The Beginning Of The End
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Will The Bottom Fall Out? 15 Signs That Layoffs And Job Losses Are Skyrocketing

If you still have a good job, you might want to hold on to it very tightly because there are a whole bunch of signs that unemployment in the United States is about to start getting worse again.  Over the past several weeks, a substantial number of large corporations have announced disappointing earnings for the third quarter.  Many of those large corporations are also loaded up with huge amounts of debt.  So what is the solution?  Well, the favorite solution on Wall Street these days seems to be to lay off workers.  In fact, it is almost turning into a feeding frenzy.  Since September 1st, we have seen more job cuts announced than during any other two month period since the start of 2010.  These announcements represent future layoffs and job losses which are not even showing up in the unemployment numbers yet.  So needless to say, things don’t look very promising for the end of 2012 or for the beginning of 2013.  If this race to eliminate jobs becomes a stampede, will we see the bottom fall out of the employment market?

If you are concerned about whether or not you will still have a job 12 months from now, you might find the numbers posted below to be quite alarming.  We have not seen layoff announcements come this fast and this furious since the gloomy days of the last recession.

According to Bloomberg, job cuts are well ahead of the pace set last year…

North American companies have announced plans to eliminate more than 62,600 positions at home and abroad since Sept. 1, the biggest two-month drop since the start of 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Firings total 158,100 so far this year, more than the 129,000 job cuts in the same period in 2011.

So what happens if the economy really starts sliding rapidly and this loss of jobs becomes an avalanche?

Can the U.S. economy and the American people handle another major economic downturn?

Some of the biggest names in the business world have announced job cuts in recent weeks.  The following are 15 signs that layoffs and job losses are skyrocketing…

1. Dow Chemical has announced that it will be closing about 20 plants and will be letting about 2,400 workers go.

2. Colgate-Palmolive has announced that they will be eliminating about 2,300 jobs.

3. DuPont has announced plans to eliminate about 1,500 jobs.

4. Ford has announced that it will be eliminating 6,200 jobs and will be reducing production capacity in Europe by 18 percent.

5. Hewlett-Packard announced last month that they plan to eliminate 29,000 jobs.

6. Chip maker AMD has announced that they will be getting rid of about 15 percent of their workers.

7. Sony has announced plans to reduce their workforce by about 2,000 workers.

8. Electronics manufacturer Sharp reportedly plans to eliminate 11,000 jobs.

9. Engine maker Cummins Inc. has announced that they plan to get rid of about 1,500 jobs by the end of 2012.

10. Earlier this month Applied Materials announced a plan that will eliminate up to 1,300 jobs.

11. Zynga (known for making video games for Facebook such as FarmVille) has announced that they are reducing their workforce by about 5 percent.

12. Lattice Semiconductor has announced plans to eliminate about 13 percent of their jobs.

13. Alcatel-Lucent recently announced a plan to eliminate more than 5000 jobs all over the globe.

14. Siemens AG has announced that the number of positions being eliminated may reach 10,000 by the end of the year.

15. Banking giant UBS plans to eliminate up to 5,000 jobs.

Please keep in mind that these job cuts do not show up in the unemployment numbers yet.  When big corporations announce the elimination of jobs, it often takes a while before those job losses actually take place.

Sadly, I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I am convinced that the layoffs and the job losses are going to get a lot worse.

In fact, 2013 is already shaping up to be a very difficult year for the economy no matter how the election turns out.

Those of you that read my articles regularly already know that our economic system is becoming increasingly unstable.  We could literally plunge into another major recession at any moment.

Not that we need any more economic trouble.  Tens of millions of American families are having to fight tooth and nail just to make it from month to month right now.

There aren’t enough jobs and the middle class is rapidly shrinking.  Even if you do have a job, that does not mean that you are doing okay.  About a quarter of all jobs do not even pay enough to lift a family of four above the poverty level, and entry level wages for those with just a high school education have been steadily declining over the past 40 years.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

So what is going to happen if we do have another avalanche of job losses like we saw back in 2008 and 2009?

Will even more of us end up dependent on the government?

We are told that we are in the midst of an “economic recovery”, but the number of Americans that are dependent on the government just continues to soar.  In fact, at this point it is at an all-time high.

If the economy is getting better, then why does the number of Americans on food stamps just keep going up?  To get an idea of just how massive the food stamp program has become, just check out this infographic.

One of the most frightening things about the possibility of another major economic downturn is the loss of hope that it could bring.

At this point, most Americans still believe that things will get better eventually.

But what is going to happen when large segments of our population lose all hope?

How desperate will they become?

When people become desperate, they tend to do desperate things.

Just check out what happened to a family down in Woodstock, Georgia the other day.  They had just lost their home to foreclosure, and they were getting ready to move out.  So they posted an ad on Craigslist for people to come over and get some things that they were planning to get rid of.  What happened next is a glimpse into the kind of desperate behavior that we may see during the next major economic downturn…

Their online post was just a well-meaning ad for a giveaway in their driveway outside the small house, a giveaway scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

But big crowds showed up and ended up taking practically everything inside the house, too.

Wednesday night, Michael Vercher walked 11Alive’s Jon Shirek through his family’s almost empty soon-to-be former home.

“Well, when we got to the house, I mean, pretty much — this,” he said as he stepped from the foyer into the living room.

Their home — ransacked, ravaged, raked over.

Almost everything inside — gone.

My wife and I once used Craigslist quite a bit, but incidents like this make one question the wisdom of inviting strangers to come to your home.

Sadly, the truth is that society is rapidly decaying, and the worse unemployment becomes the more desperate people are going to get.

So what do you think about all of this?

Do you have any stories that you would like to share?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

17 Reasons Why Those Hoping For A Recession In 2012 Just Got Their Wish

If you were hoping for a recession in 2012, then you are going to be very happy with the numbers you are about to see.  The U.S. economy is heading downhill just in time for the 2012 election.  Retail sales have fallen for three months in a row for the first time since 2008, manufacturing activity is dropping like a rock, sales of new homes are declining again, consumer confidence has moved significantly lower and a depressingly small percentage of businesses anticipate hiring more workers in the coming months.  Even though the Federal Reserve has been wildly pumping money into the financial system and even though the federal government has been injecting gigantic piles of borrowed cash into the economy, we still haven’t seen an economic recovery.  In fact, we appear to be on the verge of yet another major downturn.  In California the other night, Barack Obama told supporters that “we tried our plan — and it worked“, but only those that are still drinking the Obama kool-aid would believe something so preposterous.  The truth is that the U.S. economy has been steadily declining for many years and now we have reached another very painful recession.

And don’t let the second quarter GDP number on Friday fool you.  Analysts are expecting to see GDP growth of about 1.4 percent for the second quarter, but the only reason for our very small amount of “economic growth” is because the economy has been flooded with new dollars.

Let me give you an example.  If I could go out overnight and magically double the bank accounts of every single American, would we all be twice as wealthy?

No, because there would be twice as many dollars now chasing the same amount of goods and services.  The price of those goods and services would soon rise dramatically to reflect this new reality.

With all of those new dollars spinning around in the economy it would look like “economic growth” was going through the roof, but in reality the amount of real economic activity would be about the same.

So whenever we talk about GDP, we need to properly adjust it for inflation.  That means using accurate inflation figures and not the highly manipulated inflation figures that the U.S. government is putting out these days.

And as I noted the other day, after properly adjusting for inflation the U.S. economy has been continually experiencing negative economic growth since about 2005.

So let’s not deceive ourselves.  The U.S. economy has been declining for a long time.

But soon even the GDP number that the government gives us will turn negative.  We will probably see a slightly positive number for the second quarter, and the number will likely go negative either in the third quarter or the fourth quarter.

Economists will debate when this new recession officially “began” just like they do with every recession, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening to our economy right now.

The following are 17 reasons why those hoping for a recession in 2012 just got their wish….

1. U.S. retail sales have declined for three months in a row.  This is the first time this has happened since 2008.  Every other time this has happened in U.S. history (except for once) this has signaled that the U.S. economy was either already in a recession or was about to enter one.

2. The Philadelphia Fed index of manufacturing activity contracted for the third month in a row during July.  According to the Financial Post, this is a very bad sign….

Seven out of eight times when the average reading has been that low (-11.8) for that long the U.S. economy has tipped into recession.

3. Manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region has also declined for three months in a row.  In fact, the only time in the past decade when manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic has fallen more dramatically was during the last recession.

4. A factory index calculated by the Institute for Supply Management has fallen to its lowest level since June 2009.

5. The Conference Board index of leading economic indicators has fallen for two of the past three months.

6. According to a recent survey conducted by the Conference Board, only 17 percent of CEOs had a positive view of the economy during the second quarter of 2012.  During the first quarter of 2012, 67 percent did.

7. Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index is now the lowest that it has been since January.

8. Optimism among small business owners has declined in three of the last four months and is now at its lowest level since last October.

9. Believe it or not, the amount of waste being carted around on trains in the United States has an 82 percent correlation with U.S. economic growth.  Unfortunately, right now the number of garbage carloads on trains is falling dramatically.

10. Sales of previously occupied homes dropped by 5.4 percent during June.

11. Sales of new homes declined by 8.4 percent during June.  At this point new home sales are less than a third of what they were during the boom years.

12. An increasing number of Americans are relying on high interest “payday loans” to pay the rent and put food on the table.

13. Far more companies are defaulting on their debts this year than last year.

14. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate fell in 11 states and Washington, D.C. last month, but it rose in 27 states.

15. The unemployment rate in New York City is now back up to 10 percent.  That equals the peak unemployment rate in New York City during the last recession.

16. The teen unemployment rate in Washington D.C. right now is 51.7 percent.

17. A recent survey conducted by the National Association for Business Economics found that only 23 percent of all U.S. companies plan to hire more workers over the next 6 months.  When the same question was asked a few months ago that number was at 39 percent.

All of those are very powerful pieces of evidence that a new recession has started.

But do you want to know one of my favorite indicators that the U.S. economy is sliding into recession?

In a previous article, I noted that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made the following statement to Congress recently: “At this point we don’t see a double dip recession. We see continued moderate growth.”

As I mentioned the other day, Bernanke has a track record of failure that is absolutely embarrassing.  Back on January 10, 2008 Bernanke made the following statement….

“The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

That turned out to be a great call, didn’t it?

On June 10, 2008 he doubled down on his call that the U.S. economy was going to avoid a recession….

“The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so.”

Just before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed Bernanke made this statement….

“The GSEs are adequately capitalized. They are in no danger of failing.”

And there are dozens of other examples just like these.

This is the guy running our economic system.

I am very critical of the Federal Reserve, but there are very good reasons for this.

The Federal Reserve is running our economy into the ground, and we need to pound this into the heads of the American people so that they will wake up and demand change.

Perhaps this next recession will be painful enough to wake people up.

The Wall Street Journal is already even using the “D word” to describe what we are experiencing.  Just today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that asked this question: “Do Two Recessions Equal One Depression?

Sadly, this is just the leading edge of what is coming.  By the time 2014 or 2015 rolls around, we are going to look back and long for the “good old days” of 2011 and 2012.

Over the next few years, the unemployment rate is going to skyrocket and poverty in the United States is going to get a whole lot worse.

Now is not the time to goof off.  Now is the time to work really hard to get yourself and your family into the best position that you can for the storm that is coming.

Nothing is going to stop the terrible economic crisis that is coming, but at least we can get prepared for it.

There is hope in being prepared.

Sadly, most people will never even see the next crisis coming until they get blindsided by it.

17 Reasons To Be EXTREMELY Concerned About The Second Half Of 2012

What is the second half of 2012 going to bring?  Are things going to get even worse than they are right now?  Unfortunately, that appears more likely with each passing day.  I will admit that I am extremely concerned about the second half of 2012.  Historically, a financial crisis is much more likely to begin in the fall than during any other season of the year.  Just think about it.  The stock market crash of 1929 happened in the fall.  “Black Monday” happened on October 19th, 1987.  The financial crisis of 2008 started in the fall.  There just seems to be something about the fall that brings out the worst in the financial markets.  But of course there is not a stock market crash every year.  So are there specific reasons why we should be extremely concerned about what is coming this year?  Yes, there are.  The ingredients for a “perfect storm” are slowly coming together, and in the months ahead we could very well see the next wave of the economic collapse strike.  Sadly, we have never even come close to recovering from the last recession, and this next crisis might end up being even more painful than the last one.

The following are 17 reasons to be extremely concerned about the second half of 2012….

#1 Historical Trends

A recent IMF research paper by Luc Laeven and Fabián Valencia showed that a banking crisis is far more likely to start in September than in any other month.  The following chart is from their report….

So what will this September bring?

#2 JP Morgan

Do you remember back in May when JP Morgan announced that it would be taking a 2 billion dollar trading loss on some derivatives trades gone bad?  Well, the New York Times is now reporting that the real figure could reach 9 billion dollars, but nobody really knows for sure.  At some point is JP Morgan going to need a bailout?  If so, what is that going to do to the U.S. financial system?

#3 Derivatives

Last week, Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 15 major global banks.  As a result, a number of them have been required to post billions of dollars in additional collateral against derivatives exposures….

Citigroup’s two-notch long-term rating downgrade from A3 to Baa2 could have led to US$500m in additional liquidity and funding demands due to derivative triggers and exchange margin requirements, according to the bank’s 10Q regulatory filing at the end of the first quarter.

Morgan Stanley – which Moody’s downgraded from A2 to Baa1 – said a two-notch downgrade from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s could spur an additional US$6.8bn of collateral requirements in its latest 10Q. The bank did not break down its potential collateral calls under a scenario where only Moody’s downgraded the bank below the Single A threshold.

Royal Bank of Scotland estimated it may have to post £9bn of collateral as a result of the one-notch Moody’s downgrade to Baa1 in a statement on June 21, but did not detail how much of this additional requirement was driven by margin for swaps exposures.

The worldwide derivatives market is starting to show some cracks, and at some point this is going to become a major disaster.

Remember, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When this bubble completely bursts it is going to be impossible to fix.

#4 LEAP/E2020 Warning

LEAP/E2020 has issued a red alert for the global financial system for this fall.  They are warning that the “second half of 2012″ will represent a “major inflection point” for the global economic system….

The shock of the autumn 2008 will seem like a small summer storm compared to what will affect planet in several months.

In fact LEAP/E2020 has never seen the chronological convergence of such a series of explosive and so fundamental factors (economy, finances, geopolitical…) since 2006, the start of its work on the global systemic crisis. Logically, in our modest attempt to regularly publish a “crisis weather forecast”, we must therefore give our readers a “Red Alert” because the upcoming events which are readying themselves to shake the world system next September/ October belong to this category.

#5 Increasing Pessimism

One recent survey of corporate executives found that only 20 percent of them expect the global economy to improve over the next 12 months and 48 percent of them expect the global economy to get worse over the next 12 months.

#6 Spain

The Spanish financial system is basically a total nightmare at this point.  Moody’s recently downgraded Spanish debt to one level above junk status, and earlier this week Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 28 major Spanish banks.

According to CNBC, Spain’s short-term borrowing costs are now about three times higher than they were just one month ago….

Spain’s short-term borrowing costs nearly tripled at auction on Tuesday, underlining the country’s precarious finances as it struggles against recession and juggles with a debt crisis among its newly downgraded banks.

The yield paid on a 3-month bill was 2.362 percent, up from just 0.846 percent a month ago. For six-month paper, it leapt to 3.237 percent from 1.737 percent in May.

Needless to say, this is very, very bad news.

#7 Italy

The situation in Italy continues to deteriorate and many analysts believe that it could be one of the next dominoes to fall.  The following is from a recent Businessweek article….

The euro zone’s third-biggest economy is seen as the next domino at risk of toppling after the European Union’s June 9 deal to lend Spain $125 billion in bank bailout funds. Yields on Italy’s 10-year government bonds reached 6.2 percent on June 13, up from just 4.8 percent in March. By pushing up Italy’s borrowing costs out of fear of default, investors are making a default more likely. 

A recent Fortune article detailed some of the economic fundamentals that have so many economists deeply concerned about the Italian economy right now….

The main glaring risk threats that could propel Italy down the path to become Europe’s next domino is the size of country’s outstanding debt (at €1.9 trillion or 120% of GDP); the mountain of debt it has to roll over in the next 12 months (nearly €400 billion); and the market’s cracking credibility around Prime Minister Mario Monti’s ability to reduce the country’s fiscal footprint and spur growth.

Further, fear around Italy’s creditworthiness, which has recently been expressed by near cycle highs in sovereign CDS spreads and government yields on the 10-year bond, follow some rather glaring negative fundamentals over recent quarters and years:  declining GDP over the last three consecutive quarters; a rising unemployment rate (especially among its youth); deterioration in labor market competitiveness; and increased competition for export goods to its key trading partners.

#8 Greece

I have written extensively about the financial nightmare that is unfolding in Greece.  Unemployment has soared past the 20 percent mark, youth unemployment is above 50 percent, the Greek economy has contracted by close to 25 percent over the past four years and now Greek politicians are saying that a third bailout package may be necessary.

#9 Cyprus

The tiny island nation of Cyprus has become the fifth member of the eurozone to formally request a bailout.  This is yet another sign that the eurozone is rapidly falling apart.

#10 Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to promote an austerity path for Europe and she continues to maintain her very firm position against any kind of eurozone debt sharing….

Merkel, speaking to a conference in Berlin today as Spain announced it would formally seek aid for its banks, dismissed “euro bonds, euro bills and European deposit insurance with joint liability and much more” as “economically wrong and counterproductive,” saying that they ran against the German constitution.

“It’s not a bold prediction to say that in Brussels most eyes — all eyes — will be on Germany yet again,” Merkel said. “I say quite openly: when I think of the summit on Thursday I’m concerned that once again the discussion will be far too much about all kinds of ideas for joint liability and far too little about improved oversight and structural measures.”

In fact, Merkel says that there will be no eurobonds “as long as I live“.  This means that there will be no “quick fix” for the problems that are unfolding in Europe.

#11 Bank Runs

Every single day, hundreds of millions of dollars is being pulled out of banks in southern Europe.  Much of that money is being transferred to banks in northern Europe.

In a previous article I included an extremely alarming quote from a CNBC article about the unfolding banking crisis in Europe….

Financial advisers and private bankers whose clients have accounts too large to be covered by a Europe-wide guarantee on deposits up to 100,000 euros ($125,000), are reporting a “bank run by wire transfer” that has picked up during May.

Much of this money has headed north to banks in London, Frankfurt and Geneva, financial advisers say.

“It’s been an ongoing process but it certainly picked up pace a couple of weeks ago We believe there is a continuous 2-3 year bank run by wire transfer,” said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital, a Geneva-based pan European wealth management firm.

How long can these bank runs continue before banking systems start to collapse?

#12 Preparations For The Collapse Of The Eurozone

As I have written about previously, the smart money has already written off southern Europe.  All over the continent major financial institutions are preparing for the worst.  For example, just check out what Visa Europe is doing….

Visa Europe is holding weekly meetings to discuss scenarios in the event the euro zone collapses, joining other companies that are preparing for a potential breakup of the currency bloc.

Chief Commercial Officer Steve Perry said Tuesday that management at the U.K.-based credit-card company meets weekly to explore various possible outcomes, including a total collapse of the euro zone.

#13 Global Lending Is Slowing Down

All over the globe the flow of credit is beginning to freeze up.  In fact, the Bank for International Settlements says that worldwide lending is contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.

#14 Sophisticated Cyber Attacks On Banks

It is being reported that “very sophisticated” hackers have successfully raided dozens of banks in Europe.  So far, it is being estimated that they have stolen 60 million euros….

Sixty million euro has been stolen from bank accounts in a massive cyber bank raid after fraudsters raided dozens of financial institutions around the world.

According to a joint report by software security firm McAfee and Guardian Analytics, more than 60 firms have suffered from what it has called an “insider level of understanding”.

What happens someday if we wake up and all the money in the banks is gone?

#15 U.S. Municipal Bankruptcies

All over the United States there are cities and towns on the verge of financial disaster.  This week Stockton, California became the largest U.S. city to ever declare bankruptcy, but the reality is that this is only just the beginning of the municipal debt crisis….

Stockton, California, said it will file for bankruptcy after talks with bondholders and labor unions failed, making the agricultural center the biggest U.S. city to seek court protection from creditors.

“The city is fiscally insolvent and must seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection,” Stockton said in a statement released yesterday after its council voted 6-1 to adopt a spending plan for operating under bankruptcy protection.

#16 The Obamacare Decision

The U.S. economy is already a complete and total mess, and now the Obamacare decision is going to throw a huge wet blanket on it.  All over America, small business owners are saying that they are going to have to let some workers go because they cannot afford to keep them all under Obamacare.  It would be hard to imagine a more job killing law than Obamacare, and now that the Supreme Court decision has finally been announced we are going to see many businesses making some really hard decisions.

#17 The U.S. Election

It is being reported that Barack Obama is putting together an army of “thousands of lawyers” to deal with any disputes that arise over voting procedures or results.  It certainly looks like this upcoming election is going to be extremely close, and there is the potential that we could end up facing another Bush v. Gore scenario where the fate of the presidency is determined in court.  This campaign season is likely to be exceptionally nasty, and I fear what may happen if there is not a decisive winner on election day.  The possibility of significant civil unrest is certainly there.

We definitely live in “interesting” times.

Personally, I am deeply concerned about the September, October, November time frame.

The other day, Joe Biden delivered a speech in which he made the following statement….

“It’s A Depression For Millions And Millions Of Americans”

And what Biden said was right for once.  Millions of Americans are out of work right now and millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class in recent years.  If you have lost everything, it does feel like you are living through a depression.

When people lose everything, they tend to get desperate.  And desperate people do desperate things – especially when they are angry.

A whole host of recent opinion polls have shown that anger and frustration in the United States are rising to unprecedented levels.  The ingredients are certainly there for an explosion.  Someone just needs to come along and light the fuse.  We truly do live in frightening times.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

21 Signs That This Could Be A Long, Hot, Crazy Summer For The Global Financial System

The summer of 2012 is shaping up to be very similar to the summer of 2008.  Things look incredibly bleak for the global economy right now.  Economic activity and lending are slowing down all over the planet, and fear is starting to paralyze the entire global financial system.  Things did not look this bad back in the summer of 2011 and things certainly did not look this bad back in the summer of 2010.  It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is brewing.  Today, the global financial system is a finely balanced pyramid of risk, debt and leverage.  Such a system requires a high degree of confidence and stability.  But when confidence disappears and fear and panic take over, the house of cards can literally start collapsing at any time.  Right now we are watching a slow-motion train wreck unfold and nobody seems to know how to stop it.  Unless some kind of a miracle happens, things are going to look much different when we reach the start of 2013 than they do today.

The following are 21 signs that this could be a long, hot, crazy summer for the global financial system….

#1 There are rumors that major financial institutions are cancelling employee vacations in anticipation of a major financial crisis this summer.  The following are a couple of tweets quoted in a recent article by Kenneth Schortgen Jr….

Todd Harrison tweet: Hearing (not confirmed) @PIMCO asked employees to cancel vacations to have “all hands on deck” for a Lehman-type tail event. Confirm?

Todd M. Schoenberger tweet: @todd_harrison @pimco I heard the same thing, but I also heard the same for “some” at JPM. Heard it today at a hedge fund luncheon.

As Schortgen points out, these are not just your average Twitter users….

Todd Harrison is the CEO of the award winning internet media company Minyanville, while Todd Shoenberger is a managing principal at the Blackbay Group, and an adjunct professor of Finance at Cecil College.

#2 The Bank for International Settlements is warning that global lending is contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.

#3 Unemployment in the eurozone has hit a brand new all-time record high.

#4 The government of Portugal has just announced that it will be bailing out three major banks.

#5 Many U.S. banking stocks are being hit extremely hard.  For example, Morgan Stanley stock has declined by 40 percent over the past four months.

#6 Yields on Spanish debt and yields on Italian debt have been absolutely soaring.

#7 10 year U.S. Treasury notes hit a record low on Friday because investors are scared and they are looking for safety. The following is from a recent USA Today article….

“Treasuries are at 1.46 because people are freaking out,” says Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Economics.

#8 New orders for factory goods in the United States have declined three times in the last four months.  That is a sign that the “economic recovery” in the U.S. has clearly stalled.

#9 U.S. job growth in May was well below expectations and the unemployment rate has increased to 8.2 percent.

#10 Economies all over the developed world are seriously slowing down right now.  The following is from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

Brazil wilted in the first quarter. India grew at the slowest pace in nine years. China’s HSBC manufacturing index fell further into contraction in May, with new orders dropping sharply and inventories rising.

#11 Stocks in Japan hit a 28 year low on Monday.

#12 Over the past five years, the stock markets of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus have all fallen by more than 50 percent.  Will we soon see similar results all over the rest of Europe?

#13 The Greek economy is literally shutting down.  Just check out the chaos that unpaid bills are already causing….

And unpaid bills are now threatening Greece’s electricity supply. State-owned Electricity Market Operator (LAGIE), a clearing house for power transactions, hasn’t paid independent power producers for electricity it bought from them. They, in turn, haven’t paid their natural gas supplier, Public Gas Corporation (Depa), which now doesn’t have the money to pay its supplier. Payment is due on June 22. Alas, its supplier is Gazprom in Russia, and they insist on getting paid. If not, they will shut the valve, and Depa won’t get the gas to supply the independent producers, which will have to take their power plants off line, removing about a third of the country’s electricity production.

#14 It is estimated that there are 273 billion dollars of failed real estate loans in the Spanish banking system.

#15 In March, 66 billion euros was pulled out of Spanish banks and sent out of the country.  That was an all-time record and that was before we even knew the results of the recent elections in Greece and France.  The numbers for April and May will almost certainly be even worse.

#16 The unemployment rate in Spain is 24.4 percent and for those under the age of 25 it is over 50 percent.

#17 Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is warning that Italy may have to take drastic actions if something is not done soon….

“People are in shock. Confidence has collapsed. We have never had such a dark future,” he said. Indeed, the jobless rate for youth has jumped from 27pc to 35pc in a year. Terrorism has returned. Anarchists knee-capped the head of Ansaldo Nucleare last month. Italy’s tax office chief was nearly blinded by a letter bomb.

“If Europe refuses to listen to our demands, we should say ‘bye, bye’ and leave the euro. Or tell the Germans to leave the euro if they are not happy,” he said.

#18 It now looks like Cyprus is going to be the next European nation to need a bailout.

#19 Switzerland is threatening to implement capital controls in order to stop the massive flow of money that is coming in from banks around the rest of Europe.

#20 As I wrote about the other day, World Bank President Robert Zoellick is warning that “the summer of 2012″ could end up being very similar to what we experienced back in 2008….

“Events in Greece could trigger financial fright in Spain, Italy and across the eurozone. The summer of 2012 offers an eerie echo of 2008.”

#21 Germany’s former vice-Chancellor, Joschka Fischer, is warning that the entire EU could fall apart over this crisis….

“Let’s not delude ourselves: If the euro falls apart, so will the European Union, triggering a global economic crisis on a scale that most people alive today have never experienced”

When was the last time that we saw so much bad economic news come out all at once?

2008 perhaps?

We truly live in unprecedented times.

It will be exciting to watch what happens, but it is also important to keep in mind that the coming economic crisis will cause extreme pain for millions upon millions of people.

For example, the suicide of a mother and a son due to the deteriorating economy has absolutely shocked the entire nation of Greece….

A 60-year-old Greek musician and his 91-year-old mother jumped to their deaths from their 5th floor apartment, driven to despair by financial woes. This double death is the latest in a rising epidemic of crisis-induced suicides in Greece.

­Witness accounts vary – some say the mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, jumped first, screaming a prayer as she plummeted to her death. Other neighbors say the mother and her son jumped together, holding hands.

But the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the family had been struggling for a long time. The night before, Antonis Perris posted a suicide note of sorts on a popular Greek forum, saying he had no way of resolving the family’s financial issues.

“The problem is that I didn’t realize that I would need to have cash, because the economic crisis came so suddenly. Even though I have been selling our possessions, we have no cash flow, we have no money to buy food anymore and my credit card is maxed out with 22% interest rate.”

Perris continued to say that both his and his mother’s health deteriorated, and that he saw no solution to his most basic problems – getting food and medical help.

This is why it is so incredibly important to get prepared.

You don’t want something like that happening to you or anyone in your family.

22 Red Flags That Indicate That Very Serious Doom Is Coming For Global Financial Markets

If you enjoy watching financial doom, then you are quite likely to really enjoy the rest of 2012.  Right now, red flags are popping up all over the place.  Corporate insiders are selling off stock like there is no tomorrow, major economies all over Europe continue to implode, the IMF is warning that the eurozone could actually break up and there are signs of trouble at major banks all over the planet.  Unfortunately, it looks like the period of relative stability that global financial markets have been enjoying is about to come to an end.  A whole host of problems that have been festering just below the surface are starting to manifest, and we are beginning to see the ingredients for a “perfect storm” start to come together.  The greatest global debt bubble in human history is showing signs that it is getting ready to burst, and when that happens the consequences are going to be absolutely horrific.  Hopefully we still have at least a little bit more time before the global financial system implodes, but at this point it doesn’t look like anything is going to be able to stop the chaos that is on the horizon.

The following are 22 red flags that indicate that very serious doom is coming for global financial markets….

#1 According to CNN, the level of selling by insiders at corporations listed on the S&P 500 is the highest that it has been in almost a decade.  Do those insiders know something that the rest of us do not?

#2 Home prices in the United States have fallen for six months in a row and are now down 35 percent from the peak of the housing market.  The last time that home prices in the U.S. were this low was back in 2002.

#3 It is now being projected that the Greek economy will shrink by another 5 percent this year.

#4 Despite wave after wave of austerity measures, Greece is still going to have a budget deficit equivalent to about 7 percent of GDP in 2012.

#5 Interest rates on Italian and Spanish sovereign debt are rapidly rising.  The following is from a recent RTE article….

Spain’s borrowing rate nearly doubled in a short-term debt auction as investors fretted over the euro zone’s determination to deal with its debts. 

And Italy raised nearly €3.5 billion in a short-term bond sale today but at sharply higher interest rates amid fresh concerns over the euro zone outlook, the Bank of Italy said.

#6 The government of Spain recently announced that its 2011 budget deficit was much larger than originally projected and that it probably will not meet its budget targets for 2012 either.

#7 Amazingly, bad loans now make up 8.15 percent of all loans on the books of Spanish banks.  That is the highest level in 18 years.  The total value of all toxic loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#8 One key Spanish stock index has already fallen by more than 19 percent so far this year.

#9 The Spanish government has announced a ban on all cash transactions larger than 2,500 euros.  Many are interpreting this as a panic move.

#10 It is looking increasingly likely that a major bailout for Spain will be needed.  The following is from a recent Reuters article….

Economic experts watching Spain don’t know how much money will be needed or precisely when, but some are near certain that Madrid will eventually seek a multi-billion euro bailout for its banks, and perhaps even for the state itself.

#11 Analysts at Moody’s Analytics are warning that Italy has now reached financially unsustainable territory….

“Italy is already out of fiscal space, in our estimate.” said Moody’s. “Its debt levels relative to GDP already exceed a manageable level. The manageable limit for Italian 10-year bond yields is estimated at 4.2pc. As of Wednesday, Italian 10-year yields were 5.46pc.”

#12 It is being projected that the Portuguese economy will shrink by 5.7 percent during 2012.

#13 There is even trouble in European nations that have been considered relatively stable up to this point.  For example, the Dutch government collapsed on Monday after austerity talks broke down.

#14 The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, says that there are “dark clouds on the horizon” for the global economy.

#15 The top economist for the IMF, Olivier Blanchard, recently made this statement: “One has the feeling that at any moment, things could get very bad again.”

#16 A recent IMF report admitted that the current financial crisis could lead to the break up of the eurozone….

Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out. The financial and real spillovers to other regions, especially emerging Europe, would likely be very large.

This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse.

#17 George Soros is publicly declaring that the European Union could soon experience a collapse similar to what happened to the Soviet Union.

#18 A member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage, stated during one recent interview that it is inevitable that some major banks in Europe will collapse….

There are going to be some serious banking collapses and the impact of that on some sovereign states, will be serious. I’m afraid we’ve gotten to a point where we really can’t stop this now. We’re beginning to reach a stage where however much false money you create, the problem becomes bigger than the people trying to solve it. We are very close to that point.

When I talk about the threats and the risk that this thing could wind up in some kind of rebellion, some sort of awful social cataclysm, they (other European politicians) are now very worried indeed. They will talk to you in private, but in public, nobody dares utter a word.

I think the deterioration, in the last two or three weeks, in the eurozone is very serious indeed. It’s the bond spreads in Italy and Spain. It’s the fact that youth unemployment is now over 50% in some of these Mediterranean countries.

It’s riot and disorder on the streets. And yet a month ago I was here and there was Herman Van Rumpuy telling us, ‘We’ve turned the corner. Everything is solved. There are no more problems with the eurozone.’ What a pack of jokers they look like.”

#19 The IMF is projecting that Japan will have a debt to GDP ratio of 256 percent by next year.

#20 Goldman Sachs is projecting that the S&P 500 will fall by about 11 percent by the end of 2012.

#21 Over the past six months, hundreds of prominent bankers have resigned all over the globe.  Is there a reason why so many are suddenly leaving their posts?

#22 The 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of 228.72 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  That is approximately 3 times the size of the entire global economy.  It is a financial bubble so immense in size that it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend how large it is.

The financial crisis of 2008 was just a warm up act for what is coming.  The too big to fail banks are larger than ever, the governments of the western world are in far more debt than they were back then, and the entire global financial system is more unstable and more vulnerable than ever before.

But this time the epicenter of the financial crisis will be in Europe.

Outside of Europe, most people simply do not understand how truly nightmarish the European economic crisis really is.

Spain, Italy and Portugal are all heading for an economic depression and Greece is already in one.

The European Central Bank was able to kick the can down the road a little bit by expanding its balance sheet by about a trillion dollars over the last nine months, but the truth is that the underlying problems in Europe just continue to get worse and worse.

It truly is like watching a horrible car wreck happen in slow motion.

The good news is that there is still a little time to get yourself into a better position for the next financial crisis.  Don’t leave yourself financially exposed to the next crash.

Sadly, just like back in 2008, most people will never even see this next crisis coming.

So do you have any other red flags to add to the list above?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

112 Questions To Ask Yourself In 2012

The beginning of each year is a great time to evaluate the direction of your life and to ask yourself some very important questions.  Often we get so busy just living life that we lose our perspective.  It is important for each of us to take time once in a while to reassess how our lives are going.  It is also important for all of us to reassess the direction that our nation is heading in every so often.  The truth is that America has gotten badly off track.  We have abandoned the principles which once made this country great, and this country is literally falling apart all around us.  Hopefully the questions below will not just get you focused on our problems.  Hopefully they will also spur you to think about solutions.  Both individually and as a nation, we are in a lot of trouble.  We need to start asking better questions and we need to rediscover the things that once made America the greatest nation on earth.  If we are willing to humble ourselves and change course then there is hope for us.  If not, then the road that we are currently on will only lead to national disaster.

The following are 112 questions to ask yourself in 2012….

#1 Are Barack Obama and Mitt Romney really the best that America can come up with?

#2 Right now the nations of the world are 55 trillion dollars in debt.  How long will it be before this system of debt totally collapses?

#3 What things in life are you truly grateful for?  Do you ever take time to thank those that have been so good to you?

#4 In 2012, when you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over to their projected budget deficit, it comes to 23.1 percent of Italy’s GDP.  How in the world is Italy going to be able to handle that in this economic environment?

#5 What do you feel like you are missing in life?  Are you actively looking for those things?

#6 According to a survey conducted by the National Geographic Society, only 37 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 can find Iraq on a map of the world.  What does that say about our education system?

#7 Do you give more than you take?  Would you rather serve people or be served?

#8 Why were gun sales in the United States at record levels as we entered 2012?

#9 What are you afraid of? Are those fears rational or irrational?

#10 168 million emails are sent every single minute.  Are we rapidly getting to the point of information overload?

#11 Do you care enough about other people?  Do you spend more time thinking about yourself or thinking about others?

#12 Why are there 18.5 million vacant homes in America today?

#13 Did you spend enough time with your family last year?  Will you spend enough time with them this year?

#14 The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 20 million over the past five years.  What does that say about the state of the U.S. economy?

#15 Is your family prepared for what is about to happen to this world?

#16 Why do the poor in America just keep getting poorer?

#17 After you are dead, what will people be saying about you?  Will they miss you or will they be glad that you are gone?

#18 Why have 10 million more Americans fallen below the poverty line since 2006?

#19 What do you need to change about yourself?

#20 Should we all be concerned that doctors in India say that “incurable” cases of tuberculosis are showing up in India?

#21 Who do you know that could use some more love?

#22 Why is the Department of Homeland Security scanning Facebook and Twitter for “sensitive words“?

#23 Is your country a better place because you live there?

#24 Why is the FBI building a massive new biometric database?

#25 What do you think your life will be like ten years from now?

#26 40,000 new laws went into effect across the United States as 2012 began.  What does that say about the culture in this nation?

#27 If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would that be and why?

#28 What did Mitt Romney mean when he stated that he wants to “eliminate some of the differences, repeal the bad, and keep the good” in Obamacare?

#29 What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?  Are you still following it?

#30 Is it a good thing that the wealthiest 10 percent of all Americans have 56 percent of all the wealth?

#31 What books do you need to put on your reading list this year?

#32 About half of all Americans are now either living in poverty or are considered to be low income.  So are we still a “wealthy” nation?

#33 What are the things that you do that waste the most time?

#34 Why aren’t more Americans concerned that the trade deficit is increasing again?  This is one of the things that killed the Greek economy and it is most definitely sucking the life out of our own economy.  Could it be that most Americans have become so “dumbed down” that they don’t even know what a trade deficit is?

#35 What would happen to you and your family if you suddenly lost your job?

#36 How is Germany able to build twice as many cars every year as the United States does?

#37 Have you done anything worth remembering lately?

#38 Why is the average age of a vehicle in America now sitting at an all-time high?

#39 If you only had one day left to live, how would you spend that day?

#40 How stupid are the American people for piling up 700 billion dollars in credit card debt?

#41 Is there anything that is worth giving your life for?

#42 If Obamacare is so great for working people, then why are so many unions requesting (and getting) Obamacare waivers from the federal government?

#43 Do you believe that you can be a hero?

#44 Why is the government allowing genetically modified mosquitoes to be released in the United States?

#45 What is one great decision that you can make right now?

#46 Why is Mitt Romney taxed at a lower rate than most middle class Americans are?

#47 If someone gave you one million dollars today, how would you spend it?

#48 Who decided that it would be a good idea for TSA “VIPR Teams” to set up thousands of internal checkpoints across the United States every year?

#49 What is the number one thing on your Bucket List?  Why haven’t you done it already?

#50 Why is the federal government spending billions of dollars to militarize local police departments across the United States?

#51 If it was possible, would you want to live forever?

#52 Should we be concerned that 30% of all Americans get arrested by the age of 23?

#53 Where would you rather be than right here right now?

#54 Why did the D.C. government pass a new law that protects the rights of rats?

#55 Which is greater – the number of people that you love, or the number of people that you hate?

#56 Are CEOs really 243 times more valuable than the average worker is?

#57 What will your legacy be?

#58 Is the massive swarm of earthquakes that New Zealand is experiencing a sign that the “Ring of Fire” is becoming more active?

#59 What would your plan be if there was a major volcanic eruption on the west coast of the United States?

#60 If 63 percent of all mortgaged properties in the state of Nevada are still “underwater”, then how in the world can anyone claim that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the housing crisis?

#61 Why is the federal government arresting people who produce raw milk?

#62 Is the world on the verge of an absolutely nightmarish water crisis?

#63 What are you really good at?  Are you using that skill to make a difference in the lives of others?

#64 Why is the U.S. government giving nearly half a billion dollars every 12 months to an organization that performs about 300,000 abortions a year?

#65 What is the meaning of life?

#66 Why are so many Planned Parenthood executives earning well over $100,000 a year?

#67 How can you make tomorrow better than today?

#68 While the TSA is groping millions of Americans at airports every year, rampant sex trafficking is going on in virtually every major American city.  Isn’t it time that we admitted that our allocation of law enforcement resources is very seriously flawed?

#69 How can you make next week better than this week?

#70 One recent survey found that only 29 percent of people would describe themselves as “very happy”.  So what does that say about the state of our country?

#71 Do you consider yourself to be good?  If so, how did you determine that?

#72 If we are on the verge of a global recession, then why is the stock market still so high?

#73 What would happen if government spending was cut by 50 percent?

#74 Is the euro going to eventually fall to parity with the U.S. dollar?

#75 If the euro fails, what will Europe do?  Would national currencies make a comeback or would a new “European currency” be created?

#76 Are we getting dangerously close to a war in the Middle East?

#77 What would happen to the price of gasoline if foreign oil supplies from the Middle East were suddenly cut off?

#78 Is Germany going to just stand by and watch Greece default?

#79 Is it likely that your eating habits will send you to an early grave?  If so, why not make this the year when they change?

#80 Why aren’t politicians from either major political party doing something to stop the massive flood of blue collar jobs that is pouring out of this country?  Don’t they care about average Americans?

#81 Why do we spend so much time on things that simply do not matter?

#82 Since 1971, consumer debt in the United States has increased by a whopping 1700%.  Is that a sign of a nation that is going to be prosperous in the long run?

#83 Does the U.S. need a new major political party?

#84 The U.S. debt problem continues to escalate.  During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.  Very few of our politicians seem alarmed by this.  Are we the stupidest generation in American history?

#85 Does the U.S. need a new Constitutional Convention?

#86 When we finally see the U.S. economy collapse, who will be in better shape – those that have spent years preparing or those that have not prepared at all?

#87 Are you so afraid to fail that you simply do not even try anymore?

#88 We are facing the most horrific retirement crisis in U.S. history.  Right now, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every single day.  So where in the world are we going to get all the money we need to pay them the retirement benefits that we have promised them?  Isn’t the Social Security system essentially one gigantic Ponzi scheme?

#89 If people started following your example, would that be a good thing?

#90 According to one Gallup survey, 7 out of every 10 Americans believe that religion is losing influence in the United States.  Is that good for America or bad for America?

#91 Do you ever do anything that is outside of your comfort zone?

#92 The U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a track record of incompetence that is absolutely mind blowing.  So what possible justification is there for allowing the Federal Reserve to continue to issue our currency and run our economy?

#93 If you lost everything that you currently own, would your life be over?

#94 If the European financial system is going to be just fine, then why is the UK government preparing feverishly for the collapse of the euro?

#95 When you meet someone for the first time, do you tend to instantly love them or do you tend to instantly judge them?

#96 If the one thing that almost everyone in the Republican Party seems to agree on is that Obamacare is bad, then why is the candidate that created the plan that much of Obamacare was based upon about to run away with the race for the Republican nomination?

#97 Do you feel like you are truly alive?  If not, what can you do to change that?

#98 Why have we allowed the “too big to fail” banks to become even larger?

#99 Who are you living your life for?  Does the answer to that question excite you or depress you?

#100 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.  So where are all of the jobs for the “economic recovery” going to come from?

#101 As you have gotten older, have you also become more loving?

#102 Since 1964, the reelection rate for members of the U.S. House of Representatives has never fallen below 85 percent.  How stupid can the American people possibly be?  They keep sending the exact same Congress critters back to Washington D.C. over and over and over.

#103 Do you treat others the way that you would like to be treated?

#104 According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.  Without strong family units, can America survive?

#105 Do you prefer to forgive those that have hurt you or do your prefer to hold long grudges?

#106 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.  So why are so many young people so broke?

#107 Do you tell your family and your friends that you love them or do you just assume that they already know?

#108 According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.  How bad are things going to be when the economy gets even worse?

#109 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.    How in the world can we justify putting so much debt on to the backs of future generations?

#110 How do you want the story of your life to end?

#111 Will the years ahead find you cowering in fear or will they find you enjoying greater adventures than you ever dreamed of?

#112 If you had the opportunity to tell everyone in America one thing, what would it be?

22 Signs That We Are On The Verge Of A Devastating Global Recession

2012 is shaping up to be a very tough year for the global economy.  All over the world there are signs that economic activity is significantly slowing down.  Many of these signs are detailed later on in this article.  But most people don’t understand what is happening because they don’t put all of the pieces together.  If you just look at one or two pieces of data, it may not seem that impressive.  But when you examine all of the pieces of evidence that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession all at once, it paints a very frightening picture.  Asia is slowing down, Europe is slowing down and there are lots of trouble signs for the U.S. economy.  It has gotten to a point where the global debt crisis is almost ready to boil over, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  The last global recession was absolutely nightmarish, and we should all hope that we don’t see another one like that any time soon.  Unfortunately, things do not look good at this point.

The following are 22 signs that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession….

#1 On Thursday it was announced that U.S. jobless claims had soared to a six-week high.

#2 Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

#3 Sears recently announced that somewhere between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores will be closing, and Sears stock has fallen nearly 60% in just the past year.

#4 Over the past 12 months, dozens of prominent retailers have closed stores all over America, and one consulting firm is projecting that there will be more than 5,000 more store closings in 2012.

#5 Richard Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Securities, is projecting that the global financial industry will lose approximately 150,000 jobs over the next 12 to 18 months.

#6 Investors are pulling money out of the stock market at a rapid pace right now.  In fact, as an article posted on CNBC recently noted, investors pulled more money out of mutual funds than they put into mutual funds for 9 weeks in a row.  Are there some people out there that are quietly repositioning their money for tough times ahead?….

Investors yanked money out of U.S. equity mutual funds for a ninth-consecutive week despite a bullish 2012 outlook from Wall Street and a December rally that’s carried over into the New Year.

#7 There are signs that the Chinese economy is seriously slowing down.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

Growth had slowed to an annual rate of 1.5% in the second and third quarters of 2011, below the “stall speed” that historically led to recession.

#8 The Bank of Japan says that the economic recovery in that country “has paused“.

#9 Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.

#10 Germany’s economy actually contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.  At this point many economists believe that Germany is already experiencing a recession.

#11 According to a recent article by Bloomberg, it is being projected that the French economy is heading into a recession….

The French economy will shrink this quarter and next, suggesting the nation is in a recession as investment and consumer spending stagnate, national statistics office Insee said.

#12 There are a multitude of statistics that indicate that the UK economy is definitely slowing down.

#13 The credit ratings of Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Austria all just got downgraded.

#14 It is being reported that the Spanish economy contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.

#15 Bad loans in Spain recently hit a 17-year high and the unemployment rate is at a 15-year high.

#16 According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the Italian government is forecasting that there will be a recession for the Italian economy in 2012….

The Italian government predicts GDP will contract 0.4pc next year, but many economists fear the figure is optimistic.

“We can say without mincing words that we have already slipped into recession,” said Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Paolo Mameli. “We expect GDP to keep contracting for the next 3-4 quarters.”

#17 Italy’s youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever.

#18 The unemployment rate in Greece for those under the age of 24 is now at 39 percent.

#19 Greece is already experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  About a third of the country is now living in poverty and extreme medicine shortages are being reported.  Things have gotten so bad that entire families are being ripped apart.  According to the Daily Mail, hundreds of Greek children are being abandoned because the economy has gotten so bad that their parents simply cannot afford to take care of them anymore.  The note that one mother left with her child was absolutely heartbreaking….

One mother, it said, ran away after handing over her two-year-old daughter Natasha.

Four-year-old Anna was found by a teacher clutching a note that read: ‘I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her. Please take good care of her. Sorry.’

#20 In Greece, large numbers of people are simply giving up on life.  Sadly, the number of suicides in Greece has increased by 40 percent in just the past year.

#21 In many European countries, the money supply continues to contract rapidly.  The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….

Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors said “narrow” M1 money – which includes cash and overnight deposits, and signals short-term spending plans – shows an alarming split between North and South.

While real M1 deposits are still holding up in the German bloc, the rate of fall over the last six months (annualised) has been 20.7pc in Greece, 16.3pc in Portugal, 11.8pc in Ireland, and 8.1pc in Spain, and 6.7pc in Italy. The pace of decline in Italy has been accelerating, partly due to capital flight. “This rate of contraction is greater than in early 2008 and implies an even deeper recession, both for Italy and the whole periphery,” said Mr Ward.

#22 The major industrialized nations of the world must roll over trillions upon trillions of dollars in debt during 2012.  At a time when credit is becoming much tighter, this is going to be quite a challenge.  The following list compiled by Bloomberg shows the amount of debt that some large nations must roll over in 2012….

Japan: 3,000 billion
U.S.: 2,783 billion
Italy: 428 billion
France: 367 billion
Germany: 285 billion
Canada: 221 billion
Brazil: 169 billion
U.K.: 165 billion
China: 121 billion
India: 57 billion
Russia: 13 billion

Keep in mind that those numbers do not include any new borrowing.  Those are just old debts that must be refinanced.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, things do not look good.

The last thing that we need is another devastating global recession.

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy is in the midst of a nightmarish long-term decline.  The last major global recession helped to significantly accelerate that decline.

So what will happen if this next global recession is worse than the last one?

Sadly, the people that will get hurt the most by another recession will not be the wealthy.

The people that will get hurt the most will be the poor and the middle class.

So what should all of us be doing about this?

We should use the time during this “calm before the storm” to prepare for the hard times that are coming.

As always, let us hope for the best and let us prepare for the worst.

But things certainly do not look promising for the global economy in 2012.

2012 Will Be More Difficult Than 2011

Do you believe that 2012 will be more difficult for the global economy than 2011 was?  Well, that is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes.  The woman that has become the most important politician in Europe recently declared that 2012 “will no doubt be more difficult than 2011″.  The funny thing is that she has generally been one of the most optimistic public figures in Europe throughout this debt crisis.  But now even Merkel is openly admitting that 2012 is going to be a really, really bad year.  Sadly, most Americans simply do not understand how important Europe is or how interconnected the global financial system has become.  The United States actually has a smaller population and a smaller economy than the EU does.  In fact, the EU has an economy that is nearly as large as the economies of the United States and China combined.  The EU also is home to more Fortune 500 companies that the U.S. is, and the European banking system is far larger than the U.S. banking system.  Anyone that does not believe that a financial collapse in Europe will have a devastating impact on the U.S. economy is living in a fantasy world.  Americans better start paying attention to what is going on over there, because we are about to be broadsided by a massive financial tsunami originating out of Europe.

It is not just Angela Merkel that is warning that 2012 is going to be a difficult year.  The following are several more very prominent individuals that are warning that bad times are on the way….

*Citigroup’s chief equity strategist, Tobias Levkovich, recently made the following statement….

“Europe is likely to have a meaningful recession in 2012″

*Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, recently said that we could soon see conditions “reminiscent of the 1930s depression” and that no country on earth “will be immune to the crisis”.

* Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citigroup, recently said the following….

“Time is running out fast.  I think we have maybe a few months — it could be weeks, it could be days — before there is a material risk of a fundamentally unnecessary default by a country like Spain or Italy which would be a financial catastrophe dragging the European banking system and North America with it.”

* Even Paul Krugman of the New York Times is sounding quite apocalyptic….

“At this point I’d guess soaring rates on Italian debt leading to a gigantic bank run, both because of solvency fears about Italian banks given a default and because of fear that Italy will end up leaving the euro. This then leads to emergency bank closing, and once that happens, a decision to drop the euro and install the new lira. Next stop, France.”

I have written quite a bit recently about all of the signs that parts of Europe have already entered a recession.

Well, in just the past few days even more numbers have been released that indicate that a recession has now begun in Europe…..

-Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.

-Bad loans in Spain recently hit a 17-year high and the unemployment rate is at a 15-year high.

-Government revenues in Spain have not been up to the level that was expected.  The Spanish government just announced that the budget deficit for 2011 is going to end up being much larger than anticipated.

-Unfortunately, it appears that virtually all sectors of the Spanish economy seem to be slowing down….

The central bank said early indicators show that Spanish tourism, exports, spending and investment have been hit, which is likely to have led to a contraction in GDP in the fourth quarter.

Of course one of the most alarming things happening in Europe is the rapid contraction of the money supply.  It is almost impossible to avoid a recession when the money supply shrinks substantially.  The following comes from an article a few days ago in the Telegraph….

Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors said the ECB’s “narrow” M1 money figures – tracked for clues on shorter-term spending patterns – show a drastic divergence between the North and South of the eurozone. “Parts of the core may avoid recession but there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the periphery. Real M1 deposits in Greece and Portugal have been falling at an annual rate of roughly 20pc over the last six months,” he said.

Right now, the rest of Europe is heading down the same road that Greece has been traveling on for several years.

Today, Greece is essentially bankrupt and is experiencing a full-blown depression.  At this point, nobody in Europe is even pretending that Greece is going to be okay.  The following comes from a recent Der Spiegel article….

“With debts amounting to 150 percent of GNP, Greece is de facto bankrupt. Over the course of 2011, even the leading representatives of the euro zone finally accepted this fact — after having claimed its opposite a year previously.”

Greece desperately needs relief from all of this debt, but the other nations in the eurozone do not want to provide that relief.  Instead, it looks like Germany is going to ask private creditors to take an even bigger “haircut” on Greek debt than previously proposed.  The following comes from a recent Bloomberg article….

“Germany’s government declined to comment on a report that it may push for creditors to accept bigger losses on Greek debt than previously agreed upon, saying only that talks on lowering Greece’s debt level may end soon.

Germany is studying a proposal to write down 75 percent of Greek government bonds held by private creditors as part of a planned debt swap to ensure greater debt sustainability”

If Germany ends up publicly proposing this, it will shatter what confidence is left in European sovereign bonds.

There is not that much of a difference between a 75 percent haircut and a full default.  If investors are forced to take a 75 percent haircut on Greek debt, then the financial world will have to start wondering if it is just a matter of time before giant haircuts are proposed for Italian debt, Spanish debt, Portuguese debt and Irish debt as well.

Hopefully Germany will not be this stupid.

But something has to be done about Greece.  Right now the IMF is projecting that Greek debt will reach 200% of GDP at some point in 2012 if changes are not made.

Of course Greece could cut government spending even more, but the cuts that have already been made have pushed that country into a total economic nightmare.

In a recent article, I discussed how the brutal austerity measures that we have seen have plunged the economy of Greece into a full-blown depression….

Just look at what happened to Greece.  Greece was forced to raise taxes and implement brutal austerity measures.  That caused the economy to slow down and tax revenues to decline and so government debt figures did not improve as much as anticipated.  So Greece was forced to implement even more brutal austerity measures.  Well, that caused the economy to slow down even more and tax revenues declined again.  In Greece this cycle has been repeated several times and now Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is living in poverty.  But now Germany and France intend to impose the “Greek solution” on the rest of Europe.

The “solution” that the EU and the IMF have imposed on Greece is not working.

So why are all of the other troubled nations in Europe being pushed down the same path?

Just consider the following statistics out of Greece….

*The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is 39 percent.

*The number of suicides has increased by 40 percent in the past year.

*Thefts and burglaries nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009.

Is that what we want to see throughout the rest of Europe?

The financial path that Europe is now on was criticized very harshly recently in the New York Times….

“Every government in Europe with the exception of Germany is bending over backwards to prove to the market that they won’t hesitate to do what it takes,” said Charles Wyplosz, a professor of economics at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. “We’re going straight into a wall with this kind of policy. It’s sheer madness.”

Yes, it is sheer madness.

Right now, authorities in Europe are desperately trying to keep a lid on this crisis.  The European Central Bank has been trying really hard to keep the yield on 10 year Italian bonds from rising above the very important 7 percent level.  But unless the ECB is prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of billions of euros buying up Italian debt in 2012, the yield on Italian bonds is likely to go much higher eventually.

At this point, it is hard to find any economist that is optimistic about Europe or about the euro in 2012.

One of the leading economic think tanks in Europe, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, is extremely pessimistic about the future of the euro as we enter 2012….

“It now looks as though 2012 will be the year when the euro starts to break up”

In fact, they say that there is a 99 percent chance that the eurozone will break up within the next ten years.

Terry Smith, the chief executive of Tullett Prebon, recently used language that was even more apocalyptic….

“If the eurozone crisis could be solved by confident pronouncements, it would already be saved. I would be shocked if Greece does not leave the eurozone in 2012 and this does not lead the markets to test the resolve to defend the positions of Portugal, Spain, Italy and, ultimately, France.”

Yes, there are a whole lot of people out there saying that 2012 will be more difficult than 2011.

Fortunately, there are a few nations out there that are choosing to try some different things.

We aren’t hearing much about it in the United States, but right now Hungary is actually taking some measures to get their central bank under control.

The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….

Hungary passed laws for its central bank in a move that experts warned could jeopardise its chances of securing international bail-out funds if it needs them. Officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned about the rules which will undermine the independence of the central bank. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban the country would not bow to the “European fashion that the central bank must be in a sacred state of independence”.

Of course the IMF is absolutely furious about this.  The IMF is warning that there will be no bailouts for Hungary if they mess with the “independence” of the central bank.

But hopefully more countries out there will start going after their central banks.  The truth is that it is the central banks and the endless debt spirals that they create that got us into this mess in the first place.

If central banking truly worked, Europe would not be in such a massive amount of trouble.  The euro would not be dropping like a rock and the European financial system would not be paralyzed by panic and fear.

The reality is that central banking does not work and it a colossal failure.

For example, in the United States the U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created, and the U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created.

It is amazing that there is anyone out there that is still willing to defend central banking.

2012 is going to be one of the most interesting years that we have seen in a long, long time.

Yes, 2012 will be more difficult than 2011 was, but it will also be a great opportunity to wake people up.

Our world is changing faster than ever before, and the Internet has made it possible for average people such as you and I to significantly participate in that change.

Resolve to do what you can to make a difference in this world in 2012, because time is rapidly running out.

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