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We Are Getting Very Close To An Inverted Yield Curve – And If That Happens A Recession Is Essentially Guaranteed June 15, 2017

If something happens seven times in a row, do you think that there is a pretty good chance that it will happen the eighth time too?  Immediately prior to the last seven recessions, we have seen an inverted yield curve, and it looks like it is about to happen again for the very first time since the last financial crisis.  For those of you that are not familiar with this terminology, when we are talking about a yield curve we are typically talking about the spread between two-year and ten-year U.S. Treasury bond yields.  Normally, short-term rates are higher than long-term rates, but when investors get spooked about the economy this can reverse.  Just before every single recession since 1960 the yield curve has “inverted”, and now we are getting dangerously close to it happening again for the first time in a decade.

On Thursday, the spread between two-year and ten-year Treasuries dropped to just 79 basis points.  According to Business Insider, this is almost the tightest that the yield curve has been since 2007…

The spread between the yields on two-year and 10-year Treasurys fell to 79 basis points, or 0.79%, after Wednesday’s disappointing consumer-price and retail-sales data. The spread is currently within a few hundredths of a percentage point of being the tightest it has been since 2007.

Perhaps more notably, it is on a path to “inverting” — meaning it would cost more to borrow for the short term than the long term — for the first time since the months leading up to the financial crisis.

So why is an inverted yield curve such a big event?  Here is how CNBC recently explained it…

An inverted yield curve, which has correctly predicted the last seven recessions going back to the late 1960’s, occurs when short-term interest rates yield more than longer-term rates. Why is an inverted yield curve so crucial in determining the direction of markets and the economy? Because when bank assets (longer-duration loans) generate less income than bank liabilities (short-term deposits), the incentive to make new loans dries up along with the money supply. And when asset bubbles are starved of that monetary fuel they burst. The severity of the recession depends on the intensity of the asset bubbles in existence prior to the inversion.

What is truly alarming is that the Federal Reserve can see what is happening to the yield curve, and they can see all of the other indications that the economy is slowing down, but they decided to raise rates anyway.

Raising rates in a slowing economy is a recipe for disaster, but the Fed has gone beyond that and has declared that it intends to start unwinding the 4.5 trillion dollars of assets that have accumulated on the Fed’s balance sheet.

Janet Yellen is trying to tell us that this will be a smooth process, but many analysts are far from convinced.  For instance, just consider what Peter Boockvar recently told CNBC

“They desperately want this to be an easy, smooth, paint-drying type of process, but there’s no chance,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. “The whole purpose of quantitative easing was to inflame the markets higher. Why shouldn’t the reverse happen when we do quantitative tightening?”

I hope that there are no political motivations behind the Fed’s moves.  During the Obama era, interest rates were pushed all the way to the floor and the financial system was flooded with new money by the Fed.  But now the Fed is completely reversing the process now that Donald Trump is in office.

When the inevitable stock market crash comes, Trump will get most of the blame, but it will actually be the Federal Reserve’s fault.  If the Fed had not injected trillions of dollars into the system, stocks would not have ever gotten this high.  And now that they are reversing the process that created the bubble, a whole lot of innocent people out there are going to get really hurt as stock prices come crashing down.

And if you thought that the last recession was bad for average American families, wait until you see what happens this time around.  As Kevin Muir has noted, it is utter madness for the Fed to hit the breaks in a rapidly slowing economy…

There are a million other little signs the US economy is rolling over, but that’s not important. What is important is the realization that until financial conditions back up, the Fed will not ease off the brake.

To top it all off, the Fed is not only braking, but they are also preparing the market for a balance sheet unwind. This is like QE in reverse.

It’s a perfect storm of negativity. An overly tight Fed that is determined to withdraw monetary stimulus even in the face of a declining economy.

Even if the Fed ultimately decides not to unwind their balance sheet very rapidly, rising rates will still significantly slow down economic activity.

Rising mortgage rates are going to hit the housing market hard, rising rates on auto loans are horrible news for an auto industry that is already having a horrendous year, and rising rates on credit cards will mean higher credit card payments for millions of American families.

And this comes at a time when indicator after indicator is already screaming that the next recession is dead ahead.

Today, an unelected, unaccountable central banking cartel has far more power over our economy than anyone else, and that includes President Trump and Congress.  The more manipulating they do, the bigger our economic booms and busts become, and this next bust is going to be a doozy.

There have been 18 distinct recessions or depressions since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, and if we finally want to get off of this economic roller coaster for good we need to abolish the Federal Reserve.

As many of you may have heard, I am very strongly leaning toward running for Congress here in Idaho, and one of the key things that is going to set me apart from any other candidate is that I am very passionate about shutting down the Federal Reserve.  I recently detailed why it is imperative that we do this in an article entitled “The Federal Reserve Must Go”.  Central banks are designed to create government debt spirals, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger since the Fed was initially established.

If we ever want to do something about our national debt, and if we ever want to get our economy back on track on a permanent basis, we have got to do something about the Federal Reserve.

Anyone that would suggest otherwise is just wasting your time.

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Central Banks Now Own Stocks And Bonds Worth Trillions – And They Could Crash The Markets By Selling Them June 7, 2017

Have you ever wondered why stocks just seem to keep going up no matter what happens?  For years, financial markets have been behaving in ways that seem to defy any rational explanation, but once you understand the role that central banks have been playing everything begins to make sense.  In the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008, global central banks began to buy stocks, bonds and other financial assets in very large quantities and they haven’t stopped since.  In fact, as you will see below, global central banks are on pace to buy 3.6 trillion dollars worth of stocks and bonds this year alone.  At this point, the Swiss National Bank owns more publicly-traded shares of Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg does, and the Bank of Japan is now a top-five owner in 81 different large Japanese firms.  These global central banks are shamelessly pumping up global stock markets, but because they now have such vast holdings they could also cause a devastating global stock market crash simply by starting to sell off their portfolios.

Over the years I have often been asked about the “plunge protection team”, but the truth is that global central banks are the real “plunge protection team”.  If stocks start surging higher on any particular day for seemingly no reason, it is probably the work of a central bank.  Because they can inject billions of dollars into the markets whenever they want, that essentially allows them to “play god” and move the markets in any direction that they please.

But of course what they have done is essentially destroy the marketplace.  A “free market” for stocks basically no longer exists because of all this central bank manipulation.  I really like how Bruce Wilds made this point

One indication of just how messed up and flawed the global markets have become is reflected in the way central banks across the world are now buying stocks. This has become a part of their response to correcting the forces of past excesses. Their incursion into this bastion of the free markets signals we have entered the era where true price discovery no longer exists. The central banks are often viewed as price-insensitive buyers, so this incestuous influx of money is in some ways the ultimate distortion.

According to Business Insider, global central banks are on pace to purchase an astounding 3.6 trillion dollars in stocks and bonds in 2017.

Overall, the five largest global central banks now collectively have 14.6 trillion dollars in assets on their balance sheets.

You can call this a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t free market capitalism.

The Swiss National Bank is one of the biggest offenders.  During just the first three months of this year, it bought 17 billion dollars worth of U.S. stocks, and that brought the overall total that the Swiss National Bank is currently holding to more than $80 billion.

Have you ever wondered why shares of Apple just seem to keep going up and up and up?

Well, the Swiss National Bank bought almost 4 million shares of Apple during the months of January, February and March.

And as I mentioned above, the Swiss National Bank now owns more publicly-traded shares in Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg”

Switzerland’s central bank now owns more publicly-traded shares in Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg, part of a mushrooming stock portfolio that is likely to grow yet further.

The tech giant’s founder and CEO has other ways to control his company: Zuckerberg holds most of his stake in a different class of stock. Nevertheless this example illustrates how the Swiss National Bank has become a multi-billion-dollar equity investor due to its campaign to hold down the Swiss franc.

It is now the world’s eighth-biggest public investor, data from the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum show.

But as shameless as the Swiss National Bank has been, the Bank of Japan is even worse.

Today, the Nikkei is essentially a giant sham.  The Bank of Japan regularly goes in and just starts buying up everything in sight, and according to Bloomberg they are on pace to become the largest shareholder in dozens of the most prominent Japanese corporations by the end of 2017…

Already a top-five owner of 81 companies in Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average, the BOJ is on course to become the No. 1 shareholder in 55 of those firms by the end of next year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg from the central bank’s exchange-traded fund holdings.

If global central banks have the power to pump up these markets, they also have the power to crash them.

Why would they want to do such a thing?

I can answer that question with just two words…

Donald Trump.

If the Comey angle doesn’t work, the elite could try to destroy Trump by engineering an absolutely devastating stock market crash.  Close to half the U.S. population dislikes Trump anyway, and so it would be fairly easy to get them to believe that Trump’s policies have caused a new financial crisis.  Of course that would be complete nonsense, but in our society today the truth often doesn’t really matter.

And without a doubt, evidence continues to mount that the real economy is starting to slow down substantially.  For example, we just learned that bankruptcies surged once again in May.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

So here we go again. Total US business bankruptcies in May rose 4.7% year-over-year to 3,572 filings, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. That’s up 40% from May 2015 and up 10% from May 2014.

And there’s another concern: Bankruptcy filings are highly seasonal. They peak in tax season – March or April – and then fall off. The decline in April after the peak in March was within that seasonal pattern. Over the past years, filings dropped in May. But not this year.

Without unprecedented intervention by global central banks, financial markets would have crashed long ago.

And if they keep increasing their purchases of stocks and bonds, the central banks may be able to prop things up for a while longer.

Who knows?  Perhaps with enough financial engineering they would be able to keep this bubble going for years.  Of course things would start to get really awkward once they eventually owned virtually everything, but I have a feeling that things will never get that far.

I have a feeling that global central banks will eventually find an excuse to start “unwinding their balance sheets”, and I have a feeling that it will be at a time that is highly inconvenient for President Trump.

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Global Financial Markets Plunged Into Chaos As Italy Overwhelmingly Votes ‘No’ December 4, 2016

italy-flag-map-public-domainItalian voters have embraced the global trend of rejecting the established world order, but the “no” vote on Sunday has plunged global financial markets into a state of utter chaos.  The euro has already fallen to a 20 month low, Italian government bonds are poised for a tremendous crash, and futures markets are indicating that both U.S. and European stock markets will be way down when they open on Monday.  It is being projected that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s referendum on constitutional reforms will be defeated by about 20 percentage points when all the votes have been counted, and Renzi has already announced that he plans to resign as a result.  When new elections are held it looks like comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star movement will come to power, and the European establishment is extremely alarmed at that prospect because Grillo wants to take Italy out of the eurozone.  In the long run Italy would be much better off without the euro, but in the short-term the only thing propping up Italy’s failing banking system is support from Europe.  Without that support, the 8th largest economy on the entire planet would already be in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis.

I know that I said a lot in that first paragraph, but it is imperative that people understand how serious this crisis could quickly become.

This “no” vote virtually guarantees a major banking crisis for Italy, and many analysts fear that it could trigger a broader financial crisis all across the rest of the continent as well.

Just look at what has already happened.  All of the votes haven’t even been counted yet, and the euro is absolutely plummeting

The euro dropped 1.3 percent to $1.0505, falling below its 1 1/2-year low of $1.0518 touched late last month, and testing its key support levels where the currency has managed to rebound in the past couple of years.

A break below its 2015 March low of $1.0457 would send the currency to its lowest level since early 2003, opening a way for a test of $1, or parity against the dollar, a scenario which many market players now see as a real possibility.

In early 2014, there were times when one euro was trading for almost $1.40.  For a very long time I have been warning that the euro was eventually heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and now we are almost there.

Meanwhile, Italian government bonds are going to continue to crash following this election result.  This is going to make it even more difficult for the Italian government to borrow money, and that will only aggravate their ongoing financial troubles.

But the big problem in Italy is the banks.  At this moment there are eight banks in imminent danger of collapsing, and virtually all of the rest of them are in some stage of trouble.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article about the crisis that Italian banks are facing right at this moment…

They’re burdened with a mountain of bad loans. Their stocks have cratered. And they have to operate in an economy prone to recession and political upheaval.

Signs have been mounting for months that Italy’s weakest lenders, and in particular Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, were sliding toward the precipice, threatening to reignite a broader crisis.

And we may get some news regarding the fate of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as early as Monday morning if what the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting is correct…

A last-gasp rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest surviving bank, has been thrown into doubt after reformist prime minister Matteo Renzi decisively lost a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday.

MPS and advisers JPMorgan and Mediobanca will meet as early as Monday morning to decide whether to pull a plan to go ahead with a €5bn recapitalisation, the FT reports, citing people informed of the plan.

Senior bankers will decide whether to pursue their underwriting commitments or exercise their right to drop the transaction due to adverse market conditions, these people said. In the event the banks drop the capital plan, the Italian state is expected to nationalise the bank, say senior bankers.

If Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena fails, major banks all over Italy (and all over the rest of Europe) could start going down like dominoes.

So what were Italians voting on anyway?

Well, the truth is that the constitutional reforms that were proposed actually sound quite boring

“The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of Parliament — the Senate — shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate’s power to bring down government coalitions.

“The amendments also shift some powers now held by the regions to the central government, thereby reducing frequent and lengthy court battles between Rome and the regional governments.”

The reason why this vote was ultimately so important is because it became a referendum on Renzi’s administration.  The fact that he announced in advance that he would resign if it did not get approved gave a tremendous amount of fuel to the opposition.

So now Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement stands poised to come to power, and that could be very bad news for those that are hoping to hold the common currency together.

The following is how NPR recently summarized the main goals of the Five-Star Movement…

“It calls for a government-guaranteed, universal income, abolishing Italy’s fiscal commitments to the European Union and a referendum on Italy’s membership in the Euro — a prospect that could unravel the entire single currency Eurozone.”

If Italy chooses to leave the euro, it will probably mean the end of the common currency, and the continued existence of the entire European Union would be called into question.

So this vote on Sunday was huge.  The Brexit had already done a tremendous amount of damage to the long-term prospects for the European Union, and now the crisis in Italy is sending political and financial shockwaves throughout the entire continent.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on the euro and on Italian government bonds.

If they both continue to crash, that will be a sign that a major European financial crisis is now upon us.

And what happens in Europe definitely does not stay in Europe.

If Europe goes down, we are going to go down too.

At this point we still have almost a month left in 2016, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a very troubling year.  As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also keep preparing for the worst.

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