Category Archives: Banking

Central Banks Are Driving Many To Cryptocurrencies

Two years ago, Bitcoin was considered a fringe technology for libertarians and computer geeks. Now, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, are gaining mainstream adoption. However, mainstream adoption has been propelled by financial speculation instead of by demand for a privately minted and deflationary medium of exchange. After the Fed’s rate hike this week, Bitcoin and alternative cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum and Dash dropped in value instantly. Bitcoin, for example, dropped by approximately 16% in value while other coins dropped by approximately 25%. However, Bitcoin’s price recovered to the previous high within 18 hours.

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Contrary to popular belief that Bitcoin is deflationary, the currency currently has an annual inflation rate of approximately 4%. The reason that Bitcoin allows investors to hedge the expansionary monetary policies adhered to by central banks is because the demand for Bitcoin is growing at a pace that is higher than the increase in the supply of Bitcoin. As explained in a Mises Daily article written by Frank Shostak in 2002, the term inflation was originally used to describe an increase in the money supply. Today, the term inflation refers to a general increase in prices.

If the original definition is applied, then Bitcoin is an inflationary currency. However, as I discussed in the 2017 edition of In Gold We Trust, the supply of newly minted Bitcoin follows a predictable inflation rate that diminishes over time. Satoshi modeled the flow of new Bitcoin as a Poisson process, which will result in a discernible inflation rate compared to the stock of existing Bitcoin by 2020. Every four years, the amount of Bitcoin minted annually is halved. The last programmed “halving” occurred in June of 2016. Therefore, the next halving will occur in 2020. The inverse of the inflation rate, the StFR, also indicates the decreasing flow of newly minted coins into the Bitcoin economy. The stock to flow ratio (StFR) of Bitcoin is currently 25 years; however, the StFR ratio will increase to approximately 56 years. This means that the StFR of Bitcoin should surpass gold’s during the next five years. Prior to January 3, 2009, no Bitcoin existed. Therefore, Bitcoin’s StFR was effectively zero. However, the rapid reduction in the amount of Bitcoin mining over time results in an increasing StFR over time. By 2024, only 3.125 Bitcoin will be mined every ten minutes resulting in a StFR of approximately 119 years.

If the new meaning of inflation is applied, then Bitcoin is deflationary because the purchasing power of each unit increases overtime.

When I began investing in Bitcoin in 2014, a Model S Tesla worth $70,000 cost 230 Bitcoin. Today, a Model S Tesla worth $70,000 costs 28 Bitcoin. On June 11 of this year, the price of Bitcoin reached a new all-time high above $3,000 after trading at approximately $2,300 two weeks ago. Furthermore, Bitcoin’s market capitalization of $40 billion is expected to rise further as the uncertainty surrounding this technology decreases. Bitcoin’s price data only covers the past six years, which means there is basically no data available for statistical analysis.

Risk Assessments

The Ellsberg paradox shows that people prefer outcomes with known probability distributions compared to outcomes where the probabilities are unknown. The estimation error associated with forecasts of Bitcoin’s risks and returns may be negatively biasing the price downward. As time passes, people will become more “experienced” with Bitcoin, which may reduce uncertainty and the subsequent discount it wields on the price of Bitcoin.

An economic downturn occurs approximately once every ten years in the US, and it has been a decade since the 2007/2008 financial meltdown. If the economy cannot handle the increase in rates, and the Fed is forced to reverse their decision, the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are likely to respond positively. Although the cryptocurrency market took a steep plunge after Janet Yellen’s second rate hike of 2017, prices fully recovered within a day. The quick rebound underscores the lack of assets that allow investors to accumulate wealth safely. Negative interest rates in Europe and fiat demonetization in developing countries are still driving demand for Bitcoin and alternative cryptocurrencies. Although Bitcoin was initially ridiculed as money for computer nerds and a conduit for illegal activity, investors are beginning to see the potential for this technology to be an integral part of wealth management from the perspective of portfolio diversification.

Demelza Hays via The Mises Institute | Clipped From ZeroHedge

Cryptocurrencies Will Make The Next Crisis Worse … For Banksters

(The International Reporter, Editor’s Note): Let me remind Bundesbank and all the other banks, that after the 2008 crisis and the ‘too big to fail”criminality that since then has stolen tax payers money globally, that nobody is interested in the banking industry anymore. Along with their compounding interest rates they are seen as liars, cheats, thieves and outright criminals cashing in on the misfortune of others. Digital currencies are far safer…so far… and are the only outlet since these same criminals have been rigging the precious metals prices, currencies exchange rates and the markets in general to their own benefit and to the detriment of everyone else.

* * *

(ZeroHedge) When global financial markets crash, it won’t be just “Trump’s fault” (and perhaps the quants and HFTs who switch from BTFD to STFR ) to keep the heat away from the Fed and central banks for blowing the biggest asset bubble in history: according to the head of the German central bank, Jens Weidmann, another “pre-crash” culprit emerged after he warned that digital currencies such as bitcoin would worsen the next financial crisis.

As the FT reports, speaking in Frankfurt on Wednesday the Bundesbank’s president acknowledged the creation of an official digital currency by a central bank would assure the public that their money was safe. However, he warned that this could come at the expense of private banks’ ability to survive bank runs and financial panics.

As Citigroup’s Hans Lorenzen showed yesterday, as a result of the global liquidity glut, which has pushed conventional assets to all time highs, a tangent has been a scramble for “alternatives” and resulted in the creation and dramatic rise of countless digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Citi effectively blamed the central banks for the cryptocoin phenomenon.

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Weidmann had a different take, and instead he focused on the consequences of this shift towards digitalisation which the Bundesbank president predicted, would be the main challenge faced by central banks. In an ironic twist, in order to challenge the “unofficial” digital currencies that have propagated in recent years, central banks have also been called on to create distinct official digital currencies, and allow citizens to bypass private sector lenders. As Weidmann explained, this will only make the next crisis worse:

Allowing the public to hold claims on the central bank might make their liquid assets safer, because a central bank cannot become insolvent. This is an feature which will become relevant especially in times of crisis when there will be a strong incentive for money holders to switch bank deposits into the official digital currency simply at the push of a button. But what might be a boon for savers in search of safety might be a bane for banks, as this makes a bank run potentially even easier.

Essentially, Weidmann warned that digital currencies – whose flow can not be blocked by conventional means – make an instant bank run far more likely, and in creating the conditions for a run on bank deposits lenders would be short of liquidity and struggle to make loans.

“My personal take on this is that central banks should strive to make existing payment systems more efficient and still faster than they already are – instant payment is the buzzword here,” the Bundesbank president said. “I am pretty confident that this will reduce most citizens’ interest in digital currencies.”

Which, considering the all time highs in both Bitcoin and Ethereum, would suggest that citizens faith and confidence in the existing “payment systems”, and thus central banks, are at all time lows.

* * *

The Next Financial Crisis Has Already Arrived In Europe, And People Are Starting To Freak Out

 

China Says “Don’t Panic” As Yield Curve Inversion Deepens Amid Liquidity Collapse

The curious case of the inverted yield curve in China’s $1.7 trillion bond market is worsening as WSJ notes that an odd combination of seasonally tight funding conditions and economic pessimism pushed long-dated yields well below returns on one-year bonds, the shortest-dated government debt.

10-Year China bond yields fell to 3.55% overnight as the 1-Year yield rose to 3.61% – the most inverted in history, more so than in June 2013, when an unprecedented cash crunch jolted Chinese markets and nearly brought the nation’s financial system to its knees.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/06/11/20170613_china2_0.jpgThis inversion is being exacerbated by seasonally tight funding conditions.

June is traditionally a tight time for banks because of regulatory checks, and, as Bloomberg reports, this year, lenders are grappling with an official campaign to reduce the level of borrowing as well.

Wholesale funding costs climbed to the most expensive in history, and the 30-day Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate has jumped 51 basis points this month to the highest level in more than two years.

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And this demand for liquidity comes as Chinese banks’ excess reserve ratio, a gauge of liquidity in the financial system, fell to 1.65 percent at the end of March, according to data from the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The index measures the money that lenders park at the PBOC above and beyond the mandatory reserve requirement, usually to draw risk-free interest.

“Major banks don’t have much extra funds, as is shown by the excess reserve data,”
analysts at China Minsheng Banking Corp.’s research institute wrote in a June 5 note. Lenders have become increasingly reliant on wholesale funding and central bank loans this year, they said.

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As The Wall Street Journal reports, an inverted yield curve defies common understanding that bonds requiring a longer commitment should compensate investors with a higher return. It usually reflects investor pessimism about a country’s long-term growth and inflation prospects.

“But the curve inversion we are seeing right now is one with Chinese characteristics and it’s different from the previous one in the U.S.,” said Deng Haiqing, chief economist at JZ Securities.

The current anomaly in the Chinese bond market is partly the result of mild inflation and expectations of a slowing economy, Mr. Deng said. “At the same time, short-term interest rates will likely stay elevated because the authorities will keep borrowing costs high so as to facilitate the deleveraging campaign,” he said.

Notably, it appears officials are concerned at the potential for fallout from this crisis situation.

In an article published Saturday, the central bank’s flagship newspaper, Financial News, said that the severe credit crunch four years ago won’t repeat itself this month because the central bank will keep liquidity conditions “not too loose but also not too tight.”


Chinese financial markets tend to be particularly jittery come June due to a seasonal surge of cash demand
arising from corporate-tax payments and banks’ need to meet regulatory requirements on capital.

On Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency ran a similar commentary that sought to stabilize markets expectations. “Don’t panic,” it urged investors.

Sounds like exactly the time to ‘panic’ if your money is in this.

Source: ZeroHedge

Whistleblower: “All misery on earth is a business model”

Dutch banking whistle blower Ronald Bernard is back and this time he’s exposing the entire international banking  syndicate which controls not only the global monetary system, but the entire planet itself and all of its resources. The Bank For International Settlements sits atop the pyramid of power, followed by the IMF and World Bank. The power and directives flow downward through the big international banks, the multinational corporations, and finally to the governments. As Bernard explains, “All misery on earth is a business model.”

 

SGT Interview Summary Begins at 1:52

Full Interview: Part 1

Full Interview: Part 2

Japanese And South Koreans Fueling Bitcoin’s Meteoric Rise

Bitcoin’s 150% surge since the beginning of the year has caught the attention of “Mrs. Watanabe,” the metaphorical Japanese housewife investor, and a legion of South Korean retirees who’re hoping to escape rock-bottom interest rates by investing in cryptocurrencies, according to Reuters.  

Retail investors in Asia, many of whom are already regular investors in stock and futures markets, are turning to bitcoin in droves. Trading volume on Asia-based exchanges exploded following a Japanese law that officially designated bitcoin as legal currency. And now that the largest Chinese exchanges have reinstated customer withdrawals, the bitcoin market in China will likely stabilize, and the price will likely rise as a result.

Bitcoin was recently trading in South Korea at a $400 premium to its value on US-based exchanges, in part due to tough money-laundering rules that make it difficult to move bitcoin in and out of those markets, Reuters reports.

One of the retail traders interviewed by Reuters said she started with bitcoin because she’s worried she won’t be able to rely on her pension.

 

After I first heard about the bitcoin scheme, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. It’s like buying a dream,” said Mutsuko Higo, a 55-year-old Japanese social insurance and labor consultant who bought around 200,000 yen ($1800) worth of bitcoin in March to supplement her retirement savings.”

Everyone says we can’t rely on Japanese pensions anymore,” she said. “This worries me, so I started bitcoins.”

Another trader noted that most South Korean buyers see bitcoin as an investment; few plan to use it for payments purposes.

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The risks for these traders are high, Reuters says, alluding to the collapse of Mt. Gox, which led to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for its customers.

The digital currency is largely unregulated in Asia. In Hong Kong, exchanges operate with a money-changer’s license, while in South Korea they are regulated like online shopping malls, Reuters says.

There’s also a burgeoning cottage industry of seminars, social media and blogs all designed to promote bitcoin or bitcoin-like schemes. The cryptocurrency world is rife with scams, and pyramid schemes are becoming increasingly common.

Police in South Korea last month uncovered a $55 million cryptocurrency pyramid scheme that sucked in thousands of homemakers, workers and self-employed businessmen seduced by slick marketing and promises of wealth, Reuters reported.

Seminars in Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong promote schemes that require investors to pay an upfront membership fee of as much as $9,000, according to Reuters. Investors in these scams are encouraged to promote the cryptocurrency and bring in new members in return for some bitcoins and other benefits.

One Tokyo scheme offered members-only shopping websites that accept bitcoin, 24-hour car assistance and computer problems, and bitcoin-based gifts when a member gets married, has a baby – or even dies, according to marketing materials seen by Reuters.

Leonhard Weese, president of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong and a bitcoin investor, warned amateur investors against speculating in the digital currency.

“Trading carries huge risk: there is no investor protection and plenty of market manipulation and insider trading. Some of the exchanges cannot be trusted in my opinion.”

Regulators in China have already cracked down on money laundering at local exchanges. South Korea’s Financial Services Commission has set up a task force to explore regulating cryptocurrencies, but it has not set a timeline for publishing its conclusions, Reuters reported.

And Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) supervises bitcoin exchanges, but not traders or investors.

“The government is not guaranteeing the value of cryptocurrencies. We are asking for bitcoin exchanges to fully explain the risk of sharp price moves,” an FSA official told Reuters.

Bitcoin was trading $2,529 on Coinbase Sunday, while it traded at $2,593 on Bitflyer, one of the largest Japanese exchanges.

One Japanese finance blogger said his most popular article has been an explanation of bitcoin. Readership of the article doubled last month when bitcoin was on its record run.

Rachel Poole, a Hong Kong-based kindergarten teacher, said she read about bitcoin in the press, and bought five bitcoins in March for around HK$40,000 ($5,100) after studying blogs on the topic. She kept four as an investment and has made HK$12,000 tax-free trading the fifth after classes.

“I wish I’d done it earlier,” she said.


Clif High – Crypto Currencies Break Loose, then Gold & Silver (video)


Where does Internet data mining expert Clif High see Bitcoin going in the hyperinflation we are heading into? Clif High says, “I’ve got what you call a strike point, a numeric value our data sets are aiming at that shows Bitcoin should be about $13,800 sometime in early February of 2018. That will basically be a fivefold increase at what we are at now. . . . I always thought cryptos would have to break out first in order to upset . . . the structure of the central banks so silver and gold could break loose. I suspect silver will break loose. The rocket shot on that will be staggering, but bear in mind I am the Internet’s worst silver forecaster. I have had silver at $600 per ounce in our data since 2003. If that occurs, look at how shocking and rapid that rise is going to be.”

High goes on to say, “Gold and silver are the most undervalued assets on the planet.” . . . And he predicts “by early February, gold will be at $4,800 per ounce and silver will be around $600 per ounce.”

High also says, “The Fed can’t kill crypto currencies . . . The elites are fearful because they can’t control crypto currencies, and they can’t suppress them. There will be no more source of free printed money for bribing people. . . . When the dollar dies, the corruption and crime will be revealed.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Internet data mining expert Clif High of HalfPastHuman.com.

Source: ZeroHedge

Projecting the Price of Bitcoin

The wild card in cryptocurrencies is the role of Big Institutional Money.

Charles Huge Smith has taken the liberty of preparing a projection of bitcoin’s price action going forward:
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You see the primary dynamic is continued skepticism from the mainstream, which owns essentially no cryptocurrency and conventionally views bitcoin and its peers as fads, scams and bubbles that will soon pop as price crashes back to near-zero.

Skepticism is always a wise default position to start one’s inquiry, but if no knowledge is being acquired, skepticism quickly morphs into stubborn ignorance.

Bitcoin et al. are not the equivalent of Beanie Babies. Cryptocurrencies have utility value. They facilitate international payments for goods and services.

The primary cryptocurrencies are not a scam. Advertising a flawless Beanie Baby and shipping a defective Beanie Baby is a scam. Advertising a mortgage-backed security as low-risk and delivering a guaranteed-to-default stew of toxic mortgages is a scam.

The primary cryptocurrencies (bitcoin, Ethereum and Dash) have transparent rules for emitting currency. The core characteristic of a scam is the asymmetry between what the seller knows (the product is garbage) and what the buyer knows (garsh, this mortgage-backed security is low-risk–look at the rating).

Both buyers and sellers of primary cryptocurrencies are in a WYSIWYG market: what you see is what you get. While a Beanie Baby scam might use cryptocurrencies as a means of exchange, this doesn’t make primary cryptocurrencies a scam, any more than using dollars to transact a scam makes the dollar itself a scam.

Bubbles occur when everyone and their sister is trading/buying into a “hot” market. Bubbles pop when the pool of greater fools willing and able to pay nose-bleed valuations runs dry. In other words, when everyone with the desire and means to buy in and has already bought in, there’s nobody left to buy in at a higher price (except for central banks, of course).

At that point, normal selling quickly pushes prices off the cliff as there is no longer a bid from buyers, only frantic sellers trying to cash in their winnings at the gambling hall.

While a few of my global correspondents own/use the primary cryptocurrencies, and a few speculate in the pool of hundreds of lesser cryptocurrencies, I know of only one friend/ relative /colleague / neighbor who owns cryptocurrency.

When only one of your circle of acquaintances, colleagues, friends, neighbors and extended family own an asset, there is no way that asset can be in a bubble, as the pool of potential buyers is thousands of times larger than the pool of present owners.

I discussed The Network Effect last year: The Network Effect, Jobs and Entrepreneurial Vitality (April 7, 2016):

The Network Effect is expressed mathematically in Metcalfe’s Law: the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected devices/users of the system.

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The Network Effect cannot be fully captured by Metcalfe’s Law, as the value of the network rises with the number of users in communication with others and with the synergies created by networks of users within the larger network, for example, ecosystems of suppliers and customers.

In other words, the Network Effect is not simply the value created by connected users; more importantly, it is the value created by the information and knowledge shared by users in sub-networks and in the entire network.

This is The Smith Corollary to Metcalfe’s Law: the value of the network is created not just by the number of connected devices/users but by the value of the information and knowledge shared by users in sub-networks and in the entire network.

In the context of the primary cryptocurrencies, the network effect (and The Smith Corollary to Metcalfe’s Law) is one core driver of valuation: the more individuals and organizations that start using cryptocurrencies, the higher the utility value and financial value of those networks (cryptocurrencies).

In other words, cryptocurrencies are not just stores of value and means of exchange–they are networks.

The true potential value of cryptocurrencies will not become visible until the global economy experiences a catastrophic collapse of debt and/or a major fiat currency. These events are already baked into the future, in my view; nothing can possibly alter the eventual collapse of the current debt/credit bubble and the fiat currencies that are being issued to inflate those bubbles.

The skeptics will continue declaring bitcoin a bubble that’s bound to pop at $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 and beyond. When the skeptics fall silent, the potential for a bubble will be in place.

When all the former skeptics start buying in at any price, just to preserve what’s left of their fast-melting purchasing power in other currencies, then we might see the beginning stages of a real bubble.

The wild card in cryptocurrencies is the role of Big Institutional Money. When hedge funds, insurance companies, corporations, investment banks, sovereign wealth funds etc. start adding bitcoin et al. as core institutional holdings, the price may well surprise all but the most giddy prognosticators.

The Network Effect can become geometric/exponential very quickly. It’s something to ponder while researching the subject with a healthy skepticism.

By Charles Huge Smith | Of Two Minds

The Fat Lady Is Singing… What To Do About It

Summary

  • The peak in credit and lending is behind us.
  • Banks have sharply pulled back on lending and have been tightening lending standards.
  • Banks are saying they see less demand so why are people saying demand is strong?

Overview

We live in a credit driven economy. Most know this to be the case. Individuals and corporations borrow money from banks for homes, cars, real estate projects and other investments. The availability for credit is perhaps the most important driver of economic growth, aside from income growth. Without credit, the economy grinds to a halt. It is not a surprise that banks have a desire to lend money when times are good and pull back lending when times are tough. This seems logical but when times are tough for consumers is exactly when they need credit to push forward with new marginal consumption.

Much of my research lately has been outlining the peak in the economic cycle that occurred in 2015. Many people misconstrue this for an imminent recession call or a stock market crash prediction when that simply is not the case.

The economy follows a sine curve. It peaks and troughs and for the most part follows a nice cyclical wave. Recessions occur when growth is negative but the “peak” of the cycle occurs well before the recession. They are not simultaneous events.

The sine wave below may help illustrate my point:

The most important point to understand is the elapsed time between the peak and the recession, where we live today.

Many confuse the “peak” of the cycle with the end of the cycle when in fact, across all economic cycles, the peak occurred about ~2 years prior to the recession. After the peak of the cycle is in, growth does continue, albeit at a slower pace. It is a dangerous assumption to make when critics of this analysis say we are still growing when we are growing at an ever slowing pace. When growth goes from 3% to -2%, let’s say, it has to hit 2%, 1%, 0%, etc. in the middle. That deceleration is what occurs between the peak and the recession.

There is a large population of investors and analysts that simply look at the nominal growth rate and say 2% is still okay, without regarding that the growth has gone from 3% to 2.5% to 2% and now lower.

The time to prepare for the end of the economic cycle is after the peak in the cycle has been established. The good news, like I said before, is you typically have two years after the peak to prepare yourself.

Preparing yourself does not mean buying canned foods and building a bunker as many raging bulls like to straw-man even the smallest critics into a “doom and gloom” scenario.

Preparing yourself in my view involves reducing equity exposure, raising cash, and increasing defensive exposure.

The good news is that you can still ride the gains of the lasting bull market with an asset allocation that is slightly more defensive. You may slightly under perform the last year or two of the bull market but if offered a scenario in which you gained 3% instead of 10% in the last year of the bull market and then gained another 3% instead of -10% in the following year, I would hope you’d pick the pair of 3% because that in fact leaves you with more money.

In a raging bull market some cannot stomach “leaving” that 7% (these are clearly arbitrary numbers used to make a point) on the table.

For the rest of the piece, I will use the banking loan growth and the banking surveys to prove the peak of the credit cycle is in and we are in a period of decelerating growth, falling down the back of the sine wave as I pointed out above. The recession is in sight despite how hard many want to avoid it.

I will also at the end run through the portfolio I began to recommend on May 1st that will prepare you for slowing growth but also allows you to share in the upside should the market continue higher.

So far, that portfolio is actually outperforming the S&P 500 with a negative correlation and lower volatility. I will go through this at the end.

The Peak in Credit is Behind Us, The Fat Lady is Singing

For the analysis of the credit peak, I will use two main economic reports. First is the “Assets and Liabilities of Commercial Banks” published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the second is the Senior Loan Officer Survey also published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Assets and Liabilities

The “Assets and Liabilities” report is a weekly aggregate balance sheet for all commercial banks in the United States. The release also breaks down several banking groups. The most interesting part of the report is the breakdown of loan group in which you can see auto loans, real estate loans, consumer loans and much more.

Most importantly, this is hard data and not subject to sentiment, feeling or bias. Banks are either growing their loan books at a faster pace or a slower pace. This is perhaps one of the biggest economic signals. Banks would experience lower demand or credit issues and tighten up their loan books before that lack of credit leaks into the economy in the form of lower growth.

The following data from the Assets and Liabilities report will indicate just how much banks have reeled in their lending and prove the peak in credit growth is long gone.

All Commercial & Industrial Loans:

This is exactly as it sounds; all loans banks make, the broadest measure of credit availability. This is an aggregation of all the loans made by all the commercial banks in the survey. Currently this report aggregates 875 domestically chartered banks and foreign related institutions.

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Rarely do I look at any data series in nominal terms, not year over year that is, but this chart does show the peaks in total credit fairly clearly. Credit rises week after week without ever slowing down. The only times when there was a pause, drop, or large deceleration in credit creation was during times of economic distress. Banks are fairly smart and they won’t lend if risk is too high, uncertainty is too great or credit quality is too low.

Many will speculate on the reason for a drop off in bank lending but the reason truthfully isn’t that important.

The growth rate in total credit shows you exactly when the fat lady began to sing on loan growth.

The question is not whether credit growth has peaked, that is clear. Credit growth is also never negative without a recession and we are getting dangerously close to that. If the prevailing sentiment is that demand is high, why are banks pulling back lending at a record pace?

The rate of the drop in credit growth has been accelerating. Some may point to the current administration and the uncertainty surrounding policy changes but I would push back and say that growth peaked and was falling since 2015, far before this political scenario.

It is very critical to look at the above loan growth chart in the context of the sine curve at the beginning of this piece. If negative growth is a sign of recession, I think you’d be crazy not to shift defensive. Don’t sell all stocks, just know where you are in the cycle.

This is the broadest measure of all credit, so what is the specific sector that is causing the aggregate loan growth to plummet.

The context of the cycle is clear in the above chart so for all the specific loan sectors going forward I will focus on this cycle only from 2009 through today. The report is also on a weekly basis. If a data series does not start from 2009 or prior, that is because that is all the data available as some series began in 2014.

Real Estate Loans:

Credit growth in the real estate sector peaked later than overall credit but has certainly registered its highest growth of the cycle.

Real estate clearly does well in times of credit expansion and less so during times of credit growth contraction.

Mapping home price growth from the Case-Shiller Home Price Index over real estate loan growth should highlight the importance of credit growth for real estate and the dangers of disregarding its rollover.

Not surprisingly, there is a high correlation between real estate loan growth and home price growth. Just briefly skipping ahead (will return to this) the Senior Loan officer survey also shows that banks are claiming lower demand for real estate loans; mortgages and more specifically, commercial real estate.

(Federal Reserve)

(Federal Reserve)

It is hard to overstate the importance of this, specifically the commercial real estate demand. People claim “demand is booming” or something of the sort but banks, the ones who actually make the loans, are claiming demand for real estate loans is the weakest since just before the last housing crisis. Again, not making that call but this drop in loan growth and demand is telling a far different story than those who claim demand is through the roof.

Consumer Loans: Credit Cards:

Consumer loan growth in the credit card space are following trend with the rest of loan growth, still growing but decelerating and months past peak.

With credit card growth rolling over, in order to keep up with the same consumption, consumers need to spend their income. The problem is income growth is falling as well.

Total real aggregate income is near its lowest level of the cycle.

With loan growth slowing and income growth slowing, where is the marginal consumption going to come from? With this data in hand, it should not some as a surprise that GDP growth has gone from 2% to 1% and sub 1% as of the latest Q1 reading.

What are banks saying about consumer demand?

(Federal Reserve)

Across all categories banks are reporting weaker demand. Again, where is the strong demand that everyone keeps talking about? It is not showing up in loan growth data or in banking demand surveys.

I will reiterate this point continually; loans are still growing and income is still growing but at a slower pace and past peak pace. This should put into context where we are in the broader economic cycle.

Auto Loans:

Unfortunately, the auto loan data started in 2015 so there is no previous cycle to use for comparison. Nevertheless, the peak in auto loan growth occurred in the summer of 2016, and like other credit, has been declining to its lowest level of the cycle.

Not much more needs to be discussed on auto loans that is not widely covered in the media. Subprime auto loans and sky-high inventories are a massive issue. In fact, auto inventories are the highest they’ve been since the Great Recession.

(BEA, FRED)

The goal here is not to predict a subprime auto loan issue but rather to point out yet another area of growth that is slowing to its lowest level of the cycle.

Commercial Real Estate:

While the peak in commercial real estate loan growth is in as well, the peak occurred later than the aggregate index. CRE loan growth topped out in 2016 while the aggregate loan growth peaked closer to the beginning of 2015.

As I pointed out above, banks are sending a serious warning sign on the commercial real estate market.

The senior loan survey shows a triple threat of warning signs from the banks. They are claiming falling demand, tighter lending standards and uncertainty about future prices.

Weakening demand:

Tightening Standards:

The following is an excerpt from the senior loan survey on commercial real estate:

A warning from the banks.

The fat lady has been singing on credit growth…So what do you do?

How To Prepare

On May 1st, I put out a recommended portfolio that the average investor can follow. The portfolio is a take on Ray Dalio’s All Weather portfolio.

I strongly believe peak growth is behind us, and when that happens, growth decelerates until the eventual recession. I am not in the game of predicting the exact date of the next recession.

I do not want to be long the market or short the market per se.

The best way to phrase my positioning is I want to be long growth slowing.

The portfolio I recommended (and will continue to update and change asset allocation on a weekly basis. Follow my SA page for continued updates) was the following:

(All analysis on this portfolio is from the time of recommendation, May 1st, to the time of this writing on May 18).

I use SCHD in my analysis as I mentioned I would choose this over SPY for additional safety but either one is fine.

Since the recommendation, the portfolio is up an excess of 0.96% above the S&P 500 with under 2/3 the volatility and a negative correlation.

The weighted beta of this portfolio, given the asset allocations above, is 0.02. This portfolio is nearly exactly market neutral and has a yield of around 2.5%, above the S&P 500. This portfolio protects you in all scenarios. If the stock market continues to rise, your portfolio should rise just slightly and you should continue to clip a nice coupon.

Should the market fall, the bond allocation will provide safety and stability to the portfolio. A portfolio like this allows you to weather the bumpy ride, stay invested, and continue to clip a dividend yield.

Of course, this is not an exact science and past performance is no indication of future results. Also, those who chose to follow a defensive, yet still net long, portfolio such as the one above can replace SPY or SCHD with their favorite basket of stocks. The reason I chose the ETF was for simplicity.

The percentages above are what I feel are best for the current environment we are in. It will allow me to share partially in the upside while mitigating my downside. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to protect capital.

If you want more equity beta, reduce TLT exposure and raise SPY exposure (or your favorite stocks).

This portfolio is the best way in my opinion to not be long, not be short, but be neutral and long growth slowing.

I will continue to update this portfolio and rotate asset allocation as the economic data changes and my positioning becomes more bullish or bearish.

Disclosure:I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in TLT, GLD, IEF over the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

By Eric Basmajian | Seeking Alpha