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20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead - Photo by Frank KovalchekIs the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn?  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now.  Freight volumes and freight expenditures are way down, consumer confidence has declined sharply, major retail chains all over America are closing hundreds of stores, and the “sequester” threatens to give the American people their first significant opportunity to experience what “austerity” tastes like.  Gas prices are going up rapidly, corporate insiders are dumping massive amounts of stock and there are high profile corporate bankruptcies in the news almost every single day now.  In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008.  Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever.  As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed.  In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.

So what will the rest of 2013 bring?

Hopefully the economy will remain stable for as long as possible, but right now things do not look particularly promising.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. economy is heading for big trouble in the months ahead…

#1 Freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#2 The average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen by more than 50 cents over the past two months.  This is making things tougher on our economy, because nearly every form of economic activity involves moving people or goods around.

#3 Reader’s Digest, once one of the most popular magazines in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.

#4 Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, has just filed for bankruptcy.  It had been hoped that Revel would help lead a turnaround for Atlantic City.

#5 A state-appointed review board has determined that there is “no satisfactory plan” to solve Detroit’s financial emergency, and many believe that bankruptcy is imminent.  If Detroit does declare bankruptcy, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#6 David Gallagher, the CEO of Town Sports International, recently said that his company is struggling right now because consumers simply do not have as much disposable income anymore…

“As we moved into January membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.

#7 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the U.S. has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#8 Sales of the Apple iPhone have been slower than projected, and as a result Chinese manufacturing giant FoxConn has instituted a hiring freeze.  The following is from a CNET report that was posted on Wednesday…

The Financial Times noted that it was the first time since a 2009 downturn that the company opted to halt hiring in all of its facilities across the country. The publication talked to multiple recruiters.

The actions taken by Foxconn fuel the concern over the perceived weakened demand for the iPhone 5 and slumping sentiment around Apple in general, with production activity a leading indicator of interest in the product.

#9 In 2012, global cell phone sales posted their first decline since the end of the last recession.

#10 We appear to be in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.  It is being projected that Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack will also close hundreds of stores by the end of 2013.

#11 An internal memo authored by a Wal-Mart executive that was recently leaked to the press said that February sales were a “total disaster” and that the beginning of February was the “worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

#12 If Congress does not do anything and “sequestration” goes into effect on March 1st, the Pentagon says that approximately 800,000 civilian employees will be facing mandatory furloughs.

#13 Barack Obama is admitting that the “sequester” could have a crippling impact on the U.S. economy.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.

He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

“People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

#14 If the “sequester” is allowed to go into effect, the CBO is projecting that it will cause U.S. GDP growth to go down by at least 0.6 percent and that it will “reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs“.

#15 According to a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now in the past.

#16 U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first GDP contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.

#17 For the entire year of 2012, U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5 percent.  According to Art Cashin, every time GDP growth has fallen this low for an entire year, the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#18 The global economy overall is really starting to slow down

The world’s richest countries saw their economies contract for the first time in almost four years during the final three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The Paris-based thinktank said gross domestic product across its 34 member states fell by 0.2% – breaking a period of rising activity stretching back to a 2.3% slump in output in the first quarter of 2009.

All the major economies of the OECD – the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK – have already reported falls in output at the end of 2012, with the thinktank noting that the steepest declines had been seen in the European Union, where GDP fell by 0.5%. Canada is the only member of the G7 currently on course to register an increase in national output.

#19 Corporate insiders are dumping enormous amounts of stock right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#20 Even some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warning that we are heading for an economic collapse.  For example, Seth Klarman, one of the most respected investors on Wall Street, said in his year-end letter that the collapse of the U.S. financial system could happen at any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

So what do you think is going to happen to the U.S. economy in the months ahead?

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

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15 Signs That You Better Get Prepared For The Obama Recession Of 2013

15 Signs That You Better Get Prepared For The Obama Recession Of 2013 - Photo by DjembayzYou better get ready, because there are a whole host of signs that economic trouble is on the horizon.  U.S. economic growth slipped into negative territory during the fourth quarter of 2012.  That was the first time that has happened in more than three years.  Several important measures of manufacturing activity have also contracted in recent weeks, and consumer confidence is way down.  There is a tremendous amount of economic pessimism in the air right now, and Americans are pulling enormous amounts of money out of our banks and they are buying up precious metals at unprecedented rates.  Meanwhile, our “leaders” seem very confused about what is happening.  For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to insist that we are “in a recovery“, and some other Democrats are calling the latest GDP numbers “the best-looking contraction in U.S. GDP you’ll ever see“.  On the other hand, the Federal Reserve says that economic growth has “paused” in recent months, and therefore a continuation of their latest quantitative easing scheme is necessary.  Well, no matter how hard any of them try to spin the numbers, there is no way that they are going to get them to look good.  Despite four years of outrageous “stimulus” spending by the federal government, despite four years of record low interest rates, and despite four years of unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy continues to perform miserably.  Later this year the federal government will probably finally acknowledge that we have entered another recession, even though the truth is that if the federal government used honest numbers they would indicate that we are already in one.  In any event, nobody should have ever expected that our debt-fueled prosperity would last forever.  When the debt bubble that we have been living in completely bursts, a “recession” will be the least of our worries.

Hopefully this little stretch of false economic hope that we have been living in will last for a little while longer.  I don’t think that too many people are very eager to repeat the horrible economic pain that we experienced back in 2008 and 2009.  Unfortunately, we never fully recovered from that last downturn and now the incredibly foolish decisions that our “leaders” continue to make have made another major economic downturn inevitable.

Personally, I would very much prefer for 2013 to be a year of peace and prosperity for America.  But at this point there appears to be a great deal of downward momentum for the economy.

The following are 15 signs that you better get prepared for the Obama recession of 2013…

#1 The mainstream media was absolutely shocked when it was announced that U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.  But of course the truth is that the official numbers always make things appear better than they really are.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, U.S. GDP growth has actually been continuously negative all the way back to 2005 once you account “for distortions in government inflation usage and methodological changes that have resulted in a built-in upside bias to official reporting.”

#2 For the entire year of 2012, official U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5%.  According to Art Cashin, every time economic growth has fallen that low (below 2 percent annually) the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#3 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the United States has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#4 For the week ending January 26th, initial claims for unemployment rose to 368,000.  In future weeks, watch to see if it goes above 400,000.  If we hit that level, that will be a sign of real trouble for the economy.

#5 During the first full week of January, an astounding $114 billion was pulled out of U.S. banks.  That is the largest amount that we have seen moved out of U.S. banks in one week since 2001.

#6 The U.S. Mint was on pace to sell more silver eagles during the first month of 2013 than it did during the entire year of 2007.  Why is so much silver being sold all of a sudden?

#7 The payroll tax hike that went into effect in January has reduced the paychecks of average American workers by about $100 a month.

#8 Several important measures of manufacturing activity along the east coast missed expectations by a huge margin in January.  The following summary is from a recent Zero Hedge article

So much for the latest “recovery.” While everyone continued to forget that in the New Normal markets do not reflect the underlying economy in the least, and that the all time highs in the Russell 2000 should indicate that the US economy has never been better, things in reality took a deep dive for the worse, at least according to the Empire State Fed, the Philly Fed, and now the Richmond Fed, all of which missed expectations by a huge margin, and are now deep in contraction territory. Moments ago, the Richmond Fed reported that the Manufacturing Index imploded from a 9 in November, 5 in December and missed expectations of a 5 print at -12: this was the biggest miss to expectations since September 2009.

#9 An astounding 33 percent of all “subprime student loans” are at least 90 days past due.  Back in 2007, that number was only at 24 percent.  Could this be evidence that the student loan debt bubble is beginning to burst?

#10 Time Inc. has just announced that it will be eliminating hundreds of jobs.

#11 Blockbuster recently announced that they are closing hundreds of stores and eliminating about 3,000 jobs.

#12 Toy maker Hasbro has announced that the size of their workforce will be reduced by about 10 percent.

#13 According to a new Pew Research study that was just released, one out of every seven adults in the United States is financially supporting their kids and their parents at the same time.  Pew Research is calling it “the Sandwich Generation”.

#14 According to one recent Gallup poll, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now behind us.

#15 According to a different Gallup poll, Americans are now more pessimistic about where the U.S. economy will be five years from now than Gallup has ever recorded before.

So what is Barack Obama doing about all of this?

Not much.

Actually, he is shutting down his much ballyhooed “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness”.  It last convened more than a year ago on Jan. 17th, 2012, and apparently Obama does not feel that it is needed any longer.

Of course we all know that it was just a political stunt to begin with.

Sadly, the truth is that both parties have been leading us down a road toward economic oblivion.  The past four years under Obama have been absolutely nightmarish, and even though the Republicans have been in control of the House for the last couple of years they have done very little to even slow him down.

For much more on the decline of the economy over the past four years, please see this article: “37 Statistics Which Show How Four Years Of Obama Have Wrecked The U.S. Economy“.

Yes, I tend to criticize Obama’s economic policies a lot, and rightfully so, but neither political party is willing to tell the American people the truth.

40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system was less than 2 trillion dollars.

Today, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system has grown to more than 55 trillion dollars.

It hasn’t mattered which party has occupied the White House or which party has been in control of Congress.  The debt bubble that we have been living in has just continued to grow.

And all bubbles eventually pop.

The mainstream media is endlessly obsessed with the little fights that the Republicans and the Democrats are having, but they never talk about the bigger picture.

The prosperity that we are enjoying today is the result of the biggest debt binge in the history of the world.

We have stolen a giant mountain of money from our children and our grandchildren and we have destroyed their futures.

People can debate about whether the next “recession” has already started or not, but the truth is that what we are experiencing now is nothing compared to what is coming.

In the end, we will pay a great price for our decades of foolishness.

The U.S. economy is going to completely collapse, and the last few years have only been the very beginning of that process.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama in the Blue Room of the White House on Inauguration Day

65 Percent Of Americans Believe That 2013 Will Be A Year Of Economic Difficulty

65 Percent Of Americans Believe That 2013 Will Be A Year Of Economic Difficulty - Photo by Larali21Do you believe that economic trouble is coming in 2013?  If so, you have a lot of company.  According to a brand new Gallup poll that was just released, 65 percent of Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty” while only 33 percent of Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic prosperity”.  Gallup has been asking this question for a lot of years, and the percentage of Americans that are anticipating economic difficulty in the year ahead has not been this high since the early 1980s.  And without a doubt, there are a whole lot of reasons to be deeply concerned about the economy as we head into the new year.  But it isn’t just 2013 that Americans are pessimistic about.  According to the new Gallup poll, 50 percent of all Americans believe that the best days of America are behind us, and only 47 percent of all Americans believe that the best days of America are ahead of us.  Those are very sobering numbers.  Half the country believes that it is only downhill from here for the United States.  Unfortunately, they are exactly right.  Things are rapidly going to get worse for our economy and for our nation as a whole.  We are going to start reaping the consequences of decades of very foolish decisions, and the pain is going to be immense.

Gallup asked some other very interesting questions as well.  The following are some of the other results from the poll

-68 percent of Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of rising crime rates.

-57 percent of Americans believe that 2013 will be a year in which American power will decline in the world.

-82 percent of Americans believe that 2013 will be a year in which taxes in the United States will rise.

So why are so many people so pessimistic as we enter 2013?

That is a good question.  I think that a lot of people are starting to wake up and are realizing the gigantic problems that are staring the U.S. right in the face.

Even our friends over in Europe can see what is happening to us.  We are like a former athletic champion that is now clearly on the wrong side of “middle age” and is exhibiting obvious signs of decline.  We still like to think of ourselves as “the champ”, but the truth is that we are fat, lazy, broken down and bankrupt.  The following is a brief excerpt from an article that appeared in a major UK news source the other day…

The rest of the world — dangerously reliant on a buoyant U.S. — should note one thing above all: the fundamentals of America’s economy are, frankly, terrible, and its international dominance is not nearly as assured as it once was.

Its economic culture has started to change since President Obama entered the White House four years ago this month.

America more closely resembles Europe in living beyond its means and in the President’s determination to build a massive welfare state.

The mainstream media and most of our politicians endlessly proclaim that things are about to turn around and that a “recovery” is on the way, but that is not even close to the truth.

Fortunately, a few of our politicians realize what is really happening and are willing to talk about it.  Unfortunately, not enough people are listening to them.

For example, Ron Paul has a really good grasp on how destructive the U.S. national debt is and how we are literally destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren should have had.  The following is what he posted on his Facebook page the other day about the “fiscal cliff deal” that just got pushed through Congress…

We Are Already Over the Fiscal Cliff

2 January 2013

Despite claims that the Administration and Congress saved America from the fiscal cliff with an early morning vote today, the fact is that government spending has already pushed Americans over the cliff. Only serious reductions in federal spending will stop the cliff dive from ending in a crash landing, yet the events of this past month show that most elected officials remain committed to expanding the welfare-warfare state.

While there was much hand-wringing over the “draconian” cuts that would be imposed by sequestration, in fact sequestration does not cut spending at all. Under the sequestration plan, government spending will increase by 1.6 trillion over the next eight years. Congress calls this a cut because without sequestration spending will increase by 1.7 trillion over the same time frame. Either way it is an increase in spending.

Yet even these minuscule cuts in the “projected rate of spending” were too much for Washington politicians to bear. The last minute “deal” was the worst of both worlds: higher taxes on nearly all Americans now and a promise to revisit these modest reductions in spending growth two months down the road. We were here before, when in 2011 Republicans demanded these automatic modest decreases in government growth down the road in exchange for a massive increase in the debt ceiling. As the time drew closer, both parties clamored to avoid even these modest moves.

Make no mistake: the spending addiction is a bipartisan problem. It is generally believed that one party refuses to accept any reductions in military spending while the other party refuses to accept any serious reductions in domestic welfare programs. In fact, both parties support increases in both military and domestic welfare spending. The two parties may disagree on some details of what kind of military or domestic welfare spending they favor, but they do agree that they both need to increase. This is what is called “bipartisanship” in Washington.

While the media played up the drama of the down-to-the-wire negotiations, there was never any real chance that a deal would not be worked out. It was just drama. That is how Washington operates. As it happened, a small handful of Congressional and Administration leaders gathered in the dark of the night behind closed doors to hammer out a deal that would be shoved down the throats of Members whose constituents had been told repeatedly that the world would end if this miniscule decrease in the rate of government spending was allowed to go through.

While many on both sides express satisfaction that this deal only increases taxes on the “rich,” most Americans will see more of their paycheck going to Washington because of the deal. The Tax Policy Center has estimated that 77 percent of Americans would see higher taxes because of the elimination of the payroll tax cut.

The arguments against the automatic “cuts” in military spending were particularly dishonest. Hawks on both sides warned of doom and gloom if, as the plan called for, the defense budget would have returned to 2007 levels of spending! Does anybody really believe that our defense spending was woefully inadequate just five years ago? And since 2007 we have been told that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next eight years military spending would increase 20 percent without the sequester and would increase 18 percent with the sequester. And this is what is called a dangerous reduction in defense spending?

Ironically, some of the members who are most vocal against tax increases and in favor of cuts to domestic spending are the biggest opponents of cutting a penny from the Pentagon budget. Over and over we were told of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be lost should military spending be returned to 2007 levels. Is it really healthy to think of our defense budget as a jobs program? Many of these allegedly free-market members sound more Keynesian than Paul Krugman when they praise the economic “stimulus” created by militarism.

As Chris Preble of the Cato Institute wrote recently, “It’s easy to focus exclusively on the companies and individuals hurt by the cuts and forget that the taxed wealth that funded them is being employed elsewhere.”

While Congress ultimately bears responsibility for deficit spending, we must never forget that the Federal Reserve is the chief enabler of deficit spending. Without a central bank eager to monetize the debt, Congress would be unable to fund the welfare-warfare state without imposing unacceptable levels of taxation on the American people. Of course, the Federal Reserve’s policies do impose an “inflation” tax on the American people; however, since this tax is hidden Congress does not fear the same public backlash it would experience if it directly raised income taxes.

I have little hope that a majority of Congress and the President will change their ways and support real spending reductions unless forced to by an economic crisis or by a change in people’s attitudes toward government. Fortunately, increasing numbers of Americans are awakening to the dangers posed by the growth of the welfare-warfare state. Hopefully this movement will continue to grow and force the politicians to reverse course before government spending, taxing, and inflation destroys our economy entirely.

It was good that Ron Paul placed blame on both political parties and on the Federal Reserve for our debt problems.

The Federal Reserve is not often talked about much when it comes to assigning blame for the debt, but it truly is one of the primary reasons why our debt is so enormous today.  The Federal Reserve system was designed to be a perpetual government debt machine, and it has accomplished that task very well.

When the Federal Reserve was first created, the total U.S. national debt was less than 3 billion dollars.

That is about as much as we add to the U.S. national debt every single day at this point.

And since Ben Bernanke took the reigns at the Fed, our debt problems have greatly accelerated.

The U.S. national debt has more than doubled from a little over $8 trillion to more than $16.4 trillion since Ben Bernanke became chairman of the Federal Reserve in 2006.

But disaster has not struck yet, so most Americans think that everything must be okay.

Well, if you want to ignore all of the evidence of our impending economic demise, go ahead and do that.  Go on lots of expensive vacations, run up your credit cards, buy a new boat and party like its 1999.  Enjoy every minute of our debt-fueled prosperity while you still can.  You only live once, right?

But if you are wise, you will try to understand what is coming and you will make preparations so that you and your family will be able to withstand the storm that is coming.  Here are some basic steps that I suggest…

-Use this time of relative prosperity to work hard and make money while you still can.  You want to store up your finances during the good times to help you get through the lean times.

-Get out of debt.  You don’t want massive amounts of debt weighing you down when things get really hard.

-Get more independent of the world system.  Start a side business in the evenings and the weekends.  Learn how to grow your own food.  Get your house off of the grid if possible.  Anything you can do to become more independent and more self-sufficient is good.

-Store food and other essential supplies.  Right now we take for granted that the supermarkets and the big box stores will always be packed with mountains of quality goods at affordable prices.  That may not always be the case.  You want to be prepared for whatever may happen.

For even more tips, please see my previous article entitled “How To Prepare For The Difficult Years Ahead“.

All bubbles eventually burst.

Our national debt bubble will eventually burst.

The derivatives bubble will eventually burst.

The consumer debt bubble will eventually burst.

When those bubbles burst, will you be ready?

I hope and pray that you will.

2013 - Time Is Running Out

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