These New Numbers Are Telling Us That The Global Economic Slowdown Is Far More Advanced Than We Thought

We continue to get more confirmation that the global economy is slowing down substantially.  On Monday, it was China’s turn to surprise analysts, and the numbers that they just released are absolutely stunning.  When Chinese imports and exports are both expanding, that is a clear sign that the global economy is running on all cylinders, but when both of them are contracting that is an indication that huge trouble is ahead.  And the experts were certainly anticipating substantial increases in both categories in December, but instead there were huge declines.  There is no possible way to spin these numbers to make them look good…

Data from China showed imports fell 7.6 percent year-on-year in December while analysts had predicted a 5-percent rise. Exports dropped 4.4 percent, confounding expectations for a 3-percent gain.

China now accounts for more total global trade than the United States does, and the fact that the numbers for the global economy’s number one trade hub are falling this dramatically is a major warning sign.

And of course it isn’t just China that is experiencing trouble.  In fact, we just witnessed the worst industrial output numbers in Europe “in nearly three years”

Adding to the gloom were weak industrial output numbers from the euro zone, which showed the largest fall in nearly three years.

Softening demand has been felt around the world, with sales of goods ranging from iPhones to automobiles slowing, prompting profit warnings from Apple among others.

If we were headed for a major global recession, these are exactly the types of news stories that we would expect to see.

We also continue to get more indications that the U.S. economy is slowing down significantly.  For example, sales of new homes in the U.S. were down 19 percent in November and 18 percent in December

Sales of newly built homes fell 18 percent in December compared with December of 2017, according to data compiled by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, a California-based housing research and analytics firm.

Due to the partial government shutdown, official government figures on home sales for November and December have not been released.

Sales were also down a steep 19 percent annually in November, according to JBRC’s analysts.

Those are horrific numbers, and they are very reminiscent of what we witnessed back in 2008.

And we also just learned that employers are cutting back on hiring new college grads for the first time in eight years

A new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that for the first time in eight years, managers are pulling back the reins on hiring college grads, with a projected 1.3 percent decrease from last year. Additionally, a survey from Monster.com found that of 350 college students polled, 75 percent don’t have a job lined up yet.

I feel really bad for those that are getting ready to graduate from college, because I know what it is like to graduate in the middle of an economic downturn.  At the time, many of my friends took whatever jobs they possibly could, and some of them never really got on the right track after that.

But the economic environment that is ahead will be much worse than any of the minor recessions that the U.S. has experienced in the past, and that means things are going to be extremely tough for our college graduates.  And the total amount of student loan debt in this country has roughly tripled over the last decade, and so a lot of these young people are going to enter the real world with crippling amounts of debt but without the good jobs that they were promised would be there upon graduation.

As economic conditions have begun to deteriorate, I have had more people begin to ask me about what they can do to get prepared for what is coming.  And I always start off by telling them the exact same thing.  Today, 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, but when an economic downturn strikes that is precisely what you do not want to be doing.

Some people that I hear from insist that there is no possible way that they can put together an emergency fund because they are already spending everything that they are bringing in.

And yes, it is true that there are some people out there that are so financially stretched that they literally do not have a single penny to spare even though they are being extremely frugal, but the majority of us definitely have areas where we can cut back.

I realize that “cutting back” does not sound fun.  But not being able to pay your mortgage when things get really bad will be a whole lot less fun.

Right now people should be focusing on reducing expenses and trying to make some extra money.  Use whatever time we have left before things get really bad to put yourself into a better financial position.  If you have at least a little bit of money to fall back on, it will make your life much less stressful in the long run.

In addition, anything that you can do to become more independent of the system is a good thing.  On a very basic level, learning to grow a garden can end up saving you a ton of money.  I was just at the grocery store earlier today, and food is getting really expensive.  When the Federal Reserve says that we are in a “low inflation” environment, I always wonder what world they are living on.

When I got up to the register today, I almost felt like they were going to ask me what organ I wanted to donate in order to pay for my groceries.  Unfortunately, the price of food right now is actually quite low compared to what it is going to be in the days ahead.

So I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

I think that I have just been in a foul mood all day ever since I came across Gillette’s new “toxic masculinity” ad.  I will have quite a bit to say about that ad later this evening on EndOfTheAmericanDream.com.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2019 is off to quite a rough start, and things are likely to get a whole lot rougher.

As always, let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

Get Prepared NowAbout the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.  His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News.  From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites.  If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so.  The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

“The Outlook For The Global Economy Has Deteriorated”: Oil, Copper And Lumber Are All Telling Us The Next Economic Downturn Is Here

Oil, copper and lumber are all telling us the exact same thing, and it isn’t good news for the global economy.  When economic activity is booming, demand for commodities such as oil, copper and lumber goes up and that generally causes prices to rise.  But when economic activity is slowing down, demand for such commodities falls and that generally causes prices to decline.  In recent weeks, we have witnessed a decline in commodity prices unlike anything that we have witnessed in years, and many are concerned that this is a very clear indication that hard times are ahead for the global economy.

Let’s talk about oil first.  The price of oil peaked in early October, but since that time it has fallen more than 25 percent, and the IEA is warning of “relatively weak” demand out of Asia and Europe

The International Energy Agency said on Wednesday that while US demand for oil has been “very robust,” demand in Europe and developed Asian countries “continues to be relatively weak.” The IEA also warned of a “slowdown” in demand in developing nations such as India, Brazil and Argentina caused by high oil prices, weak currencies and deteriorating economic activity.

“The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated,” the IEA wrote.

Meanwhile, the price of copper has been declining for quite some time now.  The price of copper also fell substantially just before the last recession, and many analysts are pointing out that “Dr. Copper” is now waving a red flag once again

The message of weakening demand on the oil front was reinforced by the falling price of copper. The base metal is often referred to as “Dr. Copper” on its presumed ability to forecast the peaks and troughs of business cycles since it is used in different areas of the economy such as homes, factories and electricity generation. Copper has served as a leading indicator of both recessions and economic booms.

The price of lumber is a “third witness” that indicates that big trouble is looming.

Last month, lumber dropped more than 10 percent, and that was the biggest monthly drop that we have seen in more than 7 years

In October, prices for softwood lumber in the U.S. dropped 10.3% – the largest decline since May 2011, according to the Producer Price Index (PPI) release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The producer price index for softwood lumber has fallen 21.2% since setting the cycle and all-time high in June.

If oil, copper and lumber are all telling us the same thing simultaneously, don’t you think that we should be listening?

At this point, even Bloomberg is admitting that the global economy is heading toward “a generalized slowdown”…

These developments suggest the synchronized growth that the global economy has enjoyed in recent years is likely to be replaced by a generalized slowdown. Just take a look at the data out of Japan and Germany this week, which showed the world’s third- and fourth-largest economies contracted in the third quarter.

How many signs is it going to take before people start understanding what is happening?

Wells Fargo just notified about 1,000 employees that they will be laid off.  Job losses are starting to mount, and it is likely that we will start to see these sorts of news stories on an almost daily basis now.

And as the shaking on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to see more financial firms get into trouble.  In fact, we just witnessed the total collapse of OptionSellers.com.  The following comes from a notice that they sent to investors informing them that they lost all their money and that the firm is being liquidated…

I am writing to give you an update on the situation here with your account.

We have spent the week unwinding our short natural gas call position as expediently as possible.

Today which was to be the final day of liquidation, the market flared as prices appear to have been caught in a “short squeeze.”

The speed at which it took place is truly beyond anything I have seen in my career. It overran our risk control systems and left us at the mercy of the market.

In short, it was a rogue wave and it overwhelmed us.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in a catastrophic loss.

Our clearing firm, FC Stone now requires us to liquidate all positions. We hoped to have this done today. If not, it will be completed tomorrow.

Your account could potentially be facing a debit balance as of tomorrow. OptionSellers.com will be processing fee credits over the course of the coming days to help alleviate debit balances. What these will be will be determined after all positions are cleared.

This has in effect, crippled the firm. At this point, our brokers at FC Stone have been assisting us in liquidation.

Our offices will remain open and we will all still be here to answer your questions and process account closings. We will do everything in our power to ease what discomfort we can.

I am truly sorry this has happened.

I will be updating you again via memo in 24 hours.

Regards,

OptionSellers.com

Those investors are among the first to be completely wiped out, but they certainly won’t be the last.

The ironic thing is that Americans are less concerned about another crisis than they have been at any point since 2008 at a time when they should be more focused on getting prepared than ever.

You know that it is really late in the game when even Jim Cramer of CNBC is saying that the U.S. economy is really slowing down.  A few of my readers wrote me after that article because they didn’t like the fact that I had quoted Jim Cramer.  But I don’t think that they really got my point.  I was not endorsing Jim Cramer as some sort of financial guru.  Rather, I was pointing out that even mainstream media celebrities that were previously cheerleaders for the economy are now recognizing the reality of what we are facing.

Global economic activity is slowing down, and things are shifting very rapidly now.  The weather is already getting very cold, the mood of the nation is very dark, and it would only take a very small push to send us completely tumbling over the edge.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Oil Prices Have Been Rising And $4 A Gallon Gasoline Would Put Enormous Stress On The U.S. Economy

Thanks to increasing demand and upcoming U.S. sanctions against Iran, oil prices have been rising and some analysts are forecasting that they will surge even higher in the months ahead.  Unfortunately, that would be very bad news for the U.S. economy at a time when concerns about a major economic downturn have already been percolating.  In recent years, extremely low gasoline prices have been one of the factors that have contributed to a period of relative economic stability in the United States.  Because our country is so spread out, we import such a high percentage of our goods, and we are so dependent on foreign oil, our economy is particularly vulnerable to gasoline price shocks.  Anyone that lived in the U.S. during the early 1970s can attest to that.  If the average price of gasoline rises to $4 a gallon by the end of 2018 that will be really bad news, and if the average price of gasoline were to hit $5 a gallon that would be catastrophic for the economy.

Very early on Tuesday, the price of U.S. oil surged past $70 a barrel in anticipation of the approaching hurricane along the Gulf Coast.  The following comes from Fox Business

U.S. oil prices rose on Tuesday, breaking past $70 per barrel, after two Gulf of Mexico oil platforms were evacuated in preparation for a hurricane.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $70.05 per barrel at 0353 GMT, up 25 cents, or 0.4 percent from their last settlement.

If we stay at about $70 a gallon, that isn’t going to be much of a problem.

But some analysts are now speaking of “an impending supply crunch”, and that is a very troubling sign.  For example, just check out what Stephen Brennock is saying

“Exports from OPEC’s third-biggest producer are falling faster than expected and worse is to come ahead of a looming second wave of U.S. sanctions,” said Stephen Brennock, analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates. “Fears of an impending supply crunch are gaining traction.”

So how high could prices ultimately go?

Well, energy expert John Kilduff is now projecting that we could see the price of gasoline at $4 a gallon by winter

Energy expert John Kilduff counts Iran sanctions as the top reason West Texas Intermediate (WTI) could climb as much as 30 percent by winter, and that could spell $4 a gallon unleaded gasoline at the pumps.

“The global market is tight and it’s getting tighter, and the big strangle around the market right now is what’s in the process of happening with Iran and the Iran sanctions,” the Again Capital founding partner said on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”

About two months from now, U.S. sanctions will formally be imposed on Iran, and that is going to significantly restrict the supply of oil available in the marketplace.

So refiners that had relied on Iranian oil are “scrambling” to find new suppliers, and this could ultimately drive oil prices much higher

Iran’s oil exports are plummeting, as refiners scramble to find alternatives ahead of a re imposition of U.S. sanctions in early November. That in turn has helped drain a glut of unsold oil.

“To the extent we’re seeing the Iran barrels lost to the market, you’re looking at a WTI price and Brent in the $85 to $95 range, potentially,” Kilduff said.

Other sources are also predicting that oil prices will rise.

Barclays is warning that “prices could reach $80 and higher in the short term”, and BNP Paribas is now anticipating that Brent crude will average $79 a barrel in 2019.

In addition to the upcoming Iranian sanctions, rising global demand for oil is also a major factor that is pushing up prices.

For example, many Americans don’t even realize that China has surpassed us and has now become the biggest crude oil importer on the entire planet

China became the world’s largest crude oil importer in 2017, surpassing the US and importing 8.4 million barrels per day.

The US only imported 7.9 million barrels per day in 2017, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

So what is the bottom line for U.S. consumers?

The bottom line is that gasoline prices are likely to jump substantially, and that is going to affect prices for almost everything else that you buy.

Excluding tech products, virtually everything else that Americans purchase has to be transported, and so the price of gasoline must be factored into the cost.

So if gasoline prices shoot up quite a bit, that means that almost everything is going to cost more.

And this would be happening at a time when inflation is already on the rise

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, less food and energy, hit 2.4% in July 2018. That’s its highest reading since September 2008.

Of course 2.4 percent doesn’t really sound that scary, and that is how the government likes it.

But if the rate of inflation was still calculated the way it was back in 1990, the current inflation rate would be above 6 percent.

And if the rate of inflation was still calculated the way it was back in 1980, the current inflation rate would be above 10 percent.

Inflation is a hidden tax on all of us, and it is one of the big reasons why the middle class is being eroded so rapidly.

Please do not underestimate the impact of the price of oil.  It shot above $100 a barrel in 2008, and it was one of the factors that precipitated the financial crisis later that year.

Now we are rapidly approaching another crisis point, and there are so many wildcards that could potentially cause major problems.

One of those wildcards that I haven’t even talked about in this article would be a major war in the Middle East.  One of these days it will happen, and the price of oil will instantly soar to well above $100 a barrel.

We live at a time of rising global instability, and we should all learn to start expecting the unexpected.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

 

Are You Kidding Me? Chinese Exports Plunge 25.4 Percent Compared To Last Year

Exports Declining - Public DomainWe just got more evidence that global trade is absolutely imploding.  Chinese exports dropped 25.4 percent during the month of February compared to a year ago, and Chinese imports fell 13.8 percent compared to a year ago.  For Chinese exports, that was the worst decline that we have seen since 2009, and Chinese imports have now fallen for 16 months in a row on a year over year basis.  The last time we saw numbers like this, we were in the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  China accounts for more global trade than any other nation (including the United States), and so this is a major red flag.  Anyone that is saying that the global economy is in “good shape” is clearly not paying attention.

If someone would have told me a year ago that Chinese exports would be 25 percent lower next February, I would not have believed it.  This is not just a slowdown – this is a historic implosion.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Things are not getting better in China as Exports crashed 25.4% YoY (the 3rd largest drop in history), almost double the 14.5% expectation and Imports tumbled 13.8%, the 16th month of YoY decline – the longest ever. Altogether this sent the trade surplus down to $32.6bn (missing expectations of $51bn) to 11-month lows.

Chinese Exports - Zero Hedge

So much for that whole “devalue yourself to export growth” idea…

I don’t know how anyone can possibly dismiss the importance of these numbers.  As you can see, this is not just a one month aberration.  Chinese trade numbers have been declining for months, and that decline appears to be accelerating.

Another very interesting piece of news that has come out in recent days regards the massive layoffs that are coming at state industries in China.  According to Reuters, five to six million Chinese workers are going to be losing their jobs during this transition…

China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years as part of efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution, two reliable sources said, Beijing’s boldest retrenchment program in almost two decades.

China’s leadership, obsessed with maintaining stability and making sure redundancies do not lead to unrest, will spend nearly 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) to cover layoffs in just the coal and steel sectors in the next 2-3 years.

 

For years, the Chinese economic miracle has been fueling global economic growth, but now things are changing dramatically.

Another factor that we should discuss is the fact that the relationship between the United States and China is going downhill very rapidly.  This is something that I wrote about yesterday.  China has seized control of several very important islands in the South China Sea, and in response the Obama administration has been sailing military vessels past the islands in a threatening manner.  Most recently, Obama decided to have an aircraft carrier task force cruise past the islands, and this provoked a very angry response from the Chinese

The four-ship U.S. strike group that patrolled the disputed South China Sea was followed by Chinese warships, a show of force that prompted a hard-line response from China doubling down on its claim to nearly all of the resource-rich sea.  

China’s foreign minister said his country’s sovereignty claims are supported by history and made a veiled reference to the 5-day patrol by the Stennis Carrier Strike Group, as well as recent passes by China’s man-made islands by destroyers Lassen and Curtis Wilbur in recent months.

“The South China Sea has been subject to colonial invasion and illegal occupation and now some people are trying to stir up waves, while some others are showing off forces,” Wang Yi said, according to an Associated Press report, a day after the Stennis CSG departed the South China Sea.  “However, like the tide that comes and goes, none of these attempts will have any impact. History will prove who is merely the guest and who is the real host.”

Most Americans are not even paying attention to this dispute, but in China there is talk of war.  The Chinese are absolutely not going to back down, and it does not look like Obama is going to either.  Needless to say, a souring of the relationship between the largest economy on the planet and the second largest economy on the planet would not be a good thing for the global economy.

And of course China is far from the only country that is having economic problems.  Yesterday, I discussed how Italy’s banking system is on the verge of completely collapse.  A few days before that I discussed the economic depression that has gripped much of South America.  A new global economic crisis has already begun, and just because the United States is feeling less pain than the rest of the world so far does not mean that everything is going to be okay.

There are huge red flags in Europe, Asia and South America right now.  In addition, our neighbor to the north (Canada) is experiencing a very significant slowdown.  The irrational optimists can continue to believe that the U.S. economy will somehow escape relatively unscathed if they would like, but that is not going to be what happens.

Just like virtually everyone else on the planet, we are heading into hard times too, and this is going to become a dominant theme in the presidential campaign as we move forward into the months ahead.

22 Signs That The Global Economic Turmoil We Have Seen So Far In 2016 Is Just The Beginning

Skyline Globe Clock Gears - Public DomainAs bad as the month of January was for the global economy, the truth is that the rest of 2016 promises to be much worse.  Layoffs are increasing at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession, major retailers are shutting down hundreds of locations, corporate profit margins are plunging, global trade is slowing down dramatically, and several major European banks are in the process of completely imploding.  I am about to share some numbers with you that are truly eye-popping.  Each one by itself would be reason for concern, but when you put all of the pieces together it creates a picture that is hard to deny.  The global economy is in crisis, and this is going to have very serious implications for the financial markets moving forward.  U.S. stocks just had their worst January in seven years, and if I am right much worse is still yet to come this year.  The following are 22 signs that the global economic turmoil that we have seen so far in 2016 is just the beginning…

1. The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

2. The Baltic Dry Index just hit yet another brand new all-time record low.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 303.

3. U.S. factory orders have now dropped for 14 months in a row.

4. In the U.S., the Restaurant Performance Index just fell to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

5. In January, orders for class 8 trucks (the big trucks that you see shipping stuff around the country on our highways) declined a whopping 48 percent from a year ago.

6. Rail traffic is also slowing down substantially.  In Colorado, there are hundreds of train engines that are just sitting on the tracks with nothing to do.

7. Corporate profit margins peaked during the third quarter of 2014 and have been declining steadily since then.  This usually happens when we are heading into a recession.

8. A series of extremely disappointing corporate quarterly reports is sending stock after stock plummeting.  Here is a summary from Zero Hedge of a few examples that we have just witnessed…

  • SHARES OF LIONS GATE ENTERTAINMENT FALL 5 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADE AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • TABLEAU SOFTWARE SHARES TUMBLE 40 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • YRC WORLDWIDE SHARES DOWN 16.4 PCT AFTER THE BALL FOLLOWING RESULTS – RTRS
  • SPLUNK INC SHARES DOWN 7.6 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • LINKEDIN SHARES EXTEND DECLINE, DOWN 24 PCT AFTER RESULTS, GUIDANCE – RTRS
  • HANESBRANDS SHARES FURTHER ADD TO LOSSES IN EXTENDED TRADE, LAST DOWN 14.9 PCT – RTRS
  • OUTERWALL SHARES FALL 11 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADING AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • GENWORTH SHARES DOWN 16.5 PCT AFTER THE BELL FOLLOWING RESULTS, RESTRUCTURING PLAN

9. Junk bonds continue to crash on Wall Street.  On Monday, JNK was down to 32.60 and HYG was down to 77.99.

10. On Thursday, a major British news source publicly named five large European banks that are considered to be in very serious danger…

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Santander, Barclays and RBS are among the stocks that are falling sharply sending shockwaves through the financial world, according to former hedge fund manager and ex Goldman Sachs employee Raoul Pal.

11. Deutsche Bank is the biggest bank in Germany and it has more exposure to derivatives than any other bank in the world.  Unfortunately, Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are now telling us that there is deep turmoil at the bank and that a complete implosion may be imminent.

12. Last week, we learned that Deutsche Bank had lost a staggering 6.8 billion euros in 2015.  If you will recall, I warned about massive problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September.  The most important bank in Germany is exceedingly troubled, and it could end up being for the EU what Lehman Brothers was for the United States.

13. Credit Suisse just announced that it will be eliminating 4,000 jobs.

14. Royal Dutch Shell has announced that it is going to be eliminating 10,000 jobs.

15. Caterpillar has announced that it will be closing 5 plants and getting rid of 670 workers.

16. Yahoo has announced that it is going to be getting rid of 15 percent of its total workforce.

17. Johnson & Johnson has announced that it is slashing its workforce by 3,000 jobs.

18. Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce and GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers.

19. All over America, retail stores are shutting down at a staggering pace.  The following list comes from one of my previous articles

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

20. According to the New York Times, the Chinese economy is facing a mountain of bad loans that “could exceed $5 trillion“.

21. Japan has implemented a negative interest rate program in a desperate attempt to try to get banks to make more loans.

22. The global economy desperately needs the price of oil to go back up, but Morgan Stanley says that we will not see $80 oil again until 2018.

It is not difficult to see where the numbers are trending.

Last week, I told my wife that I thought that Marco Rubio was going to do better than expected in Iowa.

How did I come to that conclusion?

It was simply based on how his poll numbers were trending.

And when you look at where global economic numbers are trending, they tell us that 2016 is going to be a year that is going to get progressively worse as it goes along.

So many of the exact same things that we saw happen in 2008 are happening again right now, and you would have to be blind not to see it.

Hopefully I am wrong about what is coming in our immediate future, because millions upon millions of Americans are not prepared for what is ahead, and most of them are going to get absolutely blindsided by the coming crisis.

Lowest Ever: The Baltic Dry Index Plunges To 394 As Global Trade Grinds To A Standstill

Container Ship - Public DomainFor the first time ever, the Baltic Dry Index has fallen under 400.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 394.  To be honest, I never even imagined that it could go this low.  Back in early August, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 1,222, and since then it has been on a steady decline.  Of course the Baltic Dry Index crashed hard just before the great stock market crash of 2008 too, but at this point it is already lower than it was during that entire crisis.  This is just more evidence that global trade is grinding to a halt and that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” for the global economy.

If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Index, here is a helpful definition from Wikipedia

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an economic indicator issued daily by the London-based Baltic Exchange. Not restricted to Baltic Sea countries, the index provides “an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea. Taking in 23 shipping routes measured on a timecharter basis, the index covers Handysize, Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize dry bulk carriers carrying a range of commodities including coal, iron ore and grain.”

The BDI is one of the key indicators that experts look at when they are trying to determine where the global economy is heading.  And right now, it is telling us that we are heading into a major worldwide economic downturn.

Some people try to dismiss the recent drop in the Baltic Dry Index by claiming that shipping rates are down because there is simply too much capacity out there these days.  And I don’t dispute that.  Without a doubt, too many vessels were built during the “boom years”, and now shipbuilders are paying the price.  For example, Chinese shipyards reported a 59 percent decline in orders during the first 11 months of 2015…

Total orders at Chinese shipyards tumbled 59 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, according to data released Dec. 15 by the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry. Builders have sought government support as excess vessel capacity drives down shipping rates and prompts customers to cancel contracts. Zhoushan Wuzhou Ship Repairing & Building Co. last month became the first state-owned shipbuilder to go bankrupt in a decade.

But that doesn’t explain everything.  The truth is that exports are way down all over the world.  China, the United States, South Korea and many other major exporting nations have all been reporting extremely dismal export numbers.  Global trade is contracting quite rapidly, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly dispute that.

The global economy is a mess, but many people are not paying any attention to the economic fundamentals because they are too busy looking at the stock market.

The stock market does not tell us how the economy is doing.  If the stock market is up today that does not mean that the economy is doing well, and if the stock market is down tomorrow that does not mean that it is doing poorly.

Yes, the health of the financial markets can greatly affect the overall economy.  We saw this back in 2008.  When there is a tremendous amount of panic, that can cause a credit crunch and make it very difficult for money to flow through our system.  The end result is a rapid slowdown of economic activity, and it is something that we will be experiencing again very soon.

But don’t let the day to day fluctuations of the stock market fool you.  Just because the Dow was up 227 points today does not mean that the crisis is over.  It is important to remember that stocks are not going to go down every single day.  On Thursday, the Dow didn’t even regain two-thirds of what it lost on Wednesday.  Even in bear markets there are up days, and some of the biggest up days in stock market history were right in the middle of the crash of 2008.

It is critical that we take a long-term view of things and not let our vision be clouded by every tick up and down in the financial markets.  Initial jobless claims just hit their highest level in about six months, and companies like Macy’s and GoPro are laying off thousands of workers.  Things are already bad, and they are rapidly getting worse.

And let us not forget the great amount of financial carnage that has already happened so far this year.  According to CNBC, approximately 3.2 trillion dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally during the first 13 days of 2016…

Almost $3.2 trillion has been wiped off the value of stocks around the world since the start of 2016, according to calculations by a top market analyst.

It has also been the worst-ever start to a year for U.S. equities, said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, as both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average have posted their steepest losses for the first eight days trading of a year.

Over the past six months, there have now been two 10 percent “corrections” for U.S. stocks.  The only other times we have seen multiple corrections like this were in 1929, 2000 and 2008.  If those years seem familiar to you, that is because they should.  In all three years, we witnessed historic stock market crashes.

The stunning collapse of the Baltic Dry Index is just more evidence that we have entered a global deflationary crisis.  Goods aren’t moving, unemployment is rising all over the planet, and commodity prices have fallen to levels that we have not seen in over a decade.

Around the globe, there have been dramatic stock market crashes to begin the year, and we should expect to see much more market turmoil during the weeks and months to come.

If the markets have calmed down a bit for the moment, we should be very thankful for that, because we could all use some additional time to prepare for what is coming.

The debt-fueled standard of living that so many of us are enjoying today is just an illusion.  And many of us won’t even understand what we have been taking for granted until it is taken away from us.

A great shaking is coming to the global economy, and the pain is going to be unimaginable.  So let us enjoy every single day of relative “normalcy” while we still can, because there aren’t too many of them left.

Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Plunged Below 38 Dollars A Barrel?

Question Mark Burning - Public DomainOn Monday, the price of U.S. oil dropped below 38 dollars a barrel for the first time in six years.  The last time the price of oil was this low, the global financial system was melting down and the U.S. economy was experiencing the worst recession that it had seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  As I write this article, the price of U.S. oil is sitting at $37.65.  For months, I have been warning that the crash in the price of oil would be extremely deflationary and would have severe consequences for the global economy.  Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil and Russia have already plunged into recession, and more than half of all major global stock market indexes are down at least 10 percent year to date.  The first major global financial crisis since 2009 has begun, and things are only going to get worse as we head into 2016.

The global head of oil research at Societe Generale, Mike Wittner, says that his “head is spinning” after the stunning drop in the price of oil on Monday.  Just like during the last financial crisis, we have broken the psychologically important 40 dollar barrier, and there are concerns that we could go much lower from here…

Price Of Oil - Public Domain

One analyst told CNBC that he believes that we could soon see the price of U.S. oil go all the way down to 32 dollars a barrel…

“We’re in a tug-of-war between a heavily shorted market and a glut of oil in the U.S. and globally, as Saudi Arabia continues to produce oil at elevated levels to maintain market share,” said Chris Jarvis at Caprock Risk Management, an energy markets consultancy in Frederick, Maryland.

“Couple this with a strengthening dollar as the market anticipates a U.S. rate hike this month, oil is heading lower with a near term target of $32 for WTI.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs are even more pessimistic than that.  According to Business Insider, they are saying that we could eventually see the price of oil go below 20 dollars a barrel…

At OPEC’s meeting on Friday, member countries decided to set its production level at 31.5 million barrels per day, and did not agree on what the new limit should be.

After OPEC’s meeting, commodity strategists at Goldman put out a note saying that oil prices could plunge another 50% in the coming months, as the oil market tries to rebalance the supply and demand situation.

That may sound really good to you, especially if you fill up your gas tank frequently.  But the truth is that plunging oil prices are exceedingly bad for the U.S. economy as a whole.  In recent years, the energy industry has been the primary engine for the creation of good jobs in this country, and now those firms are having to lay off people at a frightening pace.  Not only that, CNBC’s Jim Cramer is warning that many of these firms may actually start going under if the price of oil doesn’t start going back up soon…

“This is not ‘longer and lower;’ this is ‘longer and much lower.’ There’s companies that are not going to be able to fund with futures; there’re companies that are not going to be able to get credit,” Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street.”

Cramer made his remarks after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to lower production on Friday.

This was a devastating blow for the U.S. oil industry,” Cramer said.

On Monday, we witnessed another benchmark that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.

I watch a high yield bond ETF known as JNK very closely.  On Monday, JNK broke below 35 for the first time since the financial crisis of 2008.  Just like 40 dollar oil, this is a key psychological barrier.

So why is this important?

As I discussed last week, junk bonds crashed before stocks did in 2008, and now it is happening again.  If form holds true, we should expect U.S. stocks to start tumbling significantly very shortly.

Meanwhile, another notable expert has come forward with a troubling forecast for the global economy in 2016.  Just like Citigroup, Raoul Pal believes that there is a very significant chance that we will see a recession next year…

Former global macro fund manager Raoul Pal says there’s now a 65% chance of a global recession.

In July, Pal predicted that the Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index would break the key level of 50 late in 2015.

On December 1, the ISM broke the 50 level for the first time since the 2008 recession, reaching 48.6.

“I use the ISM as a guide to the global business cycle, not just the US cycle,” Pal told Business Insider.

What amazes me is that so many people out there cannot see what is happening even though the next great crisis has already started.  The evidence is all around us, and yet so many choose to be willingly blind.

Instead of fixing our problems after the last crisis, we just papered them over with lots of money printing and lots more debt.  And of course all of this manipulation just made our long-term problems even worse.  I really like how Peter Schiff put it recently…

What’s happening is pretty much what we would anticipate. I don’t see from the data any real economic recovery, certainly not in the United States.

We’re spending more money, but it’s not because we’re generating more wealth. We’re generating more debt. We’re using that borrowed money to consume and so temporarily it feels that we’re wealthier because we get to spend all that money… but we have to come to terms with paying the bill.

The bills are going to come due. Right now interest rates are being kept at zero which makes it possible to service the debt even though it’s impossible to repay it… at least we can service it. But once interest rates go up then we can’t even service it let alone repay it. 

And then the party is going to come to an end.

Indeed – the party is coming to an end, and a new financial crisis is playing out in textbook fashion right in front of our eyes.

Hopefully you are already prepared for what is coming next, because it is going to be extremely painful for the U.S. economy.

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