The U.S. Dollar Has Already Caused A Global Recession And Now The Fed Is Going To Make It Worse

Dollar Hands - Public DomainThe 7th largest economy on the entire planet, Brazil, has been gripped by a horrifying recession, as has much of the rest of South America.  But it isn’t just South America that is experiencing a very serious economic downturn.  We have just learned that Japan (the third largest economy in the world) has lapsed into recession.  So has Canada.  So has Russia.  The dominoes are starting to fall, and it looks like the global economic crisis that has already started is going to accelerate as we head into the end of the year.  At this point, global trade is already down about 8.4 percent for the year, and last week the Baltic Dry Shipping Index plummeted to a brand new all-time record low.  Unfortunately for all of us, the Federal Reserve is about to do something that will make this global economic slowdown even worse.

Throughout 2015, the U.S. dollar has been getting stronger.  That sounds like good news, but the truth is that it is not.  When the last financial crisis ended, emerging markets went on a debt binge unlike anything we have ever seen before.  But much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, and now this is creating a massive problem.  As the U.S. dollar has risen, the prices that many of these emerging markets are getting for the commodities that they export have been declining.  Meanwhile, it is taking much more of their own local currencies to pay back and service all of the debts that they have accumulated.  Similar conditions contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Many Americans may be wondering when “the next economic crisis” will arrive, but nobody in Brazil is asking that question.  Thanks to the rising U.S. dollar, Brazil has already plunged into a very deep recession

As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff combats a slumping economy and corruption accusations, the country’s inflation surged above 10 percent while unemployment jumped to 7.9 percent, according to the latest official data. The dour state of affairs has Barclays forecasting a 4 percent economic contraction this year, followed by 3.3 percent shrinkage next year, the investment bank said in a research note last week.

The political and economic turmoil has recently driven the real, Brazil’s currency, to multiyear lows, a factor helping to stoke price pressures.

And as I mentioned above, Brazil is far from alone.  This is something that is happening all over the planet, and the process appears to be accelerating.  One of the places where this often first shows up is in the trade numbers.  The following comes from an article that was just posted by Zero Hedge

This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that,” warns one of the world’s largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines – having collapsed to all-time record lows this week – it is the spefics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before… 2008! “It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term.”

Many “experts” seem mystified by all of this, but the explanation is very simple.

For years, global economic growth was fueled by cheap U.S. dollars.  But since the end of QE, the U.S. dollar has been surging, and according to Bloomberg it just hit a 12 year high…

The dollar traded near a seven-month high against the euro before the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s October meeting, when policy makers signaled the potential for an interest-rate increase this year.

A trade-weighted gauge of the greenback is at the highest in 12 years as Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other policy makers have made numerous pronouncements in the past month that it may be appropriate to boost rates from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 gathering. The probability the central bank will act next month has risen to 66 percent from 50 percent odds at the end of October.

But even though the wonks at the Federal Reserve supposedly know the damage that a strong dollar is already doing to the global economy, they seem poised to make things even worse by raising interest rates in December

Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy “could well” be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed’s first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade, according to minutes of its meeting Oct. 27-28.

The officials said global troubles had eased and a delay could increase market uncertainty and undermine confidence in the economy.

The meeting summary provides the clearest evidence yet that a majority of Fed policymakers are leaning toward raising the central bank’s benchmark rate next month, assuming the economy continues to progress.

Considering the tremendous amount of damage that has already been done to the global economy, this is one of the stupidest things that they could possibly do.

But it looks like they are going to do it anyway.

It has been said that those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

And right now so many of the exact same patterns that we saw just before the great financial crisis of 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.

A lot of people out there seem to assume that once we got past the September/October time frame that we were officially out of “the danger zone”.

But that is not true at all.

The truth is that we have already entered a new global economic downturn that is rapidly accelerating, and the financial shaking that we witnessed in August was just a foreshock of what is coming next.

Let us hope that common sense prevails and the Fed chooses not to raise interest rates at their next meeting.

Because if they do, it will just make the global crisis that is now emerging much, much worse.

Copper, China And World Trade Are All Screaming That The Next Economic Crisis Is Here

Screaming Smiley - Public DomainIf you are looking for a “canary in a coal mine” type of warning for the entire global economy, you have a whole bunch to pick from right now.  “Dr. Copper” just hit a six year low, Morgan Stanley is warning that this could be the worst oil price crash in 45 years, the Chinese economy is suddenly stalling out, and world trade is falling at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  In order not to see all of the signs that are pointing toward a global economic slowdown, you would have to be willingly blind.  In recent months, I have been writing article after article detailing how the exact same patterns that happened just before the stock market crash of 2008 are playing out once again.  We are watching a slow-motion train wreck unfold right before our eyes, and things are only going to get worse from here.

Copper is referred to as “Dr. Copper” because it does such an excellent job of indicating where economic conditions are heading next.  We saw this in 2008, when the price of copper started crashing big time in the months leading up to the stock market implosion.

Well, now copper is crashing again.  Just check out this chart.  The price of copper plunged again on Wednesday, and it is now the lowest that it has been since the last financial crisis.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the months ahead is not good.  The following is what Goldman Sachs is saying about copper…

“Though we have been bearish on copper on a 12-mo forward basis for the past two and a half years, we have maintained a more bullish medium to long-term stance on the assumption of Chinese copper demand growth of 4% per annum and a major slowing in supply growth around 2017/2018 … we substantially lower our short, medium, and long-term copper price forecasts, on the back of lower Chinese copper demand growth forecasts (we have been highlighting that the risk has been skewed to the downside for some time), increased conviction in copper supply growth over the next three years, and increased conviction in the outlook for mining cost deflation in dollar terms.”

It is funny that Goldman mentioned China so prominently.  Even though China’s fake GDP figures say that everything is fine over there, other numbers are painting a very dismal picture.

For instance, Chinese electrical consumption in June grew at the slowest pace that we have seen in 30 years, and capital outflows from China have reached a level that is “frightening”

Robin Brooks at Goldman Sachs estimates that capital outflows topped $224bn in the second quarter, a level “beyond anything seen historically”.

The Chinese central bank (PBOC) is being forced to run down the country’s foreign reserves to defend the yuan. This intervention is becoming chronic. The volume is rising. Mr Brooks calculates that the authorities sold $48bn of bonds between March and June.

Charles Dumas at Lombard Street Research says capital outflows – when will we start calling it capital flight? – have reached $800bn over the past year. These are frighteningly large sums of money.

Just last month, the Chinese stock market started to crash, but the crash was interrupted when the Chinese government essentially declared a form of financial martial law.

And I don’t think that “financial martial law” is too strong of a term to use in this case.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph

Half the shares traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen were suspended. New floats were halted. Some 300 corporate bosses were strong-armed into buying back their own shares. Police state tactics were used hunt down short sellers.

We know from a vivid account in Caixin magazine that China’s top brokers were shut in a room and ordered to hand over money for an orchestrated buying blitz. A target of 4,500 was set for the Shanghai Composite by Communist Party officials.

So a stock market crash was halted, but in doing so Chinese officials have essentially destroyed the second largest stock market in the world.  China’s financial markets have lost all legitimacy, and foreigners are going to be extremely hesitant to put any money into Chinese stocks from now on.

Meanwhile, there is no hiding the fact that trade activity in China and in most of the rest of the planet is slowing down.  In fact, world trade volume has now dropped by the most that we have seen since the last global recession.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

As goes the world, so goes America (according to 30 years of historical data), and so when world trade volumes drop over 2% (the biggest drop since 2009) in the last six months to the weakest since June 2014, the “US recession imminent” canary in the coalmine is drawing her last breath

World Trade Volume - Zero Hedge

As Wolf Street’s Wolf Richter adds, this isn’t stagnation or sluggish growth. This is the steepest and longest decline in world trade since the Financial Crisis. Unless a miracle happened in June, and miracles are becoming exceedingly scarce in this sector, world trade will have experienced its first back-to-back quarterly contraction since 2009.

As you probably noted in the chart above, a decline in world trade is almost always associated with a recession.

That was certainly the case back in 2008 and 2009.

Another similarity between the last crisis and what is happening now is a crash in the price of oil.

According to Business Insider, we have just officially entered a brand new bear market for oil…

Oil is officially in a bear market.

On Thursday, West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell more than 1% to settle near $48.55 per barrel in New York.

A bear market is roughly defined as a 20% drop from highs. Crude has now fallen by about 20% in the last six weeks.

So what does all of this mean?

All of these signs are indicating that another great economic crisis is here, and that a global financial implosion is just around the corner.

At this point, even many of the “bulls” are sounding the alarm.  For example, just consider what Henry Blodget of Business Insider is saying…

As regular readers know, for the past ~21 months I have been worrying out loud about US stock prices. Specifically, I have suggested that a decline of 30% to 50% would not be a surprise.

I haven’t predicted a crash. But I have said clearly that I think stocks will deliver returns that are way below average for the next seven to 10 years. And I certainly won’t be surprised to see stocks crash. So don’t say no one warned you!

For those that don’t know, Henry Blodget is definitely not a bear.  In fact, he is one of Wall Street’s biggest cheerleaders.

So for Blodget to suggest that we could see the stock market drop by half is a really big deal.

The closer that we get to this next crisis, the clearer that everything is becoming.

Where are things going to go from here?  Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

The Top 12 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading Toward Another Recession

12 SignsIs the U.S. economy steamrolling toward another recession?  Will 2014 turn out to be a major “turning point” when we look back on it?  Before we get to the evidence, it is important to note that there are many economists that believe that the United States never actually got out of the last recession.  For example, data compiled by John Williams of shadowstats.com show that the U.S. economy has continually been in recession since 2005.  So if anyone out there would like to argue that America is experiencing a recession right now, I certainly would not have a problem with that.  In fact, that would fit with the daily reality of tens of millions of Americans that are deeply suffering in this harsh economic environment.  But no matter whether we are in a “recession” at the moment or not, there are an increasing number of indications that we are rapidly plunging into another major economic slowdown.  The following are the top 12 signs that the U.S. economy is heading toward another recession…

#1 We recently learned that the number of new mortgage applications in the United States had fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in nearly 20 years.

#2 Radio Shack has announced that it is going to close more than 1,000 stores.  This is just another sign that we are in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.

#3 The ISM Services index just fell to its lowest level in 4 years, and ISM Services Employment just experienced its largest decline since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

#4 Obamacare is really starting to hammer the U.S. health care industry

The Affordable Care Act is creating significant financial uncertainty to health care organizations,” said a survey respondent from the health care and social assistance industry.

“With little warning, the negative impact on revenue has been unprecedented.”

#5 Trading revenue at the “too big to fail” banks on Wall Street is way down

Citigroup Inc. (C) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) are bracing investors for a fourth straight drop in first-quarter trading, a period of the year when the largest investment banks typically earn the most from that business.

Citigroup finance chief John Gerspach said yesterday his firm expects trading revenue to drop by a “high mid-teens” percentage, less than a week after JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said revenue from equities and fixed income was down about 15 percent. If trading at the nine largest firms slumps that much, it would extend the slide from 2010’s first quarter to 36 percent.

#6 One of the “too big to fail” banks, JPMorgan, is planning to fire “thousands” more workers.

#7 Moody’s has downgraded the credit rating of the city of Chicago again.  Now it is just three notches above junk status.

#8 The U.S. economy actually lost 2.87 million jobs during the month of January according to the unadjusted numbers.  Over the past decade, the only time the U.S. economy has lost more jobs during the month of January was in 2009 at the peak of the last recession.

#9 In January, real disposable income in the U.S. experienced the largest year over year decline that we have seen since 1974.

#10 Only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

#11 Global retail sales for machinery giant Caterpillar have fallen for 14 months in a row.

#12 The economic data show that virtually all of the largest economies on the planet are slowing down right now.  The following is from a recent Zero Hedge article

The last 3 weeks have seen the macro fundamentals of the G-10 major economies collapse at the fastest pace in almost 4 years and almost the biggest slump since Lehman. Despite a plethora of data showing that ‘weather’ is not to blame, US strategists, ‘economists’, and asset-gatherers are sticking to the meme that this is all because of the cold on the east coast of the US (and that means wondrous pent-up demand to come). However, as the New York Times reports, for the earth, it was the 4th warmest January on record.

For much more on how the rest of the global economy is also slowing down, please see my recent article entitled “20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire“.

Meanwhile, things in Ukraine continue to become even more tense, and the Russian government continues to debate how it will respond if the U.S. does end up deciding to hit Russia with economic sanctions.

According to one Russian news source, the Russian parliament is actually considering the confiscation of the property and assets of U.S. businesses in Russia if the U.S. decides to go ahead with economic sanctions against Russia…

The upper house of Russia’s parliament is mulling measures allowing property and assets of European and US companies to be confiscated in the event of sanctions being adopted against Russia over its threatened military intervention in Ukraine.

We are talking about banks, retail chains, mining operations, etc.

U.S. companies have billions invested in Russia, and all of that could be gone in an instant.

So let us certainly hope that economic war between the United States and Russia is averted.  Our economy is hurting enough as it is.

But no matter how things with this crisis in Ukraine play out, it looks like hard times are ahead for the U.S. economy.

Unfortunately, most Americans never learned the lessons that they should have learned back in 2008.

They just assume that the federal government and the Federal Reserve have fixed our problems and have everything under control, so they are not preparing for the next great crisis.

In the end, tens of millions of Americans will be absolutely devastated when they get absolutely blindsided by what is coming.

Time Is Running Out

14 Signs That The World Economy Is Getting Weaker

The United States is not the only one with massive economic problems right now.  The truth is that just about wherever you look around the globe things are getting even worse.  China is experiencing a substantial economic slowdown, and Japan has resorted to yet another round of money printing in an effort to keep the Japanese economy moving.  Unemployment in Europe continues to get even worse, and the riots this week in Spain and in Greece have been absolutely frightening at times.  In the United States there are a whole host of signs that another recession is approaching, and the number of American CEOs that say that they plan to eliminate jobs in the coming months is rapidly rising.  The world economy is more interconnected today than ever before, and that means that we are all in this together.  Just remember what happened back in 2008 and 2009.  The economic pain that started on Wall Street was felt in every corner of the planet.  So anyone that believes that the United States (or any other major nation for that matter) is going to escape the next wave of the economic crisis is simply not being realistic.  Why do you think central banks all over the world are in “panic mode” right now?  They are firing all of their ammunition and printing money like there is no tomorrow in an attempt to keep the system together.  Unfortunately, it is not going to work.

If the powers that be had an “easy button” that would quickly fix everything, they would have pressed it by now.  But despite all of their efforts things continue to unravel.  If you want to get an idea of where we are headed,  just look at what is already happening in Europe.   Unemployment has risen above 24 percent in Greece and above 25 percent in Spain.

Those two nations are on the “bleeding edge” of the next wave of economic problems.  Unemployment is rising almost everywhere else in Europe as well, and things are eventually going to get really bad in Asia and in North America too.

So hold on to your seat belts – it is going to be a bumpy ride.

The following are 14 signs from around the globe that the world economy is getting weaker….

#1 Things in China do not look good right now.  The Shanghai Composite index fell to its lowest point in over 3 years earlier this week.  Will the S&P 500 soon follow suit?

#2 The Bank of Japan has resorted to yet another round of money printing in a desperate attempt to try to bolster the faltering Japanese economy….

In Asia, the Bank of Japan has long been manufacturing money out of thin air. It has just announced an eighth round of money printing to prop up the ailing Japanese economy. The Bank of Japan is to purchase 10 trillion yen of bonds to add further liquidity into the financial system. Now it has 80 trillion yen of bonds in its portfolio, equivalent to 20 per cent of Japan’s gross domestic product.

#3 In Spain, violent demonstrations over the state of the Spanish economy just outside the national Parliament building in Madrid on Tuesday evening made headlines all over the globe.  You can view video of police brutally beating young Spanish protesters during those demonstrations right here.

#4 As unemployment hovers around the 25 percent mark, foraging through garbage bins for food has become so rampant in Spain that one city has actually started putting locks on supermarket garbage bins “as a public health precaution“.

#5 Despite all of the money printing that the ECB has been doing, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds has risen back up to about 6 percent again.

#6 The economic protests in Greece are getting completely and totally out of control.  Just check out this description of the “Day of Rage” that took place in Greece earlier this week….

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at protesters yesterday as tens of thousands poured into the streets of Athens as part of a nationwide strike to challenge a new round of austerity measures that are expected to cut wages, pensions and healthcare once again.

Dozens of youths, some masking their faces with helmets and T-shirts, hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police who fired back in an effort to scatter the angry crowds around the parliament building. More than 50,000 people are believed to have participated in the mass walk-out in Athens alone.

#7 The unemployment rate in France has risen for 16 months in a row and is now the highest that it has been in over a decade.

#8 As I wrote about recently, the number of unemployed workers in Italy has increased by more than 37 percent over the past year.

#9 New orders for durable goods in the United States fell by a whopping 13.2 percent in August.  That was the largest decline that we have seen since the middle of the last recession (January 2009).

#10 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. GDP only grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2012 as opposed to the 1.7 percent annual rate previously reported.

#11 The U.S. Postal Service is about to experience its second financial default in just the past two months….

The U.S. Postal Service will default this week on a $5.6 billion congressionally mandated obligation to pre-fund retiree health benefits, marking the second time in two months the cash-strapped agency has done this.

#12 It looks like General Motors is on a path that will lead to bankruptcy (again).

#13 According to a recent survey conducted by State Street Global Advisors, 71 percent of “investors in a survey of 300 around the world, including the largest pension funds, asset managers and private banks, fear an imminent Lehman-like event.”

#14 According to a recent survey of American CEOs by Business Roundtable, the number of CEOs that plan to eliminate jobs has risen significantly from earlier this year….

The CEOs’ decline in confidence comes alongside a worsening employment outlook. Thirty-four percent of the 138 CEOs surveyed said in this quarter’s survey that they expected their companies to cut jobs in the next six months, compared to just 20 percent in the second quarter. Likewise, only 29 percent say they expect employment to grow in the next half year, down from 36 percent last quarter.

But the mainstream media in the United States would like us to believe that everything is getting better.

The mainstream media would like us to believe that QE3 is going to stimulate lots of new hiring all over America, and they are greatly celebrating the fact that the S&P 500 hit a five year high on Thursday.

Well, those on Wall Street should celebrate this monetary “sugar high” while they still can.  Of course QE3 was going to cause stock prices to rise in the short-term, but the reality of the matter is that QE3 is not going to do a thing to stop the financial markets from crashing when the time comes for them to crash.

Economies tend to flourish in a stable, predictable environment.  When you start recklessly printing money, it may help your economic numbers in the short-term, but it disrupts the stability of the system.

And once you have created a tremendous amount of instability, it is really, really hard to convince people that you can create stability once again.

When it comes to economics, confidence is one of the most important ingredients.  If people lose confidence in the system, it almost does not matter what else you do.

As I wrote about the other day, quantitative easing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while, but in the end it resulted in total disaster.

It will also end in total disaster for us.

All over the globe financial authorities are playing all sorts of games in an attempt to keep the system functioning smoothly.  But these games are going to steadily undermine confidence in the system, and that is going to prove to be absolutely deadly.

Take advantage of this period of relative stability while you still can, because when it is gone it is not coming back.

27 Statistics About The European Economic Crisis That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

The economic crisis in Europe continues to get worse and eventually it is going to unravel into a complete economic nightmare.  All over Europe, national governments have piled up debts that are completely unsustainable.  But whenever they start significantly cutting government spending it results in an economic slowdown.  So politicians in Europe are really caught between a rock and a hard place.  They can’t keep racking up these unsustainable debts, but if they continue to cut government spending it is going to push their economies into deep recession and their populations will riot.  Greece is a perfect example of this.  Greece has been going down the austerity road for several years now and they are experiencing a full-blown economic depression, riots have become a way of life in that country and their national budget is still not anywhere close to balanced.  Americans should pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because this is what it looks like when a debt party ends.  Most of the nations in the eurozone have just started implementing austerity, and yet unemployment in the eurozone is already the highest it has been since the euro was introduced.  It has risen for 10 months in a row and is now up to 10.8 percent.  Sadly, it is going to go even higher.  As economies across Europe slide into recession, that is going to put even more pressure on the European financial system.  Most Americans do not realize this, but the European banking system is absolutely enormous.  It is nearly four times the size that the U.S. banking system is.  When the European banking system crashes (and it will) it is going to reverberate around the globe.  The epicenter of the next great financial crisis is going to be in Europe, and it is getting closer with each passing day.

The following are 27 statistics about the European economic crisis that are almost too crazy to believe….

Greece

#1 The Greek economy shrank by 6 percent during 2011, and it has been shrinking for five years in a row.

#2 The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and now the unemployment rate in Greece is up to 21.8 percent.

#3 The youth unemployment rate in Greece is now over 50 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in the port town is Perama is about 60 percent.

#5 In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have closed down during the economic crisis.

#6 Greece now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 160 percent.

#7 Some of the austerity measures that have been implemented in Greece have been absolutely brutal.  For example, Greek civil servants have had their incomes slashed by about 40 percent since 2010.

#8 Despite all of the austerity measures, it is being projected that Greece will still have a budget deficit equivalent to 7 percent of GDP in 2012.

#9 Greece is still facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are equivalent to approximately 800 percent of GDP.

#10 In the midst of all the poverty in Greece, several serious diseases are making a major comeback.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

The incidence of HIV/Aids among intravenous drug users in central Athens soared by 1,250% in the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the head of Médecins sans Frontières Greece, while malaria is becoming endemic in the south for the first time since the rule of the colonels, which ended in the 1970s.

Spain

#11 The unemployment rate in Spain is now up to 23.6 percent.

#12 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 50 percent.

#13 The total value of all toxic loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#14 The GDP of Spain is about 1.4 trillion dollars.  The three largest Spanish banks have approximately 2.7 trillion dollars in assets and they are all on the verge of failing.

#15 Home prices in Spain fell by 11.2 percent during 2011.

#16 The number of property repossessions in Spain rose by 32 percent during 2011.

#17 The ratio of government debt to GDP in Spain will rise by more than 11 percent during 2012.

#18 On top of everything else, Spain is dealing with the worst drought it has seen in 70 years.

Portugal

#19 The unemployment rate in Portugal is up to 15 percent.

#20 The youth unemployment rate in Portugal is now over 35 percent.

#21 Banks in Portugal borrowed a record 56.3 billion euros from the European Central Bank in March.

#22 It is being projected that the Portuguese economy will shrink by 5.7 percent during 2012.

#23 When you add up all forms of debt in Portugal (government, business and consumer) the total is equivalent to approximately 360 percent of GDP.

Italy

#24 Youth unemployment in Italy is up to 31.9 percent – the highest level ever.

#25 Italy’s national debt is approximately 2.7 times larger than the national debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal put together.

#26 If you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to the projected budget deficit, it comes to approximately 23.1 percent of Italy’s GDP.

#27 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 120 percent.

So why hasn’t Europe crashed already?

Well, the powers that be are pulling out all their tricks.

For example, the European Central Bank decided to start loaning gigantic mountains of money to European banks.  That accomplished two things….

1) It kept those European banks from collapsing.

2) European banks used that money to buy up sovereign bonds and that kept interest rates down.

Unfortunately, all of this game playing has also put the European Central Bank in a very vulnerable position.

The balance sheet of the European Central Bank has expanded by more than 1 trillion dollars over the past nine months.  The balance sheet of the European Central Bank is now larger than the entire GDP of Germany and the ECB is now leveraged 36 to 1.

So just how far can you stretch the rubberband before it snaps?

Perhaps we are about to find out.

The European financial system is leveraged like crazy right now.  Even banking systems in countries that you think of as “stable” are leveraged to extremes.

For example, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

When Lehman Brothers finally collapsed, it was only leveraged 30 to 1.

You can’t solve a debt crisis with more debt.  But the European Central Bank has been able to use more debt to kick the can down the road a few more months.

At some point the sovereign debt bubble is going to burst.

All financial bubbles eventually burst.

What goes up must come down.

Right now, the major industrialized nations of the world are approximately 55 trillion dollars in debt.

It has been a fun ride, but this fraudulent pyramid of risk, debt and leverage is going to come crashing down at some point.

It is only a matter of time.

Already, there are a whole bunch of signs that some very serious economic trouble is on the horizon.

Hopefully we still have a few more months until it hits.

But in this day and age nothing is guaranteed.

What does seem abundantly clear is that the current global financial system is inevitably going to fail.

When it does, what “solutions” will our leaders try to impose upon us?

That is something to think about.

Why Is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?

If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically?  Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators.  In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes.  For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically.  There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right.  Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again.  In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986.  Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges.  We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.

If you don’t read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.

Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way….

A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea.

When the global economy is booming, the demand for shipping tends to go up.  When the global economy is slowing down, the demand for shipping tends to decline.

And right now, global shipping is slowing way, way down.

In fact, recently there have been reports of negative shipping rates.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, one company recently booked a ship at the ridiculous rate of negative $2,000 a day….

Glencore International Plc paid nothing to hire a dry-bulk ship with the vessel’s operator paying $2,000 a day of the trader’s fuel costs after freight rates plunged to all-time lows.

Glencore chartered the vessel, operated by Global Maritime Investments Ltd., a Cyprus-based company with offices in London, Steve Rodley, GMI’s U.K. managing director, said by phone today. The daily payments last the first 60 days of the charter, Rodley said. The vessel will haul a cargo of grains to Europe, putting the carrier in a better position for its next shipment, he said.

So why would anyone agree to ship goods at negative rates?

Well, it beats the alternative.

This was explained in a recent Fox Business article….

“They’re doing this because you can’t just have ships sitting. If they sit too long, then that’s hard on the ships. They have to keep them loaded and moving from port to port,” said Darin Newsom, senior commodities analyst at DTN.

If the owner of a ship can get someone to at least pay for part of the fuel and the journey will get the ship closer to its next destination, then that is better than having the ship just sit there.

But just a few short years ago (before the last recession) negative shipping rates would have been unthinkable.

Asian shipping is really slowing down as well.  The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….

Shanghai shipping volumes contracted sharply in January as Europe’s debt crisis curbed demand for Asian goods, stoking fresh doubts about the strength of the Chinese economy.

Container traffic through the Port of Shanghai in January fell by more than a million tons from a year earlier.

So this is something we are seeing all over the globe.

Another indicator that is troubling economists right now is petroleum usage.  It turns out that petroleum usage is really starting to slow down as well.

The following is an excerpt from a recent article posted on Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis….

As I have been telling you recently, there is some unprecedented data coming out in petroleum distillates, and they slap me in the face and tell me we have some very bad economic trends going on, totally out of line with such things as the hopium market – I mean stock market.

This past week I actually had to reformat my graphs as the drop off peak exceeded my bottom number for reporting off peak – a drop of ALMOST 4,000,000 BARRELS PER DAY off the peak usage in our past for this week of the year.

I would encourage you to go check out the charts that were posted in that article.  You can find them right here.  Often a picture is worth a thousand words, and those charts are quite frightening.

Over the past few days, I have been trying to make the point that nothing got fixed after the financial crisis of 2008 and that an even bigger crisis is on the way.

Yes, the stock market is flying high right now.

Yes, even “Dr. Doom” Nouriel Roubini is convinced that the stock market will go even higher.

But this rally will not last that much longer.

Wherever you look, global economic activity is slowing down.  The UK economy and the German economy both actually shrank a bit in the fourth quarter of 2011.  About half of all global trade involves Europe in one form or another.  As Europe slows down, it is going to affect the entire planet.

Many thought that the German economy was so strong that it would not be significantly affected by the problems the rest of Europe is having, but that is turning out not to be the case.

In a new article by CBS News entitled “German economic slowdown worse than expected?“, we are told that industrial production in Germany is declining even more than anticipated….

German industrial production fell 2.9 percent in December from the month before, according to official data released Tuesday, suggesting the country’s economic slowdown could be worse than expected.

So don’t believe all the recent hype about an “economic recovery”.  Europe is heading into a recession, Asia is slowing down and the U.S. will not be immune.

Despite what you hear from the mainstream media, the truth is that the U.S. economy is not improving and incredibly tough times are ahead.

Thankfully, those of us that are aware of what is happening can make preparations for the economic storm that is coming.

Others will not be so fortunate.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!