Stock Prices Have Fallen For Six Weeks In A Row

Well, it’s official.  U.S. stock prices have fallen for six weeks in a row.  So will next week make it seven?  The last time stocks declined for seven weeks in a row was back in May 2001 when the “dot-com” bubble was bursting.  At this point, the Dow has declined by approximately 5 percent since the beginning of June.  Things don’t look good.  So exactly what is going on here?  Well, it is undeniable that the recent mini-bubble in stocks has been too good to be true.  The S&P 500 had surged nearly 30 percent since last September.  Much of this has been fueled by the Federal Reserve’s latest round of quantitative easing, but now that is coming to an end in a few weeks and investors are a bit spooked.  Meanwhile, wars and revolutions are sweeping the Middle East, Japan is dealing with the damage caused by the tsunami and by Fukushima, Europe is trying to figure out how to bail out Greece again and the U.S. debt crisis is continually getting worse.  In addition, wave after wave of bad economic news is certainly not helping the mood on Wall Street.  In many ways, a “perfect storm” is developing and many are now extremely concerned about what the rest of 2011 is going to bring for Wall Street.

QE2 is slated to conclude at the end of June, and many investors are deeply disappointed that it does not appear that we are not going to see QE3 right away.  Many fear that the end of quantitative easing will pop the current mini-bubble in stocks and commodities.  At the moment, financial markets are more jittery than they have been in a long time.

Frank Davis, director of sales and trading with LEK Securities, says that there is a lot of pessimism on Wall Street right now….

“There’s a lot of emotion in this market at the moment, and the conversations among traders are nearly all leaning toward the bear side”

So what are some of the signs that this downturn on Wall Street may turn into a full-blown crash?

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, junk bonds are being sold off at an alarming rate right now.  Does the following quote from the Journal remind anyone of 2008 at least a little bit?….

A steep decline in prices of bonds backed by subprime mortgages has spread through the riskiest segments of the credit markets, ending rallies in high-yield corporate bonds and commercial real-estate debt.

Also, many of the big Wall Street banks are already laying off workers.  In a previous article I wrote about the potential for Wall Street to go into “panic mode“, I noted that Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all laying people off or are considering staff cuts.

The truth is that the big banks on Wall Street are not nearly as stable as most people think that they are.  Moody’s recently warned that it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

Another major story on Wall Street right now is oil.  OPEC recently announced that oil production levels will not be raised, even though the price of oil has been hovering around $100 a barrel.

World oil supplies are very tight right now.  In fact, the globe actually consumed 5 million barrels per day more oil than it produced during 2010.  This was possible because the difference was apparently made up by drawing down reserves.

But if oil supplies are this tight already, what is going to happen if a major war (as opposed to all of the minor wars that are already happening) erupts in the Middle East?

The world is sitting on the edge of a financial disaster.

It is important to keep in mind that Europe is also in far worse financial condition than it was just prior to the financial collapse of 2008.

It is being reported that German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is convinced that a “full-blown” financial meltdown by Greece is a very real possibility. The cost of insuring Greek debt has soared to a brand new record high, and officials all over Europe are in panic mode.

But financial problems are not just happening in Greece.  The largest bank in France has just cut in half the amount of cash that customers can withdraw from ATMs each week.

Most Americans don’t spend much time thinking about the financial condition of Europe, but the truth is that what happens in Europe is going to play a major role in the months and years ahead.

Of course most Americans already know that the U.S. government is a financial mess.

As the “debt ceiling deadline” of August 2nd draws closer, the U.S. government has been raiding retirement funds in order to stay under the debt limit.

Many investors are quite nervous about what may happen if the U.S. government actually does start defaulting on debt on August 2nd.

Others claim that the U.S. government is already in default.

The only Chinese agency that gives credit ratings on sovereign debt says that the U.S. government “has already been defaulting” and the Chinese government has been repeatedly warning that the U.S. needs to get its finances in order.

In any event, this debt ceiling drama will get resolved one way or another.

The bigger question is this….

How is the U.S. government going to respond when the next financial crash happens?

Back in 2008, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government took unprecedented steps to prop up Wall Street.

But can they really do that again if we see another major crash in 2011 or 2012?

Many believe that things will be totally different this time around.  Just check out what Jim Rogers recently told CNBC….

“The debts that are in this country are skyrocketing,” he said. “In the last three years the government has spent staggering amounts of money and the Federal Reserve is taking on staggering amounts of debt.

“When the problems arise  next time…what are they going to do? They can’t quadruple the debt again. They cannot print that much more money. It’s gonna be worse the next time around.”

Jim Rogers is right about that.

The next time we see a collapse on the scale of 2008 it is going to be a much bigger mess.

Global financial markets are extremely vulnerable right now and there are a whole host of potential “tipping points” which could push them over the edge.

The Federal Reserve and the U.S. government more or less used up all of their ammunition on the 2008 crisis.

If we see another collapse in 2011 or 2012 there is not going to be much of a safety net available.

The entire world financial system is simply swamped with way too much debt.  The world has never seen anything even remotely close to the gigantic mountains of debt that have been accumulated around the world today.

The current global financial system is not sustainable.  More crashes are inevitable.  A lot of people are going to get steamrolled.

Hopefully you will not be one of them.

The Greek Debt Crisis Escalates: Is Greece Threatening To Leave The Euro?

Is the Greek debt crisis about to explode out of control?  According to Der Spiegel, the government of Greece is considering leaving the Euro and reestablishing its own currency.  If that happened, it would throw global financial markets into chaos and it might mean the end of the euro as a pan-European currency.  But the Greek government has to do something about all of these debts.  At this point Greece is literally drowning in debt.  The yield on 10-year Greek bonds has now reached an astounding 15.51%.  There is no way that is sustainable even for the short-term.  Greece is rapidly going bankrupt.  Even with absolutely brutal austerity measures in place, the debt just continues to explode.  There are protests against the government almost daily and Greece is in a state of chaos.  Unfortunately, because Greece is part of the euro they can’t just start printing lots of money as a way to get out of this crisis.  Now there are persistent rumors that Greece really is thinking about leaving the euro, and that could potentially mean big trouble for the world financial system.

It was a new article in Der Spiegel that brought these rumors to the forefront again.  Der Spiegel says that it possesses secret Greek government documents that discuss plans to leave the euro.  Der Spiegel also claims that a secret crisis meeting was held in Luxembourg on Friday night to discuss this crisis.

The following is a brief excerpt from the Der Spiegel article that caused the financial community in Europe to be in such an uproar today….

“The debt crisis in Greece has taken on a dramatic new twist. Sources with information about the government’s actions have informed SPIEGEL ONLINE that Athens is considering withdrawing from the euro zone. The common currency area’s finance ministers and representatives of the European Commission are holding a secret crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night.”

So was there such a meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night?

Well, it turns out that there was a meeting of a small group of European finance ministers.  But according to German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, this meeting was planned well in advance and had nothing to do with Greece leaving the euro….

“There is a meeting of some finance ministers that has long been planned. Greece exiting the Eurozone is not on the agenda of that meeting, and it has never been.”

So is Greece actually thinking about leaving the euro?  All over Europe this notion is being denied.

Perhaps the strongest denial was issued by the Greek Finance Ministry….

“The report on an imminent Greek exit from the eurozone, as well as being untrue, has been written with incomprehensible levity despite the fact that this has been repeatedly denied by the Greek government, and the governments of other EU member states.”

What was probably being discussed at this meeting of European finance ministers is a restructuring of Greek debt.  This is something that Germany has apparently wanted for quite some time according to a recent article posted on Business Insider….

For weeks, German officials have been hinting that they want a Greek restructuring to happen. German economic advisor Lars Feld recently said that the restructuring should happen “sooner than later.” He’s previously also said “restructuring is the only road to take.”

So what would a restructuring of this debt look like?  A recent article on CNBC gives us some clues….

More importantly, tonight’s finance ministers meeting might lay the groundwork for “extending the maturities” on those loans — giving Athens a little more oxygen until it probably ends up restructuring its $470 billion existing debt by either extending maturities or exchanging Greek bonds, at a discount, for EU-guaranteed bonds, Brady Bond-style from the 1980s.

What Germany does not want is for Greece to even think about leaving the euro.  According to the article on Der Spiegel, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is ready to play hardball with the Greeks.  Der Spiegel says that a report has been prepared that would lay out for the Greeks the severe consequences of leaving the euro….

“It would lead to a considerable devaluation of the new (Greek) domestic currency against the euro,” the paper states. According to German Finance Ministry estimates, the currency could lose as much as 50 percent of its value, leading to a drastic increase in Greek national debt. Schäuble’s staff have calculated that Greece’s national deficit would rise to 200 percent of gross domestic product after such a devaluation. “A debt restructuring would be inevitable,” his experts warn in the paper. In other words: Greece would go bankrupt.

Greece is really in a tough position.  They are going to go bankrupt if they stay with the euro and they are going to go bankrupt if they leave the euro.

Meanwhile, the anti-government protests continue.  The Greek people are not happy.  The Greek economy is coming apart like a 20 dollar suit.  Greece could end up being the spark that sets off a massive financial panic in Europe.

As I have written about previously, the European debt crisis is on the verge of spinning wildly out of control.  It is not just Greece that is facing a horrific debt crisis.  The financial problems in Europe literally span the entire continent.

A lot of Americans are obsessed with the death of the U.S. dollar, but the truth is that there is a strong possibility that the euro could end up collapsing before the dollar does.

Keep an eye on Europe.  The European debt crisis could plunge the entire global financial system into chaos at any time.  Things are not nearly as stable as they seem.

Will Financial Problems In Portugal Cause The European Debt Crisis To Spiral Out Of Control?

Most Americans have no idea just how bad the financial problems over in Europe are right now.  The truth is that the entire European financial system is teetering on the brink of disaster.  Ireland and Greece have already received bailouts and Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt.  Sovereign credit ratings all over Europe have being slashed in recent months.  For example, a while back Moody’s Investors Service cut Ireland’s bond rating by five levels.  Up until now Europe has weathered all of this financial instability fairly well, but now huge new financial problems in Portugal threaten to send the European debt crisis spinning out of control.

The Prime Minister of Portugal, Jose Socrates, resigned on Wednesday after the major opposition parties banded together to vote down the austerity measures that he was requesting.  The package of budget cuts and tax increases was intended to get Portugal’s horrible debt crisis under control.  Prior to the vote, the prime minister warned that  he would no longer be able to run the country if the austerity package was not passed.

Now there are all kinds of questions about what is going to happen to Portugal.  At this point most financial authorities in Europe seem to be assuming that Portugal is going to need a bailout.

Today, Standard & Poor’s reduced the credit rating of long-term Portuguese government debt from “A-” to “BBB”.  Standard & Poor’s is also warning that the credit rating may be cut further if negotiations for a bailout do not go well.

Without a bailout, it seems almost certain that Portugal will default.

Interest rates on Portuguese government debt have risen to unsustainable levels.  The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds hit 7.78% on Friday.  That was the highest it has been since Portugal joined the euro.

Authorities in Portugal are publicly saying that they simply cannot afford to pay that kind of interest.  Unfortunately for them, it appears that Portugal is going to be forced to issue more bonds by June at the very latest.

So how much would a bailout of Portugal cost?

Well, according to one estimate, it would probably be in the neighborhood of 70 billion euros.

That isn’t going to sink Europe.

However, the concern is that the crisis in Portugal could have a domino effect.

There is increasing worry in Europe that Portugal’s neighbor, Spain, could also need a bailout.  But a bailout of Spain would potentially be so large that it would cause a financial nightmare for Europe.

The following is how a recent article in the Wall Street Journal sized up the problem….

Portugal’s admission that it will probably need a financial bailout raises a question that will shape the outcome of the euro zone’s debt crisis: Is Spain next?

The cost of saving Spain, a €1.1 trillion ($1.56 trillion) economy, would dwarf previous bailouts and could test the financial strength of Europe as a whole.

The truth is that the rest of Europe simply does not have the kind of financial muscle necessary to continue putting together huge bailouts indefinitely.  If Spain does go down, it is going to put a massive amount of strain on the rest of the continent.

There are other financial problems simmering in Europe right now as well.

According to a recent Business Insider article, the financial problems in Ireland are also creating a lot of concern at the moment….

Ireland’s banks are likely to need another $39 billion in support, which would use up 80% of its current bailout funds.

Ireland is a financial basket case right about now.  Confidence in Irish debt is rapidly evaporating.  In fact, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds recently hit 10.12%.

Ouch!

But that is nothing compared to what Greece is being forced to pay.

The yield on 10-year Greek bonds recently reached an astounding 12.58%.

There are persistent rumors that Greece is going to need yet another bailout.  The truth is that Germany and the other European nations that are coming up with the cash for these bailouts are just pouring their money into financial black holes.

Nations like Greece and Ireland are just money pits at this point.

As I have written about previously, the financial collapse of Europe has basically become inevitable.  The EU can keep coming up with bailout plan after bailout plan, but they are only putting off the crash for a while.

Eventually a point will come when all of the balls simply cannot be kept up in the air anymore.

So what is going to happen once that point is reached?

Well, many believe that we could actually see the end of the euro and potentially even the break up of the European Union.

Of course top politicians in Europe will fight tooth and nail to keep that from happening, but the truth is that at some point we are going to see some incredibly challenging financial problems in Europe.  How the EU responds to the crisis is going to be extremely interesting to watch.

So many people talk about the death of the U.S. dollar, but the truth is that we could very easily see a financial collapse and a major currency crisis in Europe prior to the collapse of the dollar.  Europe is in really, really bad shape right now.

Of course it doesn’t help that the entire world is so incredibly unstable right now.  The disaster in Japan, the war in Libya, the revolutions across the Middle East and the surging price of oil all threaten to throw the global economy into turmoil.

As I discussed in a previous article, people need to start preparing for economic disaster.  The entire global financial system is coming apart.  The U.S. economy is crumbling, Europe is dealing with an unprecedented debt crisis and Japan has just been struck with the worst economic disaster that it has seen since World War 2.

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to what is going on in Portugal (or in the rest of Europe for that matter), but they should.  The world is more interconnected than ever, and if Europe experiences a financial meltdown it will have dramatic consequences for the United States as well.

The financial crash of 2008 swept the entire globe and virtually every nation on earth was deeply affected.  The next wave of the financial crisis is also going to be felt globally.

We live in one of the most interesting times in the history of the world.

Are you prepared for what is about to happen?

Shaken: 10 Economic Disasters Which Threaten To Rip World Financial Markets To Shreds

2011 has already been the most memorable year in ages and we haven’t even reached April yet.  Revolutions have swept the Middle East, an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami have hit Japan, civil war has erupted in Libya, the price of oil has been soaring and the entire globe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse.  It seems like almost everything that can be shaken is being shaken.  Unfortunately, it does not appear that things are going to settle down any time soon.  The Japanese economy has been dealt a critical blow, the European sovereign debt crisis could flare up again at any moment and the U.S. economy could potentially plunge into another recession by the end of the year.  The global economy and world financial markets were really struggling to recover even when things were relatively stable.  If all of this global instability gets even worse it could literally rip world financial markets apart.

Yes, things really are that bad.  The mainstream media has been really busy downplaying the economic impact of the disaster in Japan and the chaos in the Middle East, but the truth is that these events have huge implications for the global economy.  Today our world is more interconnected than ever, so economic pain in one area of the planet is going to have a significant effect on other areas of the globe.

The following are 10 economic disasters which could potentially rip world financial markets to shreds….

#1 War In Libya

Do you think that the “international community” would be intervening in Libya if they did not have a lot of oil?  If you actually believe that, you might want to review the last few decades of African history.  Millions upon millions of Africans have been slaughtered by incredibly repressive regimes and the “international community” did next to nothing about it.

But Libya is different.

Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa.

Apparently the revolution in Libya was not going the way it was supposed to, so the U.S. and Europe are stepping in.

Moammar Gadhafi is vowing that this will be a “long war”, but the truth is that his forces don’t stand a chance against NATO.

Initially we were told that NATO would just be setting up a “no fly zone”, but there have already been reports of Libyan tank columns being assaulted and there has even been an air strike on Moammar Gadhafi’s personal compound in Tripoli.

So since when did a “no fly zone” include an attempt to kill a foreign head of state?

Let there be no mistake – the moment that the first Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched the United States declared war on Libya.

Already the Arab League, India, China and Russia have all objected to how this operation is being carried out and they are alarmed about the reports of civilian casualties.

Tensions around the globe are rising once again, and that is not a good thing for the world economy.

On a side note, does anyone recall anyone in the Obama administration even stopping for a moment to consider whether or not they should consult the U.S. Congress before starting another war?

The U.S. Constitution specifically requires the approval of the Congress before we go to war.

But very few people seem to care too much about what the U.S. Constitution says these days.

In any event, the flow of oil out of Libya is likely to be reduced for an extended period of time now, and that is not going to be good for a deeply struggling global economy.

#2 Revolutions In The Middle East

Protests just seem to keep spreading to more countries in the Middle East.  On Friday, five Syrian protesters were killed by government forces in the city of Daraa.  Subsequently, over the weekend thousands of protesters reportedly stormed government buildings in that city and set them on fire.

Things in the region just seem to get wilder and wilder.

Even in countries where the revolutions are supposed to be “over” there is still a lot of chaos.

Have you seen what has been going on in Egypt lately?

The truth is that all of North Africa and nearly the entire Middle East is aflame with revolutionary fervor.

About the only place where revolution has not broken out is in Saudi Arabia.  Of course it probably helps that the United States and Europe don’t really want a revolution in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have a brutally effective secret police force.

In any event, as long as the chaos in the Middle East continues the price of oil is likely to remain very high, and that is not good news for the world economy.

#3 The Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami

Japan is the third largest economy in the world.  When a major disaster happens in that nation it has global implications.

The tsunami that just hit Japan was absolutely unprecedented.  Vast stretches of Japan have been more thoroughly destroyed than if they had been bombed by a foreign military power.  It really was a nation changing event.

The Japanese economy is going to be crippled for an extended period of time.  But it is not just Japan’s economy that has been deeply affected by this tragedy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the recent disaster in Japan has caused supply chain disruptions all over the globe….

A shortage of Japanese-built electronic parts will force GM to close a plant in Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday and cancel shifts at a factory in Eisenach, Germany, on Monday and Tuesday, the company said Friday.

Not only that, GM has also suspended all “nonessential” spending globally as it evaluates the impact of this crisis.

The truth is that there are a whole host of industries that rely on parts from Japan.  Supply chains all over the world are going to have to be changed as a result of this crisis.  There are going to be some shortages of certain classes of products.

Japan is a nation that imports and exports tremendous quantities of goods.  At least for a while both imports and exports will be significantly down, and that is not good news for a world economy that was already having a really hard time recovering from the recent economic downturn.

#4 The Japan Nuclear Crisis

Even if the worst case scenario does not play out, the reality is that the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is going to have a long lasting impact on the global economy.

Already, nuclear power projects all over the world are being rethought.  The nuclear power industry was really starting to gain some momentum in many areas of the globe, but now that has totally changed.

But of much greater concern is the potential effect that all of this radiation will have on the Japanese people.  Radiation from the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is now showing up in food and tap water in Japan as an article on the website of USA Today recently described….

The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables — canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium.

Hopefully the authorities in Japan will be able to get this situation under control before Tokyo is affected too much.  The truth is that Tokyo is one of the most economically important cities on the planet.

But right now there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tokyo.  For example, one very large German real estate fund says that their holdings in Tokyo are now “impossible to value” and they have suspended all customer withdrawals from the fund.

Once again, let us hope that a worst case scenario does not happen.  But if we do get to the point where most of the population had to be evacuated from Tokyo for an extended period of time it would be absolutely devastating for the global economy.

#5 The Price Of Oil

Most people believe that the U.S. dollar is the currency of the world, but really it is oil.  Without oil, the global economy that we have constructed simply could not function.

That is why it was so alarming when the price of oil went above $100 a barrel earlier this year for the first time since 2008.  Virtually everyone agrees that if the price of oil stays high for an extended period of time it will have a highly negative impact on the world economy.

In particular, the U.S. economy is highly, highly dependent on cheap oil.  This country is really spread out and we transport goods and services over vast distances.  That is why the following facts are so alarming….

*The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is now 75 cents higher than it was a year ago.

*In San Francisco, California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is now $3.97.

*According to the Oil Price Information Service, U.S. drivers spent an average of $347 on gasoline during the month of February, which was 30 percent more than a year earlier.

*According to the U.S. Energy Department, the average U.S. household will spend approximately $700 more on gasoline in 2011 than it did during 2010.

#6 Food Inflation

Many people believe that the rapidly rising price of food has been a major factor in sparking the revolutions that we have seen in Africa and the Middle East.  When people cannot feed themselves or their families they tend to lose it.

According to the United Nations, the global price of food hit a new all-time high earlier this year, and the UN is expecting the price of food to continue to go up throughout the rest of this year.  Food supplies were already tight around the globe and this is certainly not going to help things.

The price of food has also been going up rapidly inside the United States.  Last month the price of food in the United States rose at the fastest rate in 36 years.

American families are really starting to feel their budgets stretched.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, the cost of living in the United States hit a brand new all-time record high in the month of February.

What this means is that U.S. families are going to have less discretionary income to spend at the stores and that is bad news for the world economy.

#7 The European Sovereign Debt Crisis

Several European governments have had their debt downgraded in the past several months.  Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland are all in big time trouble.  Several other European nations are not far behind them.

Right now Germany seems content to bail the “weak sisters” in Europe out, but if that changes at some point it is going to be an absolute nightmare for world financial markets.

#8 The Dying U.S. Dollar

Right now there is a lot of anxiety about the U.S. dollar.  Prior to the tsunami, Japan was one of the primary purchasers of U.S. government debt.  In fact, Japan was the second-largest foreign buyer of U.S. Treasuries last year.

But now as Japan rebuilds from this nightmare it is not going to have capital to invest overseas.  Someone else is going to have to step in and buy up all of the debt that the Japanese were buying.

Not only that, but big bond funds such as PIMCO have announced that they are stepping away from U.S. Treasuries at least for now.

So if Japan is not buying U.S. Treasuries and bond funds such as PIMCO are not buying U.S. Treasuries, then who is going to be buying them?

The U.S. government needs to borrow trillions of dollars this year alone to roll over existing debt and to finance new debt.  All of that borrowing has got to come from somewhere.

#9 The U.S. Housing Market

The U.S. housing market could potentially be on the verge of another major crisis.  Just consider the following facts….

*In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.

*Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

*Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months.  Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.

*In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure.  Today that number has risen to 48 percent.

#10 The Derivatives Bubble

Most Americans do not even understand what derivatives are, but the truth is that they are one of the biggest threats to our financial system.  Some experts estimate that the worldwide derivatives bubble is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.  This bubble could burst at any time.  Right now we are watching the greatest financial casino in the history of the globe spin around and around and around and everyone is hoping that at some point it doesn’t stop.  Today, most money on Wall Street is not made by investing in good business ideas.  Rather, most money on Wall Street is now made by making shrewd bets.  Unfortunately, at some point the casino is going to come crashing down and the game will be over.

Most people simply do not realize how fragile the global economy is at this point.

The financial crash of 2008 was a devastating blow.  The next wave of the economic crisis could be even worse.

So what will the rest of 2011 bring?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but a lot of experts are not optimistic.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff and Associates, is warning that the second half of the year could be very rough for the global economy….

“A sharp slowing in global GDP in the second half of the year cannot be ruled out.”

Let us hope that the world economy can hold together and that we can get through the rest of 2011 okay.  The last thing we need is a repeat of 2008.  The world could use some peace and some time to recover.

But unfortunately, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable.  With the way that the world has been lately, perhaps we should all just start to expect the unexpected.

But world financial markets do not respond well to instability and unpredictability.  In fact, investors tend to start fleeing to safety at the first signs of danger these days.

Most Americans simply have no idea how vulnerable the world financial system is at this point.  Nothing really got “fixed” after 2008.  If anything, global financial markets are even more fragile than they were back then.

So what do all of you think about the state of the global economy?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

Will The Day Of Rage In Saudi Arabia On March 11 Send The Price Of Oil Into Unprecedented Territory?

The price of oil is shaping up to be the number one economic story of 2011, and right now the eyes of the investing world are closely watching the developing situation in Saudi Arabia.  All of the other recent Middle East revolutions have been organized on the Internet, and now all over Facebook and Twitter there are calls for a “Day of Rage” in Saudi Arabia on March 11.  The Saudi monarchy is attempting to head off any protests by promising to give $37 billion in “benefits” to the people and by publicly proclaiming that all political demonstrations are specifically banned.  In addition, the Saudi government is stationing thousands of security forces at various potential “hot spots” around the country.  So far similar measures have not done much to quell unrest in other nations in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia will be a true test of the revolutionary fervor that is sweeping the region.  The Saudis have a long history of brutally repressing their own people.  They simply do not mess around.  So a revolution in Saudi Arabia will not be nearly as “easy” as it was in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya.  However, if a revolution does sweep across Saudi Arabia, it is going to send the price of oil into unprecedented territory.  Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of oil in the world, and if their oil fields get shut down even for a little while it is going to have a dramatic effect on the global economy.  With the world already on the verge of a major sovereign debt crisis, the last thing it needs is for the price of oil to start soaring into the stratosphere.

Right now the investing world is not sure what to think about all of this, and financial markets do not like uncertainty.  One piece of really bad news could send markets all over the globe crashing down.

Speculation in oil futures is absolutely rampant.  A recent report on CNN noted the following….

The speculative fervor is so remarkable that the big trading firms now have nearly twice as many long contracts open as they did in 2008, when oil spiked to $147 in the summer, a development that either foreshadowed or caused the global economic meltdown, depending on how you look at it.

In particular, the number of investors that are betting that a revolution in Saudi Arabia is going to send the price of oil up to $200 a barrel has exploded in recent days.

$200 a barrel?

Are people actually betting that is going to happen?

The all-time record is only $147 a barrel.  Just a few months ago it was absolutely unthinkable to most economists that we could potentially see $200 oil in 2011.

But it would be a mistake to assume that a full-blown revolution is guaranteed to break out in Saudi Arabia.  Remember, this is a nation that has a very, very long history of denying even the most basic freedoms to the people.

For example, in Saudi Arabia the practice of any religion other than Islam is strictly forbidden.  By law, citizens of Saudi Arabia are not permitted to change religion.  Even foreign visitors are forbidden to openly practice any other religion.  It is a whole different world.  You cannot go to the store and buy a Bible in Saudi Arabia.  In fact, if you try to pass out Bibles in Saudi Arabia you will be thrown into prison.

Beheadings and other brutal public executions still happen in Saudi Arabia to this day.

So if you plan of being a revolutionary in Saudi Arabia you had better put your big boy pants on, because the Saudis play hardball.

Much of the rest of the globe is desperately hoping that a revolution does not happen in Saudi Arabia because the global economic situation is precarious at best.

In Europe, if the price of oil causes a significant economic slowdown right now it could have global implications.  Moody’s Investors Service just slashed Greece’s debt rating three levels all the way down to B1.  But Greece is far from alone.  Several European governments are finding it much more expensive to finance their debts these days.  We are right on the edge of a major European sovereign debt crisis and the chaos in the Middle East could potentially be just the thing to spark a panic.

The United States could feel a rise in the price of oil even more than Europe because the U.S. economy is so spread out and it is so dependent on products from overseas.

Did you know that in 1960 only 8 percent of the things Americans bought were made overseas but that today 60 percent of the things Americans buy are made overseas?

It’s true.

So what would happen if the cost of transporting all of those products suddenly doubled?  All of the products we buy must be transported somehow, and a rise in transportation costs will be passed on to U.S. consumers.

But the truth is that the pain is already here.  Already, millions of American families are starting to feel some very real financial pain from the chaos in the Middle East.

From February 18th to March 4th, the average price of gasoline in the United States rose 33 cents.  That was the biggest two week increase ever recorded.

Ouch.

The rise in the price of oil has some broader economic implications as well.

The more the price of oil goes up the bigger our trade deficit is going become.  As the trade deficit gets bigger, that means that more money is going out of the country and less money is going to support American businesses and American workers.  When American workers lose jobs, that means that they aren’t producing wealth anymore and they aren’t paying taxes anymore.  Instead, they become a drain on the system as they start receiving government handouts.

When millions of Americans go from being productive, taxpaying workers to unemployed welfare cases it causes our federal budget deficit to become even larger.

Most Americans do not understand how connected our trade deficit and our federal budget deficit really are.  One feeds right into the other.

Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve seems to think that the solution to any economic problem these days is to print more money.

According to Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, if the price of oil goes up high enough, it could force the Federal Reserve to do even more quantitative easing.

Really?

One of the reasons why the price of oil and other commodities has been going up over the last six months is because of all of this reckless money printing.

Now Lockhart is saying that because of the oil price increases they may have to do more money printing?

How bizarre is that?

Unfortunately, several other top Fed officials have dropped hints about a possible “QE3” lately.  It just seems like the insanity never stops.

Let us hope that the Fed does not go there because the U.S. dollar is falling apart fast enough already.

In any event, the rest of 2011 is certainly going to be very interesting to watch.

Even if a revolution does not happen in Saudi Arabia, the price of oil will most likely continue to slowly move higher just as it has been doing for months.

But if a full-blown revolution does happen in Saudi Arabia, it could literally change the global economy almost overnight.  The entire world financial system would be thrown into a state of chaos.

Oil is the lifeblood of the world economy.  Without a continuous supply of very inexpensive oil, life as we know it would dramatically change.  Most of us just assumed that we would always live in a world where we would always have an endless supply of very cheap oil.

Well, the times they are a changing.

You had better buckle up because it is going to be a bumpy ride.

20 Statistics That Prove That Global Wealth Is Being Funneled Into The Hands Of The Elite – Leaving Most Of The Rest Of The World Wretchedly Poor

Today global wealth is more highly concentrated in the hands of the elite than it ever has been at any other point in modern history.  Once upon a time, the vast majority of the people in the world knew how to grow their own food, raise their own animals and take care of themselves.  There weren’t many that were fabulously wealthy, but there was a quiet dignity in having land you could call your own or in having a skill that you could turn into a business.  Sadly, over the past several decades an increasingly growing percentage of agricultural land has been gobbled up by big corporations and by corrupt governments.  Hundreds of millions of people have been pushed off their land and into highly concentrated urban areas.  Meanwhile, it has become increasingly difficult to start a business of your own as monolithic global corporations have come to dominate nearly every sector of the world economy.  So more people than ever around the world are forced to work for “the system” just to make a living.  At the same time, those at the very top of the food chain (the elite) have spent decades rigging the system to ensure that increasing amounts of wealth will continue to flow into their pockets.  So now in 2010 we have a global system where a few elitists at the top are insanely wealthy while about half the people living on earth are wretchedly poor.

There are very few nations around the world that have not been almost entirely plundered by the global elite.  When the elite speak of “investing” in poor countries, what they really mean is taking control of the land, water, oil and other natural resources.  In dozens of nations around the world today, big global corporations are stripping fabulous amounts of wealth out of the ground even as the vast majority of the citizens of those nations continue to live in abject poverty.  Meanwhile, the top politicians in those nations are given huge bribes to go along with the plundering.

So what we have in 2010 is a world that is dominated by a very small handful of ultra-wealthy elitists that own an almost unbelievable amount of real assets, a larger group of “middle managers” that run the system for the global elite (and are rewarded very handsomely for doing so), hundreds of millions of people who actually do the work required by the system, and several billion “useless eaters” that the global elite don’t really need and that they don’t really have much use for.

The system was not ever designed to lift up the poor.  Nor was it ever designed to promote “free enterprise” and “competition”.  Rather, the elite intend to funnel all wealth to themselves and to have the rest of us enslaved either to debt or to poverty.

The following are 20 statistics that prove that the wealth of the world is increasingly being funneled into the hands of the global elite, leaving most of the rest of the world wretchedly poor and miserable….

#1 According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the number of “least developed countries” has doubled over the past 40 years.

#2 “Least developed countries” spent 9 billion dollars on food imports in 2002.  By 2008, that number had risen to 23 billion dollars.

#3 Average income per person in the poorest countries on the continent of Africa has fallen by one-fourth over the past twenty years.

#4 Bill Gates has a net worth of somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 billion dollars.  That means that there are approximately 140 different nations that have a yearly GDP which is smaller than the amount of money Bill Gates has.

#5 A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth.

#6 Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry each night.

#7 The wealthiest 2 percent own more than half of all global household assets.

#8 It is estimated that over 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where the income gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

#9 Every 3.6 seconds someone starves to death and three-quarters of them are children under the age of 5.

#10 According to Gallup, 33 percent of the people on the globe say that they do not have enough money for food.

#11 As you read this, there are 2.6 billion people around the world that lack basic sanitation.

#12 According to the most recent “Global Wealth Report” by Credit Suisse, the wealthiest 0.5% control over 35% of the wealth of the world.

#13 More than 3 billion people, close to half the world’s population, live on less than 2 dollar a day.

#14 CNN founder Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States.  Today, Turner owns approximately two million acres.  That is an amount greater than the land masses of the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.  Turner also advocates restricting U.S. couples to 2 or fewer children to control population growth.

#15 There are 400 million children in the world today that have no access to safe water.

#16 Approximately 28 percent of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight or have had their growth stunted as a result of malnutrition.

#17 It is estimated that the United States owns approximately 25 percent of the total wealth of the world.

#18 It is estimated that the entire continent of Africa owns approximately 1 percent of the total wealth of the world.

#19 In 2008, approximately 9 million children died before they reached their fifth birthdays.  Approximately a third of all of these deaths was due either directly or indirectly to lack of food.

#20 The most famous banking family in the world, the Rothschilds, has accumulated mountains of wealth while much of the rest of the world has been trapped in poverty.  The following is what Wikipedia has to say about Rothschild family wealth….

It has been argued that during the 19th century, the family possessed by far the largest private fortune in the world, and by far the largest fortune in modern history.

Nobody seems to know exactly how much the Rothschilds are worth today.  They dominate the banking establishments of England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other nations.  It was estimated that they were worth billions back in the mid-1800s.  What the total wealth of the family is today is surely an amount that is almost unimaginable, but nobody knows for sure.

Meanwhile, billions of people around the globe are wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

At this point, many readers will want to start arguing about how horrible capitalism is and about how wonderful socialism and communism are.

But capitalism is not the problem and as we have seen countless times over the past several decades, government ownership of business is not the solution to anything.

What we have in the world today is not capitalism.  Rather, it more closely resembles “feudalism” than anything else.  The elite are “monopoly men” who use their unbelievable wealth and power to dominate the rest of us.  In fact, it was John D. Rockefeller who once said that “competition is sin”.

It would be great if we lived in a world where those living in poverty were encouraged to start owning land, to create businesses and to build better lives for themselves.

But instead, things are going the other way.  Wealth is becoming more concentrated in the hands of the elite, and the middle class is starting to be wiped out even in prosperous nations such as the United States.

It turns out that the global elite have decided that they don’t really need so many expensive American “worker bees” after all and they have been moving thousands of factories and millions of jobs overseas.  Meanwhile the American people are so distracted watching Dancing with the Stars, Lady Gaga and their favorite sports teams that they don’t even realize what is going on.

There is no guarantee that America will be prosperous forever.  Today, a record number of Americans are already living in poverty.  Today, a record number of Americans are on food stamps.  The median household income went down last year and it went down the year before that too.

So wake up.  America is being integrated into a world economic system that is dominated and controlled by the insanely wealthy elite.  They don’t care that you have to pay the mortgage or that you intend to send your kids to college.  Mostly what they care about is making as much money for themselves as they can.

Greed is running rampant around the globe, and the world is becoming a very cold place.  Unfortunately, unless something really dramatic happens, the rich are just going to continue to get richer and the poor are just going to continue to get poorer.

The Real Horror Story: The U.S. Economic Meltdown

This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened.  Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown.  It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now.  Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse.  The mainstream media has been treating “Foreclosuregate” as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented.  Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States.  If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery. 

Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway.  The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.

For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.

So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media? 

Well, just about none.

We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.

But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.

How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?

If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.

Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.

Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.

But hardly any of them are.

Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so distracted by the various forms of entertainment that we are addicted to that we just don’t care? 

But the trade deficit is not the only economic statistic that is getting worse.

According to the Department of Labor, for the week ending October 9th the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 462,000, which represented an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.

We have an unemployment epidemic going on in this country, but what did the mainstream media do in response to this news?

They yawned.  Instead, many of the “financial experts” were busy talking about how wonderful it is that the Stock Market is going up, up, up.

Well, as one reader recently reminded me, if you want to evaluate an economy by how much the stock market is going up, then the economy of Zimbabwe has had an absolutely wonderful decade!

The truth is that the stock market is not a good barometer for what is actually going on.

What is really happening is that the U.S. economic system is literally coming apart at the seams. 

Yet another piece of really bad economic news that just came out is that the number of home repossessions by banks set a new all-time record during the month of September.  The record total of 102,134 bank repossessions was the first time ever that bank repossessions climbed over the 100,000 mark for a single month.

The good news is that bank repossessions are about to come to a screeching halt.

The bad news is that it is because the U.S. mortgage industry is about to become completely and totally paralyzed by this foreclosure fraud crisis.

The following are three basic points to remember about this foreclosure mess….

A) Massive Fraud Was Committed At Every Stage By The Mortgage Industry

In a previous article entitled “Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds“, I attempted to describe just how widespread the fraud in the mortgage industry has been….

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”.

Finally, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole lot more fraud was committed.  Thousands upon thousands of foreclosure documents were “robo-signed”, but the truth is that investigators are starting to discover a lot of things about these mortgages that are a lot worse than that. 

B) Nobody Really Knows Who Owns Or Who Has The Right To Foreclose On Millions Upon Millions Of Mortgages

The legal rights to millions of U.S. mortgages has been scrambled so badly that it might actually be impossible to fully sort this mess out.  In particular, MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created a paperwork nightmare that may never be able to be completely remediated. 

On a previous article, a reader named William left a comment that did a great job of describing the very serious problem that we are now facing because of MERS….

MERS – potentially the most serious problem because it affects who really owns the loans. Securitization mandates that loans be transferred into REMIC trusts within a strict timeframe. Late transfers are not allowed. In spite of the supposed “ease” of transfer through MERS, it now appears that perhaps 60% of US loans were never properly transferred. Absent remedial legislation, it is impossible to do so now. And the former owners may be out of business or bankrupt. So how do we get these loans to the trust beneficiaries who were supposed to own them? This is no simple paperwork correction. The train has left the station, with no more to follow.

C) Unprecedented Chaos Is Going To Erupt As Faith In The Mortgage System Completely Dies

So what is going to happen as a result of all of this fraud and confusion in the mortgage industry?  Well, basically everybody is going to sue everybody.  It is going to be absolute mayhem. 

Charles Hugh Smith recently put it this way….

Real estate attorneys can rejoice: everyone will get sued, in every court in the land. Banks will get sued, title insurance companies will get sued, realtors will get sued, foreclosure mills will get sued, MERS will get sued, and so on. The attorneys general of the states will all sue the banks and mortgage mills, claiming billions in damages.

Meanwhile, virtually nobody will want to buy any house that has been foreclosed on in the past ten years or so until this mess is sorted out (which could take years and years). 

Meanwhile, title insurance companies are going to avoid foreclosures like the plague.

Meanwhile, all of the investors that have been propping up the housing market by buying foreclosures are going to be fleeing the market in droves.

Meanwhile, the financial world is going to be trying to figure out which U.S. lending institutions are still solvent.  The value of most mortgage-based assets is now totally up in the air.

Meanwhile, millions more homeowners across the United States will be emboldened to quit making payments on their mortgages as they realize that those holding their mortgages may not have the legal right to foreclose on them.

And that is where the true horror of this entire situation may lie.  What is going to happen if millions upon millions of Americans holding underwater mortgages look at this situation and decide that they really don’t have to be afraid of the threat of foreclosure any longer?

If a massive wave of homeowners suddenly decides to simply quit paying their mortgages, it would basically wipe out nearly the entire mortgage industry.

That would likely mean more government bailouts, more government control, much higher mortgage rates and eventually a serious crash in housing prices.

This crisis is incredibly complicated and it has a ton of moving parts, so it is extremely difficult to describe accurately.  But the reality is that this mess has the potential to hurt the U.S. real estate market much more than “subprime mortgages” ever did.

Hopefully this crisis will not be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the U.S. economy, but with each passing day this thing looks even more horrifying. 

One way or another, real estate law in the United State is going to be changed forever as a result of this crisis.  It is going to be extremely interesting to see how all of this plays out.

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