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U.S. Auto Sales Plunge Dramatically As The Consumer Debt Bubble Continues To Collapse

One sector of the economy that is acting as if we were already in the middle of a horrible recession is the auto industry.  We just got sales figures for the month of April, and every single major U.S. auto manufacturer missed their sales projections.  And compared to one year ago, sales were way down across the entire industry.  When you add this latest news to all of the other signals that the U.S. economy is slowly down substantially, a very disturbing picture begins to emerge.  Either the U.S. economy is steamrolling toward a major slowdown, or this is one heck of a head fake.

One analyst that has been waiting for auto sales to start declining is Graham Summers.  According to Summers, the boom in auto sales that we witnessed in previous years was largely fueled by subprime lending, and now that subprime auto loan bubble is starting to burst

Auto-loan generation has gone absolutely vertical since 2009, rising an incredible 56% in seven years. Even more incredibly roughly 1/3 of this ~$450 billion in new loans are subprime AKA garbage.

In the simplest of terms, this is Subprime 2.0… the tip of the $199 TRILLION debt iceberg, just as subprime mortgages were for the Housing Bubble.

I’ve been watching this industry for months now, waiting for the signal that it’s ready to explode.

That signal just hit.

The signal that Summers is referring to is a persistent decline in U.S. auto sales.  It would be easy to dismiss one bad month, but U.S. auto sales have been falling for a number of months now, and the sales figures for April were absolutely dismal.  Just check out how much sales declined in April compared to one year ago for the biggest auto manufacturers

General Motors: -5.8 percent

Ford: -7.1 percent

Fiat Chrysler: -7.0 percent

Toyota: -4.4 percent

Honda: -7.0 percent

For auto manufacturers, those are truly frightening numbers, and nobody is really projecting that they will get better any time soon.

At the same time, unsold vehicles continue to pile up on dealer lots at a staggering pace

Meanwhile, inventory days are still trending higher as OEMs continue to push product on to dealer lots even though sale through to end customers has seemingly stalled.

GM, one of the few OEMs to actually disclose dealer inventories in monthly sales releases, reported that April inventories increased to 100 days (935,758 vehicles) from 98 days at the end of March and just 71 days (681,402 vehicles) in April 2016.

So why is this happening?

Of course there are a lot of factors, but one of the main reasons for this crisis is the fact that U.S. consumers are already drowning in debt and are simply tapped out

Now, a new survey from Northwestern Mutual helps to shed some light on why Americans are completely incapable of saving money.

First, roughly 50% of Americans have debt balances, excluding mortgages mind you, of over $25,000, with the average person owing over $37,000, versus a median personal income of just over $30,000.

Therefore, it’s not difficult to believe, as Northwestern Mutual points out, that 45% of Americans spend up to half of their monthly take home pay on debt service alone.…which, again, excludes mortgage debt.

When you are already up to your eyeballs in debt, it is hard just to make payments on that debt.  So for many American families a new car is simply out of the question.

And it isn’t just the U.S. auto industry that is in trouble.  The credit card industry is also starting to show signs of distress

Synchrony Financial – GE’s spin-off that issues credit cards for Walmart and Amazon – disclosed on Friday that, despite assurances to the contrary just three months ago, net charge-off would rise to at least 5% this year. Its shares plunged 16% and are down 27% year-to-date.

Credit-card specialist Capital One disclosed in its Q1 earnings report last week that provisions for credit losses rose to $2 billion, with net charge-offs jumping 28% year-over-year to $1.5 billion.

If you didn’t understand all of that, what is essentially being said is that credit card companies are starting to have to set aside more money for bad credit card debts.

Previously I have reported that consumer bankruptcies and commercial bankruptcies are both rising at the fastest rate that we have seen since the last recession.  This trend is starting to spook lenders, and so many of them are starting to pull back on various forms of lending.  For example, Bloomberg is reporting that lending by regional U.S. banks was down significantly during the first quarter of 2017…

Total loans at the 15 largest U.S. regional banks declined by about $10 billion to $1.73 trillion in the first quarter, compared with the previous three-month period, the first such drop in four years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All but two of those banks missed analysts’ estimates for total loans, as a slump in commercial and industrial lending sapped growth.

This is how a credit crunch begins.  When the flow of credit starts restricting, that slows down economic activity, and in turn that usually results in even more credit defaults.  Of course that just causes lending to get even tighter, and pretty soon you have a spiral that is hard to stop.

Just about everywhere you look, there are early warning signs of a new economic downturn.  And just like we saw prior to the great crash of 2008, those that are wise are getting prepared for what is coming ahead of time.  Unfortunately, most people usually end up getting blindsided by economic downturns because they believe the mainstream media when they insist that everything is going to be just fine.

Thankfully, there are at least a few people that are telling the truth, and one of them is Marc Faber.  Just a few days ago, he told CNBC that the U.S. economy is “terminally ill”…

“Dr. Doom” Marc Faber says the U.S. economy is “terminally ill,” and the current outlook doesn’t seem to be improving.

“The U.S. has run a deficit for [so long],” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” “The conditions today are more fragile than they were ever before, and unless somebody comes and introduces minus 5 percent interest rates, I think the economy is really not in such a great shape.”

“I’m actually amazed that people are so optimistic,” the editor and publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” added.

I have to agree with Faber on this point.

We are more primed for a major economic downturn and a horrifying stock market crash than we were back in 2008.

It isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge, and with our world becoming more unstable with each passing month, it appears that our day of reckoning is likely to come sooner rather than later.

The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: 12 Signs That A Day Of Reckoning Has Arrived For The U.S. Auto Industry

In 2008, subprime mortgages almost single-handedly took down the entire financial system, and now a new subprime crisis is here.  In recent years, the auto industry has been able to boost sales by aggressively pushing people into auto loans that they cannot afford.  In particular, auto loans made to consumers with subprime credit have been accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of the market.  Unfortunately, when you make loans to people that should not be getting them, eventually a lot of those loans are going to start to go bad, and that is precisely what is happening now.  Meanwhile, automakers and dealers are starting to panic as sales have begun to fall and used car prices have started to crash.  If you work in the auto industry, you might remember how horrible the last recession was, and this new downturn could eventually turn out to be even worse.  The following are 12 signs that a day of reckoning has arrived for the U.S. auto industry…

#1 Seven out of the eight largest automakers in the United States fell short of their sales projections in March.

#2 Overall, U.S. auto sales so far in 2017 have been described as a “disaster” despite record spending on consumer incentives by automakers.

#3 Dealer inventories are now at the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  Why this is so troubling is because there are a whole lot of unsold vehicles just sitting there doing nothing, and this is becoming a major financial problem for many dealers.

#4 It now takes an average of 74 days before a dealer is able to sell a new vehicle.  This number is also the highest that it has been since the last financial crisis.

#5 Not only is Ford projecting that sales will fall this year, they are also projecting that sales will fall in 2018 as well.

#6 Used vehicle prices are already starting to decline dramatically

The used-vehicle price index from the National Automobile Dealers Association posted a 3.8% decline in February compared to the prior month. NADA also said wholesale prices fell 1.6%.

#7 As I discussed yesterday, Morgan Stanley is projecting that used car prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next four or five years.

#8 Right now, more than a million Americans are behind on their payments on their auto loans.  This is something that has not happened since the last financial crisis.

#9 In 2017, U.S. consumers are more “underwater” on their auto loans than they have ever been before.

#10 Subprime auto loan losses have soared to their highest level since the last financial crisis, and the delinquency rate on those loans has risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  By now, I am sure that you are starting to notice a pattern in these data points.

#11 At this moment, approximately $200,000,000,000 has been loaned out by auto lenders to consumers with subprime credit.

#12 Just like with subprime mortgages in the run up to the last financial crisis, subprime auto loans have been bundled together and sold as “securities” to investors.  And just like last time around, this has turned out to be a recipe for disaster

Many auto loans, including those considered subprime, are securitized and sold to investors. But Morgan Stanley recently reported that the share of auto securities tied to “deep subprime” loans – those given to borrowers with a FICO credit score below 550 — has risen from 5.1 percent in 2010 to 32.5 percent today. It said defaults on those bonds have risen significantly in the past five years.

Almost a quarter of the more than $1.1 trillion in U.S. auto loan debt is owed by subprime borrowers, and delinquency rates have hit their highest point in seven years.

In the old days, you could always count on the U.S. auto industry to bounce back eventually because of the economic strength of average U.S. consumers.

Unfortunately, the middle class in America is being systematically hollowed out by long-term economic trends that our leaders in Washington D.C. have consistently ignored.

We have become a nation of economic extremes.  There are more millionaires in this country than ever before, but meanwhile poverty is exploding in communities all over the country.

If you live in a prosperous area, things may be going great where you live for the moment.  But as Gallup has discovered, an all-time record high percentage of Americans are worrying “a great deal” about hunger and homelessness these days…

Over the past two years, an average of 67% of lower-income U.S. adults, up from 51% from 2010-2011, have worried “a great deal” about the problem of hunger and homelessness in the country. Concern has also increased among middle- and upper-income Americans, but they still worry far less than do lower-income Americans.

You may have plenty of money in your bank account, and so for you hunger and homelessness are not very big issues.  But for those that are just scraping by from month to month, having enough food and a place to sleep at night are top priorities.  Here is more from Gallup

Americans at all income levels are expressing greater concern about hunger and homelessness, and it is the top worry among lower-income Americans, who are most likely to struggle to pay for adequate food and housing.

In addition to the woes of the auto industry, the retail industry is going through the worst wave of store closings in modern American history, pension funds are melting down all over the nation, and stocks are primed for a crash of epic proportions.  Things are lining up just right for the kind of scenario that I laid out in The Beginning Of The End, but unfortunately most people are not listening to the warnings.

The same thing happened just before the great financial crisis of 2008.  All of the warning signs were there well in advance, and many of the experts were warning about what was coming as early as 2005.  But because it did not happen immediately, a lot of people greatly mocked the warnings.

But then the fall of 2008 arrived and all of the mockers suddenly went silent.

As you can see from the numbers that I shared above, a new crisis has already arrived.

The only question now is how bad it will ultimately turn out to be.

As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

17 Facts About The Decline Of The U.S. Auto Industry That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

Very few things illustrate how dramatically America has been deindustrialized than the stunning decline of the U.S. auto industry.  Once upon a time, the United States literally taught the rest of the world how to make cars.  We were the ones that invented the assembly line.  We were the ones that showed the rest of the world what mass production could do for an economy.  For decades, we produced more cars than anyone else and we sold more cars than anyone else.  Detroit was known as “the Motor City” and our manufacturing prowess dominated the planet.  But now all of that has changed.  Japan makes far more vehicles than we do today.  So does Germany.  As you read this, state of the art production facilities are going up all over China.  Meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry continues to rot and thousands upon thousands of good automotive jobs continue to leave our shores.  The rest of the world is making cars better than we are, they are making them cheaper than we are and they really don’t care that many of our formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into rotting, stinking hellholes.  The U.S. auto industry was once a symbol of American dominance, but now it is just a symbol of American decline.  If we want to remain a great nation, then we need to start becoming great at making things once again.

The following are 17 facts about the decline of the U.S. auto industry that are almost too crazy to believe….

#1 The average age of an automobile in the United States has gone up more than 50% since 1990 and is now sitting at an all-time record of 10.8 years.  The average length of a marriage in the United States that ends in divorce is only 8 years.

#2 Germany made 5.5 million cars in 2010.  The United States made less than half that (2.7 million).

#3 When you add up salary and benefits, the average auto worker in Germany makes $67.14 an hour.  In the United States, auto workers only make $33.77 an hour in salary and benefits.

#4 Back in 2000, about 17 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.  During 2011, less than 13 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.

#5 Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe?  Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts with the rest of the world of $110 billion.

#6 Japan builds more cars than anyone else on the globe.  Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does.

#7 In 2010, South Korea exported approximately 12 times as many automobiles to us as we exported to them.

#8 According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to new tariffs.

#9 U.S. car companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building shiny new automobile factories in China.

#10 In 1970, General Motors had about a 60 percent share of the U.S. automobile market.  Today, that figure is down to about 20 percent.

#11 The combined U.S. market share of the “Big Three” American car companies fell from 70% in 1998 to 53% in 2008.

#12 Detroit was once known as the “Motor City”, but in recent decades automobile production has been leaving Detroit at a staggering pace.  One analysis of census figures found that 48.5% of all men living in Detroit from age 20 to age 64 did not have a job during 2008.

#13 Today, only Chrysler still operates an automobile assembly line within Detroit city limits.

#14 Since Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford, the company has reduced its North American workforce by nearly half.

#15 Today, only about 40 percent of Ford’s 178,000 workers are employed in North America, and a significant portion of those jobs are in Canada and Mexico.

#16 The average Mexican auto worker brings in less than a tenth of the total compensation that a U.S. auto worker makes.

#17 In the year 2000, the U.S. auto industry employed more than 1.3 million Americans.  Today, the U.S. auto industry employs about 698,000 people.

Sadly, it is not just the auto industry in America that is falling apart.  In fact, almost everywhere you look in our economy (and in our society as a whole) there is decay and decline.

For example, our infrastructure was once the envy of the entire globe.  Today, U.S. infrastructure is ranked 23rd.

Recently, I wrote an article entitled “24 Statistics To Show To Anyone Who Believes That America Has A Bright Economic Future“.  In that article, I discussed many of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying this nation.

Just because we have had it so good for so long does not mean that it will always be that way.

As a nation, our wealth is declining.  A decade ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult.  By 2010, the United States had fallen to seventh.

We lived off the wealth created by previous generations for a long time, but that was not enough for us.  We always wanted more.  Eventually we started going into massive amounts of debt so that we could keep this bubble of “false prosperity” going.

Today, when you add up all forms of debt in America, it comes to over 50 trillion dollars.

We are a great nation that is in an accelerating state of decline.

We have got to quit living off of the past accomplishments of previous generations.

We have got to quit being so lazy and decadent and spoiled.

There is absolutely no guarantee that America will always be a great nation.  In fact, when great nations fall, it usually happens very quickly.

I’m still proud to be an American, but the decay and the decline that I see all across this country sickens me.

And it should sicken you too.

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