The Structure of Collapse: 2016-2019

Charles Hugh Smith writing on his blog Of Two Minds:

The end-state of unsustainable systems is collapse. Though collapse may appear to be sudden and chaotic, we can discern key structures that guide the processes of collapse.

Though the subject is complex enough to justify an entire shelf of books, these six dynamics are sufficient to illuminate the inevitable collapse of the status quo.

1. Doing more of what has failed spectacularly. The leaders of the status quo inevitably keep doing more of what worked in the past, even when it no longer works. Indeed, the failure only increases the leadership’s push to new extremes of what has failed spectacularly. At some point, this single-minded pursuit of failed policies speeds the system’s collapse.

2. Emergency measures become permanent policies. The status quo’s leaders expect the system to right itself once emergency measures stabilize a crisis. But broken systems cannot right themselves, and so the leadership is forced to make temporary emergency measures (such as lowering interest rates to zero) permanent policy. This increases the fragility of the system, as any attempt to end the emergency measures triggers a system-threatening crisis.

3. Diminishing returns on status quo solutions. Back when the economic tree was loaded with low-hanging fruit, solutions such as lowering interest rates had a large multiplier effect. But as the tree is stripped of fruit, the returns on these solutions diminish to zero.

4. Declining social mobility. As the economic pie shrinks, the privileged maintain or increase their share, and the slice left to the disenfranchised shrinks. As the privileged take care of their own class, there are fewer slots open for talented outsiders. The status quo is slowly starved of talent and the ranks of those opposed to the status quo swell with those denied access to the top rungs of the social mobility ladder.

5. The social order loses cohesion and shared purpose as the social-economic classes pull apart. The top of the wealth/power pyramid no longer serves in the armed forces, and withdraws from contact with the lower classes. Lacking a unifying social purpose, each class pursues its self-interests to the detriment of the nation and society as a whole.

6. Strapped for cash as tax revenues decline, the state borrows more money and devalues its currency as a means of maintaining the illusion that it can fulfill all its promises. As the purchasing power of the currency declines, people lose faith in the state’s currency. Once faith is lost, the value of the currency declines rapidly and the state’s insolvency is revealed.

Each of these dynamics is easily visible in the global status quo.

As an example of doing more of what has failed spectacularly, consider how financialization inevitably inflates speculative bubbles, which eventually crash with devastating consequences. But since the status quo is dependent on financialization for its income, the only possible response is to increase debt and speculation—the causes of the bubble and its collapse—to inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.

This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns: each reflation of the failed system requires greater commitments of capital and debt. Financialization is pushed to new unprecedented extremes, as nothing less will generate the desired bubble.

 Rising costs narrow the maneuvering room left to system managers. The central bank’s suppression of interest rates is an example. As the economy falters, central banks lower interest rates and increase the credit available to the financial system.

This stimulus works well in the first downturn, but less well in the second and not at all in the third, for the simple reason that interest rates have been dropped to zero and credit has been increased to near-infinite.

The last desperate push to do more of what failed spectacularly is for central banks to lower interest rates to below-zero: it costs depositors money to leave their cash in the bank. This last-ditch policy is now firmly entrenched in Europe, and many expect it to spread around the world as central banks have exhausted less extreme policies.

The status quo’s primary imperative is self-preservation, and this imperative drives the falsification of data to sell the public on the idea that prosperity is still rising and the elites are doing an excellent job of managing the economy.

Since real reform would threaten those at the top of the wealth/power pyramid, fake reforms and fake economic data become the order of the day.

Leaders face a no-win dilemma: any change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.

Welcome to 2016-2019.


Why Globalization Reaches Limits

Gail Tverberg writes:

We have been living in a world of rapid globalization, but this is not a condition that we can expect to continue indefinitely.

Figure 1. Ratio of Imported Goods and Services to GDP. Based in FRED data for IMPGS.

Figure 1. Ratio of Imported Goods and Services to GDP. Based in FRED data for IMPGS.

Each time imported goods and services start to surge as a percentage of GDP, these imports seem to be cut back, generally in a recession. The rising cost of the imports seems to have an adverse impact on the economy. (The imports I am showing are gross imports, rather than imports net of exports. I am using gross imports, because US exports tend to be of a different nature than US imports. US imports include many labor-intensive products, while exports tend to be goods such as agricultural goods and movie films that do not require much US labor.)

Recently, US imports seem to be down. Part of this reflects the impact of surging US oil production, and because of this, a declining need for oil imports. Figure 2 shows the impact of removing oil imports from the amounts shown on Figure 1.

Figure 2. Total US Imports of Goods and Services, and this total excluding crude oil imports, both as a ratio to GDP. Crude oil imports from

Figure 2. Total US Imports of Goods and Services, and this total excluding crude oil imports, both as a ratio to GDP. Crude oil imports from

If we look at the years from 2008 to the present, there was clearly a big dip in imports at the time of the Great Recession. Apart from that dip, US imports have barely kept up with GDP growth since 2008.

Let’s think about the situation from the point of view of developing nations, wanting to increase the amount of goods they sell to the US. As long as US imports were growing rapidly, then the demand for the goods and services these developing nations were trying to sell would be growing rapidly. But once US imports flattened out as a percentage of GDP, then it became much harder for developing nations to “grow” their exports to the US.

I have not done an extensive analysis outside the US, but based on the recent slow economic growth patterns for Japan and Europe, I would expect that import growth for these areas to be slowing as well. If fact, data from the World Trade Organization for Japan, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom seem to show a recent slowdown in imported goods for these countries as well.

If this lack of demand growth by a number of industrialized countries continues, it will tend to seriously slow export growth for developing countries.

Where Does Demand For Imports Come From?

Many of the goods and services we import have an adverse impact on US wages. For example, if we import clothing, toys, and furniture, these imports directly remove US jobs making similar goods here. Similarly, programming jobs and call center jobs outsourced to lower cost nations reduce the number of jobs available in the US. When US oil prices rose in the 1970s, we started importing compact cars from Japan. Substituting Japanese-made cars for American-made cars also led to a loss of US jobs.

Even if a job isn’t directly lost, the competition with low wage nations tends to hold down wages. Over time, US wages have tended to fall as a percentage of GDP.

Figure 3. Ratio of US Wages and Salaries to GDP, based on information of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Figure 3. Ratio of US Wages and Salaries to GDP, based on information of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Another phenomenon that has tended to occur is greater disparity of wages. Partly this disparity represents wage pressure on individuals doing jobs that could easily be outsourced to a lower-wage country. Also, executive salaries tend to rise, as companies become more international in scope. As a result, earnings for the top 10% have tended to increase since 1981, while wages for the bottom 90% have stagnated.

Figure 4. Chart by economist Emmanuel Saez based on an analysis IRS data, published in Forbes.

Figure 4. Chart by economist Emmanuel Saez based on an analysis IRS data, published in Forbes. “Real income” is inflation-adjusted income.

If wages of most workers are lagging behind, how is it possible to afford increased imports? I would argue that what has happened in practice is greater and greater use of debt. If wages of American workers had been rising rapidly, perhaps these higher wages could have enabled workers to afford the increased quantity of imported goods. With wages lagging behind, growing debt has been used as a way of affording imported goods and services.

Inasmuch as the US dollar was the world’s reserve currency, this increase in debt did not have a seriously adverse impact on the economy. In fact, back when oil prices were higher than they are today, petrodollar recycling helped maintain demand for US Treasuries as the US borrowed increasing amounts of money to purchase oil and other goods. This process helped keep borrowing costs low for the US.

Figure 5. US Increase in Debt as Ratio to GDP and US imports as Ratio to GDP. Both from FRED data: TSMDO and IMPGS.

Figure 5. US Increase in Debt as Ratio to GDP and US imports as Ratio to GDP. Both from FRED data: TSMDO and IMPGS.

The problem, however, is that at some point it becomes impossible to raise the debt level further. The ratio of debt to GDP becomes unmanageable. Consumers, because their wages have been held down by competition with wages around the world, cannot afford to keep adding more debt. Businesses find that slow wage growth in the US holds down demand. Because of this slow growth in the demand, businesses don’t need much additional debt to expand their businesses either.

Commodity Prices Are Extremely Sensitive to Lack of Demand

Commodities, by their nature, are things we use a lot of. It is usually difficult to store very much of these commodities. As a result, it is easy for supply and demand to get out of balance. Because of this, prices swing widely.

Demand is really a measure of affordability. If wages are lagging behind, then an increase in debt (for example, to buy a new house or a new car) can substitute for a lack of savings from wages. Unfortunately, such increases in debt have not been happening recently. We saw in Figure 5, above, that recent growth in US debt is lagging behind. If very many countries find themselves with wages rising slowly, and debt is not rising much either, then it is easy for commodity demand to fall behind supply. In such a case, prices of commodities will tend to fall behind the cost of production–exactly the problem the world has been experiencing recently. The problem started as early as 2012, but has been especially bad in the past year.

The way the governments of several countries have tried to fix stagnating economic growth is through a program called Quantitative Easing (QE). This program produces very low interest rates. Unfortunately, QE doesn’t really work as intended for commodities. QE tends to increase the supply of commodities, but it does not increase the demand for commodities.

The reason QE increases the supply of commodities is because yield-starved investors are willing to pour large amounts of capital into projects, in the hope that commodity prices will rise high enough that investments will be profitable–in other words, that investments in shares of stock will be profitable and also that debt can be repaid with interest. A major example of this push for production after QE started in 2008 is the rapid growth in US “liquids” production, thanks in large part to extraction from shale formations.

Figure 6. US oil and other liquids production, based on EIA data. Available data is through November, but amount shown is estimate of full year.

Figure 6. US oil and other liquids production, based on EIA data. Available data is through November, but amount shown is estimate of full year.

As we saw in Figure 5, the ultra-low interest rates have not been successful in encouraging new debt in general. These low rates also haven’t been successful in increasing US capital expenditures (Figure 7). In fact, even with all of the recent shale investment, capital investment remains low relative to what we would expect based on past investment patterns.

Figure 7. US Fixed Investment (Factories, Equipment, Schools, Roads) Excluding Consumer Durables as Ratio to GDP, based in US Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Figure 7. US Fixed Investment (Factories, Equipment, Schools, Roads) Excluding Consumer Durables as Ratio to GDP, based in US Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Instead, the low wages that result from globalization, without huge increases in debt, make it difficult to keep commodity prices up high enough. Workers, with low wages, delay starting their own households, so have no need for a separate apartment or house. They may also be able to share a vehicle with other family members. Because of the mismatch between supply and demand, commodity prices of many kinds have been falling. Oil prices, shown on Figure 9, have been down, but prices for coal, natural gas, and LNG are also down. Oil supply is up a little on a world basis, but not by an amount that would have been difficult to absorb in the 1960s and 1970s, when prices were much lower.

Figure 9. World oil production and price. Production is based on BP, plus author's estimate for 2016. Historical oil prices are calculated based on a higher than usual recent inflation rate, assuming Shadowstats' view of inflation is correct.

Figure 9. World oil production and price. Production is based on BP, plus author’s estimate for 2016. Historical oil prices are calculated based on a higher than usual recent inflation rate, assuming Shadowstats’ view of inflation is correct.

Developing Countries are Often Commodity Exporters 

Developing countries can be greatly affected if commodity prices are low, because they are often commodity exporters. One problem is obviously the cutback in wages, if it becomes necessary to reduce commodity production.  A second problem relates to the tax revenue that these exports generate. Without this revenue, it is often necessary to cut back funding for programs such as building roads and schools. This leads to even more job loss elsewhere in the economy. The combination of wage loss and tax loss may make it difficult to repay loans.

Obviously, if low commodity prices persist, this is another limit to globalization.


We have identified two different limits to globalization. One of them has to do with limits on the amount of goods and services that developed countries can absorb before those imports unduly disrupt local economies, either through job loss, or through more need for debt than the developed economies can handle. The other occurs because of the sensitivity of many developing nations have to low commodity prices, because they are exporters of these commodities.

Of course, there are other issues as well. China has discovered that if its coal is burned in great quantity, it is very polluting and a problem for this reason. China has begun to reduce its coal consumption, partly because of pollution issues.

Figure 10. China's energy consumption by fuel, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.

Figure 10. China’s energy consumption by fuel, based on data of BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015.

There are many other limiting factors. Fresh water is a major problem, throughout much of the developing world. Adding more people and more industry makes the situation worse.

One problem with globalization is a long-term tendency to move manufacturing production to countries with ever-lower standards in many ways: ever-lower pollution controls, ever-lower safety standards for workers, and ever-lower wages and benefits for workers. This means that the world becomes an ever-worse place to work and live, and the workers in the system become less and less able to afford the output of the system. The lack of buyers for the output of the system makes it increasingly difficult to keep prices of commodities high enough to support their continued production.

The logical end point, even beyond globalization, is for automation and robots to perform nearly all production. Of course, if that happens, there will be no one to buy the output of the system. Won’t that be a problem?

Adequate wages are critical to making any system work. As the system has tended increasingly toward globalization, politicians have tended to focus more and more on the needs of businesses and governments, and less on the needs of workers. At some point, the lack of buyers for the output of the system will tend to bring the whole system down.

Thus, at some point, the trend toward globalization and automation must stop. We need buyers for the output from the system, and this is precisely the opposite of the direction in which the system is trending. If a way is not found to fix the system, it will ultimately collapse. At a minimum, the trend toward increasing imports will end–if it hasn’t already.


How will falling Oil Prices impact the Economy?

Gail Tverberg is a researcher on subjects related to energy and the economy and writes for Gail Tverberg raises an interesting question on the impact of falling Oil Prices on the growth of the economy. With popular perception being that the significant decline in oil prices will bring about a positive change in the growth of the economy but is that likely? Gail lays out the reasons as to why this might not be the case with the following reasons:


1. Oil producers can’t really produce oil for $30 per barrel.

2. Oil producers really need prices that are higher than the technical extraction costs, making the situation even worse.

3. When oil prices drop very low, producers generally don’t stop producing.

4. Oil demand doesn’t increase very rapidly after prices drop from a high level.

5. The sharp drop in oil prices in the last 18 months has little to do with the cost of production.

6. One contributing factor to today’s low oil prices is a drop-off in the stimulus efforts of 2008.

7. The danger with very low oil prices is that we will lose the energy products upon which our economy depends.

8. The economy cannot get along without an adequate supply of oil and other fossil fuel products.

9. Many people believe that oil prices will bounce back up again, and everything will be fine. This seems unlikely.

10. The rapid run up in US oil production after 2008 has been a significant contributor to the mismatch between oil supply and demand that has taken place since mid-2014.


Things aren’t working out the way we had hoped. We can’t seem to get oil supply and demand in balance. If prices are high, oil companies can extract a lot of oil, but consumers can’t afford the products that use it, such as homes and cars; if oil prices are low, oil companies try to continue to extract oil, but soon develop financial problems.

Decision makers thought that peak oil could be fixed simply by producing more oil and more oil substitutes. It is becoming increasingly clear that the problem is more complicated than this. We need to find a way to make the whole system operate correctly. We need to produce exactly the correct amount of oil that buyers can afford. Prices need to be high enough for oil producers, but not too high for purchasers of goods using oil. The amount of debt should not spiral out of control. There doesn’t seem to be a way to produce the desired outcome, now that oil extraction costs are high.

Unfortunately, what we are facing now is a predicament, rather than a problem. There is quite likely no good solution. This is a worry.

Source:Why oil under $30 per barrel is a major problem

The Real Bubble isn’t in Stocks

By Greg Canavan writing for The Daily Reckoning:
–In Friday’s Daily Reckoning I mentioned Europe’s negative interest rates and how Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank (ECB) will attempt to drive them even lower in early December. That’s when the ECB next meets.
–It raises the question, is the global bond market bubble at risk of blowing up? There’s significant commentary and worry about stock markets, but not much about the risks brewing in bonds.
–Consider these worrying statistics, from the Telegraph in the UK:
‘As of late November, roughly $6 trillion of government debt was trading at negative interest rates, led by the Swiss two-year bond at -1.046pc. The German two-year Bund is at -0.4pc.
‘The Germans and Czechs are negative all the way out to six years, the Dutch to five, the French to four and the Irish to three. Bank of America says $17 trillion of bonds are trading at yields below 1pc, including most of the Japanese sovereign debt market.’
–It’s fair to say this is unprecedented in financial history. If central bankers get their wish and inflation starts to pick up, there will be billions of dollars of losses in the bond market.
–That because when yields fall, prices rise. And when yields rise, prices fall.
.–In valuation terms, a bond yielding 1% trades on a P/E ratio of 100 times. A bond yielding 0.5% is on a P/E of 200 times. And you’re worried about stocks trading on a P/E of 15 times?
–The scary thing about the global bond market is that it is much larger than the equity market. That’s a function of prolonged low interest rates and a massive increase in government debt issuance since 2008.
–Do you remember that McKinsey study from the start of the year? It found that between 2007 and 2014, global debt levels had increased by US$57 trillion. That is a huge increase.
–And such is the demand for this ‘safe’ asset, the market has easily absorbed this issuance and bid up the price at the same time. That’s frightening.
–I’m not sure where the tipping point is for the global bond bubble. It depends on what happens with inflation. If the rest of the world goes the way of Japan and enters a long, slow, deflationary phase, then bond prices will stay elevated for many years.
–But if inflation heats up and then gets away from central bankers, trillions of dollars will go up in smoke as capital escapes the bubble bust.
–Where will capital go? Property, equity markets? According to this Telegraph article, prime property will benefit:
‘The Norwegian Pension Fund, the world’s top sovereign wealth fund, is rotating a chunk of its $860bn of assets into property in London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, New York, San Francisco and now Tokyo and East Asia. “Every real estate investment deal we do is funded by sales of government bonds,” says Yngve Slyngstad, the chief executive.’
–This lends weight to Phil Anderson’s Cycles Trends and Forecasts theory that global property markets will experience an almighty boom into 2026. This makes sense if inflation starts to pick up and big pension funds want an inflation hedge.
–Stock should also do well from capital getting out of bonds. After all, in the world of finance, everything is relative.
–But if inflation gets out of control, I wouldn’t want to bet on stock markets doing too well either.
–Think of the world’s balance sheet. There’s a lot more debt than equity, meaning the global economy is highly geared. This boosts growth and return on equity when times are good.
–But if inflation picks up strongly it will erase real economic growth. A lack of real growth means lower returns on equity. In such an environment, global bond AND stocks markets will get smashed.
–I’m not sure how far away a pick-up in inflation is. Bond markets certainly don’t seem too concerned about it right now. The good news is, if you know where to look, you’ll see it coming.
–You just need to read charts every now and then. Actually, I mean look at them. But look at them properly…analytically.
— Take the recent share price action of listed law firm Slater and Gordon. In recent weeks, its share price has collapsed. Have a look at the chart below. As you can see, the share price began to move lower before the negative announcement.
–That is, the market knew something was brewing before Slater and Gordon released the news to the ASX. In fact, the share price lost around 40% of its value prior to the release.
Source: BigCharts

–Let’s leave aside the irony of a law firm issuing an announcement after its share price had already collapsed (continuous disclosure, anyone?) and focus on the point.
–That is, the market will generally give you clues about coming moves. With Slater and Gordon, for example, you should have sold when the stock price broke below $2.50. That was a break to new lows and a sign that all was not well.
–A few days later the negative announcement about regulatory changes in the UK vindicated that sign.
–The message here is that the market will generally always give you a clue of impending moves if you know how and where to look. Of course, it’s not fool proof. Sometimes the market throws of false signals.
–But if you want to improve your odds, always listen to what the market is saying before you act. It’s much smarter than you, so pay attention.

Greg Canavan
For The Daily Reckoning

Financial Markets On Schedule 22/08/2015

US stock markets have fallen strongly over the last week completing the topping process that has lasted for many long months. Stock markets are expected to move down to the 15855 level basis DJIA (S&P500 1820) and lower. Our predictions while slow to come to fruition are right on track. It is important to understand that time and prices do not move in a linear mutual fashion.

Stocks, once bottomed below 15855 (1820) will begin a counter rally. The nature of the counter rally is important and will determine the direction of stock markets and economic activity in general for many years to come.

Should US stocks fail to make a new high over the next 3-9 months will confirm a major downturn and a long term bear market. (More on that later). If it does however make new high it has the potential to run on as asset inflation leads stocks and other asset classes into a final frenzy of asset buying. The amount of money printing over the last years could force an exponential rise in asset classes if we see stock markets recover well. History repeats itself and Gold in 1980, the Tulip Craze of 1636-1637 and the South Sea Bubble of 1720.

We at Emerging Events consider that path to be a lower probability. The potential for stock markets to rebound and rollover to begin a new downward move is very high. We hold this view is supported by long term Austrian Business Cycle Theory, and the fact that the world is not producing enough income to service the amount of debt that exists (both public and private).

However we are not paid to make guesses and so now we wait and watch carefully. We will update and advise as soon as the picture clarifies.

The Great Sovereign Debt Crisis Coming Soon

Starting in Europe and reaching public consciousness when Japan implodes before engulfing the USA and remaining Liberal-Democratic nations.

The Great Sovereign Debt Crisis of the 21st Century is steadily gaining momentum. The forces of deflation have been steadily building since 2000 and the stage is set over the next 6-12 months where the reality of public plundering of the means of production comes home to roost. The weight of public and private debt, government regulation and leverage, fraudulent economics and fallacious political thinking that assumes that if you keep taking and spending other people’s money you will never ever run out!

Yet this is exactly what is happening. The politicians have borrowed to deliver on promises they were never going to be around to see delivered. They’ve debased the their currency and now we have reached the problem that there is so much debt in the world that the world does not have enough income to service that debt.

Historically its happened many times before of course and yet we never seem to learn. Empires grow and prosper, politicians make promises, governments and people borrow and everyone takes for granted the wealth that has been achieved until finally, it all collapses. History records the rise and fall of civilizations on exactly this premise. It’s always government and the self-seeking of leaders that cause civilizations to self-destruct.

While we observe the rise and fall of empires due to reasons of currency debasement or war, we can also observe that these are merely the mechanisms that cause the problems. Behind them lies the cyclic nature of humanity. Deep in the limbic system of the human brain reside deep impulses that play out at individual and aggregate levels.

We might look back at the Tulip Mania Bubble of the Dutch Golden Age (1634-1637) and wonder how people might have been so crazy as to invest in tulips. The Tulip Mania occurred on the back of a Europe-wide debasement of coins (1619-1622) used to finance war. Yet they did and future historians will look back at early 21st century share, commodity, real estate prices and wonder “how could they have been so blind?”TulipPricesDebasement of the currency has occurred this time by closing the link between gold and paper money and the massive printing of money that subsequently occurred. Each era brings the usual excuse “this time its different”. But the same debasing of money, the same political hubris, the same grasp for political power create the same drivers that cause the boom and the bust.

We watch at the moment the European debt drama playing out in Greece. Other nations sit on the edge of potential debt crises including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Puerto Rica and various cities of the US. This is just the beginning. Soon we shall see the debt crisis spreading to northern Europe, Japan, China and the US. Its about sovereign debt of course, the debt accumulated by generations of politicians spending other people’s money.SouthSeaIn Japan they experienced this in the early 1930’s when massive money printing operations inflated their economy. It resulted in the assassination of the Finance Minister and Prime Minister, the establishment of the military as the power brokers of Japanese politics and the beginnings of the build up for for WWII. That didn’t end well for the Japanese people.

Between 1740 and 1783, the French experienced it with the massive indebtedness of the monarchy, high taxes, high levels of regulation and cronyism led to the French Revolution, Napoleon and a final defeat in 1815.

Pax Romana followed a similar path where eventually the debasement of the currency and accumulated debt caused the empire to implode. To look at Pax Americana is to see an identical script unfolding. Massively unsustainable debt levels, vast militarization, endless monetary debasement, constitutional decay and subjugation of citizens by taxation, regulation and blatant spying signal, as it has in many previous civilizations, the demise of this short lived empire.

Using financial markets as a barometer we observe markets in major topping patterns, working out of main trends. The next 3-6 months will prove critical in determining if the Great Sovereign Debt Crisis has truly arrived or if there is still enough gas in the tank for one last sprint before the weight of debt, regulation and political hubris bring down the liberal – democratic nations of the world. dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart-2015-08-07Once again the cyclic nature of human egress and regress is playing out at individual and aggregate levels and from where we stand, major and minor cycles of human endeavor are changing direction. Crisis bring danger and opportunity for those so prepared.

Financial Markets Update 25/07/2015

At this stage we are set for a stock market crash in the US for the fourth quarter of 2015. As per our previous warnings our Business Cycle Analysis suggests M2 NSA quarterly average money supply growth is collapsing, undercutting the existing capital-consumption structure of the US economy. M2 NSA has fallen to 1.5% from its March 2015 peak of 8.25%. Furthermore we now have a series of lower highs and lower lows occurring since 2011 implying a long term weakening of the capital-consumption structure.

US Stock Markets
Translating that into stock market prices we at Emerging Events suggest the potential for one last high on the DJIA and S&P500 is still present. The DJIA has the potential to rally to 18351-18500 (S&P 2134-2150). A fall below DJIA 17465 (S&P 2044) would see this invalidated and a confirmation that the top is already in. Substantial falls are directly ahead. Our short term downside target once the top has been confirmed remains below DJIA 15855 (S&P 2061).

Sentiment in gold has reached extremely pessimistic levels. Whilst the potential for marginally new lows can occur the next major move will be a move to above US$1307 before the resumption of the long term downtrend from its 2011 highs. The move above US$1307 should be a very fast move.

US Interest Rates
Long interest rates appear to be completing a consolidation phase – basing before moving substantially higher. Thus the trap will be closing to trigger “The Great Sovereign Debt Crisis of the 21st Century”. In the short term however there is potential for interest rates to continue to base prior to the commencement of this upward move on rates. Expect 30 Year US Treasuries to work into the 2.75-2.85% before moving higher with the potential to spend more time basing. When the up move gets underway we see the 4.5-5.0% for 30 year Treasuries as the next interim target. Expect global interest rates to follow accordingly.

The US$ has strengthened since our last financial markets update. This is in keeping with our view that money will continue to be sucked from the periphery to the centre. We anticipate the US$ to continue to strengthen sucking money from the third world, Asia and Europe with frequent rallies along the way. Expect the Euro to test its recent low around 1.04 and potentially 1.00. The $Yen will move above 125 – 130. Aus$ to test 70 cents.

Australian Stock Market
The nature of the stock market has since the 2009 lows has been a corrective recovery to date. It has failed to make new highs whilst other world stock markets have done so. This reflects the major restructuring needed in the Australian economy. We anticipate the Australian stock market to continue its down trend and look for further acceleration downwards as the rest of the world starts to catch up later this year. Significant falls lie ahead and initially we are looking for a test of the 2009 lows.

Oil & Gas
We see oil & gas continuing to consolidate its falls of early 2015. At the moment they are probing towards the lows. We see those lows holding up and eventually oil prices moving to test the US$67-68 per barrel level for crude before a resumption of the long term downtrend and our long term target of US$12 per bbl.


Greatest Risk

Martin Armstrong writes:

The greatest crisis we face is the destruction of liquidity that government is causing by their hunt for loose change. Their desperate need for money is tearing the world economy apart at the seams. Even in Europe, the attempt to force a political union upon people by denying them the right to vote is ripping apart the cooperative connections established following World War II with the Treaty of Rome. The forced monetary and political union in Brussels undermines what they were trying to create – European Peace.


Middle East Turning Net Borrowers?

By Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics:


Further evidence that 2015.75 is really the peak in a Massive Debt Bubble: The Middle East has always been on a cash basis as their revenues from oil exempted them from ever borrowing money – that is not the case today.

As oil prices rose, spending programs also anticipated no end in sight. So as oil peaked and has begun a technology-shift bear market, those spending programs are causing budget deficits to appear in the Middle East for the first time. Not only has Saudi Arabia issued its first bond issue of $4 billion to cover budget deficits, other countries may follow in the region.

The May turning point has indeed been a profound turn on the long-term setting the stage for the reversal in the short-term come 2015.75. If you can comprehend how everything is connected, you can see these events coming. Since May, Saudi Arabia’s foreign assets have entered crash mode. In May, foreign asset holdings fell over $672 billion. Saudi Arabia sold assets drawing down its reserves to cover the budget deficit.


Yanis Reveals EU Denial of Any Right of the People to Vote

Varoufakis Yanis

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has come out to reveal the quite shocking and anti-democratic events that took place during the last Eurogroup meeting. First, they do hate Yanis’ guts, for he understands far more about the economy than anyone in Brussels. At their demand, any further discussions will be without him. What led to the EU breaking off was exactly what we reported previously — they do not want any member state to EVER allow the people to vote on the euro. Brussels has become a DICTATORSHIP and is so arrogant without any just cause, believing that they know better than the people.

We are watching the total collapse of Democracy and the birth of a new era — Economic Totalitarianism from arrogant people who are totally clueless beyond their own greed for power and money.


Editor Note: Greece is the end of the beginning for the EZ and the beginning of a long period of political, social and economic instability that co-incides with the topping phase of the upward phase of the Industrial Revolution cycle that began in 1783-85.

ABCT Modelling shows US economy vulnerable at present to shocks

Our Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) model indicates potential trouble ahead.

It appears the capital-consumption structure of the US economy is vulnerable to potential shocks with the risk of economic activity failing. For existing capital-consumption structures to be maintained, our modelling shows M2 non-seasonally adjusted money supply growth which is currently running at around 7.3% p.a. needs to be running at 10 – 10.5%. The massive M2 growth over the last 8 years may well have a created a trap for central bankers who have engaged in money printing activity to support the economy. To bend the analogy used to describe the effects of money printing, there is not enough “punch” coming to the party and whilst the party staggers on , the participants are at risk of getting a hangover.

We can conclude therefore that unless there is an increase in M2 NSA money supply growth, a high risk exists for capital structures to fall. Interest rate markets are moving in anticipation of US Federal Reserve interest rate policy adjustments later this year. This will impact stock markets and real estate markets affecting near term direction. Whether this is the start of a bigger cyclical downturn remains to be seen.

Six Game Changers in Six Years

In no set order:

  1. Solar costs are set to drop with new technologies and manufacturing techniques. This will  impact on the energy industry with relief of burden on coal, oil and gas sources of energy and their resultant impact on the environment. There will still be a need for electricity utilities but their role will be reduced.
  2. Online education is already making rapid inroads into traditional education processes .at university and school levels. For government this is extremely challenging as technology is rapidly ripping central control away and placing it firmly in the hands of the consumer. Education costs will decline and we will witness the old institutions crumble in the face of emerging competition and new delivery methods.
  3. Blockchain based technologies will make a huge impact on decentralizing and revolutionizing the way transactions in banking, finance and law happen. Not to mention computer programming, scientific research and communications. Blockchain technology came to public awareness with the emergence of Bitcoin. Its roots extend however from cryptography – the science of coding and decoding messages for the purposes of privacy.
  4. Climate change will not be a social or political issue in the minds of the public within 5 years. That’s not to say that change does not need to happen – a lot still needs to change to improve the quality of environment and human and planetary sustainability. Emerging technologies will help a lot and education of people in the way they treat their environment will result in significant environmental improvement even in the next 6 years.
  5. A digital healthcare revolution is commencing now where people will soon be able to monitor their own health and respond as needed. New technologies controlled from a smart phone will be able to monitor all major health aspects including ‘wet’ analysis of blood, heart, breath, urine and other sampling tests. If results warrant, your device will be able to recommend various responses including taking yourself to hospital if required or calling an ambulance in extreme cases. Once again competition and technology are making old modes of doing things irrelevant. Often these shifts are occurring where government has taken over an industry and underfunding and lack of adaption have made the industry inefficient and ineffective.
  6. The coming global depression lasting 8 to 13 years commencing anytime between now and 2018. The coming together of many factors including the level of indebtedness of liberal democratic countries, aging demographics, the inability of global economic growth to accelerate and the crushing level of regulation facing most societies. Cyclically we are also witnessing the peaking of a cycle that spans the massive growth of the west – the Industrial Revolution. As this cycle peaks after some 230 years of growth so we enter the down phase of the cycle in which contraction and liquidation of all the dead wood of that growth phase gets swept away. Thus the path is cleared allowing the birth of a new phase of human growth and development. These cycles occur at many different levels of human existence –  at the individual, societal, ethnic and nation state levels.

Financial Markets Updates

Updating and revising our financial markets forecasts (here and on our Financial Markets Predictions page):

US Stock Markets

As per our 3/23 update, US stocks peaked just 5 days later and has since entered a series of lower lows punctuated with short rallies. Its still to early to determine if a major top is in place but we wait and watch.

The downward move targets DJIA 17,721 (already achieved), 17460, 17,037 to potentially test the mid October lows at 15,855. (S&P500 2061 (already achieved), 2045, 1980 & the October lows at 1820).


It appears gold will bottom at or around the previous 11/07/15 low at US$1131 this coming week. If confirmed we can anticipate a resumption of the counter rally from the September 2011 highs at US$1920. Our target of US$1430-1440 remains in place.

US Dollar

The US dollar has rallied strongly in the last few months. The US$ may already peaked and begun a consolidation phase lasting many months. Specifically:

– US$/Yen: We are anticipating one more high to 124.50+/- before beginning a consolidation phase lasting months.

– Eur/USD: From here or slightly new lows (1.02-1.0495) we view the market has completed its move down and anticipate a major bounce. We anticipate a test of the 1.60 Eur/USD level.

– Aud/USD: anticipating marginal new lows below 0.7560 before a move back towards 0.9500.

Crude Oil

Oil is continuing its consolidation phase before resuming its down move to our US$12/barrel target we first determined in 2011. Short term we view the market making equal lows (US$43.58) to slightly new lows before rallying back to continue its consolidation phase. Our upside focus is US$68.00 with an extreme case push to US$75.54.

Interest rates

US interest rates have the potential to also spike sharply in the near future. Using futures as our proxy a move on 10 year notes to 110 -115 in 2015 is very doable.

The potential for some markets to rally (gold, silver, oil, Euro, Au$ (US$ weakening) suggests inflationary pressures emerging in 2015 in the US. This is in line with our money supply analysis and Austrian Business Cycle Theory. Alternatively, a crisis in the next 6 months may cause markets to spike in response to some international political event. Several scenarios are potential: a Greek default and/or Grexit in the summer months, Ukraine/Russia troubles and China.

The global financial system stands on the brink of second credit crisis

John Ficenec writing for the The Telegraph

The world financial system stands on the brink of a second credit crisis as interbank lending shows increasing risk

. Weather: record 110,000 lightning bolts strike during 'superstorms'
The second credit crisis is already unfolding in China Photo: ALAMY

The world economy stands on the brink of a second credit crisis as the vital transmission systems for lending between banks begin to seize up and the debt markets fall over. The latest round of quantitative easing from the European Central Bank will buy some time but it looks like too little too late.

It was the collapse of US house prices back in 2007 that resulted in the seizure of the credit markets and banking crisis of 2008. And it would be easy to lay the blame for the 2008 financial crisis at the doorstep of American home owners, easy but wrong. The collapse of the US housing market was not the cause of the crisis, it was merely a symptom of the more insidious ills of cheap credit, low risk and the promise of another bailout round the corner.

The Keynesian pump priming that has taken place on a colossal scale across the world is failing. The Chinese economy was growing at 12pc in 2010, but that slowed to 7.7pc in 2013 and 7.4pc last year — its weakest in 24 years. Economists expect Chinese growth to slow to 7pc this year. It is the once booming property sector that has turned into a bust, and is now dragging down the wider economy as the bubble deflates.

The second global credit crisis is now already unfolding in China some 6,800 miles away from the epicentre of the first in the US. The bonds of Chinese real estate companies are now falling like dominoes. Kaisa, a Shenzhen-based, Hong Kong-listed developer that raised $2.5bn on international markets had to be bailed out by rival group Sunac last week after it defaulted onits debts. The bonds of other Chinese real estate groups such as Glorious Property and Fantasia have also sold off heavily as the contagion spreads.

Chinese authorities have responded to try and contain the situation. The People’s Bank of China introduced a surprise 50-point cut in the Reserve Requirement Ratio (RRR) from 20pc to 19.5pc. But this misses the point, the credit system in China is completely unsustainable unless new money is printed every year to refinance the old, simply tinkering to ease liquidity won’t cut it.

The strain in its banking system is highlighted by the elevated levels of the Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate (SHIBOR), which shows Chinese banks are worried about lending to each other.

There is no schadenfreude in watching China unravel. The idea that this is an isolated incident is laughable, remember the very same was said of US subprime. The problem is that banks such as Standard Chartered and HSBC have both rapidly increased their lending operations in Asia since 2008.

Loans are very easy to make, it is getting the money back that is tricky. If loans go bad in Asia they will ultimately have to be recognised on the very same group balance sheet from which finance is extended here in the UK. So, the contagion can quickly spread from the Chinese property market to a poorly funded UK bank that has never set foot in Asia. That is because UK banks borrow billions in short term funding from each other. Loan losses in China can very quickly become a UK problem.

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a guide to how worried UK banks are about lending to each other, has been steadily rising during the past nine months. Part of this process is all a healthy return to normal pricing of risk after six years of extraordinary monetary stimulus. However, as the essential transmission systems of lending between banks begin to take the strain it is quite possible that six years of reliance on central banks for funds has left the credit system unable to cope.

It seems nothing has been learned. The response to the underlying causes of the first global financial collapse, namely cheap debt, low risk and bailouts, has simply been a heroic effort to create cheaper credit, lower risk and even larger bailouts. It hasn’t worked.

A new study reveals the staggering scale of the problem as global debt has ballooned by $57 trillion since 2007 to reach about $200 trillion, according to McKinsey & Co. The main culprits of monetary expansion has been China, which launched a 4 trillion yuan (£386bn) stimulus package, the US Federal Reserve has launched three rounds of QE adding $3.7 trillion worth of assets to its holdings, the Bank of England has spent about £375bn and Japan has increased its asset buying programme to 80 trillion yen (£454bn) a year, up from the previous rate of 60-70 trillion yen.

The money has flowed the path of least resistance into the assets that provide the greatest return. Equities have soared and the stock markets in the UK and US are just shy off record highs. Taking a look across the companies who’s shares have benefited it is the new technology stocks that have risen the fastest and sit on the highest valuations.

Like every stock market mania, the most overpriced assets are the ones furthest divorced from any sound valuation. Eye watering prices are paid for companies with less than 50 employees using a “this time it’s different” formula based on clicks, eyes, views, or active members to persuade investors to part with their savings.

Some truly bizarre asset classes have sprung up like mushrooms in the fetid ground of quantitative easing. The crypto-currency of Bitcoin is perhaps the greatest example. Bitcoin has no central bank and only exists online as a virtual currency. It is seen as a rival to traditional state controlled money and payment systems, but in reality they are two sides of the same coin. Bitcoin flourished as quantitative easing was expanded, soaring in value by more than 700pc in 2013. Now quantitative easing has ended Bitcoin has collapsed.

US Money printing has boosted all markets to record highs

The fledgling crypto-currency hasn’t been alone in retracing its central bank funded gains. All asset classes are now crumbling. The oil price has collapsed from $115 per barrel in June last year to about $52 at the end of last week, iron ore has slumped from $140 per tonne in January last year to $62 per tonne at the end of last week.

It is not only asset classes that that are wavering, the key indicators of international economic activity are also flashing red. The Baltic Dry Index which is seen as a leading indicator for world economic growth tumbled to a 29-year low at 559 points last week.

The second credit crisis is already unfolding in China and the latest round of European money will struggle to halt the contagion in credit markets.


At $200 Trillion The World’s Debt Cup Overfloweth

by Bloomberg Business

The world economy is still built on debt.

That’s the warning today from McKinsey & Co.’s research division which estimates that since 2007, the IOUs of governments, companies, households and financial firms in 47 countries has grown by $57 trillion to $199 trillion, a rise equivalent to 17 percentage points of gross domestic product.

While not as big a gain as the 23 point surge in debt witnessed in the seven years before the financial crisis, the new data make a mockery of the hope that the turmoil and subsequent global recession would put the globe on a more sustainable path. Government debt alone has swelled by $25 trillion over the past seven years and developing economies are responsible for almost half of the overall gain.

McKinsey sees little reason to think the trajectory of rising leverage will change any time soon.

Source: McKinsey

 Here are three areas of particular concern:

1. Debt is too high for either austerity or growth to cure

Politicians will instead need to consider more unorthodox measures such as asset sales, one-off tax hikes and perhaps debt restructuring programs.

 Source: McKinsey

2. Households in some nations are still boosting debts

Eighty percent of households have a higher debt than in 2007 including some in northern Europe as well as Canada and Australia.

Source: McKinsey

 3. China’s debt is rising rapidly

Thanks to real estate and shadow banking, debt in the world’s second-largest economy has quadrupled from $7 trillion in 2007 to $28 trillion in the middle of last year. At 282 percent of GDP, the debt burden is now larger than that of the U.S. or Germany. Especially worrisome to McKinsey is that half the loans are linked to the cooling property sector.

Source: McKinsey

via A World Overflowing With Debt – Bloomberg Business.




Era of Transparency & Accountability Beginning for Politicians

An era of transparency & accountability is beginning for politicians.

Very shortly the U.S. Congress will shortly vote to make Economic Impact Assessments (EIAs) a mandatory part of every executive rule or regulation passed with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more (REINS Act SR226 & HR 47).

Elsewhere the rise of right wing politics in the EU and UK is forcing scrutiny on politicians and bringing them to account. In many democracies it may become mandatory to attach economic impact assessment statements to each piece of legislation  If this trend reaches an extreme we will see calls to have politicians and government unable to raise any debt. given their track record however, maybe this is not such a bad thing.

The Australian state of Queensland election is also forcing the incumbent Premier Newman to adopt transparency and accountability principles. We anticipate transparency and accountability will become the new fashion for liberal democratic governments over the next 3-5 years.

The ‘political hubris bubble’ is finally beginning to burst. Social mood is swinging into action and voters are acting on their long held distrust of politicians. Firstly they exercised their democratic privilege to put several governments into ‘hung parliament’ balances (UK, USA Australia) and now they are beginning to hold them accountable. The days where politicians can promise, over-commit and overspend is coming to an end.

End of the Long Game 2009 – 2018: Part II: The Bear Argument

Part II: the Bear Argument
We also point out our alternative scenario which, if, going to happen, is starting now. This scenario suggests stock market prices are peaking in what was a false move to the upside over 2009-2014. This implies that the stock market correction which began in 2000 is still underway and has many years left to unfold. It also implies that stock markets are about to undergo a rapid and relentless decline to their 2009 low points and most probably lower. Falling oil, gold, metal and bond prices over the last few months support this scenario which suggests economies are still undergoing this huge consolidation.

The current divergence between stock markets and commodities indicate a major topping process is underway. In addition Austrian Business Cycle Theory suggests a massive divergence between the amounts of new money coming into the system on a year on year basis is diverging with capital goods prices such as stocks and real estate. This implies the system cannot support asset prices at their current high levels. Even if the US Fed were to begin another round of quantitative easing it would not be enough to sustain asset values – especially stocks at current levels. If this scenario emerges over the next six months we can predict this will give rise to an economic depression lasting 8 to 13 years before an economic recovery gets underway. See the chart below to get a sense of the disparity between M2 Money Supply growth – non seasonally adjusted compared to the weekly DJIA close.

DJIA - M2 NSAThe alternative view suggests it is the resumption of the bear phase of an ongoing correction since 2000. The massive money supply pumping had created the sub-prime bubble that should have been left to sort itself out in the 2008-2009 phase. Since then we have seen bubbles in commodities, education, shares and real estate. The divergence seen in the above M2 NSA Money Supply – DJIA graph illustrates how much worse the situation has grown with stock prices occupying high levels and the amount of new money coming into the system remaining static. This is untenable.

Summary of expectations – short term bull market scenario
• Expect stock markets to correct more deeply over 2015 (14720, 15340 (DJIA) and 1738, 1814 (SP500)) against a growing bullish optimism before beginning an upward exponential surge in stock, commodity and real estate prices. Anticipate any decline of stock markets or economic data to be met by central banks restarting their QE programs. 14720, 15340 (DJIA) and 1738, 1814 (SP500)
• The collapse of oil prices in the last quarter of 2014 creates a potential game changer for most economies as cheaper energy prices flow through to Main Street. It is likely Crude Oil prices will be capped for the next few years at around US$80 per barrel. This takes the pressure off consumer prices but once again translates into higher share and real estate prices.
• Anticipate consumer price inflation to remain low in the US, UK, EU and Japan. At the same time higher than normal unemployment and the potential for continuing stagnant economic activity will prevail. At this time we anticipate seeing US consumer inflation increase dramatically with the potential to see 4-6% very quickly. The only thing really holding CPI figures down at present, is falling oil prices in late 2014.
• Interest rates will start to rise in 2015 as central banks try to normalize credit markets.
• • Expect credit markets to re-price themselves if inflation does kick up creating a liquidity trap for central banks.
• Anticipate the US, Japan, UK and German stock markets to benefit at the expense of emerging markets as cash gets sucked from the periphery to the centre. Similarly the US dollar will continue to strengthen as money floods back to the centre from the periphery.
• Expect a collapse in stock and commodity prices followed by economic contraction where both inflation and high unemployment are experienced at the same time after this spike in stock and commodity markets prices. This may not happen for another 3 years as the ‘Roaring Teens” finishes up.
• Anticipate social and political dislocation in many countries including the US to continue to escalate.

Summary of expectations – short term bear market scenario
• Expect stock markets to begin a relentless stair step down punctuated with savage counter rallies. The nature of the decline will tell us if this is a correction in a broader ongoing bull market or the beginning of the bear market. One clue would be if the correction points mentioned here are taken out in one continuous uninterrupted decline (14720, 15340 (DJIA) and 1738, 1814 (SP500)). Anticipate any decline of stock markets or economic data to be met by central banks escalating their QE programs. 14720, 15340 (DJIA) and 1738, 1814 (SP500)
• We might also anticipate inflation to break out in an unprecedented way especially in the US, UK and Japan and central banks will be unable to contain it. At the same time higher than normal unemployment and continuing stagnant economic activity will prevail. Interest rates may rally sharply on rising inflation and start to rise as central banks try to normalize credit markets in 2015 before plunging as evidence of the growing bear market gathers.
• The coming phase will be difficult to read as markets enter their final death throws and competing bullish and bearish forces play out.
• The coming depression that unfolds will last 8 to 13 years.
• Anticipate increasing social and political dislocation in many countries including the US.

Conclusion & End Game
Whether we have a few more months or years of twilight before the beginning of a new “Dark Age”, suffice to say, that from now onwards we can expect increasingly tough times punctuated by phases of optimism. And of course the coming generation of correction will not merely be confined to asset prices and the vagaries of fiat money and bad economics, but also to societies and politics, both domestic and geo-political. Generations of people will learn about long forgotten natural laws and how it applies to human behavior. Social mood will have become dark and this will also express itself through every aspect of society, both culturally and economically. Music, the arts, fashion, crime, politics, social mood and drama will all reflect the new paradigm. The growing social political and economic tensions we have witnessed a harbinger of what is to come. This phase will reset the stage for a new beginning for people from which a new and sustained social and economic recovery will slowly begin. By the time that point has arrived however, the nature of our societies and the way we relate with people and between nations will have changed. The wrangling about why it had to happen will be well underway.

Oil Price Predictions

In 2011 we forecast that crude oil prices would in the long term move towards US$12.00 per barrel. Oil prices just touched US$50.00 per barrel, well on our way towards our target.

Whilst oil has considerable potential for a counter rally we believe this rally will only relieve the oversold nature of the market.

Implications for the oil price collapse are profound with business and consumers benefiting from the lower prices. This may stimulate low consumer price inflation, strong stock markets and real estate prices as consumers take advantage of increased disposable income. Our Bull Market Argument outlines how this phase reflects the 1921 – 1929 period in US economic history, also known as the “Roaring 20’s”.

Debt based on high oil prices will suffer of course and could trigger banking issues. If perceived by markets as a negative phenomenon, the impact is highly deflationary and could pull the world into a global deflationary spiral and depression. This is in line with our Bear Market Argument.

We anticipate oil prices to consolidate between US$40.00 to US$80.00 for the rest of 2015 and potentially into 2016 before the long term downtrend carries prices down towards our target. (More specific consolidation targets to be posted later).

Peak Babies, Not Oil

Patrick Cox writing for Tech Digest:

Much of my career has been spent refuting this or that doomsday scenario. From peak oil to overpopulation, I’ve been on the other side of the hysteria and often vilified for it. In the last few days, however, a Wall Street Journal headline told us that “Oil Prices Tumble Amid Global Supply Glut.” Also, a LiveScience story told us that “US Birth Rate Hits All-Time Low.”

Neither one of these headlines should surprise anybody. The math behind both of these stories has been clear for a very long time. Neither peak oil nor overpopulation fears were based on actual science. This, of course, raises questions about our species’ susceptibility to periodic Chicken Little hysteria. I have no explanation for this innate tendency, but it’s been evident for thousands of years.

In the modern cautionary tale, first published in the Anglosphere in the mid-1800s, it’s a chicken that cries that the sky is falling. Ancient Buddhists from India and Tibet told the same basic story, but the central character was an alarmist rabbit. That version was spread into Africa and then via the slave trade into America where the oral version was recorded by Joel Chandler Harris in his Uncle Remus books. What sets it apart from the older versions is that Brother Rabbit starts the panic but never actually falls for it himself. I’m reminded of some current global warming activists who fly in private jets and live in estates with carbon footprints bigger than small towns.

This isn’t to say, however, that we have nothing to worry about. In the immortal words of Henry Saint Clair Fredericks (stage name Taj Mahal), “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t right.”

So I’m not exactly scared, but there are things that concern me. The oil glut isn’t one of them, but historically low birthrates do have enormous implications for investors. The last available data, compiled in 2013 by the CDC, show 62.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in the US. That’s down 10 percent from 2007, which was already below replacement rate. In 2008, the US birthrate was 2.08 births per woman, below the 2.1 level needed to replace the population. Today, we are seeing the lowest recorded American birthrate since government started keeping track in 1909. New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are even significantly lower.

In and of itself, a sub-replacement birthrate isn’t necessarily a problem. The problem is that our ruling elite seem totally unaware that it’s happening. Routinely, in fact, we hear from certain politicians that overpopulation remains a pressing problem even as populations throughout the West are shrinking. The same trends, by the way, are already obvious in Asia and Africa where populations continue to increase primarily because people are living longer. Real demographers know that the world population is on track to contracting, and perhaps quite dramatically.

Once again, I recognize that there are upsides to reduced populations. The problem, however, is that so many government policies are still based on the assumption that every generation will be larger than the last. Growing populations are great in many ways. First of all, more young people entering the work force creates demand for all kinds of goods and services. It grows GDP and therefore tax revenues. The simplest way to achieve economic growth is, in fact, to grow the population.

While this is glaringly obvious, it’s remarkable how many economists miss this elephant in the room when talking about countries such as Japan, where economic problems have mirrored the country’s falling population. Last year, the Japanese population shrank by about a quarter million people.

Japan has the highest life expectancy and oldest population in the world, and the older Japanese people expect that the promises made in the past to help support the aged will be honored. It’s not at all clear to me that those promises can be kept, at least as things now stand.

As I’ve written many times, there were about 17 workers per retired person in the United States when I was born in the middle of the last century. Today, the ratio is less than three to one, and getting worse. Already, 30 cents out of every tax dollar collected in America flows to the aged, but much of that money is being borrowed. In effect, the bill for caring for the aged is being sent to future taxpayers, despite the fact that there will be fewer young workers and more aged people to support. This arrangement is not only unsustainable, it’s unethical. In my opinion, the older, wealthier population should help the younger, less wealthy part of the population, the reverse of the current situation.

Every time I’ve written this over the last 30 years or so, I’ve been attacked by people who claim that I’m a fearmonger and that we have plenty of money to support the aged. Today, however, we’re $17 trillion in debt and still borrowing. The current administration doesn’t even acknowledge that the problem exists, so it’s getting harder and harder to make that case.

We need to face the fact that things are going to get worse before they get better. I have little doubt, however, that we will eventually adjust to the new reality. We’ll see policymakers wake up to the new demographics, as they are in Japan, sooner than most of us think. Other countries are also facing facts and are devising solutions. I particularly like the spirit that some Danes are showing in their efforts to counter the country’s low fertility rate. Japan, however, is leading the way in terms of enabling technological solutions through regulatory reform.

The Japanese government understands that the old model is doomed and is actively looking for ways to increase the national work force. There are two obvious ways to do that. One is to bring more women, who have not traditionally worked to the same extent as Japanese men, into the work force. More working women means economic growth and more funds to support an aging population. The other, more long-term solution is to increase birthrates to grow the national work force.

The problem is that the two strategies counteract one another. Japanese women who work have lower birthrates than those who do not. Therefore, the only remaining solution is to extend health spans and working careers, increasing incomes and tax revenues while reducing medical expenses.

There are several ways that the Japanese are working to do this. The most important is the recently accomplished elimination of phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials for stem cell therapies. The second is in the field of dietary supplements and nutraceuticals.

Japanese regulators exercise less direct control over the market but provide more solid, peer-reviewed information for consumers and healthcare providers. Recently, for example, the Japanese government issued a patent to Terra Biological for oxaloacetate (trade name benaGene) for use in “life extension.” Oxaloacetate is one of the NAD+ precursors that I take based on recent research. I also take the NAD+ precursor, nicotinamide riboside (trade name Niagen).

In general, Japan is leading the way in efforts to encourage new anti-aging therapies. In the next few years, I anticipate that Japan will continue to lower regulatory barriers for new biotechnologies. This is very unlike America’s FDA, which doesn’t yet recognize anti-aging or life extension as a legitimate therapeutic target.

The current regulatory environment in the US will change, however, because it has to. The only question is how soon it happens.

Fortunately, there is a growing chorus of rational voices in the US. I would recommend that everybody download and read Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective. This relatively brief presentation was written by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. On its website, the NIA states bluntly:

The world is on the brink of a demographic milestone. Since the beginning of recorded history, young children have outnumbered their elders. In about five years’ time, however, the number of people aged 65 or older will outnumber children under age 5. Driven by falling fertility rates and remarkable increases in life expectancy, population aging will continue, even accelerate. The number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050, with most of the increase in developing countries.

The interesting thing about that quote is that it was written in 2007, which means that this historic change has already come to pass. Back then, the authors warned:

Some governments have begun to plan for the long term, but most have not. The window of opportunity for reform is closing fast as the pace of population aging accelerates. While Europe currently has four people of working age for every older person, it will have only two workers per older person by 2050. In some countries the share of gross domestic product devoted to social insurance for older people is expected to more than double in upcoming years. Countries therefore have only a few years to intensify efforts before demographic effects come to bear.

More than a few years have passed since this report was written and nothing has really changed politically in the US, though the rate of demographic change and the pace of scientific progress, which is pushing out lifespans, have accelerated. Things will, therefore, get worse. The dynamics behind crippling governmental debt internationally are growing.

There are upsides to this totally predictable situation though. One is that we can anticipate many of the outcomes and devise ways of profiting from them. This is why I focus on disruptive biotechnologies that can significantly lower healthcare costs while extending health spans and careers. These biotechnologies provide the only real solution for the demographic transformation, except for the Danish solution mentioned above. I find it fascinating, by the way, that the revolution in biotechnology is happening exactly at the point in history when it’s needed.

Another significant benefit that will accrue from this convergence of forces is that many of us will be able to take advantage of these breakthrough discoveries. I’m incredibly excited about the emergence of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) vaccine which has been used widely in animals, where it seemingly rejuvenates and extends lives. Endothelial precursor therapy has similarly been shown in animals to rejuvenate cardiovascular systems. Hopefully soon, we’ll see brown adipose tissue transplantation curing obesity, diabetes and cholesterol problems. There are, however, significant benefits from recently discovered over-the-counter products.

Whenever I talk to el jefe, señor Mauldin, these days, it seems most of our conversations center on our workouts. Both of us work out and lift weights, as we have for much of our lives. Both of us, however, are making gains that we’ve never seen before. One of the Mauldin Economics executives told me recently that he’d never seen John look so good before, that his arms and shoulders are bigger than they’ve ever been.

I probably shouldn’t claim that I look good, but I can say that I’ve also put on a surprising amount of muscle in the last year. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Both John and I are in our 60s. I work out less than I did than in my 30s, but I’m suddenly lifting much more weight and have more muscle mass than ever. John’s experience is the same.

My only explanation is biotechnology. The NAD⁺ precursors that I mentioned above have been shown in animals to rejuvenate muscle tissue so I’m not surprised to see the effects in humans. I also credit anatabine citrate, though it is at least temporarily unavailable. I’m expecting word on that front soon.

Also, I’m a devoted user of the AVAcore thermogenic device. Recently, a major research organization presented evidence that it may be able to prevent the damage caused by overheating in athletes, but one of the investigating scientists mentioned, as an aside, that it also accelerates training results dramatically. Neither I nor Mauldin Economics have any interest in this privately held company, but I’m evangelical about the benefits, especially to older people. The stronger you are, the lower your risk of disease and mortality.

I realize that the current price of the device is high for many people, but I understand that the company is going to do some sort of crowd-sourcing project in the near future, probably Indiegogo, to fund a much more affordable product. I’ll let you know about the project when I have more information.

One of the reasons that I love the AVAcore device so much is that it perfectly demonstrates the unexpected and dramatic nature of emerging biotechnologies. The notion that exercise capacity and recovery could be dramatically improved by normalizing core body temperature is so unexpected, I’m still in awe over the science and the impact on my health.

It is, however, only the tip of the iceberg. As Japan is demonstrating, an aging population not only wants but demands access to the scientific breakthroughs that can significantly extend health spans. Just as Japan’s regulatory system is bending to the will of its aging population, America’s regulators will be forced to come around.

John and I talk a lot about assisting in that process, and I’ll have more information about that in the future. If you’d like to help in this effort, I suspect there are ways to do so. As it stands, our portfolio contains technologies that I believe will have dramatic impacts on some of the greatest threats to health and longer lives, including Alzheimer’s, cancers, fibrosis, diabetes, and other major diseases. A reformed regulatory system would accelerate therapies to market, which will improve and save lives. It will also allow more of us to live and invest longer.

From the TransTech Digest Research Team:

As Patrick explains above, new biotechnologies will not only extend and improve lives, they will also save the global economy from the implications of a shrinking population. Workers able to stay healthy and remain active in their careers will, quite simply, reduce overall medical spending and lead to an expansion of tax revenues over time.

Today’s transformational technologies—more than perhaps any set of advances the world has ever seen—hold the potential to increase the wealth and the health of all persons in all countries, regardless of their age. Where only a few decades ago many observers saw science fiction, breakthrough research today is working to create previously unfathomable new realities.

You can participate in this process of science fiction becoming science fact in the pages of Patrick’s Transformational Technology Alert. Each month, Patrick profiles a new publicly traded company and shows you the part it plays in the technology revolution ahead. Click here to start a risk-free trial subscription to Transformational Technology Alert today.Sincerely,
Patrick Cox
Patrick Cox
Editor, Transformational Technology Alert

Mauldin Economics


Millennials Aren’t Cheap, They’re Broke

Lynn Parramore writes for AlterNet

Pundits lament that young people are not buying cars and houses.

 Millennials, that perennial favorite topic of pundits, are back in the news. This time they’ve been dubbed the “Cheapest Generation” in a recent piece in the Atlantic Monthly.

Fair assessment? Or fairly out to lunch?  Photo Credit:

“Millennials,” announce the authors, “have turned against both cars and houses in dramatic and historic fashion.” Among the many reasons given for this curious circumstance are new mobile technologies “enabling a different kind of consumption” and patterns of re-urbanization.

The authors do allow that “the Great  Recession is responsible for some of the decline” in purchasing. But they worry that young folks just don’t seem to want to spend as lavishly as their parents did, which is a problem because since the end of World War II, new cars and houses have powered the American economy. “Millennials may have lost interest in both,” they warn. They’re more interested in their smartphones than a new ride or a phat pad.

Here’s another thought: they’re broke. Granted, that’s not as sexy for magazine writers to talk about as sussing out cultural and demographic trends. But it’s awfully hard to buy a house or a car when any of the following apply:

  • You are in student debt up to your eyeballs.
  • You can’t find a job.
  • When you do find a job, that job is insecure, low-wage, with few to no benefits.

A company called Revolution, which examines consumer behavior, came out with a report October 13 that the authors of the Atlantic Monthly piece might have consulted before labeling millennials cheap:

“[The report] revealed key motivations behind why millennials are buying fewer cars. And, contrary to many of the reasons cited in hundreds of articles and reports, the bottom line is clear —they don’t have enough money to buy vehicles due to the continuing weak economy.”


The Great Recession amplified the unemployment and poor jobs and crap wages, but the tale began around the time millennials were born in the 1980s, when Reagan convinced much of America that laissez faire capitalism was the ticket to good times. That was true for a tiny portion of the country, which may now be observed buying McMansions and yachts. But pretty much everyone else, from the middle class on down, got screwed, and the screws are tightening every day.

Millennials have never seen a world in which union-bashing, outsourcing, shareholder value ideology, crap temp jobs, stagnant wages, and growing inequality were not the norm. Most millennials did not go to college, and if they have a high school diploma, it’s worth less than it was than for any generation that came before. Many of the college-educated started out getting exploited as unpaid interns, then didn’t get the jobs they were promised, and subsequently found themselves struggling for one gig after another with plummeting hopes of forging a meaningful career.

Yet pundits are constantly exploring the choices these young people are making as if there is some great mystery to be divined. They aren’t getting married! They’re still living at home with their parents! It must be because they are lazy, or immature, or indecisive, or turning away from consumption for ideological reasons.

No, they just don’t have any money. And money is what you need to do stuff like get married and set up your own household and buy expensive items.

True, you may lose some interest in things you can’t afford to buy and redirect your attention and efforts to stuff that is more attainable. So you think about sharing an apartment instead of a buying a house, or sharing a Zipcar instead of buying your own snazzy new automobile. But these decisions may have a lot more to do with the fact that you just can’t afford what your parents had at your age than some grand urge to live with a small footprint or not to be a spendthrift.

To be young is to be selfish and want things for yourself. It’s hard to imagine that the majority of young people are saying, “No, I don’t think I’ll opt for my own apartment, but rather deal with noisy roommates because really I’m just kind of cheap/environmentally conscious/more interested in downloading apps on my smartphone.” They may be looking for things besides cars and houses to make them happy, and maybe that’s not a bad development in many ways, but it probably isn’t because they are so fundamentally different than generations past. They are simply trying to deal with the raw deal that has been handed to them as best they can. Some pundits describe this as a pragmatic response to the “new economy.” You might also call it trying to survive. Let’s examine what they’re up against.

  • Millennials have the highest unemployment rate of any generation.
  • They have more student loan debt than Gen Xers and Boomers did at their age.
  • More millennials live in poverty than previous generations did at the same stage of life.
  • They make up 61 percent of Americans making minimum wage.
  • Having entered the workforce during an economic downturn, the effects on their future wages will likely be permanent, even if the economy bounces back.

Millennials need decent jobs. They need the power to bargain with employers. They need health insurance that does not suck. They need student debt forgiveness. They need investment in America’s infrastructure. Given that policy in America is currently dictated by the desires of the one percent, which has gotten control of much our political system, they probably aren’t going to get these things anytime soon.

But there are 80 million of them. That’s 25 percent of the U.S. population, and if they could organize themselves, they would be a powerful force to take on the forces that would deprive them of a decent future.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of “Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.” She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.