We continue to get more evidence that the U.S. economy has entered a major downturn. Just last week, I wrote about how U.S. GDP growth numbers have been declining for three quarters in a row, and previously I wrote about how corporate defaults have surged to their highest level since the last financial crisis. Well, now we are getting some very depressing numbers from the rail industry. As you will see below, U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago in April. That is an absolutely catastrophic number, and the U.S. rail industry is feeling an enormous amount of pain right now. This also tells us that “the real economy” is really slowing down, because less stuff is being shipped by rail all over the nation.
One of the economic commentators that I have really come to respect is Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com. He has a really sharp eye for what is really going on in the economy and in the financial world, and I find myself quoting him more and more as time goes by. If you have not checked out his site yet, I very much encourage you to do so.
On Wednesday, he posted a very alarming article about what is happening to our rail industry. The kinds of numbers that we have been seeing recently are the kinds of numbers that we would expect if an economic depression was starting. The following is an excerpt from that article…
Total US rail traffic in April plunged 11.8% from a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported today. Carloads of bulk commodities such as coal, oil, grains, and chemicals plummeted 16.1% to 944,339 units.
The coal industry is in a horrible condition and cannot compete with US natural gas at current prices. Coal-fired power plants are being retired. Demand for steam coal is plunging. Major US coal miners – even the largest one – are now bankrupt. So in April, carloads of coal plummeted 40% from the already beaten-down levels a year ago.
Because rail traffic is down so dramatically, many operators have large numbers of engines that are just sitting around collecting dust. In his article, Wolf Richter shared photographs from Google Earth that show some of the 292 Union Pacific engines that are sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing. The following is one of those photographs…
As Wolf Richter pointed out, it costs a lot of money for these engines to just sit there doing nothing…
These engines are expensive pieces of equipment. When they just sit there, not pulling trains, they become “overcapacity,” and they get very expensive. Then there are engineers and other personnel who suddenly become unproductive. Some of them have already been laid off or are getting laid off.
All over the world, similar numbers are coming in. For example, the Baltic Dry Index fell 30 more points on Wednesday after falling 21 on Tuesday. Global trade is really, really slowing down during the early portion of 2016. What this means on a practical level is that a lot less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to deny that a new global recession has begun, and at this moment we are only in the very early chapters of this new crisis.
Another thing that I watch very closely is the velocity of money. When an economy is healthy, people feel pretty good about things and money tends to circulate fairly rapidly. For example, I may buy something from you, then you may buy something from someone else, etc.
But when times get tough, people tend to hold on to their money more tightly, and that is why the velocity of money goes down when recessions hit. In the chart below, the shaded areas represent recessions, and you can see that the velocity of money has declined during every single recession in the post-World War II era…
During the last recession, the velocity of money declined precipitously, and that makes perfect sense. But then a funny thing happened. There was a slight bump up once the recession was over, but then it turned down again and it has kept going down ever since.
In fact, the velocity of money has now dropped to an all-time low. The velocity of M2 just recently dipped below 1.5 for the first time ever.
This is not a sign of an “economic recovery”. What this tells us is that our economy is very, very sick.
And we can see evidence of this sickness all around us. For instance, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 11 percent last year, and this marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness in the city has increased…
Homelessness rose 11% in the city of Los Angeles and 5.7% in the county last year despite an intensive federal push that slashed the county ranks of homeless veterans by nearly a third, according to a report released Wednesday.
The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of rising homelessness in L.A., as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved to solve the nation’s most intractable homeless problem.
Let us also not forget that about half the country is basically flat broke at this point.
Just recently, the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of all Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without selling something or borrowing the money from somewhere.
With numbers such as these being reported, how in the world can anyone possibly claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?
It boggles the mind, and yet there are people out there that would actually have you believe that everything is just fine.
The current occupant of the White House is one of them.
With each passing month, the real economy is getting even worse. We may not have slipped into a full-blown economic depression just yet, but it is coming.
For now, let us be thankful for whatever remains of our debt-fueled prosperity, because we don’t deserve the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.
We have been consuming far more than we produce for decades, but it won’t last for much longer. And when those days are gone for good, we will mourn them bitterly.
Is the strongest and most powerful nation on the planet headed for an apocalypse which will bring it to its knees? We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and apocalyptic themes have become very common in books, movies, television shows and video games. It is almost as if there is an unconscious understanding on a societal level that something very big and very bad is coming, even if the vast majority of the population cannot specifically identify what that is going to be. Last week, the Global Challenges Foundation released a new report entitled “Global Catastrophic Risks 2016” in which they discussed various apocalyptic events that they believe could wipe out more than 10 percent of the population of our planet, and they warned that these types of events “are more likely than we intuitively think”…
Sebastian Farquhar, director at the Global Priorities Project, told the Press Association: “There are some things that are on the horizon, things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen, which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.
“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think. Many of these risks are changing and growing as technologies change and grow and reshape our world. But there are also things we can do about the risks.”
According to this new report, we are five times more likely to die from the various apocalyptic catastrophes that they analyzed than we are from a car accident.
In this article, I want to discuss some of the most important threats that they analyzed, in addition to adding some of my own to the list. But first I want to mention that I do not believe that the Global Challenges Foundation is correct to identify climate change as one of the most significant catastrophic threats that humanity is facing. Our climate has always been changing, and I do believe that we will see wild climate shifts in the years ahead. However, human activity plays an exceedingly small role in all of this, and there is not very much that we can do to prevent what is going to happen either. Most of the climate change that we are going to see in our future is going to be as a result of other catastrophes in this list, so I have not included it as a separate item.
With that being said, let’s quickly examine some of the potential threats identified by the Global Challenges Foundation…
In various locations around the globe, there are gigantic supervolcanoes which could dramatically change the course of human history in a single moment by erupting. In the United States, the Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, and a full-blown eruption could potentially be up to 2,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. As I mentioned the other day, major metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake City and Denver would be essentially destroyed, food production in this country would be virtually wiped out, and a “volcanic winter” would cool global temperatures by up to 20 degrees for up to several years.
Asteroids And Comets
This is something that the Obama administration is actually quite concerned about. During his tenure, NASA has established a “Planetary Defense Coordination Office” that is in charge of tracking giant space rocks, and NASA is working to develop a method to destroy incoming asteroids using nuclear weapons.
Scientists admit that they only know about a small fraction of the near-Earth objects that are actually out there, and we get hit “by surprise” all the time. If we were to get hit at just the right place by a very large object, like say just off the east coast of the United States, the consequences would almost be too horrible for words.
Today, 39 percent of all Americans live in counties that directly border a shoreline, and most of those people are along the east coast. According to the University of California at Santa Cruz website, if a huge asteroid did slam into the Atlantic Ocean, it could potentially produce a 400 foot high tsunami that would sweep inland for many, many miles and kill millions upon millions of Americans in the process.
The flu pandemic of 1918 killed approximately 50,000,000 people worldwide, and scientists assure us that it will happen again one day.
Yes, we have come a long way in fighting disease, but as we learned during the recent Ebola outbreak, a really nasty virus can grip the entire world with fear in a very short period of time.
This is probably even a bigger threat than natural pandemics, because now we have the technology to genetically alter naturally occurring diseases and make them even stronger.
Whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is only a matter of time before a genetically-modified superbug gets released into the general population, and when that day arrives it may make all previous pandemics look like a Sunday picnic.
Could someday entities that we have created turn on us and start killing us?
Some might refer to this as “the Terminator scenario”, and it is becoming more realistic with each passing day as our technological capabilities continue to increase at an exponential rate.
The human race now has the capability to purposely modify the weather, and this means that we also have the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage.
Have you ever looked up and noticed long white trails criss-crossing the sky? This is being done on purpose, and when they spray chemicals into our atmosphere it could have some very severe long-term consequences that the authorities may not be anticipating.
Back during the Cold War, most Americans would have probably named this as the number one catastrophic threat facing America, but these days most people tend to believe that “the Cold War” is over.
So nobody has really objected while the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has been reduced by about 95 percent, and Barack Obama insists that he would like to reduce it even further.
Meanwhile, both the Russians and the Chinese are rapidly modernizing their nuclear forces, and they both have developed hypersonic glide vehicles that can defeat any missile defense system that the U.S. can put up.
Our relationship with Russia has already gone down the tubes, and our relationship with China is rapidly deteriorating. In fact, China just rejected a request for the USS John C. Stennis to make a routine port call at Hong Kong. Most Americans assume that a war with either one of them is impossible, but the truth is that we may find ourselves in a conflict with both of them at the same time eventually.
The catastrophic threats above were ones that were mentioned in the report from the Global Challenges Foundation. Below are some additional items that I would like to add to the list…
It isn’t just ISIS that we need to be concerned about. Islamic terror is exploding all over the planet, and according to Wikipedia there have already been 95 such attacks globally so far in 2016.
Up until now, they have been killing us with guns and bombs, but what happens when they inevitably get their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons?
Terror attacks using weapons of mass destruction could literally turn our society completely upside down virtually overnight, and it is only a matter of time until this starts happening.
Power Grid Failure
Someday you may wake up and discover that the power grid has totally failed. Just try to imagine a world without any lights, cell phones, computers, televisions, ATMs, heating and cooling systems, credit card readers, gas pumps, cash registers, refrigerators or hospital equipment. A massive electromagnetic pulse, either from the sun or as the result of a nuclear blast, could instantly plunge society back into the 1800s.
The EMP Commission spent years studying this, and they told Congress back in 20o8 that up to 90 percent of the U.S. population could be dead within one year of such an event due to starvation, disease and the breakdown of society. So this is a threat that people better start taking seriously.
World War III will not be fought like previous wars, and the Internet is one area where we are particularly vulnerable. The Chinese, the Russians and the North Koreans have all been working very hard to develop their cyberwarfare capabilities, and I was recently told by someone that has deep connections inside the U.S. intelligence community that our power grid could be taken down with just the push of a button. That is how easy it would be.
With each passing year, we are all becoming more and more dependent on the Internet. So what would our lives be like if it was suddenly gone?
That is something to think about.
If you want to watch society melt down right in front of your eyes, just take away all of the goodies. On The Economic Collapse Blog I have written more than a million words about the coming economic problems in this country. We got a very small taste of what is approaching in 2008 and 2009, and yet most people do not seem to have taken that warning seriously. Since that time, our long-term economic and financial problems have grown far more dire, and now the early chapters of a new economic crisis are unfolding right in front of our eyes, and yet still most people don’t seem to be alarmed.
If you want to see how devastating an economic collapse can be on a nation, just pick up a history book and start reading about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unfortunately, what we are heading for is going to be a whole lot worse than that.
Civil Unrest & Martial Law
As the economy collapses and other things on this list start happening, people are going to be absolutely freaking out. A whole host of polls and surveys have shown that anger and frustration have been building up to unprecedented levels in this country, and at some point there is going to be a huge explosion.
Desperate people do desperate things, and we got small previews of what is coming in Ferguson and in Baltimore. Violent crime rates are already rising in our major cities, and many among the elite are getting out while the getting is good. In fact, 3,000 millionaires left the city of Chicago last year alone.
Of course whenever civil unrest erupts, the government responds by trying to regain control, and eventually things are going to get so bad in this nation that we will start to see martial law imposed in various areas. We saw a little bit of this in Ferguson and in Baltimore, but that was nothing compared to what we will eventually experience.
A historic earthquake along the New Madrid fault seismic zone, the Cascadia Subduction zone or any of the major faults in California could affect millions of lives, cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, and literally change the geography of our continent.
Personally, I believe that those of us that are fortunate enough to live long enough will witness historic earthquakes in all of those areas, and scientists assure us that all three zones are way overdue for major seismic events.
Even if just one of the catastrophic events that I have discussed above were to take place, it would completely change society.
Unfortunately, I believe that we are entering an era of history in which a “perfect storm” that consists of a confluence of these catastrophic events will shake this nation to the core.
So what do you think?
Do you agree or disagree?
Please feel free to add your voice to the discussion by posting a comment below…
*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.*
Why won’t the American people listen to the warnings? David Stockman was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1981, and he served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1985. These days, he is running a website called “Contra Corner” which I highly recommend that you check out. Stockman believes that a global “debt super-cycle” that has been building for decades is now bursting, and he is convinced that the consequences for the U.S. and for the rest of the planet will be absolutely catastrophic. His findings are very consistent with what I have been writing about on The Economic Collapse Blog, and if Stockman is correct the times ahead of us are going to be exceedingly painful.
But right now, most people don’t seem to be in the mood to listen to these types of warnings. Even though there is a mountain of evidence that the global economy has already plunged into recession, U.S. stocks had a great month in October, and so most Americans seem to think that the crisis has passed.
Of course the truth is that the stock market is not an accurate barometer of the economy and it never has been. Back in 2008, almost everything else started to go downhill before stocks did, and the same thing is happening once again. In a recent article, Stockman explained that stocks are surging to absolutely ridiculous levels even though corporate earnings are actually way down…
At this point, 75% of S&P 500 companies have reported Q3 results, and earnings are coming in at $93.80 per share on an LTM basis. That happens to be 7.4% below the peak $106 per share reported last September, and means that the market today is valuing these shrinking profits at a spritely 22.49X PE ratio.
And, yes, there is a reason for two-digit precision. It seems that in the 4th quarter of 2007 LTM earnings came in at 22.19X the S&P 500 index price. We know what happened next!
Why do so many refuse to see the parallels?
This crisis is unfolding so similarly to 2008, and yet most of the “experts” are willingly blind.
Much of the stock buying that has been happening in 2015 has been fueled by stock buybacks and by M&A (merger and acquisitions). Many firms have even been going into debt to buy back their own stocks, but now sources of financing are starting to dry up. This year we have already seen the most corporate debt downgrades since 2009, and big financial institutions are now becoming much more hesitant to loan giant stacks of cash to these large corporations at super low interest rates.
So it is very, very difficult to see how the equity markets are going to move much higher than they are right now.
Meanwhile, the global economy is starting to unravel right in front of our eyes. In his recent piece, Stockman discussed some of these data points…
In the last two days we posted the latest data on two crucial markers of global economic direction——-export shipments from Korea and export orders coming into the high performance machinery factories of Germany.
In a word, they were abysmal, and smoking gun evidence that the suzerains of Beijing have not stopped the implosion in China, and that their latest paddy wagon forays—–arresting the head of China’s third largest bank and hand-cuffing several hedge fund managers including the purported “Warren Buffett” of China—-are signs not of stabilization, but sheer desperation.
So it is not surprising that Korea’s October exports—–the first such data from anywhere in the world—were down by a whopping 16% from last year, and have now been down for 10 straight months. Needless to say, China is the number one destination for Korean exports.
Likewise, German export orders plummeted by 18% in September, and this was no one month blip.
For many more recent statistics just like these, please see my previous article entitled “18 Numbers That Scream That A Crippling Global Recession Has Arrived“.
If the global economy really was doing “just fine” as Barack Obama and others suggest, then why is the largest shipping line in the world eliminating jobs and scaling back capacity?…
A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S is scaling back capacity and cutting jobs in the world’s largest shipping line to adapt to a drop in demand.
The Danish company, which last month lowered its profit forecast for 2015 citing a gloomier outlook for the global shipping market, will shed 4,000 jobs in its Maersk Line unit as part of a program to “simplify the organization,” it said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
And why are some of the biggest banks in the western world laying off tens of thousands of workers?…
Standard Chartered Plc became the third European bank in less than two weeks to announce sweeping job cuts, bringing the total planned reductions to more than 30,000, or almost one in seven positions.
The London-based firm said Tuesday it will eliminate 15,000 jobs, or 17 percent of its workforce, as soaring bad loans in emerging markets hurt earnings. Deutsche Bank AG, based in Frankfurt, last week announced plans for 11,000 job cuts, while Credit Suisse Group AG said it would trim as many as 5,600 employees.
And if things are so great in the United States, why is Target suddenly closing stores?
The truth, of course, is that things are not great. Global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent so far this year, and total global trade has plummeted 8.4 percent.
We have entered a major global economic slowdown, and like usual, equity markets will be the last to get the memo.
But when they finally do react, that is likely going to greatly accelerate our problems. Just like we saw in 2008, when there is fear and panic in the financial markets that tends to cause the flow of credit to freeze up. And that is something that we simply cannot afford, because the flow of credit has become the lifeblood of the global economy.
So no, “the crisis” is not “over”.
Rather, the truth is that “the crisis” is just beginning, and it will soon be making front page headlines all over the planet.
We are really starting to see the price of oil weigh very heavily on the economy and on the stock market. On Tuesday, the Dow was down 291 points, and the primary reason for the decline was disappointing corporate sales numbers. For example, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is blaming the “dramatic decline in the price of oil” for much lower than anticipated sales during the fourth quarter of 2014. Even though Caterpillar is not an “energy company”, the price of oil is critical to their success. And the same could be said about thousands of other companies. That is why I have repeatedly stated that anyone who believes that collapsing oil prices are good for the U.S. economy is crazy. The key to how much damage this oil collapse is going to do to our economy is not how low prices ultimately go. Rather, the key is how long they stay at these low levels. If the price of oil went back to $80 a barrel next week, the damage would be fairly minimal. But if the price of oil stays at this current level for the remainder of 2015, the damage will be absolutely catastrophic. Just think of the price of oil like a hot iron. If you touch it for just a fraction of a second, it won’t do too much damage. But if you press it against your skin for an hour, you will be severely damaged for the rest of your life at the very least.
So the damage that we are witnessing right now is just the very beginning unless the price of oil goes back up substantially.
When the price of oil first started crashing, most analysts focused on the impact that it would have on energy companies. And without a doubt, quite a few of them are likely to be wiped out if things don’t change soon.
But of even greater importance is the ripple effects that the price of oil will have throughout our entire economy. The oil price crash is not that many months old at this point, and yet big companies are already blaming it for causing significant problems. The following is how Caterpillar explained their disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday…
“The recent dramatic decline in the price of oil is the most significant reason for the year-over-year decline in our sales and revenues outlook. Current oil prices are a significant headwind for Energy & Transportation and negative for our construction business in the oil producing regions of the world. In addition, with lower prices for copper, coal and iron ore, we’ve reduced our expectations for sales of mining equipment. We’ve also lowered our expectations for construction equipment sales in China. While our market position in China has improved, 2015 expectations for the construction industry in China are lower”
We also learned on Tuesday that orders for durable goods were extremely disappointing. Many analysts believe that this is another area where the oil price crash is having an impact…
Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed. Demand for all durable goods − items meant to last at least three years − declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.
Let’s keep an eye on the durable goods numbers in coming months. Usually, when the economy is heading into a recession durable goods numbers start declining.
Meanwhile, a bunch of other big companies reported disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday as well. The following summary comes from the Crux…
Microsoft lost 9.9 percent as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.3 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. DuPont Co. dropped 2.8 percent as a stronger dollar cuts into the chemical maker’s profit. Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. declined at least 2 percent after saying the surging greenback will lower full-year earnings.
What the economy could really use right now is a huge rebound in the price of oil.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about the other day, that is not likely to happen any time soon.
In fact, a top executive for Goldman Sachs recently told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately go as low as 30 dollars a barrel.
And hedge fund managers are backing up their belief that oil is heading even lower with big money…
Hedge funds boosted bearish wagers on oil to a four-year high as US supplies grew the most since 2001.
Money managers increased short positions in West Texas Intermediate crude to the highest level since September 2010 in the week ended January 20, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Net-long positions slipped for the first time in three weeks.
US crude supplies rose by 10.1 million barrels to 397.9 million in the week ended January 16 and the country will pump the most oil since 1972 this year, the Energy Information Administration says. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the new ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, said he will maintain the production policy of his predecessor despite a 58 percent drop in prices since June.
Sadly, the truth is that anyone that thought that the stock market would go up forever and that the U.S. economy would be able to avoid a major downturn indefinitely was just being delusional.
Our economy goes through cycles, and every financial bubble eventually bursts.
For example, did you know that the S&P 500 has never had seven up years in a row? The following comes from a CNBC article that was posted on Tuesday…
Doubleline Capital founder Jeff Gundlach, more known for his bond prowess than as an equity market expert, pointed out that the S&P 500 has never had seven consecutive up years.
Of course, records are made to be broken, and each year is supposed to stand on its own.
But in a market that faces an uncertain future regarding monetary policy, the specter of a global economic slowdown, and an oil price plunge that is dampening capital investment, Gundlach’s little factoid sparked a lot of chatter at ETF.com’s InsideETFs conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Hmm – that reminds me of the seven year cycles that I discussed in my article yesterday.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a recession.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a stock market crash.
So let’s hope that the price of oil starts going back up.
If it doesn’t, the damage that is inflicted on our economy is going to get progressively worse.
None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed. In fact, they have all gotten worse. The total amount of debt in the world has grown by more than 40 percent since 2007, the too big to fail banks have gotten 37 percent larger, and the colossal derivatives bubble has spiraled so far out of control that the only thing left to do is to watch the spectacular crash landing that is inevitably coming. Unfortunately, most people do not know the information that I am about to share with you in this article. Most people just assume that the politicians and the central banks have fixed the issues that caused the last great financial crisis. But the truth is that we are in far worse shape than we were back then. When this financial bubble finally bursts, the devastation that we will witness is likely to be absolutely catastrophic.
Too Much Debt
One of the biggest financial problems that the world is facing is that there is simply way too much debt. Never before in world history has there ever been a debt binge anything like this.
You would have thought that we would have learned our lesson from 2008 and would have started to reduce debt levels.
Instead, we pushed the accelerator to the floor.
It is hard to believe that this could possibly be true, but according to the Bank for International Settlements the total amount of debt in the world has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007…
The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates, according to the Bank for International Settlements.
The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’s gross domestic product.
That is a recipe for utter disaster, and yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.
And of course the U.S. government is the largest offender.
Back in September 2008, the U.S. national debt was sitting at a total of 10.02 trillion dollars.
As I write this, it is now sitting at a total of 17.49 trillion dollars.
Is there anyone out there that can possibly conceive of a way that this ends other than badly?
Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever
During the last great financial crisis we were also told that one of our biggest problems was the fact that we had banks that were “too big to fail”.
Well, guess what?
Those banks are now much larger than they were back then. In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last financial crisis.
Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have gone out of business during that time frame, and only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.
So the problem of “too big to fail” is now much worse than it was back in 2008.
The following are some more statistics about our “too big to fail” problem that come from a previous article…
-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets. The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.
-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.
-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.
-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.
-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.
-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.
-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.
-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.
The Derivatives Bubble
Most people simply do not understand that over the past couple of decades Wall Street has been transformed into the largest and wildest casino on the entire planet.
Nobody knows for sure how large the global derivatives bubble is at this point, because derivatives trading is lightly regulated compared to other types of trading. But everyone agrees that it is absolutely massive. Estimates range from $600 trillion to $1.5 quadrillion.
And what we do know is that four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is in excess of $40 trillion.
The numbers posted below may look similar to numbers that I have included in articles in the past, but for this article I have updated them with the very latest numbers from the U.S. government. Since the last time that I wrote about this, these numbers have gotten even worse…
Total Assets: $1,989,875,000,000 (nearly 2 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,810,058,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,344,751,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $62,963,116,000,000 (more than 62 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $1,438,859,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,386,713,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $111,117,000,000 (just a shade over 111 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $47,467,154,000,000 (more than 47 trillion dollars)
During the coming derivatives crisis, several of those banks could fail simultaneously.
If that happened, it would be an understatement to say that we would be facing an “economic collapse”.
Credit would totally freeze up, nobody would be able to get loans, and economic activity would grind to a standstill.
It is absolutely inexcusable how reckless these big banks have been.
Just look at those numbers for Goldman Sachs again.
Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 111 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 47 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives.
That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 427 times greater than their total assets.
I don’t know why more people aren’t writing about this.
This is utter insanity.
During the next great financial crisis, it is very likely that the rest of the planet is going to lose faith in the current global financial system that is based on the U.S. dollar and on U.S. debt.
When that day arrives, and the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status, the shift in our standard of living is going to be dramatic. Just consider what Marin Katusa of Casey Research had to say the other day…
It will be shocking for the average American… if the petro dollar dies and the U.S. loses its reserve currency status in the world there will be no middle class.
The middle class and the low class… wow… what a game changer. Your cost of living will quadruple.
The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying now will not last forever. A day of reckoning is fast approaching, and most Americans will not be able to handle the very difficult adjustments that they will be forced to make. Here is some more from Marin Katusa…
Imagine this… take a country like Croatia… the average worker with a university degree makes about 1200 Euros a month. He spends a third of that, after tax, on keeping his house warm and filling up his gas tank to get to work and get back from work.
In North America, we don’t make $1200 a month, and we don’t spend a third of our paycheck on keeping our house warm and driving to work… so, the cost of living… food will triple… heat, electricity, everything subsidized by the government will triple overnight… and it will only get worse even if you can get the services.
All of this could have been prevented if we had done things the right way.
Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned from the last financial crisis, and our politicians and the central banks have just continued to do the same things that they have always done.
So now we all get to pay the price.
The number one American export is U.S. dollars. It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars. The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar. For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars. But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly. For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States. In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”. If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.
The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them. For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy. But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being used to fight their wars for them. The following is from a recent Daily Mail report…
Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”. This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.
Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.
So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction. According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.
“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.
Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is. If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy. For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran…
In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.
This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.
This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.
In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet. In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country. These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports. We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need. Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates. It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.
When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.
And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.
Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.
China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.
So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?
That is a very good question.
In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar. The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento…
Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.
China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”
For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.
But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all. The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us. According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…
What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.
And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…
That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.
And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.
Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.
One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt. The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined. The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.
Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system. The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt. They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.
The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.
And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.
What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.
Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet. When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.
And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.
Just check out what happened in Detroit recently. The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…
Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.
While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.
Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.
Isn’t that crazy?
These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.
And this is just the beginning. Things are going to get much, much worse than this.
So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.
The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.
Cyprus lawmakers may have rejected the bank account tax, but the truth is that the financial crisis in Cyprus is just getting started. Right now, the two largest banks in Cyprus are dangerously close to a meltdown. If they fail, depositors could end up losing virtually all of their money. You see, the banking system of Cyprus absolutely dwarfs the GDP of that small island nation. Cyprus is known all over the world as a major offshore tax haven, and wealthy Russians and wealthy Europeans have been pouring massive amounts of money into the banking system over the last several decades. Yes, those bank deposits are supposed to be insured, but the truth is that there is no way that the government of Cyprus could ever come up with enough money to cover the massive losses that we are potentially looking at. This is a case where the banking system of a nation has gotten so large that the national government is absolutely powerless to stop a collapse from happening. If those banks fail, depositors may end up getting 50 percent of their money or they may end up getting nothing. We just don’t know how bad the damage is yet. And considering the fact that many of the largest corporations and many of the wealthiest individuals in Europe have huge mountains of cash stashed in Cyprus, the fallout from a banking collapse could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.
So Cyprus needs to come up with some money from somewhere in order to keep that from happening.
Basically, there are three options at this point…
1) Even though the bank account confiscation tax was voted down today, there is talk that it could come back in another form. This is really the only place inside of Cyprus where enough money can be raised to bail out the banks.
2) Cyprus could go back and beg the IMF and the EU for money, but the IMF and the EU have already said that they want depositors to share in the pain.
3) Cyprus could get the money that they need from the Russians. This will be discussed in more detail later.
A lot of people will see the headlines proclaiming that Cyprus has voted against the wealth tax and think that everything is going to be okay now, but that is very far from the truth.
The reality is that this is only the first move in a very complicated chess game. The problems for Cyprus are only just the beginning…
“This is not the end of the process, but instead kicks off a further round of negotiation with Moscow and Berlin,” JPMorgan economist Alex White wrote in a research note. “The Cypriot authorities wanted to conduct the vote so that they could reaffirm the extent of their difficulties to the Europeans.”
When the banks of Cyprus reopen in a few days, there is going to be a stampede of people trying to pull their money out of the banks.
In fact, this was starting to happen even before the “bank holiday” was declared. According to The Sun, bank insiders were tipping people off about what was going to happen in the days leading up to the crisis…
But Russian oligarchs and big investors emptied accounts in the days beforehand, prompting claims they were tipped off by bank insiders. A source told The Sun: “It leaked out. Bankers warned their best clients. Government officials warned their friends and relatives.
“Billions disappeared from accounts in days, most from accounts held by Russians.”
And according to David Zervos, we could see billions more euros withdrawn from banks in Cyprus once they reopen. There will be mass panic as depositors scramble to reclaim their money before it can be taxed…
The die is cast. There is no going back for the Cypriots or the Eurozone leaders. As soon as the banks open in Cyprus there will be billions in withdrawals. The question of course is – “where will the money come from?”. Well, if the parliament votes YES, then the Euros will have to come from the Eurosystem. But there is a glitch. The Cypriots have already borrowed 10b euro via the ELA and Target2. How can Mario just wire over 20 billion more (less the 10 to 15 percent haircut) for the Russians, and another 20 to 30 billion for the wealthy Greeks. What collateral will an economy with 20b in GDP post to get this cash? Unless Mario violates every collateral rule at the ECB, the Cypriot financial system will collapse even with a YES vote. Its a wonderful life – Cyprus style.
It may not even matter what Cyprus eventually decides to do about a “wealth tax”. The bank run that is about to happen may be enough to bring down the banks of Cyprus all by itself.
And of course people all over southern Europe are watching developments in Cyprus very closely. As former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling recently noted, if depositors in southern Europe start getting nervous that their bank accounts will be targeted too, they will be likely to start pulling money out of the banks very rapidly…
“They have actually now said to people ‘We will come after your deposits, no matter how small your savings are’ and that seems to me to make it more likely that, if you are a saver in Spain or in Italy, for example, and you have just the sniff of the EU or the IMF coming your way, you will take your money out and you will get a run on the bank”
Cyprus could actually get out of this mess by turning to Russia, but the United States and Europe really do not want to see Russia gain so much control over that very strategic island nation.
So why would Russia get involved? Well, it has been estimated that Russians have approximately $31 billion stashed in banks in Cyprus. It is the favorite offshore banking destination for the Russian oligarchs. Dennis Gartman recently detailed why the tiny island nation is so appealing to the Russians…
Cyprus has been their own private Switzerland for many years. Legal and non-legal Russian cash has swamped the banking system in Cyprus since the early 90’s. The beauty of the island; the ease of admission too and exit from the island via boat or plane; the secrecy of the banking laws; the warm Mediterranean climate and the ease of which Cypriot authorities could be bribed and bought all worked to make Cyprus the center of Russian capital flight.
And right now the Russians are not happy at all that their money is being threatened.
In particular, the Russian mafia launders a lot of money in Cyprus. The Russian mafia is not about to let anyone steal their money, and they have an international reputation for being absolutely brutal. In the end, pressure from the mafia may have been one of the primary reasons why many Cyprus lawmakers voted against the bank account tax. As Dennis Gartman astutely noted, by voting against the wealth tax they may have literally been saving their own lives…
“One could only laugh as such a comment; of course Cyprus was complacent about laundering. To think otherwise was and is naïve. Ah, but now you’ve stolen Russia money… or soon shall depending upon the vote in the Cypriot parliament… and that is dangerous… very. One does not steal Russian mafia money and get away with it. There are fewer statements of fact that are more certain, more factual, more unyielding than this statement. Russian Mafia figures do not take well to being stolen from, and they take even less well to be made fools of. We see no reason to mince words at this point: People will be hurt over this decision; some shall be killed.”
And the Russians definitely do not want to see the banking system of Cyprus collapse. In fact, proposals have been made that would provide the money necessary to keep it afloat. But of course that money would not come cheaply.
Some of the proposals that Russia has put forward were summarized by the Daily Mail…
But in a move that has raised eyebrows, the Russian energy giant Gazprom offered Cyprus a plan in which the company will undertake the restructuring of the country’s banks in exchange for exploration rights for natural gas on the island.
Representatives of the Russian company submitted the proposal to the office of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Sunday evening.
It is also rumoured that the Kremlin is privately offering to help bail out Cyprus in exchange for the right to use a naval base in the Greek part of the island.
In addition, as I wrote about yesterday, some Russian investors have stepped forward and have offered to buy majority stakes in the two largest banks in Cyprus.
So why hasn’t Cyprus accepted help from Russia yet? Well, it is a geopolitical thing. Cyprus is a part of the EU, and European officials do not want Russia to become the dominant influence in Cyprus.
But if the IMF and the EU are not going to step up and help Cyprus, the Russian offers will become more tempting with each passing day.
Meanwhile, the attempted attack on bank accounts in Cyprus is making people nervous all over Europe. For example, the following is what German economist Peter Bofinger had to say about what the situation in Cyprus is doing to confidence in the European financial system…
Making small-scale savers pay is extremely dangerous. It will shake the trust of depositors across the Continent. Europe’s citizens now have to fear for their money.
And if you don’t think that this could ever happen anywhere else, you are just being delusional.
In fact, it is already happening. In fact, the Finance Minister of New Zealand is now proposing that depositors in his nation should be required to “take a haircut” if any banks in his nation fail…
The National Government are pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts, the Green Party said today.
Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.
“Bill English is proposing a Cyprus-style solution for managing bank failure here in New Zealand – a solution that will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
“The Reserve Bank is in the final stages of implementing a system of managing bank failure called Open Bank Resolution. The scheme will put all bank depositors on the hook for bailing out their bank.
“Depositors will overnight have their savings shaved by the amount needed to keep the bank afloat.”
But surely there will never be any major banking problems in the United States, right?
Well, large numbers of Chase customers that logged into their accounts on Monday discovered that a “computer glitch” had reset all of their account balances to zero…
Chase bank experienced a problem Monday that had customers scrambling to figure out where their money went.
JP Morgan Chase said it hadn’t been hacked but was having a problem “related to an internal issue” as customers found their accounts showing zero balances.
Some customers shared their frustration on Twitter and showed screen shots of zero balances.
How would you feel if you suddenly discovered that you had no money in the bank?
Most Americans just assume that their money will always be there because their bank accounts are “guaranteed” by deposit insurance and by the full faith and credit of the federal government.
But that is exactly what the people of Cyprus thought too, and look how that turned out.
It would be hard to overstate how dangerous the situation in Cyprus is. Yes, their nation is very small but their banking system is absolutely huge.
If the banking system of Cyprus fails, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for all of Europe. At this point, the entire European banking system is leveraged 26 to 1, and once European banks start to fail they could start falling like dominoes.
There is also a very strong possibility that Cyprus could be forced to leave the euro, and if that happens everyone will be wondering who will be next to leave the common currency.
So don’t think for a second that the crisis in Cyprus is over. The banking meltdown is just getting started, and the consequences could end up being far more dramatic than any of us could possibly imagine.
By recklessly printing, borrowing and spending money, our authorities are absolutely shredding confidence in the U.S. dollar. The rest of the world is watching this nonsense, and at some point they are going to give up on the U.S. dollar and throw their hands up in the air. When that happens, it is going to be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy. Right now, we export a lot of our inflation. Each year, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us, and so the rest of the world ends up with giant piles of U.S. dollars. This works out pretty well for them, because the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the world and is used in international trade far more than any other currency is. Back in 1999, the percentage of foreign exchange reserves in U.S. dollars peaked at 71 percent, and since then it has slid back to 62.2 percent. But that is still an overwhelming amount. We can print, borrow and spend like crazy because the rest of the world is there to soak up our excess dollars because they need them to trade with one another. But what will happen someday if the rest of the world decides to reject the U.S. dollar? At that point we would see a tsunami of U.S. dollars come flooding back to this country. Just take a moment and think of the worst superstorm that you can possibly imagine, and then replace every drop of rain with a dollar bill. The giant currency superstorm that will eventually hit this nation will be far worse than that.
Most Americans don’t realize that there are far more dollars in use in the rest of the world than in the United States itself. The following is from a scholarly article by Linda Goldberg…
The dollar is a major form of cash currency around the world. The majority of dollar banknotes are estimated to be held outside the US. More than 70% of hundred-dollar notes and nearly 60% of twenty- and fifty-dollar notes are held abroad, while two-thirds of all US banknotes have been in circulation outside the country since 1990
For decades we have been exporting gigantic quantities of our currency.
So what would happen if that process suddenly reversed and massive piles of dollars started coming back into the country?
It is frightening to think about.
Well, I guess the key is to get the rest of the world to continue to have confidence in the U.S. dollar so that will never happen, right?
Unfortunately, there are lots of signs that the rest of the world is accelerating their move away from the U.S. dollar.
For example, it was recently announced that the BRICS countries are developing their own version of the World Bank…
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc has begun planning its own development bank and a new bailout fund which would be created by pooling together an estimated $240 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to diplomatic sources. To get a sense of how significant the proposed fund would be, the fund would be larger than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 150 countries, according to Russia and India Report.
And as I noted in a previous article, over the past few years there have been a whole host of new international currency agreements that encourage the use of national currencies over the U.S. dollar. The following are just a few examples…
1. China and Germany (See Here)
2. China and Russia (See Here)
3. China and Brazil (See Here)
4. China and Australia (See Here)
5. China and Japan (See Here)
6. India and Japan (See Here)
7. Iran and Russia (See Here)
8. China and Chile (See Here)
9. China and the United Arab Emirates (See Here)
10. China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (See Here)
Will this movement soon become a stampede away from the U.S. dollar?
That is a very important question.
But you don’t hear anything about this in the U.S. media and our politicians are not talking about this at all.
Meanwhile, our “leaders” seem to be doing everything that they can to destroy confidence in the U.S. dollar. The Federal Reserve is printing money like there is no tomorrow, and the federal government continues to run up trillion dollar deficits year after year.
They do not seem to understand that they are systematically destroying the U.S. financial system.
Other world leaders get it. For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin once said the following…
“Unreasonable expansion of the budget deficit, accumulation of the national debt – are as destructive as an adventurous stock market game.
During the time of the Soviet Union the role of the state in economy was made absolute, which eventually lead to the total non-competitiveness of the economy. That lesson cost us very dearly. I am sure no one would want history to repeat itself.”
Why can’t most of our politicians see how destructive debt is?
What the federal government continues to do is absolutely insane. The national debt increased by more than 24 billion dollars on the day after Thanksgiving this year. But utter disaster has not struck yet, and most Americans are not really that concerned about the debt. So things just keep rolling along.
And of course our national debt of $16,309,738,056,362.44 is nothing when compared to the future liabilities that our federal government is facing. Just check out what a recent article in the Wall Street Journal had to say about all this…
The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.
Other economists paint an even gloomier picture. According to economist Niall Ferguson, the U.S. government is facing future unfunded liabilities of 238 trillion dollars.
So where are we going to get all that money?
Well, why don’t we just print more money than ever before so that the U.S. government can borrow and spend more money than ever before?
Don’t laugh. That is actually what some of the top economists in the country are actually recommending.
The most famous economic journalist in the entire country, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, is boldly proclaiming that the solution to all of our problems is to print, borrow and spend a lot more money. He insists that there is no reason to fear that the giant mountain of debt that we are accumulating will someday collapse the system…
For we have our own currency — and almost all of our debt, both private and public, is denominated in dollars. So our government, unlike the Greek government, literally can’t run out of money. After all, it can print the stuff. So there’s almost no risk that America will default on its debt — I’d say no risk at all if it weren’t for the possibility that Republicans would once again try to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling.
But if the U.S. government prints money to pay its bills, won’t that lead to inflation? No, not if the economy is still depressed.
Now, it’s true that investors might start to expect higher inflation some years down the road. They might also push down the value of the dollar. Both of these things, however, would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy right now: expected inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make our exports more competitive.
Of course what he is prescribing is complete and utter madness.
At some point this con game is going to collapse and the rest of the world is going to say a big, fat, resounding “NO” to the U.S. dollar.
Why should they continue to use a currency that is becoming extremely unstable and that is constantly being manipulated?
And when the rest of the world rejects the U.S. dollar, the value of the dollar will drop like a rock because there will be far less global demand for it.
In addition, if the rest of the world is not using the U.S. dollar for trade any longer, other nations will cease to soak up our excess currency and huge mountains of our currency that are floating around out there will start flooding back to our shores.
At that point we will be looking at inflation unlike anything we have ever seen before. The era of cheap imports will be over and we will pay far more for everything from oil to the foreign-made plastic trinkets that we buy at Wal-Mart.
Most Americans don’t even know what a “reserve currency” is, but when the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status it is going to unleash a nightmare that most economists cannot even imagine.
So enjoy this holiday season while you can. There are still lots and lots of cheap imports filling the shelves of our stores.
Once the coming giant currency superstorm strikes, we will dearly wish for the good old days of 2012.
Yes, the U.S. dollar is alive and ticking for now. But at the pace that our authorities are abusing it, I would not say that things are looking good for a long and healthy lifespan.