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Guess How Much Americans Plan To Spend On Christmas And Halloween This Year…

Credit Card - Public DomainIt is that magical time of the year for retailers.  The period between mid-October and late December can often make the difference between success or failure in the retail industry, and this year will be no exception.  As you will see below, it is being projected that Americans will spend a massive amount of money this holiday season.  In fact, what Americans plan to spend on Christmas this year is greater than the yearly GDP of the entire nation of Sweden.  So isn’t this good economic news?  Shouldn’t we be happy that Americans are opening up their wallets so eagerly?  Well, it depends how you look at it.  Even though our spending is increasing, our incomes are not.  As I discussed the other day, 50 percent of American workers make less than 28,031 dollars a year and incomes have been stagnant for years.  That means that any increases in spending must be funded by more debt, and that is not good news at all.

In 2014, approximately 70 percent of all Americans will participate in Halloween.  It seems like with each passing year this dark holiday become even more popular, and before it is all said and done it is being projected that Americans will spend a whopping 7.4 billion dollars this time around…

Kicking off the end of year spending season is Halloween. Just how much do Americans spend on trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come in at $7.4 billion this year.

That 7.4 billion dollars includes 2 billion dollars for Halloween candy and 350 million dollars for pet Halloween costumes.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We are collectively going to spend 350 million dollars on Halloween costumes for our cats and dogs.

Overall, spending on Halloween has risen by more than 55 percent since 2005.  It just seems like Americans can’t get enough of this particular holiday.

But of course what Americans spend on Halloween is not even worth comparing to what Americans spend on Christmas.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than 90 percent of Americans celebrate either Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukkah.

And Christmas in particular has become virtually synonymous with materialism.  This year, the National Retail Federation is projecting that Americans will spend more than 600 billion dollars just on Christmas.

That represents a huge chunk of our GDP as a nation.

Most of that money will be spent on Christmas gifts.  According to a Gallup survey that was just released, the average U.S. adult plans to spend 781 dollars on Christmas gifts this year, which is significantly up from last year…

Americans’ initial estimates of the total amount they will spend on Christmas gifts this year point to an above-average holiday season for the nation’s retailers. While Gallup’s October spending forecast is a warm-up to its key measure in November, it finds Americans expecting to spend $781, on average, up from $704 last November.

Of course holiday spending does not end there.  There are trees to put up, packages to send out and decorations to buy.  The following numbers are from a Forbes article about what an average American typically spends during a Christmas season…

Christmas Tree: $41.50

Cards And Postage: $32.43

Floral Arrangements: $22.61

Food And Candy: $95.04

Decorations: $51.43

Travel: $960.50

So where is all of this money coming from?

That is a key question.

If our incomes were going up, all of this spending might be good news.  But as the following chart from the Federal Reserve demonstrates, that is not the case…

Median Household Income Since 2005

Our incomes are stagnant at best.  But Americans always like to party as if it were the best of times.  So they will pull out their credit cards and spend what they feel they need to spend in order to feel happy once again this year.

But deep down most people realize that this debt-fueled party cannot last forever.

Deep down most people realize that we have some incredibly serious long-term problems that need to be fixed.

Sadly, no matter which political party occupies the White House, and no matter which political party controls Congress, our long-term problems only seem to get even worse.

As our problems have multiplied, over time Americans have become angrier and angrier.

And right now is election season, and so that is very bad news for Democrats

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans are angry at the direction the country is headed and 53% of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s job performance, two troubling signs for Democrats one week before the midterm elections, a new CNN/ORC International Poll shows.

Democrats are battling to try and save the Senate majority, while hoping to prevent more losses in the House, which the GOP controls by a 234 to 201 margin.

In the Senate, Republicans need a net gain of six seats, and several state polls in the past month of contested races show that Democrats are in danger of losing control of the majority, and thus Congress.

If the Republicans do take control of both houses of Congress, will that fundamentally change the direction of the country?

I wish that I could believe that, but at this point most Republicans are virtually indistinguishable from most Democrats.

In other words, it is very hard to tell them apart.

As a nation, we are steamrolling toward a date with oblivion, but everyone is trying to put such a happy face on things.

Well, enjoy this time of relative stability while you can, because it is going to end way too soon.

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Are Entering A Horrifying Death Spiral

The spiral staircase at the Lighthouse in Mitchell Lane, Glasgow - Photo by George GastinYou can see it coming, can’t you?  The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is skyrocketing, the S&P 500 has been down for 9 of the last 11 trading days and troubling economic news is pouring in from all over the planet.  The much anticipated “financial correction” is rapidly approaching, and investors are starting to race for the exits.  We have not seen so many financial trouble signs all come together at one time like this since just prior to the last major financial crisis.  It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is brewing, and a lot of the “smart money” has already gotten out of stocks and bonds.  Could it be possible that we are heading toward another nightmarish financial crisis?  Could we see a repeat of 2008 or potentially even something worse?  Of course a lot of people believe that we will never see another major financial crisis like we experienced in 2008 ever again.  A lot of people think that this type of “doom and gloom” talk is foolish.  It is those kinds of people that did not see the last financial crash coming and that are choosing not to prepare for the next one even though the warning signs are exceedingly clear.  Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst, and right now things do not look good at all.  The following are 18 signs that global financial markets are entering a horrifying death spiral…

#1 The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has risen for 5 of the past 6 days, and it briefly touched the 2.90% level on Monday.

#2 Rapidly rising interest rates are spooking investors and causing them to pull money out of bonds at a very rapid pace

Investors have yanked nearly $20 billion from bond mutual funds and exchange traded funds so far in August. That’s the fourth highest pullback ever, according to TrimTabs data. In June, investors took out $69.1 billion — the highest on record.

#3 The sell-off of U.S. Treasuries is being led by foreigners.  In particular, China and Japan have been particularly aggressive in selling off bonds…

China and Japan led an exodus from U.S. Treasuries in June after the first signals the U.S. central bank was preparing to wind back its stimulus, with data showing they accounted for almost all of a record $40.8 billion of net foreign selling of Treasuries.

The sales were part of $66.9 billion of net sales by foreigners of long-term U.S. securities in June, a fifth straight month of outflows and the largest since August 2007, U.S. Treasury Department data showed on Thursday.

China, the largest foreign creditor, reduced its Treasury holdings to $1.2758 trillion, and Japan trimmed its holdings for a third straight month to $1.0834 trillion. Combined, they accounted for about $40 billion in net Treasury outflows.

#4 Thanks to rapidly rising bond yields, some of the largest exchange-traded bond funds are getting absolutely hammered right now

• The $18 billion iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond fund (ticker: LQD) has fallen 7.94% since May 2, according to S&P Capital IQ. That’s including reinvested interest from the fund’s bond holdings.

• The 3.7 billion iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) has plunged 15.9% the same period. Longer-term bonds typically get hit harder when rates rise than shorter-term bonds. For example, the iShares Barclays 3-7 Year Treasury Bond fund (IEI) has fallen 3.2% since May 2.

• PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt (PCY), which invests in government bonds issued in developing countries, has fallen 12.7%. The fund has $1.8 billion in assets.

#5 In recent weeks we have witnessed the largest cluster of Hindenburg Omens that we have seen since prior to the last financial crisis.

#6 George Soros has bet a tremendous amount of money that the S&P 500 is going to be heading down.

#7 At this point, the S&P 500 has fallen for 9 out of the last 11 trading days.

#8 Margin debt has spiked to extremely dangerous levels.  This is a pattern that we also saw just before the last financial crash and just before the dotcom bubble burst…

The exuberant mood comes as margin debt on Wall Street hovers near $377bn, just below its all-time high and well above peaks before the dotcom crash and the Lehman crisis.

“Investors have rarely been more levered than today,” said Deutsche Bank, warning that the spike in margin debt is a “red flag” and should be watched closely.

#9 The growth rate of new commercial bank loans and leases is now the slowest that it has been since the end of the last financial crisis.

#10 According to a shocking new report, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are masking “billions of dollars” in losses.  Will they need to be bailed out again just like they were during the last financial crisis?

#11 Wal-Mart reported very disappointing sales numbers for the second quarter.  Sales at stores open at least a year were down 0.3%.  This is a continuation of a trend that has been building for years.

#12 U.S. consumer bankruptcies just experienced their largest quarterly increase in three years.

#13 The velocity of money in the United States has hit another stunning new low.

#14 The massive civil unrest in Egypt threatens to disrupt the steady flow of oil out of the Middle East…

After last week’s bloody crackdown by the Egyptian army, fears of a disruption of oil supplies to the West have boosted the oil price. Brent crude prices were propelled to a four-month high of $111.23 on Thursday. If the turmoil gets worse – or unrest spreads to other countries – the risk premium currently factored into the price of crude is likely to increase further.

#15 European stocks just experienced their biggest decline in six weeks.

#16 The Japanese national debt recently crossed the quadrillion yen mark, and many are expecting the Japanese financial system to start melting down at any time.

#17 In Indonesia, the stock market is “cratering“.

#18 In India, the yield on their 10 year government bonds has skyrocketed from 7.1 percent in May to 9.25 percent now.

As the coming months unfold, keep a close eye on the “too big to fail” banks both in Europe and in the United States.  When the next great financial crisis strikes, they will play a starring role once again.  They have been incredibly reckless, and as James Rickards told Greg Hunter during an interview the other day, we are in much worse shape to deal with a major banking crisis than we were back in 2008…

What’s going to cause the next crisis?  Rickards says, “The problem in 2008 was too-big-to-fail banks.  Well, those banks are now bigger.  Their derivative books are bigger.  In other words, everything that was wrong in 2008 is worse today.” Rickards goes on to warn, “The last time, in 2008 when the crisis started, the Fed’s balance sheet was $800 billion.  Today, the Fed’s balance sheet is $3.3 trillion and increasing at $1 trillion a year.”  Rickards contends, “You’re going to have a banking crisis worse than the last one because the banking system is bigger without the resources because the Fed is tapped out.”  As far as the Fed ending the money printing, Rickards predicts, “My view is they won’t.  The economy is fundamentally weak.  We have 50 million on food stamps, 24 million unemployed and 11 million on disability, and all these numbers are going up.”

We never even came close to recovering from the last financial crisis and the last recession.

Now the next major wave of the economic collapse is coming up quickly.

I hope that you are taking this time to prepare for the approaching storm, because it is going to be very painful.

25 Signs That The Financial World Is About To Hit The Big Red Panic Button

Most of the worst financial panics in history have happened in the fall.  Just recall what happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008.  Well, September 2011 is about to begin and there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button.  Wave after wave of bad economic news has come out of the United States recently, and Europe is embroiled in an absolutely unprecedented debt crisis.  At this point there is a very real possibility that the euro may not even survive.  So what is causing all of this?  Well, over the last couple of decades a gigantic debt bubble has fueled a tremendous amount of “fake prosperity” in the western world.  But for a debt bubble to keep going, the total amount of debt has to keep expanding at an ever increasing pace.  Unfortunately for the global economy, sources of credit are starting to dry up.  That is why you hear terms like “credit crisis” and “credit crunch” thrown around so much these days.  Without enough credit to feed the monster, the debt bubble is going to burst.  At this point, virtually the entire global economy runs on credit, so when this debt bubble bursts things could get really, really messy.

Nations and financial institutions would never get into debt trouble if they could always borrow as much money as they wanted at extremely low interest rates.  But what has happened is that lending sources are balking at continuing to lend cheap money to nations and financial institutions that are already up to their eyeballs in debt.

For example, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 40 percent.  Investors don’t trust the Greek government and they are demanding a huge return in order to lend them more money.

Throughout the financial world right now there is a lot of fear.  Lending conditions have gotten very tight.  Financial institutions are not eager to lend money to each other or to anyone else.  This “credit crunch” is going to slow down the economy.  Just remember what happened back in 2008.  When easy credit stops flowing, the dominoes can start falling very quickly.

Sadly, this is a cycle that can feed into itself.  When credit is tight, the economy slows down and more businesses fail.  That causes financial institutions to want to tighten up things even more in order to avoid the “bad credit risks”.  Less economic activity means less tax revenue for governments.  Less tax revenue means larger budget deficits and increased borrowing by governments.    But when government debt gets really high that can cause huge economic problems like we are witnessing in Greece right now.  The cycle of tighter credit and a slowing economy can go on and on and on.

I spend a lot of time talking about problems with the U.S. economy, but the truth is that the rest of the world is dealing with massive problems as well right now.  As bad as things are in the U.S., the reality is that Europe looks like it may be “ground zero” for the next great financial crisis.

At this point the EU essentially has three choices.  It can choose much deeper economic integration (which would mean a huge loss of sovereignty), it can choose to keep the status quo going for as long as possible by providing the PIIGS with gigantic bailouts, or it can choose to end of the euro and return to individual national currencies.

Any of those choices would be very messy.  At this point there is not much political will for much deeper economic integration, so the last two alternatives appear increasingly likely.

In any event, global financial markets are paralyzed by fear right now.  Nobody knows what is going to happen next, but many now fear that whatever does come next will not be good.

The following are 25 signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button….

#1 According to a new study just released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

#2 Will Bank of America be the next Lehman Brothers?  Shares of Bank of America have fallen more than 40% over the past couple of months.  Even though Warren Buffet recently stepped in with 5 billion dollars, the reality is that the problems for Bank of America are far from over.  In fact, one analyst is projecting that Bank of America is going to need to raise 40 or 50 billion dollars in new capital.

#3 European bank stocks have gotten absolutely hammered in recent weeks.

#4 So far, major international banks have announced layoffs of more than 60,000 workers, and more layoff announcements are expected this fall.  A recent article in the New York Times detailed some of the carnage….

A new wave of layoffs is emblematic of this shift as nearly every major bank undertakes a cost-cutting initiative, some with names like Project Compass. UBS has announced 3,500 layoffs, 5 percent of its staff, and Citigroup is quietly cutting dozens of traders. Bank of America could cut as many as 10,000 jobs, or 3.5 percent of its work force. ABN Amro, Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, State Street and Wells Fargo have in recent months all announced plans to cut jobs — tens of thousands all told.

#5 Credit markets are really drying up.  Do you remember what happened in 2008 when that happened?  Many are now warning that we are getting very close to a repeat of that.

#6 The Conference Board has announced that the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index fell from 59.2 in July to 44.5 in August.  That is the lowest reading that we have seen since the last recession ended.

#7 The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index has fallen by almost 20 points over the last three months.  This index is now the lowest it has been in 30 years.

#8 The Philadelphia Fed’s latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish….

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009

#9 According to Bloomberg, since World War II almost every time that the year over year change in real GDP has fallen below 2% the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession….

Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. It’s hard to argue against an indicator with such a long history of accuracy.

#10 Economic sentiment is falling in Europe as well.  The following is from a recent Reuters article….

A monthly European Commission survey showed economic sentiment in the 17 countries using the euro, a good indication of future economic activity, fell to 98.3 in August from a revised 103 in July with optimism declining in all sectors.

#11 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now an astronomical 42.47%.

#12 As I wrote about recently, the European Central Bank has stepped into the marketplace and is buying up huge amounts of sovereign debt from troubled nations such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.  As a result, the ECB is also massively overleveraged at this point.

#13 Most of the major banks in Europe are also leveraged to the hilt and have tremendous exposure to European sovereign debt.

#14 Political wrangling in Europe is threatening to unravel the Greek bailout package.  In a recent article, Satyajit Das described what has been going on behind the scenes in the EU….

The sticking point is a demand for collateral for the second bailout package. Finland demanded and got Euro 500 million in cash as security against their Euro 1,400 million share of the second bailout package. Hearing of the ill-advised side deal between Greece and Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia also are now demanding collateral, arguing that their banks were less exposed to Greece than their counterparts in Germany and France entitling them to special treatment. At least, one German parliamentarian has also asked the logical question, why Germany is not receiving similar collateral.

#15 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to hold the Greek bailout deal together, but a wave of anti-bailout “hysteria” is sweeping Germany, and now according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard it looks like Merkel may not have enough votes to approve the latest bailout package….

German media reported that the latest tally of votes in the Bundestag shows that 23 members from Mrs Merkel’s own coalition plan to vote against the package, including twelve of the 44 members of Bavaria’s Social Christians (CSU). This may force the Chancellor to rely on opposition votes, risking a government collapse.

#16 Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski is warning that the status quo in Europe will lead to “collapse“.  According to Rostowski, if the EU does not choose the path of much deeper economic integration the eurozone simply is not going to survive much longer….

“The choice is: much deeper macroeconomic integration in the eurozone or its collapse. There is no third way.”

#17 German voters are against the introduction of “Eurobonds” by about a 5 to 1 margin, so deeper economic integration in Europe does not look real promising at this point.

#18 If something goes wrong with the Greek bailout, Greece is financially doomed.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Puru Saxena….

In Greece, government debt now represents almost 160% of GDP and the average yield on Greek debt is around 15%. Thus, if Greece’s debt is rolled over without restructuring, its interest costs alone will amount to approximately 24% of GDP. In other words, if debt pardoning does not occur, nearly a quarter of Greece’s economic output will be gobbled up by interest repayments!

#19 The global banking system has a total of 2 trillion dollars of exposure to Greek, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian debt.  Considering how much the global banking system is leveraged, this amount of exposure could end up wiping out a lot of major financial institutions.

#20 The head of the IMF, Christine Largarde, recently warned that European banks are in need of “urgent recapitalization“.

#21 Once the European crisis unravels, things could move very rapidly downhill.  In a recent article, John Mauldin put it this way….

It is only a matter of time until Europe has a true crisis, which will happen faster – BANG! – than any of us can now imagine. Think Lehman on steroids. The U.S. gave Europe our subprime woes. Europe gets to repay the favor with an even more severe banking crisis that, given that the U.S. is at best at stall speed, will tip us into a long and serious recession. Stay tuned.

#22 The U.S. housing market is still a complete and total mess.  According to a recently released report, U.S. home prices fell 5.9% in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.  That was the biggest decline that we have seen since 2009.  But even with lower prices very few people are buying.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homes dropped 3.5 percent during July.  That was the third decline in the last four months.  Sales of previously owned homes are even lagging behind last year’s pathetic pace.

#23 According to John Lohman, the decline in U.S. economic data over the past three months has been absolutely unprecedented.

#24 Morgan Stanley now says that the U.S. and Europe are “hovering dangerously close to a recession” and that there is a good chance we could enter one at some point in the next 6 to 12 months.

#25 Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota says that he is so alarmed about the state of the economy that he may drop his opposition to more monetary easing.  Could more quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve soon be on the way?

Things have not looked this bad for global financial markets since 2008.  Unless someone rides in on a white horse with trillions of dollars (or euros) of easy credit, it looks like we are headed for a massive credit crunch.

What we witnessed back in 2008 was absolutely horrifying.  Very few people want to see a repeat of that.  But as things in the U.S. and Europe continue to unravel, it appears increasingly likely that the next wave of the financial crisis could hit us sooner rather than later.

None of the fundamental problems that caused the crisis of 2008 have been fixed.  The world financial system is still one gigantic mountain of debt, leverage and risk.

Authorities around the globe will certainly do all they can to keep things stable, but in the end it is inevitable that the house of cards is going to come crashing down.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Bad News

The bad news about the economy just keeps rolling in.  If this is an economic recovery, what in the world is the next “recession” going to look like?  Today there was another huge truckload of bad economic news.  The stock market had another 400 point “correction”, applications for unemployment benefits are up again, inflation is higher than expected, home sales have dropped again and Europe is coming apart at the seams.  The financial markets have been in such a state of chaos recently that days like today don’t even seem “unusual” anymore.  But we should all be alarmed at what is happening.  We haven’t seen anything quite like this since the darkest days of 2008 and 2009.  If more bad news keeps pouring in, we may soon have a very real panic on our hands.

I would have thought that my article yesterday, “20 Signs That The World Could Be Headed For An Economic Apocalypse In 2012“, would have contained enough bad economic news to last for a while.  But today there was another huge bumper crop of depressing numbers.

Are you ready for the carnage?

*The Dow fell 419 points today.  That was a 3.7% drop.  The S&P 500 shot down 4.5% and the Nasdaq plummeted by a whopping 5.2%.

*European bank stocks got absolutely hammered.

*The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped back above 400,000 last week.

*The recent inflation numbers have really taken analysts by surprise.  The consumer price index rose at a 6.0% annual rate during the month of July. As I mentioned yesterday, the producer price index in the U.S. has increased at an annual rate of at least 7.0% for the last three months in a row.

So now we have high unemployment and high inflation.  Oh goody!  All of this stagflation is almost enough to make one nostalgic for the 1970s.

*The housing market is getting even worse.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homes dropped 3.5 percent during July.  That was the third decline in the last four months.  Sales of previously owned homes are even lagging behind last year’s pathetic pace. Mortgage rates are now the lowest they have been since the 1950s, but there are very few interested buyers in the marketplace.

*The Philadelphia Fed’s latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish….

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009

*Morgan Stanley now says that the U.S. and Europe are “hovering dangerously close to a recession” and that there is a good chance we could enter one at some point in the next 6 to 12 months.

All of this bad news is sending the price of gold through the roof.  The price of gold soared to a brand new all-time high of $1,829.70 an ounce on Thursday morning.  So far, the price of gold is up almost 30 percent in 2011.

Meanwhile, millions of average American families are deeply suffering and are desperately hoping that things won’t get even worse.  Everywhere you turn, there is a tremendous amount of stress in the air.

According to the New York Times, 25 million Americans “could not find full-time jobs last month”.

As the economy crumbles, good paying full-time jobs are becoming increasingly scarce.  People are hurting and they are looking for leadership.

Well, Barack Obama is running around the country promising that he will unveil some “solutions” very shortly.

So what are those solutions going to include?  Well, the plans are still in the development stage, but the Obama administration is reportedly considering the following….

-The creation of a new government agency that will be dedicated to job creation.  This will entail more government spending and more government paper pushers, but it will probably not do much to create good paying full-time jobs.

-Pushing even more free trade agreements through Congress.  That way even more of our good jobs can be shipped to countries on the other side of the globe where paying slave wages to workers is still legal.

-A “reverse boot camp” that will train military veterans for civilian jobs.  That sounds like a good idea, but we already have millions and millions of highly trained Americans that can’t get jobs.

-An extension of the payroll tax cut for at least another year.  That will put more money into the pockets of U.S. workers, but it will also mean less revenue for the federal government.  The existing payroll tax cut has not exactly resulted in a “jobs boom”, but removing that tax cut is certainly not going to help the economy either.

-An extension of long-term unemployment benefits.  Yes, that will help the unemployed survive and will give them some money to spend into the economy, but it will not create many jobs for them.  Plus it will put the government into even more debt.

-The creation of an infrastructure bank.  Like most of the proposals above, this will entail even more government spending.  I know that a “shovel-ready” joke is called for about now, but I can’t think of one at the moment.

The ironic thing is that Barack Obama is riding around on his multistate “jobs tour” in a $1.2 million bus that was made in Canada.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Things have gotten so bad out there that even Wal-Mart is suffering now.  Sales at Wal-Mart stores that have been open for at least a year have fallen for nine quarters in a row.

Not that anyone should have much sympathy for Wal-Mart, but it is a sign of just how bad things are getting out there.

So is there much hope for the future?  Well, considering the fact that only 32 percent of 15-year-olds in the United States are proficient in math, things don’t look good.

Our education system is a joke, tens of thousands of factories have already closed, more are closing every day, millions of jobs have been shipped overseas and most of our politicians are either incompetent or corrupt (or both).

So you would think that with all of our problems, authorities would be focused on the big issues.

But no, time after time they just keep picking on average Americans.

For example, a woman that lives in the Salem, Oregon area that is fighting terminal bone cancer tried to raise some money for her medical bills by holding a few garage sales on the weekends.

Well, the authorities in Salem got wind of this and now they are shutting her down.

This is absolutely unbelievable.  A video news report about this incident is posted below….

Massive fraud and corruption at the big banks caused a worldwide financial crisis in 2008 and yet not a single Wall Street executive has gone to prison because of it.

Yet a cancer-stricken lady tries to hold a few yard sales to pay her bills and authorities come down on her like a ton of bricks.

Does that seem fair to you?

Our world is getting crazier every day.  The bad news is going to keep pouring in.  Global financial markets are being held together with chicken wire and duct tape.  At some point the pyramid of corruption and con games is going to come crashing down.

If you still have faith in the system, you are not very wise.  We are heading for an economic collapse that will be absolutely unprecedented, and you need to be getting prepared.

10 Tipping Points Which Could Potentially Plunge The World Into A Horrific Economic Nightmare

The global economy has become so incredibly unstable at this point that it is not going to take much to plunge the world into a horrific economic nightmare.  The foundations of the world economic system are so decayed and so corrupted that even a stiff breeze could potentially topple the entire structure over.  Over the past couple of months a constant parade of bad economic news has come streaming in from Europe, Asia and the United States.  Signs of an impending economic slowdown are everywhere.  So what “tipping point” will trigger the next global economic downturn?  Nobody knows for sure, but potential tipping points are all around us.

Today, the global economic system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008.  Virtually none of the systemic problems that contributed to the 2008 collapse have been fixed.

Mark Mobius, the head of the emerging markets desk at Templeton Asset Management, was recently was quoted in Forbes as saying the following….

“There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis.”

The “financial reform” law that Barack Obama and the Congress passed a while back was a complete and total joke.  They might as well have written the law on toilet paper for all the good that it is doing.

We did not learn from our mistakes and our future economic lessons are going to be even more painful.

The world is drowning in a mountain of debt, the global financial system is packed to the gills with toxic derivatives, everyone is leveraged to the hilt and the dominoes could start falling at any time.

I am not the only one that is warning that another financial collapse is coming.  In fact, a whole lot of people have been warning about the next financial collapse lately.

So what will the tipping point for the next collapse be?

The following are some potential nominees….

Tipping Point #1: Syria

Syria is a situation to watch very, very closely.  The Syrian government is in a lot of trouble right now.  Sadly, the instability inside Syria probably makes war with Israel even more likely.

Make no mistake – a war between Israel and Syria has been brewing for a long, long time and at some point it will happen.  When it happens, the entire Middle East may erupt in warfare.

Just the other day, a very troubling incident happened in the area around the Golan Heights.  The following is an excerpt from a report by The Daily Mail about the incident….

“About 20 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were killed and 325 injured yesterday when Israeli forces opened fire on them as they crossed the border from Syria into occupied territories, according to reports.”

At this point, the Syrian government is probably glad that the attention has been taken off of them at least for a while.  The Syrian government has been getting a lot of bad press lately.  The following is an excerpt from a recent report by Human Rights Watch about the treatment of protesters inside Syria….

“The methods of torture included prolonged beatings with sticks, twisted wires, and other devices; electric shocks administered with Tasers and electric batons; use of improvised metal and wooden ‘racks'; and, in at least one case documented by Human Rights Watch, the rape of a male detainee with a baton.

“Interrogators and guards also subjected detainees to various forms of humiliating treatment, such as urinating on the detainees, stepping on their faces, and making them kiss the officers’ shoes. Several detainees said they were repeatedly threatened with imminent execution.”

So in light of the “precedent” that we recently set in Libya, does this mean that we will be “forced” to conduct a “humanitarian mission” inside Syria as well?

Syria is one tipping point that we all need to keep a close eye on.

Tipping Point #2: Iran

The Iranian nuclear program is in the news again. A new report by RAND Corporation researcher Gregory S. Jones claims that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within 2 months.  His report is based on recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  According to Jones, airstrikes alone would be incapable of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program at this point.  Instead, Jones says that a “military occupation” would be required.

It is a minor miracle that a war with Iran has not erupted yet.  It seems almost inevitable that at some point either the United States or Israel will use military force to try to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

When that happens, it is going to cause a major shock to the global economy.

Tipping Point #3: Libya

NATO has made it abundantly clear that Moammar Gadhafi will no longer be tolerated.  In fact, NATO apparently plans to reduce Tripoli to a heap of smoking ruins if that is what it takes to bring about the fall of Gadhafi.

What a “humanitarian mission” we have going in Libya, eh?  It turns out that NATO believes that the United Nations gave it permission to bomb television stations and to make attack runs with helicopters.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov recently said that by using attack helicopters, NATO has moved dangerously close to turning the Libya operation into a ground invasion….

“Using attack helicopters, in my view, is the last but one step before the land operation.”

So why is Libya a potential tipping point?

It isn’t because Gadhafi is a threat.  He is toast.

It is because the rest of the world is watching what is happening in Libya, and that is raising global tensions.

Even if Gadhafi falls, the Libyan operation will still be a failure because it has brought us all significantly closer to World War III.

Tipping Point #4: More Revolutions In The Middle East

The revolutions throughout the Middle East earlier this year sent oil prices absolutely skyrocketing and they have remained at elevated levels.

And in case you haven’t noticed, revolutions continue to sweep the Middle East.

Have you seen what has been happening in Yemen lately?

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has burns over 40% of his body and he has suffered a collapsed lung as a result of a recent attack.

If violence and protests throughout the Middle East become even more intense as the weather warms up this summer that could have a very significant impact on world financial markets.

Tipping Point #5: Fukushima

The mainstream news has gotten a bit tired of covering it, but the situation at Fukushima is still a complete and total disaster.

Japan’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters admitted on Monday that three reactors experienced “full meltdowns” in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in March.

Did it really take them nearly three months to figure this out, or were they lying to the rest of the world all of this time?

The truth is that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is far worse than the mainstream media has been telling us.  If you doubt this, just check out this excellent article or this article by Natural News: “Land around Fukushima now radioactive dead zone; resembles target struck by atomic bomb“.

The economic impact of the Fukushima disaster is going to continue to unfold over an extended period of time.  It turns out that Japan is now officially in a recession.  Their economy contracted at a 3.7 percent annualized rate during the first quarter.

Look for more bad economic numbers to come out of Japan for the rest of the year.  Considering the fact that the Japanese economy is the third largest economy in the world, the fact that they are struggling so badly right now is not a good sign for the rest of us.

Tipping Point #6: Oil Prices

The price of oil is going to continue to be one of the biggest economic stories for the rest of this year and for 2012 as well.

The last time U.S. energy expenditures were over 9 percent of GDP was in 2008 and we quickly plunged into the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Well, we have reached the significant 9 percent figure once again in 2011, and many fear that once again high oil prices will cause another major economic decline.

Tipping Point #7: Government Austerity

In the United States, it is not just the federal government that is drowning in debt.

All over America, there are state and local governments that are financial basket cases.

I don’t always agree with the time frames that Meredith Whitney puts out there, but she is absolutely correct that we are going to see a massive municipal bond crisis. The following is an excerpt from a recent report about Whitney’s predictions on CNN….

“Meredith Whitney is issuing a fresh warning to mutual funds, banks, and politicians: The state of state finances is far worse than what you think, or at least than what you’ve been willing to tell the investors and taxpayers who will eventually carry the burden.”

Many state and local governments are attempting to get their budgets balanced by making huge budget cuts.  But most of the time these austerity programs also include the elimination of a lot of government jobs.

UBS Investment Research is projecting that state and local governments will combine to slash a whopping 450,000 jobs by the end of next year.

So where will the half a million good jobs come from to replace all of those lost jobs?

Tipping Point #8: The European Sovereign Debt Crisis

Greece is just the tip of the iceberg in Europe.

Moody’s downgraded Greek debt again last Wednesday.  This time Moody’s downgraded Greek debt by three levels all the way down to Caa1.  At this point, the yield on 10-year Greek bonds is over 15 percent.

The EU has been going crazy trying to deal with the Greek debt crisis.  The truth is that a default by the Greek government would be absolutely catastrophic. If you do not understand the kind of chaos a Greek default would set off on world financial markets, just read this editorial.

But Greece is not the only major European nation with a massive debt problem.

The government of Ireland is already indicating that they may need another bailout.

Portugal, Spain and Italy are also on the verge of collapse.

So will the EU bail all of these nations out for years and years to come?

At some point will the whole house of cards come crashing down?

Everyone needs to keep watching what is going on in Europe.  The status quo is not sustainable and it cannot go on forever.

Tipping Point #9: The Dying U.S. Dollar

The euro is not the only major currency that is in trouble.

The U.S. dollar is also slowly dying.

On April 18th, Standard & Poor’s altered its outlook on U.S. government debt from “stable” to “negative” and warned that the U.S. could soon lose its prized AAA rating.

The sad truth is that faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. Treasuries is rapidly declining.  The mainstream news is not reporting on it much, but right now the Chinese are rapidly dumping U.S. government debt.

As the dollar declines, so will the purchasing power of average Americans.  We are already seeing a tremendous amount of inflation in 2011.

But this is just the beginning.

A lot worse is going to be coming down the road.

Tipping Point #10: Drought

A lot of people that read my articles doubt that we will ever see a major global food crisis.

But one is coming.

It is just a matter of time.

Even now, many areas of the world are experiencing very serious droughts.  The following is from a recent  Bloomberg article….

Parts of China, the biggest grower, had the least rain in a century, some European regions are the driest in 50 years and almost half the winter-wheat crop in the U.S., the largest exporter, is rated poor or worse. Inventory is dropping 8.8 percent, the most in five years, Rabobank International says. Prices will advance 20 percent to as high as $9.25 a bushel by Dec. 31, a Bloomberg survey of 14 analysts and traders shows.

Are you concerned yet?

You should be.

But if you prefer some mindless pablum that will make you feel better, we have some of that for you too.

Larry Summers, the former director of the National Economic Council under Barack Obama, recently told CNBC the following….

“We definitely hit a slower patch, but I think the basic fact that the terrible financial strains we had are abating, remains in place, and I expect this recovery to continue for a substantial period of time.”

Does that make you feel better?

Larry Summers says that everything is going to be okay.

It would be great if Summers was actually right, but sadly he is not.

In fact, the worst economic times that America has ever seen are ahead.

The following is a brief excerpt from a recent interview with Dmitry Orlov about the coming economic collapse that was posted on shtfplan.com….

First you have financial collapse, which is basically the volume of debt that has to be taken on in order for the economy to continue functioning, cannot continue. We’re seeing that right now in Greece, we’re probably going to see that in Japan, we’re definitely at a point now in the United States where even if you raised the income tax to 100 percent, there’s absolutely no way of covering the liabilities of the U.S. federal government. So, we’re at that point now but the workout of the financial collapse is not all quite there. We don’t quite have a worthless currency but that’s in the works.

That, of course, is followed by commercial collapse especially in a country like the United States that imports two thirds of its oil. A lot of that is on credit and if a little bit of that oil goes missing then the economy starts to fall apart because nothing moves unless you burn oil in the United States and, of course, a lot of goods that are sold everywhere are imported again, on credit.

When the U.S. dollar dies and our financial system collapses we are not going to be able to get all of the things that we need from the rest of the world so cheaply any longer.

That is going to cause fundamental changes inside the United States.

Right now, the economic news just seems to get worse and worse, but this is just the beginning.

What is eventually going to happen in this country is going to be so nightmarish that most Americans could not even imagine it right now.

So are our leaders doing anything to prepare for the coming economic crisis?

No, they are too busy with other things.

The big political news of the day was U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner finally admitting that he sent out lewd photos of himself over Twitter to women that he was not married to.

We have become the laughingstock of the world and the economic collapse has not even happened yet.

Global Financial Markets Tremble As Bad Economic News Continues To Pour In

As the U.S. economy starts to slow down once again, global financial markets are beginning to tremble.  Over the past couple of weeks, all kinds of bad economic news has been pouring in.  The ADP jobs report was a “disaster”, the housing numbers are dismal, manufacturing has slowed way down and consumer confidence is dropping like a rock.  The Democrats and the Republicans are bickering over the debt ceiling and this is causing a lot of uncertainty as well.  All of this bad news is starting to spook investors.  On Wednesday, the Dow was down 279 points and the NASDAQ was down 65 points. It was the worst day of the year for the Dow, and many are wondering what is going to happen next if we see even more bad economic data.  QE2 is slated to end at the end of the month, and already the bond markets seem to be anticipating QE3.  If the U.S. economy enters another significant downturn during the second half of 2011, it seems quite likely that the Federal Reserve would attempt to do something to stimulate the economy and that would probably mean more money printing.

This article is essentially the second part to an article I wrote yesterday about how we are seeing warnings about the next financial collapse all over the place right now.  Panic is building and a lot of investors are trying to figure out where to put their money.  Suddenly everyone seems a whole lot less optimistic than they were a couple of months ago.

Michael Sheldon, the chief market strategist at RDM Financial, believes that all of the bad economic news we are seeing right now is clear evidence that we are entering an “economic slump”….

“Initially, we just had bad news from the weekly jobless claims data, but now we’re starting to see a broad-based economic slump.”

So what are some of the numbers that have investors so concerned?

Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London, recently explained to CNBC why he is so alarmed right now….

“US house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing.”

The bad economic news just keeps rolling in.  It is almost as if someone has slammed on the economic brakes.

The following are a few more examples of the bad economic numbers that have come out over the past couple of days….

*According to the latest ADP Employment Services report, private employers in the United States only added 38,000 jobs last month.  That number had been expected to be somewhere around 175,000.  This jobs report is being called a “disaster“.

*Manufacturing activity in May was much lower than most economists were projecting.  The following is how CNBC described the newest numbers from ISM….

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity fell to 53.5 in May from 60.4 the month before. The reading missed economists’ expectations for 57.7.

*Moody’s downgraded Greek debt again on Wednesday, and stated that they believe that there is a 50/50 chance that Greece will default.  This time Moody’s downgraded Greek debt by three levels all the way down to Caa1, and that caused the euro to fall like a rock.

To get an idea of just how imbalanced the European financial system has become at this point, just check out this article.

*Earlier this week it was announced that U.S. home prices have declined 5.1% from a year ago.  Sadly, U.S. home prices have now fallen more than they did during the entire Great Depression.

*As I mentioned yesterday, the consumer confidence index fell from 66 in April to 60.8 in May.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, the truth is that the “sugar high” that the U.S. economy has been enjoying is coming to an end.

QE2 is almost over and the vast majority of the federal “stimulus money” has been spent.  Now the federal government is talking about getting spending under control and we are seeing austerity programs being implemented on the state and local level from coast to coast.

But without massive intervention by the Federal Reserve and by the U.S. government will the U.S. economy be able to stand?

Douglas Borthwick, a managing director with Faros Trading in Stamford, Connecticut is not optimistic….

“The sugar high that has buoyed the U.S. economy over the past six months is wearing out, and there is little in economic growth or foundation to show for it.”

The truth is that the Fed and the U.S. government went all-out in an attempt to keep the economy from falling into a total depression.  The U.S. government has been running budget deficits well in excess of a trillion dollars and the Fed has been printing money like mad.  If these measures are removed, the economic crisis we are experiencing might just get a whole lot worse.

How much worse?

Well, just check out what Peter Yastrow, a market strategist for Yastrow Origer, recently told CNBC….

“Interest rates are amazingly low and that, thanks to Ben Bernanke, is driving everything,” Yastrow said. “We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows it.”

Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama keep talking about the “economic recovery” but most Americans know better.

According to one new poll, 66% of Americans believe that we are still in a recession.

Perhaps this is a sign that the American people are starting to wake up to the new economic realities that we are facing.

The U.S. economy is being ripped apart and shredded.  Thanks to our short-sighted trade policies, the Chinese economy has roared to life while the U.S. economy continues to ship jobs and factories overseas.

But instead of facing up to our economic problems and coming up with some solutions, our nation has been on a horrific debt binge over the last couple of decades in a desperate attempt to maintain our standard of living.

One of the reasons why I pound on the economic news day after day is so that more people will really understand what is going on and will start to wake up.

In fact, if you have a family member of a friend that just doesn’t get it, the following is a great article to share with that person: “50 Things Every American Should Know About The Collapse Of The Economy“.

Look, even Barack Obama says that the present state of affairs is “unsustainable” and that changes have to be made.

But if the U.S. government decided that it was going to go to a balanced budget tomorrow, that would suck approximately a trillion and a half dollars out of the economy.

What do you think would happen if that came to pass?

Of course by going into even more debt we are destroying the economic future of our children and our grandchildren.

We have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world and we expect future generations to pay it off.

It is absolutely disgusting what we have done and it is thievery on the highest level.

Everyone knows that we are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world and that at some point it is going to pop.

Perhaps the best we can hope for at this point is for a little bit more time before economic disaster strikes.

Unfortunately, all of the latest economic news seems to be pointing toward another economic slowdown.

Hold on to your seats.

11 Economic Headlines That Make You Wonder What In The World Is Actually Going On

These days there are times when you read the economic headlines and all you can do is shake your head.  Is anyone in control out there?  Who in the world could possibly be making so many bad decisions?  The truth is that the U.S. economy is in a state of absolute chaos, but whenever anybody in power tries to do something about it they usually seem to make things worse.  It is almost as if the vast majority of people in positions of power have lost the common sense that they were born with.  Meanwhile, average Americans just keep getting angrier and angrier and are looking for someone to blame for this gigantic mess.

If only Vince Lombardi was alive today.  He would definitely know what to say at a time like this….

Sometimes it is actually hard to believe what is happening to America.  The United States was once the richest and most powerful economy on the planet and was seemingly invincible.  But now things are spinning wildly out of control.  Posted below are 11 headlines that make you wonder what in the world is going on out there….

#1) Two very serious dark-suited IRS agents recently visited a carwash in Sacramento, California in pursuit of 4 cents.

#2) Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd has introduced legislation that would give the Federal Reserve sweeping new powers over the United States economy.

#3) The Federal Reserve is pledging to keep interest rates at record lows in order to foster economic growth and ease high unemployment.

#4) China is seeking reassurance from the U.S. government that the U.S. dollar will not decline in value.

#5) The unemployment rate in the construction industry has jumped to 27.1% as another 64,000 construction workers lost their jobs in February.

#6) The Obama administration’s “Pay Czar” has decided to limit 2010 compensation for top executives at GMAC because the automobile finance giant continues to lose large amounts of money.

#7) Internet fraud cases increased by a whopping 22% in 2009 as scammers continued to take advantage of the trusting nature of many Americans.

#8) $2.5 trillion in IOUs from the U.S. government, payable to the Social Security Administration, are apparently stored in filing cabinets in downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia.

#9) According to USDebtClock.org, the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government total over 107 trillion dollars.

#10) Are Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives about to use a “legislative trick” to pass the reconciled health care reform bill without really voting on it?

#11) According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the approval rate of Congress is down to just 17 percent, and 50 percent of the respondents said that they would like to throw everybody out and start with a completely new Congress.

cheaper to burn dollars than paper

 

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