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The Next Financial Crisis Has Already Arrived In Europe, And People Are Starting To Freak Out June 12, 2017

Did you know that the sixth largest bank in Spain failed in spectacular fashion just a few days ago?  Many are comparing the sudden implosion of Banco Popular to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and EU regulators hastily arranged a sale of the failed bank to Santander in order to avoid a full scale financial panic.  Sadly, most Americans have no idea that a new financial crisis is starting to play out over in Europe, because most Americans only care about what is going on in America.  But we should be paying attention, because the EU is the second largest economy on the entire planet, and the euro is the second most used currency on the entire planet.  The U.S. financial system is already teetering on the brink of disaster, and this new financial crisis in Europe could turn out to be enough to push us over the edge.

If EU regulators had not arranged a “forced sale” of Banco Popular to Santander, we would probably be witnessing panic on a scale that we haven’t seen since 2008 in Europe right about now.  The following comes from the Telegraph

Spanish banking giant Santander has stepped in to the rescue ailing rival Banco Popular by taking over the failing lender for €1 in a watershed deal masterminded by EU regulators to avoid a damaging collapse.

Santander will tap its shareholders for €7bn in a rights issue to raise the capital needed to shore-up Popular’s finances in a dramatic private sector rescue of Spain’s sixth-largest lender.

It will inflict losses of approximately €3.3bn on bond investors and shareholders but crucially will avoid a taxpayer bailout.

But now that a “too big to fail” bank like Banco Popular has failed, investors are immediately trying to figure out which major Spanish banks may be the next to collapse.  According to Wolf Richter, many have identified Liberbank as an institution that is highly vulnerable…

After its most tumultuous week since the bailout days of 2012, Spain’s banking system is gripped by a climate of fear, uncertainty and distrust. Rather than allaying investor nerves, the shotgun bail-in and sale of Banco Popular to Santander on Tuesday has merely intensified them. For the first time since the Global Financial Crisis, shareholders and subordinate bondholders of a failing Spanish bank were not bailed out by taxpayers; they took risks in order to make a buck, and they bore the consequences. That’s how it should be. But bank investors don’t like not getting bailed out.

Now they’re worrying it could happen again. As Popular’s final days showed, once confidence and trust in a bank vanishes, it’s almost impossible to restore them. The fear has now spread to Spain’s eighth largest lender, Liberbank, a mini-Bankia that was spawned in 2011 from the forced marriage of three failed cajas (savings banks), Cajastur, Caja de Extremadura and Caja Cantabria.

On Thursday, shares of Liberbank dropped by an astounding 20 percent, and that was followed up by another 19 percent decline on Friday.

Spanish authorities responded by banning short sales of Liberbank shares, and that caused a short-term rebound in the stock price.

But we haven’t seen this kind of chaos in European financial markets in a very long time.

Meanwhile, Nick Giambruno is sounding the alarm about a much bigger bubble.  At this moment, more than a trillion dollars worth of Italian government bonds have negative yields…

Over $1 trillion worth of Italian bonds actually have negative yields.

It’s a bizarre and perverse situation.

Lending money to the bankrupt Italian government carries huge risks. So the yields on Italian government bonds should be near record highs, not record lows.

Negative yields could not exist in a free market. They’re only possible in the current “Alice in Wonderland” economy created by central bankers.

You see, the European Central Bank (ECB) has been printing money to buy Italian government bonds hand over fist. Since 2008, the ECB and Italian banks have bought over 88% of Italian government debt, according to a recent study.

The moment that the ECB stops wildly buying Italian bonds, the party will be over and the Italian financial system will crash.  Unfortunately for Italy, the Germans are pressuring the ECB to quit printing so much money, and the Germans usually get their way in these things.

But if the Germans get their way this time, we could be facing a complete and utter nightmare very quickly.  Here is more from Nick Giambruno

Once the ECB—the only large buyer—steps away, Italian government bonds will crash and rates will soar.

Soon it will be impossible for the Italian government to finance itself.

Italian banks—which are already insolvent—will be decimated. They hold an estimated €235 billion worth of Italian government bonds. So the coming bond crash will pummel their balance sheets.

It’s shaping up to be a lovely train wreck.

And all of this is happening in the context of a global economy that appears to be headed for a major downturn.

For example, the last time that global credit growth showed down this rapidly was during the last financial crisis

From peak to trough the deceleration in global credit growth is now approaching that during the global financial crisis (-6% of global GDP), even if the dispersion of the decline is much narrower. Currently 55% of the countries in our sample have experienced a -0.3 standard deviation deterioration in their credit impulse (median over 12 months) compared to 77% of countries in Dec ’09 when the median decline was -1.4 stdev.”

Of course the last time global credit growth decelerated this dramatically, global central banks intervened on a scale that was unlike anything that we had ever seen before.

But this time around it is happening at a time when global central banks are very low on ammo

More importantly, back in 2009, not only China, but the Fed and other central banks unleashed the biggest injection of credit, i.e. liquidity, the world has ever seen resulting in the biggest asset bubble the world has ever seen. And, this time around, the Fed is set to hike for the third time in the past year, even as the ECB and BOJ are forced to soon taper as they run out of eligible bonds to monetize. All this comes at a time when US loan growth is weeks away from turning negative.

As such, what “kickstarts” the next spike in the credit impulse is unclear. What is clear is that if the traditional 3-6 month lag between credit inflection points, i.e. impulse, and economic growth is maintained, the global economy is set for a dramatic collapse some time in the second half.

There are so many experts that are warning about big economic trouble in our immediate future.  I would like to say that all of the experts that are freaking out are wrong, but I can’t do that.

I have not seen an atmosphere like this since 2008 and 2009, and everything points to an acceleration of the crisis as we enter the second half of this year.

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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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Why Are So Many Big Investors Positioning Themselves To Make Giant Amounts Of Money If The Stock Market Crashes? June 5, 2017

I keep hearing from people that think that the stock market is going to crash by the end of the year.  Hopefully that will not happen, but the ridiculous stock prices that we are seeing right now certainly cannot last forever.  On Sunday, I was chatting with a friend that had just been to a financial conference.  He was quite surprised that one of the things being taught to the attendees of this conference was how to position themselves to make an enormous amount of money when the stock market crashes dramatically in the near future.  Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up, and so when the inevitable market crash does take place those that have made large bets against the market will make huge fortunes.  It happened in 2008, and it will happen again.  But it was unsettling to my friend Robert that there were so many people that were gleefully looking forward to this.

Of course some of the biggest names in the investing world are also anticipating a major downturn very soon.  I have previously written about how Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is sitting on a pile of 86 billion dollars in cash right now.  Nobody ever knows exactly what Buffett is thinking, but it isn’t too hard to figure out that he plans to use those billions to buy up stocks for a song after a big market crash happens.

I have also previously written about many other big names throughout the financial world that are warning that a new financial crisis is imminent.  The last time I saw so many prominent investors sounding the alarm was just before the market crash of 2008, but most people didn’t listen that time around either.

And of course those that believe that a market crash is coming are doing a lot more than just talking about it.  According to Zero Hedge, there are now more short positions betting against the Russell 2000 than we have seen at any time in the last six years…

The Russell 2000 Index posted a 2.2% decline in May, its worst month since October, and it appears a large swath of investors is now betting it has further to fall.

As Bloomberg notes, hedge funds and other major speculators have a combined net short position of 73,030 contracts in the small-cap index’s futures, according to the latest data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Russell 2000 sentiment has sharply declined since January, when future contract positioning reached record bullishness. It’s now the most short since May 2011.

The last time investors were this short the Russell 2000, it fell by almost 30 percent.

Can we expect something similar this time?

We will just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, there has also been a surge in the number of investors betting that we will soon see increased market volatility

As Bloomberg notes, with the VIX down more than 30% this year through the end of last week, investors have been using options to bet on volatility.

As the chart above shows, the volume of contracts wagering on a resurgence of market turmoil has reached its highest level since last February relative to those calling for a drop in price movements.

Because markets tend to go down much faster than they go up, most of those that bet on increased volatility are typically doing so because they believe that a stock market crash is coming very soon.

And it is also interesting to note that hedge funds are jumping into gold at a rate that we have not seen since 2007

Hedge funds are jumping back into gold.

Money managers boosted their long positions in U.S. futures by the most in almost a decade in the week ended May 23, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

Gold is a safe haven asset, and it is a very good place to be during a major financial crisis.  So if hedge funds are anticipating that we are on the verge of a major market downturn, it would make sense for them to be piling into gold.

All of the moves that I have discussed above will end up looking quite foolish if stocks just keep going up and up and up.

But if the market crashes, those that have positioned themselves ahead of time will end up making a killing.

Today the stock market bears absolutely no resemblance to economic reality, but at some point that will change.  And with each passing day we just continue to get more bad economic news.

Yesterday, I showed that according to official U.S. government figures there are 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  Today, we got more confirmation that the U.S. economy is slowing down.  We learned that new vehicle sales fell on a year-over-year basis for the fifth month in a row in May, and we learned that factory orders and new orders for durable goods both declined last month.  And for a lot more numbers just like those, please see this article.

The U.S. economy is not “healthy” and it hasn’t been for a very long time.  Because we have shipped so many jobs overseas, manufacturing’s share of U.S. employment has fallen to an all-time record low.  The middle class is shrinking, and somewhere around two-thirds of the country is living paycheck to paycheck.  We have been able to maintain our national standard of living by going on the greatest debt binge of all time, but every additional dollar of debt that we take on makes our long-term outlook even worse.

Just because he is living in the White House does not mean that Donald Trump can automatically turn things around.  Without the help of Congress, he cannot cut taxes, repeal Obamacare, eliminate unnecessary federal agencies or implement many of the other items on his economic agenda.

And the truth is that because of the way that our system is structured, the Federal Reserve actually has much, much more power over the economy than Donald Trump does.  When the financial markets crash and we officially enter the next recession, most of the blame will be placed on Trump, but it won’t be his fault.  Instead, it will be primarily the Federal Reserve’s fault, and we need to educate the American people about this ahead of time.

What goes up must come down, and this irrational stock bubble has been living on borrowed time for quite a while now.

It isn’t going to take much to push things over the edge, and there are all sorts of candidates for what the next “trigger event” will be.

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