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18 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Accelerating As We Enter The Last Half Of 2014

Accelerating - Public DomainA lot of people that I talk to these days want to know “when things are going to start happening”.  Well, there are certainly some perilous times on the horizon, but all you have to do is open up your eyes and look to see the global economic crisis unfolding.  As you will see below, even central bankers are issuing frightening warnings about “dangerous new asset bubbles” and even the World Bank is declaring that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis.  Most Americans tend to only care about what is happening in the United States, but the truth is that serious economic trouble is erupting in South America, all across Europe and in Asian powerhouses such as China and Japan.  And the endless conflicts in the Middle East could erupt into a major regional war at just about any time.  We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and people need to understand that the period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now is extremely vulnerable and will not last long.  The following are 18 signs that the global economic crisis is accelerating as we enter the last half of 2014…

#1 The Bank for International Settlements has issued a new report which warns that “dangerous new asset bubbles” are forming which could potentially lead to another major financial crisis.  Do the central bankers know something that we don’t, or are they just trying to place the blame on someone else for the giant mess that they have created?

#2 Argentina has missed a $539 million debt payment and is on the verge of its second major debt default in 13 years.

#3 Bulgaria is desperately trying to calm down a massive run on the banks that threatens of spiral out of control.

#4 Last month, household loans in the eurozone declined at the fastest rate ever recorded.  Why are European banks holding on to their money so tightly right now?

#5 The number of unemployed jobseekers in France has just soared to another brand new record high.

#6 Economies all over Europe are either showing no growth or are shrinking.  Just check out what a recent Forbes article had to say about the matter…

Italy’s economy shrank by 0.1% in the first three months of 2014, matching the average of the three previous quarters. After expanding 0.6% in Q2 2013, France recorded zero growth. Portugal shrank 0.7%, following positive numbers in the preceding nine months. While figures weren’t available for Greece and Ireland in Q1, neither country is showing progress. Greek GDP dropped 2.5% in the final three months of last year, and Ireland limped ahead at 0.2%.

#7 A few days ago it was reported that consumer prices in Japan are rising at the fastest pace in 32 years.

#8 Household expenditures in Japan are down 8 percent compared to one year ago.

#9 U.S. companies are drowning in massive amounts of debt, but the corporate debt bubble in China is so bad that the amount of corporate debt in China has actually now surpassed the amount of corporate debt in the United States.

#10 One Chinese auditor is warning that up to 80 billion dollars worth of loans in China are backed by falsified gold transactions.  What will that do to the price of gold and the stability of Chinese financial markets as that mess unwinds?

#11 The unemployment rate in Greece is currently sitting at 26.7 percent and the youth unemployment rate is 56.8 percent.

#12 67.5 percent of the people that are unemployed in Greece have been unemployed for over a year.

#13 The unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole is 11.8 percent – just a little bit shy of the all-time record of 12.0 percent.

#14 The European Central Bank is so desperate to get money moving through the system that it has actually introduced negative interest rates.

#15 The IMF is projecting that there is a 25 percent chance that the eurozone will slip into deflation by the end of next year.

#16 The World Bank is warning that “now is the time to prepare” for the next crisis.

#17 The economic conflict between the United States and Russia continues to deepen.  This has caused Russia to make a series of moves away from the U.S. dollar and toward other major currencies.  This will have serious ramifications for the global financial system as time rolls along.

#18 Of course the U.S. economy is struggling right now as well.  It shrank at a 2.9 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2014, which was much worse than anyone had anticipated.

But if U.S. economic numbers look a bit better for the second quarter, that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods.

As I have stressed so many times, the long-term trends and the long-term balance sheet numbers are far, far more important than the short-term economic numbers.

For example, if you went to the mall today and spent a thousand dollars on candy and video games, your short-term “economic activity” would spike dramatically.  But your long-term financial health would take a significant turn for the worse.

Well, when we are talking about the health of the U.S. economy or the entire global financial system we need to keep the same kinds of considerations in mind.

As for the United States, whether the level of our debt-fueled short-term economic activity goes up a little bit or down a little bit is not what is truly important.

Rather, the fact that we are nearly 60 trillion dollars in debt as a society is what really matters.

The same thing applies for the globe as a whole.  Right now, the citizens of the planet are more than 223 trillion dollars in debt, and “too big to fail” banks around the world have at least 700 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

So it doesn’t really matter too much whether the short-term economic numbers go up a little bit or down a little bit right now.  The whole system is an inherently flawed Ponzi scheme that will inevitably collapse under its own weight.

Let us hope that this period of relative stability lasts for a while longer.  It is a good thing to have time to prepare.  But you would have to be absolutely insane to think that the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world is never going to burst.

 

If The Clintons Are Worth 50 Million, Why Do They Get Nearly A Million A Year From The Taxpayers?

Obama Bush Clinton CarterSince leaving the White House, the Clintons have earned at least 100 million dollars and currently have a net worth of up to 50 million dollars.  So why in the world do the taxpayers need to give Bill Clinton $944,000 to fund his extravagant lifestyle in 2014?  If ordinary Americans truly understood how much money many former politicians are being handed every year they would go bananas.  According to a Congressional Research Service report that was published earlier this year, the federal government has given a total of nearly 16 million dollars to Bill Clinton since 2001.  Each one of those dollars is a dollar that some U.S. taxpayer worked really hard for or that we had to borrow.  Yes, we don’t want our former presidents to go broke for a whole bunch of reasons, but it is absolutely absurd that we are showering them with millions upon millions of dollars.

Yesterday, I wrote about the trouble that Hillary has caused for herself by claiming that the Clintons were “dead broke” when they left the White House.

The way things have been set up, there is no way in the world that any former president is going to be “dead broke” ever again unless the law is changed.

According to the Washington Post, Bill Clinton has been receiving about a million dollars a year “for office space, staff, and a pension” since he left office…

According to an April report from the Congressional Research Service, Bill Clinton has received nearly $16 million in pensions and benefits from the federal government since leaving office. That includes $944,000 in fiscal year 2014 for office space, staff, and a pension.

That is insanely wasteful.

But wait, there’s more.

George W. Bush is actually receiving more money from the taxpayers than Clinton is each year

Bush the younger is costing taxpayers $1.28 million this year, and averages 4 per cent more annual than Clinton.

The government’s General Services Administration inexplicably budgeted $102,000 for Bush’s telephone expenses in 2014, and planned to spend $135,000 more on furniture, computers, office supplies and other miscellany.

How in the world is George W. Bush racking up $102,000 in phone expenses a year?

Does he have the world’s worst calling plan?

And of course what we spend on our former presidents is peanuts compared to what we spend on our current president.

According to author Robert Keith Gray, approximately 1.4 billion dollars is spent on the Obamas every year.  Here are just a few nuggets from his book

-The Obamas have the “biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever“.

-Obama has 469 senior staff working directly under him, and 226 of them make more than $100,000 a year.

-There is always at least one projectionist at the White House 24 hours a day just in case there is someone that wants to watch a movie.

-The “dog handler” for the family dog Bo reportedly makes $102,000 per year and sometimes he is even flown to where the family is vacationing so that he can care for the dog.

Yes, the White House needs a large staff.

But at this point we spend more on our presidents than any nation on the planet does on their entire royal families.

Over the years, the political elite have tilted the rules of the game dramatically in their favor.  Neither political party objects because they both benefit from riding on the endless gravy train.

If you can believe it, there are close to 15,000 retired federal employees that are currently collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually.  This list includes names such as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.

And most people are astounded to hear that more than 4 million dollars a year is spent on the “personal” and “office” expenses of each U.S. Senator.

Not that they need the money.  As I wrote about recently, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires at this point, and nearly 200 of them are multimillionaires.

Politics in America has become a game that is played by the elite for the benefit of the elite.  If it seems like they are “out of touch” with ordinary Americans that is because they are.

Meanwhile, things just continue to get even tougher for the middle class.  Even though money is flowing like wine in Washington D.C. for the moment, a brand new Gallup survey discovered that 58 percent of Americans believe that the economy is getting worse.

It is shameful that our politicians are living like rock stars while tens of millions of American families are suffering so deeply.  For example, consider the case of Andrew and Kristen Cummins

Andrew and Kristen Cummins and their 8-year-old son Colton have been in and out of homelessness for the past four years.

It all started when Andrew moved to Indiana for a temporary warehouse job that was supposed to turn into a full-time job. But instead he said he was let go as soon as the company would have had to start providing him with full-time benefits.

Since then, he has worked at several other temporary jobs that haven’t turned into full-time work either.

Kristen has been in the same position: She has also had temporary jobs, but nothing has stuck.

So for now, the three stay at a local homeless shelter called the Haven House. Since women and men are required to sleep in separate areas, Andrew doesn’t get to see his wife or son after 9 p.m. each night.

There are millions of other families just like them that are scratching and clawing their way through life the best that they can.

Perhaps our politicians should actually do something to help them instead of sitting back and living the high life at our expense.

Exactly Like 7 Years Ago? 2014 Is Turning Out To Be Eerily Similar To 2007

Bubble - Photo by Jeff KubinaThe similarities between 2007 and 2014 continue to pile up.  As you are about to see, U.S. home sales fell dramatically throughout 2007 even as the mainstream media, our politicians and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke promised us that everything was going to be just fine and that we definitely were not going to experience a recession.  Of course we remember precisely what followed.  It was the worst economic crisis since the days of the Great Depression.  And you know what they say – if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.  Just like seven years ago, the stock market has soared to all-time high after all-time high.  Just like seven years ago, the authorities are telling us that there is nothing to worry about.  Unfortunately, just like seven years ago, a housing bubble is imploding and another great economic crisis is rapidly approaching.

Posted below is a chart of existing home sales in the United States during 2007.  As you can see, existing home sales declined precipitously throughout the year…

Existing Home Sales 2007

Now look at this chart which shows what has happened to existing home sales in the United States in recent months.  If you compare the two charts, you will see that the numbers are eerily similar…

Existing Home Sales Today

New home sales are also following a similar pattern.  In fact, we just learned that new home sales have collapsed to an 8 month low

Sales of new single-family homes dropped sharply last month as severe winter weather and higher mortgage rates continued to slow the housing recovery.

New home sales fell 14.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 385,000, down from February’s revised pace of 449,000, the Census Bureau said.

Once again, this is so similar to what we witnessed back in 2007.  The following is a chart that shows how new home sales declined dramatically throughout that year…

New Home Sales 2007

And this chart shows what has happened to new homes sales during the past several months.  Sadly, we have never even gotten close to returning to the level that we were at back in 2007.  But even the modest “recovery” that we have experienced is now quickly unraveling…

New Home Sales Today

If history does repeat, then what we are witnessing right now is a very troubling sign for the months to come.  As you can see from this chart, new home sales usually start going down before a recession begins.

And don’t expect these housing numbers to rebound any time soon.  The demand for mortgages has dropped through the floor.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article by Michael Lombardi

One of the key indicators I follow in respect to the state of the housing market is mortgage originations. This data gives me an idea about demand for homes, as rising demand for mortgages means more people are buying homes. And as demand increases, prices should be increasing.

But the opposite is happening…

In the first quarter of 2014, mortgage originations at Citigroup Inc. (NYSE/C) declined 71% from the same period a year ago. The bank issued $5.2 billion in mortgages in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $8.3 billion in the previous quarter and $18.0 billion in the first quarter of 2013. (Source: Citigroup Inc. web site, last accessed April 14, 2014.)

Total mortgage origination volume at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM) declined by 68% in the first quarter of 2014 from the same period a year ago. At JPMorgan, in the first quarter of 2014, $17.0 billion worth of mortgages were issued, compared to $52.7 billion in the same period a year ago. (Source: JPMorgan Chase & Co. web site, last accessed April 14, 2014.)

It is almost as if we are watching a replay of 2007 all over again, and yet nobody is talking about this.

Everyone wants to believe that this time will be different.

The human capacity for self-delusion is absolutely amazing.

There are a lot of other similarities between 2007 and today as well.

Just the other day, I noted that retail stores are closing in the United States at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Back in 2007, we saw margin debt on Wall Street spike dramatically and help fuel a remarkable run in the stock market.  Just check out the chart in this article.  But that spike in margin debt also made the eventual stock market collapse much worse than it had to be.

And just like 2007, consumer credit is totally out of control.  As I noted in one recent article, during the fourth quarter of 2013 we witnessed the biggest increase in consumer debt in the U.S. that we have seen since 2007.  Total consumer credit in the U.S. has risen by 22 percent over the past three years, and 56 percent of all Americans have “subprime credit” at this point.

Are you starting to get the picture?  It is only 7 years later, and the same things that happened just prior to the last great financial crisis are happening again.  Only this time we are in much worse shape to handle an economic meltdown.  The following is a brief excerpt from my recent article entitled “We Are In FAR Worse Shape Than We Were Just Prior To The Last Great Financial Crisis“…

None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.  In fact, they have all gotten worse.  The total amount of debt in the world has grown by more than 40 percent since 2007, the too big to fail banks have gotten 37 percent larger, and the colossal derivatives bubble has spiraled so far out of control that the only thing left to do is to watch the spectacular crash landing that is inevitably coming.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

For a long time, I have been convinced that this two year time period is going to represent a major “turning point” for America.

Right now, 2014 is turning out to be eerily similar to 2007.

Will 2015 turn out to be a repeat of 2008?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

How Will The Economy Improve In 2014 If Almost Everyone Has Less Money To Spend?

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'SullivanIs the U.S. consumer tapped out?  If so, how in the world will the U.S. economy possibly improve in 2014?  Most Americans know that the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending.  If average Americans are not out there spending money, the economy tends not to do very well.  Unfortunately, retail sales during the holiday season appear to be quite disappointing and the middle class continues to deeply struggle.  And for a whole bunch of reasons things are likely going to be even tougher in 2014.  Families are going to have less money in their pockets to spend thanks to much higher health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a wide variety of tax increases, higher interest rates on debt, and cuts in government welfare programs.  The short-lived bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years is rapidly coming to an end, and 2014 certainly promises to be a very “interesting year”.

Obamacare Rate Shock

Most middle class families are just scraping by from month to month these days.

Unfortunately for them, millions of those families are now being hit with massive health insurance rate increases.

In a previous article, I discussed how one study found that health insurance premiums for men are going to go up by an average of 99 percent under Obamacare and health insurance premiums for women are going to go up by an average of 62 percent under Obamacare.

Most middle class families simply cannot afford that.

Earlier today, I got an email from a reader that was paying $478 a month for health insurance for his family but has now received a letter informing him that his rate is going up to $1,150 a month.

Millions of families are receiving letters just like that.  And to say that these rate increases are a “surprise” to most people would be a massive understatement.  Even people that work in the financial industry are shocked at how high these premiums are turning out to be…

“The real big surprise was how much out-of-pocket would be required for our family,” said David Winebrenner, 46, a financial adviser in Lebanon, Ky., whose deductible topped $12,000 for a family of six for a silver plan he was considering. The monthly premium: $1,400.

Since Americans are going to have to pay much more for health insurance, that is going to remove a huge amount of discretionary spending from the economy, and that will not be good news for retailers.

Get Ready For Higher Taxes

When you raise taxes, you reduce the amount of money that people have in their pockets to spend.

Sadly, that is exactly what is happening.

Congress is allowing a whopping 55 tax breaks to expire at the end of this year, and when you add that to the 13 major tax increases that hit American families in 2013, it isn’t a pretty picture.

This tax season, millions of families are going to find out that they have much higher tax bills than they had anticipated.

And all of this comes at a time when incomes in America have been steadily declining.  In fact, real median household income has declined by a total of 8 percent since 2008.

If you are a worker, you might want to check out the chart that I have posted below to see where you stack up.  In America today, most workers are low income workers.  These numbers come from a recent Huffington Post article

-If you make more than $10,000, you earn more than 24.2% of Americans, or 37 million people.

-If you make more than $15,000 (roughly the annual salary of a minimum-wage employee working 40 hours per week), you earn more than 32.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $30,000, you earn more than 53.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $50,000, you earn more than 73.4% of Americans.

-If you make more than $100,000, you earn more than 92.6% of Americans.

-You are officially in the top 1% of American wage earners if you earn more than $250,000.

-The 894 people that earn more than $20 million make more than 99.99989% of Americans, and are compensated a cumulative $37,009,979,568 per year.

It is important to keep in mind that those numbers are for the employment income of individuals not households.  Most households have more than one member working, so overall household incomes are significantly higher than these numbers.

Higher Interest Rates Mean Larger Debt Payments

On Tuesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rose to 3.03 percent.  I warned that this would happen once the taper started, and this is just the beginning.  Interest rates are likely to steadily rise throughout 2014.

The reason why the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is such a critical number is because mortgage rates and thousands of other interest rates throughout our economy are heavily influenced by that number.

So big changes are on the way.  As a recent CNBC article declared, the era of low mortgage rates is officially over…

The days of the 3.5% 30-year fixed are over. Rates are already up well over a full percentage point from a year ago, and as the Federal Reserve begins its much anticipated exit from the bond-buying business, I believe rates will inevitably go higher.

Needless to say, this is going to deeply affect the real estate market.  As Mac Slavo recently noted, numbers are already starting to drop precipitously…

The National Association of Realtors reported that the month of September saw its single largest drop in signed home sales in 40 months. And that wasn’t just a one-off event. This month mortgage applications collapsed a shocking 66%, hitting a 13-year low.

And U.S. consumers can expect interest rates on all kinds of loans to start rising.  That is going to mean higher debt payments, and therefore less money for consumers to spend into the economy.

Government Benefit Cuts

Well, if the middle class is going to have less money to spend, perhaps other Americans can pick up the slack.

Or maybe not.

You certainly can’t expect the poor to stimulate the economy.  As I mentioned yesterday, it is being projected that up to 5 million unemployed Americans could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of 2014, and 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.

So the poor will also have less money to spend in 2014.

The Wealthy Save The Day?

Perhaps the stock market will continue to soar in 2014 and the wealthy will spend so much that it will make up for all the rest of us.

You can believe that if you want, but the truth is that there are a whole host of signs that the days of this irrational stock market bubble are numbered.  The following is an excerpt from one of my recent articles entitled “The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory“…

The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before.  In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks.  These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.

If the stock market bubble does burst, the wealthy will also have less money to spend into the economy in 2014.

For the moment, the stock market has been rallying.  This is typical for the month of December.  You see, the truth is that investors generally don’t want to sell stocks in December because they want to put off paying taxes on the profits.

If stocks are sold before the end of the year, the profits go on the 2013 tax return.

If stocks are sold a few days from now, the profits go on the 2014 tax return.

It is only human nature to want to delay pain for as long as possible.

Expect to see some selling in January.  Many investors are very eager to start taking profits, but they wanted to wait until the holidays were over to do so.

So what do you think is coming up in 2014?  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'Sullivan

Dent, Faber, Celente, Maloney, Rogers – What Do They Say Is Coming In 2014?

Earth From SpaceSome of the most respected prognosticators in the financial world are warning that what is coming in 2014 and beyond is going to shake America to the core.  Many of the quotes that you are about to read are from individuals that actually predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis of 2008 ahead of time.  So they have a track record of being right.  Does that guarantee that they will be right about what is coming in 2014?  Of course not.  In fact, as you will see below, not all of them agree about exactly what is coming next.  But without a doubt, all of their forecasts are quite ominous.  The following are quotes from Harry Dent, Marc Faber, Gerald Celente, Mike Maloney, Jim Rogers and nine other respected economic experts about what they believe is coming in 2014 and beyond…

Harry Dent, author of The Great Depression Ahead: “Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest.”

Marc Faber, editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: “You have to say that we are again in a massive financial bubble in bonds, in equities, in [other] asset prices that have gone up dramatically.”

Gerald Celente: “Any self-respecting adult that hears McConnell, Reid, Boehner, Ryan, one after another, and buys this baloney… they deserve what they get.

And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.

That’s our forecast.

We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.”

Mike Maloney, host of Hidden Secrets of Money: “I think the crash of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event… the consequences are gonna be horrific… the rest of the decade will bring us the greatest financial calamity in history.”

Jim Rogers: “You saw what happened in 2008-2009, which was worse than the previous economic setback because the debt was so much higher. Well now the debt is staggeringly much higher, and so the next economic problem, whenever it happens and whatever causes it, is going to be worse than in the past, because we have these unbelievable levels of debt, and unbelievable levels of money printing all over the world. Be worried and get prepared. Now it [a collapse] may not happen until 2016 or something, I have no idea when it’s going to happen, but when it comes, be careful.”

Lindsey Williams: “There is going to be a global currency reset.”

CLSA’s Russell Napier: “We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.”

Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks: “Certainly risk tolerance has been increasing of late; high returns on risky assets have encouraged more of the same; and the markets are becoming more heated. The bottom line varies from sector to sector, but I have no doubt that markets are riskier than at any other time since the depths of the crisis in late 2008 (for credit) or early 2009 (for equities), and they are becoming more so.

Financial editor Jeff Berwick: “If they allow interest rates to rise, it will effectively make the U.S. government bankrupt and insolvent, and it would make the U.S. government collapse. . . . They are preparing for a major societal collapse.  It is obvious and it will happen, and it will be very scary and very dangerous.”

Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies: “Disappointingly, it is much more probable that the government has brought us out of the Great Recession, only to set us up for the Greater Depression, which lies just on the other side of interest rate normalization.”

Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff: “Eventually somebody recognizes this and starts dumping the bonds, and interest rates go up, and inflation takes off, and were off to the races.”

Mexican Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price: “I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies.  I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis.   This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).

There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates.  The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off.  What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.”

Robert Shiller, one of the winners of the 2013 Nobel prize for economics: “I’m not sounding the alarm yet.  But in many countries the stock price levels are high, and in many real estate markets prices have risen sharply…that could end badly.”

David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan: “We have a massive bubble everywhere, from Japan, to China, Europe, to the UK.  As a result of this, I think world financial markets are extremely dangerous, unstable, and subject to serious trouble and dislocation in the future.”

And certainly there are already signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down as we head into the final weeks of 2013.  For example, on Thursday we learned that the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 68,000 last week to a disturbingly high total of 368,000.  That was the largest increase that we have seen in more than a year.

In addition, as I wrote about the other day, rail traffic is way down right now.  In fact, for the week ending November 30th, U.S. rail traffic was down 16.3 percent from the same week one year earlier.  That is a very important indicator that economic activity is getting slower.

And we continue to get more evidence that the middle class is being steadily eroded and that poverty in America is rapidly growing.  For example, a survey that was just released found that requests for food assistance and the level of homelessness have both risen significantly in major U.S. cities over the past year…

A survey of 25 American cities, including many of the nation’s largest, showed yearly increases in food aid and homelessness.

The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of seven percent compared with the previous period a year earlier, according to the US Conference of Mayors study, published Wednesday.

All but four cities reported an increase in demand for assistance between the period of September 2012 through August 2013.

Unfortunately, if the economic experts quoted above are correct, this is just the beginning of our problems.

The next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and things are going to get much worse than this.

So what do you think?

Which of the individuals quoted above do you think are right on the money and which ones do you think are way off base?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

14 Facts About The Absolutely Crazy Internet Stock Bubble That Could Crash And Burn In 2014

TwitterShouldn’t Internet companies actually “make a profit” at some point before being considered worth billions of dollars?  A lot of investors laugh when they look back at the foolishness of the “Dotcom bubble” of the late 1990s, but the tech bubble that is inflating right in front of our eyes today is actually far worse.  For example, what would you say if I told you that a seven-year-old company that has a long history of not being profitable and that actually lost 64 million dollars last quarter is worth more than 13 billion dollars?  You would probably say that I was insane, but the company that I have just described is Twitter and Wall Street is going crazy for it right now.  Please don’t get me wrong – I actually love Twitter.  On my Twitter account I have sent out thousands of “tweets”.  Twitter is a lot of fun, and it has had a huge impact on the entire planet.  But is it worth 13 billion dollars?  Of course not.

When it comes to the Internet, what is hot today will probably not be hot tomorrow.

Do you remember MySpace?

At one time, MySpace was considered to be the undisputed king of social media.  But then something better came along (Facebook) and killed it.

It is important to keep in mind that Facebook did not even exist ten years ago.  Yes, almost everybody is using it today, but will everybody still be using it a decade from now?

Maybe.

But the way that the financial markets are valuing these firms can only be justified if they are going to make absolutely massive profits for many decades to come.

Will Twitter eventually make a little bit of money?

Probably, as long as they get their act together.

In fact, Twitter should be making significant amounts of money right now if it was being run correctly.

But will Twitter ever make 13 billion dollars?

No, that simply is not going to happen.  But that is what Wall Street says that Twitter is worth.

The utter foolishness that we are witnessing on Wall Street right now is so similar to what we saw back in the late 1990s.  It is almost as if we have learned nothing from our past mistakes.

These days I keep having flashbacks of the Pets.com sock puppet.  For those too young to remember, the following is a brief summary from Investopedia about what happened to Pets.com…

It’s impossible to think of the first Internet era without thinking of the Pets.com sock puppet. He was everywhere and was nearly as well-known as the Geico gecko is today.

That familiarity, in part, persuaded many investors to lay down money in the company’s February 2000 IPO (which was backed by Amazon.com). Pets.com raised $82.5 million – but nine months later it folded, due to major recurring losses. Part of the reason for that was aggressive advertising, but the company also lost money on virtually every item it sold. In the third quarter of 2000, Pets.com reported negative gross margins of $277,000. (The second quarter had seen a $1.7 million margin loss.) That same quarter (its last full quarter as an operating entity), the company lost $21.7 million on $9.4 million in revenue.

As for the puppet, he went on to shill for BarNone, which helps people with bad credit histories get car loans. He’s still there today, front and center on that website.

Everyone loves to laugh at the poor little sock puppet, but the truth is that the tech bubble that is inflating right now is far worse than the Dotcom bubble of the late 1990s.  The following are 14 facts about the current tech bubble that will blow your mind…

#1 In just a few days, the Twitter IPO is expected to raise close to 2 billion dollars even though Twitter actually lost 64.6 million dollars last quarter and has a long history of not being profitable.

#2 It is being projected that after the IPO Twitter could have a market valuation of more than 13 billion dollars.

#3 Twitter is not expected to make a profit until 2015 at the earliest.

#4 According to CNBC, Pinterest is currently valued at 3.8 billion dollars even though it has never earned a profit.

#5 Yahoo paid more than a billion dollars for Tumblr even though Tumblr’s revenues are so small that Yahoo is not even required to report them on financial statements.

#6 Snapchat, an Internet service that allows people to send out messages that “self-destruct”, is supposedly worth 4 billion dollars.  But it actually has zero revenue coming in, and many believe that it is essentially worthless as a money making enterprise.  For one extensive analysis by a tech blogger, please see this article.

#7 The stock of Rocket Fuel, an online advertising company, is trading at about 60 dollars a share and it has a market valuation of about 2 billion dollars even though it has never made a profit.

#8 The stock of local business review website Yelp is up 241 percent this year even though it has never earned a quarterly profit.

#9 Fab.com just raised 165 million dollars from investors even though it recently laid off 44o employees.

#10 LinkedIn stock has risen in price by 136 percent since the 2011 IPO, and it is now supposedly worth more than 18 billion dollars.

#11 The head of engineering at Twitter, Chris Fry, got a 10.3 million dollar pay package when he joined Twitter last year.

#12 Facebook’s VP of engineering, Mike Schroepfer, earned 24.4 million dollars in 2011.

#13 Office rents in San Francisco (where many of these tech companies are based) are now 23 percent higher than they were at the peak of the real estate market in 2008.

#14 Facebook stock is up close to 140 percent over the past 12 months and the company is now worth more than 120 billion dollars.

And I am certainly not the only one that is concerned that we are repeating the mistakes of the late 1990s…

“When you look at valuations and look at the lack of earnings and revenue, it seems to me much like the dot-com bubble,” said Matt McCormick, a money manager at Cincinnati-based Bahl & Gaynor Inc. who helps oversee $10.2 billion. “This market looks a little frothy and Twitter is the personification of a risky trade.”

In fact, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, we have seen some of these tech stocks crash more than once during the Internet age…

“It’s fascinating to me that today’s mini-mania includes shares of Amazon, Netflix and Priceline that have previously peaked and crashed before—in some cases they’ve peaked and crashed twice before,” says Darren Pollock, portfolio manager at Cheviot Value Management. “Stocks like these have again captured the imagination of speculators. We’re skeptical that there is enough underlying intrinsic value to many of the highfliers to support today’s prices.”

So how long will it be until the current tech bubble implodes?

That is a very good question.  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

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