US Paid $853 BILLION In Interest On Its $31 TRILLION Debt In 2022 (More Than The US Defense Budget)

I was interviewed by James Rosen at Fox News on the exploding US debt and whether it is a problem. I said “Yes, the sheer size of the US debt load in unsustainable and will get worse if interest rates rise.” Well, here we are!

The US paid $853 billion in interest for the $31 trillion in debt in 2022.

That is more than the US Defense budget in 2023.

If the Fed keeps rates at at these levels (or higher), the US we will be at $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in interest paid on the debt.

The US govt collects about $4.9 trillion in taxes.

Thanks for this, Biden, Pelosi, Schumer! Aka, The Spend Squad!

Pension Funds in Historic Surplus Eye $1 Trillion of Bond-Buying (Consumers In Bad Shape With Personal Savings Down 53.5% YoY And Real Weekly Earnings Negative For 21 Straight Weeks, GOLD Soaring!)

Despite polticians like President Biden cheerleading his great economic accomplishments and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dipping into Social Security to fund the Federal government (much like Biden’s dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve), there are serious problems facing America’s middle class and low-wage workers. Inflation is still brutal (but slowing) and REAL weekly earnings growth has been negative for 21 straight months (meaning that Biden’s bragging about wage growth has been destroyed by the inflation created by his energy policies and massive spending sprees). Personal spending rate YoY has plunged -53.5% to cope with inflation. To quote Joe Biden (Chauncy Gardner), “All is well in the garden.” But all is not well in the garden. As a result, we are now seeing pension funds jumping from stocks to bonds.

(Bloomberg) For some of America’s biggest bond buyers, the soft-versus-hard-landing debate on Wall Street might be a sideshow. They’re getting ready to swoop in with as much as $1 trillion, no matter what happens.

One of the pillars of the trillion-dollar pension fund complex is now awash in cash after struggling under deficits for two decades. This rare surplus at corporate defined-benefit plans, thanks to surging interest rates, means they can reallocate to bonds that are less volatile than stocks — “derisking” in industry parlance. 

Strategists at Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. say the impact will be far-reaching in what’s already being coined “the year of the bond.” Judging from the cash flooding into fixed income, they’re just getting started.

“The pensions are in good shape. They can now essentially immunize — take out the equities, move into bonds and try to have assets match liabilities,” Mike Schumacher, head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo, said in an interview. “That explains some of the rallying of the bond market over the last three or four weeks.”

An irony of pension accounting is that a year like last year, with its twin routs in stocks and bonds, can be a blessing of sorts to some benefit plans, whose future costs are a function of interest rates. When rates climb, their liabilities shrink and their “funded status” actually improves.

The largest 100 US corporate pension plans now enjoy an average funding ratio of about 110%, the highest level in more than two decades, according to the Milliman 100 Pension Funding index. That’s welcome news for fund managers who suffered years of rock-bottom interest rates and were forced to chase returns in the equity market.

Now, they have an opportunity to unwind that imbalance and Wall Street banks pretty much agree on how they’ll use the extra cash to do it: buying bonds, and then selling stocks to buy more bonds. 

Already this year fixed-income flows are outpacing those of equity funds, marking the most lopsided relationship since July. 

How much of that is due to derisking by pension funds is anyone’s guess. Some of the recent rally in bonds can be ascribed to traders hedging a growth downturn that would hit stocks hardest.

But what’s obvious is their clear preference for long-maturity fixed-income assets that most closely match their long-dated liabilities.

Pension funds need to keep some exposure to stocks to boost returns, but that equation is changing. 

Once a corporate plan reaches full funding, their aim is often to derisk by jettisoning stocks and adding fixed income assets that line up with their liabilities. With the largest 100 US corporate defined benefit funds riding a cash pile of $133 billion after average yields on corporate debt more than doubled last year, their path is wide open.

With yields unlikely to go above their peak level once the Federal Reserve hits its terminal rate of about 5% around the middle of the year, there’s rarely been a better time for them to make the switch to bonds. 

Even if growth surprises on the upside and yields rise, causing bonds to underperform, the incentive is still there, said Bruno Braizinha, a strategist at Bank of America.

“At this point and considering where we are in the cycle, the conditions are favorable for de-risking,” Braizinha said in an interview. 

JPMorgan’s strategist Marko Kolanovic estimates derisking will lead pension managers to buy as much as $1 trillion of bonds; Bank of America’s Braizinha says a $500 billion buying spree is closer to the mark.

How about gold? As the probability of a US debt default looms (as Bride of Chucky Schumer stomps his feet and says ” No budget cuts!”) and the US Treasury 10Y-3M yield curve remains inverted, gold is soaring.

Perhaps pension funds should by gold rather than cryptos.

Kansas City Fed Services Survey Tanks To -11 In January As Fed Withdraws Monetary Punch Bowl (US Real GDP Was Only 0.959% YoY In 2022)

Kansas City is a wonderful city. But the KC Fed’s Services Survey is not. In fact, it plunged to -11 for January. Rough start to the new year.

The decline in the KC Fed survery mirrors that of other regional Fed indices, indicating a slowdown in the US economy as The Fed withdraws the monetary punch bowl,

Despite the hoopla, remember that US Real GDP growth only grew at less than 1% on a year-over-year basis in 2022.

Apparently, The Federal Reserve doesn’t have a whole lotta love for middle class America.

US Pending Home Sales Decline For 13th Straight Month, Down -34.3% YoY As Fed Tightens (UMich Housing Sentiment At 44, Well Below 100)

The US housing market continues to struggle as The Federal Reserve continues to fight inflation. Today’s pending home sales are another nail in housing casket.

Pending home sales declined -34.4% year-over-year (YoY) as M2 Money growth went negative (-1.3% YoY).

At least UMich buying conditions for housing increased … to 44, well below 100.

The Core! Core PCE Deflator Declines To 4.4% YoY As M2 Money Stops Spinning At -1.3% YoY (Taylor Rule Estimate Now 10.0%)

There was a hilarious film with Hillary Swank and Aaron Ekhart called “The Core” where earth’s core stops spinning and the earth gets cooked by the Sun’s rediation. Now we learn that the Earth’s inne core has actually stop spinning. This time, however, all that has happened is that Joe Biden is President which is almost as bad,

But also related to “The Core” is that the important Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) are out for December along with PCE price deflator numbers. In short, personal income was up 0.2% month-over-month (MoM) in December while personal spending was down -0.2%. REAL personal spending was down -0.3% MoM.

But the all important PCE deflators numbers were down all well. The REAL PCE price index (or deflator) was down to 5.0% YoY in Decmember while REAL CORE price index was down to 4.40%. All this is happening as M2 Money growth has stop spinning (down to -1.3% YoY in December).

Based on a CORE PCE YoY of 4.40%, the Taylor Rules suggest that The Fed Fund Target rate should be … 10%. However, the current Fed Funds Target rate is only 4.50%, so The Fed is not even half way there.

Fed Funds Futures are pointing to a peak rate of 4.90% by the June ’23 FOMC meeting, then a pivot (despite denials from Fed talking heads).

Of course, The Fed doesn’t follow the Taylor Rule or any other transparent rule for rate management. Rather, Fed Chair Powell like former Chair (and current Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen) follow a more seat-of-the-pants approach.

Good News, Bad News! US New Home Sales Rise 2.3% In December, But DOWN -23% YoY (Median Price UP 7.8% YoY While M2 Money Growth Goes Negative)

The December new home sales report is good news and bad news.

The good news? US new home sales rose by 2.3% in December from November to 616k units sold SAAR. That is the good news.

The bad news? Since December of 2021, new home sales fell -23% year-over-year (YoY).

The median price of new home sales rose 7.8% YoY, but the trend as The Fed withdraws monetary stimulus (orange line) is not good.

Perhaps there is a communications breakdown between the Biden Administration and The Federal Reserve.

Is That All There Is? US GDP Expands At Only 2.9% Pace While Slowdown Signs Mount (Like M2 Money Slowing To -1.31% YoY And PCE Growth Less Than Forecast)

Today’s GDP report from the BEA reminds me of the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?” Between the massive Fed monetary stimulus since late 2008 (and particularly since Covid in 2020) and all the Federal spending (Covid relief, Inflation reduction, Omnipork spending bill, etc.), US real GDP rose by only 2.9% in Q4 from Q3.

But signs of slowing underlying demand mounted as the steepest interest-rate hikes in decades threaten growth this year.

Gross domestic product increased at a 2.9% annualized rate in final three months of 2022 after a 3.2% gain in the third quarter, the Commerce Department’s initial estimate showed Thursday. 

Personal consumption, the biggest part of the economy, climbed at a below-forecast 2.1% pace (forecast was for 2.9%). Again,

The report also showed some signs of stress for American consumers whose wages have failed to keep up with inflation and continued to encourage them to draw down savings accumulated from government pandemic-relief programs. The burden of elevated prices and higher borrowing costs is mounting, pointing to a tenuous outlook for the economy.

A key gauge of underlying demand that strips out the trade and inventories components — inflation-adjusted final sales to domestic purchasers — rose an annualized 0.8% in the fourth quarter after a 1.5% gain.

Core PCE growth grew at 3.9%, but is slowing already as M2 Money growth dies.

Stock-index futures and Treasury yields remained higher and the dollar was little changed after the GDP report and better-than-expected weekly jobless claims. Applications for unemployment insurance dropped to 186,000 last week, the lowest since April.

Recent data show cracks are developing more broadly. Retail and motor vehicle sales data showed households are starting to retrench, the housing market continues to weaken and some businesses are reconsidering capital spending plans. 

As the Federal Reserve continues to hike interest rates to ensure inflation is extinguished, housing and manufacturing have deteriorated quickly while industries including banking and technology are carrying out mass layoffs.

The GDP report showed the personal consumption expenditures price index, a key inflation metric for the Fed, rose at an annualized 3.2% rate in the fourth quarter, down from a 4.3% pace in the prior three months. The core index that excludes food and energy climbed at a 3.9% rate compared with 4.7% paces in the prior two quarters. Monthly data for December will be released Friday.

The moderation in price pressures is consistent with forecasts that the Fed will further scale back its tightening campaign next week, when it’s expected to raise rates by 25 basis points. Policymakers boosted the benchmark rate by 50 points in December after 75 basis-point hikes at their previous four meetings.

The world’s largest economy expanded 2.1% last year. In 2021, when demand snapped back from pandemic-related shutdowns, the economy grew 5.9% — the best performance since 1984.

The GDP data showed services spending increased at 2.6% annualized rate in the October-December period, the slowest since last year’s first quarter. Outlays on goods rose at a 1.1% pace, the first advance since 2021.

Business investment slowed sharply after a third-quarter surge. Spending on equipment declined an annualized 3.7%, the most since the second quarter of 2020. Outlays for structures rose at a 0.4% pace.

Let’s hope the BEA isn’t padding the numbers like the BLS was caught doing in the first half of 2022.

Lastly, US Real GDP growth YoY FELL to only 0.95925% as M2 Money growth disappears.

Just Like The Fed! M2 Broad Money Supply Growth Falls To -1.8% YoY, M1 Money Growth Falls To -3.6% YoY As US Job Layoffs Accelerate

Its just like The Federal Reserve to be cutting US money growth as US jobs cuts accelerate.

The latest US money growth numbers are out and they are daunting. M2 Money growth YoY is now negative at -1.8%.

M1 money, a narrower defition of money, is now down -3.6% YoY.

This is happening as the labor market is seeing a wave of layoffs.

As M2 growth YoY and The Fed balance sheet shrinks, so does Cathie Wood’s AARK.

We are just the stepping stone for The Fed.

As The Fed ponders inflation versus job growth, its a case of “Him or Me, What’s it going to be?”

Gas Prices Set To Soar As Crack Spread Jumps On Tightening Fuel Supplies (Gasoline Prices UP 45% Under Biden, Diesel Prices UP 77%, Strategic Petroleum Reserve DOWN -47%)

U.S. oil refining margins, also known as the 3-2-1 crack spread, jumped to a three-month high on Tuesday — and that’s an indication the country faces an ongoing product shortage that might lead to higher gasoline and diesel prices at the pump

The 3-2-1 crack spread is a great indicator to gauge fuel product tightness. High spreads indicate gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other petroleum products are in short supply, while low spreads mean an abundance of supply. Spread direction is also important — if rising, it would mean fuel inventories are declining. 

The simple calculation of refining margins is for every three barrels of crude oil the refinery processes — it makes two barrels of gasoline and one barrel of distillates like diesel and jet fuel.

On Tuesday, the crack spread hit a three-month high of $42 a barrel. For some context, the five-year January average is $15.56.  

Reuters pointed out that refinery outages exacerbate fuel supply tightness. 

A diesel producing unit at PBF Energy’s (PBF.N) Chalmette, Louisiana, refinery was shut following a fire on Saturday. It could be out for at least a month. Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) said Monday it will perform planned maintenance on several units at its Baytown, Texas, petrochemical complex.

The ongoing refinery maintenance season could be much lengthier than usual, with many U.S. Gulf Coast refineries still running below capacity after Winter Storm Elliott knocked out some 1.5 million barrels per day of refining capacity in December. A Suncor refinery in Commerce City, Colorado, has remained offline since the storm.

Also, the number of refinery overhauls is double the amount this spring. Many of these overhauls were postponed due to the pandemic. Some are due to record-high margins driving increased profitability for oil companies. 

There are at least 15 oil refineries plan maintenance ranging from two to 11 weeks through May, tallies by Reuters and refining intelligence firm IIR Energy show. By mid-February, U.S. refiners will drop some 1.4 million barrels per day of processing capacity, double the five-year average. 

“A lot of plants didn’t want to shut down last year when margins were strong, but they have to get this work done,” said John Auers, refining analyst with Refined Fuels Analytics.

Nine U.S. refineries operated by Marathon Petroleum, Valero Energy, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, and BP will shutter some of their fuel-producing units this spring, according to IIR and Reuters sources.

All of the outages and planned overhauls are going to make it difficult for refiners to catch up with demand as inventories are relative to historical levels. 

“If we aren’t hearing the alarm bells, it’s because we’re deaf after refining margins reached eye-watering levels in 2022, when the 3-2-1 crack spread briefly surged above $60. But from a historical perspective, current margins are sky-high, as well,” Bloomberg Opinion’s Javier Blas said. 

According to AAA data, gasoline and diesel prices at the pump are starting to move higher after months of declines following the rise in the 3:2:1 crack spread. 

And the ‘raw materials’ for the refining process are rising rapidly…

Perhaps the victory lap was a little premature? 

Mission Accomplished 2.0?

Not really. US gasoline prices are UP 45% under Biden, diesel prices (the lifeblood of the shipping industry) are UP 77 under Clueless Joe and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is DOWN -47% under China Joe.

MBA Purchase Applications Drop -.58% Since Last Week, Refi Apps Rise 3.15% WoW As Mortgage Rates Declined 3rd Straight Week (Purchase Apps Down -39% Since Same Week Last Year, Refi Apps Down 77%)

Falling mortgage rates are having a predictible effect on mortgage refinancing applications, but not so much for mortgage purchase applications.

Mortgage applications increased 7.0 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending January 20, 2023. This week’s results include an adjustment for the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Refinance Index increased 3.15 percent from the previous week and was 77 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 39 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

Generally speaking, declining mortgage rates are due to declining 10-year Treasury yields. And 10-year Treasury yields decline as the economy weakens. Of course, M2 Money growth YoY is now 0% as The Fed tightens.

On a humerous note, US Treasury Secretary Janet “The Evil Gnome” Yellen is visiting Africa and lecturing them on prudcnt sovereigh debt management. Seriously. China responded with “Fix the US debt problems before you lecture anyone else.”