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Bankrupt Cities And States Get The National Disaster They’ve Been Hoping For

Bankrupt Cities And States Get The National Disaster They’ve Been Hoping For

The people running states like New Jersey and cities like Chicago know they’re broke. Ridiculously generous public employee pensions – concocted by elected officials and union leaders who had to have understood that they were writing checks their taxpayers couldn’t cover – are bleeding them dry, with no political solution in sight.

They also know that they have only two possible outs: bankruptcy, or some form of federal bailout. Since the former means a disgraceful end to local political careers while the latter requires some kind of massive crisis to push Washington into a place where a multi-trillion dollar state/city bailout is the least bad option, it’s safe to assume that mayors and governors – along with public sector union leaders – have been hoping for such a crisis to save their bacon.

And this year they got their wish. The country is on lockdown, unemployment is skyrocketing and mayors and governors now have a plausible way to rebrand their criminal mismanagement as a “natural disaster” deserving of outside help.

Here, for instance, is an estimate of how high unemployment will spike for various states. Note that overall it’s brutal, but the distribution isn’t what you might expect:

And here’s a table of state rainy day funds (i.e., cash on hand). To their credit, oil-producing states had the discipline to save against that commodity’s inevitable price fluctuations. Other states apparently didn’t see the need:

Illinois, which has the most underfunded pensions but, interestingly, a relatively healthy labor market, apparently had its natural disaster bailout plan prepped and printed before COVID-19 was invented and released. Because governor Gov. J.B. Pritzker almost instantly had his hand out for – get this – $41 billion, a sum equal to three times the state’s estimated pandemic-related revenue loss in the coming year. Overall, governors have asked for about $500 billion in aid.

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

Finally, It Matters What The Fed Can And Can’t Print

Finally, It Matters What The Fed Can And Can’t Print

Sound money advocates have been proclaiming that “the Fed can’t print gold” pretty much since the end of the last gold standard in 1971. But no one outside our little echo chamber paid attention, fixating instead on what the Fed could print: trillions of dollars that were perfectly fine for buying anything a creditworthy person could want. To paraphrase the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Fiat currency has been berry berry good to me.”

But the reaction of the world’s central banks to this latest crisis – effectively unlimited currency creation to buy up/bail out everything everywhere – seems to have rattled people who in the past have viewed aggressively-easy money as an unequivocally good thing:

‘The Fed can’t print gold’: How the yellow metal could hit $3,000 — 50% above the current record

(Financial Post) – Bank of America Corp. raised its 18-month gold-price target to US$3,000 an ounce — more than 50 per cent above the existing price record — in a report titled “The Fed can’t print gold.”

The bank increased its target from US$2,000 previously, as policy makers across the globe unleash vast amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus to help shore up economies hurt by the coronavirus.

“As economic output contracts sharply, fiscal outlays surge, and central bank balance sheets double, fiat currencies could come under pressure,” analysts including Michael Widmer and Francisco Blanch said in the report. “Investors will aim for gold.”

BofA expects bullion to average US$1,695 an ounce this year and US$2,063 in 2021. The record of US$1,921.17 was set in September 2011. Spot prices traded around US$1,678 on Tuesday and are up 11 per cent this year.

To be sure, a strong dollar, reduced financial market volatility, and lower jewelry demand in India and China could remain headwinds for gold, BofA said.

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

What Happens When The Pandemic Ends?

What Happens When The Pandemic Ends?

Let’s assume that by the end of this year a combination of social distancing and some new and effective treatments convert covid-19 from existential threat to chronic nuisance and the economy starts to assume an air of normalcy. Which is to say that people go back to traveling and eating out and buying Chinese-made things they don’t need with money they don’t have.

Are we really home free? Or will some other, even bigger black swan come in for a landing?

To put this question into context, it helps to look at how the world got here. In extremely brief form: We engineered a tech stock bubble in the 1990s that burst in 2000, requiring drastically lower interest rates and truly insane speculation in housing to rescue the big banks. When that bubble burst in 2008, interest rates had to fall even further and even more debt – ranging from government to student to subprime auto (and, yes, mortgage) — had to be taken on to save Wall Street. Hence the term “everything bubble.”

Then came the pandemic, which burst the everything bubble and has convinced the world’s governments that truly astounding amounts of new debt are required to bail out all the parts of the private sector that have more-or-less ceased to exist.

Here, for instance, is the Fed’s balance sheet, which is a proxy for the amount of new currency the central bank has created out of thin air and dumped into the economy. The blue line is GDP growth and the red line is Fed currency creation. Note that more and more currency has to be created to maintain the same anemic growth trend:

Fed balance sheet pandemic

And here’s the federal government’s debt. Note the same situation as with the Fed: ever-greater borrowing is necessary to maintain a diminishing rate of growth.

US government debt pandemic

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

Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

To understand just how grim the coming decade is likely to be for the world’s super-rich, let’s start with three premises:

1) Capitalist democracy — defined as free individuals managing their own property and periodically electing new leaders — is the only system of social organization that’s consistent with human nature and is, therefore, sustainable. 

2) Capitalism inevitably produces inequality as a few participants — through energy, creativity, and (frequently) luck — do extremely well while the vast majority do okay and a few do very badly. 

3) Since the big winners — now commonly known as the 1% — are vastly outnumbered by the rest of society, they can only keep their exulted position if they convince the 99% to let them be. If the rich fail to make their case, everyone else will simply vote to expropriate the most visible fortunes. 

If you accept these assertions, it follows that enlightened elites would be all about fostering upward mobility, because when people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder know that by working hard and following the rules they can move their families to the next higher rung in a reasonable amount of time, they focus on their on improving prospects and don’t much care if a few billionaires live like princes and kings. 

But that’s emphatically not the case these days. The current generation of corporate and political winners have blatantly and systematically exploited nearly everyone else. Amazon, for instance, staffs its hellscape warehouses with RV caravans of migrant senior citizens working long, hard days for subsistence wages. Apple makes its high-margin phones in Chinese sweatshop factories where suicide is the biggest occupational health hazard.

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

Why A Flu Outbreak In China Can Spook Global Markets

Why A Flu Outbreak In China Can Spook Global Markets

When people talk about empires of the past, they generally mean Rome and Britain. But the biggest and in some ways most interesting empire was built and run by the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries. At it’s peak it stretched from China to Eastern Europe, which is more territory than Rome ever controlled.

Across that expanse there was free trade and unrestricted movement of people via the original “Silk Road” network. For a while there was a single currency which was accepted everywhere. 

Genghis Khan — think of him as the Mongols’ (gleefully bloodthirsty) George Washington — organized his army along what we today would call colorblind lines. Instead of units based on clans and tribes, he mixed and matched soldiers of varied backgrounds and trained them to be loyal to one another regardless of origin. He also ordered his men to marry women from conquered cities, and to integrate into local cultures.

And he loved technology, collecting engineers and other people with useful skills from conquered lands and putting them to work developing new weapons and better agricultural practices.

“Pax Mongolica,” in short, had all the makings of a nascent modern system, hundreds of years before the Industrial Revolution. 

Then came the Black Death. 

Free movement of people allowed the disease to move quickly and uncontrollably. Local populations panicked and closed themselves off, frequently slaughtering their Mongol governors in the process. Trade collapsed, the Silk Road went dark and the Mongol empire expired. 

Now fast forward to today’s world, where virtually anyone can fly or drive to virtually any other country — and millions each year do so. Trade is a huge part of most major national economies. A handful of currencies are accepted pretty much everywhere, while locals mix with visitors in melting pot mega-cities of 20 million-plus inhabitants, all breathing the same air. 

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

Past Point of No Return –John Rubino

Past Point of No Return –John Rubino

Financial writer and book author John Rubino sees the world careening toward a debt reset at an increasing pace. Rubino explains, “The coming monetary reset and what that means for gold and what that means for the rest of the global financial system, you don’t need a war to bring that about because we are making enough financial mistakes that will get us there in no time flat now without geopolitical turmoil. If you add a big war in the Middle East into the equation, then anything can happen. A scenario right now that is very, very feasible is we start shooting in the Middle East and Russia and China is on the other side of this in one way or another. They help Iran, and we have our allies helping us, and we start using these next generation weapons that are breathtakingly powerful. Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen when we start throwing these things at each other. . . . Oil spikes to $100 – $150 per barrel, and that tips the already extremely fragile global financial system over the edge. So, we get the ‘Greater Depression’ or the monetary reset or a hyperinflation or whatever we get sooner rather than later. It’s a disaster for everybody when it happens that way.”

Rubino says the monetary masters “tried to fix the financial system but could not do it.” Rubino says, “If you think you are beyond the point of no return financially as an individual, you borrow as much money as you can, and then go bankrupt. . . . Governments in the world are starting to do that now or behaving that way. . . . There is nothing they can do to fix the system. In the U.S., they tried to fix the system and scale back and they found out that is impossible…

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

Really Bad Ideas, Part 8: Yield Curve Control And Mega-Stimulus

Really Bad Ideas, Part 8: Yield Curve Control And Mega-Stimulus

It’s been obvious for a while that the next phase of global monetary madness would be both spectacular and very different from the previous phase. The question was whether the difference would be in degree or kind. 

Now the answer is looking like “both.”

Let’s start with “yield curve control,” in which central banks, instead of just pushing down interest rates, intervene to maintain the relationship between short and long-term rates. 

In a recent interview, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said the following:

“I have been interested in exploring approaches that expand the space for targeting interest rates in a more continuous fashion as an extension of our conventional policy space and in a way that reinforces forward guidance on the policy rate. In particular, there may be advantages to an approach that caps interest rates on Treasury securities at the short-to-medium range of the maturity spectrum — yield curve caps — in tandem with forward guidance that conditions liftoff from the [effective lower bound] on employment and inflation outcomes.

To be specific, once the policy rate declines to the ELB, this approach would smoothly move to capping interest rates on the short-to-medium segment of the yield curve. The yield curve ceilings would transmit additional accommodation through the longer rates that are relevant for households and businesses in a manner that is more continuous than quantitative asset purchases.” 

She sounds a bit like Alan Greenspan back in his peak obscurity days, so here’s a quick translation:

In the next recession, the Fed will promise to keep short rates at or below zero for a long time and also promise to hold longer-term rates a pre-set distance from short rates, thus freezing the slope of the yield curve in place.

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

Civil Unrest Is The New Normal Out There

Civil Unrest Is The New Normal Out There

This is getting ridiculous. Every few days another country blows up, as their citizens take to the streets with little warning and no apparent interest in a quick settlement. Here’s the first part of the “War…Civil Unrest” section of today’s DollarCollapse.com links list. As you can see the peasants have grabbed their pitchforks and besieged their betters on four continents over a wide range of issues, which implies that the stated cause in each case is just an excuse. 

DollarCollapse.com links list civil unrest

The real grievance is the sense that an unresponsive elite are sucking up all the available wealth, leaving the vast majority with (at best) zero upward mobility and at worst a return to the servitude their parents only recently escaped. To test the truth of this, watch what happens when a chastened government caves on the initial issue — and instead of heading back home the protesters ramp it up. 

Who even remembers what pulled France’s Yellow Vests into the streets? The Macron government has spent months apologizing and offering big new spending programs aimed at the protesters’ stated concerns. Yet today’s headline is about water cannons and flipped cars. Hong Kong repealed the law that ignited its riots back in June, yet today the story is protesters shooting police with arrows (!) and Chinese soldiers deploying to help “clean up the streets.” Uh huh. 

Why is this happening now? Because artificially easy money enriches the people who own the stocks, bonds and real estate that rise in value when interest rates go down. This expands the already painfully wide gap between rich and poor and turns the already high level of background resentment into a powder keg. Then it’s just a matter of a provocation. And there’s always another provocation coming.

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

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino

Financial writer and book author John Rubino says he can see the end of the economic expansion fueled by massive debt creation. Rubino explains, “Every sector of the U.S. economy is so over indebted I don’t see how we go on much longer. The Fed is desperately trying to prolong this thing. We are running trillion dollar deficits now, and what that is for is to keep the system from falling apart. We are 11 years into an expansion, a record. This is the longest bull market in history, and this is the longest economic expansion in history. . . . These guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next recession, but they are afraid that the system is so highly leveraged that even a garden variety three quarters of a percent of negative growth and a garden variety of 20 % drop in stock prices might be fatal. The system might not be able to handle that because it would cause so much damage and there are so many different places that can blow up that the system would spin out of control. We would get 2008-2009 again but on steroids because the numbers are so much bigger this time around. So, they want to avoid that at all costs.”

Rubino points out, “Fear is the enemy in a fiat currency system. Everything is based on our assumption that the guys in charge know what they are doing and that the confidence in them is good. You take that away, and they let us see them sweat, and it’s over. There is no real bottom for the dollar, euro or the yen. Their intrinsic value is zero.

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

The Fed’s “Insurance” Rate Cuts Didn’t Work. Now For The Emergency Cuts

The Fed’s “Insurance” Rate Cuts Didn’t Work. Now For The Emergency Cuts

Pity the guys now running the Fed. They’ve inherited an economy that requires ever-bigger infusions of new credit and ever-lower interest rates to avoid financial cardiac arrest. But with interest rates already perilously close to zero the usual leeway is no longer there.

Making the best of a bad hand, Fed chair Jerome Powell has been cutting the Fed Funds rate but managing expectations for future cuts by calling the current ones “recalibration” and “insurance.” In other words, “don’t expect a quick excursion into steeply-negative territory. In fact this latest cut might be all there is.”

But the economy, like any addict, is profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing where the next fix is coming from and is behaving accordingly. From just the past couple of days’ headlines:

US manufacturing survey contracts to worst level in a decade US gross national debt jumps by $1.2 trillion, to $22.7 trillion Growth hits the wall Student loan debt soars, totaling $1.6 trillion in 2019 There is good reason to fear the repo Midwest’s faltering economies will spread pain nationwide Treasury yields sink after U.S. manufacturing weakness raises recession fears 

VC veterans host emergency meeting of unicorns as IPO ‘bubble’ implodes 

Now equities are picking up the anxious vibe. See Global stocks plunge for a second day to start Q4.

What happens next? Almost certainly, a “coordinated” round of aggressive easing by the US Fed, the ECB and BoJ. With some unconventional coercion thrown in by the People’s Bank of China. 

As for the timing, it’s just a question of “the number.” That is, how far does the S&P 500 have to fall before the stampede begins. Since this question will be answered by a bunch of largely clueless men dripping fear sweat and trying to figure out why their models have stopped working (and more poignantly why their life’s work has turned out to be a fraud), the number is unknowable in advance. 

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

The Global Debt Bubble Enters Its Blow-Off Stage

The Global Debt Bubble Enters Its Blow-Off Stage

People have been talking about a “debt bubble” for some years now. They’ve been right, of course, based on the combination of surging borrowing and plunging rates. But the bubble hasn’t stopped inflating, and recently it entered what certainsly looks like a terminal blow-off stage. Some highlights:

Though July, China’s total debt rose by $2 trillion, a year-over-year increase of 26%. And this month the Chinese government cut bank reserve requirements in an attempt to further rev up lending. 

In Japan, the junk bond market is being constrained by banks so desperate for yield that they’re lending directly to companies previously considered too risky. See Japan Junk Bond Market Hopes Crushed by Banks Hungry to Lend.

A recent week of corporate bond issuance was “the biggest weekly volume to hit global markets on record,” according to Dealogic. US investment-grade companies raised $72 billion across 45 deals, equaling the total issued in all of August. 

Numerous companies issued 30-year bonds with yields below 3%, which used to be the province of safe haven governments. Even Apple, which is sitting on an epic pile of cash, borrowed money. 

At the other end of the spectrum, junk bond issuer Restaurant Brands, which owns the Popeyes and Burger King chains, sold 8.5-year bonds with a coupon under 4%, a record low yield for a US junk issuer. 

In Europe sales of new bonds hit $1 trillion earlier than in any previous year. Fully a third of European investment-grade bonds (and some junk bonds) now trade with negative yields. And the ECB is expected to cut rates further at its upcoming meeting. 

Why is all this happening? Three reasons:

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

Europe Gives Up On Sound Money, Prepares To Join The Currency War

Europe Gives Up On Sound Money, Prepares To Join The Currency War

Not so long ago, Europe seemed to have its financial house more-or-less in order. German government spending was actually falling. Industries that had been nationalized in the socialist 70s were being privatized. The European Central Bank – run by sound money advocate Jean-Claude Trichet – was smarter and more cautious than the incoherently rambunctious Bernanke Fed. The euro, for a while, was actually preferred by many over the dollar. 

Then – gradually at first and now very quickly – everything went sideways.

Mario Draghi took over for Trichet at the ECB and promised to do “whatever it takes” to generate at least 2% inflation. Then he proceeded to deliver on that promise with massive asset purchases and negative interest rates. 

Inequality – which, we’re now coming to realize – is fed by low interest rates and easy money, rose to near-US proportions. Immigration was mishandled to the point that it became THE political issue. And populist parties opposed to the existing system attracted enough votes to rattle the mainstream parties. 

The entrenched political/financial class, shocked by the unwashed masses’ effrontery, are now responding exactly as you’d expect, with massive increases in social spending, promises of even easier money (Draghi actually claimed that there was “plenty of headroom” to cut rates from the current -0.4%) and, well, whatever else it takes to stay in power.

Here, for instance, is Germany’s government spending. Note the uptrend now that the Greens are contenders:

German government spending Europe currency war

From today’s Wall Street Journal

To win voters lost to an anti-globalization backlash, Europe’s mainstream parties are going back to the 1970s.

In Germany, the U.K, Denmark, France and Spain, these parties are aiming to reverse decades of pro-market policy and promising greater state control of business and the economy, more welfare benefits, bigger pensions and higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Some have discussed nationalizations and expropriations.

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

Will A False Flag Iran War Cause A Financial Crisis?

Will A False Flag Iran War Cause A Financial Crisis?

Just a couple of weeks ago the financial world’s biggest worry was the plunging price of oil. Supply was up, stockpiles were building and speculation was pointing towards $40 a barrel, a price at which the fracking/shale oil “miracle” would evaporate. A trillion dollars of related junk debt would default, taking a big part of the leveraged speculating community along for the ride.

Then it all changed. Someone attacked some ships and oil infrastructure in the Middle East, the US and Saudi Arabia accused Iran, and now the fear is that a major regional war will interrupt the flow of oil, sending its price way up and causing a financial crisis at least as severe as a shale oil debt collapse.

This is a legitimate concern, for two reasons.

First, oil shocks have happened in the past, most notably during the Arab-Israeli war of the 1970s. So we know what they do, and it isn’t pretty. Gas prices jump, workers can’t afford their commute, the economy slows dramatically and pretty much everyone other than domestic energy companies suffers badly.

Second and potentially more serious, the pretext for this war is so blatantly false that it risks destroying what little creditability the US government has left. Think about it: With the US doing everything it can to delegitimize and destabilize Iran while positioning assets for an invasion, Iran’s leaders … start attacking oil tankers in its offshore waters.

Does that make sense? Of course not. Much more likely is that this is yet another false flag – that is, an incident faked to give a pretext for war – and a clumsy one at that.

For readers who aren’t clear on the false flag concept and its ubiquity in geopolitics, here are just a few of the dozens of documented examples:

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

Financial Markets To Federal Reserve: Time To Start Cutting Rates

Financial Markets To Federal Reserve: Time To Start Cutting Rates

In late 2018 the US stock market tanked, in effect holding a gun to its own head and threatening to pull the trigger unless the Fed stopped raising interest rates. The Fed, painfully aware that an equities bull market is an existential threat in today’s hyper-leveraged world, quickly caved, promising no more rate increases if the market would just put down the gun.

This worked for a little while. Stocks jumped to new record highs and unicorn tech IPOs started pouring out of Silicon Valley. Normal, which is to say booming, markets were back. 

But of course it couldn’t last. An overleveraged economy is not just addicted to new credit, but to ever-increasing levels of new credit. So stable interest rates won’t stave off withdrawal. From here on out only steadily (or steeply) falling interest rates will delay the inevitable crisis. 

That’s the signal the financial markets are now sending the Fed, as stocks begin to roll back over …

S&P 500 markets tank Fed caves

… bond yields tank …

10 year Treasury yield markets tank Fed caves

… and demands grow for not just patience but acquiescence. Now the question is not if but when the Fed responds with the required cut. 

At the moment – mostly because the stock market hasn’t fallen very far — there’s still some resistance to lower rates: 

Federal Reserve is reluctant to cut interest rates, latest minutes show

(CBS News) – According to minutes released Wednesday, Fed officials noted that economic prospects for the U.S. and global economy were improving, while inflation had fallen farther below the Fed’s 2% target. 

Some officials “expressed concerns that long-term inflation expectations could be below levels consistent with” the Fed’s target of 2%. However, officials still believed a return of inflation to the Fed’s 2% target was “the most likely outcome,” according to the minutes.

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

Negative Interest Rates Spread To Mortgage Bonds

Negative Interest Rates Spread To Mortgage Bonds

There are trillions of dollars of bonds in the world with negative yields – a fact with which future historians will find baffling.

Until now those negative yields have been limited to the safest types of bonds issued by governments and major corporations. But this week a new category of negative-yielding paper joined the party: mortgage-backed bonds. 

Bankers Stunned as Negative Rates Sweep Across Danish Mortgages

(Investing.com) – At the biggest mortgage bank in the world’s largest covered-bond market, a banker took a few steps away from his desk this week to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him.

As mortgage-bond refinancing auctions came to a close in Denmark, it was clear that homeowners in the country were about to get negative interest rates on their loans for all maturities through to five years, representing multiple all-time lows for borrowing costs.

“During this week’s auctions, there were three times when I had to stand back a little from the screen and raise my eyebrows somewhat,” said Jeppe Borre, who analyzes the mortgage-bond market from a unit of the Nykredit group that dominates Denmark’s $450 billion home-loan industry.

For one-year adjustable-rate mortgage bonds, Nykredit’s refinancing auctions resulted in a negative rate of 0.23%. The three-year rate was minus 0.28%, while the five-year rate was minus 0.04%.

The record-low mortgage rates, which don’t take into account the fees that homeowners pay their banks, are the latest reflection of the global shift in the monetary environment as central banks delay plans to remove stimulus amid concerns about economic growth.

Denmark has had negative rates longer than any other country. The central bank in Copenhagen first pushed its main rate below zero in the middle of 2012, in an effort to defend the krone’s peg to the euro. The ultra-low rate environment has dragged down the entire Danish yield curve, with households in the country paying as little as 1% to borrow for 30 years. That’s considerably less than the U.S. government.

 …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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