18 Times The Fed Has Gone Through A Rate Hiking Cycle, And 18 Times It Has Caused A Huge Stock Market Decline And/Or A Recession

Since 1913, the Federal Reserve has engaged in 18 distinct interest rate hiking campaigns, and in every single one of those instances the end result was a large stock market decline, a recession, or both.  Now we are in the 19th rate tightening cycle since 1913, but many of the experts are insisting that things will somehow be different this time.  They assure us that the U.S. economy will continue to grow and that stock prices will continue to soar.  Of course the truth is that if something happens 18 times in a row, there is a really, really good chance that it will happen on the 19th time too.  For years I have been trying to get people to understand that our country has been on an endless roller coaster ride ever since the Fed was created back in 1913.  Things can seem quite pleasant when the economy is on one of the upswings, but the downswings can be extremely painful.

It was economist Lance Roberts that pointed out this correlation between rate hiking cycles and economic troubles.  When I came across his most recent article, it really got my attention

A sustained interest rate hiking campaign, as undertaken by the Fed, has always resulted in negative stock market returns.

Always. Not usually, not might-be-correlated-to. Always. As in, 18 out of 18 times. Until now. When we’ve had the single highest percentage increase in history (93.33% peak to trough, so far).

To support his claims, he posted this chart

So far, however, there hasn’t been a huge stock market drop or a recession during this rate hiking cycle.

Has something changed?

Is the 19th time going to be fundamentally different?

Roberts believes that the unprecedented intervention by the Fed that we have seen in recent years that has fueled corporate buybacks has successfully “delayed the inevitable stock market correction”

So what gives? Of course, it’s the Fed. Having kept interest rates near zero for years on end and having filled corporate coffers with super cheap debt used to fuel market-bubble-sustaining corporate buybacks, the Fed has delayed the inevitable stock market correction.

I definitely agree with Roberts – a colossal stock market correction is inevitably coming.

And the warning signs are all around us.  As I have discussed so many times before, junk bonds are often an early warning sign for a major financial crisis, and it is extremely interesting to note that it looks like Deutsche Bank is planning a “fire sale” of their energy junk bonds.  The following analysis comes from Zero Hedge

Bloomberg reports that Deutsche is planning to sell the loan book as a whole and has marketed it to North American and European peers, said one of the people. The portfolio is expected to sell for par value, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly; good luck with that!

The bank’s energy business is expected to wrap up on June 30, one of the people said. The bank has been an active lender in the energy space in the past year, participating in the financing of companies including Peabody Energy Corp. and Coronado Australian Holdings Pty., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

So to summarize: Moody’s is warning that when the economy weakens we will see an avalanche of defaults like we haven’t seen before; Corporate debt-to-GDP and investor risk appetite is reminding a lot of veterans of previous credit peaks; and now the most desperate bank in the world is offering its whole junk energy debt book in a firesale… just as high yield issuance starts to slump.

Wow.

To me, that is one of the strongest indications yet that things are about to take a major turn for the worse for the global financial system.

And even former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke is sounding quite pessimistic these days.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article entitled “Bernanke Says U.S. Economy Faces a ‘Wile E. Coyote’ Moment in 2020”

The stimulus “is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next year, and then in 2020 Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff,” Bernanke said, referring to the hapless character in the Road Runner cartoon series.

When you read that quote, alarm bells should have been going off in your head.

If his forecast is accurate, that means that the U.S. economy’s Wile E. Coyote moment will come just in time for the 2020 election

The timing of Bernanke’s possible slowdown would line up badly for Trump, who has called the current economy the best ever and faces reelection in late-2020.

Wouldn’t that be convenient for the elite?

U.S. voters tend to be extremely influenced by the performance of the economy, and so a major economic downturn would not bode well for Trump’s chances.

Similarly, if a major crisis erupts during the second half of this year, it will probably mean big problems for Republicans in November.  Timing is everything in politics, and when the next crisis comes most voters won’t even consider the fact that it had been building for a very, very long time.  All they will care about is who is in office at the time.

But for the moment, most of the “experts” are assuring us that things will be rosy for the foreseeable future.  For example, a couple of prominent analysts over at Goldman Sachs are saying that tech stock prices are likely to continue to rise

“Unlike the technology mania of the 1990s, most of this success can be explained by strong fundamentals, revenues and earnings rather than speculation about the future,” strategists Peter Oppenheimer and Guillaume Jaisson wrote in a note. “Given that valuations in aggregate are not very stretched, we do not expect the dominant size and contribution of returns in stock markets to end any time soon.”

And the optimists will continue to be right up until the moment that the bubble finally bursts.

Whenever the Federal Reserve starts raising rates, it always results in a bad ending.

This time will be no different, and anyone that is trying to convince you otherwise is just being delusional.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Why Is The Mainstream Media Suddenly Buzzing About “Another Global Financial Crisis”?

All of a sudden, the mainstream media is starting to sound a lot like The Economic Collapse Blog.  Throughout the Obama years, the mainstream media in the United States always seemed extremely hesitant to suggest that difficult economic times may be ahead, but now talk of “another global financial crisis” seems to be all over the place.  Is this because they truly believe that one is coming, or is it just another angle that they can use to attack Donald Trump?  In any event, it is undeniable that evidence is mounting that big trouble could be right around the corner.  European financial markets are already in meltdown mode, a major international trade war has just erupted, the worst “retail apocalypse” in modern U.S. history is accelerating, and our debt problems continue to grow with each passing day.  Normally the mainstream news is much more subdued than I am about all of this stuff, and so I was very surprised to see reporter James Pethokoukis come out with an article entitled “Here comes another global financial crisis”

Investors are increasingly worried that an escalating political crisis in Italy could lead to a populist, euroskeptic government taking power. As a result, there’s rising uncertainty about whether the country might eventually abandon the euro currency zone or default on its giant debt pile. To make things worse, the Trump administration continues to toy with the idea of a trade war with Europe and China. That would be the last thing the global economy would need if the Italian situation deteriorates further. Debt crises and trade wars are a toxic combination.

And remember, this comes just days after George Soros ominously declared that “we may be heading into another major financial crisis.”

So what has changed?

Certainly, what is happening in Italy is starting to get everyone’s attention.  Here is more from James Pethokoukis

Italy is the eurozone’s third-largest economy, 10 times the size of Greece’s. It also has the world’s third-largest sovereign debt market, some $2.7 trillion. Only Greece has a higher public debt-to-GDP ratio in the eurozone. My AEI colleague Desmond Lachman, a former International Monetary Fund official and Wall Street emerging market strategist, argues that Italy’s troubles have the potential to roil the global economy much like the 2008 Lehman bankruptcy. (The 10th anniversary of “Free Market Day” is coming!) America wouldn’t be spared.

And it isn’t just Italy.  Financial institutions all over Europe are deeply troubled, and that includes the largest bank in Germany.

On Thursday, Deutsche Bank’s stock price crashed to an all-time low.  This caused such a stir that the bank was actually forced to issue a statement about it.

I have been writing about the troubles at Deutsche Bank for a very long time.  When they finally go down for good, it is going to create a “Lehman Brothers moment” for the entire planet.  This week, there were two key revelations that led to the dramatic stock price decline.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

This came after leaked double-whammy revelations the morning: One reported by the Financial Times, that the FDIC had put Deutsche Bank’s US operations on its infamous “Problem Bank List”; and the other one, reported by the Wall Street Journal, that the Fed, as main bank regulator, had walloped the bank last year with a “troubled condition” designation, one of the lowest rankings on its five-level scoring system.

Meanwhile, the other major factor that has investors starting to panic is the beginning of an international trade war.

It takes a great deal to get the Canadians upset, but they have already retaliated against the tariffs that the Trump administration just imposed on them…

Canada will retaliate against new U.S. tariffs by imposing its own trade barriers on U.S. steel, aluminum and other products, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday.

Freeland said Canada plans to slap dollar-for-dollar tariffs on the U.S. The Nafta partner’s proposed import taxes would also cover whiskey, orange juice and other food products alongside the steel and aluminum tariffs.

And it is expected that we will see retaliation from the Chinese, the Europeans and Mexico shortly.  All of this is causing a great deal of consternation on Capitol Hill, and it could mean big trouble for Republicans in November.

At the same time all of this is going on, this week we learned that 13 of Bank of America’s 19 “bear market indicators” have now been triggered.  The following summary comes from Zero Hedge

Specifically, the following indicators have now been triggered, with the latest 2 bolded:

  • Bear markets have always been preceded by the Fed hiking rates by at least 75bp from the cycle trough
  • Minimum returns in the last 12m of a bull market have been 11%
  • Minimum returns in the last 24m of a bull market have been 30%
  • 9m price return (top decile) vs. S&P 500 equalweight index
  • Consensus projected long-term growth (top decile) vs. S&P 500 equalweight index
  • We have yet to see a bear market when the 100 level had not been breached in the prior 24m
  • Similarly, we have yet to see a bear market when the 20 level had not been breached in the prior 6m
  • Companies beating on both EPS & Sales outperformed the S&P 500 by less than 1ppt within the last three quarters
  • While not always a major change, aggregate growth expectations tend to rise within the last 18m of bull markets
  • Trailing PE + CPI y/y% >20 in the prior 12m
  • Based on 1- and 3-month estimate revision trends; see footnote for more detail
  • Trailing PE + CPI (y/y%) >20 within the last 12m
  • In the preceding 12m of all but one (1961) bull market peak, the market has pulled back by 5%+ at least once

And here are the 6 indicators that have yet to ring the proverbial bell.

  • Each of the last three bear markets has started when a net positive % of banks were tightening C&I lending standards
  • Companies with S&P Quality ratings of B or lower outperform stocks rated B+ or higher
  • Forward 12m earnings yield (top decile) vs. S&P 500 equalweight index
  • A contrarian measure of sell side equity optimism; sell signal trigged in the prior 6m
  • A contrarian measure of buy side optimism
  • Does not always lead or catch every peak and all but one inversion (1970) has coincided with a bear market within 24m

Like so many others, I’ve got a bad feeling about all of this.

And so does best-selling author James Rickards.  He seems quite convinced that we are heading for the largest market collapse that anyone has ever seen

Each crisis is bigger than the one before. In complex dynamic systems such as capital markets, risk is an exponential function of system scale. Increasing market scale correlates with exponentially larger market collapses.

This means that the larger size of the system implies a future global liquidity crisis and market panic far larger than the Panic of 2008.

Today, systemic risk is more dangerous than ever. Too-big-to-fail banks are bigger than ever, have a larger percentage of the total assets of the banking system and have much larger derivatives books.

It has been 10 years since 2008, and conditions are definitely ripe for another great financial crisis.

Stay frosty my friends, because it looks like events are going to accelerate greatly in the months ahead.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

12 Indications That The Next Major Global Economic Crisis Could Be Just Around The Corner

There have not been so many trouble signs for the global economy in a very long time.  Analysts are sounding the alarm about junk bond defaults, the smart money is getting out of stocks at an astounding rate, mortgage rates are absolutely skyrocketing, and Europe is already facing a full blown financial meltdown.  Of course expectations that another global economic crisis will happen among the general population are probably at an all-time low right now, but the reality of the matter is that we are probably closer to a new one erupting than at any point since the last one in 2008.  Since the last financial crisis our long-term debt problems have just continued to grow, and there are many that believe that the next crisis will actually be far worse than what we experienced ten years ago.

So how bad are things at this moment?

The following are 12 indications that the next major global economic crisis could be just around the corner…

#1 The “smart money” is getting out of stocks at a rate that we haven’t seen since just before the financial crisis of 2008.

#2 Moody’s is warning that a “particularly large wave” of junk bond defaults is coming.  And as I have written about so many times before, junk bonds are often an early warning indicator for a major financial crisis.

#3 According to the FDIC, a closely watched category known as “assets of problem banks” more than tripled during the first quarter of 2018.  What that means is that some really big banks are now officially in “problem” territory.

#4 U.S. Treasury bonds are having the worst start to a year since the Great Depression.

#5 Mortgage interest rates just hit a 7 year high, and they have been rising at the fastest pace in nearly 50 years.  This is going to be absolutely crippling for the real estate and housing industries.

#6 Retail industry debt defaults have hit a record high in 2018.

#7 We are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings ever.

#8 The two largest economies on the entire globe are on the verge of starting an international trade war.

#9 The 9th largest economy in the world, Italy, is in the midst of yet another financial meltdown.  In fact, this one appears to be the worst yet, and there are fears that it could spread to other areas of the eurozone.

#10 Italian banking stocks crashed really hard this week.

#11 Italian two year bond yields are the highest that they have been since the crisis of 2014.

#12 German banking giant Deutsche Bank just announced that it will be cutting another 7,000 jobs as it “seeks to turn the page on years of losses”.  Those of you that have followed my work for a long time know that I have written extensively about Deutsche Bank, and it really is amazing that it has survived for this long.  If Deutsche Bank fails in 2018, it will essentially be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for the entire planet.

The mainstream media in the United States almost entirely ignores Europe, but I believe that what is going on over there is the key right now.

Italy is a financial basket case, and Europe isn’t going to be able to handle a complete and total Italian financial collapse.  If you will remember, Europe could barely handle what happened in Greece, and the Italian economy is many times the size of Greece.

The can has been kicked down the road several times before on the Italian crisis, but now we are getting to the point where it simply won’t be able to be kicked down the road any further.

And once things start unraveling over in Europe, we will be deeply affected in the United States as well.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever before, and at this point we are even more vulnerable than we were just prior to the crisis of 2008.

When this thing breaks loose, it won’t matter who is in the White House, who is in Congress or who is running the Federal Reserve.

When this bubble bursts there is nothing that anyone will be able to do to stop it.

Global central banks have been able to buy a few extra years of time by engaging in unprecedented levels of intervention, but now they are almost out of ammunition and events are beginning to escalate at a very frightening pace.

We shall see if they can pull another rabbit out of a hat in 2018, but I wouldn’t count on it…

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.  He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Why America Is Heading Straight Toward The Worst Debt Crisis In History

Today, America is nearly 70 trillion dollars in debt, and that debt is shooting higher at an exponential rate.  Usually most of the focus in on the national debt, which is now 21 trillion dollars and rising, but when you total all forms of debt in our society together it comes to a grand total just short of 70 trillion dollars.  Many people seem to believe that the debt imbalances that existed prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 have been solved, but that is not the case at all.  We are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in history, and with each passing day that mountain of debt just keeps on getting bigger and bigger.  It simply is not mathematically possible for debt to keep on growing at a pace that is many times greater than GDP growth, and at some point this absurd bubble will come to an abrupt end.  So those that are forecasting many years of prosperity to come are simply being delusional.  Our current standard of living is very heavily fueled by debt, and at some point we are going to hit a wall.

Let’s talk about consumer debt first.  Excluding mortgage debt, consumer debt is projected to hit the 4 trillion dollar mark by the end of the year

Americans are in a borrowing mood, and their total tab for consumer debt could reach a record $4 trillion by the end of 2018.

That’s according to LendingTree, a loan comparison website, which analyzed data from the Federal Reserve on nonmortgage debts including credit cards, and auto, personal and student loans.

Americans owe more than 26 percent of their annual income to this debt. That’s up from 22 percent in 2010. It’s also higher than debt levels during the mid-2000s when credit availability soared.

We have never seen this level of consumer debt before in all of U.S. history.  Just a few days ago I wrote about how tens of millions of Americans are living on the edge financially, and this is yet more evidence to back up that claim.

Right now, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on auto loans, and we are clearly in the greatest auto loan debt bubble that we have ever seen.

Americans also owe more than a trillion dollars on their credit cards, and credit card delinquency rates are rising.  In fact, in some ways what we witnessed during the first quarter of 2018 was quite reminiscent of the peak of the last financial crisis

In the first quarter, the delinquency rate on credit-card loan balances at commercial banks other than the largest 100 – so at the 4,788 smaller banks in the US – spiked in to 5.9%. This exceeds the peak during the Financial Crisis. The credit-card charge-off rate at these banks spiked to 8%. This is approaching the peak during the Financial Crisis.

The student loan debt bubble has also surpassed a trillion dollars, and the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth

Despite economic and stock market gains over the past nine years, many young adults are still struggling to get ahead in their financial lives and, in some ways, things may have actually gotten worse.

Americans age 25 to 34 with college degrees and student debt have a median net wealth of negative $1,900, according to a report analyzing 2016 Federal Reserve data released Thursday by Young Invincibles, a young adult advocacy group. That’s a drop of $9,000 from 2013, YI’s analysis found.

Meanwhile, corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis.  Thousands of companies are so highly leveraged that even a slight economic downturn could completely wipe them out.

State and local government debt levels are also at record highs, but nobody seems to care.  And if we never have another recession everything might work out okay.

The biggest offender of all, of course, is the United States federal government.  We have been adding about a trillion dollars a year to the national debt since Barack Obama first entered the White House, and Goldman Sachs is projecting that number will surpass 2 trillion dollars by 2028

The fiscal outlook for the United States “is not good,” according to Goldman Sachs, and could pose a threat to the country’s economic security during the next recession.

According to forecasts from the bank’s chief economist, the federal deficit will increase from $825 billion (or 4.1 percent of gross domestic product) to $1.25 trillion (5.5 percent of GDP) by 2021. And by 2028, the bank expects the number to balloon to $2.05 trillion (7 percent of GDP).

Our national debt has been growing at an exponential rate for decades, and because total disaster has not struck yet many people seem to believe that we can keep on doing this.

But the truth is that it simply is not possible.  There is only so much debt that a society can take on before the entire system implodes.

So how close are we to that point?

The following chart comes from Charles Hugh Smith, and it shows the exponential rise in overall debt levels that has taken us to the brink of nearly 70 trillion dollars in debt…

And this next chart from the SRSrocco Report shows how our rate of overall debt growth has compared to our rate of GDP growth…

We are literally on a path to national suicide.

Whether it happens next month, next year or five years from now, it is inevitable that we are going to slam into a brick wall of financial reality.

For the moment, the only way that we can continue to enjoy our current debt-fueled standard of living is to continue increasing our debt bubble at an exponential rate.

But that can only go on for so long, and when the party ends we are going to experience the greatest debt crisis in history.

Today, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt, and that is more than double median household income.  And if we were to include each household’s share of corporate debt, local government debt, state government debt and federal government debt, that number would be many times higher.

All of this debt will never be repaid.  Ultimately there will come a day when the system will completely collapse under the weight of so much debt, and most Americans are completely unaware that such a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.  He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Federal Reserve: More Than 4 Out Of 10 Americans Do Not Even Have Enough Money To Cover An Unexpected $400 Expense

The U.S. economy is not doing nearly as well as the mainstream media would have you believe.  A few days ago I wrote about a new study that discovered that nearly 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”, and just yesterday I discussed the fact that we are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings ever.  Now we have just gotten new numbers from the Federal Reserve which are absolutely staggering.  According to the Fed’s latest study, more than 4 out of every 10 Americans do not even have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the funds or selling something.  In essence, nearly half the country has no significant financial cushion whatsoever.  So what are all of those people going to do when the next economic crisis hits?

Sadly, living on the edge has become a daily reality for tens of millions of Americans.  The following is from a CNN article about the Fed’s new report…

Can you cover an unexpected $400 expense?

Four in ten Americans can’t, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Board. Those who don’t have the cash on hand say they’d have to cover it by borrowing or selling something.

According to the report, the exact figure is 41 percent.

41 percent of all U.S. adults cannot cover an unexpected $400 expense.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

I am sorry – if you can’t come up with $400 right now without borrowing it, you are broke.  And as of right now that is the financial condition of 41 percent of all Americans.

Amazingly, the Federal Reserve is actually trying to spin this report as good news

“This year’s survey finds that rising levels of employment are translating into improved financial conditions for many but not all Americans,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said.

Really?

Fortunately, there are others that are seeing right through the spin and are telling it like it is

“The finding that four-in-ten adults couldn’t cover an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money is troubling,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “Nothing is more fundamental to achieving financial stability than having savings that can be drawn upon when the unexpected occurs.”

And that wasn’t the only bad news in the report.

Here are some more incredible facts from the report as summarized by Zero Hedge

  • One-third of those with varying income, or 10 percent of all adults, say they struggled to pay their bills at least once in the past year due to varying income
  • Over three-fourths of whites were at least doing okay financially in 2017 versus less than two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics.
  • Over a quarter of young adults ages 25 to 29, and slightly more than 1 in 10 in their 30s, live with their parents.
  • Over two-fifths of young adults in their late 20s provide financial assistance to their parents
  • Nearly 25 percent of young adults under age 30, and 10 percent of all adults, receive some form of financial support from someone living outside their home.
  • While 8 in 10 adults living in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods are satisfied with the overall quality of their community, only 6 in 10 living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are satisfied
  • Seven in 10 low-income renters spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent

And on top of all of that, here is one more really alarming number to chew on

Even without an unexpected expense, the report reveals, 22% of adults expected to forgo payment on some of their bills in the month of the survey. “One-third of those who are not able to pay all their bills say that their rent, mortgage, or utility bills will be left at least partially unpaid.”

When 22 percent of the people in your country cannot pay their bills this month, that is called a crisis.

Yes, we are hopeful for better things for the U.S. economy under President Trump.  But the current blind optimism that we are witnessing out there right now is simply absurd

A new poll shows an overwhelming number of Americans believe President Trump is playing a positive role in the current state of the economy.

The CBS survey reveals almost 70% of respondents think the president is –either mostly or somewhat– responsible for the current economic climate.

Additionally, around 65% of Americans believe the economy is doing well, compared to under 10% who think it’s doing ‘very poorly.’

Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. economy has not had a full year of 3 percent GDP growth since the middle of the Bush administration.

This is the longest stretch of below 3 percent growth in all of U.S. history by a very wide margin.

So please don’t try to tell me that the U.S. economy is “doing well” until we can get back above that 3 percent number.

The sad truth is that we have been in a very long period of economic stagnation, and during this period wealth is being increasingly concentrated at the very top of the pyramid and the middle class is being systematically eviscerated.

Tens of millions of families are just barely scraping by from month to month, and when an unexpected emergency happens that is often enough to push a lot of families completely over the edge.

In fact, my good friend Daisy Luther recently wrote about how this actually happened to her own family…

Before my daughter’s illness, I was doing everything “right.”

  • I had enough money in my emergency fund to carry me through 3 lean months
  • I had numerous credit cards with zero balances
  • My only debt was my car
  • My kids are going to school without student loans
  • I opted out of health insurance because it was more financially practical to pay cash (and I still agree with that decision)

Everything was great.

Until it wasn’t.

I am sure that many of you can identify with Daisy.

Most of us have had a life-altering event cause serious financial stress at some point.  And close to half the country is completely unprepared for such an event.

For years, I have been strongly encouraging my readers to build up their emergency funds, because one thing that you can count on in life is that the unexpected will happen.  Having a good financial cushion is one of the best things that you can possibly do for yourself and your family financially, and if you haven’t gotten started on that yet, I would urge you to do so as soon as possible.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.  He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

 

77 Million Square Feet Of Retail Space And Counting – America’s Retail Apocalypse Is Spiraling Out Of Control In 2018

In 2017 we absolutely shattered the all-time record for retail store closings in a single year, and this year it looks like we are going to shatter the record once again.  In fact, there are some that are projecting that up to 9,000 retail stores could close by the time that we get to the end of this calendar year.  Already, the amount of retail space that has shut down is simply jaw-dropping.  If you total up all of the retail store closings that have been announced so far in 2018, it accounts for 77 million square feet of retail space.  Let that number sink in for a bit.  Many shopping centers and strip malls around the country already have a post-apocalyptic feel to them, and more “space available” signs are going up with each passing day.  And in case you are tempted to think that I am making this figure up, here it is straight from Bloomberg

At last count, U.S. store closures announced this year reached a staggering 77 million square feet, according to data on national and regional chains compiled by CoStar Group Inc. That means retailers are well on their way to surpassing the record 105 million square feet announced for closure in all of 2017.

In the end, we could shatter the all-time record that was established just last year by 20 or 30 million square feet.

At moments such as this, the phrase “retail apocalypse” doesn’t really seem to fit the gravity of what is actually taking place.

And unfortunately for the retail industry, it doesn’t appear that this crisis is going to end any time soon.  Here is more from Bloomberg

And with shifts to internet shopping and retailer debt woes continuing, there’s no indication the shakeout will end anytime soon. “A huge amount of retail real estate in the U.S. is going to meet its demise,” says James Corl, managing director and head of real estate at private equity firm Siguler Guff & Co. Property owners will “try to re-let it as a gun range or a church—or it’s going to go back to being a cornfield.”

Will retail real estate be the trigger for the next great debacle on Wall Street?

Some people think so.

A lot of major retail projects are going to go belly up, and somebody is going to be left holding the bag.

And the warning signs are definitely there.  In fact, retail sector debt defaults set a brand new record during the first quarter of 2018…

Financial stress in the retail industry is at a historic high.

Moody’s said in a report on Tuesday that retail sector defaults hit a record high during the first three months of 2018 as the rise of e-commerce and decline of malls continues to eat away at profits.

But the mainstream media is telling us that the U.S. economy is in great shape, and so everything is going to work out okay, right?

Sadly, nothing has changed regarding the long-term trends that are eating away at our economy like a cancer.  Just a few days ago I wrote about a brand new report that found that nearly 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.  The real reason why our retailers are in decline is because the middle class is being systematically destroyed.  Once upon a time the middle class had plenty of discretionary income, but now the middle class is disappearing right in front of our eyes, but most of us are in such a state of denial that we won’t even admit what is happening.

Hopefully as stores continue to close by the hundreds people will start waking up.  The following is a list of just some of the major retailers that are closing stores in 2018

  • Abercrombie & Fitch: 60 more stores are charted to close
  • Aerosoles: Only 4 of their 88 stores are definitely remaining open
  • American Apparel: They’ve filed for bankruptcy and all their stores have closed (or will soon)
  • BCBG: 118 stores have closed
  • Bebe: Bebe is history and all 168 stores have closed
  • Bon-Ton: They’ve filed for Chapter 11 and will be closing 48 stores.
  • The Children’s Place: They plan to close hundreds of stores by 2020 and are going digital.
  • CVS: They closed 70 stores but thousands still remain viable.
  • Foot Locker: They’re closing 110 underperforming stores shortly.
  • Guess: 60 stores will bite the dust this year.
  • Gymboree: A whopping 350 stores will close their doors for good this year
  • HHGregg: All 220 stores will be closed this year after the company filed for bankruptcy.
  • J. Crew: They’ll be closing 50 stores instead of the original 20 they had announced.
  • J.C. Penney: They’ve closed 138 stores and plan to turn all the remaining ones into toy stores.
  • The Limited: All 250 retail locations have been closed and they’ve gone digital in an effort to remain in business.
  • Macy’s: 7 more stores will soon close and more than 5000 employees will be laid off.
  • Michael Kors: They’ll close 125 stores this year.
  • Payless: They’ll be closing a whopping 800 stores this year after recently filing for bankruptcy.
  • Radio Shack: More than 1000 stores have been shut down this year, leaving them with only 70 stores nationwide.
  • Rue 21: They’ll be closing 400 stores this year.
  • Sears/Kmart: They’ve closed over 300 locations.
  • ToysRUs: They’ve filed for bankruptcy but at this point, have not announced store closures, and have in fact, stated their stores will remain open.
  • Wet Seal: This place is history – all 171 stores will soon be closed.

A lot of people are blaming online retailers such as Amazon.com for the decline of brick and mortar stores, and without a doubt online sales are rising, but they still account for less than 10 percent of the entire retail industry.

And it isn’t just retailers that are closing locations.

Personally, I was greatly saddened when it was announced that Subway was planning on shutting down 500 locations in the United States…

Feeling the need to improve its store fleet amid intense competition in the sandwich industry, Subway is planning to close 500 U.S. locations this year, according to Bloomberg News.

Subway restaurants are small in size, but ubiquitous. The chain is the largest in the U.S. by store count of any quick-service chain with nearly 26,000 locations, well above the 14,000 McDonald’s (mcd, +0.29%) restaurants in this country. This has long been a point of pride for the company.

I have always been a big fan of Subway, and if they ever closed my hometown location I would be seriously distressed.

And banks are closing locations at an astounding rate as well.  In fact, from June 2016 to June 2017 the number of bank branches in the United States fell by more than 1,700.

That was the biggest decline that we have ever seen.

If the U.S. economy really was in good shape, none of this would be taking place.  Something really big is happening, and what we have seen so far is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.  He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Yield Curve Has Not Been This Flat In 10 Years, And Many Believe This Is A Sign That A Recession Is Imminent

Whenever we see an inverted yield curve, a recession almost always follows, and that is why many analysts are deeply concerned that the yield curve is currently the flattest that it has been in about a decade.  In other words, according to one of the most reliable indicators that we have, we are closer to another recession than we have been at any point since the last financial crisis.  And when you combine this with all of the other indicators that are screaming that a new crisis is on the horizon, a very troubling picture emerges.  Hopefully this will turn out to be a false alarm, but it is looking more and more like big economic trouble is coming in 2018.

The professionals on Wall Street take the yield curve very, very seriously, and the fact that it has gotten so flat has many of them extremely concerned.  The following comes from Business Insider

In the past, including before the Great Recession of 2007-2009, an inverted yield curve, where long-term interest rates fall below their short-term counterparts, has been a reliable predictor of recessions. The bond market is not there yet, but a sharp recent flattening of the yield curve has many in the markets watchful and concerned.

The US yield curve is now at its flattest in about 10 years — in other words, since around the time a major credit crunch of was gaining steam. The gap between two-year note yields and their 10-year counterparts has shrunk to just 0.63 percentage point, the narrowest since November 2007.

If the yield curve continues to get even flatter, it will spark widespread selling on Wall Street, and if it actually inverts that will set off total panic.

And with each passing day, even more of the “experts” are warning of imminent market trouble.  For example, just consider what Art Cashin told CNBC the other day…

Investors may want to take cover soon.

Art Cashin, UBS’ director of floor operations at the New York Stock Exchange, says a “split personality” is manifesting itself in the stock market, and it could hit Wall Street where it hurts at any moment.

“We’ve been setting record new highs, and often the breadth has been negative. We’ve had more declines than advances,” Cashin said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”

When the financial markets finally do crash, it won’t exactly be a surprise.

In fact, we are way, way overdue for financial disaster.

Since the last financial crisis, we have been on the greatest debt binge in human history.  U.S. government debt has gone from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, corporate debt has doubled, and U.S. consumer debt has now risen to nearly $13 trillion.

Debt brings consumption from the future into the present, and so it increases short-term economic activity at the expense of long-term financial health.

But we simply cannot continue to grow debt much, much faster than the overall economy is growing.  I have never talked to anyone that believes that our debt binge is sustainable, and I doubt that I ever will.

The only reason why we have even gotten this far is because interest rates have been pushed to historically low levels.  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt even returned to the long-term average, we would be paying more than a trillion dollars a year in interest on the national debt and the game would be over.  Unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve and other global central banks has pushed interest rates way below the real rate of inflation, and that has bought us extra time.

But now the Federal Reserve and other global central banks are reversing course in unison, and global financial markets are already starting to decline.

The only way we can keep putting off the next financial crisis is if we continue our unprecedented debt binge and if global central banks continue to artificially prop up the financial markets.

Of course more debt and more central bank manipulation would just make the eventual financial disaster even worse, but that is what we are faced with at this point.

Most people simply don’t understand the gravity of the situation.  Nothing was ever fixed after the last financial crisis.  Instead, we went on the greatest debt binge that humanity has ever seen, and central banks started creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and recklessly injected that hot money into the financial system.

So now we are in the terminal phase of the largest financial bubble in human history, and there is no easy way out.

We basically have two choices.  We can have a horrific financial crisis now, or we can have one a little bit later.

Usually the choice is “later”, and that is why our leaders have been piling on the debt and global central banks have been recklessly creating money.

But it is inevitable that our bad choices will catch up with us eventually, and when that happens the pain that we are going to experience is going to be absolutely off the charts.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Venezuela Defaults On A Debt Payment – Is This The First Domino To Fall?

Did you know that Venezuela just went into default?  This should be an absolutely enormous story, but the mainstream media is being very quiet about it.  Wall Street and other major financial centers around the globe could potentially be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come.  Sovereign nations are not supposed to ever default on debt payments, and so this is a very rare occurrence indeed.  I have been writing about Venezuela for years, and now the crisis that has been raging in that nation threatens to escalate to an entirely new level.

Things are already so bad in Venezuela that people have been eating dogs, cats and zoo animals, but now that Venezuela has officially defaulted, there will be no more loans from the rest of the world and the desperation will grow even deeper…

Venezuela, a nation spiraling into a humanitarian crisis, has missed a debt payment. It could soon face grim consequences.

The South American country defaulted on its debt, according to a statement issued Monday night by S&P Global Ratings. The agency said the 30-day grace period had expired for a payment that was due in October.

A debt default risks setting off a dangerous series of events that could exacerbate Venezuela’s food and medical shortages.

So what might that “dangerous series of events” look like?

Well, Venezuela already has another 420 million dollars of debt payments that are overdue.  Investors around the world are facing absolutely catastrophic losses, and the legal wrangling over this crisis could take many years to resolve.  The following comes from Forbes

S&P says that it expects Venezuela to default on other bond payments. This comes as absolutely no surprise. A further $420m of bond payments are already overdue: unless Venezuela finds some dollars in a hurry, these will also go into default very soon.

S&P also warns that Venezuela could embark on a coercive debt restructuring that would in effect be default. Indeed, it has already announced its intention to do so, though as yet it has produced no plan. But we can imagine what such a debt restructuring might look like: in 2012, Greece imposed a coercive debt restructuring on private sector investors, and Argentina has restructured its dollar-denominated debt twice this century, the second time to sort out the dog’s breakfast Argentina made of the first restructuring. Investors could take substantial losses, and there would no doubt be lawsuits lasting for years. The biggest winners from distressed debt restructurings are always lawyers.

When you add this to all of the other bad news that has been coming out lately, it is easy to understand why things are starting to shift in the financial markets.

In fact, CNBC says that there is “a different tone to the markets in the last week or so”…

Another day, another down open. There’s a different tone to the markets in the last week or so.

It started last Tuesday, when an initial rally faded into a hard sell-off mid-morning. The next five trading sessions generally opened down.

Peter Tchir of Academy Securities, checked off a short list of concerns. There is progress on tax reform “but the reality is it’s not going to be as great as everyone hoped,” he said. There are questions about what the flatter yield curve means. And the recent arrests of high-ranking Saudis in an anti-corruption initiative created uncertainty in the last week and a half.

I keep writing about all of the experts that are warning of an imminent market crash, and yet most investors do not appear to be listening.

In fact, one survey found that the number of fund managers that “are taking higher-than-normal risk” is at an all-time high

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest monthly fund-manager survey, which includes 206 panelists who manage $610 billion, investors are opting for the latter.

The firm finds that a record number of survey responders are taking higher-than-normal risk. That comes at a time when US stock market valuations are sitting close to their highest in history, creating a precarious situation in which investors are feeling emboldened at a time when they should be exhibiting caution.

This reminds me so much of what we have witnessed just prior to other market crashes.

During the euphoria of the original dotcom bubble, we were being told that Internet stocks would never go down because this was the beginning of an entirely new revolution.

And then investors lost trillions upon trillions of dollars when the market finally crashed.

Just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, we were being assured that there was nothing unusual going on with housing prices.

And then the market crashed and we were suddenly facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Every bubble eventually bursts, and this one will burst too.  Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and it is likely that more money will be lost during this coming crisis than during any other crisis in our entire history.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Top Financial Expert Warns Stocks Need To Drop ‘Between 30 And 40 Percent’ As Bankruptcy Looms For Toys R Us

Will there be a major stock market crash before the end of 2017?  To many of us, it seems like we have been waiting for this ridiculous stock market bubble to burst for a very long time.  The experts have been warning us over and over again that stocks cannot keep going up like this indefinitely, and yet this market has seemed absolutely determined to defy the laws of economics.  But most people don’t remember that we went through a similar thing before the financial crisis of 2008 as well.  I recently spoke to an investor that shorted the market three years ahead of that crash.  In the end his long-term analysis was right on the money, but his timing was just a bit off, and the same thing will be true with many of the experts this time around.

On Monday, I was quite stunned to learn what Brad McMillan had just said about the market.  He is considered to be one of the brightest minds in the financial world, and he told CNBC that stocks would need to fall “somewhere between 30 and 40 percent just to get to fair value”…

Brad McMillan — who counsels independent financial advisors representing $114 billion in assets under management — told CNBC on Monday that the stock market is way overvalued.

The market probably would have to drop somewhere between 30 and 40 percent to get to fair value, based on historical standards,” said McMillan, chief investment officer at Massachusetts-based Commonwealth Financial Network.

McMillan’s analysis is very similar to mine.  For a long time I have been warning that valuations would need to decline by at least 40 or 50 percent just to get back to the long-term averages.

And stock valuations always return to the long-term averages eventually.  Only this time the bubble has been artificially inflated so greatly that a return to the long-term averages will be absolutely catastrophic for our system.

Meanwhile, trouble signs for the real economy continue to erupt.  As noted in the headline, it appears that Toys R Us is on the brink of bankruptcy

Toys R Us has hired restructuring lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis to help address looming $400 million in debt due in 2018, CNBC had previously reported, noting that bankruptcy was one potential outcome.

Kirkland declined to comment.

Earlier Monday, Reorg Research, a news service focused on bankruptcy and distressed debt, reported Toys R Us could file for bankruptcy as soon as Monday.

This is yet another sign that 2017 is going to be the worst year for retail store closings in U.S. history.  I don’t know how anyone can look at what is happening to the retail industry (or the auto industry for that matter) and argue that the U.S. economy is in good shape.

But most Americans seem to base their opinions on how the economy is doing by how well the stock market is performing, and thanks to relentless central bank intervention, stock prices have just kept going up and up and up.

In so many ways, what we are watching today is a replay of the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s, and this is something that McMillan also commented on during his discussion with CNBC…

Part of McMillan’s thesis is rooted in his belief that the lofty levels of the so-called FANG stocks — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet — seem reminiscent of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s.

“I’ve been saying for about the past year, this year looks a lot like 1999 to me,” McMillan said on “Squawk Box.” “If you look at the underlying economics [and] if look at the stock market, the similarities are remarkable.”

I am amazed that so many big names continue to issue extremely ominous warnings about the financial markets, and yet most Americans seem completely unconcerned.

It is almost as if 2008 never happened.  None of our long-term problems were fixed after that crisis, and the current bubble that we are facing is far larger than the bubble that burst back then.

I don’t know why more people can’t see these things.  It has gotten to a point where “even Goldman Sachs is getting worried”

The stock market bubble is now so massive that even Goldman Sachs is getting worried.

Let’s be clear here: Wall Street does best and makes the most money when stocks are roaring higher. So in order for a major Wall Street firm like Goldman to start openly worrying about whether or not the markets are going to crash, there has to be truly MASSIVE trouble brewing.

On that note, Goldman’s Bear Market indicator just hit levels that triggered JUST BEFORE THE LAST TWO MARKET CRASHES.

When things fall apart this time, it is going to be even worse than what we went through in 2008.  In the aftermath, we are going to need people that understand that we need to fundamentally redesign how our system works, and that is something that I hope to help with.  We cannot base our financial system on a pyramid of debt, and we cannot allow Wall Street to operate like a giant casino.  Our entire economy has essentially become a colossal Ponzi scheme, and it is inevitable that it is going to come horribly crashing down at some point.

But for now, the blind continue to lead the blind, and most Americans are not going to wake up until we have gone over the edge.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

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.