“The Outlook For The Global Economy Has Deteriorated”: Oil, Copper And Lumber Are All Telling Us The Next Economic Downturn Is Here

Oil, copper and lumber are all telling us the exact same thing, and it isn’t good news for the global economy.  When economic activity is booming, demand for commodities such as oil, copper and lumber goes up and that generally causes prices to rise.  But when economic activity is slowing down, demand for such commodities falls and that generally causes prices to decline.  In recent weeks, we have witnessed a decline in commodity prices unlike anything that we have witnessed in years, and many are concerned that this is a very clear indication that hard times are ahead for the global economy.

Let’s talk about oil first.  The price of oil peaked in early October, but since that time it has fallen more than 25 percent, and the IEA is warning of “relatively weak” demand out of Asia and Europe

The International Energy Agency said on Wednesday that while US demand for oil has been “very robust,” demand in Europe and developed Asian countries “continues to be relatively weak.” The IEA also warned of a “slowdown” in demand in developing nations such as India, Brazil and Argentina caused by high oil prices, weak currencies and deteriorating economic activity.

“The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated,” the IEA wrote.

Meanwhile, the price of copper has been declining for quite some time now.  The price of copper also fell substantially just before the last recession, and many analysts are pointing out that “Dr. Copper” is now waving a red flag once again

The message of weakening demand on the oil front was reinforced by the falling price of copper. The base metal is often referred to as “Dr. Copper” on its presumed ability to forecast the peaks and troughs of business cycles since it is used in different areas of the economy such as homes, factories and electricity generation. Copper has served as a leading indicator of both recessions and economic booms.

The price of lumber is a “third witness” that indicates that big trouble is looming.

Last month, lumber dropped more than 10 percent, and that was the biggest monthly drop that we have seen in more than 7 years

In October, prices for softwood lumber in the U.S. dropped 10.3% – the largest decline since May 2011, according to the Producer Price Index (PPI) release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The producer price index for softwood lumber has fallen 21.2% since setting the cycle and all-time high in June.

If oil, copper and lumber are all telling us the same thing simultaneously, don’t you think that we should be listening?

At this point, even Bloomberg is admitting that the global economy is heading toward “a generalized slowdown”…

These developments suggest the synchronized growth that the global economy has enjoyed in recent years is likely to be replaced by a generalized slowdown. Just take a look at the data out of Japan and Germany this week, which showed the world’s third- and fourth-largest economies contracted in the third quarter.

How many signs is it going to take before people start understanding what is happening?

Wells Fargo just notified about 1,000 employees that they will be laid off.  Job losses are starting to mount, and it is likely that we will start to see these sorts of news stories on an almost daily basis now.

And as the shaking on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to see more financial firms get into trouble.  In fact, we just witnessed the total collapse of OptionSellers.com.  The following comes from a notice that they sent to investors informing them that they lost all their money and that the firm is being liquidated…

I am writing to give you an update on the situation here with your account.

We have spent the week unwinding our short natural gas call position as expediently as possible.

Today which was to be the final day of liquidation, the market flared as prices appear to have been caught in a “short squeeze.”

The speed at which it took place is truly beyond anything I have seen in my career. It overran our risk control systems and left us at the mercy of the market.

In short, it was a rogue wave and it overwhelmed us.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in a catastrophic loss.

Our clearing firm, FC Stone now requires us to liquidate all positions. We hoped to have this done today. If not, it will be completed tomorrow.

Your account could potentially be facing a debit balance as of tomorrow. OptionSellers.com will be processing fee credits over the course of the coming days to help alleviate debit balances. What these will be will be determined after all positions are cleared.

This has in effect, crippled the firm. At this point, our brokers at FC Stone have been assisting us in liquidation.

Our offices will remain open and we will all still be here to answer your questions and process account closings. We will do everything in our power to ease what discomfort we can.

I am truly sorry this has happened.

I will be updating you again via memo in 24 hours.

Regards,

OptionSellers.com

Those investors are among the first to be completely wiped out, but they certainly won’t be the last.

The ironic thing is that Americans are less concerned about another crisis than they have been at any point since 2008 at a time when they should be more focused on getting prepared than ever.

You know that it is really late in the game when even Jim Cramer of CNBC is saying that the U.S. economy is really slowing down.  A few of my readers wrote me after that article because they didn’t like the fact that I had quoted Jim Cramer.  But I don’t think that they really got my point.  I was not endorsing Jim Cramer as some sort of financial guru.  Rather, I was pointing out that even mainstream media celebrities that were previously cheerleaders for the economy are now recognizing the reality of what we are facing.

Global economic activity is slowing down, and things are shifting very rapidly now.  The weather is already getting very cold, the mood of the nation is very dark, and it would only take a very small push to send us completely tumbling over the edge.

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

The Financial Crisis Of 2016 Rolls On – China, Oil, Copper And Junk Bonds All Continue To Crash

Buy Sell - Public DomainNever before have we seen a year start like this.  On Monday, Chinese stocks crashed once again.  The Shanghai Composite Index plummeted another 5.29 percent, and this comes on the heels of two historic single day crashes last week.  All of this chaos over in China is one of the factors that continues to push commodity prices even lower.  Today the price of copper fell another 2.40 percent to $1.97, and the price of oil continued to implode.  At one point the price of U.S. oil plunged all the way down to $30.99 a barrel before rebounding just a little bit.  As I write this article, oil is down a total of 6.12 percent for the day and is currently sitting at $31.13.  U.S. stocks were mixed on Monday, but it is important to note that the Russell 2000 did officially enter bear market territory.  This is yet another confirmation of what I was talking about yesterday.  And junk bonds continue to plummet.  As I write this, JNK is down to 33.42.  All of these numbers are huge red flags that are screaming that big trouble is ahead.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media continues to insist that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article that explained that anyone that believed that low oil prices were good for the economy was “crazy“.  At the time, many people really didn’t understand what I was trying to communicate, but now it is becoming exceedingly clear.  On Monday, one veteran oil and gas analyst told CNBC that “half of U.S. shale oil producers could go bankrupt” over the next couple of years…

Half of U.S. shale oil producers could go bankrupt before the crude market reaches equilibrium, Fadel Gheit, said Monday.

The senior oil and gas analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. said the “new normal oil price” could be 50 to 100 percent above current levels. He ultimately sees crude prices stabilizing near $60, but it could be more than two years before that happens.

By then it will be too late for many marginal U.S. drillers, who must drill into and break up shale rock to release oil and gas through a process called hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is significantly more expensive than extracting oil from conventional wells.

Since the last recession, the energy industry has been the number one producer of good paying jobs in this country.

Now that those firms are starting to drop like flies, what is that going to mean for employment in America?

Just today, a huge coal company filed for bankruptcy, and so did a U.S. unit of commodity trading giant Glencore.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

While the biggest bankruptcy story of the day is this morning’s chapter 11 filing by Arch Coal, one which would trim $4.5 billion in debt from its balance sheet while handing over the bulk of the post-reorg company to its first-lien holders as part of the proposed debt-for-equity exchange, the reality is that the Arch default was widely anticipated by the market.

However, another far less noted and perhaps far more significant bankruptcy filing was that of Sherwin Alumina Co., a U.S. unit of commodity trading giant Glencore PLC, whose troubles have been extensively detailed on these pages. The stated reason for this far more troubling chapter 11 was “challenging market conditions” which is one way to describe an industry in which just one remaining U.S. smelter will be left in operation after Alcoa shut down its Warrick Country smelting ops last week.

A spokesman for Glencore, which owns the entire business, said the commodities producer and trader is “supportive of the restructuring process undertaken by Sherwin and is hopeful of an outcome that will allow for the continued operation of the Sherwin facility.”

We desperately need prices for oil and other commodities to rebound significantly.  Unfortunately, that does appear to be likely to happen any time soon.  In fact, according to CNN we could soon see the price of oil fall quite a bit more…

The strengthening U.S. dollar could send oil plunging to $20 per barrel.

That’s the view of analysts at Morgan Stanley. In a report published Monday, they say a 5% increase in the value of the dollar against a basket of currencies could push oil down by between 10% and 25% — which would mean prices falling by as much as $8 per barrel.

If prices for oil and other commodities keep falling, what is going to happen?

Well, Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo Securities says that what is happening right now reminds her of the correction of 1998

Recent market volatility has dredged up memories of previous times of turmoil, most notably the 2008 crisis. But Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo Securities has been reminded of another, less dramatic correction year — 1998.

Adams posits that the current economic environment is suffering from themes that also played out in 1998, including falling oil prices, a rising U.S. dollar and troubles in emerging markets. Consequently, stocks may see a similar move to the 1998 correction, which saw a 20 percent drop for stocks over six weeks.

To me, it is much more serious than that.  Just before U.S. stocks crashed horribly in 2008, we saw Chinese stocks crash, the price of oil crashed, commodity prices crashed, and junk bonds crashed really hard.

All of those things are happening again, and yet most of the “experts” continue to refuse to see the warning signs.

In fact, the mainstream media is full of articles that are telling people not to panic while the financial markets crumble all around them…

There’s no need to make big moves in response to the recent volatility. “Regular folks should take on a long-term view and avoid trying to anticipate short-term market movements,” says Stephen Horan, the managing director of credentialing at CFA Institute. “There is almost no evidence to suggest that professionals can do it effectively and a plethora of evidence suggesting individuals do it poorly.”

They want “regular folks” to keep holding on to their investments as the “smart money” dumps their stocks at a staggering pace.

A little more than six months ago, I predicted that “our problems will only be just beginning as we enter 2016”, and that is turning out to be dead on correct.

The financial crisis that began during the second half of last year is greatly accelerating, and yet most of the population continues to be in denial even though the average stock price has already fallen by more than 20 percent.

Hopefully it will not take another 20 percent decline before people begin to wake up.

If History Is Any Indication, Junk Bonds And Copper Are Telling Us Exactly Where Stocks Are Heading Next

Stock Market - Public DomainYields on the riskiest junk bonds are absolutely soaring and the price of copper just hit a fresh six year low.  To most people, those pieces of financial news are meaningless.  But if you understand history, and you are aware of the patterns that immediately preceded previous stock market crashes, then you know how how huge both of those signs are.  During the summer of 2008, junk bond prices absolutely cratered as junk bond yields skyrocketed.  This was a very clear signal that financial markets were about to crash, and sure enough a couple of months later it happened.  Now the exact same thing is happening again.  The following comes from a Wall Street On Parade article that was posted on Tuesday entitled “Keep Your Eye on Junk Bonds: They’re Starting to Behave Like ‘08“…

According to data from Bloomberg, corporations have issued a stunning $9.3 trillion in bonds since the beginning of 2009. The major beneficiary of this debt binge has been the stock market rather than investment in modernizing the plant, equipment or new hires to make the company more competitive for the future. Bond proceeds frequently ended up buying back shares or boosting dividends, thus elevating the stock market on the back of heavier debt levels on corporate balance sheets.

Now, with commodity prices resuming their plunge and currency wars spreading, concerns of financial contagion are back in the markets and spreads on corporate bonds versus safer, more liquid instruments like U.S. Treasury notes, are widening in a fashion similar to the warning signs heading into the 2008 crash. The $2.2 trillion junk bond market (high-yield) as well as the investment grade market have seen spreads widen as outflows from Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and bond funds pick up steam.

And right now we are seeing the most volatility in the junkiest of the junk bonds.

The following comes from Wolf Richter, and my jaw just about dropped to the floor when I first saw this…

This chart of yields at the riskiest end of the junk bond market – bonds rated CCC and below – shows what happened. These bonds have been selling off over the past 12 months, with exception of the sucker rally earlier this year, and their yields more than doubled from less than 7.9% in June a year ago to 16.2% by Thursday evening. And Thursday was a massacre:

riskiest junk bonds

On Thursday, yields jumped 2.6 percentage points, from 13.58% to 16.18%, as these junk bonds plunged. Those kinds of single-day vertigo-inducing sell-offs are rare in normal times, and there haven’t been any since the Financial Crisis.

Amazingly, the Federal Reserve is actually thinking about raising interest rates in this environment.

If that sounds like a really bad idea to you, that is because it is a really bad idea.

Raising interest rates would just add fuel to the fire of this junk bond rout.  DoubleLine Capital’s co-founder Jeffrey Gundlach agrees with me

To raise interest rates when junk bonds are nearly at a four-year low is a bad idea,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview.

Gundlach, widely followed for his prescient investment calls, said if the Fed begins raising interest rates in September, “it opens the lid on Pandora’s Box of a tightening cycle.”

Gundlach said the selling pressure in copper and commodity prices driven by worries over China’s growth outlook “should be a huge concern. It is the second-biggest economy in the world.”

Meanwhile, as Gundlach mentioned, the price of copper continues to plunge.

On Tuesday, it set a brand new six year low.  It is now the lowest that it has been since the days of the last financial crisis.

And as you can see from this excerpt from a recent Investment Research Dynamics article, the price of copper started crashing before the stock market crash of 2008…

I wanted to keep this simple and just look at what is considered perhaps the best barometer of global economic activity:

Copper Chart - Investment Research Dynamics

You’ll note that the price of copper is headed lower and is back to the price level where it was in the middle of 2008, right before the great financial collapse.  You’ll note that $3.6 trillion in Federal Reserve money printing – on top of trillions in Bank of Japan, ECB and People’s Bank of China money printing – has not been able to keep the price of copper from crashing again.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the global financial system is in real trouble.

Another sign that rough waters are ahead is the fact that global shipping has fallen into a dramatic slump.  The following comes from the Telegraph

World shipping has fallen into a deep slump over the late summer, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the global trade recession earlier this year and heightening fears that the six-year economic expansion may be on its last legs.

Freight rates for container shipping from Asia to Europe fell by over 20pc in the second week of August, even though trade volumes should be picking up at this time of the year. The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) for routes to north European ports crashed by 23pc in five trading days.

Global economic activity is clearly slowing down, and there are 23 nations around the planet that are already experiencing stock market crashes.

The financial markets of the western world have not totally crashed just yet, but they are more leveraged and more vulnerable than ever.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

  • The REAL problem for the financial system is the bond bubble. In 2008 when the crisis hit it was $80 trillion. It has since grown to over $100 trillion.
  • The derivatives market that uses this bond bubble as collateral is over $555 trillion in size.
  • Many of the large multinational corporations, sovereign governments, and even municipalities have used derivatives to fake earnings and hide debt. NO ONE knows to what degree this has been the case, but given that 20% of corporate CFOs have admitted to faking earnings in the past, it’s likely a significant amount.
  • Corporations today are more leveraged than they were in 2007. As Stanley Druckenmiller noted recently, in 2007 corporate bonds were $3.5 trillion… today they are $7 trillion: an amount equal to nearly 50% of US GDP.
  • The Central Banks are now all leveraged at levels greater than or equal to where Lehman Brothers was when it imploded. The Fed is leveraged at 78 to 1. The ECB is leveraged at over 26 to 1. Lehman Brothers was leveraged at 30 to 1.
  • The Central Banks have no idea how to exit their strategies. Fed minutes released from 2009 show Janet Yellen was worried about how to exit when the Fed’s balance sheet was $1.3 trillion (back in 2009). Today it’s over $4.5 trillion.

As I explained during a recent interview with Kate Dalley of Fox News radio, what is coming should be obvious to anyone that is willing to look at the numbers honestly.

The global financial system is going to crash.

Yes, this crisis is going to take years to fully play out, but by the time it is all said and done it is going to be much worse than what we experienced back in 2008 and 2009.

So buckle up tight and hold on for your life, because we are in for one wild ride.

Copper, China And World Trade Are All Screaming That The Next Economic Crisis Is Here

Screaming Smiley - Public DomainIf you are looking for a “canary in a coal mine” type of warning for the entire global economy, you have a whole bunch to pick from right now.  “Dr. Copper” just hit a six year low, Morgan Stanley is warning that this could be the worst oil price crash in 45 years, the Chinese economy is suddenly stalling out, and world trade is falling at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  In order not to see all of the signs that are pointing toward a global economic slowdown, you would have to be willingly blind.  In recent months, I have been writing article after article detailing how the exact same patterns that happened just before the stock market crash of 2008 are playing out once again.  We are watching a slow-motion train wreck unfold right before our eyes, and things are only going to get worse from here.

Copper is referred to as “Dr. Copper” because it does such an excellent job of indicating where economic conditions are heading next.  We saw this in 2008, when the price of copper started crashing big time in the months leading up to the stock market implosion.

Well, now copper is crashing again.  Just check out this chart.  The price of copper plunged again on Wednesday, and it is now the lowest that it has been since the last financial crisis.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the months ahead is not good.  The following is what Goldman Sachs is saying about copper…

“Though we have been bearish on copper on a 12-mo forward basis for the past two and a half years, we have maintained a more bullish medium to long-term stance on the assumption of Chinese copper demand growth of 4% per annum and a major slowing in supply growth around 2017/2018 … we substantially lower our short, medium, and long-term copper price forecasts, on the back of lower Chinese copper demand growth forecasts (we have been highlighting that the risk has been skewed to the downside for some time), increased conviction in copper supply growth over the next three years, and increased conviction in the outlook for mining cost deflation in dollar terms.”

It is funny that Goldman mentioned China so prominently.  Even though China’s fake GDP figures say that everything is fine over there, other numbers are painting a very dismal picture.

For instance, Chinese electrical consumption in June grew at the slowest pace that we have seen in 30 years, and capital outflows from China have reached a level that is “frightening”

Robin Brooks at Goldman Sachs estimates that capital outflows topped $224bn in the second quarter, a level “beyond anything seen historically”.

The Chinese central bank (PBOC) is being forced to run down the country’s foreign reserves to defend the yuan. This intervention is becoming chronic. The volume is rising. Mr Brooks calculates that the authorities sold $48bn of bonds between March and June.

Charles Dumas at Lombard Street Research says capital outflows – when will we start calling it capital flight? – have reached $800bn over the past year. These are frighteningly large sums of money.

Just last month, the Chinese stock market started to crash, but the crash was interrupted when the Chinese government essentially declared a form of financial martial law.

And I don’t think that “financial martial law” is too strong of a term to use in this case.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph

Half the shares traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen were suspended. New floats were halted. Some 300 corporate bosses were strong-armed into buying back their own shares. Police state tactics were used hunt down short sellers.

We know from a vivid account in Caixin magazine that China’s top brokers were shut in a room and ordered to hand over money for an orchestrated buying blitz. A target of 4,500 was set for the Shanghai Composite by Communist Party officials.

So a stock market crash was halted, but in doing so Chinese officials have essentially destroyed the second largest stock market in the world.  China’s financial markets have lost all legitimacy, and foreigners are going to be extremely hesitant to put any money into Chinese stocks from now on.

Meanwhile, there is no hiding the fact that trade activity in China and in most of the rest of the planet is slowing down.  In fact, world trade volume has now dropped by the most that we have seen since the last global recession.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

As goes the world, so goes America (according to 30 years of historical data), and so when world trade volumes drop over 2% (the biggest drop since 2009) in the last six months to the weakest since June 2014, the “US recession imminent” canary in the coalmine is drawing her last breath

World Trade Volume - Zero Hedge

As Wolf Street’s Wolf Richter adds, this isn’t stagnation or sluggish growth. This is the steepest and longest decline in world trade since the Financial Crisis. Unless a miracle happened in June, and miracles are becoming exceedingly scarce in this sector, world trade will have experienced its first back-to-back quarterly contraction since 2009.

As you probably noted in the chart above, a decline in world trade is almost always associated with a recession.

That was certainly the case back in 2008 and 2009.

Another similarity between the last crisis and what is happening now is a crash in the price of oil.

According to Business Insider, we have just officially entered a brand new bear market for oil…

Oil is officially in a bear market.

On Thursday, West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell more than 1% to settle near $48.55 per barrel in New York.

A bear market is roughly defined as a 20% drop from highs. Crude has now fallen by about 20% in the last six weeks.

So what does all of this mean?

All of these signs are indicating that another great economic crisis is here, and that a global financial implosion is just around the corner.

At this point, even many of the “bulls” are sounding the alarm.  For example, just consider what Henry Blodget of Business Insider is saying…

As regular readers know, for the past ~21 months I have been worrying out loud about US stock prices. Specifically, I have suggested that a decline of 30% to 50% would not be a surprise.

I haven’t predicted a crash. But I have said clearly that I think stocks will deliver returns that are way below average for the next seven to 10 years. And I certainly won’t be surprised to see stocks crash. So don’t say no one warned you!

For those that don’t know, Henry Blodget is definitely not a bear.  In fact, he is one of Wall Street’s biggest cheerleaders.

So for Blodget to suggest that we could see the stock market drop by half is a really big deal.

The closer that we get to this next crisis, the clearer that everything is becoming.

Where are things going to go from here?  Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

Birth Pangs Of The Coming Great Depression

Birth PangsThe signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them.  When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together.  But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense.  Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression.  As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful.  This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years.  The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.  In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge.  This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn.  Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining.  This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching.  The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.

And of course there are so many more parallels between past economic downturns and what is happening right now.

For example, volatility has returned to the markets in a big way.  On Tuesday the Dow was down about 300 points, on Wednesday it was down another couple hundred points, and then on Thursday it was up a couple hundred points.

This is precisely how markets behave just before they crash.  When markets are calm, they tend to go up.  When markets get really choppy and start behaving erratically, that tells us that a big move down is usually coming.

At the same time, almost every major global currency is imploding.  For much more on this, see the amazing charts in this article.

In particular, I am greatly concerned about the collapse of the euro.  The Swiss would not have decoupled their currency from the euro if it was healthy.  And political events in Greece are certainly not going to help things either.  Economic conditions across Europe just continue to get worse, and the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt at this point.  And if the eurozone does break up, a European economic depression is almost virtually assured – at least in the short term.

And I haven’t even mentioned the oil crash yet.

There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil collapsed by more than 60 dollars, and that was just prior to the horrific financial crisis of 2008.

Since the last financial crisis, the oil industry has been a huge source for job growth in this country.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article

The oil sector has added over a half million jobs — many of them high paying — since the recession ended in June 2009. That’s 13% of all US job growth over that period.

Now energy companies and related sectors are laying off thousands. Expect that trend to continue, bears say.

But losing good jobs is just the tip of the iceberg of this oil crisis.

At this point, the price of oil has already dropped to a catastrophically low level.  The longer it stays at this level, the more damage that it is going to do.  If the price of oil stays at this level for all of 2015, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare on our hands

For the first time in 18 years, oil exporters are pulling liquidity out of world markets rather than putting money in. The world is now fast approaching a world reserve currency shift. If we see 8 to 12 months at these oil prices; U.S. shale industry will be wiped out. The effect on junk bonds will cascade to the rest of the stock market and U.S. economy.

…and this time there will be nothing left to catch the falling knife before it hits the American economy right in the heart. Not the FED nor the U.S. government can stop what’s coming. Liquidity will freeze up, our credit will be downgraded, the stock market will start to collapse, and then we can expect the FED to come in and hyper-inflate the dollar. This will cause the world to finish abandoning the world reserve currency in the last rungs of trade. This will be the end of the petrodollar.

Something that I have not discussed so far this year is the looming crisis in emerging market debt.

As economic problems spread around the world, a number of “emerging markets” are in danger of having their debt downgraded.  And many investment funds have rules that prohibit them from holding any debt that is not “investment grade”.  Therefore, we could potentially see some of these giant funds dumping massive amounts of emerging market debt if downgrades happen.

This is a really big deal.  As a Business Insider article recently detailed, we could be talking about hundreds of billions of dollars…

Russia this week became the first of the major economies to lose its investment grade status from Standard & Poor’s, falling out off the top ratings category for credits deemed to have a low risk of default for the first time in a decade.

If Moody’s and Fitch follow, conservative investors barred from owning junk securities must sell their holdings. JPMorgan estimates this means they may ditch $6 billion in Russian government rouble and dollar debt.

Russia may have company. Almost $260 billion worth of sovereign and corporate bonds – nearly a tenth of outstanding emerging market (EM) debt – is in danger of being relegated to junk, according to David Spegel, head of emerging debt at BNP Paribas, who calls such credits “falling angels”.

And no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning derivatives.

I could not possibly overemphasize the danger that the 700 trillion dollar derivatives bubble poses to the global financial system.

As we enter the coming Great Depression, derivatives are going to play a starring role.  Wall Street has been pumped full of funny money by global central banks, and our financial markets have been transformed into the greatest casino in the history of the world.  When this house of cards comes crashing down, and it will, it is going to be a financial disaster unlike anything that the planet has ever seen.

And yes, global central banks are very much responsible for setting the stage for what we are about to experience.

I really like the way that David Stockman put it the other day…

The global financial system is literally booby-trapped with accidents waiting to happen owing to six consecutive years of massive money printing by nearly every central bank in the world.

Over that span, the collective balance sheet of the major central banks has soared by nearly $11 trillion, meaning that honest price discovery has been virtually destroyed. This massive “bid” for existing financial assets based on credit confected from thin air drove long-term bond yields to rock bottom levels not seen in 600 years since the Black Plague; and pinned money market costs at zero—-for 73 months running.

What is the consequence of this drastic financial repression along the entire yield curve? The answer is bond prices which keep rising regardless of credit risk, inflation or taxes; and rampant carry trade speculation that can’t get out of its own way because  central banks have made the financial gamblers’ cost of goods—the “funding” cost of their trades—-essentially zero.

Of course I am not the only one warning that a new Great Depression is coming.  For instance, just consider what British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is saying…

British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey thinks we’ve entered an economic downturn that is “likely to be remembered in a hundred years,” and central banks won’t be able to stop it.

In his Odey Asset Management investor letter dated Dec. 31, Odey writes that the shorting opportunity “looks as great as it was in 07/09.”

“My point is that we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09,” he writes, “so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World Effects. This is the heart of the message. If economic activity far from picks up, but falters, then there will be a painful round of debt default.”

Even though most average citizens are completely oblivious to what is happening, many among the elite are heeding the warning signs and are feverishly getting prepared.  As Robert Johnson told a stunned audience at the World Economic Forum the other day, they are “buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand“.  They can see the horrifying storm forming on the horizon and they are preparing to get out while the getting is good.

It can be very frustrating to write about economics, because things in the financial world can take an extended period of time to play out.  Sadly, most people these days have extremely short attention spans.  We live in a world of iPhones, iPads, YouTube videos, Facebook updates and 48 hour news cycles.  People no longer are accustomed to thinking in long-term time frames, and if something does not happen right away we tend to get bored with it.

But the economic world is not like a game of “Angry Birds”.  Rather, it is very much like a game of chess.

And unfortunately for us, checkmate is right around the corner.

 

Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…

Financial Crisis - Public DomainIt isn’t just the price of oil that is collapsing.  The last time commodity prices were this low was during the immediate aftermath of the last financial crisis.  The Bloomberg Commodity Index fell to 110.4571 on Monday – the lowest that it has been since April 2009.  Just like junk bonds, industrial commodities are a very reliable leading indicator.  In other words, prices for industrial commodities usually start to move in a particular direction before the overall economy does.  We witnessed this in the summer of 2008 when a crash in commodity prices preceded the financial crisis in the fall by a couple of months.  And right now, we are witnessing what may be another major collapse in commodity prices.  In recent weeks, the price of copper has declined substantially.  So has the price of iron ore.  So has the price of nickel.  So has the price of aluminum.  You get the idea.  So this isn’t just about oil.  This is a broad-based commodity decline, and if it continues it is really bad news for the U.S. economy.

Of course most Americans would much rather read news stories about Kim Kardashian, but what is happening to the prices of these industrial metals at the moment is actually far more important to their daily lives.  For example, when the price of iron ore goes down that is a strong indication that economic activity is slowing down.  And that is why it is so troubling that the price of iron ore has almost sunk to a five year low.  The following comes from an Australian news source

The price of iron ore has held below $US70 a tonne in overnight trade, leaving its five-year low within reach.

At the end of the latest offshore session, benchmark iron ore for immediate delivery to the port of Tianjin in China was trading at $US69.40 a tonne, down 0.4 per cent from its previous close of $US69.70 a tonne and only 2 per cent above the five-year low of $US68 reached a fortnight ago.

This week’s dip back under $US70 a tonne has followed revised forecasts from JPMorgan that suggest the commodity will average just $US67 a tonne next year, about $US20 below the investment bank’s previous expectation.

Copper is probably an even better economic indicator than iron ore is.  Economists commonly refer to it as “Dr. Copper”, and there is a really good reason for that.  Looking back over history, the price of copper often makes a significant move in one direction or the other before the economy does.  And now that the price of copper just hit the lowest level that we have seen since the last financial crash, alarm bells are going off.  The following comes from an article by CNBC contributor Ron Insana

Copper prices are now below $3 a pound and there’s an expression that “the economy is topped with a copper roof.” More simply put, copper tends to top out in price, before it becomes obvious that, in this case, the global economy is about to weaken.

So is the global economy heading for rough waters?

Could 2015 be a very rough year economically?

According to Insana, the signs are all around us…

We already have evidence that the commodity crash has ominous portents for the rest of the world:

* Japan’s recession is deeper than previously thought.

* China’s demand for basic materials, amid a glut of uneconomic construction projects, appears to be plummeting.

* Russia’s ruble has collapsed and the country is on the brink, if not already in, a recession.

* India’s economic recovery is beginning to look shaky.

* Europe’s growth rate and inflation rate, for the next two years, were just revised downward by the European Central Bank, suggesting that Europe’s economic crisis is far from over. In fact, at least one former European leader with whom I recently spoke, believes the crisis in Europe may just be in its early stages.

* Brazil and other emerging market nations are struggling with a variety of issues, from recessions at home, to the rising value of the dollar, which is complicating how emerging markets conduct economic policies at home, given how closely their currencies are tied to the greenback.

In addition, the Baltic Dry Index is now at the lowest point that we have seen at this time of the year since 2008

Simply put, with collapsing commodity prices (iron ore for instance) and massive fleets of credit-driven mal-investment-based vessels, it should surprise no one that the shipping index just plunged back below 1000, now at its lowest for this time of year since 2008. Furthermore, the seasonal bounce always seen in Q3 was among the weakest ever.

What does all of this mean?

It is commonly said that those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed leading up to the financial crash of 2008 are happening again.

Unfortunately, very few people saw the last crash coming, and this next crash will take most Americans by surprise as well.

I have written more than 1,200 articles about the economy on my website since 2009, and right now our financial system is more primed for a crash than at any other time since I started The Economic Collapse Blog.

Hopefully we have at least a couple more months of relative stability, but without a doubt 2015 is shaping up to be the most “interesting” year that we have seen in the financial world in a very long time.

All of the signs are there.  But most people choose to believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  When the next crash comes, those people are going to be absolutely blindsided by it.

When you see storm clouds on the horizon, the logical thing to do is to prepare.  And the number one thing that most people should be working on is an emergency fund.  So don’t be frittering your money away on frivolous things.  In the early stages of this next crisis, you are going to need money to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table and to take care of your family.

Just remember what happened back in 2008.  A lot of middle class families were living on the financial edge every month, and because they didn’t have any cushion to fall back on, millions of those families ended up losing their homes when their jobs disappeared.

You need to have an emergency fund that can cover at least six months of expenses.  You don’t want a job loss or a major emergency to put you into a situation where your family could be put out into the street.

And for those that still have lots of money invested in the stock market – I really hope that you know what you are doing.

The market giveth, and the market taketh away.

And when the market taketh away, the consequences can often be exceedingly cruel.

 

The Price Of Copper And 11 Other Recession Indicators That Are Flashing Red

Red LightThere are a dozen significant economic indicators that are warning that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.  The Dow may have soared past the 15,000 mark, but the economic fundamentals are telling an entirely different story.  If historical patterns hold up, the economy is heading for a very rocky stretch.  For example, the price of copper is called “Dr. Copper” by many economists because it so accurately forecasts the future direction of the U.S. economy.  And so far this year the price of copper is way down.  But that is not the only indicator that is worrying economists.  Home renovation spending has fallen dramatically, retail spending is crashing in a way not seen since the last recession, manufacturing activity and consumer confidence are both declining, and troubling economic data continues to come pouring out of Asia and Europe.  So why do U.S. stocks continue to skyrocket?  Will U.S. financial markets be able to continue to be divorced from reality?  Unfortunately, as we have seen so many times in the past, when stocks do catch up with reality they tend to do so very rapidly.  So you better put on your seatbelts because a crash is coming at some point.

But most average Americans are not that concerned with the performance of the stock market.  They just want to be able to go to work, pay the bills and provide for their families.  During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes.  If we have another major recession, that will happen again.  Sadly, it appears that another major recession is quickly approaching.

The following are 12 recession indicators that are flashing red…

#1 The price of copper has traditionally been one of the very best indicators of the future performance of the U.S. economy.  The fact that it is down nearly 20 percent so far this year has many analysts extremely concerned

Copper’s downward trend foreshadows a stock market collapse, according to Societe Generale’s famously bearish strategist Albert Edwards, who said equity markets will riot “Japan-style.”

“Copper is acting exactly as it did when I wrote about the impotence of liquidity in the face of the (then imminent) 2007 recession. Once again it is giving us an early warning that liquidity will not save risk assets: time to get out of equities,” Edwards wrote in his latest research note, on Thursday.

#2 Home renovation spending has fallen back to depressingly-low 2010 levels.

#3 As Zero Hedge recently pointed out, U.S. retail spending is repeating a pattern that we have not seen since the last recession…

Retail sales of clothing is growing at the slowest pace since 2010; but while major store sales are about to drop negative YoY for the first time in over 3 years, the utter collapse in general merchandise sales is worse that at the peak of the last recession at -5%. It seems tough to see how a nation with an economy built on 70% consumption is not in a recessionary environment. And while this alone is a dismal signal for the discretionary upside of the US economy/consumer; as Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg points out real personal income net of transfer receipts plunged at a stunning 5.8% annual rate in Q1. The other seven times we have seen such a collapse, the economy was either in recession of just coming out of one.

#4 Manufacturing activity all over the country is showing signs of slowing down.  In fact, Chicago PMI has dipped below 50 (indicating contraction) for the first time since the last recession.

#5 In April, consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a nine-month low

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment declined to 72.3 in April from 78.6 a month earlier. This month’s reading was lower than all 69 estimates in a Bloomberg survey that called for no change from the March number.

#6 NYSE margin debt peaked right before the recession that began in 2002, it peaked right before the financial crisis of 2008, and it is peaking again.

#7 The S&P 500 usually mirrors the performance of Chinese stocks very closely.  That is why it is so alarming that Chinese stocks peaked months ago.  Will the S&P 500 soon follow?

#8 The economic data coming out of the Chinese economy lately has been mostly terrible

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.

#9 Things just continue to get even worse over in Europe.  Unemployment in both Greece and Spain is now about 27 percent, and the unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole has just set a brand new all-time record high.

#10 Crude inventories have soared to a record high as demand for energy continues to decline.  As I have written about previously, this is a clear sign that economic activity is slowing down.

#11 Casino spending is usually a strong indicator of the overall health of the U.S. economy.  That is why it is so noteworthy that casino spending is now back to levels that we have not seen since the last recession.

#12 The impact of the sequester cuts is starting to kick in.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the sequester cuts will cost the U.S. economy about 750,000 jobs this year.

Do you have any other recession indicators that you would add to this list?

I invite you to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

A Recession Is Coming - Photo by Angie from Sawara, Chiba-ken, Japan

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