Beware – The Last 7 Times The Yield Curve Inverted The U.S. Economy Was Hit By A Recession

Seven times since the 1960s we have seen the yield curve invert, and in each of those seven instances an economic recession in the United States has followed.  Will this time be any different?  Today, the yield curve is the flattest that it has been in 11 years, and many analysts believe that we will see an inversion before the end of 2018.  If an inversion does take place, experts will be all over the mainstream media warning about “an imminent recession”.  Unfortunately, most Americans don’t understand these things, and when they hear terms like “yield curve” they tend to quickly tune out.  So in this article we are doing to define what a yield curve is, why it is so important, and why another U.S. recession may be rapidly approaching.

Let’s start with a really basic definition of a yield curve.  This one comes from Investopedia

A yield curve is a line that plots the interest rates, at a set point in time, of bonds having equal credit quality but differing maturity dates. The most frequently reported yield curve compares the three-month, two-year, five-year and 30-year U.S. Treasury debt. This yield curve is used as a benchmark for other debt in the market, such as mortgage rates or bank lending rates, and it is also used to predict changes in economic output and growth.

But most of the time, the experts that are talking about “the yield curve” are talking about the difference between interest rates on two-year and ten-year U.S. Treasury bonds.  The following comes from CNBC

Start with a government issued two-year Treasury bond and a 10-year Treasury bond. They both pay interest. Typically, the 10-year pays a higher interest rate than the two-year to compensate buyers for the time difference. The difference between the interest rates in these two bonds is called the “spread”. If the spread is greater than zero, it means the two-year interest rate is lower than the 10-year, and that is normally the case.

A normal spread for these two bonds will take the appearance of a rising chart — an upward sloping yield curve. But when the spread goes negative, the yield curve “inverts” giving the appearance of a negative yield curve.

An “inverted yield curve” strikes fear among investors because it makes lending unprofitable.

As a USA Today article recently explained, our banks borrow at short-term rates and lend that money out at long-term rates…

Banks borrow at short-term rates, lend long term and profit from the difference. So the gap between long and short rates predicts future loan profitability. The bigger the gap, the more eager banks are to lend. The yield curve is a great predictive proxy for future lending.

Lending matters because loans allow for economically expansive activities. Sally deposits $10,000 at Community Banks-R-Us, which can keep $1,000 in reserve and lend out $9,000 to Jim’s Widgets. Jim uses that to grow his business. Hence lending can fuel growth. So, steeper yield curves spur economic activity. Flatter curves render less.

Our economy is fueled by debt, and an inverted yield curve tends to greatly discourage lending.  When banks cut back on lending, that has the effect of “choking off” the economy, and that usually leads to an economic contraction…

In this interest-rate environment, banks would lose money by making loans. Not necessarily on all loans, but it does make some loans unfeasible and some less profitable, forcing banks to cut back on making loans; thereby choking off the access to credit markets that businesses need to grow. When it becomes harder for businesses to borrow, many businesses cancel or delay projects and hiring. Weaker businesses go out of business because they lose access to credit, which in turn causes layoffs. When this happens, it takes about a year, on average, for the U.S. economy to slip into a recession.

The yield curve inverted prior to the recession of 2008, and lending started to get a lot tighter.  The resulting recession was a surprise to many Americans, but it should not have been.  It was simply the logical conclusion of basic economic forces at work.

In fact, an inverted yield curve has preceded every single recession since the 1960s, but Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell doesn’t seem concerned that it is about to happen again…

Asked whether “a dramatic change in the shape of the yield curve in any way influence the trajectory you guys are on with respect to normalizing interest rates and the balance sheet,” Powell stated “no,” adding that “what really matters is what the neutral rate of interest is.

That’s the interest rate level that neither stimulates growth or slows it down — something that changes over time and which Fed officials try hard to gauge.

Interestingly, yield curves are about to “invert” in Japan, Germany and China too.

But it should be noted that there are some experts that insist that we are focusing on the wrong things.  One of those experts is Ken Fisher

Almost everyone everywhere misses that the total global yield curve matters much more than America’s. And it’s doing just fine, thank you. Today’s global financial system is super interconnected. Behemoth banks can borrow in low-rate countries such as Germany, transfer funds here, hedge for currency risk and lend to Jim’s Widgets in mere seconds.

The global yield curve combines every developed country’s curve, weighted by the size of each economy. You get Britain’s 0.88 percent 10-year/three-month spread, Canada’s 0.69 percent gap, Germany’s 0.92 percent, France’s 1.23 percent, Japan’s 0.18 percent and the rest. Mash them all together based on GDP weighting, and that gets you a 0.9 percent global spread that’s bouncing along, going nowhere fast. Current U.S. yield curve fears miss this.

In the end, Fisher may be right.

Without a doubt, the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, and we may find a way to muddle through even if the yield curve inverts in the United States.

But I wouldn’t count on it.  An inverted yield curve has accurately predicted a recession every single time since the 1960s, and it is not likely to be wrong this time around either.

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

Nearly 40 Million Americans Are Still On Food Stamps

If the U.S. economy is “doing well”, then why are almost 40 million Americans still on food stamps?  That number is almost exactly where it was at the end of the last recession, and supposedly we have made so much progress since that time.  Of course any progress that has been made has been extremely uneven.  Earlier today, I wrote about how the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is the biggest that it has been since the 1920s.  For years, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program pumped “hot money” into the financial markets, and that was an enormous blessing to the top 1 percent.  But meanwhile tens of millions of average families have continued to struggle and the middle class has continued to decline.  In the U.S. today, 66 percent of all of our jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour, and close to 40 million Americans rely on the federal government to feed them every month.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Judging by the number of Americans on food stamps, it doesn’t feel like one of the best job markets in almost a half century and the second-longest economic expansion on record.

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, fell to 39.6 million in April, the most recent government data show. That’s down from a record 47.8 million in 2012, but as a share of the population it’s just back to where it was as the economy emerged from the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

It is hard to argue that we are a “prosperous nation” with a number like that hanging over our heads.

Yes, some Americans have prospered individually in recent years, but many more have been deeply suffering.

In order for a family of four to qualify for food stamps, they must make less than $2,665 a month

SNAP is available for households with incomes up to $2,665 per month for a family of four, or 130 percent of the federal poverty level. Recipients are also subject to asset and employment tests, and states can modify the program with federal permission. Households receiving SNAP had an average monthly gross income of $814 in 2016, and 20 percent had no income.

Could your family survive on just $2,665 a month?

Yet that is exactly where tens of millions of Americans find themselves today.

Yesterday I wrote about the “cesspool” that the once beautiful city of Portland, Oregon has become, and in this article I would like to share with you an excerpt from an article about the epidemic of squatters in the city of Detroit

The Detroit Land Bank owns nearly 30,000 residential structures in the city, and with as many as 4,300 of them occupied — it’s a magnitude unlike any other place.

Squatters are a tricky problem: remove them and add to the city’s homeless population and its massive inventory of abandoned buildings. Let them stay, and the land bank is summoned often to investigate what some of its occupants may be up to: dog fighting, prostitution, drug dealing, overdoses, gambling, gun possession or running a chop shop.

Detroit police also are called regularly to land bank properties to investigate dead bodies — at least 50 homicides over the last four years.

This is what life is like for much of the country today.  The small sliver of our population that is “living the high life” is greatly outnumbered by people just barely surviving from month to month.

In fact, 102 million working age Americans do not have a job at this moment.  In case you were wondering, that number is substantially higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

If you can believe it, during the last recession we never even hit the 100 million mark.

There are so many parallels that could be made between the current state of affairs and America in the 1920s.  During the “roaring twenties”, everybody thought that the good times would last forever and that stock prices would go up indefinitely, and then one day we suddenly plunged into the worst financial crisis and the worst economic depression that the nation had ever seen.

And most people don’t even realize that we are far more vulnerable today than we have ever been in all of U.S. history.  I have been sharing numbers that back up that premise on an almost daily basis, and today let me share another example with you that comes from Mike Maloney

  • Just prior to the dotcom collapse of 2000 and the hundreds of bankruptcies that followed, 9% of the S&P 1,500 were zombie companies.
  • Just prior to the 2008 financial crisis and the hundreds of bankruptcies that followed, 12% of the S&P 1,500 were zombie companies.
  • Right now, 15% of the S&P 1,500 are zombie companies.

Just like the “roaring twenties”, our current debt-fueled economic bubble will burst as well, and many believe that it will result in the worst economic crisis that America has ever known.

But as long as the music on Wall Street keeps playing, the optimists will continue to insist that “happy days are here again” and that the party can keep on going indefinitely.

Of course no party lasts forever, and eventually the moment will come when it is time to turn out the lights for good.

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

Recession 2017? Things Are Happening That Usually Never Happen Unless A New Recession Is Beginning

New Crisis - Public DomainIs the U.S. economy about to get slammed by a major recession?  According to Gallup, U.S. economic confidence has soared to the highest level ever recorded, but meanwhile a whole host of key economic indicators are absolutely screaming that a new recession is beginning.  And if the U.S. economy does officially enter recession territory in 2017, it certainly won’t be a shock, because the truth is that we are well overdue for one.  Donald Trump has inherited quite an economic mess from Barack Obama, and it was probably inevitable that we were headed for a significant economic downturn no matter who won the election.

One of the key indicators to watch is average weekly hours.  When the economy shifts into recession mode, employers tend to start cutting back hours, and that is happening right now.  In fact, as Graham Summers has pointed out, we just witnessed the largest percentage decline in average weekly hours since the recession of 2008…

Average Weekly Hours

In addition to the decline in hours, Summers has suggested that there are a number of other reasons to believe that a new recession is here…

The fact is that the GDP growth of 4%-5% is not just around the corner. The US most likely slid into recession in the last three months. GDP growth collapsed in 4Q16, with a large portion of the “growth” coming from accounting gimmicks.

Consider the following:

  • Tax receipts indicate the US is in recession.
  • Gross private domestic investment indicates were are in a recession.
  • Retailers are showing that the US consumer is tapped out (see AMZN’s recent miss).
  • UPS, another economic bellweather, dramatically lowered 2017 forecasts.

To me, even more alarming is the tightening of lending standards.  In our debt-based economy, the flow of credit is absolutely critical to economic growth, and when credit starts to get tight that almost always leads to a recession.

So the fact that lending standards have now tightened for medium and large sized firms for six quarters in a row is very bad news.  The following comes from Business Insider

“Although modest over the past couple of quarters, it is still worth noting that this is now the sixth quarter in succession that standards have tightened for large and medium sized firms,” Deutsche Bank economist Jim Reid wrote in a research note to clients.

“This usually only happens in recessions.”

Reid is 100 percent correct on this point.  This is precisely the kind of thing that we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning, and if this trend continues it is hard to imagine that the U.S. economy will be able to continue to grow.

And it is interesting to note that job growth at S&P 500 companies has gone negative for the first time since the last recession, and so large firms are definitely starting to feel the pressure.

Simultaneously, lending standards are also tightening up for consumers

“The most notable tightening in standards though was in consumer loans,” the Fed said. “During the quarter, banks reported an 8.3% net tightening in credit standards for credit cards and 11.6% net tightening for auto loans.”

US consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity and is thus a key driver of growth in the world’s largest economy.

Those numbers for credit cards and auto loans are major red flags.

It is very simple.  Tighter credit means less economic activity which means slower economic growth.  The U.S. economy grew at a dismal 1.9 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2016, and it would be absolutely no surprise if we end up with a negative number for the first quarter of 2017.

One of the big reasons why lending standards are tightening is because bankruptcies are rising.

As I reported the other day, consumer bankruptcies just rose on a year-over-year basis in back to back months for the first time in almost seven years.  Commercial bankruptcies had already been rising on a year-over-year basis throughout 2016, and so the fact that consumer bankruptcies have now joined the party is a very bad sign.

And we have also just learned that real median household income declined in 2016

Its official! The spectacular Obama/Fed “recovery” produced no increase in real medin household income in 2016 (the last year of Obama’s reign of [economic] error). In fact, real median annual household income in December 2016 ($57,827) was 0.9 percent lower than in December 2015 ($58,356).

Yes, I understand that there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there right now because of Donald Trump.

But the truth is that it is literally going to take some sort of an economic miracle to avoid a recession.

And if a recession is going to happen anyway, the Trump administration should want it to occur as quickly as possible.

You see, if a recession starts a year from now, it will be much more difficult for Trump to blame it on Obama.  But if a recession starts right now, he will definitely be able to argue that it happened because of the mess that he inherited from the last administration.

In addition, the sooner the next recession ends the sooner the next recovery can begin.  If a recession is still going on during the 2020 campaign, that would be really bad for Trump, but if a recovery is well underway by then that would be really good for his chances.

If you doubt this, just go back and look at the 1984 campaign.  After a very difficult recession, the U.S. economy bounced back strongly and Ronald Reagan was able to ride that momentum to an easy victory.

So this may sound very strange to many of you, but the truth is that if a new recession is coming Trump supporters should want it to happen as rapidly as possible.

Unfortunately, once a new recession begins it may not play out like recessions normally do.  The U.S. government is 20 trillion dollars in debt, we are in the midst of one of the biggest stock market bubbles in history, and our planet is becoming more unstable with each passing day.  So even though Trump is in the White House and Obama is gone, let there be no doubt that a catastrophic economic crisis could literally erupt at any moment.  I continue to encourage my readers to do all that they can to get prepared, because those that are prepared in advance will have the best chance of successfully getting through what is coming.

Unfortunately, a lot of people out there seem to believe that all of our problems have somehow evaporated just because Donald Trump is now living in the White House.

That is simply not true, and we all need to be praying for guidance and wisdom for Trump and his team as they prepare to deal with the great challenges that are ahead for our nation.

Major U.S. Retailers Are Closing More Than 6,000 Stores

Closed - Public DomainIf the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores?  The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating.  As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable.  So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes?  For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way.  And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now.  If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?

The list below comes from information compiled by About.com, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores.  Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years.  As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…

180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)

75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)

150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)

223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)

265 Body Central / Body Shop

66 Bottom Dollar Food

25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)

32 C. Wonder

21 Cache

120 Chico’s (through 2017)

200 Children’s Place (through 2017)

17 Christopher & Banks

70 Coach (fiscal 2015)

70 Coco’s /Carrows

300 Deb Shops

92 Delia’s

340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar

39 Einstein Bros. Bagels

50 Express (through 2015)

31 Frederick’s of Hollywood

50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores

14 Friendly’s

65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)

54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)

50 Guess (through 2015)

26 Gymboree

40 JCPenney

127 Jones New York Outlet

10 Just Baked

28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade

14 Macy’s

400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)

63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)

100 Pier One (by 2017)

20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)

1,784 Radio Shack

13 Ruby Tuesday

77 Sears

10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores

55 Staples (2015)

133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)

31 Tiger Direct

200 Walgreens (by 2017)

10 West Marine

338 Wet Seal

80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)

So why is this happening?

Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.

But as Thad Beversdorf has pointed out, we have also seen a stunning decline in true discretionary consumer spending over the past six months…

What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.

The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out.  Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month.  For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.

In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent

More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.

A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.

And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.

The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.

For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around.  But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing.  Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.

As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet.  But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere.  This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods.  Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.

And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet.  Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.