The Beginning Of The End
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Goldman Sachs And The Big Hedge Funds Are Pushing Leverage To Ridiculous Extremes

Goldman Sachs And The Big Hedge Funds Are Pushing Leverage To Ridiculous Extremes - Photo by bfishadow on FlickrAs stocks have risen in recent years, the big hedge funds and the “too big to fail” banks have used borrowed money to make absolutely enormous profits.  But when you use debt to potentially multiply your profits, you also create the possibility that your losses will be multiplied if the markets turn against you.  When the next stock market crash happens, and the gigantic pyramid of risk, debt and leverage on Wall Street comes tumbling down, will highly leveraged banks such as Goldman Sachs ask the federal government to bail them out?  The use of leverage is one of the greatest threats to our financial system, and yet most Americans do not even really understand what it is.  The following is a basic definition of leverage from Investopedia: “The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”  Leverage allows firms to make much larger bets in the financial markets than they otherwise would be able to, and at this point Goldman Sachs and the big hedge funds are pushing leverage to ridiculous extremes.  When the financial markets go up and they win on those bets, they can win very big.  For example, revenues at Goldman Sachs increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and Goldman stock has soared by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  Those are eye-popping numbers.  But leverage is a double-edged sword.  When the markets turn, Goldman Sachs and many of these large hedge funds could be facing astronomical losses.

Sadly, it appears that Wall Street did not learn any lessons from the financial crisis of 2008.  Hedge funds have ramped up leverage to levels not seen since before the last stock market crash.  The following comes from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “Hedge-Fund Leverage Rises to Most Since 2004 in New Year“…

Hedge funds are borrowing more to buy equities just as loans by New York Stock Exchange brokers reach the highest in four years, signs of increasing confidence after professional investors trailed the market since 2008.

Leverage among managers who speculate on rising and falling shares climbed to the highest level to start any year since at least 2004, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley. Margin debt at NYSE firms rose in November to the most since February 2008, data from NYSE Euronext show.

So why is this so important?

Well, as a recent Zero Hedge article explained, even a relatively small drop in stock prices could potentially absolutely devastate many hedge funds…

What near record leverage means is that hedge funds have absolutely zero tolerance for even the smallest drop in prices, which are priced to absolute and endless central bank-intervention perfection - sorry, fundamentals in a time when global GDP growth is declining, when Europe and Japan are in a double dip recession, when the US is expected to report its first sub 1% GDP quarter in years, when corporate revenues and EPS are declining just don’t lead to soaring stock prices.

It also means that with virtually all hedge funds in such hedge fund hotel names as AAPL (the stock held by more hedge funds – over 230 – than any other), any major drop in the price would likely lead to a wipe out of the equity tranche at the bulk of AAPL “investors”, sending them scrambling to beg for either more LP generosity, or to have their prime broker repo desk offer them even more debt. And while the former is a non-starter, the latter has so far worked, which means that most hedge funds have been masking losses with more debt, which then suffers even more losses, and so on.

By the way, Apple (AAPL) just fell to an 11-month low.  Apple stock has now declined by 26 percent since it hit a record high back in September.  That is a very bad sign for hedge funds.

But hedge funds are not the only ones flirting with disaster.  In a previous article about the derivatives bubble, I pointed out the ridiculous amount of derivatives exposure that some of these “too big to fail” banks have relative to their total assets…

According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Take another look at those figures for Goldman Sachs.  If you do the math, Goldman Sachs has total exposure to derivatives contracts that is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

That is utter insanity, but we haven’t had a derivatives crash yet so everyone just keeps pretending that the emperor actually has clothes on.

When the derivatives crisis happens, things in the financial markets are going to fall apart at lightning speed.  A recent article posted on goldsilverworlds.com explained what a derivatives crash may look like…

When one big bank faces some kind of trouble and fails, the banks with the largest exposure to derivates (think JP Morgan, Citygroup, Goldman Sachs) will realize that the bank on the other side of the derivatives trade (the counterparty) is no longer good for their obligation. All of a sudden the hedged position becomes a naked position. The net position becomes a gross position. The risk explodes instantaneously. Markets realize that their hedged positions are in reality not hedged anymore, and all market participants start bailing almost simultaneously. The whole banking and financial system freezes up. It might start in Asia or Europe, in which case Americans will wake up in the morning to find out that their markets are  not functioning anymore; stock markets remain closed, money at the banks become inaccessible, etc.

But for now, the party continues.  Goldman Sachs and many of the big hedge funds are making enormous piles of money.

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs recently gave some of their top executives 65 million dollars worth of restricted stock…

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS -0.76% handed insiders including Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants a total of $65 million in restricted stock just hours before this year’s higher tax rates took effect.

The New York securities firm gave 10 of its directors and executives early vesting on 508,104 shares previously awarded as part of prior years’ compensation, according to a series of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday.

And the bonuses that employees at Goldman receive are absolutely obscene.  A recent Daily Mail article explained that Goldman employees in the UK are expected to receive record-setting bonuses this year…

Britain’s army of bankers will re-ignite public fury over lavish pay rewards as staff at Goldman Sachs are expected to reward themselves £8.3 billion in bonuses on Wednesday.

The American investment bank, which employs 5,500 staff in the UK, will be the first to unveil its telephone number-sized rewards – an average of £250,000 a person – as part of the latest round of bonus updates.

The increase, up from £230,000 last year, comes as British families are still struggling to make ends meet five years after banks brought the economy to the brink of meltdown.

Wouldn’t you like to get a “bonus” like that?

Life is good at these firms while the markets are going up.

But what happens when the party ends?

What happens if the markets crash in 2013?

When you bet big, you either win big or you lose big.

For now, the gigantic bets that Wall Street firms are making with borrowed money are paying off very nicely.

But a day of reckoning is coming.  The next stock market crash is going to rip through Wall Street like a chainsaw and the carnage is going to be unprecedented.

Are you sure that the people holding your money will be able to make it through what is ahead?  You might want to look into it while you still can.

Goldman Sachs New World Headquarters

20 Signs That All Point To The Exact Same Thing – Can You Guess What That Is?

The U.S. economy is in a massive amount of trouble.  There aren’t enough jobs.  There isn’t enough money to go around.  Business activity is slowing down again.  Household wealth has been falling.  Food prices have been rising.  Many state and local governments all over the country are flat broke and are drowning in debt.  The federal government has been rolling up unprecedented amounts of debt in an attempt to keep things going, but everyone knows that kind of borrowing is simply unsustainable.  So where do we go from here?  We consume far more than we produce and we use debt to make up the difference.  40 years ago the total amount of debt in America (government, business and consumer) was less than 2 trillion dollars.  Today it is nearly 55 trillion dollars.  How in the world did we let the total amount of debt in the United States grow more than 27 times larger over the past 40 years?  Our economic system is fundamentally broken, but most Americans don’t realize it yet because times are still relatively good.

However, the next great economic crisis is going to wake a whole lot of Americans up.

And when they realize what has happened to our future, they are going to be really, really angry.

Enjoy the good times while they last.  The next recession is rapidly approaching, and it will not be pleasant.

The following are 20 signs that all point to the exact same thing….

#1 The unemployment rate in the U.S. has been above 8 percent for 40 months in a row, and 42 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least half a year.  As I wrote about recently, there are never going to be enough jobs in America ever again.  As bad as things are right now, they are about to get even worse.  So what is our country going to look like once the unemployment rate starts shooting up rapidly once again?

#2 35 percent of all unemployed workers have had to dip into retirement savings in order to make ends meet over the past year.

#3 Since 2008, the U.S. economy has lost 1.3 million jobs while at the same time 3.6 million more Americans have been added to Social Security’s disability insurance program.

#4 A recent survey conducted by the National Association for Business Economics found that only 23 percent of all U.S. companies plan to hire more workers over the next 6 months.  When the same question was asked a few months ago that number was at 39 percent.

#5 An important measure of U.S. manufacturing activity has fallen to its lowest level since June 2009.

#6 Hundreds of thousands of federal jobs at civilian agencies will likely be lost if Congress allows the automatic federal budget cuts to go into effect next year.  The following is from a recent article posted on federalnewsradio.com….

A report released Tuesday suggests that several hundred thousand federal jobs at civilian agencies would be on the chopping block within the next year if Congress lets the automatic budget cutting process known as sequestration go into effect.

The study, authored by George Mason University professor Stephen Fuller, adds a new dimension to a budget debate that’s so far been centered on sequestration’s effects on the military.

#7 The teen unemployment rate in Washington D.C. right now is 51.7 percent.

#8 Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index is now the lowest that it has been since January.

#9 The median net worth of U.S. households in 2007 was $126,400.  By 2010, it had fallen to just $77,300.

#10 Pensions at S&P 500 companies are more under-funded than they have ever been before.

#11 According to the New York Times, state and local governments across America “shortchanged their pension plans by more than $50 billion” between 2007 and 2011.

#12 The city of Compton, California is evaluating whether or not it should declare bankruptcy.  If it did, it would become the fourth California city to declare bankruptcy this year.

#13 The percentage of U.S. households that are spending more than half their incomes on housing is at an all-time high.

#14 For the first time in modern history, Canadian households are wealthier than American households are.

#15 One recent poll found that 42 percent of all Americans believe that China is the leading economic power in the world while only 36 percent believe that the U.S. is still the leading economic power in the world.

#16 According to the federal government, the price of food rose much faster than the general rate of inflation did during 2011.  Just check out these rates of food inflation for 2011….

  • Beef: +10.2%
  • Pork: +8.5%
  • Fish: +7.1%
  • Eggs: +9.2%
  • Dairy: +6.8%
  • Oils and Fats: +9.3%

If that happened during a somewhat “normal year”, what will food prices look like after we are done with the drought of 2012?

#17 The price of a bushel of corn has risen by 54 percent since mid-June.

#18 According to one survey, 42 percent of all American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.

#19 A different survey found that 28 percent of all Americans have absolutely no emergency savings at all right now.

#20 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made the following statement to Congress on Tuesday: “At this point we don’t see a double dip recession. We see continued moderate growth.”

Do you remember that old Seinfeld episode when George Costanza decided that he would “do the opposite” of everything that his instincts were telling him to do and everything started working out great for him?

Well, when it comes to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the key is to “believe the opposite” of everything that he says.

And since Bernanke does not believe that a double dip recession is going to happen, that probably means that we are about to hit another recession.

If you doubt this theory about Bernanke, just go back and check out his track record.

Okay, so if our economy is in big trouble shouldn’t our leaders be doing something about it?

Well, it is election season now so I wouldn’t expect too much from Barack Obama.  He is too busy raising money in France and in China.

I wouldn’t expect too much from Obama’s economic advisers either.  In fact, Obama’s much-ballyhooed “jobs council” has not even met in six months.

Not that the “jobs council” was ever going to do anything substantive anyway.

The truth is that it was just for show and most of the CEOs on the council have been sending jobs overseas anyway.

Well, what about the SEC?

Shouldn’t they be doing something to fix the financial system?

No, they are too busy investigating the Amish.

It looks like we are on our own.

Soon, even more parts of the country will start looking like Detroit or Baltimore or Cleveland.

This country is rapidly falling apart, and the federal government is not going to save us.

That is why we need to focus on preparing to weather the coming storm on a family and community level.

There is hope in being prepared.  The coming economic crisis will wipe out many Americans because they will never even see it coming.  But that does not have to happen to you.

If you work really hard right now to prepare your family for the storm that is on the horizon, then you will have a much better chance of making it through to the other side.

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