

Italy’s national debt is approximately 2.7 times larger than the national debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal put together.

Plus, as I noted earlier, Spain is heading down the exact same road as Italy.

Europe has simply piled up way, way too much debt and now they are going to pay the price.

Global financial markets are very nervous right now.  You can almost smell the panic in the air.  As a CNBC article posted on Wednesday noted, one prominent think tank actually believes that there is a 65 percent chance that we will see a “banking crisis” by the end of November….

“There is a 65 percent chance of a banking crisis between November 23-26 following a Greek default and a run on the Italian banking system, according to analysts at Exclusive Analysis, a research firm that focuses on global risks.”

Personally, I believe that particular think tank is being way too pessimistic, but this just shows how much fear is out there right now.

It seems more likely to me that the European debt crisis will really unravel once we get into 2012.  And when it does, it just won’t be a few countries that feel the pain.

For example, when Italy goes down many of their neighbors will be in a massive amount of trouble as well.  As you can see from this chart, France has massive exposure to Italian debt.

Just like we saw a few years ago, a financial crisis can be very much like a game of dominoes.  Once the financial dominoes start tumbling, it will be hard to predict where the damage will end.

Some believe that what is coming is going to be even worse than the financial nightmare of a few years ago.  For example, the following is what renowned investor Jim Rogers recently told CNBC….

“In 2002 it was bad, in 2008 it was worse and 2012 or 2013 is going to be worse still – be careful”

Rogers says that the reason the next crisis is going to be so bad is because debt levels are so much higher than they were back then….

“Last time, America quadrupled its debt. The system is much more extended now, and America cannot quadruple its debt again. Greece cannot double its debt again. The next time around is going to be much worse”

So what is the “endgame” for this crisis?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is saying that fundamental changes are needed….

“It is time for a breakthrough to a new Europe”

So what kind of a “breakthrough” is she talking about?  Well, Merkel says that the ultimate solution to this crisis is going to require even tighter integration for Europe….

“That will mean more Europe, not less Europe”

As I have written about previously, the political and financial elite of Europe are not going to give up on the EU because of a few bumps in the road.  In fact, at some point they are likely to propose a “United States of Europe” as the ultimate solution to this crisis.

But being more like the United States is not necessarily a solution to anything.

The U.S. is 15 trillion dollars in debt and extreme poverty is spreading like wildfire in this nation.

No, the real problem is government debt and the central banks of the western world which act as perpetual debt machines.

By not objecting to central banks and demanding change, those of us living in the western world have allowed ourselves to become enslaved to gigantic mountains of debt.  Unless something dramatically changes, our children and our grandchildren will suffer under the weight of this debt for as long as they live.

Don’t we owe future generations something better than this?

Should We Be Alarmed That The Biggest Bond Fund In The World Has Dumped All Of Their U.S. Treasury Bonds?

Bill Gross, the manager of the biggest bond fund in the world, has forgotten more about bonds than most of us will ever learn. That is why the big move that PIMCO has just made is so unsettling.  At one time PIMCO held more U.S. government debt than any other bond fund on the globe, but now news has come out that they have gotten rid of all their U.S. government-related securities.  So should we be alarmed?  For months Gross has been warning that the bull market in bonds is coming to an end, and now it looks like he is putting his words into action.s  Gross has often publicly decried the rampant government spending that has been going on over the last several years, and apparently he has seen enough.  He is taking his ball and he is going home.  This really is a stunning move by PIMCO.  Gross must really believe that something fundamental has shifted.    Gross didn’t get to where he is today by being stupid.  But so far world financial markets are taking this news in stride.  Nobody seems all that alarmed that the largest bond fund in the world has dumped all of their U.S. Treasuries.  But with world financial markets in such a state of chaos right now, shouldn’t we all take note when one of the biggest players in the game makes such a bold move?

Gross believes that interest rates on U.S. Treasuries are way too low right now and that they will start going up when the Federal Reserve ends the current round of quantitative easing in June.  Gross has indicated that if interest rates on U.S. Treasuries go up high enough, PIMCO might get back in.

But if interest rates do start going up that is going to make servicing the monolithic U.S. national debt much more expensive, and that would not be good news for U.S. government finances.

But would the Federal Reserve really allow interest rates on U.S. Treasuries to go up substantially?  Wouldn’t they just step in at some point and start buying U.S. government debt again?

Probably.

But the truth is that the Ponzi Scheme of the U.S. Treasury issuing bonds and the Federal Reserve buying them up cannot last forever as Gross noted in his March newsletter….

“Basically, the recent game plan is as simple as the Ohio State Buckeyes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” in the 1960s. When applied to the Treasury market it translates to this: The Treasury issues bonds and the Fed buys them. What could be simpler, and who’s to worry? This Sammy Scheme as I’ve described it in recent Outlooks is as foolproof as Ponzi and Madoff until… until… well, until it isn’t.”

Gross also noted in his newsletter that the Federal Reserve is currently buying up about 70 percent of all new U.S. government debt.

So what is going to happen when that stops?

Nobody knows for certain, but it sure is going to be interesting to watch.

The market for U.S. Treasuries has not been working “normally” for quite some time now, and there is some legitimate doubt as to whether it will ever fully get back to “normal” again.

Meanwhile, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to get even worse.

The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds is now above 7 percent, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds is now above 9 percent and the yield on 10-year Greek bonds is now above 12 percent.

Most people expect European leaders to soon come to an agreement to add billions more to existing bailout funds, but there is no guarantee that is actually going to happen.

In fact, the Germans are making waves by insisting that the financially troubled nations in the EU must be willing to agree to limits on their future budget deficits.  A recent article on CNBC described the situation this way….

Before the Germans will agree to pump in extra cash from their taxpayers, backed by the French, they want each leader to agree to legislation at home that will limit the size of their future national deficits. The Greeks are already refusing point blank. Things may boil to the surface at an extraordinary summit on Friday.

So what if an agreement can’t be reached?

Could the dominoes in Europe start to fall?

Very few people actually want to see a wave of sovereign defaults in Europe, but the current situation cannot go on forever.  At some point the Germans are going to get sick and tired of bailing out other members of the EU.

The global addiction to debt is about to start having some very serious consequences.

For decades, most of the governments of the industrialized world have been running up debt as if it would never come back to haunt them.  Now the world is absolutely covered in red ink and everyone is looking for a way to solve the problem.

But there is not going to be a debt jubilee to come along and save everyone.  This debt bubble is either going to keep expanding or it is going to burst.

At one point, at least some of the debt-ridden nations will try to inflate their way out of debt by recklessly printing money.  To a certain extent that has already been going on.  But it will not work.  It will only cause a whole lot of inflation.

This is just more evidence that any economic system based on debt is destined to fall.  When we allowed a private central bank to start issuing debt-based currency in this country back in 1913 we set ourselves up to fail.  As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve should never have been allowed to come into existence, and it should have been shut down by Congress long before now.

But now the United States is caught in the same debt trap that most of the other nations around the world are caught in.  The global addiction to debt is going to have some very, very serious consequences.  Instead of moving into a great time of peace and prosperity, everything is about to come falling apart.

Things could have been different.  Things did not have to turn out this way.  But here we are on the edge of one of the biggest financial disasters in human history and most Americans still don’t understand what is happening.

So what do you all think about all of this?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds

The foreclosure fraud crisis seems to escalate with each passing now.  It is being reported that all 50 U.S. states have launched a joint investigation into alleged fraud in the mortgage industry.  This is a huge story that is not going to go away any time soon.  The truth is that it would be hard to understate the amount of fraud that has gone on in the U.S. mortgage industry, and we are watching events unfold that could potentially rip the U.S. economy to shreds.  Many are now referring to this crisis as “Foreclosure-Gate“, and already it is shaping up to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. mortgage industry.  At this point, it seems inevitable that some financial institutions will go under as a result of this mess.  In fact, by the end of this thing we might see a whole bunch of lending institutions crash and burn.  This crisis is very hard to describe because it is just so darn complicated, but it is worth it to try to dig into this thing and understand what is going on because it has the potential to absolutely decimate the entire U.S. mortgage industry.

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”. 

Then, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole bunch more fraud started being committed.  The reality is that the “robo-signing” scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.  The following are six things that you should know about how deep this foreclosure fraud crisis really goes….   

#1 According to the Associated Press, financial institutions were hiring just about whoever they could find, including hair stylists and Wal-Mart employees, as “foreclosure experts” to help them rush through the massive backlog of foreclosures that were rapidly piling up.

Apparently many of these “foreclosure experts” barely even knew what a “mortgage” was according to the AP….

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.

#2 There is soon going to be a colossal legal scramble to figure out who actually owns millions of U.S. mortgages.

In his recent article entitled “Invasion Of The Robot Home Snatchers“, Robert Scheer described the complete and total mess that the U.S. mortgage industry has created….

How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable? You cannot get much help from those who signed off on the process because they turn out to be robot signers acting on automatic pilot. Fully 65 million homes in question are tied to a computerized program, the national Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), that is often identified in foreclosure proceedings as the owner of record.

Meanwhile, more organizations are stepping forward to help homeowners fight foreclosures.  National People’s Action, PICO National Network, Industrial Areas Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations have all partnered with the SEIU to launch the “Where’s The Note” campaign which is going to encourage homeowners to demand to see the note before submitting to a foreclosure.  Campaigns such as this are going to make foreclosures much more costly for banks.

#3 Legal battles over foreclosure documents could soon spawn thousands upon thousands of lawsuits across the United States.

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in mortgage finance and financial regulatory issues was recently quoted in an article on CNBC as saying the following about the situation we are currently in….

The mortgage is still owed, but there’s going to be a problem figuring out who actually holds the mortgage, and they would be the ones bringing the foreclosure. You have a trust that has been getting payments from borrowers for years that it has no right to receive. So you might see borrowers suing the trusts saying give me my money back, you’re stealing my money. You’re going to then have trusts that don’t have any assets that have been issuing securities that say they’re backed by a whole bunch of assets, and you’re going to have investors suing the trustees for failing to inspect the collateral files, which the trustees say they’re going to do, and you’re going to have trustees suing the securitization sponsors for violating their representations and warrantees about what they were transferring.

#4 The problems with foreclosure paperwork may be more widespread than anyone would have dared to imagine.

Attorney Richard Kessler recently conducted a study in which he found “serious errors” in approximately 75 percent of the court filings related to home repossessions that he examined.  Now he says that the foreclosure crisis could haunt the U.S. mortgage industry for the next ten years….

“Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade.”

#5 If some banks discover that they are missing the paperwork for large numbers of mortgages (as is currently being alleged), those banks could be forced to significantly revalue those assets (as in “close to zero”) on their balance sheets. 

John Carney of CNBC recently described it this way….

The most damaging thing that could happen to banks would be the discovery that they simply cannot prove they hold a mortgage on a house. In that case, the loan would probably have to be written down to near zero. Even for current loans, the regulatory reserve requirements would double as the loan would no longer be a functional mortgage but an ordinary consumer loan. Depending on the size of the “no docs” portion of the loan portfolio, this might be a minor blip or require a bank to raise new capital to fill the hole in the balance sheet.

#6 Renowned investor Jim Sinclair is actually warning that the collapse of securitized mortgage debt could be the “final shot” that will wipe out many financial institutions across the United States. 

The recent warning that Sinclair posted on his blog is more than a little sobering…. 

I am asking for your attention again because of the depth of the fraud and now the size of the securitized mortgage debt OTC derivative pile of garbage that is in the trillions. This entire mountain of weapons of mass financial and social destruction is now in question. I have been telling you this for more than 2 years since the manufacturers and distributors of this crap were called by the NY Fed due to the loss of control over the paperwork.

I had dinner with my former partner, then lead director of and CEO of Bear Stearns. I could not contain myself so I asked him why he did so much business in OTC derivatives which were certain to bankrupt them. The answer I got was it was more than 50% of their profit. The right answer should have been it was more than 80% of their earnings.

Securitized mortgage debt is going to be the final shot that kills all kinds of financial entities in the Western world. The biggest holder of this putrid junk is pension funds.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to go up, up, up as if everything is right in the world and as if a juicy new bull market is now upon us.

Well, let’s all join hands and sing happy songs around the campfire.

Perhaps if we all close our eyes and wish real hard all of this foreclosure fraud will just go away.

Then again, maybe not.

Will Quantitative Easing By The Federal Reserve Unleash Economic Hell?

Prior to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, the Federal Reserve could always count on being able to stimulate the U.S. economy with a quick cut to interest rates.  But now with interest rates just barely above zero, the Federal Reserve is searching for other ways to pump life into a U.S. economy that is staggering about like a drunken college student.  One of the ways that the Federal Reserve can do this is through something called “quantitative easing”.  In essence, what happens is that the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air and starts buying things like U.S. Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities and corporate debt.  But many economic analysts are now warning that further rounds of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve could end up setting off a series of events that could ultimately unleash economic hell.  In fact, there are quite a few high profile commentators who now believe that hyperinflation in the United States is absolutely inevitable.

For those not familiar with quantitative easing, Wikipedia has a pretty good definition….

The term quantitative easing (QE) describes a form of monetary policy used by central banks to increase the supply of money in an economy when the bank interest rate, discount rate and/or interbank interest rate are either at, or close to, zero.[citation needed] A central bank does this by first crediting its own account with money it has created ex nihilo (“out of nothing”).[1] It then purchases financial assets, including government bonds, mortgage-backed securities and corporate bonds, from banks and other financial institutions in a process referred to as open market operations.

But is it really a good idea for a privately-owned central bank to have the power to create money out of nothing and to do whatever it wants with it outside of U.S. government control?

Of course not, but we dealt with those issues in another article.

What we will concern ourselves with in this article are the negative effects that could be unleashed as the Federal Reserve further abuses this power.

Now keep in mind that disasters don’t usually happen overnight.  They usually build over time.  When the Federal Reserve begins new rounds of quantitative easing, it will take time for the effects to be felt.

And so far, the new quantitative easing measures that the Federal Reserve has implemented have been relatively mild….

*The Federal Reserve has announced that it will “continue to roll over the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities as they mature”.

*The Federal Reserve has also announced that it has decided to reinvest principal payments on mortgage holdings into U.S. Treasury securities.

*The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced on Wednesday that it will purchase $18 billion in U.S. Treasury securities between now and mid-September.

But most analysts are expecting quantitative easing by the Fed to accelerate – especially if the U.S. economy continues to flounder.

So is there a reason we should be concerned about all of this?

Well, yes there is.

Marc Faber, the author of “The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report”, recently warned CNBC that all of this intervention by the Federal Reserve is going to create a “final crisis” that will destroy the U.S. financial system….

“Investors should have listened to me already six months ago when I wrote that the Fed will continue to monetize … they will print and print and print until the final crisis wipes out the whole system.”

In a recent article, Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster described some of the financial gymnastics that our “financial authorities” go through just to keep the current shell game going….

But first, we ignore things like monthly hundred billion plus mathematical discrepancies between the amount of the government’s deficits and the amount of treasury bonds being sold.  Then we give the proceeds from the bogus excess treasury sales to foreign countries, foreign central banks and sovereign wealth funds as well as Cayman Island hedge funds so they can do what with it?  Why, so they can buy US treasury paper and agency paper, among other things.  Yep, we set up the straw men, fund them with counterfeit money illegally created out of thin air beyond what is needed to fund the ever-increasing deficit being created by the drunken sailors running the US government, and we then magically create categories of new mega-buyers in our financial reports to show everyone how our treasury paper is just as “beloved” as in the old days.  Why, even the totally bankrupt UK has magically created $180 billion for the express purpose of buying up those treasuries to keep the whole rip-off party going.

What a mess they have created.

Things have gotten so bad that even CNN is publishing articles that openly acknowledge the crisis.  In a recent article on CNN entitled “Is This Finally The Economic Collapse?”, Keith R. McCullough warned that the Federal Reserve openly buying large amounts of U.S. government debt is a very dangerous threshold to cross….

Now that the US can’t cut interest rates any lower, the only option left on the table is what the Fed just announced it would start doing — buying Treasury debt. And that could lead the country to the brink of collapse: According to economists Carmen Reinhart & Ken Rogoff, whose views we share, crossing the 90% debt/GDP threshold is the equivalent of crossing the proverbial Rubicon of economic growth. It’s a point from which it’s almost impossible to return.

And that is the crux of the problem – the U.S. government has a debt that is absolutely spiralling out of control.  This is a problem that has been building for decades and there simply is no quick fix for it. 

But the truth is that it was seen as far back as 1835.  In his article for CNN, Keith R. McCullough included a very appropriate quote by Alexis De Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America….

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

Today, approximately 57% of the U.S. government budget is spent on direct payments to American citizens or is money that is spent on behalf of individual American citizens. 

For decades, the “Congress critters” have been bribing the American people (and each other) with massive payouts and have been getting away with it.

But now we are starting to pay the price.

The truth is that the U.S. government has become an expert on wasting money.  Most of the folks populating Congress are so incompetent that they should not even be hired to mop the floors of a Dairy Queen, and yet they control how trillions of our tax dollars are spent. 

The end result is that we have a financial mess that is absolutely unprecedented.

The U.S. financial system is doomed.  The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve will probably end up trying to save it with a massive flood of paper money, and in the end that will likely result in the collapse of the U.S. dollar and hyperinflation.

But hopefully all of that is still a while away yet.  For now, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are trying to play a very delicate balancing act and are trying to keep this giant house of cards from collapsing.

As incompetent as they are, let’s hope that they can keep things together for at least a while longer, because when things really fall apart we are all going to be feeling the pain.

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