The Beginning Of The End
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11 Signs That Italy Is Descending Into A Full-Blown Economic Depression

The Leaning Tower Of PisaWhen you get into too much debt, really bad things start to happen.  Sadly, that is exactly what is happening to Italy right now.  Harsh austerity measures are causing the Italian economy to slow down even more than it was previously.  And yet even with all of the austerity measures, the Italian government just continues to rack up even more debt.  This is the exact same path that we watched Greece go down.  Austerity causes government revenues to drop which causes deficit reduction targets to be missed which causes even more austerity measures to become necessary.  But if Italy collapses economically, it is going to be a far bigger deal than what happened in Greece.  Italy is the ninth largest economy on the entire planet.  Actually, Italy used to be number eight, but now Russia has passed it.  If Italy continues to stumble, India and Canada will soon pass it as well.  It really is a tragedy to watch what is happening in Italy, because it really is a wonderful place.  When I was a child, my father was in the navy, and I got the opportunity to live there for a while.  It is a land of great weather, great food and great soccer.  The people are friendly and the culture is absolutely fascinating.  But now the nation is falling apart.  The following are 11 signs that Italy is descending into a full-blown economic depression…

#1 The unemployment rate in Italy has risen to 12.2 percent.  That is the highest that it has been in more than 35 years.

#2 The youth unemployment rate in Italy is sitting at 38.5 percent, and in southern Italy it recently hit the 50 percent mark.

#3 An average of 134 retail outlets are shutting down in Italy every single day.  Overall, approximately 224,000 retail establishments have closed since 2008.

#4 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.

#5 It is being projected that Italy’s GDP will shrink by 1.8 percent this year.

#6 Industrial production in Italy has declined for 15 months in a row.  It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.

#7 Overall, factory output in Italy has fallen by about one-fourth since 2008.

#8 In May, automobile sales in Italy were down 8 percent compared to one year earlier.

#9 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.

#10 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of 130 percent.

#11 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.

At this point, Italy is flat broke.

And unlike the U.S. or Japan, Italy cannot run over to a central bank and have them print up oodles of new money with which to buy up government bonds.  Italy is married to the euro, and so that greatly limits their options.  Unfortunately, the money is rapidly running out.  The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

In most countries, it would be an act of mind-bending chutzpah, or perhaps a display of political insanity, but in Italy it barely made ripples: for a government official, a minister no less, to declare that the country cannot pay its long overdue bills, and not for a month or two, but for the rest of this year! Due to “technical” problems.

The Italian government is out of money. Not that the US government is in any better shape in that respect, or the Japanese government for that matter, but they have central banks that print the missing moolah with lavish abandon. Italy doesn’t. It has the ECB which is run by an Italian who promised last year to print with lavish abandon to keep countries like Italy afloat. But that promise is not the same thing as having your own central bank.

On July 4, Italy’s budget fiasco came to light once again. Wracked by the pretense of austerity, expenditures rose 1.3% in the first quarter, while revenues remained flat. So the deficit rose to 7.3% of GDP, up from 6.6% last year, bringing the national debt to 130% of GDP. Ballooning debt and deficits in a shriveling economy – Italy has been in recession since the fourth quarter of 2011 – is a toxic combination in the Eurozone.

While those numbers may sound really bad, the reality is that the people that are suffering the most are the average folks on the street.  Many Italians have been completely blindsided by this economic depression, and suicides are skyrocketing

In Italy, the tragic stories of suicides apparently linked to the deep recession are becoming all too frequent. Last month, a former factory worker hanged himself near Turin because he could not find work, his relatives said. In May, a young man committed suicide outside of Rome shortly after he lost his job. The next day, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano begged the government to deliver “the utmost attention for situations of greatest malaise and need” to help stop the wave of suicides.

That is absolutely tragic.

But you know what?

The United States is headed down the same path that Italy has gone.

In the coming years unemployment and suicide will both skyrocket here too.

Those that are sticking their heads in the sand right now will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming.  But those that understand what is on the horizon and are preparing for it will have the best chance of making it through.

Italy is kind of like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Everyone knows that it is going to fall eventually, and when it does fall it is going to be a major disaster.

When the financial system of Italy totally implodes, that will be a sign that things are really starting to accelerate.  Expect dominoes to start tumbling much more rapidly in the aftermath.

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In Europe?

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In EuropeIs the financial collapse of Italy going to be the final blow that breaks the back of Europe financially?  Most people don’t realize this, but Italy is actually the third largest debtor in the entire world after the United States and Japan.  Italy currently has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 120 percent, and Italy has a bigger national debt than anyone else in Europe does.  That is why it is such a big deal that Italian voters have just overwhelmingly rejected austerity.  The political parties led by anti-austerity candidates Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo did far better than anticipated.  When you combine their totals, they got more than 50 percent of the vote.  Italian voters have seen what austerity has done to Greece and Spain and they want no part of it.  Unfortunately for Italian voters, it has been the promise of austerity that has kept the Italian financial system stable in recent months.  Now that Italian voters have clearly rejected austerity, investors are fearing that austerity programs all over Europe may start falling apart.  This is creating quite a bit of panic in European financial markets right now.  On Tuesday, Italian stocks had their worst day in 10 months, Italian bond yields rose by the most that we have seen in 19 months, and the stocks of the two largest banks in Italy both fell by more than 8 percent.  Italy is already experiencing its fourth recession since 2001, and unemployment has been steadily rising.  If Italy is now “ungovernable”, as many are saying, then what does that mean for the future of Italy?  Will Italy be the spark that sets off financial armageddon in Europe?

All of Europe was totally shocked by the election results in Italy.  As you can see from the following excerpt from a Bloomberg article, the vote was very divided and the anti-austerity parties did much better than had been projected…

The results showed pre-election favorite Pier Luigi Bersani won the lower house with 29.5 percent, less than a half a percentage point ahead of Silvio Berlusconi, the ex-premier fighting a tax-fraud conviction. Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, got 25.6 percent, while Monti scored 10.6 percent. Bersani and his allies got 31.6 percent of votes in the Senate, compared with 30.7 percent for Berlusconi and 23.79 percent for Grillo, according to final figures from the Interior Ministry.

So what do those election results mean for Italy and for the rest of Europe?

Right now, there is a lot of panic about those results.  There is fear that what just happened in Italy could result in a rejection of austerity all over Europe

“I think the election results (or lack thereof) are a negative for the euro, which will likely keep the currency pressured for some time,” Omer Esiner, chief market analyst for Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, told me. But it’s not just the political uncertainty in Italy, he adds. “The shocking gains made by anti-establishment parties in Italy signal a broad-based frustration with austerity among voters and a decisive rejection of the policies pushed by Germany in nations across the euro zone’s periphery. That theme revives unresolved debt crisis issues and could threaten the continuity of reforms across other countries in the euro zone.”

And the financial markets have clearly interpreted the election results in Europe as a very bad sign.  Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad news out of Europe that we saw on Tuesday…

Swiss 2Y rates turned negative once again for the first time in a month; EURUSD relatively flatlined around 1.3050 (250 pips lower than pre-Italy); Europe’s VIX exploded to almost 26% (from under 19% yesterday); and 3-month EUR-USD basis swaps plunged to their most liquidity-demanding level since 12/28. Spain and Italy (and Portugal) were the most hurt in bonds today as 2Y Italian spreads broke back above 200bps (surging over 50bps casting doubt on OMT support) and 3Y Spain yields broke above 3% once again. The Italian equity market suffered its equal biggest drop in 6 months falling back to 10 week lows (and down 14% from its end-Jan highs). Italian bond yields (and spreads) smashed higher – the biggest jump in 19 months as BTP futures volume exploded in the last two days.

Not that things in Europe were going well before all this.

In fact, the UK was just stripped of its prized AAA credit rating.  That was huge news.

And check out some of the other things that have been going on in the rest of Europe

In Spain, a major real estate company, Reyal Urbis, collapsed last week, leaving already battered banks on the hook for millions of euros in losses. Meanwhile, the government faces a corruption scandal and a steady stream of anti-austerity demonstrations. Thousands of people took to the streets again on Saturday, protesting deep cuts to health and other services, as well as hefty bank bailouts.

Life is no better in a large swath of the broader EU. In Britain, Moody’s cited the continuing economic weakness and the resulting risks to the government’s tight fiscal policy for its rating cut. In Bulgaria, where the government fell last week and the economy is in a shambles, rightists who joined mass demonstrations across the country burned a European Union flag and waved anti-EU banners. Other austerity-minded governments in the EU face similar murky political futures.

At this point, Europe is a complete and total economic mess and things are rapidly getting worse.

And that is really bad news because Europe is already in the midst of a recession.  In fact, according to the BBC, the recession in the eurozone got even deeper during the fourth quarter of 2012…

The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.

The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.

It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.

But this is just the beginning.

The truth is that government debt is not even the greatest danger that Europe is facing.  In reality, a collapse of the European banking system is of much greater concern.

Why is that?

Well, how would you feel if you woke up someday and every penny that you had in the bank was gone?

In the U.S. we don’t have to worry about that so much because all deposits are insured by the FDIC, but in many European countries things work much differently.

For example, just check out what Graham Summers recently had to say about the banking system in Spain…

It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank.

So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever (see the above article for proof).

This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything.

And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.

Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We’re literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe’s banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I’m joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening.

Like Graham Summers, I am extremely concerned about the European banking system.  Europe actually has a much larger banking system than the U.S. does, and if the European banking system implodes that is going to send huge shockwaves to the farthest corners of the globe.

But if you want to believe that the “experts” in Europe and in the United States have “everything under control”, then you might as well stop reading now.

After all, they are very highly educated and they know what they are doing, right?

But if you want to listen to some common sense, you might want to check out this very ominous warning from Karl Denninger

I hope you’re ready.

Congress has wasted the time it was given by the Europeans getting things “temporarily” under control.  But they didn’t actually get anything under control, as the Italian elections just showed.

Now, with the budget over there at risk of being abandoned, and fiscal restraint being abandoned (note: exactly what the US has been doing) the markets are recognizing exactly the risk that never in fact went away over the last couple of years.

It was hidden by lies, just as it has been hidden by lies here.

Bernanke’s machinations and other games “gave” the Congress four years to do the right thing.  They didn’t, because that same “gift” also destroyed all market signals of urgency.

As such you have people like Krugman and others claiming that it’s all ok and that we can spend with wild abandon, taking our fiscal medicine never.

They were wrong.  Congress was wrong.  The Republicans were wrong, the Democrats were wrong, and the Administration was wrong.

Congress is out of time; as I noted the deficit spending must stop now, irrespective of the fact that it will cause significant economic damage.

For the past couple of years, authorities in the U.S. and in Europe have been trying to delay the coming crisis by kicking the can down the road.

By doing so, they have been making the eventual collapse even worse.

And now time is running out.

I hope that you are ready.

Armageddon

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead - Photo by Frank KovalchekIs the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn?  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now.  Freight volumes and freight expenditures are way down, consumer confidence has declined sharply, major retail chains all over America are closing hundreds of stores, and the “sequester” threatens to give the American people their first significant opportunity to experience what “austerity” tastes like.  Gas prices are going up rapidly, corporate insiders are dumping massive amounts of stock and there are high profile corporate bankruptcies in the news almost every single day now.  In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008.  Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever.  As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed.  In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.

So what will the rest of 2013 bring?

Hopefully the economy will remain stable for as long as possible, but right now things do not look particularly promising.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. economy is heading for big trouble in the months ahead…

#1 Freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#2 The average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen by more than 50 cents over the past two months.  This is making things tougher on our economy, because nearly every form of economic activity involves moving people or goods around.

#3 Reader’s Digest, once one of the most popular magazines in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.

#4 Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, has just filed for bankruptcy.  It had been hoped that Revel would help lead a turnaround for Atlantic City.

#5 A state-appointed review board has determined that there is “no satisfactory plan” to solve Detroit’s financial emergency, and many believe that bankruptcy is imminent.  If Detroit does declare bankruptcy, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#6 David Gallagher, the CEO of Town Sports International, recently said that his company is struggling right now because consumers simply do not have as much disposable income anymore…

“As we moved into January membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.

#7 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the U.S. has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#8 Sales of the Apple iPhone have been slower than projected, and as a result Chinese manufacturing giant FoxConn has instituted a hiring freeze.  The following is from a CNET report that was posted on Wednesday…

The Financial Times noted that it was the first time since a 2009 downturn that the company opted to halt hiring in all of its facilities across the country. The publication talked to multiple recruiters.

The actions taken by Foxconn fuel the concern over the perceived weakened demand for the iPhone 5 and slumping sentiment around Apple in general, with production activity a leading indicator of interest in the product.

#9 In 2012, global cell phone sales posted their first decline since the end of the last recession.

#10 We appear to be in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.  It is being projected that Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack will also close hundreds of stores by the end of 2013.

#11 An internal memo authored by a Wal-Mart executive that was recently leaked to the press said that February sales were a “total disaster” and that the beginning of February was the “worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

#12 If Congress does not do anything and “sequestration” goes into effect on March 1st, the Pentagon says that approximately 800,000 civilian employees will be facing mandatory furloughs.

#13 Barack Obama is admitting that the “sequester” could have a crippling impact on the U.S. economy.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.

He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

“People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

#14 If the “sequester” is allowed to go into effect, the CBO is projecting that it will cause U.S. GDP growth to go down by at least 0.6 percent and that it will “reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs“.

#15 According to a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now in the past.

#16 U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first GDP contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.

#17 For the entire year of 2012, U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5 percent.  According to Art Cashin, every time GDP growth has fallen this low for an entire year, the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#18 The global economy overall is really starting to slow down

The world’s richest countries saw their economies contract for the first time in almost four years during the final three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The Paris-based thinktank said gross domestic product across its 34 member states fell by 0.2% – breaking a period of rising activity stretching back to a 2.3% slump in output in the first quarter of 2009.

All the major economies of the OECD – the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK – have already reported falls in output at the end of 2012, with the thinktank noting that the steepest declines had been seen in the European Union, where GDP fell by 0.5%. Canada is the only member of the G7 currently on course to register an increase in national output.

#19 Corporate insiders are dumping enormous amounts of stock right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#20 Even some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warning that we are heading for an economic collapse.  For example, Seth Klarman, one of the most respected investors on Wall Street, said in his year-end letter that the collapse of the U.S. financial system could happen at any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

So what do you think is going to happen to the U.S. economy in the months ahead?

Please feel free to express your opinion by leaving a comment below…

LoLCat - Help!

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until – BANG – The System Implodes

The Sovereign Debt Bubble Will Continue To Expand Until - BANG - The System Implodes - Photo by Jeff KubinaWhy are so many politicians around the world declaring that the debt crisis is “over” when debt to GDP ratios all over the planet continue to skyrocket?  The global economy has never seen anything like the sovereign debt bubble that we are experiencing today.  The United States, Japan, and nearly every major nation in Europe are absolutely drowning in debt.  We have heard a lot about “austerity” over in Europe in recent years, but debt to GDP ratios continue to rise in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.  In general, most economists consider a debt to GDP ratio of 100% to be a “danger level”, and most of the economies of the western world have either already surpassed that level or are rapidly approaching it.  Of course the biggest debt offender of all in many ways is the United States.  The U.S. debt to GDP ratio has risen from 66.6 percent to 103 percent since 2007, and the U.S. government accumulated more new debt during Barack Obama’s first term than it did under the first 42 U.S. presidents combined.  This insane sovereign debt bubble will continue to expand until a day of reckoning arrives and the system implodes.  Nobody knows exactly when that moment will be reached, but without a doubt it is coming.

But if you listen to the mainstream media in the United States, you would be tempted to think that this giant bubble of debt is not much of a concern at all.  For example, in a recent article in the Washington Post entitled “The case for deficit optimism“, Ezra Klein wrote the following…

“Here’s a secret: For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.”

How many times have we heard that before?

About a decade ago, government officials were projecting that we would be swimming in gigantic government surpluses by now.

Instead, we are running trillion dollar deficits.

But right now there is a lot of optimism about the economy.  The stock market recently hit a 5 year high and the business community is loving all of the false prosperity that all of this debt is buying us.

Even Warren Buffett does not really seem concerned about the exploding U.S. government debt.  He recently made the following statement

“It is not a good thing to have it going up in relation to GDP.  That should be stabilized. But the debt itself is not a problem.”

Oh really?

A debt of 16 trillion dollars “is not a problem”?

Perhaps we should all run our finances that way.

Why don’t we all go out and open up 20 different credit cards, run them all up to the max, and then tell the credit card companies that we can’t pay them back but that it “is not a problem”.

Of course real life does not work that way.

The truth is that government debt is becoming a monstrous problem all over the globe.  Just check out how debt to GDP ratios all over the planet have grown over the past five years

United States

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 66.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 103 percent

United Kingdom

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 43.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 85.0 percent

France

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.7 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 86 percent

Germany

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 67.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 80.5 percent

Spain

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 39.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 69.3 percent

Ireland

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 24.8 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 106.4 percent

Portugal

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 63.9 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 108.1 percent

Italy

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.6 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 120.7 percent

Greece

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 106.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 170.6 percent

The Eurozone As A Whole

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 68.4 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 87.3 percent

Japan

Debt to GDP ratio in 2007: 172.1 percent

Debt to GDP ratio in 2012: 211.7 percent

So how does all of this end?

Well, it is going to be messy, but it is very difficult to say exactly when the system will collapse under the weight of too much debt.  Some nations, such as Japan, are able to handle very high debt loads because they have a very high level of domestic saving.  Up to this point, an astounding 95 percent of all Japanese government bonds have been purchased domestically.  But other nations collapse under the weight of government debt even before they reach a debt to GDP ratio of 100%.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Congressional Research Service report

It is hard to predict at what point bond holders would deem it to be unsustainable. A few other advanced economies have debt-to-GDP ratios higher than that of the United States. Some of those countries in Europe have recently seen their financing costs rise to the point that they are unable to finance their deficits solely through private markets. But Japan has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any advanced economy, and it has continued to be able to finance its debt at extremely low costs.

When a government runs up massive amounts of debt, it is playing with fire.  You can pile up mountains of government debt for a while, but eventually it catches up with you.

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. national debt has grown by an average of 9.3 percent per year, but the overall U.S. economy has only grown by an average of just 1.8 percent per year.  That is unsustainable by definition.

There is going to be a tremendous price to pay for the debt binge that the U.S. government has indulged in over the past decade.  During Barack Obama’s first term, the amount of new debt accumulated by the federal government breaks down to about $50,521 for every single household in the United States.  That is utter insanity.

If you can believe it, we have accumulated more new government debt under Obama than we did from the inauguration of George Washington to the end of the Clinton administration.

And most Americans realize that something is seriously wrong.  One recent poll found that only 34 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction, and 60 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction.

If we keep piling up so much debt, at some point a moment of great crisis will arrive.  When that moment arrives, we could see havoc throughout the entire global financial system.  For instance, most people don’t really understand the key role that U.S. Treasuries play in the derivatives market.  The following is from a recent article posted on Zero Hedge

This time around, things will be far worse if nothing is solved. If the US loses another AAA rating, then the financial markets could face systemic risk. The reason for this is that US Treasuries are one of the senior most forms of collateral used by the banks to backstop the $600+ trillion derivatives market.

As any trader who trades on margin can tell you, when the value of your collateral is called into question, those on the other side of the trade come looking for you to put up more capital on your trades. This can result in assets being sold en masse (similar to what happened after Lehman failed) and things can get very ugly very fast.

For much more on the danger that derivatives pose to our financial system, please see this article: “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“.

Once again, nobody knows exactly when the sovereign debt bubble will burst, but if we continue down the path that we are currently on, it will inevitably happen at some point.

And according to Professor Carmen Reinhart, when this bubble does burst things could unravel very rapidly…

“These processes are not linear,” warns Prof. Reinhart. “You can increase debt for a while and nothing happens. Then you hit the wall, and—bang!—what seem to be minor shocks that the markets would shrug off in other circumstances suddenly become big.”

At some point the global financial system will hit the wall that Professor Reinhart has warned about.

Are you ready?

When Will The Bubble Burst?

By The Numbers: 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know

By The Numbers - 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should KnowThe economic implosion of Europe is accelerating.  Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse.  Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone.  It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe.  The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now.  Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic.  But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt.  The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.

The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know…

#1 10 Months: Manufacturing activity in both France and Germany has contracted for 10 months in a row.

#2 11.8 Percent: The unemployment rate in the eurozone has now risen to 11.8 percent – a brand new all-time high.

#3 17 Months: In November, Italy experienced the sharpest decline in retail sales that it had experienced in 17 months.

#4 20 Months: Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 20 months in a row.

#5 20 Percent: It is estimated that bad loans now make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.

#6 22 Percent: A whopping 22 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in jobless households.

#7 26 Percent: The unemployment rate in Greece is now 26 percent.  A year ago it was only 18.9 percent.

#8 26.6 Percent: The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to an astounding 26.6 percent.

#9 27.0 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Cyprus.  Back in 2008, this number was well below 10 percent.

#10 28 Percent: Sales of French-made vehicles in November were down 28 percent compared to a year earlier.

#11 36 Percent: Today, the poverty rate in Greece is 36 percent.  Back in 2009 it was only about 20 percent.

#12 37.1 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Italy – a brand new all-time high.

#13 44 Percent: An astounding 44 percent of the entire population of Bulgaria is facing “severe material deprivation”.

#14 56.5 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Spain – a brand new all-time high.

#15 57.6 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Greece – a brand new all-time high.

#16 60 Percent: Citigroup is projecting that there is a 60 percent probability that Greece will leave the eurozone within the next 12 to 18 months.

#17 70 Percent: It has been reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble back in 2006.  At this point there are approximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.

#18 200 Percent: The debt to GDP ratio in Greece is rapidly approaching 200 percent.

#19 1997: According to the Committee of French Automobile Producers, 2012 was the worst year for the French automobile industry since 1997.

#20 2 Million: Back in 2005, the French auto industry produced about 3.5 million vehicles.  In 2012, that number dropped to about 2 million vehicles.

One thing that these shocking numbers cannot convey is the tremendous amount of pain that many average Europeans are living through on a daily basis at this point.  To get a peek into what life is like in Greece these days, check out this short excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article

Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother’s kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.

“I feel like my life has slipped through my hands,” said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. “I feel like I’m dead.”

For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unraveling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighborhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.

All over Europe, people that have lost all hope are actually setting themselves on fire in a desperate attempt to draw attention.  Millions of formerly middle class Europeans have lost everything and are becoming increasingly desperate.  Suicide and crime are skyrocketing all over southern Europe and massive street riots are erupting on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get even worse for Europe.

Meanwhile, those of us living in the United States smugly look down our noses at Europe because we are still living in a false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity.

But eventually we will feel the sting of austerity as well.  The recent fiscal cliff deal was an indication of that.  Taxes are going up and government spending is at least going to slow down.  It won’t be too long before the effects of that are felt in the economy.

And of course the reality of the situation is that the U.S. economy really did not perform very well at all during 2012 when you take a look at the numbers.  The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy has been declining for a very long time, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to expect that our decline will accelerate even further in 2013.

So if you are an American, don’t laugh at what is happening over in Europe at the moment.  We are headed down the exact same path that they have gone, and we are going to experience the same kind of suffering that they are going through right now.

Use these last few “bubble months” to prepare for what is ahead.  At some point this “hope bubble” will disappear and then the time for preparation will be over.

EU Poster Tower Of Babel

12 Signs That Spain Is Shifting Gears From Recession To Depression

Where have we seen this before?  Bond yields soar above the 7 percent danger level.  Check.  The stock market crashes to new lows.  Check.  Industrial activity plummets like a rock and the economy contracts.  Check.  The unemployment rate skyrockets to more than 20 percent.  Check.  The bursting of a massive real estate bubble pushes the banking system to the brink of implosion.  Check.  Broke local governments beg the broke national government for bailouts.  Check.  The international community pressures the national government to implement deep austerity measures which will slow down the economy even more and hordes of violent protesters take to the streets.  Check.  All of this happened in Greece, it is happening right now in Spain, and mark my words it will eventually happen in the United States.  Every debt bubble eventually bursts, and right now Spain is experiencing a level of economic pain that very, very few people saw coming.  The recession in Spain is rapidly becoming a full-blown economic depression, and at this point there is no hope and no light at the end of the tunnel.

The bad news for the global economy is that Spain is much larger than Greece.  According to the United Nations, the Greek economy is the 32nd largest economy in the world.  The Spanish economy, on the other hand, is the 4th largest economy in the eurozone and the 12th largest economy on the entire planet.  It is nearly five times the size of the Greek economy.

Financial markets all over the globe are very nervous right now because if the Spanish government ends up asking for a full-blown bailout it could spell the end for the eurozone.  There simply is not enough money to do the same kind of thing for Spain that is being done for Greece.

Of course European officials are going to do their best to keep the eurozone from collapsing, but what they have completely failed to do is to keep these countries from falling into depression.

As I have written about previously, Greece has already been in an economic depression for some time.

I warned that Spain, Italy, Portugal and a bunch of other European nations were going down the exact same path.

Now we are watching a virtual replay of what happened in Greece take place in Spain.

Unfortunately, the global financial system may not be able to handle a complete implosion of the Spanish economy.

The following are 12 signs that Spain is shifting gears from recession to depression….

#1 At one point on Monday, the IBEX stock market index fell to 5,905, which was the lowest level in nearly ten years.  When it hit 5,905 that represented a drop of about 12 percent over just two trading days.  If that happened in the United States, it would be the equivalent of the Dow falling by about 1500 points in 48 hours.

#2 So far this year, the Spanish stock market is down more than 25 percent.  Back in 2008, the IBEX 35 was well over 15,000.  Today it is sitting just above 6,000.

#3 Spain has banned many forms of short selling for 3 months.

#4 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is now well above the 7 percent “danger level”.

#5 Thanks to the problems in Spain, the euro continues to fall like a rock.  On Monday it hit a new two year low against the U.S. dollar, and it is near a twelve year low against the Japanese yen.

#6 During the first quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent.  During the second quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.4 percent.

#7 Local governments all over Spain are flat broke and need to be bailed out by the broke national government.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

Adding to Madrid’s woes, media reports suggested another half a dozen of Spain’s 17 regional authorities, facing an undeclared funding crisis, were ready to follow Valencia in seeking aid from the central government.

#8 The percentage of bad loans on the books of Spanish banks has reached an 18 year high.  European officials have already promised a 100 billion euro bailout for Spain’s troubled banking system, but most analysts agree that 100 billion euros will not be nearly enough.

#9 Spanish industrial output declined for the ninth month in a row in May.

#10 The unemployment rate in Spain is up to an astounding 24.6 percent.  The unemployment rate in Spain is already higher than it was in the United States at the peak of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#11 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 52 percent.

#12 The Spanish government has just announced a whole bunch of new tax increases and spending cuts which will cause the Spanish economy to slow down even more.  In response to these austerity measures, people are taking to the streets all over Spain.  Last week, 100,000 demonstrators poured into the streets to protest in Madrid alone.

Sadly, the nightmare in Spain is just beginning.

If the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds stays above 7 percent, that is going to be a really bad sign.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the 7 percent level is key as far as investor confidence is concerned….

Monday’s dramatic market moves suggest Spain may be stuck in a spiral that culminates in a bailout from other euro-zone countries.

“The rise in the 10-year yield well beyond 7% carries a very distinct reminder of events in Greece in April 2010, Ireland in October 2010 and Portugal in February 2011,” said analysts at Bank of New York Mellon. “In each case, a decisive move beyond 7% signaled the start of a collapse in investor confidence that, in each case, led to a bailout within weeks,” they added.

So keep an eye on that number in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, the Spanish economy continues to get worse with each passing month.

So just how bad are things in Spain right now?

Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by Mark Grant….

Recently two noted Spanish economists were interviewed. One was always an optimist and one was always a pessimist. The optimist droned on and on about how bad things were in Spain, the dire situation with the regional debt, the huge problems overtaking the Spanish banks and the imminent collapse of the Spanish economy. In the end he said that the situation was so bad that the Spanish people were going to have to eat manure. The pessimist was shocked by the comments of his colleague who had never heard him speak in such a manner. When it was the pessimist’s turn to speak he said that he agreed with the optimist with one exception; the manure would soon run out.

That may make you laugh, but for those in Europe going through these horrific economic conditions it is no laughing matter.

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras actually told former U.S. president Bill Clinton that Greece is already in a “Great Depression“.

Like Spain, the unemployment rate in Greece is well above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate is above 50 percent.

The only reason the Greek financial system has not totally collapsed is because of outside assistance, but now there are indications that the assistance may soon be cut off.

At this point there are persistent rumors that the IMF does not plan to give any more aid money to Greece unless Greece “shapes up”.

Meanwhile, the suffering in Greece just gets worse and worse.

Sadly, most Americans pay very little attention to what is going on in Greece and Spain.

Most Americans just assume that we will always have “the greatest economy on earth” and that we can take prosperity for granted.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the United States already has more government debt per capita than either Greece or Spain does.

Just like Greece and Spain, we are also rapidly traveling down the road to economic oblivion, and depression-like conditions will arrive in this country soon enough.

So enjoy these last months of economic prosperity while you still can.

A whole lot of pain is on the horizon.

Forget The Election Results – Greece Is Still Doomed And So Is The Rest Of Europe

The election results from Greece are in and the pro-bailout forces have won, but just barely.  It is being projected that the pro-bailout New Democracy party will have about 130 seats in the 300 seat parliament, and Pasok (another pro-bailout party) will have about 33 seats.  Those two parties have alternated ruling Greece for decades, and it looks like they are going to form a coalition government which will keep Greece in the euro.  On Monday we are likely to see financial markets across the globe in celebration mode.  But the truth is that nothing has really changed.  Greece is still in a depression.  The Greek economy has contracted by close to 25 percent over the past four years, and now they are going to stay on the exact same path that they were before.  Austerity is going to continue to grind away at what remains of the Greek economy and money is going to continue to fly out of the country at a very rapid pace. Greece is still drowning in debt and completely dependent on outside aid to avoid bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, things in Spain and Italy are rapidly getting worse.  So where in that equation is room for optimism?

Right now the ingredients for a “perfect storm” are developing in Europe.  Government spending is being slashed all across the continent, ECB monetary policy is very tight, new regulations and deteriorating economic conditions are causing major banks to cut back on lending and there is panic in the air.

Unless something dramatic changes, things are going to continue to get worse.

Yes, the Greek election results mean that Greece will stay in the euro – at least for now.

But is that really a reason for Greeks to celebrate?

Right now, the unemployment rate in Greece is about 22 percent.  Businesses continue to shut down at a staggering rate and suicides are spiking.

So far this month, about 500 million euros a day has been pulled out of Greek banks.  The entire Greek banking system is on the verge of collapse.

Meanwhile, the Greek government is still running up more debt.  It is being projected that the Greek budget deficit will be about 7 percent of GDP this year.

The Greeks went to the polls and they voted for more of the same.

Are they crazy?

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Unfortunately, it looks like things are going to continue to get worse in Greece for quite some time.

And the rest of Europe is heading into a very bleak economic future as well.

At the moment, unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high.

Most analysts expect it to go even higher.

To say that Spain has an unemployment problem would be a massive understatement.  The unemployment rate in Spain is even higher than the unemployment rate in Greece is.  In fact, unemployment in Spain is the highest that it has ever been since the introduction of the euro.

The Spanish banking system is a complete and total disaster at this point.  The Spanish government has already asked for a 100 billion euro bailout for its banks.

But that might not be nearly enough.

Spain is facing a housing collapse similar to what the United States went through back in 2008 and 2009.  Right now, home prices in Spain are absolutely collapsing….

Fresh data yesterday shows how desperate the crisis is becoming in Spain. The property crash is accelerating. House prices fell at a 12.6pc rate in the first quarter of this year, compared to 11.2pc the quarter before, and 7.4pc in the quarter before that. Prices have fallen 26pc from their peak.

“Fundamentals point to a further 25pc decline,” said Standard & Poor’s in a report on Thursday. It may take another four years to clear a glut of one million homes left from the building boom.

Meanwhile, money is being pulled out of banks in Spain at a very alarming rate.  As panic spreads we are seeing slow motion bank runs all over Europe.  Over the past few months massive amounts of money have been moved from troubled nations to “safe havens” such as Switzerland and Germany.

Investors are getting very nervous and yields on Italian and Spanish debt are spiking again.

Last week yields on Spanish debt hit their highest levels since the introduction of the euro.  Without massive ECB intervention the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds will almost certainly blow well past the 7 percent danger mark.

The credit rating agencies are indicating that there is danger ahead.  Moody’s recently downgraded Spanish debt to just one notch above junk status.  Spain is heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

The situation in Europe is very grim.

Greece is going to need bailouts for as far as the eye can see.

Spain is almost certainly going to need a huge bailout.

Italy is almost certainly going to need a huge bailout.

Ireland and Portugal look like they are going to need more money.

France is increasingly looking vulnerable, and Francois Hollande appears to have no real solutions up his sleeve.

As I have said so many times before, watch Europe.

Every few weeks there are headlines that declare that “Europe has been saved” but things just keep getting worse.

The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, said the following a few weeks ago….

“Our biggest trading partner is tearing itself apart with no obvious solution.”

And that is the truth.  There is no obvious solution to the problems in Europe.  The politicians could kick the can down the road for a while longer, but in the end there will be no avoiding the pain that is coming.

The equation for what is happening in Europe that I have shared before still applies….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

We are watching a slow-motion financial train wreck that is absolutely unprecedented happen right in front of our eyes and our politicians are powerless to stop it.

It is going to be a long, hot summer for the European financial system.

On election day in Greece, the mood was incredibly somber.  Instead of celebrating, most Greeks seemed resigned to a very hard future.  As an article in the Telegraph described, the entire nation seems to be grinding to a halt….

This is the election that is supposed to decide whether Greece stays in the euro. Yet as it, and Europe, face what could be their Katrina moment, the dominant sense here is not of panic, or fear, or even hope – but of a country in suspended animation, grinding to a halt.

The Athens Heart shopping centre, in the southern suburbs, is polished, full of big brands, and almost totally empty of customers. “We’ve had five sales all day,” says Steryiani Vlachakou, the assistant in the Champion sportswear store. “It’s been getting a lot, lot worse.”

Sadly, it is not only Greece that is doomed.

The truth is that all of Europe is doomed, and when Europe falls the entire globe is going to feel it.

So get ready for the hard times that are coming.  The pain is going to be immense and most people are not even going to see it coming.

11 Quotes That Show How Worried The Financial World Is About Europe Right Now

The recent elections in France and in Greece have thrown the global financial system into an uproar.  Fear and worry are everywhere and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  All of the financial deals that Greece has made over the past few years may be null and void.  Nobody is going to know for sure until a new government is formed, and at this point it looks like that is not going to happen and that there will need to be new elections in June.  All of the financial deals that France has made over the past few years may be null and void as well.  New French President Francois Hollande seems determined to take France on a path away from austerity.  But can France really afford to keep spending money that it does not have?  France has already lost its AAA credit rating and French bond yields have started to move up toward dangerous territory.  And Greek politicians are delusional if they think they have any other choice other than austerity.  Without European bailout money (which they won’t get if they don’t honor their current agreements), nobody is going to want to lend Greece a dime.

And all of this talk about “austerity” is kind of silly anyway.  It isn’t as if either France or Greece was going to have a balanced budget any time soon.  Both nations were still running up huge amounts of debt even under the “austerity” budgets.

But the citizens of both nations have sent a clear message that they are not going to tolerate even a slowdown in government spending.  They want to go back to the debt-fueled prosperity of the last several decades, even if it makes their long-term financial problems a lot worse.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Greece does not have that option.  Without the bailout money that they are scheduled to get, Greece does not have a prayer of avoiding a disorderly default.  Private investors would have to be insane to lend Greece money if the bailout deal falls apart.  Greece desperately needs the help of the EU, the ECB and the IMF and the only way they are going to get it is if they abide by the terms of the agreements that have already been reached.

The only way that Greece can avoid austerity at this point would be to leave the euro.  Nobody would want to lend money to Greece under that scenario either, but Greece could choose to print huge amounts of their own national currency if they wanted to.

The situation is different in France.  Investors are still willing to lend to France at reasonable interest rates, but if France chooses to run up huge amounts of additional debt at some point they will end up just like Greece.

What is even more important in the short-term is the crumbling of the French/German alliance on European fiscal matters.  Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy were a united front, but now Merkel and Hollande are likely to have conflict after conflict.

Instead of moving in one clear direction, the eurozone is now fractured and tensions are rising.

So what comes next?

Well, investors are not certain what comes next and that has many of them deeply concerned.

The following are 11 quotes that show how worried the financial world is about Europe right now….

#1 Tres Knippa of Kenai Capital Management: “What is going on in Europe is an absolute disaster…the risk-on trade is not the place to be. I want to be out of equities and very, very defensive because the situation in Europe just got worse after those elections.”

#2 Mark McCormick, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman: “We’re going to have higher tensions, more uncertainty and most likely a weaker euro.”

#3 Nick Stamenkovic, investment strategist at RIA Capital Markets in Edinburgh: “Investors are questioning whether Greece will be a part of the single currency at the end of this year.”

#4 Jörg Asmussen, a European Central Bank executive board member: “Greece needs to be aware that there is no alternative to the agreed reform program if it wants to remain a member of the eurozone”

#5 Tristan Cooper, sovereign debt analyst at Fidelity Worldwide Investment: “A Greek eurozone exit is on the cards although the probability and timing of such an event is uncertain.”

#6 Art Cashin: “Here’s the outlook on Greece from Wall Street watering holes. If a coalition government is formed or looks to be formed, global markets may rally. Any coalition is unlikely to make progress on goals, since austerity is political suicide. There will likely be another election around June 10/17. A workable majority/plurality remains unlikely, so back to square one. Therefore, Greece will be unable to attain goals by the deadline (June 30). Lacking aid funds, pensions are suspended and government workers are laid off. Protestors take to the streets and government is forced to revert to drachma to avoid social chaos. Pass the peanuts, please.”

#7 John Noonan, Senior Forex Analyst with Thomson Reuters in Sydney: “Sentiment is very bearish, The euro is under a lot of pressure right now. I get the feeling that it’s going to be a nasty move lower for the euro finally”

#8 Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard: “A Greek exit would underscore that there’s no realistic long-term plan for Europe, and it would lead to a chaotic endgame for the rest of the euro zone.”

#9 Chris Tinker of Libra Investment Services: “It’s a binary decision. If Greece gets itself to the point where the European administration says, ‘We can’t play this game anymore,’ that starts a domino effect”

#10 Nicolas Véron, a senior fellow at Bruegel: “France has very limited fiscal space and actually has to engage in fiscal consolidation”

#11 80-year-old Greek citizen Panagiota Makri: “I’m confused. I feel numb and confused. Only God can save us now”

All of this comes at a time when much of Europe is already descending into a new recession.  Economies all over Europe are contracting and unemployment rates are skyrocketing.  Until things start improving, there is going to continue to be a lot of civil unrest across Europe.

Meanwhile, things are not so great in the United States either.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon claims that the U.S. economy is holding a “royal straight flush“, but the only part of that he got right was the “flush” part.

There are 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, the middle class continues to shrink, the rising cost of food and the rising cost of gas are severely stretching the budgets of millions of American families and the federal government continues to run up gigantic amounts of debt.

When Europe descends into financial chaos, the United States is not going to escape it.  The financial crisis of 2008 deeply affected the entire globe, and so will the next great financial crisis.

Let us hope that we still have a little bit more time before the next great financial crisis strikes, but things in Europe are rapidly unraveling and at some point the dominoes are going to begin to fall.

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