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THE WOLF STREET REPORT: American Debt Slaves in the Weirdest Economy Ever

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: American Debt Slaves in the Weirdest Economy Ever

During the Financial Crisis, consumers deleveraged by walking away from their debts. And now, with 20 million people still claiming unemployment insurance? (You can also download THE WOLF STREET REPORT wherever you get your podcasts).

Market Update: The Fed’s Big Lie

Market Update: The Fed’s Big Lie

Ignore Powell’s happy talk. The Fed is desperate and merely playing for time.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced on Thursday that the Fed will now shift its focus from hitting inflation targets and instead prioritize closing “unemployment shortfalls”.

This gives it the aircover to do “whatever it takes” until the unemployment rate is back down into the low single digits. Inflation can now run hotter than 2%, rates can stay at 0% (or go negative) for the next decade+, more QE…. all is fair game now in the pursuit of lower unemployment.

Essentially, the Fed is now tripling-down on the same failed policies that have created today’s zombie economy and the worst economic inequality in our nation’s history.

Rich 5% own 2/3 of the wealth

Perhaps the folks at the Fed are smarter than we think, and there’s actually a grand plan they’re pursuing that’s going to work out to society’s benefit?

Sadly no, reveals this week’s expert guest, Danielle DiMartino-Booth. Danielle knows the Fed inside and out, as she worked as a consultant for nearly a decade to Richard Fischer, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, including helping deal with the Great Financial Crisis. She knows how the organization runs, as well as the specific people running it.

And her assessment is that the Fed is trapped in a nightmare of its own making and is merely playing for time at this point. Everything it throws at the situation is designed to hopefully get the system to limp through the next quarter or two without breaking, at which point they’ll scramble to come up with the next short-term “solution”.

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

The Bottom’s Falling Out

The Bottom’s Falling Out

Imagine you’re standing across the street from a house that’s on the verge of falling apart, a condemned building, an edifice devoured by rot from bottom to top. Now imagine you see a construction crew arriving to repair it, and they start to fix the roof. You would think that’s not much use if the walls, floor and foundation are just one wolf’s huff and puff away from collapse.

Still, that is what the world’s central banks are doing today: they “fix” the top by bailing out banks and allege that somehow that will fix the rest of the edifice too. In that same analogy, while central banks prop up banks, governments try to support the walls, by bailing out businesses. Again, while the floors and foundations keep on rotting away. And when the floors cave in, so of course will the walls, just like the roof.

There may appear to be some logic to all this, but it’s only the “inner logic” of an economic and political ideology that deals exclusively with how things should be, not how they are. Of course it’s nice to have a shiny new roof, and strong walls. But neither have any value if there are no more floors to support them.

This is what is happening today to our economies and societies. The 2008 crisis wasn’t bad enough to expose the failures of the “inner logic” of the system, but the fallout of COVID19 will be. And it’s not the virus that does it all, or the lockdowns, they merely expose a system that’s been rotting for many years without its floors and foundations ever being repaired.

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

Eurozone Collapse: V-Shaped Recovery Mirage Is Gone

Eurozone Collapse: V-Shaped Recovery Mirage Is Gone

Eurozone Economy Collapses 3.8% in the first quarter, the worst on record.  Spain (-5.2%) and France (-5.6%) GDP were much worse than Italy (-4.7%).

Economist Daniel Lacalle offers his thoughts on the European economy in a YouTube video. 


Daniel Lacalle✔@dlacalle_IA

EUROZONE COLLAPSE

The V-Shaped Recovery Mirage Is Gone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO_RxjESCk4 … YouTube at 🏠 ‎@YouTube


What LaCalle says about the Eurozone also applies to the US. 

What’s Next for America?

For a 20-point discussion of what to expect, please see Nothing is Working Now: What’s Next for America?

No V-Shaped Recovery

Here’s the correct viewpoint: The Covid-19 Recession Will Be Deeper Than the Great Financial Crisis.

Simply put, a quick return to business as usual is not in the cards.

Inflation or Deflation?

Meanwhile, the debate over inflation or deflation continues.

Will it be Inflation or Deflation?

If you believe the answer is inflation, then you do not understand the importance of credit and demand shocks. Click on the link for discussion.

Houston: The Banks Have A Huge Problem

Houston: The Banks Have A Huge Problem

For many years after the financial crisis, US commercial banks were mocked when instead of generating earnings the old-fashioned way, by collecting the interest arb on loans they had made, or even by frontrunning the Fed with their prop (and flow) trading desks, they would “earn” their way to just above consensus estimates by releasing some of their accumulated loan loss reserves, which thanks to creative accounting, would end up boosting the bottom line. The thinking here went that having suffered massive losses during the financial crisis “kitchen sink” when all banks suffered crushing losses to they would get bailed out, banks would then “recoup” billions in losses over time that would be run through the income statement as a reversal of accrued loss provisions.

Well, after the longest expansion in history, it’s time for this process to go into reverse, and instead of releasing loan loss reserves the banks are now starting to build them up again in preparation for a wave of consumer defaults due to the US economic shutdown.

As we reported earlier, this big story from earnings season so far – now that all major US money center banks have reported earnings – has been how much in loan loss provisions and reserves have the big US banks taken as precaution for the economic upheaval due to the coronacrisis. As shown below, on average most banks – this time including the hedge fund known as Goldman Sachs which has since pivoted to becoming a subprime lender to the masses with “Marcus” – saw their loan loss provisions surge by roughly 4x from year ago levels, with JPMorgan’s jumping the most, or just over 5x, hinting the other banks are likely undercapitalized for the storm that is coming.

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

Long Pitchforks And Water Cannons

Long Pitchforks And Water Cannons

The juxtaposition of the following two tweets is absolutely stunning and just freaking… WOW!

Potential Major Political Blowback 

Can you imagine the political blowback that is coming if the economy doesn’t snap back soon as the levered bad actor oil companies (just to name one sector)  have been bailed out while the Administration is still trying to kill Obamacare and even tried to cut food stamps to the poor earlier this year?

Nothing partisan here, we are just extrapolating the consequences and political analysis of the GFC to the current crisis.  Think about it, last week Main Street registered another 6 million-plus hit in lost jobs and junk bond investors got bailed out of their risky and dumb-ass bets.

Op-Ed: Get ready for the recovery of the 1%

There were two important economic events on Thursday. The government reported that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment, an all-time record. And the Federal Reserve announced a new program to flood the economy and financial markets with $2.3 trillion in liquidity — including buying up junk bonds from debt-laden companies.

Which one moved the market? The Fed move, driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 500 points by midday.

The market jump, unemployment surge and Fed rescue efforts all converged to form a new split in the economy, between the asset-rich and the rest of America.  — CNBC

Also, seeing a lot of the privileged Bailout Queens on Twitterati taking victory laps thinking they’re geniuses — and some even grotesquely posting pictures of their steak and lobster dinners like anybody gives a shit — after the Fed has saved their bacon for the umpteenth time.  Yet they have no clue of the consequences of what may be about to come. Must be the ultimate contrarian signal.

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

The UNFAIRNESS Economy

The UNFAIRNESS Economy

Bailouts for the rich. Barely anything for you.

Award-winning investigative journalist Matt Taibbi penned perhaps the most iconic condemnation of the bankers who created (and subsequently got bailed out during) the Great Financial Crisis:

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Tens years later, we find ourselves facing another crisis which, while triggered by the coronavirus instead of housing loans, has similar roots in a financial system made vulnerable by the unfair plunder of big banks and hedge funds — who are now being bailed out at vastly higher expense than in 2008.

Sadly, it seems we’ve learned very little over the past decade.

And as $trillions and $trillions in “rescue” stimulus are starting to be deployed by Congress and the Federal Reserve, it’s once again the financial power elite and corporate boardroom bigwigs who are receiving immediate and complete relief from the consequences of their actions.

But what will regular folks like you and me get? Crumbs, if anything.

And as taxpayers, we’re ultimately footing the bill (once again).

Given his intensive knowledge of the inner workings of Wall Street and its entanglement with the DC political machine, Taibbi explains how the inequity, abuse and fraud in today’s “Unfairness Economy” has become standard operating procedure — and will remain so until a serious enough social uprising takes place.

First, watch this 2-minute trailer:

And then click here to enjoy Peak Prosperity’s full interview with Matt Taibbi:

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

Markets and Black Swans

Markets and Black Swans

Markets and Black Swans

I began studying complexity theory as a consequence of my involvement with Long-Term Capital Management, LTCM, the hedge fund that collapsed in 1998 after derivatives trading strategies went catastrophically wrong.

After the collapse and subsequent rescue, I chatted with one of the LTCM partners who ran the firm about what went wrong. I was familiar with markets and trading strategies, but I was not expert in the highly technical applied mathematics that the management committee used to devise its strategies.

The partner I was chatting with was a true quant with advanced degrees in mathematics. I asked him how all of our trading strategies could have lost money at the same time, despite the fact that they had been uncorrelated in the past.

He shook his head and said, “What happened was just incredible. It was a seven-standard deviation event.

In statistics, a standard deviation is symbolized by the Greek letter sigma. Even non-statisticians would understand that a seven-sigma event sounds rare. But, I wanted to know how rare. I consulted some technical sources and discovered that for a daily occurrence, a seven-sigma event would happen less than once every billion years, or less than five times in the history of the planet Earth!

I knew that my quant partner had the math right. But it was obvious to me his model must be wrong. Extreme events had occurred in markets in 1987, 1994 and then 1998. They happened every four years or so.

Any model that tried to explain an event, as something that happened every billion years could not possibly be the right model for understanding the dynamics of something that occurred every four years.

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

Understanding The Keys To Power

Understanding The Keys To Power

Will be a survival requirement for the coming decade

The past decade was undoubtedly shaped by the policy adopted by the global central banking cartel to flood the world with massive amounts of liquidity (over $15 trillion) to “rescue” markets following the Great Financial Crisis.

It’s becoming increasingly clear who benefitted most from this: the ultra-rich

US wealth gap

As $trillions flowed into financial assets pushing them higher every year throughout the twenty-teens, those who owned those assets — disproportionately the very rich — saw their wealth soar.

We’re now at the point where the richest 1% owns nearly half of the world’s assets, while the bottom 60% have (often much) less than $10,000 to their name:

Global Wealth Pyramid

How has the distribution of wealth become this distorted?

Distribution of family wealth

The harsh simple truth is that those who run the system manipulate it to their benefit.

This is true in both government and industry. Those in power do ‘whatever it takes’ to remain in power and enjoy the fruits of their advantage. Any sort of social ‘duty’ is secondary (at best), and will be sacrificed if necessary.

Perhaps one of the best analyses and explanations of this is put forth by the book The Dictator’s Handbook, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. For politicians and CEOs alike, maintaining control of the “keys to power” — those who support and enable your rule — is essential.

This is why we’ve ended up with the bastardized crony form of capitalism now in place. Those running the system work hard to reward/punish anyone who aids/threatens their power base.

Like it or not, this is the world in which we live. And it’s critical to understand its nature if we want to avoid becoming unwitting serfs to it.

The most important tenets to be aware of are laid out very effectively in this short video called The Rules For Rulers, created under the supervision of Bueno de Mesquita and Smith:

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

Living On Borrowed Time

Living On Borrowed Time

How soon until the consequences of our excesses catch up with us?

The laws of physics are governed by cause and effect. But there can exist a time lag between the two.

For instance:

Note how the speed of both the bullet and the retracting latex far exceed that of the shockwave or gravity on the water contained inside each balloon.

There’s an observable time lag during which the globe of previously-contained water momentarily hangs there in space.

Then, a beat later, it’s obliterated.

Living On Borrowed Time

I’m unusually focused on time these days as we’re updating Peak Prosperity’s crown jewel, The Crash Coursevideo series.

Originally created in 2008 and updated in 2014, it lays out the macro forces driving the economy and our way of living, explaining why most of them are unsustainable and headed for trouble. That then opens the door to an avalanche of critical questioning about what the future will bring.

Updating the parade of charts and data has been eye-opening for me. When I last did this (early 2014), the S&P had just returned to the same price level that served as the apex for both the 2001 and 2008 market bubbles.

I remember how concerned I was then. How could we have returned to such reckless exuberance so quickly after the pain caused by the Dot-com bust and the Great Financial Crisis? Did we learn nothing from our previous (and recent!) excess?

Clearly not only did we not learn; we didn’t give a crap. With a “hold my beer, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” bravado, we proceeded to DOUBLE the S&P above the previous bubble highs.

Here at PeakProsperity.com, my co-founder Chris Martenson and I have spilled a lot of ink in the ensuing years, warning how QE (aka central bank money printing), stock buybacks, and record low interest rates have pushed the degree of systemic unsustainability to Bizzaro-world levels. For our most recent analysis, click herehere and here.

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

The Great Switch: The Geo-Politics of Looming Recession

The Great Switch: The Geo-Politics of Looming Recession 

Is the prospect of looming global recession merely an economic matter, to be discussed within the framework of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 – which is to say, whether or not, the Central Bankers have wasted their available tools to manage it? Or, is there a wider pattern of geo-political markers that may be deduced ahead of its arrival?

Fortunately, we have some help. Adam Tooze is a prize-winning British historian, now at Columbia University, whose histories of WWII (The Wages of Destruction) – and of WWI (The Deluge) tell a story of 100 years of spiraling; ‘pass-the-parcel’ global debt; of recession (some ideologically impregnated) , and of export trade models, all of which have shaped our geo-politics. These are the same variables, of course, which happen to be very much in play today.

Tooze’s books describe the primary pattern of linked and repeating events over the two wars – yet there are other insights to be found within the primary pattern: How modes of politics were affected; how the idea of ‘empire’ metamorphosed; and how debt accumulations triggered profound shifts.

But first, as Tooze notes, the ‘pattern’ starts with Woodrow Wilson’s observation in 1916, that “Britain has the earth, and Germany wants it”. Well, actually it was also about British élite fearof rivals (i.e. Germany arising), and the fear of Britain’s élites of appearing weak. Today, it is about the American élite fearing similarly, about China, and fearing a putative Eurasian ‘empire’.

The old European empires effectively ‘died’ in 1916, Tooze states: As WWI entered its third year, the balance of power was visibly tilting from Europe to America. The belligerents simply could no longer sustain the costs of offensive war. The Western allies, and especially Britain, outfitted their forces by placing larger and larger war orders with the United States.

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

Save The World By First Saving Yourself

Save The World By First Saving Yourself

We each have a role to play in how the world recovers from the coming crisis

Ripped from today’s headlines:

From news reports like these, it’s understandable to think that our future looks bleak.

At this point we can only ride out the consequences as the systems we depend on collapse and then ebb away — exposing that the structure of our modern way of life is really a just an edifice built of sand.

That may be true. But not necessarily.

I’m here with some good news today. There remains a multitude of options that each of us can and should do to prepare for what lies ahead. And in so doing, we can help to avert the worst of it, as well.

But only if enough of us try. Critical mass is key here.

Yes, the world is busy collapsing around us. That’s true.

But collapse is a process, not an event. It can be ameliorated and even reversed, depending on the actions we decide to take from here.

And there’s still time left to change our fate.  Not much, mind you. But enough to matter.

The good news is that more and more people are heeding the call and taking action. The bad news is that too many still aren’t.

And the worse news is that the many entrenched powers of the status quo are working against our future best interests, as they desperately cling to old notions of advantage, wealth, and privilege.

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

$1,400,000,000,000 Gone In Less Than A Week – Stock Market In Turmoil As The Trade War Dramatically Escalates

$1,400,000,000,000 Gone In Less Than A Week – Stock Market In Turmoil As The Trade War Dramatically Escalates

Our trade war with China has begun to spiral out of control, and as a result global financial markets have been thrown into a state of turmoil.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 767 points, and that represented the sixth-largest single day stock market decline in all of U.S. history.  To put that into perspective, the biggest single day decline during the financial crisis of 2008 was just 777 points.  So what we witnessed on Monday was definitely very serious.  And the Nasdaq just got absolutely monkey-hammered as well.  On a percentage basis, it was down even more than the Dow was, and it has now fallen for six days in a row.  We have not seen a losing streak that long for the Nasdaq since President Trump was elected, and some analysts are convinced that even more chaos is on the way.

Overall, 1.4 trillion dollars in stock market wealth has been completely wiped out in less than a week

It took just four brutal trading days for a $1.4 trillion wipeout in the S&P 500 stock value. From the Federal Reserve’s disappointing comments on the future of interest rates to President Donald Trump’s surprise tariffs to China’s weaponizing of the yuan, the record-long bull market took a big hit in a relatively short time.

European stocks have been getting clobbered as well.  In fact, they just experienced their largest two day decline in three years.

After Trump imposed another wave of tariffs on China at the end of last week, we knew that the Chinese would retaliate.  But we expected that the retaliation would be at least somewhat proportional.

Instead, they decided to bring down the hammer.

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

The Coming Credit Meltdown Will Be As Bad As The Great Depression And The Financial Crisis: Deutsche

The Coming Credit Meltdown Will Be As Bad As The Great Depression And The Financial Crisis: Deutsche

With investor attention increasingly focusing on what most believe will be the catalyst for the next financial crisis, namely a tsunami in corporate defaults as a result of the disastrous combination of record leverage, higher rates and an economic slowdown, overnight we presented the view of FTI global co-leader of corporate finance and restructuring, Carlyn Taylor, who predicted that “a spike in defaults is on the way, sooner or later.”

The expansion is pretty long in the tooth and there’s definitely a lot of buildup. The activity level of restructuring is rising, maybe not at the rate of bankruptcies, but the pipeline of companies we think are going to end up in restructuring, based on metrics that we analyze, that volume has gone up. And we’re so busy, which we don’t think is just market share, because we think our competitors are also very busy.

Yet while investor worries have centered on record corporate leverage…

… a growing number of strategists are warning that corporate bond market illiquidity is an even greater risk factor.

Not long after Goldman most recently warned that the biggest threat facing the broader market in general, as well as corporate bonds in particular, is a sudden collapse in liquidity, overnight UBS credit strategist Steve Caprio and his team laid out four major reasons why global corporate bond market liquidity has deteriorated over time.

These are:

  1. Rising investment fund ownership of corporate debt,
  2. Low interest rates,
  3. A lack of dealer intermediation, particularly in periods of rising credit risk, and
  4. Potential new EU regulation on trade settlement failures.

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

The Global Economy Is a Time Bomb Waiting to Explode

The Global Economy Is a Time Bomb Waiting to Explode

Alejandro Mallea / Flickr

In the aftermath of the greatest financial calamity since the Great Depression, then–chief of staff for the Obama administration Rahm Emanuel made the call for aggressive action to prevent a recurrence of the meltdown of 2008.

Although the U.S. government’s system of checks and balances typically produces incremental reform, Emanuel suggested that during times of financial upheaval, the traditional levers of powers are often scrambled, thereby creating unique conditions whereby legislators could be pushed in the direction of more radical reform. That’s why he suggested that we should never let a crisis go to waste. Ironically, that might be the only pearl of wisdom we ever got from the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Chicago, one of those figures who otherwise embodied the worst Wall Street-centric instincts of the Democratic Party. But give Rahm props for this one useful insight.

But we did let the crisis of 2008 go to waste. Rather than reconstructing a new foundation out of the wreckage, we simply restored the status quo ante, and left the world’s elite financial engineers with a relatively free hand to create a wide range of new destructive financial instruments.

To cite some examples, consider the case of the UK, where England’s local councils have taken on significant risk via structural financial products known as “LOBO loans” (lender option borrower option). Financial blogger Rob Carver explains how they work:

“[Let’s] say I offer to lend you £40 and charge you 3% interest for 5 years. Some other guy comes along and offers you the same deal; but the twist is he will have the option to ask for his money back whenever he likes.

“You wouldn’t borrow money from him because it’s clearly a worse deal. …

 …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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