Global Banking Stocks Are Crashing Hard – Just Like They Did In 2008

Global stocks are falling precipitously once again, and banking stocks are leading the way.  If this reminds you of 2008, it should, because that is precisely what we witnessed back then.  Banking stocks collapsed as fear gripped the marketplace, and ultimately many large global banks had to be bailed out either directly or indirectly by their national governments as they failed one after another.  The health of the banking system is absolutely paramount, because the flow of money is our economic lifeblood.  When the flow of money tightens up during a credit crunch, the consequences can be rapid and dramatic just like we witnessed in 2008.

So let’s keep a very close eye on banking stocks.  Global systemically important bank stocks surged in the aftermath of Trump’s victory in 2016, but now they are absolutely plunging.  They are now down a whopping 27 percent from the peak, and that puts them solidly in bear market territory.

U.S. banking stocks are not officially in bear market territory yet, but they are getting close.  At this point, they are now down 17 percent from the peak…

Monday early afternoon, the US KBW Bank index, which tracks large US banks and serves as a benchmark for the banking sector, is down 2.5% at the moment. It has dropped 17% from its post-Financial Crisis high on January 29.

Of course European banking stocks are doing much worse.  Right now they are down 27 percent from the peak and 23 percent from a year ago.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

But unlike their American brethren, the European banks have remained stuck in the miserable Financial Crisis mire – a financial crisis that in Europe was followed by the Euro Debt Crisis. The Stoxx 600 bank index, which covers major European banks, including our hero Deutsche Bank, has plunged 27% since February 29, 2018, and is down 23% from a year ago

I wish that we didn’t have a global economic system that was so dependent on the “too big to fail” banks, but we do.

If they aren’t healthy, nobody is going to be healthy for long, and it is starting to look and feel a whole lot like 2008.

But unlike 2008, we also have a global trade war to contend with.  The CEO of one yacht company recently told USA Today that tariffs have had a “catastrophic” effect on his company…

Tariffs imposed on goods by the European Union, and the Chinese and American governments on boats, cribs, bourbon, and more have put Wisconsin businesses between a rock and a hard place. The tariffs imposed are already damaging a bloated bubble economy and the hardships are just beginning.

“It’s been catastrophic,” said Rob Parmentier, who is the president and CEO of Marquis-Larson Boat Group, which builds Carver yachts in Pulaski, Wisconsin. According to USA Today, the first “hand grenade,” as Parmentier described it, tossed during the trade wars at him specifically, was a 25 percent tariff the European Union placed this year on boats built in the United States, along with scores of other products including Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

I have previously warned my readers that the damage caused by this trade war would get progressively worse the longer that it lasts.

Many companies have been trying to ride it out, but eventually the money runs out and layoffs start happening

“We’ve had a lot of order cancellations. Canada and Europe have essentially stopped buying boats,” Parmentier said according to USA Today. “We’ve been absorbing some of the additional costs … hoping the tariffs will go away. But we can only do that for so long,” he said. The next step is layoffs.

Anyone that thought that this trade war would not have very serious consequences was just fooling themselves.  According to one source, tariffs paid by U.S. businesses are up 45 percent compared to a year ago…

“For the most recent months available, August 2018, the amount of tariffs paid increased by $1.4 billion — or 45% — as compared to tariffs paid in August 2017. Tariff costs in Michigan tripled to $178 million and more than doubled in multiple states — to $424 million in Texas, $193 million in Illinois, $50 million in Alabama, $29 million in Oklahoma, $23 million in Louisana, and $7.3 million in West Virginia.

These costs strain businesses of all sizes but are particularly painful for small business, manufacturers, and consumers who bear the burden of tariff increases in the form of higher prices,” via the data compiled by The Trade Partnership and released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.

And it doesn’t look like this trade war is going to end any time soon.  In fact, one key Chinese official recently made it very clear that China is not afraid of a long trade war…

On Monday in Beijing, Zhang Qingli, a leading member of a Chinese committee tasked with forging alliances with other nations, told a small group of U.S. business leaders, lobbyists and public relations executives that China refuses to be intimidated by an ongoing trade war with the Trump administration.

“China never wants a trade war with anybody, not to mention the U.S., who has been a long term strategic partner, but we also do not fear such a war,” Zhang said through a translator, according to a meeting attendee who declined to be named.

We are entering a time when the economy was likely to slow down anyway, but if stocks continue to crash and global banking woes escalate, that is going to spread fear and panic like wildfire.

And when there is fear and panic in the air, lending tends to really tighten up, and a major credit crunch is just about the last thing that we need right now.

It’s been a really bad October for global markets so far, and more trouble is brewing.  Hold on to your hats, because it looks like it is going to be a bumpy ride ahead.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Last Days Warrior Summit is the premier online event of 2018 for Christians, Conservatives and Patriots.  It is a premium-members only international event that will empower and equip you with the knowledge and tools that you need as global events begin to escalate dramatically.  The speaker list includes Michael Snyder, Mike Adams, Dave Daubenmire, Ray Gano, Dr. Daniel Daves, Gary Kah, Justus Knight, Doug Krieger, Lyn Leahz, Laura Maxwell and many more. Full summit access will begin on October 25th, and if you would like to register for this unprecedented event you can do so right here.

How A North Korean Electromagnetic Pulse Attack Could Kill Millions And Turn America Into A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

This is why North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile is so important.  North Korea had test fired a total of 22 missiles so far this year, but this latest one showed that nobody on the globe is out of their reach.  In fact, General Mattis is now admitting that “North Korea can basically threaten everywhere in the world”, and that includes the entire continental United States.  In addition to hitting individual cities with nukes, there is also the possibility that someday North Korea could try to take down the entire country with an EMP attack.  If the North Koreans detonated a single nuclear warhead several hundred miles above the center of the country, it would destroy the power grid and fry electronics from coast to coast.

I would like you to think about what that would mean for a few moments.  Suddenly there would be no power at home, at work or at school.  Since nearly all of our vehicles rely on computerized systems, you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere and nobody would be able to get to you.  And you wouldn’t be able to contact anyone because all phones would be dead.  Basically, pretty much everything electronic would be dead.  I am talking about computers, televisions, GPS devices, ATMs, heating and cooling systems, refrigerators, credit card readers, gas pumps, cash registers, hospital equipment, traffic lights, etc.

For the first couple of days life would continue somewhat normally, but then people would soon start to realize that the power isn’t coming back on and panic would begin to erupt.

The intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea just launched traveled almost 1,000 kilometers and reached a maximum altitude of 4,500 kilometers.  We have been told for decades that this would never be allowed to happen, but now it has happened

This is concerning for one big reason: according to General Mattis, the North Korean ICBM “went higher, frankly, than any previous” and “North Korea can basically threaten everywhere in the world.” This was confirmed by North Korea missile analyst, Shea Cotton, who cited Allthingsnuclear author David Wright, and who told the BBC that the initial estimates of the ICBM test mean that North Korea can now reach New York and Washington DC.

If we had been working hard to develop our anti-missile technology all these years, this wouldn’t be a problem.

But at this point we are way behind the Russians in this regard, and there is a very real possibility that a missile launched by the North Koreans could make it through the very limited anti-missile defenses that we do have.

Once upon a time, discussions about a North Korean EMP threat were mostly hypothetical, but now that has completely changed.  North Korea has clearly demonstrated that they are able to deliver such an attack, and last September Kim Jong Un publicly admitted that North Korea intended to develop this capability

But most reporters missed a key threat that appeared at the bottom of Kim’s public statement, when he bragged that North Korea had harnessed “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”

So now we know. Launching an electromagnetic pulse attacks against its enemies is one of North Korea’s strategic goals. And for North Korea, the United States is the top enemy.

And like I said earlier, all it would take would be a single well placed nuclear detonation to fry electronics from coast to coast.  The following comes from the Daily Mail

Theoretically, a sufficiently powerful bomb detonated at an altitude of 249 miles would wipe out all electronics in the US, save the southernmost top of Florida and the easternmost states – as well as affecting Canada and Mexico.

Without power, nothing would get distributed.  That means that very rapidly there would be no food, no water and no medicine available in your community.  An article posted by Fox News this week used the term “post-apocalyptic” to describe what we would be facing…

It all starts to sound very post-apocalyptic when you realize this means no lights or other electric-powered devices in homes and businesses, no water filtration, no regional food hubs, no transportation grid – none of the things we take for granted in modern civilization.

Like I stated earlier, things would be relatively fine for a few days, but then once everyone realizes that the power isn’t coming back on there would be chaos on a scale unlike anything we have ever seen before.  The following comes from an article by Mac Slavo

The first 24 – 48 hours after such an occurrence will lead to confusion among the general population as traditional news acquisition sources like television, radio and cell phone networks will be non-functional.

Within a matter of days, once people realize the power might not be coming back on and grocery store shelves start emptying, the entire system will begin to delve into chaos.

Within 30 days a mass die off will have begun as food supplies dwindle, looters and gangs turn to violent extremes, medicine can’t be restocked and water pump stations fail.

So what kind of a “mass die off” would we be talking about?

Well, some of the top experts in the field believe that “up to 90 percent of all Americans” could end up dead if the power outage lasted long enough…

William Graham, chairman of the former EMP commission and its former chief of staff, Peter Vincent Pry, warned the hearing that such an attack could “shut down the US electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 percent of all Americans.

Others believe that the figure would be lower, but pretty much everyone agrees that the death toll would be in the millions.

This is one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities, and our power grid could be hardened against an EMP attack for just a few billion dollars.  This is something that I am pushing very hard for, but right now it is just not a priority for our leaders in Washington.

In fact, they have actually pulled funding from the commission that was looking into the EMP threat…

On Sept. 30, the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat of Electromagnetic Pulse to the United States of America shut its doors after a failure to secure funding from Congress.

Sometimes I find it difficult to come up with the words to describe how incredibly foolish Congress is being.

An EMP attack is a greater threat than ever before, and yet Congress didn’t even want to come up with a little bit of funding for the commission that was working on a plan to protect us.

This is yet another example that shows that we need new leadership on Capitol Hill, because right now the people that we have “representing” us in Washington seem to be completely and utterly clueless about almost everything.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Global Financial Markets Plunged Into Chaos As Italy Overwhelmingly Votes ‘No’

italy-flag-map-public-domainItalian voters have embraced the global trend of rejecting the established world order, but the “no” vote on Sunday has plunged global financial markets into a state of utter chaos.  The euro has already fallen to a 20 month low, Italian government bonds are poised for a tremendous crash, and futures markets are indicating that both U.S. and European stock markets will be way down when they open on Monday.  It is being projected that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s referendum on constitutional reforms will be defeated by about 20 percentage points when all the votes have been counted, and Renzi has already announced that he plans to resign as a result.  When new elections are held it looks like comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star movement will come to power, and the European establishment is extremely alarmed at that prospect because Grillo wants to take Italy out of the eurozone.  In the long run Italy would be much better off without the euro, but in the short-term the only thing propping up Italy’s failing banking system is support from Europe.  Without that support, the 8th largest economy on the entire planet would already be in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis.

I know that I said a lot in that first paragraph, but it is imperative that people understand how serious this crisis could quickly become.

This “no” vote virtually guarantees a major banking crisis for Italy, and many analysts fear that it could trigger a broader financial crisis all across the rest of the continent as well.

Just look at what has already happened.  All of the votes haven’t even been counted yet, and the euro is absolutely plummeting

The euro dropped 1.3 percent to $1.0505, falling below its 1 1/2-year low of $1.0518 touched late last month, and testing its key support levels where the currency has managed to rebound in the past couple of years.

A break below its 2015 March low of $1.0457 would send the currency to its lowest level since early 2003, opening a way for a test of $1, or parity against the dollar, a scenario which many market players now see as a real possibility.

In early 2014, there were times when one euro was trading for almost $1.40.  For a very long time I have been warning that the euro was eventually heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and now we are almost there.

Meanwhile, Italian government bonds are going to continue to crash following this election result.  This is going to make it even more difficult for the Italian government to borrow money, and that will only aggravate their ongoing financial troubles.

But the big problem in Italy is the banks.  At this moment there are eight banks in imminent danger of collapsing, and virtually all of the rest of them are in some stage of trouble.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article about the crisis that Italian banks are facing right at this moment…

They’re burdened with a mountain of bad loans. Their stocks have cratered. And they have to operate in an economy prone to recession and political upheaval.

Signs have been mounting for months that Italy’s weakest lenders, and in particular Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, were sliding toward the precipice, threatening to reignite a broader crisis.

And we may get some news regarding the fate of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as early as Monday morning if what the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting is correct…

A last-gasp rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest surviving bank, has been thrown into doubt after reformist prime minister Matteo Renzi decisively lost a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday.

MPS and advisers JPMorgan and Mediobanca will meet as early as Monday morning to decide whether to pull a plan to go ahead with a €5bn recapitalisation, the FT reports, citing people informed of the plan.

Senior bankers will decide whether to pursue their underwriting commitments or exercise their right to drop the transaction due to adverse market conditions, these people said. In the event the banks drop the capital plan, the Italian state is expected to nationalise the bank, say senior bankers.

If Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena fails, major banks all over Italy (and all over the rest of Europe) could start going down like dominoes.

So what were Italians voting on anyway?

Well, the truth is that the constitutional reforms that were proposed actually sound quite boring

“The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of Parliament — the Senate — shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate’s power to bring down government coalitions.

“The amendments also shift some powers now held by the regions to the central government, thereby reducing frequent and lengthy court battles between Rome and the regional governments.”

The reason why this vote was ultimately so important is because it became a referendum on Renzi’s administration.  The fact that he announced in advance that he would resign if it did not get approved gave a tremendous amount of fuel to the opposition.

So now Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement stands poised to come to power, and that could be very bad news for those that are hoping to hold the common currency together.

The following is how NPR recently summarized the main goals of the Five-Star Movement…

“It calls for a government-guaranteed, universal income, abolishing Italy’s fiscal commitments to the European Union and a referendum on Italy’s membership in the Euro — a prospect that could unravel the entire single currency Eurozone.”

If Italy chooses to leave the euro, it will probably mean the end of the common currency, and the continued existence of the entire European Union would be called into question.

So this vote on Sunday was huge.  The Brexit had already done a tremendous amount of damage to the long-term prospects for the European Union, and now the crisis in Italy is sending political and financial shockwaves throughout the entire continent.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on the euro and on Italian government bonds.

If they both continue to crash, that will be a sign that a major European financial crisis is now upon us.

And what happens in Europe definitely does not stay in Europe.

If Europe goes down, we are going to go down too.

At this point we still have almost a month left in 2016, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a very troubling year.  As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also keep preparing for the worst.

The Bank For International Settlements Warns That A Major Debt Meltdown In China Is Imminent

chinese-money-public-domainThe pinnacle of the global financial system is warning that conditions are right for a “full-blown banking crisis” in China.  Since the last financial crisis, there has been a credit boom in China that is really unprecedented in world history.  At this point the total value of all outstanding loans in China has hit a grand total of more than 28 trillion dollars.  That is essentially equivalent to the commercial banking systems of the United States and Japan combined.  While it is true that government debt is under control in China, corporate debt is now 171 percent of GDP, and it is only a matter of time before that debt bubble horribly bursts.  The situation in China has already grown so dire that the Bank for International Settlements is sounding the alarm

A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.

The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia’s speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.

Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring.

If you are not familiar with the Bank for International Settlements, just think of it as the capstone of the worldwide financial pyramid.  It wields enormous global power, and yet it is accountable to nobody.  The following is a summary of how the Bank for International Settlements works that comes from one of my previous articles entitled “Who Controls The Money? An Unelected, Unaccountable Central Bank Of The World Secretly Does“…

An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe.  It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks.  It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City.  It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws.  Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.”  The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system.  Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”.  During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on.  The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.

Normally the Bank for International Settlements is not prone to making extremely bold pronouncements, and so this warning about China seems a bit out of character.

Is something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about?

Without a doubt, the global financial system is shakier and more vulnerable than most people would dare to imagine.  Global central banks have been on the greatest money creation spree in recorded history, and interest rates have been pushed to ridiculously low levels.

If you can believe it, approximately 10 trillion dollars worth of bonds are trading at negative interest rates right now.  This is completely and utterly irrational, and when this giant bond bubble finally explodes it is going to create a crisis unlike anything the world has ever seen before.

Just recently, Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies commented on this bubble

He said the current financial conditions are “the most dangerous markets i have ever witnessed in my entire life – and i’ve been investing for over 25 years… The membrane has been stretched so wide and so tight that its about to burst.”

Pento believes that once the bond crash happens, it will trigger a cataclysmic wave of crashes throughout the entire global financial system

Mr Pento has now warned that when policymakers signal they are set to stop buying, which will stop bond prices rising, there is going to be a devastating crash – not just in bond markets but across all investment assets.

He said: “When the bond market breaks, when that bubble bursts, it will wipe out every asset, everything will collapse together… I mean diamonds, sports cars, mutual funds, municipal bonds, fixed income, reits, collateralised loan obligations, stocks, bonds – even commodities – will collapse in tandem along with the bond bubble burst.”

Many had been anticipating that we would have already seen a major financial crash in 2016, but so far things have been pretty stable, and this has lulled many into a false sense of complacency.

But it is important to remember that we have seen corporate earnings fall for five quarters in a row, and it is expected to be six when the final numbers for the third quarter come in.

Never before in history have we had a stretch like this without major economic and financial consequences.  The following comes from a recent Fortune article which referred to an earlier piece authored by Jim Bianco…

None of this, however, is apparent from how stock market indexes have been moving lately, which unlike the charts above have been going up and to the right. “Since 1947, every time profits fell this much, or for this long, a recession was either underway or about to begin,” writes Bianco. “The only exception was the middle of 1986 to early 1987.”

If you remember, there was a pretty important event that happened in 1987: A massive stock market crash that sapped close to 30% of the S&P 500’s value in just five days.

It is only a matter of time before this earnings recession takes a major bite out of Wall Street.

Stock prices can stay at irrationally high levels for quite a while, but history has shown that every bubble bursts eventually.

And when this bubble bursts, it is going to make 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Major Problems Announced At One Of The Largest Too Big To Fail Banks In The United States

Wells FargoDo you remember when our politicians promised to do something about the “too big to fail” banks?  Well, they didn’t, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.  On Thursday, it was announced that one of those “too big to fail” banks, Wells Fargo, has been slapped with 185 million dollars in penalties.  It turns out that for years their employees had been opening millions of bank and credit card accounts for customers without even telling them.  The goal was to meet sales goals, and customers were hit by surprise fees that they never intended to pay.  Some employees actually created false email addresses and false PIN numbers to sign customers up for accounts.  It was fraud on a scale that is hard to imagine, and now Wells Fargo finds itself embroiled in a major crisis.

There are six banks in America that basically dwarf all of the other banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.  If a single one of those banks were to fail, it would be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for our financial system.  So we need these banks to be healthy and running well.  That is why what we just learned about Wells Fargo is so concerning…

Employees of Wells Fargo (WFC) boosted sales figures by covertly opening the accounts and funding them by transferring money from customers’ authorized accounts without permission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Los Angeles city officials said.

An analysis by the San Francisco-headquartered bank found that its employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers, the officials said. Many of the transfers ran up fees or other charges for the customers, even as they helped employees make incentive goals.

Wells Fargo says that 5,300 employees have been fired as a result of this conduct, and they are promising to clean things up.

Hopefully they will keep their word.

It is interesting to note that the largest shareholder in Wells Fargo is Berkshire Hathaway, and Berkshire Hathaway is run by Warren Buffett.  There has been a lot of debate about whether or not this penalty on Wells Fargo was severe enough, and it will be very interesting to hear what he has to say about this in the coming days…

Wells Fargo is the most valuable bank in America, worth just north of $250 billion. Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), the investment firm run legendary investor Warren Buffett, is the company’s biggest shareholder.

“One wonders whether a penalty of $100 million is enough,” said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It sounds like a big number, but for a bank the size of Wells Fargo, it isn’t really.”

After the last crisis, we were told that we would never be put in a position again where the health of a single “too big to fail” institution could threaten to bring down our entire financial system.

But our politicians didn’t fix the “too big to fail” problem.

Instead it has gotten much, much worse.

Back in 2007, the five largest banks held 35 percent of all bank assets.  Today, that number is up to 44 percent

Since 1992, the total assets held by the five largest U.S. banks has increased by nearly fifteen times! Back then, the five largest banks held just 10 percent of the banking industry total. Today, JP Morgan alone holds over 12 percent of the industry total, a greater share than the five biggest banks put together in 1992.

Even in the midst of the global financial crisis, the largest U.S. banks managed to increase their hold on total bank industry assets. The assets held by the five largest banks in 2007 – $4.6 trillion – increased by more than 150 percent over the past 8 years. These five banks went from holding 35 percent of industry assets in 2007 to 44 percent today.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 smaller institutions have disappeared from our financial system since the beginning of the last crisis.

So the problem of “too big to fail” is now larger than ever.

Considering how reckless these big banks have been, it is inevitable that one or more of them will fail at some point.  When that takes place, it will make the collapse of Lehman Brothers look like a Sunday picnic.

And with each passing day, the rumblings of a new financial crisis grow louder.  For example, this week we learned that commercial bankruptcy filings in the United States in August were up a whopping 29 percent compared to the same period a year ago…

In August, US commercial bankruptcy filings jumped 29% from a year ago to 3,199, the 10th month in a row of year-over-year increases, the American Bankruptcy Institute, in partnership with Epiq Systems, reported today.

There’s money to be made. While stockholders and some creditors get raked over the coals, lawyers make a killing on fees. And some folks on the inside track, hedge funds, and private equity firms can make a killing picking up assets for cents on the dollar.

Companies are going bankrupt at a rate that we haven’t seen since the last financial crisis, but nobody seems concerned.

Back in 2007 and early 2008, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, President Bush and a whole host of “experts” assured us that everything was going to be just fine and that a recession was not coming.

Today, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Barack Obama and a whole host of “experts” are assuring us that everything is going to be just fine and that a recession is not coming.

I hope that they are right.

I really do.

But there is a reason why so many firms are filing for bankruptcy, and there is a reason why so many Americans are getting behind on their auto loans.

Our giant debt bubble is beginning to burst, and this is going to cause a tremendous amount of financial chaos.

Let us just hope that the “too big to fail” banks can handle the stress this time around.

The Price Of Silver Explodes Past 20 Dollars An Ounce As The European Banking Crisis Deepens

Silver Coins 2 - Public DomainHave you seen what the price of silver has been doing?  On Monday, it exploded past 20 dollars an ounce, and as I write this article it is sitting at $20.48.  Earlier today it actually surged above 21 dollars an ounce for a short time before moving back just a bit.  In late March, I told my readers that silver was “ridiculously undervalued” when it was sitting at $15.81 an ounce, and that call has turned out to be quite prescient.  The Friday before last, silver started the day at $17.25 an ounce, and it is up more than 18 percent since that time.  Overall, silver is up more than 30 percent for the year, and that makes it one of the best performing investments of 2016.  So what is causing this sudden surge in the price of silver?  This is something that we will discuss below…

This sudden spike in the price of silver has definitely caught a lot of analysts off guard.  Some are suggesting that the fact that the Fed is now less likely to raise rates after the Brexit and the fact that the dollar has been slipping a bit lately are the primary reasons for silver’s rise

This isn’t a gradual increase either. It’s an explosive growth spurt. Just three months ago silver had reached an 11 month high. Now silver prices have reached a 23 month high. Several factors appear to be influencing these gains, including a weakening dollar, and the fact that the Fed may cut interest rates in light of the Brexit vote.

Personally, I don’t buy those explanations.

To me, the continuing implosion of major banks over in Europe is the main factor that is driving investors to safe haven assets such as silver.

Rumors continue to spread that Deutsche Bank is essentially insolvent at this point, and many are watching for the imminent collapse of the largest and most important bank in Germany.  When this happens, it will be a much, much more cataclysmic event for the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers was back in 2008.

But today I want to focus on the ongoing implosion of the major banks in Italy.

Italy has the 8th largest economy on the entire planet, and their banks are drowning in approximately 400 billion dollars worth of non-performing debt.

The Italian government would like to bail these banks out, but the rest of the EU appears ready to block that effort because it would violate EU rules.  As a result, the big Italian banks experienced a bloodbath on Monday

Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA BMPS, -13.99% closed down 14%. The move came after a report that the European Central Bank is pushing the lender to draft a new plan aimed at reducing non-performing loans.

Other Italian bank shares were lower, with Banca Popolare dell’Emilia Romagna BPE, -6.73% down 6.7%, Intesa Sanpaolo SpA ISP, -3.04% off 3% and Banca Popolare di Milano SpA PMI, -1.40% lower by 1.4%.

And these stunning declines come on the heels of last week’s nightmare

As a reminder, the Euro Stoxx Banks index was down -0.88% last week and is nearly 19% down from its pre-referendum levels. Italian Banks are at the heart of that weakness with the likes of Unicredit, Intesa, Banco Monte dei Paschi and UBI down -9.78%, -3.44%, -15.79% and -6.11% respectively last week, in the process sending Italian stocks to levels not seen since Draghi’s famous “whatever it takes” speech.

So what happens when all of the major banks of a country collapse at the exact same time?

Basically, Italy is facing “financial Armageddon” if nothing is done, and so some Italian politicians are desperate to step in and do something about this crisis even if it means defying the EU

The Financial Times reported Sunday that Italy was prepared “to defy the EU and unilaterally pump billions of euros into its troubled banking system if it comes under severe systemic distress … despite warnings from Brussels and Berlin over the need to respect rules that make creditors rather than taxpayers fund bank rescues.”

Citing “several officials and bankers familiar with the plans,” the FT said that the threat has raised alarm along Europe’s regulators “who fear such a brazen intervention would devastate the credibility of the union’s newly implemented banking rule book during its first real test.”

But of course the rest of the EU is not about to let this happen because it would be a gross violation of European Union rules

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “Under current EU state aid rules any attempts to help banks must involve a bail-in process that doesn’t involve using taxpayer’s money.

“Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has tried to argue that the Brexit uncertainty has destabilised Italy’s already fragile banks.

“The reality is the problems of Italy’s banks predate last week’s Brexit vote, and he knows it.”

So what is going to happen?

Could Italy be forced to leave the EU?

Will the rest of the European Union eventually cave in and save Italy?

We all remember how difficult it was for the EU to save Greece, and they are just the 44th largest economy on the planet.

So where in the world are they going to come up with the resources to rescue the 8th largest economy on the planet?

Immediately following the Brexit vote on the Friday before last, we witnessed the biggest one day global stock market loss in world history.  But since that time many global markets have bounced back, and a lot of people seem convinced that the crisis has passed.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the crisis is just getting started.  As I warned before the Brexit vote, European banks were going to continue to implode no matter what the result was, and that is definitely what we are seeing come to pass right now.

Without bailouts, virtually all of the major banks in Italy are going to fail.  It is just a matter of time.  And each of those failures would send financial shockwaves all over the planet.

Personally, I am convinced that the second half of 2016 is going to be even more eventful that the first half of 2016, and this new global economic crisis is going to continue to accelerate.

Unfortunately, most Americans are preoccupied reading about Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend and things of that nature, and so they are totally oblivious to the global events that are about to turn their lives totally upside down.

The Collapse Of Italy’s Banks Threatens To Plunge The European Financial System Into Chaos

Italy Flag Map - Public DomainThe Italian banking system is a “leaning tower” that truly could completely collapse at literally any moment.  And as Italy’s banks begin to go down like dominoes, it is going to set off financial panic all over Europe unlike anything we have ever seen before.  I wrote about the troubles in Italy back in January, but since that time the crisis has escalated.  At this point, Italian banking stocks have declined a whopping 28 percent since the beginning of 2016, and when you look at some of the biggest Italian banks the numbers become even more frightening.  On Monday, shares of Monte dei Paschi were down 4.7 percent, and they have now plummeted 56 percent since the start of the year.  Shares of Carige were down 8 percent, and they have now plunged a total of 58 percent since the start of the year.  This is what a financial crisis looks like, and just like we are seeing in South America, the problems in Italy appear to be significantly accelerating.

So what makes Italy so important?

Well, we all saw how difficult it was for the rest of Europe to come up with a plan to rescue Greece.  But Greece is relatively small – they only have the 44th largest economy in the world.

The Italian economy is far larger.  Italy has the 8th largest economy in the world, and their government debt to GDP ratio is currently sitting at about 132 percent.

There is no way that Europe has the resources or the ability to handle a full meltdown of the Italian financial system.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  Italian banks are absolutely drowning in non-performing loans, and as Jeffrey Moore has noted, this potentially represents “the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system”…

Shares of Italy’s largest financial institutions have plummeted in the opening months of 2016 as piles of bad debt on their balance sheets become too high to ignore.  Amid all of the risks facing EU members in 2016, the risk of contagion from Italy’s troubled banks poses the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system.

At the core of the issue is the concerning level of Non-Performing Loans (NPL’s) on banks’ books, with estimates ranging from 17% to 21% of total lending.  This amounts to approximately €200 billion of NPL’s, or 12% of Italy’s GDP.  Moreover, in some cases, bad loans make up an alarming 30% of individual banks’ balance sheets.

Things have already gotten so bad that the European Central Bank is now monitoring liquidity levels at Monte dei Paschi and Carige on a daily basis.  The following comes from Reuters

The European Central Bank is checking liquidity levels at a number of Italian banks, including Banca Carige and Monte dei Paschi di Siena , on a daily basis, two sources close to the matter said on Monday.

Italian banking shares have fallen sharply since the start of the year amid market concerns about some 360 billion euros of bad loans on their books and weak capital levels.

The ECB has been putting pressure on several Italian banks to improve their capital position. The regulator can decide to monitor liquidity levels at any bank it supervises on a weekly or daily basis if it has any concern about deposits or funding.

 

A run on the big Italian banks has already begun.  Italians have already been quietly pulling billions of euros out of the banking system, and if these banks continue to crumble this “stealth run” could quickly become a stampede.

And of course panic in Italy would quickly spread to other financially troubled members of the eurozone such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and France.  Here is some additional analysis from Jeffrey Moore

A deteriorating financial crisis in Italy could risk repercussions across the EU exponentially greater than those spurred by Greece.  The ripple effects of market turmoil and the potential for dangerous precedents being set by EU authorities in panicked response to that turmoil, could ignite yet more latent financial vulnerabilities in fragile EU members such as Spain and Portugal.

Unfortunately, most Americans are completely blinded to what is going on in the rest of the world because stocks in the U.S. have had a really good run for the past couple of weeks.  Headlines are declaring that the risk of a new recession “has passed” and that the crisis “is over”.  Meanwhile, South America is plunging into a full-blown depression, the Italian banking system is melting down, global manufacturing numbers are the worst that we have seen since the last recession, and global trade is absolutely imploding.

Other than that, things are pretty good.

Seriously, it is absolutely critical that we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled by every little wave of momentum in the stock market.

It is a fact that sales and profits for U.S. corporations are declining.  This is a trend that began all the way back in mid-2014 and that has accelerated during the early stages of 2016.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Total US business sales – not just sales by S&P 500 companies but also sales by small caps and all other businesses, even those that are not publicly traded – peaked in July 2014 at $1.365 trillion, according to the Census Bureau. By December 2015, total business sales were down 4.6% from that peak. A bad 18 months for sales! They’re back where they’d first been in January 2013!

Sales by S&P 500 companies dropped 3.8% in 2015, according to FactSet, the worst year since the Financial Crisis.

I know that a lot of people have been eagerly anticipating a complete and total global economic collapse for a long time, and many of them just want to “get it over with”.

Well, the truth is that nobody should want to see what is coming.  Personally, I rejoice for every extra day, week or month we are given.  Every extra day is another day to prepare, and every extra day is another day to enjoy the extremely comfortable standard of living that our debt-fueled prosperity has produced for us.

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how spoiled we really are.  Even just fifty years ago, life was so much harder in this country.  If we had to go back and live the way that Americans did 100 or 150 years ago, there are very few of us that would be able to successfully do that.

So enjoy the remaining days of debt-fueled prosperity while you still can, because great change is coming, and it is going to be extremely bitter for most of the population.