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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.

Why Is The EU Forcing European Nations To Adopt ‘Bail-In’ Legislation By The End Of The Summer?

Question Smiley - Public DomainAre they expecting something to happen?  As you will read about below, the European Union says that any nation within the EU that does not enact “bail-in” legislation within the next two months will face legal action.  The countries that are being threatened in this manner include Italy and France.  If you fast forward two months from this moment, that puts us in early August.  So clearly the European Union wants everything to be squared away by the end of the summer.  Is there a reason for this?  Are they anticipating that something really bad will happen in September or thereafter?  Why such a rush?

We all remember what happened when major banks were “bailed out” during the last financial crisis.  A tremendous amount of taxpayer money was given to the big banks to help prop them up so they wouldn’t fail.  This greatly upset a lot of people.

Well, when the next great financial crisis hits Europe, banks are not going to get “bailed out” this time.  Instead, we are going to see “bail-ins”.

So precisely what is a “bail-in”?  Essentially, what happens is that wealth is transferred from the “stakeholders” in the bank to the bank itself in order to keep it solvent.  That means that creditors and shareholders could potentially lose everything if a major bank in Europe fails.  And if their “contributions” are not enough to save the bank, those holding private bank accounts will have to take “haircuts” just like we saw in Cyprus.  In fact, the travesty that we witnessed in Cyprus is being used as a “template” for much of the new legislation that is being enacted all over Europe.

The bottom line is that not a single bank account in the European Union will ever be truly safe again.

By this time, everyone in the EU was already supposed to have enacted “bail-in” legislation, but some countries in Europe have been dragging their feet.  So now the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) is giving them a hard deadline.  According to Reuters, any nation that has not passed “bail-in” legislation within two months will be subject to legal action…

The European Commission on Thursday gave France, Italy and nine other EU countries two months to adopt new EU rules on propping up failed banks or face legal action.

The rules, known as the bank recovery and resolution directive (BRRD), seek to shield taxpayers from having to bail out troubled lenders, forcing creditors and shareholders to contribute to the rescue in a process known as “bail-in”.

So which countries are being threatened?

It turns out that there are 11 of them.  The following comes from Mark O’Byrne

The article “EU regulators tell 11 countries to adopt bank bail-in rules” reported how 11 countries are under pressure from the EC and had yet “to fall in line”. The countries were Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

France and Italy are two countries who are regarded as having particularly fragile banking systems.

But why only two months to get this done?

When I was in law school, I took an entire course on European Union law.  Normally, things in Europe take a very long time to get done.  It is out of character for the European Commission to rush to get something like this done so quickly.

Could they be anticipating that this legislation will need to be put into use very soon?

What we do know is that bonds in Europe have already been crashing, and it appears that the European Central Bank is starting to lose control over European financial markets.

And we also know that there has been a sustained bank run in Greece.  In fact, it is being reported that 700 million euros were pulled out of Greek banks on Friday alone.  Personally, I think that anyone that still has any money in Greek banks is absolutely insane.  Some day in the not too distant future, Greek bank account holders are going to be in for a “haircut” just like we saw in Cyprus.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

While the Greek government believes it may have won the battle, if not the war with Europe, the reality is that every additional day in which Athens does not have a funding backstop, be it the ECB (or the BRIC bank), is a day which brings the local banking system to total collapse.

As a reminder, Greek banks already depends on the ECB for some €80.7 billion in Emergency Liquidity Assistance which was about 60% of total deposits in the Greek financial system as of April 30. In other words, they are woefully insolvent and only the day to day generosity of the ECB prevents a roughly 40% forced “bail in” deposit haircut a la Cyprus.

But of course Greece will only be just the beginning.  In the end, I expect major banks to fail all over Europe as we head into the greatest financial crisis that Europe has ever seen.  Bank account holders all over the continent could end up having to take “haircuts”, and that would just make the coming deflationary cycle in Europe a lot worse.

And I actually expect events in Europe to start accelerating greatly by the end of this calendar year.  Apparently the top dogs in the European Union are also concerned about the immediate future, because they are rushing to get “bail-in” legislation passed in every nation in the EU by the end of the summer.

Fortunately, the United States has not moved in a similar direction – at least not yet.  It is always possible that during an “emergency situation” anything can happen.  We saw that in Cyprus.  But for the moment, European bank accounts appear to be more vulnerable than U.S. bank accounts.

Not that any of us should have much confidence in the major banks in the United States either.  Since the end of the last financial crisis they have become more reckless than ever.  At this point, the six largest banks in this country collectively have 278 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  A day is coming when the “too big to fail” banks will actually start failing, and that will absolutely cripple our economy.

We are moving into a time of great financial instability.  During such a time, one of the keys will be to not have all of your eggs in one basket.  That way it will be more difficult for your wealth to be wiped out by a single event.

So what other advice would you give to people that are wondering how to deal with the coming global banking crisis?  Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

18 Signs That The Banking Crisis In Europe Has Just Gone From Bad To Worse

With each passing day, the banking crisis in Europe escalates.  European banks are having their credit ratings downgraded in waves, bond yields are soaring and billions of euros are being pulled out of banks all across the eurozone.  The situation in Europe is rapidly going from bad to worse.  It is almost like watching air being let out of a balloon.  The key to any financial system is confidence, and right now confidence in banks in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal is declining at an alarming rate.  When things hit the fan in Europe, it is going to be much safer to have your money in Swiss banks or German banks than in Greek banks, Spanish banks or Italian banks.  Millions of people in Europe are starting to realize that a “euro” is not necessarily always going to be a “euro” and they are starting to panic.  The Greek banking system is already on the verge of total collapse, and at this rate it is only a matter of time before we see some major Spanish and Italian banks start to fail.  In fact it has already been announced that the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, will be getting bailed out by the Spanish government.  It is only a matter of time before we hear more announcements like this.  Right now, events are moving so quickly in Europe that it is hard to keep up with them all.  But this is what usually happens in the financial world.  When things go well, it tends to happen over an extended period of time.  When things fall apart, it tends to happen very rapidly.

And at the moment, things across the pond are moving at a pace that is absolutely breathtaking.

The following are 18 signs that the banking crisis in Europe has just gone from bad to worse….

#1 Moody’s has announced that it has downgraded the credit ratings of 16 Spanish banks.  Included was Banco Santander, the largest bank in the eurozone.

#2 Shares of the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, dropped 14 percent on Thursday.

#3 Overall, shares of Bankia have declined by 61 percent since last July.

#4 Shares of the largest bank in Italy, Unicredit, dropped by about 6 percent on Thursday.

#5 According to CNBC, a Spanish bond auction on Thursday went very poorly….

The Spanish Treasury had to pay around 5 percent to attract buyers of three- and four-year bonds. The longer-dated paper sold with a yield of 5.106 percent, way above the 3.374 percent the last time it was auctioned.

#6 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is back above 6 percent.

#7 In recent days, about eight times more money than usual has been pulled out of Greek banks.

#8 Fitch has slashed the long-term credit rating for Greece from B- to CCC.

#9 The European Central Bank has cut off direct lending to at least 4 Greek banks.

#10 According to a recent German documentary, financial records at the Ministry of Finance in Athens are being stored in garbage bags and shopping carts.

#11 The euro hit a 4 month low against the U.S. dollar on Thursday.

#12 It has been announced that the Spanish economy and the Italian economy are officially in recession.

#13 The Spanish government is becoming increasingly concerned about the bad loans that are mounting at major Spanish banks.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

The government has asked lenders to increase provisions for bad debt by 54 billion euros ($70 billion) to 166 billion euros. That’s enough to cover losses of about 50 percent on loans to property developers and construction firms, according to the Bank of Spain. There wouldn’t be anything left for defaults on more than 1.4 trillion euros of home loans and corporate debt.

Taking those into account, banks would need to increase provisions by as much as five times what the government says, or 270 billion euros, according to estimates by the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based research group. Plugging that hole would increase Spain’s public debt by almost 50 percent or force it to seek a bailout, following in the footsteps of Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

#14 Civil unrest is rising to dangerous levels in Italy.  The Italian government has assigned bodyguards to 550 individuals and has increased security at about 14,000 locations in response to recent violence related to the economic crisis.

#15 Governments all over Europe are rapidly making preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.  The following is from a recent article in the Guardian….

The British government is making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency, after the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, warned that Europe was “tearing itself apart”.

#16 According to CNBC, the banking crisis in Europe is beginning to affect global trade….

The euro zone debt crisis is affecting trade as companies shy away from dealing with firms and banks in countries deemed at risk of contagion, a senior banker said on Thursday.

#17 Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks on Monday.

#18 Moody’s has announced that it is reviewing the credit ratings of 114 more European financial institutions.

Newspapers all over the globe are speaking breathlessly of a potential Greek exit from the euro, but it is very unlikely to happen before the next Greek election on June 17th.

The rest of Europe is going to continue to financially support Greece until a new government takes power.

If the new government is willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will continue.

If the new government is not willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will stop.

If that happens, the bank runs in Europe will likely become a lot worse.

But for now, Greece almost certainly has at least one more month in the euro.

Beyond that, there is no telling what is going to happen.

Greece is the first domino.  If Greece falls, you can count on others to eventually start tumbling as well.

The second half of 2012 is going to be fascinating to watch.

Hopefully things will not be as bad as many of us now fear they may be.

The Federal Reserve Bans A Local Oklahoma Bank From Displaying Crosses, Bible Verses And Christmas Buttons

What in the world are they thinking over at the Federal Reserve?  The privately-owned central bank that runs the U.S. economy is now forcing local banks to remove every shred of Christian faith from their establishments.  When Federal Reserve examiners recently visited a local bank in Perkins, Oklahoma they demanded that the bank take down a “Bible verse of the day” and crosses that were displayed on the teller’s counter.  In addition, the agents from the Federal Reserve forced all bank personnel to remove buttons that said “Merry Christmas, God With Us”.  The bank was also ordered to remove a “Bible verse of the day” from the bank’s website.  According to Federal Reserve officials, all visible expressions of Christian faith by bank officials are now banned in all banks across the United States.

Now, before people start screaming “separation of church and state”, please keep in mind that the “state” is not involved here.  The local bank in Perkins is a privately-owned financial institution.  The owners of that bank should be able to express themselves however they want.

In addition, it is important to note that it was not an agency of the federal government or a federal court that ordered this private local bank to remove all traces of Christianity.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve is not part of the U.S. government.  In fact, the Federal Reserve is about as “federal” as Federal Express is.

You doubt this?

Well, perhaps you will believe what the Federal Reserve is publicly saying about itself.

In defending itself against a Bloomberg request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Reserve objected by declaring that it was “not an agency” of the U.S. government and therefore it was not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

In the video posted below, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan makes it very clear that the Federal Reserve is above the law and need not answer to anyone in the federal government….

So where in the world does the Federal Reserve get the idea that they have the authority to tell a private bank that they cannot display a Bible verse of the day and that their employees cannot wear Christmas buttons?

No matter what you think about the faith of the owners of the local bank in Perkins, the truth is that we should all be concerned about the kind of precedent that this sets for free speech.

According to Federal Reserve officials, any visible expression of Christianity by a private bank may cause someone from another religion to be offended and feel as though they may be discriminated against by that bank.  Therefore any expression of Christianity is “an appearance of discrimination” and thus must be banned.

Okay, so if any expression of Christianity is “an appearance of discrimination”, will federal officials soon use all of the federal “anti-discrimination laws” already on the books to ban all expressions of Christianity in all private businesses throughout the United States?

Once again, it is absolutely crucial to note that the local bank in Perkins is not a government building.  Federal Reserve agents are telling private business owners how they can express themselves as they run their privately-owned business on private property.

The following is a local news report about this very disturbing incident….

Does anyone still believe that we have “freedom of speech” in the United States?

It is almost as if all forms of Christian expression are now regarded as something horribly dirty by our public officials.

Even if you are an atheist, this should deeply concern you as well.  When freedom of speech is taken from some of us, it is only a matter of time until it is taken from the rest of us as well.

And since when does the Federal Reserve have any authority to tell any private citizen what they can or cannot say?

This is just another example of how the Federal Reserve has gotten completely and totally out of control.  The Fed has become an unaccountable monster that is just running around doing just about anything that it wants to do.

It is for some very good reasons that many members of Congress are starting to publicly speak out against the Federal Reserve.  Just recently it came out that the Federal Reserve has been handing out gigantic piles of nearly interest-free cash to their friends at the largest banks, financial institutions and corporations all over the globe.  The American people have completely lost control over the financial system, and as long as the Federal Reserve remains in control that is going to continue to be the case.

But now, not only is the Federal Reserve at the core of the rapidly developing financial nightmare that is enveloping this nation, they are also attempting to tell private bank owners what they can and cannot say inside their own private businesses.

No matter what your faith is or even if you have no faith, you should be objecting to this.  If the Federal Reserve is allowed to get away with this, it will be just a matter of time before U.S. government agencies come along and start ordering all private businesses to remove all traces of Christianity because they are “discriminatory” and they might offend someone.

The freedoms and liberties that previous generations fought and died to defend are being stripped away from us.  If you plan to say something about it before they are all gone, now would be a good time to start.

The Biggest Bank Robbery In History? More Quantitative Easing = Backdoor Bailouts For The Big Banks Without Having To Go Through Congress

The U.S. Federal Reserve is getting ready to conduct another gigantic bailout of the big banks, but this time virtually nobody in the mainstream media will use the term “bailout” and the American people are going to get a lot less upset about it.  You see, one lesson that was learned during the last round of bank bailouts was that the American people really, really do not like it when the U.S. Congress votes to give money to the big banks.  So this time, the financial “powers that be” have figured out a way around that.  Instead of going through the massive headache of dealing with the U.S. Congress, the Federal Reserve is simply going to print money and give it directly to the banks.  To be more precise, the Federal Reserve is going to use a procedure known as “quantitative easing” to print money out of thin air in order to purchase large quantities of “troubled assets” (such as mortgage-backed securities) from the biggest U.S. banks at well above market price.  Some are already openly wondering if this next round of quantitative easing is going to be the biggest bank robbery in history.  Most Americans won’t understand these “backdoor bailouts” well enough to get upset about them, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be just as bad (or even worse) than the last round of bailouts.  In the end, all of the inflation that this new round of quantitative easing is going to cause is going to be a “hidden tax” on all of us.

These new backdoor bailouts are going to work something like this….

1) The big U.S. banks have massive quantities of junk mortgage-backed securities that are worth little to nothing that they desperately want to get rid of.

2) They convince the Federal Reserve (which the big banks are part-owners of) to buy up these “toxic assets” at way above market price.

3) The Federal Reserve creates massive amounts of money out of thin air to buy up all of these troubled assets.  The public is told that all of this “quantitative easing” is necessary to stimulate the U.S. economy.

4) The big banks are re-capitalized and have gotten massive amounts of bad mortgage securities off their hands, the Federal Reserve has found a way to pump hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of dollars into the economy, and most of the American people are none the wiser.

During a recent appearance on MSNBC, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone did a great job of explaining how this all works….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwhMVB0XzPU&feature=player_embedded

But this isn’t the only way that the Federal Reserve forks over massive amounts of cash to the big U.S. banks.  In a previous article, I described how the U.S. Federal Reserve lends huge quantities of nearly interest-free money to big U.S. banks which they turn around and invest in U.S. Treasuries which bring in a return of three percent or so.  In essence, it is a legalized way for the big U.S. banks to make mountains and mountains of free money.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve does whatever it can to ensure that the big U.S. banks stay fat and happy. 

So what about the small banks?  What happens to them?

Well, the vast majority of the small banks are considered “not big enough for bailouts” and they are allowed to die like dogs.

Don’t let anyone ever fool you into thinking that the U.S. banking system has a level playing field.

For weeks, Federal Reserve officials have been coming out and have been dropping hints about how important it is for them to take “action” and implement another round of quantitative easing in order to help stimulate the U.S. economy.

In fact, during his speech on Friday, you could almost hear Ben Bernanke salivating at the thought of printing more money.

But nobody ever really asks who is going to be the first to get their hands on all this money that the Fed is going to pump into the economy.

The answer, of course, is obvious.

It is going to be the big banks – the same banks that are part-owners of the Federal Reserve and that have tremendous influence over Fed policies.

But even though this is all more than a little shady, is it such a bad thing for the rest of us if the Federal Reserve bails out the big banks and brings some much needed stability back to the U.S. financial system?

After all, if “Foreclosure-Gate” could potentially cause a nightmarish financial meltdown, isn’t it better for the Federal Reserve to step in and soak up large amounts of these toxic assets?

Those are legitimate questions.

Certainly the Federal Reserve has the power to step in and smooth over all sorts of short-term problems by papering them with money, but in the end printing more money will just make our long-term problems even worse.

Whenever a new dollar is introduced into the system, every other dollar in existence loses a little bit of value.

When trillions of new dollars get introduced into the system, it has the potential to create an inflationary nightmare. 

Already, a number of top Fed officials are publicly saying that inflation is “too low” and that we need to purposely generate more inflation in order to “stimulate” the U.S. economy.

Yes, that is just as insane as it sounds, but that is what they are actually proposing.

Apparently many top Federal Reserve officials honestly believe that they can pump trillions into the economy, jack up inflation significantly, and little harm will be done.

But even before “QE2” has begun, we are already starting to see all kinds of little bubbles beginning to develop in the financial system.  For example, commodity prices are skyrocketing right now, and that will soon be affecting the price we pay for food at the supermarket.

We are already on the road to serious inflation and the Federal Reserve has not even fired up the money hoses yet.  So what is going to happen after they pump trillions more into the economy?

Printing more money and giving it to the banks is not going to solve our economic problems.  It is just going to make them worse.

But unfortunately, American voters get no say about any of this.  Our national monetary policy is in the hands of an unelected central bank that does pretty much whatever it wants.   

An economic nightmare is coming, and you had better get ready.

The Real Horror Story: The U.S. Economic Meltdown

This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened.  Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown.  It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now.  Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse.  The mainstream media has been treating “Foreclosuregate” as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented.  Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States.  If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery. 

Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway.  The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.

For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.

So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media? 

Well, just about none.

We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.

But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.

How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?

If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.

Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.

Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.

But hardly any of them are.

Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so distracted by the various forms of entertainment that we are addicted to that we just don’t care? 

But the trade deficit is not the only economic statistic that is getting worse.

According to the Department of Labor, for the week ending October 9th the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 462,000, which represented an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.

We have an unemployment epidemic going on in this country, but what did the mainstream media do in response to this news?

They yawned.  Instead, many of the “financial experts” were busy talking about how wonderful it is that the Stock Market is going up, up, up.

Well, as one reader recently reminded me, if you want to evaluate an economy by how much the stock market is going up, then the economy of Zimbabwe has had an absolutely wonderful decade!

The truth is that the stock market is not a good barometer for what is actually going on.

What is really happening is that the U.S. economic system is literally coming apart at the seams. 

Yet another piece of really bad economic news that just came out is that the number of home repossessions by banks set a new all-time record during the month of September.  The record total of 102,134 bank repossessions was the first time ever that bank repossessions climbed over the 100,000 mark for a single month.

The good news is that bank repossessions are about to come to a screeching halt.

The bad news is that it is because the U.S. mortgage industry is about to become completely and totally paralyzed by this foreclosure fraud crisis.

The following are three basic points to remember about this foreclosure mess….

A) Massive Fraud Was Committed At Every Stage By The Mortgage Industry

In a previous article entitled “Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds“, I attempted to describe just how widespread the fraud in the mortgage industry has been….

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”.

Finally, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole lot more fraud was committed.  Thousands upon thousands of foreclosure documents were “robo-signed”, but the truth is that investigators are starting to discover a lot of things about these mortgages that are a lot worse than that. 

B) Nobody Really Knows Who Owns Or Who Has The Right To Foreclose On Millions Upon Millions Of Mortgages

The legal rights to millions of U.S. mortgages has been scrambled so badly that it might actually be impossible to fully sort this mess out.  In particular, MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created a paperwork nightmare that may never be able to be completely remediated. 

On a previous article, a reader named William left a comment that did a great job of describing the very serious problem that we are now facing because of MERS….

MERS – potentially the most serious problem because it affects who really owns the loans. Securitization mandates that loans be transferred into REMIC trusts within a strict timeframe. Late transfers are not allowed. In spite of the supposed “ease” of transfer through MERS, it now appears that perhaps 60% of US loans were never properly transferred. Absent remedial legislation, it is impossible to do so now. And the former owners may be out of business or bankrupt. So how do we get these loans to the trust beneficiaries who were supposed to own them? This is no simple paperwork correction. The train has left the station, with no more to follow.

C) Unprecedented Chaos Is Going To Erupt As Faith In The Mortgage System Completely Dies

So what is going to happen as a result of all of this fraud and confusion in the mortgage industry?  Well, basically everybody is going to sue everybody.  It is going to be absolute mayhem. 

Charles Hugh Smith recently put it this way….

Real estate attorneys can rejoice: everyone will get sued, in every court in the land. Banks will get sued, title insurance companies will get sued, realtors will get sued, foreclosure mills will get sued, MERS will get sued, and so on. The attorneys general of the states will all sue the banks and mortgage mills, claiming billions in damages.

Meanwhile, virtually nobody will want to buy any house that has been foreclosed on in the past ten years or so until this mess is sorted out (which could take years and years). 

Meanwhile, title insurance companies are going to avoid foreclosures like the plague.

Meanwhile, all of the investors that have been propping up the housing market by buying foreclosures are going to be fleeing the market in droves.

Meanwhile, the financial world is going to be trying to figure out which U.S. lending institutions are still solvent.  The value of most mortgage-based assets is now totally up in the air.

Meanwhile, millions more homeowners across the United States will be emboldened to quit making payments on their mortgages as they realize that those holding their mortgages may not have the legal right to foreclose on them.

And that is where the true horror of this entire situation may lie.  What is going to happen if millions upon millions of Americans holding underwater mortgages look at this situation and decide that they really don’t have to be afraid of the threat of foreclosure any longer?

If a massive wave of homeowners suddenly decides to simply quit paying their mortgages, it would basically wipe out nearly the entire mortgage industry.

That would likely mean more government bailouts, more government control, much higher mortgage rates and eventually a serious crash in housing prices.

This crisis is incredibly complicated and it has a ton of moving parts, so it is extremely difficult to describe accurately.  But the reality is that this mess has the potential to hurt the U.S. real estate market much more than “subprime mortgages” ever did.

Hopefully this crisis will not be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the U.S. economy, but with each passing day this thing looks even more horrifying. 

One way or another, real estate law in the United State is going to be changed forever as a result of this crisis.  It is going to be extremely interesting to see how all of this plays out.

Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds

The foreclosure fraud crisis seems to escalate with each passing now.  It is being reported that all 50 U.S. states have launched a joint investigation into alleged fraud in the mortgage industry.  This is a huge story that is not going to go away any time soon.  The truth is that it would be hard to understate the amount of fraud that has gone on in the U.S. mortgage industry, and we are watching events unfold that could potentially rip the U.S. economy to shreds.  Many are now referring to this crisis as “Foreclosure-Gate“, and already it is shaping up to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. mortgage industry.  At this point, it seems inevitable that some financial institutions will go under as a result of this mess.  In fact, by the end of this thing we might see a whole bunch of lending institutions crash and burn.  This crisis is very hard to describe because it is just so darn complicated, but it is worth it to try to dig into this thing and understand what is going on because it has the potential to absolutely decimate the entire U.S. mortgage industry.

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”. 

Then, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole bunch more fraud started being committed.  The reality is that the “robo-signing” scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.  The following are six things that you should know about how deep this foreclosure fraud crisis really goes….   

#1 According to the Associated Press, financial institutions were hiring just about whoever they could find, including hair stylists and Wal-Mart employees, as “foreclosure experts” to help them rush through the massive backlog of foreclosures that were rapidly piling up.

Apparently many of these “foreclosure experts” barely even knew what a “mortgage” was according to the AP….

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.

#2 There is soon going to be a colossal legal scramble to figure out who actually owns millions of U.S. mortgages.

In his recent article entitled “Invasion Of The Robot Home Snatchers“, Robert Scheer described the complete and total mess that the U.S. mortgage industry has created….

How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable? You cannot get much help from those who signed off on the process because they turn out to be robot signers acting on automatic pilot. Fully 65 million homes in question are tied to a computerized program, the national Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), that is often identified in foreclosure proceedings as the owner of record.

Meanwhile, more organizations are stepping forward to help homeowners fight foreclosures.  National People’s Action, PICO National Network, Industrial Areas Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations have all partnered with the SEIU to launch the “Where’s The Note” campaign which is going to encourage homeowners to demand to see the note before submitting to a foreclosure.  Campaigns such as this are going to make foreclosures much more costly for banks.

#3 Legal battles over foreclosure documents could soon spawn thousands upon thousands of lawsuits across the United States.

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in mortgage finance and financial regulatory issues was recently quoted in an article on CNBC as saying the following about the situation we are currently in….

The mortgage is still owed, but there’s going to be a problem figuring out who actually holds the mortgage, and they would be the ones bringing the foreclosure. You have a trust that has been getting payments from borrowers for years that it has no right to receive. So you might see borrowers suing the trusts saying give me my money back, you’re stealing my money. You’re going to then have trusts that don’t have any assets that have been issuing securities that say they’re backed by a whole bunch of assets, and you’re going to have investors suing the trustees for failing to inspect the collateral files, which the trustees say they’re going to do, and you’re going to have trustees suing the securitization sponsors for violating their representations and warrantees about what they were transferring.

#4 The problems with foreclosure paperwork may be more widespread than anyone would have dared to imagine.

Attorney Richard Kessler recently conducted a study in which he found “serious errors” in approximately 75 percent of the court filings related to home repossessions that he examined.  Now he says that the foreclosure crisis could haunt the U.S. mortgage industry for the next ten years….

“Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade.”

#5 If some banks discover that they are missing the paperwork for large numbers of mortgages (as is currently being alleged), those banks could be forced to significantly revalue those assets (as in “close to zero”) on their balance sheets. 

John Carney of CNBC recently described it this way….

The most damaging thing that could happen to banks would be the discovery that they simply cannot prove they hold a mortgage on a house. In that case, the loan would probably have to be written down to near zero. Even for current loans, the regulatory reserve requirements would double as the loan would no longer be a functional mortgage but an ordinary consumer loan. Depending on the size of the “no docs” portion of the loan portfolio, this might be a minor blip or require a bank to raise new capital to fill the hole in the balance sheet.

#6 Renowned investor Jim Sinclair is actually warning that the collapse of securitized mortgage debt could be the “final shot” that will wipe out many financial institutions across the United States. 

The recent warning that Sinclair posted on his blog is more than a little sobering…. 

I am asking for your attention again because of the depth of the fraud and now the size of the securitized mortgage debt OTC derivative pile of garbage that is in the trillions. This entire mountain of weapons of mass financial and social destruction is now in question. I have been telling you this for more than 2 years since the manufacturers and distributors of this crap were called by the NY Fed due to the loss of control over the paperwork.

I had dinner with my former partner, then lead director of and CEO of Bear Stearns. I could not contain myself so I asked him why he did so much business in OTC derivatives which were certain to bankrupt them. The answer I got was it was more than 50% of their profit. The right answer should have been it was more than 80% of their earnings.

Securitized mortgage debt is going to be the final shot that kills all kinds of financial entities in the Western world. The biggest holder of this putrid junk is pension funds.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to go up, up, up as if everything is right in the world and as if a juicy new bull market is now upon us.

Well, let’s all join hands and sing happy songs around the campfire.

Perhaps if we all close our eyes and wish real hard all of this foreclosure fraud will just go away.

Then again, maybe not.

103 U.S. Banks Have Collapsed So Far In 2010 – Do You Know If Your Bank Will Survive?

Have you ever noticed how almost all U.S. bank closings are now announced over the weekend?  It is almost as if someone wants to keep the increasing number of bank closures out of the news cycle as much as possible.  The Obama administration continues to use phrases like “green shoots” and “economic recovery”, but the truth is that the U.S. banking system is in the middle of a meltdown.  On Friday, federal regulators shut down 7 more banks.  That means that the total number of U.S. bank failures has reached 103 for 2010 so far.  Last year (which was a really bad year for bank closings), we did not break 100 until October.  Of course federal officials promise that “the worst is almost over”, but can we really trust anything that they tell us at this point?

When it comes to the health of the U.S. banking system, the statistical trends certainly do not look promising. 

At the end of 2008, there were 252 U.S. banks on the FDIC’s problem list.

At the end of 2009, there were 702 U.S. banks on the FDIC’s problem list.

About halfway through 2010, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said that 775 banks (approximately 10% of all U.S. banks) were on the problem list.

Does anyone else notice a trend developing?

It is time for everyone in the financial world to admit that the U.S. banking system is dying.

Do you know if your bank if on the problem list?

You might want to go check.

Not that your money is going to suddenly disappear.

Even if your local bank fails, the FDIC will guarantee your bank account, right?

Yes, it will.

But the FDIC is far from healthy at this point.

The FDIC is backing approximately 8,000 U.S. banks that have a total of about $13 trillion in assets with a deposit insurance fund that is pretty close to empty.

Well, actually “empty” is not quite the right word.

It was recently reported that the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund is sitting at negative 20.7 billion dollars.

And the FDIC estimates that the seven bank failures on Friday will reduce the fund by another $431 million.

Ouch.

The truth is that the FDIC is rapidly turning into a gigantic financial black hole.

The red ink just seems to be endless.

The FDIC now estimates that their funds will experience a $60 billion reduction due to additional bank closings between now and 2014.

And to be honest, that figure is way too optimistic.

So who is going to bail the FDIC out?

The same source that bails everyone out.

The U.S. taxpayers.

But isn’t that bad?

Yes, all of these bailouts are going to cause the U.S. national debt to continue to explode, but what else can we do?

Are we just going to shut down the FDIC?

That wouldn’t go over too well with anyone.

No, the truth is that this is the system that we have built.

All the crap flows downhill and ultimately ends up in the laps of U.S. taxpayers.

The bad news is that it looks like large numbers of banks are going to continue to fail.

You see, right now the American people are simply not doing a very good job of paying their bills.

During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans at U.S. banks that were at least three months past due increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

Just think about that for a moment.

Would you consider 16 in a row to be a trend?

In an economic system built on credit, it is absolutely imperative that most people pay their debts or the whole thing will come crashing down very quickly.

And right now it is undeniable that things are unraveling at a staggering pace.

So who is benefiting from all this?

Well, there is one segment of the banking industry that is actually performing quite nicely in the midst of all of this chaos.

Many of the largest banks in the U.S. have been reporting very large profits as they gobble up larger and larger shares of the U.S. banking market.

In a previous article entitled “Are We About To Witness The Greatest Banking Consolidation In U.S. History?”, we noted the rapidly growing power of America’s megabanks….

Back in 2000, the “Big Four” U.S. banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo – held approximately 22 percent of all deposits in FDIC-insured institutions.  As of June 30th of last year that figure was up to 39 percent.

The Founding Fathers of this country warned us of the danger of big banks getting too much power, but we have not listened to their warnings.

Now we have monolithic global banks that are so immense in size that we seem almost powerless to control them.

In fact, the six biggest banks in the United States (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

The truth is that these sharks aren’t shedding any tears when your local banks die off.

Why?

Because they know that many of the customers from the banks that have died will soon come their way.

The reality is that all of the legislation and regulations implemented during the past 30 or 40 years have rigged the game massively in favor of the big global banks.

So dozens upon dozens of smaller banks are going to continue to die and the megabanks are going to continue to eat up increasingly larger portions of market share.

So if you still have money in a small local bank, enjoy it while you can.

From now on, the small bank in America is an endangered species.

9 Reasons Why Spain Is A Dead Economy Walking

Barring an economic bailout of mammoth proportions, the economy of Spain is completely and totally doomed.  The socialist government of Spain is drowning in debt, unemployment is running rampant and everywhere you turn there are major economic problems.  So will Spain be the next Greece?  No.  When the economy of Spain implodes it is going to be a whole lot worse for the world economy.  The economy of Spain is more than four times the size of the economy of Greece.  Spain accounts for 11.5 percent of eurozone GDP while Greece only accounts for approximately 2.5 percent.  Spain is the 4th largest economy in the 16 nation eurozone and it is the 10th largest economy in the world.  If the economy of Spain fails it will cause a shockwave that will be felt in every corner of the globe.  In fact, there are quite a few analysts that believe if Spain defaults it would ultimately lead to the breakup of the eurozone.

So will the EU step up and bail out Spain?  Well, there are rumors that EU officials have begun work on a bailout package for Spain which is likely to run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, but on Monday the European Commission, the Spanish government and the German government all denied that the European Union was preparing a bailout for the Spanish economy.

Of course we all know that politicians don’t always tell us the truth.

So who knows what is going on over there right now.

But the reality is that the economy of Spain is not going to make it much longer without serious help, and some EU officials are already using apocalyptic language to describe what an economic collapse in Spain would mean.

For example, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recently warned that democracy could completely collapse in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the burgeoning European debt crisis.

So could democracy actually fail in those nations?

Well, considering the fact that Greece, Spain and Portugal only became democracies in the 1970s, and that all three of those countries have a history of military coups, such a scenario is not that far-fetched.

Without a doubt there would be serious public unrest in those nations if public services collapsed because their governments ran out of money.

So are there signs that the economy of Spain is about to collapse?

Well, yes, there are quite a few of them.

The following are 9 reasons why Spain is a dead economy walking….

#1) Even before this most recent crisis, unemployment in Spain was approaching Great Depression levels.  Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in the entire European Union. More than 20 percent of working age Spaniards were unemployed during the first quarter of 2010.  If people aren’t working they can’t pay taxes and they can’t provide for their families.

#2) In an effort to stimulate the economy, Spain’s socialist government has been spending unprecedented amounts of money and that skyrocketed the government budget deficit to a stunning 11.4 percent of GDP in 2009.  That is completely unsustainable by any definition.

#3) The total of all public and private debt in Spain has now reached 270 percent of GDP.

#4) The Spanish government has accumulated way more debt than it can possibly handle, and this has forced two international ratings agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, to lower Spain’s long-term sovereign credit rating.  These downgrades are making it much more expensive for Spain to finance its debt at a time when they simply can’t afford to pay more interest on their debt.

#5) There are 1.6 million unsold properties in Spain.  That is six times the level per capita in the United States.  Considering how bad the U.S. real estate market is, that statistic is incredibly alarming.

#6) The new “green economy” in Spain has been a total flop.  Socialist leaders promised that implementing hardcore restrictions on carbon emissions and forcing the nation over to a “green economy” would result in a flood of “green jobs”.  But that simply did not happen.  In fact, a leaked internal assessment produced by the government of Spain reveals that the “green economy” has been an absolute economic nightmare for that nation.  Energy prices have skyrocketed in Spain and the new “green economy” in that nation has actually lost more than two jobs for every job that it has created.  But Spain so far seems unwilling to undo all of the crazy regulations that they have implemented.

#7) Spain’s national debt is so onerous that they are now caught in a debt spiral where anything they do will harm the economy.  If they cut government expenditures in an effort to get debt under control it will devastate economic growth and crush badly needed tax revenues.  But if the Spanish government keeps borrowing money their credit rating will continue to decline and they will almost certainly default.  The truth is that the Spanish government is caught in a “no win” situation.

#8) But even now the IMF is projecting that the Spanish economy is going nowhere fast.  The International Monetary Fund says there will be no positive GDP growth in Spain until 2011, at which point it will still be below one percent.  As bleak as that forecast is, many analysts believe that it is way too optimistic considering the fact that Spain’s economy declined by about 3.6 percent in 2009 and things are rapidly getting worse.

#9) The Spanish population has gotten used to socialist handouts and they are not going to accept public sector pay cuts, budget cuts to social programs and hefty tax increases easily.  In fact, there is likely to be some very serious social unrest before all of this is said and done.  On May 21st, thousands of public sector workers took to the streets of Spain to protest the government’s austerity plan.  But that was only an appetizer.  Spain’s two main unions are calling for a major one day general strike to protest the government’s planned reforms of the country’s labor market.  The truth is that financial shock therapy does not go down very well in highly socialized nations such as Greece and Spain.  In fact, the austerity measures that Spain has been pressured to implement by the IMF have proven so unpopular that many are now projecting that Spain’s socialist government will be forced to call early elections.

So what is going to happen in Spain?

The truth is that nobody can predict for sure how things are going to play out over the coming weeks and months.

But what everyone can agree on is that the stakes are incredibly high.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, world famous economist Nouriel Roubini put it this way: “If Greece goes under, that’s a problem for the eurozone. If Spain goes under, it’s a disaster.”

But right now the entire population of Spain (along with much of the rest of the world) is completely distracted by the World Cup.  As long as the Spanish team does well, that is likely to keep the Spanish population sedated.  But if the Spanish team gets knocked out of the tournament early that will put the entire Spanish population in a really, really bad mood and that could mean a really chaotic summer for the nation of Spain.

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