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US Household Debt Hits Record $13.3 Trillion

Total household debt hit a new record high, rising by $82 billion to $13.29 trillion in Q2 of 2018, 3.5% higher than a year earlier according to the NY Fed’s latest household debt report. It was the 16th consecutive quarter with an increase in household debt, and the total is now $618 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion, from the third quarter of 2008.  Overall household debt is now 19.2% above the post-financial-crisis trough reached during the second quarter of 2013.

Mortgage balances—the largest component of household debt—rose by $60 billion during the second quarter, to $9.00 trillion. Credit card debt rose by $14 billion to $829 billion; auto loan debt increased by $9 billion in the quarter to $1.24 trillion and student loan debt hit a record high of $1.41 trillion, an increase of $2 billion in Q2.

Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) continued their downward trend, declining by $4 billion, to $432 billion. The median credit score of newly originating mortgage borrowers was roughly unchanged, at 760.

Mortgage originations edged up to $437 billion in the second quarter, from $428 billion in the first quarter. Meanwhile, mortgage delinquencies continued to improve, with 1.1% of mortgage balances 90 or more days delinquent in the second quarter, versus 1.2% in the first quarter.

Most newly originated mortgages continued went to borrowers with the highest credit scores, with 58% of new mortgages borrowed by consumers with a 760 credit score or higher.

Outstanding student loan debt was mostly unchanged in the second quarter and stood at a record $1.41 trillion as of June 30. Auto loan balances also hit an all time high, as they continued their six-year upward trend, increasing by $9 billion in the quarter, to $1.24 trillion. Meanwhile, credit card balances rose by $14 billion, or 1.7%, after a seasonal decline in the first quarter, to $829 billion.

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

Top U.S. Shale Producers Soaring Debt Service Guts Profits

Top U.S. Shale Producers Soaring Debt Service Guts Profits

The massive debt accumulated by the U.S. Shale Industry is now decimating company profits.  As company debts and interest rates rise, these shale producers interest expense also continues to increase.  Debt service is not only cutting into company profits, but it also takes a great deal of oil and gas production to cover this expense.

For example, 16 of the top U.S. shale energy companies racked up a hefty $5 billion interest payment.  The company with the highest annual interest expense is Anadarko Energy at a stunning $932 million in 2017:

Devon Energy came in a distant second at $514 million while Chesapeake took the third spot at $425 million.  The 16 shale energy companies shown on the right-hand side of the chart are listed from highest to lowest annual interest expense for 2017.  And, it is a simple rule-of-thumb that the higher the annual interest expense, the higher overall debt on the company’s balance sheet.

Anadarko has such a high annual interest expense ($932 million) because it holds over $15 billion in debt.  Devon Energy had the second highest interest expense in 2017 due to its $10+ billion in debt.  However, Devon has recently sold assets and paid down its debt and lowered its interest expense considerably.  Furthermore, Chesapeake is paying $425 million a year to service its $9+ billion in debt.

It is quite remarkable that these 16 shale energy companies forked out $5 billion to service their debt last year.  The debt service is an expense that impacts the company’s net income profits.

For example, Anadarko posted a loss of $456 million in 2017.  However, they paid $932 million in interest expense last year.  If Anadarko didn’t have an interest expense, their $456 million loss would have been a $479 million net income profit.  So, these 16 companies lost $5 billion in potential profits because they have to service their skyrocketing debts.

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

Talk Cold Turkey

Henri Matisse View of Nôtre Dame 1914

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003. His AKP party had won a major election victory in 2002, but Erdogan was banned from political office until his predecessor Gül annulled the ban. Which he had gotten in 1997 for reciting an old poem to which he had added the lines “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers….”

The Turkish courts of the time saw this as “an incitement to violence and religious or racial hatred..” and sentenced him to ten months in prison (of which he served four in 1999). The courts saw Erdogan as a threat to the secular Turkish state as defined by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1920’s. Erdogan is trying to both turn the nation towards Islam and at the same time not appearing to insult Ataturk.

The reality is that many Turks today lean towards a religion-based society, and no longer understand why Ataturk insisted on a secular(ist) state. Which he did after many years of wars and conflicts as a result of religious -and other- struggles. Seeing how Turkey lies in the middle between Christian Europe and the Muslim world, it is not difficult to fathom why the ‘father’ of the country saw secularism as the best if not only option. But that was 90 years ago.

And it doesn’t serve Erdogan’s purposes. If he can appeal to the ‘silent’ religious crowd and gather their support, he has the power. To wit. In 2003, one of his first acts as prime minister was to have Turkey enter George W.’s coalition of the willing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. As a reward for that, negotiations for Turkey to join the EU started. These are officially still happening, but unofficially they’re dead.

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

That Escalated Quickly: The Emerging Market Currency Crisis Of 2018 Threatens To Destabilize The Entire Global Financial System

That Escalated Quickly: The Emerging Market Currency Crisis Of 2018 Threatens To Destabilize The Entire Global Financial System

We haven’t seen emerging market currencies crash like this in over a decade, and analysts are warning that if this continues we could witness a devastating global debt crisis.  Over the past decade, there has been an insatiable appetite for cheap loans in emerging market economies, and a very substantial percentage of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars.  When emerging market currencies crash relative to the U.S. dollar, lending dries up and servicing the existing loans becomes extremely oppressive, and that is precisely what we are witnessing right now.  This week, most of the top headlines in the financial media have been about the crisis in Turkey.  The Turkish lira fell another 8 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday, and it is now down about 35 percent over the past week.  Overall, the lira has fallen 82 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2018, and this is putting an enormous amount of stress on the Turkish financial system

“It is about credit, since Turkey has been a huge borrower in global capital markets over the past number of years when the world’s central banks were encouraging investors to stretch for yield,” David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, said in his daily market note. “Over half of the borrowing is denominated in foreign currencies, so when the lira sinks, debt-servicing costs and default risks rise inexorably.”

Turkey’s economy, just like all of the other major economies around the world, is utterly dependent on the flow of credit, and now lending is becoming greatly restricted.

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

Trump buys into the Krugman con

Trump buys into the Krugman con - Peter Diekmeyer (08/08/2018)

Leading economic indicators suggest that the Republicans are headed into the fall mid-term election season with the wind at their backs.

Real GDP growth hit 4.1% during the second quarter. The unemployment rate recently slipped to 3.9%, and the US Federal Reserve is finally starting to meet its inflation targets.

Things are so good that U.S. president Donald Trump calls it “the greatest economy in the history of America.”

Yet while all appears well on the surface, there are growing concerns among gold investors about the sustainability of the current pick-up.

Works well in practice… but does it work in theory?

Part of the problem relates to the old joke about French university professors. “It works well in practice,” they reportedly ask. “But does it work in theory?”

The same question underlies Trump’s economic practices. They are clearly generating short-term results. But they don’t appear to adhere to any underlying philosophy.

Republicans liken Trump’s tax cuts and his deregulation efforts with policies implemented by the Reagan Administration. However, the comparison is far from perfect.

For one, the Trump Administration’s growing tariffs on imported goods, which amount to hidden sales taxes, are gradually undoing the effects of his earlier tax cuts.

Worse, the Trump Administration’s practice of choosing which sectors will benefit from protective tariffs and which won’t amounts to a drastic increase in government intervention in the economy.

Making government great again

Taking a step back, Trump’s policies incorporate many of the “big government” themes advocated by mainstream economists from both major political parties during much of the past four decades.

Led by Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner, New York Times columnist and professor at CUNY, the economics profession has consistently advocated growth in government spending, borrowing and credit creation in the hopes of spurring economic growth.

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

Uncertainty Grips Troubled Pemex, World’s Most Indebted Oil Company

Uncertainty Grips Troubled Pemex, World’s Most Indebted Oil Company

“Even a small deterioration” in its perceived credit risk could take a big financial toll on Mexico.

Mexico’s President-elect, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), does not enter office until December 1, but he’s already making big waves, particularly in the oil and gas industry. On the campaign trail, he pledged to reverse aspects of his predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto’s sweeping oil privatization reforms, suspend new oil auctions, and review contracts issued to private energy firms for signs of corruption, which, given the players involved, shouldn’t be hard to find.

All oil and gas auctions have been put on hold in the country until AMLO assumes the office of the presidency. The contracts signed to date alone represent a projected investment of around $200 billion dollars, according tothe Mexican daily El Excelsior. As such, cancelling multi-billion dollar oil and gas contracts will hardly endear AMLO to the oil majors and global investors that have poured funds into Mexico’s newly liberalized energy sector.

This potential 180-degree U-turn in energy policy not only pits Mexican lawmakers against big oil and big money interests; it also puts the world’s most indebted oil company, according to Moody’s, at a very dangerous crossroad.

In a press conference this week AMLO upped the ante by threatening to ban fracking on Mexican soil. As Associated Press reports, when asked about the potential risks of fracking, AMLO said, “We will no longer use that method to extract petroleum.”

AMLO’s riposte is unlikely to please the oil and gas companies that had their sights set on drilling in the Burgos Basin, a region in Mexico’s northern frontier that has a huge potential shale formation similar to the Texas Eagle Ford fields.

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

Debate Over Target2 Continues: Twilight of the Euro

The Target2 debate continues. Eurointelligence Promotes Still More Silliness.

Eurointelligence blasts Faz for inaccuracies while spreading a pile of its own through the mouth of Mark Schieritz who says (translated) Do not be afraid of the trillions bomb.

Schieritz says: “The claims and the liabilities are fictional quantities. They exist virtually, in the balance sheets of central banks, not in the real world.”

One can stop there knowing full knowledge that Schieritz’s article is complete nonsense.

In the real world, Target2 imbalances are a measure of capital flight and loans that cannot be paid back. Even if there once was adequate capital for loans made by Italian banks, that capital vanished long ago.

Now, Italian depositors are very fearful of bail-ins and have pulled there money out of Italian banks.

That is the “real world”. Real people have real fears, and they should. Anyone holding money in Italian banks is a fool. I gave the same warning about Greece well ahead of capital controls. I make the same case again now, regarding Italy.

New Eurointelligence Nonsense

Here are a couple of new clips from Eurointelligence to discuss.

Against Target2 Hysteria

Martin Hellwig joins the debate on Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Sunday edition with a rejoinder to earlier columns by Hans Werner Sinn (which we covered) and Thomas Mayer (which we didn’t) on the danger to the Bundesbank from its near-trillion-euro claims on the eurosystem, and on the danger to the eurosystem from its near-half-trillion claims on the Bank of Italy. Hellwig argues that Sinn confuses deliberately with the smoke and mirrors of double-entry book-keeping, and is whipping up an unjustified panic over Target2.

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

Warren Buffet’s Favorite Stock Market Metric Is Signaling Huge Downside Ahead

Warren Buffet’s Favorite Stock Market Metric Is Signaling Huge Downside Ahead

Today – Apple became the first public company worth over $1 trillion dollars. . .

Thanks to very low interest rates – the company’s piling on debt and buying their own shares back – shrinking the float.

And because of a worldwide rush into mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETF’s) – there’s crazy demand for Apple shares.

The king of ‘buy and hold’ investing and a Champion of equities – Warren Buffet – must a have grin on his face from ear to ear. Because Apple’s surge just netted him a huge profit for his company – Berkshire Hathaway – of over $2.6 billion.

Many, now, may be thinking that they should buy Apple and other such stocks – right?

Well, not exactly.

Because according to this favorite Buffet metric – the market looks extremely overvalued and the future looks scary.

The Market Cap-to-GDP metric is a long-term value indicator. And it’s become popular recently thanks to Warren Buffet.

During an interview in 2001 with Fortune – he claimed that this indicator is “probably the best single measure of where valuations stand at any given moment.”

And what his favorite indicator’s showing us today is that stocks are more over-valued than they’ve ever been. . .

So – what is the Market Cap to GDP – aka the ‘Buffet Indicator’?

It’s easy. Just calculate the total market value of all stocks outstanding and divide it by the nations GDP.

When the ratio is greater than 100% – it means that stocks are considered overvalued and have historically less upside going forward.

And when the ratio is less than 100% – it means the opposite. That stocks are considered undervalued and historically have more upside.

I look at it this way: when the ‘Buffet Indicator” is more than 100%, the stock market is negatively asymmetric (high risk, low reward). And when it’s less than 100%, the stock market is positively asymmetric (low risk, high reward).

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

Gold Yuan Crypto

George Caleb Bingham The verdict of the people 1854
It’s been a while since we last heard from Dr. D, but here he’s back explaining why neither gold nor the yuan nor cryptocurrencies can or will replace the dollar as the reserve currency, but together they just might:

Dr. D: “Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.” –Ogden Nash

Over the last year or two there’s been discussion about the U.S. Federal spending moving beyond $4 TRILLION dollars, and whether a $1+ trillion dollar annual deficit, on top of a $20 Trillion national debt – Federal only – is sustainable. It isn’t.

“What can’t go on, doesn’t” is the famous quote of economist Herbert Stein. Since a spiraling deficit of $1 trillion deficit on a $20 trillion debt can’t go on, what will we replace it with when it very soon doesn’t? Historically gold. Whatever gold exists in the nation’s coffers, whether one coin or 8,000 tons, is used to as the national wealth, and fronted by paper to re-boot the currency. With some additions such as oil and real estate, this was the solution in Spain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union among hundreds of fiat defaults. Why? Because at a time of broken promises — real goods, commodities that can be seen, touched, and used – are the tangible proof of wealth, requiring no trust, and from which the human trust system of paper and letters of credit can be rebuilt.

But in these complicated, digital times perhaps that’s too simplistic. Perhaps we have grown smarter than all our fathers and this time it will be different. Will it really be the same? Let’s look at how the system works now.

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

“Hidden Debt Loophole Could be Widespread”: Fitch

“Hidden Debt Loophole Could be Widespread”: Fitch

Use of this financial instrument has ballooned. No one knows to what extent because there’s no disclosure. But it was a “key contributor” to the sudden collapse of outsourcing giant Carillion.

As regulators and stiffed creditors were poking through the debris of collapsed outsourcing giant Carillion – once employing 43,000 people worldwide – they found that the UK company had hidden much of its debts. And Fitch Ratings warned that this “technique” – a “debt loophole” – may be “widespread” in the US and Europe.

Carillion provided services to governments. It didn’t manufacture anything, didn’t have a lot of assets, and didn’t have a lot of debt – at least not disclosed on its books. Net debt on its balance sheet amounted to £219 million. But Fitch estimates that it had an additional financial debt of £400 million to £500 million.

This debt was hidden by a “technique commonly referred to as reverse factoring,” Fitch says. And it was “a key contributor to Carillion’s liquidation.”

This “reverse factoring” – part of supply chain financing – allowed Carillion to hide a debt of £400 million to £500 million in “other payables,” such as money owed suppliers. There were indications that something was off: Over a four-year period, “other payables” had nearly tripled, from £263 million to £761 million. According to Fitch, “This appears largely to have been the result of a reverse factoring program.”

But this was financial debt owed to banks – not trade accounts payable.

Any disclosure?

Almost none. Fitch explained in the report (press release here):

There was one passing reference to the company’s early payment program in the non-financial section of the accounts, but nothing in the audited financial statements and no numbers.

The only clue to the scale of the supply chain financing was the growth in “other payables,” the implications of which do not appear to have been appreciated by many in Carillion’s broader stakeholder group.

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

US Debt Sales To Surge: Treasury Raises 2018 Borrowing Need To $1.33 Trillion

America’s funding needs are starting to grow at a dangerous pace.

Even before the NYT reported of Trump’s startling suggestion of a further $100 billion tax cut in the form of an inflation-adjusted capital gains tax cost basis which mostly benefits the wealthy, earlier today the U.S. Treasury said it expects to borrow $56 billion more during the third quarter than previously estimated, while market participants expect shorter-dated Treasuries to absorb the brunt of the new supply as the Trump administration grapples with a mushrooming budget deficit.

In the Treasury’s latest quarterly Sources and Uses table, it revealed that it expects to issue $329 billion in net marketable debt from July through September, and $56 billion more than the $273 billion estimated three months ago, in April. assuming an end-of-September cash balance of $350 billion, matching its previous estimate. It also forecast $440 billion of borrowing in the final three months of the year, with a $390 billion cash balance on December 31.

The borrowing estimate for the third quarter is the highest since the same period in 2010 and the fourth largest on record for the July-September quarter, according to Reuters. In the second quarter, net borrowing totaled $72 billion, slightly below the earlier prediction of $75 billion.

The US fiscal picture continues to darken as a result of rising social security costs, military spending and debt service expenses while corporate tax income is declining after last year’s tax reforms. As a result, the federal budget deficit is expected to reach $833 billion this year, up from $666 billion in the budget year ended last September, a number that is well below the net funding demands for the US Treasury.

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

A Dire Warning

A Dire Warning

Let’s return to our ongoing series on the destruction of capital, and how to identify the signs. Steve Saville posted a thoughtful article this week entitled The “Productivity of Debt” Myth. His article provides a good opportunity to add some additional thoughts.

We have written quite a lot on this topic. Indeed, we have a landing page for marginal productivity of debt (MPoD) with four articles so far. Few economists touch this topic, perhaps because MPoD shows that our monetary system is failing. We encourage you to do a Google search, and you will see scant mention other than articles by Keith and Monetary Metals. This is tragic. Every monetary economist should be bellowing from the rooftops about the falling marginal productivity of debt!

So when Lacy Hunt wrote in the Hoisington quarterly letter about Diminishing Returns – Consequences of Excess Debt (p. 4), several readers forwarded the link to us. And this week Steve Saville wrote a response to Lacy’s discussion.

We have our own concerns with Lacy’s approach. One is his statement:

“In addition to capital, output is a function of labor, natural resources and technology. Thus, one of these latter three factors must accelerate in order to offset the overuse of debt…”

Unless one considers entrepreneurial innovation to be just a type of “technology”, this formulation is missing something even on its own stated terms. But more broadly, it does not address the problem of interest rates. If companies can borrow at 2%, then there will be scant business opportunities that generate more than about 3%. The marginal productivity of the entrepreneur is brought down by the falling interest rate. The same “inputs” of labor, resources, and technology will yield different results at different interest rates.

Marginal Productivity of Debt

However, today we want to address the points raised by Steve. All indented quotes below are his.

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

America The Insolvent

Satansgoalie

America The Insolvent

A reckoning is due. One the elites are already readying for.

Watching the world these days, I’m experiencing the same fury that rises up from my gut when the driver in the car ahead me is weaving drunkenly, endangering everyone on the road.

Fury is a normal and rational human response when threatened with unnecessary harm. Women who are groped (or worse) by a disgusting predator like Harvey Weinstein, pensioners whose funds are stolen by Wall Street shysters, everyone who is being fleeced by corporations in search of a few extra dollars this quarter —  all have the right to be infuriated.

It’s been especially hard of late for those of us who are “reality”-based; who value data, fundamentals and historical context.

I earn my living by reading, analyzing and making sense of the world, and then working to help orient people’s actions to align with both the current reality and future probabilities. But that’s become pretty damn difficult in a world where the financial markets are rigged and the main news outlets are unwilling (unable?) to cover the real issues, preferring instead to focus on distractions that mainly serve to keep us isolated and divided.

The trajectory our global society is on will not end well, and that infuraties me. And the fact that most of the coming suffering is unnecessary if only we’d make better choices — that really pisses me off.

Here’s just a small smattering of the threats we’ve created for ourselves:

  1. $247 trillion of global debt, growing exponentially
  2. Off-budget liabilities well over a quadrillion dollars globally ($220+ trillion in the US alone)
  3. Massively underfunded pensions mathematically unable to meet their future obligations
  4. A coming peak in world oil supply somewhere between 2020-2030 (and around 2022 for the US)
  5. A global economy that requires perpetual growth, but can’t grow for much longer due to planetary resource constraints

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

Weekly Commentary: $247 Trillion and (Rapidly) Counting

Weekly Commentary: $247 Trillion and (Rapidly) Counting

I chronicled mortgage finance Bubble excess on a weekly basis. Relevant data were right there in plain sight, much of it courtesy of the Federal Reserve. Yet only after the Bubble burst did it all suddenly become obvious. Flashing warning signs were masked by manic delusions of endless prosperity and faith in the almighty “inside the beltway”. These days, data for the global government finance Bubble is not as easily-accessible, though there is ample evidence for which to draw conclusions. It will all be frustratingly obvious in hindsight.

The Institute of International Finance is out with their latest data that, unfortunately, is not made available in detail to the general public. Global debt ended the first quarter at a record $247 Trillion, or 318% of GDP. Even after a decade of historic Credit inflation, global debt continues to expand at (“Terminal Phase”) double-digit rates (11.1% y-o-y).

Global debt growth accelerated during the first quarter to $8.0 Trillion – and surged $30 Trillion over just the past five quarters. In a single data point not to be disregarded, Global Debt Has Expanded (a difficult to fathom) $150 Trillion, or 150%, Over the Past Ten Years. Actually, the trajectory of Bubble-period Credit expansion may seem rather familiar. It’s been, after all, a replay of the reckless U.S. mortgage Credit episode, only on a much grander global scale.

July 10 – Financial Times (Jonathan Wheatley): “The amount of debt in the world increased by nearly $25tn in the year to the end of March, piling more pressure on a global financial system already struggling to deal with rising US interest rates, widening spreads for borrowers and a strengthening US dollar. The Institute of International Finance… said total debts owed by households, governments and financial and non-financial corporations amounted to $247.2tn at the end of March, up from $222.6tn a year earlier and an increase of nearly $8tn in the first quarter alone.

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

Trump’s Trade War May Spark a Chinese Debt Crisis

Trump’s Trade War May Spark a Chinese Debt Crisis

(Bloomberg Opinion) — There’s no chance China will cut its trade surplus with the U.S. in response to President Donald Trump’s tariff threats. For starters, Washington has made no specific demand to which Beijing can respond. But its efforts may have an unexpected side effect: a debt crisis in China.

The 25 percent additional tariffs on exports of machinery and electronics looked, at first blush, like a stealth tax on offshoring. The focus on categories like semiconductors and nuclear components, in which U.S.-owned manufacturers in China are strong, recalled Trump’s 2016 promise to tax “any business that leaves our country.”

It seems, though, that offshoring wasn’t the target after all. Now, with the imposition of new tariffs on low-value exports that mostly involve Asian value chains, the simple fact of selling cheap products that the U.S. buys has become the problem.

Either way, the administration appears set on shrinking its current-account deficit (which, at a moderate 2.4 percent of GDP, is far lower than the 6 percent clocked in 2006-7) just as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. Distress has already been registered in China. On July 13, the yuan (also known as the renminbi) hit 6.725 to the dollar, the weakest in a year and 5 percent lower than at the end of May.

Such a move is nothing earth-shaking for less controlled currencies. But a stable renminbi is a key plank in the leadership’s promise to its people, and the exchange rate is tightly managed by the central bank.

Chinese investors have been buying official assurances for a year that the renminbi would be a fortress, but now they’re not so sure and are exporting money again: May saw net capital outflows and a decline in the foreign-exchange reserves.

…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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