What “Off The Grid” Indicators Reveal About The True State Of The US Economy

It’s that time of quarter again; today we review our ‘Off the Grid’ economic indicators. And they all look pretty good in terms of launching the American economy into 2018. Pickup truck sales and used car prices remain robust, and there’s some actual inflation in our Bacon Cheeseburger Index. One warning: ‘Bitcoin’ is among the top Google search autofills for the phrase ‘I want to buy…
We started our ‘Off the Grid’ economic indicators in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis as a way to dig deeper into the longer-lasting effects of that event on the American consumer. It seemed to us that standard economic measures like unemployment or CPI inflation missed a lot about the state of the country. So we started gathering up a list of intuitive metrics that could fill those gaps.
A few examples from these datasets over the years:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

Do The Double-up! As Rents Rise, More Renters Turn to Doubling Up (L.A. The Worst!)

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Snake Hole Lounge. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
Zillow has a fascinating, yet troubling study. It says that rent consumes a growing share of household income in many cities, some people must relocate or find ways to offset rising prices. An increasingly popular way to cut costs is by adding a roommate. Nationally, 30 percent of working-age adults – aged 23 to 65 – live in doubled-up households, up from a low of 21 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 1990.
Doubing up is a close relative of young adults continuing to live with their parents. Even though U-6 unemployment is at 8%, wage growth continues to be considerably lower than before the financial crisis. This offers a partial explanation for the doubling-up phenomenon.
Of course, doubling-up is typical is high cost of living areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Washington DC. Not surprising is the doubling-up trend in Mexican border cities like El Centro California, Tucson and Yuma Arizona and El Paso and Laredo Texas.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by Anthony B Sanders ‘ December 27, 2017.

The Great Recession 10 Years Later: Lessons We Still Have To Learn

Ten years ago this month, a recession began in the U. S. that would metastasize into a full-fledged financial crisis. A decade is plenty of time to reflect on what we have learned, what we have fixed, and what remains to be done. High on the agenda should be the utter unpreparedness for what came along.
The memoirs of key decision-makers convey sincere intentions and in some cases, very adroit maneuvering. But common to them all are apologies that today strike one as rather lame.
‘I was surprised by the sudden crisis,’ wrote George W. Bush, ‘My focus had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies. … We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.’
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed wrote, ‘Clearly, many of us at the Fed, including me, underestimated the extent of the housing bubble and the risks it posed.’ He cited psychological factors rather than low interest rates, a ‘tidal wave of foreign money,’ and complacency among decision-makers.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Ghost Of W.D.Gann: Another Crash Is Coming

Authored by Philip Soos & Lindsay David via RenegadeInc.com,
The original wizard of Wall Street, W. D Gann was a finance trader and wealthy speculator that spent decades investigating cyclical trends in equity market patterns and found that prices could be predicted long in advance. He successfully predicted the crashes in the 1929 and Dot-Com stock market bubbles. And according to his analysis, the US stock market is due for another crash in 2020.
***
Every movement in the market is the result of a natural law and of a Cause which exists long before the Effect takes place and can be determined years in advance. The future is but a repetition of the past, as the Bible plainly states…
After suffering through the worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s depression when the real estate and stock markets crashed in 2007, the United States’ bubble economy is back into full swing. Residential and commercial real estate prices are growing strongly, along with equities.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

Intelligence Insider Warns Of Imminent War: ‘Likely In The Next 12 Weeks… The Director Of The CIA Told Me’

Having worked closely with U. S. intelligence agencies over the last two decades, James Rickards was once asked to simulate asymmetric economic attacks on the U. S. financial system. He is an expert at escalation scenarios and end games, and in a recent article at The Daily Reckoning he warns that the geopolitical situation on the Korean Peninsula will soon come to a head.
According to Rickards, author of The Road To Ruin: The Global Elites Secret Plan For The Next Financial Crisis, while the world concerns itself with stock bubbles, bitcoin and debt, the most imminent threat we face is military confrontation with North Korea.
And while the rogue state has been an ongoing threat for many years, the first half of 2018 will likely see the trigger that sets the whole powder keg off:
The most important financial or geopolitical issue in the world today is a coming war between the U. S. and North Korea, probably in the next twelve weeks.

This post was published at shtfplan on December 26th, 2017.

Taking Turns With The B(L)S

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Alhambra Investments. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
The worst aspect of this economy is by far the real effects pressed upon especially American workers. Of that there is no doubt, including young adults who would be working rather than ‘studying’ if the economy was at all like it has been described. The second worst part is watching politicians trade their descriptions for whomever occupies the White House. It does nothing to advance the cause of the American worker (or the global economy for that matter).
In early 2015, within the recent shadows of the BEA’s Q4 2014 GDP report that estimated growth that quarter of better than 5%, Republicans were more and more criticized for their economic criticism. The left-leaning Washington Post in February 2015 wrote:
A robust economy marked by a boom in jobs and a plunge in gas prices is threatening the longtime Republican strategy of criticizing President Obama for holding back growth and hiring, forcing the GOP to overhaul its messaging at the beginnings of a presidential campaign…
The improvement may mark a turning point in the nation’s seven-year-long debate over the state of the economy. Obama came to office amid a financial crisis, promising to turn the economy around. Republicans repeatedly – and, in the 2014 midterm campaign, successfully – argued that he had fallen short, with an economy suffering slow growth and unnecessarily high unemployment.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 21, 2017.

These PE Firms Are About To Get Crushed By Their Subprime Auto Bets

In the aftermath of the ‘great recession,’ private equity firms placed massive bets on subprime auto finance companies with the typical “thesis” going something like this: “well, people have to get to work don’t they?”…genius, if we understand it correctly.
Of course, the “thesis” seemed to be confirmed when auto securitizations performed relatively well throughout the financial crisis, amid a sea of mortgage bonds getting wiped out, and private equity titans were off to the races with wall street titans from Perella Weinberg to Blackstone and KKR scooping stakes in small niche lenders.
Unfortunately, as Bloomberg points out today, the $3 billion bet on subprime auto lenders hasn’t played out precisely to plan as the “well, people have to get to work” thesis has proved to be somewhat less than full proof.
A Perella Weinberg Partners fund has been sitting on an IPO of Flagship Credit Acceptance for two years as bad loan write-offs push it into the red. Blackstone Group LP has struggled to make Exeter Finance profitable, despite sinking almost a half-billion dollars into the lender since 2011 and shaking up the C-suite multiple times. And Wall Street bankers in private say others would love to cash out too, but there’s currently no market for such exits.
Since the turn of the decade, buyout firms, hedge funds and other private investors have staked at least $3 billion on non-bank auto lenders, according to Colonnade. Among PE firms, everyone from Blackstone and KKR & Co. to Lee Equity Partners, Altamont Capital and CIVC Partners waded in.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 2017.

Saudi Economy Contracts For First Time In 8 Years, Unveils Record Spending Spree To Boost Growth

Back when oil was at $100 and above, the Saudi economy was firing on all cylinders, and nobody even dreamed that the crown jewel of Saudi Arabia – Aramaco – would be on the IPO block in just a few years. However, with oil stuck firmly in the $50 range, things for the Saudi economy are going from bad to worse, and today Riyadh – when it wasn’t busy preventing Yemeni ballistic missiles from hitting the royal palace – said its economy contracted for the first time in eight years as a result of austerity measures and the stagnant price of oil, as the Kingdom announced record spending to stimulate growth.
OPEC’s biggest oil producer said 2017 GDP shrank 0.5% due to a drop in crude production, as part of the 2016 Vienna production cut agreement, but mostly due to lower oil prices. The last time the Saudi economy contracted was in 2009, when GDP fell 2.1% after the global financial crisis sent oil prices crashing. Riyadh also posted a higher-than-expected budget deficit in 2017 and forecast another shortfall next year for the fifth year in a row due to the drop in oil revenues: the finance ministry said it estimates a budget deficit of $52 billion for 2018.
More surprising was the Saudis announcement of a radically expansionary budget for 2018, projecting the highest spending ever despite low oil prices in a bid to stimulate the sluggish economic, saying it expects the GDP to grow by 2.7%. While we wish Riyadh good luck with that, we now know why confiscating the wealth of ultra wealthy Saudi royals was a key component of the country’s economic plan…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.

Global Dollar Liquidity Shortage Explodes – Worse Than European Crisis

Very quietly, in the last few days, cross currency basis swaps (CCBS) related to the dollar have reversed their rise and started collapsing deeper into negative territory… again. This might not be of much interest to buyers of global equity markets at this point, but it is signalling ominous signs of growing funding stress in the financial ‘plumbing’.

As Bloomberg notes ‘cross-currency basis swaps, which money managers and corporate treasurers outside the U. S. can use to borrow in dollars, remain close to the widest levels since January even after quarter-end, when such financing strains typically dissipate. The market was a key indicator of stress during the financial crisis, and while it’s nowhere near the alarming levels of that era, it’s still garnering the attention of analysts.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2017.

Still Can’t Find That Pitchfork, Can You?

Corporate balance sheets have never been in the condition they are now, but most of this is a fraud.
Virtually all of the so-called “growth” has been in buybacks and (to a lesser extent) dividends. The problem with buybacks is that into ramping prices they are a terrible long-term deal. They make some sense in the depths of a crash, but of course nobody has the cash to do it during a crash.
When debt financed it’s even worse because history says that corporate debt is never paid off, only rolled over. In point of fact non-financial companies did not decrease their total debt levels (as measured by the Fed Z1) even during the depth of the financial crisis of 2007-2009. This of course means that debt:equity levels go vertical as soon as the ramp in equity price stops.
I remind you that while buybacks increase earnings during good years (by reducing the divisor) they also increase losses during bad ones. People forget this because, well, there haven’t been any bad ones recently. That will end and when it does it will provide a gross amount of acceleration for the decline in equity prices. In fact, it’s not going to be gasoline poured on that fire, it’s going to a mixture of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate…. See Galveston for what will come of that.
But on top of this we now have the real screw job in the tax bill.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-12-15.

The Flattening US ‘Yield Curve’? NIRP Refugees Did it

Sez Fitch & Yellen
US Treasury securities are doing something that is worrying a lot of folks, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen: While short-term yields are rising in line with the Fed’s hikes of its target range for the federal funds rate, longer-term yield have done the opposite: they’ve been declining. This has flattened the ‘yield curve’ to a level not seen since before the Financial Crisis.
This chart shows the yield curve of today’s yields (red line) across the maturity spectrum against the yields of exactly a year ago, after the rate hike at the time. Note how short-term yields on the left have risen in line with the rate hikes, while toward the right of the chart, long-term yields have fallen:

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 14, 2017.