Any article that starts with a quote from Jim Grant is guaranteed to be a fact based, common sense, reasoned analysis of our warped, debt saturated, over-valued, Federal Reserve rigged financial markets. John Hussman starts his weekly letter with this quote from Jim Grant:
‘The way to wealth in a bull market is debt. The way to oblivion in a bear market is also debt, and nobody rings a bell.’ – James Grant
We’ve been in a Fed QE and ZIRP induced six year bull market that has been sputtering since QE 3 ended in October 2014. Leveraging yourself to the hilt and piling intoTHE STOCK MARKET has been the road to riches for six years, just as leveraging to the hilt in real estate was the road to riches from 2002 through 2007, and leveraging to the hilt in internet stocks was the road to riches from 1998 through 2000. Of course, the dot.com and housing road to riches detoured into ditches that wiped out trillions of phantom wealth, just as the current road is leading to a grand canyon size ditch.
Total credit market debt has reached all-time highs. The de-leveraging of consumers, liquidation of insolvent Wall Street banks, and bankruptcies of zombie retailers, real estate developers, and mall owners was postponed by Federal Reserve intervention, changing accounting rules to hide bad debt, political shenanigans, and taxpayers paying for the extreme risk taking by bankers and corporate CEOs. Total credit market debt sits at $59 trillion, up from $52 trillion in 2009 at the depths of the recession. This increase has been entirely driven by a $5.3 trillion increase in government debt and a $1.6 trillion increase in corporate debt. The propaganda about corporations flush with cash is bold faced lie. Corporations have increased their debt load by 25% since 2009.
As Dr. Hussman points out, the Fed has encouraged this behavior by the biggest corporations on the planet with their suppression of market interest rates and their gift of $3 trillion to the Wall Street banks. Corporate CEOs are supposed to be the smartest guys in the room, but they haven’t been able to grow their businesses through innovation, creativity, new products, or new investments in plant and equipment. Their entire playbook consists of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, keeping wages below the level of inflation, and borrowing cheaply from Wall Street banks to buyback their stock and boost earnings per share, so their stock price will go higher, enriching themselves.
This post was published at The Burning Platform on 17th August.