The Beginning Of The End
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Did We Just Witness The Last Great Black Friday Celebration Of American Materialism?

Black Friday - Photo by PowhuskuAmericans 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…

Oil Price 2007 - 2008

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…

Oil Price 2013 - 2014

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.

 

The Seven Year Cycle Of Economic Crashes That Everyone Is Talking About

Blood Red MoonLarge numbers of people believe that an economic crash is coming next year based on a seven year cycle of economic crashes that goes all the way back to the Great Depression.  What I am about to share with you is very controversial.  Some of you will love it, and some of you will think that it is utter rubbish.  I will just present this information and let you decide for yourself what you want to think about it.  In my previous article entitled “If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States“, I discussed many of the economic cycle theories that all seem to agree that we are on the verge of a major economic downturn in this country.  But there is an economic cycle that I did not mention in that article that a lot of people are talking about right now.  And if this cycle holds up once again in 2015, it will be really bad news for the U.S. economy.

Looking back, the most recent financial crisis that we experienced was back in 2008.  Lehman Brothers collapsed, the stock market crashed and we were plunged into the worst recession that we have experienced as a nation since the Great Depression.  You can see what happened to the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the chart that I have posted below…

The Dow - 1999 To The Present

Prior to that, the last time that the stock market experienced a major decline of that nature was during the bursting of the dotcom bubble seven years earlier.  2001 was a year of recession for the U.S. economy and of big trouble for stocks.

And oh year, a little event known as “9/11″ happened that year.

Seven years before that, in 1994, investors experienced the worst bond market of their lifetimes.

The following is how Reuters recalls the carnage…

The 1994 bond market massacre is remembered with horror by those who lived through it. Yields on 30-year Treasuries jumped some 200 basis points in the first nine months of the year, hammering investors and financial firms, not to mention thrusting Mexico into crisis and bankrupting Orange County.

Going back another seven years brings us to 1987.

Anyone that lived through that era remembers “Black Monday” and the horrible stock market crash very well.

The next major economic crash prior to 1987 was in the early 1980s.

In 1980, the S&L crisis was blooming and everyone was talking about the “stagflation” that we were experiencing under Jimmy Carter.  The Federal Reserve raised interest rates dramatically to combat inflation, and this helped precipitate the very deep recession that we experienced early in Ronald Reagan’s first term.

You can read much more about the “early 1980s recession” right here.

Seven years prior to 1980 brings us to 1973.  To many young Americans, that year does not have any significance, but older Americans remember the Arab oil embargo and the super long lines at the gas pumps really well.

In addition, a recession began in 1973 which ended up stretching all the way until 1975.

And those that have studied these things say that the pattern keeps going back all the way to the Great Depression.  Many correctly point out that the stock market crash which began the Great Depression was in 1929, but actually the worst year for the stock market during the Great Depression was in 1931.  And 1931 fits perfectly into the cycle.

So we have this pattern of economic crashes occurring approximately every seven years.

But there is an additional element to this cycle which makes it even more extraordinary.

As Jonathan Cahn has pointed out, this seven year cycle also lines up with the seven year “Shemitah cycle” that we find in the Bible.

For those not familiar with it, during the Shemitah year the people of Israel were commanded to let their land rest for a full year.  It was also supposed to be a time of releasing of debts.

But for the most part the people of Israel did not observe the Shemitah year, and in the Bible that is mentioned as one of the reasons why they were exiled to Babylon for seventy years.

The Shemitah year always begins in the fall, and the upcoming Shemitah year is going to start about a month from now.

Will we see things happen during this Shemitah year that are similar to things that we have seen in past Shemitah years?

For example, on September 17th, 2001 we witnessed the greatest one day stock market crash in U.S. history up until that time.  It happened on the 29th of Elul on the Jewish calendar, which is the day right before Rosh Hashanah.

That record stood for seven years until the massive stock market crash of September 29, 2008.  That date also corresponded with the 29th of Elul on the Jewish Calendar – the day right before Rosh Hashanah.

Will the pattern hold up in 2015?

Well, the 29th of Elul falls on a Sunday in 2015, so the stock market will be closed.  But it is very interesting to note that there will be a solar eclipse on that day.

And as Jonathan Cahn recently told WND, similar solar eclipses in the past have preceded major financial disasters…

In 1931, a solar eclipse took place on Sept. 12 – the end of a “Shemitah” year. Eight days later, England abandoned the gold standard, setting off market crashes and bank failures around the world. It also ushered in the greatest monthlong stock market percentage crash in Wall Street history.

In 1987, a solar eclipse took place Sept. 23 – again the end of a “Shemitah” year. Less than 30 days later came “Black Monday” the greatest percentage crash in Wall Street history.

Is Cahn predicting doom and gloom on Sept. 13, 2015? He’s careful to avoid a prediction, saying, “In the past, this ushered in the worst collapses in Wall Street history. What will it bring this time? Again, as before, the phenomenon does not have to manifest at the next convergence. But, at the same time, and again, it is wise to take note.”

So what should we make of all of this?

I am sure that some of you will dismiss this as pure coincidence and speculation.

Others will find it utterly fascinating.

But one thing is for sure – people are going to be talking about this seven year cycle all over the Internet.

When they ask you what you think, what are you going to say?

Has The Next Recession Already Begun For America’s Middle Class?

RecessionHas the next major economic downturn already started?  The way that you would answer that question would probably depend on where you live.  If you live in New York City, or the suburbs of Washington D.C., or you work for one of the big tech firms in the San Francisco area, you would probably respond to such a question by saying of course not.  In those areas, the economy is doing great and prices for high end homes are still booming.  But in most of the rest of the nation, evidence continues to mount that the next recession has already begun for the poor and the middle class.  As you will read about below, major retailers had an absolutely dreadful start to 2014 and home sales are declining just as they did back in 2007 before the last financial crisis.  Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to lose more good jobs and 20 percent of all U.S. families do not have a single member that is employed at this point.  2014 is turning out to be eerily similar to 2007 in so many ways, but most people are not paying attention.

During the first quarter of 2014, earnings by major U.S. retailers missed estimates by the biggest margin in 13 years.  The “retail apocalypse” continues to escalate, and the biggest reason for this is the fact that middle class consumers in the U.S. are tapped out.  And this is not just happening to a few retailers – this is something that is happening across the board.  The following is a summary of how major U.S. retailers performed in the first quarter of 2014 that was put together by Jim Quinn

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

That is quite a startling list.

But plummeting retail sales are not the only sign that the U.S. middle class is really struggling right now.  Home sales have also been extremely disappointing for quite a few months.  This is how Wolf Richter described what we have been witnessing…

This is precisely what shouldn’t have happened but was destined to happen: Sales of existing homes have gotten clobbered since last fall. At first, the Fiscal Cliff and the threat of a US government default – remember those zany times? – were blamed, then polar vortices were blamed even while home sales in California, where the weather had been gorgeous all winter, plunged more than elsewhere.

Then it spread to new-home sales: in April, they dropped 4.7% from a year ago, after March’s year-over-year decline of 4.9%, and February’s 2.8%. Not a good sign: the April hit was worse than February’s, when it was the weather’s fault. Yet April should be the busiest month of the year (excellent brief video by Lee Adler on this debacle).

We have already seen that in some markets, in California for example, sales have collapsed at the lower two-thirds of the price range, with the upper third thriving. People who earn median incomes are increasingly priced out of the market, and many potential first-time buyers have little chance of getting in. In San Diego, for example, sales of homes below $200,000 plunged 46% while the upper end is doing just fine.

As Richter noted, sales of upper end homes are still doing fine in many areas.

But how long will that be able to continue if things continue to get even worse for the poor and the middle class?  Traditionally, the U.S. economy has greatly depended upon consumer spending by the middle class.  If that continues to dry up, how long can we avoid falling into a recession?  For even more numbers that seem to indicate economic trouble for the middle class, please see my previous article entitled “27 Huge Red Flags For The U.S. Economy“.

Other analysts are expressing similar concerns.  For example, check out what John Williams of shadowstats.com had to say during one recent interview

We’re turning down anew. The first quarter should revise into negative territory… and I believe the second quarter will report negative as well.

That will all happen by July 30 when you have the annual revisions to the GDP. In reality the economy is much weaker than that. Economic growth is overstated with the GDP because they understate inflation, which is used in deflating the number…

What we’re seeing now is just… we’ve been barely stagnant and bottomed out… but we’re turning down again.

The reason for this is that the consumer is strapped… doesn’t have the liquidity to fuel the growth in consumption.

Income… the median household income, net of inflation, is as low as it was in 1967. The average guy is not staying ahead of inflation…

This has been a problem now for decades… You were able to buy consumption from the future by borrowing more money, expanding your debt. Greenspan saw the problem was income, so he encouraged debt expansion.

That all blew apart in 2007/2008… the income problems have continued, but now you don’t have the ability to borrow money the way you used to. Without that and the income problems remaining, there’s no way that consumption can grow faster than inflation if income isn’t.

As a result – personal consumption is more than two thirds of the economy – there’s no way you can have positive sustainable growth in the U.S. economy without the consumer being healthy.

The key to the health of the middle class is having plenty of good jobs.

But the U.S. economy continues to lose more good paying jobs.

For example, Hewlett-Packard has just announced that it plans to eliminate 16,000 more jobs in addition to the 34,000 job cuts that have already been announced.

Today, there are 27 million more working age Americans that do not have a job than there were in 2000, and the quality of our jobs continues to decline.

This is absolutely destroying the middle class.  Unless the employment situation in this country starts to turn around, there does not seem to be much hope that the middle class will recover any time soon.

Meanwhile, there are emerging signs of trouble for the wealthy as well.

For instance, just like we witnessed back in 2007, things are starting to look a bit shaky at the “too big to fail” banks.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC report

Citigroup has joined the ranks of those with trading troubles, as a high-ranking official told the Deutsche Bank 2014 Global Financial Services Investor Conference Tuesday that adjusted trading revenue probably will decline 20 percent to 25 percent in the second quarter on an annualized basis.

“People are uncertain,” Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said of investor behavior, according to an account from the Wall Street Journal. “There just isn’t a lot of movement.”

In recent weeks, officials at JPMorgan Chase and Barclays also both reported likely drops in trading revenue. JPMorgan said it expected a decline of 20 percent of the quarter, while Barclays anticipates a 41 percent drop, prompting it to announce mass layoffs that will pare 19,000 jobs by the end of 2016.

Remember, very few people expected a recession the last time around either.  In fact, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke repeatedly promised us that we would not have a recession and then we went on to experience the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

It will be the same this time as well.  Just like in 2007, we will continue to get an endless supply of “hopetimism” from our politicians and the mainstream media, and they will continue to fill our heads with visions of rainbows, unicorns and economic prosperity for as far as the eyes can see.

But then the next recession will strike and most Americans will be completely blindsided by it.

Crime Is Getting Worse: Violent Crime In America Increased By 15 Percent Last Year

Crime In AmericaIf your neighborhood is not as safe as it used to be, then you have something in common with the rest of the country.  All over America, crime is on the rise.  According to a government survey that was just released, violent crime in the United States increased by 15 percent last year, and property crime was up by 12 percent.  If violent crime keeps increasing at this rate, it will approximately double in just six years.  But as I wrote about the other day, when the next major economic downturn strikes it will probably greatly accelerate the growth of the crime rate in this country.  Desperate people do desperate things, and as you will read about below, there are people out there that are already stealing entire truckloads of food.  In the future, when people are extremely hungry or crazy for their next drug hit, they won’t think twice about invading your home or pulling you out of your vehicle.  The rise in crime that we are witnessing right now is just the beginning.  It is going to get a lot worse than this.

Whenever I do this type of an article, inevitably someone leaves a comment insisting that I am lying because crime rates are going down.

Well, that used to be true.  It is no longer accurate.

As an ABC News article that was just released explains, the crime victimization survey shows that violent crime in America has now increased for two years in a row…

The violent crime rate went up 15 percent last year, and the property crime rate rose 12 percent, the government said Thursday, signs that the nation may be seeing the last of the substantial declines in crime of the past two decades.

Last year marked the second year in a row for increases in the crime victimization survey, a report that is based on household interviews.

This is one of the primary reasons why so many people are moving out of the big cities right now.  In the city of Chicago, police are so overwhelmed with crime that they will no longer respond in person “to 911 calls reporting vehicle theft, garage burglary or simple assault“.

Things have gotten so bad in Chicago that a 14-year-old girl was sexually assaulted as she was walking to a bus stop this week and it barely made a blip on the news.

But we have come to expect this kind of thing in crime-infested cities such as Chicago.  We don’t expect it to happen in “quiet communities” such as Augusta, Georgia

“When we first moved out here three and a half years ago, my wife and I, it was a quiet community, it was a deal that we felt we couldn’t pass up on,” Don McIntee says.

McIntee lives in the Butler Creek Mobile Home Community, but he’s trying to change that. He recently put his home up for sale because he says the crime in his neighborhood is too much to deal with.

“I want to live in a place that I feel is secure and safe for my wife because I’m out of town a lot,” he says.

And it seems like criminals are becoming more brutal than ever.  For example, one thug actually put his gun into the mouth of a 92-year-old World War II veteran in Fresno, California and threatened to kill him during one recent home invasion…

“I was sound asleep at about one or two o’clock in the morning, all the lights were on and a guy shook me with a gun in my face. (I said) Hey what’s going on? (He said) Shut up and he slapped me,” he explained.

While the suspect held him at gunpoint, three others ransacked his house, taking about 200 dollars in cash and jewelry including his 1941 class ring from Woodlake High School in Tulare County.

“They were in there for almost a half hour,” said Fresno County Sheriff Department spokesperson Chris Curtice. “So they had plenty of time to search the house, it was the middle of the night.”

At one point, Joseph said one of the suspects put a gun in his mouth and threatened to kill him. While being ordered into the bedroom closet, he said he hit him in the head with a handgun, causing him to fall to the floor.

Was there any need for that?  That 92-year-old man was certainly no threat to the four home invaders.

But this is what is happening all over the nation now.  Criminals appear to be getting crazier and crazier.

In Houston recently, one team of home invaders decided to storm a house at 8 AM in the morning while people all along the street were leaving their homes to go to work and to school…

It was about 8am — daylight, with people going to work and kids going to school, yet no one apparently saw this coming. The homeowner told me four men, armed with guns, broke in through her garage and forced their way inside her house.

The woman’s daughter and son-in-law were in the home with her, along with two of their daughters, ages four and six. The homeowner says the gunmen pointed guns at all of them — even the children — and demanded money over and over. They ransacked the house and the cars- and eventually got away with some cash, at least one cell phone and the homeowner’s wallet.

Who robs a house at 8 AM in the morning?

That is either incredibly bold or incredibly stupid.

In my article yesterday, I included another example of a crime which is either incredibly bold or incredibly stupid.  One very enterprising carjacker actually decided to try to carjack the police chief of Detroit while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

So what is going on here?

Are criminals becoming bolder or are they just becoming stupider?

I don’t have an answer for that question, but one thing seems certain – crime is definitely getting worse.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, some criminals are now actually stealing entire truckloads of food.  A recent CBS News article explained how they are doing this…

To steal huge shipments of valuable cargo, thieves are turning to a deceptively simple tactic: They pose as truckers, load the freight onto their own tractor-trailers and drive away with it.

It’s an increasingly common form of commercial identity theft that has allowed con men to make off each year with millions of dollars in merchandise, often food and beverages. And experts say the practice is growing so rapidly that it will soon become the most common way to steal freight.

And what we are talking about is not just a few isolated incidents.  This is literally happening from coast to coast and the dollar values of some of these thefts are staggering…

News reports from across the country recount just a few of the thefts: 80,000 pounds of walnuts worth $300,000 in California, $200,000 of Muenster cheese in Wisconsin, rib-eye steaks valued at $82,000 in Texas, $25,000 pounds of king crab worth $400,000 in California.

As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, I actually expect that we will start seeing armed guards on food trucks in a few years.

Desperate people do desperate things, and as food prices continue to rise I believe that food trucks will become highly prized targets.

America is rapidly changing, and not for the better.

So what are things like in your area of the country?

Are you noticing an increase in crime?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

22 Reasons To Be Concerned About The U.S. Economy As We Head Into The Holiday Season

2013 Holiday SeasonAre we on the verge of another major economic downturn?  In recent weeks, most of the focus has been on our politicians in Washington, but there are lots of other reasons to be deeply alarmed about the economy as well.  Economic confidence is down, retail sales figures are disappointing, job cuts are up, and American consumers are deeply struggling.  Even if our politicians do everything right, there would still be a significant chance that we could be heading into tough economic times in the coming months.  Our economy has been in decline for a very long time, and that decline appears to be accelerating.  There aren’t enough jobs, the quality of our jobs continues to decline, our economic infrastructure is being systematically gutted, and poverty has been absolutely exploding.  Things have gotten so bad that former President Jimmy Carter says that the middle class of today resembles those that were living in poverty when he was in the White House.  But this process has been happening so gradually that most Americans don’t even realize what has happened.  Our economy is being fundamentally transformed, and the pace of our decline is picking up speed.  The following are 22 reasons to be concerned about the U.S. economy as we head into the holiday season…

#1 According to Gallup, we have just seen the largest drop in U.S. economic confidence since 2008.

#2 Retailers all over America are reporting disappointing sales figures, and many analysts are very concerned about what the holiday season will bring.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article

Chico’s FAS [CHS] Earnings Call 8/28/13:

Traffic was our issue in quarter two. In a highly promotional and challenging environment, comparable sales result was a negative 2.6 percent on top of a positive 5.6 percent last year and a positive 12.8 percent in 2011.”

William-Sonoma [WSM] Earnings Call 8/28/13:

The retail environment, it seems to indicate there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, that the promotional environment has not gone away and that the retail environment in general continues to be choppy, especially with the recent earnings releases and this global unrest, and we just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Zale Corp [ZLC] Earnings Call 8/28/13:

“Overall, we continue to take a conservative view of market conditions in both the U.S. and in Canada. That being said, we do expect to continue to achieve positive top line growth. We expect store closures will impact our overall revenue growth for the year by about 250 basis points. It represents net closures of approximately 50 to 55 retail locations.”

DSW Inc. [DSW] Earnings Call 8/27/13:

We did have a traffic decline in Q2, sort of similar to what just about every other retailer in America has reported.”

Guess? [GES] Earnings Call 8/28/13:

“The Korean business continued to be strong as revenue grew in the high single digits in local currency during the quarter. This was offset with the weakness from China, where we are seeing clear evidence of a pullback in consumer spending behavior because of the slowdown in the economy.”

Aeropostale [ARO] Earnings Call 8/22/13:

“Our business trends in the second quarter did not change materially from earlier in the year, which was disappointing given the level of change we registered with the brand. This performance in the third quarter outlook is being influenced by a challenging retail environment, with weak traffic trends and high levels of promotional activity.

#3 Domestic vehicle sales just experienced their largest “miss” relative to expectations since January 2009.

#4 One of the largest furniture manufacturers in America was recently forced into bankruptcy.

#5 According to the Wall Street Journal, the 2013 holiday shopping season is already being projected to be the worst that we have seen since 2009.

#6 The Baltic Dry Index recently experienced the largest 4 day drop that we have seen in 11 months.

#7 Merck, one of the largest drug makers in the nation, has announced the elimination of 8,500 jobs.

#8 Overall, corporations announced the elimination of 387,384 jobs through the first nine months of this year.

#9 The number of announced job cuts in September 2013 was 19 percent higher than the number of announced job cuts in September 2012.

#10 The labor force participation rate is the lowest that it has been in 35 years.

#11 As I mentioned the other day, the labor force participation rate for men in the 18 to 24 year old age bracket is at an all-time low.

#12 Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

#13 Incredibly, only 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.

#14 U.S. consumer delinquencies are starting to rise again.

#15 The Postal Service recently defaulted on a 5.6 billion dollar retiree health benefit payment.

#16 The national debt has increased more than twice as fast as U.S. GDP has grown over the past two years.

#17 Obamacare is causing health insurance premiums to skyrocket and this is reducing the disposable income that consumers have available.

#18 Median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

#19 The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at an all-time record high.

#20 Former President Jimmy Carter says that the middle class in America has declined so dramatically that the middle class of today resembles those that were living in poverty when he was in the White House.

#21 According to a Gallup poll that was recently released, 20.0% of all Americans did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point over the past year.  That is just under the record of 20.4% that was set back in November 2008.

#22 Right now, one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.  There are going to be a lot of struggling families out there this winter, so please be generous with organizations that help the poor.  A lot of people are really going to need their help during the cold months ahead.

12 Clear Signals That The U.S. Economy Is About To Really Slow Down

A member of the U.S. Navy aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. WilliamsA lot of things that have not happened since the last recession are starting to happen again.  As you read the list below, you will notice that the year “2009” comes up again and again.  There is a reason for that.  Many of the same patterns that we witnessed during the last major economic downturn are starting to repeat themselves.  In fact, many of the things that are happening right now have not happened in quite a few years.  For example, manufacturing activity in the U.S. has contracted for the first time in four years.  The inventory to sales ratio is the highest that it has been in four years.  Average hourly compensation just experienced the largest decline that we have seen in four years.  We also just witnessed the largest decline in the number of mortgage applications that we have seen in four years.  After everything that Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and the Federal Reserve have tried to do, there has been no real economic recovery and now the U.S. economy is suddenly behaving as if it is 2009 all over again.  A whole host of recent surveys indicate that the American people are starting to feel a bit better about the economy, but the underlying economic numbers tell an entirely different story.  The following are 12 clear signals that the U.S. economy is about to really slow down…

#1 The average interest rate on a 30 year mortgage has risen above 4 percent for the first time in more than a year.

#2 The decline in the number of mortgage applications last week was the largest drop that we have seen since June 2009.

#3 Mark Hanson is reporting that “mass layoffs” have occurred at three large mortgage institutions…

This morning I was made aware that three large private mortgage bankers I follow closely for trends in mortgage finance ALL had mass layoffs last Friday and yesterday to the tune of 25% to 50% of their operations staff (intake, processing, underwriting, document drawing, funding, post-closing).

This obviously means that my reports of refi apps being down 65% to 90% in the past 3 weeks are far more accurate than the lagging MBA index, which is likely on its’ way to print multi-year lows in the next month.

#4 It was just announced that average hourly compensation in the United States experienced its largest drop since 2009 during the first quarter of 2013.

#5 As I wrote about the other day, the Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index declined to 49.0 in May.  Any reading below 50 indicates contraction.  That was the first contraction in manufacturing activity in the U.S. that we have seen since 2009.

#6 The inventory to sales ratio has hit a level not seen since 2009.  That means that there is a lot of inventory sitting out there that people are not buying.

#7 According to the Commerce Department, the demand for computers dropped by a stunning 9 percent during the month of April.

#8 As I noted in a previous article, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

#9 Job growth at small businesses is now at about half the level it was at the beginning of the year.

#10 The stock market is starting to understand that all of these numbers indicate that the U.S. economy is really starting to slow down.  The Dow was down 216.95 points on Wednesday, and it dropped below 15,000 for the first time since May 6th.

#11 The S&P 500 has now fallen more than 4 percent since May 22nd.  Is this the beginning of a market “correction”, or is this something much bigger than that?

#12 Japanese stocks are now down about 17 percent from the peak of May 22nd.  Japan has the third largest economy on the planet and it is one of the most important trading partners for the United States.  A major financial crisis in Japan would have very serious implications for the U.S. economy.

If we were going to have an “economic recovery”, it should have happened in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  Unfortunately, as a recent Los Angeles Times article detailed, an economic recovery never materialized…

Real GDP growth — the value of goods and services produced after adjusting for inflation — is 15.4% below the 3% growth trend of past recoveries, wrote Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. More robust growth will be necessary to bring this recovery in line with previous ones.

“It’s not a recovery,” he wrote. “It’s not even normal growth. It’s bad.”

Now we are rapidly approaching another major economic downturn.

But poverty in America has continued to experience explosive growth since the end of the last recession and dependence on the federal government is already at an all-time high.

How much worse can things get?

Sadly, they are going to get much, much worse.

What the U.S. economy is experiencing right now is not just a cyclical downturn.  Rather, we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline that is the result of decades of very foolish decisions by our leaders.

It is imperative that we get the American people educated about what is happening.  If people do not understand what is happening, they are not going to get prepared for the hard years that are coming.

If you have a family member or a friend that does not understand the long-term economic collapse that is unfolding all around us, please show them my article entitled “40 Statistics About The Fall Of The U.S. Economy That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe“.  It goes a good job of pointing out many of the reasons why we are heading for complete and total economic disaster.

And the point is not to fill people with fear.  Rather, there is a lot of hope in understanding what is happening and in getting prepared.  As we have seen over in Europe, those that get blindsided by economic problems often become totally consumed with despair.  Suicide rates have soared in economically-troubled nations such as Greece, Spain and Italy.

And the same thing is going to happen in the United States too.  In fact, the suicide rate in the United States has already been rising according to the New York Times

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7.

In fact, today more Americans are killed by suicide than by car accidents.

Isn’t that crazy?

Unfortunately, this is only just the beginning.  When the system fails, millions of Americans are going to be convinced that their lives are over.  A lot of them are going to do some very stupid things.  We want to try to prevent as much of that as possible.

Thanks to decades of incredibly foolish decisions by our leaders, an economic collapse is inevitable.  This is especially true considering the fact that our leaders in Washington D.C. and elsewhere will not even consider many of the potential solutions which could help start turning our economic problems around.

So since there are no solutions on the horizon, we need to explain to people what is happening and help them to get as prepared as possible.

The years ahead are going to be very hard, but we have a choice as to how we will respond to the challenges in front of us.

We can face those challenges with fear, or we can face them with courage.

Choose wisely.

Child Hunger Is Exploding In Greece – And 14 Signs That It Is Starting To Happen In America Too

ChildThe world is heading into a horrific economic nightmare, and an inordinate amount of the suffering is going to fall on innocent children.  If you want to get an idea of what America is going to look like in the not too distant future, just check out what is happening in Greece.  At this point, Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Greece has now risen to 27 percent, which is much higher than the peak unemployment rate that the U.S. economy experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  And as you will read about below, child hunger is absolutely exploding in Greece right now.  Some families are literally trying to survive on pasta and ketchup.  But don’t think for a moment that it can’t happen here.  Sadly, the truth is that child hunger is already rising very rapidly in our poverty-stricken cities.  Never before have we had so many Americans unable to take care of themselves.  Food stamp enrollment and child homelessness have soared to brand new all-time records, and there are actually thousands of Americans that are so poor that they live in tunnels underneath our cities.  But for millions of other Americans, the suffering is not quite so dramatic.  Instead, they just watch their hopes and their dreams slowly slip away as they struggle to find a way to make it from month to month.  There are millions of parents that lead lives that are filled with constant stress and anxiety as they try to figure out how to provide the basics for their children.  How do you tell a child that you can’t give them any dinner even though you have been trying as hard as you can?  What many families go through on a regular basis is absolutely heartbreaking.  Unfortunately, more poor families slip through the cracks with each passing day, and these are supposedly times in which we are experiencing an “economic recovery”.  So what are things going to look like when the next major economic downturn strikes?

A recent New York Times article detailed the horrifying child hunger that we are witnessing in Greece right now.  At some schools there are reports of children actually begging for food from their classmates…

As an elementary school principal, Leonidas Nikas is used to seeing children play, laugh and dream about the future. But recently he has seen something altogether different, something he thought was impossible in Greece: children picking through school trash cans for food; needy youngsters asking playmates for leftovers; and an 11-year-old boy, Pantelis Petrakis, bent over with hunger pains.

“He had eaten almost nothing at home,” Mr. Nikas said, sitting in his cramped school office near the port of Piraeus, a working-class suburb of Athens, as the sound of a jump rope skittered across the playground. He confronted Pantelis’s parents, who were ashamed and embarrassed but admitted that they had not been able to find work for months. Their savings were gone, and they were living on rations of pasta and ketchup.

Could you imagine that happening to your children or your grandchildren?

Don’t think that it can’t happen.  Just a few years ago the Greek middle class was vibrant and thriving.

And we are starting to see hunger explode in other European countries as well.  For example, in the UK the number of people receiving emergency food rations has increased by 170 percent over the past year.

This is one of the reasons why I get upset when people say that “things are getting better”.  Yes, the stock market has been setting record highs lately, but things are most definitely not getting better.

Even during this false bubble of debt-fueled economic stability that we are enjoying right now, we continue to see hunger and poverty rise dramatically in America.

Since Barack Obama has been president, the number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 32 million to more than 47 million.

Will we all be on food stamps eventually?

Will we all become dependent on the government for our survival at some point?

According to the Boston Herald, even Tamerlan Tsarnaev was receiving government welfare benefits…

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits.

Isn’t that crazy?

And yes, there are some people out there that are abusing the system.  In fact, the cost of food stamp fraud has risen sharply to approximately $750 million in recent years.

But most of the people on these programs really need the help.  Thanks to our incredibly foolish economic policies, there are not enough good jobs for everyone and there never will be again.  The percentage of Americans that are unable to take care of themselves is going to continue to rise, and the suffering that we are witnessing right now is going to get much, much worse.

Not that things aren’t really, really bad already.  Here are some signs that child hunger in America has already started to explode…

#1 Today, approximately 17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity.  In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”

#2 We are told that we live in the “wealthiest nation” on the planet, and yet more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

#3 The average food stamp benefit breaks down to approximately $4 per person per day.

#4 It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 18.

#5 It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

#6 The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million.  That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

#7 According to Feeding America, “households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.6 percent compared to 12.2 percent”.

#8 According to a Feeding America hunger study, more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

#9 For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

#10 Approximately 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.

#11 One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.

#12 In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.

#13 In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.

#14 According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

For many more facts about the dramatic explosion of poverty in this country, please see my previous article entitled “21 Statistics About The Explosive Growth Of Poverty In America That Everyone Should Know“.

Unfortunately, most of the time statistics don’t really tell the whole story.  Numbers alone cannot really communicate the soul-crushing despair that millions of American families are enduring on a daily basis at this point.

How can numbers communicate the pain that a child feels when her grandmother does not eat because there is not enough food for everyone in the family?  But this is what some families in America actually go through because there is not enough money…

Vanyshia tells about the sacrifices her Grandmother makes so that she and her siblings can eat. “Sometimes my Grandma can’t even eat because she has to feed me and my brother and sister. Sometimes I don’t eat as much as I want to because I leave some for my Grandma because I don’t want her to sit there and starve. Sometimes she doesn’t have enough money to buy food, so she has to go to the bank and borrow money. It makes me feel sad. I don’t want her to be hungry. I just feel sad sometimes,” says Vanyshia.

Things can be particularly tough when you are a single parent.  The BBC recently profiled a single mother that is struggling to raise two young children in Iowa…

“We don’t get three meals a day like breakfast, lunch and then dinner,” says Kaylie. “When I feel hungry I feel sad and droopy.”

Kaylie and Tyler live with their mother Barbara, who used to work in a factory. After losing her job, she was entitled to unemployment benefit and food stamps – this comes to $1,480 (£974) a month.

But they were no longer able to afford to live in their house, which along with bills cost $1,326 (£873) a month, leaving little for food or petrol.

Kaylie supplemented their income by collecting cans along the railway track near their old home – earning between two and five cents per can.

For more examples like this one, I encourage everyone to go watch a recent BBC documentary entitled “America’s Poor Kids” that you can see right here.

I wonder why we don’t see more stuff like this on the mainstream news in this country?

Could it be that the mainstream media does not want to admit how bad things have really gotten?

All of this is also a reminder that we need to be generous to those in need.  Times are going to get much, much harder than this, and we are all going to need one another.

So do you have any stories of poverty or child hunger from your area of the country to share?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

Child Hunger

History Tells Us That A Gold Crash + An Oil Crash = Guaranteed Recession

History Tells Us That A Gold Crash + An Oil Crash = Guaranteed RecessionIs the United States about to experience another major economic downturn?  Unfortunately, the pattern that is emerging right now is exactly the kind of pattern that you would expect to see just before a major stock market crash and a deep recession.  History tells us that when the price of gold crashes, a recession almost always follows.  History also tells us that when the price of oil crashes, a recession almost always follows.  When both of those things happen, a significant economic downturn is virtually guaranteed.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  Gold and oil both started falling rapidly in July, and in the fall we experienced the worst financial crisis that the U.S. had seen since the days of the Great Depression.  Well, a similar pattern seems to be happening again.  The price of gold has already crashed, and the price of a barrel of WTI crude oil has dropped to $86.37 as I write this.  If the price of oil dips below $80 a barrel and stays there, that will be a major red flag.  Meanwhile, we have just seen volatility return to the financial markets in a big way.  When volatility starts to spike, that is usually a clear sign that stocks are about to go down substantially.  So buckle your seatbelts – it looks like things are about to get very, very interesting.

Posted below is a chart that shows what has happened to the price of gold since the late 1960s.  As you will notice, whenever the price of gold rises dramatically and then crashes, a recession usually follows.  It happened in 1980, it happened in 2008, and it is happening again…

The Price Of Gold

A similar pattern emerges when we look at the price of oil.  During each of the last three recessions we have seen a rapid rise in the price of oil followed by a rapid decline in the price of oil…

The Price Of Oil

That is why what is starting to happen to the price of oil is so alarming.  On Wednesday, Reuters ran a story with the following headline: “Crude Routed Anew on Relentless Demand Worries“.  The price of oil has not “crashed” yet, but it is definitely starting to slip.

As you can see from the chart above, the price of oil has tested the $80 level a couple of times in the past few years.  If we get below that resistance and stay there, that will be a clear sign that trouble is ahead.

However, there is always the possibility that the recent “crash” in the price of gold might be a false signal because there is a tremendous amount of evidence emerging that it was an orchestrated event.  An absolutely outstanding article by Chris Martenson explained how the big banks had been setting up this “crash” for months…

In February, Credit Suisse ‘predicted’ that the gold market had peaked, SocGen said the end of the gold era was upon us, and recently Goldman Sachs told everyone to short the metal.

While that’s somewhat interesting, you should first know that the largest bullion banks had amassed huge short positions in precious metals by January.

The CFTC rather coyly refers to the bullion banks simply as ‘large traders,’ but everyone knows that these are the bullion banks.  What we are seeing in that chart is that out of a range of commodities, the precious metals were the most heavily shorted, by far.

So the timeline here is easy to follow.  The bullion banks:

  1. Amass a huge short position early in the game
  2. Begin telling everyone to go short (wink, wink) to get things moving along in the right direction by sowing doubt in the minds of the longs
  3. Begin testing the late night markets for depth by initiating mini raids (that also serve to let experienced traders know that there’s an elephant or two in the room)
  4. Wait for the right moment and then open the floodgates to dump such an overwhelming amount of paper gold and silver into the market that lower prices are the only possible result
  5. Close their positions for massive gains and then act as if they had made a really prescient market call
  6. Await their big bonus checks and wash, rinse, repeat at a later date

While I am almost 100% certain that any decent investigation by the CFTC would reveal that market manipulating ‘dumping’ was happening, I am equally certain that no such investigation will occur.  That’s because the point of such a maneuver by the bullion banks is designed to transfer as much wealth from ‘out there’ and towards the center, and the CFTC is there to protect the center’s ‘right’ to do exactly that.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

There are also rumors that George Soros was involved in driving down the price of gold.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by “The Reformed Broker” Joshua Brown

And over the last week or so, the one rumor I keep hearing from different hedge fund people is that George Soros is currently massively short gold and that he’s making an absolute killing.

Once again, I have no way of knowing if this is true or false.

But enough people are saying it that I thought it worthwhile to at least mention.

And to me, it would make perfect sense:

1. Soros is a macro investor, this is THE macro trade of the year so far (okay, maybe Japan 1, short gold 2)

2. Soros is well-known for numerous market aphorisms and neologisms, one of my faves being “When I see a bubble, I invest.”  He was heavily long gold for a time and had done well while simultaneously referring to it publicly as a speculative bubble.

3. He recently reported that he had pretty much exited the trade in gold back in February. In his Q4 filing a few weeks ago, we found out that he had sold down his GLD position by about 55% as of the end of 2012 and had just 600,000 shares remaining. That was the “smartest guy in the room” locking in a profit after a 12 year bull market.

4. Soros also hired away one of the most talented technical analysts out there, John Roque, upon the collapse of Roque’s previous employer, broker-dealer WJB Capital. No one has heard from the formerly media-available Roque since but we can only assume that – as a technician – the very obvious breakdown of gold’s long-term trend was at least discussed. And how else does one trade gold if not by using technicals (supply/demand) – what else is there? Cash flow? Book value?

5. Lastly, the last public interview given by George Soros was to the South China Morning Post on April 4th. He does not mention any trading he’s doing in gold but he does reveal his thoughts on it having been “destroyed as a safe haven”

It is also important to keep in mind that this “crash” in the price of “paper gold” had absolutely nothing to do with the demand for physical gold and silver in the real world.  In fact, precious metals retailers have been reporting that they have been selling an “astounding volume” of gold and silver this week.

But that isn’t keeping many in the mainstream media from “dancing on the grave” of gold and silver.

For example, New York Times journalist Paul Krugman seems absolutely ecstatic that gold has crashed.  He seems to think that this “crash” is vindication for everything that he has been saying the past couple of years.

In an article entitled “EVERYONE Should Be Thrilled By The Gold Crash“, Business Insider declared that all of us should be really glad that gold has crashed because according to them it is a sign that the economy is getting better and that faith in the financial system has been restored.

Dan Fitzpatrick, the president of StockMarketMentor.com, recently told CNBC that people are “flying out of gold” and “getting into equities”…

“There have been so many reasons, and there remain so many reasons to be in gold,” Fitzpatrick said, noting currency debasement and the fear of inflation. “But the chart is telling you that none of that is happening. Because of that, you’re going to see people just flying out of gold. There’s just no reason to be in it.Traders are scaling out of gold and getting into equities.”

Personally, I feel so sorry for those that are putting their money in the stock market right now.  They are getting in just in time for the crash.

As CNBC recently noted, a very ominous “head and shoulders pattern” for the S&P 500 is emerging right now…

A scary head-and-shoulders pattern could be building in the S&P 500, and this negative chart formation would be created if the market stalls just above current levels.

“It’s developing and it’s developing fast,” said Scott Redler of T3Live.com on Wednesday morning.

Even worse, volatility has returned to Wall Street in a huge way.  This is usually a sign that a significant downturn is on the way…

Call options buying recently hit a three-year high for the CBOE’s Volatility Index, a popular measure of market fear that usually moves in the opposite direction of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

A call buy, which gives the owner the option to purchase the security at a certain price, implies a belief that the VIX is likely to go higher, which usually is an ominous sign for stocks.

“We saw a huge spike in call buying on the VIX, the most in a while,” said Ryan Detrick, senior analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “That’s not what you want to hear (because it usually happens) right before a big pullback.”

The last time call options activity hit this level, on Jan. 13, 2010, it preceded a 9 percent stock market drop that happened over just four weeks, triggered in large part by worries over the ongoing European debt crisis.

And according to Richard Russell, the “smart money” has already been very busy dumping consumer stocks…

What do billionaires Warren Buffet, John Paulson, and George Soros know that you and I don’t know? I don’t have the answer, but I do know what these billionaires are doing. They, all three, are selling consumer-oriented stocks. Buffett has been a cheerleader for US stocks all along.

But in the latest filing, Buffett has been drastically cutting back on his exposure to consumer stocks. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson and Johnson. Berkshire has reduced his overall stake in consumer product stocks by 21%, including Kraft and Procter and Gamble. He has also cleared out his entire position in Intel. He has sold 10,000 shares of GM and 597,000 shares of IBM.

Fellow billionaire John Paulson dumped 14 million shares of JP Morgan and dumped his entire position in Family Dollar and consumer goods maker Sara Lee. To wrap up the trio of billionaires, George Soros sold nearly all his bank stocks including JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. So I don’t know exactly what the billionaires are thinking, but I do see what they’re doing — they are avoiding consumer stocks and building up cash.

… the billionaires are thinking that consumption is heading down and that America’s consumers are close to going on strike.

So what are all of those billionaires preparing for?

What do they know that we don’t know?

I don’t know about you, but when I start putting all of the pieces that I have just discussed together, it paints a rather ominous picture for the months ahead.

At some point, there will be another major stock market crash.  When it happens, we will likely see even worse chaos than we saw back in 2008.  Major financial institutions will fail, the credit markets will freeze up, economic activity will grind to a standstill and millions of Americans will lose their jobs.

I sincerely hope that we still have at least a few more months before that happens.  But right now things are moving very rapidly and it is becoming increasingly clear that time is running out.

Time Is Running Out

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