Inflation Is Here – Just Open Up Your Eyes And Look At These 5 Financial Charts!

Despite what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says, rampant inflation is officially here.  The federal government is constantly monkeying with the numbers to keep the “official” rate of inflation below 2 percent, but it is becoming very difficult to deny that the cost of almost everything is really going up these days.  The American people are not stupid.  They notice the difference when they go to the grocery store or stop at the gas station.  The dollar is losing value rapidly now.  The price of gold set another new all-time record today and is currently hovering just above $1430 an ounce.  The price of West Texas crude has moved above 100 dollars several times recently and the price of Brent crude is currently above 116 dollars.  These higher oil prices are really starting to be felt in the United States.  The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States has now reached $3.38.  There are some gas stations in the U.S. where the price of a gallon of gas is already over 4 dollars.  But it is not just the American people that are feeling the pain.  The global price of food recently hit a new record high and almost every major agricultural commodity has absolutely skyrocketed in price over the past 12 months.  Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke just told the Senate Banking Committee that he really isn’t concerned about inflation at all.

When it comes to inflation, the key is not to look at the official U.S. government numbers (they are highly manipulated) or how the U.S. dollar is performing against other major currencies (because they are all being devalued as well).  Instead, you can get a truer sense of what is really happening to inflation by looking at what the U.S. dollar is doing against precious metals, commodities and other hard assets.

So are we experiencing rampant inflation right now?  Well, just open up your eyes and look at these 5 charts….

1 – The price of oil is racing back up to record levels.  The chart below from the Federal Reserve is a couple weeks out of date.  As noted above, the current price of West Texas crude is about $100 a barrel….

2 – The price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States seems destined to hit a brand new all-time record at some point this year.  Was it really just a few short years ago when the average price of gas in this country was about a dollar a gallon?….

3 – The value of most precious metals is very consistent over time.  So when you see precious metals go up dramatically in price, it means that the dollar is being devalued.  The price of gold just set another new all-time high and it seems destined to keep going even higher….

4 – The chart below from the Federal Reserve is a measure of the price of all commodities.  These price increases are inevitably going to be passed along to consumers in the United States….

5 – After a couple of years of stable food price, the price of food is starting to take off yet again….

In fact, many analysts are warning that we could experience a major food crisis over the next couple of years.  The global demand for food continues to grow at a very brisk pace, but all of the crazy weather we have been having around the world has caused some very bad harvests.

Unfortunately, the global price of food has gone up substantially in recent months and it is likely to keep going up very rapidly.  Just consider the following five facts….

#1 The United Nations says that the global price of food hit another new all-time high during the month of January.

#2 The price of corn has doubled in the past six months.

#3 The price of wheat has roughly doubled since the middle of 2010.

#4 According to Forbes, the price of soybeans is up about 50% since last June.

#5 The United Nations is projecting that the global price of food will increase by another 30 percent by the end of 2011.

Ouch.

But isn’t there some good economic news?

Yes, there is, but before we cover it, it is important to keep in mind that in an inflationary environment almost all economic numbers go up.

For example, during the recent hyperinflation in Zimbabwe stocks went up like crazy and “economic growth” statistics were very impressive.

Why?

Because those numbers were measured in currency units that were being devalued at a blinding pace.

So please keep that in mind when you hear “good economic statistics” on the evening news.

The truth is that in an inflationary environment such as we have now entered into almost all economic numbers should be going up.

So what is the good news?

Well, last month all three major U.S. car companies reported strong sales gains.  Sales of GM vehicles were up 49%, sales of Chrysler vehicles were up 13%, and sales of Ford vehicles were up 10%.

But just because a few pieces of good economic news come floating our way does not mean that we should forget all of the horrific long-term economic trends that are tearing this country apart.

The truth is that we are still a nation that is absolutely drowning in debt.

For example, it was just announced that China now owns 1.16 trillion dollars of U.S. government debt.

The borrower is the servant of the lender.  We should never forget that.

Also, the U.S. economy is slowly but surely becoming of less importance on the global stage.

In 1985, America’s share of global GDP was 33%.  Today, it is just 24%.

Our nation is rapidly being deindustrialized and we are becoming deeply dependent on industrial production from other nations.

Did you know that the new World Trade Center that is being constructed on the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks is going to be made from German steel and Chinese glass?

That says a lot about where we are at as a country.

We have allowed so much of our industrial infrastructure to be exported to China where workers slave away in almost unbelievable conditions.

A reader named Rish recently described what things are like over there….

As a product developer I went to china and saw the way the factory workers lived and worked in person. 50$ a month is about right, but if you are a skilled quality control expert you might make as much as 150$. at least this was true about 2 years ago the last time I went. The barracks were pretty meager, bunk beds with just plywood, no mattresses, if you wanted you could go to a store just outside the factory gate and buy a thick comforter that they sell as a “mattress” .

It will be interesting to see how the next few years changes the face of the USA. Who knows? if the unemployment rate and lack of jobs keeps going and enough people become homeless, we might become the next Bangladesh, and people will be lining up of the 30 cents an hour corporate factory jobs, and living in barracks just like those…

The only way the U.S. has been able to “thrive” during this deindustrialization is by borrowing gigantic amounts of money.  But all of this borrowing is slowly but surely destroying the U.S. dollar, and we are getting closer to the point of absolute catastrophe.

Peter Schiff recently shook folks up when he talked about these issues during a recent interview on CNBC….

But it is not just the United States that is printing tons and tons of money.  All of the major industrialized nations have been firing out gobs of currency.  That is a huge reason why so many investors have been racing to get into hard assets recently.

Now Ben Bernanke and other top Federal Reserve officials have been dropping hints that more quantitative easing may be necessary.

Unfortunately, just like with any other addiction, once you give in a few times it becomes easier and easier to engage in destructive behavior.  Now that the Fed has gotten a taste for quantitative easing it is going to be really hard to stop.

Nor can the Fed stop at this point.  If they did it would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.  But if the Fed continues on this reckless course it will make the eventual collapse of our economy even worse.

Under our current debt-based system there is no way out.  The Federal Reserve can attempt to put off the inevitable for a while by pumping up the debt bubble even more, but at some point it is going to burst.

When that happens we are going to be facing a financial crisis which will blow what happened in 2008 completely out of the water.

So enjoy these good economic times while you still can.  This is about as good as things are going to get from here on out.

5 Dollar Gas? Get Ready To Pay An Arm And A Leg For Gasoline

One of the quickest ways to bring down the U.S. economy would be to dramatically increase the price of oil. Oil is the lifeblood of our economic system. Without it, our entire economy would come to a grinding halt. Almost every type of economic activity in this country depends on oil, and even a small rise in the price of oil can have a dramatic impact on economic growth.  That is why so many economists are incredibly alarmed about what is happening in the Middle East right now.  The revolution in Libya caused the price of WTI crude to soar more than 7 dollars on Tuesday alone.  It closed at $93.57 on Tuesday and Brent crude actually hit $108.57 a barrel before settling back to $105.78 at the end of the day.  Some analysts are warning that we could even see 5 dollar gas in the United States by the end of the year if rioting spreads to other oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia.  With the Middle East in such a state of chaos right now it is hard to know exactly what is going to happen, but almost everyone agrees that if oil prices continue to rise at a rapid pace over the next several months it is going to have a devastating impact on economic growth all over the globe.

Right now the eyes of the world are on Libya.  Libya is the 17th largest oil producer on the globe and it has the biggest proven oil reserves on the continent of Africa.

Libya only produces 2 percent of the oil in the world, but with global supplies so tight at the moment even a minor production disruption can have a dramatic impact on the price of oil.

Before this crisis, Libya was producing approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil per day.  Now the rest of the world is wondering what may happen if revolution spreads to other major oil producing nations such as Kuwait (2.5 million barrels of oil per day) or Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia produces 8.4 million barrels of oil a day.  It produces more oil than anyone else in OPEC.

If revolution strikes in Saudi Arabia and a major production disruption happens it could be catastrophic for the global economy.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, is warning that if there is major civil unrest in Saudi Arabia we could end up seeing oil go up to $200 a barrel….

“If Libya can spark a $10-a-barrel response, imagine what a similar uprising in Saudi Arabia could unleash. Do the math: we’d be talking about $200 oil.”

200 dollar oil?

Don’t laugh – it could happen.

In fact, if it does happen the global economy would probably go into cardiac arrest.

The truth is that if the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia gets disrupted there is not enough spare capacity from the rest of the globe to make up for it.

Paul Horsnell, the head of oil research at Barclays Capital, recently said that the world does not currently have enough spare capacity to be able to guarantee that an oil “price shock” will not happen….

“The world has only 4.5m barrels-per-day (bpd) of spare capacity, which is not comfortable.”

Horsnell also said that even in the midst of potential supply problems, the global demand for oil continues to grow at a very robust pace….

“In just two years, the world has grown so fast as to consume additional volume equal to the output of Iraq and Kuwait combined.”

For now, Saudi officials are saying all the right things.  They say that there will be no revolution in Saudi Arabia and that there are not going to be any supply problems.

For example, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi recently announced that the rest of the world should not worry because his country is definitely going to be able to make up for any shortage in the global supply of oil….

“What I would like you to convey to the market: right now there is absolutely no shortage of supply.”

But what happens if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia?

Suddenly the whole game would change.

But even with a peaceful Saudi Arabia the price of gasoline in the United States is already rising to alarming levels.

The average price of gasoline in the United States reached $3.14 a gallon last week.  This closely mirrors what happened back in 2008.  Three years ago at this time the average price of gasoline was right around $3.13 a gallon.

Let’s certainly hope that we don’t see a repeat of what happened to oil prices back in mid-2008.  The price of oil reached an all-time record of $147 a barrel and gas prices in the United States absolutely skyrocketed.

So how high will the price of gas in the U.S. go in 2011?

We haven’t even come close to 4 dollar gas yet, but a large number of analysts believe that it is coming this summer.

Is there even a possibility that we could see 5 dollar gas in America at some point in the next couple of years?

Well, there are some in the oil industry that are convinced that it could actually happen.  Just consider the following quotes….

Darin Newsom, senior analyst at energy tracker DTN….

“If this thing escalates and there’s a good chance that there’d be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn’t out of the question.”

Peter Beutel, president of energy adviser Cameron Hanover….

“If you are looking at the disruption of movement and production in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, you’re easily talking $5 gas.”

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, on his belief that we could see 5 dollar gas by 2012….

“I’m predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices.”

So why is everyone so concerned about gas prices?

Well, because it affects the price of almost everything else in the economy.

David Wyss, the chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, says that every extra dollar that is spent on gasoline is a dollar that will not be spent somewhere else….

“The money that you spend filling up your car is money you don’t have to spend at the shopping mall.”

Not only that, but when gasoline costs more it has a negative effect on economic growth.  Almost all economic activities involve the use of oil in one form or another.  When the price of oil starts getting really high it motivates people to start cutting back on many of those activities.

The truth is that our whole economic system is based on the ability to use massive amounts of very cheap oil.  Now that the price of oil is rapidly rising again, many economists are becoming very alarmed.

Nobuo Tanaka, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, recently told CNBC that his organization is extremely concerned about what high oil prices could do to the global economy….

“That is our concern, regardless of the margins of disruption, if the $100 per barrel of oil is continued in 2011, the burden of oil to the global economy is as bad as 2008.”

So what was so bad about 2008?  Well, the price of oil soared to $147 a barrel in mid-2008 and this was a huge factor in the financial collapse that happened a few months later.  Now oil prices are returning to levels that we have not seen since 2008….

So if the price of oil breaks the all-time record this year will we see another global financial crisis?

It is hard to say.  But what almost everyone agrees on is that it will not be good for the global economy at all.

In addition, a higher price for oil will also have a huge impact on the trade deficit.  Because oil prices were at such a high level back in 2008, oil imports actually made up almost 50 percent of the U.S. trade deficit that year.

In 2010, the U.S. trade deficit was just a whisker under $500 billion.  If the price of oil gets up to 140 or 150 dollars a barrel we could easily see the U.S. trade deficit explode to 700 or 800 billion dollars in 2011.

That would be really, really bad for the U.S. economy.

So where are oil prices going next?

Well, if you could predict that with 100 percent certainty you could make a whole lot of money.  Nobody knows for sure.

But almost everyone believes that the price of oil is going to go up.  In fact, a lot number of investors have been making some very large bets that the price of oil is going to go up very significantly this year.

Recently, large numbers of investors have been betting that the price of oil will rise to $125 a barrel by May.  Shockingly, some investors have even been betting that the price of oil will rise to $250 a barrel by next December.

Let us hope that the price of oil does not rise that rapidly, but as the past couple of months have demonstrated, the world is becoming a very unstable place.   Just about anything is possible at this point.

If the price of oil rises significantly above $100 a barrel and it stays there for an extended period of time, it is going to be absolutely devastating for the U.S. economy.

So what do you all think is going to happen to the price of oil in 2011?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

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