Category Archives: The new global crisis

Central bank manipulation of the stock market

The US stock market has seen a bounce back to retrace some 50% of the drop in prices from the late January highs, but this was led by central intervention in the S&P500 futures market. Paul Craig Roberts, Michael Hudson and Dave Kranzler write that “it appears that in May 2010, August 2015, January/February 2016, and currently in February 2018 the Fed is rigging the stock market by purchasing S&P equity index futures in order to arrest stock market declines.”

Several articles on this site have covered this subject in the past.  They followed the discovery that in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s 10-K filing with the Security and Exchange Commission March 3, 2014, that Western central banks had opened commodities trading accounts with the CME, the significance of which was explored in depth. More recently, there have been revelations about the fact that the central banks of Switzerland and Israel have  bought substantial lines of stock directly on the New York Stock Exchange, without even bothering about the index futures market.



Stock market rise fuelled over time by increasing levels of margin debt

This is a market feeding on itself. The chart above shows by how much US margin debt has accelerated away from norms, compared to the S&P 500 index in the past twenty years. The accelerating gap explains why the stock market began levitating away from earning growth from 2013 onwards (see second chart below on earnings). Note how the 2000 acceleration led to the immediate crash afterwards and how the 2003 acceleration was followed by the crash of 2007/8. That was before QE. Note then how in 2013, as QE began to be a worldwide programme, it accelerated again. The market now is entirely dependent on QE.

Ultimately, pumping cash into the economy by the Fed (note that gross national debt jumped $723 billion over just the past 12 weeks since Congress suspended the “debt ceiling” to $20.57 trillion, or 105% of GDP) has to go on at an accelerating rate to keep the market going. So the trap for QE is the exponential factor. If the market can’t be fuelled by debt exponentially it will reverse, and the higher it goes, the harder it will fall.

On the real side of the economy, Trump’s tax reduction plan (currently going through Congress)will not only backfire on the economy, but has scuttled the infrastructure plan (which is not going through Congress, nor will it), which was the idea that started the Trump stock market bull run in the first place.

The point about mania has always been that, from the perspective of all us mortals just standing by looking, it has the quality to last so long it draws everybody in.

Consuming the world: a hotter, wetter more violent US – and not so gradually

US Climate Science Report

Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.). U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA

The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate. The statements below highlight past, current, and projected climate changes for the United States and the globe.

Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.

This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activi­ties, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to hu­man activities. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have document­ed changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.

For example, global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substan­tial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Global sea level rise has already affected the United States; the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities.

Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

Changes in the characteristics of extreme events are particularly important for human safety, infrastruc­ture, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to in­crease. The largest observed changes in the United States have occurred in the Northeast.

World growth and the crisis of the West

The IMF World Economic Outlook 2017 shows that global income will reach $103.2 trillion in 2022.

In inflation adjusted terms this will represent $6.5 trillion of added value. The key factor which underlies the modern crisis in the West, however, is the fact that China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Russia will account for 54% of this, whilst the U.S., the Eurozone, Canada and Britain will add only 29%, adding to continuing pressure on the budgets of these countries.

This trend became clearest, according to Stephen Roach, as the world emerged from the financial crisis, and is clearly set to continue. As explained in a previous post, the financialisation of the Western economies that sucked spending power out of the real sector and transferred corporate cost bases to China and other developing countries, is the primary reason for this evident decline of the West.

The bubble and the reckoning

Benjamin A Smith writes: This is the “everything bubble,” where a broad-based collection of stocks are just plain expensive. In most cases, not eye-poppingly expensive like we saw in internet stocks two decades ago. However, it’s expensive enough that collectively, the market is the second priciest on record.

A widely-followed indicator confirms as such. The “CAPE” ratio is an acronym for “Cyclically Adjusted P/E” ratio. It compares a stock’s price performance relative to earnings over a 10-year period. It’s highly regarded because it smooths out earnings volatility and adjusts for inflation. Right now, it’s screaming “sell.”

In the history of the stock market, the CAPE ratio has only been more expensive between June 1997 to September 2001. It’s topped over 30 now, breaking even the gaga days of the 1920’s mania. Along with it, the “Panic-Euphoria Model,” which is the S&P 500 forward P/E-to-volatility ratio, is also at its second highest point in history, showing how euphoric investors are really feeling. By almost any measure, the market is historically expensive. (Source: “Probably Nothing,” Zero Hedge, June 18, 2017.)

Yet, investors seem to be sleepwalking their way into unreality. Record inflows into U.S. equities keep occurring, allowing this magic levitation ride to push forward. Sell-inducing volatility surges only last a session or two, then die off. U.S. stock have climbed the biggest wall of worry in history, and show no signs of quitting. Equity overvaluation, the threat of trade wars, tepid growth, record public debt…the list goes on. Read full article here

Putting Democracy above the Bottom Line

Kelle Louaillier writes

This month, we will have a chance to chart a course toward a stronger, safer global society, where power belongs to the many, not to the few, and where those who have run roughshod over our environment, human rights, and public health will be held accountable. I am not talking about the United States’ presidential election.

To be sure, the US election will be immensely consequential; but endless punditry and horserace politics have obscured two groundbreaking events that begin on November 7: meetings of the parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).Global corporations are enormous, and their influence affects almost every aspect of our lives. To understand the reach of their power, one must look no further than the billions of dollars they spend on elections; their lobbying to gut worker and environmental protections in trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; and fossil-fuel corporations’ relentless drive to derail climate-change policy.

Global corporations have disproportionate power because they can operate across national borders, which means that no single local or national government can effectively regulate them. The crucial function of international frameworks such as the FCTC and UNFCCC is to provide concrete tools for governments to set national policies on issues ranging from public health to climate change and global inequality.

Read full article here