government bonds

Cook County Residents To Get Hit With Tax Hikes Soon?

For a while now (last time being earlier this week), I told my girlfriend we were lucky to have escaped the fiscal debacle and revenue grab going on in the city of Chicago.

At the same time, I pointed out that as Cook County residents we’re still on the hook for the same type of nonsense.

Brian Slodysko reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

Hoping to ward off another credit rating downgrade, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday that she will soon present a plan to reform the county’s underfunded pension system.

And she’s leaving the door open to hiking property, sales and other taxes.

When asked repeatedly about the possibility of tax increases, Preckwinkle responded: “We’re looking at all the options. Everything is on the table.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Slodysko added later in the piece:

Preckwinkle declined to discuss specifics, but she did say that any plan that goes before the Legislature will not have property tax increase language written into the bill

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okaaay… so that means Preckwinkle’s not “leaving the door open” to hiking property taxes?

Regardless, based on what I see coming down the line for us, it’s only a matter of time.

Last summer, Cook County saw its bond rating lowered by one of the major credit rating agencies supposedly due to its public pension liabilities. I blogged on August 20, 2013:

In the wake of significantly downgrading the City of Chicago’s credit rating, bond credit rating giant Moody’s Investor Service lowered Cook County’s bond rating a notch last Friday. In a news release from the Moody’s website right before the weekend:

New York, August 16, 2013 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the rating on Cook County’s (IL) general obligation (GO) debt to A1 from Aa3, affecting $3.7 billion of general obligation debt. The outlook remains negative.

SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE

The downgrade of the GO rating reflects Cook County’s growing pension liabilities…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Slodysko, Brian. “Preckwinkle won’t rule out tax increase to strike pension deal.” Chicago Sun-Times. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/preckwinkle-wont-rule-out-tax-increase-strike-pension-deal/wed-04092014-523pm). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Peter Schiff: No Recovery, Just An Illusion Of Prosperity

I first started paying attention to Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff just prior to picking up his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (now Crash Proof 2.0, second edition) shortly after its early 2007 release. While some of the calls he made in that controversial text are still playing out, others have already come to fruition.

Subsequently, Schiff has been given credit for correctly-calling the U.S. housing bubble and its burst, and the 2008 global economic crisis.

Being one of Survival And Prosperity’s “crash prophets,” his latest investment recommendations are chronicled on this blog. As are his economic analyses and forecasts as well.

Here’s a recent breakdown of what Schiff sees going on with the U.S. economy and larger financial system, courtesy of a March 21 commentary entitled “Debt and Taxes” that’s posted on his Euro Pacific Capital website:

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking…now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of “inflation” has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing…even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a “jobless recovery.” The real reason it’s jobless is because it’s not a real recovery! So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That’s why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Which at some point in the future must be repaid”

Good luck trying to get your average American in 2014 to wrap their head around that crucial concept.

Once again, I agree with Schiff’s observation of what is going on all around us.

“Illusion of prosperity” is a fine choice of words here, and makes sense that I find a fine economic blog by the same name good reading.

As certain as the “Big One” will eventually hit California, so must our nation’s “financial reckoning day” arrive for all this debt we’ve accrued for some short-term “prosperity.”

You can read Schiff’s entire commentary on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jeremy Grantham: Bonds Dangerous, U.S. Stocks Not In Bubble, Sees Value In Foreign Stocks

I just got finished reading an interview of British-born investment strategist Jeremy Grantham on the Barron’s website. I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t gotten the chance to read his latest investment newsletter, but here’s what the founder and former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (GMO) is saying these days about bonds, a U.S. stock bubble, and potential investment opportunities out there:

Bonds

They look absolutely, nerve-rackingly overpriced, and in a crisis, who knows what will happen to those securities? They could make stocks look like a safe haven if the next bust occurs at the federal levels of the large countries. Bonds, including government bonds, are a lot more dangerous than people imagine.

U.S. Stock Bubble

We are not even that close to a bubble… They’re 65% overpriced. If they go up another 30%, you would have a true bubble, at which point stocks would be close to twice their fair value. Similarly, in 2000, stocks were more than double their fair value. So they are quite capable of doing that. But my point is that with the professionals getting reinforced by the Fed going back to 1994, it will be very surprising if they don’t keep on playing this game until the market at least hits a classic bubble definition. Bubbles don’t usually stop until sensible investors, value investors, and prudent investors have been hung out to dry and kicked around the block. That hasn’t happened yet, so that tells you there is probably quite a bit left in this rally.

Potential Investment Opportunities

Because of some secondary factors, there are pockets of global equities that haven’t been swept along to anywhere near bubble territory. Emerging markets collectively are selling at very close to fair value. And the value stocks in most of Europe are pretty close to fair value. High-quality stocks in the U.S. are not nearly as bad as the rest of the market. So you can patch together global equities and get a semi-respectable-looking portfolio…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

You can read the entire interview here on the Barron’s website. It’s a good one.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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BIS: Global Debt Markets Grow To Estimated $100 Trillion In 2013, Up From $70 Trillion In 2007

Last night, I read about global debt markets hitting the $100 trillion-mark.

One word came to my mind at that moment:

Unsustainable.

Branimir Gruić and Andreas Schrimpf wrote “Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis” in the latest BIS Quarterly Review- a report from the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central banks). From the publication released Sunday:

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel)…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers”

Gruić and Schrimpf are correct- I’m not surprised.

And regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be either, as warnings about reduced government services and new/higher taxes and fees (to deal with all this new debt) have been issued time and time again.

You can read the entire BIS report here (page 22 of the .pdf file/page 18 of the publication contains Gruić and Schrimpf’s findings).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Marc Faber Shares Outlook And Advice At Barron’s 2014 Roundtable

Each year around this time, the weekly financial magazine Barron’s hosts their investor “Roundtable.” Swiss-born money manager and investment advisor Marc Faber was one of the participants in 2014, and starting on January 18 the publication started disseminating the investment advice of Dr. Faber and other Roundtable members. The financial website Zero Hedge zeroed-in on what the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report had to say at this year’s Roundtable. According to “Tyler Durden,” Dr. Faber:

• Is bearish on U.S. stocks, and the Russell 2000 in particular. Faber recommended shorting the Russell 2000.
• Is bearish on the U.S. economic recovery, recommending the purchase of 10-year Treasury notes
• Has a lot of cash, has bought Treasury bonds, and has about 20 percent of his net worth in gold. Regarding the precious metal, Faber went so far as to “recommend the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF [GDXJ], although I don’t own it. I own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed.”
• Offered up his investment forecast for Asian real estate, India, Vietnam, and Turkey and it’s currency- the Lira

The piece provided good insight into Dr. Faber’s investment outlook and activities, which you can read in its entirety on the Zero Hedge website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Chicago’s Finances A Mess For 2014 And Beyond

The beginning of the new year is always a popular time for predictions.

Here’s one I’ve heard being uttered with more regularity lately:

“Chicago’s the next Detroit”

You may recall that back on December 3, the City of Detroit officially became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

I’m guessing those making that comment presume the “Windy City” is going to be bankrupt too.

I just got done reading another comparison to Detroit being made again. This time it’s from TheStreet.com, the U.S. financial news and services website co-founded by Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money. Jonathan Yates wrote on December 30:

A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Chicago one of the top 10 cities in the world for its ability to “attract capital, business, talent and tourists.”

Although that certainly will focus global attention on “The Second City,” Chicago’s precarious financial condition could result in it becoming even more well known — for going broke…

At least Detroit had an excuse with the collapse of the automobile industry.

The major reason for Chicago’s financial woes is mismanagement. The city’s employee costs, especially for pensions, are unsustainable…

Yates, a contributor to TheStreet.com, suggests investors avoid Chicago bonds. He pointed out later in his piece:

Chicago is a great city with great restaurants, great museums and great architecture.

But those are not reasons to buy its bonds, because Chicago’s finances are a mess, and that won’t change anytime soon…

“Chicago’s finances are a mess, and that won’t change anytime soon…”

Sadly, I agree with him there.

Now, Yates mentioned Chicago’s public pension crisis. Back on August 5, The New York Times highlighted just how serious a threat it is to the city’s well-being. Monica Davey and Mary Williams Walsh reported on the Times website:

Corporations are moving in, and housing prices are looking better across the region. There has been a slight uptick in population. But a crushing problem lurks beneath the signs of economic recovery in Chicago: one of the most poorly funded pension systems among the nation’s major cities. Its plight threatens to upend the finances of President Obama’s hometown, now run by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

The pension fund for retired Chicago teachers stands at risk of collapse. The city’s four funds for other retired city workers are short by $19.5 billion. At least one of the funds is in peril of running out of money in less than a decade. And starting in 2015, the city will be required by the state to make far larger contributions to the funds, which could leave it hundreds of millions of dollars in the red — as much as it would cost to pay 4,300 police officers to patrol the streets for a year

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Rick Lyman of the Times added on December 4:

Under state law, the city must increase its contributions to its workers’ pension funds by $590 million in 2015, to a total annual contribution of $1.4 billion for current and future retirees. If no pension deal can be reached by November of next year, when the city will draft its next budget, the city will either have to raise taxes or cut services or some combination of both

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

City Hall and their supporters can spin Chicago’s growing financial crisis as much as they want. But at the end of the day, they’ve got all the above problems to contend with as well as a long-term debt that’s now up to nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every city resident, according to the latest City of Chicago official audit.

I became aware of the extent of Chicago’s financial woes a couple of years back.

It’s a big reason why my girlfriend and I moved out of the city when we did.

I’ve been warning about this debacle for some time now on this blog. I can only hope my Chicago-based readers have taken note of it and are at least thinking about how they might minimize their exposure to the coming mess.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Yates, Jonathan. “Avoid Chicago’s Bonds; It Could Be the Next Detroit.” TheStreet.com. 30 Dec. 2013. (http://www.thestreet.com/story/12188473/1/avoid-chicagos-bonds-it-could-be-the-next-detroit.html). 3 Jan. 2014.

Davey, Monica and Walsh, Mary Williams. “Chicago Sees Pension Crisis Drawing Near.” The New York Times. 5 Aug. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/us/chicago-sees-pension-crisis-drawing-near.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&src=me). 3 Jan. 2014.

Lyman, Rick. “Chicago Pursues Deal to Change Pension Funding.” The New York Times. 4 Dec. 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/us/chicago-pursues-deal-to-change-pension-funding.html?_r=0). 3 Jan 2014.

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Peter Schiff Bashes QE, Taper Lite, Gold Bears

“Gold Set for Worst Annual Tumble Since ‘81”

-FOX Business website headline, December 23, 2013

“Gold’s safe-haven role is over: strategist”

-MarketWatch.com headline, December 23, 2013

“I wouldn’t buy gold with my worst enemy’s cash: Strategist”

-CNBC.com headline, December 22, 2013

Not only have I been waiting to hear Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff’s take on last week’s “taper” of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, but also his opinion on the latest bout of gold selling.

Schiff, who correctly called the recent housing crash and 2008 global economic crisis, just uploaded a new entry to The Schiff Report, his YouTube video blog. Schiff told viewers on December 20:

We have never had more stimulus- both monetary and fiscal- than we have right now. This is record-breaking, Keynesian stimulus. And it’s barely working. Yes, it’s inflating a stock market bubble. It’s inflating a real estate bubble. But it’s not creating genuine economic growth. And it never will. It is not raising living standards for the vast majority of Americans. And it isn’t creating productive, high-paying jobs. And it never will. And Ben Bernanke doesn’t understand that.

Like fellow “crash prophet” Marc Faber, Schiff believes the Federal Reserve will eventually pursue more, not less, bond-buying in the future. He explained:

Why did gold sell off? “Because everything is great.” “Because the Fed has done the impossible.” “It’s tapered and it hasn’t hurt anything.” This is what everybody believes. That the Fed has accomplished its goal. It hasn’t done anything. It’s talked about doing a tiny bit. But again, as far as I’m concerned, monetary policy is even easier now than it was before they announced this trivial taper lite. And the rest of the taper is probably never going to happen because the Fed is going to have to buy more bonds, not fewer bonds, to keep this whole house of cards from imploding.

Now, is gold going to continue to fall? I don’t know. My gut is that it’s probably still finding a bottom around 1,200. There is plenty of legitimate support for gold all around the world. Yes, all the speculators who are convinced that everything is great. The same people that thought it was great in 2007. Or it was great in 1999. That crowd, completely clueless about actual economics, is convinced that there is no reason to own gold. And so, they’re going to sell it, they’re going to short it. But there is a larger community around the world, particularly I think a lot of the emerging markets, central banks, China in particular, that see it differently. And they’re using this opportunity to buy as much gold as they can so that when the speculators and the investors figure out how wrong they’ve got it, and they realize that they need to be buying gold not selling it, there won’t be any gold left to buy because they would have already sold it. And the people who bought it from them aren’t going to sell it back. The gold that China bought- they’re never going to sell it. I don’t care how high the price of gold goes. They want that gold as reserves for their currency because they know the dollars that they have in reserve are eventually going to be Monopoly money. It’s going to be confetti. So they need something real to back up their own currency, and they want gold.

And so, I think that we need to be taking advantage of this opportunity. And don’t be worried about all the negativity that’s out there and all the professionals who are writing gold’s obituary. They’ve written it before, they’ll write it again. But I still think that the bull market has a long way to go. Ultimately, we are still heading for a currency crisis.


“Taper Lite: Bernanke Tightens Monetary Policy by Easing it!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Marc Faber Predicts ‘Tapered’ QE Will Rebound, Go ‘Substantially Higher’

Okay- time to talk money and investing this week. Swiss-born investment advisor and fund manager Marc Faber appeared on CNBC’s Futures Now last Tuesday and talked about the future of the Federal Reserve’s now $75 billion monthly bond-buying program. “Doctor Doom” predicted:

They will never end QE for good. They will continue. But the programs, once they are introduced- they usually keep on going. They may do some cosmetic adjustments. But in my view, within a few years, the asset purchases will be substantially higher than they are today.

The editor/publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report added later:

Economic recovery, or so-called recovery, by June of next year will be in the fifth year of the recovery. So at some stage the economy will weaken again, and at that point, the Fed will argue, “Well, we haven’t done enough, we have to do more.”


“Marc Faber: The Fed will never end QE”
CNBC Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago’s Debt Crisis Finally Gets Major Exposure

Early Sunday morning, I mozied on down to the end of my driveway to pick up my Chicago Tribune. After eating a little breakfast, I busted out the paper and saw the following headline in big, bold letters on the front page:

City’s debt splurge: ‘It’s like a cancer’

Well, it’s about time Chicago’s debt crisis gets major exposure in a mainstream media outlet.

Of course, Survival And Prosperity readers have known about this growing debacle for some time now (a big hat tip goes out to Fran Spielman over at the Chicago Sun-Times). Back in July 2012 I noted Chicago’s long-term debt was over $27 billion. This July, I blogged that this figure was now up to nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every city resident ($780 more per Chicagoan in just one year). So the debt splurge wasn’t just a feature of the Daley regime.

Regarding that Tribune piece, Patricia Callahan, Heather Gillers, and Jason Grotto reported:

A reckless pattern of borrowing by city leaders has undermined Chicago’s future by ignoring the most basic tenets of municipal finance and piling billions of dollars of debt onto the shoulders of future generations, a Tribune investigation has found.

Chicago officials abused a powerful financial tool intended to build for the future — issuance of bonds backed by property taxes — as they spent nearly $10 billion in 13 years with few restrictions and virtually no oversight.

The Tribune’s unprecedented examination of city finances reveals that Chicago built mountains of long-term debt from thousands of problematic short-term purchases including software that was soon obsolete, spare parts for vehicles and items you might find on a weekend shopping list: trash bins, flowers, even bags for dog waste…

When the Tribune analyzed $9.8 billion in proceeds from general obligation bonds issued from 2000 to 2012, it found that nearly half of the money went to paper over growing budget problems.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Any doubts I still may have had about Chicago being in serious financial trouble were dispelled when I read that last bit about half the bond money going to “paper over growing budget problems.”

As to the culprits in this financial caper? Callahan, Gillers, and Grotto added:

Most of Chicago’s debt woes can be traced to the long reign of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, but the borrowing he relied on so heavily has continued under Rahm Emanuel as his administration gropes for ways to deal with the financial problems it inherited…

There is no limit on the city’s general obligation debt, and the sole check and balance is the City Council, a body that rarely pushes back on major mayoral decisions. Since 2007, aldermen have authorized $7.6 billion in general obligation bond issuances without a single dissenting vote. And each year they get millions in bond proceeds to dole out for projects in their wards.

While it would be easy to blame Richie Daley, Rahm Emanuel, and the alderpeople for this big mess, at the end of the day, many Chicagoans need only look into the mirror to see who’s really to blame for letting the city’s finances get this far out of hand.

As to what “Windy City” residents might want to do now seeing that “a reckless pattern of borrowing by city leaders has undermined Chicago’s future”? Perhaps start looking at ways to mitigate the current and coming damage- something I’ll be talking more about in the months to come.

A good place to begin would be read the article to get a sense of how bad the problem really is, which can be found on the Chicago Tribune website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Peter Schiff: ‘An Economy That Lives By QE Dies By QE’

“The Federal Reserve decided Wednesday to hold monetary policy steady, saying that conditions remained too weak to pull back from its bond-buying program.

By a vote of 9 to 1, the Fed decided to maintain the pace of its $85 billion-per-month asset purchase plan.”

-MarketWatch.com, October 30, 2013

Another Federal Open Market Committee meeting has come and gone, and with it, the decision by the U.S. central bank to reduce, or “taper,” its $85 billion-per-month stimulus program.

Peter Schiff, CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, appeared on Canada’s only all-business and financial news television channel BNN last Friday, and correctly-predicted once again that the Federal Reserve wouldn’t start tapering its quantitative easing just yet. Schiff told Business News Network viewers:

My view has been consistent since the beginning. I said when the Fed first launched QE1 that it was a mistake. That they had checked into the equivalent of the monetary roach motel. That they had no exit strategy. That QE would continue indefinitely. That we would have increasing doses of this monetary heroin. And, eventually it’s going to come to an end. Not because the Fed tapers. The Fed’s actually going to do the opposite of tapering- they’re going to up the dosage. It’s going to end when there’s a currency crisis. When the dollar collapses, and then that morphs into a sovereign debt crisis. That’s going to force the Fed’s hand. But until then, it’s just going to pretend that there’s an exit. It’s going to pretend that there’s tapering. But it can’t do it, because it can’t remove the QE without removing the recovery and putting the economy back into a worse recession than before the Fed began this experiment.

When asked about the possibility of a “beginning to the reduction of bond purchases,” Schiff replied:

No. Because when they even talked about it last time- when the Fed talked about the possibility of maybe reducing QE- interest rates went way up, and that threatened to unravel the housing recovery, the bull market in stocks, and so the Fed had to back off. The Fed is saying that it’s only going to take away the punch bowl if the party keeps going. But the party’s going to stop if it takes away the punch bowl. That is the predicament that it’s in. You know, an economy that lives by QE dies by QE.

Schiff talked of bubbles in housing and stocks, and warned viewers:

But ultimately, those bubbles are going to burst. If the Fed eventually does the right thing, and lets interest rates rise, we’ll have a worse financial crisis than 2008. If it does the wrong thing, and doesn’t let interest rates rise, but keeps printing money instead, then we’re going to have runaway inflation and a much bigger financial disaster than what would happen if the Fed just let rates rise.


“Fed Will Do The Opposite Of Tapering- And Print More Money!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page. I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Moody’s Downgrades Chicago Transit Authority Bonds From Aa3 to A1, Says Outlook Negative

Moody’s Investors Service has dealt Chicago another ratings blow. In this case, it’s the Chicago Transit Authority. From a Global Credit Research news release last Friday:

New York, October 25, 2013 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the Chicago Transit Authority’s $2.9 billion outstanding sales tax revenue bonds to A1 from Aa3 and revised the outlook to negative from stable. Also affected are approximately $77 million of authority lease bonds issued by the Chicago Public Building Commission, which have been downgraded to A2.

According to Moody’s rating scale, this CTA debt has gone from being “high quality” and “subject to very low credit risk” to “upper-medium grade” and “subject to low credit risk.”

The well-known credit rating agency added:

The rating assigned to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) sales-tax backed debt has relied partly on active management — the ability to increase pledged revenue to allow for new debt and to maintain debt-service coverage. Two main factors now indicate weaker CTA credit quality. First, in view of growing credit pressures on Chicago (A3/negative), Cook County (A1/negative), and the State of Illinois (A3/negative), we believe the political will to impose further revenue increases has diminished. Second, the CTA system faces growing deferred maintenance and capital needs that will require funding from new debt issuance and other sources, at a time when state and federal support is likely to dwindle. Despite the recent improvement in pledged revenues driven by the national economic recovery, debt service coverage levels are likely to decrease in coming years. A backlog of pledged state matching payments, though recently reduced, will remain a long-term challenge and may be exacerbated by impending state income tax cuts and the state’s massive pension deficits. CTA’s own increasing pension challenges may strain its operating budget. Together, these factors have added to the importance of distinctions between CTA’s sales-tax bonds and those issued by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA, Aa3/stable), a transit oversight body with a prior claim on the same regional sales taxes and a more conservative additional debt limit.

You can read the entire news release on the Moody’s website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Monday, October 28th, 2013 Bonds, Credit, Government, Taxes, Transportation No Comments

Peter Schiff: Fed’s Bullard ‘Came Out To Lie’ About October Tapering

“The Federal Open Market Committee, of which [St. Louis Fed President James] Bullard is a voting member, surprised many market participants on Wednesday by maintaining its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, defying expectations for a small reduction of around $10 billion. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Avergage rallied to all-time highs after the decision, while Treasury yields tumbled…

Describing the September decision as ‘close,’ Bullard said a small taper in bond buys is possible in October.”

-MarketWatch, September 20, 2013

After St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard made that statement about a possible October “tapering” of stimulus, precious metals got clobbered after a huge move up when the Fed decided to maintain the present level of quantitative easing. Frank Tang over at Reuters.com reported Friday afternoon:

Gold sank 2.5 percent on Friday as institutional investors sold aggressively after the Saint Louis Fed president said the U.S. central bank might move next month to reduce stimulus spending that has bolstered bullion for years.

Silver tumbled 5 percent and platinum group metals fell more than 2 percent.

Gold all but erased the 4.5 percent rise posted on Wednesday after the Fed said it would continue its massive bond buying program.

The thing is, while Bullard might be telling the truth about a small tapering, as I’ve mentioned quite a bit lately I don’t believe the Federal Reserve is in any position to implement any significant “tapering” to the massive amounts of stimulus that’s keeping the U.S. economy afloat.

And then there’s Peter Schiff, CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital.

Schiff, who correctly-predicted the U.S. housing bust and “Panic of ’08,” just added a new installment to The Schiff Report video blog on YouTube.com. Addressing the Fed’s non-move on QE last Wednesday and Bullard’s follow-up, Schiff told viewers Saturday:

During the entire day of Wednesday afternoon and all through Thursday, everybody in the financial community was beginning to wonder about the economy. What does the Fed know that we don’t? In fact, I think the Fed was so concerned about doing damage control that they sent James Bullard out to do an interview, who is the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He came out, and he basically went out to put some spin on it, to do some damage control.

In other words, he came out to lie.

And what he said was, “You know, we almost tapered. It was a real close call, ah, and we didn’t taper. But you know what? We might do it in October.” And that was all the markets needed. And then you had a big sell-off in gold- gold dropped about 40 bucks- all of it based on the idea that, “Wait a minute, maybe the Fed is going to taper after all?”

But it’s all B.S. They’re not going to taper.

First of all, Bullard said it was a close-call. That they almost tapered.

The vote to not taper was 9 to 1.

Yeah, real nail-biter that one was. A squeaker.

You know, Bullard himself voted with the majority. He voted not to taper. As did Janet Yellen, who is most likely to be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve after Ben Bernanke steps down.

And of course, what does he mean they’re going to taper in October? Why? I mean, what’s going to change?


“Fed’s Non-Taper Damage Control”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Tang, Frank. “PRECIOUS-Gold sinks 2.5 pct on new fears Fed may reduce stimulus.” Reuters. 20 Sep. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/20/markets-precious-idUSL3N0HG1DF20130920). 24 Sep. 2013.

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

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Economists Wrong On September ‘Tapering’ Of Fed Stimulus

Look at stocks and commodities blast off this afternoon. Especially gold, which plenty of mainstream financial news outlets have been talking smack about lately.

From Greg Robb and Jeffry Bartash on the MarketWatch website a short time ago:

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday held its asset purchase program steady, putting off any decision for tapering until later in the year in a decision that surprised markets.

By a vote of 9-to-1, the Fed held its bond-buying program at $85 billion, citing tighter financial conditions

The move surprised economists…

“Surprised” is likely an understatement. Get a load of the following from the past week or so:

Nearly three-quarters of the 69 economists polled after Friday’s mixed jobs data expect the Fed to announce a taper to its quantitative easing (QE) program after its September 17-18 meeting.

-Deepti Govind, Reuters website, September 10

A majority of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal—66% of the 47 who responded—expect the Federal Reserve to say at next week’s policy meeting that it will begin cutting back its bond purchases, a widely anticipated milestone in a period of extraordinary monetary policy.

-Phil Izzo, The Wall Street Journal website, September 12

More than 60% of 44 economists say Fed policymakers will dial back their $85 billion in monthly government bond purchases when they meet Tuesday and Wednesday. Almost a third pick either October or December.

-Paul Davidson and Barbara Hansen, USA TODAY website, September 15

Among 64 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, 33 predict the Fed will reduce its purchases of Treasuries by $5 billion or less, with 31 forecasting a cut of $10 billion or more.

-Emma Charlton and Lukanyo Mnyanda, Bloomberg, September 18, 2013

Too funny. I particularly like that last bit on Bloomberg.com. All 64 economists surveyed got the September “tapering” call wrong.

Now, I, for one, wasn’t surprised that the Federal Reserve didn’t dial back on the quantitative easing. Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity shouldn’t have been either. Why’s that? As I’ve been saying since November 22, 2010, in this blog and Memorial Day Weekend, 2007, in its predecessor (Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street”)…

The U.S. economy and larger financial system are significantly worse off than the government and the Fed are letting on.

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are particularly aware of this, which leads me to believe that any tapering down the road, if it happens, is likely to be a drop in the bucket. If a significant decrease in bond purchases does per chance occur, it will likely be cancelled out by additional buying down the road once the economy and larger financial system show visible signs of faltering.

I’m starting to believe it’s QE∞ from now until America finally hits the proverbial brick wall. It’s been decades in the making (1982-2007 credit binge sticks out here), with both major national political parties in on it, and I’m pretty sure there’s no way of stopping the financial crash at this point in time.

Only preparing for it looks to be the remaining smart option left.

What a shame.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Robb, Greg and Bartash, Jeffry. “In surprise, Fed decides not to taper.” MarketWatch. 18 Sep. 2013. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/in-surprise-fed-decides-not-to-taper-2013-09-18). 18 Sep. 2013.

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Moody’s Analytics: All U.S. States Except Delaware Have Escaped Recession Risk

Just when I thought I had read/seen it all today comes this from Lisa Lambert on the Reuters website late this afternoon:

All U.S. states except for Delaware have escaped the possibility of falling back into recession, as they reap the rewards of strong private-sector employment and a burgeoning energy sector, according to an analysis released on Tuesday.

Moody’s Analytics, which tracks state and metropolitan economies, added Illinois, Wisconsin and Alabama to its list of states in recovery. That left Delaware alone in its “at risk of recession” category.

Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s evaluates economics and financial risk around the world. A separate unit, the credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service, recently said the outlook for states is now stable, after five years of being negative.

With the U.S. economy being kept afloat by massive federal government intervention, trillion dollar budget deficits, an almost zero percent federal funds rate, attempted reinflating of the housing and financial markets, $85 billion worth of long-term bonds being purchased by the Fed each and every month, job creation dominated by part-time positions, and highly-questionable government reporting of economic data to boot, one could easily argue another recession- measured using “official” figures- is a real and constant threat to the United States.

After I read that recession assessment by Moody’s Analytics, the following sarcastic line from “Gunny” Highway (actor Clint Eastwood) in the 1986 film Heartbreak Ridge came to mind:

Well, I’ll sleep a lot better at night knowing that sir.

Have a good evening everyone.

Source:

Lambert, Lisa. “Recession risk gone in all U.S. states but 1: Moody’s Analytics.” Reuters. 10 Sep. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/10/us-usa-states-economies-idUSBRE9891BG20130910). 10 Sep. 2013.

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Marc Faber Doesn’t Think Stocks ‘Are The Greatest Bargain Anymore’

Swiss-born investment advisor and fund manager Marc Faber appeared on CNBC Asia’s Cash Flow this morning. Sitting down with host Bernie Lo, the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report shared the following about stock prices with viewers:

What many investors don’t realize, we are in a bull market that is more than 4 years old. We’re not in March 2009 with S&P at 666 and markets very oversold from a longer-term perspective. The bull market began in March 2009. In other words, we’re 4 years and 5 months into a bull market. The global economy began to recovery- weak recovery- but nevertheless it began to recover in June 2009- 4 years into the economic expansion. I don’t think that stocks are the greatest bargain anymore.


“Marc Faber: Emerging markets are oversold”
CNBC Video

Echoing what he told CNBC viewers last week, “Doctor Doom” thinks there may be an investing opportunity in Treasury bonds. From the show:

Now if someone knocks on my door and says, “Stocks are more desirable than Treasury bonds”- who knows? But after the sell off in Treasuries, I think the Treasury market is now very oversold and could rebound.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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