While media pundits may be enjoying the under 400,000 level of jobless claims, ZeroHedge notes this:
Initial claims print +362K, missing consensus of 352K, and up from a upward revised, (of course) 354K. As a reminder, last week’s print was expected to be 355K, instead coming at 351K spiking the market far higher. Needless to say, the response would have been far more muted had the number come at its true final print of virtually on top of expectations, but who cares anymore – everyone appears to enjoy lying and being lied to. That this miss comes ahead of a critical NFP (non farm payroll) print will likely have some scratching their heads especially since this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010. Also keep in mind next week, today’s 362K will be upward revised to 365K. Hence the immediate if not sooner need for more, more, more QE. Continuing claims also missed at 3416K vs exp. of 3400K, and rising from an upwardly revised 3406K. Finally, EUCs and Extended benefits rose by 27K.
Yesterday he had a commment on the rise in consumer credit that also needs a look beyond the headline number:
One look at the just released consumer credit data would make one believe that the US consumer is getting back into it and the velocity of money is finally starting to ramp up: after all the headline January number came at a whopping +$17.8 billion on expectations of +10.5 billion. Nothing could be further from the truth… January revolving credit, as in that used on one’s credit card, actually declined by $2.9 billion compared to December, and was back to $800.9 billion: the first decline in 4 months as consumers spend less following an already weak holiday season. Yet offsetting this was an absolutely massive surge in Non-revolving credit, i.e., mostly student debt, which soared by $20.7 billion in the month, the highest sequential jump in this category in history, leading to a very misleading print of a major increase in credit. And it gets worse: when spread by sources of credit, the only place where credit came from was the US government, which funded a near record $28 billion, all of it going into student loans, even as every other source of credit declined in the month! If this is not the most blatant gaming of headlines, we don’t know what is. But yes, America’s lucky students get ever deeper into debt slavery, only to realize upon graduation that there are no jobs that pay high enough to allow them to pay off this debt. Thank you uncle Sam – may we have another bubble.
In a special article by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform, Quinn paints a grim picture of our economic state:
I hear the term de-leveraging relentlessly from the mainstream media. The storyline that the American consumer has been denying themselves and paying down debt is completely 100% false. The proliferation of this Big Lie has been spread by Wall Street and their mouthpieces in the corporate media. The purpose is to convince the ignorant masses they have deprived themselves long enough and deserve to start spending again. The propaganda being spouted by those who depend on Americans to go further into debt is relentless. The “fantastic” automaker recovery is being driven by 0% financing for seven years peddled to subprime (aka deadbeats) borrowers for mammoth SUVs and pickup trucks that get 15 mpg as gas prices surge past $4.00 a gallon. What could possibly go wrong in that scenario? Furniture merchants are offering no interest, no payment deals for four years on their product lines. Of course, the interest rate from your friends at GE Capital reverts retroactively to 29.99% at the end of four years after the average dolt forgot to save enough to pay off the balance. I’m again receiving two to three credit card offers per day in the mail. According to the Wall Street vampire squids that continue to suck the life blood from what’s left of the American economy, this is a return to normalcy.
And if this isn’t bad enough, consider the state of commercial real estate:
In my last article Extend & Pretend Coming to an End, I addressed the commercial real estate debacle coming down the pike. I briefly touched upon the idiocy of retailers who have based their business and expansion plans upon the unsustainable dynamic of an ever expanding level of consumer debt doled out by Wall Street banks. One only has to examine the facts to understand the fallacy of a return to normalcy. We haven’t come close to experiencing normalcy. When retail sales, consumer spending and consumer debt return to a sustainable level of normalcy, the carcasses of thousands of retailers will litter the highways and malls of America. It will be a sight to see.
Quinn explains how we got into this mess:
Your friendly Wall Street banker stepped into the breach and did their part to aid a vast swath of Americans to enslave themselves in debt… the slave owners on Wall Street have been the chief beneficiary of the decades long debt deluge. It seems that charging 18% interest on hundreds of billions in credit card debt can be extremely profitable for the shyster charging the interest. Decades of mailing millions of credit card offers, inundating financially ignorant Americans with propaganda media messages convincing them they needed a bigger house, fancier car, or latest technological gadget and creating complex derivatives that permitted banks to market debt to people guaranteed not to pay them back but not care since they sold the packages of these toxic AAA rated loans to pension funds and little old ladies, has done wonders for earnings per share, stock option awards, executive salaries and bonus pools. It hasn’t done wonders for the net worth of the average American who has been entrapped in the chains of debt, forged link by link over decades of purposeful deception and willful delusion.
He finds a media complicit in the lies:
They are incapable or unwilling to examine the actual data which substantiates the fact that Americans have NOT deleveraged and have NOT taken austerity to heart. The most basic facts fly in the face of consumers even having the wherewithal to pay down their debt. Median household income has declined from $50,300 in 2008 to $49,400 today. There are 5 million less people employed today than employed in 2008. Total wages in the country have only grown from $6.6 trillion in 2008 to $6.8 trillion today. This increase was concentrated among the .01%, who do not carry credit card debt. They profit from credit card debt. Real disposable personal income has fallen by 5% since the peak in 2008 as Bernanke’s Wall Street bailout zero interest rate policy has caused prices for everything except our houses to surge. The people carrying most of the credit card debt are the least able to pay it off. These are the same people who have swelled the food stamp rolls from 28 million in 2008 to 46.5 million today.
The American people have come to love their servitude through a combination of self- delusion, corporate mass media propaganda, and an irrational desire to appear successful without making the necessary sacrifices required to become successful. The drug of choice used to corral the masses into their painless concentration camp of debt has been Wall Street peddled financing. Can you think of a better business model than being a Wall Street bank? You hand out 500 million credit cards to 118 million households, even though 60 million of the households make less than $50,000. You then create derivatives where you package billions of subprime credit card debt and convince clueless dupes to buy this toxic debt as if it was AAA credit. When the entire Ponzi scheme implodes, you write-off $200 billion of bad debt and have the American taxpayer pick up the tab by having your Ben puppet at the Federal Reserve seize $450 billion of interest income from senior citizens and re-gift it to you through his zero interest rate policy. You then borrow from the Federal Reserve at 0% and charge an average interest rate of 15% on the $800 billion of credit card debt outstanding, generating $120 billion of interest and charging an additional $22 billion of late fees. Much was made of the closing of credit card accounts after the 2008 financial implosion, but most of the accounts closed were old unused credit lines. Now that the American taxpayer has picked up the tab for the 2008 debacle, the Wall Street banks are again adding new credit card accounts.
With 40% of all credit card users carrying a revolving balance averaging $16,000, they are incurring interest charges of $2,400 per year.
Household debt as a percentage of wages in 2008 was 185%. Today, after the banks have written off $1.2 trillion of debt, this figure stands at 169%. Meanwhile, total credit market debt in our entire system now stands at an all-time high of $54 trillion, up $3 trillion from 2007. It stands at 360% of GDP. In 1992, total credit market debt of $15.2 trillion equaled 240% of GDP ($6.3 trillion). Was it a sign of a rational balanced economic system that total credit market debt grew by 355% in the last two decades while GDP grew by only 238%? I think it is pretty clear the last two decades have not been normal or built upon a sustainable foundation.
He notes that the aging Baby Boomers won’t be spending as much as their needs are reduced and since most have not saved enough for retirement. In addition, equity in their homes has evaporated.
On the flip side, young people will be burdened with the student loans fed by a compliant government. Now 40% of them are unemployed as well.
What we have is an unsustainable level of debt that will critically impact retail sales.
Jim Kunstler, also of the Burning Platform blog concludes:
“We tell ourselves we’re in an economic recovery, meaning we expect to return to a prior economic state, namely, a turbo-charged “consumer” economy fueled by easy credit and cheap energy. Fuggeddabowdit. That part of our history is over. We’ve entered a contraction that will seem permanent until we reach an economic re-set point that comports with what the planet can actually provide for us. That re-set point is lower than we would like to imagine. Our reality-based assignment is the intelligent management of contraction. We don’t want this assignment. We’d prefer to think that things are still going in the other direction, the direction of more, more, more. But they’re not. Whether we like it or not, they’re going in the direction of less, less, less. Granted, this is not an easy thing to contend with, but it is the hand that circumstance has dealt us. Nobody else is to blame for it.”