US headline inflation began to soar as soon as Joe Biden became President. A combination of massive stimulus spending related to the Covid economic shutdown and his war on fossil fuels, driving up gasoline and diesel fuel prices. In other words, headline inflation rose from 1.4% Year-over-year (YoY) at the end of December 2020 to 9.1% YoY in June 2021. It has now simmered down to 7.1% YoY as The Fed continues to remove monetary stimulus.
How have consumers coped with inflation caused by massive Federal spending and Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies? In November, personal savings dropped -64.8% YoY. This marks 20 straight months of declining personal savings.
US M2 Money growth YoY is now … 0%. That is the lowest in US history.
Silvergate Capital Corp. shares plunged after the bank said the crypto industry’s meltdown triggered a run on deposits, prompting the company to sell assets at a steep loss and fire 40% of its staff.
Customers withdrew about $8.1 billion of digital-asset deposits from the bank during the fourth quarter, which forced it to sell securities and related derivatives at a loss of $718 million, according to a statement Thursday. Executives said on a conference call that Silvergate may become a takeover target.
“In response to the rapid changes in the digital asset industry during the fourth quarter, we took commensurate steps to ensure that we were maintaining cash liquidity in order to satisfy potential deposit outflows, and we currently maintain a cash position in excess of our digital asset related deposits,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Lane said in the statement.
The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX sparked a crisis for Silvergate, which held deposits for FTX units and Alameda Research, the trading firm at the heart of the crypto exchange’s downfall. Lawmakers are also scrutinizing the bank.
Silvergate plunged 44% to $12.34 at 9:48 a.m. in New York, the steepest decline since the La Jolla, California-based company went public in November 2019. The stock is down 91% in the past 12 months. Signature Bank, which said in December that it intended to shed as much as $10 billion deposits from digital-asset clients, fell 5.8% to $111.05.
Silvergate Capital Corporation operates as a bank holding company. The Company, through its subsidiary Silvergate Bank provides a banking platform for innovators, especially in the digital currency industry, and developing product and service solutions addressing the needs of entrepreneurs. Silvergate Capital serves customers in the United States.
Silvergate once saw the crypto industry as giving it a huge growth opportunity. Over the course of a decade, it transformed itself from a firm catering to small businesses into a publicly traded company known for providing banking services to major crypto clients such as Coinbase Global Inc. and Gemini Trust Co. — as well as FTX and Alameda Research.
At least Solana is on the rise.
Sam Bankman-Fried will go down in history as commiting one of the greatest financial frauds in world history. Why did he have four meetings with Biden’s top staffers prior to FTX’s crash and burn?
Trying to survive high inflation is difficult, but surviving The Federal Reserve’s counterattack to inflation is even more difficult.
Two people who constantly appear in the business are ARK’s Cathie Wood and TSLA’s Elon Musk. A third we can add is Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX and Alameda Research infamy.
So which one was the best at surviving inflation and The Fed’s counterattack? Answer? None of them.
Since the same day last year, we have seen M2 Money growth plunge and The Fed Funds Target rate rise rapidly from 25 basis points to 4.50%, a rapid increase. But over the last year, Cathie Wood and ARK fell -68.4%, Elon Musk’s Telsa fell -68.9% and Bitcoin fell -65.1%
So, ARK, Tesla and Bitcoin were demolished in 2022 thanks to inflation and The Fed’s counterattack. But the NASDAQ index was down too, but only -35.2% YoY.
The highest interest rates in 15 years are delaying home dreams, putting business plans on ice and forcing many Americans to agree to loan terms that would have been unimaginable just nine months ago. Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies are helping drive up prices and The Federal Reserve is hiking rates to cool it off.
Most of all, the surge in borrowing costs is punishing the cash-poor. And it’s about to get worse as the Federal Reserve carries on with its anti-inflation campaign and keeps hiking rates next year.
As the Fed’s most aggressive interest-rate hike cycle in a generation filters through the US economy, the gap is widening between the haves and the have-nots. Even without a recession, households and businesses are feeling the financial pain.
Here’s a look at pockets of the economy that are bearing the brunt of the impact.
Housing in Holding Pattern
Manda Waits from Suwanee, Georgia, feels lucky that she and her husband bought their townhouse near Atlanta a year ago with a 3% loan — less than half of where mortgage rates are now.
To trim expenses amid soaring consumer prices, the couple recently bought a freezer and stocked it with a quarter cow and half a pig sourced from an agricultural school. But they shelved their plan to upgrade to a single-family home for the time being.
“We would like to buy some land to build on, but these rates aren’t making it attractive, so we are in a holding pattern,” said Waits, who receives disability benefits.
Even in the once red-hot market of Tampa, Florida, a few people showing up at an open house is now considered a good day. “People are just waiting on the sidelines,” said Rae Anna Conforti, a realtor with Re/Max Alliance Group.
As mortgage rates hit their highest levels since 2001 this year, real estate agents suddenly found themselves hunting for clients again — if not losing their jobs. Thousands of mortgage employees have already been laid off at lenders including Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The higher rates, coupled with a surge in home values during the pandemic, pushed the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced house to more than $2,000, up from about $1,100 just before Covid-19 hit.
‘Vicious Circle’ The widening gap between the cash-rich and the cash-strapped is playing out at car dealerships across the nation. The former are paying more upfront, while the latter are stuck with high-rate auto loans that will leave them underwater — or forced to settle for cheaper and less reliable vehicles.
Almost one in three car buyers are now taking out six- to seven-year loans on used vehicles to help lower monthly payments.
When consumers are locked for so long, the outstanding balance quickly exceeds a used car’s value, said Oren Weintraub, whose California-based service helps consumers negotiate better prices with dealers for a fee. When they buy their next car, that balance will get tacked onto to the new loan.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said.
Matt Tambornini was hoping to take out a car loan to build his credit history. The 22-year-old, who lives near Knoxville, Tennessee, with his parents, figured he’d be in a position to buy a house when mortgage rates eventually come down.
His plan stumbled when a local car dealership offered a 23% loan rate and a 60-month term, a deal that would’ve had him paying thousands more than he wanted. He bought the car anyway, quickly got buyer’s remorse and returned it for a refund.
For now, he’s driving a 15-year-old pick-up he bought with cash.
“It seems like everything is just unaffordable,” Tambornini said.
Soaring Credit Debt Interest rates on credit cards that averaged 16.3% at the beginning of the year have climbed to just over 19%, according to Bankrate.com, the highest level in data going back to 1985.
That’s a massive increase especially for lower-income consumers, who may be making the minimum payment and carrying a balance for 20 years, said Scott Sanborn, chief executive officer of LendingClub Corp.
“I don’t think consumers have fully internalized yet how much their cost of living has actually increased,” Sanborn said.
The surge in APRs to historical highs isn’t affecting consumers the same way. It makes no difference to those who pay off their balances monthly — many don’t even notice the rate increases — but it’s hitting those who are falling behind.
Mike Lauretti, 24, has about $12,000 in debt on four cards, as well as car, student and private debt. The high school social worker, who lives near Hartford, Connecticut, is working on paying off the card with the smallest amount first before moving to the next — known as the snowball method. He also took an extra job as a coach of the girls basketball team to supplement his income.
“I am using the snowball method to pay off the cards first and then it’ll eventually lead to me paying the private loan,” the largest, he said.
American consumers will end the year with about $110 billion more in credit-card debt than they started with, which would be close to an annual record, according to WalletHub, an online personal finance data firm. The reality may hit next year, when many economists predict the US will enter a recession. Household debt delinquencies are still well below their end of 2019 levels, but they’re picking up.
“We expect delinquencies to continue to increase, with new credit-card and auto delinquencies reaching pre-pandemic levels in the first half of next year,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report.
In Dayton, Ohio, Clara Osterhage would love to add to her 82 Great Clips hair salons and she knows people who are looking to sell.
“But I can’t put myself in a place to buy them, because the interest rates on any money that we would borrow would be astronomical,” she said.
Matt Haller, chief executive of the International Franchise Association, said high loan rates will keep smaller buyers of franchises out of the market, while bigger companies with more access to capital consolidate.
Meantime, some would-be buyers are demanding that sellers help finance the deal, said Dustin Zeher of Horizon Business Brokers in Virginia.
“We’re talking about 50% to 80% of the transaction, because they are cognizant and aware of the rising interest rates and how that has effectively reduced their buying power and has increased the cost of the transaction,” Zeher said.
Greg Vojnovic, owner of a small fast-food chain in the Youngstown, Ohio area, said the debt service — or debt payments — on his Small Business Administration loan has risen by $70,000 annually, and he expects it to climb at least another $15,000 as the Fed continues to raise rates. He’ll have to cut two part-time corporate-office positions to lower costs.
“If bacon goes up, people understand if you raise prices,” said Vojnovic, owner of the Hot Dog Shoppe. “If chicken goes up, people understand that. If debt service goes up, you just kind of have to eat that.”
Here is Joe Biden, shooting the hopes of millions of Americans in the tuchus.
Like the Mel Gibson movie “Apocalypto!”, we are seeing the US middle class and low-wage workers being economically sacrificed by The Federal Reserve, the Biden Administration and Congress.
Despite the rhetoric that Fed stimulus (aka “Stimulypto!”) is being removed, the US remains plagued by NEGATIVE real 10-year Treasury yields, NEGATIVE real Fed Funds Target rate and NEGATIVE real average hourly earnings growth under Inflation Joe.
This chart demonstrates the Stimulytpo problem. Prior to Covid, US wage growth was consistently higher than headline inflation. But starting in March 2021, three months after Biden became President, headline inflation became higher than wage growth.
Even with all these negative REAL rates, the US economy is forecast to have almost no growth in 2023.
To quote Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is? Trillions in Federal spending and Fed monetary stimulus and all we get it 0.50% Real GDP??
One of the great ironies of the Sam Bankman-Fried debacle is that while SBF was a generous donor to Democrats (and a few RINOs) and President Biden, it was Biden’s green energy policies that were part of the nail in SBF’s crypto empire. As inflation exploded upon Biden taking office (and massive overspending by Congress), The Federal Reserve jumped in to cool inflation leading to the downfall of cryptos in terms of price.
M2 Money YoY (green line) shows the massive growth money with the Covid economic shutdowns in 2020. Cryptos skyrocketed after that much money was printed by The Fed. Cryptos fell shortly after peaking in April/May 2021, then peaked again in a horrific display of asset volatility in October/November 2021.
What happened in late 2021 to crush cryptos? Ah, expectations of Fed rate increases (red line) started to soar meaning the punchbowl for cryptos was being taken away. The Fed giveth and The Fed taketh away.
The risk management question is … how did SBF and Alameda Research’s Caroline Ellison didn’t notice the relationshop between crypto prices and changing Federal Reserve monetary policy? Even worse, why didn’t investors ask questions??
Take a gander at Bitcoin relative to US diesel fuel prices (orange line) and The Fed’s inflation counterattack (red line). Sam and Sweet Caroline (who was seen walking free in NYC) must not have been monitoring how rapidly rising diesel prices would permeate the entire economy in terms of price increases. M2 Money YoY (green line) has been declining as the expectations of Fed rate tightening (red line) has increased.
SBF donated a huge amount to the midterm elections, the party that went along with Biden’s war on fossil fuels. Then inflation ensued as energy and food prices skyrocketed, leading The Federal Reserve to fight inflation by removing the monetary punchbowl. So, in a sense, SBF donations led to his own collapse.
Apparently, SBF, Caroline Ellison and the other FTXers were engaged in orgies and not paying attention to the impact of inflation and Fed policies on cryptos.
Lastly, how did Gary Genslar and the SEC not see any of this? In the same way that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke didn’t see the financial crisis as it was rapidly unfolding: eyes wide shut.
I read that Nicole Kidman underwent psychiatric treatment after filming “Eyes Wide Shut.” I saw it and was bored out of my mind.
The Federal Reserve forecast for the US economy is a dismal 0.50% YoY. Do I detect a trend?
The FOMC forecast for 2023 and 2024. Core PCE YoY (inflation) is forecast to drop to 3.50%, still considerably higher than The Fed’s target rate of inflation of 2%. And unemployment is forecast to be 4.60%.
To cope with Bidenflation, US personal savings rate as of October is -67.9% YoY. The “good” news is that rents YoY are crashing. But food prices under Inflation Joe remain very high. But most everything is slowing down, not due to Biden’s policies, but a global and US economic slowdown.
With a big slowdown coming our way, you can understand why The Fed’s December Dot Plot is showing declining Fed Funds Target rate starts declining in 2024.
Even US mortgage rates are headed down.
Speaking of going down, cryptos are down across the board with Cardano leading the decline at -6.91%.
Apparently, despite the denials from the Biden Administration, someone at Bureau of Labor Statistics or someone in Congress or the Federal Reserve or the Biden Admininstration itself likely tipped the wink on the soft CPI report on Tuesday.
Treasuries were well on the front-foot in the lead up to the below-estimate November CPO print, as a surge of buying took place seconds before the official 8:30 am New York release time. Over a 60 second period before the data, 13,518 March 10-year futures traded as the contract moved from 114-04+ up to 114-22. Gains were then extended up to 115-11 session highs once the data was released.
On the equity side, stock futures suddenly spiked more than 1%. Trading in Treasury futures surged, pushing benchmark yields lower by about 4 basis points. Those are major moves in such a short period of time — bigger than full-session swings on some days. And they should get scrutinized by regulators, long-time market observers say, even if a leak is only one of several possible explanations for why traders suddenly started buying right before the report was published.
Remember that current Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was accused of leaking information to a NY hedge fund ahead of the Fed Open Market Committee meeting? And then we have the Wolf of Wall Street.
I wonder if the REAL Wolf of Wall Street did this?