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Are Consumers Nearing the End of Their Road of Debt?

Are Consumers Nearing the End of Their Road of Debt?

Are consumers getting close to the end of their road of debt?

There are some indications that they might be and that’s not good news for an economy built on consumers spending money they don’t have.

Total consumer debt grew and set yet another new record in November, according to the most recent data released by the Federal Reserve. But the rate of growth slowed and credit card debt contracted slightly for the third month out of the last four.

Total consumer debt grew by $12.5 billion to $4.176 trillion. (Seasonally adjusted). That represents an annual growth rate of 3.6%, down from 5.5% in October.

The Fed consumer debt figures include credit card debt, student loans and auto loans, but do not factor in mortgage debt.

Revolving credit outstanding, primarily credit card debt, fell by $2.4 billion, a 2.7% decline. That was offset by a healthy increase of $14.9 billion (5.8%) in non-revolving credit, including student loans, automobile loans and financing for other big-ticket purchases.

Even with the decline in revolving credit card debt, Americans still owe nearly $1.1 trillion on their plastic.

But the overall trend in borrowing has fallen over the last six months and credit card borrowing has taken a noticeably steep downturn.

Some are taking the sagging level of borrowing as a warning sign. As one analyst put it in an article on Seeking Alpha:

It could be that the consumer end of the economy has reached the point at which it cannot add any more debt. Unlike the federal government which has sovereign dollars to print, the consumer has a fixed amount they can spend including paying back any loans.”

Generally, consumer spending and consumer debt tend to move in the same direction. In other words, the drop in borrowing could indicate consumers are shutting their wallets.

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

Opinion: The Federal Reserve is stuck in quantitative-easing hell

Opinion: The Federal Reserve is stuck in quantitative-easing hell

The central bank’s short-term buying of securities could morph into long-term easing

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

Imagine doing the same thing over and over again, with little progress and no relief. Sounds like most people’s vision of hell — or the Federal Reserve’s current predicament. 

Since September, the central bank, through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has been purchasing securities hand over fist to alleviate short-term pressures in the overnight money markets. It has used repurchase (“repo”) and reverse repurchase (“reverse repo”) agreements to provide liquidity and keep overnight borrowing rates from spiking. 

But these complex money market operations already have caused the Fed to buy a net $400 billion worth of securities, after Chairman Jerome Powell shrank the Fed’s balance sheet by $700 billion. That “normalization,” which also included raising the federal funds rate through late 2018, is now effectively dead and the Fed’s balance sheet is growing again.

Powell and the Fed have repeatedly denied this is a new phase of “quantitative easing (QE),” three rounds of which added $3.6 trillion to the Fed’s balance sheet in the years after the financial crisis. And indeed, in the earlier rounds of QE, the central bank bought Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities of various maturities. The current buying has been focused on Treasuries with maturities of 12 months or less. 

On the way: QE4

But that may not continue, says Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist at Quill Intelligence, a Dallas-based boutique research firm. Booth, who worked on both Wall Street and in the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has been a critic of Fed policies since the central bank pushed fed funds down to near zero and launched its three rounds of QE after the financial crisis. (She also was one of the few people to connect the dots between the housing bust and Wall Street before the crisis hit.)

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

The Cannibalization Of The Financial System Will Force Investors Into Silver

The Cannibalization Of The Financial System Will Force Investors Into Silver

Day in and day out, the global financial system continues to cannibalize itself.  Clear evidence of this points to the massive “Artificial” liquidity and asset purchase policy instituted by the Federal Reserve.  While financial analysts provided several theories why the Fed was forced to inject liquidity via the Repo Market and also purchase $60 billion a month in U.S. Treasuries, the real reason has to do with the falling quality of oil and its impact on the value of assets and collateral.

It’s really that simple.  However, there is no mention of it (energy) by any of the leading financial or precious metals analysts.  For example, in Alasdair Macleod’s recent Goldmoney.com article titled, How To Return To Sound Money, he states the following:

This article provides a template for an enduring sound money solution that will deliver economic progress while eliminating destructive credit cycles. It posits that a properly constructed gold and gold substitute monetary system, which also includes the removal of bank credit inflation as a means of providing investment capital, is the only way that lasting stability and prosperity can be achieved.

Alasdair Macleod, who I have a great deal of respect, doesn’t mention “Energy” once in his entire article suggesting that returning to sound money, through gold, is the only way for lasting stability and prosperity can be achieved. The majority of economic prosperity has come from the burning of oil, natural gas, and coal, not from gold or silver. The precious metals act as money, a store of value, or economic energy, but are not the ENERGY SOURCES themselves.  While this is self-evident, it is very important to understand.

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

944 Trillion Reasons Why The Fed Is Quietly Bailing Out Hedge Funds

944 Trillion Reasons Why The Fed Is Quietly Bailing Out Hedge Funds

On Friday, Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari, who just two months earlier made a stunning proposal when he said that it was time for the Fed to pick up where the USSR left off and start redistributing wealth (at least Kashkari chose the proper entity: since the Fed has launched central planning across US capital markets, it would also be proper in the banana republic that the US has become, that the same Fed also decides who gets how much and the entire  democracy/free enterprise/free market farce be skipped altogetherissued a challenge to “QE conspiracists” which apparently now also includes his FOMC colleague (and former Goldman Sachs co-worker), Robert Kaplan, in which he said “QE conspiracists can say this is all about balance sheet growth. Someone explain how swapping one short term risk free instrument (reserves) for another short term risk free instrument (t-bills) leads to equity repricing. I don’t see it.

To the delight of Kashkari, who this year gets to vote and decide the future of US monetary policy yet is completely unaware of how the plumbing underneath US capital markets actually works, we did so for his benefit on Friday, although we certainly did not have to: after all, the “central banks’ central bank”, the Bank for International Settlements, did a far better job than we ever could in its December 8 report, “September stress in dollar repo markets: passing or structural?”, which explained not just why the September repo disaster took place on the supply side (i.e., the sudden, JPMorgan-mediated liquidity shortage at the “top 4” commercial banks which prevented them from lending into the repo market)…

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

VIDEO: The Fed’s Evil Juggernaut

VIDEO: The Fed’s Evil Juggernaut

Don’t let it crush your future

Juggernaut: (n) massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path

The US Federal Reserve is once again force-feeding liquidity into the system. At its fastest rate ever.

The result? Record high stock prices whose valuations defy all logic.

What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we just enjoy the party and be grateful for our rising 401ks?

What’s wrong is that the Fed’s actions are dooming us. Their poisonous cocktail of endless cheap money and rock-bottom interest rates is hastening a terminal breakdown of the economy, while deliberately enriching a tiny cadre of elites to the ruin of everyone else.

Though most remain blind to this, Fed policy (and the similar ones pursued by the other major world central banks) is directly responsible for, or a major contributor to, many of the biggest challenges society is facing.

Tens of millions of Boomers who can’t afford to retire. Tens of millions of Millennials who can’t afford to purchase a home. History’s largest wealth gap between the 1% and everyone else. Relentless increases in the cost of living while real wages remain stagnant. Depletion and degradation of our key natural resources by zombie companies run without profits. We can thank the Fed for all of these ills, plus many more.

All we’re offered in return is the fake reassurance that “everything is awesome” because stocks are higher today than they were yesterday. As if that really makes a difference when the top 1% owns 50% of all stocks and the top 10% owns over 90%.

And when today’s epicly distorted markets reach their breaking point — which may be imminent given the truly manic action recently — not only will the resulting damage be commensurately epic, but it will injure the 99% FAR more than the 1% who benefitted from it.

Mass layoffs. Bankruptcies. Destroyed retirement portfolios and pensions. State and city budget crises. Higher taxes. More fees. Cancelled social services. Hollowed-out communities.

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

The Fed “Just Let The Cat Out Of The Bag”, Admits Being Forced To Fuel Asset Bubble

The Fed “Just Let The Cat Out Of The Bag”, Admits Being Forced To Fuel Asset Bubble

Well the cat’s out of the bag…

The worst kept secret in the financial world is now not only accepted orthodoxy, but finally being discussed openly by, at least some, authorities.

Central bank policies are directly driving asset prices and the bubbles therein. It’s what they do. It has been so stunningly obvious that, at this point, it makes a mockery of things to deny it as an ongoing, and essential, part of how their strategy is implemented. Oddly enough, however, it’s a revelation that is, apparently, coming late to many people with a lot of savings and nothing to show for it. And it is an undeniable factor in this January’s price action.

  • Alan Greenspan knew it to be the case.
  • Ben Bernanke had no problem with it. His strategy required it.
  • Jerome Powell, was probably initially not enamored about it but saw no way around it. It fell on ardent loyalists to take his insistence that it was “not QE” with any seriousness. Otherwise, they would have had to admit to knowing little about financial markets.

In some ways it was refreshing that Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan openly talked about it in an interview Wednesday. Although he did couch it in terms that implied it was a matter of some concern to him. But, of course, he went on to say, “we’ve done what what we need to do up until now.”

“My own view is it’s having some effect on risk assets,” Kaplan said.

“It’s a derivative of QE when we buy bills and we inject more liquidity; it affects risk assets. This is why I say growth in the balance sheet is not free. There is a cost to it.”

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

Localism in the 2020s (Part 2) – Facial Recognition, Psilocybin and Beyond

Localism in the 2020s (Part 2) – Facial Recognition, Psilocybin and Beyond

Contrary to popular opinion, I think a loss of faith in Washington D.C. and its institutions is entirely rational and healthy. Maintaining faith in something due to tradition or the fumes of hope won’t lead to anything productive, rather, it’s preferable to honestly assess the reality of whatever situation you’re in and reorient your worldview and priorities accordingly.

Whether the issue relates to above the law criminal bankers, a Federal Reserve which systematically funnels free money to the already wealthy and powerful, the societal dominance of free speech and privacy-despising tech giant monopolies, or the national security state’s undeclared forever wars for empire, there’s no good reason to maintain any faith in the federal government and the oligarchs/special interests who control it.

Philosophically speaking, I’ve come to conclude the only way to truly have self-government where community life reflects the desires and needs of the people who live there is by concentrating decision making at the local level. I’ve become increasingly interested in the general idea of localism not just because I agree with it in theory, but because it seems more and more people will begin to gravitate toward this perspective and life strategy out of necessity and frustration.

Rather than groveling to Washington D.C., grassroots movements should focus more on the local level where community can be built and things can get done to reflect the desires of the people living there. The entire notion of a one-size fits all approach to virtually all aspects of life dictated via laws passed by corrupt egomaniacs in the swamp is certifiably deranged.

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

Helicopter Money Is No Panacea

Helicopter Money Is No Panacea

Helicopter Money Is No Panacea

In recent decades, the Fed has engaged in a series of policy interventions and market manipulations that have paradoxically left it more powerful even as those interventions left a trail of crashes, collapses and calamities.

This contradiction between Fed omnipotence and Fed incompetence is coming to a head. The economy has been trapped in a prolonged period of subtrend growth. I’ve referred to it in the past as the “new depression.” And the Fed has been powerless to lift the economy out of it.

You may think of depression as a continuous decline in GDP. The standard definition of a recession is two or more consecutive quarters of declining GDP and rising unemployment. Since a depression is understood to be something worse then a recession, investors think it must mean an extra-long period of decline. But that is not the definition of depression.

The best definition ever offered came from John Maynard Keynes in his 1936 classic, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Keynes said a depression is, “a chronic condition of subnormal activity for a considerable period without any marked tendency towards recovery or towards complete collapse.”

Keynes did not refer to declining GDP; he talked about “subnormal” activity. In other words, it’s entirely possible to have growth in a depression. The problem is that the growth is below trend. It is weak growth that does not do the job of providing enough jobs or staying ahead of the national debt. That is exactly what the U.S. is experiencing today.

Long-term growth is about 3%. From 1994 to 2000, the heart of the Clinton boom, growth in the U.S. economy averaged over 4% per year.

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

He Knows

He Knows

Last week we found out that Dallas Fed president Kaplan knows that the Fed is creating excess and imbalances in stocks. Yes, bloating the Fed’s balance sheet by over $400B  in four months has a massive impact on stock markets. And billions of repo liquidity unleashed each day can be seen impacting the daily action as well (see: Repo Lightning).

So what’s Jerome Powell have to say about all this? Silence. Not a word. Of course he doesn’t have to because the crack reporters never confront him on the issue in his post Fed meeting press conferences. Bubble away accountability free. Why bother asking the hard questions? That may just get you disinvited from the next press conference. Too strong of an assessment? I let you be the judge, but why are the hard questions not asked when it matters?

But actually we don’t need to wait for the answer from a press conference. Why? Because we already know the answer and the answer is: He knows.

Powell knows exactly the behavior he’s instilling in investors, the artificial levitation of asset prices and the disconnects and dangers that is poses.

All one has to do is dig in the Fed minutes from October 2012. Pages 192-194. It’s all there:

“I have concerns about more purchases. As others have pointed out, the dealer community is now assuming close to a $4 trillion balance sheet and purchases through the first quarter of 2014. I admit that is a much stronger reaction than I anticipated, and I am uncomfortable with it for a couple of reasons.
First, the question, why stop at $4 trillion? The market in most cases will cheer us for doing more. It will never be enough for the market. Our models will always tell us that we are helping the economy, and I will probably always feel that those benefits are overestimated. 

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

“This Is Insanity!” – Jim Rogers Warns Of “Horrible Time” Ahead

“This Is Insanity!” – Jim Rogers Warns Of “Horrible Time” Ahead

The Fed has increased its balance sheet over 500% in the past decade; The Bank of Japan is printing money to buy bonds and stock ETFs; and The European Central Bank is mired in insane negative interests. And, according to legendary investor Jim Rogers, they will continue this “madness” as long as its necessary.

In an interview with RT’s Boom Bust, Rogers exclaims, that interest rates around the world have never been this low:

“… this is insanity, that’s not how sound economic systems are supposed to work.”

In 2008, Rogers notes that we had problems because of too much debt, however, “since then the debt has skyrocketed everywhere and it’s going higher and higher. We are going to have a horrible time when this all comes to an end.”

Adding that:

…eventually, the market is going to say: ‘We don’t want this, we don’t want to play this game anymore, and we don’t want your garbage paper anymore’.”

And when that happens, Rogers warns that central banks will print even more and buy even more assets.

“And that’s when we will have very serious problems… We all are going to pay a horrible price someday but in the meantime it’s a lot of fun for a lot of people.”

When it comes to an end, Rogers laments, “it will be the worst of my lifetime.”

Hedge Fund CIO: Will The Fed Ever Be Held Accountable For Turbocharging Inequality That Poisons America

Hedge Fund CIO: Will The Fed Ever Be Held Accountable For Turbocharging Inequality That Poisons America

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God,” pledged the 2.7mm young, courageous American soldiers that our Commanders-in-Chief sent to Iraq and Afghanistan Since 2001. Over 6,900 of them died there. Over 52,000 have been wounded. Bush, Obama and Trump spent over $6 trillion. 480,000 Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis died, half civilians. Millions were displaced. Who is accountable? What are the consequences?
 
Overall

“This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” wrote one of Boeing’s employees, referring to their 737 Max. “I don’t know how to fix these things… it’s systemic. It’s culture. It’s the fact we have a senior leadership team that understands very little about the business and yet are driving us to certain objectives,” wrote another. “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year. Can’t do it one more time, the pearly gates will be closed,” wrote another. Boeing is our mightiest manufacturing exporter. A symbol of American greatness. Boeing’s board held the CEO accountable, fired him. The consequence for the catastrophe of his leadership? He walked away with $61mm in compensation.

Carlos Ghosn held an absurd press conference to clear his name, having fled Japan in box barely big enough to contain his greed and shamelessness. Set against Adam Neumann’s $1.7bln golden parachute, Ghosn perhaps believes Japanese consequences are overly harsh.

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

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession

Central Bankers Are Quietly Freaking Out About How To Fight The Next Recession 

Mark Carney warns about the limits of central bank policy.
Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England (BOE), listens at the annual Mansion House dinner in … [+]2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

The world’s top central bank officials are rightly concerned that politicians in rich economies missed one key lesson of the last recession: Interest rate cuts can help to moderate a downturn, but aggressive fiscal policy is key to a healthy recovery. 

It was a pro-austerity stance both in the United States, and even more saliently in the euro zone, that arguably prolonged the period of high unemployment and low wage growth that plagued most of the decade-long recovery from the 2007-2009 U.S. Great Recession. 

Outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told the Financial Times this week that central banks are running low on fuel. “If there were to be a deeper downturn, [that requires] more stimulus than a conventional recession, then it’s not clear that monetary policy would have sufficient space,” he said.Today In: Money

“It’s generally true that there’s much less ammunition for all the major central banks than they previously had and I’m of the opinion that this situation will persist for some time.”  

That echoed the sentiment of Christine Lagarde, who recently took over the European Central Bank. She’s telling budget-shy European politicians (especially in Germany) to get to work

Now, a new paper from Fed board economist Michael Kiley points to similar alarm among U.S. central bankers about their ability to fight future slumps. 

Drawing up two basic assumptions of what a downturn might look like, Kiley finds that “a recession may result in near-zero interest rates at long maturities, bringing U.S. experience closer to that seen in Europe and Japan.”

This, says Kiley, “could imply limits on the ability of monetary policy to support a recovery.”

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

Some Other People Do Some Other Things

Some Other People Do Some Other Things


An almighty bafflement befogs the nation as the first full business week of 2020 commences and events pile up like smashed vehicles on a weather-blinded highway. Before we even smoked that Iranian bird on the Baghdad airport tarmac, something ominous was tingling away in the financial markets, in fact, has been since way back in September. Perhaps one-in-100,000 Americans has the dimmest clue as to what the repo mechanism stands for in banking circles, but it has been flashing red for months, with klaxons blaring for those who maybe missed the red flashes.

The repo market represents trillions of dollars in overnight lending in which bonds (or other “assets”) are used as collateral for ultra-short-term loans between large banks. Theoretically, this flow of supposedly secured lending acts as mere background lubricant for the engine of finance, like the motor oil circulating in your Ford F-150. You don’t notice it until it’s not there, and then all of a sudden you’re throwing rods and sucking valves, and the darn vehicle is a smoldering goner in the breakdown lane.

The strange action on the repo scene suggests that some big banks are in big trouble, and probably because the “innovative investments” they’ve engineered — as a substitute for the true purposes of capital, such as enabling production of real goods at a profit — are proving once again to be little more than swindles and frauds, like last time. Things like interest rate swaps and credit default “insurance.” Have your eyes glazed over yet? The bottom line is an impressive potential for losses to go critical, multiply daisy-chain style, cascade wildly, and then start wrecking real things — like the supply lines to your supermarket.

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

Gold’s outlook for 2020

Gold’s outlook for 2020 

This article is an overview of the economic conditions that will drive the gold price in 2020 and beyond. The turn of the credit cycle, the effect on government deficits and how they are to be financed are addressed.

In the absence of foreign demand for new US Treasuries and of a rise in the savings rate the US budget deficit can only be financed by monetary inflation. This is bound to lead to higher bond yields as the dollar’s falling purchasing power accelerates due to the sheer quantity of new dollars entering circulation. The relationship between rising bond yields and the gold price is also discussed.

It may turn out that the recent extraordinary events on Comex, with the expansion of open interest failing to suppress the gold price, are an early recognition in some quarters of the US Government’s debt trap. 

The strains leading to a crisis for fiat currencies are emerging into plain sight.

rum 1

Introduction

In 2019, priced in dollars gold rose 18.3% and silver by 15.1%. Or rather, and this is the more relevant way of putting it, priced in gold the dollar fell 15.5% and in silver 13%. This is because the story of 2019, as it will be in 2020, was of the re-emergence of fiat currency debasement. Particularly in the last quarter, the Fed began aggressively injecting new money into a surprisingly illiquid banking system through repurchase agreements, whereby banks’ reserves at the Fed are credited with cash loaned in return for T-bills and coupon-bearing Treasuries as collateral. Furthermore, the ECB restarted quantitative easing in November, and the Bank of Japan stands ready to ease policy further “if the momentum towards its 2% inflation target comes under threat” (Kuroda – 26 December). 

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

Global Markets commentary and outlook

Global Markets commentary and outlook

…..’Cause I’ve had the time of my life..and I owe it all to you..

The original song from Dirty Dancing is one of my all time favourites and somehow reminds me of the Global Markets performance this year.Every conceivable asset class (except cash) posted positive returns ,thanks to the LIQUIDITY provided by global central banks.The Fed is my view moved to implement the “ high pressure economy” regime outlined in former chair Janet Yellen’s 2014 speech at the Boston Fed Reserve bank       https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/yellen20161014a.htm

Indirecly this document suggest the US central Bank has returned to the Greenspan approach to bubbles- they will deal with the consequences once it pops.

The chart below explains the LIQUIDITY story.

Gone are the good old days when Earnings used to be tailwind for market valuations.

The polarising performance of US markets.

The two stocks, Apple and Microsoft, each having a market cap of USD 1 trillion have contributed the most to 2019’s total stock-market returns and also hold that position for the entire decade.

The number of Zombie companies continue to rise along with their market caps.

The above charts were examples of distortion created by excess pumping of money.

Jerome Powell raised the bar  for raising rates significantly whereas the bar for lowering rates has gone down. More evidence that Central Bankers will tolerate higher inflation and low or negative real rates.

BOFA has a crystal ball and they see the endgame approaching .

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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