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Now Is The Time – Fear Rises As Financial Markets All Over The Planet Start To Crash

Fear - Public DomainCan you feel the panic in the air?  CNN Money’s Fear & Greed Index measures the amount of fear in the financial world on a scale from 0 to 100.  The closer it is to zero, the higher the level of fear.  Last Monday, the index was sitting at a reading of 36.  As I write this article, it has fallen to 7.  The financial turmoil which began last week is threatening to turn into an avalanche. On Sunday night, we witnessed the second largest one day stock market collapse in China ever, and this pushed stocks all over the planet into the red.  Meanwhile, the twin blades of an emerging market currency crisis and a commodity price crash are chewing up economies that are dependent on the export of natural resources all over the globe.  For a long time, I have been warning about what would happen in the second half of 2015, and now it is here.  The following is a summary of the financial carnage that we have seen over the past 24 hours…

-On Sunday night, the Shanghai Composite Index plunged 8.5 percent.  It was the largest one day stock market crash in China since 2007, and it was the second largest in history.  The Chinese government is promising to directly intervene in order to prevent Chinese stocks from going down even more.

-Over 1,500 stocks in China fell by their 10 percent daily maximum.  This list includes giants such as China Unicom, Bank of Communications and PetroChina.

-Ever since peaking in June, the Shanghai Composite Index has dropped by a total of 28 percent.

-Even Chinese stocks that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges are being absolutely hammered.  The following comes from USA Today

The 144 China-based stocks with primary listings on major U.S. exchanges have erased nearly $40 billion in paper wealth since the Shanghai Composite index peaked on June 12. It’s an enormous destruction of wealth that in effects wipes out the market value of a company the size of cruise ship operator Carnival.

-The Chinese stock market crash pushed European stocks significantly lower on Monday…

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed 2.1 percent lower, while the Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC closed respectively 2.4 percent and 2.5 percent lower.

The U.K.’s benchmark FTSE outperformed its euro zone peers, but still closed unofficially down 1.0 percent.

-Overall, European stocks have been falling steadily since the beginning of last week.  To get an idea of how much damage has been done already, just check out this chart.

-As I mentioned above, an emerging market currency crisis is causing havoc for economies all over the planet.  The following comes from an article that was published by the Telegraph

The currencies of Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey have all crashed to multi-year lows as investors flee emerging markets and commodity prices crumble.

The drastic moves came as fears of imminent monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve combined with shockingly weak figures from China, which stoked fears that the country may be sliding into a deeper downturn and sent tremors through East Asia, Latin America and Africa.

-The government of Puerto Rico has announced that it does not have enough cash to make a scheduled debt payment of 169 million dollars on August 1st.  The Obama administration says that there are no plans in the works to bail out Puerto Rico.

-On Monday, the Dow was down another 127 points.  It was the fifth day in a row that the Dow and the S&P 500 have both declined.

-Overall, the Dow is now down more than 650 points since July 20th.

-480 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange have hit new 52-week lows.  Many analysts consider this to be a very, very ominous sign.

-I have repeatedly written about the danger of the commodity collapse that we are currently witnessing, and the Bloomberg Commodity Index fell another 1.22 percent on Monday to a fresh low of 92.1493.

-On Monday, the price of U.S. oil hit a 52-week low of $46.92.

-So far, the price of U.S. oil has fallen about 20 percent this month.

-Back in June 2014, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude was above 107 dollars.  Since then, the price of U.S. oil has fallen an astounding 56 percent.

-Thanks in large part to the collapse in energy prices, junk bonds are cratering.  This is something that happened just before the financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.  The following comes from Wolf Street

Among the bonds: Cliffs Natural Resources down 27.6%, SandBridge down 30%, Murray Energy down 21.2%, and Linn Energy down 22.3%, according to Bloomberg.

For example, Linn Energy 6.25% notes due in 2019 were trading at 78 cents on the dollar at the beginning of July and at 58 on Friday, according to LCD. There was bloodshed beyond energy, such as AK Steel’s 7.625% notes due in 2021. They were trading at 62 cents on the dollar, down 22% from the beginning of July.

“The performance is a disappointment to investors who purchased about $40 billion of junk-rated bonds from energy companies this year, thinking that the worst of the slump was over,” Bloomberg noted.

This is exactly what we would expect to see during the early stages of a financial crisis.

Of course global financial markets may bounce back somewhat tomorrow.  If you will remember, some of the largest one day gains in stock market history happened right in the middle of the stock market collapse of 2008.  So don’t get fooled by what happens on any one particular day.

With so much fear in the air, literally anything could happen in the weeks and months ahead of us.  One month ago, I issued a red alert for the last six months of this year.  I warned that a major financial crisis was imminent and that people needed to start protecting themselves immediately.

As I write this article on Monday evening, financial markets are already opening up over in Asia.  Japanese stocks are already down 251 points even though the market has only been open for about an hour over there.

We have entered a time when what is happening to global stock markets will once again be headline news.  We are right on the precipice of another great financial crisis, only this one is going to ultimately end up being much worse than the last one.

Now is the time.

Please get prepared while you still can.

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.

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…

9 Ominous Signals Coming From The Financial Markets That We Have Not Seen In Years

Ominous Storm Clouds Gathering - Public DomainIs the stock market about to crash?  Hopefully not, and there definitely have been quite a few “false alarms” over the past few years.  But without a doubt we have been living through one of the greatest financial bubbles in U.S. history, and the markets are absolutely primed for a full-blown crash.  That doesn’t mean that one will happen now, but we are starting to see some ominous things happen in the financial world that we have not seen happen in a very long time.  So many of the same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the bursting of the dotcom bubble and just prior to the 2008 financial crisis are repeating themselves again.  Hopefully we still have at least a little bit more time before stocks completely crash, because when this market does implode it is going to be a doozy.

The following are 9 ominous signals coming from the financial markets that we have not seen in years…

#1 By the time the markets closed on Monday, we had witnessed the biggest three day decline for U.S. stocks since 2011.

#2 On Monday, the S&P 500 moved below its 200 day moving average for the first time in about two years.  The last time this happened after such an extended streak of success, the S&P 500 ended up declining by a total of 22 percent.

#3 This week the put-call ratio actually moved higher than it was at any point during the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.  This is an indication that there is a tremendous amount of fear on Wall Street right now.

#4 Everybody is watching the VIX at the moment.  According to the Economic Policy Journal, the VIX has now risen to the highest level that it has been since the heart of the European debt crisis.  This is another indicator that there is extraordinary fear on Wall Street…

US stock market volatility has jumped to the highest since the eurozone debt crisis, according to a closely watched index, the the CBOE Vix index of implied US share price volatility.

It jumped to 24.6 late on Monday and is up again this morning. On Thursday, it was as low as 15.

That’s a very strong move, but things have been much worse. At height of the recent financial crisis – the Vix index peaked at 80.1 in November 2008.

Could we get there again? Yeah.

#5 The price of oil is crashing.  This also happened in 2008 just before the financial crisis erupted.  At this point, the price of oil is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.

#6 As Chris Kimble has pointed out, the chart for the Dow has formed a “Doji Star topping pattern”.  We also saw this happen in 2007.  Could this be an indication that we are on the verge of another stock market crash similar to what happened in 2008?

#7 Canadian stocks are actually doing even worse than U.S. stocks.  At this point, Canadian stocks have already dropped more than 10 percent from the peak of the market.

#8 European stocks have also had a very rough month.  For example, German stocks have already dropped about 10 percent since July, and there are growing concerns about the overall health of the German economy.

#9 The wealthy are hoarding cash and precious metals right now.  In fact, one British news report stated that sales of gold bars to wealthy customers are up 243 percent so far this year.

So what comes next?

Some experts are saying that this is the perfect time to buy stocks at value prices.  For example, USA Today published a story with the following headline on Tuesday: “Time to ‘buy’ the fear? One Wall Street pro says yes“.

Other experts, however, believe that this could represent a major turning point for the financial markets.

Just consider what Abigail Doolittle recently told CNBC

Technical strategist Abigail Doolittle is holding tight to her prediction of market doom ahead, asserting that a recent move in Wall Street’s fear gauge is signaling the way.

Doolittle, founder of Peak Theories Research, has made headlines lately suggesting a market correction worse than anyone thinks is ahead. The long-term possibility, she has said, is a 60 percent collapse for the S&P 500.

In early August, Doolittle was warning both of a looming “super spike” in the CBOE Volatility Index as well as a “death cross” in the 10-year Treasury note. The former referenced a sharp move higher in the “VIX,” while the latter used Wall Street lingo for an event that already occurred in which the fixed income benchmark saw its 50-day moving average cross below its 200-day trend line.

Both, she said, served as indicators for trouble ahead.

So what do you think?

Are we about to witness a stock market crash and another major financial crisis?

Or is this just another “false alarm” that will soon fade?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Economists: The U.S. Economy Shrank In Q1, But Better Days Are Just Around The Corner

Smiley Face - Photo by FlyingtigersiteDuring the first three months of this year, the U.S. economy contracted at a 1 percent annual rate.  Despite this, mainstream economists flooded the mainstream media with assurances that much better days are just around the corner on Thursday.  In fact, many of them boldly predicted that U.S. GDP would grow at a 3 or 4 percent annual rate in the second quarter.  None of them seem the least bit concerned that another major recession is rapidly approaching.  Instead, they just blamed the bad number for the first quarter on a “severe winter“, and the financial markets responded to the GDP news quite cheerfully.  In fact, the S&P 500 soared to another brand new record high.  No matter how bad the numbers get, almost everyone in the financial world seems quite optimistic.  But is there actually good reason to have such optimism?

As Zero Hedge has pointed out, if it wasn’t for dramatically increased healthcare spending due to the implementation of Obamacare, U.S. GDP would have actually dropped at a 2 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2014.

That would have been an absolutely disastrous number.

But within a very short time of the revised U.S. GDP number being released, the mainstream media was inundated with positive stories about the news.

For example, CNN published a story entitled “U.S. economy shrinks, but it’s not a big deal” and CNBC released a survey of nine prominent economists that showed that their consensus forecast for the second quarter of 2014 is GDP growth at a 3.74 percent annual rate.

It just seems like almost everyone wants to forget about what happened during the first quarter and wants to look ahead to a great number for quarter two.

Joseph Lavorgna, the chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, is boldly forecasting a 4 percent growth rate for the second quarter.  So is Jim O’Sullivan.  In fact, it is hard to find any “expert” in the mainstream media that does not expect rip-roaring economic growth this quarter.

For example, just check out these quotes…

Stuart Hoffman, the chief economist for PNC Bank: “The first quarter was disappointing, but rather than view that as an omen of a recession or the first of a down leg in the economy, I see the seeds of a big bounce back in spring.”

Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics: “For those worried about a recession, it’s worth remembering that employment increased by nearly 300,000 in April.”

The Bank of Tokyo’s Chris Rupkey: “2Q growth seen at nearly 4%… Weak 1Q is stone cold dead as an indicator of where the economy is headed.”

Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs: “Because of weaker inventory investment in Q1, we increased our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by two-tenths to 3.9%.”

Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. CEO Jeffrey Stibel: “Using an alternative model for projecting job growth, we see an entirely different scenario, one in which the U.S. unemployment rate will fall below 5 percent by no later than the middle of next year.”

Hopefully they are right.

Hopefully we are not heading into another recession.

But as I discussed in an article earlier this week, evidence continues to mount that another recession has already begun for much of the country.

And there was another number that was released today that seems to confirm this.  According to CNBC, there was a 6 percent drop in exports in the first quarter of 2014 when compared to the first quarter of 2013…

The U.S. economic reversal was led by a 6 percent drop in exports year over year, until recently hailed as a key driver of the U.S. recovery, and which had risen 9.5 percent in the last three months of 2013.

The slackening of trade has spread to the developing world, where emerging economies are seeing less demand from the U.S., Europe and China for raw materials and other exports.

We saw a similar decline happen in mid-2008 as the U.S. economy plunged into recession.

And Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in six months.  U.S. consumers are increasingly tapped out, and the ongoing “retail apocalypse” is evidence of that fact.

A declining middle class simply cannot support the massive retail infrastructure that America has developed.  As the middle class has fallen to pieces, it was just a matter of time before big trouble started erupting for the retail industry.  This is something that David Stockman recently wrote about…

It does not take much analysis to see that these bell ringers do not represent sustainable prosperity unfolding across the land. For example, around 1990 real median income was $56k per household and now, 25 years later, its just $51k—-meaning that main street living standards have plunged by about 9% during the last quarter century. But what has not dropped is the opportunity for Americans to drop shopping: square footage per capita during the same period more than doubled, rising from 19 square feet per capita at the earlier date to 47 at present.

This complete contradiction—declining real living standards and soaring investment in retail space—did not occur due to some embedded irrational impulse in America to speculate in real estate, or because capitalism has an inherent tendency to go off the deep-end. The fact that in equally “prosperous” Germany today there is only 12 square feet of retail space per capita is an obvious tip-off, and this is not a teutonic aberration. America’s prize-winning number of 47 square feet of retail space per capita is 3-8X higher than anywhere else in the developed world!

Without middle class jobs, you can’t have a middle class.  That is why our employment crisis is at the very heart of our economic problems.  Even using the government’s highly manipulated unemployment figures, there are still quite a few cities out there that have official unemployment rates in the double digits

The unemployment rate in Yuma, Ariz., is 23.8%. In El Centro, Calif., it is 21.6%. El Centro sits in an area of California in which unemployment in many metro areas is double the national average. In Merced the figure is 14.3%, in Yuba City the figure is 14.5%, in Hanford it is 13.1% and in Visalia it is 13.4%. In several metros close to these, the figure is above 10%. Most of them are inland from San Francisco and the area just south of it, which also happens to be among the nation’s most drought-plagued regions. This means jobs recovery is highly unlikely.

But of course the truth is that if the government actually used honest numbers, the unemployment rate for the entire nation would be in double digits.

And as I like to remind people, according to the government’s own numbers approximately 20 percent of the families in the entire nation do not have a single member that is employed.

So how is it possible that the “unemployment rate” is just a little above 6 percent?

It is a giant sham.

But that is what they want.

They want us feeling good and thinking that everything is going to be okay.

Unfortunately, they used the same approach back in 2007 and 2008, and we all remember how that turned out.

The Odds Are Never In Our Favor

Flash BoysHow would you feel if you went to the store to buy something, and someone rushed ahead of you and purchased it first and then sold it to you at a higher price?  Well, in the financial world this happens millions upon millions of times.  In fact, this practice has become so popular that it has spawned an entire industry known as “high frequency trading”.  At this point, high frequency trading makes up about half of all trading volume on Wall Street, and it is costing the rest of us billions of dollars a year.  And the funny thing is that this is all perfectly legal.  High frequency trading firms are exploiting a glitch in the system, and by allowing this to go on, the authorities have essentially given them a license to steal from the rest of us.  Sadly, this is just another example that shows that the odds are never in our favor.  The “little guy” never seems to be able to win, and those at the top of the food chain like it that way.

Making money in the stock market is supposed to be about making wise investment decisions.  It isn’t supposed to be about finding a glitch in a video game and exploiting it.  But that is essentially what these high frequency traders have done.  They have spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy figuring out ways to make pennies (or sometimes just fractions of a penny) on the trades that the rest of us make.

Fortunately, this practice was exposed in front of the entire world by 60 Minutes the other night.  Steve Kroft interviewed a former trader named Michael Lewis that just released a new book entitled “Flash Boys” that is all about the evils of high frequency trading.  The following is an excerpt from that interview…

Steve Kroft: And this is all being done by computers?

Michael Lewis: All being done by computers. It’s too fast to be done by humans. Humans have been completely removed from the marketplace.

“Fast” is the operative word. Machines with secret programs are now trading stocks in tiny fractions of a second, way too fast to be seen or recorded on a stock ticker or computer screen. Faster than the market itself. High-frequency traders, big Wall Street firms and stock exchanges have spent billions to gain an advantage of a millisecond for themselves and their customers, just to get a peek at stock market prices and orders a flash before everyone else, along with the opportunity to act on it.

Michael Lewis: The insiders are able to move faster than you. They’re able to see your order and play it against other orders in ways that you don’t understand. They’re able to front run your order.

Steve Kroft: What do you mean front run?

Michael Lewis: Means they’re able to identify your desire to, to buy shares in Microsoft and buy ’em in front of you and sell ’em back to you at a higher price. It all happens in infinitesimally small periods of time. There’s speed advantage that the faster traders have is milliseconds, some of it is fractions of milliseconds. But it”s enough for them to identify what you’re gonna do and do it before you do it at your expense.

Steve Kroft: So it drives the price up.

Michael Lewis: So it drives the price up, and in turn you pay a higher price.

You can watch the entire interview right here.  Unlike most mainstream media news reports, this one is actually worth your time.  I have watched the entire thing, and I highly recommend it.

Of course there have been many that have been screaming about high frequency trading for many years.  Zero Hedge is just one example.  This practice has gone on year after year and the federal government has looked the other way.

These high frequency trading firms do not add anything to society.  As Barry Ritholtz noted recently, one of these firms has an average holding period for stocks of just 11 seconds, and at one point it stated that it had “not had a losing day of trading in four years“…

The only surprising thing about Lewis’s assertion was that anyone could be even remotely surprised by it.

The math on trading is simple: It is a zero-sum game. One trader’s gain is another trader’s loss. Only in the case of HFT, the losers are the investors — by way of their pension funds, retirement accounts and institutional funds. The HFT’s take — the “skim” — comes out of these large institution’s trade executions.

The technology behind HFT may be complex, but the math is that simple. Once the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed stock exchanges to share with traders all of the unexecuted incoming orders, it was hard not to make money by skimming a few cents or fractions of a cent from each trade. Several years ago, the founder of Tradebot, one of the biggest high-frequency firms, had said that the firm had “not had a losing day of trading in four years.” The firm’s average holding period for stocks is 11 seconds.

How in the world does that kind of behavior add any value to society?

They are just skimming money that should be going to others.  Billions of dollars is essentially being stolen from pension funds and retirement accounts, and it is time that people started getting outraged about this.

Unfortunately, even if this practice is outlawed, the truth is that the odds will still never be in our favor.

There are millions of Americans that dream of getting ahead, but they never seem to be able to get there.  They work incredibly hard, but the more they earn, the more the government taxes them.  If somehow you do manage to scrape together a little bit of money to invest in the financial markets, any profits that you make will be endlessly eroded by fees, commissions and even more taxes.

And it is important to remember that in the financial world, the “little guy” is regarded as easy prey by the hungry wolves that are all too eager to find a way to transfer your money into their own pockets.  If you don’t know what you are doing, it is all too easy to get absolutely slaughtered.

On Wall Street, there are winners and there are losers.

Most of the time, “the little guys” end up losing.

But at least they could try to have a system that at least has the appearance of fairness.  As long as high frequency trading exists, that will never be the case.

Flash Boys

 

Dent, Faber, Celente, Maloney, Rogers – What Do They Say Is Coming In 2014?

Earth From SpaceSome of the most respected prognosticators in the financial world are warning that what is coming in 2014 and beyond is going to shake America to the core.  Many of the quotes that you are about to read are from individuals that actually predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis of 2008 ahead of time.  So they have a track record of being right.  Does that guarantee that they will be right about what is coming in 2014?  Of course not.  In fact, as you will see below, not all of them agree about exactly what is coming next.  But without a doubt, all of their forecasts are quite ominous.  The following are quotes from Harry Dent, Marc Faber, Gerald Celente, Mike Maloney, Jim Rogers and nine other respected economic experts about what they believe is coming in 2014 and beyond…

Harry Dent, author of The Great Depression Ahead: “Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest.”

Marc Faber, editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: “You have to say that we are again in a massive financial bubble in bonds, in equities, in [other] asset prices that have gone up dramatically.”

Gerald Celente: “Any self-respecting adult that hears McConnell, Reid, Boehner, Ryan, one after another, and buys this baloney… they deserve what they get.

And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.

That’s our forecast.

We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.”

Mike Maloney, host of Hidden Secrets of Money: “I think the crash of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event… the consequences are gonna be horrific… the rest of the decade will bring us the greatest financial calamity in history.”

Jim Rogers: “You saw what happened in 2008-2009, which was worse than the previous economic setback because the debt was so much higher. Well now the debt is staggeringly much higher, and so the next economic problem, whenever it happens and whatever causes it, is going to be worse than in the past, because we have these unbelievable levels of debt, and unbelievable levels of money printing all over the world. Be worried and get prepared. Now it [a collapse] may not happen until 2016 or something, I have no idea when it’s going to happen, but when it comes, be careful.”

Lindsey Williams: “There is going to be a global currency reset.”

CLSA’s Russell Napier: “We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.”

Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks: “Certainly risk tolerance has been increasing of late; high returns on risky assets have encouraged more of the same; and the markets are becoming more heated. The bottom line varies from sector to sector, but I have no doubt that markets are riskier than at any other time since the depths of the crisis in late 2008 (for credit) or early 2009 (for equities), and they are becoming more so.

Financial editor Jeff Berwick: “If they allow interest rates to rise, it will effectively make the U.S. government bankrupt and insolvent, and it would make the U.S. government collapse. . . . They are preparing for a major societal collapse.  It is obvious and it will happen, and it will be very scary and very dangerous.”

Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies: “Disappointingly, it is much more probable that the government has brought us out of the Great Recession, only to set us up for the Greater Depression, which lies just on the other side of interest rate normalization.”

Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff: “Eventually somebody recognizes this and starts dumping the bonds, and interest rates go up, and inflation takes off, and were off to the races.”

Mexican Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price: “I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies.  I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis.   This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).

There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates.  The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off.  What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.”

Robert Shiller, one of the winners of the 2013 Nobel prize for economics: “I’m not sounding the alarm yet.  But in many countries the stock price levels are high, and in many real estate markets prices have risen sharply…that could end badly.”

David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan: “We have a massive bubble everywhere, from Japan, to China, Europe, to the UK.  As a result of this, I think world financial markets are extremely dangerous, unstable, and subject to serious trouble and dislocation in the future.”

And certainly there are already signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down as we head into the final weeks of 2013.  For example, on Thursday we learned that the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 68,000 last week to a disturbingly high total of 368,000.  That was the largest increase that we have seen in more than a year.

In addition, as I wrote about the other day, rail traffic is way down right now.  In fact, for the week ending November 30th, U.S. rail traffic was down 16.3 percent from the same week one year earlier.  That is a very important indicator that economic activity is getting slower.

And we continue to get more evidence that the middle class is being steadily eroded and that poverty in America is rapidly growing.  For example, a survey that was just released found that requests for food assistance and the level of homelessness have both risen significantly in major U.S. cities over the past year…

A survey of 25 American cities, including many of the nation’s largest, showed yearly increases in food aid and homelessness.

The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of seven percent compared with the previous period a year earlier, according to the US Conference of Mayors study, published Wednesday.

All but four cities reported an increase in demand for assistance between the period of September 2012 through August 2013.

Unfortunately, if the economic experts quoted above are correct, this is just the beginning of our problems.

The next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and things are going to get much worse than this.

So what do you think?

Which of the individuals quoted above do you think are right on the money and which ones do you think are way off base?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

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