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Yellen Blames “Enormous Debt And Buybacks” For Coming Default Wave; Morgan Stanley Says It’s All The Fed’s Fault

Yellen Blames “Enormous Debt And Buybacks” For Coming Default Wave; Morgan Stanley Says It’s All The Fed’s Fault

In June 2017, Janet Yellen decided to wave a red flag before the bulls of fate, and responding to a question on financial system stability, the then-Fed chair said post-crisis regulations had made financial institutions much “safer and sounder”, and as a result she went on to predict that there would never again be a financial crisis “in our lifetimes” to wit:

Will I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? No, probably that would be going too far. But I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will.”

While the bulls cheered this idiotic prediction, some were quick to compare this statement by Yellen to Neville Chamberlain’s infamous – and very, very wrong – “peace in our time” speech. In retrospect the some were right because less than three years later, the world is going through the biggest financial crisis in every living person’s lifetime, which has resulted in the most aggressive central bank market stabilization and intervention in history.

Also in retrospect, it is clear that Yellen didn’t have any bloody idea what she was talking about (then, or any other time when she was boring traders and analysts to death with her droning, narcoleptic monotone) even as we – among others- were warning that it was her monetary policy decisions that guaranteed the next crisis would put 2008 to shame. And sure enough, while the current crisis was sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, it is what comes next that the financial crisis will truly strike home as thousands of companies that loaded up on cheap, cheap debt during the Bernanke, Yellen and Powell Feds, default.

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

Fourth Turning Economics

Fourth Turning Economics

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe 

Image result for total global debt 2019

The quote above captures the current Fourth Turning perfectly, even though it was written more than a decade before the 2008 financial tsunami struck. With global debt now exceeding $250 trillion, up 60% since the Crisis began, and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields, it is clear to all rational thinking individuals the next financial crisis will make 2008 look like a walk in the park. We are approaching the eleventh anniversary of this crisis period, with possibly a decade to go before a resolution.

As I was thinking about what confluence of economic factors might ignite the next bloody phase of this Fourth Turning, I realized economic factors have been the underlying cause of all four Crisis periods in American history.

Debt levels in eurozone, G7, US and Germany

The specific details of each crisis change, but economic catalysts have initiated all previous Fourth Turnings and led ultimately to bloody conflict. There is nothing in the current dynamic of this Fourth Turning which argues against a similar outcome. The immense debt, stock and real estate bubbles, created by feckless central bankers, corrupt politicians, and spineless government apparatchiks, have set the stage for the greatest financial calamity in world history.

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

Brace Yourself: The Next Epic Collapse Could Be Weeks Away

Brace Yourself: The Next Epic Collapse Could Be Weeks Away

There wasn’t a group of people more wrong about the 2008 financial crisis than those at the Federal Reserve.

Mere months before the disaster hit in earnest, the nation’s highest economic and financial officials were vocal that there was nothing to worry about.

Most memorable of these are perhaps two comments from former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke…

In January 2008, he said, “The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

And later that year, in July, he said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the two government-sponsored enterprises that kicked off the credit crisis a few months later – were “in no danger of failing.”

And it wasn’t just Bernanke. The same delusional sentiment was echoed by almost all the top Fed and Treasury officials… as well as those in the mainstream financial media and academia.

Of course, we all know how things played out…

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the effects rippled throughout the economy, kicking off the largest financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And the S&P 500 – a good proxy for the U.S. stock market – went on to fall by over 56%.

The reason I’m telling you this today is to remind you that people exhibit laughable sentiments near the peak of bull markets.

And today, we’re hearing much of the same sentiment that was displayed before the 2008 crisis.

But as you’ll see below, it’s not the only sign I’m seeing of a coming crisis…

A Contrarian Indicator

I’ve written before about why I believe we’re near the peak of the largest bubble in human history.

And as I’m about to show you, there are clear indicators of a coming crisis… in the auto sector… the housing sector… and in the economy as a whole.

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

Janet Yellen Suggests Strengthening The ‘Fed Put’

Janet Yellen Suggests Strengthening The ‘Fed Put’

In a speech in Hong Kong this week, former Fed chair Janet Yellen stated that “global central banks don’t have adequate crisis tools.” According to that logic, she believes that launching additional multi-trillion dollar rounds of quantitative easing and cutting interest rates into negative territory – two aggressive and controversial monetary tools that are currently available – are simply not enough. Yellen’s comments this week echo comments that she made in September 2016 when she was still Fed chair: 

The Federal Reserve might be able to help the U.S. economy in a future downturn if it could buy stocks and corporate bonds, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Thursday. 

Speaking via video conference with bankers in Kansas City, Yellen said the issue was not a pressing one right now and pointed out the U.S. central bank is currently barred by law from buying corporate assets. 

But the Fed’s current toolkit might be insufficient in a downturn if it were to “reach the limits in terms of purchasing safe assets like longer-term government bonds.”

“It could be useful to be able to intervene directly in assets where the prices have a more direct link to spending decisions,” she said, adding that buying equities and corporate bonds could have costs and benefits.

If the Federal Reserve is ever allowed to buy stocks and corporate bonds, it will create an extremely dangerous situation in which investors, speculators, and business leaders will feel that they can take virtually unlimited risk and will still be backed by the Fed. This phenomenon is known as a moral hazard or the Fed Put.

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

Federal Reserve Confesses Sole Responsibility for All Recessions

Federal Reserve balance sheet reduction not happening yet even as the Fed applauds its own success

In a surprisingly candid admission, two former Federal Reserve chairs have stated that the Federal Reserve alone is responsible for creating all recessions in the United States.

Former Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve creates all recessions
First, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said that
Expansions don’t die of old age. They get murdered.

To clarify this statement, former Chair Janet Yellen placed the murder weapon in the Fed’s hands:

Two things usually end them…. One is financial imbalances, and the other is the Fed.

Think that through, and you quickly realize that both of those things are the Fed. Is there anyone left standing who would not say the Fed’s quantitative easing in the past decade was the biggest cause of financial imbalances all over the world in history? Moreover, whose profligate monetary policies led to the Great Financial Crisis that gave us the Great Recession?

So, the Fed loads the gun with financial causes and then pulls the trigger. In fact, I think it would be hard to find a major financial imbalance in the US that the Fed did not have a hand in creating or, at least, enabling. Therefore, if those are the only two causes, then it is always the Federal Reserve that causes recessions by its own admission.

And, yet, those Fed dons look so pleased with themselves.

Yellen went on to say that when the Fed is the culprit, it is generally because the central bank is forced to tighten policy to curtail inflation and ends up overplaying its hand. (She didn’t mention that the Fed’s monetary policy may have a hand in creating financial imbalances.)

Exactly, nor did she mention that the inflation they were “forced” to curtail always happens because of financial imbalances the Fed created or enabled. That is why I call our expansion-recession cycles, rinse-and-repeat cycles.

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

Party On: Fed Chairman Powell Capitulates to the Market

Party On: Fed Chairman Powell Capitulates to the Market

FED Chairman Powell, who for a time was appearing to go rogue and stray off the beaten path of loose monetary policy paved by so many of his predecessors, has collapsed his resistance and utterly given in to the demands of the market.

At a forum hosted by the American Economic Association in Atlanta last Friday, FED Chairman Powell was a “good boy” and did exactly what Wall Street demanded.

He stuck to a well-written script of carefully selected words, focusing time and again on a few in particular, but most notably the word “patient”.

The context in which this word was used was in reference to raising interest rates.

As we have noted in previous articles, the hawkish approach adopted by FED Chairman Powell was ill received by both the markets and President Trump, who has been in an open feud with the FED.

This insistence on raising interest rates has caused the markets to gyrate wildly, causing sporadic, sharp dips lower in the broad stock market. This struck deep fear into investors, as they began to worry that the end of the “easy money” era was over.

Like his predecessor Janet Yellen, who also carefully chose the word “patient”, Powell intentionally selected this word to signal to the markets that (also like Yellen) he was willing to put on the velvet gloves when it came to handling the markets.

FED Chairman Powell stated the following:

“We’re listening carefully with … sensitivity to the message that the markets are sending and we’ll be taking those downside risks into account as we make policy going forward.”

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

Volcker Rebukes Bernanke and Yellen

Volcker Rebukes Bernanke and Yellen

In his new book, “Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government,” by Paul Volcker (1979-1987) with Christine Harper, the former Fed Chairman delivers a sound rebuke to Chairmen Ben Bernanke (2006-2014) and Janet Yellen (2014-2018), and other Fed governors and economists, for fretting overmuch about deflation.  He argues that the true danger is that loose monetary policy leads to inflation and market contagion caused by the manipulation of risk preferences.

Volcker specifically chides Bernanke and Yellen for their fixation on a two percent inflation target, one of the main ornaments on the data dependent Fed Christmas Tree.  “How did central bankers fall into the trap of assigning such weight to tiny changes in a single statistic, with all of its inherent weakness?” he asks.  Good question. Volcker writes in Bloomberg:

“Deflation is a threat posed by a critical breakdown of the financial system. Slow growth and recurrent recessions without systemic financial disturbances, even the big recessions of 1975 and 1982, have not posed such a risk.  The real danger comes from encouraging or inadvertently tolerating rising inflation and its close cousin of extreme speculation and risk taking, in effect standing by while bubbles and excesses threaten financial markets. Ironically, the ‘easy money,’ striving for a ‘little inflation’ as a means of forestalling deflation, could, in the end, be what brings it about.  That is the basic lesson for monetary policy. It demands emphasis on price stability and prudent oversight of the financial system. Both of those requirements inexorably lead to the responsibilities of a central bank.”

Of course, Volcker is cut from different cloth than his successors.  Janet Yellen was only chairman of the Federal Reserve Board for four years and with good reason.

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

Yellen Wants Fed to Commit to Future Booms to Make Up for Busts

Former Fed Chair Yellen promotes “Lower for Longer”, a policy in which the Fed knowingly keeps interest rates too low.

Here’s the asinine policy proposal of the day: Fed Should Commit to Future ‘Booms’ to Make Up for Major Busts.

The U.S. Federal Reserve should commit to letting economic booms run on enough to fully offset collapses like the 2007 to 2009 Great Recession, former Fed chair Janet Yellen said on Friday, urging the central bank to make “lower-for-longer” its official motto for interest rates following serious downturns.

Elaborating on how the central bank should think about what to do if rates have to be cut to zero again in the future and can’t go any lower, she said the Fed should promise now that it will keep rates low enough to let a hot economy make up for lost time.

“By keeping interest rates unusually low after the zero lower bound no longer binds, the lower-for-longer approach promises, in effect, to allow the economy to boom,” Yellen said in remarks delivered at a Brookings Institution conference. “The (Federal Open Market Committee) needs to make a credible statement endorsing such an approach, ideally before the next downturn.”

What We Are Doing Already

The official policy is what we are doing already. May as well make a policy out of it.

The caveat, of course, is the Fed does not realize what it’s already doing.

Ass Backward

There is one more major flaw. It’s ass Backward. We have major busts because the Fed blew major bubbles.

The dotcom bubble arose when Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan held interest rates too low, too long with irrational fears of a Y2K disaster.

The housing bubble was a direct result of Greenspan holding rates too low, too long in the wake of dotcom and 911 disaster.

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

ECB & Bonds – People Believe What They Want to Believe

QUESTION: the ECB is arguing that given the low free float of EU bonds (especially German), bonds not owned by the ECB or other central banks, the impact of an end to APP purchases will be nowhere comparable to the tapering sell-off in the US in 2013. Bank research teams are hanging on to this idea to make positive forecasts in the EUR exchange rate versus the USD. They say an end-date for the APP programme may not result in a higher risk/term premium in the European government bond market.
Could you comment on this, please? Many thanks for all your work,
GM

ANSWER: The ECB knows it has to stop the QE program. They also know that Yellen was correct in lecturing them that interest rates had to be “normalized” so they know there is a real meltdown coming. That is inevitable. Pension funds cannot buy 10-year bonds at 1.5% or even 3% locking in losses for 10 years. I really fail to see that claiming there is such a small float, because the ECB has been the 800-pound gorilla buying everything, that interest rates will not rise. That is just complete fallacy. There is a small float because they have DESTROYED the bond market in Europe.

Draghi has proved something incredibly important – Demand-Side Economics has been a complete and utter failure. After 10 years of manipulating interest rates, that they want to put private bankers in prison for under the Libor Scandal, the ECB has failed completely. In just 7 days, the German bunds dropped from 16415 to 15939 – that was 5.9%. The 2013 decline in US 30-year Treasuries back in 2013 was 16%. So what the Bunds did in 7 days in their decline based upon events in Italy reflect that the ECB is trying to paint a picture that yes – rates will rise and bonds will decline.

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

Trump and the Federal Reserve

Trump and the Federal Reserve

Many of us would rather not think about the possibility of President Trump getting reelected, but there is little doubt that he is thinking about it.

If Trump is serious about winning reelection, he may want to reconsider the sort of people he is appointing to the Federal Reserve. Virtually all political experts agree that a central factor in a president’s reelection prospects is the state of the economy in the year he or she is running. But Trump is appointing people who are likely to support rapid increases in interest rates, which very well could slow economic growth.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t pay much attention to the Fed. People usually perceive its decisions about interest rates and inflation as affecting only Wall Street and big investor types. But the Fed has an enormous impact on the lives of ordinary workers. When it chooses to raise interest rates, as it has been doing for the last 15 months, it is making a conscious decision to slow the economy.

Higher interest rates discourage people from buying new cars and homes. Fewer home owners refinance mortgages. Businesses and state and local governments are less likely to borrow to invest in new factories, equipment and infrastructure. When growth slows, the economy has fewer jobs. The unemployment rate could stop falling and even rise. People with jobs also are worse off because they have less bargaining power in a weaker labor market. Their wages rise less rapidly and may not keep up with inflation.

The Fed and its leadership should matter to all of us, in other words.

Until the beginning of February, the central bank was led by Janet L. Yellen. Over the previous 15 months, Yellen, an Obama appointee, went along with four interest rate hikes, but she was much more cautious about rate increases than many other economists.

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

 

The Two Janet’s And The Perfect Storm Ahead

The Two Janet’s And The Perfect Storm Ahead

The Bloomberg news crawler this morning is heralding the heart of our thesis: Namely, that “flush with cash from the tax cut”, US companies are heading for a “stock buyback binge of historic proportions”.

This isn’t a “told you so” point. It’s dramatic proof that corporate America has been absolutely corrupted by the Fed’s long-running regime of Bubble Finance. Undoubtedly, the C-suites view the asinine Trump/GOP tax cut not as a green light to invest and build for the long haul, but as manna from heaven to pump their faltering share prices in the here and now.

And we do mean a gift just in the nick of time. The giant Bernanke/Yellen financial bubble is finally springing cracks everywhere, putting corporate share prices and executive stock option packages squarely in harms’ way.

So what could be more timely and efficacious than an enhanced, government debt-financed wave of stock buybacks to rejuvenate the speculative juices on Wall Street and embolden the robo-machines and punters for another round of buy-the-dip?

Indeed, corporate stock buying is now cranking at a $1 trillion annual rate or nearly double the rate of the last several years. That huge inflow of cash and encouragement to Wall Street will undoubtedly break the market’s fall in the short-run; and over the next several quarters, perhaps, enable an extended stop-and-start stepwise decline rather than a sudden sharp plunge as in the fall-winter of 2008-09.

It also underscores why the Paul Ryan school of conservative policy wonks got it so wrong on the corporate rate cut. They still dwell in a pari passu world where higher after-tax rates of return would, in fact, stimulate increased investment, growth, employment and income.

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

Danielle DiMartino Booth: Don’t Count On The Powell Fed To Rescue The Markets

Danielle DiMartino Booth: Don’t Count On The Powell Fed To Rescue The Markets

The new Fed Chair may break from his predecessors

The recent gut-wrenching drop in asset prices began on the first day of the job for new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

How is Mr. Powell likely to react to a suddenly sick-looking market? Will he step in forcefully to reassure investors that there’s a “Powell put” in place as a backstop?

To address these questions, former analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Danielle DiMartino Booth, returns to the podcast this week. In her opinion, having studied Powell’s previous statements, she thinks those expecting him to continue the market support his predecessors provided will likely be quite disappointed.

Powell appears to be no large fan of continued quantitative easing, and has long been on the record as concerned about the eventual pain its unwind will cause. He very well may resist riding to the market’s rescue at this time, allowing natural market forces to finally have their way:

Look, this is a message that market participants do not want to hear: It is not the Federal Reserves job to put a floor under risky asset prices.

Compare and contrast Jerome Powell’s silence in the wake of the flash crash on his first day at work to Alan Greenspan — who got on an airplane the day after the Black Monday crash of 1987, canceling an appearance he was to have made, and reassuring the markets with a statement on Tuesday morning that the Federal Reserve was standing by and ready and willing and available to satisfy any kind of disruption in the banking and financial systems. That was the day — October 20, 1987 — that the Greenspan put was born.

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

The Debt Beneath

The Debt Beneath

Debt is irrelevant and matters not. It’s different this time. That’s the message from politicians, markets and participants. Tax cuts pay for themselves (they do not), leverage doesn’t matter (it does) and the increased costs of servicing the debt as a result of rising rates will be offset by imaginary real wage growth to come (they won’t). But the calmest market waters in history continue to keep these illusions alive as asset prices keep levitating from record to record.

Debt does matter and it was ironically left to Janet Yellen to voice any remnant concerns about the sustainability of debt to GDP: “It’s the type of thing that should keep people awake at nightshe said.

With good reason:

After all the debt burden has never been higher and rates, following years of enabling the largest debt expansion in human history, are starting to rise in the US. In the larger historic context rates are still low, but let’s be clear, they are rising:

And with rising rates come questions of the sustainability of servicing incredibly high debt loads.

The worldwide equity rally since the early 2016 lows has resulted in a massive increase in the market capitalization of global asset prices which have increased by over $25 trillion in value since then. As discussed in my 2017 Market Lessons US market capitalization is now north of 143% of US GDP.

Low rates and free money in form of global QE and now US tax cuts make it all possible and consequence free. But is it?

Let’s take a look at the leveraging game over the past 2 years since this is when the most recent rally began. And note in many cases we don’t have full 2017 data yet so I’m using the running 2 year data where I can pull it. The trend is the same: Up, up and away.

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

2017 Year In Review

Tortoon/Shutterstock

2017 Year In Review

Markets fiddle while Rome burns

Every year, friend-of-the-site David Collum writes a detailed “Year in Review” synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year’s is no exception. As with past years, he has graciously selected PeakProsperity.com as the site where it will be published in full. It’s quite longer than our usual posts, but worth the time to read in full. A downloadable pdf of the full article is available here, for those who prefer to do their power-reading offline. — cheers, Adam

Introduction

“He is funnier than you are.”

~David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, on Dave Barry’s Year in Review

Every December, I write a survey trying to capture the year’s prevailing themes. I appear to have stiff competition—the likes of Dave Barry on one extreme1 and on the other, Pornhub’s marvelous annual climax that probes deeply personal preferences in the world’s favorite pastime.2 (I know when I’m licked.) My efforts began as a few paragraphs discussing the markets on Doug Noland’s bear chat board and monotonically expanded to a tome covering the orb we call Earth. It posts at Peak Prosperity, reposts at ZeroHedge, and then fans out from there. Bearishness and right-leaning libertarianism shine through as I spelunk the Internet for human folly to couch in snarky prose while trying to avoid the “expensive laugh” (too much setup).3 I rely on quotes to let others do the intellectual heavy lifting.

“Consider adding more of your own thinking and judgment to the mix . . . most folks are familiar with general facts but are unable to process them into a coherent and actionable framework.”

~Tony Deden, founder of Edelweiss Holdings, on his second read through my 2016 Year in Review

“Just the facts, ma’am.”

~Joe Friday

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

Weekly Commentary: Chronicling for Posterity 

Weekly Commentary: Chronicling for Posterity 

Janet Yellen’s Wednesday news conference was her final as Fed chair. Dr. Yellen has a long and distinguished career as an economist and public servant. Her four-year term at the helm of the Federal Reserve is almost universally acclaimed. History, however, will surely treat her less kindly. Yellen has been a central figure in inflationist dogma and a fateful global experiment in radical monetary stimulus. In her four years at the helm, the Yellen Fed failed to tighten financial conditions despite asset inflation and speculative excess beckoning for policy normalization.

Ben Bernanke has referred to the understanding of the forces behind the Great Depression as “the holy grail of economics.” When today’s historic global Bubble bursts, the “grail” quest will shift to recent decades. Yellen’s comments are worthy of chronicling for posterity.

CNBC’s Steve Liesman: “Every day it seems we look at the stock market, it goes up triple digits in the Dow Jones. To what extent are there concerns at the Federal Reserve about current market valuations? And do they now or should they, do you think, if we keep going on the trajectory, should that animate monetary policy?”

Chair Yellen: “OK, so let me start, Steve, with the stock market generally. I mean, of course, the stock market has gone up a great deal this year. And we have in recent months characterized the general level of asset valuations as elevated. What that reflects is simply the assessment that looking at price-earnings ratios and comparable metrics for other assets other than equities, we see ratios that are in the high end of historical ranges. And so that’s worth pointing out.

…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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