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Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Tokyo - Public DomainOne of the epicenters of the global financial crisis that started during the second half of last year is Japan, and it looks like the markets in the land of the rising sun are entering yet another period of great turmoil.  The Nikkei was down another 390 points last night, and it is now down more than 1,300 points since a week ago.  Why this is so important for U.S. investors is because the Nikkei is often an early warning indicator of where the rest of the global markets are heading.  For example, the Nikkei started crashing early last December about a month before U.S. markets started crashing really hard in early January.  So the fact that the Nikkei has been falling very rapidly in recent days should be a huge red flag for investors in this country.

I want you to study the chart below very carefully.  It shows the performance of the Nikkei over the past 12 months.  As you can see, it kind of resembles a giant leaning “W”.  You can see the stock crash that started last August, you can see the second wave of the crash that began last December, and now a third leg of the crash is currently forming…

Nikkei - Federal Reserve

And of course the economic fundamentals in Japan continue to deteriorate as well.  GDP growth has been negative for two out of the last three quarters, Japanese industrial production just experienced the largest one month decline that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has sunk to a three year low.

The third largest economy on the entire planet is in a comatose state at this point, and Japanese authorities have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it in an attempt to revive it.  Government stimulus programs have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 229 percent, and the quantitative easing that the Bank of Japan has been engaged in has made the Federal Reserve look timid by comparison.

But none of those extraordinary measures has been successful in stimulating the Japanese economy, so now the Bank of Japan has been been trying negative interest rates.  Unfortunately, these negative rates are also having some unintended consequences.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the negative interest rate program is putting additional stress on the Japanese financial sector…

The Bank of Japan started imposing a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits held by commercial banks in February, meaning that those banks now have to pay a small fee when they add to their money parked at the central bank. The financial sector has suffered amid worries that banks can’t pass on negative interest rate to their depositors and therefore will take a hit to their profits.

I would keep a very close eye on the big banks in Japan.  It is my conviction that there is a lot more brewing under the surface than we are being told about so far.

In addition, many analysts in Japan are complaining that all of this manipulation by the BOJ is essentially destroying normal market behavior.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Nobuyasu Atago, who also had worked at the BOJ and is now the chief economist at Okasan Securities Co., pointed out that instead of serving as a important source of cash for borrowers, the credit market has become a profit center for dealers looking to buy securities from investors and sell them to the central bank. While the strategy may be lucrative now, financial institutions face the risk of massive losses, he said.

“By making the trade with the BOJ the only source of profit, markets are exposed to unexpected volatility when that trade ends and the BOJ moves toward the exit,” Atago said. “Markets are being destroyed.”

The more global central banks try to “fix things”, the more they make our long-term imbalances even worse.

To me, it makes no sense to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners constantly monkeying with the financial system.  In a true free market system, we would allow market forces to determine the course of events.  But of course we don’t have a free market system anymore.  Instead, what we have is a heavily socialized system that is greatly manipulated by the central planners.

That is why global financial markets gyrate wildly if Janet Yellen so much as sneezes.  They know who holds all the power, and investors are constantly on edge as they wait for the latest pronouncement from our central banking overlords.

At this point, 99 percent of the global population lives in a country with a central bank.  Our world is more deeply divided than ever, and yet somehow everyone in the world has agreed to adopt this insidious system.

It sure is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

Getting back to Japan, things are so bad now that the Japanese government is actually considering giving gift certificates directly to low-income young people.  The following originally comes from Bloomberg

The Japanese government plans to include gift certificates for low-income young people in its fiscal 2016 supplementary budget, Sankei reports, without saying who provided the information.

Recipients would be able to use them for daily necessities.

The government sees gift certificates as more effective in stimulating consumption than cash handouts, which may be deposited.

This is what the end of democracy looks like.

When the government just starts handing out money like candy, you might as well turn out the lights because the party is over.

Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have injected approximately 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs.

Has all of this monkeying around solved our problems?

Of course not.

Instead, our long-term problems have grown progressively worse and now a new financial crisis has begun.

Keep an eye on Japan, and also keep an eye on Europe.  Huge problems are bubbling right under the surface, and when they come bursting into the open they will deeply affect the United States as well.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Plunging Manufacturing Numbers Mean That It Is Time To Hit The Panic Button For The Global Economy

Panic Button On Keyboard - Public DomainWe haven’t seen numbers like these since the last global recession.  I recently wrote about how global trade is imploding all over the planet, and the same thing is true when it comes to manufacturing.  We just learned that manufacturing in China has now been contracting for seven months in a row, and as you will see below, U.S. manufacturing is facing “its toughest period since the global financial crisis”.  Yes, global stocks have bounced back a bit after experiencing dramatic declines during January and the first part of February, and this is something that investors are very happy about.  But that does not mean that the crisis is over.  All bear markets have their ups and downs, and this one will not be any different.  Meanwhile, the cold, hard economic numbers that keep coming in are absolutely screaming that a new global recession is here.

Just consider what is happening in China.  Manufacturing activity continues to implode, and factories are shedding jobs at the fastest pace since the last financial crisis

Chinese manufacturing suffered a seventh straight month of contraction in February.

China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 49.0 in February, down from the previous month’s reading of 49.4 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

A private survey also showed China’s factories shed jobs at the fastest rate in seven years in February, raising doubts about the government’s ability to reduce industry overcapacity this year without triggering a sharp jump in unemployment.

For years, the expansion of the Chinese economy has helped fuel global economic growth.  But now things have shifted dramatically.

At this point, things are already so bad that the Chinese government is admitting that millions of workers are going to lose their jobs at state-controlled industries in China…

China’s premier told visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Monday his government is pressing ahead with painful reforms to shrink bloated coal and steel industries that are a drag on its slowing economy and ruled out devaluing its currency as a short-cut to boosting exports.

Premier Li Keqiang’s comments to Lew on Monday were in line with a joint declaration by financial officials from the Group of 20 biggest rich and developing economies who met over the weekend in Shanghai. They pledged to avoid devaluations to boost sagging trade and urged governments to speed up reforms to boost slowing global growth.

Across all state-controlled industries, as many as six million workers could be out of a job, with almost two million in the coal industry alone.

But it isn’t just China.  Right now manufacturing activity is slowing down literally all over the planet, and this is exactly what we would expect to see if a new global recession had begun.  The following chart and analysis come from Zero Hedge

As the below table shows, 28 regions have reported so far. Seven saw improvements in their manufacturing sectors in February, twenty recorded a weakening, and India was unchanged. This means that over 70% of the world saw manufacturing sentiment deteriorate in February compared to January.

February Manufacturing Numbers - Zero Hedge

In terms of actual expansion, there were 21 countries in positive territory and 7 in negative. In particular, Greece moved from neutral to contraction territory, while Taiwan dropped below breakeven from expansion.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t really pay much attention to what is going on in the rest of the world.  For most of us, what really matters is what is happening inside the good ole USA.

And of course the news is not good.  There were more signs of trouble for U.S. manufacturing in the February numbers, and this continues a trend that stretches back well into last year.  The following is what Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, had to say about these numbers

“The February data add to signs of distress in the US manufacturing economy. Production and order book growth continues to worsen, led by falling exports. Jobs are being added at a slower pace and output prices are dropping at a rate not seen since mid-2012.

“The deterioration in the manufacturing sector’s performance since mid-2014 has broadly tracked the dollar’s rise, which makes US goods more expensive in overseas markets and leads US consumers to favour cheaper imported goods.

“With other headwinds including the downturn in the oil sector, heightened uncertainty due to financial market volatility, global growth worries and growing concerns about the presidential election, it’s no surprise that the manufacturing sector is facing its toughest period since the global financial crisis.

Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. economy has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities.  We desperately need a manufacturing renaissance – not another manufacturing decline.

As good paying manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, they have been replaced by low paying service jobs.  As a result, the middle class is shrinking and the ranks of the poor are exploding.

It is hard to believe, but today more than 45 million Americans are on food stamps, and a significant percentage of those individuals actually have jobs.  They are called “the working poor”, and it is becoming a major crisis in this nation.

And no matter what Obama may say, unemployment remains a major problem in the United States as well.  At this point, unemployment rates in 36 states are higher than they were just before the last recession hit in 2008.

Of course a lot of people are going to look at this article and will point to the stock market gains of the past couple of weeks as evidence that “things are getting better”.  It is this kind of clueless approach that is keeping the American people from coming together on solutions to our problems.

The truth is that the United States has been experiencing economic decline for decades.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted, the middle class is steadily deteriorating, and we have amassed the biggest pile of debt in the history of the world.

Anyone that believes that things are “just fine” is in a massive state of denial.  Consuming far more wealth than we produce is not a formula for a sustainable economy, and it is just a matter of time before we find this out the hard way.

Global Stocks Continue To Crash As Oil Plummets And Gold Skyrockets

Clock Image - Public DomainStock markets around the world continue to collapse as this new global financial crisis picks up more steam.  In the U.S., the Dow lost 254 more points on Thursday, and it has now fallen for five days in a row.  European stocks continued to get obliterated, and financial institutions are leading the way.  But this week what is happening in Japan has been the most sobering.  After falling 918 points the other day, the Nikkei plunged another 760 points early on Friday.  The Nikkei has now fallen for seven of the past eight days, and investors in Japan are in full panic mode.  Overall, global stocks are well into bear market territory, and nearly 17 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.

As panic rises, investors are seeking alternative investments.  On Thursday, the price of gold hit $1,260 an ounce at one point before settling back a bit.  But even with the fade at the end of the day, it was still the biggest daily gain in more than two years.  Overall, gold is having its best quarterly performance in 30 years.

Whenever a financial crisis happens, investors seek out safe havens such as gold that can help them weather the storm.  In particular, demand for physical gold is going through the roof all over the planet.  Just check out the following excerpt from a Telegraph article entitled “Investors ‘go bananas’ for gold bars as global stock markets tumble“…

BullionByPost, Britain’s biggest online gold dealer, said it has already taken record-day sales of £5.6m as traders pile into gold following fears the world is on the brink of another financial crisis.

Rob Halliday-Stein, founder and managing director of the Birmingham-based company, said takings today had already surpassed the firm’s previous one-day record of £4.4m in October 2014.

BullionByPost, which takes orders of up to £25,000 on the website but takes higher amounts over the phone, explained it had received a few hundred orders overnight and frantic numbers of phone calls this morning.

Meanwhile, the price of oil continues to drop to stunning new depths.  On Thursday U.S. oil dropped as low as $26.21, which was the lowest price in 13 years.  Not even during the worst parts of the last financial crisis did oil ever go this low.

And remember, the price of oil was sitting at about $108 a barrel back in June 2014.  Since that time it has fallen about 75 percent.

Needless to say, this crash is having some very serious consequences for the energy industry.  Previously, I have reported that 42 North American energy companies have gone into bankruptcy since the beginning of last year.

But I just found out that the true number is much worse than that.

According to CNN, “67 U.S. oil and natural gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015″…

Bankruptcy filings are flying in the American oil patch.

At least 67 U.S. oil and natural gas companies filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to consulting firm Gavin/Solmonese.

That represents a 379% spike from the previous year when oil prices were substantially higher.

With oil prices crashing further in recent weeks, five more energy gas producers succumbed to bankruptcy in the first five weeks of this year, according to Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.

A lot of people tend to think that my writing is full of “doom and gloom”, but the truth is that I often understate how bad things really are.  I’ll often report one number and find out later that an updated number is even worse than the one that I originally reported.

What we desperately need is for the price of oil to go back up.

Unfortunately, the International Energy Agency says that isn’t likely to happen any time soon

The International Energy Agency said earlier this week that it expects the global oil glut to grow throughout the year.

With the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term,” the IEA said in its monthly report.

And of course all of this is incredibly bad news for financial institutions all over the world.

During the boom times, the big banks showered energy companies with loans.  Now those loans are going bad, and the big banks are feeling the pain.  The following comes from CNN

It’s never a good sign when the country’s financial lifelines are under stress. Large U.S. banks JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) that helped bankroll the energy boom are already setting aside billions to cover potential loan losses in the oil industry. Investors are worried about imploding energy loans for European banks like Deutsche Bank (DB). High yield bonds in your investing portfolio wont be looking good either — Standard & Poor’s warned that half of all energy junk bonds are at risk of defaulting.

Speaking of Deutsche Bank, their stock price continued to plummet on Thursday, as did the stock prices of most other European banks.

Things were particularly bad for France’s Societe Generale.  Their stock price plunged 12 percent on Thursday alone.

This is what a global financial crisis looks like.  It began during the second half of last year, and now it is making major headlines all over the planet.

At this point, things are already so bad that the elite are starting to freak out about what this could potentially mean for them.  I want you to carefully consider the following two paragraphs from an editorial that I came across in the Telegraph earlier today…

We are too fragile, fiscally as well as psychologically. Our economies, cultures and polities are still paying a heavy price for the Great Recession; another collapse, especially were it to be accompanied by a fresh banking bailout by the taxpayer, would trigger a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash.

The public, whose faith in elites and the private sector was rattled after 2007-09, would simply not wear it. Its anger would be so explosive, so-all encompassing that it would threaten the very survival of free trade, of globalisation and of the market-based economy. There would be calls for wage and price controls, punitive, ultra-progressive taxes, a war on the City and arbitrary jail sentences.

I think that the author of this editorial is correct.

I do believe that another financial crisis on the scale of 2008 would trigger “a cataclysmic, uncontrollable backlash”.

In fact, I believe that is what we are steamrolling toward right now.

We can already see the anger of the American people toward the establishment being expressed in their support of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

But if the financial system completely collapses and it becomes exceedingly apparent that none of our problems from the last time around were ever fixed, the frustration is going to be off the charts.

Many people believed that this day of reckoning would never come, but now it is here.

The “coming nightmare” is now upon us, and this is just the start.

The rest of 2016 promises to be even more chaotic, and ultimately this new crisis is going to turn out to be far worse than what we experienced back in 2008.

A 918 Point Stock Market Crash In Japan And Deutsche Bank Denies That It Is About To Collapse

Financial Crisis 2016On Tuesday junk bonds continued to crash, the price of oil briefly dipped below 28 dollars a barrel, Deutsche Bank was forced to deny that it is on the verge of collapse, but the biggest news was what happened in Japan.  The Nikkei was down a staggering 918 points, but that stock crash made very few headlines in the western world.  If the Dow had crashed 918 points today, that would have been the largest single day point crash in all of U.S. history.  So what just happened in Japan is a really big deal.  The Nikkei is now down 23.1 percent from the peak of the market, and that places it solidly in bear market territory.  Overall, a total of 16.5 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since the middle of 2015.  As I stated yesterday, this is what a global financial crisis looks like.

Just as we saw during the last financial crisis, the big banks are playing a starring role, and this is definitely true in Japan.  Right now, Japanese banking stocks are absolutely imploding, and this is what drove much of the panic last night.  The following numbers come from Wolf Richter

  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group plunged 8.7%, down 47% from June 2015.
  • Mizuho Financial Group plunged 6.2%, down 38% since June 2015.
  • Sumitomo Mitsui plunged 6.2%, down 26% since May 2015
  • Nomura plunged a juicy 9.1%, down 42% since June 2015

A lot of analysts have been very focused on the downturn in China in recent months, but I think that it is much more important to watch Japan right now.

I have become fully convinced that the Japanese financial system is going to play a central role in the initial stages of this new global financial meltdown, and so I encourage everyone to keep a close eye on the Nikkei every single night.

Meanwhile, the stock price of German banking giant Deutsche Bank crashed to a record low on Tuesday.  If you will recall, Deutsche Bank reported a loss of 7.6 billion dollars in 2015, and I wrote quite a bit about their ongoing problems yesterday.

Things have gotten so bad that now Deutsche Bank has been forced to come out and publicly deny that they are in trouble

Deutsche Bank co-CEO John Cryan moved to quell fears about the bank’s stability Tuesday with a surprise memo saying its balance sheet “remains absolutely rock-solid.”

The comments come as investors grow increasingly nervous about the health of European banks, which have taken a hit on the fall in energy prices and which face rising concerns over their cash levels.

Of course Lehman Brothers issued the same kind of denials just before they collapsed in 2008.  Cryan’s comments did little to calm the markets, and even Jim Cramer saw right through them…

“You know, Deutsche Bank puts out a note saying, ‘listen, don’t worry, all good.’ Reminds me of JPMorgan saying if you have to say that you’re creditworthy then it’s already too late.”

Another thing that Lehman Brothers did just before they collapsed in 2008 was to lay off workers.  We have seen a number of major banks do this lately, including Deutsche Bank

Cryan, 55, has been seeking to boost capital buffers and profitability by cutting costs and eliminating thousands of jobs as volatile markets undermine revenue and outstanding regulatory probes raise the specter of fresh capital measures to help cover continued legal charges. The cost of protecting Deutsche Bank’s debt against default has more than doubled this year, while the shares have dropped about 42 percent.

The following chart comes from Zero Hedge.  Nobody on the Internet does a better job with charts than Zero Hedge does.  I would recommend visiting them right after you visit The Economic Collapse Blog each day (wink wink).  This chart shows that Deutsche Bank stock has already fallen lower than it was during any point during the last financial crisis…

Deutsche Bank Record Low

Deutsche Bank is the biggest and most important bank in the biggest and most important economy in the EU, and it has exposure to derivatives that is approximately 20 times Germany’s GDP.

If that doesn’t alarm you, I don’t know what will.

The biggest financial bubble in the history of the world has entered a terminal phase, and the parallels to the last financial crisis have become so apparent that just about anyone can see them at this point.  Just consider some of the ominous warnings that we have seen recently

Billionaire Carl Icahn, for example, recently raised a red flag on a national broadcast when he declared, “The public is walking into a trap again as they did in 2007.”

And the prophetic economist Andrew Smithers warns, “U.S. stocks are now about 80% overvalued.”

Smithers backs up his prediction using a ratio which proves that the only time in history stocks were this risky was 1929 and 1999. And we all know what happened next. Stocks fell by 89% and 50%, respectively.

Even the Royal Bank of Scotland says the markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the 2008 crisis. They told their clients to “Sell Everything” because “in a crowded hall, the exit doors are small.”

And let’s not forget that famous billionaire retail magnate Hugo Salinas Price has warned that the global economy “is going into a depression“.

The chaos that we have seen this week is simply a logical progression of the crisis that began during the second half of last year.  If you were to create a checklist of all the things that you would expect to see during the initial stages of a new financial crisis, all of the boxes would be checked.

In the days ahead, keep your eyes on Germany and Japan.

Yes, the Italian banking system is completely collapsing right now, but I believe that what is happening in Germany is going to be the key to the meltdown of Europe, and I am convinced that Deutsche Bank is going to be the star of the show.

Meanwhile, don’t underestimate what is taking place in Japan.

The Japanese still have the third largest economy on the entire planet, and their financial system is essentially a Ponzi scheme built on top of a house of cards that has a rapidly aging population as the foundation.

As Japan falls, that will be a signal that financial Armageddon is now upon us.

And after last night, it appears that moment is a lot closer than a lot of us may have thought.

The Oil Crash Of 2016 Has The Big Banks Running Scared

Running Scared - Public DomainLast time around it was subprime mortgages, but this time it is oil that is playing a starring role in a global financial crisis.  Since the start of 2015, 42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy, 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in the United States, and at this point 50 percent of all energy junk bonds are “distressed” according to Standard & Poor’s.  As you will see below, some of the big banks have a tremendous amount of loan exposure to the energy industry, and now they are bracing for big losses.  And the longer the price of oil stays this low, the worse the carnage is going to get.

Today, the price of oil has been hovering around 29 dollars a barrel, and over the past 18 months the price of oil has fallen by more than 70 percent.  This is something that has many U.S. consumers very excited.  The average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally is just $1.89 at the moment, and on Monday it was selling for as low as 46 cents a gallon at one station in Michigan.

But this oil crash is nothing to cheer about as far as the big banks are concerned.  During the boom years, those banks gave out billions upon billions of dollars in loans to fund exceedingly expensive drilling projects all over the world.

Now those firms are dropping like flies, and the big banks could potentially be facing absolutely catastrophic losses.  The following examples come from CNN

For instance, Wells Fargo (WFC) is sitting on more than $17 billion in loans to the oil and gas sector. The bank is setting aside $1.2 billion in reserves to cover losses because of the “continued deterioration within the energy sector.”

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is setting aside an extra $124 million to cover potential losses in its oil and gas loans. It warned that figure could rise to $750 million if oil prices unexpectedly stay at their current $30 level for the next 18 months.

Citigroup is another bank that also has a tremendous amount of exposure

Citigroup (C) built up loan loss reserves in the energy space by $300 million. The bank said the move reflects its view that “oil prices are likely to remain low for a longer period of time.”

If oil stays around $30 a barrel, Citi is bracing for about $600 million of energy credit losses in the first half of 2016. Citi said that figure could double to $1.2 billion if oil dropped to $25 a barrel and stayed there.

For the moment, these big banks are telling the public that the damage can be contained.

But didn’t they tell us the same thing about subprime mortgages in 2008?

We are already seeing bank stocks start to slide precipitously.  People are beginning to realize that these banks are dangerously exposed to a lot of really bad deals.

If the price of oil were to shoot back up above 50 dollars in very short order, the damage would probably be manageable.  Unfortunately, that does not appear likely to happen.  In fact, now that sanctions have been lifted on Iran, the Iranians are planning to flood the world with massive amounts of oil that they have been storing in tankers at sea

Iran has been carefully planning for its return from the economic penalty box by hoarding tons of oil in tankers at sea.

Now that the U.S. and European Union have lifted some sanctions on Iran, the OPEC country can begin selling its massive stockpile of oil.

The sale of this seaborne oil will allow Iran to get an immediate financial boost before it ramps up production. The onslaught of Iranian oil is coming at a terrible time for the global oil markets, which are already drowning in an epic supply glut.

Just the other day, I explained that some of the biggest banks in the world are now projecting that the price of oil could soon fall much, much lower.

Morgan Stanley says that it could go as low as 20 dollars a barrel, the Royal Bank of Scotland says that it could go as low as 16 dollars a barrel, and Standard Chartered says that it could go as low as 10 dollars a barrel.

But the truth is that the price of oil does not need to go down one penny more to have a catastrophic impact on global financial markets.  If it just stays right here, we will see an endless parade of layoffs, energy company bankruptcies  and debt defaults.  Without any change, junk bonds will continue to crash and financial institutions will continue to go down like dominoes.

We are already experiencing a major disaster.  Things are already so bad that some forms of low quality crude oil are literally selling for next to nothing.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Oil is so plentiful and cheap in the U.S. that at least one buyer says it would pay almost nothing to take a certain type of low-quality crude.

Flint Hills Resources LLC, the refining arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s industrial empire, said it offered to pay $1.50 a barrel Friday for North Dakota Sour, a high-sulfur grade of crude, according to a corrected list of prices posted on its website Monday. It had previously posted a price of -$0.50. The crude is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago and $47.60 in January 2014.

While the near-zero price is due to the lack of pipeline capacity for a particular variety of ultra low quality crude, it underscores how dire things are in the U.S. oil patch.

A chart that I saw posted on Zero Hedge earlier today can help put all of this into perspective.  Whenever the price of oil falls really low relative to the price of gold, there is a major global crisis.  Right now an ounce of gold will purchase more oil than ever before, and many believe that this indicates that a new great crisis is upon us…

The number of barrels of oil that a single ounce of gold can buy has never, ever been higher.

Barrels Of Oil Per Ounce Of Gold

All over the planet, big banks are absolutely teeming with bad loans.  And to be honest, the big banks in the U.S. are probably in better shape than some of the major banks in Europe and Asia.  But once the dominoes start to fall, very few financial institutions are going to escape unscathed.

In the coming days I would expect to see more headlines like we just got out of Italy.  Apparently, Italian banks are nearing full meltdown mode, and short selling has been temporarily banned.  To me, it appears that we are just inches away from full-blown financial panic in Europe.

However, just like with the last financial crisis, you never quite know where the next “explosion” is going to happen next.

But one thing is for sure – the financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is raging out of control, and the pain that we have seen so far is just the beginning.

20th Largest Bank In The World: 2016 Will Be A ‘Cataclysmic Year’ And ‘Investors Should Be Afraid’

Royal Bank Of ScotlandThe Royal Bank of Scotland is telling clients that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” and that they should “sell everything”.  This sounds like something that you might hear from The Economic Collapse Blog, but up until just recently you would have never expected to get this kind of message from one of the twenty largest banks on the entire planet.  Unfortunately, this is just another indication that a major global financial crisis has begun and that we are now entering a bear market.  The collective market value of companies listed on the S&P 500 has dropped by about a trillion dollars since the start of 2016, and panic is spreading like wildfire all over the globe.  And of course when the Royal Bank of Scotland comes out and openly says that “investors should be afraid” that certainly is not going to help matters.

It amazes me that the Royal Bank of Scotland is essentially saying the exact same thing that I have been saying for months.  Just like I have been telling my readers, RBS has observed that global markets “are flashing the same stress alerts as they did before the Lehman crisis in 2008″

RBS has advised clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” and a global deflationary crisis, warning that the major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may reach US$16 a barrel.

The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing the same stress alerts as they did before the Lehman crisis in 2008.

So what should our response be to these warning signs?

According to RBS, the logical thing to do is to “sell everything” excerpt for high quality bonds…

“Sell everything except high quality bonds,” warned Andrew Roberts in a note this week.

He said the bank’s red flags for 2016 — falling oil, volatility in China, shrinking world trade, rising debt, weak corporate loans and deflation — had all been seen in just the first week of trading.

We think investors should be afraid,” he said.

And of course RBS is not the only big bank issuing these kinds of ominous warnings.

The biggest bank in America, J.P. Morgan Chase, is “urging investors to sell stocks on any bounce”

J.P. Morgan Chase has turned its back on the stock market: For the first time in seven years, the investment bank is urging investors to sell stocks on any bounce.

“Our view is that the risk-reward for equities has worsened materially. In contrast to the past seven years, when we advocated using the dips as buying opportunities, we believe the regime has transitioned to one of selling any rally,” Mislav Matejka, an equity strategist at J.P. Morgan, said in a report.

Aside from technical indicators, expectations of anemic corporate earnings combined with the downward trajectory in U.S. manufacturing activity and a continued weakness in commodities are raising red flags.

Major banks have not talked like this since the great financial crisis of 2008/2009.  Clearly something really big is going on.  Trillions of dollars of financial wealth were wiped out around the world during the last six months of 2015, and trillions more dollars have been wiped out during the first 12 days of 2016.  As I noted above, the collective market value of the S&P 500 is down by about a trillion dollars all by itself.

One of the big things driving all of this panic is the stunning collapse in the price of oil.  U.S. oil was trading as low as $29.93 a barrel on Tuesday, and this was the first time that oil has traded under 30 dollars a barrel since December 2003.

Needless to say, this collapse is absolutely killing energy companies.  The following comes from USA Today

There aren’t many people who feel bad for oil companies. But the implosion in oil prices is causing a profit decline that almost invokes pity.

The companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 energy sector are expected to lose a collective $28.8 billion this calendar year, down from $95.4 billion in net income earned during the industry’s bonanza year of 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ. That’s a $124 billion swing against energy companies – and one you’re probably enjoying at the pump. The analysis includes only the 36 S&P 500 energy companies that reported net income in 2008.

If we are to avoid a major global deflationary crisis, we desperately need the price of oil to get back above 50 dollars a barrel.  Unfortunately, that does not appear to be likely to happen any time soon.  In fact, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan says that the price of oil is probably going to stay very low for years to come

You’d expect at least some artificial optimism when the president of the Dallas Fed talks about oil. You’d expect some droplets of hope for that crucial industry in Texas. But when Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan spoke on Monday, there was none, not for 2016, and most likely not for 2017 either, and maybe not even for 2018.

The wide-ranging speech included a blunt section on oil, the dismal future of the price of oil, the global and US causes for its continued collapse, and what it might mean for the Texas oil industry: “more bankruptcies, mergers and restructurings….”

The oil price plunge since mid-2014, with its vicious ups and downs, was bad enough. But since the OPEC meeting in December, he said, “the overall tone in the oil and gas sector has soured, as expectations have decidedly shifted to an ‘even lower for even longer’ price outlook.”

In recent articles I have discussed so many of the other signs that indicate that there is big trouble ahead, but today I just want to quickly mention another one that has just popped up in the news.

The amount of stuff being shipped across the U.S. by rail has been dropping dramatically.  The only times when we have seen similar large drops has been during previous recessions.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Railroad cargo in the U.S. dropped the most in six years in 2015, and things aren’t looking good for the new year.

“We believe rail data may be signaling a warning for the broader economy,” the recent note from Bank of America says. “Carloads have declined more than 5 percent in each of the past 11 weeks on a year-over-year basis. While one-off volume declines occur occasionally, they are generally followed by a recovery shortly thereafter. The current period of substantial and sustained weakness, including last week’s -10.1 percent decline, has not occurred since 2009.”

BofA analysts led by Ken Hoexter look at the past 30 years to see what this type of steep decline usually means for the U.S. economy. What they found wasn’t particularly encouraging: All such drops in rail carloads preceded, or were accompanied by, an economic slowdown (Note: They excluded 1996 due to an extremely harsh winter).

The “next economic downturn” is already here, and it is starting to accelerate.

Yes, the financial markets are starting to catch up with economic reality, but they still have a long, long way to go.  It is going to take another 30 percent drop or so just for them to get to levels that are considered to be “normal” or “average” by historical standards.

And the markets are so fragile at this point that any sort of a major “trigger event” could cause a sudden market implosion unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also heed the advice of RBS and get prepared for a “cataclysmic” year.

Stock Markets All Over The World Crash As We Begin 2016

Dominoes - Public DomainThe first trading day of 2016 was full of chaos and panic.  It started in Asia where the Nikkei was down 582 points, Hong Kong was down 587 points, and Chinese markets experienced an emergency shutdown after the CSI 300 tumbled 7 percent.  When European markets opened, the nightmare continued.  The DAX was down 459 points, and European stocks overall had their worst start to a year ever.  In the U.S., it looked like we were on course for a truly historic day as well.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 467 points at one stage, but some very mysterious late day buying activity helped trim the loss to just 276 points at the close of the market.  The sudden market turmoil caught many by surprise, but it shouldn’t have.  The truth is that a whole host of leading indicators have been telling us that this is exactly what should be happening.  The global financial crisis that began in 2015 is now accelerating, and my regular readers already know precisely what is coming next.

The financial turmoil of the last 24 hours is making headlines all over the globe.  It began last night in China.  Very bad manufacturing data and another troubling devaluation of the yuan sent Chinese stocks tumbling to a degree that we have not seen since last August.  In fact, the carnage would have probably been far, far worse if not for a new “circuit breaker” that China recently implemented.  Once the CSI 300 was down 7 percent, trading was completely shut down for the rest of the day.  The following comes from USA Today

Under a new market “circuit breaker” rule in China established last year, which is designed to slow down markets and halt panic in the event of moves of 5% or more, the CSI 300, a large-company stock index in mainland China was halted for 15 minutes in mid-afternoon trading after diving more than 5%. But when shares headed lower once again just minutes after the initial trading halt, and losses for the day swelled to more than 7%, the new circuit breaker rules kicked in, prompting a shutdown of mainland China’s stock market for the day, according to Bloomberg.

After the first 15 minute halt, panic set in as Chinese traders rushed to get out of their trades before the 7 percent circuit breaker kicked in.  This resulted in an absolutely chaotic seven minutes as investors made a mad dash for the exits…

The sell orders piled up fast on Monday at Shenwan Hongyuan Group, China’s fifth-biggest brokerage by market value.

China’s CSI 300 Index had just tumbled 5 percent, triggering a 15-minute trading halt, and stock investors were scrambling to exit before getting locked in by a full-day suspension set to take effect at 7 percent. When the first halt was lifted, the market reaction was swift: it took just seven minutes for losses to reach the limit as volumes surged to their highs of the day.

“Investors rushed to the door during the level-one stage of the circuit breaker as they fretted the market would go down further,” said William Wong, the head of sales trading at Shenwan Hongyuan in Hong Kong.

The financial carnage continued once the European markets opened.  Markets were red all across the continent, and things were particularly bad in Germany.  The DAX was down 459 points, and it is rapidly approaching the psychologically-important 10,000 barrier.  Overall, it was the worst start to a year that the European markets have ever experienced.

When U.S. markets opened, unexpectedly bad U.S. manufacturing data seemed to add fuel to the fire.  Monday morning we learned that our manufacturing sector is contracting at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession

America’s manufacturing sector shrank for the second straight month in December. The industry’s key index — ISM — hit 48.2% in December, the lowest mark since June 2009. Anything below 50% is a contraction and a month ago it hit 48.6%.

The index has fallen for six straight months.

The trend is certainly heading in a direction that would ring alarm bells,” says Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo.

This is yet another sign that tells us that the U.S. economy has already entered the next recession.

And what happens to the markets during a recession?

They go down.

In addition to the bad data that we got from the U.S. and China, there was another number that was also extremely troubling.

South Korean exports have traditionally been considered a key leading indicator for the entire global economy, and on Monday we learned that they were down a whopping 13.8 percent in December from a year earlier…

One of the more reliable indicators of the global economy continues to confirm fears of a worldwide slowdown.

South Korean exports — also referred to as the world’s economic canary in the coal mine — fell 13.8% in December from a year earlier.

This was a deterioration from the 4.8% decline in November, and it was much worse than the 11.7% decline expected by economists.

The “nothing is happening” crowd may not be willing to admit it yet, but the truth is that a major global economic slowdown is already happening.

And what happened to global markets today is perfectly consistent with the longer term patterns that have been emerging over the past six months or so.

In the weeks and months to come, things are going to get even worse.  There will always be days when the markets are up, but don’t let those days fool you into thinking that the crisis is over.  In the western world we are so accustomed to 48 hour news cycles, and many of us seem to be incapable of focusing on trends that develop over longer periods of time.

If I was going to put together a scenario for a global financial crisis for a textbook, what we have seen over the past six months or so would be perfect.  Things are playing out exactly how they should be, and that means big trouble for the rest of 2016.

But that doesn’t mean that we have to live in fear.  In fact, I just wrote an entire article entitled “2016: A Year For Living With No Fear“.  It is when times are at their worst that our character is put to the test.  Some will respond to what happens in 2016 with courage and strength, and others will respond with fear and panic.

As things start falling apart all around us this year, how will you respond?

What Really Happened In 2015, And What Is Coming In 2016…

2015 2016 - Public DomainA lot of people were expecting some really big things to happen in 2015, and most of them did not happen.  But what did happen?  It is my contention that a global financial crisis began during the second half of 2015, and it threatens to greatly accelerate as we enter 2016.  During the last six months of the year that just ended, financial markets all over the planet crashed, trillions of dollars of global wealth was wiped out, and some of the largest economies in the world plunged into recession.  Here in the United States, 2015 was the worst year for stocks since 2008, nearly 70 percent of all investors lost money last year, and it is being projected that the final numbers will show that close to 1,000 hedge funds permanently shut down within the last 12 months.  This is what the early stages of a financial crisis look like, and the worst is yet to come.

If we were entering another 2008-style crisis, we would expect to see junk bonds crashing.  When financial trouble starts, it usually doesn’t start with the biggest and strongest companies.  Instead, it usually starts percolating on the periphery.  And right now bonds of firms that are considered to be on the risky side of things are rapidly losing value.

In the chart below, you can see that a high yield bond ETF that I track very closely known as JNK started crashing in the middle of 2008.  This crash began to unfold before the horrific crash of stocks in the fall.  Investors that saw junk bonds crashing in advance and pulled their money out of stocks in time saved an enormous amount of money.

Now, for the very first time since the last financial crisis, we are seeing junk bonds crash again.  In December, there was finally a sustained crash through the psychologically-important 35.00 level, and at this point JNK is sitting a bit below 34.00.  This stunning decline is a giant red flag that tells us that stocks will soon follow in the exact same direction…

JNK

In 2015, Third Avenue Management shocked Wall Street when they froze withdrawals from a 788 million dollar mutual fund that was highly focused on junk bonds.  Investors that couldn’t get their money out began to panic, and other mutual funds now find themselves under siege.  If junk bonds continue to crash, this will just be the beginning of the carnage.

One of the big reasons why junk bonds are crashing is because of the crash in the price of oil.  Over the past 18 months, the price of oil has plummeted from $108 a barrel to $37 a barrel.

There has only been one other time in all of history when we have ever seen an oil price crash of this magnitude. That was in 2008 – just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression…

Oil - Federal Reserve

Why can’t people see the parallels?

Crashes are happening all around us, and yet so many of the “experts” seem completely blind to what is going on.

Unlike 2008, the price of oil is not expected to rapidly rebound any time soon.  The following comes from CNN

Crude prices dropped a whopping 35% last year and are hovering around $37 a barrel. That’s a level not seen since the global financial crisis.

It won’t get better any time soon. Most oil experts believe prices will bounce back in late 2016, but they expect more pain first.

Goldman Sachs forecasts that oil will average about $38 a barrel in February, even lower than for most of 2015.

Meanwhile, the prices of industrial commodities have been crashing as well.  For example, the chart below shows that the price of copper started crashing hard just before the great financial crisis of 2008, and the exact same thing is happening once again right before our very eyes…

Price Of Copper

Things are unfolding just as we would expect they would during the initial stages of a new global financial crisis.

And we have already seen a full blown stock market crash in many of the largest economies around the planet.  For instance, just look at what has been happening in Brazil.  The Brazilians have the 7th largest economy in the world, and Goldman Sachs says that they have plunged into an “outright depression“.  In the chart below, you can see the sharp downturn that took place in August, and Brazilian stocks actually kept falling all the way through the end of 2015…

Brazil Stock Market

We see a similar thing when we look at our neighbor to the north.  Canada has the 11th largest economy on the entire planet, and I recently wrote a lengthy article about the economic difficulties that the Canadians are now facing.  2015 was a very bad year for Canadian stocks as well, and they just kept falling steadily all the way through December…

Canada Stock Market

Of course nobody can forget what happened to China.  The Chinese have the second largest economy on the globe, and news about their economic slowdown in making headlines almost every single day now.

Last summer, Chinese stocks crashed about 40 percent, and they did manage to bounce back just a bit since then. But they are still down about 30 percent from the peak of the market…

China Stock Market

And there is plenty more that we could talk about.  European stocks just had their second worst December ever, and Japanese stocks are down about 500 points in early trading as I write this article.

Here in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Dow Transports, the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 all had their worst years since 2008.  As I mentioned the other day674 hedge funds shut down during the first nine months of 2015, and it is being projected that the final total for the year will be up around 1000.

But we aren’t hearing much about this financial carnage on the news yet, are we?

Many people that I talk to still think that “nothing is happening”, but don’t you dare say that to Warren Buffett.

He lost 7.8 billion dollars in 2015.

How would you feel if you lost 7.8 billion dollars in a single year?

The truth, of course, is that signs of financial chaos are erupting all around us.  Corporate profits are plunging, the bond distress ratio just hit the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen in about seven years.

If you run a business, you may have noticed that fewer people are coming in and it seems like those that do come in have less money to spend.  Economic activity is slowing down, and inventories are piling up.  In fact, wholesale inventories have now risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession…

Inventory To Sales Ratio - Federal Reserve

Do you notice a theme?

So many things that have not happened in six or seven years are now happening again.

History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme, and it astounds me that more people cannot see that 2015/2016 is looking eerily similar to a replay of 2008/2009.

Another number that I watch closely is the velocity of money.  When an economy is running well, money tends to circulate efficiently through the system.  But when an economy gets into trouble, people get scared and start holding on to their money.  As you can see from the chart below, the velocity of money declined during every single recession since 1960.  This is precisely what one would expect.  And of course during the recession that started in 2008, the velocity of money plunged precipitously.  But then a funny thing happened when that recession supposedly “ended”.  The velocity of money just kept going down, and now it has fallen to an all-time record low…

Velocity Of Money M2

A big reason for this is the ongoing decline of the middle class.  In 2015, we learned that middle class Americans now make up a minority of the population for the first time ever.

But if you go back to 1971, 61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households.

Meanwhile, the share of the income pie that the middle class takes home has also continued to shrink.

In 1970, the middle class brought home approximately 62 percent of all income. Today, that number has fallen to just 43 percent.

As the middle class is systematically destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty just continues to grow. And those that often suffer the most are the children.  It may be hard for you to believe, but the number of homeless children in the U.S. has increased by 60 percent over the past six years.

60 percent!

How in the world can anyone dare to claim that “things are getting better”?

Anyone that says that should be ashamed of themselves.

We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is now accelerating once again.

Anyone that tries to tell you that “things are getting better” and that 2016 is going to be a better year than 2015 is simply not being honest with you.

A new global financial crisis erupted during the last six months of 2015, and this new financial crisis is going to intensify throughout the early months of 2016.  Financial institutions will begin falling like dominoes, and this will result in a great credit crunch around the world.  Businesses will fail, unemployment will skyrocket and millions will suddenly be faced with economic despair.

By the time it is all said and done, this new financial crisis will be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008, and the suffering that we will see around the world will be off the charts.

So does that mean that I am down about this year?

Not at all.  In fact, my wife and I are greatly looking forward to 2016.  In the midst of all the chaos and darkness, there will be great opportunities to do good and to make a difference.

What a great shaking comes, people go looking for answers.  And I think that this will be a year when millions of people start to understand that our politicians and the mainstream media are not telling them the truth.

Yes, great challenges are coming.  But now is not a time to dig a hole and try to hide from the world.  Instead, this will be a time for those that have prepared in advance to love others, help others and show them the truth.

What about you?

Are you ready to be a light during the dark times that are coming?

Please feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment below…

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