Could New York Have Already Passed Its Peak?

We did some thinking yesterday, on our trip to Uruguay. Why Uruguay? We thought we should have a look around. Montevideo is a cheap place to live. It’s on the sea, with beaches near the downtown area. It is an old town, with many fine buildings. It is clean. It is safe. It has history too. When the English invaded Buenos Aires, the Spaniards launched a counterattack from the fortress at Montevideo and got it back.

“It looks like a nice place,” we said to our local contact. “But it seems a little like a resort town out of season; it’s very quiet.”

We were having dinner in the best restaurant in town, next to the opera house. The restaurant was large and well fitted out. But it was almost empty. A French group sat at one table. An American group sat at another. The only other diners were sitting with your editor. Outside on the street, it was as if everyone else had been warned of an approaching tsunami; there was no one.

We write every day. Occasionally, we think too.

We did some thinking yesterday, on our trip to Uruguay. Why Uruguay? We thought we should have a look around. Montevideo is a cheap place to live. It’s on the sea, with beaches near the downtown area. It is an old town, with many fine buildings. It is clean. It is safe. It has history too. When the English invaded Buenos Aires, the Spaniards launched a counterattack from the fortress at Montevideo and got it back.

“It looks like a nice place,” we said to our local contact. “But it seems a little like a resort town out of season; it’s very quiet.”

We were having dinner in the best restaurant in town, next to the opera house. The restaurant was large and well fitted out. But it was almost empty. A French group sat at one table. An American group sat at another. The only other diners were sitting with your editor. Outside on the street, it was as if everyone else had been warned of an approaching tsunami; there was no one.

“Well, it’s out of season all year round,” our host replied. “It’s a nice place to live. But it’s not very lively.

“Montevideo used to be a lot richer. You can tell that just by looking at the public buildings. They’re very grand. We couldn’t build those places today. We don’t have the money. But during the war years, Uruguay was booming. We were leading exporters of beef and grains. We’re still leading exporters…but the margins are no longer there. You can make money in farming, but not enough to get rich.”

We wonder what people are going to be saying a century from now.

“Yeah, Manhattan used to have the richest real estate in America…back in the financial boom. Wall Street was the center of the financial industry. People made fortunes from high-margin financial products. But then, the financial industry went into decline…and new financial centers in Shanghai and Singapore took the business.”

Could New York have already passed its peak? Perhaps not quite. The papers are reporting record bonuses on Wall Street. But the story has an undertone of desperation about it…like the wild parties in Berlin in 1945, just before the Soviet Army arrived. Maybe that’s why the bonuses are so high. Get it while you can! This could be the last hurrah for the US financial industry.

Private sector credit is still contracting. In fact, it’s shrinking faster than at any time in the last 35 years. And this trend is not likely to change. As we keep saying – you’re probably getting tired of hearing it – the private sector has 7 to 15 years of de-leveraging to do. The financial industry will be forced to downsize, along with the economy.

Wall Street’s leveraged debt bombs are still blowing up. Banks are going under. As we reported yesterday, the ‘second wave’ of residential mortgage defaults may be just beginning. Commercial real estate debt isn’t far behind…with no Fannie Mae (FNM) to help the wounded or pick up the dead.

And how about all those private equity deals Wall Street financed? Of the top 10 deals from the bubble years, 6 are in trouble…and 4 have already defaulted.

The idea of private equity was that the hotshots were so smart they could take over a company, re-organize it, restructure it, and sell it back to the public market at a higher price. What they actually did was merely to load up the company with debt – using the money to pay themselves lavish fees.

And as we know…and maybe we alone know it…debt hurts. Run up enough debt and sooner or later bad things will happen. But not necessarily to the borrower!

Right now, the dollar is at a 15-month low. The speculators borrow dollars. Then, it doesn’t matter what they do with them. Everything is going up against the greenback.

But that’s why our Crash Alert flag is flying. Mr. Market doesn’t like it when morons make money. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see these carry trades go bad in a big, big way. All of a sudden, stocks…bonds…emerging markets…commodities…and even gold…could go down against the dollar. Watch out!

About Bill Bonner 144 Articles

Affiliation: Agora Financial

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities.

Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance.

Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning.

Visit: The Daily Reckoning

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