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Pento: Inflation to Skyrocket When Fed Reverts to New QE & Interest Rate Cuts

Michael pento

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome back Michael Pento, president and founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies and author of the book, The Coming Bond Market Collapse: How to Survive the Demise of the U.S. Debt Market. Michael is a well-known money manager and a fantastic market commentator, and over the past few years, has been a wonderful guest and one of our favorites here on the Money Metals Podcast. We always love getting his highly-studied Austrian economist viewpoint.

Michael, welcome back, and thanks for joining us again.

Michael Pento: Thanks for having me back on, Mike.

Mike Gleason: Well, Michael, we were struck by one statistic in particular in the latest edition of your always great Pentonomics commentary and we urge people to sign up for your email list, so they can start getting those themselves, if they're not doing that already. But in that piece, you referenced Chapter 11 bankruptcy spiking 63% in March versus the same month a year ago. This is a dramatic move, and it tells a very different story than the one people are hearing all day long on CNBC these days. You also mentioned the carnage in the retail sector, rising delinquencies in the subprime auto loans and other indicators, which are back to levels we last saw just before the 2008 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the talking heads are going on about how strong the U.S. economy is, and to be fair, they can point at statistics such as unemployment, strong performance in the equities, at least until recently, consumer sentiments, and other positive signs. At this point, most Americans think the U.S. economy is in better shape and likely to get stronger, but we know at key turning points in the markets, most people wind up being wrong. Now, you are certainly sounding the alarm here, Michael, so give us your thoughts on the real state of the U.S. economy, and what are a couple of the key indicators, and what are those indicators telling you about what we should expect in the months ahead?

Michael Pento: Well, Mike, first of all, this kind of reminds me a little bit of maybe late 2007, early 2008. And I want to remind all your listeners that the economy entered a recession officially, for NBER rates recessions, in December of 2007. We were already in a recession at the end of 2007, but nobody really knew it. The stock market was still doing okay. And if you look at the metrics, some of the metrics that you quoted in that question still looked very well and fine and dandy, but underneath that ersatz construct, the economy was eroding very quickly. The yield curve had already inverted. Bank lending was drying up. And home prices were already in the process of rolling over. You fast-forward to today, and you can point to many things that will make you think the economy is doing well. You look at the JOLTS, Job Opening Labor Turnover construct. If you look at ISM Manufacturing surveys, we still have some time to go before this recession becomes absolutely, positively manifest.

But here's what's going on underneath. Let me just show you how, and let me try to prove to your listeners and your audience why this particular edifice is built of cards, this economic edifice is going to wash away. Let's just take a couple of things that I want to point out to your audience. In the wake of the Great Recession, it became clear to me that the level of asset prices along with the amount of debt outstanding in the world absolutely mandates that interest rates remain near 0% and never normalize. Otherwise, the entire artificial financial construct falls apart. This is the only thing keeping everything together. So, this is the rubber bands and tape and glue that's keeping Japan solvent, that's keeping the eurozone solvent, that's keeping China any semblance of solvency, and even in the United States.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. If you look at the total value of equities as a percent of GDP, it's now at a record high, very close to 150%. If interest rates move too far off the zero bound, that ratio would close by the denominator, which is GDP, falling, but the numerator, which is asset prices, crashing much, much faster. Let me give you one more example. You touched on it a little bit when you mentioned business debt. Corporate debt as a percentage of GDP is also at a record high. These are nominal records and as a percentage of the economy. And also, the credit quality of that debt is at a record low. As this ratio contracts, what you'll see is GDP contracting again, but corporate debt defaulting in spades, which will manifest into a global recession/depression, which will be marked by rapid deflation. That is the condition of the global economy today. It's held together by artificially low rates, which are now in the process of being removed.

Don't forget, in the United States, QE ended in, I believe, 2014. QE ended. We have raised rates six times. There'll be a seventh rate increase next week. The ECB went from €80 billion per month to €30 billion. They'll probably end that program. We'll find out more next week. They'll probably end that program by the end of this year. And what you have is a condition when you have global debt as 330% of GDP, $230 trillion, up $70 trillion since the Great Recession. Interest rates are going to start to rise, because central banks have the hubris to believe that they solved all of the world's problems. And it is that rising debt, which is going to pop asset prices and pop corporate debt and personal debt and student loans and credit cards and leveraged loans, CLOs, these are all of the things that are going to pop simultaneously. It's going to happen very quickly. And unfortunately, I believe it is going to be much worse, the fallout is going to be much worse, than that of 2009.

Mike Gleason: People listening to this would say, "Well, why do they have to raise rates? Maybe they'll just stand where they are or go with the lower," but obviously there's a credibility factor here that's going to probably prevent them from reversing course, at least talking about the Fed. They've talked about raising interest rates. They're probably going to do it because their credibility is at stake. Isn't that fair to say?

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