Suddenly banks everywhere are in deep, deep trouble
by Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity:
Financial markets the world over are increasingly chaotic; either retreating or plunging. Our view remains that there’s a gigantic market crash in the coming future — one that has possibly started now.
Our reason for expecting a market crash is simple: Bubbles always burst.
Bubbles arise when asset prices inflate above what underlying incomes can sustain. Centuries ago, the Dutch woke up one morning and discovered that tulips were simply just flowers after all. But today, the public has yet to wake up to the mathematical reality that over $200 trillion in debt and perhaps another $500 trillion of un(der)funded liabilities really cannot ever be paid back under current terms. However, this fact is dawning within the minds of more and more critical thinkers with each passing day.
In order for these obligations to be reset to a reality-based level, something has to give. The central banks have tried to modify the phrase “under current terms” by debasing the currency these obligations are written in via inflation. Try as they have, though, they’ve been unable to create the sort of “goldilocks” low-level inflation that would slowly sublimate that massive pile of debt into something more manageable.
Wide-spread inflation has not happened. Why not? Because they’ve failed to note that plan of handing all of their newly printed money to a very wealthy elite — while a socially popular thing to do among the cocktail party set — simply has concentrated the inflation to the sorts of assets the monied set buys: private jets, penthouse apartments, fine art, large gemstones, etc. So yes, their efforts produced price inflation; just of the wrong sort.
Even worse, all the central banks have really accomplished is to assure that when the deflation monster finally arrives it will be gigantic, highly damaging and possibly uncontrollable. I’ll admit to being worried about this next crash/crisis because I imagine it will involve record-setting losses, human misery due to lost jobs and dashed dreams, and possibly even the prospect of wars and serious social unrest.
Let me be blunt: this next crash will be far worse and more dramatic than any that has come before. Literally, the world has never seen anything like the situation we collectively find ourselves in today. The so-called Great Depression happened for purely monetary reasons. Before, during and after the Great Depression, abundant resources, spare capacity and willing workers existed in sufficient quantities to get things moving along smartly again once the financial system had been reset.
This time there’s something different in the story line: the absence of abundant and high-net energy oil. Many of you might be thinking “Hey, the price of oil is low!” which is true, but only momentarily. Remember that price is not the same thing as net energy, which is what’s left over after you expend energy to get a fossil fuel like oil out of the ground. As soon as the world economy tries to grow rapidly again, we’ll discover that oil will quickly go through two to possibly three complete doublings in price due to supply issues. And those oil price spikes will collide into that tower of outstanding debt, making the economic growth required to inflate them away a lot more expensive (both cost-wise and energetically) to come by.
With every passing moment, the world has slightly less high-net energy conventional oil and is replacing that with low-net energy oil. Consider how we’re producing less barrels of production in the North Sea while coaxing more out of the tar sands. From a volume or a price standpoint right now, the casual observer would notice nothing. But it takes a lot more energy to get a barrel of oil from tar sands. So there’s less net energy which can be used to grow the world economy after that substitution.
Purely from a price standpoint, our model at Peak Prosperity includes the idea that there’s a price of oil that’s too high for the economy to sustain (the ceiling) and a price that’s too low for the oil companies to remain financially solvent (the floor). That ceiling and that floor are drawing ever closer. When we reach the point at which there’s not enough of a gap between them to sustainably power the growth our economy currently is depending on, there’s nothing left but to adjust our economic hopes and dreams to more realistic — and far lower — levels.
When this happens most folks will undergo a “forced simplification” of their lifestyles (as well as their financial portfolios), which they will experience as disruptive and emotionally difficult. That’s not fear-mongering; it’s just math. (And it’s the reason why we encourage developing a resilient lifestyle today, to insulate yourself from this disruption, as well as be able to enter the future with optimism.)
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