Showing posts with label student debt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label student debt. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Debt Notes: Inflation Over The Next 18 Months Is Very Doubtful, Unless...

There's been plenty of chit-chat the past few weeks about how President Trump's infrastructure initiative (we haven't had even a sniff of what this might be, besides the Mexican wall) and tax cuts are going to spur inflation, but there hasn't been any solid data upon which to rest the thesis.

Notwithstanding the minor upticks in CPI and PPI, there's little evidence to suggest that any kind of rampant inflation is on the immediate or even the future horizon, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.

Industry and international trade has been slow since the Great Recession of 2008-09 and our bouncy "recovery" hasn't made any real dent in the actual number of hours worked nationally. Sure, the BLS always tells us more and more jobs are being created and the unemployment figure is near historic lows, but they always fail to point out that people who have dropped out of the labor force aren't counted any more, so those figures are worth about what we all pay to read them... essentially, ummmm, nothing.

Now there is going to be inflation in some things, like it or not, and those things today are, in no particular order, health care, housing, autos, and higher education. Food prices in the USA are, and always have been, relatively stable. Notably, beef prices are far lower than they were just a few years ago.

From all indications, retailers closing up shops nationwide seems to be saying there isn't much demand for clothing. Household goods, ditto. So, where's the inflation coming from if demand is waning?

Simple answer. It's not. The Federal Reserve needs to run the narrative that inflation is upon us so they can jack up their abysmally-low federal funds rate. That's because their experiment in quantitative easing (printing money) and ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) have proven to be dismal failures. Of course, they will never admit to that, or to the fact that roughly $14 trillion has been wasted or funneled directly or indirectly to the top 1% wealthiest people.

Bottom line is that without demand for goods and services, there can be no price inflation, because, using the standard metric of inflation being more money chasing fewer goods, while there's certainly more money out there, there's also no shortage of goods and services. In fact, were the economy not in such a dreadful state, more people would be opening new businesses, simply because there would be money to be made and not much in the way of competition.

As it stands today, most of the needs of the average, below average, and above average US citizen are pretty easily met. Food and clothing are cheap, and that's two of the three essentials for survival. The third, housing, is largely dictated by geography, so, in big cities, it's expensive. Out in the boonies, not so much.

All of this brings us to the real question, where is all the money coming from?

Another simple answer: debt, though it's not exactly as cut-and-dried as many would believe. Outstanding credit card debt continues to rise, but it's just a shade below $1 trillion, and, as for home equity loans, many people, and many bankers, learned a lifetime lesson in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Where the real money is coming from is debt related to car loans and higher education, aka, student loans, both of which reached all-time highs in the 4th quarter of last year.

Strange as it may seem, both are at higher nominal levels than credit card debt, at $1.407 trillion for car loans and $1.11 trillion in student loans. It seems odd that there would be more in just these two categories than everything that could be purchased with credit cards, which is, actually, everything. You can even pay taxes or register your car with a credit card, so it's readily apparent that there's an oversized appetite for new cars and degrees from colleges.

It doesn't really make sense. The vehicles on the road today may be the latest with all the greatest gadgets and widgets, but they're not much better than cars made in the past fifteen years, many of which are still reliably on the road. as for a college education, that has to be a societal miscalculation, because a degree in liberal anti-establishment cultural studies or whatever isn't going to pay for itself any time soon. It's a conundrum, a mismatch, a MALINVESTMENT, of which there are many, everywhere.

That's not to mention that the median cost of a new home is at another all-time high, but, as mentioned earlier, that's largely a local issue, but it bears notice that the average monthly payment of principle and interest (PI) for that median home is over $1000 a month.

So, if you find yourself all bollixed up over high credit card balances with high interest rates, don't worry. There are plenty of college graduates living in nice, new homes driving new cars who are in much worse shape than you.

If you're one of those people, we're all sorry, and we're having a drink to your ultimate demise, telling the bartender, "charge it."

"Compounded interest is the 8th wonder of the world. Those who don't understand it, pay it, and those who understand it, earn it."
- Albert Einstein

At The Close, Tuesday, February 7, 2017:
Dow: 20,090.29, +37.87 (0.19%)
NASDAQ: 5,674.22, +10.66 (0.19%)
S&P 500: 2,293.08, +0.52 (0.02%)
NYSE Composite: 11,236.17, -27.94 (-0.25%)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April's Fools: Stocks Continue Slide

As noted yesterday, something is not quite right about the US equity markets, and, whatever it is, it's starting to get the attention of the investor class, or, at least the computer algos that make the trades for the investor class.

Stocks continued the slide begun on Tuesday, which already sent the Dow Industrials to negative on the year and is threateneing to do the same for the NASDAQ and S&P 500.

Main among culprits leading to displeasure with stocks is the disconnect between the real economy and the Wall Street economy. In the real economy, people have to make choices, every day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and those choices, magnified by the 300+ million Americans become what are known as statistics. These statistics are not, and have not, jibed with the "recovery" mantra so popular with the government and Wall Street crowd, the one which claims everybody is working and nobody is hurting, when in fact, major segments of the population are suffering from the strains of a controlled and contrived economy that favors only a small slice of very wealthy individuals.

By age group, it goes something like this: teens and college-age individuals can't find decent jobs in many places, and, while college students, generally, as a group, are not working, teens and those in their early 20s are finding the pickings pretty slim and opportunity for advancement a challenge. Wages are low, the work is monotonous or dreary, the bosses are boot-licking jack-asses and the fringe benefits are - in general terms - nil, as in, NONE.

College students, once they graduate, if they are fortunate enough to find gainful employment, are often up to their ears in student loan debt, the average being $27,000 for a four-year degree. Many are not finding work that pays well enough to pay off the loans, rent an apartment and live like a normal human, so many of these twenty-somethings are habitating in parents' basements, smoking herb and playing video games in between their postings on insta-chat or twitter-face or whatever the app du jour happens to be.

Then there are those who used to be known as middle class, the folks in their 30s, 40s and early 50s, with or without kids at home or away or actually grown, drowned in debt from auto loans, living in underwater homes they cannot sell, and denied any upward mobility because they are linked to the national ball-and-chain known as a credit score. Some are doing OK, but the hours are long, the taxes never stop and keep going higher, and maintaining an outward appearance of peace and civility is becoming harder and harder.

Following after them are the soon-to-be-retired baby boomers, who hope that the stock market doesn't crash, who long to be soon done with working seemingly forever for less then they're worth, who are told to spend rather than save, and who don't see the point of saving since interest rates are so low, it's simply not worth the effort. Every day, something else annoys them a little bit. A higher price for a staple item, or, what's even more common, less of the same item for the same price. Or a new tax, a new law, some absurd thing like "freedom of religion" or "anti-this-or-that" legislation.

Seniors, those above and beyond the age of 65, are trying to hang on, if at all, with social security and a medical plan they neither appreciate nor understand. Co-pays keep rising, the quality of care declines. Their savings are stuck in neutral, thanks to the Fed's wisdom of keeping interest rates at zero for the past seven years. They're slowly bleeding to death from places they didn't know they had.

Amidst all of the age groups are sub-groups, like small business owners, buried under government paperwork and besiged by regulations and onerous taxes, and, what's become known as the FSA (Free S--t Army), the legions of welfare and disability sufferers who live beneath the general strata of society, seeking nothing more than a monthly rent check, food stamps, an Obamaphone and free health care. Those, and a flat-screen TV covers the extent of their pretty-much worthless lives.

Of course, we have the useful idiots who work for government and its myriad levels: teachers, police, paper-shufflers or all kinds, getting fat on the public expense account, oblivious to the plight of their fellow citizens in the real world economy. These types retire after 20 or 30 years of wasteful spending of taxpayer money, just to waste even more with their lavish pensions.

Striding atop all of these folks are the politicians and financiers of Washington and Wall Street, and state capitols and in municipal government positions.

And they're no longer laughing. At least some of them aren't. They know, that but for the grace of these hordes of individuals suffering under tax slavery and monetary repression, they and their ilk would be hung, burned or somehow disenfranchised. They can only hope to keep the game going another day, another week, another year, another election, because when it ends, they have no skills by which they could fend for themselves. They would be set adrift into a seas of unhappiness and misery, like the rest of the population.

If they're not worried, they should be, because this system is ripping and tearing at the seams, because it is unsustainable. There's only so much fraud and so much money out of thin air that can cover up the obvious defects.

But, give the oligarchs, politicians and financial whiz-kids their due. They've kept the system alive longer than anyone could have expected them to, all the time since March of 2009. Six years is not a long time, but 10 is, and 15 is longer, and there's little doubt there will be changes - for which we all are mutually unprepared - to come.

Dow 17,698.18, -77.94 (-0.44%)
S&P 500 2,059.69, -8.20 (-0.40%)
NASDAQ 4,880.23, -20.66 (-0.42%)