25 Signs That The Smart Money Has Completely Written Off Southern Europe

When it comes to the financial world, it is important to listen to what the “smart money” is saying, but it is much more important to watch what the “smart money” is actually doing.  The ultra-wealthy and those that run the biggest financial institutions on the planet are far more “connected” to what is really going on in financial circles behind the scenes than you and I could ever hope to be.  But if we watch their behavior we can get clues as to what they think is about to happen.  As is the case with so many other things, if you want to figure out what is really going on in Europe, just follow the money.  And right now, money is rapidly flowing out of southern Europe and into northern Europe.  In fact, some large corporations are now pulling the money that they make in Greece during the day out of the country every single night.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the upper crust of the financial world considers a Greek exit from the euro to be “inevitable” and that it also considers much of the rest of southern Europe to be a lost cause.  Unfortunately, a financial collapse across southern Europe is also likely to trigger another devastating global recession.

Even though all the warning signs were there, very few people actually expected to see the kind of financial crisis that we saw back in 2008.

But it happened.

Now very few people actually expect another “Lehman Brothers moment” to happen in Europe although the warning signs are all around us.

Sadly, most people never want to believe the truth until it is too late.

The following are 25 signs that the smart money has completely written off southern Europe….

#1 Lloyd’s of London is publicly admitting that it is rapidly making preparations for a collapse of the eurozone.

#2 According to the New York Times, top global law firms are advising their clients to withdraw all cash and all other liquid assets from Greece….

So their advice is blunt: Remove cash and other liquid assets from Greece and prepare to take a short-term hit on any other investments.

“My personal view is that it is irrational for anyone, whether a corporation or an individual, to be leaving money in Greek financial institutions, so long as there is a credible prospect of a euro zone exit,” said Ian M. Clark, a partner in London for White & Case, a global law firm that has a team of 10 lawyers focusing on the issue.

#3 According to CNBC, large numbers of wealthy Europeans have been moving their money from banks in southern Europe to banks in northern Europe….

Financial advisers and private bankers whose clients have accounts too large to be covered by a Europe-wide guarantee on deposits up to 100,000 euros ($125,000), are reporting a “bank run by wire transfer” that has picked up during May.

Much of this money has headed north to banks in London, Frankfurt and Geneva, financial advisers say.

“It’s been an ongoing process but it certainly picked up pace a couple of weeks ago We believe there is a continuous 2-3 year bank run by wire transfer,” said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital, a Geneva-based pan European wealth management firm.

#4 The President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Charles Plosser, says that the Federal Reserve is advising money market funds to reduce their exposure to Europe….

The Fed and regulators have tried to stress to money market funds, for example, to reduce their exposure to European financial institutions.

#5 The yield on 10-year Spanish bonds is rapidly moving toward the very important 7 percent level.

#6 Many multinational corporations that operate in Greece are now pulling their funds out of the country on a nightly basis.

#7 Juergen Fitschen, the co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, has publicly proclaimed that Greece is a “failed state“.

#8 The head of the Swiss central bank has admitted that Switzerland is developing an “action plan” for how it will handle the collapse of the eurozone.

#9 The European Commission has urged all member states to develop contingency plans for a Greek exit from the euro….

Last week, the European Commission said that it has asked member states to make plans to deal with a potential Greek exit, ahead of a second round of Greek elections on 17 June.

#10 PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian says that a Greek exit from the euro “is probably inevitable“.

#11 Spanish stocks continue to drop like a rock.

#12 The percentage of bad loans on the books of Spanish banks has reached an 18 year high.

#13 Late on Friday, the Spanish government announced that banking giant Bankia is going to need a 19 billion euro bailout.

#14 Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit ratings of five more Spanish banks to junk status on Friday.

#15 Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 16 Spanish banks back on May 17th.

#16 According to the Telegraph, “struggling European banks could be seized and controlled by Brussels as part of secret plans being drawn up”.

#17 The head of equity strategy at Societe Generale, Claudia Panseri, is warning that European stocks could fall by as much as 50 percent if Greece leaves the euro.

#18 Economist Marc Faber is warning that there is now a “100% chance” that there will be another global recession.

#19 There seems to be an increasing attempt to pin the problems that Greece is now experiencing on the behavior of Greek citizens.  The following are some of the shocking things that the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said in a recent interview….

“Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”

Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”

It sounds as if she’s essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time.

“That’s right.” She nods calmly. “Yeah.”

And what about their children, who can’t conceivably be held responsible? “Well, hey, parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax.”

#20 According to the Telegraph, an unidentified member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet has stated that Germany simply will not “pour money into a bottomless pit”.

#21 This week the Bank of England is holding a “secret summit” of global central bankers to address the European financial crisis….

The summit will be dominated by central bankers including the host, Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, have been invited.

#22 According to Zero Hedge, a major German newspaper is reporting that a Greek exit from the eurozone is a “done deal”….

The Greece-exit is a done deal: According to the German economic news from financial circles EU and the ECB have abandoned the motherland of democracy as a euro member. The reason is, interestingly, not in the upcoming elections – these are basically become irrelevant. The EU has finally realized that the Greeks have not met any agreements and will not continue not to meet them. A banker: “We helped with the Toika. The help of the troika was tied to conditions. Greece has fulfilled none of the conditions, and has been for months now.”

#23 According to CNBC, preparations are quietly being made to print up and distribute new drachmas should the need arise….

British banknote printer De La Rue is drawing up plans to print new drachma notes in the event of a Greek euro exit, according to an industry source with knowledge of the matter.

The world’s biggest security firm G4S expects to be involved in distributing notes around the country.

#24 Citibank’s chief economist Willem Buiter is warning that any new currency issued by the Greek government could “immediately fall by 60 percent“.

#25 Reuters is reporting that a planning memo exists that suggests that Greece could receive as much as 50 billion euros to “ease its path” out of the eurozone.

If Greece does leave the eurozone, the cost to the rest of Europe is going to be astronomical.  The following is from a recent article by John Mauldin….

The debate among very knowledgeable individuals and institutions as to the future of Europe is intense. There are those who argue that the cost of breaking up the eurozone, even allowing Greece to leave, is so high that it will not be permitted to happen. Estimates abound of a cost of €1 trillion to European banks, governments, and businesses, just for the exit of Greece. And that does not include the cost of contagion as the markets wonder who is next. Keeping Spanish and Italian interest-rate costs at levels that can be sustained will cost even more trillions, as not just government debt but the entire banking system is at stake. Not to mention the pension and insurance funds. If the cost of Greece leaving is €1 trillion, then who can guess the cost of Spain or Italy?

As I have written about previously, a Greek exit from the euro would cause the “bank jogs” that are already happening in Spain and Italy to accelerate.

The problem in Europe is not just government debt.  The truth is that the entire European financial system is in danger of melting down.

Unfortunately, there are no more grand solutions on the horizon and so things are going to continue to get worse for Europe.

As I have talked about so many times, the next wave of the economic collapse is going to start in Europe, but it is going to deeply affect the entire globe.

During the next major economic downturn, the official unemployment rate in the United States will rise well up into the double digits.

Once that happens, perhaps many more Americans will finally figure out that they should have been paying much more attention to what was taking place in Europe.

The 2 Billion Dollar Loss By JP Morgan Is Just A Preview Of The Coming Collapse Of The Derivatives Market

When news broke of a 2 billion dollar trading loss by JP Morgan, much of the financial world was absolutely stunned.  But the truth is that this is just the beginning.  This is just a very small preview of what is going to happen when we see the collapse of the worldwide derivatives market.  When most Americans think of Wall Street, they think of a bunch of stuffy bankers trading stocks and bonds.  But over the past couple of decades it has evolved into much more than that.  Today, Wall Street is the biggest casino in the entire world.  When the “too big to fail” banks make good bets, they can make a lot of money.  When they make bad bets, they can lose a lot of money, and that is exactly what just happened to JP Morgan.  Their Chief Investment Office made a series of trades which turned out horribly, and it resulted in a loss of over 2 billion dollars over the past 40 days.  But 2 billion dollars is small potatoes compared to the vast size of the global derivatives market.  It has been estimated that the the notional value of all the derivatives in the world is somewhere between 600 trillion dollars and 1.5 quadrillion dollars.  Nobody really knows the real amount, but when this derivatives bubble finally bursts there is not going to be nearly enough money on the entire planet to fix things.

Sadly, a lot of mainstream news reports are not even using the word “derivatives” when they discuss what just happened at JP Morgan.  This morning I listened carefully as one reporter described the 2 billion dollar loss as simply a “bad bet”.

And perhaps that is easier for the American people to understand.  JP Morgan made a series of really bad bets and during a conference call last night CEO Jamie Dimon admitted that the strategy was “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored”.

The funny thing is that JP Morgan is considered to be much more “risk averse” than most other major Wall Street financial institutions are.

So if this kind of stuff is happening at JP Morgan, then what in the world is going on at some of these other places?

That is a really good question.

For those interested in the technical details of the 2 billion dollar loss, an article posted on CNBC described exactly how this loss happened….

The failed hedge likely involved a bet on the flattening of a credit derivative curve, part of the CDX family of investment grade credit indices, said two sources with knowledge of the industry, but not directly involved in the matter. JPMorgan was then caught by sharp moves at the long end of the bet, they said. The CDX index gives traders exposure to credit risk across a range of assets, and gets its value from a basket of individual credit derivatives.

In essence, JP Morgan made a series of bets which turned out very, very badly.  This loss was so huge that it even caused members of Congress to take note.  The following is from a statement that U.S. Senator Carl Levin issued a few hours after this news first broke….

“The enormous loss JPMorgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have no business making.”

Unfortunately, the losses from this trade may not be over yet.  In fact, if things go very, very badly the losses could end up being much larger as a recent Zero Hedge article detailed….

Simple: because it knew with 100% certainty that if things turn out very, very badly, that the taxpayer, via the Fed, would come to its rescue. Luckily, things turned out only 80% bad. Although it is not over yet: if credit spreads soar, assuming at $200 million DV01, and a 100 bps move, JPM could suffer a $20 billion loss when all is said and done. But hey: at least “net” is not “gross” and we know, just know, that the SEC will get involved and make sure something like this never happens again.

And yes, the SEC has announced an “investigation” into this 2 billion dollar loss.  But we all know that the SEC is basically useless.  In recent years SEC employees have become known more for watching pornography in their Washington D.C. offices than for regulating Wall Street.

But what has become abundantly clear is that Wall Street is completely incapable of policing itself.  This point was underscored in a recent commentary by Henry Blodget of Business Insider….

Wall Street can’t be trusted to manage—or even correctly assess—its own risks.

This is in part because, time and again, Wall Street has demonstrated that it doesn’t even KNOW what risks it is taking.

In short, Wall Street bankers are just a bunch of kids playing with dynamite.

There are two reasons for this, neither of which boil down to “stupidity.”

  • The first reason is that the gambling instruments the banks now use are mind-bogglingly complicated. Warren Buffett once described derivatives as “weapons of mass destruction.” And those weapons have gotten a lot more complex in the past few years.
  • The second reason is that Wall Street’s incentive structure is fundamentally flawed: Bankers get all of the upside for winning bets, and someone else—the government or shareholders—covers the downside.

The second reason is particularly insidious. The worst thing that can happen to a trader who blows a huge bet and demolishes his firm—literally the worst thing—is that he will get fired. Then he will immediately go get a job at a hedge fund and make more than he was making before he blew up the firm.

We never learned one of the basic lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008.

Wall Street bankers take huge risks because the risk/reward ratio is all messed up.

If the bankers make huge bets and they win, then they win big.

If the bankers make huge bets and they lose, then the federal government uses taxpayer money to clean up the mess.

Under those kind of conditions, why not bet the farm?

Sadly, most Americans do not even know what derivatives are.

Most Americans have no idea that we are rapidly approaching a horrific derivatives crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

According to the Comptroller of the Currency, the “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is absolutely mind blowing.  Just check out the following numbers from an official U.S. government report….

JPMorgan Chase – $70.1 Trillion

Citibank – $52.1 Trillion

Bank of America – $50.1 Trillion

Goldman Sachs – $44.2 Trillion

So a 2 billion dollar loss for JP Morgan is nothing compared to their total exposure of over 70 trillion dollars.

Overall, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  That is approximately 3 times the size of the entire global economy.

It is hard for the average person on the street to begin to comprehend how immense this derivatives bubble is.

So let’s not make too much out of this 2 billion dollar loss by JP Morgan.

This is just chicken feed.

This is just a preview of coming attractions.

Soon enough the real problems with derivatives will begin, and when that happens it will shake the entire global financial system to the core.

I Can’t Take It Anymore! When Will The Government Quit Putting Out Fraudulent Employment Statistics?

On Friday, the entire financial world celebrated when it was announced that the unemployment rate in the United States had fallen to 8.3 percent. That is the lowest it has been since February 2009, and it came as an unexpected surprise for financial markets that are hungry for some good news.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payrolls jumped by 243,000 during the month of January.  You can read the full employment report right here.  Based on this news, pundits all over the world were declaring that the U.S. economy is back.  Stocks continued to rise on Friday and the Dow is hovering near a 4 year high.  So does this mean that our economic problems are over?  Of course not.  A closer look at the numbers reveals just how fraudulent these employment statistics really are.  Between December 2011 and January 2012, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” increased by a whopping 1.2 million.  That was the largest increase ever in that category for a single month.  That is how the federal government is getting the unemployment rate to go down.  The government is simply pretending that huge numbers of unemployed Americans don’t want to be part of the labor force anymore.  As you will see below, the employment situation in America is not improving.  Yet everyone in the mainstream media is dancing around as if the economic crisis has been cancelled.  I can’t take it anymore!  It is beyond ridiculous that so many intelligent people continue to buy in to such fraudulent numbers.

The truth is that the labor force participation rate declined dramatically in January.  For those unfamiliar with this statistic, the labor force participation rate is the percentage of working age Americans that are either employed or that are unemployed and considered to be looking for a job.

As you can see from the chart posted below, the labor force participation rate rose steadily between 1970 and 2000.  That happened because large numbers of women were entering the labor force for the first time.

The labor force participation rate peaked at a little more then 67 percent in the late 90s.  Between 2000 and the start of the recent recession, it declined slightly to about 66 percent.

Since then, it has been dropping like a rock.  The chart below does not even include the latest data.  In January, the labor force participation rate was only 63.7 percent.  That is the lowest that is has been since May 1983.  So keep that in mind as you view the chart.

In reality, the percentage of men and women in the United States that would like to have jobs is almost certainly about the same as it was back in 2007 or 2008.  There has been no major social change that would cause large numbers of men or women to want to give up their careers.  So there is something very, very fishy with this chart….

The federal government has been pretending that millions of unemployed Americans have decided that they simply do not want jobs anymore.

This does not make sense at all.

The truth is that unemployment is not really declining at all.  The percentage of Americans that are working is not increasing.  The civilian employment-population ratio dropped like a rock during 2008 and 2009 and it has held very steady since that time.

In January, the civilian employment-population ratio once again held steady at 58.5 percent.  This is about where it has been for most of the last two years….

Does that chart look like an “economic recovery” to you?

Of course not.

If the percentage of people that are employed is about the same as it was two years ago, does that represent an improvement?

Of course not.

If the employment situation in America was getting better, the civilian employment-population ratio would be bouncing back.

We should be thankful that our economy is not free falling like it was during 2008 and 2009, but we also need to understand why things have stabilized.

The federal government is spending money like there is no tomorrow.  During 2011, the Obama administration stole an average of about 150 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren and pumped it into the economy.  Even though the Obama administration spent that money on a lot of frivolous things, it still got into the pockets of average Americans who in turn went out and spent it on food, gas, clothes and other things.

Without all of this reckless government spending, we would not be able to continue to live way above our means and our economic problems would be a lot worse.

But even with the federal government borrowing and spending unprecedented amount of money, and even with interest rates at record lows, our economy is still deeply struggling.  Just consider the following facts….

-New home sales in the United States hit a brand new all-time record low during 2011.

-The average duration of unemployment in America is close to an all-time record high.

-The percentage of Americans living in “extreme poverty” is at an all-time high.

-The number of Americans on food stamps recently hit a new all-time high.

-According to the Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that gets direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

So let’s not get too excited about the economy.

Yes, things have somewhat stabilized.  The percentage of Americans that have jobs is about the same as it was two years ago.  Considering how rapidly jobs are being shipped out of the United States, that is a good thing.

Enjoy this false bubble of hope while you can.  Things are about to get a lot worse.

Do you remember how rapidly things fell apart after the financial crisis of 2008?

Well, another major financial crisis is on the way.  This time it is going to be centered in Europe initially, but it is going to spread all around the globe just like the last one did.

As the charts above show, we have never even come close to recovering from the last recession, and another one is on the way.

So how bad are things going to get after the next wave of the financial crisis hits us?

That is something that we should all be thinking about.

Warning Signs That We Should Prepare For The Worst

The warning signs are all around us.  All we have to do is open up our eyes and look at them.  Almost every single day there are more prominent voices in the financial world telling us that a massive economic crisis is coming and that we need to prepare for the worst.  On Wednesday, it was the World Bank itself that issued a very chilling warning.  In an absolutely startling report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, warned that Europe could be on the verge of a devastating financial crisis, and declared that the rest of the world better “prepare for the worst.”  You would expect to hear this kind of thing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but this is not the kind of language that you would normally expect to hear from the stuffed suits at the World Bank.  Obviously things have gotten bad enough that nobody is even really trying to deny it anymore.  Andrew Burns, the lead author of the report, said that if the sovereign debt crisis gets even worse we could be looking at an economic crisis that could be even worse than the last one: “An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09.”  Burns also stated that the “importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough.”  In other words, Burns is saying that it is time to prepare for the worst.  So are you ready?

But of course it isn’t just the World Bank that is warning about these things.  The chorus of voices that is warning about the next great financial crisis just seems to grow by the day.

Some of these voices were profiled in a Bloomberg article the other day entitled “Apocalypse How? Dire ’12 Forecasts“.  The following is just a sampling of quotes from that article….

-John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Advisors: “We’ve got a cancer. That cancer is debt”

-Mark Spitznagel of Universa Investments: “Too much malinvestment has been kept alive, and history shows an inevitable wipeout, which started in 2000.”

-Michael Panzner of Financial Armageddon: “The fundamental outlook is even worse now than it was a few weeks ago, given (the lack of positive) developments in Europe and growing evidence that the economies of major countries around the world are deteriorating fast.”

If you have time, you should go check out the rest of that article.  It really is fascinating.

When this crisis is over, all sorts of people are going to be running around claiming that they predicted it.  But it does not take a genius to see what is coming.  All you have to do is open up your eyes and look at the flashing red warning signs.

So what should we all be looking for next?

March 20th is a key date to keep your eye on.  That is the day when Greece will either makes its 14.5 billion euro bond payment or it will default.

Greece does not have a prayer of making that payment without help.  If Greece can convince the EU and the IMF to release the next scheduled bailout payment and if Greece can reach a satisfactory deal with private bondholders, then the coming Greek default might be “orderly”.  But if something goes wrong, the coming Greek default might be quite “disorderly”.

At this point, almost everyone in the financial world is anticipating a Greek default of one form or another….

-Edward Parker, the managing director for Fitch’s sovereign and supranational group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, recently declared that a Greek default is inevitable….

“It is going to happen. Greece is insolvent so it will default.”

-Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P’s European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday:

“Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say.”

-Richard McGuire, a strategist at Dutch bank Rabobank, was recently quoted by CNBC as saying the following….

“People often ask if Greece is going to default which … is a misnomer because Greece is (already) defaulting”

-Diane Swonk, the chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says that the default by Greece will probably be an “orderly” one but that the situation could change at any moment….

“It appears at the moment that the market is accepting a Greek default as inevitable, and it will be an orderly default. But that can change on a dime.”

But whether there is a default or not, the reality is that Greece is already experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have already shut down.  The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is now at 39 percent.  Large numbers of Greeks are trying to get themselves and their money out of the country while they still can.

Pessimism regarding Greece is at an all-time high.  Michael Fuchs, the deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s political party, recently made the following statement….

“I don’t think that Greece, in its current condition, can be saved.”

But of course Greece is not the only declining economy in Europe by a long shot.

Italy has a much larger economy, and if Italy totally collapses it will be an absolute nightmare for the entire globe.

Right now, the Bank of Italy is forecasting a significant recession for the Italian economy in 2012.  The following is from a statement that Bank of Italy has just released….

“The uncertainty that surrounds the medium-term perspectives of the Italian economy … are extraordinarily high and are directly linked to the evolution of the eurozone debt crisis”

Italy’s youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever, and nearly all sectors of the Italian economy are showing signs of slowing down.

Plus there is the looming problem of Italian debt.  As I wrote about yesterday, when you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to their projected budget deficit, it comes to 23.1 percent of Italy’s GDP.

Originally it was hoped that the economic problems in Europe could be contained to just a few countries.  But now it has become clear that is just not going to happen.

Trends forecaster Gerald Celente recently explained to ABC Australia that much of Europe is already essentially experiencing an economic depression….

“If you live in Greece, you’re in a depression; if you live in Spain, you’re in a depression; if you live in Portugal or Ireland, you’re in a depression,” Celente said. “If you live in Lithuania, you’re running to the bank to get your money out of the bank as the bank runs go on. It’s a depression. Hungary, there’s a depression, and much of Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria. And there are a lot of depressions going on [already].”

The troubling news out of Europe just seems to keep coming in waves.  Here are some more recent examples….

-Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.

-Germany’s economy actually contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.

-It is being reported that the Spanish economy contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.

-Bad loans in Spain recently hit a 17-year high and the unemployment rate is at a 15-year high.

So will all of this economic trouble eventually spread to the United States?

Of course it will.

The global economy is more interconnected today than ever.  Back in 2008 the financial crisis that started on Wall Street ended up devastating economies all over the planet.  The same thing will happen during this next great financial crisis.

Only this time the U.S. is in a much weaker position.  The U.S. debt problem has gotten much worse since the last crisis.

During 2008, our national debt crossed the 10 trillion dollar mark.  Less than 4 years later, we have crossed the 15 trillion dollar mark.

So what are we going to do the next time large numbers of banks fail and unemployment skyrockets?

Where are we going to get the money to bail out all of those banks and to take care of all of those newly unemployed people?

Some people say that socialism is the answer, but the truth is that we are already a socialist welfare state.  If you can believe it, nearly half of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of financial benefits from the U.S. government.

During the next great crisis, the number of people that are dependent on the government will go even higher.

If you don’t want to end up dependent on the government, you should heed the warning signs and you should use this time to prepare for the hard times that are coming.

When even the World Bank tells us to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst, you know that it is late in the game.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people out there only believe what they want to believe.  They don’t want to believe that a great economic crisis is coming, and so when it does happen they are going to be absolutely blindsided by it.

Bad Financial News Keeps Pouring In: 14 Facts That Just Might Scare The Living Daylights Out Of You

Will the bad financial news ever stop?  A lot of people in the financial world were hoping for a much better fourth quarter after an absolutely disastrous third quarter.  Well, if Monday was any indication, October could end up being a really rough month for global financial markets.  So much bad financial news keeps pouring in that it really is a challenge to try to keep track of it all.  Greece seems to get closer to defaulting on their debts with each passing day, and it appears that Germany is not going to contribute any more bailout money beyond what they have already committed to.  Major banks on both sides of the Atlantic are on the verge of collapse, and investors all over the world are afraid that we may have another “Lehman Brothers moment” soon.  Shares of American Airlines dropped a staggering 33 percent on Monday as rumors that they will soon be entering bankruptcy swirled.  Yes, things certainly are getting interesting.  Back in 2008, the governments of the western world saved the financial system with gigantic bailouts that were absolutely unprecedented.  If the financial system crashes again at some point in the coming weeks or months, will the political will for more bank bailouts be there?  If not, what is going to happen to the banking system?

On both sides of the Atlantic, the big banks are highly leveraged, they have taken on a ton of risk and they are very deeply exposed to derivatives.  It is as if virtually nobody learned any lessons during the financial crisis of 2008.  Once again we are facing a situation where if a couple of financial dominoes fall it could send dozens of others tumbling to the ground.

Some very significant things happened on Monday.  But the media has gotten so used to reporting on tremendous financial instability that Monday’s events mostly got brushed to the side.  Instead, Amanda Knox captured most of the headlines.

But the reality is that some really, really monumental stuff has been going down.

The following are 14 facts that just might scare the living daylights out of you….

#1 On Monday, the Dow was down 258 points.  Lately it seems as though the Dow has been going up or down by several hundred points almost every single day, and that much volatility is not a good sign for the health of the financial system.

#2 Shares of Wall Street banking giant Morgan Stanley fell by another 8 percent on Monday.  Overall, shares of Morgan Stanley have declined by more than 50 percent since February.

#3 Bank of America stock dropped down to $5.53 a share on Monday.  Just a few years ago, it was trading for more than $50 a share.

#4 There are reports that Goldman Sachs may actually show a loss for the third quarter of 2011 and that yearly bonuses for employees may be slashed to next to nothing.  Yes, not too many people are going to have sympathy for Goldman Sachs, but this just shows how bad things are getting out there for the big Wall Street banks.

#5 Normally Goldman Sachs is quite upbeat, but lately they have been coming out with some really frightening reports.  For example, a new report from Goldman Sachs declares that there is a 40 percent chance that we are entering a “Great Stagnation“.

#6 Shares of European banking giant Dexia plunged by about 10 percent on Monday on rumors that it will soon need a significant bailout.  The stocks of major banks all across Europe have been getting absolutely hammered for weeks.

#7 Shares of American Airlines fell by 33 percent on Monday on rumors that the airline is about to enter bankruptcy.  Amazingly, trading in the stock was stopped 7 different times on Monday.

#8 It is being reported that approximately 240 pilots for American Airlines have retired in the last two months alone.  All of those pilots are retiring so that they can shield their pensions from the upcoming bankruptcy filing.

#9 Nearly the entire airline industry got hit really hard on Monday.  Shares of United Continental, U.S. Airways and Delta were all down more than 10 percent.

#10 Overall, U.S. stocks fell by 14 percent during the third quarter of 2011, and now the fourth quarter is off to a very rocky start.

#11 The incoming head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has publicly admitted that major European banks are having “funding problems“.  Just like back in 2008, we are rapidly heading for a giant “credit crunch”.

#12 A shocking new Bloomberg survey has found that approximately one out of every three international investors expects a “global economic meltdown” within the next 12 months, and 70 percent of them believe that the global economy is “deteriorating”.  Perhaps they have been reading The Economic Collapse Blog too much.

#13 Financial markets in Europe were rocked on Monday when it was revealed that Greece is not going to hit the deficit reduction targets set for it either this year or next year despite all of the severe austerity measures that have already been implemented.  Needless to say, a lot of financial authorities in Europe were very displeased by this news.

#14 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly declaring that Germany will not contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

The truth is that the political will for more bailouts has totally dried up in Germany.

The recent vote by the Bundestag to approve money for the European rescue fund should not be misinterpreted.

That vote simply approved money that was part of a deal that was agreed to over two months ago.

What is more important is what many major German politicians said after the vote.  Essentially, the overwhelming consensus is that Germany is done contributing money.  Once the money is gone from the current bailout pool (which is not anywhere close to what is really needed), there will be no more money from Germany.

That means that the era of the bailouts in Europe is drawing to a close.

In a recent editorial, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard described the situation in Germany in this manner….

The furious debate over the erosion of German fiscal sovereignty and democracy – as well as the escalating costs of the EU rescue machinery – has made it absolutely clear that the Bundestag will not prop up the ruins of monetary union for much longer.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, said his party would go “this far, and no further”.

Let that last phrase sink in.

Basically, what politicians all over Germany are saying is that Germany has now done all that it is going to do.

The implications of this are huge.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recognized this in his editorial.  In fact, the usually reserved journalist actually used all caps for six straight sentences and broke out some very strong language that is very uncharacteristic for him….

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

THERE WILL BE A STABILITY UNION – OR NO MONETARY UNION.

Get used to it. This is the political reality of Europe, since nothing of importance can be done without Germany. All else is wishful thinking, clutching at straws, and evasion. If this means the euro will shed some members or blow apart – as it almost certainly does – then the rest of the world must prepare for the day.

Basically, this is his way of saying that “the sky is falling” and that the financial system of Europe is doomed.

If you have followed the writing of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for any length of time, then you know that he is one of the most respected financial journalists in the world and that he is not prone to indulge in much “doom and gloom”.  For him to say what he did is very significant.

But even if there were no financial problems in Europe, the United States would probably be slipping into another recession anyway.

Right now our economy is a total mess, and all kinds of people are coming out of the woodwork and are trying to take credit for “calling” the upcoming recession.

Some of the pronouncements are so bold that you would think that some half-crazed blogger wrote them.  For example, just check out the following quote from a report recently put out by the Economic Cycle Research Institute….

“Here’s what ECRI’s recession call really says: If you think this is a bad economy, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

But do the American people really need some experts to tell them that we are going into another recession?

The American people know what is going on.

According to one recent poll, 90 percent of the American people believe that economic conditions in the United States are “poor”.  According to another recent poll, 80 percent of the American people believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

So perhaps the American people are actually ahead of most of the so-called “experts”.

In any event, economic conditions in the United States continue to get worse.  The average American family is having a harder and harder time getting to the end of each month.  According to a Harris Interactive survey taken near the end of last year, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.  In 2007, the same survey found that only 43 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck.

At least Barack Obama is not talking so much about an “economic recovery” these days.  When asked recently if Americans are better off today than they were four years ago, Obama said the following….

“Well, I don’t think they’re better off than they were four years ago.”

Finally, something that we can all agree with Barack Obama about.

Sadly, things are about to get even worse.

Pay close attention to all of the bad financial news that keeps pouring in.

Just like in 2008, something really big is happening.

When the current bailout fund in Europe runs out in a few months, things could really start to unravel.

If Greece (or any other eurozone nation for that matter) defaults, it could set off a chain of financial events so catastrophic that it just might scare the living daylights out of all of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Tremendous fear and panic has gripped the financial world, and the underlying problems causing this crisis are not going to be solved any time soon.

We are about to enter unprecedented territory.

Hold on tight.

Is Financial Instability The New Normal?

The financial world is officially going crazy.  Can you believe what is going on out there right now?  Financial markets have been jumping up and down like crazy for months and this is creating a lot of fear.  Other than during the financial crisis of 2008, in the post-World War II era have we ever experienced as much financial instability as we are seeing right now?  Should we just accept that massive financial instability is going to be part of “the new normal” in the financial world?  The wild swings that we are witnessing in the global financial marketplace are making a whole lot of people very nervous right at the moment.  When markets go up, they tend to do it slowly and steadily.  When markets go down, a lot of times it can happen very rapidly.  Also, as I have mentioned before, more major stock market crashes happen during the fall than during any other time of the year.  The last major financial crisis happened during the fall of 2008, and things are starting to look a little bit more like 2008 with each passing day.  The last thing the global economy needs right now is another major financial meltdown, but that may be exactly what we are about to get.

The Dow got absolutely hammered once again on Thursday.  It was down almost 400 points, and it has lost a total of 674.83 points over the last two days combined.

In case you are wondering, yes, that is a very big deal.

It represents the largest two day decline that we have seen since November 2008, and at this point the Dow is on pace to have its worst week since September 2008.

Over the past two days, more than 900 billion dollars of “paper wealth” has disappeared.

Hopefully you did not share in that pain.

A couple of days ago, I discussed 21 signs that the financial world was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  But I had no idea that things would get so ugly so soon.

So what comes next?

One of the keys is to watch what the “insiders” are doing.  Often they will say one thing and do another.

At the moment, corporate “insiders” are selling 7 dollars of stock for every 1 dollar of stock that they are buying.

Over the past couple of weeks, “insider” investing behavior has changed dramatically.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on MarketWatch….

The insiders have vanished.

Chief executives. Board members.

The head honchos. The people who know.

Just a few weeks ago, they were out in force, buying up shares in their own companies with both hands.

No longer. They’ve disappeared. Almost overnight.

“They’ve stopped buying,” says Charles Biderman, the chief executive of stock market research firm TrimTabs, which tracks the data.

For some reason, this almost always starts happening before a crash.  So obviously this is not a good sign.

A lot of normal investors have been pulling large amounts of money out of stocks as well.  The following is from a report in the Financial Post….

Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.

About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the data show.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Not only that, but a third very troubling sign is that an extraordinary number of bets has been placed against the S&P 500.  As I noted the other day, if there is a stock market crash in the next few weeks, somebody is going to make a ton of money….

We are seeing an amazing number of bets against the S&P 500 right now.  According to CNN, the number of bets against the S&P 500 rose to the highest level in a year last month.  But that was nothing compared to what we are seeing for October.  The number of bets against the S&P 500 for the month of October is absolutely astounding.  Somebody is going to make a monstrous amount of money if there is a stock market crash next month.

It doesn’t take a genius to see all the dark financial clouds that are gathering on the horizon.

And all of the bad news that is constantly coming out of Europe is certainly not helping things.  For example, yesterday S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different Italian banks.

Credit downgrades have become so frequent that we hardly even notice them anymore.

Pessimism is everywhere right now.  Suddenly it seems like almost everyone is predicting that another “recession” is coming….

*According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 70 percent of global business leaders believe that a global recession is “somewhat likely” or “very likely” in the coming months.

*Economist Nouriel Roubini says that we are “already in recession“.

*When asked by CNBC what he thought about the possibility of another recession, George Soros said the following the other day….

“I think we are in it already.”

As fear spreads, it is only going to make global financial instability even worse.  If something doesn’t change, we could soon have a full-blown panic on our hands.

So why should the rest of us care if global financial markets crash and a bunch of bankers lose a whole lot of money?

Well, unfortunately our entire economic system is based on credit.  When the last financial crash happened in 2008, the credit markets got really tight.  Economic activity started to freeze up.  We entered a deep recession and unemployment skyrocketed.

As much as many of you may want to see the house of cards fall down, the reality is that when it does it is going to deeply hurt millions upon millions of innocent people too.

During the last recession (which never really ended), millions of Americans that lost their jobs also lost their homes.

Back in 2006, the home vacancy rate in America was 11.6%.

In 2009, the home vacancy rate was 12.6%.

In 2010, the home vacancy rate was 13.1%.

Just like the number of Americans on food stamps, this is a figure that just keeps going up and up and up.

Could we eventually live in a country where one out of every five homes is standing empty?

The truth is that the U.S. economy is in the middle of a long-term decline.  The economy declined badly while George W. Bush was in office, and the decline has accelerated since Barack Obama entered the White House.

As I wrote about yesterday, the American people are feeling really depressed about the economy and 80 percent of them believe that we are in a recession right now.

So what kind of a mood are they going to be in if there is another major financial crisis and unemployment jumps up by several more percentage points?

We live in unprecedented times.  The financial world has become incredibly unstable, and none of us is really quite sure what “the new normal” is going to look like after all of this is over.

But one thing is for sure – things never stay the same for long.

The way that things have been in the past is not how things are going to be in the future.

A “perfect storm” is coming.

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

You better get ready.

Nervous Breakdown? 21 Signs That Something Big Is About To Happen In The Financial World

Will global financial markets reach a breaking point during the month of October?  Right now there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to experience a nervous breakdown.  Massive amounts of investor money is being pulled out of the stock market and mammoth bets are being made against the S&P 500 in October.  The European debt crisis continues to grow even worse and weird financial moves are being made all over the globe.  Does all of this unusual activity indicate that something big is about to happen?  Let’s hope not.  But historically, the biggest stock market crashes have tended to happen in the fall.  So are we on the verge of a “Black October”?

The following are 21 signs that something big is about to happen in the financial world and that global financial markets are on the verge of a nervous breakdown….

#1 We are seeing an amazing number of bets against the S&P 500 right now.  According to CNN, the number of bets against the S&P 500 rose to the highest level in a year last month.  But that was nothing compared to what we are seeing for October.  The number of bets against the S&P 500 for the month of October is absolutely astounding.  Somebody is going to make a monstrous amount of money if there is a stock market crash next month.

#2 Investors are pulling a huge amount of money out of stocks right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?  The following is from a report in the Financial Post….

Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.

About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the data show.

#3 Siemens has pulled more than half a billion euros out of two major French banks and has moved that money to the European Central Bank.  Do they know something or are they just getting nervous?

#4 On Monday, Standard & Poor’s cut Italy’s credit rating from A+ to A.

#5 The European Central Bank is purchasing even more Italian and Spanish bonds in an attempt to cool down the burgeoning financial crisis in Europe.

#6 The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced that they are going to make available an “unlimited” amount of money to European commercial banks in October, November and December.

#7 So far this year, the largest bank in Italy has lost over half of its value and the second largest bank in Italy is down 44 percent.

#8 Angela Merkel’s coalition is getting embarrassed in local elections in Germany.  A recent poll found that an astounding 82 percent of all Germans believe that her government is doing a bad job of handling the crisis in Greece.  Right now, public opinion in Germany is very negative toward the bailouts, and that is really bad news for Greece.

#9 Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse at this point.  Just consider the following statistics from a recent editorial in the Guardian….

Consider first the scale of the crisis. After contracting in 2009 and 2010, GDP fell by a further 7.3% in the second quarter of 2011. Unemployment is approaching 900,000 and is projected to exceed 1.2 million, in a population of 11 million. These are figures reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#10 In 2009, Greece had a debt to GDP ratio of about 115%.  Today, Greece has a debt to GDP ratio of about 160%.  All of the austerity that has been imposed upon them has done nothing to solve their long-term problems.

#11 The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 129 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was under 10 percent.

#12 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.

#13 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of about 120% and their economy is far, far larger than the economy of Greece.

#14 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 17 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

#15 China seems to be concerned about the stability of European banks.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

A big market-making state bank in China’s onshore foreign exchange market has stopped foreign exchange forwards and swaps trading with several European banks due to the unfolding debt crisis in Europe, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

#16 European central banks are now buying more gold than they are selling.  This is the first time that has happened in more than 20 years.

#17 The chief economist at the IMF says that the global economy has entered a “dangerous new phase“.

#18 Israel has dumped 46 percent of its U.S. Treasuries and Russia has dumped 95 percent of its U.S. Treasuries.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#19 World financial markets are expecting that the Federal Reserve will announce a new bond-buying plan this week that will be designed to push long-term interest rates lower.

#20 If some wealthy investors believe that the Obama tax plan has a chance of getting through Congress, they may start dumping stocks before the end of this year in order to avoid getting taxed at a much higher rate in 2012.

#21 According to a study that was recently released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

When financial markets get really jumpy like this, all it takes is one really big spark to set the dominoes in motion.

Hopefully nothing really big will happen in October.

Hopefully global financial markets will not experience a nervous breakdown.

But right now things look a little bit more like 2008 every single day.

None of the problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have been fixed, and the world financial system is more vulnerable today than it ever has been since the end of World War II.

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy has never really recovered from the last financial crisis.

If we see another major financial crash in the coming months, the consequences would be absolutely devastating.

We have been softened up and we are ready for the knockout blow.

Let’s just hope that the financial world can keep it together.

We don’t need more economic pain right about now.

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