Dow and Bitcoin Plunge, But It’s Not a Stock Market Crash

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,000 points for the first time ever Monday. There were only two stocks in the S&P 500 that were up for the day, while all of the Dow’s 30 members fell. Both indexes are now down for 2018, having erased all of their gains for the year.

While Bitcoin, which fell as much as 23% on Monday, shed nearly $18 billion in market value during the day, the stock market fared even worse: The Dow stocks alone lost more than $300 billion.

In one particularly gory example, Google parent company Alphabet (googl) (which is not in the Dow), lost $40 billion of its market cap for the second trading day in a row—meaning Alphabet stock investors have lost more than $80 billion since Friday.

But although the Dow’s more than 1175-point drop made the ticker tape look even uglier than it did on the darkest days following Lehman Brothers’ 2008 collapse, it was not a market crash, or even remotely close. Market crashes are generally defined by an abrupt and rapid decline of 20% or more: The 1929 Black Tuesday crash, 1987’s Black Monday, the dot-com bust in 2000, and the ’08 financial crisis all had that in common. (That’s similar to the definition of a bear market, which is when prices are down 20% from their peak, which can happen more gradually.)

And market crashes also have a more mild-mannered sibling, the market correction, which is when prices fall at least 10% from their highs. But we’re not there yet either. Even after a multi-day selloff, spurred in part by Friday’s stronger-than-expected jobs report which sparked fears of an inflation spike, the Dow is only off 8.5% from its all-time-record of 26,616.71 last month, while the S&P 500 is down 7.8% from its high.

After all, the higher the Dow rises, the more likely it is to lose or gain hundreds of points in any given day, simply because the swings represent smaller percentage changes. So although the Dow’s drop Monday was its biggest-ever in terms of points, the index only declined 4.6%. Compare that to October 19, 1987—the infamous Black Monday—when the Dow sank more than 22%, but only 508 points. (Indeed, while the Dow first hit the 20,000 milestone just over a year ago, it wasn’t quite such a big deal when it reached 26,000 less than a year later.)

The Bitcoin price, on the other hand, is most certainly crashing. But then again, that’s nothing unusual for Bitcoin, which has been crashing almost continuously since December and frequently rises or falls as much as 20% in a day.

Still, anyone who owns stocks likely lost money on Monday. Every stock in the Dow was down, and the only two stocks in the S&P 500 that rose were online travel site TripAdvisor (trip), up 3.7%, and baking soda manufacturer Church & Dwight, up 2.4%. (Church & Dwight had reported earnings that beat Wall Street’s expectations Monday morning, while TripAdvisor announced that it would expand its board of directors, adding one of Netflix’s board members.)

The biggest losers? Wells Fargo(wfc) stock dropped more than 9% after the Federal Reserve slapped the bank with new penalties Friday night for various missteps, making it the S&P 500’s worst-performing stock for the day. And Boeing(ba) fell the most of any Dow stock, down nearly 6%, though the airplane maker is still the index’s best performer so far in 2018, up 11.5% year to date.

If the Dow has another bad day tomorrow or shortly thereafter, it may very well still fall into correction territory: It need only lose another 361 points to officially mark a correction.

But that wouldn’t be the worst thing, and in fact, might even be healthy, a long overdue breather in what has otherwise been a raging bull market, now approaching its nine-year anniversary next month. In fact, there have only been four 10% stock market corrections since the recession ended in 2009, according to Yardeni Research.

Nor would a stock market correction be entirely unexpected. Investing experts and economists have been saying for a while that stocks look expensive, and predicting that valuations would have to return to Earth sooner or later. The new Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, the successor to Janet Yellen, arrived for his first day of work Monday. Though it’s not clear whether Powell is any more likely to raise interest rates than Yellen was, strong job and wage growth has increased expectations that the Fed will hike rates more quickly than previously anticipated, which could suck some air out of the stock market as Treasury bonds become a more attractive alternative.

Then again, a market correction—or even an intermediary bear market—could just give the stock market a second wind for a continued bull run. Sam Stovall, the chief investment strategist of CFRA, wrote in a research note Monday that the firm does not expect the selloff to “morph into a bear market,” because “we don’t see a recession on the horizon.” If it does, though, CFRA thinks the bear market would last about 14 months—but then only take a little more than four months for a bull market to begin again.

Whatever happens, though, one thing is for sure: Expect the Dow to have a lot more 1,000-point up or down days. Just remember not to panic when it happens.

Source

http://fortune.com/2018/02/05/stock-dow-bitcoin-market-crash/

Here Comes the Next Financial Crisis

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Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank (that’s paid $13 billion in settlements for various fraudulent acts), recently even pooh-poohed the chances of the Democratic Party in 2020, suggesting that it was about time its leaders let banks do whatever they wanted. As he told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business’s Wall Street Week, “The thing about the Democrats is they will not have a chance, in my opinion. They don’t have a strong centrist, pro-business, pro-free enterprise person.”

This is a man who was basically gifted two banks, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, by the US government during the financial crisis. That present came as his own company got cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, while clamoring for billions in bailout money that he swore it didn’t need. second-most-profitable company in the country. Why should he be worried about what might happen in another crisis, given that the Trump administration is in charge? With pro-business and pro-bailout thinking reigning supreme, what could go wrong?

Protect or Destroy?

There are, of course, supposed to be safeguards against freewheeling types like Dimon. In Washington, key regulatory bodies are tasked with keeping too-big-to-fail banks from wrecking the economy and committing financial crimes against the public. They include the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (an independent bureau of the Treasury), and, most recently, under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (an independent agency funded by the Federal Reserve).

These entities are now run by men whose only desire is to give Wall Street more latitude. Former Goldman Sachs partner, now treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin caught the spirit of the moment with a selfie of his wife and him holding reams of newly printed money “like a couple of James Bond villains.” (After all, he was a Hollywood producer and even appeared in the Warren Beatty flick Rules Don’t Apply.) He’s making his mark on us, however, not by producing economic security, but by cheerleading for financial deregulation.

Despite the fact that the Republican platform in election 2016 endorsed reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, Mnuchin made it clear that he has no intention of letting that happen. In a signal to every too-big-not-to-fail financial outfit around, he also released AIG from its regulatory chains. That’s the insurance company that was at the epicenter of the last financial crisis. By freeing AIG from being monitored by the Financial Services Oversight Board that he chairs, he’s left it and others like it free to repeat the same mistakes.

Elsewhere, having successfully spun through the revolving door from banking to Washington, Joseph Otting, a former colleague of Mnuchin’s, is now running the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). While he’s no household name, he was the CEO of OneWest (formerly, the failed California-based bank IndyMac). That’s the bank Mnuchin and his billionaire posse picked up on the cheap in 2009 before carrying out a vast set of foreclosures on the homes of ordinary Americans (including active-duty servicemen and -women) and reselling it for hundreds of millions of dollars in personal profits.

At the Federal Reserve, Trump’s selection for chairman, Jerome Powell (another Mnuchin pick), has repeatedly expressed his disinterest in bank regulations. To him, too-big-to-fail banks are a thing of the past. And to round out this heady crew, there’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) head Mick Mulvaney now also at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose very existence he’s mocked.

In time, we’ll come to a reckoning with this era of Trumpian finance. Meanwhile, however, the agenda of these men (and they are all men) could lead to a financial crisis of the first order. So here’s a little rundown on them: what drives them and how they are blindly taking the economy onto distinctly treacherous ground.

Joseph Otting, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

The Office of the Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that banks operate in a secure and reasonable manner, provide equal access to their services, treat customers properly, and adhere to the laws of the land as well as federal regulations.

As for Joseph Otting, though the Senate confirmed him as the new head of the OCC in November, four key senators called him “highly unqualified for [the] job.” He will run an agency whose history snakes back to the Civil War. Established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it was meant to safeguard the solidity and viability of the banking system. Its leader remains charged with preventing bank-caused financial crashes, not enabling them.

Fast forward to the 1990s when Otting held a ranking position at Union Bank NA, overseeing its lending practices to medium-sized companies. From there he transitioned to US Bancorp, where he was tasked with building its middle-market business (covering companies with $50 million to $1 billion in annual revenues) as part of that lender’s expansion in California.

In 2010, Otting was hired as CEO of OneWest (now owned by CIT Group). During his time there with Mnuchin, OneWest foreclosed on about 36,000 people and was faced with sweeping allegations of abusive foreclosure practices for which it was fined $89 million. Otting received $10.5 million in an employment contract payout when terminated by CIT in 2015. As Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted all too accurately during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, “Joseph Otting is yet another bank exec who profited off the financial crisis who is being rewarded by the Trump Administration with a powerful job overseeing our nation’s banking system.”

Like Trump and Mnuchin, Otting has never held public office. He is, however, an enthusiastic proponent of loosening lending regulations. Not only is he against reinstating Glass-Steagall, but he also wants to weaken the “Volcker Rule,” a part of the Dodd-Frank Act that was meant to place restrictions on various kinds of speculative transactions by banks that might not benefit their customers.

Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, in the wake of the crash of 1929 and in the midst of the Great Depression. Its intention was to protect investors by certifying that the securities business operated in a fair, transparent, and legal manner. Admittedly, its first head, Joseph Kennedy (President John F. Kennedy’s father), wasn’t exactly a beacon of virtue. He had helped raise contributions for Roosevelt’s election campaign even while under suspicion for alleged bootlegging and other illicit activities.

Since May 2017, the SEC has been run by Jay Clayton, a top Wall Street lawyer. Following law school, he eventually made partner at the elite legal firm Sullivan & Cromwell. After the 2008 financial crisis, Clayton was deeply involved in dealing with the companies that tanked as that crisis began. He advised Barclays during its acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ assets and then represented Bear Stearns when JPMorgan Chase acquired it.

In the three years before he became head of the SEC, Clayton represented eight of the 10 largest Wall Street banks, institutions that were then regularly being investigated and charged with securities violations by the very agency Clayton now heads. He and his wife happen to hold assets valued at between $12 million and $47 million in some of those very institutions.

Not surprisingly in this administration (or any other recent one), Clayton also has solid Goldman Sachs ties. On at least seven occasions between 2007 and 2014, he advised Goldman directly or represented its corporate clients in their initial public offerings. Recently, Goldman Sachs requested that the SEC release it from having to report its lobbying activities or payments because, it claimed, they didn’t make up a large enough percentage of its assets to be worth the bother. (Don’t be surprised when the agency agrees.)

Clayton’s main accomplishment so far has been to significantly reduce oversight activities. SEC penalties, for instance, fell by 15.5% to $3.5 billion during the first year of the Trump administration. The SEC also issued enforcement actions against only 62 public companies in 2017, a 33% decline from the previous year. Perhaps you won’t then be surprised to learn that its enforcement division has an estimated 100 unfilled investigative and supervisory positions, while it has also trimmed its wish list for new regulatory provisions. As for Dodd-Frank, Clayton insists he won’t “attack” it, but thinks it should be “looked” at.

Mick Mulvaney, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget

As a congressman from South Carolina, ultra-conservative Republican Mick Mulvaney, dubbed “Mick the Knife,” once even labeled himself a “right-wing nut job.” Chosen by President Trump in November 2016 to run the Office of Management and Budget, he was confirmed by Congress last February.

As he said during his confirmation hearings, “Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hard-working Americans do every day.” As soon as he was at the OMB, he took an axe to social programs that help everyday Americans. He was instrumental in creating the GOP tax plan that will add up to $1.5 trillion to the country’s debt in order to provide major tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. He was also a key figure in selling the plan to the media.

When Richard Cordray resigned as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in November, Trump promptly selected Mick the Knife for that role, undercutting the deputy director Cordray had appointed to the post. After much debate and a court order in his favor, Mulvaney grabbed a box of Dunkin’ Donuts and headed over from his OMB office adjacent to the White House. So even though he’s got a new job, Mulvaney is never far from Trump’s reach.

The problem for the rest of us: Mulvaney loathes the CFPB, an agency he once called “a joke.” While he can’t unilaterally demolish it, he’s already obstructed its ability to enforce its government mandates. Soon after Trump appointed him, he imposed a 30-day freeze on hiring and similarly froze all further rule-making and regulatory actions.

In his latest effort to undermine American consumers, he’s working to defund the CFPB. He just sent the Federal Reserve a letter stating that, “for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0.” That doesn’t bode well for American consumers.

Jerome “Jay” Powell, Federal Reserve

Thanks to the Senate confirmation of his selection for chairman of the board, Donald Trump now owns the Fed, too. The former number two man under Janet Yellen, Jerome Powell will be running the Fed, come Monday morning, February 5th.

Established in 1913 during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, the Fed’s official mission is to “promote a safe, sound, competitive, and accessible banking system.” In reality, it’s acted more like that system’s main drug dealer in recent years. In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, in addition to buying trillions of dollars in bonds (a strategy called “quantitative easing,” or QE), the Fed supplied four of the biggest Wall Street banks with an injection of $7.8 trillion in secret loans. The move was meant to stimulate the economy, but really, it coddled the banks.

Powell’s monetary policy undoubtedly won’t represent a startling change from that of previous head Janet Yellen, or her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. History shows that Powell has repeatedly voted for pumping financial markets with Federal Reserve funds and, despite displaying reservations about the practice of quantitative easing, he always voted in favor of it, too. What makes his nomination out of the ordinary, though, is that he’s a trained lawyer, not an economist.

Powell is assuming the helm at a time when deregulation is central to the White House’s economic and financial strategy. Keep in mind that he will also have a role in choosing and guiding future Fed appointments. (At present, the Fed has the smallest number of sitting governors in its history.) The first such appointee, private equity investor Randal Quarles, already approved as the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, is another major deregulator.

Powell will be able to steer banking system decisions in other ways. In recent Senate testimony, he confirmed his deregulatory predisposition. In that vein, the Fed has already announced that it seeks to loosen the capital requirements big banks need to put behind their riskier assets and activities. This will, it claims, allow them to more freely make loans to Main Street, in case a decade of cheap money wasn’t enough of an incentive.

The Emperor Has No Rules

Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America’s key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists.

Naturally, Wall Street views Trump’s chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared. But one thing is certain: When the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing, while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again.

There’s a pattern to this: First, there’s a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there’s another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns.

Ominously, we’re now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: It won’t be pretty.

Source

https://www.thenation.com/article/here-comes-the-next-financial-crisis/

The Next Financial Crisis — Not If, But When

There’s been lots of fire and fury around Washington lately, including a brief government shutdown. In Donald Trump’s White House, you can hardly keep up with the ongoing brouhahas from North Korea to Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, while it already feels like ages since the celebratory mood over the vast corporate tax cuts Congress passed last year. But don’t be fooled: none of that is as important as what’s missing from the picture. Like a disease, in the nation’s capital it’s often what you can’t see that will, in the end, hurt you most.

Amid a roaring stock market and a planet of upbeat CEOs, few are even thinking about the havoc that a multi-trillion-dollar financial system gone rogue could inflict upon global stability. But watch out. Even in the seemingly best of times, neglecting Wall Street is a dangerous idea. With a rag-tag Trumpian crew of ex-bankers and Goldman Sachs alumni as the only watchdogs in town, it’s time to focus, because one thing is clear: Donald Trump’s economic team is in the process of making the financial system combustible again.

Collectively, the biggest U.S. banks already have their get-out-out-of-jail-free cards and are now sitting on record profits after, not so long ago, triggering sweeping unemployment, wrecking countless lives, and elevating global instability. (Not a single major bank CEO was given jail time for such acts.) Still, let’s not blame the dangers lurking at the heart of the financial system solely on the Trump doctrine of leaving banks alone. They should be shared by the Democrats who, under President Barack Obama, believed, and still believe, in the perfection of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

While Dodd-Frank created important financial safeguards like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even stronger long-term banking reforms were left on the sidelines. Crucially, that law didn’t force banks to separate the deposits of everyday Americans from Wall Street’s complex derivatives transactions. In other words, it didn’t resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (axed in the Clinton era).

Wall Street is now thoroughly emboldened as the financial elite follows the mantra of Kelly Clarkston’s hit song: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Since the crisis of 2007–2008, the Big Six U.S. banks JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley have seen the share price of their stocks significantly outpace those of the S&P 500 index as a whole.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank (that’s paid $13 billion in settlements for various fraudulent acts), recently even pooh-poohed the chances of the Democratic Party in 2020, suggesting that it was about time its leaders let banks do whatever they wanted. As he told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business’s Wall Street Week, “The thing about the Democrats is they will not have a chance, in my opinion. They don’t have a strong centrist, pro-business, pro-free enterprise person.”

This is a man who was basically gifted two banks, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, by the U.S government during the financial crisis. That present came as his own company got cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, while clamoring for billions in bailout money that he swore it didn’t need.

Dimon can afford to be brazen. JPMorgan Chase is now the second most profitable company in the country. Why should he be worried about what might happen in another crisis, given that the Trump administration is in charge? With pro-business and pro-bailout thinking reigning supreme, what could go wrong?

There are, of course, supposed to be safeguards against freewheeling types like Dimon. In Washington, key regulatory bodies are tasked with keeping too-big-to-fail banks from wrecking the economy and committing financial crimes against the public. They include the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (an independent bureau of the Treasury), and most recently, under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (an independent agency funded by the Federal Reserve).

These entities are now run by men whose only desire is to give Wall Street more latitude. Former Goldman Sachs partner, now treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin caught the spirit of the moment with a selfie of his wife and him holding reams of newly printed money “like a couple of James Bond villains.” (After all, he was a Hollywood producer and even appeared in the Warren Beatty flick Rules Don’t Apply.) He’s making his mark on us, however, not by producing economic security, but by cheerleading for financial deregulation.

Despite the fact that the Republican platform in election 2016 endorsed reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, Mnuchin made it clear that he has no intention of letting that happen. In a signal to every too-big-not-to-fail financial outfit around, he also released AIG from its regulatory chains. That’s the insurance company that was at the epicenter of the last financial crisis. By freeing AIG from being monitored by the Financial Services Oversight Board that he chairs, he’s left it and others like it free to repeat the same mistakes.

Elsewhere, having successfully spun through the revolving door from banking to Washington, Joseph Otting, a former colleague of Mnuchin’s, is now running the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). While he’s no household name, he was the CEO of OneWest (formerly, the failed California-based bank IndyMac). That’s the bank Mnuchin and his billionaire posse picked up on the cheap in 2009 before carrying out a vast set of foreclosures on the homes of ordinary Americans (including active-duty servicemen and -women) and reselling it for hundreds of millions of dollars in personal profits.

At the Federal Reserve, Trump’s selection for chairman, Jerome Powell (another Mnuchin pick), has repeatedly expressed his disinterest in bank regulations. To him, too-big-to-fail banks are a thing of the past. And to round out this heady crew, there’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) head Mick Mulvaney now also at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose very existence he’s mocked.

In time, we’ll come to a reckoning with this era of Trumpian finance. Meanwhile, however, the agenda of these men (and they are all men) could lead to a financial crisis of the first order. So here’s a little rundown on them: what drives them and how they are blindly taking the economy onto distinctly treacherous ground.

Joseph Otting, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

The Office of the Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that banks operate in a secure and reasonable manner, provide equal access to their services, treat customers properly, and adhere to the laws of the land as well as federal regulations.

As for Joseph Otting, though the Senate confirmed him as the new head of the OCC in November, four key senators called him “highly unqualified for [the] job.” He will run an agency whose history snakes back to the Civil War. Established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it was meant to safeguard the solidity and viability of the banking system. Its leader remains charged with preventing bank-caused financial crashes, not enabling them.

Fast forward to the 1990s when Otting held a ranking position at Union Bank NA, overseeing its lending practices to medium-sized companies. From there he transitioned to U.S. Bancorp, where he was tasked with building its middle-market business (covering companies with $50 million to $1 billion in annual revenues) as part of that lender’s expansion in California.

In 2010, Otting was hired as CEO of OneWest (now owned by CIT Group). During his time there with Mnuchin, OneWest foreclosed on about 36,000 people and was faced with sweeping allegations of abusive foreclosure practices for which it was fined $89 million. Otting received $10.5 million in an employment contract payout when terminated by CIT in 2015. As Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted all too accurately during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, “Joseph Otting is yet another bank exec who profited off the financial crisis who is being rewarded by the Trump Administration with a powerful job overseeing our nation’s banking system.”

Like Trump and Mnuchin, Otting has never held public office. He is, however, an enthusiastic proponent of loosening lending regulations. Not only is he against reinstating Glass-Steagall, but he also wants to weaken the “Volcker Rule,” a part of the Dodd-Frank Act that was meant to place restrictions on various kinds of speculative transactions by banks that might not benefit their customers.

Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, in the wake of the crash of 1929 and in the midst of the Great Depression. Its intention was to protect investors by certifying that the securities business operated in a fair, transparent, and legal manner. Admittedly, its first head, Joseph Kennedy (President John F. Kennedy’s father), wasn’t exactly a beacon of virtue. He had helped raise contributions for Roosevelt’s election campaign even while under suspicion for alleged bootlegging and other illicit activities.

Since May 2017, the SEC has been run by Jay Clayton, a top Wall Street lawyer. Following law school, he eventually made partner at the elite legal firm Sullivan & Cromwell. After the 2008 financial crisis, Clayton was deeply involved in dealing with the companies that tanked as that crisis began. He advised Barclays during its acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ assets and then represented Bear Stearns when JPMorgan Chase acquired it.

In the three years before he became head of the SEC, Clayton represented eight of the 10 largest Wall Street banks, institutions that were then regularly being investigated and charged with securities violations by the very agency Clayton now heads. He and his wife happen to hold assets valued at between $12 million and $47 million in some of those very institutions.

Not surprisingly in this administration (or any other recent one), Clayton also has solid Goldman Sachs ties. On at least seven occasions between 2007 and 2014, he advised Goldman directly or represented its corporate clients in their initial public offerings. Recently, Goldman Sachs requested that the SEC release it from having to report its lobbying activities or payments because, it claimed, they didn’t make up a large enough percentage of its assets to be worth the bother. (Don’t be surprised when the agency agrees.)

Clayton’s main accomplishment so far has been to significantly reduce oversight activities. SEC penalties, for instance, fell by 15.5% to $3.5 billion during the first year of the Trump administration. The SEC also issued enforcement actions against only 62 public companies in 2017, a 33% decline from the previous year. Perhaps you won’t then be surprised to learn that its enforcement division has an estimated 100 unfilled investigative and supervisory positions, while it has also trimmed its wish list for new regulatory provisions. As for Dodd-Frank, Clayton insists he won’t “attack” it, but thinks it should be “looked” at.

Mick Mulvaney, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget

As a congressman from South Carolina, ultra-conservative Republican Mick Mulvaney, dubbed “Mick the Knife,” once even labeled himself a “right-wing nut job.” Chosen by President Trump in November 2016 to run the Office of Management and Budget, he was confirmed by Congress last February.

As he said during his confirmation hearings, “Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hard-working Americans do every day.” As soon as he was at the OMB, he took an axe to social programs that help everyday Americans. He was instrumental in creating the GOP tax plan that will add up to $1.5 trillion to the country’s debt in order to provide major tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. He was also a key figure in selling the plan to the media.

When Richard Cordray resigned as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in November, Trump promptly selected Mick the Knife for that role, undercutting the deputy director Cordray had appointed to the post. After much debate and a court order in his favor, Mulvaney grabbed a box of Dunkin’ Donuts and headed over from his OMB office adjacent to the White House. So even though he’s got a new job, Mulvaney is never far from Trump’s reach.

The problem for the rest of us: Mulvaney loathes the CFPB, an agency he once called “a joke.” While he can’t unilaterally demolish it, he’s already obstructed its ability to enforce its government mandates. Soon after Trump appointed him, he imposed a 30-day freeze on hiring and similarly froze all further rule-making and regulatory actions.

In his latest effort to undermine American consumers, he’s working to defund the CFPB. He just sent the Federal Reserve a letter stating that, “for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0.” That doesn’t bode well for American consumers.

Jerome “Jay” Powell, Federal Reserve

Thanks to the Senate confirmation of his selection for chairman of the board, Donald Trump now owns the Fed, too. The former number two man under Janet Yellen, Jerome Powell will be running the Fed, come Monday morning, February 5th.

Established in 1913 during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, the Fed’s official mission is to “promote a safe, sound, competitive, and accessible banking system.” In reality, it’s acted more like that system’s main drug dealer in recent years. In the wake of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, in addition to buying trillions of dollars in bonds (a strategy called “quantitative easing,” or QE), the Fed supplied four of the biggest Wall Street banks with an injection of $7.8 trillion in secret loans. The move was meant to stimulate the economy, but really, it coddled the banks.

Powell’s monetary policy undoubtedly won’t represent a startling change from that of previous head Janet Yellen, or her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. History shows that Powell has repeatedly voted for pumping financial markets with Federal Reserve funds and, despite displaying reservations about the practice of quantitative easing, he always voted in favor of it, too. What makes his nomination out of the ordinary, though, is that he’s a trained lawyer, not an economist.

Powell is assuming the helm at a time when deregulation is central to the White House’s economic and financial strategy. Keep in mind that he will also have a role in choosing and guiding future Fed appointments. (At present, the Fed has the smallest number of sitting governors in its history.) The first such appointee, private equity investor Randal Quarles, already approved as the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, is another major deregulator.

Powell will be able to steer banking system decisions in other ways. In recent Senate testimony, he confirmed his deregulatory predisposition. In that vein, the Fed has already announced that it seeks to loosen the capital requirements big banks need to put behind their riskier assets and activities. This will, it claims, allow them to more freely make loans to Main Street, in case a decade of cheap money wasn’t enough of an incentive.

Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America’s key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists.

Naturally, Wall Street views Trump’s chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared. But one thing is certain: when the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing, while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again.

There’s a pattern to this: first, there’s a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there’s another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns.

Ominously, we’re now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: it won’t be pretty.

Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

Source

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tomgram-nomi-prins-how-to-set-the-economy-on-fire_us_5a733df7e4b0fc3e14a4e7fd

Rural schools face financial crisis

The Bethune School District on the eastern plains is in the midst of a financial crisis.

“Right now we’re looking for $172,000 in compensation just to survive general operations for our school,” said Shila Adolf, superintendent of the district which is located about 8 miles west of Burlington, the last town on the Interstate 70 corridor.

Adolf also serves as the school principal and counselor for the district which serves 113 students. She took on those roles in an effort to cut costs. There are only 8 teachers but they would like at least 13.

“We no longer purchase technology,” said Adolf. “I would like to spread the classes out a little bit more, especially for math and science reasonings, because I go into Denver and I see the classrooms that have actually STEM implemented and different things and it’s amazing. I can’t do that, I can’t ask a teacher to do the same sort of curriculum and rigor when they’re teaching two curriculums.”

She says they’ve nearly run through their reserve funds after state funding was cut in 2009. According to the non profit, the district has lost $1.7 million in funding since then. Adolf says they had been using grants to supplement funding but as student achievement improved they became ineligible.

On Thursday night Adolf hosted what she called a crisis meeting for community members. She’s hoping to garner support for a mill levy override on the November ballot. It would amount to an increase of about $68 for the average resident.

“Unfortunately that’s a very hard sell,” Adolf said. “I think a lot of voters want to see something new for the additional money. And I’m really preaching what you’re going to see is that the lights are on and the teachers are there teaching. It’s not going to be a new bus or a new building or anything new. For us it’s just general operating support we’re asking for.”

If voters turn down the mill levy, the district would have to consider other options which includes shutting down and joining other nearby districts. Adolf speculates the district could be split down the middle with half moving into the Burlington School District or the Stratton School District.

“I hate to look that far into the future, but I think that’s a harsh reality if they don’t back this, to me that’s basically an affirmation you don’t want this to exist,” said Adolf. “But I think there’s multiple ways to fight it. I think they need to fight it with the legislature, fight it locally, we do need to invest in our kids.’

Copyright 2017 KUSA

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http://www.9news.com/article/news/education/rural-schools-face-financial-crisis/73-513727790

It’s Not If the Next Financial Crisis Will Happen – but When

There’s been lots of fire and fury around Washington lately, including a brief government shutdown. In Donald Trump’s White House, you can hardly keep up with the ongoing brouhahas from North Korea to Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, while it already feels like ages since the celebratory mood over the vast corporate tax cuts Congress passed last year. But don’t be fooled: none of that is as important as what’s missing from the picture.  Like a disease, in the nation’s capital it’s often what you can’t see that will, in the end, hurt you most.

Amid a roaring stock market and a planet of upbeat CEOs, few are even thinking about the havoc that a multi-trillion-dollar financial system gone rogue could inflict upon global stability.  But watch out.  Even in the seemingly best of times, neglecting Wall Street is a dangerous idea. With a rag-tag Trumpian crew of ex-bankers and Goldman Sachs alumni as the only watchdogs in town, it’s time to focus, because one thing is clear: Donald Trump’s economic team is in the process of making the financial system combustible again.

Collectively, the biggest U.S. banks already have their get-out-out-of-jail-free cards and are now sitting on record profits after, not so long ago, triggering sweeping unemployment, wrecking countless lives, and elevating global instability.  (Not a single major bank CEO was given jail time for such acts.)  Still, let’s not blame the dangers lurking at the heart of the financial system solely on the Trump doctrine of leaving banks alone. They should be shared by the Democrats who, under President Barack Obama, believed, and still believe, in the perfection of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

While Dodd-Frank created important financial safeguards like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even stronger long-term banking reforms were left on the sidelines. Crucially, that law didn’t force banks to separate the deposits of everyday Americans from Wall Street’s complex derivatives transactions.  In other words, it didn’t resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (axed in the Clinton era).

Wall Street is now thoroughly emboldened as the financial elite follows the mantra of Kelly Clarkston’s hit song: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Since the crisis of 2007-2008, the Big Six U.S. banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — have seen the share price of their stocks significantly outpace those of the S&P 500 index as a whole.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank (that’s paid $13 billion in settlements for various fraudulent acts), recently even pooh-poohed the chances of the Democratic Party in 2020, suggesting that it was about time its leaders let banks do whatever they wanted. As he told Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox Business’s Wall Street Week, “The thing about the Democrats is they will not have a chance, in my opinion. They don’t have a strong centrist, pro-business, pro-free enterprise person.”

This is a man who was basically gifted two banks, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, by the U.S government during the financial crisis. That present came as his own company got cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, while clamoring for billions in bailout money that he swore it didn’t need.

Dimon can afford to be brazen. JPMorgan Chase is now the second most profitable company in the country. Why should he be worried about what might happen in another crisis, given that the Trump administration is in charge? With pro-business and pro-bailout thinking reigning supreme, what could go wrong?

Protect or Destroy?

There are, of course, supposed to be safeguards against freewheeling types like Dimon. In Washington, key regulatory bodies are tasked with keeping too-big-to-fail banks from wrecking the economy and committing financial crimes against the public. They include the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (an independent bureau of the Treasury), and most recently, under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (an independent agency funded by the Federal Reserve).

These entities are now run by men whose only desire is to give Wall Street more latitude. Former Goldman Sachs partner, now treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin caught the spirit of the moment with a selfie of his wife and him holding reams of newly printed money “like a couple of James Bond villains.” (After all, he was a Hollywood producer and even appeared in the Warren Beatty flick Rules Don’t Apply.) He’s making his mark on us, however, not by producing economic security, but by cheerleading for financial deregulation.

Despite the fact that the Republican platform in election 2016 endorsed reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, Mnuchin made it clear that he has no intention of letting that happen. In a signal to every too-big-not-to-fail financial outfit around, he also released AIG from itsregulatory chains. That’s the insurance company that was at the epicenter of the last financial crisis. By freeing AIG from being monitored by the Financial Services Oversight Board that he chairs, he’s left it and others like it free to repeat the same mistakes.

Elsewhere, having successfully spun through the revolving door from banking to Washington, Joseph Otting, a former colleague of Mnuchin’s, is now running the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). While he’s no household name, he was the CEO of OneWest (formerly, the failed California-based bank IndyMac). That’s the bank Mnuchin and his billionaire posse picked up on the cheap in 2009 before carrying out a vast set of foreclosures on the homes of ordinary Americans (including active-duty servicemen and -women) and reselling it for hundreds of millions of dollars in personal profits.

At the Federal Reserve, Trump’s selection for chairman, Jerome Powell (another Mnuchin pick), has repeatedly expressed his disinterest in bank regulations. To him, too-big-to-fail banks are a thing of the past. And to round out this heady crew, there’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) head Mick Mulvaney now also at the helm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose very existence he’s mocked.

In time, we’ll come to a reckoning with this era of Trumpian finance. Meanwhile, however, the agenda of these men (and they are all men) could lead to a financial crisis of the first order. So here’s a little rundown on them: what drives them and how they are blindly taking the economy onto distinctly treacherous ground.

Joseph OttingOffice of the Comptroller of the Currency

Joseph M. Otting speaks after his swearing in ceremony as Comptroller of the Currency, at the Treasury Department, Nov. 27, 2017 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Joseph M. Otting speaks after his swearing in ceremony as Comptroller of the Currency, at the Treasury Department, Nov. 27, 2017 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

The Office of the Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that banks operate in a secure and reasonable manner, provide equal access to their services, treat customers properly, and adhere to the laws of the land as well as federal regulations.

As for Joseph Otting, though the Senate confirmed him as the new head of the OCC in November, four key senators called him “highly unqualified for [the] job.”  He will run an agency whose history snakes back to the Civil War. Established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it was meant to safeguard the solidity and viability of the banking system.  Its leader remains charged with preventing bank-caused financial crashes, not enabling them.

Fast forward to the 1990s when Otting held a ranking position at Union Bank NA, overseeing its lending practices to medium-sized companies. From there he transitioned to U.S. Bancorp, where he was tasked with building its middle-market business (covering companies with $50 million to $1 billion in annual revenues) as part of that lender’s expansion in California.

In 2010, Otting was hired as CEO of OneWest (now owned by CIT Group).  During his time there with Mnuchin, OneWest foreclosed on about 36,000 people and was faced with sweeping allegations of abusive foreclosure practices for which it was fined $89 million. Otting received $10.5 million in an employment contract payout when terminated by CIT in 2015. As Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted all too accurately during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, “Joseph Otting is yet another bank exec who profited off the financial crisis who is being rewarded by the Trump Administration with a powerful job overseeing our nation’s banking system.”

Like Trump and Mnuchin, Otting has never held public office. He is, however, an enthusiastic proponent of loosening lending regulations. Not only is he against reinstating Glass-Steagall, but he also wants to weaken the “Volcker Rule,” a part of the Dodd-Frank Act that was meant to place restrictions on various kinds of speculative transactions by banks that might not benefit their customers.

Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman nominee Jay Clayton is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman nominee Jay Clayton is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, in the wake of the crash of 1929 and in the midst of the Great Depression. Its intention was to protect investors by certifying that the securities business operated in a fair, transparent, and legal manner.  Admittedly, its first head, Joseph Kennedy (President John F. Kennedy’s father), wasn’t exactly a beacon of virtue. He had helped raise contributions for Roosevelt’s election campaign even while under suspicion for alleged bootlegging and other illicit activities.

Since May 2017, the SEC has been run by Jay Clayton, a top Wall Street lawyer. Following law school, he eventually made partner at the elite legal firm Sullivan & Cromwell. After the 2008 financial crisis, Clayton was deeply involved in dealing with the companies that tanked as that crisis began. He advised Barclays during its acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ assets and then represented Bear Stearns when JPMorgan Chase acquired it.

In the three years before he became head of the SEC, Clayton represented eight of the 10 largest Wall Street banks, institutions that were then regularly being investigated and charged with securities violations by the very agency Clayton now heads. He and his wife happen to hold assets valued at between $12 million and $47 million in some of those very institutions.

Not surprisingly in this administration (or any other recent one), Clayton also has solid Goldman Sachs ties. On at least seven occasions between 2007 and 2014, he advised Goldman directly or represented its corporate clients in their initial public offerings. Recently, Goldman Sachs requested that the SEC release it from having to report its lobbying activities or payments because, it claimed, they didn’t make up a large enough percentage of its assets to be worth the bother. (Don’t be surprised when the agency agrees.)

Clayton’s main accomplishment so far has been to significantly reduce oversight activities. SEC penalties, for instance, fell by 15.5% to $3.5 billion during the first year of the Trump administration.  The SEC also issued enforcement actions against only 62 public companies in 2017, a 33% decline from the previous year. Perhaps you won’t then be surprised to learn that its enforcement division has an estimated 100 unfilled investigative and supervisory positions, while it has also trimmed its wish list for new regulatory provisions. As for Dodd-Frank, Clayton insists he won’t “attack” it, but thinks it should be “looked” at.

Mick Mulvaney, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget

Trump's Budget Director-designate Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 24, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump’s Budget Director-designate Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 24, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

As a congressman from South Carolina, ultra-conservative Republican Mick Mulvaney, dubbed “Mick the Knife,” once even labeled himself a “right-wing nut job.” Chosen by President Trump in November 2016 to run the Office of Management and Budget, he was confirmed by Congress last February.

As he said during his confirmation hearings, “Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard-earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hard-working Americans do every day.” As soon as he was at the OMB, he took an axe to social programs that help everyday Americans. He was instrumental in creating the GOP tax plan that will add up to $1.5 trillion to the country’s debt in order to provide major tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. He was also a key figure in selling the plan to the media.

When Richard Cordray resigned as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in November, Trump promptly selected Mick the Knife for that role, undercutting the deputy director Cordray had appointed to the post. After much debate and a court order in his favor, Mulvaney grabbed a box of Dunkin’ Donuts and headed over from his OMB office adjacent to the White House. So even though he’s got a new job, Mulvaney is never far from Trump’s reach.

The problem for the rest of us: Mulvaney loathes the CFPB, an agency he once called “a joke.” While he can’t unilaterally demolish it, he’s already obstructed its ability to enforce its government mandates. Soon after Trump appointed him, he imposed a 30-day freeze on hiring and similarly froze all further rule-making and regulatory actions.

In his latest effort to undermine American consumers, he’s working to defund the CFPB. He just sent the Federal Reserve a letter stating that, “for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018, the Bureau is requesting $0.” That doesn’t bode well for American consumers.

Jerome “Jay” Powell, Federal Reserve

Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump's nominee for chairman of the Federal Reserve, sits in the audience before being called to testify during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 28, 2017.  (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Jerome Powell, President Donald Trump’s nominee for chairman of the Federal Reserve, sits in the audience before being called to testify during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 28, 2017. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Thanks to the Senate confirmation of his selection for chairman of the board, Donald Trump now owns the Fed, too. The former number two man under Janet Yellen, Jerome Powell will be running the Fed, come Monday morning, February 5th.

Established in 1913 during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, the Fed’s official mission is to “promote a safe, sound, competitive, and accessible banking system.” In reality, it’s acted more like that system’s main drug dealer in recent years. In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, in addition to buying trillions of dollars in bonds (a strategy called “quantitative easing,” or QE), the Fed supplied four of the biggest Wall Street banks with an injection of $7.8 trillion in secret loans. The move was meant to stimulate the economy, but really, it coddled the banks.

Powell’s monetary policy undoubtedly won’t represent a startling change from that of previous head Janet Yellen, or her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. History shows that Powell has repeatedly voted for pumping financial markets with Federal Reserve funds and, despite displaying reservations about the practice of quantitative easing, he always voted in favor of it, too. What makes his nomination out of the ordinary, though, is that he’s a trained lawyer, not an economist.

Powell is assuming the helm at a time when deregulation is central to the White House’s economic and financial strategy.  Keep in mind that he will also have a role in choosing and guiding future Fed appointments. (At present, the Fed has the smallest number of sitting governors in its history.) The first such appointee, private equity investor Randal Quarles, already approved as the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, is another major deregulator.

Powell will be able to steer banking system decisions in other ways.  In recent Senate testimony, he confirmed his deregulatory predisposition. In that vein, the Fed has already announced that it seeks to loosen the capital requirements big banks need to put behind their riskier assets and activities. This will, it claims, allow them to more freely make loans to Main Street, in case a decade of cheap money wasn’t enough of an incentive.

The Emperor Has No Rules

Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America’s key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists.

Naturally, Wall Street views Trump’s chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared.  But one thing is certain: when the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing, while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again.

There’s a pattern to this: first, there’s a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there’s another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns.

Ominously, we’re now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: it won’t be pretty.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrive at the Treasury Department in Washington, April 21, 2017, where the president was to sign an executive order to review tax regulations set last year by his predecessor, as well as two memos to potentially reconsider major elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms passed in the wake of the Great Recession. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Nomi Prins is a . Her new book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books), will be published this May. Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece. 

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter, where this article first appeared, and join them on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

© 2018 Nomi Prins

The post It’s Not If the Next Financial Crisis Will Happen – but When appeared first on MintPress News.

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It’s Not If the Next Financial Crisis Will Happen – but When

The Next Financial Crisis will be Worse than the Last

This piece first appeared in Truthdig.

We’ve made it through 2017. The first-season installment of presidential Tweetville is ending where it began, on the Palm Beach, Fla., golf course of Mar-a-Lago. Though we are no longer privy to all the footage behind the big white truck, we do know that, given the doubling of its membership fees, others on the course will have higher stakes in the 2018 influence game.

The billionaire who ran on an anti-establishment platform went on a swamp-filling, deregulatory and inequality-producing tear, in the process creating the wealthiest Cabinet in modern United States history and expanding his own empire along the way. His offspring, Russia-related investigations aside, didn’t do too shabbily either. White House policy adviser Ivanka Trump’s brand opened a splashy new store in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, just in time for Christmas.

If you look at the stock and asset markets, as Donald Trump tends to do (and as Barack Obama did, too), you’d think all is fine with the world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 24 percent this year. The Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index rose 6.20 percent. The price of one Bitcoin rose about 1,646 percent.

On the flip side of that euphoria however, is the fact that the median wagerose just 2.4 percent and has remained effectively stagnant relative to inflation. And although the unemployment rate fell to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.7 percent, its lowest level in nearly four decades—particularly difficult for new entrants to the workforce, such as students graduating under a $1.3 trillion pile of unrepayable or very challenging student loan debt. (Not to worry though: Goldman Sachs is on that, promoting a way to profit from this debt by stuffing it into other assets and selling those off to investors, a la shades of the subprime mortgage crisis.)

Those of us living in the actual world without billionaire family pedigrees possess a healthy dose of skepticism over the “Make America Great Again” sect that believes Trump has transformed America “hugely,” for record-setting markets don’t imply economic stability, nor do 40 percent corporate tax cuts translate into 40 percent wage growth. We can march forward into 2018 carrying that knowledge with us.

But first, a recap. For the U.S. financial system, 2017 was marked by five main themes: The GOP’s “You All Just Got a Lot Richer” Corporate Tax Reduction Plan; Big Banks Still Bad; The Fed’s Minor Policy Shift; Debt; and Deregulators Appointed to Positions of Regulatory Authority.

Banks Are Still Big and Bad

The Big Six banks have paid billions of dollars in settlements for a variety of frauds committed before and since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, but that didn’t keep them from tallying up new fines in 2017. The nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, agreed to pay $53 million in fines for scamming African-American and Latino mortgage borrowers with disproportionately higher rates than for white borrowers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined Citigroup $28.8 million for not disclosing foreclosure-avoiding actions. Bank of America got fined $45 million for its foul treatment of a California couple trying to save their home.

But the Big Six bank that received the most attention in 2017, as it did in 2016, was Wells Fargo. The number of people affected by its fake-account creation scandal grew from 2 million reported in 2016 to about 3.5 million. That increase resulted in Wells Fargo expanding its associated class-action settlement to $142 million.

Wells Fargo was mired in smaller scandals, too. For instance, it charged 800,000 customers for auto insurance they didn’t need, raised mortgage rates for certain customers without properly disclosing it was going to, and made a bunch of unauthorized adjustments to people’s mortgages.

The idea of reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 featured in both the Democratic and the Republican National Committees’ platforms during the campaign season. But Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, made it clear multiple times there would be no such push from the administration, arguing against doing so before senators including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

To emphasize his disdain for regulation and oversight, Mnuchin also pushed the Financial Stability Oversight Council, over which he presides, to vote 6 to 3 to rescind American International Group’s designation as posing a potential threat to the U.S. financial system. Thus, AIG will no longer be paying penance for its role at the epicenter of the last financial crisis by filing regular risk reports anymore. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen also supported the move.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Bashing

In a major blow to citizen security, Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed regulator, resigned as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in November.

During his six years at the helm of the CFPB, which the Dodd-Frank Act formed in 2011, the 1,600-person regulatory entity accomplished a lot. It has provided $11.9 billion in relief to consumers for enforcement actions affecting more than 29.1 million people, handled 1.2 million consumer complaints and garnered timely responses on concerns for 97 percent of consumers.

Still, Trump appointed White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to the post that Cordray vacated. Remember: Mulvaney as a congressman wasn’t a fan of protecting consumers. “I don’t like the fact that [the] CFPB exists,” he said. “I will be perfectly honest with you.”

Over at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Joseph Otting, Mnuchin’s former partner in the takeover of IndyMac and subsequent flurry of foreclosures, was confirmed to the top position. In that spot, Otting will be able to help the Trump administration dial back more post-crisis bank regulations.

The Fed and Debt Bubbles

The Federal Reserve raised rates three times this year. With trepidation that more or larger hikes would cause a market meltdown (because cheap money has lifted banks and markets over the past decade), each time the Fed acted, it did so by the smallest sliver it could—25 basis points. All told, this brings the total rate hikes of 2017 to 75 basis points. The short-term interest rate now sits in a 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent range.

As part of its rate-hike-into-strength message, the Fed forecast that the job market and economy will further improve in 2018. Trump’s appointed Fed leader, Janet Yellen’s No. 2 man, Jerome Powell, will take stewardship of the Fed in February 2018. Policywise, he will do exactly what Yellen and Ben Bernanke did before him, given that’s how all his votes went—albeit while advocating less oversight of the big banks. That’s because cheap money turbo-boosts the stock market, and quick rate hikes can harm the bond markets.

The reality is that the Fed and the administration are scared that selling too many bonds back into the capital markets will result in broader sell-offs, which could lead to another credit squeeze and possible recession, not to mention losses for the big banks exposed to those corporations.

Zombie Companies

Fueled by cheap Fed money and low rates, the amount of outstanding corporate debt has nearly doubled from pre-crisis levels of $3.4 trillion to record levels of $6.4 trillion.

By Oct. 1, U.S. investment-grade corporate debt issuance had already surpassed $1 trillion—beating 2016’s pace by three weeks. The amount of speculative-grade (or junkier) corporate debt issued during the first three quarters of 2017 was 17 percent higher than over the same period in 2016. Altogether, that means that U.S. corporate issuance is set for another record year, as well as the sixth consecutive year of increased corporate debt issuance.

As history has shown us, all bubbles pop. Until then, certain companies are the equivalent of the living dead. The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), or central bank of global central banks, defines zombie firms as “firms that could not survive without a flow of cheap financing.” The latest BIS Quarterly Report labeled one of every 10 corporations in emerging (EME) and advanced countries as a “zombie.”

Corporate debt of nonfinancial U.S. companies as a percentage of GDP has surged before each of the last three recessions. This year, it reached 2007 pre-crisis levels. That didn’t end well last time. Plus, now, that debt has been powered by central banks the world over.

And whereas, in the past, companies used some of their debt to invest in real growth, this time corporate investment has remained relatively low. Instead, companies have been on a spree of buying their own stock, establishing a return to 2007-level stock buybacks.

Corporations and Taxes

Companies have taken advantage of cheap money to increase their debt and buy their own stock, even though Trump and the GOP peddled the notion that decreasing their tax rate by a whopping 40 percent would move them toward diverting their money from the stock and bond markets into jobs and wages.

The GOP tax bill cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Collectively, large U.S. companies only pay an average effective tax rate of 18 percent anyway. They only contribute 9 percent to the overall tax receiptsthe U.S. government receives each year.

Companies like General Electric haven’t paid any taxes in a decade. But more to the point, that tax cut is another form of cheap money giveaway. Even Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, concurred. He called the tax cut a “QE4” (another round of quantitative easing, added to the three rounds the Fed executed over the past decade to reach $4.41 trillion in credit).

Looking Ahead to 2018

As we enter the new year, consider this: All the Fed talk about “tapering” or reducing the size of its book, and even the 75 basis points of rate hikes, are a setup for the next act of the same play.

Since the Fed’s announcement that it was going to stop reinvesting the interest payments on the bonds it’s holding, the size of its book has been about the same. There’s always a mismatch between what the Fed says and what it does.

So despite its tapering talk, the Fed’s balance sheet is down a mere $10 billion (an equivalent of a rounding error) this year. Its book of assets remains at $4.41 trillion, a figure equivalent to 23 percent of U.S. GDP. Incoming Fed Chair Powell is more likely to keep supplying cheap money than withdrawing it from the markets in the instance of any wobbles.

What does that mean? Financially speaking, 2018 will be a precarious year of more bubbles inflated by cheap money, followed by a leakage that will begin with the bond or debt markets. The GOP tax cuts won’t technically kick in monetarily for corporations until after the year is over in 2019, but the anticipation of extra funds will fuel more buybacks. This will help to provide cover for any rate hikes the Fed implements, because it provides corporations the ability to boost their own share prices further.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and other smaller regulatory authorities in Washington will push for greater deregulation of the financial systems and banking industry on any level possible. If there is another financial crisis in 2018 or later, it will be worse than the last one because the system remains fundamentally unreformed, banks remain too big to fail and the Fed and other central banks continue to control the flow of funds to these banks (and through to the markets) by maintaining a cheap cost of funds.

Politically, no one in any position of the most power will do anything to fix any of this. It’s up to us to push it.

Source

http://www.nomiprins.com/thoughts/2017/12/31/the-next-financial-crisis-will-be-worse-than-the-last.html

The investor’s guide to spotting the signs of a stock market crash

Anyone looking at any of the standard models will tell you that the US stock market is overvalued.

For instance, looking at the benchmark S&P 500, the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (created by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller) is higher than any time in history—except during the internet bubble from 1998-2001. (By other metrics, the current market valuation is the highest ever but no matter where you stand on that debate, the fact that we’re comparing the current market to the biggest stock market bubble in history—which ended with a 50% correction—should give you pause.)

Despite the negative consequences, euphoric periods (a.k.a. bubbles) happen again and again. Financial memory is short and new generations discard the lessons of the older. Hope drives herds to follow winners, mistakenly associating money with intelligence. And a fear of missing out drives increasingly extreme behaviors.

The focus of bubbles varies. From tulips in the 1630s, to industrials in the 1920s, to the Nifty Fifty in the 1970s, to the internet in the 1990s, investors have focused too much capital on a single new thing without regard to price or value. Today, it seems to be globally synchronized growth (a fancy way of saying that most economies around the world have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and are doing well) that has investors convinced that everything is different this time and that the value of everything will just keep going up. And it seems that the new thing may be the S&P 500 with conventional wisdom advising that simply buying an S&P 500 ETF will lead to wealth and life on easy street.

Will this manic moment turn negative and, if so, how bad will it be?

Markets don’t go down because things are expensive. Even though there is a chorus of bears saying that the market is overvalued, there is a louder chorus of bulls who is cheering the market to go higher. The question is whether and when the bull chorus will lose its voice. And whether there will be a crash at the other end.

And not all rapid price increases end in crashes. Research published by Harvard shows (pdf) that the price run-ups that are more likely to crash are accompanied by three criteria that we’ll be watching closely in 2018:

We’re also watching for indications that the globally synchronized growth story may be coming to an end such as:

  • a loss of liquidity due to central bank tightening;
  • growth troubles from inflation, demographic shifts, or a troubled consumer;
  • a drag from worldwide indebtedness;
  • or a desynchronization from a declining dollar.

Any of these issues could spook investors and put an end to the current euphoria. But we could still still see quite a melt-up before any of these larger issues put an end to the current bull market. Jeremy Grantham, the legendary head of investment firm GMO, has predicted that the S&P 500 could rise 20-30% more over the next 9-12 months if it follows the pattern of previous bubbles. Of course, the issue is that timing the top of any bubble is extremely difficult.

Grantham: What it Would Take to Make the S&P 500 a Classic Bubble

So what to do ahead of a possible bubble burst?

Perhaps follow the lead of David Swensen, head of the Yale endowment and one of the most successful investors in history. Swensen has increased Yale’s allocation of investments that don’t move with equities, like US Treasuries, to provide liquidity if there is a correction. This isn’t the first time Swensen has used this strategy. In 2008, he had 30% of Yale’s assets in uncorrelated investments and he used half of that to buy equities when they were cheaper in 2009-10.

How much does Swensen have available today? 32%.


Read this next: AI does not have enough experience to handle the next market crash

Source

The investor’s guide to spotting the signs of a stock market crash

Ken Rogoff Warns “China Will Be At The Center Of The Next Global Financial Crisis”

“If interest rates go up even modestly, halfway to their normal level, you will see a collapse in the stock market,”

 “I don’t know how everything from art and bitcoin to stock prices will react as interest rates go up.”

Few people know as much about financial crises as Kenneth Rogoff. Together with his colleague Carmen Reinhart, the highly influential professor at Harvard University is the author of «This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly», one of the most important studies on the financial crisis of 2008 and its impact on the economy and society. So what’s the big lesson nearly ten years after the traumatic fall of the investment bank Lehman Brothers? In which way was this crisis different than other big shocks in the history of finance? Und most importantly: What’s next for the global economy?

Professor Rogoff, since the outbreak of the financial crisis nearly ten years have passed. How do grade this recovery when you look at other big busts in the history of finance?
In my research with Carmen Reinhart we found that after a deep systemic financial crisis, it often takes the economy eight to ten years to recover. Now, it’s been a decade and I think we are in a recovery period where we are going to get some reversion to mean in terms of productivity growth and other things. That means we are going to get above average productivity growth and rising investments for several years as the economy normalizes.

That sounds encouraging. Is this long period of anemic growth finally behind us?
I feel that the OECD and the IMF are going to be marking up their global growth forecast most of the time in the next few years. They have been marking down their forecasts for nine years in a row. For example, the IMF marked its global growth forecast 27 times in a row down and this October was the first time they raised their outlook.

What’s the most important thing to watch now?
The single most important thing is that investment continues to pick up. Seeing some recovery in investment would support the idea that there is more life in the recovery. There has been a deep, long lasting dip in global investment. That’s a big part of the explanation why interest rates are so low. So the most important question is whether the recent pick up in investment will continue.

In the US, the last recession ended nearly nine years ago. Aren’t we already in the late stage of this economic cycle?
I think that’s nonsense. A financial crisis has a very unusual recovery. So you can’t just count years and compare it to a typical recession. Also, if we had a recession right now it would be a much more normal recession. In any given year, there is a probability of around 15% for a recession and there is no reason to suppose that the odds are greater than 15% today. On the contrary: There is a very good chance that growth outperforms most of the time the next few years.

So is there nothing that was different with this financial crisis?
No, it fit right in. Financial crises leave such distinctive footprints in the data that you see very similar characteristics across time. In many ways, this was a garden variety of a systemic financial crisis: The way it happened, focused on the housing market, and the very slow recovery. In many quantitative benchmarks this financial crisis was very normal compared to other deep systemic financial crises. But if there was something different it was the European debt crisis. It was another whole layer on top of the financial crisis.

What do you mean by that?
This was absolutely the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression when some countries experienced very bad crises. In this context, the very slow recoveries in Europe are significant. For instance, the Greek financial crisis ranks comfortably in the top 15 worst financial crises during the last hundred years. Greece’s experience was as bad as anything anyone experienced in the Great Depression. Also, the crisis that Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland experienced fit into the hundred biggest financial crises on record. On the other hand, it’s important to note that these countries are very wealthy compared to where the world was in the 1920s and 1930s. So even these financial crises were very severe, they took place on a much higher wealth level. What’ more, all in all this time they were handled better.

A big part of the response to the financial crisis were the bailouts of big banks like Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland or UBS. How healthy is the financial system today?
In most countries the banking system is pretty sound today. But then again, the level of regulation has tightened up so much that banks are not making loans as easily as they did. That makes it hard for medium and small businesses to get loans as easily as they did in the past. So the banking system is healthy in the sense that it’s less fragile than it was in 2007. But it’s less healthy in terms of being able to fund growth. Therefore, we need to improve the regulation of banks. In this respect, I like the ideas of Stanford Professor Anat Admati, and her German co-author Martin Hellwig who advocate having a much simpler regulation for banks but requiring more equity financing. I think that’s an extremely good idea and it would be much better than the way we’re doing things right now.

Does that mean we don’t have to worry anymore of another financial crisis?
Of course, there are still issues with the Eurozone. But the only country which is sort of in a different place in the cycle and which is important is China. China is probably the place most at risk of having a significant downturn in the near term. It’s certainly the leading candidate for being at the center of the next big financial crisis.

Why does China concern you so much?
I have great respect for the Chinese authorities and they are working very hard to not have a financial crisis. Also, it will be different because there is no truly private company in China. So government guarantees are triggered much more quickly than they are in the western economy. Nevertheless, I still think that’s the most fragile large region in the world at the moment. The big problem is that the Chinese economy is still very imbalanced, relying much too heavily on investment and exports. In addition to that, China is very credit dependent. So if China were to run into financial difficulties or just experience a slowdown in the rate of credit growth that could produce a lot of problems. And if China were to run into its own kind of financial crisis it would probably produce a growth crisis which could produce a political crisis.

But high levels of debt are not only a problem in China. Today, the debt levels in most western countries are even higher than at the eve of the financial crisis.
The debt levels are very high, but we also have phenomenally low interest rates. So the debt levels are highly sustainable if interest rates stay this low. I’m talking about real interest rates, inflation adjusted interest rates. And the likelihood is that they will stay very low for a long time. That’s what the markets are predicting. So if real interest rates stay very low, I don’t think there is any near-term vulnerability outside of China.

Why are interest rates still so low?
Economists don’t fully understand why interest rates have fallen as far as they have. We have lots of papers, lots of studies on it. But there is a large part we don’t know. For example, let’s suppose the United States and Europe, meaning Germany, France and northern Europe, started growing much faster. That could raise global interest rates. In this case, what could happen to countries like Italy if they didn’t grow as fast as the rest of the world? In such an environment we could certainly see big debt problems in countries like Italy. That’s a classic debt crisis pattern like in the 1980s when Latin America ran into trouble. It happened because the rich world was growing very fast and the highly indebted Latin American countries suddenly couldn’t meet their payments. But at the moment, Italy doesn’t have such problems because interest rates are so low. So no one cares.

There’s also a lot of complacency among investors at the stock market. How imminent is the risk of a correction with equity valuations as rich as they are today?
Most of it is interest rates being so low. You can do some simple calculations that suggest the low level of interest rates explains a large part of the high stock market valuation. The stock market is vulnerable to having real interest rates go up. But I don’t think it’s an exceptionally high risk right now. The stock market is high for the same reason debt is high which is that interest rates in many ways are at record lows compared to free market areas. We also had very low interest rates in other periods like in the 1950s and in the 1960s. But at that time, there was tremendous financial repression and control of the markets by governments. That’s much less true today.

Then again, since the financial crisis central banks intervene heavily in the markets with policies like negative interest rates and bond buying programs like QE. Now, they want to unwind these measures. Will that go well?
Central banks aren’t to blame for low interest rates. This is a case of global real factors that affect investment and savings which have led to these very low interest rates. Also, quantitative easing in the United States is smoke and mirrors. It’s almost meaningless. The first round of quantitative easing where the Federal Reserve was buying car loans and all sorts of private debt was significant because that’s a fiscal transfer. But simply buying treasury bonds is smoke and mirrors because it’s just the Treasury owing money to the Fed. So it’s absolutely an illusion and I don’t think it matters when they change it either.

What do you expect from incoming Fed chief Jerome Powell?
I wouldn’t expect any major changes at the Federal Reserve. Janet Yellen would have done what Jay Powell will try to do. I talked to him many times over the years and even though he’s a lawyer he really has excellent command of economic and regulatory issues. I think he’s a perfectly fine appointment, especially given that there are so many economists already on the board of the Fed. But it’s also a fact that President Trump would like to keep interest rates very low. He doesn’t want anyone to ruin his «beautiful» stock market. So the real question will be, what happens when inflation rises and the Fed feels a lot of pressure to raise rates. Will suddenly President Trump start treating Mr. Powell the way he’s treating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, constantly undermining him? I think that would be very bad institutionally and I’m very concerned about that risk.

And what about monetary policy in Europe?
The biggest challenge facing the ECB is that quantitative easing in the Eurozone is not the same as in the United States. It’s basically a subsidy from the northern countries to the southern countries. Places like Spain, Portugal and Italy have received massive loans from Germany and France under the table through the ECB. If the ECB changes its quantitative easing, Europe is going to need some vehicle to substitute QE and support these countries, maybe some form of an Eurobond or something. So it’s going to be quite a challenge if quantitative easing stops in the Eurozone.

Also, in many parts of Europe interest rates are still negative. Will that leave permanent damages to the economy?
I think that’s nonsense. There isn’t any particular evidence that negative interest rates are leading to permanent damages or that the risk of a crisis are higher. But eventually, we’re going to have another deep recession or financial crisis. Not tomorrow, not soon I hope, but it’s going to happen. And if countries don’t prepare for it it’s going to be much worse than the last time because interest rates are already near zero, quantitative easing is ineffective and helicopter money is a silly idea. That’s why I think that in the future we will see the major central banks and Treasuries of the world all prepare for having much deeper negative interest rates the next time we have a financial crisis. It’s a much, much more elegant solution than anything that’s been proposed. So I think many countries will prepare for negative interest rates and I would say within the next decade it will be in every central bank’s tool kit.

How will these preparations look like?
Right now, central banks are very limited because if you set interest rates too negative big players will hoard cash. But it’s not very hard to do: Without getting into the weeds, the core of it is that physical currencies are becoming increasingly unimportant in the real economy. Cash is not disappearing, and I only advocate a cash lite society not cashless society. But as cash becomes less important in the legal economy, the different measures that you need to take, ranging from eliminating large bills to potentially taxing deposits into the financial system become very easy to do. You’re also having an effect on tax evasion which is not really affecting normal people. And by the way, for all these ideas, you can exclude small savers with no particular difficulty.

But already today, people can circumvent such measures with cryptocurrencies.
But if we interpret cryptocurrency to be anonymous or nearly anonymous currencies, governments can’t allow that on a large scale. If you look at the history of coinage and paper currency, the private sector invented everything at different times at different places. But the government eventually regulates and appropriates. That’s going to happen here, too. Governments have taken a deliberately hands-off attitude, thinking that the benefits of the innovation outweigh the risks and that the risks are not systemic. But as cryptocurrencies make it easier for tax evasion, crime and corruption to take place around the world, anti-money-laundering laws are going to have to step in and shut them down. That’s coming. There is no doubt about it.

So what’s going to happen with Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a classic bubble. There are things in the technology that are valuable. But Bitcoin is more likely to be worth $10 than $10’000 in a decade. It’s very likely that it will get regulated and regulations will eventually undercut it. Even in the best-case scenario Bitcoin will probably be like MySpace. Remember that before Facebook? When they were first in but eventually a better competitor came along? When the private currency gets too big then the government has to do something and that’s the case here. You can have blockchain currencies that are not anonymous. That’s a different matter. They will live forever. But those are not the cryptocurrencies where all the speculation is taking place.

Source

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-01-24/ken-rogoff-warns-china-will-be-center-next-global-financial-crisis