The Beginning Of The End
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21 Ways To End The Phrase ‘Americans Are So Broke…’

Coins - Public DomainDid you know that 77 million Americans have unpaid debts that are “in collections” and that Congress is actually thinking about letting post offices offer payday loans?  We live in a country where almost everyone is drowning in debt and where most people are either flat broke or very close to flat broke.  Years ago, “your Mama is so broke” jokes were all the rage, and at the rate we are going they could make a big comeback.  Some of my favorites were “your Mama is so broke she went to McDonald’s and put a milkshake on layaway” and “your Mama is so broke your family ate cereal with a fork to save milk”.  Unfortunately, the facts that I am about to share with you are not funny at all.  In fact, they are quite sobering.  Yes, things are going fairly well for the elitists that live in the good areas of New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco right now, but most of the country is deeply struggling as our economic fundamentals continue to crumble.  Please share these numbers with as many people as you can, because we need people to understand that there has not been an “economic recovery” for most of America.  In fact, in many ways things just continue to get even worse.  The following are 21 ways to end the phrase “Americans are so broke”…

1. Americans are so broke that about a third of them have debt collectors on their heels.  One recent study discovered that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.  That is a total of 77 million people.  In other words, the debt collection business in America is absolutely booming.

2. Americans are so broke that Congress is now actually considering allowing post offices to provide payday loans and check cashing services.

3. Americans are so broke that they are keeping their vehicles longer than ever.  The average age of vehicles on America’s roads recently set a new all-time high of 11.4 years.

4. Americans are so broke that car dealers are having to go to extreme lengths to get new customers.  Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.

5. Americans are so broke that 52 percent of them cannot even afford the homes that they are living in right now.

6. Americans are so broke that they are falling farther behind on their student loans than ever.  The total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. has now reached a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars, and approximately seven million Americans are in default on their student loans at this point.

7. Young Americans are so broke that half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.

8. Young Americans are so broke that only 36 percent of American adults under the age of 35 currently own a home.  That is the lowest level that has ever been recorded.

9. Americans are so broke that many of them can’t even afford to shop at Wal-Mart and dollar stores anymore

Discount stores are slowly dying.

Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers.

Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart’s sales have declined for the past five quarters.

“There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business,” Moore writes.

10. Americans are so broke that they are running up record levels of debt.  Overall, U.S. households are 11.68 trillion dollars in debt right now.

11. Americans are so broke that the wealth of the “typical American household” has fallen by 36 percent over the past decade.

12. Americans are so broke that one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

13. Americans are so broke that more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

14. Americans are so broke that there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

15. Americans are so broke that the number of people on food stamps has increased by about 14 million while Obama has been in the White House.  Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

16. Americans are so broke that the U.S. government has had to spend an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

17. Americans are so broke that more than 20 percent of all children in the U.S. are living in poverty.

18. Americans are so broke that we have a record number of kids sleeping in the streets.  In fact, we have more than a million public school children that are homeless at this point.

19. Americans are so broke that 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

20. Americans are so broke that 26 percent of Americans have absolutely no emergency savings whatsoever.

21. Americans are so broke that approximately two-thirds of all Americans do not have enough money saved up to cover six months of expenses if an emergency arose.

If things are this bad now, during the so-called “economic recovery”, how bad will things get during the next major economic downturn?

Unfortunately, most Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security.  The financial crisis of 2008 seems like ancient history to most of them now, and most people appear to believe that our leaders have “fixed” whatever was wrong the last time.

Of course that is not the case at all.  In fact, our long-term problems have just continued to grow since then.

The truth is that what we are experiencing right now is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy.  When the next crisis arrives, all of the numbers in the list above are going to rapidly get a lot worse.

So enjoy the rest of this “bubble” while you still can.  It certainly will not last for too much longer.

The Stock Market In Japan Is COLLAPSING

Stock Market Collapse In JapanDid you see what just happened in Japan?  The stock market of the 3rd largest economy on the planet is imploding.  On Tuesday, the Nikkei fell by more than 610 points.  If that sounds like a lot, that is because it is.  The largest one day stock market decline in U.S. history is only 777 points.  So far, the Dow is only down about 1000 points during this “correction”, but the Nikkei is down more than 2,300 points.  The Nikkei has dropped more than 14 percent since the peak of the market, and many analysts believe that this is only just the beginning.  Those that have been waiting for a full-blown stock market collapse may be about to get their wish.  Japan is absolutely drowning in debt, their central bank is printing money like crazy and the Japanese population is aging rapidly.  As far as economic fundamentals go, there is very little good news as far as Japan is concerned.  So will an Asian financial collapse precede the next great financial crisis in the United States?  That is what some have been predicting, and it starting to look increasingly likely.

What happened to the Nikkei early on Tuesday was absolutely breathtaking.  The following is how Bloomberg described the carnage…

At the end of January 2013, Japanese stocks trailed only Portugal for the biggest rally among developed markets. Now the Nikkei 225 Stock Average is leading declines, slumping 8.5 percent last month and today capping a 14 percent drop from its Dec. 30 peak.

Losses snowballed in Tokyo during a global retreat that has erased $2.9 trillion from equity values worldwide this year amid signs of slower growth in China and stimulus cuts by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

As Bloomberg noted, much of the blame for the financial problems that we are seeing all over the planet right now is being placed on the Federal Reserve.

The Fed created this bubble by pumping trillions of fresh dollars into the global financial system, and now they are bursting this bubble by starting to cut off the flow of easy money.

This is something that I warned would happen when the Fed decided to taper, and now RBS is warning of a “market bloodbath” unless the Federal Reserve immediately stops tapering.

Most Americans simply do not realize that our financial markets no longer resemble a free market system.  Instead, they are highly manipulated and distorted by the central banks, and the trillions of dollars of “hot money” that the Fed has poured into the global financial system has infected virtually every financial market on Earth

On Wall Street they call it “hot money”—that seemingly endless flow of cash that goes to the most profitable country du jour—but in the real economy it’s gone cold.

That hot money has come mostly in the form of a low-yielding U.S. dollar, which investors have borrowed en masse to fund investments in other higher-yielding currencies across the globe. The so-called carry trade has helped fuel an investment bonanza across the world that has boosted risk assets thanks primarily to the U.S. Federal Reserve‘s easy-money policy.

But with the Fed tiptoeing away from what initially was an $85 billion-a-month infusion of liquidity, investors are beginning to prepare themselves for a world of rising rates in which the endless cash flow to emerging market economies begins to ebb, then cease.

We never fixed any of the fundamental problems that caused the last financial crisis.  Instead, the Fed seemed to think that the solution to any problem was just to create more money.

It was an incredibly stupid approach, and now our fundamental problems are worse than ever as Marc Faber recently noted

“Total credit as a percent of the global economy is now 30 percent higher than it was at the start of the economic crisis in 2007, we have had rapidly escalating household debt especially in emerging economies and resource economies like Canada and Australia and we have come to a point where household debt has become burdensome on the system—that is, where an economic slowdown follows.”

So what comes next?

Well, unless the Fed or other central banks intervene, we are probably going to have even more carnage.

At least that is what Dennis Gartman, the editor and publisher of “The Gartman Letter”, told CNBC on Tuesday

“I just think you’re going to have a very severe, very substantive and really quite ugly correction that will probably make a lot of people wail and gnash their teeth before it’s done.”

Other analysts share his pessimism.  According to Doug Short, the vice president of research at Advisor Perspectives, the U.S. stock market “still looks 67% overvalued“.

Most sobering of all is what Richard Russell is saying.  In his 60 years of writing about financial issues, he has never been “so filled with foreboding regarding what lies ahead”

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about the way things are going.  Frankly, I’m truly scared for myself, my family and the nation.  I have the sinking feeling that the stock market is on the edge of a crash.  If that happens, investor sentiment will turn quickly bearish.  And the bear market will start feeding on itself.  Ironically, the recent action occurred in the face of almost insane bullishness on the part of the crowd and on the part of investors.

Obviously smart heads and institutional money managers know that the US is semi dead in the water.  And all the talk about an improving economy is just wishes and hopes.  Bernanke’s dream of a flourishing new economy, improving without the need of the Fed’s help, is an idle dream.

I’ve been writing about the stock market for over 60 years and I can’t remember a time when I was so filled with foreboding regarding what lies ahead.  The primary trend of the market, like the tide of the ocean, is irresistible, and waits for no man.  What scares me the most in this current situation is that I see no clear island of safety.

You can read the rest of his very disturbing remarks right here.

U.S. stocks may not totally crash this week, this month or even this year, but without a doubt a day of reckoning is coming.  As a society, our total consumer, business and government debt is now equivalent to approximately 345 percent of GDP.

The only way that the game can continue is to keep pumping up the debt bubble even more.

Once the debt bubble stops expanding, it will start collapsing very rapidly.

Those that foolishly still have lots of money in the stock market better hope that the Federal Reserve decides to intervene in a major way very soon.

Because if they don’t, there is a very good chance that we could indeed have a “market bloodbath” on our hands.

Whenever Margin Debt Goes Over 2.25% Of GDP The Stock Market Always Crashes

Bubble - Photo by Jeff KubinaWhat do 1929, 2000 and 2007 all have in common?  Those were all years in which we saw a dramatic spike in margin debt.  In all three instances, investors became highly leveraged in order to “take advantage” of a soaring stock market.  But of course we all know what happened each time.  The spike in margin debt was rapidly followed by a horrifying stock market crash.  Well guess what?  It is happening again.  In April (the last month we have a number for), margin debt rose to an all-time high of more than 384 billion dollars.  The previous high was 381 billion dollars which occurred back in July 2007.  Margin debt is about 29 percent higher than it was a year ago, and the S&P 500 has risen by more than 20 percent since last fall.  The stock market just continues to rise even though the underlying economic fundamentals continue to get worse.  So should we be alarmed?  Is the stock market bubble going to burst at some point?  Well, if history is any indication we are in big trouble.  In the past, whenever margin debt has gone over 2.25% of GDP the stock market has crashed.  That certainly does not mean that the market is going to crash this week, but it is a major red flag.

The funny thing is that the fact that investors are so highly leveraged is being seen as a positive thing by many in the financial world.  Some believe that a high level of margin debt is a sign that “investor confidence” is high and that the rally will continue.  The following is from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal

The rising level of debt is seen as a measure of investor confidence, as investors are more willing to take out debt against investments when shares are rising and they have more value in their portfolios to borrow against. The latest rise has been fueled by low interest rates and a 15% year-to-date stock-market rally.

Others, however, consider the spike in margin debt to be a very ominous sign.  Margin debt has now risen to about 2.4 percent of GDP, and as the New York Times recently pointed out, whenever we have gotten this high before a market crash has always followed…

The first time in recent decades that total margin debt exceeded 2.25 percent of G.D.P. came at the end of 1999, amid the technology stock bubble. Margin debt fell after that bubble burst, but began to rise again during the housing boom — when anecdotal evidence said some investors were using their investments to secure loans that went for down payments on homes. That boom in margin loans also ended badly.

Posted below is a chart of the performance of the S&P 500 over the last several decades.  After looking at this chart, compare it to the margin debt charts that the New York Times recently published that you can find right here.  There is a very strong correlation between these charts.  You can find some more charts that directly compare the level of margin debt and the performance of the S&P 500 right here.  Every time margin debt has soared to a dramatic new high in the past, a stock market crash and a recession have always followed.  Will we escape a similar fate this time?

S&P 500

What makes all of this even more alarming is the fact that a number of things that we have not seen happen in the U.S. economy since 2009 are starting to happen again.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “12 Clear Signals That The U.S. Economy Is About To Really Slow Down“.

At some point the stock market will catch up with the economy.  When that happens, it will probably happen very rapidly and a lot of people will lose a lot of money.

And there are certainly a lot of prominent voices out there that are warning about what is coming.  For example, the following is what renowned investor Alan M. Newman had to say about the current state of the market earlier this year

“If anything has changed yet in 2013, we certainly do not see it. Despite the early post-fiscal cliff rally, this is the same beast we rode to the 2007 highs for the Dow Industrials. The U.S. stock market is over leveraged, overpriced and has been commandeered by mechanical forces to such an extent that all holding periods are now affected by more risk than at any time in history.”

Unfortunately, most Americans never get to hear such voices.  Instead, most Americans rely on the mainstream media to do much of their thinking for them.  And right now the mainstream media is insisting that we are not in a stock market bubble…

Forbes: “Why Stocks Are On Solid Footing And This Is No Bubble

ABC News: “AP Survey: Economists See No Stock Market Bubble

Businessweek: “Prognostications: It’s Not a Stock Bubble

Yahoo: “This Is NOT a Stock Bubble! Says Ben Stein

MarketWatch: “Is a stock bubble coming? No, say economists

So what do you think?

Do you believe that we are in a stock market bubble that is about to burst, or do you believe that everything is going to be just fine?

Please feel free to express your opinion by posting a comment below…

America’s Bubble Economy Is Going To Become An Economic Black Hole

Black HoleWhat is going to happen when the greatest economic bubble in the history of the world pops?  The mainstream media never talks about that.  They are much too busy covering the latest dogfights in Washington and what Justin Bieber has been up to.  And most Americans seem to think that if the Dow keeps setting new all-time highs that everything must be okay.  Sadly, that is not the case at all.  Right now, the U.S. economy is exhibiting all of the classic symptoms of a bubble economy.  You can see this when you step back and take a longer-term view of things.  Over the past decade, we have added more than 10 trillion dollars to the national debt.  But most Americans have shown very little concern as the balance on our national credit card has soared from 6 trillion dollars to nearly 17 trillion dollars.  Meanwhile, Wall Street has been transformed into the biggest casino on the planet, and much of the new money that the Federal Reserve has been recklessly printing up has gone into stocks.  But the Dow does not keep setting new records because the underlying economic fundamentals are good.  Rather, the reckless euphoria that we are seeing in the financial markets right now reminds me very much of 1929.  Margin debt is absolutely soaring, and every time that happens a crash rapidly follows.  But this time when a crash happens it could very well be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.  The top 25 U.S. banks have more than 212 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives combined, and when that house of cards comes crashing down there is no way that anyone will be able to prop it back up.  After all, U.S. GDP for an entire year is only a bit more than 15 trillion dollars.

But most Americans are only focused on the short-term because the mainstream media is only focused on the short-term.  Things are good this week and things were good last week, so there is nothing to worry about, right?

Unfortunately, economic reality is not going to change even if all of us try to ignore it.  Those that are willing to take an honest look at what is coming down the road are very troubled.  For example, Bill Gross of PIMCO says that his firm sees “bubbles everywhere”…

We see bubbles everywhere, and that is not to be dramatic and not to suggest they will pop immediately. I just suggested in the bond market with a bubble in treasuries and bubble in narrow credit spreads and high-yield prices, that perhaps there is a significant distortion there. Having said that, it suggests that as long as the FED and Bank of Japan and other Central Banks keep writing checks and do not withdraw, then the bubble can be supported as in blowing bubbles. They are blowing bubbles. When that stops there will be repercussions.

And unfortunately, it is not just the United States that has a bubble economy.  In fact, the gigantic financial bubble over in Japan may burst before our own financial bubble does.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

First and foremost, Japan is the second largest bond market in the world. If Japan’s sovereign bonds continue to fall, pushing rates higher, then there has been a tectonic shift in the global financial system. Remember the impact that Greece had on asset prices? Greece’s bond market is less than 3% of Japan’s in size.

For multiple decades, Japanese bonds have been considered “risk free.” As a result of this, investors have been willing to lend money to Japan at extremely low rates. This has allowed Japan’s economy, the second largest in the world, to putter along marginally.

So if Japanese bonds begin to implode, this means that:

1)   The second largest bond market in the world is entering a bear market (along with commensurate liquidations and redemptions by institutional investors around the globe).

2)   The second largest economy in the world will collapse (along with the impact on global exports).

Both of these are truly epic problems for the financial system.

And of course the entire global financial system is a giant bundle of debt, risk and leverage at this point.  We have never seen anything like this in world history.  When you step back and take a good, hard look at the numbers, they truly are staggering.  The following statistics are from one of my previous articles entitled “Why Is The World Economy Doomed? The Global Financial Pyramid Scheme By The Numbers“…

-$70,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of total world GDP.

-$190,000,000,000,000 – The approximate size of the total amount of debt in the entire world.  It has nearly doubled in size over the past decade.

-$212,525,587,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the notional value of the derivatives that are being held by the top 25 banks in the United States.  But those banks only have total assets of about 8.9 trillion dollars combined.  In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 24 to 1.

-$600,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives generally fall within this range.  At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives to global GDP is more than 21 to 1.

The financial meltdown that happened back in 2008 should have been a wake up call for the nations of the world.  They should have corrected the mistakes that happened so that nothing like that would ever happen again.  Unfortunately, nothing was fixed.  Instead, our politicians and the central bankers became obsessed with reinflating the system.  They piled up even more debt, recklessly printed tons of money and kicked the can down the road for a few years.  In the process, they made our long-term problems even worse.  The following is a recent quote from John Williams of shadowstats.com

The economic and systemic solvency crises of the last eight years continue. There never was an actual recovery following the economic downturn that began in 2006 and collapsed into 2008 and 2009. What followed was a protracted period of business stagnation that began to turn down anew in second- and third-quarter 2012. The official recovery seen in GDP has been a statistical illusion generated by the use of understated inflation in calculating key economic series (see Public Comment on Inflation). Nonetheless, given the nature of official reporting, the renewed downturn likely will gain recognition as the second-dip in a double- or multiple-dip recession.

What continues to unfold in the systemic and economic crises is just an ongoing part of the 2008 turmoil. All the extraordinary actions and interventions bought a little time, but they did not resolve the various crises. That the crises continue can be seen in deteriorating economic activity and in the panicked actions by the Federal Reserve, where it proactively is monetizing U.S. Treasury debt at a pace suggestive of a Treasury that is unable to borrow otherwise.

And there are already lots of signs that the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.

For example, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

Would revenues at Wal-Mart be falling if the economy was getting better?

U.S. jobless claims hit a six week high last week.  We aren’t in the danger zone yet, but once they hit 400,000 that will be a major red flag.

And even though we are still in the “good times” relatively speaking, the federal government is already talking about tightening welfare programs.  In fact, there are proposals in Congress right now to make significant cuts to the food stamp program.

If food stamps and other welfare programs get cut, that is going to make a lot of people very, very angry.  And that anger and frustration will get even worse when the next economic downturn strikes and millions of people start losing their jobs and their homes.

What we are witnessing right now is the calm before the storm.  Let us hope that it lasts for as long as possible so that we can have more time to prepare.

Unfortunately, this bubble of false hope will not last forever.  At some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

The Price Of Copper And 11 Other Recession Indicators That Are Flashing Red

Red LightThere are a dozen significant economic indicators that are warning that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.  The Dow may have soared past the 15,000 mark, but the economic fundamentals are telling an entirely different story.  If historical patterns hold up, the economy is heading for a very rocky stretch.  For example, the price of copper is called “Dr. Copper” by many economists because it so accurately forecasts the future direction of the U.S. economy.  And so far this year the price of copper is way down.  But that is not the only indicator that is worrying economists.  Home renovation spending has fallen dramatically, retail spending is crashing in a way not seen since the last recession, manufacturing activity and consumer confidence are both declining, and troubling economic data continues to come pouring out of Asia and Europe.  So why do U.S. stocks continue to skyrocket?  Will U.S. financial markets be able to continue to be divorced from reality?  Unfortunately, as we have seen so many times in the past, when stocks do catch up with reality they tend to do so very rapidly.  So you better put on your seatbelts because a crash is coming at some point.

But most average Americans are not that concerned with the performance of the stock market.  They just want to be able to go to work, pay the bills and provide for their families.  During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes.  If we have another major recession, that will happen again.  Sadly, it appears that another major recession is quickly approaching.

The following are 12 recession indicators that are flashing red…

#1 The price of copper has traditionally been one of the very best indicators of the future performance of the U.S. economy.  The fact that it is down nearly 20 percent so far this year has many analysts extremely concerned

Copper’s downward trend foreshadows a stock market collapse, according to Societe Generale’s famously bearish strategist Albert Edwards, who said equity markets will riot “Japan-style.”

“Copper is acting exactly as it did when I wrote about the impotence of liquidity in the face of the (then imminent) 2007 recession. Once again it is giving us an early warning that liquidity will not save risk assets: time to get out of equities,” Edwards wrote in his latest research note, on Thursday.

#2 Home renovation spending has fallen back to depressingly-low 2010 levels.

#3 As Zero Hedge recently pointed out, U.S. retail spending is repeating a pattern that we have not seen since the last recession…

Retail sales of clothing is growing at the slowest pace since 2010; but while major store sales are about to drop negative YoY for the first time in over 3 years, the utter collapse in general merchandise sales is worse that at the peak of the last recession at -5%. It seems tough to see how a nation with an economy built on 70% consumption is not in a recessionary environment. And while this alone is a dismal signal for the discretionary upside of the US economy/consumer; as Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg points out real personal income net of transfer receipts plunged at a stunning 5.8% annual rate in Q1. The other seven times we have seen such a collapse, the economy was either in recession of just coming out of one.

#4 Manufacturing activity all over the country is showing signs of slowing down.  In fact, Chicago PMI has dipped below 50 (indicating contraction) for the first time since the last recession.

#5 In April, consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a nine-month low

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment declined to 72.3 in April from 78.6 a month earlier. This month’s reading was lower than all 69 estimates in a Bloomberg survey that called for no change from the March number.

#6 NYSE margin debt peaked right before the recession that began in 2002, it peaked right before the financial crisis of 2008, and it is peaking again.

#7 The S&P 500 usually mirrors the performance of Chinese stocks very closely.  That is why it is so alarming that Chinese stocks peaked months ago.  Will the S&P 500 soon follow?

#8 The economic data coming out of the Chinese economy lately has been mostly terrible

For starters, China’s recent economic data, as massaged as it is to the upside, is downright awful. China’s PMI numbers were the worst in two years. Staffing levels in the Chinese service sector decreased for the first time since January 2009 (remember that year).

China’s LEI also shows no sign of recovery. If anything, it indicates China is heading towards an economic slowdown on par with that of 2008. And if you account for the rampant debt fueling China’s economy you could easily argue that China is posting 0% GDP growth today.

#9 Things just continue to get even worse over in Europe.  Unemployment in both Greece and Spain is now about 27 percent, and the unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole has just set a brand new all-time record high.

#10 Crude inventories have soared to a record high as demand for energy continues to decline.  As I have written about previously, this is a clear sign that economic activity is slowing down.

#11 Casino spending is usually a strong indicator of the overall health of the U.S. economy.  That is why it is so noteworthy that casino spending is now back to levels that we have not seen since the last recession.

#12 The impact of the sequester cuts is starting to kick in.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, the sequester cuts will cost the U.S. economy about 750,000 jobs this year.

Do you have any other recession indicators that you would add to this list?

I invite you to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

A Recession Is Coming - Photo by Angie from Sawara, Chiba-ken, Japan

Will The New Housing Bubble That Bernanke Is Creating End As Badly As The Last One Did?

Will The New Housing Bubble Lead To Another Housing Crash?Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has done it.  He has succeeded in creating a new housing bubble.  By driving mortgage rates down to the lowest level in 100 years and recklessly printing money with wild abandon, Bernanke has been able to get housing prices to rebound a bit.  In fact, in some of the more prosperous areas of the country you would be tempted to think that it is 2005 all over again.  If you can believe it, in some areas of the country builders are actually holding lotteries to see who will get the chance to buy their homes.  Wow – that sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, this “housing recovery” is not based on solid economic fundamentals.  As you will see below, this is a recovery that is being led by investors.  They are paying cash for cheap properties that they believe will appreciate rapidly in the coming years.  Meanwhile, the homeownership rate in the United States continues to decline.  It is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Number one, there has not been a jobs recovery in the United States.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has not rebounded at all and is still about the exact same place where it was at the end of the last recession.  Secondly, crippling levels of student loan debt continue to drive down the percentage of young people that are buying homes.  So no, this is not a real housing recovery.  It is an investor-led recovery that is mostly limited to the more prosperous areas of the country.  For example, the median sale price of a home in Washington D.C. just hit a new all-time record high.  But this bubble will not last, and when this new housing bubble does burst, will it end as badly as the last one did?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has stated over and over that one of his main goals is to “support the housing market” (i.e. get housing prices to go up).  It took a while, but it looks like he is finally getting his wish.  According to USA Today, U.S. home prices have been rising at the fastest rate in nearly seven years…

U.S. home prices in the USA’s 20 biggest cities rose 9.3% in the 12 months ending in February. It was the biggest annual growth rates in almost seven years, a closely watched housing index out Tuesday said.

In particular, home prices have been rising most rapidly in cities that experienced a boom during the last housing bubble…

Year over year, Phoenix continued to stand out with a gain of 23%, followed by San Francisco at almost 19% and Las Vegas at nearly 18%, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed. Most of the cities seeing the biggest gains also fell hardest during the crash.

But is this really a reason for celebration?  Instead of addressing the fundamental problems in our economy that caused the last housing crash, Bernanke has been seemingly obsessed with reinflating the housing bubble.  As a recent article by Edward Pinto explained, the housing market is being greatly manipulated by the government and by the Fed…

While a housing recovery of sorts has developed, it is by no means a normal one. The government continues to go to extraordinary lengths to prop up sales by guaranteeing nearly 90% of new mortgage debt, financing half of all home purchase mortgages to buyers with zero equity at closing, driving mortgage interest rates to the lowest level in 100 years, and turning the Fed into the world’s largest buyer of new mortgage debt.

Thus, with real incomes essentially stagnant, this is a market recovery largely driven by low interest rates and plentiful government financing. This is eerily familiar to the previous government policy-induced boom that went bust in 2006, and from which the country is still struggling to recover. Creating over a trillion dollars in additional home value out of thin air does sound like a variant of dropping money out of helicopters.

And the Obama administration has been pushing very hard to get lenders to give mortgages to those with “weaker credit”.  In other words, the government is once again trying to get the banks to give home loans to people that cannot afford them.  The following is from the Washington Post

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

We are repeating so many of the same mistakes that we made the last time.

But surely things will turn out differently this time, right?

I wouldn’t count on it.

Right now, an increasingly large percentage of homes are being purchased as investments.  The following is from a recent Washington Times article…

Much of the pickup in sales and prices has been powered by investors who, convinced that the market is bottoming, are scooping up bountiful supplies of distressed and foreclosed properties at bargain prices and often paying with cash.

With investors targeting lower-priced homes that they intend to purchase and rent out, they have been crowding out many first-time buyers who are having difficulty getting mortgage loans and are at a disadvantage when competing with well-heeled buyers. Cash sales to investors now account for about one-third of all home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

And as we have seen in the past, an investor-led boom can turn into an investor-led bust very rapidly.

If this truly was a real housing recovery, the percentage of Americans that own a home would be going up.

Instead, it is going down.

As I mentioned above, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that the homeownership rate in the United States is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.

In particular, homeownership among college-educated young people is way down.  They can’t afford to buy homes due to crippling levels of student loan debt

For the average homeowner, the worst news is that these overleveraged and defaulting young borrowers no longer qualify for other kinds of loans — particularly home loans. In 2005, nearly nine percent of 25- to 30-year-olds with student debt were granted a mortgage. By late last year, that percentage, as an annual rate, was down to just above four percent.

The most precipitous drop was among those who owe $100,000 or more. New mortgages among these more deeply indebted borrowers have declined 10 percentage points, from above 16 percent in 2005 to a little more than 6 percent today.

“These are the people you’d expect to buy big houses,” said student loan expert Heather Jarvis. “They owe a lot because they have a lot of education. They have been through professional and graduate schools, but their payments are so significant, they have trouble getting a mortgage. They have mortgage-sized loans already.”

And the truth is that there simply are not enough good jobs in this country to support a housing recovery.  In a previous article, I used the government’s own statistics to prove that there has not been a jobs recovery.  If we were having a jobs recovery, the percentage of working age Americans with a job would be going up.  Sadly, that is not happening…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

And as I mentioned above, the “housing recovery” is mostly happening in the prosperous areas of the country.

In other areas of the United States, the devastating results of the last housing crash are still clearly apparent.

For example, the city of Dayton, Ohio is dealing with an estimated 7,000 abandoned properties.

As I wrote about the other day, there are approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit, Michigan.

And all over the nation there are still “ghost towns” that were created when builders abruptly abandoned housing developments during the last recession.  You can see some pictures of some of these ghost towns right here.

So the truth is that this is an isolated housing recovery that is being led by investors and that is being fueled by very reckless behavior by the Federal Reserve.  It is not based on economic reality whatsoever.

In the end, will the collapse of this new housing bubble be as bad as the collapse of the last one was?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

Denial Is Not Just A River In Egypt: 10 Hilarious Examples Of How Clueless Our Leaders Are About The Economy

Barack Obama And Ben BernankeThey didn’t see it coming last time either.  Back in 2007, President Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and just about every prominent voice in the financial world were all predicting that we would experience tremendous economic prosperity well into the future.  In fact, as late as January 2008 Bernanke boldly declared that “the Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”  At the time, only the “doom and gloomers” were warning that everything was about to fall apart.  And of course we all know what happened.  But just a few short years later, history seems to be repeating itself.  Barack Obama, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and almost every prominent voice in the financial world are all promising that the U.S. “economic recovery” is going to continue even though Europe is coming apart like a 20 dollar suit.  But the economic fundamentals tell a different story.  Our national debt is more than $6,000,000,000,000 larger than it was back in 2008, the number of Americans on food stamps just hit another brand new all-time record, and the bankers up on Wall Street are selling gigantic mountains of the exact same kind of toxic derivatives that caused so much trouble the last time around.  But all of our “leaders” swear that everything is going to be okay.  You can believe them if you want, but denial is not just a river in Egypt, and another crash is inevitably coming.

Sadly, many Americans are not even going to see the crash coming because they still have faith in the “experts”.  They haven’t figured out that the “experts” really do not know what they are doing.

The blind are leading the blind, and in the end the results are going to be absolutely tragic.

The following are 10 hilarious examples of how clueless our leaders are about the economy…

#1 When I first came across the following chart the other day, it made me chuckle.  It is a chart that supposedly tells us the “probability” of a recession, and it was taken from the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  According to the chart, right now there is a 0.16% chance of a recession…

Smoothed U.S. Recession Probabilities

#2 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has also been proclaiming his belief that the U.S. economy will continue to grow.  The following is an excerpt from his recent remarks to Congress

The pause in real GDP growth last quarter does not appear to reflect a stalling-out of the recovery. Rather, economic activity was temporarily restrained by weather-related disruptions and by transitory declines in a few volatile categories of spending, even as demand by U.S. households and businesses continued to expand. Available information suggests that economic growth has picked up again this year.

And Bernanke also insists that the labor market is “improving”…

Consistent with the moderate pace of economic growth, conditions in the labor market have been improving gradually.

Of course the labor market is not actually improving.  I showed this using the Fed’s own numbers the other day.

And you can put stock in Bernanke’s forecasting ability if you like, but considering his track record of failure in the past, that might not be too wise.  Just check out what he was saying before the last financial crisis: “30 Ben Bernanke Quotes That Are So Stupid That You Won’t Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry“.

#3 Although Bernanke has such a nightmarish track record of failure, Warren Buffett still has faith in him.  In fact, Buffett loves all of the money printing that Bernanke has been doing…

The U.S. economy might be “dead in the water” without the stimulus provided by the Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben Bernanke, according to Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

“I think very cheap money makes things happen, it makes asset values higher. When asset values are higher, people do have a greater propensity to spend,” Buffett told CNBC.

“I think Bernanke has sort of carried the load himself during this period.”

If Buffett thinks the wild money printing that the Fed has been doing is so wonderful, then he probably would have absolutely loved living in the Weimar Republic.

#4 Barack Obama continues to insist that we do not have a debt crisis, but that we will not be able to balance the budget any time in the foreseeable future either.

Even though the national debt has grown by more than 6 trillion dollars under his leadership and our debt to GDP ratio is now well over 100%, Obama does not believe that it is a significant problem

“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt”

And Obama certainly does not plan to even come close to balancing the budget during his second term.  In fact, he openly admits that we won’t see a balanced budget at any point within the next decade

“We’re not gonna balance the budget in 10 years”

Sadly, the truth is that the U.S. will never have a balanced budget ever again under our current system, but most of our politicians are not willing to go that far and admit that sad fact to the American people just yet.

#5 But of course it would certainly help if the U.S. government would stop wasting so much money.  For example, did you know that the federal government is helping dead people get free cell phones?  The following is from a recent article in the New York Post

Dead people don’t need cell phones.

That’s the message Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas wants to send Congress, after he says a controversial government-backed program that helps provide phones to low-income Americans ended up sending mobiles to the dead relatives of his constituents. Griffin has introduced a bill that targets the phone hand-out program, which has ballooned into a fiscal headache for the government.

And of course a lot of living people are abusing the free cell phone program as well.  Rep. Griffin says that he has heard of some people getting as many as 10 free cell phones from the government…

“I’ve also gotten calls from people who say their employees were bragging about having 10 phones.”

#6 Meanwhile, the most prominent economic journalist in the United States, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, continues to insist that it is a good thing for the government to be running up so much debt…

First of all… that trillion-dollar deficit is overwhelmingly the result of a depressed economy. And when the economy’s depressed it’s good to run a deficit. You don’t want the government to try and balance its budget right now.

Krugman is also operating under the delusion that the federal government “can’t run out of cash”, that it can just print money whenever it wants and that printing giant piles of money would not hurt anything.

The United States is a country that has its own currency–can’t run out of cash because we print the money. If you even try to think what would happen–suppose that investors get down on the United States. Even so, that would weaken the dollar, not send interest rates soaring, and that would be good. That would help our exports

It is frightening that the top economic journalist in America has such little understanding of how our system actually works.  I would encourage Krugman to read a couple of my previous articles so that he won’t be so ignorant in the future…

-“Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand

-“10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve

#7 Many Americans have wondered why the federal government never seems to go after the big Wall Street banks.  Well, now we know why.  The other day, the Attorney General of the United States admitted that the federal government is very hesitant to prosecute anyone from the big banks because of what it might do to the global economy…

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy”

So I guess we now live in a world where there is a different set of rules for the big banks, eh?

Most of us already knew that this was the case, but it is quite chilling to hear the Attorney General of the United States publicly admit this.

#8 Many of the big Wall Street banks are absolutely giddy that the Dow keeps setting new all-time highs, and many of them are projecting wonderful things ahead for the U.S. economy.  For example, here is one forecast from Morgan Stanley’s Vincent Reinhart

“In the Morgan Stanley forecast for the US, the trajectory of economic activity marks an inflection point midway through 2013. The severe financial crisis of 2008-09 necessitated significant downward adjustments by the private sector to the levels of aggregate demand and efficient supply. As the event recedes further into history, however, the drag on growth from these ongoing level adjustments plays out.

In our forecast, the expansion of real GDP steps up to around 2-3/4 percent in the second half of this year and beyond.”

#9 Vice-President Joe Biden is pushing economic optimism to ridiculous levels.  Apparently he believes that most Americans are “no longer worried” that a major economic crisis is coming…

But all kidding aside, I think the American people have moved — Democrats, Republicans, independents.  They know that the possibilities for this country are immense.  They’re no longer traumatized by what was a traumatizing event, the great collapse in 2008.  They’re no longer worried, I think, about our economy being overwhelmed either by Europe writ large, the EU, or China somehow swallowing up every bit of innovation that exists in the world.  They’re no longer, I think, worried about our economy being overwhelmed beyond our shores.

And I don’t think they’re any more — there’s no — there’s very little doubt in any circles out there about America’s ability to be in position to lead the world in the 21st century, not only in terms of our foreign policy, our incredible defense establishment, but economically.

#10 Right now, many in the financial world are projecting that this will be a year to remember for the stock market.  During a recent interview with Fox Business, Wharton School of Business Finance Professor Jeremy Siegel declared that the Dow will cross the 16,000 mark by the end of this year…

“I think by the end of this year, we’ll be in the 16,000 to 17,000 range.”

Of course it is true that other analysts have a much different view of things.  Many of them are absolutely amazed that the U.S. economy has become so disconnected from economic reality.  For example, just check out what Steve Russell and Hamish Baillie, fund managers at the Ruffer Investment Company, recently had to say…

“If this was explained to a recently arrived Martian he would no doubt be puzzled – US unemployment has almost doubled since 2007, GDP [gross domestic product] growth is a third lower and debt as a percentage of GDP is within a whisker of doubling. The market is forward looking but this is extreme”

So who is right and who is wrong?

Time will tell.

Fortunately, it appears that the American people are getting fed up with the constant stream of lies that they have been told.

According to a new Pew Research survey, just 26 percent of all Americans trust the government to do the right thing.

So what about you?

Do you trust what the government and the “experts” are telling you?

Do you trust them to do the right thing?

Feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

LOLCat - Photo by Koruko

The State Of The Economy

The U.S. economy is like a rubber band that is being pulled in several different directions at the same time.  Everyone knows that at some point it is going to snap, but nobody is quite sure exactly when it is going to happen.  Right now, the state of the economy is not good, and it is going to get a whole lot worse.  Sadly, most Americans don’t even understand the economic fundamentals well enough to be able to ask the right questions to our politicians.  Today, the United States consumes far more wealth than it produces every single month.  That means we are continually getting poorer.  U.S. debt is also rising at a far greater rate than U.S. GDP is.  On an individual level, if your assets were going down every single month and if you were going into more debt every single single month it would be easy to understand what was happening.  However, most Americans can’t really seem to grasp what is taking place on a national level.  Our politicians and the mainstream media just keep telling them that everything is going to be okay and they just keep believing it.

These days our leaders are resorting to increasingly desperate measures in order to help revive the economy.  On Thursday, Barack Obama decided to release 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic oil reserve.

Yes, that will drive down oil prices for a few days, but what is going to happen someday if we actually need to use that strategic oil reserve?

But in many ways you can’t blame Obama for trying.  He desperately wants to get reelected and he knows that his campaign will be highly dependent on the state of the economy.  Look for Obama to pull out all the stops as we get closer to the fall of 2012.

Sadly, the truth is that it almost does not matter what the Democrats or the Republicans do at this point.  The long-term trends are so powerful now that it would take a miracle to reverse them. We are facing an “economic tsunami” that is just going to keep on destroying middle class America.

If you went to a store today, and there were two somewhat similar products sitting on the shelf and one cost ten times more than the other one, which one would you buy?

Well, that is the situation facing American workers today.  They have been pushed into one giant globalized labor pool, but big corporations are allowed to pay workers on the other side of the globe slave labor wages.  It costs ten times more (at least) to hire a blue collar American worker than it does to hire a blue collar worker in most areas of Asia.

As a result of the globalization of labor, we have seen a mass exodus of jobs out of the United States, and wages for many of the jobs that remain have been significantly depressed.

There simply are not nearly enough jobs for all Americans at this point.

Recent college grads are finding this out.  A new study that was conducted by Rutgers University discovered that over 30 percent of all those that graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 were not able to get a job within six months of graduation.

But unemployment is only part of the story.  There are millions upon millions of Americans that are “underemployed” today.

There are hordes of highly educated, hard working Americans that are working temporary or part-time jobs at close to minimum wage because that is all they can get.

With good jobs being so scarce, American families are finding it more difficult than ever to make ends meet.

One recent survey found that 9 out of 10 U.S. workers do not expect their wages to keep up with the rising cost of basics such as food and gasoline over the next year.

I talked about the rising cost of food in my recent article entitled “Why Are Food Prices Rising So Fast?”  Today, one out of every seven Americans is already on food stamps, and if the cost of living keeps rising this quickly we are going to see millions more of our fellow citizens clamoring for government assistance.

The decline of the American consumer is having other effects as well.

For example, pre-orders for Christmas toys from China are way down.

It looks like this holiday season is not going to be as “merry” as usual.

It would be nice if we could say that the economy is improving, but that simply is not the case.

American households are in a far different place than they were prior to the recent recession.

For example, did you know that home values in the United States have plummeted $6.6 trillion since the peak back in 2007?

U.S. homeowners have taken the brunt of that decline.  According to the Federal Reserve, average home equity has fallen from 61 percent in 2001 to 38 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

That is a colossal shift.

If U.S. homeowners only own 38 percent of their homes, then who owns the rest?

The banks do.

Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Health care is another area where American families are getting squeezed.

Today, the United States spends more on health care per person than any other country in the world.

Sadly, we are also one of the sickest populations on the planet.

What is up with that?

Once upon a time the United States had a middle class that was the envy of the entire globe.

Now it is being ripped to shreds at every turn.

Today, approximately half of all Americans say that they could not come up with $2,000 within 30 days without selling away some possessions.

The vast majority of us are basically flat broke and surviving from month to month.

Meanwhile, our vaunted financial system just may be on the verge of another meltdown.

There has been all sorts of volatility in the marketplace recently and there are all kinds of signs that Wall Street is about to go into panic mode.

For example, Moody’s recently warned that it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all either already laying workers off or are rumored to be considering it.

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

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

As the financial system spins out of control, the Federal Reserve is increasing the number of workers that it is “embedding” at the big Wall Street banks.

I guess the Fed wants to keep a closer eye on things as they come crashing down.

Sadly, so much of this would be much easier to fix if our nation was not drowning in debt.

Since Barack Obama was elected, the national debt has increased by nearly 4 trillion dollars. If you and I went out today and started repaying that 4 trillion dollars at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 120,000 years to do it.

Most Americans have a hard time comprehending these kinds of numbers. Janet Tavakoli tried to put our debt situation into perspective in her latest column….

David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, says it’s even worse than that. When he takes into account future obligations for Medicare, Social Security, Federal debt, Military retirement, Civil servant retirement, and more, we owe $546,663 per household. That doesn’t even include your local debt — it may not be as bad as if you lived in Illinois, but it’s substantial nonetheless — and personal debt including mortgages and consumer debt that average more than $120,000 per household.

But you don’t have to toss wild numbers around to get an idea of how much trouble we are in.

As I have written about recently, there is increasing evidence all around us that the collapse of society is accelerating.  We are seeing disturbing reports of civil unrest pop up all over the U.S. at an alarming rate.

According to a CBS affiliate in Chicago, earlier this week approximately 50 young people conducted a shocking mob robbery of a drug store located on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago….

Some 50 young people barged into a Walgreens at Michigan and Chicago on the Magnificent Mile on Tuesday afternoon. They took bottled drinks and sandwiches off the shelves, then ran off, CBS 2′s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

When large groups of young people get together and agree to commit crimes that should be a huge red flag for all of us.

We are a nation that is deeply, deeply divided.  Hatred is growing and the love of most Americans is growing cold.

As I have written about previously on “The American Dream“, the American people are actually encouraged to hate one another these days….

The truth is that the “establishment” is constantly trying to divide us and get us fighting with one another.  They pit the Republicans against the Democrats (even as though control both sides).  They pit one race against another.  They pit one gender against another.  We are told that the rich are against the poor, the north is against the south, urban is against rural and that there are even “generational battles” going on.  Frustration and hate are rapidly growing in the United States today, and a lot of that frustration and hate is unfortunately aimed at the targets that the mainstream media has programmed all of us to hate.  Meanwhile, those at the top of the pyramid who are controlling the whole game love it when we are divided because we can never become united and challenge their control.

We need to come together as a nation.  If we don’t, we are going to face an unprecedented nightmare when the economy collapses.

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

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