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How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy

How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy

Now they’re clamoring for this NIRP absurdity in the US. How will this end?

Now there is talk everywhere that the United States too will descend into negative interest rates. And there are people on Wall Street and in the media that are hyping this absurd condition where government bonds and perhaps even corporate bonds, and eventually even junk bonds have negative yields. All of that NIRP absurdity is already the case in Europe and Japan.

There is now about $17 trillion – trillion with a T – in negative yielding debt in the world, government and corporate debt combined.

This started out as a short-term emergency experiment. And now this short-term emergency experiment has become the new normal. And now more short-term emergency experiments need to be added to it, because, you know, the first batches weren’t big enough and haven’t worked, or have stopped working, or more realistically, have screwed things up so badly that nothing works anymore.

So how will this end?

The ECB rumor mill over the past two weeks hyped the possibility of a shock-and-awe stimulus package, on top of the shock-and-awe stimulus packages the ECB has already implemented, namely negative interest rates, liquidity facilities, and QE.

The entire German government bond market, even 30-year bonds have negative yields. And the German economy shrank in the last quarter. That gives Germany two out of the last four quarters where its economy shrank – despite negative interest rates from the ECB and despite the negative yields on its government bonds, and despite the negative yields among many corporate bonds.

In other words, the German economy, the fourth largest in the world, is hitting the skids despite or because of negative yields. And now the ECB wants to flex its muscles to get yields to become even more negative.

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

Barron’s Nonsensical Idea: Cut Rates Like Mad to Avoid Recession

Barron’s Nonsensical Idea: Cut Rates Like Mad to Avoid Recession

Barron’s writer Matthew Klein proposes to stop the recession by cutting interest rates like it’s 1995.

Klein says How to Avoid a Recession? Cut Interest Rates Like It’s 1995.

One of the most reliable harbingers of U.S. recession—short-term interest rates on U.S. Treasury debt higher than longer-term yields—has been flashing warning signs for months. That doesn’t mean the economy is doomed to a downturn.

So-called yield-curve inversions have preceded every U.S. downturn since the 1950s, with only one false positive in 1966. This past week, the yield on two-year Treasuries briefly surpassed the yield on 10-year notes for this first time since 2007. The most straightforward explanation is that traders…

Absurd Notion

The rest of the article is behind a paywall, but I can tell you with 100% certainly Klein’s notion is absurd.

Inverted yield curves do not cause recessions. They are symptoms of a buildup of excess debt or other fundamental problems.

Those problems will not not go away if the Fed “cuts rates like 1995” or even like 2008.

If a zero percent interest rate stopped recessions, Japan would not have had a half-dozen recessions in the past decades that it did have, many without inversions.

Not even negative rates can stop recessions.

The Eurozone, especially Germany, has negative rates. Yet, it’s highly likely the Eurozone is in recession now and even more likely Germany is (with the rest of the Eurozone to follow).

Monetary Madness

As a prime example of global monetary madness, witness Inverted Negative Yields in Germany and Negative Rate Mortgages.

Even if the Fed made a 100 basis point cut (four quarter point cuts at once), what the heck would that do?

Stop recession for how long? Zero months? Six months? And at what expense?

What Then?

Yes, what then? Negative mortgages? A 10-year yield of -1.0% like Switzerland.

And if that doesn’t work?

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

Weekly Commentary: Comeuppance

Weekly Commentary: Comeuppance

The Chinese Credit machine sputtered in July. Growth in Total Aggregate Financing dropped to $144 billion, almost 40% below consensus estimates. This was less than half of June’s $320 billion increase and the slowest expansion since February. The sharp slowdown was beyond typical seasonality, with the month’s growth in Aggregate Financing 18% below July 2018. Despite July’s weak growth, Total Aggregate Financing was still up 10.7% over the past year.

New Bank Loans fell to $150 billion from June’s $235 billion, with growth 28% below that from July 2018. At $2.331 TN, New Loans were still up 12.6% over the past year. Consumer Loans dropped to $74 billion, the weakest showing since February. Consumer Loans were nonetheless up 16.5% over the past year, 38% in two, 71% in three and 138% over five years. 

Loans to the non-financial corporate sector collapsed in July to $42 billion, about a third June’s level. Somewhat offsetting this decline, Corporate bond issuance almost doubled in July to $32 billion.

The ongoing contraction in “shadow” finance accelerated in July, with declines in outstanding Trust Loans, Entrusted Loans, and Banker Acceptances. On a year-over-year basis, Trust Loans were down 4.3%, Entrusted Loans 10.0% and Bankers Acceptances 15.0%.

China’s July Credit data were alarming on multiple levels. For starters, the sharp Credit slowdown supports the view that financial conditions tightened meaningfully after the government takeover of Baoshang Bank (and attendant money market instability). It also raises the increasingly pressing question as to the willingness of the banking system to continue to take up the slack in the face of a broadly deteriorating backdrop. And in a new development, analysts have begun contemplating the possibility of waning Credit demand.

The sharp pullback in Consumer Loans raises the specter of an inflection point in household mortgage borrowings. Bubbling apartment markets have supported a resilient consumer sector along with an unrelenting housing construction boom. Government tightening measures may be having some impact. It is possible as well that market sentiment has begun to shift. 

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

David Rosenberg: “These Are Truly Historic And Dangerous Times”

David Rosenberg: “These Are Truly Historic And Dangerous Times”

We are living in dangerous times.

Mostly, everyone I speak to lives in the here and now. They seem more interested in telling people how crazy cheap the stock market is and how crazy expensive the ‎Treasury market is, rather than trying to look at the current environment in a historical perspective. We are living through a period of history that will be written about in textbooks in years and decades to come, and the undertones are none too good.

Instead of telling people there is no recession, these bulls should be discussing why the markets are busy pricing one in. What do these pundits know that the markets don’t know? We have a bond market in which a quarter of the universe trades at a negative yield. The long bond yield has gone negative in Germany. More than half of the world’s bond market is trading below the Fed funds rate. Investment grade yields, on average, are below zero in the euro area.

This is completely abnormal because it reflects an abnormal economic, financial and political backdrop. Those who point to the stock market’s performance with glee, because of its V-shaped recovery, don’t bother telling you that in the past 12 months the total return is marginal in real terms and the best performing sectors are the ones you can only typically rely on in a deflationary recession – real estate, utilities and consumer staples.

One of the problems coming out of the most recent recession is that the global debt load is infinitely larger now than it was at the peak of that prior credit-bubble cycle. The world is awash in debt. Years of monetary intervention among the world’s central banks created artificial asset-price inflation and exacerbated wealth inequalities at the same time. Fiscal policy failed to arrest the increasingly wide income disparity, a global dilemma that has become acute in the United States.

Will They Take All Your Money?

Will They Take All Your Money?

money

Why not? It’s not yours.

Most people assume that, if they have money on deposit in a bank, they own that money. That’s not necessarily the case. Decades ago, some of the world’s most powerful countries began to pass legislation that, if you deposit money in the bank, it becomes the property of the bank. In those countries, if you open a bank account and make a deposit, you sign off legal title to that cash. It becomes an asset of the bank.

The reason they got away with this obvious “theft through legislation” was that the banks were required to henceforth regard your deposit as a debt in your favour. So, technically, you were still owed the money as a bank liability, even though it was no longer truly yours.

On the surface, the change of ownership may seem to be a moot point, as, surely any bank would allow you to withdraw whatever you have deposited, or there would be a run on the bank and the bank would fail.

Well, that’s a definite “maybe.”

What if there were a financial crisis, such as in Greece, where an anticipated run on the banks was circumvented by freezing all accounts, then partially reopening them? If that were the case, the bank in question could allow small amounts of cash to be withdrawn by its depositors each week or each month until the crisis had been safely averted.

Surely, that would be a good thing to do, yes?

Well, there might be a problem there. It’s just possible that the bank would decide that it was enjoying the revised relationship, that it would like to continue to take in deposits the normal way but only pay out “allowances” to depositors as it saw fit.

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

Opinion: 10 alarming things about the economy that politicians won’t tell you

Opinion: 10 alarming things about the economy that politicians won’t tell you

The Congressional Budget Office reveals shocking forecasts for immigration, debt and spending for the next 30 years

The national debt is expected to skyrocket to an unprecedented 144% of gross domestic product by 2049, or twice the level today.

How do you know a politician is lying to you? Simple: His lips are moving. 

Yes, it’s an old one — but none the worse for that.

The 2020 election season is getting into full swing. Politicians on all sides are ramping up their rhetoric, including their promises, forecasts and accusations.

But it’s fascinating what you can find out if you just read official documents. Especially some of the fine print.

And here are 10 remarkable forecasts and assumptions that Washington is making and isn’t telling you. These are all contained in the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent Long-Term Budget Outlook, the cornerstone document of government financial and economic planning.

1. We’re going to have a lot more immigrants. A lot. They’re expecting a net 22.5 million more immigrants to come to the U.S. over the next 20 years. By 2049, they’re expecting immigration to account for a stunning 87% of annual population growth.

2. We’re going to have a lot more illegal immigrants. Despite the current bluster and the scandals at the border, the CBO expects we’ll have 2.4 million more illegal immigrants (or “undocumented residents,” or whatever) in 20 years’ time than we have today. 

3. We’re going to be up to our eyeballs in debt. The national debt is expected to skyrocket to an “unprecedented” 144% of gross domestic product by 2049, or twice the level today. That would put the debt just under $100 trillion. The figure today: Around $18 trillion. As recently as 2000: $4 trillion. Oh, and this isn’t even the worst-case scenario: The national debt could exceed 200% of GDP in 30 years’ time, the CBO acknowledges.

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

Realizing the Full Implications of the Forthcoming Catastrophe

Realizing the Full Implications of the Forthcoming Catastrophe

Delivering Tomorrow’s Curses

Roman poet Virgil penned these words in his epic, The Aeneid, roughly a generation before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  They can be loosely translated to, “the descent to hell is easy.”  Those who’ve traversed this passage can attest to the veracity of this axiom.

Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus, Octavia and Livia. Contrary to what one might think at first blush, Octavia didn’t fall asleep because she was bored by it – rather, when Virgil recited Book Six, she fainted (the veracity of this account is not undisputed, but it’s a good story anyway). A little side note: Virgil caught a fever while returning from to Rome from Greece and died in Brundisium in 19 BC. It was Virgil’s wish that the poem be burned, but Augustus ordered his literary executors to preserve it and publish it with as few editorial changes as possible. Thus Augustus rescued the Aeneid for posterity. [PT]

Though not apparent in the milieu of Virgil’s poem, for our purposes today, we will extend its application to the insidious progression of currency debasement.  What short utterance more aptly characterizes the steady degradation, as currently practiced by today’s church of state?

On Thursday, for example, the House acted with untroubled ease to further America’s descent to hell.  With little resistance, federal spending was increased and the debt ceiling was suspended for two years.  Having delivered tomorrow’s curses, the nation’s Representatives can skip town without missing a moment of summer recess.

As you can see, the allure of getting something for nothing is far too enticing for even the most honest politician to pass up.  And with an endless supply of fake money behind you, why stick your neck out and get clobbered?  The public debt encumbered is already well beyond honest repayment.  But that’s a problem for tomorrow; not today.

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

Subprime 2.0: Mortgages Now Available For Borrowers Without Credit Scores

Subprime 2.0: Mortgages Now Available For Borrowers Without Credit Scores

Waterstone Mortgage Corporation, a national lender, based in Wisconsin with licenses in 48 states, announced Tuesday that it’s now lending to people with aboustely no credit history, reported HousingWire.

Waterstone calls it the “Non-Traditional Credit Program” will use other forms of financial history, such as cell phone bills, rent, utilities, and insurance premiums when underwriting a borrower.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that about 26 million Americans have no credit score. The CFPB also states that an additional 19 million Americans have a limited or outdated credit history. This means that 18% of adults are “credit invisible,” said Waterstone in a statement.

“While a credit score is certainly very useful for determining a homebuyer’s ability to pay their mortgage payment, other payment indicators–such as bills that are consistently paid in full and on time–can be extremely telling,” said Waterstone Mortgage SVP–Investor Relations & Product Development Kim Newby.

The new program is available with conventional, FHA, USDA, or VA loan options, with the goal of helping those with no credit history into homes.

“Of course, the Non-Traditional Credit Program is ideal for borrowers who only use cash, debit or personal checks on a regular basis. But it’s also designed for those who have had credit cards or loans in the past, but who haven’t utilized credit in more than two years,” Newby said.

“Also, recent immigrants who haven’t yet established a credit score in the United States could benefit from this program, as well as young adults and recent college graduates who are just beginning to build their credit.”

Waterstone has debuted the new loan program at a time when a collapse in mortgage rates is failing to bring buyers back.

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

We’ve Arrived At The End Of The Road

We’ve Arrived At The End Of The Road

Decades of central bank intervention have left us with an unavoidable insolvency crisis

When Richard Nixon closed the gold window in August 1971, fully severing the US dollar from its gold standard, the Federal Reserve and other world central banks found themselves liberated. No longer was their ability to provide liquidity constrained by the physical limitations of the gold supply.

The Fed started intervening more and more during times of slowing growth to goose the economy back to vigor. Cheered and further egged on by politicians happy for easy solutions and desperate to avoid having to make tough calls, central banks have been increasingly willing to provide liquidity in good times and bad.

Akin to removing the limit on a teenager’s credit card, with access to so much cheap money, the US went on a debt bender. One that has lasted for nearly half a century:

FRED chart Total Us Debt Outstanding

Here we stand today with the national debt at over $22 trillion, total US debt outstanding of $70 trillion (shown in the above chart), and unfunded national liabilities of over $200 trillion. And we add to this every year with an annual deficit now exceeding $1 trillion.

This gigantic accretion of debt will never be repaid. And as the pile grows higher, the burden of servicing it — even at today’s historically low interest rates — is placing an increasingly heavy drag on economic growth.

To date, the central banks have gotten away with their easy money policies because they could. The day of reckoning could always be pushed further out via a fresh round of liquidity. But, as Brien Lundin says in the video below, the reckoning is “no longer simply inevitable, it is imminent. We are reaching the End of the Road.”

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

Global Debt Hits $246 Trillion, 320% Of GDP, As Developing Debt Hits All Time High

Global Debt Hits $246 Trillion, 320% Of GDP, As Developing Debt Hits All Time High

According to the latest IIF Global Debt Monitor released today, debt around the globe hit $246 trillion in Q1 2019, rising by $3 trillion in the quarter, and outpacing the rate of growth of the global economy as total debt/GDP rose to 320%

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NEW Global Debt Monitor: Global debt hit $246T in Q1 2019, nearly 320% of GDP.

Debt by sector, Q1 2019 (as % of GDP):
Households: 59.8%
Gov’t: 87.2%
Financial corporates: 80.8%

This was the second-highest dollar number on record after the first three months of 2018, though debt was higher in 2016 and 2017 as a share of world GDP. Total debt was broken down as follows:

  • Households: 60% of GDP
  • Non-financial corporates: 91% of GDP
  • Government 87% of GDP
  • Financial Corporations: 81% of GDP

And while the developed world has some more to go before regaining the prior all time leverage high, with borrowing led by the U.S. federal government and by global non-financial business, total debt in emerging markets hit a new all time high, thanks almost entirely to China… 

… which has been on such a debt issuance rampage, it would make even Uncle Sam blush, as Chinese corporations owed the equivalent of more than 155% of GDP in March, or nearly $21 trillion, up from about 100% of GDP, or $5 trillion, two decades ago.

And here is a startling fact: according to Fundamental Intelligence, a bond market consultancy, Chinese firms accounted for 42% of all corporate bonds issued in EMs this year, which it warned raised the risk of defaults next year and in 2021.

As a result of China’s ravenous debt appetite, emerging economies had the highest-ever level of debt (both corporate and household) at the end of Q1, both in dollar terms and as a share of their gross domestic product, according to the FT’s report  on the latest IIF data.

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

State of the Globe: 13 Facts: why the next crisis is inevitable

State of the Globe: 13 Facts: why the next crisis is inevitable 

The order of the current problems laid down below is random. Hard to say which factor will be the next catalyst. Maybe all or several at the same time? Decide for yourself.

1. Unresolved political conflicts. Ask yourself: which conflicts have been finally resolved since the 2007 crisis? In the Middle East? In the Balkans? In the former Soviet Union? (in Ukraine, the proxy war of the EU against Russia?) In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya? In Sudan? There is no end to this list. The UNO, NATO, the international coalitions for the “defence of human rights” or interventions of the major powers for the defence of their own interests in a region (e.g. Russia and the USA in Syria) only bring more unrest and destabilization in the individual regions and cost the Western world pots of money. Aggressive foreign policy by the great powers and threats to geopolitics will continue to put a massive strain on the world’s economy and pose a risk to investors.

2. The most powerful countries in the world have been arming themselves for years. World military spending increased by 2.6 percent last year to around $1.82 trillion – a new high since 1988. The mainstream media, unlike in the sixties of the last century, are reluctant to talk about the new Cold War because they are fully engaged in creating the delusion of a united, peaceful humanity.

3. Since its inception, Marxism has been an ideology that has not inscribed itself as anything positive in the history of any country. Because of Marxist ideas, more than 100 million people died in Europe in the 20th century (according to the calculations of the French historian Stéphane Courtois).1)

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

Debt, Deficits and the Cost of Free Lunches

DEBT, DEFICITS AND THE COST OF FREE LUNCHES

It seems that every generation or two, fundamental economic ideas are questioned and challenged. The reasonable and important idea that governments should balance their budgets on an annual basis was challenged in the 1930s by the rise of Keynesian Economics and the counter-argument that deficit spending was desirable, if it was used to maintain full employment. Now it seems that any defense or desire for fiscal restraint and less government spending and borrowing are entirely out the window. Fiscal folly is the watchword of the day.

It is not surprising that politicians care little about annual budget deficits and growing debt, since spending money is their way of buying votes from interest groups wanting to eat at the government trough. In America today, it is all a political game by which Democrats and Republicans pander to their respective voting blocs, especially in an upcoming presidential and congressional election year like 2020.

On the one hand, the danger of a looming political crisis is warned about in the media when they point to the coming budgetary circus that will most likely start playing out toward the end of the summer of 2019, when Congress comes back into full session and the new federal budget year that begins on October 1, 2019, will have to be handled in some way.

Budgetary Brinkmanship and Political Plunder

Will the country be facing another federal government shutdown threat like the one in late 2018 and early 2019? Will the national debt limit be raised to permit the spending of the huge sums of money needed to fulfill all the demands for other people’s money above actual taxes collected through the syphoning off of private sector resources by continued government borrowing in the financial markets?

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

It IS Different This Time

It IS Different This Time

They’re right. It IS different this time. It’s worse. Much, much worse. What is? Everything. In terms of preparedness for the next recession that is. Debt is higher than ever, be it corporate debt, government debt, central banks balance sheets, available ammunition to deal with a new recession, wealth inequality, the social divisions and political extremes, and now trillion dollar deficits, everything points to a much more fragile system. Oh yes on paper low rates keep it all afloat, but the context is as ugly as it gets.

Here we are, the great collapse unfolding in front of us. With yesterday’s Fed meeting we witnessed a confirmed breakdown in central bank narratives over last the year, an utter capitulation to market realities that are forcing central banks to commence the new easing cycle. No, this is not a temporary little rate cut event they are promising, it’s a new cycle. The Fed yesterday offered a 3 rate cut outlook, precisely what markets had been pricing in. The Fed bowing before market demands. Give us drugs. Yes, whatever you want, you got it.

The response: An overnight collapse in yields to now below 2% on the 10 year, the lowest reading since the US election in 2016.

It was all bullshit:

The glorious growth stories everybody told, the tax cuts that were supposed to bring greatness, all nonsense. Instead we’re now stuck with trillion dollar deficits, collapsing yields, and a renewed TINA effect as money doesn’t know where to go but stocks, chasing whatever they need to chase.

Or, if you don’t want to chase, you can lend money and pay people to borrow from you. It’s all the rage:

Over $12 trillion of negative yielding debt floating about there. Quite the recovery.

But be clear the bond market is screaming recession is coming, none of this is fundamental based:

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

Waiting For The Black Swan

Waiting For The Black Swan

War with Iran would be the beginning of the end

Two more tankers were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday morning  (6/13/19) in the Gulf of Oman, and if hostilities advance we could be facing a ‘black swan’ event. One that changes everything, and divides the world into ‘before’ and ‘after’ periods.

A lot of us are waiting for ‘something’ to happen. We know that there are too many unsustainable trends and practices running and we fall into the “let’s just rip the Band-Aid off” camp.   Some, like myself, have lost faith in the political leadership and institutions and doubt they retain any capacity to attend to anything more than their own selfish interests, let alone manage the difficult tasks ahead rooted as they are in systems theory and managing complexity.

So, let’s get on with it already.  Bring it on.  Black swans are welcome to those who feel a swift kick to the behind is sometimes needed to begin setting things straight.

Like many, I am also conflicted because I also know that getting onto a new path will be disruptive and probably quite economically and financially painful for everyone, myself included.  Hoping for ‘something to break’ and hoping nothing breaks hang in an uneasy balance.

Luckily, my hopes and wishes have nothing to do with what’s going to happen, or when.  I might as well be performing a secret hand ritual before the TV in my living room to ensure that my team’s basketball free-throw goes in.  The dry tinder of the next bonfire was laid down over many years and decades and it will catch fire when it does, no matter how much denial or how many superstitious practices we employ.

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

Getting rid of Debt: How About Replacing Money with Social Credit?

Getting rid of Debt: How About Replacing Money with Social Credit?

Mark Twain had a genial idea with his story “The One Million Pound Bank Note” published in 1853. It was such a huge amount of money that it couldn’t be exchanged, yet it gave its owner all sorts of perks and goods. It was, in a certain way, an anticipation of what we call today the “social credit score” obtained on the various social media services on the Web. It is a form of money that can be owned, but cannot be exchanged — in most cases, you can’t even go negative with your social credit. So, no debt, no bankruptcy. Would it be possible to build a financial system based on this concept? Not easy, but also an idea being examined nowadays, especially in China with their state-owned social credit system (shèhuì xìnyòng tǐxì). The text below is derived from the chapter on financial collapses of my new book “The Seneca Strategy,” to be published in later 2019.

The whole problem of financial collapses is the result of the existence of money. But what is money exactly? Without going into the various theories of money that economists are still discussing, we can say that once, money was something that everybody agreed on: a weight of precious metals. After all, the British currency is still defined in units of weight, even though one pound (in monetary terms) does not weigh a pound (in physical terms). Still, up to not too long ago, money was simply a token representing a physical entity, typically a certain weight of gold and silver. But things changed a lot with time and, with the 20th century, the convertibility of the dollar into precious metals was more theoretical than real. In 1971 president Nixon formally canceled it.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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