If you are an investor, your big concern should not be about stocks… but what happens when the bond bubble goes bust.
For 30+ years, Western countries have been papering over the decline in living standards by issuing debt. In its simplest rendering, sovereign nations spent more than they could collect in taxes, so they issued debt (borrowed money) to fund their various welfare schemes.
This was usually sold as a “temporary” issue. But as politicians have shown us time and again, overspending is never a temporary issue. Today, a whopping 47% of American households receive some kind of Government benefit. This is not temporary… this is endemic.
All of this is spending is being financed by borrowed money… hence, the bond bubble, the biggest bubble in financial history: an incredible $100 trillion monster that is now growing by trillions of dollars every few months.
We do not write that point for effect. The US alone issued over $1 trillion in NEW debt in an eight week period towards the end of 2014.
The reasons it did this? Because it didn't have the money to pay off the debt that is coming due from the past… so it simply issued NEW debt to raise the money to pay back the OLD debt.
Sounds a lot like a Ponzi scheme… but the US is not alone in this regard. Globally, the sovereign debt bubble is over $100 trillion in size. Just about every major nation on the planet is sporting a Debt to GDP ratio of 100%+ and that is just including “on the balance sheet” debts… not unfunded liabilities like Medicare or Social Security.
This is why the Fed and every other Central Bank on earth is terrified of interest rates rising; because anything even resembling the normalization of interest rates would mean entire countries going bust.
Remember when interest rates move, they tend to move quickly. Consider Italy. It was considered one of the pillars of the EU since it adopted the Euro in 1999. Because of this, the markets were happy to allow Italy to borrow at stable rates with the yield on the ten year Italy government bond well below 5% for most of the last decade.
Then, in the span of a few weeks, everything came unhinged and the yields on Italy government bonds spiked, rising over 7%: the dreaded level at which a country is considered to be insolvent and set for default. It was only through extraordinary lending mechanisms from the European Central bank (the LTRO 1 and LTRO 2 programs to the tune of hundreds of billions of Euros… for an economy that is €2 trillion in size) that Italy was saved from potential systemic collapse.
Again, Italy went from being a former pillar of Europe to insolvent in a matter of weeks… all because interest rates spiked a mere 2% higher than usual.
Italy is not alone here. Western nations in general are in a similar state. This is why QE has been such a popular monetary tool for the Central Banks (since 2008 they’ve spent $11 trillion buying assets, usually sovereign bonds). QE was never meant to create jobs or generate economic growth… it was a desperate ploy by Central Banks to put a floor under the bond market so rates wouldn’t rise.
It’s also why Central Banks have kept interest rates at zero or even negative: again, they cannot afford to have rates rise. In the US, every 1% increase in interest rates means between $150-$175 billion more in interest payments on our debt per year.
Forget stocks, forget your concerns about this or that valuation metric, the REAL issue is what happens when the Bond Bubble pops. When that happens it won’t be individual banks going bust, it will be ENTIRE NATIONS.
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