Category Archives: Housing Market

Navin R. Johnson Goes To The White House

(Note: with apologies to Carl Reiner and Steve Martin, who directed and co-wrote “The Jerk,” respectively)

Just when you thought Trump’s “leadership” could not get any more insane, he adds a third ring to the circus going on at 1600 Pennsylvania by hiring “economist,” Larry Kudlow to be the head of his economic advisors.

For those of you not familiar with financial market history beyond the last 10 years, which includes the majority of money managers and other sundry financial “professionals,” Kudlow was the chief economist at Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994.  His tenure at Bear ended infamously when it was revealed that he had developed a nasty cocaine and alcohol addiction at some point in his career.

Prior to Bear, Kudlow began his post-college career as a Democratic political operative.  He parlayed his political connections to get a job as a junior staff “economist” at the Fed.  I use quotations marks around the term “economist” in reference to Kudlow because he does not have a degree beyond undergrad  from the University of Rochester, where he majored in history.

At some point Kudlow, likely for political expedience given the political “winds” of the country in the early 1980’s, became a Republican. He wheeled his political connections into a job in Reagan’s OMB (David Stockman was the Director).  From there, he moved on to Bear Stearns.  The rest is history.

I thought  it would be interesting to peer into the mind of an untrained economist to examine the thought process.  Clearly Kudlow excelled at wheeling and dealing his political connections.  But is he qualified to be the president’s chief economic advisor, especially at a time when the U.S. is systemically collapsing?

In November 2007, Trump’s new Chief Economic Advisor, Larry “Señor Snort” Kudlow wrote an article about the economy titled, “Three More Years of Goldilocks” for which he should receive the Darwin Award (credit goes to @RudyHavenstein for posting the article).  Let’s examine some excerpts – keep in mind Kudlow wrote this about 5 months before Bear Stearns collapsed, triggering a financial crisis that anyone with more than two brain cells could see coming:

“I think the election-year economy will be stronger than the Fed’s estimate — closer to 3 percent. Too much is being made of both the sub-prime credit problem and the housing downturn.” IRD note: Many of us predicted and made big bets on the outcome of “too much being made of the sub-prime credit problem;” a caveman could see what was coming.

“What’s more, the entire market in sub-prime debt is just 1.4 percent of the global equity market.” – IRD note: Maybe 1.4% of a global stock bubble – but that’s like saying a small nuclear bomb in the hands of a madman is just 1.4% of the total stockpile of nuclear weapons. Notice that Kudlow overlooks the $10’s of trillions of OTC derivatives connected to the sub-prime debt, something that was obvious to many.

In issuing a forecast for 2008, Kudlow goes on to say:  “Both consumer spending and business capital investment are advancing…Right now, stocks are in a classic declining-profits correction. This downward trend has so far reduced the Dow by roughly 8 percent. As a rough guess, a 10 percent correction ought to spell the end to the Dow’s slump. And Fed rate cuts should be a big booster for stocks.” IRD note – Where on earth was he getting his data on consumer spending? By November 2007, households that weren’t living in fear of foreclosure were living in fear of losing their job. Between October 2007 and March 2009, the S&P 500 collapsed 58%.

Kudlow’s assertions back in 2007 were a joke.  What happened to Kudlow’s “Goldilocks economy?”  This is the person who is now Trump’s lead economic advisor.   Now Kudlow once again is asserting that, “the profit picture is good. It’s looking real good, and growth is not inflationary just let it rip for heaven’s sakes. The market is going to take care of itself.”

Based on his track record of issuing bullish forecasts right before a collapse,  I’d suggest that the economy and financial system is closer to taking care of itself by  “ripping” off a cliff without a parachute than it is to producing real growth. Retail sales have tanked three months in a row, the housing market appears to be headed south, auto sales plummeting, restaurant sales have dropped 19 out of the last 20 months. Where is this growth you seeing, Larry? Please do tell…

313k Jobs Added? Nice Try But It’s Fake News

The census bureau does the data-gathering and the Bureau of Labor Statistics feeds the questionable data sample through its statistical sausage grinder and spits out some type of grotesque scatological substance.  You know an economic report is pure absurdity when the report exceeds Wall Street’s rose-colored estimate by 53%.  That has to be, by far, an all-time record-high “beat.”

If you sift through some of the foul-smelling data, it turns out 365k of the alleged jobs were part-time, which means the labor market lost 52k full-time jobs.  But alas, I loathe paying any credence to complete fiction by dissecting the “let’s pretend” report.

The numbers make no sense.  Why?  Because the alleged data does not fit the reality of the real economy.  Retail sales, auto sales, home sales and restaurant sales have been declining for the past couple of months.  So who would be doing the hiring?  Someone pointed out that Coinbase has hired 500 people.  But the retail industry has been laying off thousands this year. Given the latest industrial production and auto sales numbers, I highly doubt factories are doing anything with their workforce except reducing it.

And if the job market is “so strong,” how comes wages are flat?  In fact, adjusted for real inflation, real wages are declining.  If the job market was robust, wages would be soaring.  Speaking of which, IF the labor market was what the Government wants us to believe it is, the FOMC would tripping all over itself to hike the Fed Funds rate.  And the rate-hikes would be in chunks of 50-75 basis points – not the occasional 0.25% rise.

The Housing Market Is Starting To Fall Apart

Last week I summarized January existing home sales, which were released on Wednesday, Feb 21st. Existing home sales dropped 3.2% from December and nearly 5% from January 2017. Those statistics are based on the SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) calculus. Larry Yun, the National Association of Realtors chief salesman, continues to propagate the “low inventory” propaganda.

But in truth, the economics of buying a home has changed dramatically for the first-time and move-up buyer demographic plus flipper/investors. As I detailed a couple of issues back, based on the fact that most first-time buyers “buy” into the highest possible monthly payment for which they can qualify, the price that a first-time, or even a move-up buyer, can afford to pay has dropped roughly 10% with the rise in mortgage rates that has occurred since September 2017. The game has changed. That 10% decline results from a less than 1% rise in mortgage rates.

That same calculus applies to flipper/investors. Investors looking to buy a rental home pay a higher rate of interest than owner-occupied buyers. Most investors would need the amount of rent they can charge to increase by the amount their mortgage payment increases from higher rates. Or they need to use a much higher down payment to make the investment purchase. The new math thereby removes a significant amount of “demand” from investors.

It also occurred to me that flippers still holding homes purchased just 3-4 months ago are likely underwater on their “largesse.” Most flippers look for homes in the price-range that caters to first-timers (under $500k). This is the most “liquid” segment of the housing market in terms of the supply of buyers. Any flipper that closed on a home purchase in the late summer or early fall that needed to be “spruced up” is likely still holding that home. In addition to the purchase cost, the flipper has also incurred renovation and financing costs. Perhaps in a few markets prices have held up. But in most markets, the price first-time buyers can pay without significantly increasing the amount of the down payment has dropped roughly 10%. Using this math, any flipper holding a home closed prior to October is likely sitting on a losing trade.

Similar to 2007/2008, many of these homes will be sold at a loss or the flipper will “jingle mail” the keys to the bank, in which case the bank will likely dump the home. I know in some areas of metro-Denver, pre-foreclosure listings are rising. Some flippers might turn into rental landlords. This will increase the supply of rental homes which, in turn, will put pressure on rental rates.

New home sales – The plunge in January new home sales was worse than existing homes. New home sales dropped 7.8% from December. This follows December’s 9.3% plunge from November. The December/January sequence was the biggest two-month drop in new home sales since August 2013. Back then, mortgage rates had spiked up from 3.35% in June to 4.5% by the end of August. The Fed at that time was still buying $40 billion worth of mortgages every month. With QE over and an alleged balance sheet reduction program in place, plus the Fed posturing as if it will continue nudging the Fed Funds rate higher, it’s likely that new home sales will not rebound like they did after August 2013, when mortgage rates headed back down starting in early September 2013.

Contrary to the Larry Yun false narrative, the supply of new homes jumped to 6.1 months from 5.5 months in December. How does this fit the Yun propaganda that falling sales is a function of low inventory? The average price of a new home is $382k (the median is $323k). New home prices will have to fall significantly in order for sales to stop trending lower. What happens if the Fed really does continue hiking rates and mortgage rates hit 5%?

January “Pending” Home Sales – The NAR’s “pending home sales index,” which is based on contract signings, was released this past Wednesday. It plunged to its lowest level since October 2014. The index dropped 4.7% vs. an expected 0.5% rise from the optimist zombies on Wall St. It’s the biggest 1-month percentage decline in the index since May 2010. On a year-over-year comparison basis, the index is down 1.7%. December’s pending home sales index was revised down from the original headline report.

The chart below, sourced from Zerohedge with my edits added, illustrates the way in which rising and falling mortgage rates affects home sales. The mortgage rate data is inverted to better illustrate the correlation between mortgage rates and home sales:

Housing sales data is lagged by a month. Per the blue line, current homes sales (i.e. February sales/contract signings) have likely declined again given that mortgage rates continued to rise in during the month of February.

The above commentary on the housing market is from the latest Short Seller’s Journal.  Myself and several subscribers have been making a lot money shorting homebuilders this year.  But it’s not just about homebuilders.  I presented ZAGG as a short in the SSJ in the December 10th issue at $19.  It plunged down to $12 yesterday.  I’ve had several subscribers report gains of up to 40% shorting the stock and 3x that amount using puts.

You can find out more about this unique newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal

America’s Pension Crisis Is About To Detonate

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts sent me an article by Catherine Austin Fitts and asked if I had read it.  The article is titled, “The State of America’s Pension Funds.” The article is worth reading, though I believe Ms. Fitts underestimates significantly the degree to which political and Wall Street criminality – along with money management incompetence – has infected and destroyed the U.S. pension system – both public and private. Furthermore, I believe she errs in her believe that the pension crisis can be fixed.

I’ve re-posted below my view of the looming pension system melt-down that I shared with Dr. Roberts.

“My guestimate for the amount stolen or shifted illegally through these mechanisms is $50 trillion, although I can argue the number higher.” I agree with her assessment there.

Craig, I concluded in 2003 that the elitists would hold up the system with printed money and credit creation until they had swept every last crumb of middle class wealth off the table and into their own pockets. Back then, I said housing was next asset to be drilled and cored. Let’s review: The first bubble removed at least $5-10 trillion of wealth from the public via the bailout of the banks and the wealth lost by people who chased home prices higher and then lost those homes to foreclosure or short-sale. Most of those homes are now sitting in the rental portfolios of large Wall Street investment funds like Black Rock and Colony Capital.

I also concluded that the last remaining middle class asset was retirement funds (Pensions, 401k’s, IRAs) and that looting that asset class would be the elitists coup de grace. Retirement assets are by far the largest middle class asset in aggregate (something like $20 trillion now). Let’s review: Every dollar of under-funding is a dollar of wealth transferred away from the pension plan members to either current beneficiaries or the promoters of the fund investments. A lot of money is also paid to “professionals” who skim huge salaries and benefits to put money to work with hedge funds and private equity funds, most of which will be wiped out in the next big bear market.

I have a close friend who works at a pension fund. It’s an off-shoot of a big State pension plan which happens to be one of the more underfunded pension funds in the country. My friend has to be a member of the pension fund as an employee of the fund he helps manage. He told me that as of Jan 1 he now has to contribute 12% of his pre-tax income to the pension fund. It’s criminal. That’s in addition to the amount his employer has to match. The money helps fund current beneficiary payouts. He needs his salary/job to support his family so he does not have a choice but to keep working at his current position unless he can find something else that pays equally as well. The job market for investment fund analysts is extremely difficult right now. His wife has to work for them to make ends meet (their kids are all under 12)

Based on a detailed study he did internally, he estimates the true underfunding of all public pensions in aggregate is at least $8 trillion. Not the $3.5 trillion referenced by Catherine Austin Fitts. He’s an insider and has access to better data than the outsiders and academics who have done studies that conclude $3-5 trillion of underfunding. THAT’s with the stock AND bond markets at all-time highs. How in the hell is that possible? The difference, or funding gap, is the wealth that is being confiscated.

The under-funding device is a very subtle and brilliant mechanism of wealth transfer. No one thinks about it that way but that’s what it is. A massive wealth transfer  mechanism.

I worked for some of these insiders at Bankers Trust. I can tell you first-hand, for a fact, that these people will do ANYTHING to take money from ANYONE, legally or illegally. I saw this first-hand. They are all very bright, well-educated and completely devoid of morals or ethics.  My direct boss was like that and everyone above him was even worse. They hate nothing more than leaving, literally, even dimes and nickels on the table.

That’s why the system is doomed.

Powell Is Not An Economist – And The Fed Is Not Tightening Monetary Policy

Fed Head, Jerome Powell, is not an economist. He’s a politician who made a lot of money at the Carlyle Group. He has an undergraduate degree in politics and went to law school. After working for awhile as a lawyer at a big Wall St. firm, Powell migrated to investment banking at Dillon Read. Powell must have built a relationship with Nicholas Brady at Dillon Read, because he jumped from Dillon Read to positions in Brady’s Treasury Department under George H. Bush. From there he took an ill-fated position at Bankers Trust and was somehow connected to the big derivatives scandal that eventually forced BT into the arms of Deutsche Bank. Information about Powell’s role at BT have been cleansed from the internet but he resigned from BT after Proctor & Gamble filed a lawsuit that exposed a large derivatives scandal.

The point of this is that it would be a mistake to analyze anything Powell says in his role as Fed Head as anything other than the regurgitation of previous oral flatulence emitted by Bernanke and Yellen. First and foremost, Powell’s agenda will be to protect the value of private equity investments at firms like the Carlyle Group. In this regard, Powell’s wealth preservation interests should have precluded him from assuming the role of Fed Head. Then again, he’s not an economist. The last Fed Head who was not a trained economist was G. William Miller, appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1978. How well did that work out?

While many “analysts” have looked to statements made by Powell in 2012 that expressed a somewhat “hawkish” stance on monetary policy, it’s more important to watch what the Fed does, not says. Since the balance sheet reduction process was supposed to begin starting in October, the Fed’s balance sheet has been reduced from $4.469 trillion as October 16, 2017 to $4.458 trillion as of February 21. “Qualitative tightening” of just $11 billion. This is well behind the alleged $10 billion per month pace that was established and highly promoted by the Fed, analysts and the financial media.

Powell stated to today that the Fed will continue with “gradual rate hikes.” What does this mean? Over the last two years and two months, the Fed has implemented five quarter-point rate “nudges.” Less than one-half of one percent per year. Since 1954, the Fed Funds rate has averaged around 6%. This would be a “normalized” Fed Funds rate. Based on the current rate of Fed Funds rate “hikes,” it would take six years from December 2015, when the “rate nudges” commenced, to achieve interest rate “normalization.”

But here’s why it will like take a lot longer and may never happen:

The chart above shows the dollar amount of consumer debt that is in delinquency. It was $33.3 billion as of the end of Q3 2017. It is at the same level as it was in Q2 2008. The data is lagged. I have no doubt that is likely now closer to $36 billion, which is where it was in Q3 2008. If anything, we will eventually see “faster-than-gradual” drops in the Fed Funds rate.

With Government, corporate and household debt at all time highs, and with delinquency rates and defaults escalating quickly – especially in auto and credit card debt – the only reason the Fed would continue along the path of tightening monetary policy as laid out – but not remotely adhered to – over two years ago, is if for some reason it wanted blow-up the financial system. Au contraire, hiking rates and shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet is not in the best interests of the Too Big To Fail Banks or the net worth of Jerome Powell.

The “Russia Threat” Tragicomedy

I’m still trying to understand how this nation became so deeply embroiled in this idiotic investigation into “he said, she said” about the Russians interfering in U.S. politics.  I can tie it back to the presidential election campaign when Hillary Clinton asserted, during one of the debates, that the Russians hacked her email.  LOL.  As it turns out, we know that is false.

The only real connection to corruption, bribes and Russia is Hillary and her husband.  The connection between millions in donations from a Russian company to Clinton “charitable funds” which paved the way for uranium sales to Russia is definitive.  Where’s the investigation into that?

The Russia situation, like the “war on terror,” is nothing more than a State-sponsored propaganda prop crafted to distract the public’s attention from the massive theft of public wealth.  The elitists are robbing the country blind and the citizens are blinded by fraudulent news reporting.  Every major “respected” news organization, print and television, has been forced to withdraw fabricated stories.  And yet, allegedly educated and “enlightened” people continue patronizing these same news sources.

My good friend, John Titus of Best Evidence video productions, and I were exchanging text messages earlier this week on the insanity that has gripped the U.S.  I wanted to share some quotes from him because they are too insightfully entertaining to keep to myself.

“The slaves [i.e. the public] will debate the merits of the red puppet and the blue puppet all the way to the gas chambers” [Republicans vs. Dems].  Note:  to anyone really paying attention, there’s no difference between Repubs and Dems – they are both controlled only by money and answer only to those who pay for their elections.  Anyone who believes that voting makes a difference is severely mentally challenged.

In reference to Russiagate:  “That story is actually so f–king dumb that I think it’s a national IQ test to see how much broad-daylight theft the criminals can get away with. ‘Can we,’ the criminals must be asking themselves, ‘drain every cent out of people’s bank accounts, 401k plans and pension funds and, in the morning, have CNN blame it on malicious gun-slinging right-wing hacker hobgoblins and still get away with it.’  The answer is most certainly ‘yes.'”

Of course, to that he added:  “Well, to be fair (and balanced), Fox News would undoubtedly fire back with a rash of its own ‘experts’ blaming the crisis on Black Lives Matter and lesbian abortionists for gun control.”

But, What About The Housing Market?

A colleague of mine pointed out that Trump has not been tweeting his flatulence about the economy recently.  This thankful hiatus is after he just passed a tax cuts and a spending budget that is supposed to be stimulative.  As it  turns out, the economy is hitting the headwinds of marginally higher interest rates and a consumer that is bulging from the eyeballs with debt.   Windfall tax rebates to large corporations will not fix this nor will rampant Government deficit spending.

This leads us to the housing market. Mortgage originations were down 5.6% in Q4 from Q3. This is not a result of seasonal bias. Q4 mortgage originations in 2017 were down 26.7% from Q4 2016. One caveat is that the Fed does not breakout the numbers between purchase mortgages and refinancing. But higher rates are starting to affect all mortgage applications. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage purchase applications dropped 6% two weeks in the row. Declines in purchase apps should not happen moving from January to February, as February is statistically a seasonally stronger month for home sales than January.

Moreover, existing home sales for January were released this morning. To the extent that we can trust the National Association or Realtor’s Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate statistical Cuisinart, existing home sales plunged 3.2% in January from December and nearly 5% from January 2018. Decembers headline report was revised lower. I’m sure the King of Spin, Larry Yun, will blame it on “low inventory.”  But this is simply not true:

If Yun’s thesis were true, the chart above would be inverted. Instead, going back to j1998, there is a definitive inverse correlation between inventory and home sales.  Curiously, when attempted to run the numbers to the present, I discovered that the Fed removed the data series I had used to create the chart in in 2015.  Mere coincidence, I’m sure…

The mortgage rate for a 30-yr fixed rate conventional mortgage at Wells Fargo, the  country’s second largest mortgage originator, is now 4.5% with an APR of 4.58%. As recently as September, the rate for a 30yr mortgage was 3.87%. At current rates, the monthly payment for a home purchase with a $400,000 mortgage has increased $187. It may not sound like much, but for many first-time buyers that small jump in monthly payment can mean the difference between buying and not buying.

Since the Fed began printing money and the Government knocked the down payment requirement to 3% on a Government-backed mortgage, homebuyers have based the amount they are willing to pay for a home on determining the highest possible monthly payment the mortgage underwriter will allow. In the example above, the monthly payment on a $400k mortgage at 3.78% is $1,857. At 4.58%, the same payment only “buys” a $363,000 mortgage. This is nearly a 10% decline.

The same math applies to flippers/investment buyers, who pay an even higher rate for an investment purchase. One of the SSJ subscribers is a real estate professional here in Denver. She emailed to tell me that, “it doesn’t take much for interest rates to change Investors ideas.” She has a client who wants to buy an investment home for around $350000. Since investor rate loans are at least a quarter of a point higher than an owner-occupied mortgage, the client’s purchase with 20% down goes up $161 a month from the from the recent jump in mortgage rates. This means he now needs the rent to go up by that much to work on the purchase-decision formula he is using.” I believe that a lot of flippers are going to be stuck with homes they can’t re-sell at the price they paid.

The average price the average-income homebuyer can afford has declined nearly 10% as a result of just a 75 basis point rise in mortgage rates. What happens when rates go up another 50-75 basis points? This fact has not been reflected in the home price data that is released every month from Case-Shiller and from the Government. This is because those surveys have a 3-6 month lag built into the methodology of calculating their respective home price indices.

As it becomes obvious that the price the average potential homebuyer can pay has been reduced from $400k to $363k, it will trigger a price decline cycle similar to 2007-2009. Flippers will be the first to fold just like during the mid-2000’s housing bubble. That housing market crash was triggered by the collapse of subprime lenders, which removed a key source of funding used by flipper and for end-user home purchases from flippers. This time around it will be triggered by a lack of buyers who are able to pay the same price now that they could have paid in September when rates were 80 basis points lower. Soon rates will be 180 basis points higher than in September and home values will be crushed.

The analysis on the housing market above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal,  a weekly newsletter that provides insight on the latest economic data and provides short-sell ideas, including strategies for using options. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Fed’s “Catch 22”

Before diving into the topic, let’s be clear about one thing:  The economic definition of “inflation”  is the increase in money supply relative to the marginal increase of wealth output (GDP) in the economic system for which money supply is created. This is differentiated from “price inflation,” which is “a general rise in prices.”

Money and credit creation in excess of wealth output causes currency devaluation.  It is this currency devaluation that arises from money and credit printing that causes “price inflation.”  More money (and credit) chasing a relatively less amount of “goods.”

Furthermore, the commonly used price inflation reference is the Government’s CPI.  The CPI measurement of inflation has been discredited ad nauseum.  And yet, 99% of analysts, commentators, bloggers, financial media meat-with-mouths, etc uses the CPI as their inflation trophy.   But the CPI has been statistically manipulated to mute price inflation since the early 1970’s, when then-Fed Chairman, Arthur Burns, correctly understood that the currency devaluation that was going to occur after Nixon closed the gold window would have adverse political consequences.  Today, the CPI measurement of price inflation is not even remotely close to the true rise in prices that has occurred over the last 8 years. Over the last 47 years, for that matter.

This notion of rising inflation seems to be the en vogue “economic” discussion now.  But the event that causes the evidence of currency devalution – aka “inflation” – has largely occurred over the past 8 years of global money printing.  If your general basket of expenditures for necessities – like housing, healthcare, food, energy,  and transportation – has risen by a considerable amount more over the last 5-7 years than is reflected in the CPI, ask either the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which publishes the  CPI report – or the moronic analysts who insist erroneously on using the CPI as the cornerstone of their suppositions – why that is the case.

The Fed’s Catch 22 – It’s been estimated that the Treasury will need to sell $1.4 trillion new bonds this year to cover the spending deficit that will result from the tax cuts combined with the record level of Government spending just approved by Congress and Trump. With the dollar declining, foreign Treasury buyers are sitting on significant losses on their Treasury holdings. As an example, since March the dollar has dropped 16% vs. the euro. Add this to falling Treasury bond prices (rising yields), and European holders of Treasuries, especially those who have to sell now for whatever reason, have incurred a large drop in the euro-value of their Treasury bonds. The same math applies to Japanese Treasury bond investors, as the dollar has fallen nearly 9% vs. the yen since March.

One of the primary fundamental factors causing the dollar decline is the continuously deteriorating fiscal condition of the U.S. Government. If the Fed continues hiking interest rates at the same pace – 1.25% in Fed Funds rate hikes over two years – the dollar will continue declining. The pace of the rate hikes is falling drastically behind just the official measurement of inflation (CPI). Imagine the spread between the real rate of inflation (John Williams estimates actual inflation to be at least 6%) and the Fed funds rate, also known as “real interest rates.” Real interest rates using a real measure of inflation are thus quite negative (6% inflation rate minus 1.25% Fed funds = negative 4.75% real rate of interest). As negative real rates widen, it exerts further downward pressure on the value of the dollar.

The Fed could act to halt the falling dollar by hiking rates at a faster pace and actually sticking to its stated balance sheet reduction schedule. But in doing so, the Fed risks sending the economy into a rapid tail-spin. Higher rates and less banking system liquidity will choke-off the demand for the low-cost credit – auto, credit card and mortgage loans – that has been stimulating consumer spending. In fact, I have made the case in recent SSJ issues that the average household is now near its limitations on taking on more debt. Consumer borrowing, and thus consumer spending, will decelerate/decline regardless of the cost of borrowing. We are seeing this show up in retail sales (more on retail sales below) and in stagnating home sales.

As it stands now, based on its reluctance to reduce its balance sheet at the $10 billion per month rate initially set forth by Janet Yellen, it appears that the Fed is fully aware of its Catch 22 predicament. Last week, in response to the nearly 10% plunge in the Dow/SPX, the Fed actually increased its QE holdings by $11 billion. It did this by adding $11 billion in mortgages to its SOMA account (the Fed’s QE balance sheet account). This is an injection of $11 billion in liquidity directly into the banking system. This $11 billion can, theoretically, be leveraged into $99 billion by the banks (based on a 10% reserve ratio). The dollar “saw” this move and dropped over 2.2% in the first four trading days this past week before experiencing a small technical bounce on Friday. The 10-yr Treasury hit 2.93% last week before settling Friday at 2.87%. 2.87% is a four-year high on the 10-yr.

The Stock Market – Dow And SPX – Could Easily Drop 50%

Jim Rogers stated in an interview with Bloomberg that “the next bear market will be worst in my lifetime,” adding that he didn’t know when that bear market would occur. The stock market has become insanely overvalued. Before last week, several market-top “bells” were ringing loudly. The stock market could easily drop 50% and, by historical metrics, still be overvalued.

Gold, silver and the mining stocks have been pulling back since late January. In fact, I warned my Mining Stock Journal subscribers in the January 25th issue that the sector was getting ready for bank-manipulated take-down. In the latest issue I offered a view on when the next move higher could begin. Mining stocks in relation to the price of gold and silver have become almost as undervalued as they were in December 2015, when the sector bottomed from the 4 1/2-year cyclical correction. In a recent issue I listed my five favorite junior mining stocks.

I was invited to join Elijah Johnson and Eric Dubin on Silver Doctors’ weekly Metals & Markets podcast. We discussed the stock market, precious metals and the Fed’s next policy direction:

I also publish the Short Seller’s Journal, which is a weekly newsletter that provides insight on the latest economic data and provides short-sell ideas, including strategies for using options. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.