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We Are Being Killed On Trade – Rapidly Declining Exports Signal A Death Blow For The U.S. Economy

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory - Photo by Albert DuceExports fell precipitously during the last two recessions, and now it is happening again.  So how in the world can anyone make the claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?  On my website I have been repeatedly pointing out the parallels between the last two major economic downturns and the current crisis, and I am going to discuss another one today.  Since peaking in late 2014, U.S. exports have been steadily declining, and this is something that we never see outside of a major recession.  On the chart that I have shared below, the shaded gray bars represent the last two recessions, and you can see that exports of goods and services plunged dramatically in both instances…

Exports Of Goods And Services - Public Domain

And this chart does not even show the latest numbers that we have.  During the month of January, U.S. exports fell to a five and a half year low

The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January as a strong dollar and weak global demand helped to push exports to a more than 5-1/2-year low, suggesting trade will continue to weigh on economic growth in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 2.2 percent to $45.7 billion. December’s trade deficit was revised up to $44.7 billion from the previously reported $43.4 billion. Exports have declined for four straight months.

Because our exports are falling faster than our imports, our trade deficit is blowing out once again.  Every year we buy hundreds of billions of dollars more from the rest of the world than they buy from us, and this is systematically wrecking our economy.  Over the past several decades, we have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying manufacturing jobs, and major exporting nations such as China have become exceedingly wealthy at our expense.

We are being absolutely killed on trade, and yet very few of our politicians ever want to talk about this.

A brand new study that was recently discussed in the New York Times is bringing some renewed attention to these problems.  It turns out that the promised “benefits” of merging the U.S. economy into the global economic system simply have not materialized…

In a recent study, three economists — David Autor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Dorn at the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson at the University of California, San Diego — raised a profound challenge to all of us brought up to believe that economies quickly recover from trade shocks. In theory, a developed industrial country like the United States adjusts to import competition by moving workers into more advanced industries that can successfully compete in global markets.

They examined the experience of American workers after China erupted onto world markets some two decades ago. The presumed adjustment, they concluded, never happened. Or at least hasn’t happened yet. Wages remain low and unemployment high in the most affected local job markets. Nationally, there is no sign of offsetting job gains elsewhere in the economy. What’s more, they found that sagging wages in local labor markets exposed to Chinese competition reduced earnings by $213 per adult per year.

Another study conducted by some of the same researchers discovered that 2.4 million American jobs were lost between 1999 and 2011 due to rising Chinese imports.

When are we going to finally wake up?

The middle class in America is being absolutely shredded, and yet only a few of us seem to care.

Meanwhile, global trade as a whole continues to slow down at a very frightening pace.  We just learned that the China Containerized Freight Index has now dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI), published weekly, tracks contractual and spot-market rates for shipping containers from major ports in China to 14 regions around the world. Unlike most Chinese government data, this index reflects the unvarnished reality of the shipping industry in a languishing global economy. For the latest reporting week, the index dropped 4.1% to 705.6, its lowest level ever.

How many numbers like this do we have to get before we will all finally admit that we are in the midst of a major global economic meltdown?

Here in the United States, the recent rally in the stock market has most people feeling pretty good about things these days.  But the truth is that there are ups and downs during any financial crisis, and this recent rally is putting the finishing touches on a very dangerous leaning “W” pattern that could signal a big dive ahead.

Harry Dent, the author of “The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation Ahead“, has shown that this leaning “W” pattern is part of a huge “rounded top” for the S&P 500.  The following is a brief excerpt from one of his recent articles

The bull market from early 2009 into May 2015 looks just like every bubble in history, and I’m getting one sign after the next that we did indeed peak last May. The dominant pattern in the stock market is the “rounded top” pattern:

S&P 500 Rounded Top

After trading in a steep, bubble-like channel from late 2011 into late 2014, with only 10% maximum volatility top to bottom, the market finally lost its momentum… just as the Fed finished tapering its QE. That’s because the Fed was the primary driver in this stock bubble in the first place!

Now is not the time to relax at all.

In fact, now is the time to sound the alarm louder than ever.

That is one reason why my wife and I have started up a new television program.  It will be airing on Christian television, but it will also be available on YouTube as well…

As I have said before, 2016 is the year when everything changes.

So don’t be fooled just because the stock market had a couple of good weeks.  The truth is that global economic activity is slowing down significantly, geopolitical instability continues to get even worse, and this political season has caused very deep, simmering tensions in the United States to rise to the surface.

Let us hope that we have a few more weeks of relative stability like we are currently experiencing so that we can have more time to get prepared, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it.

Are You Kidding Me? Chinese Exports Plunge 25.4 Percent Compared To Last Year

Exports Declining - Public DomainWe just got more evidence that global trade is absolutely imploding.  Chinese exports dropped 25.4 percent during the month of February compared to a year ago, and Chinese imports fell 13.8 percent compared to a year ago.  For Chinese exports, that was the worst decline that we have seen since 2009, and Chinese imports have now fallen for 16 months in a row on a year over year basis.  The last time we saw numbers like this, we were in the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  China accounts for more global trade than any other nation (including the United States), and so this is a major red flag.  Anyone that is saying that the global economy is in “good shape” is clearly not paying attention.

If someone would have told me a year ago that Chinese exports would be 25 percent lower next February, I would not have believed it.  This is not just a slowdown – this is a historic implosion.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Things are not getting better in China as Exports crashed 25.4% YoY (the 3rd largest drop in history), almost double the 14.5% expectation and Imports tumbled 13.8%, the 16th month of YoY decline – the longest ever. Altogether this sent the trade surplus down to $32.6bn (missing expectations of $51bn) to 11-month lows.

Chinese Exports - Zero Hedge

So much for that whole “devalue yourself to export growth” idea…

I don’t know how anyone can possibly dismiss the importance of these numbers.  As you can see, this is not just a one month aberration.  Chinese trade numbers have been declining for months, and that decline appears to be accelerating.

Another very interesting piece of news that has come out in recent days regards the massive layoffs that are coming at state industries in China.  According to Reuters, five to six million Chinese workers are going to be losing their jobs during this transition…

China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years as part of efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution, two reliable sources said, Beijing’s boldest retrenchment program in almost two decades.

China’s leadership, obsessed with maintaining stability and making sure redundancies do not lead to unrest, will spend nearly 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) to cover layoffs in just the coal and steel sectors in the next 2-3 years.

 

For years, the Chinese economic miracle has been fueling global economic growth, but now things are changing dramatically.

Another factor that we should discuss is the fact that the relationship between the United States and China is going downhill very rapidly.  This is something that I wrote about yesterday.  China has seized control of several very important islands in the South China Sea, and in response the Obama administration has been sailing military vessels past the islands in a threatening manner.  Most recently, Obama decided to have an aircraft carrier task force cruise past the islands, and this provoked a very angry response from the Chinese

The four-ship U.S. strike group that patrolled the disputed South China Sea was followed by Chinese warships, a show of force that prompted a hard-line response from China doubling down on its claim to nearly all of the resource-rich sea.  

China’s foreign minister said his country’s sovereignty claims are supported by history and made a veiled reference to the 5-day patrol by the Stennis Carrier Strike Group, as well as recent passes by China’s man-made islands by destroyers Lassen and Curtis Wilbur in recent months.

“The South China Sea has been subject to colonial invasion and illegal occupation and now some people are trying to stir up waves, while some others are showing off forces,” Wang Yi said, according to an Associated Press report, a day after the Stennis CSG departed the South China Sea.  “However, like the tide that comes and goes, none of these attempts will have any impact. History will prove who is merely the guest and who is the real host.”

Most Americans are not even paying attention to this dispute, but in China there is talk of war.  The Chinese are absolutely not going to back down, and it does not look like Obama is going to either.  Needless to say, a souring of the relationship between the largest economy on the planet and the second largest economy on the planet would not be a good thing for the global economy.

And of course China is far from the only country that is having economic problems.  Yesterday, I discussed how Italy’s banking system is on the verge of completely collapse.  A few days before that I discussed the economic depression that has gripped much of South America.  A new global economic crisis has already begun, and just because the United States is feeling less pain than the rest of the world so far does not mean that everything is going to be okay.

There are huge red flags in Europe, Asia and South America right now.  In addition, our neighbor to the north (Canada) is experiencing a very significant slowdown.  The irrational optimists can continue to believe that the U.S. economy will somehow escape relatively unscathed if they would like, but that is not going to be what happens.

Just like virtually everyone else on the planet, we are heading into hard times too, and this is going to become a dominant theme in the presidential campaign as we move forward into the months ahead.

The Economic Collapse Of South America Is Well Underway

Earth - Our World - Public DomainThe 7th largest economy on the entire planet is completely imploding.  I have written previously about the economic depression that is plaguing Brazil, but since my last article it has gotten much, much worse.  During 2015, Brazil’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent, but for the most recent quarter the decline was 5.89 percent on a year over year basis.  Unemployment is rising rapidly, the inflation rate is up over 10 percent, and Brazilian currency has lost 24 percent of its value compared to the U.S. dollar over the past 12 months.

At this point, Brazil is already experiencing its longest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and things are getting worse for ordinary Brazilians every single day.  The following comes from CNN

But with Brazil plunging into its worst recession in over two decades — hopes for a brighter future are fading. The Brazilian economy shrank 3.8% in 2015, according to government data published Thursday. That’s the biggest annual drop since 1990 and the country is in its longest recession since the 1930s.

I have never seen anything like this,” said Alves, 24, as he stood on his balcony overlooking Rocinha, a massive lower middle class neighborhood or favela in Rio de Janeiro where he grew up. “My parents would tell me about hard times, but today it is really tough. Prices are going up every day.”

So how did this happen?

Well, there are a couple of factors that are really hurting South American economies.

Number one, during the “boom years” governments and businesses in South America absolutely gorged on debt.  Unfortunately, many of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars, and now that the U.S. dollar has appreciated greatly against local South American currencies it is taking far more of those local currencies to service and pay back those debts.

Number two, collapsing prices for oil and other commodities have been absolutely brutal for South American economies.  They rely very heavily on exporting commodities to the rest of the world, and so at the same time their debt problems are exploding they are getting a lot less money for the oil and industrial commodities that they are trying to sell to North America, Asia and Europe.

I want you to pay close attention to the following chart and analysis from Zero Hedge.  As you can see, the economic problems in Brazil appear to be greatly accelerating…

“The Brazilian economic downturn took a real turn for the worse in February,” according to Markit’s Composite PMI, which collapsed to record lows at 39.0. Despite a slightly less bad than expected GDP print this morning (still down a record 5.89% YoY), hope was quickly extinguished as PMIs showed economic activity continuing to contract at a record pace, job losses accelerating, and manufacturing’s collapse accelerating. As Market sums up, “With the global economy also showing signs of slowing, which will impact on external demand, it looks as if the downturn is set to continue to run its course in the coming months.”

GDP was a disaster (but better than expected)

Brazil GDP - Zero Hedge

And of course Brazil is not the only South American economy that is a basket case right now.  In fact, things in Venezuela are far worse.  In 2015, the Venezuelan economy shrunk by 10 percent, and the official rate of inflation was a staggering 181 percent.

Could you imagine living in an economy with a 181 percent inflation rate?

As prices have escalated out of control, citizens have attempted to hoard basic supplies in advance, and this has resulted in food shortages that are absolutely frightening

Cardboard signs on the door warning of “No bread” have become increasingly common at Venezuelan bakeries.

Venezuela gets 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil exports, and as crude prices have plunged, so have the country’s imports — among them wheat.

The leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro has tightly controlled access to hard currency, and this has affected imports ranging from medicine to toilet paper. Now it is seriously affecting imports of wheat, which Venezuela does not grow.

Add to this the soaring inflation rate — 181 percent in 2015, the world’s highest — and you see why customers are mainly interested in buying basic food items such as bread.

Here in the United States, there are still people who doubt that an economic crisis is happening.

But in Venezuela and Brazil there is no debate.

Unfortunately, what is happening in Venezuela and Brazil is also slowly starting to happen to most of the rest of the planet as well.  It is just that they are a little farther down the road.  Economic and financial bubbles are bursting all over the world, and I like how author Vikram Mansharamani described this phenomenon during a recent interview with CNBC

Deflationary tides are lapping the shores of countries across the world and financial bubbles are set to burst everywhere, Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Yale University, told CNBC on Thursday.

I think it all started with the China investment bubble that has burst and that brought with it commodities and that pushed deflation around the world and those ripples are landing on the shore of countries literally everywhere,” the high-profile author and academic said at the Global Financial Markets Forum in Abu Dhabi.

And of course the evidence of what Mansharamani was talking about is all around us.

Just this week we found out that Chinese state industries plan to lay off five to six million workers, U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row, and the corporate default rate in the United States has now risen above where it was at when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

There are some people that would like to point to the fact that stocks have bounced back a bit over the past couple of weeks as evidence that the crisis is over.

If they want to believe that, they should go ahead and believe that.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the hard economic numbers that are coming in from all over the world tell us very clearly that global economic activity is slowing down significantly.

A new global recession has already begun, and the pain that is already being felt all over the planet is just the beginning of what is coming.

Plunging Manufacturing Numbers Mean That It Is Time To Hit The Panic Button For The Global Economy

Panic Button On Keyboard - Public DomainWe haven’t seen numbers like these since the last global recession.  I recently wrote about how global trade is imploding all over the planet, and the same thing is true when it comes to manufacturing.  We just learned that manufacturing in China has now been contracting for seven months in a row, and as you will see below, U.S. manufacturing is facing “its toughest period since the global financial crisis”.  Yes, global stocks have bounced back a bit after experiencing dramatic declines during January and the first part of February, and this is something that investors are very happy about.  But that does not mean that the crisis is over.  All bear markets have their ups and downs, and this one will not be any different.  Meanwhile, the cold, hard economic numbers that keep coming in are absolutely screaming that a new global recession is here.

Just consider what is happening in China.  Manufacturing activity continues to implode, and factories are shedding jobs at the fastest pace since the last financial crisis

Chinese manufacturing suffered a seventh straight month of contraction in February.

China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 49.0 in February, down from the previous month’s reading of 49.4 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

A private survey also showed China’s factories shed jobs at the fastest rate in seven years in February, raising doubts about the government’s ability to reduce industry overcapacity this year without triggering a sharp jump in unemployment.

For years, the expansion of the Chinese economy has helped fuel global economic growth.  But now things have shifted dramatically.

At this point, things are already so bad that the Chinese government is admitting that millions of workers are going to lose their jobs at state-controlled industries in China…

China’s premier told visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Monday his government is pressing ahead with painful reforms to shrink bloated coal and steel industries that are a drag on its slowing economy and ruled out devaluing its currency as a short-cut to boosting exports.

Premier Li Keqiang’s comments to Lew on Monday were in line with a joint declaration by financial officials from the Group of 20 biggest rich and developing economies who met over the weekend in Shanghai. They pledged to avoid devaluations to boost sagging trade and urged governments to speed up reforms to boost slowing global growth.

Across all state-controlled industries, as many as six million workers could be out of a job, with almost two million in the coal industry alone.

But it isn’t just China.  Right now manufacturing activity is slowing down literally all over the planet, and this is exactly what we would expect to see if a new global recession had begun.  The following chart and analysis come from Zero Hedge

As the below table shows, 28 regions have reported so far. Seven saw improvements in their manufacturing sectors in February, twenty recorded a weakening, and India was unchanged. This means that over 70% of the world saw manufacturing sentiment deteriorate in February compared to January.

February Manufacturing Numbers - Zero Hedge

In terms of actual expansion, there were 21 countries in positive territory and 7 in negative. In particular, Greece moved from neutral to contraction territory, while Taiwan dropped below breakeven from expansion.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t really pay much attention to what is going on in the rest of the world.  For most of us, what really matters is what is happening inside the good ole USA.

And of course the news is not good.  There were more signs of trouble for U.S. manufacturing in the February numbers, and this continues a trend that stretches back well into last year.  The following is what Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, had to say about these numbers

“The February data add to signs of distress in the US manufacturing economy. Production and order book growth continues to worsen, led by falling exports. Jobs are being added at a slower pace and output prices are dropping at a rate not seen since mid-2012.

“The deterioration in the manufacturing sector’s performance since mid-2014 has broadly tracked the dollar’s rise, which makes US goods more expensive in overseas markets and leads US consumers to favour cheaper imported goods.

“With other headwinds including the downturn in the oil sector, heightened uncertainty due to financial market volatility, global growth worries and growing concerns about the presidential election, it’s no surprise that the manufacturing sector is facing its toughest period since the global financial crisis.

Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. economy has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities.  We desperately need a manufacturing renaissance – not another manufacturing decline.

As good paying manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, they have been replaced by low paying service jobs.  As a result, the middle class is shrinking and the ranks of the poor are exploding.

It is hard to believe, but today more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps, and a significant percentage of those individuals actually have jobs.  They are called “the working poor”, and it is becoming a major crisis in this nation.

And no matter what Obama may say, unemployment remains a major problem in the United States as well.  At this point, unemployment rates in 36 states are higher than they were just before the last recession hit in 2008.

Of course a lot of people are going to look at this article and will point to the stock market gains of the past couple of weeks as evidence that “things are getting better”.  It is this kind of clueless approach that is keeping the American people from coming together on solutions to our problems.

The truth is that the United States has been experiencing economic decline for decades.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted, the middle class is steadily deteriorating, and we have amassed the biggest pile of debt in the history of the world.

Anyone that believes that things are “just fine” is in a massive state of denial.  Consuming far more wealth than we produce is not a formula for a sustainable economy, and it is just a matter of time before we find this out the hard way.

21 New Numbers That Show That The Global Economy Is Absolutely Imploding

Earth At Night - Public DomainAfter a series of stunning declines through the month of January and the first half of February, global financial markets seem to have found a patch of relative stability at least for the moment.  But that does not mean that the crisis is over.  On the contrary, all of the hard economic numbers that are coming in from around the world tell us that the global economy is coming apart at the seams.  This is especially true when you look at global trade numbers.  The amount of stuff that is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet is falling precipitously.  So don’t be fooled if stocks go up one day or down the next.  The truth is that we are in the early chapters of a brand new economic meltdown, and I believe that all of the signs indicate that it will continue to get worse in the months ahead.  The following are 21 new numbers that show that the global economy is absolutely imploding…

#1 Chinese exports fell by 11.2 percent year over year in January.

#2 Chinese imports were even worse in January.  On a year over year basis, they declined a whopping 18.8 percent.

#3 It may be hard to believe, but Chinese imports have now plunged for 15 months in a row.

#4 In India, exports were down 13.6 percent on a year over year basis in January.

#5 In Japan, exports declined 8 percent in December on a year over year basis, while imports plummeted 18 percent.

#6 For the sixth time in six years, Japanese GDP growth has gone negative.

#7 In the United States, exports were down 7 percent on a year over year basis in December.

#8 U.S. factory orders have fallen for 14 months in a row.

#9 The Restaurant Performance Index in the United States has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

#10 This month the Baltic Dry Index fell below 300 for the first time ever.

#11 It is now cheaper to rent a 1,100 foot merchant vessel than it is to rent a Ferrari.

#12 Orders for Class 8 trucks in the United States dropped by 48 percent on a year over year basis in January.

#13 Due to a lack of demand for trucks, Daimler just laid off 1,250 U.S. workers.

#14 Even though Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to freeze oil production at current levels, the price of U.S. oil has still fallen below 30 dollars a barrel.

#15 It is being reported that 35 percent of all oil and gas companies around the world are at risk of falling into bankruptcy.

#16 According to CNN, 67 oil and gas companies in the United States filed for bankruptcy during 2015.

#17 The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

#18 All over America, retail stores are shutting down at a stunning pace.  The following list of store closures comes from one of my previous articles

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

#19 The price of gold is enjoying its best quarterly performance in 30 years.

#20 Global stocks have fallen into bear market territory, which means that about one-fifth of all global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.

#21 Unfortunately for global central banks, they have pretty much run out of ammunition.  Since March 2008, central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have purchased a staggering 12.3 trillion dollars worth of assets.  There is not much more that they can do, and now the next great crisis is upon us.

Without any outside influences, the global economy and the global financial system will continue to rapidly fall apart.

But if we do have a major “black swan event” take place, that could cause the bottom to fall out at any moment.

In particular, I am deeply concerned about the possibility that World War III could be sparked in the Middle East.  In an article that I published earlier today entitled “Turkey Is Asking The United States To Take Part In A Ground Invasion Of Syria“, I included a quote from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that reveals just how eager Turkey and Saudi Arabia are for war to begin…

Some countries like us, Saudi Arabia and some other Western European countries have said that a ground operation is necessary,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Reuters in an interview.

However, this kind of action could not be left to regional powers alone. “To expect this only from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar is neither right nor realistic. If such an operation is to take place, it has to be carried out jointly, like the (coalition) air strikes,” he said.

The Turks and the Saudis very much want the United States to take a leading role in any ground invasion of Syria, but the Obama administration is not likely to do that.

So we shall see if the Turks and the Saudis are willing to go ahead without us.  Let us hope that they do not decide to invade Syria, because that could start the biggest war in the Middle East that any of us have ever seen.

Unfortunately, Turkey is already attacking.

Turkey has been shelling Kurdish and Syrian military positions in northern Syria for four days in a row even though the Obama administration has been urging them to stop.

The first month and a half of 2016 has already been quite chaotic, and the stage is set for global events to greatly accelerate during the months ahead.

Sadly, the mainstream media in the United States is largely ignoring the preparations for a ground invasion of Syria, and they keep telling us that the global economy is going to be just fine, so most ordinary Americans are going to be absolutely blindsided by what is about to happen.

Lowest Ever: The Baltic Dry Index Plunges To 394 As Global Trade Grinds To A Standstill

Container Ship - Public DomainFor the first time ever, the Baltic Dry Index has fallen under 400.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 394.  To be honest, I never even imagined that it could go this low.  Back in early August, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 1,222, and since then it has been on a steady decline.  Of course the Baltic Dry Index crashed hard just before the great stock market crash of 2008 too, but at this point it is already lower than it was during that entire crisis.  This is just more evidence that global trade is grinding to a halt and that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” for the global economy.

If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Index, here is a helpful definition from Wikipedia

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an economic indicator issued daily by the London-based Baltic Exchange. Not restricted to Baltic Sea countries, the index provides “an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea. Taking in 23 shipping routes measured on a timecharter basis, the index covers Handysize, Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize dry bulk carriers carrying a range of commodities including coal, iron ore and grain.”

The BDI is one of the key indicators that experts look at when they are trying to determine where the global economy is heading.  And right now, it is telling us that we are heading into a major worldwide economic downturn.

Some people try to dismiss the recent drop in the Baltic Dry Index by claiming that shipping rates are down because there is simply too much capacity out there these days.  And I don’t dispute that.  Without a doubt, too many vessels were built during the “boom years”, and now shipbuilders are paying the price.  For example, Chinese shipyards reported a 59 percent decline in orders during the first 11 months of 2015…

Total orders at Chinese shipyards tumbled 59 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, according to data released Dec. 15 by the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry. Builders have sought government support as excess vessel capacity drives down shipping rates and prompts customers to cancel contracts. Zhoushan Wuzhou Ship Repairing & Building Co. last month became the first state-owned shipbuilder to go bankrupt in a decade.

But that doesn’t explain everything.  The truth is that exports are way down all over the world.  China, the United States, South Korea and many other major exporting nations have all been reporting extremely dismal export numbers.  Global trade is contracting quite rapidly, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly dispute that.

The global economy is a mess, but many people are not paying any attention to the economic fundamentals because they are too busy looking at the stock market.

The stock market does not tell us how the economy is doing.  If the stock market is up today that does not mean that the economy is doing well, and if the stock market is down tomorrow that does not mean that it is doing poorly.

Yes, the health of the financial markets can greatly affect the overall economy.  We saw this back in 2008.  When there is a tremendous amount of panic, that can cause a credit crunch and make it very difficult for money to flow through our system.  The end result is a rapid slowdown of economic activity, and it is something that we will be experiencing again very soon.

But don’t let the day to day fluctuations of the stock market fool you.  Just because the Dow was up 227 points today does not mean that the crisis is over.  It is important to remember that stocks are not going to go down every single day.  On Thursday, the Dow didn’t even regain two-thirds of what it lost on Wednesday.  Even in bear markets there are up days, and some of the biggest up days in stock market history were right in the middle of the crash of 2008.

It is critical that we take a long-term view of things and not let our vision be clouded by every tick up and down in the financial markets.  Initial jobless claims just hit their highest level in about six months, and companies like Macy’s and GoPro are laying off thousands of workers.  Things are already bad, and they are rapidly getting worse.

And let us not forget the great amount of financial carnage that has already happened so far this year.  According to CNBC, approximately 3.2 trillion dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally during the first 13 days of 2016…

Almost $3.2 trillion has been wiped off the value of stocks around the world since the start of 2016, according to calculations by a top market analyst.

It has also been the worst-ever start to a year for U.S. equities, said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, as both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average have posted their steepest losses for the first eight days trading of a year.

Over the past six months, there have now been two 10 percent “corrections” for U.S. stocks.  The only other times we have seen multiple corrections like this were in 1929, 2000 and 2008.  If those years seem familiar to you, that is because they should.  In all three years, we witnessed historic stock market crashes.

The stunning collapse of the Baltic Dry Index is just more evidence that we have entered a global deflationary crisis.  Goods aren’t moving, unemployment is rising all over the planet, and commodity prices have fallen to levels that we have not seen in over a decade.

Around the globe, there have been dramatic stock market crashes to begin the year, and we should expect to see much more market turmoil during the weeks and months to come.

If the markets have calmed down a bit for the moment, we should be very thankful for that, because we could all use some additional time to prepare for what is coming.

The debt-fueled standard of living that so many of us are enjoying today is just an illusion.  And many of us won’t even understand what we have been taking for granted until it is taken away from us.

A great shaking is coming to the global economy, and the pain is going to be unimaginable.  So let us enjoy every single day of relative “normalcy” while we still can, because there aren’t too many of them left.

The U.S. Dollar Has Already Caused A Global Recession And Now The Fed Is Going To Make It Worse

Dollar Hands - Public DomainThe 7th largest economy on the entire planet, Brazil, has been gripped by a horrifying recession, as has much of the rest of South America.  But it isn’t just South America that is experiencing a very serious economic downturn.  We have just learned that Japan (the third largest economy in the world) has lapsed into recession.  So has Canada.  So has Russia.  The dominoes are starting to fall, and it looks like the global economic crisis that has already started is going to accelerate as we head into the end of the year.  At this point, global trade is already down about 8.4 percent for the year, and last week the Baltic Dry Shipping Index plummeted to a brand new all-time record low.  Unfortunately for all of us, the Federal Reserve is about to do something that will make this global economic slowdown even worse.

Throughout 2015, the U.S. dollar has been getting stronger.  That sounds like good news, but the truth is that it is not.  When the last financial crisis ended, emerging markets went on a debt binge unlike anything we have ever seen before.  But much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, and now this is creating a massive problem.  As the U.S. dollar has risen, the prices that many of these emerging markets are getting for the commodities that they export have been declining.  Meanwhile, it is taking much more of their own local currencies to pay back and service all of the debts that they have accumulated.  Similar conditions contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Many Americans may be wondering when “the next economic crisis” will arrive, but nobody in Brazil is asking that question.  Thanks to the rising U.S. dollar, Brazil has already plunged into a very deep recession

As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff combats a slumping economy and corruption accusations, the country’s inflation surged above 10 percent while unemployment jumped to 7.9 percent, according to the latest official data. The dour state of affairs has Barclays forecasting a 4 percent economic contraction this year, followed by 3.3 percent shrinkage next year, the investment bank said in a research note last week.

The political and economic turmoil has recently driven the real, Brazil’s currency, to multiyear lows, a factor helping to stoke price pressures.

And as I mentioned above, Brazil is far from alone.  This is something that is happening all over the planet, and the process appears to be accelerating.  One of the places where this often first shows up is in the trade numbers.  The following comes from an article that was just posted by Zero Hedge

This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that,” warns one of the world’s largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines – having collapsed to all-time record lows this week – it is the spefics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before… 2008! “It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term.”

Many “experts” seem mystified by all of this, but the explanation is very simple.

For years, global economic growth was fueled by cheap U.S. dollars.  But since the end of QE, the U.S. dollar has been surging, and according to Bloomberg it just hit a 12 year high…

The dollar traded near a seven-month high against the euro before the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s October meeting, when policy makers signaled the potential for an interest-rate increase this year.

A trade-weighted gauge of the greenback is at the highest in 12 years as Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other policy makers have made numerous pronouncements in the past month that it may be appropriate to boost rates from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 gathering. The probability the central bank will act next month has risen to 66 percent from 50 percent odds at the end of October.

But even though the wonks at the Federal Reserve supposedly know the damage that a strong dollar is already doing to the global economy, they seem poised to make things even worse by raising interest rates in December

Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy “could well” be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed’s first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade, according to minutes of its meeting Oct. 27-28.

The officials said global troubles had eased and a delay could increase market uncertainty and undermine confidence in the economy.

The meeting summary provides the clearest evidence yet that a majority of Fed policymakers are leaning toward raising the central bank’s benchmark rate next month, assuming the economy continues to progress.

Considering the tremendous amount of damage that has already been done to the global economy, this is one of the stupidest things that they could possibly do.

But it looks like they are going to do it anyway.

It has been said that those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

And right now so many of the exact same patterns that we saw just before the great financial crisis of 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.

A lot of people out there seem to assume that once we got past the September/October time frame that we were officially out of “the danger zone”.

But that is not true at all.

The truth is that we have already entered a new global economic downturn that is rapidly accelerating, and the financial shaking that we witnessed in August was just a foreshock of what is coming next.

Let us hope that common sense prevails and the Fed chooses not to raise interest rates at their next meeting.

Because if they do, it will just make the global crisis that is now emerging much, much worse.

The Baltic Dry Shipping Index Just Collapsed To An All-Time Record Low

Globe Matrix - Public DomainI was absolutely stunned to learn that the Baltic Dry Shipping Index had plummeted to a new all-time record low of 504 at one point on Thursday.  I have written a number of articles lately about the dramatic slowdown in global trade, but I didn’t realize that things had gotten quite this bad already.  Not even during the darkest moments of the last financial crisis did the Baltic Dry Shipping Index drop this low.  Something doesn’t seem to be adding up, because the mainstream media keeps telling us that the global economy is doing just fine.  In fact, the Federal Reserve is so confident in our “economic recovery” that they are getting ready to raise interest rates.  Of course the truth is that there is no “economic recovery” on the horizon.  In fact, as I wrote about yesterday, there are signs all around us that are indicating that we are heading directly into another major economic crisis.  This staggering decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is just another confirmation of what is directly ahead of us.

Overall, the Baltic Dry Index is down more than 60 percent over the past 12 months.  Global demand for shipping is absolutely collapsing, and yet very few “experts” seem alarmed by this.  If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Shipping Index, the following is a pretty good definition from Investopedia

A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).

The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of three sub-indexes that measure different sizes of dry bulk carriers (merchant ships) – Capesize, Supramax and Panamax. Multiple geographic routes are evaluated for each index to give depth to the index’s composite measurement.

It is also known as the “Dry Bulk Index”.

Much of the decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is being blamed on China.  The following comes from a Bloomberg report that was posted on Thursday…

The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.

So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are playing out once again in front of our very eyes.  Below, I have shared a chart that was posted by Zero Hedge, and it shows how the Baltic Dry Shipping Index absolutely collapsed in 2008 as we headed into a major financial crisis.  Well, now the Index is collapsing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point back in 2008…

Baltic Dry Index - Zero Hedge

The evidence continues to mount that we are steamrolling toward a deflationary economic slowdown that is worldwide in scope.

Just look at the price of U.S. oil.  It just keeps on falling, and as I write this article it is sitting at $40.40.

The price of oil collapsed just before the financial crisis of 2008, and the same pattern is happening again.

And look at what is happening to commodities. The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index has plummeted to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession. It is now down more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and it continues to fall.

So don’t be fooled by the temporary “stock market recovery” that we have witnessed.  The underlying economic fundamentals continue to decline.  We are entering a global deflationary recession, and the stock market will get the memo at some point just like we saw in 2008.

At this moment, global financial markets are teetering on the brink, and all it is going to take is some kind of major trigger event to send them tumbling over the edge.

And such an event may be coming sooner than you may think.

We live at a time when global terrorism is surging, relationships between nations are deteriorating and our planet is shaking in wild and unpredictable ways.

It wouldn’t take much to push the financial world into full-blown panic mode.  A major regional war in the Middle East, a terror attack that kills thousands, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption that affects a large U.S. city are all potential examples of “black swan events” which could fit the bill.

The global financial system has never been more primed for another 2008-style crisis.  Thanks to the fragility of the system, it could literally happen any day now.

So keep your eyes open – within weeks our world could be completely and totally different.

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