25 Signs That The Financial World Is About To Hit The Big Red Panic Button

Most of the worst financial panics in history have happened in the fall.  Just recall what happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008.  Well, September 2011 is about to begin and there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button.  Wave after wave of bad economic news has come out of the United States recently, and Europe is embroiled in an absolutely unprecedented debt crisis.  At this point there is a very real possibility that the euro may not even survive.  So what is causing all of this?  Well, over the last couple of decades a gigantic debt bubble has fueled a tremendous amount of “fake prosperity” in the western world.  But for a debt bubble to keep going, the total amount of debt has to keep expanding at an ever increasing pace.  Unfortunately for the global economy, sources of credit are starting to dry up.  That is why you hear terms like “credit crisis” and “credit crunch” thrown around so much these days.  Without enough credit to feed the monster, the debt bubble is going to burst.  At this point, virtually the entire global economy runs on credit, so when this debt bubble bursts things could get really, really messy.

Nations and financial institutions would never get into debt trouble if they could always borrow as much money as they wanted at extremely low interest rates.  But what has happened is that lending sources are balking at continuing to lend cheap money to nations and financial institutions that are already up to their eyeballs in debt.

For example, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 40 percent.  Investors don’t trust the Greek government and they are demanding a huge return in order to lend them more money.

Throughout the financial world right now there is a lot of fear.  Lending conditions have gotten very tight.  Financial institutions are not eager to lend money to each other or to anyone else.  This “credit crunch” is going to slow down the economy.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  When easy credit stops flowing, the dominoes can start falling very quickly.

Sadly, this is a cycle that can feed into itself.  When credit is tight, the economy slows down and more businesses fail.  That causes financial institutions to want to tighten up things even more in order to avoid the “bad credit risks”.  Less economic activity means less tax revenue for governments.  Less tax revenue means larger budget deficits and increased borrowing by governments.    But when government debt gets really high that can cause huge economic problems like we are witnessing in Greece right now.  The cycle of tighter credit and a slowing economy can go on and on and on.

I spend a lot of time talking about problems with the U.S. economy, but the truth is that the rest of the world is dealing with massive problems as well right now.  As bad as things are in the U.S., the reality is that Europe looks like it may be “ground zero” for the next great financial crisis.

At this point the EU essentially has three choices.  It can choose much deeper economic integration (which would mean a huge loss of sovereignty), it can choose to keep the status quo going for as long as possible by providing the PIIGS with gigantic bailouts, or it can choose to end of the euro and return to individual national currencies.

Any of those choices would be very messy.  At this point there is not much political will for much deeper economic integration, so the last two alternatives appear increasingly likely.

In any event, global financial markets are paralyzed by fear right now.  Nobody knows what is going to happen next, but many now fear that whatever does come next will not be good.

The following are 25 signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button….

#1 According to a new study just released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

#2 Will Bank of America be the next Lehman Brothers?  Shares of Bank of America have fallen more than 40% over the past couple of months.  Even though Warren Buffet recently stepped in with 5 billion dollars, the reality is that the problems for Bank of America are far from over.  In fact, one analyst is projecting that Bank of America is going to need to raise 40 or 50 billion dollars in new capital.

#3 European bank stocks have gotten absolutely hammered in recent weeks.

#4 So far, major international banks have announced layoffs of more than 60,000 workers, and more layoff announcements are expected this fall.  A recent article in the New York Times detailed some of the carnage….

A new wave of layoffs is emblematic of this shift as nearly every major bank undertakes a cost-cutting initiative, some with names like Project Compass. UBS has announced 3,500 layoffs, 5 percent of its staff, and Citigroup is quietly cutting dozens of traders. Bank of America could cut as many as 10,000 jobs, or 3.5 percent of its work force. ABN Amro, Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, State Street and Wells Fargo have in recent months all announced plans to cut jobs — tens of thousands all told.

#5 Credit markets are really drying up.  Do you remember what happened in 2008 when that happened?  Many are now warning that we are getting very close to a repeat of that.

#6 The Conference Board has announced that the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index fell from 59.2 in July to 44.5 in August.  That is the lowest reading that we have seen since the last recession ended.

#7 The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index has fallen by almost 20 points over the last three months.  This index is now the lowest it has been in 30 years.

#8 The Philadelphia Fed’s latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish….

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009

#9 According to Bloomberg, since World War II almost every time that the year over year change in real GDP has fallen below 2% the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession….

Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. It’s hard to argue against an indicator with such a long history of accuracy.

#10 Economic sentiment is falling in Europe as well.  The following is from a recent Reuters article….

A monthly European Commission survey showed economic sentiment in the 17 countries using the euro, a good indication of future economic activity, fell to 98.3 in August from a revised 103 in July with optimism declining in all sectors.

#11 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now an astronomical 42.47%.

#12 As I wrote about recently, the European Central Bank has stepped into the marketplace and is buying up huge amounts of sovereign debt from troubled nations such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.  As a result, the ECB is also massively overleveraged at this point.

#13 Most of the major banks in Europe are also leveraged to the hilt and have tremendous exposure to European sovereign debt.

#14 Political wrangling in Europe is threatening to unravel the Greek bailout package.  In a recent article, Satyajit Das described what has been going on behind the scenes in the EU….

The sticking point is a demand for collateral for the second bailout package. Finland demanded and got Euro 500 million in cash as security against their Euro 1,400 million share of the second bailout package. Hearing of the ill-advised side deal between Greece and Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia also are now demanding collateral, arguing that their banks were less exposed to Greece than their counterparts in Germany and France entitling them to special treatment. At least, one German parliamentarian has also asked the logical question, why Germany is not receiving similar collateral.

#15 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to hold the Greek bailout deal together, but a wave of anti-bailout “hysteria” is sweeping Germany, and now according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard it looks like Merkel may not have enough votes to approve the latest bailout package….

German media reported that the latest tally of votes in the Bundestag shows that 23 members from Mrs Merkel’s own coalition plan to vote against the package, including twelve of the 44 members of Bavaria’s Social Christians (CSU). This may force the Chancellor to rely on opposition votes, risking a government collapse.

#16 Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski is warning that the status quo in Europe will lead to “collapse“.  According to Rostowski, if the EU does not choose the path of much deeper economic integration the eurozone simply is not going to survive much longer….

“The choice is: much deeper macroeconomic integration in the eurozone or its collapse. There is no third way.”

#17 German voters are against the introduction of “Eurobonds” by about a 5 to 1 margin, so deeper economic integration in Europe does not look real promising at this point.

#18 If something goes wrong with the Greek bailout, Greece is financially doomed.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Puru Saxena….

In Greece, government debt now represents almost 160% of GDP and the average yield on Greek debt is around 15%. Thus, if Greece’s debt is rolled over without restructuring, its interest costs alone will amount to approximately 24% of GDP. In other words, if debt pardoning does not occur, nearly a quarter of Greece’s economic output will be gobbled up by interest repayments!

#19 The global banking system has a total of 2 trillion dollars of exposure to Greek, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian debt.  Considering how much the global banking system is leveraged, this amount of exposure could end up wiping out a lot of major financial institutions.

#20 The head of the IMF, Christine Largarde, recently warned that European banks are in need of “urgent recapitalization“.

#21 Once the European crisis unravels, things could move very rapidly downhill.  In a recent article, John Mauldin put it this way….

It is only a matter of time until Europe has a true crisis, which will happen faster – BANG! – than any of us can now imagine. Think Lehman on steroids. The U.S. gave Europe our subprime woes. Europe gets to repay the favor with an even more severe banking crisis that, given that the U.S. is at best at stall speed, will tip us into a long and serious recession. Stay tuned.

#22 The U.S. housing market is still a complete and total mess.  According to a recently released report, U.S. home prices fell 5.9% in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.  That was the biggest decline that we have seen since 2009.  But even with lower prices very few people are buying.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homes dropped 3.5 percent during July.  That was the third decline in the last four months.  Sales of previously owned homes are even lagging behind last year’s pathetic pace.

#23 According to John Lohman, the decline in U.S. economic data over the past three months has been absolutely unprecedented.

#24 Morgan Stanley now says that the U.S. and Europe are “hovering dangerously close to a recession” and that there is a good chance we could enter one at some point in the next 6 to 12 months.

#25 Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota says that he is so alarmed about the state of the economy that he may drop his opposition to more monetary easing.  Could more quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve soon be on the way?

Things have not looked this bad for global financial markets since 2008.  Unless someone rides in on a white horse with trillions of dollars (or euros) of easy credit, it looks like we are headed for a massive credit crunch.

What we witnessed back in 2008 was absolutely horrifying.  Very few people want to see a repeat of that.  But as things in the U.S. and Europe continue to unravel, it appears increasingly likely that the next wave of the financial crisis could hit us sooner rather than later.

None of the fundamental problems that caused the crisis of 2008 have been fixed.  The world financial system is still one gigantic mountain of debt, leverage and risk.

Authorities around the globe will certainly do all they can to keep things stable, but in the end it is inevitable that the house of cards is going to come crashing down.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Credit Crunch 2010

Over the past several decades, one of the primary engines of U.S. economic prosperity has been a constantly expanding debt spiral.  As long as the U.S. government, state governments, businesses and American consumers could all continue to borrow increasingly large amounts of money, the economy was going to continue to grow and “the greatest party on earth” could continue.  But many of us knew that if anything ever came along and significantly interrupted that debt spiral, it could cause a credit crunch even more severe than we saw at the beginning of the Great Depression back in the 1930s.  You see, back in the “roaring 20s”, American businesses and consumers had leveraged themselves like never before.  Debt soared to record levels and when the credit spigot was suddenly turned off the whole thing came crashing down and it took an entire decade and a world war to recover.  Well, today things are frighteningly similar.  Over the past 30 years we have piled up unprecedented mountains of debt.  In fact, today our entire economic system is based on debt.  So what would a credit crunch do to an economy based on debt?  Well, it would absolutely devastate it of course.  So are we facing a credit crunch in 2010?  Yes.  Consumer credit in the United States has already contracted during 15 of the past 16 months, and there is every indication that things are about to get even worse.

The truth is that once a deflationary cycle starts, it tends to feed on itself.  People quit spending money, banks quit making loans and everyone starts hoarding cash.

And right now there is a lot of fear out there.  According to one major indicator, consumer sentiment declined in early July to its lowest in 11 months.

U.S. consumers are starting to pay down debt and are holding on to their money.  Others can’t spend more money because they are out of work or are completely tapped out.

But without more spending, the U.S. economy won’t get revved up again.  And if the U.S. economy does not get going soon, there are going to be more foreclosures, more bankruptcies and even more jobs lost.

In a recent article for The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard set out some of the statistics that show that the U.S. economy is in really, really bad shape right now….

The US workforce has shrunk by a 1m over the past two months as discouraged jobless give up the hunt. Retail sales have fallen for the past two months. New homes sales crashed to 300,000 in May after tax credits ran out, the lowest since records began in 1963. Mortgage applications have fallen by 42pc to 13-year low since April. Paul Dales at Capital Economics said the “shadow inventory” of unsold properties has risen to 7.8m. “The double dip in housing has begun,” he said.

It seems like almost everyone is using the words “double dip” these days.

It is almost as if it was already a foregone conclusion.

But the truth is that this would have just been one long economic decline if the U.S. government (and many of the other governments around the globe) had not pumped so much “stimulus” into their economies over the past several years.

Now that governments around the world are pulling back and are beginning to implement austerity measures, the “sugar rush” of the stimulus money is wearing off and the original economic decline is resuming.

All that the trillions in “stimulus” did was to give the world economy a temporary boost and get us into a whole lot more debt.

In his recent article entitled “The U.S. Is On The Edge Of A Growing Deflationary Sinkhole”, Lorimer Wilson did a really good job of detailing how all of this debt has gotten us into a complete and total mess….

Capitalism cannot function unless its constantly compounding debt is serviced and/or paid down. Today, the U.S., the world’s largest debtor, can no longer pay what it owes except by rolling its debt forward and borrowing more [in] what the late economist Hyman Minsky called ponzi-financing, financing common in the final stages of mature capital systems.

The amount of outstanding U.S. debt, according to Martin D. Weiss, www.moneyandmarkets.com, has now reached levels that can never be paid off. The United States government and its agencies have, by far,
– the largest pile-up of interest-bearing debts ($15.6 trillion),
– the largest accumulation of unsecured obligations (over $60 trillion),
– the largest yearly deficit ($1.6 trillion), and
– the greatest indebtedness to the rest of the world ($4.8 trillion).

The truth is that the United States is in the early stages of a truly historic financial implosion.

Earlier this year, all of the focus was on the European sovereign debt crisis, but now all eyes are turning back to the U.S. once again.  David Bloom, currency chief at HSBC, recently remarked that world financial markets are extremely concerned about the state of the U.S. economy right now….

“We’re in a world of rotating sovereign crises. The market seems to become obsessed with one idea at a time, then violently swings towards another. People thought the euro would break-up. Now we’re moving into a new phase because we’re hearing alarm bells of a US double dip.”

Without direct intervention from the U.S. government, the U.S. financial system is headed for a world of hurt.

The truth is that the credit markets are freezing up, and without efficiently operating credit markets, the economic system we have constructed simply will not work.

The following information comes courtesy of the Consumer Metrics Institute.  If you have never visited their site, you should, because it is packed full of excellent data.  In their most recent report, they do a good job of detailing the astounding credit contraction that we have been witnessing….

During the past week there has been a flurry of Federal Reserve reports and commentary concerning the levels of credit in the current economy. The two most notable were:

► On July 8th they reported that the level of seasonally adjusted outstanding U.S. Consumer Credit (their G.19 report) decreased during May by $9.1 billion, representing an annualized rate of credit contraction of 4.5%. Although even this change is above the average for the preceding twelve months, it is much smaller than a quiet revision to the previously published April U.S. Consumer Credit figure — which is now reported to have decreased by $14.9 billion (a 7.3% annualized contraction rate).

The Federal Reserve fails to put these numbers into perspective:

1) Consumer credit has contracted during 15 of the past 16 reported months, and it is down a record total $148 billion over that time span.

2) The $14.9 billion in credit ‘lost’ during just April is the second highest monthly amount in history, second only to the $23.4 billion ‘lost’ during November, 2009.

3) And the nearly 6% cumulative reduction in consumer credit over the past 16 months is the largest (on a percentage basis) for any 16 month span since September 1944 — when FDR was still in the White House and people were buying War Bonds instead of tightly rationed consumer goods.

► On July 12th Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted that small businesses were not getting the loans that they need to create new jobs. The Federal Reserve’s own data reports that lending to small businesses dropped to below $670 billion in Q1 2010, down about $40 billion (5.6%) from two years ago.

The New York Times reported Mr. Bernanke wondered: “How much of this reduction has been driven by weaker demand for loans from small businesses, how much by a deterioration in the financial condition of small businesses during the economic downturn, and how much by restricted credit availability? No doubt all three factors have played a role.”

Small businesses, which account for over 60% of gross job creation, are not – for whatever reason – tapping into the credit necessary to create those jobs.

If you know anything about economics, the excerpt that you just read should be chilling you to your bones right about now.

Without loans, businesses can’t start or expand, consumers cannot buy homes or vehicles and retail spending will be in the toilet.

But, as a recent USA Today article pointed out, part of the problem is that so many Americans now have very, very low credit scores….

Figures provided by FICO show that 25.5% of consumers — nearly 43.4 million people — now have a credit score of 599 or below, marking them as poor risks for lenders. It’s unlikely they will be able to get credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards banks now use.

As I recently pointed out on The American Dream blog, historically only about 15 percent of Americans have had credit scores that low.

So can the U.S. economy fully recover if the number of Americans that are a bad credit risk has nearly doubled?

That is a very good question.

As I noted in a previous article, the truth is that the retail sector is already a huge mess, and if we don’t get the American people pulling out their credit cards soon this holiday season may not be very jolly at all….

Vacancies and lease rates at U.S. shopping centers continued to get even worse during the second quarter of 2010.  In fact, in some of the most depressed areas of the United States, many malls and shopping centers could end up looking like ghost towns by the time Christmas rolls around.

So this is the point where Barack Obama comes riding in on his white horse and rescues the U.S. economy, right?

Well, at this point Obama has joined with the other G20 leaders in pledging to get government spending under control.

So right now there are not any plans for new stimulus packages.

But as the U.S. economy starts sinking into a deflationary depression, the temptation to pump up the economy with even more government spending will become too great.

This will especially be true the closer to the election of 2012 that we get.  By the time election season rolls around, Obama will likely be much more willing to pile up even more debt for a short-term economic boost.

So yes, we are headed for a complete and total economic nightmare, but exactly how it all plays out is going to depend a lot on what Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve, other world leaders and other central banks decide to do.

For the moment, we are heading for an absolutely brutal credit crunch, and if something is not done quickly, it is going to dramatically slow down the world economy.

I would like to encourage all of my readers to check out the great deals that Nitro-Pak is offering on emergency food products….

I would also like to encourage all of my readers to check out the great deals that Nitro-Pak is offering on water filters….

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!