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."
Answer: Everything. Just as he did January 2008...
The end game of three decades of excess is upon us, and we can't deny the weight of the debt imbalances that are currently in play. The medicine that the current administration is prescribing is a treatment for the common cold; in this case a normal business cycle recession. The problem is that the patient is suffering from a "debt cancer," and until the proper treatment is prescribed and implemented; the patient will most likely continue to suffer.
After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."
Last month it was a tribute to his cat. This month, the manager of the world's largest bond fund discusses sneezing: "A sneeze is, to be candid, sort of half erotic, a release of pressure that feels oh so good either before or just after the Achoo! The air, along with 100,000 germs, comes shooting out of your nose faster than a race car at the Indy 500. It feels sooooo good that people used to sneeze on purpose." He also discusses the aftermath: "The old saying goes that when the U.S. economy sneezes, the world catches cold. That still seems to be true enough, although Chinese influenza is gaining in importance. If both sneezed at the same time then instead of “God bless you” perhaps someone would cry out “God have mercy.” We’re not there yet, although in this period of high leverage it’s important to realize that the price of money and the servicing cost of that leverage are critical for a healthy economy. " He also talks about some other things, mostly revolving around long-term rates of return assumptions and what those mean for investors.
This eruption of late cycle bubble finance hardly needs comment. Below are highlights from a Bloomberg Story detailing the recent surge of leveraged recaps by the big LBO operators. These maneuvers amount to piling more debt on already heavily leveraged companies, but not to fund Capex or new products, technology or process improvements that might give these debt mules an outside chance of survival over time. No, the freshly borrowed cash from a leveraged recap often does not even leave the closing conference room - it just gets recycled out as a dividend to the LBO sponsors who otherwise hold a tiny sliver of equity at the bottom of the capital structure. This is financial strip-mining pure and simple - and is a by-product of the Fed’s insane repression of interest rates.
In February, we highlighted the fact that subprime loans were about to make a return: Subprime Mortgages are Back…This Time Marketed as “Second Chance Purchase Programs.” In that article, we posited that with the “all cash” private equity shops and hedge funds no longer able to make good returns through buying new homes to rent, these investors would need some sucker to sell to in order to realize a return (Blackstone’s purchases have plunged 70% recently). That sucker, as always, will be the retail muppets, and those muppets will be lured in through subprime. This is now starting to happen in earnest. "We're sorry, but on what sort of bizarro crackhead planet is putting 3% down toward an asset mean you are “buying it.” ... The Truman Show rolls on..."
Those of our readers focused on the state of the housing market will undoubtedly remember this chart we compiled using the data from the largest mortgage originator in the US, Wells Fargo. In case there is some confusion, as a result of rising interet rates (meaning the Fed is stuck in its attempts to push rates higher), the inability of the US consumer to purchase houses at artificially investor-inflated levels (meaning housing is now merely a hot potato flipfest between institutional investors A and B), and the end of the fourth dead-cat bounce in housing (meaning, well, self-explanatory), the bank's primary business line - offering mortgages - is cratering. So what is a bank with a limited target audience for its primary product to do? Why expand the audience of course. And in a move that is very much overdue considering all the other deranged aspects of the centrally-planned New Normal, in which all the mistakes of the last credit bubble are being repeated one after another, Reuters now reports that the California bank "is tiptoeing back into subprime home loans again."
Most are aware of Alan Greenspan’s 1966 essay - written when he was an acolyte of Ayn Rand - in which he sang the praises of the gold standard. Obviously, that early work would later prove awkward for Greenspan, as he held the reins of the fiat money engine known as the Federal Reserve. However, a reporter for Barron's unearthed a copy of Greenspan’s NYU doctoral dissertation, which he took great pains to bury, showing that when his professional ambition wasn’t involved, Greenspan could understand perfectly well (a) the virtues of a commodity money and (b) the dangers of a housing bubble. If the Austrians are right in laying the blame for the housing bubble on Greenspan’s loose monetary policy following the dot-com crash, then Greenspan can’t plead ignorance: He knew what he was doing.
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope. Who was to blame?
"The government, writ large, had a hand in creating the conditions that encouraged the approval of dubious mortgages. It was the government, in the form of Congress, that repealed Glass-Steagall, thus allowing certain banks that had previously viewed mortgages as a source of interest income to become instead deeply involved in securitizing pools of mortgages in order to obtain the much greater profits available from trading. It was the government, in the form of both the executive and the legislature, that encouraged deregulation..."
- Judge Jed Rakoff
The MSM did their usual spin job on the consumer credit data released earlier this week. They reported a 5.4% increase in consumer debt outstanding to an all-time high of $3.051 trillion. In the Orwellian doublethink world we currently inhabit, the consumer taking on more debt is seen as a constructive sign. The storyline being sold by the corporate MSM propaganda machine, serving the establishment, is that consumers’ taking on debt is a sure sign of economic recovery. They must be confident about the future and rolling in dough from their new part-time jobs as Pizza Hut delivery men. Plus, they are now eligible for free healthcare, compliments of Obama, once they can log-on. Of course, buried at the bottom of the Federal Reserve press release and never mentioned on CNBC or the other dying legacy media outlets is the facts and details behind the all-time high in consumer credit. They count on the high probability the average math challenged American has no clue regarding the distinction between revolving and non-revolving credit or who controls the distribution of such credit. A shocking fact (to historically challenged government educated drones) revealed by the Federal Reserve data is that credit card debt did not exist prior to 1968. How could people live their lives without credit cards? 1968 marked a turning point for America...
Ben Bernanke is participating in an IMF panel with Larry Summers, Ken Rogoff, and fromer Bank of Israel chief Stan Fischer... Full speech below...
Breaking Bad With Big Bank CEOs: How Bad Bank CEOs Use the Bystander Effect to Dupe Good People Into Working For ThemSubmitted by smartknowledgeu on 09/30/2013 06:09 -0400
This may become the most important article I’ve ever written. But whether it becomes that article or dwells in anonymity is up to you, the reader.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we find ourselves in pre-revolutionary times at the moment. This doesn’t mean we predict violent upheavals everywhere followed by chaos and bloodshed, it means that the current paradigm is no longer sustainable because it is not longer working. More and more people now recognize this. In case you needed anymore insight into the complete and total insanity of the “elite” Central Planners driving the U.S. economy off a cliff, we have decided to highlight a couple of articles explaining the rapid reflation of two important subprime markets: Homes and Autos. Clearly the only lesson learned from the 2008 crisis was that connected oligarchs can steal all they want with total impunity. There’s only one way this ends. With a complete and total collapse and then a massive paradigm shift. We're quite hopeful our next system can be far better than this one.