Since the election there has been this perception among the American public that the economy is improving, but that has not been the case at all. U.S. GDP growth for the first quarter was just revised up to 1.2 percent, but that is even lower than the average growth of just 1.33 percent that we saw over the previous ten years. But when you look even deeper into the numbers a much more alarming picture emerges. Commercial and industrial loan growth is declining, auto loan defaults are rising, bankruptcies are absolutely surging and we are on pace to break the all-time record for most store closings in a single year in the United States by more than 20 percent. All of these are points that I have covered before, but today I have 12 new facts to share with you. The following are 12 signs that the economic slowdown that the experts have been warning about is now here…
#1 According to Challenger, the number of job cuts in May was 71 percent higher than it was in May 2016.
#2 We just witnessed the third worst drop in U.S. construction spending in the last six years.
#3 U.S. manufacturing PMI fell to an 8 month low in May.
#4 Financial stocks have lost all of their gains for the year, and some analysts are saying that this is “a terrible sign”.
#5 One new survey has found that 39 percent of all millionaires “plan to avoid investing in the coming month”. That is the highest that figure has been since December 2013.
#6 Jobless claims just shot up to a five week high of 248,000.
#7 General Motors just reported another sales decline in May, and it is being reported that the company may be preparing for “more job cuts at its American factories”.
#8 After an initial bump after Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, U.S. consumer confidence is starting to fall.
#9 Since Memorial Day, Radio Shack has officially shut down more than 1,000 stores.
#10 Payless has just increased the number of stores that it plans to close to about 800.
#11 According to the Los Angeles Times, it is being projected that 25 percent of all shopping malls in the United States may close within the next five years.
#12 Over the past 12 months, the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has risen by a staggering 23 percent.
And in case those numbers have not persuaded you that the U.S. economy is heading for rough times, I would encourage you to go check out my previous article entitled “11 Facts That Prove That The U.S. Economy In 2017 Is In Far Worse Shape Than It Was In 2016” for even more eye-popping statistics.
During a bubble, it can feel like the good times are just going to keep rolling forever.
But that never actually happens in reality.
The truth is that we are in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble of all time, and the evidence is starting to mount that this debt bubble has just about run its course. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
A recurring theme on this website has been to periodically highlight the tremendous build up in US corporate debt, most recently in April when we showed that “Corporate Debt To EBITDA Hits All Time High.” The relentless debt build up is something which even the IMF recently noted, when in April it released a special report on financial stability, according to which 20% of US corporations were at risk of default should rates rise. It is also the topic of the latest piece by SocGen’s strategist Andrew Lapthorne who uses even more colorful adjectives to describe what has happened since the financial crisis, noting that “the debt build-up during this cycle has been incredible, particularly when compared to the stagnant progression of EBITDA.”
Lapthorne calculates that S&P1500 ex financial net debt has risen by almost $2 trillion in five years, a 150% increase, but this mild in comparison to the tripling of the debt pile in the Russell 2000 in six years. He also notes, as shown he previously, that as a result of this debt surge, interest payments cost the smallest 50% of stocks in the US fully 30% of their EBIT compared with just 10% of profits for the largest 10% and states that “clearly the sensitivity to higher interest rates is then going to be with this smallest 50%, while the dominance and financial strength of the largest 10% disguises this problem in the aggregate index measures.”
The same report noted that net debt growth in the U.S. is quickly headed toward negative territory, and the last time that happened was during the last recession.
We see similar things when we look at the 2nd largest economy on the entire planet. According to Jim Rickards, China “has multiple bubbles, and they’re all getting ready to burst”…
China is in the greatest financial bubble in history. Yet, calling China a bubble does not do justice to the situation. This story has been touched on periodically over the last year.
China has multiple bubbles, and they’re all getting ready to burst. If you make the right moves now, you could be well positioned even as Chinese credit and currency crash and burn.
The first and most obvious bubble is credit. The combined Chinese government and corporate debt-to-equity ratio is over 300-to-1 after hidden liabilities, such as provincial guarantees and shadow banking system liabilities, are taken into account.
We just got the worst Chinese manufacturing number in about a year, and it looks like economic conditions over there are really starting to slow down as well.
Just like 2008, the coming crisis is going to be truly global in scope.
It is funny how our perspective colors our reality. Just like in 2007, many are mocking those that are warning that a crisis is coming, but just like in 2009, after the crisis strikes many will be complaining that nobody warned them in advance about what was ahead.
And at this moment it may seem like we have all the time in the world to get prepared for the approaching storm, but once it is here people will be talking about how it seemed to hit us so quickly.
My hope is that many Americans will finally be fed up with our fundamentally flawed financial system once they realize that we are facing another horrendous economic crisis, and that in the aftermath they will finally be ready for the dramatic solutions that are necessary in order to permanently fix things.
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.
Is the U.S. economy about to get slammed by a major recession? According to Gallup, U.S. economic confidence has soared to the highest level ever recorded, but meanwhile a whole host of key economic indicators are absolutely screaming that a new recession is beginning. And if the U.S. economy does officially enter recession territory in 2017, it certainly won’t be a shock, because the truth is that we are well overdue for one. Donald Trump has inherited quite an economic mess from Barack Obama, and it was probably inevitable that we were headed for a significant economic downturn no matter who won the election.
One of the key indicators to watch is average weekly hours. When the economy shifts into recession mode, employers tend to start cutting back hours, and that is happening right now. In fact, as Graham Summers has pointed out, we just witnessed the largest percentage decline in average weekly hours since the recession of 2008…
In addition to the decline in hours, Summers has suggested that there are a number of other reasons to believe that a new recession is here…
The fact is that the GDP growth of 4%-5% is not just around the corner. The US most likely slid into recession in the last three months. GDP growth collapsed in 4Q16, with a large portion of the “growth” coming from accounting gimmicks.
Consider the following:
- Tax receipts indicate the US is in recession.
- Gross private domestic investment indicates were are in a recession.
- Retailers are showing that the US consumer is tapped out (see AMZN’s recent miss).
- UPS, another economic bellweather, dramatically lowered 2017 forecasts.
To me, even more alarming is the tightening of lending standards. In our debt-based economy, the flow of credit is absolutely critical to economic growth, and when credit starts to get tight that almost always leads to a recession.
So the fact that lending standards have now tightened for medium and large sized firms for six quarters in a row is very bad news. The following comes from Business Insider…
“Although modest over the past couple of quarters, it is still worth noting that this is now the sixth quarter in succession that standards have tightened for large and medium sized firms,” Deutsche Bank economist Jim Reid wrote in a research note to clients.
“This usually only happens in recessions.”
Reid is 100 percent correct on this point. This is precisely the kind of thing that we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning, and if this trend continues it is hard to imagine that the U.S. economy will be able to continue to grow.
And it is interesting to note that job growth at S&P 500 companies has gone negative for the first time since the last recession, and so large firms are definitely starting to feel the pressure.
Simultaneously, lending standards are also tightening up for consumers…
“The most notable tightening in standards though was in consumer loans,” the Fed said. “During the quarter, banks reported an 8.3% net tightening in credit standards for credit cards and 11.6% net tightening for auto loans.”
US consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity and is thus a key driver of growth in the world’s largest economy.
Those numbers for credit cards and auto loans are major red flags.
It is very simple. Tighter credit means less economic activity which means slower economic growth. The U.S. economy grew at a dismal 1.9 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2016, and it would be absolutely no surprise if we end up with a negative number for the first quarter of 2017.
One of the big reasons why lending standards are tightening is because bankruptcies are rising.
As I reported the other day, consumer bankruptcies just rose on a year-over-year basis in back to back months for the first time in almost seven years. Commercial bankruptcies had already been rising on a year-over-year basis throughout 2016, and so the fact that consumer bankruptcies have now joined the party is a very bad sign.
And we have also just learned that real median household income declined in 2016…
Its official! The spectacular Obama/Fed “recovery” produced no increase in real medin household income in 2016 (the last year of Obama’s reign of [economic] error). In fact, real median annual household income in December 2016 ($57,827) was 0.9 percent lower than in December 2015 ($58,356).
Yes, I understand that there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there right now because of Donald Trump.
But the truth is that it is literally going to take some sort of an economic miracle to avoid a recession.
And if a recession is going to happen anyway, the Trump administration should want it to occur as quickly as possible.
You see, if a recession starts a year from now, it will be much more difficult for Trump to blame it on Obama. But if a recession starts right now, he will definitely be able to argue that it happened because of the mess that he inherited from the last administration.
In addition, the sooner the next recession ends the sooner the next recovery can begin. If a recession is still going on during the 2020 campaign, that would be really bad for Trump, but if a recovery is well underway by then that would be really good for his chances.
If you doubt this, just go back and look at the 1984 campaign. After a very difficult recession, the U.S. economy bounced back strongly and Ronald Reagan was able to ride that momentum to an easy victory.
So this may sound very strange to many of you, but the truth is that if a new recession is coming Trump supporters should want it to happen as rapidly as possible.
Unfortunately, once a new recession begins it may not play out like recessions normally do. The U.S. government is 20 trillion dollars in debt, we are in the midst of one of the biggest stock market bubbles in history, and our planet is becoming more unstable with each passing day. So even though Trump is in the White House and Obama is gone, let there be no doubt that a catastrophic economic crisis could literally erupt at any moment. I continue to encourage my readers to do all that they can to get prepared, because those that are prepared in advance will have the best chance of successfully getting through what is coming.
Unfortunately, a lot of people out there seem to believe that all of our problems have somehow evaporated just because Donald Trump is now living in the White House.
That is simply not true, and we all need to be praying for guidance and wisdom for Trump and his team as they prepare to deal with the great challenges that are ahead for our nation.
Uh oh – here we go again. Do you remember the subprime mortgage meltdown during the last financial crisis? Well, now a similar thing is happening with auto loans. The auto industry has been doing better than many other areas of the economy in recent years, but this “mini-boom” was fueled in large part by customers with subprime credit. According to Equifax, an astounding 23.5 percent of all new auto loans were made to subprime borrowers in 2015. At this point, there is a total of somewhere around $200 billion in subprime auto loans floating around out there, and many of these loans have been “repackaged” and sold to investors. I know – all of this sounds a little too close for comfort to what happened with subprime mortgages the last time around. We never seem to learn from our mistakes, and a lot of investors are going to end up paying the price.
Everything would be fine if the number of subprime borrowers not making their payments was extremely low. And that was true for a while, but now delinquency rates and default rates are rising to levels that we haven’t seen since the last recession. The following comes from Time Magazine…
People, especially those with shaky credit, are having a tougher time than usual making their car payments.
According to Bloomberg, almost 5% of subprime car loans that were bundled into securities and sold to investors are delinquent, and the default rate is even higher than that. (Depending on who’s counting, delinquency is up to three or four months behind in payments; default is what happens after that). At just over 12% in January, the default rate jumped one entire percentage point in just a month. Both delinquency and default rates are now the highest they’ve been since 2010, when the ripple effects of the recession still weighed heavily on many Americans’ finances.
The chart below was posted by David Stockman, and it shows how the delinquency rate for subprime borrowers has hit the highest level since 2009. In fact, we are not too far away from totally smashing through the previous highs that were set during the last crisis…
It is quite foolish to try to sell expensive cars to people with bad credit. This is especially true now that the economy is slowing down significantly in many areas. But people are greedy and they are going to do what they are going to do.
The most disturbing thing to me is that many of these loans are being “repackaged” and sold off to investors as “solid investments”. The following description of what has been happening comes from Wolf Richter…
The business of “repackaging” these loans, including subprime and deep-subprime loans, into asset backed securities has also been booming. These ABS are structured with different tranches, so that the highest tranches – the last ones to absorb any losses – can be stamped with high credit ratings and offloaded to bond mutual funds designed for retail investors.
Deep-subprime borrowers are high-risk. Typically they have credit scores below 550. To make it worth everyone’s while, they get stuffed into loans often with interest rates above 20%. To make payments even remotely possible at these rates, terms are often stretched to 84 months. Borrowers are typically upside down in their vehicle: the negative equity of their trade-in, along with title, taxes, and license fees, and a hefty dealer profit are rolled into the loan. When the lender repossesses the vehicle, losses add up in a hurry.
It almost makes you want to tear your hair out.
This is exactly the kind of thing that caused so much chaos with subprime mortgages.
When will we ever learn?
Meanwhile, we continue to get even more numbers that indicate that a substantial economic slowdown has already begun…
We just got the clearest sign yet that something is wrong with the US economy.
Markit Economics’ monthly flash services purchasing manager’s index, a preliminary reading on the sector, fell into contraction for the first time in over two years.
The tentative February index was reported Wednesday at 49.8.
Statistic after statistic is telling us that a new recession is already here. And of course some would argue that the last recession never actually ended. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in contraction mode since 2005.
If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. All over the world, “non-performing loans” are starting to become a major problem, and already some financial institutions are starting to get tighter with credit.
As credit conditions tighten up, this is going to cause economic activity to slow down even more. And as economic activity slows down, it is going to become even harder for ordinary people to make their debt payments.
Deflationary forces are on the rise, and most global central banks are just about out of ammunition at this point.
Everyone knew that the global debt bubble could not keep expanding much faster than the overall rate of economic growth forever.
It was only a matter of time until the bubble burst.
Now we can see signs of crisis popping up all around us, and things are only going to get worse in the months ahead…
One of the things that this era of American history will be known for is conspicuous consumption. Even though many of us won’t admit it, the truth is that almost all of us want a nice vehicle and a large home. They say that “everything is bigger in Texas”, but the same could be said for the entire nation as a whole. As you will see below, the size of the average new home has just hit a brand new record high and so has the size of the average auto loan. In the endless quest to achieve “the American Dream”, Americans are racking up bigger debts than ever before. Unfortunately, our paychecks are not keeping up and the middle class in the United States is steadily shrinking. The disparity between the lifestyle that society tells us that we ought to have and the size of our actual financial resources continues to grow. This is leading to a tremendous amount of frustration among those that can’t afford to buy expensive cars and large homes.
I remember the days when paying for a car over four years seemed like a massive commitment. But now nearly a quarter of all auto loans in the U.S. are extended out for six or seven years, and those loans have gotten larger than ever…
In the latest sign Americans are increasingly comfortable taking on more debt, auto buyers borrowed a record amount in the first quarter with the average monthly payment climbing to an all-time high of $474.
Not only that, buyers also continued to spread payments out over a longer period of time, with 24.8 percent of auto loans now coming with payment terms between six and seven years according to a new report from Experian Automotive.
That’s the highest percentage of 6 and 7-year loans Experian has ever recorded in a quarter.
Didn’t the last financial crisis teach us about the dangers of being overextended?
During the first quarter 0f 2014, the size of the average auto loan soared to an all-time record $27,612.
But if you go back just five years ago it was just $24,174.
And because we are taking out such large auto loans that are extended out over such a long period of time, we are now holding on to our vehicles much longer.
According to CNBC, Americans now keep their vehicles for an average of six years and one month.
Ten years ago, it was just four years and two months.
My how things have changed.
And consumer credit as a whole has also reached a brand new all-time record high in the United States.
Consumer credit includes auto loans, but it doesn’t include things like mortgages. The following is how Investopedia defines consumer credit…
Consumer credit is basically the amount of credit used by consumers to purchase non-investment goods or services that are consumed and whose value depreciates quickly. This includes automobiles, recreational vehicles (RVs), education, boat and trailer loans but excludes debts taken out to purchase real estate or margin on investment accounts.
As you can see from the chart below, Americans were reducing their exposure to consumer credit for a little while after the last financial crisis struck, but now it is rapidly rising again at essentially the same trajectory as before…
Have we learned nothing?
Meanwhile, America also seems to continue to have an insatiable demand for even larger homes.
According to Zero Hedge, the size of the average new home in the United States has just hit another brand new record high…
There was a small ray of hope just after the Lehman collapse that one of the most deplorable characteristics of US society – the relentless urge to build massive McMansions (funding questions aside) – was fading. Alas, as the Census Bureau today confirmed, that normalization in the innate desire for bigger, bigger, bigger not only did not go away but is now back with a bang.
According to just released data, both the median and average size of a new single-family home built in 2013 hit new all time highs of 2,384 and 2,598 square feet respectively.
And while it is known that in absolute number terms the total number of new home sales is still a fraction of what it was before the crisis, the one strata of new home sales which appears to not only not have been impacted but is openly flourishing once more, are the same McMansions which cater to the New Normal uberwealthy (which incidentally are the same as the Old Normal uberwealthy, only wealthier) and which for many symbolize America’s unbridled greed for mega housing no matter the cost.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having a large home.
But if people are overextending themselves financially, that is when it becomes a major problem.
Just remember what happened back in 2007.
And just like prior to the last financial crisis, Americans are treating their homes like piggy banks once again. Home equity lines of credit are up 8 percent over the past 12 months, and homeowners are increasingly being encouraged to put their homes at risk to fund their excessive lifestyles.
But there has been one big change that we have seen since the last financial crisis.
Lending standards have gotten a lot tougher, and many younger adults find that they are not able to buy homes even though they would really like to. Stifled by absolutely suffocating levels of student loan debt, many of these young adults are putting off purchasing a home indefinitely. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article about this phenomenon…
The Millennial generation is great at many things: texting, social media, selfies. But buying a home? Not so much.
Just 36% of Americans under the age of 35 own a home, according to the Census Bureau. That’s down from 42% in 2007 and the lowest level since 1982, when the agency began tracking homeownership by age.
It’s not all their fault. Millennials want to buy homes — 90% prefer owning over renting, according to a recent survey from Fannie Mae.
But student loan debt, tight lending standards and stiff competition have made it next to impossible for many of these younger Americans to make the leap.
This is one of the primary reasons why homeownership in America is declining.
A lot of young adults would love to buy a home, but they are already financially crippled from the very start of their adult lives by student loan debt. In fact, the total amount of student loan debt is now up to approximately 1.1 trillion dollars. That is even more than the total amount of credit card debt in this country.
We live in a debt-based system which is incredibly fragile.
We experienced this firsthand during the last financial crisis.
But we just can’t help ourselves.
We have always got to have more, and society teaches us that if we don’t have enough money to pay for it that we should just go into even more debt.
Unfortunately, just as so many individuals and families have found out in recent years, eventually a day of reckoning arrives.
And a day of reckoning is coming for the nation as a whole at some point as well.
You can count on that.