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The Dow Plunges 372 Points As Trump Impeachment Talk Reaches A Fever Pitch On Capitol Hill

The wolves are circling, and members of Congress from both political parties are now openly talking about impeaching President Trump.  On Wednesday, speculation of a looming Trump impeachment sent stocks plunging.  The Dow was down 372 points, and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both experienced their largest declines in eight months.  This downturn was sparked by a New York Times report that said that a memo that FBI Director James Comey wrote in February stated that Trump requested that Comey “end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn”.  Democrats and Republicans are both jumping on this memo as potential evidence of “obstruction of justice”, but as I will explain below, even if everything that Comey is saying is true there is no evidence of obstruction of justice in this case.  However, perception is often more important than reality, and at this moment Wall Street and many of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Washington believe that the Trump administration is coming apart at the seams.  After the events of this week, it is clearer than ever that it is imperative that we get Trump some friends in Congress in 2018.

Following Trump’s surprise election victory in November, stocks surged as investors anticipated the implementation of a robust pro-business agenda.

But now that the Trump administration is deeply embroiled in controversy, many fear that Trump’s pro-business agenda will never become a reality

“A week ago, we were talking about the agenda grinding to a halt,” the Republican said. “Now, the train is going down the hill backwards.”

And even before Wednesday’s revelation about Comey’s memo, some top Republican leaders were already disavowing Trump’s agenda.  For example, just check out what Bloomberg is reporting about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell…

Earlier Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s prepared to block Trump on many of his proposed budget cuts and won’t support major tax cuts that add to the deficit. Nor would he commit to building Trump’s border wall.

The financial markets had already “priced in” big tax cuts, reduced regulations and a massive increase in infrastructure spending.

If the markets believe that none of those things are going to happen now, that is likely to result in a significant downturn for stocks.

Of course the Democrats are just thrilled by these latest developments.  U.S. Representative Jim Himes told MSNBC that the Republican agenda is now “lying in ruins on the floor of this building”

Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House intelligence committee, said the Republican legislative agenda “is lying in ruins on the floor of this building.”

“It was tenuous when they got through their so-called health care bill in the House.  You can still see blood on the floor here for what it cost them to get that through the House,” Himes told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in an interview from the U.S. Capitol.

“Now, you know, things like tax reform , which is, you know, very, very difficult in the best of times — with that cloud, with this cloud, hanging over this building, that legislative agenda is all but gone.”

Previously, I have warned about the “gangster culture” in Washington D.C., and the truth is that the “Deep State” has been out to get Trump since the moment he was elected.

There are thousands upon thousands of laws that apply to the presidency, and the jackals among the establishment have been waiting for Trump to trip up just a little bit so that they can try to take him down for good.

And things are starting to move very quickly now.

Within hours of the revelation about the Comey memo, Democratic Representative Al Green called for Trump to be impeached from the House floor: “This is about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The president must be impeached.”

It isn’t much of a surprise to see this sort of rush to judgment from the Democrats, but the speed at which Republicans are turning on Trump is more than just a little bit alarming…

-Senator John McCain raised the specter of impeachment when he told the press that the crisis surrounding Trump has reached “Watergate size and scale”.

-McCain’s partner in crime, Senator Lindsey Graham, released a statement that said he “will follow the facts — wherever they may lead”.  Graham has always been one of Trump’s biggest critics, and he clearly is ready to move forward with impeachment.

-According to the Hill, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is saying that if Comey’s memo is true “it would merit impeachment”.

-Commenting on Trump’s troubles, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told reporters that obstruction of justice “has been considered an impeachable offense”.

But what none of them understand is that Trump has not committed any crime.

As a former lawyer with two law degrees (a JD and an LLM), it is my opinion that even if everything in Comey’s memo is true (and that is a big if), it still would not mean that President Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

And I am far from alone in this regard.  Someone that agrees with me is ultra-liberal George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley

A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence “corruptly” when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term “corruptly” is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted “with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another.” Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.

Then there is the question of corruptly influencing what? There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine’s Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.

You can’t charge someone with a crime just because you don’t like that person.

We are not supposed to be a nation that conducts witch hunts.  The law is supposed to be applied equally to all of our citizens, and that includes the president of the United States.

I know that the left and the establishment Republicans that hate Trump would love to use the law as a weapon to remove Trump from office, but the truth is that there is no evidence that Trump has done anything wrong.

And if the law was actually applied objectively in our land, it is quite likely that Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton would all be in very hot water about now.  The following comes from Mike Adams of Natural News

Keep in mind that these same discredited media outlets gave Obama a pass when he laundered $1.7 billion in cash and delivered it to Iran on a military cargo plane.

They are the same fake news media that looked the other way when Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac in a private meeting to pressure Lynch to back off any potential criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s long list of crimes.

They are the same anti-American media that said nothing when Hillary Clinton cheated during the presidential debates by receiving the debate questions in advance from CNN. (She also pre-sold her anticipated presidency by collecting tens of millions of dollars in “donations” and “speaking fees” from foreign interests.)

They are the same media that stood silent when former President Obama weaponized the IRS to suppress the speech of conservative non-profits. Similarly, nobody in the media seems to be alarmed at all that Obama abused the state surveillance apparatus to spy on his political opponents such as Rand Paul.

For much more on the crimes of the Clintons in particular, I would commend a book by Edward Klein entitled “Guilty as Sin: Uncovering New Evidence of Corruption and How Hillary Clinton and the Democrats Derailed the FBI Investigation”.  The fact that neither of the Clintons have ever been to prison says a lot about the state of criminal justice in America today.

It is literally going to take a miracle for Trump to survive the next couple of years.  If he can do that, we can definitely greatly strengthen his hand by sending hordes of Trump supporters to D.C. during the mid-term elections in 2018.

If the impeachment process moves forward, there are a whole lot of Republicans that would gleefully plunge knives into Trump’s back.  So Trump needs to be very careful, because he doesn’t have a lot of true friends in Congress at this point.

This is why we can no longer vote for someone just because they carry the label of “Republican”.  What we really need is a conservative revolution in this country, and my hope is that we can start a movement that will turn Washington D.C. completely upside down.

Financial Weapons Of Mass Destruction: The Top 25 U.S. Banks Have 222 Trillion Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

The recklessness of the “too big to fail” banks almost doomed them the last time around, but apparently they still haven’t learned from their past mistakes.  Today, the top 25 U.S. banks have 222 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  In other words, the exposure that these banks have to derivatives contracts is approximately equivalent to the gross domestic product of the United States times twelve.  As long as stock prices continue to rise and the U.S. economy stays fairly stable, these extremely risky financial weapons of mass destruction will probably not take down our entire financial system.  But someday another major crisis will inevitably happen, and when that day arrives the devastation that these financial instruments will cause will be absolutely unprecedented.

During the great financial crisis of 2008, derivatives played a starring role, and U.S. taxpayers were forced to step in and bail out companies such as AIG that were on the verge of collapse because the risks that they took were just too great.

But now it is happening again, and nobody is really talking very much about it.  In a desperate search for higher profits, all of the “too big to fail” banks are gambling like crazy, and at some point a lot of these bets are going to go really bad.  The following numbers regarding exposure to derivatives contracts come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2), and as you can see the level of recklessness that we are currently witnessing is more than just a little bit alarming…

Citigroup

Total Assets: $1,792,077,000,000 (slightly less than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $47,092,584,000,000 (more than 47 trillion dollars)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,490,972,000,000 (just under 2.5 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $46,992,293,000,000 (nearly 47 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $860,185,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,227,878,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,189,266,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $33,132,582,000,000 (more than 33 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $814,949,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $28,569,553,000,000 (more than 28 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,930,115,000,000 (more than 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $7,098,952,000,000 (more than 7 trillion dollars)

Collectively, the top 25 banks have a total of 222 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

If you are new to all of this, you might be wondering what a “derivative” actually is.

When you buy a stock you are purchasing an ownership interest in a company, and when you buy a bond you are purchasing the debt of a company.  But when you buy a derivative, you are not actually getting anything tangible.  Instead, you are simply making a side bet about whether something will or will not happen in the future.  These side bets can be extraordinarily complex, but at their core they are basically just wagers.  The following is a pretty good definition of derivatives that comes from Investopedia

A derivative is a security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is a contract between two or more parties based upon the asset or assets. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes.

Those that trade derivatives are essentially engaged in a form of legalized gambling, and some of the brightest names in the financial world have been warning about the potentially destructive nature of these financial instruments for a very long time.

In a letter that he wrote to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway in 2003, Warren Buffett actually referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”…

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and governments have so far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts. In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.

Warren Buffett was right on the money when he made that statement, and of course the derivatives bubble is far larger today than it was back then.

In fact, the total notional value of derivatives contracts globally is in excess of 500 trillion dollars.

This is a disaster that is just waiting to happen, and investors such as Buffett are quietly positioning themselves to take advantage of the giant crash that is inevitably coming.

According to financial expert Jim Rickards, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is hoarding 86 billion dollars in cash because he is likely anticipating a major stock market downturn…

Far from a bullish sign, Buffett’s cash hoard could mean he’s preparing for a market crash. When the crash comes, Buffett can walk through the wreckage with his checkbook open and buy great companies for a fraction of their current value.

That’s the real Buffett style, but you won’t hear that from your broker or wealth manager. If Buffett has a huge cash allocation, shouldn’t you?

He knows what’s coming. Now you do too.

Warren Buffett didn’t become one of the wealthiest men in the entire world by being stupid.  He knows that stocks are ridiculously overvalued at this point, and he is poised to make his move after the pendulum swings in the other direction.

And he might not have too long to wait.  In recent weeks I have been writing about many of the signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down substantially, and today we received even more bad news

Despite high levels of economic confidence expressed by business owners and consumers, one key indicator shows that it has not translated into much action yet.

Loan issuance declined in the first quarter from the previous three-month period, the first time that has happened in four years, according to an SNL Financial analysis of bank earnings reports filed for the period. The total of recorded loans and leases fell to $9.297 trillion from $9.305 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2016.

This is precisely what we would expect to see if a new economic downturn was beginning.  Our economy is very highly dependent on the flow of credit, and when that flow begins to diminish that is a very bad sign.

For the moment, financial markets continue to remain completely disconnected from the hard economic data, but as we saw in 2008 the markets can plunge very rapidly once they start catching up with the real economy.

Warren Buffett is clearly getting prepared for the crisis that is ahead.

Are you?

The ’51st U.S. State’ Declares Bankruptcy As Corporate Insiders Sell Stocks At The Fastest Rate Since The Last Financial Crisis

Puerto Rico has collapsed financially and has “filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy protection”.  When this was announced on Wednesday, it quickly made front page news all over the planet.  For decades, Puerto Rico has been considered to be the territory most likely to become “the 51st U.S. state”, and there have even been rumblings that we could soon see a renewed push for statehood.  But that is on the back burner for now, because at the moment Puerto Rico is dealing with a nightmarish financial crisis that is the result of an accelerating economic collapse.  Unfortunately, many Americans still don’t believe that what has happened to Puerto Rico could happen to us, even though signs of major economic trouble are emerging all around us.

Almost two years ago I issued a major warning about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, and now the day of reckoning for “America’s Greece” has finally arrived

Saddled by mountainous debts and undermined by rapid population loss, Puerto Rico filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy protection Wednesday in a historic move that will trigger a fierce legal battle, with the fate of the island’s citizens, creditors and workers at stake.

The oversight board appointed to lead the U.S. territory back to fiscal sustainability declared in a court filing that it is “unable to provide its citizens effective services,” crushed by $74 billion in debts and $49 billion in pension liabilities.

Like Greece, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and so many others, what has happened in Puerto Rico shows us that it is simply not possible to live way above your means indefinitely.  If your debt grows much faster than your economy, eventually you reach a point where financial disaster is inevitable.  This is a lesson that our leaders in Washington D.C. desperately need to learn before it is too late for the United States.

Since 2007, the population of Puerto Rico has declined by 10 percent and the number of jobs in that nation has declined by 20 percent.  It is a long-term economic collapse that just continues to get even worse with each passing month.

Unfortunately for Wall Street, many large U.S. financial institutions have invested very heavily in Puerto Rico’s bonds.  In fact, it has been estimated that 180 mutual funds have “at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds”.

At this point, U.S. firms stand poised to lose billions of dollars as their investments become worthless, and many of these firms were totally blindsided because they were assured that this could not happen…

The financial collapse promises to impose deep losses on bondholders who for years snapped up Puerto Rico’s securities, which are tax-free throughout the U.S. U.S. states can’t file for bankruptcy, and investors bought the bonds assured that it wasn’t a legal option for Puerto Rico either.

The scale of the restructuring is far larger than Detroit’s record-setting $18 billion bankruptcy, and it’s unclear how long a court proceeding would last or how deep would be the cuts that are imposed on bondholders.

So how far will the financial collapse of Puerto Rico ultimately ripple through our financial system?

It is hard to say, but without a doubt this is a major concern.

Meanwhile, corporate insiders are selling stocks at the fastest pace that we have seen in seven years.  The following comes from Business Insider

As the investing public has continued to devour stocks, sending all three major indexes to record highs in the last few months, corporate insiders have been offloading shares to an extent not seen in seven years. Selling totaled $10 billion in March, according to data compiled by Trim Tabs.

It’s a troubling trend facing an equity market that’s already grappling with its loftiest valuations since the 2000 tech bubble. If the people with the deepest knowledge of a company are cashing out, why should investors keep buying at current prices?

What do those corporate insiders know that the rest of us do not?

Perhaps they are just being rational.  If I was a top corporate insider at one of these “unicorns” that have market caps in the tens of billions of dollars even though they are consistently losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year I would be selling too.

You make money in the stock market by selling at the right time.  Those that sold their Pets.com stock at the peak of the dotcom bubble got quite wealthy, but those that held on all the way through the stock market crash got completely wiped out.

There have been some analysts that have suggested that one way to make money in the stock market is to simply do what the insiders are doing.  If they are buying, then that is supposedly a time to buy, and if they are selling that is supposedly a time to sell.

Personally, I would rather use my limited resources to get prepared for the horrific crisis that is inevitably coming, but not everyone agrees with that outlook.

The crisis in Puerto Rico developed over an extended period of time, and there were plenty of warning signs.

So anyone that is still holding Puerto Rican bonds at this point is quite foolish.

Similarly, the warning signs here in the U.S. have been mounting for quite a while.  Just yesterday, we got more exceedingly bad news for the U.S. auto industry, and we are on pace to absolutely smash the all-time record for most retail store closings in a single year.

Just because a crisis does not arrive on the exact month or year that you were anticipating does not mean that it has been canceled.

I warned about a looming financial cataclysm in Puerto Rico nearly two years ago, but they somehow managed to hang on until now.  And even though the U.S. financial system is still afloat for the moment, everyone should be able to see that we are definitely living on borrowed time.

So don’t look down on Puerto Rico, because what is happening to them is eventually coming here too.

Have We Just Reached Peak Stock Market Absurdity?

Have you ever wondered how tech companies that have been losing hundreds of millions of dollars year after year can somehow be worth billions of dollars according to the stock market?  Because I run a website called “The Economic Collapse“, there are naysayers out there that take glee in mocking me by pointing out how well the stock market has been doing.  This week, the Dow is flirting with 21,000 and the Nasdaq crossed the 6,000 threshold for the first time ever.  But a lot of the “soaring stocks” that have been fueling this rally have been losing giant mountains of money every single year, and just like the first tech bubble this madness will eventually come to an end in a spectacular fiery crash in which investors will lose trillions of dollars.

Anyone that cannot see that we are in the midst of an absolutely insane stock market bubble simply does not understand economics.  Every valuation indicator that you can possibly point to says that we are in a bubble of epic proportions, and history teaches us that all bubbles inevitably come to an end at some point.

Earlier today, I came across an article by Graham Summers in which he persuasively argued that the price to sales ratio indicates that stock prices are far more inflated than they were just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008…

Sales cannot be gimmicked. Either money comes in the door, or it doesn’t. And if a company is caught messing around with its sales numbers, someone is going to jail.

For this reason, Price to Sales is perhaps the single most objective and clear means of measuring stock valuations.

This metric, above all others, you can point to and say, “this is definitively accurate and has not been messed with.”

On that note, as Bill King recently noted, today the S&P 500 is sporting a P/S ratio that is massively higher than it was in 2007 and is only marginally lower than it was during the Tech Bubble (the single largest stock bubble of all time for most measures).

To me, looking at profitability is even more important than looking at sales.

Large tech companies such as Twitter certainly have lots of revenue coming in, but many of them are deeply unprofitable.

In fact, Twitter has never made a yearly profit, and over the past decade it has actually lost more than 2 billion dollars.

But despite all of that, investors absolutely love Twitter stock.  As I write this article, Twitter has a market cap of 11.5 billion dollars.

How in the world is that possible?

How can a company that has never made a single penny be worth more than 11 billion dollars?

Twitter is never going to be more popular than it is now.  If it can’t make a profit at the peak of its popularity, when will it ever happen?

And guess what?  ABC News says that Twitter actually just reported a decline in revenue for the most recent quarter…

Twitter has never turned a profit, and for the first time since going public in 2013, it reported a decline in revenue from the previous year. Its revenue was $548.3 million, down 8 percent.

Net loss was $61.6 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $79.7 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.

The only reason why financial black holes such as Twitter can continue to exist is because investors have been willing to pour endless amounts of money into them, but now that bubble is starting to burst.

In his most recent article, Simon Black discussed how Silicon Valley investors are starting to become more cautious because so many of these “unicorns” are now going bust.  One of the examples that he cited in his article was a company called Clinkle…

(Given that investing in an early stage company is high-risk, investors might provide a few hundred thousand dollars in funding, at most. Clinkle raised $25 million.)

The company went on to burn through just about every penny of its investors’ capital.

There were even photos that surfaced of the 21-year old CEO literally setting bricks of cash on fire.

At the end of the farce, Clinkle never actually managed to build its supposedly ‘world-changing’ product, and the website is now all but defunct.

Most of you may have never even heard of Clinkle, but I bet that you have definitely heard of Netflix.

Netflix has revolutionized how movies are delivered to our homes, and that revolution helped drive movie rental stores to the brink of extinction.

There is just one huge problem.  It turns out that Netflix is losing hundreds of millions of dollars

Netflix might be my favorite example.

The company’s most recent earnings report for the period ending March 31, 2017 shows, yet again, negative Free Cash Flow of MINUS $422 million.

Not only is that a record loss, it’s 62% worse than in Q1/2016, and over twice as bad as Q1/2015.

Netflix just keeps losing more and more money.

But even though Netflix is losing money at a pace that is exceedingly difficult to imagine, investors absolutely love the company.

I just checked, and at this moment Netflix has a market cap of 68.4 billion dollars.

Sometimes I just want to scream because of the absurdity of it all.

Companies that are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year at the peak of their popularity should not be worth billions of dollars.

Nobody can possibly argue that these enormously inflated stock prices are sustainable.  Just like with every other stock market bubble in our history, this one is going to burst too, and I have been warning about this for quite a long time.

But for the moment, the naysayers are having their time to shine.  Despite the fact that U.S. consumers are 12 trillion dollars in debt, and despite the fact that corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis, and despite the fact that the federal government is 20 trillion dollars in debt, they seem to be convinced that this irrational stock market bubble can keep inflating indefinitely.

Perhaps they can all put their money where their mouth is by pouring all of their savings into Twitter, Netflix and other tech company stocks.

In the end, we will see who was right and who was wrong.

The Dow Falls Another 138 Points As Geopolitical Shaking Forces Investors To Race For The Exits

Stock prices just keep on falling, and many analysts are now wondering if a full-blown stock market crash is in our near future.  On Thursday, the S&P 500 and the Dow both closed at 2 month lows after Donald Trump dropped “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan.  It was the first time that one of these bombs has ever been used in live combat, and it is being reported that each of these bombs weighs 22,000 pounds and costs 16 million dollars to make.  Of course Trump was trying to send a very clear message to the rest of the world by dropping this bomb, and investors interpreted it as a sign that we are getting even closer to war.

The financial markets will be closed on Friday for the long holiday weekend, and with so much uncertainty about what may happen in Syria and in North Korea, many investors wanted to get their money out of the market while they still could.  The historic losing streak for S&P 500 tech stocks extended to 10 days in a row on Thursday, and all of the major stock indexes are now below their 50 day moving averages for the first time since the election.

And the VIX closed above 16 to close the week, which many analysts saw as a sign that more market volatility is on the way

The fear index on Thursday hit 16.22, its highest since Nov. 10, after closing above its 200-day moving average on Monday for the first time since Nov. 8.

“The VIX confirmed a breakout above its 200-day moving average [Tuesday], supporting a pickup in volatility in the days ahead,” BTIG’s chief technical strategist, Katie Stockton, said in a Wednesday note.

On Tuesday, I wrote about how geopolitical instability is causing many investors to seek out safe havens such as gold and silver, and that trend continued on Thursday.  As I write this, the price of gold is sitting at $1289.20, and the price of silver is up to $18.50.  Of course if the French election goes badly for the globalists or we see a full-blown shooting war erupt in either Syria or North Korea, those prices will go far, far higher.

For quite a while I have been very strongly warning that these ridiculously inflated stock prices were not sustainable.  It was inevitable that they would start to decline, because the underlying economic numbers simply did not support them.

And just today we got some more bad news.  According to Zero Hedge, the mortgage business at one of America’s biggest banks has been absolutely crashing…

When we reported Wells Fargo’s Q4 earnings back in January, we drew readers’ attention to one specific line of business, the one we dubbed the bank’s “bread and butter“, namely mortgage lending, and which as we then reported was “the biggest alarm” because “as a result of rising rates, Wells’ residential mortgage applications and pipelines both tumbled, specifically in Q4 Wells’ mortgage applications plunged by $25bn from the prior quarter to $75bn, while the mortgage origination pipeline plunged by nearly half to just $30 billion, and just shy of all time lows recorded in late 2013 and 2014.”

Fast forward one quarter when what was already a troubling situation, just got as bad as it has been since the financial crisis for America’s largest mortgage lender, because buried deep in its presentation accompanying otherwise unremarkable Q1 results (EPS small beat, revenue small miss), Wells just reported that its ‘bread and butter’ is virtually gone, and in Q1 the amount of all-important Mortgage Applications has tumbled by a whopping 23% to just $59 billion, below the lows hit in early 2014, and at fresh lows since the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, what is going on at Wells Fargo is just part of an enormous “loan collapse” that we are witnessing all over the nation.

This is exactly what we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning.  When economic conditions show down, banks and other lending institutions begin to get tighter with their money, and a tightening of credit causes economic activity to slow down even further.

It can be exceedingly difficult to break out of such a cycle once it starts.

But the mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand these things.  Instead, they are pointing the blame at other sources for the emerging economic slowdown.  For example, consider the following excerpt from a CNN article entitled “Americans have become lazy and it’s hurting the economy”

Americans have become lazy, argues economist Tyler Cowen.

They don’t start businesses as much as they once did. They don’t move as often as they used to. And they live in neighborhoods that are about as segregated as they were in the 1960s.

All of this is causing the U.S. to stagnate economically and politically, Cowen says in his new book: “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.” Growth is far slower than it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and productivity growth is way down, despite everyone claiming they are working so hard.

No, our economic problems are not the result of Americans being too lazy.

Rather, the truth is that we have accumulated way too much debt as a society, we have been way too greedy, and there has been way too much manipulation by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

For decades we have been living way above our means.  We have been able to do this by stealing trillions upon trillions of dollars from future generations of Americans, and now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, he just happens to be the president at this moment in history, and so much of the blame for what is about to happen will be pinned on him.  The following comes from a recent interview with Peter Schiff

Trump doesn’t want to preside over a major decline in our standard of living, but ultimately that has to happen. Because this is the consequence of all this excess consumption that went on before he was president. You know, we sacrificed our future to indulge our past. The future is now the present. We’re here, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Schiff is precisely correct.

For decades we have just kept sacrificing the future in order to inflate our current standard of living.

But the funny thing about the future is that it always arrives at some point, and now we are going to pay an enormously high price for being so exceedingly reckless all these years.

Tech Stocks Experience Their Longest Losing Streak In 5 Years As Panic Begins To Grip The Market

S&P 500 tech stocks have now fallen for 9 days in a row.  The last time tech stocks declined for so many days in a row was in 2012, and that was the only other time in history when we have seen such a long losing streak.  As I have stated before, the post-election “Trump rally” is officially done, and the market is starting to roll over as investors begin to realize that all of the buying momentum has completely evaporated.  Tech stocks tend to be particularly volatile, and so the fact that they are starting to lead the way down should definitely be alarming to many in the investing community.

Of course it isn’t just tech stocks that are falling.  The Dow was down another 59 points on Wednesday, and the S&P 500 has closed beneath its 50 day moving average for the very first time since the election.  For those that have been waiting for a key technical signal before getting out of the market, there is one for you.

The price of gold was up again, and that is definitely not surprising in this geopolitical environment.  The closer we get to war the higher gold and silver prices will go, and if we actually get into a major conflict we will see them blast into the stratosphere.

Another key indicator that I am watching very closely is the VIX.  On Wednesday it shot up above 16 for the very first time since the day after Trump’s election victory, and many believe that it could soon go much higher.  The following is an excerpt from a CNBC report

The VIX measures the size of the S&P 500’s expected moves over the next 30 days, and consequently tends to run just a bit hotter than volatility over the past 30 days. Yet one-month realized volatility is just 6.7, meaning the VIX is at a roughly 9-point premium, which Chintawongvanich calls “highly unusual.”

That said, he notes that implied volatility was also at a large premium preceding the U.K. referendum to leave the EU and the U.S. presidential election. The obvious conclusion is that the market is now similarly preparing itself for the French presidential election, which is set to be held on April 23. Some fear that a populist candidate could prevail, which may cause more problems for the European Union and thus for economic stability.

As noted in that excerpt, the upcoming French election is absolutely huge.  If the election goes “the wrong way” according to the globalists, it could literally mean the end of the European Union as it is configured today.

And of course of even greater concern is the global march toward war.  It is being reported that North Korea is on the verge of a major nuclear weapons test, and such an act of defiance could be enough to push Donald Trump into conducting a major military strike.

But if Trump does hit North Korea, it is quite likely that North Korea will hit back.  The North Koreans are promising to use nuclear weapons in any conflict with the United States, and if Trump bungles this thing we could easily be looking at a scenario in which millions of people end up dead.

Things also continue to get more tense in the Middle East.  The Russians and the Iranians are promising to respond to any additional U.S. strikes “with force”, and on Wednesday Trump declared that our relationship with Russia “may be at an all-time low”.

Of course this came shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used similar language following his face to face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin held more than two hours of “very frank” talks Wednesday in the Kremlin amid tensions over a U.S. airstrike against a Syria air base blamed for last week’s deadly chemical attack.

In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Tillerson said he told the Russian leader that current relations between the two countries are at a “low point.”

If the Trump administration conducts any more strikes on Syria, it is quite likely that the Russians and Iranians will make good on their threats and will start firing back.

And once U.S. aircraft or U.S. naval vessels come under fire, the calls for war in Washington will become absolutely deafening.

Unfortunately, Trump is not likely to back down any time soon because the recent missile strike in Syria has dramatically boosted his popularity.  According to every recent survey, the American people overwhelmingly approve of what Trump did…

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday found that 57% of Americans supported airstrikes in Syria, 58% supported establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria including strikes against Syria’s air-defense systems, and 63% of Americans thought the US should do more to end the Syrian conflict. Even more, 66% of respondents said they supported the Trump administration’s strike last week specifically.

This mirrored results of another recent poll from CBS News in which 57% of Americans said they approved of the US strike. A Pew Research Center survey from this week showed a similar level of support, with 58% of Americans approving of the strike.

Sadly, this is a time when the majority is dead wrong.  Many of those that are supporting military action against Syria now were vehemently against it when Barack Obama was considering it.

Even Donald Trump spoke out very strongly against military intervention in Syria in 2013, and he was quite right to do so, and so what has suddenly changed that now makes it okay?

There is nothing to be gained in Syria, but we could very easily end up in a direct military conflict with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah which could ultimately prove to be the spark that sets off World War III.

And of course a military strike on North Korea could also potentially spark a global war.  The first Korean War resulted in a direct military conflict between the United States and China, and the second Korean War could easily result in the exact same thing happening again.

Do the American people really want war with both Russia and China at the same time?

It has been said that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

The Ticking Time Bomb That Will Wipe Out Virtually Every Pension Fund In America

Are millions of Americans about to see the big, juicy pensions that they were counting on to fund their golden years go up in flames in the biggest financial disaster in U.S. history? When Bloomberg published an editorial entitled “Pension Crisis Too Big for Markets to Ignore“, it simply confirmed what a lot of people already knew to be true.  Pension funds all over America are woefully underfunded, and they have been pouring mind boggling amounts of money into very risky investments such as Internet stocks and commercial mortgages.  Just like with subprime mortgages in 2008, this is a crisis that everyone can see coming well in advance, and yet nothing is being done about it.

On a day to day basis, Americans generally don’t think very much about pensions.  Most of those that have been promised pensions simply have faith that they will be there when they need them.

Unfortunately, the truth is that pension plans all over the country are severely underfunded, and this has already resulted in local fiascos such as the one that we just witnessed in Dallas.

But what happened in Dallas is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg.  According to Bloomberg, unfunded pension obligations on a national basis “have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007″…

As was the case with the subprime crisis, the writing appears to be on the wall. And yet calamity has yet to strike. How so? Call it the triumvirate of conspirators – the actuaries, accountants and their accomplices in office. Throw in the law of big numbers, very big numbers, and you get to a disaster in a seemingly permanent state of making. Unfunded pension obligations have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007.

And of course that $1.9 trillion number is not actually the real number.

That same Bloomberg article goes on to admit that if honest math was being used that the real number would actually be closer to 6 trillion dollars…

So why not just flip the switch and require truth and honesty in public pension math? Too many cities and potentially states would buckle under the weight of more realistic assumed rates of return. By some estimates, unfunded liabilities would triple to upwards of $6 trillion if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used. That would translate into much steeper funding requirements at a time when budgets are already severely constrained. Pockets of the country would face essential public service budgets being slashed to dangerous levels.

So where are all of these pensions eventually going to come up with 6 trillion dollars?

That is a very good question.

Ultimately, even if financial conditions stay as stable as they are right now, a whole lot of people are not going to get the money that they were promised.

But things will get really “interesting” if we see a major downturn in the financial markets.  According to Dave Kranzler, if the stock market were to fall by 10 percent or more and stay there for a number of months, that “would cause every single public pension fund to blow up”.  And Kranzler is also deeply concerned about the tremendous amount of exposure that these pension funds have to commercial mortgages…

Circling back to the mall/REIT ticking time-bomb, while the Fed can keep the stock market propped up as means of preventing an immediate nuclear melt-down in U.S. pensions (all of which are substantially “maxed-out” in their mandated equities allocation), the collapse of commercial mortgage-back securities (CMBS) will have the affect of launching a nuclear sub-missile directly into the side of the U.S. financial system.

The commercial mortgage market is about $3 trillion, of which about $1 trillion has been packaged into asset-backed securities and stuffed into yield-starved pension funds. Without a doubt, the same degree of fraud of has been used to concoct the various tranches in these CMBS trusts that was employed during the mid-2000’s mortgage/housing bubble, with full cooperation of the ratings agencies then and now. Just like in 2008, with the derivatives that have been layered into the mix, the embedded leverage in the commercial mortgage/CMBS/REIT model is the financial equivalent of the Fukushima nuclear power plant collapse.

I have previously talked about the ongoing retail apocalypse in the United States which threatens to make so many of these commercial mortgage securities go bad.  It is being projected that somewhere around 3,500 stores will close in the months ahead, and this is going to absolutely devastate mall owners.  In turn, it is inevitable that a lot of their debts will start to go bad, and pension funds will be hit extremely hard by this.

But the coming stock market crash is going to hit pension funds even harder.  Stocks are ridiculously overvalued right now, and if they simply return to “normal valuations”, pension funds are going to lose trillions of dollars.

We are talking about a financial tsunami that will be absolutely unprecedented in our history, and yet investors continue to act like the party can last forever.  In fact, we just learned that margin debt on Wall Street has just hit another brand new record high

The latest data from the New York Stock Exchange show margin debt, or cash borrowed to buy shares, hit a record $528.2 billion in February, up from its prior high of $513.3 billion in January.

Of course my regular readers already know that margin debt also shot up to dramatic peaks just before the last two stock market crashes as well

Prior periods when margin debt hit records occurred around stock market peaks, including 2000 when the dot-com stock boom went bust, and 2007 when stocks began to crater amid early signs of trouble in the housing market ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.

Margin debt jumped 22% from the end of 1999 before peaking in March 2000 at $278.5 billion, the same month stocks peaked. In 2007, margin debt shot up to $381.4 billion in July, three months before stocks topped.

We are perfectly primed for the greatest financial disaster in American history, and yet very few people are sounding the alarm.

This massive financial bubble is a ticking time bomb, and when it finally goes off it is going to wipe out virtually every pension fund in the United States.

Have We Reached A Turning Point For Stocks? Tuesday Was The Worst Day For The Stock Market In 6 Months

New York Stock Exchange Trading Floor - Public DomainThe post-election stock market rally is officially over.  After hovering near record highs for the past couple of weeks, U.S. stocks had their worst day in six months on Tuesday.  For quite some time it has been clear that the momentum of the post-election rally had been exhausted, and a pullback of this nature was widely anticipated.  But even though stocks fell by more than 1 percent during a single trading session for the first time since last September, it is going to take a whole lot more than that to bring stock prices back into balance.  In fact, stocks are so overvalued at this point that it would take a total decline of about 40 to 50 percent before key stock valuation measures return to their long-term averages.

So we are still in a giant stock market bubble.  All Tuesday did was shave about one percent off of that bubble.

Let’s review some of the numbers from the carnage that we witnessed…

-The Dow was down 237.85 points (1.14 percent)

-The S&P 500 was down 1.2 percent on the day

-The Nasdaq was down 1.8 percent at the closing bell

-Financial stocks were down more than 2.5 percent

-Overall, it was the worst day for banking stocks since the Brexit vote

-Bank of America is now down more than 10 percent since Trump’s speech to Congress

-The Russell 2000 (small-cap stocks) dropped about 2 percent

Some prominent names on Wall Street were warning ahead of time that this was coming.  Marko Kolanovic was one of those voices…

Marko Kolanovic has done it again.

Last Thursday, one day ahead of the massive quad-witching where over $1.4 trillion in options expired in relatively tame fashion, the JPM quant warned of “near-term market weakness” and suggested “reducing US equity exposure. And, sure enough, JP Merlin’s Gandalf timed it impeccably yet again. To be sure, the jury is still out on what caused the selloff – lack of votes to repeal Obamacare, fears about Trump’s fiscal policy agenda, the market’s sudden  realization that it is at 30 CAPE, or just a technical revulsion – what matters is that once again, like clockwork, Kolanovic called a key inflection point just days in advance.

Of course the mainstream media is telling everyone not to worry.  They are insisting that this is just a temporary blip and that a market “correction” is highly unlikely.  The following comes from CNN

Few experts are predicting a correction — which is a 10% pullback from a market high. Even fewer see a bear market, a 20% drop or more, on the horizon.

Hopefully CNN is correct.

But it should be noted that experts such as Kolanovic are warning that more panic selling may be coming in the days ahead

Furthermore, the modest but rising uptick in realized volatility is starting to cause outflows from volatility-sensitive investors the JPM quant calculated and, as a result, the break in short-term momentum may cause modest equity selling by trend following strategies.

In other words, in the absence of a positive catalyst over the next few days – and with uncertainty ahead of the Thursday Trumpcare vote only growing by the hour we fail to see one emerging – the double whammy of gamma positioning and the CTA momentum “flip” will be the catalyst for the next, extremely overdue, move lower.

It is going to take quite a few more days like today before we can talk about the kind of “financial crisis” that I have been warning about for a long time, but we may have already reached a key turning point.

So much of the post-election stock market rally was based purely on hope, and meanwhile the underlying economic numbers have continued to deteriorate.  Corporate earnings are down, it is being projected that U.S. GDP growth will be about one percent during the first quarter, and used vehicle prices are dropping for the first time since the last recession…

In its March report, the National Association of Auto Dealers (NADA) reported an anomaly: dropping used vehicle prices in February, which occurred only for the second time in the past 20 years. It was a big one: Its Used Car Guide’s seasonally adjusted used vehicle price index plunged 3.8% from January, “by far the worst recorded for any month since November 2008 as the result of a recession-related 5.6% tumble.”

The index has now dropped eight months in a row and hit the lowest level since September 2010. The index is down 8% year over year, and down 13% from its peak in 2014.

When the Federal Reserve raised rates, that was very bad news for stocks, and if Donald Trump cannot get his Obamacare replacement through Congress that will be more bad news for stocks.

But even if there was no bad news, it is inevitable that stock prices would decline at some point anyway.

It is simply not rational to have price-earnings ratios up around 30.  The only other times when price-earnings ratios have become so bloated were right before the stock market crash of 1929, right before the stock market crash of 2000 and right before the stock market crash of 2008.

Whenever it ultimately happens, the truth is that stocks always eventually return to their historical averages.  And if a “black swan event” or two are thrown in, that could push stocks well below their historical averages.

Never before has there been this much debt in the world, and not even in 2008 were global financial markets so primed for a crash.

Many people get caught up in trying to predict what month or what day the markets will crash, and if you could predict that accurately you could make a lot of money.

But that is not the point.

What everyone should be able to agree on is that this temporary stock market bubble that has been fueled by reckless intervention from the Federal Reserve is not sustainable and that it is inevitable that stock prices will be a lot lower in the future than they are right now.

We should be thankful that this bubble has lasted much longer than it should have, because what is going to come after this bubble bursts is going to be absolutely horrible.

Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up, and when the coming crash finally occurs it is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

So whatever you need to do financially, you should think about doing it soon, because the alarm bells on Wall Street are starting to ring.

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.

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