Junk Bonds Are Going To Tell Us Where The Stock Market Is Heading In 2015

Dominoes - Public DomainDo you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year?  Just keep an eye on junk bonds.  Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first.  And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again.  The primary reason for this is the price of oil.  The energy sector accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the entire junk bond market, and those energy bonds are taking a tremendous beating right now.  This panic in energy bonds is infecting the broader high yield debt market, and investors have been pulling money out at a frightening pace.  And as I have written about previously, almost every single time junk bonds decline substantially, stocks end up following suit.  So don’t be fooled by the fact that some comforting words from Janet Yellen caused stock prices to jump over the past couple of days.  If you really want to know where the stock market is heading in 2015, keep a close eye on the market for high yield debt.

If you are not familiar with junk bonds, the concept is actually very simple.  Corporations that do not have high credit ratings typically have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money.  The following is how USA Today describes these bonds…

High-yield bonds are long-term IOUs issued by companies with shaky credit ratings. Just like credit card users, companies with poor credit must pay higher interest rates on loans than those with gold-plated credit histories.

But in recent years, interest rates on junk bonds have gone down to ridiculously low levels.  This is another bubble that was created by Federal Reserve policies, and it is a colossal disaster waiting to happen.  And unfortunately, there are already signs that this bubble is now beginning to burst

Back in June, the average junk bond yield was 3.90 percentage points higher than Treasury securities. The average energy junk bond yielded 3.91 percentage points higher than Treasuries, Lonski says.

That spread has widened to 5.08 percentage points for junk bonds vs. 7.86 percentage points for energy bonds — an indication of how worried investors are about default, particularly for small, highly indebted companies in the fracking business.

The reason why so many analysts are becoming extremely concerned about this shift in junk bonds is because we also saw this happen just before the great stock market crash of 2008.  In the chart below, you can see how yields on junk bonds started to absolutely skyrocket in September of that year…

High Yield Debt 2008

Of course we have not seen a move of that magnitude quite yet this year, but without a doubt yields have been spiking.  The next chart that I want to share is of this year.  As you can see, the movement over the past month or so has been quite substantial…

High Yield Debt 2014

And of course I am far from the only one that is watching this.  In fact, there are some sharks on Wall Street that plan to make an absolute boatload of cash as high yield bonds crash.

One of them is Josh Birnbaum.  He correctly made a giant bet against subprime mortgages in 2007, and now he is making a giant bet against junk bonds

When Josh Birnbaum was at Goldman Sachs in 2007, he made a huge bet against subprime mortgages.

Now he’s betting against something else: high-yield bonds.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Joshua Birnbaum, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who made bets against subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, now has more than $2 billion in wagers against high-yield bonds at his Tilden Park Capital Management LP hedge-fund firm, according to investor documents.

Could you imagine betting 2 billion dollars on anything?

If he is right, he is going to make an incredible amount of money.

And I have a feeling that he will be.  As a recent New American article detailed, there is already panic in the air…

It’s a mania, said Tim Gramatovich of Peritus Asset Management who oversees a bond portfolio of $800 million: “Anything that becomes a mania — ends badly. And this is a mania.”

Bill Gross, who used to run PIMCO’s gigantic bond portfolio and now advises the Janus Capital Group, explained that “there’s very little liquidity” in junk bonds. This is the language a bond fund manager uses to tell people that no one is buying, everyone is selling. Gross added: “Everyone is trying to squeeze through a very small door.”

Bonds issued by individual energy developers have gotten hammered. For instance, Energy XXI, an oil and gas producer, issued more than $2 billion in bonds just in the last four years and, up until a couple of weeks ago, they were selling at 100 cents on the dollar. On Friday buyers were offering just 64 cents. Midstates Petroleum’s $700 million in bonds — rated “junk” by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s — are selling at 54 cents on the dollar, if buyers can be found.

So is there anything that could stop junk bonds from crashing?

Yes, if the price of oil goes back up to 80 dollars or more a barrel that would go a long way to settling things back down.

Unfortunately, many analysts are convinced that the price of oil is going to head even lower instead…

“We’re continuing to search for a bottom, and might even see another significant drop before the year-end,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen $1.69 today to $54.78.

If the price of oil stays this low, junk bonds are going to keep crashing.

If junk bonds keep crashing, the stock market is almost certainly going to follow.

For additional reading on this, please see my previous article entitled “‘Near Perfect’ Indicator That Precedes Almost Every Stock Market Correction Is Flashing A Warning Signal“.

But just like in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, there are all kinds of naysayers proclaiming that a collapse will never happen.

Even though our financial problems and our underlying economic fundamentals have gotten much worse since the last crisis, they are absolutely convinced that things are somehow going to be different this time.

In the end, a lot of those skeptics are going to lose an enormous amount of money when the dominoes start falling.

‘Near Perfect’ Indicator That Precedes Almost Every Stock Market Correction Is Flashing A Warning Signal

Exclamation Marks - Public DomainAre we about to see U.S. stocks take a significant tumble?  If you are looking for a “canary in the coal mine” for the U.S. stock market, just look at high yield bonds.  In recent years, almost every single time junk bonds have declined substantially there has been a notable stock market correction as well.  And right now high yield bonds are steadily moving lower.  The biggest reason for this is falling oil prices.  As I wrote about the other day, energy companies now account for about 20 percent of the high yield bond market.  As the price of oil falls, investors are understandably becoming concerned about the future prospects of those companies and are dumping their bonds.  What is happening cannot be described as a “crash” just yet, but there has been a pretty sizable decline for junk bonds over the past month.  And as I noted above, junk bonds and stocks usually move in tandem.  In fact, junk bonds usually start falling before stocks do.  So does the decline in high yield bonds that we are witnessing at the moment indicate that we are on the verge of a significant stock market correction?

That is a question that CNBC asked in a recent article entitled “Near perfect sell signal says stocks should drop“…

The S&P 500 and the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF are a mirror image since the start of the year, but since the end of October, high yield has diverged to the lower right, and yet the S&P 500 has continued to record highs. Since separating in October, the S&P 500 is up 3 percent, while the high-yield ETF is down 4 percent.

On 10 occasions since 2007, the high-yield ETF dropped 5 percent in 30 trading days. During nine of those instances, the S&P 500 fell as well, with an average return of negative 9 percent, according to CNBC analysis using Kensho.

Only once did high yield give a false sell signal. That was last year, when the market was already entranced by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, which has seemed to elevate stocks with an abnormal consistency. And even then, the S&P 500 managed just a 0.4 percent climb amid the junk debt rout.

Personally, I am convinced that this correlation between junk bonds and stocks is very significant.

Let’s just go back and look at what happened during the financial crash of 2008 for a moment.

In the chart posted below, you can see that high yield bonds began crashing in the middle of September that year…

High Yield Bonds 2008

But U.S. stocks did not crash at the same time.  In fact, the chart below shows that they did not really begin crashing until early October…

Dow Jones Industrial Average 2008

That is why analysts often refer to junk bonds as a “leading indicator”.  What happens to high yield debt is often a really good indicator of what is about to happen to stocks.

Now let’s take a look at what is happening today.

Since the beginning of November, junk bonds have been falling steadily…

High Yield Bonds November

Meanwhile, the Dow has continued to reach new heights…

Dow Jones Industrial Average November

This is not a state of affairs that can persist indefinitely.  Either junk bonds will rebound or U.S. stocks will start falling.

If the U.S. economy was on solid footing, you could perhaps argue that it could go either way.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  At this point, the stock market has become completely divorced from economic fundamentals.  Price to earnings ratios are at absurd levels, margin debt is hovering near record highs, and the “real economy” continues to fall apart.  We are enjoying a massively inflated standard of living which is being propped up by the largest mountain of debt in world history, and it is only a matter of time before reality starts catching up with us.

And the signs of our long-term economic decline are all around us if you are willing to look at them.  For example, the lead headline on the Drudge Report today was about how China has now overtaken us and has become the largest economy on the planet

Hang on to your hats, America.

And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.

It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

Meanwhile, some of the most iconic companies in the United States continue to struggle deeply.  For instance, Sears has just announced that the number of store closings for this year is going to reach a total of 235 and that the company lost more than half a billion dollars during the third quarter of 2014 alone…

Sears Holdings Corp., posted a disappointing third quarter Thursday that saw revenue, earnings, and sales at stores open at least a year all fall as the retailer tries to salvage its business.

Sears, which owns Kmart, lost $548 million, or $5.15 a share, for the period ended Nov. 1. That’s up from a loss of $534 million, or $5.03 a share, in the year-ago period.

Even though Sears is losing more than 500 million dollars a quarter, banks and investors continue to inject new money into the corporation.  That is a crying shame, because Sears is a company that is going to zero.  Anyone that is investing in Sears at this point is just pouring their money into a black hole.  As Kevin O’Leary would say, they are guilty of murdering money.

And of course what is happening to Sears is just part of the broader “retail apocalypse” that I keep writing about.  In order for retailers to thrive they need healthy consumers, and consumers are not financially healthy because the real economy is a disaster zone.

But these days so many people are in denial.  The stock market has been soaring for so long that many skeptics are now proclaiming that another 2008-style crash will never happen.  Even though the fact that we are in the midst of an absolutely insane financial bubble should be glaringly obvious to anyone with half a brain, these skeptics have convinced themselves that the current state of affairs can persist indefinitely.

Sadly, it looks like what is about to hit us in 2015 is going to serve as a very rude wake up call for them and for the millions of other Americans that currently have their heads in the sand.

Did We Just Witness The Last Great Black Friday Celebration Of American Materialism?

Black Friday - Photo by PowhuskuAmericans are going to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season, and on Friday we got to see our fellow citizens fight each other like rabid animals over foreign-made flat screen televisions and Barbie dolls.  As disgusting as this behavior is to many of us, there may soon come a time when we will all fondly remember these days.  Most Americans are completely unaware of what is currently happening in the financial world, but right now there are deeply troubling signs that we could be on the verge of another major global financial collapse.  If the next great economic downturn does strike in 2015, that could mean that we may have just witnessed the last great Black Friday celebration of American materialism.  As you read this, stock prices are approximately double the value that they should be, margin debt is hovering near all-time record highs, and the “too big to fail” banks are being far more reckless than they were just prior to the last major stock market implosion.  So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2007 and 2008 are repeating right now, and as you will see below, this includes a horrifying crash in the price of oil.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the slow-motion financial train wreck that is unfolding right before our eyes.

Every year, it has been my tradition to write an article about the mini-riots that erupt in retail stores all around the country on Black Friday.  This year things were a bit calmer because so many stores opened up on Thanksgiving itself, but there was still plenty of chaos.  For example, in the video posted below you can see women viciously fighting one another over discounted lingerie and underwear…

But instead of launching into another diatribe about how we are committing national economic suicide by buying hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign-made goods with money that we do not have, I want to focus on what is coming next.

You see, I believe that in the not too distant future many of us will be wishing for the days when the debt-fueled U.S. economy was healthy enough for people to be wrestling with one another on the floor over good deals in our retail establishments.

The next great financial crash (which many have been anticipating for years) is rapidly approaching.  So many of the same things that happened last time are happening again.  As I noted above, this includes a crash in the price of oil.

In the months prior to the last stock market collapse, the price of oil began plummeting dramatically in the summer of 2008.  This was an “early warning signal” that something was deeply amiss in the financial world…

Oil Price 2007 - 2008

Many people assume that a lower price for oil is good for the economy, but the exact opposite is actually true.  The oil industry has become absolutely critical to the U.S. and Canadian economies.  And in recent years, the “shale oil boom” has been one of the only bright spots for the United States.  If the shale oil industry starts to fail because of lower prices, a lot of the boom areas all over the nation are going to go bust really quickly and a lot of the financial institutions that were backing these projects are going to feel an immense amount of pain.

Unfortunately for us, the “shale oil revolution” simply does not work at 80 dollars a barrel.

And it certainly does not work at 70 dollars a barrel.

As I write this, U.S. crude is sitting at about 66 dollars a barrel due to OPEC’s recent decision to not cut output.

That is the lowest price for U.S. crude since September 2009.

So just like we saw during the summer of 2008, crude oil prices are collapsing once again.  The chart below comes from the Federal Reserve, but it is a few days out of date.  Now that the price of crude is down to about 66 dollars, you have to imagine the price actually going below the bottom of this chart…

Oil Price 2013 - 2014

Needless to say, this price collapse is having a huge impact on the stock prices of oil companies.  The following information about what happened in the markets on Friday comes from Business Insider

Here were some of the biggest losers on Friday:

  • BP (BP), down 5%
  • Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), down 6%
  • Total (TOT), down 5%
  • Statoil (STO), down 14%
  • Exxon Mobil (XOM), down 5%
  • ConocoPhillips (COP), down 9%
  • Marathon Oil (MRO), down 13%
  • Occidental Petroleum (OXY), down 7%
  • Anadarko Petroleum (APC), down 14%
  • Linn Energy (LINE), down 13%
  • Whiting Petroleum (WLL), down 28%
  • Oasis Petroleum (OAS), down 32%
  • Kodiak Oil & Gas (KOG), down 28%

And this list goes on.

But this could just be the beginning of the oil price declines.

The most powerful oil official in Russia believes that the price of oil could fall below $60 next year…

Russia’s most powerful oil official Igor Sechin said in an interview with an Austrian newspaper that oil prices could fall below $60 by mid-way through next year.

Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, also said U.S. oil production would fall after 2025 and that an oil market council should be created to monitor prices, the same day the OPEC cartel met in Vienna and left its output targets unchanged.

“We expect that a fall in the price to $60 and below is possible, but only during the first half, or rather by the end of the first half (of next year),” Sechin told the Die Presse newspaper.

And one oil industry analyst just told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately plunge as low as $35 a barrel…

“When you look at the second half of 2015, that’s when you see oil beginning to dwarf demand by about a million, a million and a half barrels a day,” he said. “Thirty-five dollars is a possibility if they don’t get an agreement next spring because that’s when the oil really starts to build and you can have a billion barrels of oil with really no place to put it.”

This comes at a time when there are already a whole host of signs that the global economy is slowing down.  Three of the ten largest economies on the planet have already slipped into recession, and the economic nightmare over in Europe just continues to get even worse.  In fact, we just learned that the unemployment rate in Italy has shot above 13 percent for the first time ever recorded.

In addition, it is important to remember that the “real economy” in the United States is in far worse shape than it was just prior to the last financial crash.  Just consider these numbers…

-In the United States today, the number of payday lending locations is greater than the number of McDonald’s and the number of Starbucks.

-One recent survey found that about 22 percent of all Americans have had to turn to a church food panty for assistance.

-This year, almost one out of every five households in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving on food stamps.

-The rate of government dependence in America is at an all-time high and approximately 60 percent of U.S. households get more in transfer payments from the government than they pay in taxes.

-According to a report that was just released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the U.S. has soared to a new all-time record high of 2.5 million.

If things are this bad now, what are they going to look like after the next great financial crash?

And without a doubt, the next crash is coming.  Hopefully we have at least a couple more months of relative stability, but many experts are now urgently warning that time is quickly running out.

By this time next year, Black Friday may look a whole lot different than it does today.

 

From This Day Forward, We Will Watch How The Stock Market Performs Without The Fed’s Monetary Heroin

Money - Public DomainMark 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…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

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…

Homeownership Rate 2014

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.

Wow.

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.

How Far Will Stocks Fall This Time When The Fed Decides To Slow Down Quantitative Easing?

Bear Market - Photo by Appalachian EncountersWhen QE1 ended there was a substantial stock market correction, and when QE2 ended there was a substantial stock market correction.  And if you will remember, the financial markets threw a massive hissy fit a few months ago when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may soon start tapering QE3.  Clearly Wall Street does not like it when their supply of monetary heroin is interrupted.  The Federal Reserve has tricked the American people into supporting quantitative easing by insisting that it is about “stimulating the economy”, but that has turned out to be a massive hoax.  In fact, I just wrote an article that contained 37 statistics that prove that things just keep getting even worse for ordinary Americans.  But quantitative easing has been exceptionally good for Wall Street.  During QE1, the S&P 500 rose by about 300 points.  During QE2, the S&P 500 rose by about 200 points.  And during QE3, the S&P 500 has risen by about 400 points.  The S&P 500 is now in unprecedented territory, and stock prices have become completely and totally divorced from reality.  In essence, we are in the midst of the largest financial bubble this nation has ever seen.  So what is going to happen when the Fed starts pulling back the monetary crack and the bubble bursts?

A lot of people out there are claiming that the Federal Reserve will never end this round of quantitative easing.  They are suggesting that the Fed may hint at tapering from time to time, but that when push comes to shove they will just keep printing more money.

There is just one big problem with that theory.

The rest of the world is watching, and they are very troubled by quantitative easing.  Therefore the Fed must end it at some point because they desperately need the rest of the world to keep playing our game.

Our current economic prosperity greatly depends upon the rest of the planet using our dollars as the reserve currency of the world and lending trillions of dollars to us at ultra-low interest rates.  If the rest of the world decides to stop going along with the program, the system would come crashing down very rapidly.

That is why it was so alarming when China recently announced that they are going to quit stockpiling more U.S. dollars.  For a long time China has been warning us to quit recklessly printing money, and now China is starting to make moves that will make them more independent of us financially.

If the Fed does not bring quantitative easing to an end soon, other nations may start doing the same thing.

So the Fed knows that they are on borrowed time.  Faith in the U.S. financial system is declining very fast.

But the Fed also knows that ending QE3 is going to be very tricky for the financial markets.  The other times that the Fed has ended quantitative easing, it has turned out to be very painful for Wall Street.

So this time, the Fed seems to be trying to do what it can to use the media to mentally prepare investors ahead of time.  For example, the following is what Jon Hilsenrath of the Wall Street Journal wrote just a few days ago

Markets are positioned more to the Fed’s liking today than they were in September, when it put off reducing, or “tapering,” the monthly bond purchases. Most notably, the Fed’s message is sinking in that a wind down of the program won’t mean it’s in a hurry to raise short-term interest rates. Futures markets place a very low probability on Fed rate increases before 2015, in contrast to September, when fed funds futures markets indicated rate increases were expected by the end of 2014. The Fed has been trying to drive home the idea that “tapering is not tightening” for months and is likely to feel comforted that investors believe it as a pullback gets serious consideration.

In case you missed the subtle messages contained in that paragraph, here is a rough translation…

“Don’t worry.  The Federal Reserve is your friend and they say that everything is going to be okay.  Investors believe what the Fed says and you should too.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Tapering is not tightening, and when the Federal Reserve does decide to taper the financial markets are going to take it very calmly.”

The Fed (and their messengers) very much want to avoid a repeat of what has happened before.  As you can see from the chart posted below, every round of quantitative easing has driven the S&P 500 much higher.  And when each round has ended, there has been a substantial stock market correction.  The following chart was originally produced by DayOnBay.org

Chart By DayOnBay

And of course the chart above is incomplete.  As you can see below, the S&P 500 is now sitting at about 1,800…

S&P 500

So let’s recap.

From the time that QE1 was announced to the time that it ended, the S&P 500 rose from about 900 to about 1,200.

When QE1 ended, the S&P 500 fell back below 1,100.

In a panic, the Federal Reserve first hinted at QE2 and then finally formally announced it.  That round of QE drove the S&P 500 up to a bit above the 1,300 mark.

Once QE2 ended, there was another market correction.  The S&P 500 fell all the way down to 1,123 at one point.

In another panic, the Federal Reserve first announced “Operation Twist” and then later added QE3.  Since that time, the S&P 500 has been on an unprecedented tear.  At this point, the S&P is sitting at about 1,800.

And of course those massively inflated stock prices have absolutely no relation to what is going on in the U.S. economy as a whole.  In fact, the truth is that economic conditions for most of the country are steadily getting worse.  Just today we found out that for the week ending November 30th, U.S. rail traffic was down 16.3 percent from the same week one year earlier.  That is a hugely negative sign.  It means that the flow of goods is slowing down substantially.

So the Federal Reserve has created this massive financial bubble that is totally disconnected from reality.  The only way that the Federal Reserve can keep this bubble going is to keep printing lots more money, but they also know that they cannot do that indefinitely because the rest of the world is watching.

In essence, the Federal Reserve is caught between a rock and a hard place.

When the Fed does ultimately decide to taper (whether it be December, January, February, etc.), the consequences are likely to be quite dramatic for the financial markets.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article by Howard Kunstler

But even in a world of seemingly no consequence, things happen. One pretty sure thing is rising interest rates, especially when, at the same time as a head-fake taper, foreigners send a torrent of US Treasury paper back to the redemption window. This paper is what other nations, especially in Asia, have been trading to hose up hard assets, including gold and real estate, around the world, and the traders of last resort — the chumps who took US T bonds for boatloads of copper ore or cocoa pods — now have nowhere else to go. China alone announced very loudly last month that US Treasury debt paper was giving them a migraine and they were done buying anymore of it. Japan is in a financial psychotic delirium scarfing up its own debt paper to infinity. Who’s left out there? Burkina Faso and the Kyrgystan Cobblers’ Union Pension Fund?

The interest rate on the US 10-year bond is close to bumping up on the ominous 3.0 percent level again. Apart from the effect on car and house loans, readers have pointed out to dim-little-me that the real action will be around the interest rate swaps. Last time this happened, in late summer, the too-big-to-fail banks wobbled from their losses on these bets, providing a glimpse into the aperture of a black hole compressive deflation where cascading chains of unmet promises blow financial systems past the event horizon of universal default and paralysis where money stops moving anywhere and people must seriously reevaluate what money actually is.

What Kunstler is talking about is something that I have written about previously many times.  When QE3 slows down (or ends), that is likely going to cause the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries to rise substantially, and that would have a whole host of negative consequences for the U.S. economy.

Most notably, it would threaten to blow up the quadrillion dollar derivatives casino that Wall Street usually manages to keep so delicately balanced.

The truth is that we are going to have massive problems no matter what the Federal Reserve does now.

If the Federal Reserve keeps wildly printing money, our financial system will become a massive joke to the rest of the planet and other nations will stop using our dollars and will stop lending us money.

That would be absolutely disastrous.

If the Federal Reserve stops wildly printing money, the massive financial bubble that Wall Street is enjoying right now will burst and we could have a financial crisis even greater than what we experienced back in 2008.

That would also be absolutely disastrous.

So does anyone out there see an easy way out of this under the current system?  If you think that you have such a plan, please feel free to share it below…

Federal Reserve Whistleblower Tells America The REAL Reason For Quantitative Easing

Wheelbarrow of MoneyA banker named Andrew Huszar that helped manage the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program during 2009 and 2010 is publicly apologizing for what he has done.  He says that quantitative easing has accomplished next to nothing for the average person on the street.  Instead, he says that it has been “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.”  And of course the cold, hard economic numbers support what Huszar is saying.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has not improved at all during the quantitative easing era, and median household income has actually steadily declined during that time frame.  Meanwhile, U.S. stock prices have doubled overall, and the stock prices of the big Wall Street banks have tripled.  So who benefits from quantitative easing?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, and now Andrew Huszar is blowing the whistle on the whole thing.

From 2009 to 2010, Huszar was responsible for managing the Fed’s purchase of approximately $1.25 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities.  At the time, he thought that it was a dream job, but now he is apologizing to the rest of the country for what happened…

I can only say: I’m sorry, America. As a former Federal Reserve official, I was responsible for executing the centerpiece program of the Fed’s first plunge into the bond-buying experiment known as quantitative easing. The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I’ve come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.

When the first round of quantitative easing ended, Huszar says that it was incredibly obvious that QE had done very little to benefit average Americans but that it had been “an absolute coup for Wall Street”…

Trading for the first round of QE ended on March 31, 2010. The final results confirmed that, while there had been only trivial relief for Main Street, the U.S. central bank’s bond purchases had been an absolute coup for Wall Street. The banks hadn’t just benefited from the lower cost of making loans. They’d also enjoyed huge capital gains on the rising values of their securities holdings and fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions. Wall Street had experienced its most profitable year ever in 2009, and 2010 was starting off in much the same way.

You’d think the Fed would have finally stopped to question the wisdom of QE. Think again. Only a few months later—after a 14% drop in the U.S. stock market and renewed weakening in the banking sector—the Fed announced a new round of bond buying: QE2. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, immediately called the decision “clueless.”

That was when I realized the Fed had lost any remaining ability to think independently from Wall Street.

Of course the fact that the Fed cannot think independently from Wall Street should not be a surprise to any of my regular readers.  As I have written about repeatedly, the Federal Reserve was created by the Wall Street bankers for the benefit of the Wall Street bankers.  When the Federal Reserve serves the interests of Wall Street, it is simply doing what it was designed to do.  And according to Huszar, quantitative easing has been one giant “subsidy” for Wall Street banks…

Having racked up hundreds of billions of dollars in opaque Fed subsidies, U.S. banks have seen their collective stock price triple since March 2009. The biggest ones have only become more of a cartel: 0.2% of them now control more than 70% of the U.S. bank assets.

But Huszar is certainly not the only one on Wall Street that acknowledges these things.  For example, just check out what billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller told CNBC about quantitative easing…

 

This is fantastic for every rich person,” he said Thursday, a day after the Fed’s stunning decision to delay tightening its monetary policy. “This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever.

“Who owns assets—the rich, the billionaires. You think Warren Buffett hates this stuff? You think I hate this stuff? I had a very good day yesterday.”

Druckenmiller, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion, said that the implication of the Fed’s policy is that the rich will spend their wealth and create jobs—essentially betting on “trickle-down economics.”

“I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work,” he said. “But it hasn’t worked for five years.”

 

And Donald Trump said essentially the same thing when he made the following statement on CNBC about quantitative easing…

“People like me will benefit from this.”

The American people are still being told that quantitative easing is “economic stimulus” which will make the lives of average Americans better.

That is a flat out lie and the folks over at the Federal Reserve know this.

In fact, a very interesting study conducted for the Bank of England shows that quantitative easing actually increases the gap between the wealthy and the poor…

It said that the Bank of England’s policies of quantitative easing – similar to the Fed’s – had benefited mainly the wealthy.

Specifically, it said that its QE program had boosted the value of stocks and bonds by 26 percent, or about $970 billion. It said that about 40 percent of those gains went to the richest 5 percent of British households.

Many said the BOE’s easing added to social anger and unrest. Dhaval Joshi, of BCA Research wrote that  “QE cash ends up overwhelmingly in profits, thereby exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it.”

And this is exactly what has happened in the United States as well.

U.S. stocks have risen 108% while Barack Obama has been in the White House.

And who owns stocks?

The wealthy do.  In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.

Meanwhile, things have continued to get even tougher for ordinary Americans.

While Obama has been in the White House, the percentage of working age Americans with a job has declined from 60.6% to 58.3%, median household income has declined for five years in a row, and poverty has been absolutely exploding.

But the fact that it has been very good for Wall Street while doing essentially nothing for ordinary Americans is not the biggest problem with quantitative easing.

The biggest problem with quantitative easing is that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in the U.S. financial system.

In recent years, the Federal Reserve has started to behave like the Weimar Republic.  Just check out the chart below…

M1 Money Supply 2013

The rest of the world is watching the Fed go crazy, and they are beginning to openly wonder why they should continue to use the U.S. dollar as the de facto reserve currency of the planet.

Right now, most global trade involves the use of U.S. dollars.  In fact, far more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than are used inside the country.  This creates a tremendous demand for U.S. dollars around the planet, and it keeps the value of the U.S. dollar at a level that is far higher than it otherwise would be.

If the rest of the world decides to start moving away from the U.S. dollar (and this is already starting to happen), then the demand for the U.S. dollar will fall and we will not be able to import oil from the Middle East and cheap plastic trinkets from China so inexpensively anymore.

In addition, major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of U.S. dollars due to their trading activities.  Instead of just sitting on all of that cash, they tend to reinvest much of it back into U.S. Treasury securities.  This increases demand for U.S. debt and drives down interest rates.

If the Federal Reserve continues to wildly create money out of thin air with no end in sight, the rest of the world may decide to stop lending us trillions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates.

When we get to that point, it is going to be absolutely disastrous for the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.  If you doubt this, just read this article.

The only way that the game can continue is for the rest of the world to continue to be irrational and to continue to ignore the reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve.

We desperately need the rest of the planet “to ignore the man behind the curtain”.  We desperately need them to keep using our dollars that are rapidly being devalued and to keep loaning us money at rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.

If the rest of the globe starts behaving rationally at some point, and they eventually will, then the game will be over.

Let us hope and pray that we still have a bit more time until that happens.

7 Charts That Prove That The Stock Market Has Become Completely Divorced From Reality

7The mainstream media would have us believe that the U.S. economy must be in great shape since the stock market has been setting new all-time record highs this month.  But is that really true?  Yes, surging stock prices have enabled sales of beach homes in the Hamptons to hit a brand new record high.  However, the reality is that stock prices have not risen dramatically in recent years because corporations are doing so much better than before.  In fact, the growth in stock prices has been far, far greater than the growth of corporate revenues.  The only reason that stock prices have been climbing so much is because the Federal Reserve has been flooding the financial system with hundreds of billions of dollars that it has created out of thin air.  The Fed has created an artificial stock market bubble that is completely and totally divorced from economic reality.

Meanwhile, everything is not so fine for the rest of the U.S. economy.  Economic growth projections have been steadily declining over the past two years, and the growth rate of personal income in the United States has been on a huge downward trend since 2008.  The U.S. economy actually lost 240,000 full-time jobs last month, and the middle class continues to shrink.

So welcome to the “new normal” where most Americans struggle at least part of the time.  According to one recent survey, “four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives”.  Things are tough out there, and they are steadily getting tougher.

Yes, the boys and girls up on Wall Street are doing great (for the moment), but most of the rest of the country is really struggling.  We have never even come close to recovering from the last major economic crisis, and now another one is rapidly approaching.

The other day, Chartist Friend from Pittsburgh sent me an email and told me that he had some charts that he wanted to share with me and asked if I wanted to see them.  I said sure, send them over right away.  These charts show very clearly that the stock market has become completely divorced from reality.

In a normal market, stock prices would only rise dramatically if the overall economy was healthy and growing.  Unfortunately, our economy is far from healthy and has been declining for a very long time.  If the financial markets were not being pumped up by so much money printing and so much debt, there is no way that stock prices would be this high.

If we truly did have a free market financial system, stock prices should be a reflection of the overall economy.  Instead, we have a very sick economy and financial markets that have been very highly manipulated.

For example, just check out the first chart that I have posted below.  If the economy was actually getting better, the percentage of working age Americans with a job should be increasing.  Sadly, that is not happening…

CFPGH-DJIA-04

This next chart shows how the average duration of unemployment has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years.  Yes, the duration of unemployment has improved slightly in recent months, but we are still very far from where we used to be.  Meanwhile, the stock market has been soaring to new all-time record highs…

CFPGH-DJIA-11

Traditionally, there has been a high degree of correlation between stock prices and real disposable personal income.  From the chart below, you can see that this relationship held up quite well through the end of the last recession, and then it started breaking down.  This is especially true at the very end of the chart.  Real Disposable income has started to decline sharply but stock prices just continue to soar…

CFPGH-DJIA-19

When an economy is healthy, money tends to circulate through that economy at a healthy pace.  That is why the chart below is so alarming.  The velocity of money is the lowest that it has been in modern times, and this indicates that economic activity should be slowing down.  But the Federal Reserve has enabled the bankers to thrive by pumping massive amounts of money into the financial system…

CFPGH-DJIA-05

When an economy goes into recession, freight shipments tend to go down.  In the chart below, you can see that this happened during the past two recessions.  Unfortunately, we have never even come close to returning to the level that we were at before the last recession, and yet the stock market has been able to soar to unprecedented heights…

CFPGH-DJIA-17

When an economy is growing and people are able to get good jobs, they tend to go out and buy new homes.  Yes, we have seen a bit of an increase in the number of new homes sold recently, but we are still a vast distance away from the level we were at before the last recession.  And now mortgage rates are starting to rise steadily, and this is likely going to cause the number of new homes sold to start going back down.  The chart below clearly shows us that the real estate market is far from healthy at this point…

CFPGH-DJIA-09

For most middle class Americans, their homes are their primary financial assets.  So the fact that home prices have declined so much is absolutely devastating for many families.  But stocks are primarily held by the top 5 percent of all Americans, and as the chart below shows, they have benefited greatly from the antics of the Federal Reserve in recent years…

CFPGH-DJIA-08

There is no way in the world that the stock market should be this high.  The economic fundamentals simply do not justify it.  As a society, we consume far more than we produce, our debt is growing at an exponential pace, our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted and our financial system is a giant Ponzi scheme that could collapse at any time.

And no market can stay divorced from reality forever.  At some point this bubble is going to burst, and when financial bubbles burst they tend to do so very rapidly.

As Marc Faber recently said, “one day, this financial bubble will have to adjust on the downside.”

When it does “adjust”, we are likely going to see a financial panic even worse than we witnessed back in 2008.  Credit will freeze up, economic activity will grind to a standstill and millions of Americans will lose their jobs.

Don’t assume that the bubble of false prosperity that we are enjoying right now will last forever.

It won’t.

Use the time that you have right now to prepare for what is ahead.

A great storm is rapidly approaching, and I don’t see any way that it is going to be averted.

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