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11 Signs That We Are Entering The Next Phase Of The Global Economic Crisis

Earth Puzzle - Public DomainWell, the Nasdaq finally did it.  It has climbed all the way back to where it was at the peak of the dotcom bubble.  Back in March 2000, the Nasdaq set an all-time record high of 5,048.62.  On Thursday, after all these years, that all-time record was finally eclipsed.  The Nasdaq closed at 5056.06, and Wall Street greatly rejoiced.  So if you invested in the Nasdaq at the peak of the dotcom bubble, you are just finally breaking even 15 years later.  Unfortunately, the truth is that stocks have not been soaring because the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong.  Just like the last two times, what we are witnessing is an irrational financial bubble.  Sometimes these irrational bubbles can last for a surprisingly long time, but in the end they always burst.  And even now there are signs of economic trouble bubbling to the surface all around us.  The following are 11 signs that we are entering the next phase of the global economic crisis…

#1 It is being projected that half of all fracking companies in the United States will be “dead or sold” by the end of this year.

#2 The rig count just continues to fall as the U.S. oil industry implodes.  Incredibly, the number of rigs in operation in the United States has fallen for 19 weeks in a row.

#3 McDonald’s has announced that it will be closing 700 “poor performing” restaurants in 2015.  Why would McDonald’s be doing this if the economy was actually getting better?

#4 As I wrote about the other day, we could be right on the verge of a Greek debt default.  In fact, we learned on Thursday that the Greek government has been “running on empty” for months…

Greece warned it will go bankrupt next week after failing to stump up enough cash to pay millions of public sector workers and its international debts.

Deputy finance minister Dimitras Mardas set alarm bells ringing yesterday when he declared the country had been ‘running on empty’ since February.

With a debt repayment deadline looming on May 1, Greece faces the deeply damaging prospect of having to snub its own employees to make a €200m payment to the International Monetary Fund.

#5 Coal accounts for approximately 40 percent of all electrical generation on the entire planet.  When the price of coal starts to drop, that is a sign that economic activity is slowing down.  Just prior to the last financial crisis in 2008, the price of coal shot up dramatically and then crashed really hard.  Well, guess what?  The price of coal has been crashing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 The price of iron ore has been crashing as well.  It is down 35 percent in the last nine months, and David Stockman believes that this is because of a major deflationary crisis that is brewing in China…

There is no better measure of the true contraction underway in China than the price of iron ore. The Wall Street stock peddlers will tell you not to be troubled by the 70% plunge from the 2012 highs and the 35% drop just in the last nine months. According to them, its all the fault of the big global miners who went overboard opening up massive new iron ore pits and mining infrastructure.

#7 At this point, China accounts for more total global trade than anyone else in the world.  That is why it is so alarming that Chinese imports and exports are both absolutely collapsing

China’s monthly trade data shows exports fell in March from a year ago by 14.6% in yuan terms, compared to expectations for a rise of more than 8%.

Imports meanwhile fell 12.3% in yuan terms compared to forecasts for a fall of more than 11%.

#8 The number of publicly traded companies in the United States that filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter of 2015 was more than double the number that filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter of 2014.

#9 New home sales in the United States just declined at their fastest pace in almost two years.

#10 U.S. manufacturing data has been shockingly weak lately…

On the heels of weak PMIs from Europe and Asia, Markit’s US Manufacturing PMI plunged to 54.2 in April (from 55.7). Against expectations of a rise to 55.6, this is the biggest miss on record. Of course, this is ‘post-weather’ so talking-heads will need to find another excuse as New Orders declined for the first time since Nov 2014.

#11 When priced according to “the average blue-collar hourly wage“, U.S. stocks are the most expensive that they have ever been in history right now.  To say that this financial bubble is overdue to burst is a massive understatement.

For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the global financial system, and I still feel that way.

But for the first four months of this year, things have been surprisingly quiet – at least on the surface.

So what is going on?

Well, I believe that what we are experiencing right now is the proverbial “calm before the storm”.  There is all sorts of turmoil brewing just beneath the surface, but for the moment things seem like they are running along just fine to most people.  Unfortunately, this period of quiet is not going to last much longer.

And those that are “in the know” are already moving their money in anticipation of what is coming.  For example, consider the words of  Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel

Fed has created abnormal market conditions by printing money and keeping interest rates low. Investors are looking for growth anywhere they can find it and tech companies are good targets – at these values, however, all tech stocks are expensive – even looking at 5+ years of revenue growth down the road. This means that most value-driven investors have left the market and the remaining 5-10%+ increase in market value will be driven by momentum investors. At some point there won’t be any momentum investors left buying at higher prices, and the market begins to tumble. May be 10-20% correction or something more significant, especially in tech stocks.

It may not happen next week, or even next month, but big financial trouble is coming.

And when it finally arrives, it is going to shock the world, even though anyone with any sense can see the coming crisis approaching from a mile away.

The Six Too Big To Fail Banks In The U.S. Have 278 TRILLION Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

Bankers - Public DomainThe very same people that caused the last economic crisis have created a 278 TRILLION dollar derivatives time bomb that could go off at any moment.  When this absolutely colossal bubble does implode, we are going to be faced with the worst economic crash in the history of the United States.  During the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would make sure that “too big to fail” would never be a problem again.  Instead, as you will see below, those banks have actually gotten far larger since then.  So now we really can’t afford for them to fail.  The six banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you add up all of their exposure to derivatives, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you add up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, these “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times greater than their total assets.  This is complete and utter insanity, and yet nobody seems too alarmed about it.  For the moment, those banks are still making lots of money and funding the campaigns of our most prominent politicians.  Right now there is no incentive for them to stop their incredibly reckless gambling so they are just going to keep on doing it.

So precisely what are “derivatives”?  Well, they can be immensely complicated, but I like to simplify things.  On a very basic level, a “derivative” is not an investment in anything.  When you buy a stock, you are purchasing an ownership interest in a company.  When you buy a bond, you are purchasing the debt of a company.  But a derivative is quite different.  In essence, most derivatives are simply bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks have transformed Wall Street into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and when things are running smoothly they usually make a whole lot of money.

But there is a fundamental flaw in the system, and I described this in a previous article

The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

Today, the “too big to fail” banks are being even more reckless than they were just prior to the financial crash of 2008.

As long as they keep winning, everyone is going to be okay.  But when the time comes that their bets start going against them, it is going to be a nightmare for all of us.  Our entire economic system is based on the flow of credit, and those banks are at the very heart of that system.

In fact, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

So that is why they are called “too big to fail”.  We simply cannot afford for them to go out of business.

As I mentioned above, our politicians promised that something would be done about this.  But instead, the four largest banks in the country have gotten nearly 40 percent larger since the last time around.  The following numbers come from an article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

During this same time period, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

So our economic system is now more dependent on the “too big to fail” banks than ever.

To illustrate how reckless the “too big to fail” banks have become, I want to share with you some brand new numbers which come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Compared to the rest of them, Wells Fargo looks extremely prudent and rational.

But of course that is not true at all.  Wells Fargo is being very reckless, but the others are being so reckless that it makes everyone else pale in comparison.

And these banks are not exactly in good shape for the next financial crisis that is rapidly approaching.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

The New York Times isn’t so sure about the results from the Federal Reserve’s latest round of stress tests.

In an editorial published over the weekend, The Times cites data from Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the FDIC, who, in contrast to the Federal Reserve, found that capital ratios at the eight largest banks in the US averaged 4.97% at the end of 2014, far lower than the 12.9% found by the Fed’s stress test.

That doesn’t sound good.

So what is up with the discrepancy in the numbers?  The New York Times explains…

The discrepancy is due mainly to differing views of the risk posed by the banks’ vast holdings of derivative contracts used for hedging and speculation. The Fed, in keeping with American accounting rules and central bank accords, assumes that gains and losses on derivatives generally net out. As a result, most derivatives do not show up as assets on banks’ balance sheets, an omission that bolsters the ratio of capital to assets.

Mr. Hoenig uses stricter international accounting rules to value the derivatives. Those rules do not assume that gains and losses reliably net out. As a result, large derivative holdings are shown as assets on the balance sheet, an addition that reduces the ratio of capital to assets to the low levels reported in Mr. Hoenig’s analysis.

Derivatives, eh?

Very interesting.

And you know what?

The guys running these big banks can see what is coming.

Just consider the words that JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon wrote to his shareholders not too long ago

Some things never change — there will be another crisis, and its impact will be felt by the financial market.

The trigger to the next crisis will not be the same as the trigger to the last one – but there will be another crisis. Triggering events could be geopolitical (the 1973 Middle East crisis), a recession where the Fed rapidly increases interest rates (the 1980-1982 recession), a commodities price collapse (oil in the late 1980s), the commercial real estate crisis (in the early 1990s), the Asian crisis (in 1997), so-called “bubbles” (the 2000 Internet bubble and the 2008 mortgage/housing bubble), etc. While the past crises had different roots (you could spend a lot of time arguing the degree to which geopolitical, economic or purely financial factors caused each crisis), they generally had a strong effect across the financial markets

In the same letter, Dimon mentioned “derivatives moved by enormous players and rapid computerized trades” as part of the reason why our system is so vulnerable to another crisis.

If this is what he truly believes, why is his firm being so incredibly reckless?

Perhaps someone should ask him that.

Interestingly, Dimon also discussed the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone

“We must be prepared for a potential exit,”  J. P. Morgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said. in his annual letter to shareholders. “We continually stress test our company for possible repercussions resulting from such an event.”

This is something that I have been warning about for a long time.

And of course Dimon is not the only prominent banker warning of big problems ahead.  German banking giant Deutsche Bank is also sounding the alarm

With a U.S. profit recession expected in the first half of 2015 and investors unlikely to pay up for stocks, the risk of a stock market drop of 5% to 10% is rising, Deutsche  Bank says.

That’s the warning Deutsche Bank market strategist David Bianco zapped out to clients today before the opening bell on Wall Street.

Bianco expects earnings for the broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to contract in the first half of 2015 — the first time that’s happened since 2009 during the financial crisis. And the combination of soft earnings and his belief that investors won’t pay top dollar for stocks in a market that is already trading at above-average valuations is a recipe for a short-term pullback on Wall Street.

The truth is that we are in the midst of a historic stock market bubble, and we are witnessing all sorts of patterns in the financial markets which also emerged back in 2008 right before the financial crash in the fall of that year.

When some of the most prominent bankers at some of the biggest banks on the entire planet start issuing ominous warnings, that is a clear sign that time is running out.  The period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fun, and hopefully it will last just a little while longer.  But at some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

 

17 Facts To Show To Anyone That Believes That The U.S. Economy Is Just Fine

17No, the economy is most definitely not “recovering”.  Despite what you may hear from the politicians and from the mainstream media, the truth is that the U.S. economy is in far worse shape than it was prior to the last recession.  In fact, we are still pretty much where we were at when the last recession finally ended.  When the financial crisis of 2008 struck, it took us down to a much lower level economically.  Thankfully, things have at least stabilized at this much lower level.  For example, the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed remarkably flat for the past four years.  We should be grateful that things have not continued to get even worse.  It is almost as if someone has hit the “pause button” on the U.S. economy.  But things are definitely not getting better, and there are a whole host of signs that this bubble of false stability will soon come to an end and that our economic decline will accelerate once again.  The following are 17 facts to show to anyone that believes that the U.S. economy is just fine…

#1 The homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

#2 Consumer spending for durable goods has dropped by 3.23 percent since November.  This is a clear sign that an economic slowdown is ahead.

#3 Major retailers are closing stores at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

#4 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of all families in the United States do not have a single member that is employed.  That means that one out of every five families in the entire country is completely unemployed.

#5 There are 1.3 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than when the last recession began in December 2007.  Meanwhile, our population has continued to grow steadily since that time.

#6 According to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, the quality of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession does not match the quality of the jobs lost during the last recession…

  • Lower-wage industries constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth.
  • Mid-wage industries constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
  • Higher-wage industries constituted 41 percent of recession losses, and 30 percent of recovery growth.

#7 After adjusting for inflation, men who work full-time in America today make less money than men who worked full-time in America 40 years ago.

#8 It is hard to believe, but 62 percent of all Americans make $20 or less an hour at this point.

#9 Nine of the top ten occupations in the U.S. pay an average wage of less than $35,000 a year.

#10 The middle class in Canada now makes more money than the middle class in the United States does.

#11 According to one recent study, 40 percent of all Americans could not come up with $2000 right now even if there was a major emergency.

#12 Less than one out of every four Americans has enough money put away to cover six months of expenses if there was a job loss or major emergency.

#13 An astounding 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit in 2014.

#14 As I wrote about the other day, there are now 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

#15 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

#16 69 percent of the federal budget is spent either on entitlements or on welfare programs.

#17 The number of Americans receiving benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million.

Taken individually, those numbers are quite remarkable.

Taken collectively, they are absolutely breathtaking.

Yes, things have been improving for the wealthy for the last several years.  The stock market has soared to new record highs and real estate prices in the Hamptons have skyrocketed to unprecedented heights.

But that is not the real economy.  In the real economy, the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.  The quality of our jobs is declining and prices just keep rising.  This reality was reflected quite well in a comment that one of my readers left on one of my recent articles

It is getting worse each passing month. The food bank I help out, has barely squeaked by the last 3 months. Donors are having to pull back, to take care of their own families. Wages down, prices up, simple math tells you we can not hold out much longer. Things are going up so fast, you have to adopt a new way of thinking. Example I just had to put new tires on my truck. Normally I would have tried to get by to next winter. But with the way prices are moving, I decide to get them while I could still afford them. It is the same way with food. I see nothing that will stop the upward trend for quite a while. So if you have a little money, and the space, buy it while you can afford it. And never forget, there will be some people worse off than you. Help them if you can.

And the false stock bubble that the wealthy are enjoying right now will not last that much longer.  It is an artificial bubble that has been pumped up by unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, and like all bubbles that the Fed creates, it will eventually burst.

None of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying our economy have been addressed, and none of our major economic problems have been fixed.  In fact, as I showed in this recent article, we are actually in far worse shape than we were just prior to the last major financial crisis.

Let us hope that this current bubble of false stability lasts for as long as possible.

That is what I am hoping for.

But let us not be deceived into thinking that it is permanent.

It will soon burst, and then the real pain will begin.

The $23 Trillion Credit Bubble In China Is Starting To Collapse – Global Financial Crisis Next?

Bubble - Photo by Jeff KubinaDid you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st?  We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“.  In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia.  And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well.  Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion.  That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years.  Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States.  So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?

The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen.  Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time.  All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads.  In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone.  That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.

Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money.  But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined.  You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here.  As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.

As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.

And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system.  The following is from a Reuters article

The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.

Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.

If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly.  A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…

A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well.  In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk.  Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both.  The result?  The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.

The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China.  According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…

And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding.  Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth.  Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct.  In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.

Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999.  That is absolutely insane.

And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting.  Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”

Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.

Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.

If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well.  At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years.  Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.

If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.

But I am not the only one talking about it.

In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…

Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.

Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.

This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.

So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.

It is just a matter of time.

The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory

Looney Tunes - Photo by Ramon F VelasquezIt is time to crank up the Looney Tunes theme song because Wall Street has officially entered crazytown territory.  Stocks just keep going higher and higher, and at this point what is happening in the stock market does not bear any resemblance to what is going on in the overall economy whatsoever.  So how long can this irrational state of affairs possibly continue?  Stocks seem to go up no matter what happens.  If there is good news, stocks go up.  If there is bad news, stocks go up.  If there is no news, stocks go up.  On Thursday, the day after Christmas, the Dow was up another 122 points to another new all-time record high.  In fact, the Dow has had an astonishing 50 record high closes this year.  This reminds me of the kind of euphoria that we witnessed during the peak of the housing bubble.  At the time, housing prices just kept going higher and higher and everyone rushed to buy before they were “priced out of the market”.  But we all know how that ended, and this stock market bubble is headed for a similar ending.

It is almost as if Wall Street has not learned any lessons from the last two major stock market crashes at all.  Just look at Twitter.  At the current price, Twitter is supposedly worth 40.7 BILLION dollars.  But Twitter is not profitable.  It is a seven-year-old company that has never made a single dollar of profit.

Not one single dollar.

In fact, Twitter actually lost 64.6 million dollars last quarter alone.  And Twitter is expected to continue losing money for all of 2015 as well.

But Twitter stock is up 82 percent over the last 30 days, and nobody can really give a rational reason for why this is happening.

Overall, the Dow is up more than 25 percent so far this year.  Unless something really weird happens over the next few days, it will be the best year for the Dow since 1996.

It has been a wonderful run for Wall Street.  Unfortunately, there are a whole host of signs that we have entered very dangerous territory.

The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before.  In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks.  These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.

And of course the most troubling sign is that even as the stock market soars to unprecedented heights, the state of the overall U.S. economy is actually getting worse…

-During the last full week before Christmas, U.S. store visits were 21 percent lower than a year earlier and retail sales were 3.1 percent lower than a year earlier.

-The number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low.

-The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries just hit 3 percent.

For many more signs like this, please see my previous article entitled “37 Reasons Why ‘The Economic Recovery Of 2013’ Is A Giant Lie“.

And most Americans don’t realize this, but the U.S. financial system and the overall U.S. economy are now in much weaker condition than they were the last time we had a major financial crash back in 2008.  Employment is at a much lower level than it was back then and our banking system is much more vulnerable than it was back then.  Just before the last financial crash, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 10 trillion dollars, but today it has risen to more than 17.2 trillion dollars.  The following excerpt from a recent article posted on thedailycrux.com contains even more facts and figures which show how our “balance sheet numbers” continue to get even worse…

Since the fourth quarter of 2009, the U.S. current account deficit has been more than $100 billion per quarter. As a result, foreigners now own $4.2 trillion more U.S. investment assets than we own abroad. That’s $1.7 trillion more than when Buffett first warned about this huge problem in 2003. Said another way, the problem is 68% bigger now.

And here’s a number no one else will tell you – not even Buffett. Foreigners now own $25 trillion in U.S. assets. And yet… we continue to consume far more than we produce, and we borrow massively to finance our deficits.

Since 2007, the total government debt in the U.S. (federal, state, and local) has doubled from around $10 trillion to $20 trillion.

Meanwhile, the size of Fannie and Freddie’s mortgage book declined slightly since 2007, falling from $4.9 trillion to $4.6 trillion. That’s some good news, right?

Nope. The excesses just moved to a new agency. The “other” federal mortgage bank, the Federal Housing Administration, now is originating 20% of all mortgages in the U.S., up from less than 5% in 2007.

Student debt, also spurred on by government guarantees, has also boomed, doubling since 2007 to more than $1 trillion. Altogether, total debt in our economy has grown from around $50 trillion to more than $60 trillion since 2007.

So don’t be fooled by this irrational stock market bubble.

Just because a bunch of half-crazed investors are going into massive amounts of debt in a desperate attempt to make a quick buck does not mean that the overall economy is in good shape.

In fact, much of the country is in such rough shape that “reverse shopping” has become a huge trend.  Even big corporations such as McDonald’s are urging their employees to return their Christmas gifts in order to bring in some much needed money…

In a stark reminder of how tough things still are for low-income families in America, McDonalds has advised workers to dig themselves “out of holiday debt” by cashing in their Christmas haul.

“You may want to consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did,” said a website set up for employees.

“Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

This irrational stock market bubble is not going to last for too much longer.  And a lot of top financial experts are now warning their clients to prepare for the worst.  For example, David John Marotta of Marotta Wealth Management recently told his clients that they should all have a “bug-out bag” that contains food, a gun and some ammunition…

A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won’t result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

So what do you think is coming in 2014?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

America’s Bubble Economy Is Going To Become An Economic Black Hole

Black HoleWhat is going to happen when the greatest economic bubble in the history of the world pops?  The mainstream media never talks about that.  They are much too busy covering the latest dogfights in Washington and what Justin Bieber has been up to.  And most Americans seem to think that if the Dow keeps setting new all-time highs that everything must be okay.  Sadly, that is not the case at all.  Right now, the U.S. economy is exhibiting all of the classic symptoms of a bubble economy.  You can see this when you step back and take a longer-term view of things.  Over the past decade, we have added more than 10 trillion dollars to the national debt.  But most Americans have shown very little concern as the balance on our national credit card has soared from 6 trillion dollars to nearly 17 trillion dollars.  Meanwhile, Wall Street has been transformed into the biggest casino on the planet, and much of the new money that the Federal Reserve has been recklessly printing up has gone into stocks.  But the Dow does not keep setting new records because the underlying economic fundamentals are good.  Rather, the reckless euphoria that we are seeing in the financial markets right now reminds me very much of 1929.  Margin debt is absolutely soaring, and every time that happens a crash rapidly follows.  But this time when a crash happens it could very well be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.  The top 25 U.S. banks have more than 212 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives combined, and when that house of cards comes crashing down there is no way that anyone will be able to prop it back up.  After all, U.S. GDP for an entire year is only a bit more than 15 trillion dollars.

But most Americans are only focused on the short-term because the mainstream media is only focused on the short-term.  Things are good this week and things were good last week, so there is nothing to worry about, right?

Unfortunately, economic reality is not going to change even if all of us try to ignore it.  Those that are willing to take an honest look at what is coming down the road are very troubled.  For example, Bill Gross of PIMCO says that his firm sees “bubbles everywhere”…

We see bubbles everywhere, and that is not to be dramatic and not to suggest they will pop immediately. I just suggested in the bond market with a bubble in treasuries and bubble in narrow credit spreads and high-yield prices, that perhaps there is a significant distortion there. Having said that, it suggests that as long as the FED and Bank of Japan and other Central Banks keep writing checks and do not withdraw, then the bubble can be supported as in blowing bubbles. They are blowing bubbles. When that stops there will be repercussions.

And unfortunately, it is not just the United States that has a bubble economy.  In fact, the gigantic financial bubble over in Japan may burst before our own financial bubble does.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

First and foremost, Japan is the second largest bond market in the world. If Japan’s sovereign bonds continue to fall, pushing rates higher, then there has been a tectonic shift in the global financial system. Remember the impact that Greece had on asset prices? Greece’s bond market is less than 3% of Japan’s in size.

For multiple decades, Japanese bonds have been considered “risk free.” As a result of this, investors have been willing to lend money to Japan at extremely low rates. This has allowed Japan’s economy, the second largest in the world, to putter along marginally.

So if Japanese bonds begin to implode, this means that:

1)   The second largest bond market in the world is entering a bear market (along with commensurate liquidations and redemptions by institutional investors around the globe).

2)   The second largest economy in the world will collapse (along with the impact on global exports).

Both of these are truly epic problems for the financial system.

And of course the entire global financial system is a giant bundle of debt, risk and leverage at this point.  We have never seen anything like this in world history.  When you step back and take a good, hard look at the numbers, they truly are staggering.  The following statistics are from one of my previous articles entitled “Why Is The World Economy Doomed? The Global Financial Pyramid Scheme By The Numbers“…

$70,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of total world GDP.

$190,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of the total amount of debt in the entire world.  It has nearly doubled in size over the past decade.

$212,525,587,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the notional value of the derivatives that are being held by the top 25 banks in the United States.  But those banks only have total assets of about 8.9 trillion dollars combined.  In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 24 to 1.

$600,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives generally fall within this range.  At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives to global GDP is more than 21 to 1.

The financial meltdown that happened back in 2008 should have been a wake up call for the nations of the world.  They should have corrected the mistakes that happened so that nothing like that would ever happen again.  Unfortunately, nothing was fixed.  Instead, our politicians and the central bankers became obsessed with reinflating the system.  They piled up even more debt, recklessly printed tons of money and kicked the can down the road for a few years.  In the process, they made our long-term problems even worse.  The following is a recent quote from John Williams of shadowstats.com

The economic and systemic solvency crises of the last eight years continue. There never was an actual recovery following the economic downturn that began in 2006 and collapsed into 2008 and 2009. What followed was a protracted period of business stagnation that began to turn down anew in second- and third-quarter 2012. The official recovery seen in GDP has been a statistical illusion generated by the use of understated inflation in calculating key economic series (see Public Comment on Inflation). Nonetheless, given the nature of official reporting, the renewed downturn likely will gain recognition as the second-dip in a double- or multiple-dip recession.

What continues to unfold in the systemic and economic crises is just an ongoing part of the 2008 turmoil. All the extraordinary actions and interventions bought a little time, but they did not resolve the various crises. That the crises continue can be seen in deteriorating economic activity and in the panicked actions by the Federal Reserve, where it proactively is monetizing U.S. Treasury debt at a pace suggestive of a Treasury that is unable to borrow otherwise.

And there are already lots of signs that the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.

For example, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

Would revenues at Wal-Mart be falling if the economy was getting better?

U.S. jobless claims hit a six week high last week.  We aren’t in the danger zone yet, but once they hit 400,000 that will be a major red flag.

And even though we are still in the “good times” relatively speaking, the federal government is already talking about tightening welfare programs.  In fact, there are proposals in Congress right now to make significant cuts to the food stamp program.

If food stamps and other welfare programs get cut, that is going to make a lot of people very, very angry.  And that anger and frustration will get even worse when the next economic downturn strikes and millions of people start losing their jobs and their homes.

What we are witnessing right now is the calm before the storm.  Let us hope that it lasts for as long as possible so that we can have more time to prepare.

Unfortunately, this bubble of false hope will not last forever.  At some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

10 Scenes From The Economic Collapse That Is Sweeping Across The Planet

Earth From SpaceWhen is the economic collapse going to happen?  Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe.  The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet.  Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day.  Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay.  Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts.  The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.  I hope that you are ready.

The following are 10 scenes from the economic collapse that is sweeping across the planet…

#1 27 Percent Unemployment/60 Percent Youth Unemployment In Greece

The economic depression in Europe just continues to get worse with each passing month.  According to the Daily Mail, the unemployment rate in Greece has nearly tripled since 2009…

Greek youth unemployment rose above 60 per cent for the first time in February, reflecting the pain caused by the country’s crippling recession after years of austerity under its international bailout.

Greece’s jobless rate has almost tripled since the country’s debt crisis emerged in 2009 and was more than twice the euro zone’s average unemployment reading of 12.1 percent in March.

While the overall unemployment rate rose to 27 per cent, according to statistics service data released on Thursday, joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 jumped to 64.2 percent in February from 59.3 percent in January.

#2 Detroit, Michigan Is Insolvent And Is Rapidly Running Out Of Cash

I love to write about Detroit because it is a perfect example of where the rest of the country is headed.  They have just gotten there first.  At this point, Detroit is essentially bankrupt, and the new emergency financial manager is saying that Detroit may totally run out of cash next month

Detroit may run out of cash next month and must cut long-term debt and retiree obligations, according to emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr’s preliminary plan to save Michigan’s largest city from bankruptcy.

Orr’s report says the cost of $9.4 billion in bond, pension and other long-term liabilities is sapping the ability to provide public safety and transportation. He listed cutting debt principal, retiree benefits and jobs among his options.

“No one should underestimate the severity of the financial crisis,” Orr said yesterday in a statement. He called his report “a sobering wake-up call about the dire financial straits the city of Detroit faces.”

#3 Economic Despair In France

France is going down the same path that Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy have gone.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Economist

HELDER PEREIRA is a young man with no work and few prospects: a 21-year-old who failed to graduate from high school and lost his job on a building site four months ago. With his savings about to run out, he has come to his local employment centre in the Paris suburb of Sevran to sign on for benefits and to get help finding something to do. He’ll get the cash. Work is another matter. Youth unemployment in Sevran is over 40%.

#4 7,000 Abandoned Buildings In Dayton, Ohio

All over the upper Midwest, there are formerly great cities that are dealing with thousands of abandoned buildings.  Dayton, Ohio is one example…

Like many urban cities in recent years, Dayton still finds itself knee-deep in abandoned, dilapidated properties as the result of the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn five years ago.

Boarded up buildings that appear to be on their last legs litter the city as it attempts to recover.

Kevin Powell, the city’s acting manager of housing inspection, says officials plan to use $5.2 million — half from the state’s Moving Ohio Forward program and a matching grant from the city’s general fund — to raze 475 abandoned properties by the end of September.

That will scratch the surface of an estimated 7,000 abandoned property problem that is growing.

#5 Overwhelmed By Squatters In Spain

In Spain, unemployment is rampant and people have become incredibly desperate.  In fact, in some Spanish cities you can now find entire apartment buildings that are being overwhelmed by squatters

A 285-unit apartment complex in Parla, less than half an hour’s drive from Madrid, should be an ideal target for investors seeking cheap property in Spain. Unfortunately, two thirds of the building generates zero revenue because it’s overrun by squatters.

“This is happening all over the country,” said Jose Maria Fraile, the town’s mayor, who estimates only 100 apartments in the block built for the council have rental contracts, and not all of those tenants are paying either. “People lost their jobs, they can’t pay mortgages or rent so they lost their homes and this has produced a tide of squatters.”

#6 The Collapse Of Chinese Power Consumption

Energy consumption tends to closely mirror economic activity.  That is why the recent collapse of Chinese power consumption is so alarming.  The following is from Zero Hedge

According to CLSA’s Chris Wood using NEA data, China’s monthly power consumption (the most accurate proxy for underlying economic strength according to the current premier) growth slowed from 5.5% YoY in Jan-Feb 2013 to 1.9% YoY in March, the slowest growth rate since May 2009 (as discussed in-depth here).

#7 Horrible Economic Data Coming Out Of The Second Largest Economy On The Planet

The economic data that has been coming out of the second largest economy on the globe has been quite alarming recently…

For starters, China’s recent economic data, as massaged as it is to the upside, is downright awful. China’s PMI numbers were the worst in two years. Staffing levels in the Chinese service sector decreased for the first time since January 2009 (remember that year).

China’s LEI also shows no sign of recovery. If anything, it indicates China is heading towards an economic slowdown on par with that of 2008. And if you account for the rampant debt fueling China’s economy you could easily argue that China is posting 0% GDP growth today.

#8 One Out Of Every Five U.S. Households On Food Stamps

Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, even though we are supposedly in the midst of an “economic recovery”, food stamp enrollment continues to soar to new highs.  The following is from CNS News

The most recent Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) statistics of the number of households receiving food stamps shows that 23,087,886 households participated in January 2013 – an increase of 889,154 families from January 2012 when the number of households totaled 22,188,732.

The most recent statistics from the United States Census Bureau– from December 2012– puts the number of households in the United States at 115,310,000. If you divide 115,310,000 by 23,087,866, that equals one out of every five households now receiving food stamps.

#9 Child Hunger In America

Those that work for the big banks on Wall Street may have no problems feeding their children, but overall there is a rapidly growing child hunger crisis in America today.  Just check out the following statistics from one of my previous articles

*For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

*In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.

*In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.

*According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

#10 The Tremendous Suffering Of Hundreds Of Millions Of Desperately Poor People That We Never Hear About

There are billions of people around the globe that are deeply suffering but that do not have a voice.  We usually never hear about the desperate poverty that these people are living in, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.  The following statistics that Stephen Lendman recently compiled should shock and alarm you…

At least 80% live on less than $10 a day. Over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 80% live in countries where income disparity is increasing.

The poorest 40% of world population has 5% of global income. The bottom fifth has $1.5%. The top 20% has 75%.

According to UNICEF, 22,000 impoverished children die daily. They “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

An estimated 28% of children in developing countries are underweight, malnourished and/or stunted.

How can so many people be living like that in a world with such wealth?

Sadly, things are going to get much worse.  The economic and financial systems of the world are rapidly breaking down, and in a few years these are going to look like “the good old days”.

And a growing number of people are starting to realize the direction that things are headed.  For example, according to a survey that has just been released, 48 percent of all Americans believe that the best days of America are now behind us.

So what do you think?

Are our best days behind us, or are they still ahead of us?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

The Dow Hits An All-Time High! Translation: A Bubble Is Always Biggest Right Before It Bursts

The Dow Hits An All-Time High! Translation: A Bubble Is Always Biggest Right Before It Bursts - Photo by KazekiReckless money printing by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pumped up the Dow to a brand new all-time high.  So what comes next?  Will the Dow go even higher?  Hopefully it will.  In fact, it would be great if the Dow was able to hit 15,000 before it finally came crashing down.  That would give all of us some more time to prepare for the nightmarish economic crisis that is rapidly approaching.  As you will see below, the U.S. economy is in far, far worse shape than it was the last time the Dow reached a record high back in 2007.  In addition, all of the long-term trends that are ripping our economy to shreds just continue to get even worse and our debt just continues to explode.  Unfortunately, the Dow has become completely divorced from economic reality in recent years because of Fed manipulation.  All of this funny money that the Federal Reserve has been cranking out has made the wealthy even wealthier, but this bubble will not last for too much longer.  What goes up must come down.  And remember, a bubble is always biggest right before it bursts.

Fortunately, it looks like an increasing number of people out there are starting to recognize that the primary reason why stocks have been going up is because of the Fed.  Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by the USA Today editorial board

The Federal Reserve’s purchases have driven interest rates to near zero. This has stimulated the economy but not without cost. Savers, particularly older ones trying to live on income from their investments, are starved for safe options. They’ve been forced into stocks, which is one reason the market has been acting as if it’s on steroids. Further, with borrowing costs low, Congress and the White House have less incentive to rein in the national debt. Rock-bottom interest rates have also distorted markets.

The best indication that the Fed’s bond-buying purchases are pushing stocks up artificially is that investors run for cover whenever there is a hint that the Fed might change course, as happened recently. On Monday, billionaire superinvestor Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett told CNBC that markets are on a “hair trigger” waiting for signs of change from the Fed. The market is “hooked on the drug” of easy money, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told Reuters.

Fisher’s comparison of Fed policies to a drug is apt. Markets might not like the idea of the drug being withdrawn now, when the Fed holds a portfolio of $3 trillion. But the withdrawal symptoms will be a lot worse once the portfolio grows to $4 trillion, or more.

Those sentiments were echoed by Gordon Charlop, a trader at Rosenblatt Securities, during a recent appearance on CNBC…

“The Wizard of the Fed, Ben [Bernanke], has done a great job propping up the market, but the question is how does the wizard move the pin from the balloon without blowing the whole thing up?” said Charlop. “This is getting out of balance and he’s got to figure out a way to justify the levels that we’ve gotten to and draw back on some of the stimulus.”

Of course, in the end, the bursting of this bubble is going to be very messy.

The Fed has dramatically distorted the market in an attempt to make things look good, but now the financial markets are completely and totally addicted to easy money.  Is there any chance that the Fed will be able to take away that easy money without causing disaster?

There are only a few ways that this current scenario can play out.  The following is what Stanley Druckenmiller recently told CNBC

I don’t know when it’s going to end, but my guess is, it’s going to end very badly; and it’s going to end very badly because, again, when you get the biggest price in the world, interest rates, being manipulated you get a misallocation of resources and this is going to end in one of two ways – with a malinvestment bust which we got in ’07-’08 (we didn’t get inflation). We got a malinvestment bust because of the bubble that was created in housing. Or it could end with just monetizing the debt and off we go in inflation. So that’s a very binary outcome – they’re both bad.”

What the Fed has done to the money supply in recent years has been absolutely unprecedented.  Just check out how our money supply has skyrocketed since the last financial crisis…

M1 Money Supply

So what happens when the amount of money in an economy rises rapidly?

Well, if I remember Econ 101 correctly, that would mean that prices should go up.

And that is exactly what has happened.  And since most of the money that the Fed has created has gone into the financial system first, it should not be a surprise that we have seen a bubble in financial assets.

In a previous article that I wrote last September, I warned that QE3 would cause stocks to go up…

So what have the previous rounds of quantitative easing accomplished?  Well, they have driven up the prices of financial assets.  Those that own stocks have done very well the past couple of years.  So who owns stocks?  The wealthy do.  In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.  Those that have invested in commodities have also done very nicely in recent years.  We have seen gold, silver, oil and agricultural commodities all do very well.  But that also means that average Americans are paying more for basic necessities such as food and gasoline.  So the first two rounds of quantitative easing made the wealthy even wealthier while causing living standards to fall for all the rest of us.  Is there any reason to believe that QE3 will be any different?

Of course not.

So will stocks continue to go up indefinitely?

No way.

As I have also written about previously, the money printing that the Fed is doing right now is not nearly enough to stop the mammoth derivatives crisis that is coming.

A derivatives crisis was one of the primary reasons for the financial crash of 2008, but most Americans still have no idea what derivatives are.

They can be very complex, but I think that it is easiest just to think of them as side bets.

When someone buys a derivative, they are not buying anything real.  They are simply betting that something will or will not happen.

For example, if you bet $100 that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year, would you be “investing” in anything real?

Of course not.

Well, it is the same with most derivatives.

Today, Wall Street has become the biggest casino in the entire world and trillions of dollars of very reckless bets have been made.

In fact, most Americans would be absolutely shocked to learn how exposed to derivatives some of our largest financial institutions are.  The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles entitled “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“…

It would be hard to overstate the recklessness of these banks.  The numbers that you are about to see are absolutely jaw-dropping.  According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

When the derivatives crash happens, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

So enjoy this little stock market bubble while you can.

It will end soon enough.

And of course stocks should not be this high in the first place.  The underlying economic fundamentals do not justify these kinds of stock prices whatsoever.

A recent CNN article noted that the last time the Dow hit a record high that unemployment in the U.S. was much lower…

Consider this. When the Dow hit its now old record high back in October 2007, the economy was still in good shape — although it was just a few months away from the beginning of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate in October 2007 was 4.7%. In January of this year, the unemployment rate was 7.9%.

And that same article also pointed out that GDP growth and housing prices were also much stronger back in 2007…

Gross domestic product grew 3% in the third quarter of 2007. Revised figures from the government last week showed that GDP in the fourth quarter of 2012 rose a scant 0.1%. But I guess that’s good news considering the first estimate showed a 0.1% decline.

And despite all the hoopla about the steady recovery in the housing market over the past year, real estate is still in a bear market. The most recent level of the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, one of the most widely watched gauges of the health of housing, is still 24% below where it was in October 2007.

We have never even come close to recovering from the last economic crisis.  Most Americans seem to have forgotten how good things were back then, but a recent Zero Hedge article included some more points of comparison between October 2007 and today…

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: Then 14164.5; Now 14164.5
  • Regular Gas Price: Then $2.75; Now $3.73
  • GDP Growth: Then +2.5%; Now +1.6%
  • Americans Unemployed (in Labor Force): Then 6.7 million; Now 13.2 million
  • Americans On Food Stamps: Then 26.9 million; Now 47.69 million
  • Size of Fed’s Balance Sheet: Then $0.89 trillion; Now $3.01 trillion
  • US Debt as a Percentage of GDP: Then ~38%; Now 74.2%
  • US Deficit (LTM): Then $97 billion; Now $975.6 billion
  • Total US Debt Oustanding: Then $9.008 trillion; Now $16.43 trillion
  • US Household Debt: Then $13.5 trillion; Now 12.87 trillion
  • Labor Force Particpation Rate: Then 65.8%; Now 63.6%
  • Consumer Confidence: Then 99.5; Now 69.6

And of course anyone that reads my site regularly knows that the U.S. economy has been in a state of persistent decline over the past several years.

Just consider the following data points…

-The percentage of the civilian labor force in the United States that is actually employed has been steadily declining every single year since 2006.

-In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

-According to one study, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

-Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 during that time span.

-At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

That is the other side of the Fed’s insidious money printing.  Incomes in the United States are going down, but the cost of living is skyrocketing.  This is squeezing millions of Americans out of the middle class

When Debbie Bruister buys a gallon of milk at her local Kroger supermarket, she pays $3.69, up 70 cents from what she paid last year.

Getting to the store costs more, too. Gas in Corinth, Miss., her hometown, costs $3.51 a gallon now, compared to less than three bucks in 2012. That really hurts, considering her husband’s 112-mile daily round-trip commute to his job as a pharmacist.

Perhaps you can identify with this.  Perhaps your paychecks are about the same as they used to be back in 2007 but the cost of living has gone up dramatically since then.

I wish I could tell you that things were going to get better, but unfortunately there are all kinds of indications that things are about to get even worse for the U.S. economy.  If you doubt this, just read this article and this article.

Yes, the Dow is at an all-time high.  But do you want to know what else has hit an all-time high up in New York?

Homelessness.

The following is from a recent report in the New York Times

An average of more than 50,000 people slept each night in New York City’s homeless shelters for the first time in January, a record that underscores an unsettling national trend: a rising number of families without permanent housing.

And apparently families and children have been hit particularly hard over the past year…

More than 21,000 children—an unprecedented 1% of the city’s youth—slept each night in a city shelter in January, an increase of 22% in the past year, the report said, while homeless families now spend more than a year in a shelter, on average, for the first time since 1987. In January, an average of 11,984 homeless families slept in shelters each night, a rise of 18% from a year earlier.

Of course New York is far from alone.  There has been a surge in homelessness all over the United States.  In fact, at this point more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history.

But the Dow just hit a record high so we should all be wildly happy, right?

Hopefully we can get more Americans to understand that the “prosperity” that we are enjoying right now is just an illusion.  It isn’t real.  It is a bubble created by reckless money printing by the Fed and reckless borrowing by the U.S. government.  If you can believe it, the U.S. government borrowed another 253 billion dollars during the month of February alone.

The Fed and the U.S. government will continue to engage in this kind of reckless behavior until the bubble eventually bursts.

So what should all the rest of us do?

We should be feverishly preparing for the hard times that are coming.  As Daisy Luther recently wrote about, one of the most important things to do is to create an emergency fund.  Instead of going out and blowing your money on the latest toys and gadgets, set some money aside so that you will have something to live on if the economy crashes and you suddenly lose your income.

Just remember what happened back in 2008.  Millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because many of them had no financial reserves, a lot of Americans suddenly could not pay their mortgages and they lost their homes.

So put some money away in a place where it will be safe – and that does not mean the stock market.

Jim Cramer of CNBC and a lot of the other talking heads on the financial news channels are trying to encourage ordinary Americans to jump into “the bull market” right now and make some money, and many people will take their advice.

But the truth is that a bubble is always biggest right before it bursts.

This bubble is awfully big right now, and I don’t know how much larger it can possibly get.

Stock Market Bubble

UNSUSTAINABLE

When it comes to explaining the problems with our economy, one of the hardest things to do is to get people to understand that we are living in an economic fantasy world that is completely and totally unsustainable.  As a nation we consume far more than we produce, we spend far more than we bring in, our debt is growing much faster than our GDP is, our entitlement programs are growing at an exponential rate, our retirement system is a Ponzi scheme and the Federal Reserve is printing money as if there is no tomorrow in a desperate attempt to paper over all of our problems.  But we have all grown so accustomed to the debt-fueled prosperity that we have been enjoying for so many decades that it actually feels “real” to most of us.  Unfortunately, history has shown us that it is simply not possible to grow your debt faster than your economy indefinitely.  At some point your consumption will drop back to a level more equal to your production.    Sometimes that adjustment can be gradual, but other times it can be extremely painful.  In our case, we have been living way above our means for so long that it would take a major economic miracle just to keep our adjustment to an “exceedingly painful” level.  We are living in the largest debt-fueled prosperity bubble in the history of the world, and our unsustainable economy is going to crash and burn at some point.  Hopefully it will be later rather than sooner, but a crash is most definitely coming.

The following are some of the reasons why the bubble economy that we are living in right now is unsustainable….

The Trade Deficit

Most Americans do not really understand what a “trade deficit” is, but it is at the very core of our economic problems.

Basically, we buy far more stuff from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  We send them huge piles of our money, and they send us oil that we burn in our cars and cheap plastic products that we end up throwing away.  We keep doing this month after month after month, and this is systematically making us poorer as a nation.

In 2012, it is being projected that our trade deficit will fall somewhere between 500 billion and 600 billion dollars.

At this point, the United States has a trade imbalance that is more than 7 times larger than any other nation on earth has.

Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975.

Instead of going out of the country, those 8 trillion dollars could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers.  In turn, taxes would have been paid on those 8 trillion dollars and our debt problems would not be nearly as dramatic today.

But we didn’t do that.

We chose to allow tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth to leave the country.

Stupid move, eh?

But both political parties have been endlessly pushing the “free trade” agenda.  They have both promised that it would bring us tremendous prosperity.

Well, just take a look at our formerly great manufacturing cities today.  Do they look prosperous to you?

It turns out that Ross Perot was right when he warned about the “giant sucking sound” that would happen if NAFTA was implemented.

When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.  By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.

That didn’t work out so well, did it?

What about opening up trade with China?

Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately 6 million dollars (million with a little “m”) for the entire year.

In 2011, our trade deficit with China was 295.4 billion dollars.  That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

Our trade with China is tremendously unbalanced.  Today, U.S. consumers spend approximately 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that Chinese consumers spend on goods and services from the United States.

This is a huge reason why shiny new factories are going up all over China, and our blue collar cities are turning into rotting war zones filled with unemployed people.

If you can believe it, the United States has actually lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

Until we fix the trade deficit we are going to continue bleeding factories, jobs and national wealth at an astounding pace.

The National Debt

It is being projected that U.S. GDP will grow at a rate of about 2.2 percent this year.

The problem is that our federal budget deficit will be somewhere around 7 percent of GDP this year.

With each passing day we are losing ground.  No other nation on earth has been able to run up debt like this indefinitely, and neither will we.

Does this chart look like a healthy situation to you?….

Sadly, all of this government debt is just about the only thing holding up our economy at this point.  Since Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by about 5.5 trillion dollars.  Of course the Obama administration has spent a lot of that money on incredibly stupid stuff, but it still gets into the pockets of average Americans that in turn spend it on food, gas, mortgage payments, etc.

If we could go back in time and suck that 5.5 trillion dollars of extra spending out of the economy we would be in a horrible economic depression right now.

But that does not mean that borrowing and spending all of that money was the right thing to do.  We have stolen it from our children and our grandchildren and we are going to stick them with the bill.

That is highly immoral and it is a national disgrace.

Yet we continue to do it because we can’t help ourselves.  We are ruining the future of this nation in order to make the present more pleasant for ourselves.

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. national debt jumped more on the very first day of fiscal year 2013 than it did from 1776 to 1941 combined.

We are completely addicted to debt and we can’t stop.  We know that we are destroying the future of the United States but we have absolutely no self-discipline.

By the end of Barack Obama’s first term, the U.S. government will have accumulated more debt during those four years than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

But most Americans seem fine with that.

Most Americans don’t even really know why this is happening, and most don’t really seem too concerned about finding out.  They just want the good times to continue to roll.

Sadly, the truth is that our financial system is designed to create government debt.  It is one of the primary purposes of the Federal Reserve system.

At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

So I guess you could say that the Federal Reserve is doing a good job of what it was designed to do.

And until we change the system things are going to continue to get worse until the entire system collapses.

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that we are basically facing financial armageddon if something is not done.  Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”.  His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the United States is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.

Where in the world are we going to get an extra 222 trillion dollars?

Entitlements

Every society needs a safety net, but we are rapidly getting to the point where there are going to be more Americans on the safety net than there are Americans supporting it.

Back in 1983, less than 30 percent of all Americans lived in a home where at least one person received financial assistance from the federal government.

Today, that number is up to an all-time record of 49 percent.

Many people don’t believe me when I tell them that more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government right now, and that does not even count Social Security or Medicare.

But it is actually true.

Overall, there are nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” that the federal government is currently running.

But of course the biggest financial burdens are Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.  All three are on course to become completely and totally unsustainable.

For example, the number of Americans on Medicaid soared from 34 million in 2000 to 54 million in 2011, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

Ouch.

Well, what about Medicare?

Sadly, Medicare is even more frightening.

As I wrote recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can we afford that?

At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.

Are you ready to contribute your share?

Social Security is in really bad shape as well.

At the moment, approximately 56 million Americans are collecting Social Security benefits.

By 2035, that number is projected to soar to a whopping 91 million.

Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

Where are we going to get that money?

Total Debt

Of course the national debt is not out only debt problem.  All over the country there are state and local governments that are on the verge of insolvency.  Corporations and financial institutions are leveraged like crazy.  And of course consumers have absolutely gorged on debt over the past several decades.

As a result, we are drowning in debt from sea to shining sea.

The good news is that our GDP is more than 12 times larger than it was 40 years ago.

The bad news is that the total amount of debt in our country is more than 30 times larger than it was 40 years ago….

Obviously this is something that cannot go on forever.

We simply cannot keep accumulating debt much faster than our economy is growing.

Nobody knows exactly when the “adjustment” is coming, but it most definitely will arrive at some point.

Money Printing

The Federal Reserve has attempted to monetize many of our economic problems by printing gigantic mountains of money in recent years.

The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems, but most Americans don’t realize this.  It was the Federal Reserve that created the conditions for the housing bubble, and it was the Federal Reserve that badly mismanaged the response when that bubble burst.  The Federal Reserve decides how much money will be printed and what our interest rates will be.  The Federal Reserve lends out trillions of dollars to the banks that they like, and other banks they let die.  The Federal Reserve picks winners and losers in our economy, and most of the time that means good things for the big Wall Street banks and bad things for the rest of us.

In a desperate attempt to keep our unsustainable financial system from collapsing, the Federal Reserve has decided to start printing unprecedented amounts of money.  Just look at what this has done to the monetary base….

And QE3 really hasn’t even started to kick in yet.

So how bad will that chart look after QE3 has been adding another 40 billion dollars a month to the financial system for a while?

You know, the Weimar Republic was absolutely convinced that they were doing the right thing by printing lots of money too.

But in the end that didn’t work out very well for them at all….

So should we really be celebrating the fact that the Federal Reserve is going down the same path that the Weimar Republic did?

Demonocracy has released a great new graphic that does a wonderful job of illustrating just how huge the amounts of money involved in QE3 are going to be.  If you have not seen it yet, you can view the graphic right here.

The rest of the world is watching the games that we are playing with our currency.  Right now we think that we are getting away with it, but what we are doing is not sustainable.  At some point the rest of the world will totally lose confidence in the U.S. dollar, and when that happens the U.S. dollar could easily lose its status as the primary reserve currency of the world.

If that were to happen the coming shift in our standard of living would happen much more rapidly.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  We need to wake people up and get them to understand how incredibly vulnerable our financial system really is.  We are on a path that is unsustainable any way that you want to look at it, and if something dramatic is not done our economy is going to experience an unprecedented collapse.

So what happens if nothing is done and everything crashes all around us?

Well, I hope that you are prepared because it isn’t going to be pretty.

Finca Bayano

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