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Financial Turmoil In Europe, China And The United States

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on June 19, 2015

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As we move toward the second half of 2015, signs of financial turmoil are appearing all over the globe.  In Greece, a full blown bank run is happening right now.  Approximately 2 billion euros were pulled out of Greek banks in just the past three days, Barclays says that capital controls are “imminent” unless a debt deal is struck, and there are reports that preparations are being made for a “bank holiday” in Greece.  Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are absolutely crashing.  The Shanghai Composite Index was down more than 13 percent this week alone.  That was the largest one week decline since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  In the U.S., stocks aren’t crashing yet, but we just witnessed one of the largest one week outflows of capital from the bond markets that we have ever witnessed.  Slowly but surely, we are starting to see the smart money head for the exits.  As one Swedish fund manager put it recently, everyone wants “to avoid being caught on the wrong side of markets once the herd realizes stocks are over-valued“.

I don’t think that most people understand how serious things have gotten already.  In Greece, so much money has been pulled out of the banks that the European Central Bank admits that Greek banks may not be able to open on Monday

The European Central Bank told a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Thursday that it was not sure if Greek banks, which have been suffering large daily deposit outflows, would be able to open on Monday, officials with knowledge of the talks said.

Greek savers have withdrawn about 2 billion euros from banks over the past three days, with outflows accelerating rapidly since talks between the government and its creditors collapsed at the weekend, banking sources told Reuters.

All over social media, people are sharing photos of long lines at Greek ATMs as ordinary citizens rush to get their cash out of the troubled banks.  Here is one example

 

And if there is no debt deal by the end of this month, the Greek debt crisis is going to totally spin out of control and financial chaos will begin to erupt all over Europe.  But instead of trying to be reasonable, EU president Donald Tusk “has delivered an ultimatum to Greece”, and it almost appears as if EU officials are more concerned about winning a power struggle than they are about averting financial catastrophe…

EU president Donald Tusk has delivered an ultimatum to Greece, claiming the country must ‘accept an offer or default’ at an emergency summit set for Monday – in a last-ditch effort to stop the debt-stricken nation crashing out of the euro.

‘We are close to the point where the Greek government will have to choose between accepting what I believe is a good offer of continued support or to head towards default,’ Mr Tusk said today.

His comments come as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned that his country’s exit from the eurozone would trigger the collapse of the single currency.

‘The famous Grexit cannot be an option either for the Greeks or the European Union,’ he said in an Austrian newspaper interview.

‘This would be an irreversible step, it would be the beginning of the end of the eurozone.’

While all of this has been going on, the obscene stock market bubble in China has started to implode.  Just check out the following numbers from Zero Hedge

As the carnage began last night in China we noted the extreme levels of volatility the major indices had experienced in recent weeks. By the close, things were ugly with the broad Shanghai Composite down a stunning 13.3% on the week – the most since Lehman in 2008 (with Shenzhen slightly better at down 12.8% and CHINEXT down a record-breaking 14.99%).

Under normal circumstances, numbers like these would be reason for a full-blown financial panic over in Asia.  But these are not normal times.  Even with these losses, stock prices in China are still massively overinflated.  For example, USA Today is reporting that the median stock over in China is “trading at 95 times earnings”…

Margin debt in China has soared to a record $363 billion, according to Bloomberg, and the median stock in mainland China is now trading at 95 times earnings, which even tops the price-to-earnings multiple of 68 back at the 2007 peak.

That is absolutely ridiculous.  When a stock is trading at 25 or 30 times earnings it is overpriced.  So these numbers that are coming out of China are beyond crazy, and what this means is that Chinese stocks have much, much farther to fall before they get back to any semblance of reality.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. money is flowing out of bonds at a staggering pace.  The following quote originally comes from Bank of America

“High grade credit funds suffered their biggest outflow this year, and double the previous week (and also the biggest since June 2013). High yield outflows also jumped to $1.1bn, the biggest since the start of the year. However, government bond funds suffered the most amid the recent spike in volatility, with outflows surging to the highest weekly number on record ($2.7bn). This brings the total outflow from fixed income funds to almost $6bn over the last week, the highest since the Taper Tantrum and the third highest outflow ever.”

What this means is that big trouble is brewing in the bond markets.  This is something that I warned about in my previous article entitled “Experts Are Warning That The 76 Trillion Dollar Global Bond Bubble Is About To Explode“.

For the moment, U.S. stocks are doing fine.  But just about everyone can see that we in a massive financial bubble that could burst at any time.  Presidential candidate Donald Trump says that what we are witnessing is a “big fat economic and financial bubble like you’ve never seen before”

Yesterday during an interview on MSNBC, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he has some big names in mind for the Treasury secretary if he wins the White House. “I’d like guys like Jack Welch. I like guys like Henry Kravis. I’d love to bring my friend Carl Icahn.” He also opined on the economy and the stock market, admitting that the Fed has benefited people like him but that the economy and is in a “big fat economic and financial bubble like you’ve never seen before.

Ron Paul also believes that this financial bubble is going to end very badly.  Just check out what he told CNBC earlier this week

Despite record highs in the market, former Rep. Ron Paul says the Fed’s easy money policies have left stocks and bonds are on the verge of a massive collapse.

“I am utterly amazed at how the Federal Reserve can play havoc with the market,” Paul said on CNBC’s “Futures Now” referring to Thursday’s surge in stocks. The S&P 500 closed less than 1 percent off its all-time high. “I look at it as being very unstable.”

In Paul’s eyes, “the fallacy of economic planning” has created such a “horrendous bubble” in the bond market that it’s only a matter of time before the bottom falls out. And when it does, it will lead to “stock market chaos.”

Yes, this financial bubble has persisted far longer than many believed possible, but all irrational bubbles eventually burst.

And you know what they say – the bigger they come the harder they fall.

When this gigantic financial bubble finally implodes, it is going to be absolutely horrifying, and the entire planet is going to be shocked by the carnage.

WHAT THE FED HAS WROUGHT

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 16, 2014

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The chart below might be the most powerful indictment of the Federal Reserve and our corporate fascist empire of debt ever created. Some people don’t get charts. Charts tell a story. This chart tells the story of elitist bankers supporting the agenda of a corporate fascist state, resulting in the gutting of the middle class. Anyone who views this chart in a positive manner is either a Federal Reserve banker or their paycheck is dependent upon the continuation of the pillaging of the working class. Corporate profits are at all-time highs. Profit margins have always reverted to the mean throughout modern history. If they remain at all-time highs then something is terribly wrong.

“Profit margins are probably the most mean-reverting series in finance, and if profit margins do not mean-revert, then something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. If high profits do not attract competition, there is something wrong with the system and it is not functioning properly.” – Jeremy Grantham, Barron’s

Here is the story I see in that chart. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP have averaged 6.5% over the last 67 years. As you can see, it is a volatile figure. Corporate profits rise during expansions and fall during recessions. That has been a given over time. The reason corporate profits have always reverted to the mean was due to the basic tenets of free market capitalism. When a company is generating outsized profits, that industry will then attract new competitors, resulting in price competition and lower profits. From 1950 through 1971, corporate profits as a percentage of GNP fluctuated in a narrow range between 5% and 7%. This was a reflection of a market driven by competition, a non-interventionist Federal Reserve, and a government not captured by corporate interests.

It is no coincidence since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and unleashed greedy bankers, feckless politicians, and self serving corporate executives to utilize easy money and prodigious amounts of debt to financialize our economic system and deform capitalism. The Fed created booms and busts are clearly evident on the chart. Nixon toady Arthur Burns created an inflationary boom in corporate profits to 8% of GNP in the late 70’s followed by the collapse to 3% caused by Volcker having to raise rates to extreme levels to crush the Burns created runaway inflation.

You can see exactly when the Maestro assumed command at the Fed and proceeded to introduce the Greenspan Put, encouraging speculation, borrowing and mal-investment. His easy money boom led to the dot com bubble that doubled corporate profits from their 1987 low. Of course the profits vaporized in an instant and plunged to 4% of GNP in 2001. Greenspan and then Bernanke  proceeded to drive interest rates to record lows creating a prodigious housing bubble resulting in the greatest level of mal-investment and financial fraud in world history. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP skyrocketed from 4% to 10% in the space of six years. The banking cabal had captured the system.

The Fed orchestra kept the music playing and Wall Street kept dancing the rumba with their corporate CEO dates. The Keynesian acolytes were ecstatic. The Austrians warned of the impending bust. No one listened. The collapse of the worldwide financial system was portrayed by the corporate mainstream media, bankers like Dimon, corporate CEOs like Immelt, billionaires like Buffet, captured government bureaucrats like Paulson, and politicians like McCain and Obama, as a systematic risk that required a taxpayer rescue of criminals.

The $800 billion gift to bankers and mega-corporations by the Washington DC Party of captured politicians was chicken feed compared to the $3.5 trillion of newly printed fiat handed to Wall Street and corporate America by Bernanke and Yellen. Five years of 0% interest rates have impoverished senior citizens and savers, but they have done wonders for Wall Street and mega-corporation profits, along with executive bonuses. Corporate profits soared from 4.5% of GNP to an all-time high of 10.5% in the space of three years and have remained at this elevated level.

Who Needs Wage Earners Anyway?

Is it a coincidence that corporate profits as a percentage of GNP are at record highs while employee compensation as a percentage of GNP is at record lows? Is it a coincidence that employee compensation as a percentage of GNP peaked at 51% in 1971? That year certainly seems to be a turning point in U.S. economic history. Gold’s purpose as a check on statists, Keynesians, politicians, bankers, and the military industrial complex couldn’t be any clearer. The decline has multiple causes, but the storyline about technology being the major cause is patently false. My observations are as follows:

  • From the end of World War II until the mid-1970s employee compensation as a percentage of GNP was consistently between 49% and 51%. The middle class saw their standard of living rise as wages outpaced inflation, savings rates were high and led to capital investment, debt was used for long term purchases like a home or automobile, and bankers accepted deposits and made safe loans. Technological progress over the thirty years was constant, but did not result in declining wages.
  • From the moment Nixon closed the gold window, employee compensation as percentage of GNP relentlessly declined for the next quarter of a century from 51% to 44%. Over this time frame our economy deformed from a goods producing system driven by savings and capital investment into a service/financial economy built upon consumer debt, conspicuous consumption and market gambling. Our iconic mega-corporations fired Americans and hired Chinese slave laborers, lobbied for tax breaks, invested in their own stock, kept wage increases below the level of true inflation, and paid extravagant compensation packages to their Harvard MBA executives.
  • The brief upturn created by Greenspan’s irrational exuberance 90’s boom was short lived. The relentless decline resumed after the dot com collapse, even as Greenspan and Bernanke blew their epic bubble. Their financial engineering machinations on behalf of Wall Street did nothing for the average worker on Main Street. Employee compensation as a percentage of GNP declined from 47% to 44% BEFORE the financial collapse.
  • Unequivocal proof that Bernanke’s sole purpose of QE and ZIRP was to benefit his Wall Street owners can be seen in the continued decline from 44% to 42% since 2008. There has been no recovery for the average American. Wall Street is rolling in dough. Corporate America is rolling in dough. Politicians are rolling in dough. The average American worker is rolling in dog shit.

The mouthpieces for the Deep State insist corporate profits have reached a permanently high plateau. It’s another new paradigm. Just like 1929, 1999, and 2007. Jeremy Grantham is right. The system is broken. The inmates are running the asylum. But financial engineering will not work permanently.  Baijnath Ramraika and Prashant Trivedi in their outstanding article Why Jeremy Grantham is Right about Corporate Profit Margins prove that corporate gross margins have not grown, technological advancement has not been a major factor, innovation and capital investment are non-existent, and corporate CEOs have utilized one time schemes to boost profits.

There are a few major reasons for record corporate profits. The Fed’s gift to banks and mega-corporations of zero interest rates have allowed S&P 500 corporations to refinance their existing debt and take on new debt at below market interest rates. The average interest rate paid by S&P 500 companies is now at all-time lows. Any normalization of interest rates would crush corporate profits.

Even though you hear constant propaganda from the corporate MSM, corporate CEOs, and captured politicians about the dreadful level of corporate taxes, the truth is that mega-corporations are paying record low levels of actual taxes. When profits are at record highs and tax payments at record lows you know they have captured the system. “Creative” tax avoidance and the FASB allowing banks to mark their assets to fantasy have played an enormous role in record profits.

The short term oriented casino mentality of corporate CEOs can be plainly seen in the fact depreciation expense as a percentage of revenue is at 25 year lows, resulting in short term profits but long-term decline. Instead of investing in capital to increase efficiency or expand their business, greedy myopic CEOs have chosen to buy back their own stock at all-time high prices. They did the same thing in 2005 – 2007. Driving up quarterly earnings per share to boost their own stock option compensation is how it rolls in corporate America today. Investing in their workers through higher wages isn’t even a consideration. They don’t teach that in Ivy League MBA programs. SG&A expenses as a percentage of revenue have been driven to all time lows, as outsourcing, downsizing, and working people to death have done wonders for corporate profits.

Ramraika and Trivedi reach damning conclusions of corporate America, based on their detailed unbiased research:

As the world moved increasingly towards the idea of shareholder-value maximization, time horizons for management and the shareholders have shortened. As Montier shows, the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 in the 1970s was about 27 years and is down to about 15 years now. In tandem, the average tenure of CEOs is down from about 10 years in the 1970s to about 6 years now. Combine this with the incentive systems prevalent today (think stock options), and it is only logical that a CEO who is going to be around for as few as six years and is going to get a large chunk of her rewards in stock options will want to see higher stock prices.

Cutting SGA expenses and postponing capital investments — actions that carry positive short-term earnings impact at the expense of a business’ competitiveness in the long-term — look promising to managers whose payoffs depend on stock prices in the short-term. Not surprisingly, the renters (there are hardly any owners any more) clamor for just such actions. The problem with this thinking is that the long-term eventually shows up. And when it does, profit margins will have no choice but to remember their long forgotten tendency to revert to mean.

Are interest rates going to be driven lower for corporations? Are taxes going to be driven lower? How many more people can corporations fire? Have economic downturns been eliminated by the Federal Reserve? Will record profits not result in increased competition and price wars? Can wages be driven even lower?

The financial, economic and political system has been captured by corporate fascist psychopaths. The Federal Reserve has aided and abetted this takeover. Their monetary manipulations have resulted in this deformity. Psychopaths always go too far. The American middle class has been murdered. Decades of declining real wages have left them virtually penniless, in debt up to their eyeballs, angry, frustrated, and unable to jump start our moribund economy by buying more Chinese produced crap. Yellen, her Wall Street puppeteers, and the corporate titans should enjoy those record profits and record stock market highs. It won’t last. Short-term profits will be wiped out, as long-term consequences always arrive when you least expect it. The artificial boom will lead to a real depression. Luckily for the oligarchs, most middle class Americans are already experiencing a depression and won’t notice the difference.

“True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late and to bring about a depression.” – Ludwig von Mises

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