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Greece Says That It Will Default On June 5th, And Moody’s Warns Of A ‘Deposit Freeze’

Greece Euro - Public DomainThe Greek government says that a “moment of truth” is coming on June 5th.  Either their lenders agree to give them more money by that date, or Greece will default on a 300 million euro loan payment to the IMF.  Of course it won’t technically be a “default” according to IMF rules for another 30 days after that, but without a doubt news that Greece cannot pay will send shockwaves throughout the financial world.  At that point, those holding Greek bonds will start to panic as they realize that they might not get paid as well.  All over Europe, there are major banks that are holding large amounts of Greek debt and derivatives that are related to the performance of Greek debt.  If something is not done to avert disaster at the last moment, a default by Greece could be the spark that sets off a major European financial crisis this summer.

As I discussed the other day, neither the EU nor the IMF have given any money to Greece since August 2014.  So now the Greek government is just about out of money, and without any new loans they will not be able to pay back the old loans that are coming due.  In fact, things are so bad at this point that the Greek government is openly warning that it will default on June 5th

Greece cannot make an upcoming payment to the International Monetary Fund on June 5 unless foreign lenders disburse more aid, a senior ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday, the latest warning from Athens it is on the verge of default.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government says it hopes to reach a cash-for-reforms deal in days, although European Union and IMF lenders are more pessimistic and say talks are moving too slowly for that.

Of course this is all part of a very high stakes chess game.  The Greeks believe that the Germans will back down when faced with the prospect of a full blown European financial crisis, and the Germans believe that the Greeks will eventually be feeling so much pain that they will be forced to give in to their demands.

So with each day we get closer and closer to the edge, and the Greeks are trying to do their best to let everyone know that they are not bluffing.  Just today, a spokesperson for the Greek government came out and declared that unless there is a deal by June 5th, the IMF “won’t get any money”

Greek officials now point to a race against the clock to clinch a deal before payments totaling about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the IMF come due next month, starting with a 300 million euro payment on June 5.

“Now is the moment that negotiations are coming to a head. Now is the moment of truth, on June 5,” Nikos Filis, spokesman for the ruling Syriza party’s lawmakers, told ANT1 television.

If there is no deal by then that will address the current funding problem, they won’t get any money,” he said.

But the Germans know that the Greeks desperately need more money and can’t last much longer.  The Greek banking system is so close to collapse that Moody’s just downgraded it again and warned that “there is a high likelihood of an imposition of capital controls and a deposit freeze” in the months ahead…

The outlook for the Greek banking system is negative, primarily reflecting the acute deterioration in Greek banks’ funding and liquidity, says Moody’s Investors Service in a new report published recently. These pressures are unlikely to ease over the next 12-18 months and there is a high likelihood of an imposition of capital controls and a deposit freeze.

The new report: “Banking System Outlook: Greece”, is now available on www.moodys.com. Moody’s subscribers can access this report via the link provided at the end of this press release.

Moody’s notes that significant deposit outflows of more than €30 billion since December 2014 have increased banks’ dependence on central bank funding. In our view, the banks are likely to remain highly dependent on central bank funding, as ongoing uncertainty regarding Greece’s support programme continues to compromise depositors’ confidence.

Unfortunately, when things really start going crazy in Greece people might be faced with much more than just frozen bank accounts.  As I wrote about just a few days ago, there is a very strong possibility that we could actually see Cyprus-style wealth confiscation implemented in Greece when the banks collapse.

In fact, the Greek government is already talking about the possibility of a special tax on banking transactions

Athens is promoting the idea of a special levy on banking transactions at a rate of 0.1-0.2 percent, while the government’s proposal for a two-tier value-added tax – depending on whether the payment is in cash or by card – has met with strong opposition from the country’s creditors.

A senior government official told Kathimerini that among the proposals discussed with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund is the imposition of a levy on bank transactions, whose exact rate will depend on the exemptions that would apply. The aim is to collect 300-600 million euros on a yearly basis.

Fee won’t include ATM withdrawals, transactions up to EU500; in this case Greek govt projects EU300m-EU600m annual revenue from measure.

Sadly, most people living in North America (which is most of my audience) does not really care much about what happens on the other side of the world.

But they should care.

If Greece defaults and the Greek banking system collapses, stocks and bonds will crash all over Europe.  Many believe that such a crash can be “contained” to just Europe, but that is really just wishful thinking.

In addition, the euro would plummet dramatically, which would cause substantial financial problems all over the planet.  As I recently explained, the euro is headed to parity with the U.S. dollar and then it is going to go below parity.  Before it is all said and done, the euro is going to all-time lows.

Of course the U.S. dollar is eventually going to totally collapse as well, but that comes later and that is a story for another day.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro, the value of the U.S. dollar and the value of other global currencies.

So if you believe that what is happening in Greece cannot have massive ramifications for the entire global financial system, you are dead wrong.

What is happening in Greece is exceedingly important, and it is time for all of us to start paying attention.

The Debt To GDP Ratio For The Entire World: 286 Percent

Global Debt - Public DomainDid you know that there is more than $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet?  And since close to 3 billion of those people survive on less than 2 dollars a day, your share of that debt is going to be much larger than that.  If we took everything that the global economy produced this year and everything that the global economy produced next year and used it to pay all of this debt, it still would not be enough.  According to a recent report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “Debt and (not much) deleveraging“, the total amount of debt on our planet has grown from 142 trillion dollars at the end of 2007 to 199 trillion dollars today.  This is the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and those numbers mean that we are in substantially worse condition than we were just prior to the last financial crisis.

When it comes to debt, a lot of fingers get pointed at the United States, and rightly so.  Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars.  Today, it has crossed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  But of course the U.S. is not the only one that is guilty.  In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute says that debt levels have grown in all major economies since 2007.  The following is an excerpt from the report

Seven years after the bursting of a global credit bubble resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, debt continues to grow. In fact, rather than reducing indebtedness, or deleveraging, all major economies today have higher levels of borrowing relative to GDP than they did in 2007. Global debt in these years has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of debt to GDP by 17 percentage points (Exhibit 1). That poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

What is surprising is that debt has actually grown the most in China.  If you can believe it, total Chinese debt has grown from 7 trillion dollars in 2007 to 28 trillion dollars today.  Needless to say, that is absolutely insane…

China’s debt has quadrupled since 2007. Fueled by real estate and shadow banking, China’s total debt has nearly quadrupled, rising to $28 trillion by mid-2014, from $7 trillion in 2007. At 282 percent of GDP, China’s debt as a share of GDP, while manageable, is larger than that of the United States or Germany. Three developments are potentially worrisome: half of all loans are linked, directly or indirectly, to China’s overheated real-estate market; unregulated shadow banking accounts for nearly half of new lending; and the debt of many local governments is probably unsustainable. However, MGI calculates that China’s government has the capacity to bail out the financial sector should a property-related debt crisis develop. The challenge will be to contain future debt increases and reduce the risks of such a crisis, without putting the brakes on economic growth.

What all of this means is that our long-term global economic problems have gotten much, much worse.  This short-lived period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt and voracious money printing.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is a giant financial bubble, and in the end it is going to unwind very, very painfully.  The following comes from a Canadian news source

At the beginning of 2008, government accounted for a smaller portion of the debt pie than corporate, household or financial debt. It now exceeds each of those other categories.

The current situation is much worse than in 2000 or 2007, and with interest rates near or at zero, the central banks have already used up their ammunition. Plus, the total indebtedness, especially the indebtedness of governments, is much higher than ever before,” said Claus Vogt, a Berlin-based analyst and co-author of a 2011 book titled The Global Debt Trap.

“Every speculative bubble rests on some kind of a fairy tale, a story the bubble participants believe in and use as rationalization to buy extremely overvalued stocks or bonds or real estate,” Mr. Vogt argued. “And now it is the faith in the central-planning capabilities of global central bankers. When the loss of confidence in the Fed, the ECB etc. begins, the stampede out of stocks and bonds will start. I think we are very close to this pivotal moment in financial history.”

But for the moment, the ridiculous stock market bubble continues.

Internet companies that didn’t even exist a decade ago are now supposedly worth billions upon billions of dollars even though some of them don’t make any money at all.  There is even a name for this phenomenon.  Internet companies that have gigantic valuations without gigantic revenue streams are being called “unicorns”

A dizzying mix of bold ideas and lavish investments has catapulted dozens of privately held start-ups to unicorn status, defined as having market valuations of at least $1 billion often without soaring revenues to match. Social-sharing site Pinterest has soared to $11 billion. Ride-hailing company Uber is now worth a staggering $50 billion.

How long can the party last?

And these days, Wall Street even rewards companies that lose huge amounts of money quarter after quarter.  For example, just check out what happened when JC Penney announced that it only lost 167 million dollars during the first quarter of 2015…

Yippee!!! JC Penney ONLY lost $167 million in the first quarter. The Wall Street shysters are ecstatic because they BEAT expectations. Buy Buy Buy.

This loss now brings JC Penney’s cumulative loss since 2011 to, drum roll please, $3.5 BILLION. They haven’t had a profitable quarter in over four years. But, they are always on the verge of that turnaround just over the horizon.

Wall Street has told you to buy this stock from $42 in 2012 to it’s current pitiful level of $9. They tout the wonderful 3.4% increase in comparable sales. They fail to mention that first quarter 2016 sales are only 30% below first quarter sales in 2011.

They fail to mention that JC Penney burned through another $274 million of cash in the first quarter. Their equity has dropped by $1 billion in the last year, while their long term debt has gone up by $500 million.

This is how irrational Wall Street has become.  JC Penney is ultimately going to zero, and yet there are still people out there that are pouring huge amounts of money into that financial black hole.

Sadly, the truth is that Wall Street is headed for a very painful awakening.

What we are experiencing right now is the greatest financial bubble of all time.

What comes after that is going to be the greatest financial crash of all time.

199,000,000,000,000 dollars of debt is about to come crashing down, and the pain of this disaster will be felt by every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

 

Why Are Exchange-Traded Funds Preparing For A ‘Liquidity Crisis’ And A ‘Market Meltdown’?

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainSome really weird things are happening in the financial world right now.  If you go back to 2008, there was lots of turmoil bubbling just underneath the surface during the months leading up to the great stock market crash in the second half of that year.  When Lehman Brothers finally did collapse, it was a total shock to most of the planet, but we later learned that their problems had been growing for a long time.  I believe that we are in a similar period right now, and the second half of this year promises to be quite chaotic.  Apparently, those that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in the entire world agree with me, because as you will see below they are quietly preparing for a “liquidity crisis” and a “market meltdown”.  About a month ago, I warned of an emerging “liquidity squeeze“, and now analysts all over the financial industry are talking about it.  Could it be possible that the next great financial crisis is right around the corner?

According to Reuters, the companies that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in existence are deeply concerned about what a lack of liquidity would mean for them during the next financial crash.  So right now they are quietly “bolstering bank credit lines” so that they will be better positioned for “a market meltdown”…

The biggest providers of exchange-traded funds, which have been funneling billions of investor dollars into some little-traded corners of the bond market, are bolstering bank credit lines for cash to tap in the event of a market meltdown.

Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust are among U.S. fund companies that have lined up new bank guarantees or expanded ones they already had, recent company filings show.

The measures come as the Federal Reserve and other U.S. regulators express concern about the ability of fund managers to withstand a wave of investor redemptions in the event of another financial crisis. They have pointed particularly to fixed-income ETFs, which tend to track less liquid markets such as high yield corporate bonds or bank loans.

So why are Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust all making these kinds of preparations right now?

Do they know something that the rest of us do not?

Over recent months, I have been writing about how so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes seem to be repeating once again in 2015.

One of the things that we would expect to see happen just before a major event would be for the “smart money” to rush out of long-term bonds and into short-term bonds and other more liquid assets.  This is something that had not been happening, but during the past couple of weeks there has been a major change.  All of a sudden, long-term yields have been spiking dramatically.  The following comes from Martin Armstrong

The amount of cash rushing around on the short-end is stunning. Yields are collapsing into negative territory and this is the same flight to quality we began to see at the peak in the crisis back in 2009. The big money is selling the 10 year or greater paper and everyone is rushing into the short-term. There is not enough paper around to satisfy the demands. Capital is unwilling to hold long-term even the 10 year maturities of governments including Germany. This is illustrating the crisis that is unfolding and there is a collapse in liquidity.

There is that word “liquidity” once again.  It is funny how that keeps popping up.

Here is a chart that shows what has been happening to the yield on 30 year U.S. Treasuries in 2015.  As you can see, there has been a big move recently…

30 Year Yield

And what this chart doesn’t show is that the yield on 30 year Treasuries shot up to about 3.08% on Wednesday.

Of course it isn’t just yields in the U.S. that are skyrocketing.  This is happening all over the globe, and many analysts are now openly wondering if the 76 trillion dollar global bond bubble is finally imploding.  For instance, just consider what Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid recently told the Telegraph

Financial regulations introduced since the crisis have required banks to hold more bonds, as quantitative easing schemes have meant central banks hold many on their own balance sheets, reducing the number available to trade on the open market.

Simultaneously, central banks have attempted to boost so-called “high money liquidity” with quantitative easing schemes and their close to zero interest rates. “What has become increasingly clear over the last couple of years is that the combination of high money liquidity and low trading liquidity creates air pockets,” said Mr Reid.

He continued: “It’s a worry that these events are occurring in relatively upbeat markets. I can’t helping thinking that when the next downturn hits the lack of liquidity in various markets is going to be chaotic. These increasingly regular liquidity issues we’re seeing might be a mild dress rehearsal.”

Those are sobering words.

And without a doubt, we are in the midst of a massive stock market bubble as well.  The chaos that is coming is not just going to affect bonds.  In fact, I believe that the greatest stock market crash in U.S. history is coming.

So when will it happen?

Well, Phoenix Capital Research seems to think that we have reached an extremely important turning point…

This is something of a last hurrah for stocks. We are now officially in May. And historically the period from May to November has been one of the worst periods for stocks from a seasonal perspective.

Moreover, the fundamentals are worsening dramatically for the markets. By the look of things, 2014 represented the first year in which corporate sales FELL since 2009. Sales track actual economic activity much more closely than earnings: either the money comes in or it isn’t. The fact that sales are falling indicates the economy is rolling over and the “recovery” has ended.

Having cut costs to the bone and issued debt to buyback shares, we are likely at peak earnings as well. Thus far 90% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings. Year over year earnings are down 11.9%.

So sales are falling and earnings are falling… at a time when stocks are so overvalued that even the Fed admits it. This has all the makings of a serious market collapse. And smart investors are preparing now BEFORE it hits.

Personally, I have a really bad feeling about the second half of 2015.  Everything seems to be gearing up for a repeat of 2008 (or even worse).  Let’s hope that does not happen, but let’s not be willingly blind to the great storm on the horizon either.

And once the next great crisis does hit us, governments around the world will have a lot less “ammunition” to fight it than the last time around.  For example, the U.S. national debt has approximately doubled since the beginning of the last recession, and the Federal Reserve has already pushed interest rates down as far as they can.  Similar things could also be said about other governments all over the planet.  This is something that HSBC chief economist Stephen King recently pointed out in a 17 page report entitled “The world economy’s titanic problem”.  The following is a brief excerpt from that report

“Whereas previous recoveries have enabled monetary and fiscal policymakers to replenish their ammunition, this recovery — both in the US and elsewhere — has been distinguished by a persistent munitions shortage. This is a major problem. In all recessions since the 1970s, the US Fed funds rate has fallen by a minimum of 5 percentage points. That kind of traditional stimulus is now completely ruled out.”

For a long time, I have had a practice of ending my articles by urging people to get prepared.  But now time for preparing is rapidly running out.  My new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” was just released, but honestly my co-author and I should have had it out last year.  In the very small amount of time that we have left before the financial markets crash, the amount of “prepping” that people are going to be able to do will be fairly limited.

I am not just pointing to a single event.  Once the financial markets crash this time, I believe that there is not going to be any sort of a “recovery” like we experienced after 2008.  I believe that the long-term economic collapse that we have been experiencing will accelerate very greatly, and it will usher in a horrible period of time for the United States unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

So what do you think?

Could I be wrong?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The 90,000 Square Foot, 100 Million Dollar Home That Is A Metaphor For America

Versailles House - Public DomainJust like “America’s time-share king”, America just keeps on making the same mistakes over and over again.  Prior to the financial collapse of 2008, time-share mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie began construction on their “dream home” near Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  This dream home would be approximately 90,000 square feet in size, would be worth $100 million when completed, and would be named “Versailles” after the French palace that inspired it.  In fact, you may remember David and Jackie from an excellent 2012 documentary entitled “The Queen of Versailles”.  That film documented how the Siegels almost lost everything after the financial collapse of 2008 devastated the U.S. economy because they were overleveraged and drowning in debt.  But since that time, David’s time-share company has bounced back, and the Siegels now plan to finally finish construction on their dream home and make it bigger and better than ever before.  But before you pass judgment on the Siegels, it is important to keep in mind that we are behaving exactly the same way as a nation.  Instead of addressing our fundamental problems after the last financial crisis, we have just continued to make the exact same mistakes that we made before.  And ultimately, things are going to end very, very badly for us.

As Americans, we like to think that we are somehow entitled to the biggest and best of everything.  We have been trained to believe that we are the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on the entire planet and that it will always be that way.  This generation was handed the keys to the greatest economic machine in world history, but instead of treating it with great care, we have wrecked it.  Our economic infrastructure is being systematically dismantled, Wall Street has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, we have piled up a mountain of debt unlike anything the world has ever seen, and the reckless Federal Reserve is turning our currency into Monopoly money.  All of our decisions have been designed to make things better for ourselves in the short-term without any consideration about what we were doing to the future of this country.

That is why “Versailles” is such a perfect metaphor for America.  The Siegels always had to have the biggest and the best of everything, and they almost lost it all when the financial markets crashed

David Siegel (“They call me the time-share king”) and his wife, Jackie Siegel — titular star of the 2012 documentary “The Queen of Versailles” — began building their dream home near Disney World about a decade ago. Soon it became evident that the sheer size of the mansion was almost unprecedented in America; it’s thought that only Biltmore House and Oheka Castle are bigger and still standing, and both of those are now run as tourist attractions, not true single-family homes.

But when the bottom fell out of the financial markets in 2008, their fortunes were upended too. By the time the documentary ended, their dream home had gone into default and they’d put it on the market. The listing asked for $100 million finished — “based on the royal palace of Louix XIV of the 17th century or to the buyer’s specifications — or $75 million “as is with all exterior finishings in crates in the 20-car garage on site.”

But just like the U.S. economy, the Siegels have seemingly recovered, at least for the moment.

Thanks to a rebound in the time-share business, the Siegels plan to finally complete their dream home and make it bigger and better than ever

The unfinished home sits on 10 acres of lakefront property and when completed will feature 11 kitchens, 30 bathrooms, 20-car garage, two-lane bowling alley, indoor rollerskating rink, three indoor pools, two outdoor pools, video arcade, ballroom, two-story movie theater modeled off the Paris Opera House, fitness center with 10,000-square-foot spa, yoga studios, 20,000-bottle wine cellar and an exotic fish aquarium.

Two tennis courts, a baseball diamond and formal garden will be included on the grounds.

The couple admitted that some of their plans for the house – such as children’s playrooms – will have to be modified now that their kids are older.

However, they are determined to see the project through.

‘I’m not at the ending to my story yet, but so far, it’s a happy ending, and I’m really looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life and moving into my palace, finishing it and throwing lots of parties – anxious for the world to see it,’ Mrs Siegel said.

It is easy to point fingers at the Siegels, but the truth is that they are just behaving like we have been behaving as an entire nation.

When our financial bubbles burst the last time, our leaders did not really do anything to address our fundamental economic problems.  Instead, they were bound and determined to reinflate those bubbles and make them even larger than before.

Now we stand at the precipice of the greatest financial crisis in our history, and we only have ourselves to blame.

Just consider what has happened to our national debt.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars.  Today, it has just crossed the 18 trillion dollar mark…

Total Public Debt

You may not think that you are to blame for this, but most of the people that will read this article voted for politicians that fully supported all of this borrowing and spending.  And yes, that includes most Democrats and most Republicans.

We have stolen trillions of dollars from future generations of Americans in a desperate attempt to prop up our failing standard of living in the present.  What we have done is a horrific crime, and if we lived in a just society a whole lot of people would be going to prison over this.

A similar pattern emerges when we look at the spending habits of ordinary Americans.  This next chart shows one measure of consumer credit in America.  During the last recession, we actually had a brief period of deleveraging (which was good), but now we are back on the exact same trajectory as before…

Consumer Credit 2015

Even though we had a higher standard of living than all previous generations of Americans, that was never good enough for us.  We always had to have more, and we have borrowed and spent ourselves into oblivion.

We have also shown absolutely no respect for our currency.  Having the primary reserve currency of the world has been an incredible advantage for the U.S. economy, but we are squandering that privilege.  Like I said at the top of the article, the Federal Reserve has been treating the U.S. dollar like Monopoly money in recent years in an attempt to prop up the financial system.  Just look at what “quantitative easing” has done to the Fed balance sheet since the last recession…

Fed Balance Sheet

Most of the new money that the Fed has created has been funneled into the financial markets.  This has created some financial bubbles which are absolutely insane.  For example, just look at how the NASDAQ has performed since the last financial crisis…

NASDAQ

These Fed-created bubbles are inevitably going to implode, because they have no relation to economic reality whatsoever.  And when they implode, millions of Americans are going to be financially wiped out.

Just like David and Jackie Siegel, we simply can’t help ourselves.  We just keep on making the same old mistakes.

And in the end, we will all pay a great, great price for our utter foolishness.

Guess What Happened The Last Time Bond Yields Crashed Like This?…

Question Cube - Public DomainIf a major financial crisis was approaching, we would expect to see the “smart money” getting out of stocks and pouring into government bonds that are traditionally considered to be “safe” during a crisis.  This is called a “flight to safety” or a “flight to quality“.  In the past, when there has been a “flight to quality” we have seen yields for German government bonds and U.S. government bonds go way down.  As you will see below, this is exactly what we witnessed during the financial crisis of 2008.  U.S. and German bond yields plummeted as money from the stock market was dumped into bonds at a staggering pace.  Well, it is starting to happen again.  In recent months we have seen U.S. and German bond yields begin to plummet as the “smart money” moves out of the stock market.  So is this another sign that we are on the precipice of a significant financial panic?

Back in 2008, German bonds actually began to plunge well before U.S. bonds did.  Does that mean that European money is “smarter” than U.S. money?  That would certainly be a very interesting theory to explore.  As you can see from the chart below, the yield on 10 year German bonds started to fall significantly during the summer of 2008 – several months before the stock market crash in the fall…

German Bond Yields 2007 And 2008

So what are German bonds doing today?

As you can see from this next chart, the yield on 10 year German bonds has been steadily falling since the beginning of last year.  At this point, the yield on 10 year German bonds is just barely above zero…

German Bond Yields 2013 To Today

And amazingly, most German bonds that have a maturity of less than 10 years actually have a negative yield right now.  That means that investors are going to get back less money than they invest.  This is how bizarre the financial markets have become.  The “smart money” is so concerned about the “safety” of their investments that they are actually willing to accept negative yields.  I don’t know why anyone would ever put their money into investments that have a negative yield, but it is actually happening.  The following comes from Yahoo

The world’s scarcest resource right now is safe yield, and the shortage is getting more extreme. Most German government bonds that mature in less than 10 years now have negative yields – part of some $2 trillion worth of paper with yields below zero.

This is what happens when the European Central Bank begins a trillion-euro bond-buying binge with rates already miniscule.

Yesterday, ECB boss Mario Draghi – unfazed by the protest stunt at his press conference – reaffirmed his plan to keep bidding for paper that yields more than -0.2% – that’s minus 0.2%.

Yes, the ECB is driving a lot of this, but it is still truly bizarre.

So what about the United States?

Well, first let’s take a look at what happened back in 2008.  In the chart below, you can see the “flight to safety” that took place in late 2008 as investors started to panic…

US Bond Yield 2007 And 2008

And we have started to witness a similar thing happen in recent months.  The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has plummeted as investors have looked for safety.  This is exactly the kind of chart that we would expect to see if a financial crisis was brewing…

US 10 Year Yield 2014 And 2015

What makes all of this far more compelling is the fact that so many other patterns that we have witnessed just prior to past financial crashes are happening once again.

Yes, there are other potential explanations for why bond yields have been going down.  But when you add this to all of the other pieces of evidence that a new financial crisis is rapidly approaching, quite a compelling case emerges.

For those that do not follow my website regularly, I encourage you to check out the following articles to get an idea of what I am talking about…

-“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

-“Guess What Happened The Last Time The U.S. Dollar Skyrocketed In Value Like This?…

-“7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now

-“Guess What Happened The Last Two Times The S&P 500 Was Up More Than 200% In Six Years?

Of course no two financial crashes ever look exactly the same.

The crisis that we are moving toward is not going to be precisely like the crisis of 2008.

But there are similarities and patterns that we can look for.  When things start to get bad, investors act in predictable ways.  And so many of the things that we are watching right now are just what we would expect to see in the lead up to a major financial crisis.

Sadly, most people are not willing to learn from history.  Even though it is glaringly apparent that we are in a historic financial bubble, most investors on Wall Street cannot see it because they do not want to see it.  They want to believe that somehow “things are different this time” and that stocks will just continue to go up indefinitely so that they can keep making lots and lots of money.

And despite what you may think, I actually want this bubble to continue for as long as possible.  Despite all of our problems, life is still relatively good in America today – at least compared to what is coming.

I like to refer to this next crisis as our “third strike”.

Back in 2000 and 2001, the dotcom bubble burst and we experienced a painful recession, but we didn’t learn any lessons.  That was strike number one.

Then came the financial crash of 2008 and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  But we didn’t learn any lessons from that either.  Instead, we just reinflated the same old financial bubbles and kept on making the exact same mistakes as before.  That was strike number two.

This next financial crisis will be strike number three.  After this next crisis, I don’t believe that there will ever be a return to “normal” for the United States.  I believe that this is going to be the crisis that unleashes hell in our nation.

So no, I am not eager for that to come.  Even though there is no way that this bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity can last indefinitely, I would like for it to last at least a little while longer.

Because what comes after it is going to be truly terrible.

The Six Too Big To Fail Banks In The U.S. Have 278 TRILLION Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

Bankers - Public DomainThe very same people that caused the last economic crisis have created a 278 TRILLION dollar derivatives time bomb that could go off at any moment.  When this absolutely colossal bubble does implode, we are going to be faced with the worst economic crash in the history of the United States.  During the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would make sure that “too big to fail” would never be a problem again.  Instead, as you will see below, those banks have actually gotten far larger since then.  So now we really can’t afford for them to fail.  The six banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you add up all of their exposure to derivatives, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you add up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, these “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times greater than their total assets.  This is complete and utter insanity, and yet nobody seems too alarmed about it.  For the moment, those banks are still making lots of money and funding the campaigns of our most prominent politicians.  Right now there is no incentive for them to stop their incredibly reckless gambling so they are just going to keep on doing it.

So precisely what are “derivatives”?  Well, they can be immensely complicated, but I like to simplify things.  On a very basic level, a “derivative” is not an investment in anything.  When you buy a stock, you are purchasing an ownership interest in a company.  When you buy a bond, you are purchasing the debt of a company.  But a derivative is quite different.  In essence, most derivatives are simply bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks have transformed Wall Street into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and when things are running smoothly they usually make a whole lot of money.

But there is a fundamental flaw in the system, and I described this in a previous article

The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

Today, the “too big to fail” banks are being even more reckless than they were just prior to the financial crash of 2008.

As long as they keep winning, everyone is going to be okay.  But when the time comes that their bets start going against them, it is going to be a nightmare for all of us.  Our entire economic system is based on the flow of credit, and those banks are at the very heart of that system.

In fact, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

So that is why they are called “too big to fail”.  We simply cannot afford for them to go out of business.

As I mentioned above, our politicians promised that something would be done about this.  But instead, the four largest banks in the country have gotten nearly 40 percent larger since the last time around.  The following numbers come from an article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

During this same time period, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

So our economic system is now more dependent on the “too big to fail” banks than ever.

To illustrate how reckless the “too big to fail” banks have become, I want to share with you some brand new numbers which come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Compared to the rest of them, Wells Fargo looks extremely prudent and rational.

But of course that is not true at all.  Wells Fargo is being very reckless, but the others are being so reckless that it makes everyone else pale in comparison.

And these banks are not exactly in good shape for the next financial crisis that is rapidly approaching.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

The New York Times isn’t so sure about the results from the Federal Reserve’s latest round of stress tests.

In an editorial published over the weekend, The Times cites data from Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the FDIC, who, in contrast to the Federal Reserve, found that capital ratios at the eight largest banks in the US averaged 4.97% at the end of 2014, far lower than the 12.9% found by the Fed’s stress test.

That doesn’t sound good.

So what is up with the discrepancy in the numbers?  The New York Times explains…

The discrepancy is due mainly to differing views of the risk posed by the banks’ vast holdings of derivative contracts used for hedging and speculation. The Fed, in keeping with American accounting rules and central bank accords, assumes that gains and losses on derivatives generally net out. As a result, most derivatives do not show up as assets on banks’ balance sheets, an omission that bolsters the ratio of capital to assets.

Mr. Hoenig uses stricter international accounting rules to value the derivatives. Those rules do not assume that gains and losses reliably net out. As a result, large derivative holdings are shown as assets on the balance sheet, an addition that reduces the ratio of capital to assets to the low levels reported in Mr. Hoenig’s analysis.

Derivatives, eh?

Very interesting.

And you know what?

The guys running these big banks can see what is coming.

Just consider the words that JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon wrote to his shareholders not too long ago

Some things never change — there will be another crisis, and its impact will be felt by the financial market.

The trigger to the next crisis will not be the same as the trigger to the last one – but there will be another crisis. Triggering events could be geopolitical (the 1973 Middle East crisis), a recession where the Fed rapidly increases interest rates (the 1980-1982 recession), a commodities price collapse (oil in the late 1980s), the commercial real estate crisis (in the early 1990s), the Asian crisis (in 1997), so-called “bubbles” (the 2000 Internet bubble and the 2008 mortgage/housing bubble), etc. While the past crises had different roots (you could spend a lot of time arguing the degree to which geopolitical, economic or purely financial factors caused each crisis), they generally had a strong effect across the financial markets

In the same letter, Dimon mentioned “derivatives moved by enormous players and rapid computerized trades” as part of the reason why our system is so vulnerable to another crisis.

If this is what he truly believes, why is his firm being so incredibly reckless?

Perhaps someone should ask him that.

Interestingly, Dimon also discussed the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone

“We must be prepared for a potential exit,”  J. P. Morgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said. in his annual letter to shareholders. “We continually stress test our company for possible repercussions resulting from such an event.”

This is something that I have been warning about for a long time.

And of course Dimon is not the only prominent banker warning of big problems ahead.  German banking giant Deutsche Bank is also sounding the alarm

With a U.S. profit recession expected in the first half of 2015 and investors unlikely to pay up for stocks, the risk of a stock market drop of 5% to 10% is rising, Deutsche  Bank says.

That’s the warning Deutsche Bank market strategist David Bianco zapped out to clients today before the opening bell on Wall Street.

Bianco expects earnings for the broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to contract in the first half of 2015 — the first time that’s happened since 2009 during the financial crisis. And the combination of soft earnings and his belief that investors won’t pay top dollar for stocks in a market that is already trading at above-average valuations is a recipe for a short-term pullback on Wall Street.

The truth is that we are in the midst of a historic stock market bubble, and we are witnessing all sorts of patterns in the financial markets which also emerged back in 2008 right before the financial crash in the fall of that year.

When some of the most prominent bankers at some of the biggest banks on the entire planet start issuing ominous warnings, that is a clear sign that time is running out.  The period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fun, and hopefully it will last just a little while longer.  But at some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

 

If Anyone Doubts That We Are In A Stock Market Bubble, Show Them This Article

Bubble In Hands - Public DomainThe higher financial markets rise, the harder they fall.  By any objective measurement, the stock market is currently well into bubble territory.  Anyone should be able to see this – all you have to do is look at the charts.  Sadly, most of us never seem to learn from history.  Most of us want to believe that somehow “things are different this time”.  Well, about the only thing that is different this time is that our economy is in far worse shape than it was just prior to the last major financial crisis.  That means that we are more vulnerable and will almost certainly endure even more damage this time around.  It would be one thing if stocks were soaring because the U.S. economy as a whole was doing extremely well.  But we all know that isn’t true.  Instead, what we have been experiencing is clearly artificial market behavior that has nothing to do with economic reality.  In other words, we are dealing with an irrational financial bubble, and all irrational financial bubbles eventually burst.  And as I wrote about yesterday, the way that stocks have moved so far this year is eerily reminiscent of the way that stocks moved in early 2008.  The warning signs are there – if you are willing to look at them.

The first chart that I want to share with you today comes from Doug Short.  It is a chart that shows that the ratio of corporate equities (stocks) to GDP is the second highest that it has been since 1950.  The only other time it has been higher was just before the dotcom bubble burst…

The Buffett Indicator from Doug Short

Does that look like a bubble to you?

It sure looks like a bubble to me.

In order for the corporate equities to GDP ratio to get back to the mean (average) level, stock prices would have to fall nearly 50 percent.

If that happens, people will be calling it a crash, but in truth it would just be a return to normalcy.

This next chart comes from Phoenix Capital Research.  The CAPE ratio (cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio) is considered to be an extremely accurate measure of the true value of stocks…

As I’ve noted before, the single best predictor of stock market performance is the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio or CAPE ratio.

Corporate earnings are heavily influenced by the business cycle. Typically the US experiences a boom and bust once every ten years or so. As such, companies will naturally have higher P/E’s at some points and lower P/E’s at other. This is based solely on the business cycle and nothing else.

CAPE adjusts for this by measuring the price of stocks against the average of ten years’ worth of earnings, adjusted for inflation. By doing this, it presents you with a clearer, more objective picture of a company’s ability to produce cash in any economic environment.

Based on a study completed Vanguard, CAPE was the single best metric for measuring future stock returns.

When the CAPE ratio is too high, that means that stocks are overpriced and are not a good value.  And right now the CAPE ratio is the 3rd highest that it has been since 1890.  That only times it has been higher than this were in 1929 (we all remember what happened then) and just before the dotcom bubble burst…

CAPE - Phoenix Capital Research

The funny thing is that stocks have continued to rise even as corporate revenues have begun to fall.

According to Wolf Richter, in the first quarter of 2015 corporate revenues are projected to decline at the fastest pace that we have seen since the depths of the last recession…

Week after week, corporations and analysts have been whittling down their estimates. By now, revenues of the S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 2.8% in Q1 from a year ago – the worst year-over-year decline since Q3 of crisis year 2009.

This next chart I want to share with you shows how the Nasdaq has performed over the past decade.  Looking at this chart alone, you would think that the U.S. economy must have been absolutely roaring since the end of the last recession.  But what is really going on is rampant speculation.  Some of the tech companies that make up the Nasdaq are not making any profits at all and yet they are supposedly worth billions of dollars.  If you cannot see a bubble in this chart, you need to get your vision checked…

NASDAQ Chart

And this kind of irrational euphoria is not just happening in the United States.

For example, Chinese stocks are up nearly 80 percent over the past nine months.

Meanwhile, the overall Chinese economy is growing at the slowest pace that we have seen in about 20 years.

Right now, we are in the calm before the storm.  We are right at the door of the next great financial crisis, and most of the people that work in the industry know this.

And once in a while they let the cat out of the bag.

For example, consider what Hans-Jörg Vetter, the CEO of Landesbank Baden-Württemberg in Germany, had to say during one recent press conference

“Risk is no longer priced in,” he said. And these investors aren’t paid for the risks they’re taking. This applies to all asset classes, he said. The stock and the bond markets, he said, are now both seeing “the mother of all bubbles.”

This can’t go on forever. Or for very long. But he couldn’t see the future either and pin down a date, which is what everyone wants to know so that they can all get out in time. “I cannot tell you when it will rumble,” he said, “but eventually it will rumble again.”

By “again” he meant the sort of thing that had taken the bank down last time, the Financial Crisis. It had been triggered by horrendous risk-taking, where risks hadn’t been priced into all kinds of securities. When those securities – mortgage-backed securities, for example, that were hiding the inherent risks under a triple-A rating – blew up, banks toppled.

What Vetter is telling us is what I have been warning about for a long time.

Another great stock market crash is coming.

It is just a matter of time.

The Stock Market In 2015 Is Starting To Look Remarkably Similar To The Stock Market In 2008

Bubble Mirror - Public DomainAre we watching a replay of the last financial crisis?  Over the past six months, the price of oil has collapsed, the U.S. dollar has soared, and a whole bunch of other patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are repeating once again.  But what we have not seen yet is the actual stock market crash.  So will there be one this year?  In this article, I am going to compare the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2008 to the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2015.  As you will see, there are some striking similarities.  And without a doubt, we are overdue for a major market downturn.  The S&P 500 has risen for six years in a row, but it has never had seven up years consecutively.  In addition, there has not even been a 10 percent stock market “correction” is almost three and a half years.  So will stocks be able to continue to defy both gravity and the forces of economic reality?  Only time will tell.

Below is a chart that shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average performed during the first three months of 2008.  It was a time of increased volatility, but the market pretty much went nowhere.  This is typical of what we see in the months leading up to a market crash.  The markets start getting really choppy with large ups and large downs…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2008

This next chart shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed during the first three months of 2015.  Once again, we are witnessing a time of increased volatility, but the market is not really going anywhere.  In fact, after falling about 200 points on Tuesday (not shown on this chart) it is just barely below where it started the year…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2015

When the market becomes quite restless but it doesn’t really move anywhere, that is a sign that we have reached a turning point.  The following is what a recent CNN article had to say about the rising volatility that we have been witnessing…

The Dow fell nearly 3.7% in January, surged 5.6% in February and is down about 2% this month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have gone through similar sentiment swings. The Dow ended the quarter slightly in the red while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up a little bit.

Charles Schwab chief investment officer Liz Ann Sonders summed up this volatility the best — with a nod to U2. “Running to Stand Still: Wild Swings Taking Market Nowhere” is the title of her most recent market commentary.

What can investors expect for the rest of 2015? Probably a lot more of the same.

Now let’s look at a chart for the entire year of 2008.  After peaking for the year in early May, the Dow started to slide.  Things started to get really crazy in September, and by the end of the year the U.S. economy was plunged into the greatest crisis since the Great Depression…

Dow Full Year Of 2008

Will the rest of 2015 follow a similar pattern?

A lot of investors are actually betting that this will be the case.

Right now, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into VXX – an ETF that makes money when the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index goes up.  In other words, these investors are betting that we are going to see a lot more stock market volatility in the weeks and months to come.

And as I have said so many times before, stocks tend to rise in calm markets and they tend to fall when the markets become volatile.

So essentially these investors are betting that we are headed for a stock market crash.

The following is more on the massive inflow of money into VXX that we have been seeing from the Crux

Ways to speculate on how noisy the stock market will be have exploded in the last decade with the advent of products tied to the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index. Strategies include relatively simple hedges against equity losses, such as owning a security that aims to mimic the VIX.

VXX, one of the most popular ways to bet on bigger market swings, has absorbed $715 million in seven consecutive weeks of inflows, its longest streak of inflows since one ending in July 2012. The infusion of fresh cash has continued this week, swelling its market value to $1.5 billion, the highest since September 2013.

At the same time, short-sellers in VXX — people effectively betting the bull market will persist — have dropped out. Short interest has slid 35 percent since October, falling to the lowest in more than seven months last week, data compiled by Markit Ltd. show.

And many of the exact same people that warned us about the financial crisis of 2008 in advance are warning that another crisis is rapidly approaching.  For example, check out the following quote from Ann Pettifor that recently appeared in an article in the Guardian

As Janet Yellen’s Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates, boosting the value of the dollar, while the plunging price of crude puts intense pressure on the finances of oil-exporting countries, there are growing fears of a new debt crisis in the making.

Ann Pettifor of Prime Economics, who foreshadowed the credit crunch in her 2003 book The Coming First World Debt Crisis, says: “We’re going to have another financial crisis. Brazil’s already in great trouble with the strength of the dollar; I dread to think what’s happening in South Africa; then there’s Malaysia. We’re back to where we were, and that for me is really frightening.”

Pettifor is right on two counts – another major financial crisis is approaching, and it is going to be global in scope.

Before I end this article, there are two more items that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, it is being reported that the IPO market has really cooled off in 2015.  When the number of companies going public starts to decline, that is a clear sign that a stock market bubble is on borrowed time.  The following comes from Business Insider

The number of US companies going public has really dropped off lately.

“After a record year in 2014, the IPO market slowed dramatically in the first quarter of 2015,” Renaissance Capital analysts said.

The first quarter of 2015, which ended Tuesday, was the slowest quarter for IPOs since the first quarter of 2013. While stock prices have been near all-time highs, market volatility has been escalating, turning companies off from trying to unload shares onto the public markets.

Secondly, the San Francisco housing market has been a pretty reliable indicator of previous economic booms and busts.  The San Francisco housing market started to cool off before the dotcom bubble burst, it started to cool off before the stock market crash of 2008, and now it is cooling off once again.  The following chart comes from Zero Hedge

San Francisco - Zero Hedge

The warning signs are there.

But as with so many other things in life, most people are going to end up believing precisely what they want to believe.

So what do you believe about what the rest of the year will bring?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Price Of Ground Beef Has DOUBLED Since The Last Financial Crisis

Burger And Fries - Photo by Ewan MunroSince the depths of the last recession, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled.  Has your paycheck doubled since then?  Even though the Federal Reserve insists that we are in a “low inflation” environment, the government’s own numbers show that the price of ground beef has been on an unprecedented run over the past six years.  In early 2009, the average price of a pound of ground beef was hovering near 2 dollars.  In February, it hit a brand new all-time record high of $4.238 per pound.  Even just 12 months ago, the price of ground beef was sitting at $3.555 per pound.  So we are talking about a huge increase.  And this hits American families where they really live.  Each year, the average American consumes approximately 270 pounds of meat.  The only nation in the world that eats more meat than we do is Luxembourg.  If the paychecks of American workers were going up fast enough to deal with this increase, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But of course that is not happening.  In an article just last week, I showed that real median household income is a couple thousand dollars lower now than it was during the depths of the last recession.  The middle class is being squeezed, and we are rapidly getting to the point where burgers are going to be considered a “luxury” item.

The following chart was posted by the Economic Policy Journal on Wednesday, and it incorporates the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  When I first saw it, I was rather stunned.  I knew that the price of ground beef had become rather outrageous in my local grocery stores, but I had no idea just how much damage had been done over the past six years…

Beef Price - Economic Policy Journal

The biggest reason why the price of ground beef has been going up is the fact that the U.S. cattle herd has been shrinking.  It shrunk seven years in a row, and on January 1st, 2014 it was the smallest that it had been since 1951.

The good news is that the decline appears to have stopped, at least for the moment.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the size of the U.S. cattle herd actually increased by 1 percent last year…

The U.S. cattle herd expanded in 2014 for the first time in eight years, offering hope to consumers that beef prices could start to subside after soaring to a series of records.

The nation’s cattle supply increased 1% in the year through Jan. 1 to 89.8 million head, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department, reversing a steady decline fueled by prolonged drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains and industry consolidation that encouraged many ranchers to thin herds.

But an increase of 1 percent is just barely going to keep up with the official population growth rate.  If you factor in illegal immigration, we are still losing ground.

And if we have another major drought in cattle country this summer, the cattle herd is going to start shrinking again.

In addition, the price of food overall has been steadily rising for years.  Here is a chart that I shared the other day

Presentation Food Inflation

It boggles the mind that the Federal Reserve can claim that we are in a “low inflation” environment.  Anyone that goes grocery shopping feels the pain of these rising prices every time that they go to the store.

In the list that I put together yesterday, I included the following statistic…

Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.

One of the primary reasons why so many Americans are not saving any money is because many families simply cannot save any money.  Their paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just keeps going up and up.

There simply are not enough “good jobs” out there anymore.  Our economy continues to bleed middle class jobs and the competition for the jobs that remain is quite intense.

Do you know what the two most common occupations in America today are?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are “retail sales clerk” and “cashier”.

And of course neither of those “occupations” pays even close to what is required to support a middle class family.

On average, a retail sales clerk makes $24,020 a year, and a cashier makes $20,670 a year.

Because the quality of our jobs has declined so much, there are millions of American families today in which both the mother and the father are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet each month.

But don’t worry, the Federal Reserve says that we are nearly at “full employment“, and Barack Obama says that everything is going to be just fine.

Actually, the truth is that things are about to get a lot worse.  At this point, we are even getting pessimistic numbers out of the Federal Reserve.  Just this week we learned that the Fed is now projecting that economic growth for the first quarter of 2015 will be barely above zero

From almost 2.5% GDP growth expectations in February, The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model has now collapsed its estimates of Q1 GDP growth to just 0.2%plunging from +1.4% just 2 weeks ago. The reality of plunging capex and no decoupling is starting to rear its ugly head in the hard data and as the sun warms things up, weather will start to lose its ability to sway sentiment.

We are at a turning point.  The bubble of false stability that we have been living in is rapidly coming to an end, and when people start to realize that another great economic crisis is coming there is going to be a lot of panic.

And as far as food prices go, they are just going to keep taking a bigger chunk out of all of our wallets.

As high as prices are already, the truth is that your food dollars are never going to go farther than they do right now.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

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