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How Fed Rate Hikes Impact US Debt Slaves

How Fed Rate Hikes Impact US Debt Slaves

But savers are still getting shafted.

Outstanding “revolving credit” owed by consumers – such as bank-issued and private-label credit cards – jumped 6.1% year-over-year to $977 billion in the third quarter, according to the Fed’s Board of Governors. When the holiday shopping season is over, it will exceed $1 trillion. At the same time, the Fed has set out to make this type of debt a lot more expensive.

The Fed’s four hikes of its target range for the federal funds rate in this cycle cost consumers with credit card balances an additional $6 billion in interest in 2017, according to WalletHub. The Fed’s widely expected quarter-percentage-point hike on December 13 will cost consumers with credit card balances an additional $1.5 billion in 2018. This would bring the incremental costs of five rates hikes so far to $7.5 billion next year.

Short-term yields have shot up since the rate-hike cycle started. For example, the three-month US Treasury yield rose from near 0% in October 2015 to 1.33% today. Credit card rates move with short-term rates.

Mortgage rates move in near-parallel with the 10-year Treasury yield, which, at 2.39%, has declined from about 2.6% a year ago. Hence, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are still quoted with rates below 4%, and for now, homebuyers have been spared the impact of the rate hikes.

Auto loans, in line with mid-range Treasury yields, have wavered a lot and moved up only a little. The average APR on a 48-month new-car loan rose only 40 basis points over the past two years to 4.4% in August 2017, according to WalletHub, citing the most recent data available. Note that the offers of “0% financing” are usually in lieu of rebates or other incentives and are therefore rarely free.

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

Doug Noland: There Will Be No Way Out When This Market Bubble Bursts

Doug Noland: There Will Be No Way Out When This Market Bubble Bursts

Financial assets will become toxic to hold

This week Doug Noland joins the podcast to discuss what he refers to as the “granddaddy of all bubbles”.

Noland, a 30-year market analyst and specialist in credit cycles, currently works at McAlvany Wealth Management and is well known for his prior 16-year stint helping manage the Prudent Bear Fund.

He certainly shares our views that prices in nearly every financial asset class have become remarkably distorted due to central bank intervention, first with Greenspan’s actions to backstop the markets in the late-1980’s, and more recently (and more egregiously) with the combined central banking cartel’s massive and sustained liquidity injections in the years following the Great Financial Crisis.

All of which has blown the biggest inter-connected set of asset price bubbles the world has ever seen.

Noland foresees tremendous losses as inevitable, as the central banks lose control of the monstrosity they have created:

This is the granddaddy of all bubbles. We are at the end a long cycle where the bubble has reached the heart of money and credit.

There will be no way out. We’re not going to get enough private credit growth to reflate things when this bubble bursts. It’s going to have to come from central bank credit; it’s going to have to come from sovereign debt.

When this bubble bursts, it will shock people how far the central banks will have to expand their balance sheet just to accommodate the deleveraging in the system. And they won’t really be able to add new liquidity to the market; they’re just going to allow the transfer of leveraged positions from the leveraged players onto the central bank balance sheets.

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

Abracadabra


And so, as they say in the horror movies, it begins…! The unwinding of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. Such an esoteric concept! Is there one in ten thousand of the millions of people who sit at desks all day long from sea to shining sea who have a clue how this works? Or what its relationship is to the real world?

I confess, my understanding of it is incomplete and schematic at best — in the way that my understanding of a Las Vegas magic act might be. All the flash and dazzle conceals the magician’s misdirection. The magician is either a scary supernatural being or a magnificent fraud. Anyway, the audience ‘out there’ for the Federal Reserve’s magic act — x-million people preoccupied by their futures slipping away, their cars falling apart, their kid’s $53,000 college loan burden, or the $6,000 bill they just received for going to the emergency room with a cut finger — wouldn’t give a good goddamn even if they knew the Fed’s magic show was going on.

So, the Fed has this thing called a balance sheet, which is actually a computer file, filled with entries that denote securities that it holds. These securities, mostly US government bonds of various categories and bundles of mortgages wrangled together by the mysterious government-sponsored entity called Freddie Mac, represent about $4.5 trillion in debt. They’re IOUs that supposedly pay interest for a set number of years. When that term of years expires, the Fed gets back the money it loaned, which is called the principal. Ahhhh, here’s the cute part!

You see, the money that the Fed loaned to the US government (in exchange for a bond) was never there in the first place. The Fed prestidigitated it out of an alternate universe.

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

Finally, An Honest Inflation Index – Guess What It Shows

Finally, An Honest Inflation Index – Guess What It Shows

Central bankers keep lamenting the fact that record low interest rates and record high currency creation haven’t generated enough inflation (because remember, for these guys inflation is a good thing rather than a dangerous disease).

To which the sound money community keeps responding, “You’re looking in the wrong place! Include the prices of stocks, bonds and real estate in your models and you’ll see that inflation is high and rising.”

Well it appears that someone at the Fed has finally decided to see what would happen if the CPI included those assets, and surprise! the result is inflation of 3%, or half again as high as the Fed’s target rate.

New York Fed Inflation Gauge is Bad News for Bulls

(Bloomberg) – More than 20 years ago, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan asked an important question “what prices are important for the conduct of monetary policy?” The query was directly related to asset prices and whether their stability was essential for economic stability and good performance. No one has ever offered a coherent answer even though the recessions of 2001 and 2008-2009 were primarily due to a sharp correction in asset prices.A new underlying inflation gauge, or UIG, created by the staff of the New York Fed may finally provide the answer. Its broad-based measure of inflation includes consumer and producer prices, commodity prices and real and financial asset prices. The New York Fed staff concluded that the new inflation gauge detects cyclical turning points in underlying inflation and has a better track record than the consumer price series.

The latest reading shows inflation of almost 3 percent for the past 12 months, compared with 1.8 percent for the consumer price index and 1.8 percent for core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy. Since the broad-based UIG is advancing 100 basis points above CPI, it indicates that asset prices are large, persistent and reflect too easy monetary policy.

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

Stranger Things

     The hidden agenda in the so-called tax reform bill is to act as stop-gap quantitative easing to plug the “liquidity” hole that is opening up as the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) makes a few gestures to winding down its balance sheet and “normalizing” interest rates. Thus, the aim of the tax bill is to prop up capital markets, and the apprehension of this lately is what keeps stocks making daily record highs. Okay, sorry, a lot to unpack there.

Primer: quantitative easing (QE) is a the Federal Reserve’s weasel phrase for its practice of just creating “money” out of thin air, which it uses to buy US Treasury bonds (and other stuff). The Fed buys this stuff through intermediary Too Big To Fail banks which allows them to cream off a cut and, theoretically, pump the “money” into the economy. This “money” is the “liquidity.” As it happens, most of that money ends up in the capital markets. Stocks go up and up and bond yields stay ultra low with bond prices ultra high. What remains on the balance sheets are a shit-load of IOUs.

The third round of QE was officially halted in 2014 in the USA. However, the world’s other main central banks acted in rotation — passing the baton of QE, like in a relay race — so that when the US slacked off, Japan, Britain, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of China, took over money-printing duties. And because money flies easily around the world via digital banking, a lot of that foreign money ended up in “sure-thing” US capital markets (as well as their own ). Mega-tons of “money” were created out of thin air around the world since the near-collapse of the system in 2008.

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

The Fed’s QE-Unwind is Really Happening

The Fed’s QE-Unwind is Really Happening

Fed’s assets drop to lowest level in over three years.

The Fed’s balance sheet for the week ending December 6, released today, completes the second month of the QE-unwind. Total assets initially zigzagged within a tight range to end October where it started, at $4,456 billion. But in November, holdings drifted lower, and by December 6 were at $4,437 billion, the lowest since September 17, 2014:

“Balance sheet normalization?” Well, in baby steps. But the devil is in the details.

The Fed’s announced plan is to shrink the balance sheet by $10 billion a month in October, November, and December, then accelerate the pace every three months. By October 2018, the Fed would reduce its holdings by up to $50 billion a month (= $600 billion a year) and continue at that rate until it deems the level of its holdings “normal” – the new normal, whatever that may turn out to be.

Still, the decline so far, given the gargantuan size of the balance sheet, barely shows up:

The Fed is unloading its Treasuries alright.

As part of the $10-billion-a-month unwind from October through December, the Fed is supposed to unload $6 billion in Treasury securities a month plus $4 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) a month.

The Fed doesn’t actually sell Treasury securities outright. Instead, it allows some of them, when they mature, to “roll off” the balance sheet without replacement. When the securities mature, the Treasury Department pays the holder the face value. But the Fed, instead of reinvesting the money in new Treasuries, destroys the money – the opposite process of QE, when the Fed created the money to buy securities.

This happens only on dates when Treasuries that the Fed holds mature, usually once or twice a month.

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

Warning: ‘They Need The Markets To Implode’ To Usher In Cashless System

Warning: ‘They Need The Markets To Implode’ To Usher In Cashless System

stockmarketcrash

Market analyst Lynette Zang predicts in the next market meltdown, “real estate, stocks, and bonds will all crash.” When asked when this will happen, Zang says, “Enjoy your Christmas,” but in 2018, all bets are off.

Greg Hunter interviewed Lynette Zang, Chief Market Strategist at ITMtrading.com, and her assessment of the 2018 economy is dire.  Zang predicts, “In 2018, I don’t think they can hold these things together. I think we will see a major market correction in 2018. When that happens, that will cause the derivative implosion. We have to feel a lot of pain. . . . I think we are going to go into hyperinflation, and I think we will start to see that in 2018 because I think we will see these markets implode. I think we will see QE4 (money printing) for sure. . . . We have QE right now propping it up, according to the Fed’s own documents.”

Zang says ever since the 2008 meltdown, the elite have just been buying time to set up a debt reset.

“I am 100% certain we are in the middle of a money standard shift.  Ultimately, they need the markets to implode. . . . In 2008, the debt based system broke.  It died, it was done.  The central banks, globally, put it on life support, and they have to create a new system.  In my opinion, they want us cashless, and they want everything in digital form.  They want to dematerialize wealth at least for the masses.  I am 100% certain that this Bitcoin craze, and all of this, is about getting people used to digital currencies.  So, when they shift us from the debt based system to the digital system, we are more comfortable with it and more familiar with it.”

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

Fed Tightens, “and so far, Nothing Has Blown Up”

Fed Tightens, “and so far, Nothing Has Blown Up”

Gundlach frets about bonds during QE unwind, rate hikes, tax cuts, and rising deficits.

“A tax cut will reduce revenue and it will grow the deficit and therefore, it will probably grow bond supply, and perhaps boost economic growth,” DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said on an investor webcast on Tuesday. And if it does, “it is going to be bond unfriendly.”

And possibly in a big way.

It’s a “strange environment” for cutting corporate taxes as the economy is already in its eighth year of expansion, he said, according to Reuters, which reported the webcast. He reiterated his prediction that the 10-year Treasury yield could reach 6% over the next “four years or so.”

Let that sink in for a moment. The last time the 10-year Treasury yield was at 6% (on the way down) was in August 2000! Four years from now, 6% would be a two-decade high-water mark.

“I don’t think it is at all strange to think we can tack on something like 75 basis points, on average, with volatility of course, per year for the next four years or so,” he said.

The 10-year yield is currently 2.36%, and sliding, as opposed to the shorter maturities whose yields have surged: the three-month yield reached 1.30% today and the two-year yield jumped to 1.83%, the highest since September 2008.

When bond yields rise, bond prices fall by definition. The 10-year yield is still very low. But if it rises from this level to 6% over the next few years, there will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth along the way by bond investors, and it’s not going to be a fun time for a bond-fund manager to navigate this environment.

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

 

Government Watchdog Warns Market Crash Risk Rising: “One-Sixth Of All Hedge Funds Are 15x Leveraged”

Government Watchdog Warns Market Crash Risk Rising: “One-Sixth Of All Hedge Funds Are 15x Leveraged”

One wonders if the Fed ever reads the reports issued by the Office of Financial Stability, which does a surprisingly good job of laying out the risks facing the market at any one time, which incidentally are far greater than various Fed presidents would care to admit. If it did, it would learn from the just published annual report, that “market risks — risks to financial stability from movements in asset prices — remain high and continue to rise” and that “low volatility and persistently low interest rates” both of which have been caused by the Fed and other central banks “may promote excessive risk-taking and create vulnerabilities.”

While the OFR said that strong earnings growth, steady economic growth, and increased expectations for stimulative fiscal policy have provided further support to asset valuations, this “increase in
already-elevated asset prices and the decrease in risk premiums may leave some markets vulnerable to a large correction,” a polite government term synonymous with “crash.” It then notes that “such corrections can trigger financial instability when important holders or intermediaries of the assets employ high degrees of leverage or rely on short-term loans to finance long-term assets.”Furthermore, echoing Minsky, the OFR did its best paraphrase of “stability is destabilizing” by noting that “historically low volatility levels reflect calm markets, but could also suggest that the financial system is more fragile and prone to crisis.”

Speaking of valuations, the OFR was clear to warn that these are “high by historical standards. The cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500 is at its 97th percentile relative to the last 130 years. Other equity valuation metrics that the OFR monitors are also elevated.”

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

Weekly Commentary: China Initiating a Global Bear Market?

Weekly Commentary: China Initiating a Global Bear Market?

Chair Yellen is widely lauded for her accomplishments at the Federal Reserve. For the most part, her four-year term at the helm of the Fed boils down to four (likely soon to be five) little rate hikes over 24 months. Most lavishing praise upon Janet Yellen believe she calibrated “tightenings” adeptly and successfully. Yet financial conditions have obviously remained much too loose for far too long. This predicament was conspicuous in the markets this week. A test of a North Korean ICBM that could reach the entire U.S. modestly pressured equities for about five minutes – then back to the races.
Bubble Dynamics are in full force. The Dow gained 674 points this week. The Banks were up 5.8%, the Broker/Dealers gained 4.5% and the Transports jumped 5.9%. The Semiconductors were hit 5.6%.  Bitcoin traded as high (US spot) as $11,434 and as low as $9,009 in wild Wednesday trading. Curiously, the VIX traded up 15% to 11.43.

It used to be that markets would fret the Fed falling “behind the curve,” fearing central bankers would be compelled to employ more aggressive tightening measures. Not these days. Any fear of central bank-imposed tightening is long gone. There is little fear of anything.

I recall writing similar comments back with the Bush tax cuts: “I’m as much for lower taxes as anyone. Yet I question the end results when tax cuts exacerbate late-stage Bubble excess.” And I seriously question the merits of aggressively slashing corporate tax rates when the federal government is $20 TN in debt. One of these days the bond market is going to wake up and impose some much need fiscal discipline. In a different era, the Treasury market would be forcing some realism upon Washington politicians (and central bankers).

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

Fed Official Decries Bitcoin as “Not Backed”

Fed Official Decries Bitcoin as “Not Backed”

Bitcoin is backed by the use value of the distributed ledger in the underlying technology of the Blockchain.
Randal K. Quarles, a Trump administration appointee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and Vice Chair for bank supervision, has given a lengthy speech (“Thoughts on Prudent Innovation in the Payment System”) that directly targets Bitcoin as a danger to the monetary and financial system.

To reiterate, an official speaking for the nation’s central bank that manages the global reserve currency – the institution that has long bragged about its power to bail out the entire world with the magic powers of the alchemist – has put down Bitcoin for being untrustworthy, unbacked, and unsound.

Discrediting Crypto

The timing here seems about right. Nine years ago, Bitcoin was born, but only a small group of developers were really paying attention. Today, there are lines forming at Bitcoin ATMs around the country as people scramble to convert cash to digital money even at absurdly high premiums.

With one unit of Bitcoin now worth 10,000 times the US dollar, it makes sense that the Fed would begin to feel a bit defensive. Indeed, the speech comes to the defense of the central bank, the existing money, and payment system networks, and calls for the pace of innovation to be controlled by regulators in the interest of “prudence.”

His summary criticism of Bitcoin is that:

The “currency” or asset at the center of some of these systems is not backed by other secure assets, has no intrinsic value, is not the liability of a regulated banking institution, and in leading cases, is not the liability of any institution at all. Indeed, how to treat and define this new asset is complicated.

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

US Gross National Debt Jumps $723 billion in 12 Weeks, Yellen “Very Worried about Sustainability of US Debt Trajectory”

US Gross National Debt Jumps $723 billion in 12 Weeks, Yellen “Very Worried about Sustainability of US Debt Trajectory”

But only a few lost souls in Congress care.

Even as lawmakers are trying to cobble together a tax-cut bill that would cut revenues by $1.5 trillion over ten years, the gross national debt has spiked $723 billion over the past 12 weeks since Congress suspended the “debt ceiling.” It just hit $20.57 trillion, or 105% of GDP.

Over the past six years, since November 2011, the gross national debt has surged nearly 40%, or by $5.8 trillion. Back in 2011, gross national debt amounted to 95% of GDP. Before the Financial Crisis, it was at 63% of GDP. There are no signs that the relentless rise in the debt is slowing down. On the contrary – the tax cuts are going to steepen the curve:

In the chart above, note the last three debt-ceiling fights – the flat lines in 2013, 2015, and 2017, followed each time by an enormous spike when the debt ceiling was lifted or suspended, and when the “extraordinary measures” with which the Treasury keeps the government afloat were reversed.

And the Fed is getting increasingly nervous about the “sustainability” of this debt.

There are only a few lawmakers left in Congress that have a sense of fiscal responsibility. One of the lost souls is Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, who, to address his anxieties about the deficit and the debt, wants to add a provision to the tax-cut bill that would raise taxes automatically if the economy doesn’t hit certain growth targets in the future. This “trigger” is designed to slow by a smidgen the relentless rise of the national debt. He has come under withering criticism for it from Republican lawmakers and conservative lobbying groups.

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

Stock Market Lazes Happily on a Powerful Time Bomb, and the Fed Begins to Worry

Stock Market Lazes Happily on a Powerful Time Bomb, and the Fed Begins to Worry

Pointing at “excesses,” “distortions,” and “imbalances.”

Margin debt in the stock market hit another record, $561 billion at the end of October, up 16% from a year ago, the New York Stock Exchange reported on Tuesday. Margin debt and the stock market move together. And even on an inflation-adjusted basis, the surge has been breath-taking.

This chart shows margin debt (red line, left scale) and the S&P 500 (blue line, right scale), both adjusted for inflation to tune out the effects of the dwindling value of the dollar over the decades (chart by Advisor Perspectives):

Stock market leverage is the big accelerator on the way up. Leverage supplies liquidity that has been freshly created by the lender. This isn’t money moving from one asset to another. This is money that is being created to be plowed into stocks. And when stocks sink, leverage becomes the big accelerator on the way down. When stocks are dumped to pay down margin debt, the money from those stock sales doesn’t go into another asset and doesn’t sit around as cash ready to be deployed and it doesn’t go into gold bars either. It just disappears.

Even the Fed is now worried about margin debt and a slew of other factors not related to consumer price inflation but to assets, asset prices, and debt.

The latest was Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan on Monday who, in discussing financial and economic imbalances, specifically addressed the “record-high levels” of margin debt.

His premise is that “there are costs to accommodation in the form of distortions and imbalances,” and when “excesses ultimately need to be unwound, this can result in a sudden downward shift in demand for investment and consumer-related durable goods.” Kaplan:

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

The Old Songs

What if the fun and games of 2017 are over? The hidden message behind the sexual harassment freak show of recent weeks is that nothing else is sufficiently serious to occupy the nation’s attention. We’re living in the Year of Suspended Reality, stuck in the sideshow and missing the three-ring circus next door in the big tent.

It probably all comes down to money. Money represents the mojo to keep on keeping on, and there is probably nothing more unreal in American life these days than the way we measure our money — literally, what it’s worth, and what everything related to it is worth. So there is nothing more unreal in our national life than the idea that it’s possible to keep on keeping on as we do.

The weeks ahead may be most illuminating on this score. The debt ceiling suspension runs out on December 8, around the same time that the tax reform question will resolve one way or another. The debt ceiling means that the treasury can’t issue any more bonds, bills, or notes. That is, it can’t borrow any more money to pretend the government can keep running. Normally these days (and it’s really very abnormal), the treasury pawns off paper IOUs to the Federal Reserve and the Fed makes digital entries on various account ledgers that purport to be “money.” And, by the way, the Fed is a consortium of private banks not a department of government — which is surely one of a thousand ways that the public is confused and deceived about what condition our condition is in, as the old song goes.

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

Fed Fears New Record High Credit Bubble – Danielle DiMartino Booth

Fed Fears New Record High Credit Bubble – Danielle DiMartino Booth

Former Federal Reserve insider Danielle DiMartino Booth says the record high stock and bond prices make the Fed nervous because it’s fearful of popping this record high credit bubble. DiMartino Booth says, “The Fed’s biggest fear is they know darn well this much credit has built up in the background, and the ramifications of the un-wind for what has happened since the great financial crisis is even greater than what happened in 2008 and 2009.  It’s global and pretty viral.  So, the Fed has good reason to be fearful of what’s going to happen when the baby boomer generation and the pension funds in this country take a third body blow since 2000, and that’s why they are so very, very intimidated by the financial markets and so fearful of a correction.”

Why will the Fed not allow even a small correction in the markets? DiMartino Booth says, “Look back to last year when Deutsche Bank took the markets to DEFCON 1.  Maybe you were paying attention and maybe you weren’t, but it certainly got the German government’s attention.  They said the checkbook is open, and we will do whatever we need to do because we can’t quantify what will happen when a major bank gets into a distressed situation.  I think what central banks worldwide fear is that there has been such a magnificent re-blowing of the credit bubble since 2007 and 2008 that they can’t tell you where the contagion is going to be.  So, they have this great fear of a 2% or 3% or 10 % (correction) and do not know what the daisy chain is going to look like and where the contagion is going to land.  It could be the Chinese bond market.  It could be Italian insolvent banks or it might be Deutsche Bank, or whether it might be small or midsize U.S. commercial lenders.

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

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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