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So When Will China’s Debt Bubble Finally Blow Up?

So When Will China’s Debt Bubble Finally Blow Up?

The upside is fake stability. The downside is too ugly to contemplate.

Corporate debt in China has soared to $18 trillion, or 169% of GDP, the largest pile of corporate debt in the world, according to the worried Bank for International Settlements. The OECD has warned about it earlier this year. The New York Fed warned about this debt boom in February and that it could lead to a “financial crisis,” but that authorities have many tools to control it.

The IMF regularly warns about China’s corporate debt, broken-record-like, and did so again a few days ago, lambasting the authorities for their reluctance to tamp down on the growth of debt. The “current trajectory,” it said, “could eventually lead to a sharp adjustment.”

The Chinese authorities – the government and the central bank, supported by the state-owned megabanks – have allowed some bonds to default, rather than bail them out, to make some kind of theoretical point, and they have been working furiously on a balancing act, tamping down on the credit growth that fuels the economy and simultaneously stimulating the economy with more credit to keep the debt bubble from imploding. A misstep could create a global mess.

“Everyone knows there’s a credit problem in China, but I find that people often forget about the scale; it’s important in global terms,” Charlene Chu told the Financial Times. Back in 2011, when she was still a China banking analyst at Fitch Ratings, she went out on a limb with her radical estimates that there was much more debt than disclosed by the central bank, particularly in the shadow banking system, that banks were concealing risky loans in off-balance-sheet vehicles, and that this soaring opaque debt could have nasty consequences. Her outlandish views at the time have since then become the consensus.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why There Will Be No 11th Hour Debt Ceiling Deal

Why There Will Be No 11th Hour Debt Ceiling Deal

A new milestone on the American populaces’ collective pursuit of insolvency was reached this week.  According to a reportpublished on Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total U.S. household debt jumped to a new record high of $12.84 trillion during the second quarter.  This included an increase of $552 billion from a year ago.

Moreover, this marked the second consecutive record high on a quarterly reported basis for U.S. household debt.  Indeed, this is a momentous achievement.  From our vantage point, it is significant for several reasons.

One, it shows U.S. household debt has returned to its upward trend which had previously gone uninterrupted from the close of World War II until the onset of the Financial Crisis in late 2008.  Second, it demonstrates that, like the S&P 500, new all-time highs are being attained with the seeming precision of a quartz clock.  Is this just a coincidence?

More than likely, it’s no coincidence at all.  More than likely, the mass quantities of central bank liquidity that have been injected into the financial system over the last decade have provided the plentiful gushers of cheap credit that have pushed up both stock prices and household debt levels.  But remember, the easy stock market gains can quickly recede while the increased debt must first drown the borrowers before it can be expunged.

To understand where the liquidity has come from, look no further than the total combined assets of the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan.  They were around $4 trillion a decade ago.  Today, they’re over $13.8 trillion.  And if you include the People’s Bank of China’s assets, combined major central bank assets jump to nearly $19 trillion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Armageddon Risk” Returns: North Korea Predicts “Catastrophe” As Massive U.S. War Games Begin Monday

“Armageddon Risk” Returns: North Korea Predicts “Catastrophe” As Massive U.S. War Games Begin Monday

Traders barely had time to enjoy the lull from the “Armageddon trade” – the rising possibility of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea, which peaked over the weekend when various US officials said a nuclear war is not imminent, echoed by a statement by N. Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA, before a new set of worries promptly took over, chief among them the ongoing slow motion train wreck in Donald Trump’s administration coupled with yesterday’s double terrorist attacks in Spain. Alas, “nuclear war” risk is about to come back with a vengeance because on Monday US and South Korea are scheduled to begin joint military exercises, a massive show of force which every time in the past has infuriated North Korea, sometimes triggering a show of force.

Held every fall in South Korea, the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian war games are the world’s largest computerized command and control exercise. Some 30,000 U.S. soldiers and more than 50,000 South Korean troops usually take part, along with hundreds of thousands of first responders and civilians, some practicing for a potential chemical weapons attack.

Scheduled long before the recent diplomatic fallout between Washington and Pyongyang, the U.S. and South Korean militaries will simulate warfare with North Korea from Aug. 21 to 31, well aware that North Korea could respond with another missile test, according to McClatchy.

In light of this perceived provocation by North Korea, which will almost certainly prompt some reaction, Scott A. Snyder, a Korea specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations said “Over the course of the next two weeks I expect tensions to escalate. This is always a sensitive issue, but it is more hair-trigger as the North Koreans are very sensitive to the likely additional nuclear-capable aircraft flyovers.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

USA Is Now Twice As Likely To ‘Default’ Than Germany

USA Is Now Twice As Likely To ‘Default’ Than Germany

While the market turmoil (stocks down a few percentage points from all-time record highs) is being pinned on various factors (from North Korea, Trump, & Cohn to terrible retailer earnings and J-Hole anxiety), we suspect the real cause of market uncertainty is starting to peak through – the looming debt ceiling crisis that has now become too big and too imminent to ignore.

Of course, uncertainty in The White House is starting to make investors realize the chance of successfully navigating the debt ceiling crisis without a government shutdown are dwindling…

With the T-Bill market pricing in serious disruption at the end of September, the risk of a technical default for US Treasury debt is starting to rise and is now spiking relative to Germany.

In fact, as the chart above shows, the current ‘risk’ in USA debt/devaluation markets is twice that of Germany’s – worse than at the peak of the shutdown in 2013 and worse than the shutdown debacle in 2015.

USA Default Risk premium has not been this high since Lehman.

Analyst Lays Out China’s “Doomsday” Scenario

Analyst Lays Out China’s “Doomsday” Scenario

The first time we laid out the dire calculations about what is perhaps the biggest mystery inside China’s financial system, namely the total amount of its non-performing loans, by former Fitch analyst Charlene Chu we called it a “neutron bomb” scenario, because unlike virtually every other rosy forecast the most dire of which topped out at around 8%, Chu argued that the amount of bad debt in China was no less than a whopping 21% of total loans.

Corporate investigator Violet Ho never put a lot of faith in the bad loan numbers reported by China’s banks: crisscrossing provinces from Shandong to Xinjiang, she’s seen too much – from the shell game of moving assets between affiliated companies to disguise the true state of their finances to cover-ups by bankers loath to admit that loans they made won’t be recovered. The amount of bad debt piling up in China is at the center of a debate about whether the country will continue as a locomotive of global growth or sink into decades of stagnation like Japan after its credit bubble burst. Bank of China Ltd. reported on Thursday its biggest quarterly bad-loan provisions since going public in 2006.

Charlene Chu, who made her name at Fitch Ratings making bearish assessments of the risks from China’s credit explosion since 2008, is among those crunching the numbers. While corporate investigator Ho relies on her observations from hitting the road, Chu and her colleagues at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong take a top-down approach. They estimate how much money is being wasted after the nation began getting smaller and smaller economic returns on its credit from 2008. Their assessment is informed by data from economies such as Japan that have gone though similar debt explosions.

While traditional bank loans are not Chu’s prime focus — she looks at the wider picture, including shadow banking — she says her work suggests that nonperforming loans may be at 20 percent to 21 percent, or even higher.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Salt, Wampum, Benjamins – Is Bitcoin Next

Currency was first developed about 4000 years ago. Its genius was in the ability to supplant barter thus greatly improving trade and providing a better means for storing value. As illustrated in our title, currency has taken on many different physical forms through the years. Given the recent advances in technology, is it any surprise the latest form of currency resides in the ether-sphere? In this article we explore the basics of cryptocurrencies and the important innovation they support, blockchain. We also offer an idea about whether or not Bitcoin, or another cryptocurrency, can become a true currency worthy of investment.

A Primer on Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

Cryptocurrency is an independent, digital currency that uses cryptology to maintain privacy of transactions and control the creation of the respective currency. While not recognized as legal tender, cryptocurrencies are becoming more popular for legal and illegal transactions alike. Bitcoin (BTC), developed in 2009, is the most popular of the cryptocurrencies. It accounts for over half the value of the more than 750 cryptocurrencies outstanding. In this article we refer to cryptocurrencies generally as BTC, but keep in mind there are differences among the many offerings. Also consider that, while BTC may appear to be the currency of choice, Netscape and AOL shareholders can tell you that early market leadership does not always translate into future market dominance.

Before explaining how BTC is created, acquired, stored, used and valued, it is vital to understand blockchain technology, the innovation that spawned BTC. As we researched this topic, we read a lot of convoluted descriptions of what blockchain is and the puzzling algorithms that support it. In the following paragraphs, we provide a basic description of blockchain. If you are interested in learning more, we recommend the following two links as they are relatively easy to understand.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 Charts that Prove this Market Bubble is Not Slowing Down

5 Charts that Prove this Market Bubble is Not Slowing Down

The stock market continues to show volatile signs of a market bubble. Here’s five charts that show that a very real bubble is on the horizon.

1. Economic Bubbles and The Breadwinner Economy

Former Congressman and Reagan’s budget director, David Stockmanhighlights that, “Another month has passed in which the number of Breadwinner jobs remain below where it was when Bill Clinton was in the White House. Since then two presidents have come and gone, and now possibly a third. Yet there are still 300,000 fewer jobs in the productive center of the U.S. economy than there were in early 2001.”

Stockman levels, “This suggests something isn’t right, and that point is further driven home by the pancaking of the industrial economy over the last decade. Specifically, industrial production in June was still lower than at the pre-crisis peak”

What all of this equates to is a crisis of economic stagnation. It bolsters national debt and puts forward a threat to fiscal governance. Stockman summarizes that, “You can’t justify a healthy economy purely on the claim that jobs grew by 209,000 in July or that GDP is up at a minimal 1.9% rate in the first half of the year.”

2. Of Market Bubbles and Bank Loans

Financial market analyst, Lee Adler highlighted in mid-June that we have entered a period of calm before the storm. He argues that the storm is due to begin when the Federal Reserve starts to shrink its massive balance sheet.

Bank Loans

Adler writes, “Some of the increase in debt that had driven the economy and the asset bubbles has bled off. With the Fed announcing that it will reduce its balance sheet, that’s likely to deter speculative borrowing even more.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Central Banking Increased Inequality

How Central Banking Increased Inequality1422847855_a0b53f1582_z.jpg

Although today high levels of inequality in the United States remain a pressing concern for a large swath of the population, monetary policy and credit expansion are rarely mentioned as a likely source of rising wealth and income inequality. Focusing almost exclusively on consumer price inflation, many economists have overlooked the redistributive effects of money creation through other channels. One of these channels is asset price inflation and the growth of the financial sector.

The rise in income inequality over the past 30 years has to a significant extent been the product of monetary policies fueling a series of asset price bubbles. Whenever the market booms, the share of income going to those at the very top increases. When the boom goes bust, that share drops somewhat, but then it comes roaring back even higher with the next asset bubble.

The Cantillon Effect

The redistributive effects of money creation were called Cantillon effectsby Mark Blaug after the Franco-Irish economist Richard Cantillon who experienced the effect of inflation under the paper money system of John Law at the beginning of the 18th century.1 Cantillon explained that the first ones to receive the newly created money see their incomes rise whereas the last ones to receive the newly created money see their purchasing power decline as consumer price inflation comes about.

Following Cantillon and contrary to Fisher and other monetary theorists of his time, Ludwig von Mises was the first to emphasized these Cantillon effects in terms of marginal utility analysis. With an increase in the stock of money, the cash balances of the early receivers of the newly created money increase.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can economic growth continue without fossil fuels? The IPCC thinks so — here’s why its decarbonisation models are broken

(Source: VICE)

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.

In this third contribution to our symposium, ‘Pathways to the Post-Carbon Economy’, biophysical economist Graham Palmer assesses the plausibility of conventional economic forecasts of a global energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Most forecasts paint a rosy picture of continued, unimpeded economic growth, even as the world weans itself entirely off carbon-intensive energy sources. But are such scenarios really possible?

Palmer argues that they aren’t — not when we consider how the economy is fundamentally embedded in its biophysical environment. And if it isn’t, then we need a new approach to modelling, which pays greater attention the intimate relationship between energy, our societies, and their economies.


Climate change discourse is structured around competing narratives — degrowth, pro-renewables, pro-nuclear, localism, green business, techno-optimism, and so on. The energy scenario modelling by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides a foundation for much of the discourse.

Integrated models are connected with socioeconomic and technological storylines to forecast a picture of key characteristics of future transformation pathways.

When we look at models from the most recent IPCC report (AR5), we see that that baseline scenarios project a 300% to 800% increase in GDP-per-capita by 2100. In these scenarios, strong mitigation is achieved with global consumption losses of only between 3 to 11% relative to baseline. Hence, the net-cost of decarbonising seems trivial over the long run.

From this perspective, the solution that follows is to put in place appropriate policies, support technology, remove fossil fuel subsidies and apply a modest but comprehensive carbon price.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why We’re Doomed: Our Economy’s Toxic Inequality

Why We’re Doomed: Our Economy’s Toxic Inequality

Anyone who thinks our toxic financial system is stable is delusional.

Why are we doomed? Those consuming over-amped “news” feeds may be tempted to answer the culture wars, nuclear war with North Korea or the Trump Presidency.
The one guaranteed source of doom is our broken financial system, which is visible in this chart of income inequality from the New York TimesOur Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart.
While the essay’s title is our broken economy, the source of this toxic concentration of income, wealth and power in the top 1/10th of 1% is more specifically our broken financial system.
What few observers understand is rapidly accelerating inequality is the only possible output of a fully financialized economy. Various do-gooders on the left and right propose schemes to cap this extraordinary rise in the concentration of income, wealth and power, for example, increasing taxes on the super-rich and lowering taxes on the working poor and middle class, but these are band-aids applied to a metastasizing tumor: financialization, which commoditizes labor, goods, services and financial instruments and funnels the income and wealth to the very apex of the wealth-power pyramid.
Take a moment to ponder what this chart is telling us about our financial system and economy. 35+ years ago, lower income households enjoyed the highest rates of income growth; the higher the income, the lower the rate of income growth.
This trend hasn’t just reversed; virtually all the income gains are now concentrated in the top 1/100th of 1%, which has pulled away from the top 1%, the top 5% and the top 10%, as well as from the bottom 90%.
The fundamental driver of this profoundly destabilizing dynamic is the disconnect of finance from the real-world economy.
The roots of this disconnect are debt: when we borrow from future earnings and energy production to fund consumption today, we are using finance to ramp up our consumption of real-world goods and services.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World GDP in current US dollars seems to have peaked; this is a problem

World GDP in current US dollars seems to have peaked; this is a problem

World GDP in current US dollars is in some sense the simplest world GDP calculation that a person might make. It is calculated by taking the GDP for each year for each country in the local currency (for example, yen) and converting these GDP amounts to US dollars using the then-current relativity between the local currency and the US dollar.

To get a world total, all a person needs to do is add together the GDP amounts for all of the individual countries. There is no inflation adjustment, so comparing GDP growth amounts calculated on this basis gives an indication regarding how the world economy is growing, inclusive of inflation. Calculation of GDP on this basis is also inclusive of changes in relativities to the US dollar.

What has been concerning for the last couple of years is that World GDP on this basis is no longer growing robustly. In fact, it may even have started shrinking, with 2014 being the peak year. Figure 1 shows world GDP on a current US dollar basis, in a chart produced by the World Bank.

Figure 1. World GDP in “Current US Dollars,” in chart from World Bank website.

Since the concept of GDP in current US dollars is not a topic that most of us are very familiar with, this post, in part, is an exploration of how GDP and inflation calculations on this basis fit in with other concepts we are more familiar with.

As I look at the data, it becomes clear that the reason for the downturn in Current US$ GDP is very much related to topics that I have been writing about. In particular, it is related to the fall in oil prices since mid-2014 and to the problems that oil producers have been having since that time, earning too little profit on the oil they sell.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fourth Turning’s Neil Howe Fears “Strong Parallels” Between 1930s And Today: “It’s Going To Be A Rollercoaster Ride”

Fourth Turning’s Neil Howe Fears “Strong Parallels” Between 1930s And Today: “It’s Going To Be A Rollercoaster Ride”

This week on the MacroVoices podcast, host Erik Townsend interviewed Neil Howe, co-author of The Fourth Turning, an investing tract that’s found renewed relevance thanks to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who’s cited it as an inspiration for his (and by extension, President Donald Trump’s) worldview.

According to the New York Times, which published a story earlier this year explaining the theories encapsulated in the book, the Fourth Turning was “written by two amateur historians, making the case that world events unfold in predictable cycles of roughly 80 years each, and that they can be divided into four chapters, or turnings: growth, maturation, entropy and destruction. Western societies have experienced the same patterns for centuries, the book argues, and they are as natural and necessary as spring, summer, fall and winter.”

Few books have been as central to the worldview of Mr. Bannon, a voracious reader who tends to see politics and policy in terms of their place in the broader arc of history.”

Turner shares Bannon’s enthusiasm, saying in his preamble that he believes the Fourth Turning is “the most important investing book of our time…I am such a big fan of this book personally that I literally named my own investment management company Fourth Turning Capital Management after Neil’s work.”

During the interview, Turner and Howe discussed Howe’s conclusion that America is presently in the middle of a 20-year-long period of social, economic and political upheaval.  

Howe begins by explaining how the first book written by himself and William Strauss, with whom he also collaborated on the Fourth Turning, introduced him to the idea that America’s economy and culture follow distinct patterns.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Global Financial Stress Index Spikes Most Since 2011 US Downgrade

Global Financial Stress Index Spikes Most Since 2011 US Downgrade

Did central banks just lose control of the world… again?

For the first time in four months, BofAML’s Global Financial Market Stress index has turned positive – signalling more market stress than normal.

As the spat between North Korea and the U.S. worsened, a measure of cross-asset risk, hedging demand and investor flows awakened from its torpor (after spending 78 straight days below zero – with stress below normal).

The problem the world faces is… did the world’s central bank money-printing safety net just lose its plunge protection power?

For context, this is the biggest spike in the Global Financial Stress Index since the US ratings downgrade in August 2011 – and a bigger shock than the August 2015 China devaluation…

Sunday night futures should be fun: potential war with North Korea, potential war with Venezuela, trade war with China, and civil war looming at home.

Spain’s New Big Bubble Begins to Wobble

Spain’s New Big Bubble Begins to Wobble

Tourism is now bigger than construction was during the real estate bubble.

Since hitting rock bottom in 2013, Spain has been one of the biggest engines of economic growth in Europe, expanding at around 3% per year. But according to a report by the Bank of Spain, most of the factors behind this growth — such as cheaper global oil prices, the ECB’s expansionary monetary policy, and the subsequent decline in value of the Euro — are externally driven and transitory in nature.

This is particularly true for arguably the biggest driver of Spain’s economic recovery, its unprecedented tourism boom, which some local economists are finally beginning to call a bubble.

In large part the boom/bubble is a result of the recent surge in geopolitical risks affecting rival tourist destinations like Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and, in smaller measure, France, which helped boost the number of foreign visitors to Spain in 2016 to a historic record of 75.3 million people — an 11.8% increase on 2015.

Based on first-half figures for this year, the trend is set to continue, at least for a little while longer. Between January and June 2017 36.3 million foreign visitors came to Spain — an increase of 11.6% on the same period of 2016. But if recent developments are any indication, this year’s surge in visitors could well represent Spain’s tourist boom’s final swansong.

Rising “Tourism-phobia.” After years of growing public opposition to the unrestrained growth of the Barcelona’s tourist industry, the city has witnessed a rash of coordinated attacks against tourist targets led by Arran, the youth wing of the radical separatist CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) party. Arran’s highly publicized actions have spawned a flurry of copycat attacks in places like Palma de Mallorca, San Sebastian and most recently Tenerife.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Warns Xi: Trade War With China Begins Monday

Trump Warns Xi: Trade War With China Begins Monday

As if there weren’t enough geopolitical and social stress points in the world to fill a lifetime of “sleepy, vacationy” Augusts, late on Friday night President Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him that he’s preparing to order an investigation into Chinese trade practices next week, according to NBC. Politico confirms that Trump is ready to launch a new trade crackdown on China next week, citing an administration official, a step that Trump delayed two weeks ago under the guidance of his new Chief of Staff Gen. Kelly, but now appears imminent. It is also an escalation which most analysts agree will launch a trade war between Washington and Beijing.

As Politico details, Trump on Monday will call for an investigation into China over allegations that the nation violated U.S. intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers, the official said. While it’s unclear how much detail Trump will get into in the announcement, administration officials expect U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open an investigation against China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The ordering of the investigation will not immediately impose sanctions but could lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump has expressed frustration in recent months over what he sees as China’s unfair trade policies.

As we discussed two weeks ago, Trump had planned to launch the trade investigation more than a week ago, but he delayed the move in favor of securing China’s support for expanded U.N. sanctions against North Korea, the senior administration official said.

The pending announcement also comes amid heightened tension between the United States and China, even after the Trump administration scored a victory in persuading Beijing to sign onto new United Nations sanctions on North Korea. Still, Trump has delayed trade action before, amid pressure from business groups and major trading partners:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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