This post was published at SilverDoctors
California utility goes for ‘cash conservation.’ Investors, not just rate payers, to foot the bill. Wednesday evening, two sleepy trading days before the long Christmas weekend, when no one was supposed to pay attention, Pacific Gas and Electric, the Northern California utility that is being investigated and sued for allegedly having triggered the wildfires in the Bay Area, ‘the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history,’ as the Department of Insurance had put it, announced that it would suspend its dividend.
PG&E shares [PCG] plunged 10% in after-hours trading. Thursday morning, shares plummeted 16.5% to $42.75. They’re now down 38% in total since the beginning of the wildfires that killed 43 people and caused still untold property and environmental damage, including $9 billion in insurance claims so far, with the tally likely to rise further. About three dozen lawsuits have been filed against PG&E.
PG&E’s announcement was terse:
On December 20, 2017, the Boards of Directors of PG&E Corporation (the ‘Corporation’) and its subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (the ‘Utility’), determined to suspend quarterly cash dividends on both the Corporation’s common stock, beginning with the fourth quarter of 2017, and the Utility’s preferred stock, beginning with the three-month period ending January 31, 2018, due to uncertainty related to causes and potential liabilities associated with the extraordinary October 2017 Northern California wildfires.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 21, 2017.
Starting July 1, 2018 stock markets around the world are going to get yet another artificial boost courtesy of a decision by the $350 billion California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to allocate another $15 billion in capital to already bubbly equities. Of course, if this decision doesn’t make sense to you that’s because it’s not really meant to make sense.
As Pensions & Investments notes, CalPERS’ decision to hike their equity allocation had absolutely nothing to do with their opinion of relative value between assets classes and nothing to do with traditional valuation metrics that a rational investor might like to see before buying a stake in a business but rather had everything to do with gaming pension accounting rules to make their insolvent fund look a bit better. You see, making the rational decision to lower their exposure to the massive equity bubble could have resulted in CalPERS having to also lower their discount rate for future liabilities…a move which would require more contributions from cities, towns, school districts, etc. and could bring the whole ponzi crashing down.
The new allocation, which goes into effect July 1, 2018, supports CalPERS’ 7% annualized assumed rate of return. The investment committee was considering four options, including one that lowered the rate of return to 6.5% by slashing equity exposure and another that increased it to 7.25% by increasing the exposure to almost 60% of the portfolio.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.
A few weeks ago, we expressed some level of astonishment that the rating agencies, in their infinite wisdom, decided to bestow an investment grade rating upon a new $3 billion bond issuance by the City of Chicago. Of course, this wouldn’t be such a big deal but for the fact that the state of Illinois is a financial disaster that will undoubtedly be forced into bankruptcy at some point in the future courtesy of a staggering ~$150 billion funding gap on its public pensions, a mountain of debt and $16.4 billion in accrued AP because they can’t even afford to pay their bills on a timely basis. Here are just a couple of our recent posts on these topics:
Illinois Pension Funding Ratio Sinks To 37.6% As Unfunded Liabilities Surge To $130 Billion Illinois Unpaid Vendor Backlog Hits A New Record At Over $16 Billion The State Of Illinois Is “Past The Point Of No Return” Alas, as Capitol Fax notes this morning, it seems as though Moody’s may finally be waking up to the farce that is their own municipal ratings system and is currently in the process of seeking comments from market participants on proposed changes for states’ general obligation credit ratings, which would include an increased emphasis on debt and pension obligations. Of course, with their GO rating just one notch above junk, all of those long-only bond funds that have scooped up billions in ‘juicy’ 4% Illinois paper over the past couple of months should probably take notice.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 16, 2017.
On March 2017, we discussed the sudden 90% drop in the share price of China’s largest dairy farm operator, the Hong Kong-listed China Huishan Dairy Holdings. The collapse occurred the day after its creditors convened an emergency meeting to discuss the company’s cash shortage and was three months after Muddy Waters’ Carson Block questioned its profitability and said the company was ‘worth close to zero.’ After the collapse in the share price we joked that ‘it suddenly almost is.’ Now we have confirmation that Block was correct, as Huishan is entering provisional liquidation, citing liabilities of $1.6 billion. From Bloomberg.
China Huishan Dairy Holdings Co., the Hong Kong-listed company targeted by short sellers including Muddy Waters Capital LLC, is preparing for provisional liquidation in a move that could protect its assets as it negotiates with creditors. The firm had told its Cayman legal advisers to make the preparations, it said in a Hong Kong stock exchange filing Thursday.
Huishan’s board earlier found that the net liabilities of its units in China ‘could have been’ 10.5 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) as of March 31, the company said. A provisional liquidation generally is used to safeguard a company’s assets before a court rules what action to take.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 17, 2017.
Earlier this year, Maui County residents in the island state of Hawaii were somewhat less than ecstatic to learn that their property taxes were going to increase by approximately $29.7 million for fiscal 2018. According to County Council member statements at the time, the additional funding was needed to help provide better public services for Maui residents.
That said, fast forward just a few months and it looks like a substantial portion of those tax increases won’t go to provide better public services for Maui residents at all but rather will be plowed into the state’s massively underwater pension fund. As The Maui Newspoints out today, Maui’s contributions to the state Employees’ Retirement System will surge 52% over just the next couple of years…and that’s if everything goes to plan.
‘This is a massive, massive increase,’ Williams said.
Maui County paid $31 million into the pension fund in fiscal 2017. But now, its payments will increase to approximately $34 million in fiscal 2018, $36 million in fiscal 2019, $42 million in fiscal 2020 and $47 million in fiscal 2021.
This amounts to a total of $36 million in extra payments by Maui County over the next four years alone – and its contributions are set to remain just as high every year afterward.
Williams said the extra payments were needed to help the public pension system avert a crisis in unfunded liabilities, currently estimated at about $12.4 billion.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 8, 2017 4.
The following video was published by Greg Hunter on Oct 28, 2017
A big difference between the market today and that of the 1987 crash are unfunded pensions. Renowned investor Dr. Marc Faber, who holds a PhD in economics, says, ‘The unfunded liabilities have gone up. They did not go down. So, if in rising asset markets the pension funds unfunded liabilities go up, can you imagine what will happen when markets fall? So, they will have to print money. . . . Bear markets do not occur just because of one event. It’s a series of circumstances that lead to a loss of confidence with people exiting markets, and then with people exiting markets in a panic. . . . Fed Head Janet Yellen said if conditions would warrant further measures, the Fed would take further measures. So, she (Yellen) said . . . if the Fed thought the economy was weakening, or their beloved asset markets go down, then she may again ease and introduce QE4 (money printing out of thin air.) . . . In today’s situation, the asset market is less overbought, but the asset bubbles are everywhere. . . . Each bubble has fraud cases, and I mean massive fraud. That’s the characteristic of each bubble. There is fraud.’
America’s 2017 fiscal gap will come in near $6 trillion, nine times higher than the $666 billion deficit announced by the US Department of the Treasury week, says Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University.
‘Our country is broke,’ says Kotlikoff, who estimates total US government debts at more than $200 trillion, when unfunded liabilities are included. ‘We are in worse shape than Russia, China or any developed nation.’
Worse, says Kotlikoff, who has testified before Congress, government officials are well-aware that many of America’s debts and accruing liabilities are being written off the books.
However, for the most part, they are keeping their mouths shut.
A two-tier reporting system
The upshot is a de facto ‘two-tier’ financial reporting system, in which politicians and insiders have access to key data buried in footnotes about unfunded liabilities, which indicate that there are huge problems in the economy.
The public, on the other hand, in slews of Presidential and Congressional Speeches and publications, is led to believe that while things are tough, overall everything is OK.
According to Kotlikoff, a long-time activist for fiscal rectitude, the problem stems in large part from the fact that the US government has been spending almost all of Americans’ approximately $795 billion in social security payroll taxes to pay current bills, rather than investing them to fund retirees’ benefits.
The upshot is that on a net basis, the US government has no money to pay all the benefits that have been promised. Politicians know that defaults will occur, they just haven’t figured out how to finesse this.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 24 October 2017.
Here’s a chart of our fabulous always-higher GDP, adjusted for another bogus metric, official inflation.
The theme this week is The Rot Within. The rot eating away at our society and economy is typically papered over with bogus statistics that “prove” everything’s getting better every day in every way. The prime “proof” of rising prosperity is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which never fails to loft higher, with the rare excepts being Spots of Bother (recessions) that never last more than a quarter or two. Longtime correspondent Dave P. of Market Daily Briefing recently summarized the key flaw in GDP: GDP doesn’t reflect changes in the balance sheet, i.e. debt. So if we borrow money to pay people to dig holes and then fill them with the excavated dirt, GDP rises to general applause. The debt we took on to fund the make-work isn’t accounted for at all. Here’s Dave’s explanation: Once I learned about accounting, I figured out why the GDP metric wasn’t sufficient. What is missing? The balance sheet. Hurricanes are a direct hit to your nation’s balance sheet. The national income statement goes up because of increased spending to replace lost assets, but the “equity” part of the national balance sheet ends up taking a hit in direct proportion to the damage that occurred. Even if you rebuild everything just the way it was, your assets remain the same, while your liabilities have increased.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2017.
Brick and mortar meltdown. Sears Canada hired the same leading bankruptcy advisory firm on June 12 that had represented Target Canada in its insolvency proceedings. Ten days later, it filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure its capital and its operations, shutter dozens of it 225 stores and lay off nearly 3,000 employees, but planned to continue operating. Today it said that the restructuring efforts failed, and that it would seek court approval to liquidate, shutting all its remaining stores and laying off its remaining 12,000 employees.
Retailers are notoriously difficult to restructure. Once they’re this deep in trouble, after years of losses, they own few assets and are burdened with debts, as everything has been sold or pledged to creditors. Their suppliers, who’ve been burned too many times, are getting skittish. Lenders are getting desperate. And acquirers can be impossible to find. Most retailer bankruptcies start out as restructurings but end as liquidations.
To stay alive while losing money for years, Sears Canada has sold off most of its real estate holdings, and the most valuable assets are already gone. What’s left are C$1.1 billion ($880 million) in liabilities.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Oct 10, 2017.
What is your local government’s debt burden? Or in other words, how much of your local government’s annual revenue would be fully consumed by its liabilities?
That’s a question that J. P. Morgan took on in its recent analyst report The ARC and the Covenants 3.0, in which it considered the total debt burdens of the governments of US cities, counties, and states.
Read Transcending Government – A Future of Competitive Governance Driven by ‘Governance Entrepreneurs’
Here’s an excerpt from the report’s Executive Summary, in which the private bank explains its interest in the results of the analysis and what liabilities are included in each level of government’s total debt, which goes into the calculation of their ‘IPOD’ ratio, which is their estimate of the true burden of debt local governments throughout the United States:
As managers of $70 billion in US municipal bonds across our asset management business (Q2 2017), we’re very focused on credit risk of US municipalities. Last year, we completed our tri-annual credit review of US states. While a few states have very large debts relative to their revenues, many are in decent shape. This summer, we completed a review of the largest US cities and counties. In general, US cities and counties have substantially more debt relative to their revenues than US states. While most have several years to undertake remediation measures, some very difficult choices will be required in order for them to meet all of their future obligations. And when these choices become untenable and rare municipal bankruptcies do occur, bondholders have usually received lower recoveries than pensioners.
This post was published at FinancialSense on 10/09/2017.
Central banks do not play games with the markets but it sure feels like we are being played by someone! Earlier this year the Bank of Japan, Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank all had similar balance sheets at around $4.5 trillion. As we know, over the past ten years all three have risen from lower levels but have seen faster expansion by the BOJ and the FED gaining pace to now catch the ECB. Foreign exchange rates are always subjected to inherent volatility that is thrown into the mix. However, given the recent extremes on all fronts, there has been uncanny similarity around end of Q1′ 2017.
Typically, a central bank balance sheet would off-set Assets against Liabilities and capital.
This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Oct 4, 2017.
We have covered many reasons why bitcoin is unsound and not money. It’s a ledger of unbacked liabilities. It is designed to have finite quantity but therefore indeterminate and hence volatile value. This makes it unusable for borrowing or lending and hence savings, but a great a vehicle for conversion of one person’s wealth into another’s income. It is not a commodity – discussion of the usefulness of the network notwithstanding – nor is it backed by a commodity or any asset. It is a perfect, cryptographically secure record – of itself. People use it to get rich quick. In other words, it’s the very model of a (post)modern monetary marvel (OK, Keith is not the next Gilbert and Sullivan).
And bitcoin has a questionable feature. Transactions are irreversible.
First it should be addressed that irreversible transactions have an appeal to merchants. Everyone who sells on eBay knows the frustration of shipping merchandise to a customer only to have the customer claim it was never received. Merchants would surely love the idea that once payment is made, it cannot be unmade.
However, there are good reasons why our payments system was designed as it is. Sometimes there is a clear mistake. No one has an interest in allowing the payee to keep $100,000 when $10,000 was the purchase price of the used car. No one wants to see Jon Schmidt get the money that was intended for John Smith. There is also the occasional case of fraud. If someone breaks into your account, you want recourse to recover the lost funds. Irreversible transactions are not a dream come true for consumers who are defrauded by merchants.
This post was published at GoldSeek on Monday, 2 October 2017.
In the Fed’s latest Flow of Funds report, today the Fed released the latest snapshot of the US “household” sector as of June 30, 2017. What it revealed is that with $111.4 trillion in assets and a modest $15.2 trillion in liabilities, the net worth of US households rose to a new all time high of $96.2 trillion, up $1.7 trillion as a result of an estimated $564 billion increase in real estate values, but mostly $1.23 trillion increase in various stock-market linked financial assets like corporate equities, mutual and pension funds, and deposits as the market soared to new all time highs thanks to some $2 trillion in central bank liquidity injections this year.
Total household assets in Q2 rose $1.8 trillion to $111.4 trillion, while at the same time, total liabilities, i.e., household borrowings, rose by only $15 billion from $15.1 trillion to $15.2 trillion, the bulk of which was $9.9 trillion in home mortgages.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 21, 2017.
We’ve spent a lot of time of late discussing the inevitable public pension crisis that will eventually wreak havoc on global financial markets. And while the scale of the public pension underfunding is unprecedented, with estimates ranging from $3 – $8 trillion, there is another taxpayer-funded retirement benefit that has been promised to union workers over the years that puts pensions to shame…at least on a percentage funded basis.
Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB), like pensions, are a stream of future payments that have been promised to retirees primarily to cover healthcare costs. However, unlike pensions, most government entities don’t even bother to accrue assets for this massive stream of future costs resulting in $700 billion of liabilities that most taxpayer likely didn’t even know existed.
As a study from Pew Charitable Trusts points out today, the average OPEB plan in the U. S. today is only 6.7% funded (and that’s if you believe their discount rates…so probably figure about half that amount in reality) and many states around the country are even worse.
States paid a total of $20.8 billion in 2015 for non-pension worker retirement benefits, known as other post-employment benefits (OPEB). Almost all of this money was spent on retiree health care. The aggregate figure for 2015, the most recent year for which complete data are available, represents an increase of $1.2 billion, or 6 percent, over the previous year. The 2015 payments covered the cost of current-year benefits and in some states included funding to address OPEB liabilities. These liabilities – the cost of benefits, in today’s dollars, to be paid in future years – totaled $692 billion in 2015, a 5 percent increase over 2014.
In 2015, states had $46 billion in assets to meet $692 billion in OPEB liabilities, yielding a funded ratio of 6.7 percent. The total amount of assets was slightly higher than the reported $44 billion in 2014, though the funding ratio did not change. The average state OPEB funded ratio is low because most states pay for retiree health care benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis, appropriating revenue annually to pay retiree health care costs for that year rather than pre-funding liabilities by setting aside assets to cover the state’s share of future retiree health benefit costs.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 20, 2017.
As Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreaked their havoc over the past couple of weeks, several interconnected questions popped up, the answers to which make us look, to put it bluntly, like idiots.
Why, for instance, are there suddenly so many Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes? Is this due to man-made climate change and is this summer therefore our new normal? The answer: Maybe, but that misses the point. There have always been huge storms (like the one that wiped Galveston, TX off the map in 1900, long before global warming was a thing), and barring another ice age there always will be. So the US east coast will remain one of Mother Nature’s favorite targets.
A second (and vastly more pertinent) question is why we’ve been encouraging millions of people to move into this bulls-eye in recent decades. Since 2000, Houston and surrounding Harris County have added 1.2 million people. Since 1980 Florida has added 10 million people – most of them in the coastal corridor from Miami to Fort Lauderdale.
Seems a little unwise, doesn’t it, to put tens of millions of people and millions of houses and cars where they’re guaranteed to be damaged or destroyed by inevitable future storms. But it’s not an accident. Government programs actively encourage this migration by picking up part or all of the tab for homes that are flooded by storms. The result: A massive and growing liability for future damage on top of all the other massive and growing liabilities for Medicare, Social Security, underfunded state and local pensions, etc. From last week’s Wall Street Journal:
One House, 22 Floods: Repeated Claims Drain Federal Insurance Program
Brian Harmon had just finished spending over $300,000 to fix his home in Kingwood, Texas, when Hurricane Harvey sent floodwaters ‘completely over the roof.’
This post was published at DollarCollapse on SEPTEMBER 19, 2017.
– Global debt bubble may be understated by $13 trillion: BIS
– ‘Central banks central bank’ warns enormous liabilities have accrued in FX swaps, currency swaps & ‘forwards’
– Risk of new liquidity crunch and global debt crisis
– ‘The debt remains obscured from view…’ warn BIS
Global debt may be under-reported by around $13 trillion because traditional accounting practices exclude foreign exchange derivatives used to hedge international trade and foreign currency bonds, the BIS said on Sunday.
Bank for International Settlements researchers said it was hard to assess the risk this ‘missing’ debt poses, but that the main worry was a liquidity crunch like the one that seized FX swap and forwards markets during the financial crisis.
The $13 trillion unaccounted-for exposure exceeds the on-balance-sheet debt of $10.7 trillion that data shows was owed by firms and governments outside the United States at end-March.
This post was published at Gold Core on September 19, 2017.
The US national debt was in the news last week as Pres. Trump signed a spending bill that raised the debt ceiling limit for the next three months and added approximately $318 billion to the national debt. Officially, the US debt surged to to $20.16 trillion. Of course, the actual figure for government unfunded liabilities runs even higher. And Trump wants to do away with the debt ceiling altogether.
The US debt makes up just one part of a rapidly growing worldwide debt problem. Earlier this summer, US Global Investors CEO Frank Holmes called global debt ‘the mother of all bubbles.’ Now we have a report from the Bank of International Settlements saying worldwide debt may actually be understated by $13 trillion. Reuters reports the understatement is because ‘traditional accounting practices exclude foreign exchange derivatives used to hedge international trade and foreign currency bonds.’
Bank for International Settlements researchers said it was hard to assess the risk this ‘missing’ debt poses, but that the main worry was a liquidity crunch like the one that seized FX swap and forwards markets during the financial crisis. The $13 trillion unaccounted-for exposure exceeds the on-balance-sheet debt of $10.7 trillion that data shows was owed by firms and governments outside the United States at end-March.’
This post was published at Schiffgold on SEPTEMBER 18, 2017.
The government in question is that of Venezuela, which is nearing default as it is running out of resources to pay back the money it owes to its Russian creditors according to the terms it accepted when it chose to borrow money from them.
MOSCOW, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters on Friday that Venezuela is having problems with fulfilling its obligations on its debt to Russia.
‘We have a request from our colleagues in Venezuela to do a restructuring,’ Siluanov said.
Venezuela owed Russia $2.84 billion as of September last year.
The Venezuelan government is now scrambling to restructure its foreign-held liabilities following sanctions put on the country’s President Nicolas Maduro and 20 other individuals, and also the Venezuelan government-owned oil company by the US Treasury Department after Maduro rigged an election to select representatives to rewrite the country’s constitution in his favor.
This post was published at FinancialSense on 09/15/2017.
The coming gold and silver moves in the next few months will really surprise most investors as market volatility increases substantially.
It seems right now that ‘All (is) quiet on the Western Front’ as Erich-Maria Remarque wrote about WWI. Ten years after the Great Financial Crisis started and nine years after the Lehman collapse, it seems that the world is in better shape than ever. Stocks are at historical highs, interest rates at historical lows, house prices are booming again and consumers are buying more than ever.
HAVE CENTRAL BANKS SAVED THE WORLD?
So why were we so worried in 2007? There is no problem big enough that our friendly Central Bankers can’t solve. All you need to do to fool the world is to: Print and expand credit by $100 trillion, fabricate derivatives for another few $100 trillion, make further commitments to the people in forms of pensions and medical, social care for amounts that can never be paid and lower interest rates to zero or negative.
And there we have it. This is the New Normal. The Central Banks have successfully applied all the Keynesian tools. How can everything work so well with just more debt and liabilities? Well, because things are different today. We have all the sophisticated tools, computers, complex models, making fake money QE, interest rate manipulation management and very devious intelligent central bankers.
Or is it different this time?
This post was published at GoldSwitzerland on September 7, 2017.