The auto loan subprime bubble may be the latest to burst (after student loans) as the rate of car repossessions jumped 70.2 percent in the second quarter, with much of that increase coming from finance companies not run by automakers, banks or credit unions. "The number of delinquencies and repossessions rising is what we would expect as the auto industry sells more vehicles," "But this slight uptick is one to keep an eye on." The surge in delinquencies and repossessions is being driven primarily by borrowers with subprime and deep subprime credit scores.
We frequently see stories telling us how well the United States is doing at oil extraction. The fact that there are stories in the press about the US wanting to export crude oil adds to the hype. How much of these stories are really true? A major concern with falling per-capita energy consumption it that the financial system may soon reach limits where it is stretched beyond what it can stand. The economy needs energy growth to grow, but the economy is not getting it.
Growth in Consumer Credit dropped for the 2nd month in a row (at $17.25bn) missing expectations by the most since November 2013. The March/April credit impulse has now completely faded. Given that "debt is the great bridge between working hard and playing hard in this country," it would seem this news will disappoint Steve Liesman. Revolving credit dropped to its lowest since February as spend-what-you-don't-have appears to be fading also...
As The WSJ reports, loan-application data show clear signs of growing student-debt burdens. A key metric that mortgage underwriters use to evaluate a borrowers' ability to repay a loan is their total debt-to-income ratio. It’s this metric that can make student loans a big negative in the loan approval process since new rules that took effect this year place greater legal liability on lenders to properly verify 'affordability' (or debt-to-income ratio). As the following chart shows, "between the approved universe and the denied universe, a few hundred dollars in student loan debt can push the debt-to-income above the approved threshold." Simply put, homeownership rates will face pressure until student borrowing slows or until mortgage investors and lenders come up with either more flexible underwriting tools or new loan products (and that never ends well).
Americans are so broke...
Before you jump on the Bull market bandwagon of "don't fight the Fed," perhaps you should take a look at the quality of the debt the Fed has enabled and the diminishing returns on all that debt.
Just as the Federal Reserve cannot directly force you to stick the needle of monetary heroin (debt) into your arm, it also can't force employers to pay employees more. The ultimate hubris of the Keynesian Cargo Cult (which includes the global economy's central banks) is the naive notion that they can manipulate an entire system with a few levers such that the desired outcome--and only the desired outcome--is the output. The idea that you can change one input in an interconnected system of systems and only affect the one output you want is not just naive and simplistic: it requires a level of blindness and incompetence that is off the charts.
It has been over six months since we first highlighted the growing deterioration in the quality of auto loans and mentioned the 's' word (subprime) as indicative that we learned nothing from the financial crisis. Since then, auto loans (and especially subprime in the last few months) have surged to record highs; and most concerning, recently has seen delinquencies and late payments spike. The reason we provide this background is that, thanks to The NY Times, this story is now hitting the mainstream media as subprime-quality car buyers (new and used) realize the burden they have placed on themselves thanks to exorbitantly high interest rates (and a rapidly depreciating 'asset'). As one car 'owner' exclaimed, "buying the car was the worst decision I have ever made."
Even if the economy were growing at a faster pace, it wouldn't come close to offsetting the interest payments on our ever-expanding debt. If you want to know why the Status Quo is unsustainable, just look at interest and debt.
"The world has changed," explains the 27-year old daughter of David Stevens - CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Despite her father's constant 30-year pitch of the merits of homeownership - and knowing full well that rates are low, rents are high, and owning a home 'builds wealth' - Sara Stevens is not buying. After watching "cousins and other family members go through pretty tough situations in 2008 and 2009," her skepticism is broad-based as Bloomberg reports, t’s more than the weight of student loans, an iffy job market and tight credit -- even those who can buy are hesitant. As Bloomberg so eloquently concludes, when even the cheerleader-in-chief for housing can’t get a rah-rah out of his daughter, you know this time is different.
Is there any doubt that we are living in a bubble economy? At this moment in the United States we are simultaneously experiencing a stock market bubble, a government debt bubble, a corporate bond bubble, a bubble in San Francisco real estate, a farmland bubble, a derivatives bubble and a student loan debt bubble. And of course similar things could be said about most of the rest of the planet as well. And when these current financial bubbles in America burst, the pain is going to be absolutely enormous.
As long as the majority of the cost of college education is not born directly by students but rather by Government loans and grants, our institutions of higher learning will not be forced to adapt and find innovative ways of delivering quality education to more students at a decent price. They will go on keeping supply low, tuition higher and expenses growing. The kindest thing our government might do for our kids is to stop throwing money at inefficient Universities in their name, or at least demanding more from those institution in return for that money - in such a world the school’s focus would then shift to keeping prices down while offering good value.
Remember that epic spending spree that took place in March when consumers cleaned out their savings account and which resulted in a surge in March retail spending in consumer outlays? Now we know that in addition to borrowing from their savings, consumers also "charged" it, because as we reported last month, the April consumer credit soared by an unprecedented $8.8 billion, the most since 2007, and a clear outlier in recent years. April, incidentally is precisely when the credit card statements for March purchases would come due so while impressive, the surge in revolving credit wasn't quite surprising. However, what is perhaps more notable now that the Fed just released the May consumer credit numbers, is that the month after the March spending spree, funding largely on credit, consumers hunkered down once more, and the May increase in revolving credit was a paltry $1.8 billion, much lower than the April surge, and the lowest since February. In other words, after the spending binge, came the credit card bills, and with them, the spending hangover.
A look at the investment climate through the currency market and upcoming events and data.
Opinions about the U.S. economy boil down to two views: 1) the recovery is now self-sustaining, meaning that the Federal Reserve can taper and end its unprecedented interventions without hurting growth, or 2) the current uptick in auto sales, new jobs, housing sales, etc. is as good as it gets, and the weak recovery unravels from here. The reality is that nothing has been done to address the structural rot at the heart of the U.S. economy. You keep shoving in the same inputs, and you guarantee the same output: another crash of credit bubbles and all the malinvestments enabled by monetary heroin.