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The Worst Financial Nightmare In Illinois History Erupts As State Comptroller Declares ‘We Are In Massive Crisis Mode’

Margaret Thatcher once said that the big problem with socialist governments is that “they always run out of other people’s money”, and unfortunately we are witnessing this play out in a major way in the state of Illinois right now.  At this point, the Illinois state government has more than 15 billion dollars of unpaid bills.  Yes, you read that correctly.  They are already 15 billion dollars behind on their bills, and they are on pace to take in 6 billion dollars less than they are scheduled to spend in 2017.  It is the worst financial crisis in the history of Illinois, and State Comptroller Susana Mendoza sounds like she is about ready to tear her hair out in frustration

“I don’t know what part of ‘We are in massive crisis mode’ the General Assembly and the governor don’t understand. This is not a false alarm,” said Mendoza, a Chicago Democrat. “The magic tricks run out after a while, and that’s where we’re at.”

It’s a new low, even for a state that’s seen its financial situation grow increasingly desperate amid a standoff between the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Illinois already has $15 billion in overdue bills and the lowest credit rating of any state, and some ratings agencies have warned they will downgrade the rating to “junk” if there’s no budget before the next fiscal year begins July 1.

Would you continue to do work for the Illinois state government if you knew that they were this far behind on their bills and that it is doubtful that you would be paid any time in the foreseeable future?

Of course the answer to that question is quite obvious.  As contractual relationships break down, social services are starting to suffer, and there is not much hope that things will take a turn for the better any time soon.

At this point things have gotten so bad that the Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to cease all roadwork starting on July 1st, and even the Powerball lottery is threatening to cut all ties with the state

As reported previously, the state Transportation Department said it would stop roadwork by July 1 if Illinois entered its third consecutive fiscal year without a budget – the longest such stretch of any US state – while the Powerball lottery said it may be forced to dump Illinois over its lack of budget. For now, state workers have continued to receive pay because of court orders, but school districts, colleges and medical and social service providers are under increasing strain.

So what has caused this unprecedented crisis?

At the core, the problem is political.  A tense standoff between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature has resulted in the state going 700 days without a budget

On May 31, Illinois will have gone 700 days without a budget, an unprecedented political failure. Also on May 31, if a budget is not passed, it could mean that the state could go until 2019—an unimaginable idea, except that senators have already imagined it.

How does a state, led by a successful businessman as governor, a brilliant political strategist in the House, and a consummate dealmaker in the Senate, end up in this kind of political disorganization? Bad political errors led to bad political incentives, and as the problem worsened, so did the political risk of solutions—and what politicians had to ask of their constituents.

This is another example of how deeply divided we are as a nation right now.  Democrats hate Republicans and Republicans hate Democrats, and it is getting to the point where the two parties cannot work together on even the most basic things.

In the end, the state of Illinois is either going to have to cut spending dramatically, raise taxes substantially or some combination of both.  And since the Democrats have very large majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, I wouldn’t count on spending being cut that much.

This is the thing with big government – it always has a tendency to get even bigger.  And the bigger government gets, the more of our money and the more of our freedom it takes away.

That is why I am a huge advocate of dramatically shrinking the size of government on the federal, state and local levels.  Like Rand Paul has often said, I want a government so small that I can barely see it.

When you let government get out of control, what you end up with is a ravenous beast that has an endless appetite for more of your money.  In Illinois, the money is all gone and the beast is desperately hungry for more.

Sadly, what is happening in Illinois is just the tip of the iceberg.  If stock prices start declining from these massively inflated levels, state pension funds all over America are going to be in crisis mode very rapidly.  And a new recession would greatly accelerate the financial problems of a whole bunch of states that are already dealing with huge budget shortfalls.

Unfortunately, experts all over the country are warning that the next major downturn is coming very quickly.  For example, just consider what Bernard Arnault just told CNBC

A financial crisis could be just around the corner, according to the chief executive of LVMH, who has described the global economic outlook as “scary”.

“For the economic climate, the present situation is…mid-term scary,” Bernard Arnault told CNBC Thursday.

“I don’t think we will be able to globally avoid a crisis when I see the interest rates so low, when I see the amounts of money flowing into the world, when I see the stock prices which are much too high, I think a bubble is building and this bubble, one day, will explode.”

There is always a price to pay for going into too much debt.

A financial day of reckoning can be delayed for a while, but eventually bad financial decisions are going to catch up with you.  The state of Illinois is learning this lesson in a very harsh manner right now, and the country as a whole is on the exact same path as Illinois.

I am often criticized for endlessly warning about America’s coming day of reckoning, but you can’t pile up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world without paying a price.

Just like the state of Illinois, we will pay for decades of exceedingly foolish decisions, and unfortunately this is going to cause severe economic pain throughout our entire society.

2017 Is Going To Be The Worst Retail Apocalypse In U.S. History – More Than 300 Retailers Have Already Filed For Bankruptcy

Not even during the worst parts of the last recession did things ever get this bad for the U.S. retail industry.  As you will see in this article, more than 300 retailers have already filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and it is being projected that a staggering 8,640 stores will close in America by the end of this calendar year.  That would shatter the old record by more than 20 percent.  Sadly, our ongoing retail apocalypse appears to only be in the early chapters.  One report recently estimated that up to 25 percent of all shopping malls in the country could shut down by 2022 due to the current woes of the retail industry.  And if the new financial crisis that is already hitting Europe starts spreading over here, the numbers that I just shared with you could ultimately turn out to be a whole lot worse.

I knew that a lot of retailers were filing for bankruptcy, but I had no idea that the grand total for this year was already in the hundreds.  According to CNN, the number of retail bankruptcies is now up 31 percent compared to the same time period last year…

Bankruptcies continue to pile up in the retail industry.

More than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, according to data from BankruptcyData.com. That’s up 31% from the same time last year. Most of those filings were for small companies — the proverbial Mom & Pop store with a single location. But there are also plenty of household names on the list.

Yes, the growth of online retailers such as Amazon is fueling some of this, but the Internet has been around for several decades now.

So why are retail store closings and retail bankruptcies surging so dramatically all of a sudden?

Just a few days ago, another major victim of the retail apocalypse made headlines all over the nation when it filed for bankruptcy.  At one time Gymboree was absolutely thriving, but now it is in a desperate fight to survive

Children’s clothing chain Gymboree has filed for bankruptcy protection, aiming to slash its debts and close hundreds of stores amid crushing pressure on retailers.

Gymboree said it plans to remain in business but will close 375 to 450 of its 1,281 stores in filing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Gymboree employs more than 11,000 people, including 10,500 hourly workers.

And in recent weeks other major retailers that were once very prosperous have also been forced to close stores and lay off staff

This hemorrhaging of retail jobs comes on the heels of last week’s mass layoffs at Hudson Bay Company, where employees from Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor were among the 2,000 people laid off. The news of HBC layoffs came on the same day that Ascena, the parent company of brands like Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Dress Barn, told investors it will be closing up to 650 stores (although it did not specify which brands will be affected just yet). Only two weeks ago, affordable luxury brand Michael Kors announced it too would close 125 stores to combat brand overexposure and plummeting sales.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of 2007.  The stock market was still performing very well, but the real economy was starting to come apart at the seams.

And without a doubt, the real economy is really hurting right now.  According to Business Insider, Moody’s is warning that 22 more major retailers may be forced to declare bankruptcy in the very near future…

Twenty-two retailers in Moody’s portfolio are in serious financial trouble that could lead to bankruptcy, according to a Moody’s note published on Wednesday. That’s 16% of the 148 companies in the financial firm’s retail group — eclipsing the level of seriously distressed retail companies that Moody’s reported during the Great Recession.

You can find the full list right here.  If this many major retailers are “distressed” now, what are things going to look like once the financial markets start crashing?

As thousands of stores close down all across the United States, this is going to put an incredible amount of stress on shopping mall owners.  In order to meet their financial obligations, those mall owners need tenants, but now the number of potential tenants is shrinking rapidly.

I have talked about dead malls before, but apparently what we have seen so far is nothing compared to what is coming.  The following comes from CNN

Store closings and even dead malls are nothing new, but things might be about to get a whole lot worse.

Between 20% and 25% of American malls will close within five years, according to a new report out this week from Credit Suisse. That kind of plunge would be unprecedented in the nation’s history.

I can’t even imagine what this country is going to look like if a quarter of our shopping malls shut down within the next five years.  Already, there are some parts of the U.S. that look like a third world nation.

And what is this going to do to employment?  Today, the retail industry employs millions upon millions of Americans, and those jobs could start disappearing very rapidly

The retail sales associate is one of the most popular jobs in the country, with roughly 4.5 million Americans filling the occupation. In May, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that found that 7.5 million retail jobs might be replaced by technology. The World Economic Forum predicts 30 to 50 percent of retail jobs will be gone once struggling companies like Gymboree fully hop on the digital train. MarketWatch found that over the last year, the department store space bled 29,900 jobs, while general merchandising stores cut 15,700 positions. At this rate, one Florida columnist put it soberingly, “Half of all US retail jobs could vanish. Just as ATMs replaced many bank tellers, automated check-out stations are supplanting retail clerks.”

At this moment, the number of working age Americans that do not have a job is hovering near a record high.  So being able to at least get a job in the retail industry has been a real lifeline for many Americans, and now that lifeline may be in grave danger.

For those running our big corporations, losing these kinds of jobs is not a big deal.  In fact, many corporate executives would be quite happy to replace all of their U.S. employees with technology or with foreign workers.

But if the middle class is going to survive, we need an economy that produces good paying jobs.  Unfortunately, even poor paying retail jobs are starting to disappear now, and the future of the middle class is looking bleaker than it ever has before.

5 Highly Respected Financial Experts That Are Warning That A Market Crash Is Imminent

If everything is going to be “just fine”, why are so many big names in the financial community warning about an imminent meltdown?  I don’t think that I have seen so many simultaneous warnings about a market crash since just before the great financial crisis of 2008.  And at this point, you would have to be quite blind not to see that stocks are absurdly overvalued and that a correction is going to happen at some point.  And when stocks do start crashing, lots of fingers are going to start pointing at President Trump, but it won’t be his fault.  The Federal Reserve and other central banks are primarily responsible for creating this bubble, and they should definitely get the blame for what is about to happen to global financial markets.

My regular readers are quite familiar with my thoughts on where the market is headed, so today let me share some thoughts from five highly respected financial experts…

#1 When Altair Asset Management’s chief investment officer Philip Parker was asked if a market crash was coming to Australia, he said that he has “never been more certain of anything in my life”.  In fact, he is so sure that the investments that his hedge fund is managing are going to crash that a decision was made to liquidate the fund “and return ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars to its clients”

While hardly a novel claim – in the past many have warned that Australia’s housing and stock market are massive asset bubbles (which local banks have been forced to deny as their fates are closely intertwined with asset prices even as the RBA is increasingly worried) – so far few if any have gone the distance of putting their money where their mouth was. That changed, when Australian asset manager Altair Asset Management made the extraordinary decision to liquidate its Australian shares funds and return “hundreds of millions” of dollars to its clients according to the Sydney Morning Herald, citing an impending property market “calamity” and the “overvalued and dangerous time in this cycle”.

Giving up management and performance fees and handing back cash from investments managed by us is a seminal decision, however preserving client’s assets is what all fund managers should put before their own interests,” Philip Parker, who serves as Altair’s chairman and chief investment officer, said in a statement on Monday quoted by the SMH.

#2 Seth Klarman leads one of the biggest hedge funds in the United States, and he believes that U.S. investors are greatly underestimating the amount of risk in the market right now…

“When share prices are low, as they were in the fall of 2008 into early 2009, actual risk is usually quite muted while perception of risk is very high,” Klarman wrote. “By contrast, when securities prices are high, as they are today, the perception of risk is muted, but the risks to investors are quite elevated.”

Klarman oversees one of the US’s largest hedge fund firms, with some $30 billion under management. He has a huge following on Wall Street — investors named his book, “Margin of Safety,” their favorite investment book in a recent SumZero survey.

#3 Bill Blain is a strategist at Mint Partners, and he is actually specifically pointing to October 12th as the date when things will start to get “horribly interesting”

But…. Catch a falling knife, why don’t you… I shall spend the summer wondering just how long the Stock Market games continue. When, not if.

At the moment, my prediction is October 12th. Around that day its going to get horribly interesting..

Why that particular day?

Gut feel and knowing how the Bowl of Petunias felt in Hitchhikers. (“Not again.”)

There are just too many contradictory currents out there. The unsustainability of burgeoning consumer debt, unfeasibly tight credit spreads, the sandcastle foundations of student loans, autos, housing and the CLO market, China, Trump, politics.. worries about what follows Brazil in the EM market, and whatever… The risks of a massive consumer sentiment dump..  

#4 David Stockman has also been warning about what may happen this fall.  According to Stockman, this current stock market bubble “is the greatest sucker’s rally we have ever seen”

The market is insanely valued right now.  They were trying to tag, the robo machines and day traders, they were trying to tag 2,400 on the S&P 500.  They ended up at 2,399, I think, but the point is that represents about 25 times trailing earnings for 2016.  We are at a point in the so-called recovery that has already lasted 96 months.  It’s almost the longest one in history.  What the market is saying is we have reached the point of full employment forever.  There will never be another recession or any kind of economic surprise or upset or dislocation.  The market is pricing itself for perfection for all of eternity.  This is crazy. . . . I think the market could easily drop to 1,600 or 1,300.  It could drop by 40% or even more once the fantasy ends. When the government shows its true colors, that it’s headed for a fiscal bloodbath when this crazy notion that there is going to be some Trump fiscal stimulus is put to rest once and for all.  I mean it’s not going to happen.  They can’t pass a tax cut that big without a budget resolution that incorporated $10 trillion or $15 trillion in debt over the next decade.  It’s just not going to pass Congress. . . . I think this is the greatest sucker’s rally we have ever seen.

#5 Last but certainly not least, David Kranzler seems quite certain “that the stock market bubble is getting ready to pop”

Anyone happen to notice that several market commentators have argued that Bitcoin is a bubble but the same stock “experts” look the other way as the U.S. stock market becomes more overvalued by the day vs. the deteriorating underlying fundamentals? Bitcoin going “parabolic” triggers alarm bells but it’s okay if the stock price of Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) is hurtling toward parity with the price of one ounce of gold. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) burns a billion per year in cash. It sold 76,000 cars last year vs. 10 million worldwide for General Motors (NYSE:GM). Yet Tesla’s market cap is $51.7 billion vs. $48.8 billion for GM.

This insanity is the surest sign that the stock market bubble is getting ready to pop. If you read between the lines of the the comments from certain Wall Street analysts, the only justification for current valuations is “Central Bank liquidity” and “Fed support of asset values.” This is the most dangerous stage of a market top because it draws in retail “mom & pop” investors who can’t stop themselves from missing out on the next “sure thing.” There will be millions of people who are permanently damaged financially when the Fed loses control of this market. Or, as legendary “vulture” investor Asher Edelman stated on CNBC, “I don’t want to be in the market because I don’t know when the plug is going to be pulled.”

Could all of these top experts be wrong?

It’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Every stock market bubble of this magnitude in U.S. history has ended in a spectacular crash, and this one will not be any different.  We can certainly have some good arguments about the exact timing of the next crash, but what everyone should be able to agree on is that a crash is coming.

You only make money in the stock market if you get out at the right time.  Many of those that timed things well have made a tremendous amount of money, but most investors will be entirely caught off guard by the market implosion that is rapidly approaching.

As I have explained to my readers repeatedly, markets tend to go down a whole lot faster than they go up, and in the not too distant future we are going to see trillions of dollars of investor wealth wiped out very, very quickly.

Let’s hope that the coming crisis will not be as bad as 2008, but I have a feeling that it is going to be much worse.

We didn’t learn our lessons the last time around, and so now we are going to pay a very high price for our stubbornness.

Former Reagan Administration Official Is Warning Of A Financial Collapse Some Time ‘Between August And November’

If a former Reagan administration official is correct, we are likely to see the next major financial collapse by the end of 2017.  According to Wikipedia, David Stockman “is an author, former businessman and U.S. politician who served as a Republican U.S. Representative from the state of Michigan (1977–1981) and as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (1981–1985) under President Ronald Reagan.”  He has been frequently interviewed by mainstream news outlets such as CNBC, Bloomberg and PBS, and he is a highly respected voice in the financial community.  Like other analysts, Stockman believes that the U.S. economy is in dire shape, and he told Greg Hunter during a recent interview that he is convinced that the S&P 500 could soon crash “by 40% or even more”…

The market is pricing itself for perfection for all of eternity.  This is crazy. . . . I think the market could easily drop to 1,600 or 1,300.  It could drop by 40% or even more once the fantasy ends.  When the government shows its true colors, that it’s headed for a fiscal blood bath when this crazy notion that there is going to be some Trump fiscal stimulus is put to rest once and for all.  I mean it’s not going to happen.  They can’t pass a tax cut that big without a budget resolution that incorporated $10 trillion or $15 trillion in debt over the next decade.  It’s just not going to pass Congress. . . . I think this is the greatest sucker’s rally we have ever seen.”

But even more alarming is what Stockman had to say about the potential timing of such a financial crash.  According to Stockman, if he were to pick a time for the next major stock market plunge he would “target sometime between August and November”

The S&P 500 is going to drop by hundreds and hundreds of points sometime over the next few months as we drift into this unexpected crisis. . . . I would target sometime between August and November because that’s when the rubber is going to meet the road on a debt ceiling increase when they are out of cash.  Washington is going to end up in vicious political conflict over what to do about the debt ceiling. . . . It is going to be one giant fiscal bloodbath the likes of which we have never seen.

That really got my attention, because those are the exact months during which the events that I portrayed in The Beginning Of The End play out.

Without a doubt, the U.S. financial system is living on borrowed time, and we cannot keep going into so much debt indefinitely.  In 2017, interest on the national debt will be more than half a trillion dollars for the first time ever, and it will be even higher next year because we are likely to add at least another trillion dollars to the debt during this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the financial markets just keep becoming more absurd with each passing day.

Just look at Tesla.  This is a company that somehow managed to lose 620 million dollars during the first quarter of 2017, and it has been consistently losing hundreds of millions of dollars quarter after quarter.

And yet somehow the market values Tesla at a staggering 48 billion dollars.

It is almost as if we are living in an “opposite world” where the more money you lose the more valuable investors think that you are.  Companies like Tesla, Netflix and Twitter are burning through gigantic mountains of investor cash without ever making a profit, and nobody seems to care.

Commercial mortgage-backed securities are another red flag that is starting to get a lot of attention

The percentage of commercial mortgage-backed security (MBS) loans in special servicing hit 6.6% to close April, Commercial Mortgage Alert reported, citing Trepp data. The five basis point move higher from March came as the past-due rate on Fitch-rated commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) climbed by nine basis points to end April at to 3.5%.

Both MBS and CMBS rates hit their highest levels since 2015.

During the crisis of 2008, regular mortgage-backed securities played a major role, and this time around it looks like securities that are backed by commercial mortgages could cause quite a bit of havoc.

One of the reasons for this is because mall owners are having such tremendous difficulties.  The number of retail store closings in 2017 is on pace to shatter the all-time record by more than 20 percent, and Bloomberg is projecting that about a billion square feet of retail space will eventually close or be used for another purpose.

So needless to say this is putting an enormous amount of strain on those that are trying to rent space to retailers, and a lot of their debts are starting to go bad.

In 2007 and early 2008, a lot of the analysts that were loudly warning about mortgage-backed securities, a major stock market crash and an imminent recession were being mocked.  People kept asking them when “the crisis” was finally going to arrive, and leaders such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke confidently assured the public that the U.S. economy was not going to experience a recession.

But of course then we got to the fall of 2008 and all hell broke loose.  Investors suddenly lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs were lost, and the U.S. economy plunged into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Now we stand poised on the brink of an even worse disaster.  The U.S. national debt has almost doubled since the last crisis, corporate debt has more than doubled, and all of our long-term economic fundamentals have continued to deteriorate.

The only thing that has saved us is our ability to go into enormous amounts of debt, and once that debt bubble finally bursts it will be the biggest standard of living adjustment that Americans have ever seen.

So I don’t know if Stockman’s timing will be 100% accurate or not, but that is not what is important.

What is important is that decades of exceedingly foolish decisions have made the greatest economic crisis in American history inevitable, and when it fully erupts the pain is going to be absolutely off the charts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Auto Sales Plunge Dramatically As The Consumer Debt Bubble Continues To Collapse

One sector of the economy that is acting as if we were already in the middle of a horrible recession is the auto industry.  We just got sales figures for the month of April, and every single major U.S. auto manufacturer missed their sales projections.  And compared to one year ago, sales were way down across the entire industry.  When you add this latest news to all of the other signals that the U.S. economy is slowly down substantially, a very disturbing picture begins to emerge.  Either the U.S. economy is steamrolling toward a major slowdown, or this is one heck of a head fake.

One analyst that has been waiting for auto sales to start declining is Graham Summers.  According to Summers, the boom in auto sales that we witnessed in previous years was largely fueled by subprime lending, and now that subprime auto loan bubble is starting to burst

Auto-loan generation has gone absolutely vertical since 2009, rising an incredible 56% in seven years. Even more incredibly roughly 1/3 of this ~$450 billion in new loans are subprime AKA garbage.

In the simplest of terms, this is Subprime 2.0… the tip of the $199 TRILLION debt iceberg, just as subprime mortgages were for the Housing Bubble.

I’ve been watching this industry for months now, waiting for the signal that it’s ready to explode.

That signal just hit.

The signal that Summers is referring to is a persistent decline in U.S. auto sales.  It would be easy to dismiss one bad month, but U.S. auto sales have been falling for a number of months now, and the sales figures for April were absolutely dismal.  Just check out how much sales declined in April compared to one year ago for the biggest auto manufacturers

General Motors: -5.8 percent

Ford: -7.1 percent

Fiat Chrysler: -7.0 percent

Toyota: -4.4 percent

Honda: -7.0 percent

For auto manufacturers, those are truly frightening numbers, and nobody is really projecting that they will get better any time soon.

At the same time, unsold vehicles continue to pile up on dealer lots at a staggering pace

Meanwhile, inventory days are still trending higher as OEMs continue to push product on to dealer lots even though sale through to end customers has seemingly stalled.

GM, one of the few OEMs to actually disclose dealer inventories in monthly sales releases, reported that April inventories increased to 100 days (935,758 vehicles) from 98 days at the end of March and just 71 days (681,402 vehicles) in April 2016.

So why is this happening?

Of course there are a lot of factors, but one of the main reasons for this crisis is the fact that U.S. consumers are already drowning in debt and are simply tapped out

Now, a new survey from Northwestern Mutual helps to shed some light on why Americans are completely incapable of saving money.

First, roughly 50% of Americans have debt balances, excluding mortgages mind you, of over $25,000, with the average person owing over $37,000, versus a median personal income of just over $30,000.

Therefore, it’s not difficult to believe, as Northwestern Mutual points out, that 45% of Americans spend up to half of their monthly take home pay on debt service alone.…which, again, excludes mortgage debt.

When you are already up to your eyeballs in debt, it is hard just to make payments on that debt.  So for many American families a new car is simply out of the question.

And it isn’t just the U.S. auto industry that is in trouble.  The credit card industry is also starting to show signs of distress

Synchrony Financial – GE’s spin-off that issues credit cards for Walmart and Amazon – disclosed on Friday that, despite assurances to the contrary just three months ago, net charge-off would rise to at least 5% this year. Its shares plunged 16% and are down 27% year-to-date.

Credit-card specialist Capital One disclosed in its Q1 earnings report last week that provisions for credit losses rose to $2 billion, with net charge-offs jumping 28% year-over-year to $1.5 billion.

If you didn’t understand all of that, what is essentially being said is that credit card companies are starting to have to set aside more money for bad credit card debts.

Previously I have reported that consumer bankruptcies and commercial bankruptcies are both rising at the fastest rate that we have seen since the last recession.  This trend is starting to spook lenders, and so many of them are starting to pull back on various forms of lending.  For example, Bloomberg is reporting that lending by regional U.S. banks was down significantly during the first quarter of 2017…

Total loans at the 15 largest U.S. regional banks declined by about $10 billion to $1.73 trillion in the first quarter, compared with the previous three-month period, the first such drop in four years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All but two of those banks missed analysts’ estimates for total loans, as a slump in commercial and industrial lending sapped growth.

This is how a credit crunch begins.  When the flow of credit starts restricting, that slows down economic activity, and in turn that usually results in even more credit defaults.  Of course that just causes lending to get even tighter, and pretty soon you have a spiral that is hard to stop.

Just about everywhere you look, there are early warning signs of a new economic downturn.  And just like we saw prior to the great crash of 2008, those that are wise are getting prepared for what is coming ahead of time.  Unfortunately, most people usually end up getting blindsided by economic downturns because they believe the mainstream media when they insist that everything is going to be just fine.

Thankfully, there are at least a few people that are telling the truth, and one of them is Marc Faber.  Just a few days ago, he told CNBC that the U.S. economy is “terminally ill”…

“Dr. Doom” Marc Faber says the U.S. economy is “terminally ill,” and the current outlook doesn’t seem to be improving.

“The U.S. has run a deficit for [so long],” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” “The conditions today are more fragile than they were ever before, and unless somebody comes and introduces minus 5 percent interest rates, I think the economy is really not in such a great shape.”

“I’m actually amazed that people are so optimistic,” the editor and publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” added.

I have to agree with Faber on this point.

We are more primed for a major economic downturn and a horrifying stock market crash than we were back in 2008.

It isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge, and with our world becoming more unstable with each passing month, it appears that our day of reckoning is likely to come sooner rather than later.

The Debt Crisis Of 2017: Once Their Vacation Ends, Congress Will Have 4 Days To Avoid A Government Shutdown On April 29

April 2017 could turn out to be one of the most important months in U.S. history that we have seen in a very long time.  On April 6th, Donald Trump attacked Syria on the 100th anniversary of the day that the U.S. officially entered World War I, and now at the end of this month we could be facing an unprecedented political crisis in Washington.  On Friday, members of Congress left town for their two week “Easter vacation”, and they won’t resume work until April 25th.  What this means is that Congress will have precisely four days when they get back to pass a bill to fund government operations or there will be a government shutdown starting on April 29th.

Up to this point, there has been very little urgency by either party to move a spending bill forward.  It is almost as if everyone is already resigned to the fact that a government shutdown will happen.  The Democrats will greatly benefit from a government shutdown because they can just blame the entire mess on the Republicans.  But for the GOP, this is essentially the equivalent of political malpractice.

To me, there is simply no way that Congress is going to be able to agree on a bill that funds the entire government in just four days.  And it turns out that this upcoming deadline comes exactly on the 100th day of Trump’s presidency

The U.S. government is poised to shut down on Day 100 of Donald Trump’s presidency, unless Congress can pass a new spending bill or a continuing resolution before the current one expires on April 28.

Since Congress is currently on a two-week recess, there will be a sense of urgency to get a new bill passed once they reconvene on April 25. Leaders in both chambers would have four days to craft a new proposal that each side can agree on and get it on the president’s desk for Trump to sign.

If the Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, why will it be so difficult to get an agreement on a spending bill?

Well, first of all, look at how difficult it was for the Republicans to agree on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.  At this point, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen at all.

More importantly, any bill to fund the government is going to require 60 votes in the Senate.  The “nuclear option” that the Republicans just used to push the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination through is not available in this case under current Senate rules because a spending bill of this nature would not qualify.

So the Democrats have leverage, and they plan to use it to the maximum.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is already promising to block any spending bill that includes funds for a border wall or that defunds Planned Parenthood

The threat from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders sets up a climactic first showdown with the president, particularly with their inclusion of Trump’s signature border wall proposal.

“If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy,” Schumer said in a statement.

Up until now, Trump hasn’t needed Democratic votes to stock his cabinet or advance the repeal of Obamacare, but a spending bill keeping the government open is subject to a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

Do you understand what this means?

President Trump is going to be under an immense amount of pressure to end the government shutdown once it begins, but to do so will mean that he has to give up his goal of getting a border wall.

Do you think that Trump will just throw in the towel and forget about his beloved border wall after giving countless speeches promising one?

It is a game of chicken between Trump and the Democrats, and I don’t think that either side will give in easily.

Of even greater importance is the debate over the funding of Planned Parenthood.

There are members of the Freedom Caucus that will absolutely not vote for any spending bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood.  But without the Freedom Caucus, there aren’t enough Republican votes to get a spending bill through the House of Representatives.

Alternatively, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is vowing that his party will block any funding bill that attempts to defund Planned Parenthood in the Senate.

If Planned Parenthood is not defunded now, it never will be defunded.  This is one of the most pivotal moments in recent U.S. political history, and the outcome is going to have extraordinary consequences for our nation.

For those that are optimistic that there will not be a government shutdown, do you actually expect me to believe that this battle over the funding of Planned Parenthood will somehow get resolved in just four days?

Give me a break.

And of course there are dozens of other major issues that have to be resolved as well.  For example, Senator McCain is promising note to vote for any bill unless it includes an enormous increase in military spending, while many Senate Democrats would be very much against such a move.

I don’t see any way that a government shutdown is going to be avoided at this point, and the longer it goes on the more financial markets are going to get rattled.

Meanwhile, we continue to get even more signs that a substantial slowdown has begun for the U.S. economy.  Last week, we learned that only 98,000 jobs were added in March, and that was only about half of what most analysts were expecting.

And since it takes approximately 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth, that means that we are losing ground.

At the same time, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecasting model is now projecting that U.S. GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 will be just 0.6 percent on an annualized basis.

That is absolutely pathetic, and as I have said before, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we actually end up with a negative number for the first quarter.

If we do indeed get a negative number for the first quarter and that is followed by another negative number for the second quarter, that will mean that a new recession has already started right now but we just haven’t gotten official confirmation yet.

And lots of other things are already happening which have not happened since the last recession.  For instance, this is the first time since the last financial crisis when there has been no growth for commercial and industrial lending for at least six months.

In addition, commercial bankruptcies spiked during the last recession, and now it is happening again

Commercial bankruptcy filings, from corporations to sole proprietorships, spiked 28% in March from February, the largest month-to-month move in the data series of the American Bankruptcy Institute going back to 2012.

Of course consumer bankruptcies are rising at an alarming rate as well.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

In December, bankruptcy filings rose 4.5% from a year earlier. In January they rose 5.4%. It was the first time consumer bankruptcies rose back-to-back since 2010. I called it “a red flag that’ll be highlighted only afterwards as a turning point.”

In March, consumer bankruptcy filings rose 4% year-over-year, to 77,900, the highest since March 2015, when 79,000 filings occurred, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute data.  The turning point has now been confirmed.

If you would like, I could keep talking about the bad economic news for a couple thousand more words.  U.S. credit card debt has just surpassed the one trillion dollar mark, a major crisis has arrived for the U.S. auto industry, thousands of retail stores are closing all over America, our pension funds are underfunded by trillions of dollars, and the U.S. national debt is now sitting at a grand total that is just shy of 20 trillion dollars.  The only reason that we have not crossed that 20 trillion dollar mark yet is because the debt ceiling deadline has already passed, and that is another thing that Congress needs to address very quickly if they want to avoid a major crisis.

Needless to say, the last thing that we need at this point is another war or two on top of everything else.

Unfortunately, a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson is heading toward North Korea right at this moment, and Russia and Iran are promising to “respond with force” to any new U.S. attacks on Syria.  I will be writing quite a bit more about all of this on End Of The American Dream later today.

Those that were hoping for some sort of “reprieve” under Donald Trump can forget all about that now.  The pace of global events is really starting to accelerate, and the U.S. is already in a more precarious position than it was at any point in 2016.

The clouds have been building for a very long time, and now the storm is almost upon us.  I hope that you have been getting prepared, because a day of reckoning for the United States of America is closing in very rapidly.

The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: 12 Signs That A Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived For The U.S. Auto Industry

In 2008, subprime mortgages almost single-handedly took down the entire financial system, and now a new subprime crisis is here.  In recent years, the auto industry has been able to boost sales by aggressively pushing people into auto loans that they cannot afford.  In particular, auto loans made to consumers with subprime credit have been accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of the market.  Unfortunately, when you make loans to people that should not be getting them, eventually a lot of those loans are going to start to go bad, and that is precisely what is happening now.  Meanwhile, automakers and dealers are starting to panic as sales have begun to fall and used car prices have started to crash.  If you work in the auto industry, you might remember how horrible the last recession was, and this new downturn could eventually turn out to be even worse.  The following are 12 signs that a day of reckoning has arrived for the U.S. auto industry…

#1 Seven out of the eight largest automakers in the United States fell short of their sales projections in March.

#2 Overall, U.S. auto sales so far in 2017 have been described as a “disaster” despite record spending on consumer incentives by automakers.

#3 Dealer inventories are now at the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  Why this is so troubling is because there are a whole lot of unsold vehicles just sitting there doing nothing, and this is becoming a major financial problem for many dealers.

#4 It now takes an average of 74 days before a dealer is able to sell a new vehicle.  This number is also the highest that it has been since the last financial crisis.

#5 Not only is Ford projecting that sales will fall this year, they are also projecting that sales will fall in 2018 as well.

#6 Used vehicle prices are already starting to decline dramatically

The used-vehicle price index from the National Automobile Dealers Association posted a 3.8% decline in February compared to the prior month. NADA also said wholesale prices fell 1.6%.

#7 As I discussed yesterday, Morgan Stanley is projecting that used car prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next four or five years.

#8 Right now, more than a million Americans are behind on their payments on their auto loans.  This is something that has not happened since the last financial crisis.

#9 In 2017, U.S. consumers are more “underwater” on their auto loans than they have ever been before.

#10 Subprime auto loan losses have soared to their highest level since the last financial crisis, and the delinquency rate on those loans has risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  By now, I am sure that you are starting to notice a pattern in these data points.

#11 At this moment, approximately $200,000,000,000 has been loaned out by auto lenders to consumers with subprime credit.

#12 Just like with subprime mortgages in the run up to the last financial crisis, subprime auto loans have been bundled together and sold as “securities” to investors.  And just like last time around, this has turned out to be a recipe for disaster

Many auto loans, including those considered subprime, are securitized and sold to investors. But Morgan Stanley recently reported that the share of auto securities tied to “deep subprime” loans – those given to borrowers with a FICO credit score below 550 — has risen from 5.1 percent in 2010 to 32.5 percent today. It said defaults on those bonds have risen significantly in the past five years.

Almost a quarter of the more than $1.1 trillion in U.S. auto loan debt is owed by subprime borrowers, and delinquency rates have hit their highest point in seven years.

In the old days, you could always count on the U.S. auto industry to bounce back eventually because of the economic strength of average U.S. consumers.

Unfortunately, the middle class in America is being systematically hollowed out by long-term economic trends that our leaders in Washington D.C. have consistently ignored.

We have become a nation of economic extremes.  There are more millionaires in this country than ever before, but meanwhile poverty is exploding in communities all over the country.

If you live in a prosperous area, things may be going great where you live for the moment.  But as Gallup has discovered, an all-time record high percentage of Americans are worrying “a great deal” about hunger and homelessness these days…

Over the past two years, an average of 67% of lower-income U.S. adults, up from 51% from 2010-2011, have worried “a great deal” about the problem of hunger and homelessness in the country. Concern has also increased among middle- and upper-income Americans, but they still worry far less than do lower-income Americans.

You may have plenty of money in your bank account, and so for you hunger and homelessness are not very big issues.  But for those that are just scraping by from month to month, having enough food and a place to sleep at night are top priorities.  Here is more from Gallup

Americans at all income levels are expressing greater concern about hunger and homelessness, and it is the top worry among lower-income Americans, who are most likely to struggle to pay for adequate food and housing.

In addition to the woes of the auto industry, the retail industry is going through the worst wave of store closings in modern American history, pension funds are melting down all over the nation, and stocks are primed for a crash of epic proportions.  Things are lining up just right for the kind of scenario that I laid out in The Beginning Of The End, but unfortunately most people are not listening to the warnings.

The same thing happened just before the great financial crisis of 2008.  All of the warning signs were there well in advance, and many of the experts were warning about what was coming as early as 2005.  But because it did not happen immediately, a lot of people greatly mocked the warnings.

But then the fall of 2008 arrived and all of the mockers suddenly went silent.

As you can see from the numbers that I shared above, a new crisis has already arrived.

The only question now is how bad it will ultimately turn out to be.

As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

What Is America Going To Look Like When Stocks, Home Prices And Even Used Cars All Crash By At Least 50 Percent?

Have you ever thought about what comes after the bubble?  In 2008 we got a short preview of what life will be like, but most Americans seem to have come to the conclusion that the last financial crisis was just a minor bump in the road toward endless economic prosperity.  But of course the truth is that the ridiculously high debt-fueled standard of living that we are enjoying now is not sustainable, and after this bubble bursts it will be an extremely painful adjustment for our society.

Since the last financial crisis, the U.S. national debt has nearly doubled, corporate debt has doubled, stock valuations have reached exceedingly ridiculous extremes, the student loan debt bubble has surpassed a trillion dollars, we are facing the largest unfunded pension crisis in U.S. history, and in many parts of the country (particularly the west coast) we are facing a housing bubble that is even worse than the one that burst in 2007 and 2008.

And even with all of these bubbles, U.S. GDP growth has been absolutely anemic.  Even if you believe the grossly manipulated numbers that the federal government puts out, the U.S. economy grew at a “miserably low” rate of just 1.6 percent in 2016…

In terms of GDP, the fourth quarter was revised up slightly, but there were adjustments for prior quarters, and overall GDP growth for the year 2016 remained at a miserably low 1.6%. We’ve come to call this the “stall speed.” It’s difficult for the US economy to stay aloft at this slow speed. As Q4 gutted any hopes for a strong finish, GDP growth in 2016 matched the worst year since the Great Recession.

And corporate profits, despite a stock market that has been surging for years, are even worse. A lot worse. They’ve declined for years. In fact, they declined for years during the prior two stock market bubbles, the dotcom bubble and the pre-Financial-Crisis bubble. Both ended in crashes.

Things have continued to get even worse early in 2016.  At this point, it is being projected that U.S. GDP will grow at an annual rate of just 0.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017.

So anyone that tries to tell you that the U.S. economy is in good shape is simply not being honest with you.

But even though things don’t look great now, they are going to look far, far worse after the biggest debt bubble in human history bursts.

For example, what do you think that America will look like after half of all stock market wealth disappears?  In a recent note to his clients, John P. Hussman stated that his team is projecting that by the end of this current market cycle “roughly half of U.S. equity market capitalization – $17 trillion in paper wealth – will simply vanish”.

And of course that projection lines up perfectly with what I have been saying for quite a while.  In order for key measures of stock market valuation (such as CAPE, etc.) to return to their long-term averages, stocks are going to have to fall at least 40 to 50 percent from their current levels.

As this coming crisis unfolds, other asset classes will experience astounding downturns as well.  This week, Morgan Stanley (one of the too big to fail banks) released a report that said that used car prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next several years…

For months we’ve been talking about the massive lending bubble propping up the U.S. auto market. Now, noting many of the same concerns that we’ve highlighted repeatedly, Morgan Stanley’s auto team, led by Adam Jonas, has just issued a report detailing why they think used car prices could crash by up to 50% over the next 4-5 years.

Housing prices are primed for a major plunge as well.  This is especially true on the west coast where tech money and foreign purchasers from Asia have pushed home values up to dizzying levels.  Half a million dollars will be lucky to get you a “starter home” in San Francisco, and it was being reported that one poor techie living there was paying $1400 a month just to live in a closet.  Many believe that some cities on the west coast will be quite fortunate if home values only go down by 50 percent during the coming crash.

Everywhere you look there are bubbles.  In a recent piece, Daniel Lang pointed out some more of them

  • Eric Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, recently made a startling tacit admission. We may be in the midst of yet another real estate bubble. Major financial institutions in this country are in possession of over $14 trillion worth of residential real estate loans. That’s well over $40,000 for every man woman and child in America.
  • Low interest rates have fueled a bubble in subprime auto loans, and that bubble appears to be reaching its limits. There are now over 1 million ordinary and subprime auto loans that are delinquent, a number that hasn’t been this high since 2009.
  • There is now well over a trillion dollars worth of student loan debt in this country; much of it owned by low income families. And there’s little hope that these students will ever see a return on their investment. That’s why at least 27% of student loans are in default. While more than one in four students are in default now, that number was one in nine a decade ago. And if current trends continue, there could be $3.3 trillion of student loan debt by the end of the next decade.

At some point the imbalances become just too great and the system collapses in upon itself.

In other words, we are heading for a massive implosion.

And once the implosion happens, people are going to go absolutely nuts.  Anger and frustration are already rising to the boiling point all over the country, and it isn’t going to take much to push millions of Americans completely over the edge.

In a recent interview with Greg Hunter, author James Rickards warned that when things get really bad in America we could actually see what he refers to as “money riots”

So, could we be facing a “Mad Max” world if the financial system totally crashes? Rickards says, “In ‘Road to Ruin,’ I talk about what I call the money riots.  There is a lot of reasons for rioting.  When you start shutting banks and the stock exchange and they say you can’t get your money, it’s only temporary, trust us, people will go out and start to burn down banks.  The government is ready for that also with emergency response and martial law. . . . Governments don’t go down without a fight. . . . You can see the shutdown coming because they will try to buy time until they come up with a solution, whether it’s gold, Special Drawing Rights (SDR), guarantees or whatever it might be.  There are only two or three possibilities here, but all of them will take time, and they will have to shut down the system. . . . People will not sit for that.  So, that means people will riot.  They’ll burn down banks.  They will smash windows, but what is the reaction to that?  The answer is martial law, militarized police, actual military units and you get something that looks like fascism pretty quickly.”

I very much agree with his assessment.

All it is going to take is another major financial crisis and this nation will go completely and utterly insane.

Unfortunately, all of our long-term economic problems have proceeded to get a lot worse since the last time around, and so when things fall apart this time we will likely be looking at a scenario that is absolutely unprecedented in American history.

A lot of people have become very complacent out there these days, but that is a huge mistake.

Just because a crisis is delayed does not mean that it is canceled.  And because our leaders have kept making this economic bubble larger and larger, that just means that the coming crisis will be even more painful than it otherwise could have been.

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