It is increasingly certain that the future will not be like the past. Previous downturns have been equally devastating but the primary causes eventually reversed themselves; low commodity prices recovered and damaging government policies were rescinded. This recovery will be different for a variety of reasons which will combine to cap growth, opportunity and profits, even if oil and gas prices spike. The following major changes appear permanent...
The banquet of consequences is about to be served.
Deflation, deflation everywhere... except for those 43 million Americans who are being slammed with rent inflation soaring at just over 8% every year, the highest on record.
Students of Austrian business cycle theory are familiar with the term malinvestment. A malinvestment is any poor use of resources or capital, commonly made in response to bad policy (usually artificially low interest rates and/or unsustainable increases in the monetary supply). Here, we introduce a related term: malincentive. While not part of the official economic lexicon, I consider a 'malincentive' a useful word to describe any promise of short-term gain whose long-term costs outweigh any immediate benefits enjoyed. Malincetives and malinvestment go hand-in-hand. In my opinion, the former causes the latter. As humans, we respond remarkably well to incentives. And dumb incentives encourage us to make dumb investments.
In 1977, the total indebtedness of U.S. government, corporate and household borrowers was $323 billion. By 1985, that figure had grown to $7 trillion. Volcker left the Fed in August of 1987 after handing the reins over to Alan Greenspan. By year’s end 2015, U.S. indebtedness had swelled to $45.2 trillion. Tack on financials, which few do, and it’s $64.5 trillion and unabashedly growing. We are a nation transformed. What has today’s vast store of debt purchased? Certainly not freedom.
Bernanke has been a charlatan and intellectual lightweight all along but the gist is that the US economy is wanting for some non-existent ether called “aggregate demand”. And that this ether is something the Fed can easily create by handing an open-ended spending account to politicians, and one that would never have to be repaid or even serviced with interest! It puts you in mind of the medieval theologians who endlessly debated as to the number of angels which could fit on the head of a pin. The trouble is, there is not such thing as angels. Nor is there any such thing as economic growth or wealth that can be conjured by politicians spending Bernanke’s utterly counterfeit money.
Meet Andy Guo, an 18-year-old Chinese immigrant, who loves driving his red Lamborghini Huracán. He does not love having to share the car with his twin brother, Anky. "There’s a lot of conflict," Mr. Guo said, as a crowd of admirers gazed at the vehicle and its vanity license plate, “CTGRY 5,” short for the most catastrophic type of hurricane. Or Diana Wang, 23, who thinks a supercar is a poor investment, because its value decreases over time. "Better to spend half a million dollars on two expensive watches or some diamonds."
Hot on the heels of Wells Fargo's $1.2 billion settlement, Bloomberg reports that Goldman Sachs will pay $5.1 billion to settle a U.S. probe into its handling of mortgage-backed securities involving allegations that loans weren’t properly vetted before being sold to investors as high-quality bonds. “This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery.
Over time, Bubble Economies become increasingly vulnerable to economic stagnation, Credit degradation and asset price busts. Bubbles are fueled by Credit excesses that distort risk perceptions and resource allocation. Credit and asset price inflation will incentivize speculation, another key dynamic ensuring misallocation and malinvestment. In the end, Bubbles redistribute and destroy wealth. Major Bubbles will tear at the threads of society.
Nearly a decade since the housing bubble burst the dirty skeletons still emerge from the closet, and still nobody goes to jail. In the latest example of how criminal Wall Street behavior leads to zero prison time and just more slaps on the wrist, overnight Warren Buffett's favorite bank, Wells Fargo, admitted to "deceiving" the U.S. government into insuring thousands of risky mortgages. Its "punishment" - a $1.2 billion settlement of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, the highest ever levied in a housing-related matter.
From a $30k required salary in the Midwest to $150k in San Francisco, the affordability of housing in America is anything 'united'.
Another major city is experiencing a pullback in demand for its property – once again as a direct result of Government action to dampen the impact of foreign investment. In London, as Bloomberg reports, demand has slumped so badly that developers are offering discounts of up to 20% for their newly constructed homes. And just as the case was in Manhattan, it’s a result of the UK putting in a speed bump. The UK recently increased taxes on those deemed to be purchasing a second home, specifically designed to slow the pace of overseas investment.