‘I’m sorry, Lady. Just the first-class passengers!’
The feds are going to bail out the banks and their high-end customers. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s wineries will have a place in the lifeboats. So will billionaire Mark Cuban’s drug company. But down on the lower decks, they cross themselves, put on life-vests, and hope for the best.
Silicon Valley Bank…Signature Bank…and now…CNN Business reports: ‘Global markets mixed as Credit Suisse accepts $54 billion lifeline’.
And here comes a San Francisco bank, First Republic, racing to the public trough. From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Stocks Close Higher on Hopes for First Republic Rescue’.
The Swiss bank was rescued by the central bank of Switzerland. The American bank got US$30 billion from fellow US banks.
Banks are in trouble because they got caught up in the spirit of the Fed’s bubble. They made risky loans. They bought risky assets. And when interest rates rose…and real risk reasserted itself…the seas turned rough, and boats began to sink.
So, let’s rehearse.
…the feds lowered rates to below zero, adjusted for inflation; they kept real rates negative for more than 10 years.
…people borrowed…US total debt is now more than US$90 trillion.
…consumer prices rose; inflation is now at 7% on a two-year ‘stacked’ basis.
Then, to fight inflation, the Fed raised the cost of debt. Homeowners now face mortgage payments up 30% from last year. And banks find that their collateral and reserves have fallen so much they can no longer meet withdrawals.
What happens next?
A lot of investors, speculators, banks, and businesses are in a tight spot. Many cannot pay their debts. They default…money disappears.
Silvergate was worth nearly US$6 billion in November ’21. That was US$6 billion of wealth that people thought they had. Then, 16 months later, almost all of that ‘wealth’ has vanished. Poof!
And the electric truck maker, Rivian, is down 90%…another US$100 billion — gone.
The middle-class stores much of its wealth in its houses. Solid. Bricks-and-mortar wealth…that won’t go away in a crisis.
But what’s this? The house doesn’t go away…but the equity disappears. House prices have been falling for six months in a row, according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Index. Only 20% of the homes sold last year were ‘affordable’ based on median income/home prices.
The middle class is getting attacked on both flanks. Its wealth falls along with house prices. And its real income falls as consumer prices rise. Adjusted for inflation, wages have fallen for 23 months in a row; for nearly two years, ordinary households have gotten poorer. From MarketWatch: ‘“Net worth of median household is basically nothing,” says Carl Icahn. “We have some major problems in our economy.”’
And now the middle class will pay for the bank bailouts too. If the feds won’t allow the correction to continue — with bank failures, defaults, bankruptcies, and market crashes — the only plausible way out of the debt burden is inflation. Ordinary households will pay for it — in the form of higher consumer prices.
In the meantime, the money supply itself is falling. Over the last year, it dropped 1.7%. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is the biggest drop ever recorded.
And our guess is that the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
What we’ve seen so far is just the beginning of the correction. Based on the traditional relationship of debt/GDP, we figure the economy should have about US$40 trillion in debt, not US$90 trillion. This means that there’s a lot of bad debt still to be reckoned with.
And despite all the blah-blah…about Republicans versus Democrats…conservative versus liberals…black versus white…there are only two groups that really matter. There are the deciders…and there’s everyone else, those who don’t decide.
In an honest, free economy, Mr Market puts the losses where they belong. You make a bad bet; you lose. And you serve as a moral lesson for everybody else. ‘We won’t do what that dumbbell did’, they say to each other.
In a dishonest, un-free economy, the deciders put the losses onto whomever they want. Who pays? Would it surprise you if they put them on the un-deciders?
And reserve the lifeboats for themselves?
For The Daily Reckoning Australia