George Soros Is Preparing For Economic Collapse – Does He Know Something That You Don’t?

George Soros - Photo by Niccolo CarantiWhy is George Soros selling stocks, buying gold and making “a series of big, bearish investments”?  If things stay relatively stable like they are right now, these moves will likely cost George Soros a tremendous amount of money.  But if a major financial crisis is imminent, he stands to make obscene returns.  So does George Soros know something that the rest of us do not?  Could it be possible that he has spent too much time reading websites such as The Economic Collapse Blog?  What are we to make of all of this?

The recent trading moves that Soros has made are so big and so bearish that they have even gotten the attention of the Wall Street Journal

Worried about the outlook for the global economy and concerned that large market shifts may be at hand, the billionaire hedge-fund founder and philanthropist recently directed a series of big, bearish investments, according to people close to the matter.

Soros Fund Management LLC, which manages $30 billion for Mr. Soros and his family, sold stocks and bought gold and shares of gold miners, anticipating weakness in various markets. Investors often view gold as a haven during times of turmoil.

Hmmm – it sounds suspiciously like George Soros and Michael Snyder are on the exact same page as far as what is about to happen to the global economy.

You know that it is very late in the game when that starts happening…

One thing that George Soros is particularly concerned about that I haven’t been talking a lot about yet is the upcoming Brexit vote.  If the United Kingdom leaves the EU (and hopefully they will), the short-term consequences for the European economy could potentially be absolutely catastrophic

Mr. Soros also argues that there remains a good chance the European Union will collapse under the weight of the migration crisis, continuing challenges in Greece and a potential exit by the United Kingdom from the EU.

If Britain leaves, it could unleash a general exodus, and the disintegration of the European Union will become practically unavoidable,” he said.

The Brexit vote will be held two weeks from today on June 23rd, and we shall be watching to see what happens.

But Soros is not just concerned about a potential Brexit.  The economic slowdown in China also has him very worried, and so he has directed his firm to make extremely bearish wagers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the last time Soros made these kinds of bearish moves was back in 2007, and it resulted in more than a billion dollars of gains for his company.

Of course Soros is not alone in his bearish outlook.  In fact, Goldman Sachs has just warned that “there may be significant risk to the downside for the market”

Goldman Sachs is getting nervous about stocks.

In a note to clients, equity strategist Christian Mueller-Glissmann outlined the firm’s fears that there may be significant risk to the downside for the market.

Ultimately, George Soros and Goldman Sachs are looking at the same economic data that I share with my readers on a daily basis.

As I have been documenting for months, almost every single economic indicator that you can possibly think of says that we are heading into a recession.

For instance, just today I was sent a piece by Mike Shedlock that showed that federal and state tax receipts are really slowing down just like they did just prior to the last two recessions…

US federal personal tax receipts receipts are falling fast. So is the Evercore ISI State Tax Survey.

The last two times the survey plunged this much, the US was already in recession.

Is it different this time?

Tax Receipts - Mish Shedlock

And online job postings on LinkedIn have now been falling precipitously since February after 73 months in a row of growth

After 73 consecutive months of year-over-year growth, online jobs postings have been in decline since February. May was by far the worst month since January 2009, down 285k from April and down 552k from a year ago.

Last week, the government issued the worst jobs report in nearly six years, and the energy industry continues to bleed good paying middle class jobs at a staggering rate.  The following comes from oilprice.com

That may seem counterintuitive in an industry that has been rapidly shedding workers, with more than 350,000 people laid off in the oil and gas industry worldwide.

Texas is one place feeling the pain. Around 99,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Lone Star state have been eliminated since prices collapsed two years ago, or about one third of the entire industry. In April alone there were about 6,300 people in oil and gas and supporting services that were handed pink slips. Employment in Texas’ oil sector is close to levels not seen since the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009. “We’re still losing big chunks of jobs with each passing month,” Karr Ingham, an Amarillo-based economist, told The Houston Chronicle.

At this point it is so obvious that we have entered a new economic downturn that I don’t know how anyone can possibly deny it any longer.

Unfortunately, the reality of what is happening has not sunk in with the general population yet.

Just like 2008, people are feverishly racking up huge credit card balances even though we stand on the precipice of a major financial crisis…

American taxpayers are quick to criticize the federal government for its ever-increasing national debt, but a new study released Wednesday found taxpayers are also saddled with debt, and are likely to end 2016 with a record high $1 trillion in outstanding balances.

Wallethub, a site that recommends credit cards based on consumers’ needs, said that will be the highest amount of credit card debt on record, surpassing even the years during and before the Great Recession. The site said the record high was in 2008, when people owed $984.2 billion on their credit cards.

Will we ever learn?

This has got to be one of the worst possible times to be going into credit card debt.

Sadly, the “dumb money” will continue to act dumb and the “smart money” (such as George Soros) will continue to quietly position themselves to take advantage of the crisis that is already starting to unfold.

We can’t change what is happening to the economy, but we do have control over the choices that we make.

So I urge you to please make your choices wisely.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Rail Traffic Depression: 292 Union Pacific Engines Are Sitting In The Arizona Desert Doing Nothing

Union Pacific Engines - Google EarthWe continue to get more evidence that the U.S. economy has entered a major downturn.  Just last week, I wrote about how U.S. GDP growth numbers have been declining for three quarters in a row, and previously I wrote about how corporate defaults have surged to their highest level since the last financial crisis.  Well, now we are getting some very depressing numbers from the rail industry.  As you will see below, U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago in April.  That is an absolutely catastrophic number, and the U.S. rail industry is feeling an enormous amount of pain right now.  This also tells us that “the real economy” is really slowing down, because less stuff is being shipped by rail all over the nation.

One of the economic commentators that I have really come to respect is Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com.  He has a really sharp eye for what is really going on in the economy and in the financial world, and I find myself quoting him more and more as time goes by.  If you have not checked out his site yet, I very much encourage you to do so.

On Wednesday, he posted a very alarming article about what is happening to our rail industry.  The kinds of numbers that we have been seeing recently are the kinds of numbers that we would expect if an economic depression was starting.  The following is an excerpt from that article

Total US rail traffic in April plunged 11.8% from a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported today. Carloads of bulk commodities such as coal, oil, grains, and chemicals plummeted 16.1% to 944,339 units.

The coal industry is in a horrible condition and cannot compete with US natural gas at current prices. Coal-fired power plants are being retired. Demand for steam coal is plunging. Major US coal miners – even the largest one – are now bankrupt. So in April, carloads of coal plummeted 40% from the already beaten-down levels a year ago.

Because rail traffic is down so dramatically, many operators have large numbers of engines that are just sitting around collecting dust.  In his article, Wolf Richter shared photographs from Google Earth that show some of the 292 Union Pacific engines that are sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing.  The following is one of those photographs…

Union Pacific Engines - Google Earth

As Wolf Richter pointed out, it costs a lot of money for these engines to just sit there doing nothing…

These engines are expensive pieces of equipment. When they just sit there, not pulling trains, they become “overcapacity,” and they get very expensive. Then there are engineers and other personnel who suddenly become unproductive. Some of them have already been laid off or are getting laid off.

All over the world, similar numbers are coming in.  For example, the Baltic Dry Index fell 30 more points on Wednesday after falling 21 on Tuesday.  Global trade is really, really slowing down during the early portion of 2016.  What this means on a practical level is that a lot less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to deny that a new global recession has begun, and at this moment we are only in the very early chapters of this new crisis.

Another thing that I watch very closely is the velocity of money.  When an economy is healthy, people feel pretty good about things and money tends to circulate fairly rapidly.  For example, I may buy something from you, then you may buy something from someone else, etc.

But when times get tough, people tend to hold on to their money more tightly, and that is why the velocity of money goes down when recessions hit.  In the chart below, the shaded areas represent recessions, and you can see that the velocity of money has declined during every single recession in the post-World War II era…

M2 Velocity Of Money

During the last recession, the velocity of money declined precipitously, and that makes perfect sense.  But then a funny thing happened.  There was a slight bump up once the recession was over, but then it turned down again and it has kept going down ever since.

In fact, the velocity of money has now dropped to an all-time low.  The velocity of M2 just recently dipped below 1.5 for the first time ever.

This is not a sign of an “economic recovery”.  What this tells us is that our economy is very, very sick.

And we can see evidence of this sickness all around us.  For instance, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 11 percent last year, and this marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness in the city has increased…

Homelessness rose 11% in the city of Los Angeles and 5.7% in the county last year despite an intensive federal push that slashed the county ranks of homeless veterans by nearly a third, according to a report released Wednesday.

The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of rising homelessness in L.A., as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved to solve the nation’s most intractable homeless problem.

Let us also not forget that about half the country is basically flat broke at this point.

Just recently, the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of all Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without selling something or borrowing the money from somewhere.

With numbers such as these being reported, how in the world can anyone possibly claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?

It boggles the mind, and yet there are people out there that would actually have you believe that everything is just fine.

The current occupant of the White House is one of them.

With each passing month, the real economy is getting even worse.  We may not have slipped into a full-blown economic depression just yet, but it is coming.

For now, let us be thankful for whatever remains of our debt-fueled prosperity, because we don’t deserve the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.

We have been consuming far more than we produce for decades, but it won’t last for much longer.  And when those days are gone for good, we will mourn them bitterly.

Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Tokyo - Public DomainOne of the epicenters of the global financial crisis that started during the second half of last year is Japan, and it looks like the markets in the land of the rising sun are entering yet another period of great turmoil.  The Nikkei was down another 390 points last night, and it is now down more than 1,300 points since a week ago.  Why this is so important for U.S. investors is because the Nikkei is often an early warning indicator of where the rest of the global markets are heading.  For example, the Nikkei started crashing early last December about a month before U.S. markets started crashing really hard in early January.  So the fact that the Nikkei has been falling very rapidly in recent days should be a huge red flag for investors in this country.

I want you to study the chart below very carefully.  It shows the performance of the Nikkei over the past 12 months.  As you can see, it kind of resembles a giant leaning “W”.  You can see the stock crash that started last August, you can see the second wave of the crash that began last December, and now a third leg of the crash is currently forming…

Nikkei - Federal Reserve

And of course the economic fundamentals in Japan continue to deteriorate as well.  GDP growth has been negative for two out of the last three quarters, Japanese industrial production just experienced the largest one month decline that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has sunk to a three year low.

The third largest economy on the entire planet is in a comatose state at this point, and Japanese authorities have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it in an attempt to revive it.  Government stimulus programs have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 229 percent, and the quantitative easing that the Bank of Japan has been engaged in has made the Federal Reserve look timid by comparison.

But none of those extraordinary measures has been successful in stimulating the Japanese economy, so now the Bank of Japan has been been trying negative interest rates.  Unfortunately, these negative rates are also having some unintended consequences.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the negative interest rate program is putting additional stress on the Japanese financial sector…

The Bank of Japan started imposing a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits held by commercial banks in February, meaning that those banks now have to pay a small fee when they add to their money parked at the central bank. The financial sector has suffered amid worries that banks can’t pass on negative interest rate to their depositors and therefore will take a hit to their profits.

I would keep a very close eye on the big banks in Japan.  It is my conviction that there is a lot more brewing under the surface than we are being told about so far.

In addition, many analysts in Japan are complaining that all of this manipulation by the BOJ is essentially destroying normal market behavior.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Nobuyasu Atago, who also had worked at the BOJ and is now the chief economist at Okasan Securities Co., pointed out that instead of serving as a important source of cash for borrowers, the credit market has become a profit center for dealers looking to buy securities from investors and sell them to the central bank. While the strategy may be lucrative now, financial institutions face the risk of massive losses, he said.

“By making the trade with the BOJ the only source of profit, markets are exposed to unexpected volatility when that trade ends and the BOJ moves toward the exit,” Atago said. “Markets are being destroyed.”

The more global central banks try to “fix things”, the more they make our long-term imbalances even worse.

To me, it makes no sense to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners constantly monkeying with the financial system.  In a true free market system, we would allow market forces to determine the course of events.  But of course we don’t have a free market system anymore.  Instead, what we have is a heavily socialized system that is greatly manipulated by the central planners.

That is why global financial markets gyrate wildly if Janet Yellen so much as sneezes.  They know who holds all the power, and investors are constantly on edge as they wait for the latest pronouncement from our central banking overlords.

At this point, 99 percent of the global population lives in a country with a central bank.  Our world is more deeply divided than ever, and yet somehow everyone in the world has agreed to adopt this insidious system.

It sure is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

Getting back to Japan, things are so bad now that the Japanese government is actually considering giving gift certificates directly to low-income young people.  The following originally comes from Bloomberg

The Japanese government plans to include gift certificates for low-income young people in its fiscal 2016 supplementary budget, Sankei reports, without saying who provided the information.

Recipients would be able to use them for daily necessities.

The government sees gift certificates as more effective in stimulating consumption than cash handouts, which may be deposited.

This is what the end of democracy looks like.

When the government just starts handing out money like candy, you might as well turn out the lights because the party is over.

Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have injected approximately 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs.

Has all of this monkeying around solved our problems?

Of course not.

Instead, our long-term problems have grown progressively worse and now a new financial crisis has begun.

Keep an eye on Japan, and also keep an eye on Europe.  Huge problems are bubbling right under the surface, and when they come bursting into the open they will deeply affect the United States as well.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Robert Kiyosaki And Harry Dent Warn That Financial Armageddon Is Imminent

Alarm Clock Globe - Public DomainFinancial experts Robert Kiyosaki and Harry Dent are both warning that the next major economic crash is in our very near future.  Dent is projecting that the Dow will fall to “5,500 to 6,000 by late 2017”, and Kiyosaki actually originally projected that a great crash was coming in 2016 all the way back in 2002.  Of course we don’t exactly have to wait for things to get bad.  The truth is that things are not really very good at the moment by any stretch of the imagination.  Approximately one-third of all Americans don’t make enough money to even cover the basic necessities, 23 percent of adults in their prime working years are not employed, and corporate debt defaults have exploded to the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis.  But if Kiyosaki and Dent are correct, economic conditions in this country will soon get much, much worse than this.

During a recent interview, Harry Dent really went out on a limb by staking his entire reputation on a prediction that we would experience “the biggest global bubble burst in history” within the next four years…

There will be… and I will stake my entire reputation on this… we are going to see the biggest global bubble burst in history in the next four years…

There’s only one way out of this bubble and that is for it to burst… all this stuff is going to reset back to where it should be without all this endless debt, endless printed money, stimulus and zero interest rate policy.

And of course he is far from alone.  Without a doubt, we are currently in the terminal phases of the greatest financial bubble the world has ever known, and it is exceedingly difficult to see any way that it will not end very, very badly.

Ultimately, Dent believes that we could see U.S. stocks lose two-thirds of their value by late next year

The Dow, I’m projecting, will hit 5,500 to 6,000 by late 2017… just in the next year and a half or so. 

That’ll be most of the damage… then it will rally and there’ll be some aftershocks into 2020… my four cycles point down into early 2020 and then they start one after the other to turn up… I think the worst will be over by 2020, but the worst of that will be by the end of 2017.

If that does happen, it will be a far worse crash than what we experienced back in 2008, and the economic consequences will be absolutely terrifying.

Another highly respected financial expert that is making similar claims is Robert Kiyosaki.  My wife is a big fan of his books, and I have always held him in high regard.

But what I didn’t realize is that he had actually predicted that there would be a major financial crash all the way back in 2002

Fourteen years ago, the author of a series of popular personal-finance books predicted that 2016 would bring about the worst market crash in history, damaging the financial dreams of millions of baby boomers just as they started to depend on that money to fund retirement.

Broader U.S. stock markets are recovering from the worst 10-day start to a year on record. But Robert Kiyosaki — who made that 2016 forecast in the 2002 book “Rich Dad’s Prophecy” — says the meltdown is under way, and there’s little investors can do but buy gold or silver and hope the Federal Reserve slows the slide.

I agree with Kiyosaki that one way that investors can shield their wealth is by getting gold and silver.  In a recent article, I explained exactly why I believe that silver in particular is ridiculously undervalued right now.

Kiyosaki also believes that the coming crash could be delayed a bit if the Federal Reserve decided to embark on another round of quantitative easing.  But even if that happens, Kiyosaki is absolutely convinced that eventually “it’s all going to come down”

Kiyosaki told MarketWatch that the combination of demographics and global economic weakness makes the next crash inevitable — but the Fed could stave it off with another round of quantitative easing, which might stimulate the economy.

The Fed turned more dovish at its March meeting, with the central bank penciling in fewer interest-rate hikes this year than were previously part of its implied framework. The Fed signaled those hikes would happen more slowly than had been anticipated earlier, owing to a weak global economic environment and a volatile stock market.

“The big question [whether] we do ‘QE4,’” said Kiyosaki. “If we do, the stock market will come roaring back, but it’s not rocket science. If we stop printing money, it crashes; if we print money, it goes up. But, eventually, it’s all going to come down.”

Another voice that I have come to respect is Jim Rickards.  He is not quite as apocalyptic as Kiyosaki or Dent, but without a doubt he is deeply concerned about where the global economy is headed…

Global growth is slowing both because of weakness in developed economies like Europe and Japan, and weakness in some of the emerging markets champions such as China, Brazil and Russia. The limits of monetary policy have been reached.

The evidence is now clear that negative interest rates don’t stimulate spending; they are only good for devaluation in the ongoing currency wars. World trade is shrinking; a rare phenomenon usually associated with recession or depression.

And he is exactly right.  The economic downturn that we are witnessing is truly global in scope.  Brazil has plunged into an economic depression, the Italian banking system is in the process of completely melting down, and Japan has implemented negative interest rates in a desperate attempt to keep their Ponzi scheme going but it really isn’t working.  In fact, Japanese industrial production just crashed by the most that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011.

Here in the United States, investors are generally feeling pretty good right now because stocks have rebounded substantially in recent weeks.  However, Rickards is warning that this rebound is very temporary

Stocks are clearly in a bubble. The stock market is ignoring the strong dollar, which in turn hurts exports and devalues overseas earnings. It is also ignoring declining corporate earnings, imminent defaults in the energy sector, and declining global growth in general.

Never mind. As long as money is cheap and leverage is plentiful, there’s no reason not to bid up stock prices, and wait for the greater fool to bid them up some more.

There is so much that we could learn from all these three men.

Sadly, just like we saw in 2008, most Americans are ignoring the warnings.

The mainstream media has conditioned the public to trust them, and right now the mainstream media is insisting that everything is going to be just fine.

So will everything be just fine as the months roll along?

We will just have to wait and see…

Why Investing In Silver Is Vastly Superior To Investing In Gold Right Now

Silver Coins - Public DomainWhen panic and fear dominate financial markets, gold and silver both tend to rapidly rise in price.  We witnessed this during the last financial crisis, and it is starting to happen again.  Because I am the publisher of a website called The Economic Collapse Blog, I am often asked about gold and silver when I do interviews.  In fact, just a few days ago I was sitting right next to Jim Rickards during the taping of a television show when this topic came up.  Jim expressed his belief that investing in gold is superior to investing in silver, but I had the exact opposite viewpoint.  In this article, I would like to elaborate on why I believe that silver represents a historic investment opportunity right now.

I should start out by disclosing that my wife and I have been able to put away a little bit of silver over the years.  I wish that it could have been a lot more, but so often there are other priorities that need to be addressed.  For example, I have always said that people need to take care of their emergency food storage first before even thinking about any kind of investments.

But if you have money left over after taking care of the basics, I am fully convinced that silver is a wonderful investment for the mid to long term.  In this article, I am going to explain why this is the case.  However, I have always warned that you have got to be ready for a rollercoaster ride if you get into precious metals.  So if you can’t handle the ups and downs, you should probably avoid them altogether.

As I write this article, the price of gold is sitting at $1254.30 an ounce.

Meanwhile, the price of silver is sitting at just $15.81 an ounce.

That means that the price of gold is currently more than 79 times higher than the price of silver.  For the ratio between gold and silver to be this high is truly unusual.

You see, the truth is that there is only about 17 times as much silver as there is gold in the Earth’s crust.  And currently silver is being mined at about an 11 to 1 ratio to gold.

So it makes sense that throughout history gold has typically sold at about a 15 to 1 ratio to silver.

During the years to come, I do believe that gold will multiply in price.

But I am also convinced that the price of silver will go up much, much faster.

As they both skyrocket in price, the price ratio between gold and silver will shift very quickly from 79 to 1 in the direction of 15 to 1.

Perhaps we may never even get all the way back to 15 to 1, but if we even got to 40 to 1 or 30 to 1, what that would mean for silver would be history making.

Let us also keep in mind that unlike gold, silver is constantly being used up in thousands of different industrial applications.  The following comes from Jeff Nielson

Over the past quarter century, more silver-based patents have been created than with any other metal on the planet. But not only does silver have unparalleled versatility, it is an extremely potent metal, meaning that in many of its commercial applications it is used in only trace amounts.

Why is this of significance? Because in such tiny quantities it is economically impractical to ever recycle any of this silver, at prices anywhere near the (absurd) levels of recent decades. Thus this silver is being consumed in tiny amounts, but in billions and billions of consumer products, over a span of decades.

Unlike gold, our stockpiles of silver are disappearing. As previously mentioned, for at least the last thirty years, the only way that our strong demand for silver could be satisfied has been through consuming portions of these stockpiles.

It has been estimated that approximately one billion ounces of silver have been used in consumer products over the past ten years alone.

Even if the world could somehow avoid the great financial turmoil that has already begun, the truth is that eventually a great demand crunch for silver would come just based on how much of it we are steadily consuming.

At less than 16 dollars an ounce right now, silver is ridiculously undervalued.

Those that are wise see this, and they are stocking up on silver coins at an unprecedented level.  Just check out these numbers

Silver Eagle sales will likely jump by 25% in the first quarter due to deteriorating market conditions. During the first three months last year the U.S. Mint sold 12 million Silver Eagles. Already, sales of Silver Eagles have reached 13 million. There are two weeks remaining in March and the U.S. Mint will likely sell another two million. This will put total Silver Eagle sales for the first quarter at 15 million….. the highest ever.

I have always said that I believe that the price of silver will eventually go over $100 an ounce.

When that happens, those that got in today will be exceedingly happy with their returns.

Others are projecting even greater gains.  For instance, investing legend Egon von Greyerz believes that the price of silver could ultimately go as high as $660 an ounce, and Jeff Nielson believes that $1,000 an ounce for silver would be a fair price.

But once again, don’t even think about getting into precious metals until you have the basics squared away.  It is often said that you can’t eat gold or silver, and that is very true.

In our new television show, my wife and I are always going to tell it to you straight.  A lot of people out there are relaxing right now because they think that the recent stock market rally means that the crisis is over.  What they don’t understand is that this new financial crisis is just in the very early chapters.  There are going to be more ups and more downs, and the shaking that we have seen so far is just the beginning.

Many of you may not want to believe me at this moment, but by the end of 2016 life in America is going to look dramatically different than it does right now.  So please get prepared while you are still able to do so.

The Collapse Of Italy’s Banks Threatens To Plunge The European Financial System Into Chaos

Italy Flag Map - Public DomainThe Italian banking system is a “leaning tower” that truly could completely collapse at literally any moment.  And as Italy’s banks begin to go down like dominoes, it is going to set off financial panic all over Europe unlike anything we have ever seen before.  I wrote about the troubles in Italy back in January, but since that time the crisis has escalated.  At this point, Italian banking stocks have declined a whopping 28 percent since the beginning of 2016, and when you look at some of the biggest Italian banks the numbers become even more frightening.  On Monday, shares of Monte dei Paschi were down 4.7 percent, and they have now plummeted 56 percent since the start of the year.  Shares of Carige were down 8 percent, and they have now plunged a total of 58 percent since the start of the year.  This is what a financial crisis looks like, and just like we are seeing in South America, the problems in Italy appear to be significantly accelerating.

So what makes Italy so important?

Well, we all saw how difficult it was for the rest of Europe to come up with a plan to rescue Greece.  But Greece is relatively small – they only have the 44th largest economy in the world.

The Italian economy is far larger.  Italy has the 8th largest economy in the world, and their government debt to GDP ratio is currently sitting at about 132 percent.

There is no way that Europe has the resources or the ability to handle a full meltdown of the Italian financial system.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  Italian banks are absolutely drowning in non-performing loans, and as Jeffrey Moore has noted, this potentially represents “the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system”…

Shares of Italy’s largest financial institutions have plummeted in the opening months of 2016 as piles of bad debt on their balance sheets become too high to ignore.  Amid all of the risks facing EU members in 2016, the risk of contagion from Italy’s troubled banks poses the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system.

At the core of the issue is the concerning level of Non-Performing Loans (NPL’s) on banks’ books, with estimates ranging from 17% to 21% of total lending.  This amounts to approximately €200 billion of NPL’s, or 12% of Italy’s GDP.  Moreover, in some cases, bad loans make up an alarming 30% of individual banks’ balance sheets.

Things have already gotten so bad that the European Central Bank is now monitoring liquidity levels at Monte dei Paschi and Carige on a daily basis.  The following comes from Reuters

The European Central Bank is checking liquidity levels at a number of Italian banks, including Banca Carige and Monte dei Paschi di Siena , on a daily basis, two sources close to the matter said on Monday.

Italian banking shares have fallen sharply since the start of the year amid market concerns about some 360 billion euros of bad loans on their books and weak capital levels.

The ECB has been putting pressure on several Italian banks to improve their capital position. The regulator can decide to monitor liquidity levels at any bank it supervises on a weekly or daily basis if it has any concern about deposits or funding.

 

A run on the big Italian banks has already begun.  Italians have already been quietly pulling billions of euros out of the banking system, and if these banks continue to crumble this “stealth run” could quickly become a stampede.

And of course panic in Italy would quickly spread to other financially troubled members of the eurozone such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and France.  Here is some additional analysis from Jeffrey Moore

A deteriorating financial crisis in Italy could risk repercussions across the EU exponentially greater than those spurred by Greece.  The ripple effects of market turmoil and the potential for dangerous precedents being set by EU authorities in panicked response to that turmoil, could ignite yet more latent financial vulnerabilities in fragile EU members such as Spain and Portugal.

Unfortunately, most Americans are completely blinded to what is going on in the rest of the world because stocks in the U.S. have had a really good run for the past couple of weeks.  Headlines are declaring that the risk of a new recession “has passed” and that the crisis “is over”.  Meanwhile, South America is plunging into a full-blown depression, the Italian banking system is melting down, global manufacturing numbers are the worst that we have seen since the last recession, and global trade is absolutely imploding.

Other than that, things are pretty good.

Seriously, it is absolutely critical that we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled by every little wave of momentum in the stock market.

It is a fact that sales and profits for U.S. corporations are declining.  This is a trend that began all the way back in mid-2014 and that has accelerated during the early stages of 2016.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Total US business sales – not just sales by S&P 500 companies but also sales by small caps and all other businesses, even those that are not publicly traded – peaked in July 2014 at $1.365 trillion, according to the Census Bureau. By December 2015, total business sales were down 4.6% from that peak. A bad 18 months for sales! They’re back where they’d first been in January 2013!

Sales by S&P 500 companies dropped 3.8% in 2015, according to FactSet, the worst year since the Financial Crisis.

I know that a lot of people have been eagerly anticipating a complete and total global economic collapse for a long time, and many of them just want to “get it over with”.

Well, the truth is that nobody should want to see what is coming.  Personally, I rejoice for every extra day, week or month we are given.  Every extra day is another day to prepare, and every extra day is another day to enjoy the extremely comfortable standard of living that our debt-fueled prosperity has produced for us.

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how spoiled we really are.  Even just fifty years ago, life was so much harder in this country.  If we had to go back and live the way that Americans did 100 or 150 years ago, there are very few of us that would be able to successfully do that.

So enjoy the remaining days of debt-fueled prosperity while you still can, because great change is coming, and it is going to be extremely bitter for most of the population.

Plunging Manufacturing Numbers Mean That It Is Time To Hit The Panic Button For The Global Economy

Panic Button On Keyboard - Public DomainWe haven’t seen numbers like these since the last global recession.  I recently wrote about how global trade is imploding all over the planet, and the same thing is true when it comes to manufacturing.  We just learned that manufacturing in China has now been contracting for seven months in a row, and as you will see below, U.S. manufacturing is facing “its toughest period since the global financial crisis”.  Yes, global stocks have bounced back a bit after experiencing dramatic declines during January and the first part of February, and this is something that investors are very happy about.  But that does not mean that the crisis is over.  All bear markets have their ups and downs, and this one will not be any different.  Meanwhile, the cold, hard economic numbers that keep coming in are absolutely screaming that a new global recession is here.

Just consider what is happening in China.  Manufacturing activity continues to implode, and factories are shedding jobs at the fastest pace since the last financial crisis

Chinese manufacturing suffered a seventh straight month of contraction in February.

China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 49.0 in February, down from the previous month’s reading of 49.4 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

A private survey also showed China’s factories shed jobs at the fastest rate in seven years in February, raising doubts about the government’s ability to reduce industry overcapacity this year without triggering a sharp jump in unemployment.

For years, the expansion of the Chinese economy has helped fuel global economic growth.  But now things have shifted dramatically.

At this point, things are already so bad that the Chinese government is admitting that millions of workers are going to lose their jobs at state-controlled industries in China…

China’s premier told visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Monday his government is pressing ahead with painful reforms to shrink bloated coal and steel industries that are a drag on its slowing economy and ruled out devaluing its currency as a short-cut to boosting exports.

Premier Li Keqiang’s comments to Lew on Monday were in line with a joint declaration by financial officials from the Group of 20 biggest rich and developing economies who met over the weekend in Shanghai. They pledged to avoid devaluations to boost sagging trade and urged governments to speed up reforms to boost slowing global growth.

Across all state-controlled industries, as many as six million workers could be out of a job, with almost two million in the coal industry alone.

But it isn’t just China.  Right now manufacturing activity is slowing down literally all over the planet, and this is exactly what we would expect to see if a new global recession had begun.  The following chart and analysis come from Zero Hedge

As the below table shows, 28 regions have reported so far. Seven saw improvements in their manufacturing sectors in February, twenty recorded a weakening, and India was unchanged. This means that over 70% of the world saw manufacturing sentiment deteriorate in February compared to January.

February Manufacturing Numbers - Zero Hedge

In terms of actual expansion, there were 21 countries in positive territory and 7 in negative. In particular, Greece moved from neutral to contraction territory, while Taiwan dropped below breakeven from expansion.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t really pay much attention to what is going on in the rest of the world.  For most of us, what really matters is what is happening inside the good ole USA.

And of course the news is not good.  There were more signs of trouble for U.S. manufacturing in the February numbers, and this continues a trend that stretches back well into last year.  The following is what Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, had to say about these numbers

“The February data add to signs of distress in the US manufacturing economy. Production and order book growth continues to worsen, led by falling exports. Jobs are being added at a slower pace and output prices are dropping at a rate not seen since mid-2012.

“The deterioration in the manufacturing sector’s performance since mid-2014 has broadly tracked the dollar’s rise, which makes US goods more expensive in overseas markets and leads US consumers to favour cheaper imported goods.

“With other headwinds including the downturn in the oil sector, heightened uncertainty due to financial market volatility, global growth worries and growing concerns about the presidential election, it’s no surprise that the manufacturing sector is facing its toughest period since the global financial crisis.

Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. economy has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities.  We desperately need a manufacturing renaissance – not another manufacturing decline.

As good paying manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, they have been replaced by low paying service jobs.  As a result, the middle class is shrinking and the ranks of the poor are exploding.

It is hard to believe, but today more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps, and a significant percentage of those individuals actually have jobs.  They are called “the working poor”, and it is becoming a major crisis in this nation.

And no matter what Obama may say, unemployment remains a major problem in the United States as well.  At this point, unemployment rates in 36 states are higher than they were just before the last recession hit in 2008.

Of course a lot of people are going to look at this article and will point to the stock market gains of the past couple of weeks as evidence that “things are getting better”.  It is this kind of clueless approach that is keeping the American people from coming together on solutions to our problems.

The truth is that the United States has been experiencing economic decline for decades.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted, the middle class is steadily deteriorating, and we have amassed the biggest pile of debt in the history of the world.

Anyone that believes that things are “just fine” is in a massive state of denial.  Consuming far more wealth than we produce is not a formula for a sustainable economy, and it is just a matter of time before we find this out the hard way.

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