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Virtually Everyone Agrees That Current Stock Market Valuations Are Not Sustainable And That A Great Crash Is Coming

Stock Market Collapse Toilet Paper - Public DomainCurrent stock market valuations are not sustainable.  If there is one thing that I want you to remember from this article, it is that cold, hard fact.  In 1929, 2000 and 2008, stock prices soared to absolutely absurd levels just before horrible stock market crashes.  What goes up must eventually come down, and the stock market bubble of today will be no exception.  In fact, virtually everyone in the financial community acknowledges that stock prices are irrationally high right now.  Some are suggesting that there is still time to jump in and make money before the crash comes, while others are recommending a much more cautious approach.  But what almost everyone agrees on is the fact that stocks cannot go up like this forever.

On Tuesday, the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all set brand new record highs once again.  Overall, U.S. stocks are now up more than 10 percent since the election, and this is probably the greatest post-election stock market rally in our entire history.

But stocks were already tremendously overvalued before the election, and at this point stock prices have reached a level of ridiculousness only matched a couple of times before in the past 100 years.

Only the most extreme optimists will try to tell you that stock prices can stay this disconnected from economic reality indefinitely.  We are in the midst of one of the most outrageous stock market bubbles of all time, and as MarketWatch has noted, all stock market bubbles eventually burst…

The U.S. stock market at this level reflects a combination of great demand, great complacency, and great greed. Stocks are clearly in a bubble, and like all bubbles, this one is about to burst.

If corporations were making tremendous amounts of money, rapidly rising stock prices would make logical sense.

But that is not the case at all.  Corporate earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016 were actually quite dismal, and this disconnect between Wall Street and economic reality is starting to really bug financial analysts such as Brian Sozzi

The S&P 500 has gone 89 straight sessions without a 1% decline. Considering that Corporate America didn’t exactly light up on the top and bottom lines during the fourth quarter, such a streak is rather troublesome. Granted, the stock market is a forward-looking mechanism that appears to be trading on hopes that Trump’s unannounced stimulus and tax plans will be lifting economic growth in 2018. Even so, the inability of investors to at least acknowledge persistent struggles among companies and ongoing chaos in Washington is starting to become disturbing.

It is a basic fact of economics that stock prices should accurately reflect current and future earnings.

So if corporate earnings are at the same level they were at in 2011, why has the S&P 500 risen by 87 percent since then?  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The S&P 500 stock index edged up to an all-time high of 2,351 on Friday. Total market capitalization of the companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion. That’s 106% of US GDP, for just 500 companies! At the end of 2011, the S&P 500 index was at 1,257. Over the five-plus years since then, it has ballooned by 87%!

These are superlative numbers, and you’d expect superlative earnings performance from these companies. Turns out, reality is not that cooperative. Instead, net income of the S&P 500 companies is now back where it first had been at the end of 2011.

The cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio was originally created by author Robert Shiller, and it is widely regarded as one of the best measures of the true value of stocks in existence.  According to the Guardian, there have only been two times in our entire history when this ratio has been higher.  One was just before the stock market crash of 1929, and the other was just before the bursting of the dotcom bubble…

Traditionally, one of the best yardsticks for whether shares are over-valued or under-valued has been the cyclically adjusted price earnings ratio constructed by the economist Robert Shiller. This ratio is currently at about 29 and has only twice been higher: in 1929 ahead of the Wall Street Crash, and in the last frantic months of the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s.

We can definitely wish for the current euphoria on Wall Street to last for as long as possible, but let there be absolutely no doubt that it is going to end at some point.

It would take a market decline of 40 or 50 percent to get the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio back to a level that makes economic sense.  Let us hope that the market does not make such a violent move very rapidly, because that would likely be absolutely crippling for our financial system.

Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up, and every other major stock market bubble in U.S. history has ended very badly.

And this bubble is definitely overdue to burst.  The bull market that led up to the great crash of 1929 lasted for 2002 days, and this week the current bull market will finally exceed that record.

Trying to pick a specific date for a market crash is typically a fruitless exercise, but market watchers are becoming very concerned about some of the signs that we are now seeing.  For example, the “CCT indicator” is currently showing “the lowest bullish energy ever”

The first factor is the CCT indicator. This indicator is a proprietary internal measurement of the general volume of the New York Stock Exchange. The measurements take into account the institutional participation as a ratio of the overall volume. Also measured is the duration of heavy block buying in rallies.

The sum total of all the measurements now shows the lowest bullish energy ever — even lower than in 2008, just before the market crash.

In other words, this current bull market appears to be completely and utterly exhausted.

The laws of economics cannot be defied forever.  Traditionally, commodity prices and stock prices have tended to move in unison.  And this makes perfect sense, because commodity prices tend to rise when economic conditions are good, and in such an environment stock prices are typically going to move up.

But now we are in a time when commodity prices and stock prices have become completely disconnected.  In order to bring this ratio back into line, the S&P 500 would need to fall by about 1000 points, and such a decline would cause a level of financial chaos that would be absolutely unprecedented.

This current stock market bubble has lasted much longer than many of the experts originally anticipated, but that just means that the eventual crash will likely be that much more devastating.

In the end, you don’t need to know all of the technical details in this article.

But what you do need to know is that current stock market valuations are not sustainable and that a great crash is coming.

It may not happen next week or next month, but it is going to happen.  And when it does happen, it is likely to make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Is It Just A Coincidence That The Dow Has Hit 20,000 At The Same Time The National Debt Is Reaching $20 Trillion?

Dow Fueled By DebtThe Dow Jones Industrial Average provides us with some pretty strong evidence that our “stock market boom” has been fueled by debt.  On Wednesday, the Dow crossed the 20,000 mark for the first time ever, and this comes at a time when the U.S. national debt is right on the verge of hitting 20 trillion dollars.  Is this just a coincidence?  As you will see, there has been a very close correlation between the national debt and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a very long time.

For example, when Ronald Reagan took office in 1991, the U.S. national debt had just hit 994 billion dollars and the Dow was sitting at 951.  And as you can see from this chart by Matterhorn.gold via David Stockman, roughly that same ratio has held true throughout subsequent presidential administrations…

Dow Fueled By Debt

During the Clinton years the Dow raced out ahead of the national debt, but an “adjustment” during the Bush years brought things back into line.

The cold hard truth is that we have been living way above our means for decades.  Our “prosperity” has been fueled by the greatest debt binge in the history of the world, and we are greatly fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

We would never have gotten to 20,000 on the Dow if Barack Obama and Congress had not gotten us into an extra 9.3 trillion dollars of debt over the past eight years.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand this, and the mainstream media is treating “Dow 20,000″ as if it is some sort of great historical achievement

The average began tracking the most powerful corporate stocks in 1896, and has served as a broad measure of the market’s health through 22 presidents, 22 recessions, a Great Depression, at least two crashes and innumerable rallies, corrections, bull and bear markets. The blue chip reading finally cracked the 20,000 benchmark for the first time early Wednesday.

During the current bull market, the second longest in history, the Dow has more than tripled since March 2009.

Since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, the Dow has now climbed by approximately 2150 points.

And it took just 64 calendar days for the Dow to go from 19,000 to 20,000.  That is an astounding pace, and financial markets around the rest of the planet are doing very well right now too.  In fact, global stocks rose to a 19 month high on Wednesday.

So where do we go from here?

Well, if Donald Trump wants to see Dow 30,000 during his presidency, then history tells us that he needs to take us to 30 trillion dollars in debt.

Of course that would be absolute insanity even if it was somehow possible.  Each additional dollar of debt destroys the future of our country just a little bit more, and at some point this colossal bubble is going to burst.

But you can’t tell most of the “financial experts” these things.  Most of them simply believe that the “market always goes higher over time”

The “market always goes higher over time,” Todd Morgan, chairman of Bel Air Investment Advisors. “The lesson here is that through wars, recessions, elections, impeachments, financial crises, and on and on, investing for the long term in high-quality stocks is the key to building wealth. … We are telling our clients that you can’t time the market. Think long term. Stay the course. We expect the market to see Dow 30,000 in my lifetime, and for my grandchildren to see Dow 50,000 in their lifetime.”

My hope is that the market will continue to go up.  But nobody can deny that valuations are already at absurdly high levels, and the only way that this party can keep going is to continue to fuel it with more and more debt.

But for the moment, there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there, and most experts expect the Dow to continue to set new highs.  In fact, CNBC says that whenever the Dow crosses a new threshold like this it usually means good things for investors…

CNBC looked at market data from the past 30 years and zeroed in on the times when the Dow has crossed levels like 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 … all the way up to the 19,000 level it hit in November. At those times, investors can typically expect traders to push it up even higher, according to data from Kensho. Not only does the Dow go up, but it outperforms the S&P 500 index along the way.

But as USA Today has explained, not all Americans are benefiting from this stock market rally…

The breakthrough came just four trading days into Trump’s presidency, a whirlwind in which the billionaire has reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the U.S. economy and create more jobs and higher wages for workers. Still, nearly half of Americans have not benefited from the so-called “Trump Rally,” which has generated more than $2.2 trillion in paper gains for the Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Index since Election Day. The reason: only 52% of Americans polled by Gallup last April said they “have money invested in stocks” — the lowest stock ownership rate in the 19 years Gallup has tracked the data and down sharply from 65% in 2007 before the financial crisis.

Hopefully the good times will continue to roll for as long as possible.

But there is no possible way that they can keep going indefinitely.

For decades, our debt has been growing much faster than our GDP has.  By definition, this is an unsustainable situation.  At some point we will have accumulated so much debt that our financial system will no longer be able to hold up under the strain.

Many were convinced that we would reach that point before the U.S. national debt hit 20 trillion dollars, and yet here we are.

So how much higher can we go before the bubble bursts?

That is a very good question, and I don’t know if anyone has the right answer.

But for President Trump, this is going to present him with quite a dilemma.

Either he can keep the debt party going for as long as possible, or he can try to get us to take some tough financial medicine right now.

If an attempt is made to deal with our debt problems now, we will experience severe economic pain almost immediately.

But if the can keeps being kicked down the road, our long-term prognosis is just going to keep getting worse and worse.

And if we try to delay the inevitable indefinitely, at some point the laws of economics are going to make our hard choices for us.

So let us celebrate “Dow 20,000″, but let us also understand that it is far more likely that we will see “Dow 10,000″ again before we ever see “Dow 30,000″.

Trumphoria: Americans Are More Optimistic About The Economy Than They Have Been Since Obama’s Win In 2008

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainOptimism about the future of the U.S. economy has not been this strong since Barack Obama’s first presidential election victory in 2008. Donald Trump promised us an economic resurgence, and what is not to like so far? As I discussed earlier this week, stocks are soaring, businesses are already announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the United States, and the U.S. dollar has been lifted to levels that we haven’t seen in many years. Many are referring to this post-election surge as “Trumphoria”, and I think that is quite appropriate. Personally, I couldn’t imagine financial markets behaving this way if Hillary Clinton had won the election. Right now tens of millions of Americans are feeling deeply optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time, and this is clearly reflected in the results of the most recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

It is funny how our political perspectives so greatly shape our view of the future. Because Trump won, Democrats now have an extremely dismal opinion of where the economy is heading, while Republicans suddenly believe that happy days are here again.

Of course the truth is that the president has far less power to influence the economy than the Federal Reserve does, and so most Americans greatly overestimate what a president can do to alter our economic trajectory.

But for now most Americans (excluding Democrats) are feeling really good about where things are headed. In fact, we just learned that the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey has soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2005.

And of course the financial markets continued to roll onward and upward on Friday. The Dow was up another 142 points, and it is now less than 250 points away from the magic number of 20,000.

I never thought that we would actually get to 20,000, but thanks to “Trumphoria” we may actually get there before the wheels start coming off.

This post-election run has really been unprecedented. The following comes from CNBC

All major indexes have been hitting record highs since the election. In fact, the Dow has notched 14 record closes since then and gains in 20 of the past 24 sessions.

The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq also did something they haven’t done in more than five years: all three rose each day of this trading week. The last time all three rose every day during the same trading week was September 2011.

Wouldn’t it be great if every month during Trump’s presidency was like the last 30 days?

Trump promised that we would start winning so much that we would actually start getting tired of winning, and so far we are off to a tremendous start.

As I discussed yesterday, some of the biggest winners from “Trumphoria” have been the big banks

The shares of Wells Fargo, the most hated bank in America these days, soared 28% over the past 30 days, Citigroup 25%, JP Morgan 26%, Goldman Sachs, which is successfully placing its people inside the Trump administration, 37%.

But is this momentum in the financial markets sustainable?

Of course not.

There are signs of emerging economic trouble all around us. For instance, Sears just announced that it lost 748 million dollars last quarter and that it plans to liquidate even more stores.

How in the world do you lose three-quarters of a billion dollars in a single quarter? If you had employees in every store literally flushing dollar bills down the toilet all day I don’t think you could lose money that quickly.

And the moment that Trump takes office, he may immediately be faced with a major financial crisis in Europe which has been sparked by the meltdown of large Italian banks. The following comes from a Forbes article entitled “Italy’s Banking Crisis Is Nearly Upon Us“…

There is a high degree of probability (approaching 90%, I’d say) that Italy will experience a severe banking crisis in the next few quarters. Perhaps they can stave off the problem for a year, but something will have to be done about the banks.

Unfortunately, it looks like things are about to get very real for Italian banking giant Monte dei Paschi di Siena. According to Reuters, the European Central Bank has turned down their request for more time to raise needed capital…

The European Central Bank has rejected a request by Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI) for more time to raise capital, a source said on Friday, a decision that piles pressure on the Rome government to bail out the lender.

Italy’s third-largest bank, and the world’s oldest, had asked for a three-week extension until January 20 to try to wrap up a privately funded, 5 billion euro ($5.3 billion) rescue plan in the face of fresh political uncertainty.

The ECB’s supervisory board turned down the request at a meeting on Friday on the grounds that a delay would be of little use and that it was time for Rome to step in, the source said.

But most Americans have no idea what is unfolding in Europe right now.

As Americans, we tend to be largely oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the world, and at this moment “Trumphoria” has gripped our nation.

It is certainly not wrong to celebrate the fact that we are getting Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, but let us also not lose sight of the fact that we are likely to be facing some tremendous challenges very early in 2017.

Are We Being Set Up For A Crash? Stocks Hit A Level Only Seen During The Bubbles Of 1929, 2000 And 2007

stock-market-overvalued-public-domainWill the financial bubble that has been rapidly growing ever since Donald Trump won the election suddenly be popped once he takes office?  Could it be possible that we are being set up for a horrible financial crash that he will ultimately be blamed for?  Yesterday, I shared my thoughts on the incredible euphoria that we have seen since Donald Trump’s surprise victory on November 8th.  The U.S. dollar has been surging, companies are announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the U.S., and we are witnessing perhaps the greatest post-election stock market rally in Wall Street history.  In fact, the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all set new all-time record highs again on Thursday.  What we are seeing is absolutely unprecedented, and many believe that the good times will continue to roll as we head into 2017.

What has been most surprising to me is how well the stocks of the big Wall Street banks have been doing.  It is no secret that those banks poured a tremendous amount of money into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and Donald Trump had some tough things to say about them leading up to election day.

So you wouldn’t think that it would be particularly good news for those banks that Trump won the election.  However, we seem to be living in “Bizarro World” at the moment, and in so many ways things are happening exactly the opposite of what we would expect.  Since Trump’s victory, all of the big banking stocks have been skyrocketing

Financial stocks in particular have been on fire. Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are up about 20% since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton — and that makes them laggards!

Morgan Stanley (MS) has gained more than 25%. So has troubled Wells Fargo (WFC), despite the lingering fallout from its fake account scandal. Bank of America (BAC) is up more than 30%.

And so is Goldman Sachs (GS) — the former employer of both Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

But are these stock prices justified by the fundamentals?

Of course not, but during times of euphoria the fundamentals never seem to matter much.  Stocks were incredibly overvalued before the election, and now they are ridiculously overvalued.

Earlier today, a CNBC article pointed out that the cyclically-adjusted price to earnings ratio has only been higher than it is today at three points in our history…

“The cyclically adjusted P/E (CAPE), a valuation measure created by economist Robert Shiller now stands over 27 and has been exceeded only in the 1929 mania, the 2000 tech mania and the 2007 housing and stock bubble,” Alan Newman wrote in his Stock Market Crosscurrents letter at the end of November.

Newman said even if the market’s earnings increase by 10 percent under Trump’s policies “we’re still dealing with the same picture, overvaluation on a very grand scale.”

And of course a historic stock market crash immediately followed each of those three bubbles.

So are we being set up for a huge crash in early 2017?

There are some out there that believe that this is purposely being orchestrated.  For example, Mike Adams of Natural News believes that the markets “will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump”

Right now, the U.S. stock market is surging, with the Dow leaping toward 20,000, a number rooted in fiscal insanity and delusional expectations. There are no fundamentals that support a 20,000 Dow, but fundamentals have long since ceased to matter in a financial world hyperventilating on debt fumes while hallucinating about utopian economic models that will soon prove to generate fools instead of real wealth.

Today I’m going on the record with a prediction that I’ll offer with near absolute certainty: The rigged markets that now seem to defy gravity will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump for all the obvious reasons. There will be financial chaos like we’ve never seen before: Investors leaping off tall buildings, banks declaring extended “holidays” that freeze transactions, and California pensioners slitting their wrists after they discover their promised pension funds were just vaporized by incompetent bureaucrats.

On the other hand, there are others that believe that Trump is just walking into a very bad situation and that a crash would be inevitable no matter who was president.

History tells us that there is no possible way that stock prices can stay at this irrational level indefinitely.  But for now a wave of optimism is sweeping the nation, and many of those that are caught up in it will get seriously angry with you if you try to inject a dose of reality into the conversation.

But like I said yesterday, let’s hope that the optimists are correct.  A survey that was just taken of 600 business executives found that 62 percent of them were optimistic about the U.S. economy over the next 12 months.

Incredibly, that number was sitting at just 38 percent the previous quarter.

For the moment, business leaders seem to be quite thrilled that we have a business executive in the White House.

Hopefully Donald Trump’s business experience will translate well to his new position.  And it is certainly my hope that he is as successful as possible.

But even during the campaign Trump talked about how stocks were in a giant bubble, and the euphoria that we have seen since his election victory has just made that bubble even larger.

Throughout U.S. history, every giant financial bubble has always ended very badly, and this time around will not be any exception.

Trump may get the blame for it when it bursts, but the truth is that the conditions for the coming crisis have been building for a very, very long time.

Global Financial Markets Plunged Into Chaos As Italy Overwhelmingly Votes ‘No’

italy-flag-map-public-domainItalian voters have embraced the global trend of rejecting the established world order, but the “no” vote on Sunday has plunged global financial markets into a state of utter chaos.  The euro has already fallen to a 20 month low, Italian government bonds are poised for a tremendous crash, and futures markets are indicating that both U.S. and European stock markets will be way down when they open on Monday.  It is being projected that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s referendum on constitutional reforms will be defeated by about 20 percentage points when all the votes have been counted, and Renzi has already announced that he plans to resign as a result.  When new elections are held it looks like comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star movement will come to power, and the European establishment is extremely alarmed at that prospect because Grillo wants to take Italy out of the eurozone.  In the long run Italy would be much better off without the euro, but in the short-term the only thing propping up Italy’s failing banking system is support from Europe.  Without that support, the 8th largest economy on the entire planet would already be in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis.

I know that I said a lot in that first paragraph, but it is imperative that people understand how serious this crisis could quickly become.

This “no” vote virtually guarantees a major banking crisis for Italy, and many analysts fear that it could trigger a broader financial crisis all across the rest of the continent as well.

Just look at what has already happened.  All of the votes haven’t even been counted yet, and the euro is absolutely plummeting

The euro dropped 1.3 percent to $1.0505, falling below its 1 1/2-year low of $1.0518 touched late last month, and testing its key support levels where the currency has managed to rebound in the past couple of years.

A break below its 2015 March low of $1.0457 would send the currency to its lowest level since early 2003, opening a way for a test of $1, or parity against the dollar, a scenario which many market players now see as a real possibility.

In early 2014, there were times when one euro was trading for almost $1.40.  For a very long time I have been warning that the euro was eventually heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and now we are almost there.

Meanwhile, Italian government bonds are going to continue to crash following this election result.  This is going to make it even more difficult for the Italian government to borrow money, and that will only aggravate their ongoing financial troubles.

But the big problem in Italy is the banks.  At this moment there are eight banks in imminent danger of collapsing, and virtually all of the rest of them are in some stage of trouble.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article about the crisis that Italian banks are facing right at this moment…

They’re burdened with a mountain of bad loans. Their stocks have cratered. And they have to operate in an economy prone to recession and political upheaval.

Signs have been mounting for months that Italy’s weakest lenders, and in particular Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, were sliding toward the precipice, threatening to reignite a broader crisis.

And we may get some news regarding the fate of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as early as Monday morning if what the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting is correct…

A last-gasp rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest surviving bank, has been thrown into doubt after reformist prime minister Matteo Renzi decisively lost a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday.

MPS and advisers JPMorgan and Mediobanca will meet as early as Monday morning to decide whether to pull a plan to go ahead with a €5bn recapitalisation, the FT reports, citing people informed of the plan.

Senior bankers will decide whether to pursue their underwriting commitments or exercise their right to drop the transaction due to adverse market conditions, these people said. In the event the banks drop the capital plan, the Italian state is expected to nationalise the bank, say senior bankers.

If Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena fails, major banks all over Italy (and all over the rest of Europe) could start going down like dominoes.

So what were Italians voting on anyway?

Well, the truth is that the constitutional reforms that were proposed actually sound quite boring

“The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of Parliament — the Senate — shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate’s power to bring down government coalitions.

“The amendments also shift some powers now held by the regions to the central government, thereby reducing frequent and lengthy court battles between Rome and the regional governments.”

The reason why this vote was ultimately so important is because it became a referendum on Renzi’s administration.  The fact that he announced in advance that he would resign if it did not get approved gave a tremendous amount of fuel to the opposition.

So now Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement stands poised to come to power, and that could be very bad news for those that are hoping to hold the common currency together.

The following is how NPR recently summarized the main goals of the Five-Star Movement…

“It calls for a government-guaranteed, universal income, abolishing Italy’s fiscal commitments to the European Union and a referendum on Italy’s membership in the Euro — a prospect that could unravel the entire single currency Eurozone.”

If Italy chooses to leave the euro, it will probably mean the end of the common currency, and the continued existence of the entire European Union would be called into question.

So this vote on Sunday was huge.  The Brexit had already done a tremendous amount of damage to the long-term prospects for the European Union, and now the crisis in Italy is sending political and financial shockwaves throughout the entire continent.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on the euro and on Italian government bonds.

If they both continue to crash, that will be a sign that a major European financial crisis is now upon us.

And what happens in Europe definitely does not stay in Europe.

If Europe goes down, we are going to go down too.

At this point we still have almost a month left in 2016, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a very troubling year.  As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also keep preparing for the worst.

We Are Being Set Up For Higher Interest Rates, A Major Recession And A Giant Stock Market Crash

bear-market-bull-market-public-domainSince Donald Trump’s victory on election night we have seen the worst bond crash in 15 years.  Global bond investors have seen trillions of dollars of wealth wiped out since November 8th, and analysts are warning of another tough week ahead.  The general consensus in the investing community is that a Trump administration will mean much higher inflation, and as a result investors are already starting to demand higher interest rates.  Unfortunately for all of us, history has shown that higher interest rates always cause an economic slowdown.  And this makes perfect sense, because economic activity naturally slows down when it becomes more expensive to borrow money.  The Obama administration had already set up the next president for a major recession anyway, but now this bond crash threatens to bring it on sooner rather than later.

For those that are not familiar with the bond market, when yields go up bond prices go down.  And when bond prices go down, that is bad news for economic growth.

So we generally don’t want yields to go up.

Unfortunately, yields have been absolutely soaring over the past couple of weeks, and the yield on 10 year Treasury notes has now jumped “one full percentage point since July”

The 10-year Treasury yield jumped to 2.36% in late trading on Friday, the highest since December 2015, up 66 basis point since the election, and up one full percentage point since July!

The 10-year yield is at a critical juncture. In terms of reality, the first thing that might happen is a rate increase by the Fed in December, after a year of flip-flopping. A slew of post-election pronouncements by Fed heads – including Yellen’s “relatively soon” – have pushed the odds of a rate hike to 98%.

As I noted the other day, so many things in our financial system are tied to yields on U.S. Treasury notes.  Just look at what is happening to mortgages.  As Wolf Richter has noted, the average rate on 30 year mortgages is shooting into the stratosphere…

The carnage in bonds has consequences. The average interest rate of the a conforming 30-year fixed mortgage as of Friday was quoted at 4.125% for top credit scores. That’s up about 0.5 percentage point from just before the election, according to Mortgage News Daily. It put the month “on a short list of 4 worst months in more than a decade.”

If mortgage rates continue to shoot higher, there will be another housing crash.

Rates on auto loans, credit cards and student loans will also be affected.  Throughout our economic system it will become much more costly to borrow money, and that will inevitably slow the overall economy down.

Why bond investors are so on edge these days is because of statements such as this one from Steve Bannon

In a nascent administration that seems, at best, random in its beliefs, Bannon can seem to be not just a focused voice, but almost a messianic one:

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Steve Bannon is going to be one of the most influential voices in the new Trump administration, and he is absolutely determined to get this “trillion dollar infrastructure plan” through Congress.

And that is going to mean a lot more borrowing and a lot more spending for a government that is already on pace to add 2.4 trillion dollars to the national debt this fiscal year.

Sadly, all of this comes at a time when the U.S. economy is already starting to show significant signs of slowing down.  It is being projected that we will see a sixth straight decline in year-over-year earnings for the S&P 500, and industrial production has now contracted for 14 months in a row.

The truth is that the economy has been barely treading water for quite some time now, and it isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge.  The following comes from Lance Roberts

With an economy running at below 2%, consumers already heavily indebted, wage growth weak for the bulk of American’s, there is not a lot of wiggle room for policy mistakes.

Combine weak economics with higher interest rates, which negatively impacts consumption, and a stronger dollar, which weighs on exports, and you have a real potential of a recession occurring sooner rather than later.

Yes, the stock market soared immediately following Trump’s election, but it wasn’t because economic conditions actually improved.

If you look at history, a stock market crash almost always follows a major bond crash.  So if bond prices keep declining rapidly that is going to be a very ominous sign for stock traders.

And history has also shown us that no bull market can survive a major recession.  If the economy suffers a major downturn early in the Trump administration, it is inevitable that stock prices will follow.

The waning days of the Obama administration have set us up perfectly for higher interest rates, a major recession and a giant stock market crash.

Of course any problems that occur after January 20th, 2017 will be blamed on Trump, but the truth is that Obama will be far more responsible for what happens than Trump will be.

Right now so many people have been lulled into a sense of complacency because Donald Trump won the election.

That is an enormous mistake.

A shaking has already begun in the financial world, and this shaking could easily become an avalanche.

Now is not a time to party.  Rather, it is time to batten down the hatches and to prepare for very rough seas ahead.

All of the things that so many experts warned were coming may have been delayed slightly, but without a doubt they are still on the way.

So get prepared while you still can, because time is running out.

Marc Faber Issues A Stunning Warning That A Gigantic 50 Percent Stock Market Crash Could Be Coming

Danger Button - Public DomainAre we about to witness one of the largest stock market crashes in U.S. history?  Swiss investor Marc Faber is the publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report”, and he has been a regular guest on CNBC for years.  And even though U.S. stocks have been setting new record high after new record high in recent weeks, he is warning that a massive stock market crash is in our very near future.  According to Faber, we could “easily” see the S&P 500 plunge all the way down to 1,100.  As I sit here writing this article, the S&P 500 is sitting at 2,181.74, so that would be a drop of cataclysmic proportions.  The following is an excerpt from a CNBC article that discussed the remarks that Faber made on their network on Monday…

The notoriously bearish Marc Faber is doubling down on his dire market view.

The editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report said Monday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation” that stocks are likely to endure a gut-wrenching drop that would rival the greatest crashes in stock market history.

I think we can easily give back five years of capital gains, which would take the market down to around 1,100,” Faber said, referring to a level 50 percent below Monday’s closing on the S&P 500.

Of course Faber is far from alone in believing that the market is heading for hard times.  Just recently, I wrote about how legendary investor Jeffrey Gundlach is warning that “stocks should be down massively” and that he believes this is the time to “sell everything“.

And on Tuesday, Donald Trump told Fox News that the stock market is “a big bubble”

“If rates go up, you’re going to see something that’s not pretty,” the billionaire businessman told Fox News during a Tuesday morning phone interview. “It’s all a big bubble.”

Worries that the Fed has created a market bubble have shadowed the second-longest bull market in history as the central bank has kept its key rate near zero and expanded its balance sheet by $3.8 trillion in order to pump liquidity into the financial system.

Trump actually has a vested interest in seeing the stock market go down, because that would help his chances in November.

In a previous article on The Most Important News, I explained that the stock market has indicated who would win the presidential election 86 percent of the time since 1928.  During the final three months before election day, if the stock market goes up the incumbent party almost always wins.  But if the stock market goes down, the incumbent party almost always loses.  The only times this correlation has not held up since 1928 were in 1956, 1968 and 1980.

For the moment, the stock market is defying the laws of economics, and that is a very good thing for Hillary Clinton.  But if this bubble suddenly bursts and the market starts catching up with economic reality, that is going to turn out to be very favorable for Donald Trump.

And without a doubt, the fundamental economic numbers just continue to get worse.  Earlier today, we learned that productivity in the U.S. has now been falling for three quarters in a row

Productivity, a sore spot for the U.S. economy over the past few years, has now declined in three straight quarters, according to data released Tuesday.

Productivity in the second quarter unexpectedly fell 0.5%, well below expectations, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% gain in productivity in the quarter.

Productivity is down 0.4% from a year earlier, the first year-over-year decline since the second quarter of 2013.

On Tuesday we also learned that real estate sales in Las Vegas were down about 10 percent in July compared to the same period a year ago, and things are not looking so good in San Francisco either.  Just check out what has been going on at Twitter

Twitter is shaking up San Francisco. It’s the city’s 10th largest employer, and second largest tech employer, after Salesforce. But it hasn’t yet figured out, despite a decade of trying, how to make money. Last October, it announced that it would lay off 8% of its workforce. A couple of weeks ago, it reported a second-quarter net loss of $107 million along with disappointing user metrics and lousy projections. Its shares have lost 74% since their miracle-IPO-hype peak at the end of December 2014.

And now Twitter is dumping nearly one third of its total office space on the San Francisco sublease market.

Las Vegas and San Francisco are both prone to huge “booms” and “busts”.  So the fact that it appears that both cities are starting to move into the “bust” end of the cycle is a very ominous sign.

Conditions are changing, and now is the time to position yourself for the exceedingly challenging times that are coming.  As I end this article today, I want to share with you something written by Jim Quinn.  He recently went out to visit his son Kevin in Colorado for a couple of weeks, and the following is how he ended his article about that trip…

After spending a week in this stunning paradise, it’s tougher than you know to go back to my two and half hour daily round trip commute into the slums of West Philly. John Muir’s words were right 100 years ago and they are right today. I am losing precious days and my days are spent trying to make money. I’ve got responsibilities. I’ve got bills to pay. I’ve got kids to get through college. We’ve got aging parents to help. I work because I have to.

I’m not learning anything in this trivial world of distractions and iGadgets. I don’t fit into this materialistic society. I don’t do small talk. I have no patience for fools. I prefer solitude. If I can survive this despicable rat race for seven more years, I’ll be joining Kevin in Colorado and living the life I’d like to live. The sun is setting and time is slipping away. Those mountains are calling me home.

I can definitely identify with what Jim is going through, because I once experienced similar emotions.

To Jim and everyone else that hopes that someday in the future they will be able to live the lives that they would like to be living right now, I would say this…

Don’t put it off.

Seize the day and find a way to make your dreams a reality.

Things are rapidly changing in this country, and if you keep putting off the life you want to be living for too long it may end up slipping away for good.

Deutsche Bank Profit Plunges 98 Percent As The Outlook For ‘The World’s Riskiest Bank’ Darkens

Crash Arrow Down - Public DomainThe biggest and most important bank in the biggest and most important country in Europe continues to implode right in front of our eyes.  If you follow my work regularly, you probably already know that I issued a major alarm about Deutsche Bank last September.  Subsequently, Deutsche Bank stock hit an all-time low.  Then I sounded the alarm about Deutsche Bank again back in May, and once again that was followed by another all-time low for Deutsche Bank.  And then I warned about Deutsche Bank again in early June, and you can probably imagine what happened after that.  Over the past year, this German banking giant has literally been coming apart at the seams, and in so many ways it is paralleling exactly what happened to Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

Today, we got some more bad news from Deutsche Bank.  Compared to the exact same period last year, profits were down 98 percent.  A nearly 100 percent drop in net income spooked a lot of investors, and Deutsche Bank shares got hit hard on Wednesday.  Of course Deutsche Bank shares are already down by more than half over the past 12 months, and the financial sharks can smell blood in the water.

Just like Lehman Brothers in 2008, Deutsche Bank is essentially in panic mode at this point.  They recently announced that they will be closing 188 branches and that 3,000 workers will be losing their jobs.  But this could just be the beginning of the layoffs at the bank.  According to some reports, the bank could cut up to  35,000 jobs by the year 2020, and CEO John Cryan recently admitted that they “may have to accelerate cost-cutting measures“.

What makes all of this even more alarming is that Deutsche Bank is widely considered to be “the most dangerous bank” on the entire planet.  The following comes from a CNN article posted just today entitled “The world’s riskiest bank is in trouble“…

What is going on with Deutsche Bank?

Germany’s biggest lender was dubbed the world’s riskiest bank by the International Monetary Fund last month, just as one of its U.S. businesses failed a Federal Reserve stress test.

Its shares are down 45% this year, and on Wednesday it said second quarter profits were wiped out by a 98% slump in earnings. The stock fell 2.5% in Frankfurt.

The primary reason why Deutsche Bank is “the world’s riskiest bank” is because of the mammoth derivatives portfolio that is possesses.  It currently has 42 trillion euros of exposure to derivatives, which is an amount of money about 13 times the size of the entire German economy.

When Deutsche Bank finally goes down for good, it is going to be “the shot heard around the financial world”, and it will be a disaster many times greater than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.  Just consider what Jeff Gundlach had to say about the bank earlier this year

“Banks are dying and policymakers don’t know what to do,” Gundlach said. “Watch Deutsche Bank shares go to single digits and people will start to panic… you’ll see someone say, ‘Someone is going to have to do something.'”

As I write this, shares of Deutsche Bank are sitting at just $13.63, and many experts are having a very difficult time finding any reason for optimism.  In fact, Edward Misrahi has stated that the bank is his number one short trade, and Jim Collins says that “it is just impossible” to recommend buying shares of Deutsche Bank even at this depressed level…

As an equity analyst, it is just impossible to recommend shares of a bank that is not growing revenue. So really, Deutsche is an untouchable, and the stock market is trying — to the tune of a 58% decline in DB’s market value in 12 months — to recalibrate Deutsche’s market capitalization to the true value of its assets net of liabilities. That’s a painful journey.

I don’t mean to just pick on Deutsche Bank.  Certainly there are a lot of other major banks around the globe that are also teetering on the brink right now.  Just take a look at Italy.  Basically their entire banking system is in the process of melting down.

But the utter collapse of Italy’s banking system won’t have the same kind of worldwide impact that the collapse of Deutsche Bank will.

Unlike some of his predecessors, CEO John Cryan is being honest about some of the struggles that Deutsche Bank is going through right now, and he admits that they may need to be “more ambitious in our restructuring”.  The following comes from Business Insider

Cryan said in a statement (emphasis ours):

“We have continued to de-risk our balance sheet, to invest in our processes and to modernize our infrastructure. However, if the current weak economic environment persists, we will need to be yet more ambitious in the timing and intensity of our restructuring.”

He said something similar in a note to employees (emphasis again ours):

“Here I would like to speak plainly. If this weak economic environment persists, we will need to be still more ambitious in our restructuring. We will do everything in our power to accelerate the measures we have already planned.”

Yes, I know that the stock market in the United States has been setting all sorts of all-time record highs lately.

But that doesn’t change what is going on in the rest of the world one bit.

The financial crisis that has been gripping Europe, Asia, South America and most of the rest of the planet since the second half of last year is accelerating.

And it is inevitable that the U.S. is going to be experiencing some very real pain in the not too distant future as well.

So even though things may seem a bit quiet this summer in the financial world, the truth is that there is a whole lot going on under the surface.

Deutsche Bank is one glaringly obvious example of this, but there are many others all over the globe.  And not too long from now, the dominoes will begin to fall very rapidly.

War Is Coming And The Global Financial Situation Is A Lot Worse Than You May Think

city skyscrapers clock time stopwatch seconds - public domainOn the surface, things seem pretty quiet in mid-July 2016.  The biggest news stories are about the speculation surrounding Donald Trump’s choice of running mate, the stock market in the U.S. keeps setting new all-time record highs, and the media seems completely obsessed with Taylor Swift’s love life.  But underneath the surface, it is a very different story.  As you will see below, the conditions for a “perfect storm” are coming together very rapidly, and the rest of 2016 promises to be much more chaotic than what we have seen so far.

Let’s start with China.  On Tuesday, an international tribunal in the Hague ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.  The Chinese government announced ahead of time that they do not recognize the jurisdiction of the tribunal, and they have absolutely no intention of abiding by the ruling.  In fact, China is becoming even more defiant in the aftermath of this ruling.  We aren’t hearing much about it in the U.S. media, but according to international news reports Chinese president Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army “to prepare for combat” with the United States if the Obama administration presses China to abandon the islands that they are currently occupying in the South China Sea…

“Chinese president Xi Jinping has reportedly ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for combat,” reports Arirang.com. “U.S.-based Boxun News said Tuesday that the instruction was given in case the United States takes provocative action in the waters once the ruling is made.”

A U.S. aircraft carrier and fighter jets were already sent to the region in anticipation of the ruling, with the Chinese Navy also carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.

Last October, China said it was “not frightened” to fight a war with the U.S. following an incident where the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen violated the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the United States and Russia continues to go from bad to worse.  The installation of a missile defense system in Romania is just the latest incident that has the Russians absolutely steaming, and during a public appearance on June 17th Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to get western reporters to understand that the world is being pulled toward war…

“We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.

And of course the Russians have been feverishly updating and modernizing their military in preparation for a potential future conflict with the United States.  Just today we learned that the Russians are working to develop a hypersonic strategic bomber that is going to have the capability of striking targets with nuclear warheads from outer space.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration does not feel a similar sense of urgency.  The size of our strategic nuclear arsenal has declined by about 95 percent since the peak of the Cold War, and many of our installations are still actually using rotary phones and the kind of 8 inch floppy disks for computers that were widely used back in the 1970s.

But I don’t expect war with China or Russia to erupt by the end of 2016.  Of much more immediate concern is what is going on in the Middle East.  The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, but it is Israel that could soon be the center of attention.

Back in March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration wanted to revive the peace process in the Middle East before Obama left office, and that a UN Security Council resolution that would divide the land of Israel and set the parameters for a Palestinian state was still definitely on the table…

The White House is working on plans for reviving long-stalled Middle East negotiations before President Barack Obama leaves office, including a possible United Nations Security Council resolution that would outline steps toward a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, according to senior U.S. officials.

And just this week, the Washington Post reported that there were renewed “rumblings” about just such a resolution…

Israel is facing a restive European Union, which is backing a French initiative that seeks to outline a future peace deal by year’s end that would probably include a call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and the creation of a Palestinian state. There are also rumblings that the U.N. Security Council might again hear resolutions about the conflict.

For years, Barack Obama has stressed the need for a Palestinian state, and now that his second term is drawing to a close he certainly realizes that this is his last chance to take action at the United Nations.  If he is going to pull the trigger and support a UN resolution formally establishing a Palestinian state, it will almost certainly happen before the election in November.  So over the coming months we will be watching these developments very carefully.

And it is interesting to note that there is an organization called “Americans For Peace Now” that is collecting signatures and strongly urging Obama to support a UN resolution of this nature.  The following comes from their official website

Now is the time for real leadership that can revive and re-accredit the two-state solution as President Obama enters his final months in office. And he can do this – he can lay the groundwork for a two-state agreement in the future by supporting an Israeli-Palestinian two-state resolution in the United Nations Security Council.

Such a resolution would restore U.S. leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. It would preserve the now-foundering two-state outcome. And it would be a gift to the next president, leaving her or him constructive options for consequential actions in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, in place of the ever-worsening, politically stalemated status quo there is today.

Sadly, a UN resolution that divides the land of Israel and that formally establishes a Palestinian state would not bring lasting peace.  Instead, it would be the biggest mistake of the Obama era, and it would set the stage for a major war between Israel and her neighbors.  This is something that I discussed during a recent televised appearance down at Morningside that you can watch right here

At the same time all of this is going on, the global economic crisis continues to escalate.  Even though U.S. financial markets are in great shape at the moment, the same cannot be said for much of the rest of the world.

Just look at the country that is hosting the Olympics this summer.  Brazil is mired in the worst economic downturn that it has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Rio de Janeiro’s governor has declared “a state of financial emergency“.

Next door, the Venezuelan economy has completely collapsed, and some people have become so desperate that they are actually hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food.

Elsewhere, China is experiencing the worst economic downturn that they have seen in decades, the Japanese are still trying to find the end of their “lost decade”, and the banking crisis in Europe is getting worse with each passing month.

In quite a few articles recently, I have discussed the ongoing implosion of the biggest and most important bank in Germany.  But I am certainly not the only one warning about this.  In one of his recent articles, Simon Black also commented on the turmoil at “the most dangerous bank in Europe”…

Well-capitalized banks are supposed to have double-digit capital levels while making low risk investments.

Deutsche Bank, on the other hand, has a capital level of less that 3% (just like Lehman), and an incredibly risky asset base that boasts notional derivatives exposure of more than $70 trillion, roughly the size of world GDP.

But of course Deutsche Bank isn’t getting a lot of attention from the mainstream media right now because of the stunning meltdown of banks in Italy, Spain and Greece.  Here is more from Simon Black

Italian banks are sitting on over 360 billion euros in bad loans right now and are in desperate need of a massive bailout.

IMF calculations show that Italian banks’ capital levels are among the lowest in the world, just ahead of Bangladesh.

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of problems in other banking jurisdictions.

Spanish banks have been scrambling to raise billions in capital to cover persistent losses that still haven’t healed from the last crisis.

In Greece, over 35% of all loans in the banking system are classified as “non-performing”.

Even though U.S. stocks are doing well for the moment, the truth is that trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has been lost globally since this time last year.  If you are not familiar with what has been going on around the rest of the planet, this may come as a surprise to you.  During my recent appearance at Morningside, I shared some very startling charts which show how dramatically global markets have shifted over the past 12 months.  You can view the segment in which I shared these charts right here

I would really like it if the rest of 2016 was as quiet and peaceful as the past couple of days have been.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that is going to be the case at all.

The storm clouds are rising and the conditions for a “perfect storm” are brewing.  Sadly, most people are not going to understand what is happening until it is far too late.

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