The Beginning Of The End
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The Almighty Dollar Is In Peril As The Global ‘De-Dollarization’ Trend Accelerates

50 Dollars - Public DomainAs the Obama administration continues to alienate almost everyone else around the entire planet, an increasing number of prominent international voices are starting to question why the U.S. dollar should be so overwhelmingly dominant in global trade.  In previous articles, I have discussed Russia’s “de-dollarization strategy” and the fact that Gazprom is now asking their large customers to start paying in currencies other than the dollar.  But this is not just a story about Russia any longer.  As you will read about below, China and South Korea have just signed a major agreement to facilitate trade with one another using their own national currencies, and even prominent French officials are now talking about the need to use the dollar less and the euro more.  John Williams of shadowstats.com recently said that things have never “been more negative” for the U.S. dollar, and he was right on the mark.  The power of the almighty dollar has allowed all of us living in the United States to enjoy an extremely high standard of living for decades, but as that power now fades it is going to have profound implications for the U.S. economy.  In future years the value of the dollar will go down substantially, all of the imported goods filling our stores will become much more expensive, and it is going to cost the federal government a lot more to borrow money.  Unfortunately, with the stock market hitting all-time record highs and with the mainstream media endlessly touting an “economic recovery”, most Americans are not paying any attention to these things.

French oil giant Total is one of the largest energy companies in the entire world.  On Saturday, Total’s CEO made an absolutely stunning statement.  According to Reuters, he told reporters that there “is no reason to pay for oil in dollars”…

“Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn’t be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more,” he told reporters.

There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,” he said. He said the fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel did not mean that payments actually had to be made in that currency.

If Gazprom’s CEO had made such a statement, it would not have really surprised anyone.  But this came from a high profile French CEO.  A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for him to say such a thing.  Wars have been started over less.  Virtually all oil and natural gas around the planet has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars since the 1970s, and this is an arrangement that the U.S. government has traditionally guarded very zealously.  But now that Russia has broken the petrodollar monopoly, the fear of questioning the almighty dollar appears to be dissipating.

And at this point even French government officials are not afraid to publicly discuss moving away from the U.S. dollar.  Just check out what French finance minister Michel Sapin said to the press this weekend

French finance minister Michel Sapin says “now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro” adding, more ominously for the dollar, “we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so.” Careful to avoid upsetting his ‘allies’ across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, “This is not a fight against dollar imperialism,” except, of course – that’s exactly what it is… just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.

So why are the French suddenly so upset?

Could it be the fact that we just slapped the largest bank in France with a nearly 9 billion dollar fine?

The remarks come a week after Paris-based bank BNP Paribas (BNP) SA was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine by U.S. authorities for transactions carried out in dollars in countries facing American sanctions. The fine spurred debate in France about the right of the U.S. in extending its regulatory reach beyond its borders.

This is yet another example of how the Obama administration is alienating friends all over the globe.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone that the Obama administration is afraid of crossing.  Just a couple of days ago, the German press exploded in outrage when Germany arrested a U.S. spy.  Why we feel the need to spy on our friends is something that I will never figure out.

And of course our relations with Russia are probably the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War at this point.  And as the Russians now rapidly move away from the U.S. dollar, they seem intent on bringing the rest of “the BRICS” with them.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent Voice of Russia article entitled “BRICS morphing into anti-dollar alliance“…

However, in her discussion with Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian central bank unveiled an elegant technical solution for this problem and left a clear hint regarding the members of the anti-dollar alliance that is being created by the efforts of Moscow and Beijing:

“We’ve done a lot of work on the ruble-yuan swap deal in order to facilitate trade financing. I have a meeting next week in Beijing,” she said casually and then dropped the bomb: We are discussing with China and our BRICS parters the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country, if needed. A part of the currency reserves can be directed to [the new system].” (source of the quote: Prime news agency)

It seems that the Kremlin chose the all-in-one approach for establishing its anti-dollar alliance. Currency swaps between the BRICS central banks will facilitate trade financing while completely bypassing the dollar. At the same time, the new system will also act as a de facto replacement of the IMF, because it will allow the members of the alliance to direct resources to finance the weaker countries. As an important bonus, derived from this “quasi-IMF” system, the BRICS will use a part (most likely the “dollar part”) of their currency reserves to support it, thus drastically reducing the amount of dollar-based instruments bought by some of the biggest foreign creditors of the US.

Of course the key economic player in the BRICS alliance is China.

So will China actually go along with a “de-dollarization” strategy?

Well, the truth is that China has been making moves to become more independent of the dollar for a long time, and it has just been announced that China and South Korea have signed an agreement which will mean more direct trade between the two nations using their own national currencies

China’s central bank has authorized the Bank of Communications, the country’s fifth largest lender, to undertake yuan clearing business in the South Korean capital, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement.

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to South Korea on Friday. China is seeking to make the yuan – also known as the renminbi – used more internationally in keeping with the country’s status as the world’s second biggest economy behind the United States.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t care about any of this at all.

They don’t understand that more U.S. dollars are actually used outside the United States than are used inside the United States.  Because most of the rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, this has created a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency.  In other words, the value of the U.S. dollar is much higher than it otherwise would be, and this has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of products at ridiculously low prices.  The standard of living that we enjoy today is highly dependent on this arrangement continuing.

And our ability to fund the federal government and our state and local governments is heavily dependent on the rest of the planet loaning our dollars back to us for next to nothing.  If we actually had to pay realistic market rates to borrow money, the finances of the federal government would have already collapsed long ago.

So it is absolutely imperative for our own economic well-being that this “de-dollarization” trend not accelerate any further.  The rest of the world could actually severely hurt us by deciding to stop using the almighty dollar, and the more that the Obama administration antagonizes both our friends and our foes around the globe the more likely that is to happen.

We live in very perilous times, and the almighty dollar is more vulnerable now than it has been in decades.

If it starts collapsing, it will take down the entire U.S. financial system with it.

Let us hope that we still have a bit more time before that happens, because once the U.S. dollar collapses it will be exceedingly painful for all of us.

18 Signs That Massive Economic Problems Are Erupting All Over The Planet

Volcano Eruption - Mount RedoubtThis is no time to be complacent.  Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine.  In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing.  Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer.  Just look at what is happening in Europe.  The eurozone is now in the midst of the longest recession that it has ever experienced.  Just look at what is happening over in Asia.  Economic growth in India is the lowest that it has been in a decade and the Japanese financial system is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  One of the only places on the entire planet where serious economic problems have not already erupted is in the United States, and that is only because we have “kicked the can down the road” by recklessly printing money and by borrowing money at an unprecedented rate.  Unfortunately, the “sugar high” produced by those foolish measures is starting to wear off.  We are going to experience a massive amount of economic pain along with the rest of the world – it is just a matter of time.

But for the moment, there are a lot of skeptics out there.

For the moment, there are a lot of people that are declaring that the problems of the past have been fixed and that we are heading for incredibly bright economic times ahead.

Unfortunately, those people appear to be purposely ignoring the economic horror that is breaking out all over the globe.

The following are 18 signs that massive economic problems are erupting all over the planet…

#1 The eurozone is now in the midst of its longest recession ever.  Economic activity in the eurozone has declined for six quarters in a row.

#2 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.

#3 Industrial production in Italy has fallen for 15 months in a row.  It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.

#4 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.

#5 Consumer confidence in France has just hit a new all-time low.

#6 The number of unemployed workers seeking a job in France has hit a brand new all-time record high.  Many unemployed workers in France are utterly frustrated at this point…

“I’ve sent CVs everywhere, I come to the unemployment agency every day, for 3 or 4 hours to look for work as a truck driver and there’s never anything,” said 42-year old Djamel Sami, who has been unemployed for a year, leaving a job agency in Paris.

#7 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has just hit a brand new all-time record high of 12.2 percent.

#8 Youth unemployment continues to soar to unprecedented heights in Europe.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on the website of the Guardian that detailed how bad things are getting in some of the worst countries…

In Greece, 62.5% of young people are out of work, in Spain it’s 56.4%, then Portugal with 42.5%, and then Italy with 40.5%.

#9 Youth unemployment is being partially blamed for the worst rioting that Sweden has seen in many years.  The following is how the Daily Mail described the riots…

Sweden is reeling after a third night of rioting in largely run-down immigrant areas of the capital Stockholm.

In the last 48 hours violence has spread to at least ten suburbs with mobs of youths torching hundreds of cars and clashing with police.

It is Sweden’s worst disorder in years and has shocked the country and provoked a debate on how Sweden is coping with youth unemployment and an influx of immigrants.

#10 An astounding 10 percent of all banking deposits were pulled out of banks in Cyprus during the month of April alone.

#11 Economic growth in India is the slowest that it has been in an entire decade.

#12 Suddenly Australia is experiencing some tremendous economic challenges.  The following quotes are from a recent Zero Hedge article

-“We’re seeing a much sharper contraction in the Australian economy than we’d anticipated four or five months ago”. Coffey MD, John Douglas. The engineering group has seen its shares, which traded above $4 in 2007, hit 10c last week.

-“By 10am, the Fitness First gym in the city is packed full of brokers who’ve had a gutful of sitting at their desk doing nothing – salary cuts are starting and next it will be jobs” Perth broker

-“Oh mate, the funding market is dead. You are now seeing a few deeply discounted rights issues for those that are reaching desperate levels ….. liquidity has completely disappeared” Perth broker

#13 The financial system in Japan is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  The Japanese stock market has now declined about 15 percent from the peak, and many believe that the yen will continue to get weaker and that interest rates in Japan will start to rise significantly.

#14 Global cash flow is declining at a rate not seen since the last recession.  This indicates that we could be headed for a global credit crunch.

#15 Real wages continue to decline in the United States.  Even though we are being told that the U.S. is experiencing an “economy recovery”, real weekly earnings have declined from $297.79 in 2010 to $295.49 in 2011 to $294.83 in 2012.  (The preceding calculation is based on 1982-1984 dollars)

#16 Wall Street is buzzing about the fact that “the Hindenburg Omen” appeared at the end of last week.  So exactly what is “the Hindenburg Omen”?  The following are the criteria that are used to determine whether it has appeared or not…

1. The daily number of NYSE new 52 Week Highs and the daily number of new 52 Week Lows must both be greater than 2.2 percent of total NYSE issues traded that day.

2. The smaller of these numbers is greater than or equal to 69 (68.772 is 2.2% of 3126). This is not a rule but more like a checksum. This condition is a function of the 2.2% of the total issues.

3. That the NYSE 10 Week moving average is rising.

4. That the McClellan Oscillator ( a market breadth indicator used to evaluate the rate of money entering or leaving the market and interpretively indicate overbought or oversold conditions of the market)is negative on that same day.

5. That new 52 Week Highs cannot be more than twice the new 52 Week Lows (however it is fine for new 52 Week Lows to be more than double new 52 Week Highs).

When the Hindenburg Omen makes an appearance, it supposedly means that the U.S. stock market is likely to experience a serious decline within the next 40 days.

#17 As I wrote about the other day, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  That means that lots of “smart money” has been getting out of the market and lots of “dumb money” has been pouring in.

#18 Margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange has set a new all-time high.  The following is from a recent Market Oracle article

Margin debt—that’s the amount of money borrowed to purchase stocks—on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reached its all-time high in April. Margin debt on the NYSE registered at $384.3 billion as the key stock indices hit new record-highs. (Source: New York Stock Exchange web site, last accessed May 29, 2013.) The highest margin debt ever reached prior to this was in July of 2007, when it stood just above $381.0 billion. At that time, just like today, the key stock indices were near their peaks and “buy now before it’s too late” was the prominent theme of the day

Whenever margin debt spikes like this, a stock market crash almost always follows.  If you doubt this, just check out the chart in this article.

Wall Street has had a good couple of years, but it has been a “false prosperity” that has been pumped up by reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve.  Just like all of the other stock market bubbles that we have seen in recent years, this one is going to burst too.  And as Marc Faber recently pointed out, this bubble has been particularly beneficial to the wealthy…

The Fed has been flooding the system with money. The problem is the money doesn’t flow into the system evenly. It doesn’t increase economic activity and asset prices in concert. Instead, it creates dangerous excesses in countries and asset classes. Money-printing fueled the colossal stock-market bubble of 1999-2000, when the Nasdaq more than doubled, becoming disconnected from economic reality. It fueled the housing bubble, which burst in 2008, and the commodities bubble. Now money is flowing into the high-end asset market – things like stocks, bonds, art, wine, jewelry, and luxury real estate.

Money-printing boosts the economy of the people closest to the money flow. But it doesn’t help the worker in Detroit, or the vast majority of the middle class. It leads to a widening wealth gap. The majority loses, and the minority wins.

The fact that the U.S. stock market has set new all-time record high after new all-time record high in recent months means very little.  At this point, the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.  When this current bubble bursts, the adjustment is going to be very painful.  Wall Street will likely whine and complain and ask for more bailouts, but they may find that authorities are not nearly as sympathetic this time.

Much of the rest of the world is already experiencing the next major wave of the economic collapse.  Reckless money printing by the Fed and reckless borrowing and spending by the federal government may have delayed the inevitable in the United States for a little while, but those measures have also made our long-term problems even worse.

There was one piece of advice that Ben Bernanke included in his commencement speech to students at Princeton recently that I thought was particularly ironic…

“Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out.”

Will he take his own advice when the next great financial crisis strikes the United States?

That seems very unlikely.

Unfortunately, things are not going to be so easy to fix this next time.

What happened back in 2008 was just a preview.

What is coming next is going to absolutely shock the world.

By The Numbers: 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know

By The Numbers - 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should KnowThe economic implosion of Europe is accelerating.  Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse.  Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone.  It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe.  The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now.  Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic.  But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt.  The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.

The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know…

#1 10 Months: Manufacturing activity in both France and Germany has contracted for 10 months in a row.

#2 11.8 Percent: The unemployment rate in the eurozone has now risen to 11.8 percent – a brand new all-time high.

#3 17 Months: In November, Italy experienced the sharpest decline in retail sales that it had experienced in 17 months.

#4 20 Months: Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 20 months in a row.

#5 20 Percent: It is estimated that bad loans now make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.

#6 22 Percent: A whopping 22 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in jobless households.

#7 26 Percent: The unemployment rate in Greece is now 26 percent.  A year ago it was only 18.9 percent.

#8 26.6 Percent: The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to an astounding 26.6 percent.

#9 27.0 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Cyprus.  Back in 2008, this number was well below 10 percent.

#10 28 Percent: Sales of French-made vehicles in November were down 28 percent compared to a year earlier.

#11 36 Percent: Today, the poverty rate in Greece is 36 percent.  Back in 2009 it was only about 20 percent.

#12 37.1 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Italy – a brand new all-time high.

#13 44 Percent: An astounding 44 percent of the entire population of Bulgaria is facing “severe material deprivation”.

#14 56.5 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Spain – a brand new all-time high.

#15 57.6 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Greece – a brand new all-time high.

#16 60 Percent: Citigroup is projecting that there is a 60 percent probability that Greece will leave the eurozone within the next 12 to 18 months.

#17 70 Percent: It has been reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble back in 2006.  At this point there are approximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.

#18 200 Percent: The debt to GDP ratio in Greece is rapidly approaching 200 percent.

#19 1997: According to the Committee of French Automobile Producers, 2012 was the worst year for the French automobile industry since 1997.

#20 2 Million: Back in 2005, the French auto industry produced about 3.5 million vehicles.  In 2012, that number dropped to about 2 million vehicles.

One thing that these shocking numbers cannot convey is the tremendous amount of pain that many average Europeans are living through on a daily basis at this point.  To get a peek into what life is like in Greece these days, check out this short excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article

Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother’s kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.

“I feel like my life has slipped through my hands,” said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. “I feel like I’m dead.”

For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unraveling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighborhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.

All over Europe, people that have lost all hope are actually setting themselves on fire in a desperate attempt to draw attention.  Millions of formerly middle class Europeans have lost everything and are becoming increasingly desperate.  Suicide and crime are skyrocketing all over southern Europe and massive street riots are erupting on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get even worse for Europe.

Meanwhile, those of us living in the United States smugly look down our noses at Europe because we are still living in a false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity.

But eventually we will feel the sting of austerity as well.  The recent fiscal cliff deal was an indication of that.  Taxes are going up and government spending is at least going to slow down.  It won’t be too long before the effects of that are felt in the economy.

And of course the reality of the situation is that the U.S. economy really did not perform very well at all during 2012 when you take a look at the numbers.  The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy has been declining for a very long time, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to expect that our decline will accelerate even further in 2013.

So if you are an American, don’t laugh at what is happening over in Europe at the moment.  We are headed down the exact same path that they have gone, and we are going to experience the same kind of suffering that they are going through right now.

Use these last few “bubble months” to prepare for what is ahead.  At some point this “hope bubble” will disappear and then the time for preparation will be over.

EU Poster Tower Of Babel

21 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is About To Go To A Whole New Level

The global debt crisis has reached a dangerous new phase.  Unfortunately, most Americans are not taking notice of it yet because most of the action is taking place overseas, and because U.S. financial markets are riding high.  But just because the global economic crisis is unfolding at the pace of a “slow-motion train wreck” right now does not mean that it isn’t incredibly dangerous.  As I have written about previously, the economic collapse is not going to be a single event.  Yes, there will be days when the Dow drops by more than 500 points.  Yes, there will be days when the reporters on CNBC appear to be hyperventilating.  But mostly there will be days of quiet despair as the global economic system slides even further toward oblivion.  And right now things are clearly getting worse.  Things in Greece are much worse than they were six months ago.  Things in Spain are much worse than they were six months ago.  The same thing could be said for Italy, France, Japan, Argentina and a whole bunch of other nations.  The entire global economy is slowing down, and we are entering a time period that is going to be incredibly painful for everyone.  At the moment, the U.S. is still experiencing a “sugar high” from unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, but when that “sugar high” wears off the hangover will be excruciating.  Reckless borrowing, spending and money printing has bought us a brief period of “economic stability”, but our foolish financial decisions will also make our eventual collapse far worse than it might have been.  So don’t think for a second that the U.S. will somehow escape the coming global economic crisis.  The truth is that before this is all over we will be seen as one of the primary causes of the crisis.

The following are 21 signs that the global economic crisis is about to go to a whole new level….

#1 Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer says that the global economy is “awfully close” to recession.

#2 It was announced last week that the unemployment rate in Greece has reached an all-time high of 25.1 percent.  Unemployment among those 24 years old or younger is now more than 54 percent.  Back in April 2010, the unemployment rate in Greece was only sitting at 11.8 percent.

#3 The IMF is warning that Greek debt may have to be “restructured” yet again.

#4 Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg says that it is “probable” that Greece will leave the euro, and that it might happen within the next six months.

#5 An angry crowd of approximately 40,000 angry Greeks recently descended on Athens to protest a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel…

From high-school students to pensioners, tens of thousands of Greek demonstrators swarmed into Athens yesterday to show the visiting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, their indignation at their country’s continued austerity measures.

Flouting the government’s ban on protests, an estimated 40,000 people – many carrying posters depicting Ms Merkel as a Nazi – descended on Syntagma Square near the parliament building. Masked youths pelted riot police with rocks as the officers responded with tear gas.

The authorities had deployed 7,000 police, water cannon and a helicopter. Snipers were placed on rooftops to ensure the German leader’s safety.

#6 The debt crisis is Argentina is becoming increasingly troublesome.

#7 The government debt to GDP ratio in Italy is expected to hit 126 percent this year.  In Greece, it is expected to hit 198 percent.  In Japan, it is expected to hit a whopping 237 percent.

#8 Standard & Poor’s has slashed the credit rating on Spanish government debt to BBB-, which is just one level above junk status.

#9 Back in the year 2000, the ratio of total debt to GDP in Spain was 192 percent.  By 2011, it had reached 363 percent.

#10 Record amounts of money are being pulled out of Spanish banks, and many large Spanish banks are rapidly heading toward insolvency.

#11 Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 17 months in a row.

#12 It is being projected that home prices in Spain will fall by another 15 percent by the end of 2013.

#13 The unemployment rate in France is now above 10 percent, and it has risen for 16 months in a row.

#14 There are signs that Switzerland may be preparing for “major civil unrest” throughout Europe.

#15 The former top economist at the European Central Bank says that the ECB has fallen into a state of “panic” as it desperately tries to solve the European debt crisis.

#16 According to a recent IMF report, European banks may need to sell off 4.5 trillion dollars in assets over the next 14 months in order to meet strict new capital requirements.

#17 In August, U.S. exports dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since last February.

#18 Economics Professor Barry Eichengreen is very concerned about what is coming next for stocks in the United States…

“I’m worried that stock markets in the United States in particular have gotten ahead of economic growth”

#19 During the week ending October 3rd, investors pulled more than 10 billion dollars out of U.S. mutual funds.  Overall, a total of more than 100 billion dollars has been pulled out of U.S. mutual funds so far this year.

#20 As I wrote about the other day, the IMF is warning that there is an “alarmingly high” risk of a deeper global economic slowdown.

#21 When shipping companies start laying off workers, that is one of the best signs that economic activity is slowing down.  That is why it was so troubling when it was announced that FedEx is planning to get rid of “several thousand” workers over the coming months.  According to AFP, “its business is being hit by the global economic slowdown”.

For even more signs that the global economy is rapidly crumbling, please see my previous article entitled “The Largest Economy In The World Is Imploding Right In Front Of Our Eyes“.

So is anyone doing well right now?

Yes, it turns out that QE3 is padding the profits of the big banks in the United States and making the wealthy even wealthier just like I warned that it would.

According to the Washington Post, QE3 is helping the big banks much more than it is helping consumers.  Is this what the Fed intended all along?…

JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, said Friday they won’t make home loans much cheaper for consumers, even as they reported booming profits from that business.

Those bottom lines have been padded by federal initiatives to stimulate the economy. The Federal Reserve is spending $40 billion a month to reduce mortgage rates to encourage Americans to buy homes. Instead, its policies may be generating more benefits for banks than borrowers.

So exactly how much has QE3 helped out the big banks?  Just check out these numbers…

Revenue from mortgages was up 57 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year at JPMorgan and more than 50 percent up at Wells Fargo.

But should we expect anything else from the Federal Reserve?

The American people are trusting the Fed to protect our economy, and yet they cannot even protect their own shipments of money.  In fact, the Fed recently lost a large shipment of new $100 bills.

Or perhaps could letting people steal money from their own trucks be another way that the Fed is trying to “stimulate the economy”?

Stranger things have happened.

In any event, the truth is that the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system are unsustainable from any angle that you want to look at things.

We are drowning in government debt, we are drowning in consumer debt, Wall Street has been transformed into a high risk casino where our largest financial institutions are putting it all on the line on a daily basis, we are consuming far more than we are producing, there are more than 100 million Americans on welfare and we are stealing more than 100 million dollars an hour from future generations to pay for it all.

Anyone that believes that we are in “good shape” does not know the first thing about economics.

Sadly, the U.S. is not alone.  Nations all over the globe are experiencing similar problems.

The global economic crisis is just beginning and it is going to get much, much worse.

I hope that you ready.

The Largest Economy In The World Is Imploding Right In Front Of Our Eyes

A devastating economic depression is rapidly spreading across the largest economy in the world.  Unemployment is skyrocketing, money is being pulled out of the banks at an astounding rate, bad debts are everywhere and economic activity is slowing down month after month.  So who am I talking about?  Not the United States – the economy that I am talking about has a GDP that is more than two trillion dollars larger.  It is not China either – the economy that I am talking about is more than twice the size of China.  You have probably guessed it by now – the largest economy in the world is the EU economy.  Things in Europe continue to get even worse.  Greece and Spain are already experiencing full-blown economic depressions that continue to deepen, and Italy and France are headed down the exact same path that Greece and Spain have gone.  Headlines about violent protests and economic despair dominate European newspapers day after day after day.  European leaders hold summit meeting after summit meeting, but all of the “solutions” that get announced never seem to fix anything.  In fact, the largest economy on the planet continues to implode right in front of our eyes, and the economic shockwave from this implosion is going to be felt to the four corners of the earth.

On Friday, newspapers all over Europe declared that Greece is about to run out of money (again).

The Greek government says that without more aid they will completely run out of cash by the end of November.

Of course the rest of Europe is going to continue to pour money into Greece because they know that if they don’t the financial markets will panic.

But they are also demanding that Greece make even more painful budget cuts.  Previous rounds of budget cuts have been extremely damaging to the Greek economy.

The Greek economy contracted by 4.9 percent during 2010 and by 7.1 percent during 2011.

Overall, the Greek economy has contracted by about 20 percent since 2008.

This is what happens when you live way above your means for too long and a day of reckoning comes.

The adjustment can be immensely painful.

Greece continues to implement wave after wave of austerity measures, and these austerity measures have pushed the country into a very deep depression, but Greece still is not even close to a balanced budget.

Greece is still spending more money than it is bringing in, and Greek politicians are warning what even more budget cuts could mean for their society.

For example, what Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had to say the other day was absolutely chilling….

“Greek democracy stands before what is perhaps its greatest challenge,” Samaras told the German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published hours before the announcement in Berlin that Angela Merkel will fly to Athens next week for the first time since the outbreak of the crisis.

Resorting to highly unusual language for a man who weighs his words carefully, the 61-year-old politician evoked the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party to highlight the threat that Greece faces, explaining that society “is threatened by growing unemployment, as happened to Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic”.

“Citizens know that this government is Greece’s last chance,” said Samaras, who has repeatedly appealed for international lenders at the EU and IMF to relax the onerous conditions of the bailout accords propping up the Greek economy.

But don’t look down on Greece.  They are just ahead of the curve.  Eventually the U.S. and the rest of Europe will go down the exact same path.

Just look at Spain.  When Greece first started imploding, Spain insisted that the same thing would never happen to them.

But it did.

By itself, Spain is the 12th largest economy in the world, and right now it is a complete and total mess with no hope of recovery in sight.

The national government is broke, the regional governments are broke, the banking system is insolvent and Spain is in the midst of the worst housing crash that it has ever seen.

On top of everything else, the unemployment rate in Spain is now over 25 percent and the unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 is now well above 50 percent.

An astounding 9.86 percent of all loans that Spanish banks are holding are considered to be bad loans which will probably never be collected.  Before it is all said and done, probably ever major Spanish bank will need to be bailed out at least once.

Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 17 months in a row, and the number of corporate bankruptcies in Spain is rising at a stunning rate.

Five different Spanish regions have formally requested bailouts from the national government, and the national government is drowning in an ocean of red ink.

Meanwhile, panic has set in and there has been a run on the banks in Spain.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

Banco Santander SA (SAN), Spain’s largest bank, lost 6.3 percent of its domestic deposits in July, according to data published by the nation’s banking association. Savings at Banco Popular Espanol SA, the sixth-biggest, fell 9.5 percent the same month.

Eurobank Ergasias SA, Greece’s second-largest lender, lost 22 percent of its customer deposits in the 12 months ended March 31, according to the latest data available from the firm. Alpha Bank SA (ALPHA), the country’s third-biggest, lost 26 percent of client savings during that period.

Overall, the equivalent of 7 percent of GDP was withdrawn from the Spanish banking system in the month of July alone.

Thousands of Spaniards have become so desperate that they have resorted to digging around in supermarket trash bins for food.  In response, locks are being put on supermarket trash bins in some areas.

But Greece and Spain are not alone in seeing their economies implode.

As I wrote about recently, the number of unemployed workers in Italy has risen by more than 37 percent over the past year.

The French economy is starting to implode as well.  Just check out this article.

The unemployment rate in France is now above 10 percent, and it has risen for 16 months in a row.

It is just a matter of time before things in Italy and France get as bad as they already are in Greece and Spain.

The chief economist at the IMF is now saying that it will take until at least 2018 for the global economy to recover, but unfortunately I believe that he is being overly optimistic.

As I have said so many times before, the next wave of the global economic crisis is rapidly approaching.  Depression is already sweeping much of southern Europe, and it is only a matter of time before it sweeps across northern Europe and North America as well.

Neither Obama or Romney is going to be able to stop what is coming.  The global economy is getting weaker with each passing day.  The central banks of the world can print money until the cows come home, but that isn’t going to fix our fundamental problems.

The largest economy in the world is imploding right in front of our eyes and nobody seems to know what to do about it.

If you believe that Barack Obama, Mitt Romney or Ben Bernanke can somehow magically shield us from the economic shockwave that is coming then you are being delusional.

Just because what is going on in Europe is a “slow-motion train wreck” does not mean that it will be any less devastating.

Yes, we can see what is coming and we can understand why it is happening, but that doesn’t mean that we will be able to avoid the consequences.

11 Quotes That Show How Worried The Financial World Is About Europe Right Now

The recent elections in France and in Greece have thrown the global financial system into an uproar.  Fear and worry are everywhere and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  All of the financial deals that Greece has made over the past few years may be null and void.  Nobody is going to know for sure until a new government is formed, and at this point it looks like that is not going to happen and that there will need to be new elections in June.  All of the financial deals that France has made over the past few years may be null and void as well.  New French President Francois Hollande seems determined to take France on a path away from austerity.  But can France really afford to keep spending money that it does not have?  France has already lost its AAA credit rating and French bond yields have started to move up toward dangerous territory.  And Greek politicians are delusional if they think they have any other choice other than austerity.  Without European bailout money (which they won’t get if they don’t honor their current agreements), nobody is going to want to lend Greece a dime.

And all of this talk about “austerity” is kind of silly anyway.  It isn’t as if either France or Greece was going to have a balanced budget any time soon.  Both nations were still running up huge amounts of debt even under the “austerity” budgets.

But the citizens of both nations have sent a clear message that they are not going to tolerate even a slowdown in government spending.  They want to go back to the debt-fueled prosperity of the last several decades, even if it makes their long-term financial problems a lot worse.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Greece does not have that option.  Without the bailout money that they are scheduled to get, Greece does not have a prayer of avoiding a disorderly default.  Private investors would have to be insane to lend Greece money if the bailout deal falls apart.  Greece desperately needs the help of the EU, the ECB and the IMF and the only way they are going to get it is if they abide by the terms of the agreements that have already been reached.

The only way that Greece can avoid austerity at this point would be to leave the euro.  Nobody would want to lend money to Greece under that scenario either, but Greece could choose to print huge amounts of their own national currency if they wanted to.

The situation is different in France.  Investors are still willing to lend to France at reasonable interest rates, but if France chooses to run up huge amounts of additional debt at some point they will end up just like Greece.

What is even more important in the short-term is the crumbling of the French/German alliance on European fiscal matters.  Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy were a united front, but now Merkel and Hollande are likely to have conflict after conflict.

Instead of moving in one clear direction, the eurozone is now fractured and tensions are rising.

So what comes next?

Well, investors are not certain what comes next and that has many of them deeply concerned.

The following are 11 quotes that show how worried the financial world is about Europe right now….

#1 Tres Knippa of Kenai Capital Management: “What is going on in Europe is an absolute disaster…the risk-on trade is not the place to be. I want to be out of equities and very, very defensive because the situation in Europe just got worse after those elections.”

#2 Mark McCormick, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman: “We’re going to have higher tensions, more uncertainty and most likely a weaker euro.”

#3 Nick Stamenkovic, investment strategist at RIA Capital Markets in Edinburgh: “Investors are questioning whether Greece will be a part of the single currency at the end of this year.”

#4 Jörg Asmussen, a European Central Bank executive board member: “Greece needs to be aware that there is no alternative to the agreed reform program if it wants to remain a member of the eurozone”

#5 Tristan Cooper, sovereign debt analyst at Fidelity Worldwide Investment: “A Greek eurozone exit is on the cards although the probability and timing of such an event is uncertain.”

#6 Art Cashin: “Here’s the outlook on Greece from Wall Street watering holes. If a coalition government is formed or looks to be formed, global markets may rally. Any coalition is unlikely to make progress on goals, since austerity is political suicide. There will likely be another election around June 10/17. A workable majority/plurality remains unlikely, so back to square one. Therefore, Greece will be unable to attain goals by the deadline (June 30). Lacking aid funds, pensions are suspended and government workers are laid off. Protestors take to the streets and government is forced to revert to drachma to avoid social chaos. Pass the peanuts, please.”

#7 John Noonan, Senior Forex Analyst with Thomson Reuters in Sydney: “Sentiment is very bearish, The euro is under a lot of pressure right now. I get the feeling that it’s going to be a nasty move lower for the euro finally”

#8 Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard: “A Greek exit would underscore that there’s no realistic long-term plan for Europe, and it would lead to a chaotic endgame for the rest of the euro zone.”

#9 Chris Tinker of Libra Investment Services: “It’s a binary decision. If Greece gets itself to the point where the European administration says, ‘We can’t play this game anymore,’ that starts a domino effect”

#10 Nicolas Véron, a senior fellow at Bruegel: “France has very limited fiscal space and actually has to engage in fiscal consolidation”

#11 80-year-old Greek citizen Panagiota Makri: “I’m confused. I feel numb and confused. Only God can save us now”

All of this comes at a time when much of Europe is already descending into a new recession.  Economies all over Europe are contracting and unemployment rates are skyrocketing.  Until things start improving, there is going to continue to be a lot of civil unrest across Europe.

Meanwhile, things are not so great in the United States either.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon claims that the U.S. economy is holding a “royal straight flush“, but the only part of that he got right was the “flush” part.

There are 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, the middle class continues to shrink, the rising cost of food and the rising cost of gas are severely stretching the budgets of millions of American families and the federal government continues to run up gigantic amounts of debt.

When Europe descends into financial chaos, the United States is not going to escape it.  The financial crisis of 2008 deeply affected the entire globe, and so will the next great financial crisis.

Let us hope that we still have a little bit more time before the next great financial crisis strikes, but things in Europe are rapidly unraveling and at some point the dominoes are going to begin to fall.

The Countdown To The Break Up Of The Euro Has Officially Begun

The results of the elections in France and Greece have made it abundantly clear that there is a tremendous backlash against the austerity approach that Germany has been pushing.  All over Europe, prominent politicians and incumbent political parties are being voted out.  In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy has become the 11th leader of a European nation to be defeated in an election since 2008.  We have seen governments fall in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Greece.  Whenever they get a chance, the citizens of Europe are using the ballot box to send a message that they do not like what is going on.  It turns out that austerity is extremely unpopular.  But if newly elected politicians all over Europe begin rejecting austerity, this puts Germany in a very difficult position.  Should Germany be expected to indefinitely bail out all of the members of the eurozone that choose to live way beyond their means?  If Germany pulled out of the euro tomorrow, the euro would absolutely collapse, bond yields for the rest of the eurozone would skyrocket to unprecedented heights, and without German bailout money troubled nations such as Greece would be headed directly for default.  The rest of the eurozone is absolutely and completely dependent on Germany at this point.  But as we have seen, much of the rest of the eurozone is sick and tired of taking orders from Germany and is rejecting austerity.  A lot of politicians in Europe apparently believe that they should be able to run up gigantic amounts of debt indefinitely and that the Germans should be expected to always be there to bail them out whenever they need it.  Will the Germans be willing to tolerate such a situation, or will they simply pick up their ball and go home at some point?

Over the past several years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have made a formidable team.  They worked together to push the eurozone on to the path of austerity, but now Sarkozy is out.

Francois Hollande, the new French president, has declared that the financial world is his “greatest enemy“.

He may regret making that statement.

One of the primary reasons why Hollande was elected was because he clearly rejected the austerity approach favored by the Germans.  Shortly after winning the election in France, he made the following statement….

“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option”

Hollande says that he wants to “renegotiate” the fiscal pact that European leaders agreed to under the leadership of Merkel and Sarkozy.

But Merkel says that is not going to happen.  The following Merkel quotes are from a recent CNBC article….

“We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pact is not negotiable. It has been negotiated and has been signed by 25 countries,” Merkel told a news conference.

“We are in the middle of a debate to which France, of course, under its new president will bring its own emphasis. But we are talking about two sides of the same coin — progress is only achievable via solid finances plus growth,” she added.

So instead of being on the same page, Germany and France are now headed in opposite directions.

But if the French do not get their debt under control, they could be facing a huge crisis of their own very quickly.  The following is from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

“They absolutely must cut public spending and control the debt,” said Marc Touati from Global Equities in Paris. “It will soon be clear that we are in deep recession. If they don’t act fast, interest rates will shoot up and we will have a catastrophe by September,” he said.

Without German help, France is not going to be able to handle its own financial problems – much less bail out the rest of Europe.

Germany is holding all of the cards, but much of the rest of the eurozone does not seem afraid to defy Germany at this point.

In Greece, anti-bailout parties scored huge gains in the recent election.

None of the political parties in Greece were able to reach 20 percent of the vote, and there is a tremendous amount of doubt about what comes next.

New Democracy (the “conservatives”) won about 19 percent of the vote, but they have already announced that they have failed to form a new government.

So now it will be up to the second place finishers, the Syriza party (the radical left coalition), to try to form a new government.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza party, is very anti-austerity.  He made the following statement the other night….

“The people of Europe can no longer be reconciled with the bailouts of barbarism.”

But at this point, it seems very doubtful that Syriza will be able to form a new government either.

PASOK, the socialists that have been pushing through all of the recent austerity measures, only ended up with about 13 percent of the vote.  In the 2009 election, PASOK got 44 percent of the vote.  Obviously their support of the austerity measures cost them dearly.

So what happens if none of the parties are able to form a new government?

It means that new elections will be held.

Meanwhile, Greece must somehow approve more than 11 billion euros in additional budget cuts by the end of June in order to receive the next round of bailout money.

Greece is currently in its 6th year of economic contraction, and there is very little appetite for more austerity in Greece at this point.

Citibank analysts are saying that there is now a 50 to 75 percent chance that Greece is going to be forced to leave the euro….

Overall, the outcome of the Greek election shows that it will be very difficult to form a viable coalition and to implement the measures required in the MoU. Particularly, the identification of the 7% GDP of budget savings for 2013 and 2014 by the end of June looks very unlikely to us. As a consequence, in a first step, the Troika is likely to delay the disbursement of the next tranche of the programme. Note that for 2Q 2012, disbursements of €31.3bn from the bailout programme are scheduled. If Greece does not make progress, in a second step, the Troika is likely to stop the programme. If that happens, the Greek sovereign and its banking sector would run out of funding. As a consequence, we expect that Greece would be forced to leave the euro area. With the outcome of the election, to us the probability of a Greek exit is now larger than our previous estimate of 50%, and rises to between 50-75%. However, even after the elections in Greece, France and Germany, we regard the probability of a broad-based break up of the monetary union as very low. We continue to expect that in reaction to Greece leaving the euro area, more far-reaching measures from governments and the ECB would be put in place.

But if Greece rejects austerity that does not mean that it has to leave the eurozone.

There is no provision that allows for the other nations to kick them out.

Greece could say no to austerity and dare Germany and the rest of the eurozone to keep the bailout money from them.

If Greece defaulted, it would severely damage the euro and bond yields all over the eurozone would likely skyrocket – especially for troubled countries like Spain and Italy.

If Greece wanted to play hardball, they could simply choose to play a game of “chicken” with Germany and see what happens.

Would Germany and the rest of the eurozone be willing to risk a financial disaster just to teach Greece a lesson?

But Greece is not the only one that is in trouble.

As I wrote about recently, the Spanish economy is rapidly heading into an economic depression.

Now it has come out that the Spanish government is going to bail out a major Spanish bank.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

Rodrigo Rato stepped down as head of the Bankia group as a government bailout loomed after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy retreated from a pledge to avoid using public money to save lenders.

Rato, a former International Monetary Fund managing director, proposed Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, ex-president and chief operating officer of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), as Bankia executive chairman, he said in a statement today in Madrid. The government plans to inject funds into the lender by buying contingent-capital securities, said an Economy Ministry official who declined to be named as the plan isn’t public.

But this is just the beginning.

Major banks all over Europe are going to need to be bailed out, and countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain are going to need huge amounts of financial assistance.

So does Germany want to keep rescuing the rest of the eurozone over and over again during the coming years?  The cost of doing this would likely be astronomical.  The following is from a recent New York Times article….

Bernard Connolly, a persistent critic of Europe, estimates it would cost Germany, as the main surplus-generating country in the euro area, about 7 percent of its annual gross domestic product over several years to transfer sufficient funds to bail out Europe’s debt-burdened countries, including France.

That amount, he has argued, would far surpass the huge reparations bill foisted upon Germany by the victorious powers after World War I, the final payment of which Germany made in 2010.

At some point, Germany may decide that enough is enough.

In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Germany has been very quietly preparing to leave the euro.

A while back, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party approved a resolution that would allow a nation to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many believed that this resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that the resolution may have been setting the stage for an eventual German exit from the euro.

The following is an excerpt from that resolution….

“Should a member [of the euro zone] be unable or unwilling to permanently obey the rules connected to the common currency he will be able to voluntarily–according to the rules of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the European Union–leave the euro zone without leaving the European Union. He would receive the same status as those member states that do not have the euro.”

Most analysts will tell you that they think that it is inconceivable that Germany could leave the euro.

But stranger things have happened.

And Germany has made some very curious moves recently.

For example, Germany recently reinstated its Special Financial Market Stabilization Funds.  Those funds could be utilized to bail out German banks in the event of a break up of the euro.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

In short, Germany has given the SoFFIN:

  1. €400 billion to be used as guarantees for German banks.
  2. €80 billion to be used for the recapitalization of German banks
  3. Legislation that would permit German banks to dump their euro-zone government bonds if needed.

That is correct. Any German bank, if it so chooses, will have the option to dump its EU sovereign bonds into the SoFFIN during a Crisis.

In simple terms, Germany has put a €480 billion firewall around its banks. It can literally pull out of the Euro any time it wants to.

So has Germany been quietly preparing a plan “B” just in case the rest of the eurozone rejected the path of austerity?

Most people have assumed that it will be a nation such as Greece or Portugal that will leave the euro first, but in the end it just might be Germany.

And the “smart money” is definitely betting on something big happening.

Right now some of the largest hedge funds in the world are betting against the eurozone as a recent Daily Finance article described….

Some of the world’s most prominent hedge fund managers are betting against the eurozone — and not just the peripheral countries everyone knows are in trouble. They’re taking positions against the core countries, economies that — until now — everyone has assumed were rock-solid.

Yes, the countdown to the break up of the euro has officially begun.

A great financial crisis is going to erupt in Europe, and it is going to shake the world to the core.

If you were frightened by what happened back in 2008, then you are going to be absolutely horrified by what is coming next.

Bam! Bam! Bam! Huge Financial Bombs Just Got Dropped All Over Europe

The European debt crisis has just gone to an entirely new level.  Just when it seemed like things may be stabilizing somewhat, we get news of huge financial bombs being dropped all over Europe.  Very shortly after U.S. financial markets closed on Friday, S&P announced credit downgrades for nine European nations.  This included both France and Austria losing their cherished AAA credit ratings.  When the credit rating of a country gets slashed, that is a signal to investors that they should start demanding higher interest rates when they invest in the debt of that nation.  Over the past year it has become significantly more expensive for many European nations to borrow money, and these new credit downgrades certainly are certainly not going to help matters.  Quite a few financially troubled nations in Europe are very dependent on the ability to borrow huge piles of cheap money, and as debt becomes more expensive that is going to push many of them over the edge.    Yesterday I wrote about 22 signs that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession, and unfortunately that list just got a whole lot longer.

Over the past several months we have seen quite a few credit downgrades all over Europe, but we have never seen anything quite like what S&P just did.  Standard & Poor’s unleashed a barrage of credit downgrades on Friday….

-France was downgraded from AAA to AA+

-Austria was downgraded from AAA to AA+

-Italy was downgraded two more levels from A to BBB+

-Spain was downgraded two more levels

-Portugal was downgraded two more levels

-Cyprus was downgraded two more levels

-Malta was downgraded one level

-Slovakia was downgraded one level

-Slovenia was downgraded one level

This is really bad news for anyone that was hoping that things in Europe would start to get better.  Borrowing costs for many of these financially troubled nations are going to go even higher.

In addition, there was another really, really troubling piece of news that came out of Europe on Friday.

It was announced that negotiations between the Greek government and private holders of Greek debt have broken down.

The Institute of International Finance has been representing private bondholders in negotiations with the Greek government about the terms of a “voluntary haircut” that is supposed to be a key component of the “rescue plan” for Greece.

Greece desperately needs private bondholders to agree to accept a “voluntary haircut” of 50% or more.  Without some sort of an agreement, the finances of the Greek government will collapse very quickly.

For now, negotiations have failed.  There is hope that negotiations will resume soon, but Greece is rapidly running out of time.

The Institute of International Finance issued a statement on Friday which said the following….

“Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Greece’s leadership, the proposal put forward … which involves an unprecedented 50% nominal reduction of Greece’s sovereign bonds in private investors’ hands and up to €100 billion of debt forgiveness — has not produced a constructive consolidated response by all parties, consistent with a voluntary exchange of Greek sovereign debt”

The IIF says that negotiations are “paused for reflection” right now, but they are hoping that they will be able to resume before too long….

“Under the circumstances, discussions with Greece and the official sector are paused for reflection on the benefits of a voluntary approach”

Something needs to be done, because Greece is experiencing a complete and total financial meltdown.

Back at the end of July, the yield on one year Greek bonds was sitting at about 40 percent.  Today, the yield on one year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 396 percent.

That is how fast these things can move when confidence disappears.

Those living in the United States should keep that in mind.

Unfortunately, Greece is not the only European nation that is completely falling apart financially.

We aren’t hearing much about it in the U.S. media, but Hungary is a total basket case right now.  The credit rating of Hungary was reduced to junk status some time ago, and now the IMF and the EU are threatening to withhold financial aid from Hungary if the Hungarians do not run their country exactly as they are being told to do.

In particular, the IMF and the EU are absolutely furious that Hungary is trying to take more political control over the central bank in Hungary.  The following is from an article in the Daily Mail….

The European Union has stepped up pressure on Hungary over the country’s refusal to implement austerity policies and threatened legal action over its new constitution.

The warnings escalated the standoff between Budapest and the EU, as Hungary negotiates fresh financial aid from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

Over the past months, the country’s credit rating has been cut to junk by all three major rating agencies, unemployment is 10.6 percent and the country may be facing a recession.

But bailout negotiations broke down after Budapest refused to cut public spending and implemented a new constitution reasserting political control over its central bank.

Slovenia is a total mess right now as well.  The following comes from a recent article posted on EUObserver.com….

Slovenia’s borrowing costs have reached ‘bail-out territory’ after lawmakers rejected the premier-designate, putting the euro-country on the line for further downgrades by ratings agencies.

Zoran Jankovic, the mayor of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, fell four votes short of the 46 needed to be approved as prime minister by the parliament, with the country’s president set to re-cast his name or propose someone new within two weeks.

Some time ago, I warned that 2012 was going to be a more difficult year for the global economy than 2011 was.

Well, things are certainly starting to shape up that way.

Europe is heading for some really hard times.  What is about to happen in Europe is going to shake the entire global financial system.

Those that live in the United States should take notice, because the U.S. financial system is far more fragile than most people believe.

Our banking system is a gigantic mountain of debt, leverage and risk and it could fall again at any time.

In addition, the U.S. debt problem is bigger than it has ever been before.

For example, did you know that the federal government is on a pace to borrow 6.2 trillion dollars by the end of Obama’s first term in office?

That is more debt than the U.S. government accumulated from the time that George Washington became president to the time that George W. Bush became president.

For now the U.S. government is still able to borrow giant piles of super cheap money, but such a situation does not last forever.

Just ask Greece.

Already there are indications that foreigners are starting to dump large amounts of U.S. debt.  If this trickle becomes a flood things could become very bad for the United States very quickly.

We are on the verge of some very bad things.  The kinds of “financial bombs” that we saw dropped today are going to become much more frequent.  As governments, banks and investors scramble to survive, we are going to see extreme amounts of volatility in the financial marketplace.

Things are not going to be “normal” again for a really, really long time.

Hold on tight, because 2012 is going to be a very interesting year.

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