n. WTSHTF: Debt Supercycle (ready for WTSHTF??

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Debt Supercycle (ready for WTSHTF??

Welcome to the final chapter of the Debt Supercycle—a period of trillion dollar deficits that are being monetized by trillion dollar expansions of central bank balance sheets, otherwise known as money printing. Once fiscal policy is pushed to the limits of sustainability, the Debt Supercycle will come to a violent end. This is exactly what is happening to Europe now.
As of this writing, outstanding U.S. federal debt is close to $15.3 trillion dollars. For the first time in my lifetime US federal debt now exceeds U.S. GDP. In personal terms each U.S. citizen now owes $180,559...
And currently the central banks of the top three developed world entities: the Eurozone, the US and Japan have balance sheets that amount to roughly $8 trillion...What does this mean? It means that nearly $8 trillion in world economic growth is artificial and exists only courtesy of central bank intervention...It also means that central banks will never unwind their 'assets'...It also means that in this age of ongoing consumer and corporate deleveraging, central banks will have no choice but to continue monetizing.
We now live in a new era of uncertainty—Pimco’s new “paranormal,” if you will. Our financial system continues to leverage up as governments replace the private sector in gearing up their balance sheets. Central banks are now embarked on a policy of reflation, monetizing a major portion of rising government deficits. The ECB’s balance sheet expanded by $947B (euro 727B), or 36% last year, to a record $3.5T. The Fed expanded its balance sheet by $513B to $2.92T, an increase of 21%.

We are now at a state where the sovereign bond market has grown to become the largest financial bubble in history; a bubble that could succumb to three potential market shocks. The first type of shock would come from a spike in commodity prices triggered by additional rounds of quantitative easing. It could be as simple as an "act of God" such as an earthquake, tsunami, or the failure of an important agricultural crop. The bond market would react in fear that higher commodity prices would be absorbed in the price of goods and services via loose monetary policy.

A second shock could be triggered as a result of political instability and loss of confidence in government policy. An example is what is occurring right now in Europe regarding an attempt toward a fiscal union or the debt ceiling debate in the U.S. The bond market would view negatively a failure by governments to rein in spending and control their deficits.

The third shock would emanate from a potential default or restructuring of a sovereign debt that would lead to a domino effect in the banking system. A large international bank or group of banks might not be able to meet their obligations which would lead to a rise in fear of uninsurable losses among the banks or their counterparties.

As the bond market continues to expand through sovereign debt expansion and central bank monetization, it is moving further away from reality as a result of speculative activity. This makes sovereign debt extremely sensitive to any unanticipated event. The probability of another black swan or rogue wave is beginning to multiply; from a failed bond auction, to larger than expected deficits, to political rancor over spending cuts. Sovereign debt can no longer be looked upon as a risk free asset.

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