Tag Archives: Debt

Goldman Warns Of A Default Wave As $1.3 Trillion In Debt Is Set To Mature

Ten years after the Lehman bankruptcy, the financial elite is obsessed with what will send the world spiraling into the next financial crisis. And with household debt relatively tame by historical standards (excluding student loans, which however will likely be forgiven at some point in the future), mortgage debt nowhere near the relative levels of 2007, the most likely catalyst to emerge is corporate debt. Indeed, in a NYT op-ed penned by Morgan Stanley’s, Ruchir Sharma, the bank’s chief global strategist made the claim that “when the American markets start feeling it, the results are likely be very different from 2008 —  corporate meltdowns rather than mortgage defaults, and bond and pension funds affected before big investment banks.

But what would be the trigger for said corporate meltdown?

According to a new report from Goldman Sachs, the most likely precipitating factor would be rising interest rates which after the next major round of debt rollovers over the next several years in an environment of rising rates would push corporate cash flows low enough that debt can no longer be serviced effectively.

* * *

While low rates in the past decade have been a boon to capital markets, pushing yield-starved investors into stocks, a dangerous side-effect of this decade of rate repression has been companies eagerly taking advantage of low rates to more than double their debt levels since 2007. And, like many homeowners, companies have also been able to take advantage of lower borrowing rates to drive their average interest costs lower each year this cycle…. until now.

According to Goldman, based on the company’s forecasts, 2018 is likely to be the first year that the average interest expense is expected to tick higher, even if modestly.

There is one major consequence of this transition: interest expenses will flip from a tailwind for EPS growth to a headwind on a go-forward basis and in some cases will create a risk to guidance. As shown in the chart below, in aggregate, total interest has increased over the course of this cycle, though it has largely lagged the overall increase in debt levels.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gsdebt1.jpg?itok=Yjz992Sy

The silver lining of the debt bubble created by central banks since the global financial crisis, is that along with refinancing at lower rates, companies have been able to generally extend maturities in recent years at attractive rates given investors search for yield as well as a gradual flattening of the yield curve.

According to Goldman’s calculations, the average maturity of new issuance in recent years has averaged between 15-17 years, up from 11-13 years earlier this cycle and <10 years for most of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

And while this has pushed back the day when rates catch up to the overall increase in debt, as is typically the case, there is nonetheless a substantial amount of debt coming due over the next few years: according to the bank’s estimates there is over $1.3 trillion of debt for our non-financials coverage maturing through 2020, roughly 20% of the total debt outstanding.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gsdebt2.jpg?itok=0CGcITP5

What is different now – as rates are finally rising – is that as this debt comes due, it is unlikely that companies will be able to roll to lower rates than they are currently paying. A second source of upward pressure on average interest expense is the recent surge in leverage loan issuance, i.e., those companies with floating rate debt (just 9% in aggregate for large caps, but a much larger percent for small-caps). The Fed Funds Futures curve currently implies four more rate hikes (~100 bp) through year-end 2019 (our economists are looking for 2 more than that, for a total of six through year-end 2019). While it is possible that some companies have hedges in place, there is still a substantial amount of outstanding bank loans directly tied to LIBOR which will result in a far faster “flow through” of interest expense catching up to the income statement.

While rising rates has already become a theme in several sectors such as Utilities and Real Estate, Goldman warns that this has the potential to be more widespread:

We saw evidence of this during the 2Q earnings season, where a number of companies cited higher interest expense as a headwind to reported earnings and/or guidance. Some examples:

  • “… we’re anticipating an increase in interest. It’s going to be n probably up in the $3.5mm, $4mm range, depending on interest rate increases… Obviously, we are anticipating floating rate increases if you think through the rate curve, so we embed that thinking into our forecast.” – Brinker International, FY4Q2018
  • “We expect net interest expense will be approximately $144 million [vs. $128 mn for the year ending February 3, 2018], reflecting an expectation for two additional rate increases as implied by the current LIBOR curve.” – Michaels Cos., 2Q2018
  • “Due largely to the effects of rising interest rates on our variable rate conduit facility, vehicle interest expense increased $9 million in the quarter… We continue to expect around $20 million higher vehicle interest expense due to rising U.S. benchmark interest rates.” – Avis Budget Group, 2Q2018

What does that mean for the bigger picture?

While many cash-rich companies have a remedy to rising rates, namely paying down debt as it matures, this is unlikely to be a recourse for the majority of corporations. The good news is that today, corporate America looks extremely healthy against a solid US economic backdrop. Revenue growth is running above trend, and EPS and cash flow growth are even stronger, boosted by Tax Reform.

And while Goldman economists assign a low likelihood that this will change anytime soon, there has been a sharp pickup in the “Recession 2020” narrative as of late. Specifically, along with the growth of the fiscal deficit which will see US debt increase by over $1 trillion next year, the fact that debt growth has outpaced EBITDA growth this cycle has implications for investors if and when the cycle turns.

Which brings us round circle to the potential catalyst of the next crisis: record debt levels.

According to Goldman’s calculations, Net Debt/EBITDA for its coverage universe as a whole remains near the highest levels this cycle, if not all time high. And while the bank cannot pinpoint exactly when the cycle will turn, it is easy to claim that US companies are “over-earning” relative to their cycle average today, a key points as the Fed continues “normalizing” its balance sheet. Indeed, this leverage picture looks even more stretched when viewed through a “normalized EBITDA” lens (which Goldman defines as the median LTM 2007 Q1-2018 Q2).

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gsdebt3.jpg?itok=DDHa8fGv

There are two main factors that have driven this increase: net debt has increased while cash levels have declined:

  • the % of highly levered companies (i.e. >2x Net Debt/EBITDA) have nearly doubled vs. 2007 levels (even after EBITDA has improved for a large part of the Energy sector.)
  • The number of companies in a net cash position has declined precipitously to just 15% today down from 25% from 2006-2014.

Meanwhile, and touching on another prominent topic in recent months in which many on Wall Street have highlighted the deterioration in the investment grade space, i.e., the universe of “near fallen angels”, or companies that could be downgraded from BBB to junk, Goldman writes that credit metrics for low-grade IG and HY have been moving lower. If the cycle turns, the cost of debt could increase, with convexity suggesting that this turn could happen fast.

Picking up on several pieces we have written on the topic (most recently “Fallen Angel” Alert: Is Ford’s Downgrade The “Spark” That Crashes The Bond Market“), Goldman specifically highlights the potential high yield supply risk that could unfold.

Here are the numbers: currently there are $2tn of non-financial bonds rated BBB, the lowest rating across the investment grade scale. The amount has increased to 58% of the non-financial IG market over the last several years and is currently at its highest level in the last 10 years.

And for those wondering what could prompt the junk bond market to finally break – and Ford’s recently downgrade is precisely such a harbinger – Goldman’s credit strategists warn that this is important “because a turn in the cycle could result in these bonds being downgraded to high yield.”

From a market standpoint, too many bonds falling to the high yield market would create excess supply and potentially pressure prices. Looking back to prior cycles, approximately 5% to 15% of the BBB rated bonds were downgraded to high yield. If we assume the same percentages are applied to a theoretical down-cycle today, a staggering $100-300bn of debt could be at risk of falling to the high yield market in a cycle correction, an outcome that would choke the bond market and shock market participants. It is also the reason why Bank of America recently warned that the ECB can not afford a recession, as the resulting avalanche of “fallen angels” would crush the high yield bond market, sending shockwaves across the entire fixed income space.

And while such a reversal is not a near-term risk given solid sales/earnings growth and low recession risk, “it is potentially problematic given the current size of the high yield market is only $1.2tn.”

Should the market indeed turn, prices would need to adjust – i.e. drop sharply – in order to  generate the level of demand that would require a potential 25% increase in the size of the high yield market – especially at a time when risk appetite could be low.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gsdebt4.jpg?itok=cQT-grsj

Careful not to scare its clients too much, Goldman concedes that an imminent risk of a wave of credit rating downgrades is low, but warns that “the market could potentially be overlooking the underlying cost of capital/financial risks (high leverage, low coverage) for certain issuers based on their current access to market.

* * *

As for the worst case scenario, it should be self-explanatory: a sharp slowdown in the economy, coupled with a major repricing of bond market risk could result in a crash in the bond market, which together with the stock market has been the biggest beneficiary of the Fed’s unorthodox monetary policies. Furthermore, should companies suddenly find themselves unable to refinance debt, or – worse – rollover debt maturities, would lead to a wave of corporate defaults that starts at the lowest level of the capital structure and moves its way up, impacting such supposedly “safe” instrument as leveraged loans which in recent months have seen an explosion in issuance due to investor demand for higher yields.

To be sure, this transition will not happen overnight, but it will happen eventually and it will start with the riskiest companies.

To that end, Goldman has created a watch list for those companies that are most at risk: the ones with a credit rating of BBB or lower that are paying low average interest rates (less than 5%), have limited interest coverage (EBIT/Interest of <5x) and high leverage (Net Debt/EBITDA>2.5x) based on 2019 estimates; the screen is also limited to companies where Net Debt is a substantial portion of Enterprise value (30% or higher). The screen is hardly exhaustive and Goldman admits that “there are much more highly levered companies out there that could be more  exposed to a turn in the cycle.” However, the bank focuses on this subset given the low current interest cost relative to the risk-free rate, “suggesting investors could be complacent around their financing costs.”

In other words, investors who are exposed to debt in the following names may want to reasses if holding such risk is prudent in a time when, for the first time in a decade, the average interest expense is expected to tick higher.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gsdebt5.jpg?itok=KpIU11pk

….. and than there’s political pressure.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Consumer Credit Expansion Continues During Q1, 2018

https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/images/v4/press_center/home-prices-homeownership-and-housing-wealth.jpg?h=320&w=640&la=en

Total Household Debt Rises for 15th Straight Quarter, Led by Mortgages, Student Loans

Just Released: New York Fed Press Briefing Highlights Changes in Home Equity and How It’s Used

Household Debt And Credit Report Q1, 2018

Remarks at the Economic Press Briefing on Homeownership and Housing Wealth

A Close Look at the Decline of Home Ownership

 

Why the US Economy is Stuck in an Irreversible Destructive Cycle

In a further signal of the weakening US economy, borrowing amongst US consumers continue to grow which correspondingly sees the total outstanding debt rise to new highs. In addition, and we have discussed this in some detail in our subscription podcasts, there has been a rise also in the delinquency rates across multiple sectors, including auto loans, credit cards and mortgages.

US Household debt now stands at around $13tn, rising around 4.5% in the last 12 months, fueled in part, by credit card debt and also the auto loan sector. Such unsustainable debt is further compounded by stagnant wage growth, zero contract hour jobs, poorly paid service sector employment and the increasing move towards part-time employment opportunities.

This is all the more reason why talk of the Fed raising interest rates is farcical because not only will stagnant wage growth and rising household debt, seriously impact consumer spending, but rising interest rates will further impact economic growth and cause further rises in delinquency rates. This is precisely why interest rates are raised to dampen what might be termed an overheating economy, something we most certainly could not attribute to the current US economy.

There is no doubt that stagnant wage growth is impacting consumer spending but it is also likely to lead to a greater demand for credit which in turn exacerbates the debt and delinquency cycle further. There is no doubt that US household debt will continue to rise and if the Fed was to ever seriously consider raising interest rates it is going to seriously impact those trying to service debt in a stagnant wage growth environment. Delinquency rates continue to rise with e.g. credit card debt delinquencies rising 7.5% year-on-year, and mortgage debt rising 4% year-on-year.

This is a clear example of why QE and ZIRP has been deeply damaging to the US economy. Relatively low-cost borrowing has encouraged this level of indebtedness, coupled with questionable practices concerning the refinancing of existing and delinquent loans.

Given that a service based economy and consumer spending is responsible for nearly three-quarters of the total US GDP, coupled with rising delinquency rates, it is quite clear that this debt cycle is unsustainable and the current $13tn bubble is going to burst, at some point, with disastrous consequences for the US economy.

To put this in further context, total US consumer debt is now 15% higher than it was during the economic crisis of 2008. When we factor in rising costs coupled with stagnant wage growth it will become increasingly difficult for US consumers to met their minimum monthly payment obligations, never mind begin to lower their debt levels.

The sad irony is that the primary economic driver in the US economy, namely consumer spending, coupled with the insane long-term QE/ZIRP policy means that in order for the US economic to avoid implosion, consumers must continue to feed the frenzy at whatever personal cost to themselves, which will ultimately contribute to the economic implosion.

Source: The Sirius Report

The Way Out of Debt-Serfdom: Fanatic Frugality

Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom.

If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it?

The typical answer seems to be: deny it, ignore it, get distracted by carefully choreographed culture wars or shrug fatalistically and put one’s shoulder to the debt-serf grindstone.

There is another response, one that very few pursue: fanatic frugality in service of financial-political independence. Debt-serfs and dependents of the state have no effective political power, as noted yesterday in It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income.

There are only three ways to accumulate productive capital/assets: marry someone with money, inherit money or accumulate capital/savings and invest it in productive assets. (We’ll leave out lobbying the Federal government for a fat contract or tax break, selling derivatives designed to default and the rest of the criminal financial skims and scams used so effectively by the New Nobility financial elites.)
The only way to accumulate capital to invest is to spend considerably less than you earn. For a variety of reasons, humans seem predisposed to spend more as their income rises. Thus the person making $30,000 a year imagines that if only they could earn $100,000 a year, they could save half of their net income. Yet when that happy day arrives, they generally find their expenses have risen in tandem with their income, and the anticipated ease of saving large chunks of money never materializes.
What qualifies as extreme frugality? Saving a third of one’s net income is a good start, though putting aside half of one’s net income is even better.
The lower one’s income, the more creative one has to be to save a significant percentage of one’s net income. On the plus side, the income tax burden for lower-income workers is low, so relatively little of gross income is lost to taxes.
The second half of the job is investing the accumulated capital in productive assets and/or enterprises. The root of capitalism is capital, and that includes not just financial capital (cash) but social capital (the value of one’s networks and associations) and human capital (one’s skills and experience and ability to master new knowledge and skills).
I cover these intangible forms of capital in my book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.
Cash invested in tools and new skills and collaborative networks can leverage a relatively modest sum of cash capital into a significant income stream, something that cannot be said of financial investments in a zero-interest rate world.
Notice anything about this chart of the U.S. savings rate? How about a multi-decade decline? Yes, expenses have risen, taxes have gone up, housing is in another bubble–all these are absolutely true. That makes savings and capital even more difficult to acquire and more valuable due to its scarcity. That means we have to approach capital accumulation with even more ingenuity and creativity than was needed in the past.
https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/savings-rate.gif
Meanwhile, we’ve substituted debt for income. This is the core dynamic of debt-serfdom.
https://i0.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/consumer-credit5-17.jpg

As Aristotle observed, “We are what we do every day.” That is the core of fanatic frugality and the capital-accumulation mindset.

For your amusement: a few photos of everyday fanatic frugality (and dumpster-diving).

https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos10/frugal-wok.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos10/frugal-food.jpg

https://i1.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos10/frugal-sandal.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos10/frugal-slippers.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos10/frugal-bikeseat.jpg

The only leverage available to all is extreme frugality in service of accumulating savings that can be productively invested in building human, social and financial capital.

Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom. Waste nothing, build some form of capital every day, seek opportunity rather than distraction.

Debt = Serfdom (April 2, 2013)

How Frugal Are You? (August 7, 2010)

By Charles Huge Smith | Of Two Minds

 

Beware: The $10 Trillion Glut of Treasuries Can Suddenly Pull Interest Rates Up, as Big Deficits Loom

  • Net issuance seen rising after steady declines since 2009

  • Fed seen adding to supply as Treasury ramps up debt sales

https://s16-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmnsho.files.wordpress.com%2F2013%2F01%2Fdeficit-spending.jpg&sp=2d9a1c4f9980c1c9c3c4b786b2114d92

Negative yields. Political risk. The Fed. Now add the U.S. deficit to the list of worries to keep beleaguered bond investors up at night.

Since peaking at $1.4 trillion in 2009, the budget deficit has plunged amid government spending cuts and a rebound in tax receipts. But now, America’s borrowing needs are rising once again as a lackluster economy slows revenue growth to a six-year low, data compiled by FTN Financial show. That in turn will pressure the U.S. to sell more Treasuries to bridge the funding gap.

No one predicts an immediate jump in issuance, or a surge in bond yields. But just about everyone agrees that without drastic changes to America’s finances, the government will have to ramp up its borrowing in a big way in the years to come. After a $96 billion increase in the deficit this fiscal year, the U.S. will go deeper and deeper into the red to pay for Social Security and Medicare, projections from the Congressional Budget Office show. The public debt burden could swell by almost $10 trillion in the coming decade as a result.

All the extra supply may ultimately push up Treasury yields and expose holders to losses. And it may come when the Federal Reserve starts to unwind its own holdings — the biggest source of demand since the financial crisis.

“It’s looking like we are at the end of the line,” when it comes to declining issuance of debt that matures in more than a year, said Michael Cloherty, head of U.S. interest-rate strategy at RBC Capital Markets, one of 23 dealers that bid at Treasury debt auctions. “We have deficits that are going to run higher, and at some point, a Fed that will start allowing its Treasury securities to mature.”

After the U.S. borrowed heavily in the wake of the financial crisis to bail out the banks and revive the economy, net issuance of Treasuries has steadily declined as budget shortfalls narrowed. In the year that ended September, the government sold $560 billion of Treasuries on a net basis, the least since 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

 

Coupled with increased buying from the Fed, foreign central banks and investors seeking low-risk assets, yields on Treasuries have tumbled even as the overall size of the market ballooned to $13.4 trillion. For the 10-year note, yields hit a record 1.318 percent this month. They were 1.57 percent today. Before the crisis erupted, investors demanded more than 4 percent.

Net Issuance of U.S. Treasuries, Fiscal-Year Basis
Net Issuance of U.S. Treasuries, Fiscal-Year Basis

One reason the U.S. may ultimately have to boost borrowing is paltry revenue growth, said Jim Vogel, FTN’s head of interest-rate strategy.

With the economy forecast to grow only about 2 percent a year for the foreseeable future as Americans save more and spend less, there just won’t enough tax revenue to cover the burgeoning costs of programs for the elderly and poor. Those funding issues will ultimately supersede worries about Fed policy, regardless of who ends up in the White House come January.

As a percentage of the gross domestic product, revenue will remain flat in the coming decade as spending rises, CBO forecasts show. That will increase the deficit from 2.9 percent this fiscal year to almost 5 percent by 2026.

“As the Fed recedes a little bit into the background, all of these other questions need to start coming back into the foreground,” Vogel said.

The potential for a glut in Treasuries is emerging as some measures show buyers aren’t giving themselves any margin of safety. A valuation tool called the term premium stands at minus 0.56 percentage point for 10-year notes. As the name implies, the term premium should normally be positive and has been for almost all of the past 50 years. But in 2016, it’s turned into a discount.

Some of the highest-profile players are already sounding the alarm. Jeffrey Gundlach, who oversees more than $100 billion at DoubleLine Capital, warned of a “mass psychosis” among investors piling into debt securities with ultra-low yields. Bill Gross of Janus Capital Group Inc. compared the sky-high prices in the global bond market to a “supernova that will explode one day.”

Despite the increase in supply, things like the gloomy outlook for global growth, an aging U.S. society and more than $9 trillion of negative-yielding bonds will conspire to keep Treasuries in demand, says Jeffrey Rosenberg, BlackRock Inc.’s chief investment strategist for fixed income.

What’s more, the Treasury is likely to fund much of the deficit in the immediate future by boosting sales of T-bills, which mature in a year or less, rather than longer-term debt like notes or bonds.

“We don’t have any other choice — if we’re going to increase the budget deficits, they have to be funded” with more debt, Rosenberg said. But, “in today’s environment, you’re seeing the potential for higher supply in an environment that is profoundly lacking supply of risk-free assets.”

Deutsche Bank AG also says the long-term fiscal outlook hinges more on who controls Congress. And if the Republicans, who hold both the House and Senate, retain control in November, it’s more likely future deficits will come in lower than forecast, based on the firm’s historical analysis.

FED HOLDINGS OF TREASURIES COMING DUE

2016 ────────────── $216 BILLION

2017 ────────────── $197 BILLION

2018 ────────────── $410 BILLION

2019 ────────────── $338 BILLION

However things turn out this election year, what the Fed does with its $2.46 trillion of Treasuries may ultimately prove to be most important of all for investors. Since the Fed ended quantitative easing in 2014, the central bank has maintained its holdings by reinvesting the money from maturing debt into Treasuries. The Fed will plow back about $216 billion this year and reinvest $197 billion in the next, based on current policy.

While the Fed has said it will look to reduce its holdings eventually by scaling back re-investments when bonds come due, it hasn’t announced any timetable for doing so.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” said Dov Zigler, a financial markets economist at Bank of Nova Scotia. “What will the Fed’s role be and how large will its participation be in the Treasury market next year and the year after?”

by Liz McCormick & Susanne Barton | Bloomberg

Negative Interest Rates Are Destroying the World Economy

https://i0.wp.com/armstrongeconomics-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/2015/11/Negative-Rates.jpgQUESTION: Mr. Armstrong, I think I am starting to see the light you have been shining. Negative interest rates really are “completely insane”. I also now see that months after you wrote about central banks were trapped, others are now just starting to entertain the idea. Is this distinct difference in your views that eventually become adopted with time because you were a hedge fund manager?

ANSWER: I believe the answer is rather simple. How can anyone pretend to be analysts if they have never traded? It would be like a man writing a book explaining how it feels to give birth. You cannot analyze what you have never done. It is just impossible. Those who cannot teach and those who can just do. Negative interest rates are fueling deflation. People have less income to spend so how is this beneficial? The Fed always needed 2% inflation. The father of negative interest rates is Larry Summers. He teaches or has been in government. He is not a trader and is clueless about how markets function. I warned that this idea of negative interest rates was very dangerous.

Yes, I have warned that the central banks are trapped. Their QE policies have totally failed. There were numerous “analysts” without experience calling for hyperinflation, collapse of the dollar, yelling the Fed is increasing the money supply so buy gold. The inflation never appeared and gold declined. Their reasoning was so far off the mark exactly as people like Larry Summers. These people become trapped in their own logic it becomes irrational gibberish. They only see one side of the coin and ignore the rest.

Central banks have lost all ability to manage the economy even in theory thanks to this failed reasoning. They have bought-in the bonds and are unable to ever resell them again. If they reverse their policy of QE and negative interest rates, government debt explodes with insufficient buyers. If the central banks refuse to reverse this crazy policy of QE and negative interest rates they will see a massive capital flight from government to the private sector once the MAJORITY realize the central banks are incapable of any control.

alarm_clock

The central banks have played a very dangerous game and lost. It appears we are facing the collapse of Social Security which began August 14th, 1935 (1935.619) because they stuffed with government debt and robbed the money for other things. Anyone else would go to prison for what politicians have done and prosecutors would never defend the people because they want to become famous politicians. We will probably see the end of this Social Security program by 2021.772 (October 9th, 2021), or about 89 weeks into the next business cycle. These people are completely incompetent to manage the economy and we are delusional to think people with no experience as a trader can run things. If you have never traded, you have no busy trying to “manipulate” society with you half-baked theories. So yes. The central banks are trapped. They have lost ALL power. It becomes just a matter of time as the clock ticks and everyone wakes up and say: OMG!

https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Roman-Army-768x496.jpg

We have government addicted to borrowing and if rates rise, then everything will explode in their face. Western Civilization is finished as we know it just as Communism collapsed because we too subscribe to the theory of Marx that government is capable of managing the economy. Just listen to the candidates running for President. They are all preaching Marx. Vote for me and I will force the economy to do this. IMPOSSIBLE! We have debt which is unsustainable the further you move away from the United States which is the core economy such as emerging markets. Unfunded pensions destroyed the Roman Empire. We are collapsing in the very same manner and for the very same reason. We are finishing a very very very important report on the whole pension crisis issue worldwide.

Source: Armstrong Economics

Is The US Federal Reserve Bank About To Commit The Sin Of Pride?

Summary

  • The Fed Funds Futures say a December 2015 rate raise is a near sure thing at 74%.
  • Many major currencies are down substantially against the USD in the last 1-2 years. This is hurting exports. It is costing jobs.
  • A raise of the Fed Funds rate will lead to a further appreciation of the USD. That hurt exports more; and it will cost the US more jobs.
  • A raise of the Fed Funds rate will also lead to an automatic cut to the GDP’s of Third World and Emerging Market nations, which are calculated in USD’s.
  • There will likely be a nasty downward economic spiral effect that no one wants in Third World countries, Emerging Market countries, and in the US.
 

The Fed Funds Futures, which are largely based on statements from the Fed Presidents/Governors, are at 74% for a December 2015 raise as of November 26, 2015. This is up from 50% at the end of October 2015. If the Fed does raise the Fed Funds rate, will the raise have a positive effect or a negative one? Let’s examine a few data points.

First raising the Fed Funds rate will cause the value of the USD to go up relative to other currencies. It is expected that a Fed Funds rate raise will cause a rise in US Treasury yields. This means US Treasury bond values will go down at least in the near term. In the near term, this will cost investors money. However, the new higher yield Treasury notes and bonds will be more attractive to investors. This will increase the demand for them. That is the one positive. The US is currently in danger that demand may flag if a lot of countries decide to sell US Treasuries instead of buying them. The Chinese say they are selling so that they can defend the yuan. Their US Treasury bond sales will put upward pressure on the yields. That will in turn put upward pressure on the value of the USD relative to other currencies.

So far the Chinese have sold US Treasuries (“to defend the yuan”); but they have largely bought back later. Chinese US Treasuries holdings were $1.2391T as of January 2015. They were $1.258T as of September 2015. However, if China decided to just sell, there would be significant upward pressure on the US Treasury yields and on the USD. That would make China’s and other countries products that much cheaper in the US. It would make US exports that much more expensive. It would mean more US jobs lost to competing foreign products.

To better assess what may or may not happen on a Fed Funds rate raise, it is appropriate to look at the values of the USD (no current QE) versus the yen and the euro which have major easing in progress. Further it is appropriate to look at the behavior of the yen against the euro, where both parties are currently easing.

The chart below shows the performance of the euro against the USD over the last two years.

(click to enlarge)

The chart below shows the performance of the Japanese yen against the USD over the last two years.

(click to enlarge)

As readers can see both charts are similar. In each case the BOJ or the ECB started talking seriously about a huge QE plan in the summer or early fall of 2014. Meanwhile the US was in the process of ending its QE program. It did this in October 2014. The results of this combination of events on the values of the two foreign currencies relative to the USD are evident. The value of the USD went substantially upward against both currencies.

The chart below shows the performance of the euro against the Japanese yen over the last two years.

(click to enlarge)

As readers can see the yen has depreciated versus the euro; but that depreciation has been less than the depreciation of the yen against the USD and the euro against the USD. Further the amount of Japanese QE relative to its GDP is a much higher at roughly 15%+ per year than the large ECB QE program that amounts to only about 3%+ per year of effectively “printed money”. The depreciation of the yen versus the euro is the result that one would expect based on the relative amounts of QE. Of course, some of the strength of the yen is due to the reasonable health of the Japanese economy. It is not just due to QE amount considerations. The actual picture is a complex one; and readers should not try to over simplify it. However, they can generally predict/assume trends based on the macro moves by the BOJ, the ECB, and the US Fed.

The chart below shows the relative growth rates of the various central banks’ assets.

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As readers can see, this chart makes it appear that Japan is in trouble relative to the other countries. When this situation will explode (implode) into a severe recession for Japan is open to question. That is not the theme of this article, so I will not speculate here. Still it is good to be aware of the relative situation. Japan is clearly monetizing its debts relative to the other major currencies. That likely means effective losses in terms of “real” assets for the other countries. It means Japan is practicing mercantilism against its major competitors to a huge degree. Do the US and other economies want to allow this to continue unabated? Theoretically that means they are allowing Japanese workers to take their jobs unfairly.

I will not try to include the Chinese yuan in the above description, since it has not been completely free floating. Therefore the data would be distorted. However, the yuan was allowed to fall against other major currencies by the PBOC in the summer of 2015. In essence China is participating in the major QE program that many of the world’s central banks seem to be employing. It has also been steadily “easing” its main borrowing rate for more than a year now from 6.0% before November 23, 2014 to 4.35% after its latest cut October 23, 2015. It has employed other easing measures too. I have omitted them for simplicity’s sake. Many think China will continue to cut rates in 2016 and beyond as the Chinese economy continues to slow.

All of these countries are helping their exports via mercantilism by effectively devaluing their currencies against the USD. The table below shows the trade data for US-China trade for 2015.

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As readers can see in the table above the US trade deficit popped up in the summer about the time China devalued the yuan. Some of this pop was probably seasonal; but a good part of it was almost certainly not seasonal. This means the US is and will be losing more jobs in the future to China (and perhaps other countries), if the US does not act to correct/reverse this situation.

The US Total Trade Deficit has also been going up.
⦁ For January-September 2013, the deficit was -$365.3B.
⦁ For January-September 2014, the deficit was -$380.0B.
⦁ For January-September 2015, the deficit was -$394.9B.

The US Total Trade Deficit has clearly been trending upward. The lack of QE by the US for the last year plus and the massive QE by the US’ major trade partners is making the situation worse. The consequently much higher USD has been making the situation worse. The roughly -$30B increase in the US Total Trade Deficit for the first nine months of the year from 2013 to 2015 means the US has been paying US workers -$30B less than it would have if the level of the deficit had remained the same. If the deficit had gone down, US workers would have benefited even more.

If you take Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) as an example, it had trailing twelve month revenue of $49.6B as of its Q3 2015 earnings report. That supported about 72,000 jobs. CSCO tends to pay well, so those would be considered “good” jobs. Adjusting for three fourths of the year and three fifths of the amount of money (revenue), this amounts to roughly -57,000 well paying jobs that the US doesn’t have due to the extra deficit. If I then used the multiplier effect from the US Department of Commerce for Industrial Machinery and Equipment jobs of 9.87, that would translate into over -500,000 jobs lost. Using that logic the total trade deficit may account for more than -5 million jobs lost. Do US citizens really want to see their jobs go to foreign countries? Do US citizens want to slowly “sell off the US”? How many have seen the Chinese buying their houses in California?

The US Fed is planning to make that situation worse. A raise of the Fed Funds rate will lead directly to a raise in the yield on US Treasuries. It will lead directly to a stronger USD. That will translate into an even higher US trade deficit. That will mean more US jobs lost. Who thinks that will be good for the US economy? Who thinks the rate of growth of the US trade deficit is already too high? When you consider that oil prices are about half what they were a year and a half ago, you would think that the US Trade Deficit should not even be climbing. Yet it has, unabated. That bodes very ill for the US economy for when oil prices start to rise again. The extra level of non-oil imports will not disappear when oil prices come back. Instead the Total Trade Deficit will likely spike upward as oil prices double or more. Ouch! That may mean an instant recession, if we are not already there by then. Does the US Fed want to make the already bad situation worse?

Consider also that other countries use the USD as a secondary currency, especially South American and Latin American countries. Their GDP’s are computed in USD’s. Those currencies have already shown weakness in recent years. One of the worse is Argentina. It has lost almost -60% of its value versus the USD over the last five years (see chart below).

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The big drop in January 2014 was when the government devalued its currency from 6 pesos to the USD to 8 pesos to the USD. If the Fed causes the USD to go up in value, that will lead to an automatic decrease in the Argentine GDP in USD terms. Effectively that will lead to an automatic cut in pay for Argentine workers, who are usually paid in pesos. It will cause a more rapid devaluation of the Argentine peso due to the then increased scarcity of USD’s with which to buy imports, etc. Remember also that a lot of goods are bought with USDs in Argentina because no one has any faith in the long term value of the Argentine peso. Therefore a lot of Argentine retail and other trade is done with USD’s. The Fed will immediately make Argentinians poorer. Labor will be cheaper. The cost of Argentine exports will likely go down. The US goods will then have even more trouble competing with cheaper Argentine goods. That will in turn hurt the US economy. Will that then cause a further raise to the US Treasury yields in order to make them more attractive to buyers? There is that possibility of a nasty spiral in rates upward that will be hard to stop. Further the higher rates will increase the US Budget Deficit. Higher taxes to combat that would slow the US economy further. Ouch! The Argentine scenario will likely play out in every South American and Latin American country (and many other countries around the world). Is this what the Fed really wants to accomplish? Christine Lagarde (head of the IMF) has been begging them not to do this. Too many Third World and Emerging Market economies are already in serious trouble.

Of course, there is the argument that the US has to avoid inflation; but how can the US be in danger of that when commodities prices are so low? For October export prices ex-agriculture and import prices ex-oil were both down -0.3%. The Core PPI was down -0.3%. Industrial Production was down -0.2%. The Core CPI was only up + 0.2%. The Core PCE Prices for October were unchanged at 0.0%. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the Fed’s favorite inflation gauges? Personal Spending was only up +0.1%, although Personal Income was up +0.4%. I just don’t see the inflation the Fed seems to be talking about. Perhaps when oil prices start to rise again, it will be time to raise rates. However, when there are so many arguments against raising rates, why would the Fed want to do so early? It might send the US economy into a recession. It would only increase the rate of rise of the US Trade Deficit and the US Budget Deficit. It would only hurt Third World and Emerging Market economies.

Of course, there is the supposedly full employment argument. However, the article, “20+ Reasons The Fed Won’t Raise Even After The Strong October Jobs Number” contains a section (near the end of the article) that explains that the US employment rate is actually 10.8% relatively to the level of employment in 2008 (before the Great Recession). The US has not come close to recovering from the Great Recession in terms of jobs; and for the US Fed or the US government to pretend that such a recovery has occurred is a deception of US citizens. I am not talking about the U6 number for people who are only partially employed. If I were, the unemployment number would be roughly 15%. I am merely adding in all of the people who had jobs in 2008, who are no longer “in the work force” because they have stopped “looking for jobs” (and therefore not in the unemployment number calculation). The unemployment number the government and the Fed are citing is a farce if you are talking about the 2008 employment level; and people should recognize this. The Fed should also be recognizing this when they are making decisions based on the unemployment level. Political posturing by Democrats (Obama et al) to improve the Democratic performance in the 2016 elections will only have a negative impact on the US economy. There is no “full employment” at the moment.

We all know that the jobs numbers are usually good due to the Christmas season. Some say those jobs don’t count because they are all part time. However, a lot of businesses hire full time temporarily. Think of all of those warehouse jobs for e-commerce. Do you think they want to train more people to work part time? Or do you think they want to train fewer people to work perhaps even more than full time? Confusion costs money. It slows things down. Fewer new people is often the most efficient way to go. A lot of the new jobs for the Christmas season are an illusion. They will disappear come late January 2016. Basing a Fed Funds rate raise on Christmas season hiring is again a mistake that will cost the US jobs in the longer term. If the Fed does this, it will be saying that the US economy exists in a US vacuum. It will be saying that the US economy is unaffected by the economies of the rest of the world. Remember the latest IMF calculation for the world economic outlook for FY2015 was cut in October 2015 to +3.1% GDP Growth. This is -0.2% below the IMF’s July 2015 estimate and -0.3% below FY2014. If the world economic growth outlook is falling, is it at all reasonable to think that US economic growth will be so high as to cause significant inflation? Is it instead more reasonable to think that a higher Fed Funds rate, higher Treasury yields, and a more highly valued USD will cause the US economy to slow further as would be the normal expectation? Does the Fed want to cause STAGFLATION?

If the Fed goes through with their plan to raise rates in December 2015, they will be committing the Sin Of Pride. That same sin is at least partially responsible for the US losing so many of its jobs to overseas competitors over the last 50 years. One could more logically argue that the Fed should be instituting its own QE program in order to combat the further lost of US jobs to the mercantilist behaviors of its trade partners. The only reason not to do this is that it believes growing its balance sheet will be unhealthy in the long run. However, the “Total Central Bank Assets (as a % of GDP)” chart above shows that the US is lagging both the ECB and the BOJ in the growth of its balance sheet. In other words our major competitors are monetizing their debts at a faster rate than we are. You could argue that someone finally has to stop this trend. However, the logical first step should be not adding to the central banks’ asset growth. Reversing the trend should not be attempted until the other major central banks have stopped easing measures. Otherwise the US Fed is simply committing the SIN OF PRIDE; and as the saying goes, “Pride goeth before a fall”. There are a lot of truisms in the Bible (Proverbs). It is filled with the wisdom of the ages; and even the Fed can benefit from its lessons. Let’s hope they do.

by David White in Seeking Alpha