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gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Anthony-Freda_web15

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 29, 2016

 


Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society. Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history. And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets. Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out. Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.” The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War. The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that. Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders. It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific. Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it. In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise. Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally. The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Burning Down the House

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Freda money

                                                                                                                                                          Anthony Freda

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 15, 2016

 


There’s a new feature to the Anything-Goes-and-Nothing-Matters economy: Nothing-Adds-Up. The magicians who pretend to measure the growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product — the monetary value of all the finished goods and services) came up with a second quarter “adjusted” figure of 1.2 percent. That would have to be construed by anyone acquainted with basic econ stats as perfectly dismal. And yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a sparkly Nonfarm Payroll Report of 255,000 for July, way above the forecast 180,000.

There were so many ways to game the jobs number — between people forced to work more than one shit job and the notorious “birth/death model” used to just make up any old number for political purposes — that no one can take this information seriously. Anyway, the GDP number was instantly forgotten and the jobs number launched the stock markets to previously uncharted record altitude.

It’s that time of the year for the hedge fund boys, with their testosterone flowing, to start burning down their house rentals in the Hamptons. And it’s also the time of year for an ever more stressed financial system to go down in flames. And, of course, it’s a presidential election season. Even for one allergic to conspiracy theories, it’s not farfetched to imagine a coordinated effort by central banks — under government direction — to generate Money-Out-Of-Thin-Air (QE) for the purpose of allowing “liquidity” flows to end up in US equity and bond markets in order to paint a false picture of “recovery” so as to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. I think that is exactly behind the recent money-printing activities by the Japanese and European Central Banks, and the Bank of England.

Why would it end up in US markets? For bonds, because the Euro and Japanese bond sovereign yields are in sub-zero territory and the BOE just cut its prime rate lower than the US Federal Reserve’s prime rate; and for stocks, because the value of the other three currencies is sliding down and the dollar has been rising — so, dump your falling currency for the rising dollar and jam it into rising US stocks. It’ll work until it doesn’t.

Why do this for Hillary? Because she represents the continuity of all the current rackets being used to prop up belief in the foundering business model of western civilization. If she doesn’t get into the White House there may be no backstopping of the insolvent banks and bankrupt governments and a TILT message will appear in the sky. That TILT message is likely to appear anyway because, remember,  the authorities are only pretending that they can manage events. In fact, all of their “management” strategies and shenanigans only insure the further distortion of the basic operating system, which is already so far out of whack from twenty years of previous management efforts that nothing in banking and markets really works anymore.

Companies don’t make money, despite rising share prices. No one in his right mind buys bonds with negative yields — that promise to pay back less over time — so governments have to pretend to buy them. (In fact, they don’t so much “buy” them as simply extinguish them by playing three-card-monte with national treasuries.) And, of course, the masses of people in all these nations — including the patsy USA — sink ever deeper into penury every month.

The release of tension is being felt in the ground game of politics where outsider candidates here and abroad are rising on a tide of rage and resentment. The fecklessness and stupidity of the elites has been epic, sacrificing everything to maintain the illusion of normality. Nothing is normal and “the people” are finally onto it. Sadly, it looks as if both politics and finance are veering toward crack-up simultaneously. The daisy-chained Too-Big-To-Fail banks are already choking on the suicide bolus of derivatives. The equity markets are one algo accident away from cratering. The bond markets are a sick joke. And Hillary may win the booby prize of presiding over the smoldering wreckage of it all. When it happens, she will have no idea what to do.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Death to All Zombies!

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Brexit Freda

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 27, 2016

 


Wait a minute. They’re already dead. Brexit just reveals that not everybody’s brains have been eaten. A viral contagion now threatens the zombified institutions of daily life, especially the workings of politics and finance. Just as zombies exist only in the collective imagination, so do these two principal activities of society operate mainly on trust, an ephemeral product of the hive-mind.

When things fall apart in stressed complex systems, they tend to fall apart fast. It’s called phase change. Too many things in 21st century life have depended on sheer trust that the people-in-charge know what they are doing. That trust has subsisted on the doling out of money-from-nothing: debt, reckless bond issuance. TARP, QEs, bailouts, bail-ins, Operation Twists, Ponzi schemes… the whole sad-ass armamentarium of banking necromancy. The politicians let it get out of hand. Things that can’t go on don’t, and now they won’t.

The politics of Great Britain are now falling apart landslide-style. Since just about everybody in or near power can be blamed for the national predicament, there’s nobody to turn to, at least not yet. The Labour party just acted out The Caine Mutiny, starring Jeremy Corbyn as Captain Queeg. The Tory Cameron gave three months notice without any plausible replacement in view. Now Cameron’s people are hinting in the media that they can just drag their feet on Brexit, that is, not do anything to enable it from actually happening for a while. Of course, that’s what the monkeyshines of banking and finance have done: postponed the inevitable reckoning with the realities of our time: growing resource scarcity, population overshoot, climate change, ecological holocaust, and the diminishing returns of technology.

Britain illustrates the problem nicely: how to produce “wealth” without producing wealth. It’s called “the City,” their name for the little district of London that is their Wall Street. In the absence of producing real things, the City became the driver of the UK’s economy, a ghastly parasitical organism that functioned as the central transfer station for the world’s swindles and frauds, churning the West’s dwindling residual capital into a slurry of fees, commissions, arbitrages, rigged casino bets, and rip-offs. In the process, it enabled the European Central Bank (ECB) to run the con-job that the European Union (EU) became, with the fatal distortions of credit that have put its members into a ditch and sent the private European banks off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style.

The next stage of this protean global melodrama is what happens when currencies and interest rates become completely unglued from their assigned roles as patsies in financial racketeering. Sooner or later we’ll know what’s going on in the vast shadowy gloaming of “derivatives,” especially the “innovative” arrangements that affect to be “insurance” against losses in currency and interest rate “positions” — bets made on the movements of these things. When currencies rise or fall quickly, these so-called “swaps” are “triggered,” and then some hapless institution is left holding a big bag of dog-shit. A zombie is a terrible thing to behold, but a zombie holding a bag of dog-shit is like unto the end of the world.

Once this contagion starts burning, the people-in-charge won’t be able to quell it the way they did last time: by drowning it in torrents of money-from-nowhere. At least not without inducing real-deal inflation, the kind that leads to epochal ruin and more intense political upheaval: the nation-changing kind. We’re about five minutes away from that in the USA already, with the loathsome duo of Hillary and Trump putting on a Punch and Judy show for a disgusted public. If nothing else, Hillary and Trump represent the withering of political trust in America. The parties that spawned them are also whirling around the drain of credibility. They won’t survive in the form we knew them.

Who knows what comes out of this vacuum, what rough beast slouches towards Washington.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Crash of 2015: It’s Here

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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panic

A CNBC anchor after trying to explain hedging against the volatility of stocks indexed to the Volatility Index. The end is near now.


Published on the Daily Impact on August 31, 2015

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Screw it, I’m calling it. I’ve been watching the so-called “markets” of China, the United States and a couple dozen other countries fall off a cliff, get up, stagger upward, fall off another cliff, and repeat. I’ve been listening to the chattering class say over and over again, this is normal, seen this before, everybody buy the dip. I’ve been watching the zombie oil-fracking revolution in this country go into spasms, jerking a few feet forward, a few feet back, gasping for breath, while the cheerleaders agree: perfectly normal, blood pressure okay, reflexes good, lend them more money. This is not normal, it is not okay, it is the Crash of 2015.

We will not likely agree on this until we stop using wildly different languages with which to discuss it. First of all, to refer to these things as “stock markets,” as if they were places where equities were bought and sold based on the soundness and prospects of the companies listed, is akin to putting your faith in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.

These places are casinos filled with gambling addicts using other people’s money to bet, not on the future of a stock but on the popularity of a stock among the greater fools on whom the gambler must unload the shares of Consolidated Aggregators he just bought on the dip. In this casino, trading in shares themselves is like playing the slot machines, there in the lobby of the casino for the amusement of the little people risking their quarters. The real games are played in private rooms with derivatives, futures, hedges, credit default swaps, junk bonds. The master of the universe are even gambling on the outcomes of corporate lawsuits (and for what reason, do we suppose, has that practice alone drawn the disapproving attention of the drones of Washington?). They are buying hedges against the volatility of securities indexed to the volatility of the market. If you can think about that one for more than 30 seconds without your head exploding, your mellowness index is in the stratosphere. Increasingly the gambling is being done by machines, programmed by the Masters to detect the circumstances under which they are to blow up the world.  

The commerce of the world, like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, is slowing down, bestowing unimaginable collateral damage as its does so. The prices of all industrial commodities (not just oil) have tanked, taking down the economies and currencies of the countries who depend for their existence on the exploitation of their natural resources. The volume of stuff being shipped from pace to place has withered. Both commerce and the Gulf Stream are losing the sources of their energy: in the case of the Gulf Stream, it’s temperature differential; in the case of trade, it’s money in the hands of the middle class, being spent on consumer goods.

Money, not credit. The Masters like to pretend they are the same thing but they are not. To issue consumers more credit cards, or more mortgage refi’s, is not the same thing as providing them with a living wage. To inject more money into the equity of banks and corporations, as the central banks have been doing for decades, does not, it turns out, create a tide of well being that lifts all boats. It’s like feeding the cow at the wrong end. No matter how much nutritious food you ram in, it’s just not going to help.

They have got away with this madness — the Masters, the Pundits, the Shills and the Gamblers — largely because decent people cannot believe anyone could possibly be crazy enough to do what they seem to be doing. Decent people tend not to remember the Housing Bubble Crash, the Dot-Com Crash, the Savings and Loan Crash, the Enron Crash, etc. etc.

Even if they’re gambling, surely it’s still true that the house never loses? Yes, that’s still true. As long as there are customers in the house. Look around. The customers are cashing in their chips and leaving China, the emerging markets, the junk-bond markets and the US markets as fast as they can without actually yelling “fire” and trampling each other.

Believe it. They are crazy, and this is the Crash of 2015.

It is not the Crash of the Industrial Age, not yet, although that, too, is ongoing. We will probably emerge from the Crash of 2015 onto the littered, downward slope of depression toward the ultimate collapse, still it seems several uncomfortable years in the future.  But we will have cause to remember the Crash of 2015.


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

History in Free Verse

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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greece_3178797b
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation June 22, 2015
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History might not rhyme, exactly, but it’s not bad for free verse. Greece is this century’s Serbia — a tiny, picturesque backwater nation blundering haplessly into the center stage of geopolitics. And the European Union is, whaddaya know, Germany in drag, on financial steroids.

Nobody knows what will happen next in the struggle to wring some kind of debt repayment promises out of poor Greece. Without “restructuring” — a virtual national bankruptcy proceeding — there can be no plausible promises of repayment. Both sides seem to have exhausted their abilities to juke their way out. The European Union and its wing-men at the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) can only pretend to kick that fabled can down the road because it has turned into a cement-filled 50-gallon drum. The Greek government can only pretend to further dismantle its civil service and pension systems lest angry citizens toss it out and replace it with a new government, perhaps an ugly and pugnacious one made up of Golden Dawn party Nazis.

In the background, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and perhaps even France wait without peeping to see if Greece is allowed to restructure, because you can be sure they will demand the same privilege to debt relief. But that’s hardly possible because the ECB has been engineering a shift of debt-holding away from the big corporate banks  — which made all the stupid loans — to the taxpayers of their member states, especially Germany, which stands to be the biggest bag-holder when a contagion of serial default seeps across the continent.

This implies, of course, that along the way to that outcome something sickening happens to the price of all the bonds that the debt is embodied in. Namely, its value craters for the simple reason that the threat of non-payment makes interest rates shoot up to reflect the actualization of risk. That would certainly set off the booby-trap of derivative interest rate swaps and credit default swaps that have been laid into history’s greatest financial minefield. Thus, the big banks that were supposedly shielded by the ECB shell game of Hide the Debt Pea Somewhere Else, will blow up in a daisy-chain of unpayable obligations.

The net effect of all that will be the disappearance of nominal wealth — it crosses an event horizon into a black hole never to be seen again. The continent discovers it is a lot poorer than it thought. Fifty years of financial engineering comes to the grief it deserves for promoting the idea that it’s possible to get something for nothing.

The same thing more or less awaits the USA, China, and Japan. For the USA in particular the signs of bankruptcy have been starkly visible for a long time outside the bubble regions of New York, Washington, and San Francisco. You see it in the amazing decrepitude of the built environment — the cities and towns left for dead, the struggling suburban strip malls tenanted if at all by wig shops and check-cashing operations, the rusted bridges, pot-holed highways, the Third World style train service. Most sickeningly you see it in a population of formerly earnest, hard-working, basically-educated people with hopes and dreams transformed into a hopeless moiling underclass of tattooed savages dressed in baby clothes devoting their leisure hours (i.e. all their time) to drug-seeking and the erasure of sexual boundaries.

That shocking social and political bankruptcy has, so far, acted as the sinkhole for all America’s financial degeneracy and the entropy it generates. The financial class (the 1 percent who own 40-plus percent of the financialized economy) must think it’s immune to the consequences of its activities, namely racketeering of one kind or another — criminal misconduct and accounting fraud in the service of money-grubbing. They must truly believe that risk has been offloaded into the ring-fenced concentration camps of capital: the derivatives pools. But risk, like rust, never sleeps and can’t be so easily contained. The obstreperous claims of debt only die down with the acknowledged disappearance of wealth, as when a bottom-feeding collection agency attempts to collect a few cents on the dollar of a car loan gone bad.

The US Federal Reserve, like the European Central Bank, sits atop a vault of bonds representing a colossal aggregate promise to repay debt that can never be repaid. Their loss of value will come to be seen for what it is: the disappearance of national wealth. We’ll have our moment, too, when the 50-gallon can full of cement can’t be kicked down the road another inch. It might come when Europe sets the example for a loss of faith in a system run to crime and rot.

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Why We Are All Now Cypriots-to-be in the New Age of Bail-Ins

Off the keyboard of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on June 15, 2018

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

According to the mostly ignored and hardly covered piece of news from a couple of weeks ago, it turns out that 11 of the 28 European Union countries have been scolded by the European Commission for failing to implement a new set of rules intended to prop up failed banks. Known as the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), the stated purpose of the newly required rules is to purportedly protect taxpayers from having to cover the losses of any possible future bank failures, similar to the failures that occurred back in 2008. Taking the place of the more conventional taxpayer-funded "bail-outs," banks would see their losses recapitalized with the newly-minted practice of the "bail-in."

A bail-in, in case you aren't familiar with it, is the emerging alternative to the well-known bail-out. Back in 2008 when a slew of "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks crumbled due to $147 barrels of oil and the bursting of the housing bubble, the entire financial system was put at risk and was deemed to be in need of a rescue. What occurred was an influx of money from outside sources to cover the bank losses, one example being the $700 billion life-line from the US government (which essentially means from the US taxpayer). This is known as a bail-out.

This differs from what occurred with the Cypriot banking system back in 2013, of which has since come to be known as a bail-in. In short, due to Cyprus' insolvent banking system, all banks in the country were shut down under the "bank holiday" rubric, to go along with withdrawals being limited, if not completely cut off. Upon cessation of the bank holiday measures, it was announced by officials that all bank accounts in excess of €100,000 would have their balances reduced by 47.5% (also known as a "haircut"). As the practice now goes, confiscated bail-in funds are used to recapitalize failed banks, and the depositors who had their balances reduced essentially become owners of a bank that no one has much of an interest in owning.

Call it theft of one's deposits if you will, but since the mandate of financial entities such as the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS, the central bank of central banks), and so forth, is to ensure financial stability of the system (read: protect the big banks), this can only be expected. But on top of that, it turns out that it's entirely legal.

For as odd as it may sound, when a person makes a deposit into a bank the money actually becomes the property of the bank, and the depositor becomes an unsecured creditor with a claim against said bank. Since back in the day depositors would routinely lose their money when banks went bankrupt, entities such as the United States' Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) were created to secure some of those deposits. The numbers differ from country to country, but any deposits within the protected limits of the FDICs of the world (such as €100,000 in Europe, $250,000 in the US) are deemed safe, supposing that the coverage exists in the first place. For to use the US as the example here, since the $4.5 trillion in US bank deposits are covered by about $46 billion in the FDIC piggy bank, the reserve ratio is a measly 1% or so. Take from that what you will.

Russian President Vladmir Putin getting shirtfronted by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the G20 in Brisbane, 2014
 

Meanwhile, a new set of rules put forth by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), and similar to the BRRD, was rubber-stamped by G20 leaders meeting up in Brisbane in late-2014: the "Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution." According to author Ellen Brown and several others, what has been enacted with the plan of the FSB (which is basically an unelected consortium of finance ministers and central bankers from around the world, headquartered at the BIS in Switzerland) is essentially the institutionalization of the TBTF banks. If they fail, when they fail, the TBTF bank-losses will be once again covered, although this time with the funds of their creditors via the bail-in template already tried and tested in Cyprus.

Of course, one might say that bail-in rules are simply precautionary measures being taken in the purely hypothetical situation of another "slip-up." I mean, can we really expect another meltdown of the financial system?

Well, it turns out that pretty much nothing has changed since the Great Recession that began in 2008, and although promises were made that measures would be taken, the four largest TBTF banks in the US have actually increased in size by nearly 40%. On top of that, the total exposure to derivatives (basically a bet about what will or will not happen in the future) by the six largest TBTF banks stands at nearly $300 trillion – and exposed we are since depositor accounts are deemed as collateral for the derivative bets of the TBTF banks. If only one of those banks were to fail, never mind that that could set off a cascade that could spread to other banks, but even a single bank failure could exhaust the entire funds of the FDIC.

Meanwhile, as already described in a previous post of mine, the shale oil industry pretty much owes its existence to the creation of its very own fracking bubble. Since shale oil wells have a very steep rate of increase (Saudi America!), but also a similarly steep decline once they go over the edge (samurai America!), there's a good chance that when fracking plays begin their over-all decline, we might very well see a repeat of the 2008 financial crash.

However, for Ellen Brown to state that we can address this mess by "protecting our funds from Wall Street gambling" via "reining in the massive and risky derivatives casino" is to miss the even larger story here. For what Brown consistently misses, as far as I've noticed, is the role that energy plays in the financial system (as I've previously described it, money is a proxy for energy). Giving just one example, Brown described the recent crash in oil prices by stating that

the shocking $50 drop in the price of oil was not due merely to the forces of supply and demand… [but to] an act of geopolitical warfare administered by the Saudis.

But if only it were so nice and tidy. Fact is, the crash in prices was caused by demand destruction, of which several years of oil in the $100 range led to: too-expensive-to-bear-prices for a populace still trying to recover from the Great Recession led to a diminished demand for oil, precipitating the crash in prices. (To this you can add the flooding of world oil supply levels with the recently tapped into – and expensive to extract – US shale oil.)

Moreover, even if the Wall Street derivative casino could be reined in, there's still the fact that the Wall Street derivatives casino is based on the fractional-reserve banking system. And since this Ponzi scheme requires ever more energy to propel its expansion and hold back the system from imploding in on itself, the emerging conundrum of tightening energy supplies due to peak oil throws a spanner into all that.

What I'm trying to get at is, not only is the mainstream media's bail-in explanation of "providing a shield for taxpayers" rather misleading, but to see the new bail-in setup as simply some way for nefarious fat-cats to steal our money and/or to maintain the status quo is to completely miss out on the big picture here.

Bail-outs are funded by taxpayers (via the government), while bail-ins are funded by depositors. But to a large degree, taxpayers are depositors and depositors are taxpayers. In other words, whether you pay for it out of one hand (a bail-in) or out of the other (a bail-out), there really isn't that much of a difference. Of the differences that do exist, two of them predominantly stand out.

First off, bail-ins make the whole process of rescuing banks a whole lot smoother. Since the procedural work is already out of the way thanks to previously implemented statutes, politicians and their banker friends are negated from having to deal with uncooperative congresses or other branches of governments, and are similarly able to obviate the opinions of the electorate decrying "socialists!," "greedy one-percenters!," or whatever. Bail-ins are like a fast-track bail-out.

Secondly, since bail-outs sometimes entail funds coming from outside sources (such as Germany contributing to Greece's current bail-outs), and since less growth due to fewer fossil fuels means less plentitude to go around, richer countries are going to become less and less willing to sacrifice their dwindling excesses for the sake of others. In other words, bail-ins mean that rather than foreign taxpayers having to bail out the banks of others, domestic taxpayers will have to bail-in their own crumbling banks, if even that. This is how you triage early-bird victims of the collapse of industrial civilization, is why some think that Greece may be about to experience its own bail-in, and is why Greeks are reportedly now withdrawaling nearly €400 million from their bank accounts a day.

So to make a long story short, bail-in, bail-out, what's the big diff'?

A bail-in in the good ol' days (photo: Melisa D.)
 

For the record, although Ellen Brown does have many interesting things to say, I'm more of the Herman Daly camp and so believe we should nationalize the currency, not the banks.

Having said that, since there's not really much I can do about that besides write a few words about it all in a blog and dream about voting for a federal party that might actually have 100% reserves as one of its policies, perhaps the best thing the rest of us can do is work to set up local currencies in hopes of averting some of the upcoming problems from when the bail-ins come rolling our way.

Is The 505 Trillion Dollar Interest Rate Derivatives Bubble In Imminent Jeopardy?

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Sleuth Journal on May 31, 2015

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All over the planet, large banks are massively overexposed to derivatives contracts.  Interest rate derivatives account for the biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the notional value of all interest rate derivatives contracts outstanding around the globe is a staggering 505 trillion dollars.  Considering the fact that the U.S. national debt is only 18 trillion dollars, that is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.  When this derivatives bubble finally bursts, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out.  The key to making sure that all of these interest rate bets do not start going bad is for interest rates to remain stable.  That is why what is going on in Greece right now is so important.  The Greek government has announced that it will default on a loan payment that it owes to the IMF on June 5th.  If that default does indeed happen, Greek bond yields will soar into the stratosphere as panicked investors flee for the exits.  But it won’t just be Greece.  If Greece defaults despite years of intervention by the EU and the IMF, that will be a clear signal to the financial world that no nation in Europe is truly safe.  Bond yields will start spiking in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and all over the rest of the continent.  By the end of it, we could be faced with the greatest interest rate derivatives crisis that any of us have ever seen.

The number one thing that bond investors want is to get their money back.  If a nation like Greece is actually allowed to default after so much time and so much effort has been expended to prop them up, that is really going to spook those that invest in bonds.

At this point, Greece has not gotten any new cash from the EU or the IMF since last August.  The Greek government is essentially flat broke at this point, and once again over the weekend a Greek government official warned that the loan payment that is scheduled to be made to the IMF on June 5th simply will not happen

Greece cannot make debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund next month unless it achieves a deal with creditors, its Interior Minister said on Sunday, the most explicit remarks yet from Athens about the likelihood of default if talks fail.

Shut out of bond markets and with bailout aid locked, cash-strapped Athens has been scraping state coffers to meet debt obligations and to pay wages and pensions. With its future as a member of the 19-nation euro zone potentially at stake, a second government minister accused its international lenders of subjecting it to slow and calculated torture.

After four months of talks with its eurozone partners and the IMF, the leftist-led government is still scrambling for a deal that could release up to 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in aid to avert bankruptcy.

And it isn’t just the payment on June 5th that won’t happen.  There are three other huge payments due later in June, and without a deal the Greek government will not be making any of those payments either.

It isn’t that Greece is holding back any money.  As the Greek interior minister recently explained during a television interview, the money for the payments just isn’t there

The money won’t be given . . . It isn’t there to be given,” Nikos Voutsis, the interior minister, told the Greek television station Mega.

This crisis can still be avoided if a deal is reached.  But after months of wrangling, things are not looking promising at the moment.  The following comes from CNBC

People who have spoken to Mr Tsipras say he is in dour mood and willing to acknowledge the serious risk of an accident in coming weeks.

“The negotiations are going badly,” said one official in contact with the prime minister. “Germany is playing hard. Even Merkel isn’t as open to helping as before.”

And even if a deal is reached, various national parliaments around Europe are going to have to give it their approval.  According to Business Insider, that may also be difficult…

The finance ministers that make up the Eurogroup will have to get approval from their own national parliaments for any deal, and politicians in the rest of Europe seem less inclined than ever to be lenient.

So what happens if there is no deal by June 5th?

Well, Greece will default and the fun will begin.

In the end, Greece may be forced out of the eurozone entirely and would have to go back to using the drachma.  At this point, even Greek government officials are warning that such a development would be “catastrophic” for Greece…

One possible alternative if talks do not progress is that Greece would leave the common currency and return to the drachma. This would be “catastrophic”, Mr Varoufakis warned, and not just for Greece itself.

“It would be a disaster for everyone involved, it would be a disaster primarily for the Greek social economy, but it would also be the beginning of the end for the common currency project in Europe,” he said.

“Whatever some analysts are saying about firewalls, these firewalls won’t last long once you put and infuse into people’s minds, into investors’ minds, that the eurozone is not indivisible,” he added.

But the bigger story is what it would mean for the rest of Europe.

If Greece is allowed to fail, it would tell bond investors that their money is not truly safe anywhere in Europe and bond yields would start spiking like crazy.  The 505 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives scam is based on the assumption that interest rates will remain fairly stable, and so if interest rates begin flying around all over the place that could rapidly create some gigantic problems in the financial world.

In addition, a Greek default would send the value of the euro absolutely plummeting.  As I have warned so many times before, the euro is headed for parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is going to go below parity.  And since there are 75 trillion dollars of derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the euro and other major global currencies, that could also create a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Over the past six years I have written more than 2,000 articles, I have authored two books and I have produced two DVDs.  One of the things that I have really tried to get across to people is that our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  Big banks all over the planet have become exceedingly reckless, and it is only a matter of time until all of this gambling backfires on them in a massive way.

It isn’t going to take much to topple the current financial order.  It could be a Greek debt default in June or it may be something else.  But when it does collapse, it is going to usher in the greatest economic crisis that any of us have ever seen.

So keep watching Europe.

Things are about to get extremely interesting, and if I am right, this is the start of something big.


Michael T. Snyder is a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and has a law degree and an LLM from the University of Florida Law School. He is an attorney that has worked for some of the largest and most prominent law firms in Washington D.C. and who now spends his time researching and writing and trying to wake the American people up. You can follow his work on The Economic Collapse blog, End of the American Dream and The Truth Wins. His new novel entitled “The Beginning Of The End” is now available on Amazon.com.

The Last, Great Run For The U.S. Dollar

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on March 10, 2015

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The Death Of The Euro And 74 Trillion In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Dollars Euros - Public DomainAre we on the verge of an unprecedented global currency crisis?  On Tuesday, the euro briefly fell below $1.07 for the first time in almost a dozen years.  And the U.S. dollar continues to surge against almost every other major global currency.  The U.S. dollar index has now risen an astounding 23 percent in just the last eight months.  That is the fastest pace that the U.S. dollar has risen since 1981.  You might be tempted to think that a stronger U.S. dollar is good news, but it isn’t.  A strong U.S. dollar hurts U.S. exports, thus harming our economy.  In addition, a weak U.S. dollar has fueled tremendous expansion in emerging markets around the planet over the past decade or so.  When the dollar becomes a lot stronger, it becomes much more difficult for those countries to borrow more money and repay old debts.  In other words, the emerging market “boom” is about to become a bust.  Not only that, it is important to keep in mind that global financial institutions bet a tremendous amount of money on currency movements.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the value of the euro and the value of other global currencies.  When currency rates start flying around all over the place, you can rest assured that someone out there is losing an enormous amount of money.  If this derivatives bubble ends up imploding, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out.

Do you remember what happened the last time the U.S. dollar went on a great run like this?

As you can see from the chart below, it was in mid-2008, and what followed was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression…

Dollar Index 2015

A rapidly rising U.S. dollar is extremely deflationary for the overall global economy.

This is a huge red flag, and yet hardly anyone is talking about it.

Meanwhile, the euro continues to spiral into oblivion…

Euro U.S. Dollar

How many times have I said it?  The euro is heading to all-time lows.  It is going to go to parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is eventually going to go below parity.

This is going to cause massive headaches in the financial world.

The Europeans are attempting to cure their economic problems by creating tremendous amounts of new money.  It is the European version of quantitative easing, but it is having some very nasty side effects.

The markets are starting to realize that if the value of the U.S. dollar continues to surge, it is ultimately going to be very bad for stocks.  In fact, the strength of the U.S. dollar is being cited as the primary reason for the Dow’s 332 point decline on Tuesday

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 300 points to below the index’s 50-day moving average, wiping out gains for the year. The S&P 500 also closed in the red for the year and breached its 50-day moving average, which is an indicator of the market trend. Only the Nasdaq held onto gains of 2.61 percent for the year.

There’s “concern that energy and the strength in the dollar will somehow be negative for the equities,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He noted that the speed of the dollar’s surge was the greatest market driver, amid mixed economic data and concerns about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

And as I noted above, when the U.S. dollar rises the things that we export to other nations become more expensive and that hurts our businesses.

This is so basic that even the White House understands it

Despite reassurance from The Fed that a strengthening dollar is positive for US jobs, The White House has now issued a statement that a “strengthening USD is a headwind for US growth.”

But even more important, a surging U.S. dollar makes it more difficult for emerging markets all over the world to borrow new money and to repay old debts.  This is especially true for nations that heavily rely on exporting commodities

It becomes especially ugly for emerging market economies that produce commodities. Many emerging market countries rely on their natural resources for growth and haven’t yet developed more advanced industries. As the products of their principal industries decline in value, foreign investors remove available credit while their currency is declining against the U.S. dollar. They don’t just find it difficult to pay their debt – it is impossible.

It has been estimated that emerging markets have borrowed more than 3 trillion dollars since the last financial crisis.

But now the process that created the emerging markets “boom” is starting to go into reverse.

The global economy is fueled by cheap dollars.  So if the U.S. dollar continues to rise, that is not going to be good news for anyone.

And of course the biggest potential threat of all is the 74 trillion dollar currency derivatives bubble which could end up bursting at any time.

The sophisticated computer algorithms that financial institutions use to trade currency derivatives are ultimately based on human assumptions.  When currencies move very little and the waters are calm in global financial markets, those algorithms tend to work really, really well.

But when the unexpected happens, some of the largest financial firms in the world can implode seemingly overnight.

Just remember what happened to Lehman Brothers back in 2008.  Unexpected events can cripple financial giants in just a matter of hours.

Today, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives of all types.  Those five banks are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Morgan Stanley.

By transforming Wall Street into a gigantic casino, those banks have been able to make enormous amounts of money.

But they are constantly performing a high wire act.  One of these days, their reckless gambling is going to come back to haunt them, and the entire global financial system is going to be severely harmed as a result.

As I have said so many times before, derivatives are going to be at the heart of the next great global financial crisis.

And thanks to the wild movement of global currencies in recent months, there are now more than 74 trillion dollars in currency derivatives at risk.

Anyone that cannot see trouble on the horizon at this point is being willingly blind.

Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16?

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on January 6, 2014

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The price of oil is down. How should we expect the economy to perform in 2015 and 2016?

Newspapers in the United States seem to emphasize the positive aspects of the drop in prices. I have written Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem. If our only problem were high oil prices, then low oil prices would seem to be a solution. Unfortunately, the problem we are encountering now is extremely low prices. If prices continue at this low level, or go even lower, we are in deep trouble with respect to future oil extraction.

It seems to me that the situation is much more worrisome than most people would expect. Even if there are some temporary good effects, they will be more than offset by bad effects, some of which could be very bad indeed. We may be reaching limits of a finite world.

The Nature of Our Problem with Oil Prices

The low oil prices we are seeing are a symptom of serious problems within the economy–what I have called “increased inefficiency” (really diminishing returns) leading to low wages. See my post How increased inefficiency explains falling oil prices. While wages have been stagnating, the cost of oil extraction has been increasing by about ten percent a year, described in my post Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending.

Needless to say, stagnating wages together with rapidly rising costs of oil production leads to a mismatch between:

  • The amount consumers can afford for oil
  • The cost of oil, if oil price matches the cost of production

The fact that oil prices were not rising enough to support the higher extraction costs was already a problem back in February 2014, at the time the article Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending was written. (The drop in oil prices did not start until June 2014.)

Two different debt-related initiatives have helped cover up the growing mismatch between the cost of extraction and the amount consumers could afford:

  • Quantitative Easing (QE) in a number of countries. This creates artificially low interest rates and thus encourages borrowing for speculative activities.
  • Growth in Chinese spending on infrastructure. This program was funded by debt.

Both of these programs have been scaled-back significantly since June 2014, with US QE ending its taper in October 2014, and Chinese debt programs undergoing greater controls since early 2014. Chinese new home prices have been dropping since May 2014.

Figure 1. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

Figure 1. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

The effect of scaling back both of these programs in the same timeframe has been like a driver taking his foot off of the gasoline pedal. The already slowing world economy slowed further, bringing down oil prices. The prices of many other commodities, such as coal and iron ore, are down as well. Instead of oil prices staying up near the cost of extraction, they have fallen closer to the level consumers can afford. Needless to say, this is not good if the economy really needs the use of oil and other commodities.

It is not clear that either the US QE program or the Chinese program of infrastructure building can be restarted. Both programs were reaching the limits of their usefulness. At some point, additional funds begin going into investments with little return–buildings that would never be occupied or shale operations that would never be profitable. Or investments in Emerging Markets that cannot be profitable without higher commodity prices than are available today. 

First Layer of Bad Effects 

  1. Increased debt defaults. Increased debt defaults of many kinds can be expected, including (a) Businesses involved with oil extraction suffering from low prices (b) Laid off oil workers not able to pay their mortgages, (c) Debt repayable in US dollars from emerging markets, including Russia, Brazil, and South Africa, because with their currencies now very low relative to the US dollar, debt is difficult to repay (d) Chinese debt related to overbuilding there, and (e) Debt of failing economies, such as Greece and Venezuela.
  2. Rising interest rates. With defaults rising, interest rates can be expected to rise, so that those making the loans will be compensated for the rising risk of default. In fact, this is already happening with junk-rated oil loans. Furthermore, it is possible that the US Federal Reserve will raise target interest rates in 2015. This possibility has been mentioned for several months, as part of normalizing interest rates.
  3. Rising unemployment. We know that nearly all of the increased employment since 2008 in the US took place in states with shale oil and gas production. As these programs are cut back, US employment is likely to fall. The UK and Norway are likely to experience drops in employment related to oil production, as their oil programs are cut. Countries of South America and Africa dependent on commodity exports are likely to see their employment cut back as well.
  4. Increased recession. The combination of rising interest rates and rising unemployment will almost certainly lead to recession. At first, some of the effects may be offset by the impact of lower oil prices, but eventually recessionary effects will predominate. Eventually, broken supply chains may become a problem, if companies with poor credit ratings cannot get financing they need at reasonable rates.
  5. Decreased oil supply, starting perhaps in late 2015. The timing is not certain. Businesses are likely to continue extraction where wells are already in operation, since most costs have already been paid. Also, some businesses have purchased price protection in the derivative market. They will likely continue drilling.
  6. Disruptions in oil exporting countries, such as Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. Oil exporters generally get the majority of their government revenue from taxes on oil. If oil prices remain low, oil-related tax revenue will drop greatly, necessitating cutbacks   in food subsidies and other programs. Some countries may experience overthrows of existing governments and a sharp drop in oil exports. Central governments may even disband, as happened with the Soviet Union in 1991.
  7. Defaults on derivatives, because of sharp and long-lasting changes in oil prices, interest rates, and currency relativities. Securitized debt may also be at risk of default.
  8. Continued low oil prices, except for brief spikes, because of high interest rates, recession, and low “demand” (really affordability) for oil.
  9. Drop in stock market prices. Governments have been able to “pump up” stock market prices with their QE programs since 2008. At some point, though, higher interest rates may draw investors away from the stock market. Stock prices may also decline reflecting the poor prospects of the economy, with rising unemployment and fewer goods being manufactured.
  10. Drop in market value of bonds. When interest rates rise, the market value of existing bonds falls. Bonds are also likely to experience higher default rates. The combined effect is likely to lead to a drop in the equity of financial institutions. At least at first, this effect is likely to occur mostly outside the US, because the “flight to security” will tend to raise the level of the US dollar and lower US interest rates.
  11. Changes in international associations. Already, there is discussion of Greece dropping out of the Eurozone. Associations such as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will find it increasingly difficult to handle problems, as their rich countries become poorer, and as loan defaults become increasing problems.

In total, eventually we are likely to experience a much worse situation than we did in the 2007-2009 period, although this may not be evident at first. It will be only over a period of time, after some of the initial “dominoes fall” that we will see what is really happening. Initially, economies of oil importing countries may appear to be doing fairly well, thanks to low oil prices. It will be later that the adverse impacts begin to take over, and eventually dominate.

Major Concerns

Inability to restart oil supply, even if prices should temporarily rise. The production of oil from US shale formations has been enabled by very low interest rates. If there is a major round of debt defaults by the shale industry, interest rates are unlikely to fall back to previously low levels. Because of the higher interest rates, oil prices will have to rise to an even a higher price than required in the past–in other words, to more than $100 barrel, say $125 to $140 barrel. There will also be a lag in restarting production, meaning that high prices will need to be maintained for some time. Bringing oil prices to a high level for a long time seems impossible without crashing the economies of oil importers. See my post, Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem.

Derivatives and Securitized Debt Defaults. The last time we had problems with these types of financial instruments was 2008. Governments around the world made huge payments to banks and other financial institutions, in order to bail them out of their difficulties. The financial services firm Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt.

Governments have declared that if this happens again, they will do things differently. Instead of bailing institutions out, they will make changes that will make these events less likely to happen. They will also make changes in how shortfalls are funded.  In many cases, the result will be a bail-in, where depositors share in the losses by “haircuts” to their deposits.

Unfortunately, from what I can see, the changes governments have made are basically too little, too late. The new sharing of losses will have as bad, or worse, impacts on the economy than the previous government bailouts of banks. Regulators do not seem to understand that models used in pricing derivatives and securitized debt are not designed for a finite world. The models appear to work reasonably well when the economy is distant from limits. Once the economy gets close to limits, many more adverse events occur than the models would have predicted, potentially causing huge problems for the system.1

What we are likely to be encountering now is a combination of defaults of many kinds simultaneously–derivatives, securitized debt, and “ordinary” debt. Many of these risks will be shared among institutions, so that banking problems will be widespread. The sizes of the losses are likely to be very large. Businesses may find that funds intended for payroll or needed to pay suppliers are subject to haircuts. How can they operate in such a situation?

It is even possible that accounts under deposit insurance limits will be subject to haircuts. While deposit insurance is available in theory, the amount held in reserve is not very great. It could easily be exhausted by a few large claims (the scenario in Iceland a few years ago). If governments choose not to make up for shortfalls in funding of the insurance programs, the shortfalls could end up with depositors.

Peak Oil. There seems to be a distinct possibility that we will be reaching the peak in world oil supply very soon–2014 or 2015, or even 2016. The way we reach this peak though, is different from what most people imagined: low oil prices, rather than high oil prices. Low oil prices are brought about by low wages and the inability to add sufficient new debt to offset the low wages. Because the issue is one of affordability, nearly all commodities are likely to be affected, including fossil fuels other than oil. In some sense, the issue is that a financial crash is bringing down the financial system, and is bringing commodities of all kinds with it.

Figure 2 shows an estimate of future energy production of various types. The steep downslope is likely because of the financial problems we are headed into.2

Figure 2. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.Figure 2. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings. Renewables in this chart includes hydroelectric, biofuels, and material such as dung gathered for fuel, in addition to renewables such as wind and solar. (It is based on an IEA inclusive definition.)

A major point of this chart is that all fuels are likely to decline simultaneously, because the cause is financial. For example, how does an oil company or a coal company continue to operate, if it cannot pay its employees and suppliers because of bank-related problems?

Our Long-Term Debt Problem. Long-term debt is an important part of our current system because (a) it enables buyers to afford products, and (b) it helps keep commodity prices high enough to encourage extraction. Unfortunately, long-term debt seems to require economic growth, so that we can repay debt with interest.

Figure 3. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

 Figure 3. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Economists conjecture that economic growth can continue, even if the extraction of fossil fuels and other commodities declines (as in Figure 2). But how likely is this in practice? Without fossil fuels, we can exchange baby-sitting services and we can give each other back rubs, but how much can we really do to grow the economy?

Almost any economic activity we can think of requires the use of petroleum or electricity and the use of commodities such as iron and copper. A more realistic view would seem to be that without the materials we generally use, our economy is likely to shrink. With this shrinkage, long-term debt will become increasingly impossible. This is one of the big problems we are encountering.

Our Physics Problem. Politicians and businesses of all types would like to advance the idea that our economy will continue forever; the politicians and businesses of every kind are in charge. Everything will turn out well.

Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of civilizations that hit diminishing returns, and then collapsed. Research indicates that the when early economies underwent collapse, the shape of the decline wasn’t straight down–declines tended to take a period of years. Not everyone died, either.

Figure 4. Shape of typical Secular Cycle, based on work of Peter Turkin and Sergey Nefedov in Secular Cycles.Figure 4. Shape of typical Secular Cycle, based on work of Peter Turkin and Sergey Nefedov in Secular Cycles.

Physics gives us a reason as to why such a pattern is to be expected. Physics tells us that civilizations are dissipative structures. The world we live in is an open system, receiving energy from the sun. Examples of other dissipative structures include galaxy systems, the solar system, the lives of plants and animals, and hurricanes. They are born, grow, and eventually stop dissipating energy and die. New dissipative structures often arise, if sufficient energy sources are available to dissipate. Thus, there may be new economies in the future.

We would like to think that we can stop this process, but it is not clear that we can. Perhaps economies are expected to reach limits and eventually collapse. It is only if economies can add large amounts of inexpensive energy resources (for example, by discovering how to make use of fossil fuels, or by discovering a less-settled area of the world, or even by adding China to the World Trade Organization in 2001) that this scenario can be put off.

What Can We Do?

Renewable energy is has recently been advertised as the solution to nearly all of our problems. If my analysis of our problems is correct, renewable energy is not a solution to our problems. I mentioned earlier that adding China to the World Trade Organization in 2001 temporarily helped solve world energy problems, with its ramp up of coal production after joining (note bulge in coal consumption after 2001 in Figure 5). In comparison, the impact of non-hydro renewables has been barely noticeable in the whole picture.

Figure 5. World energy consumption by source, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014.Figure 5. World energy consumption by source, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014. Renewables are narrowly defined, excluding hydro-electric, liquid biofuels, and materials gathered by the user, such as branches and dung.

Guaranteed prices for renewable energy are likely to be an increasing problem, as the cost of fossil fuel energy falls, and as buyers become increasingly unable to afford high energy prices. Issues with banks, making it difficult to pay employees and suppliers, are likely to be a problem whether an energy company uses renewable energy sources or not.

The only renewable energy sources that may be helpful in the long term are one that do not require buying goods from a distance, and thus do not require the use of banks. Trees growing in a local forest might be an example of such renewable energy.

Another solution to the problems we are reaching would seem to be figuring out a new financial system. Unfortunately, debt–and in fact growing debt–seems to be essential to our current system. We can’t extract fossil fuels without a debt-based system, in part because debt allows profits to be moved forward, and thus lightens the burden of paying for products made with a fossil-fuel based system. If a financial system uses only on the accumulated profits of a system without fossil fuels, it can expand only very slowly. See my post Why Malthus Got His Forecast Wrong. Local currency systems have also been suggested, but they don’t fix the problem of, say, electricity companies not being able to pay their suppliers at a distance.

Adding more debt, or taking steps to hold interest rates even lower, is probably the closest we can come to a reasonable way of temporarily putting off financial collapse. It is not clear where more debt can be added, though. The reason current debt programs are being discontinued is because, after a certain level of expansion, they primarily seem to create stock market bubbles and encourage investments that can never pay back adequate returns.

One possible solution is that a small number of people with survivalist skills will make it through the bottleneck, in order to start civilization over again. Some of these individuals may be small-scale farmers. The availability of cheap, easy to use, local energy is likely to be a limiting factor on population size, however. World population was one billion or less before the widespread use of fossil fuels.

We don’t have much time to fix our problems. In the timeframe we are looking at, the only other solution would seem to be a religious one. I don’t know exactly what it would be; I am not a believer in The Rapture. There is great order underlying our current system. If the universe was formed in a big bang, there was no doubt a plan behind it.  We don’t know exactly what the plan for the future is. Perhaps what we are encountering is some sort of change or transformation that is in the best interests of mankind and the planet. More reading of religious scriptures might be in order. We truly live in interesting times!

Notes:

[1] Derivatives and Securitized Debt are often priced using the Black-Scholes Pricing Model. It assumes a normal distribution and statistical independence of adverse results–something that is definitely not the case as we reach limits. See my 2008 post that correctly forecast the 2008 financial crash.

[2] Points are plotted at five-year intervals, so the chart is a bit more pointed than it would have been if I had plotted individual years. The upper limit at 2015 is an approximation–it could be a year or so different.

The Oil Derivatives Bomb

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on December 3, 2014

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Plummeting Oil Prices Could Destroy The Banks That Are Holding Trillions In Commodity Derivatives

Panic Button - Public DomainCould rapidly falling oil prices trigger a nightmare scenario for the commodity derivatives market?  The big Wall Street banks did not expect plunging home prices to cause a mortgage-backed securities implosion back in 2008, and their models did not anticipate a decline in the price of oil by more than 40 dollars in less than six months this time either.  If the price of oil stays at this level or goes down even more, someone out there is going to have to absorb some absolutely massive losses.  In some cases, the losses will be absorbed by oil producers, but many of the big players in the industry have already locked in high prices for their oil next year through derivatives contracts.  The companies enter into these derivatives contracts for a couple of reasons.  Number one, many lenders do not want to give them any money unless they can show that they have locked in a price for their oil that is higher than the cost of production.  Secondly, derivatives contracts protect the profits of oil producers from dramatic swings in the marketplace.  These dramatic swings rarely happen, but when they do they can be absolutely crippling.  So the oil companies that have locked in high prices for their oil in 2015 and 2016 are feeling pretty good right about now.  But who is on the other end of those contracts?  In many cases, it is the big Wall Street banks, and if the price of oil does not rebound substantially they could be facing absolutely colossal losses.

It has been estimated that the six largest “too big to fail” banks control $3.9 trillion in commodity derivatives contracts.  And a very large chunk of that amount is made up of oil derivatives.

By the middle of next year, we could be facing a situation where many of these oil producers have locked in a price of 90 or 100 dollars a barrel on their oil but the price has fallen to about 50 dollars a barrel.

In such a case, the losses for those on the wrong end of the derivatives contracts would be astronomical.

At this point, some of the biggest players in the shale oil industry have already locked in high prices for most of their oil for the coming year.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

US producers have locked in higher prices through derivatives contracts. Noble Energy and Devon Energy have both hedged over three-quarters of their output for 2015.

Pioneer Natural Resources said it has options through 2016 covering two- thirds of its likely production.

So they are protected to a very large degree.  It is those that are on the losing end of those contracts that are going to get burned.

Of course not all shale oil producers protected themselves.  Those that didn’t are in danger of going under.

For example, Continental Resources cashed out approximately 4 billion dollars in hedges about a month ago in a gamble that oil prices would go back up.  Instead, they just kept falling, so now this company is likely headed for some rough financial times…

Continental Resources (CLR.N), the pioneering U.S. driller that bet big on North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch when its rivals were looking abroad, is once again flying in the face of convention: cashing out some $4 billion worth of hedges in a huge gamble that oil prices will rebound.

Late on Tuesday, the company run by Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who once sued OPEC, said it had opted to take profits on more than 31 million barrels worth of U.S. and Brent crude oil hedges for 2015 and 2016, plus as much as 8 million barrels’ worth of outstanding positions over the rest of 2014, netting a $433 million extra profit for the fourth quarter. Based on its third quarter production of about 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, its hedges for next year would have covered nearly two-thirds of its oil production.

Oops.

When things are nice and stable, the derivatives marketplace works quite well most of the time.

But when there is a “black swan event” such as a dramatic swing in the price of oil, it can create really big winners and really big losers.

And no matter how complicated these derivatives become, and no matter how many times you transfer risk, you can never make these bets truly safe.  The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh Smith

Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.
This illusory vanishing act hasn’t made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.
The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.

In recent years, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.

Most of the time the big banks are very careful to make sure that they come out on top, but this time their house of cards may come toppling down on top of them.

If you think that this is good news, you should keep in mind that if they collapse it virtually guarantees a full-blown economic meltdown.  The following is an extended excerpt from one of my previous articles

—–

For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.

At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.

It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.

Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.

The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks.  If they fail, so do the rest of us.

We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.

In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.

At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.

—-

Our entire economy is based on the flow of credit.  And all of that debt comes from the banks.  That is why it has been so dangerous for us to become so deeply dependent on them.  Without their loans, the entire country could soon resemble White Flint Mall near Washington D.C….

It was once a hubbub of activity, where shoppers would snap up seasonal steals and teens would hang out to ‘look cool’.

But now White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland – which opened its doors in March 1977 – looks like a modern-day mausoleum with just two tenants remaining.

Photographs taken inside the 874,000-square-foot complex show spotless faux marble floors, empty escalators and stationary elevators.

Only a couple of cars can be seen in the parking lot, where well-tended shrubbery appears to be the only thing alive.

I keep on saying it, and I will keep on saying it until it happens.  We are heading for a derivatives crisis unlike anything that we have ever seen.  It is going to make the financial meltdown of 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Our politicians promised that they would do something about the “too big to fail” banks and the out of control gambling on Wall Street, but they didn’t.

Now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, and it is going to horrify the entire planet.

Most People Cannot Even Imagine That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on November 2, 2014

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Thinking - Public DomainThe idea that the United States is on the brink of a horrifying economic crash is absolutely inconceivable to most Americans.  After all, the economy has been relatively stable for quite a few years and the stock market continues to surge to new heights.  On Friday, the Dow and the S&P 500 both closed at brand new all-time record highs.  For the year, the S&P 500 is now up 9 percent and the Nasdaq is now up close to 11 percent.  And American consumers are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season.  That is an amount of money that is larger than the entire economy of Sweden.  So how in the world can anyone be talking about economic collapse?  Yes, many will concede, we had a few bumps in the road back in 2008 but things have pretty much gotten back to normal since then.  Why be concerned about economic collapse when there is so much stability all around us?

Unfortunately, this brief period of stability that we have been enjoying is just an illusion.

The fundamental problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have not been fixed.  In fact, most of our long-term economic problems have gotten even worse.

But most Americans have such short attention spans these days.  In a world where we are accustomed to getting everything instantly, news cycles only last for 48 hours and 2008 might as well be an eternity ago.

In the United States today, our entire economic system is based on debt.

Without debt, very little economic activity happens.  We need mortgages to buy our homes, we need auto loans to buy our vehicles and we need our credit cards to do our shopping during the holiday season.

So where does all of that debt come from?

It comes from the banks.

In particular, the “too big to fail banks” are the heart of this debt-based system.

Do you have a mortgage, an auto loan or a credit card from one of these “too big to fail” institutions?  A very large percentage of the people that will read this article do.

And a lot of people might not like to hear this, but without those banks we essentially do not have an economy.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, it almost resulted in the meltdown of our entire system.  The stock market collapsed and we experienced an absolutely wicked credit crunch.

Unfortunately, that was just a small preview of what is coming.

Even though a few prominent “experts” such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have declared that the “too big to fail” problem is “over”, the truth is that it is now a bigger crisis than ever before.

Compared to five years ago, the four largest banks in the country are now almost 40 percent larger.  The following numbers come from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

At the same time that those banks have been getting bigger, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

That means that we are now more dependent on these gigantic banks than ever.

At this point, the five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

If someone came along and zapped those banks out of existence, our economy would totally collapse overnight.

So the health of this handful of immensely powerful banking institutions is absolutely critical to our economy.

Unfortunately, these banks have become deeply addicted to gambling.

Have you ever known people that allowed their lives to be destroyed by addictions that they could never shake?

Well, that is what is happening to these banks.  They have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the world.  Most of the time, their bets pay off and they make lots of money.

But as we saw back in 2008, when they miscalculate things can fall apart very rapidly.

The bets that I am most concerned about are known as “derivatives“.  In essence, they are bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

If things stay fairly stable like they have the past few years, the algorithms tend to work very well.

But if there is a “black swan event” such as a major stock market crash, a collapse of European or Asian banks, a historic shift in interest rates, an Ebola pandemic, a horrific natural disaster or a massive EMP blast is unleashed by the sun, everything can be suddenly thrown out of balance.

Acrobat Nik Wallenda has been making headlines all over the world for crossing vast distances on a high-wire without a safety net.  Well, that is essentially what our “too big to fail” banks are doing every single day.  With each passing year, these banks have become even more reckless, and so far there have not been any serious consequences.

But without a doubt, someday there will be.

What would you say about a bookie that took $200,000 in bets but that only had $10,000 to cover those bets?

You would certainly call that bookie a fool.

But that is what our big banks are doing.

Right now, JPMorgan Chase has more than 67 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.5 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Citibank has nearly 60 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 1.9 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Goldman Sachs has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Bank of America has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.2 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Morgan Stanley has more than 44 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.

Most people have absolutely no idea how incredibly vulnerable our financial system really is.

The truth is that these “too big to fail” banks could collapse at any time.

And when they fail, our economy will fail too.

So let us hope and pray that this brief period of false stability lasts for as long as possible.

Because when it ends, all hell is going to break loose.

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: Recession Redux

Off the Keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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This was then (2009), but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

First published at The Daily Impact May 27, 2014

This was then (2009), but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

Would it not be a hoot if we who expect the crash of industrial civilization, while we are staring intently at the usual suspects (peak oil, climate change, food shortages, grid failure, the San Andreas Fault) and waiting for one of them to start the avalanche, get sucker-punched by the Masters of the Universe? Would it not be excruciatingly funny if the very same people who almost burned the world alive in the first decade of this century managed not only to escape repercussions but to incinerate it in the second? The dial is moving from possible to likely as the ethically challenged whiz kids of Wall Street continue to play, unsupervised by adults, with the same matches in the same gasoline-soaked structure. Here’s what they’re doing, compared with what they did.

My house is my ATM: Back in the day, by which I mean ten years ago, people who owned houses were persuaded by financial jackals to treat their house as if it were an ATM, and take money out of it whenever they wanted. Housing prices would never go down, they were told, so they could always refinance. Today, investors who want a ten per cent return on their investment have been persuaded by financial jackals to treat houses as if they were ATMs, buying them cheaply (because ordinary people can’t afford them, or can’t get financing) for cash and renting them out.

Just as the jackals of old seemed really to believe that people who could not afford mortgages would be able to keep refinancing them, and that the music would never stop; so do today’s jackals seem to believe that being a landlord is a slam dunk. Gradually, they are learning that renters sometimes depart in the night; trash the houses that they don’t own; lose their jobs, or get sick, or have too many children; and far from being a slam dunk, landlordhood often sucks, financially. There are now signs that the smartest guys in this room are looking quietly but frantically for the exits, and when they find them — pop goes the bubble and the weasels.

As for real people in homes? Twenty per cent of American homeowners are under water (they owe more than their house is worth), and cannot refinance or sell. The number of people applying for mortgages with JPMorgan Chase and Citibank in the first quarter of 2014 was70% lower than the number one year ago. The rate of home ownership in the country is at its lowest in 19 years. The lesson: when the institutions bail, there will be no one else to prop up the bubble.

From “No-doc loans” to “Covenant-Lite.” Back in the day, the jackals were handing out “liar” loans (containing unverified and untrue statements about qualifications of the applicant), “Ninja” loans (applicant has no income, no job, no assets), “No-doc” loans (applicant has no documentation of anything). The jackals didn’t care: if they were originators, they sold the loan as soon as they closed it, collecting all their fees and waving it goodbye. If they were conglomeraters, they bundled the loans, issued derivatives on them, and got them out the door, first collecting all their fees. No one gave much of a thought to where they would sit when the music stopped, as it always does.

Now, the action is in commercial lending, with the money flowing to subprime companies, not individuals. The loan flavour du jour is now “covenant-lite” loans, meaning loans made without the usual stipulation that the business use the proceeds for business, not to enrich the business owners. These loans are beloved by private equity firms that like to buy a company, mortgage all its assets, suck out the cash in fees and dividends, then let the company go into bankruptcy and screw the lenders. A record $238 billion worth of these puppies were issued in 2013, according to Reuters, and the pace is accelerating in 2014.

Never mind things, we want derivatives of things. What broke the back of the system in the 2009 era (the contraction actually began in the fall of 2005) was not just subprime debt and overvalued assets, it was the enormous bets placed on the system by institutions acting is if they were drunk in a casino. These bets are called derivatives. For example, slices and dices (called “tranches”) of securitized packages of looney-tunes loans, which constituted bets for the success of the Ponzi scheme; and credit default swaps, bogus insurance that constituted a bet against the success of the scheme. Back in the day, collapsing derivatives brought down some of the biggest players, and very nearly the world’s economy.

Today, the derivatives market is 20 per cent larger than it was just before the music stopped the last time. The International Bank of Settlements estimates that the notional value (notional value: that is, the value of all the bets if everyone won) of outstanding derivatives is $710 trillion, or 44 times the gross domestic product of the United States. If J.P. Morgan Chase, with total assets of $2 trillion, lost all its derivative gambles, it would owe the casino more than $70 trillion.  In Vegas, that kind of loss would get you a one-way ride into the desert; on Wall Street, it gets you a bailout because you’re too big to fail.

Bottom line: as long as the Masters of the Universe are allowed to play their firehoses of money on whatever they deem to be the Next Big Thing (“It’s rental houses! No, wait, farmland! In Iowa! or Africa! No, check that, it’s fracking wells!), they will continue to blow up and deflate bubbles until they blow up the world. Where can I get a credit default swap to cover me for that?

***

 

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

Not Looking Good…

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on Economic Collapse on March 10, 2014

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We Are In FAR Worse Shape Than We Were Just Prior To The Last Great Financial Crisis

None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.  In fact, they have all gotten worse.  The total amount of debt in the world has grown by more than 40 percent since 2007, the too big to fail banks have gotten 37 percent larger, and the colossal derivatives bubble has spiraled so far out of control that the only thing left to do is to watch the spectacular crash landing that is inevitably coming.  Unfortunately, most people do not know the information that I am about to share with you in this article.  Most people just assume that the politicians and the central banks have fixed the issues that caused the last great financial crisis.  But the truth is that we are in far worse shape than we were back then.  When this financial bubble finally bursts, the devastation that we will witness is likely to be absolutely catastrophic.

Too Much Debt

One of the biggest financial problems that the world is facing is that there is simply way too much debt.  Never before in world history has there ever been a debt binge anything like this.

You would have thought that we would have learned our lesson from 2008 and would have started to reduce debt levels.

Instead, we pushed the accelerator to the floor.

It is hard to believe that this could possibly be true, but according to the Bank for International Settlements the total amount of debt in the world has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007…

The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’s gross domestic product.

That is a recipe for utter disaster, and yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.

And of course the U.S. government is the largest offender.

Back in September 2008, the U.S. national debt was sitting at a total of 10.02 trillion dollars.

As I write this, it is now sitting at a total of 17.49 trillion dollars.

Is there anyone out there that can possibly conceive of a way that this ends other than badly?

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever

During the last great financial crisis we were also told that one of our biggest problems was the fact that we had banks that were “too big to fail”.

Well, guess what?

Those banks are now much larger than they were back then.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last financial crisis.

Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have gone out of business during that time frame, and only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the problem of “too big to fail” is now much worse than it was back in 2008.

The following are some more statistics about our “too big to fail” problem that come from a previous article

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

The Derivatives Bubble

Most people simply do not understand that over the past couple of decades Wall Street has been transformed into the largest and wildest casino on the entire planet.

Nobody knows for sure how large the global derivatives bubble is at this point, because derivatives trading is lightly regulated compared to other types of trading.  But everyone agrees that it is absolutely massive.  Estimates range from $600 trillion to $1.5 quadrillion.

And what we do know is that four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is in excess of $40 trillion.

The numbers posted below may look similar to numbers that I have included in articles in the past, but for this article I have updated them with the very latest numbers from the U.S. government.  Since the last time that I wrote about this, these numbers have gotten even worse…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,989,875,000,000 (nearly 2 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,810,058,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,344,751,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $62,963,116,000,000 (more than 62 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,438,859,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,386,713,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $111,117,000,000 (just a shade over 111 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $47,467,154,000,000 (more than 47 trillion dollars)

During the coming derivatives crisis, several of those banks could fail simultaneously.

If that happened, it would be an understatement to say that we would be facing an “economic collapse”.

Credit would totally freeze up, nobody would be able to get loans, and economic activity would grind to a standstill.

It is absolutely inexcusable how reckless these big banks have been.

Just look at those numbers for Goldman Sachs again.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 111 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 47 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 427 times greater than their total assets.

I don’t know why more people aren’t writing about this.

This is utter insanity.

During the next great financial crisis, it is very likely that the rest of the planet is going to lose faith in the current global financial system that is based on the U.S. dollar and on U.S. debt.

When that day arrives, and the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status, the shift in our standard of living is going to be dramatic.  Just consider what Marin Katusa of Casey Research had to say the other day

It will be shocking for the average American… if the petro dollar dies and the U.S. loses its reserve currency status in the world there will be no middle class.

The middle class and the low class… wow… what a game changer. Your cost of living will quadruple.

The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying now will not last forever.  A day of reckoning is fast approaching, and most Americans will not be able to handle the very difficult adjustments that they will be forced to make.  Here is some more from Marin Katusa…

Imagine this… take a country like Croatia… the average worker with a university degree makes about 1200 Euros a month. He spends a third of that, after tax, on keeping his house warm and filling up his gas tank to get to work and get back from work.

In North America, we don’t make $1200 a month, and we don’t spend a third of our paycheck on keeping our house warm and driving to work… so, the cost of living… food will triple… heat, electricity, everything subsidized by the government will triple overnight… and it will only get worse even if you can get the services.

All of this could have been prevented if we had done things the right way.

Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned from the last financial crisis, and our politicians and the central banks have just continued to do the same things that they have always done.

So now we all get to pay the price.

Podcast- Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh) of The Automatic Earth on Currency Issues: Part 1

Off the microphones of Nicole Foss, RE & Monsta

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 28, 2013

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Discuss at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

How will the monetary system implode on itself?  Will Inflation, Hyper-Inflation or Deflation rule the day as the system seizes up?  What will occur with Asset Values and Derivatives?  Who has the strongest claims to underlying wealth remaining in the system?  Can Gold & Silver substitute for a failing Fiat Monetary System?  How will the Just In Time Shipping paradigm react to dislocations in the Credit Markets?  Will Financial Contagion overtake the Supply Chains?

These and other questions are discussed in the latest Diner Podcast with Nicole Foss, Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth.  Nicole is a former Editor of The Oil Drum Canada, and was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where she specialized in nuclear safety in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, and conducted research into electricity policy at the EU level.

The second part of the Podcast with Nicole will focus on Energy Issues, and will be available for listening on the Diner next week.  In this podcast, Nuclear Energy will be discussed as well as Renewable Energy issues.

In addition, in the next few weeks, the Diner will begin Vidcasts featuring multiple Bloggers, Researchers and Authors discussing and debating the various topics of Collapse Dynamics.  The first of these Vidcasts will be focused on the upcoming Occupy Monsanto demonstrations scheduled for September 17, 2013.  However, if the War in Syria escalates over the next couple of weeks, this may provide additional discussion material.

I discuss the Upcoming Diner Vidcasts in the next Episode of I Spy Doom.  You get a nice little tour of the Last Great Frontier of Alaska from the Passenger Seat of my Ford Explorer SUV in this one also.  LOL.

RE

Why Is The World Economy DOOMED?

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

Published on Economic Collapse on March 20, 2013

Why Is The World Economy Doomed? The Global Financial Pyramid Scheme By The Numbers

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Why is the global economy in so much trouble? How can so many people be so absolutely certain that the world financial system is going to crash? Well, the truth is that when you take a look at the cold, hard numbers it is not difficult to see why the global financial pyramid scheme is destined to fail. In the United States today, there is approximately 56 trillion dollars of total debt in our financial system, but there is only about 9 trillion dollars in our bank accounts. So you could take every single penny out of the banks, multiply it by six, and you still would not have enough money to pay off all of our debts. Overall, there is about 190 trillion dollars of total debt on the planet. But global GDP is only about 70 trillion dollars. And the total notional value of all derivatives around the globe is somewhere between 600 trillion and 1500 trillion dollars. So we have a gigantic problem on our hands. The global financial system is a very shaky house of cards that has been constructed on a foundation of debt, leverage and incredibly risky derivatives. We are living in the greatest financial bubble in world history, and it isn’t going to take much to topple the entire thing. And when it falls, it is going to be the largest financial disaster in the history of the planet.

The global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, and a crisis at one major bank or in one area of the world can spread at lightning speed. As I wrote about yesterday, the entire European banking system is leveraged 26 to 1 at this point. A decline in asset values of just 4 percent would totally wipe out the equity of many of those banks, and once a financial panic begins we could potentially see major financial institutions start to go down like dominoes.

We got a small taste of what that is like back in 2008, and it is inevitable that it will happen again.

Anyone that would tell you that the current global financial system is sustainable does not know what they are talking about. Just look at the numbers that I have posted below.

The following is the global financial pyramid scheme by the numbers…

$9,283,000,000,000 – The total amount of all bank deposits in the United States. The FDIC has just 25 billion dollars in the deposit insurance fund that is supposed to “guarantee” those deposits. In other words, the ratio of total bank deposits to insurance fund money is more than 371 to 1.

$10,012,800,000,000 – The total amount of mortgage debt in the United States. As you can see, you could take every penny out of every bank account in America and it still would not cover it.

$10,409,500,000,000 – The M2 money supply in the United States. This is probably the most commonly used measure of the total amount of money in the U.S. economy.

$15,094,000,000,000 – U.S. GDP. It is a measure of all economic activity in the United States for a single year.

$16,749,269,587,407.53 – The size of the U.S. national debt. It has grown by more than 10 trillion dollars over the past ten years.

$32,000,000,000,000 – The total amount of money that the global elite have stashed in offshore banks (that we know about).

$50,230,844,000,000 – The total amount of government debt in the world.

$56,280,790,000,000 – The total amount of debt (government, corporate, consumer, etc.) in the U.S. financial system.

$61,000,000,000,000 – The combined total assets of the 50 largest banks in the world.

$70,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of total world GDP.

$190,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of the total amount of debt in the entire world. It has nearly doubled in size over the past decade.

$212,525,587,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the notional value of the derivatives that are being held by the top 25 banks in the United States. But those banks only have total assets of about 8.9 trillion dollars combined. In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 24 to 1.

$600,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives generally fall within this range. At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives to global GDP is more than 21 to 1.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Every single day, the total amount of debt will continue to grow faster than the total amount of money until the day that this bubble bursts.

What we witnessed back in 2008 was just a little “hiccup” in the system. It caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but global financial authorities were able to get things stabilized.

Next time it won’t be so easy.

The next wave of the economic collapse is quickly approaching. A full-blown economic depression has already started in southern Europe. Unemployment is at record highs and economic activity is contracting rapidly.

The major offshore banking centers in Cyprus are on the verge of collapsing. It was just announced that they will now be closed until Tuesday, but nobody really knows for sure when they will be allowed to reopen. And there is already talk that when they do reopen that there will be strict limits on how much money people can take out.

And now the IMF is warning that the three biggest banks in Slovenia are failing and that a billion euros will be needed to bail them out.

The dominoes are starting to tumble, and the United States won’t be immune. In fact, the greatest financial problems that the United States has ever seen are on the horizon.

But you can just have faith that Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress know exactly what they are doing and will be able to save us from the coming financial collapse if you want.

The mainstream media will provide you with all of the positive economic news that you could possibly want. They are giddy about the fact that the Dow keeps hitting all-time highs and they would have us all believe that we are in the midst of a robust economic recovery. You can listen to them if you want to.

But when you are tempted to believe that everything is going to be “okay” somehow, just go back and look at the numbers there were posted above one more time.

There is no way that the global financial pyramid scheme is going to be able to hold up for too much longer. At some point it is going to totally collapse. When that happens, will you be ready?

Crash V 2.0

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published originally on The Slog January 2013

Discuss these articles at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

CRASH 2: the hide and seek of it all

Italian banks have been hiding massive derivatives losses…so now MPS bank needs a €3.9bn bailout. The Talvivaara Mining company of Finland is secretly mining uranium, and covering up dangerous accidents. Both the Germans and the Swiss think the Americans are lending out or selling more than they actually hold in gold, thus raising the spectre of ‘fiat gold’: hence their growing desire to get the gold back before things get totally out of hand. Almost nobody believes the figures for Spanish bank liquidity – and the authorities have relaxed their liquidity requirements in order to get real about this.

All these stories have one simple commonality: deception. Alongside the trend identified by The Slog in recent weeks (the élites are becoming less bothered about fessing up to fibs) is another more encouraging one: the MSM has been rather more on the ball about spotting the mendacity in the first place.

What the main ‘old’ media still aren’t doing, however, is addressing specific reasons why the deceptions are necessary in the first place. In fact, this isn’t even slightly hard to do. The three main élite activities taking place at the minute are:

1. A scramble for energy and new-industry sector resources;

2. The appropriation by sovereign banks of gold as a bulwark against insolvency; and

3. the injection of more unelected technocrats into key positions in order to help carry that out.

Realities which might cause a derailing panic have thus been hidden. But reporting the instances and symptoms of this process is becoming increasingly irrelevant: it’s very good for hits – if you’re chasing hits – but as always, that gets in the way of intelligent analysis of how the rest of us should respond in the face it. And anyway, those ‘in charge’ haha are no longer that fussed about the media finding out about such stuff: the die is cast now, there’s little we can do to stop it….and they know that.

I think any investor or survivalist must therefore apply two critieria to any investment – whatever it might be: first, do I really understand all the fundamentals of this sector? And second, is anyone dicking about with those fundamentals for commercial or sovereign/central bank gain?

For me, silver is looking a better and better opportunity. So using the advice offered above, remember that the metal is prone to at times terrifying volatility…that’s the downside. The upside is that Mario Draghi, Mervyn King and Ben Bernanke do not (as far as I know) have plans for it. Nevertheless, other directionalising folks much nastier than any of us may well have such plans.

As always, caveat emptor applies: ignore what the buggers say, but oggle what they do like a hawk.

Finally, as a trailer to what will be coming soon at The Slog, I leave you with this thought. Every top fiscal Wally around the Western world is busy predicting confidently that Zirp will be maintained until such time as things improve. It is my considered opinion that the main emotion in play during such assertions is hubris. Hugh Briss is a loud sort of cove, but prone to delusions of grandeur: he is the Icarus of our world, convinced he can fly close to the sun, and control its effect. He cannot.

Stay tuned.

CRASH 2: The mad, the bad, and the hysterically silly

George Osborne yesterday showed once more that he’s ahead of the game by suggesting that Britain faces “a difficult time”, the gdp results were “disappointing”, and thus the Pound is falling…so Brits abroad in the eurozone will “feel the pinch”. The Daily Mail noted all this, and then wrote that the FTSE had ‘smashed through the 6,300 barrier’. No dots were joined up or brain-cells overworked in the reporting of these facts. The phrases ‘currency wars’, ‘selling the Pound to help exports’ and ‘indescribably bonkers’ were absent.

Still, the American ‘recovery’ continues to be the only one in history wherein the Federal Government owes more money every month, over half the public sector pension fund has been thrown at the debt, and the absorption of failed banks by healthier ones is a process taking place 4-5 times a month on average. 53 banks failed in the US last year, and for those of a vengeful disposition, The FDIC has all the gory details.

Doing this sort of thing, of course, simply means that bad banks infect goodish banks with their toxicity….which quietly moves from one balance sheet to another, becoming yet another lump of pulsating radioactive gunk ready to lay the system low.

But heh – volatility is just so now baby. CBOE Holdings, buoyed by the phenomenal success of options and futures contracts based on its Volatility Index (VIX) is ratcheting up its efforts to broaden their appeal.

“The volatility business is only eight years old, but we see terrific growth,” Ed Tilly, CBOE’s president and chief operating officer, told a gathering of reporters in New York recently. “We see hedge funds, prop trading firms, (commodity trading advisors), insurance companies and other institutional users migrating to the product. It’s very important for us.”

‘The volatility business’. Doncha love it? Here we are, it’s the 21st century, and fully grown up adults are gainfully employed building a new sector specialising in calculating the Fanshit Factor. Buy fanshit futures. Compare your own fanshit fear to the fanshit feelings of other calmer souls. Spot the fanshit index falling as more fanshit sprays your new YSL suit an interesting shade of fanshit. Be a fanshit fan: You Know it Makes Sense. Human beings are never funnier than when examining the interior of their own backsides in search of fanshit.

But desperation breeds criminality too – imagine that. Suddeutsche Zeitung reports that Germany’s bank regulator Bafin has now started an investigation against four German banks in connection with alleged manipulation of the Euribor. So far, the German authorities have only cooperated with the Libor investigations, but this is a new investigation.

Do we need a trial to establish guilt here? Probably not: they’re all guilty. Still, some sort of judicial process would be nice. I mean in the sense of politeness to the 65% of us suffering a pythonic grip while the authorities work out how to save themselves. QE does nothing that it claims on the tin. Zirp pauperises anyone on a fixed income with ‘proper’ investments. Libor manipulation screws the borrower. Welfare cuts play well in the markets while leaving all worthy recipients of it even more desperate than the authorities.

They’re called the authorities, by the way, because although they’re rarely authoritative – and never able to command authority through respect – they do have unlimited authority to do WTF they like to anyone and anything at any time they fancy. This is what makes investing such a joy at the moment. But if nothing else, the competition authorities are still on Michael O’Leary’s case, so it’s not all bad.

Ryanair has put out quarterly results showing turnover, profit and passengers continue to rise. The last of these is an especially good sign for any company in the business of getting people into the air, and predictably the results are accompanied by a bullish statement from chief executive Michael O’Leary. As O’Leary could be bullish about the imminence of an asteroid hit, that doesn’t mean much beyond his infinite determination to take over Aer Lingus.

Mad Michael claims that his plan to sell Aer Lingus routes to two separate airlines meets all concerns raised by the competition authorities. They just don’t address my concerns about the possibility of him being a wing short of an aeroplane, but then I’m picky. I once drove a six hundred mile round-trip to pick up four teenage children who unexpectedly found themselves in the Loire thanks to the immaculate scheduling and navigation skills of Ryanair. It is for this and many other reasons that I still think the price of O’Leary buying the national airline of his homeland should be the authorities insisting on rebranding it Cunnilingus.

But just when you thought Absolute Zero Sanity had been achieved, there’s always the Greek austerity problem to prove you wrong. Charis Theocharis, the new Hellenic revenues general secretary, made an astonishing claim in public last week. During his appearance at
the congress of the Association of Property Owners, a number of people
started to shout and protest about the many different taxes imposed on
property.

“I have no money to pay property taxes,” shouted someone from the audience.

An obviously stunned general secretary shouted back, “Me neither”.

CRASH 2: “We are 100% certain that it just doesn’t matter”.

Truth, Lies and Tickertape in America and Europe

It’s a desperate politician that ever uses the term ‘one hundred per cent’, but yesterday Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said he was that certain 2013 will be Greece’s last year of recession. Whether it’s a forever thing or just until 2014 we can’t be sure, but speaking to the BBC’s Mark Lowen, Yannis said the Greeks had reason to be optimistic.

Missing from his statement was why they should feel optimistic, but just to back himself still further into a newly-painted corner, Stournaras added, “Towards the last quarter of 2013, we are going to have recovery. The probability of Greece leaving the euro – Grexit – is now very small.”

I would imagine this is what passes for being ‘on message’ in the Eurozone at the moment, and if nothing else it offers an example to French ministers about how they’re expected to behave. In a desperate attempt to disarm a self-inflicted torpedo yesterday, colleagues in the Socialist administration said Labour Minister Michel Sapin was only highlighting faults of the previous government of Nicolas Sarkozy when he said France was ‘totally bankrupt’.

‘Totally’ is another of those ‘one hundred per cent’ statements. Not that you can be slightly bankrupt, but either way retreating from such an observation represents a toughie. His boss Pierre Moscovici said: “What he meant was that the fiscal situation was worrying”, but nobody in history ever rang up the administrators to say the situation was totally worrying. As if to prove the point, a poll yesterday by Le Figaro had 80% of readers agreeing that France was bankrupt. You ain’t outta the woods yet, Pierre baby.

But if things seem anything from rosey to awful on the mainland, things are catastrophic on Cyprus. You know there’s a big issue at stake when they drag in the clerics, and last week the island’s orthodox leader Archbishop Chrysostomos II requested financial assistance for the rapidly sinking island nobody wants to sink. However, Chrysostomos turned towards Russia, asking his counterpart in Moscow to try to persuade President Rasputin to grant another emergency loan….on top of the 2.5 billion euros Cyprus got from Russia just 13 short months ago.

According to Fitch, in fact, the total Cyprus now needs is 17 billion euros, which represents seventeen eighteenths of the gdp there. I’d call that ‘worrying’ even on a good day and 25 mgs of Valium; but then, I’m getting hazy on what ‘bankrupt’ means. I’m also unclear as to when Archbishops began to have numbers like monarchs: does this suggest delusions of grandeur, we ask. Or is he the follow up to the last movie, Archbishop Chrysostomos I, in which the Bish looked West but saw only a Belgian skull writing kamikaze poetry?

We may never know, but it’s good to see that the Phantom Finn Olli Rehn has joined the certainty club. “It’s essential that everybody realises that a disorderly default of Cyprus could lead to an exit of Cyprus from the Eurozone,” he said, adding pointedly and yet pointlessly, “It would be extremely stupid to take any risk of that nature.”

That’s another fine mess you got us into, Olli: but as the irrepressible Mark J Grant pointed out yesterday, a big slice of the formula for Europe is that ‘no country will leave the Euro under any circumstances so not only is money thrown about, but deficit goals are relaxed, relaxed and ignored as demonstrated quite clearly in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Cyprus. The actual financials in these European countries have gone from bad to worse but it is irrelevant, as there has been a change in the mindset of the Europeans which is being reflected in the minds of investors – which is that “it just does not matter”’. He is of course right on the money, reflected by the fact that Catalonia has just requested another 9 billion euros in aid from Mariano Rajoy’s Madrid Government.

Grant’s brilliant piece was marred only by the growing inability of folks under forty to get the compose/comprise verb right. Something is either composed of, or it comprises. You can’t comprise of something any more than you can compose of music. English is full of comprises, but it does no harm to know the rules.

Knowing the rules has never held the Italians back, and the smell surrounding Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank (MPS) is getting more pervasively gaggo by the hour. Siena prosecutors have been looking at the MPS accounts, and found suspicious bank transfers for €17bn in 11 months from May 2008 to April 2009 to various other institutions. That’s a figure I’d rank beyond suspicious and heading towards smoking gun held in bright-red cordite-stained hand. I mean, €17bn is a lot. The money went to ABN Amro, Santander and Abbey National, and has an air of f**king enormous bribe about it.

Talking of bribes, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanka’s latest round of bond buying will reach $1.14 trillion before he ends the programme in the first quarter of 2014, according to estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Despite the US being in complete, obvious and unstoppable recovery, Benny the Banke will press on with purchases of $40 billion a month of mortgage bonds, and $45 billion a month of Treasuries – although more than a few Fed officials warn his unprecedented balance-sheet expansion will “impair efforts to tighten policy when necessary” as one mole put it.

I am very happy to be quoted as offering the view that this is a one hundred per cent certainty. But as they say in Brussels, “it just doesn’t matter”. Thank God for that: we are saved.

Say Goodbye To The Good Life

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

Published on Economic Collapse on December 24, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

 

Say Goodbye To The Good Life - The U.S. Capitol With A Babylonian Holiday Tree In The ForegroundWill this be the last normal holiday season that Americans ever experience? To many Americans, such a notion would be absolutely inconceivable. After all, in the affluent areas of the country restaurants and malls are absolutely packed. Beautiful holiday decorations are seemingly everywhere this time of the year and children all over the United States are breathlessly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Even though poverty is exploding to unprecedented levels, most families will still have mountains of presents under their Christmas trees. Of course a whole lot of those presents were purchased with credit cards, but people don’t like to talk about that. It kind of spoils the illusion. Sadly, the truth is that our entire economy is a giant illusion. The extreme prosperity that we have been enjoying has been fueled by debt, and any future prosperity that we will experience is completely dependent on our ability to go into even more debt. The total amount of debt in our economy is almost 10 times largerthan it was just 30 years ago, but we don’t like to think about that too much. Most Americans are way too busy living the good life to be bothered with “doom and gloom”. Well, get ready to say goodbye to normal. As history has shown us, no financial bubble lasts forever, and time is rapidly running out for us.

You know that the hour is late when even mainstream news sources start publishing articles with titles such as this: “Will 2013 Mark the Beginning of American Decline?

That article appeared on Bloomberg.com the other day, and it was written by Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He is convinced that a day of reckoning is coming for U.S. government finances, and he seems resigned to the fact that we will not be ready when that day arrives…

“Sooner or later, it will be America’s turn to fall out of favor with investors and to see its own interest rates rise. It is hard to know when that day will come, or precisely what pressures the country will face.

Let me only venture one forecast: We will not be ready.”

Other analysts are far more pessimistic. For example, the following is what Gerald Celente said about the “bond bubble” during a recent interview with King World News

Eric King: “Gerald, I wanted to take a look at this upcoming issue you have coming out. (In here it says,) ‘Bonds Away! The bond bomb is ready to explode … threatening to make the real estate and dot-com bubbles, and even the Great Recession, look like market corrections.’ Can you talk about that?”

Celente: “Yes. This piece is being penned by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, the former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan. And he is convinced that the bond bubble is about to burst. This cannot continue to go on the way it is. Everyone knows that the whole game is rigged, and so is this….”

“The whole game is rigged. It’s ready to go down, and Dr. Paul Craig Roberts believes it’s ‘Bonds Away’ in 2013 as the bond bubble explodes and brings about a financial disaster even worse than the Great Depression.”

Eric King: “He’s saying here it’s a road to financial collapse that we are going to head down when this thing bursts.”

Celente: “It is. Because the whole world is being propped up by these phony bonds and it’s going to collapse. It has to happen. Interest rates are going to start going up, and when they do the bond bubble explodes. You cannot keep interest rates at zero for this amount of time and expect anything other than disaster to follow.”

For much more on all this, you can listen to another excellent interview with Gerald Celente right here.

Our politicians just assume that we will be able to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars far into the future at super low interest rates, but that is a very dangerous assumption.

As I noted the other day, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 2.534 percent at the end of November. If that number just rose to where it was about a decade earlier we would be in a massive amount of trouble.

Back in the year 2000, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 6.638 percent. If we were at that level today, the U.S. government would be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

But our politicians just keep borrowing and spending as if we could do this forever.

From the time that George Washington was inaugurated (1789) to the time that George W. Bush was inaugurated (2001), the U.S. government accumulated about 5.7 trillion dollars of debt.

During the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government accumulated about 5.7 trillion dollars of debt.

How can anyone support this kind of insanity?

You can see an excellent video demonstrating the vastness of our national debt right here. In the end, all of this debt will absolutely destroy the U.S. dollar, our economic system and the bright futures that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have.

As if all of that was not enough to be concerned about, there is also the threat that Wall Street could implode at any time. Most Americans have no idea that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world. The “too big to fail” banks are the ringleaders, and the derivatives bubble hangs over our financial system like a “sword of Damocles” that could fall at virtually any moment.

Everything will remain fine as long as the spiral of derivatives that our bankers have constructed remains perfectly balanced. But if something happens and it becomes unbalanced and starts to collapse, the consequences could be unlike anything we have ever seen before.

A recent Zero Hedge article entitled “1000x Systemic Leverage: $600 Trillion In Gross Derivatives ‘Backed’ By $600 Billion In Collateral” detailed how there is barely any collateral backing up the hundreds of trillions of dollars of derivatives that are out there…

But a bigger question is what is the actual collateral backing this gargantuan market which is about 10 times greater than the world’s combined GDP, because as the “derivative” name implies all this exposure is backed on some dedicated, real assets, somewhere. Luckily, the IMF recently released a discussion note titled “Shadow Banking: Economics and Policy” where quietly hidden in one of the appendices it answers precisely this critical question. The bottom line: $600 trillion in gross notional derivatives backed by a tiny $600 billion in real assets: a whopping 0.1% margin requirement! Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with this amount of unprecedented 1000x systemic leverage.

Our entire economy has become a giant pyramid of debt, risk and leverage. At some point there is going to be a giant crash. When that happens, people are going to become very desperate.

When people become very desperate, they often accept “solutions” that they were not willing to consider previously.

We need to learn some lessons from history. This is exactly the kind of thing that happened back in the 1930s.

For example, an elderly woman named Kitty Werthmann is telling audiences what life was like in Austria back in the late 1930s…

“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent bank loan interest rates.”

“Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.”

The Austrian people were really hurting and they were desperate for answers. When Hitler came to them with “solutions”, they were ready to embrace him with open arms…

“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933.” she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.”

“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.””Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.”

“We were overjoyed,” remembers Kitty, “and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed.”

Sadly, America is already starting to go down the same path in many ways. If you doubt this, you can read the rest of her account right here.

Right now, things are still relatively good in America. Yes, there are a whole host of economic numbers that look really bad, but what we are experiencing right now is nothing compared to the horrific economic pain that is coming.

When our economy finally crashes, nobody is going to be able to press a button and restore things to how they were previously. We will be told that we have to “adjust” and consider “new solutions” to our “new challenges”. Someday we will look back on the good life that we were enjoying in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and wish that we could go back to those days.

So enjoy the relative peacefulness and prosperity of these times while you still can. A horrific economic collapse is on the way, and once it strikes none of our lives will ever be the same.

Whales Sniffing Glue at JPMC

Discuss this article at the Market Flambe buffet in the Diner

Brown Swan it is, then.  ;D

So it begins again, this time fo`real. –p01

http://ponziworld.blogspot.ca/2012/05/this-time-will-be-different.html

 

Begins is the operative word here, because like with Bear Stearns, this is going to take a while to play out.  A $3B loss is of course Chump Change compared to what has been dumped so far into AIG and the Black Holes that are Freddie & Fannie.  Helicopter Ben could cover $3B with a Keystroke, so if it really was just $3B we were talking about here, well, we wouldn’t be talking about it.

The real problem is all the rehypothecation and counter party risk attached to this $3B, which itself is just concocted up funny money to begin with.  Why were they forced to mark it to market, when nobody has been doing that with any asset since the Dinosaurs walked the Earth?  On a THURSDAY no less, not after hours on Friday!

The answer likely would be that with all the shenanigans going on over in  Eurotrashland, one of JPMC counterparties needs to liquidate, and some of what they are wanting to liquidate is paper JPMC wrote.  If nobody else in the Shadow Banking underbelly will buy this paper at its par “value”, its going to get marked to market so JPMC has no choice anymore and can’t fake it.

So here is the deal. It is not really the $3B the London Whale lost at the Poker Table that is the Elephant in the Room (yes I know, Whales are Bigger than Elephants and I am mixing metaphors, but just fly with me on this one, OK?) its probably $300B of rehypothecated stuff pledged as collateral with a whole lot of Eurotrash Banksters looking to call in Markers from JPMC to cover their own losses and Margin Calls.

All of this stuff is not likely to hit in one day, though to be sure tomorrow would be a bad day for JPMC Investors to stop Sniffing Glue. LOL.  JPMC now seems set up to experience the same kind of run on the bank Bear Stearns got hit with, and Lehman after that.  So this will be the Gift that keeps on Giving here for a while before it really blows up.  When it does though, it will be a sight to behold indeed.

In this go round, first off with all the liquidity pumped into the Markets over the last quadrennium the Banksters are probably leveraged 10X times higher than the previous outrageous leveraging.  Second, their Sovereign Backstops are now all completely insolvent, having mortgaged the future tax receipts of their great-grandchildren in order to Bailout the Banksters in the last go-round in 2008.  Unless the Ferengi arrive with a fleet of Starships loaded with Gold Pressed Latinum, nobody is getting Bailed Out this time round.  The Circle Jerk of Insolvent Banks being bailed out by Insolvent Sovereigns who can only get their money by borrowing from the same Insolvent Banks has reached its Limit of Credibility.

The general sequence should see a liquidity lockup in LIBOR followed by Helicopter Ben openning the Swap Line Spigot to Full On here again, however that still won’t get Banks that do not trust EACH OTHER to lend to each other.  TBTF Banks may be able to get enough liquidity directly from their CBs to keep operating, but Biznesses like Shipping will not be able to get letters of Credit and biznesses that need short term loans during cash flow shortages will not be able to get them, forcing BKs there.

How long will it take for a complete lockup?  based on Bear Stearns a few months to a year would seem logical to assume, except the political situation is a lot worse now and the half-life of CB interventions is much shorter.  So I will go with a 2 month timeline on this before we are back into a full blown Financial Crisis.

I’ve underestimated many times before the ability of the CBs to find new creative bookeeping methods to keep the show going a little longer.  So it is a risk to put a timeline on this again, but really I think they are out of Rabbits to pull out of the hat.

RE

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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Wisconsin Bill Would Remove Barrier to Using Gold, [...]

Under extreme conditions, gold rearranges its atom [...]

The cost of gold futures on the Comex exchange inc [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on September 15, 2019, 08:08:32 [...]

Good interview.  You sounded smart. [...]

A little Political Bickering is a small price to p [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Shaking the August Stick By Cognitive Dissonance     Sometime towards the end of the third or fourth [...]

Empire in Decline - Propaganda and the American Myth By Cognitive Dissonance     “Oh, what a tangled [...]

Meanderings By Cognitive Dissonance     Tis the Season Silly season is upon us. And I, for one, welc [...]

The Brainwashing of a Nation by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog Image by ElisaRiva from Pixa [...]

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2019-09-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

The Trickster's Tale"Everyone has some wisdom, but no one has all of it." Come gather 'round my children [...]

Nothing Again - Naomi Klein Renews Her Climate Prescription"By now we should all be well aware by now of the havoc being caused by climate change." I [...]

Leaves of Seagrass"Seawater is the circulatory system of Gaia"In 1855, Walt Whitman penned the free verse, “ [...]

Treeplanting Olympics"Withdrawing 700 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere could be accomplished by as early as mi [...]

The Dark Cloud"Skynet needs to send a terminator back to 1984 and take out Mark Zuckerberg’s mom before he ca [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

What extinction crisis? Believe it or not, there are still climate science deniers out there. And th [...]

My new book, Abolish Oil Now, will talk about why the climate movement has failed and what we can do [...]

A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

I agree. And the big intermittency is from summer to winter. Also from year to year, when someone tr [...]

"The drive for grids that are 100% emissions-free is being pushed by a growing number of U.S. s [...]

"Meanwhile, science is advancing on new technology" This sentence... It says nothing. It h [...]

So if these states cant meet these renewable mandates they go dark? Not. Nice mandating "things [...]

«the political orthodoxy during the 1970s and 1980s. I wasn’t involved with this back then, so misse [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Barocaloric is a solid-state not-in-kind technology, for cooling and heat pumping, rising as an alte [...]

Terrestrial ecosystems and their vegetation are linked to climate. With the potential of accelerated [...]

The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO) is a paleoclimate temperature cycle that originates in th [...]