A lot of news competing for our attention – financial, political and otherwise – as a new week unfolds:
But here’s the story I want to highlight today:
David Hollerith reports today that depositors pulled another $126 billion out of U.S. banks in the week ending March 22nd – primarily from the nation's largest institutions.
The largest 25 banks in the U.S. by asset size lost $90 billion (on a seasonally adjusted basis), according to the Fed.
Smaller banks, which suffered a huge run the previous week as regional lenders Silicon Valley and Signature Banks were going bust, were able to stabilize their assets, gaining back $6 billion.
Total industry deposits fell to $17.3 trillion, down 4.4% from the same week a year ago – the lowest level since July 2021.
Hollerith says the new numbers reinforce some trends that were already in place.
For example, deposits had been falling at all banks before the Silicon Valley failure in the first two months of 2023. Deposits for all banks were also down 5% annually in last year’s 4th quarter.
Many observers attribute this systemic shift to pressure being applied by the Fed’s aggressive (obsessive?) campaign to bring down inflation closer to its 2% target.
During the early part of the pandemic, when interest rates were virtually zero, banks were drenched in deposits.
When the Fed started raising those rates last March to cool the economy, customers who had deposits began seeking out places with higher yields.
The first year-over-year deposit decline for all banks came in the 2nd quarter of 2022.
As we’ve pointed out, some of this money has been flowing to money market funds, which are offering investors a rate of return in the range of 4-5%.
Since January 1st, investors have poured over $500 billion into those funds, according to too big to fail Bank of America.
That’s the highest quarterly inflow since a peak earlier in the pandemic, and another $60 billion was added to these funds in the past week.
Government and banking officials have been working to prevent massive deposit outflows in the aftermath of last month’s bank failures.
Federal regulators pledged to cover all depositors at both banks they seized, hoping that would calm any panic, and also promised to help other regional banks if needed.
Eleven megabanks also decided to provide another troubled regional lender, First Republic, with $30 billion in uninsured deposits to stabilize its dire situation.
The challenge that outflowing deposits create for all banks is that if they raise rates on their deposits to keep or attract customers, their profits fall, making shareholders wary.
But if they lose too many customers, as SVB did, they lose critical assets and may have to sell assets, like long-term Treasuries, at a loss to cover withdrawals.
SVB customers withdrew $42 billion in one day, leaving the bank with a negative cash balance of $958 million, forcing regulators to seize the bank, which was the 16th largest in the U.S.
Courtenay Brown and Neil Irwin open their Friday column with these startling headline-like declarations:
Brown and Irwin say the last 10 days have felt similar to the 2008 Great Recession.
But there are crucial differences, they point out, that lower the risk that recent events will have “the same seismic impact on the world economy” as back then.
Undoubtedly, the still-unfolding run on bank deposits has raised the odds of a recession, especially with a Fed’s hellbent focus on bringing down inflation at virtually whatever cost.
Crisis? What Crisis?
Amid a near-$100 billion run on smaller and medium-sized banks, gold prices appear heading toward all-time highs.
More and more analysts agree that there’s a lot more room for gold – and silver – to climb as global banks struggle and the Fed ponders further interest rate and quantitative tightening decisions.
Fed data show that bank customers collectively pulled over $98 billion from their accounts for the week ending March 15th, as Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failed.
Friday, after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and over a dozen other officials convened a special closed meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, they insisted the nation’s banking system “remains sound and resilient.”
The run on bank deposits after the SVB and Signature Bank collapses is noteworthy. Yet, customers have been gradually withdrawing cash from banks for close to a year.
Since April 13, 2022, total deposits have fallen $655 billion or 3.6% – from a peak of $18.16 trillion to $17.50 trillion last Wednesday.
Volatility Good for Gold
Another bank down. How many more to go?
Last week, it was Silicon Valley and Signature Banks down, with an almost-gone to First Republic.
And now, too big to fail Credit Suisse almost failed this past weekend. Instead, fellow Swiss bank UBS is buying its former rival for negative $14 billion. Say what?
Yes, UBS is paying $3.2 billion to Credit Suisse shareholders, but only because Swiss banking regulators are eliminating $17.2 billion of the bank’s liabilities, leaving its bondholders with nothing but worthless paper.
Global regulators have determined that 30 megabanks – Global Systemically Important Banks, as they’re known – are too big to fail.
You know the usual suspects – Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Barclay’s, Deutsche, UBS and the like.
Because of their designation as G-SIB, they operate under stricter capital standards and regulatory scrutiny than their smaller peers.
Nevertheless, with Credit Suisse propped up as Exhibit #1, they can still end up being worth a negative amount of money.
Emily Peck and Matt Phillips write today that in the normal world of mergers and acquisitions, that wouldn’t be possible.
“Bondholders are senior to shareholders, meaning that they get paid first, and only once they’re paid out in full do shareholders get anything.
“In the real world of rescuing a too-big-to-fail bank, however, such niceties can end up being sacrificed for the sake of managing to get a deal done.”
Wow! Turns out that senior UBS management and its major shareholders didn’t particularly want to buy Credit Suisse, while Credit Suisse management and shareholders reportedly didn’t want to be caught holding an empty bag.
It’s unlikely this deal would have gotten shareholder approval – from either side – which is one reason why Swiss authorities changed the law to permit the deal.
The interests of international financial stability ended up overriding the interests of shareholders. Justice prevails, right? Well, kinda or something like that.
Swiss regulators sort of forced the two banks together, threw Credit Suisse shareholders a $3.2 billion bone, and zeroed out a bunch of junior contingent convertible bonds that are supposed to convert into equity when a bank gets into trouble.
Credit Suisse shareholders ended up losing about $17 billion in equity value over the past year. At that point, Peck and Phillips point out, there wasn’t another $17 billion left to lose, “so the next tier up had to take a hit.”
In the interests of expedience, it was easier to just zero out the convertible bonds and leave shareholders with $3.2 billion than it would have been to convert them to equity and then pay them out at pennies on the dollar.
Apparently, just finding a conversion price would have been incredibly a big burden.
Bank balance sheets comprise one pile of assets offsetting another pile of liabilities. Shareholders only own the slice in between, which in the case of Credit Suisse was nothing.
When a bank is failing, they generally have no say in what happens to it. The convertible bondholders have more reason to feel betrayed. But they were going to lose most of their money anyway — and besides, convertible bonds are supposed to behave like equity in a crisis.
In that sense, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that they’ve been wiped out to keep Credit Suisse alive – or now embedded as part of a new UBS.
How does one be proud of something they’ve done or said, without looking boastful? It’s not easy, because it will usually appear that you’re patting yourself on the back to get attention.
Well, I want attention. Not for being right, but for alerting people to what the hell is going on out there.
I had this conversation the other day with a good friend. He’s tried to tell people about what’s really going on with things… from the jabs, to the banking system to the WEF, to CBDC’s and most don’t want to hear it.
Trust me I know. Ask me how I know.
So, when Powell started hiking rates, I said over and over “this is not to fight inflation, he’s hiking rates into a shaky economy to crush the middle class, cause things to break, consolidate power”
And I’ve been right. Bravo, good job and all that crap. My point is that like so many things I’ve stated over the past 30 years, some/most of it seems insane to the “normal” people. For instance when I write these articles, I often amuse myself by asking myself how many people are going to roll their eyes, call me a nut and simply discard what I’ve said. Usually it’s a lot.
So, Powell hiked and hiked, going from 0 to 5% faster than any hike schedule in modern history. His cover was inflation, which is horsecrap. That’s the excuse for his hiking rampage, not the reason. The reason was just shown to you in living color this week.
Central bankers aren’t stupid they’re simply evil. They knew damn well that keeping rates artificially suppressed for over a decade would cause trouble down the road. They also know that jacking rates as fast and high as they have would cause duration instability in many banks, especially smaller regional banks. Yet they did it.
Now banks are blowing up. Why? Because when rates were zero, banks would have no choice but to buy long dated bonds, just to get a lousy 1.5%. But when they got pushed to 5%, the bonds on their books went down mark to market. ( Bond yield and price are inversely related. Thus, as the price goes up, the yield decreases, and vice versa. This relationship exists because the bond's coupon rate is fixed, which requires the price in secondary markets to change to align with prevailing interest rates in the market.)
Pull up a chair folks, we need to chat a bit. As I expected when news of 3 different banks went belly up, I got a lot of Emails from people in a bit of a panic. “What do I do?”” was a common theme.
The most common question was about gold. “Should I take my money out of the bank and buy gold?” Then there were the ones asking about “should I move my money to smaller local banks, or stay with the big one’s?” The list of questions is pretty long folks.
But to be honest with you and I try and be as much as I can, the questions sort of “bothered” me. If you’ve been reading what I write for any length of time, you should know the basic answers to these types of questions. Now I don’t want to sound snarky here at all, I’m just being serious. We’ve put out two articles a week for over 25 years. Every one of those type questions has been answered in the past.
Which means I either don’t get the message across properly, or some folks don’t “get” what I mean, and others simply don’t/didn’t believe that big trouble could come. But trouble will come. Remember the series I wrote about Dark Winter? I didn’t write that to show you that I know how to grow vegetables, or shoot guns. I did it because trouble is indeed in our future.
So let me see how much of this I can pack into a single article. We are in a debt based system. As completely bizarro as that sounds, our economy is based on the idea of ever rising debt levels. Let me ask you a question, how many times since say 1970 have you heard people in Congress say that they have to get spending under control and our National debt reduced? A hundred? Five hundred? And how has that worked out?
Here's the little secret that they don’t want you to know. They NEVER plan on paying back the debt. The system was designed to be milked for all they can get out of it. Very bright people many decades ago knew exactly how to create a stable vibrant economy, one backed by “something.” But they shelved that idea for a fiat, unbacked, unlimited debt deal. Why? Because if you can print so called money out of thin air, why not print the hell out of it, use it to build roads, and bridges, and military toys, and rockets and “stuff” you want? Then when the debts are at the most unimaginable levels, when it’s impossible to keep playing the whack-a-mole game, you simply default on it all, and then “restart” with a stable currency backed by something. Gold comes to mind.
If there was ever a case to just sit back and watch, this is it. Let me explain…
Fed head Powell made it very clear on Tuesday and Wednesday that he was going to hike rates “faster, and higher, and longer” than Wall Street wanted. When the bell rang Wednesday afternoon to close the market show, I was convinced he was going to give us a 50 basis point rate hike in less than two weeks.
But then Thursday we started hearing about some big trouble at the Silicon Valley bank, and the stock was getting slaughtered. Like falling 50% and then some. The problem seemed to be that they were sort of experiencing a run on their bank, after there was some questions about their liquidity situation.
Friday morning we got hit with two things. First the jobs report hit and it was sort of mixed, giving a couple different signals. Now first off realize that NONE of the official numbers are real. None. There’s so many hands in the cookie jar, and so many adjustments, no one knows how much fudging the other guy has done. So all we can do is go by the official baloney. Well they say 311,000 jobs were created.
In a normal world, more jobs would be great. But in a Wall Street driven, fed fearing world, more jobs than expected is bad. Yes the supposed unemployment rate moved up a bit, but then so did Labor participation, so it was sort of a wash. The bottom line was that the jobs number did nothing to convince me that Powell wouldn’t be doing a 50 basis point hike on the 22nd.
But then more and more word came hitting the wires concerning Silicon Valley Bank, and the big questions started. Did Powell’s rapid rate hikes “break” the debt/bond market? Were other banks in trouble? Were past hikes finally catching up and crashing things?
Then the news hit that the bank had been shut down by the California banking regulators and the FDIC was going to be in control of things. That sent panic waves across the market and the stock indexes were whipping around like a loose water hose. For instance at one point the DOW was green by 50 points, and not long after it was red by 400.
Investors have itchy fingers these days – or perhaps it’s just the way they have their high frequency computer algorithms programmed.
Either way, it’s why analysts like Felix Salmon see markets “trembl[ing] at the Fed's every twitch.” And yet, he points out, it doesn't seem to be having much effect on the economy.
Salmon adds that the Fed's main policy tool — even more important than setting interest rates or printing money — is the trust that Americans have in it to do the right thing.
According to recent surveys, a majority of Americans believes the U.S. is in an ongoing recession that the Fed has not only failed to prevent but is seen as having caused it (or is on the verge of causing it).
Analysts say the economy is running hotter than it should be, that the job market remains tight with headline unemployment at historic lows, and that mixed signals abound about the scope of the coming downturn.
A major study out last Friday finds that the Federal Reserve has never reduced inflation from high levels, much like today’s, without causing a recession.
The paper was written by a group of leading economists, with three current Fed officials addressing its conclusions at a conference on monetary policy.
When inflation takes off, as it has over the past two years, the Fed normally reacts by raising interest rates – sometimes forcefully – to try to put the brakes on price increases and cool the economy in the process.
The higher rates, directly or indirectly, make mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and commercial lending more expensive.
But sometimes – again, like today – inflation remains stubbornly high, requiring even higher rates to rein it in.
When you’ve been writing articles for as long as I have, and in some (many) of them you make predictions, you know you will win some and lose some. You simply hope to win more than you lose.
My thesis on inflation and the Fed has been right unfortunately. Some of the catchy little phrases I’ve used is “it’s different this time” and I’ve gone to great lengths to suggest that this current fed, is NOT going to be bullied by the market.
In fact, one of the more comical things I’ve seen in the last 3 months has been the so called “experts” on the market, explaining how the Fed MUST pivot towards cutting rates, and how they most certainly will. Yet time after time, whether it’s Powell, or Mester, or Bullard or whomever…they simply say “higher for longer.” And then the experts go off in a huff and a puff.
The world we live in right now, is crazier than at any time in my life. We, (Humanity) is being attacked as never before. I mention the WEF ( World Economic Forum) a lot, because in years past the globalist scumbags tried to keep their plans secret. From the Club of Rome, the Builderbergers, the CFR, etc, all kept their dirty little agenda’s hidden from the public. But not Satan-Klaus and his band. They tell you right to your face how much they hate you and want you dead.
Hey at LEAST they’re telling you the truth. They are all in on population reduction, eliminating your choice of food, what kind of travel you can or can’t do, taking over your healthcare, setting up 15 minute cities, eliminating dairy farms, cattle ranches and on and on. Right in your face.
But other than them, 99.9% of everything else you’re told is pure BS. Safe and effective comes to mind. Or Trump was a Russian plant, or we didn’t blow up the Nordstream pipeline, or Iraq having WMD’s, or Russia had no incentive to invade Ukraine, or Russia is paving the way to conquer Europe, or there’s 89 genders, or ivermectin is dangerous and doesn’t work, or, or, or, or etc ad-infinitum. You get it. Everything’s a lie.
So, if everything is a lie ( amazingly except what the WEF says they want to do to you) it’s awful hard to figure out fact from fiction. The gift of discernment is very important in trying to understand the ultimate goals of the various agenda’s.
When it comes to the Fed and hiking rates, I am on the record in these pages back in March of last year, as saying that inflation would be more than people expected, and last longer than people expected and that the fed was going to use rate hikes to fight this inflation. Oh, and just so you understand, my theory is that they’re using inflation as the cover for rate hikes.
Stan A. emailed me the following in response to my article that asked: “Could the National Popular Vote Compact Cure What Ails Us?:
“It seems that the real problem is “Winner Takes ALL” and not the Electoral College.
“If the federal government mandated that winner takes all can’t be used with the electoral college, but electors must be apportioned by the popular vote in each state, it seems that it would solve the problem.”
Mr. Amatucci’s proposed solution makes a lot of sense – possible even more effective than the National Popular Vote. It’s simple, straightforward and deserves serious consideration as the constitutional amendment.
Another subscriber, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote:
“Aside from basing electoral college votes on the popular vote in each state, a constitutional amendment to limit the presidency to citizens between the ages of 35 and 75 would be in the best interests of the country.”
I agree, subscriber; the Qualifications Clause in Article II, Section 1, of the constitution requires the President to be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.
First off, let me start with this. Sunday is my 40th wedding anniversary. Forty years ago, my better half lost her mind and said yes in front of a crowd of 100 people at our little church in South Amboy, NJ.
I’m not terribly sentimental about things, but it’s hard to not remember the wedding or the days leading up to it. My friend Jack from “college” ( trade school) flew in to be my best man. Well on the night before the wedding, Jack and I are in my condo, getting ready for bed and there’s a ring of the doorbell. Hmm that’s odd, it's a cold February night in Highlands NJ, it’s snowing, and it’s almost midnight.
I went down to answer the door and there’s a truly “knock out” beautiful girl standing there, dressed like she just came back from a night in the clubs. Oh, and she was definitely “buzzed.”
She said she needed to see David, she needed to see if she could spend the night, because for some reason she couldn’t go home. Well David was the person that owned the condo before me. So I had to explain to her that Dave’s not here any longer, he moved with the military, and I hope you can try another friend.
But she was insistent. She needed a place to stay for the night and wanted in. She was pleading to come in, and then suggested she could make it worth my while. It was at that point, I started to think ‘Hey, I bet one of my goofy friends is behind this, and I’m getting set up here.” So I told her, “I’m getting married at noon tomorrow, and no I can’t let you in, it wouldn’t quite look right. “ She finally left in a huff, cursed me out and to this day I don’t know if it was coincidental, or if I was being tested somehow. Well it’s 40 years later and I guess I passed.
It’s been wonderful. Have there been rough patches? You bet. But you take the bad with the good, and in the end, it has worked out as well as I could have asked for. For all you out there that are working on 30, or 40 or 50+ years, Congrats and Kudo’s. We’ve become a rare breed.
Okay so the high stakes game of chicken continues. Not only did the CPI come in hot, the PPI came in hot. But the market ignored both and every dip was bought. They wouldn’t let it fade. Then to top it all off “The Bullard” and fed head Menard both suggested that they wouldn’t be against a 50 basis point hike in March.
For all intents and purposes, the 2024 presidential election campaign is off and running.
In fact, some pundits say it started the day after the midterm congressional elections two months ago. Others say Donald Trump lit the fuse a week later when he announced another run for political gold.
And now, former South Carolina governor – and Trump’s ambassador to the UN – Niki Haley has announced. And former President Trump has already dubbed his presumed toughest Republican competitor, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, as “Meatball Ron.”
On the democratic side, virtually all of America is waiting for President Joe Biden to officially announce his candidacy for reelection – after a bully pulpit-like State of the Union address last week.
Thus, once again, with so much policy, legal action and geopolitical volatility in flux, Americans will soon face another spirited debate over not just who we should vote for but how we even should choose our presidents.
To Campaign or Not to Campaign
One thing is certain, however: 41 states and the District of Columbia are already in the bag for either the 2024 Republican or Democratic presidential nominee.
Why? Because of the state-by-state, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes for president and vice president. Remember, 270 or more electoral votes are needed to win the presidency.
According to the National Popular Vote, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization (NPV), the Republican nominee can count on 218 electoral votes from 24 states (red on the map above).
The Democratic nominee can count on just about the same – 211 electoral votes from 17 states and DC (blue on the map).
NPV says the 2024 campaign will be concentrated in just 9 states (yellow on the map), which (together with one competitive congressional district in Maine and in Nebraska) have a combined total of 109 electoral votes.
Close analysis shows that presidential candidates only campaign in closely divided states where they have something to gain or lose. In practice, this has meant that the candidates are separated by no more than eight percentage points in polls.
Because Iowa, Ohio, and Florida are no longer in this competitive range, the number of spectator states will reach a high of 41 in 2024.
Ambrose Evans Ambrose-Pritchard writes in The Telegraph that “monetary tightening is like pulling a brick across a rough table with a piece of elastic.
“Central banks tug and tug: nothing happens. They tug again: the brick leaps off the surface into their faces.”
Or as economist Paul Krugman puts it, the task is like trying to operate complex machinery in a dark room wearing thick mittens.
Lag times, blunt tools, and bad data all make it impossible to execute a beautiful soft-landing.
Way back in late 2007, the economy went into recession, a lot earlier than originally thought and almost a year before the demise of not-too-big-to-fail Lehman Brothers.
But the Federal Reserve apparently didn’t know – or acknowledge – that at the time.
The initial data release was way off base, as it frequently is at certain points in the business cycle.
The Fed’s main predictive model was showing an 8% risk of recession at the time. Today, by the way, it’s under 5%. Evans-Pritchard remarks, “It never catches recessions and is beyond useless.”
Fed officials later complained they wouldn’t have taken their hawkish stance on inflation the next year had the data told them what was accurately happening in real time.
And, more importantly, they wouldn’t have set off the chain reaction leading the global financial system to come crashing down.
Evans-Pritchard, however, ponders that had the Fed and its peers overseas paid more attention – or any attention for that matter – to the quickly evolving slowdown in the first half of 2008, they would have seen what was coming.
So, where does that leave us today as the Fed, European Central Bank and Bank of England hike rates at the fastest pace and more aggressively in four decades, with massive QT as icing on their cake?
According to Evans-Pritchard, the monetarists are again crying the apocalypse is coming! They’re accusing central banks of inexcusable errors:
First, they unleashed the high inflation of the early 2020s with an explosive monetary expansion.
Then, they swung to the other extreme of monetary contraction – disregarding both times the standard quantity theory of money.
Eternal optimist Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says she sees a path for avoiding a recession, with inflation down significantly and the economy remaining strong, given a strong jobs market.
"You don't have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years," Yellen exclaimed.
"What I see is a path in which inflation is declining significantly and the economy is remaining strong."
Of course, being the team player she is, Yellen said inflation remains too high.
But she believes it could fall a lot more because of action taken by the Biden administration, including steps to reduce the cost of gasoline and prescription drugs.
Labor Department data out last Friday showed job growth jumped up steeply in January – nonfarm payrolls leaped by 517,000 jobs and the headline unemployment rate dropped to a 53-and-a-half-year low of 3.4%.
The strength in hiring, despite growing layoffs in tech, overnight reduced investor expectations that the Federal Reserve was close to pausing its cycle of hiking interest rates.
Unemployment is Higher Than What They Tell Us