For over a year, we have been dutifully tracking several key datasets within the auto sector to find the critical inflection point in this perhaps most leading of economic indicators which will presage not only a crushing auto loan crisis, but also signal the arrival of a full-blown recession, one which even the NBER won’t be able to ignore, as the US consumers are once again tapped out. A month ago we said that in our view “that moment has now arrived”; the latest data from Fitch confirms as much.
But first, for those readers who are unfamiliar with the space, we urge you to read some of our recent articles on the topic of car prices – which alongside housing, has been the biggest driver of inflation in the past 18 months – and more specifically how these are funded by the US middle class, i.e., car loans, and last but not least, the interest rate paid for said loans. Here are a few places to start:
So while the big picture is clear – Americans are using ever more debt to fund record new car prices – fast-forwarding to today, we have observed two ominous new developments: the latest consumer credit report from the Fed revealed a dramatic spike in the amount of new car loans, which increased by more than $2,000 in one quarter, from just over $38,000 (a record), to $40,155 (a new record).
“And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” Rev.6:6
Now this shouldn’t come as a shock: a simple reason why new car loans have hit record highs is simply because new car prices have also soared to all time highs, as the next chart shows.
Here we will ignore for the time being cause and effect, or “chicken or egg” questions – i.e., whether record new car prices are the result of easy record credit, or whether record new car loans are simply tracking the explosive surge in car prices, and instead focus on something even more ominous: the explosion in the average interest rate on a new 60 month auto loans: according to Bankrate, as of Jan 27, the number is just over 6.67%, almost doubling since the start of 2022, and the highest in 12 years.
It is this surge in nominal auto debt as well as the unprecedented spike in new auto loan rates, that we believe has finally pushed the US car sector to the infamous Wile Coyote point of no return.
Read More @Zero Hedge HERE