“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time. During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows. This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt. During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows. All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal? If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt. And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that. In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else. What will that do to home sales and car sales? And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession. We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up. We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that. The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.”
“What do 1929, 2000 and 2007 all have in common? Those were all years in which we saw a dramatic spike in margin debt. In all three instances, investors became highly leveraged in order to “take advantage” of a soaring stock market. But of course we all know what happened each time. The spike in margin debt was rapidly followed by a horrifying stock market crash. Well guess what? It is happening again. In April (the last month we have a number for), margin debt rose to an all-time high of more than 384 billion dollars. The previous high was 381 billion dollars which occurred back in July 2007. Margin debt is about 29 percent higher than it was a year ago, and the S&P 500 has risen by more than 20 percent since last fall. The stock market just continues to rise even though the underlying economic fundamentals continue to get worse. So should we be alarmed? Is the stock market bubble going to burst at some point? Well, if history is any indication we are in big trouble. In the past, whenever margin debt has gone over 2.25% of GDP the stock market has crashed. That certainly does not mean that the market is going to crash this week, but it is a major red flag.”
“We first discussed the possibility of state and local governments using eminent domain to ‘save us’ from further housing issues a year ago but now the NY Fed has gone one step further with an academic-based justification for why this process is not a “zero-sum-game” and will render all stakeholders better off. We can hear echoes of “trust us” in this commentary as the authors explain how multiple valuation methods will be used to ascertain “fair-value” – which has always worked so well in the past – and that we have “little to fear” from the resultant long-term contraction in liquidity or credit as bubbles can only inflate during times of easy credit availability (and that will never happen!)”
Via Zero Hedge
“Longtime contributor B.C. recently shared some eye-opening charts of debt in the U.S.The charts are self-explanatory, but I’ve added a few notes to highlight some of the key points.
Here is a chart of total government debt, local, state and Federal. For decades we’ve been assured by the delusional alliance of the Keynesian Cargo Cult and self-serving politicos that “deficits don’t matter.” Is adding debt while gross domestic product (GDP), wages, etc. are basically flatlined sustainable forever? Deficits don’t matter until they do, and that will likely be a Supernova Model event of sudden crisis and implosion. When Escape from a Previously Successful Model Is Impossible (November 29, 2012)”
Via Zero Hedge
“What in the world is China up to? Why are the Chinese hoarding so much gold? Does China plan to back the yuan with gold and turn it into a global reserve currency? Could it be possible that China actually intends for the yuan to eventually replace the U.S. dollar as the primary reserve currency of the planet? Most people in the western world assume that China just wants a “seat at the table” and is content to let the United States run the show. But that isn’t the case at all. The truth is that China doesn’t just want to compete with the United States. Rather, China actually plans to replace the United States as the dominant economic power on the planet. In fact, China already accounts for more global trade than the United States does. So what would happen one day if China announced that it was backing the yuan with gold and that it would no longer be using the U.S. dollar in international trade? It would cause a financial shift so cataclysmic that it is hard to even imagine. Most of those that write about the “death of the U.S. dollar” usually fail to point out that China is holding a lot of the cards as far as the fate of the dollar is concerned. China owns about a trillion dollars of our debt, China is the second largest economy on the planet, and nobody uses the dollar in international trade more than China does except for the United States. Up until now, China has had to use the U.S. dollar in international trade because there has not been an attractive alternative. But a gold-backed yuan would change all of that very rapidly.”
“This is no time to be complacent. Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine. In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing. Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer. Just look at what is happening in Europe. The eurozone is now in the midst of the longest recession that it has ever experienced. Just look at what is happening over in Asia. Economic growth in India is the lowest that it has been in a decade and the Japanese financial system is beginning to spin wildly out of control. One of the only places on the entire planet where serious economic problems have not already erupted is in the United States, and that is only because we have “kicked the can down the road” by recklessly printing money and by borrowing money at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, the “sugar high” produced by those foolish measures is starting to wear off. We are going to experience a massive amount of economic pain along with the rest of the world – it is just a matter of time.”
“Increasing housing prices and the stock market”s posting all-time highs haven’t helped the plight most Americans. The average U.S. household has recovered only 45 percent of the wealth they lost during the recession, according to a report released yesterday from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
This finding is a very different picture than one painted in a report earlier this year by the Fed that calculated Americans as a whole had regained 91 percent of their losses. The writers of the report released yesterday point out that the earlier number is based on aggregate household-net-worth data. However, this isn’t adjusted for inflation, population growth or the nature of the wealth. Further, they say much of recovery in net worth is because of the stock market, which means most of the improvement has been a boon only to wealthy families.”
Via CBS News
“37 million Americans currently have outstanding student loans, and the delinquency rate on those student loans has now reached a level never seen before. According to a new report that was just released by the U.S. Department of Education, 11 percent of all student loans are at least 90 days delinquent. That is a brand new record high, and it is almost double the rate of a decade ago. Total student loan debt exceeds a trillion dollars, and it is now the second largest category of consumer debt after home mortgages. The student loan debt bubble has been growing particularly rapidly in recent years. According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003. That is a staggering figure. Millions upon millions of young college graduates are entering the “real world” only to discover that they are already financially crippled for decades to come by oppressive student loan debt burdens. Large numbers of young people are even putting off buying homes or getting married simply because of student loan debt.”
“I suppose the first question is; what does it mean that we have the “world’s reserve currency”? At the end of WWII the allies met at Bretton Woods and decided to use the US dollar as the official world currency and that it would be backed by gold. All worldwide trade would be priced in dollars and settled in dollars. Food, energy (oil), etc from around the world would be priced and paid for in USD. New York became the financial center for all world trade.
Fast-forward to President Nixon in 1971 and the USD was cut loose from the gold standard due to OPEC oil imports and a growing imbalance of trade that was causing gold to flow out of the US in large amounts.”
Via Alt Market