If the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores? The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating. As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable. So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes? For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way. And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now. If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?
The list below comes from information compiled by About.com, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores. Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years. As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…
180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)
75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)
150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)
223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)
265 Body Central / Body Shop
66 Bottom Dollar Food
25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)
32 C. Wonder
120 Chico’s (through 2017)
200 Children’s Place (through 2017)
17 Christopher & Banks
70 Coach (fiscal 2015)
70 Coco’s /Carrows
300 Deb Shops
340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar
39 Einstein Bros. Bagels
50 Express (through 2015)
31 Frederick’s of Hollywood
50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores
65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)
54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)
50 Guess (through 2015)
127 Jones New York Outlet
10 Just Baked
28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade
400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)
63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)
100 Pier One (by 2017)
20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)
1,784 Radio Shack
13 Ruby Tuesday
10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores
55 Staples (2015)
133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)
31 Tiger Direct
200 Walgreens (by 2017)
10 West Marine
338 Wet Seal
80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)
So why is this happening?
Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.
But as Thad Beversdorf has pointed out, we have also seen a stunning decline in true discretionary consumer spending over the past six months…
What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.
The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out. Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month. For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.
In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent…
More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.
A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.
And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.
The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.
For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around. But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing. Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.
As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet. But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere. This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods. Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.
And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet. Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.
If U.S. economic growth falls any lower, we are officially going to be in recession territory. On Wednesday, we learned that U.S. GDP grew at a 0.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2015. That was much lower than all of the “experts” were projecting. And of course there are all sorts of questions whether the GDP numbers the government feeds us are legitimate anyway. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if honest numbers were used they would show that U.S. GDP growth has been continuously negative since 2005. But even if we consider the number that the government has given us to be the “real” number, it still shows that the U.S. economy has stalled out. It is almost as if we have hit a “turning point”, and there are many out there (including myself) that believe that the next major economic downturn is dead ahead. As you will see in this article, a whole bunch of things are happening right now that we would expect to see if a recession was beginning. The following are 16 signs that the economy has stalled out and the next economic downturn is here…
#1 We just learned that U.S. GDP grew at an anemic 0.2 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2015…
The gross domestic product grew between January and March at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said, adding to the picture of an economy braking sharply after accelerating for much of last year. The pace fell well shy of the 1 percent mark anticipated by analysts and marked the weakest quarter in a year.
#2 If you strip a very unusual inventory buildup out of the GDP number, U.S. GDP would have actually fallen at a -2.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter…
The only good news: the massive inventory build, the largest since 2010, boosted GDP by nearly 3.0%. Without this epic stockpiling of non-farm inventory which will have to be liquidated at some point (and at a very low price) Q1 GDP would have been -2.5%.
#3 Our trade deficit with the rest of the planet is absolutely killing our economic growth. According to the Reality Chek Blog, U.S. economic growth would have been a total of 8 percent higher since the end of the last recession if we actually had balanced trade with other nations…
As of the new first quarter figures, the worsening of the trade deficit has reduced the cumulative real growth of the U.S. economy by 7.99 percent since the current recovery began in the second quarter of 2009.
#4 According to numbers that were just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one out of every five American families nobody has a job. So how in the world can the “unemployment rate” be sitting at “5.5 percent” when everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all families in the United States? It doesn’t make any sense.
#5 The rate of homeownership in the United States has just hit a brand new 25 year low. How can anyone claim that the middle class is “healthy” when the percentage of Americans that own a home is the lowest that it has been in more than two decades?
#6 Back in 2013, 31 percent of all Americans said that they did not anticipate buying a home “for the foreseeable future”. Just two years later, that number has risen to 41 percent.
#7 The student loan bubble is clearly bursting. According to Bloomberg, only 37 percent of all student loan borrowers are actually up to date on their payments and reducing their balances…
With borrowers increasingly struggling to repay their student loans, Moody’s Investors Service is warning it may take investors longer than promised to get their money back. The credit grader said this month it may lower rankings on $3 billion of top-rated debt as investors face the threat of slowing principal payments or even receiving no interest.
The concern underscores the fallout from a record $1.2 trillion in U.S. student loans that’s spreading to everything from the housing market and consumer spending to taxpayers. As a sluggish economic recovery forces borrowers to miss payments or tap relief programs, only 37 percent are current and reducing their balances, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York presentation this month.
#8 Procter & Gamble has announced that it will be cutting up to 6,000 more jobs from their payroll. Why would they be doing this if the economy is “getting better”?
#9 McDonald’s plans to permanently shut down 700 “poorly performing” restaurants over the course of 2015. Why would they be doing this if the economy is “getting better”?
#10 It is being projected that half of all fracking companies in the United States will be either “dead or sold” by the end of 2015.
#11 Retail sales in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.
#12 Wholesale sales in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.
#13 Factory orders in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.
#14 Credit requests are being declined at a rate that we haven’t seen since the last recession.
#15 U.S. export growth has gone negative for the first time since the last recession.
#16 As the U.S. economy begins to head into another downturn, most Americans are completely unprepared for it. In fact, one recent survey discovered that 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t let this next recession take you by surprise.
Back in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs or businesses because of the sharp economic downturn. Because most of them were living paycheck to paycheck, all of a sudden a whole lot of Americans could not make their mortgage payments and foreclosures surged to unprecedented heights. Millions of families that thought they were operating on a solid foundation saw their middle class lifestyles evaporate in just a matter of a few months.
That is why it is so vital to prepare yourself financially, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for the great storm that is coming ahead of time. Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” which talks about how to make these preparations. On Wednesday, it was finally released to the public. I hope that you will check it out.
The past few years have been a period of relative stability for the U.S. economy. A lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of security during that time. These people have become convinced that our problems have been fixed. But they haven’t been fixed at all. In fact, our problems are far, far worse than they were just prior to the last financial crisis.
When the next great financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a spike in the suicide rate just like we did during the last one. Millions will be blindsided by what is coming and will give in to depression and despair. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. It is empowering to know what is coming and to understand why it is coming. It is empowering to get prepared in advance for turbulent times. It is empowering to have a plan for the years ahead.
Even though I write about all of the horrible things that are coming to this country every day, I live my life with no fear, and that is what I want for all of you as well.
Do you want to know who will be giving in to fear and panic when things start to go really crazy?
It will be the people that had no idea what was coming and made no preparations whatsoever.
Yes, the times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, but they can also be the best times of your life.
It is all going to come down to how you respond to a world that is going completely insane.
The choice is up to you.
When an economic crisis is coming, there are usually certain indicators that appear in advance. For example, commodity prices usually start to plunge before a recession begins. And as you can see from the Bloomberg Commodity Index which you can find right here, this has already been happening. In addition, I have previously written about how the U.S. dollar went on a great run just before the financial collapse of 2008. This is something that has also been happening over the past few months. Some people would have you believe that nobody can anticipate the next great economic downturn and that to try to do so is just an exercise in “guesswork”. But that is not the case at all. We can look back over history and see patterns that keep repeating. And a lot of the exact same patterns that happened just before previous stock market crashes are happening again right now.
For example, let’s talk about the price of oil. There are only two times in history when the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars in a six month time period. One was just before the financial crisis in 2008, and the other has just happened…
As a result of crashing oil prices, we are witnessing oil rigs shut down in the United States at a blistering pace. In fact, almost half of all oil rigs in the U.S. have already shut down. The following commentary and chart come from Wolf Richter…
In the latest week, drillers idled another 41 oil rigs, according to Baker Hughes. Only 825 rigs were still active, down 48.7% from October. In the 23 weeks since, drillers have idled 784 oil rigs, the steepest, deepest cliff-dive in the history of the data:
We are looking at a full-blown fracking bust, and this bust is already having a dramatic impact on the economies of states that are heavily dependent on the energy industry.
For example, just check out the disturbing number that just came out of Texas…
The crash in oil prices is hammering the Texas economy.
The latest manufacturing outlook index from the Dallas Fed plunged again in March, to -17.4 from -11.2 in February, indicating deteriorating business conditions in the state.
But this pain is going to be felt far beyond Texas. In recent years, Wall Street banks have made a massive amount of money packaging up energy industry loans, bonds, etc. and selling them off to investors.
If that sounds similar to the kind of behavior that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown, that is because it is.
Now those loans, bonds, etc. are going bad as the fracking bust intensifies, and whoever is left holding all of this worthless paper at the end of the day is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money. Here is more from Wolf Richter…
It suited Wall Street just fine: according to Dealogic, banks extracted $31 billion in fees from the US oil and gas industry and its investors over the past five years by handling IPOs, spin-offs, “leveraged-loan” transactions, the sale of bonds and junk bonds, and M&A.
That’s $6 billion in fees per year! Over the last four years, these banks made over $4 billion in fees on just “leveraged loans.” These loans to over-indebted, junk-rated companies soared from about $40 billion in 2009 to $210 billion in 2014 before it came to a screeching halt.
For Wall Street it doesn’t matter what happens to these junk bonds and leveraged loans after they’ve been moved on to mutual funds where they can decompose sight-unseen. And it doesn’t matter to Wall Street what happens to leverage loans after they’ve been repackaged into highly rated Collateralized Loan Obligations that are then sold to others.
At the same time, we are also witnessing a slowdown in global trade. This usually happens when economic conditions are about to turn sour, and that is why it is so alarming that the total volume of global trade in January was down 1.4 percent from December. According to Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge, that was the largest drop since 2011…
Presenting the latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, according to which in January world trade by volume dropped by a whopping 1.4% from December: the biggest drop since 2011!
We are seeing some troubling signs in the U.S. as well.
I shared the following chart in a previous article, but it bears repeating. It comes from Charles Hugh Smith, and it shows that new orders for consumer goods are falling at a rate not seen since the last recession…
Well, what about the stock market? It was up more than 200 points on Monday. Isn’t that good news?
Yes, but the euphoria on Wall Street will not last for long.
When corporate earnings per share either start flattening out or start to decline, that is a huge red flag. We saw this just prior to the stock market crash of 2008, and it is happening again right now. The following commentary and chart come from Phoenix Capital Research…
Take a look at the below chart showing current stock levels and changes in forward Earnings Per Share (EPS). Note, in particular how divergences between EPS and stocks tend to play out (hint look at 2007-2008).
We all know what came next.
And guess what?
According to CNBC, a lot of the “smart money” is pulling their money out of the stock market right now while the getting is good…
Recent market volatility has sent stock market investors rushing for the exits and into cash.
Outflows from equity-based funds in 2015 have reached their highest level since 2009, thanks to a seesaw market that has come under pressure from weak economic data, a stronger dollar and the the prospect of monetary tightening.
Funds that invest in stocks have seen $44 billion in outflows, or redemptions, year to date, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Equity funds have seen outflows in five of the last six weeks, including $6.1 billion in just the last week.
It doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire “on paper” today.
What matters is if the money is going to be there when you really need it.
At the moment, a whole lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the soaring stock market and by the bubble of false economic stability that we have been enjoying.
But under the surface, there is a whole lot of turmoil going on.
Those that are looking for the signs are going to see the next crisis approaching well in advance.
Those that are not are going to get absolutely blindsided by what is coming.
Don’t let that happen to you.
If you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article. I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis. If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things. Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low. But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end. Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems. The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out. Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis. Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow. We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.
For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession. As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008. That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.
#1 The National Debt
Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars. Since that time, it has nearly doubled. So does that make us better off or worse off? The answer, of course, is obvious. And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014. What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal. And so what does Barack Obama want to do now? He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster. This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.
#2 Total Debt
Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights. We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences. Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars. Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.
#3 The Velocity Of Money
When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly. So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession. But why has it kept going down since then?
#4 The Homeownership Rate
Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low? Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class. And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame. But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?
#5 The Employment Rate
Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”. But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks. Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio. Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed. During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years. Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.
#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate
So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically? Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”. As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…
#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years
If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all? Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent. Today it is just about 12 percent.
#8 Real Median Household Income
Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well. This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.
I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating. In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary. The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy. As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.
Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily. For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.
#10 Government Dependence
As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights. For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession. How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?
So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?
To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.
And now things are setting up in textbook fashion for the next great economic crisis. Unfortunately, most Americans are totally clueless about what is going on and the vast majority are completely and totally unprepared for what is coming.
Or could it be possible that I am wrong? Whether you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
When the coming economic crisis strikes, more than half the country is going to be financially wiped out within weeks. At this point, more than 60 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and a whopping 24 percent of the country has more credit card debt than emergency savings. One of the primary principles that any of these “financial experts” that you see on television will teach you is to have a cushion to fall back on. At the very least, you never know when unexpected expenses like major car repairs or medical bills will come along. And in the event of a major economic collapse, if you do not have any financial cushion at all you will be a sitting duck. Yes, I know that there are millions upon millions of families out there that are just trying to scrape by from month to month at this point. I hear from people that are deeply struggling in this economy all the time. So I don’t blame them for not being able to save lots of money. But if you are in a position to build up an emergency fund, you need to do so. We have been experiencing an extended period of relative economic stability, but it will not last. In fact, the time for getting prepared for the next great economic downturn is rapidly running out, and most Americans are not ready for it at all. The following are 14 signs that most Americans are flat broke and totally unprepared for the coming economic crisis…
#1 According to a survey that was just released, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings.
#2 That same survey discovered that an additional 13 percent of all Americans do not have any credit card debt, but they do not have a single penny of emergency savings either.
#3 At this point, approximately 62 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
#4 Adults under the age of 35 in the United States currently have a savings rate of negative 2 percent.
#5 More than half of all students in U.S. public schools come from families that are poor enough to qualify for school lunch subsidies.
#6 A study that was conducted last year found that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.
#7 One survey discovered that 52 percent of all Americans really cannot even financially afford the homes that they are living in right now.
#8 According to research conducted by Atif Mian of Princeton University and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $2000 right now without borrowing it.
#9 That same study found that 60 percent of Americans could not say yes to the following question…
“Do you have 3 months emergency funds to cover expenses in case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn?”
#10 A different study discovered that less than one out of every four Americans has enough money stored away to cover six months of expenses.
#11 Today, the average American household is carrying a grand total of 203,163 dollars of debt.
#12 It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the entire U.S. population owns any gold or silver for investment purposes.
#13 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.
#14 53 percent of all Americans do not even have a minimum three day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.
Perhaps none of this concerns you.
Perhaps you think that this bubble economy can persist indefinitely.
Well, if you won’t listen to the more than 1200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse on my website, perhaps you will listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. The following is what he recently told one interviewer…
We asked him where he thought the gold price will be in five years and he said “measurably higher.”
In private conversation I asked him about the outstanding debts… and that the debt load in the U.S. had gotten so great that there has to be some monetary depreciation. Specially he said that the era of quantitative easing and zero-interest rate policies by the Fed… we really cannot exit this without some significant market event… By that I interpret it being either a stock market crash or a prolonged recession, which would then engender another round of monetary reflation by the Fed.
He thinks something big is going to happen that we can’t get out of this era of money printing without some repercussions – and pretty severe ones – that gold will benefit from.
And as I have stressed so frequently, the signs that the next crisis is almost here are all around us.
For example, the Baltic Dry Index has just plunged to a fresh record low, and things have already gotten so bad that some global shippers are now filing for bankruptcy…
The unintended consequences of a money-printed, credit-fueled, mal-investment-boom in commodities (prices – as opposed to physical demand per se) and the downstream signals that sent to any and all industries are starting to bite. The Baltic Dry Index has plunged once again to new record lows and the collapse of the non-financialized ‘clean’ indicator of the imbalances between global trade demand and freight transport supply has the real-world effects are starting to be felt, as Reuters reports the third dry-bulk shipper this month has filed for bankruptcy… in what shippers call “the worst market conditions since the ’80s.”
Perhaps you do see things coming.
Perhaps you do want to get prepared.
If you are new to all of this, and you don’t quite know how to get started preparing, please see my previous article entitled “89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic Depression“. It will give you some basic tips that you can start implementing right away.
And of course one of the most important things is something that I talked about at the top of this article.
If at all possible, you have got to have an emergency fund. When the coming economic storm strikes, your family is going to need something to fall back on.
If you are trusting in the government to save you when things fall apart, you will be severely disappointed.
Are we on the verge of a major worldwide economic downturn? Well, if recent warnings from prominent bankers all over the world are to be believed, that may be precisely what we are facing in the months ahead. As you will read about below, the big banks are warning that the price of oil could soon drop as low as 20 dollars a barrel, that a Greek exit from the eurozone could push the EUR/USD down to 0.90, and that the global economy could shrink by more than 2 trillion dollars in 2015. Most of the time, very few people ever actually read the things that the big banks write for their clients. But in recent months, a lot of these bankers are issuing such ominous warnings that you would think that they have started to write for The Economic Collapse Blog. Of course we have seen this happen before. Just before the financial crisis of 2008, a lot of people at the big banks started to get spooked, and now we are beginning to see an atmosphere of fear spread on Wall Street once again. Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but an increasing number of experts are starting to agree that it won’t be good.
Let’s start with oil. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a nice rally for the price of oil. It has bounced back into the low 50s, which is still a catastrophically low level, but it has many hoping for a rebound to a range that will be healthy for the global economy.
Unfortunately, many of the experts at the big banks are now anticipating that the exact opposite will happen instead. For example, Citibank says that we could see the price of oil go as low as 20 dollars this year…
The recent rally in crude prices looks more like a head-fake than a sustainable turning point — The drop in US rig count, continuing cuts in upstream capex, the reading of technical charts, and investor short position-covering sustained the end-January 8.1% jump in Brent and 5.8% jump in WTI into the first week of February.
Short-term market factors are more bearish, pointing to more price pressure for the next couple of months and beyond — Not only is the market oversupplied, but the consequent inventory build looks likely to continue toward storage tank tops. As on-land storage fills and covers the carry of the monthly spreads at ~$0.75/bbl, the forward curve has to steepen to accommodate a monthly carry closer to $1.20, putting downward pressure on prompt prices. As floating storage reaches its limits, there should be downward price pressure to shut in production.
The oil market should bottom sometime between the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2 at a significantly lower price level in the $40 range — after which markets should start to balance, first with an end to inventory builds and later on with a period of sustained inventory draws. It’s impossible to call a bottom point, which could, as a result of oversupply and the economics of storage, fall well below $40 a barrel for WTI, perhaps as low as the $20 range for a while.
Even though rigs are shutting down at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession, overall global supply still significantly exceeds overall global demand. Barclays analyst Michael Cohen recently told CNBC that at this point the total amount of excess supply is still in the neighborhood of a million barrels per day…
“What we saw in the last couple weeks is rig count falling pretty precipitously by about 80 or 90 rigs per week, but we think there are more important things to be focused on and that rig count doesn’t tell the whole story.”
He expects to see some weakness going into the shoulder season for demand. In addition, there is an excess supply of about a million barrels of oil a day, he said.
And the truth is that many firms simply cannot afford to shut down their rigs. Many are leveraged to the hilt and are really struggling just to service their debt payments. They have to keep pumping so that they can have revenue to meet their financial obligations. The following comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements…
“Against this background of high debt, a fall in the price of oil weakens the balance sheets of producers and tightens credit conditions, potentially exacerbating the price drop as a result of sales of oil assets, for example, more production is sold forward,” BIS said.
“Second, in flow terms, a lower price of oil reduces cash flows and increases the risk of liquidity shortfalls in which firms are unable to meet interest payments. Debt service requirements may induce continued physical production of oil to maintain cash flows, delaying the reduction in supply in the market.”
In the end, a lot of these energy companies are going to go belly up if the price of oil does not rise significantly this year. And any financial institutions that are exposed to the debt of these companies or to energy derivatives will likely be in a great deal of distress as well.
Meanwhile, the overall global economy continues to slow down.
On Monday, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level ever. Not even during the darkest depths of the last recession did it drop this low.
And there are some at the big banks that are warning that this might just be the beginning. For instance, David Kostin of Goldman Sachs is projecting that sales growth for S&P 500 companies will be zero percent for all of 2015…
“Consensus now forecasts 0% S&P 500 sales growth in 2015 following a 5% cut in revenue forecasts since October. Low oil prices along with FX headwinds and pension charges have weighed on 4Q EPS results and expectations for 2015.”
Others are even more pessimistic than that. According to Bank of America, the global economy will actually shrink by 2.3 trillion dollars in 2015.
One thing that could greatly accelerate our economic problems is the crisis in Greece. If there is no compromise and a new Greek debt deal is not reached, there is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone.
If Greece does leave the eurozone, the continued existence of the monetary union will be thrown into doubt and the euro will utterly collapse.
Of course I am not the only one saying these things. Analysts at Morgan Stanley are even projecting that the EUR/USD could plummet to 0.90 if there is a “Grexit”…
The Greek Prime Minister has reaffirmed his government’s rejection of the country’s international bailout programme two days before an emergency meeting with the euro area’s finance ministers on Wednesday. His declaration suggested increasing minimum wages, restoring the income tax-free threshold and halting infrastructure privatisations. Should Greece stay firm on its current anti-bailout course and with the ECB not accepting Greek T-bills as collateral, the position of ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan will gain increasing credibility. He forecast the eurozone to break as private investors will withdraw from providing short-term funding to Greece. Greece leaving the currency union would convert the union into a club of fixed exchange rates, a type of ERM III, leading to further fragmentation. Greek Fin Min Varoufakis said the euro will collapse if Greece exits, calling Italian debt unsustainable. Markets may gain the impression that Greece may not opt for a compromise, instead opting for an all or nothing approach when negotiating on Wednesday. It seems the risk premium of Greece leaving EMU is rising. Our scenario analysis suggests a Greek exit taking EURUSD down to 0.90.
If that happens, we could see a massive implosion of the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro.
We are moving into a time of great peril for global financial markets, and there are a whole host of signs that we are slowly heading into another major global economic crisis.
So don’t be fooled by all of the happy talk in the mainstream media. They did not see the last crisis coming either.
The signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them. When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together. But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense. Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression. As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful. This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years. The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis. In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge. This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn. Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining. This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching. The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.
And of course there are so many more parallels between past economic downturns and what is happening right now.
For example, volatility has returned to the markets in a big way. On Tuesday the Dow was down about 300 points, on Wednesday it was down another couple hundred points, and then on Thursday it was up a couple hundred points.
This is precisely how markets behave just before they crash. When markets are calm, they tend to go up. When markets get really choppy and start behaving erratically, that tells us that a big move down is usually coming.
At the same time, almost every major global currency is imploding. For much more on this, see the amazing charts in this article.
In particular, I am greatly concerned about the collapse of the euro. The Swiss would not have decoupled their currency from the euro if it was healthy. And political events in Greece are certainly not going to help things either. Economic conditions across Europe just continue to get worse, and the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt at this point. And if the eurozone does break up, a European economic depression is almost virtually assured – at least in the short term.
And I haven’t even mentioned the oil crash yet.
There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil collapsed by more than 60 dollars, and that was just prior to the horrific financial crisis of 2008.
Since the last financial crisis, the oil industry has been a huge source for job growth in this country. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article…
The oil sector has added over a half million jobs — many of them high paying — since the recession ended in June 2009. That’s 13% of all US job growth over that period.
Now energy companies and related sectors are laying off thousands. Expect that trend to continue, bears say.
But losing good jobs is just the tip of the iceberg of this oil crisis.
At this point, the price of oil has already dropped to a catastrophically low level. The longer it stays at this level, the more damage that it is going to do. If the price of oil stays at this level for all of 2015, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare on our hands…
For the first time in 18 years, oil exporters are pulling liquidity out of world markets rather than putting money in. The world is now fast approaching a world reserve currency shift. If we see 8 to 12 months at these oil prices; U.S. shale industry will be wiped out. The effect on junk bonds will cascade to the rest of the stock market and U.S. economy.
…and this time there will be nothing left to catch the falling knife before it hits the American economy right in the heart. Not the FED nor the U.S. government can stop what’s coming. Liquidity will freeze up, our credit will be downgraded, the stock market will start to collapse, and then we can expect the FED to come in and hyper-inflate the dollar. This will cause the world to finish abandoning the world reserve currency in the last rungs of trade. This will be the end of the petrodollar.
Something that I have not discussed so far this year is the looming crisis in emerging market debt.
As economic problems spread around the world, a number of “emerging markets” are in danger of having their debt downgraded. And many investment funds have rules that prohibit them from holding any debt that is not “investment grade”. Therefore, we could potentially see some of these giant funds dumping massive amounts of emerging market debt if downgrades happen.
This is a really big deal. As a Business Insider article recently detailed, we could be talking about hundreds of billions of dollars…
Russia this week became the first of the major economies to lose its investment grade status from Standard & Poor’s, falling out off the top ratings category for credits deemed to have a low risk of default for the first time in a decade.
If Moody’s and Fitch follow, conservative investors barred from owning junk securities must sell their holdings. JPMorgan estimates this means they may ditch $6 billion in Russian government rouble and dollar debt.
Russia may have company. Almost $260 billion worth of sovereign and corporate bonds – nearly a tenth of outstanding emerging market (EM) debt – is in danger of being relegated to junk, according to David Spegel, head of emerging debt at BNP Paribas, who calls such credits “falling angels”.
And no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning derivatives.
I could not possibly overemphasize the danger that the 700 trillion dollar derivatives bubble poses to the global financial system.
As we enter the coming Great Depression, derivatives are going to play a starring role. Wall Street has been pumped full of funny money by global central banks, and our financial markets have been transformed into the greatest casino in the history of the world. When this house of cards comes crashing down, and it will, it is going to be a financial disaster unlike anything that the planet has ever seen.
And yes, global central banks are very much responsible for setting the stage for what we are about to experience.
I really like the way that David Stockman put it the other day…
The global financial system is literally booby-trapped with accidents waiting to happen owing to six consecutive years of massive money printing by nearly every central bank in the world.
Over that span, the collective balance sheet of the major central banks has soared by nearly $11 trillion, meaning that honest price discovery has been virtually destroyed. This massive “bid” for existing financial assets based on credit confected from thin air drove long-term bond yields to rock bottom levels not seen in 600 years since the Black Plague; and pinned money market costs at zero—-for 73 months running.
What is the consequence of this drastic financial repression along the entire yield curve? The answer is bond prices which keep rising regardless of credit risk, inflation or taxes; and rampant carry trade speculation that can’t get out of its own way because central banks have made the financial gamblers’ cost of goods—the “funding” cost of their trades—-essentially zero.
Of course I am not the only one warning that a new Great Depression is coming. For instance, just consider what British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey is saying…
British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey thinks we’ve entered an economic downturn that is “likely to be remembered in a hundred years,” and central banks won’t be able to stop it.
In his Odey Asset Management investor letter dated Dec. 31, Odey writes that the shorting opportunity “looks as great as it was in 07/09.”
“My point is that we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09,” he writes, “so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World Effects. This is the heart of the message. If economic activity far from picks up, but falters, then there will be a painful round of debt default.”
Even though most average citizens are completely oblivious to what is happening, many among the elite are heeding the warning signs and are feverishly getting prepared. As Robert Johnson told a stunned audience at the World Economic Forum the other day, they are “buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand“. They can see the horrifying storm forming on the horizon and they are preparing to get out while the getting is good.
It can be very frustrating to write about economics, because things in the financial world can take an extended period of time to play out. Sadly, most people these days have extremely short attention spans. We live in a world of iPhones, iPads, YouTube videos, Facebook updates and 48 hour news cycles. People no longer are accustomed to thinking in long-term time frames, and if something does not happen right away we tend to get bored with it.
But the economic world is not like a game of “Angry Birds”. Rather, it is very much like a game of chess.
And unfortunately for us, checkmate is right around the corner.