5 U.S. Banks Each Have More Than 40 Trillion Dollars In Exposure To Derivatives

When is the U. S. banking system going to crash? I can sum it up in three words. Watch the derivatives. It used to be only four, but now there are five “too big to fail” banks in the United States that each have more than 40trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Today, the U. S. national debt is sitting at a grand total of about 17.7 trillion dollars, so when we are talking about 40 trillion dollars we are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable. And unlike stocks and bonds, these derivatives do not represent “investments” in anything. They can be incredibly complex, but essentially they are just paper wagers about what will happen in the future. The truth is that derivatives trading is not too different from betting on baseball or football games. Trading in derivatives is basically just a form of legalized gambling, and the “too big to fail” banks have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the planet. When this derivatives bubble bursts (and as surely as I am writing this it will), the pain that it will cause the global economy will be greater than words can describe.
If derivatives trading is so risky, then why do our big banks do it?
The answer to that question comes down to just one thing.
Greed.
The “too big to fail” banks run up enormous profits from their derivatives trading. According to the New York Times, U. S. banks “have nearly $280 trillion of derivatives on their books” even though the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated how dangerous they could be…

This post was published at The Economic Collapse Blog on September 24th, 2014.

The Worlds Largest Subprime Debtor

Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six years ago this month. The event has become famous as the spark that ignited the global financial crisis. Since that date, millions have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and countless others have seen their futures evaporate before their eyes, sometimes permanently.
At the heart of the crisis of 2008 was a common cause acknowledged by almost all commentators. Borrowers now infamously known as ‘subprime’ (or more politely, ‘non-prime’) were the main reason behind the meltdown. As financial institutions extended loans to those with less than stable means to repay their debts, the foundation of the financial world was destabilized.
Six years on and these subprime debtors are largely a relic of the past. That fact notwithstanding, there is a new threat lurking in the global financial arena. This one borrower is far larger than all the previous subprime characters combined, and poses a far more dangerous hazard to the financial stability of nearly all (if not all) of the world’s citizens. I am speaking, of course, of the United States government.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on September 24, 2014.

The World’s Largest Subprime Debtor: The US Government

Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six years ago this month. The event has become famous as the spark that ignited the global financial crisis. Since that date, millions have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and countless others have seen their futures evaporate before their eyes, sometimes permanently.
At the heart of the crisis of 2008 was a common cause acknowledged by almost all commentators. Borrowers now infamously known as ‘subprime’ (or more politely, ‘non-prime’) were the main reason behind the meltdown. As financial institutions extended loans to those with less than stable means to repay their debts, the foundation of the financial world was destabilized.
Six years on and these subprime debtors are largely a relic of the past. That fact notwithstanding, there is a new threat lurking in the global financial arena. This one borrower is far larger than all the previous subprime characters combined, and poses a far more dangerous hazard to the financial stability of nearly all (if not all) of the world’s citizens. I am speaking, of course, of the United States government.
Subprime borrowers are defined by FICA scores which are largely inapplicable to sovereign nations. We can instead look at the type of loans that these borrowers took on to understand how precarious the United States federal government’s finances are.
To simplify matters greatly, consider three types of loans that made debt attractive to subprime borrowers. The first was the adjustable rate mortgage. After a short period at a low introductory teaser rate, the interest rate would reset higher. Second was the interest only loan. Borrowers could take out a sum of money and for a period not worry about paying down the principle. An extreme form of the interest only loan is the final type: the negative amortization loan. In this case, not only does the payment not reduce the principle of the loan, it doesn’t even cover all the accrued interest! The effect is that each month that goes by, the borrower slips further in debt as interest deferral is added to the principle to be repaid.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.

Can gold and silver really fail when stocks and bonds fall?

If the Fed holds its course this autumn then a day of reckoning is coming both for stocks and bonds. For stocks basically the money will run out, the QE lifeline is cut. For bonds higher interest rates are toxic
In such circumstances can the precious metals really fail to rally as safe haven options? This is not 2008-9 when interest rates fell through the floor and boosted bonds to the immediate detriment of gold and silver.
Toxic interest rates
What is left for investors when their known universe of stocks, bonds and let us not forget real estate take a pasting? It’s always been the same in any money bubble in history: gold and silver are the only winners as the money that the central banks can not print.
The giant, debt-fuelled investment bubble pumped up since the global financial crisis by the central banks is like any other bubble in history. It will have to be purged from the system.

This post was published at Arabian Money on 24 September 2014.

Russia central bank buys more gold and builds bilateral trade with China

While we will probably have to wait another few days until the IMF publishes its latest statistics for the global picture, the Russian central bank has announced that it has added another 9.3 tonnes of gold to its official gold reserves. This is as tensions now seem to be diminishing in Ukraine which could, if the latest agreement holds, lead to Western sanctions against Russia being gradually withdrawn.
Russian gold reserves now stand at 1,113.5 tonnes, the world’s fifth largest national holding, thus climbing even further above China’s 'official' 1,054 tonnes. However few out there seem to believe that China doesn’t have more gold than it announces to the IMF, but is holding considerable amounts in some other government controlled accounts. Overall Russia has just about doubled its gold reserves since the 2007/2008 financial crisis and its central bank has been a net buyer almost every month since. The figures suggest that that the monthly increases have primarily come from the central bank taking in a significant proportion of the country’s domestic gold output which averaged around 20 tonnes a month in 2013; last year Russia was the world’s third largest producer of gold and this year could surpass Australia and move into the No. 2 position behind China.
Russia, like China, perhaps somewhat belatedly, has come to see its gold holdings as a significant positive in any new world financial order that may develop over the next decade.  American financial policy has dominated world trade for almost a century but there are powerful economic forces out there – notably involving various countries, including China and Russia, building trade ties in their own domestic currencies and thus starting to bypass the dollar. Energy trade is particularly significant in this respect as the U.S. dominance in setting the terms of world trade has been very much down to the virtually total dominance of the dollar in global oil and gas transactions.
Historically the country with the most gold has been able to dominate global trade – barbarous relic or no – and while the West may see this coming to an end there is an enormous, and ever wealthier, part of the world’s population which still believes in gold as the key global monetary asset. China and Russia are both strong believers in gold and the potential negotiating position it enables. At some stage soon the validity of their belief is going to be put to the test.

This post was published at Mineweb

This Is About As Good As Things Are Going To Get For The Middle Class – And It’s Not That Good

The U. S. economy has had six full years to bounce back since the financial collapse of 2008, and it simply has not happened. Median household income has declined substantially since then, total household wealth for middle class families is way down, the percentage of the population that is employed is still about where it was at the end of the last recession, and the number of Americans that are dependent on the government has absolutely exploded. Even those that claim that the economy is “recovering” admit that we are not even close to where we used to be economically. Many hope that someday we will eventually get back to that level, but the truth is that this is about as good as things are ever going to get for the middle class. And we should enjoy this period of relative stability while we still can, because when the next great financial crisis strikes things are going to fall apart very rapidly.
The U. S. Census Bureau has just released some brand new numbers, and they are quite sobering. For example, after accounting for inflation median household income in the United States has declined a total of 8 percent from where it was back in 2007.
That means that middle class families have significantly less purchasing power than they did just prior to the last major financial crisis.
And one research firm is projecting that it is going to take until 2019 for median household income to return to the level that we witnessed in 2007…

This post was published at The Economic Collapse Blog on September 22nd, 2014.

The Geopolitical Situation In Europe

The geopolitical situation of Europe
After the end of the cold war, the United States dominated world affairs for nearly twenty years. However, the situation of a unipolar world has changed since the financial crisis of 2008 to a now multipolar world that includes China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa. These powers are influencing and manipulating the conflict zones we have today to their advantage. By analysing and dissecting the issues concerning the major conflict zones on our world map, as well as illustrating the parties involved, this article will explain what political and strategic interests are at play and how the development in major hotspots shape the big picture. This will identify the geopolitical forces that affect the European continent and what future concerns and worries await us.
Conflict zones in the world
There are now five conflict zones that affect the geopolitical situation of Europe:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/22/2014.

Fitch Warns on What Happens to the US as Dollar’s ‘Pre-Eminent Reserve Currency Status’ Erodes

It’s very risky for an American credit ratings agency to downgrade the US Government.
Standard & Poor’s found out when it stripped the US off its AAA rating in 2011 over the debt-ceiling charade. The Department of Justice then sued S&P over its role in the financial crisis, i.e. for slapping AAA-ratings on toxic securities to pocket fatter fees from issuers. But the other ratings agencies did the same thing and have not been hounded. So S&P claimed that the ‘impermissibly selective, punitive and meritless’ lawsuit was ‘in retaliation’ for the downgrade.
Though the Government denied the retaliation angle, it was a lesson no credit ratings agency within the long and sinewy arm of the Government would ever forget. But now Fitch is inching gingerly toward that abyss. While it affirmed (text) the US at AAA, Outlook Stable, it threw in some potentially devastating caveats.
What drives America’s dubious AAA-rating? ‘Unparalleled financing flexibility as the issuer of the world’s pre-eminent reserve currency….’
So endowed, ‘the US rating can tolerate a higher level of public debt than other ‘AAA’ sovereigns.’ The ‘threshold’ for the US is a gross national debt of 110% of GDP, the highest threshold of any country ‘owing to its exceptional financing flexibility.’ But if the US hits that 110%, it would be ‘incompatible with ‘AAA.”
Other factors also contribute to that ‘exceptional financing flexibility,’ including America’s vast and liquid capital markets, its ‘large, rich, and diverse’ economy, ‘one of the most productive, dynamic, and technologically advanced in the world.’ Nevertheless, growth in that miracle economy in 2014 is going to be a ‘sluggish’ 2%, just above stall speed. And Fitch sees the medium-term growth potential at a languid 2.2%.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ September 22, 2014.

Caterpillar Posts Record 21 Consecutive Months Of Declining Global Retail Sales, Worse Than Financial Crisis

Once upon a time, when such things as industrial production, machinery sales and construction, trade and commercial interactions mattered, today’s Caterpillar retail sales, which painted a grusome picture for global manufacturing and industrial production, may have gotten more than a casual comment on page… well, nowehere really.
However, since everyone is hypnotized by a “recovery” on the back of “smart-beta” aka $10 trillion in liquidity injections by central banks, and a global “service” economy in which all tha matters is shuffling every greater numbers of pieces of paper from point A to point B and collecting commissions while clicking on FaceBook ads, it obviously doesn’t matter to anyone that according to CAT the mini industrial recovery in the US has plateaued and after retail sales rose 14% Y/Y two months ago, dropped to 11% in July and to 8% most recently (blue bar on chart below), and coupled with a double digit collapse in Asia, EAME and Latin America sales (by -24%, -17% and -29% respectively), the industrial bellwether has now seen a mindblowing 21 consecutive months of declining Y/Y global retail sales.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/19/2014.

Yellen: Fed balance sheet to take years to shrink

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says "it could take until the end of the decade" to shrink the Fed's record investment portfolio to more normal levels.
The Fed's response to the 2008 financial crisis has swollen its balance sheet to more than $4.4 trillion from less than $1 trillion roughly six years ago. Fed officials responded to the downturn in the economy with three rounds of bond purchases to try to hold down long-term borrowing rates to spur spending.
The Fed plans to end its latest round of buying Treasurys and mortgage bonds after its next meeting in October. It would then look to reduce its balance sheet once it begins raising a key short-term rate from its record low near zero.

This post was published at Yahoo

Companies’ Stock Buybacks at Biggest Pace Since 2007; Companies Rewarding Investors?

In yet another sign of market over-exuberance, the Wall Street Journal reports Share Repurchases Are at Fastest Clip Since Financial Crisis.
Corporations bought back $338.3 billion of stock in the first half of the year, the most for any six-month period since 2007, according to research firm Birinyi Associates. Through August, 740 firms have authorized repurchase programs, the most since 2008.
The growth in buybacks comes as overall stock-market volume has slumped, helping magnify the impact of repurchases. In mid-August, about 25% of nonelectronic trades executed at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., excluding the small, automated, rapid-fire trades that have come to dominate the market, involved companies buying back shares. That is more than twice the long-run trend, according to a person familiar with the matter…

This post was published at Global Economic Analysis on September 17, 2014.

China Launches CNY500 Billion In “Stealth QE”

It has been a while since the PBOC engaged in some “targeted” QE. So clearly following the biggest drop in the Shanghai Composite in 6 months after some abysmal Chinese economic and flow data in the past several days, it’s time for some more. From Bloomberg:
CHINA’S PBOC STARTS 500B YUAN SLF TODAY, SINA. COM SAYS PBOC PROVIDES 500B YUAN LIQUIDITY TO CHINA’S TOP 5 BANKS: SINA Confused what the SLF is? Here is a reminder, from our February coverage of this “stealth QE” instrument.
* * *
The topic of China’s inevitable financial crisis, and the open question of how it will subsequently bail out its banks is quite pertinent in a world in which Moral Hazard is the only play left. Conveniently, in his latest letter to clients, 13D’s Kiril Sokoloff has this to say:
Will the PBOC’s Short-term Lending Facility (SLF) evolve into China’s version of QE?While investor attention has been fixated on China’s deteriorating PMI reports and fears of a widening credit crisis, China’s central bank is operating behind the scenes to prevent a wide-scale financial panic. On Monday, January 20th, 2014, when the Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP, CNY 2,033) fell below 2,000 on its way to a six-month low and interest rates jumped, the central bank intervened by adding over 255 billion yuan ($42 billion) to the financial system. In addition to a regular 75 billion yuan of 7-day reverse repos, the central bank provided supplemental liquidity amounting to 180 billion yuan of 21-day reverse repos, which was seen as an obvious attempt to alleviate liquidity shortages during the Chinese New Year. However, it is worth noting that this was the PBOC’s first use of 21-day contracts since 2005, according to Bloomberg. Small and medium-sized banks were major beneficiaries of this SLF, as the PBOC allowed such institutions in ten provinces to tap its SLF for the first time on a trial basis. A 120 billion yuan quota has been set aside for the trial SLF, according to two local traders.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/16/2014.

NYT: Subprime Loans Rear Their Ugly Heads Again

Remember the subprime mortgage loans that helped spark the 2008-09 financial crisis?
They may be gone for a while, but other areas of the subprime lending market, particularly auto loans, have begun to look worrisome, The New York Times reports.
Deep subprime auto loans, those made to people with credit scores below 550, soared 13 percent in the second quarter from the year-earlier period, according to Experian.
"We're five years into the new cycle, so you've got to imagine that there are excesses cropping up," William Ryan of Portales Partners research firm told the paper.

This post was published at Money News

China Industrial Growth Slows, Power Generation Negative 1st Time in 4 Years; Stimulate Now, Crash Later

Cries for more stimulus ring loudly in China because Chinese industrial output slowed to 6.9%. That is a number that any country in the world would be more than pleased with, but China’s target is 7.5%.
Why 7.5%? In fact, why should there be any targets at all? The economy is not a car that can be steered by bureaucrats to perfection.
Nonetheless, Calls Grow for More Stimulus, as China August Factory Growth Slows to Near Six-Year Low.
China’s factory output grew at the weakest pace in nearly six years in August while growth in other key sectors also cooled, raising fears the world’s second-largest economy may be at risk of a sharp slowdown unless Beijing takes fresh stimulus measures.
Industrial output rose 6.9 percent in August from a year earlier – the lowest since 2008 when the economy was buffeted by the global financial crisis – compared with expectations for 8.8 percent and slowing sharply from 9.0 percent in July.
“The August data may point to a hard landing. The extent of the growth slowdown in the third quarter won’t be small,” said Xu Gao, chief economist at Everbright Securities in Beijing.

This post was published at Global Economic Analysis on Saturday, September 13, 2014.

Meet The Bubblebusters: Federal Reserve Launches A Committee To “Avoid Asset Bubbles”

Just when we thought that the Fed is pulling an Obama and has “no strategy” to deal with what not some fringe blog but Deutsche Bank itself proclaimed was the bubble to end, or rather extend, all bubbles, when it said that “the bubble probably needs to continue in order to sustain the current global financial system”they surprise us once again when they report that, drumroll, the Fed has formed a committee led by the former head of the Bank of Israel – best known for using de novo created fiat money to buy AAPL stock as part of “prudent monetary policy” – Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, to monitor financial stability, which according to Bloomberg is “reinforcing the Fed’s efforts to avoid the emergence of asset-price bubbles.”
Because contrary to what even five-year-olds know by now, the Fed is supposedly not promoting theemergence of bubbles but is actually “avoiding” them. No, really.

From Bloomberg on the Fed’s committee for the prevention of asset bubbles:
Joining Fischer on the Committee on Financial Stability are Governors Daniel Tarullo and Lael Brainard, according to the central bank’s latest Board Committee list. Fed officials want to ensure that six years of near-zero interest rates don’t lead to a repeat of the excessive risk-taking that fanned the U. S. housing boom and subsequent financial crisis.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/13/2014.

End Of Empire – The ‘De-Dollarization’ Chart That China And Russia Are Banking On

History did not end with the Cold War and, as Mark Twain put it, whilst history doesn’t repeat it often rhymes. As Alexander, Rome and Britain fell from their positions of absolute global dominance, so too has the US begun to slip. America’s global economic dominance has been declining since 1998, well before the Global Financial Crisis. A large part of this decline has actually had little to do with the actions of the US but rather with the unraveling of a century’s long economic anomaly. China has begun to return to the position in the global economy it occupied for millenia before the industrial revolution. Just as the dollar emerged to global reserve currency status as its economic might grew, so the chart below suggests the increasing push for de-dollarization across the ‘rest of the isolated world’ may be a smart bet…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/12/2014.

Read this and find out if you’ll be eligible for Scottish passport in 10 days

Santiago, Chile
Anyone who’s ever seen the movie Braveheart has heard of William Wallace, one of the original heroes of Scottish independence.
Though Mel Gibson’s highly fictionalized account was one of the most historically inaccurate movies in modern cinema, Wallace did, in fact, lead Scottish rebels against English invaders. And he died for his cause.
Wallace was severely tortured after being convicted of high treason against King Edward I; he was dragged by horses, hung nearly to the point of death, revived, relieved of his manhood, ritualistically disemboweled, made to watch his entrails set ablaze… then finally beheaded.
Not the way you want to go.
That said, the movement for Scottish independence lived on, and England folded in 1357, ending a 60-year war between the two nations.
For the next 350 years Scotland remained an independent state until… go figure… a financial crisis.
In a desperate attempt to become (almost overnight) a major world trading power in the 17th century, the government of Scotland backed a comically ill-fated attempt to colonize Panama.
It failed miserably. Yet the investment in the Darien Scheme (as it was known) amounted to up to half of Scotland’s total money supply.
When it went bust, Scotland was nearly broke.

This post was published at Sovereign Man on September 9, 2014.

Big Banks Manipulated $21 Trillion Dollar Market for Credit Default Swaps (and Every Other Market)

Derivatives Are Manipulated Runaway derivatives – especially credit default swaps (CDS) – were one of the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis. Congress never fixed the problem, and actually made it worse.
The big banks have long manipulated derivatives … a $1,200 Trillion Dollar market.
Indeed, many trillions of dollars of derivatives are being manipulated in the exact same same way that interest rates are fixed (see below) … through gamed self-reporting.
Reuters noted last week:
A Manhattan federal judge said on Thursday that investors may pursue a lawsuit accusing 12 major banks of violating antitrust law by fixing prices and restraining competition in the roughly $21 trillion market for credit default swaps.
***
‘The complaint provides a chronology of behavior that would probably not result from chance, coincidence, independent responses to common stimuli, or mere interdependence,’ [Judge] Cote said.
The defendants include Bank of America Corp, Barclays Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc , Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG , Goldman Sachs Group Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc , JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG.
Other defendants are the International Swaps and Derivatives Association and Markit Ltd, which provides credit derivative pricing services.
***
U. S. and European regulators have probed potential anticompetitive activity in CDS. In July 2013, the European Commission accused many of the defendants of colluding to block new CDS exchanges from entering the market.
***
‘The financial crisis hardly explains the alleged secret meetings and coordinated actions,’ the judge wrote. ‘Nor does it explain why ISDA and Markit simultaneously reversed course.’

This post was published at Washingtons Blog on September 9, 2014.

To Avert Sudden Market Collapse, the Fed Tries to Spook Utterly Unspookable Markets

There have been prior indications – though Wall Street brushed them off. During Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee in mid-July and in the Fed’s Monetary Policy Report, some of the most glaring bubbles that the Fed has so strenuously inflated since the Financial Crisis suddenly appeared on the Fed’s official worry radar.
Yellen lamented ‘valuation metrics’ of stocks that appeared ‘substantially stretched.’ She pointed at biotech and social media. PE ratios were ‘high relative to historical norms.’ She even acknowledged the greatest credit bubble in history by fretting about the ”the reach for yield’ behavior by some investors’ and how ‘risk spreads for corporate bonds have narrowed and yields have reached all-time lows.’ And she bared the disconnect between the markets and the Fed: increases in the federal funds rate ‘likely would occur sooner and be more rapid than currently envisioned.’
Other Fed heads have chimed in with warnings of their own, telling the markets that rates could rise sooner and more rapidly than the markets were pricing in. But it all fell on deaf ears. Stocks have risen since, including the very sectors that Yellen tried to prick, and yields have dropped.

This post was published at Wolf Street on September 9, 2014.

Contagion – What the Next Wall Street Crisis Will Look Like

Last week the Fed announced a plan for the next financial crisis that feels to some observers like a plan to burn down the trading houses on Wall Street – or, alternately, guarantee another massive taxpayer bailout of the biggest banks.
The Federal Reserve Board and its regional banks are overflowing with economists. What the Fed does not seem to have is an honest, informed voice to consult about how trading markets think in a severe financial crisis.
Last Tuesday, the Federal Reserve Board along with other bank regulators announced a new liquidity rule for the largest Wall Street banks – the ones that required the massive bailout in the 2008 to 2010 financial crisis. The goal of the new rule, according to the Fed, would be to force the biggest, most complex banks to hold enough ‘high quality liquid assets’ (HQLA) so that they could be easily liquidated if there was a run on the bank, eliminating the need for another taxpayer bailout. So far, so good.
Then the Fed and its fellow regulators did something that raises serious doubts about their market sophistication. They announced that in addition to U. S. Treasury securities, where a flight to safety always flows in a crisis, the big banks could also hold corporate bonds and corporate common stocks in the Russell 1000 index among their newly defined ‘high quality liquid assets’ earmarked for an emergency.
Just six weeks before the Fed anointed non-exchange traded corporate bonds as liquid assets, all the way down to investment grade, the Financial Times ran this opening paragraph in an article by Tracy Alloway:
‘The ease with which investors can trade corporate debt has declined sharply in the five years since the financial crisis according to research that is likely to feed fears over the prospect of an intensified sell-off in the $9.9 trillion US market.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade By Pam Martens and Russ Marte.