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China’s Credit Bubble Unprecedented

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Whereas China may have helped to save the world in 2008, its ability to help global GDP has slowly been strangled by its own massive debt levels. Corporate and private sector debt has grown out of all proportions severely limiting China’s ability to grow its way out of its debt problems.  It’s not just Western banks we need worry about.

China’s shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned. Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a “hidden second balance sheet” for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses.

The agency said the scale of credit was so extreme that the country would find it very hard to grow its way out of the excesses as in past episodes, implying tougher times ahead.

“The credit-driven growth model is clearly falling apart. This could feed into a massive over-capacity problem, and potentially into a Japanese-style deflation,” said Charlene Chu, the agency’s senior director in Beijing.

“There is no transparency in the shadow banking system, and systemic risk is rising. We have no idea who the borrowers are, who the lenders are, and what the quality of assets is, and this undermines signalling,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

While the non-performing loan rate of the banks may look benign at just 1pc, this has become irrelevant as trusts, wealth-management funds, offshore vehicles and other forms of irregular lending make up over half of all new credit. “It means nothing if you can off-load any bad asset you want. A lot of the banking exposure to property is not booked as property,” she said.

Concerns are rising after a string of upsets in Quingdao, Ordos, Jilin and elsewhere, in so-called trust products, a $1.4 trillion segment of the shadow banking system.

Bank Everbright defaulted on an interbank loan 10 days ago amid wild spikes in short-term “Shibor” borrowing rates, a sign that liquidity has suddenly dried up. “Typically stress starts in the periphery and moves to the core, and that is what we are already seeing with defaults in trust products,” she said.

Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a “hidden second balance sheet” for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses.

This niche is the epicentre of risk. Half the loans must be rolled over every three months, and another 25pc in less than six months. This has echoes of Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers and others that came to grief in the West on short-term liabilities when the wholesale capital markets froze.

Mrs Chu said the banks had been forced to park over $3 trillion in reserves at the central bank, giving them a “massive savings account that can be drawn down” in a crisis, but this may not be enough to avert trouble given the sheer scale of the lending boom.

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis.

“They have replicated the entire US commercial banking system in five years,” she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.

The agency downgraded China‘s long-term currency rating to AA- debt in April but still thinks the government can handle any banking crisis, however bad. “The Chinese state has a lot of firepower. It is very able and very willing to support the banking sector. The real question is what this means for growth, and therefore for social and political risk,” said Mrs Chu.

“There is no way they can grow out of their asset problems as they did in the past. We think this will be very different from the banking crisis in the late 1990s. With credit at 200pc of GDP, the numerator is growing twice as fast as the denominator. You can’t grow out of that.”

The authorities have been trying to manage a soft-landing, deploying loan curbs and a high reserve ratio requirement (RRR) for banks to halt property speculation. The home price to income ratio has reached 16 to 18 in many cities, shutting workers out of the market. Shadow banking has plugged the gap for much of the last two years.

However, a new problem has emerged as the economic efficiency of credit collapses. The extra GDP growth generated by each extra yuan of loans has dropped from 0.85 to 0.15 over the last four years, a sign of exhaustion.

Wei Yao from Societe Generale says the debt service ratio of Chinese companies has reached 30pc of GDP – the typical threshold for financial crises — and many will not be able to pay interest or repay principal. She warned that the country could be on the verge of a “Minsky Moment”, when the debt pyramid collapses under its own weight. “The debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity,” she said.

The latest twist is sudden stress in the overnight lending markets. “We believe the series of policy tightening measures in the past three months have reached critical mass, such that deleveraging in the banking sector is happening. Liquidity tightening can be very damaging to a highly leveraged economy,” said Zhiwei Zhang from Nomura.

“There is room to cut interest rates and the reserve ratio in the second half,” wrote a front-page editorial today in China Securities Journal on Friday. The article is the first sign that the authorities are preparing to change tack, shifting to a looser stance after a drizzle of bad data over recent weeks.

The journal said total credit in China’s financial system may be as high as 221pc of GDP, jumping almost eightfold over the last decade, and warned that companies will have to fork out $1 trillion in interest payments alone this year. “Chinese corporate debt burdens are much higher than those of other economies. Much of the liquidity is being used to repay debt and not to finance output,” it said.

It also flagged worries over an exodus of hot money once the US Federal Reserve starts tightening. “China will face large-scale capital outflows if there is an exit from quantitative easing and the dollar strengthens,” it wrote.

The journal said foreign withdrawals from Chinese equity funds were the highest since early 2008 in the week up to June 5, and withdrawals from Hong Kong funds were the most in a decade.

Source: Irish Independent

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Colorado Turns To Hemp

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The benefits of the wonder plant hemp are massive and Colorado has recently passed an amendment to enable the cultivation of production of hemp within the state. Capable of growing 6 feet in two weeks, it could provide a big boost to the community. Anything that generates revenue and provides employment needs to be taken seriously. In this case a natural product which has a multitude of uses including generating oil, fibre used to fortify products, clothing and a food source. Even hemp oil has been claimed to have properties to cure cancer. The wonder plant indeed. 🙂

(NaturalNews) The recent passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which legalizes the cultivation and recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, is having a major impact on the state’s agricultural sector. But the biggest potential for economic growth may actually come from marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin hemp, which is right now being planted on U.S. soil for the first time in 60 years, thanks to the initiative’s passage.

According to reports, a 60-acre plot of land in the southeastern corner of Colorado will be brimming with hemp plants. It will be the first time that hemp has been grown commercially on American soil in more than 60 years, and many more plots of land throughout the Rocky Mountain state are expected to follow suit, as the latest figures estimate that the hemp industry will outpace the marijuana industry by a factor of 10 or more.

“I believe this is really going to revitalize and strengthen farm communities,” says Ryan Loflin, the man who intends to plant America’s first hemp crop on his 60 acres of arable land, which formerly supported alfalfa.

Hemp is not marijuana, and there is no legitimate reason for its continued prohibition by the Feds

Many Americans are still unaware that there is even a difference between hemp and marijuana, both of which are prohibited by the federal government from being cultivated on U.S. soil. But unlike marijuana, hemp contains little-to-no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of marijuana that gets people “high,” which means that hemp cannot be smoked, and thus cannot be not used as a drug.

To the contrary, hemp is an amazingly robust industrial plant, the various components of which can be used in a variety of commercial and nutritional applications. Hemp seed oil, for instance, and hemp protein are popular, omega-3 fatty acid-rich food products consumed by millions of health-conscious individuals. Hemp fiber is also sometimes used to reinforce concrete and to fortify automobile bodies and frames. And beyond this, hemp naturally cleanses soil and water, which makes it a powerful force for good in the environment.

“Hemp is food, animal feed, fiber, fuel, shelter,” says Lynda Parker, a Colorado-based hemp supporter and founding member of a pro-hemp coalition in the Rocky Mountain state, as quoted by The Denver Post. “It cleans the air, the water, the soil. Hemp could be enormous for Colorado because we’re the first state to legalize it.”

Nationwide legalization of hemp would generate incalculable economic prosperity for Americans

But as previously mentioned, hemp somehow got lumped into the same category as marijuana as far as the federal government is concerned, which means Americans have been deprived for over half a century of reaping its many practical and economic benefits. Virtually all of the hemp used today in American products has to be imported from places like Canada due to legal prohibitions that block its cultivation here at home.But all of this is changing in Colorado, where a reanimated hemp industry is quickly emerging from the dust bins of history, and reviving the economic climate of struggling rural Colorado. Similar to the current situation in many other states, many rural communities in Colorado have long suffered from a lack of healthy industry. But hemp could set the state on a whole new course toward economic prosperity that will most assuredly be the envy of the rest of the country.“This is monumental for our industry,” says Bruce Perlowin, CEO of company known as Hemp Inc. “It will unlock a clean industrial revolution that will be good for the economy, good for jobs and good for the environment.”To learn more about the many benefits of hemp, as well as America’s rich, but little-known, hemp history, be sure to visit:http://hemphistory.org/

Source: Natural News

David Stockman: The Economy Is A Giant Ponzi Scheme

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David Stockman (fmr Budget director for Ronald Regan) sums up the US economy as a giant Ponzi scheme.

UK: Triple Dip Recession To Trigger More QE

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A number of weeks ago Max Keiser made the statement on the BBCs program that “the UK economy is screwed“. Certainly the signs are not good and George Osbourne does not inspire confidence. After the losing its AAA status and signs of moving back into a triple dip recession it looks like the only solution as usual is to crank up the printing presses.
The Bank of England will be under pressure to unleash further emergency measures this week amid signs the UK is on course for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.

A shock fall in manufacturing activity in February helped shorten odds that the Bank’s nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will push the button on a further £25 billion of quantitative easing (QE) – also known as money printing – when they meet on Wednesday and Thursday.

Last month’s MPC minutes saw governor Sir Mervyn King and Paul Fisher join previously lone voice David Miles in calls to restart the printing presses.

Interest rates, which have remained unchanged at 0.5% for four years, will also be in the spotlight after Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker told MPs on the Treasury Committee that he had put negative interest rates up for consideration.

While he admitted it was an idea that needed to be thought through carefully, the Bank is expected to look for other measures to kick-start the UK economy, which has weaved in and out of recession since the 2008 banking crisis.

More QE looks to be the inevitable solution.

Alan Clarke, UK and eurozone economist at Scotiabank, said: “The recent noises from MPC members suggest that the MPC want to do something, but it is not yet clear what. The default policy tool has tended to be more QE and a £25 billion expansion at this week’s meeting seems to be the most likely outcome.”

But Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global, said he thought the Bank would hold fire on more QE at its March meeting, partly because the recent sharp weakening of the pound was stimulative in itself.

He said: “Furthermore, there is a danger that doing further QE at a time when sterling is already under serious downward pressure could cause the pound to fall too far too fast which would be both destabilising and perhaps over-stoke inflation risks.”

On Friday the pound dropped below 1.50 US dollars for the first time in more than two-and-a-half years.

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said that while he thought it was likely the MPC would keep policy on hold, the weak figures gave the case for further QE “a certain degree of extra momentum”.

Source: Irish Independent

This Time Its Different

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ZeroHedge posted the following chart looking at the relationship between ISM new orders and unemployment rates. Of course this time its different 😉

ISM

British Economy Now Worse Than When In The Great Depression

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A few days ago Max Keiser on the BBC’s flagship Daily Politics show explained why in his opinion the UK economy is “screwed”. The Washington’s Blog has put forward its reasons for why the UK is in a worse position now than it was in the Great Depression. As usual, a chart can say it best and the velocity of money graph below does just that.

Royal Bank of Scotland Says Worst Economy Since Before Queen Victoria Was Crowned

Leading British newspaper the Telegraph reports today:

Ministers today admitted Britain is facing “very, very grave difficulties” after figures showed the economy did not grow at all in 2012.

***

Economists from the Royal Bank of Scotland said the last four years have produced the worst economic performance in a non post-war period since records started being collected in the 1830s.

***

It’s the worst economic performance since at least 1830, outside of post-war demobilisations,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s worse than the 1920s, it’s worse than the Great Depression.”

He said the economy has been “heading this way for a long time” because of the scale of the problems that came to a head in the 2008 financial crash.

***

The top economist at RBS, which is mostly owned by the Government, said it is difficult to recover when much of the world is facing similar problems.

“It’s the scale of what happened in 2008 but also the build-up to that,” he said. “Compared with other recessions [like in the 1980s and 1990s], this is happening all over the world. There’s not a quick and easy way to export your way out of this.”

(In a separate article, the Telegraph notes that the UK is heading for an unprecedented triple dip, as its economy shrunk .3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012).

We’ve repeatedly warned that this is worse than the Great Depression …

What Do Economic Indicators Say?

We’ve repeatedly pointed out that there are many indicators which show that the last 5 years have been worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, including:

Mark McHugh reports:

Velocity of money is the frequency with which a unit of money is spent on new goods and services. It is a far better indicator of economic activity than GDP, consumer prices, the stock market, or sales of men’s underwear (which Greenspan was fond of ogling). In a healthy economy, the same dollar is collected as payment and subsequently spent many times over. In a depression, the velocity of money goes catatonic. Velocity of money is calculated by simply dividing GDP by a given money supply. This VoM chart using monetary base should end any discussion of what ”this” is and whether or not anybody should be using the word “recovery” with a straight face:

 British Economy Is WORSE than During the Great Depression

In just four short years, our “enlightened” policy-makers have slowed money velocity to depths never seen in the Great Depression.

(As we’ve previously explained, the Fed has intentionally squashed money multipliers and money velocity as a way to battle inflation. And see this)

Indeed, the number of Americans relying on government assistance to obtain basic food may be higher now that during the Great Depression. The only reason we don’t see “soup lines” like we did in the 30s is because of the massive food stamp program.

And while apologists for government and bank policy point to unemployment as being better than during the 1930s, even that claim is debatable.

What Do Economists Say?

Indeed, many economists agree that this could be worse than the Great Depression, including:

Bad Policy Has Us Stuck

We are stuck in a depression because the government has done all of the wrong things, and has failed to address the core problems.

Instead of bringing in new legs, we keep on recycling the same old re-treads who caused the problem in the first place.

For example:

  • The government is doing everything else wrong, as well. See this and this

This isn’t an issue of left versus right … it’s corruption and bad policies which help the super-elite but are causing a depression for the vast majority of the people.

Source: Washinton’s Blog

Jan 2013: 20 Facts About The Euro Collapse

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The lamestream media are hell-bent on covering up the real state of the euro zone, even going onto to praising Mario Draghi for his money printing powers as the EU claps itself on the back for getting a bizarre Nobel Peace prize. The following article helps to bring some focus on whats really happening under the veneer. This is what happens when politicans take on too much debt on behalf of the nation.

euroThe economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone.

It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe. The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now. Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic. But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt. The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.

The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know…

#1 10 Months: Manufacturing activity in both France and Germany has contracted for 10 months in a row.

#2 11.8 Percent: The unemployment rate in the eurozone has now risen to 11.8 percent – a brand new all-time high.

#3 17 Months: In November, Italy experienced the sharpest decline in retail sales that it had experienced in 17 months.

#4 20 Months: Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 20 months in a row.

#5 20 Percent: It is estimated that bad loans now make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.

#6 22 Percent: A whopping 22 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in jobless households.

#7 26 Percent: The unemployment rate in Greece is now 26 percent. A year ago it was only 18.9 percent.

#8 26.6 Percent: The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to an astounding 26.6 percent.

#9 27.0 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Cyprus. Back in 2008, this number was well below 10 percent.

#10 28 Percent: Sales of French-made vehicles in November were down 28 percent compared to a year earlier.

#11 36 Percent: Today, the poverty rate in Greece is 36 percent. Back in 2009 it was only about 20 percent.

#12 37.1 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Italy – a brand new all-time high.

#13 44 Percent: An astounding 44 percent of the entire population of Bulgaria is facing “severe material deprivation”.

#14 56.5 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Spain – a brand new all-time high.

#15 57.6 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Greece – a brand new all-time high.

#16 60 Percent: Citigroup is projecting that there is a 60 percent probability that Greece will leave the eurozone within the next 12 to 18 months.

#17 70 Percent: It has been reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble back in 2006. At this point there areapproximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.

#18 200 Percent: The debt to GDP ratio in Greece is rapidly approaching 200 percent.

#19 1997: According to the Committee of French Automobile Producers, 2012 was the worst year for the French automobile industry since 1997.

#20 2 Million: Back in 2005, the French auto industry produced about 3.5 million vehicles. In 2012, that number dropped to about 2 million vehicles.

Source: thecomingdepressionblog

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