Tag Archives: credit bubble

Financial Market Collapse: Not an “IF” But A “When?”

“’DON’T PANIC!!!!’ Just 6.9% off of the most offensive valuation extreme in history.” – Tweet from John Hussman, Hussman Funds

The above quote from John Hussman was a shot at the financial media, which was freaking out over the sell-off in the stock market on Wednesday and Thursday last week. As stock bubbles become more irrational, the rationalizations concocted to explain why stocks are still cheap and can go higher become more outrageous. The financial media was devised to function as a “credible” conduit for Wall Street’s deceitful, if not often fraudulent, sales-pitch.

Perhaps the biggest fraud in the last 10 years perpetrated on investors was the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” legislation. The Dodd-Frank Act was promoted by the Obama Government as legislation that would protect the public from the risky and often fraudulent business practices of the big financial institutions – primarily the Too Big To Fail Banks. It was supposed to prevent another 2008 financial crisis (de facto financial collapse).

However, in effect, the Act made it easier for big banks to disguise or hide their predatory business operations. Ten years later it is glaringly apparent to anyone who bothers to study the facts, that Dodd-frank has been nothing of short of a catastrophic failure. Debt, and especially risky debt, is at record levels at every level of the economic system (Government, corporate, individual). OTC derivatives are at higher levels than 2008. This is without adjusting for accounting changes that enabled banks to understate their derivatives risk exposure. The stock market bubble is the most extreme in history by most measures and housing prices as a ratio to household income are at an all-time record level.

A lot of skeletons in the closet suddenly pop out of “hiding” when the stock market has a week like this past week. An article published by Bloomberg titled, “A $1 trillion Powder Keg Threatens the Corporate Bond Market” highlights the fact that corporate America took advantage of the Fed’s money printing to issue a record amount of debt. Over the last couple of years, the credit quality of this debt has deteriorated. More than 50% of the “investment grade” debt is rated at the lowest level of investment grade (Moody’s Baa3/S&P BBB-).

However, the ratings tell only half the story. Just like the last time around, the credit rating agencies have been over-rating much of this debt. In other words, a growing portion of the debt that is judged investment grade by the ratings agencies likely would have been given junk bond ratings 20 years ago. In fact, FTI Consulting (a global business advisory firm) concluded based on its research that corporate credit quality as measured by ratings distribution is far weaker than at the previous cycle peaks in 2000 and 2007. FTI goes as far as to assert, “it isn’t even close.”

I’ll note that FTI’s work is based using corporate credit ratings as given. However, because credit ratings agencies once again have become scandalously lenient in assigning ratings, there are consequences from relying on the judgment of those who are getting paid by the same companies they rate. In reality, the overall credit quality of corporate debt is likely even worse than FTI has determined.

The debt “skeleton” is a scary one. But even worse is the derivatives “skeleton.” This one not only hides in the closet but, thanks to regulatory “reform,” it’s been stashed in the attic above the closet. An article appeared in the Asia Times a few days ago titled, “Has The Derivatives Volcano Already Begun To Erupt?” I doubt this one will be reprinted by the Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. This article goes into the details about the imminent risk of foreign exchange derivatives to the global financial system. There’s a notional amount of $90 trillion in FX derivatives outstanding, which is up from $60 trillion in 2010.

Many of you have heard about the growing dollar “shortage” in Europe and Japan. Foreign entities issue dollar-denominated debt but transact in local currency. FX derivatives enable these entities to swap local currency for dollars with banks. However, these banks have to borrow the dollars. European banks are now running out of capacity to borrow dollars, a natural economic consequence of the reckless financial risks that these banks have taken, as enabled by the Central Bank money printing.

As it becomes more difficult for European and Japanese banks to borrow dollars, it drives up the cost to hedge local currency/dollar swaps. Compounding this, U.S. banks with exposure to the European banks are required to put up more reserves against their exposure, which in turn acts to tighten credit availability.  It’s a vicious self-perpetuating circle that is more than partially responsible for driving 10yr and 30yr Treasury bond yields higher recently.  Perhaps this explains why the direction of the Dow/SPX and the 10-yr Treasury have been moving in correlation for the past few weeks rather than inversely.

But it’s not just FX derivatives. There’s been $10’s of trillions on credit default swaps underwritten in the last 8 years. The swaps are based on the value of debt securities. For instance, Tesla bonds or home mortgage securities. As the economy deteriorates, the ability of debtors to service their debt becomes compromised and the market value of the debt declines. As delinquencies turn into defaults, credit default swaps are exercised. If the counter-party is unable to pay (AIG/Goldman in 2008), the credit default swap blows up.

And thus the fuse on the global derivatives bomb is lit. The global web of derivatives is extremely fragile and highly dependent on the value of the assets and securities used as collateral. As the asset values decline, more collateral is required (a “collateral call”). As defaults by those required to post more collateral occur, the fuses that have been lit begin to hit gunpowder. This is how the 2008 financial crisis was ignited.

In fact, given the financial turmoil in Italy, India and several other important emerging market countries, I find it hard to believe that we have not seen evidence yet of FX derivative accidents connected to those situations. My best guess is that the Central Banks have been able to diffuse derivative problems thus-far. However, the drop in the stock market on Wednesday surely must have triggered some equity-related derivatives mishaps. At some point, the derivative fires will become too large s they  ignite from unforeseen sources – i.e.the derivatives skeletons come down from hiding in the attic – and that’s when the real fun begins, at least if you are short the market.

I would suggest that the anticipation of an unavoidable derivatives-driven crisis is the reason high-profile market realists like Jim Rogers and Peter Schiff have recently issued warnings that the coming economic and financial crisis will be much worse than what hit in 2008.

What’s Going On With Gold?

Several of us who stick our neck out in public with analytic opinions on the market have been thinking  that gold has reached a tradable bottom.  I’m sure many would say that view is flawed based on today’s action.  Let me preface my thoughts by saying that, over the last 17 years of daily active involvement in the precious metals sector, I don’t pull my hair out over intra-day or even intra-year volatility.  Measured from the beginning of 2002, gold is up 441% while the S&P 500 is up 158%.

The point here is that, given how easy it is to print up paper gold contracts and flood the market, the price of gold can do anything on any given day. If you want to own gold for the reasons to own gold, you have be play the long game. The mining stocks do not seem to care about the day-to-day vagaries of the gold price right now. You shouldn’t either.

The trading pattern in gold is somewhat similar to its trading pattern in the summer of 2008, right before the great financial crisis (de facto banking system collapse) was set in motion.   The price of gold was taken down from $1020 in mid-March to $700 by October, while the financial system was melting down. That set up gold’s record run to $1900 over the next three years.

It’s becoming obvious to anyone who chooses to not put their head in the sand or become intoxicated with the copious amounts of official propaganda, that the U.S. Government is technically bankrupt and the financial bubbles fomented by a decade of money printing, credit creation and near-zero interest rates are about to explode.  It’s not coincidental that gold was slammed ahead of Congressional testimony by Fed-head Jerome Powell, one of the primary propaganda-spinning hand-puppets.

Gold started rolling downhill after the London a.m. fix. Right after it. The cliff-dive occurred as the Comex floor was opening. This is a pure paper operation. It’s either the hedge funds or the banks piling into the short-side of the market by flooding the market with paper gold and hitting all bids in sight. The managed money category of trader segment in the COT report has been getting net short and more net short the last two weeks. Hedge funds could be shorting even more paper gold, trying to push it further downhill to book profits on their shorts. OR it could be the banks piling into the short side but hide this by booking the trades they report to the CME (daily o/i) and the CFTC (weekly COT) into the managed money trader account in the COT report.

The latter is entirely possible. JP Morgan was already caught once doing this in silver. If you don’t trust the Government to report the truth, why would you trust the banks to report the truth? After all, the banks ARE the Government.

Today’s action has nothing to do with the $/yuan to gold relationship or the $/yen to gold relationship. The dollar is higher and gold usually trades inversely to the dollar. Gold likely is being managed like this to help disguise the coming financial and economic bombs that are set to explode – just like in 2008.

We’re dealing with a system in which banks and other big corporations control the Government and there is no RULE OF LAW whatsoever. Think about what you would do if you completely lacked a moral compass and were in control of the system, to a large degree. You would do exactly what they are doing. And I’m not talking about just gold. It’s everything. They have used debt to put the squeeze on the population.

The Housing Market: A Bigger Bubble Than 2008 Is Popping

The XHB homebuilder ETF is decisively below three key moving averages after it knifed below its 50 dma last week.  KB Homes reported a big earnings and revenue “beat” on Thursday after the market closed.  The stock soared as much as 9% on Friday.  Per the advice I gave my subscribers about shorting the inevitable price-spike in the stock,  I shorted the stock Friday mid-day (July and August at-the-money puts).  The stock is down 6% from its high Friday and is back below all of its key moving averages (21, 50, 200).

Several subscribers have emailed me today to report big gains on put options purchased Friday.   When a stock sells off like this after “beating” Wall St estimates and raising guidance, it’s a very bearish signal.  I’ve identified the best homebuilders to short and I provide guidance on timing and the use of put options.

Housing is dropping and it’s demand-driven, not supply-driven – All three housing market reports released two weeks ago showed industry deterioration. The homebuilder “sentiment” index for May, now known as the “housing market” index for some reason, showed its 4th decline since the index peaked in December. The index level of 68 in May was 10 points below Wall Street’s expectation. The index is a “soft data” report, measuring primarily homebuilder assessment of “foot traffic” (showings) and builder sentiment.

While the housing starts report for May showed an increase over April’s report, the permits number plunged. Arguably the housing starts report is among the least reliable of the housing reports because of the way in which a “start” is defined (put a shovel in the ground, that’s a “start”). On the other hand, permits filed might reflect builder outlook. To further complicate the analysis, the report can be “lumpy” depending on the distribution between multi-family starts/permits and single family home starts/permits.

A good friend of mine in North Carolina was looking at the Denver apartment rental market earlier this week and was shocked at the high level of vacancies. I would suggest this is similar in most larger cities. It also means that multi-family building construction will likely drop off precipitously over the next 12 months.

Existing home sales for May reported Wednesday showed the second straight month-to- month drop and the third straight month of year-over-year declines. The headline SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) number – 5.43 million – missed Wall Street’s forecast for 5.5 million. April’s number was revised lower. Once again the NAR chief spin-meister blames the drop on low inventory. But this is outright nonsense. The month’s supply for May increased from April and, at 4.1 months, is above the average month’s supply for the trailing 12 months. It’s also above the average months supply number for all of 2017. If low inventory is holding back pent-up demand, then May sales should have soared, especially given that May is historically one of the best months seasonally for home sales. The not seasonally adjusted number for May was 3.4% below May 2017.

The primary reason for declining home sales, as I’ve postulated in several past issues, is the shrinking pool of buyers who can afford to support the monthly cost of home ownership. The Government lowered the bar for its taxpayer-backed mortgage programs every year since 2014. It lowered the down-payment requirement, broadened the definition of what constitutes a down-payment (as an example, seller concessions can be counted as part of a down-payment) thereby reducing even further the amount of cash required from a buyer’s bank account at closing, it cut mortgage insurance fees and it lowered income and credit score restrictions. After all this, the Government is running out of people into whom it can stuff 0-3% down payment, 50% DTI mortgages in order to keep the housing market propped up.

A lot of short term (buy and rent for 1-2 years and then flip) investors and flippers are holding homes that will come on the market as home prices fall. The majority of the MLS notices I receive for the zip codes in Denver I track are “price change” notices. All of them are price reductions. Whereas a year ago the price reductions were concentrated in the high-priced homes, now the price reductions are spread evenly across all price “buckets.” Denver was one of the first hot markets to crack in the mid-2000’s bubble and I’m certain what I’m seeing in Denver is occurring across the country in most mid to large metropolitan areas. Yes, I’m sure there’s a few exceptions but, in general, high prices, rising mortgage rates and stagnant wages are like poison darts being thrown at the housing bubble.

The analysis above is an excerpt from the June 24th Short Seller’s Journal.   My subscribers and I are making a small fortune shorting homebuilders and homebuilder-related stocks.  I will adding a couple other sectors in up-coming issues that are ready to shorted aggressively.  You can learn more about this service by following this link:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

Paul Craig Roberts: “How Long Can The Federal Reserve Stave Off the Inevitable?”

IRD Note: The average household is bloated with debt, housing prices have peaked, many public pensions are on the verge of collapse in spite of 9-years of rising stock, bond and alternative asset values. But all of this was built on a foundation of debt, fraud and corruption. Dr. Paul Craig Roberts asks, “does the Fed have another ‘rabbit’ to pull out its hat?…

When are America’s global corporations and Wall Street going to sit down with President Trump and explain to him that his trade war is not with China but with them? The biggest chunk of America’s trade deficit with China is the offshored production of America’s global corporations. When the corporations bring the products that they produce in China to the US consumer market, the products are classified as imports from China.

Six years ago when I was writing The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, I concluded on the evidence that half of US imports from China consist of the offshored production of US corporations. Offshoring is a substantial benefit to US corporations because of much lower labor and compliance costs. Profits, executive bonuses, and shareholders’ capital gains receive a large boost from offshoring. The costs of these benefits for a few fall on the many—the former American employees who formerly had a middle class income and expectations for their children.

In my book, I cited evidence that during the first decade of the 21st century “the US lost 54,621 factories, and manufacturing employment fell by 5 million employees. Over the decade, the number of larger factories (those employing 1,000 or more employees) declined by 40 percent. US factories employing 500-1,000 workers declined by 44 percent; those employing between 250-500 workers declined by 37 percent, and those employing between 100-250 workers shrunk by 30 percent. These losses are net of new start-ups. Not all the losses are due to offshoring. Some are the result of business failures” (p. 100).

In other words, to put it in the most simple and clear terms, millions of Americans lost their middle class jobs not because China played unfairly, but because American corporations betrayed the American people and exported their jobs. “Making America great again” means dealing with these corporations, not with China. When Trump learns this, assuming anyone will tell him, will he back off China and take on the American global corporations?

The loss of middle class jobs has had a dire effect on the hopes and expectations of Americans, on the American economy, on the finances of cities and states and, thereby, on their ability to meet pension obligations and provide public services, and on the tax base for Social Security and Medicare, thus threatening these important elements of the American consensus. In short, the greedy corporate elite have benefitted themselves at enormous cost to the American people and to the economic and social stability of the United States.

The job loss from offshoring also has had a huge and dire impact on Federal Reserve policy. With the decline in income growth, the US economy stalled. The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan substituted an expansion in consumer credit for the missing growth in consumer income in order to maintain aggregate consumer demand. Instead of wage increases, Greenspan relied on an increase in consumer debt to fuel the economy.

The credit expansion and consequent rise in real estate prices, together with the deregulation of the banking system, especially the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, produced the real estate bubble and the fraud and mortgage-backed derivatives that gave us the 2007-08 financial crash.

The Federal Reserve responded to the crash not by bailing out consumer debt but by bailing out the debt of its only constituency—the big banks.

Click here to read the rest: Paul Craig Roberts/Fed

WTF Just Happened? Elites Scramble to Disable the Italian Economic Landmine

Italy is financially disintegrating.  The banking world would not care except for one small detail:  If Italy defaults in its debt obligations, it will set off a daisy-chain of OTC derivative credit default swap defaults resembling a financial nuclear holocaust.  This chart of Deutsche Bank’s stock price reflects the growing risk of this event:

Deutsche Bank has been hitting all-time lows since its listing on the NYSE in October 2001. The systemic risk posed by a financial collapse of Deutsche Bank is enormous. Yet, it should be allowed to occur to prevent the continued transfer of U.S. and European taxpayer money to fund DB’s payroll and large bonuses. The schizophrenic volatility of the stock markets is further reflection of the underlying financial volcano in danger of erupting.

In the latest episode of WTF Just Happened, Eric Dubin and Dave Kranzler discuss ongoing financial collapse of Italy and the likely method employed by the Fed, ECB, and BIS to keep the banking system corpse on life support (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.  I recommended Almadex Minerals at 28 cents in April 2016 – it closed Friday at $1.13.  I recommended shorting Hovnanian at $2.88 in January  – it closed at $1.89 on Friday and has been as low as $1.70.

Is Emerging Market Turmoil Deutsche Bank’s “Black Swan?”

Rising energy prices and collapsing emerging currencies are two developments that are not receiving much attention in the mainstream propaganda narrative. But either development which could end up “pulling the rug” out from underneath the markets.

I pieced together the graphic to the right from an article on Zerohedge about the developing currency and debt crisis in emerging markets and, specifically, Latin America. This topic is not receiving much attention from the mainstream financial media. I guess facts that undermine the “strong economy” narrative go unreported. If it’s not reported, it doesn’t exist, right?

The top chart shows the abrupt plunge in an index of emerging market currencies. But most
of that decline is attributable to the plunging currencies in Latin America. Currently the Brazilian real is in free-fall, followed closely by the Mexican peso.

The bottom chart shows an index of emerging market debt prices. The index has plunged over 6 points, or nearly 7% since mid-April. In terms of bond prices, that’s a mini-crash. And that’s an index. Individual bond issues are getting massacred.

I was trading junk bonds in 1994 when the emerging market debt crisis hit hard in late January. Prior to that, emerging market debt issuance had just been through a mini-bubble. The money pumped into the system by Greenspan to “save the markets” from the collapse of Drexel Burnham and the related S&L collapse, plus to save the markets from the blow-back from the collapse of Russia, precipitated a mini-boom in high yield and emerging market debt.

The crisis started with a loss of confidence in the Mexican banking system and quickly spread like the flu throughout Latin America. The effects soon spilled-over into the U.S. markets. Between January and the end of March 1994, the Dow plunged 10.6%. The credit markets were a mess, especially the junk bond market. A friend of mine on the EM desk at BT was worried about losing his job.

It’s impossible to know the extent to which Central banks are working to prevent the current EM crisis from spreading, but at some point there will be a spillover effect in our markets.

As everyone knows, Deutsche Bank has resumed the collapse that started in 2008 before the Fed, ECB and Bundesbank combined to keep DB from collapsing.  Why was DB saved? Because DB’s balance sheet likely represents the largest systemic risk to the global financial system.   It has been burning furniture for years and now the bank is unloading more than 10% of its workforce as well as dismantling its North American and Investment Banking operation.  25% of the equity sales and trading personnel are being elimated.

No one outside of DB has any possibility of understanding DB’s OTC derivatives book. It’s highly probably that DB insiders do not understand the scale of counter-party risk exposure.   When DB acquired Bankers Trust, Anshu Jain took the emerging market derivatives business and injected it with steroids. Why? Because the fees were enormous.

On top of this, DB has enormous exposure via credit default swaps to the risky southern European financial systems.   A good friend of mine has reason to believe that if Italy goes into a tail-spin, it could take DB down with it.

In truth, we don’t know how bad the situation is inside DB because the financial reporting requirements imposed on banks have been substantially rolled-back over the last several years.   However, really bad news began to leak out on DB about the time the LIBOR-OIS spread began to rise and the dollar began to rise quickly.   The misdirection propaganda attributed this to corporate dollar repatriation connected to the Trump tax cuts.   Now the cost to buy credit protection on DB debt is starting to soar.  Credit default swaps have become the financial’s new “smoke alarm.”

DB’s stock is down nearly 39% since December 18, 2017. Since mid-January 2014, DB stock is down 78%.  Not sure why this fact doesn’t get coverage from the mainstream financial media other than the fact that it throws a wet blanket on the warm and fuzzy “synchronized global recovery” fairytale.

WTF Just Happened? Gold, The Dollar And Interest Rates

What’s going on with gold, the dollar and interest rates – especially gold?  All of the variables that fundamentally support much higher gold prices are lined up perfectly.  Why isn’t gold moving higher?  The popular narrative in the mainstream financial media would leave one to believe that the dollar is soaring.  Eric and Dave put a big dent in that notion.  Additionally, in a long-term historical context, the recent rise in interest rates is tiny, yet marginally higher interest are already wreaking havoc on the economy (retail, auto and home sales).   What’s going to happen to the economy when the 10-yr Treasury hits 4%, which is still well below its long-run historical norm? (click on image to enlarge)

Eric Dubin and Dave Kranzler dig into these topics in the next episode of WTF Just Happened (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.  I recommended Almadex Minerals at 28 cents in April 2016 – it closed Friday at $1.13.  I recommended shorting Hovnanian at $2.88 in January  – it closed at $1.89 on Friday and has been as low as $1.70.

Are The Wheels Coming Off The System?

The dollar is said to be “soaring,” though I take issue with that characterization for now (see the chart below);  10-yr Treasury yields are also rising, though the yield on the 10-yr is only up about 67 basis points if you measure from January 1, 2017.  What’s really going on?

Ten years of money printing by the Federal Reserve has removed true price discovery from the markets.  The best evidence is the inexorable rise in the stock market despite the fact that corporate earnings have been driven largely by share buybacks and GAAP accounting gimmicks.  Measuring stock values  on the basis of revenue and revenue growth multiples would reveal the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history.

Now that the Fed has stopped printing money used to buy Treasury issuance and prop up the banks, the system is vulnerable to relatively small increases in interest rates.  20 years ago, when I was trading junk bonds on Wall St, a 60 basis point rise in the 10yr or a 200 basis point rise in the dollar index would have be a non-event.  Now those types of moves permeate the current market and policy narrative.

In fact, the Fed is terrified by the Frankenstein stock market is has created to the extent that, since the sharp decline in August 2015, the Fed steps in to prevent the inevitable crash when a draw-down in the Dow/SPX approaches 10%.

With the dollar moving higher, gold is has been sluggish. Now the price is being attacked aggressively in the paper gold derivatives market.  The propaganda is that a rising dollar and rising rates are negative for gold.  However, gold had one of its best rate or return periods from mid-2005 to mid-2006 while the dollar was spiking higher.  More troubling, the trading pattern in gold and the dollar reminds me of the same pattern in 2008 – just before the de facto financial system collapse hit the hardest (click on image to enlarge):

The economy has been in a recession for most households below the top 1% in wealth and income. This chart is one of many examples showing that most households are not even fortunate enough to be living on the economic gerbil wheel. Instead, they are sliding backwards downhill in their debt/lease-saddled vehicle and the brakes are about to go out:

I would argue that the rising dollar – an concomitantly the obvious official attack on the price of gold – is the signal that the wheels are coming off the system. The Government issued nearly half-a-trillion dollars in Treasuries in Q1, thanks to the soaring defense and entitlement budget  combined with the massive tax cuts. The spending deficit and the flood of Treasury issuance is going to get worse from there and well beyond the CBO’s sanguine projections.

Throw in soaring oil and gasoline prices and rising household debt delinquency/default rates against a backdrop of stagnant wages and an accelerating ratio of household debt service payments to personal income and it’s pretty obvious that the wheels are coming off the system.

The U.S. economic and financial system is an enormously fraudulently Ponzi scheme in which record levels of money printing and credit creation have acted as temporary bandages placed over gaping cancerous economic wounds that are soon going to start hemorrhaging.

The homebuilders are already in a bear market, like the one that started in mid-2005 in the same stocks about 18 months before the stock market started heading south in 2007. My Short Seller’s Journal subscribers and I are raking in a small fortune shorting and buying puts on homebuilder stocks. As an example, I recommended shorting Hovnanian (HOV) at $2.88 in early January. It’s trading at $1.78 as I write this – a 38.2% ROR in 4 months. Anyone get that with AMZN in the last 4 months? You can learn more about the SSJ here: Short Seller’s Journal.

Sparks Fly Toward The Debt Powder Keg

The stock market has gone 74 days without making a new high but that hasn’t stopped the bulls from boasting about how it is up or flat six days in a row. I still say to sell into strength – David Rosenberg, Gluskin-Sheff

The narrative that the economy continues to improve is a myth, if not intentional mendacious propaganda. The economy can’t possibly improve with the average household living from paycheck to paycheck while trying to service hopeless levels of debt. In fact, the economy will continue to deteriorate from the perspective of every household below the top 1% in terms of income and wealth.

Theoretically, the Trump tax cuts will add about $90 per month of extra after-tax income for the average household. However, the average price of gasoline has risen close to 40% over the last year (it cost me $45 to fill my tank last week vs about $32 a year ago) For most households, the tax cut “windfall” will be largely absorbed by the increasing cost to fill the gas tank, which is going to continue rising. The highly promoted economic boost from the tax cuts will, instead, end up as a transfer payment to oil companies.

The Fed reported consumer credit for March last week. Consumer credit is primarily credit card, auto and student loan debt. The 3.6% SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) rate of increase over February was the slowest growth rate in consumer debt since September. Credit card debt outstanding actually dropped 3% (SAAR). But the 6% growth in non-revolving debt – auto/student loans – rose 6% (SAAR). Given the double-digit increase in truck sales in March, which offset the double digit decline in sedan sales, it’s safe to speculate that the increase in consumer credit during March was primarily loans to “buy” trucks/SUVs.

Remember, the average light truck/SUV sales ticket is about $13k more than for a sedan, which means that the average size of auto loans in March increased significantly during March. This is a horrifying thought in my opinion. Here’s why (original chart source was Wolfstreet.com):

As you can see, the rate of subprime 60-day-plus delinquencies is nearly 6%, which is substantially higher than during the peak financial crisis years. Why is this not directly affecting the system yet? It is but we’re not seeing it because the banks are still sitting on unused “excess reserves” – pain killers – that were given to them by the Fed’s QE program. The excess reserves act to “buffer” the banks from debt defaults, which in turn enables the banks to defer taking these auto loans into foreclosure and writing them off. But this will only serve to defer the inevitable:  debt defaults in quantities that will far exceed the amount of debt that blew up in the 2008 financial crisis.  Bank excess reserves are down 13% since August 2017.

I knew at the time that the Fed’s QE program was a part of the Fed’s strategy to build a “cushion” into bank balance sheets for the next time around. The only problem is that the size of the debt bomb has grown disproportionately to the size of the “cushion” and it’s only a matter of time before debt defaults blow a big hole in bank balance sheets.

Here’s the other problem with the statistic above. The regulators, along with FICO, lowered the bar on differentiating between prime and subprime. Despite the supposed effort to tighten lending standards since 2008, it’s just as easy to get a loan now as it was in 2007 and the variables that differentiate sub-prime from prime have blurred. I witnessed this first-hand when I accompanied a friend to buy a near-new car from a major Audi dealer in Denver. Based on monthly income, I advised him to buy a less expensive car. But Wells Fargo was more than happy to make the loan with very little money down relative to the cost of the car. No proof of income disclosure was necessary despite being self-employed. The friend’s credit rating is a questionable mid-600’s

This is the type of loan transaction that occurs 1000’s of times each day at car dealers across the country. If we had gone to one of the seedy “finance any credit” used car dealers, getting the loan would have been even easier because those car brokers also use credit unions and other non-bank private capital “pools” like Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC) and Exeter Finance (private).

Student loans are not worth discussing because no one else does. Someone with a student loan outstanding can easily put the loan into “deferment” or “forbearance,” which makes it difficult to assess the true delinquency/default rate on the $1.53 trillion amount outstanding (as of the end of March). However, I have seen estimates that the real rate of serious delinquency is more like 40%. Most borrowers who defer or request forbearance do so because they can’t make current payments. Again, this is one of the bigger “white elephants” that is visible but not discussed (the $21+ trillion of Treasury debt is another white elephant).

The debt bubble and implosion will push homebuilder stocks off the cliff.   Several of my subscribers plus myself are raking in money shorting and buying puts on homebuilders stocks.  I took 50% profits on the puts I bought late last week.

The commentary above is an excerpt from last Sunday’s Short Seller’s Journal. My Short Seller’s Journal is a unique newsletter that presents the alternative to the “bull” case. It also presents short ideas, along with put strategies, every week. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

More Evidence That The Fed And Big Banks Collude?

Should this surprise anyone?

An interesting study by a Phd candidate at the University of Chicago is being released which shows a statistically high incidence in taxi trips between the NY Fed and big NY banks clustered around FOMC meetings:

Mr. Finer writes that “highly statistically significant patterns in New York City yellow taxi rides suggest that opportunities for information flow between individuals present at the New York Fed and individuals present at major commercial banks increase around” meetings of the interest-rate setting FOMC.

“Their geography, timing and passenger counts are consistent with an increase in planned meetings causally linked to the incidence of monetary-policy activities,” he wrote. “I find highly statistically significant evidence of increases in meetings at the New York Fed late at night and in off-site meetings during typical lunch hours,” which is suggestive of “informal or discreet communication.”

“As reported by the Wall St. Journal, but curiously absent from Fox Business reporting – both organizations are owned by Rupert Murdoch – Mr. Finer used government-provided GPS coordinates, vehicle information and other travel data to track taxi traffic between the addresses of the New York Fed and major banks. His research pointed to increased traffic between the destinations around lunch and late evening hours, which suggested informal meetings were taking place, Mr. Finer wrote in his paper. He found elevated numbers of rides around Federal Open Market Committee meetings, with most of them coming after the gathering.” (WSJ)

This should not surprise anyone. It actually makes sense. The Fed is owned by the Too Big Too Fail banks and, without question, have an inordinate amount of influence on Fed policy.

You can read the entire article here: Increase in Fed/NY Bank Meetings Around FOMC Meetings.