Monday, February 15, 2010

Debt Bomb

"Kyle Bass has bet the house against Japan--his own house, that it. ... 'Japan is the most asymmetric opportunity I have ever seen,' he says, 'way better than subprime.' ... If 2008 was the year of the subprime meltdown, 2010, he thinks, will be the year entire nations start going broke. ... National governments will issue an estimated $4.5 trillion in debt this year, almost triple the average for mature economies over the preceeding five years. ... Whether or not you believe the spending spree was morally justified, you have to be concerned about the prospect of a dismal, debt-burdened fiscal future. More debt weighs heavily on GDP, says Carmen Reinhart, a University of Maryland economist. ... America is a nation of spendthrifts, addicted to easy credit and dependent on the kindnesss of savers overseas to keep us comfortable. ... The personal savings rate has climbed from negative 0.4% in 2006 to a positive 4.5% rate now, but that it still a pathetic figure for a nation whose government is un-saving all that and more with its budget deficit. ... If the GDP doesn't expand at 'normal' rates of 3% to 5% coming out of this recession, wrestling down the debt will be very tough, indeed--perhaps impossible without drastic cuts in spending and higher taxes of many fronts. ... US corporate tax receipts were down 55% in the year ended Sept. 30, 2009 to $138 billion. ... If Congress and the Obama Administration don't trim spending [Benn Steil] says, 'we will get to the point where credit is much more expensive in the US than it has been in the past.' ... 'US states are like emerging markets,' says Reinhart. 'They spent a lot during the boom years and then were forced to retrench during the down years.' ... But Brian Coulton, head of global economics at Fitch Ratings in London, warns that once rock-solid economies like the US and UK could join shakier nations like Japan and Ireland in losing their AAA ratings if they don't get their bad habits under control. ... Most investors seem to believe, as the late Citibank chairman Walter Wriston put it, that 'countries don't go bust.' The opposite is true. ... Even if countries don't stiff creditors outright, they can sometimes accomplish the same thing through inflation", Daniel Fisher at Forbes, 8 February 2010, link:

"In 2009 investors were warned about bubbles: a bubble in Treasuries, a gold bubble, and, finally, warnings of a rapidly expanding bond mutual fund bubble forming. It's brought to us by the [Fed's] 0% interest rate policy. Whether the flood into bond funds of all types was an intended consequence or not, it's now a flood that could go just as quickly the other way. ... There is a lot of unsophisticated money in bonds now, and I'm not sure investors understand how miserable things can get when the low interest rate party ends", Marilyn Cohen at Forbes, 8 February 2010:

If you have any type of bonds, no matter in what currency, sell! As for Walter Wriston, see my 30 October 2008 post:

I agree, the bond market is a disaster waiting to happen.


Matrix Markets said...

Kyle Bass has made some great calls, we'll see if his winning streak continues. Have to pay attention when he speaks, uh oh.

Anonymous said...

From your review of Wriston's book post...

"...The idea of breaking down every risk into smaller and smaller parts was given the name 'particle finance,' and modern technology is giving us the means to do so", my emphasis, 23..."

"Particle finance"?

Is that the same as the derivatives market?


Anonymous said...

Hello I.A.,

As a bondholder may I just say: "PUNISH ME!" I've been naughty and need a spanking. Please, rock my world! I'm begging you, let the bond market collapse, I'm a big boy, I can take it!!

CrisisMaven said...

A bubble in, say, shares, stocks or commodities happens when people believe it will "go up and up" (and is, as a rule, as with housing recently and "tech" stocks at the beginning of the millenium, again mainly driven by money inflation). Gold in contrast is a hedge against inflation and against looming sovereign defaults. Inflation by definition is the increase in money supply. There's no doubt that this has happened several fold in only two years. So there is inflation. Hence there is no gold bubble, as gold has not appreciated by a tenth even of what the monetary base has expanded!

Independent Accountant said...

Read some of Mike Rozeff's (MR) stuff on "ZDV". I largely agree with MR. See for example my 7 December 2009 post, "Gold or dollar bubble".