by SWW - July 24th, 2011 12:02 am
U.S. Debt Ceiling Deadlock
One line of reasoning from the “no tax hikes” crowd is the inaccurate premise that the very wealthy, the top 0.1%, are job creators. If they’re the “job creators,” it might be in the public interest to protect them from excessive taxation – thereby allowing these top 0.1% to spend money on creating jobs. This is incorrect. The overwhelming majority of U.S. jobs are ‘created’ by ordinary Americans when they spend their paychecks. Consumer spending drives about 70% of our GDP. When average Americans are struggling with high unemployment, which recently popped back up to 9.2%, they are reluctant to spend money on anything beyond basic necessities. The broader U6 unemployment number – which includes the underemployed and “discouraged workers” – is 16.2%.
Meanwhile, U.S. companies are not stepping up hiring due to weakness in the economy – there is no demand. As Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics wrote, “Businesses aren’t confident enough, and the longer this goes on, the harder it is to convince them that they should be.” (Dearth of Demand Seen Behind Weak Hiring)…
Let Them Eat Cake
Russ Winter of Winter Watch at the Wall Street Examiner discussed the gap between what people think corporations pay in taxes, versus what they really spend. For example, Microsoft “lowers its effective tax rate a full 7% by taking foreign income to $19.2 billion from $15.4 billion, and lowering US income (and expenses) from $9.6 billion to $8.9 billion. Today MSFT is effectively a 68% foreign operation. In return it gets all the benefits of stimulus and minimizes the costs of supporting the US system…
“Mark Kreiger writes a spot on piece regarding the high end luxury bubble that includes this gem - ‘The social crisis facing the country as a result of the most egregious plundering in modern American history will spell the end of the ‘high end’ theme. Buying into this trend now is like getting long Marie Antoinette’s unsevered
by ilene - July 7th, 2011 8:31 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder of Economic Collapse
In the past, there certainly have been governments that have gotten into trouble with debt, but what we are experiencing now is the first truly global sovereign debt crisis. There has never been a time in recorded history when virtually all of the governments of the world were drowning in debt all at the same time.
This sovereign debt crisis is never going to end until there is a major global financial collapse. There simply is no way to unwind the colossal web of debt that we have constructed in an orderly fashion. Right now the EU and the IMF have been making "emergency loans" to nations such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but that is only going to buy those countries a few additional months. Giving more loans to nations that are already drowning in red ink may "kick the can down the road" for a little while but it isn’t going to solve anything. Meanwhile, dozens more nations all over the globe are rapidly approaching a day of reckoning.
All of the bailouts that you are hearing about right now are simply delaying the pain. The reality is that when the "emergency loans" for Greece stop, Greece is going to default. Greece is toast. The game is over for them. You can stick a fork in Greece because it is done.
One of the big problems for Greece is that since it is part of the euro it can’t independently print more money. If Greece cannot raise enough euros internally Greece must turn to outside assistance.
Unfortunately, at this point Greece has accumulated such a mammoth debt that it cannot possibly sustain it. By the end of the year, it is projected that the national debt of Greece will soar to approximately 166% of GDP.
The financial collapse of Greece is inevitable. If they keep using the euro they will collapse. If they quit using the euro they will collapse. When the rest of Europe decides that it is tired of propping Greece up the game will be over.
At this point very few people are interested in lending Greece more money.
As I wrote about yesterday, many of the nations around the world are only able to keep going because they are able to borrow huge amounts of money at low interest rates.
by ilene - May 9th, 2011 2:09 pm
Courtesy of Trader Mark at Fund My Mutual Fund
The same economists shocked by the original housing crash (prices can’t go up forever?), now appear to be in the fetal position as the much too obvious second leg of the downturn has arrived. While I do have an economist degree, living in the locale experiencing a 1 state Depression [Jan 27, 2011: Metro Detroit Home Prices Back to 1994 Levels...Before Accounting for Inflation] had me much more negative than those who live in the ivory towers of Manhattan or D.C.. I wrote a few years ago about a few articles that also opened my eyes to what was going on out there in the rest of the country. [May 30, 2005 - Fortune: Riding the Boom] [Sep 11, 2006: Option ARMs - Nightmare Mortgages] Hence in late 07, I showed with simple math why we were in for a doozy of a drop in the housing market. [Dec 6, 2007: What Should Median Housing Prices be Today?]
As you can see from the mid/late 1970s to 2001/2002 the ratio was consistent in a tight range between 2.6x to 3.0x. Essentially this means the median home price in this country was 2.6x – 3.0x median household income. And it’s been right around 2.8x for most of that time. That’s 30 years….
Then in 2002+, we had innovation…. great innovation… and 1% interest rates. Easy money. No mortgage regulation. Happy times. And crazy housing prices that detached from reality. In 2006 at the height of ‘innovation’ (where were these politicians 1 year ago? seriously), the ratio went "off" the chart, it appears 4.0x. After the ‘correction’ we’ve had, that ratio has fallen all the way to…. 3.8x.
In July 2006 at the height of insanity the median price of a home was $230,200
It has already fallen in less than a year (October 2006) to $207,800
Pain over, correction done – time to party. Right? Wrong.
What are median incomes nowadays? As of 2006 the median household income was $48,201.
$48,201 x 2.8 ratio
by ilene - May 4th, 2011 4:00 pm
Interview with An interview with Karen Roche of The Gold Report
Economic recovery? What economic recovery? Contrary to popular media reports, government economic reporting specialist and ShadowStats Editor John Williams reads between the government-economic-data lines. "The U.S. is really in the worst condition of any major economy or country in the world," he says. In this exclusive interview with The Gold Report, John concludes the nation is in the midst of a multiple-dip recession and headed for hyperinflation.
The Gold Report: Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has given a warning to the U.S. government that it may downgrade its rating by 2013 if nothing is done to address the debt and deficit. What’s the real impact of this announcement?
John Williams: S&P is noting the U.S. government’s long-range fiscal problems. Generally, you’ll find that the accounting for unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other programs on a net-present-value (NPV) basis indicates total federal debt and obligations of about $75 trillion. That’s 15 times the gross domestic product (GDP). The debt and obligations are increasing at a pace of about $5 trillion a year, which is neither sustainable nor containable. If the U.S. was a corporation on a parallel basis, it would be headed into bankruptcy rather quickly.
There’s good reason for fear about the debt, but it would be a tremendous shock if either S&P or Moody’s Investor Service actually downgraded the U.S. sovereign-debt rating. The AAA rating on U.S. Treasuries is the benchmark for AAA, the highest rating, meaning the lowest risk of default. With U.S. Treasuries denominated in U.S. dollars and the benchmark AAA security, how can you downgrade your benchmark security? That’s a very awkward situation for rating agencies. As long as the U.S. dollar retains its reserve currency status and is able to issue debt in U.S. dollars, you’ll continue to see a triple-A rating for U.S. Treasuries. Having the U.S. Treasuries denominated in U.S. dollars means the government always can print the money it needs to pay off the securities, which means no default.
TGR: With the U.S. Treasury rated AAA, everything else is rated against that. But what if another AAA-rated entity is about to default?
Non-Manufacturing ISM Plunges Below Prediction of All 73 Economists, New Orders Collapse, Prices Firm; Did Rosenberg Capitulate at the Top?
by ilene - May 4th, 2011 2:14 pm
Courtesy of Mish
The April 2011 Non-Manufacturing ISM plunged 4.5 points to 52.8 from 57.3 The drop was below expected range of all 73 economists in a Bloomberg ISM Survey.
The range of economists’ forecasts in the Bloomberg survey was 54.5 to 59 with the median forecast up a tick to 57.4.
Tellingly, new orders collapsed by 11.4 points from 64.1 to 52.7. Employment, one of the weaker measures and up only 8 consecutive months fell to 51.9. One more reasonably bad month and services employment will contract.
Please consider the April 2011 Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®
Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in April for the 17th consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.
click on chart for sharper image
The 12 industries reporting growth of new orders in April — listed in order — are: Management of Companies & Support Services; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Mining; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Wholesale Trade; Information; Health Care & Social Assistance; Public Administration; Construction; Other Services; and Educational Services. The four industries reporting contraction of new orders in April are: Finance & Insurance; Retail Trade; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Utilities.
Twelve industries reported increased employment, five industries reported decreased employment, and one industry reported unchanged employment compared to March.
The industries reporting an increase in employment in April — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Management of Companies & Support Services; Other Services; Information; Construction; Accommodation & Food Services; Finance & Insurance; Public Administration; Wholesale Trade; and Transportation & Warehousing. The industries reporting a reduction in employment in April are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Utilities.
For the second consecutive month, all 18 non-manufacturing industries reported an increase in prices paid, in the following order: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Mining; Utilities; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Construction; Wholesale Trade; Accommodation & Food Services; Finance & Insurance; Transportation & Warehousing; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Management of Companies & Support Services; Educational Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Retail Trade; Public Administration; Information; Health Care & Social Assistance; and Other Services.
ISM Prices Firm, What About Profits?
by ilene - March 17th, 2011 3:45 pm
THE BANKS MUST BE RESTRAINED, AND THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM REFORMED, WITH BALANCE RESTORED TO THE ECONOMY, BEFORE THERE CAN BE ANY SUSTAINED RECOVERY – Jesse
I have long been a fan of Jesse’s Café Américain. Jesse is a brilliant writer and a deep thinker who uniquely transcends politics, easily seeing through lies and disinformation. He has a great feel for what really matters, and the courage to speak out about it. Jesse and I have spoken before about the economy, markets and politics, and being at a crossroads once again, it was a perfect time to catch up.
Ilene: Hi Jesse, since our last interview, I would guess that we’d both agree that nothing has been done to clean up the financial system – the banks and government interconnectedness, conflicts of interest, and out-and-out fraudulent activities. Are things better or worse, or in line, with what you were expecting over a year ago?
Jesse: I think things are progressing in line with what I had expected, with the Fed and the government trying to prop up an unsustainable status quo by monetizing debt. I am still a little shocked by the brazen manner in which the financial markets are being conducted and regulated, and the news is reported in the US. It is one thing to hold a theory that says something will happen, but it is quite another to see it actually happening, and so blatantly, almost without a word of protest.
Ilene: How do you view our financial system and the global financial system now, with no progress towards any kind of reform?
Jesse: The US is now being run by an oligarchy, with lip service being paid to the electorate in allowing the people to vote for the candidates that the parties and the powers will put forward. There will be no recovery for the middle class until they assert themselves. I know I have stated this often in my tag phrase, “The banks must be restrained…” But it is the case.
There are areas of resistance to this trend on what one might call ‘the fringes of Empire,’ those client states which have been ruled by powerful cliques with the support and the protection of the US. Although certainly not a great analogy, it does remind one of…
by ilene - March 9th, 2011 3:54 pm
The Middle Kingdom’s prosperity is an illusion. And when China finally falls, we’ll all feel the pain.
As fearmongering election campaign ads go, it’s hard to top the "Chinese Professor," which flickered across the Internet just before Americans went to the polls last fall. In the spot, set in a sleek Beijing lecture hall 20 years in the future, a sharply dressed Chinese instructor explains to his Asian students why previous empires, from Ancient Greece to the U.S.A., turned to dust. The Americans failed because they lost sight of their principles, he says in Mandarin, with subtitles. They overspent, overtaxed and over–borrowed. "Of course, we owned most of their debt," he cackles, as the class joins in. "So now they work for us."
If you missed the ad, put out by the conservative group Citizens Against Government Waste, no matter. The notion that China’s headed for superpower status at the expense of the United States has been repeated so often that many in the West now take it as an undisputable fact. With breathless enthusiasm economists predict China’s red–hot economy will power past America’s to become the world’s largest in just 15 years. Bookstore shelves are filled with titles like China’s Ascent and When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, in which author Martin Jacques argues America is in denial about the fact China is its "usurper and ultimate replacement." Hollywood’s even getting in on the act with a remake of the 1980s Cold War paranoia flick Red Dawn, in which Soviet soldiers overran a Midwest American town. Only this time, the marauders are Chinese. Having conquered American capitalism, the People’s Liberation Army is coming for America’s Capitol, too.
It’s easy to find evidence that ostensibly confirms China’s unstoppable ascent. Try this: Go to Google News and type in "China," along with any laudatory adjective, then add the suffix "–est." Do so, and you’ll learn that China is building the world’s third–tallest skyscraper ("China usurps U.S. in skyscrapers"); it produces the smartest children ("Chinese students outperform U.S. in recent test") and now boasts of the world’s fastest trains ("China’s fastest train leaves rest of world behind"). This super–country narrative has become so pervasive that the majority of Americans take it for granted. At the end of last
by ilene - March 1st, 2011 5:52 pm
Courtesy of Mish
A number of sites are commenting on a Bloomberg video in which El-Erian, PIMCO Co-CEO says "Dollar could lose its reserve currency status".
Bloomberg: "Mohammad what does a weak dollar signal to you, a dollar that can’t jump up here on a day like we’ve seen today?"
El-Erian: "It is a warning shot to America that we cannot simply assume flight to quality, flight to safety. That people are starting to worry about the fiscal situation in the U.S. They are starting to worry about the level of debt. They are starting to worry about what they hear about states and municipalities. So, I would take this as a warning shot that we cannot assume that we will maintain the standing of the reserve currency as we have in the past."
Reserve Currency Definition
Before we can debate whether or not the US will lose reserve currency standing, we must first define what it means.
Investopedia defines Reserve Currency as follows.
"A foreign currency held by central banks and other major financial institutions as a means to pay off international debt obligations, or to influence their domestic exchange rate."
I accept that definition. Unfortunately Investopedia rambles on with nonsense about the implications: "A large percentage of commodities, such as gold and oil, are usually priced in the reserve currency,causing other countries to hold this currency to pay for these goods."
That sentence is a widely believed fallacy. The reality is no country is obligated to hold dollars to buy goods denominated in dollars.
Currencies are Fungible
Currencies other that illiquid currencies with low or no trading volume (think of Yap Island stones or the Cuban Peso) are fungible. It is a trivial process to switch from one currency to another.
You can buy gold or silver in any country, and I assure you those transactions do not all take place in dollars. Thus, just because a commodity is widely priced in dollars does not mean it only trades in dollars.
That holds true for oil as well.
I keep pointing this out, unfortunately to no avail, that oil trades in Euros right now. There is no selling of Euros to buy dollars on the front causing the oil producers to trade dollars for euros on the back end. The oil states simply sell oil for a price in Euros and then hold Euros in their…
by ilene - February 26th, 2011 4:55 pm
Courtesy of EDWARD HARRISON, Credit Writedowns
Bill Fleckenstein was back talking to Dylan Ratigan about the source of rising oil prices. (See the last Fleckenstein video here). Clearly, supply constraints and increased demand in emerging markets play the central role in creating a supply demand imbalance for a commodity where demand is price inelastic. I am not just talking about natural disasters and riots, I am also talking about peak oil, of course. That means prices for oil soar until we hit a recession and the resulting demand destruction.
However, at the margin there are other factors at play, one of which is pro-inflationary central bank policy. I have mentioned this a couple of times in the past. For example, regarding food price inflation, I wrote in November:
[Morgan Stanley Chief Economist Richard] Berner sees four forces at play, pushing up food prices: strong global demand, weather, energy costs, low food stock inventories. You can read the full note at the link below.
My take is a bit different. The rise in food and energy prices should be taken into consideration by government officials conducting pro-inflationary policies. What should be of concern regarding commodity price inflation is how it represents a regressive tax on lower income workers and consumers in emerging markets and developing countries. Lower income consumers spend a much greater percentage of income on food and energy. So when commodity prices increase, it has a disproportionate effect on them. One reason we saw food riots in emerging markets in 2008 has much to do with this.
Bill Fleckenstein gives his take in the video below.
by ilene - February 24th, 2011 10:16 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
Are you ready for an economy that has high inflation and high unemployment at the same time? Well, welcome to "Stagflation 2011". Stagflation exists when inflation and unemployment are both at high levels at the same time. Of course we all know about the high unemployment situation already. Gallup’s daily tracking poll says that the U.S. unemployment rate has been hovering around 10 percent all year so far. But now thanks to rapidly rising food prices and the exploding price of oil, rampant inflation is being added to the equation.
Normally inflation is a sign of increased economic activity, but when the basic commodities that we depend on to run our economy (such as oil) go up in price it actually causes a slowdown in economy activity. When the price of oil goes up high enough, it fundamentally changes the behavior of individuals and businesses. Suddenly certain types of economic activities that were feasible when oil was very cheap are not profitable any longer. When the price of oil rises to a new level and it stays there, essentially what is happening is that more "blood" is being drained out of our economy. Our economy will continue to function when there are higher oil prices, it will just be a lot more sluggish.
In some way, shape or form the price of oil factors into the production of most of our goods and services and it also factors into the transportation of most of our goods and services. A significant rise in the price of oil changes the economic equation for almost every business in the United States.
Today, the price of WTI crude soared past 100 dollars a barrel before closing at $98.10. The price of Brent crude increased 5.3 percent to $111.25. The protests in Libya are certainly causing a lot of the price activity that we have seen over the past few days, but the truth is that oil has been going up for a number of months. Right now we are only seeing an acceleration of the long-term trend.
Things are likely to get far worse if the "day of rage" planned for Saudi Arabia next month turns into a full-blown revolution. Up to this point, the revolutions that have been sweeping the Middle East have been organized largely on Facebook, and now there are calls all over…