As promised, I wanted to make sure that you all are tracking the upcoming September release of the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds Accounts data (slated for release on September 17, 2009). The reasons are myriad but one of the big reasons is buried on Table B.100, lines 24-30 on page 102. If you’d like to, you can turn there with me. If not, you can trust me – like you’ve trusted the Federal Reserve for so many years…
In one reporting quarter – from the 4th Q of 2008 to the 1st Q of 2009, life insurance reserves lost $10 billion. During the same period, pension fund reserves lost $500 billion. If you look back just five quarters, you realize that the losses are even more consequential (comparing year end 2007 with 1st Q 2009 where the losses are $31.7 billion and $3.47 trillion, respectively). Now some of you still don’t get why these numbers matter but let me connect some dots for you.
Life insurers remain one of the major contributors to credit enhancement leveraging their reserves for credit guarantees at 15-20 times their face value. So, when you lose $31.7 billion in life insurance reserves, you are really losing enhancement value of $475 billion in credit guarantees which in turn erodes the investment grade of credits totaling up to $5.7 trillion in extended credit. Add to that the real loss from pensions of $3.47 trillion and you realize that patient capital in the amount of $9.17 trillion in investment grade (and reserve qualified) money has vanished from the system. Taken together, and concerning ourselves not one iota about other losses in the system, we have an interesting test of true “market recovery” looming on the horizon – namely, will we have investment grade assets for reserves to support debt markets in growing or shrinking numbers on September 17. In short, the FDIC is counting on a theoretical asset reserve that has ceased to exist and is evaporating at a record rate.
Now, please remember, trained propaganda artists still want you to put your money in the NYSE casino so that they can take it before the next “correction” – which is a euphemism for money that you mistakenly thought was “yours” which was really “theirs”. However, if you look at the fundamentals of what it would take to get a healthy system – using the Federal Reserve’s definition of healthy (which you should know I question on many levels) – we would need to see this vector change. For the record, I am making the audacious prediction that the green shoots are poison ivy and we’re going to develop a serious itch on or around the 17th of September when we find out that we’ve been weaving garlands of green with a seriously flawed botanical awareness. Let’s see.