Posts Tagged ‘economic expansion’

The latest in a long line of stock market bubbles is being fueled by record amounts of debt according to the New York Stock Exchange. This debt is called “buying on margin” (BOM). Notice the acronym of BOM, which is pretty close to bomb, and this current bubble is going to explode. Total BOM hit a record high of $528.2 billion in February 2017.

That’s more than half a trillion dollars being used to purchase corporate shares. That’s not a big problem when the market is going up, but it’s now late in the ball game. Our economic expansion is 94 months old, making it the third longest in US history. Statistical indications suggest that it isn’t going to challenge for the number two spot, and that it should peak within the next few months, and then we’ll hit a recession, which will be really bad.

February’s total BOM was $40 billion more than in December 2016. This increase is a sign of optimism or foolishness. People and institutions like hedge funds want to get in on the action while the stock markets are rising. This is probably a good thing to do early in a business expansion, but it’s extremely dangerous to investors and the economy to do this on this scale so late in an expansion.

Suppose you have have $10,000 to invest, so you purchase 100 shares of Home Depot at $100 per share. The market crashes, and the share price drops to $40. Now your investment is worth $4,000. That is not a good result, but your investment is still worth something, and can potentially recover if you hang on to it in the long run.

On the other hand, let’s say you borrow an additional $20,000 to buy another 200 Home Depot shares at $100 for a total of 300 shares and at a total cost of $30,000. The market crashes and the share price quickly drops to $40. Now your shares are worth $12,000 — but you owe your broker $20,000 (plus interest) for borrowing money to buy the stock. That broker calls in his loan. You are forced to sell your shares to get the funds, but at the lower price. You lose $18,000 on your investment. But your broker wants the rest of his $20,000 plus interest. That’s more than $8,000.

So your original $10,000 is wiped out, and you need to put up extra money to pay back your broker.

During most recessions, it’s much more difficult to get credit to pay your broker back, so you may both be out of luck, although you’ll likely be in court defending against him, her or it.

On a massive scale, that’s a recipe for absolute disaster for the whole economy.

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The US government has been redistributing income from the 99 to the 1 percent for the last thirty-five years. The result of this government created income and wealth inequality has been an economy far weaker in virtually all measurements than any of the last century. That’s because the underlying economic factors have been weakened.

According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust,

“Although income and earnings have increased over the past 30 years, they have changed little in the past decade. The typical worker had wage growth of 22 percent between 1979 and 1999 but just 2 percent from 1999 to 2009. (This is not in inflation adjusted wages, in which case, wages would’ve been stagnant or declining over the last thirty-five years).


• The Great Recession eroded 20 years of consumption growth, pushing spending back to 1990 levels. Over the 22 years before the start of the downturn, household expenditures grew by 16 percent. But households tightened their purse strings after the start of the recession in 2007, and spending has yet to recover. As a result, the net increase in average annual household spending is just 2 percent since 1990. That’s despite twenty-six years of inflation growth.

• The majority of American households (55 percent) are savings-limited, meaning they can replace less than one month of their income through liquid savings. Low-income families are particularly unprepared for emergencies: The typical household at the bottom of the income ladder has the equivalent of less than two weeks’ worth of income in checking and savings accounts and cash at home.

• Even when pooling all of its resources—including from accounts that are potentially costly to access, such as retirement accounts and investments—the typical middle-income household can replace only about four months of lost income.

• Most families face financial strain across all balance sheet elements: income, expenditures, and wealth. In addition to being savings-limited, households face other financial challenges; just under half of families are “income-constrained,” reporting household spending greater than or equal to their income; and 8 percent are “debt-challenged,” with payments equal to 41 percent or more of their gross monthly income. Fully 70 percent of households face at least one of these problems, with many confronting two or even all three.


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A Great Depression Homeless Camp

A Great Depression Homeless Camp. Looks a lot like a modern day homeless camp doesn’t it?

The US Bureau of Labor announced the United States created 255,000 jobs in July. While good news, and rightly praised by the pundits, there is trouble hiding behind those numbers. The US durable goods sector went into recession early last autumn, while the entire manufacturing sector followed by November. That’s over 12 percent of the economy. Here’s what isn’t well known.

The entire economy has followed the durable goods sector into recession in each of the last recessions since and including the Great Depression. Historically, it takes sixteen to eighteen months for the rest of the economy to follow durable goods. So we’re most likely looking at a recession hitting somewhere between October of this year and June 2017.

Given that 99 percent of all income growth from 2009 to 2014 went to the top 1 percent, an historic record, the next recession will likely be more severe than the last. That’s because the great middle class will historically have fewer dollars to spend during the coming recession, which means the demand for goods and services will be depressed at levels not seen in decades.

This is the fourth longest economic expansion on record, and also among the weakest when it comes to job and wage growth. The US experienced higher monthly job growth in the economic expansions of the 1960s (170,000 per month), 1980s (230,000 per month) and the 1990s (200,000 per month), despite a smaller population, smaller GNP, and less worker productivity. Those expansions also featured real wage growth, especially during the 1960s. The current boom period has seen only 184,000 jobs created per month. Contrast that with the much maligned President Carter. Job growth of 206,000 per month occurred under Carter, with a population 2/3’s the size of today, and a GNP roughly 40 percent of today’s economy. Wage growth was consistent under Carter.

In addition, the most recent housing bubble will burst, as it always has done when recessions hit. Typically, when a recession occurs along with a bursting of a bubble, things are significantly much worse than without a bubble.

So, given the bubble, and historic income and wealth inequality, we should be looking at a whale of recession that is coming down the pike at hurricane speed.

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