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Global Financial Markets Plunged Into Chaos As Italy Overwhelmingly Votes ‘No’

italy-flag-map-public-domainItalian voters have embraced the global trend of rejecting the established world order, but the “no” vote on Sunday has plunged global financial markets into a state of utter chaos.  The euro has already fallen to a 20 month low, Italian government bonds are poised for a tremendous crash, and futures markets are indicating that both U.S. and European stock markets will be way down when they open on Monday.  It is being projected that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s referendum on constitutional reforms will be defeated by about 20 percentage points when all the votes have been counted, and Renzi has already announced that he plans to resign as a result.  When new elections are held it looks like comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star movement will come to power, and the European establishment is extremely alarmed at that prospect because Grillo wants to take Italy out of the eurozone.  In the long run Italy would be much better off without the euro, but in the short-term the only thing propping up Italy’s failing banking system is support from Europe.  Without that support, the 8th largest economy on the entire planet would already be in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis.

I know that I said a lot in that first paragraph, but it is imperative that people understand how serious this crisis could quickly become.

This “no” vote virtually guarantees a major banking crisis for Italy, and many analysts fear that it could trigger a broader financial crisis all across the rest of the continent as well.

Just look at what has already happened.  All of the votes haven’t even been counted yet, and the euro is absolutely plummeting

The euro dropped 1.3 percent to $1.0505, falling below its 1 1/2-year low of $1.0518 touched late last month, and testing its key support levels where the currency has managed to rebound in the past couple of years.

A break below its 2015 March low of $1.0457 would send the currency to its lowest level since early 2003, opening a way for a test of $1, or parity against the dollar, a scenario which many market players now see as a real possibility.

In early 2014, there were times when one euro was trading for almost $1.40.  For a very long time I have been warning that the euro was eventually heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and now we are almost there.

Meanwhile, Italian government bonds are going to continue to crash following this election result.  This is going to make it even more difficult for the Italian government to borrow money, and that will only aggravate their ongoing financial troubles.

But the big problem in Italy is the banks.  At this moment there are eight banks in imminent danger of collapsing, and virtually all of the rest of them are in some stage of trouble.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article about the crisis that Italian banks are facing right at this moment…

They’re burdened with a mountain of bad loans. Their stocks have cratered. And they have to operate in an economy prone to recession and political upheaval.

Signs have been mounting for months that Italy’s weakest lenders, and in particular Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, were sliding toward the precipice, threatening to reignite a broader crisis.

And we may get some news regarding the fate of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as early as Monday morning if what the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting is correct…

A last-gasp rescue for Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest surviving bank, has been thrown into doubt after reformist prime minister Matteo Renzi decisively lost a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday.

MPS and advisers JPMorgan and Mediobanca will meet as early as Monday morning to decide whether to pull a plan to go ahead with a €5bn recapitalisation, the FT reports, citing people informed of the plan.

Senior bankers will decide whether to pursue their underwriting commitments or exercise their right to drop the transaction due to adverse market conditions, these people said. In the event the banks drop the capital plan, the Italian state is expected to nationalise the bank, say senior bankers.

If Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena fails, major banks all over Italy (and all over the rest of Europe) could start going down like dominoes.

So what were Italians voting on anyway?

Well, the truth is that the constitutional reforms that were proposed actually sound quite boring

“The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of Parliament — the Senate — shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate’s power to bring down government coalitions.

“The amendments also shift some powers now held by the regions to the central government, thereby reducing frequent and lengthy court battles between Rome and the regional governments.”

The reason why this vote was ultimately so important is because it became a referendum on Renzi’s administration.  The fact that he announced in advance that he would resign if it did not get approved gave a tremendous amount of fuel to the opposition.

So now Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement stands poised to come to power, and that could be very bad news for those that are hoping to hold the common currency together.

The following is how NPR recently summarized the main goals of the Five-Star Movement…

“It calls for a government-guaranteed, universal income, abolishing Italy’s fiscal commitments to the European Union and a referendum on Italy’s membership in the Euro — a prospect that could unravel the entire single currency Eurozone.”

If Italy chooses to leave the euro, it will probably mean the end of the common currency, and the continued existence of the entire European Union would be called into question.

So this vote on Sunday was huge.  The Brexit had already done a tremendous amount of damage to the long-term prospects for the European Union, and now the crisis in Italy is sending political and financial shockwaves throughout the entire continent.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on the euro and on Italian government bonds.

If they both continue to crash, that will be a sign that a major European financial crisis is now upon us.

And what happens in Europe definitely does not stay in Europe.

If Europe goes down, we are going to go down too.

At this point we still have almost a month left in 2016, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a very troubling year.  As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also keep preparing for the worst.

During The Coming Economic Crisis Two-Thirds Of The Country Will Be Out Of Cash Almost Immediately

money-one-dollar-bills-public-domainDid you know that almost 70 percent of the U.S. population is essentially living paycheck to paycheck?  As you will see below, a brand new survey has found that 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  Of course one of the primary reasons for this is that most of us are absolutely drowning in debt.  In fact, the total amount of household debt in the United States now exceeds 12 trillion dollars.  So many Americans are so busy just trying to pay off their existing debts that they can’t even think about saving anything for the future.  If economic conditions remain relatively stable, the fact that so many of us are living on the edge probably won’t kill us.  But the moment the economy plunges into another 2008-style crisis (or worse), we could be facing a situation where two-thirds of the country is in imminent danger of running out of cash.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you live under the constant threat of your life being totally turned upside down if that paycheck ever goes away.  During the last crisis, millions of Americans lost their jobs very rapidly, and because so many of them were living paycheck to paycheck all of a sudden large numbers of people couldn’t pay their mortgages.  As a result, multitudes of American families went through the extremely painful process of foreclosure.

Unfortunately, it appears that we have not learned anything from the last go around.  According to the brand new survey that I mentioned above, 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings…

Last year, GoBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 Americans only to uncover that 62% of them had less than $1,000 in savings. Last month GoBankingRates again posed the question to Americans of how much they had in their savings account, only this time it asked 7,052 people. The result? Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) had less than $1,000 in their savings account.

Breaking the survey data down a bit further, we find that 34% of Americans don’t have a dime in their savings account, while another 35% have less than $1,000. Of the remaining survey-takers, 11% have between $1,000 and $4,999, 4% have between $5,000 and $9,999, and 15% have more than $10,000.

Perhaps the most alarming fact from this survey is that 62 percent of all Americans had less than $1,000 in savings last year.  So that means that this number has gotten 7 percent worse over the last 12 months.

How did that happen?  I thought the mainstream media was telling us that the economy was getting better…

Look, if you don’t have an emergency fund you are in danger of losing everything.  This is a point that I have been making over and over again for years, and in an article about this new survey USA Today made this point very strongly as well…

This data is particularly worrisome since the recommendation is for Americans to have six months in expenses saved in case of an emergency, such as a large medical expense, car repair bill, or losing your job. Without this emergency fund to fall back on, millions of Americans could be risking financial disaster.

As the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, people are constantly asking me what they should do to get prepared for what is coming.

The number one thing that I always suggest is to build up an emergency fund.

In a chaotic situation it is always hard to anticipate accurately what is going to happen, but without a doubt we are all going to need to continue to pay our bills and to buy things for our families during the next crisis.

Yes, someday the U.S. dollar will become rather worthless, but until that happens you are going to need to continue to put a roof over the heads of your family and to put food on the table.

And you are going to need money to do those things.

Some time ago, the Federal Reserve also found that a large percentage of Americans are living on the edge of financial disaster.  They discovered that 47 percent of all Americans could not even come up with $400 to pay for an unexpected emergency room visit without borrowing the money or selling something that they own.

If you can’t even come up with $400 you are really hurting, but that is the status of about half the country these days.

We are continually being told that the economy is strong, but that is simply not the truth.

In fact, it turns out that the period from 2005 to 2015 was the worst period for per capita real GDP growth in modern American history.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

  1. Growth was unusually strong in the 1960s and early 1970s. In every year from 1966 through 1973, per-capita income was up between 30 percent and 40 percent from a decade earlier. Thus, it’s not surprising that many Americans recall this as a great period for the nation’s economy.
  2. In every year from 1984 to 2007 — a period that economists call the Great Moderation, because of the way both growth and interest rates stabilized — per-person income was up between 20 percent and 30 percent from a decade earlier. That’s ample reason for Americans to view this as a good period for the economy.
  3. Cumulative per-person growth from 2005 to 2015 was lower than in any prior decade in the sample. That certainly helps explain why many Americans are unhappy with the nation’s recent economic performance.

And as I repeat over and over, Barack Obama is on track to be the one and only president in all of American history to never have a single year when the economy grew by at least 3 percent, and he has had eight years to try to accomplish that feat.

Why doesn’t Donald Trump ever bring up that amazing fact?  I would think that he could get a lot of mileage out of that number.

At this point, nobody can deny that the middle class is shrinking.  61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households in 1971, but now the middle class makes up a minority of the population for the very first time in our history.

Back in 1970, the middle class brought home approximately 62 percent of all income, but today that figure has plummeted to just 43 percent.

Those that are still doing well often dismiss those that are struggling by barking out such phrases as “get a job”, but the truth is that getting a good job is not so easy these days.

The most recent statistics show that there are 7.9 million Americans that are considered to be officially unemployed.  When you add that number to the 94.1 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”, you get a grand total of 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

And just because you do have a job does not mean that everything is okay.  As I have discussed previously, 51 percent of all U.S. workers make less than $30,000 a year according to the Social Security Administration.

Everywhere you look things seem to be getting worse and not better.  Not too long ago I documented the explosion of tent cities all over the country as poverty continues to rise, and I discussed how one study found that some young women in our impoverished inner cities are so desperate that they are actually trading sex for food.

Sadly, it isn’t just a few hard cases that we are talking about.  Even in areas of the country that are supposed to be “doing well” we are seeing record-setting poverty numbers.  For example, it was recently reported that the number of New Yorkers sleeping in homeless shelters just set a brand new all-time high, and the number of New York families permanently living in homeless shelters is up 60 percent over the past five years.

If things are this bad during an “economic recovery”, what are they going to look like once the economy really starts imploding?

And considering the fact that almost 70 percent of the population has virtually no savings, could our nation handle an extended economic downturn that may be even worse than what we experienced in 2008 and 2009?

As a nation we truly are living on the edge, and it isn’t going to take very much at all to push us into oblivion.

Tent Cities Full Of Homeless People Are Booming In Cities All Over America As Poverty Spikes

HomelessJust like during the last economic crisis, homeless encampments are popping up all over the nation as poverty grows at a very alarming rate.  According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half a million people are homeless in America right now, but that figure is increasing by the day.  And it isn’t just adults that we are talking about.  It has been reported that that the number of homeless children in this country has risen by 60 percent since the last recession, and Poverty USA says that a total of 1.6 million children slept either in a homeless shelter or in some other form of emergency housing at some point last year.  Yes, the stock market may have been experiencing a temporary boom for the last couple of years, but for those on the low end of the economic scale things have just continued to deteriorate.

Tonight, countless numbers of homeless people will try to make it through another chilly night in large tent cities that have been established in the heart of major cities such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.  Homelessness has gotten so bad in California that the L.A. City Council has formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency.   And in Portland the city has extended their “homeless emergency” for yet another year, and city officials are really struggling with how to deal with the booming tent cities that have sprung up

There have always been homeless people in Portland, but last summer Michelle Cardinal noticed a change outside her office doors.

Almost overnight, it seemed, tents popped up in the park that runs like a green carpet past the offices of her national advertising business. She saw assaults, drug deals and prostitution. Every morning, she said, she cleaned human feces off the doorstep and picked up used needles.

“It started in June and by July it was full-blown. The park was mobbed,” she said. “We’ve got a problem here and the question is how we’re going to deal with it.”

But of course it isn’t just Portland that is experiencing this.  The following list of major tent cities that have become so well-known and established that they have been given names comes from Wikipedia

Most of the time, those that establish tent cities do not want to be discovered because local authorities have a nasty habit of shutting them down and forcing homeless people out of the area.  For example, check out what just happened in Elkhart, Indiana

A group of homeless people in Elkhart has been asked to leave the place they call home. For the last time, residents of ‘Tent City’ packed up camp.

City officials gave residents just over a month to vacate the wooded area; Wednesday being the last day to do so.

The property has been on Mayor Tim Neese’s radar since he took office in January, calling it both a safety and health hazard to its residents and nearby pedestrian traffic.

“This has been their home but you can’t live on public property,” said Mayor Tim Neese, Elkhart.

If they can’t live on “public property”, where are they supposed to go?

They certainly can’t live on somebody’s “private property”.

This is the problem – people don’t want to deal with the human feces, the needles, the crime and the other problems that homeless people often bring with them.  So the instinct is often to kick them out and send them away.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t fix the problem.  It just passes it on to someone else.

As this new economic downturn continues to accelerate, our homelessness boom is going to spiral out of control.  Pretty soon, there will be tent cities in virtually every community in America.

In fact, there are people that are living comfortable middle class lifestyles right at this moment that will end up in tents.  We saw this during the last economic crisis, and it will be even worse as this next one unfolds.

Just like last time around, the signs that the middle class is really struggling can be subtle at first, but when you learn to take note of them you will notice that they are all around you.  The following comes from an excellent article in the New York Post

Do you see grocery stores closing? Do you see other retailers, like clothing stores and department stores, going out of business?

Are there shuttered storefronts along your Main Street shopping district, where you bought a tool from the hardware store or dropped off your dry cleaning or bought fruits and vegetables?

Are you making as much money annually as you did 10 years ago?

Do you see homes in neighborhoods becoming run down as the residents either were foreclosed upon, or the owner lost his or her job so he or she can’t afford to cut the grass or paint the house?

Did that same house where the Joneses once lived now become a rental property, where new people come to live every few months?

Do you know one or two people who are looking for work? Maybe professionals, who you thought were safe in their jobs?

Don’t look down on those that are living in tents, because the truth is that many “middle class Americans” will ultimately end up joining them.

The correct response to those that are hurting is love and compassion.  We all need help at some point in our lives, and I know that I am certainly grateful to those that have given me a helping hand at various points along my journey.

Sadly, hearts are growing cold all over the nation, and the weather is only going to get colder over the months ahead.  Let us pray for health and safety for the hundreds of thousands of Americans that will be sleeping in tents and on the streets this winter.

Global Recession? The Canadian Economy Shrinks At The Fastest Pace Since The Last Financial Crisis

Canada - Public DomainThings have not been this bad for the Canadian economy since the last global recession.  During the second quarter of 2016, Canada’s GDP contracted at a 1.6 percent annualized rate.  That was the worst number in seven years, and it was even worse than most analysts were projecting.  This comes at a time when bad news is pouring in from all corners of the global economy.  While things in the United States are still relatively stable for the moment, the same cannot be said for much of the rest of the planet.  Canada in particular has been hit very hard by the collapse in oil prices, and the massive wildfire in northern Alberta back in May certainly did not help things.  The following comes from the BBC

The recent drop in GDP was larger than analysts had projected, but not far off the predicted 1.5% loss.

“[The figure] could have been worse, given the hit from the wildfire, and clearly confirms the disappointing downward trend in exports over the last few months,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

In May, wildfires devastated the parts of northern Alberta where much of Canada’s oil and natural gas is produced.

For many years, high oil prices and booming exports enabled the Canadian economy to significantly outperform the U.S. economy.  But now conditions have changed dramatically, and all of the economic bubbles up in Canada are starting to burst.  This includes the housing bubble, as we have seen home sales in the hottest markets such as Vancouver drop through the floor late in the summer.  In fact, it is being reported that home sales during the first two weeks of August in British Columbia were down a whopping 51 percent on a year over year basis.

Do you remember the housing bubble in the U.S. that helped fuel the last financial crisis?  Well, a very similar bubble is now bursting up in Canada, and some investors have positioned themselves to make a tremendous amount of money when the whole thing comes violently crashing down.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

This summer, famed short seller Marc Cohodes came out of retirement (he now raises chickens on a farm in Sonoma County, CA, and sells the eggs for a fortune in San Francisco) and jumped into ring with a number of interviews on TV and in the print media, and this too rattled some nerves – largely because it hit home.

“I think it’s a money laundering-induced market,” he said as we reported at the time. “Where the local politicians, or the BC Liberals, are kept or in cahoots with the real estate brokers, developers, lawyers, that angle. And they have sought Chinese money to keep the market propped up and it won’t last,” he said. “China has capital controls on, and Vancouver has become the money laundering mecca of either the world or North America, and something is going to change and change drastically.”

If the price of oil does not rebound in a major way, the Canadian economy is going to continue to deeply struggle.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest economies in Africa is also shrinking.  Nigeria is yet another oil-dependent economy that has fallen on really hard times, and during the latest quarter their GDP shrunk by 2.06 percent on an annualized basis

Nigeria has slipped into recession, with the latest growth figures showing the economy contracted 2.06% between April and June.

The country has now seen two consecutive quarters of declining growth, the usual definition of recession.

Its vital oil industry has been hit by weaker global prices, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

There are so many signs that indicate that the global economy has entered a new major downturn.  Yes, the U.S. is doing better than almost everyone else for the moment, but this will not last indefinitely.  Our planet is more interconnected than ever before, and just as we saw in 2008, big trouble on one side of the globe quickly affects the other side.

Today we also learned that the 7th largest container shipping company in the entire world has completely imploded.  Total global trade has been declining for quite some time now, and it was inevitable that this sort of thing would start happening

After years of relentless decline in the Baltic Dry index…

… today the largest casualty finally emerged on Wednesday when South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping, the country’s largest shipping firm and the world’s seventh-biggest container carrier, filed for court receivership after losing the support of its banks, leaving its assets frozen as ports from China to Spain denied access to its vessels.

Over in Europe, an emerging banking crisis continues to simmer just under the surface.

Most Americans are completely oblivious to the fact that major global financial problems could be just around the corner, but CNBC is reporting that banks over in Europe are “preparing for an economic nuclear winter situation”…

European banks, in particular, have had a very tough six months as the shock and volatility around Brexit sent banking stocks south. Major European banks like Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse saw their shares in free-fall after the referendum’s results were announced. In the U.K., RBS was the worst-hit, with its shares plunging by more than 30 percent since June 24.

The current uncertainty over when the U.K. will start the process of quitting the EU has banks on tenterhooks. But a source told CNBC that banks are “preparing for an economic nuclear winter situation.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic, a source from a major investment bank told CNBC that financial services firms have put together a strategy in place that takes into account the worst-case scenario that could happen by the end of this year.

So precisely what would an “economic nuclear winter” look like?

I don’t know, but it certainly does not sound good.

We should be thankful that things have been as calm and stable as they have been so far in 2016, but nobody should be fooled into thinking that our problems have been fixed.

The truth is that the global debt bubble is at an all-time high, the banks are being more reckless and are more vulnerable than ever before, and troubling economic numbers continue to pour in from all over the planet.

The stage is certainly set for the next major global economic crisis, and it isn’t going to take much to push the world over the edge.

Which Items Will Disappear First During A Major National Emergency?

End Times Ruins Apocalypse - Public DomainOne day in the not too distant future, a major emergency will strike this nation, and that will set off a round of hoarding unlike anything we have ever seen before.  Just think about what happens when a big winter storm or a hurricane is about to hit one of our major cities – inevitably store shelves are stripped bare of bread, milk, snow shovels, etc.  Even though winter storms and hurricanes are just temporary hurdles to overcome, they still cause many people to go into panic mode.  So what is going to happen when we have a real crisis on our hands?

We can get some clues about which items will disappear first during a major national emergency by taking a look at where such a scenario is already playing out.  One recent survey found that over 80 percent of all basic foodstuffs are currently unavailable in Venezuela, and about half the country can no longer provide three meals a day for their families.  Thankfully, some stores still have a few things that they are able to offer, but other key items are completely gone.  The following comes from USA Today

Oh, there are some things to buy. Besides salt, there are fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy products but no milk, some cereal, lots of snacks and a few canned goods.

The only meat is sausages; there are three kinds of cheese. The only problem: A kilogram of each costs more than a fourth of our monthly minimum wage of 15,050 bolivars.

But basic foodstuffs – the things most Venezuelans want to eat  such as corn meal, wheat flour, pasta, rice, milk, eggs, sugar, coffee, chicken, mayonnaise, margarine, cooking oil and beef – are conspicuous by their absence. And there is no toilet paper, no sanitary napkins, no disposable baby diapers, no shampoo, no toothpaste, no hand soap and no deodorant.

Do you have plenty of the items in bold above stored up?

If not, you may want to stock up while you still can.

Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in all of South America, but now lines for food often begin as early as three in the morning.  Some people have become so desperate that they are actually hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food, and there are even a few very sick people that have been killing and eating zoo animals.

Someday similar things will happen in the United States and Europe too.

When that day arrives, will you be prepared?

One of the things that got my attention from the article quote above was the lack of milk.  My wife is always telling me that we should store up more dried milk, and I believe that she is right.

Just imagine not having any milk and not being able to get any more.

What would you do?

Another thing that really stood out to me in the article was the fact that there is a severe shortage of personal hygiene items.  Most people don’t really think of those as “prepper goods”, but the truth is that life will become very uncomfortable without them very rapidly.

What would you do if there was no more toilet paper?

And if you have a little one, how are you going to manage without any diapers?

In general, it is wise to always have an extra supply of just about everything that you use on a daily basis stored away somewhere in your home.  The generation that went through the Great Depression of the 1930s understood this concept very well, but most of us that are younger have had it so good for so long that we don’t even really grasp what a real crisis looks like.

Another thing that we are seeing happen right now in Venezuela is the rise of a barter economy

Many of my urban friends are now planting vegetables in their outdoor spaces – if they have any – or in pots. Another friend, who is a hairdresser, is charging clients food to do their hair. For a shampoo and dry, she charges a kilo of corn meal, saying that she doesn’t have time to stand in line like some of her clients.

As you prepare for what is ahead, you may want to consider stocking up on some items that would specifically be used for bartering in a crisis situation.

For example, you may not drink coffee, but there are millions upon millions of people that do.  In a crisis situation, there will be many that will be extremely desperate to get their hands on some coffee, and so any coffee that you store away now may become a very valuable asset.

We live in a world where one out of every eight people already goes to bed hungry each night, and where one out of every three children is underweight.  As global weather patterns become more extreme, as natural disasters continue to become more frequent and more intense, and as terror and war continue to spread, it is inevitable that the stress on the global food system is going to continue to grow.

Today you can waltz into Wal-Mart and buy giant cartloads of very inexpensive food, but it will not always be that way.

Unfortunately, more than half the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck, and most Americans do not have any emergency food stored up at all.

In addition to food and personal hygiene supplies, here are some other items that are likely to disappear very rapidly during a major national emergency…

-Flashlights

-Batteries

-Generators

-Propane

-Can Openers

-Water Filters

-Water Containers

-Anything Related To Self-Defense

-Axes

-Knives

-Sleeping Bags

-Tents

-First Aid Kits

-Matches

-Candles

-Firewood

-Shovels

-Bottled Water

-Warm Clothing

-Lanterns

-Portable Radios

So in addition to food and personal hygiene items, you may want to do an inventory of the items that I have listed above and see where you may have some holes in your preparation plans.

I understand that there will be some people that will read this article and think that all of us “preppers” are being just a tad ridiculous.

But when a major emergency strikes this nation and you haven’t done anything to prepare, you will dearly wish that you had bothered to take action while there was still time remaining to do so.

The Next Employment Crisis Is Here: Job Cuts At U.S. Companies Jump 35 Percent In April

Layoffs - Public DomainShould we be alarmed that the number of job cuts announced by large U.S. companies was 35 percent higher in April than it was in March?  This is definitely a case where the trend is not our friend.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S. firms announced 65,141 job cuts during April, which represented a massive 35 percent increase over the previous month.  And so far this year overall, job cut announcements are running 24 percent higher than for the exact same period in 2015.  Meanwhile, on Thursday we learned that initial claims for unemployment benefits shot up dramatically last week.  In fact, the jump of 17,000 was the largest increase that we have seen in over a year.  Of course the U.S. economy has been slowing down for quite a while now, and many have been wondering when we would begin to see that slowdown reflected in the employment numbers.  Well, that day has now arrived.

At this point, U.S. firms are laying off people at a rate that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.  Here is what Zero Hedge had to say about these latest numbers…

While one can debate the veracity of the BLS’ seasonally adjusted data, one thing is certain: when a company announces it will layoff thousands, it will. So for all those who suggest that all is well with the US jobs picture based on initial claims reports, here is the latest report from Challenger according to which the pace of downsizing increased in April jumped by 35% to 65,141 during the month of April, from the 48,207 layoff announcements in March.

Looking further back, in the first four months of 2016, employers have announced a total of 250,061 planned job cuts, up 24% from the 201,796 job cuts tracked during the same period a year ago. This represents the highest January-April total since 2009, when the opening four months of the year saw 695,100 job cuts in the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis in modern history.

So what is causing this?

Why are firms laying off so many people all of a sudden?

My readers are very well aware of the pain that the energy industry is experiencing at the moment, but surprisingly it was not the energy industry that announced the most job cuts in April…

Computer firms announced 16,923 job cuts during the month; the highest total among all industries. That total includes 12,000 from chipmaker Intel, which is shifting away from the traditional desktop and laptop market and toward the mobile market. To date, computer firms have announced 33,925 job cuts, up 262 percent from a year ago, when job cuts in the sector totaled just 9,368 through the first four months of the year.

Yes, the U.S. energy industry has lost well over 100,000 good paying jobs since the beginning of last year, but the downturn is so much broader than that.  All over America corporate earnings are down, and when earnings fall it is inevitable that layoffs will follow.

As I have written about previously, earnings for companies listed on the S&P 500 have fallen a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it was being projected that corporate earnings overall would be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period a year ago.

And in the chart that I have posted below, you can see that corporate profits after tax have been falling precipitously since peaking in mid-2015…

corporate profits

As this new economic downturn intensifies, the layoffs will accelerate.

In plain English, that means that a whole lot more people will be losing their jobs.

Unfortunately, a very large percentage of Americans didn’t learn anything from the last crisis and are living on the financial edge.  In fact, the Federal Reserve says that 47 percent of all Americans cannot even pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without borrowing the money or selling something.

So just like back in 2008, we are going to see huge numbers of people unable to pay their bills when they lose their jobs.  Foreclosures are going to skyrocket, and lots and lots of families are going to be put out into the street.

This is why I have been preaching the importance of having an emergency fund for years.  It is absolutely imperative to have an emergency fund that can cover your bills for at least six months in the event that there is a job loss or some other sort of major disaster strikes.

If you have not done this already, you are probably already too late.

The cold, hard reality of the matter is that it would take most families quite a while to save up a six month emergency fund if they are starting from zero.

So if you are in this position and you lose your job, you may have to move in with family or friends when your money runs out.

I don’t mean to be cold, but this is the situation that we are facing.  The next employment crisis is already here, and it is going to get much, much worse.  No matter who becomes “the next president”, job cuts are going to accelerate and good jobs are going to become exceedingly difficult to find.

I am certainly not advocating that anyone give up.  If you still have a good job for the moment, tighten your belt and use this time to feverishly prepare the very best that you can.

Sadly, tens of millions of Americans believed that this bubble of false prosperity would keep on rolling, and so they wasted immense amounts of precious time and resources.  Now the day of reckoning is here, and vast numbers of our fellow citizens are going to discover the horror of being unprepared.

Rail Traffic Depression: 292 Union Pacific Engines Are Sitting In The Arizona Desert Doing Nothing

Union Pacific Engines - Google EarthWe 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…

Union Pacific Engines - Google Earth

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…

M2 Velocity Of Money

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.

The U.S. Economy Officially Joins The Global Economic Slowdown – 1st Quarter GDP Comes In At 0.5%

Slow Down - Public DomainEven the government is admitting that the U.S. economy is slowing down.  On Thursday, we learned that U.S. GDP grew at just a 0.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2016.  This was lower than analysts were anticipating, and it marks the third time in a row that the GDP number has declined compared to the previous quarter.  In other words, GDP growth has been declining for close to a year now, and this lines up perfectly with what I have been saying about how the second half of last year was a turning point that plunged us into the early chapters of a brand new economic crisis.  And as you will see below, the official GDP number is highly manipulated, and the way that it is calculated has been changed numerous times over the years.  So the bad number that is being reported by the government is actually the best case scenario.

Of course many of the “experts” being quoted by the mainstream media are saying that this is just a temporary blip and that good times for the U.S. economy are right around the corner.  For instance, check out this quote from Reuters

“The economy essentially stalled in the first quarter, but that doesn’t mean it is faltering,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. “Some of the restraints to growth are dissipating. Growth is likely to accelerate going forward.”

We have been told this same story for years, but the “acceleration” has never materialized.  In fact, Barack Obama is poised to become the only president in U.S. history to never have a single year when the economy grew by more than 3 percent during his presidency.

That is a statistic that is hard to believe, but it is true.

In addition, Louis Woodhill has pointed out that the average rate of U.S. economic growth during the Obama years will be the fourth worst in recorded history…

Assuming 2.67% RGDP growth for 2016, Obama will leave office having produced an average of 1.55% growth. This would place his presidency fourth from the bottom of the list of 39*, above only those of Herbert Hoover (-5.65%), Andrew Johnson (-0.70%) and Theodore Roosevelt (1.41%)

So does anyone out there still believe that there has been an “Obama recovery”?

We also need to add another layer to our analysis.  By now, everyone should realize that the official GDP number is highly manipulated, and the way that GDP is calculated has been changed many, many times over the years.

For example, here is Peter Schiff commenting on changes that were made in 2013

The latest example of this was revealed earlier this week when the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced new methods of calculating Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that will immediately make the economy “bigger’ than it used to be. The changes focus heavily on how money spent on research and development (R&D) and the production of “intangible” assets like movies, music, and television programs will be accounted for. Declaring such expenditures to be “investments” will immediately increase U.S. GDP by about three percent. Such an upgrade would immediately increase the theoretic size of the U.S economy and may well lead to the perception of faster growth. In reality these smoke and mirror alterations are no different from changes made to the inflation and unemployment yardsticks that for years have convinced Americans that the economy is better than it actually is.

And the following originally comes from a Bloomberg article which discussed changes that were made in 2015

The way some parts of U.S. gross domestic product are calculated are about to change in the wake of the debate over persistently depressed first-quarter growth.

In a blog post published Friday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis listed a series of alterations it will make in seasonally adjusting data used to calculate economic growth. The changes will be implemented with the release of the initial second-quarter GDP estimate on July 30, the BEA said.

One of the changes that was made last year was intended to artificially boost GDP growth numbers for the first quarter of each year.

So without that artificial boost, what would the real number for the first quarter of 2016 look like?

John Williams of shadowstats.com tracks what the official government numbers would be if honest numbers were actually being used, and according to him U.S. GDP growth has been continuously negative since 2005.

But we certainly can’t have the press report those sorts of things.  If that were the case, then everyone would be talking about the “economic depression” that never seems to end.

Unfortunately, the truth is that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and we can see evidence of this all around us.  For example, on Thursday we also learned that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen once again, and it is now hovering just 0.1 percent above the lowest level ever recorded in American history…

After gains in the second half of 2015, the homeownership rate fell to just 63.6 percent, seasonally adjusted, in the first quarter of this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Homeownership hit a high of 69.4 percent in 2004, during one of the biggest housing booms in history. That was also when mortgage lending was arguably at its loosest level in history. The homeownership rate is now just one-tenth of 1 basis point higher than its all-time low in the second quarter of 2015.

For many more numbers that show that the U.S. economy has continued to decline, please see the following articles that I authored earlier this month…

#1 “Economy In Decline: Apple Reports Massive Revenue Decline As iPhone Sales Plummet Dramatically

#2 “In 1 Out Of Every 5 American Families, Nobody Has A Job

#3 “Stories Of Despair From The Forgotten People That The U.S. Economy Has Left Behind

#4 “47 Percent Of Americans Cannot Even Come Up With $400 To Cover An Emergency Room Visit

#5 “Corporations Are Defaulting On Their Debts Like It’s 2008 All Over Again

Now that U.S. GDP growth has been steadily dropping for three quarters in a row, hopefully people will wake up and begin to realize what is happening.

We are entering very hard times, so now is not the time to go out and buy fancy new toys or to go into lots of debt.

Rather, this is a time to tighten our belts, batten down the hatches and prepare for rough seas ahead.

Sadly, most people continue to have blind faith that our politicians and the central bankers will be able to perform some kind of miracle to save us from what is coming.

*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.*

U.S. Economy 2016: 3 Classic Recession Signals Are Flashing Red

Red Light - Public DomainThose that were hoping for an “economic renaissance” in the United States got some more bad news this week.  It turns out that the U.S. economy is in significantly worse shape than the experts were projecting.  Retail sales unexpectedly declined in March, total business sales have fallen again, and the inventory to sales ratio has hit the highest level since the last financial crisis.  When you add these three classic recession signals to the 19 troubling numbers about the U.S. economy that I wrote about last week, it paints a very disturbing picture.  Virtually all of the signs that we would expect to pop up during the early chapters of a major economic crisis have now appeared, and yet most Americans still appear to be clueless about what is happening.

Even I was surprised when the government reported that retail sales had actually fallen in March.  Consumer spending is a very large part of our economy, and so if consumer spending is slowing down already that certainly does not bode well for the rest of 2016.  The following comes from highly respected author Jim Quinn

The Ivy League educated “expert” economists expected March retail sales to increase by 0.1%. They only missed by $6 billion, as retail sales FELL by 0.3%. They have fallen for three straight months. At least gasoline sales were strong, as prices have risen 22% since mid-February. That should do wonders for the finances of American households. If you exclude gasoline sales, retail sales fell by 0.4%. As the chart below reveals, the year over year change in retail sales has been at or near recessionary levels for most of 2015, and into 2016.

You can view the chart that he was referring to right here.  In addition to a decline in retail sales, total business sales have also been falling, and this is another classic recession signal.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Total business sales fell again in February, the Commerce Department reported today. They include sales by manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers of all sizes across the US economy. This measure is far broader than the aggregate sales by publicly traded companies, which too have been falling.

At $1.284 trillion in February, total business sales were down an estimated 0.4% from January, adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences but not for price changes. And they were down 1.4% from the already beaten-down levels of February last year. They’re back where they’d first been in November 2012!

Yes, the stock market has been on quite a run for the past several weeks, but that temporary rebound is not based on the economic fundamentals.

The truth is that the real economy is definitely starting to slow down substantially.  If you want to break it down very simply, less stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, and that tells us far more about what is coming in the months ahead than the temporary ups and downs of stock prices.

Another huge red flag is the fact that the inventory to sales ratio in the U.S. has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis

The crucial inventory-to-sales ratio, which tracks how long unsold inventory sits around in relationship to sales, is now at a mind-bending 1.41. That’s the level the ratio spiked to in November 2008, after the Lehman bankruptcy in September had put the freeze on the economy.

Inventories represent prior sales by suppliers. When companies try to reduce their inventories, they cut their orders. Suppliers see these orders as sales. As their sales slump, suppliers adjust by cutting their own orders, thus causing the sales slump to propagate up the supply chain. They all react by cutting their expenses. And if it lasts, they’ll cut jobs. Inventory corrections have a nasty impact on the overall economy.

Because sales have slowed down, inventories are starting to pile up to alarmingly high levels.  And when companies see that business is slowing down, they start to let people go.

In a previous article, I told my readers that Challenger, Gray & Christmas is reporting that job cut announcements at major firms in the United States are up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Somehow, most of the talking heads on television don’t seem too alarmed by this.

But ordinary Americans are beginning to become alarmed about what is happening.  In fact, the percentage of Americans that believe that the U.S. economy is “getting worse” is now the highest it has been since last August

One of the more glaring examples of how strong pessimism has become is Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index. The measure gauges the difference between respondents who say the economy is improving or declining. The most recent results are not good.

Fully 59 percent say the economy is “getting worse” against just 37 percent who say it is “getting better.” That gap of 22 percentage points is the worst since August, according to Gallup, which polled 3,542 adults.

Personally, I thought that we would be a little further down the road by now, but without a doubt a new economic downturn has begun in America.

So far, it is less severe than what most of the rest of the planet is experiencing.  Japan’s GDP is officially shrinking, major banks are failing all over Europe, and even CNN admits that what is going on down in Brazil is an “economic collapse”.

It’s funny – yesterday I took time out to write an article about the horrible suffering that ISIS sex slaves are enduring, and a few of my critics took that as a sign that there must not be enough bad economic news to write about.

Well, the truth is that this isn’t the case at all.  The global economic meltdown is steaming along, even if it is moving just a little bit slower than many of us had originally anticipated.  We are moving in the exact direction that myself and many others had warned about, and the rest of 2016 is looking quite ominous for the global economy.

So hopefully everyone (including the critics) is using whatever time we have left wisely.  Because I definitely wish the very best for everyone during the exceedingly hard times that are coming.

*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.*

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