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EU Concern Rising About Italian Debt

The EU Commission is deeply concerned that Italy is under pressure to spend frivolously because of the upcoming elections. The EU is apply more scrutiny for Italy’s huge sovereign debt. Because of the vast size of the Italian economy, the high level of total debt is a major cause for the Eurozone as a whole. The EU Commission sent a letter to the Italian government warning them not to deviate from the course of fiscal consolidation before the parliamentary elections in the spring.

Instead of creating simply a trade union, the idea that a single currency would save the day has seriously distorted reality. This idea of surrendering sovereignty by each member state to maintain a single currency if the worst possible design. Had the EU consolidated the debts and thereby created a federal EU debt, then each member state would have been responsible for themselves. In the USA, we have 50 states issuing debt in dollars, yet they have no part in the dollar. Had Europe consolidated the debts and drew the line in the sand at that moment, then states would be able to issue whatever debt the market would accept. This way, Brussels imposes austerity upon member states simply because they failed completely to comprehend the nation of the system they were creating.

World faces wave of epic debt defaults, fears central bank veteran

World faces wave of epic debt defaults, fears central bank veteran

Exclusive: Situation worse than it was in 2007, says chairman of the OECD’s review committee

Burning euro notes

The next task awaiting the global authorities is how to manage debt write-offs without setting off a political storm Photo: Rex

The global financial system has become dangerously unstable and faces an avalanche of bankruptcies that will test social and political stability, a leading monetary theorist has warned.

“The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up,” said William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

“Emerging markets were part of the solution after the Lehman crisis. Now they are part of the problem, too.”
William White, OECD

“Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief,” he said.

“It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something,” he told The Telegraph on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“The only question is whether we are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion, or whether it will be disorderly. Debt jubilees have been going on for 5,000 years, as far back as the Sumerians.”

The next task awaiting the global authorities is how to manage debt write-offs – and therefore a massive reordering of winners and losers in society – without setting off a political storm.

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

Whose Private-Sector Debt Will Implode Next: US, Canada, China, Eurozone, Japan?

Whose Private-Sector Debt Will Implode Next: US, Canada, China, Eurozone, Japan?

Canadians, fasten your seat-belt. Here are the charts.

The Financial Crisis in the US was a consequence of too much debt and too much risk, among numerous other factors, and the whole house of cards came down. Now, after eight years of experimental monetary policies and huge amounts of deficit spending by governments around the globe, public debt has ballooned. Gross national debt in the US just hit $20.5 trillion, or 105% of GDP. But that can’t hold a candle to Japan’s national debt, now at 250% of GDP.

And private-sector debt, which includes household and business debts — how has it fared in the era of easy money?

In the US, total debt to the private non-financial sector has ballooned to $28.5 trillion. That’s up 14% from the $25 trillion at the crazy peak of the Financial Crisis and up 63% from 2004.

In relationship to the economy, private sector debt soared from 147% of GDP in 2004 to 170% of GDP in the first quarter of 2008. Then it all fell apart. Some of this debt blew up and was written off. For a little while consumers and businesses deleveraged just a tiny little bit, before starting to borrow once again.

But the economy began growing again too, and debt as a percent of GDP fell to a low 148% in Q1 2015. It has since picked up steam, growing once again faster than the economy, and now is at 151.7% of GDP, back where it was in 2005. This chart shows US private sector debt to the non-financial sector, in trillion dollars (blue line, left scale) and as a percent of GDP (red line, right scale):

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

The Next Italian Bank Threatens to Topple

The Next Italian Bank Threatens to Topple

Sharp Dose of Deja Vu for Italy’s Teetering Banks.

In a speech that did little to calm investors’ nerves, Italy’s finance minister said yesterday that he was “strangely optimistic” about Italy’s economic outlook. Senior eurocrats in Brussels are far from convinced. “Italy’s accounts are not improving,” blasted European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen at a press conference yesterday.

The financial situation in Italy, according to Katainen, is due to get worse with Italy’s deficit in 2018 now predicted to be €3.5 billion more than previously stated by Paolo Gentiloni’s administration in the spring. “The only thing I can say in my name is that all Italians should know what the real economic situation in Italy is,” he said.

That real economic situation includes the fragile health of the nation’s banking system which continues to teeter on the edge despite the controversial rescue last summer of Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) and the resolution of the Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, which left over 40,000 businesses in Italy’s wealthy Veneto region starved of credit.

It’s pretty clear that investor concerns about the health of Italy’s toxic debt-laden banking system have not been put to rest. Today’s developments will hardly have helped steady nerves after mid-sized lender Carige, with assets of €26 billion, scuttled a capital increase demanded by European authorities when it failed to get the backing of a banking consortium led by Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays to underwrite the deal.

In a statement, Carige said it had called a board meeting on Thursday morning to discuss “the next steps.” The shares of Genoa-based Carige, which had already lost roughly half its value over the past year, were suspended on Milan’s stock exchange. They closed on Wednesday at €0.17 a piece. The board had fixed a price of €0.10 euro per share for a capital hike of €560 million demanded by regulators.

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

Venezuela Signs $3.2 Billion Debt Restructuring Deal With Russia

Venezuela Signs $3.2 Billion Debt Restructuring Deal With Russia

As Venezuela teeters right on the brink of complete financial collapse, Bloomberg reports that Russia has agreed to restructure roughly $3.2 billion in outstanding obligations.  While details of the restructuring agreement are scarce, both sides reported that the deal spreads payments out over 10 years with minimal cash service required over the next six years.

Russia signed an agreement to restructure $3.15 billion of debt owed by Venezuela, throwing a lifeline to a crisis-wracked ally that’s struggling to repay creditors.

The deal spreads the loan payments out over a decade, with “minimal” payments over the first six years, the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement. The pact doesn’t cover obligations of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to its Russian counterpart Rosneft PJSC, however.

“The terms are flexible and very favorable for our country,” Wilmar Castro Soteldo, Venezuela’s economic vice president, told reporters in Moscow after the signing. “We will be able to return to the level of commercial relations with Russia that we had before,” he added, noting that a deal to buy Russian wheat will be signed next week.

This is the second time Russia has agreed to reschedule Venezuela’s debt payments after agreeing to an extension last year. Still, Caracas failed to make payments amid an economic crisis triggered by low prices for oil. Rosneft has also provided several billion dollars in advance payments for Venezuelan crude supplies.

The rescheduling pact is a “demonstration of the desire to maintain ties with the current Venezuelan leadership,” Viktor Kheifets, an expert in Venezuela at St. Petersburg State University, said by phone. “Russia isn’t happy with everything that the government there is doing but Venezuela is an ally where Russia has economic interests and Moscow is firmly against a forcible change of regime there.”

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

Venezuela Defaults On A Debt Payment – Is This The First Domino To Fall?

Venezuela Defaults On A Debt Payment – Is This The First Domino To Fall?

Did you know that Venezuela just went into default?  This should be an absolutely enormous story, but the mainstream media is being very quiet about it.  Wall Street and other major financial centers around the globe could potentially be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come.  Sovereign nations are not supposed to ever default on debt payments, and so this is a very rare occurrence indeed.  I have been writing about Venezuela for years, and now the crisis that has been raging in that nation threatens to escalate to an entirely new level.

Things are already so bad in Venezuela that people have been eating dogs, cats and zoo animals, but now that Venezuela has officially defaulted, there will be no more loans from the rest of the world and the desperation will grow even deeper…

Venezuela, a nation spiraling into a humanitarian crisis, has missed a debt payment. It could soon face grim consequences.

The South American country defaulted on its debt, according to a statement issued Monday night by S&P Global Ratings. The agency said the 30-day grace period had expired for a payment that was due in October.

A debt default risks setting off a dangerous series of events that could exacerbate Venezuela’s food and medical shortages.

So what might that “dangerous series of events” look like?

Well, Venezuela already has another 420 million dollars of debt payments that are overdue.  Investors around the world are facing absolutely catastrophic losses, and the legal wrangling over this crisis could take many years to resolve.  The following comes from Forbes

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

Auto-Loan Subprime Blows Up Lehman-Moment-Like

Auto-Loan Subprime Blows Up Lehman-Moment-Like

But there is no Financial Crisis. These are the boom times.

Given Americans’ ceaseless urge to borrow and spend, household debt in the third quarter surged by $610 billion, or 5%, from the third quarter last year, to a new record of $13 trillion, according to the New York Fed. If the word “surged” appears a lot, it’s because that’s the kind of debt environment we now have:

  • Mortgage debt surged 4.2% year-over-year, to $9.19 trillion, still shy of the all-time record of $10 trillion in 2008 before it all collapsed.
  • Student loans surged by 6.25% year-over-year to a record of $1.36 trillion.
  • Credit card debt surged 8% to $810 billion.
  • “Other” surged 5.4% to $390 billion.
  • And auto loans surged 6.1% to a record $1.21 trillion.

And given how the US economy depends on consumer borrowing for life support, that’s all good.

However, there are some big ugly flies in that ointment: Delinquencies – not everywhere, but in credit cards, and particularly in subprime auto loans, where serious delinquencies have reached Lehman Moment proportions.

Of the $1.2 trillion in auto loans outstanding, $282 billion (24%) were granted to borrowers with a subprime credit score (below 620).

Of all auto loans outstanding, 2.4% were 90+ days (“seriously”) delinquent, up from 2.3% in the prior quarter. But delinquencies are concentrated in the subprime segment – that $282 billion – and all hell is breaking lose there.

Subprime auto lending has attracted specialty lenders, such as Santander Consumer USA. They feel they can handle the risks, and they off-loaded some of the risks to investors via subprime auto-loan-backed securities. They want to cash in on the fat profits often obtained in subprime lending via extraordinarily high interest rates.

Subprime borrowers are perceived as sitting ducks. They’ve been turned down, and they’re aware of their bad credit, and they often think they have no other options. And so they often end up with ludicrously high interest rates on their loans, which these borrowers, because of the ludicrously high interest rates, have trouble servicing.

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

S&P Downgrades Venezuela To “Selective Default” After Bondholder Meeting Devolves Into Total Chaos

S&P Downgrades Venezuela To “Selective Default” After Bondholder Meeting Devolves Into Total Chaos

Creditors had little expectations from today’s ad hoc meeting with “soon-to-default” Venezuela, and with good reason: not only was the meeting attended by several sanctioned Venezuelan officials, potentially jeopardizing the legal status of any bondholders who voluntarily appeared at the Caracas meeting meant to “restructure and refinance” Venezuela’s massive debt load, but it was nothing but total confusion, with neither Venezuela, nor creditors knowing what is on the agenda, why they were meeting, or what is the endgame. In sum, the meeting resulted in no firm proposals, lasted no more than 30 minutes, consisted largely of an angry rant by an alleged drug dealer who also happens to be Venezuela’s vice president, and ended as chaotically as it started.

Quoted by Reuters, one unnamed bondholder had a perfectly succinct summary of what happened today, or rather didn’t:

There was no offer, no terms, no strategy, nothing,” the bondholder said, leaving the meeting that lasted a little over half an hour at the ‘White Palace’, departing with a colorful gift-bag containing Venezuelan chocolates and coffee.

Credit walked in as confused as they left, a little over a week after President Nicolas Maduro stunned investors with a vow to continue paying Venezuela’s crippling debt, while also seeking to restructure and refinance it; the two things are literally impossible at the same time. There is another problem: both a restructuring and a refinancing appears out of the question, due to U.S. sanctions against the crisis-stricken nation, which make discussions with the key negotiators who has been put on a sanctions black list, grounds for potential arrest. A default would compound Venezuela’s already disastrous economic crisis.

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

The Kids Are Not Alright

The Kids Are Not Alright

Debt initially dazzles and deceives, then it disappoints, disillusions, devastates, and destroys.

The thing governments do best is borrow. Performance varies across the range of their purported functions—warfare, maintenance of public order, provision of goods and services, redistribution, regulation—but they all go into debt. The structure of governments and their underlying philosophies also vary, but there’s one commonality. They are set up to optimize their own borrowing. Thus, central banks are essential.

There is a cottage industry devoted to the minutia of central bank personnel, policies, and pronouncements and what they mean for humanity’s future. Actually, cottage industry is not a correct characterization. No cottage industry could generate the kind of money paid to central banking’s acolytes.

After months of speculation, President Trump named Jerome Powell as the next Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. If you know why the Fed exists and how it operates, the speculation was so much dross. The Federal Reserve exists to “facilitate” the US government’s issuance of debt. Mr. Powell will do what Janet Yellen, Benjamin Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volker, G. William Miller, Arthur Burns, and every chairperson has done on back to the first one, Charles Hamlin: make it easier for the government to borrow. All of the other candidates would have done the same.

Central banks, their fiat debt, and ostensibly private banking systems that either control or are controlled by governments (take your pick) have facilitated unprecedented global governmental indebtedness. Suppressed interest rates and pyramiding debt via fractional reserve banking, securitization, and derivatives have led to record private indebtedness as well. The totals so dwarf the world’s productive capacities as measured, albeit imperfectly, by gross domestic product figures that the comparison yields an inescapable conclusion: most of this debt cannot be repaid.

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

Weekly Commentary: “Money” on the Move

Weekly Commentary: “Money” on the Move

It’s been awhile since I’ve used this terminology. But global markets this week recalled the old “Bubble in Search of a Pin.” It’s too early of course to call an end to the great global financial Bubble. But suddenly, right when everything looked so wonderful, there are indication of “Money” on the Move. And the issues appears to go beyond delays in implementing U.S. corporate tax cuts.

The S&P500 declined only 0.2%, ending eight consecutive weekly gains. But the more dramatic moves were elsewhere. Big European equities rallies reversed abruptly. Germany’s DAX index traded up to an all-time high 13,526 in early Tuesday trading before reversing course and sinking 2.9% to end the week at 13,127. France’s CAC40 index opened Tuesday at the high since January 2008, only to reverse and close the week down 2.5%. Italy’s MIB Index traded as high as 23,133 Tuesday before sinking 2.5% to end the week at 22,561. Similarly, Spain’s IBEX index rose to 10,376 and then dropped 2.7% to close Friday’s session at 10,093.

Having risen better than 20% since early September, Japanese equities have been in speculative blow-off mode. After trading to a 26-year high of 23,382 inter-day on Thursday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index sank as much as 859 points, or 3.6%, in afternoon trading. The dollar/yen rose to an eight-month high 114.73 Monday and then ended the week lower at 113.53.  From Tokyo to New York, banks were hammered this week.

Perhaps the more important developments of the week unfolded in fixed-income. Despite the selloff in the region’s equities markets, European sovereign debt experienced no safe haven bid. German bund yields traded at 0.31% on Wednesday, before a backup in rates saw yields close the week at 0.41%. Italian bond yields traded as low as 1.69% on Wednesday before closing the week at 1.84%. Spain’s yields ended the week up 10 bps to 1.56%.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Venezuela Officially Defaults; Annual Inflation 2689 Percent: When Does the Military Take Over?

Electricidad de Caracas, a Venezuelan state-owned electric company, officially defaulted on a $650 million bond payment. The company was already a month late on its payment before the trustee, Wilmington Trust, issued a statement. Meaanwhile, Professor Steve Hanke notes annual inflation is 2689%.

Venezuela’s Electricidad de Caracas — a state-owned electric company — has defaulted on a $650 million bond payment, Wilmington Trust said Friday.

The default comes as the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) prepares to decide next Monday whether state-run oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) experienced a credit event earlier this month.

PDVSA missed a $1.12 billion bond payment on Nov. 2. If ISDA decides that PDVSA did experience a credit event, that could lead bondholders to declare a default, which could trigger an avalanche.

“We expect if holders do declare a default then that could be used to trigger cross default across the whole US$28bn of PDVSA bonds,” Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist at Exotix Capital, said in a note. He noted, however, that bondholders “may simply give the government more time to make the payment, as the intention seems to be there, but coordinating a large group of holders with different incentives could prove challenging.”

Food Shortages

President Nicolas Maduro erased any remnants of democracy in late July, stripping political opponents of power and establishing a new legislature filled with his cronies.

But Maduro’s cemented regime still faces the same problems it started years ago: An exodus of its educated class combined with mass shortages of food, medicine, money and — most importantly — time.

Shortages of basic medicine and proper medical equipment are common. More than 750 women died during or shortly after childbirth in 2016, a 66% increase from 2015, according to the Venezuelan health ministry.

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

Perpetual Notes – China’s New Way To Hide Debt (Call It Equity)

Perpetual Notes – China’s New Way To Hide Debt (Call It Equity) 

The legacy of the soon-to-retire PBoC governor, Zhou Xiochuan, will be that in sharp contrast to his western brethren, he warned that China’s credit bubble would burst before the fact. Two weeks ago, Zhou warned during the Party Congress that China’s financial system could be heading for a “Minsky moment” due to high levels of corporate debt and rapidly rising household debt (see here).

“If we are too optimistic when things go smoothly, tensions build up, which could lead to a sharp correction, what we call a ‘Minsky moment’. That’s what we should particularly defend against.”

Perhaps sensing that nobody in the Middle Kingdom was paying attention, we noted two days ago his lengthy essay published on the PBoC website. It contained another warning that latent risks are accumulating in the Chinese system, including some that are “hidden, complex, contagious and hazardous.” He also highlighted “debt finance disguised as equity” as a concern. Talking of which, there’s a new growth market in the gargantuan Chinese corporate debt market – we are referring to perpetual notes. Are you ready for the clever part about perpetual notes – they are debt but it’s permissible under Chinese accounting regulations to classify them as “equity” – et voila, corporate gearing has fallen. According to Bloomberg.

Under pressure to trim borrowings, China’s companies have found a way to reduce their lofty debt burdens — even if some of the risk remains. Sales of perpetual notes – long-dated securities that can be listed as equity rather than debt on balance sheets given that in theory they could never mature — have soared to a record this year as Beijing zeros in on leverage and the threat it poses to the financial system.

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

Venezuela Just 24 Hours Away From Formal Declaration Of Default

Venezuela Just 24 Hours Away From Formal Declaration Of Default

Less than a week after Venezuela shocked the world by announcing it would proceed to restructure its massive external debt, even as it was within the grace period on hundreds of millions in unpaid interest expense, on Thursday the socialist nation confirmed it has never been closer to an official default after Reuters reported that Venezuela’s state oil-firm company, PDVSA, has not made a debt payments to India’s top oil producer ONGC for six months, and has previously used a Russian state-owned bank and another Indian energy company as intermediaries to make payments.

Reuters sources noted that PDVSA has made no payment since April on what was a $540 million backlog of dividends owed to ONGC for an investment the Indian firm made in a an energy project in Venezuela. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said last week that the country planned to restructure some $60 billion of bonds, much of it held by PDVSA, as the country struggles to meet debt repayments.

While ONGC Videsh –  the overseas investment arm of ONGC  confirmed to Reuters that PDVSA had fallen behind on the payments, but declined to give details on the delays.

Curiously, the Indian company appears not to be overly concerned about non-payment for half a year, and instead was willing to keep giving Maduro the benefit of the doubt: “They have got certain challenges at this stage,” ONGC Videsh said in an emailed response to Reuters’ questions. “They have assured that they are working on it (payment of dues). In due course it will be settled and follow up steps will be undertaken.” And just to underscore that it has no intention of pushing Venezuela into involuntary bankruptcy, ONGC added that “we have a good working relationship with PDVSA.”

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

Prepare For Interest Rate Rises And Global Debt Bubble Collapse

 Prepare For Interest Rate Rises And Global Debt Bubble Collapse

– Diversify, rebalance investments and prepare for interest rate rises
– UK launches inquiry into household finances as £200bn debt pile looms
– Centuries of data forewarn of rapid reversal from ultra low interest rates
– 700-year average real interest rate is 4.78% (must see chart)
– Massive global debt bubble – over $217 trillion (see table)
– Global debt levels are building up to a gigantic tidal wave
– Move to safe haven higher ground from coming tidal wave

Source: Bloomberg

Last week, the Bank of England opted to increase interest rates for the first time in a decade. Since then alerts have been coming thick and fast for Britons warning them to prepare for some tough financial times ahead.

The UK government has launched an inquiry into household debt levels amid concerns of the impact of the Bank of England’s decision to raise rates. The tiny 0.25% rise means households on variable interest rate mortgages are expected to face about £1.8bn in additional interest payments whilst £465m more will be owed on the likes of credit cards, car loans and overdrafts.

The 0.25% rise is arguably not much given it comes against backdrop of record low rates and will have virtually no impact on any other rate. However it comes at a time of high domestic debt levels, no real wage growth and a global debt level of over $217 trillion.

Combined with low productivity across the developed world, experts are beginning to wonder how the financial system (and the individuals within) will cope.

After a decade of seeing negative real rates of interest many investors will be quietly celebrating that they may be about to see a turnaround for their savings. Many hope they will start being rewarded for their financial prudence as opposed to the punishing saving conditions of the last decade.

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

Will China Bring an Energy-Debt Crisis?

Will China Bring an Energy-Debt Crisis?

It is easy for those of us in the West to overlook how important China has become to the world economy, and also the limits it is reaching. The two big areas in which China seems to be reaching limits are energy production and debt. Reaching either of these limits could eventually cause a collapse.

China is reaching energy production limits in a way few would have imagined. As long as coal and oil prices were rising, it made sense to keep drilling. Once fuel prices started dropping in 2014, it made sense to close unprofitable coal mines and oil wells. The thing that is striking is that the drop in prices corresponds to a slowdown in the wage growth of Chinese urban workers. Perhaps rapidly rising Chinese wages have been playing a significant role in maintaining high world “demand” (and thus prices) for energy products. Low Chinese wage growth thus seems to depress energy prices.

(Shown as Figure 5, below). China’s percentage growth in average urban wages. Values for 1999 based on China Statistical Yearbook data regarding the number of urban workers and their total wages. The percentage increase for 2016 was based on a Bloomberg Survey.

The debt situation has arisen because feedback loops in China are quite different from in the US. The economic system is set up in a way that tends to push the economy toward ever more growth in apartment buildings, energy installations, and factories. Feedbacks do indeed come from the centrally planned government, but they are not as immediate as feedbacks in the Western economic system. Thus, there is a tendency for a bubble of over-investment to grow. This bubble could collapse if interest rates rise, or if China reins in growing debt.

China’s Oversized Influence in the World

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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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