2012-2014, the Maturity Wall

According to the NYTimes, $700 billion in high-yeild corporates mature from 2012 to 2014:












More from the Times article:

With huge bills about to hit corporations and the federal government around the same time, the worry is that some companies will have trouble getting new loans, spurring defaults and a wave of bankruptcies.

The United States government alone will need to borrow nearly $2 trillion in 2012, to bridge the projected budget deficit for that year and to refinance existing debt.

Indeed, worries about the growth of national, or sovereign, debt prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn on Monday that the United States and other Western nations were moving “substantially” closer to losing their top-notch Aaa credit ratings…

Sovereign debt aside, the approaching scramble for corporate financing could strain the broader economy as jobs are cut, consumer spending is scaled back and credit is tightened for both consumers and businesses.

Private equity firms and many nonfinancial companies were able to borrow on easy terms until the credit crisis hit in 2007, but not until 2012 does the long-delayed reckoning begin for a series of leveraged buyouts and other deals that preceded the crisis.

That is because the record number of bonds and loans that were issued to finance those transactions typically come due in five to seven years, said Diane Vazza, head of global fixed-income research at Standard & Poor’s.

In addition, she said, many companies whose debt matured in 2009 and 2010 have been able to extend their loans, but the extra breathing room is only adding to the bill for 2012 and after.

The result is a potential financial doomsday, or what bond analysts call a maturity wall. From $21 billion due this year, junk bonds are set to mature at a rate of $155 billion in 2012, $212 billion in 2013 and $338 billion in 2014.

The credit markets have gradually returned to normal since the financial crisis, particularly in recent months, making more loans available to companies and signaling confidence in the pace of economic recovery. But the issue is whether they can absorb the coming surge in demand for credit.

“Returned to normal” apparently means lending money to people who can’t pay it back. And of course junk bonds are just part of the debt load:

TheTreasury Department estimates that the federal budget deficit in 2012 will total $974 billion, down from this year’s $1.8 trillion, but still huge by historical standards.

Next in line are companies with investment-grade credit ratings. They must refinance $1.2 trillion in loans between 2012 and 2014, including $526 billion in 2012. Finally, there is the looming rollover of commercial mortgage-backed securities, which will double in the next three years, hitting $59.7 billion in 2012.

Even if most of the debt does get refinanced, companies may have to pay more, if heavy government borrowing causes rates for all borrowers to rise.

“These are huge numbers,” said Tom Atteberry, who manages $5.6 billion in bonds for First Pacific Advisors, and is particularly alarmed by Washington’s borrowing. “Other players will get crowded out or have to pay significantly more, because the government is borrowing so much.”

Most critics of deficit spending have focused on the budget gap alone, but Washington will actually have to borrow $1.8 trillion in 2012, because $859 billion in old bonds will come due and have to be refinanced in addition to the deficit. By 2013 and 2014, $1.4 trillion will have to be raised annually.

In the late 1990s, the federal government ran a surplus and actually paid down a small portion of the national debt. But with the huge deficits of the last few years, the national debt has grown to more than $12 trillion.

All this debt is simply unpayable, and soon unserviceable. There is no solution but default. When the government bumps up against the limits of its credit, that will be the coup de grace.

Budget madness: Obama proposes 17% increase over fiscal 2010

From Bloomberg:

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama proposes a $3.8 trillion fiscal 2011 budget today that calls for $100 billion in additional stimulus spending and projects this year’s deficit will hit a record $1.6 trillion.

The spending blueprint being sent to Congress for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 reflects the administration’s struggle to boost the economy and job growth — both top concerns of voters — while tightening the government’s belt to reduce deficits in the years ahead.

“We’re trying to accomplish a soft landing in terms of our fiscal trajectory,”Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a briefing.

What nonsense! How on earth is the nation to benefit from further inflating the ranks of sand-in-the-gears bureaucracies?

The $1.6 trillion deficit forecast for the current year represents 10.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, making it the biggest by that measure since World War II, according to administration figures. The deficit in 2009 was $1.4 trillion.

The White House deficit projection exceeds other forecasts. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast this year’s shortfall at $1.35 trillion. The median of 39 analysts survey by Bloomberg News is for $1.37 trillion this year and $1.10 trillion next year.

I am sure that the actual deficit will come in even higher, because it always does.

Spending Freeze

To address the shortfall, the administration wants to impose a three-year freeze in “discretionary” spending outside of defense and security. The freeze won’t be across-the-board. Some programs, such as education and research and development initiative, would get as much as 6 percent budget increase. The budget is subject to approval by Congress.

What kind of a spending freeze results in a 17% increase in total spending?

Obama’s plan also calls for creating a special debt commission to recommend steps to cut the deficit and tougher budgeting rules in Congress.

The result would be a deficit that declines next year to $1.27 trillion and to $828 billion in 2012, according to a summary provided by the administration. In subsequent years, though 2020, the annual deficit would still total between $700 billion and $1 trillion. By 2020, the publicly held debt would approximately double to $18.5 trillion, according to estimates.

I wonder if those projections take into account the hoardes of boomers entering retirement and running up medical bills? What GDP assumptions are in that equation  (those will be announced later this morning)? What employment assumptions? It is guaranteed that they are absurdly optimistic.

Orszag said the administration intends to slowly phase in its deficit-reduction plans, saying cutting too much too soon might stifle the economic recovery.

‘Selective’ Approach

“The worst thing we could do is act too quickly and throw the economy back into recession,” Orszag said. “But we do need to be starting, and so that’s why you see this selective approach where we are beginning the process in certain components of the budget.”

If back “act too quickly,” this Harvard genius means to cut the budget, that would be the best thing he could possibly do. Productive, accountable, efficient enterprises need this money, not the Federal government.

The increase totals 17 percent once the stimulus package is included, according to CBO estimates. The administration’s plan also calls for 120 program terminations, reductions and other savings it estimates would save $20 billion.

Wow, $0.02 trillion in savings out of a $3.8 trillion bugdet!

It would provide $33 billion in “emergency” funding this year to help pay for the administration’s troop buildup in Afghanistan. Next year, war costs would amount to $159.3 billion. The basic defense budget would amount to $549 billion, which represents a 1.8 increase adjusted for inflation. The Department of Homeland Security would get a 2 percent increase.

The budget has more than doubled from $1.9 trillion in 2001, according the OMB’s historical data.

Do you feel like you are getting twice as much value from the federal government as you were in 2001?

The US is bankrupt. That is a fact. We can’t pay all of our debts, so we should just get it over with an make an honest default. Why burden the economy for years with taxes and capital-sapping debt rollovers when in the end we’ll have to default anyway? This is like continuing to pay an underwater mortgage when you’ve lost your job and you could rent the same thing for 1/3 the cost, except that we could have a far better government for 1/20th the cost.

Start eliminating whole departments like the fascist Germany-style Department of Education, or the Soviet Russia-style Department of Housing and Urban Development. End the wars, abandon the cruel empire and stop occupying the globe (the Japanese have finally had enough of us anyway).

What cannot be sustained, won’t. If only our “leaders” would acknowledge it and do the right thing, the US could be a free and productive nation again (or better yet, group of nations).

Congressman says debt = wealth, threatens to defenestrate reporter

Here’s a little glimpse into the attitude of our elected representatives.  In this video from the Clinton years, Congressman Pete Stark of California gets increasingly agitated, condescending and rude as a reporter challenges him on the wisdom of deficit spending:

Hat tip Zero Hedge.

I glanced at Mr. Stark’s wikipedia page, and he is an interesting congresscritter. He’s an MIT engineering grad, an atheist, and he voted against both Iraq wars and the Patriot Act — just knowing those facts, I wouldn’t have guessed he was such an arrogant, ignorant prick. Oh, and like so many Democrats, he spoke out against Bush’s deficits but has no problem with his own party’s spending, like the socialized health care he supports. Here’s a quote from the Bush years:

“Republicans sure don’t care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where are you going to get that money? Are you going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement.”

That’s great — now if he’d just say the same about Obama’s Afghanistan efforts and deficits.

One more thing about this guy: he and Congressman Defazio were the geniuses behind the “Trader Tax” proposal to put a 0.25% tax on the notional value of all market transactions, as a way to “make Wall Street pay for Wall Street’s bailout.” He didn’t care that traders are not “Wall Street” and received no bailout.

Summer school

There are still a lot of people out there who didn’t absorb last year’s course on the credit cycle, particularly the chapter on inflation and deflation. To remedy this gap in your elementary economic education, before buying resource stocks or saying that any market will go to the moon on Fed-powered rockets, you are required to read this refresher by Mish Shedlock. An except is below:

…there are practical as well as real constraints on what the Fed can and will do. Nearly everyone ignores those constraints in their analysis.

Congress in theory and practice can give away money. Indeed, Congress even does that to a certain extent. Extensions to unemployment insurance, increases in food stamps, and cash for clunkers are prime examples.

However, those are a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount of credit that is blowing up. Take a look at the charts in Fiat World Mathematical Model if you need proof.

The key point is it is the difference between Fed printing and the destruction of credit that matters! As long as credit marked to market blows up faster than handouts and monetary printing increase we will be in deflation. Deflation will not last forever, but it can last a lot longer than most think.

Also ponder this missive from the dean of Deflation U, Robert Prechter:

“The Fed’s balance sheet ballooned from $900 billion just five months ago to more than $2 trillion, by buying outright, or swapping the pristine credit of U.S. Treasury debt for the questionable paper held by troubled banks, brokerages and insurance companies. One of the marketplace’s most strongly held beliefs is that the U.S. dollar is on the verge of an imminent collapse and gold is set to soar because of the Fed’s historic and irresponsible balance sheet expansion… We agree about the irresponsible part, but not about the near-term direction of the dollar and gold. Our forecast is being borne out by the dollar, which has soared straight through the Fed’s most aggressive expansion to date. Just as Conquer the Crash forecasted, the Fed is fighting deflation but, as the book says, ‘Deflation will win, at least initially.’ The reason is that there are way more debt dollars than cash dollars, with about $52 trillion currently in total market credit. As this enormous mountain of debt implodes, it is swamping all efforts to inflate. Of course, the Fed has explicitly stated that it will keep trying. Its initial effort was akin to trying to fill Lake Superior with a garden hose. But $2 trillion still won’t do the trick of stemming a contracting pool of $52 trillion. The only real effect is that taxpayers get hosed. Obviously not all of the $52 trillion is compromised debt, but the collateral underlying this mammoth pool of IOUs is decreasing in value, placing downward pricing pressure on the value of related debt, which won’t show up in the Federal Reserve figures for many months. A reduction in the aggregate value of dollar-denominated debt is deflation, which is now occurring. Eventually the value of credit will contract to a point where it can be sustained by new production. At that point, the U.S. dollar may indeed collapse, as gold soars under the weight of the Fed’s bailout machinations. But deflation must run its course first. In our opinion, it has a long way to go…”

Also consider an oldie from yours truly  (Some Basic Points on Inflation and Deflation):

#1 The business cycle is the credit cycle.

#2 Inflation is a net increase in money and credit, not just prices (mainstream opinion) and not just money (common misconception among contrarians).

#3 Deflation is a net decrease in money and credit.

#4 There cannot be both inflation and deflation at once.

#5 The central bank and the government bring about inflation by absolving banks of the responsibility for their actions. 9:1 fractional reserve lending would not be rewarded in a free market devoid of FDIC insurance and a central bank to print the money to pay for it and other bailouts for bankers.

#6 Price increases themselves are not inflation. If you have a fixed expense budget and your grocery and energy bill goes from $500 to $700, you must cut back $200 somewhere else (for instance, many are deciding to forgo eating out).

For points 7-11, click here

Also see, Why Bailouts will Not Stop the Depression

The next bubble: cash.

This is deflation, a contraction of money and credit. Hardy anybody argues about that anymore. So what happens next? Will Obama and the bailout maniacs inflate a new bubble in green energy in their new, green deal? Maybe, but it would only be a limited bubble, not the worldwide craze in any and all non-dollar assets that we saw the last time around.

Don’t assume that any new bubbles at all will form for a long, long time. The mood has shifted from risk to hoarding. Now that people have been burned by everything from dot-coms to gold miners and are scared to death of losing their jobs, they are going to hang onto the one thing that still works: Washington Wallpaper, the little notes that promise, “I owe you nothing but more of these IOUs.

Deflation will rage, until it doesn’t. We are still early in this phase, since among the public there is still a healthy fear of the dollar and paper money in general. But over the next year, as commodities and foreign currencies slide still lower and consumer prices stay solidly and noticeably negative, people will forget about the deficit and the $100 trillion in debt at just the wrong time.

This is the rule of maximum pain for the maximum number. The dollar is not yet ready to fail because it is too feared and despised. But when people let their guard down and sell for $450 the Krugerrands that they are paying $900 for today, take all that they have, because then the real fun will begin.

Just as the public will get too complacent about holding I-owe-you-nothings (Doug Casey’s phrase), Congress and Obama will get too complacent about printing them up, and the whole debt-based money system will come crashing down. I don’t pretend to know how it will play out (hyperinflation or just plain-old, “sorry, we can’t pay” default), but it will be visibly ugly, and I am glad I’ll only be watching it on TV. This won’t be pretty anywhere, but the US is not a civilized country anymore, and it has a most uncivil government.

Impatient Treasury shorts toasted.

The 30-year yield closed at 3.91% today, in a massive compression of the yield curve, a movement that has a lot of room left to run. Way back on August 8th (day 4 of this blog), I wrote the following in “That crazy, crazy bond market: a call for sub-3% long bonds”:

I predict that the dollar rally will strengthen the compression of Treasury yields at all ends of the curb, as the market perceives a lower currency risk. This is a sign of deflation: an increasing preference for cash. With the banking system on the verge of a collapse worse than the ’30s, people will have no choice but to buy Treasuries. These promises of an insolvent and unrepentant debtor are safer than cash in the bank (because its not really in the bank!).

This flight to safety will send short-term yields back under 1% (as they were in March), and traders will move out the yield curve to get ahead of the compression, driving long bonds to historic lows, likely well under 3%. …

So it may seem crazy, but it is entirely possible (and given the banking crisis, likely) that long Treasury yields will fall to 60 year records in the face of horrible fundamentals. But once they get there, I expect them to turn up and keep going, as the government starts to default by Fed printing.

To all those who feel that the US debt just DESERVES to be shorted, I say wait. It will get more deserving.

That post is worth another look, if only for the charts of the last top in Treasuries, the 1940s, when long yields hovered under 3% while inflation breached 10%.

There has been a lot of talk of a widening yield curve lately, and more than a couple of people have mentioned to me that they were thinking of shorting TLT or buying a short Treasury ETF. This actually furthered my conviction that despite the HUGE deficits that the US gov’t has started to run, that bonds were still a buy, or at least not yet a short, as no market tops out in room full of bears. Well, the premature shorts had another rough day, as we all were reminded again that this is a deflationary panic, and that Treasuries are the only things that go up in these little episodes.

Markets don’t have to make fundamental sense. They only sometimes do, in the sense that a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Debt ceiling to be raised for 3rd time in 12 months. Now $11,315,000,000,000.

This little provision was slipped into the bailout bill (published on nytimes.com):

Sec. 10. Increase in Statutory Limit on the Public Debt.

Subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking out the dollar limitation contained in such subsection and inserting in lieu thereof $11,315,000,000,000.

The last raise was only in July, to $10.6 trillion. Before that it was increased in September 2007 to $9.815 trillion. With the new limit, we have a 15% increase in 12 months, but that pales in comparison to the annualized rate of increase since July.

So those are the debt issuance figures: in the ballpark of $1 trillion extra for now, but surely to rise greatly as the panic deepens, tax receipts dry up, and a new New Deal is enacted. Not to mention any extra war expenditures, also no doubt on the way.

Note that these figures only refer to the sum of Treasury bonds outstanding, not the discounted future cost of entitlements, which adds another $90 trillion to the tab. It is a pretty safe bet that the US will never have a balanced budget again and default on its promises through failure to deliver services and inflating away its Treasury debt.

But before you go and put everything in gold juniors, remember that Japan ran massive deficits all through its lost decade of the 1990s, and they still experienced sustained deflation and had very low Treasury bond yields. The reason is that the debt issuance and public expenditures could not make up for the massive wealth lost in the aftermath of their real estate and stock bubble of the late 1980s. The Nikkei is still down 69% (and falling) from its high two decades ago.

The Bond Bubble is in Munis, not Treasuries

Investors looking for bonds to short should look here:

Source: bloomberg.com

Not here:

Source: bloomberg.com

Talk about all risk and no reward! Township and state revenues are falling through the floor, and politicians are exceedingly reluctant to cut bloated budgets. Next year, I bet the default rate on Munis will be as high as the Florida mortgage default rate (well into the double digits). Vallejo California was just the canary in the coal mine. Not every town pays their firemen $250k, but most pay $55-70k with full benefits and retirement by age 48. Here’s a look at firemen in Vallejo making 200-300k per year. This is too absurd not to publish:

Source: sfgate.com

Yes, the federal government is just as broke, but its powers of taxation are practically absolute, and it has a central bank to print up any shortfalls. Hence, US debt is the ultimate near-to-intermediate term safe-haven. This Treasury rally is no bubble. This is what a good, hard, deflation looks like.

Will Bill Gross please shut up?

“if we are to prevent a continuing asset and debt liquidation of near historic proportions, we will require policies that open up the balance sheet of the U.S. Treasury…” Bill Gross, September Investment Outlook

This guy continues to disgust me. If Americans before him had held the notions about markets that he does, there would be no wealth for him to manage, and he would not be a billionaire. This would be Venezuela.

Here is an excerpt from his latest bailout plea:

This rarely observed systematic debt liquidation is what confronts the U.S. and perhaps even the global financial system at the current time. Unchecked, it can turn a campfire into a forest fire, a mild asset bear market into a destructive financial tsunami. Central bankers, of course, adopting the cloak and demeanor of firefighters or perhaps lifeguards, have been hard at work over the past 12 months to contain the damage. And the private market, in its attempt to anticipate a bear market bottom and snap up “bargains,” has been constructive as well. Over $400 billion in bank- and finance-related capital has been raised during the past year, a decent amount of it, by the way, having been bought by yours truly and my associates at PIMCO. Too bad for us and for everyone else who bought too soon. There are few of these deals now priced at par or above, which is bondspeak for “they are all underwater.” We, as well as our SWF and central bank counterparts, are reluctant to make additional commitments.

Step 2 on our delevering blackboard therefore has stalled and is inevitably morphing towards Step 3. Assets are still being liquidated but there is an increasing reluctance on the part of the private market to risk any more of its own capital. Liquidity is drying up; risk appetites are anorexic; asset prices, despite a temporarily resurgent stock market, are mainly going down; now even oil and commodity prices are drowning. There may be a Jim Cramer bull market somewhere, but it’s primarily a mirage unless and until we get the entrance of new balance sheets, and a new source of liquidity willing to support asset prices. …

A Depression-era bank robber named Willie Sutton once said that the reason he robbed banks was because “that’s where the money is.” Illegal for sure, but close to an 800 SAT score for logic if you were in the business of stealing other people’s money. And now, while some will compare current government bailouts to Slick Willie, citing moral hazard, near criminal regulatory neglect, and further bailouts for Wall Street and the rich, common sense can lead to no other conclusion: if we are to prevent a continuing asset and debt liquidation of near historic proportions, we will require policies that open up the balance sheet of the U.S. Treasury – not only to Freddie and Fannie but to Mom and Pop on Main Street U.S.A., via subsidized home loans issued by the FHA and other government institutions. A 21st century housing-related version of the RTC such as advocated by Larry Summers amongst others could be another example of the government wallet or balance sheet that is required during rare periods when the private sector is unable or unwilling to step forward.

The bill for our collective speculative profligacy, obvious in the deflating asset markets, can be paid now or it can be paid later. Those aspiring for a perfect 800 on the Wall Street policy exam would conclude that the tab will be less if paid up front, than if swept under a rug of moral umbrage intent on seeking retribution for any and all of those responsible. Now that the Fed has spent 12 months proving that it “knows something…knows something,” it is time for the Treasury to do likewise.

Sorry, Bill, I’m not scared. Systemic debt liquidation is exactly what the country needs right now, and actions like this are exactly what laid the groundwork for this bubble, by absolving bankers and guys like you from responsibility for your actions. To repeat these mistakes on such a massive scale would distort our economy into a perverse and Orwellian system for the sole benefit of politically connected billionaires.

Is Gross really that cynical?

If he’s not cynical, he’s dumb, and I doubt any self-made billionaire investor could be this dense. As Carl Denninger points out, Gross bought much of this mortgage debt over the last 12 months, at a big discount, surely with the full intention of lobbying for a bailout of his positions (he has been using his column, media appearances, and certainly contacts in Washington to do just that). A man with this kind of character could only be rewarded with wealth and prestige in a society that has gone completely off the deep end. Time to drain and scrub the pool.

Sound money promotes peace

Ron Paul is not just the lone voice of reason and honesty in Congress, he’s also a great writer. In the latest of his weekly essays, he spells out how sound money (gold and silver being tried and true examples of which) restrains governments from engaging in mischief such as wars of aggression:



“Can sound money really bring about peace?  Actually, it plays a big part in peaceful international relationships. Money based on commodities, rather than paper, is not subject to government manipulation, and is a key component to free and honest trade.  History shows that if countries engage in trade with each other, their governments tend to find ways to get along for the same reason you do not kill your customers at your place of business, even if they occasionally annoy you. If someone outright cheats you, however, you may engage in “war” by taking them to court, for example, and the relationship will sour. Governments and central banks with unfettered power to manipulate currency also have the ability to cheat their creditors. One way they do this is to simply create enough currency to pay off debts. This devalues the currency and “cheats” the recipient out of what they are owed. It would not be fair if you watered down your product the way our government waters down its currency, so it is not hard to understand, in these simplified terms, why loose monetary policy contributes so much to ill will and war around the world.

Can sound money really bring about peace?  Actually, it plays a big part in peaceful international relationships. Money based on commodities, rather than paper, is not subject to government manipulation, and is a key component to free and honest trade.  History shows that if countries engage in trade with each other, their governments tend to find ways to get along for the same reason you do not kill your customers at your place of business, even if they occasionally annoy you. If someone outright cheats you, however, you may engage in “war” by taking them to court, for example, and the relationship will sour. Governments and central banks with unfettered power to manipulate currency also have the ability to cheat their creditors. One way they do this is to simply create enough currency to pay off debts. This devalues the currency and “cheats” the recipient out of what they are owed. It would not be fair if you watered down your product the way our government waters down its currency, so it is not hard to understand, in these simplified terms, why loose monetary policy contributes so much to ill will and war around the world.

Sound money, on the other hand, simply is what it is. Removing governmental power to manipulate money, removes the temptation for government to spend, print and cheat. Sound money ensures that our government’s spending priorities would be brought into sharp focus and reduced to only what we can afford.

Sound money also limits the ability to wage wars of aggression. Imagine how much more careful Washington would have to be about starting a war if they did not have this financial sleight of hand at their disposal! Fiat currency allows government do expensive things they should not be doing while paying the bills with cheap money”.

It’s no secret that deficits and inflation are how wars are financed. Every major war fought by the US, even the Revolution, was funded by printing currency and/or selling bonds (often at great profit to bankers selling the bonds). Whenever the US had been on a gold standard before a major war, it would be dropped, as in the Civil War and WWI. All combatants in WWI dropped gold upon entering, and they again dropped it permanently by WWII. To be fair, many also ran huge deficits to pay for socialism in the 1930s, the national socialist (Nationalsozialistische, i.e. NAZI) kind and otherwise.

Vietnam, along with Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ welfare expansion, was an immediate cause of the final severance of the dollar to gold and silver, first with the withdrawal of silver coinage in 1964, then with the default on our gold-backed bonds in 1971.

Many know that after Rome’s wars stopped paying for themselves and the welfare state got out of hand, inflation kept the game going. The silver Denarius of Augustus’s reign was slowly diluted to nearly 100% copper over the following 200 years. When merchants resisted the debased coinage, Emperors resorted to brute force to give value to their fiat money: use it, or else.