More than 3,500 retail stores are going to close all across America over the next few months as the worst retail downturn in U.S. history gets even deeper. Earlier this week, Sears shocked the world when it announced that there is “substantial doubt” that the company will be able to “continue as a going concern” much longer. In other words, Sears has announced that it is on the verge of imminent collapse. Meanwhile, Payless stunned the retail industry when it came out that they are preparing to file for bankruptcy. The “retail apocalypse” that I have been warning about is greatly accelerating, and many believe that this is one of the early warning signs that the economic collapse that is already going on in other parts of the globe will soon reach U.S. shores.
I have repeatedly warned my readers that “Sears is going to zero“, and now Sears is officially saying that it might actually happen. When you file official paperwork with the government that says there is “substantial doubt” that the company will survive, that means that the end is very near…
The company that operates Sears, the department store chain that dominated retail for decades, warned Tuesday that it faces “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business unless it can borrow more and tap cash from more of its assets.
“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Sears Holdings said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sears Holdings operates both Sears and Kmart stores.
In the wake of that statement, the price of Sears stock dipped 13.69% to $7.85 a share.
Personally, I am going to miss Sears very much. But of course the truth is that they simply cannot continue operating as they have been.
The company said it lost $607 million, or $5.67 per diluted share, during the quarter that ended on Jan. 28. That compared with a loss of $580 million, or $5.44 per diluted share, a year earlier. It has posted a loss in all but two of the last 24 quarters, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
How in the world is it possible for a retailer to lose that amount of money in just three months?
As I have said before, if they had employees flushing dollar bills down the toilet 24 hours a day they still shouldn’t have losses that big.
This week we also learned that Payless is heading for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the chain is planning to imminently close at least 400 stores…
Payless Inc., the struggling discount shoe chain, is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company is initially planning to close 400 to 500 stores as it reorganizes operations, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations aren’t public. Payless had originally looked to shutter as many as 1,000 locations, and the number may still be in flux, according to one of the people.
Of course these are just two examples of a much broader phenomenon.
Never before in U.S. history have we seen such a dramatic wave of store closures. According to Business Insider, over 3,500 retail locations “are expected to close in the next couple of months”…
Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.
More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.
Once thriving shopping malls are rapidly being transformed into ghost towns. As I wrote about just recently, “you might be tempted to think that ‘Space Available’ was the hottest new retail chain in the entire country.”
When an anchor store like Sears or Macy’s closes, it often triggers a downward spiral in performance for shopping malls.
Not only do the malls lose the income and shopper traffic from that store’s business, but the closure often triggers “co-tenancy clauses” that allow the other mall tenants to terminate their leases or renegotiate the terms, typically with a period of lower rents, until another retailer moves into the anchor space.
Years ago I wrote of a time when we would see boarded-up storefronts all across America, and now it is happening.
Instead of asking which retailers are going to close, perhaps we should be asking which ones are going to survive this retail cataclysm.
In the past, you could always count on middle class U.S. consumers to save the day, but today the middle class is steadily shrinking and U.S. consumers are increasingly tapped out.
For instance, just look at what is happening to delinquency rates on auto loans…
US auto loan and lease credit loss rates weakened in the second half of 2016, according to a new report from Fitch Ratings, which said they will continue to deteriorate.
“Subprime credit losses are accelerating faster than the prime segment, and this trend is likely to continue as a result of looser underwriting standards by lenders in recent years,” said Michael Taiano, a director at Fitch.
The last time so many Americans got behind on subprime auto loans was during the last financial crisis.
We are seeing so many similarities to what happened just prior to the last recession, and yet most Americans still seem to think that the U.S. economy is going to be just fine in 2017.
The last recession probably should have started back in late 2015, but thanks to manipulation by the Fed and an unprecedented debt binge by the Obama administration, official U.S. GDP growth has been able to stay barely above zero for the last year and a half.
But just because something is delayed does not mean that it is canceled.
All along, our long-term economic imbalances have continued to get even worse, and a date with destiny is rapidly approaching for the U.S. economy.
The ninth largest economy in the entire world is currently experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history”, and in a country right next door people are being encouraged to label their trash so that the thousands upon thousands of desperately hungry people that are digging through trash bins on the streets can find discarded food more easily. Of course the two nations that I am talking about are Brazil and Venezuela. The Brazilian economy was once the seventh largest on the globe, but after shrinking for eight consecutive quarters it has now fallen to ninth place. And in Venezuela the economic collapse has gotten so bad that more than 70 percent of the population lost weight last year due to a severe lack of food. Most of us living in the northern hemisphere don’t think that anything like this could happen to us any time soon, but the truth is that trouble signs are already starting to erupt all around us. It is just a matter of time before the things currently happening in Brazil and Venezuela start happening here, but unfortunately most people are not heeding the warnings.
Just a few years ago, the Brazilian economy was absolutely roaring and it was being hailed as a model for the rest of the world to follow. But now Brazil’s GDP has been imploding for two years in a row, and this downturn is being described as “the worst recession in recorded history” for that South American nation…
Latin America’s largest economy Brazil has contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016, shrinking for the second year in a row; statistics agency IBGE said on Tuesday. It confirmed the country is facing its longest and deepest recession in recorded history.
Data shows gross domestic product (GDP) fell for the eighth straight quarter in the three months to December, down 0.9 percent from the previous quarter. The figure was worse than the 0.5 percent decline economists had forecast and left the country’s overall GDP down 3.6 percent for the full year following a 3.8 percent drop in 2015.
“In real terms, GDP is now nine percent below its pre-recession peak,” Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, told the Financial Times.
“This is comfortably the worst recession in recorded history,” he added.
It had been hoped that things in Brazil would be getting better by now, but instead they just keep getting worse.
The number of bankruptcy filings has soared to an all-time record high, and the official unemployment rate has more than doubled since the end of 2013. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
In a stunning deterioration, the unemployment rate in Brazil spiked to 12.6% in the rolling three-month period through January, a record in the new data series going back to 2012, according to Brazil’s statistical agency IBGE. Up from 11.8% in the three-month period through October. Up from an already terribly high 9.5% a year ago. And more than double the 6.2% in December 2013.
Meanwhile, hordes of hungry people are rummaging through garbage cans in Venezuela in order to find something to fill their aching stomachs.
Things have gotten so bad that one of President Maduro’s chief opponents has urged citizens to label which trash bags have food in them so that people that are searching through the garbage can find food scraps more easily…
Controversial Priest and opponent to President Nicolás Maduro’s administration Father Jose Palmar posted on social media this week about labeling discarded waste so those looking through it for food can do so more easily and “with dignity.”
Palmar called on Venezuelans to celebrate Lent by identifying bags where food has been discarded for those with no where else to turn. That way, they don’t have to dig through non-edible items to find it.
Thanks to chronically empty store shelves and severe food shortages, people in Venezuela are losing weight at an astounding pace. In the United States it would be a good thing if much of the population lost this much weight, but in Venezuela it definitely is not…
Three quarters of the country’s population lost an average of over 18 pounds over food shortages in 2016, according to a survey by Venezuelan universities and nonprofit groups. Last year, over 80 percent of foodstuffs disappeared from shelves and many had to get by with one meal a day, Foreign Policy reported.
Venezuela was once South America’s most powerful petrostate. But decades of government mismanagement sent the country into decline. Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez choked the economy with heavy-handed regulations, price controls, and a campaign to nationalize major industries that chased out foreign investments.
Further north, very alarming signs are starting to pop up in Mexico.
It probably won’t happen next week or next month, but there are indications of emerging “liquidity problems” which could precipitate a major debt crisis at some point…
In Mexico foreign investors hold around $100 billion of the country’s local-currency government debt, the most for any emerging market economy. That’s almost 20 times what it was 20 years ago. They also hold billions of euros worth of corporate bonds, which are also showing signs of strain, prompting some Mexican business leaders to call for “new programs” to be implemented before the situation causes “a large-scale crisis” among Mexican companies.
The most ominous sign yet came last week when Bloomberg reported sources saying that the Bank of Mexico (or Banxico, as it is referred to) had sought a swap line from the Federal Reserve in case of “liquidity problems,” which immediately triggered furious denials from Banxico. “I can say clearly and unequivocally that we are not in the process of asking for any credit line from any authority,” said the central bank’s governor, Agustin Carstens, who has postponed by six months his departure from the bank, initially scheduled for May.
One of the biggest problems for nations such as Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico is the strength of the U.S. dollar. During the good times they went into tremendous amounts of debt, and much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars. So when the U.S. dollar becomes stronger, it takes more of their own local currencies to pay that debt back.
And if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates at their next meeting, that will strengthen the U.S. dollar even more and put even more pressure on emerging market economies.
Even one small interest rate increase by the Fedcould have a sweeping impact on U.S. and world economies, Komal Sri-Kumar told CNBC on Monday.
“I think they are going to hike” on March 15, Sri-Kumar said on “Squawk Box,” echoing a theory shared by many analysts. “But that is going to prompt capital outflows from the euro zone, especially with the political risk. It is going to increase the capital outflow from China, and the U.S. economy will feel the impact.”
The global economy is more interconnected than ever before, and pain that starts in one region can rapidly spread to others.
The biggest debt bubble that the world has ever seen is starting to burst, and over the coming years we are going to see financial pain on a scale that would be unimaginable to most of us at this moment.
But even now there are those that would suggest that this colossal debt bubble can continue growing much faster than global GDP indefinitely, and this sort of exceedingly reckless optimism is leading many astray.
If you didn’t know better, you might be tempted to think that “Space Available” was the hottest new retail chain in the entire country. As you will see below, it is being projected that about a third of all shopping malls in the United States will soon close, and we just recently learned that the number of “distressed retailers” is the highest that it has been since the last recession. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can possibly believe that the U.S. economy is in “good shape” after looking at the retail industry. In my recent article about the ongoing “retail apocalypse“, I discussed the fact that Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s have all announced that they are closing dozens of stores in 2017, and you can find a pretty comprehensive list of 19 U.S. retailers that are “on the brink of bankruptcy” right here. Needless to say, quite a bloodbath is going on out there right now.
But I didn’t realize how truly horrific things were for the retail industry until I came across an article about mall closings on Time Magazine’s website…
About one-third of malls in the U.S. will shut their doors in the coming years, retail analyst Jan Kniffen told CNBC Thursday. His prediction comes in the wake of Macy’s reporting its worst consecutive same-store sales decline since the financial crisis.
Macy’s and its fellow retailers in American malls are challenged by an oversupply of retail space as customers migrate toward online shopping, as well as fast fashion retailers like H&M and off-price stores such as T.J. Maxx. As a result, about 400 of the country’s 1,100 enclosed malls will fail in the upcoming years. Of those that remain, he predicts that about 250 will thrive and the rest will continue to struggle.
Can you imagine what this country is going to look like if that actually happens?
Shopping malls all over the United States are literally becoming “ghost towns”, and many that have already closed have stayed empty for years and years.
The process usually starts when a shopping mall starts losing anchor stores. That is why it is so alarming that Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s are planning to shut down so many locations in 2017. According to one recent report, 310 shopping malls in America are in imminent danger of losing an anchor store…
Dozens of malls have closed in the last 10 years, and many more are at risk of shutting down as retailers like Macy’s, JCPenney, and Sears — also known as anchor stores — shutter hundreds of stores to staunch the bleeding from falling sales.
The commercial-real-estate firm CoStar estimates that nearly a quarter of malls in the US, or roughly 310 of the nation’s 1,300 shopping malls, are at high risk of losing an anchor store.
Once the anchor stores start going, traffic falls off dramatically for the other stores and they start leaving too.
Four years ago in “The Beginning Of The End” I warned that empty storefronts would soon litter the national landscape, and now that is precisely what is happening.
Now that the Christmas season is over, some retailers that have been around for decades have suddenly decided that it is time to file for bankruptcy. Sadly, one of those retailers is HHGregg…
HHGregg Inc., the 61-year-old seller of appliances and electronics, is moving closer to Chapter 11 after announcing a store-closing plan, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The filing may come as soon as next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Bloomberg previously reported that HHGregg might file for bankruptcy in March if it couldn’t reach an out-of-court solution.
Another retailer that was once riding high but is now dealing with bankruptcy is BCBG…
BCBG, the California-based fashion retailer that had acquired fashion design firm Herve Leger in 1998, and that once had more than 570 boutiques globally, including 175 in the US, and whose cocktail dresses and handbags were shown off by celebrities, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday.
It is buckling under $459 million of debt. It has 4,800 employees. Layoffs have already started. More layoffs and other cost cuts are planned, according to court documents, cited by Bloomberg. It started closing 120 of its stores in January. It wants to sell itself at a court-supervised auction. If that fails, it wants to negotiate a debt-for-equity swap with junior lenders owed $289 million.
If the U.S. economy was actually doing as well as the stock market says that it should be doing, all of these retail chains would not be closing stores and going bankrupt.
We live at a time when middle class consumers are tapped out. According to one recent survey, 57 percent of all Americans do not even have enough money in the bank to write a $500 check for an unexpected expense.
And people are falling out of the middle class at a staggering pace. The number of homeless people in New York City recently set a brand new record high, and city authorities plan to construct 90 new homeless shelters within the next five years.
On the west coast we are also seeing a dramatic rise in homelessness. The following comes from an article by Dan Lyman…
Citizen journalists have captured stunning images and video of homeless encampments that are spiraling out of control in the shadows of Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium in California.
The tent city has recently sprung up along the Santa Ana riverbed, near a busy convergence of three major California highways known as the “Orange Crush,” at the border of Anaheim and Santa Ana, the latter a “sanctuary city.”
Homeless activists estimate that as many as 1,000 people are camped in the region.
You can see some video footage of this homeless encampment on YouTube right here…
Incredibly, the Federal Reserve is almost certainly going to raise interest rates at their next meeting even though the U.S. economy is faltering so badly. That only makes sense if they are trying to make Donald Trump look as bad as possible.
Even though this giant bubble of false economic stability that we are currently enjoying has lasted far longer than it should have, the truth is that nothing has changed about the long-term economic outlook at all.
America is still heading for “economic Armageddon”, and the retail industry is a huge red flag that is warning us that our day of reckoning is approaching more rapidly than many had anticipated.
When debt grows much faster than GDP for an extended period of time, it is inevitable that a good portion of that debt will start to go bad at some point. We witnessed a perfect example of this in 2008, and now it is starting to happen again. Commercial bankruptcies have been rising on a year-over-year basis since late 2015, and this is something that I have written about previously, but now consumer bankruptcies are also increasing. In fact, we have just witnessed U.S. consumer bankruptcies do something that they haven’t done in nearly 7 years. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
US bankruptcy filings by consumers rose 5.4% in January, compared to January last year, to 52,421 according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. In December, they’d already risen 4.5% from a year earlier. This was the first time that consumer bankruptcies increased back-to-back since 2010.
However, business bankruptcies began to surge in November 2015 and continued surging on a year-over-year basis in 2016, to reach a full-year total of 37,823 filings, up 26% from the prior year and the highest since 2014.
Of course consumer bankruptcies are still much lower than they were during the last financial crisis, but what this could mean is that we have reached a turning point.
For years, the Federal Reserve has been encouraging reckless borrowing and spending by pushing interest rates to ultra-low levels. Unfortunately, this created an absolutely enormous debt bubble, and now that debt bubble is beginning to burst. Here is more from Wolf Richter…
The dizzying borrowing by consumers and businesses that the Fed with its ultra-low interest rates and in its infinite wisdom has purposefully encouraged to fuel economic growth, if any, and to inflate asset prices, has caused debt to pile up. That debt is now eating up cash flows needed for other things, and this is causing pressures, just when interest rates have begun to rise, which will make refinancing this debt more expensive and, for a rising number of consumers and businesses, impossible. And so, the legacy of this binge will haunt the economy – and creditors – for years to come.
Despite all of the economic optimism that is out there right now, the truth is that U.S. consumers are tapped out.
If the U.S. economy truly was doing great, major retailers would not be closing hundreds of stores. Sears, Macy’s and a whole host of other big retailers are closing stores because those stores are losing money. It truly is a “retail apocalypse“, and this trend is not going to turn around until U.S. consumers start to become healthier financially.
About two-thirds of the nation is essentially living paycheck to paycheck. Most families really struggle to pay the bills from month to month, and all it would take is a major event such as a job loss or a significant illness to plunge them into financial oblivion.
In America today we are told that the secret to success is a college education, but most young Americans have to go deep into debt to afford such an education.
As a result, most college graduates start out life in the “real world” with a mountain of debt. And since many of them never find the “good jobs” that they were promised, repayment of that debt becomes a very big issue. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has discovered that student loan repayment rates are much worse than we were being told…
Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.
When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.
The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.
If you do find yourself deep in debt, a lot of families have found success by following a plan that was pioneered by author Dave Ramsey. His “Debt Snowball Plan” really works, but you have to be committed to it.
Getting out of debt can be tremendously freeing. So many people spend so many sleepless nights consumed by financial stress, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Most of us have had to go into debt for some reason or another, and not all debt is bad debt. For example, very few of us would be able to own a home without getting a mortgage, and usually mortgages come with very low interest rates these days.
But other forms of debt (such as credit card debt or payday loans) can be financially crippling. When it comes to eliminating debt, it is often a really good idea to start with the most toxic forms of debt first.
It has been said that the borrower is the servant of the lender, and you don’t want to spend the best years of your life making somebody else rich.
Whether economic conditions turn out to be good or bad in 2017, the truth is that each one of us should be trying to do what we can to get out of debt.
Unfortunately, a lot of people never seem to learn from the past, and I have a feeling that both consumer and commercial bankruptcies will continue to rise throughout the rest of this year.
The Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July. Isn’t that great news? I truly wish that it was. If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about “economic collapse” and start blogging about cats or football. Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now. Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it…
Get ready to step over some landmines, investors. The number of companies defaulting on their debt is hitting levels not seen since the financial crisis, and it’s not just a problem for bondholders.
So far this year, 46 companies have defaulted on their debt, the highest level since 2009, according to S&P Ratings Services. Five companies defaulted this week, based on the latest data available from S&P Ratings Services. That includes New Jersey-based specialty chemical company Vertellus Specialties and Ohio-based iron ore producer Cliffs Natural. Of the world’s defaults this year, 37 are of companies based in the U.S.
Meanwhile, coal producer Peabody Energy (BTU) and surfwear seller Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) this week filed plans for bankruptcy protection. Shares of Peabody have dropped 97% over the past year to $2 a share and Pacific Sunwear stock is off 98% to 4 cents a share.
A lot of big companies in this country have fallen on hard times, and it looks like bankruptcy attorneys are going to be absolutely swamped with work for the foreseeable future.
So why are stock prices soaring right now? After all, it doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
And it isn’t just a few bad apples that we are talking about. All across the spectrum, corporate revenues and corporate earnings are down. At this point, earnings for companies on the S&P 500 have plunged a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it is being projected that corporate earnings overall will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.
As earnings decline, a lot of big companies are getting into trouble with debt, and we have already seen a very large number of corporate debt downgrades. In recent interviews, I have been bringing up the fact that the average rating on U.S. corporate debt has now fallen to “BB”, which is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.
A lot of people don’t seem to believe me when I share that fact, but it is absolutely true.
One of the big reasons why corporate debt is being downgraded is because a lot of these big companies have been going into enormous amounts of debt in order to buy back their own stock. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Downgrades ascribed to “shareholder compensation,” as Moody’s calls share buybacks and dividends, have been soaring, according to John Lonski, Chief Economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Research. The moving 12-month sum of Moody’s credit rating downgrades of US companies, jumped from 32 in March 2015, to 48 in December 2015, and to 61 in March 2016, nearly doubling within a year.
The last time the number of downgrades attributed to financial engineering reached 61 was in early 2007. It would hit its peak of 79 in mid- 2007, a few months before the beginning of the Great Recession in Q4 2007. At the time, stocks were on the verge of commencing their epic crash.
When corporations go into the market and buy back their own stock, they are slowly cannibalizing themselves. But we have seen these stock buybacks soar to record levels for a couple of reasons. Number one, big investors want to see stock prices go up, and so big investors tend to really like these stock buybacks and will generally support corporate executives that wish to engage in doing this. Number two, if you are a greedy corporate executive that is heavily compensated by stock options, you very much want to see the stock price go up as well.
So the name of the game is greed, and stock buybacks have been fueling much of the rise in U.S. stock prices that we have been seeing recently.
However, the truth is that nothing in the financial world lasts forever, and this irrational bubble will ultimately come to an end as well.
Back then, as could be the case today, a bull market & a US-led economic recovery was rudely interrupted by a crisis in Emerging Markets. The crisis threatened to hurt Main Street via Wall Street (the Nasdaq fell 33% between Jul-Oct 1998, when [Long-Term Capital Management] went under). Policy makers panicked and monetary policy was eased (with hindsight unnecessarily). Fresh liquidity combined with apocalyptic investor sentiment very quickly morphed into a violent but narrow equity bull market/bubble in 1998/99, one which ultimately took valuations & interest rates sharply higher to levels that eventually caused a “pop”.
Like Hartnett, I definitely believe that a major “pop” is on the way, although I would like for it to be delayed for as long as possible.
Someday we will look back on these times with utter amazement. It has been absolutely incredible how the financial markets have been able to defy economic reality for so long.
In a new CNNMoney/E*Trade survey of Americans who have at least $10,000 in an online trading account, over half (52%) gave the U.S. economy as a “C” grade. Another 15% rated the economy a “D” or “F.”
This gloom persists despite the fact that the stock market is on the upswing again. The Dow topped 18,000 Monday for the first time since July 2015.
If some Americans think that the U.S. economy deserves a “D” or an “F” grade right now, just wait until they see what is in our immediate future.
Personally, I give our economy an “A” for being able to maintain our unsustainable debt-fueled standard of living for as long as it has. Somehow we have managed to consume far more than we produce for decades, and the largest debt bubble in the history of the planet just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Of course we are very much living on borrowed time at this point, but I truly hope that the bubble economy can keep going for at least a little while longer, because nobody should want to see what is coming afterwards.
*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*
Last time around it was subprime mortgages, but this time it is oil that is playing a starring role in a global financial crisis. Since the start of 2015, 42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy, 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in the United States, and at this point 50 percent of all energy junk bonds are “distressed” according to Standard & Poor’s. As you will see below, some of the big banks have a tremendous amount of loan exposure to the energy industry, and now they are bracing for big losses. And the longer the price of oil stays this low, the worse the carnage is going to get.
Today, the price of oil has been hovering around 29 dollars a barrel, and over the past 18 months the price of oil has fallen by more than 70 percent. This is something that has many U.S. consumers very excited. The average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally is just $1.89 at the moment, and on Monday it was selling for as low as 46 cents a gallon at one station in Michigan.
But this oil crash is nothing to cheer about as far as the big banks are concerned. During the boom years, those banks gave out billions upon billions of dollars in loans to fund exceedingly expensive drilling projects all over the world.
Now those firms are dropping like flies, and the big banks could potentially be facing absolutely catastrophic losses. The following examples come from CNN…
For instance, Wells Fargo (WFC) is sitting on more than $17 billion in loans to the oil and gas sector. The bank is setting aside $1.2 billion in reserves to cover losses because of the “continued deterioration within the energy sector.”
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is setting aside an extra $124 million to cover potential losses in its oil and gas loans. It warned that figure could rise to $750 million if oil prices unexpectedly stay at their current $30 level for the next 18 months.
Citigroup (C) built up loan loss reserves in the energy space by $300 million. The bank said the move reflects its view that “oil prices are likely to remain low for a longer period of time.”
If oil stays around $30 a barrel, Citi is bracing for about $600 million of energy credit losses in the first half of 2016. Citi said that figure could double to $1.2 billion if oil dropped to $25 a barrel and stayed there.
For the moment, these big banks are telling the public that the damage can be contained.
But didn’t they tell us the same thing about subprime mortgages in 2008?
We are already seeing bank stocks start to slide precipitously. People are beginning to realize that these banks are dangerously exposed to a lot of really bad deals.
If the price of oil were to shoot back up above 50 dollars in very short order, the damage would probably be manageable. Unfortunately, that does not appear likely to happen. In fact, now that sanctions have been lifted on Iran, the Iranians are planning to flood the world with massive amounts of oil that they have been storing in tankers at sea…
Iran has been carefully planning for its return from the economic penalty box by hoarding tons of oil in tankers at sea.
Now that the U.S. and European Union have lifted some sanctions on Iran, the OPEC country can begin selling its massive stockpile of oil.
The sale of this seaborne oil will allow Iran to get an immediate financial boost before it ramps up production. The onslaught of Iranian oil is coming at a terrible time for the global oil markets, which are already drowning in an epic supply glut.
Just the other day, I explained that some of the biggest banks in the world are now projecting that the price of oil could soon fall much, much lower.
But the truth is that the price of oil does not need to go down one penny more to have a catastrophic impact on global financial markets. If it just stays right here, we will see an endless parade of layoffs, energy company bankruptcies and debt defaults. Without any change, junk bonds will continue to crash and financial institutions will continue to go down like dominoes.
We are already experiencing a major disaster. Things are already so bad that some forms of low quality crude oil are literally selling for next to nothing. The following comes from Bloomberg…
Oil is so plentiful and cheap in the U.S. that at least one buyer says it would pay almost nothing to take a certain type of low-quality crude.
Flint Hills Resources LLC, the refining arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s industrial empire, said it offered to pay $1.50 a barrel Friday for North Dakota Sour, a high-sulfur grade of crude, according to a corrected list of prices posted on its website Monday. It had previously posted a price of -$0.50. The crude is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago and $47.60 in January 2014.
While the near-zero price is due to the lack of pipeline capacity for a particular variety of ultra low quality crude, it underscores how dire things are in the U.S. oil patch.
A chart that I saw posted on Zero Hedge earlier today can help put all of this into perspective. Whenever the price of oil falls really low relative to the price of gold, there is a major global crisis. Right now an ounce of gold will purchase more oil than ever before, and many believe that this indicates that a new great crisis is upon us…
The number of barrels of oil that a single ounce of gold can buy has never, ever been higher.
All over the planet, big banks are absolutely teeming with bad loans. And to be honest, the big banks in the U.S. are probably in better shape than some of the major banks in Europe and Asia. But once the dominoes start to fall, very few financial institutions are going to escape unscathed.
In the coming days I would expect to see more headlines like we just got out of Italy. Apparently, Italian banks are nearing full meltdown mode, and short selling has been temporarily banned. To me, it appears that we are just inches away from full-blown financial panic in Europe.
However, just like with the last financial crisis, you never quite know where the next “explosion” is going to happen next.
But one thing is for sure – the financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is raging out of control, and the pain that we have seen so far is just the beginning.
There has been so much attention on Greece in recent weeks, but the truth is that Greece represents only a very tiny fraction of an unprecedented global debt bomb which threatens to explode at any moment. As you are about to see, there are 24 nations that are currently facing a full-blown debt crisis, and there are 14 more that are rapidly heading toward one. Right now, the debt to GDP ratio for the entire planet is up to an all-time record high of 286 percent, and globally there is approximately 200 TRILLION dollars of debt on the books. That breaks down to about $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet. And since close to half of the population of the world lives on less than 10 dollars a day, there is no way that all of this debt can ever be repaid. The only “solution” under our current system is to kick the can down the road for as long as we can until this colossal debt pyramid finally collapses in upon itself.
As we are seeing in Greece, you can eventually accumulate so much debt that there is literally no way out. The other European nations are attempting to find a way to give Greece a third bailout, but that is like paying one credit card with another credit card because virtually everyone in Europe is absolutely drowning in debt.
Even if some “permanent solution” could be crafted for Greece, that would only solve a very small fraction of the overall problem that we are facing. The nations of the world have never been in this much debt before, and it gets worse with each passing day.
According to a new report from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, there are currently 24 countries in the world that are facing a full-blown debt crisis…
■ Costa Rica
■ Dominican Republic
■ El Salvador
■ The Gambia
■ Marshall Islands
■ Sri Lanka
■ St Vincent and the Grenadines
And there are another 14 nations that are right on the verge of one…
■ Cape Verde
■ Sao Tome e Principe
So what should be done about this?
Should we have the “wealthy” countries bail all of them out?
Well, the truth is that the “wealthy” countries are some of the biggest debt offenders of all. Just consider the United States. Our national debt has more than doubled since 2007, and at this point it has gotten so large that it is mathematically impossible to pay it off.
Europe is in similar shape. Members of the eurozone are trying to cobble together a “bailout package” for Greece, but the truth is that most of them will soon need bailouts too…
All of those countries will come knocking asking for help at some point. The fact is that their Debt to GDP levels have soared since the EU nearly collapsed in 2012.
Spain’s Debt to GDP has risen from 69% to 98%. Italy’s Debt to GDP has risen from 116% to 132%. France’s has risen from 85% to 95%.
In addition to Spain, Italy and France, let us not forget Belgium (106 percent debt to GDP), Ireland (109 debt to GDP) and Portugal (130 debt to GDP).
Once all of these dominoes start falling, the consequences for our massively overleveraged global financial system will be absolutely catastrophic…
Spain has over $1.0 trillion in debt outstanding… and Italy has €2.6 trillion. These bonds are backstopping tens of trillions of Euros’ worth of derivatives trades. A haircut or debt forgiveness for them would trigger systemic failure in Europe.
EU banks as a whole are leveraged at 26-to-1. At these leverage levels, even a 4% drop in asset prices wipes out ALL of your capital. And any haircut of Greek, Spanish, Italian and French debt would be a lot more than 4%.
Things in Asia look quite ominous as well.
According to Bloomberg, debt levels in China have risen to levels never recorded before…
While China’s economic expansion beat analysts’ forecasts in the second quarter, the country’s debt levels increased at an even faster pace.
Outstanding loans for companies and households stood at a record 207 percent of gross domestic product at the end of June, up from 125 percent in 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
And remember, that doesn’t even include government debt. When you throw all forms of debt into the mix, the overall debt to GDP number for China is rapidly approaching 300 percent.
In Japan, things are even worse. The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is now up to an astounding 230 percent. That number has gotten so high that it is hard to believe that it could possibly be true. At some point an implosion is coming in Japan which is going to shock the world.
Of course the same thing could be said about the entire planet. Yes, national governments and central banks have been attempting to kick the can down the road for as long as possible, but everyone knows that this is not going to end well.
And when things do really start falling apart, it will be unlike anything that we have ever seen before. Just consider what Egon von Greyerz recently told King World News…
Eric, there are now more problem areas in the world, rather than stable situations. No major nation in the West can repay its debts. The same is true for Japan and most of the emerging markets. Europe is a failed experiment for socialism and deficit spending. China is a massive bubble, in terms of its stock markets, property markets and shadow banking system. Japan is also a basket case and the U.S. is the most indebted country in the world and has lived above its means for over 50 years.
So we will see twin $200 trillion debt and $1.5 quadrillion derivatives implosions. That will lead to the most historic wealth destruction ever in global stock, with bond and property markets declining at least 75 – 95 percent. World trade will also contract dramatically and we will see massive hardship across the globe.
So what do you think is coming, and how bad will things ultimately get once this global debt crisis finally spins totally out of control?
Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
Most Americans are deathly afraid to go to the hospital these days – and it is because of the immense pain that it will cause to their wallets. If you want to get on a path that will lead you to bankruptcy, just start going to the hospital a lot. In America today, hospitals and doctors are blatantly ripping us off and they aren’t making any apologies for it. As you will read about below, some hospitals mark up treatments by 1,000 percent. In other instances, basic medical supplies are being billed out at hundreds of times what they cost providers. For example, it has been reported that some hospitals are charging up to 30 dollars for a single aspirin pill. It would be difficult to argue that the extreme greed that we see in the medical system is even matched by the crooks on Wall Street. These medical predators get their hands on us when we are at our most vulnerable. They know that in our lowest moments we are willing to pay just about anything to get better or to make the pain go away. And so they very quietly have us sign a bunch of forms without ever telling us how much everything is going to cost. Eventually when the bills come in the mail, it is too late to do anything about it.
How would you feel if someone sold you something for ten times the amount that it was worth?
Some hospitals are marking up treatments by as much as 1,000 percent, a new study finds, and the average U.S. hospital charges uninsured patients three times what Medicare allows.
Twenty of the hospitals in the top 50 when it comes to marking up charges are in Florida, the researchers write in the journal Health Affairs. And three-quarters of them are operated by two Tennessee-based for-profit hospital systems: Community Health Systems and Hospital Corporation of America.
“We just want to raise public awareness of the problem,” said Ge Bai of Washington & Lee University in Virginia, an accounting professor who wrote the study along with Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Does reading that make you angry?
They are greedily taking advantage of all of us.
Other studies have come up with similar results. Here is one example…
According to National Nurses United, U.S. hospital charges continue to soar with a handful of them, such as Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J., going as far as charging more than ten times the total cost — or almost $1,200 per $100 of the cost of care. Meanwhile, the hundred priciest hospitals in the nation were found to have this cost ratio begin at 765 percent, which is more than twice the national average of 331 percent.
Much of the time, we are being overcharged for tests, services and procedures that we don’t even need.
It has been estimated that the amount of truly wasteful spending in the U.S. medical system comes to a grand total of about $600 billion to $700 billion annually. That means that wasteful medical spending in the U.S. each year is greater than the GDP of the entire country of Sweden.
And of course almost everyone has a story about an absolutely ridiculous medical bill that they have received. In fact, if you have one that you would like to share, please feel free to share it at the end of this article. The following are just a few examples that were shared in an editorial in a local newspaper…
Have you heard about the little girl who required three stitches over her right eye? The emergency room sent her parents a bill for $1,500 — $500 per stitch (NY Times, Dec. 3). My neighbor recently spent six hours in the emergency room with bleeding from the mouth. He was on a blood thinner, needed several blood tests, and his heart was monitored. His hospital bill came to $22,000. A California man diagnosed with lung cancer chose to fight his cancer aggressively. Eleven months later his widow received a bill exceeding $900,000.
One of the most disturbing trends that we are witnessing all over the nation is something called “drive by doctoring”. That is where an extra doctor that isn’t even necessary “pops in” to visit patients that are not his or “assists” with a surgery in order to stick the patient with a big, fat extra bill. The following is from a New York Times article about this disgusting practice…
Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.
He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.
How would you like to receive a bill for $117,000 from a doctor that you had never met and that you did not know would be at your surgery?
This is how broken our medical system has become.
And of course this type of abuse is not just happening in New York. It is literally happening all over the nation…
In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.
If you or a close family member has been to the hospital recently, you probably know how astronomical some of these bills can be.
And if you have a chronic, life threatening disease, you can very rapidly end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
If you doubt this, just check out the following excerpt from an article that appeared in Time Magazine. One cancer patient out in California ran up nearly a million dollars in hospital bills before he finally died…
By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family’s first bill — for $348,000 — which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton’s facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work.
The sad truth is that the U.S. health care system has become all about the money.
A select few are becoming exceedingly wealthy while millions go broke. One very disturbing study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt. And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans every single year.
Once upon a time, going into the medical profession was a sacrifice and you did it because you wanted to help people.
Today, it is considered to be a path to riches.
If the U.S. health care system was a separate country, it would actually be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet. Even though our system is deeply broken, nobody wants to rock the boat because trillions of dollars are at stake. If it was up to me, I would tear the entire thing down and rebuild it from scratch.
So what about you? How would you fix our broken health care system? Please feel free to share your ideas by posting a comment below…
Did you know that the number of publicly traded companies declaring bankruptcy has reached a five year high? And did you know that Chinese exports are absolutely collapsing and that Chinese economic growth in 2014 was the weakest in over 20 years? Even though things may seem to be okay on the surface for the global economy at the moment, that does not mean that big trouble is not percolating just under the surface. On Wednesday, investors cheered as stocks soared to new highs, but almost all of the economic news coming in from around the planet has been bad. The credit rating on Greek debt has been slashed again, global economic trade is really slowing down, and many of the exact same financial patterns that we saw just before the crash of 2008 are repeating once again. All of this reminds me of the months leading up to the implosion of Lehman Brothers. Most people were feeling really good about things, but huge trouble was brewing just underneath the surface. Finally, one day we learned that Lehman Brothers had “suddenly” collapsed, and then all hell broke loose.
If the economy is actually “getting better” like we are being told by the establishment media, then why are so many big companies declaring bankruptcy? According to CNBC, the number of publicly traded companies declaring bankruptcy has hit a five year high…
The number of bankruptcies among publicly traded U.S. companies has climbed to the highest first-quarter level for five years, according to a Reuters analysis of data from research firm bankruptcompanynews.com.
Plunging prices of crude oil and other commodities is one of the major reasons for the increased filings, and bankruptcy experts said a more aggressive stance by lenders may also be hurting some companies.
It is interesting to note that the price of oil is being named as one of the primary reasons why this is happening.
And of course this oil crash has not just hurt the United States. All over the world, economic activity is being curtailed because of what has happened to the price of oil…
In the heady days of the commodity boom, oil-rich nations accumulated billions of dollars in reserves they invested in U.S. debt and other securities. They also occasionally bought trophy assets, such as Manhattan skyscrapers, luxury homes in London or Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.
Now that oil prices have dropped by half to $50 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and other commodity-rich nations are fast drawing down those “petrodollar” reserves. Some nations, such as Angola, are burning through their savings at a record pace, removing a source of liquidity from global markets.
If oil and other commodity prices remain depressed, the trend will cut demand for everything from European government debt to U.S. real estate as producing nations seek to fill holes in their domestic budgets.
But it isn’t just oil. We appear to be moving into a time when things are slowing down all over the place.
In a recent article, Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad economic news that has come in just this week…
Mortgage Apps tumble, Empire Fed slumps, and now Industrial Production plunges… Against expectations of a 0.3% drop MoM, US Factory Output was twice as bad at -0.6% – the worst since August 2012 (and lamost worst since June 2009). This is the 4th miss in a row.
If we are indeed heading into another economic downturn, that is really bad news, because at the moment we are in far worse shape than we were just prior to the last recession.
To help illustrate this, I want to share with you a couple of charts.
This first chart comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and it shows that after you adjust for inflation, median income for the middle class is the lowest that it has been in decades…
This next chart shows that median net worth for the middle class is also the lowest that it has been in decades after you adjust for inflation…
The middle class is being systematically destroyed. For much more on this, please see this recent article that I published. And now we are on the verge of another major economic slowdown. That is not what the middle class needs at all.
We are also getting some very disturbing economic news out of China.
It appeared as though things went from bad to worse nearly overnight; China’s National Bureau of Statistics said that contrary to hopes that there would be a modest rebound, the average new home price in China fell at the fastest pace on record in February, from the previous year.
Reuters reported that average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities fell 5.7 percent, year to year, in February – marking the sixth consecutive drop after January’s decline of 5.1 percent.
Standard & Poor’s has just cut Greece’s credit rating to “CCC+” from “B-” with a negative outlook.
S&P said it expected Greece’s debt to be “unsustainable.” It cited the potential for dissolving liquidity in the government, banks and economy.
And according to the Financial Times, we could actually be on the verge of witnessing a Greek debt default…
Greece is preparing to take the dramatic step of declaring a debt default unless it can reach a deal with its international creditors by the end of April, according to people briefed on the radical leftist government’s thinking.
The government, which is rapidly running out of funds to pay public sector salaries and state pensions, has decided to withhold €2.5bn of payments due to the International Monetary Fund in May and June if no agreement is struck, they said.
So I hope that those that are euphoric about the performance of their stock portfolios are taking their profits while they still can.
Huge trouble is percolating just under the surface of the global economy, and it won’t be too long before the financial markets start feeling the pain.