The stock market has been on quite a roll in recent weeks, but signs of trouble continue to plague the real economy. Earlier this week, I talked about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping America. Major retail chains such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores and laying off workers, but I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would be feeling the pain as well. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening. USA Today is reporting that approximately 1,000 jobs will be cut at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas by the end of this month…
Walmart’s plan to lay off of hundreds of employees is the latest ripple in a wave of job cuts and store closures that are roiling the retail industry.
The world’s largest retailer is cutting roughly 1,000 jobs at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak about it.
The company is saying that these cuts are necessary because Wal-Mart is always “looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively“. But something doesn’t smell right here. You don’t get rid of 1,000 employees at your corporate headquarters if everything is just fine.
I have driven past Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville a number of times, and it is in a beautiful part of the country. Bentonville and the surrounding areas had been booming, but it looks like times may be changing.
Meanwhile, there are signs of trouble out on the west coast as well. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there is going to be a new round of engineering job cuts at Boeing…
Boeing Co. has internally announced a new round of employee buyouts for engineers companywide, including in Southern California, and warned that layoff notices will follow later this month to engineers in Washington state, where the company has a large presence.
Management did not cite a target for the number of projected job cuts.
The news comes after company Vice Chairman Ray Conner and the new chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, or BCA, Kevin McAllister, warned in December of the need to aim for further cuts in 2017.
And according to Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder, similar job cut announcements are coming for other classes of workers as well.
So why is Boeing getting rid of so many employees?
Well, the truth is that Boeing’s business is way down. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Business has been tough. In 2016, deliveries fell by 14 jets from a year ago, to 748. Net orders dropped 13% from an already rotten level in 2015, to just 668, down 53% from 2014. And the lowest level since 2010!
When the economy is doing well, air traffic tends to rise, and when the economy is doing poorly it tends to go down.
Needless to say, the fact that Boeing is doing so poorly does not bode well for the future.
In addition to Wal-Mart, another major retailer that is letting people go is Petco…
Petco is cutting 180 positions with about 50 at its San Diego headquarters, the pet supply retailer confirmed Wednesday.
The company made the cuts across its workforce and include both existing and open positions.
Petco has about 650 workers at its headquarters in Rancho Bernardo. It employs 27,000 in the U.S.
My wife and I have three cats, and even though Petco tends to be a bit overpriced we have always appreciated the work that they do.
Unfortunately, when the economy gets tough spending on pets tends to be one of the first things to get cut back, and this current trouble at Petco could be a sign that rough sledding is ahead for the entire economy.
Of course your personal perspective on these things is likely to be very heavily influenced by your immediate surroundings. Those that live in wealthy enclaves of major cities such as San Francisco, New York City or Washington D.C. may be wondering how anyone could possibly be talking about economic trouble right now.
But if you live in economically depressed areas of Appalachia or the upper Midwest, it may seem like the last economic recession never even ended.
There have been pockets of economic prosperity in recent years, and this has resulted in some people becoming exceedingly wealthy. Meanwhile, things have just continued to become even tougher for millions of other families as the cost of living always seems to grow faster than their paychecks do.
If you are in the top one percent of all income earners, maybe to you it seems like things have never been better. But most of the country is living paycheck to paycheck and is just struggling to survive from month to month. The following comes from CNN…
The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy — the top 1% — earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It’s more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich “only” made $428,000, on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.
Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn’t changed in over three decades.
The workers being laid off at the companies discussed above are real people with real hopes and real dreams. Perhaps many of them will be able to land other employment fairly soon, but the truth is that the job market is really tough in many areas of the country right now.
Finding a good job that will allow you to pay the bills and support your family is not easy. You may find that out the hard way if you end up losing your current job during the economic troubles that will come in 2017.
Earlier today, I came across an excellent article by Gail Tverberg that detailed a whole bunch of reasons why a significant economic downturn appears to be imminent in 2017. If you would like to read it, you can find it here. She points to many of the same things that I have been pointing to for a very long time.
Even though economic conditions were fairly stable throughout 2016, our long-term problems just continued to get even worse. So the truth is that we are more primed for a major crisis today than we have been at any point since the last recession.
My hope is that things will not be nearly as bad in 2017 as Gail Tverberg and others are projecting that they could be, but the warning signs are definitely there, and it isn’t going to take much to push the U.S. economy off the rails.
You are about to see a chart that is undeniable evidence that we have already entered a major economic slowdown. In the “real economy”, stuff is bought and sold and shipped around the country by trucks, railroads and planes. When more stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is growing, and when less stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is shrinking. I know that might sound really basic, but I want everyone to be on the same page as we proceed in this article. Just because stock prices are artificially high right now does not mean that the U.S. economy is in good shape. In fact, there was a stock rally at this exact time of the year in 2008 even though the underlying economic fundamentals were rapidly deteriorating. We all remember what happened later that year, so we should not exactly be rejoicing that precisely the same pattern that we witnessed in 2008 is happening again right in front of our eyes.
During the month of April, the Cass Transportation Index was down 4.9 percent on a year over year basis. What this means is that a lot less stuff was bought and sold and shipped around the country in April 2016 when compared to April 2015. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Freight shipments by truck and rail in the US fell 4.9% in April from the beaten-down levels of April 2015, according to the Cass Transportation Index, released on Friday. It was the worst April since 2010, which followed the worst March since 2010. In fact, shipment volume over the four months this year was the worst since 2010.
This is no longer statistical “noise” that can easily be brushed off.
Of course this was not just a one month fluke. The reality is that we have now seen the Cass Shipping Index decline on a year over year basis for 14 consecutive months. Here is more commentary and a chart from Wolf Richter…
The Cass Freight Index is not seasonally adjusted. Hence the strong seasonal patterns in the chart. Note the beaten-down first four months of 2016 (red line):
This is undeniable evidence that the “real economy” has been slowing down for more than a year. In 2007-2008 we saw a similar thing happen, but the Federal Reserve and most of the “experts” boldly assured us that there was not going to be a recession.
Of course then we immediately proceeded to plunge into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Traditionally, railroad activity has been a key indicator of where the U.S. economy is heading next. Just a few days ago, I wrote about how U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago during the month of April, and I included a photo that showed 292 Union Pacific engines sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing.
Well, just yesterday one of my readers sent me a photograph of a news article from North Dakota about how a similar thing is happening up there. Hundreds of rail workers are being laid off, and engines are just sitting idle on the tracks because there is literally nothing for them to do…
Intuitively, does it seem like this should be happening in a “healthy” economy?
Of course not.
The reason why this is happening is because businesses have been selling less stuff. Total business sales have now been declining for almost two years, and they are now close to 15 percent lower than they were in late 2014.
Because sales are way down, unsold inventories are really starting to pile up. The inventory to sales ratio is now close to the level it was at during the worst moments of the last recession, and many analysts expect it to continue to keep going up.
Why can’t people understand what is happening? So far this year, job cut announcements are up 24 percent and the number of commercial bankruptcies is shooting through the roof. Signs that we are in the early chapters of a new economic downturn are all around us, and yet denial is everywhere.
For instance, just consider this excerpt from a CNBC article entitled “This key recession signal is broken“…
Treasury yields are behaving as if they are signaling a recession, but strategists say this time it’s more likely a sign of something else.
The market has been buzzing about the flattening yield curve, or the fact that yields on longer duration Treasurys are getting closer to yields on shorter duration securities.
In the case of 10-year notes and two-year notes, that spread was the flattest Friday than it has been on a closing basis since late 2007. The yield curve had turned negative in 2006 and stayed there for months in 2007 before turning higher ahead of the Great Recession. The spread was at 95 at Friday’s curve but widened Monday to more than 96.
Treasury yields are very, very clearly telling us that a new recession is here, but because the “experts” don’t want to believe it they are telling us that the signal is “broken”.
For many Americans, all that seems to matter is that the stock market has recovered from the horrible crashes last August and earlier this year. But in the end, I am convinced that those crashes will simply be regarded as “foreshocks” of a much greater crash in our not too distant future.
But if you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you will listen to Goldman Sachs. They just came out with six reasons why stocks are about to tumble.
Or perhaps you will believe Bank of America. They just came out with nine reasons why a big stock market decline is on the horizon.
To me, one of the big developments has been the fact that stock buybacks are really starting to dry up. In fact, announced stock buybacks have declined 38 percent so far this year…
After snapping up trillions of dollars of their own stock in a five-year shopping binge that dwarfed every other buyer, U.S. companies from Apple Inc. to IBM Corp. just put on the brakes. Announced repurchases dropped 38 percent to $244 billion in the last four months, the biggest decline since 2009, data compiled by Birinyi Associates and Bloomberg show. “If the only meaningful source of demand in the market is companies buying their own shares back, then what happens if that goes away?” asked Brad McMillan, CIO of Commonwealth “We should be concerned.”
Stock buybacks have been one of the key factors keeping stock prices at artificially inflated levels even though underlying economic conditions have been deteriorating. Now that stock buybacks are drying up, it is going to be difficult for stocks to stay disconnected from economic reality.
A lot of people have been asking me recently when the next crisis is going to arrive.
I always tell them that it is already here.
Just like in early 2008, economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating, but the stock market has not gotten the memo quite yet.
And just like in 2008, when the financial markets do finally start catching up with reality it will likely happen very quickly.
So don’t take your eyes off of the deteriorating economic fundamentals, because it is inevitable that the financial markets will follow eventually.
We continue to get more evidence that the U.S. economy has entered a major downturn. Just last week, I wrote about how U.S. GDP growth numbers have been declining for three quarters in a row, and previously I wrote about how corporate defaults have surged to their highest level since the last financial crisis. Well, now we are getting some very depressing numbers from the rail industry. As you will see below, U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago in April. That is an absolutely catastrophic number, and the U.S. rail industry is feeling an enormous amount of pain right now. This also tells us that “the real economy” is really slowing down, because less stuff is being shipped by rail all over the nation.
One of the economic commentators that I have really come to respect is Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com. He has a really sharp eye for what is really going on in the economy and in the financial world, and I find myself quoting him more and more as time goes by. If you have not checked out his site yet, I very much encourage you to do so.
On Wednesday, he posted a very alarming article about what is happening to our rail industry. The kinds of numbers that we have been seeing recently are the kinds of numbers that we would expect if an economic depression was starting. The following is an excerpt from that article…
Total US rail traffic in April plunged 11.8% from a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported today. Carloads of bulk commodities such as coal, oil, grains, and chemicals plummeted 16.1% to 944,339 units.
The coal industry is in a horrible condition and cannot compete with US natural gas at current prices. Coal-fired power plants are being retired. Demand for steam coal is plunging. Major US coal miners – even the largest one – are now bankrupt. So in April, carloads of coal plummeted 40% from the already beaten-down levels a year ago.
Because rail traffic is down so dramatically, many operators have large numbers of engines that are just sitting around collecting dust. In his article, Wolf Richter shared photographs from Google Earth that show some of the 292 Union Pacific engines that are sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing. The following is one of those photographs…
As Wolf Richter pointed out, it costs a lot of money for these engines to just sit there doing nothing…
These engines are expensive pieces of equipment. When they just sit there, not pulling trains, they become “overcapacity,” and they get very expensive. Then there are engineers and other personnel who suddenly become unproductive. Some of them have already been laid off or are getting laid off.
All over the world, similar numbers are coming in. For example, the Baltic Dry Index fell 30 more points on Wednesday after falling 21 on Tuesday. Global trade is really, really slowing down during the early portion of 2016. What this means on a practical level is that a lot less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to deny that a new global recession has begun, and at this moment we are only in the very early chapters of this new crisis.
Another thing that I watch very closely is the velocity of money. When an economy is healthy, people feel pretty good about things and money tends to circulate fairly rapidly. For example, I may buy something from you, then you may buy something from someone else, etc.
But when times get tough, people tend to hold on to their money more tightly, and that is why the velocity of money goes down when recessions hit. In the chart below, the shaded areas represent recessions, and you can see that the velocity of money has declined during every single recession in the post-World War II era…
During the last recession, the velocity of money declined precipitously, and that makes perfect sense. But then a funny thing happened. There was a slight bump up once the recession was over, but then it turned down again and it has kept going down ever since.
In fact, the velocity of money has now dropped to an all-time low. The velocity of M2 just recently dipped below 1.5 for the first time ever.
This is not a sign of an “economic recovery”. What this tells us is that our economy is very, very sick.
And we can see evidence of this sickness all around us. For instance, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 11 percent last year, and this marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness in the city has increased…
Homelessness rose 11% in the city of Los Angeles and 5.7% in the county last year despite an intensive federal push that slashed the county ranks of homeless veterans by nearly a third, according to a report released Wednesday.
The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of rising homelessness in L.A., as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved to solve the nation’s most intractable homeless problem.
Let us also not forget that about half the country is basically flat broke at this point.
Just recently, the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of all Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without selling something or borrowing the money from somewhere.
With numbers such as these being reported, how in the world can anyone possibly claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?
It boggles the mind, and yet there are people out there that would actually have you believe that everything is just fine.
The current occupant of the White House is one of them.
With each passing month, the real economy is getting even worse. We may not have slipped into a full-blown economic depression just yet, but it is coming.
For now, let us be thankful for whatever remains of our debt-fueled prosperity, because we don’t deserve the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.
We have been consuming far more than we produce for decades, but it won’t last for much longer. And when those days are gone for good, we will mourn them bitterly.
We have not seen global economic activity fall off this rapidly since the great recession of 2008. Manufacturing activity is imploding all over the planet, global trade is slowing down at a pace that is extremely alarming, and the Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low. If the “real economy” consists of people making, selling and shipping stuff, then it is in incredibly bad shape. Here in the United States, the dismal economic numbers continue to stun all of the experts. For example, on Monday we learned that the Texas general business activity index just hit a six year low…
Economic activity in Texas keeps getting worse.
The general business activity index out Monday from the Dallas Federal Reserve for January was -34.6, a six-year low and much worse than economists had expected.
The forecast for the monthly index was -14, following a December reading of -21.6 (revised from -20.1) that was also worse than expected.
One could perhaps argue that this is to be expected in Texas because of the collapse in the price of oil.
But what about the very unusual things that we are seeing in other areas of the country? In Erwin, Tennessee, a rail terminal that had been continuously operating for 135 years was just permanently shut down, and hundreds of workers now find themselves without a job…
The last coal train to leave Erwin rolled slowly out of town just after at 3 p.m. Thursday, less than eight hours after CSX Transportation employees heard the news that rocked all of Unicoi County.
“Its a hard pill to swallow,” county Mayor Greg Lynch said. “Of course, we heard rumors that something was coming down. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they would just shut down and leave town.”
CSX delivered the news of its decision to immediately close Erwin’s 175-acre rail yard and abruptly end the employment of the facility’s 300 workers in a series of meetings with employees conducted at the start of their morning shifts.
It has been said that if you want to know what is really happening with the U.S. economy, just watch the railroads.
And right now, rail traffic all over the nation is falling to depressingly low levels.
One of Steve Quayle’s readers says that rail traffic in Colorado has slowed down so much that hundreds of engines are just sitting there on the tracks…
With regard to the train freight article this morning, we have in Grand Junction, CO., literally hundreds of engines sidelined on the tracks. They are three deep on some tracks and easily number over 250. I have never seen this many engines on the tracks before and I feel this is just another indicator of the slowdown in shipping.
In case you are tempted to think that this is just anecdotal evidence, I want you to consider what is happening to the largest railroad company in the United States.
According to Wolf Richter, operating revenues for Union Pacific were down 15 percent last year…
Union Pacific, the largest US railroad, reported awful fourth-quarter earnings Thursday evening. Operating revenues plummeted 15% year over year, and net income dropped 22%.
It was broad-based: The only category where revenues rose was automotive (+1%). Otherwise, revenues fell: Chemicals (-7%), Agricultural Products (-12%), Intermodal containers (-14%), Industrial Products (-23%), and Coal (-31%). Shipment of crude plunged 42%.
So Union Pacific did what American companies do best: it laid off 3,900 people last year.
And of course we can see evidence of the emerging economic slowdown all around us pretty much wherever we look. Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce, GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers, and Wal-Mart just announced the closure of 269 stores.
But instead of dealing with reality, there are a lot of irrational optimists that insist that things will start bouncing back any day now. For instance, CNBC is reporting that Goldman Sachs is forecasting that the S&P 500 will end up finishing the year back at 2,100…
Goldman, though, is sticking with its forecast that the S&P 500 will rebound and finish the year at 2,100, a rise of about 11 percent from current levels but basically no net gain for the full year.
It is easy to say something like that, but the actions of the big banks speak louder than words.
Most people don’t realize this, but several of the “too big to fail” banks laid off thousands of workers in 2015…
Bank of America and Citigroup reduced headcount the most, eliminating about 20,000 staffers between them, according to fourth-quarter earnings reports from each bank. The respective moves amount to 4.6 percent and 4 percent fewer workers at the banks. JPMorgan Chase reported in its earnings that it employs 6,700 fewer workers than a year ago.
And guess what?
The “too big to fail” banks did the exact same thing just before the great stock market crash of 2008.
When are people going to finally start understanding that we have a major league crisis on our hands?
Since June 2015, approximately 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out. After a brief respite at the end of last week, it appears that the global financial crisis is getting ready to accelerate once again.
On Monday, the price of oil dipped back under 30 dollars, the Dow was down another 208 points, and the Nikkei is currently down another 389 points in early trading.
Somewhere close to one-fifth of all global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.
We only have about four-fifths left.
But in the end, I can talk about these numbers until I am blue in the face and some people will still not get prepared.
Some people have so much faith in Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve and the mainstream media that they would literally follow them off a cliff.
By now, most of the people that believe that they should prepare for the coming crisis have already gotten prepared, and most of those that want to believe that everything is going to work out just fine somehow are never going to get prepared anyway.
What is going to happen is going to happen, and tens of millions of people are going to end up bitterly regretting not listening to the warnings when they still had the chance.
Mark this day on your calendars. The Dow is at 16974, the S&P 500 is at 1982 and the NASDAQ is at 4549. From this day forward, we will be looking to see how the stock market performs without the monetary heroin that the Federal Reserve has been providing to it. Since November 2008, the Fed has created about 3.5 trillion dollars and pumped it into the financial system. An excellent chart illustrating this in graphic format can be found right here. Pretty much everyone agrees that this has been a tremendous boon for the financial markets. As you will see below, even former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan says that quantitative easing was “a terrific success” as far as boosting stock prices. But he also says that QE has not been very helpful to the real economy at all. In essence, the entire quantitative easing program was a massive 3.5 trillion dollar gift to Wall Street. If that sounds unfair to you, that is because it is unfair.
So why is the Federal Reserve finally ending quantitative easing?
Well, officially the Fed says that it is because there has been so much improvement in the labor market…
The Fed’s language, however, did suggest that they were getting more comfortable with the economy’s improvement. It cited “solid job gains,” citing a “substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market,” as well as pointing out that “underutilization” of labor resources is “gradually diminishing.”
But that is not true at all.
The percentage of Americans that are working right now is about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession. Just check out this chart…
So there has been no “employment recovery” to speak of at all.
And as I wrote about yesterday, the percentage of Americans that are homeowners has been steadily falling throughout the quantitative easing era…
So let’s put the lie that quantitative easing helped the “real economy” to rest. It did no such thing.
Instead, what QE did do was massively inflate stock prices.
The following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report about a speech that former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan made to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday…
Mr. Greenspan’s comments to the Council on Foreign Relations came as Fed officials were meeting in Washington, D.C., and expected to announce within hours an end to the bond purchases.
He said the bond-buying program was ultimately a mixed bag. He said that the purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities did help lift asset prices and lower borrowing costs. But it didn’t do much for the real economy.
“Effective demand is dead in the water” and the effort to boost it via bond buying “has not worked,” said Mr. Greenspan. Boosting asset prices, however, has been “a terrific success.”
Moving forward, what did Greenspan tell the members of the Council on Foreign Relations that they should do with their money?
This might surprise you…
Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.
It almost sounds like Greenspan has been reading the Economic Collapse Blog.
Since November 2008, every time there has been an interruption in the Fed’s quantitative easing program, the stock market has gone down substantially.
Will that happen again this time?
Well, the market is certainly primed for it. We are repeating so many of the very same patterns that we saw just prior to the last two financial crashes.
For example, there have been three dramatic peaks in margin debt in the last twenty years.
One of those peaks came early in the year 2000 just before the dotcom bubble burst.
The second of those peaks came in the middle of 2007 just before the subprime mortgage meltdown happened.
And the third of those peaks happened earlier this year.
You can view a chart that shows these peaks very clearly right here.
The Federal Reserve appears to be confident that the stock market will be okay without the monetary heroin that it has been supplying.
We shall see.
But it should be deeply troubling to all Americans that this unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers has far more power over our economy than anyone else does. During election season, our politicians get up and give speeches about what they will “do for the economy”, but the truth is that they are essentially powerless compared to the immense power that the Federal Reserve wields. Just a few choice words from Janet Yellen can cause the financial markets to rise or fall dramatically. The same cannot be said of any U.S. Senator.
We are told that monetary policy is “too important” to be exposed to politics.
We are told that the independence of the Federal Reserve is “sacred” and must never be interfered with.
I say that is a bunch of nonsense.
No organization should have the power to print up trillions of dollars out of thin air and give it to their friends.
The Federal Reserve is completely and totally out of control, and Congress needs to start exerting power over it.
The first step is to get in there and do a comprehensive audit of the Fed’s books. This is something that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz called for in a recent editorial for USA Today…
Americans are seeing near-zero interest rates on their savings accounts while median incomes are falling, and millions of people are facing higher gas prices, food prices, electricity prices, health insurance prices. Enough is enough, the Federal Reserve needs to open its books — Americans deserve a sound and stable dollar.
Whether you agree with Ted Cruz on other issues or not, this is one issue that all Americans should be able to agree on.
If you study any of our major economic problems, usually you will find that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of that problem.
So if we ever hope to solve the issues that are plaguing our economy, the Fed is going to need to be dealt with.
Hopefully the American people will start to send more representatives to Washington D.C. that understand this.
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….