In addition to all of our wars in the Middle East and the war that has erupted on the streets of America, we are now engaged in a cyber war with North Korea and an economic war with Russia. Without a doubt, the United States has the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage to both of them. But what about the damage that they could potentially do to us? We have a society that is absolutely teeming with soft targets. Our Internet infrastructure is extremely vulnerable, our debt-based economic system is already teetering on the edge of disaster, and government officials freely admit that security at key facilities such as power plants is sorely lacking. And these kinds of bitter conflicts have a way of escalating. The North Koreans and the Russians are both very proud, and neither one is going to back down any time soon. If a foreign power wanted to really make us hurt, it wouldn’t take much imagination at all. There are thousands of ways to do it. So Americans should not just smugly assume that we are untouchable. In a war, it is often those that are overconfident that get hurt the worst.
Last week, Barack Obama blamed North Korea for the nightmarish hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and he promised that the U.S. would respond.
Well, it looks like that response began on Monday. According to Bloomberg, North Korea’s connection to the Internet was totally cut off…
North Korea’s limited access to the Internet has been cut off, according to a network-monitoring company, days after the U.S. government accused the country of hacking into Sony Corp. (6758)’s files.
North Korea, which has four official networks connecting the country to the Internet — all of which route through China — began experiencing intermittent problems yesterday and today went completely dark, according to Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Needless to say, that got the attention of the North Koreans.
On their end, the North Koreans are still denying that they had anything to do with the attack on Sony. And we may never know the actual truth. In reality, Russia could have carried out such an attack. Or it could have been the Chinese. Or it could have even been a false flag cyberattack conducted by a three letter U.S. agency. We just don’t know.
But what we do know is that North Korea is now vowing to take action against “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland“…
“The DPRK has already launched the toughest counteraction. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction. Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans,” a report on state-run KCNA read.
“Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism,” the report said, adding that “fighters for justice” including the “Guardians of Peace” — a group that claimed responsibility for the Sony attack — “are sharpening bayonets not only in the U.S. mainland but in all other parts of the world.”
So can North Korea back up those bold words?
We shall see.
But without a doubt our Internet infrastructure is very vulnerable. As I have written about previously, our big banks are under Internet attack every single minute of every single day. And in recent months we have seen a whole host of retailers and major corporations get hacked.
This is an emerging threat that should not be underestimated. As a society, we have become extremely dependent on the Internet, and these attacks are constantly becoming more powerful and more sophisticated.
I think that Steve Quayle put it very well during one recent interview…
“Cyberwarfare is increasing dramatically as we speak. There are serious concerns about the ability of the United States’ banking system to whether extremely sophisticated cyberattacks. The Sony breach is just one example of how a detrimental cyberattack can bring one of the world’s most prominent entertainment giants to its knees.”
And we do know that the North Koreans take hacking very seriously.
In fact, it has been reported that North Korea has a small army of hackers that are continually harassing the western world known as “Unit 121″…
Just like in a Bond movie, an army of teenage geniuses tap away at keyboards in fortified complex tucked away from prying eyes in a rogue state, bent on bringing cyber-carnage to their Western enemies on the orders of their leader who is bent on revenge.
But this isn’t the plot line from a film. This is North Korea in 2014. And the cyber-warriors inside have diverted from their usual work of disrupting governments and big business to turn their collective fury on Sony.
The building, the Kim Il-Sung Military Academy, is one of four North Korean universities known to train children, hand-picked for their intelligence from all around the country, and turn them into recruits for an elite group of hackers simply known as Unit 121 or Bureau 121.
Meanwhile, the struggle between the United States and Russia over Ukraine has escalated into a full-blown economic war.
At first, both sides started slapping each other with relatively minor economic sanctions.
But then things started escalating. I think that things really began to get serious for the U.S. when Russia started to make moves against the petrodollar. This is not something that has been reported on much at all by the mainstream media in the United States, but it is a very big deal. If you want to become enemy #1 in the eyes of the U.S. government, just start attacking the petrodollar. So when Russia began cutting the U.S. dollar out of oil and natural gas transactions, that definitely got the attention of some folks in Washington. You can read much more about what Russia has been doing in this regard in this article, this article and this article.
Of course Washington was not just going to sit back and let this happen. The Obama administration has retaliated by going after two of the most important pillars of the Russian economy – oil and the ruble. And without a doubt, a tremendous amount of damage has already been done.
At this point, Russia is facing a full-blown currency crisis, major banks are starting to fail and economists are forecasting a deep recession for next year…
The central bank bailed out its first victim of the collapsing currency, authorities announced a tax on grain exports to protect domestic stocks and a Reuters poll of 11 economists predicted that Russia’s gross domestic product would fall 3.6 percent next year.
Russia has been hit by what Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev recently called a “perfect storm” of plummeting oil prices, sanctions related to its military action in Ukraine, and a flight of investors’ capital — made worse by a lack of structural reforms that means the economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil revenues.
But don’t count out the Russians just yet.
They are a very crafty people, and they are not afraid to fight dirty.
And it is important to keep in mind that the Russian Bear never forgives and it never forgets. Most Americans don’t realize this, but right now anti-American sentiment in Russia is actually higher than it was at the end of the Cold War era. Many Russians believe that this is a new Cold War, and that the United States is the greatest force for evil on the entire planet.
So while many Americans view this current conflict as a temporary foreign policy tussle about Ukraine, many Russians view this as a long-term struggle that is absolutely critical to the future of humanity. If you doubt this, you should check out some of the things that their leading thinkers have been saying.
This conflict between the United States and Russia is not going to end any time soon. And someday down the road, it could evolve into something more than just an economic war. But before that happens, the Russians have a whole host of other ways that they can damage us.
Yes, the United States can hurt Russia.
But Russia can also hurt us.
In the end, this conflict is not going to be good for anyone.
Do you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year? Just keep an eye on junk bonds. Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first. And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again. The primary reason for this is the price of oil. The energy sector accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the entire junk bond market, and those energy bonds are taking a tremendous beating right now. This panic in energy bonds is infecting the broader high yield debt market, and investors have been pulling money out at a frightening pace. And as I have written about previously, almost every single time junk bonds decline substantially, stocks end up following suit. So don’t be fooled by the fact that some comforting words from Janet Yellen caused stock prices to jump over the past couple of days. If you really want to know where the stock market is heading in 2015, keep a close eye on the market for high yield debt.
If you are not familiar with junk bonds, the concept is actually very simple. Corporations that do not have high credit ratings typically have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money. The following is how USA Today describes these bonds…
High-yield bonds are long-term IOUs issued by companies with shaky credit ratings. Just like credit card users, companies with poor credit must pay higher interest rates on loans than those with gold-plated credit histories.
But in recent years, interest rates on junk bonds have gone down to ridiculously low levels. This is another bubble that was created by Federal Reserve policies, and it is a colossal disaster waiting to happen. And unfortunately, there are already signs that this bubble is now beginning to burst…
Back in June, the average junk bond yield was 3.90 percentage points higher than Treasury securities. The average energy junk bond yielded 3.91 percentage points higher than Treasuries, Lonski says.
That spread has widened to 5.08 percentage points for junk bonds vs. 7.86 percentage points for energy bonds — an indication of how worried investors are about default, particularly for small, highly indebted companies in the fracking business.
The reason why so many analysts are becoming extremely concerned about this shift in junk bonds is because we also saw this happen just before the great stock market crash of 2008. In the chart below, you can see how yields on junk bonds started to absolutely skyrocket in September of that year…
Of course we have not seen a move of that magnitude quite yet this year, but without a doubt yields have been spiking. The next chart that I want to share is of this year. As you can see, the movement over the past month or so has been quite substantial…
And of course I am far from the only one that is watching this. In fact, there are some sharks on Wall Street that plan to make an absolute boatload of cash as high yield bonds crash.
One of them is Josh Birnbaum. He correctly made a giant bet against subprime mortgages in 2007, and now he is making a giant bet against junk bonds…
When Josh Birnbaum was at Goldman Sachs in 2007, he made a huge bet against subprime mortgages.
Now he’s betting against something else: high-yield bonds.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Joshua Birnbaum, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who made bets against subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, now has more than $2 billion in wagers against high-yield bonds at his Tilden Park Capital Management LP hedge-fund firm, according to investor documents.
Could you imagine betting 2 billion dollars on anything?
If he is right, he is going to make an incredible amount of money.
And I have a feeling that he will be. As a recent New American article detailed, there is already panic in the air…
It’s a mania, said Tim Gramatovich of Peritus Asset Management who oversees a bond portfolio of $800 million: “Anything that becomes a mania — ends badly. And this is a mania.”
Bill Gross, who used to run PIMCO’s gigantic bond portfolio and now advises the Janus Capital Group, explained that “there’s very little liquidity” in junk bonds. This is the language a bond fund manager uses to tell people that no one is buying, everyone is selling. Gross added: “Everyone is trying to squeeze through a very small door.”
Bonds issued by individual energy developers have gotten hammered. For instance, Energy XXI, an oil and gas producer, issued more than $2 billion in bonds just in the last four years and, up until a couple of weeks ago, they were selling at 100 cents on the dollar. On Friday buyers were offering just 64 cents. Midstates Petroleum’s $700 million in bonds — rated “junk” by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s — are selling at 54 cents on the dollar, if buyers can be found.
So is there anything that could stop junk bonds from crashing?
Yes, if the price of oil goes back up to 80 dollars or more a barrel that would go a long way to settling things back down.
Unfortunately, many analysts are convinced that the price of oil is going to head even lower instead…
“We’re continuing to search for a bottom, and might even see another significant drop before the year-end,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen $1.69 today to $54.78.
If the price of oil stays this low, junk bonds are going to keep crashing.
If junk bonds keep crashing, the stock market is almost certainly going to follow.
For additional reading on this, please see my previous article entitled “‘Near Perfect’ Indicator That Precedes Almost Every Stock Market Correction Is Flashing A Warning Signal“.
But just like in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, there are all kinds of naysayers proclaiming that a collapse will never happen.
Even though our financial problems and our underlying economic fundamentals have gotten much worse since the last crisis, they are absolutely convinced that things are somehow going to be different this time.
In the end, a lot of those skeptics are going to lose an enormous amount of money when the dominoes start falling.
Is this the start of the next major financial crisis? The nightmarish collapse of the price of oil is creating panic in financial markets all over the planet. On June 16th, U.S. oil was trading at a price of $107.52. Since then, it has fallen by almost 50 dollars in less than 6 months. This has only happened one other time in our history. In the summer of 2008, the price of oil utterly collapsed and we all remember what happened after that. Well, the same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are happening again. As the price of oil crashed in 2008, so did prices for a whole host of other commodities. That is happening again. Once commodities started crashing, the market for junk bonds started to implode. That is also happening again. Finally, toward the end of 2008, we witnessed a horrifying stock market crash. Could we be on the verge of another major one? Last week was the worst week for the Dow in more than three years, and stock markets all over the world are crashing right now. Bad financial news continues to roll in from the four corners of the globe on an almost hourly basis. Have we finally reached the “tipping point” that so many have been warning about?
What we witnessed last week is being described as “a bloodbath” that was truly global in scope. The following is how Zero Hedge summarized the carnage…
- WTI’s 2nd worst week in over 3 years (down 10 of last 11 weeks)
- Dow’s worst worst week in 3 years
- Financials worst week in 2 months
- Materials worst week since Sept 2011
- VIX’s Biggest week since Sept 2011
- Gold’s best week in 6 months
- Silver’s last 2 weeks are best in 6 months
- HY Credit’s worst 2 weeks since May 2012
- IG Credit’s worst week in 2 months
- 10Y Yield’s best week since June 2012
- US Oil Rig Count worst week in 2 years
- The USDollar’s worst week since July 2013
- USDJPY’s worst week since June 2013
- Portugal Bonds worst week since July 2011
- Greek stocks worst week since 1987
The stock market meltdown in Greece is particularly noteworthy. After peaking in March, the Greek stock market is down 40 percent since then. That includes a 20 percent implosion in just the past three trading days.
And it isn’t just Greece. Financial markets all over Europe are in turmoil right now. In addition to crashing oil prices, there is also renewed concern about the fundamental stability of the eurozone. Many believe that it is inevitable that it is headed for a break up. As a result of all of this fear, European stocks also had their worst week in over three years…
European stock markets closed sharply lower on Friday, posting their biggest weekly loss since August 2011, as commodity prices continued to fall and and shares in oil-related firms came under renewed pressure from the weak price for crude.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 unofficially ended 2.6 percent lower, down 5.9 percent on the week as the energy sector once again weighed heavily on wider benchmarks, falling over 3 percent.
But despite all of the carnage that we witnessed in the U.S. and in Europe last week, things are actually far worse for financial markets in the Middle East.
Just check out what happened on the other side of the planet on Sunday…
Stock markets in the Persian Gulf got drilled Sunday as worries about further price declines grew. The Dubai stock index fell 7.6% Sunday, the equivalent of a 1,313-point plunge in the Dow Jones industrial average. The Saudi Arabian market fell 3.3%.
Overall, Dubai stocks are down a whopping 23 percent over the last two weeks, and full-blown stock market crashes are happening in Qatar and Kuwait too.
Like I said, this is turning out to be a truly global financial panic.
Another region to keep an eye on is South America. Argentina is a financial basket case, the Brazilian stock market is tanking big time, and the implied probability of default on Venezuelan debt is now up to 93 percent…
Swaps traders are almost certain that Venezuela will default as the rout in oil prices pressures government finances and sends bond prices to a 16-year low.
Benchmark notes due 2027 dropped to 43.75 cents on the dollar as of 11:35 a.m. in New York, the lowest since September 1998, as crude extended a bear market decline. The upfront cost of contracts to insure Venezuelan debt against non-payment for five years is at 59 percent, bringing the implied probability of default to 93 percent, the highest in the world.
So what does all of this mean for the future?
Are we experiencing a repeat of 2008?
Could what is ahead be even worse than that?
Or could this just be a temporary setback?
Recently, Howard Hill shared a few things that he looks for to determine whether a major financial crisis is upon us or not…
The first condition is a serious market sector correction.
According to some participants in the market for energy company bonds and loans, such a correction is already underway and heading toward a meltdown (the second condition). Others are more sanguine, and expect a recovery soon.
That smaller energy companies have issued more junk-rated debt than their relative size in the economy isn’t under debate. Of a total junk bond market estimated around $1.2 trillion, about 18% ($216 billion, according to a Bloomberg estimate) has been issued by energy-related companies. Yet those companies represent a far smaller share of the economy or stock market capitalization among the universe of junk-rated companies.
If the beaten-down prices for junk energy bonds don’t stabilize or recover a bit, we might see the second condition: a spiral of distressed sales of bonds and loans. This could happen if junk bond mutual funds or other large holders sell into an unfriendly market at low prices, and then other holders of those bonds succumb to the pressure of fund redemptions or margin calls and sell at even lower prices.
The third condition, which we can’t determine directly, would be pressure on Credit Default Swap dealers or hedge funds to make deposits as the prices of the CDS move against them. AIG was taken down when collateral demands were made to support existing CDS agreements, and nobody knew it until they were going under. There simply isn’t a way to know whether banks or dealers are struggling until the effect is already metastasizing.
I think that he makes some really good points.
In particular, I think that watching how junk bonds perform over the next few weeks will be extremely telling.
Last week was truly a bloodbath for high yield debt.
But perhaps things will stabilize this week.
Let’s hope so, because this is the closest that we have been to another major financial crisis since 2008.
Retail sales during the four day Thanksgiving weekend were down a whopping 11 percent from last year. This is a “make or break” time of the year for many retailers, and if things don’t turn around during the coming weeks we could see a tsunami of store closings in January and February. As you read this article, there is already more than a billion square feet of retail space sitting empty in the United States. Many have described the ongoing collapse of the retail industry as an “apocalypse”, and this apocalypse appears to be accelerating. Yes, the shift to online retailers is a significant factor, but as you will see below even online retailers struggled over the holiday weekend. The sad truth of the matter is that U.S. consumers are tapped out and are drowning in debt at this point, so they simply do not have as much money to spend as they once did.
According to the National Retail Federation, 5.2 percent fewer Americans shopped online or at retail stores over the past weekend. Those that did shop spent an average of 6.4 percent less money than consumers did last year.
So if less people shopped, and they spent less money on average, that means that total retail sales must have been way down.
And indeed they were. As the New York Times has reported, total retail sales were down an astounding 11 percent…
Sales, both in stores and online, from Thanksgiving through the weekend were estimated to have dropped 11 percent, to $50.9 billion, from $57.4 billion last year, according to preliminary survey results released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Sales fell despite many stores’ opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.
And though many retailers offered the same aggressive discounts online as they did in their stores, the web failed to attract more shoppers or spending over the four-day holiday weekend than it did last year, the group said. The average person who shopped over the weekend spent $159.55 at online retailers, down 10.2 percent from last year.
No wonder there was less violence on Black Friday this year.
Traffic at retailers was way down.
Of course some analysts are trying to put a positive spin on all of this. For example, the CEO of the National Retail Federation says that this could actually be a sign that the economy is improving…
As the WSJ reports, NRF’s CEO Matt Shay attributed the drop to a combination of factors, including the fact that retailers moved promotions earlier this year in attempt to get people out sooner and avoid what happened last year when people didn’t finish their shopping because of bad weather.
Also did we mention the NRF is perpetually cheery and always desperate to put a metric ton of lipstick on a pig? Well, hold on to your hats folks:
He also attributed the declines to better online offerings and an improving economy where “people don’t feel the same psychological need to rush out and get the great deal that weekend, particularly if they expected to be more deals,” he said.
And of course the sprint vs marathon comparisons, such as this one: “The holiday season and the weekend are a marathon not a sprint,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said on a conference call. Odd how that metaphor is never used when the (seasonally-adjusted) sprint beats the marathoners.
So there you have it: a 11% collapse in retail spending has just been spun as super bullish for the US economy, whereby US consumers aren’t spending because the economy is simply too strong, and the only reason they don’t spend is because they will spend much more later. Or something.
The retail industry is absolutely brutal at this point. It is flooded with very large competitors that are chasing fewer and fewer disposable dollars.
In order to thrive, retailers need financially healthy consumers. But over time, U.S. consumers have been getting deeper and deeper into debt. The chart posted below shows that consumer credit in the United States has doubled since the year 2000…
Meanwhile, the long-term trend for real median household income since the year 2000 has been down…
In order for Americans to spend money, they have to make money first.
Unfortunately, the quality of our jobs continues to plummet.
As I have written about previously, 50 percent of all American workers currently make less than $28,031 a year at their jobs. And here are some more numbers from a report that the Social Security Administration recently released…
-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year
-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year
-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year
-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year
So in order for a typical American family to bring in $50,000 a year or more both parents usually have to work.
Sometimes they both have to work more than one job.
And with the cost of living constantly rising, family budgets are being squeezed more than ever. That is why families have less money to spend at retail stores these days. For even more on the current financial condition of American families, please see my previous article entitled “Are You Better Off This Thanksgiving Than You Were Last Thanksgiving?”
It is time for retailers in America to face the fact that economic conditions have fundamentally changed. U.S. consumers simply are not in as good shape as they used to be.
In addition, online retailers are going to continue to steal sales from traditional retail locations. This means that more stores are going to close and more retail space is going to be abandoned.
As I mentioned above, more than a billion square feet of retail space is aleady sitting vacant in the United States. And retail consultant Howard Davidowitz is projecting that up to half of all shopping malls in the U.S. may shut down within the next couple of decades…
Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.
In the years ahead, it is going to become normal to see boarded up strip malls and abandoned shopping centers all over the country.
The golden age of retail is over, and now most retailers will have to work incredibly hard to survive the apocalypse that is unfolding right before our eyes.
Americans are going to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season, and on Friday we got to see our fellow citizens fight each other like rabid animals over foreign-made flat screen televisions and Barbie dolls. As disgusting as this behavior is to many of us, there may soon come a time when we will all fondly remember these days. Most Americans are completely unaware of what is currently happening in the financial world, but right now there are deeply troubling signs that we could be on the verge of another major global financial collapse. If the next great economic downturn does strike in 2015, that could mean that we may have just witnessed the last great Black Friday celebration of American materialism. As you read this, stock prices are approximately double the value that they should be, margin debt is hovering near all-time record highs, and the “too big to fail” banks are being far more reckless than they were just prior to the last major stock market implosion. So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2007 and 2008 are repeating right now, and as you will see below, this includes a horrifying crash in the price of oil. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the slow-motion financial train wreck that is unfolding right before our eyes.
Every year, it has been my tradition to write an article about the mini-riots that erupt in retail stores all around the country on Black Friday. This year things were a bit calmer because so many stores opened up on Thanksgiving itself, but there was still plenty of chaos. For example, in the video posted below you can see women viciously fighting one another over discounted lingerie and underwear…
But instead of launching into another diatribe about how we are committing national economic suicide by buying hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign-made goods with money that we do not have, I want to focus on what is coming next.
You see, I believe that in the not too distant future many of us will be wishing for the days when the debt-fueled U.S. economy was healthy enough for people to be wrestling with one another on the floor over good deals in our retail establishments.
The next great financial crash (which many have been anticipating for years) is rapidly approaching. So many of the same things that happened last time are happening again. As I noted above, this includes a crash in the price of oil.
In the months prior to the last stock market collapse, the price of oil began plummeting dramatically in the summer of 2008. This was an “early warning signal” that something was deeply amiss in the financial world…
Many people assume that a lower price for oil is good for the economy, but the exact opposite is actually true. The oil industry has become absolutely critical to the U.S. and Canadian economies. And in recent years, the “shale oil boom” has been one of the only bright spots for the United States. If the shale oil industry starts to fail because of lower prices, a lot of the boom areas all over the nation are going to go bust really quickly and a lot of the financial institutions that were backing these projects are going to feel an immense amount of pain.
Unfortunately for us, the “shale oil revolution” simply does not work at 80 dollars a barrel.
And it certainly does not work at 70 dollars a barrel.
As I write this, U.S. crude is sitting at about 66 dollars a barrel due to OPEC’s recent decision to not cut output.
That is the lowest price for U.S. crude since September 2009.
So just like we saw during the summer of 2008, crude oil prices are collapsing once again. The chart below comes from the Federal Reserve, but it is a few days out of date. Now that the price of crude is down to about 66 dollars, you have to imagine the price actually going below the bottom of this chart…
Needless to say, this price collapse is having a huge impact on the stock prices of oil companies. The following information about what happened in the markets on Friday comes from Business Insider…
Here were some of the biggest losers on Friday:
- BP (BP), down 5%
- Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), down 6%
- Total (TOT), down 5%
- Statoil (STO), down 14%
- Exxon Mobil (XOM), down 5%
- ConocoPhillips (COP), down 9%
- Marathon Oil (MRO), down 13%
- Occidental Petroleum (OXY), down 7%
- Anadarko Petroleum (APC), down 14%
- Linn Energy (LINE), down 13%
- Whiting Petroleum (WLL), down 28%
- Oasis Petroleum (OAS), down 32%
- Kodiak Oil & Gas (KOG), down 28%
And this list goes on.
But this could just be the beginning of the oil price declines.
The most powerful oil official in Russia believes that the price of oil could fall below $60 next year…
Russia’s most powerful oil official Igor Sechin said in an interview with an Austrian newspaper that oil prices could fall below $60 by mid-way through next year.
Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, also said U.S. oil production would fall after 2025 and that an oil market council should be created to monitor prices, the same day the OPEC cartel met in Vienna and left its output targets unchanged.
“We expect that a fall in the price to $60 and below is possible, but only during the first half, or rather by the end of the first half (of next year),” Sechin told the Die Presse newspaper.
And one oil industry analyst just told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately plunge as low as $35 a barrel…
“When you look at the second half of 2015, that’s when you see oil beginning to dwarf demand by about a million, a million and a half barrels a day,” he said. “Thirty-five dollars is a possibility if they don’t get an agreement next spring because that’s when the oil really starts to build and you can have a billion barrels of oil with really no place to put it.”
This comes at a time when there are already a whole host of signs that the global economy is slowing down. Three of the ten largest economies on the planet have already slipped into recession, and the economic nightmare over in Europe just continues to get even worse. In fact, we just learned that the unemployment rate in Italy has shot above 13 percent for the first time ever recorded.
In addition, it is important to remember that the “real economy” in the United States is in far worse shape than it was just prior to the last financial crash. Just consider these numbers…
-In the United States today, the number of payday lending locations is greater than the number of McDonald’s and the number of Starbucks.
-One recent survey found that about 22 percent of all Americans have had to turn to a church food panty for assistance.
-This year, almost one out of every five households in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving on food stamps.
-The rate of government dependence in America is at an all-time high and approximately 60 percent of U.S. households get more in transfer payments from the government than they pay in taxes.
-According to a report that was just released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the U.S. has soared to a new all-time record high of 2.5 million.
If things are this bad now, what are they going to look like after the next great financial crash?
And without a doubt, the next crash is coming. Hopefully we have at least a couple more months of relative stability, but many experts are now urgently warning that time is quickly running out.
By this time next year, Black Friday may look a whole lot different than it does today.
From the dawn of history, elites have always attempted to enslave humanity. Yes, there have certainly been times when those in power have slaughtered vast numbers of people, but normally those in power find it much more beneficial to profit from the labor of those that they are able to subjugate. If you are forced to build a pyramid, or pay a third of your crops in tribute, or hand over nearly half of your paycheck in taxes, that enriches those in power at your expense. You become a “human resource” that is being exploited to serve the interests of others. Today, some forms of slavery have been outlawed, but one of the most insidious forms is more pervasive than ever. It is called debt, and virtually every major decision of our lives involves more of it. For example, at the very beginning of our adult lives we are pushed to go to college, and Americans have piled up more than 1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt at this point. When we buy homes, most Americans get mortgages that they can barely afford, and when we buy vehicles most Americans now stretch their loans out over five or six years. When we get married, that often means even more debt. And of course no society on Earth has ever piled up more credit card debt than we have. Almost all of us are in bondage to debt at this point, and as we slowly pay off that debt over the years we will greatly enrich the elitists that tricked us into going into so much debt in the first place. At the apex of this debt enslavement system is the Federal Reserve. As you will see below, it is an institution that is designed to produce as much debt as possible.
There are many people out there that believe that the Federal Reserve is an “agency” of the federal government. But that is not true at all. The Federal Reserve is an unelected, unaccountable central banking cartel, and it has argued in federal court that it is “not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The 12 regional Federal Reserve banks are organized “much like private corporations“, and they actually issue shares of stock to the “member banks” that own them. 100 percent of the shareholders of the Federal Reserve are private banks. The U.S. government owns zero shares.
Many people also assume that the federal government “issues money”, but that is not true at all either. Under our current system, what the federal government actually does is borrow money that the Federal Reserve creates out of thin air. The big banks, the ultra-wealthy and other countries purchase the debt that is created, and we end up as debt servants to them. For a detailed explanation of how this works, please see my previous article entitled “Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand“. When it is all said and done, the elite end up holding the debt instruments and we end up being collectively responsible for the endlessly growing mountain of debt. Our politicians always promise to get the debt under control, but there is never enough money to both fund the government and pay the interest on the constantly expanding debt. So it always becomes necessary to borrow even more money. When it was created back in 1913, the Federal Reserve system was designed to create a perpetual government debt spiral from which it would never be possible to escape, and that is precisely what has happened.
Just look at the chart that I have posted below. Forty years ago, the U.S. national debt was less than half a trillion dollars. Today, it has exploded up to nearly 18 trillion dollars…
But the national debt is only part of the story. The big banks which control the Federal Reserve also seek to individually dominate our lives with debt. We have become a “buy now, pay later” society and the results have been absolutely catastrophic. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system was just a shade over 2 trillion dollars. Today it is over 57 trillion dollars…
The big banks do not loan you money because they want to help you achieve “the American Dream”. The elitists loan you money because it will make them wealthier. For example, if you only make the minimum payment on a credit card each month, you will end up paying back several times as much money as you originally borrowed. It is a very insidious form of debt enslavement that most Americans simply do not understand.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is also systematically destroying the wealth that you already have. If you try to buck the system and actually save money, the purchasing power of that money is continually being eroded by the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies. The following chart comes directly from the Federal Reserve and it shows how the value of the U.S. dollar has plummeted over the past 40 years…
Overall, the U.S. dollar has lost approximately 98 percent of its value since the Fed was first established in 1913.
Most people seem to assume that if we could just send the “right politicians” to Washington D.C. that we could get our economy back on the right track.
What those people do not understand is that our system is fundamentally broken. We are trapped in a perpetual debt spiral that is destined to end in a horrifying collapse. Just “tweaking” a few things here or there and adjusting tax rates a bit is not going to fix anything. The vast majority of the “economic solutions” that our politicians talk about are basically equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
And of course the elite don’t want the rest of us to truly understand what is going on. Just think about it. Even though the Federal Reserve is one of the most important institutions in our society, and even though it is at the very heart of our economic system, our kids are taught next to nothing about the Fed in school. The vast majority of them have absolutely no idea where money comes from.
Isn’t that pathetic?
But the elite know that if we did understand what they were doing to us that most of us would start to get very upset. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, once said the following…
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
Please share this article with as many people as you can. The truth sets people free, so let us do what we can to wake our fellow Americans up to this insidious debt enslavement system which dominates our society.
The parallels between the false prosperity of 2007 and the false prosperity of 2014 are rather striking. If we go back and look at the numbers in the fall of 2007, we find that the Dow set an all-time high in October, margin debt on Wall Street had spiked to record levels, the unemployment rate was below 5 percent and Americans were getting ready to spend a record amount of money that Christmas season. But then the very next year the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression shook the entire planet and everyone wondered why most people never saw it coming. Well, now a similar pattern is unfolding right before our eyes. The Dow and the S&P 500 both hit record highs on Monday, margin debt on Wall Street is hovering near record levels, the unemployment rate has ticked down a little bit and Americans are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season. The truth is that the economy seems pretty stable for the moment, and most people cannot even imagine that an economic collapse is coming. So why are so many really smart people forecasting economic disaster in the near future?
For example, just consider what the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center is saying. This is an organization with a tremendous economic forecasting record that goes all the way back to the Great Depression. In fact, it predicted ahead of time the financial trouble and the recession that would happen in 2008. Well, now this company is forecasting that there is a 65 percent chance that there will be a global recession by the end of next year…
In 1929, a businessman and economist by the name of Jerome Levy didn’t like what he saw in his analysis of corporate profits. He sold his stocks before the October crash.
Almost eight decades later, the consultancy company that bears his name declared “the next recession will be caused by the deflating housing bubble.” By February 2007, it predicted problems in the subprime-mortgage market would spread “to virtually all financial markets.” In October 2007, it saw imminent recession — the slump began two months later.
The Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, based in Mount Kisco, New York, and run by Jerome’s grandson David, is again more worried than its peers. Its half-dozen analysts attach a 65 percent probability of a worldwide recession forcing a contraction in the U.S. by the end of next year.
Could they be wrong?
It’s certainly possible.
But I wouldn’t bet against them.
John Hussman is another expert that is warning of financial disaster on the horizon. He believes that we are experiencing a massive stock market bubble right now and that stocks are approximately double the value that they should be…
If you look at corporate profits and especially corporate profit margins, they’re one of the most cyclical and mean-reverting series in economics. Right now, we have corporate profits that are close to about 11% of GDP, but if you look at that series you will find that corporate profits as a share of GDP have always dropped back to about 5.5% or below in every single economic cycle including recent decades, including not only the financial crisis but 2002 and every other economic cycle we have been in.
Right now stocks as a multiple of last year’s expected earnings may look only modestly over valued or modestly richly valued. Really if you look at the measures of valuation that are most correlated to the returns that stocks deliver over time say over seven years or over the next 10 years the S&P 500 in our estimation is about double the level of valuation that would give investors a normal rate of return.
Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if stocks really did drop by 50 percent?
Well, Hussman says that this is precisely what must happen in order for stock prices to return to historical norms…
Right now, like I say, we are looking at stocks that have been pressed to long-term expected returns that are really dismal. But more important than that, in every market cycle that we’ve seen with the mild exception of 2002, we’ve seen stocks price revert back to normal rates of return. In order to get to that point from here, we would have to have equities drop by about half.
If that does happen, it will make the crisis of 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.
Meanwhile, other very prominent thinkers are also warning that an economic nightmare is rapidly approaching.
Economic cycle theorist Martin Armstrong foresees major economic problems in 2015 which will ultimately lead to “civil unrest” in 2016…
It looks more and more like a serious political uprising will erupt by 2016 once the economy turns down. That is the magic ingredient. Turn the economy down and you get civil unrest and revolution.
And of course there are a whole lot of other economic cycle theorists that are forecasting that we are about to experience a massive economic downturn as well. For much more on this, please see this article and this article.
What is truly frightening is that we have never even come close to recovering from the last economic crisis. One poll that was taken just prior to the recent election found that only 28 percent of Americans said that their families were doing better financially. In addition, here are some more survey numbers about how Americans are feeling about the economy…
According to voter exit polls conducted by CNN, 78% said they are worried about the economy, with 69% saying that, in their view, economic conditions are not good. 65% responded that the country is on the wrong track vs. only 31% who believed that it is headed in the right direction.
Even though we are repeating so many of the same patterns that we experienced back in 2007, we are doing so with a fundamentally weaker economy. The last crisis did a tremendous amount of permanent damage to us. For an extensive look at this, please see my previous article entitled “12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The U.S. Economy“.
And there are lots of signs that much of the planet is already entering another major economic slowdown. In a recent article, Brandon Smith summarized some of these. He says that we are currently witnessing “the last gasp of the global economy“…
Global exports, and thus consumer demand, are plunging. Germany, the only pillar left to prop up the failing European Union, has experienced a severe decline in exports not seen since 2009.
China, the largest exporter and importer in the world, and Chinese companies, have been caught in a number of instances using fraudulent invoices to artificially inflate their own export numbers, in some cases reporting 50% more exported goods than had actually existed.
China’s manufacturing has also declined for the past five months, exposing the nature of its inflated export stats and indicating a global slowdown.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping rates for raw goods, and thus a measure of demand for shipping, continues to drag along near historic lows.
The U.S. consumer (the only economic asset the U.S. has besides the dollar’s world reserve status), has seen declines in spending as well as wages.
In the meantime, long term jobless Americans continue to fall off welfare rolls by the millions, making unemployment numbers look good, but the overall future picture look terrible as participation rates dissolve into the ether of government statistics.
How is such poverty being hidden? Foodstamps. Plain and simple. Nearly 50 million Americans now subsist on food stamp programs today, and this number shows no signs of dropping. In states like Illinois, two people sign up for food assistance for every citizen that happens to find a job.
From time to time, I get accused of “spreading fear” and of being obsessed with “doom and gloom”.
But that is not the case at all.
I actually want our economy to stay stable for as long as possible. Many Americans don’t realize this, but even the poorest of us live in luxury compared to much of the rest of the world. It would be wonderful if we could all live out our lives in peace and quiet and safety.
Unfortunately, it is simply not going to happen.
And it does not take an expert to see what is coming.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the economic disaster that is approaching.
There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared. Millions of Americans that are willingly blind to our problems are going to have their lives absolutely destroyed when they get blindsided by the coming crisis. So please use this brief period of relative stability to get prepared and to warn others.
Once this false bubble of hope runs out, all of our lives are going to dramatically change.