Consumer debt climbed to a new all-time record in April as Americans continue to cope with rapidly rising prices.
Total outstanding consumer debt rose by $38 billion in April, reaching a new record of $4.57 trillion, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve. Total consumer debt was up 10.1% in April. It was the third straight month that consumer debt increased by $30 billion or more.
Average people are worried about the economy. Consumer confidence has been falling. People undoubtedly feel the squeeze of inflation. But despite their general discontent, most people don’t seem to think a severe economic downturn is imminent — despite many warning signs.
The Federal Reserve has talked a lot about fighting inflation. But what has it actually done?
In practice, not a lot. It has nudged interest rates up 75 basis points. And while the Fed has ended the massive quantitative easing program that it ran during the pandemic, it pushed balance sheet reduction back from May until June. In fact, the balance sheet has crept upward throughout the entire month of May.
When I was about seven or eight years old, I remember my mom taking me to the bank to open a savings account. She explained that if I put some of my allowance in savings, that money would grow over time.
Well, that doesn’t work anymore.
American consumers are in a sour mood, but they haven’t stopped spending money. The problem is they’re spending money they don’t have. And they’re getting less for it.
Virginia and Alabama both extended their sales tax exemptions on precious metal bullion this year, relieving some of the tax burdens on investors, and taking a step toward treating gold and silver as money instead of as commodities.
Jerome Powell began hinting that inflation might be a problem last August. In November, Powell retired the word “transitory.” But here we are in May and the Federal Reserve still hasn’t done anything substantive to address the inflation problem.
And now it may be too late. It’s probably time to buckle up for more inflation – and perhaps a crashing economy.
The Federal Reserve came through with the second rate hike of this tightening cycle, bumping up the Fed Funds rate by 0.5%. It was the biggest interest rate boost by the Fed since 2000. But given the extent of the inflation fight, this hardly seems like a bold, aggressive move. In fact, it was a weak swing that looks more like shadow boxing. And one has to wonder just how long the Fed can stay in the ring.
Mostly we get lies, spin and obfuscation from central bankers, politicians and bureaucrats. But every once in a while, one of these people accidentally wanders into the truth.
IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva did just that during a recent panel discussion hosted by CNBC. She conceded that central banks globally “printed too much money and didn’t think of unintended consequences.”
Earlier this week, the yield on the 30-year Treasury rose above 3% for the first time since April 2019 as the carnage in the bond market continues.
Rising yields have put pressure on gold. The yellow metal flirted with $2,000 an ounce but has since fallen below the $1,950 resistance. Once again, investors are fixated on rising interest rates, but missing the bigger picture — real rates remain deeply negative.