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“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

“Last Hurrah” for Central Bankers

We’ve all seen zombie movies where the good guys shoot the zombies but the zombies just keep coming because… they’re zombies!

Market observers can’t be blamed for feeling the same way about former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke was Fed chair from 2006–2014 before handing over the gavel to Janet Yellen. After his term, Bernanke did not return to academia (he had been a professor at Princeton) but became affiliated with the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Bernanke is proof that Washington has a strange pull on people. They come from all over, but most of them never leave. It gets more like Imperial Rome every day.

But just when we thought that Bernanke might be buried in the D.C. swamp, never to be heard from again… like a zombie, he’s baaack!

Bernanke gave a high-profile address to the American Economic Association at a meeting in San Diego on Jan. 4. In his address, Bernanke said the Fed has plenty of tools to fight a new recession.

He included quantitative easing (QE), negative interest rates and forward guidance among the tools in the toolkit. He estimates that combined, they’re equal to three percentage points of additional rate cuts. But that’s nonsense.

Here’s the actual record…

That QE2 and QE3 did not stimulate the economy at all; this has been the weakest economic expansion in U.S. history. All QE did was create asset bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate that have yet to deflate (if we’re lucky) or crash (if we’re not).

Meanwhile, negative interest rates do not encourage people to spend as Bernanke expects. Instead, people save more to make up for what the bank is confiscating as “negative” interest. That hurts growth and pushes the Fed even further away from its inflation target.

What about “forward guidance?”

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

David Stockman on What Triggers the Next Financial Collapse

David Stockman on What Triggers the Next Financial Collapse

financial collapse

International Man: You have sounded the alarm on a coming financial crisis of historic proportions. How do Trump’s trade policies figure into your view that a crisis is coming?

David Stockman: Trump’s trade policies only create more risk and rot down below.

They’re just kicking the can down the road. With this latest move by the Fed, they have cut the interest rates three times and short-term rates are back at 1.55%. They’re pumping their balance sheet back up—it’s up $300 billion just since September.

The Fed has reverted to all of the things that have created the underlying rot—and that means when finally things break loose, it’s going to be far worse than it would have otherwise been.

Given that they’re kicking the can down the road, they’re building the pressure in the system to really explosive levels.

The trade chaos that Trump’s creating is probably the catalyst that will bring down the whole house of cards.

At end of the day, it’s about the Red Ponzi. The world economy would be not nearly as good as it looks had the Chinese not been borrowing like there’s no tomorrow and building regardless of whether its efficient or profitable.

This has kept the global economy inching forward on a totally artificial basis. You could track it; some people call it the “China credit impulse.” Every time they get into trouble, they turn on the printing press. That causes commodity prices to rise and industrial activity and trade to pick up. It shows up in the GDP numbers, and then everybody gets all excited.

The fear of recession that we had a while back has now abated. We’re back to another global reflation meme, but none of this is sustainable.

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

Peter Schiff: The 20’s Will Be An Explosive Decade for Gold

Peter Schiff: The 20’s Will Be An Explosive Decade for Gold

In 2019, gold had its best year since 2010. Peter Schiff appeared on the RT Dec. 31 and said he thinks the yellow metal should have done even better. And given the current economic conditions, he believes the 20’s will be an explosive decade for gold.

You know, the reason the US stock market went up this year is because the Fed surprised everybody by doing exactly what I had been predicting they would do. They aborted their feigned attempt to normalize their interest rates and shrink their balance sheet. They went back to rate cuts and quantitative easing. This is extremely bullish for gold.”

Peter emphasized that gold should have been up a lot more in 2019, but he thinks it will catch up over the next several years — probably next year in particular.

Gold is going to be one of the best-performing assets classes, if not the best-performing asset class on the planet.”

Peter noted that gold made significant gains in 2019 despite a dollar that was relatively flat.

But the dollar is going to fall through the floor. That means gold prices are going to go through the roof.”

Peter said we are about to enter a new decade of stagflation  – low economic growth and increasing inflation. He said it’s going to be even worse than the stagflation we saw in the 1970s.

This is going to be more like an inflationary depression. So, this century, the depression is going to come a decade early. It’s not going to be the roaring 20s. It’s going to be a decade of inflationary depression in the United States.”

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

Rickards: World on Knife Edge of Debt Crisis

Rickards: World on Knife Edge of Debt Crisis

Rickards: World on Knife Edge of Debt Crisis

Herbert Stein, a prominent economist and adviser to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, once remarked, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

The fact that his remark is obvious makes it no less profound. Simple denial or wishful thinking tends to dominate economic debate.

Stein’s remark is like a bucket of ice water in the face of those denying the reality of nonsustainability. Stein was testifying about international trade deficits when he made his statement, but it applies broadly.

Current global debt levels are simply not sustainable. Debt actually is sustainable if the debt is used for projects with positive returns and if the economy supporting the debt is growing faster than the debt itself.

But neither of those conditions applies today.

Debt is being incurred just to keep pace with existing requirements in the form of benefits, interest and discretionary spending.

It’s not being used for projects with long-term positive returns such as interstate highways, bridges and tunnels; 5G telecommunications; and improved educational outcomes (meaning improved student performance, not teacher pensions).

And developed economies are piling on debt faster than they are growing, so debt-to-GDP ratios are moving to levels where more debt stunts growth rather than helps.

It’s a catastrophic global debt crisis (worse than 2008) waiting to happen. What will trigger the crisis?

In a word — rates. Low interest rates facilitate unsustainable debt levels, at least in the short run. But with so much debt on the books, even modest rate increases will cause debt levels and deficits to explode as new borrowing is sought just to cover interest payments.

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

Peter Schiff: The Fed Is Not Done Cutting Until It Gets to Zero

Peter Schiff: The Fed Is Not Done Cutting Until It Gets to Zero

Peter Schiff recently appeared on Kitco news with Daniela Cambone to talk politics, the economy and the Fed. He said that no matter what Jerome Powell is saying, the Fed central bank isn’t finished with rate cuts. 

Lisa started out the interview asking Peter what he thought about the impeachment hearings and Trump’s prospects for reelection. Peter said it certainly looks like the House will impeach Trump. He doesn’t think it’s likely the Senate will remove him from office, but he also doesn’t think the president will be reelected in 2020 unless the economy can hold together.

I thought it was far more likely that he was elected originally, but I don’t think his prospects are as great now as they were then, although the conventional wisdom is the opposite. Most people thought he had no chance of winning last time and they think he can’t lose this time because they think we have this great economy, but we don’t. We just have another stock market bubble.”

Lisa pointed out that unemployment is supposedly at 50-year lows.

Well, sure. The unemployment rate was very low when Obama left office. I mean, the unemployment rate, at least the official rate, was declining for almost the entirety of the Obama presidency, and when Donald Trump ran against low unemployment, he said that the numbers were fake. That they were phony. That it was a fraud. That it was a hoax, and if you look at the real unemployment rate, where you look at all the people that were working part-time that wanted to work full-time, all the discouraged workers who had dropped out of the workforce, that the real unemployment rate was much higher. And that’s still the case today.

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

Trump Urges Fed To Cut Rates, Launch QE To Counter “Strong” Dollar

Trump Urges Fed To Cut Rates, Launch QE To Counter “Strong” Dollar 

President Trump took to Twitter this morning to admonish Fed Chair Powell (something he hasn’t done for a little while).

Trump said “Would be sooo great if the Fed would further lower interest rates and quantitative ease.”

Why? The economy is doing great right?

There’s just two things…

First, the dollar is at 5-month lows having tumbled since the Phase One trade deal was “completed”…

Source: Bloomberg

and Second, The Fed is printing money at its fastest pace since the financial crisis…

Source: Bloomberg

Notably Dallas Fed’s Kaplan hinted briefly in his speech this morning that we should not assume the dollar will be the reserve currency forever.

Is A Global Crash Just Around The Corner? Central Banks Are Cutting At The Fastest Rate Since The Financial Crisis

Is A Global Crash Just Around The Corner? Central Banks Are Cutting At The Fastest Rate Since The Financial Crisis

There is something very fishy about the world’s economic situation. On one hand, US president Trump keeps repeating that the US economy is the strongest it has ever been, with global strategists, economists and officials parroting as much they can, repeating that the world economy is also set to rebound sharply any minute now. And yet, two things stand out.

As we pointed out first last month, and as Convoy Investments echoed last week, with the US economy allegedly doing very well, the Fed’s balance sheet is now expanding at a rate matched only briefly by QE1, and faster than QE2 or QE3, in the aftermath of September’s repo fiasco which provided Powell with an extremely convenient scapegoat on which to hang the return of “NOT QE” (which, we now know, is in fact QE.)

The Fed’s unprecedented balance sheet expansion in a time of alleged economic stability and solid growth is a handy explanation why the S&P has been soaring in the past two months, and as we pointed out, a remarkable correlation has emerged whereby the S&P is up every week the Fed’s balance sheet is higher, and down whenever the balance sheet has declined.

And so, while helping us understand what has been the fuel for the market’s recent blow-off top meltup, the Fed’s emergency intervention does beg the question: is there something amiss more than just the repo market, and is Powell telegraphing that a far more serious crisis may be looming.

It’s not just Powell, however. It’s everyone.

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

Trapped

Trapped

What? You thought a 850+ point drop in the $DJIA would result in a down week? No Sir. The unholy alliance has struck again. Massive jawboning by multiple administration officials about how well the China trade deal was going, a favorable jobs report and above all, the US Federal Reserve, all contributed to a furious rally to make markets green for the week on (when else?) magic risk free Friday.

What was the tell? The same tell it’s been every week since the beginning of October. When the Fed’s balance sheet rises so does the market. One down week in the Fed’s balance sheet coincided with the only down week in markets since then.

Before you know it you have a trend (via zerohedge):

This is how predictable our markets have become. Tell me the size of Fed’s balance sheet next week and I’ll tell you what markets will do next week. Is it really this farcical? It appears so.

By that measure of course we can presume markets will just keep rising until next June as the Fed has indicated “not QE” will continue until then and their daily repo operations are now the ones on autopilot.

Investors are rightfully cheering gains having now realized that nothing matters but the Fed.

But be careful in cheering too much. All this action hides a rather very uncomfortable fact, a fact that may eventually see the air come out of this ballon faster than it is going in.
And that fact is that the Fed, and all other central banks, are trapped. Trapped in a coming disaster of their own making.

And be clear: As we saw this week again, the air can come out quickly. After all 90% of November gains simply disappeared in a matter of a couple of days. The subsequent furious comeback leaving a rather unusual weekly candle on $SPX (I’ll discuss this separately in an upcoming technical update).

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

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

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

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless.  The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent.  New highs continue to be reached practically every day.

Over this stretch, many investors have been conditioned to believe the stock market only goes up.  That blindly pumping money into an S&P 500 ETF is the key to investment riches.  In good time, this conditioning will be recalibrated with a rude awakening.  You can count on it.

In the interim, the bull market may continue a bit longer…or it may not.  But, to be clear, after a 370 percent run-up, buying the S&P 500 represents a speculation on price.  A gamble that the launch angle furthers its steep trajectory.  Here’s why…

Over the past decade, the U.S. economy, as measured by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), has increased about 50 percent.  This plots a GDP launch angle that is underwhelming when compared to the S&P 500.  Corporate earnings have fallen far short of share prices.

Hence, the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy.  Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness.  And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day.

Central planners at the Fed – like other major central banks – have taken monetary policy to a state of madness.  Zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, repo market intervention, not-QE, mass-asset purchases, and more.

These schemes have fostered massive growth in public and private debt with nothing but lackluster economic growth to show.  What’s more, these schemes have produced massive asset bubbles that have skyrocketed wealth inequality and inflamed countless variants of new populism.

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

Peter Schiff: If They Were Smart, They Wouldn’t Be in the Stock Market

Peter Schiff: If They Were Smart, They Wouldn’t Be in the Stock Market

Peter Schiff hit a number of subjects in his most recent podcast, including bitcoin, the stock market, wealth inequality, the Fed and the voting age. He also said we should be thankful for capitalism.

Stock markets hit record highs again this week. Some of it was due to more optimism about a trade deal. Peter said he underestimated the impact of QE4on the markets.

I mean, I knew QE4 was coming. I was 100% sure of that. I knew the Fed was going to cut rates, and they’ve been doing that. I just kind of underestimated how much upward pressure it was going to put on the US stock market. I actually thought that the dollar would be falling as a result of the Fed surprising everybody by doing exactly what I expected, which was cutting rates and going back to QE. Well, they did exactly what I expected, except the dollar hasn’t gone down. But I just think I want to add ‘yet.’ The dollar hasn’t gone down  – yet. Because it is going to go down and when it falls, it’s going to drop like a stone. And I don’t think that’s going to be a positive for the US stock market or the US bond market, and we’re going to see a much bigger move up in the price of gold.

Peter said a lot of people who are making money in the US stock market think they’re smart, but they’re not.

If they were smart, they wouldn’t be in the stock market. Or if they’re in it, they’re simply in it as a momentum trader that say, look, I know this is BS, but hey, they’re a bunch of idiots buying stocks, so I’m going to buy stocks now so I can sell to these idiots, and I’m going to get out the door before they realize the market has turned.”

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

The History Of Interest Rates Over 670 Years

The History Of Interest Rates Over 670 Years

Today, we live in a low-interest-rate environment, where the cost of borrowing for governments and institutions is lower than the historical average. It is easy to see that interest rates are at generational lows, but, as Visual Capitalist’s Nicholas LePan notes below, did you know that they are also at 670-year lows?

This week’s chart outlines the interest rates attached to loans dating back to the 1350s. Take a look at the diminishing history of the cost of debt—money has never been cheaper for governments to borrow than it is today.

The Birth of an Investing Class

Trade brought many good ideas to Europe, while helping spur the Renaissance and the development of the money economy.

Key European ports and trading nations, such as the Republic of Genoa or the Netherlands during the Renaissance period, help provide a good indication of the cost of borrowing in the early history of interest rates.

The Republic of Genoa: 4-5 year Lending Rate

Genoa became a junior associate of the Spanish Empire, with Genovese bankers financing many of the Spanish crown’s foreign endeavors.

Genovese bankers provided the Spanish royal family with credit and regular income. The Spanish crown also converted unreliable shipments of New World silver into capital for further ventures through bankers in Genoa.

Dutch Perpetual Bonds

perpetual bond is a bond with no maturity date. Investors can treat this type of bond as an equity, not as debt. Issuers pay a coupon on perpetual bonds forever, and do not have to redeem the principal—much like the dividend from a blue-chip company.

By 1640, there was so much confidence in Holland’s public debt, that it made the refinancing of outstanding debt with a much lower interest rate of 5% possible.

Dutch provincial and municipal borrowers issued three types of debt:

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

Chinese Media Stunner: China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero

Chinese Media Stunner: China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero

One week ago, we showed in one chart why the global economic recovery that so many expect is just a few months away, won’t happen: as the chart below shows, China’s credit intensity since 1994 has exploded. This means that before the Global Financial Crisis, China needed on average one unit of credit to create one unit of GDP. Since 2008, 2½ units of credit are required to create one unit of GDP. In other words, that China needs much more credit than 10 years ago to have the exact same amount of GDP. Injecting more credit in the economy is not the miracle solution it used to be, and the disadvantages of credit push tend to surpass the advantages.

This explosion in China’s credit intensity in the past decade has directly fueled China’s debt engine, the same debt engine that single-handedly pulled the world out of a global depression in 2008/2009. Alas, this will not happen again: China’s public and household debts are at their highest historical levels, respectively at 51% of GDP and 53% of GDP, and the private sector debt service ratio is becoming a burden for many companies, reaching on average 19.7% This records an increase from 13% before the crisis. Overall, China’s debt to GDP is fast approaching an unprecedented 320%!

Which brings us to Saxo’s dour conclusion for all those who believe that the global economy is about to enjoy another period of sustainable growth (and has confused the Fed’s QE for economic resilience and fundamentals):

Contrary to previous periods of slowdown, notably in 2008-2010, 2012-2014 and in 2016, China is unlikely to save the global economy once again.

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

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Also Be A Disaster

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Also Be A Disaster

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the IIF (Institute of International finance) global debt has soared to a new record high. The level of government debt around the world has ballooned since the financial crisis, reaching levels never seen before during peacetime. This has happened in the middle of an unprecedented monetary experiment that injected more than $20 trillion in the economy and lowered interest rates to the lowest levels seen in decades. The balance sheet of the major central banks rose to levels never seen before, with the Bank Of Japan at 100% of the country’s GDP, the ECB at 40% and the Federal Reserve at 20%.

If this monetary experiment has proven anything it is that lower rates and higher liquidity are not tools to help deleverage, but to incentivize debt. Furthermore, this dangerous experiment has proven that a policy that was designed as a temporary measure due to exceptional circumstances has become the new norm. The so-called normalization process lasted only a few months in 2018, only to resume asset purchases and rate cuts.

Despite the largest fiscal and monetary stimulus in decades, global economic growth is weakening and leading economies’ productivity growth is close to zero. Money velocity, a measure of economic activity relative to money supply, worsens.

We have explained many times why this happens. Low rates and high liquidity are perverse incentives to maintain the crowding out of government from the private sector, they also perpetuate overcapacity due to endless refinancing of non-productive and obsolete sectors t lower rates, and the number of zombie companies -those that cannot pay their interest expenses with operating profits- rises.  We are witnessing in real-time the process of zombification of the economy and the largest transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors to the indebted and unproductive.

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

The Fed Is Losing Control Over Rates Again, This Time In The Other Direction

The Fed Is Losing Control Over Rates Again, This Time In The Other Direction

Starting in late March, something unexpected happened: as the Effective Fed Funds rate drifted higher, it broke above the implicit upper bound on the interest rate corridor defined by the Interest on Excess Reserves. It was not meant to do this.

This loss of control over the effective Fed Funds rate prompted many to speculate that reserves (i.e. liquidity) in the system was too low, and sure enough, it all culminated with the end of the Fed’s tightening cycle which was followed by 3 rate cuts in the past 4 months, but more importantly, resulted in the repo crisis in late September (which we had previewed in August) and which served as the catalyst for Powell to launch “NOT QE” in October, whereby the Fed is now injecting $60 billion per month in liquidity via monetization of T-Bills, a process that has promptly sent the Fed’s balance sheet back over $4 trillion, an increase of $280 billion in 7 weeks.

Yet while the Fed’s emergency response to the repo crisis helped restore a “normal” level of liquidity to the system, another unexpected consequence has emerged: the Fed is now losing control of rates again, only this time in the opposite direction!

As Bloomberg points out this morning, as a result of its recent interference with market liquidity levels, the Fed’s key effective fed funds rate – aka the “main interest rate” that the Fed controls – is getting close to the edge of the range the Fed is targeting.

As shown in the chart below, after the Effective Fed Funds rate kept drifting ever high during the period of reserve scarcity, we now find ourselves on the other side of the boat, and as a result of the Fed’s actions such as repo operations and T-bill purchases, the effective fed funds rates has been pushed to 1.55%, just shy of the Fed’s lower bound target of 1.50% (the upper is at 1.75%). 

 …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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