Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell appeared on 60 Minutes last Sunday to reassure us that the US economy is great. There’s nothing to worry about. So, why the sudden reversal in Fed monetary policy? According to Powell, the central bank is just worried about slowing global growth. But as Mike Maharrey discusses in this week’s Friday Gold Wrap, it’s pretty clear the real problems are right here in the good ol’ US of A. Mike also covers the latest in precious metals news, with a focus on silver.
Total consumer debt broke another record in January, according to the latest report by the Federal Reserve.
Borrowing increased by $17.05 billion in the first month of 2019. The increase pushed overall consumer borrowing to a new $4.03 trillion record. That compares with $3.84 trillion in January 2018. That represents a 5.1% annual increase.
Peter Schiff has been saying that despite the recent stock market rally and all of the optimism about an end to the trade war, a recession is a done deal. There is plenty of economic data to back up despite the recent economic growth. In his most recent podcast, Peter Schiff said that while the GDP number might look pretty good, the growth is unsustainable because it’s all built on debt.
Based on the latest data, the student debt crisis in America isn’t about to end any time soon.
US household debt climbed to a record $13.54 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018. Student loan debt makes up a sizeable chunk of that total. In fact, student loan debt now ranks as the second-largest consumer debt category, trailing only mortgages.
After Jerome Powell indicated that the Federal Reserve tightening cycle was on pause during last week’s FOMC meeting, Peter Schiff said, “The monetary drug pushers at the Federal Reserve gave the addicts on Wall Street exactly the fix that they had been craving.”
Peter often compares the markets to drug addicts. They are addicted to the easy money the central bank provides. Reuters used that same imagery to describe America’s business community in the wake of the “loose money era,” saying it left a “trail of US corporate debt junkies.
What happens when central banks push interest rates to zero – in some cases below zero – and hold them there for nearly a decade?
You get debt.
Lots and lots of debt.
Record levels of debt, in fact.
Student loan debt has grown to over $1.5 trillion. And that just accounts for loans held by Federal Student Aid. It doesn’t include private loans. Meanwhile, the Department of Education says 43% of those government-backed loans are considered “in distress.”
In a speech last month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put the current level of student debt in perspective.
One-point-five trillion dollars is almost impossible to fathom. So, let me put it this way: $1.5 trillion is more than $10,000 of someone else’s student loan debt for each and every American taxpayer—145 million of them.”
As WolfStreet put it, the $1.3 billion leveraged loan market has come unglued.
“Leveraged loans” are made to firms already deeply in debt. Think subprime loans for corporations. As with any risky loan, they could be difficult to either collect or resell in a downturn, putting both the borrower and lender at risk.
Americans took on another $10.9 billion in debt in September, according to data released by the Federal Reserve. That pushed total consumer debt to a seasonally adjusted $3.95 trillion. American indebtedness is growing at a 3.3% rate.
But there are signs that American credit card borrowing is slowing down and that’s not good news in an economy built on consumer spending and debt.