Bad News

The bad news about the economy just keeps rolling in.  If this is an economic recovery, what in the world is the next “recession” going to look like?  Today there was another huge truckload of bad economic news.  The stock market had another 400 point “correction”, applications for unemployment benefits are up again, inflation is higher than expected, home sales have dropped again and Europe is coming apart at the seams.  The financial markets have been in such a state of chaos recently that days like today don’t even seem “unusual” anymore.  But we should all be alarmed at what is happening.  We haven’t seen anything quite like this since the darkest days of 2008 and 2009.  If more bad news keeps pouring in, we may soon have a very real panic on our hands.

I would have thought that my article yesterday, “20 Signs That The World Could Be Headed For An Economic Apocalypse In 2012“, would have contained enough bad economic news to last for a while.  But today there was another huge bumper crop of depressing numbers.

Are you ready for the carnage?

*The Dow fell 419 points today.  That was a 3.7% drop.  The S&P 500 shot down 4.5% and the Nasdaq plummeted by a whopping 5.2%.

*European bank stocks got absolutely hammered.

*The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped back above 400,000 last week.

*The recent inflation numbers have really taken analysts by surprise.  The consumer price index rose at a 6.0% annual rate during the month of July. As I mentioned yesterday, the producer price index in the U.S. has increased at an annual rate of at least 7.0% for the last three months in a row.

So now we have high unemployment and high inflation.  Oh goody!  All of this stagflation is almost enough to make one nostalgic for the 1970s.

*The housing market is getting even worse.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homes dropped 3.5 percent during July.  That was the third decline in the last four months.  Sales of previously owned homes are even lagging behind last year’s pathetic pace. Mortgage rates are now the lowest they have been since the 1950s, but there are very few interested buyers in the marketplace.

*The Philadelphia Fed’s latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish….

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009

*Morgan Stanley now says that the U.S. and Europe are “hovering dangerously close to a recession” and that there is a good chance we could enter one at some point in the next 6 to 12 months.

All of this bad news is sending the price of gold through the roof.  The price of gold soared to a brand new all-time high of $1,829.70 an ounce on Thursday morning.  So far, the price of gold is up almost 30 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, millions of average American families are deeply suffering and are desperately hoping that things won’t get even worse.  Everywhere you turn, there is a tremendous amount of stress in the air.

According to the New York Times, 25 million Americans “could not find full-time jobs last month”.

As the economy crumbles, good paying full-time jobs are becoming increasingly scarce.  People are hurting and they are looking for leadership.

Well, Barack Obama is running around the country promising that he will unveil some “solutions” very shortly.

So what are those solutions going to include?  Well, the plans are still in the development stage, but the Obama administration is reportedly considering the following….

-The creation of a new government agency that will be dedicated to job creation.  This will entail more government spending and more government paper pushers, but it will probably not do much to create good paying full-time jobs.

-Pushing even more free trade agreements through Congress.  That way even more of our good jobs can be shipped to countries on the other side of the globe where paying slave wages to workers is still legal.

-A “reverse boot camp” that will train military veterans for civilian jobs.  That sounds like a good idea, but we already have millions and millions of highly trained Americans that can’t get jobs.

-An extension of the payroll tax cut for at least another year.  That will put more money into the pockets of U.S. workers, but it will also mean less revenue for the federal government.  The existing payroll tax cut has not exactly resulted in a “jobs boom”, but removing that tax cut is certainly not going to help the economy either.

-An extension of long-term unemployment benefits.  Yes, that will help the unemployed survive and will give them some money to spend into the economy, but it will not create many jobs for them.  Plus it will put the government into even more debt.

-The creation of an infrastructure bank.  Like most of the proposals above, this will entail even more government spending.  I know that a “shovel-ready” joke is called for about now, but I can’t think of one at the moment.

The ironic thing is that Barack Obama is riding around on his multistate “jobs tour” in a $1.2 million bus that was made in Canada.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Things have gotten so bad out there that even Wal-Mart is suffering now.  Sales at Wal-Mart stores that have been open for at least a year have fallen for nine quarters in a row.

Not that anyone should have much sympathy for Wal-Mart, but it is a sign of just how bad things are getting out there.

So is there much hope for the future?  Well, considering the fact that only 32 percent of 15-year-olds in the United States are proficient in math, things don’t look good.

Our education system is a joke, tens of thousands of factories have already closed, more are closing every day, millions of jobs have been shipped overseas and most of our politicians are either incompetent or corrupt (or both).

So you would think that with all of our problems, authorities would be focused on the big issues.

But no, time after time they just keep picking on average Americans.

For example, a woman that lives in the Salem, Oregon area that is fighting terminal bone cancer tried to raise some money for her medical bills by holding a few garage sales on the weekends.

Well, the authorities in Salem got wind of this and now they are shutting her down.

This is absolutely unbelievable.  A video news report about this incident is posted below….

Massive fraud and corruption at the big banks caused a worldwide financial crisis in 2008 and yet not a single Wall Street executive has gone to prison because of it.

Yet a cancer-stricken lady tries to hold a few yard sales to pay her bills and authorities come down on her like a ton of bricks.

Does that seem fair to you?

Our world is getting crazier every day.  The bad news is going to keep pouring in.  Global financial markets are being held together with chicken wire and duct tape.  At some point the pyramid of corruption and con games is going to come crashing down.

If you still have faith in the system, you are not very wise.  We are heading for an economic collapse that will be absolutely unprecedented, and you need to be getting prepared.

20 Signs That The World Could Be Headed For An Economic Apocalypse In 2012

If you thought that 2011 was a bad year for the world economy, just wait until you see what happens in 2012.  The U.S. and Europe are both dealing with unprecedented debt problems, the financial markets are flailing about wildly, austerity programs are being implemented all over the globe, prices on basics such as food are soaring and a lot of consumers are flat out scared right now.  Many analysts now fear that a “perfect storm” could be brewing and that we could actually be headed for an economic apocalypse in 2012.  Hopefully that will not happen.  Hopefully our leaders can keep the global economy from completely falling apart.  But right now, things don’t look good.  After a period of relative stability, things are starting to become unglued once again.  The next major financial panic could literally happen at any time.  Sadly, if we do see an economic apocalypse in 2012, it won’t be the wealthy that suffer the most.  It will be the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the hungry that feel the most pain.

The following are 20 signs that we could be headed for an economic apocalypse in 2012….

#1 Back in 2008 we saw major rioting around the world due to soaring food prices, and now global food prices are on the rise again.  Global food prices in July were 33 percent higher than they were one year ago.  Price increases for staples such as maize (up 84 percent), sugar (up 62 percent) and wheat (up 55 percent) are absolutely devastating poverty-stricken communities all over the planet.  For example, one expert is warning that 800,000 children living in the Horn of Africa could die during this current famine.

#2 The producer price index in the U.S. has increased at an annual rate of at least 7.0% for the last three months in a row.  We are starting to see huge price increases all over the place.  For example, Starbucks recently jacked up the price of a bag of coffee by 17 percent.  If inflation keeps accelerating like this we could be facing some very serious problems by the time 2012 rolls around.

#3 The U.S. “Misery Index” (unemployment plus inflation) recently hit a 28 year high and many believe that it is going to go much, much higher.

#4 Jared Bernstein, the former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden, says that the unemployment rate in this country will not go below 8% before the 2012 election.  In fact, Bernstein says that “the most optimistic forecast would be for about eight-and-a-half percent.”

#5 Working class jobs in the United States continue to disappear at an alarming rate.  Back in 1967, 97 percent of men with a high school degree between the ages of 30 and 50 had jobs.  Today, that figure is 76 percent.

#6 There are all kinds of indications that U.S. economic growth is about to slow down even further.  For example, pre-orders for Christmas toys from China are way down this year.

#7 One recent survey found that 9 out of 10 U.S. workers do not expect their wages to keep up with the rising cost of basics such as food and gasoline over the next year.

#8 U.S. consumer confidence is now at its lowest level in 30 years.

#9 Today, an all-time record 45.8 million Americans are on food stamps.  It is almost inconceivable that the largest economy on earth could have so many people dependent on the government for food.

#10 As the economy crumbles, we are also witnessing the fabric of society beginning to come apart.  The recent flash mob crimes that we are starting to see all over America are just one example of this.

#11 Some desperate Americans are already stealing anything that they can get their hands on.  For example, according to the American Kennel Club, dog thefts are up 32 percent this year.

#12 Small businesses all over the United States are having a really difficult time getting loans right now.  Perhaps if the Federal Reserve was not paying banks not to make loans things would be different.

#13 The U.S. national debt is like a giant boulder that our economy must constantly carry around on its back, and it is growing by billions of dollars every single day.  Right now the debt of the federal government is $14,592,242,215,641.90.  It has gone up by nearly 4 trillion dollars since Barack Obama took office.  S&P has already stripped the U.S. of its AAA credit rating, and more downgrades are certain to come if the U.S. does not get its act together.

#14 Tensions between the United States and China are rising again.  A new opinion piece on chinadaily.com is calling for the Chinese government to use its holdings of U.S. debt as a “financial weapon” against the United States if the U.S. follows through with a plan to sell more arms to Taiwan.  The U.S. and China are the two biggest economies in the world, so any trouble between them would mean economic trouble for the rest of the globe as well.

#15 Most state and local governments in the U.S. are deep in debt and flat broke.  Many of them are slashing jobs at a feverish pace.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state and local governments have eliminated more than half a million jobs since August 2008.  UBS Investment Research is projecting that state and local governments in the U.S. will cut 450,000 more jobs by the end of 2012.  How those jobs will be replaced is anyone’s guess.

#16 The U.S. dollar continues to get weaker and weaker.  This is renewing calls for a new global currency to be created to replace the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world.

#17 The European sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse.  Countries like Portugal, Italy and Greece are on the verge of an economic apocalypse.  All of the financial problems in Europe are even beginning to affect the core European nations.  For example, German industrial production declined by 1.1% in June.  There are all kinds of signs that the economy of Europe is slowing down and is heading for a recession.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are proposing that a new “economic government” for Europe be set up to oversee this debt crisis, but nothing that the Europeans have tried so far has done much to solve things.

#18 The Federal Reserve is so desperate to bring some sort of stability to financial markets that it has stated that it will likely keep interest rates near zero all the way until mid-2013.  The Federal Reserve is operating in “panic mode” almost constantly now and they are almost out of ammunition.  So what is going to happen when the real trouble starts?

#19 Central banks around the world certainly seem to be preparing for something.  According to the World Gold Council, central banks around the globe purchased more gold during the first half of 2011 than they did all of last year.

#20 Often perception very much influences reality. One recent survey found that 48 percent of Americans believe that it is likely that another great Depression will begin within the next 12 months.  If people expect that a depression is coming and they quit spending money that actually increases the chance that an economic downturn will occur.

There is already a tremendous amount of economic pain on the streets of America, but unfortunately it looks like things may get even worse in 2012.

The once great economic machine that was handed down to us by our forefathers is falling to pieces all around us and we are in debt up to our eyeballs.  The consequences of our bad economic decisions are hurting some of the most vulnerable members of our society the most.

As the following video shows, large numbers of formerly middle class Americans are now living in their cars or sleeping in the streets….

It is a crying shame what is happening out there on the streets of America today.

Please say a prayer for all of those that are sleeping in cars or tents or under bridges tonight.

Soon even more Americans will be joining them.

The Stock Market Crash Of 2011?

How far does the stock market have to go down before we officially call it a crash?  The Dow is now down more than 2,000 points in just the last 14 trading days.  So can we now call this “The Stock Market Crash of 2011”?  Today the Dow was down 519 points.  Yesterday, an announcement by the Federal Reserve indicating that the Fed would keep interest rates near zero until mid-2013 helped the Dow surge more than 400 points, but all of those gains were wiped out today.  It turns out that the Federal Reserve was only able to stabilize the financial markets for a single day.  Fears about the European sovereign debt crisis and the crumbling U.S. economy continue to dominate the marketplace.  With each passing day, things are looking more and more like 2008 all over again.  So what is going to happen if “The Stock Market Crash of 2011” pushes the U.S. economy into “The Recession of 2012”?

Just like in 2008, bank stocks are being hit the hardest.  That was true once again today.  Bank of America was down more than 10 percent, Citigroup was down more than 10 percent, Morgan Stanley was down more than 9 percent and JPMorgan Chase was down more than 5 percent.

Bank of America stock is down almost 50 percent so far this year.  Overall, the S&P financial sector is down more than 23 percent in 2011 so far.

How soon will it be before we start hearing of the need for more bailouts?  After all, the “too big to fail” banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008.

All of this panic is causing the price of gold to reach unprecedented heights.  Today, gold was over $1800 at one point.  If the current panic continues for an extended period of time, there is no telling how high the price of gold may go.

In the United States, much of the focus has been on the fact that the U.S. government has lost its AAA credit rating, but the truth is that the European sovereign debt crisis is probably the biggest cause of the instability in world financial markets right now.

The European Central Bank has decided to start purchasing Italian and Spanish debt, and there have been rumors that French debt could be hit with a downgrade.  Europe is a total financial basket case right now and unless dramatic action is taken things are going to get progressively worse.

Of course the U.S. is also certainly contributing greatly to this crisis.  The federal government is on track to have a budget deficit that is over a trillion dollars for the third year in a row.  The U.S national debt is a horrific nightmare, but our politicians keep putting off budget cuts.

The debt ceiling deal that was just reached basically does next to nothing to cut the budget before the next election.  Unless the “Super Congress” does something dramatic, the only “budget cuts” we will see before the 2012 election will be 25 billion dollars in “savings” from spending increases that will be cancelled.

The modest spending cuts scheduled to go into effect beginning in 2013 will probably never materialize.  Whenever the time comes to actually significantly cut the budget, our politicians always want to put it off for another time.

But in the end, debt is always going to have its day.  Our politicians can try to kick the can down the road all they want, but eventually a day of reckoning is going to come.

In fact, if the U.S. and Europe had not piled up so much debt, we would not be facing all of the problems we are dealing with now.

Things could have been so much different.

But here we are.

The truth is that this debt crisis is just beginning.  There is no magic potion that is going to make all of this debt suddenly disappear.

Most Americans have no idea how much financial pain is coming.  We have been living way beyond our means for decades, and now we are going to start paying for it.

Now that long-term U.S. government debt has been downgraded, huge numbers of other securities are also going to be affected.  In fact, according to a recent Bloomberg article, S&P has already been very busy slashing the ratings on hordes of municipal bonds….

Standard & Poor’s lowered the AAA ratings of thousands of municipal bonds tied to the federal government, including housing securities and debt backed by leases, following its Aug. 5 downgrade of the U.S.

That is the thing about financial markets – once the dominoes start to fall, the ripple effects can be felt for a long, long time.

So if this stock market crash gets even worse, will the Federal Reserve respond with even stronger measures?

They have already basically promised to keep interest rates near zero for the next two years.  So what else can the Fed do?

Well, many now believe that there is a very good chance that we could see another round of quantitative easing.

Not that more quantitative easing is going to help much of anything.  Rather than helping the economy, the last round of quantitative easing just pushed commodity prices through the roof.  But the Fed is unlikely to just sit there and do nothing while financial markets struggle.

But it is not just the financial markets that are having a difficult time right now.  Bad news is coming in from all over the economy.  The possibility that we could soon slip into another major recession is growing by the day.

Unfortunately, our economy is so weak already that a new recession would probably hurt even more than the last recession did.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, says that if we have another recession it “won’t feel like a new recession. It would likely feel like a depression.

But the American people are in no mood for more economic pain.  Every recent poll shows that Americans are already fed up.

For example, a brand new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 73 percent of the American people believe that the country is “on the wrong track”.

So let’s certainly hope that the current stock market crash does not set off another major global recession.  We certainly do not need things to get significantly worse than they are right now.

But whether it hits now or later, the truth is that a whole lot of economic pain is on the way.  The U.S. and Europe have been making really, really bad decisions for decades, and we are not going to be able to escape the consequences of those decisions.

The global financial system is one huge mountain of leverage, risk and debt.  A collapse is inevitable.

When you build a house of cards on a foundation of sand, you should not be surprised when it comes crashing down.

The next wave of the economic collapse is coming, and those that are wise will get prepared.

 

 

The Federal Reserve Saves The Stock Market?

The Federal Reserve has saved the stock market!  Well, at least for a day.  That was one heck of a “dead cat bounce” that we saw on Tuesday.  Normally, after the kind of dramatic decline that we saw on Monday there is some sort of a rebound, but on Tuesday the market did not begin to soar until the Federal Reserve pledged to leave interest rates near zero until mid-2013.  Once the Fed made their announcement, the market went haywire.  At one point the Dow was down more than 200 points, but by the end of the day it was up 430 points.  It was a desperate move for the Federal Reserve to pledge not to raise interest rates for the next two years, and it has stabilized financial markets for the moment.  But what is the Fed going to do to save the stock market when it starts crashing next week or next month?  The underlying financial fundamentals continue to get worse and worse.  Europe is a mess, Japan is a mess and the United States is a mess.  The Federal Reserve can try to keep all of the balls in the air for as long as possible, but at some point the juggling act is going to end and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.

This move may calm nerves for a day or two, but there is still a tremendous amount of fear out there at the moment.  Many investors are pouring money into “safe havens” right now.  Huge amounts of cash are being poured into U.S. Treasuries and the price of gold is absolutely soaring.  The price of gold is up about $220 in just the last 30 days alone.

So how high could the price of gold go in the coming months?  Well, analysts at JP Morgan are forecasting that the price of gold could hit $2,500 by the end of this year.

Yes, that is how wild things are becoming.  The Federal Reserve is painting itself into a corner.  Never before has the Fed pledged to leave interest rates near zero for the next two years.  The following is an excerpt from the statement that the Fed released earlier today….

To promote the ongoing economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with its mandate, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent.  The Committee currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013.  The Committee also will maintain its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its securities holdings.  The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate.

Needless to say, the rest of the world is not pleased by this nonsense from the Fed.  Yes, the Fed has stabilized financial markets for the moment, but a lot of ill will is being created with the rest of the globe.  The following is what Bruce Krasting had to say about how the rest of the world is going to react to this latest Fed move….

Brazil, Argentina, Korea, Indonesia are going to scream bloody murder over perpetual ZIRP. Russia is likely to get downright ugly with their rhetoric. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took this opportunity to vote with their feet and just abandon the dollar as a reserve holding. China will also make noise. They will make more calls for a new international currency to replace the dollar. The Central bankers in Japan and Switzerland are puking in the trashcan over this. Bernanke is exporting US deflation to them. Shame on the Fed for pursuing Beggar my neighbor policies. They deserve all the global criticism they are about to get.

The Federal Reserve is using up all of the ammunition it has available and the game has barely even begun.

Things are going to get a lot worse.  The U.S national debt continues to pile up at lightning speed.  The debt ceiling deal essentially does nothing to fix our debt problems.  Thousands of businesses and millions of jobs continue to leave the United States.  As a nation, we are constantly becoming poorer and we are constantly getting into more debt.

Meanwhile, Europe is on the verge of a financial meltdown and Japan has a “zombie economy” at this point.

Many fear that we could be on the verge of another major global recession.  The following is how a recent Der Spiegel article described the current global financial situation….

Many economists have been pointing out that last week’s panic resembled the fear that swept financial markets after the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Then as now, banks stopped lending each money. Then as now, banks’ cash deposits at the central bank doubled within days. The European Central Bank reacted by assuring banks of unlimited liquidity in the coming months. It was an emergency measure that led to short-term relief but sparked anxious questions among bankers and stock market players. How long can the central bank keep up its market-soothing liquidity operations before it finally loses its credibility, the most important asset of a central bank? Is the financial crisis about to escalate?

In the old days, the U.S. and Europe could just borrow gigantic stacks of cash in order to solve any problems.  But now things are dramatically changing.

China’s official news agency recently stated that the U.S. needs to understand that things are different now….

“The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone”

Not that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are going to suddenly give up their old habits.  The U.S. government is addicted to debt and the Fed is addicted to printing money.  When push comes to shove, they are going to resort to their favorite tricks.

But at some point the rest of the world is not going to play along anymore.  When that moment arrives, it is going to be very interesting to see what happens.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to slowly unravel, and people in this country are getting very angry.  Millions of Americans families are barely scraping by right now.  Most Americans just want someone to “fix” things, but unfortunately there are no easy “fixes” to our financial problems.

As our economic problems grow even worse, frustration inside the United States is going to continue to escalate.  A brand new Rasmussen survey found that only 17 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.

That was a brand new all-time low.

Faith in the major institutions of our society is already dangerously low and the economy is not even that bad yet.

As horrible as things are now, the truth is that this is rip-roaring prosperity compared to what is coming.

In the months and years ahead, America is going to be greatly tested.  As the recent London riots have shown, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

When the economy completely collapses will America be able to handle it?

A 634 Point Stock Market Crash And 8 More Reasons Why You Should Be Deeply Concerned That The U.S. Government Has Lost Its AAA Credit Rating

Are you ready for part two of the global financial collapse?  Many now fear that we may be on the verge of a repeat of 2008 after the events of the last several days.  On Friday, Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. government of its AAA credit rating for the first time in history.  World financial markets had been anticipating a potential downgrade, but that still didn’t stop panic from ensuing as this week began.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 634.76 points, which represented a 5.5 percent plunge.  It was the largest one day point decline and the largest one day percentage decline since December 1, 2008.  Overall, stocks have fallen by about 15 percent over the past two weeks.  When Standard & Poor’s downgraded long-term U.S. government debt from AAA to AA+, it was just one more indication that faith in the U.S. financial system is faltering.  Previously, U.S. government debt had a AAA rating from S&P continuously since 1941, but now that streak is over.   Nobody is quite sure what comes next.  We truly are in unprecedented territory.  But one thing is for sure – there is a lot of fear in the air right now.

So exactly what caused S&P to downgrade U.S. government debt?

Well, it was the debt ceiling deal that broke the camel’s back.

According to S&P, the debt ceiling deal “falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”

As I have written about previously, the debt ceiling deal was a complete and total joke, and S&P realized this.

Forget all of the huge figures that the mainstream media has been throwing at you concerning this debt ceiling deal.  The only numbers that matter are for what happens before the next election.

The only way that the current debt ceiling deal will last beyond the 2012 election is if Obama is still president, the Democrats still control the Senate and the Republicans still control the House.  If any of those things change, this deal ceiling deal is dead as soon as the election is over.

Even if all of those things remain the same, there is still a very good chance that we would see dramatic changes to the deal after the next election.

So in evaluating this “deal”, the important thing is to look at what is going to happen prior to the 2012 election.

When we examine this “deal” that way, what does it look like?

Well, Barack Obama and the Democrats get the debt ceiling raised by over 2 trillion dollars and will not have to worry about it again until after the 2012 election.

The Republicans get 25 billion dollars in “savings” from spending increases that will be cancelled.

The “Super Congress” that is supposed to be coming up with the second phase of the plan may propose some additional “spending cuts” that would go into effect before the 2012 election, but that seems unlikely.

So in the final analysis, the Democrats won the debt ceiling battle by a landslide.

25 billion dollars is not even 1 percent of the federal budget.  The U.S. national debt continues to spiral wildly out of control, and our politicians could not even cut the budget by one percent.

Somehow our politicians believed that the rest of the world would be convinced that they were serious about cutting the budget, but it turns out that global financial markets are tired of getting fooled.

It has gotten to the point where now even the big credit rating agencies are being forced to do something.  Not that they really have much credibility left.  Everyone still remembers all of those AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities that imploded during the last financial crisis.  The reality is that the big credit rating agencies are a bad joke at this point.

Several smaller credit rating agencies have already significantly slashed the credit rating of the U.S. government.  But a lot of pressure had been put on the “big three” to keep them in line.

But now things have gotten so ridiculous that S&P felt forced to make a move.

Sadly, our politicians are still trying to maintain the charade that everything is okay.  Barack Obama says that financial markets “still believe our credit is AAA and the world’s investors agree”.

Once again, Barack Obama is dead wrong.

The truth is that the credit rating for the U.S. government should have been slashed significantly a long time ago.  This move by S&P was way, way overdue.

Moody’s might be the next one to issue a downgrade.  At the moment, Moody’s says that it will not be downgrading U.S. debt for now, but Moody’s also says that it has serious doubts about the enforceability of the “budget cuts” in the debt ceiling deal.

This crisis is just beginning.  It is going to play out over time, and it is going to be very messy.

The following are 8 more reasons why you should be deeply concerned that the U.S. government has lost its AAA credit rating….

#1 The U.S. dollar and U.S. government debt are at the very heart of the global financial system.  This credit rating downgrade just doesn’t affect the United States – it literally shakes the financial foundations of the entire world.

#2 As the stock market crashes, investors are flocking to U.S. Treasuries right now.  However, once the current panic is over the U.S. could be faced with increased borrowing costs.  The credit rating downgrade is a signal to investors that they should be receiving a higher rate of return for investing in U.S. government debt.  If interest rates on U.S. government debt do end up going up, that is going to make it more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money.  The higher interest on the national debt goes, the more difficult it is going to become to balance the budget.

#3 We could literally see hundreds of other credit rating downgrades now that long-term U.S. government debt has been downgraded.  For example, S&P has already slashed the credit ratings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from AAA to AA+.  S&P has also already begun to downgrade the credit ratings of states and municipalities.  Nobody is quite sure when we are going to see the dominoes stop falling, and this is not going to be a good thing for the U.S. economy.

#4 10-year U.S. Treasuries are the basis for a whole lot of other interest rates throughout our economy.  If we see the rate for 10-year U.S. Treasuries go up significantly, it will suddenly become a lot more expensive to get a car loan or a home loan.

#5 The current financial panic caused by this downgrade is hitting financial stocks really hard.  The big banks led the decline back in 2008, and it looks like it might be happening again.  Just check out what CNN says happened to financial stocks on Monday….

Financial stocks were among the hardest hit, with Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) plunging 20%, and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) dropped roughly 15%.

#6 China is freaking out. China’s official news agency says that China “has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets”.  If China starts dumping U.S. government debt that would make things a lot worse.

#7 There are already calls for the Federal Reserve to step in and do something.  If the U.S. economy drops into another recession, will we see more quantitative easing?  It seems like we have reached a point where the Fed is constantly in “emergency mode”.

#8 The U.S. national debt continues to get worse by the day.  Just check out what economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff recently told NPR….

“If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That’s the fiscal gap”

Dick Cheney once said that “deficits don’t matter”, but the truth is that all of the debt we have been piling up for decades is now catching up with us.

The United States is in such a huge amount of financial trouble that it is hard to put into words.  The days of easy borrowing for the U.S government are starting to come to an end.  We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and it has fueled a tremendous amount of “prosperity”, but now the party is ending.

A whole lot of financial pain is on the horizon.  Please prepare for the hard times that are coming.

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Smell Blood In The Water

Can you smell it?  There is blood in the water.  Global financial markets are in turmoil.  Banking stocks are getting slaughtered right now.  European bond yields are absolutely soaring.  Major corporations are announcing huge layoffs.  The entire global financial system appears to be racing toward another major crisis.  So could we potentially see a repeat of 2008?  Sadly, when the next big financial crisis happens it might be worse than 2008.  Back in the middle of 2008, the U.S. national debt was less than 10 trillion dollars.  Today it is over 14 trillion dollars. Back in 2008, none of the countries in the EU were on the verge of financial collapse.  Today, several of them are.  This time if the global financial system starts falling apart the big governments around the world are not going to be able to do nearly as much to support it.  That is why what is happening right now is so alarming.  As signs of weakness spread, the short sellers and the speculators are starting to circle.  They can smell the money.

Back in 2008, bank stocks led the decline.  Today, that appears to be happening again.  The “too big to fail” banks are getting absolutely pummeled right now.  Most people don’t have much sympathy for the banksters, but if we do see a repeat of 2008 they are going to be cutting off credit and begging for massive bailouts once again, and that would not be good news for the economy.

In Europe, the EU sovereign debt crisis just seems to get worse by the day.  Bond yields for the PIIGS are going haywire.  The higher the yields go, the worse the crisis is going to get.

Meanwhile, as I have written about previously, a bad mood has descended on world financial markets. Pessimism is everywhere and fear is spreading.  The short sellers and the speculators are eager to jump on any sign of weakness.  Investors all over the globe are extremely nervous right now.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure.

But things certainly do not look good.

The following are 18 signs that global financial markets smell blood in the water….

#1 Banks stocks are absolutely getting hammered right now.  Bank of America hit a 52 week low on Monday.  Bank of America shares declined 4 percent to $9.61.

#2 So far this year, Bank of America stock is down about 27 percent.

#3 Bloomberg is reporting that Bank of America may be forced to increase its capital cushion by 50 billion dollars.

#4 Shares of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are near two year lows.

#5 Shares in Citigroup fell 2.5 percent on Monday.

#6 Moody’s recently warned that it may be forced to downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

#7 Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all either considering staff cuts or are already laying workers off.

#8 The deputy European director of the International Monetary Fund says that the Greek debt crisis is “on a knife’s edge“.

#9 Moody’s has slashed Ireland’s bond rating all the way to junk status.

#10 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 20 percent, the yield on 2 year Irish bonds is now over 23 percent and the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 35 percent.

#11 Shares of Italy’s largest bank dropped by a whopping 6.4% on Monday.

#12 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Italian bonds was the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#13 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds was also the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#14 Shares of Germany’s largest bank fell by a staggering 7% on Monday and are down a total of 22% so far this month.

#15 Citigroup’s chief economist, William Buiter, says that without direct intervention by the ECB there is going to be a wave of sovereign defaults across Europe….

“Nothing stands in the way of multiple sovereign defaults except the ECB: they are the only game in town, there is nothing else”

#16 Cisco has announced plans to axe 16 percent of its workers.

#17 Borders Group has announced that it will be liquidating all remaining assets.  That means that 399 stores will be closed and 10,700 workers will lose their jobs.

#18 During times of great crisis, many investors seek safe havens for their money.  On Monday, the price of gold shot past $1600 an ounce.

These are not normal financial times.  The worldwide debt bubble is starting to burst and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  Certainly we are going to continue to see financial authorities all over the world do their best to keep the system going.  But as we saw in 2008, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

Just remember, back at the beginning of 2008 very few people would have ever imagined that the biggest financial institutions in America would be begging for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts by the end of that year.

When confidence disappears, the game can change very quickly.  To the vast majority of economists it would have been unimaginable that the yield on 2 year Greek bonds would be over 35 percent in mid-2011.

But here we are.

The entire global financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand.  It is more vulnerable today than it has been at any other time since World War II.  When a couple of major dominoes fall, it is likely to set off a massive chain reaction.

The global financial system of today was not designed with safety and security in mind.  It was designed for greedy people to be able to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.  The banksters don’t care about the greater good of mankind.  What they care about is making huge piles of cash.

There is way too much risk, way too much debt and way too much leverage in the global financial marketplace.  You would have thought that 2008 should have been a major wake up call for financial authorities around the world, but very few significant changes have been made since that time.

The financial news is just going to keep getting worse.  This financial system is simply unsustainable.  It is fundamentally unsound.  The reality is that financial bubbles cannot keep expanding forever.  Eventually they must burst.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on banking stocks and keep a close eye on European bond yields.

Hopefully things will stabilize.

Hopefully the next wave of the financial collapse is not about to hit us.

Hopefully the entire global financial system is not on the verge of a major implosion.

But you might want to get prepared just in case.

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.

This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.

By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide.

Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.

Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions.

In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.

For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding….

Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.

In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.

Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.

Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.

Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.

In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.

That doesn’t sound like what we were promised.

These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).

What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.

For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.

Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.

Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.

Isn’t that just peachy?

Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.

The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.

Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as “derivatives“) than on the investments themselves.

If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.

In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.

The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.

The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy – they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a “sword of Damocles” that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.

When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn’t even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.

But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.

It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are “too big to fail” or whether we could get along just fine without them.

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