And, the total market capitalization of stocks as a percentage of GDP has soared by 50 percentage points since June 2007–another all-time record high. But what else would you expect when returns on cash are losing value when subtracting inflation.
The only way these debt and asset bubbles are manageable is if interest rates are artificially held down close to zero percent by central banks. Otherwise, the economy will collapse and cause the GDP denominator in these ratios to plunge, just as all of the debt in the numerator remains. In other words, these debt ratios, which are already daunting, will become absolutely nightmarish.
An economy that must lug along this tremendous debt burden encumbers its ability to grow. The Fed believes the only way to keep the credit markets open and keep the economy growing is by constantly lowering borrowing costs. However, it is now running out of room to lower interest rates—it only has 1.5% before it returns to zero. And, most of the major central banks around the world are already at zero. Therefore, without another round of massive fiscal stimulus, like we saw with Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the prospects of continuing to hold a recession in abeyance much longer are dwindling by the day. This is especially true given the appetite and ability to significantly cut taxes or increase spending–while annual deficits are already north of $1 trillion (5% of GDP)–is greatly attenuated.
Somehow Mr. Powell finds solace in these scary facts. He doesn’t understand that this bond bubble is international, and its bursting will wreak havoc across the globe. For example, the insolvent nation of Greece, which back in 2012 had its 10-year bond yielding a whopping 45%, has now seen its benchmark yield retreat to an all-time low of just 1% today. In fact, Greece is now issuing 13-week debt with a negative yield. This is especially concerning given that its Debt/GDP ratio has increased from 159% back in 2012, to 181% today. Mr. Powell should tremble while wondering what Greek bond yields would yield if the ECB ended Q.E. and stopped buying its debt. He’s unconcerned because the ECB, BOJ, and PBOC are all caught in the same trammel of ensuring money is free forever.
I’ll close with this piece of wisdom from Robert Kaplan, President of the Dallas Fed, in a paper he wrote about one year ago warning about the excesses in the corporate and government bond market:
“An elevated level of corporate debt, along with the high level of U.S. government debt, is likely to mean that the U.S. economy is much more interest-rate sensitive than it has been historically.”
I would have graded Mr. Kaplan’s paper with a “C” for using the word “likely” instead of “definitely” when referring to the economy’s addiction to low rates. However, ultimately, he gets an F- for not recognizing that it is, in fact, the fault of central bankers for getting caught in a trap of their own creation.
This is yet another admission by the Fed that interest rates can never be allowed to increase. Our central bank has now announced it is on hold forever. Therefore, it is not much longer before investors lose faith in fiat currencies, maintaining their value. And that is when the real crash will begin because a central can’t fix an inflation problem by promising to create more inflation.
In the meantime, each day that goes by, the madness grows larger, and the inevitable reconciliation process will become all the more severe.