The Beginning Of The End
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De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar

The U.S. Dollar - Photo by Pen WaggenerIs the petrodollar monopoly about to be shattered?  When U.S. politicians started slapping economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States.  But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” plan.  For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars.  As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy.  In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo.  However, that has now changed.  The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.  If it starts trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

The fact that the Russian government has held a meeting to discuss “getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations” should be front page news on every mainstream news website in the United States.  That is how big this is.  But instead, we have heard nothing from the big mainstream news networks about this so far.  Instead, we have only heard about this from Russian news sources such as the Voice of Russia

Russian press reports that the country’s Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is “ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions”.

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

The “de-dollarization meeting” was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar.

So will Russia go through with this?

After all, this wouldn’t just be a slap in the face.  This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas.  The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

In order to do this, Russia will need trading partners willing to go along.  In the article quoted above, the Voice of Russia listed Iran and China as two nations that would potentially be willing to make the switch…

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars.

And the reality of the matter is that China has seemed ready to move away from the U.S. dollar for quite some time.  In a previous article, I included a quote from a French news source that discussed how China’s official news agency has even called for a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”…

For decades the US has benefited to the tune of trillions of dollars-worth of free credit from the greenback’s role as the default global reserve unit.

But as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China’s official Xinhua news agency called for a “de-Americanised” world.

It also urged the creation of a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”.

For much more on what China is thinking, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe.  Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency.  That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries.  If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt.  Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars.  Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed.  One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries.  This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing.

But if the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, all of this could change.

In order for our current standard of living to continue, it is absolutely imperative that everyone else around the globe continues to use our currency.

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead.

The U.S. economy is already teetering on the brink of another major downturn, and there are a whole host of indications that big trouble is on the horizon.  For much more on this, please see the article that I posted on Monday entitled “If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States“.

Just about the last thing that we need right now is for our petrodollar monopoly to be threatened.

It would be nice if things would calm down in Ukraine and the relationship between the United States and Russia could go back to normal.

Sadly, that does not appear likely any time soon.

In fact, the Ukrainian government has already admitted that “we are essentially at war“, and on Tuesday six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in a convoy attack in eastern Ukraine.

The regions in eastern Ukraine that have just declared independence have given the government in Kiev until Wednesday to pull their forces out of eastern Ukraine or else face war.

If a full blown civil war does erupt in Ukraine, it is going to take this crisis to a completely new level.

Unfortunately, most Americans are incredibly apathetic at this point and know very little about what is going on.

But in the end, this could have dramatic implications for all of us.

Russia And China Stand In Agreement On Ukraine – And That Is Very Bad News For The United States

Vladimir_Putin_with_Zhang_DeguangSo much for “isolating” Russia.  The Chinese government is publicly siding with Russia on the crisis in Ukraine, and that is very bad news for the United States.  Not only does it mean that the U.S. is essentially powerless to do anything about the situation in Ukraine, it also means that Russia and China are starting to understand how much economic leverage that they really have.  Yes, the Obama administration can threaten to slap “sanctions” on Russia or threaten to kick Russia “out of the G8“, but those actions would not actually hurt too much.  On the other hand, Russia and China hold approximately 25 percent of all foreign-owned U.S. debt, and if they started massively dumping U.S. debt it could rapidly create a nightmare scenario.  In addition, it is important to remember that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.  And China now imports more oil than anyone else on the planet does, including the United States.  If Russia and China got together and decided to kill the petrodollar, they could do it almost overnight.  So when it comes to Ukraine, it is definitely not the United States that has the leverage.

If China and the rest of the world abandoned Russia over Ukraine, that would be one thing.  But that is not happening at all.  In fact, China has chosen to publicly stand with Russia on this issue.  The following is from a Sky News article entitled “Russia And China ‘In Agreement’ Over Ukraine“…

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday, and claimed they had “broadly coinciding points of view” on the situation there, according to a ministry statement.

And Chinese state news agency Xinhua is publicly rebuking the West for their handling of the Ukrainian crisis…

China’s state news agency Xinhua accused western powers of adopting a Cold War- like mindset towards Russia, trying to isolate Moscow at a time when much needed mediation is need to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Crimea.

“Based on the fact that Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, historical and economic connections, it is time for Western powers to abandon their Cold War thinking. Stop trying to exclude Russia from the political crisis they failed to mediate, and respect Russia’s unique role in mapping out the future of Ukraine,” Xinhua wrote in an opinion piece.

Apparently clueless as to how the geopolitical chips are falling, the Obama administration is busy planning all sorts of ways that it can punish Russia

Behind the scenes, Obama administration officials are preparing a series of possible battle plans for a potential economic assault on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, an administration source close to the issue told The Daily Beast. Among the possible targets for these financial attacks: everyone from high-ranking Russian military officials to government leaders to top businessmen to Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine. It’s all part of the work to prepare an executive order now under consideration at the Obama administration’s highest levels.

Does the Obama administration really want to start an “economic war” with Russia and potentially against China as well?

Considering how much money we owe them, and considering the fact that we desperately need them to continue to use the petrodollar, we stand to lose far more than they do.

This is one of the reasons why I have always insisted that the national debt was a national security issue.  By going into so much debt, we have given other nations such as Russia and China a tremendous amount of leverage over us.

Unfortunately, the debtmongers in Washington D.C. never have listened to common sense.

When it comes to Ukraine, there are other economic considerations as well.

For example, about 25 percent of the natural gas that Europe uses comes from Russia, and Ukraine only has about four months of natural gas supplies stockpiled.

If Russia cut off the natural gas, that would create some huge problems.  Fortunately, winter is just about over or the Russians would have even more leverage.

In addition, Ukraine is one of the leading exporters of wheat and corn on the planet, and a disruption in the growing of those crops could make the emerging global food crisis even worse.

But of course the biggest concern is that the Ukraine crisis could ultimately spark a global war.

Unfortunately, there is a treaty that requires the United States to defend Ukraine if it is attacked…

President Bill Clinton, along with the British, signed in 1994 a nearly forgotten agreement to protect Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine now is appealing to the countries that signed the agreement.

As the British Daily Mail points out, it means that, technically, if Russia were to invade Ukraine, it would be difficult for the U.S. and Britain to avoid going to war.

Given that the late Russian president, Boris Yeltsin also signed it, it was apparent that it wasn’t expected that the Russians would take the action that Putin now is undertaking.

And top Ukrainian politicians are now asking western nations to come to the aid of Ukraine militarily

Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has appealed for the West to adopt ‘strongest means’ to intervene in Russia’s occupation of Crimea if diplomacy fails.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Tymoshenko, freed last week after the riots throughout the nation, said if Russia is allowed to ‘take away’ Crimea, life will change ‘practically everywhere in the world.’

She added: ‘Then we have to accept… an aggressor, can violate all the international agreements, take away territories, whenever she likes.’

On the other side, deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has formally requested that Russia militarily intervene in his nation…

Russia’s U.N. envoy said Monday that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych asked Russia to send troops to “establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability, and defending the people of Ukraine.” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin read a letter from Yanukovych at the U.N. Security Council meeting.

“Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. In the country, there is chaos and anarchy. The life, the security and the rights of people, particularly in the southeast part in Crimea are being threatened. So under the influence of Western countries, there are open acts of terrorism and violence. People are being persecuted for language and political reasons,” the letter said. “So in this regard, I would call on the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, asking him to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability, and defending the people of Ukraine.”

And it is very important to note that Yanukovych would have never issued this letter if the Russian government has not asked him to.

So the stage is set.

Russia has already grabbed Crimea, and it is eyeing other territories in eastern Ukraine.

China is publicly backing Russia, and collectively they have a tremendous amount of economic leverage.

The Obama administration is barking loudly about what Russia has done, but the reality is that the U.S. has very little economic leverage at this point.

What the U.S. does have is the strongest military on the entire planet, but let us hope and pray that Obama does not decide to get the U.S. military involved in Ukraine.  That would be absolutely disastrous.

In the end, the U.S. has no good options in Ukraine.  The Obama administration helped aid and organize the violent revolution that overthrew the Ukrainian government, and now we have a giant mess.

Nobody is quite sure what comes next, but one thing is certain…

The relationship between the United States and Russia will never, ever be the same again.

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar

Are You Ready For The Death Of The Petrodollar - Photo By RevisorwebThe number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”.  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being used to fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”.  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.

In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.

And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?

That is a very good question.

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…

What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.

The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

Isn’t that crazy?

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.

And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.

The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.

Will War With Syria Cause The Price Of Oil To Explode Higher?

F-16 Photo by TMWolfAre you ready to pay four, five or possibly even six dollars for a gallon of gasoline?  War has consequences, and a conflict with Syria has the potential to escalate wildly out of control very rapidly.  The Obama administration is pledging that the upcoming attack on Syria will be “brief and limited” and that the steady flow of oil out of the Middle East will not be interrupted.  But what happens if Syria strikes back?  What happens if Syrian missiles start raining down on Tel Aviv?  What happens if Hezbollah or Iran starts attacking U.S. or Israeli targets?  Unless Syria, Hezbollah and Iran all stand down and refuse to fight back, we could very easily be looking at a major regional war in the Middle East, and that could cause the price of oil to explode higher.  Syria is not a major oil producer, but approximately a third of all of the crude oil in the world is produced in the Middle East.  If the Suez Canal or the Persian Gulf (or both) get shut down for an extended period of time, the consequences would be dramatic.  The price of oil has already risen about 15% so far this summer, and war in the Middle East could potentially send it soaring into record territory.

We can always hope that cooler heads prevail and that a conflict is avoided, but at this point it does not look like that is going to happen.  In fact, according to Richard Engel of NBC News, a senior U.S. official has admitted that “we’re past the point of return” and that a strike on Syria can be expected within days.

Obama is promising that the U.S. will “take limited, tailored approaches”, and that we will not be “getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about”, but how in the world can he guarantee that?

Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have all threatened to attack Israel if the U.S. attacks Syria.

If missiles start raining down on Israeli cities, the Israelis are not just going to sit there and take it like they did during the first Gulf War.  In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, “Israeli leaders are making it clear that they have no intention of standing down this time if attacked”.

If Israel is attacked, their military response will be absolutely massive.

And then we will have the major regional war in the Middle East that so many people have been warning about for so many years.  Hundreds of thousands of people will die and the global economy will be paralyzed.

So what will Obama do in such a situation?

Will he pack up and go home?

Of course not.  We would be committed to fighting a brutal, horrific war that there was absolutely no reason to start in the first place.

And we are already starting to feel the effect of rising tensions in the Middle East.  This week, the price of oil rose to a 10-month high

U.S. oil prices soared to an 18-month high as traders worried that a potential military strike against Syria could disrupt the region’s oil supplies.

October crude futures surged 2.9%, to $109.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, their highest close since February 2012. Brent futures ended up 3.2% at $114.28 a barrel, a six-month high.

Posted below is a chart that shows how the price of oil has moved over the past several decades.  Could we soon break the all-time record of $147 a barrel that was set back in 2008?…

The Price Of Oil

And of course we all remember what happened when the price of oil got that high back in 2008.  The global economy was plunged into the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A major conflict in the Middle East, especially if it goes on for an extended period of time, could send the price of oil to absolutely ridiculous levels.

Every single day, a massive amount of oil is moved through the Suez Canal.  The following is from a recent Wall Street Journal article

To the southwest is the Suez Canal, one such chokepoint, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of the Suez with the Mediterranean Sea. The canal transports about 800,000 barrels of crude and 1.4 million barrels of petroleum products daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Another regional oil shipping route potentially threatened by the Syria crisis is the Sumed, or Suez-Mediterranean, pipeline, also in Egypt, which moves oil from the Persian Gulf region to the Mediterranean. The Sumed handles 1.7 million barrels of crude oil per day, the EIA said.

And of course an enormous amount of oil moves through the Persian Gulf each day as well.  If the Suez Canal and/or the Persian Gulf were to be shut down, there would almost immediately be global supply problems.

So how high could the price of oil go?

Well, according to CNBC, some analysts believe that $150 a barrel could easily be hit if the U.S. attacks Syria…

Some analysts believe even U.S. crude, West Texas Intermediate (WTI crude) could get close to the $150 zone. “If oil prices spike on the Syria attack, and surge above $120, the next logical upside target is going to be the 2008 high of $147, which could easily be taken out,” said John Kilduff of Again Capital. “It’s the retaliation to the retaliation that we have to be worried about.”

If the price of oil soars up to that level and keeps going, we could see the price of gasoline go up to four, five or maybe even six dollars a gallon in some areas of the country.

You better start saving up lots of gas money.

It looks like you are going to need it.

The Rise Of The Bear: 18 Signs That Russia Is Rapidly Catching Up To The United States

RussiaThe Russian Bear is stronger and more powerful than it has ever been before.  Sadly, most Americans don’t understand this.  They still think of Russia as an “ex-superpower” that was rendered almost irrelevant when the Cold War ended.  And yes, when the Cold War ended Russia was in rough shape.  I got the chance to go over there in the early nineties, and at the time Russia was an economic disaster zone.  Russian currency was so worthless that I joked that I could go exchange a 20 dollar bill and buy the Kremlin.  But since that time Russia has roared back to life.  Once Vladimir Putin became president, the Russian economy started to grow very rapidly.  Today, Russia is an economic powerhouse that is blessed with an abundance of natural resources.  Their debt to GDP ratio is extremely small, they actually run a trade surplus every year, and they have the second most powerful military on the entire planet.  Anyone that underestimates Russia at this point is making a huge mistake.  The Russian Bear is back, and today it is a more formidable adversary than it ever was at any point during the Cold War.

Just check out the following statistics.  The following are 18 signs that Russia is rapidly catching up to the United States…

#1 Russia produces more oil than anyone else on the planet.  The United States is in third place.

#2 Russia is the number two oil exporter in the world.  The United States is forced to import more oil than anyone else in the world.

#3 Russia produces more natural gas than anyone else on the planet.  The United States is in second place.

#4 Today, Russia supplies 34 percent of Europe’s natural gas needs.

#5 The United States has a debt to GDP ratio of 101 percent.  Russia has a debt to GDP ratio of about 8 percent.

#6 The United States had a trade deficit of more than half a trillion dollars last year.  Russia consistently runs a large trade surplus.

#7 The United States has an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent.  Russia has an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.

#8 Since Vladimir Putin first became president of Russia, the Russian economy has grown at a very rapid pace.  The following is from Wikipedia

Under the presidency of Vladimir Putin Russia’s economy saw the nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) double, climbing from 22nd to 11th largest in the world. The economy made real gains of an average 7% per year (1999: 6.5%, 2000: 10%, 2001: 5.7%, 2002: 4.9%, 2003: 7.3%, 2004: 7.2%, 2005: 6.4%, 2006: 8.2%, 2007: 8.5%, 2008: 5.2%), making it the 6th largest economy in the world in GDP(PPP). In 2007, Russia’s GDP exceeded that of 1990, meaning it has overcome the devastating consequences of the recession in the 1990s.

During Putin’s eight years in office, the industry grew by 75%, investments increased by 125%, and agricultural production and construction increased as well. Real incomes more than doubled and the average salary increased eightfold from $80 to $640. The volume of consumer credit between 2000–2006 increased 45 times, and during that same time period, the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million, an increase of 7 times. The number of people living below the poverty line also decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008.

#9 According to Bloomberg, Russia has added 570 metric tons of gold to their reserves over the past decade.  In the United States, nobody seems to be quite sure how much gold the Federal Reserve actually has left.

#10 Moscow is the second most expensive city in the world.  Meanwhile, the United States actually has the unfriendliest city in the world (Newark, New Jersey).

#11 More billionaires live in Moscow than in any other city on the globe.

#12 The Moscow metro system completely outclasses the subway systems in Washington D.C. and New York City.

#13 The United States has the most powerful military on the planet, but Russia is in second place.

#14 Russia has introduced a new “near silent” nuclear submarine which is far more quiet than anything the U.S. has…

The Borey Class submarine, dubbed Vladimir Monomakh, has a next generation nuclear reactor, can dive deeper than 1,200 feet, and carries up to 20 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

Each of these “Bulava” ICBM’s can carry ten detachable MIRV warheads, what they call “re-entry vehicles,” capable of delivering 150 kiloton yields per warhead

#15 While Barack Obama is neutering the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal, Vladimir Putin is working hard to modernize Russian nuclear forces.

#16 Russian missile forces will hold more than 200 drills during the second half of 2013.

#17 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made headlines all over the world when he climbed into the cockpit of Russia’s new “fifth generation” fighter jet and announced that it was far superior to the F-22 Raptor.

#18 It is estimated that Russia has more spies inside the United States today than it did at any point during the Cold War.

Unfortunately, whenever I write an article about Russia I find that most people simply do not get it.  They will make statements such as “the Cold War is over” or “Russia is our friend” which show a complete and total lack of understanding of the current geopolitical situation.

Russia has been steadily building a stronger relationship with China, and collectively they represent the number one strategic threat to the United States.

Someday this will become abundantly clear to the American people.  Hopefully it will not be too late by the time they realize it.

The Biggest Oil Discovery In 50 Years?

Coober Pedy - Photo by Thomas SchochIn a virtually uninhabitable section of South Australia, a discovery has been made which could rock the world.  Some are calling it the biggest discovery of oil in 50 years.  Earlier this year, a company called Linc Energy announced that tests had revealed that there was a minimum of 3.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent sitting under more than 65,000 square kilometres of land that it owns in the Arckaringa Basin.  But that is the minimum number.  It has been projected that there could ultimately be up to 233 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the area.  If that turns out to be accurate, the oil sitting under that land is worth approximately 20 trillion dollars, and it would be roughly equivalent to the total amount of oil sitting under the sands of Saudi Arabia.  In essence, it would be a massive game changer.

If the 233 billion barrel figure is accurate (and some have even suggested that the true number could actually be 400 billion barrels), that would make it nearly 10 times larger than the Bakken formation, 17 times larger than the Marcellus discovery and 80 times larger than the Eagle Ford deposit down in Texas.

It would also mean that Australia now has more “black gold” than the nations of Iran, Iraq, Canada and Venezuela.

The closest town to this oil discovery, Coober Pedy, is in the process of being totally transformed.  It normally only has about 1,700 inhabitants, but news of this discovery has drawn in 20,000 additional people already and real estate prices in the town are absolutely skyrocketing.

So does all of this mean that gas prices will go down soon?

Well, unfortunately that is not likely to be the case.

First of all, the oil in this formation in Australia is going to be quite expensive to extract.  It has been estimated that it is going to cost up to 300 million dollars just to get this site ready for production.

In addition, many of our politicians are absolutely determined to greatly punish the use of oil because they believe that it is the primary cause of global warming.  So they continue to raise taxes on gasoline consumption.

Today, motorists in the United States pay an average of 49.5 cents of taxes per gallon of gasoline, and in the state of California motorists pay an average of 71.9 cents of taxes per gallon of gasoline.

Hopefully the price of gasoline will come down a bit over the next few years, but even if it does I would not expect it to come down too much.

But what we can be sure of is that the world is not going to run out of oil any time soon.  Those that have been predicting that we are are on the verge of an “energy doomsday” can take a rest for a while.

Sometimes it is funny to look back and remember some of the ridiculous things that our politicians were saying about oil in the old days.  For example, U.S. President Jimmy Carter made the following statement back in 1977….

“Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil than it can produce”.

That prediction didn’t exactly work out for him did it?

It is time that the American people were told the truth about our energy situation, and the truth is that we have plenty of energy resources.  The following stats have been updated from one of my previous articles

#1 Back in 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey told the American people that the Bakken Shale formation in western North Dakota and eastern Montana only held 151 million barrels of oil.  Today, government officials are admitting that it holds 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and some analysts believe that the actual number could be closer to 24 billion barrels of oil.

#2 It is estimated that there are 19 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the tar sands of Utah.

#3 It is estimated that there are 86 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Outer Continental Shelf.

#4 It is believed that there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River formation in Wyoming.

#5 Overall, the United States is sitting on approximately 1.442 trillion barrels of recoverable oil.

#6 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has an 88 year supply of natural gas.

#7 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has a 169 year supply of oil.

#8 According to the Institute of Energy Research, the United States has a 465 year supply of coal.

#9 Goldman Sachs is predicting that the United States will be the number one oil producing country in the world by the year 2017.

So the bottom line is that we have plenty of energy resources.  We do not need to be importing oil from OPEC or anyone else.

But just because we are not going to run out of oil, natural gas or coal any time soon does not mean that we should not be developing alternative energy resources.  We should definitely be seeking ways to produce energy more cheaply, more cleanly and more efficiently.

If America does not end up leading the world in developing new forms of energy, we should be ashamed of ourselves.  And right now, the Chinese appear to be way ahead of us as far as thorium energy is concerned, and Italian scientists appear to be ahead of our own scientists in developing “cold fusion” technology.

So yes, let’s be glad that we are not going to be facing a crippling energy crisis in this generation, but let’s also not be complacent.  There are lots of new technologies out there just waiting to be developed, and the rewards are going to go to those that are able to develop them first.

South Australia

History Tells Us That A Gold Crash + An Oil Crash = Guaranteed Recession

History Tells Us That A Gold Crash + An Oil Crash = Guaranteed RecessionIs the United States about to experience another major economic downturn?  Unfortunately, the pattern that is emerging right now is exactly the kind of pattern that you would expect to see just before a major stock market crash and a deep recession.  History tells us that when the price of gold crashes, a recession almost always follows.  History also tells us that when the price of oil crashes, a recession almost always follows.  When both of those things happen, a significant economic downturn is virtually guaranteed.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  Gold and oil both started falling rapidly in July, and in the fall we experienced the worst financial crisis that the U.S. had seen since the days of the Great Depression.  Well, a similar pattern seems to be happening again.  The price of gold has already crashed, and the price of a barrel of WTI crude oil has dropped to $86.37 as I write this.  If the price of oil dips below $80 a barrel and stays there, that will be a major red flag.  Meanwhile, we have just seen volatility return to the financial markets in a big way.  When volatility starts to spike, that is usually a clear sign that stocks are about to go down substantially.  So buckle your seatbelts – it looks like things are about to get very, very interesting.

Posted below is a chart that shows what has happened to the price of gold since the late 1960s.  As you will notice, whenever the price of gold rises dramatically and then crashes, a recession usually follows.  It happened in 1980, it happened in 2008, and it is happening again…

The Price Of Gold

A similar pattern emerges when we look at the price of oil.  During each of the last three recessions we have seen a rapid rise in the price of oil followed by a rapid decline in the price of oil…

The Price Of Oil

That is why what is starting to happen to the price of oil is so alarming.  On Wednesday, Reuters ran a story with the following headline: “Crude Routed Anew on Relentless Demand Worries“.  The price of oil has not “crashed” yet, but it is definitely starting to slip.

As you can see from the chart above, the price of oil has tested the $80 level a couple of times in the past few years.  If we get below that resistance and stay there, that will be a clear sign that trouble is ahead.

However, there is always the possibility that the recent “crash” in the price of gold might be a false signal because there is a tremendous amount of evidence emerging that it was an orchestrated event.  An absolutely outstanding article by Chris Martenson explained how the big banks had been setting up this “crash” for months…

In February, Credit Suisse ‘predicted’ that the gold market had peaked, SocGen said the end of the gold era was upon us, and recently Goldman Sachs told everyone to short the metal.

While that’s somewhat interesting, you should first know that the largest bullion banks had amassed huge short positions in precious metals by January.

The CFTC rather coyly refers to the bullion banks simply as ‘large traders,’ but everyone knows that these are the bullion banks.  What we are seeing in that chart is that out of a range of commodities, the precious metals were the most heavily shorted, by far.

So the timeline here is easy to follow.  The bullion banks:

  1. Amass a huge short position early in the game
  2. Begin telling everyone to go short (wink, wink) to get things moving along in the right direction by sowing doubt in the minds of the longs
  3. Begin testing the late night markets for depth by initiating mini raids (that also serve to let experienced traders know that there’s an elephant or two in the room)
  4. Wait for the right moment and then open the floodgates to dump such an overwhelming amount of paper gold and silver into the market that lower prices are the only possible result
  5. Close their positions for massive gains and then act as if they had made a really prescient market call
  6. Await their big bonus checks and wash, rinse, repeat at a later date

While I am almost 100% certain that any decent investigation by the CFTC would reveal that market manipulating ‘dumping’ was happening, I am equally certain that no such investigation will occur.  That’s because the point of such a maneuver by the bullion banks is designed to transfer as much wealth from ‘out there’ and towards the center, and the CFTC is there to protect the center’s ‘right’ to do exactly that.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

There are also rumors that George Soros was involved in driving down the price of gold.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by “The Reformed Broker” Joshua Brown

And over the last week or so, the one rumor I keep hearing from different hedge fund people is that George Soros is currently massively short gold and that he’s making an absolute killing.

Once again, I have no way of knowing if this is true or false.

But enough people are saying it that I thought it worthwhile to at least mention.

And to me, it would make perfect sense:

1. Soros is a macro investor, this is THE macro trade of the year so far (okay, maybe Japan 1, short gold 2)

2. Soros is well-known for numerous market aphorisms and neologisms, one of my faves being “When I see a bubble, I invest.”  He was heavily long gold for a time and had done well while simultaneously referring to it publicly as a speculative bubble.

3. He recently reported that he had pretty much exited the trade in gold back in February. In his Q4 filing a few weeks ago, we found out that he had sold down his GLD position by about 55% as of the end of 2012 and had just 600,000 shares remaining. That was the “smartest guy in the room” locking in a profit after a 12 year bull market.

4. Soros also hired away one of the most talented technical analysts out there, John Roque, upon the collapse of Roque’s previous employer, broker-dealer WJB Capital. No one has heard from the formerly media-available Roque since but we can only assume that – as a technician – the very obvious breakdown of gold’s long-term trend was at least discussed. And how else does one trade gold if not by using technicals (supply/demand) – what else is there? Cash flow? Book value?

5. Lastly, the last public interview given by George Soros was to the South China Morning Post on April 4th. He does not mention any trading he’s doing in gold but he does reveal his thoughts on it having been “destroyed as a safe haven”

It is also important to keep in mind that this “crash” in the price of “paper gold” had absolutely nothing to do with the demand for physical gold and silver in the real world.  In fact, precious metals retailers have been reporting that they have been selling an “astounding volume” of gold and silver this week.

But that isn’t keeping many in the mainstream media from “dancing on the grave” of gold and silver.

For example, New York Times journalist Paul Krugman seems absolutely ecstatic that gold has crashed.  He seems to think that this “crash” is vindication for everything that he has been saying the past couple of years.

In an article entitled “EVERYONE Should Be Thrilled By The Gold Crash“, Business Insider declared that all of us should be really glad that gold has crashed because according to them it is a sign that the economy is getting better and that faith in the financial system has been restored.

Dan Fitzpatrick, the president of StockMarketMentor.com, recently told CNBC that people are “flying out of gold” and “getting into equities”…

“There have been so many reasons, and there remain so many reasons to be in gold,” Fitzpatrick said, noting currency debasement and the fear of inflation. “But the chart is telling you that none of that is happening. Because of that, you’re going to see people just flying out of gold. There’s just no reason to be in it.Traders are scaling out of gold and getting into equities.”

Personally, I feel so sorry for those that are putting their money in the stock market right now.  They are getting in just in time for the crash.

As CNBC recently noted, a very ominous “head and shoulders pattern” for the S&P 500 is emerging right now…

A scary head-and-shoulders pattern could be building in the S&P 500, and this negative chart formation would be created if the market stalls just above current levels.

“It’s developing and it’s developing fast,” said Scott Redler of T3Live.com on Wednesday morning.

Even worse, volatility has returned to Wall Street in a huge way.  This is usually a sign that a significant downturn is on the way…

Call options buying recently hit a three-year high for the CBOE’s Volatility Index, a popular measure of market fear that usually moves in the opposite direction of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

A call buy, which gives the owner the option to purchase the security at a certain price, implies a belief that the VIX is likely to go higher, which usually is an ominous sign for stocks.

“We saw a huge spike in call buying on the VIX, the most in a while,” said Ryan Detrick, senior analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “That’s not what you want to hear (because it usually happens) right before a big pullback.”

The last time call options activity hit this level, on Jan. 13, 2010, it preceded a 9 percent stock market drop that happened over just four weeks, triggered in large part by worries over the ongoing European debt crisis.

And according to Richard Russell, the “smart money” has already been very busy dumping consumer stocks…

What do billionaires Warren Buffet, John Paulson, and George Soros know that you and I don’t know? I don’t have the answer, but I do know what these billionaires are doing. They, all three, are selling consumer-oriented stocks. Buffett has been a cheerleader for US stocks all along.

But in the latest filing, Buffett has been drastically cutting back on his exposure to consumer stocks. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson and Johnson. Berkshire has reduced his overall stake in consumer product stocks by 21%, including Kraft and Procter and Gamble. He has also cleared out his entire position in Intel. He has sold 10,000 shares of GM and 597,000 shares of IBM.

Fellow billionaire John Paulson dumped 14 million shares of JP Morgan and dumped his entire position in Family Dollar and consumer goods maker Sara Lee. To wrap up the trio of billionaires, George Soros sold nearly all his bank stocks including JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. So I don’t know exactly what the billionaires are thinking, but I do see what they’re doing — they are avoiding consumer stocks and building up cash.

… the billionaires are thinking that consumption is heading down and that America’s consumers are close to going on strike.

So what are all of those billionaires preparing for?

What do they know that we don’t know?

I don’t know about you, but when I start putting all of the pieces that I have just discussed together, it paints a rather ominous picture for the months ahead.

At some point, there will be another major stock market crash.  When it happens, we will likely see even worse chaos than we saw back in 2008.  Major financial institutions will fail, the credit markets will freeze up, economic activity will grind to a standstill and millions of Americans will lose their jobs.

I sincerely hope that we still have at least a few more months before that happens.  But right now things are moving very rapidly and it is becoming increasingly clear that time is running out.

Time Is Running Out

11 Economic Crashes That Are Happening RIGHT NOW

11 Economic Crashes That Are Happening RIGHT NOWThe stock market is not crashing yet, but there are lots of other market crashes happening in the financial world right now.  Just like we saw back in 2008, it is taking stocks a little bit of extra time to catch up with economic reality.  But almost everywhere else you look, there are signs that a financial avalanche has begun.  Bitcoins are crashing, gold and silver are plunging, the price of oil and the overall demand for energy continue to decline, markets all over Europe are collapsing and consumer confidence in the United States just had the biggest miss relative to expectations that has ever been recorded.  In many ways, all of this is extremely reminiscent of 2008.  Other than the Bitcoin collapse, almost everything else that is happening now also happened back then.   So does that mean that a horrible stock market crash is coming as well?  Without a doubt, one is coming at some point.  The only question is whether it will be sooner or later.  Meanwhile, there are a whole lot of other economic crashes that deserve out attention at the moment.

The following are 11 economic crashes that are happening RIGHT NOW…

#1 Bitcoins

As I write this, the price of Bitcoins has fallen more than 70 percent from where it was on Wednesday.  This is one of the reasons why I have never recommended Bitcoins to anyone.  Yes, alternative currencies are a good thing, but there are a lot of big problems with Bitcoins.  Why would anyone want to invest in a currency that could lose 70 percent of its purchasing power in just two days?  Why would anyone want to invest in a currency where a single person can arbitrarily decide to suspend trading in that currency at any time?

An article by Mike Adams of Natural News described some of the things that we have learned about Bitcoins this week…

#1) The bitcoin infrastructure cannot handle a selloff. Once the rush for the exits gains momentum, you will not be able to get out. Only those who sell early will be able to exit the market.

#2) The bitcoin infrastructure is subject to the whims of just one person running MTGox who can arbitrarily decide to shut it down whenever he thinks the market needs a “cooling period.” This is nearly equivalent to a financial dictatorship where one person calls the shots.

#3) Every piece of bad news will be “spun” by exchanges like MTGox into good-sounding news. As bitcoin was crashing yesterday by 60% in value in mere hours, MTGox announced it was a “victim of our own success!” So while bitcoin holders watched $1 billion in market valuation evaporate, MTGox called it a success. Gee, then what would you call it when bitcoin loses 99%? A “raging” success?

#2 Gold

The price of gold was down by about 4 percent on Friday.  Gold has now fallen below $1500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011.  Overall, the price of gold has fallen by about 10 percent since the beginning of the year, and it is about 22 percent below the record high set back in September 2011.

Yes, the price of gold is likely being pushed down by the banksters.  And yes, gold is a fantastic investment for the long-term.  But there will be times when the price of gold does fall dramatically just like we saw back in 2008.

#3 Silver

The price of silver fell by about 5 percent on Friday.  If it falls much more it is going to be at a level that presents a historically good buying opportunity.

Just like gold, there will be times when the price of silver swings dramatically.  But the truth is that silver is probably an even better long-term investment than gold is.

#4 Oil

The price of oil declined by about 3 percent on Friday.  Many will consider this a positive thing, but just remember what happened back in 2008.  Back then, the price of oil dropped like a rock.  If the price of oil gets below $80, that could very well be a clear signal that a major economic crisis is about to happen.

#5 Consumer Confidence

As I mentioned above, consumer confidence in the U.S. just had its biggest miss relative to expectations that has ever been recorded.  The following is from an article posted on Zero Hedge on Friday

Well if this doesn’t send the market into all-time record high territory, nothing ever will: seconds ago the UMich Consumer Confidence plummeted from 78.6 to 72.3, on expectations of an unchanged 78.6 print. This was not only a 9 month low in the index, but more importantly the biggest miss to expectations in recorded history!

#6 Retirement Accounts

According to Wells Fargo, the number of Americans taking loans from their 401(k) accounts has risen by 28 percent over the past year…

Through an analysis of participants enrolled in Wells Fargo-administered defined contribution plans, the bank announced today that in the fourth quarter of 2012, there was a 28 percent increase in the number of people taking loans out from their 401(k) and that the average new loan balances increased to $7,126 from those taken out in the fourth quarter of 2011 – a 7% increase from $6,662.

Of the participants who took out loans, the greatest percentage were to people in their 50s (34.2%), followed by those in their 60s (28.9%) and then by those in their 40s (27.3%). The increase among participants in their 50s was nearly double the increase among those under 30. This is based on an analysis of a subset of 1.9 million eligible participants in retirement plans that Wells Fargo administers.

“The increased loan activity particularly among older participants is concerning because those are the years when workers can start to make ‘catch-up’ contributions and really need to focus on preparing for retirement,” said Laurie Nordquist, director of Wells Fargo Retirement.

#7 Casino Spending

Casino spending is declining again.  Many people (including myself) would consider this to be a good thing, but casino spending is also one of the most reliable indicators about the overall health of the economy.  Remember, casino spending crashed during the last financial crisis as well.  That is why it is so alarming that casino spending is now back to levels that we have not seen since the last recession.

#8 Employment In Greece

Over in Europe, things just continue to get worse.  According to numbers that were just released, the unemployment rate in Greece has soared to 27.2 percent, which was up from 25.7 percent the previous month.  That means that the unemployment rate in Greece rose by 1.5 percent in just a single month.  That is not just a crash – that is an avalanche of unemployment.

#9 European Financial Stocks

European financial stocks have been hit particularly hard lately.  And for good reason actually – most of the major banks in Europe are essentially insolvent at this point.  This week, European financial stocks fell to seven month lows, and this is probably only just the beginning.

#10 Spanish Bankruptcies

According to Reuters, the number of Spanish companies going bankrupt has risen by 45 percent over the past year…

A record number of Spanish companies went bust in the first quarter of 2013 as companies remained under intense pressure from tight credit conditions and meager demand, a study showed on Monday.

The 2,564 firms filing for insolvency proceedings in first three months of the year was a 10 percent rise from the previous quarter and a 45 percent increase on the same period in 2012, the survey by credit rating agency Axesor said.

#11 Demand For Energy

Just like we saw back in 2008, the overall demand for energy in the United States is falling rapidly.  There are some shocking charts that prove this that were recently posted on Zero Hedge that you can find right here.

Yes, it is good for people to use a bit less energy, but it is also a clear indication that economic activity is really starting to slow down.

But despite everything that you have just read, the Dow and the S&P 500 have been setting new record highs.

And if you listen to the mainstream media, you would think that this stock market bubble can continue indefinitely.

Fortunately, there are a few voices of reason out there.  For example, just check out what Marc Faber recently told CNBC

In the near-term, the U.S. stock market is overbought and adding that any more near-term gains portend big trouble for the market, “The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” publisher Marc Faber told CNBC on Monday.

“If we continue to move up, the probability of a crash becomes higher,” Faber predicted in a “Squawk Box” interview, saying it could happen “sometime in the second half of this year.”

As I have written about previously, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts.  I hope that we still have at least a little bit more time before it happens, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The economic fundamentals tell us that the stock market should be plunging, not rising.  At some point the boys over on Wall Street will get the message and the market will catch up to reality very, very rapidly.

But for the moment, the American people are feeling really good.  According to CNN, Americans are now more optimistic than they have been in six years…

As the stock market continues to show record highs, the number of Americans who say things are going well in the country has reached 50% for the first time in more than six years, according to a new national survey.

So what do you think will happen for the rest of the year?

Do you think that the good times will continue to roll, or do you believe that the bubble is about to burst?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

A Market Crash Is Coming

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