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The ‘new normal’ has been postponed (and probably canceled)

The ‘new normal’ has been postponed (and probably canceled)

There remains a hope that once we get past the economic and social effects of the pandemic, all of us will be able to return to something resembling normal life before the pandemic—even if it is a “new normal” marked by heightened vigilance and protection against infectious disease and more work at home for office workers as companies realize they don’t need to maintain as much expensive office space.

But the date for this recovery to a new normal seems to keep getting postponed. The International Air Transport Association now projects a full recovery in international passenger traffic will take until 2024, a year later than the association projected back in April. The hotel industry will get a bit of a jump on the airline industry with a projected recovery by 2023The situation is so bad for restaurants that no one seems to be willing to project a date for anything that might be called a recovery.

Office building owners—who are suffering lower rent collections and lease cancellations—seem lucky in comparison with a recovery expected by the end of 2022.

Retailers of all kinds continue to suffer as closures abound throughout the United States. And, anyone who relies on commuter foot traffic for sales is hurting.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank just signaled that in the wake of such a sluggish economy it will keep short-term interest rates near zero until 2023. One commentator provided a list of hobbies that Fed board members could take up to fill their time between now and then.

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

Fed’s GDP and Unemployment Projections: Who Believes Them?

In addition to its blather about interest rates, the Fed also made numerous economic projections.
Economic Projections

Please consider the Economic Projections of FOMC Participants under their individual assumptions of appropriate monetary policy, September 2020.

Fed’s GDP, Unemployment, PCE Inflation Projections

Fed's GDP, Unemployment, PCE Inflation Projections 2020-09

GDP Projection

The Fed believes GDP will only contract 3.7% in 2020 then rebound 4% in 2021, and 3% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

Unemployment Projection

The Fed believes the Unemployment Rate will be 7.6% in 2020, 5.5% in 2021, and 4.6% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

PCE Inflation Projection

The Fed believes Core Personal Consumption Expenditure inflation (excluding food and energy) will be 1.5% in 2020, 1.7% in 2021, and 1.8% in 2022.

Do you believe this?

GDP Poll

Unemployment Poll

PCE Poll

My Take

  • GDP: I will take the under. Way under. Much of the rebound was due to $600 pandemic stimulus checks that expired on July 25. This will be a huge headwind going forward.
  • Unemployment: I am leery of games with the participation rate and labor force but I will go with higher.
  • PCE : This one is humorous. For months, the Fed has committed not only to 2% but letting inflation run hotter than expected for some time to make up for needed lost inflation. Yet the Fed admits it will not hit its targets until 2023. PCE inflation, as measured, is a joke. So perhaps the Fed is on target.

Unspoken Truth

Unspoken Truth

We all know it yet the unspoken truth deserves to be said out aloud.

You all heard the phrases ‘Don’t fight the Fed’, and ‘ there is no alternative’. Can we be clear what these phrases really mean? They mean people are buying assets at prices they otherwise wouldn’t because a central planning committee is putting in market conditions that changes their market behavior.

People are paying forward multiples that are higher than they would if they earned higher interest income. The ‘desperate search for yield’ they call it. Think of it as a forced auction. You must pay, and you must pay more because you can’t bid on anything else and neither can anyone else hence there are now bidders for ever less available product (i.e. think shrinking share floats) driving prices wildly higher. And as central banks have become permanently dovish over the past decade Fed meetings are the principal impetus for rallies. Indeed most gains in markets come around days that have Fed Day written on them, a well established history going back decades now.

A fact the Fed itself is very well aware of:

“In a 2011 paper, New York Fed economists showed that from 1994 to 2011 almost all the S&P 500’s returns came in the 3 days around an FOMC decision. Over this period the index rose by 270%, and most of those gains happened the before, the day of, and the day after a Fed meeting.”

So Pavlovian has the response become that shorts automatically cover ahead of Fed meetings and investors buy ahead of Fed meetings expecting a positive response. The Fed is the market as it’s driving its entire behavior. The “Fed put” they call it. Another phrase that explicitly acknowledges that investors are orienting their risk profile behavior on what this unelected committee does.

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

Negative Interest Rates Have Arrived

We are often warned that negative interest rates are an approaching menace — not an immediate menace.

Yet are negative rates already reality in the United States? Has the unholy day already arrived?

Today we don the sleuth’s cap, step into our gumshoes… and unearth evidence that negative interest rates are not the future menace… but the present menace.

What is the evidence? Answer anon.

Under negative interest rates…

Your bank does not compensate you for stabling your money with it. You instead compensate the bank for stabling your money.

A man sinks a dollar into his bank. Under standard rules he hauls out a dollar and change on some distant date — perhaps $1.05.

These days he is of course fortunate to bring out $1.01.

Yet under negative interest rates he endures a rooking of sorts. He pulls out not a dollar and change — but change alone. The bill itself has vanished.

His dollar may be worth 97 cents for example. Thus his dollar — rotting down in his bank — is a sawdust asset, a wasting asset, a minus asset.

Would you willingly hand a bank a dollar today to take back 97 cents next year? You are a strange specimen if you would.

Yet that is precisely as the Federal Reserve would have it…

The Federal Reserve wants your money eternally up and doing, searching, hunting, grasping… adventuring…

It must be forever acquiring, forever chasing rainbows, forever upon the jump.

That is, the Federal Reserve would not allow your money one contemplative moment to sit idle upon its hands… and doze.

For a dollar in motion is a dollar in service — in service to the economy.

The dollar in motion runs down goods and services. It invests in worthwhile and productive enterprises.

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

$65 Oil And $5000 Gold: Traders Expect Volatility In Key Commodities

$65 Oil And $5000 Gold: Traders Expect Volatility In Key Commodities

The year of the pandemic put two commodities under the spotlight, but for different reasons. Gold prices hit an all-time high in August, while crude oil slipped into negative for a day in April, when demand crashed and inventories soared.

Both oil and gold have seen much volatility this year. Oil prices started 2020 at over $60 a barrel, dipped to the low teens in April – with front-month WTI Crude futures settling one day at a negative price – and rose to $40 in the summer, staying rangebound since then. The crash in demand pushed oil lower, while increased uncertainty over the economic and oil demand recovery, as well as the fears of a second COVID-19 wave, pushed investors to seek safe havens such as gold, driving the precious metal’s price to an all-time high of $2,075 an ounce last month.

The wild rides in the two commodities could represent buying opportunities, analysts argue, expecting oil and gold to rise in the medium term.

For oil, the uptrend may not come as soon as it could in gold, because of the heightened concern about the stalled demand recovery. Still, investment banks and analysts expect prices to increase from current levels over the next one to two years, especially if an effective vaccine hits the markets in 2021.

For gold, low or negative interest rates, continued economic stimulus, and the perception that gold is a hedge against uncertainty about the economy and the upcoming U.S. presidential election are expected to drive prices higher.

Alissa Corcoran, Director of Research at Kopernik Global Investors, told MarketWatch’s Myra P. Saefong that the short-term volatility in commodities could be an opportunity instead of risk.

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

An Unlikely Sector Leads the Way in Surge of Corporate Leveraged Loan Defaults

oil gas companies

From Birch Gold Group

The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Fed monetary policy continue to reveal themselves.

The latest “reveal” that’s taking center stage is risky corporate leveraged loans, with defaults soaring to their highest levels since 2010 by issuer count, and since 2015 by rate.

report by S&P Global Intelligence breaks everything down, starting with a summary:

U.S. loan defaults continued to rise in July, surpassing 4% by issuer count for the first time since 2010, after five constituents of the S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index tripped defaults on $7.7 billion of term loans.

You can see the billions in defaults by year in the chart below, and how the U.S. hasn’t seen an amount even close since 2009 (with four months still remaining in 2020):

us leveraged loan defaulted amount

“With economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic playing an increasing role, default volume over the last 12 months, at $46.35 billion, outpaces the same period of 2019 by 233%,” according to the same report.

Even more sobering than this astonishing surge, it looks like a critical sector of the economy that shouldn’t be defaulting on leveraged loans is the sector that’s contributing the most defaults…

Oil and Gas Companies Reveal How Fragile the Situation Is

It appears things wouldn’t be “so” bad if oil and gas companies weren’t defaulting by more than 30% of their total loan amount. You can see their “contribution” to this dire situation reflected in the chart below:

us leveraged loan default rate by amount

You can also see how oil and gas leveraged loan defaults could also have played a role in the dramatic Dow crash at the end of 2018 in the same chart above.

The S&P Global report notes that some examples of the energy sector carnage include (but are by no means limited to):

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

 

They’ve Done It Again

They’ve Done It Again

The stars are back in their courses. The angels are back in the heavens. And the Perfections are back within sight…

For merely 148 trading days after bottoming… the S&P returned to record heights today.

The index closed the day at 3,389 — eclipsing its February 19 height of 3,386.

Thus Jerome Powell’s maniacal persistence has yielded a reward truly fantastic. He has successfully reflated the bubble.

The Federal Reserve has itself become the market.

Shannon Saccocia, Boston Private’s chief investment officer:

Equity markets are reflecting the massive monetary and fiscal stimulus that has been injected over the past four months… the rationale to diversify away from risk assets is hard to pinpoint.

For many the rationale to diversify away from risk assets is indeed hard to pinpoint…

No Longer Considered a Bear Market Rally

Bank of America has concluded its August Global Fund Manager survey. This survey revealed that:

The majority of professional investors no longer believe this market spree represents a bear market rally.

It is as genuine as gold itself, they believe.

What is more, 31% of those surveyed believe it is “early cycle” — the highest percentage since the financial crisis.

Meantime, Deutsche Bank reports, “companies have already restarted buybacks or are considering doing so.”

Buybacks were of course a primary source of helium for the bubble presently reflating.

And the Federal Reserve’s artificially depressed rates opened the taps…

Corporations Take on More Debt Than Ever

These exorbitantly low rates enabled corporations to pile on cheap debt.

With this debt they often purchased their own stock… which reduced shares outstanding… and raised the price per share.

That is, corporations often took on debt to conduct financial sorcery.

And now — as Deutsche Bank reports — the sorcerers are at their tricks again.

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 21st August 2020 – John Law’s MMT revisited

 

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 21st August 2020 – John Law’s MMT revisited

“Earlier today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.”

It’s blowing a full hooley out there this morning, which is very bad news for my olive trees as the storm is shaking the ripening fruit off. Shame. It’s the first time our little olive grove has produced what looked likely to become full-sized olives. I was going to add them to Dirty Martinis. Meanwhile, mink farms are being wiped out by coronavirus which is proving 100% fatal to the well-dressed ferrets. Interesting, but what does it mean…?

It’s Friday, which means I am allowed to go off on something of a tangent – so let’s not worry about how long this tech rally continues, the rising tensions in Europe, Apple spending $17bln on stock buybacks, China vs US, or the US election.

What’s got me worried this morning is the headline in the FT: UK Public Debt tops £2 trillion for first time on Covid Spending Boom.

Should we worry or should we not? (Clue: the first one…)

Let me ask the question: how long can governments continue to spend their way out of the Coronavirus crisis? The bills for long-term furlough programmes and sectoral bailouts and support, increased social services as unemployment rises, and the urgent need for health spending are going to come due at some point. Is it going to be a problem, and if yes, how big?

Government debt is rocketing higher – but does it matter? Conventional thinking, based on Reinhart and Rogoff, is when debt/GDP exceeds 77% there will a significant slowdown in growth.

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

As the Bubble Slowly Pops, the Economic Chain Reaction Is Now in Progress

As the Bubble Slowly Pops, the Economic Chain Reaction Is Now in Progress

bubble

Much has been written about the economic consequences of covid-19, yet, just as in many of the analyses of the Great Depression and the 2008 crisis, the years of accumulating debt preceding the event do not attract the attention they deserve. Covid-19—or to be more precise, the lockdown—has initiated a cascading liquidation of the debt bubble that has been building for a generation. From the early 1980s, each recession has been responded to with iteratively lower interest rates. Following the bursting of the late 1980s credit bubble, Greenspan inaugurated the loosest monetary policy for a generation, creating the dotcom bubble. When this burst in 2000, it was responded to with even lower interest rates, reaching 1 percent from 2003–04, generating the housing bubble. When this burst in 2007/8, the response was 0 percent interest rates, turning a $150 trillion global debt bubble as it was then—already the largest In history—into a $250 trillion global debt bubble.

When central banks set interest rates it fundamentally distorts the pricing mechanisms of credit markets, just like price setting in other parts of the economy. Friedrich von Hayek won the Nobel Prize in 1974 for articulating that interest rates, like other prices, should be set by the market rather than central planning committees. We are not surprised when the government setting the price of food in Venezuela leads to food shortages, so we should not be surprised that 0 percent interest rates leads to a shortage in yield for investors, leading to a $250 trillion global debt bubble.

(Below is a speech I gave in the European Parliament in 2018 in which I adumbrated these points for a political audience):

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

Bank Of Ireland Is Now Imposing Negative Rates On Cash Held In Pensions

Bank Of Ireland Is Now Imposing Negative Rates On Cash Held In Pensions

If you’re holding your pension with the Bank of Ireland, you are now officially being charged to do so. 

In a move that we’re sure is going to have absolutely no consequences, the bank is starting to impose negative interest rates on cash held in pensions, according to The Irish Examiner. The bank is applying a rate of 0.65% on pension pots, which means customers will now pay the bank $65 on every $10,000 held. 

The bank commented: “European Central Bank interest rates have been negative since 2014. Since then banks have been subject to negative interest rates for holding funds overnight and market indications are that rates will remain low for some time.”

It continued: “As a result, we have applied negative rates on deposits for large institutional and corporate customers since 2016. We recently wrote to 14 investment and pension trustee firms to inform them about a rate change to their accounts, which is reflective of the negative interest rate environment.”

“The average amount held on deposit by investment and pension trustee firms is in excess of around €100m, therefore it is no longer sustainable for the Bank to continue with the current rate of interest. We provided 3 months’ advance notification of this rate change to our investment and pension trustee firm customers,” the bank concluded.

Ulster Bank is also considering similar rates in the future. The bank’s CEO, Jane Howard, said: “In terms of Ulster Bank, we did introduce negative rates earlier this year and we’ve introduced it for larger businesses with balances of over €1m.”

She continued: “As I sit here today we have no plans to charge negative interest rates for our personal customers but given the way everything happens, like Covid, so unexpectedly, it is not something I can rule out forever.”

By now, it feels like it is only a matter of time before the U.S. follows suit. And to think, none of this “prosperity” would be possible without the miracle of modern central banking.

Thanks, Christine.

UPDATE: Silver Breaks Out Above $21, What’s Next For Investors?

UPDATE: Silver Breaks Out Above $21, What’s Next For Investors?

The long-awaiting day has finally arrived.  After five long years, silver has finally reached its previous high of $21 set back in 2016.  So, now that the silver price has reached and broken through the $21 level, what’s next for investors?

Before I show the charts, let me clarify the difference in silver prices shown below and on Kitco.com.  Kitco.com uses the London Metal Exchange (LME) silver price quotes that are approximately 30-40 cents less than the silver futures on the U.S. based Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group) that Investing.com (below) and Stockcharts.com uses for silver price charts.

Yesterday, I was quite busy on my twitter feed, providing updates on the silver price.  Here were a few of my Tweets during early trading yesterday:

As I had mentioned on several articles and Twitter, silver had to break above the critical $19.75 level for it to be able to attempt the next target level of $21.  And, yesterday, that is precisely what the silver price accomplished.  Once silver broke above $19.75 and then $20, it consolidated into an ASCENDING TRIANGLE formation, which can be very bullish or positive for a continued move higher.

The silver price did push through that level and closed near the highs of the day.  Then in Asian trading last night, traders continued to pile into the shiny metal, pushing it up even further.  However, when silver reached the $21 level, it consolidated around $20.90 before pushing through once again:

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

Wait, why is The Fed buying my biggest competitors’ bonds?

Wait, why is The Fed buying my biggest competitors’ bonds?

On Cantillionaires, Sycophants and Losers

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning”

— Henry Ford

“The ultimate crisis will occur when the situation is so thoroughly perverted that the defenders of the status quo can no longer resurrect confidence in the system”

— Vincent LoCascio, Special Privilege: How the Monetary Elite Benefit at Your Expense

Over several previous blog incarnations I’ve been writing about a couple of core themes. When I started writing about artificially low interest rates and the bad outcomes they would produce, I didn’t even know the economic terms for some of the things I was writing about.

But I knew keeping interest rates artificially low, or even negative would act like a type of event horizon that would be impossible to normalize from. I knew keeping interest rates too low for too long would force fiduciaries and capital allocators out the risk curve in search of yield, and that the most vulnerable among us, such as senior citizens, were the least able to absorb the inevitable drawdowns that would entail.

I also realized early on that hot money and credit expansion would spur an explosion of money losing unicorns, who would suck up all the oxygen in all the markets cannibalizing entire markets at a loss in order to get that Series E or F up-round. That one became apparent to me when I started seeing billboards for one of my largest competitors every 1/4 mile across the entire city of Toronto on my daily commute, and every other place else I ever travelled to in North America. I knew that they were losing about $300,000,000 a year at the time. They also had some pretty kick-ass Super Bowl commercials.

I only learned about Richard Cantillon and his early economic treatise a couple years ago and since then I’ve never been able to shut up about The Cantillon Effect, which is what all this describes and what I think is the single most divisive, corrupting and toxic dynamic shaping our world today.

Max Keiser recently coined the phrase “Cantillionaires”, and that’s an accurate demarcation line between the elites and everybody else. It isn’t “the 1%”, it isn’t white privilege, it isn’t capitalism or managers vs labour.

It’s this:

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

The Fed Just Admitted It Won’t Stop Printing Money For YEARS… Here’s How to Profit From This

The Fed Just Admitted It Won’t Stop Printing Money For YEARS… Here’s How to Profit From This


The Fed will soon be buying stocks.

Earlier this week, the Fed announced that it will begin buying corporate bonds from individual companies. Before this announcement, the Fed was already involved in the:

  • The Treasury markets (US sovereign debt)
  • The municipal bond markets (debt issued by states and cities)
  • The corporate bond markets by index (debt issued by corporations)
  • The commercial paper markets (short-term corporate debt market)
  • And the asset-backed security markets (everything from student loans to certificates of deposit and more).

With the introduction of individual corporate bonds, the Fed is now one step closer to buying stocks outright.

Indeed, the Fed has made ZERO references to stopping its monetary madness. Just yesterday Fed Chair Jerome Powell emphasized to Congress that the Fed is “years away from halting its assets monetization scheme.” 

Again, the Fed is explicitly telling us that it plans on buying assets (Treasuries, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, etc.) for years to come.

The next step will be for the Fed to buy stocks.

It won’t be the first central bank to do so…

The central bank of Switzerland, called the Swiss National Bank has been buying stocks for years. Yes. It literally prints money and buys stocks in the U.S. stock markets.

Then there’s Japan’s central bank, called the Bank of Japan. It also prints money and buys stocks outright. As of March 2019, it owned 80% of Japan’s ETFs.

Yes, 80%.

The BoJ is also a top-10 shareholder in over 50% of the companies that trade on the Japanese stock market.

If you think this can’t happen in the US, think again. The Fed told us in 2019 that it would be forced to engage in EXTREME monetary policies during the next downturn.

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

The Fed’s Forever War Against Savers

The Fed’s Forever War Against Savers

The Fed’s Forever War Against Savers

The war on savers rages into its second decade.

And yesterday Field Marshal Powell vowed indefinite bombing, shelling, machine-gunning and bayoneting… until the white flag rises over enemy lines.

It is war to the knife… and from the knife to the hilt.

The only peace terms he will accept are these:

Complete, undiluted and unconditional surrender.

These hoarding hellcats must be vanquished. And their cities must be sowed with salt… as triumphant Rome vanquished Carthage… and sowed it with salt.

Here is yesterday’s dispatch from headquarters:

We are going to be deploying our tools — all of our tools — to the fullest extent for as long as it takes… We are not thinking about raising rates; we are not even thinking about thinking of raising rates.

Zero Rates Through at Least 2022

Powell and staff indicated they will clamp rates to zero, or near zero… through 2022.

We wager rates will remain clamped to zero longer yet.

Deflation hangs over the battlefield like a thick cloud of chlorine gas. And the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target appears more wishful than ever.

We do not expect any rate hikes until it lifts. And we hazard little will lift until 2022 has passed.

Meantime, Marshal Powell reminded us yesterday that the pre-pandemic 3.5% unemployment rate yielded little inflation.

He suggested, that is, that unemployment could sink below 3.5% before inflation menaced.

But it could be a long, long while before unemployment drops to pre-pandemic levels.

As we recently noted:

After the last financial crisis, over six years lapsed before employment fully recovered — 76 months.

If we assume a parallel recovery… pre-pandemic unemployment would return in 2026.

Of course comes our disclaimer: Pre-pandemic unemployment would return before 2026.

We simply do not know. Nor does anyone.

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

Fed Warns of High Downside Risks

Fed Warns of High Downside Risks

In its semiannual monetary report to the Senate Finance Committee the Fed warns of six downside risks.

The risks are not spread evenly. Low wage earners and small businesses are particularly vulnerable.

Please consider the Fed’s Monetary Policy Report to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and to the House Committee on Financial Services.

The report is 66 pages long and is full of interesting charts and comments. 

Let’s start with Powell’s statement on risk: “Despite aggressive fiscal and monetary policy actions, risks abroad are skewed to the downside.”

Six Downside Risks 

  1. The future progression of the pandemic remains highly uncertain.
  2. The collapse in demand may ultimately bankrupt many businesses.
  3. Unlike past recessions, services activity has dropped more sharply than manufacturing—with restrictions on movement severely curtailing expenditures on travel, tourism, restaurants, and recreation and social-distancing requirements and attitudes may further weigh on the recovery in these sectors. 
  4. Disruptions to global trade may result in a costly reconfiguration of global supply chains. 
  5. Persistently weak consumer and firm demand may push medium- and longer-term inflation expectations well below central bank targets.
  6. Additional expansionary fiscal policies— possibly in response to future large-scale outbreaks of COVID-19—could significantly increase government debt and add to sovereign risk.

Labor Market

The severe economic repercussions of the pandemic have been especially visible in the labor market. Since February, employers have shed nearly 20 million jobs from payrolls, reversing almost 10 years of job gains. The unemployment rate jumped from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February to a post–World War II high of 14.7 percent in April .

Unemployment Rate by Race 

Unemployment Rate by Race - Monetary Policy Report

Labor Force Participation Rate

Labor Force Participation Rate - Monetary Policy Report

Employment Declines by Wage Group 

Employment Declines - Monetary Policy

Low Wage Earner Employment

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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