High Debt Levels Rant

By Kevin Muir

[biiwii comment: not only is Keith my favorite git fiddler of all time, but he’s one of my favorite people. Bravo Macro Tourist; you’ve outdone yourself!]

I am going to break from regular market commentary to step back and think about the big picture as it relates to debt and inflation. Let’s call it philosophical Friday. But don’t worry, there will be no bearded left-wing rants. This will definitely be a market-based exploration of the bigger forces that affect our economy.

One of the greatest debates within the financial community centres around debt and its effect on inflation and economic prosperity. The common narrative is that government deficits (and the ensuing debt) are bad. It steals from future generations and merely brings forward future consumption. In the long run, it creates distortions, and the quicker we return to balancing our books, the better off we will all be.

Continue reading High Debt Levels Rant

It’s Not Bad Trade Deals–It’s Bad Money, Part 2

By David Stockman

In Part 1 we made it clear that the Donald is right about the horrific results of US trade since the 1970s, and that the Keynesian “free traders” of both the saltwater (Harvard) and freshwater (Chicago) schools of monetary central planning have their heads buried far deeper in the sand than does even the orange comb-over with his bombastic affection for 17th century mercantilism.

The fact is, you do not get an $810 billion trade deficit and a 66% ratio of exports ($1.55 trillion) to imports ($2.36 trillion), as the US did in 2017, on a level playing field. And most especially, an honest free market would never generate an unbroken and deepening string of trade deficits over the last 43 years running, which cumulate to the staggering sum of $15 trillion.

Better than anything else, those baleful trade numbers explain why industrial America has been hollowed-out and off-shored, and why vast stretches of Flyover America have been left to flounder in economic malaise and decline.

But two things are absolutely clear about the “why” of this $15 trillion calamity. To wit, it was not caused by some mysterious loss of capitalist enterprise and energy on America’s main street economy since 1975. Nor was it caused—c0ntrary to the Donald’s simple-minded blather—by bad trade deals and stupid people at the USTR and Commerce Department.

Continue reading It’s Not Bad Trade Deals–It’s Bad Money, Part 2

The Albatross Of Debt: Why The Fed’s Wall Street Based Steering Gear No Longer Drives The Main Street Jalopy, Part 6

By David Stockman

The heart of the Fed’s monetary central planning regime is the falsification of financial asset prices. At the end of the day, however, that extracts a huge price in terms of diminished main street prosperity and dangerous financial system instability.

Of course, they are pleased to describe this in more antiseptic terms such as financial accommodation or shifting risk and term premia. For example, when they employ QE to suppress the yield on the 10-year UST (i.e. reduce the term premium), the aim is to lower mortgage rates and thereby stimulate higher levels of housing construction.

Likewise, the Fed heads also claim that another reason for suppressing the risk free rate on US Treasuries via QE was to induce investors to move further out the risk curve into corporates and even junk, thereby purportedly boosting availability and reducing the carry cost of debt financed corporate investments in plant, equipment and technology.

Continue reading The Albatross Of Debt: Why The Fed’s Wall Street Based Steering Gear No Longer Drives The Main Street Jalopy, Part 6

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 4

By David Stockman

The Donald seems to think that the 37% gain in the stock market between election day and the January 26th high was all about him, and in one sense that’s true.

Donald Trump is all about delusional and so are the casino punters. They keep buying what the robo-machines are buying, which, in turn, persist in feasting on the dip because it’s there and because it’s worked like a charm for nine years running.

So doing, the punters have become downright reckless. After all, the market was already sky high last January—-trading at 23X earnings on the S&P 500 and resting precariously on a record $554 billion of margin debt . Yet in order to load up on even more of these ultra risky shares, punters have since added $112 billion to their already staggering margin accounts, thereby helping to propel the S&P index to a truly ludicrous 27X by the end of January 2o18.

Continue reading The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 4

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 3

By David Stockman

Here’s why our mountainous $67 trillion of public and private debt matters. To wit, it has caused the historic relationship between trends on main street and Wall Street to go absolutely haywire.

A week or so back, they reported January industrial production at 107.24, which was only a tad higher than it had been three years earlier in November 2014 (106.61), and just 1.8% above where it had been at the pre-crisis peak way back in November 2007 (105.33). If you cotton to CAGRs, that’s a microscopic 0.18% per annum growth rate over the course of a full decade, and during the third longest business cycle expansion in history, to boot.

By contrast, the S&P 500 at the January 26th peak (2873) was up by 84% from its November 2007 level (1560). And let us make haste to squeeze out the inflation component so as to conform on an apples-to-apples basis that sizzling gain with the volume-driven industrial production index. As it happened, the GDP deflator rose by 17% over the same period, so in real terms the S&P 500 is up by 58%.

And that’s not from the horrid March 2009 bottom, but from the tippy-top of the “goldilocks” stock market fantasy a year before the roof fell in. Accordingly, the question at hand already has the benefit of the doubt factored in: Namely, how can the stock market rise by 58% from the dubious pre-crisis high, while the industrial economy has only expanded by 1.8%?

Continue reading The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 3

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 2

By David Stockman

In Part 1 we postulated that the chart below embodies nothing less than the nightmare that will be coming to Wall Street right soon. It means, in effect, that you can climb the financial tiger’s back for an extended time, but when you reach the mane its generally impossible to get off alive.

Needless to say, we have reached the mane. What drove the US economy for the past three decades was debt expansion—-private and public— at rates far faster than GDP growth. But that entailed a steady ratcheting up of the national leverage ratio until we hit what amounts to the top of the tiger’s back—that is, Peak Debt at 3.5X national income.

Continue reading The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 2