By Michael Snyder | The Economic Collapse | Sept. 21, 2018

The primary reason why stock prices have been soaring in recent months is because corporations have been buying back their own stock at an unprecedented pace.  In fact, the pace of stock buybacks is nearly double what it was at this time last year.  According to Goldman Sachs, S&P 500 companies spent 384 billion dollars buying back stock during the first half of 2018.  That is an absolutely astounding number.  And in many cases, corporations are going deep into debt in order to do this.  Of course this is going to push up stock prices, but corporate America will not be able to inflate this bubble indefinitely.  At some point a credit crunch will come, and the pace of stock buybacks will fall precipitously.

Prior to 1982, corporations were not permitted to go into the market and buy back stock.

The reason for this is obvious – stock buybacks are a really easy way for corporations to manipulate stock prices.

But these days it is expected that most large corporations will engage in this practice.  Large stockholders love to see the price of the stock go up, and they are never going to complain when smaller shareholders are bought out and their share of the company is increased.  And corporate executives love buybacks because so much of their compensation often involves stock options or bonuses related to key metrics such as earnings per share.

So in the end, stock buybacks are often all about greed.  It is a way to funnel money to those at the very top of the pyramid, and those stock market gains are taxed at capital gains rates which are much lower than the rates on normal income.

Normally, you would expect successful companies to invest most of their available cash back into operations so that they can make even more money in the future.  And for 19 of the past 20 years, corporations have spent more on capital investments than anything else.  But now, share buybacks have actually surpassed capital spending.  The following comes from CNN

But that doesn’t mean companies aren’t spending on job-creating investments, like new equipment, research projects and factories. Business spending is up 19% — it’s just that buybacks are growing much faster.

In fact, Goldman Sachs said that buybacks are garnering the largest share of cash spending by S&P 500 firms. It’s a milestone because capital spending had represented the single largest use of cash by corporations in 19 of the past 20 years.

And this trend seems to be accelerating during the second half of 2018.  It is being projected that firms will spend more than 600 billion dollars on stock buybacks during the second half of this year, and that will bring the grand total for 2018 to more than a trillion dollars

And the trend may not be done yet. Goldman Sachs predicted that share buyback authorizations among all US companies in all of 2018 will surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever.

Wow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more than a trillion dollars that we could put toward reducing the national debt?

This is the reason why stocks hit another new all-time record high this week.  Stock buybacks have reached absolutely insane levels, and what we are witnessing is essentially a giant orgy of greed.

To give you some perspective, the previous annual record for stock buybacks was just 589 billion dollars in 2007.

This year, we may come close to doubling the previous record.

And let us not forget that the year after 2007 was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So what corporations are the worst offenders?  Here is more from CNN

Apple (AAPL) alone spent a whopping $45 billion on buybacks during the first half of 2018, triple what it did during the same time period last year, the firm said. That included a record-shattering sum during the first quarter.

Amgen (AMGN), Cisco (CSCO), AbbVie (ABBV) and Oracle (ORCL) have also showered investors with big boosts to their buyback programs.

As I noted earlier, corporate insiders greatly benefit from stock buybacks, and they took advantage of massively inflated stock prices by selling off $10.3 billion worth of their shares during the month of August.

Inflating your stock price by cannibalizing your own shares is not a good long-term strategy for any corporation, but without a doubt it is making a lot of people very wealthy.

But in the process, the size of the stock market as a whole has been steadily shrinking.  In fact, the number of shares on the S&P 500 has fallen by almost 8 percent since the beginning of 2011…

According to Ed Yardeni, the number of S&P 500 shares has shrunk by 7.7% since the start of 2011. This tends to increase the earnings per remaining share and the dividends available per remaining share.

This is yet another example that shows why the stock market has become completely disconnected from economic reality.  Wall Street is inhabited by con men that are promoting Ponzi scheme after Ponzi scheme, and it is only a matter of time before the entire system collapses under its own weight.

But for now, the euphoria on Wall Street continues as stock prices continue to march higher.  Meanwhile, we continue to get more signs of trouble from the real economy.  For instance, this week we learned that the third largest bank in the entire country is going to lay off thousands of workers

Wells Fargo, the third-biggest U.S. bank, plans to lower its employee headcount by 5 percent to 10 percent in the next three years as part of its ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday.

The bank has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs.

Why would they do that if the economy was in good shape?

And globally, the emerging market currency crisis has continued to escalate.  According to one source, more than 80 percent of all global currencies have fallen in value so far this year…

A review of the values of 143 global currencies indicates that so far this year, more than 80 percent have fallen in value.

Another eleven appear to be pegged to the dollar and 13 have risen in value. Of the 13 that have increased in value, only six are up more than 1 percent versus the dollar.

There have been outsized declines in countries like Venezuela (down 99 percent), Argentina (53 percent) and Turkey (38 percent). However, Brazil is down 20 percent, Russia 15 percent, India 11 percent, Sweden 10 percent, and the Philippines 8 percent. Big economies like China are experiencing a 5 percent currency value decline while the Euro is off by 3 percent.

I applaud those that have made lots of money in the stock market, but the party will not last forever.

In 2007 corporations were pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into stock buybacks, and it propped up the market for a time.  But eventually the bubble burst and the crisis of 2008 was so dramatic that it will be remembered forever.

Now we are facing a similar scenario, and it is just a matter of time before this bubble bursts as well.


Contributed by Michael Snyder of TheEconomicCollapseBlog

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.


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By Ron Paul | RPI | Sept. 17, 2018

According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos survey, 70 percent of Americans, including about 50 percent of Republicans, support Medicare for all, the latest incarnation of single-payer health care. Republican support for a health plan labeled “Medicare for all” is not surprising considering that Republican politicians support Medicare and that one of their attacks on Obamacare was that it would harm the program. Furthermore, the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation — the Part D prescription drug program — occurred under a conservative president working with a conservative Congress.

Conservative Republicans do propose reforming Medicare to reduce its costs, but their proposals are always framed as “saving Medicare,” and most reform plans increase spending. Few conservative Republicans would dare advocate allowing young people to opt out of paying Medicare taxes in exchange for agreeing to forgo Medicare benefits.

Many conservative Republicans favor other government interventions into health care, including many features of Obamacare. In fact, Obamacare’s individual mandate originated as a conservative proposal and was once championed by many leading Republicans. Many other Republicans simply lack the courage to repeal Obamacare, so they say they only want to repeal the “unpopular” parts of the law. It would not be surprising if we soon heard conservatives and Republican politicians talk about defending Obamacare from supporters of socialized medicine.




The same dynamic at work in health care is at work in other areas. For example, the same conservative administration and Congress that created Medicare Part D also dramatically expanded federal control of education with “No Child Left Behind.” Conservative Republicans who (rightly) fight against deficit spending when a Democrat sits in the White House decide that “deficits don’t matter” when the president has an “R” next to his name.

Many Republican politicians — and even conservative intellectuals — will say they are being pragmatic by not fighting progressives on first principles, but instead limiting the damage done by the welfare state. The problem with this line is that, by accepting the premise that government can and should solve all of life’s problems, conservatives and Republicans will inevitably get into a “bidding war” with progressives and Democrats. The only way Republicans can then win is to join Democrats in continually increasing spending and creating new programs. This is why the so-called “conservative welfare state” ends up as bloated and expansive as the progressive welfare state. Refusing to question the premises of the welfarists and socialists is not a pragmatic way to advance liberty.

While progressives blame social crises on the free market, Republicans and conservatives are unwilling to admit the problems were caused by prior government interventions. Thus the passage of Dodd-Frank was aided by claims that the housing bubble was created by deregulation, while Obamacare’s passage benefited from widespread misconception that America had a free-market health care system prior to 2010.

Until a popular intellectual movement arises that is able and willing to challenge the premises of Keynesianism, welfarism, and democratic socialism, while putting forth a positive vision of a free society, government will continue to expand. Fortunately, such a movement exists and is growing as more Americans — particularly young Americans— are studying the ideas of Liberty and working to spread those ideas. If the new liberty movement grows and stays true to its principles, it will be able to defeat the socialists of all parties, including those who call themselves conservative.


Contributed by Ron Paul of Ron Paul Institute

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity is a project of Dr. Paul’s Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (F.R.E.E.), founded in the 1970s as an educational organization. The Institute continues and expands Dr. Paul’s lifetime of public advocacy for a peaceful foreign policy and the protection of civil liberties at home.


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By Michael Snyder | EconomicCollapseBlog | Sept. 11, 2018

Are we on the verge of another great financial crisis, a devastating recession and a horrific implosion of the global debt bubble?  On my website I have been relentlessly warning my readers about the inevitable consequences of our very foolish actions, but now the mainstream media is beginning to sound just like The Economic Collapse Blog.  The coming crisis is so close now that a lot of them are starting to see it, and of course economic disaster is already a reality for much of the rest of the planet.  For years, the mainstream media told us that things would get better, and in a lot of ways we did see some improvement.  But now the tone of the mainstream media has become quite ominous, and that is definitely not a positive sign.  The following are 8 examples of mainstream media sources warning us of imminent economic disaster…

#1 Forbes: “Disaster Is Inevitable When America’s Stock Market Bubble Bursts”

As shown in this report, the U.S. stock market is currently trading at extremely precarious levels and it won’t take much to topple the whole house of cards. Once again, the Federal Reserve, which was responsible for creating the disastrous Dot-com bubble and housing bubble, has inflated yet another extremely dangerous bubble in its attempt to force the economy to grow after the Great Recession. History has proven time and time again that market meddling by central banks leads to massive market distortions and eventual crises. As a society, we have not learned the lessons that we were supposed to learn from 1999 and 2008, therefore we are doomed to repeat them.

The purpose of this report is to warn society of the path that we are on and the risks that we are facing.

#2 CNBC: “Tech stock sell-off could be just beginning if trade war with China worsens”

Congressional scrutiny of social media companies and fears of new regulation pummeled their stocks, but other tech names could also soon be vulnerable to a new round of selling pressure if President Donald Trump goes through with new tariffs on Chinese goods.

#3 Bloomberg: “Emerging-market rout is longest since 2008 as confidence cracks”

For stocks, it’s 222 days. For currencies, 155 days. For local government bonds, 240 days.

This year’s rout in emerging markets has lasted so long that it’s taken even the most ardent bears by surprise. Not one of the seven biggest selloffs since the financial crisis — including the so-called taper tantrum — inflicted such pain for so long on the developing world.

#4 CNN: “Emerging Markets Look Sick. Will They Infect Wall Street?”

Chinese stocks are is in a bear market. Turkey’s currency has collapsed. South Africa has stumbled into a recession. Not even an IMF bailout has stemmed the bleeding in Argentina.

The storm rocking emerging markets has its origins in Washington. Vulnerable currencies plunged as the US Federal Reserve steadily raised interest rates. And President Donald Trump’s trade crackdown added gasoline to the fire.

The trouble could spread, infecting other emerging markets or even Wall Street.





#5 The Motley Fool: “6 signs the next recession might be closer than we realize”

To be perfectly clear, trying to predict when recessions will occur is pure guesswork. Top market analysts have called for pullbacks in the market, unsuccessfully, in pretty much every year since the Great Recession ended. But the economic cycle doesn’t lie: recessions are inevitable. And in my estimation, we’re probably closer to the next recession than you realize.

How can I be so certain? Well, I can’t. Remember, I just noted there’s virtually no certainty when it comes to predicting when recessions will occur. There are, however, six warning signs that suggest a recession could be, in relative terms, around the corner.

#6 Forbes: “U.S. Household Wealth Is Experiencing An Unsustainable Bubble”

Since the dark days of the Great Recession in 2009, America has experienced one of the most powerful household wealth booms in its history. Household wealth has ballooned by approximately $46 trillion or 83% to an all-time high of $100.8 trillion. While most people welcome and applaud a wealth boom like this, my research shows that it is actually another dangerous bubble that is similar to the U.S. housing bubble of the mid-2000s. In this piece, I will explain why America’s wealth boom is artificial and heading for a devastating bust.

#7 Savannah Now: “Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead”

“We were supposed to correct a debt bubble,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, a wealth-management firm. “What we did instead was create more debt.”

#8 CNBC: “The emerging market crisis is back. And this time it’s serious”

But markets are feeling a sense of deja vu. Blame it on a stronger dollar, escalating tensions since President Donald Trump came to power, worries over a full-fledged trade war with China or rising interest rates in the U.S., this time around the crisis seems to have entered a new phase.

The damage is far more widespread. The crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States.

I don’t think that we have seen such ominous declarations from the mainstream media since the last global financial crisis in 2008.

And the mainstream media is not alone.  Yesterday, I discussed the fact that tech executives on the west coast are setting up luxury survival bunkers in New Zealand in order to prepare for what is ahead.

They all know what is coming, and they also know that it is approaching very rapidly.

This chapter in American history is not going to end well.  On some level, all of us understand this.  Storm clouds have been building on the horizon for quite some time and the warning signs are all around us.

Our day of reckoning may have been delayed, but it was not canceled.  America has a date with destiny, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.


This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.


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By Ron Paul | RPI | July 30, 2018

President Trump’s recent Tweets expressing displeasure with the Federal Reserve’s (minor) interest rate increases led to accusations that President Trump is undermining the Federal Reserve’s independence. But, the critics ignore the fact that Federal Reserve “independence” is one of the great myths of American politics.

When it comes to intimidating the Federal Reserve, President Trump pales in comparison to President Lyndon Johnson. After the Federal Reserve increased interest rates in 1965, President Johnson summoned then-Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin to Johnson’s Texas ranch where Johnson shoved him against the wall. Physically assaulting the Fed chairman is probably a greater threat to Federal Reserve independence than questioning the Fed’s policies on Twitter.

While Johnson is an extreme example, history is full of cases where presidents pressured the Federal Reserve to adopt policies compatible with the presidents’ agendas — and helpful to their reelection campaigns. Presidents have been pressuring the Fed since its creation. President Warren Harding called on the Fed to lower rates. Richard Nixon was caught on tape joking with then-Fed chair Arthur Burns about Fed independence. And Lloyd Bentsen, President Bill Clinton’s first Treasury secretary, bragged about a “gentleman’s agreement” with then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

President Trump’s call for low interest rates contradicts Trump’s earlier correct criticism of the Fed’s low interest rate policy as harming middle-class Americans. Low rates can harm the middle class, but they also benefit spend-and-borrow politicians and their favorite special interests by lowering the federal government’s borrowing costs. Significant rate increases could make it impossible for the government to service its existing debt, thus making it difficult for President Trump and Congress to continue increasing welfare and warfare spending.

President Trump will have a long-lasting impact on monetary policy. Two of the three sitting members of the Fed’s board were appointed by President Trump. Two more of Trump’s nominees are pending in the Senate. The nomination of economist Marvin Goodfriend may be in jeopardy because Goodfriend advocates “negative interest rates,” which is a Federal Reserve-imposed tax on savings. If Goodfriend is defeated, President Trump can just nominate another candidate. President Trump will also be able to nominate two other board members. Therefore, by the end of his first term, President Trump could appoint six of the Federal Reserve’s seven board members.

The specter of a Federal Reserve Board dominated by Trump appointees should cause some to rethink the wisdom of allowing a secretive central bank to exercise near-monopoly control over monetary policy. Fear of the havoc a Trumpian Fed could cause may even lead some to support the Audit the Fed legislation and the growing movement to allow Americans to “exit” the Federal Reserve System by using alternatives to fiat money, such as cryptocurrencies and gold.

Given the Federal Reserve’s power to help or hinder a president’s economic agenda and reelection prospects, it is no surprise that presidents try to influence Fed policy. But, instead of worrying about protecting the Fed from President Trump, we should all worry about protecting the American people from the Fed. The first step is passing the Audit the Fed bill, which Congress should do before adjourning to hit the campaign trail. This will let the people know the full truth about America’s monetary policy. Auditing, then ending, the Fed is key to permanently draining the welfare-warfare swamp.


Contributed by Ron Paul of Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Dr. Ron Paul is an American physician, author, and former politician who served as the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 14th congressional district, which includes Galveston, from 1997 to 2013 as well as the 22nd congressional district for special term between 1976 and 1977, when he lost reelection in 1978, and for 3 later terms, from 1979 to 1985. On three occasions, he sought the presidency of the United States: as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988 and as a candidate in the Republican primaries in 2008 and 2012. Paul is best known for his libertarian views and is a critic of American foreign, domestic, and monetary policies, including the military–industrial complex, the War on Drugs, and the Federal Reserve.


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