May 8, 2009

The Recession Of 2011 Caused By A Credit Bubble?

Two years ago I showed a small article in the WSJ to a friend, the article was about two unknown hedge funds that were failing. My point was that this was just the tip-of-the-iceberg, the first signs of a much bigger problem; the unraveling of the credit market.

Since then, the government has tried to fix the collapse of the credit market by re-inflating it with government debt. Every week the Treasury sells $10’s of billions of “Treasury Notes” to fund that debt. Insurance Companies, Pension Funds, and Municipalities that are required to invest in ultra safe bonds buy about 45% of these and the remainder is purchased by foreigners that need to find a safe place to park their money that they get from selling their goods to the U.S..

Increasing the money supply, cash in circulation, stimulates the economy. The more money out there the more it flows around.

The Obama budget spends more than $25,000 per every single person in the U.S. than they are going to take in. That works out to a deficit of $42,500 for every working American. That is $42,500 above what we already pay in taxes.

In the short term this is working, but there are several things that are also working against this vast expansion of the U.S. debt and money supply. As the government prints money the value of that money decreases, that is why Obama went to Europe urging them to step up their stimulus. If they also print money then our dollar wouldn’t shrink as far or as fast. The dollar versus the Euro hit a 6 year high in March but has shrunk 7% since then. It is still strong but as you keep expanding the money supply its value only has one way to go.

A weaker dollar also means higher prices. The big disadvantage here is that foreign investors are not going to buy Treasuries if they get paid 2% on the bond and lose 7% to 10% on the dollar conversion when they trade it in. Why not just invest somewhere else where you don’t have the threat of losing money caused by a dropping value in the dollar.

As the government pushes more Treasuries out on the market, the market will push back by demanding higher interest rates. This phenomenon started yesterday with a 30-year sale pushing the rates up to 4.25%. Still very low but it was the first sign that the Obama administration is going to have to pay a premium for their borrowing needs in the future. Interest on government debt was four times what they paid for education last year, that represented 15% of the entire budget and that was at a historically low interest rate. It’s not unconceivable that as borrowing and interest rates increase, that the cost to the budget will take a much larger piece of the pie.

As the interest rates for Treasuries move up so do the rates for other debt such as home mortgages, business loans, auto loans, credit card and school loans are all going to have to raise their rates to compete. Money will become expensive and as this happens business slows down. Even as the economy starts to pull itself out of the doldrums the system is working to take it back down.

The indiscriminant printing of money is inflationary, so far the dollar has been barely hurt because other countries have also fired up their printing presses but have since put on the brakes. This allows other countries to enjoy a stronger currency while the dollar will keep falling. Economists say that you can’t have inflation without strong demand, but if you look around the world, many countries have had extreme inflation in a terrible economy because their currency was debased.

Again this will take a couple of years to play out but I am seriously concerned for my grand kids and yours.