3 Of The 10 Largest Economies In The World Have Already Fallen Into Recession – Is The U.S. Next?

Global RecessionAre you waiting for the next major wave of the global economic collapse to strike?  Well, you might want to start paying attention again.  Three of the ten largest economies on the planet have already fallen into recession, and there are very serious warning signs coming from several other global economic powerhouses.  Things are already so bad that British Prime Minister David Cameron is comparing the current state of affairs to the horrific financial crisis of 2008.  In an article for the Guardian that was published on Monday, he delivered the following sobering warning: “Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.”  For the leader of the nation with the 6th largest economy in the world to make such a statement is more than a little bit concerning.

So why is Cameron freaking out?

Well, just consider what is going on in Japan.  The economy of Japan is the 3rd largest on the entire planet, and it is a total basket case at this point.  Many believe that the Japanese will be on the leading edge of the next great global economic crisis, and that is why it is so alarming that Japan has just dipped into recession again for the fourth time in six years

Japan’s economy unexpectedly fell into recession in the third quarter, a painful slump that called into question efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pull the country out of nearly two decades of deflation.

The second consecutive quarterly decline in gross domestic product could upend Japan’s political landscape. Mr. Abe is considering dissolving Parliament and calling fresh elections, people close to him say, and Monday’s economic report is seen as critical to his decision, which is widely expected to come this week.

Of course Japan is far from alone.

Brazil has the 7th largest economy on the globe, and it has already been in recession for quite a few months.

And the problems that the national oil company is currently experiencing certainly are not helping matters

In the past five days, 23 powerful Brazilians have been arrested, with even more warrants still outstanding.

The country’s stock market has become a whipsaw, and its currency, the real, has hit a nine-year low.

All of this is due to a far-reaching corruption scandal at one massive company, Petrobras.

In the last month the company’s stock has fallen by 35%.

The 9th largest economy in the world, Italy, has also fallen into recession

Italian GDP dropped another 0.1% in the third quarter, as expected.

That’s following a 0.2% drop in Q2 and another 0.1% decline in Q1, capping nine months of recession for Europe’s third-largest economy.

Like Japan, there is no easy way out for Italy.  A rapidly aging population coupled with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 132 percent is a toxic combination.  Italy needs to find a way to be productive once again, and that does not happen overnight.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of Europe is currently mired in depression-like conditions.  The official unemployment numbers in some of the larger nations on the continent are absolutely eye-popping.  The following list of unemployment figures comes from one of my previous articles

France: 10.2%

Poland: 11.5%

Italy: 12.6%

Portugal: 13.1%

Spain: 23.6%

Greece: 26.4%

Are you starting to get the picture?

The world is facing some real economic problems.

Another traditionally strong economic power that is suddenly dealing with adversity is Israel.

In fact, the economy of Israel is shrinking for the first time since 2009

Israel’s economy contracted for the first time in more than five years in the third quarter, as growth was hit by the effects of a war with Islamist militants in Gaza.

Gross domestic product fell 0.4 percent in the July-September period, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday. It was the first quarterly decline since a 0.2 percent drop in the first three months of 2009, at the outset of the global financial crisis.

And needless to say, U.S. economic sanctions have hit Russia pretty hard.

The rouble has been plummeting like a rock, and the Russian government is preparing for a “catastrophic” decline in oil prices…

President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s economy, battered by sanctions and a collapsing currency, faces a potential “catastrophic” slump in oil prices.

Such a scenario is “entirely possible, and we admit it,” Putin told the state-run Tass news service before attending this weekend’s Group of 20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, according to a transcript e-mailed by the Kremlin today. Russia’s reserves, at more than $400 billion, would allow the country to weather such a turn of events, he said.

Crude prices have fallen by almost a third this year, undercutting the economy in Russia, the world’s largest energy exporter.

It is being reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hoarding gold in anticipation of a full-blown global economic war.

I think that will end up being a very wise decision on his part.

Despite all of this global chaos, things are still pretty stable in the United States for the moment.  The stock market keeps setting new all-time highs and much of the country is preparing for an orgy of Christmas shopping.

Unfortunately, the number of children that won’t even have a roof to sleep under this holiday season just continues to grow.

A stunning report that was just released by the National Center on Family Homelessness says that the number of homeless children in America has soared to an astounding 2.5 million.

That means that approximately one out of every 30 children in the United States is homeless.

Let that number sink in for a moment as you read more about this new report from the Washington Post

The number of homeless children in the United States has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation’s high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the effects of pervasive domestic violence.

Titled “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” the report being issued Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. The number is based on the Education Department’s latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless preschool children not counted by the agency.

The problem is particularly severe in California, which has about one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children, totaling nearly 527,000.

This is why I get so fired up about the destruction of the middle class.  A healthy economy would mean more wealth for most people.  But instead, most Americans just continue to see a decline in the standard of living.

And remember, the next major wave of the economic collapse has not even hit us yet.  When it does, the suffering of the poor and the middle class is going to get much worse.

Unfortunately, there are already signs that the U.S. economy is starting to slow down too.  In fact, the latest manufacturing numbers were not good at all

The Federal Reserve’s new industrial production data for October show that, on a monthly basis, real U.S. manufacturing output has fallen on net since July, marking its worst three-month production stretch since March-June, 2011. Largely responsible is the automotive sector’s sudden transformation from a manufacturing growth leader into a serious growth laggard, with combined real vehicles and parts production enduring its worst three-month stretch since late 2008 to early 2009.

A lot of very smart people are forecasting economic disaster for next year.

Hopefully they are all wrong, but I have a feeling that they are going to be right.

It’s Currency War! – And Japan Has Fired The First Shot

Currency War - Public DomainThis is the big problem with fiat currency – eventually the temptation to print more of it when you are in a jam becomes too powerful to resist.  In a surprise move on Friday, the Bank of Japan dramatically increased the size of the quantitative easing program that it has been conducting.  This sent Japanese stocks soaring and the Japanese yen plunging.  The yen had already fallen by about 11 percent against the dollar over the last year before this announcement, and news of the BOJ’s surprise move caused the yen to collapse to a seven year low.  Essentially what the Bank of Japan has done is declare a currency war.  And as you will see below, in every currency war there are winners and there are losers.  Let’s just hope that global financial markets do not get shredded in the crossfire.

Without a doubt, the Japanese are desperate.  Their economic decline has lasted for decades, and their debt levels are off the charts.  In such a situation, printing more money seems like such an easy solution.  But as history has shown us, wild money printing always ends badly.  Just remember what happened in the Weimar Republic and in Zimbabwe.

At this point, the Bank of Japan is already behaving so recklessly that it is making the Federal Reserve look somewhat responsible in comparison.  The following is how David Stockman summarized what just happened…

This is just plain sick. Hardly a day after the greatest central bank fraudster of all time, Maestro Greenspan, confessed that QE has not helped the main street economy and jobs, the lunatics at the BOJ flat-out jumped the monetary shark. Even then, the madman Kuroda pulled off his incendiary maneuver by a bare 5-4 vote. Apparently the dissenters——Messrs. Morimoto, Ishida, Sato and Kiuchi—-are only semi-mad.

Never mind that the BOJ will now escalate its bond purchase rate to $750 billion per year—-a figure so astonishingly large that it would amount to nearly $3 trillion per year if applied to a US scale GDP. And that comes on top of a central bank balance sheet which had previously exploded to nearly 50% of Japan’s national income or more than double the already mind-boggling US ratio of 25%.

The Japanese are absolutely destroying the credibility of their currency in a last ditch effort to boost short-term economic growth.

So why would they want to devalue their currency?

Well, there are too main reasons why nations do this.

One reason is that it makes it easier to pay off debt.  The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is approximately 250 percent at the moment, and the total debt to GDP ratio is approximately 600 percent.  When you have lots more money floating around, servicing crippling levels of debt becomes more feasible.

Secondly, nations like to devalue their currencies because it makes their products less expensive on the world stage.

In other words, it helps them sell more stuff to other people.

But in the process, this hurts other exporters.  For example, what the Bank of Japan just did is already having serious consequences for South Korean automakers

In Seoul, shares of auto makers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors fell 5.9% and 5.6%, respectively, on Monday.

South Korean and Japanese companies often compete head-to-head in the same product groups in global markets, notably cars and electronics goods.

From the Bank of Japan’s standpoint, “you’re giving your industry a head start relative to someone else’s,” said Markus Rosgen, regional head of equity strategy at Citi in Hong Kong. “The perception in the equity market will be that they [South Korea] will have to take a hit from the lack of competitiveness versus the Japanese.”

This is why I said that there are winners and there are losers in every currency war.

If you boost your exports by devaluing your currency, you take away business from someone else.  And ultimately other nations start devaluing their currencies in an attempt to stay competitive.  That is why they call it a currency war.

For now, the Japanese are celebrating.  On Friday, Japanese stocks surged almost five percent for the day and reached a seven year high.  Investors tend to love quantitative easing, and they were very pleasantly surprised by what the Bank of Japan decided to do.

But of course rising stock prices are not always a good thing.  As Kyle Bass recently explained, wild money printing caused Zimbabwe’s stock market to skyrocket to unprecedented heights as well and that turned out very, very badly…

Amid the euphoria… Kyle Bass provided a few minutes of sanity this morning in an interview with CNBC’s Gary Kaminsky. Bass starts by reflecting on the ongoing (and escalating) money-printing (or balance sheet expansion as we noted here) as the driver of stock movements currently and would not be surprised to see them move higher still (given the ongoing printing expected).

However, he caveats that nominally bullish statement with a critical point, “Zimbabwe’s stock market was the best performer this decade – but your entire portfolio now buys you 3 eggs” as purchasing power is crushed. Investors, he says, are “too focused on nominal prices” as the rate of growth of the monetary base is destroying true wealth. Bass is convinced that cost-push inflation is coming (as the velocity of money will move once psychology shifts) and investors must not take their eye off the insidious nature of underlying inflation – no matter what we are told by the government (as they will always lie when its critical). Own ‘productive assets’, finance them at low fixed rates (thank you Ben)…

And just like we have experienced with quantitative easing in the United States, Japan’s money printing has done very little to help the real economy.  Here is more from David Stockman

Notwithstanding the massive hype of Abenomics, Japan’s real GDP is lower than it was in early 2013, while its trade accounts have continued to deteriorate and real wages have headed sharply south.

So up to this point Japan’s experiment in crazy money printing has been a dismal failure.

Will printing even more money turn things around?

We shall see, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the European Central Bank is getting ready for more quantitative easing.  Central banks all over the planet are becoming increasingly desperate for answers, and the temptation to print, print and print some more is extremely strong.

Nobody is quite sure how this currency war will play out, but I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty.

Serious Financial Trouble Is Erupting In Germany And Japan

Stock Market Collapse - Public DomainThere are some who believe that the next great financial crash will not begin in the United States.  Instead, they are convinced that a financial crisis that begins in Europe or in Japan (or both) will end up spreading across the globe and take down the U.S. too.  Time will tell if they are ultimately correct, but even now there are signs that financial trouble is already starting to erupt in both Germany and Japan.  German stocks have declined 10 percent since July, and that puts them in “correction” territory.  In Japan, the economy is a total mess right now.  According to figures that were just released, Japanese GDP contracted at a 7.1 percent annualized rate during the second quarter and private consumption contracted at a 19 percent annualized rate.  Could a financial collapse in either of those nations be the catalyst that sets off financial dominoes all over the planet?

This week, the worst German industrial production figure since 2009 rattled global financial markets.  Germany is supposed to be the economic “rock” of Europe, but at this point that “rock” is starting to show cracks.

And certainly the civil war in Ukraine and the growing Ebola crisis are not helping things either.  German investors are becoming increasingly jittery, and as I mentioned above the German stock market has already declined 10 percent since July

German stocks, weighed down by the economic fallout spawned by the Ukraine-Russia crisis and the eurzone’s weak economy, are now down more than 10% from their July peak and officially in correction territory.

The DAX, Germany’s benchmark stock index, has succumbed to recent data points that show the German economy has ground to a halt, hurt in large part by the economic sanctions levied at its major trading partner, Russia, by the U.S. and European Union as a way to get Moscow to butt out of Ukraine’s affairs. The economic slowdown in the rest of the debt-hobbled eurozone has also hurt the German economy, considered the economic locomotive of Europe.

In trading today, the DAX fell as low as 8960.43, which put it down 10.7% from its July 3 closing high of 10,029.43 and off nearly 11% from its June 20 intraday peak of 10,050.98.

And when you look at some of the biggest corporate names in Germany, things look even more dramatic.

Just check out some of these numbers

The hardest hit sectors have been retailers, industrials and leisure stocks with sports clothing giant Adidas down 37.7pc for the year, airline Lufthansa down 27pc, car group Volkswagen sliding 23.6pc and Deutchse Bank falling 20.2pc so far this year.

Meanwhile, things in Japan appear to be going from bad to worse.

The government of Japan is more than a quadrillion yen in debt, and it has been furiously printing money and debasing the yen in a desperate attempt to get the Japanese economy going again.

Unfortunately for them, it is simply not working.  The revised economic numbers for the second quarter were absolutely disastrous.  The following comes from a Japanese news source

On an annualized basis, the GDP contraction was 7.1 percent, compared with 6.8 percent in the preliminary estimate. That makes it the worst performance since early 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis.

The blow from the first stage of the sales tax hike in April extended into this quarter, with retail sales and household spending falling in July. The administration signaled last week that it is prepared to boost stimulus to help weather a second stage of the levy scheduled for October 2015.

Corporate capital investment dropped 5.1 percent from the previous quarter, more than double the initial estimate of 2.5 percent.

Private consumption was meanwhile revised to a 5.1 percent drop from the initial reading of 5 percent, meaning it sank 19 percent on an annualized basis from the previous quarter, rather than the initial estimate of 18.7 percent, Monday’s report said.

For the moment, things are looking pretty good in the United States.

But as I have written about so many times, our financial markets are perfectly primed for a fall.

Other experts see things the same way.  Just consider what John Hussman wrote recently…

As I did in 2000 and 2007, I feel obligated to state an expectation that only seems like a bizarre assertion because the financial memory is just as short as the popular understanding of valuation is superficial: I view the stock market as likely to lose more than half of its value from its recent high to its ultimate low in this market cycle.

At present, however, market conditions couple valuations that are more than double pre-bubble norms (on historically reliable measures) with clear deterioration in market internals and our measures of trend uniformity. None of these factors provide support for the market here. In my view, speculators are dancing without a floor.

And it isn’t just stocks that could potentially be on the verge of a massive decline.  The bond market is also experiencing an unprecedented bubble right now.  And when that bubble bursts, the carnage will be unbelievable.  This has become so obvious that even CNBC is talking about it…

Picture this: The bond market gets spooked by a sudden interest rate scare, sending a throng of buyers streaming toward the exits, only to find a dearth of buyers on the other side.

As a result, liquidity evaporates, yields soar, and the U.S. finds itself smack in the middle of another debt crisis no one saw coming.

It’s a scenario that TABB Group fixed income head Anthony J. Perrotta believes is not all that far-fetched, considering the market had what could be considered a sneak preview in May 2013. That was the “taper tantrum,” which saw yields spike and stocks sell off after then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made remarks that the market construed as indicating rates would rise sooner than expected.

If the strength of our financial markets reflected overall strength in the U.S. economy there would not be nearly as much cause for concern.

But at this point our financial markets have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality.

The truth is that our economic fundamentals continue to decay.  In fact, the IMF says that China now has the largest economy on the planet on a purchasing power basis.  The era of American economic dominance is ending.  It is just that the financial markets have not gotten the memo yet.

Hopefully we still have at least a few more months before stock markets all over the world start crashing.  But remember, we are entering the seventh year of the seven year cycle of economic crashes that so many people are talking about these days.  And we are definitely primed for a global financial collapse.

Sadly, most people did not see the crash of 2008 coming, and most people will not see the next one coming either.

New World Disorder: Emerging Division Between East And West Threatens To Plunge The Globe Into Chaos

East And West - Public DomainIn general, over the last several decades the world has experienced an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity.  The opening up of relations with China and the “end of the Cold War” resulted in an extended period of cooperation between east and west that was truly unique in the annals of history.  But now things are shifting.  The civil war in Ukraine and the crash of MH17 have created an enormous amount of tension between the United States and Russia, and many analysts believe that relations between the two superpowers are now even worse than they were during the end of the Cold War era.  In addition, the indictment of five PLA officers for cyber espionage and sharp disagreements over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea (among other issues) have caused U.S. relations with China to dip to their lowest point since at least 1989.  So could the emerging division between the east and the west ultimately plunge us into a period of global chaos?  And what would that mean for the world economy?

For as long as most Americans can remember, the U.S. dollar and the U.S. financial system have been overwhelmingly dominant.  But now the powers of the east appear to be determined to break this monopoly.  Four of the BRICS nations (China, Russia, India and Brazil) are on the list of the top ten biggest economies on the planet, and they are starting to make moves to become much less dependent on the U.S.-centered financial system of the western world.  For example, just last week the BRICS nations established two new institutions which are intended to be alternatives to the World Bank and the IMF…

So in their summit, from July 14 to 16, the five BRICS announced two major initiatives aimed squarely at increasing their power in global finance. They announced the launch of the New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, that will offer financing for development projects in the emerging world. The bank will act as an alternative to the Washington, D.C.—based World Bank. The BRICS also formed what they’re calling a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, a series of currency agreements which can be utilized to help them smooth over financial imbalances with the rest of the world. That’s something the IMF does now.

Clearly, the idea is to create institutions and processes to supplement — and perhaps eventually supplant — the functions of those managed by U.S. and Europe. And they would be resources that they could control on their own, without the annoying conditions that the World Bank and the IMF always slap on their loans and assistance.

This comes at a time when both China and Russia are seeking to emphasize their own currencies and move away from using the U.S. dollar so much.

Even in the western media, it is being admitted that China’s yuan is “a growing force in global finance“, and according to CNBC the use of Chinese currency in international trade is growing very rapidly…

Of the German companies profiled, 23 percent are using the renminbi to settle trades, up from 9 percent last year, while usage in Hong Kong rose to 58 percent from 50 percent and to 17 percent from 9 percent in the U.S.

Usage of the renminbi among French companies – a new addition to this year’s list – was high at 26 percent.

And of course Russia has been actively pursuing a “de-dollarization strategy” for months now.  Each new round of economic sanctions pushes Russia even further in the direction of independence from the U.S. dollar, and Gazprom has been working hard to get large customers to switch from paying for natural gas in dollars to paying for natural gas in euros and other currencies.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Russia Is Doing It – Russia Is Actually Abandoning The Dollar“.

At this point, it seems clear that Russia plans to permanently decouple from the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.  Just today we learned that Vladimir Putin plans to make Russia less dependent on U.S. companies such as IBM and Microsoft, and any future rounds of sanctions are likely to cause even more damage to U.S. firms that do business in Russia.

But potentially much more troubling for the U.S. economy is the startling deterioration in the relationship between the Obama administration and China.  Some analysts are even describing this as “a tipping point”

One day, the United States indicts five PLA officers for cybercrimes; the next, the United States claims victory in WTO disputes over car tariffs and rare earth minerals. All this is happening while the United States promises enduring support for Asian allies, and it has moved openly to challenge the legitimacy of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, China is busy creating facts on the ground and water. Last month, a $1 billion Chinese oil rig set up operations in territorial waters claimed by Vietnam. In the East China Sea, Chinese SU-27 fighter jets have come within 100 feet of Japanese surveillance aircraft.

This was all capped at the recent Shangri-La Asian Security dialogue in Singapore (Asia’s annual defense-ministers meeting): Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel bluntly described China’s behavior as “destabilizing, unilateral actions.” The PLA deputy chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, accused the United States of “hegemonism.”

The mood has soured, more than the usual ups and downs of big-power relationships. The question now is not whether a “new type of relationship” is in the offing, but rather, whether U.S.-Chinese relations have reached a tipping point.

Most Americans could not care less about what China is doing in the South China Sea, but to the Chinese this is a very, very big deal.  In fact, China just sent a surveillance vessel to Hawaii as a bit of payback for what they regard as U.S. “provocations” in the region.

In the old days, China would have probably never have done such a thing.  But China is gaining confidence as the gap between the U.S. military and the Chinese military rapidly closes

Away from the Chinese military’s expanding capabilities in cyberspace and electronic warfare, Beijing is growing the size and reach of its naval fleet, advancing its air force and testing a host of new missiles, the Pentagon said Thursday.

An annual report to Congress on China’s evolving military capability concluded that the modernization was being driven in part by growing territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, as well as by Beijing’s desire to expand its presence and influence abroad.

In fact, the Chinese military has grown so powerful that we are now seeing headlines such as this one in The Week: “China thinks it can defeat America in battle”.

And the Russian military has made tremendous strides as well. Putin has been working hard to modernize the Russian nuclear arsenal, the Russians now have a “fifth generation” fighter jet that is supposedly far superior to the F-22 Raptor, and they have nuclear submarines that are so incredibly quiet that the U.S. Navy refers to them as “black holes“.

If Russia and China stay united, they are more than capable of providing a counterbalance to U.S. power around the globe.

But even if military conflict is not in our immediate future, the breakdown in relations between east and west could still have a dramatic impact on the global economy.

Over the years, the U.S. and China have developed a highly symbiotic relationship that fuels a tremendous amount of economic activity all over the planet.  Each year, we buy hundreds of billions of dollars of products from the Chinese.  Just imagine what our stores would look like if we took everything that was “made in China” out of them.  And after we send them giant piles of our money, we beg the Chinese to lend it back to us at ultra-low interest rates.  This arrangement has allowed China to become extremely wealthy and it has allowed Americans to enjoy a massively inflated standard of living fueled by ever increasing amounts of debt.

So what happens if this relationship starts breaking down?

Without a doubt, it could potentially lead to global chaos.

So keep a close eye on this emerging division between the east and the west.  It could end up being far more important than most Americans would ever dare to imagine.

18 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Accelerating As We Enter The Last Half Of 2014

Accelerating - Public DomainA lot of people that I talk to these days want to know “when things are going to start happening”.  Well, there are certainly some perilous times on the horizon, but all you have to do is open up your eyes and look to see the global economic crisis unfolding.  As you will see below, even central bankers are issuing frightening warnings about “dangerous new asset bubbles” and even the World Bank is declaring that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis.  Most Americans tend to only care about what is happening in the United States, but the truth is that serious economic trouble is erupting in South America, all across Europe and in Asian powerhouses such as China and Japan.  And the endless conflicts in the Middle East could erupt into a major regional war at just about any time.  We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and people need to understand that the period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now is extremely vulnerable and will not last long.  The following are 18 signs that the global economic crisis is accelerating as we enter the last half of 2014…

#1 The Bank for International Settlements has issued a new report which warns that “dangerous new asset bubbles” are forming which could potentially lead to another major financial crisis.  Do the central bankers know something that we don’t, or are they just trying to place the blame on someone else for the giant mess that they have created?

#2 Argentina has missed a $539 million debt payment and is on the verge of its second major debt default in 13 years.

#3 Bulgaria is desperately trying to calm down a massive run on the banks that threatens of spiral out of control.

#4 Last month, household loans in the eurozone declined at the fastest rate ever recorded.  Why are European banks holding on to their money so tightly right now?

#5 The number of unemployed jobseekers in France has just soared to another brand new record high.

#6 Economies all over Europe are either showing no growth or are shrinking.  Just check out what a recent Forbes article had to say about the matter…

Italy’s economy shrank by 0.1% in the first three months of 2014, matching the average of the three previous quarters. After expanding 0.6% in Q2 2013, France recorded zero growth. Portugal shrank 0.7%, following positive numbers in the preceding nine months. While figures weren’t available for Greece and Ireland in Q1, neither country is showing progress. Greek GDP dropped 2.5% in the final three months of last year, and Ireland limped ahead at 0.2%.

#7 A few days ago it was reported that consumer prices in Japan are rising at the fastest pace in 32 years.

#8 Household expenditures in Japan are down 8 percent compared to one year ago.

#9 U.S. companies are drowning in massive amounts of debt, but the corporate debt bubble in China is so bad that the amount of corporate debt in China has actually now surpassed the amount of corporate debt in the United States.

#10 One Chinese auditor is warning that up to 80 billion dollars worth of loans in China are backed by falsified gold transactions.  What will that do to the price of gold and the stability of Chinese financial markets as that mess unwinds?

#11 The unemployment rate in Greece is currently sitting at 26.7 percent and the youth unemployment rate is 56.8 percent.

#12 67.5 percent of the people that are unemployed in Greece have been unemployed for over a year.

#13 The unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole is 11.8 percent – just a little bit shy of the all-time record of 12.0 percent.

#14 The European Central Bank is so desperate to get money moving through the system that it has actually introduced negative interest rates.

#15 The IMF is projecting that there is a 25 percent chance that the eurozone will slip into deflation by the end of next year.

#16 The World Bank is warning that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis.

#17 The economic conflict between the United States and Russia continues to deepen.  This has caused Russia to make a series of moves away from the U.S. dollar and toward other major currencies.  This will have serious ramifications for the global financial system as time rolls along.

#18 Of course the U.S. economy is struggling right now as well.  It shrank at a 2.9 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2014, which was much worse than anyone had anticipated.

But if U.S. economic numbers look a bit better for the second quarter, that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods.

As I have stressed so many times, the long-term trends and the long-term balance sheet numbers are far, far more important than the short-term economic numbers.

For example, if you went to the mall today and spent a thousand dollars on candy and video games, your short-term “economic activity” would spike dramatically.  But your long-term financial health would take a significant turn for the worse.

Well, when we are talking about the health of the U.S. economy or the entire global financial system we need to keep the same kinds of considerations in mind.

As for the United States, whether the level of our debt-fueled short-term economic activity goes up a little bit or down a little bit is not what is truly important.

Rather, the fact that we are nearly 60 trillion dollars in debt as a society is what really matters.

The same thing applies for the globe as a whole.  Right now, the citizens of the planet are more than 223 trillion dollars in debt, and “too big to fail” banks around the world have at least 700 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

So it doesn’t really matter too much whether the short-term economic numbers go up a little bit or down a little bit right now.  The whole system is an inherently flawed Ponzi scheme that will inevitably collapse under its own weight.

Let us hope that this period of relative stability lasts for a while longer.  It is a good thing to have time to prepare.  But you would have to be absolutely insane to think that the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world is never going to burst.

 

Who Needs The United States? Not Russia And China

Vladimir PutinRussia and China have just signed what is being called “the gas deal of the century”, and the two countries are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar and using their own currencies to trade with one another.  This has huge implications for the future of the U.S. economy, but the mainstream media in the United States is being strangely quiet about all of this.  For example, I searched CNN’s website to see if I could find something about this gas deal between Russia and China and I did not find anything.  But I did find links to “top stories” entitled “Celebs who went faux red” and “Adorable kid tugs on Obama’s ear“.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream media is dying?  If a particular story does not fit their agenda, they will simply ignore it.  But the truth is that this new agreement between Russia and China is huge.  It could end up fundamentally changing the global financial system, and not in a way that would be beneficial for the United States.

Russia and China had been negotiating this natural gas deal for ten years, and now it is finally done.  Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the entire planet, and China is poised to become the world’s largest economy in just a few years.  This new $400 billion agreement means that these two superpowers could potentially enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for the next 30 years

Russia reached a $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China through a new pipeline over 30 years, a milestone in relations between the world’s largest energy producer and the biggest consumer.

President Vladimir Putin is turning to China to bolster Russia’s economy as relations sour with the U.S. and European Union because of the crisis in Ukraine. Today’s accord, signed after more than a decade of talks, will allow state-run gas producer OAO Gazprom (GAZP) to invest $55 billion developing giant gas fields in eastern Siberia and building the pipeline, Putin said.

It’s an “epochal event,” Putin said in Shanghai after the contract was signed. Both countries are satisfied with the price, he said.

Of course countries sell oil and natural gas to each other all the time.  But what makes this deal such a potential problem for the U.S. is the fact that Russia and China are working on cutting the U.S. dollar out of the entire equation.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article in a Russian news source

Russia and China are planning to increase the volume of direct payments in mutual trade in their national currencies, according to a joint statement on a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation signed during high-level talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.

“The sides intend to take new steps to increase the level and expansion of spheres of Russian-Chinese practical cooperation, in particular to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services,” the statement said.

In my recent article entitled “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar“, I warned about what could happen if the petrodollar monopoly ends.  In the United States, our current standard of living is extremely dependent on the rest of the world continuing to use our currency to trade with one another.  If Russia starts selling natural gas to China without the U.S. dollar being involved, that would be a monumental blow to the petrodollar.  And if other nations started following the lead of Russia and China, that could result in an avalanche from which the petrodollar may never recover.

And it isn’t just the national governments of Russia and China that are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar.  For example, the second largest bank in Russia just signed a deal with the Bank of China “to pay each other in domestic currencies”

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.

“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

The deal underlines VTB Group’s growing interest in Asian markets and will help grow trade between Russia and China that are already close trading partners, said VTB Bank Management Board Vasily Titov.

You can almost feel the power of the U.S. dollar fading.

A few months ago, when I wrote about how China had announced that it no longer planned to stockpile more U.S. dollars, I speculated that it may be evidence that China planned to start making a big move away from the U.S. dollar.

Well, now China’s intentions have become even more clear.

The Chinese do not plan to allow the United States to indefinitely dominate the globe financially.  In the long run, the Chinese plan to be the ones calling the shots, and that means that the power of the U.S. dollar must decline.

These days, instead of piling up mountains of U.S. currency, China has started accumulating hard assets instead.  In the past, I have written about how China is rapidly stockpiling gold, and it turns out that the Chinese have also been very busy stockpiling oil as well

China is stockpiling oil for its strategic petroleum reserve at a record pace, intervening on a scale large enough to send a powerful pulse through the world crude market.

The move comes as tensions mount in the South China Sea and the West prepares possible oil sanctions against Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Analysts believe China is quietly building up buffers against a possible spike in oil prices or disruptions in supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its latest monthly report that China imported 6.81m barrels per day (bpd) in April, an all-time high.

Once upon a time, China was extremely dependent on the United States economically.  The same was true with most of the rest of the world.

But now economic power has shifted so dramatically that nations such as Russia and China are realizing that they don’t really need to be dependent on the United States any longer.

And with each passing year, the relationship between Russia and China is becoming stronger.  As Pepe Escobar recently observed, this emerging alliance is causing quite a bit of consternation in Washington…

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

Meanwhile, the relationship that the U.S. has with both nations is quickly going sour.  The crisis in Ukraine has caused relations with Russia to drop to the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and now China is deeply offended by charges that Chinese military officers have been involved in cyberspying on the United States

China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it “the biggest attacker of China’s cyberspace.”

China announced it was suspending cooperation with the United States in a joint cybersecurity task force over Monday’s charges that officers stole trade secrets from major American companies. The Foreign Ministry demanded Washington withdraw the indictment.

The testy exchange marked an escalation in tensions over U.S. complaints that China’s military uses its cyber warfare skills to steal foreign trade secrets to help the country’s vast state-owned industrial sector.

The divide between the East and the West is growing.

But the Obama administration has not figured out that we need the East more than they need us.

Right now, the number one U.S. export is U.S. dollars.  Our massively inflated standard of living is very heavily dependent on the rest of the world using our currency to trade with one another and lending it to us at super low interest rates.

If the rest of the world quits playing our game, our debt-based financial system will quickly fall apart.

Unfortunately, nobody in the Obama administration seems to have much understanding of global economics, and they will probably continue to antagonize Russia and China.

In the end, the consequences for antagonizing them could end up being far greater than any of us ever imagined.

Will Detroit Be The First Major Chinese City In The United States?

ChinaIs Detroit destined to become a Chinese city?  Chinese homebuyers and Chinese businesses are starting to flood into the Motor City, and the governor of Michigan is greatly encouraging this.  In fact, he has formally asked the Obama administration for 50,000 special federal immigration visas to encourage even more immigration from China and elsewhere.  So will Detroit be the first major city in the United States to be dominated by China?  It could happen.  Once upon a time, Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city in the history of the world and it had the highest per capita income in the entire country.  But now it is a rotting, decaying, bankrupt hellhole that is in desperate need of a savior, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appears to be fully convinced that China can be that savior.

To Snyder, encouraging foreigners to invest money and buy up properties won’t cost the state government much, but it could potentially have great benefits

Under a plan to be unveiled Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder will request 50,000 special federal immigration visas over the next five years to attract foreign professionals who are willing to work and live in the city.

Mr. Snyder, in an interview Wednesday, said that “this is one way for the federal government to step up to provide significant value without cost that could have a huge impact on the city’s future.”

At a news conference announcing his plan, Snyder was not shy about declaring his intentions

Let’s send a message to the entire world: Detroit, Michigan, is open to the world.

In other words, Snyder wants China to save Detroit since nobody in this country is going to.

Snyder has also taken a couple of additional steps to encourage immigration and foreign investment, including opening up something called “an Office for New Americans”

Opening an Office for New Americans to attract and help immigrants better adjust to life in Michigan, and designating the state as an Employer Based or EB-5 center to expedite visas and permits for immigrants who want to open business in the state with investments of at least $500,000 and 10 employees.

In essence, Snyder has done just about everything except roll out the welcome mat for the Chinese.

But this is nothing new for Governor Snyder.  In fact, he has been making overtures to China for years

Snyder, who was a businessman before starting his political career, believes that automobiles can no longer change the fate of Detroit. He said that he has learned from the history of the United States that what has made the nation great is immigrants.

In the early 1990s, Snyder went to China to develop the automobile market. After he was elected as the governor of Michigan, he made at least one trip to China every year, with the aim of recruiting talent.

He hopes that well-educated Chinese people can revitalize the Motor City in the new era. And as he desired, after Detroit announced its bankruptcy in 2013, the Chinese began to take the dying city by storm.

Rich Chinese men see Detroit as a rare opportunity for investment outside their home country.

In 2013, without any field investigation, Dongdu International Group of Shanghai — whose assets total 5 billion yuan (US$800 million) — spent US$13.6 million to buy the David Stott building and the Detroit Free Press building at auctions in September.

And when we talk about the Chinese domination of Detroit, this is not something that is just future tense.  This is something that is already happening right now.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNBC article that discussed how Chinese companies are already aggressively “putting down roots in Detroit”…

Dozens of companies from China are putting down roots in Detroit, part of the country’s steady push into the American auto industry.

Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

 

The transformation that has taken place in that region of the country is absolutely remarkable.

48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost between December 2000 and December 2010.  Our trade deficit with China was largely responsible for that.

And now we are relying on China to come in and salvage the ruins of our gutted economic infrastructure.

Not only that, but the Chinese are also eagerly buying up homes at extremely depressed prices all over Detroit.

According to CNN, Detroit is already number four on the list of the top 10 destinations for Chinese homebuyers.  In many cases, Chinese buyers are scooping up properties without even looking at them first.  Just check out what one Detroit real estate broker told Quartz last July

“I have people calling and saying, ‘I’m serious—I wanna buy 100, 200 properties,’” she tells Quartz, noting that one of her colleagues recently sold 30 properties to a Chinese buyer. “They say ‘We don’t need to see them. Just pick the good ones.’”

And they aren’t just interested in Detroit.  As I have written about previously, one Chinese company known as “Sino-Michigan Properties LLC” actually had plans to buy 200 acres of land near the little town of Milan, Michigan and turn it into a “China City” with artificial lakes, a Chinese cultural center and hundreds of housing units for Chinese citizens.  For much more on how Chinese buyers are gobbling up real estate all over the nation, please see my previous article entitled “The Chinese Are Acquiring Large Chunks Of Land In Communities All Over America“.

All of this is just another indication of how rapidly the global economic landscape is changing.

Since the late 19th Century, the United States has been the most dominant economic power in the world.

But now that reign is ending.

Just recently, a new study released by the World Bank indicated that China is now the largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power…

A report out of the World Bank shows rapidly expanding China is poised to overtake the once invincible United States as the world’s largest economy by the end of 2014.

The International Comparison Program looks at exchange rates to reveal purchasing power of different currencies and found that yuan in China will soon pack more punch than the mighty dollar.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials bashed the report as flawed, likely for fear of losing its status as a developing nation and the pollution-spewing perks that come with it.

And a couple of years ago China passed the United States and become the leader in global trade.

As the Chinese economy continues to rise and the U.S. economy continues to decline, the shift in global power is going to become even more dramatic.

Yes, let us hope for the best for our failing economy, but you also might want to teach your kids to speak Chinese just in case.

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