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Every Bubble Eventually Finds its Pin

Every Bubble Eventually Finds its Pin

The transfer of wealth from workers and savers to governments and big banks continued this week with Swiss-like precision.  The process is both mechanical and subtle.  Here in the USA the automated elegance of this ongoing operation receives little attention.

NFL football.  EBT card acceptance at Del Taco.  Adam Schiff’s impeachment extravaganza.  You name it.  Bread and circuses like these – and many others – offer the American populace countless opportunities for chasing the wild goose.

All the while, and with little fanfare, debts pile up like deadwood in Sequoia National Forest.  These debts, both public and private, stand little chance of ever being honestly repaid.  According to the IMF, global debt –  both public and private – has reached an all-time high of $188 trillion.  That comes to about 230 percent of world output.

Certainly, some of the private debt will be defaulted on during the next credit crisis and depression.  But when it comes to the public debt, governments do everything they can to prevent an outright default.  Central banks crank up the printing press and attempt to inflate it away.

After Nixon temporarily suspended the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971, the money supply could be expanded without technical limitations.  This includes issuing new debt to pay for government spending above and beyond tax receipts.  Hence, since 1971, government directed money supply inflation has been the standard operating procedure in the U.S. and much of the world.

Downright Disgraceful

Expanding the money supply has the effect of dissipating wealth from the currency.  The process allows governments, which are first in line to spend this newly created money, a back door into your bank account.  Without levying taxes, they get access to your wealth and future earnings and leave you with money of diminished value.

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

“The Fed Hasn’t Expanded Its Balance Sheet At This Speed Since The Financial Crisis”

“The Fed Hasn’t Expanded Its Balance Sheet At This Speed Since The Financial Crisis”


The Fed’s balance sheet is expanding at a faster rate than during QE1, QE2 or QE3.


* * *

Submitted by Howard Wang of Convoy Investments

Has QE4 begun? The $1.2 trillion per month hole in the repo market.

In the two months since the repo market blow up, the Fed has been making repo open market operation purchases at a rate of $1.2 trillion per month.

Below is the monthly rate of Fed open market purchases since 2000. In the era of QE and ample reserves, the Fed has not touched open market operations for more than 10 years before 2019. Prior to that, the highest rate of open market operations we saw in history was roughly $300 billion/month briefly after the September 11 attacks, with long‐term averages of around $50 billion/month. To say the current rate of $1.2 trillion/month is unprecedented would be an understatement

The planned QE unwinding has hit a brick wall and the Fed balance sheet is now expanding at a rate matched only briefly by QE1, and faster than QE2 or QE3.

Is this a temporary rescue of the repo market or the start of a sustained QE4? To answer that question, we must look at how monetary policy has evolved since the Financial Crisis.

1. Pre‐2008, scarce reserves regime:

  • Total reserves: small (<$50 billion)
  • Excess reserves: none
  • Interest on excess reserves: 0%
  • Managing interest rates: to increase rates, Fed sells securities on the open market and reduces supply of reserves, vice versa to decrease rates.
  • Banks: regulations are lax and risk tolerance is high
  • Treasury department: carefully manages its cash flows to not impact the total reserve levels.

2. 2008‐2019, ample reserves regime:

  • Total reserves: large ($trillions)
  • Excess reserves: large ($trillions)
  • Interest on excess reserves: positive at around Fed funds rate

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

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Is Inflation Really Under Control

Recently, analysts have been discussing the pros and cons of using negative interest rates to keep the U.S. economy growing.  Despite this, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said that he does not anticipate the Federal Reserve will implement a policy of negative interest rates as it may be detrimental to the economy.  One argument against negative interest rates is that they would squeeze bank margins and create more financial uncertainty. However, upon examining the actual rate of inflation we are likely already in a ‘de facto’ negative ­­interest rate environment. Multiple inflation data sources show that actual inflation maybe 5%. With the ten year Treasury bond at 1.75%, there is an interest rate gap of – 3.25%. Let’s look at multiple inflation data points to understand why there is such a divergence between the Fed assumptions that inflation is under control versus the much higher rate of price hikes consumers experience.

In October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the core consumer price index (CPI) grew by 2.2% year over year.  The core CPI rate is the change in the price of goods and services minus energy and food.  Energy and food are not included because they are commodities and trade with a high level of volatility.  However, the Median CPI shows a ten year high at 2.96% and upward trend as we would expect, though it starts at a lower level than other inflation indicators. The Median CPI excludes items with small and large price changes. 

Source: Gavekal Data/Macrobond, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Shot – 11-29-19

Excluding key items that have small and large price changes is not what a consumer buying experience is like. Consumers buy based on immediate needs. When a consumer drives up to a gas pump, they buy at the price listed on the pump that day. 

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

Costs Are Spiraling Out of Control

And how do we pay for these spiraling out of control costs? By borrowing more, of course. 

If we had to choose one “big picture” reason why the vast majority of households are losing ground, it would be: the costs of essentials are spiraling out of control. I’ve often covered the dynamics of stagnating income for the bottom 90%, and real-world inflation, i.e. a decline in purchasing power. 

But neither of these dynamics fully describes the relentless upward spiral of the cost basis of our economy, that is, the cost of big-ticket essentials: housing, education and healthcare.

The costs of education are spiraling out of control, stripping households of income as an entire generation is transformed into debt-serfs by student loan debt. The soaring costs of healthcare are a core driver of higher costs in the education complex (and government in general), and to cover these higher costs, counties raise property taxes, which add additional cost burdens to households and enterprises as rents rise. 

Rising rents push the cost structure of almost every enterprise and agency higher.

Then there’s the asset inflation created by central bank ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) which has inflated a second echo-bubble in housing that has pushed home ownership out of reach of many, adding demand for rental housing that has pushed rents into the stratosphere in Left and Right Coast cities.

The increasing dominance of monopolies and cartels has eliminated competition in sector after sector. Monopolies and cartels skim immense profits even as the value, quality and quantity of their products and services decline: The U.S. Only Pretends to Have Free Markets From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year.

Thanks to their political influence, monopolies and cartels have legalized looting, raising prices and evading anti-trust regulations because they can pay whatever it takes in our pay-to-play political system.

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

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

Inflation Is Coming: All the Trends That Were Deflationary Are Slowly Going in Reverse

But of all potential economic outcomes, the one least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

Investing is all about probabilities. If the perceived odds of an event are high, certain securities will be priced based on those expected probabilities. The corollary is that when an event is perceived as almost impossible, securities do not price in any chance of it occurring. If that event does occur, all sorts of securities need to re-price—often quite rapidly. I like to spend my time pondering what potential events the market completely ignores. Of all potential economic outcomes, the one that is least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. In terms of macro-portfolio wars, Japan’s experience with deflation colors all views. This seems odd to me because we have over two millennia of history showing inflation and currency debasements to be universal constants, with one outlier in Japan. The question is if Japan is the new normal or a true outlier?

Academics have studied the causes and effects of inflation ever since emperors and kings fixated on halting its effects. Despite a massive body of work, there is little agreement amongst experts on the causes of inflation. Since I tend to ignore “experts,” let me start by giving you the Kuppy definition of inflation. “Inflation is when too much of a certain currency chases a scarce resource and pushes its price higher when defined in terms of that currency.”

Using that definition, we’ve actually had rather dramatic inflation over the past decade—it just hasn’t shown up yet in the core consumer goods that central bankers are often concerned about.

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

Shale’s Debt-Fueled Drilling Boom Is Coming To An End

Shale’s Debt-Fueled Drilling Boom Is Coming To An End

Marcellus shale

The financial struggles of the U.S. shale industry are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but drillers in Appalachia are in particularly bad shape.

The Permian has recently seen job losses, and for the first time since 2016, the hottest shale basin in the world has seen job growth lag the broader Texas economy. The industry is cutting back amid heightened financial scrutiny from investors, as debt-fueled drilling has become increasingly hard to justify.

But E&P companies focused almost exclusively on gas, such as those in the Marcellus and Utica shales, are in even worse shape. An IEEFA analysis found that seven of the largest producers in Appalachia burned through about a half billion dollars in the third quarter.

Gas production continues to rise, but profits remain elusive. “Despite booming gas output, Appalachian oil and gas companies consistently failed to produce positive cash flow over the past five quarters,” the authors of the IEEFA report said.

Of the seven companies analyzed, five had negative cash flow, including Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy, EQT, Range Resources, and Southwestern Energy. Only Cabot Oil & Gas and Gulfport Energy had positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The sector was weighed down but a sharp drop in natural gas prices, with Henry Hub off by 18 percent compared to a year earlier. But the losses are highly problematic. After all, we are more than a decade into the shale revolution and the industry is still not really able to post positive cash flow. Worse, these are not the laggards; these are the largest producers in the region.

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

The Masses Are Being Conditioned to Ignore the Economic Bubble

The Masses Are Being Conditioned to Ignore the Economic Bubble

economic crash trade war

In the second week of October, after the “partial” U.S.-China trade deal was announced to much fanfare, I made this prediction:

US and Chinese officials rarely waste an opportunity to use trade talk headlines to head-fake markets with false hope. Rumors of a “partial” or tentative trade deal are circulating today, with MORE trade talks in a month or two. In other words, “more trade talks” means there is no deal of any substance and there’s plenty of time for the whole thing to fall apart once again. I give it less than a month. In the meantime, there will be plenty of other distractions for the general public, including the impeachment circus, tariffs against Europe, tensions in Syria, the Brexit mess, etc, etc.

My estimate was incorrect; it took a little over one month for the whole thing to fall apart. That said, I think the primary point remains the same. The trade war is not going to end anytime soon and there is a very good reason why this is the case: It serves the globalist agenda as a perfect distraction for the collapse of the “Everything Bubble” and the launch of the global economic reset into a what the elites call a “new world order”.

But let’s go back for a moment to understand what just happened. A month ago, the trade deal was treated as essentially done. China had partially folded on most of Trump’s demands and Trump was going to pull off a major economic victory just in time for the 2020 election season. The Dow was going to rocket past 30,000 and Trump’s second term was now assured. This was the narrative in the majority of the alternative media, and I have to say, it is sad to see so many otherwise intelligent analysts make such a huge blunder.

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

Economists and climate change: Building castles in the sky

Economists and climate change: Building castles in the sky

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said that “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” Unfortunately, when some economists turn their sights on the economics of climate change, their unreliable methods imperil not just the economic life of humankind but its very existence.

I have written previously about this phenomenon in 2007 about how economists underestimate the critical importance of small (by economic value) but critical parts of the economy such as agriculture, forestry, and energy and in 2012 about how unsuited our current infrastructure is to the unfolding climate.

The trouble is that against all evidence, some climate economists keep building castles in the sky. Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus is among the most prominent economists working on climate change and its economic effects. In short, Nordhaus, who is mentioned both in my 2007 and 2012 pieces, tells us not to worry too much about climate change. It will be cheaper to adapt to it than to prevent it or slow it down.

The problem with Nordhaus’ thinking (and that of many others like him) is that he cannot conceive of abrupt discontinuities in the workings of the planet or the workings of human society. In short, he cannot conceive that climate change could alter our environment so thoroughly and disrupt our agriculture so completely that it would lead to catastrophic results.

It is for this failure of imagination that economist Steven Keen recently took Nordhaus to task, showing through a careful critique of Nordhaus’ equations, that even those equations demonstrate catastrophe ahead when provisioned with the proper numbers and understanding. When Keen adds in what we know about tipping points in the climate system, he finds that Nordhaus’ own equations reveal that “[a]t 3 degrees, damages are 8 times as high.

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Blocking SWIFT Access Would Be “Declaration Of War”: Russia Warns Against US ‘Nuclear Option’

Blocking SWIFT Access Would Be “Declaration Of War”: Russia Warns Against US ‘Nuclear Option’

Last year during the height of controversy over the Kerch Strait incident, while two dozen Ukrainian sailors were still being held by Russia, Washington’s special envoy to Ukraine at the time, Kurt Volker, floated the possibility of Washington blocking Russian banks from SWIFT. He told Voice of America at the time that it was considered “a nuclear option” and it would have huge costs which would even inadvertently impact US allies.

“People refer to it as a nuclear option. It would have costs for everybody involved,” he said. “Big costs for Russia, but big costs for allies as well. Ultimately, we have to keep it on the table as a possibility because we just can’t continue to see Russia launch further steps of aggression in its neighborhood like this.”

No doubt it’s still in Washington’s playbook as a ‘nuclear option’ long after the Kerch Strait incident was diffused with an historic prisoner swap, and the Kremlin has taken note.

Russia’s Central Bank, via Wiki Commons.

On Thursday Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took Washington to task over the prior warning, telling reporters that Moscow is well aware of discussions to take sanctions further, even cutting off the country’s access to some 11,000 banks and financial institutions in over 200 countries by blocking SWIFT. This is exactly what the Trump White House did vis-à-vis Iran months after it pulled out of the 2015 JCPOA.

Medvedev said such far-reaching action would be tantamount to a declaration of war. According to statements reported in Russian media:

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Medvedev recalled the West once seriously considered the option, and Moscow is aware of it.

“This would in fact be a declaration of war, but nevertheless it was discussed,” the Russian prime minister said, adding that this is one of the reasons why the government is looking into ways to protect the Russian part of the internet.

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

Debt Bubble to End All Bubbles – Michael Snyder

Debt Bubble to End All Bubbles – Michael Snyder

Journalist and book author Michael Snyder says corporate debt is at record highs standing at $10 trillion. Snyder points out debt is setting records in every aspect of the economy and contends, “If you include all other forms of corporate debt not listed on the stock exchanges, that brings the total to $15.5 trillion, which is equivalent to 74% of GDP. We’ve never seen anything like this before in all of U.S. history. That is just one form of debt and how our society has grown the debt. People need to realize the only reason why we have any prosperity in this country today is because it is fueled by debt. We have been building up this bubble, and it is the bubble to end all bubbles. Look at consumers. U.S. consumers are now $14 trillion in debt, which is an all-time record. State and local governments are at all-time debt record levels. The U.S. government . . . we just hit $23 trillion in debt, more than double since the last financial meltdown. . . . We are stealing from future generations more than $100 million every single hour of every single day. This is a crime beyond comprehension, and it’s been going on more than a decade. . . .All the debt has bought for us is more time to expand the bubble for relative stability. Meanwhile, we are literally committing national suicide and literally destroying the future of this country and the future of this republic. We are destroying everything the founders built by insatiable greed in this generation.”

Snyder says you don’t have to wait for the next recession because it’s already started. Snyder says, “Eventually, this whole thing is going to come crashing down. This thing is not sustainable. Here in the United States, we are already in a manufacturing recession. We are already in a transportation recession.

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

Inflation Is Coming…

Inflation Is Coming…

Investing is all about probabilities. If the perceived odds of an event are high, certain securities will be priced based on those expected probabilities. The corollary is that when an event is perceived as almost impossible, securities do not price in any chance of it occurring. If that event does occur, all sorts of securities need to re-price—often quite rapidly. I like to spend my time pondering what potential events the market completely ignores. Of all potential economic outcomes, the one that is least anticipated and least priced in, is an uptick in inflation.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. In terms of macro-portfolio wars, Japan’s experience with deflation colors all views. This seems odd to me because we have over two millennia of history showing inflation and currency debasements to be universal constants, with one outlier in Japan. The question is if Japan is the new normal or a true outlier?

Academics have studied the causes and effects of inflation ever since emperors and kings fixated on halting its effects. Despite a massive body of work, there is little agreement amongst experts on the causes of inflation. Since I tend to ignore “experts,” let me start by giving you the Kuppy definition of inflation. “Inflation is when too much of a certain currency chases a scarce resource and pushes its price higher when defined in terms of that currency.” Using that definition, we’ve actually had rather dramatic inflation over the past decade—it just hasn’t shown up yet in the core consumer goods that central bankers are often concerned about.

Did they time-stamp the cyclical low in yields?

When a country prints money, no one knows where within the economic ecosystem it will ultimately flow. If a resource is scarce, it tends to experience inflation—when it is artificially scarce, it has even more extreme inflation.

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

Development: a failed project

Development: a failed project

It’s time to abandon development and think about postdevelopment instead.

Deforestation in the name of development | Image: crustmania, CC by 2.0

“They talk to me about progress, about ‘achievements,’ diseases cured, improved standards of living. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out. They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. […] I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted – harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population – about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting of raw materials.”

– Aime Césaire (1950): ‘Discourse on Colonialism’

Let’s not beat around the bush: to understand the problems with current ‘development’ discourse and practice there is no alternative other than situating ‘development’ as a construct that has resulted from colonialism and that continues to perpetuate itself within this legacy. Nothing illustrates this better than the above quote from Aime Césaire’s powerful essay on the ‘Discourse on Colonialism’. It almost reads like a contemporary critique of failed development interventions, sharply dissecting extractivism, fetishism of economic growth, the global division of labour and the marginalisation of non-Western worldviews, cosmovisions, imaginaries. The text is almost 70 years old, yet its relevance today could not be clearer.

What are the problems with ‘development’?

I only write about ‘development’ in inverted commas. The word, the concept, the practice has been (ab)used for such a broad variety of specific agendas, all of them structured by power hierarchies and asymmetries. Depending on fashionable fads, ‘development’ has come to be conceptualised as development-as-growth, development-as-progress, development-as-empowerment and many more. Fundamentally, ‘development’ has become what Gustavo Esteva calls an ‘amoeba’ term – one lacking any real meaning.

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

Crunchtime: When Events Outrun Plan B

Crunchtime: When Events Outrun Plan B

Not only will events outrun Plan B, they’ll also outrun Plans C and D. 

We all know what Plan B is: our pre-planned response to the emergence of risk. Plan B is for risks that can be anticipated, regular but unpredictable events such tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. In the human sphere, risks that can be anticipated include temporary loss of a job, stock market down turns, recession, disruption of energy supplies, etc.

Hidden in most Plan B’s are a host of assumptions that all the systems running in the background of the economy will remain stable. Even if electrical and cell-phone service go down, for example, we assume the outage will be temporary. We assume delivery of energy and food will resume shortly, we assume medical care will be available somewhere nearby, roadways will soon be cleared and so on.

In other words, we assume emergencies will be short-lived and that these non-linear events will leave the rest of our social and economic orders as fully intact linear systems, that is, predictable because the outputs (results) will continue to be proportional to the inputs.

If one road crew can clear five roads of debris, then if ten roads are blocked, we reckon adding another crew will generate a proportional result: two crews will clear all ten blocked roads. This is a linear system and response.

But if for some reason the second crew can’t clear even a single road, and adding a third crew also fails to make progress, the situation becomes non-linear: increasing inputs doesn’t generate proportional outputs.

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

The Problem With “Green” Monetary Policy

The Problem With “Green” Monetary Policy

Although there is increasing support for the idea that central banks should actively contribute to the fight against climate change, monetary policymakers have no mandate to do so, and for good reason. Tackling climate change is – and must remain – the responsibility of elected governments and parliaments.

FRANKFURT – As an alarming new United Nations report shows, climate change is probably the biggest challenge of our time. But should central banks also be worrying about the issue? If so, what should they be doing about it?

Central-bank representatives who do decide to make public speeches about climate change cannot deny the scale and scope of the problem; to do so would be to risk their own credibility. But the same is true when central bankers feel obliged to discuss the distribution of income and wealth, rising crime rates, or any other newsworthy topic. The more that central banks’ communications strategy focuses on trying to make themselves “popular” in the public’s eyes, the greater the temptation to address topics outside their primary remit.

Beyond communicating with the public, the question, of course, is whether central banks should try to account for environmental considerations when shaping monetary policy. Obviously, climate change and corresponding government policies in response to it can have powerful effects on economic development. These consequences are reflected in all kinds of variables – growth, inflation, employment levels – that will in turn affect central-bank forecasts and influence monetary-policy decisions.

Likewise, natural disasters and other environmental events – actual or potential – can pose implicit risks to entire classes of financial assets. Regulators and supervisors charged with assessing risk and associated capital needs must take this environmental dimension into account. At a minimum, the high uncertainty stemming from these risks implies a huge challenge for assessing the stability of the financial system and corresponding macroprudential measures.

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47 Percent Of GDP – This Is Definitely The Scariest Corporate Debt Bubble In U.S. History

47 Percent Of GDP – This Is Definitely The Scariest Corporate Debt Bubble In U.S. History

We are facing a corporate debt bomb that is far, far greater than what we faced in 2008, and we are being warned that this “unexploded bomb” will “amplify everything” once the financial system starts melting down. Thanks to exceedingly low interest rates, over the last decade U.S. corporations have been able to go on the greatest corporate debt binge in history. It has been a tremendous “boom”, but it has also set the stage for a tremendous “bust”. Large corporations all over the country are now really struggling to deal with their colossal debt burdens, and defaults on the riskiest class of corporate debt are on pace to hit their highest level since 2008. Everyone can see that a major corporate debt disaster is looming, but nobody seems to know how to stop it.

At this point, companies listed on our stock exchanges have accumulated a total of almost 10 trillion dollars of debt. That is equivalent to approximately 47 percent of U.S. GDP

A decade of historically low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S. corporate debt to nearly $10 trillion, or a record 47% of the overall economy.

In recent weeks, the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund and major institutional investors such as BlackRock and American Funds all have sounded the alarm about the mounting corporate obligations.

We have never witnessed a corporate debt crisis of this magnitude.

Corporate debt is up a whopping 52 percent since 2008, and this bubble is continually growing.

And actually the 10 trillion dollar figure is the most conservative number out there. Because if you add in all other forms of corporate debt, the grand total comes to 15.5 trillion dollars. The following comes from Forbes

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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