Are we at the tail end of the stock market bubble to end all stock market bubbles? Wall Street was full of glee Monday when the Nasdaq closed above 5000 for the first time since the peak of the dotcom bubble in March 2000. And almost everyone in the financial world seems convinced that things are somehow “different” this time around. Even though by almost every objective measure stocks are wildly overpriced right now, and even though there are a whole host of signs that economic trouble is on the horizon, the overwhelming consensus is that this bull market is just going to keep charging ahead. But of course that is what they thought just before the last two stock market crashes in 2001 and 2008 as well. No matter how many times history repeats, we never seem to learn from it.
Back in October 2002, the Nasdaq hit a post-dotcom bubble low of 1108. From there, it went on an impressive run. In late 2007, it briefly moved above 2800 before losing more than half of its value during the stock market crash of 2008.
So the fact that the Nasdaq has now closed above 5000 is a really big deal. The following is how USA Today described what happened on Monday…
The Nasdaq Composite capped its long march back to 5000 Monday, eclipsing, then closing above the long-hallowed mark for the first time since March 2000.
The arduous climb came on the heels of a 10-day winning streak that ended last week, Nasdaq’s longest since July 2009. That helped fuel the technology-heavy market index to a 7% gain in February, the sixth-largest monthly climb since its 1971 launch.
The chart below shows how the Nasdaq has performed over the past decade. As you can see, we are coming dangerously close to doubling the peak that was hit just before the last stock market collapse…
By looking at that chart, you would be tempted to think that the overall U.S. economy must be doing great.
But of course that is not the case at all.
For example, just take a look at what has happened to the employment-population ratio over the past decade. The percentage of the working age U.S. population that is currently employed is actually far lower than it used to be…
So why is the stock market doing so well if the overall economy is not?
Well, the truth is that stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality at this point. Wall Street has been transformed into a giant casino, and trading stocks has been transformed into a high stakes poker game.
And one of the ways that we can tell that a stock market bubble has formed is when people start borrowing massive amounts of money to invest in stocks. As you can see from the commentary and chart from Doug Short below, margin debt is peaking again just like it did just prior to the last two stock market crashes…
Unfortunately, the NYSE margin debt data is a month old when it is published. Real (inflation-adjusted) debt hit its all-time high in February 2014, after which it margin declined sharply for two months, but by June it had risen to a level about two percent below its high and then oscillated in a relatively narrow range. The latest data point for January is four percent off its real high eleven month ago.
So why can’t more people see this?
We are in the midst of a monumental stock market bubble and most on Wall Street seem willingly blind to it.
Fortunately, there are a few sober voices in the crowd. One of them is John Hussman. He is warning that now is the time to get out of stocks…
Unless we observe a rather swift improvement in market internals and a further, material easing in credit spreads – neither which would relieve the present overvaluation of the market, but both which would defer our immediate concerns about downside risk – the present moment likely represents the best opportunity to reduce exposure to stock market risk that investors are likely to encounter in the coming 8 years.
Last week, the cyclically-adjusted P/E of the S&P 500 Index surpassed 27, versus a historical norm of just 15 prior to the late-1990’s market bubble. The S&P 500 price/revenue ratio surpassed 1.8, versus a pre-bubble norm of just 0.8. On a wide range of historically reliable measures (having a nearly 90% correlation with actual subsequent S&P 500 total returns), we estimate current valuations to be fully 118% above levels associated with historically normal subsequent returns in stocks. Advisory bullishness (Investors Intelligence) shot to 59.5%, compared with only 14.1% bears – one of the most lopsided sentiment extremes on record. The S&P 500 registered a record high after an advancing half-cycle since 2009 that is historically long-in-the-tooth and already exceeds the valuation peaks set at every cyclical extreme in history but 2000 on the S&P 500 (across all stocks, current median price/earnings, price/revenue and enterprise value/EBITDA multiples already exceed the 2000 extreme). Equally important, our measures of market internals and credit spreads, despite moderate improvement in recent weeks, continue to suggest a shift toward risk-aversion among investors. An environment of compressed risk premiums coupled with increasing risk-aversion is without question the most hostile set of features one can identify in the historical record.
Everyone knows that the stock market cannot stay detached from economic reality forever.
At some point the bubble is going to burst.
If you want to know what the real economy is like, just ask Alison Norris of Detroit, Michigan…
When Alison Norris couldn’t find work in Detroit, she searched past city limits, ending up with a part-time restaurant job 20 miles away, which takes at least two hours to get to using public transportation.
Norris has to take two buses to her job at a suburban mall in Troy, Michigan, using separate city and suburban bus systems.
For many city residents with limited skills and education, Detroit is an employment desert, having lost tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs in manufacturing cutbacks and service jobs as the population dwindled.
Sadly, her story is not an anomaly. I get emails from readers all the time that are out of work and just can’t seem to find a decent job no matter how hard they try.
It would be one thing if the stock market was soaring because the U.S. economy was thriving.
But we all know that is not true.
So that means the current stock market mania that we are witnessing is artificial.
How long will it last?
Give us your opinion by posting a comment below…
When the coming economic crisis strikes, more than half the country is going to be financially wiped out within weeks. At this point, more than 60 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and a whopping 24 percent of the country has more credit card debt than emergency savings. One of the primary principles that any of these “financial experts” that you see on television will teach you is to have a cushion to fall back on. At the very least, you never know when unexpected expenses like major car repairs or medical bills will come along. And in the event of a major economic collapse, if you do not have any financial cushion at all you will be a sitting duck. Yes, I know that there are millions upon millions of families out there that are just trying to scrape by from month to month at this point. I hear from people that are deeply struggling in this economy all the time. So I don’t blame them for not being able to save lots of money. But if you are in a position to build up an emergency fund, you need to do so. We have been experiencing an extended period of relative economic stability, but it will not last. In fact, the time for getting prepared for the next great economic downturn is rapidly running out, and most Americans are not ready for it at all. The following are 14 signs that most Americans are flat broke and totally unprepared for the coming economic crisis…
#1 According to a survey that was just released, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings.
#2 That same survey discovered that an additional 13 percent of all Americans do not have any credit card debt, but they do not have a single penny of emergency savings either.
#3 At this point, approximately 62 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
#4 Adults under the age of 35 in the United States currently have a savings rate of negative 2 percent.
#5 More than half of all students in U.S. public schools come from families that are poor enough to qualify for school lunch subsidies.
#6 A study that was conducted last year found that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.
#7 One survey discovered that 52 percent of all Americans really cannot even financially afford the homes that they are living in right now.
#8 According to research conducted by Atif Mian of Princeton University and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $2000 right now without borrowing it.
#9 That same study found that 60 percent of Americans could not say yes to the following question…
“Do you have 3 months emergency funds to cover expenses in case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn?”
#10 A different study discovered that less than one out of every four Americans has enough money stored away to cover six months of expenses.
#11 Today, the average American household is carrying a grand total of 203,163 dollars of debt.
#12 It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the entire U.S. population owns any gold or silver for investment purposes.
#13 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies in their homes whatsoever.
#14 53 percent of all Americans do not even have a minimum three day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.
Perhaps none of this concerns you.
Perhaps you think that this bubble economy can persist indefinitely.
Well, if you won’t listen to the more than 1200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse on my website, perhaps you will listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. The following is what he recently told one interviewer…
We asked him where he thought the gold price will be in five years and he said “measurably higher.”
In private conversation I asked him about the outstanding debts… and that the debt load in the U.S. had gotten so great that there has to be some monetary depreciation. Specially he said that the era of quantitative easing and zero-interest rate policies by the Fed… we really cannot exit this without some significant market event… By that I interpret it being either a stock market crash or a prolonged recession, which would then engender another round of monetary reflation by the Fed.
He thinks something big is going to happen that we can’t get out of this era of money printing without some repercussions – and pretty severe ones – that gold will benefit from.
And as I have stressed so frequently, the signs that the next crisis is almost here are all around us.
For example, the Baltic Dry Index has just plunged to a fresh record low, and things have already gotten so bad that some global shippers are now filing for bankruptcy…
The unintended consequences of a money-printed, credit-fueled, mal-investment-boom in commodities (prices – as opposed to physical demand per se) and the downstream signals that sent to any and all industries are starting to bite. The Baltic Dry Index has plunged once again to new record lows and the collapse of the non-financialized ‘clean’ indicator of the imbalances between global trade demand and freight transport supply has the real-world effects are starting to be felt, as Reuters reports the third dry-bulk shipper this month has filed for bankruptcy… in what shippers call “the worst market conditions since the ’80s.”
Perhaps you do see things coming.
Perhaps you do want to get prepared.
If you are new to all of this, and you don’t quite know how to get started preparing, please see my previous article entitled “89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic Depression“. It will give you some basic tips that you can start implementing right away.
And of course one of the most important things is something that I talked about at the top of this article.
If at all possible, you have got to have an emergency fund. When the coming economic storm strikes, your family is going to need something to fall back on.
If you are trusting in the government to save you when things fall apart, you will be severely disappointed.
Is this the beginning of the end for the eurozone? On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek request for a six-month loan extension. The Germans insisted that the Greek proposal did not require the Greeks to adhere to the austerity restrictions which previous agreements had forced upon them. But Greek voters have already very clearly rejected the status quo, and the new Greek government has stated unequivocally that it will not be bound by the current bailout arrangement. So can Germany and Greece find some sort of compromise that will be acceptable to both of them? It certainly does not help that some Greek politicians have been comparing the current German government to the Nazis, and the Germans have fired back with some very nasty comments about the Greeks. Unfortunately for both of them, time is running out. The Greek government will run out of money in just a couple of weeks, and without a deal there is a very good chance that Greece will be forced to leave the euro. In fact, this week Commerzbank AG increased the probability of a “Grexit” to 50 percent. And if Greece does leave the eurozone, it could spark a full blown European financial crisis which would be absolutely catastrophic.
What the Greeks want right now is a six month loan extension which would give them much more economic flexibility than under the current agreement. Unfortunately for the Greeks, Germany has rejected this proposal…
Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday, saying it was “not a substantial solution” because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout.
Berlin’s stance set the scene for tough talks at a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday when Greece’s new leftist-led government, racing to avoid running out of money within weeks, will face pressure to make further concessions.
As the biggest creditor and EU paymaster, Germany has the clout to block a deal and cast Greece adrift without a financial lifeline, potentially pushing it toward the euro zone exit.
Even though Germany is already saying no to this deal, Greece is still hoping that the Eurogroup will accept the deal that it has proposed…
“The Greek government submitted a letter to the Eurogroup asking for a six-month extension of the loan agreement. Tomorrow’s Eurogroup has only two options: either to accept or reject the Greek request,” a government official said. “It will then be clear who wants to find a solution and who doesn’t.” Earlier on Thursday, the German finance ministry rejected Athens’ request for an extension by saying it fell short of the conditions set out earlier this week by the euro zone.
At this point, the odds of a deal going through don’t look good.
But there is always next week. It is possible that something could still happen.
However, if there is no deal and Greece is forced out of the euro, the consequences for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone could be quite dramatic.
The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to Greece…
An immediate financial crisis and a new, deep, recession. Without external financial support the country would have to default on its debts and, probably, start printing its own currency again in order to pay civil servants. Its banks would also lose access to funding from the European Central Bank.
To prevent these institutions collapsing Athens would have impose controls on the movement of money out of the country. The international value of the new Greek currency would inevitably be much lower than the euro. That would mean an instant drop in living standards for Greeks as import prices spike. And if Greeks have foreign debts which they have to pay back in euros they will also be instantly worse off. There could be a cascade of defaults.
That doesn’t sound pretty at all.
The most frightening part for those that have money in Greek banks would be the capital controls that would be imposed. People would have to deal with strict restrictions on how much money they could take out of their accounts and on how much money they could take out of the country.
In anticipation of this happening, people are already pulling money out of Greek banks at a staggering pace…
In the midst of the dramatic showdown in Brussels between the new Greek government and its European creditors, many Greek depositors—spooked by the prospect of a Greek default or, worse, an exit from the euro zone and a possible return to the drachma—have been pulling euros out of the nation’s banks in record amounts over the last few days.
The Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank won’t report official cash outflows for January until the end of the month. But sources in the Greek banking sector have told Greek newspapers that as much as 25 billion euros (US $28.4 billion) have left Greek banks since the end of December. According to the same sources, an estimated 900 million euros flowed out of Greek banks on Tuesday alone, the day after the talks broke up in Brussels, sparking fears that measures will be taken to stem the outflow. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, deposits had shrunk by about 680 million euros (US $77.3 million).
“If outflows reach 1 billion euros, capital controls might need to be imposed,” said Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for Estia a conservative daily, and To Vima, an influential Sunday newspaper.
And if we do indeed witness a “Grexit”, the rest of Europe would be deeply affected as well.
The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to the rest of the continent…
There would probably be some financial contagion as financial investors wake up to the fact that euro membership is not irreversible. There could a “flight to safety” as depositors pull euros out of other potentially vulnerable eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain or Italy to avoid taking a hit. European company share prices could also fall sharply if investors panic and divert their cash into the government bonds of states such as Germany and Finland.
The question is how severe this contagion would be. The continent’s politicians and regulators seem to think the impact would be relatively small, saying that Europe’s banks have reduced their cross-border exposure to Greece and that general confidence in the future of the eurozone is much stronger than it was a few years ago. But others think this is too complacent. The truth is that no one knows for sure.
To be honest, I think that the rest of the eurozone is being far too complacent about what Greece leaving would mean.
There are all kinds of implications that most people are not even discussing yet.
For example, just consider what a “Grexit” would mean for the European interbank payment system known as Target2. The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard…
In normal times, Target2 adjustments are routine and self-correcting. They occur automatically as money is shifted around the currency bloc. The US Federal Reserve has a similar internal system to square books across regions. They turn nuclear if monetary union breaks up.
The Target2 “debts” owed by Greece’s central bank to the ECB jumped to €49bn in December as capital flight accelerated on fears of a Syriza victory. They may have reached €65bn or €70bn by now.
A Greek default – unavoidable in a Grexit scenario – would crystallize these losses. The German people would discover instantly that a large sum of money committed without their knowledge and without a vote in the Bundestag had vanished.
And in a previous article, I discussed some of the other things that are at stake…
If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel. In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.
At the end of the day, there are essentially only two choices for Europe…
#1) Find a way to make a deal, which would maybe keep the current financial house of cards together for another six months.
#2) A horrifying European financial crisis starting almost immediately.
In the long-term, nothing is going to stop the economic horror which is coming to Europe, and once it starts it is going to drag down the entire planet.
Europe is on the verge of a horrifying financial meltdown, and there are only a few short weeks left to avert total disaster. On Monday, talks that were supposed to bring about yet another temporary “resolution” to the Greek debt crisis completely fell apart. The new Greek government has entirely rejected the idea of a six month extension of the current bailout. The Greeks want a new deal which would enable them to implement the promises that have been made to the voters. But that is not going to fly with the Germans, among others. They expect the Greeks to fulfill the obligations that were agreed to previously. The two sides are not even in the same ballpark at this point, and things are starting to get very personal. It is no secret that the new Greek government does not like the Germans, and the Germans are not particularly fond of the Greeks at this point. But unless they can find a way to work out a deal, things could get quite messy very rapidly. The Greek government has about three weeks of cash left, and any changes to the current bailout arrangement would have to be approved by parliaments all over Europe by March 1st. And the stakes are incredibly high. If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel. In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.
On Monday, eurozone officials tried to get the Greeks to extend the current bailout package for six months with the current austerity provisions in place. Greek government officials responded by saying that “those who bring this back are wasting their time” and that those negotiating on behalf of the eurozone are being “unreasonable”…
A Greek government official said that a draft text presented to eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday spoke of Greece extending its current bailout package and as such was “unreasonable” and would not be accepted.
Without specifying who put forward the text to the meeting chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the official said: “Some people’s insistence on the Greek government implementing the bailout is unreasonable and cannot be accepted.”
Most observers have speculated that the new Greek government would give in to the demands of the rest of the eurozone when push came to shove.
But these new Greek politicians are a different breed. They are not establishment lackeys. Rather, they are very principled radicals, and they are not about to be pushed around. I certainly do not agree with their politics, but I admire the fact that they are willing to stand up for what they believe. That is a very rare thing these days.
On Monday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis shared the following in the New York Times…
I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed.
Does that sound like a man that is going to back down to you?
Meanwhile, the other side continues to dig in as well.
Just consider the words of the German finance minister…
Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, accused the Greek government of “behaving irresponsibly” by threatening to tear up agreements made with the eurozone in return for access to the loans which are all that stand between Greece and financial collapse.
“It seems like we have no results so far. I’m quite skeptical. The Greek government has not moved, apparently,” he said.
“As long as the Greek government doesn’t want a program, I don’t have to think about options.”
Global financial markets are still acting as if they fully expect a deal to get done eventually.
I am not so sure.
And without a doubt, time is running short. As I mentioned above, something has got to be finalized by March 1st. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
Any changes to the content or expiration date of Greece’s existing €240 billion ($273 billion) bailout have to be decided by Friday, to give national parliaments in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands enough time to approve them before the end of the month. Without such a deal, Greece will be on its own on March 1, cut loose from the rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund that have sustained it for almost five years.
So what happens if there is no deal and Greece is forced to leave the eurozone?
Below, I have shared an excerpt from an article that details what Capital Economics believes would happen in the event of a “Grexit”…
- The drachma would be back. The euro would be effectively abandoned, and Greece would return to the drachma, its previous currency (it might take a new name). The drachma would likely tumble in value against the euro as soon as it was issued, and how much the government could print quickly would be a big issue.
- It would have to be fast, with capital controls. There would be people trying to pull their money out of Greece’s banks en masse. The Greek government would have to make that illegal pretty quickly. The European Central Bank drew up Grexit plans in 2012, and might be dusting them off now.
- European life support for Greek banks would be withdrawn. Greek banks can currently access emergency liquidity assistance from the ECB, which would be removed if Greece left the euro.
- Likely unrest and disorder. Barclays expects that this sudden economic collapse would “aggravate social unrest”, and notes that historically similar moves have caused a 45-85% devaluation of the currency. Capital Economics suggests that the drop could be more mild, closer to 20%, and Oxford Economics says 30%.
- Greece would resume economic policymaking. Greece’s central bank would probably start doing its own QE programme, and the government would likely return to running deficits, no longer restrained by bailout rules (though investors would probably want large returns, given the risk of another default).
- Inflation would spike immediately, but both Capital Economics and Oxford Economics say that should be temporary. It might look a bit like Russia this year — with the new currency in freefall until it finds its level against the euro, prices inside Greece would rise at dramatic speed. The inflation might be temporary, however, because with unemployment above 20%, Greece has plenty of spare labour slack to produce more.
That certainly does not sound good.
And once Greece leaves, everyone would be wondering who is next, because there are quite a few other deeply financially troubled nations in the eurozone.
David Stockman believes that Spain is a prime candidate…
In spite of the “recovery” in Spain, close to 24% are still unemployed. That statistic explains Pessimism in the Streets.
The crisis is here to stay according to significant majority of Spaniards. The general perception is that the current situation in which the country is negative and far from getting better, can only stay stagnant or even worse.
A Metroscopia poll published in El País makes it clear that the Spanish are unhappy with the current state of the country. Five out of six (83%) see the economic situation as “bad”, while more than half of the remaining perceive “regular”.
Right now, Europe is already teetering on the brink of an economic depression.
If this Greek debt crisis is not resolved, it could set in motion a chain of events which could start collapsing financial institutions all over Europe.
Yes, we have been here before and a deal has always emerged in the end.
But this time is different. This time very idealistic radicals are running things in Greece, and the “old guard” in Europe has no intention of giving in to them.
So let’s watch and see how this game of “chicken” plays out.
I have a feeling that it is not going to end well.
This is just the beginning of the oil crisis. Over the past couple of weeks, the price of U.S. oil has rallied back above 50 dollars a barrel. In fact, as I write this, it is sitting at $52.93. But this rally will not last. In fact, analysts at the big banks are warning that we could soon see U.S. oil hit the $20 mark. The reason for this is that the production of oil globally is still way above the current level of demand. Things have gotten so bad that millions of barrels of oil are being stored at sea as companies wait for the price of oil to go back up. But the price is not going to go back up any time soon. Even though rigs are being shut down in the United States at the fastest pace since the last financial crisis, oil production continues to go up. In fact, last week more oil was produced in the U.S. than at any time since the 1970s. This is really bad news for the economy, because the price of oil is already at a catastrophically low level for the global financial system. If the price of oil stays at this level for the rest of the year, we are going to see a whole bunch of energy companies fail, billions of dollars of debt issued by energy companies could go bad, and trillions of dollars of derivatives related to the energy industry could implode. In other words, this is a recipe for a financial meltdown, and the longer the price of oil stays at this level (or lower), the more damage it is going to do.
The way things stand, there is simply just way too much oil sitting out there. And anyone that has taken Economics 101 knows that when supply far exceeds demand, prices go down…
Oil prices have gotten crushed for the last six months. The extent to which that was caused by an excess of supply or by a slowdown in demand has big implications for where prices will head next. People wishing for a big rebound may not want to read farther.
Goldman Sachs released an intriguing analysis on Wednesday that shows what many already suspected: The big culprit in the oil crash has been an abundance of oil flooding the market. A massive supply shock in the second half of last year accounted for most of the decline. In December and January, slowing demand contributed to the continued sell-off.
At this point so much oil has already been stored up that companies are running out of places to put in all. Just consider the words of Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn…
“I think the oil market is trying to figure out an equilibrium price. The danger here, as we try and find an equilibrium price, at some point we may end up in a situation where storage capacity gets very, very limited. We may have too much physical oil for the available storage in certain locations. And it may be a locational issue.”
“And you may just see lots of oil in certain locations around the world where oil will have to price to such a cheap discount vis-a-vis the forward price that you make second tier, and third tier and fourth tier storage available.”
[…] “You could see the price fall relatively quickly to make that storage work in the market.”
The market for oil has fundamentally changed, and that means that the price of oil is not going to go back to where it used to be. In fact, Goldman Sachs economist Sven Jari Stehn says that we are probably heading for permanently lower prices…
The big take-away: “[T]he decline in oil has been driven by an oversupplied global oil market,” wrote Goldman economist Sven Jari Stehn. As a result, “the new equilibrium price of oil will likely be much lower than over the past decade.”
So how low could prices ultimately go?
As I mentioned above, some analysts are throwing around $20 as a target number…
The recent surge in oil prices is just a “head-fake,” and oil as cheap as $20 a barrel may soon be on the way, Citigroup said in a report on Monday as it lowered its forecast for crude.
Despite global declines in spending that have driven up oil prices in recent weeks, oil production in the U.S. is still rising, wrote Edward Morse, Citigroup’s global head of commodity research. Brazil and Russia are pumping oil at record levels, and Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran have been fighting to maintain their market share by cutting prices to Asia. The market is oversupplied, and storage tanks are topping out.
A pullback in production isn’t likely until the third quarter, Morse said. In the meantime, West Texas Intermediate Crude, which currently trades at around $52 a barrel, could fall to the $20 range “for a while,” according to the report.
Keep in mind that the price of oil is already low enough to be a total nightmare for the global financial system if it stays here for the rest of 2015.
If we go down to $20 and stay there, a global financial meltdown is virtually guaranteed.
Meanwhile, the “fracking boom” in the United States that generated so many jobs, so much investment and so much economic activity is now turning into a “fracking bust”…
The fracking-for-oil boom started in 2005, collapsed by 60% during the Financial Crisis when money ran out, but got going in earnest after the Fed had begun spreading its newly created money around the land. From the trough in May 2009 to its peak in October 2014, rigs drilling for oil soared from 180 to 1,609: multiplied by a factor of 9 in five years! And oil production soared, to reach 9.2 million barrels a day in January.
It was a great run, but now it is over.
In the months ahead, the trickle of good paying oil industry jobs that are being lost right now is going to turn into a flood.
And this boom was funded with lots and lots of really cheap money from Wall Street. I like how Wolf Richter described this in a recent article…
That’s what real booms look like. They’re fed by limitless low-cost money – exuberant investors that buy the riskiest IPOs, junk bonds, leveraged loans, and CLOs usually indirectly without knowing it via their bond funds, stock funds, leveraged-loan funds, by being part of a public pension system that invests in private equity firms that invest in the boom…. You get the idea.
As all of this bad paper unwinds, a lot of people are going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.
Don’t get caught with your pants down. You will want your money to be well away from the energy industry long before this thing collapses.
And of course in so many ways what we are facing right now if very reminiscent of 2008. So many of the same patterns that have played out just prior to previous financial crashes are happening once again. Right now, oil rigs are shutting down at a pace that is almost unprecedented. The only time in recent memory that we have seen anything like this was just before the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. Here is more from Wolf Richter…
In the latest reporting week, drillers idled another 84 rigs, the second biggest weekly cut ever, after idling 83 and 94 rigs in the two prior weeks. Only 1056 rigs are still drilling for oil, down 443 for the seven reporting weeks so far this year and down 553 – or 34%! – from the peak in October.
Never before has the rig count plunged this fast this far:
What if the fracking bust, on a percentage basis, does what it did during the Financial Crisis when the oil rig count collapsed by 60% from peak to trough? It would take the rig count down to 642!
But even though rigs are shutting down like crazy, U.S. production of oil has continued to rise…
Rig counts have long been used to help predict future oil and gas production. In the past week drillers idled 98 rigs, marking the 10th consecutive decline. The total U.S. rig count is down 30 percent since October, an unprecedented retreat. The theory goes that when oil rigs decline, fewer wells are drilled, less new oil is discovered, and oil production slows.
But production isn’t slowing yet. In fact, last week the U.S. pumped more crude than at any time since the 1970s. “The headline U.S. oil rig count offers little insight into the outlook for U.S. oil production growth,” Goldman Sachs analyst Damien Courvalin wrote in a Feb. 10 report.
Look, it should be obvious to anyone with even a basic knowledge of economics that the stage is being set for a massive financial meltdown.
This is just the kind of thing that can plunge us into a deflationary depression. And when you combine this with the ongoing problems in Europe and in Asia, it is easy to see that a “perfect storm” is brewing on the horizon.
Sadly, a lot of people out there will choose not to believe until the day the crisis arrives.
By then, it will be too late to do anything about it.
The stock market continues to flirt with new record highs, but the signs that we could be on the precipice of the next major financial crisis continue to mount. A couple of days ago, I discussed the fact that the U.S. dollar is experiencing a tremendous surge in value just like it did in the months prior to the financial crisis of 2008. And previously, I have detailed how the price of oil has collapsed, prices for industrial commodities are tanking and market behavior is becoming extremely choppy. All of these are things that we witnessed just before the last market crash as well. It is also important to note that orders for durable goods are declining and the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level on record. So does all of this mean that the stock market is guaranteed to crash in 2015? No, of course not. But what we are looking for are probabilities. We are looking for patterns. There are multiple warning signs that have popped up repeatedly just prior to previous financial crashes, and many of those same warning signs are now appearing once again.
One of these warning signs that I have not discussed previously is the wholesale inventories to sales ratio. When economic activity starts to slow down, inventory tends to get backed up. And that is precisely what is happening right now. In fact, as Wolf Richter recently wrote about, the wholesale inventories to sales ratio has now hit a level that we have not seen since the last recession…
In December, the wholesale inventory/sales ratio reached 1.22, after rising consistently since July last year, when it was 1.17. It is now at the highest – and worst – level since September 2009, as the financial crisis was winding down:
Rising sales gives merchants the optimism to stock more. But because sales are rising in that rosy scenario, the inventory/sales ratio, depicting rising inventories and rising sales, would not suddenly jump. But in the current scenario, sales are not keeping up with inventory growth.
Another sign that I find extremely interesting is the behavior of the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury notes. As Jeff Clark recently explained, we usually see a spike in the 10 year Treasury yield about the time the market is peaking before a crash…
The 10-year Treasury note yield bottomed on January 30 at 1.65%. Today, it’s at 2%. That’s a 35-basis-point spike – a jump of 21% – in less than two weeks.
And it’s the first sign of an impending stock market crash.
As I explained last September, the 10-year Treasury note yield has ALWAYS spiked higher prior to an important top in the stock market.
For example, the 10-year yield was just 4.5% in January 1999. One year later, it was 6.75% – a spike of 50%. The dot-com bubble popped two months later.
In 2007, rates bottomed in March at 4.5%. By July, they had risen to 5.5% – a 22% increase. The stock market peaked in September.
Let’s be clear… not every spike in Treasury rates leads to an important top in the stock market. But there has always been a sharp spike in rates a few months before the top.
Once again, just because something has happened in the past does not mean that it will happen in the future.
But the fact that so many red flags are appearing all at once has got to give any rational person reason for concern.
Yes, the Dow gained more than 100 points on Thursday. But on Thursday we also learned that retail sales dropped again in January. Overall, this has been the worst two month drop in retail sales since 2009…
Following last month’s narrative-crushing drop in retail sales, despite all that low interest rate low gas price stimulus, January was more of the same as hopeful expectations for a modest rebound were denied. Falling 0.8% (against a 0.9% drop in Dec), missing expectations of -0.4%, this is the worst back-to-back drop in retail sales since Oct 2009. Retail sales declined in 6 of the 13 categories.
And economic activity is rapidly slowing down on the other side of the planet as well.
For example, Chinese imports and exports both fell dramatically in January…
Chinese imports collapsed 19.9% YoY in January, missing expectations of a modest 3.2% drop by the most since Lehman. This is the biggest YoY drop since May 2009 and worst January since the peak of the financial crisis. Exports tumbled 3.3% YoY (missing expectations of 5.9% surge) for the worst January since 2009. Combined this led to a $60.03 billion trade surplus in January – the largest ever. But apart from these massive imbalances, everything is awesome in the global economy (oh apart from The Baltic Dry at record lows, Iron Ore near record lows, oil prices crashed, and the other engine of the world economy – USA USA USA – imploding).
In light of so much bad economic data, it boggles my mind that stocks have been doing so well.
But this is typical bubble behavior. Financial bubbles tend to be very irrational and they tend to go on a lot longer than most people think they will. When they do finally burst, the consequences are often quite horrifying.
It may not seem like it to most people, but we are right on track for a major financial catastrophe. It is playing out right in front of our eyes in textbook fashion. But it is going to take a little while to unfold.
Unfortunately, most people these days do not have the patience to watch long-term trends develop. Instead, we have been trained by the mainstream media to have the attention spans of toddlers. We bounce from one 48-hour news cycle to the next, eagerly looking forward to the next “scandal” that is going to break.
And when the next financial crash does strike, the mainstream media is going to talk about what a “surprise” it is. But for those that are watching the long-term trends, it is not going to be a surprise at all. We will have seen it coming a mile away.
Over the past decade, there has been only one other time when the value of the U.S. dollar has increased by so much in such a short period of time. That was in mid-2008 – just before the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. A surging U.S. dollar also greatly contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the early 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Today, the globe is more interconnected than ever. Most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars, and much of the borrowing done by emerging markets all over the planet is denominated in U.S. dollars. When the U.S. dollar goes up dramatically, this can put a tremendous amount of financial stress on economies all around the world. It also has the potential to greatly threaten the stability of the 65 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the U.S. dollar. The global financial system is more vulnerable to currency movements than ever before, and history tells us that when the U.S. dollar soars the global economy tends to experience a contraction. So the fact that the U.S. dollar has been skyrocketing lately is a very, very bad sign.
Most of the people that write about the coming economic collapse love to talk about the coming collapse of the U.S. dollar as well.
But in the initial deflationary stage of the coming financial crisis, we are likely to see the U.S. dollar actually strengthen considerably.
As I have discussed so many times before, we are going to experience deflation first, and after that deflationary phase the desperate responses by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government to that deflation will cause the inflationary panic that so many have written about.
Yes, someday the U.S. dollar will essentially be toilet paper. But that is not in our immediate future. What is in our immediate future is a “flight to safety” that will push the surging U.S. dollar even higher.
This is what we witnessed in 2008, and this is happening once again right now.
Just look at the chart that I have posted below. You can see the the U.S. dollar moved upward dramatically relative to other currencies starting in mid-2008. And toward the end of the chart you can see that the U.S. dollar is now experiencing a similar spike…
At the moment, almost every major currency in the world is falling relative to the U.S. dollar.
For example, this next chart shows what the euro is doing relative to the dollar. As you can see, the euro is in the midst of a stunning decline…
Instead of focusing on the U.S. dollar, those that are looking for a harbinger of the coming financial crisis should be watching the euro. As I discussed yesterday, analysts are telling us that if Greece leaves the eurozone the EUR/USD could fall all the way down to 0.90. If that happens, the chart above will soon resemble a waterfall.
And of course it isn’t just the euro that is plummeting. The yen has been crashing as well. The following chart was recently posted on the Crux…
Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is. In recent years, growing economies all over the world have borrowed gigantic piles of very cheap U.S. dollars. But now they are faced with the prospect of repaying those debts and making interest payments using much more expensive U.S. dollars.
Investors are starting to get nervous. At one time, investors couldn’t wait to pour money into emerging markets, but now this process is beginning to reverse. If this turns into a panic, we are going to have one giant financial mess on our hands.
The truth is that the value of the U.S. dollar is of great importance to every nation on the face of the Earth. The following comes from U.S. News & World Report…
In the early ’80s, a bullish U.S. dollar contributed to the Latin American debt crisis, and also impacted the Asian Tiger crisis in the late ’90s. Emerging markets typically have higher growth, but carry much higher risk to investors. When the economies are doing well, foreign investors will lend money to emerging market countries by purchasing their bonds.
They also deposit money in foreign banks, which facilitates higher lending. The reason for this is simple: Bond payments and interest rates in emerging markets are much higher than in the U.S. Why deposit cash in the U.S. and earn 0.25 percent, when you could earn 6 percent in Indonesia? With the dollar strengthening, the interest payments on any bond denominated in U.S. dollars becomes more expensive.
Additionally, the deposit in the Indonesian bank may still be earning 6 percent, but that is on Indonesian rupiahs. After converting the rupiahs to U.S. dollars, the extra interest doesn’t offset the loss from the exchange. As investors get nervous, the higher interest on emerging market debt and deposits becomes less alluring, and they flee to safety. It may start slowly, but history tells us it can quickly spiral out of control.
Over the past few months, I have been repeatedly stressing that so many of the signs that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes are happening again.
Now you can add the skyrocketing U.S. dollar to that list.
If you have not seen my previous articles where I have discussed these things, here are some places to get started…
“Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
“Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…”
“10 Key Events That Preceded The Last Financial Crisis That Are Happening Again RIGHT NOW”
The warnings signs are really starting to pile up.
When we look back at past financial crashes, there are recognizable patterns that can be identified.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that a large number of those patterns are unfolding once again right before our eyes.
Unfortunately, most people in this world end up believing exactly what they want to believe.
No matter how much evidence you show them, they will not accept the truth until it is too late.
Are we on the verge of a major worldwide economic downturn? Well, if recent warnings from prominent bankers all over the world are to be believed, that may be precisely what we are facing in the months ahead. As you will read about below, the big banks are warning that the price of oil could soon drop as low as 20 dollars a barrel, that a Greek exit from the eurozone could push the EUR/USD down to 0.90, and that the global economy could shrink by more than 2 trillion dollars in 2015. Most of the time, very few people ever actually read the things that the big banks write for their clients. But in recent months, a lot of these bankers are issuing such ominous warnings that you would think that they have started to write for The Economic Collapse Blog. Of course we have seen this happen before. Just before the financial crisis of 2008, a lot of people at the big banks started to get spooked, and now we are beginning to see an atmosphere of fear spread on Wall Street once again. Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but an increasing number of experts are starting to agree that it won’t be good.
Let’s start with oil. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a nice rally for the price of oil. It has bounced back into the low 50s, which is still a catastrophically low level, but it has many hoping for a rebound to a range that will be healthy for the global economy.
Unfortunately, many of the experts at the big banks are now anticipating that the exact opposite will happen instead. For example, Citibank says that we could see the price of oil go as low as 20 dollars this year…
The recent rally in crude prices looks more like a head-fake than a sustainable turning point — The drop in US rig count, continuing cuts in upstream capex, the reading of technical charts, and investor short position-covering sustained the end-January 8.1% jump in Brent and 5.8% jump in WTI into the first week of February.
Short-term market factors are more bearish, pointing to more price pressure for the next couple of months and beyond — Not only is the market oversupplied, but the consequent inventory build looks likely to continue toward storage tank tops. As on-land storage fills and covers the carry of the monthly spreads at ~$0.75/bbl, the forward curve has to steepen to accommodate a monthly carry closer to $1.20, putting downward pressure on prompt prices. As floating storage reaches its limits, there should be downward price pressure to shut in production.
The oil market should bottom sometime between the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2 at a significantly lower price level in the $40 range — after which markets should start to balance, first with an end to inventory builds and later on with a period of sustained inventory draws. It’s impossible to call a bottom point, which could, as a result of oversupply and the economics of storage, fall well below $40 a barrel for WTI, perhaps as low as the $20 range for a while.
Even though rigs are shutting down at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession, overall global supply still significantly exceeds overall global demand. Barclays analyst Michael Cohen recently told CNBC that at this point the total amount of excess supply is still in the neighborhood of a million barrels per day…
“What we saw in the last couple weeks is rig count falling pretty precipitously by about 80 or 90 rigs per week, but we think there are more important things to be focused on and that rig count doesn’t tell the whole story.”
He expects to see some weakness going into the shoulder season for demand. In addition, there is an excess supply of about a million barrels of oil a day, he said.
And the truth is that many firms simply cannot afford to shut down their rigs. Many are leveraged to the hilt and are really struggling just to service their debt payments. They have to keep pumping so that they can have revenue to meet their financial obligations. The following comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements…
“Against this background of high debt, a fall in the price of oil weakens the balance sheets of producers and tightens credit conditions, potentially exacerbating the price drop as a result of sales of oil assets, for example, more production is sold forward,” BIS said.
“Second, in flow terms, a lower price of oil reduces cash flows and increases the risk of liquidity shortfalls in which firms are unable to meet interest payments. Debt service requirements may induce continued physical production of oil to maintain cash flows, delaying the reduction in supply in the market.”
In the end, a lot of these energy companies are going to go belly up if the price of oil does not rise significantly this year. And any financial institutions that are exposed to the debt of these companies or to energy derivatives will likely be in a great deal of distress as well.
Meanwhile, the overall global economy continues to slow down.
On Monday, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level ever. Not even during the darkest depths of the last recession did it drop this low.
And there are some at the big banks that are warning that this might just be the beginning. For instance, David Kostin of Goldman Sachs is projecting that sales growth for S&P 500 companies will be zero percent for all of 2015…
“Consensus now forecasts 0% S&P 500 sales growth in 2015 following a 5% cut in revenue forecasts since October. Low oil prices along with FX headwinds and pension charges have weighed on 4Q EPS results and expectations for 2015.”
Others are even more pessimistic than that. According to Bank of America, the global economy will actually shrink by 2.3 trillion dollars in 2015.
One thing that could greatly accelerate our economic problems is the crisis in Greece. If there is no compromise and a new Greek debt deal is not reached, there is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone.
If Greece does leave the eurozone, the continued existence of the monetary union will be thrown into doubt and the euro will utterly collapse.
Of course I am not the only one saying these things. Analysts at Morgan Stanley are even projecting that the EUR/USD could plummet to 0.90 if there is a “Grexit”…
The Greek Prime Minister has reaffirmed his government’s rejection of the country’s international bailout programme two days before an emergency meeting with the euro area’s finance ministers on Wednesday. His declaration suggested increasing minimum wages, restoring the income tax-free threshold and halting infrastructure privatisations. Should Greece stay firm on its current anti-bailout course and with the ECB not accepting Greek T-bills as collateral, the position of ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan will gain increasing credibility. He forecast the eurozone to break as private investors will withdraw from providing short-term funding to Greece. Greece leaving the currency union would convert the union into a club of fixed exchange rates, a type of ERM III, leading to further fragmentation. Greek Fin Min Varoufakis said the euro will collapse if Greece exits, calling Italian debt unsustainable. Markets may gain the impression that Greece may not opt for a compromise, instead opting for an all or nothing approach when negotiating on Wednesday. It seems the risk premium of Greece leaving EMU is rising. Our scenario analysis suggests a Greek exit taking EURUSD down to 0.90.
If that happens, we could see a massive implosion of the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro.
We are moving into a time of great peril for global financial markets, and there are a whole host of signs that we are slowly heading into another major global economic crisis.
So don’t be fooled by all of the happy talk in the mainstream media. They did not see the last crisis coming either.