Category Archives: Economy

U.S. National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro Warns Wall Street Globalists: “Stand Down” Or Else…

(TheLastRefuge) The words from Peter Navarro will come as no surprise to any CTH reader who is fully engaged and reviewing the multi-trillion stakes, within the Globalist (Wall St-vs- Nationalist (Main Street) confrontation.

For several decades Wall Street, through lobbying arms such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Tom Donohue), has structurally opposed Main Street economic policy in order to inflate profits and hold power – “The Big Club”. This manipulative intent is really the epicenter of the corruption within the DC swamp.

U.S. National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro discusses how Wall Street bankers and hedge-fund managers are attempting to influence U.S.-China trade talks. He speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

This article was built around the following short news clip…

Originally outlined a year ago. At the heart of the professional/political opposition the issue is money; there are trillions at stake.

President Trump’s MAGAnomic trade and foreign policy agenda is jaw-dropping in scale, scope and consequence. There are multiple simultaneous aspects to each policy objective; however, many have been visible for a long time – some even before the election victory in November ’16.

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If we get too far in the weeds the larger picture is lost. CTH objective is to continue pointing focus toward the larger horizon, and then at specific inflection points to dive into the topic and explain how each moment is connected to the larger strategy.

If you understand the basic elements behind the new dimension in American economics, you already understand how three decades of DC legislative and regulatory policy was structured to benefit Wall Street and not Main Street. The intentional shift in fiscal policy is what created the distance between two entirely divergent economic engines.

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/lobbyist-1.jpg?w=293&h=195

REMEMBER […] there had to be a point where the value of the second economy (Wall Street) surpassed the value of the first economy (Main Street).

Investments, and the bets therein, needed to expand outside of the USA. hence, globalist investing.

However, a second more consequential aspect happened simultaneously. The politicians became more valuable to the Wall Street team than the Main Street team; and Wall Street had deeper pockets because their economy was now larger.

As a consequence Wall Street started funding political candidates and asking for legislation that benefited their interests.

When Main Street was purchasing the legislative influence the outcomes were -generally speaking- beneficial to Main Street, and by direct attachment those outcomes also benefited the average American inside the real economy.

When Wall Street began purchasing the legislative influence, the outcomes therein became beneficial to Wall Street. Those benefits are detached from improving the livelihoods of main street Americans because the benefits are “global”. Global financial interests, multinational investment interests -and corporations therein- became the primary filter through which the DC legislative outcomes were considered.

There is a natural disconnect. (more)

As an outcome of national financial policy blending commercial banking with institutional investment banking something happened on Wall Street that few understand. If we take the time to understand what happened we can understand why the Stock Market grew and what risks exist today as the monetary policy is reversed to benefit Main Street.

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/trump-mnuchin-banks1-e1495162388382.jpg?w=600&h=298

President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have already begun assembling and delivering a new banking system.

Instead of attempting to put Glass-Stegal regulations back into massive banking systems, the Trump administration is creating a parallel financial system of less-regulated small commercial banks, credit unions and traditional lenders who can operate to the benefit of Main Street without the burdensome regulation of the mega-banks and multinationals. This really is one of the more brilliant solutions to work around a uniquely American economic problem.

♦ When U.S. banks were allowed to merge their investment divisions with their commercial banking operations (the removal of Glass Stegal) something changed on Wall Street.

Companies who are evaluated based on their financial results, profits and losses, remained in their traditional role as traded stocks on the U.S. Stock Market and were evaluated accordingly. However, over time investment instruments -which are secondary to actual company results- created a sub-set within Wall Street that detached from actual bottom line company results.

The resulting secondary financial market system was essentially ‘investment markets’. Both ordinary company stocks and the investment market stocks operate on the same stock exchanges. But the underlying valuation is tied to entirely different metrics.

Financial products were developed (as investment instruments) that are essentially wagers or bets on the outcomes of actual companies traded on Wall Street. Those bets/wagers form the hedge markets and are [essentially] people trading on expectations of performance. The “derivatives market” is the ‘betting system’.

♦Ford Motor Company (only chosen as a commonly known entity) has a stock valuation based on their actual company performance in the market of manufacturing and consumer purchasing of their product. However, there can be thousands of financial instruments wagering on the actual outcome of their performance.

There are two initial bets on these outcomes that form the basis for Hedge-fund activity. Bet ‘A’ that Ford hits a profit number, or bet ‘B’ that they don’t. There are financial instruments created to place each wager. [The wagers form the derivatives] But it doesn’t stop there.

Additionally, more financial products are created that bet on the outcomes of the A/B bets. A secondary financial product might find two sides betting on both A outcome and B outcome.

Party C bets the “A” bet is accurate, and party D bets against the A bet. Party E bets the “B” bet is accurate, and party F bets against the B. If it stopped there we would only have six total participants. But it doesn’t stop there, it goes on and on and on…

The outcome of the bets forms the basis for the tenuous investment markets. The important part to understand is that the investment funds are not necessarily attached to the original company stock, they are now attached to the outcome of bet(s). Hence an inherent disconnect is created.

Subsequently, if the actual stock doesn’t meet it’s expected P-n-L outcome (if the company actually doesn’t do well), and if the financial investment was betting against the outcome, the value of the investment actually goes up. The company performance and the investment bets on the outcome of that performance are two entirely different aspects of the stock market. [Hence two metrics.]

♦Understanding the disconnect between an actual company on the stock market, and the bets for and against that company stock, helps to understand what can happen when fiscal policy is geared toward the underlying company (Main Street MAGAnomics), and not toward the bets therein (Investment Class).

The U.S. stock markets’ overall value can increase with Main Street policy, and yet the investment class can simultaneously decrease in value even though the company(ies) in the stock market is/are doing better. This detachment is critical to understand because the ‘real economy’ is based on the company, the ‘paper economy’ is based on the financial investment instruments betting on the company.

Trillions can be lost in investment instruments, and yet the overall stock market -as valued by company operations/profits- can increase.

Conversely, there are now classes of companies on the U.S. stock exchange that never make a dime in profit, yet the value of the company increases. This dynamic is possible because the financial investment bets are not connected to the bottom line profit. (Examples include Tesla Motors, Amazon and a host of internet stocks like Facebook and Twitter.) It is this investment group of companies that stands to lose the most if/when the underlying system of betting on them stops or slows.

Specifically due to most recent U.S. fiscal policy, modern multinational banks, including all of the investment products therein, are more closely attached to this investment system on Wall Street. It stands to reason they are at greater risk of financial losses overall with a shift in fiscal policy.

That financial and economic risk is the basic reason behind Trump and Mnuchin putting a protective, secondary and parallel, banking system in place for Main Street.

Big multinational banks can suffer big losses from their investments, and yet the Main Street economy can continue growing, and have access to capital, uninterrupted.

Bottom Line: U.S. companies who have actual connection to a growing U.S. economy can succeed; based on the advantages of the new economic environment and MAGA policy, specifically in the areas of manufacturing, trade and the ancillary benefactors.

Meanwhile U.S. investment assets (multinational investment portfolios) that are disconnected from the actual results of those benefiting U.S. companies, and as a consequence also disconnected from the U.S. economic expansion, can simultaneously drop in value even though the U.S. economy is thriving.

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/trump-friends-trade-team-ross-mnuchin-navarro-lighthizer.jpg?w=623&h=1047https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/trump-dow-25k.jpg?w=623&h=615

Source: by Sundance | The Conservative Tree House

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The Economy Does Not Care Who Won The 2018 Midterm Elections

(Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com) Over the past few weeks I received numerous requests from readers to publish my predictions on the outcome of the midterm elections, but I did not do so for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I view the election process very differently from many people. I do not see it as legitimate in the slightest, therefore my predictions of the past have been based not on voter turnouts, polls or any other such nonsense.  Elections are molded events, framed under the false pretense that the Left/Right paradigm in politics is real. As far as the upper echelons of politics are concerned, the paradigm is completely theatrical.

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To be sure, the average American does lean either “left” or “right” on the political spectrum. Such divisions are a natural part of social discourse. However, political theater is designed in most cases to drive citizens away from centrally shared principles of freedom and equal opportunity (not equal outcome) and push them to the far ends of the spectrum toward extremism and zealotry. And to be clear, there is no “good” form of zealotry.

Zealots are not self-aware, and they never subject their own positions to scrutiny. They operate on pure assumption that they are divinely correct in everything they do, and anyone who disagrees with them, even in the slightest, is an enemy that must be destroyed by any means necessary. Zealotry is the root of human atrocity. Zealots are a tidal wave of war and genocide. They are a cancer on the soul of mankind.

Certain groups of people within the establishment, namely globalists that desire total centralized control of every aspect of economy and society, prefer that the public remain as radicalized and divided as possible. For them, zealotry is an asset.

To pursue this goal, they purchase allegiance from politicians through various means, including financial favors, media favors and campaign contributions. There are very few people left in politics that are not part of “the club.” Both Democrat and Republican leaders are essentially on the same side — the globalist side. They attack each other with rhetoric, but when it comes down to actual policy and action, they are all very similar.

The outcome of elections is therefore erroneous in the long term. Their only purpose is to manipulate public psychology to a certain reactionary end game.

When I predicted the election of Donald Trump in 2016 many months before voting commenced, I did so based on which election outcome better served the interests of globalists. I concluded with the highest certainty that Donald Trump would “win” based on the same premise that drove me to predict the success of the Brexit vote in the U.K.; that premise being that the globalists would allow “populists” (conservatives) to gain an illusory foothold on political power, only to then collapse the global economy on their heads and blame them for the disaster.

At the time it was unclear whether Trump would play along with the globalist narrative of conservatives as “selfish bumbling villains.” Today, with his consistent relationships with banking elites and globalist think-tank members, it is obvious that Trump intends to play the role he has been given. Trump’s policy actions the past two years indicate that he is following a model very similar to the one Republican President Herbert Hoover used just before the crash of 1929. Trump was a perfect choice for the globalists.

So, the question I had to ask in terms of the midterm elections is, what outcome best serves globalist interests this time? The only conclusion I could come to in this instance was — it didn’t matter who wins the midterms. The globalists will get their economic crash regardless and conservatives will still be blamed.

The ultimate outcome turned out to be mixed, with Democrats taking the House and Republicans holding the Senate.  The assertion in the mainstream being that this will result in “political gridlock”.  In terms of stock markets, the reaction is not surprisingly euphoric, as it has been not long after almost every election event.  But there are many that assume this is a euphoria that will last.  This is a very short-term view of the situation that ignores economic reality.

It is certainly possible that equities will sustain a  jump on the news of a Republican win, but I see this as a very limited event, lasting perhaps one or two weeks. In the long run as December approaches, stocks and every other sector of the economy will continue accelerated declines seen in October.

Here are the facts:

New home sales, an indicator highly valued by mainstream economists, has been in decline for the past year, hitting two-year lows in September.

This has come as a surprise to many mainstream analysts because the story thus far has been that the U.S. is in advanced recovery which should continue the supposed rejuvenation of the housing market. Alternative economists will give you the real story on home sales, though.

The housing “boom” hailed in the mainstream over the past few years was a farce driven primarily by corporate behemoths like Blackstone.  Companies buying up distressed properties across the U.S. using cheap loans and bailouts through the Federal Reserve and turning them into rentals hardly constitutes a “recovery” in housing.

Regular home buyers have also enjoyed artificially low mortgage rates for many years. But now, mortgage costs are spiking as the Fed raises interest rates, and corporate debt is becoming more expensive, making it less profitable for companies to continue vacuuming up properties.  Add to this the fact that the Fed is now dumping Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) from its balance sheet. These are the same securities that constituted a “toxic” influence that led to the mortgage and derivatives bubble. It is hard to say exactly what the effects will be as they add to existing ARM-style mortgages and derivatives already on the market, but I suspect the result will be destabilizing.

Auto sales, another fundamental indicator used in the mainstream as a signal for economic health, is also failing recently. U.S. auto sales plunged in September from 11 percent to 25 percent depending on the company and make of vehicle. While the mainstream media argues this massive year-over-year decline was due to destructive hurricanes in 2017 creating overt demand, the truth is that the average monthly payment on new vehicles has rocketed to over $525 and interest rates rise due to the Federal Reserve.

Car sales, new and used, have thrived in recent years in most part because of artificially low rates and ARM-like loans to people who cannot afford them. Much like the mortgage bubble in 2008, the auto bubble is set to implode as car payments become too expensive for the average buyer and defaults increase.

The US budget deficit climbed to six year highs under Donald Trump’s watch in 2018 as fiscal spending skyrockets.  Conservatives hoping for budget responsibility and reduced government spending are given a rude awakening once again, as Republicans and Democrats and Trump ALL seek bigger government.  This is hardly gridlock.  In fact, there has been resounding unity in Washington for ever increasing power, and ever increasing costs.

The trade deficit, which was supposed to decline aggressively in the face of Trump’s trade war, has actually climbed to record highs with China (among other nations).  I have heard claims that the outcome of the midterms will force Trump to end the trade war because he is no longer receiving backing from the Federal Reserve or Congress.  The trade war will not stop.  It provides perfect cover for central banks as they continue to remove artificial support from the overall economy.

Perhaps the biggest factor in economic decline in the U.S. will be corporate debt, as mentioned earlier. Corporate debt has jumped to record highs not seen since 2008, with debt-to-cash levels in 2017 hitting lows of 12 percent. Meaning, on average for every $1 of cash a company has in reserve it owes $8 in debt.

How is all this debt being generated? It’s all about stock buybacks. In 2018, U.S. corporations increased spending on stock buybacks by 48%, while only increasing spending on development by 19%. Meaning, corporations are spending far more capital, and borrowing far more money, just to keep their stock prices artificially propped up than they are spending money to invest in future growth.

For almost a decade stock markets have been dependent on two pillars: near zero interest rates and asset purchases by the Fed. Stock buybacks are reliant on low rates and the corporate ability to borrow essentially free money, which they then cycle into equities to buy up shares, reducing the amount of existing shares on the market and thereby increasing the value of the remaining shares through a form of legal manipulation.

But as the Fed raises rates and stops acting as the buyer of last resort, corporate borrowing becomes more expensive and buybacks will decline. In fact, the last half of 2018 shows a marked drop in announced buybacks, as the apparent peak in July fades.  As December approaches, the Fed is set to match interest rates with their official inflation rate, or the “neutral rate”.  This is something that has not been done for decades.

I believe stock buybacks will falter at this time, as the cost of the exorbitant debt needed to continue propping up stocks will become too high.

In 2016, globalists needed a “conservative” president to sit in the Oval Office as the Federal Reserve pulled the plug on artificial economic life support by raising interest rates into the greatest corporate debt crisis since 2008. At this point, that program seems to be in full swing.

The midterms are now over, but it is important to understand that where economic consequences are concerned, the result would have been the same no matter who came out on top. It makes sense for the globalists to desire a dominant Republican party, for when they crash markets the blame would fall entirely on the heads of conservatives. On the other hand, it also makes sense for globalists to introduce a Democratic takeover of Congress, for they can continue to push citizens to further political extremes as the Left blames the Right for the financial crisis while the Right blames the Left for political interference.

In the meantime, the banking elites can simply blame the extreme political divide, wait until the crash runs its course and then sweep in after the dust settles to admonish the “capitalist structure,” barbaric nationalism, populism, etc. They will shake their fingers at all of us as if we should be ashamed and then offer their own solution to the disaster, which will surely include even more centralization and more power for the banking class.

The Fed will continue to raise rates and cut assets.  The trade war will escalate. The housing market will continue to falter, auto markets will implode, and corporate debt will become a millstone on the neck of stock markets.

Economic function and repair are far beyond the scope of any political body to fix when the dysfunction reaches the point we are at today. To believe otherwise is foolhardy.  To believe that the political elites actually want to fix the economy is even more foolhardy. The answer is not replacing one set of political puppets with another set of political puppets, but for regular people to begin localizing their own production and trade — to decouple from dependency on the existing system and start their own system. Only through this, and the removal of the globalist tumor from its position of power and influence, will anything ever change for the better.

Source: ZeroHedge

Why American Consumers Are About To Be Blindsided By An Inflationary Shockwave

While unsuspecting U.S. consumers continue to expect low, sub-2% inflation according to the latest YTD low breakeven rate, little do they know they are about to be blindsided by a coming inflationary shock, according to a new WSJ report which notes that many U.S. consumer staple and industry-leading companies are either already in the process of raising prices, or have set concrete plans to do so in the very near future. 

Once these price increases are passed through to consumers, it will likely mark the end to a long period of “low inflation” that the Fed has constantly leaned on as an excuse to keep rates low for nearly a decade.

Take Clorox for example, which is raising prices on everyday products like cat litter. Coca-Cola also reported higher prices for the past quarter. Mondelez International also plans to raise prices in North America next year according to an interview with its CEO on Monday. The food giant said that it is passing along rising costs, including ingredient and transportation costs, to consumers.

Airlines are also passing on costs as they are paying about 40% more for jet fuel than they were a year ago. Delta, JetBlue and American have all raised fees, fares, or both. Trucking costs were up 7% annually in September and private sector wages and salaries in the September quarter rose 3.1%.

Arconic was able to widen its operating margins this past quarter on its aluminum products by using tariffs to justify price hikes. Manufacturers are paying about 8% more for aluminum and 38% more for steel than they were a year ago. Looming potential tariffs with China to the tune of $200 billion also continue to weigh on input costs. 

Even such supposedly immune to day-to-day price fluctuation companies as Apple, recently raised prices on its new MacBook Air and iPad Pro products by between 20% and 25%.

The list goes on: Steve Madden said it would be raising prices on handbags and other products that it imports from China. It’s looking to shift production to other countries to avoid tariffs and said that products made in China could rise as much as 10% in price.

An interior designer working for Whiski Kitchen in Royal Oak, Michigan was cited by the Journal as stating that she was paying 15% more for quartz countertops made in China also as a result of U.S. tariffs. She’s also paying about 10% more for imported cabinets. 

Sherwin-Williams and PPG, both in the paint manufacturing business, stated in recent weeks that they would continue to raise prices to cover rising costs for input materials like titanium dioxide. Sherwin-Williams raised prices by as much as 6% this month.

Sherwin-Williams Chief Executive John Morikis said last week that “Raw material inflation has been unrelenting and accelerating.”

Food companies are also hiking prices. McDonalds’ 2.4% SSS comps in Q3 were a result of higher burger prices. Chili’s Restaurants raised the price of its two entree and an appetizer deal from $22 to $25 in the quarter. Habit Restaurants saw its prices rise by 3.9% in May of this year, even while traffic declined 3.4%. Hershey also has plans to sell candy in packaging next year that will raise its price per ounce. 

“Retailers understand that when costs go up, something has to give,” said Michele Buck, chief executive of Hershey, last week. 

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In today’s Manufacturing ISM report, a respondent encapsulated the above sentiment:

“Tariffs are causing inflation: increased costs of imports, increased cost of freight and increased domestic costs from suppliers who import.”

While inflation still technically remains near the Fed’s 2% target, if you believe the CPI number, which as we have discussed previously woefully under counts true inflation which is as much as three times higher than the Fed’s hedonically adjusted, politically motivated number, prices are set to move higher as a result of labor shortages, while headwinds for prices include the recent strength of the dollar, making imports cheaper. And then there are tariffs.

It’s obvious that higher prices will “work” alongside the Fed’s rate hikes to help dampen the United States economy further. Not only that, but higher prices could cause even more damage if the Fed sees raising rates as the main solution to inflation exceeding its expectations.

Diane Swonk, Grant Thornton’s chief economist, previewed what will happen next best: “We might see a pop of inflation in the first quarter.”

Once that happens in what is already a rising rate environment in which the president has made it clear he is solidly against any more Fed tightening, we wonder just what Powell’s next move will be when even higher prices force his bluff?

Source: ZeroZedge

62% Of All US Jobs Don’t Pay Enough To Support A Middle-Class Life

We just got more evidence that the middle class in America is rapidly disappearing...

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/image%20%281%29.jpg?itok=lDA8IBhjAuthored by Michael Snyder via The American Dream blog,

According to a shocking new study that was just released, 62 percent of all jobs in the United States do not pay enough to support a middle class life.  That means that “the American Dream” is truly out of reach for most of the country at this point.  Today, Americans are working harder than ever but the cost of living continues to rise much faster than our paychecks are increasing.  Earlier this month, I went and looked at the latest numbers from the Social Security Administration, and I discovered that 50 percent of all American workers make less than $30,533 a year. But that is just above poverty level.  In fact, the federal poverty level for a family of five is currently $29,420. Most families are just barely scraping by from month to month, and most U.S. workers are just one major setback away from falling out of the middle class.

It wasn’t always this way.  At one time, America had the strongest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world.  But now this latest study has discovered that “it’s only 38 percent of people who get the middle class life or better”

When wages are weighed against the cost of living in the largest 204 metropolitan regions across the nation, 62 percent of jobs don’t pay enough for a dual-income household with children to meet the definition of ‘middle class,’ according to a new ‘Opportunity Indexdeveloped by Third Way, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.

‘We were shocked to find out it’s only 38 percent of people who get the middle class life or better,’ said Ryan Bhandari, a policy advisor for Third Way, in an interview with DailyMail.com.

It is no wonder why so many people are shopping at Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree these days.

For many Americans, those are the literally the only places they can afford to shop.

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When I was growing up, it seemed like literally everyone else around me was “middle class”, but now those days are long gone.  Here is a breakdown of some more of the numbers from this latest study

  • 30 percent of jobs are “hardship jobs,” meaning they don’t allow a single adult to make ends meet.
  • 32 percent are “living wage” jobs, enough to get by but not to take vacations, save for retirement or live in a moderately priced home.
  • 23 percent are middle-class jobs, allowing for dining out, modest vacations and putting some money away for retirement.
  • 15 percent are “professional jobs,” paving the way for a more comfortable life that includes more elaborate vacations and entertainment and a more expensive home.

It sure must be nice to be in that top 15 percent, if you have the right connections.

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And the definition of a “middle class income” changes based on where you live.  As the study noted, it is much cheaper to live a middle class lifestyle in the middle of the country than it is to do so on the west coast.  The following comes from the Daily Mail

For example, a worker in San Francisco – one of the most expensive housing markets in the country – must make a minimum of $82,142 to achieve a middle class lifestyle.

By comparison, workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa can achieve middle class status in a job paying $40,046 or more per year.

So many of us have run ourselves ragged doing the things that we were “supposed” to do, and we assumed that a middle class life would be the reward at the end of the trail.

Unfortunately, that reward has never materialized for millions of hard working Americans. USA Today profiled one of those deeply frustrated workers in a recent article…

Esther Akutekha, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has a good job as a public relations specialist that pays more than $50,000 a year.

But because of the $1,440 a month rent on her studio apartment in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood, she never takes vacations, dines out just once a month and scrapes together dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.

Can you identify with Esther?

I sure can.

It can be soul crushing to work as hard as you can only to realize that your goals are now farther away than ever.  At this point, Esther is not even sure that she will ever be able to afford to have children

“I’m frustrated with the fact that I’m not going to be able to save anything because my rent is so high,” says Akutekha, who says she’s 30ish. “I don’t even know if I can afford” to have children.

We have been told that the economy has been “booming” in recent years, but the truth is that it has only been booming for people at the very top of the pyramid.

For most Americans it is as if the last recession never ended, and things just seem to keep getting worse

“There’s an opportunity crisis in the country,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of policy for Third Way and editor of the report. “It explains some of the economic uneasiness and, frankly, the political uneasiness” even amid the most robust U.S. economy and labor market since before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. But is the economy robust? Or are we being fed a line by the mainstream media? The middle class is not thriving, and increased regulations and higher taxes make it difficult for people to branch out on their own and create their own business.

We definitely need to make it much, much easier for people to start small businesses, and this is something that I have written about extensively. Small business creation has traditionally been one of the primary vehicles for upward mobility in our nation, but right now the rate of small business creation is hovering near all-time lows.  We desperately need to get that turned around if we ever want to have any hope of restoring vitality to our middle class.

If we continue on the path that we are on, we are going to continue to get the same results.  Tonight, more than half a million Americans are homeless, and the ranks of the poor are growing with each passing day.

America needs a strong middle class, but currently our middle class is disintegrating at a startling pace.

If we are not able to reverse this trend, what is the future going to look like for our society?

Source: ZeroHedge

Where The Next Financial Crisis Begins

https://macromon.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/cropped-currency11.jpg?w=621&h=131

(Global Macro Monitor) We are not sure of how the next financial crisis will exactly unfold but reasonably confident it will have its roots in the following analysis. Maybe it has already begun.

The U.S. Treasury market is the center of the financial universe and the 10-year yield is the most important price in the world, of which, all other assets are priced. We suspect the next major financial crisis may not be in the Treasury market but will most likely emanate from it.

U.S. Public Sector Debt Increase Financed By Central Banks 

The U.S. has had a free ride for this entire century, financing its rapid run up in public sector debt,  from 58 percent of GDP at year-end 2002, to the current level of 105 percent, mostly by foreign central banks and the Fed.

Marketable debt, in particular, notes and bonds, which drive market interest rates have increased by over $9 trillion during the same period, rising from 20 percent to 55 percent of GDP.

Central bank purchases, both the Fed and foreign central banks, have, on average, bought 63 percent of the annual increase in U.S. Treasury notes and bonds from 2003 to 2018. Note their purchases can be made in the secondary market, or, in the case of foreign central banks,  in the monthly Treasury auctions.

In the shorter time horizon leading up to the end of QE3,  that is 2003 to 2014, central banks took down, on average, the equivalent of 90 percent of the annual increase in notes and bonds.  All that mattered to the price-insensitive central banks was monetary and exchange rate policy. 

Stunning.

Greenspan’s Bond Market Conundrum

The charts and data also explain what Alan Greenspan labeled the bond market conundrum just before the Great Financial Crisis (GFC).   The former Fed chairman was baffled as long-term rates hardly budged while the Fed raised the funds rate by 425 bps from 2004 to 2006, largely, to cool off the housing market.

The data show foreign central banks absorbed 120 percent of all the newly issued T-notes and bonds during the years of the Fed tightening cycle, freeing up and displacing liquidity for other asset markets, including mortgages. Though the Fed was tight, foreign central bank flows into the U.S., coupled with Wall Street’s financial engineering, made for easy financial conditions.

Greenspan lays the blame on these flows as a significant factor as to why the Fed lost control of the yield curve.  The yield curve inverted because of these foreign capital flows and the reasoning goes that the inversion did not signal a crisis; it was a leading cause of the GFC (great financial crisis) as mortgage lending failed to slow, eventually blowing up into a massive bubble.

Because it had lost control of the yield curve, the Fed was forced to tighten until the glass started shattering.  Boy, did it ever.

Central Bank Financing Is A Much Different Beast

The effective “free financing” of the rapid increase in the portion of the U.S debt that matters most to markets, by creditors who could not give one whit about pricing, displaced liquidity from the Treasury market, while at the same time, keeping rates depressed, thus lifting other asset markets.

More importantly, central bank Treasury purchases are not a zero-sum game. There is no reallocation of assets to the Treasury market in order to make the bond buys.  The purchases are made with printed money.

Reserve Accumulation

It is a bit more complicated for foreign central banks, which accumulate reserves through currency intervention and are often forced to sterilize their purchase of dollars, and/or suffer the inflationary consequences.

Nevertheless, foreign central banks park much of their reserves in U.S. Treasury securities, mainly notes.

Times They Are A Chang ‘en

The charts and data show that since 2015, central banks have on average been net sellers of Treasury notes and bonds to the tune of an annual average of -19 percent of the yearly increase in net new note and bonds issued. The roll-off of the Fed’s SOMA Treasury portfolio, which is usually financed by a further increase in notes and bonds, does not increase the debt stock but, it is real cash flow killer for the U.S. government.

Unlike the years before 2015, the increase in new note and bond issuance is now a zero-sum game and financed by either the reallocation from other asset markets or an increase in financial leverage. The structural change in the financing of the Treasury market is taking place at a unpropitious time as deficits are ramping up.

Because 2017 was unique and an aberration of how the Treasury financed itself due to debt ceiling constraint, the markets are just starting to feel this effect. Consequently, the more vulnerable emerging markets are taking a beating this year and volatility is increasing across the board.

The New Market Meta-Narrative 

We suspect very few have crunched these numbers or understand them and this new meta-narrative supported by the data is the main reason for the increase in market gyrations and volatile capital flows this year.   We are pretty confident in the data, and the construction of our analysis. Feel free to correct us if you suspect data error and where you think we are wrong in our analysis. We look forward to hearing from you.

Moreover, the screws will tighten further as the ECB ends their QE in December.  We don’t think, though we reserve the right to be wrong, as we often are, this is just a short-term bout of volatility, but it is the beginning of a structural change in the markets as reflected in the data.

Interest Rates Will Continue To Rise

It is clear, at least to us, the only possibility for the longer-term U.S. Treasury yields to stay at these low levels is an increase in haven buying, which, ergo other asset markets will have to be sold. If you expect a normal world going forward, that is no recession or sharp economic slowdown, no major geopolitical shock, or no asset market collapse,  by default, you have to expect higher interest rates.  The sheer logic is in the data.

Of course,  Chairman Powell could cave to political pressure and “just print money to lower the debt” but we seriously doubt it and suspect the markets would not respond positively.

Stay tuned.

https://macromon.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/central-bank_2.png?w=620&h=412

https://macromon.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/central-bank_5.png?w=622&h=412

https://macromon.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/central-bank_10.png?w=621&h=437

Source: Global Macro Monitor

Why Used Car Prices Are Plunging

(Blinders Off Research) We have been testing the upper limits of used vehicle pricing (and new) all year. I think we have finally reached a point where the consumer has started rejecting higher prices (used vehicles for now). There were a couple of events last month that raised concern ahead of the most recent used car and truck CPI report:

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/08fd92_a8832cae8e7d495a8a83b47266c86ae3_mv2.png?itok=UhSIOQ6C

2. There was a significant drop in used vehicle values during the last week of September.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/08fd92_68866291163744fea2e86eb8a5270624_mv2.png?itok=a4vIgAV4

The sudden increase in used vehicle inventory is a strong signal that the rate of sale has slowed due to price increases that consumers are not willing to absorb. Most retail dealers have a rigid 60-day cut off for used vehicle inventory. As a vehicle nears the 60-day mark, the dealer is forced to heavily discount that vehicle or face an even greater loss by disposing of it through wholesale auction (60 days of depreciation, reconditioning expense, transportation and auction fees). This is also likely related to the sharp drop in used vehicle values during week 4 of September as retail dealers returned to auction and adjusted their bids after realizing the vehicles they previously purchased did not sell at the prices they anticipated.

New and used inventory levels are still showing a draw YTD, but the rate of change is concerning. I am completely convinced that the strength we’ve seen in both new vehicle volume and pricing this year is due in large part to the incredibly strong performance in used vehicle values. If the recent trend in used vehicle values changes, things could get ugly and FAST!

Additionally, take note of the dip in time to equity from 2006-2007 and how similar it is to the dip in 2018. It took this year’s used vehicle appreciation  in order to offset the consistent increase in loan terms since 2009. If used vehicle values roll over, we have the same exact setup that led to the spike in time to equity from 2007-2008.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/08fd92_1f59d34a2ebf41c690f0f3fa1a7a9b90_mv2.png?itok=vYDvA837

I would take the drop in used car and truck CPI as a serious warning with larger implications to come. I am still confident in Q3 earnings for manufacturers, retail dealers and rental car companies but would proceed with caution going forward.

Source: ZeroHedge

Mall Vacancies Hit 7 Year High As Rents Plunge

(ZeroHedge) The epidemic of falling rents at shopping malls across the United States has been well duly documented here over the past year. In June, we wrote about an abandoned Macy’s that had been turned into a homeless shelter. Just days ago we followed up on the trend of malls falling victim to the “Amazon effect” in areas like Detroit. Today, we note the latest confirmation that the trend of dying malls across the entire U.S. isn’t stopping anytime soon. 

According to a WSJ report, the average rent for malls in the third-quarter fell 0.3% to $43.25 a square foot. This is down from $43.36 in the second quarter and is the first time this number has fallen sequentially since 2011, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

At the same time, vacancy rates are on the ascent, rising to 9.1% in the third quarter from 8.6% in the second quarter. This is the highest they’ve been since the third quarter of 2011, when these rates hit 9.4%. Barbara Denham, senior economist with Reis, told the Journal: “The retail sector is still correcting”. It sure is, Barb.

For instance, here are some photos we included in a recent article about one of the hardest hit areas, Detroit: 

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Laurel%20Park%20Place_0.jpg?itok=r7YH5nnU

The depleted food court at Laurel Park Place on Sept. 25, 2018 (Source/ Detroit Free Press)

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Eastland_0.jpg?itok=7QLLfjv_

There are numerous vacant storefronts inside Eastland Center mall in Harper Woods on Sept. 21, 2018 (Source/ Detroit Free Press)

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Lakeside%20Mall_0.jpg?itok=e31LMNGr

A vacant storefront in Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights on Sept. 23, 2018 (Source/ Detroit Free Press)

Shopping mall data stands in stark contrast to the rest of the US economy which, as one look at Trump’s twitter account, is widely heralded as “outperforming” (amazing what $1.5 trillion in fiscal stimulus 9 years into an expansion will do). Solid job growth numbers and a good economic outlook have ensured that the Fed’s ultimate goal of people spending money that they don’t have continues; the only difference is that that fascinating creature known as the US consumer simply isn’t racking up this debt at shopping malls anymore, and is opting for online spending like Amazon instead.

At the same time, consumer confidence was at an 18 year high last month and the stock market is also at all-time highs.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/mall_1_0.jpg?itok=EtE2X3FQ

Many retail brands are also benefiting from the booming economy and continue to buy back their own stock using debt post “strong” earnings numbers.

The rise in vacancy rates was attributed mostly to closings by Bon-Ton Stores – which filed for Chapter 11 earlier this year – and zombie retailer Sears, which somehow has continued to dodge bankruptcy but is closing stores at an accelerated rate. To make matters worse, Reis told the Journal that a “number of owner-occupied Sears stores were excluded from the numbers, since they don’t have leases.”

That means the real numbers are even worse.

And as the exodus from malls accelerates, many stores are reevaluating their brick and mortar strategy and instead investing in their online businesses. In Q2, e-commerce sales accounted for 9.6% of total retail sales after adjusting for seasonal variations, from 9.5%, in Q1. 

Back in January, we wrote an article why people should anticipate a “death spiral” for shopping malls. We noted then that shopping malls have faced a tidal wave of store closures and have been forced to back fill empty square footage with everything from libraries to doctors offices (see: America’s Desperate Mall Owners Turn To Grocers, Doctors & High Schools To Fill Empty Space).

Alexander Goldfarb, a senior analyst at Sandler O’Neill + Partners LP, told the Journal: “Any mall that is worried about a Sears or Macy’s closing has bigger issues.” Goldfarb, defending malls, noted that not all shopping malls are under pressure and that malls in more affluent areas still draw higher end shoppers and continue to attract tenants. “New uses like restaurants and theaters” can still bring in customers.

Homeless shelters are also an option.

Source: ZeroHedge