Tag Archives: stock bubble

Key Economic Data Continue To Show A Recession

Goldman Sachs’ net income declined 42% from 2009 to 2016.   How many of  you reading this were aware of that fact?  Yet GS’ stock price closed today 36% above its 2009 year-end closing price.  See below for details.

Auto sales in April declined again, with the Big Three domestic OEMs (GM, F and Chrysler) missing Wall St estimates by a country mile.  The manipulated SAAR (seasonally adjusted annualize rate) metric put a thin layer of lipstick on the pig by showing a small gain in sales from March to April.  But this is statistical sleight of hand.  The year over year actuals for April don’t lie:   GM -5.7%, F -7% and Chrysler -7.1%.  What is unknown is to what extent the numbers reported as “sales” were nothing more than cars being shipped from OEM factory floors to dealer inventory, where it will sit waiting for an end-user to take down a big subprime loan in order to use the car until it gets repossessed.

The growth in loan origination to the key areas of the economy – real estate, general commercial business and the consumer – is plunging. This is due to lack of demand for new loans, not banks tightening credit. If anything, credit is getting “looser,” especially for mortgages. Since the Fed’s quantitative easing and near-zero interest rate policy took hold of yields, bank interest income – the spread on loans earned by banks (net interest margin) – has been historically low. Loan origination fees have been one of the primary drivers of bank cash flow and income generation. Those four graphs above show that the loan origination “punch bowl” is becoming empty.

HOWEVER, the Fed’s tiny interest rate hikes are not the culprit. Loan origination growth is dropping like rock off a cliff because consumers largely are “tapped out” of their capacity to assume more debt and, with corporate debt at all-time highs, business demand for loans is falling off quickly. The latter issue is being driven by a lack of new business expansion opportunities caused by a fall-off in consumer spending. If loan origination continues to fall off like this, and it likely will, bank earnings will plunge.

But it gets worse. As the economy falls further into a recession, banks will get hit with a double-whammy. Their interest and lending fee income will decline and, as businesses and consumers increasingly default on their loans, they will be forced to write-down the loans they hold on their balance sheet. 2008 all over again.

Because of this, I think Goldman Sachs (GS) makes a great short idea, although I don’t want to suggest timing strategies. It’s an idea that, in my view, you need to short a little at a time and add to it if the stock moves against you. I could also be a good “crash put” idea.

Goldman will be hit by a fall-off in loan demand and by a big drop in the fees from securitizing the loans it underwrites into asset-backed securities (ABS). In addition, GS facea an even bigger drop in the fees from structuring and selling OTC “hedge” derivatives to the buyers of Goldman-underwritten loans and ABS.

Goldman’s net interest income has declined over the last three years from $4.1 billion in 2014 to $2.6 billion in 2016. This is a 36.5% drop. To give you an idea of the degree to which bank net interest income has dropped since the “great financial crisis,” in its Fiscal Year 2009, Goldman’s net interest income was $7.4 billion. That’s a 64% drop over the time period.  In FY 2009, Goldman’s net income was $12.2 billion. In 2016, GS’ net income was $7.1 billion, as 42% decline.

To give you an idea of how overvalued GS stock is right now, consider this: At the end of GS’ FY 2007, 6 months before the “great financial crisis” (i.e. the de facto banking system collapse), Goldman’s p/e ratio was 9.5x. At the end of its FY 2009, its p/e ratio was 6.9x. It’s current p/e ratio 13.5x. And the factors driving Goldman’s business model, other than Federal Reserve and Government support, are declining precipitously.

As for derivatives…On its 2016 10-K, Goldman is showing a “notional” amount of $41 trillion in derivatives in the footnotes to its financials. This represents the sum of the gross long and short derivative contracts for which Goldman has underwritten. Out of this amount, after netting longs, shorts and alleged hedges, Goldman includes the $53 billion in “net” derivatives exposure as part of its “financial instruments” on the asset side of its balance sheet. Goldman’s book value is $86 billion.

If Goldman and its accountants are wrong by just 1% on Goldman’s “net” derivatives exposure, Goldman’s net derivatives exposure would increase to $94 billion – enough to wipe out Goldman’s book value in a downside market accident (like 2008). If Goldman and its “quants” have mis-judged the risk exposure Goldman faces on the $41 trillion in gross notional amount of derivatives to which Goldman is involved by a factor of 10%, which is still below the degree to which GS underestimated its derivatives exposure in 2008, it’s lights out for Goldman and its shareholders.

Think about that for a moment. We saw how wrong hedge accounting was in 2008 when Goldman’s derivative exposure to just AIG was enough to wipe Goldman off the Wall Street map had the Government not bailed out the banks. I would bet any amount of money that Goldman’s internal risk managers and its accountants are off by significantly more than 1%. That 1% doesn’t even account for the “fudge” factor of each individual trading desk hiding positions or misrepresenting the value of hedges – BOTH crimes of which I witnessed personally when I was a bond trader in the 1990’s.

As you can see in the 1-yr daily graph above, GS stock hit an all-time high on March 1st and has dropped 12.5% since then. I marked what appears to be a possible “double top” formation. The graph just looks bearish and it appears Goldman’s stock is headed for its 200 dma (red line,$202 as of Friday). To save space, I didn’t show the RSI or MACD, both of which indicate that GS stock is technically oversold.

The analysis above is from the April 16th issue of IRD’s Short Seller’s Journal. I discussed shorting strategies using the stock plus I suggested a “crash put” play. To find out more about the Short Seller’s Journal, use this link: SSJ Subscription information. There’s no minimum subscription period commitment. Try it for a month and if you don’t think it’s worth it, you can cancel. Subscribers to the SSJ can subscribe to the Mining Stock Journal at half-price.

On The Home-Stretch To Collapse

The warning signs are there but very few look for them or want to see them. But it’s a dynamic in which once you see it you can’t “unsee” it. A teacher I know told me this morning that Colorado school districts are quietly cutting staff across all districts. The only reason this would be occurring is that the State is projecting a decline in tax revenues. The only reason tax revenues would be declining is because economic activity is slowing or contracting. And Colorado supposedly has one of the more “vibrant” State economies.

The soaring level of “hope” that, for some unexplainable reason, accompanied the election of Trump is now crashing. The so-called “hard data” which somewhat measures the level of economic activity never moved higher in order to justify the optimism – an optimism tragically seeded in ignorance. As an example, the Kansas City Fed released its economic survey today. The composite index crashed from 20 to 7. Not surprisingly, Wall Street snake-oil salesmen – otherwise known as “economists” – were expecting a reading of 17 on the index.

As for individual components of the index, the average workweek and number of employees dropped; the production component of the index fell precipitously; and new orders collapsed. In fact, new orders expectations fell below the pre-Trump level. The six-month outlook metric – aka the hope index – plunged to its lowest level since November.

The truth is that all of the regional Fed economic activity surveys were largely driven by “hope,” which registered in the form of new orders for goods that will sit on the shelves of car dealers and non-food retailers and in the form of “expectations” about the level of economic activity in six months.

But there has not been any follow-through in form of actual growth in economic activity to justify the unrealistic level of “hope.” Real disposable income and the real level of retail/auto sales have been declining on the way to a tail-spin plunge. Any pulsations in final retail sales and home purchases have been fueled by the parabolic issuance of sub-prime quality debt. In fact, an increasing percentage of home purchases are from aspiring flippers. We are at the point in the cycle, just like 2007-2008, in which many of these flipper purchases will never end up with end-users and instead will land on bank balance sheets.

Auto sales through the end of March were down 10% since the beginning of 2017, resulting in the steepest decline in auto sales since 2009.  New car inventory at some of the biggest auto dealers around Denver is spilling over into the giant parking lots at vacant malls as OEMs push overproduction onto the dealer network.   Once the debt capacity of those still buying pick-up trucks at record incentive pricing hits the wall, the auto industry will see a spectacular cliff-dive.  The Government is too broke to provide the “cash for clunker” safety-net put in place in 2010.

In addition to trillions in printed (electronically generated) currency, the Fed has been able to fabricate the illusion of economic growth with an enormous amount of credit creation.   Credit is debt-issuance.   The part about debt that is conveniently overlooked by economists is that borrowed money behaves like printed money until it has to be repaid. The problem is that most debt created in the U.S. is never repaid.  For instance, the level of outstanding Government debt has been increasing every day since before Nixon closed the gold window.  This is not “debt” in the traditional sense of a loan that gets repaid.  This is money printing.

Consumer  and corporate debt levels have been rising in parabolic fashion and are at all-time highs.  Given that large chunks of this debt will never be repaid, just like in 2008-2009, the issuance of this debt is the same as printed money.  Amusingly, though not surprisingly, the Fed stopped reporting the total amount of debt outstanding in the system (Government + Corporate + Household) on March 25, 2016.  On that day the total debt outstanding was $63.5 trillion.  It’s likely well over $65 trillion by now.   That debt, until it’s repaid, is no different that printed currency.

This would be great in a pretend world in which debt could be issued to borrowers ad infinitum.  It would be the proverbial money tree on which free lunches blossomed for everyone forever.  Unfortunately, debt can not be issued in increasing amounts to eternity. Currently it would appear as if the non-Government borrower segment of the debt statistic has reached its borrowing capacity.   It happens gradually then all at once.   The United States is getting close to the “all at once” stage.

This is why the Deep State has resorted to the last stage of history’s Empiric life-cycle curve:  when all else fails start a war…

 

The Deep State Transcends Sovereign Law

The ultimate form of political and economic power is the power to commit crimes with impunity.  – John Titus

The Shadow of Truth is pleased to present a preview of, “All The Plenary’s Men,” the new film by John Titus (Best Evidence videos / Bailout Films).   The term “plenary” in this context is defined as, “complete in every respect;” as in, “plenary power,” meaning, “absolute power.”

In his spectacularly prophetic dystopian novel, “1984,” George Orwell offered the following observation about power:

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

The quiet revolution occurring behind the facade that is called “Washington, DC” for several decades has led to the complete hijacking of the U.S. Government by an entity nefariously known as, “The Deep State.”   Those who warned about The Deep State previously were labelled conspiracy theorists.  Now, with the help of Wikileaks, the idea of the Deep State is openly discussed even in the mainstream media.  The Deep State is Orwell’s Big Brother.

The ultimate power is the power to commit crimes with impunity, meaning that the entity committing the crime does so free from fear of punishment.   We saw this with the Iraq invasion in several respects.  The invasion was never sanctioned by the UN Security Council or in accordance with  the UN’s founding Charter.   It was an illegal war waged by what has become the world’s most dangerous terrorist:  The U.S. Deep State.   Big oil is
part of the Deep State.  Therefore, when Halliburton was caught charging the U.S. taxpayer $10/gallon for gasoline being sold to the military in Iraq, Halliburton was never punished.

Even more horrifying was watching the Too Big To Fail banks break ev
ery major securities law in the rule book leading up to the financial collapse of 2008 and escape free from any form of prosecution.  Not only were these banks allowed to trample all over the law, but the Government  used $800 billion of taxpayer money to keep the banks from collapsing and to enable the banks to pay large bonuses that year.

The primary theme underlying John Titus,’ “All The Plenary’s Men,” is that any entity that can commit crimes with impunity has risen above a nation’s sovereign law.  In fact, that entity IS the sovereign authority.   Thus, The Deep State is the sovereign authority standing behind the U.S. Government.  The Deep State is comprised of not just the NSA, CIA and Pentagon, but also Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Healthcare and Big Technology.

“We’ve been swirling down the toilet as a nation since 2007” (John Titus).  The Shadow Truth chatted with John about his upcoming film, for which he provided a thoroughly engrossing, if not chilling, trailer:

Make America Great Again: Buy Extremely Overvalued Stocks

Key Economic Data Continues To Show A Recession

The stock market assumed a decidedly bearish tone last week, in the face of apparent domestic political instability, increasing geopolitical tensions and, most important, a continued flow of hard economic data reflecting an economy that is in recession (click image to enlarge).

The SPX declined 3 out of the 4 trading days this last week to close down 1.1% from the previous Friday’s close. It’s down nearly 3% from the all-time high it hit on March 1st. Thursday’s big red bar took the SPX below the 50 dma. On all four days the SPX closed well below its intra-day high. This indicates to me that, at least for now, stock market traders are better sellers. Also of interest, for the first time in seventeen years, the stock market declined the day before the Good Friday market holiday.

The growth in loan origination to the key areas of the economy – real estate, general commercial business and the consumer – is plunging. This is due to lack of demand for new loans, not banks tightening credit. If anything, credit is getting “looser,” especially for mortgages. Since the Fed’s quantitative easing and near-zero interest rate policy took hold of yields, bank interest income – the spread on loans earned by banks (net interest margin) – has been historically low. Loan origination fees have been one of the primary drivers of bank cash flow and income generation. Those four graphs above show that the loan origination “punch bowl” is becoming empty.

HOWEVER, the Fed’s tiny interest rate hikes are not the culprit. Loan origination growth is dropping like rock off a cliff because consumers largely are “tapped out” of their capacity to assume more debt and, with corporate debt at all-time highs, business demand for loans is falling off quickly. The latter issue is being driven by a lack of new business expansion opportunities caused by a fall-off in consumer spending. If loan origination continues to fall off like this, and it likely will, bank earnings will plunge.

But it gets worse. As the economy falls further into a recession, banks will get hit with a double-whammy. Their interest and lending fee income will decline and, as businesses and consumers increasingly default on their loans, they will be forced to write-down the loans they hold on their balance sheet. 2008 all over again.  (The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal).

Despite the propaganda coming from the media, the housing market is in trouble.  37% of all transactions in 2016 were flips.  A flip double-counts a sale because the house trades twice before it ends up with the end-user.  I would bet that in the $300-$600k price-bucket that close to 50% of all transactions YTD in 2017 have been flips.  This is how the mid-2000’s housing bubble ended.

Today the housing starts report for March registered the biggest drop in four months.  Single family starts plunged 32% in the midwest and 16% in the west.   Both multi-family and single-family starts dropped.  Multi-family is going to be a big problem.  Prices in NYC and Miami are dropping like a rock and vacancies are soaring because of oversupply – just like in 2007.  Apartment rental rates are falling quickly and vacancy rates soaring across all the major MSA’s.   Manufacturing  output plunged in March, likely reflecting bulging car inventories at auto dealers, which are at  a post-2009 high.   OEM auto manufacturers are closing plants and laying off workers.  The latter, no doubt, will miraculously fail to register in the Governments next employment report.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues disconnect from underlying economic reality. Auto, retail and restaurant sales are plunging. The explanation for falling retail sales is simple: real average weekly earnings have dropped two months in a row. The consumer, as I’ve been suggesting, is tapped out on two fronts: disposable income and the capacity to take on more debt.

Despite the obvious intervention in the stock market by the Fed and the Government, via the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, plenty of stocks are tanking. As an example, I recommended shorting Kate Spade (KATE) to my Short Seller Journal subscribers about a month ago at $23.50. The stock is trading at $18 this morning – 23% gain if you shorted the stock and even more if you used puts. You can get in-depth economic and market analysis plus ideas for taking advantage of the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history via IRD’s Short Seller’s Journal. For more information, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal Subscription Information.

The Biggest Stock Bubble In U.S. History

Please note, many will argue that the p/e ratio on the S&P 500 was higher in 1999 than it is now. However, there’s two problems with the comparison. First, when there is no “e,” price does not matter. Many of the tech stocks in the SPX in 1999 did not have any earnings and never had a chance to produce earnings because many of them went out of business. However – and I’ve been saying this for quite some time and I’m finally seeing a few others make the same assertion – if you adjust the current earnings of the companies in SPX using the GAAP accounting standards in force in 1999, the current earnings in aggregate would likely be cut at least in half. And thus, the current p/e ratio expressed in 1999 earnings terms likely would be at least as high as the p/e ratio in 1999, if not higher. (Changes to GAAP have made it easier for companies to create non-cash earnings, reclassify and capitalize expenses, stretch out depreciation and pension funding costs, etc).

We talk about the tech bubble that fomented in the late 1990’s that resulted in an 85% (roughly) decline on the NASDAQ. Currently the five highest valued stocks by market cap are tech stocks: AAPL, GOOG, MSFT, AMZN and FB. Combined, these five stocks make-up nearly 10% of the total value of the entire stock market.

Money from the public poured into ETFs at record pace in February. The majority of it into S&P 500 ETFs which then have to put that money proportionately by market value into each of the S&P 500 stocks.   Thus when cash pours into SPX funds like this, a large rise in the the top five stocks by market cap listed above becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The price rise in these stocks has nothing remotely to do with fundamentals. Take Microsoft, for example (MSFT). Last Friday the pom-poms were waving on Fox Business because MSFT hit an all-time high. This is in spite of the fact that MSFT’s revenues dropped 8.8% from 2015 to 2016 and its gross margin plunged 13.2%. So much for fundamentals.

In addition to the onslaught of retail cash moving blindly into stocks, margin debt on the NYSE hit an all-time high in February. Both the cash flow and margin debt statistics are flashing a big red warning signal, as this only occurs when the public becomes blind to risk and and bet that stocks can only go up. As I’ve said before, this is by far the most dangerous stock market in my professional lifetime (32 years, not including my high years spent reading my father’s Wall Street Journal everyday and playing penny stocks).

Perhaps the loudest bell ringing and signaling a top is the market’s valuation of Tesla.  On Monday the market cap of Tesla ($49 billion) surpassed Ford’s market cap  ($45 billion) despite the fact that Tesla deliver 79 thousand cars in 2016 while Ford delivered 2.6 million.    “Electric Jeff” (as a good friend of mine calls Elon Musk, in reference to Jeff Bezos) was on Twitter Monday taunting short sellers.  At best his behavior can be called “gauche.”   Musk, similar to Bezos, is a masterful stock operator.   Jordan Belfort (the “Wolf of Wall Street”) was a small-time dime store thief compared to Musk and Bezos.

Tesla has never made money and never will make money.  Next to Amazon, it’s the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.  Without the massive tax credits given to the first 200,000 buyers of Tesla vehicles,  the Company would likely be out of business by now.

Once again the public has been seduced into throwing money blindly at anything that moves in the stock market, chasing dreams of risk-free wealth.  99% of them will never take money off the table and will lose everything when this bubble bursts.  And only the biggest stock bubble in history is capable of enabling operators like Musk and Bezos to reap extraordinary wealth at the expense of the public.   The bell is ringing, perhaps Musk unwittingly rang it on Monday with hubris.  The only question that remains pertains to timing…

If you are looking for ideas to take advantage of the inevitable stock market implosion, try out my Short Seller’s Journal.  It’s a weekly subscription newsletter delivered PDF form via email that drills down into the latest economic data and presents short-sell and put option ideas.  You can find out more and subscribe using this link:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Market Has Its Head Buried Deep In The Sand

Several “black swans” are looming which could inflict a financial nuclear accident on the U.S. markets and financial system.   I say “black swans” in quotes because a limited audience is aware of these issues – potentially catastrophic problems that are curiously ignored by the mainstream financial media and financial markets.

The most immediate problem is the Treasury debt ceiling.  The Treasury is now projected to run out of cash by mid-summer.  Of course, in the spurious manner in which the markets evaluate the next trade, July may as well be a decade away.  My best guess is that the “market” assumes that, after drawn out staging of DC’s version of Kabuki Theatre, Congress will raise the debt ceiling, probably up to $22 trillion.  Then the Fed will extend its highly secretive “swap” operations to foreign “ally” Central Banks (hint:  Belgium and Switzerland) in order to fund the onslaught of Treasury issuance that will ensue.  Problem solved…or is it?

(Note:  Plan B would be another one of Trump’s bewildering Executive Orders removing the debt ceiling.  Plan B is another form of “fiat” currency issuance)

The second “black swan” seen by some but invisible to most is the ongoing collapse the shopping mall business model, erroneously blamed on the combative growth of online retailing.  But when I look at the actual numbers, that argument smells foul.

Is Online Retailing Actually The Cause Of Brick/Mortar Retail Apocalypse?

More than 3,500 stores are scheduled to be shuttered in the next few months. JC Penny,
Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, Crocs, BCBC, Bebe, Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess are some of the
marquee retailing names that will be closing down mall and strip mall stores. The Limited is going out of business and closing down all 250 of its stores.

The demise of the mall “brick and mortar” retail store is popularly attributed to the growth in online retail sales. To be sure, online retailing is eating into the traditional retail sales
distribution mechanism – but not as much as the spin-meisters would have have you believe. At the beginning of 2015, e-commerice sales were about 7% of total retail sales. By the end of 2016, that metric rose to 8.3%. However, looking at the overall numbers reveals that nominal retail sales have increased for both brick/mortar stores and online. In Q4 2015, total nominal retail sales were $1.186 trillion. Brick/mortar was $1.096 trillion and online was 89.7 billion, which was 7.6% of total retail sales. In Q4 2016, total sales were $1.235 trillion with brick/mortar $1.133 trillion and online $102.6 billion, which was 8.3% of total retail sales.

As you can see, there was nominal growth for both brick/mortar and online retailers. My point here is that the spin-meisters present the narrative that online retailers are eating alive the brick/mortar retailers. That’s simply not true.   Part of the problem that the total retail sales “pie” is shrinking, especially when analyzing the inflation-adjusted numbers.  I created a graph on from the St. Louis Fed’s “FRED” database that surprised even me (click to enlarge):

The graph above shows the year over year percentage change in nominal (not inflation-adjusted) retail sales on a monthly basis from 1993 (as far back as the retail sales data goes) thru February 2017, ex-restaurant sales, vs. outstanding consumer credit. As you can see, since 1994 the growth in nominal retail sales on a year over year basis has been in a downtrend, while the level of consumer credit outstanding as been in a steady uptrend. Since 2014, the rate of growth in debt has exceeded the rate of growth in retail sales. If we were to adjust the retail sales using just the Government-reported CPI measure of “inflation” retail sales would be outright declining.

The problem with the mall business model is debt.  The mall-anchor retailers who are vacating mall space like cockroaches vacate a kitchen when the light is flipped on have been leveraged to the hilt by the financial engineers who control them who in turn have been enabled by the most permissive Federal Reserve in U.S. history.   Too be sure, online retailing is cutting into the margins of Macy’s, JC Pennies, Sears, Dillards, etc.  But these companies would have no problem “fighting back” if they were not over-leveraged to the eyeballs.

Layer on top of that the leverage employed by the mall REITs and the recipe for a financial crisis larger than the 2008 “big short” mortgage/housing crisis has been created.  To compound this problem, mall owners are now starting to mail in the keys to financially troubled malls:   More mall landlords are choosing to walk away from struggling properties, leaving creditors in the lurch and posing a threat to the values of nearby real estate…[as] some of the largest U.S. landlords are calculating it is more advantageous to hand over ownership to lenders than to attempt to restructure debts on properties with darkening outlooks (LINK).

But it gets worse. I referenced the consumer’s ability to borrow in order to spend money. Economic activity in the United States has relied heavily on an increasing amount of debt issuance for several decades. At some point consumer borrowers reach a point at which they can no longer support taking on more debt, whether in the form of mortgages, auto loans/leases or credit cards. The problem for the U.S. financial system is that there will be widespread defaults on the consumer debt that’s already been issued.   The average U.S. household has “hit a wall” on the amount of debt it can absorb.  This is why restaurant and retail sales are dropping and why auto sales have rolled over.  All three will get worse this year.

This Will Crush The Pensions

Finally, the third “invisible” black swam is the looming pension crisis.  A colleague of mine who works at a pension fund did a study last year in which he concluded that, because of the extreme degree of public pension underfunding, a 10% decline in the stock market for a sustained period – i.e. more than 3 or 4 months – would cause every single public pension fund to blow up.  As he has access to better data than most, he also surmised that the degree of underfunding is 2-3x greater than is publicly acknowledged by the mainstream media (see this article for instance:  Bloomberg claims $1.9 trillion underfunding).

Circling back to the mall/REIT ticking time-bomb, while the Fed can keep the stock market propped up as means of preventing an immediate nuclear melt-down in U.S. pensions (all of which are substantially “maxed-out” in their mandated equities allocation), the collapse of commercial mortgage-back securities (CMBS) will have the affect of launching a nuclear sub-missile directly into the side of the U.S. financial system.

The commercial mortgage market is about $3 trillion, of which about $1 trillion has been packaged into asset-backed securities and stuffed into yield-starved pension funds. Without a doubt, the same degree of fraud of has been used to concoct the various tranches in these CMBS trusts that was employed during the mid-2000’s mortgage/housing bubble, with full cooperation of the ratings agencies then and now.   Just like in 2008, with the derivatives that have been layered into the mix, the embedded leverage in the commercial mortgage/CMBS/REIT model is the financial equivalent of the Fukushima nuclear power plant collapse.

It’s a  matter of time before a lit match hits one of the three lethal powder-kegs described above.  This is why the bank stocks were hit particularly hard last week when the Dow was in the middle of its 8-day losing streak.  Of course, all it took to spike the Dow/SPX higher was a couple of immaterial “consumer confidence” reports in order to reflate the stock market with some “hope.”   Don’t forget, the last time consumer confidence high-ticked was in 1999, right before the tech bubble imploded.

Unfortunately, the next financial catastrophe that is going hit the system, and for which the Fed is helpless to prevent, will make everyone yearn for just the tech bubble or “big short” bubble collapses.   Meanwhile, the stock market and its collective universe of “investors” will continue sticking its head deeper into the sand, oblivious to the sling blade that is swings closer to its neck.

Portions of the above analysis were excerpted from the current Short Seller’s Journal. That issue contained more in-depth data and two short ideas, a mall REIT and retailer that has bubbled up beyond comprehension.   You can learn more about the Short Seller Journal here:   SSJ Weekly Subscription.

Artificial Paper Markets And Real Gold

In the four trading days following the election, approximately 6200 tonnes of gold (2,000,000 contracts) traded on Comex. That is equivalent to two years of global gold mining production…That hair-trigger trading reaction led to a price smash of 4.5% and turned the trading sentiment for gold from positive to negative almost overnight. The question is where did sellers come up with 6200 tonnes – a preposterously enormous and unprecedented quantity of gold – on a moment’s notice, in the wee hours following the surprising election outcome? – John Hathaway on King World News

Perhaps what’s most interesting about Hathaway’s comment above is that sometime in the last few years Hathaway’s viewpoint has shifted from denial that the gold market is manipulated to seemingly full acceptance of that obvious fact.

The official entities in the western hemisphere who operate to keep the price of gold artificially restrained, using paper gold based on the fact that most western buyers never care to take actual delivery, no longer make an effort to cover-up their manipulative activities.  Anyone involved in trading and investing in the precious metals market who denies that the markets are rigged is likely in some way connected to or benefiting from the manipulation.

The same holds true for the stock market.  Everyone has seen the statistics by now but just to mention the facts:  until last Tuesday’s market drop, the S&P 500 had gone 109 days without a 1% correction.   All of the previous periods that were longer than 109 days occurred before 1964 – when the U.S. was in its economic renaissance period – except one period in 1993.

The majority of the headline news reports this past week have focused on the lavish political stage show performances on Capitol Hill. It’s been a convenient distraction to divert attention away from the largely dismal economic reports. What’s more stunning than the childish verbal exchanges from alleged adults masquerading as responsible lawmakers is watching the stock market gyrate from hedge fund algorithm-driven volatility as the trading bots react to any headline connected to the ebb and flow of the healthcare bill drama. For some reason the hedge fund computers believe that the Trump healthcare legislation creates better earnings prospects than Obamacare for corporate America. After reading David Stockman’s assessment of the proposed Obamacare replacement bill, it’s not clear to me that the new legislation won’t be worse.

Just like the artificial paper markets in New York and London that are used to keep the price of gold and silver from rising, the western stock markets are prevented from falling by a web synthetic derivative securities and fraudulent financial reporting applications. Never before in history have stock market valuations been more disconnected from the underlying fundamental economic reality.

The U.S. Government will never stop issuing debt and it will never pay back the debt that it has issued.    In this regard, the U.S. financial and economic system has become an “act as if” system:   Act as if it’s real even though we know it’s not.   In today’s episode of the Shadow of Truth, we discuss the difference between fake markets and real gold and silver:

The West Is Collapsing As The East Ascends

The 24 Mega Green City infrastructure project in India will connect Delhi with Mumbai, creating a commerce corridor incorporating 21st century technologies and amenities. – Interview with ZincOne Resources’ Jim Walchuck, The Daily Coin

It seems absurd that Asia is willing and able to build high-speed “bullet” trains to connect large population centers while the United States struggles with an antiquated Amtrak rail system often beset with service interruptions and lethal accidents.   The truth of the matter is that the major U.S. metropolitan areas are beset with massive loads of debt, including a ticking-time debt-bomb in the form of several trillion dollars in unfunded public pension funds.

The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor is a major infrastructure project that India is developing with Japan. The project will upgrade nine mega industrial zones as well as the country’s high-speed freight line, three ports, and six airports. A 4,000 MW power plant and a six-lane intersection-free expressway will also be constructed, which will connect the country’s political and financial capitals.  – The Daily Coin

The 24 Mega City project underscores the economic, political and cultural contrast between the eastern and western hemisphere countries, with the sun setting in the west and rising in the east.  The west is mired in a catastrophic web of Government-heavy economies that exist on the life support of trillions in money printing and debt issuance. True, some countries like China have relatively high debt levels but they are offsetting that form of fiat currency debasement with massive gold accumulation.  The heart of the problem is highlighted by the graphic below (click to enlarge):

The budget for the U.S. Government will primarily be spent on social security, defense, medicare/medicaid and interest on the Government’s debt. Those five items will burn more two-thirds of the Government’s budgeted expenditures in Fiscal Year 2017.

But don’t bother asking how the Government plans on paying for that.   The funds will come from oldest forms of currency debasement: money printing and debt issuance.  And Trump’s proposed spending agenda will accelerate the growth rate of both .

It’s amazing that the U.S. Government seems to have unlimited funds available to spend on guns, bullets and surveillance of the citizenry.   Ranked in order of expenditures, The U.S. spends more on its military than the next 14 highest ranked countries.  “On the books,” the U.S. spent $597 billion in 2015.  That was 4x more than China and 9x more than Russia (source:  International Institute for Strategic Studies).

While the west, led by the United States, advances its collapse with rampant currency debasement and unbridled imperialism, the east is investing its resources in the future – in the advancement of its civilization.  Perhaps the hallmark of this contrast is best represented by the flow of physical gold from west to east.  The Shadow of Truth has devoted today’s episode discussing some of the signs pointing to the collapse of the west and the rise of the east:

Gold & Silver Soar After The Fed’s Clown Show

Stocks rally as the Fed once again shows how clueless they are at trying to manage the economy. – from @Stalingrad & Poorski

The Federal Reserve’s FOMC predictably nudged the Fed Funds rate up 25 basis points (one quarter of one percent) to set its “target” Fed Funds rate level at .75%-1%.   Nine of the faux-economists voted in favor of and one, Minneapolis Fed’s Neil Kashkari, voted against the meaningless rate hike.

Or is it meaningless?  Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Neil Kashkari was one of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretaries when the Government made the decision to bail out Wall Street’s biggest banks with nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer money.   It was also when the Fed dropped the Fed Funds rate from about 5% to near-zero percent.  Despite Yellen’s official stance that  the economy is expanding and the labor market is “tight” (with 37% of the working age population not considered part of the Labor Force – a little more than 94 million people) Kashkari voted against the tiny bump in interest rates.  This is likely because he is fully aware of risk to the banking system – perched catastrophically on hundreds of trillions in debt and derivatives – of moving interest rates higher.

The Fed’s goal is to “normalize” interest rates.  The financial media and Wall Street analysts embrace and discuss this idea of “normalized” interest rates but never define exactly what that means.  For the better part of the Fed’s existence, the “rule of thumb” was that long term rates (e.g. the 10-yr Treasury rate) should be about 3% above the rate of inflation.  And the Fed Funds rates should be equal to or slightly above the rate of inflation.

Using the Government’s highly rigged CPI index, it implies the Fed Funds rate would be “normalized” at approximately 2.7% and the 10-yr bond around 6% based on Wednesday’s CPI report.  Currently the Fed Funds rate is 3/4 – 1% and the 10-yr is 2.5%.  Of course, since the early 1970’s, the CPI calculation has been continuously reconstructed in order to hide the true rate of price inflation.  For instance, the current CPI index does not properly account for the rising cost of housing, education, healthcare and automobiles.

John Williams’ of Shadowstat.com  keeps track of price inflation using the methodology used by the Government to calculate the CPI in 1990 and 1980.  Using just the 1990 methodology, the rate of price inflation is 6.3%.  This would imply that a “normalized” Fed Funds rate would be around 6.5% and the 10-yr bond yield should be around 9.5%.    So much for this idea of “normalizing” interest rates.  Using the Government’s 1980 CPI methodology, Williams calculates that the stated CPI would be 10.3%.

Most of the hyperinflated money supply has been directed into stocks, bonds and real estate. But based on the cost of a basket of groceries, healthcare and housing alone, price inflation is accelerating.    If the Fed were to “normalize” interest rates at 6.3%, it would crash the financial and economic system.  In other words, the Fed is powerless to  use monetary policy in order to promote price stability, which is one of its mandates.

In today’s episode of the Shadow of Truth, we discuss the insanity that has gripped the markets as symbolized by the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meetings:

Bank Loans Take A Dive: It’s The Economy, Stupid

I am compelled to correct a report posted on Zerohedge about the cliff-dive going on in commercial, industrial and consumer loans.  The report in ZH suggested the plunge is connected to two possibilities:  1)  this one from a Wall Street sleazebag from Barclays: “it is possible that companies have shifted from the loan to the bond market, and are selling more bonds to lock in cheap financing before rates rise, while not encumbering assets with issuing unsecured debt;” and 2) political uncertainty connected to Trump.

The first possibility could have some small amount of legitimacy except that if you parse through all the data available at the Fed, you’ll see that bank credit has plunged across the entire spectrum of U.S. business (I used size of loan as the proxy). Smaller businesses do not have access to public credit markets and thus the first explanation is the typical apology for a negative economic report that we would expect from a Wall Street con-artist. The second possibility is part of the anti-Trump narrative found in the fake news reports coming from the ignorant.

“It’s The Economy, Stupid”

That quote was created by James Carville as one of Bill Clinton’s campaign slogans in 1992. Those words ring even truer today. A primary example is the restaurant industry numbers discussed above. “Hope” and “confidence” do not generate economic activity. And “hope” is not a valid investment strategy. A better guide to what’s happening to economic activity on Main Street is to see what banks are doing with their lending capital. I borrowed the two graphs below from the @DonDraperClone Twitter feed (click to enlarge):

Commercial bank lending is a great barometer of economic activity. The top graph above shows the year over year percentage change in commercial and industrial loans for all commercial banks. You can see that the rate of bank lending to businesses is falling doing a cliff-dive. These are primarily senior secured and revolving credit loans that sit at the top of the capital structure. If bank lending is slowing down like this, it means two things: 1) the ability of businesses to repay new loans is declining and 2) the asset values used to secure new loans will likely decline. In fact, it is highly probable that the tightening of credit by the banks is a directive from the Fed. Yes, the Fed.  Despite its public commentary suggesting otherwise,  the Fed knows as well as anyone that the economy is tanking.  This is why the Fed can’t hike rates up to a level that would bring real interest rates up to at a “neutral” level (using a real price inflation measure, Fed Funds needs to be reset to at least 6%, and likely higher, to get the real rate of interest up to zero).

The only reason the Fed might “nudge” interest rates higher next week is for credibility purposes. Everyone knows inflation is escalating, which makes it difficult for the Fed to keep interest rates so close to zero. In addition, a rate hike now, even though it will be insignificant in magnitude, will give the Fed room to take rates back to zero when the public and Congress begin to scream about economy.

The second graph shows the year over year percentage change in auto loans. The implications there are fairly self-explanatory. Auto sales are slowing down because the “universe” of potential prime and subprime rated car buyers, new and used cars, has been largely exhausted. In fact, with the default rate on subprime auto loans beginning to hit double-digits, the next phase in the automobile credit market will likely be credit implosion crisis.

The above commentary was an excerpt from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.