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Brodsky: This Is A Red Flag Warning

Brodsky: This Is A Red Flag Warning

Authored by Paul Brodsky via Macro-Allocation.com,

Red Flag Warning

Two identifiable dynamics may signal significant market shifts imminently:

1. The US debt ceiling will be debated soon and signs point towards a messy outcome.

2. Recent economic data have been weak, confirming our thesis that US economic growth is slowing and will not be reversed until a recession is acknowledged.

Debt Ceiling

Excessive debt has a way of catching up with people and institutions, and the first true test for the US government may be at hand. Congress was expected to raise the debt ceiling by October or else Treasury could not fund all the government’s programs and current obligations. Yet talk of Trump tax reform in 2016 may have given taxpayers incentive to defer their liabilities. As a result, Treasury received about 3 percent less in revenues than expected, accelerating the timetable to debate and raise the debt ceiling.Progress on raising the ceiling will unlikely be made in August, as Congress is in recess.

Meanwhile, the political atmosphere in the Republican Party has splintered further under President Trump. The conservative wing, which tried to block raising the ceiling in the past, has signaled it will again dig in its heels to force the government to begin balancing its budget. Though it caved in the past, the conservative caucus’ resolve should not be doubted this time, judging by its will and ability to so far block health care reform that does not absolutely repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has stated that the Department has options if Congress does not raise the ceiling, but has not been forthcoming with specifics. If a cash flow shortfall develops in the fourth quarter, principal and interest payments on Treasury debt would be prioritized so that the government would avoid default.

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

Expediency and Magical Thinking

Earth’s Economy Glorifies Waste, Exploitation, Debt, Expediency and Magical Thinking

Humanity appears to default to magical thinking when faced with untenable situations that demand systemic change.
How would extraterrestrial anthropologists characterize Earth’s dominant socio-economic system? It’s not difficult to imagine their dismaying report:
“Earth’s economy glorifies waste. Its economists rejoice when a product is disposed as waste and replaced with a new product. This waste is perversely labeled ‘growth.’
Aimless wandering that consumes fossil fuels is likewise rejoiced as ‘growth.’
The stripping of the planet’s oceans for a few favored species of edible fish is also considered ‘growth’ as the process of destroying the ocean ecosystem generates sales of the desired seafood.
Even more perversely, the resulting shortages are also causes of rejoicing by the planet’s elites, as their ability to purchase the now-scarce resources boosts their social status and grandiose sense of self-worth.
This glorification of waste is the same dynamic that destroyed the civilization on Zork.
Earth’s economy also glorifies exploitation, as this maximizes profits, which appears to be the planetary equivalent of a secular religion that everyone believes as a Natural Law.
Thus slavery and monopoly are highly valued as the most reliable sources of profits. If ethical concerns limit the actual ownership of humans, Earth’s economy incentivizes feudal arrangements that share characteristics of servitude and bondage. In the current era, the favored mechanisms are over-indebtedness (debt-serfdom) and taxation by the state, which extracts approximately 40% of all labor via threat of imprisonment.
Earth’s elites exhibit a pathological preference for micro-managing the commoners via criminalizing much of everyday life and imposing extremely harsh punishments for any dissent or resistance to elite domination.

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

We Do These Things Because They’re Easy: Our All-Consuming Dependence on Debt

We Do These Things Because They’re Easy: Our All-Consuming Dependence on Debt

A world in which “we do these things because they’re easy” has one end-state: collapse.
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a famous speech announcing the national goal of going to the moon by the end of the decade. (JFK’s speech on going to the moon.) In a memorable line, Kennedy said we would pursue the many elements of the space program “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Our national philosophy now is “we do these things because they’re easy”– and relying on debt to pay today’s expenses is at the top of the list. What’s easier than tapping a line of credit to buy whatever you want or need? Nothing’s easier than borrowing money, especially at super-low rates of interest.
We are now totally, completely dependent on expanding debt for the maintenance of our society and economy. Every sector of the economy–households, businesses and government–all borrow vast sums just to maintain the status quo for another year.
Compare buying a new car with easy, low-interest credit and saving up to buy the car with cash. How easy is it to borrow $23,000 for a new $24,000 car? You go to the dealership, announce all you have to put down is a trade-in vehicle worth $1,000. The salesperson puts a mirror under your nose to make sure you’re alive, makes sure you haven’t just declared bankruptcy to stiff previous lenders, and if you pass those two tests, you qualify for a 1% rate auto loan. You sign some papers and drive off in your new car. Easy-peasy!

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

Is This The Generation That Is Going To Financially Destroy America?

Is This The Generation That Is Going To Financially Destroy America?

Did you know that the federal government is going to spend more than 4 trillion dollars this year?  To put that into perspective, U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2017 is going to be somewhere between 18 and 19 trillion dollars.  So when you are talking about 4 trillion dollars you are talking about a huge chunk of our economy.  But of course the federal government doesn’t bring in 4 trillion dollars a year.  At the beginning of Barack Obama’s first term, we were 10.6 trillion dollars in debt, and now we are nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt.  That means that we have been adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the national debt.  When you break that down, that means that we have essentially been stealing more than a hundred million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day to pay for our debt-fueled lifestyle.  Even Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is warning that this is not sustainable, and yet we just keep on doing it.

Nobody can pretend that what we have today is the kind of limited federal government that our founders intended.  When federal spending accounts for more than 20 percent of GDP, it is hard to argue that we haven’t moved very far down the road toward socialism.  As I mentioned above, total federal spending will surpass 4 trillion dollars for the first time ever in 2017…

Both the Congressional Budget Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget project that federal spending will top $4 trillion for the first time in fiscal 2017, which began on Oct. 1, 2016 and will end on Sept. 30.

In its “Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017 to 2027” published last week, CBO projected that total federal spending in fiscal 2017 will hit $4,008,000,000,000.

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

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Warns Congress: US Debt Trajectory Is Unsustainable

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Warns Congress: US Debt Trajectory Is Unsustainable

During her tesimony this morning, Fed Chair Janet Yellen urged Congress to take into account the growth trajectory of the federal debt when making decisions about spending and taxation.

She said lawmakers need to work toward achieving “sustainability of this debt path over time,”

“Let me state in the strongest possible terms that I agree” the U.S. federal debt trend is unsustainable, may hurt productivity, and living standards of Americans.

Of course she is correct, but we do not remember her being so forthright during the last few years of President Obama’s reign as he doubled the national debt?

As a reminder, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last month the national debt could reach 91% of gross domestic product by 2027. Lawmakers are weighing major fiscal policy changes, including tax cuts, changes to health care and infrastructure spending, that could drive deficits higher in the coming years. Furthermore, at the cuirrent spending/taxation rates, debt/GDP expected to hit 150% by 2047 if the current government spending picture remains unchanged.

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

The Looming Energy Shock

Carlos E. Santa Maria/Shutterstock

The Looming Energy Shock

The next oil crisis will arrive in 3 years or less
There will be an extremely painful oil supply shortfall sometime between 2018 and 2020. It will be highly disruptive to our over-leveraged global financial system, given how saddled it is with record debts and unfunded IOUs.

Due to a massive reduction in capital spending in the global oil business over 2014-2016 and continuing into 2017, the world will soon find less oil coming out of the ground beginning somewhere between 2018-2020.

Because oil is the lifeblood of today’s economy, if there’s less oil to go around, price shocks are inevitable. It’s very likely we’ll see prices climb back over $100 per barrel. Possibly well over.

The only way to avoid such a supply driven price-shock is if the world economy collapses first, dragging demand downwards.

Not exactly a great “solution” to hope for.

Pick Your Poison

This is why our view is that either

  1. the world economy outgrows available oil somewhere in the 2018 – 2020 timeframe, or
  2. the world economy collapses first, thus pushing off an oil price shock by a few years (or longer, given the severity of the collapse)

If (1) happens, the resulting oil price spike will kneecap a world economy already weighted down by the highest levels of debt ever recorded, currently totaling some 327% of GDP:

(Source)

Remember, in 2008, oil spiked to $147 a barrel. The rest is history — a massive credit crisis ensued.  While there was a mountain of dodgy debt centered around subprime loans in the US, what brought Greece to its knees wasn’t US housing debt, but its own unsustainable pile of debt coupled to a 100% dependence on imported oil —  which, figuratively and literally, broke the bank.

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

Global Debt Hits A New Record High Of $217 Trillion; 327% Of GDP

Global Debt Hits A New Record High Of $217 Trillion; 327% Of GDP

The Institute of International Finance is perhaps best known for its periodic – and concerning – reports summarizing global leverage statistics, and its latest Q1 report was the most troubling yet, because what it found was that in a period of so-called “coordinated growth”, global debt hit a new all time high of $217 trillion, or over 327% of global GDP, up $50 trillion over the past decade. So much for Ray Dalio’s beautiful deleveraging, oh and for those economists who are still confused why r-star remains near 0%, the chart  below has all the answers.

Not surprisingly, China continues to be the biggest source of global debt growth, with the country’s total debt load now surpassing 300%.

While much of the debt issuance at the financial sector level has moderated in recent years, supplanted by outside money created by central banks, debt in the non-financial sector has continued to grow, and as of Q1 2017, hit an all time high of 242% of GDP.

An interesting observation by the IIF: despite the recent dollar strength (if not so much in the past quarter), dollar bond issuance in Emerging Markets has been on a tear over the past year.

Another notable observation: while the EM bond universe has increased by $2.5 trillion to $18.4 trillion since 2016, only 25% of this debt is tradeable via benchmark bond indices.

What is more troubling, however, is the IIF’s observation that despite the relentless foreign portfolio inflows into EM, the credit quality of many emerging markets has deteriored rapidly in the past year.

This is an especially acute problem because there is over $1.9 trillion in EM bonds and loans coming due by the end of 2018. Should the EM sector fall out of favor with investors, and if the debt can not be rolled over, it could result in substantial liquidity events across the EM space.

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

The Inconvenient Truth of Consumer Debt

The Inconvenient Truth of Consumer Debt

It’s acceptable to build infinitely high levels of household debt — as long as rates never rise.
Ready for a rainy day?Photographer: Anoek De Groot/AFP/Getty Images

Oh, but for the days the hawks had a hero in Sydney. Against the backdrop of a de facto currency war, the Reserve Bank of Australia stood as a steady pillar of strength. The RBA held the line on interest rates, maintaining a floor of 2.5 percent, even as its global central bank peers drove rates to the zero bound and beyond into negative territory.

The abrupt end to the commodities supercycle drove the RBA to join the global currency war. The mining-dependent nation’s economy was so debilitated that policy makers felt they had no choice but to ease financial conditions. In February 2015, after an 18-month honeymoon, the RBA reduced its official rate to 2.25 percent, marking the start of a cycle that ended last August with the fourth cut to a record low of 1.5 percent.

The Bank of Canada has taken a similar journey in recent years. It embarked upon a mild tightening campaign in 2010 that raised the overnight loan rate from a record low of 0.25 percent to 1 percent in September 2010. The bank maintained that level until early 2015. Two weeks before the RBA’s first cut, the Bank of Canada lowered rates to 0.75 percent. The January move, which shocked the markets, was followed in July 2015 with an additional ease to 0.5 percent, where it remains today.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who replaced Mark Carney after he departed to head the Bank of England, explained the moves as necessary to counter the downside risks to inflation emanating from the oil price shock to the country’s economy.

Two resource-rich economies reacting similarly to body blows is intuitive enough. They eased the pressure on their given economies.

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

Debt Has No Consequences? Color Me Skeptical

Debt Has No Consequences? Color Me Skeptical

The entire status quo is based on the delusion that rapidly rising debt will never generate any negative consequences.

Here’s a chart of America’s national debt, extended a mere dozen years into the future: the current $20 trillion in debt will double to $40 trillion, and that assumes 1) trillions of dollars in private and local government pensions don’t implode and have to be bailed out by the federal government, a bail-out that will have to be paid by borrowing more money, 2) a recession doesn’t slash federal tax revenues, 3) Universal Basic Income (UBI) doesn’t become policy, adding $1+ trillion in additional borrowing annually–and so on.

Color me skeptical that doubling the debt in 12 years won’t have any negative consequences. Let’s start by noting that federal debt is only the tip of America’s total debt load, which is rising fast in all sectors: federal, state/county/city, corporate and household.

Total government, corporate and household debt soared from $15.5 trillion in 2000 to $41.1 trillion in 2016. (see chart below, courtesy of 720Global). If we extend this expansion another 12 years, we will have a total debt load in the neighborhood of $100 trillion by 2030. And that’s if the “recovery” news is all good.

The consensus is that all this debt will have no negative consequences because 1) interest rates will remain near-zero forever and 2) it’s all “investment”, right? Actually, no; the vast majority of this debt is consumption, not investment, or even worse, it simply services existing debt or funds speculative gambling (stock buybacks, etc.)

Recall that every debt is somebody’s asset. Debt jubilees sound great to debtors, but not so appealing to insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds, etc. that own the debt and rely on the income from that debt to pay pensioners their pensions, settle insurance claims, etc.

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

The Three Headed Debt Monster That’s Going to Ravage the Economy

“The bank is something more than men, I tell you.  It’s the monster.  Men made it, but they can’t control it.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Something strange and somewhat senseless happened this week. On Tuesday, the price of gold jumped over $13 per ounce.  This, in itself, is nothing too remarkable.  However, at precisely the same time gold was jumping, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note was slip sliding down to 2.15 percent.

In short, investors were simultaneously anticipating inflation and deflation.  Naturally, this is a gross oversimplification.  But it does make the point that something peculiar is going on with these markets.

Clear thinking and simple logic won’t make heads or tails of things.  For example, late Wednesday and then into Thursday the reverse happened.  Gold gave back practically all $13 per ounce it had gained on Tuesday, while the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note climbed back up to 2.19 percent.  What to make of it?

Gold and treasury yields have been inversely correlated for some time. This is probably due to inflation expectations driving expectations about interest rate policy – click to enlarge.

With a little imagination one can conceive of where the money’s coming from to buy Treasury bonds.  More than likely, it has something to do with central bank intervention into credit markets.  Though, the Federal Reserve is not the only culprit.

If you recall, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program concluded in late 2014.  The Fed even says it plans to start shrinking its balance sheet later this year.  So if the Fed’s not the source of liquidity for Treasury purchases, who is?

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

Why The Markets Are Overdue For A Gigantic Bust

r.classen/Shutterstock

Why The Markets Are Overdue For A Gigantic Bust

It’s just not possible to print our way to prosperity
Let me begin with a caveat: confirmation bias is an ever-present risk for an analyst such as myself.

If you’re not familiar with the term, ‘confirmation bias’ suggests that once we’ve invested time and emotional energy into developing a worldview, we’ll then seek information to confirm that view.

After writing about the economy for so many years, I’m now so convinced that we can’t print our way to prosperity that I find myself seeing signs confirming this view everywhere, every single day. So that’s the danger to be aware of when listening to me.  I’m going to keep repeating this mantra and Im going to keep finding data that supports this view.

Based on lots of historical inputs, I have concluded that Printing money out of thin air can engineer lots of things, including asset price bubbles and the redistribution of wealth from the masses to the elites.  But it cannot print up real prosperity.

As much as I try, I simply cannot jump on the bandwagon that says that printing up money out of thin air has any long-term utility for an economy. It’s just too clear to me that doing so presents plenty of dangers, due to what we might call ‘economic gravity’: What goes up, must also come down.

Which brings us to this chart:

The 200 bubble blown by Greenspan was bad, the next one by Bernanke was horrible, but this one by Yellen may well prove fatal.  At least to entire financial markets, large institutions, and a few sovereigns.

It’s essential to note that more than two-thirds of the net worth tracked in the above chart is now comprised of ‘financial assets.’  That is, paper claims on real things.

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

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

There are multiple sources of friction in the Perpetual Motion Money Machine.

We’ve been playing two games to mask insolvency: one is to pay the costs of rampant debt today by borrowing even more from future earnings, and the second is to create wealth out of thin air via asset bubbles.

The two games are connected: asset bubbles require leverage and credit. Prices for homes, stocks, bonds, bat guano futures, etc. can only be pushed to the stratosphere if buyers have access to credit and can borrow to buy more of the bubbling assets.

If credit dries up, asset bubbles pop: no expansion of debt, no asset bubble.

The problem with these games is the debt-asset bubbles don’t actually expand the collateral (real-world productive value) supporting all the debt. Collateral can be a physical asset like a house, but it can also be the ability to earn money to service debt.

Credit card debt, student loan debt, corporate debt, sovereign debt–all these loans are backed not by physical assets but by the ability to service the debt: earnings or tax revenues.

If a company earns $1 million annually, what’s its stock worth? Whether the market values the company at $1 million or $1 billion, the company’s earnings remain the same.

If a government collects $1 trillion in tax revenues, whether it borrows $1 trillion or $100 trillion, the tax revenues remain the same.

If a government collects $1 trillion in tax revenues, whether it borrows $1 trillion or $100 trillion, the tax revenues remain the same.

If the collateral supporting the debt doesn’t expand with the debt, the borrower’s ability to service debt becomes increasingly fragile. Consider a household that earns $100,000 annually. If it has $100,000 in debt to service, that is a 1-to-1 ratio of earnings and debt. What happens to the risk of default if the household borrows $1 million?

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

Yuan Tumbles As Moody’s Cuts China’s Credit Rating To A1, Warns “Financial Strength Will Worsen”

Yuan Tumbles As Moody’s Cuts China’s Credit Rating To A1, Warns “Financial Strength Will Worsen”

Offshore Yuan tumbled as Moody’s cut China’s credit rating to A1 from Aa3, saying that the outlook for the country’s financial strength will worsen, with debt rising and economic growth slowing. This leaves the world’s hoped-for reflation engine rated below Estonia, Qatar, and South Korea and on par with Slovakia and Japan.
 “While ongoing progress on reforms is likely to transform the economy and financial system over time, it is not likely to prevent a further material rise in economy-wide debt, and the consequent increase in contingent liabilities for the government,” the ratings company said in a statement Wednesday.

And the most obvious reaction was Yuan selling…

Full Statement: Moody’s Investors Service has today downgraded China’s long-term local currency and foreign currency issuer ratings to A1 from Aa3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.

The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows. While ongoing progress on reforms is likely to transform the economy and financial system over time, it is not likely to prevent a further material rise in economy-wide debt, and the consequent increase in contingent liabilities for the government.

The stable outlook reflects our assessment that, at the A1 rating level, risks are balanced. The erosion in China’s credit profile will be gradual and, we expect, eventually contained as reforms deepen. The strengths of its credit profile will allow the sovereign to remain resilient to negative shocks, with GDP growth likely to stay strong compared to other sovereigns, still considerable scope for policy to adapt to support the economy, and a largely closed capital account.

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

Want to Understand Rising Wealth Inequality? Look at Debt and Interest

Want to Understand Rising Wealth Inequality? Look at Debt and Interest

“Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must).”
I often refer to debt serfdom, the servitude debt enforces on borrowers. The mechanism of this servitude is interest, and today I turn to two knowledgeable correspondents for explanations of the consequences of interest.
Correspondent D.L.J. explains how debt/interest is the underlying engine of rising income/wealth disparity:
If we use $16T as the approximate GDP and a growth rate of, say, 3.5%, the total of goods and services would increase one year to the next by about $500B.
Meanwhile, referencing the Grandfather national debt chart with the USDebtClock data, the annual interest bill is $3 trillion ($2.7 trillion year-to-date).
In other words, those receiving interest are getting 5-6 times more than the increase in gross economic activity.
Using your oft-referenced Pareto Principle, about 80% of the population are net payers of interest while the other 20% are net receivers of interest.
Also, keep in mind that one does not have to have an outstanding loan to be a net payer of interest. As I attempted to earlier convey, whenever one buys a product that any part of its production was involving the cost of interest, the final product price included that interest cost. The purchase of that product had the interest cost paid by the purchaser.
Again using the Pareto concept, of the 20% who receive net interest, it can be further divided 80/20 to imply that 4% receive most (64%?) of the interest. This very fact can explain why/how the system (as it stands) produces a widening between the haves and the so-called ‘have nots’.
In other words, the wealthy own interest-yielding assets and the rest of us owe interest on debt.

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

The Automatic Earth Primer Guide 2017

 


Pablo Picasso Bull plates I-XI 1945
Nicole Foss has completed a huge tour de force with her update of the Automatic Earth Primer Guide. The first update since 2013 is now more like a Primer Library, with close to 160 articles and videos published over the past -almost- 10 years, and Nicole’s words to guide you through it. Here’s Nicole:

The Automatic Earth (TAE) has existed for almost ten years now. That is nearly ten years of exploring and describing the biggest possible big picture of our present predicament. The intention of this post is to gather all of our most fundamental articles in one place, so that readers can access our worldview in its most comprehensive form. For new readers, this is the place to start. The articles are roughly organised into topics, although there is often considerable overlap.

We are reaching limits to growth in so many ways at the same time, but it is not enough to understand which are the limiting factors, but also what time frame each particular subset of reality operates over, and therefore which is the key driver at what time. We can think of the next century as a race of hurdles we need to clear. We need to know how to prepare for each as it approaches, as we need to clear each one in order to be able to stay in the race.

TAE is known primarily as a finance site because finance has the shortest time frame of all. So much of finance exists in a virtual world in which changes can unfold very quickly. There are those who assume that changes in a virtual system can happen without major impact, but this assumption is dangerously misguided.

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

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