Authored by John Mauldin via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,
You really need to watch this video of a recent conversation between Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones. Their part is about the first 40 minutes.
In this video, Ray highlights some problematic similarities between our times and the 1930s. Both feature:
Maybe it was in his rush to finish as their time is drawing to a close, but it certainly sounded a more challenging tone than I have seen in his writings.
It brought to mind an essay I read last week from my favorite central banker, former BIS Chief Economist William White.
He was warning about potential currency wars, aiming particularly at the US Treasury’s seeming desire for a weaker dollar. Ditto for other governments around the world. He believes this is a prescription for disaster.
One possibility is that it might lead to a disorderly end to the current dollar based regime, which is already under strain for a variety of both economic and geopolitical reasons. To destroy an old, admittedly suboptimal, regime without having prepared a replacement could prove very costly to trade and economic growth.
Perhaps even worse, conducting a currency war implies directing monetary policy to something other than domestic price stability. There ceases to be a domestic anchor to constrain the expansion of central bank balance sheets.
Should this lead to growing suspicion of all fiat currencies, especially those issued by governments with large sovereign debts, a sharp increase in inflationary expectations and interest rates might follow. How this might interact with the record high debt ratios, both public and private, that we see in the world today, is not hard to imagine.
I called Bill to ask if he thought this was going to happen. Basically, he said no, but it shouldn’t even be considered. It was his gentlemanly way of issuing a warning.
Currency devaluations against gold were part of the root cause of the Great Depression. Coupled with protectionism and tariffs, they devastated global economic growth and trade.
The Repeat of the 1930s?
Do I think it will happen in any significant way in the next few years?
It is not my highest probability scenario. But imagine a recession that brings the US deficit to $2 trillion, possibly followed by a governmental change that raises taxes and spending.
This could bring about a second “echo” recession with even higher deficits. This would force the Federal Reserve to monetize debt in order to keep interest rates from skyrocketing, thereby weakening the dollar. Couple this with a concurrent crisis in Europe, potentially even a eurozone breakup, resulting in countries all over the world trying to weaken their currencies with the potential for higher inflation in many places.
In such a scenario, is it hard to imagine a desperate president and Congress, toward the latter part of the next decade, regardless of which party is in control, instructing the US Treasury to use its tools to weaken the dollar?
Can you say beggar thy neighbor? Can you see other countries following that path? All as debt is increasing with no realistic exit strategy except to monetize it?
Wells Fargo plans to close 800 more branches by 2020
by Matt Egan @MattEganCNN money.cnn.com January 12, 2018: 1:48 PM ET
Wells Fargo draws bipartisan anger from Congress
Wells Fargo, scrambling to cut costs and offset soaring legal expenses, plans to pull the plug on 800 more bank branches by 2020.
The planned closings, announced on Friday, will leave Wells Fargo (WFC) with about 5,000 branches. The bank closed more than 200 branches last year, but still finished the year with more than 5,800, the most in the United States.
On a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Wells Fargo execs pinned the closings on Americans' increasing preference for online and mobile banking.
"We will have as many branches as our customers want for as long as they want them," said John Shrewsberry, the chief financial officer.
But analysts also see a link to Wells Fargo's infamous legal troubles. The bank's litigation expenses more than tripled to $3.3 billion last quarter. The legal costs stem from the bank's fake-account debacle, investigations into pre-crisis mortgages and "other consumer-related matters."
Those mounting expenses have unnerved Wall Street. The bank plans to cut $2 billion in expenses this year and another $2 billion in 2019.
Related: Wells Fargo's legal troubles down out huge tax windfall
Another problem: Wells Fargo's branches likely aren't the profit machines they were before the scandal. The bank abandoned its notoriously aggressive sales goals following the revelation of 3.5 million potentially fake bank and credit card accounts.
In a statement to CNNMoney, Wells Fargo said it evaluates its branch network "solely on customer trends, market factors and economic changes."
Wells Fargo did not release an estimate of how many employees will lose their jobs as a result of the planned branch closings. The bank pledged to help employees "identify opportunities within Wells Fargo, as well as within the community."
Last month, Wells Fargo announced plans to share its tax cut windfall with workers and customers by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour and giving 40% more to charities.
Before the scandal, Wells Fargo had been much more reluctant than rivals to close branches. Between 2012 and 2016, Wells Fargo only shut about 2% of its branches, according to brokerage firm CLSA.
By comparison, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) closed 9% of its branches over that span, while Bank of America (BAC) shuttered 15%.
That trend has shifted. Wells Fargo close almost twice as many branches in 2017 as JPMorgan, according to figures released on Friday.
Wells Fargo plans to shut another 250 branches this year.
In Bizarre Admission, ECB Warns Its Policies Threaten Financial Stability, Could Lead To A Crash
ZeroHedge.com Thu, 11/21/2019 - 04:15
Is the world's largest hedge fund central bank finally starting to appreciate the devastating consequences of its asset reflating ways? In some ways it is almost ludicrous to presume that a central bank which at the beginning of the year laughably "found" that its QE has reduced inequality in the eurozone...
The ECB also "found" that QE which has led to record inequality and unprecedented social upheaval has "reduced inequality" may have finally looked in the mirror objectively, and yet on Wednesday, it was the ECB which admitted that historically low eurozone interest rates - which it is solely responsible for - and which are expected to persist into the foreseeable future (and beyond) are causing increased risk-taking that could threaten financial stability.
"While the low interest rate environment supports the overall economy, we also note an increase in risk-taking which could… create financial stability challenges," ECB vice-president Luis de Guindos said non-ironically in a statement... which to us sounds an awful close to a mea culpa. Then again, we know that central banks never admit responsibility for "increases in risk-taking" so we wonder if he was just trolling everyone.
Or perhaps he isn't: "Signs of excessive risk-taking" were spotted by the Frankfurt central bank among non-bank financial players like "investment funds, insurance companies and pension funds." Indeed, many "have increased their exposure to riskier segments of the corporate and sovereign sectors" the central bank said. Of course, it is the ECB's own policy of negative yields has prompted investors to seek out riskier bets in search of returns.
Curiously, while the ECB’s twice-yearly update to its risk assessment shifted focus from May’s trade war concerns, “downside risks to global and euro area economic growth have increased” in the meantime, it warned. Such dangers included “persistent uncertainty, an escalation in trade protectionism, a no-deal Brexit and weak performance of emerging markets,” notably China, the ECB said.
In another stark admission of reality, the ECB said that an economic downturn - one which is virtually assured for Europe - could crash prices for riskier and less liquid assets as actors like asset managers or hedge funds sell up in a hurry.
"This may have implications for the ease and cost of corporate financing which could exacerbate any real economy downturn," the ECB warned, adding that elsewhere in the economy, lower interest rates also "appear to be encouraging more borrowing by riskier firms" in non-financial sectors, as well as inflating property prices in some parts of the eurozone.
If only there was something the ECB could do to prevent this...
Alas it won't, because returning to a far more familiar place, the ECB judged that authorities in the 19 eurozone countries were already taking steps to head off financial stability risks from property bubbles.
Meanwhile the central bank found that “bank profitability concerns remain prominent” as growth has weakened and eurozone policymakers further lowered a key interest rate in September. As well as outside pressure, banks “have made slow progress in addressing structural challenges."
Here, for some odd reason, the ECB valiantly refuses to admit that keeping the yield curve consistently negative is catastrophic for bank profitability, and instead of admitting fault, the central banks points to silly diversions such as banks that do not have Apple apps. The central bank also points to "slow improvements" on multiple fronts to explain lack of bank profits, like disposing of so-called “non-performing” loans, where borrowers have fallen behind on payments.
Lenders must also cut costs and reduce overcapacity, and are largely failing to diversify their businesses, the ECB judged, effectively urging banks to keep firing people. Because it's not like the Eurozone has an unemployment problem.
The good news according to the ECB: most banks have the liquid assets on hand to withstand any foreseeable financial shocks.
We'll find out soon enough.
Ron Paul Asks: Is The "Mother Of All Bubbles" About To Pop?
ZeroHedge.com Mon, 11/11/2019 - 17:05
Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,
When the New York Federal Reserve began pumping billions of dollars a day into the repurchasing (repo) markets (the market banks use to make short-term loans to each other) in September, they said this would only be necessary for a few weeks. Yet, last Wednesday, almost two months after the Fed’s initial intervention, the New York Federal Reserve pumped 62.5 billion dollars into the repo market.
The New York Fed continues these emergency interventions to ensure “cash shortages” among banks don’t ever again cause interest rates for overnight loans to rise to over 10 percent, well above the Fed’s target rate.
The Federal Reserve’s bailout operations have increased its balance sheet by over 200 billion dollars since September. Investment advisor Michael Pento describes the Fed’s recent actions as Quantitative Easing (QE) “on steroids.”
One cause of the repo market’s sudden cash shortage was the large amount of debt instruments issued by the Treasury Department in late summer and early fall. Banks used resources they would normally devote to private sector lending and overnight loans to purchase these Treasury securities. This scenario will likely keep recurring as the Treasury Department will have to continue issuing new debt instruments to finance continuing increases in in government spending.
Even though the federal deficit is already over one trillion dollars (and growing), President Trump and Congress have no interest in cutting spending, especially in an election year. Should he win reelection, President Trump is unlikely to reverse course and champion fiscal restraint. Instead, he will likely take his victory as a sign that the people support big federal budgets and huge deficits. None of the leading Democratic candidates are even pretending to care about the deficit. Instead they are proposing increasing spending by trillions on new government programs.
Joseph Zidle, a strategist with the Blackstone investment firm, has called the government — or “sovereign” — debt bubble the “mother of all bubbles.” When the sovereign debt bubble inevitably busts, it will cause a meltdown bigger than the 2008 crash.
US consumer debt — which includes credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and mortgages — now totals over 14 trillion dollars. This massive government and private debts put tremendous pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low or even to “experiment” with negative rates. But, the Fed can only keep interest rates, which are the price of money, artificially low for so long without serious economic consequences.
According to Michael Pento, the Fed is panicking in an effort to prevent economic trouble much worse than occurred in 2008. “It’s not just QE,” says Pento, “it’s QE on steroids because everybody knows that this QE is permanent just like any banana republic would do, or has done in the past.”
Congress will not cut spending until either a critical mass of Americans demand they do so, or there is a major economic crisis. In the event of a crisis, Congress will try to avoid directly cutting spending, instead letting the Federal Reserve do its dirty work via currency depreciation. This will deepen the crisis and increase support for authoritarian demagogues. The only way to avoid this is for those of us who know the truth to spread the message of, and grow the movement for, peace, free markets, limited government, and sound money.
'Solutions Are Obvious' - The US Higher Education System Is Broken
ZeroHedge.com Mon, 11/11/2019 - 21:45
Authored by 'Solutions Are Obvious' via The Burning Platform blog,
The US higher education system is broken. In many cases, it produces individuals with useless degrees purchased at outrageous cost. The system itself is an infestation of ultra liberal professors, spineless administrators and a student body that becomes more and more radicalized and detached from reality the more courses they take.
The higher education system is the incubator for the anti white, anti male, anti Trump, pro freak, pro censorship, anti gun, pro socialist, anti conservative, pro unlimited immigration, pro free everything mentality that pervades what purports to be the evening news. It infantilizes young adults to produce a steady stream of victims and mental midgets completely unprepared to meet the real adult world.
All is not lost, however. By and large, STEM graduates are less affected by the SJW mental aberration as their critical thinking abilities are necessarily on a higher plane to be able to cope with a curriculum that is more than just opinion. STEM fields have empirically based phenomena to comprehend and must use known tested methods of reasoning and logic to handle the problems and situations a particular field is called upon to investigate. Although STEM students are typically forced to sit through nonsense classes and regurgitate what the instructors deem critical information, they instinctively know its BS and promptly forget it once the class is over. They’re typically not permanently scared.
The problem lies with the ‘Basket Weaving’ majors where no proof of anything is required or even possible as it’s all just opinion and supposition. The Humanities / Social Sciences / Liberal Arts courses offer an easy path towards a degree, many of which are absolutely worthless. It’s actually a shame that some of them do lead to living wage and beyond employment options that end up producing many of the fraudulent professions society is encumbered by like Economics, Psychiatry and other specializations that can’t prove anything past common sense.
I’ll concentrate primarily on what to do to eliminate only the most egregious fraudulent degrees that are currently plaguing society.
The concept of tenure needs to be eliminated. No one should be guaranteed a livelihood by managing to hit some arbitrary mark and thereafter have no responsibility for doing a good job as reviewed by their employer. The education profession needs to get rid of the dead wood clogging the system and consuming resources.
All higher education facilities should be mandated to provide their graduates with job opportunities via an employment agency owned and operated by the institution, not a contracted for service. The schools should be totally responsible for finding each graduate a position in the degree field of study for 5 years post graduation.
If the institution is unable to place a graduate, then the former student is entitled to a full refund of all tuition paid for a proven obviously useless degree plus 5 times tuition paid for the waste of time involved and to provide the former student with a funds cushion to get retrained in something with a future. In the case where a graduate is unemployable for no reason the school is responsible for or where there is a dispute over responsibility, a 3rd party would be called upon to make a judgment.
If this were implemented, Gender Studies, Recreational Science, Hospitality Science, Museum Curator, Drama Studies and similar courses would disappear overnight from most campuses along with the faculty that teach the classes. The schools know these are for the most part BS courses and know that the chances of someone getting employed with one of the basket weaving degrees is so low that it would be financially too risky to offer the course.
Gone would be the professors teaching these nonsense courses. Gone would be the lenders to provide the student loans, guaranteed by the Fed Gov which steals the funds from the general public. Gone would be the students mentally or some other way incapable of STEM degrees with no option but to consider vocational training or learn how to say – ‘Do you want fries with that’. Gone would be the windfall profits higher ed facilities have enjoyed in recent decades. Gone would be the unsustainable building boom for facilities completely unrelated to teaching but used as enticements to attract low IQ students easily dazzled by shiny objects. Gone would be the nonsense classes STEM students are now forced to take. Gone would be the environment were the purveyors of bullshit get to indoctrinate the latest crop of weak susceptible minds.
Some may claim this violated free market principles. I would counter that the advancement of institutionalized fraud is not in the society’s best interests. If a student were to sign away his/her rights to compensation and effectively opt for today’s environment, then that would absolve the institution of responsibility. The free market would be restored as long as informed consent is involved.
In addition, it should be obvious that no one should be able to get an advanced degree in a field that can’t prove its basic precepts. As mentioned previously, something like Economics is almost entirely BS. Economists can’t prove anything past common sense and can’t even provide a proper postmortem after an economic catastrophe. Likewise, Psychiatry has not a single empirical test for the hundreds of conditions listed in their DSM. Psychiatry is opinion masquerading as science and is simply an outlet for Big Pharma to push their mind altering poisons. The large majority of mass shooters have been on prescription only psychoactive drugs.
Other fields that I generally refer to as the ‘story telling’ professions should likewise be reigned in. Paleontology, Anthropology, Cosmology, large portions of Geology and many more fields are largely based on a plausible story as their foundation, sans evidence. Absolute proof for their assertions is impossible and consequently it should be impossible to get a degree above Bachelors in these disciplines.
No one should claim to be an expert (PhD) in a field that is based on opinion. In the off chance that something like Climate Science might someday actually be able to provide proof of their assertions, it, as an example, should be able to produce Bachelors graduates that can attempt to further the field but would no longer be able to fool the public into thinking they know what’s going on due to their bogus PhD pedigree.
Global debt surges to record high $188 Trillion : IMF chief
AFP•November 7, 2019
The global debt load has surged to a new all-time record equivalent to more than double the world's economic output, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned Thursday.While private sector borrowing accounts for the vast majority of the total, the rise puts governments and individuals at risk if the economy slows, she said. "Global debt -- both public and private -- has reached an all-time high of $188 trillion. This amounts to about 230 percent of world output," Georgieva said in a speech to open a two-day conference on debt.
That is up from the previous record of $164 trillion in 2016, according to IMF figures.
While interest rates remain low, borrowers can use debt to make investments in productive activities or weather a bout of low commodity prices. But it can become "a drag on growth," she said.
"The bottom line is that high debt burdens have left many governments, companies, and households vulnerable to a sudden tightening of financial conditions," she cautioned.
Corporate debt accounts for about two thirds of the total but government borrowing has risen as well in the wake of the global financial crisis.
"Public debt in advanced economies is at levels not seen since the Second World War," she warned. And "emerging market public debt is at levels last seen during the 1980s debt crisis." She called for steps to ensure "borrowing is more sustainable," including making lending practices more transparent and preparing for debt restructuring with "non-traditional lenders" -- an apparent reference to China, which has become a major creditor to developing nations including in Africa.