We have not seen global economic activity fall off this rapidly since the great recession of 2008. Manufacturing activity is imploding all over the planet, global trade is slowing down at a pace that is extremely alarming, and the Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low. If the “real economy” consists of people making, selling and shipping stuff, then it is in incredibly bad shape. Here in the United States, the dismal economic numbers continue to stun all of the experts. For example, on Monday we learned that the Texas general business activity index just hit a six year low…
Economic activity in Texas keeps getting worse.
The general business activity index out Monday from the Dallas Federal Reserve for January was -34.6, a six-year low and much worse than economists had expected.
The forecast for the monthly index was -14, following a December reading of -21.6 (revised from -20.1) that was also worse than expected.
One could perhaps argue that this is to be expected in Texas because of the collapse in the price of oil.
But what about the very unusual things that we are seeing in other areas of the country? In Erwin, Tennessee, a rail terminal that had been continuously operating for 135 years was just permanently shut down, and hundreds of workers now find themselves without a job…
The last coal train to leave Erwin rolled slowly out of town just after at 3 p.m. Thursday, less than eight hours after CSX Transportation employees heard the news that rocked all of Unicoi County.
“Its a hard pill to swallow,” county Mayor Greg Lynch said. “Of course, we heard rumors that something was coming down. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they would just shut down and leave town.”
CSX delivered the news of its decision to immediately close Erwin’s 175-acre rail yard and abruptly end the employment of the facility’s 300 workers in a series of meetings with employees conducted at the start of their morning shifts.
It has been said that if you want to know what is really happening with the U.S. economy, just watch the railroads.
And right now, rail traffic all over the nation is falling to depressingly low levels.
One of Steve Quayle’s readers says that rail traffic in Colorado has slowed down so much that hundreds of engines are just sitting there on the tracks…
With regard to the train freight article this morning, we have in Grand Junction, CO., literally hundreds of engines sidelined on the tracks. They are three deep on some tracks and easily number over 250. I have never seen this many engines on the tracks before and I feel this is just another indicator of the slowdown in shipping.
In case you are tempted to think that this is just anecdotal evidence, I want you to consider what is happening to the largest railroad company in the United States.
According to Wolf Richter, operating revenues for Union Pacific were down 15 percent last year…
Union Pacific, the largest US railroad, reported awful fourth-quarter earnings Thursday evening. Operating revenues plummeted 15% year over year, and net income dropped 22%.
It was broad-based: The only category where revenues rose was automotive (+1%). Otherwise, revenues fell: Chemicals (-7%), Agricultural Products (-12%), Intermodal containers (-14%), Industrial Products (-23%), and Coal (-31%). Shipment of crude plunged 42%.
So Union Pacific did what American companies do best: it laid off 3,900 people last year.
And of course we can see evidence of the emerging economic slowdown all around us pretty much wherever we look. Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce, GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers, and Wal-Mart just announced the closure of 269 stores.
But instead of dealing with reality, there are a lot of irrational optimists that insist that things will start bouncing back any day now. For instance, CNBC is reporting that Goldman Sachs is forecasting that the S&P 500 will end up finishing the year back at 2,100…
Goldman, though, is sticking with its forecast that the S&P 500 will rebound and finish the year at 2,100, a rise of about 11 percent from current levels but basically no net gain for the full year.
It is easy to say something like that, but the actions of the big banks speak louder than words.
Most people don’t realize this, but several of the “too big to fail” banks laid off thousands of workers in 2015…
Bank of America and Citigroup reduced headcount the most, eliminating about 20,000 staffers between them, according to fourth-quarter earnings reports from each bank. The respective moves amount to 4.6 percent and 4 percent fewer workers at the banks. JPMorgan Chase reported in its earnings that it employs 6,700 fewer workers than a year ago.
And guess what?
The “too big to fail” banks did the exact same thing just before the great stock market crash of 2008.
When are people going to finally start understanding that we have a major league crisis on our hands?
Since June 2015, approximately 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out. After a brief respite at the end of last week, it appears that the global financial crisis is getting ready to accelerate once again.
On Monday, the price of oil dipped back under 30 dollars, the Dow was down another 208 points, and the Nikkei is currently down another 389 points in early trading.
Somewhere close to one-fifth of all global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.
We only have about four-fifths left.
But in the end, I can talk about these numbers until I am blue in the face and some people will still not get prepared.
Some people have so much faith in Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve and the mainstream media that they would literally follow them off a cliff.
By now, most of the people that believe that they should prepare for the coming crisis have already gotten prepared, and most of those that want to believe that everything is going to work out just fine somehow are never going to get prepared anyway.
What is going to happen is going to happen, and tens of millions of people are going to end up bitterly regretting not listening to the warnings when they still had the chance.
For the first time ever, the Baltic Dry Index has fallen under 400. As I write this article, it is sitting at 394. To be honest, I never even imagined that it could go this low. Back in early August, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 1,222, and since then it has been on a steady decline. Of course the Baltic Dry Index crashed hard just before the great stock market crash of 2008 too, but at this point it is already lower than it was during that entire crisis. This is just more evidence that global trade is grinding to a halt and that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” for the global economy.
If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Index, here is a helpful definition from Wikipedia…
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an economic indicator issued daily by the London-based Baltic Exchange. Not restricted to Baltic Sea countries, the index provides “an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea. Taking in 23 shipping routes measured on a timecharter basis, the index covers Handysize, Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize dry bulk carriers carrying a range of commodities including coal, iron ore and grain.”
The BDI is one of the key indicators that experts look at when they are trying to determine where the global economy is heading. And right now, it is telling us that we are heading into a major worldwide economic downturn.
Some people try to dismiss the recent drop in the Baltic Dry Index by claiming that shipping rates are down because there is simply too much capacity out there these days. And I don’t dispute that. Without a doubt, too many vessels were built during the “boom years”, and now shipbuilders are paying the price. For example, Chinese shipyards reported a 59 percent decline in orders during the first 11 months of 2015…
Total orders at Chinese shipyards tumbled 59 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, according to data released Dec. 15 by the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry. Builders have sought government support as excess vessel capacity drives down shipping rates and prompts customers to cancel contracts. Zhoushan Wuzhou Ship Repairing & Building Co. last month became the first state-owned shipbuilder to go bankrupt in a decade.
But that doesn’t explain everything. The truth is that exports are way down all over the world. China, the United States, South Korea and many other major exporting nations have all been reporting extremely dismal export numbers. Global trade is contracting quite rapidly, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly dispute that.
The global economy is a mess, but many people are not paying any attention to the economic fundamentals because they are too busy looking at the stock market.
The stock market does not tell us how the economy is doing. If the stock market is up today that does not mean that the economy is doing well, and if the stock market is down tomorrow that does not mean that it is doing poorly.
Yes, the health of the financial markets can greatly affect the overall economy. We saw this back in 2008. When there is a tremendous amount of panic, that can cause a credit crunch and make it very difficult for money to flow through our system. The end result is a rapid slowdown of economic activity, and it is something that we will be experiencing again very soon.
But don’t let the day to day fluctuations of the stock market fool you. Just because the Dow was up 227 points today does not mean that the crisis is over. It is important to remember that stocks are not going to go down every single day. On Thursday, the Dow didn’t even regain two-thirds of what it lost on Wednesday. Even in bear markets there are up days, and some of the biggest up days in stock market history were right in the middle of the crash of 2008.
It is critical that we take a long-term view of things and not let our vision be clouded by every tick up and down in the financial markets. Initial jobless claims just hit their highest level in about six months, and companies like Macy’s and GoPro are laying off thousands of workers. Things are already bad, and they are rapidly getting worse.
And let us not forget the great amount of financial carnage that has already happened so far this year. According to CNBC, approximately 3.2 trillion dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally during the first 13 days of 2016…
Almost $3.2 trillion has been wiped off the value of stocks around the world since the start of 2016, according to calculations by a top market analyst.
It has also been the worst-ever start to a year for U.S. equities, said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, as both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average have posted their steepest losses for the first eight days trading of a year.
Over the past six months, there have now been two 10 percent “corrections” for U.S. stocks. The only other times we have seen multiple corrections like this were in 1929, 2000 and 2008. If those years seem familiar to you, that is because they should. In all three years, we witnessed historic stock market crashes.
The stunning collapse of the Baltic Dry Index is just more evidence that we have entered a global deflationary crisis. Goods aren’t moving, unemployment is rising all over the planet, and commodity prices have fallen to levels that we have not seen in over a decade.
Around the globe, there have been dramatic stock market crashes to begin the year, and we should expect to see much more market turmoil during the weeks and months to come.
If the markets have calmed down a bit for the moment, we should be very thankful for that, because we could all use some additional time to prepare for what is coming.
The debt-fueled standard of living that so many of us are enjoying today is just an illusion. And many of us won’t even understand what we have been taking for granted until it is taken away from us.
A great shaking is coming to the global economy, and the pain is going to be unimaginable. So let us enjoy every single day of relative “normalcy” while we still can, because there aren’t too many of them left.
If you have been watching for the next major global economic downturn, you can now stop waiting, because it has officially arrived. Never before in history has global trade collapsed this dramatically outside of a major worldwide recession. And this makes perfect sense – when global economic activity is increasing there is more demand for goods and services around the world, and when global economic activity is decreasing there is less demand for goods and services around the world. So far this year, global trade is down about 8.4 percent, and over the past 30 days the Baltic Dry Index has been absolutely plummeting. A month ago it was sitting at a reading of 809, but now it has fallen all the way to 628. However, it is when you look at the trade numbers for specific countries that the numbers become particularly startling.
Just within the last few days, new trade numbers have come out of China. China accounts for approximately one-fifth of all global factory exports, and for many years Chinese export growth has helped fuel the overall global economy.
But now Chinese exports are falling. In October, Chinese exports were down 6.9 percent compared to a year ago. That follows a decline of 3.7 percent in September.
The numbers for Chinese imports are even worse. Chinese imports in October were down 18.8 percent compared to a year ago after falling 20.4 percent in September. China’s growing middle class was supposed to help lead a global economic recovery, but that simply is not happening.
The following chart from Zero Hedge shows just how dramatic these latest numbers are compared to what we are accustomed to witnessing. As you can see, the only time Chinese trade numbers have been this bad for this long was during the major global recession of 2008 and 2009…
Other numbers confirm the magnitude of the economic slowdown in China. I have mentioned the ongoing plunge of the China Containerized Freight Index previously, but now it has just hit a brand new record low…
The weakness in China’s economy and its exports to the rest of the world are showing up in the weekly China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI): On Friday, it dropped to the worst level ever.
The index, operated by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, tracks how much it costs, based on contractual and spot-market rates, to ship containers from China to 14 major destinations around the world. Unlike a lot of official data from China, the index is an unvarnished reflection of a relentless reality.
It has been cascading lower since February and has since dropped 31%. At 742 currently, it’s down 26% from its inception in 1998 when it was set at 1,000.
Here are some more deeply disturbing global trade numbers that come from my previous article entitled “18 Numbers That Scream That A Crippling Global Recession Has Arrived“…
–Demand for Chinese steel is down 8.9 percent compared to a year ago.
–China’s rail freight volume is down 10.1 percent compared to last year.
–In October, South Korean exports were down 15.8 percent from a year ago.
–According to the Dutch government index, a year ago global trade in primary commodities was sitting at a reading of 150 but now it has fallen all the way down to 114. What this means is that less commodities are being traded around the world, and that is a very clear sign that global economic activity is really slowing down.
Additionally, German export orders were down about 18 percent in September, and U.S. exports are down about 10 percent for the year so far.
Clearly something very big is happening, and it is affecting the entire planet. The CEO of the largest shipping company in the world believes that the explanation for what is taking place is fairly simple…
In fact, according to Maersk CEO, Nils Smedegaard Andersen, the reason why companies that are reliant on global trade, such as his, are flailing is simple: global growth is substantially worse than the official numbers and forecasts. To wit: “The world’s economy is growing at a slower pace than the International Monetary Fund and other large forecasters are predicting.”
Quoted by Bloomberg, Andersen says that “we believe that global growth is slowing down,” he said in a phone interview. “Trade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.“
Global financial markets can run, but they can’t hide from these horrifying trade numbers forever.
One of the big things that is contributing to this new global economic slowdown is the unwinding of the U.S. dollar carry trade. A recent piece from Phoenix Capital Research explained the U.S. dollar carry trade pretty well…
When the Fed cut interest rates to zero in 2008, it flooded the system with US Dollars. The US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. NO matter what country you’re in (with few exceptions) you can borrow in US Dollars.
And if you can borrow in US Dollars at 0.25%… and put that money into anything yielding more… you could make a killing.
A hedge fund in Hong Kong could borrow $100 million, pay just $250,000 in interest and plow that money into Brazilian Reals which yielded 11%… locking in a $9.75 million return.
This was the strictly financial side of things. On the economics side, Governments both sovereign and local borrowed in US Dollars around the globe to fund various infrastructure and municipal projects.
Simply put, the US Government was practically giving money away and the world took notice, borrowing Dollars at a record pace. Today, the global carry trade (meaning money borrowed in US Dollars and invested in other assets) stands at over $9 TRILLION (larger than the economy of France and Brazil combined).
But now the U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind because the U.S. dollar has been doing very well lately. As the U.S. dollar has surged against other global currencies in 2015, this has put a tremendous amount of stress on emerging markets around the world. All of a sudden oil, other commodities and stock markets in nations such as Brazil began to crash. Meanwhile, those that had taken out loans denominated in U.S. dollars were finding that it was taking far more of their own local currencies to service and repay those loans. This financial crunch in emerging markets is going to take years to fully play out, and it is going to take a tremendous toll on global markets.
Of course we have seen this happen before. A surging dollar helped cause the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s and the major global recession of 2008 and 2009.
If you thought that the financial shaking that happened in late August was bad, the truth is that it was nothing compared to what is now heading our way.
So buckle your seat belts boys and girls, because we are definitely in for a bumpy ride.
The stock market continues to flirt with new record highs, but the signs that we could be on the precipice of the next major financial crisis continue to mount. A couple of days ago, I discussed the fact that the U.S. dollar is experiencing a tremendous surge in value just like it did in the months prior to the financial crisis of 2008. And previously, I have detailed how the price of oil has collapsed, prices for industrial commodities are tanking and market behavior is becoming extremely choppy. All of these are things that we witnessed just before the last market crash as well. It is also important to note that orders for durable goods are declining and the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level on record. So does all of this mean that the stock market is guaranteed to crash in 2015? No, of course not. But what we are looking for are probabilities. We are looking for patterns. There are multiple warning signs that have popped up repeatedly just prior to previous financial crashes, and many of those same warning signs are now appearing once again.
One of these warning signs that I have not discussed previously is the wholesale inventories to sales ratio. When economic activity starts to slow down, inventory tends to get backed up. And that is precisely what is happening right now. In fact, as Wolf Richter recently wrote about, the wholesale inventories to sales ratio has now hit a level that we have not seen since the last recession…
In December, the wholesale inventory/sales ratio reached 1.22, after rising consistently since July last year, when it was 1.17. It is now at the highest – and worst – level since September 2009, as the financial crisis was winding down:
Rising sales gives merchants the optimism to stock more. But because sales are rising in that rosy scenario, the inventory/sales ratio, depicting rising inventories and rising sales, would not suddenly jump. But in the current scenario, sales are not keeping up with inventory growth.
Another sign that I find extremely interesting is the behavior of the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury notes. As Jeff Clark recently explained, we usually see a spike in the 10 year Treasury yield about the time the market is peaking before a crash…
The 10-year Treasury note yield bottomed on January 30 at 1.65%. Today, it’s at 2%. That’s a 35-basis-point spike – a jump of 21% – in less than two weeks.
And it’s the first sign of an impending stock market crash.
As I explained last September, the 10-year Treasury note yield has ALWAYS spiked higher prior to an important top in the stock market.
For example, the 10-year yield was just 4.5% in January 1999. One year later, it was 6.75% – a spike of 50%. The dot-com bubble popped two months later.
In 2007, rates bottomed in March at 4.5%. By July, they had risen to 5.5% – a 22% increase. The stock market peaked in September.
Let’s be clear… not every spike in Treasury rates leads to an important top in the stock market. But there has always been a sharp spike in rates a few months before the top.
Once again, just because something has happened in the past does not mean that it will happen in the future.
But the fact that so many red flags are appearing all at once has got to give any rational person reason for concern.
Yes, the Dow gained more than 100 points on Thursday. But on Thursday we also learned that retail sales dropped again in January. Overall, this has been the worst two month drop in retail sales since 2009…
Following last month’s narrative-crushing drop in retail sales, despite all that low interest rate low gas price stimulus, January was more of the same as hopeful expectations for a modest rebound were denied. Falling 0.8% (against a 0.9% drop in Dec), missing expectations of -0.4%, this is the worst back-to-back drop in retail sales since Oct 2009. Retail sales declined in 6 of the 13 categories.
And economic activity is rapidly slowing down on the other side of the planet as well.
For example, Chinese imports and exports both fell dramatically in January…
Chinese imports collapsed 19.9% YoY in January, missing expectations of a modest 3.2% drop by the most since Lehman. This is the biggest YoY drop since May 2009 and worst January since the peak of the financial crisis. Exports tumbled 3.3% YoY (missing expectations of 5.9% surge) for the worst January since 2009. Combined this led to a $60.03 billion trade surplus in January – the largest ever. But apart from these massive imbalances, everything is awesome in the global economy (oh apart from The Baltic Dry at record lows, Iron Ore near record lows, oil prices crashed, and the other engine of the world economy – USA USA USA – imploding).
In light of so much bad economic data, it boggles my mind that stocks have been doing so well.
But this is typical bubble behavior. Financial bubbles tend to be very irrational and they tend to go on a lot longer than most people think they will. When they do finally burst, the consequences are often quite horrifying.
It may not seem like it to most people, but we are right on track for a major financial catastrophe. It is playing out right in front of our eyes in textbook fashion. But it is going to take a little while to unfold.
Unfortunately, most people these days do not have the patience to watch long-term trends develop. Instead, we have been trained by the mainstream media to have the attention spans of toddlers. We bounce from one 48-hour news cycle to the next, eagerly looking forward to the next “scandal” that is going to break.
And when the next financial crash does strike, the mainstream media is going to talk about what a “surprise” it is. But for those that are watching the long-term trends, it is not going to be a surprise at all. We will have seen it coming a mile away.
The signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them. When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together. But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense. Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression. As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful. This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years. The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis. In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge. This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn. Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining. This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching. The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.
And of course there are so many more parallels between past economic downturns and what is happening right now.
For example, volatility has returned to the markets in a big way. On Tuesday the Dow was down about 300 points, on Wednesday it was down another couple hundred points, and then on Thursday it was up a couple hundred points.
This is precisely how markets behave just before they crash. When markets are calm, they tend to go up. When markets get really choppy and start behaving erratically, that tells us that a big move down is usually coming.
At the same time, almost every major global currency is imploding. For much more on this, see the amazing charts in this article.
In particular, I am greatly concerned about the collapse of the euro. The Swiss would not have decoupled their currency from the euro if it was healthy. And political events in Greece are certainly not going to help things either. Economic conditions across Europe just continue to get worse, and the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt at this point. And if the eurozone does break up, a European economic depression is almost virtually assured – at least in the short term.
And I haven’t even mentioned the oil crash yet.
There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil collapsed by more than 60 dollars, and that was just prior to the horrific financial crisis of 2008.
Since the last financial crisis, the oil industry has been a huge source for job growth in this country. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article…
The oil sector has added over a half million jobs — many of them high paying — since the recession ended in June 2009. That’s 13% of all US job growth over that period.
Now energy companies and related sectors are laying off thousands. Expect that trend to continue, bears say.
But losing good jobs is just the tip of the iceberg of this oil crisis.
At this point, the price of oil has already dropped to a catastrophically low level. The longer it stays at this level, the more damage that it is going to do. If the price of oil stays at this level for all of 2015, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare on our hands…
For the first time in 18 years, oil exporters are pulling liquidity out of world markets rather than putting money in. The world is now fast approaching a world reserve currency shift. If we see 8 to 12 months at these oil prices; U.S. shale industry will be wiped out. The effect on junk bonds will cascade to the rest of the stock market and U.S. economy.
…and this time there will be nothing left to catch the falling knife before it hits the American economy right in the heart. Not the FED nor the U.S. government can stop what’s coming. Liquidity will freeze up, our credit will be downgraded, the stock market will start to collapse, and then we can expect the FED to come in and hyper-inflate the dollar. This will cause the world to finish abandoning the world reserve currency in the last rungs of trade. This will be the end of the petrodollar.
Something that I have not discussed so far this year is the looming crisis in emerging market debt.
As economic problems spread around the world, a number of “emerging markets” are in danger of having their debt downgraded. And many investment funds have rules that prohibit them from holding any debt that is not “investment grade”. Therefore, we could potentially see some of these giant funds dumping massive amounts of emerging market debt if downgrades happen.
This is a really big deal. As a Business Insider article recently detailed, we could be talking about hundreds of billions of dollars…
Russia this week became the first of the major economies to lose its investment grade status from Standard & Poor’s, falling out off the top ratings category for credits deemed to have a low risk of default for the first time in a decade.
If Moody’s and Fitch follow, conservative investors barred from owning junk securities must sell their holdings. JPMorgan estimates this means they may ditch $6 billion in Russian government rouble and dollar debt.
Russia may have company. Almost $260 billion worth of sovereign and corporate bonds – nearly a tenth of outstanding emerging market (EM) debt – is in danger of being relegated to junk, according to David Spegel, head of emerging debt at BNP Paribas, who calls such credits “falling angels”.
And no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning derivatives.
I could not possibly overemphasize the danger that the 700 trillion dollar derivatives bubble poses to the global financial system.
As we enter the coming Great Depression, derivatives are going to play a starring role. Wall Street has been pumped full of funny money by global central banks, and our financial markets have been transformed into the greatest casino in the history of the world. When this house of cards comes crashing down, and it will, it is going to be a financial disaster unlike anything that the planet has ever seen.
And yes, global central banks are very much responsible for setting the stage for what we are about to experience.
I really like the way that David Stockman put it the other day…
The global financial system is literally booby-trapped with accidents waiting to happen owing to six consecutive years of massive money printing by nearly every central bank in the world.
Over that span, the collective balance sheet of the major central banks has soared by nearly $11 trillion, meaning that honest price discovery has been virtually destroyed. This massive “bid” for existing financial assets based on credit confected from thin air drove long-term bond yields to rock bottom levels not seen in 600 years since the Black Plague; and pinned money market costs at zero—-for 73 months running.
What is the consequence of this drastic financial repression along the entire yield curve? The answer is bond prices which keep rising regardless of credit risk, inflation or taxes; and rampant carry trade speculation that can’t get out of its own way because central banks have made the financial gamblers’ cost of goods—the “funding” cost of their trades—-essentially zero.
Of course I am not the only one warning that a new Great Depression is coming. For instance, just consider what British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is saying…
British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey thinks we’ve entered an economic downturn that is “likely to be remembered in a hundred years,” and central banks won’t be able to stop it.
In his Odey Asset Management investor letter dated Dec. 31, Odey writes that the shorting opportunity “looks as great as it was in 07/09.”
“My point is that we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09,” he writes, “so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World Effects. This is the heart of the message. If economic activity far from picks up, but falters, then there will be a painful round of debt default.”
Even though most average citizens are completely oblivious to what is happening, many among the elite are heeding the warning signs and are feverishly getting prepared. As Robert Johnson told a stunned audience at the World Economic Forum the other day, they are “buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand“. They can see the horrifying storm forming on the horizon and they are preparing to get out while the getting is good.
It can be very frustrating to write about economics, because things in the financial world can take an extended period of time to play out. Sadly, most people these days have extremely short attention spans. We live in a world of iPhones, iPads, YouTube videos, Facebook updates and 48 hour news cycles. People no longer are accustomed to thinking in long-term time frames, and if something does not happen right away we tend to get bored with it.
But the economic world is not like a game of “Angry Birds”. Rather, it is very much like a game of chess.
And unfortunately for us, checkmate is right around the corner.
If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically? Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators. In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes. For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically. There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right. Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again. In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986. Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges. We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.
If you don’t read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.
Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way….
A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea.
When the global economy is booming, the demand for shipping tends to go up. When the global economy is slowing down, the demand for shipping tends to decline.
And right now, global shipping is slowing way, way down.
In fact, recently there have been reports of negative shipping rates.
According to a recent Bloomberg article, one company recently booked a ship at the ridiculous rate of negative $2,000 a day….
Glencore International Plc paid nothing to hire a dry-bulk ship with the vessel’s operator paying $2,000 a day of the trader’s fuel costs after freight rates plunged to all-time lows.
Glencore chartered the vessel, operated by Global Maritime Investments Ltd., a Cyprus-based company with offices in London, Steve Rodley, GMI’s U.K. managing director, said by phone today. The daily payments last the first 60 days of the charter, Rodley said. The vessel will haul a cargo of grains to Europe, putting the carrier in a better position for its next shipment, he said.
So why would anyone agree to ship goods at negative rates?
Well, it beats the alternative.
This was explained in a recent Fox Business article….
“They’re doing this because you can’t just have ships sitting. If they sit too long, then that’s hard on the ships. They have to keep them loaded and moving from port to port,” said Darin Newsom, senior commodities analyst at DTN.
If the owner of a ship can get someone to at least pay for part of the fuel and the journey will get the ship closer to its next destination, then that is better than having the ship just sit there.
But just a few short years ago (before the last recession) negative shipping rates would have been unthinkable.
Asian shipping is really slowing down as well. The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….
Shanghai shipping volumes contracted sharply in January as Europe’s debt crisis curbed demand for Asian goods, stoking fresh doubts about the strength of the Chinese economy.
Container traffic through the Port of Shanghai in January fell by more than a million tons from a year earlier.
So this is something we are seeing all over the globe.
Another indicator that is troubling economists right now is petroleum usage. It turns out that petroleum usage is really starting to slow down as well.
The following is an excerpt from a recent article posted on Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis….
As I have been telling you recently, there is some unprecedented data coming out in petroleum distillates, and they slap me in the face and tell me we have some very bad economic trends going on, totally out of line with such things as the hopium market – I mean stock market.
This past week I actually had to reformat my graphs as the drop off peak exceeded my bottom number for reporting off peak – a drop of ALMOST 4,000,000 BARRELS PER DAY off the peak usage in our past for this week of the year.
I would encourage you to go check out the charts that were posted in that article. You can find them right here. Often a picture is worth a thousand words, and those charts are quite frightening.
Over the past few days, I have been trying to make the point that nothing got fixed after the financial crisis of 2008 and that an even bigger crisis is on the way.
Yes, the stock market is flying high right now.
Yes, even “Dr. Doom” Nouriel Roubini is convinced that the stock market will go even higher.
But this rally will not last that much longer.
Wherever you look, global economic activity is slowing down. The UK economy and the German economy both actually shrank a bit in the fourth quarter of 2011. About half of all global trade involves Europe in one form or another. As Europe slows down, it is going to affect the entire planet.
Many thought that the German economy was so strong that it would not be significantly affected by the problems the rest of Europe is having, but that is turning out not to be the case.
In a new article by CBS News entitled “German economic slowdown worse than expected?“, we are told that industrial production in Germany is declining even more than anticipated….
German industrial production fell 2.9 percent in December from the month before, according to official data released Tuesday, suggesting the country’s economic slowdown could be worse than expected.
So don’t believe all the recent hype about an “economic recovery”. Europe is heading into a recession, Asia is slowing down and the U.S. will not be immune.
Despite what you hear from the mainstream media, the truth is that the U.S. economy is not improving and incredibly tough times are ahead.
Thankfully, those of us that are aware of what is happening can make preparations for the economic storm that is coming.
Others will not be so fortunate.