The Beginning Of The End
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The Dow Hits An All-Time High! Translation: A Bubble Is Always Biggest Right Before It Bursts

The Dow Hits An All-Time High! Translation: A Bubble Is Always Biggest Right Before It Bursts - Photo by KazekiReckless money printing by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pumped up the Dow to a brand new all-time high.  So what comes next?  Will the Dow go even higher?  Hopefully it will.  In fact, it would be great if the Dow was able to hit 15,000 before it finally came crashing down.  That would give all of us some more time to prepare for the nightmarish economic crisis that is rapidly approaching.  As you will see below, the U.S. economy is in far, far worse shape than it was the last time the Dow reached a record high back in 2007.  In addition, all of the long-term trends that are ripping our economy to shreds just continue to get even worse and our debt just continues to explode.  Unfortunately, the Dow has become completely divorced from economic reality in recent years because of Fed manipulation.  All of this funny money that the Federal Reserve has been cranking out has made the wealthy even wealthier, but this bubble will not last for too much longer.  What goes up must come down.  And remember, a bubble is always biggest right before it bursts.

Fortunately, it looks like an increasing number of people out there are starting to recognize that the primary reason why stocks have been going up is because of the Fed.  Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by the USA Today editorial board

The Federal Reserve’s purchases have driven interest rates to near zero. This has stimulated the economy but not without cost. Savers, particularly older ones trying to live on income from their investments, are starved for safe options. They’ve been forced into stocks, which is one reason the market has been acting as if it’s on steroids. Further, with borrowing costs low, Congress and the White House have less incentive to rein in the national debt. Rock-bottom interest rates have also distorted markets.

The best indication that the Fed’s bond-buying purchases are pushing stocks up artificially is that investors run for cover whenever there is a hint that the Fed might change course, as happened recently. On Monday, billionaire superinvestor Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett told CNBC that markets are on a “hair trigger” waiting for signs of change from the Fed. The market is “hooked on the drug” of easy money, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told Reuters.

Fisher’s comparison of Fed policies to a drug is apt. Markets might not like the idea of the drug being withdrawn now, when the Fed holds a portfolio of $3 trillion. But the withdrawal symptoms will be a lot worse once the portfolio grows to $4 trillion, or more.

Those sentiments were echoed by Gordon Charlop, a trader at Rosenblatt Securities, during a recent appearance on CNBC…

“The Wizard of the Fed, Ben [Bernanke], has done a great job propping up the market, but the question is how does the wizard move the pin from the balloon without blowing the whole thing up?” said Charlop. “This is getting out of balance and he’s got to figure out a way to justify the levels that we’ve gotten to and draw back on some of the stimulus.”

Of course, in the end, the bursting of this bubble is going to be very messy.

The Fed has dramatically distorted the market in an attempt to make things look good, but now the financial markets are completely and totally addicted to easy money.  Is there any chance that the Fed will be able to take away that easy money without causing disaster?

There are only a few ways that this current scenario can play out.  The following is what Stanley Druckenmiller recently told CNBC

I don’t know when it’s going to end, but my guess is, it’s going to end very badly; and it’s going to end very badly because, again, when you get the biggest price in the world, interest rates, being manipulated you get a misallocation of resources and this is going to end in one of two ways – with a malinvestment bust which we got in ’07-’08 (we didn’t get inflation). We got a malinvestment bust because of the bubble that was created in housing. Or it could end with just monetizing the debt and off we go in inflation. So that’s a very binary outcome – they’re both bad.”

What the Fed has done to the money supply in recent years has been absolutely unprecedented.  Just check out how our money supply has skyrocketed since the last financial crisis…

M1 Money Supply

So what happens when the amount of money in an economy rises rapidly?

Well, if I remember Econ 101 correctly, that would mean that prices should go up.

And that is exactly what has happened.  And since most of the money that the Fed has created has gone into the financial system first, it should not be a surprise that we have seen a bubble in financial assets.

In a previous article that I wrote last September, I warned that QE3 would cause stocks to go up…

So what have the previous rounds of quantitative easing accomplished?  Well, they have driven up the prices of financial assets.  Those that own stocks have done very well the past couple of years.  So who owns stocks?  The wealthy do.  In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.  Those that have invested in commodities have also done very nicely in recent years.  We have seen gold, silver, oil and agricultural commodities all do very well.  But that also means that average Americans are paying more for basic necessities such as food and gasoline.  So the first two rounds of quantitative easing made the wealthy even wealthier while causing living standards to fall for all the rest of us.  Is there any reason to believe that QE3 will be any different?

Of course not.

So will stocks continue to go up indefinitely?

No way.

As I have also written about previously, the money printing that the Fed is doing right now is not nearly enough to stop the mammoth derivatives crisis that is coming.

A derivatives crisis was one of the primary reasons for the financial crash of 2008, but most Americans still have no idea what derivatives are.

They can be very complex, but I think that it is easiest just to think of them as side bets.

When someone buys a derivative, they are not buying anything real.  They are simply betting that something will or will not happen.

For example, if you bet $100 that the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year, would you be “investing” in anything real?

Of course not.

Well, it is the same with most derivatives.

Today, Wall Street has become the biggest casino in the entire world and trillions of dollars of very reckless bets have been made.

In fact, most Americans would be absolutely shocked to learn how exposed to derivatives some of our largest financial institutions are.  The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles entitled “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“…

It would be hard to overstate the recklessness of these banks.  The numbers that you are about to see are absolutely jaw-dropping.  According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

When the derivatives crash happens, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to fix it.

So enjoy this little stock market bubble while you can.

It will end soon enough.

And of course stocks should not be this high in the first place.  The underlying economic fundamentals do not justify these kinds of stock prices whatsoever.

A recent CNN article noted that the last time the Dow hit a record high that unemployment in the U.S. was much lower…

Consider this. When the Dow hit its now old record high back in October 2007, the economy was still in good shape — although it was just a few months away from the beginning of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate in October 2007 was 4.7%. In January of this year, the unemployment rate was 7.9%.

And that same article also pointed out that GDP growth and housing prices were also much stronger back in 2007…

Gross domestic product grew 3% in the third quarter of 2007. Revised figures from the government last week showed that GDP in the fourth quarter of 2012 rose a scant 0.1%. But I guess that’s good news considering the first estimate showed a 0.1% decline.

And despite all the hoopla about the steady recovery in the housing market over the past year, real estate is still in a bear market. The most recent level of the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, one of the most widely watched gauges of the health of housing, is still 24% below where it was in October 2007.

We have never even come close to recovering from the last economic crisis.  Most Americans seem to have forgotten how good things were back then, but a recent Zero Hedge article included some more points of comparison between October 2007 and today…

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: Then 14164.5; Now 14164.5
  • Regular Gas Price: Then $2.75; Now $3.73
  • GDP Growth: Then +2.5%; Now +1.6%
  • Americans Unemployed (in Labor Force): Then 6.7 million; Now 13.2 million
  • Americans On Food Stamps: Then 26.9 million; Now 47.69 million
  • Size of Fed’s Balance Sheet: Then $0.89 trillion; Now $3.01 trillion
  • US Debt as a Percentage of GDP: Then ~38%; Now 74.2%
  • US Deficit (LTM): Then $97 billion; Now $975.6 billion
  • Total US Debt Oustanding: Then $9.008 trillion; Now $16.43 trillion
  • US Household Debt: Then $13.5 trillion; Now 12.87 trillion
  • Labor Force Particpation Rate: Then 65.8%; Now 63.6%
  • Consumer Confidence: Then 99.5; Now 69.6

And of course anyone that reads my site regularly knows that the U.S. economy has been in a state of persistent decline over the past several years.

Just consider the following data points…

-The percentage of the civilian labor force in the United States that is actually employed has been steadily declining every single year since 2006.

-In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

-According to one study, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

-Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 during that time span.

-At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

That is the other side of the Fed’s insidious money printing.  Incomes in the United States are going down, but the cost of living is skyrocketing.  This is squeezing millions of Americans out of the middle class

When Debbie Bruister buys a gallon of milk at her local Kroger supermarket, she pays $3.69, up 70 cents from what she paid last year.

Getting to the store costs more, too. Gas in Corinth, Miss., her hometown, costs $3.51 a gallon now, compared to less than three bucks in 2012. That really hurts, considering her husband’s 112-mile daily round-trip commute to his job as a pharmacist.

Perhaps you can identify with this.  Perhaps your paychecks are about the same as they used to be back in 2007 but the cost of living has gone up dramatically since then.

I wish I could tell you that things were going to get better, but unfortunately there are all kinds of indications that things are about to get even worse for the U.S. economy.  If you doubt this, just read this article and this article.

Yes, the Dow is at an all-time high.  But do you want to know what else has hit an all-time high up in New York?

Homelessness.

The following is from a recent report in the New York Times

An average of more than 50,000 people slept each night in New York City’s homeless shelters for the first time in January, a record that underscores an unsettling national trend: a rising number of families without permanent housing.

And apparently families and children have been hit particularly hard over the past year…

More than 21,000 children—an unprecedented 1% of the city’s youth—slept each night in a city shelter in January, an increase of 22% in the past year, the report said, while homeless families now spend more than a year in a shelter, on average, for the first time since 1987. In January, an average of 11,984 homeless families slept in shelters each night, a rise of 18% from a year earlier.

Of course New York is far from alone.  There has been a surge in homelessness all over the United States.  In fact, at this point more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history.

But the Dow just hit a record high so we should all be wildly happy, right?

Hopefully we can get more Americans to understand that the “prosperity” that we are enjoying right now is just an illusion.  It isn’t real.  It is a bubble created by reckless money printing by the Fed and reckless borrowing by the U.S. government.  If you can believe it, the U.S. government borrowed another 253 billion dollars during the month of February alone.

The Fed and the U.S. government will continue to engage in this kind of reckless behavior until the bubble eventually bursts.

So what should all the rest of us do?

We should be feverishly preparing for the hard times that are coming.  As Daisy Luther recently wrote about, one of the most important things to do is to create an emergency fund.  Instead of going out and blowing your money on the latest toys and gadgets, set some money aside so that you will have something to live on if the economy crashes and you suddenly lose your income.

Just remember what happened back in 2008.  Millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because many of them had no financial reserves, a lot of Americans suddenly could not pay their mortgages and they lost their homes.

So put some money away in a place where it will be safe – and that does not mean the stock market.

Jim Cramer of CNBC and a lot of the other talking heads on the financial news channels are trying to encourage ordinary Americans to jump into “the bull market” right now and make some money, and many people will take their advice.

But the truth is that a bubble is always biggest right before it bursts.

This bubble is awfully big right now, and I don’t know how much larger it can possibly get.

Stock Market Bubble

Federal Reserve Money Printing Is The Real Reason Why The Stock Market Is Soaring

Federal Reserve Money Printing Is The Real Reason Why The Stock Market Is SoaringYou can thank the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing for the incredible bull market that we have seen in recent months.  When the Federal Reserve does more “quantitative easing”, it is the financial markets that benefit the most.  The Dow and the S&P 500 have both hit levels not seen since 2007 this month, and many analysts are projecting that 2013 will be a banner year for stocks.  But is a rising stock market really a sign that the overall economy is rapidly improving as many are suggesting?  Of course not.  Just because the Federal Reserve has inflated another false stock market bubble with a bunch of funny money does not mean that the U.S. economy is in great shape.  In fact, the truth is that things just keep getting worse for average Americans.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has fallen from 60.6% to 58.6% while Barack Obama has been president, 40 percent of all American workers are making $20,000 a year or less, median household income has declined for four years in a row, and poverty in the United States is absolutely exploding.  So quantitative easing has definitely not made things better for the middle class.  But all of the money printing that the Fed has been doing has worked out wonderfully for Wall Street.  Profits are soaring at Goldman Sachs and luxury estates in the Hamptons are selling briskly.  Unfortunately, this is how things work in America these days.  Our “leaders” seem far more concerned with the welfare of Wall Street than they do about the welfare of the American people.  When things get rocky, their first priority always seems to be to do whatever it takes to pump up the financial markets.

When QE3 was announced, it was heralded as the grand solution to all of our economic problems.  But the truth is that those running things knew exactly what it would do.  Quantitative easing always pumps up the financial markets, and that overwhelmingly benefits those that are wealthy.  In fact, a while back a CNBC article discussed a very interesting study from the Bank of England which showed a clear correlation between quantitative easing and rising stock prices…

It said that the Bank of England’s policies of quantitative easing – similar to the Fed’s – had benefited mainly the wealthy.

Specifically, it said that its QE program had boosted the value of stocks and bonds by 26 percent, or about $970 billion. It said that about 40 percent of those gains went to the richest 5 percent of British households.

Many said the BOE’s easing added to social anger and unrest. Dhaval Joshi, of BCA Research wrote that  “QE cash ends up overwhelmingly in profits, thereby exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it.”

So should we be surprised that stocks are now the highest that they have been in more than 5 years?

Of course not.

And who benefits from this?

The wealthy do.  In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.

Unfortunately, all of this reckless money printing has a very negative impact on all the rest of us.  When the Fed floods the financial system with money, that causes inflation.  That means that the cost of living has gone up even though your paycheck may not have.

If you go to the supermarket frequently, you know exactly what I am talking about.  The new “sale prices” are what the old “regular prices” used to be.  They keep shrinking many of the package sizes in order to try to hide the inflation, but I don’t think many people are fooled.  Our food dollars are not stretching nearly as far as they used to, and we can blame the Federal Reserve for that.

For much more on rising prices in America, please see this article: “Somebody Should Start The ‘Stuff Costs Too Much’ Party“.

Sadly, this is what the Federal Reserve does.  The system was designed to create inflation.  Before the Federal Reserve came into existence, the United States never had an ongoing problem with inflation.  But since the Fed was created, the United States has endured constant inflation.  In fact, we have come to accept it as “normal”.  Just check out the amazing chart in the video posted below

The chart in that video kind of reminds me of a chart that I shared in a previous article

Hyperinflation Weimar Republic

Not that I expect the United States to enter a period of hyperinflation in the near future.

Actually, despite all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been doing, I expect that at some point we are going to see another wave of panic hit the financial markets like we saw back in 2008.  The false stock market bubble will burst, major banks will fail and the financial system will implode.  It could unfold something like this…

1 – A derivatives panic hits the “too big to fail” banks.

2 – Financial markets all over the globe crash.

3 – The credit markets freeze up.

4 – Economic activity in the United States starts to grind to a halt.

5 – Unemployment rises above 20 percent and mortgage defaults soar to unprecedented levels.

6 – Tax revenues fall dramatically and austerity measures are implemented by the federal government, state governments and local governments.

7 – The rest of the globe rapidly loses confidence in the U.S. financial system and begins to dump U.S. debt and U.S. dollars.

I write about derivatives a lot, because they are one of the greatest threats that the global financial system is facing.  In fact, right now a derivatives scandal is threatening to take down the oldest bank in the world

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, was making loans when Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were young men and before Columbus sailed to the New World. The bank survived the Italian War, which saw Siena’s surrender to Spain in 1555, the Napoleonic campaign, the Second World War and assorted bouts of plague and poverty.

But MPS may not survive the twin threats of a gruesomely expensive takeover gone bad and a derivatives scandal that may result in legal action against the bank’s former executives. After five centuries of independence, MPS may have to be nationalized as its losses soar and its value sinks.

So when you hear the word “derivatives” in the news, pay close attention.  The bankers have turned our financial system into a giant casino, and at some point the entire house of cards is going to come crashing down.

In response to the coming financial crisis, I believe that our “leaders” will eventually resort to money printing unlike anything we have ever seen before in a desperate attempt to resuscitate the system.  When that happens, I believe that we will see the kind of rampant inflation that so many people have been warning about.

So what do you think about all of this?

Do you believe that Federal Reserve money printing is the real reason why the stock market is soaring?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

How Much Money Will They Print?

18 Sobering Facts Which Prove That The Middle Class Is Not Being Included In This “Economic Recovery”

Have you heard the news?  The stock market is absolutely soaring and according to the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve we are in the beginning stages of a robust economic recovery.  Yippee!  The S&P 500 is up 6.8 percent so far in 2011, and the stock market recently hit a two and a half year high.  So shouldn’t we all be celebrating?  Well, if stock market performance was an accurate measure of economic health, then Zimbabwe would have had one of the healthiest economies on the entire globe during the last decade.  But just like Zimbabwe’s stock market was artificially pumped up with “funny money” that was rapidly being devalued, so is ours.  All of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve has been doing is pumping plenty of money into the financial markets and is helping to inflate a false stock market bubble, but it is doing very little to alleviate the suffering of the U.S. middle class.  In fact, when you take a closer look at the numbers you quickly find out that the suffering of the middle class is getting even worse.

According to Gallup, the unemployment rate is now over 10%.  The number of Americans that have given up looking for work recently set a new all-time record.  The number of mortgages in foreclosure tied a record high during the fourth quarter of 2010.  Gas and food prices are rising rapidly.  The number of Americans on food stamps continues to increase every single month.

Yes, right now the economic situation is not in free fall like it was a couple years ago.  We should be thankful for that.  Periods of relative stability such as we are enjoying now will be few and far between in the years ahead.  This “bubble” of economic calm is a great opportunity that we should all be taking advantage of.

However, those that are hoping that this is an economic “turning point” and that things will soon be back to “normal” are going to be greatly disappointed.  This is about as “normal” as things are going to be ever again.

Even during this time of relative economic stability, the U.S. middle class is still being ripped to shreds.  If there are those among your family and friends that are somehow convinced that the U.S. economy is recovering nicely, you might want want to show them the following 18 very sobering facts….

#1 According to Gallup, the U.S. unemployment rate is currently 10.3 percent.  When you add in part-time American workers that want full-time employment, that number rises to 20.2 percent.

#2 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings in the United States declined for a second straight month during December.

#3 There are currently more than 4 million Americans that have been unemployed for more than a year.

#4 The number of Americans that have become so discouraged that they have given up searching for work completely now stands at an all-time high.

#5 Gasoline prices in the United States recently hit a 28-month high.

#6 During the 4th quarter of 2010, 4.63 percent of all U.S. home loans were in foreclosure.  That matched the all-time high, and it was up significantly from 4.39 percent in the 3rd quarter.

#7 It is estimated that there are about 5 million homeowners in the United States that are at least two months behind on their mortgages, and it is being projected that over a million American families will be booted out of their homes this year alone.

#8 Almost 14 percent of all credit card accounts in the United States are currently 90 days or more delinquent.

#9 The average credit card rate in the United States had increased to a whopping 13.44 percent at the end of 2010.

#10 Americans now owe more than $890 billion on student loans, which is even more than they owe on credit cards.

#11 Average household debt in the United States has now reached a level of 136% of average household income.  In China, average household debt is only 17% of average household income.

#12 U.S. life expectancy at birth is now three years less than Canada and four years less than Japan.

#13 New home sales in the state of California were at the lowest level ever recorded in the month of January.

#14 43 percent of all mortgages in south Florida are currently underwater.

#15 Prior to the most recent economic downturn, there were usually somewhere around four to five million job openings in America.  Today there are about 3 million.

#16 When you adjust wages for inflation, middle class workers in the United States make less money today than they did back in 1971.

#17 One out of every seven Americans is now on food stamps.

#18 One out of every six elderly Americans now lives below the federal poverty line.

You know things are bad when articles start popping up in the mainstream news instructing us how to interact socially with the hordes of unemployed Americans that are out there today.  A recent USA Today article entitled “What not to say to someone who is unemployed” listed some of the things that you should not say to someone that does not have a job.  The following are some of their suggestions on what NOT to say….

“Hey, have you found anything yet?”

“How’s the search going?”

“You just have to pound the pavement.”

“Something will turn up.”

“It’s tough out there.”

“Other people are going through the same thing.”

“Maybe you’re asking for too much money.”

“Maybe you should go back to school.”

“There are plenty of jobs out there.”

I am sure most of us have heard things like this at one time or another.  It can be a soul-crushing thing to have others like at you in pity because you don’t have a job and you can’t pay the mortgage and feed your family.

Most unemployed Americans are not lazy.  The vast majority of them desperately want jobs.  But the U.S. economy is not producing nearly enough jobs today.  As noted above, the U.S. economy currently has about 3 million job openings, but approximately 20 percent of the workforce wants to find a full-time job.  The demand for jobs is far, far, far greater than the supply.

Unfortunately, this is the legacy of decades of bad economic decision-making.  The U.S. economy should be able to provide work for every single person that wants it, but because of the choices that have been made that will never be the case again.

The middle class in America is being ripped to shreds right in front of our eyes and very little is being done to stop it.  Desperation is rising across the nation.  More Americans slip into poverty every single day.  It is almost as if a cloud of gloom and despair has descended upon the U.S. economy and every single month the situation only seems to get darker.

So what about you?  How has this economy affected you and your family?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

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