Ohio’s $16 billion Police & Fire Pension Fund is following in the steps of Warren Buffett and making a big statement about owning gold. It has approved a 5% allocation to gold to help diversify the fund’s portfolio and to “hedge against the risk of inflation” according to Bloomberg.
The change was approved as “the first step” in an ongoing asset review that was presented to the fund’s board on August 26.
The fund was following the advice of its investment consultant, Wilshire Assocaites, in adding the gold allocation, according to Pensions & Investments. Additionally, the fund plans on adding the gold stake by borrowing; the fund is reportedly increasing its leverage from 20% to 25% to make the change.
“No new manager has been selected, and there currently is no timeline for implementing this change,” P&I reported.
Buffett’s move into gold has opened the door for fund managers to follow suit. Except, instead of playing in a hundred trillion dollar equity market, they are dealing with barely over $1 trillion in investable gold. This means that if the fund becomes a trend setter in the industry and if others follow suit, look out above.
Peter Schiff said on a recent podcast: “Warren Buffett seems to have a very good understanding of inflation. He doesn’t regard it as rising prices, he regards it as money supply. He’s talked about inflation as a hidden tax on savers. As a cruel tax. He understands the loss of value of money. He basically says that that’s inflation: the erosion of purchasing power of money. I think Buffett now has a much darker outlook on inflation than he did in the past.”
“Buffett is now of the opinion that inflation is going to be so high that gold is going to be particularly important to own, rather than just owning businesses,” he says.
You can listen to Schiff’s comments here:
If the inflation message starts to become clear to pension funds and main street asset managers, we could see a major sea change in psychology regarding gold as an investment.
Additionally, Rick Rule recently commented about exactly how under-owned gold was in the U.S.: “A major bank study, which I read, and I’ve quoted it before in interviews with you, says that between 0.3%-0.5% of savings and investment assets in the United States involve precious metals or precious metals securities.”
He continued: “That may have gone up because the denominator has declined the value, the Dow is an example, but the three decade-long mean was between 1.5%-2%. So gold is still very broadly under-owned, and I would suggest it’s even under-owned among people who are listening to this broadcast.”
But in plain English, another way to say it is that there simply isn’t enough gold available in the world for every pension fund to make the same 5% allocation.
Barbaric relic, pet rock, public enemy #1> Gold has begun a major transition> Buffett is attracted to enormous cash flow & dividend potential of Barrick, then Reserve Bank of India signals higher allocation, and now OHIO Police & Fire Pension approves a 5% allocation.
(Stewart Jones) As the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing practices generate the biggest debt bubble in history, gold futures are trading at record highs, a phenomenon some have called “a bit of a mystery.” However, this “mystery” was solved long ago by the laws of economics. The only “mystery” here is why—contrary to centuries of economic wisdom—we allowed centralized paper money to become the dominant form of currency in the first place.
As recent waves of civil unrest and economic turmoil have prompted some to look back in time and reflect on the observations of the Founding Fathers, it seems most have opted to reject them entirely. Yet among the founders’ many warnings against the institutions that would eventually dominate the modern world are the timeless—and astonishingly accurate—warnings against central banking.
On August 1, 1787, George Washington wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that “paper currency [can] ruin commerce, oppress the honest, and open the door to every species of fraud and injustice.” Jefferson also opposed the concept, warning that “banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” James Madison called paper money “unjust,” recognizing that it allowed the government to confiscate and redistribute property through inflation: “It affects the rights of property as much as taking away equal value in land.”
In other words, inflation is a hidden form of taxation. Washington understood this. Jefferson understood this. Madison understood this. And generations of preeminent economists since then—from Ludwig von Mises to F.A. Hayek, to Murray Rothbard—have understood this quite clearly.
And there’s nothing controversial or mysterious about sound money, that is, currency backed by some form of secure, fixed weight commodity like gold or silver. Both have been valued in some fashion for six thousand years and have been used as currency for around twenty-six hundred years. As confidence in the dollar continues to nosedive, the market is not only putting more confidence in gold and silver, but in some crypto currencies sharing many of the characteristics of gold.
The presidencies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt are rightfully regarded as some of the darkest years for freedom in America. Often overlooked, however, are the deeply repressive monetary policies introduced by both presidents. In 1838, Senator John C. Calhoun foreshadowed the economic evils that would eventually emerge at the peak of the Progressive Era, explaining,
“It is the nature of stimulus…to excite first, and then depress afterwards….Nothing is more stimulating than an expanding and depreciating currency. It creates a delusive appearance of prosperity, which puts everything in motion. Everyone feels as if he was growing richer as prices rise.”
Seventy-five years later, the autocrats running the Wilson administration dealt two devastating blows to liberty with the Federal Reserve Act and the Revenue Act, forever marking 1913 as a tragic year for liberty. Both laws struck at the heart of property rights by establishing the Federal Reserve System and the income tax, respectively. Then, in 1933, Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 6102, requiring Americans to surrender much of their gold to the US government. Shortly after, Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, artificially raising the price of gold and guaranteeing the government a profit of $14.33 for each ounce of gold it had seized from the people.
Finally, in 1971, President Richard Nixon—like any self-respecting twentieth-century Keynesian—committed himself to finishing the work of Wilson and Roosevelt by closing the gold window, forever divorcing the gold standard from the dollar. Rather than usher in a new era of economic stability, this unnatural union between the Fed and the federal government produced a vicious loop of boom-bust cycles and depressions. The consequences have not only been inflation and devaluation (both of which have stripped the people of their purchasing power and savings); now, every time a depression hits, the government is allowed to do two things: grow its power and tax and spend at will without fear of accountability.
In other words, with every inflation of currency comes an inflation of government power.
With government shutdowns of local economies, the second economic quarter of this year was among the worst in history, with the total debt-to-GDP reaching a staggering 136 percent. As the national debt approaches $27 trillion (with even bigger spending bills in the works), we can expect the days of such flagrant government spending to come to a screeching halt. If we continue on this path, that correction will result in an unprecedented collapse of the dollar and the monetary system. The ultimate danger in this scenario: the government eventually confiscates the vast majority or even all private property in order to pay off the national debt. As German American economist Hans Sennholz once said, “Government debt is a government claim against personal income and private property—an unpaid tax bill.”
This is why a dramatic downsizing of government is key to bringing the US out of this manic, outmoded cycle of depressions and upswings. For the government to fulfill its core function as a safeguard of liberty, we must prevent it from meddling in affairs beyond the boundaries prescribed by the Founding Fathers. This includes a swift withdrawal from the use of paper fiat currency and spending cuts across the board.
Such a sweeping transformation could begin with the state governments, the legislatures of which could override the federal government by passing legislation allowing individuals to use gold and silver currency.
Regardless, if meaningful legislative action is not taken somewhere, we have little choice other than to acquiesce to the gloom and terror of socialism—a system that would devour all in its path and make slaves of once free people for generations to come. Freedom is the natural ability of people to control their own destiny. Sound money has the ability to help keep people free.
(Tom Delorey) Most U.S. coin collectors know that the United States Mint continued to pump 1964-dated 90% silver dimes, quarters and half dollars into circulation through 1965 and into early 1966. The reasons for doing this were several, some of them quite reasonable at the time.
What most collectors do not know is that in the second half of 1967 the Mint secretly began clawing some of that silver back, melting down dimes and quarters and refining it back into .999 fine bars that could be sold at a higher price than the face value on the coins so destroyed.
The first good reason to issue the coins was to discourage the hoarding of rolls and bags of Brilliant Uncirculated modern coins. In the post-WW2 era there were several years where the total annual mintage of a given date and mint mark combination was relatively low across various denominations. This reflected the fact that the Federal Reserve System routinely recycled older coins back into circulation (minus worn-out or damaged pieces condemned as “uncurrent”) and only ordered new coins from the Mint when the current demand exceeded the recycled supply.
One of the most famous examples of a low-mintage modern coin is the 1950-D Jefferson nickel, with only 2,630,030 made and easily half of those snapped up by speculators. By the end of the decade original $2 rolls were selling for around 10 times that much.
In 1960, the Philadelphia Mint struck only 2,075,000 cents with a Small Date style in early January before switching production over to foreign coins for the next few months. By the time the Mint resumed domestic production in late March the date style on the cent had changed to a large format, and rolls of the Small Date cent skyrocketed. People began hoarding anything BU in the hope that lightning would strike a third time.
Other factors influencing U.S. monetary policy included a surge in the use of vending machines, so that the net demand for coinage always exceeded the recycled supply, and the introduction of the wildly popular Kennedy half dollar in 1964. On top of these factors the Treasury Department, a major player in the bullion markets for over a century, faced an inexorable rise in the market price of silver that threatened to make silver coins worth more as bullion than their face values.
A 1964-dated quarter. Struck in either 1964, 1965, or 1966. Who knows for sure when…
For years it protected the silver coinage supply from being melted by selling virtually unlimited supplies of pure silver at $1.29 an ounce (the level at which the silver in a silver dollar was worth one dollar) but it knew that if it kept on doing this that it would eventually run out of silver.
The Treasury had seen three previous periods when precious metal coins were hoarded and/or melted for their metal (gold in 1834, silver in 1857 and both during the Civil War), and it needed to keep an adequate supply of silver coins in temporary circulation while it ginned up a permanent replacement for them.
That search took time, however, and while it was taking place the Mint had to keep providing coins to the banking and vending machine industries. And so in late 1964 the Treasury announced that they would be freezing the date on coins of all denominations at 1964 until further notice. It saw one immediate victory as the speculative market in rolls and bags of modern coins crashed spectacularly, but there was still the issue of silver going out into circulation.
The testing of new coinage materials included various exotic compositions that might have been more secure in the long run, but in the end the immediate needs of the vending machine industry won out over the exotic materials that might work better years down the road. The sandwich materials authorized by the Coinage Act of 1965 included two copper-nickel outer layers clad upon a pure copper core for the dime and quarter, and two 80% silver/20% copper outer layers clad upon a 20.9% silver/79.1% copper core for the half dollar, the total coin averaging 40% silver.
The new coins were of approximately the same thickness as their 90% silver predecessors but because copper and nickel are less dense than .900 fine silver they weigh a bit less. This weight difference soon became extremely important.
The Mints began striking 1965-dated CN-clad quarters on August 23, 1965, while continuing to strike 1964-dated .900 fine quarters until January of 1966. The last silver quarters were struck at the San Francisco Assay Office (the former San Francisco Mint, which had closed in 1955 due to a then lack of demand for coinage!), which had been re-opened in the early 1960s to help fight the coin shortage. Coins made there before 1968 were struck without mint marks to discourage hoarding.
After a large quantity of clad quarters had been stockpiled (again to discourage hoarding), they were released into circulation in November 1965. The production of CN-clad dimes began a few months after the quarters, but they were not released until January 1966, probably to avoid interfering with the 1965 Christmas shopping season. In those days, when credit cards were not as common as they are today, the Mint typically saw an increased demand for coins from Thanksgiving until the new year. The striking of .900 fine dimes at Denver ended in early 1966.
The 1965 cent and nickel began production on December 29, 1965, and the 1965 half on December 30, but the half dollar does not figure into the silver withdrawal story. Huge quantities of 1965-dated dimes and quarters were struck through the end of July 1966, followed by huge quantities of 1966-dated dimes and quarters in the last five months of 1966.
Normal dating resumed in 1967, but the Mints continued to produce huge quantities of clad dimes and quarters in that year. The reason for this huge mintage was that the Treasury Department wanted to start clawing some of the silver coins back, because it knew that ordinary citizens were doing just that!
Take, for instance, my parents, and my first wife’s parents. All four of them were born around 1920, and they were all old enough to be fully aware of how damned hard life was during the Great Depression. When the clad quarters and dimes appeared both families began hoarding the older .900 fine silver dimes, quarters and halves. Millions of other “Depression Babies” did the same. My mother always told me that she slept better knowing it was there in her hiding place.
As the budding numismatist in the family I was responsible for checking the dates on the coins and putting them in paper rolls and marking the rolls “SILVER”. Canadian silver coins, common in Detroit (except for 50 cent pieces) were rolled and marked separately. My only mistake was when my parents asked if they should start saving the 40% silver halves as well. I did the math and calculated that silver would have to rise above $3.38 for the coins to ever be worth more than face value, and that would never happen! Never say never.
My brothers-in-law tell me that their Dad used to stop at his bank on payday and get rolls of dimes and quarters and bring them home where he and the boys would look through them. When the silver in the rolls dried up, my future in-laws bought quantities of “junk silver” coins from a Chicagoland coin dealer.
While they were doing this, the Treasury Dept. decided at some point during 1967 to go after the silver coins themselves.
During testimony before a House Subcommittee on Appropriations on February 27, 1968, Mint Director Eva Adams said “During 1967 the Mint was assigned an additional task resulting from the decision to recall circulating coins from the Federal Reserve System in order that silver Dimes and Quarters could be held as reserve inventories for emergency situations. The Mint will separate the mixed lots of subsidiary coins returned, retaining the silver coins.”
Mint Director Eva Adams watches a coin sorting machine pull out silver quarters. Image Credit: Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine / Coin World. Used with Permission.
Elsewhere in the testimony it is revealed that the separation was accomplished using a “delamination inspection machine” built by American Machine & Foundry. Thirteen prototypes of this machine had been authorized in June of 1967 “to replace the present manual-vision reviewing” system. I believe that this new machine was originally intended for the Fourth Philadelphia Mint then under construction, which finally opened in 1969. I assume that eventually all of the Mints would have used them.
I could not find any details anywhere on what this machine was or how it operated. My best guess, based upon the name, is that it was originally intended to find and segregate CN-clad planchets that had had one or both cladding layers split off, or de-laminate, prior to being struck. It was expected to ultimately test up to 50 planchets per second, and the best way I can think of it doing that would be by weight. A clad layer constituted one-sixth of the thickness of a planchet, and so a de-laminated planchet would be 16.67% underweight.
When sorting silver and clad coins, just set your desired weight at that of the silver coins, and the clad coins–which are slightly over 9% lighter–will go into the reject bin. Return those to circulation and keep the silver ones. A few “slick” silver coins, coins worn almost smooth (which typically average about 7% lighter), might have gone into the reject bin as well, but perfection was not the object and the Mint had a LOT of coins to sort.
The high volume of coins eventually sorted by the Mint was made possible by a little trick at the Federal Reserve Banks.
Starting at that unrecorded date in 1967, the FRBs stopped automatically recycling the dimes and quarters received by it from member banks and started warehousing them. Between December 1966 and June 1968 the total face value of all coins held by Federal Reserve Banks rose from $277.5 million to $413.5 million, presumably much of it as mixed silver and clad batches awaiting sorting.
During this secret diversionary program the commercial demand for dimes and quarters was met almost exclusively with clad coins struck during those huge mintages of 1965, 1966 and 1967-dated coins. There are references to some mixed batches of clad and silver coins being intentionally re-released when commercial demand temporarily outstripped the supply of new clad coins, but there are indications that the banks sampled the silver content of incoming batches, which would have enabled them to re-release those with the highest percentages of clad coins.
During that Congressional hearing, Ms. Adams was asked if the Mint had a rule of thumb for estimating how many silver coins remained in circulation. She replied: “This was handled through the Federal Reserve banks. We have a sampling process set up as to the approximate proportion of silver and clad which should be expected. I think the ratio of silver to clad coins is going rapidly down. The silver coins are being held out, or they have been used up. It is getting this way all over the country. This morning we received the January report of a coin sample done by one of our groups. 74.8% of the sample were clad compared to 73.5% in December.”
“We are getting many more clad in with the silver. In other words, the silver coins just aren’t there any more.” Congressman Steed replied: “That indicates that you are in sort of a race with the public, generally, trying to take these coins out of circulation?”
Ms. Adams replied: “I think this was anticipated.”
At the signing of the Coinage Act of 1965 on June 23rd of that year, President Johnson said: “Our present silver coins won’t ever disappear and they won’t even become rarities… If anybody has any idea of hoarding our silver coins, let me say this. Treasury has a lot of silver on hand, and it can be, and it will be used to keep the price of silver in line with its value in our present silver coin. There will be no profit in holding them out of circulation for the value of their silver content.”
My parents and future in-laws disagreed with him, as did millions of other Americans. The Mint did too.
According to the Annual Report by the Secretary of the Treasury for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1970, a total of 212.3 million fine ounces had been recovered during the first three years of the program, or approximately $294.5 million face worth of dimes and quarters.
Even then there may have been more bins of mixed coins sitting in Federal Reserve Banks waiting to be sorted. Mint Reports did not bother to mention them. Curiously, silver half dollars were not recalled, either because there were not enough of them coming into the FRBs to bother with or, more likely, because they would have had to have been replaced with 40% silver half dollars, and the gain in silver would have been much less.
(Dennis Miller) At the local convenience store, my wife Jo handed the clerk a $5 bill and waited for her change; finally asking for it. The clerk said, “We have a coin shortage. We have to round things to the nearest dollar.” Screw that! She dug in her purse, cobbled together the correct change and demanded the clerk give her a dollar back – while the line of “social distanced” customers behind her grew long.
The next day she bought a fountain Coke, normally $1.00 plus tax. The clerk said, “$1.00 please.” The merchant absorbed the tax. There are signs in the local stores saying they have a shortage and will buy rolled coins.
My BS meter went into full alert. A government capable of putting a man on the moon could solve a coin shortage in a matter of a few weeks. If there is a shortage, it’s because some politicos, or bankers want to create one.
(Alasdair Macleod) There appears to be no way out for the bullion banks deteriorating $53bn short gold futures positions ($38bn net) on Comex. An earlier attempt between January and March to regain control over paper gold markets has backfired on the bullion banks.
Unallocated gold account holders with LBMA member banks will shortly discover that that market is trading on vapour. According to the Bank for International Settlements, at the end of last year LBMA gold positions, the vast majority being unallocated, totalled $512bn — the London Mythical Bullion Market is a more appropriate description for the surprise to come.
An awful lot of gold bulls are going to be disappointed when their unallocated bullion bank holdings turn to dust in the coming months — perhaps it’s a matter of a few weeks, perhaps only days — and synthetic ETFs will also blow up. The systemic demolition of paper gold and silver markets is a predictable catastrophe in the course of the collapse of fiat money’s purchasing power, for which the evidence is mounting. It is set to drive gold and silver much higher, or more correctly put, fiat currencies much lower.
This is only the initial catalysing phase in the rapidly approaching death of fiat currencies.
And here it is. THIS is how The Fed is going to finish it, via an EPIC binge of money creation unlike ANYTHING that has been seen before. The effect of this will be much higher prices of Gold, Silver, Crypto, Crude, AND Stocks…
The Fed Is Expected To Make A Major Commitment To Ramping Up Inflation Soon
(Jeff Cox) In the next few months, the Federal Reserve will be solidifying a policy outline that would commit it to low rates for years as it pursues an agenda of higher inflation and a return to the full employment picture that vanished as the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Recent statements from Fed officials and analysis from market veterans and economists point to a move to “average inflation” targeting in which inflation above the central bank’s usual 2% target would be tolerated and even desired.
To achieve that goal, officials would pledge not to raise interest rates until both the inflation and employment targets are hit. With inflation now closer to 1% and the jobless rate higher than it’s been since the Great Depression, the likelihood is that the Fed could need years to hit its targets.
The policy initiatives could be announced as soon as September. Addressing the issue last week, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said only that a yearlong examination of policy communication and implementation would be wrapped “in the near future.” The culmination of that process, which included public meetings and extensive discussions among central bank officials, is expected to be announced at or around the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting.
Markets are anticipating a Fed that would adopt an even more accommodative approach than it did during the Great Recession.
“We remain firmly of the view that this is a deeply consequential shift, even if it is one that has been seeping into Fed decision-making for some time, that will shape a different Fed reaction function in this cycle than in the last,” said Krishna Guha, head of global policy and central bank strategy at Evercore ISI.
Indeed, Powell said the policy statement will be “really codifying the way we’re already acting with our policies. To a large extent, we’re already doing the things that are in there.”
Guha, though, said the approach “would be sharply more dovish even than the strategy followed by the [Janet] Yellen Fed” when the central bank held rates near zero for six years even after the end of the Great Recession.
All in on inflation
One implication is that the Fed would be slower to tighten policy when it sees inflation rising.
Powell and his colleagues came under fire in 2018 when they enacted a series of rate increases that eventually had to be rolled back. The Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate is now targeted near zero, where it moved in the early days of the pandemic.
The Fed and other global central banks have been trying to gin up inflation for years under the reasoning that a low level of price appreciation is healthy for a growing economy. They also worry that low inflation is a problem that feeds on itself, keeping interest rates low and giving policymakers little wiggle room to ease policy during downturns.
In the latest shot at getting inflation going, the Fed would commit to enhanced “forward guidance,” or a commitment not to raise rates until its benchmarks are hit and, in the case of inflation, perhaps exceeded.
In recent days, Fed regional Presidents Robert Kaplan of Dallas and Charles Evans of Chicago have expressed varying levels of support for enhanced guidance. Evans in particular said he would like to keep rates where they are until inflation gets up around 2.5%, which it has not been for most of the past decade.
“We believe that the Fed publicly would welcome inflation in a range of 2% up to 4% as a long overdue offset to inflation running below 2% for so long in the past,” said Ed Yardeni, head of Yardeni Research.
The market weighs in
The investing implications are substantial.
Yardeni said the approach would be “wildly bullish” for alternative asset classes and in particular growth stocks and precious metals like gold and silver. Guha said the Fed’s moves would see “real yields persistently lower, the dollar lower, volatility lower, credit spreads lower and equities higher.”
Investors have been making heavy bets that would be consistent with inflation: record highs in gold, sharp declines in the U.S. dollar and a rush into TIPS, or Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. TIPS funds have seen six consecutive weeks of net inflows of investor cash, including $1.9 billion and $1.5 billion respectively during the weeks of June 24 and July 1 and $271 million for the week ended July 29, according to Refinitiv.
Still, the Fed’s poor record in reaching its inflation target is raising doubts.
“If there’s any lesson that should have been learned by all the world’s central banks it’s that picking an inflation target is easy. Trying to actually get there is extraordinarily difficult,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Just manipulating interest rates doesn’t mean you get to some finger-in-the-air inflation rate that you choose.”
The Taylor Rule model using an aggressive specification suggests that The Fed lower their target rate to -8.58%.
Of course, Congressional spending is out of control with mandatory spending (entitlement programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and required interest spending on the federal debt) since the days of George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. And especially post financial crisis.
Of course, mandatory spending on Medicare is soaring out of control.
Defense outlays are projected to grow with non-defense outlays declining,
Of course, the TRUE dual mandate of The Federal Reserve is propping up the S&P 500 index and NASDAQ.
Good luck to everyone trying to cope with out of control Congressional spending and Fed money printing.
The question is … will Congress and President Trump/Biden reign in their prodigious spending after Covid-19 passes?
Here is my answer. Where are the Budget Hawks when we need them??
If you’re holding your pension with the Bank of Ireland, you are now officially being charged to do so.
Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde is a career, ‘stick it to the people’ French politician and lawyer serving as President of the European Central Bank since November 2019. Between July 2011 and November 2019, she served as chair and managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
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.
Well, with everyone and everything else getting a bailout, may as well go all the way.
(Got enough water, food, tools, ammo, silver and gold?)
Two months after ZeroHedge reported that the state of California is trying to turn centuries of finance on its head by allowing businesses to walk away from commercial leases – in other words to make commercial debt non-recourse – a move the California Business Properties Association said “could cause a financial collapse”, attempts to bail out commercial lenders have reached the Federal level, with the WSJ reporting that lawmakers have introduced a bill to provide cash to struggling hotels and shopping centers that weren’t able to pause mortgage payments after the coronavirus (plandemic) shut down the U.S. economy.
The bill would set up a government-backed funding vehicle which companies could tap to stay current on their mortgages. It is meant in particular to help those who borrowed in the $550 billion CMBS market in which mortgages are re-packaged into bonds and sold to Wall Street.
What it really represents, is a bailout of the only group of borrowers that had so far not found access to the Fed’s various generous rescue facilities: and that’s where Congress comes in.
To be sure, the commercial real estate market is imploding, and as ZeroHedge reported at the start of the month, some 10% of loans in commercial mortgage-backed securities were 30 or more days delinquent at the end of June, including nearly a quarter of loans tied to the hard-hit hotel industry, according to Trepp LLC.
“The numbers are getting more dire and the projections are getting more stern,” said Rep. Van Taylor (R., Texas), who is sponsoring the bill alongside Rep. Al Lawson (D., Fla.).
Van Taylor (R-Texas) is sponsoring the bill to aid shopping centers and hotels for CRGs (certified rich guys)
Under the proposal, banks would extend money to help these borrowers and the facility would provide a Treasury Department guarantee that banks are repaid. The funding would come from a $454 billion pot set aside for distressed businesses in the earlier stimulus bill.
Richard Pietrafesa owns three hotels on the East Coast that were financed with CMBS loans. They have recently had occupancy of around 50% or less, which doesn’t bring in enough revenue to make mortgage payments, he said.
He said he is now two months behind on payments for one of his properties, a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Charleston, S.C. He has money set aside in a separate reserve, he said, but his special servicer hasn’t allowed him to access it to make debt payments.
“It’s like a debtor’s prison,” Mr. Pietrafesa said.
Those magic words, it would appear, is all one needs to say these days to get a government and/or Fed-sanctioned bailout. Because in a world taken over by zombies, failure is no longer an option.
While any struggling commercial borrower that was previously in good financial standing would be eligible to apply for funds to cover mortgage payments, the facility is designed specifically for CMBS borrowers.
It gets better, because not only are taxpayers ultimately on the hook via the various Fed-Treasury JVs that will fund these programs, but the new money will by default be junior to existing insolvent debt. As the Journal explains, “many of these borrowers have provisions in their initial loan documents that forbid them from taking on more debt without additional approval from their servicers. The proposed facility would instead structure the cash infusions as preferred equity, which isn’t subject to the debt restrictions.“
Yes, it’s also means that the new capital is JUNIOR to the debt, which means that if there is another economic downturn, the taxpayer funds get wiped out first while the pre-existing debt – the debt which was un-reapayble to begin with – will remain on the books!
Perhaps sensing the shitstorm that this proposal would create, the WSJ admits that “the preferred equity would be considered junior to other debt but must be repaid with interest before the property owner can pull money out of the business.”
What was left completely unsaid is that the existing impaired CMBS debt will instantly become money good thanks to the junior capital infusion from – drumroll – idiot taxpayers who won’t even understand what is going on.
How did this ridiculously audacious proposal come to being? Well, Taylor led a bipartisan group of more than 100 lawmakers who last month signed a letter asking the Federal Reserve and Treasury to come up with a solution for the CMBS issues. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell have indicated that this may be an issue best addressed by Congress.
In other words, while the Fed will be providing the special purpose bailout vehicle, it is ultimately a decision for Congress whether to bail out thousands of insolvent hotels and malls.
And if some in the industry have warned that an attempt to rescue the CMBS market would disproportionately benefit a handful of large real-estate owners, rather than small-business owners, it is because they are precisely right: roughly 80% of CMBS debt is held by a handful of funds who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this unprecedented bailout; funds which have spent a lot of money lobbying Messrs Taylor and Lawson.
Of course, none of this will be revealed and instead the talking points will focus on reaching the dumbest common denominator. Taylor said the legislation is focused on – what else – saving jobs. What he didn’t say is that each job that is saved will end up getting lost just months later, and meanwhile it will cost millions of dollars “per job” just to make sure that the billionaires who hold the CMBS debt – such as Tom Barrack who recently urged a margin call moratorium in the CMBS market– come out whole.
“This started with employees in my district calling and saying ‘I lost my job’,” Taylor said, clearly hoping that he is dealing with absolute idiots.
And while it is unclear if this bill will pass – at this point there is literally money flying out of helicopters and the US deficit is exploding by hundreds of billions every month so who really gives a shit if a few more billionaires are bailed out by taxpayers – should this happen, well readers may want to close out the trade we called the “The Next Big Short“, namely CMBX 9, whose outlier exposure to hotels which had emerged as the most impacted sector from the pandemic.
Alternatively, those who wish to piggyback on this latest egregious abuse of taxpayer funds, this crucifxion of capitalism and latest glorification of moral hazard, and make some cash in the process should do the opposite of the “Next Big Short” and buy up the BBB- (or any other deeply impaired) tranche of the CMBX Series 9, which will quickly soar to par if this bailout is ever voted through.
While the Federal Reserve and the Trump administration plow trillions of dollars into corporate America, buying investment-grade bonds and rocketing the stock market to new highs, there’s a much different story playing out of economic hardships for the everyday American.
There’s a massive pullback by credit card issuers at the moment, reducing credit limits and canceling accounts of consumers.
CompareCards’ new survey shows the economic fallout from the virus-induced recession is far from over. About 25% of Americans with credit cards had an account involuntarily canceled between mid-May to mid-July, while 33% said card companies slashed their credit limit.
About 70 million people – more than one-third of credit cardholders – said they involuntarily had a credit limit reduced or a credit card account closed altogether in a 60-day period stretching from mid-May to mid-July.
The report is a clear sign that credit card issuers are still closing cards and reducing credit limits on cardholders in huge numbers, months after an April 2020 CompareCards survey showed that nearly 50 million cardholders had a card closed or credit limit reduced in the first month in which the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the country. – CompareCards
Matt Schulz, the chief industry analyst at CompareCards, told Yahoo Money that “an awful lot of Americans had one of their financial security nets taken out from under them in one of the most difficult economic times in American history.”
The pullback by credit card companies was last seen during the Great Recession when about 16% of cardholders saw limits reduced and accounts involuntarily closed.
“This is, in a lot of ways, a much bigger issue today than it was in the Great Recession,” Schulz said. “It makes sense that banks are taking an even harder line with lending because there’s so much that they don’t know, and they’re so nervous about risk.”
The key takeaway from the survey is that card closures and credit limit reductions continue through summer, even though the Trump administration promotes a ‘rocket ship recovery’ in the economy.
Millennial generation have had the most credit limits slashed and cards closed.
Even folks making over $100,000 have seen limits reduced and cards closed.
Most of the credit limit reductions weren’t huge.
This all suggest that credit card companies don’t trust consumers and are preparing for the next downturn that will pressure households once more. With a fiscal cliff looming, and if the next round of stimulus isn’t passed quickly, another credit crunch for the bottom 90% of Americans could be just ahead.
As confirmed by several economic outlets, including Bloomberg, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey took part in a VTALK with students this past Monday for Speakers for Schools. When the subject of digital currency came up, Bailey said:
We are looking at the question of, should we create a Bank of England digital currency. We’ll go on looking at it, as it does have huge implications on the nature of payments and society. I think in a few years time, we will be heading toward some sort of digital currency.
The digital currency issue will be a very big issue. I hope it is, because that means Covid will be behind us.
Whilst only a short quote, there are several strands to pick up on here.
Consider that this is taking place amidst the Bank for International Settlements ‘Innovation BIS 2025‘ initiative, something which I have regularly written about. This is the ‘hub‘ which brings all leading central banks together in the name of technological innovation.
The RTGS ‘renewal‘ will allow for the bank’s payment system to ‘interface with new payment technologies’, which given the information that the BOE has so far disseminated would likely include distributed ledger technology and blockchain.
For the bank to introduce a CBDC accessible to the public, they will require the reformation of their systems, which is exactly what is happening.
Thirdly, Bailey admits that introducing a CBDC would have ‘huge implications on the nature of payments and society‘. On the payments front, the BOE are pushing the narrative that any CBDC offering would be a ‘complement‘ to cash. It would not, according to them, mean that cash would be withdrawn from circulation. But as I have noted previously, the General Manager of the BIS, Agustin Carstens, made clear in 2019 that in a CBDC world ‘he or she would no longer have the option of paying cash. All purchases would be electronic.‘
The trend of digital payments outstripping cash has been present for several years now. My position is that instead of simply outlawing cash, the state will allow the use of banknotes to fall to the point that the servicing costs of maintaining the cash infrastructure outweigh the amount of cash still in circulation and being used for payment. They will take the gradual approach as opposed to prising cash away from the public. In the end it has the same effect but appears less premeditated. From the perspective of the state, it is much more desirable if people are seen to have made the decision themselves to stop using cash, rather than the state imposing it upon the population.
It was also revealed this week that during the Covid-19 lock down, over 7,000 ATM’s across the UK were closed due to social distancing measures. This represents over 10% of the UK’s ATM network. Some of these ATM’s still remain out of use, particularly at supermarkets and outside certain bank branches. Equally, some of these branches remain closed four months after the lock down was introduced, and those that are open are only allowing in a couple of people at a time.
You will recall the hysteria around the supposed dangers of using cash as Covid-19 was labelled a pandemic. On no scientific basis whatsoever, people have been led to believe that handling cash can transmit the virus. This is primarily why cash withdrawals at ATM’s crashed leading into the lock down by around 50%. This time last year transaction volume was at 50.9 million. Today it is 30.8 million, a 40% drop. From personal experience as a cash office clerk, cash use is now beginning to pick up, but remains well below pre-lockdown levels.
Finally, Bailey commented that he hoped ‘the digital currency issue will be a very big issue‘, because if it was it would mean that ‘Covid will be behind us.‘ A valid question to ask here is why when Covid-19 is ‘behind us‘ should that make the case for a CBDC stronger? The answer lies partly in the growing narrative of life after the pandemic, which plays directly into the World Economic Forum devised ‘Great Reset‘ agenda. Part of the ‘Great Reset‘ includes Blockchain, Financial and Monetary Systems and Digital Economy and New Value Creation.
On first glance, you can see how Covid-19 benefits the drive towards central bank digital currencies.
We are told at every turn that life cannot possibly go back to how it was pre coronavirus, including our relationship with money. Predictably, it did not take global institutions like the BIS long to begin reaffirming the cashless agenda. In April they published a bulletin called, ‘Covid-19, cash, and the future of payments‘ where they stated:
In the context of the current crisis, CBDC would in particular have to be designed allowing for access options for the unbanked and (contact-free) technical interfaces suitable for the whole population. The pandemic may hence put calls for CBDCs into sharper focus, highlighting the value of having access to diverse means of payments, and the need for any means of payments to be resilient against a broad range of threats.
Global planners are seizing on the opportunity that Covid-19 has created. But no one should be deceived into thinking that their prescription for a digital monetary system, with CBDC’s at the center, is only coming to light because of the pandemic. This has been in the works for years.
The banking elites are hoping that once global payment systems have been reformed, CBDC’s will not be far behind.Judging by their own timelines, by 2025 a global network of CBDC’s is a real possibility. The more people that turn away from using cash today, the easier the transition away from tangible assets will prove for those who are angling for it to happen.
A cashless society means no cash. Zero. It doesn’t mean mostly cashless and you can still use a ‘wee bit of cash here & there’. Cashless means fully digital, fully traceable, fully controlled. I think those who support a cashless society aren’t fully aware of what they are asking for. A cashless society means:
* If you are struggling with your mortgage on a particular month, you can’t do an odd job to get you through.
* Your child can’t go & help the local farmer to earn a bit of summer cash.
* No more cash slipped into the hands of a child as a good luck charm or from their grandparent when going on holidays.
* No more money in birthday cards.
* No more piggy banks for your child to collect pocket money & to learn about the value of earning.
* No more cash for a rainy day fund or for that something special you have been putting $20 a week away for.
* No more little jobs on the side because your wages barely cover the bills or put food on the table.
* No more charity collections.
* No more selling bits & pieces from your home that you no longer want/need for a bit of cash in return.
* No more cash gifts from relatives or loved ones.
What a cashless society does guarantee:
* Banks have full control of every single penny you own.
* Every transaction you make is recorded.
* All your movements & actions are traceable.
* Access to your money can be blocked at the click of a button when/if banks need ‘clarification’ from you which will take about 3 weeks, a thousand questions answered & five thousand passwords.
* You will have no choice but to declare & be taxed on every dollar in your possession.
* The government WILL decide what you can & cannot purchase.
* If your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good’.
Forget about cash being dirty. Stop being so easily led. Cash has been around for a very, very, very long time & it gives you control over how you trade with the world. It gives you independence. I heard a story where a man supposedly contracted Covid because of a $20 bill he had handled. There is the same chance of Covid being on a card as being on cash. If you cannot see how utterly ridiculous this assumption is then there is little hope.
If you are a customer, pay with cash. If you are a shop owner, remove those ridiculous signs that ask people to pay by card. Cash is a legal tender, it is our right to pay with cash. Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash & that has nothing to do with a virus, nor has this ‘dirty money’ trend.
Please open your eyes. Please stop believing everything you are being told. Almost every single topic in today’s world is tainted with corruption & hidden agendas.
Pay with cash & please say no to a cashless society while you still have the choice.
(Reuters) – Private credit firms are requiring their borrowers maintain a strong liquidity cushion as the coronavirus pandemic forces middle market companies to wrestle with spiking leverage levels and falling profits.
These investors, also known as alternative lenders, are amending existing deals to put minimum liquidity covenants in credit agreements, provisions that require businesses to have a certain amount of cash on hand, as a way to safeguard their investments, according to several private credit sources.
The covenant measures the amount of money a company needs to run its business and meet its financial obligations. The provision has increased in usage since the onset of the health crisis. Companies, reckoning with dwindling profit margins – often measured as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebtida) – are seeking relief from tests in their credit agreements, noted law firm Ropes & Gray.
As Ebitda falls, leverage can rise, making a borrower more likely to trip covenants, which are provisions to help keep the borrower on the financial straight and narrow.
“A liquidity covenant is a good yardstick for measuring the financial health of a distressed or stressed borrower,” said Gary Creem, a partner at law firm Proskauer. “It provides downside protection for a lender by serving as an early warning sign of further financial trouble while providing a borrower with flexibility to recover from a temporary period of financial difficulty.”
Private credit behemoth Ares Management in April and Teligent agreed to include a minimum liquidity provision in the pharmaceutical company’s borrowing documents. Ares is a lender on a first-lien revolving credit facility and a second-lien loan, according to credit agreement amendments submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The Buena, New Jersey-based borrower, which markets US Food and Drug Administration-approved injectable medicines and topical products, must now operate within a liquidity range of US$4m-US$10m. A total net leverage covenant was also eliminated, the SEC filings show. Doing so allows Teligent to focus on cash management.
Getting rid of a leverage covenant gives the borrower a reprieve from concerns about the level of its Ebitda, so the company can focus on other aspects of its financial health. Spokespeople for Ares and Teligent declined to comment.
Exela Technologies is another company that was forced to add minimum liquidity covenants to its borrowings, SEC filings show. In May, the company amended its first-lien credit agreement, initially hammered out in July 2017, to require a minimum liquidity of US$35m, according to an SEC disclosure.
Business development companies (BDC) Garrison Capital and Investcorp Credit Management BDC are lenders to the business process automation company, according to Refinitiv LPC BDC Collateral. Representatives for the firms did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Exela lined up a five-year US$160m accounts receivable (A/R) securitization facility with BDC Sixth Street Specialty Lending in January, Shrikant Sortur, the company’s chief financial officer, said in an email, noting the company also completed a US$40m asset sale in the first half of the year.
The A/R facility requires that Exela have minimum liquidity of US$40m. He said the company has been “almost exclusively focused on liquidity” since November and has plans this year to complete additional asset sales of between US$110m and US$160m.
A spokesperson from Sixth Street declined to comment. ALL ROADS TO ROME
Borrowers can arrive at the minimum liquidity amount in several ways.
The US dollar amount needed is often derived from updated financial models provided to lenders by company management or the borrower’s private equity owner. It can be measured by cash on hand or borrowing availability under the company’s revolver.
Healthcare borrowers have used liquidity covenants where they have been impacted by stay-at-home orders and the cancellation of elective procedures, Creem said. The travel and retail sectors, among other spaces, use liquidity covenants in connection with restructuring procedures.
When lenders have tried to calculate a borrower’s Ebitda, they have used different methodologies, according to Rob Wedinger, a vice president at investment bank Houlihan Lokey.
Some private debt managers are drawing up a “deemed Ebitda,” a proxy for the profit level of the borrower had the coronavirus pandemic not occurred, he said. But others are avoiding that exercise altogether.
“Some people don’t want to spend time and energy to quantify the Ebitda covenant because it will require a revenue adjustment,” Wedinger said. “If you just look at minimum liquidity, you take Ebitda out of the equation. Every conversation has ended up around liquidity.”
Demand for gold delivery is exploding, and that is a big reason for the upward price pressure. What about silver? Why is it lagging behind gold? It takes nearly 100 ounces of silver to equal 1 ounce of gold today. That ratio is going to start coming down dramatically. Financial writer and precious metals expert Craig Hemke explains why, “JP Morgan has been accumulating all this silver and shorting against it as a hedge, managing the price and monopolistically controlling it. Now, the COMEX is a delivery vehicle, and people were standing for delivery. JP Morgan was short nearly 6,000 contracts (of silver) on delivery day, and JP Morgan had to deliver (29 million ounces of physical silver). In doing so, they have now reduced their stockpile down to 120 million ounces of physical silver… Now, JP Morgan is left with a dilemma. They can continue to play this game of shorting or hedging … and run the risk of losing another 8,000 to 10,000 contracts (at 5,000 ounces per contract) and see that stockpile of physical silver get cut again. Or, they can stand down and stop shorting. Either way, they are in a jam… If they keep shorting while there is increasing demand for delivery, they are going to lose it all, and once they lose it all, they won’t be able to issue anymore contracts. This is going to allow the price (of silver) to go up. If they simply stop shorting, once again, the price of silver goes up… JP Morgan may not have a choice but to stand down… The demand is going to continue to grow… JP Morgan will make $120 million for every $1 silver goes up… I think they have to stop interfering with the market. When JP Morgan stops shorting silver, you are going to get the change to the question of why is silver not going up?” Hemke says there will come a time in the markets when there will be no sellers of physical gold or silver. Then, Hemke says the price will skyrocket. Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he goes One-on-One with Craig Hemke of TFMetalsReport.com.
ZeroHedge recently penned a piece on a developing nationwide coin shortage sparked by the virus pandemic. As a result of the shortage, at least one major supermarket chain has removed the ability to pay in cash at self-scan checkout machines.
Meijer Inc., a supermarket chain based in the Midwest, with corporate headquarters in Walker, Michigan, announced last Friday, that self-scan checkout machines at 250 supercenters would only accept credit or debit cards, SNAP and EBT cards, and gift.
“While we understand this effort may be frustrating to some customers,” spokesman Frank Guglielmi told ABC12 News Team. “It’s necessary to manage the impact of the coin shortage on our stores.”
Fed Chair Powell admitted to lawmakers last week that The Fed has been rationing coins as the circulation of coins across the US economy ground to a halt due to the pandemic.
“What’s happened is that with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy … it’s kind of stopped,” Powell told lawmakers.
He said the shortage was due to the mass business closures that prevented people from spending their coins, as well as a lack of places that are open where people can trade coins for paper bills.
“We’ve been aware of it, we’re working with the Mint to increase supply, we’re working with the reserve banks to get the supply to where it needs to be,” Powell said, adding he expected the problem to be temporary.
Americans Googling “coin shortage” started to erupt in the back half of June and has since hit a record high. Mainly people in Midwest states are searching for the search term.
Google search “coin shortage” shows the issue isn’t limited to Meijer stores but is widespread.
Social media users report the shortage is happening at many big-box retailers.
(Chris Martenson) As you may know, I was one of the very first voices publicly reporting on Covid-19, issuing an alert that the virus was a significant pandemic event on Jan 23rd, 2020.
This was long before most media outlets even managed to write their first “It’s just the flu, bro!” article.
Using the same logic and scientific methodology I was trained in as a PhD, I was able to “predict” things well in advance of nearly every official or mainstream news source.
I’m using quotation marks around the word “predict” because it’s not really a prediction when you’re just extrapolating trends that are already underway.
Just as it’s not really a “prediction” to estimate where a thrown pitch will travel, it wasn’t much of a prediction to state that a novel virus with an R-Naught (R0) of well over 3 would be extremely difficult to contain once it arrived in a country. Note that I didn’t say impossible — South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam all get high marks for containment — but certainly difficult.
The US and the UK proved this in spades, as they’re both led by below-average ‘managers’ rather than leaders.
Leaders make tough decisions based on imperfect information. Managers dither and hedge and only make up their minds after the facts are already in and events well underway. Naturally, the US/UK managers were simply no match for the exponential rate that the Honey Badger Virus (aka Covid-19) spreads at.
I call it the Honey Badger virus because of its incredible ability to evade quarantine, as eagerly and easily as Stoffle, as seen in this short enjoyable video:
Such a determined foe as Covid-19 cannot be reasoned with, halted by decree or – much to the puzzlement of the central banks – resolved by printing more thin-air money.
It simply operates by natural laws and rules. Which, by the way, makes it rather easy to predict.
Much more difficult to predict, though, is when we humans will truly wake up to our true plight and begin making better decisions. And I’m not just talking about the coronavirus here. I’m talking about the dangerous levels of social inequity that the Federal Reserve is responsible for creating, both pre- and post-covid-19.
Given the enormous difficulty in getting whole swaths of the managerial and retail classes to grasp such simple and obvious logic as “Everyone should wear a mask!”, it seems thoroughly unrealistic to expect these same folks to thoughtfully tackle the hazards of runaway monetary and fiscal policy.
But they really need to.
Because the current monetary and fiscal trajectory society is on has been well-trod throughout history. We know where it ends — no place we want to be.
Commerce gets destroyed. Households fail. Government and social order fall apart. Fairness and freedoms are lost as it becomes difficult to distinguish between official policies and overt looting.
Real leaders know this history and would both think and act differently in order to avoid the worst risks. But managers? They just keep operating from the same manual, mindlessly repeating the same steps while hoping for a different result.
The Fed’s Dangerous Gamble
I’ve referred to the Federal Reserve as a bunch of psychopaths engaging in cultural vandalism. This is unfair to both psychopaths and vandals.
After all, the most ambitious of them don’t victimize more than several dozen in their lifetime. Maybe a few hundred, tops.
But the Fed? It’s ruining hundreds of millions of lives and livelihoods — both today and in the future.
Sadly, the Federal Reserve has been doing this — unchecked — for a very long time. Here’s a snippet I wrote for MarketWatch.com 6 years ago. Every word remains as true today as it was then:
The academic name for the Fed’s current policy is financial repression. But a more apt name would be “Throw granny under the bus,” because the program boils down to taking from savers and fixed-income recipients and transferring that purchasing power to other entities.
The cornerstone element of financial repression is negative real interest rates, of which the Federal Reserve is the prime architect and owner.
From the start of the Fed’s post-crisis intervention through 2013, the total cost of these negative real interest rates was over $750 billion just to savers alone. The loss of income to fixed-income investments (such as bonds held in pensions and money markets) was even larger.
But here’s the rub. That loss of income and purchasing power didn’t just vanish. It was transferred from pocket A to pocket B.
It magically appeared again in record Wall Street banking bonuses, in shrinking government deficits (due to lower than normal interest rates), in rising corporate profits (mainly benefiting the already rich), in record stock buybacks (ditto), and in rising wealth inequality.
More directly, when the Fed buys financial assets with printed money and — by definition — drives up the price of those assets, it cannot then act mystified why the main owners of financial assets have grown wealthier. Doing so simply insults our intelligence.
Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, then Ben Bernanke, then Janet Yellen, and now Jay Powell have all operated as mere managers (not leaders) choosing predictably safe plays from the Federal Reserve cookbook. It prescribes a gruel-thin routine of actions the main ingredient of which is printing currency out of thin air.
Each Fed Chairman has dutifully cooked up unhealthy dishes seasoned with hefty amounts of social corrosion, structural unfairness, elitism, and without even a whiff of historical context.
With no leadership on display and cheered on by a compliant press unable to formulate a single critical question, the Fed is now too deep into its cookbook to do anything besides see the process out to its inevitable conclusion.
The Fed has long pretended to be mystified by the rising inequality its policies are obviously causing. Jerome Powell recently and (in)famously declared during Q&A after a speech that the Fed “absolutely does not” contribute to inequality. That bold-faced lie is infuriating to those who realize just how socially and culturally unfair and damaging the Fed’s actions really are.
When things become too unfair, people stop participating. If laws are too one-sided and rigged, people stop following them. If new hires receive a higher salary for equivalent work, the veteran employees stop working as hard. If students know that their classmates are cheating and getting good grades, they’ll begin to cheat, too.
It’s just how we’re wired. An aversion to unfairness is in our social DNA.
Peak Prosperity readers know I’m a huge fan of this short video. It explains everything about the rising tide of social rebellion in America (and features cute monkeys, to boot!):
By unfairly accelerating the wealth gap between the top 1% and everyone else, the Fed is playing with fire. Seemingly with the same level of ignorance to the consequences as a chimpanzee with a magnifying glass on a tinder-dry savanna.
Money is our social contract.
When that contract is broken, that’s when things really go south for a nation. Zimbabwe, the Wiemar Republic, Venezuela and Argentina are all past (and some current again, sadly) examples of just how badly the standard of living can plummet when a nation’s money system breaks down.
I cannot predict when all this breaks down as easily as I can predict that it will break down. A balance must always be maintained between money, which is a claim on things, and the things themselves. Too many claims and we get inflation. Too few and we get deflation.
The Fed and the other world central banks have always (always!) erred on the side of “too many claims” in this story. When in doubt, they print more currency.
And that process is now on hyperdrive. The post-Covid economy is in a very bad state, and so the money printing at the heart of the “rescue” efforts by the central banks is the biggest ever in history. By a long shot.
So claims go up and up and up, while the economy shrinks. Leaving us with a LOT more money chasing a LOT less “stuff”.
This also applies to financial assets, like stocks and bonds. Printing makes the markets go higher in price and makes investors increasingly dependent on more money printing to support these prices. Eventually, like the era we’re in now, the Fed must keep injecting liquidity on a permanent basis or else the markets will immediately crash.
So, the money printing just keeps happening.
And as a side benefit, those closest to the Fed get stupendously rich from all that fresh money flooding into the world. These are the same Wall Street firms who hire Fed staffers at the end of their tenure there, thanking them with plush jobs that have little responsibility and huge salary.
But, out in real America, there are hundreds of millions of us angry monkeys watching the Fed stuff grapes into the already full bellies of the elites. Eventually wide-scale pushback against the Fed’s injustice will erupt. Protests will increase in size and become more violent. The police will realize that they’re protecting the wrong people and switch sides. Then things will get really messy.
My strong preference in life is to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Why wait for the Fed to ruin everything for us? I’d prefer we get pro-active here to avoid a full-blown crisis. If don’t we’ll be forced to repeat history, whether we want to or not.
Sadly, repeating history and preserving the status quo is exactly what the national managers in the US are intent on doing. Most of the public still thinks of the Fed as the hero in this story instead of the villain it truly is, and so too much of the populace cheers the Fed along. The EU and the UK are more or less in the same boat.
All of which means that, just as I warned people to prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic before it hit with full force, you need to prepare now for the coming Fed-created economic/social crisis.
In Part 2: Into The Light: 8 Steps For Surviving What’s Coming, in attempt to be as informative as possible, I share a tremendous volume of the critical data points I’m currently closely monitoring to determine where we are on the timeline to crisis and what’s most likely to happen next. I then provide my eight recommended steps for protecting your wealth, loved ones, and property through the challenges to come.
Posted last day of Q2-Jun 30, 2020 by Martin Armstrong
COMMENT: Facing a vicious circle of conflicting demands and priorities, the California Public Employees Retirement System is turning to debt – a risky scheme to borrow billions of dollars in hopes of juicing its investment returns.
The California Public Employees Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension trust, benefited greatly from the run up in stocks and other investments during the last few years, topping $400 billion early this year.
CalPERS needed it because it was still reeling from a $100 billion decline in its investment portfolio during the previous decade’s Great Recession and was tapping state and local governments for ever-increasing, mandatory “contributions” to keep pensions flowing and reduce its immense “unfunded liability.” But it faced a backlash from local officials who said vital services were being cut to make their CalPERS payments.
Just when CalPERS appeared to be climbing out of its hole, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted early this year, sending the economy into a tailspin. Virtually overnight, the fund saw its value take a $69 billion hit as the stock market — CalPERS’ biggest investment sector — tanked. Stocks have since recovered, but CalPERS is still down about $13 billion from its high early this year.
Further investment erosions would, almost automatically, trigger even greater CalPERS demands for contributions from government employers, but the recession is also eating into their tax revenues, creating substantial budget deficits.
It underscores CalPERS’ vulnerability to capital market gyrations. Investments more immune to fluctuations would be safer but they offer very low returns and CalPERS could not safely meet its lofty earnings goal — an average of 7% a year.
It’s a vicious circle of conflicting demands and priorities, driven by an official policy of providing generous, inflation-adjusted pensions for government workers, bolstered by the political clout of public employee unions.
CalPERS desperately needs an escape route and has chosen the perilous path of debt.
It plans to borrow billions of dollars — as much as $80 billion — to fatten its investment portfolio in fingers-crossed hopes that earnings gains will outstrip borrowing costs. It mirrors the recent and risky practice of local governments borrowing heavily to pay their pension bills via “pension obligation bonds.”
“More assets refers to a plan to use leverage, or borrowing, to increase the base of the assets generating returns in the portfolio,” the system’s chief investment officer, Ben Meng, wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently. “Leverage allows CalPERS to take advantage of low-interest rates by borrowing and using those funds to acquire assets with potentially higher returns.”
What could possibly go wrong?
The new scheme is an implicit admission that CalPERS can’t meet its 7% mark without increasing its exposure to the vagaries of the market. “There are only a few asset classes with a long-term expected return clearing the 7% hurdle,” Meng wrote.
Perhaps, then, the real problem is the 7% goal, much higher than those of private industry pension plans.
CalPERS and other public systems use higher earnings projections because they need them to pay for the expensive pensions that politicians have awarded. Inferentially, if they fall short of the mark, they can tap employers — i.e. taxpayers — to close the gap. However, that option is pretty much maxed out, which may explain why the very risky borrow-and-invest approach is being adopted.
This is serious stuff, so risky that the Legislature should dump its informal hands-off policy toward CalPERS and order up a comprehensive and independent examination of the system’s assets, liabilities, and long-term prospects of meeting its pension obligations.
REPLY: We are looking at state and local pension funds collapsing. There is not much they can do. This is the collapse of socialism of which I am referring to. This is why the 2020 election will be so critical. The left is determined to overthrow Trump because they are looking to raise taxes dramatically. The World Economic Forum is already suggesting a 400% increase in taxation in Europe. These people are insane. We have states raising property taxes between 30-40% because the lock downs have deprived them of revenues that are pushing pension funds over the edge. They are brain dead, for so many people live hand-to-mouth and cannot afford such drastic increases in taxation. The Democrats are really hoping to draft Hillary for they believe that is their best shot to beat Trump. This is the entire objective for career politicians who have no real business to return to and they will always exempt trusts and themselves. Trump would never agree to the agenda and this is the battle to the death here in 2020.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling today preserving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but allowing the president to fire its director at will.
The 5-4 decision agreed with the position of Seila Law, a California law firm that sued the bureau, arguing that the CFPB’s leadership structure – in which a sole director could be fired only for cause – violated the Constitution’s separation of powers rule, CNBC reported.
“The agency may … continue to operate, but its Director, in light of our decision, must be removable by the President at will,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. Roberts was joined in the decision by the other four conservative justices, CNBC reported.
Despite the decision that the CFPB director could be removed at will, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – who spearheaded the creation of the agency – celebrated the fact that the agency would be preserved.
“Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture: after years of industry attacks and GOP opposition, a conservative Supreme Court recognized what we all knew: @CFPB itself and the law that created it is constitutional,” Warren tweeted. “The CFPB is here to stay.”
“We are ruined if we do not overrule the principles that the more we owe, the more prosperous we shall be” – Thomas Jefferson
There is no more subversive entity in the US, more destructive, more inflammatory yet out of the spotlight of public outrage, than the Federal Reserve: it is the Fed’s actions over the past 108 years – and especially over the past decade – that have spawned much of the anger, resentment and hatred that has permeated US society to its very core as a result of the Fed’s monetary policies.
Yet because much of the public fails to grasp the insidious implications of endless money-printing which makes owners of assets exorbitantly rich at the expense of regular workers, popular anger at the Fed remains virtually non-existent, despite clear warnings from Thomas Jefferson, and countless others over the decades, about the dangers posed by central banking.
And so, taking advantage of the general public’s general gullibility, the Fed continues to lie and dissemble at every opportunity, of which the most recent example was last week when Powell said that “inequality has been with us for increasingly for four decades” and arguing that monetary policy is not a cause for that. What he forgot to mention is that four decades ago is when the Nixon closed the gold window….
… severing the last link of the US dollar to tangible value, and allowing the Fed to print with impunity, creating the current wealth divide which has now spilled over into the streets of America.
One other thing the Fed has been consistently lying about is that it does not monetize the debt. The chart below is evidence that this, too, is a lie, with US Treasury debt increasing by $2.86 trillion in 2020 (most of it in the past three months) which is less than the $3.0 trillion increase in the Fed’s balance sheet over the same period. In other words, the Fed has monetized 105% of all Treasury issuance this year.
So although Powell may never admit it, Helicopter Money, also known as “MMT”, is now here, and will never go away as Deutsche Bank hinted earlier.
And speaking of MMT, below we republish the latest article from Adventures in Capitalism discussing how MMT is Going Mainstream – yes, even rap musicians endorse MMT now – and how this wanton printing of money to address every social ill will have profound ramifications that will last generations.
So without further ado, here is…
“MMT Going Mainstream…”by Kuppy of ‘Adventures in Capitalism’
My good friend Kevin Muir from Macro Tourist (I highly recommend that you subscribe) has been banging on about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) for ages. I’ll admit, some of his pieces have been difficult to read as I’m firmly planted in the Austrian school—I believe gold is money and everything else is fiat. I believe governments create inefficiency and corruption while politicizing common sense ideas. I am against MMT in all of its insidious forms as it only legitimatizes all that I disagree with. With that out of the way, I’ve matured enough to know that what I think doesn’t matter. My job isn’t to stake the moral high ground; it is to make money for my hedge fund clients by noticing trends before others do. While I disagree strongly with MMT, Kevin has been right to repeatedly educate himself and his readers on MMT because it’s coming (whether or not you want it).
With Kevin’s permission, I have re-posted his most recent MMT note in full. I think this will be one of the most important macro pieces I’ll post on this site. There’s been a fundamental change in how governments tax and spend, yet most do not yet realize it. MMT is going mainstream. Are you ready…???
Yesterday, MMT-advocate, Stephanie Kelton released her much-awaited book, The Deficit Myth.
You might think MMT to be a crock. It might make every bone in your body shudder. You might feel sick to your stomach as you read the theory. These are just a few of the responses I have heard from traditionally trained hard-money types who learn about MMT.
I suspect most of you know that I am open-minded to many aspects of MMT, but expect it will be taken too far – just like monetarism has been taken too far.
When I see the extreme monetary policy of Europe and other countries with negative rates, all I can ask is how can anyone claim with a straight face that monetarism is working for us? So yeah, I would rather try something new than continue down the current road of easier and easier monetary policy.
Yet, what you or I think about a particular economic policy doesn’t mean squat. I am not here to debate what should be done, but what will be done.
So let’s put aside the economic merits of the different schools of thought, and focus on discounting their probable implementation.
The Deficit Myth
I haven’t yet fully read Prof Kelton’s book, but glancing at the introduction, she does an admirable job sketching out her viewpoint in easy-to-understand layman’s terms. I have taken the liberty of pulling the important bits:
There is nothing new in Kelton’s introduction. MMT’ers have understood these concepts for more than a decade.
But we always must remind ourselves, as traders and investors, what’s important is to discount how the public perceives those ideas. Remember the whole Keynesian beauty contest concept (probably not the most politically correct analogy, but let’s remember that Keynes lived in a different era. In fact, I suspect if Keynes were alive today, he would be more politically correct than some of his most vocal opponents –Niall Ferguson apologizes for remarks).
Keynes rightfully understood that investors discount what the crowd will perceive as the most likely outcome as opposed to the best choice.
Which brings me to my main point. And I know some of you might think this is nuts. But I don’t care.
I have been watching for signs that the concept of “governments are not financially restrained” taking hold within the non-financial community.
I have even postulated that the corona virus crisis might prove to be the tipping point for this theory gaining traction. With all the extreme fiscal measures being put in place (without undue immediate negative effects), the public might realize that the government’s large fiscal response works miracles at staving off short-term economic pain. They might suddenly understand there is nothing holding society back from doing that again for other priorities.
Well, I think I got my signal. Earlier in the week, I noticed a popular rapper tweeting out the following:
Yup. The whole theory behind MMT is being endorsed by rap musicians now!
When disputing the need for a balanced fiscal budget, MMT’ers have often resorted to the argument, “if there is always money for war, then why isn’t there always money for other social programs?”
I don’t want to dispute the validity of their argument. However, the narrative that “we need to balance budgets” has been torn down by the corona crisis better than the war argument ever did.
Over the last month, a growing portion of society has concluded that there was never any financial constraint to spending money.
I know the hard-money and traditionally-trained-economic thinkers will scream bloody murder at that thought. I get it. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. How can there be a free lunch? There is no such thing.
I will repeat again – I don’t want to discuss the merits of MMT. We will save that for another post.
What’s important – and it’s probably the most important thing that has ever happened in my investing career – is that the narrative surrounding deficit spending has changed.
Deficits are no longer “bad”. The budget hawks have all been silenced.
This will have ramifications that will last generations.
If this MMT school of thought continues to gain traction, then many of the investment playbooks from the last few decades need to be thrown out the window. It will be as a dramatic shift as the 1981-Paul-Volcker-stamping-out-of-inflation. It will be an end of an era.
Over the course of the coming months I will discuss the long-term investment consequences. But I wanted to highlight that MMT is about to go mainstream. And as it becomes more popular, it will turn investing as we know it on its head.
Decades from now we will look back at the corona crisis and say it changed more than just our attitudes about viruses, it marked the beginning of a change in the way we think about money.
If there’s a crisis will you be able to get any cash out of the bank? Will the banks even have any cash? Because, as of last March, it is no longer a requirement – the banks aren’t required to have a single dollar bill in their vaults and drawers.
(ZeroHedge) Back in March 2017, a bearish trade emerged which quickly gained popularity on Wall Street, and promptly received the moniker “The Next Big Short.”
As we reported at the time, similar to the run-up to the housing debacle, a small number of bearish funds were positioning to profit from a “retail apocalypse” that could spur a wave of defaults. Their target: securities backed not by subprime mortgages, but by loans taken out by beleaguered mall and shopping center operators which had fallen victim to the Amazon juggernaut. And as bad news piled up for anchor chains like Macy’s and J.C. Penney, bearish bets against commercial mortgage-backed securities kept rising.
The trade was simple: shorting malls by going long default risk via CMBX 6 (BBB- or BB) or otherwise shorting the CMBS complex. For those who have not read our previous reports (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) on the second Big Short, here is a brief rundown via the Journal:
each side of the trade is speculating on the direction of an index, called CMBX 6, which tracks the value of 25 commercial-mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS. The index has grabbed investor attention because it has significant exposure to loans made in 2012 to malls that lately have been running into difficulties. Bulls profit when the index rises and shorts make money when it falls.
The various CMBX series are shown in the chart below, with the notorious CMBX 6 most notable for its substantial, 40% exposure to retail properties.
One of the firms that had put on the “Big Short 2” trade back in late 2016 was hedge fund Alder Hill Management – an outfit started by protégés of hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper – which ramped up wagers against the mall bonds. Alder Hill joined other traders which in early 2017 bought a net $985 million contracts that targeted the two riskiest types of CMBS.
“These malls are dying, and we see very limited prospect of a turnaround in performance,” said a January 2017 report from Alder Hill, which began shorting the securities. “We expect 2017 to be a tipping point.”
Alas, Alder Hill was wrong, because while the deluge of retail bankruptcies…
… and mall vacancies accelerated since then, hitting an all time high in 2019…
… not only was 2017 not a tipping point, but the trade failed to generate the kinds of desired mass defaults that the shorters were betting on, while the negative carry associated with the short hurt many of those who were hoping for quick riches.
One of them was investing legend Carl Icahn who as we reported last November, emerged as one of the big fans of the “Big Short 2“, although as even he found out, CMBX was a very painful short as it was not reflecting fundamentals, but merely the overall euphoria sweeping the market and record Fed bubble (very much like most other shorts in the past decade). The resulting loss, as we reported last November, was “tens if not hundreds of millions in losses so far” for the storied corporate raider.
That said, while Carl Icahn was far from shutting down his family office because one particular trade has gone against him, this trade put him on a collision course with two of the largest money managers, including Putnam Investments and AllianceBernstein, which for the past few years had a bullish view on malls and had taken the other side of the Big Short/CMBX trade, the WSJ reports. This face-off, in the words of Dan McNamara a principal at the NY-based MP Securitized Credit Partners, was “the biggest battle in the mortgage bond market today” adding that the showdown is the talk of this corner of the bond market, where more than $10 billion of potential profits are at stake on an obscure index.
However, as they say, good things come to those who wait, and are willing to shoulder big losses as they wait for a massive payoffs, and for the likes of Carl Icahn, McNamara and others who were short the CMBX, payday arrived in mid-March, just as the market collapsed, hammering the CMBX Series BBB-.
And while the broader market has rebounded since then by a whopping 30%, the trade also known as the “Big Short 2” has continued to collapse and today CMBX 6 hit a new lifetime low of just $62.83, down $10 since our last update on this storied trade several weeks ago.
That, in the parlance of our times, is what traders call a “jackpot.”
Why the continued selling? Because it is no longer just retail outlets and malls: as a result of the Covid lock down, and America’s transition to “Work From Home” and “stay away from all crowded places”, the entire commercial real estate sector is on the verge of collapse, as we reported last week in “A Quarter Of All Outstanding CMBS Debt Is On Verge Of Default“
Sure enough, according to a Bloomberg update, a record 167 CMBS 2.0 loans turned newly delinquent in May even though only 25% of loans have reported remits so far, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a research note Wednesday, triple the April total when 68 loans became delinquent. This suggests delinquencies may rise to 5% in May, and those that are late but still within grace period track at 10% for the second month.
Looking at the carnage in the latest remittance data, and explaining the sharp leg lower in the “Big Short 2” index, Morgan Stanley said that several troubled malls that are a part of CMBX 6 are among the loans that were newly delinquent or transferred to special servicers. Among these:
Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut, is currently due for the April and May 2020 payments. There has been a marked decline in both occupancy and revenue. This loan accounts for nearly 10% of a CMBS deal called UBSBB 2012-C2
Louis Joliet Mall in Joliet, Illinois, is also referenced in CMBX 6. The mall was originally anchored by Sears, JC Penney, Carson’s, and Macy’s. The loan is also a part of the CMBS deal UBSBB 2012-C2
A loan for the Poughkeepsie Galleria in upstate New York was recently transferred to special servicing for imminent monetary default at the borrower’s request. The loan has exposure in two 2012 CMBS deals that are referenced by CMBX 6
Other troubled mall-chain tenants include GNC, Claire’s, Body Works and Footlocker, according to Datex Property Solutions. These all have significant exposure in CMBX 6.
Of course, the record crash in the CMBX 6 BBB has meant that all those shorts who for years suffered the slings and stones of outrageous margin calls but held on to this “big short”, have not only gotten very rich, but are now getting even richer – this is one case where everyone will admit that Carl Icahn adding another zero to his net worth was fully deserved as he did it using his brain and not some crony central bank pumping the rich with newly printed money – it has also means the pain is just starting for all those “superstar” funds on the other side of the trade who were long CMBX over the past few years, collecting pennies and clipping coupons in front of a P&L mauling steamroller.
One of them is mutual fund giant AllianceBernstein, which has suffered massive paper losses on the trade, amid soaring fears that the coronavirus pandemic is the straw on the camel’s back that will finally cripple US shopping malls whose debt is now expected to default en masse, something which the latest remittance data is confirming with every passing week!
According to the FT, more than two dozen funds managed by AllianceBernstein have sold over $4 billion worth of CMBX protection to the likes of Icahn. One among them is AllianceBernstein’s $29 billion American Income Portfolio, which crashed after written $1.9bn of protection on CMBX 6, while some of the group’s smaller funds have even higher concentrations.
The trade reflected AB’s conviction that American malls are “evolving, not dying,” as the firm put it last October, in a paper entitled “The Real Story Behind the CMBX. 6: Debunking the Next ‘Big Short’” (reader can get some cheap laughs courtesy of Brian Philips, AB’s CRE Credit Research Director, at this link).
Hillariously, that paper quietly “disappeared” from AllianceBernstein’s website, but magically reappeared in late March, shortly after the Financial Times asked about it.
“We definitely still like this,” said Gershon Distenfeld, AllianceBernstein’s co-head of fixed income. “You can expect this will be on the potential list of things we might buy [more of].”
Sure, quadruple down, why not: it appears that there are still greater fools who haven’t redeemed their money.
In addition to AllianceBernstein, another listed property fund, run by Canadian asset management group Brookfield, that is exposed to the wrong side of the CMBX trade recently moved to reassure investors about its financial health. “We continue to enjoy the sponsorship of Brookfield Asset Management,” the group said in a statement, adding that its parent company was “in excellent financial condition should we ever require assistance.”
Alas, if the plunge in CMBX continues, that won’t be the case for long.
Meanwhile, as stunned funds try to make sense of epic portfolio losses, the denials got even louder: execs at AllianceBernstein told FT the paper losses on their CMBX 6 positions reflected outflows of capital from high-yielding assets that investors see as risky. They added that the trade outperformed last year. Well yes, it outperformed last year… but maybe check where it is trading now.
Even if some borrowers ultimately default, CDS owners are not likely to be owed any cash for several years, said Brian Phillips, a senior vice-president at AllianceBernstein.
He believes any liabilities under the insurance will ultimately be smaller than the annual coupon payment the funds receive. “We’re going to continue to get a coupon from Carl Icahn or whoever — I don’t know who’s on the other side,” Phillips added. “And they’re going to keep [paying] that coupon in for many years.”
What can one say here but lol: Brian, buddy, no idea what alternative universe you are living in, but in the world called reality, it’s a second great depression for commercial real estate which due to the coronavirus is facing an outright apocalypse, and not only are malls going to be swept in mass defaults soon, but your fund will likely implode even sooner between unprecedented capital losses and massive redemptions… but you keep “clipping those coupons” we’ll see how far that takes you. As for Uncle Carl who absolutely crushed you – and judging by the ongoing collapse in commercial real estate is crushing you with every passing day – since you will be begging him for a job soon, it’s probably a good idea to go easy on the mocking.
Afterthought: with CMBX 6 now done, keep a close eye on CMBX 9. With its outlier exposure to hotels which have quickly emerged as the most impacted sector from the pandemic, this may well be the next big short.
“At some point, America’s short-term Crisis psychology will catch up to the long-term post-Unraveling fundamentals. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on. Every slide in asset prices, employment, and production will give every generation cause to grow more alarmed.”
– Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning
(Jim Quinn) I’ve been writing articles about the Fourth Turning for over a decade and nothing has happened since its tumultuous onset in 2008, with the global financial collapse, created by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street co-conspirator owners, that has not followed along the path described by Strauss and Howe in their 1997 book – The Fourth Turning.
Like molten lava bursting forth from a long dormant (80 years) volcano, the core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to flow along channels of distress, long ago built by bad decisions, corrupt politicians and the greed of bankers. The molten ingredients of this Crisis have been the central drivers since 2008 and this second major eruption is flowing along the same route. The core elements are debt, civic decay, and global disorder, just as Strauss & Howe anticipated over two decades ago.
“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.”
– The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe
The initial spark for this Crisis was the massive mortgage fraud perpetrated on the nation by the Wall Street banks and enabled by their drug dealer at the Fed – Ben Bernanke. Once he took his Wall Street payoff, becoming a multi-millionaire after departing the Eccles building and reaping his rewards (aka bribes), Yellen stepped into the breach, shoveling billions into the deep pockets of the ruling elite. QE to infinity for the connected billionaire set and .25% interest on granny’s dwindling retirement nest egg.
Then another spineless academic dweeb took over the reins of money printing for the .1% in 2018. Jerome Powell had the gall to raise rates all the way back to 2.25% and wind the Fed’s balance sheet all the way down to $3.8 trillion from $4.5 trillion, before he was sternly told who he works for. And it’s not you and me. I wonder what threats were made to convince him to fall into line.
The financial engine driving the American economy blew a gasket in September 2019. Overnight repo rates soared to 10%, indicating a major malfunction under the hood, threatening the wealth and safety of our beloved Wall Street bankers and billionaire hedge fund managers, picking up nickels in front of steamrollers. Jerome jumped into action, to save his billionaire owners. The QT was turned off and QE spigot was back on. He ramped the Fed’s balance sheet by over $400 billion in three months, with three 25 basis point cuts going into 2020.
Powell, Mnuchin and their buddies at Goldman, Blackrock, JP Morgan and the rest of the banking cabal looked back at what Bernanke, Paulson, Blankfein, and their cohorts pulled off in 2008/2009 and said hold my beer. The chutzpah of what they have done in two months is breathtaking to behold, as the greatest wealth transfer from the former working class to the champagne and caviar class in the history of mankind has been executed with precision and flawlessness by high tech criminals and their propaganda spewing corporate media compatriots.
This global pandemic is the crisis they couldn’t let go to waste. There is a myriad of theories on where, how, and why this global pandemic began. The accidental release of the virus from a bio-weapons lab in Wuhan appears to be the most likely scenario, with the Chinese authorities covering up the nature and seriousness of the virus and allowing infected citizens to spread it throughout the world. This narrative will likely play into the bloody climax of this Fourth Turning.
What we do know for sure is Trump was convinced by government bureaucrat medical “experts”, using seriously flawed models, that more than 2 million Americans would die unless he quarantined the entire nation. Extrapolating the disastrous NYC results across the entire U.S. and shutting down the entire economy will prove to be one of the most disastrous decisions ever made by a U.S. president.
Instead of addressing a virus only marginally more lethal than the yearly flu in a rational fact-based manner, we allowed ourselves to be snowed by “experts” and authoritarian politicians who originally downplayed the threat, instructed everyone to not use face masks, and purposely put infected patients into nursing homes. Cuomo is hailed as a hero by his brother’s joke of a news network, when he should be scorned as an inept bungler who caused the deaths of thousands.
Democrat politicians declared racism when Trump tried to shut the borders. Instead of protecting the most vulnerable in nursing homes (40% to 50% of all fatalities), closing the borders, encouraging the vulnerable to self- quarantine, encouraging people to wear masks, and letting those under 50 years old continue to work and keep the economy from crashing, we used the Chinese tyrannical method of total lock down.
We let the overbearing reach of government and the egomaniacal authoritarian governors, mayors and Karens lock down an entire nation under the threat of incarceration. They had plenty of room in the prisons because they released pedophiles, rapists, and thieves for fear they might catch the virus. The government hammer saw everyone as a nail. And they have been hammering away for two months, with plans to keep hammering for many months to come.
The corporate fascists have utilized the government-imposed shutdown to implement their plan to increase and consolidate their power, control and wealth. The first order of business was the Fed using the shutdown as its excuse to buy the toxic assets, junk bonds, and junk government treasuries in order to bail out hedge fund managers, Wall Street CEOs and government politicians dishing out $4 trillion of payoffs to constituents with the best lobbyists.
The 32% drop in the stock market in March was unacceptable to Powell and his minions. They vowed to do whatever it took to restore the billions in wealth of the .1%. The bottom 99% be damned. Everyone knows you can’t catch coronavirus at Wal-Mart or Target among hundreds of shoppers, but can catch it alone on the beach or in your local hair salon with three people in the shop.
So, Jerome and Neel decided to slash interest rates by 150 basis points, back to virtually 0%. So much for senior citizens getting 2% in their money market fund; Wall Street needed free money again. They’ve increased their balance sheet by $2.7 trillion in seven weeks, a 65% increase. Shockingly, the stock market has skyrocketed along with the Fed balance sheet, as 33 million non-essential workers have lost their jobs and we enter a 2nd Great Depression.
The Fed pretends to care about wealth inequality even though they are solely responsible for the grand-canyon like divergence between the super-rich and the rest of us. Their vow to pump $6 trillion into the financial system will only benefit the Hamptons crowd. Lance Roberts describes what is happening:
“To no one’s real surprise, the driver of the market is simply “The Fed.” As the Fed engages in “QE,” it increases the “excess reserves” of banks. Since banks are NOT lending to consumers or businesses, that excess liquidity flows into the stock market.”
And there you have it. Bailing out Wall Street and screwing Main Street, again. Everything the Fed has done, or will do, does not benefit the 33 million who have lost their jobs and the millions of small businesses which are purposely being snuffed out by tyrannical government overlords, so the mega-corporations, with their patriotic “we’re in this together” bullshit Madison Avenue identical ad campaigns, will be left with 90% of the economic pie instead of the 75% they had before the plandemic.
Even the worst employment figures since the Great Depression (last Fourth Turning) were spun by the government drones at the BLS to appear far better than they really are. The reported 14.7% unemployment rate is complete and utter bullshit fake news. But the mouthpieces for the oligarchs, the propaganda media outlets, had their spokes models and talking head “experts” report the gibberish as if it were true.
Maybe these faux financial journalists should have examined the 42-page press release and found the BLS purposely fudged the number by 5%:
If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to “other reasons” (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical April) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been almost 5 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis).
So that means even the massaged and manipulated BLS number is 20%. One look at the data shows how ludicrously low they have manipulated the number. The BLS reported the labor force as 164.5 million in February and now says it is 156.5 million. Poof!!! – 8.3 million people willingly left the workforce because they felt like it – not because they were forced out of the workforce by the same government paying the BLS to spew this fake data.
These people did not leave the workforce, they are unemployed by government mandate. The number of employed people is now back to 1999 levels and headed lower. And as if you didn’t already know, the job losses have been borne mostly by blue collar, retail and restaurant workers (heavily skewed towards women and young people), self-employed, and small businesses.
Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, Wall Street banks and the rest of the mega-corporations are doing just fine – even better since they don’t have those pesky small businesses eating into their profits. At least the Fed was able to propel the stock market 455 points, back towards all-time highs, as 33 million people wonder where their next meal will come from. Winning!
The plain simple fact is there are 260 million working age Americans and 127 million, or 49% are not working. Of the 133 million who are working, 23 million are part-time workers and 19 million are government workers. In another shocking development, while the number of workers in private industries dropped by 18%, the number of government workers only dropped by 8%. It seems our authoritarian rulers know what is good for us, but don’t feel the need to share the pain equally.
But at least our beloved government heroes have time to stage daily parades with their fire engines and $70,000 police vehicles and do patriotic flyovers to keep the unemployed and mandatory masked plebs entertained. Something has to make up for the lack of the normal bread and circuses of double bacon cheeseburgers and watching overpaid privileged athletes play games. I can’t wait to see more tik-tok dance videos from the hero nurses and doctors overwhelmed with coronavirus patients in their empty hospitals.
If you don’t feel the mood of the country turning towards confrontation and civil chaos, you are either a lackey for the establishment, a government paid drone, or propagandized to such an extent you have chosen to be willfully ignorant of your surroundings. This Fourth Turning seemed somewhat dormant since 2012, but government, corporate, and consumer debt continued to balloon; the divide between left and right grew as the Deep State conducted a coup against a duly elected president; and global disorder accelerated in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and South America.
The core elements of debt, civic decay, and global disorder are now coalescing into a perfect storm of consequences for a nation and world built upon a teetering edifice of unpayable debt, unfulfilled promises, the unbridled greed of a blood thirsty ruling class, and the unbelievable delusions of people who think a world built upon borrowing to consume is sustainable.
The dichotomy between what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the world of the financiers will lead to violent upheaval on a timeline not anticipated by the ruling class. There is a good reason gun stores were overwhelmed with business at the outset of this over-hyped flu pandemic. As Strauss and Howe pointed out twenty three years ago, trust in the government, central bankers, the corporate media, and “experts” is disintegrating rapidly. The anger and disillusionment grows by the day and pockets of resistance are propagating throughout the country.
The un-Constitutional destruction of rights and liberties by overbearing governors, mayors and Federal bureaucrats is pushing desperate citizens towards insurrection. The police who carry out the unlawful orders of their superiors for a paycheck should realize they live among those they are bullying and pushing around. There is blow back coming and they should act accordingly. When people have lost everything they had and any hope for the future, while witnessing the privileged continuing to reap the benefits of a rigged financial system, civil disobedience will increase and blood will begin to be shed. The bubble of abnormalcy will be popped.
It is weirdly fascinating to watch a Fourth Turning unfold, while in the midst of it, and knowing we are entering the phase where people have died in numbers that put this pandemic fatality count to shame during the previous two American Crisis periods. From 1861 to 1865 almost 5% of the male population of the country were killed. That would equate to about 8 million today. From 1939 to 1945 an estimated 65 million people were killed.
The 100,000 or so who will die in 2020 from this virus is just a prelude to the death and destruction to follow. The trigger for the climactic phase of this Fourth Turning is not a virus that will not kill 99.97% of the American population, but the economic consequences of the over-reaction and authoritarian response to the virus. I’ve lost respect for numerous bloggers who desperately try to paint Sweden’s response as disastrous in an effort to support their own narrative of doom.
Sweden’s decision to allow its people and businesses to use reasonable precautions and not lock down their country in the dictatorial Chinese way, has resulted in cases per million being in line with the rest of European countries and lower than the U.S. The louder these bloggers scream, the surer you can be they have been proven wrong.
It is mesmerizing to watch those on the left, along with the Republican “Never Trumpers”, flail about as the Obama/Clinton attempted coup against Trump unravels before their very eyes. The reaction of these people, along with their toadies at CNN, MSNBC and the other left wing media, reveals an unbridgeable chasm between those believing in the rule of law and people who are willing to do anything for power.
The pure hatred from those on the left for Trump and his followers can not be contained. They despise the deplorables in flyover country with such a passion, the spittle foaming on their lips as they describe them as gun toting, uneducated, white racists, is an indication of their fury and hate. What these entitled, suit wearing, botox injected, arrogant idiot yet idiot establishment whores fail to realize is we despise them equally and we’re armed and ready. While psychopaths in suits, worthless politicians, government errand boys and remote working white collar parasites of the establishment continue to get paid, they continue to prohibit the lowly wage earner from making a living. A price will be paid.
Trump is not a nice guy. Grey Champions (Lincoln, FDR) use their power in ways not conducive to making everyone happy. They are leading during a time of crisis and will use any means necessary to win. The coup attempt by Obama, Clinton, Comey, Clapper, Brennan, Mueller, and their minions has failed and now the tables will be turned. Trump, Barr, Grennell and Durham have the power to prosecute some of the most powerful left wing politicians and Deep State operatives on the planet.
How this plays out before November will ignite further civil strife and discontent. People have already begun taking to the streets and as this unnecessary shutdown further impoverishes the masses, things will turn nasty. Government attempting to have neighbors rat on neighbors for not obeying the Nanny State commands will backfire on the rats. Animosities and grudges will sway the actions of many, once the gloves come off.
The majority of rule following sheep believe what they are being told by their elected leaders, non-elected self proclaimed medical “experts” and the feckless shills on their boob tube. They do not see what is coming, just over the horizon. The divergence of opinion on how we should proceed from this point onward is immense, with biases, delusions, and inability to grasp the unintended consequences of the actions taken thus far, driving the narratives. Listening to Trump bloviate about the tremendous economic boom which will occur when we re-open the country is laughable. He sounds like a carnival barker.
He allowed himself to be bamboozled by medical “expert” hacks and their immensely flawed garbage in-garbage out models into destroying our economy, and he may end up paying the price in November as the economy is mired in a 2nd Great Depression. But the Dow should be at 50,000 by then, so he’s got that going for him. Trump thinks you can turn the economy on again and things will be as good as new. He evidently has never read Bastiat or Hazlitt. The broken window fallacy now can be called the broken country fallacy. The financial gurus crow about the fantastic job Powell and Mnuchin have done, based upon what they have seen (31% increase in S&P 500), while that which is unseen has yet to reveal itself.
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
– Henry Hazlitt
The hacks who pass for economists and central bankers don’t practice the art of economics. They are enablers of plunder, as their actions benefit a small group of men who have created a legal system that allows and glorifies this as a way of life. Abnormal, morally ambiguous and in many cases illegal actions taken by those pulling the levers of power will have far reaching consequences unseen by these myopic arrogant water boys for the oligarchy.
The destruction caused by this man-made depression is permanent. The millions of small businesses demolished are not coming back. The unemployment rate will never approach 3.5% again, unless the BLS says 30 million people just left the labor market because they got independently wealthy in the stock market.
The number of corporate and personal bankruptcies will exceed anything seen in history. The mortgage, credit card and auto loan defaults are going to make 2009 look like a cake walk. The fear and panic inflicted by the government upon the psyches of the masses has insured bars, restaurants, airlines, cruises, stadiums, movie theaters and anywhere crowds formerly gathered will draw a fraction of what they did three months ago. This will lead to more bankruptcies.
The remote working arrangements forced upon companies will result in a glut of office space, as companies save money by no longer renting overpriced offices. The coming commercial real estate collapse will be one for the record books. Malls, which were barely staying alive before Covid-19, are done, as major retailers declare bankruptcy on a daily basis. Closed stores no longer employ workers.
People whose jobs are gone, with their meager savings depleted, will not be spending on frivolous gadgets and baubles. They won’t be eating out three times per week. They will just be trying to sustain themselves. A society built upon 70% of its GDP coming from consumption is now doomed. The well oiled mechanism of lending money to people so they can buy shit they can’t afford and paying them just enough to make the minimum payments has malfunctioned.
The state and local governments dependent upon sales taxes, gasoline taxes, income taxes, tolls, and property taxes to pay for their bloated bureaucracies are going to be overwhelmed with massive deficits, as their revenue streams have evaporated. This will bring the government pension crisis to a head years earlier than expected. The normal government action would be to increase taxes on the plebs. The plebs are broke and will not stand for higher taxes. They’ll demand government layoff workers. This will just throw another log on the fire of discontent. The us versus them mindset will grow ever larger until violence breaks out.
The average American suffered economic hardship throughout the 1930s, just as average Americans continued to suffer economic hardship since 2008. But the real economic hardship has just begun. As Americans dealt with privation and poverty in the late 1930s the coming global conflict was brewing. Animosities, prejudices and resentments, exacerbated by economic turmoil, stirred militaristic ambitions of hubristic rulers in Europe and Asia. The parallels with the current international dynamic may not be the same, but they do rhyme. Three months ago, the truly chaotic perilous segment of this Fourth Turning seemed far off in the distance. Now it approaches with the speed of a ballistic missile.
The possibility of global catastrophe is not taken seriously by the vast majority of Americans. Their ignorance of history is appalling and a pathetic indictment of our educational system. It’s been seventy-five years since the last global conflict and most of the people who experienced the horror are dead. We’ve forgotten the past and are condemned to relive it, just as we do every eighty or so years.
The extreme volatility seen in financial markets over the last two months only happens during bear markets. The historical perspective and insight into market valuations of the 30 something Harvard and Wharton MBA traders doesn’t reach past last Tuesday. This bear market bounce, generated on nothing but Fed liquidity and belief in Powell’s infallibility, will give way once again to a waterfall like collapse in the equity markets. This will be the final nail in the coffin of trust in the Fed. If this crackup occurs as the election approaches, the consequences and actions taken will propel the global disorder into a new stratosphere. A storm is brewing.
Do you get the feeling the War on Covid-19 will work out just as well as the War on Drugs and War on Terrorism? Do you get the feeling the models being used to panic the world into obeying and submitting to our authoritarian surveillance state benefactors are as accurate as the climate models that said the ice caps would be gone by now? Do you get the feeling this is about control and power and wealth, and not about your health or well-being?
Do you get the feeling the left wingers and their media propagandists want to keep as much of the country locked down for as long as possible in order to defeat Trump in November? Do you get the feeling these people actually want a second wave to kill as many as possible, just to prove they were right? Do you get the feeling the destruction of our economy is being cheered by those waiting to enact their green new deal and using MMT to keep the plebs sedated and non-violent? I get the feeling this is not going to end well for those initiating this take down of a nation. The existing social order is always swept away during a Fourth Turning.
I see a foggy outline of where this crisis is headed. The debt situation is untenable. The inflationists and deflationists both make strong arguments in favor of their disastrous outcome which will beset the nation. The only thing that matters is we will experience a disastrous outcome in the very near future from this reckless issuance of debt. The civic decay has entered the confrontational stage, with sides taken, weapons at the ready, awaiting the spark which will ignite the dynamite.
Fighting in the streets will be next. Which leaves us with global disorder. The attempted take down of the US oil industry by Russia and Saudi Arabia has ramped up the potential for conflict in the Middle East. But, the proxy wars of the last two decades will give way to real conflict, where the losers really lose. Putin is a wily leader who never shows his cards. He probes at our weaknesses and takes advantage when our arrogant leaders make mistakes.
This leads us to Donald J. Trump and what he does and doesn’t do over the next five months and possibly next four years. He is a proud man with a huge ego, prone to impulsive actions, and war-like in his vengefulness against perceived enemies. And his enemies are many. He has every right to throw the full weight of the law against the high-level members of the attempted coup.
In an election year, a strategy of aggressiveness against his enemies, will play well with his base and possibly distract people from the economic depression. When faced with domestic trouble, politicians have always tried to distract the masses with a foreign threat. I believe Trump is angry he allowed Gates and his vaccine squad at the CDC and WHO to bamboozle him into a national quarantine that destroyed “the best economy evah”. He can’t blame himself, so he has turned his ire towards China.
It is the consensus belief this virus originated in Wuhan, China, either from a bio-lab and/or wet market. The narrative now being spun by the U.S. and German spy agencies is China knew they had a major issue in December and colluded with the WHO to cover-up the danger and transmit-ability of the virus, while allowing its citizens to travel the globe, spreading the virus far and wide for at least a month before admitting they had a problem.
The Chinese brutally locked down Wuhan and have supposedly stopped the virus dead in its tracks. The American MSM has bought this bullshit, just like they believe their economic data. Trump has now openly accused China of causing the economic damage to our country, demanding reparations. This war of words is likely to lead to more economic sanctions and retaliatory actions designed to hurt each other’s already dire economic situation.
Just as economic sanctions against Japan in the 1930s and early 1940s backed them into a corner and convinced their leadership to attack the U.S., pushing China and/or Russia into a corner through the use of economic sanctions designed to hurt them, will provoke a reaction that will lead to war. Impossible says the linear thinkers who can’t conceive of such foolish actions. History teaches otherwise.
Egomaniacal leaders, with terrible domestic issues, overestimating their abilities to comprehend the actions of their foes, and miscalculating the odds of war, will stumble into conflict, resulting in the deaths of millions. Global war in this technologically advanced age will not resemble the wars of eighty or one-hundred and sixty years ago. Civilians will likely bear the brunt of the casualties as attacks on electrical grids, water supplies, and computer systems would paralyze our economy, causing death on a grand scale. Maybe a really deadly virus could be released by our enemies.
As Strauss & Howe warned, history offers no guarantees. Many empires before ours have fallen and counting on Providence to protect us is wishful thinking. Any war could go horribly wrong, with all potential enemies capable of launching a nuclear exchange, ending life as we know it. We have gotten our first taste of tragedy with this pandemic, and the early returns on leadership, courage, fortitude, and common sense have been found wanting.
This does not bode well for the trials and tribulations we will face over the next decade. A failure to meet the challenges ahead with bravery, grit, good judgement, adherence to our Constitutional principles, and a fair amount of luck, could lead to a defeat from which we will never recover. No one knows how and when the climax of this Crisis will play out, but the acceleration towards our rendezvous with destiny is in motion. Strauss & Howe laid out four potential outcomes to this Crisis. It’s time to steel yourself to the possibilities.
This Fourth Turning could mark the end of man. It could be an omnicidal Armageddon, destroying everything, leaving nothing. If mankind ever extinguishes itself, this will probably happen when its dominant civilization triggers a Fourth Turning that ends horribly. For this Fourth Turning to put an end to all this would require an extremely unlikely blend of social disaster, human malevolence, technological perfection and bad luck.
The Fourth Turning could mark the end of modernity. The Western saecular rhythm – which began in the mid-fifteenth century with the Renaissance – could come to an abrupt terminus. The seventh modern saeculum would be the last. This too could come from total war, terrible but not final. There could be a complete collapse of science, culture, politics, and society. Such a dire result would probably happen only when a dominant nation (like today’s America) lets a Fourth Turning ekpyrosis engulf the planet. But this outcome is well within the reach of foreseeable technology and malevolence.
The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.
Or the Fourth Turning could simply mark the end of the Millennial Saeculum. Mankind, modernity, and America would all persevere. Afterward, there would be a new mood, a new High, and a new saeculum. America would be reborn. But, reborn, it would not be the same.
First it was on-line shopping spearheaded by Amazon that helped crush physical retail space. Then the knock-out punch was the government shutdown of the the US economy.
(Bloomberg) — Emptied out malls and hotels across the U.S. have triggered an unprecedented surge in requests for payment relief on commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), an early sign of a pandemic-induced real estate crisis.
Borrowers with mortgages representing almost $150 billion in CMBS, accounting for 26% of the outstanding debt, have asked about suspending payments in recent weeks, according to Fitch Ratings. Following the last financial crisis, delinquencies and foreclosures on the debt peaked at 9% in July 2011.
Special servicers — firms assigned to handle vulnerable CMBS loans — are bracing for the worst crash of their careers. They’re staffing up following years of downsizing to handle a wave of defaults, modification requests and other workouts, including potential foreclosures.
“Everything is happening at once,” said James Shevlin, president of CWCapital, a unit of private equity firm Fortress Investment Group and one of the largest special servicers. “It’s kind of exciting times. I mean, this is what you live for.”
A surge in residential foreclosures helped ignite the last financial crisis. Now, commercial real estate is getting hit because the economic shutdown has shuttered stores and put travel on ice.
Not all of the borrowers who have requested forbearance will be delinquent or enter foreclosure, but Fitch estimates that the $584 billion industry could near the 2011 peak as soon as the third quarter of this year.
There’s no government relief plan for commercial real estate. Bankers usually have leeway to negotiate payment plans on commercial property, but options for borrowers and lenders are limited for CMBS.
Debt transferred to special servicers from master servicers, mostly banks that handle routine payment collections, is already swelling. Unpaid principal in workouts jumped to $22 billion in April, up 56% from a month earlier, according to the data firm Trepp.
Special servicers make money by charging fees based on the unpaid principal on the loans they manage. Most are units of larger finance companies. Midland Financial, named as special servicer on approximately $200 billion of CMBS debt, is a unit of PNC Financial Services Group Inc., a Pittsburgh-based bank.
Rialto Capital, owned by private equity firm Stone Point Capital, was a named special servicer on about $100 billionof CMBS loans. LNR Partners, which finished 2019 with the largest active special-servicer portfolio, is owned by Starwood Property Trust, a real estate firm founded by Barry Sternlicht.
Sternlicht said during a conference call on Monday that special servicers don’t “get paid a ton money” for granting forbearance.
“Where the servicer begins to make a lot of money is when the loans default,” he said. “They have to work them out and they ultimately have to resolve the loan and sell it or take back the asset.”
Like debt collectors in any industry, special servicers often play hardball, demanding personal guarantees, coverage of legal costs and complete repayment of deferred installments, according to Ann Hambly, chief executive officer of 1st Service Solutions, which works for about 250 borrowers who’ve sought debt relief in the current crisis.
“They’re at the mercy of this handful of special servicers that are run by hedge funds and, arguably, have an ulterior motive,” said Hambly, who started working for loan servicers in 1985 before switching sides to represent borrowers.
But fears about self-dealing are exaggerated, according to Fitch’s Adam Fox, whose research after the 2008 crisis concluded most special servicers abide by their obligations to protect the interests of bondholders.
“There were some concerns that servicers were pillaging the trust and picking up assets on the cheap,” he said. “We just didn’t find it.”
Hotels, which have closed across the U.S. as travelers stay home, have been the fastest to run into trouble during the pandemic. More than 20% of CMBS lodging loans were as much as 30 days late in April, up from 1.5% in March, according to CRE Finance Council, an industry trade group. Retail debt has also seen a surge of late payments in the last 30 days.
Special servicers are trying to mobilize after years of downsizing. The seven largest firms employed 385 people at the end of 2019, less than half their headcount at the peak of the last crisis, according to Fitch.
Miami-based LNR, where headcount ended last year down 40% from its 2013 level, is calling back veterans from other duties at Starwood and looking at resumes.
CWCapital, which reduced staff by almost 75% from its 2011 peak, is drafting Fortress workers from other duties and recruiting new talent, while relying on technology upgrades to help manage the incoming wave more efficiently.
“It’s going to be a very different crisis,” said Shevlin, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years.
“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard Feynman – Rogers Commission
“It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask “What is the cause of management’s fantastic faith in the machinery? … It would appear that, for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.” –Richard Feynman – Rogers Commission
(Jim Quinn) The phrase “Throttle Up” jumped into my consciousness in the last week when Trump and his coronavirus task force of government hacks and bureaucrat lackeys announced the guidelines for re-opening America, as if a formerly $22 trillion economy, tied to a $90 trillion global economy, could be turned off and on like a light switch. Clap off, clap on. It just doesn’t work that way. The arrogance and hubris of people who think they can declare a global shut down for a virus and think they can easily deal with the intended and unintended consequences of doing so, is breathtaking in its outrageous recklessness and egotistical belief in their own infallibility.
This contemptible belief in their own superiority has permeated every fiber of those who rule over us, particularly among captured central bankers, corrupt politicians, bought off scientists, and billionaire oligarchs. It is the same groupthink, purposeful failure to address risks, and willfully ignoring those in the trenches that murdered seven astronauts on January 28, 1986 and has created the 2nd Great Depression of today. “Throttle Up” is going to result in the same outcome as it did in 1986.
Thirty-four years ago, on a cold January morning, Space Shuttle Challenger thundered into a crystal-clear blue Florida sky on its 10th voyage into space. The seven astronauts, including civilian Christa McAuliffe, put their trust in the “experts” from NASA, Thiokol, and Rockwell that the shuttle was safe and launching when the temperature was 30 degrees would not pose any added risks. When Richard Covey in Mission Control informed the crew to “go at throttle up”, they expected what their training told them would happen.
Instead, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in a horrific display witnessed live on TV by 17% of the American population. School children all over the country were watching in their classrooms because McAuliffe was a school teacher chosen from thousands to go into space. It was a tragedy that shook the nation and led to one of Reagan’s better speeches that night, where he addressed the nation’s school children.
“I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
And he ended with this line from the poem ‘High Flight’:
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”
Thus, began the politician’s use of death to create heroes when human error, hubris, and recklessness is the true cause of avoidable tragedy and despair. Those seven astronauts were not heroes, they were victims. Just as we are all victims of the incompetency, arrogance, corruption and greed of those who lead our government, financial system, and corporate fascist oligarchy passing for capitalism in this globalist-controlled fraud of a former republic.
Using victims to create false heroes has now been elevated to an art form by politicians, the corporate media and mega-corporations to push whatever agenda supports their narrative. The propaganda machine is their most useful tool, as decades of dumbing down the public through government school indoctrination has created millions of pliable useful idiots who will believe anything presented by “experts” on the boob tube. The fear and panic created by politicians and the media about a virus only marginally more dangerous than the common flu is the perfect representation of this power over reality.
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is a perfect analogy for the current debacle being perpetrated on the American people by fecklessly corrupt authoritarian politicians, IYI medical “experts”, and fear mongering fake news media pushing the narrative in whatever direction benefits their bottom line. There is the simple technical reason why the Challenger blew up and then there is the real reason – the truthful explanation. What we must understand from history and experience is, if we don’t accept the narratives pushed by “experts” and think critically based upon facts, the truth will eventually be revealed.
The immediate cause of the explosion was a failure in the O-rings sealing the aft field joint on the right solid rocket booster, causing pressurized hot gases and eventually flame to “blow by” the O-ring and contact the adjacent external tank, causing structural failure. The truth is, decisions made and not made over years sealed the fate of those victims, just as we are facing today with this man-made global catastrophe.
After the shuttle disaster, politicians do what they do best, create a commission to cover-up the true cause and protect the establishment from blame. It was led by William Rogers, a government bureaucrat for decades, along with numerous other people with a vested interest in protecting NASA, the massive defense corporations sucking off the government teat, and the crooked politicians supporting NASA.
There were a couple of members from the trenches, like Sally Ride and Chuck Yeager, but the thorn in the side of the establishment was theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. Despite being racked by cancer, Feynman reluctantly agreed to join the commission, knowing he was going to be out of his element in the swamp of Washington D.C. The nation’s capital, he told his wife, was “a great big world of mystery to me, with tremendous forces.”
Feynman immediately created problems by thinking outside the box and having the gall to ignore the excuses and lies of high-level managers at NASA, Thiokol and Rockwell, while seeking the opinions of the actual engineers who did the real work. His unwillingness to toe the company line irritated the old guard looking to cover up the truth. During a break in one hearing, Rogers told commission member Neil Armstrong, “Feynman is becoming a pain in the ass.”
The establishment always thinks anyone who questions their authority or expertise is a pain in the ass, at best. Often, they treat anyone with an opposing viewpoint as the enemy, and will undertake any means to shut them up and destroy them. Witness how YouTube and Google are currently memory holing anything questioning the establishment narrative about this virus or Joe Biden’s sexual assault on a young woman as a Senator. Feynman embarrassed the “experts” on national TV when he conducted a simple demonstration of why the shuttle blew up.
“I took this stuff I got out of your [O-ring] seal and I put it in ice water, and I discovered that when you put some pressure on it for a while and then undo it, it doesn’t stretch back. It stays the same dimension. In other words, for a few seconds at least, and more seconds than that, there is no resilience in this particular material when it is at a temperature of 32 degrees. I believe that has some significance for our problem.” – Richard Feynman
The truth is top management at NASA knew the O-rings were defective in 1977 and contained a potentially catastrophic flaw. NASA managers also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors. Thiokol engineer Bob Ebeling in October 1985 wrote a memo—titled “Help!” so others would read it—of concerns regarding low temperatures and O-rings.
There were numerous teleconferences on the 27th of January where Ebeling and other engineers argued against the launch due to the freezing temperatures. According to Ebeling, a second conference call was scheduled with only NASA and Thiokol management, excluding the engineers. Thiokol management disregarded its own engineers’ warnings and now recommended the launch proceed as scheduled. Ebeling told his wife that night Challenger would blow up. He was right.
The Commission attempted to let NASA’s culture off the hook with no recommended sanctions against the deeply flawed organization. Feynman could not in good conscience recommend NASA should continue without a suspension of operations and a major overhaul. His fellow commission members were alarmed by Feynman’s dissent. Feynman was so critical of flaws in NASA’s “safety culture” that he threatened to remove his name from the report unless it included his personal observations on the reliability of the shuttle, which appeared as Appendix F.
The quote at the beginning of this article about upper management believing there was only a 1 in 100,000 chance of disaster, when the odds were really 1 in 100 or less, came from Feynman’s dissent in Appendix F. The fools at NASA and on the Commission didn’t understand or willfully ignored Feynman’s first principle:
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman
The truth stands on its own and is self-evident. Feynman is an example of an actual hero, not an MSM touted hero like Bernanke, Paulson, Geithner, Powell and the dozens of other psychopaths in suits who have been portrayed in the press as brilliant financial minds that saved the world. Real heroes take a singular stand for the truth, when everyone else goes along with mistruths, half-truths, and false narratives of those with a subversive self-serving agenda. The world is inundated in a blizzard of lies, designed to further the plans of those who control the levers of power and wealth.
Lies, backed by an unceasing stream of propaganda and fear, are being used to panic the masses into willingly abandon their freedoms, liberties and rights for the chains of false safety, security, and state control over every aspect of their lives. It is astonishing to watch in real time as a vast swath of America cowers in their homes, as demanded by their authoritarian elected leaders, while their livelihoods and net worth are purposely destroyed to benefit the .1% ruling class.
I see multiple analogies today with the shuttle disaster and the lessons learned and not learned. The leadership of NASA did not learn, as the same disregard for facts and data led to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster seventeen years later.
Just as the mid-level engineers at Thiokol warned of imminent disaster for years before the tragedy, there have been voices in the wilderness (scorned and ridiculed as conspiracy theorists) warning about the reckless arrogance of the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street owners, as they pumped up the largest financial bubble in world history as their solution for the catastrophe created by their previous monetary disaster in 2008. Just as the hubristic out of touch leadership of NASA murdered fourteen innocent astronauts, the Fed has now twice destroyed millions of lives in the last twelve years.
These self-proclaimed experts have known the financial system was going to explode since the middle of 2019 when they began a series of desperate ruses, behind the curtain of the debt saturated Ponzi scheme, to keep the Wall Street cabal and hedge fund billionaires from facing the consequences of their fraudulent monetary machinations.
The surprise cutting of interest rates and emergency repo operations every night as we entered 2020 covered up the imminent disaster, as the mindless Harvard and Wharton MBAs programmed their high frequency trading computers to buy, buy, buy. Best economy ever. Greatest in the history of the world. Stock market at all-time highs. Then the China flu arrived, just in time. A quick 30% plunge in the stock market was all the Fed needed to rescue their true constituents – Wall Street and billionaire hedge funds – with $6 trillion, under the guise of saving the financial system for the little people.
If you want to figure out who benefits from a man-made crisis, just follow the money. The Federal government has committed at least $3 trillion of your grandchildren’s money to the crisis thus far, with the Federal Reserve announcing another $6 trillion of monetary support. That’s $9 trillion, or $70,000 per household. The average household size is 2.5. If we assume each household got their $1,200 Covid-19 rebate (actually just giving them back the taxes they already pay), that’s $3,000 per household.
A critical thinking individual might wonder who got the other $67,000 of stimulus, or 95.7% of the money allocated to “save America”. It certainly hasn’t made its way to small business owners who are going out of business faster than burning gas through a defective O-ring. If only $400 billion is making its way into the pockets of formerly working Americans, where did the other $8.6 trillion go?
It went directly into the pockets of Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers, and the biggest corporations on the planet. The Fed has used this faux crisis to further enrich and bailout the richest men on the planet, while again dropping interest rates to zero and throwing grandma under the bus again. Let her eat cat food, declares Jerome Powell, champion and hero of downtrodden bankers. He’ll be “earning” $25 million a year from Wall Street as his payoff, the minute he saunters out of the Eccles Building in a couple years.
As unemployment approaches 20%, GDP plunges by 30%, food banks are running out of food, citizens remain locked in their homes under threat of arrest, and human misery approaches 1930 Great Depression levels, the Fed has managed to buy enough toxic debt and artificially rig the stock market, to engineer a 27% surge from its March lows. We should all applaud the brilliance of Powell and his fellow sycophants, as they have saved the asses of the .1%, for now.
The fate of this country was sealed well before this overblown hyped coronavirus appeared, to accelerate our demise. The warnings about too much debt, rigged financial markets, unrestrained politicians running trillion dollar deficits, silicon valley giants conspiring with the Deep State to turn the country into a surveillance state, a military industrial complex creating conflict around the globe, and a state media propaganda machine providing false information to the masses, were dismissed by those who could have acted.
The deficit is now expected to hit $3.7 trillion in 2020, pushing the national debt to $27 trillion. This country is 231 years old and 85% of our debt has been taken on in the last 23 years. The Fed’s balance sheet was $800 billion in 2008. It will shortly surpass $10 trillion, just a mere 1,250% increase in 12 years. Do you understand the analogy with the Space Shuttle Challenger yet?
We’ve left the launchpad at the same rate and angle as the Fed balance sheet. Those in charge assure us they have everything under control, but the coronavirus will prove to be our frozen O-ring. It has been decades of mismanagement, corruption, bad decisions, horrible leadership, delusional thinking, herd mentality, and an inability to summon the courage to deal with critical problems before they blew our country into a million smoking pieces of debris.
Average Americans are trapped in the crew cabin relying on Trump, Powell, Mnuchin, and a myriad of other “experts” to safely launch the American economy back into space. Trump has convened a re-opening task force consisting of dozens of CEOs from the biggest mega-corporations on earth. I know because I watched him read their names for fifteen minutes during one of his daily mind-numbing press conferences. If you had any doubt about who your leaders work for, that list tells you all you need to know. No one from your local steak shop, butcher or candlestick maker are represented on this task force. It reminded me of the list of prominent people chosen for the Rogers Commission.
The belief by those in charge that things can just go on as if nothing has happened are as delusional as the NASA administrators who were willfully blind to the truth of an impending disaster. The actions taken by the political and financial arms of the Deep State have guaranteed this malfunction will prove fatal for our country. The only question is how many seconds we have before our throttle up moment. I tend to be a pessimist, so I am leaning towards an explosion before the November election. The forthcoming financial catastrophic detonation will set off a chain of events considered impossible just a few short months ago.
The core elements of this Fourth Turning (debt, civic decay, global disorder) are going to juxtapose and connect, accelerating into a chain reaction of chaos, civil uprising, global war, mass casualties, the fall of empires, and ultimately the destruction of the existing social order (aka Deep State). Hopefully, heroes of Feynman’s stature will arise to help rebuild our country based upon common sense, truthfulness, factual assessment of our situation, and honoring the essential principles of our Constitution. Reality must take precedence over delusions, propaganda, and lies for us to regain our nation. Are we capable of learning the lessons from this major malfunction?
“Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously, a major malfunction.” – Steve Nesbitt – NASA Mission Control
The resentment against publicly-traded companies and major corporations and enterprise who abused the Treasury’s $349 billion small and medium business bailout by applying for the Paycheck Protection Program is growing.
Earlier today, ZeroHedge reported that over 80 publicly listed companies tapped the PPP – which is really a grant if used to pay wages – which not surprisingly ran out of funds just days after it was launched. The most prominent public company to take the funds was Shake Shack, which sparked backlash after receiving $10 million in PPP funds through JPMorgan. Sensing pitchforks in its its immediate future, the company announced on Monday that it would be returning the funds. It then sold 3.4 million shares of stock raising $136MM in gross proceeds.
Another company which tapped into the PPP was Ohio-based biotech Athersys, which received $1 million through the program despite raising nearly $60 million in a Monday stock offering after its shares have nearly doubled YTD. Meanwhile Nikola Motor – backed by Fidelity and hedge fund ValueAct, announced a $4 billion valuation in early March when it announced a merger with VectoIQ. The company borrowed $4 million from the PPP according to a disclosure. Ruth’s Chris steakhouse made $42 million in profit on $468 million in revenue last year, yet tapped $20 million from the PPP.
The figure below lists the 40 largest PPP loans that inexplicably went not to small businesses but to major corporations which not only have access to institutional debt capital markets – unlike most mom and pop shops – but can also sell stock and raise cash overnight, a luxury that America’s small business – which employ over half the US labor force -do not have.
One especially large organization that supposedly received millions in bailout loans was none other than Harvard.
Yesterday ZeroHedge reported that as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act, $14 billion was set aside to support higher education institutions – ostensibly those without billions already in the bank. Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, was set to receive $8.7 million in federal aid. Harvard points out that at least half of which has been mandated for emergency financial aid grants to students, which we would note that they can cover themselves
Hilariously, Harvard’s Crimson pointed to the risk that their endowment could shrink due to market volatility – maybe it will request a bailout next too? – and that the University’s financial situation is “grave.”
None of the made an impression on President Donald Trump, however, who during Tuesday’s Wu Flu briefing, said he plans on asking Harvard University to give back more than $8 million given to them under the CARES ACT.
“I’m going to request it,” Trump told reporters at the White House, singling out the Ivy League school. “Harvard is going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it.”
Asked if he was confident he would be successful in asking Harvard to return the money, Trump said that if the university “won’t do that, then we won’t do something else.” The president also noted the size of the university’s $40 billion endowment.
Harvard responded shortly after Trump’s demand, saying it did not receive funds through the Paycheck Protection Program and that the school is committed to using all of the funds to cover financial assistance to students.
“Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Harvard has committed that 100% of these emergency higher education funds will be used to provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain said. Again, it was unclear how said funds were so critical to the Harvard educational system – which charges $70,000 a year (for video conferences) and has $40 billion in its piggy bank – that the college would be unable to provide “assistance” to students facing financial needs if it did not get money that could have gone to some other business that actually needs it.
“This financial assistance will be on top of the support the University has already provided to students – including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education,” Swain added.
So, basically, bailout funds that are footed by the US taxpayer – in the form of trillion in new debt that will be repaid by all Americans, are now going to poor Harvard students. Wait, did we say “poor” Harvard student? According to the NYT, the median family income of a student from Harvard is $168,800 (95 percentile), and 67% of students come from the highest-earning 20% of American households. About 15% come from families in the top 1% of American wealth distribution.
Harvard is just one example of the thousands of companies which used their banker connections to get to the front of the line in getting “much needed” stimulus funds, even as millions of small business are waiting to this day for their loans.
“I will comment there have been some big businesses that have taken these loans. I was pleased to see that Shake Shack returned the money,” Mnuchin said. “The intent of this was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”
Mnuchin also said he wanted to give companies the “benefit of the doubt” by assuming they didn’t understand the requirements but warned of consequences for large businesses that take advantage of the program. Asked to expand on what those consequences could be, Mnuchin did not provide any specifics.
“We’re going to put up very clear guidance so that people understand what the certification is, what it means if you are a big company,” Mnuchin said.
Some have called for reform to the program, run by the Small Business Administration, in order to ensure that the funds go to small businesses in need.
The good news is that so far there has been little rampant fraud as some feared. Instead, the crony capitalism that the US has become so famous for was on full display, and instead of bailing out the poor, the US government – together with the Fed – has once again bailed out those who spend $10 million for their annual private jet maintenance.
(Alasdair Macleod) Commentators routinely confuse the deflationary effects of a contraction of bank credit with the inflationary effects of central bank policies designed to offset it. Central banks always ensure their stimulus is greater, so inflation, not deflation, is always the outcome.
In order to understand bank credit, we must enter the mind of a banker and understand how it is created, why it is expanded and why expansion is always followed by a sharp contraction.
But we have now moved on from a simplistic credit cycle model, given the global economy was already facing a tendency for bank credit to contract before the coronavirus drove supply chains into the greatest global payment crisis in history. The problem is now so large that to maintain both economic stability and price levels for financial assets the central banks, led by the Fed, will have to issue so much base currency that fiat currencies will become almost worthless.
In these conditions the banks that survive the next several months will then begin to expand bank credit anew to buy up physical assets instead of their normal financial fare, sealing the fate of fiat currencies with a final expansion of bank credit as the banks themselves dump worthless currencies for real assets.
Never has it been more important to understand the psychology and motivation behind changes in the level of bank credit at a time when governments and central banks are relying on commercial banks to transmit Keynesian stimuli to distressed borrowers. And never has it been more important for analysts to differentiate between deflationary forces that come entirely from the contraction of bank credit and inflationary forces that arise from central banks’ monetary policy.
Whether policies to rescue economies from the financial and economic effects of the coronavirus will actually get to the intended businesses depends largely on the transmission mechanisms for base money. While special powers for direct funding of large corporations may be implemented and the extension of public ownership to prevent bankruptcies of large players is very likely, commercial banks will be expected to play a central role in distributing monetary stimuli to businesses of all sizes. But since they regard small and medium size businesses as either too risky or not worth bothering with, it will be a struggle to get them to deliver the financial support intended.
In any advanced economy, a Pareto 80% of GDP is provided by small and medium-size enterprises. In a highly centralized banking system, for the banks that have access to the Fed through prime broker subsidiaries, SMEs are simply not worth bothering with. It leaves the majority of enterprises providing goods and services to the public out in the cold. Bankers looking through the dip will want to preserve more profitable relationships with large corporations and reduce their exposure to risky, expensive-to-administer smaller loans.
Investors who are used to getting positive returns solely on the back of expansionary monetary policies are now egging on the authorities to spend, spend and spend one more time. Pension funds and insurance companies in particular will now discover they are being lumbered with the cost of monetary expansion by an increasing depreciation of the currency, which escalates future liabilities. Ever since the investment industry pandered to the inflationary policies of central banks this outcome was inevitable, because both logic and sound economic theory tell us you cannot continually inflate your way out of trouble.
That end point is where we have now arrived. The state has come to rely completely on inflationary stimulation. The helicopters have warmed up and are ready to distribute monetary largess created by the magic of central banking, not just to individuals, but to their employers as well.
Mission impossible is to restore economic activity to where it was before the coronavirus shutdown. Politicians assume is can be achieved by deploying military precision. They have taken for themselves a mandate to sweep aside all bureaucracy and all objections to the role of the state. All it requires is for the banks as well as other critical actors to submit to their authority.
The Credit Cycle Was Turning Down Before The Chicom Virus Hit
It ignores the impact of the credit cycle, which was already turning down in the second half of last year. In response, the Fed first stalled its attempt to restore its balance sheet to normality and from September onward was forced to publicly intervene to inject massive amounts of liquidity into the banking system through the repo market.
All was not well in wholesale dollar markets at least five months before the virus hit, so the problem is more complex than a simple return to normality when the virus passes. Furthermore, the authorities trying to keep the economy from imploding are out of their depth, so much so that individuals in the private sector are gradually realizing it as well. Financial risk has escalated considerably, which has one effect: bankers will use every opportunity to reduce the size of their balance sheets. The authorities will struggle to get banks to hold fast, let alone distribute subsidies to producers and consumers alike.
Attempts at rescuing the global economy and supporting financial asset values upon which bank collateral is based will require massive inflation of base money, as outlined later in this article. But these attempts will have to fight bankers trying to control their lending risk in order to protect their shareholders’ capital from being wiped out. Their motivation to deflate bank credit will be greater than ever before.
An appreciation of the deflationary implications of the current phase of the credit cycle requires an understanding of how bank credit fluctuates and the predominantly psychological factors that drive it.
Origins Of Bank Credit
The general public is not aware that there are two separate sources of money. The central banks are empowered to issue money, but commercial banks do so as well. One way they do this is by taking in deposits and then lending them to borrowers for an interest rate turn. When the borrower draws down the loan to make payments, more deposits are created as the payments are made.
A second course of money creation is simply by lending money into existence. In this case, the loan is created first, and as it is drawn down, deposits are created. This is regarded as the more usual practice, hence the description of the process being the expansion of bank credit. Any imbalances that arise between banks are resolved through the interbank market.
By these means a bank’s own capital becomes a fraction of the bank’s expanded liabilities, hence the term fractional reserve banking. Figure 1 shows the bare bones of fractional reserve banking, with a bank’s balance sheet measured in monetary units (mu), early in a phase of credit expansion.
This balance sheet reflects a cautious approach to bank lending. Shareholders’ equity is valued at one third of customers’ deposits and is covered twice by government bonds, which will all be less than five years to maturity and is regarded in the banking system as the risk-free investment standard. At this stage of the credit cycle and with the banking community generally risk-averse, lending margins are profitable. The ratio of total assets to shareholders’ equity is five times. Put another way, profits and losses from changes in asset values are multiplied five times at the shareholder level.
Figure 2 shows the same bank’s balance sheet towards the end of the expansion phase of the credit cycle.
The economy has responded to both monetary stimulation from the government’s deficit spending and interest rate suppression by the central bank. The cohort of bankers has seen a lessening of lending risk and has responded by actively seeking lending opportunities among large corporations. Bankers are now lending increasingly to medium size corporations as well as investment grade rated borrowers where the margins are better. Falling unemployment and growing economic confidence decreases lending risk for credit card and other consumer debt, and the bank has extended additional credit for creditworthy customers. Liquidity from government bonds and bills has been drawn down in order to increase allocation to higher-yielding corporate debt. The balance sheet has expanded to give an overall gearing on shareholders’ equity of 12.5 to 1.
This means a two per cent margin averaged across total assets yields a 25% profit on share capital. But by the time this snapshot is taken, competition from other banks will have likely reduced lending margins generally, and the bank has responded by taking an even more aggressive lending stance, so lending margins overall are likely to be less generous than at the start of the credit cycle and loan quality will have deteriorated.
While shareholders are enjoying excellent returns, it has become a highly risky situation for the bank. The slightest pause in the economic outlook, whether it be from interest rates being raised by the central bank attempting to control the boom, or perhaps an exogenous factor, such as trade tariffs being raised between the bank’s jurisdiction and a major trading partner, will cause the directors of our bank to switch from greed to fear in a heartbeat. In our example, all it takes is losses of 12.5% of the bank’s assets to wipe out shareholders’ equity.
If one bank suspects there may be a deterioration in trade conditions, it is certain that others will as well, because they have similar business information. Due to the dangers of balance sheet gearing, bankers are exceedingly prone to group think.
When it happens, the switch from greed to fear travels like wildfire. But some banks are likely to be caught out, having been aggressive lenders trying to increase the size of their bank, often with a chief executive on an ego trip. Fred Goodwin at Royal Bank of Scotland was a recent example. Ignoring all signs of the ending of a cycle of credit expansion, Goodwin pushed through a consortium takeover of ABN-AMRO in October 2007, with RBS’s portion funded by debt. The bank’s balance sheet gearing became twenty-four to one.
With gearing of that sort very little needs to go wrong to wipe out shareholders equity, which is what happened. Failures of this type are an acute risk when the banking cohort has been lulled into a false sense of lending risk by a prolonged period of business stability combining with the siren’s beckoning of a financial bubble.
Reducing bank balance sheets without creating economic instability is virtually impossible. Driven by their group think, frightened bankers will seek to reverse credit expansion all at the same time. They sell corporate bonds in a market with no buyers. Spreads, the difference in yield between government bonds and riskier corporate debt, blow out, catastrophic for book values. Business and personal loan facilities are capped and withdrawn, driving many companies into the hands of insolvency practitioners. It can become a race between bankers to reduce the size of their balance sheets before their competitors, as the rapid withdrawal of bank credit triggers bankruptcies and unemployment. It has happened repeatedly for the last two hundred years.
The economic effect was summed up by economist Irving Fisher in the 1930s, who is forever associated with the theory of debt deflation. As the oxygen of credit is withdrawn, businesses get into trouble and banks begin to liquidate collateral. Liquidation of collateral drives their values even lower, exposing additional formally secured lending as no longer secured. Further collateral sales follow, driving collateral values down even further. And so on.
That was in the depression years, and Fisher’s point was to link the collapse of businesses, asset values and also the failure of banks themselves with the contraction of bank credit. Subsequently, central bank policy has focused on trying to anticipate and stop the deflation of bank credit in the first place, always ready to turn on the money spigot. The government then subsidized the economy by increasing its spending without raising taxes. By using the stimulus of unfunded government spending and central bank money creation, the government and its central bank are following the Keynesian economic playbook, which now sets the relationship between the state and private sectors.
Despite everything attempted by statist intervention, we still have periodic bouts of bank credit deflation. But matters have evolved from the simple model illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 above. Banking has become highly regulated, and banks now lend on a formulaic basis, set globally by the Basel Committee (we are on rules version 3) and by local regulators.
Earlier versions of these controls permitted Fred Goodwin to take the RBS balance sheet gearing to credit hyperspace. They say lessons were learned, but the only lessons learned by the regulators were new ways to keep their eyes shut and ears plugged. Stress testing of bank balance sheets assumes little more than a moderate recession and denies the likely consequences of anything worse. The economic crisis starts with a change in banking cohort group think, and not, as regulators with their useless stress tests assume, a decline in GDP, a rise in unemployment, a rise in price inflation, or Heaven forbid, an unexpected financial crisis. And if you think extreme bank leverage would have been controlled following the Fred Goodwin episode, think again. Figure 3 shows current balance sheet to equity ratios for a selection of major banks. Through the magic of modern accounting practice, they are almost certainly higher than reported.
From the few examples in Figure 3 we can anticipate bank failures to originate in Europe in the event of a general contraction of bank credit. Despite reducing its balance sheet significantly in recent years, Deutsche Bank is in Fred Goodwin territory, closely followed by BNP and Barclays. And the credit cycle has very obviously turned down again. The regulators persist in behaving like the three wise monkeys, wholly unaware there is a credit cycle and what these ratios indicate.
The large American banks are not so heavily geared, but that will not protect them from the global credit contraction that will now intensify.
Enter The ChiCom Virus
We have made the important point that before the coronavirus lock down, the credit cycle was already turning down. Liquidity strains had surfaced last September, with the Fed routinely supplying tens of billions of dollars of liquidity through the repo market.
The monetary base, which represents the quantity of money in public circulation created by the Fed, is now growing at the fastest pace on record. But since January, a new problem arose: the disruption to production supply chains from the virtual shutdown of Chinese production due to the coronavirus.
The manufacture of anything requires multiple inputs, commonly referred to as supply chains. The concept of a supply chain suggests they are one dimensional: a series of production steps that go towards a single product. This is not the case. Supply chains are multidimensional and involve supplies from many sources in many jurisdictions at every production stage. The sequential shutdown of China, South Korea and much of South East Asia was followed by Europe, Britain and America. During these shutdowns almost all production and sales of non-food goods and non-essentials ceased.
While the assembly of a product progresses in one direction, payments flow backwards down the chain as each production step is delivered. The sum of the payments involved is far greater than the value of the final product. The global payment disruption is therefore significantly greater than the GDP number, which only consists of the sum total of final products bought by consumers. In the case of the US, an approximation of domestic payment disruption is contained in the gross output statistic, which is $38 trillion compared with a GDP of $21 trillion.
The US economy is significantly services-driven, with shorter supply chains on average than an equivalent manufacturing-based economy, such as China or Germany. If you add together supply chain payments abroad that feed into final goods sold in America, total payments for intermediate production stages in dollar-driven production probably add up to more than $50 trillion, the majority of which are now frozen.
To understand the impact of this new factor on bank credit, we must divide business customers into two classes; those with cash and those that depend on bank loans for working capital.
Both categories have establishment and other costs that continue despite the collapse in production. Those with cash liquidity draw it down to make payments, reducing bank deposits, which are recycled into other deposits which may or may not be with the same bank. When those deposits reduce existing overdrafts, bank credit contracts reflecting a loan repayment. When they amount to a simple transfer of deposit ownership, they do not.
The greater problem is with businesses that need loan cover for missed payments. There are so many of them with payment failures, bankers are being overwhelmed. Whether they realize it or not, they cannot afford to say no to demands for credit because Irving Fisher’s debt deflation problem is so urgent that to deny loan requests would likely end up wiping out the banks’ own shareholders’ capital and then some.
Supply chain payment failures are becoming a banking problem many times larger than the banking cohort shareholders’ capital. The ratio of US gross output to total equity capital for commercial banks in the US is nineteen times. In other words, unless the Fed can increase base money by at least that and somewhat more to compensate for a degree of bank credit contraction, the economy and the banking system will almost certainly crash.
In Germany, where the two major private banks shown in Figure 3 have balance sheet to equity ratios of 15.1 and 22.6, supply chain disruptions seem certain to lumber them with a fatal combination of dramatically widening commercial bond spreads and payment failures from themittelstand.
Everywhere else, the problem is the same. The Fed has responded by reducing the cost of drawing down established central bank liquidity swaps lines, but they were only available to the ECB, the Bank of Japan, The Bank of England, Bank of Canada and the Swiss National Bank. Recognizing the wider problem, on 19 March the Fed extended swap lines temporarily to the central banks of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden for six months. A notable absentee from the list is China, which one would have thought is the most important user of dollar liquidity based on trade. Politics trumps the delivery of monetary policy in defiance of the scale and urgency of the crisis.
The problems facing the whole banking system have never been greater. Individually, commercial banks are bound to take every opportunity to reduce their risk exposure before the market values of collateral, particularly equities, corporate debt and both residential and commercial property categories fall further in value. Banks will attempt to reduce their interbank exposure, particularly to European banks. Eurozone banks are likely to be the first to fail, needing state bail outs. Counter party risk in over-the-counter derivatives becomes a major concern for all. And central banks are on a wing and a prayer if they think commercial banks will simply ensure liquidity gets to the right places in time to prevent a financial crisis.
The Final Crack-Up, BOOM
The Fed and other central banks can only blag solutions to a rapidly debasing currency, but the commitment to maintain financial asset values by printing money in the manner of John Law three hundred years ago will require such enormous amounts of base money as to bring forward the destruction of the fiat dollar and all the other fiat currencies. Banks will have fought for survival in this changed world, with many of them succumbing to public ownership.
In this rapidly deteriorating environment, it won’t be long before the smarter bankers realize that they can deploy the expansion of bank credit to acquire not financial assets, which will become worthless being priced in worthless currency, but real assets. The model adopted is likely to be that of Hugo Stinnes, who in 1920-Germany was known as the inflation king. Stinnes borrowed rapidly depreciating marks to buy up factories and property, amassing an empire of 4,500 companies and 3,000 manufacturing plants. Stinnes died in 1924, the year after the great inflation, and his empire subsequently collapsed.
Banks emulating Stinnes have an additional advantage. They can make acquisitions as principals by expanding bank credit again when they are confident that repayments when falling due will be worth significantly less. Bankers under the cover of nationalized banks might even direct the expansion of bank credit into newly created vehicles in which they have personal interests. This behavior is atypical and might even have the support of a hapless state desperate for any form of financial stability.
This last act, the restoration of bank credit in its relationship with base money will add a rising multiple of the trillions of central bank base money scheduled to be issued in the coming months and will be a vital component of the crack-up boom with which all currency collapses end. The role of the banks as the medium with which the state seeks to tame free markets will ultimately hasten the end of the fiat currencies from which they have profited so much, and the end of central banking as well.
The Great Crash of 2020 was not caused by a virus. It was precipitated by the virus, and made worse by the crazed decisions of governments around the world to shut down business and travel. But it was caused by economic fragility. The supposed greatest economy in US history
actually was a walking sick man, made comfortable with painkillers, and looking far better than he felt—yet ultimately fragile and infirm. The coronavirus pandemic simply exposed the underlying sickness of the US economy. If anything, the crash was overdue.
Too much debt, too much malinvestment, and too little honest pricing of assets and interest rates made America uniquely vulnerable to economic contagion. Most of this vulnerability can be laid at the feet of central bankers at the Federal Reserve, and we will pay a terrible price for it in the coming years. This is an uncomfortable truth, one that central bankers desperately hope to obscure while the media and public remain fixated on the virus.
But we should not let them get away with it, because (at least when it comes to legacy media) the Fed’s gross malfeasance is perhaps the biggest untold story of our lifetimes.
Symptoms of problems were readily apparent just last September during the commercial bank repo crisis. After more than a decade of quantitative easing, relentless interest rate cutting, and huge growth in “excess” reserves (more than $1.5 trillion) parked at the Fed, banks still did not have enough overnight liquidity? The repo market exposed how banks were capital constrained, not reserve constrained. So what exactly was the point of taking the Fed’s balance sheet from less than $1 trillion to over $4 trillion, anyway? Banks still needed money, after a decade of QE?
As with most crises, the problems took root decades ago. What we might call the era of modern monetary policy took root with the 1971 Nixon Shock, which eliminated any convertibility of dollars for gold. Less than twenty years later, in October 1987, Black Monday wiped out 20 percent of US stock market valuations. Fed chair Alan Greenspan promised Wall Street that such a thing would never happen again on his watch, and he meant it: the “Greenspan Put” was the Maestro’s blueprint for providing as much monetary easing as needed to prop up equity markets. The tech stock crash of the NASDAQ in 2000 only solidified the need for “new” monetary policy, and in 2008 that policy took full flight under the obliging hand of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke—a man who not only fundamentally misunderstood the Great Depression in his PhD thesis, but who also had the self-regard to write a book titled The Courage to Act about his use of other people’s money to re-inflate the biggest and baddest stock bubble in US history.
James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer characterizes the Fed’s recent actions as a “leveraged buy-out of the United States of America.” The Fed is assumed to have an unlimited balance sheet, able to provide financial markets with “liquidity” as needed, in any amount, for any length of time. Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey urges the Fed to do more, and Congress to spend more, all in the unholy name of liquidity.
But liquidity is nothing more than ready money for investment and spending. In the current environment it is a euphemism for free manna from heaven. It is “free” money—unearned, representing no increase in output or productivity. It has no backing and no redeemability. And not only are there no new goods and services in the economy, there are far fewer due to the lock down.
So monetary “policy” as we know it is dead as a door nail. What central banks and Fed officials do no longer falls within the realm of economics or policy; in fact the Fed no longer operates as what we think of as a central bank. It is not a backstop or “banker’s bank,” as originally designed (in theory), nor is it a steward of economic stability pursuing its congressionally authorized dual mandate. It does not follow its own charter in the Federal Reserve Act (e.g., impermissibly buying corporate bonds). It does not operate based on economic theory or empirical data. It no longer pursues any identifiable public policy other than sheer political expediency. Fed governors do not follow “rules” or targets or models. They answer to no legislature or executive, except when cravenly collaborating with both to offload consequences onto future generations.
The Fed is, in effect, a lawless economic government unto itself. It serves as a bizarro-world ad hoc credit facility to the US financial sector, completely open ended, with no credit checks, no credit limits, no collateral requirements, no interest payments, and in some cases no repayments at all. It is the lender of first resort, a kind of reverse pawnshop which pays top dollar for rapidly declining assets. The Fed is now the Infinite Bank. It is run by televangelists, not bankers, and operates on faith.
New Digital Reserve Currency Anticipated to be Part of Future COVID-19 Stimulus Package
(Yahoo News) Vancouver, British Columbia–(Newsfile Corp. – April 6, 2020) – NetCents Technology Inc. (CSE: NC) (FSE: 26N) (OTCQB: NTTCF) (“NetCents” or the “Company“), a disruptive cryptocurrency payments technologies company, is pleased to announce that it has completed internally designated preparation for the expected US Government backed cryptocurrency, “Central Bank Digital Currency” (CBDC).
NetCents jumped into action as soon as it learned of the plans US Congress made to legislate for this US Federal Reserve Digital Currency as part of two different versions of the first Central Bank Digital Currency (“Stimulus Bill” or the “Bill”). Ultimately this aspect of the legislation wasn’t included in the final version of the first Stimulus Bill, but the Board and Advisors of NetCents have agreed that this “Digital Dollar” will be included in subsequent legislation.
The Bill is expected to establish a “Digital Dollar”, defined as ‘a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal Reserve Bank or … an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution.’ This will create a cryptocurrency backed and guaranteed by the US Federal Government. The Bill goes on to define a digital wallet, and a requirement that US chartered banks offer these wallets.
The establishment of these products is intended to simplify the cost and process of distributing the millions of stimulus payments contemplated by the Bill, but the effects of this move will be far reaching. While the complexity of this undertaking meant that Congress was unable to include it in the first Bill – NetCents Management believes the ultimate adoption is a foregone conclusion.
Daniel Gorfine, founder of fintech advisory firm Gattaca Horizons and former Chief Innovation Officer at Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), as well as a founding Director of the Digital Dollar Project, stated to Forbes, ‘It is worth exploring, testing, and piloting a true USD CBDC and broader digital infrastructure in order to improve our future capabilities and resiliency. While the crisis underscores the importance of upgrading our financial infrastructure, broadly implementing a CBDC will require time and thoughtful coordination between the government and private sector stakeholders.’ – Forbes, March 24, 2020 (link below)
NetCents has developed software to support these initiatives and stands ready to support the effort. Part of the Bill requires US chartered banks to offer these digital wallets to their clients – NetCents has built this platform as part of its current white-label offering for financial institutions.
The Forbes article goes on to quote Carmelle Cadet, Founder and CEO of EMTECH, a modern central bank technology and services company. She has recently started a new initiative called, ‘Project New Dawn’ to ensure the unbanked and underbanked receive economic stimulus payments. Citing a FDIC report in 2017 that identified 63 million unbanked and underbanked in the U.S., she notes, ‘If checks are the form of payment, the stimulus is not going to reach many of them. That would be approximately $100B underutilized of stimulus for lower income householders.’
“We fully support the US Government in its’ creation of the contemplated Digital Reserve Currency. The US dollar is already the reserve currency of the World – so moving it to a digital format makes total sense. The US might have 63 million unbanked, but the planet Earth has billions of unbanked – it only makes sense that the dollar take a digital form to enable remittance and micropayments for the unbanked globally – as well as ensure its status as the World’s dominant currency. The benefits to the Treasury would accrue into many billions of dollars in innumerable ways. Societal benefits would be created as well; a Digital Dollar would be difficult to use for crimes and funding terrorism for example. This milestone is the ultimate endorsement that Cryptocurrency and Blockchain are here to stay,” stated Clayton Moore, Chief Executive Officer, NetCents. “We look forward to offering our platform to US Banks and then to Global Banks so that they can meet the requirements for a digital USD wallet,” he summarized.
NetCents Technologies enables transactions that are both touchless and within social distancing guidelines – which is an added benefit in the current environment.
The NetCents Suite of software enables individuals and merchants to transact using Cryptocurrency both in a physical store environment as well as in an e-commerce setting – it is deploying Crypto-enabled financial products across numerous business verticals to become a complete Crypto ecosystem.
Following Wells Fargo’s complaint that it was unable to fully participate in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, capping its small business bailout exposure to at most $10 billion, due to the Fed unprecedented 2018 enforcement action and restrictions on Wells Fargo’s balance sheet as punishment for the bank’s opening of millions of fake accounts which cost former CEO John Stumpf his job, it was only a matter of time before the Fed relented and eased the bank’s restrictions as the NYT reported two days ago.
And indeed, this happened moments ago when the Fed announced that “due to the extraordinary disruptions from the coronavirus, that it will temporarily and narrowly modify the growth restriction on Wells Fargo so that it can provide additional support to small businesses.”
Due to the extraordinary disruptions from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday announced that it will temporarily and narrowly modify the growth restriction on Wells Fargo so that it can provide additional support to small businesses. The change will only allow the firm to make additional small business loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and the Federal Reserve’s forthcoming Main Street Lending Program.
However, in a curious twist, the Board said it would require profits and benefits from Well’s participation in the PPP and the Main Street Lending Program “to be transferred to the U.S. Treasury or to non-profit organizations approved by the Federal Reserve that support small businesses. The change will be in place as long as the facilities are active.”
In other words, the Fed will remove incentives for the remaining criminals on Wells’ staff to create fake bailout loans and profit from the Treasury’s guaranteed funds.
Some more details:
The Board’s growth restriction was implemented because of widespread compliance and operational breakdowns that resulted in harm to consumers and because the company’s activities were ineffectively overseen by its board of directors. The growth restriction does not prevent the firm from engaging in any type of activity, including the PPP, the Main Street Lending Program, or accepting customer deposits. Rather, it provides an overall cap on the size of the firm’s balance sheet. The change today provides additional support to small businesses hurt by the economic effects of the coronavirus by allowing activities from the PPP and the Main Street Lending Program to not count against the cap.
The Fed concludes that “the changes do not otherwise modify the Board’s February 2018 enforcement action against Wells Fargo. The Board continues to hold the company accountable for successfully addressing the widespread breakdowns that resulted in harm to consumers identified as part of that action and for completing the requirements of the agreement.”
The PPP program, while much needed by main street businesses, will in the coming years be revealed as an unprecedented criminal “free for all”, as tens of billions in funds are funneled into illicit organizations and shady deals.
This action, which is supposedly such a great move by the Federal Reserve, is a monkey hammer on any business who uses Wells Fargo. They just took away the profit motive for Wells to produce any loans under this program. So why would Wells write any loans? They won’t!
Do you realize how many businesses are hooked up to Wells that will now not be able to use this program?
One week after the Fed expanded its “bazooka” by launching a “nuclear bomb” in the words of Paul Tudor Jones , at fixed income capital markets which it has now effectively nationalized by monetizing or backstopping pretty much everything, some signs of thaw are starting to emerge in the all important commercial paper market, where the spread to 3M USD OIS is finally starting to tighten, coming in by 60bps overnight.
But while the move will be welcomed by companies in dire need of short-term funding, it is nowhere near enough to unfreeze the broader commercial paper market, with the spread still precipitously high even for those companies that have access to commercial paper, which is why most companies continue drawing down on revolvers.
As ZeroHedge reported over the weekend, according to JPMorgan calculations, aggregate corporate revolver draw downs represent 77% of the total facilities, with JPM noting that the total amount of borrowing by companies is likely significantly greater than this, well above 80%, as it only reflects disclosed amounts by large companies, and there are likely undisclosed borrowings by middle market companies.
In nominal terms, this means that corporates that have tapped banks for funding has risen further to a record $208 billion on Thursday, up $15 billion from $193 billion on Wednesday and $112BN on Sunday. That’s right: nearly $100 billion in liquidity was drained from banks in the past week; is there any wonder the FTA/OIS has barely eased indicating continued tensions in the interbank funding market.
Yet the bigger problem remains: with banks already pressed for liquidity, they are suffering a modern-day “bank run”, where instead of depositors pulling their money, corporations are drawing down on revolvers at unprecedented levels, something we first described three weeks ago “Banking Crisis Imminent? Companies Scramble To Draw Down Revolvers.”
Of course, at the end of the day, liquidity is liquidity, and banks are starting to fear when and if this revolver run will ever end, and just how much liquidity they need to provision, especially since many of these companies will have to file for bankruptcy in the coming months, sticking banks with a pre-petition claim (albeit secured).
As a result, and as Bloomberg reports, the biggest U.S. banks have been quietly discouraging some of America’s safest borrowers from tapping existing credit lines amid record corporate draw downs on lending facilities.
as Bloomberg notes, investment-grade revolvers, “especially those financed in the heyday of the bull market,” are a low margin business, and some even lose money. The justification is that they help cement relationships with clients who will in turn stick with the lenders for more expensive capital-markets or advisory needs. While this is fine under normal circumstances when the facilities are sporadically used, “with so many companies suddenly seeking cash anywhere they can get it, they’re now threatening to make a dent in banks’ bottom lines.“
The second issue is more nuances: while Bloomberg claims that the draw down wave “is not an issue of liquidity for Wall Street” we disagree vehemently, and as proof of strained bank liquidity we merely highlight the fact that after $12 trillion in monetary and fiscal stimulus has been injected, it has failed to tighten the critical FRA/OIS spread which remains at crisis levels.
The good news is that at least some corporations – those who have the most alternatives – are willing to oblige bank requests, turning instead to new, pricier term loans or revolving credit lines rather than tapping existing ones. “McDonald’s last week raised and drew a $1 billion short-term facility at a higher cost than an existing untapped revolver” Bloomberg notes, adding that while rationales will vary from borrower to borrower, analysts agree that for most, staying in the good graces of lenders amid a looming recession is important.
The bad news is that most companies remain locked out of other liquidity conduits – be they new credit facilities, or commercial paper – and are thus forced to keep drawing down on existing lines of credit, which puts bankers – especially relationship bankers – in a very tough spot.
“The banker is coming at it trying to manage two things — the relationship profitability and their portfolio of risks and assets,” said Howard Mason, head of financials research at Renaissance Macro Research. “Bankers have some cards to play because they can talk to their clients that have undrawn credit lines. The sense is that there’s a relationship involved so relationship pricing and good will applies.”
Meanwhile, as banks quietly scramble to raise liquidity of their own – because, again, liquidity is always and everywhere fungible – U.S. financial institutions have sold almost $50 billion of bonds over the past two weeks to bolster their coffers, ironically even as corporate bankers are advising companies not to hoard cash unless they urgently need it. Some are even telling certain clients to hold off on seeking new financing to avoid over-stressing a system already stretched to its limits operationally as bankers are inundated with requests while stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The banks are open but if everybody asks at the same time then it’s going to be difficult from a balance sheet perspective,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Arnold Kakuda said in an interview.
Kinda like the whole fractional reserve concept: banks have money in theory… as long as not all of their depositors demand to withdraw money at the same time. With revolvers, it more or less the same thing.
“The corporate banker doesn’t want everybody to take a hot shower at the same time in the house,” said Marc Zenner, a former co-head of corporate finance advisory at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “They want to use their capital where it’s most beneficial.”
Amusingly, even McDonald – right after it signed a new revolver – immediately tapped the full $1 billion as a “precautionary measure” to reinforce its cash position, the company said in a regulatory disclosure Thursday. It also priced $3.5 billion of bonds last week as part of its broader liquidity management strategy.
In short, it’s a liquidity free for all, and the bottom line is simple: those bigger companies that still have access to liquidity will survive; those that are cut off, will fail, giving the bigger companies even greater market share, and crushing the small and medium businesses across America.
As a result, the prevailing thinking across corporate America is is “it’s ‘better safe than sorry,” said Jesse Rosenthal, an analyst at CreditSights Inc. “They might believe with all their hearts that the bank has all the liquidity they need, but it’s just fiduciary duty, due diligence, and prudence in a totally unprecedented situation.” Ironically, we reported last week that a bankrupt energy company, EP Energy, listed a trolling risk factor in its annual report, in which the company mused that it may be challenged if one or more of its lender banks collapsed.
Meanwhile, confirming that this latest freak out is all about liquidity, bankers are now including provisions in new deals that ensure they’ll be among the first to be paid back when companies regain access to more conventional sources of financing, according to Bloomberg sources.
And for those insisting on drawing down revolvers now, Renaissance Macro’s Mason says banks will ultimately seek to recoup the costs down the line.
“The message to corporate clients is, ‘you can continue to do this, but we are looking at profitability on a relationship business, so if we don’t make our hurdles here we need to make them somewhere else,’” Mason said. Of course, those companies which have already drawn down on their revolvers and/or have anything to do with the energy sector… see you after you emerge from Chapter 11.
WAR WITH THE INTERNATIONAL BANKING CARTEL? OR NESARA?
Tucked in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress is a curious provision that essentially outlines how the Treasury and the Federal Reserve will merge into one organization. Is this President Trump’s way of taking back America’s monetary sovereignty, or is it a smokescreen that expands the Fed’s power?
Are gold and silver becoming what Mike Maloney has always suggested, Unaffordium and Unobtainium? The last few weeks have given us a preview of how stretched the physical gold and silver markets can become when the markets move. Join Mike as he welcomes GoldSilver.com President Alex Daley for a special Retail Bullion Update.
“You have enormous buyers of debt meeting massive coordinated fiscal stimulus by governments across the globe. For bond investors, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”
With the Fed buying $622 billion in Treasury and MBS, a staggering 2.9% of US GDP, in just the past five days…
… any debate what to call the current phase of the Fed’s asset monetization – “NOT NOT-QE”, QE4, QE5, or just QEternity – can be laid to rest: because what the Fed is doing is simply Helicopter money, as it unleashes an unprecedented debt – and deficit – monetization program, one which is there to ensure that the trillions in new debt the US Treasury has to issue in the coming year to pay for the $2 (or is that $6) trillion stimulus package find a buyer, which with foreign central banks suddenly dumping US Treasuries…
… would otherwise be quite problematic, even if it means the Fed’s balance sheet is going to hit $6 trillion in a few days.
The problem, at least for traders, is that this new regime is something they have never encountered before, because during prior instances of QE, Treasuries were a safe asset. Now, however, with fears that helicopter money will unleash a tsunami of so much debt not even the Fed will be able to contain it resulting in hyperinflation, everything is in flux, especially when it comes to triangulating pricing on the all important 10Y and 30Y Treasury.
Indeed, as Bloomberg writes today, core investor tenets such as what constitutes a safe asset, the value of bonds as a portfolio hedge, and expectations for returns over the next decade are all being thrown out as governments and central banks strive to avert a global depression.
And as the now infamous “Money Printer go Brrr” meme captures so well, underlying the uncertainty is the risk that trillions of dollars in monetary and fiscal stimulus, and even more trillions in debt, “could create an eventual inflation shock that will trigger losses for bondholders.”
Needless to say, traders are shocked as for the first time in over a decade, they actually have to think:
“You have enormous buyers of debt meeting massive coordinated fiscal stimulus by governments across the globe. For bond investors, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”
And while equity investors may be confident that in the long run, hyperinflation results in positive real returns if one sticks with stocks, the Weimar case showed that that is not the case. But that is a topic for another day. For now we will focus on bond traders, who are finding the current money tsunami unlike anything they have seen before.
Indeed, while past quantitative easing programs have led to similar concerns, this emergency response is different because it’s playing out in weeks rather than months and limits on QE bond purchases have quickly been scrapped.
Any hope that the Fed will ease back on the Brrring printer was dashed when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday the central bank will maintain its efforts “aggressively and forthrightly” saying in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show that the Fed will not “run out of ammunition” after promising unlimited bond purchases. His comments came hours after the European Central Bank scrapped most of the bond-buying limits in its own program.
The problem is that while this type of policy dominates markets, fundamental analysis scrambling to calculate discount rates and/or debt in the system fails, and “strategic thinking is stymied and some prized investment tools appear to be defunct”, said Ronald van Steenweghen of Degroof Petercam Asset Management.
“Valuation models, correlation, mean reversion and other things we rely on fail in these circumstances,” said the Brussels-based money manager. Oh and as an added bonus, “Liquidity is also very poor so it is difficult to be super-agile.”
The irony: the more securities the Fed soaks up, be they Treasuries, MBS, Corporate bonds, ETFs or stocks, the worse the liquidity will get, as the BOJ is finding out the hard way, as virtually nobody wants to sell their bonds to the central bank.
Another irony: normally the prospect of a multi-trillion-dollar government spending surge globally ought to send borrowing costs soaring. But central bank purchases are now reshaping rates markets – emulating the Bank of Japan’s yield-curve control policy starting in 2016 – and quashing these latest volatility spikes.
In effect, the Fed’s takeover of bond markets (and soon all capital markets), means that any signaling function fixed income securities have historically conveyed, is now gone, probably for ever.
“Investors shouldn’t expect to see much more than moderately steep yield curves, since the Fed and its peers don’t want higher benchmark borrowing costs to undermine their stimulus,” said Blackrock strategist Scott Thiel. “That would be detrimental to financial conditions and to the ability for the stimulus to feed through to the economy. So the short answer is, it’s yield-curve control.”
Said otherwise, pretty soon the entire yield curve will be completely meaningless when evaluating such critical for the economy conditions as the price of money or projected inflation. They will be, simply said, whatever the Fed decides.
And with the yield curve no longer telegraphing any inflationary risk, it is precisely the inflationary imbalances that will build up at an unprecedented pace.
Additionally, when looking further out, Bloomberg notes that money managers need to reassess another assumption that’s become widely held in recent years: that inflation is dead. Van Steenweghen says he’s interested in inflation-linked bonds, though timing a foray into that market is “tricky.”
Naeimi also said he expects that the coordination by central banks and governments will spike inflation at some stage. “It all adds to the volatility of holding bonds,” he said. But for the time being, he’s range-trading Australian bonds — buying when 10-year yields hit 1.5%, and selling at 0.6%.
That’s right: government bonds have become a daytrader’s darling. Whatever can possibly go wrong.
But the biggest fear – one we have warned about since 2009 – is that helicopter money, which was always the inevitable outcome of QE, will lead to hyperinflation, and the collapse of both the US Dollar, and the fiat system, of which it is the reserve currency. Bloomberg agrees:
Many market veterans agree that faster inflation may return in a recovery awash with stimulus that central banks and governments may find tough to withdraw. A reassessment of consumer-price expectations would be a major setback for expensive risk-free bonds, especially those with the longest maturities, which are most vulnerable to inflation eroding their value over time.
Of course, at the moment that’s hard to envisage, with market-implied inflation barely at 1% over the next decade, but as noted above, at a certain point the bond market no longer produces any signal, just central bank noise, especially when, as Bloomberg puts it, “central bank balance sheets are set to explode further into unchartered territory.” Quick note to the Bloomberg editors: it is “uncharted”, although you will have plenty of opportunity to learn this in the coming months.
Alas, none of this provides any comfort to bond traders who no longer have any idea how to trade in this new “helicopter normal“, and thus another core conviction is being revised: the efficacy of U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven and portfolio hedge.
Mark Holman, chief executive and founding partner of TwentyFour Asset Management in London, started questioning that when the 10-year benchmark hit its historic low early this month.
“Will government bonds play the same role in your portfolio going forward as they have in the past?” he said. “To me the answer is no they don’t — I’d rather own cash.”
For now, Mark is turning to high-quality corporate credit for low-risk income, particularly in the longer maturity bonds gradually rallying back from a plunge, especially since they are now also purchased by the Fed. He sees no chance of central banks escaping the zero-bound’s gravitational pull in the foreseeable future. “What we do know is we’re going to have zero rates around the world for another decade, and we’re going to have the need for income for another decade,” he said.
Other investors agree that cash is the only solution, which is why T-Bills – widely seen as cash equivalents – are now trading with negative yields for 3 months and over.
Yet others rush into the safety of gold… if they can find it. At least check, physical gold was trading with a 10% premium to paper gold and rising fast.
Ultimately, as Bloomberg concludes, investors will have to find their bearings “in a crisis without recent historical parallel.”
“It’s very hard to look at this in a historical context and then apply an investment framework around it,” said BlackRock’s Thiel. “The most applicable period is right before America entered WW2, when you had gigantic stimulus to spur the war effort. I mean, Ford made bombers in WW2 and now they’re making ventilators in 2020.”
Yesterday the Chair of the FDIC released an astonishing video asking Americans to keep their money in the bank.
Accompanied by soft piano music playing in the background, the official said:
“Your money is safe at the banks. The last thing you should be doing is pulling your money out of the banks thinking it’s going to be safer somewhere else.”
(Simon black) Amazing. I was half expecting her to waive her hand and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…”
As I’ve written before, there’s $250 TRILLION worth of debt in the world right now: student debt, housing debt, credit card debt, government debt, corporate debt, etc.
And let’s be honest, some of that debt is simply not going to be paid.
Millions of people have already lost their jobs. Millions more (like the 10 million waiters and bartenders across America) are barely earning anything right now because their businesses are closed.
The government has already suspended evictions and foreclosures, which is a green light for people to stop paying the rent or mortgage.
And that means banks will take it in the teeth.
This is what happened back in 2008– millions of people across the country stopped paying their mortgages, and the banking system nearly collapsed as a result.
Today it’s a similar situation; a lot of people are going to stop paying their mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, etc. And that directly impacts the banks.
Businesses are in deep financial trouble too.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the median small business in the United States has a cash balance that will last them just 27 days.
And many are operating with an even smaller safety net; the median restaurant, for example, has a cash balance of just 16 days.
These businesses have been told to close down due to the Corona Virus. And it’s likely that many of them will never re-open.
A lot of these companies also have debt. And if they close, those debts will never be repaid.
Even big businesses are susceptible to failure.
Every airline, cruise ship operator, hotel, retail chain, etc. is on the ropes, and each of these companies has borrowed billions of dollars.
This pandemic could easily push several big companies into bankruptcy.
You probably know that old saying– if you owe the bank a million dollars and can’t pay, you have a problem. If you owe the bank a billion dollars and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.
That’s what we’re seeing now.
Countless unemployed individuals, millions of shuttered small businesses, and bankrupt big companies collectively owe the banks trillions of dollars. And many of them can’t pay… which means the entire banking system has a problem.
How much money will the banks lose because of this pandemic?
It could easily end up being hundreds of billions of dollars, even several trillion dollars.
No one knows. But it’s not going to be zero. It’s silly to think that banks are immune to the Corona virus, or to assume that not a single bank is going to run into problems.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that the banking system is about to collapse. There are stronger banks and weaker banks. Many of them will survive, others will fail.
What I am saying is that there are enormous and obvious risks that threaten the banking system.
As I’ve written several times over the past few weeks: Anyone who says, “No, that’s impossible,” clearly doesn’t have a grasp of what’s happening right now. EVERY scenario is on the table, including severe problems in the banking system.
But the FDIC insists that there’s nothing to worry about.
That’s ridiculous. The FDIC only has $109 billion to insure the entire $13 trillion US banking system. That’s less than 1%!
The FDIC also insists that they’ve always been able to prevent depositors from losing money. “Not a single depositor has lost money since 1933.” And that’s true.
But they’ve never had to deal with this before. Neither the FDIC, nor any bank, has ever had to deal with a complete shutdown of the economy… or potential losses of this magnitude.
The Covid-19 impact on the banking system could be 10x bigger than the housing meltdown in 2008.
If the pandemic ends up causing trillions of dollars of loan losses, the FDIC won’t have enough ammunition to fix it… and that doesn’t even consider trillions of dollars more in potentially toxic derivatives exposure.
So to casually brush off these risks and claim that everything is 100% safe seems incomprehensible.
It also raises an interesting point: why is the FDIC asking us to NOT withdraw our savings?
If the financial system is so safe, it shouldn’t matter to them whether or not people keep their money in the banks.
Yet they still felt the need to specifically ask people to NOT withdraw their money… and tell us that we shouldn’t keep cash at home.
I’ll reiterate a point that we’ve made again and again at Sovereign Man over the years: it makes sense to have some physical cash in an at-home safe.
I’m not suggesting you keep your life’s savings in physical cash. But a month or two worth of expenses won’t hurt.
There’s very little downside– your bank probably only pays you 0.01% anyhow, so it’s not like you will be giving up a ton of interest income.
And given that the FDIC is specifically saying that you shouldn’t do this, a prudent person might wonder what’s really going on.
The global pandemic has shut down several mining jurisdictions around the world, taking off a large chunk of silver production, this according to Keith Neumeyer, CEO of First Majestic Silver. “In 2018, we produced, as a global industry, 855 million ounces of silver. So far, we’ve had Peru come offline, with 145 million ounces, we’ve had Chile come offline with 42 million ounces, we’ve had Argentina come offline with 26.5 million ounces. That’s a total of 213.5 million ounces that has now been shut down,” Neumeyer told Kitco News.
Discount silver bullion dealers via the internet are all out of stock, as of this writing, leaving us to explore retail silver price discovery via eBay auction for bargains today:
In the aftermath of the great Commercial Paper panic of 2020, which erupted over the past two weeks when initially the Fed failed to launch a Commercial Paper backstop facility, something it did with a two day delay on Tuesday, countless blue chip (and less than clue chip) companies found themselves with gaping liquidity shortfalls, and to bridge their funding needs, they rushed to draw on their existing credit facilities (also a hedge in case the banking system imposes a lending moratorium similar to what happened in the 2008 crash).
As a result, corporate borrowers worldwide, including Boeing, Hilton, Wynn, Kraft Heinz and dozens more, drew about $60 billion from revolving credit facilities this week in a frantic dash for cash as liquidity tightens.
On Wednesday alone, another seven more companies – CEC Entertainment, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Diamondrock Hospitality, Tailored Brands, J Jill, Boyd Gaming, and National Vision – announced intentions to draw down credit lines.
As of Friday morning, the week recorded $58BN of draw downs, more than a five-fold jump from the $11BN for the whole of the previous week, according to Bloomberg data. The total drawdown would bring the utilization ratio above 24%, double from the 12% as of 4Q19 for US Investment Grade companies.
Thursday alone saw $21BN of facilities drawn, just short of the $21.3BN recorded on Tuesday, with Ford ($15.4BN), Kohl’s ($1BN), TJX ($1BN) and Ross Stores leading the revolving charge.
What is concerning is that despite the Fed’s CP backstop, companies continue to draw down on revolvers, whether because the rate on their CP is too high, or they simply do not trust banks.
The BofA table below summarizes all the companies that have drawn down on their revolver in response to the the Global Corona/Crude Crisis…
… and here is pipeline of upcoming deals, via Bloomberg.
Last week investors were shocked when a barrage of major US corporations – including Boeing, Hilton, Wynn and a handful of PE portfolio companies – announced their decision to fully draw down on their existing credit lines. That said, for all the ominous banking crisis undertones – many still remember that one of the early symptoms of the global financial crisis was countless companies whose revolvers were pulled by a panicking banking sector – there was a common theme linking all these companies: they were all in sectors (airlines, casinos, lodging, energy) that were directly impacted by either the coronavirus pandemic or the recent oil price war.
Today, that changed when food giant Kraft Heinz – which should be benefiting generously from the recent food hoarding panic – was set to also draw down on its credit facility of as much as $4 billion, even though it faced none of the same coronavirus/oil headwinds as so many other companies that jumped the gun to boost their liquidity while they still could.
“We maintain our $4.0 billion senior credit facility, and subject to certain conditions, we may increase the amount of revolving commitments and/or add additional tranches of term loans in a combined aggregate amount of up to$1.0 billion,” the company said.
Speaking to Bloomberg, which first reported the draw down of the Buffett-owned company, a Kraft Heinz spokesman said that “the demand for our brands, our cash flow and our balance sheet remain strong,” which is a rather bizarre explanation why it would need billions more in liquidity. “As a matter of practice, we typically maintain a conservative liquidity posture, which is even that much more important as we focus on making sure all our products remain available to the public during these challenging times.”
One possible reason for Heinz’s liquidity problems is that while other sectors have been crippled by the ongoing dual viral-oil shock, the ketchup maker has seen it share of corporate woes in recent years, most recently its downgrade to junk by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings, when it also warned that the downgrades may limit its access to financing sources such as the commercial paper market, requiring it to use alternative funding sources such as its senior credit facility.
And, as we discussed yesterday, the commercial paper market is starting to freeze up (something the Fed failed to address in its emergency Sunday announcement) which is forcing companies like Heinz to seek alternative, last ditch sources of liquidity.
Indeed, as Bloomberg noted today, issuance of commercial paper dropped to 3,125 transactions on March 13, according to figures released Monday; that’s down 13% from the average daily rate in the week ending March 6 and 18% since February. At the same time, a closely watched CP spread – that between three-month AA rated financial and non-financial commercial paper rates versus overnight index swaps – shows some of the most stress since the financial crisis.
“I am not surprised, liquidity is the lifeblood of these types of programs,” said Scott Kimball, a portfolio manager at BMO Global Asset Management. “When markets lock up like this, interest rates surge to levels that are unsustainable for business.”
Yet what is odd, is that Kraft Heinz said in a regulatory filing last month that it had no commercial paper outstanding at the end of 2019 and that the maximum amount it held during last year was $200 million.
So maybe the company’s rush to its banking syndicate is simply that: a panicked attempt to grab as much cash as it can before it is locked out as banks go into cash conservation mode, something their halt of stock buybacks made quite clear is coming.
Created in a catastrophic merger five years ago orchestrated by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and private equity firm 3G Capital, Kraft Heinz is in the midst of a turnaround as its brands fall out of favor with consumers. Its shares have crashed 16% in the past month, less than the decline of the S&P 500 Index, amid ongoing consumer demand for food and beverages, although today’s revolver news will hardly excite investors.
We just witnessed a global collapse in asset prices the likes we haven’t seen before. Not even in 2008 or 2000. All these prior beginnings of bear markets happened over time, relatively slowly at first, then accelerating to the downside.
This collapse here has come from some of the historically most stretched valuations ever setting the stage for the biggest bull trap ever. The coronavirus that no one could have predicted is brutally punishing investors that complacently bought into the multiple expansion story that was sold to them by Wall Street. Technical signals that outlined trouble way in advance were ignored while the Big Short 2 was already calling for a massive explosion in $VIX way before anybody ever heard of corona virus.
Worse, there is zero visibility going forward as nobody knows how to price in collapsing revenues and earnings amid entire countries shutting down virtually all public gatherings and activities. Denmark just shut down all of its borders on Friday, flight cancellations everywhere, the planet is literally shutting down in unprecedented fashion.
With stocks tumbling, the VIX has, predictably, soared, briefly tipping above 50 intraday on Friday and last trading above 46, surpassing the levels hit during the Volmageddon in Feb 2018 and the highest level since the US credit rating downgrade in August 2011.
Just as dramatic is the accelerating VIX term structure inversion, which has pushed the curve to the steepest backwardation since the financial crisis…
Remember, Maiden Lane LLC? The loan to Maiden Lane LLC loan was extended under the authority of Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, which permitted the Board, in unusual andexigent circumstances, to authorize Reserve Banks to extend credit to individuals, partnerships, and corporations.
Will The Fed declare unusual and exigent circumstances, like they did with Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase and Maiden Lane?
Perhaps The Fed will add stocks, corporate bonds and real estate citing unusual and exigent circumstance.
Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $3 billion to settle U.S. investigations into more than a decade of widespread consumer abuses under a deal that lets the scandal-ridden bank avoid criminal charges.
The deal resolves civil and criminal investigations. It includes a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, where the Justice Department files, but doesn’t immediately pursue, criminal charges. It will eventually dismiss them if the bank satisfies the government’s requirements, including its continued cooperation with further government investigations, over the next three years.
The accord also resolves a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Our settlement with Wells Fargo, and the $3 billion criminal monetary penalty imposed on the bank, go far beyond ‘the cost of doing business,’” U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina said in a statement.
“They are appropriate given the staggering size, scope and duration of Wells Fargo’s illicit conduct.”
All of which means – nobody goes to jail!
While today’s settlement shuts the door on a major portion of the bank’s legal problems related to the fake accounts, a scandal that has claimed two CEOs; it’s hardly the end of the bank’s legal woes. The firm remains under a growth cap imposed by the Federal Reserve. Last month the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced civil charges against eight former senior executives, some of whom settled. And probes into other suspected misconduct in other businesses are continuing.
(Birch Gold Group) Thanks to the Federal Reserve, the idea that you can go into a store and anonymously purchase something with cash might soon be obsolete.
Corporatocracy Fedcoin: ‘in private banks we trust’
Why? Because they’re developing something called Fedcoin, which would be based on blockchain technology.
The digital and decentralized ledger that records all transactions. Every time someone buys digital coins on a decentralized exchange, sells coins, transfers coins, or buys a good or service with virtual coins, a ledger records that transaction, often in an encrypted fashion, to protect it from cybercriminals. These transactions are also recorded and processed without a third-party provider, which is usually a bank.
Right now, Bitcoin is a popular form of cryptocurrency that operates using blockchain technology. Like the description above, Bitcoin is decentralized, its transactions are anonymous, and no central bank is involved.
But the irony is, the blockchain tech behind the Fed’s idea isn’t likely to be used the way Bitcoin uses it. Not even close.
Originally, the “Fedcoin” idea appeared to be a security enhancement to a century-old system used for clearing checks and cash transactions called Fedwire. According to NASDAQ in 2017:
This technology will bring Fedwire into the 21st Century. Tentatively called Fedcoin, this Federal Reserve cryptocurrency could replace the dollar as we know it.
The idea didn’t seem to move very much three years ago, but now the idea of a central bank-controlled “Fedcoin” seems like it could be moving closer to reality, according to a Reuters reportfrom February 5.
According to the report, “Dozens of central banks globally are also doing such work,” including China.
Of course, there is risk, according to Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard. For example, there is the potential for a country-wide run on banks if panic ensued while the Fed “flipped a switch” and made Fedcoin the primary currency for the United States.
But blogger Robert Wenzel warns the risks of the Federal Reserve issuing its own cyber currency may run even deeper than that.
“This is not good.”
Lawmakers try to package and sell whatever ideas they come up with, no matter how intrusive or ineffective they might be.
According to Brainard, Fedcoin has the potential to provide “greater value at a lower cost” for monetary transactions. Sounds reasonable, if taken at face value.
But no matter how the Fed may try to “sell” the idea of utilizing Fedcoin in the future, Wenzel’s warning is pretty clear:
A Federal Reserve created digital coin could be one of the most dangerous steps ever taken by a government agency. It would put in the hands of the government the potential to create a digital currency with the ability to track all transactions in an economy—and prohibit transactions for any reason. In terms of future individual freedom, this would be a nightmare.
If you use cash at a grocery store, no one will know who you are or what you bought unless it was caught on video or you use a reward card. In the rare instance a store accepts Bitcoin, the same would be true.
But if you were to use a centrally-controlled digital currency like Fedcoin, who knows what the Fed will decide to track now or in the future? Or what meddling they could come up with to deny your transaction?
If the Federal Reserve wanted to outlaw cash, and your only choice was to use Fedcoin to make purchases, then your financial life would be tracked under their watchful eye.
“Not good” indeed.
Protect your retirement by maintaining your financial freedom
Who knows if the Federal Reserve will move closer to making cash a thing of the past? Perhaps Fedcoin will add to the number of ways the Fed can meddle with your retirement?
Until that gets sorted out, you can consider other options to protect your retirement with a tangible asset that can’t be converted into digital form.
Precious metals like gold and silver continue to hold value, and have for thousands of years. And because they are physical assets, you can’t be tracked as you could if Fedcoin moves from being a bad idea to reality.
In this recession 2020 video YOU are going to discover 5 reasons (NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT) the next recession will be far worse than the 2008/2009 recession. The Fed has created so much mal investment, by keeping interest rates artificially low, we now have the EVERYTHING BUBBLE. Stocks are in a bubble, bonds are in a bubble, housing is in a bubble and the 2020 recession (which the data suggests is highly probable) will be the pin that pricks them all.
We’ve had recessions in the US every 6-8 years throughout our history, and we’re currently 10 years into an expansion which makes the US due for a recession in 2020. While not all recessions are devastating, because the debt bubbles are so much bigger now than in 2009, the next recession has the potential to be the worst by far.
Banks around the world are supposed to benefit the most from central banks inflating assets, and hyperinflating stock markets, but over the past few years, central banks have instead caused some of the biggest bank job cuts in half a decade.
HSBC, Europe’s largest bank and troubled lender, although not nearly as troubled as Deutsche Bank, said it would cut upwards of 35,000 jobs, shed $100 billion in assets, and take a massive $7.3 billion hit to goodwill as part of a major overhaul under Chairman Mark Tucker, the company said in a press release on Tuesday morning.
This comes months after HSBC’s interim CEO Noel Quinn unveiled plans to “remodel” large parts of the bank. The restructuring of the London-based bank is being led by Quinn, who replaced John Flint in August on an interim basis. Quinn is vying for the permanent role of CEO, which the bank said will be decided this year.
Europe’s biggest bank by assets is expected to focus more on Asia and the Middle East, while it winds down operations in Europe and the US; HSBC derives at least 50% of its revenue in Asia. The bank said net profit plunged 53% to $5.97 billion last year, due to the $7.3BN goodwill hit and also thanks to the record low interest rates and NIRP unleashed by central banks.
Tucker said the bank faces substantial challenges in the UK, Hong Kong, and mainland China. He also issued a warning over the Covid-19 outbreak in China and quickly spreading across Asia to Europe, indicating that the virus could impact the bank’s performance this year.
Quinn confirmed the bank would cut 15% of its workforce over the next two-three years. This is on top of the 10,000 jobs it axed in Oct.
“The totality of this program is that our headcount is likely to go from 235,000 to closer to 200,000 over the next three years,” Quinn told Reuters. adding that “HSBC will be “exiting businesses where necessary.”
“Around 30% of our capital is currently allocated to businesses that are delivering returns below their cost of equity, largely in global banking and markets in Europe and the U.S.,” he noted.
In its long-struggling U.S. arm, Quinn said HSBC will cut assets in investment banking and markets by almost half, and shut around 70 of its 229 branches. As of September, HSBC was the U.S.’s 14th largest commercial bank according to Federal Reserve data, with around $181 billion assets. Mr. Quinn said he had considered putting the unit up for sale but decided against it because the U.S. is a crucial part of the bank’s global network.
HSBC shares slid 6% on the restructuring news on Tuesday morning:
The benefits of the restructuring will be evident largely from 2023 onward, said Citigroup analyst Ronit Ghose, who recommended investors sell HSBC shares.
While stocks are hitting fresh all time highs, bringing joy and spreading the “wealth effect” across America, clients of the Fidelity brokerage are having a rather shitty day because due to a glitch, or perhaps a hack, countless accounts are currently showing a zero balance, or simply removing accounts altogether.
While we assume this pesky “glitch” will be resolved promptly, we should point out that if the market were to ever again suffer a down day and should investors wish to sell some/all of their holdings, this would be a convenient way to quickly and efficiently prevent that from ever happening.
@Fidelity Is there currently a problem with your website? When I log in I am not seeing any of my accounts.
@Fidelity Your site seems to be having issues, all my accounts and positions are no longer showing up for some reason, they were fine about 20 mins ago, although I was having issues with being logged out when trying to open new positions.
Nearly four years after Wells Fargo’s reputation was terminally crushed by the humiliating fake accounts fraud scandal, the punishment for Warren Buffett’s favorite bank and its (mostly former) employees is still being doled out, and moments ago the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced $59 million in civil charges and settlements with eight former Wells Fargo senior executives on Thursday, including the payment of a $17.5 million fine by John Stumpf, the bank’s former CEO, who also agreed to a lifetime industry ban. Carrie Tolstedt, who led Wells Fargo’s community bank for a decade, faces a penalty of as much as $25 million.
“The actions announced by the OCC today reinforce the agency’s expectations that management and employees of national banks and federal savings associations provide fair access to financial services, treat customers fairly, and comply with applicable laws and regulations,” Joseph Otting, who heads the OCC, said in a statement.
Wells Fargo unleashed unprecedented public and political ire in 2016 after its was revealed that bank employees opened millions of fake accounts to meet sales goals. That and a slew of retail-banking issues that subsequently came to light have led to regulatory fallout that’s in many cases unprecedented for a major bank, including a growth cap from the Federal Reserve. It also led to a historic Congressional grilling of the bank’s then CEO, John Stumpf, who resigned shortly after.
Regulatory actions against Wells Fargo have also included billions of dollars in fines and legal costs, and an order giving the OCC the right to remove some of the bank’s leaders. The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission also have been investigating the lender’s issues.
Why did it take 4 years for some individual justice to finally emerge? Simple: regulatory capture – as Bloomberg adds, the OCC drew scrutiny of its own as the firm’s main regulator throughout the scandals, prompting an internal review at the agency.
The OCC and the Fed have both cited a wide-ranging pattern of abuses and lapses at Wells Fargo, yet despite the universal condemnation, the bank’s biggest shareholder, Warren Buffett, has refused to dispose of his stake.
Over the past week, when looking at the details of the Fed’s ongoing QE4, we showed out (here and here) that the New York Fed was now actively purchasing T-Bills that had been issued just days earlier by the US Treasury. As a reminder, the Fed is prohibited from directly purchasing Treasurys at auction, as that is considered “monetization” and directly funding the US deficit, not to mention is tantamount to “Helicopter Money” and is frowned upon by Congress and established economists. However, insert a brief, 3-days interval between issuance and purchase… and suddenly nobody minds. As we summarized:
“for those saying the US may soon unleash helicopter money, and/or MMT, we have some ‘news’: helicopter money is already here, and the Fed is now actively monetizing debt the Treasury sold just days earlier using Dealers as a conduit… a “conduit” which is generously rewarded by the Fed’s market desk with its marked up purchase price. In other words, the Fed is already conducting Helicopter Money (and MMT) in all but name. As shown above, the Fed monetized T-Bills that were issued just three days earlier – and just because it is circumventing the one hurdle that prevents it from directly purchasing securities sold outright by the Treasury, the Fed is providing the Dealers that made this legal debt circle-jerk possible with millions in profits, even as the outcome is identical if merely offset by a few days”
So, predictably, fast forward to today when the Fed conducted its latest T-Bill POMO in which, as has been the case since early October, the NY Fed’s market desk purchased the maximum allowed in Bills, some $7.5 billion, out of $25.3 billion in submissions. What was more notable were the actual CUSIPs that were accepted by the Fed for purchase. And here, once again, we find just one particular issue that stuck out: TY5 (due Dec 31, 2020) which was the most active CUSIP, with $4.136BN purchased by the Fed, and TU3 (due Dec 3, 2020) of which $905MM was accepted.
Why is the highlighted CUSIP notable? Because as we just showed on Friday, the Fed – together with the Primary Dealers – appears to have developed a knack for monetizing, pardon, purchasing in the open market, bonds that were just issued. And sure enough, TY5 was sold just one week ago, on Monday, Dec 30, with the issue settling on Jan 2, just days before today’s POMO, and Dealers taking down $17.8 billion of the total issue…
… and just a few days later turning around and flipping the Bill back to the Fed in exchange for an unknown markup. Incidentally, today the Fed also purchased $615MM of CUSIP UB3 (which we profiled last Friday), which was also sold on Dec 30, and which the Fed purchased $5.245BN of last Friday, bringing the total purchases of this just issued T-Bill to nearly $6 billion in just three business days.
… confirming once again that the Fed is now in the business of purchasing any and all Bills that have been sold most recently by the Treasury, which is – for all intents and purposes – debt monetization.
As we have consistently shown over the past week, these are not isolated incidents as a clear pattern has emerged – the Fed is now monetizing debt that was issued just days or weeks earlier, and it was allowed to do this just because the debt was held – however briefly – by Dealers, who are effectively inert entities mandated to bid for debt for which there is no buyside demand, it is not considered direct monetization of Treasurys. Of course, in reality monetization is precisely what it is, although since the definition of the Fed directly funding the US deficit is negated by one small temporal footnote, it’s enough for Powell to swear before Congress that he is not monetizing the debt.
Oh, and incidentally the fact that Dealers immediately flip their purchases back to the Fed is also another reason why NOT QE is precisely QE4, because the whole point of either exercise is not to reduce duration as the Fed claims, but to inject liquidity into the system, and whether the Fed does that by flipping coupons or Bills, the result is one and the same.
There was a period of about two months when some of the more confused, Fed sycophantic elements, would parrot everything Powell would say regarding the recently launched $60 billion in monthly purchases of T-Bills, and which according to this rather vocal, if always wrong, sub-segment of financial experts, did not constitute QE. Perhaps one can’t really blame them: after all, unable to think for themselves, they merely repeated what Powell said, namely that
“growth of our balance sheet for reserve management purposes should in no way be confused with the large-scale asset purchase programs that we deployed after the financial crisis. Neither the recent technical issues nor the purchases of Treasury bills we are contemplating to resolve them should materially affect the stance of monetary policy. In no sense, is this QE.“
As it turned out, it was QE from the perspective of the market, which saw the Fed boosting its balance sheet by $60BN per month, and together with another $20BN or so in TSY and MBS maturity reinvestments, as well as tens of billions in overnight and term repos, and soared roughly around the time the Fed announced “not QE.”
And so, as the Fed’s balance sheet exploded by over $400 billion in under four months, a rate of balance sheet expansion that surpassed QE1, QE2 and Qe3…
… stocks blasted off higher roughly at the same time as the Fed’s QE returned, and are now up every single week since the start of the Fed’s QE4 announcement when the Fed’s balance sheet rose, and are down just one week since then: the week when the Fed’s balance sheet shrank.
The result of this unprecedented correlation between the market’s response to the Fed’s actions – and the Fed’s growing balance sheet – has meant that it gradually became impossible to deny that what the Fed is doing is no longer QE. It started with Bank of America in mid-November (as described in “One Bank Finally Admits The Fed’s “NOT QE” Is Indeed QE… And Could Lead To Financial Collapse“), and then after several other banks also joined in, and even Fed fanboy David Zervos admitted on CNBC that the Fed is indeed doing QE, the tipping point finally arrived, and it was no longer blasphemy (or tinfoil hat conspiracy theory) to call out the naked emperor, and overnight none other than Deutsche Bank joined the “truther” chorus, when in a report by the bank’s chief economist Torsten Slok, he writes what we pointed out several weeks back, namely that
“since QE4 started in October, a 1% increase in the Fed balance sheet has been associated with a 1% increase in the S&P500, see chart below.”
Not that DB has absolutely no qualms about calling what the Fed is doing QE4 for the simple reason that… it is QE4.
The chart in question, which is effectively the same as the one we created above, shows the weekly change in the Fed’s balance sheet and the S&P500 as a scatterplot, and concludes that all it takes to push the S&P higher by 1% is to grow the Fed’s balance sheet by 1%.
And just to underscore this point, the strategist points out that such a finding is “consistent with this new working paper, which finds that QE boosts stock markets even when controlling for improving macro fundamentals.” Which, of course, is hardly rocket science – after all when you inject hundreds of billions into the market in months, and this money can’t enter the economy, it will enter the market. The result: the S&P trading at an all time high in a year in which corporate profits actually decreased and the entire rise in the stock market was due to multiple expansion.
In recent years, banks and credit card processors had blamed hackers, blackouts, infrastructure inefficiencies, and of course the “Russians” for periodic service outages. As of today, they are now blaming the Fed itself.
Starting around 7am, there was a surge of outages reported at Capital One…
… withDownDetector noting that while focused on the Northeast however, the outages was nationwide.
According to CapitalOne, network issues at the Federal Reserve were causing certain banking transactions to be delayed.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely in partnership w/ the Fed,” Capital One said in a tweet.
The Federal Reserve is experiencing network issues causing certain transactions to be delayed. We're monitoring the situation closely in partnership with the Fed. As soon as they've resolved the issue we'll work to make sure all transactions are posted as quickly as possible. ^AS
“No matter what the market does from now until year end, there is simply not enough cash and/or liquidity to allow the plumbing of the market to cross into 2020 without a crisis”
For the past decade, the name of Zoltan Pozsar has been among the most admired and respected on Wall Street: not only did the Hungarian lay the groundwork for our current understanding of the deposit-freeshadow banking system – which has the often opaque and painfully complex short-term dollar funding and repo markets – at its core…
… but he was also instrumental during his tenure at both theUS Treasury and the New York Fedin laying the foundations of the modern repo market, orchestrating the response to the global financial crisis and the ensuing policy debate (as virtually nobody at the Fed knew more about repo at the time than Pozsar), serving as point person on market developments for Fed, Treasury and White House officials throughout the crisis (yes, Kashkari was just the figurehead); playing the key role in building the TALF to backstop the ABS market, and advising the former head of the Fed’s Markets Desk, Brian Sack, on just how the NY Fed should implement its various market interventions without disrupting and breaking the most important market of all: the multi-trillion repo market.
In short, when Pozsar speaks (or as the case may be, writes), people listen (and read).
“Maybe at the end of the story, in three to five years, we will notice it was a historical mistake.”
Well, it appears we are about to reach the vinegar strokes of that ‘historical mistake’, as Bloomberg reports, German banks are breaking the last taboo: Charging retail clients for their savings starting with very first euro in the their accounts.
While many banks have been passing on negative rates to clients for some time, they have typically only done so for deposits of 100,000 euros ($111,000) or more. That is changing, with one small lender, Volksbank Raiffeisenbank Fuerstenfeldbruck, a regional bank close to Munich, planning to impose a rate of minus 0.5% to all savings in certain new accounts.
Another bank, Kreissparkasse Stendal, in the east of the country, has a similar policy for clients who have no other relationship with the bank; and a third, Frankfurter Volksbank, one of the country’s largest cooperative lenders, is considering going even further and charging some new customers 0.55% for all their deposits is considering an even higher charge.
“The floodgates are open,” said Friedrich Heinemann, who heads the department on Corporate Taxation and Public Finance at the ZEW economic research institute in Mannheim.
“We will soon see a chain reaction. Banks that do not follow with negative interest rates would be flooded with liquidity.”
It appears that European banks are coming around to the fact – and preparing for it – that negative rates are here to stay (especially under Lagarde who has already opined that there is nothing wrong with negative rates).
Bank CEOs across Europe have expressed their anger at the ECB’s policy over the last few months.
The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.
“Negative interest rates are crazy. That means money is not worth anything anymore,” Gruebel exclaimed.
“As long as we have negative interest rates, the financial industry will continue to shrink.”
And finally, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.
“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system.”
The German savings rate was around 10% in 2017, almost twice the euro-area average, but one wonders what will happen now that even mom-and-pop will have to pay to leave their spare cash in ‘safe-keeping’. Will deposit levels tumble in favor of the mattress? Or, as some have suggested, gold will get a bid as a costless way of storing wealth.
Something is seriously starting to break in China’s financial system.
Smog is seen over the city against sky during a haze day in Tianjin, China (Stringer Network)
Three days after we described theself-destructive doom loop that is tearing apart China’s smaller banks,where a second bank run took place in just two weeks – an unprecedented event for a country where until earlier this year not a single bank was allowed to fail publicly and has now hadno less than five bankhigh profile nationalizations/bailouts/runs so far this year – the Chinese bond market is bracing itself for an unprecedented shock: a major, Fortune 500 Chinese commodity trader is poised to become the biggest and highest profile state-owned enterprise to default in the dollar bond market in over two decades.
The legal formalization of the creation of bank credit commenced with England’s 1844 Bank Charter Act. It has led to a regular cycle of expansion and collapse of outstanding bank credit.
Erroneously attributed to business, the origin of the boom and bust cycle is found in bank credit. Monetary policy evolved with attempts to control the cycle with added intervention, leading to the abandonment of sound money.
Today, we face infinite monetary inflation as a final solution to 150 years of monetary failures. The coming systemic and monetary collapse will probably mark the end of cycles of bank credit expansion as we know it, and the final collapse of fiat currencies.
This article is based on a speech I gave on Monday to the Ludwig von Mises Institute Europe in Brussels.
George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River
The U.S. Constitution states:
Article 1, Section 8
1. The Congress shall have Power …
5. To coin Money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin….
6. To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting … current coin of the United States.
Article 1, Section 10
No state shall … emit Bills of Credit and make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.
The intent of the Framers could not have been clearer. The Constitution clearly and unequivocally brought into existence a monetary system based on gold coins and silver coins being the official money of the United States.
Notice that the states are prohibited from issuing “bills of credit.” What are “bills of credit.” That was the term used during that time for paper money. The Constitution expressly prohibited the states from publishing paper money and making anything but gold and silver coins official legal money.
What about the federal government? The Constitution didn’t expressly prohibit it from emitting “bills of credit” like it did with the states. Does that mean that the federal government was empowered to make paper money the official money of the United States?
No, it does not mean that. In the case of the federal government, its powers are limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. If a power isn’t enumerated, then the federal government is automatically prohibited from exercising it.
Therefore, it was unnecessary for the Framers to provide for an express prohibition on the federal government to make paper money the official legal tender of the nation. All that was necessary was to ensure that the Constitution did not empower the federal government to issue paper money.
The powers relating to money that are delegated to the federal government, which are stated above, expressly make it clear that gold coins and silver coins, not paper, were to be the official money of the country. That is reflected by the power given the federal government to “coin money.” At the risk of belaboring the obvious, one does not “coin” paper. Paper is published or “emitted.” It is not coined. Coins are coined.
The provision on counterfeiting also expressly confirms that the official money of the United States was to be gold coins and silver coins. The Framers didn’t provide for punishment for counterfeiting paper money because there was no paper money. They provided for punishment for counterfeiting “current coin of the United States.”
Add up all of these provision and there is but one conclusion that anyone can logically and reasonably draw: The Constitution established a monetary system in which gold and silver coins were to be the official money of the United States.
The power to borrow
That’s not to say, of course, that federal officials could not borrow money. The Constitution did give them that power:
Article1, Section 8
1. The Congress shall have Power …
2. To borrow money on the credit of the United States.
When the federal government borrows money, it issues debt instruments to lenders, consisting of bills, notes, or bonds. But everyone understood that federal debt instruments were not money but instead simply promises to pay money. The money that they promised to pay was the gold and silver coins, which were the official money of the country.
And in fact, that was the monetary system of the United States for more than a century, one in which gold coins and silver coins were the official money of the American people.
It is often said that the “gold standard” was a system in which paper money was “backed by gold.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There was no paper money. The “gold standard” was a system where gold coins, along with silver coins, were the official money of the country.
Monetary debauchery and destruction
It all came to an end in the 1930s, when the (D) Franklin Roosevelt regime ordered all Americans to deliver their gold coins to the federal government. Anyone who failed to do so would be prosecuted for a federal felony offense and severely punished through incarceration and fine if convicted.
In exchange, people were handed federal debt instruments, ones that promised to pay money. But since the money was now illegal, the debt instruments were promises to pay nothing. That’s reflected by the Federal Reserve Notes that people now use to pay for things.
Roosevelt’s actions were among the most abhorrent in the history of the United States. In one fell swoop, he and his regime destroyed what had been the finest and soundest monetary system in the history of the world, one that contributed mightily to the tremendous increase in prosperity and standards of living in the 19th century.
What is also amazing is that Roosevelt did it without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. To change a system that the Constitution established requires a constitutional amendment. That is an arduous and difficult process, which is what the Framers wanted. Roosevelt circumvented that process by simply getting Congress to nationalize people’s gold.
The result of Roosevelt’s illegal and immoral actions regarding money and the Constitution? Moral, economic, and monetary debauchery, which has entailed almost 90 years of plundering and looting people through monetary debasement and devaluation to finance the ever-burgeoning expenses of America’s welfare-warfare state way of life.
The solution to all this monetary mayhem is doing what the Framers did: Separate private banking from the state entirely, in the same way that they separated church and state. This means terminate all government involvement in banking, including by ending the private Federal Reserve Bank. And while we’re at it, nationalize the sovereign city, District Of Columbia which would end London and Vatican maritime law control over America. No doubt they won’t go down without a fight however, this is the jump start necessary towards restoring any chance for freedom, peace, and prosperity to our land.
If you want to know which investment houses have been getting the infamous “repo” loans from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in recent weeks, as GATA has wanted to know, you’ll have to wait two years, according to a letter received from the bank today in response GATA’s request for the information.
The delay, the New York Fed’s letter says, is authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Perhaps more interestingly, the New York Fed’s letter, signed by Corporate Secretary Shawn Elizabeth Phillips, contends that the bank is exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act but tries to comply with its spirit.
Such a claim of exemption was not made by the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governorsduring GATA’s FOIA lawsuitagainst it in 2011, in which GATA sought access to the board’s gold-related documents. GATA technically won the case when U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelleruled that one such document was illegally withheld and ordered the board to disclose it to GATA and pay the organization court costs of $2,670:
What kind of system of government is it when every week an entity created by ordinary legislation can create enormous amounts of a nation’s currency and disburse it to unidentified parties without any oversight by the people’s elected representatives, news organizations, and ordinary citizens? It sure doesn’t sound like “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The New York Fed’s response to GATA can be read below (pdf link):
On Wednesday, the Fed cut rates for the third time this year, which was widely expected by the market.
What was not expected was the following statement.
“I think we would need to see a really significant move up in inflation that’s persistent before we even consider raising rates to address inflation concerns.”
– Jerome Powell 10/30/2019
The statement did not receive a lot of notoriety from the press, but this was the single most important statement from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell so far. In fact, we cannot remember a time in the last 30 years when a Fed Chairman has so clearly articulated such a strong desire for more inflation.
Why do we say that? Let’s dissect the bolded words in the quote for further clarification.
“really significant”– Powell is not only saying that they will allow a significant move up in inflation but going one better by adding the word significant.
“persistent”– Unlike the prior few Fed Chairman who claimed to be vigilant towards inflation, Powell is clearly telling us that he will not react to inflation that is not only well beyond a “really significant” leap from current levels, but a rate that lasts for a period of time.
“even consider”– If inflation is not only a really significant increase from current levels and stays at such levels for a while, they will only consider raising rates to fight inflation.
We are stunned by the choice of words Powell used to describe the Fed’s view on inflation. We are even more shocked that the markets or media are not making more of it.
Maybe, they are failing to focus on the three bolded sections. In fact, what they probably think they heard was: I think we would need to see a move up in inflation before we consider raising rates to address inflation concerns. Such a statement would have been more in line with traditional “Fed-speak.”
There is an other far more insidious message in Chairman Powell’s statement which should not be dismissed.
The Fed just acknowledged they are caught in a “liquidity trap.”
– Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 30, 2019.
The man from good place. “As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today, Oh how I wish he’d go away!” [PT]
Ptolemy I Soter, in his history of the wars of Alexander the Great, related an episode from Alexander’s 334 BC compact with the Celts ‘who dwelt by the Ionian Gulf.’ According to Ptolemy’s account, which survives via quote by Arrian of Nicomedia some 450 years later, when Alexander asked the Celtic envoys what they feared most, theyanswered:
“We fear no man: there is but one thing that we fear, namely, that the sky should fall on us.”
Today, at the risk of being called Chicken Little, we tug on a thread that weaves back to the ancient Celts. Our message is grave: The sky is falling. Though the implications are still unclear.
Various Celts – left: fearsome warriors; middle: fearsome warriors afraid of the sky falling on their heads; right: Cernunnos, fearsome Celtic horned god amid his collection of skulls. [PT]
The sky, for our purposes, is the debt based dollar reserve standard that has been in place for the past 48 years. If you recall, on August 15, 1971, President Nixon “temporarily” suspended convertibility of the dollar into gold. The dollar became wholly the fiat money of the Treasury.
At the G-10 Rome meeting held in late-1971, Treasury Secretary John Connally reduced the new dollar reserve standard to a bite-sized nugget for his European finance minister counterparts, stating:
“The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.”
The Nixon-Connally tag team in the White House. [PT]
Predictably, without the restraint of gold, the quantity of debt based money has increased seemingly without limits – and it is everyone’s massive problem. What’s more, over the past 30 years the Federal Reserve has obliged Washington with cheaper and cheaper credit.
Hence, public, private, and corporate debt levels in the U.S. have multiplied beyond comprehension. Total US debt is now on the order of $74 trillion. \The consequences, no doubt, are an economy that is equally distorted and disfigured beyond comprehension.
Behold the debt-berg in all its terrible glory. [PT]
Selective Blind Spots
America is no longer a dynamic, free-market economy. Rather, the economy is stagnant and operates under the central planning authority of Washington and the Fed. The illusion of prosperity is simulated by spending trillions of dollars funded by history’s greatest debt bubble.
Simple arithmetic shows the country is headed for economic catastrophe. Clearly, Social Security and Medicare face long-term financial challenges. Current workers must shoulder a greater and greater burden to pay for the benefits of retired workers.
At the same time, the world that brought the debt based dollar reserve standard into being no longer exists. Yet the dollar reserve standard and the Federal Reserve still remain as legacy institutions.
The divergence between the world as it exists – with its massive trade imbalances, massive debt loads, wealth inequality, and inflated asset prices – and the legacy dollar reserve standard is irreversible. Unless the unstable condition that has developed is allowed to transform naturally, there will be outright collapse.
Rather than adopting policies that allow for economic transformation and minimizing the ultimate disruption of a collapse, today’s planners and policy makers are doing everything they can to hold the failing financial order together. They are deeply invested academically and professionally; their livelihoods depend on it.
You see, selective blind spots of the best and brightest are normal when the sky is falling. For example, in 1989, just two years before the Soviet Union collapsed, Paul Samuelson – the “Father of Modern Day Economics” – and co-author William Nordhaus, wrote:
“The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.” – Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, Economics, 13th ed. [New York: McGraw Hill, 1989], p. 837.
Could Samuelson and Nordhaus possibly have been more clueless?
The bizarre chart illustrating the alleged “growth miracle” of the “superior” Soviet command economy, as seen by Samuelson – published about one and a half years before the Soviet Bloc imploded in what was undoubtedly the biggest bankruptcy in history. [PT]
The Federal Reserve is a Barbarous Relic
On Wednesday, following the October federal open market committee (FOMC)meeting, the Federal Reserve stated that it will cut the federal funds rate 25 basis points to a range of 1.5 to 1.75. No surprise there.
But the real insights were garnered several days earlier. Leading up to the FOMC meeting Fed Chair Jerome Powell received some public encouragement from one of his former cohorts – former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Bill Dudley. What follows is an excerpt of Dudley’s mental diarrhea, which he released in aBloomberg Opinionarticle on Monday:
“People shouldn’t be as worried as they are about the risk of a U.S. recession. That said, it wouldn’t take much to trigger one, which is why the Federal Reserve should take out some insurance by providing added stimulus this week.
“Sometimes, an adverse event and human psychology can reinforce each other in such a way that they bring about a recession. Given how slowly the economy is growing, even a modest shock could do the trick.
“This danger bolsters the argument for the Fed to ease monetary policy at this week’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Such a preemptive move will reduce the chances that the economy will slow sufficiently to hit stall speed. Even if the insurance turns out to be unnecessary, the potential consequences aren’t bad. It just means that the economy will be stronger and the inflation rate will likely move more quickly back toward the Fed’s 2 percent target.”
Retired former central planner Bill Dudley. These days an armchair planner, and as deluded as ever. [PT]
Dudley, like Samuelson, believes he can aggregate economic data and plot it on a graph; and, then, by fixing the price of credit, he can make the graphs appear more to his liking. He also believes he can preempt a recession by making ‘insurance’ rate cuts to stimulate the economy.
Like Samuelson, Dudley doesn’t have a clue. The Fed cannot preemptively stop a recession. And after the dot com bubble and bust, the housing bubble and bust, the great financial crisis, zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, and many other failures, the Fed’s standing is clear to everyone but Dudley…
The Federal Reserve is a barbarous relic. The next downturn will be its death knell. Alas, what comes after the Fed will probably be even worse. Populism demands it.
‘Because they are so ensconsed in their little bubble and because they profit so much from maintaining the status quo, Western mainstream media pundits don’t – or perhaps can’t – admit how Quantitative Easing policies have so quickly and so radically changed the financial system of the West and their satellites’
Elite-class asset (stuff rich people own – stocks, real estate, financial derivatives, luxury goods, etc.) prices have ballooned to pre-2008 levels.
Debt (which is, of course, another elite-owned asset), mainly to pay for banker bailouts and their usurious interest levels, has ballooned national accounts to incredible levels.
The “real” economy has only weakened, as proven by endemic low economic growth across the West and Japan.
Similarly, I imagine that everyone reading this is generally aware of what will happen should the West stop easy money: obviously, once artificial demand is no longer being fabricated then these assets will plummet in value, with huge ripple effects in the “real” economy. The West will be right back to dealing with most of the same toxic assets they had back in 2007, but now compounded by a decade of more debt, more interest payments, and a “real” economy which was made weaker via austerity.
None of that is really “news” to a smart reader… but it is “news” to many dumb journalists.
‘The volume of billions being lent into existence from nothing by the Fed to bail banks out will go parabolic. It must, otherwise credit will freeze, asset prices will fall, forced bank depositor bail-ins will ensue’
With stocks threatening to close in the red, late on Wednesday the Fed sparked a furious last hour rally…
The Desk has released an update to the schedule of repurchase agreement (repo) operations for the current monthly period. Consistent with the most recent FOMC directive, to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample even during periods of sharp increases in non-reserve liabilities, and to mitigate the risk of money market pressures that could adversely affect policy implementation…
As we noted yesterday, that was a massive 60% increase in the overnight repo liquidity availability (from $75 billion to $120 billion) and a 28% jump in the term repo provision (from $35 billion to $45 billion).
“It’s just more evidence the Fed will not back off as year-end gets closer,” said Wells Fargo’s rates strategist, Mike Schumacher. “The Fed wants to take out more insurance. You had repo pick up last week. That might not have gone over too well.”
And now we know that there was good reason for that, because according to the latest, just concluded Term Repo operation, a whopping $62.15BN in securities were submitted to the Fed’s 14-day operation, ($47.55BN in TSYs, $14.6BN in MBS), resulting in a 1.38x oversubscribed term operation, the second consecutive oversubscription following Tuesday’s Term Repo, when $52.2BN in securities were submitted into the Fed’s then-$35BN operation.
This was the highest uptake of the Fed’s term repo operation since Sept 26.
But wait there’s more, because while the upsized term-repo saw the biggest (oversubscribed) uptake in one month, demand for the Fed’s overnight repo also soared, with dealers submitting 89.2BN in securities for the newly upsized, $120BN operation.
In total, between the $45BN term repo and the $89.2BN overnight repo, the Fed just injected a whopping $134.2BN in liquidity just to make sure the US banking system is stable. That, as the Fed’s balance sheet soared by $200BN in the past month rising to just shy of $4 trillion.
Meanwhile, funding tensions weren’t evident only in repo, but also in the Fed’s T-Bill POMO, where as we noted yesterday, demand for liquidity has also been increasing with every subsequent operation, peaking with yesterday’s operation.
Needless to say, if the funding shortage was getting better, none of this would be happening; instead it appears that with every passing day the liquidity shortage is getting worse, even as the Fed’s balance sheet is surging.
The only possible explanation, is someone really needed to lock in cash for month end (the maturity of the op is on Nov 7) which is when a “No Deal” Brexit may go live, and as a result one or more banks are bracing for the worst. The question, as before, remains why: just what is the source of this unprecedented spike in liquidity needs in a system which already has $1.5 trillion in excess reserves? And while we await the answer, expect stocks to close pleasantly in the green as dealers transform their newly granted liquidity into bets on risk assets.
‘The powers that shouldn’t be would rather us experience a mad max world while they hide in luxury bunkers, than allow us a treasury issued gold backed currency, absent a central bank once again’
When an economy turns from expansion to contraction there is an order of events. The first signs are an unexpected increase in inventories of unsold goods, both accompanied with and followed by business surveys indicating a general softening in demand. For monetarists, this is often confirmed by an inverting yield curve, which tells them that at the margin the short-term rates set by the central bank are becoming too high for business conditions.
That was the position for the US 10-year bond less the 2-year bond very briefly at the end of August, since when this measure, which is often taken to predict recessions, has turned mildly positive again. A generally negative sentiment, fueled mainly by the escalating tariff war between America and China, had earlier alerted investors to an international trade slowdown, expected to undermine the American economy in due course along with all the others. It stands to reason that backward-looking statistics have yet to reflect the global slowdown on the US economy, which is still buoyed up by consumer credit. The German economy, which is driven by production rather than consumption is perhaps a better guide and is already in recession.
So reliant have markets become on monetary expansion that the default assumption is that an economy will always be rescued from recession by an easing of monetary policy, and furthermore that monetary inflation will prevent it from being any more than mild and short. We see this in the performance of stock market indices, which reflect perpetual optimism.
There is a further problem. Other than a rise in bankruptcies, unemployment and negative indications from business surveys, there may be no statistical evidence of a slump. The reason this is almost certainly the case is we are dealing with a combination of funny money and statistics which are simply not fit for measuring anything. The money and credit are backed by nothing, and when expanded by the banking system simply dilutes the quantity of existing money, which if continued is bound to end up impoverishing everyone with cash balances and whose wages and profits do not increase at least as fast as the surge in the quantity of money.
Indeed, the official purpose of the expansion of money and credit is to somehow persuade economic actors that things are better than they really are, and to stimulate those animal spirits. You’d think that with this policy now being continually in operation that people would have become aware of the dilution fraud. But as Keynes, the architect of it all said, not one man in a million understands money, and in this he has been proved right.
For five years, the ECB has applied negative interest rates on commercial bank reserves, and commercial banks have paid €21.4bn to it in deposit interest. Since it introduced negative interest rates, it has injected some €2.7 trillion of base money into the Eurozone economy, increasing M1, the narrower measure of the money quantity, by 61%. Almost all of it has supported the finances of Eurozone governments.
The effect on broader money, which includes bank credit, has been to increase M3 by 30%. Far from stimulation, this is daylight robbery perpetrated on everyone’s liquidity and cash deposits. It is a tax on the purchasing power of their wages.
The ECB is not alone. Since Lehman went under, the major central banks have collectively increased their balance sheets from $7 trillion to $19.4 trillion, an increase of 177%. Most of this monetary expansion has been to buy government bonds, providing a money-fountain for profligate governments. The purpose of money-printing is always to finance government spending, not to stimulate or ease conditions for the private sector: while some trusting souls in the system believe it is for the latter, that amounts to just a myth.
Due to the flood of new money the yields on government debt have been depressed, giving holders of this debt, principally the banks, a nice fat capital profit. But that is not the purpose of all this monetary largess: it is to make it ultra-cheap for governments to borrow yet more and to encourage banks to expand credit in their governments’ favor. Just listen to the central bankers now encouraging governments to take the opportunity to ease fiscal policy, extend their debts and borrow even more.
Central banks pretend all these benefits come at no cost to anyone. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perpetual motion of money creation, and someone ultimately pays the price. But who pays for it all? Why, it is the wage-earner and saver and anyone else with deposits at the bank. They are also robbed of the compounding interest their pension funds would otherwise receive. These are the very people who, in a bizarre twist of macroeconomic logic, we are told benefit from having the prices of their everyday purchases continually increased.
Attempts to measure the supposed benefits of inflation on the general public are in turn dishonest, with the true rise in prices concealed in official calculations of price inflation. Suppressed evidence of rising prices is then applied to estimates of GDP to make them “real”. For the purpose of measuring the true condition of an economy these official statistics are taken as gospel by both the commentariat and investors.
We cannot know the accumulating economic cost of cycles of progressively greater monetary inflation, because all government statistics are based on the lie that money is a constant, when in fact it has become the greatest variable in everyone’s life. The transfer of wealth from all consumers through monetary debasement is an act of impoverishment, and to the extent it is not offset in other ways the economy as a whole suffers.
‘The Fed is an outpost of a foreign power that controls our economy, most of our politics and our financial future. It’s an instrument of the Rothschild global cabal. It always has been since 1913’
First it was supposed to be just a mid-month tax payment issue coupled with an accelerated cash rebuild by the US Treasury. Then, it was supposed to be just quarter-end pressure. Then, once the Fed rolled out QE4 while keeping both its overnight and term repo operations, the mid-September repo rate fireworks which sent the overnight G/C repo rate as high as 10% was supposed to go away for good as Powell admitted the level of reserves was too low and the Fed launched a $60BN/month Bill POMO to boost the Fed’s balance sheet.
Bottom line: the ongoing repo market pressure – which indicated that one or more banks were severely liquidity constrained – was supposed to be a non-event.
Alas, as of this morning when the Fed’s latest repo operation was once again oversubscribed, it appears that the repo turmoil is not only not going away, but is in fact (to paraphrase Joe Biden) getting worse, because even with both term and overnight repos in play and with the market now expecting the Fed to start injecting copious liquidity tomorrow with the first Bill POMO, banks are still cash starved.
To wit: in its latest overnight operation, the Fed indicated that $80.35BN in collateral ($74.7BN in TSYs, $5.65BN in MBS) had been submitted into an operation that maxed out at $75BN, with a weighted average rate on both TSY and MBS rising to 1.823% and 1.828% respectively.
While it was clear that the repo market was tightening in the past week, with each incremental overnight repo operation rising, today was the first oversubscribed repo operation since September 25, and follows yesterday’s $67.6BN repo and $20.1BN term repo.
But the clearest sign that the repo market is freezing up again came from the overnight general collateral rate itself, which after posting in the 1.80%-1.90% range for much of the past two weeks, spiked as high as 2.275% overnight and was last seen at 2.15%, well above the fed funds upper range…
‘The powers that be would rather us experience a mad max world while they hide in luxury bunkers, than allow a treasury issued gold backed currency, absent a central bank once again’
… there was a brief debate whether the Fed’s soon to be permanent expansion in its balance sheet is QE or not QE. The answer to this semantic debate simple: Powell defined Quantitative Tightening as removing reserves from the system. Thus, by that simple definition, adding reserves to the system on a permanent basis via permanent open market operations, i.e., bond purchases, is Quantitative Easing. Incidentally, the repo market fireworks were just a smokescreen: the real reason why the Fed is resuming QE is far simpler: the US has facing an avalanche of debt issuance and with China and Japan barely able to keep up, someone has to buy this debt. That someone: the Fed.
And just to shut up anyone who still wants to call the upcoming $400BN expansion in the Fed’s balance sheet, as represented in the following chart by Goldman…
… QE-Lite, here is JPMorgan comparing what is coming with what has been: at a $21BN in monthly 10Yr equivalent TSY purchases, the “upcoming” operation is the same size as QE1.
Yet semantic bullshit aside, what is most infuriating about Powell’s “shocking” announcement (whichwe previeweda few weeks ago) is that it took place just one day after the central banks’ central bank, the Bank of International Settlements, finally caught up with what we first said in 2009 – for economists being only 10 years behind the curve is actually not terrible – and wrote that “the unprecedented growth in central banks’ balance sheets since the financial crisis has had a negative impact on the way in which financial markets function.”
Ignoring the fact that central bank policies are responsible for such phenomena as Brexit and Trump, as it is the flawed monetary policy of the past decade that made the rich richer beyond their wildest dreams by expanding the biggest asset bubble in history, while destroying the middle class…
… it is disgusting that even as the Fed’s own supervisor admits that its balance sheet expanding policies have broken the market – something this “tinfoil” conspiracy blog has been saying since 2008 – the Fed is doing even more of the same, ensuring that the market will be more broken than ever!
So what was this startling epiphany? According to the BIS, while the immediate impact of this massive balance sheet expansion had eased the severe market strains created by the 2008 financial crisis, there had been several negative side-effects. These included a scarcity of bonds available for investors to purchase, squeezed liquidity in some markets, higher levels of bank reserves and fewer market operators actively trading in some areas.
“Lower trading volumes and price volatility, compressed credit spreads and flatter term structures may reduce the attractiveness of investing and dealing in bond markets,” the BIS said in the Monday report. “Some players may leave the market altogether, resulting in a more concentrated and homogenous set of investors and fewer dealers.”
This “could result in market malfunctioning when large central bank balance sheets are eventually unwound”, the BIS warned, adding that “it could make it more difficult for reserves to be redistributed effectively between market participants.” Of course, the BIS was clearly joking because even five-year olds know balance sheets will never be unwound.
Additionally, the BIS went on to point out that negative impacts have been more prevalent when central banks hold a larger share of outstanding assets, as theFT reported: major central banks’ holdings of domestic sovereign bonds range from 20% of outstanding paper at the US Fed to over 40% in Japan.
But the BIS said these side-effects had so far only rarely affected financial conditions in such a way as to impede central banks’ monetary policymaking, though it added that the full consequences were unlikely to become clear until major central banks started to shrink their balance sheets.
Worse, the BIS noted that regulations demanding liquidity at large banks might discourage the banks from offering to lend out their reserves — a source of same-day liquidity — into overnight markets. This is similar to what the large banks themselves have said in the last month. But the BIS also noted that since the financial crisis, risk management practices might have changed within the banks themselves.
Sadly, the Fed – which is fully aware of all of this – decided to ignore everything the BIS warned about, and by launching more POMO/QE/”don’t call it QE”, just ensured that the next financial crisis will be the last one.
“So looks like the banks are being re-capitalized, (bailed out) and lower rates are coming, zero or negative.. well.. now the banks can borrow cash for zero, or less directly from the Fed., then shell out loans and credit cards at exorbitant rates to We The People… oh… you are not supposed to know this… (don’t share)…”
(Daniel Lacalle) The Federal Reserve has injected $278 billion into the securities repurchase market for the first time. Numerous justifications have been provided to explain why this has happened and, more importantly, why it lasted for various days. The first explanation was quite simplistic: an unexpected tax payment. This made no sense. If there is ample liquidity and investors are happy to take financing positions at negative rates all over the world, the abrupt rise in repo rates would simply vanish in a few hours.
Let us start with definitions. The repo market is where borrowers seeking cash offer lenders collateral in the form of safe securities. Repo rates are the interest rate paid to borrow cash in exchange for Treasuries for 24 hours.
Sudden bursts in the repo lending market are not unusual. What is unusual is that it takes days to normalize and even more unusual to see that the Federal Reserve needs to inject hundreds of billions in a few days to offset the unstoppable rise in short-term rates.
Because liquidity is ample, thirst for yield is enormous and financial players are financially more solvent than years ago, right? Wrong.
What the Repo Market Crisis shows us is that liquidity is substantially lower than what the Federal Reserve believes, that fear of contagion and rising risk are evident in the weakest link of the financial repression machine (the overnight market) and, more importantly, that liquidity providers probably have significantly more leverage than many expected.
In summary, the ongoing -and likely to return- burst in the repo market is telling us that risk and debt accumulation are much higher than estimated. Central banks believed they could create a Tsunami of liquidity and manage the waves. However, like those children’s toys where you press one block and another one rises, the repo market is showing us a symptom of debt saturation and massive risk accumulation.
When did hedge funds and other liquidity providers stop accepting Treasuries for short-term operations? It is easy money! You get a safe asset, provide cash to borrowers, and take a few points above and beyond the market rate. Easy money. Are we not living in a world of thirst for yield and massive liquidity willing to lend at almost any rate?
Well, it would be easy money… Unless all the chain in the exchange process is manipulated and rates too low for those operators to accept even more risk.
In essence, what the repo issue is telling us is that the Fed cannot make magic. The central planners believed the Fed could create just the right inflation, manage the curve while remaining behind it, provide enough liquidity but not too much while nudging investors to longer-term securities. Basically, the repo crisis -because it is a crisis- is telling us that liquidity providers are aware that the price of money, the assets used as collateral and the borrowers’ ability to repay are all artificially manipulated. That the safe asset is not as safe into a recession or global slowdown, that the price of money set by the Fed is incoherent with the reality of the risk and inflation in the economy, and that the liquidity providers cannot accept any more expensive “safe” assets even at higher rates because the rates are not close to enough, the asset is not even close to be safe and the debt and risk accumulated in other positions in their portfolio is too high and rising.
The repo market turmoil could have been justified if it had lasted one day. However, it has taken a disguised quantitative easing purchase program to mildly contain it.
This is a symptom of a larger problem that is starting to manifest in apparently unconnected events, like the failed auctions of negative-yielding eurozone bonds or the bankruptcy of companies that barely needed the equivalent of one day of repo market injection to finance the working capital of another year.
This is a symptom of debt saturation and massive risk accumulation. The evidence of the possibility of a major global slowdown, even a synchronized recession, is showing that what financial institutions and investors have hoarded in recent years, high-risk, low-return assets, is more dangerous than many of us believed.
It is very likely that the Fed injections become a norm, not an anomaly, and the Fed’s balance sheet is already rising. Like we have mentioned in China so many times, these injections are a symptom of a much more dangerous problem in the economy. The destruction of the credit mechanism through constant manipulation of rates and liquidity has created a much larger bubble than any of us can imagine. Like we have seen in China, it is part of the zombification of the economy and the proof that unconventional monetary measures have created much larger imbalances than the central planners expected.
The repo crisis tells us one thing. The collateral damages of excess liquidity include the destruction of the credit transmission mechanism, disguising the real assessment of risk and, more importantly, leads to a synchronized excess in debt that will not be solved by lower rates and more liquidity injections.
Many want to tell us that this episode is temporary. It has happened in the most advanced, diversified and competitive financial market. Now imagine if it happens in the Eurozone, for example. This is, like the inverted yield curve and the massive rise in negative-yielding bonds, the tip of a truly scary iceberg.
As the violence in Hong Kong escalates with every passing week, culminating on Friday with what was effectively the passage of martial law when the local governmentbanned the wearing of masks at public assemblies, a colonial-era law that is meant to give the authorities a green light to finally crack down on protesters at will, one aspect of Hong Kong life seemed to be surprisingly stable: no, not the local economy, as HK retail sales just suffered theirbiggest drop on record as the continuing violent protests halt most if not all commerce:
We are talking about the local banks, which have been remarkably resilient in the face of the continued mass protests and the ever rising threat of violent Chinese retaliation which could destroy Hong Kong’s status as the financial capital of the Pacific Rim in a heart beat, and crush the local banking system. In short: despite the perfect conditions for a bank run, the locals continued to behave as if they had not a care in the world.
Only that is now changing, because one day after a junior JPMorgan banker wasbeaten in broad daylight by the protest mob, a SCMP report confirms that the social upheaval has finally spilled over into the financial world: according to theHK publication, the local central bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, was forced to issue a statement warning against a “malicious attempt to cause panic among the public” after rumors were spread online about the possibility of the government using emergency powers to impose foreign-exchange controls.
And while the de facto central bank stressed that the banking system remained robust and well positioned to withstand any market volatility, some of the statistics it provided gave a rather troubling impression: the monetary authority said that not only were more than 10% of 3,300 ATMs damaged and could not function, but that banks were negotiating with logistics firms to refill cash machines as 5% of them had run out of money, adding that banknote delivery was affected by the closure of shopping malls and MTR stations.
Will this be enough to prevent a bank run on the remaining ATMs? The answer will largely depend on what happens in the next 24-48 hours in Hong Kong, although the signs are grim.
The Punjab Maharashtra Co-operative Bank (PMC), in India, has been caught cooking the books and misreporting non-preforming loans (NPL) of Mumbai-based real estate developer Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL). AsReuters reports, PMC hid the bad loans with 21,000 fictitious accounts, which has spooked depositors, investors and government officials,
Reuters learned about the massive fraud through a complaint filed with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police earlier this week, alleges that PMC concealed $616 million in NPLs.
BloombergQuintsaid PMC’s loan book had a 73% exposure to HDIL’s failed real estate dealings.
“The actual financial position of the bank was camouflaged, & the bank deceptively reflected a rosy picture of its financial parameters,” said the complaint, noting that the fictitious loan accounts were not entered into the bank’s core banking system – a factor key in the perpetration of a $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank that was uncovered in 2018, said Reuters.
The complaint says PMC’s Chairman Waryam Singh and its Managing Director Joy Thomas were at the center point of the fraud. It also names HDIL’s former senior executives Sarang Wadhwan and Rakesh Wadhwa, who were the recipients of the real estate loans.
As recession fears intensify in India, the PMC banking crisis has ignited the debate among government officials that the banking sector could be headed for turmoil.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took over PMC last week and has prevented the bank from new loan creation, while nearly 900,000 depositors have been informed that deep capital controls are being placed on their accounts for six months.
Dozens of videos have been uploaded to social media this week, detailing how depositors are being locked out of their accounts, some fear the worst, as the bank has likely failed.
The Fed’s “temporary” liquidity injections are starting to look rather permanent…
Anyone who expected that the easing of the quarter-end funding squeeze in the repo market would mean the Fed would gradually fade its interventions in the repo market, was disappointed on Friday afternoon when the NY Fed announced it would extend the duration of overnight repo operations (with a total size of $75BN) for at least another month, while also offering no less than eight 2-week term repo operations until November 4, 2019, which confirms that the funding unlocked via term repo is no longer merely a part of the quarter-end arsenal but an integral part of the Fed’s overall “temporary” open market operations… which are starting to look quite permanent.
In accordance with the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) directive, the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will conduct a series of overnight and term repurchase agreement (repo) operations to help maintain the federal funds rate within the target range.
Effective the week of October 7, the Desk will offer term repos through the end of October as indicated in the schedule below. The Desk will continue to offer daily overnight repos for an aggregate amount of at least $75 billion each through Monday, November 4, 2019.
Securities eligible as collateral include Treasury, agency debt, and agency mortgage-backed securities. Awarded amounts may be less than the amount offered, depending on the total quantity of eligible propositions submitted. Additional details about the operations will be released each afternoon for the following day’s operation(s) on the Repurchase Agreement Operational Details web page. The operation schedule and parameters are subject to change if market conditions warrant or should the FOMC alter its guidance to the Desk.
What this means is that until such time as the Fed launches Permanent Open Market Operations – either at the November or December FOMC meeting, which according to JPMorgan will be roughly $37BN per month, or approximately the same size as QE1…
… the NY Fed will continue to inject liquidity via the now standard TOMOs: overnight and term repos. At that point, watch as the Fed’s balance sheet, which rose by $185BN in the past month, continues rising indefinitely as QE4 is quietly launched to no fanfare.
Just like That: Roughly 600,000 travelers are stranded around the world after the British travel provider Thomas Cook declares bankruptcy…
Thomas Cook, a 178-year-old British travel company and airline, declared bankruptcy early Monday morning, suspending operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded around the world.
The travel company operates its own airline, with a fleet of nearly 50 medium- and long-range jets, and owns several smaller airlines and subsidiaries, including the German carrier Condor. Thomas Cook still had several flights in the air as of Sunday night but was expected to cease operations once they landed at their destinations.
Condor posted a message to its site late Sunday night saying that it was still operating but that it was unclear whether that would change. Condor’s scheduled Monday-morning flights appeared to be operating normally.
About 600,000 Thomas Cook customers were traveling at the time of the collapse, of whom 150,000 were British, the company toldCNN.
The British Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority prepared plans, under the code name “Operation Matterhorn,” to repatriate stranded British passengers. According to the British aviation authority, those rescue flights would take place until October 6, leading to the possibility that travelers could be delayed for up to two weeks.
Initial rescue flights seemed poised to begin immediately, with stranded passengers posting on Twitter that they were being delayed only a few hours as they awaited chartered flights.
The scale of the task has reports calling it the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history, including the operation the government carried out whenMonarch Airlines collapsedin 2017.
Costs of the flights were expected to be covered by theATOL, or Air Travel Organiser’s License, protection plan, a fund that provides for repatriation of British travelers if an airline ceases operations.
Airplanes from British Airways and EasyJet would be among those transporting stranded passengers home, according toThe Guardian, as well as chartered planes from leasing companies and other airlines. Thomas Cook Airlines’ destinations included parts of mainland Europe, Africa, the US, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Airplanes were being flown to those destinations on Sunday night, according to theBBC.
We are living in an age of records in the financial world. The stock market is in its longest bull market in history and near all-time highs. The world has more debt than ever before while interest rates are near record lows, and some are negative in many countries for the first time ever. Nick Barisheff, CEO of Bullion Management Group (BMG), is seeing a dark ending for the era of financial records. Barisheff explains,
“I have been in the business for 40 years, and this is the first time we have had a simultaneous triple bubble, a bubble in real estate, stocks and bonds all at the same time. In 1999, it was a stock bubble. In 2007, it was a real estate bubble. This time, we’ve got a triple simultaneous bubble. So, when we have the correction, it’s going to be massive. Value calculations on equities say it’s worse than 1999, and in some cases worse than 1929. The big problem is this triple bubble is sitting on a mountain of debt like never before.”
What is going to be the reaction to this record bubble in everything crashing? Barisheff says, “I think you are going to be getting riots in the streets. It’s already happening in California. CalPERS is the pension fund administrator for a lot of the pension funds in California. So, already retired teachers, firefighters and policemen that are sitting in retirement getting their pension checks all got letters saying sorry, your pension checks from now on are going to be reduced by 60%. How do you get by then?”
What happens if the meltdown picks up speed and casualties? Barisheff says,
“I think the only option will be for the government is to print more money and postpone the problem yet a little bit longer, but that leads to massive inflation and eventually hyperinflation. Every fiat currency that has ever existed has always ended in hyperinflation, every single one. Since 1800, there have been 56 hyper inflations. Hyperinflation is defined as 50% inflation per month. That’s where we are going and what other choice is there?”
So, what do you do? Barisheff says,
“In the U.S. dollar since 2000, gold is up an average of 9.4% per year. In some countries, it’s up 14% and so on. If you take the overall average of all the countries, the average increase is 10% a year. Every time Warren Buffett is on CNBC, he seems to go out of his way to disparage gold, but if you look at a chart of Berkshire Hathaway and gold, gold has outperformed Berkshire Hathaway. . . Everybody worships Warren Buffett as the best investor in the world, and gold has outperformed his fund in U.S. dollars. I would not disparage gold if I were him. I’d keep quiet about it.”
There is a first for Barisheff, too, in this financial environment. He says for the first time ever, he’s “100% invested in gold” as a percentage of his portfolio. He says the bottom “is in for gold,” and “the bottom is in for silver, too.”
Barisheff contends that with the record bubbles and the record debt, both gold and silver will be setting new all-time high records as well in the not-so-distant future.
Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he goes One-on-One with Nick Barisheff, CEO of BMG and the author of the popular book“$10,000 Gold.”
It’s now official: central banks’ stated policy is to take interest rates and the value of the US dollar to zero. …But not until they’ve managed to tie up the world’s real estate and other hard assets, leaving the vast majority of people in poverty.
Wayne Jett, constitutional attorney, who has argued cases up to and including the US Supreme Court, author of “The Fruits of Graft, Great Depressions Then and Now,” and founder of ClassicalCapital.com, returns to Reluctant Peppers to expound on his latest article “MONETARY POLICY END GAME – Central Banks To Fight Fake ‘Deflation’.”
If you’re not outraged by the end of this interview, you’re not paying attention. You’ll want to share this widely!
Are we about to see the stock market crash this year? That is what Goldman Sachs seems to think, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that great financial chaos has been unleashed during the month of October. When the stock market crashed in October 1929, it started the worst economic depression that we have ever witnessed. In October 1987, the largest single day percentage decline in U.S. stock market history rocked the entire planet. And the nightmarish events of October 2008 set the stage for a “Great Recession” that we still haven’t fully recovered from. So could it be possible that something similar may happen in October 2019?
The storm clouds are looming and disaster could strike at any time. This is one of the most critical times in the history of our nation, and most Americans are completely unprepared for what is going to happen next.
(ZeroHedge) In a stunning rebuke, echoing very closely our own concerns, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren has – without naming-names – called out the WeWork business model as being a systemic risk to the US economy.
Two weeks ago we asked (rhetorically)…
What happens to the US CRE market when We files for bankruptcy
While the collapse and/or bankruptcy of WeWork would hardly lead to a personal finance disaster – SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son is already Japan’s richest man and with a net worth of over $20 billion can easily stomach losing billions on WeWork (and Uber) – it would send shockwaves across US commercial real estate, as the company is already the single biggest tenant in New York City, as well as Chicago, Denver and central London.
In fact, with over $47 billion in lease liabilities, WeWork is already one of the world’s largest lessees, trailing only oil exploration giants Petrobras and Sinpec, an astonishing feat for the flexible office space provider “which was founded less than a decade ago, bleeds cash, and doesn’t plan to become profitable any time soon.”
As Bloomberg recently noted, “anyone weighing whether to buy shares in WeWork’s IPO cannot ignore the fact that the company will have to find $47 billion from somewhere in coming years to meet its contractual obligations – including about $10 billion in just the next five years. Right now, its own very negative cash flows won’t cut it.”
Mr. Rosengren noted the risks posed by commercial real estate, which have long been a concern of his, as a possible vector to amplify trouble.
Without naming any firms, Mr. Rosengren noted the particular concerns posed by co-working companies. He made this comment as the parent of office-sharing firm WeWork postponed its initial public offering amid investor doubts about its valuation and concerns about its corporate governance.
Office-sharing firms are particularly exposed to risks should the economy run into trouble, and could wound landlords in the process, Mr. Rosengren said.
“In a downturn the co-working company would be exposed to the loss of tenant income, which puts both them and the property owner at risk if they cannot make lease payments to the owner of the building,” he said.
“I am concerned that commercial real estate losses will be larger in the next downturn because of this growing feature of the real estate market, which could ultimately make runs and vacancies more likely due to this new leasing model,” Mr. Rosengren said.
“The fact that the shared office model relies on small-company tenants with short-term leases, combined with the potential lack of recourse for the property owner, is potentially problematic in a recession. This also raises the issue of whether bank loans to property owners in cities with major penetration by co-working models could experience a higher incidence of default and greater loss-given-defaults than we have seen historically.”
Of course, he is right.As we concluded more explicitly,in a bankruptcy, all those obligations would be frozen and squeezed among all the other pre-petition claims, which of course means that the commercial real estate market of cities where WeWork is especially active – like New York and London (and Rosengren’s Boston) – would suddenly find itself paralyzed, as a deflationary tsunami is unleashed among one of the strongest performing markets since the financial crisis.
(Volfefe begins today) One day before the ECB is expected to cut rates further into negative territory and restart sovereign debt QE, moments ago president Trump resumed his feud with the Fed piling more pressure on Powell to cut rates “to ZERO or less” because the US apparently has “no inflation”, while also crashing the conversation over whether the US should issue ultra-long maturity debt (50, 100 years), saying the US “should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term.”
At least we now know who is urging Mnuchin to launch 50 and 100 year Treasuries. What we don’t know is just what school of monetary thought Trump belongs to – aside from Erdoganism of course – because while on one hand Trump claims that “we have the great currency, power, and balance sheet” on the other the US president also claims that “the USA should always be paying the lowest rate.” In a normal world, the strongest economy tends to pay the highest interest rate, but in this upside down world, who knows anymore, so maybe the Fed has just itself to blame.
Trump’s conclusion: “It is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing. A once in a lifetime opportunity that we are missing because of “Boneheads.”
….The USA should always be paying the the lowest rate. No Inflation! It is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing. A once in a lifetime opportunity that we are missing because of “Boneheads.”
Max and Stacy discuss the synchronized markets causing pension fund managers to lose money in every single asset class. As trillions and trillions of freshly minted fiat money sloshes around the financial system looking for any return, Japan’s pension fund manager warns this time is different. Max continues his interview with Craig Hemke ofTFMetalsReport.comabout gold markets and how negative interest rates, hyperinflating at a rate of $1 trillion per week, will impact fiat currencies.
Having destroyed discipline, central banks have no way out of the corner they’ve painted us into.
It was such a wonderful fantasy: just give a handful of bankers, financiers and corporations trillions of dollars at near-zero rates of interest, and this flood of credit and cash into the apex of the wealth-power pyramid would magically generate a new round of investments in productivity-improving infrastructure and equipment, which would trickle down to the masses in the form of higher wages, enabling the masses to borrow and spend more on consumption, powering the Nirvana of modern economics: a self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth.
But alas, there is no self-sustaining, self-reinforcing expansion of growth; there are only massive, increasingly fragile asset bubbles, stagnant wages and a New Gilded Age as the handful of bankers, financiers and corporations that were handed unlimited nearly free money enriched themselves at the expense of everyone else.
When credit is nearly free to borrow in unlimited quantities, there’s no need for discipline, and so a year of university costs $50,000 instead of $10,000, houses that should cost $200,000 now cost $1 million and a bridge that should have cost $100 million costs $500 million. Nobody can afford anything any more because the answer in the era of central bank “growth” is: just borrow more, it won’t cost you much because interest rates are so low.
And with capital (i.e. saved earnings) getting essentially zero yield thanks to central bank ZIRP and NIRP (zero or negative interest rate policies), then all the credit has poured into speculative assets, inflating unprecedented asset bubbles that will destroy much of the financial system when they finally pop, as all asset bubbles eventually do.
Nobody knows what the price of anything is in the funny-money era of central banks. And since capital earns next to nothing, the only way to earn a return is join the mad frenzy chasing risk assets ever higher, with the plan being to sell at the top to a greater fool, a strategy few manage as it requires selling into a rally that seems destined to climb to the stars.
Having destroyed discipline–why scrimp and save when you can always borrow to buy or invest?– central banks have no way out of the corner they’ve painted us into. If they “normalize” interest rates to historical averages (3% above real-world inflation), then all the zombie companies and households that are surviving only because rates are near-zero will go bankrupt, wiping out the “wealth” of all the loans that can no longer be paid.
“Normalized” rates would also bring down the global housing bubble, an implosion that would trigger trillions in losses, reversing the vaunted wealth effect into a realization that we’re all getting poorer, not richer, and collapsing the risky mountain of mortgage debt that’s been piled on absurdly overvalued properties globally.
In effect, central banks added a zero to “money” and anticipated that this trickery would generate ten times more of everything: ten times more productive investments, ten times more consumption, ten times more people borrowing ten times more money, and so on.
But the trickery failed, and all we have is $200,000 houses that cost $1 million, a year in college that costs $50,000 instead of $10,000, and so on.Having destroyed discipline and price discovery, central banks attempted to replace reality with fantasy, and now the absurd fantasy is imploding. The financial system and the real-world economy have both been destabilized by this fantasy, and now both are fragile in ways few understand.
The only “policies” central banks have is to issue more credit at negative interest rates, i.e. doing more of what’s failed spectacularly, until the entire rickety travesty of a mockery of a sham collapses.
That collapse is currently underway in slow motion, but given the increasing instability of asset bubbles, it could accelerate at any time.
The Federal Reserve Resistance: A recent official urges the central bank to help defeat Donald Trump.
Perhaps you’ve seen former Chairs of the Federal Reserve defending the central bank’s independence and fore swearing all political intentions. Fair enough. But then what are we to make of former Fed monetary Vice Chair William Dudley ’s marker that the Fed should help defeat President Trump in 2020? That’s the extraordinary message from the former, and perhaps future, Fed grandee in Bloomberg.
“Officials could state explicitly that the central bank won’t bail out an administration that keeps making bad choices on trade policy, making it abundantly clear that Trump will own the consequences of his actions,” Mr. Dudley asserts. We also think monetary policy should focus on prices rather than trade. But Mr. Dudley seems to be saying the Fed should do nothing to assist the economy even if it heads into recession. Then he goes further and essentially says the Fed should join The Resistance.
“There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview,” Mr. Dudley writes. “After all, Trump’s reelection arguably presents a threat to the U.S. and global economy, to the Fed’s independence and its ability to achieve its employment and inflation objectives. If the goal of monetary policy is to achieve the best long-term economic outcome, then Fed officials should consider how their decisions will affect the political outcome in 2020.”
Wow. Talk about stripping the veil. These columns wondered if Mr. Dudley was politically motivated while he was at the Fed, favoring bond buying to finance Barack Obama ’s deficit spending, urging the Fed to intervene in markets to boost housing, and keeping interest rates low for as long as possible. And now here Mr. Dudley is confirming that he views the Fed as an agent of the Democratic Party.
A key lesson of the Trump era is that every single allegedly neutral, nonpartisan, super-professional institution has turned out to be, in fact, a bunch of partisan hacks shilling for the permanent political party. Voters can be forgiven for adopting a “burn it all down” attitude in response.
Unlike the unfounded narrative that cryptocurrency enables crime, big banks are more than happy to serve unsavory clients if it is lucrative enough for them. The latest example of this is a report that Jeffrey Epstein was apparently using his bank accounts to fund sex trafficking and possibly other crimes.
Follow the Money
The reported death of the Wall Street financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on Saturday morning in a Manhattan prison cell has left a lot of questions. Among these is how exactly he funded his criminal activities, which included sex trafficking of minors to be used by the rich and powerful. One matter that is not a mystery is how Epstein funded his perversions: he used the traditional fiat banking system, with all its extensive KYC and AML regulations.
The alleged suicide of Epstein shouldn’t stop the “Legions of lawyers, bankers and accountants” that have been digging into his financial affairs in recent weeks claims the New York Times. These include officials conducting internal reviews at the two big banks that worked with him for years, JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. The employees at both of these financial institutions have reportedly been going over their books in a long overdue attempt to understand how they got into business with the convicted criminal and what exactly he was using their banking services for. A person who was briefed on Deutsche Bank’s internal review reportedly said “it appeared that Mr. Epstein was using his accounts for sex trafficking and possibly other illegal activity.”
Deutsche Bank headquarters on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York
Further, according to the report, compliance officers and other employees at both JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank had strongly advised their higher-ups to stop doing business with Epstein years before his accounts were finally closed. This was suggested not due to the unpalatable nature of his businesses, but due to the risks associated with him such as hurting the bank’s brand and upsetting regulators. However, former employees at both banks said that “managers and executives rejected that advice and kept doing business with the lucrative client.”
Deutsche Bank Only Recently Closed Epstein’s Accounts
Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty and was convicted in court of law of both soliciting a prostitute and of procuring a minor for prostitution back in 2008. He served 13 months in custody with work release, as part of a plea deal, where federal prosecutes had identified 36 girls as young as 14 years old who had been victimized. His case was very hard to miss due to the fact that his name was tied to some of the most famous and powerful people in the world such as Donald Trump, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.K.’s Prince Andrew, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and disgraced Hollywood star Kevin Spacey.
Despite all of this, it isn’t too hard to see why the higher-ups at the big banks didn’t want to let go of his business. While not much is known about the source of his money, Epstein definitely had a lot of it moving around. Among his confirmed assets is a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a Manhattan mansion worth over $77 million, a Palm Beach estate worth over $12 million, additional real-estate properties in New Mexico and Paris, a private jet airplane and no less than 15 cars. Considering this, it isn’t that surprising that Deutsche Bank only cut its ties to Epstein when prosecutors were set to charge him again with operating a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls in June of this year.
A Chase Bank branch in Manhattan, New York
JP Morgan Chase worked with Epstein from the late 1990s until 2013 and Deutsche Bank served him from 2013 until June 2019. The latter bank has reportedly already started giving his complete transaction history to investigators while the former awaits receiving similar demands for his financial data from U.S. authorities.
In astatementon Saturday after the alleged suicide, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman expressed his commitment to the victims to keep the investigation ongoing, despite the demise of the defendant. This means that the public will hopefully get a detailed examination into the criminal banking activities of Epstein in due course.
Big Banks Have a Long History of Enabling Crime
Governments, central banks and international financial institutions have all been pushing a largely unfounded narrative in recent years that cryptocurrencies enable illicit activity. Parroted by the mainstream media, it was used as justification to crack down on exchanges and other crypto service providers with demands for less user privacy or outright bans. In contrast, the established banking system has a long and proven track record of enabling all sorts of crimes, despite its burdensome compliance requirements, and yet erring institutions receive nothing more than a fine equal to a slap on the wrist.
In a shocking move, Chase Bank announced on Thursday that it was going to be forgiving all outstanding credit card debt from its Canadian customers, according toYahoo Finance. The bank closed all of its credit card accounts in Canada back in March of 2018.
When the accounts were initially closed, customers were told to continue paying down their debt. Now, they’re being told by the company that their debt is cancelled. CBC talked to some customers who got letters from the bank this week.
Douglas Turner of Coe Hill, Ontario, who still owed about $4,500, said:
“I was sort of over the moon all last night, with a smile on my face. I couldn’t believe it. It’s crazy. This stuff doesn’t happen with credit cards. Credit cards are horror stories.”
Paul Adamson of Dundalk, Ontario said he called his bank after seeing his account was closed because he was concerned about missing a payment. Adamson said:
“I’m honestly still so … flabbergasted about it. It’s surprise fees, extra complications – things like that, definitely, but not loan forgiveness.”
The bank had previously offered rewards cards for both Amazon and Marriott in Canada. Maria Martinez, vice-president of communications for Chase Card Services, said that the bank could have sold the debt, but that forgiving it “was a better decision for all parties, including and most importantly our customers.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the news is as well received by diligent Chase customers in Canada who paid off their cards, as well as American customers who have undoubedtly racked up massive sums of debt with the bank.
A 24 year old university student, Christine Langlois of Montreal, said she hadn’t paid the card in 5 years.
“It’s kind of like I’m being rewarded for my irresponsibility,” she said.
After years of being kept in the doldrums by orchestrated short selling described on this website by Roberts and Kranzler, gold has lately moved up sharply, reaching over $1,500 this week.The gold price has continued to rise despite the continuing practice of dumping large volumes of naked contracts in the futures market.The gold price is driven down but quickly recovers and moves on up.I haven’t an explanation at this time for the new force that is more powerful than the short-selling that has been used to control the price of gold.
Various central banks have been converting their dollar reserves into gold, which reduces the demand for dollars and increases the demand for gold.Existing stocks of gold available to fill orders are being drawn down, and new mining output is not keeping pace with the rise in demand.Perhaps this is the explanation for the rise in the price of gold.
During the many years of Quantitative Easing the exchange value of the dollar was protected by the Japanese, British, and EU central banks also printing money to insure that their currencies did not rise in value relative to the dollar. The Federal Reserve needs to protect the dollar’s exchange value so that it continues in its role as the world’s reserve currency in which international transactions are conducted.If the dollar loses this role, the US will lose the ability to pay its bills by printing dollars.A dollar declining in value relative to other countries would cause flight from the dollar to the rising currencies.Catastrophe quickly occurs from increasing the supply of a currency that central banks are unwilling to hold.
One problem remained. The dollar was depreciating relative to gold.Rigging the currency market was necessary but not sufficient to stabilize the dollar’s value. The gold market also had to be rigged. To stop the dollar’s depreciation, naked short selling has been used to artificially increase the supply of paper gold in order to suppress the price.Unlike equities, gold shorts don’t have to be covered. This turns the price-setting gold futures market into a paper market where contracts are settled primarily in cash and not by taking delivery of gold.Therefore, participants can increase the supply of the paper gold traded in the futures market by printing new contracts. When large numbers of contracts are suddenly dumped in the market, the sudden increase in paper gold supply drives down the price. This has worked until now.
If flight from the dollar is beginning, it will make it difficult for the Federal Reserve to accommodate the growing US budget deficit and continue its policy of lowering interest rates. With central banks moving their reserves from dollars (US Treasury bonds and bills) to gold, the demand for US government debt is not keeping up with supply.The supply will be increasing due to the $1.5 trillion US budget deficit.The Federal Reserve will have to take up the gap between the amount of new debt that has to be issued and the amount that can be sold by purchasing the difference.In other words, the Fed will print more money with which to purchase the unsold portion of the new debt.
The creation of more dollars when the dollar is experiencing pressure puts more downward pressure on the dollar.To protect the dollar, that is, to make it again attractive to investors and central banks, the Federal Reserve would have to raise interest rates substantially.If the US economy is in recession or moving toward recession, the cost of rising interest rates would be high in terms of unemployment.
With a rising price of gold, who would want to hold debt denominated in a rapidly depreciating currency when interest rates are low, zero, or negative?
The Federal Reserve might have no awareness of the pending crisis that it has set up for itself.On the other hand, the Federal Reserve is responsive to the elite who want to rid themselves of Trump.Collapsing the economy on Trump’s head is one way to prevent his reelection.
(Alex Deluce) There may be readers who weren’t even born when the U.S. still had a gold-backed dollar. Since the gold standard was abolished in 1971, the value of the dollar has decreased annually by 3.96 percent. You would need over $600 today to purchase the same goods you purchased for $100 in 1973. Still, a dollar is a dollar, right? No, it is not. It is just a piece of paper.
Is there a chance the U.S. could return to the gold standard and provide real value to the U.S. currency? Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller are President Trump’s pick for Federal Reserve governors. As it happens, Ms. Shelton is a believer in the gold standard and a critic of current Federal Reserve policies. She believes that the Fed has become unnecessarily involved in trade policies instead of adhering to its function of regulating the monetary system. Returning to the gold standard is not a popular idea these days when economists support the limitless printing for currency, high debt, and inflation.
Ms. Shelton would have been considered mainstream 35 years ago. Today, she is thought of as unorthodox. In 2018, she wrote in an article published by the conservative thinktank, Cato Institute,
“If the appeal of cryptocurrencies is their capacity to provide a common currency, and to maintain a uniform value for every issued unit, we need only consult historical experience to ascertain that these same qualities were achieved through the classical international gold standard.”
She also authored a book, Fixing the Dollar Now. In it, she advocates for linking the dollar to a benchmark of value, preferably gold. More than four decades ago, the currency of all major countries, such a Britain, Japan, France, Russia, and others were linked to gold. In 1933, the dollar was linked to $35 worth of gold. In 2019, the value of the dollar is less than one-thirtieth of that.
The gold standard helped the U.S. prosper for 180 years. The signers of the U.S. Constitution included this requirement in Article 10.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Almost two hundred years later, such a concept is deemed unorthodox. Ideologies change, and not always for the better.
The reason the Founding Fathers included a monetary policy in the Constitution is that they wanted money to be as far away as possible from any human intervention. This was achieved by linking the dollar to gold. Gold is a stable commodity, and thus ensures a stable U.S. currency.
Countries today link their currency to some other, stronger currency, such as the dollar or the euro. This means that these countries have no control over their own currency and are at the mercy of an arbitrary link. But as the dollar and euro weaken, so do the currencies that have linked themselves to it. This serves as a disruption of all global economies.
“Stable money” provides us with logical economic guidelines. Market forces become the determining factor of what is produced and where capital is spent. For example, if the price of oil becomes too high, the consumer will reduce oil consumption while companies will either increase their production of oil or seek other sources. When market forces rule, everyone benefits.
Market forces have largely been replaced by government interference and manipulation. The cost of a loaf of bread is what the government says it will be. (See Venezuela for an extreme example.) To manipulate prices, the government, or the Fed, needs to manipulate the value of the dollar. The loaf of bread purchased a year ago for $2.00 now costs $2.50. Same bread, manipulated price. When market forces rule, the price of a loaf of bread would be determined by consumer choice. Under central banking rules, the price would be manipulated by some artificial whim.
One of the easiest ways to manipulate money is through easy credit. Print unlimited currency with no intrinsic value and you create a mountain of debt. This will inevitably lead to inflation and higher prices. If the dollar were once again linked to gold, only a certain amount of money, backed by gold, could be printed. Debt, inflation and higher prices would almost immediately go into a tailspin. Money cannot be manipulated under the gold standard. Perhaps that is why so many economists fear to return to such a standard.
Judy Shelton will be duly criticized for her opinions. Stable money is a new concept for a new generation of bankers and economists. But gold has been around for thousands of years and will undoubtedly outlast these new thinkers.
The global central bank experiment with re-normalization is officially over.
After roughly half the world’s central banks hiked rates at least once in 2018, the major central banks have returned to easing mode, and as the chart below shows, for the first time since 2013, not a single central bank is hiking rates.
(ZeroHedge) Almosteight year ago, we first presented a chart first created by JPMorgan’s Michael Cembalest, which showed very simply and vividly that reserve currencies don’t last forever, and that in the not too distant future, the US Dollar would also lose its status as the world’s most important currency, since it is never different this time.
As Cembalest put it back in January 2012, “I am reminded of the following remark from late MIT economist Rudiger Dornbusch: ‘Crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.'”
Perhaps it is not a coincidence then that in light of the growing number of mentions of MMT and various other terminal, destructive monetary policies that have been proposed to kick on the current financial system the can just a little bit longer, that the topic of longevity of reserve currency status is once again becoming all the rage, and none other than JPMorgan’s Private Bank ask in this month’s investment strategy note whether “the dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” is coming to an end?”
So why is JPM, after first creating the iconic chart above which has since spread virally across all financial corners of the internet, not only worried that the dollar’s reserve status may be coming to an end, but in fact goes so far as to state that “we believe the dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency (which could see it depreciate over the medium term) due to structural reasons as well as cyclical impediments.”
Read on to learn why even the largest US bank has started to lose faith in the world’s most powerful currency.
Is the dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” coming to an end?
The U.S. dollar (USD) has been the world’s dominant reserve currency for almost a century. As such, many investors today, even outside the United States, have built and become comfortable with sizable USD over weights in their portfolios. However, we believe the dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency (which could see it depreciate over the medium term) due to structural reasons as well as cyclical impediments.
As such, diversifying dollar exposure by placing a higher weighting on other currencies in developed markets and in Asia, as well as precious metals makes sense today. This diversification can be achieved with a strategy that maintains the underlying assets in an investment portfolio, but changes the mix of currencies within that portfolio. This is a completely bespoke approach that can be customized to meet the unique needs of individual clients.
The Rise Of The U.S. Dollar
It is commonly perceived that the U.S. dollar overtook the Great British Pound (GBP) as the world’s international reserve currency with the signing of the Bretton Woods Agreements after World War II. The reality is that sterling’s value was eroded for many decades prior to Bretton Woods. The dollar’s rise to international prominence was fueled by the establishment of the Federal Reserve System a little over a century ago and U.S. economic emergence after World War I. The Federal Reserve System aided in the establishment of more mature capital markets and a nationally coordinated monetary policy, two important pillars of reserve-currency countries. Being the world’s unit of account has given the United States what former French Finance Minister Valery d’Estaing called an “exorbitant privilege” by being able to purchase imports and issue debt in its own currency and run persistent deficits seemingly without consequence.
The Shifting Center
There is nothing to suggest that the dollar dominance should remain in perpetuity. In fact, the dominant international currency has changed many times throughout history going back thousands of years as the world’s economic center has shifted.
After the end of World War II, the U.S. accounted for biggest share of world GDP at more than 25%. This number is brought to more than 40% when we include Western European powers. Since then, the main driver of economic growth has shifted eastwards towards Asia at the expense of the U.S. and the West. China is at the epicenter of this recent economic shift driven by the country’s strong growth and commitment to domestic reforms. Over the last 70 years, China has quadrupled its share of global GDP to around 20%—roughly the same share as the U.S.—and this share is expected to continue to grow in the years ahead. China is no longer just a manufacturer of low cost goods as a growing share of corporate earnings is coming from “high value add” sectors like technology.
China Regaining Its Status As A Global Superpower
Earnings In China Are Becoming More Balanced
In addition to China, the economies of Southeast Asia, including India, have strong secular tailwinds driven by younger demographics and proliferating technological know-how. Specifically, the Asian economic zone—from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the West to Japan and New Zealand in the East and from Russia in the North and Australia in the South—now represents 50% of global GDP and two-thirds of global economic growth. Of the estimated $30 trillion in middle-class consumption growth between 2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from today’s Western economies. As this region grows, the share of non-USD transactions will inevitably increase which will likely erode the dollar’s “reserveness”, even if the dollar isn’t replaced as the dominant international currency.
In other words, in the coming decades we think the world economy will transition from U.S. and USD dominance toward a system where Asia wields greater power. In currency space, this means the USD will likely lose value compared to a basket of other currencies, including precious commodities like gold.
Dollar’s Declining Role Already Under Way?
Recent data on currency reserve holdings among global central banks suggests this shift may already be under way. As a share of overall central bank reserves, the USD’s role has been declining ever since the Great Recession (see chart). The most recent central bank reserve flow data also suggests that for the first time since the euro’s introduction in 1999, central banks simultaneously sold dollars and bought euros.
Central banks across the globe are also adding to gold reserves at their strongest pace on record. 2018 saw the strongest demand for gold from central banks since 1971 and a rolling four-quarter sum of gold purchases is the strongest on record. To us, this makes sense: gold is a stable source of value with thousands of years of trust among humans supporting it.
USD Share Of Central Bank Reserves, %
Trade Wars Have Long-Term Consequences
The current U.S. administration has called into question agreements with nearly all of its largest partners—tariffs on China, Mexico and the European Union, renegotiating NAFTA, as well as abandoning the Trans Pacific Partnership. A more adversarial U.S. administration could also encourage countries to reduce their reliance on USD in trade. Currently 85% of all currency transactions involve the USD despite the U.S. accounting for only roughly 25% of global GDP.
Countries around the world are already developing payment mechanisms that would avoid using the dollar. These systems are small and still developing but this is likely to be a structural story that will extend beyond one particular administration. In a recent speech on the international role of the euro, Bank for International Settlements Chief Economist Claudio Borio brought up the benefits of pricing oil in the euro saying, “Trading and settling oil in the euro would move payments from dollars to euros and thereby shift ultimate settlement to the euro’s TARGET2 system. This could limit the reach of U.S. foreign policy insofar as it leverages dollar payments.” The European Central Bank also alluded to this theme in a recent report saying that “growing concerns about the impact of international trade tensions and challenges to multilateralism, including the imposition of unilateral sanctions seem to have lent support to the euro’s global standing.”
We believe we are at an important juncture. On a real basis, the dollar stands currently more than 10% above its long-term average and on a nominal basis has actually been trending lower for 50 years (see chart below).
Given the persistent—and rising—deficits in the United States (in both fiscal and trade), we believe the U.S. dollar could become vulnerable to a loss of value relative to a more diversified basket of currencies, including gold. As we scan client portfolios, we see that many of them have far more U.S. dollar exposure than we feel is prudent. At this stage of the economic cycle, we believe this exposure should be more diversified. In many cases, our recommendation would likely be to place a higher weighting on other G10 currencies, currencies in Asia and gold (see chart).
We are told China’s economy is hurting, the “trade wars” are working and bringing China to it’s knees. From where I sit nothing could be further from the truth.
Currently China holds well north of $1 TRILLION in U.S. Treasuries – debt – that you and I, the tax payers of this country, send interest payments to month after month for them to continue holding our debt. It’s like the mortgage on your house, student loan or car note you have but instead of you getting anything for the debt payment you get to know the warmongers are going to purchase more bombs, weapons of all kinds and create more destruction. China, on the other hand, takes the payment and is building out the Belt and Road Initiative around the world. So, while we are working like slaves to pay our taxes, China is using our labor (taxes) paid to them to build a better global economic and financial system that does not include you and I. Pretty cool, aye?
While this is happening on one side of China’s national ledger sheet, on the other side something completely different is happening.
China reentered the gold market seven months ago, in December 2018 and has added a little less than 74 tons to their official gold holdings of approximately 1,935+ tons of gold. Please keep in mind this does not count the known 80-100 tons per annum that is flowing in from Russia. While this is not a large volume of gold in the grand scheme, this has been going on since 2016 so we are now talking about upwards of 240 – 300 additional tons. This changes their “official” gold holdings from approximately 1,935 tons to somewhere north of 2,175+. It could be as high as 2,235 or more tons of gold.
With more and more central banks continuing to add to their gold hoards did China see the pipeline tightening? China made their exit from the market in October 2016, the same month the yuan / renminbi was added to the IMF basket of currencies accounting for the SDR global trade note. Then fourteen months later decided to jump back in and have been adding to their horde ever since.
Last year, central banks bought 651.5 tons, 74% up on the previous year, theWorld Gold Councilsaid in January. Official sector purchases could reach 700 tons this year, assuming the China trend continues and Russia at least matches 2018 volumes of about 275 tons,Citigroup Inc.said in April. Buying from central banks in the first five months of this year is 73% higher than a year earlier, with Turkey and Kazakhstan joining China and Russia as the four biggest buyers, according to data released on Monday by the WGC.Source
If 2018 saw national / central banks acquiring more than they have since 1968 and this they are outpacing last year by 73% will this be the biggest year for gold national / central bank acquisitions in history? If not history it would have to be much earlier than 1968 since that record has already been breached.
With the global economic changes that are occurring we have been calling for some type of gold trade settlement for a number of years. We believe that Russia and China are on the cusp on making this change. We have no proof this going to happen this year or next, but all the signs are pointing in that direction. We believe, especially if China continues acquiring more “official” gold on the open market, there will be a gold trade settlement note announced before 2025. Possibly much sooner if the warmongers in Washington DC continue with the war drums over Iran. If President Trump listens to the war-pigs in the Pentagon this will not fare well for the U.S. economy and gold will be much in demand at all levels – from retail to government and everything in between.
The international financial establishment is known to express concern about the risks of money laundering when the crypto space is mentioned. A string of scandals indicates, however, that traditional banks are not only susceptible to the phenomenon but sometimes complicit, whether knowingly or inadvertently. New chapters have been added to the saga over the last few months that are hurting banks, bankers and their clients.
Deutsche Bank Prepares to Lay Off 20,000 Employees
Deutsche Bank, one of the biggest names associated with money laundering accusations, has been dogged by many problems during the past year. The leading German financial institution is now preparing for a major reorganization that may include the sacking of up to 20,000 employees, if the plan is approved at the end of this week.
The changes come after a failed merger with Germany’s Commerzbank a couple of months ago, which was eventually deemed too risky by the teams of both banks. I