You've probably seen articles and adverts discussing how much money you'll need to "retire comfortably." The trick of course is the definition of comfortable. The general idea of comfortable (as I understand it) appears to be an income which enables the retiree to enjoy leisurely vacations on cruise ships, own a well-appointed RV for tooling around the countryside, and spend as much time on the golf links as he/she might want. Needless to say, Social Security isn't going to fund a comfortable retirement, unless the definition is watching TV with an box of kibble to snack on. By this definition of retiring comfortably, I reckon I should be able to retire at age 91--assuming I can work another 30 years and the creek don't rise.
At the end of the day, there is nothing behind the curtain at the Eccles Building except for the specious doctrine of wealth effects. Fractional changes in the money market rate are of relevance only to the day traders and robo machines which occupy the casino. Fed policy is designed to keep them dancing. It rests on the delusional hope that the drug of ZIRP or near-ZIRP can keep the stock market averages rising and a trickle down of extra spending by the wealthy flowing into the reported GDP and job numbers. History proves beyond a shadow of doubt that bubbles fueled by bad money ultimately splatter into a world of harm. The Fed is not only ignoring the coming storm, but is actually fueling its intensity with malice of forethought.
The surreal nature of this world as we enter 2015 feels like being trapped in a Fellini movie. The .1% party like it’s 1999, central bankers not only don’t take away the punch bowl – they spike it with 200% grain alcohol, the purveyors of propaganda in the mainstream media encourage the party to reach Caligula orgy levels, the captured political class and their government apparatchiks propagate manipulated and massaged economic data to convince the masses their standard of living isn’t really deteriorating, and the entire façade is supposedly validated by all-time highs in the stock market. It’s nothing but mass delusion perpetuated by the issuance of prodigious amounts of debt by central bankers around the globe. But now, the year of consequences may have finally arrived.
The car is at the center of the biggest boom in subprime lending since the mortgage crisis, and The NY Times reports, similar to how a red-hot mortgage market once coaxed millions of borrowers into recklessly tapping the equity in their homes, the new boom is also leading people to take out risky lines of credit known as title loans. Will we never learn?!!
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
Let’s see. Between July 2007 and January 2009, the median US residential housing price plunged from $230k to $165k or by 30%. That must have been some kind of super “tax cut”.
The global oil price collapse now unfolding is not putting a single dime into the pockets of American households - the CNBC talking heads to the contrary notwithstanding. What is happening is the vast flood of mispriced debt and capital, which flowed into the energy sector owning to the Fed’s lunatic ZIRP and QE policies, is now rapidly deflating. That will reduce bubble spending and investment, not add to economic growth. It’s the housing bust all over again.
All the analysts chortling over the "equivalent of a tax break" for consumers are about to be buried by an avalanche of defaults and crushing losses as the chickens of financializing oil come home to roost.
With no mention of the current turmoil in markets - or suggestion of QE99 - Janet Yellen's speech this morning on "Inequality and Opportunity" in America explains how the poor can get rich. After admitting that widening inequality resumed in the recovery (and "greatly concerns" her), as the stock market rebounded (driven by Fed's free money) and cost-conscious share buying-back companies defer wage growth as the healing of the labor market has been slow; she turns her attention to how the poor can beat the vicious cycle. Rather stunningly, she notes the 4 sources of income opportunity in America: The first two are widely recognized as important sources of opportunity: resources available for children and affordable higher education (so more student debt and servitude). The second two may come as more of a surprise: business ownership and inheritances. As she concludes, "this is how individuals and their families can improve their economic circumstances."
Expecting the state to truly reform the nation's engines of financialization is like asking the cocaine addict married to the wealthy dealer to divorce the dealer.
While the memory of a financial market participant can be measured in nanoseconds, it appears that the average American has also become goldfish-like as RealtyTrac reports a total of 797,865 home equity lines of credit were originated nationwide, up 20.6% from a year ago and the highest level since 2008. As Jim Quinn so eloquently notes, after a two year Wall-Street-engineered fraudulent boost in home prices in the exact markets that led the bubble in 2003 through 2007, the delusional dolts are now acting like the increase in home equity is real: As RealtyTrac's Blomquist exudes, "this recent rise in HELOC originations indicates that an increasing number of homeowners are gaining confidence in the strength of the housing recovery."
As we discussed earlier in the week, Janet Yellen has released a speech this morning explaining why the poor need to get rich. In the speech below, she stresses, "how important it is to promote asset-building, including saving for a rainy day, as protection from the ups and downs of the economy," despite falling incomes, rising costs, and extending credit, we assume she means. The Fed Chairman has some words of encouragement for the tens of millions of Americans who live at or below the poverty level, including that threatened with extinction class, affectionately known as "the middle." Her message? It is important to build assets, or said otherwise... get rich and she promises to "continue to promote asset-building."
Attending costly games is on the margins of the household budget. When the credit card gets maxed out, attending is no longer an option. We're not suggesting professional sports isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread: we're simply asking if attending pro sports games has become unaffordable to the average American.
Consumer spending was soft in July. BofA data shows retail sales ex autos, measured from spending on credit and debit cards, increased only 0.3% mom seasonally adjusted. This , BofA warns, sends a somewhat weak signal in advance of next week’s retail sales report. Crucially, while supply of credit is abundant, BofA's Michelle Meyer concludes demand is weak and this cautious consumer behavior suggests the positive effect on spending from wealth creation may be muted in this cycle.
With U.S. rates higher than those of major foreign markets, investors are provided with an additional reason to look favorably on increased investments in the long end of the U.S. treasury market. Additionally, with nominal growth slowing in response to low saving and higher debt we expect that over the next several years U.S. thirty-year bond yields could decline into the range of 1.7% to 2.3%, which is where the thirty-year yields in the Japanese and German economies, respectively, currently stand.